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A Christian Orator may, and even ought to seize upon all the riches, which he discovers in these divine books. It is there where plagiarism
• The difference betwixt them (the best heathen and in• spired writings] will, upon comparison, be found much to • the honor of scripture. It surpasses them vastly in native "simplicity, liveliness, and grandeur. Homer himself never 'reached the sublimity of Moses's songs; especially the last, ! (Deut. xxxii. 1,' &c.) which all the Israelitish children
were to learn by heart. Never did any ode, either Greek, or Latin, come up to the loftiness of the Psalms : that one
in particular, which begins thus ; 'The mighty God, even the Lord, hath spoken,' (Ps. 1. 1. &c.) surpasses the ut• most stretch of human invention. Neither Homer, nor a.
ny other poet, ever equalled Isaiah describing the majesty • of God, in whose sight the nations of the earth are as the
small dust ; yea less than nothing, and vanity ;' seeing it * is He that stretcheth out the heavens like a curtain, and
spreadeth them out as a tent to dwell in.' (Ch. xl. 10, &c.) • Sometimes this prophet has all the sweetness of an ec• logue, in the smiling images he gives us of peace : (See ch.
xi. and xxxv.) and sometimes he soars so high as to leave every thing below him.
What is there in antiquity that can be compared to the Lamentations of Jeremiah, when • he tenderly deplores the miseries of his country ? (v. 2, &c. sch. ii. and ch. iii.) or to the prophecy of Nahum, when he • foresees in spirit the proud Nineveh fall under the rage of • an invincible army? (i. 3, &c.) We fancy that we see the army, and hear the noise of arms and chariots. Every thing
is painted in such a lively manner, as strikes the imagina. • tion. The prophet far out-does Homer. Read likewise • Daniel denouncing to Belshazzar the divine vengeance rea.
dy to overwhelm him; and try if you can find any thing in «the most sublime originals of antiquity, that can be compa'red to those passages of sacred writ. In all the rest of
is permitted him, and the more treasures he draws from thence, the better are his auditors pleased with his thefts.
Quotations from inspired authors become authorities, which render the ministry of a Christian Orator more venerable ; and witnesses, which he derives from heaven or hell, in order to instruct the earth.
Wo! Wo to him, if he be ashamed of the gospel, at the very time when he is preaching it, and if, from an indecent and criminal complai
scripture there appears a natural and beautiful variety.'Fenelor's Dialogues, p. 115, 124, 127.
Dr. Blair recommends the language of Sacred Scripture to Preachers, by saying, that when properly employed, it • is a great ornament to sermons. It may be employed, ei. ther in the way of quotation, or allusion. Direct quotations brought from scripture, in order to support what the preacher inculcates, both give authority to his doctrine, • and renders his discourse more solemn and venerable. Al. • lusions to remarkable passages, or expressions of scripture,
when introduced with propriety, has generally a pleasing • effect. They afford the preacher a fund of metaphorical expression, which no other composition enjoys, and by means
of which he can vary and enliven his style. But he must • take care that any such allusions be natural and easy ; for . if they seem forced, they approach to the nature of con• ceits.' Dr. Blair refers us for examples to Bishop Sherlock's Discourses, vol. i. disc. i. and to Seed's Sermons, serm. iv. BLAIR's Lectures, vol. ii. p. 115, 116.
sance, he dare not name Jesus Christ in that pulpit, where he comes to occupy his place!
An abundance of new and unknown beauties still remain in the Holy Scriptures to excite the preacher's emulation.
Whatever be the thought which he wishes to express, he will always find the primary idea, at least, in the books of Revelation, if he have sufficient zeal to read them daily, and sufficient discernment properly to understand them. When searching for a passage which he wants, he thereby discovers other passages, which he reserves for the subjects to which they are adapted. But he ought only to make use of striking quotations ; because it is not necessary to speak the language of inspiration, in order to say common things.
The preacher may derive from the Bible historical comparisons, the only ones which are suitable for the style of the pulpit, where they always succeed, and those analogies present themselves involuntarily to an Orator, who has grown familiar with the sacred books.
MASSILLON excels in this respect. You will find, in all his discourses, sometimes very short comparisons, which throw light upon his idea, and, at other times, comparisons of greater length, which form admirable frames, in which he incloses the picture of morals.
Such is that rhetorical turn, which he employs in his
on the Word of God," when he attacks that common abuse of attending upon religious instruction, only with a view of depreciating the talents of the Preacher. Massillon makes a particular application to his hearers of the reproach which Joseph addressed, in disguise, to his brethren: “It is not to seek for, bread, that
ye are come into Egypt; ye are come here as spies, to observe the weak places of this coun
try: ye are spies; to see the nakedness of the land “ ye are come*. »
The same Orator also avails himself of this figure, in his sermon upon “ Backsliding,” when he paints the situation of the sinner, who, after having been recovered, finally relapses into his criminal habits : Massillon compares him to the image of Dagon, which having been thrown down before the ark, was forthwith replaced upon the altar by the priests of the Philistines; “ but the idol having fallen a second time, use« less efforts were made to restore this mutilated statue,
which remained stretched out upon the earth, and for ever immovable; only the stump “ of Dagon was left to him.*" The application of the fate of Dagon to the destiny of sinners, furnishes Massillon with admirable elucidations, which he would never have thought of without this allusion.
* Gen. xlii. 9,
The Abbé Boismont, whose success has been so brilliant in the career of Christian Eloquence, and principally in the species of funeral Oration, has made a very ingenious use of a passage of sacred writ, in his Eulogium of Louis XV.
He begins with recalling all the misfortunes of France, from the beginning of this century, until the wise and prosperous Ministry of Cardinal de Fleury; and, in describing the changes which took place at this period in Administration, all the branches of which had been disgraced by abuses of long standing, he rises to the tone of Bossuet : “Louis said to Cardinal de Fleury, as “ formerly the Lord God to the Prophet Ezekiel, “ Breathe upon these slain that they may live.
* Sam. v. 4; Kings, v. 5. Porro Dagon solus truncus remanserat in loco suo. VULG.
† Some of our English sermons are enriched with such successful scriptural allusions, and applications of scripture language, as, at least, equal any thing quoted by M. Maury from Massillon and Boismont. In some of Sterne's works, this talent is conspicuous. See the note and quotation from Mr. Knox, end of S lvi.
| Ezekiel xxxyii. 7, 9.