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of all his time for study, or when his spirits had been consumed by a prolonged excess of pain, he was reduced to take the license of discoursing with less definite scope, on the common subjects of religion. But he was never pleased with any scheme of a sermon in which he could not, at the outset, say exactly what it was he meant to do. He told his friends, that he always felt "he could do nothing with" a text or subject till it resolved and shaped itself into a topic of which he could see the form and outline, and which he could take out both from the extensive system of religious truth, and, substantially, from its connexion with the more immediately related parts of that system; at the same time not failing to indicate that connexion, by a few brief, clear remarks to shew the consistency and mutual corroboratiou of the portions thus taken apart for separate discussion. This method insured to him and his hearers the advantage of an ample variety. Some of them remember instances in which he preached, with but a short interval, two sermons on what would have appeared, to common apprehension, but one subject, a very limited section of doctrine or duty; yet the sermons went on quite different tracks of thought, presenting separate views of the subject, related to each other only by a general consistency. His survey of the extended field of religion was in the manner of a topographer, who fixes for a while on one separate district, and then on another, finding in each, though it were of very confined dimensions, many curious matters of research, and many interesting objects; while yet he shall possess the wide information which keeps the country at large so comprehensively within his view, that he can notice and illustrate, as he proceeds, all the characters of the relation of the parts to one another and to the whole.' p. 150.
Mr. Foster proceeds to delineate the plainness both of thought and language, which was uniformly observed in Mr. Hall's introduction to his discourse; the quiet and almost feeble manner in which he commenced the delivery; the inartificial distribution and division of his discourses; and the strict connexion of thought •which marked the earlier and middle portions, but of which, towards the conclusion, there was generally a remission, when the Preacher would 'throw himself into a strain of declamation, 'always earnest and often fervid.'
'This,' Mr. Foster remarks, 'was of great effect in securing a degree of favour with many to whom so intellectual a preacher would not otherwise have been acceptable: it was this that reconciled persons of simple piety and little cultivated understanding. Many who might follow him with very imperfect apprehension and satisfaction through the preceding parts, could reckon on being warmly interested at the latter end. In that part, his utterance acquired a remarkable change of intonation, expressive of his own excited feelings."
The intellectual qualities of Mr. Hall's preaching are analysed and portrayed in the following paragraphs with equal truth and force of expression.
'He displayed, in a most eminent degree, the rare excellence of a perfect conception and expression of every thought, however rapid the succession. There were no half-formed ideas, no misty semblances of a meaning, no momentary lapses of intellect into an utterance at hazard, no sentences without a distinct object, and serving merely for the continuity of speaking: every sentiment had at once a palpable shape, and an appropriateness to the immediate purpose. If, now and then, which was seldom, a word, or a part of a sentence, slightly failed to denote precisely the thing he intended, it was curious to observe how perfectly he was aware of it, and how he would instantly throw in an additional clause, which did signify it precisely.'
'Every cultivated hearer must have been struck with admiration of the preacher's mastery of language, a refractory servant to many who have made no small efforts to command it. I know not whether he sometimes painfully felt its deficiency and untowardness for his purpose; but it seemed to answer all his requirements, whether for cutting nice discriminations, or presenting abstractions in a tangible form, or investing grand subjects with splendour, or imparting a pathetic tone to expostulation, or inflaming the force of invective, or treating common topics without the insipidity of common-place diction. His language in the pulpit was hardly ever colloquial, but neither was it of an artificial cast. It was generally as little bookish as might consist with an uniformly sustained and serious style. Now and then there would be a scholastic term, beyond the popular understanding, so familiar to himself, from his study of philosophers and old divines, as to be the first word occurring to him in his rapid delivery- Some conventional phrases which he was in the habit of using, (for instance, "to usher in," "to give birth to," &c.) might better have been exchanged for plain unfigurative verbs. His language in preaching, as in conversation, was in one considerable point better than in his well-known and elaborately composed sermons, in being more natural and flexible. When he set in reluctantly upon that operose employment, his style was apt to assume a certain processional statelincss of march, a rhetorical rounding of periods, a too frequent inversion of the natural order of the sentence, with a morbid dread of degrading it to end in a particle or other small looking word; a structure in which I doubt whether the augmented appearance of strength and dignity be a compensation for the sacrifice of a natural, living, and variable freedom of composition. A remarkable difference will be perceived between the highly-wrought sermons long since published, and the short ones now printed, which were written without a thought of the press; a difference to the advantage of the latter in the grace of simplicity. Both in his conversation and his public speaking, there was often, besides and beyond the merit of clearness, precision, and brevity, a certain felicity of diction ; something which, had it not been common in his discourse, would have appeared the special good luck of falling without care of selection on the aptest words, cast in elegant combination, and producing an effect of beauty even when there was nothing expressly ornamental.
