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Each chequcr'd pebble, and each shining shell,
Where can unpolisi'd nature boast a piece,
Charm'd with the fight, my ravish'd breast is fir'd
Oh were I equal to the bold design,
Wednesday, December 15.
Omnia profefto, cum fe a crleftibus rebus referet ad hai manas, excelsius magnificentiusque et dicet et sentiet.
When a man descends from the contemplation of heavenly
bodies to treat of human affairs, ke will both think and write in a more exalted and magnificent imanner.
HE following discourse is printed, as it came to my hands, without variation.
Cambridge, December 12. T was a very common inquiry among the ancients,
why the number of excellent orators, under all the encouragements the most flourishing states could give • them, fell so far short of the number of those who ex• celled in all other sciences. A friend of mine used mer
rily to apply to this case an observation of Herodotus, who says, that the most useful animals are the most fruit
ful in their generation; whereas the species of those * beasts that are fierce and mischievous to mankind are but
scarcely continued. The historian instances in a hare, • which always either breeds or brings forth; and a lion
ness, which brings forth but once, and then loses all power of conception. But, leaving my friend to his mirth, I am of opinion, that in these later ages we have greater cause of complaint than the ancients had. And fince that folemn festival is approaching, which calls for
oratory, and which affords as noble subject for the pulpit as any revelation has taught us, " the design of this paper shall be to show, that our mom derns have greater advantages towards true and solid * 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 VOL, VIII
s all the power
< state of duration. But Christianity, as it exalts morality
to a greater perfection, as it brings the confideration of o another life into the question, as it proposes rewards and
puniliments of a higher nature, and a longer continuance, is more adapted to affect the minds of the audience, naturally inclined to pursue what it imagines its greatest interest and concern. If Pericles, as historians
ruport, could Thake the firmest resolutions of his hearers, • and set the paslions of all Greece in a ferment, when the present welfare of his country, or the fear of hostile in
vaficns, was the subject; what may be expected from " tha: orator, who warns his audience against those evils • which hare no remedy, when once undergone, either ' from prudence or time? As much grcater 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 more moral considerations could supply us • with. But what I now mention relates only to the power s of moving the affections. There is another part of elo
quence, which is indeed its master-picce; I mean the marvellous or sublime. In this the Christian orator has
the advantage beyond contradiction. Our ideas are so ' infinitely enlarged by revelation, the eye of reason has so
wide a prospect into eteinity, the notions of a deity are so worthy and refined, and the accounts we have of a state - of happiness os misery fo clear and evident, that the con
templation of such objects will give our discourse a no• ble vigour, an invincible force, beyond the power of any Shuman consideration. Tully requires in his perfect ora
tor, some skill in the nature of heavenly bodies, because,
says he, his mind will become more extensive and uncon'fined; and when he descends to treat of human affairs, she would both think and write in a more exalted and mag
nificent manner. For the same reason that excellent ma's fter would have recommended the study of those great
and glorious mysteries which revelation has discovered to
us; to which the noblest parts of this system of the is world are as much inferior, as the creature is less excellent
than its Greator. The wisest 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 existence of virtuous men would not be determineri by the feparation of foul and body: but they either dit* believed a future state of punishment and misery; or, up* on the fame account that spelles painted intigril! ' with one side only towards the spectator, that the lofs of his eye might not cast a blemish upon the whole
piece; so these represented the condition of man in its 'fairest view, and codcaroured to conceal what they • thought was a dcformity to human nature. I have et ten observed; that whenever the above-mentioned orator
in his philofophical difcoarfes is led by his argument to * the mention of inmort:lity, he feenis like one awali ' out of sleep: roused and alarmed with the dignity of the subject, he stretches his imagination to concevo ' something uncommur, and, with the greatness of his * thought, cafts, as it were, 2 glory round the fentence. ! Uncertain and unsettled as he was, he feens fired with
the contemplation of it. And nothing but such a glo'rious prospect could have forced so great a lover of truth,
as he was, to deviare his resolution never to part with * his persuasion of immortality, though it ihould be pro"ved to be an erroneous one. Biat liccl aclısed to see all
that Christianity has brought to light, how would he " haru laviihed out all the force of eloquence in those no*blett contemplations which human nature is capable of,
the refurrection 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 inagination have hurried him on in the * pursuit of the mysteries of the incarnation ! How would She hare entered, with the force of lightning, into the
affections of his hearers, and fised their attention, in fpite of all the oppofition 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 • Imall pleasure I lately met with a fragment of Longinus, which is preserved, as a testimony of that critic's judge ment, at the beginning of a manuscript of the New Testament in the l'atican library. After that author has ' numbered up the most celebrated orators among the Grecians, he says, Add to these Paul of Taifus, the patron
of an opinion nel yet fully proved. As a Heathen, he con* demns the Christian religion ; and, as an impartial critic, • he judges in favour of the promoter 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 opposite, he ' is constrained to acknowledge the merit of that apoftle.
And, no doubt, such as Longines describes St Paul, such 'he appeared to the inhabitants of those countries which • he visited and blefied with those doctrines he was divinely
commiffioned to preach. Sacred flery gives us, in one cir'cumstance, a convincing proof of his cloquence, when " the men of Lyxtra called him Mercury, because he was *the chief peaker, and would hare said divine woihip 'to him, as to the god who invented and presided over cloqacnce. This one account of our apostle fets his character, confidered as an orator only, above all the celebrated relations of the skill and influence of Demoftheries and his contemporaries. Their power in speaking was admired, but still it was thought human : their eloqueace warmed and raviled:he hearers, but still it was
thought the voice ofman, no: the voice of God. What ad* vantage then had St Paul above those of Greece or Rome? • I confefs I can asuribe this excellence to nothing but
dhe power of the docrines he delivered, which may have "Itill the same influence on the hearers; which have still 'the power, when preached by a skilful orator, to make
us break out in the same cxpicllions, as the disciples, r who met our Saviour in their way to Emmaus, made use
of; Did not our learts burn within us, when he iulk'ed to us by the Wily, and while he opened to us the fcriptures? I may be thought bold in my judgment by
but I must affirm, that no one orator has left us só visible marks and footsteps of his eloquence as our aó poftle. It may perhaps be wondered at, that in his reasonings upon idolatry at nithens, where cloquence was • born and Aourished, he confines himself to strict argui
ment only; but my reader may remember what many "authors of the best credit have assured us, that all at
tempts 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,