• Page 5, line 2; & p. 86, l. 18; for in, read enforce.
  • 7. l. 3, for in, r. imperfection
  • 14, l. 1, for rs, r inspires.
  • 17, l. 9, for Hy, r, Hierogly­phics.
  • 17, l, 9, for ra, r. Assyria.
  • 18, l, last, for sum, r. con­sumamate.
  • 27, l. 20. for ffets, r. effects.
  • 29. l. 15, for id, r. indolence.
  • 31, l. 1, for that and, r. & that
  • 38, l. 12, for ton, r. disquisi­tion.
  • 41, l. 5, for an, r. geminentur
  • 43, note, for er, r. Grammar
  • 46, line 14, for pueren, read pruriency.
  • Page 49, l. 6, for oun, r. pronunciation.
  • 51, l. 20, for rant, r. abhor rent.
  • 53, l. 6, for pa, r. Olympi.
  • 58 l. 10, for Tu, r. Teutonic
  • 60, l. 6, pace a comma after egregie, and no point after verbum.
  • 68. l. 7. for prin, r. painting.
  • 69. l. 10, for ake, r. squeaks.
  • 79, l. 9, for pe, r. soporiferous
  • 80, l. 18, for er, r. impostor.
  • 84. l. 5, for an, r. chargcable
  • 88, l. 11, for on, r. contein­platiou.

A DISSERTATION UPON ORATORY, AND Philological Inquiry, &c. &c.

IN the infancy of Society, before the darkness of barbarism has been dissipated, every study, the final end of which is in­tellectual improvement, is either unknown or contemned: But when refinement be­gins to dawn, then by degrees men form a relish for the more exalted studies, and, as their opportunities permit them, ex­change corporeal occupation and sensual pleasure, for more enlightened labours and refined delights.

[Page 4]

BUT of all the intellectual studies, there are none which receive a later or slighter attention than those of Orato­ry and Philology; yet perhaps none which require more early and judicious care. If the signification of words be in­determinate, our knowledge of the things signified by them must necessarily be confused. If our language be defective, our metaphysics may be incompatible, our logic incongruous, and our very mo­rality unintelligible, if not even absurd. And these are Sciences of themselves sufficiently involved in darkness, not to need any additional perplexity from the ambiguity or contradiction of language. But the attainment of perspicuity is not the sole advantage accruing from a critical study of language; but the beauty of ex­pression and the cogency of argument are derived in a considerable degree from the same source. It not only serves to [Page 5]elucidate our Ideas, it directs, it improves, it inforces them. In fine, Liberty receives no less support, than Literature does energy and ornament from forcible and elegant language. If men therefore wish to dis­course intelligibly, much more, if they as­pire to impress conviction, or impart de­light, they should not remain unacquainted with the instruments by which these effects are produced. Hence Oratory and Philolo­gy ever engaged the attention of those who have been solicitous and able to please and to persuade; and to minds susceptible of every elegant impression and open to every refinement of taste, any attempt to ad­vance this knowledge can (I should sup­pose) neither be unacceptable nor unuseful.

[Page 6] THE English language labours under pe­culiar defects and enjoys peculiar excellen­cies. To have these defects and excellencies (at least some of the most remarkable of them) placed before our Eyes must be use­ful, inasmuch as it will suggest the means of avoiding those blemishes which disgrace a style, of adopting those beauties which en­hance it, of tranferring from foreign lan­guages those graces wherein our own may seem to be deficient, and of neglecting such innovations as have been created thro' ig­norance or caprice, and are unallied to pro­priety of speech or the genius of our tongue.

We shall consider it under the heads of Simplicity, Energy, Copiousness and grace, and endcavor to call forth into view, some of the principal beauties and defects, by impartially comparing it with those of Greece and Rome. Should I fail in this attempt, I must hope for indulgence; should I err, for correction.

[Page 7]

THE subject is important, delicate and extensive. It would be vain therefore to hope that I shall escape inperfection: It is sufficient for me that I shall offer hints upon which superior abilities may improve.

THE cultivation of Oratory is particu­larly incumbent upon the rising youth of America. The influence of the revolu­tion will give efficacy to their exertions, since where Liberty is established Oratory will flourish. And not only honor, but the well being of the country demand those exertions, since when Oratory most generally flourishes, Liberty is most se­cure. There are circumstances that now combine in their favour, with which the students of Oratory in ancient days, & even your predecessors in this country, were unas­sisted. I sincerely wish, and confidently ex­pect, that their abilities, improving these circumstances, will give to this country, al­ready [Page 8]rendered illustrious, additional bril­liancy.

IN the school of Oratory which was in­stituted under the reign of Theseus, the youth of abilities was taught to dispute juridically and to deceive * as in the regu­lar form of syllogism. In the Lyceum, the Portico and the Academy, where gene­rous precepts flowed from eloquent lips, the young philosopher had the opportunity of listening. But now, in this rising country, he may not only learn the accu­mulated wisdom of every age, but he may learn to apply that wisdom to the great purposes of life. Neither a forensic [Page 9]Sophist as in the one case, nor an indolent auditor as in the other, he is taught to emulate with active diligence those pow­ers that once preserved Greece in the en­joyment of her liberties, and that assisted to rescue this country.

IN former times the works of great masters (which are the true models for improvement) were scarce and difficult of access; but now by the happy art of Gottenburg, * the glowing pages not only of the Historian and the orator from whom the great Athenian copied, but of the great Athenian himself and of his Roma competitor, are endowed (if I may so speak) with a benevolent ubiquity, by which while present with all, they invite all to rival them. And by the encourage­ments [Page 10]here given to composition, of which so many specimens have lately been exhi­bited; they who are animated with the laudable ambition of excelling in that art which governs the soul, inslead of be­ing obliged like the orators of old to have recourse for improvement to the unfaithful mirror of the cave, or to the unconscious waves of the ocean, enjoy the inestimable advantage of a rational and indulgent peo­ple, to inspin admire and reward their Essays.

History should be carefully studied and we should always bear in mind its uses, and direct our investigations in such a manner, as to render our knowledge ap­plicable to purposes of practicable utility. The annals of remote antiquity are in general mere chioniclen of names and dates, which form in fact the only links [Page 11]whereby the events they record are con­nected.

Who's the Historian? Is it he that moulds
And forms his matter but to suit the ends
Of faction, and of party? Is it he
That, little anxious about facts, contrives
To flatter some great patron? Is it he
That rounds a period by a breach of truth,
And forms antitheses by joining men
And things that never met? Or, is it he
That centers all these graces in himself?
No: 'tis the man that, undisinay'd by fear,
Addicted to no party, speaks the truth.

But we ought not to be satisfied with being mere Historians. If History, * who is the messenger of Antiquity, were not to be also the mistress of life, her documents would be of little use, except to divert the anxieties of the recluse Hypochondriac; her volumes would be of little value, ex­cept [Page 12]to swell the Library of the lettered speculist. But History was not meant to be the solace of the indolent, it is her province and her praise to be the guide of the active. Since few can by mere pru­dence distinguish the just from the preju­dicial, the useful from the dangerous: Many are taught by the events of others. Mark, however, that the instructions of his­tory are not fitted for the regulation of private intercourse, but for the momen­tous administration of public affairs. To the statesman and to the patriotic Orator, she manifests herself the light of truth and the soul of memory: To all, however in­experienced, she liberally dispenses wis­dom, and points out, with an unerring hand how they may assert and defend the dearest privileges of mankind. Thus it is that History is subservient to Oratory, [Page 13]as Oratory is to the noblest purposes of existence.

