Page:Psychology and preaching.djvu/46

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28 PSYCHOLOGY AND PREACHING

of the experience; third, when tinder high feeling the mind is always uncritical and fails to discriminate between the details of this particular experience and the details of other experiences which may have become associated, and are likely to be revived, with it. These modifications are likely to take place with every narration of the story. It is easy, therefore, to see how a story often retold, especially when retold under the stress of high feeling, comes to lose almost all resemblance to the truth, and this without any intention on the part of the speaker to pervert the truth. As to the matter of veracity in such cases, a recent writer says : 1 u In creative imagination the creator is aware of the modification of the content. Along with the rest of the content he has the peculiar factor which we call newness, or novelty. He is aware that his content is a new combination. But in the general modification of content which we men tioned above, the person is less apt to be aware of the changes. The fisherman who magnifies into a three- pounder the minnow which escaped ; the student who relates the hard-luck story of how he failed in examination through no fault of his scholarship ; are in many cases quite sincere and base their tales on imagined content which has undergone progressive improvement since it was experienced in perception."

This is a matter of great importance to the preacher especially. The spirit of truth, of reality, should be the very atmosphere in which his discourse moves. He is especially given to the relation of stories of his own experi ence, or that of others, as illustrative matter ; and the criti cism is often heard that the stories told in sermons are in credible, or at least sufficiently lacking in verisimilitude to produce a most disagreeable and hurtful impression upon those who listen critically. Those whom he succeeds in sweeping along on the wave of his own emotion will be as uncritical in hearing as he is in narrating the incident; but the calmer and more careful hearers can not but be repelled.

1 Dunlap, " A System of Psychology," pp. 162-3.

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