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upon them, and upon the literary character of their Author, by judges whose opinions is authority, and whose encomium is fame. Had not Mr. Foster's pen been so much better engaged, we should, indeed, have claimed at his hands the discharge of the duty which now devolves upon the present Contributor. We could have wished to be gratified with a perusal of his "Sketch,' before venturing any remarks of our own. But, as the last volume is not at present forthcoming, we must run all hazards, and attempt at least a general review of the works before us; reserving for a future article, a biographical estimate of our revered and admirable friend, when we shall have before us, the Memoir and the Sketches of Character which are to appear in the concluding volume.
When we first saw the Works of Robert Hall announced for publication in six volumes, and found that four of the six would be occupied almost entirely with the reprint of what had appeared during his life-time, we were at some loss to conceive of what they would consist. It had always been a standing matter of regret, that Mr. Hall wrote so little. For many years he had been solicited—till the urgent solicitation became to him an unspeakable annoyance-to put forth a volume of sermons. The mechanical labour of writing was extremely irksome and painful to him ; and the difficulty he found in satisfying himself in his compositions, increased his disinclination to comply with the requisitions of his friends. The only production of his pen which attained the magnitude of a boarded volume, was his Reply to Mr. Kinghorn, in which an intense interest in the subject, and in the great principles the discussion involved, supplied a stimulus sufficiently powerful to overcome at once the fatigue of composition and the distaste for controversy. Now, how. ever, that all his sermons and tracts come to be collected, it is seen that Mr. Hall's avowed publications were far more numerous and considerable than was generally supposed, and that one reason of his being thought to write so little, was that be wrote so well. This was not the only reason of the incorrect inpression. A volume discharged at once from the press, makes an impression upon the imagination of the public, more distinct and lasting than a long series of smaller publications put forth unobtrusively at uncertain intervals. Nor is this all. Mr. Hall, unquestionably, surpassed, in his living oratory, the finest of his written compositions. One of the most splendid and most impressive of his productions, the Sermon on the Discouragements • and Supports of the Christian Minister', originally delivered as a charge at the ordination of his friend Mr. Robertson, we have been assured by competent judges who heard it, falls far short, in its printed form, of the sublime eloquence of the Preacher. Nor is this opinion attributable to any illusion produced by the voice and gesture of the orator; for, although Mr. Hall's manner was rendered commanding and impressive in no ordinary degree, by the intellectual glory which he would appear to catch from his topic, reflected on his countenance, still, his thoughts and words, when literally preserved, were found scarcely to lose any thing upon being submitted to analysis. They were not like flints glistening in the sunshine, but real ore. That the printed sermon would be inferior to the one delivered, is therefore entirely credible, and admits of an explanation that may preclude all astonishment at the fact. Although no Christian teacher of the humblest order of talent ever more honestly devoted the best faculties and resources of his mind to the preparation of his sermons, than Mr. Hall did, -always, till in his latter years, writing more or less of what he intended to preach,- he was nevertheless, in the proper sense, an extemporaneous preacher. We are not aware whether or not, in early life, he made use of notes in the pulpit. If he did, he laid the practice aside, trusting to his memory the retention of the firmly knit chain of thought, but not taxing his recollection for premeditated modes of expression, which no speaker is at a loss for, who has the proper command of his ideas *. We have heard Mr. Hall remark, that he considered those as generally his best sermons, of which he wrote the most; but then he never attempted to commit to memory what he had written, his object being to prosecute and arrange his thoughts, not to elaborate his periods. “And what he the most carefully composed, was the exordium of his discourses and the argumentative portion, in which he seldom affected any thing beyond a lucid perspicuity of statement, generally commencing with a brief exposition of his text, or a simple enuncia
* Since penning the above, our eye has been caught by a · Note by "the Editor', in reference to Mr. Hall's method of preaching, inserted at p. 9 of the first volume of the Works; from which we take the following extract. Nothing can be more erroneous than the idea, entertained by a few persons, that Mr. Hall recited his sermons memoriter, from the study of a previously written composition. His eloquence was the spontaneous result of his vigorous and richly stored intellect. .....: His usual course was, very briefly to sketch the plan of the proposed discourse, marking the divisions, specifying a few texts, and sometimes writing the first sentence. This he regarded as “ digging a channel for his thoughts to flow in". Then, calling into exercise the power of abstraction, which he possessed in a degree I never saw equalled, he would, whether alone or not, pursue his trains of thought, retrace and extend them, until the whole were engraven on his mind; and when once so fixed in their entire connexion, they were never after obliterated. ..... The most striking and imprese sive passages were often, strictly speaking, extemporaneous.'
tion of the leading propositions of his subject. The portions of his discourses which were always the most eloquent, consisted of the practical inferences, the moral application of his topic, or the concluding reflections. These touching and powerful appeals to the affections and conscience, as will be seen from the specimens in the fifth volume, were often, if not always, indicated only by heads in the prepared outline, and filled up ad libitum under the genuine excitement of the occasion, the excitement produced by the theme itself. It was in these parts of his pulpit addresses, after he had completed the ground-work of his argument, and discharged his memory of all that had been entrusted to it, that his utterance would become more rapid, and more clear and flow. ing in proportion to its rapidity, that his diction too seemed to catch a glow from the accelerated velocity of his ideas, and that he would throw out those flashes of expression, apparently generated by the spontaneous combustion of his thoughts, which startled or delighted his hearers, like the sudden illumination of the sky by a meteor. These fugitive corruscations of eloquence, it was next to impossible for the most accurate recollection distinctly to preserve, or for the most accomplished stenographer to transfer to his tablets. No previous elaboration could have produced such genuine bursts of felicitous oratory, nor any inferior theme have inspired them, than the realities connected with Eternity.
