Imatges de pÓgina
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has Alla for its contriver, is much more wisely formed than that which has been projected by Mahomet. Ingratitude, contempt, and hatred, I can now suffer, for perhaps I have deserved them. When I arraigned the wisdom of Providence, I only shewed my own ignorance; henceforth let me keep from vice myself, and pity it in others.”

He had scarcely ended, when the Genius, assuming an air of terrible complacency, called all his thunders around him, and vanished in a whirlwind. Asem, astonished at the terror of the scene, looked for his imaginary world ; when, casting his eyes around, he perceived himself in the very situation, and in the very place, where he first began to repine and despair; his right foot had been just advanced to take the fatal plunge, nor had it been yet withdrawn ; so instantly did Providence strike the series of truths just imprinted on his soul. He now departed from the water side in tranquillity; and, leaving his horrid mansion, travelled to Segestan, his native city, where he diligently applied himself to commerce, and put in practice that wisdom he had learned in solitude.

The frugality of a few years soon produced opulence ; the number of his domestics increased, his friends came to him from every part of the city ; nor did he receive them with disdain ;

and a youth of misery was concluded with an old age of elegance, affluence, and ease.

ESSAY IV.

ON THE ENGLISH CLERGY, AND POPULAR PREACHERS.

It is allowed on all hands, that our English divines receive a more liberal education, and improve that education by frequent study, more than any others of this reverend profession in Europe. In general, also, it may be observed, that a greater degree of gentility is affixed to the character of a student in England than elsewhere ; by which means our clergy have an opportunity of seeing better company while young, and of sooner wearing off those prejudices which they are apt to imbibe even in the best regulated universities, and which may be justly termed the vulgar errors of the wise.

Yet, with all these advantages, it is very obvious that the clergy are no where so little thought of by the populace as here, and though our divines are foremost with respect to abilities, yet they are found last in the effects of their ministry ; the vulgar in general appearing no way impressed with a sense of religious duty. I am not for whining at the depravity of the times, or for endeavouring to paint a prospect more gloomy than in nature ; but certain it is, no person who has travelled will contradict me when I aver, that the lower orders of mankind, in other countries, testify on every occasion the profoundest awe of religion ; while in England they are scarcely awakened into a sense of its duties, even in circumstances of the greatest distress.

This dissolute and fearless conduct foreigners are apt to attribute to climate and constitution. May not the vulgar being pretty much neglected in our exhortations from the pulpit, be a conspiring cause ? Our divines seldom stoop to their mean capacities ; and they who want instruction most, find lcast in our religious assemblies.

Whatever may become of the higher orders of mankind, who are generally possessed of collateral motives to virtue, the vulgar should be particularly regarded, whose behaviour in civil life is totally hinged upon their hopes and fears. Those who constitute the basis of the great fabric of society should be particularly regarded ; for, in policy, as in architecture, ruin is most fatal when it begins from the bottom.

Men of real sense and understanding prefer a prudent mediocrity to a precarious popularity ; and fearing to outdo their duty, leave it half done. Their discourses from the pulpit are generally dry, methodical, and unaffecting ; delivered with the most insipid calmness ; insomuch, that should the peaceful preacher lift his head over the cushion, which alone he seems to address, he might discover his audience, instead of being awakened to remorse, actually sleeping over his methodical and laboured composition.

This method of preaching is, however, by some called an address to reason, and not to the passions ; this is styled the making of converts from conviction : but such are indifferently acquainted with human nature, who are not sensible, that men seldom reason about their debaucheries till they are committed. Reason is but a weak antagonist when headlong passion dictates ; in all such cases we should arm one passion against another: it is with the human mind as in nature, from the mixture of two opposites the result is most frequently neutral tranquillity. Those who attempt to reason us out of our follies begin at the wrong end, since the attempt naturally presupposes us capable of reason ; but to be made capable of this is one great point of the cure.

There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher; for the people are easily pleased, if they perceive any endeavours in the orator to please them ; the meanest qualifications will work this effect, if the preacher sincerely sets about it. Perhaps little, indeed very little, more, is required than sincerity and assurance ; and a becoming sincerity is always certain of producing a becoming assurance. “ Si vis me flere, dolendum est primum tibi ipsi,” is so trite a quotation, that it almost demands an apology to repeat it ; yet, though all allow the justice of the remark, how few do we find put it in practice! Our orators, with the most faulty bashfulness, seem impressed rather with an awe of their audience, than with a just respect for the truths they are about to deliver ; they, of all professions, seem the most bashful, who have the greatest right to glory in their commission.

