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Did all, that mind assisted most, could do;
A deeper lesson this to mortals taught,
Eloquence of Bossuet.-BUTLER.
We have mentioned Mr. Burke's endless corrections of his compositions; Bossuet, by the account of his Benedictine editors, was equally laborious; but in this they differed: that Burke appears to have been satisfied 5 with his original conceptions, and to have been fastidious only in respect to words and phrases; Bossuet seems to have been equally dissatisfied with his first thoughts and his first words.
Rousseau himself has informed us, that between his 10 first committing of a sentence to paper and his final settlement of it, his obliterations and alterations were countless. That this should have been the case of such writers as Robertson or Gibbon, is not surprising; their eternal batteries and counter-batteries of words, seem 15 to be the effect of much reflection and many second thoughts; but that it should have been the case with writers like Bossuet, Burke, and Rousseau, who appear to pour streams equally copious and rapid of unpremeditated eloquence, appears extraordinary: it justifies the 20 common remark, that we seldom read with pleasure, what has not been composed with labour. Such are the pages of Addison, such the Offices of Cicero; such also, but in a superlative degree, are many passages of Milton: Akenside, his imitator, with all his genius, taste, 25 and labour, never attained it; he does not exhibit a single instance of this perfect composition: but we often find it in Gray.
Every thing we know of Bossuet, leads us to think that he had a very feeling heart; it certainly is discern
30 ible in every line of his funeral oration on the princess Henrietta. He chose for his text the verse of Eccleseastes, so suitable to the occasion, "Vanity of Vanities! All is vanity!" Having pronounced these words, he remained for some time in silence, evidently overpowered 35 by his feelings. "It was to be my lot," he then exclaimed, "to perform this melancholy duty to the memory of this illustrious princess! She, whom I had observed so attentive, while I performed the same duty to her royal mother, was herself so soon to become the 40 theme of a similar discourse!—And my voice was so soon to be exerted in discharging the like melancholy duty to her! O vanity! O nothing! O mortals! ignorant of what awaits you!-But a month ago would she have thought it! You, who then beheld her drown45 ed in tears for her mother's loss, would you have thought it! Would you have thought, that you were so soon to meet again to bewail her own fate! O vanity of vanities! All is vanity! These are the only words! the only reflection, which, in such an event, my sorrow 50 leaves me!"
After this eloquent exordium, Bossuet pursues his dismal theme. He describes, in strains, always eloquent, but always mournful, the short but brilliant career of the princess; so highly stationed, so greatly gifted, so 55 widely admired, and so generally loved! The idol of the world! The pride of her august family! the delight of all who approached her!" Yet what," he exclaimed, is all this, which we, so much below it, so greatly admire! While we tremble in the view of the 60 great, God smites them, that they may serve as warnings to us. Yes, so little does he consider these great ones, that he makes them often serve as mere materials for our instruction! We have always sufficient reason to be convinced of our nothingness; but if, to wean our 65 hearts from the fascination of the world, the wonderful and the astonishing is necessary, what we now behold is sufficiently terrible. O night of wo! O night of horror! When, like a peal of thunder, the dreadful words, -Henrietta is dying-Henrietta is dead-burst upon us! 70 Nothing could be heard but cries;-nothing was discernible but grief, despair, and the image of death!"—The writers of the time mentioned that, when Bossuet pro
nounced these words, the whole audience arose from their seats; that terror was visible in every countenance, 75 and that, for some moments, Bossuet himself was unable to proceed.
Eloquence of Bourdaloue.-BUTler.
In delivering his sermons, Bourdaloue used no action; Bossuet and Massillon used much; the action of the last was particularly admired. It produced an extraordinary effect, when he pronounced his funeral ora5 tion upon Lewis the Fourteenth. The church was hung with black, a magnificent mausoleum was raised over the bier, the edifice was filled with trophies and other memorials of the monarch's past glories, daylight was excluded, but innumerable tapers supplied its place, 10 and the ceremony was attended by the most illustrious persons in the kingdom. Massillon ascended the pulpit, contemplated, for some moments, the scene before him, then raised his arms to heaven, looked down on the scene beneath, and, after a short pause, slowly said, 15 in a solemn subdued tone, "GOD ONLY IS GREAT!" With one impulse, all the auditory rose from their seats, turned to the altar, and slowly and reverently bowed.
