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every ministry has been willing to enter into arrangements, by which the practice so much and so justly complained of by us, might be regulated to our satisfaction.
WE have always endeavoured since we have undertaken to conduct the Ordeal, to be strictly impartial respecting such communications as we may occasionally receive from correspondents. The pages of this Journal are al was open to opinions on literary, political and religious topicks, which are sufficiently local in their nature to come within the compass of the original intention of the publication. But the editors do not intend it to be understood, as an inference, that they subscribe to the opinions of all the produce tions, which, from the very nature of their plan, they consider it
proper to publish. The Remarks which follow were sent to us for publication; they are local, and are published of course. The editors, however, do not consider themselves responsible to the tribunal of taste or literature, for the accuracy of the critical sentiments contained in the Remarks; but on the contrary, they feel themselves deterred by motives of delicacy, from taking any side in the controversy to which the criticism may possibly lead. The admirers of the Sermon will have an opportunity to reply to the ' Remarks' through the same medium, which conveys them.
REMARKS On a Sermon delivered at King's Chapel, Boston, 1st January, 1809.
Br SAMUEL CAREY. THE publick' have lately been gratified by an Ordination Sermon, which refle&ts great credit on its author, the Rev. W. Channing. A funeral sermon and a second ordination sermon have also been published by gentlemen in considerable estimation as preachers : all have been admired, though not perhaps in an equal degree. The discourse proposed to be now examined, though it may not bear a comparison with either of the others above referred to, contains many very excellent observations. And here it is proper to state, that the remarks which follow arise entirely from a desire to make the author of the sermon in question more useful and acceptable both as a minister and a man. It is to be regretted that the gentleman did not submit his discourse to the examination of some candid and able friend before he ventured to commit it to the press.
The first striking impropriety in this production is the extreme length of several of the sentences. The second sentence contains thirteen lines, the third contains upwards of twenty-fire, and there are many others that are tediously long. If these sentences had been prop.
crly separated and curtailed, the ideas would have been more forcibly conveyed, and the sermon advantageously shortened.' This is pecul. iarly remarkable in the sixth sentence, which contains about fourteen lines. The author says, “If in the confusion of worldly business, and in the ardour of worldly attachments, men, however willing to go right, are constantly in danger of mistaking the road, are forever deviating from the course which terminates in heaven, into winding
paths, where dangers terrify, and darkness bewilders them ; then . they who stand ready to take them by the hand, and lead them back * to light, and hope, and safety, whose friendly voice warns them of • their danger, admonishes them of the pitfalls which lie before them, • consoles them when they sink fainting to the earth, and animates them to press forward in the race, and be crowned at the goal; are, their truest friends and their greatest benefactors.' The idea intend. ed here to be conveyed is entirely bewildered in verbosity.
So spins the silkworm small its slender store,
. And labours till it clouds itself all o'er. The sentence might be read as follows: If men are constantly in dasger of mistaking the road to heaven, those who stand ready to lead their to safety are their greatest benefaclors.
Page 3. At the bottom, our author says, 'The ambassadors of a meek and lowly master, are armed with no weapons but those of reason,' &c. &c. Pray what have ambassadors to do with arms or weapons ? Their business is not to fight.
Page 6. He says, we would be loved because we have discharged the duties,' &c. &c. “ As he is here speaking of persons actually engaged in the ministry, he perhaps intended to have written because we discharge, &c. Our author proceeds, “ we neither profess to be endowied with the supernatural gifts and wisdom of the apostles, nor with • their power of dictating opinions without the possibility of errour, &c. Does any body suppose, that the ministers of these days are so endowed ? Where is the use of contradicting what no body supposes to be true? In the next paragraph he says, speaking of his text, “I shall understand it,' &c. and ' I shall arrange the duties,' &c. Will our author condescend to consider whether the words, we may, would not have had a more agreeable effect upon the mind than. I
shall?' whether the words proposed to be substituted would not have savoured more of that diffidence and modesty, which is so becoming in all persons, more especially in one just assuming the character of an • ambassadour of a meek and lowly master ?'
Page 7. The author says, an opinion has unfortunately got into • the world, founded upon misconception of some of the doctrines of the New Testament, or not properly discriminating between the • world as it was in the days of the apostles, and as it is at present;
that any considerable proficiency,' &c. &c. An opinion has got in. to the world,' is an awkward and vulgar niode of expression, which might have been easily avoided? It is probable that the world' was nearly the same in the days of the apostles’ as it is now, though the comparative qualifications of the ministers of the christian religion, at that time and at present, may possibly admit of dispute. The greater part of the sentence now referred to should have been enclosed in a parenthesis, from the word · founded to the word present,' including both. When it is read with this recollection, the misuse of the semicolon after the latter word, will remarkably appear. Indeed, if this sentence be read carefully, it will evince in a striking manner the objectionable mode which the author has adopted of constructing his sentences.
