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affected at a preconcerted line, and page, that he is unable to proceed any further The prejudices of the English nation have proceeded a good deal from their hatred to the French; and, because that country is the native soil of elegance, animation, and grace, a certain patriotic solidity, and loyal awkwardness, have become the characteristics of this; so that an adventurous preacher is afraid of violating the ancient tranquillity of the pulpit; and the audience are commonly apt to consider the man who tires them less than usual, as a trifler, or a charlatan. Of British education, the study of eloquence makes little or no part. The exterior graces of a speaker are despised; and debating societies (admirable institutions, under proper regulations) would hardly be tolerated either at 8. or Cambridge. It is commonly answered to any animadversions upon the eloquence of the English pulpit, that a clergyman is to recommend himself, not by his eloquence, but by the purity of his life, and the soundness of his doctrine; an objection good enough, if any connexion could be pointed out between eloquence, heresy, and dissipation: but if it is possible for a man to live well, preach well, and teach well, at the same time, such objections, resting only upon a supposed incompatibility of these good qualities, are duller than the dulness they defend. The clergy are apt to shelter themselves under the plea, that subjects so exhausted are utterly incapable of novelty; and, in the very strictest sense of the word novelty, meaning that which was never said before, at any time, or in any place, this may be true enough of the first principles of morals; but the modes of expanding, illustrating, and enforcing a particular theme are capable of infinite variety; and, if they were not, this might be a very good reason for preaching common-place sermons, but is a very bad one for publishing them. We had great hopes, that Dr. Rennel's Sermons would have proved an exception to the character we have given of sermons in general; and we have read through his present volume with a conviction rather that he has
misapplied, than that he wants, talents for pulpit eloquence. The subjects of his sermons, fourteen in number, are, 1. The consequences of the vice of gaming: 2. On old age : 3. Benevolence exclusively an evangelical virtue: 4. The services rendered to the English nation by the Church of England, a motive for liberality to the orphan children of indigent ministers: 5. On the grounds and regulation of national joy: 6. On the connexion of the duties of loving the brotherhood, fearing God, and honouring the King: 7. On the guilt of bloodthirstiness: 8. On atonement: 9. A visitation sermon: 10. Great Britain's naval strength, and insular situation, a cause of gratitude to Almighty God: 11. Ignorance productive of atheism, anarchy, and superstition: 12, 13, 14. On the sting of death, the strength of sin, and the victory over them both by Jesus Christ. Dr. Rennel's first sermon, upon the consequences of gaming, is admirable for its strength of language, its sound good sense, and the vigour with which it combats that detestable vice. From this sermon we shall, with great pleasure, make an extract of some length.
“Further, to this sordid habit the gamester joins a disposition to FRAUD, and that of the meanest cast. To those who soberly and fairly appreciate the real nature of human actions, nothing appears more inconsistent than that societies of men, who have incorporated themselves for the express purpose of gaming, should disclaim fraud or indirection, or affect to derive from their assemblies those among their associates whose crimes would reflect disgrace on them. Surely this, to a considerate mind, is as solemn and refined a banter as can well be exhibited: for when we take into view the vast latitude allowed by the most upright gamesters, when we reflect that, according to their precious casuistry, every advantage may be legitimately taken of the young, the unwary, and the inebriated, which superior coolness, skill, address, and activity can supply, we must look upon pretences to honesty as a most shameless aggravation of their crimes. Even if it were possible that, in his own practices, a man might be a FAIR GAMESTER, yet, for the result of the extended frauds committed by his fellows, he stands deeply accountable to God, his country, and his conscience. To a system necessarily implicated with fraud; to associations of men, a large majority of whom subsist by fraud; to habits calculated to poison the source and principle of all integrity, he gives efficacy, countenance, and concurrence. Even his virtues he suffers to be subsidiary to the cause of vice. He sees with calmness, depredation committed daily and hourly in his company, perhaps under his very roof. Yet men of this description declaim (so desperately deceitful is the heart of man) against the very knaves they cherish and protect, and whom, perhaps, with some poor sophistical refuge for a worn-out conscience, they even imitate. To such, let the Scripture speak with emphatical decision— When thou sawest a thief, then thou consentedst with him.’ earth, which hath opened her mouth to receive thy brother's blood from thy hand.” Not only THOU who actually sheddest that blood, but Thou who art the artificer of death — thou who administerest incentives to these habits — who disseminatest the practice of them —improvest the skill in them—sharpenest the propensity to them — at Thy hands will it be required, surely, at the tribunal of God in the next world, and perhaps, in most instances, in his distributive and awful dispensations towards thee and thine here on earth.'
