« PředchozíPokračovat »
a poojoofollando *of goodfood topudiodiacindiatodore N° 633. WEDNESDAY, DECEMBER 15.
Omnia profeétò, cùm fe à cæleftibus rebus referet ad humanas, excélfiùs magnificentiusque et dicet et sentiet.
CICERO. The contemplation of celestial things will make a
man both speak and think more fublimely and magnificently, when he descends to human affairs, THE following discourse is printed, as it came to my hands, without variation,
Cambridge, Dec. 11. IT T was a very common inquiry among the an
cients why the number of excellent orators, ' under all the encouragements the most flourilh
ing states could give them, fell fo far short of the number of those who excelled in all other scien
A friend of mine used merrily to apply to • this case an observation of Herodotus, who says, • that the most useful animals, are the most fruitful ' in their generation; whereas the species of those
beasts that are fierce and mischievous to mankind
are but scarcely continued. The historian instan• ces in a hare, which always either breeds or brings
forth ; and a lioness, which brings forth but
once, and then loses all power of conception. • But, leaving my friend to his mirth, I am of opi. • nion, that in these latter ages we have greater
cause of complaint than the ancients had. And * since that solemn festival is approaching, which • calls for all the power of oratory, and which af.. • fords as noble a subject for the pulpit as any re
velation has taught us, the design of this paper « shall be to show, that our moderns have greater • advantages towards true and folid eloquence, than • any which the celebrated speakers of antiquity enjoyed.
• The first great and substantial difference is, that ' their common places, in which almost the whole
force of amplification consists, were drawn from the profit or honesty of the action, as they regarded only this present state of duration.
But Christianity, as it exalts morality to a greater per
fection, as it brings the confideration of another • life into the question, as it proposes rewards and
punishments of a higher nature and a longer con
tinuance, is more adapted to affect the minds of • the audience, naturally inclined to pursue what it
imagines its greatest interest and concern. If Pe
ricles, as historians report, could shake the firmest • resolutions of his hearers, and set the paflions of 'all Greece in a ferment, when the present welfare
of his country, or the fear of hostile invasions,
was the subject: What may be expected from " that orator, who warns his audience against those • evils which have no remedy, when once under
gone, either from prudence or time? As much greater as the evils in a future state are than these
at present, so much are the motives to persuasion ' under Christianity greater than those which mere ! moral considerations could supply us with.
Bus • what I now mention relates only to the power of
moving the affections. There is another part of eloquence, which is indeed its mafter-piece; I
mean the marvellous or sublime. In this the · Christian orator has the advantage beyond con• (tradiction. Our ideas are fo infinitely enlarged
by revelation, the eye of reason has fo wide a prospect into eternity, the notions of a Deity are
fo worthy and refined, and the accounts we have * of a state of happiness or inisery fo clear and evi. ident, that the contemplation of such objects will
give our discourse a noble vigour, an invincible
force, beyond the power of any human confide* ration. Tully requires in his perfect orator some
. skill in the nature of heavenly bodies, because,
fays he, his mind will become more extenfive and • unconfined ; and when he defcends to treat of • human affairs, he will both think and write in a ' more exalted and magnificent manner. For the • fame reason that excellent mafter would have re
commended the study of those great and glorious ' mysteries which revelation has discovered to us ;
to which the noblest parts of this fystem of the ' world are as much inferior, as the creature is less . excellent than its Creator. The wifest and most • knowing among the heathens had very poor and
imperfect notions of a future state. They had • indeed some uncertain hopes, either received by • tradition, or gathered by reason, that the exist. • ence of virtuous men would not be determined • by the feparation of the foul and body : But
they either disbelieved a future state of punishment and misery; or, upon the fame account that Apelles painted Antigonus with one side only towards the spectator, that the loss of his eye might not cast a blemish
upon the whole piece; so these represented the condition of man in its faireft ( view, and endeavoured to conceal what they
thought was a deformity to human nature. I • have often observed, that whenever the above
mentioned orator, in his philofophical discourses, • is led by his argument to the mention of immor• tality, he seems like one awaked out of sleep; • rouled and alarmed with the dignity of the subject, he stretches his imagination to conceive
something uncommon, and, with the greatness of • his thoughts, cafts, as it were, a glory round the fentence. Uncertain and unsettled as he was, he
feems fixed with the contemplation of it. And • nothing but such a glorious prospect could have & forced so great a lover of truth as he was, to de• clare his resolution never to part with his persua* fion of immortality, though it should be proved . to be an erroneous one.
But had he lived to see
all that Chriftanity has brought to light, how • would he have lavished out all the force of elo.
quence in thofe noblest contemplations which hu
man nature is capable of, the resurrection and ' the judgment that follows it? How had his breast
glowed with pleasure, when the whole compass
of futurity lay open and exposed to his view ? • How would his imagination have hurried him on • in the pursuit of the mysteries of the incarnation? • How would he have entered, with the force of lightening, into the affections of his hearers, and fixed their attention, in spite of all the opposition
of corrupt nature, upon those glorious themes · which his eloquence hath painted in such lively • and lasting colours.
• This advantage Christians have; and it was • with no small pleasure I lately met with a frag• ment of Longinus, which is preferved, as a testi
mony of that critic's judgment, at the beginning • of a manuscript of the New Testament in the Va• tican library.
Afrer that author has numbered up
the most celebrated orators among the Gre• cians, he says, Add to these Paul of Tarsus, the pa
tròn of an opinion not yet fully proved. As a hea• then, he condems the Christian Religion; and,
as an impartial critic, he judges in favour of the
pronoter and preacher of it. To me it seems, • that the latter part of his judgment adds great
weight to his opinion of St. Paul's abilities, fince, under all the prejudice of opinions directly oppo
site, he is conitrained to acknowledge the inerit of • that Apostle. And no doubt, such as Longinus • describes St. Paul, fuch he appeared to the inha• bitants of those countries which he visited and « blessed with those doctrines he was divinely com• miffioned to preach. Sacred story gives us, in • one circumstance, a convincing proof of his elo
quence, when the men of Lyftra called him Mercury because he was the chief speaker, and would
• have paid divine worship to him, as to the god • who invented and presided over eloquence. This . one account of our Apostle sets his character,
confidered as an orator only, above all the cele. • brated relations of the skill and influence of De. • mofthenes and his contemporaries. Their power ' in speaking was admired, but still it was thought ' human : Their eloquence warmed and ravished 'the hearers, but still it was thought the voice of a
man, not the voice of God. What advantage • then had St. Paul above those of Greece or • Rome? I confess I can ascribe this excellence to
nothing but the power of the doctrines he delivered, which
have still the fame influence on the hearers; which have still the power, when preached by a skilful orator, to make us break out in the fame expreffions, as the disciples, who
met our Saviour in their way to Emmaus, made • use of: Did not our hearts burn within us, when he
talked to us by the way, and while he opened to us • the Scriptures ? I may be thought bold in my judgment by fome; but I must affirm, that no one orator has left us fo visible marks and foot
steps of his eloquence as our Apoftle. It may • perhaps be wondered at, that in his reafonings
upon idolatry at Athens, where eloquence was • born and flourished, he confines himself to striet • argument only; but my reader may remember ' what many authors of the best credit have affur• ed us, that all attempts upon the affections and • strokes of oratory were expressly forbidden by the • laws of that country, in courts of judicature. · His want of eloquence therefore here, was the
effect of his exact conformity to the laws. But his discourfe on the resurrection to the Corinthia • ans, his harangue before Agrippa upon his own • converfion, and the necefficy of that of others,
are truly great, and may serve as full examples to · those excellent rules for the sublime, which the