It is not very surprising, then, that Mr. Hall's writings should have been thrown into the back-ground by the greater prominence and more indisputable pre-eminence which attached to him as a pulpit orator ; and that publications which would have been deemed amply sufficient to confer on an unknown author a bril. liant celebrity, and numerous enough to entitle an ordinary one to the merit of a prolific industry, should scarcely have added very sensibly to Mr. Hall's fame, or have satisfied in any measure the craving expectations of the religious public. One only of his printed sermons may be regarded as an exception; for that sermon, the most carefully composed, the most elaborately finished, and the most magnificent, perhaps, of all his published writings, not even excepting the Sermon on Modern Infidelity, certainly extended, and, had he left nothing else, would have justified to posterity his fame as a preacher. We refer to the Sermon on the Death of the Princess Charlotte, which its Author is reported to have himself regarded as his chef d'æuvre, and in which he may fairly be considered as having surpassed the finest effusions of Bossuet, of whom, in that discourse more especially, he reminds us. The extraordinary sale of that discourse may be ascribed in some measure to the engrossing popular interest which the occasion awakened, and to the attractions which even a sermon borrowed from the name of the Princess over whose grave it was
pronounced. But, of the numerous instructive and eloquent sermons preached and issued from the press on that historic occasion, one only continues to be read, and will be read so long as the English language is spoken.
The name of Mr. Hall secured a rapid and continued sale for every publication on which it appeared ; nor was it ever discredited. Our deliberate opinion is, nevertheless, that, as a writer, Mr. Hall was under-rated, rather than fully appreciated; partly from the comparison which his hearers were apt to draw between the effect of his oratory and that of his compositions on their own feelings, and partly from the distinguishing characteristics of Mr. Hall's writings. We do not feel sure that a volume of sermons from his pen would have fully answered the expectations of his admirers. The fervour of the preacher would have seemed to have subsided to a lower temperature; and Mr. Hall's severely fastidious taste would have led him, probably, to exclude or to modify some of those bold, and vehement, and lofty bursts of expression into which, in the pulpit, he was apt to be transported. The qualities of his discourses and of his written composition, upon which he would have been disposed to pride himself, had he indulged in the pettiness of vanity, would have been, we suspect, very different from those which constituted the popular charm, and left the strongest impression upon the memory. No man ever said finer things, either in the pulpit or out of it, than Mr. Hall; but he was not a sayer of fine things. The most striking were generally unpremeditated; in proof of which it needs only be remarked, that he was peculiarly happy in repartee. In his preaching, he often struck out golden sentences, of unimprovable felicity, and rich with thought; and those of his hearers who were lying in wait for these, would seldom be disappointed. But Mr. Hall would not have repeated, or defended, all the expressions which were admired for their strength; much less would he deliberately have printed them. They frequently passed away from his own memory; and on one occasion, when an accomplished friend, a member of his church at Leicester, was reading to him, at his own request, some notes she had ventured to take of his discourses, he interrupted her with–Did I say
that, Madam? I did not know I had ever said any thing so 'fine. Now the expression which pleased him so much, exceedingly striking as it was, would have passed over many an ear, as containing nothing very remarkable, on account of its beautiful simplicity. We will venture to say, that by nothing would Mr. Hall's prepared expressions, his premeditated phraseology in the pulpit, have been more broadly marked, than by a chaste propriety, a lucid perspicuity, and a terseness at the furthest remove from exaggeration or extravagance. The prevailing style of modern composition was to him so offensive, that, as he once
expressed it, he found Addison's writings useful as a sponge to wipe the trash out of his memory. His own style is as purely English as Addison's, without its occasional inaccuracy and per. vading feebleness; as energetic as Warburton's, without his coarseness; and we may add, as classical as Burke's, without his pomp and artificialness. To a certain extent, his prepared diction in the pulpit and in his published writings was, no doubt, much the same,-alike chaste, simple, and elegant; but, as we have already remarked, his choice of words, in the delivery of his dis courses, was, for the most part, extemporaneous, and therefore better adapted, probably, than any premeditated forms of expression could have been, to the purpose and occasion.
But the intellectual grandeur of Mr. Hall's conceptions, which often led him to complain of the inadequacy of language as the medium of expression, disdained the cheap artifices of new-coined words, intensitives, and what may be called the gesticulation of phraseology. He extremely disliked the mere vehemence of words, and abhorred with all his soul, every thing that partook of meretricious display, more especially in the pulpit.
Simple, grave, sincere ;
Behold the picture !- Is it like ? ' * We may leave all who ever heard Mr. Hall, to supply the answer to the Poet's question. In these respects, he was a model, but a model chiefly because his manner was the result of nothing but the simplicity of his feelings and the calm self-possession of his thoughts.
The essential merit of Mr. Hall's discourses, and that which he would, we are persuaded, have regarded as such, lay in their construction, not in their embellishment; in the philosophical groundwork of thought which determines the form, and constitutes the strength of the whole superstructure, without meeting the eye of a common observer. Mr. Hall's forte was reasoning. His The. toric was always based upon true logic. While he derided what is called metaphysics, and scarcely ever used an expression that savoured of the schools, the mould of his thoughts was strictly