WITH similar recommendations, Com­position courts attention. Nothing (says Tully, is so conducive to Oratory as wri­ting. And we find that the greatest * Ora­tor the world ever produced, did not deem it unworthy his genius to spend several months in a cave, in polishing a speech; to transcribe Thucydides eight times, and to labour for the space of an Olympiad in imitating the orations of Isaeus—we must allow ample authority to the asser­tion.

THUS wisely did these founders provide History and composition as supporters for Oratory, which may itself be styled the escutcheon of freedom. To demonstrate this, the annals of the world evince, that it has been by the influence of this divine [Page 14]art, which arouses, persuades and inspirs, that ever the oppressed have been awaken­ed from their ignominious acquiescence, have been taught to know the dignity of their nature, and animated with courage to assert their rights. It may be useful to en­quire how this has happened.

FEW states have been originally free, and, what is remarkable, still fewer have become free. The cause of this seems to be, that Oratory, which is the instrument of freedom, cannot flourish under arbitra­ry government; sometimes however it may happen that * one or two great and good men, endowed with abilities which fear does not repiess, and animated with a love for the public good which ambition or interest cannot warp, may become ora­tors; these men may command the souls of their countrymen, and arouse them to [Page 15]vindicate their native rights. This coun­try hazarded what appeared at first rash­ness to many; but the beneficial conse­quences are now very visible to all the industrious throughout the United States. I think the Histories of every age and of every nation concur in demonstrating the truth of these principles. As they are of such moment, they ought to be illustrated and confirmed by applying to History.

The Testimonies of History, it must be acknowledged, are often tedious, but they are always impartial and conclusive: And I hope that truth will be received with pleasure. The first constitution which human society knew was by no means propitious to the birth of cio­quence. The families of the Patriarchs were ruled with absolute * authority; and [Page 16]there was little other occasion for speech than to signify the will of the aged father. Men were thus from their infancy habitu­ated to implicit submission; and when in time they found it necessary to support public hostilities, they crowded, without reluctance or compunction, around the despotic banners of some illustrious chief­tain.

SUCH was the early government of the Jews. Such was the constitution which obtained among the Celtae, reputed the most ancient of nations, and which con­tinued with them unaltered even down to the time of Julius Caesar, from whom we receive the same account of it. Such [Page 17]was the government of the Phrygians, the Phoenicians, § the Huns, the Scy­thians, and all the northern nations. In Egypt the government was monarchi­cal, and the sceptre hereditary. Every thing seems to have been conducted in this kingdom with a mysterious silence, even the juridical proceedings were transacted by Hyeroglyphics. In Persia, despotism commanded the prostration of the intellect as well as of the body. In Assyra * the sovereign power was no less arbitrary; and [Page 18]the royal lineage of Nimrod, like himself, were mighty upon the earth.

IN Greece alone did a Democracy exist; and climate seemed happily to con­spire with constitution to elevate the Gre­cians above the rest of mankind. Less fierce than the northern Europeans, less effeminate than the Asiatics, they were neither always in the field like the one, nor always on the couch like the other: they had leisure and genius to in­vent arts; and wisdom and courage to pro­tect them. * Here it was accordingly, in the midst of Republics, that eloquence was called into existence. And it is wor­thy of remark that where eloquence was first known, there she was most perfect: Like the tutelary Goddess of the place of her nativity, another offspring of the head, she appeared consumate at her birth.

[Page 19] Examming the records of History we become convinced that eloquence not only abhorred despotism, but discerned and abandoned supposititious freedom. The study of oratory (said Tully) was not com­mon to Greece, but peculiar to Athens. For who hath known an Argive, a Corin­thian or a Theban orator: unless we ex­cept Epaminondas, a man of singular ac­complishments. Or hath a Spartan orator been heard of even to this day? Lace-daemon was called a free state, but the people had no right to propose laws, nor to alter or debate upon such as the Senate would propose, and hence their constant Laconic style. Carthage too was called a free State; but its government (as Aris­totle proves) was in fact an oligarchy. At Carthage nothing was accounted base if it supplied lucre: * The votes of the electors were avowedly purchased: And the peo­ple, [Page 20]who were the agents and factors of all other nations, intent as they were upon traffic, and accustomed to naval discipline, were not less regardless of the blessings of liberty, than they were ignorant of the charms and energies of speech. In short, do we wish for a criterion of genuine con­stitutional Freedom? enquire * if oratory flourishes in the state.

By comparing the number and style of the Athenian orators, with the political transactions of the different periods in which they lived, it not only appears that when Athens was most free, then were her citizens most generally eloquent; but it is also discernable that among her great orators the excellence of each was accu­rately paralleled by the spirit of indepen­dence with which he was inspired. How far did Lysias, Isocrates, Isaeus, Demos­thenes [Page 21]outvie Timaeus, Sosigenes, Phila­grius and Molo? Among the former how inferior to the rest was the mild Isocrates, whose very censures were couched in panegyric, and who, if he afforded any assistance to liberty, did it rather by depre­cation * than by patronage!

From the death of Phocion, 'till the time of Dyonisius the Halicarnassian (which was about the Augustan age of Rome) the original and Philosophic spe­cies of eloquence was gradualy decaying, and in the time of Dyonisius was almost extinct. The chaste and native Attic muse (says he) was despoiled of her property and her respect, by the meretricious intrigues of the Phrygian, who supplanted her, and seduced all the cities of Greece. And easily indeed must they have been [Page 22]liable to such a seduction, when they were previously reduced into subjection by the Macedonian arms.

The subject would take up too much time to trace, with accuracy, the progress of eloquence through Greece and Rome, although new proof;s would still arise in corroboration of what is here advanced. We might notice what influence every po­litical establishment at Athens had upon the art of speaking; and observe how the authority of Pericles * and the tyranny of Pisistratus were effected, not by the force of their arms but by the powers of their elocution: and from thence advert to that objection which has been raised against eloquence, that its powers have been sometimes perverted even to the pur­poses [Page 23]of despotism. It might be demon­strated that such perversions are unusual, never occurring, except where this power­ful faculty is permitted to become appro­priate to one; that the light of eloquence should be, if possible, as universally diffused as the light of heaven; for that, concen­tred into a single point, however it may dazzle, it always becomes dangerous.

THESE considerations might suggest new ideas of the usefulness of those studies, and infer new motives for the invigoration of your efforts to accomplish them.

In might be observed how, in the last century of the Roman republic the Gre­cian arts were imported into Rome, * how the taste of Cicero, and of all the great geniuses of that age, was formed before Julius Caesar was made perpetual dictator, [Page 24]and before Octavius was born. * It might finally be remembered, how eloquence fled from Rome as soon as the common­wealth expired. Then might a descent be made to present times, and a review taken with triumph, of cotemporary nations—Rome might be compared to Babylon, Holland to Carthage, Switzerland to Sparta, France (before the revolution) to Persia, Spain to Assyria, England to At­tica; and with what pleasure do we add that this government enjoys all the excel­lencies of the Athenian, unpolluted by one of its defects. Thus it appears that eloquence is the satellite of liberty, de­riving its splendor from the same common source, rising and setting with it invaria­bly [Page 25]and giving it new radiance by the emanations of its lustre; but we must stop lest our patience should be exhausted, for the subject is inexhaustible—Let us hope that the important principles are fully established which were desired to be im­pressed upon the mind. That there only where liberty obtains, can oratory flou­rish —and that where oratory most gene­rally flourishes, liberty is most secure.

