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ble. Everybody sees in this case not only how absurd such a way of arguing would be, but that the very reverse ought to be the conclusion. The reason why people do not so quickly perceive the absurdity in the other case is, that they affix no distinct meaning to the word eloquence, often denoting no more by that term than simply the power of moving the passions. But even in this improper acceptation their notion is far from being just ; for wherever there are men, learned or ignorant, civilized or barbarous, there are passions; and the greater the difficulty is in affecting these, the more art is requisite. The truth is, eloquence, like every other art, proposeth the accomplishment of a certain end, Passion is for the most part but the means employed for effecting the end, and therefore, like all other means, will no farther be regarded in any case than it can be rendered conducible to the end.
Now the preacher's advantage even here, in point of facility, at least in several situations, will not appear, on reflection, to be so great as on a superficial view it may be thought. Let it be observed, that, in such congregations as were supposed, there is a mixture of superior and inferior ranks. It is therefore the business of the speaker so far only to accommodate himself to one class as not wantonly to disgust another. Besides, it will scarcely be denied, that those in the superior walks of life, however much by reading and conversation improved in all genteel accomplishments, often have as much need of religious instruction and moral improvement as those who in every other particular are acknowledged to be their inferiors. And doubtless the reformation of such will be allowed to be, in one respect, of greater importance (and, therefore, never to be overlooked), that, in consequence of such an event, more good may redound to others from the more extensive influence of their authority and example.
IN REGARD TO THE SUBJECT. The third particular mentioned was the subject of discourse. This may be considered in a twofold view: first, as implying the topics of argument, motives, and principles which are suited to each of the different kinds, and must be employed in order to produce the intended effect on the hearers; secondly, as implying the persons or things in whose favour or to whose prejudice the speaker purposes to excite the passions of the audience, and thereby to influence their determinations.
On the first of these articles, I acknowledge the preacher hath incomparably the advantage of every other public ora
tor. · At the bar, critical explications of dark and ambiguous statutes, quotations of precedents sometimes contradictory, and comments on jarring decisions and reports, often necessarily consume the greater part of the speaker's time. Hence the mixture of a sort of metaphysics and verbal criticism, employed by lawyers in their pleadings, hath come to be distinguished by the name of chicane, a species of reasoning too abstruse to command attention of any continuance even from the studious, and, consequently, not very favourable to the powers of rhetoric. When the argument doth not turn on the common law, or on nice and hypercritical explications of the statute, but on the great principles of natural right and justice, as sometimes happens, particularly in criminal cases, the speaker is much more advantageously situated for exhibiting his rhetorical talents than in the former case. When, in consequence of the imperfection of the evidence, the question happens to be more a question of fact than either of municipal law or of natural equity, the pleader hath more advantages than in the first case, and fewer than in the second.
Again, in the deliberations in the Senate, the utility or the disadvantages that will probably follow on a measure proposed, if it should receive the sanction of the Legislature, constitute the principal topics of debate. This, though it sometimes leads to a kind of reasoning rather too complex and involved for ordinary apprehension, is, in the inain, more favourable to the display of pathos, vehemence, and sublimity, than the much greater part of forensic causes can be said to be. That these qualities have been sometimes found in a very high degree in the orations pronounced in the British Senate, is a fact incontrovertible.
But beyond all question, the preacher's subject of argument, considered in itself, is infinitely more lofty and more affecting The doctrines of religion are such as relate to God, the adorable Creator and Ruler of the world, his attributes, government, and laws. What science to be compared with it in sublimity! It teaches, also, the origin of man nis primitive dignity, the source of his degeneracy, the means of his recovery, the eternal happiness that awaits the good, and the future misery of the impenitent. Is there any kind of knowledge in which human creatures are so deeply interested? In a word, whether we consider the doctrines of religion or its documents, the examples it holds forth to our imitation, or its motives, promises, and threatonings, we see on every hand a subject that gives scope for the exertion of all the highest powers of rhetoric. What are the sanctions of any human laws compared with the sanctions of the Divine law, with which we are brought acquainted by the Gospel ?. Or where shall we find instructions, similitudes, and examples that speak so directly to the heart as the parables and other divine lessons of our blessed Lord ?
In regard to the second thing which I took notice of as included under the general term subject, namely, the persons or things in whose favour or to whose prejudice the speaker intends to excite the passions of the audience, and thereby to influence their determinations, the other two have commonly the advantage of the preacher. The reason is, that his subject is generally things; theirs, on the contrary, is persons. In what regards the painful passions, indignation, hatred, contempt, abhorrence, this difference invariably obtains. The preacher's business is solely to excite your detestation of the crime, the pleader's business is principally to make you detest the criminal. The former paints vice to you in all its odious colours, the latter paints the vicious. There is a degree of abstraction, and, consequently, a much greater degree of attention requisite to enable us to form just conceptions of the ideas and sentiments of the former, whereas those of the latter, referring to an actual, perhaps a living, present, and well-known subject, are much more level to common capacity, and, therefore, not only are more easily apprehended by the understanding, but take a stronger hold of the imagination. It would have been impossible even for Cicero to inflame the minds of the people to so high a pitch against oppression considered in the abstract, as he actually did inflame them against Verres the oppressor. Nor could he have incensed them so much against treason and conspiracy, as be did incense them against Catiline the traitor and conspirator. The like may be observed of the effects of his orations against Antony, and in a thousand other instances.