'From the pleasure there is in causing and feeling surprise by the exaggeration of what is extraordinary into something absolutely marvellous, persons of Mr. Hall's acquaintance, especially in his earlier life, have taken great license of fiction in stories of his extemporaneous
VOL. Ix.—N.s. 3 P
eloquence. It was not uncommon to have an admired sermon asserted to have been thrown off in an emergency on the strength of an hoar's previous study. This matter has been set right in Dr. Gregory's curious and interesting note (prefixed to Vol. I.) describing the preacher's usual manner of preparation; and showing that it was generally made with deliberate care. But whatever proportion of the discourse was from premeditation, the hearer could not distinguish that from what was extemporaneous. There were no periods betraying, by a mechanical utterance, n mere recitation. Every sentence had so much the spirit and significance of present immediate thinking, as to prove it a living dictate of the speaker's mind, whether it came in the way of recollection, or in the fresh production of the moment. And in most of his sermons, the more animated ones especially, a very large proportion of what he spoke must have been of this immediate origination; it was impossible that less than this should be the effect of the excited state of a mind so powerful in thinking, so extremely prompt in the use of that power, and in possession of such copious materials.
'Some of his discourses were of a calm temperament nearly throughout; even these, however, never failing to end with a pressing enforcement of the subject. But in a considerable portion of them (a large one, it is said, during all but a late period of his life) he warmed into emotion before he had advanced through what might be called the discussion. The intellectual process, the explications, arguments, and exemplifications, would then be animated, without being confused, obscured, or too much dilated, by that more vital element which we denominate sentiment; while striking figures, at intervals, emitted a momentary brightness; so that the understanding, the passions, and the imagination of the hearers, were all at once brought under command, by a combination of the forces adapted to seize possession of each. The spirit of such discourses would grow into intense fervour, even before they approached the conclusion.'
'It has been observed that he had the command of ample and various resources for illustration and proof. The departments from which he drew the least might be, the facts and philosophy of the material world. His studies had been directed with a strong and habitual preference to the regions of abstraction and metaphysics. And he furnished a fine example of the advantage which may be derived from such studies to the faculty for theological and moral discussions, by a mind at the same time too full of ardour, sentiment, and piety, to be cooled and dried into an indifference to every thing but the most disembodied and attenuated speculation. The advantage, as exemplified by him, of the practice and discipline of dealing with truth in the abstract, where a severe attention is required to apprehend it as a real subsistence, to see and grasp it, if I may so speak, in tangible forms, might be noted as twofold. First, (that which has been anticipated in former remarks,) the utmost precision in every thing he uttered. He could express each dictate of thought in perfect freedom from doubt whether it might not be equivocal; whether it might not be of loose import and vague direction, instead of strictly to the point; whether it might not involve some latent inconsistency within itself or in its immediate conjunction with another idea; whether it were exactly the very thing he intended. It was of complete formation in his understanding; it had its including line and limit, instead of being confused with something else. As it was once happily said by himself of Johnson, " he shone strongly on the angles of a thought." The consequence of his rigorous habits of thinking thus came with eminent value into discourse addressed and intelligible to ordinary good sense, where there was no obvious intervention of that refined speculation which was nevertheless contributing, in effect, so much to the clearness and strength of its consistence. What was of philosophic quality in its most immediate agency, became a popular excellence in its result.