Now endeavour to apply these princi­ples to circumstances.

UNTIL the ever memorable and happy revolution, America was nominally, but not really free. In the pride of the heart, and the ignorance or delusion of the un­derstanding, the people were accustomed to boast of such a constitution as the phi­losophic annalist of Rome describes * as [Page 26]the most perfect—But they did not advert to the interference of Britain nor to the exercised supremacy of a British parlia­ment. These powers however have been chased from the United States, and they are now free and independent. What does not this country owe to the elo­quence of some of its original congress? and with what praises is not that art wor­thy to be adorned which can obtain the greatest blessing human society can possess? The consequence of emancipation will be the diffusion of that faculty which obtain­ed it: and the effect of this diffusion will be the preservation of those blessings that have been acquired.

IT is liberty (says Longinus) that che­rishes the thoughts of generous spirits, * [Page 27]that elevates their hopes, that invigorates their faculties, and incites them to mutual emulation and ambition for the palm of Honor. The powers of their souls are struck out, as it were by collision, and the freedom of their speech is not less illustrious than the freedom of their ac­tions. Thus, since the establishment of liberty, has oratory raised her head in the United States; and, fraught with every grace and every blessing heaven can bestow, shall be the tutelary genius of the Land. In every state where the go­vernment has been upheld by force, and not by reason, she has been unknown: In every state where the abilities of men have been neither shackled by submission to a despot, nor composed by sovereignty over slaves, she has been venerated and found benesicent of the most happy effects. It appears, then, that while to preserve your freedom, and to transmit it to your [Page 28]posterity pure and stabilitated, is a duty which every one of you owes to his coun­try: Ye can only fulfil that duty by en­couraging and improving, as far as ye are able, that art which is the true Palladium of a free constitution. But ye must not confine yourselves to such oratory alone, as obtains within the walls of a Senate. He who at the bar asserts property and personal liberty, he who in the pulpit vindicates toleration and mental liberty, and he who supports independence and the liberty of fair elections, is a friend to his country, and contributes to preserve in Equipoise the great balance of political power.

YE may perceive that every extrinsic circumstance combines to assist you in the performance of an important duty. No­thing remains but that ye should supply your exertions, which ye ought not to re­mit, [Page 29]when ye recollect the considerations by which ye are called upon to employ them in their utmost enegy.

As men of abilities, as the rising hope of America, ye are called upon to culti­tivate oratory, to cultivate that field, where while ye reap the produce which is the true sustenance of liberty, ye may gather immortal amaranths and laurels for your own brows. And now let it be asked—Enjoying the peculiar and supereminent advantages just now enumerated, men of abilities! What should prevent you from equalling, from excelling the orators of Greece? Nothing except your own ido­lence. Surmount that; employ, as your professions may lead you, those advan­tages and those abilities in supporting your happy constitution, where personal, civil and religious liberty are amply secure; and in merit and honor, ye will not yield [Page 30]to the greatest, or most enlightened nations of mankind.

THOUGH it were to be wished, that every individual in society would exert whatever abilities of elocution he may possess with decency and propriety, it would be wrong to accuse the silent man of a careless in­dolence or of a sullen pride. Silence not unfrequently proceeds from modesty; and the modest, though often culpable, are always so amiable they ought not to be censured; the delicate sensibility of their nature recedes from the touch of reproof, tender as the sensitive plant, and as tender­ly to be cherished. There is no occasion to be so cautious with the more bold and manly spirits who sometimes nobly err; but let them remember, that error, what­ever be its denomination, is still error, and ought to be reclaimed: Genius will never charm if it be not attempered by [Page 31]taste, that & even the sublime fails to impart pleasure when it is unaccompanied by the beautiful. It is to be lamented to observe men of good abilities abandoning, thro' an unhappy false taste, argument and phi­losophy, and prostituting their faculties to the indiscriminate embrace of every vagrant metaphor, and allusion, that their pandaring imaginations could collect.—Rhetorical beauties are not hard to be acquired; to the imagination that explores for them, thousands of splendid figures readily present themselves. The mind that is influenced by a just sense of beauty selects those only that are useful as well as ornamental; it will act like the Magnet, which attracts from innumerable particles such alone as have a sympathetic quality with itself. It is not to be recommended to substitute phelgmatic discussion and cold analysis in the place of warm language, and animated argument. But remember [Page 32]never to let the intrigues of a restless fancy supplant, from the administration of your speech, sober reasoning and deliberate de­cision.

GOOD financiers ought to preside over the intellectual as well as the political treasury; and the orator should always consider that his end is to persuade; but, that by mere fancy he never can persuade. However, in warning against that error, which the vivacity of youth renders most common, let it not be forgotten that mat­ter must be supported by language, * that it must not only be said what should be spoken, but as it should be spoken—And the best rule is, that perspicuity should ever be the leading consideration, orna­ment but the subservient; for every en­deavour to please must be vain, unless it is understood.

[Page 33] IT too frequently happens that similies and metaphors but obscure the original thought—they ought to be employed as philosophers do certain optics, which while they magnify the objects to which they are applied, represent them at once more splendid and distinct.

BUT the use of almost every precept might be superceded in earnestly recom­mending the study of that great man; who combining every attic excellence gave the world a perfect model of Ora­tory, who added the grace and plainness of Lysias, the sweetness and purity of Isocrates, the conciseness and expression of Thucydides, the art and energy of Isoeus, to his own peculiar vehemence and sublimity.

STUDY (when capable) with unremit­ting diligence, this master, this God of [Page 34]eloquence. It is impossible, if ye do, but that some portion of his soul shall be transfused into yours. Import his works, more generally, have them in your libra­ries, and here you may find some capable of explaining them—There are some co­pies with private individuals only * which is to be lamented. Apply close to those fountains from whence this advice has been derived. Every labour you shall bestow upon the sages of antiquity, celebrated for Oratory and Rhetoric, as Demosthe­nes, Cicero, Aristotle, &c. you will find amply and beyond expression rewarded.

TRANSPOSITION is advantageous, inas­much as it engages the mind to a reasona­ble degree of attention.

[Page 35] LOGIC is very useful to accomplish the orator, when divested of its pedantic and unnecessary subtilties: Aristotle called it an Organon, to facilitate the attainment of all other sciences. Rational Logic, or common sense improved by rules, is a most valuable art. I have compiled and pub­lished a system of Logic, which I recom­mend, as divested of every thing super­fluous, and I flatter myself not unworthy the attention of the most scientific. The professors of Columbia college, New-York, and of some of the New-England colleges, make use of no other.

Let the youth be exercised in composi­tion, for excellent, and highly to be prais­ed, is he who can employ a successful pen in the cause of science, of virtue or of liberty—every thing ought to be done to encourage and inspirit growing genius— great caution should be used in judging of compositions, always remembering of [Page 36]youth and inexperience, and that there is the greatest danger, * even to the old, in de­termining on the merit of literary perfor­mances. According to Longinus, a judi­cious criticism of writings is the very latest acquisition of long experience.— Prose composition, seems too much neglect­ed, although particularly entitled to re­gard. Independent of the consideration, that poetry is the gift of nature, prose writing the production of study and know­ledge, and therefore that it behoves ra­ther to attend to what may be attained by all, than to what can be only the lot of a few; and as time is so very precious in this country and climate, let no waste of it be made in madly pretending to make [Page 37]poets, by writing nonsense verses and such like vagaries.