Though the occasions in this way are more frequent at the bar, yet, as the deliberations in the senate often proceed on the reputation and past conduct of individuals, there is commonly here, also, a much better handle for rousing the passions than that enjoyed by the preacher. How much advantage Demosthenes drew from the known character and insidious arts of Philip, king of Macedon, for influencing the resolves of the Athenians and other Grecian states, those who are acquainted with the Philippics of the orator, and the history of that period, will be very sensible. In what concerns the pleasing affections, the preacher may sometimes, not often, avail himself of real human characters, as in funeral sermons, and in discourses on the patterns of virtue given us by our Saviour, and by those saints of whom we have the history in the sacred code. But such examples are comparatively few.
IN REGARD TO THE OCCASION.
The fourth circumstance mentioned as a ground of com
parison is the particular occasion of speaking ; and in this I think it evident that both the pleader and the senator have the advantage of the preacher. When any important cause comes to be tried before a civil judicatory, or when any important question comes to be agitated in either house of Parliament, as the point to be discussed hath generally, for some time before, been a topic of conversation in most companies, perhaps, throughout the kingdom (which of itself is sufficient to give consequence to anything), people are apprized beforehand of the particular day fixed for the discussion. Accordingly, they come prepared with some knowledge of the case, a persuasion of its importance, and a curiosity which sharpens their attention, and assists both their understanding and their memory
Men go to church without any of these advantages. The subject of the sermon is not known to the congregation till the minister announces it, just as he begins, by reading the text. Now, from our experience of human nature, we may be sensible that whatever be the comparative importance of the things themselves, the generality of men cannot be here wrought up in an instant to the like anxious curiosity about what is to be said, nor can they be so well prepared for hearing it. It may, indeed, be urged, in regard to those subjects which come regularly to be discussed at stated times, as on public festivals, as well as in regard to assize sermons, charity sermons, and other occasional discourses, that these must be admitted as exceptions. Perhaps in some degree they are, but not altogether; for, first, the precise point to be argued, or proposition to be evinced, is very rarely known. The most that we can say is, that the subject will have a relation (sometimes remote enough) to such an article of faith, or to the obligations we lie under to the practice of such a duty. But, farther, if the topic were ever so well known, the frequent recurrence of such occasions, once a year at least, hath long familiarized us to them, and by destroying their novelty, hath abated exceedingly of that ardour which ariseth in the mind for hearing a discussion conceived to be of importance, which one never had access to hear before, and probably never will have access to hear again.
I shall here take notice of another circumstance, which, without great stretch, may be classed under this article, and which likewise gives some advantage to the counsellor and the senator. It is the opposition and contradiction which they expect to meet with. Opponents sharpen one another, as iron sharpeneth iron. There is not the same spur either to exertion in the speaker, or to attention in the hearer, where there is no conflict, where you have no adversary to encounter on equal terms. Mr. Bickerstaff would have made but small progress in the science of defence, by pushing at
the human figure which he had chalked upon the wall,* in comparison of what he might have made by the help of a fel. low.combatant of flesh and blood, I do not, however, pre, tend that these cases are entirely parallel. The whole of an adversary's plea may be perfectly known, and may, to the satisfaction of every reasonable person, be perfectly confu, ted, though he hath not been heard by counsel at the bar.
IN REGARD TO THE END IN VIEW.
The fifth and last particular mentioned, and, indeed, the most important of them all, is the effect in each species intended to be produced. The primary intention of preaching is the reformation of mankind. The grace of God, that bringeth salvation, hath appeared to all men, teaching us that, denying ungodliness and worldly lusts, we should live soberly, righteously, and godly in this present world. Reformation of life and manners-of all things that which is the most difficult by any means whatever to effectuate; I may add, of all tasks ever attempted by persuasion—that which has the most frequently baffled its power.
What is the task of any other orator compared with this? It is really as nothing at all, and hardly deserves to be named. An unjust judge, gradually worked on by the resistless force of human eloquence, may be persuaded, against his inclination, perhaps against a previous resolution, to pronounce an equitable sentence. All the effect on him, intended by the pleader, was merely momentary. The orator hath had the address to employ the time allowed him in such a manner as to secure the happy moment. Notwithstanding this, there may be no real change wrought upon the judge. He may continue the same obdurate wretch he was before. Nay, if the sentence had been delayed but a single day after hearing the cause, he would, perhaps, have given a very different award.
Is it to be wondered at, that when the passions of the peo ple were agitated by the persuasive powers of a Demosthenes, while the thunder of his eloquence was yet sounding in their ears, the orator should be absolute master of their resolves ? But an apostle or evangelist (for there is no anachronism in a bare supposition) might have thus addressed the celebrated Athenian : “ You do, indeed, succeed to admiration, and the address and genius which you display in speaking justly entitle you to our praise. But, however great the consequences may be of the measures to which, by your eloquence, they are determined, the change produced in the people is nothing, or next to nothing. If you would # Tattler.
+ Tit., ii., 11, 12.