Those, who read sermons merely for their literary merit, will generally prefer the sermons of Massillon to 20 those of Bourdaloue and Bossuet. But those who read sermons for instruction, and whose chief object in the perusal of them, is to be excited to virtue or confirmed in her paths, will generally consider Bourdaloue as the first of preachers, and every time they peruse him, 25 will feel new delight.
When we recollect before whom Bourdaloue preached; that he had, for his auditors, the most luxurious court in Europe, and a monarch abandoned to ambition and pleasure, we shall find it impossible not to honour 30 the preacher, for the dignified simplicity with which he uniformly held up to his audience the severity of the Gospel, and the scandal of the cross. Now and then, and ever with a very bad grace, he makes an unmeaning compliment to the monarch. On these occasions, 35 his genius appears to desert him; but he never disguis
es the morality of the Gospel, or withholds its threats. In one of the sermons which he preached before the monarch, he described, with matchless eloquence, the horrors of an adulterous life, its abomination in the eye 40 of God, its scandal to man, and the public and private evils which attend it: but he managed his discourse with so much address, that he kept the king from suspecting that the thunder of the preacher was ultimately to fall upon him. In general, Bourdaloue spoke in a 45 level tone of voice, and with his eyes almost shut. On
this occasion, having wound up the attention of the monarch and the audience to the highest pitch, he paused. The audience expected something terrible, and seemed to fear the next word. The pause continued 50 for some time: at length, the preacher, fixing his eyes directly on his royal hearer, and in a tone of voice equally expressive of horror and concern, said, in the words of the prophet, "thou art the man!" then, leaving these words to their effect, he concluded with a mild 55 and general prayer to heaven for the conversion of all sinners. A miserable courtier observed, in a whisper, to the monarch, that the boldness of the preacher exceeded all bounds, and should be checked. "No, sir," replied the monarch, "the preacher has done his duty, 60 let us do ours." When the service was concluded, the monarch walked slowly from the church, and ordered Bourdaloue into his presence. He remarked to him, his general protection of religion, the kindness which he had ever shown to the Society of Jesus, his particular 65 attention to Bourdaloue and his friends. He then re
proached him with the strong language of the sermon: and asked him, what could be his motive for insulting him, thus publicly, before his subjects? Bourdaloue fell on his knees: "God is my witness, that it was 70 not my wish to insult your majesty; but I am a minister of God, and must not disguise his truths. What I said in my sermon is my morning and evening prayer: -May God, in his infinite mercy, grant me to see the day, when the greatest of kings shall be the holiest.". 75 The monarch was affected, and silently dismissed the preacher: but, from this time, the court began to observe that change which afterward, and at no distant period, led Lewis to a life of regularity and virtue.
Eloquence of Bridaine.—BUTLER.
"The missionary orator, most renowned in our days, says Maury, was M. Bridaine. Highly gifted with popular eloquence, full of animation, abounding in figures and pathos, no one possessed, in an equal degree, the 5 rare talent of commanding an assembled multitude.
The organ of his voice was so powerful and happy, as to render credible what ancient history relates of the declamation of the ancients; he made himself as well heard in open air, to an assembly of 10,000 persons, as 10 if he spoke under the vault of the most sonorous temple. In all he said, there might be discovered that natural eloquence, which originates from genius; that bound of natural vigour, which is superior to any imitation. His bold metaphors; his quick and vivid turns of thought 15 and expression, equally surprised, affected and delighted. His eloquence was always simple, but it was always noble in its simplicity. With these endowments, he never failed to raise and preserve the attention of the people; they were never tired of listening to him."
In 1751, he preached in the church of St. Sulpice, at Paris. His renown had preceded him; and the temple was filled with the highest dignitaries of the church and state, decorated with the various insignia of their ranks and orders. The venerable man ascended the pulpit, 25 cast a look of indignation and pity on his audience, remained in silence for some moments, and then began his sermon in these words:-" In the presence of an audience of a kind so new to me, it might, my brethren, be thought, that I should not open my mouth, without 30 entreating your indulgence to a poor missionary, who does not possess any one of the talents, which you are pleased to require from those, who address you on the salvation of your souls. My feelings are very different. May God forbid, that any minister of the gospel shall 35 ever think he owes an apology for preaching Gospel truths to you; for, whoever you are, you, like myself, are sinners in the judgement of God. Till this day, I have published the judgements of the Most High in the temples roofed with straw: I have preached the rigours