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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 pervading 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 rhetoric 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
* Cowper's Time Piece.'
metaphysical. His imagination was metaphysical, rather than poetic; and his reasoning, while always popular in its terms, was always philosophical in texture. This was, of course, not perceptible by the majority of his hearers, nor did it ever obtrude itself upon the attention. He would have regarded a display of philosophy in the pulpit, as not less unbecoming and reprehensible than a display of oratory. The subjects which he usually chose, were familiar and practical, adapted for general usefulness. Those in which he delighted were, indeed, of a higher order ; and when the subject demanded to be treated philosophically, the Preacher was in his element. Yet, so improper did he deem it, to indulge himself in a style of preaching above the level of an ordinary audience, that when he had been induced, at the pressing solicitation of a friend whom he highly esteemed, to repeat, on a particular occasion, a discourse of this character, he afterwards expressed contrition at having done wrong in complying. Of the discourse to which we refer, an imperfect but most interesting and valuable outline has been preserved, which appears in the fifth volume; and we shall interrupt the thread of our remarks, for the sake of introducing a few paragraphs, in exemplification of the elevated style of thought which was the most congenial to Mr. Hall's mind.
The text of the discourse is 2 Pet. iii. 8. “ One day is with the Lord as a thousand years.” The general sentiment founded upon it is, that the Eternity of God affords a sufficient explanation of the apparent delay in the accomplishment of the Divine purposes. The exordium, as usual with the Preacher, is a brief exposition of the context; and nothing can be more simple than the plan of the discourse. It is proposed, first, to illustrate the import of the words, and to establish the truth of the proposition they contain: secondly, to shew to what particular uses the truth which they exhibit may be applied. The import of the words being simply and familiarly explained, the argument in support of the truth of the proposition proceeds as follows.
1. Every portion of duration is something real, and has a true and proper existence; but the epithets great and small, when applied to this, as well as to any thing else,) are merely comparative. They necessarily imply a comparison of one quantity with another, without which they can never be applied with justice; for what is great, compared with one quantity, becomes, at the same moment, little when compared with another, and vice versa. Thus, fourscore years are, at present, considered as a great age, but would not have been called so before the Deluge. That age is now styled great with propriety, because it is so compared with the usual term of life, which is considerably less. And, for an opposite reason, it would, before the Flood, have been styled small, because it would have been so, compared with the average term of human life at that period, which was much
greater. We should consider fifty years as forming a very large portion of human life: but the same number of years in the history of an empire, would be justly considered small. Thus is the same quantity either great or small, as you place it by the side of something much inferior to it in magnitude, or much superior.
• 2. Hence it results, that absolute greatness belongs only to what is infinite; for, whatever falls short of this, however great it may appear, its supposed greatness is entirely owing to the incidental absence of another object that is greater. It may be, it will be, infallibly reduced to insignificance, the moment it comes into comparison with that which is so prodigiously superior to it.
. 3. In duration, absolute greatness belongs only to eternity. The epithet great, or whatever other is most expressive of the profoundest astonishment, is, with the utmost propriety, applied to that unfathomable abyss. Incapable of being placed in any light, or brought, even by imagination, into any comparison which should reduce it to insignificance, it asserts its pre-eminence, and vindicates its majesty, in all places and times, in all the possible varieties of being, or combinations of thought. • 4. We must then conceive, that He who has subsisted throughout
who knows no beginning of days nor end of years, who possesses eternity ;-to whom all its parts (if we may be allowed so to speak) are continually open, both past and future; must have a very different apprehension of that inconsiderable portion of it we call time, from creatures who are acquainted with no other. His apprehension, we may easily conceive, will be, in this respect, very different; and that what to us appears a large portion, will, in his eyes, appear very inconsiderable.
Nor let any one here object, and say, it must appear as it is, and therefore, there is no reason to suppose it appears to him different from what it does to us. No doubt it appears to him exactly as it is. His apprehensions are, unquestionably, agreeable to the nature of things. But it does not follow from thence, that it must appear in the same light [to Him] as it does to us. And if there may be a difference, it is surely the highest presumption to make ourselves the standard.
• That each portion of duration appears to him real, we admit: we are not contending for its being annihilated in his view. Something it is, and something it appears, unquestionably, in his eyes who views things as they are. But this is far from proving that a limited portion of duration must appear to him of the same precise magnitude that it does in our eyes.
We know, by experience, how susceptible we are of a diversity of apprehension in this respect; and that at some periods, and in some situations, the same portion of time appears much longer than at others. In circumstances of extreme misery, the moments seem to linger, and the lapse of time is slow. How long would a few minutes appear, passed in excruciating torment! In a season of anxious expectation, which has a portion of misery in it, the same effect is experienced in a lower degree. On the contrary, in a state of enjoyment, the hours seem to take wings, and we are but little sensible of the progress of time. When the mind is fully engaged on a delightful
subject, when the attention is deeply absorbed in a pleasing train of reflection, we become scarcely conscious that any space of time has elapsed. We must infer from hence, that perfect happiness diminishes inconceivably the impression of time; as, on the contrary, intense misery increases it.
Among all the conceptions we form of the Supreme Being, there is none the propriety of which we can less doubt, than of his perfect happiness; nor have any who have believed on him failed to ascribe to him this perfection in the highest possible degree. He is styled, in scripture, “ the blessed and only Potentate,” the happy God. And as he is the fountain of all happiness to his creatures, it resides in him as in its utmost plenitude,-as in its proper seat. If his gracious presence is such a perpetual spring of felicity; if it is at “ his right hand there are pleasures for evermore”; how much must be enjoy every moment in the contemplation of his perfections, in the survey of his works and designs, and in the possession of his consciousness of his supreme dominion and transcendent excellence, his unutterable and unbounded felicity!
Conceive, then, of a Being absolutely independent, and existing from eternity; in the enjoyment of infinite happiness, always master of his purpose, never perplexed with difficulty, never agitated with anxious expectation, resting on his own all-sufficiency, and viewing with complacency each attribute of his infinite fulness. What, then, is an age in his view, compared to what it is in the eyes of mortals ? Surely, with such a Being, one day must be as a thousand
and a thousand years as one day."
• Admiration is, in most instances, the offspring of ignorance; at least, it implies a limitation of the views : so that an object shall appear great in the contemplation of one man, which, to another of more elevated and capacious powers, shall appear small and inconsiderable. But, to an infinite understanding, nothing can appear great, that does not partake of its own infinity. The Supreme Mind, and that alone, grasps eternity, possesses it every moment. He not only comprehends, but constitutes, eternal duration, by enduring“ from everlasting to everlasting." For there could be no eternal duration, if something did not always endure: we cannot conceive of its existence but as a mode of being, and that being is God.
• The measure by which he estimates time is, consequently, quite different from that which we are compelled to apply, in its contemplation. We measure one portion of duration by another: He measures time by eternity. How inconceivably different must be the apprehension arising from these different methods of considering it! In attempting to form a conception of endless duration, we are under the necessity of accumulating ages upon ages, and multiplying millions of ages into millions; accompanied with this conviction, that we have arrived no nearer to an adequate comprehension of it; that there remains beyond us an infinitely larger space than we have travelled over. Το his view, it is every moment present; to him, it is familiar, as his element, his habitation; and, from that stupendous elevation, he looks down upon the scenes of time and the lapse of ages. These reflections