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Again, in the deliberations in the senate, the utility or the disadvantages that will probably follow on a measure proposed, if it should receive the sanction of the legislature, constitute the principal topics of debate. This, though it sometimes leads to a kind of reasoning rather too complex and involved for ordinary apprehension, is in the main more favourable to the display of pathos, vehemence, and sublimity, than the much greater part of forensic causes can be said to be. That these qualities have been sometimes found in a very high degree in the orations pronounced in the British senate, is a fact uncontrovertible.
But beyond all question, the preacher's subject of argument, considered in itself, is infinitely more lofty and more affecting. The doctrines of religion áre such as relate to God, the adorable Creator and Ruler of the world, his attributes, government, and laws. What science to be compared with it in sublimity! It teaches also the origin of
his primitive dignity, the source of his degeneracy, the means of his recovery, the eternal happiness that awaits the good, and the future misery of the impenitent. Is there any kind of knowledge in which human creatures are so deeply interested! In a word, whether we consider the doctrines of religion or its documents, the examples it holds forth to ours imitation, or its motives, promises, and threatenings, we see on every hand a subject that gives scope
for the exertion of all the highest powers of rhetoric. What are the sanctions of any human laws, compared with the sanctions of the divine law, with which we are brought acquainted by the gospe!? Or where shall we find instructions, similitudes, and examples, that speak so directly to the heart, as the parables and other divine lessons of our blessed Lord ?
In regard to the second thing which I took notice of as included under the general term subject, namely, the persons or
persons or things in whose favour, or to whose prejudice the speaker intends to excite the passions of the audience, and thereby to influence their determinations, the other two have commonly the advantage of the preacher. The reason is, that his subject is generally things; theirs, on the contrary,
persons. In what regards the painful passions, indignation, hatred, contempt, abhorrence, this difference invariably obtains. The preacher's business is solely to excite your detestation of the crime, the pleader's business is principally to make you detest the criminal. The former paints vice to you in all its odious colours, the latter paints the vicious. There is a degree of abstraction, and consequently a much greater degree of attention requisite, to enable us to form just conceptions of the ideas and sentiments of the former ; whereas, those of the latter, referring to an actual, perhaps a liye ing, present, and well-known subject, are much
more level to common capacity, and therefore not only are more easily apprehended by the understanding, but take a stronger hold of the imagination. It would have been impossible even for Cicero, to inflame the minds of the people to so high a pitch against oppression considered in the abstract, as he actually did inflame them against Verres the oppressor. Nor could he have incensed them so much against treason and conspiracy, as he did incense them against Catiline the traitor and conspirator. The like may be observed of the effects of his orations against Antony, and in a thou. sand other instances.
Though the occasions in this way are more frequent at the bar, yet, as the deliberations in the senate often proceed on the reputation and past conduct of individuals, there is commonly here also a much better handle for rousing the passions, than that enjoyed by the preacher. How much advantage Demosthenes drew from the known character and insidious arts of Philip king of Macedon, for in, fluencing the resolves of the Athenians, and other Grecian states, those who are acquainted with the Philippics of the orator, and the hiștory of that period, will be very sensible. In what concerns the pleasing affections, the preacher may sometimes, not often, avail himself of real human characters, as in funeral sermons, and in discourses on the patterns of virtue given us by our Saviour, and by
those saints of whom we have the history in the sacred code. But such examples are comparatively few.
In regard to the Occasion.
The fourth circumstance mentioned as a ground of comparison, is the particular occasion of speaking. And in this I think it evident, that both the pleader and the senator have the advantage of the preacher. When any important cause comes to be tried before a civil judicatory, or when any important ques. tion comes to be agitated in either house of parliament, as the point to be discussed hath generally, for some time before, been a topic of coversation in most companies, perhaps throughout the kingdom, (which of itself is sufficient to give consequence to any thing) people are apprized before-hand of the particular day fixed for the discussion. Accordingly, they come prepared with some knowledge of the case, a persuasion of its importance, and a curiosity which sharpens their attention, and assists both their understanding and their memory. Men go to church without
of these advan. tages. The subject of the sermon is not known to the congregation, till the minister announce it just as he begins, by reading the text. Now, from our experience of human nature, we may be sensible,
that whatever be the comparative importance of the things themselves, the generality of men cannot here be wrought up in an instant, to the like anxious curiosity about what is to be said, nor can they be so well prepared for hearing it. It may
indeed be urged, in regard to those subjects which come regularly to be discussed at stated times, as on public festivals, as well as in regard to assize-sermons, charity-sermons, and other occasional discourses, that these must be admitted as exceptions. Perhaps in some degree they are, but not altogether: for first, the precise point to be argued, or proposition to be evinced, is very rarely known. The most that we can say is, that the subject will have a relation (sometimes remote enough) to such an article of faith, or to the obligations we lie under to the practice of such a duty. But further, if the topic were ever so well known, the frequent recurrence of such occasions, once a-year at least, hath long familiarised us to them, and by destroying their novelty, hath abated exceedingly of that ardour which ariseth in the mind for hearing a discussion, conceived to be of importance, which one never had access to hear before, and probably never will have access to hear again.
I shall here take notice of another circumstance, which, without great stretch, may be classed under this article, and which likewise gives some advantage to the counsellor and the senator. It is the