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The taste (says he to his patroness or pupil) we spoke of may be defined, at large, a clear sense of the noble, the beau, tiful, and the affecting, through nature and art. It distina guishes and selects, with unerring judgment, what is fine and graceful from the mean and disgusting ; and keeping a strict and attentive eye on nature, never neglects her but when na: ture herself is in disgrace.
• All our species that are perfect bring the firft principles of tafte with them into the world. Rollin produces instances of universal taste in music and painting : “A concert, says he, that has all its parts well composed and well executed, both as to instruments and voices, pleases universally : but if any discord arises, any ill tone of voice be intermixed, it shall displease even those who are absolutely ignorant of inufic. They kn w not what it is that offends then, but they find somewhat grating in it to their ears; and this proceeds from the taste and sense of harmony implanted in them by nature. In like manner a fine picture charms and transports a spectator who has no idea of painting. Ask him what pleases him, and why it pleases him, and he cannot easily give an account, or specify the real reason ; but natural sentiment works almost the fame effect itt him as art and use in perfect judges."
A writer. upon taste surely ought to know, that the definition he has laid down in the above paffage, is false and absurd. If tafte could distinguish and select with unerring judgment, it would cease to assume that naine, because it would become judgment itself. 'To say that what is called taste is unerring, is contradited by every hour's experience in the fine arts. Every connoiffeur has his favourite in poetry, painting, architecture, and so on through all the provinces of literature ; but all cannot bé unerring, for truth has only one principle. . All of them, however, may be beautiful. Ore critic may admire the painting of sentiment, another, that of passion. The works of two masters may express the fame subject, though in very different manners, and this, perhaps, is one of the strongest objections which lies to the word taste, the operations of which are arbitrary, nay sometimes constitutional ; and depend upon the Structure of the nerves, and a thousand other cireumstances that influence or determine it. Let this writer judge whether it is confytent with good writing to say, as he does in the pasfage before cited, that taste keeps a strict and attentive eye on nature.
With regard to Mr. Rollin's observation of a universal taste in music, it is liable to the same objection ; for it is nonsense in terms. Had he substituted the word ear instead of his favourite term, we should, it is true, have had no objection to the pro
priety of the expression ; but we are afraid that the observation, in fact, is false. We believe there are in this island of Great Britain fifty thousand people, with all their organs of hearing perfect, who know no difference between the good and bad execution of a grand piece of music.-As this author makes no violent professions of being an original ; as his intention is generally moral and good-natured, and many of his obfervations very juft, we shall here dismiss him without any further animadversions on his stile and manner.
VII. Free and Candid. Disquisitions relating to the Difjenters. Part
tbe Firs. Being an Esay towards a Reformation in their Mode of conducting Public Worship. In which are contained fome occaJional Animadversions on a late Publication, entitled, Public Prayer, a Treatise in two Parts, c. 12mo. Pr. 35. Johnson. 'HE author's design in this performance is to recommend
written forms of prayer, drawn up by ministers themselves, to be ordinarily made use of in diffenting congregations, as the method of prayer, which he apprehends to have greatly the advantage of any other. His plan, however, does not require, that every syllable of a prayer should be written down, or that a minister should confine himself to the very words which are before him ; but that, in praying, he should use the same liberty which a good preacher would use in his sermons; that he should occasionally vary his expressions ; that he should introduce any pertinent thoughts, which may arise in his mind in the pulpit ; and that his prayers themselves should be varied at discretion.
What the author has offered on the subject before him, he modestly proposes to the fober and candid attention of the Difsenters in general, and especially such of them as have, of late, discovered an inclination to liturgies; all the uses of which, he thinks, would be superseded by written forms of devotion,
Before he proceeds to specify the particular advantages attending the scheme he proposes, he points out some of the principal objections which lie against both liturgies and extempore prayer.
Against liturgies it is alledged, that a set form of prayer, by continual repetition, becomes tiresome and disagreeable; that it has a tendency to promote a habit of indolence; that it cannot be adapted to all the particular cases which may occur ; that it lays both minister and people under many restrictions ; and is an insuperable bar against all farther improvements in ihe inode of worship.
In the second chapter he considers the disadvantages of extemporary prayer: and in this case he appeals to experience. • Some, he says, who use extemporary prayer, are so much at a loss for thought and expression, as to discover great discomposure themselves, and to discompose many of their audience. Others, though more fluent in their delivery, fall into such improprieties in their language, or manner, as are highly unbecoming in the worship of God, and greatly offensive to the more fenfible part of their hearers. Many use such low, or fingular expresions, as often excite the diversion of the gay, and the contempt of the grave. Others express themselves in such inaccurate language (if it be always strictly grammatical) as must make the more learned part of their audience blush for them. And many (may I not say ? the majority of) diffenting minifters run into · so verbofe, diffuse, and perplexed a stile, that their hearers must wait a considerable time, before they can adopt their petitions. Their sentences consist of so many clauses, and such long parentheses, as either render them wholly unintelligible, or require a more close attention, to comprehend the sense of them, than hearers in general are disposed to give, or indeed, than is consistent with a proper exercise of devout affections. But, besides these inaccuracies of expreflion (and even where they are generally avoided) ministers, who pray extempore, too commonly fall into some great improprieties in their manner; to which they can scarcely pay a proper regard, while their invention is labouring for fentiment or expression. A disagreeable tone of voice, an harsh unnatural pronunciation, a violent and indecent motion of the hands, or the head, or a shocking distortion of the countenance, are improprieties which commonly attend extemporary prayer.
