Page images

this language is in a very poor and defective state amongst us, and that out of the numberless emotions whereof the human mind is capable, there are but a few that have any peculiar marks belonging to them as their symbols; it will be found that the difficulty of treating justly of the passions and fancy, must be much greater, than of the understanding; whose language was fufficiently copious, and wanted only regulation; whereas in the other case we must wait for the gradual increase of the language itself, till its deficiencies are supplied, before we can attempt to regulate it properly, in order to have a comprehensive and just view of the powers of the mind. And indeed till that be done, those nations that have no names for number beyond three, might as well pretend to display all the wonders of arithmetic, as we to delineate the immense field of mental emotions, without a sufficient number of marks to stand as their symbols. But I will not anticipate upon this head, what the reader will find fully explained, in the course of these lectures, and differtations.

It will be allowed by all persons of reflection, that there is no fpeculative point more ardently to be wished for, than to have it in our power to contemplate those parts of the human mind, which are still concealed from us, or falsely viewed thro' the mists of errour, with the same clear fatisfaction that we find in examining Mr. Locke's view of the understanding. But at the same time if the means were pointed out, of rendering both these views practically useful, by shewing how a general spirit of good sense, and clearness of reason, might be propagated thro' the natives of this country; by shewing how the passions hurtful or dangerous to society may be suppressed, and those of the nobler and social kind, calculated to promote the general good, may be brought forward, invigorated, and carried into due exertion; by shewing how the powers of the imagination may be so regulated as to diffuse a general good taste thro'


a 2

the nation ; a point essentially necessary to promote some of the noblest ends that can be answered by the two other powers, those I mean of a refined understanding, and delicate sensibility : it must be allowed that the execution of such a plan, would tend more to the real benefit of this realm, than all the uninspired books that have been written from the creation of the world to this hour.

But it will be said, how, or from whom is this to be expected ? Are not these the very points about which the most eminent of our writers have employed their labours, hitherto to little purpose ? Have not these been the chief objects in the works of our most celebrated divines, moralists, metaphysicians, critics, writers of essays, &c. and have we any reason to believe that this age will produce writings in those several ways superiour to what have hitherto appeared? Such are the questions likely to be asked by those, whose minds have been narrowed by an early false bias given to us in our system of education, and afterwards continued thro’ life; I mean that extravagant idea entertained of the power of writing, far beyond what in. its nature it can ever attain.

But suppose it be asserted, that this is the very

cause of the failure, in the attempts made by so many men of distinguished abilities to reform mankind. Suppose it be asserted that they have all used an instrument, which in its very construction was incapable of accomplishing the work they were about. In Nort that some of our greatest men have been trying to do that with the pen, which can only be performed by the tongue; to produce effects by the dead letter, which can never be produced but by the living voice, with its accompaniments. This is no longer a mere assertion; it is no longer

it is no longer problematical. It has been demonstrated to the entire satisfaction of some of the wiseft heads in these realms : And readers of but moderate discernment, will find it fully proved

in the sixth and seventh lectures, on Tones and Gesture; and in the two following Differtations on Language.

But that the bulk of my readers, may not enter upon the dircussion of this point, with all their prejudices about them, they are desired to reflect, that language is the great instrument, by which all the faculties of the mind, are brought forward, moulded, polished, and exerted : and that we have in use two kinds of language ; the spoken, and the written. The one, the gift of God; the other, the invention of man. Which of these two is most likely to be adapted to its end, that of giving the human mind its proper shape, and enabling it to display all its faculties in perfection?

If they want to judge by effects produced in our own times, how far the one language has the advantage over the other, let them only Teflect on a recent instance of a late minister, who by the mere force of cultivating the language bestowed by the Deity on humankind, as far as he could carry it by his own pains, raised himself to the sole direction of affairs in this country: and not only so, but the powers of his living voice shook distant thrones, and made the extremities of the earth to tremble. When it is well known that had the same sentiments been delivered in the language of men; had they been sent out into the world in a pamphlet; they would probably have produced less effects upon the minds of a few readers, than those of some hireling writers. And we have many flagrant instances in our methodist preachers, of the power which words acquire, even the words of fools and madmen, when forcibly uttered by the living voice. And if the language of nature be possessed of such power, in its present neglected and uncultivated state, how immense must be its force, were it carried to the same degree of perfection, that it was amongst the ancient Greeks and Romans ?


Had the Greeks or Romans been blest with the light of revelation ; had they been possessed of such a religion, and such a constitution as ours, together with some discoveries which time has produced; they would have carried all the powers belonging to human nature to the utmost degree of perfection; and the state of society amongst them would have approached as nearly to that blissful state, to which we are taught to look forwards, a fellowship with angels, as the boundaries of the two worlds would permit. And would not this necessarily be our case, were we poffeffed of those articles, in which the Greeks and Romans confessedly excelled us? We want only their arts added to our sciences. Their arts, are essentially necessary to render the noblest discoveries in modern philosophy, practically useful to society. Their arts, are essentially necessary, to diffuse those benefits thro' all ranks of people, which such a religion, and such a constitution as our's, are in their own nature capable of bestowing. In short, their arts, are essentially necessary, to our making a right use of all those blessings, which Providence has showered down with a more liberal hand, on this country, than on any other in the world. Now they had no arts whatsoever, in which they excelled us, that did not take their rise, either immediately, or consequentially, from the pains bestowed upon the culture of the language of nature, the living speech. What is there wanting then amongst us, but to apply ourselves with industry to the fame means, in order to attain the same ends ?


I know there are few capable of tracing a fpeculation of this fort, thro' all its steps, so as to perceive the justness of the deduction. But I am now little follicitous about what judgement shall be past upon the theory, since the time is approaching of trying it experinientally. A few sensible effects produced from practice, will carry more conviction to the bulk of mankind, than a thousand speculative


arguments. It is with true satisfaction of heart I hail the approaching day, when all that I have advanced upon this subject, will be put to that test. Whoever attended the course of lectures during their delivery ; or whoever shall look at the numerous list of subscribers preceding this book, will be convinced that things are now ripe for execution, and that due encouragement will not be wanting to him who shall establish a successful method of teaching the art of Delivery in this country. The constant attendance of the subscribers during the course; the profound attention with which the lectures were heard; the general satisfaction expressed by all who were present at their delivery; and the many personal applications to the author, from those who looked upon themselves as concerned in the event, either on their own or their children's account, to begin as soon as possible upon some practical plan, in order to answer the ends proposed; fufficiently confirm the truth of this affertion. And with respect to numbers, the printed list prefixed to this book will be far from Thewing the real number of subscribers to the course, as many chose not to set down their names, and as some of the lists were accidentally lost. But when the world is told, that the number of subscribers to this, and a former course of the same nature, was not less than seventeen hundred, and that these were all volunteers, as there was not the least sollicitation used on the part of the author to promote the subscription; it will probably be allowed, that such a general, free encouragement, has hardly been given to any single proposal in this age.

Some may be surprised to find, so few names, of persons adorned with titles, or dignified by station, in the list of subscribers: But they who are acquainted with the state of things for some time past, will not at all wonder at this, when they are told that the subscrip-tion was utterly unfollicited. Voluntary patronage amongst the


[ocr errors]
« PreviousContinue »