« PreviousContinue »
40 of penance to an audience, most of whom wanted bread. I have proclaimed, to the simple inhabitants of the villages, the most terrible truths of religion.-Unhappy man!-what have I done?—I have afflicted the poor, the best friends of my God. I have carried consterna45 tion and wo into simple and honest bosoms, which I ought rather to have soothed and comforted.
But here!-where my eyes fall on the great, on the rich, on the oppressors of suffering humanity, or on bold and hardened sinners; it is here, in the midst of these 50 scandals, that I ought to make the holy word resound in all its thunders, and place on one side of me, death, that threatens you, and the great God, who is to judge us all. Tremble, ye proud, disdainful men, who listen to me! Tremble! for the abuse of favours of every kind, 55 which God has heaped on you! Think on the certainty of death: the uncertainty of its hour: how terrible it will be to you! Think on final impenitence,-on the last judgement, on the small number of the elect, and, above all, think on eternity! These are the subjects 60 upon which I shall discourse to you, and which, with the feelings I have mentioned, I ought to unfold to you all in all their terrors."
"Who," exclaims cardinal Maury, "does not feel, both while he reads, and after he has read such an ex65 ordium, how much this eloquence of the soul is beyond the cold pretensions of the elegant men, with which our pulpits are now filled? Ye orators, who attend only to your own reputation, acknowledge here your master! Fall at the feet of this apostolic man, and learn, from a 70 missionary priest, what is true eloquence.
Eloquence of Whitefield.-GILLIES.
The eloquence of Whitefield was indeed very great, and of the truest kind. He was utterly devoid of all appearance of affectation. He seemed to be quite unconscious of the talents he possessed. The importance of 5 his subject, and the regard due to his hearers engrossed all his concern. He spoke like one who did not seek their applause, but was concerned for their best interests;
and who, from a principle of unfeigned love, earnestly endeavored to lead them in the right way. And the 10 effect, in some measure, corresponded to the design. They did not amuse themselves with commending his discourses; but being moved and persuaded by what he said, entered into his views, felt his passions, and were willing for a time, at least, to comply with all his requests. 15 The charm, however, was nothing else but the power of his irresistible eloquence; in which respect, it is not easy to say, whether he was ever excelled either in ancient or modern times.
He had a strong and musical voice, and a wonderful 20 command of it. His pronunciation was not only proper, but manly and graceful. Nor was he ever at a loss for the most natural and strong expressions. Yet, these in him were but lower qualities.
The grand sources of his eloquence were an exceed25 ing lively imagination, which made people think they saw what he described: an action still more lively, if possible, by which, while every accent of his voice spoke to the ear, every feature of his face, every motion of his hands, and every gesture spoke to the eye.
An intimate friend of the infidel Hume, asked him what he thought of Mr. Whitfield's preaching; for he had listened to the latter part of one of his sermons at Edinburgh. "He is, sir," said Mr. Hume, "the most ingenious preacher I ever heard. It is worth while to go 35 twenty miles to hear him." He then repeated the following passage which he heard, towards the close of that discourse: "After a solemn pause, Mr. Whitfield thus addressed his numerous audience;— The attendant angel is just about to leave the threshold, and ascend to 40 heaven. And shall he ascend and not bear with him the
news of one sinner, among all this multitude, reclaimed from the error of his ways?' To give the greater effect to this exclamation, he stamped with his foot, lifted up his hands and eyes to heaven, and with gushing tears, 45 cried aloud, Stop, Gabriel!-Stop, Gabriel!-Stop, ere you enter the sacred portals, and yet carry with you the news of one sinner converted to God.' He then, in the most simple, but energetic language, described a Saviour's dying love to sinful man; so that almost the whole 50 assembly melted into tears. This address was accom
panied with such animated, yet natural action, that it surpassed any thing I ever saw or heard in any other preacher."
Happy had it been for poor Hume, had he receiv55 ed what he then heard, "as the word of God, and not as the word of man!"
Dr. Franklin, in his memoirs, bears witness to the extraordinary effect which was produced by Mr. Whitfield's preaching in America; and relates an anecdote 60 equally characteristic of the preacher and of himself. "I happened," says the doctor, "to attend one of his sermons, in the course of which I perceived he intended to finish with a collection, and I silently resolved he should get nothing from me. I had in my pocket a 65 handful of copper money, three or four silver dollars, and five pistoles in gold. As he proceeded, I began to soften, and concluded to give the copper. Another stroke of his oratory made me ashamed of that, and determined me to give the silver; and he finished so ad70 mirably, that I emptied my pocket wholly into the collector's dish, gold and all. At this sermon there was also one of our club; who, being of my sentiments respecting the building in Georgia, and suspecting a collection might be intended, had by precaution emptied 75 his pockets before he came from home; towards the conclusion of the discourse, however, he felt a strong inclination to give, and applied to a neighbor who stood near him to lend him some money for the purpose. The request was fortunately made to perhaps the on80 y man in the company who had the firmness not to be affected by the preacher. His answer was, at any other time, friend Hodgkinson, I would lend to thee freely; but not now, for thee seems to be out of thy right senses.'
O had his pow'rful destiny ordain'd
5 As great might have aspir'd, and me, though mean, Drawn to his part; but other pow'rs as great Fell not, but stand unshaken, from within Or from without, to all temptations arm'd. Hadst thou the same free will and pow'r to stand? 10 Thou hadst: Whom hast thou then, or what, t'accuse, But heav'n's free love dealt equally to all? Me miserable! which way shall I fly Infinite wrath, and infinite despair? Which way I fly is hell; myself am hell; 15 And, in the lowest deep, a lower deep
Still threat'ning to devour me, opens wide,
Vows made in pain, as violent and void.
Mankind created, and for him this world.
Eloquence of Sheridan.
Public curiosity was scarcely ever so strongly interested as on the day when Mr. Sheridan was to speak on the Begum charge on the impeachment of Mr. Hastings. The avenues leading to the hall were filled with persons 5 of the first distinction, many of them peeresses in full dress, who waited in the open air for upwards of an hour and a half, before the gates were opened, when the crowd pressed so eagerly forward, that many persons had nearly perished. No extract can do justice to this 10 speech; the following is a partial specimen of its power: "When we hear the description of the paroxysm, fever, and delirium, into which despair had thrown the natives, when on the banks of the polluted Ganges, panting for death, they tore more widely open the lips of their gap15 ing wounds, to accelerate their dissolution, and while their blood was issuing, presented their ghastly eyes to Heaven, breathing their last and fervent prayer, that the dry earth might not be suffered to drink their blood, but that it might rise up to the throne of God, and rouse the 20 eternal Providence to avenge the wrongs of their coun
try; what motive, could have such influence in their bosom? what mótive!. That which nature, the common parent, plants in the bosom of man, and which, though it may be less active in the Indian than in the Englishman, 25 is still congenial with, and makes part of his being;— that feeling which tells him, that man was never made to be the property of man; but that, when through pride and insolence of power, one human creature dares to tyrannize over another, it is a power usurped, and resist30 ance is a duty;-that feeling which tells him, that all power is delegated for the good, not for the injury of the people, and that when it is converted from the original purpose, the compact is broken, and the right is to be resumed; that principle which tells him, that resistance to 35 power usurped is not merely a duty which he owes to himself and to his neighbour, but a duty which he owes to his God, in asserting and maintaining the rank which he gave him in the creation! to that common God, who, where he gives the form of man, whatever may be the