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to push down heavy bodies placed on the verge of a declivity, but much force is requisite, to stop them in their progress, and push them up.
If a man should say, that because the firft is more frequently effected than the last, it is the best trial of strength, and the only suitable use to which it can be applied, we thould at least not think him remarkable for diftinctness in his ideas. Popularity alone, therefore, is no teft at all of the eloquence of the speaker, no more than velocity alone would be, of the force of the external impulse originally given to the body moving. As in this, the direction of the body, and other circumstances, must be taken into the account; fo in that, you must consider the tendency of the teaching, whether it favours or oppofes the vices of the hearers. To head a fect, to infuse party-fpirit, to make men arrogant, uncharitable, and malevolent, is the eafieft talk imaginable, and to which almoft any blockhead is fully equal. But to produce the contrary effect, to subdue the spirit of faction, and that monster spiritual pride, with which it is invari. ably accompanied, to inspire equity, moderation, and charity into men's sentiments and conduct with regard to others, is the genuine test Vol. I. T
of eloquence. Here its triumph is truly glorious, and in its application to this end lies its great utility :
The gates of hell are open night and day;
Now in regard to the comparison, from which I fear I shall be thought to have digreff&d, between the forensic and senatorian eloquence, and that of the pulpit," I must not omit to observe, that in what I say of the difference of the effect to be produced by the last mentioned species, I am to be understood as speaking of the effect intended by preaching in general, and even of that which, in whole or in part, is, or ought to be, either more immediately or more remotely, the scope of all discourses proceeding from the pulpit. I am, at the same time, fenfible, that in some of these, besides the ultimate view, there is an immediate and outward effect which the fermon is intended to produce. This is the case particularly in charity-sermons, and perhaps some other occasional discourses. Now of these
Facilis descensus Averni:
Virg. lib. via
few, in respect of such immediate purpose, we must admit, that they bear a pretty close analogy to the pleadings of the advocate, and the orations of the senator.
Upon the whole of the comparison I have stated, it appears manifeft, that, in moft of the particulars above enumerated, the preacher labours under a very great disadvantage. He hath himself a more delicate part to perform than either the pleader or the senator, and a character to maintain, which is much more easily injured. The auditors, though rarely so accomplished as to require the same accuracy of compofition, or acuteness in reasoning, as may be expected in the other two, are more various in age, rank, taste, inclinations, sentiments, prejudices, to which he muft accommodate himself. And if he derives some advantages from the richness, the variety, and the nobleness of the principles, motives, and arguments, with which his subject furnishes him, he derives also some inconveniencies from this circumstance, that almost the only engine by which he can operate on the passions of his hearers, is the exhibition of abstract qualities, virtues, and vices, whereas that chiefly employed by other orators, is the exhibition of real persons,
the virtuous and the vicious. Nor are the occafions of his addresses to the people equally fitted with those of the senator and of the pleader, for exciting their curiosity and riveting their attenttion. And finally, the task assigned him, the effect which he ought ever to have in view, is fo great, so important, so durable, as seems to bid defiance to the ftrongest efforts of oratorical genius
NOTHING is more common than for people, I suppose without reflecting, to express their wonder, that there is so little cloquence amongst our preachers, and that fo little success attends their preaching. As to the last, their fuccess, it is a matter not to be ascertained with fo much precision, as fome appear fondly to imagine. The evil prevented, as well as the good promoted, ought here, in all justice, to come into the reckoning. And what that may be, it is impoffible in any fuppofed circumstances to determine. As to the first, their eloquence, I aeknowledge, that, for my own part, considering - how rare the talent is among men in general, confidering all the disadvantages preachers labour under, not only those above enumerated, but others, arising from their different fituations,
particularly confidering the frequency of this exercise, together with the other duties of their office, to which the fixed pastors are obliged, I have been of a long time more disposed to won, der, that we hear so many instructive and even eloquent fermons, than that we hear fo few.
c H A P, XI.
Of the cause of that pleasure which we receive from
objects or representations that excite pity and
other painful feelings. IT T hath been obferved already *, that without
fome gratification in hearing, the attention muft inevitably flag. And it is manifeft from experience, that nothing tends more effectually to prevent this confequence, and keep our attention alive and vigorous, than the pathetic, which confifts chiefly in exhibitions of human misery. Yet that fuch exhibitions should so highly gratify us, appears fomewhat mysterious. Every body is sensible, that of all qualities in a work of genius, this is that which endears it moft to the generality of readers. One would imagine, on