IT has been often enquired why the Greeks or Romans never composed verses in Rhyme. By some it has been attribu­ted to chance, and by others to a precellen­cy of taste: Some have conjectured that Rhyme was not sufficiently obvious or re­quisite to procure its adoption; while others more ingeniously, have assigned the facility of its composition, evident in the similar terminations of verbs, nouns &c. as the cause of rejection. The true rea­son however, seems most surprizingly to have eluded all the crities: they never once reflected that from the structure of these languages it was utterly impossible to compose in Rhyme. The accent never fell upon the last syllable, and consequent­ly they were for ever precluded from Rhyming, except in the Hudibrastic strain, to which the gravity of these nations little [Page 38]encouraged them. What a sine figure would Amantem, hiantem, merui, dete­rui munditiis, conviciis, and such pretty coincidences, have cut in an heroic poem; I believe however, all will agree that they would be far from enhancing its dignity.

Consider, that as oratory is the chief ob­ject, to preser that species of composition, which conduces most to that desirable end; namely that which gives an habit of cau­tious disquisiton, deep thought, accurate discrimination, correct reasoning and sound inference; rather than that which teaches to conclude before examination, to be persuaded without conviction, to be led by passion and not by reason, to be loquaci­ous without knowledge, and positive with­out proof. It was not by quaint allusions, unexpected tropes of Rhetoric, or a bom­bastic pomp of words, that Demosthenes [Page 39]governed at will the accomplished citizens of Athens. No, he spoke irrefutable truth in the natural language of the heart, and the people cried out "to arms! To arms! Let us march against Philip! We will preserve our liberties or die!"

Then, entertain the muses, rather as the daughters of memory, than the Goddesses of fiction, and while you offer every indul­gence to the prose writer, you will encou­rage the Poet only so far as he gives spirit to sentiment, beauty to truth, and makes his art subservient to the interests of science and virtue.

Some models of perfect narration.

  • The History of the death of Polyxeni in the Hecuba of Euripides:
  • — of Oedipus blinding himseff in Oedipus Tyrannus;
  • — of the death of the same, Oedipus Coloneus.
  • — of Haemon and Antigone in Antigone;
  • [Page 40] — of the rage of Hercules, when poisoned, Trachinice;
  • — And of Ajax killing himself, in the Ajax of Sophoeles &c.

There seems to be a gradation among the cultivators of intellectual knowledge, which may be traced by the different de­grees of obscurity in their instructions or writings. The lowest and most insignifi­cant class appear to be obscure from their ideas being confused; another, though devoid of spirit, may be capable of ar­ranging their thoughts: These are distin­guishable from each other, as the former are intricately nonsensical, the later me­thodically slupid. There are, to whom some small portion of spirit has been dealt out, beside these pettifoggers of literature, (puisne heads) which like the foolish moth, captivated by every thing glittering and uncommon, hover about the blaze of wit, 'till they singe those wings, on which they [Page 41]flattered themselves, they could raise their reputation. Thus their writings or in­structions become generally a heap of ob­scure inconsistencies,

Serpentes avibus geminantur tigribus agui,

which eternally dazzle with their spark­ling, or weary with their jingling; the worthiest or the commonest thoughts are equally trick'd out in theatrical tinsel.— The last class are they, who inspired with the generous slame of true etherial spirit, spurn the glittering toys that amuse their puisne inferiors, and aim at what is exact­ly adequate to the supremity of human conception.

As truth, though naked, is more beau­tiful than falshood in her prostitute garb of parti-coloured hues, so is the strenu­ous plainness of a generous soul, more energetic than the flimsy sinery of affected eloquence; but when the sentiments of a [Page 42]noble spirit shall deign to be clad, you will see them shining through the radiant vest­ments of an angel, not hidden, not ob­scured, but displaying their rational form more conspicuously by being covered.

BUT to return—The English Language, it must be observed, unlike those of the Ancients, has little or no inflexion. The various relations of a word in a sen­tence, are denoted either by juxta position, or by the annexion of an auxiliary particle: Whereas among the Ancients they were always known by a resemblance in termi­tion. This great dissimilarity in the origi­nal structure of the Language necessarily occasions a great diversity in the expression. The direct and immediate consequences of [Page 43]it, we find are, * that in the English Lan­guage, substantives have but one variation of case, whereas in the Latin they have five: Adjectives admit of no variation, ex­cept that which expresses the degrees of comparison; and verbs do not undergo above five or six mutations from their ori­ginal form, though in some Languages they undergo as many hundreds. These peculiarities in the formation of the Eng­lish Language sufficiently diversify it from almost every other: For though there are many modern Languages, whose inflexions do not much exceed ours in point of num­ber, yet there is none wherein these defi­ciencies are so adequately supplied, nor is there, perhaps, any language, the structure of which is altogether so simple as ours. But though simplicity and commodiousness of construction are justly to be regarded, and cannot but be owned commendable [Page 44]qualities in a Language, yet if they ex­clude other advantages of a more impor­tant and requisite nature, our endeavors should rather be directed to add to its com­plication, than to continue the exclusion of more favorable accessions. Of these the most important that seems to be incompati­ble with such plain simplicity, is Melody of Language; an acquisition of too happy utility not to be strongly desirable, and whose loss, simplicity of structure alone can never compensate.

IT may be useful to enquire how this simplicity of structure becomes inimical to harmony, since a knowledge of the disease is the first step of sanation, and though it may not entirely remove the malady, yet it will certainly tend to its mitigation.

IT seems then that to this cause has been owing in a great measure that vast multi­tude of monosyllables wherewith our lan­guage [Page 45]abounds: a circumstance which will be found hereafter very prejudicial to melody. As the final syllables of our words remain unvaried, the advantages which in other languages result from in­flexion, are procured with us by auxiliary monosyllables. Many of these are of an uncouth and awkward pronunciation: and particularly incommodious, for this rea­son, that their quantity is indistinctly, if at all marked, whereby their pronuncia­tion is unsettled and wavering; and above all, ungraceful in versification, where yet their assistance is very often indispensibly required. But the zeal of our ancestors to preserve their language in its original Teutonic form, conspiring with its own proneness, has added still more to this defect, by their etymological deductions. They imagined the introduction of poly­syllables would have been an unpardona­ble innovation; but yet perceiving the necessity of supplying themselves with [Page 46]terms to denote those combinations of ideas which the Romans had taught them to form, they contracted the Roman words into as concise a pronunciation as possible; and thus though they naturali­zed them, yet they entirely divested them of their primitive harmony, and cloath­ed them in the rugged harshness of their own taste. Many examples which illus­trate the justice of this observation may be seen in Doctor Wallis; I shall just mention a few; scape from excipio, stretch'd from extractum, scour from exco­rio, mend from emendo. I think, that, though the puerency of Doctor Wallis's imagination occasioned him sometimes to stretch his derivations too far, yet his final deductions are generally founded in reason and reasson truth.