• These and the like improprieties, continues this writer, are very unfavourable to devotion. When ministers, especially the young and diffident, have nothing to depend upon, but their own invention, or at most, a few scattered materials in their memory,--the fear of failing is apt to put them into a disagreeable trepidation, and naturally fills them with a degree of anxiety, which is inconsistent with the exercise of devout affections, and which every impropriety in sentiment or language will generally increase..---The improprieties which affect him, will, for the most part, proportionably affect his hearers, and often in a greater degree. His hesitations, or his blunders will discompose them; his oddities divert or disgust them; the triteness or the flatness of his expressions will render them careless and inattentive ; and, especially, the intricacy of his language will greatly contribute to restrain and suppress those deyout affections, which ought, at all times, to be employed in
the worship of God. I stay not to reason on this matter ; I only appeal to fact. Let the most partial friends to extemporary prayer say, whether there is that outward appearance of devotion, in those aflemblies where it is used, as there is, where a liturgy is read; or rather, whether there are not all the marks of negligence and indevotion. Do the people in general seem to be praying ? Would any stranger, coming in amongst them, think that they were ? It is a notorious fact, that multitudes seem to be quite otherwise employed. . They too frequently, alas! betray the thoughtless and indevout frame of their ininds, by an indolent posture, a drowsy aspect, an unmeaning and vacant face, a wandering eye, an indecent smile, or other improprieties of behaviour. And, even among those who seem best employed, the generality appear, not to be fo properly praying themselves, as hearing the minister pray?
There are many other disadvantages attending extemporary prayer which this writer particularly and fully confiders. He then proceeds to recommend written forms, and attempts to prove, that they have all the advantages of a liturgy and extemporary prayer, and several others peculiar to themselves.
The use of notes, he says, prevents all the inconveniences of extemporary prayer; it secures, or ought to secure, those who lead the devotions of the people, from any great impro. prieties of expression, of which men of sense may sometimes be in danger; it is a curb on the fancies and passions of men, which, even where the heart is devout, may carry them beyond the bounds of propriety ; it prevents that hesitation and embarrassment, which is too often observable in dissenting minifters; it guards them against any great discomposure, which a variety of circumstances may occasion; it is a good relief to the memory; and invention, and thus renders the business of prayer more easy and pleasant to those who conduct the fervice; and effectually prevents those discouragements under which young ministers
among the diffenters often labour, and from which some of them are not free, so long as they live. In the use of such forms, the mind has nothing to do but to attend to the exercise of suitable affections; and therefore is inost likely to be devout. Nor do ministers alone reap the benefits of this method of prayer: the people themselves have a proportionable share in them; when those who conduct publie worship, not only express themselves with propriety, but are composed, serious, and devout, it certainly has a happy influence upon the attention, and devotion of the people. Such, he says, are the advantages of written forms in common with liturgies.
He goes on tə shew, that the scheme he proposes has all the advantages of extemporary prayer; that it admits of as much
Part the First
the First. 427 variety as can be desired; that it gives the minister an opportunity to adapt his prayers to all particular occurrences; that it lays him under an obligation to diligence; and gives him fcope for the exercise of his devout affections,
Besides these advantages it has others, he thinks, which are either peculiar to itself, or do not immediately belong to any of the former heads. By this method, he says, a minifter may avail himself of all the helps which are to be met with, in the compositions of others, and in the sacred writings; he may provide against all inconveniencies which may arise from indifposition, or the discomposure of his mind; he may be able to appropriate more time to the immediate worship of God than is generally allowed in diffenting congregations ; and he may furnish his memory with materials for extemporary prayer on any emergency
There are some objections which may be urged against this mode of conducting public worship, which the author endea. vours to remove; and, in order to give more authority to his arguments, he observes, that many of the best writers among the Diffenters have shewn their approbation of written forms, and given ample proof of their antiquity; and that diffenters, by rejecting them as unlawful, act inconsistently with their own principles and practice.
At the conclusion he offers some rules for composing prayers, on the preceding plan.
The whole subject is treated in a very fair and sensible manher; and the writer proves incontestibly, that the reformation he proposes, would redound to the honour of the Dissenters.
The only point in which his arguments appear defective, is, in proving that written forms have all the advantages of a liturgy. It is a satisfaction to the worshipper to know beforehand what prayers are to be offered ; but this catinot be known, if the minister varies his form; if he does not, he might with equal advantage use a stated liturgy. The prayer-book is perhaps of no small fervice to devotion.
It often restrains a gazing eye, and a wandering imagination, and fixes the attention to the business in hand. The common people readily join in those petitions which they see and know, but use an arbitrary form, and they do not pray; they only hear the minitter pray. Yet let us suppose them attending the minister who would not prefer a liturgy, drawn up by men of distinguished abilities, before any of those crude compofitions which minifters in general would occasionally produce ?-Be this as it may, the scheme which our author recommends, if carried into execution, would redound to the honour of the Disfenters, as it would enable them to conduct their public worship with dignity