The reader will easily observe, in this quotation, a command of language, and a power of style, very superior to what is met with in the great mass of sermons. We shall make one more extract.
“But in addition to fraud, and all its train of crimes, propensities and habits of a very different complexion enter into the composition of a gamester: a most ungovernable FERocITY of Disposition, however for a time disguised and latent, is invariably the result of his system of conduct. Jealousy, rage, and revenge, exist among gamesters in their worst and most frantic excesses, and end frequently in consequences of the most atrocious violence and outrage. By perpetual agitation the malignant passions spurn and overwhelm every boundary which discretion and conscience can oppose. From what source are we to trace a very large number of those murders, sanctioned or palliated indeed by custom, but which stand at the tribunal of God precisely upon the same grounds with every other species of murder ? — From the gaming-table, from the nocturnal receptacles of distraction and frenzy, the duellist rushes with his hand listed up against his brother's life — Those who are as yet on the threshold of these habits should be warned, that however calm their natural temperament, however meek and placable their disposition, yet that, by the events which every moment arise, they stand exposed to the ungovernable fury of themselves and others. In the midst of fraud, protected by menace on the one hand, and on the other, of despair; irritated by a recollection of the meanness of the artifices and the baseness of the hands by which utter and remediless ruin has been inflicted; in the midst of these feelings of horror and distraction it is, that the voice of brethren's blood “crieth unto God from the ground" — “ and now art thou cursed from the
Having paid this tribute of praise to Dr. Rennel's first sermon, we are sorry so soon to change our eulogium into censure, and to blame him for having selected for publication so o sermons touching directly and indirectly upon the French Revolution. We confess ourselves long since wearied with this kind of discourses, bespattered with blood and brains, and ringing eternal changes upon atheism, cannibalism, and apostasy. Upon the enormities of the French Revolution there can be but one opinion; but the subject is not fit for the pulpit. The public are disgusted with it to satiety; and we can never help remembering, that this politico-orthodox rage in the mouth of a preacher may be profitable as well as sincere. Upon such subjects as the murder of the Queen of France, and the great events of these days, it is not possible to endure the draggling and the daubing of such a ponderous limner as Dr. Rennel, after the ethereal touches of Mr. Burke. In events so truly horrid in themselves, the field is so easy for a declaimer, that we set little value upon the declamation; and the mind, on such occasions, so easily outruns ordinary description, that we are apt to feel more, before a mediocre oration begins, than it even aims at inspiring.
We are surprised that Dr. Rennel, from among the great number of subjects which he must have discussed in the pulpit (the interest in which must be permanent and universal) should have published such an empty and frivolous sermon as that upon the victory of Lord Nelson; a sermon good enough for the garrulity of joy, when the phrases, and the exultation of the Porcupine,
or the True Briton, may pass for eloquence and sense; but utterly unworthy of the works of a man who aims i. a place among the great teachers of morality and reglon. Dr. Rennel is apt to put on the appearance of a holy bully, an evangelical swaggerer, as if he could carry his point against infidelity by big words and strong abuse, and kick and cuff men into Christians. It is a very easy thing to talk about the shallow impostures, and the silly ignorant sophisms of Voltaire, Rousseau, Condorcet, D'Alembert, and Volney, and to say that Hume is not worth answering. This affectation of contempt will not do. While these pernicious writers have power to allure from the Church great numbers of proselytes, it is better to study them diligently, and to reply to them satisfactorily, than to veilinsolence, want of power, or want of industry, by a pretended contempt; which may leave infidels and wavering Christians to suppose that such writers are abused, because they are feared ; and not answered, because they are unanswerable. While every body was abusing and despising Mr. Godwin, and while Mr. Godwin was, among a certain description of understandings, increasing every day in popularity, Mr. Malthus * took the trouble of refuting him ; and we hear no more of Mr. Godwin. We recommend this example to the consideration of Dr. Rennel, who seems to think it more useful, and more pleasant, to rail than to fight. After the world has returned to its sober senses upon the merits of the ancient philosophy, it is amusing enough to see a few bad heads bawling for the restoration of exploded errors and past infatuation. We have some dozen of plethoric phrases about Aristotle, who is, in the estimation of the Doctor, et rea, et Sutor bonus, and every thing else; and to the neglect of whose works he
* I cannot read the name of Malthus without adding my tribute of affection for the memory of one of the best men that ever lived. He loved philosophical truth more than any man I ever knew.-- was full of practical wisdom, - and never indulged in contemptuous feelings against his inferiors in understanding.