ALL these causes combining with acci­dent, and perhaps resulting from the phlegmatic simplicity of the original form­ers, [Page 47]have bestowed on our language that superabundance of monosyllables, of which we complain as so injurious to melody. That this effect must ensue is evident; in some cases no doubt monosyllables may be arranged to advantage; but it is no less indubitable that their general tenden­cy is to obstruct the run of a period, to render it rough and uneven, and to inter­cept the melodious flow of the cadence. And this I take to be one principal cause why our periods are frequently destitute of that smoothness and harmony, which so eminently characterize, and so engagingly adorn those of the ancients. Another no less remarkable cause, however, contributed to this; which I shall mention here as it may enable us to ascertain how far the former operates. I mean the superior op­portunities the ancients had of modulating their style by inversion. For as the rela­tions and dependencies of words in a sen­tence were expressed among them by simi­larity [Page 48]of termination (a mode equally free from obscurity and misapprehension) they were at liberty to transpose their words in such an order as was most aptly accommo­dated to their varieties of length and tone; but we, having no adequate equiva­lent to this, are obliged to depend upon juxta position alone, which, though perhaps the most natural, is * confessedly the most inconvenient method, since it deprives us, in a great measure, of the benefit of transpo­sition, which besides improving the har­mony, adds much to the dignity, force and elevation of a period.—Still as we strutinize the English language, new causes present themselves of its essential defect in melody: and still arising in the chief part from the peculiar form of its structure.

THE next that appears is a superabun­dance of Consonants: A due proportion of vowels and consonants seems as necessary, [Page 49]as of high and low notes in music, to­wards the production of melody.

The antient Languages are excellent in this respect; the coalitions of soft and rough form a melodious equanimity of sound, which renders the pronouciation easy and musical; whereas in our language an asperity of sound and a roughness of tone predominate, which indicate some­thing repugnant to delicacy, and very often render the expression inadequate to the idea; so, that should the one endea­vor to excite the refined and delicate feel­ings, the other may counteract its design, and repulse them by its severity. This latter defect appears to owe its origin to the multiplicity of monosyllables, before remarked.

FOR we may perceive that in a mono­syllable one vowel is generally sufficient to give utterance to four or five, and [Page 50]sometimes even to six or seven consonants, so that the sound of each may be distin­guished, as for instance, grunt, drudg'd snatch'd, stretch'ts. But in words of a greater length, as sufficient leisure cannot be afforded to dwell so long on each par­ticular syllable as would be requisite to articulate many consonants, therefore the mixture of vowels and consonants must necessarily be more equal, and of course, more uniform and harmonious: Thus, for instance, compare these words with the foregoing, Magnanimity, Reiterate, Antici­pation. But as words of the former species are infinitely more numerous in our lan­guage than of the latter, it is plain how hard and rough must be our pronunciation, and evident from whence it proceeds. It has been observed, however, by a learned Critic, * that what we have deemed a defects, is in rea­lity [Page 51]an accession of value; for the observes (and judiciously) that where a language like the Italian abounds in vowels, the sound of it must be soft, effeminate and languid, where­as a predominancy of consonants bestows sublimity, energy and animation. But this can only relate to their equal and propor­tional interspersion through every part of language; and I fear that when they come in the questionable shape in which they visit our tongue, these effects may be doubted or denied: Their mode of con­veyance seems better adapted to impedi­ment than to animation; to laconic dis­sonance than to energetic majesty: and to the production of almost any other cha­racter than that of sublime and sonorous. But of all the consonants which abound in the English language there is none more abhorrant of harmony than the letter s; yet at the same time none which so emi­nently predominates.

[Page 52]
Semper tibi adero, omnibusque locis persequar.

What charms our ancestors found in sibi­lation, that they became so attached to it, I cannot conceive. It is not, I am sure (if we may believe * Milton) of so very honor­able an extraction as to conciliate our re­gard; and it was so very odious to the Greeks that they gave it (I think) the epi­thets of Savage and Impure. Yet this let­ter, with all its ungracefulness, has acquired such a predominancy in our language, that I question if there could be a single line selected from any of our poets wherein it is not reiterated, more or less: Nay, what is worse, it has found means to insinuate it­self into our gentlest and softest expres­sions. Witness the following example of Pope.

"Soft is the strain when Zephyr gently blows
"And the smooth stream in smoother numbers flows.

[Page 53] Observe how differently speaks the Latin poet whom he imitated.

Tum si loeta canunt, hilari quoque carmina vultu
Incedunt, laetnmque sonant haud segnia-verba,
Seu cum vere novo rident prata humida seu cum
Panditur interea domus omnipotentis Olympa.

To say that this Letter is essential to lan­guage is absurd; nor is the assertion either unsupported or novel. This letter has scarcely once been expressed throughout the whole inimitable compositions of Pin­dar; so far is it from being essential to excellence, and so far was the most beau­tiful and sublime of poets from esteeming it advantageous to harmony, or condu­cive to the production of exalted emotions.

THUS we have endeavoured to trace by its several channels that inharmoniousness with which our language labours, and we find that the simplicity of its formation is the ultimate source. And indeed when [Page 54]we compare our language with those of Greece and Rome, in respect of this cir­cumstance, we find the greatest reason to deplore our inferiority. The ascendancy seems not only to have been measured out to them from the beginning, along with the genius of their tongue, but also to have been successively and regularly en­creased through their diligence in acquir­ing adventitious accessions. As we are in a great measure deprived of one of these sources of advantage, it more immediately behoves us to apply with attention to ex­tract improvement from the other: I mean from our own diligence, nor will it be so unworthily employed: To harmonize the diction, to attune the discordance of style, and above all to accommodate the expres­sion to the feelings of the heart, cannot certainly be unworthy motives to atten­tion. * Nor can they be esteemed so by the [Page 55]man of learning and refined taste, since it is the existence of these circumstances which introduces his qualities and renders them acceptable. Discoveries no doubt may be made in Philosophy by a stranger to the elegancies of language, and com­mon transactions may be negociated by the illiberal. But he to whom the treasures of the understanding are dear, who wishes to expand his intellectual powers, and to comprehend the cogency of his speech; who seeks to convey information in the vehicle of delight, and who desires to partake those pleasures which imagina­tion suggests; he, I say, must not neglect the harmony of language, nor esteem such philological inquiries unworthy.— The beauties of native harmony which al­ready subsist are comparatively but sew, and of trifling importance, there yet re­mains an extensive field for the ingenuity and sagacity of the reformer; and the [Page 56]English language, from the imperfection of not only this, but of most other branches, seems (so far from being on the decline) not yet to have attaine the previous sum­mit of perfection—It seems however to be speedily verging towards it. As to the pre excellencies in respect of harmony which the English enjoys over the ancient languages, their paucity renders them in­significant; yet there are some that should be observed. We frequently accent the last syllable, which besides inducing the advantages and beauties that result from rhyme (of which the ancient languages are for this reason incapable) renders the pronunciation even in prose, more lively and musical, and tends to produce that re­gular and equable proportion of accents which smooths the period, promotes the delivery, and adorns the cadence. Ano­ther advantage of our language above the Roman is, that a great part of their words [Page 57]end in m, a broad and hollow sound; but the generality of English words find their termination either in n or y, sounds which are evidently more efficient of melody.

The next important contingency of lan­guage, and which conduces in a principal degree to constitute its character, is signifi­cancy; a quality which though perhaps more absolutely essential to language than the preceding, yet has been thus far post­poned, as not seeming to be so intimately connected with its peculiarity of structure, And under this head our language as­sumes a more respectable and flourishing appearance: Its peculiar energy and force of expression have justly been the subject of admiration and praise: to say it equals the Greek is no exaggerated commenda­tion; but its superiority over every other language (except perhaps the Hebrew) admits not of a doubt. The recency of [Page 58]its existence has perhaps contributed to this in no small degree. There remain but few traces of the old Saxon, upon which it was grafied: the Greek, the Roman, the Norman, nay even the Ita­lian and the Dutch, have poured in such plentiful supplies, as to render it rather the heir of many families, than the here­ditary descendant of a single lineage.— The Tutonic and Roman languages were its original parents, but it has culled the most expressive and energetic sounds not only from them, but almost from every other with whose people the English had any intercourse. In short it is like the statue of Zeuxis, in which were com­bined the excellencies of the principal beauties of Greece. But beside this hap­piness which we owe to the singular judg­ment of our predecessors, and which uni­versally pervades our language and may be exemplified in almost every word we [Page 59]utter, there are some other instances of significancy which may admit a more par­ticular illustration. Of these the princi­pal is that observed by doctor Lowth, oc­casioned by its possessing two articles, whereby the extent of the signification is determined with the greatest precision.