The French preachers generally assume all that dignity which becomes men who are ambassadors from Christ : the English divines, like erroneous envoys, seem more solicitous not to offend the court to which they are sent, than to drive home the interests of their employer. Massillon, bishop of Clermont, in the first sermon he ever preached, found the whole audience, upon his getting into the pulpit, in a disposition no way favourable to his intentions ; their nods, whispers, or drowsy behaviour, shewed him that there was no great profit to be expected from his son in a soil so improper ; however, he soon changed the disposition of his audience by his manner of beginning. If,” says he, “ a cause, the most important that could be conceived, were to be tried at the bar before qualified judges — if this cause interested ourselves in particular - if the eyes of the whole kingdom were fixed upon the event — if the most eminent counsel were employed on both sides -- and if we had heard from our infancy of this yet undetermined trial,- would you not all sit with due attention, and warm expectation, to the pleadings on each side ? - would not all your hopes and fears be hinged upon the final decision? And yet, let me tell you, you have this moment a cause of much greater

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importance before you—a cause where not one nation, but all the world are spectators; tried not before a fallible tribunal, but the awful throne of Heaven; where not your temporal and transitory interests are the subject of debate, but your eternal happiness or misery ; where the cause is still undetermined, but, perhaps, the very moment I am speaking may fix the irrevocable decree that shall last for ever ; and yet, notwithstanding all this, you can hardly sit with patience to hear the tidings of your own salvation : 1 plead the cause of Heaven, and yet I am scarcely attended to,” &c,

The style, the abruptness of a beginning like this, in the closet would

appear
absurd ;

but in the pulpit it is attended with the most lasting impressions : that style, which in the closet might justly be called flimsy, seems the true mode of eloquence here. I never read a fine composition, under the title of a sermon, that I do not think the author has miscalled his piece ; for the talents to be used in writing well, entirely differ from those of speaking well. The qualifications for speaking, as has been already observed, are easily acquired ; they are accomplishments which may be taken up by every candidate who will be at the pains of stooping. Impressed with a sense of the truths he is about to deliver, a preacher disregards the applause or the contempt of his audience, and he insensibly assumes a just and manly sincerity. With this talent alone, we see what crowds are drawn around enthusiasts, even destitute of common sense ; what numbers converted to Christianity. Folly may sometimes set an example for wisdom to practise ; and our regular divines may borrow instruction from even Methodists, who go their circuits and preach prizes among the populace. Even Whitfield may be placed as a model to some of our young divines : let them join to their own good sense his earnest manner of delivery.

It will be perhaps objected, that by confining the excellencies of a preacher to proper assurance, earnestness, and openness of style, I make the qualifications too trifling for estimation : there will be something called oratory brought up on this occasion ; action, attitude, grace, elocution, may be repeated as absolutely necessary to complete the character, But let us not be deceived ; common sense is seldom swayed by fine tones, musical periods, just attitudes, or the display of a white handkerchief : oratorial behaviour, except in very

> one,

able hands indeed, generally sinks into awkward and paltry affectation.*

It must be observed, however, that these rules are calculated only for him who would instruct the vulgar, who stand in most need of instruction ; to address philosophers, and to obtain the character of a polite preacher among the polite-a much more useless, though more sought for character— requires a different method of proceeding. All I shall observe on this head is, to entreat the polemic divine, in his controversy with the deists, to act rather offensively than to defend ; to push home the grounds of his belief, and the impracticability of theirs, rather than to spend time in solving the objections of every opponent.

« It is ten to says a late writer on the art of war, « but that the * Dr Johnson's opinion upon this subject coincided with that expressed by Goldsmith in the present Essay, as we find by the following extract from Boswell :-“I talked of preaching, and of the great success which those called Methodists have. Johnson, “Sir, it is owing to their expressing themselves in a plain and familiar manner, which is the only way to do good to the common people, and which clergymen of genius and learning ought to do from a principle of duty, when it is suited to their congregation; a practice, for which they will be praised by men of sense. To insist against drunkenness as a crime, because it debases reason, the noblest faculty of man, would be of no service to the common people; but to tell them that they may die in a fit of drunkenness, and shew them how dreadful that would be, cannot fail to make a deep impression. Sir, when your Scotch clergy give up their homely manner, religion will soon decay, in that country.'”-Life of Johnson, vol. Í. There is much truth'in these observations; yet, as a warm appeal to the passions is apt to degenerate into enthusiasm and extravagance, and as an immediate impression is not always a lasting one, it may be questioned how far the cause of pure religion would be promoted by a system like that recommended in the text, which would substitute the opposition of one passion to another, for the more sober principle of duty. The mere popularity of a particular system of preaching ought never to be taken as a proof of its superior excellence, unless it can be shewn that its admirers imbibe from it a juster sense of religion, and in consequence become more truly pious and virtuous than their neighbours. It is an idle notion to suppose, as Goldsmith seems to do, that this popularity may always be secured by men of sense uniting warmth and plainness with sound and rational doctrine; for the very irrationality of the doctrine, is not unfrequently the cause of this popularity. It is not conceded, that our sectaries in this country - though their preachers generally follow the system recommended above, and their congregation profess a livelier sense of religion — are in reality superior, either in true Christian experience, or in Christian practice, to the more sober adherents of our Established Churches.- B.

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