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study of ancient critics and orators, but only to assist you in applying their rules and examples to cases so different from those with which alone they were concerned. I shall therefore in these discourses, insist chiefly on what is different and peculiar in the eloquence of the pulpit.
And here, one of the first differences that offers itself to our observation, is, that the ancients had a much wider range in what might properly be made the subject of their praises. Pedigree, intellectual abilities, even qualities merely corporeal, such as beauty, health, strength, agility, nay those commonly called the goods of fortune, as riches, friends, rank, all came in for a share in the encomium. I do not deny that any of these may passingly be mentioned in a sermon, but it would ill become the dignity of the sacred function, to enlarge on these qualities in such a manner, as to seem to place a merit in things, which are totally inde- . pendent of our will, and of which therefore the com. mendation in another can be of no service to a hearer in the way of example ; but may, on the contrary, very readily do hurt in teaching him to place an undue value on things not in his power, and about which, as a christian, he ought not to have the least anxiety. Nothing therefore must appear to be the subject of panegyric to the preacher, but moral excellence. Nothing ought to be enlarged on as a topic of discourse, but what can properly be held up to the audience as a subject, which it is incumbent on them to imitate, in other words, as the object of a noble emulation. I acknowledge, that those other qualities, accidental in re. spect of us, as I may call them, which have no necessary connection with virtue or religion, and are only
physically good, may find a place in a discourse of this kind, when they are introduced not for their own sakes, but as it were, in passing, and in order to set off real virtues. Thus the high birth of the person, you extol, may be mentioned in order to add the greater lustre to his humility ; his riches may be taken notice of by the way, in order to shew how well he understood the proper use of wealth, and in order to set off to the greater advantage how moderate he was in regard to gratifications merely personal, and how liberal and charitable in supplying the wants and contributing to the accommodation and comfort of others. It will be easily understood, that in the same way, almost every such advantage of person or fortune may be introduced. This would not be to exhibit wealth or nobleness of birth, as an object calculated to excite the ambition of the hearers, a thing exceedingly absurd in any, but more especially in the preacher of the humble religion of Jesus ; but it would be to give an instructive lesson to the rich and noble, in regard to the use they ought to make of these advantages. It must be owned, on the other hand, that qualities physically bad may be rendered instrumental for the same purpose of giving higher relief to the virtues of the character. Thus the poverty of the person may serve greatly to enhance and recommend his patience, his contentment, his resignation, his prudence, his economy, nay even his charity and beneficence. In like manner, low birth and want of education may be made subservient to display to more advantage the industry and application of mind, which could surmount these signal disadvantages so perfectly, that the defect could never have been discovered from his behaviour and conversation. And of this kind, we should say, as of the former, it is not recommending poverty and inferiority in point of birth to our estimation, but it is exhibiting a pattern to the poor and ignoble, whereby they may be instructed, how to convert such apparent evils into real occasions of improving their virtues, and of rendering these more than a sufficient compensation for every want. The ancient rhetoricians, though not so delicate on this point as christian teachers ought to be, were yet sensible, that this was the best use that could be made of fortuitous advantages or disadvantages. Thus Quintilian “ Et corporis quidem, fortuitorumque, cum levior, tum non uno modo tractanda laus est. Interim confert admirationi multum etiam infirmitas, ut cum Homerus, Týdea parvum sed bellatorem dicit fuisse. Fortuna vero cum dignitatem affert (namque est hæc materia ostendendæ virtutis uberior) tum quo minores opes fuerunt, eo majorem benefactis gloriam parit.” The following sentiment is indeed excellent, and well deserves our attention. “Sed omnia quæ extrą nos bona sunt, quæque hominibus forte obtigerunt, non ideo laudantur, quod habuerit qui eas, sed quod his honeste sit usus. Nam divitiæ et potentia et gratia, cum plurimum virium dent in utramque partem, certissimum faciunt morum experimentum : aut enim meliores propter hæc, aut pejores sumus."
In regard to this species of discourse, as the immediate object is to please by presenting to the imagination a beautiful and finished picture in suitable colouring, it admits, from the nature of it, more of ornament, than any other kind delivered from the pulpit. There are few of the tropes and figures of eloquence, that may not properly find admission here. This is a kind
of moral painting; and greater allowance is made for introducing things which serve merely the purpose of decoration, when the immediate object is to delight. Here too there is generally more indulgence in point of style, than can be admitted in any other species of sermon. In respect of flowers and harmony, this kind borders even on the poetical. Yet still it must be remembered, that this indulgence hạth its bound. Whatever soars above the reach of the congregation, what. ever appears either unintelligible or affected, is still faulty and offensive. I observe further that in regard to the very ornaments, of which the different sorts of discourses are susceptible, such as metaphors, comparisons, examples, these in the thoughts, as well as in the language, should be different in the different kinds. In the explanatory, all the borrowed illustrations and similitudes ought to be from things familiar and simple, as well as exhibited in a distinct and easy
In the controversial kind the simplicity and perspicuity of the decorations, though still of consequence, are not so much regarded, as a certain forcible manner of impressing the imagination, so as to carry conviction along with them. The similes here ought to be all a kind of analogical argument. Again, in the commendatory discourses, whose end is neither to inform nor to convince, but to please, the principal quality in the fund of the imagery to be employed is its beauty. No metaphor, however like or apposite, ought ever to be admitted here, that is not taken from an agreeable object. Under the general term agreeable, I must be understood to comprehend, not only the beautiful strictly so called, but also the grand, the sublime, the wonderful and the new, if with these
qualities there be not connected any thing that is disagreeable, mean, ugly or deformed.
As to the manner of concluding discourses of this kind, any one, or two, or even all of the three following may be adopted, according as the preacher shall judge most suitable, to the time, the subject and the occasion. First, you may make out, from the actions and behaviour you have been delineating, a clear and distinct character of the person. Or secondly, you may introduce a contrast between the conduct of the person commended in some of the most memorable instances, and that which there is reason to believe would be followed, or which commonly is followed by the generality, even of professing christians, in the like circumstances. Or thirdly, you may conclude with a more direct application to the passions of the hearers, in order to excite in them a generous ardour to be themselves, what they cannot contemplate or behold without admiring. The first of these methods is far the most difficult. To draw a character, which shall be at once both just and striking, which shall set the different features in the most conspicuous point of view, that shall mark not only the exact turn of each, but the manner wherein they limit and set off one another, requires indeed the delicate hand of a master in the rhetorical art. It is attempted by every dabbler in historiography; but it is not one of a hundred that succeeds. Let it be observed, that a character thus introduced in the conclusion of a sermon of this kind, ought in every part of it to be manifestly supported by the particular actions and conduct delineated in the discourse, and should serve to recal to the memory and impress on it more strongly those particulars. As