THERE is another extrinsical instance of the energy and significancy of our lan­guage (which I shall just mention, as it has been descanted upon by other writers;) that is its capacity, in common with the Greek, of forming a compound adjective, by uniting an adjective and a substantive or adverb, as fair-haired youth, rosy-fin-gered Aurora, dark-minded doemon, lack-lustre eye, quaint-eyed visage, &c. These combinations, of which the Roman lan­guage is by no means so * generally suscep­tible, have a beautiful effect when formed [Page 60]with judgment, especially in poetry: They introduce ideas into the mind searce ever raken notice of before; and they please the ear as well by the melody, as by the novelty of the expression.

Dixais egregie notum si callida verbum. Reddi­derit junctura novum. Hor.

Notwithstanding, however, that the general tenor of our language far exceeds the La­tin in respect of significancy, yet it seems to be inferior in some few particulars; as for instance in diminutives, such as homun­culus, animula, vagula, &c. which abound very much in that language, and are al­ways extremely beautiful: in ours, diminu­tives are very infrequent, I can reckon only a few, but they are such as confirm, in the liveliest manner, the opinion of a deficiency; streamlet, eaglet, flowrer, his­lock, lambkin, hamlet, droplet, nymphlin.

THERE is likewise a great delicacy in [Page 61]several verbs and nouns compounded of the preposition sub, which serves to di­minish the force of the words with which it is connected; as subrusticus, subraucus, subirasci, &c.—we have something analo­gous to this in our termination in ish, as blackish, saltish, &c. which, as Doctor Johnson observes, when applied to adjec­tives, diminishes the comparison somewhat below the positive; but this diminution is far inferior, both in point of service and beauty to the Latin; for, as the same writer continues, it is seldom added but to words expressing sensible qualities, and mostly of one syllable; and is scarcely used in a style that is solemn or sublime.

THE Latin verbs frequentatives; as scrip­tito, declamito, have also a peculiar grace: to these, English verbs exhibit nothing analogous. Such beauties as these, not depending upon any original texture of language, but merely upon accidental and [Page 62]supervenient causes, are easily imitable. To transfer them directly from one lan­guage to another may be too harsh a pro­ceeding: but when the principles of beau­ty are once established, particular illustra­tions continually present themselves. The mind, amongst the perpetual vicissitude of objects which pass in succession before it, will naturally attract and combine those that tend to excite the feelings once re­marked. And though the attainment of excellence may sometimes be previous to the knowledge of what constitutes that quality, yet such an abstract, or general knowledge, necessarily predisposes the mind to select and dwell upon particular in­stances.

THERE is another light in which lan­guages are capable of being compared, I mean in respect of their copiousness. And this is a subject which demands our atten­tion equally for its Philosophical as its Phi­lological [Page 63]importance. Here it is that the deepest marks of the genius and propen­sities of a people are impressed; their manners are delineated by this expressive peneil, which only pourtrays the truth; for never does impartial language expa­tiate or amplify upon subjects uncongenial to the disposition of its nation. The de­licate luxuries of the Persian were inex­pressible in the language of the hardy Scythian: The political or forensic dialect of an Athenian was jargon to the heedless and peaceful inhabitant of Arcadia: while the meandering rills, the verdant lawns and the shady bowers of a shepherd were just as ineffable by the storm-borne citizen of Carthage

THE speculist who improves these consi­derations, has before him materials for the most refined and pleasing, as well as, the most incontrovertable knowledge. He may trace the course of arts and [Page 64]sciences through the world. He may pur­sue every nation through its several pro­gressions of intellectual capacity, from the darkness of ignorance, through the dawn of ressnement, and the meridian blaze of perfection, to the declension of excellence and the re-establishment of night: He may observe the characteristics of every people: He may see their ruling passion, and their ruling study: He may contem­plate religious ceremonies in Judea, Astro­nomy in Chaldaea, the polite arts in Greece, war in Rome, trade in Holland, plea­sure in Italy, Philosophy in France, and all these in Great-Britain, Ireland and here. In short, the arguments which probability and moral certainty furnish for historical deductions, are no where more exuberant than in the copiousness of lan­guage. And though a regular applica­tion professedly for this design would be laborious, tedious, and perhaps in the [Page 65]end nugatory, or at least insufficient, yet the incidental remarks of any person ac­quainted with the extent of language, must be highly estimable, as strongly conducive, and always coinciding with truth.

IN copiousness of words and universality of expression, the English far exceeds not only the ancient, but even the modern languages. It has indeed been generally equalled by the Greek in the richness of synonimous terms: but in that transcen­dental extent of words, whereby we are enabled to give utterance to almost every idea, it stands, perhaps, without a rival.

Synonimous Words.

To CHUSE, to PREFER: One does not always chuse that which he prefers; but seldom do we ever prefer that but we would chuse.

TRANSLATION, VERSION: The first is into the vulgar or vernacular lan­guage; [Page 66]the other is into a strange or fo­reign tongue. Thus the rendering the bible into English, is a translation: But into Latin, Greek, or French, is a version.

NOTES, REMARKS, OBSERVA­TIONS, REFLECTIONS. Notes, are short and precise; Remarks shew some things selected with care; Observations, intimate criticism and research; Reflections are additions to the thoughts of the au­thor. Notes are often necessary; Re­marks are frequently useful; Observa­tions ought to be learned; Reflections are sometimes superfluous.

THESE instances, with numberless others that might easily be adduced, suggest the nature of synonimes; they have the singu­lar character of resemblance, and this re­semblance makes us indifferent in the use of them; but, on a nearer view, we shall find, that each has peculiar and ap­propriate [Page 67]ideas; and that in the choice and use of these, delicacy, precision, and taste is displayed. If this was not the case, Synonimous words, so far from contributing to the richness of language, they would be useless sounds, and a super­fluous abundance; serving no other end, but that of producing useless repetitions. Thus it is said a person is light, inconstant, fickle and changeable. These, by writers, are often used indiscriminately, and fre­quently applied to the same person. This may shew copiousness; but to the criti­cal scholar, it is want of judgement and knowledge of the just ideas annexed to words. The light form no strong attach­ments; the inconstant are attached but for a short time; the sickle attach themselves to no one, &c.

AND yet notwithstanding this incontesti­ble universality of expression, new aug­mentations [Page 68]are daily found requisite. *— The fine arts are even yet but a little ad­vanced beyond the state of infancy: Our Philosophy is complete, our Divinity per­fect, our Poetry consummat : but yet, how novel are the terms sbozzo and clear-obscure in printing; piano and rondeau in music; terrace and vista in gardening, with many others that are equally the creatures of yesterday; and like other fo­reigners are only beginning to emerge our manners from ignorance. From these po­sitions we may very justly infer, that nei­ther are we, or our language, in that state [Page 69]of declension which some have supposed: And that when our language attains its full completion, it will be more perfect and universal than any ever spoken on the globe.

