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PRE FAC E.
To a mind intent upon a sober estimation of personal merit, two sorts of relations naturally offer themselves for consideration. The one subsisting between the Creator and his creatures, is perma. nent; the other, confined to these last, is mutable.Should we adopt the choice of piety in this alternative, we might, perhaps, be led to conjecture, not onjy that the souls of all men have the same essential parts, but that these parts were originally the same also in degree ; and that the immense variety of talent, sentiment and character, existing in the world, owes its being wholly to a correspondent variety in the material constitutions of its subjects. If such be, indeed, the fact ; if the philosopher and the fool may ascribe their difference to a transient cause ; if Newton's mind was clearer than others only because it was less obstructed in its operations : what exalted notions may we not indulge of that intellectual change which awaits an entire disenthralment ; what admiration of the powers that even the meancst spirit of earth will display when restored by death to the perfect liberties of simple, unincumbered being? Hows
then, reverting to the present state, shall we distinguish the grades of human excellence ? or how discover any excellence at all ? Verily the expiring maniac, to whose final groan God answers “ Live !" shall supplicate the pity of his Father on the poor wis dom of this world. . . . .
But we must speak in the language of common remark. We must leave this humbling, unfrequented side of the alternative, and pass over to the wilderness · of particular relations, where myriads resort, where temporal honors have a name, and where all the passions of our nature hunt their prey. Yet we come not hither to challenge those honors for our author. They cannot be totally withheld. Honored he must be, till genius and eloquence shall be contemned. Nor can the disingenuity of his censors affect the ultamate reputation of the individual, any farther than they can depreciate the absolute value of the qualities he possesses. He is therefore secure. But the occasion imposes a duty which this reflection alone does not satisfy.
It has been said, that splendid talents are seldom nice about exactness of expression. Reason, no less than experience, confirms the remark. Besides, what is to be the criterion of correct style?. The usages of approved writers ? These are at variance both with one another and themselves. The rules of philologers? We have also grammarian versus grammarian. A proper test is, indeed, very desirable. By the best we have, which is the judgment of polite scholars, not the caprice of critics, the compositions here offered, 2
second time, to the public; will, it is thought, be less liable to exception, for a few trifling marks of inadvertency that may possibly be found, than to admiration for the many exquisite beauties which pervade them, and their general superiority of style over the ordinary effusions of the desk.
But, it is said, they are addressed to the passions. In what manner? Is it by juggling and incantation ? No: it is by the plain dealing of reason and Revelation. For what purpose? Is it to excite civil commotion ? No: it is to feed the poor, to gospelize the savage, to make crime odicus and avert the horrors of the second death. With such views can a Christian mind be calm ? Again it is said, the understanding should be first convinced. It is already so. The duty of man is plain. God has written it in capitals. He that runs may read. So that the business of an apostle that is uninspired, is, not to teach new doctrines, but to declare and enforce the old. Alas, though many sermons are printed, few, after they have lost the little animation of the personal delivery, are calculated to produce any effect. We mean no disparagement. They are pious, and therefore respectable. We only mean that the fire of religion should emit a brighter flame. The heart of a preacher should swell and burst in his discourse. The wretches of the curse should see his blood. . .
President Nott does, indeed, apply himself assiduously to the feelings of his hearers. He inclines to the character of the French divines. His object and talent are at once persuasion. He has all the benefit of order without its formality. Around his argument, which is well adjusted, he scatters the fairest flowers of rhetoric, to entice and fix the attention. He excels most in the descriptive, the pathetic, and the sublime; which , indeed, are nearly allied, and which he sometimes unites with resistless effect. His sense is always fult and dignified, He seldom sinks, never falls; and does every thing by design. Would to heaven there were thousands such in the vineyard of Christ ! As far as we are able to judge, he is decidedly first on the catalogue of pulpit orators in this country. We submit the question to the public and posterity.