Page 9. He says, There are certainly many things in the sacred writings,' &c. He probably means many passages. The gentleman speaks of the bible which we have in our closets, and which is read in our churches,' &c. Pray is there any other bible ? Or is this to be considered as a little flourish of verbosity? In this sentence he has hit upon another kind of flourish. He repeats the word different," four times in two lines, and the word distinct,' which immediately precedes this prettiness, might also have been different. The word "but, which presently follows, is supernumerary. Not tired of repetition, however, in the same sentence where different makes so conspicuous a figure, he gives us the word particular,'five times in six lines. This sentence consists of sixteen lines, and the next of twenty-fivé. What a pity it is that he had not reserved one of these pretty words, ( differ. ent and particular,') to grace the latter long-winded sentence. Page 10. He tells us, that an accurate knowledge of the expres. sions which were in fact (he means, most probably) used by our Saviour and his apostles, can be obtained only by a careful examination of almost innumerable copies. He then proceeds to say, that other means are necessary, and states as one, comprehending generally, the genius or (and) idiom of the author's dialect, the peculiarities of his style,' &c. Then follows a little more verbosity, as our author condescends to tell us of what kind the style may possibly be ; whether
plain or figurative, concise or diffuse, argumentative or pathetick. So much delighted is he with working up these three, four, and five sylJable words, that in the next clause, he is utterly incomprehensible to common minds. What can be meant by the countries which are ei.' • ther the subject of description, (of the birth place of the writer) or the
scene of narrative, of the birth place of the writer? No offence is intended to the author,' but really this appears unintelligible.
Page 1r. Under the first general head the author' has numbered several paragraphs, 2, 3, 4, apparently as subordinate divisions of his discourse. Under the second general head, he has discontinued this
plan, though he is nearly as diffusé under the second, as under the first general head. He begins a paragraph in this page, ' Another duty of ! him who would preach the word of God faithfully, is,' &c. &c. Will the gentleman be so good as to consider whether the paragraph would not have been commenced better in the following words. Another dies ty of the faithful preacher, is, to accustom himself to babits of frequent and close meditation. It would have been less circumlocutory, though that to some persons might have been no cause of preference. The idea of some young divines in close meditation, reminds one of a stanza in the Dunciad;.
Studious he sate, with all his books around,
Sinking from thought to thought, a vast profound !
• Plung'd for his sense,' &c. &c. &c. But to proceed ; the author' speaks of persuading rational beings to
be rationally virtuous.' Can rational beings be irrationally virtuous ? Was this word, rational,' repeated merely from a love of jingle? Thę words. what hope,' &c. immediately following, have no reference to, or dependence upon, any preceding expression which can justify their independent use here. They can hardly be intended to refer to the expression in the preceding sentence, 'can possibly be expected. To expect hope, would indeed be to refine upon refinement. Pray, can 'men' be pious' otherwise than from principle?!
Page 12. Our author,' says, ' a minister's discourse should be clear and easily comprehended.' He probably means, easy of comprehension, for he hardly intends to take the business of comprehension entirely to himself, and he cannot answer for the comprehension of his auditory. After stating a few ideas in a great many soporous polysyllables, he concludes the paragraph by saying, “ It is thus only that he can do
justice to his subject ; and all this is the fruit of meditation. It is pretty evident from many sermons, that to do justice to a subje&t, is not necessarily the fruit of meditation. In the next paragraph he talks of answering a certain class of men, “in a style of general invece *tive and contempt! Ought this to be at any time the conduct of a christian minister, . an ambassadour of a meek and lowly master What good would probably result from it ? He next speaks of another class who have a right to be convinced by cool reasoning. Does this young gentleman mean to insinuate that to answer and convince, are with him synonimous terms! In the next sentence he speaks of
others of strong, comprehensive, artful and penetrating minds,' &c. Two epithets, although they might convey an idea as well, do not sound so prettily as four.
Page 13. Towards the end of the paragraph now under considera. tion, he falls into his former fancy for repetition. However' ap. pears three times in two lines. So pleased is the gentleman with this jingle, that he forgets (as in a former instance, the proper meaning of words. He talks of arguments' being fruitful in artifices.' Perhaps he means, that his antagonist might be fruitful in artifices.' He con. cludes this paragraph in the same manner as the preceding. Now all
this is the fruit of meditation.' Yet meditation' will not always produce this fruit. Industry properly directed, would be far more useful to many persons, than meditation.' Every man is not a Marcus Antoninus. The meditations of some men, are like the grave dozings of an owl in a barn. They may produce a te-whit, te-woo,' but after the exclamation is over, the hearer is just as wise as he was before.
Page 14. Our author' says, 'why should we conceal imperfections so notorious ?' How can that which is notorious be concealed ? Forgetting his former statement in page 7, that the world is different at present from what it was in the days of the apostles,' he
here, human nature, and human passions are the same in our age, as they were in the infancy of our religion.' Pray, are not human passions' a part of human nature ? . The word conscience,' (in this page, 14, fourth line from the bottom,) is used apparently for self deception. If this application of the word ' conscience,' be allowed in reference to speculative opinions, the grossest absurdities may be propagated under a specious pretence. The truth is, that the desire of proselytism, is generally founded either upon ignorance, vanity, or knavery.
Page 15. The word slaves,' in the second line, might be advantageously exchanged for converts. Our authorproceeds, ' There is . in the world so much immorality, against which it is our duty to cona • tend earnestly, that we really ought to suffer our learned and pious
brethren to amuse themselves with their humble speculations, without pouring curses upon their heads, or thinking ourselves bound to in. jure their reputation, and ruin their influence. Some of the specula. tions,' to which he may be supposed to allude, are not harmless.' Opinions, whose tendency experience has proved to be injurious, ought to be opposed ; without, however, ' attacking the reputation, or ruin.
ing the influence of their propagators, further than as expounders of the scriptures. The expression, pouring curses on their heads,' is too absurd and disgusting to require any other rep hension than merely stating it. It has been observed before, that when this gentleman gets the jingle of words into his head he forgets every thing else. The ensuing sentence is an additional instance of this frailty. The word • weak’ is twice repeated within five words. He says, 'the sect may
be the weak opinions of a weak man.' The opinions of sect' may be those of a weak man, but the sect itself must be composed of human beings. He continues, “They only who believe it,' &c. Believe what? The sect' or the weak opinions?'
Remainder next week. Vol. 1.