Selected English Phrases.

THE Serpent hisses, the Hog grunts, the Peacock screeches, the Horse neighs, the Cow lows, the Ass brays, the Lamb bleats, the Lyon roars, the Bull bellows, the Mastiff barks, the Hound yelps, the Cat mews, the Mouse squakes, the Cric­ket chirps, the Swallow twitters, the Mag­pye chatters, the Raven croaks, the Owl hoots, the Pigeon coos, the Cock crows, the Hen cackles, the Duck quakes, the Black-bird whistles, the Nightingale sings and the Bittern booms, &c. &c.

THE language of Rome, though now, by the industry of monks and schoolmen, pretty well furnished with spurious terms both in Philosophy and Divinity, was yet [Page 70]in the days of Augustus much more noto­rious for its poverty in this branch, than we are for ours in the fine arts. How sur­prised would a stranger to the state of that country be to hear Lucretius apolo­gizing for the deficiencies of his perfor­mance, and accounting for the difficulty of writing upon such a subject in poetry, not by the usual and obvious excuses, but

Propter egestatem linguae, & rerum novitatem.
l i, v. 139.

And to hear Cicero unable to communicate ideas, not the most abstracted or refined, without coining new terms of his own, or deriving from those of the Greeks.

Examples of good Latin Phrases similar to English.

Ad maximas pecunias esse venturum. Cic.
That he would come to a great fortune.
Tibi tuurn negotium agere licebit. Cic.
You must be allowed to do your own business &c.

[Page 71] THAT the language of Greece should be found inadequate to the fulness of mo­dern knowledge is not to be wondered at, considering the early period of its exist­ence: It should rather excite our admira­tion to find a people perpetually involved in domestic feuds and external wars, mak­ing so rapid a proficiency in literary im­provement; and by their application and happy genius, attaining a knowledge of which their immediate successors were too indolent even to receive information.

THESE considerations, however, though they redound to the honor of Greece, yet infer such a deficiency in her acquirements, as plainiy declare her language incomplete in point of copiousness. The Greek is a very polite or affectionate language; the mode of address is always in the superlative degree; as Philtate, Beltiste, &c. &c.

IT is to modern times alone that we are [Page 72]to look for a language fraught with all the instruments of knowledge: And where should we more naturally expect to meet with such a one, than in that country which has produced the most illustrious adepts in every intellectual science?

AFTER allowing these encomiums to the English language which it so justly merits, it is somewhat irksome to descend to ani­madversion. But there is one instance, which however trivial, yet appears so strik­ing a deviation from its general character, that it would be partiality not to mention it. Amid the unbounded richness and luxu­riancy of our tongue, one word, Love, seems to stand without any synonimous or appropinquating expression. The ardour of lovers generally surmounts this obstacle by the resource of Tropes and Figures: But strictly speaking, though there are a thousand different modifications of this passion, and a thousand different degrees [Page 73]of its energy and delicacy; yet, the most refined sensibility can say no more, than the most depraved lust, I love. The Ro­mans had two words to express their affec­tion by, Diligo and Amo; but the Greeks had (if I may use the expression) a correct and regular scale of passion, as, Phileō, agapaō, eraō & potheō, &c.

IT has often been said that our attention should not be arrested by words, but should be fixed on things; that grammati­cal disquisitions are puerile contentions; and such like common-place contumelies against philological investigations. But can any one reslect for a moment, without acknowledging, that our thoughts can nei­ther be satisfactorily adjusted, nor correct­ly imparted, unless we possess words aptly accommodated to them; and consequently that the improvement of language must ever keep pace with the progress of the understanding. Language is the attire in [Page 74]which knowledge must be cloathed: and, like our bodily vesture, may either en­cumber, disguise, and obscure it, or may distinguish its rank, display its strength, and enhance its native beauty.

IT is the duty of philology to interpose for the welfare of mankind. The in­fluence of language upon thought has, in all ages and countries, been considerable. Poverty of language circumscribes the flight of ideas: inaccuracy of expression precludes precision of thought, and equi­vocal words generate erroneous opinions.

THE ancients, especially the Greeks and Romans, took considerable pains to polish and improve their languages; and in modern times some of the most distin­guished men in England and France have not disdained to employ their talents in the same way. And if propriety of speech be worthy of such attention when we [Page 75]consider it as ministering to the ordinary intercourse of mankind; with how much more strictness should we regard it when we consider it as the agent of philosophic precision.

AFTER having first attended to our language, which is naturally entitled to pur chief regard, our next attention should be turned to that, by means of which the intercourse of the learned in different parts of the world is most generally upheld.—

THE claim of the Latin language is of a similar nature with that of our own; and higher, though not more binding upon us; and also the Greek very necessary and useful.

THUS a physician may very properly write a treatise in English, upon urine, saliva, mucus, &c! Though he would fall into deserved derision, if he were to treat of these excretions by the only [Page 76]names for them which the English lan­guage furnishes.

No doubt the Greek and Latin which we pronounce, and often which we write, are very different from the pronunciation and composition of an old Greek or Ro­man: but this is no argument against our understanding the ancient languages, which contain so many excellent works, or against our acquiring the same know­ledge which the most accomplished persons of our times possess.

[Page 77]
Facile est ventis dare vela secundi [...],
Faecundumque solum varias agitare per Artes.

THOUGH a pulpit orator must be born such, as well as a poet; yet moderate talents, with constant exercise of composi­tion and speaking, will soon enable him to appear gracefully and succes fully before any congregation. Every subject, regard­ing the present and future happiness of man, is of so dignified and exalted a nature, that it is not difficult to be eloquent on them.

USEFUL sermons should touch on no controversial points, which most unchris­tianly enflame the minds of one sect against the other, and prepare them for blood and slaughter, rather than the practice of the milder charities of the gospel. Theo­logical dissertations on thorny, dark, and disputed points of divinity, which bewil­der the best understandings, and fill the [Page 78]weaker with gloomy notions, ought to be avoided.

IT is almost impossible, with our present limited faculties, to fathom, or by lan­guage to explain, the mysteries of the Trinity, of election and grace? Simple belief of these, and other incomprehen­sible doctrines, is only necessary for salva­tion; their investigation is, perhaps, far beyond the powers of common reasoning faculties) notwithstanding what has been said concerning them) as the celestial illu­minations of baron Swedenborgh, or his conversations with angelic spirits in the new Jerusalem. No such unsolid food should be administered, which may inflate, but never can supply healthful nutriment to hearers. Neither should time be wasted in an useless display of subtile reasoning, or in detailing curious erudition, the re­sult of critical and extensive reading; these should be relinquished for matters of more [Page 79]general and higher importance; although, to preserve the reputation of a scholar and a man of sense and judgement, a logical connection must be preserved from the beginning to the end: Such compositions do much better in a closet, or for a select company; than in a mixt congregation, where it acts only as an opiate, and where its soperiferous effects are visible in the half-closed eye lids of the auditors. The heavy and uninteresting style of many preachers, both as to composition and de­livery is to be lamented. The various in­tonations of the voice, and lively corres­ponding action (which Tully happily calls eloquentia corporis, the eloquence of the body) * irresistibly seize the hearers, and lead the passions captive. Quintilian ob­serves, that the sinest productions of dra­matic genius receive grace and effect from [Page 80]good acting. In like manner, we never perceive the full force and impression of the sublime truths of the revelation, but when accompanied with animated deli­very, which keeps the attention upon the stretch without tiring, and strikes the ima­gination; hence, the animal spirits take a new direction, the moving fibres are shaken, the soul is moved, and reason appears triumphant; then it is that we feel ourselves changed, converted, regenerated.

