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By Robert Lewis Dabney / Presbyterian Committee of Publication / 1870
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Following in the footsteps of Plato, Aristotle, Cicero, Horace, Quintilian, and countless other preeminent thinkers, Sacred Rhetoric: A Course of Lectures on Preaching marks the great Southern theologian Robert Lewis Dabney’s deft foray into the utmost concern of all preachers—the eloquent oration of God’s Word. This non-denominational textbook, based on Dabney’s years of teaching Pulpit Rhetoric in Union Theological Seminary, advances the practices of the classic rhetoricians while emphasizing the specific needs of the Christian preacher.
Still in print after nearly 140 years (under the title Evangelical Eloquence), Sacred Rhetoric guides the reader through every aspect of effective oration in 24 lectures. Sermon craft, argument, persuasion, style, action, preparation, and much more is covered in detail. All the while, Dabney remains steadfast in insuring that “the necessity of eminent Christian character is urged throughout as the foundation of the sacred orator’s power, and that a theory of preaching is asserted, with all the force which I could command, that honours God’s inspired word and limits the preacher most strictly to its exclusive use as the sword of the Spirit.”
Excerpted from Evangelical Dictionary of Theology (Biographical Entries)
Dabney, Robert Lewis (1820-1898). One of the outstanding Presbyterian theologians of the nineteenth century and the most important and influential theologian in the Presbyterian Church, U. S., from 1865 to 1895. A native of Virginia, he was ordained to the ministry in 1847. In 1853 he was appointed as professor at his alma mater, the Union Theological Seminary in Richmond. Except for a brief period of military service, he remained at Union until 1883. He concluded his career as professor of mental and moral philosophy and political economy at the newly established University of Texas, during which time he co-founded the Austin School of Theology, later renamed the Austin Presbyterian Theological Seminary.
He was recognized as an unusually effective preacher and teacher. He was also a prolific writer. The most important of his works was his Lectures in Systematic Theology, which became the standard theological textbook in Southern Presbyterian seminaries and remained so at Union in Richmond until 1930… As had J. H. Thornwell, Dabney championed the Calvinism of Old School Presbyterianism and was so effective that this theology and general point of view prevailed as that of the denomination during the whole Reconstruction period and at Union Seminary well into the twentieth century.