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OF OTHER PATHETIC ORATORS : BOURDALOUE, FLAVIAN, LAS CASAS, CHEMINAIS,
KEN, GROSVENOR, STERNE, &c.
To require of a Preacher discourses written
entirely in the pathetic style, would be to adopt very mistaken ideas of Christian Eloquence. It is dangerous to enlarge two much in affecting passages. 'Commiseration,' says Cicero, 'ought to be short of duration, for nothing dries up sooner than tears.'* The effect is weakened when the auditor is suffered to remain too long in the same state, and when no relief to sensibility is admitted, nor any suspension to Eloquence.
Labour may render the style correct, forcible, harmonious; but industry never produces a true pathos ; for the more it costs the Orator to be
of a man, whose mind was entirely engrossed in consulting the happiness of the human race; all whose peculiarities • originated in his genius and his virtue, and who, if he • failed in being happy, needed but to have an ordinary cacity.' Eloge de Fenelon, p. 354, 355.
Commiserationem brevem esse oportet, nihil enim lachrymá citiùs arescit.-Ad. HERENIUM, lib. 2, 31.
animated and pathetic, the more is his discourse cold and languishing. Besides, are all subjects susceptible of tender sentiments ? Our great masters, on some occasions, durst not venture to pursue this method, even when discussing subjects, which seem to border most upon sensibility.
Bourdaloue has composed four different sermons upon the death of Jesus Christ, and yet he hath not made one single Good Friday sermon, of which the distinguishing characteristic should be to affect. His genius always led him to consider the history of the sufferings of the Son of God in another point of view; he, therefore, intimated to his hearers, that their shedding of tears was not the design he proposed. Others have
moved you to pity a hundred times,' said he in his exordium ; ' but, for my part, I am desirous
of instructing you.' Bourdaloue, was, nevertheless, affecting : but he had the skill of placing, at proper intervals, those passages, which would no longer have had the effect of impressing the auditory, had he heaped them together
The most celebrated models of pathetic Eloquence are the address of FLAVIAN the Bishop *
* For an account of FLAVIAN's conduct, and his speech to the Emperor, in favour of the inhabitants of Antioch (not Thessalonica,] whose seditious conduct had provoked Theodosius's threatened vengeance, but which the eloquence and entreaties of Flavian averted, See Universal History, vol. xvi. p. 417.419, and CHRYSOST. Orat. xx. p. 226
to the Emperor Theodosius, in favour of the inhabitants of Thessalonica ; the supplication of the virtuous Prelate BARTHOLOMEW DE LAS Casas* to Philip II. [Ferdinand] against the
234, and Hom. xxi. c. 3. See, also, the substance of Flavian's noted speech, as reported by Chrysostom, in Rol. Lin's Belles Letters, vol. ii. c. iii. § 2. p. 215—220; and in MAURY's Reflexions sur les Sermons de M. Bossuet, p. 329334.
**All the writings of Las Casas shew a solid judgment profound learning, true piety, and an excellent heart.”Biographical Dictionary.
This man, so famous in the annals of the new world, had accompanied his father, in the first voyage made by Columbus. The mildness and simplicity of the Indians affected him so strongly, that he made himself an ecclesiastic, in order to devote his labours to their conversion. But this soon became the least of his attentions. As he was more a man than a priest, he felt more for the cruelties exercised against them, than for their superstitions. He employed every method in order to comfort the people, for whom he had con. ceived an attachment, or to soften their tyrants. He became the avowed patron of the Indians; and by his bold interpositions on their behalf, as well as by the respect due to his abilities and character, he had often the merit of setting some bounds to the excesses of his countrymen. He did not fail to remonstrate warmly against the proceedings of Albuquerque, and though he soon found that attention to his own interest rendered that rapacious officer deaf to admonition, he did not abandon the wretched people, whose cause he had espoused. He instantly set out for Spain, with the most sanguine hopes of opening the eyes, and softening the heart of Ferdinand, by that striking picture the oppression of his new subjects, which he would exhibit to his view.
murderers of the Mexicans ; and the exhortations of CHEMINAIS in behalf of the prisoners.
This discourse of Cheminais is written with as much pathos as simplicity ; but the ideas and strokes of Oratory are never raised so high as to reach the sublime. In it the style is adapted to the subject, without forming its principal merit.*
• He easily obtained admittance to the king, whom he found in a declining state of health. With much freedom, and no less eloquence, he represented to him all the fatal effects of the repartitionientes, or distributions, in the new world, boldly charging him with the guilt of having authorised this impious measure, which had brought misery and destruction upon a numerous and miserable race of men, whom providence had placed under his protection. Fer. dinand, whose mind as well as body were much enfeebled by his distemper, was greatly alarmed at this charge of impiety, which, at another juncture, he would have despised. He listened with deep compunction to the discourse of Las Casas, and promised to take into attentive consideration the means of redressing the evil of which he complained.
• After this, Ferdinand in a short time dying, Las Casas applied to his successor Charles V. but none of the schemes of this most amiable Prelate were crowned with that suc. cess, which his benevolence merited.'
RAYNAL's and ROBERTSON's Histories, passim.
* The sermons of CHEMINAIS are on various subjects, and are commprised in four, and sometimes in five, volumes, 8vo. They have been much admired. Cheminais was born 1652 and died 1689.
Vid. Dictionnaire des Predicateurs Francois, in artico
Cheminais's manner of writing, so full of sweetness and tenderness, denotes the happiest talent. His sermons breathe a certain attractive and affectionate languor, which must ever give us occasion to regret, that this writer, otherwise enfeebled by habitual infirmities, had not lived long enough to finish his oratorial career. *
* It is to be confessed, that there are not so many speci. mens of this sort of pathetic eloquence to be found among English writers, as could be wished. Perhaps no nation can boast of more argumentative and sensible discourses, or of a.' bler defences of every branch of Christian doctrine and duty. But to find that persuasive tenderness, or what the French call onction, mingled with the solidity of argument, and the effusions of piety, is more rare. Bishop Ken's retired Chris. tian resembles, in a good measure, the character ascribed by our author to the writings of Cheminais. In the works of Flavel are intermingled many tender and pathetic expressions. The noted RICHARD BAX? ER, also, though too fond of controversy, and his style far from being correct or elegant, has, notwithstanding, in some of his practical pieces, and particularly in that one entitled the Saint’s Everlasting Rest, some fine and affecting passages. He only wanted
his genius to be curbed by salutary checks,'to have obtained, in his practical works, the character of a pathetic writer. There is in Howe's • living temple,' a grand and beautiful metaphorical description of human depravity under the idea of a ruinous temple (p. 155); and in Bishop Sherlock's discourses, a fine and much admired piece of Eloquence, where the character of our blessed Lord is contrasted with that of the impostor Mahomet (v. i. p. 271), though perhaps neither of them can be properly classed as pathetic pieces.
Where shall we find many passages more excellent and pathetic in their kind, than in Dr. Grosvenor's sermon, entitled 'the Temper of Jesus towards his enemies?!