I abhor the wild rants of fanatics, who if they subdue one vice, plant in its stead some wretched unmeaning dogma. The wild ravings of Cromwell's saints, kept up a high degree of fanaticism, the only Palladium of that artful and bloody impos­ter. The famous Tycho Brache, writing to a friend, and praising an excellent prea­cher who happened to be a good Mathe­matician, said—I wish there were many such preachers who understood Geometry [Page 81]well; for, then, perhaps, we should have more instances of cautious and solid judgment, and fewer of idle disputes and logomachies.

THE proposed end of preaching is the instruction of the people in the practice of virtue, which should be impressed upon the hearers, avoiding all questions of con­troversy, as only productive of dissention; however, the clergy should be masters of controversial divinity, and prepared to re­pel the attack of the infidel or caviller. When controversial divinity is inculcated, there should be full opportunity for reflec­tion to go hand in hand with argument, which cannot easily be done in a limited discourse from the pulpit.

WHERE preachers are more solicitous to establish favorite opinions of their own, than to inculcate that divine system of mo­rality, which the gospel dispenses for the [Page 82]regulation of our conduct; where congre­gations have been continually wearied with abstract reasoning, which seldom satisfies the most learned, and rather silences, than convinces the enquiring mind; where men have endeavored to explain mysteries, some of which are inexplicable, and others not to be understood, but by persevering study; the consequence has been, that many have been driven into disgust from listening to preachers, from whom they could reap no advantage, and others have been induced to view christianity rather as a system of speculative opinions, than as a religion, the best calculated to promote the happiness of mankind.

THERE is not a book on earth, so favor­able to all the kind, and all the sublime affections; or so unfriendly to hatred and persecutions; to tyranny, injustice and every sort of malevolence, as the gospel. It breathes nothing throughout, but mercy, [Page 83]benevolence and peace. All the genius and learning of the heathen world; all the penetration of Pythagoras, Socrates and Aristotle, had never been able to pro­duce such a system of moral duty, and so rational an account of providence and of man, as are to be found in the new testa­ment. Christian charity, which ought to regulate mens dispositions, should be in­culcated from the pulpit, as the basis of order and happiness among mankind; for the positive and contentious, the rude and quarrelsome (whether preachers or hearers) are the pest of society. How ami­able appears a good disposition, when con­trasted with a malicious or envious one, which wraps itself up in its own narrow interest, looks with an evil eye on the success of another, and, with an unnatural satisfaction, feeds on his disappointments or miseries: If mankind would be happy, let them guard against this malignant spirit: [Page 84]Let them study that charity which thinketh no evil.

THE general decay of piety, and pre­vailing depravity of morals, with which the present age seems too justly changeable, deserve the serious attention of every friend to religion and society.

THE natural weakness of the human mind, has rendered it at all times suscep­tible of those impressions, which free-thinkers and atheists have arfully attempt­ed: And the ignorant and unsuspiciou: have too often been deluded by the most abominable doctrines, conveyed under a subtile disguise. To prevent consequences so destructive to the present and future happiness of mankind, nothing seems more necessary or effectual, than the cultivation of knowledge, through every rank of life: That kind of knowledge particular­ly, which may convey to the mind satis­factory [Page 85]evidence of its own imperfection, and the infinite wisdom of its creator.

To be convinced that there is a God, to us invinsible, whose exalted nature is far beyond the finite comprehension of man; it is requisite that we acquire some humiliating ideas of ourselves, and avoid the wretched error of those who, attribut­ing too much to human reason, deny the existence of every thing they cannot un­derstand.

THE narrow limits of our understand­ing, and the boundless perfection of the deity, are no uncommon subjects of pul­pit eloquence: The facts are often pressed upon our minds, and frequently (it must be hoped) have the proper effect. Some­thing more, however, there seems yet ne­cessary toward the conviction of mankind, which might reach more generally the dif­ferent classes of society—guard them [Page 86]against the attacks of irreligion—and esta­blish in their minds a firm persuasion of God's absolute existence and power.

THE church is the only school where the public mind can be said to be culti­vated, and its morals formed; and where we are to learn the necessary duties towards our creator and each other. Even here, some divines seem too inattentive to sub­jects of the first importance—they apply themselves principally to the consideration of moral truth, and ethical systems, that teach men those common duties in society, which even conscience itself will dictate: but the belief of a Deity on which the whole superstructure of religion and vir­tue must be founded, is taken for granted, or scarcely ever inforced.

IT may be answered, that subjects which require a mode of discussion above the comprehension of common capacities, are [Page 87]not the most eligible for the pulpit; and that the existence of a Deity, being the first principle of a Christian's creed, needs no enquiry before a Christian congrega­tion. But how often is the mind found to give its assent to propositions without proof? and though youth follow the ex­ample and persuasion of their parents, how little acquainted must they really be, with the true principles of their faith, until they arrive at a maturity of judg­ment, capable of discriminating between truth and delusion? Nay we may safely assert, that this imperfect degree of know­ledge is a misfortune attendant on far the greatest part of mankind; and if so, how liable must they be to impositions? How easily shaken in their belief? How readily led from a state of ignorance to that of scepticisin, and from thence to infidelity? But as it is the fool who says in his heart there is no God, so the more our know­ledge [Page 88]is encreased, our minds improved, and our faculties extended, the more per­manent will be our belief of that impor­tant truth: that the Deity, though invisi­ble to the mortal eye, is yet perceivable to the rational mind, in these his lower works.

LET us remark that the most satisfac­tory evidence, the strongest proofs of a divine being, are deducible from our senses; every object affords this proof; all nature demonstrates the God of na­ture; and it is only necessary to lead the mind to a proper coutemplation of these objects, by discovering to it some of those peculiar properties that before lay unob­served, and it must yield to the proposition unequivocal assent.

RIGHTLY therefore has the Apostle as­serted that the invisible things of God (whereby he means his eternal power and [Page 89]Godhead) are clearly seen, being under­stood by the things which are made.— Unfortunately indeed all mankind are not equally capable of discovering the nature of Gods works; and therefore they do not alike perceive his infinite power and wisdom. Hence the necessity of that in­struction, as the most useful, and essen­tial to the support of piety and virtue.

NOTHING can enlarge the mind more, than an extensive view of the works of God. He who best knows the design and effect of things, will most clearly disco­ver their cause; and he who is acquaint­ed with the wisdom, order, harmony, and use of the several parts of this sublu­nary system will soon cry out, "These are thy glorious works, Parent of good?" THOUGH the pulpit perhaps is not so well calculated for arguments of this kind, yet the ministers should make such [Page 90]attempts amongst their hearers, and it would redound to the praise of this country, that whilst other people are insulting, and even dethroning, the majesty of God, they were anxious to preserve the knowledge of him, without which we deserve not the name of men.

I am sensible much more might be said on those subjects, but I would not intrude upon your time and patience: An abler pen may perhaps improve these hints.

IT is to be sincerely hoped and wished, that the fascinating arts of oratory may attain perfection among the rising genera­tion of those wide extended states, and I trust that yet I may be a witness of that improvement, which from every auspice there is reason to foresee. I expect that in whatever country I may be, your fame will reach me, when it shall be my greatest boast to have been once in some small de­gree * [Page 91]an useful member of society and peaceful inhabitant of this country.

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