'But secondly: besides the distinctness and precision of all the particulars of thought in detail, that exercise of abstract speculation had brought him into possession and mastery of those general principles, in virtue of which these particular sentiments must have their authority. It is not at all necessary in any ordinary course of instruction, to be continually tracing the particular back, for its verification, to the general; but it is a great advantage to be able to do so when it is necessary, as it sometimes will be. He could do this; he knew from what original truths could be deduced the varieties of sentiment which the speaker utters in unqualified assertion, us not liable to be questioned. Any of them, not self-evident, he could have abstracted into a proximate principle in a generalization, and that again resting on a still deeper or ultimate one. He had seen down to the basis, and therefore, was confident of the firmness of what he stood upon; unlike a man who is treading on a surface which he conceives or suspects to be hollow, and is ignorant and fearful of what there may be underneath. Or, to change the figure, he could trace the minor outermost ramifications of truth downward into the larger stems; and those larger into the main trunk and the root. This conscious ability of the preacher, or any other discourser, to sustain upon first principles what he is advancing with the freedom of unhesitating assertion and assumption, will impart a habitual assurance of safety while he is expatiating thus in what may be called the outward, free, and popular exposition of his subject.
'It is presumed that this representation of the use he made, in sermons, of his power and habits of abstract speculation, may suffice to prevent a notion, in the minds of any of our readers who may seldom or never have heard him, that he was in a specific sense a philosophical or metaphysical preacher. He did often indeed (and it was a distinguishing excellence equally of his talking, preaching, and writing,) point to some general principle, and briefly and plainly shew how it authorized an opinion. Occasionally, in a more than usually argumentative discourse, he would draw out a more extended deduction. He would also cite from the doctrines of philosophy, with lucid application, some law of the human mind (for instance, and especially, that of association). But still it was far more a virtual than a formal result of his abstruser studies that pervaded his preaching.
'His intimate acquaintance with many of the greatest authors, whom he had studied with a sentiment of reverence, and whose intellectual and religious wealth was largely drawn into his own capacious faculties, contributed to preclude an ostentation of originality. His sermons would make, on cultivated hearers, a general impression of something new, in the sense of being very different, by eminent superiority, from any common character of preaching . but the novelty would appear less to consist in absolute origination, than in the admirable power of selection and combination. It was not exhibited in a frequency of singularly bold prominent inventions, in the manner of the new mountains and islands sometimes suddenly thrown np on tracts of the globe; but rather in that whole construction of the performance by which the most appropriate topics, from whatever quarter, were brought into one array, were made imposing by aggregation* strong by unity of purpose, and often bright by felicitous apposition; in short, were so plastically ordered as to assume much of the character of a creation. It is probable that if his studies had been of slighter tenour, if his reading had been less, or more desultory, if his faculties had been suffered to run more loose, his discourses would hare more abounded with ideas starting out, as it were singly, with an aspect like nothing ever seen before. His mental ground was cultivated too industriously and regularly for substantial produce, to leave room for those often beautiful wild-flowers, which spring spontaneously in a fertile half-wrought soil. His avowed indifference to poetry might be taken as one indication of a mind more adapted to converse with the substantialities of truth, than to raise phantoms of invention. Perhaps the most striking feature of his originality was seen in his talent (like the chemistry which brings a latent power into manifestation and action) of drawing from some admitted principle a hitherto unthought-of inference, which affects the whole argument of a question, and leads to a conclusion either new or by a new road.' pp. 155—164.
The remark may occasion surprise to some persons, accustomed to identify exuberance of imagination with the highest attribute of intellect, that, in Mr. Hall's mental constitution, imagination was a subordinate faculty. 'It was never of that prolific power 'which threw so vast a profusion over the oratory of Jeremy 'Taylor or of Burke; or which could tempt him to revel, for 'the pure luxury of the indulgence, as they appear to have some'times done, in the exuberance of imaginative genius.' In this quality of mind, in absolute originality, we should say that Mr. Hall was transcended by the Author of the "Essay on Popular Ignorance," whose pen has supplied this fine specimen of philosophical discrimination. What Mr. Hall himself valued far more, both in himself and in others, and what, adds Mr. Foster, 'all except very young or defectively cultivated persons and 'inferior poets must regard as the highest of mental endowments,' is the intellectual power. This displayed itself in his * won'derful ability for comprehending and reasoning, his quickness of 'apprehension, his faculty for analyzing a subject to its elements, c for seizing on the essential points, for going back to principles 'and forward to consequences, and for bringing out into an i»'telligible and sometimes very obvious form, what appeared ob