Page images

And who so much needs the intellect, stored with these treasures of invaluable knowledge; who so much needs the imagination replenished with splendid imagery, and all the various accomplishments with which profound study can enrich the mind, as he who is to melt and mould the mingled throng into its own peculiar mood ?

The orator must also know the philosophy of mind, for it is with mind he has chiefly to do.

Unless he knows the powers with which it is gifted, and the laws by which it is governed, how can he apply to it that mental or moral force, indispensable to move it favorably toward his ruling object? How can he move the mental energies in a given direction, when he knows not the spring to be touched, which communicates such motion? He must then familiarize himself with the nature of mindwith its susceptibilities, its passions, and its propensities-with its powers to think, and its desires to act. Not that he can withdraw that covering with which the Creator has veiled the essence of mind, or analyze that thought-producing principle which likens us to Him -not that he can trace it in every step of its viewless process, or even determine the manner in which it commences many of its operations. We know not that this sagacity belongs to any created intellect. But he may acquaint himself with the original susceptibilities of the mind, with the laws of its associations, and with the motives by which, in its various states, it may be most easily influenced.

And as the history of our race is the philosophy of our nature, it is a medium through which the phenomena of mind should be steadily contemplated. It unfolds the powers, marks the propensities, and carries us back to the susceptibilities of the human being. Leading us up the stream of time, through all the ages the sun has measured out, it developes human character under all the millions of varied circumstances, in which the multitudes of our race have been placed. It records not only those renowned achievements, which have filled the world with the actors' names; but it nicely traces those hidden causes which have acted differently on various minds. It admits us to the councils of kings, the intrigues of courts, and to those untold motives, which acts themselves only could reveal. It displays human nature under the empire of vice, under the control of virtue in the absence of strong temptations, and under the excitement of powerful motives. So that an accurate acquaintance with history, is a profound knowledge of mind. This is especially so, when he who studies it, reads with equal care the mystic page of his own bosom. For in himself every man may find, in embryo, most qualities of mind that have ever been displayed by our race, since it first entered on existence.

And when these two immense volumes are studied togetherwhere thought is made the subject of thought, desire a matter of scrutiny, and passion the object of rigid analysis, and when this theatre on which the mental man is surveyed, becomes enlarged into the field of universal history, a knowledge of mind is acquired, which reaches to the utmost attainable limit.

Now, just in proportion as this knowledge is acquired by the orator, will be his power to perceive the most direct avenue to his auditors' hearts. Knowing what human nature is, he will address men in the character they really sustain ; not as though they were all matter or all mind; not as if they should act entirely for the present world, or wholly for the next; not as if each were a solitary being, or lived wholly for society: but as possessing a compound nature which partakes both of the earth-born animal and heavenly cherub --as providing for two allotments of being—the mixed state of time, and the changeless relations of eternity,--as capable of excitement by two classes of motives such as are found in self-interest and those urged by the mighty voice of conscience. With this comprehensive knowledge of the capabilities, propensities, and destinies of men will he perceive, at a glance, the side on which they lie most open to conviction and persuasion; and thus act on those great principles by which human nature, in every variety of condition, may be easily approached, and powerfully swayed.

But if the orator would be eloquent, he must be virtuous.

For all his mightiest appeals are to those strong principles, which expire in human nature the moment virtue is lost. And as these principles can only be appealed to with success by him in whose own bosom they powerfully operate, when they cease to predominate there, he ceases to excite them anywhere else. Thus if the man who is niggardly, would induce others to act generously, he must himself first feel the transforming thrill of noble sentiment. If he who is obdurate, would touch the hearts of his auditors, by a picture of wo, his own must first be melted to pity by the miseries he describes. If the pretending lover of his country would rouse it to some great deed, by motives of patriotism, his own selfish heart must first catch the Spartan flame. And if the hypocrite in religion would prompt others to ardent devotion, he must first deceive himself into the persuasion, that he believes the sentiments he utters.

Though it cannot be questioned, whether a few gifted individuals may not counterfeit the genuine feeling of a glowing heart, while that feeling remains a stranger to the speaker's bosom; yet these instances are so few, and the requisite effort to succeed in them so arduous, that they can only be viewed as exceptions to the general rule.

That to feel deeply, is an indispensable qualification to speak forcibly, all classes of men seem perfectly aware. The tragedian felt this, when he carried the corpse of his much-loved child from its grave to the theatre, that he might better act his part in a touching tragedy. The most illiterate feeling this; for with such accuracy do they distinguish in a speaker between fictitious and real feeling that it is scarcely possible to impose on them the counterfeit for the genuine.

If, then, an orator can speak eloquently only when he speaks sincerely-only when the strong feelings of his bosom imbue the living words he utters-only when he possesses those elevated moral principles to which he makes his overpowering appeals, how arduous should be his effort for the elements of virtue, pure as the eternal Light has penciled it in the living oracles.

Now, the two positions, that much is to be done for our race, in this age, and that eloquence is one appointed instrument to accomplish it, furnish the most overpowering motives to make these high mental and moral attainments.

If we have burst into existence at the very period when the approaching crisis, to which the nations of the earth must come, is at the door-at an age that shall fame with grander events than those which emblazon any period on the records of time—at a period when the social system is about to be remodelled, and the moral world regenerated; if such be the moment in which we exist and act, then is our responsibility of character equally high. That such is the fact, indications that cannot be mistaken, gather thick and fast around us. The public agitation, which has recently been effected by questions of immeasurable magnitude, leaves no uncertainty whether an extraordinary developement of the mysteries of Providence toward our race is at hand. The frequent sighs of despairing Greece are wafted on the winds to the ears of the whole world--the dying groan of Poland may yet convulse every monarch in Europe-the suppressed fires of France are burning in concealment, only to burst forth in a more desolating earthquake, which will shatter and engulf their present system. A survey of the other states of Europe, and the east, would furnish us with events in embryo, which, when fully matured, must rock the world, and long tell on the destiny of nations. Whe. ther these matchless events shall be chiefly brought forward to a concurrent point by the quickened energies of existing instruments, or by the sudden operation of new causes, is not for human intellect to determine. But however this may be, Providence seems to have confided to this generation the work of many past ages. Every system, religious and social, must pass a fiery scrutiny; what is false in that, must be abandoned; and what is wrong in this, must be removed. We are therefore to gird ourselves for lofty achievements —to put on the mighty panoply with which eloquence can arm us. For with millions of our race it is still a midnight hour—it is so morally and intellectually ;-and though on the face of these dark and slumbering waters the spirit of light and improvement begins to move, and the quickening mandate to come forth, which shall communicate life and order; yet that ignorance and despotism which have covered the broad circle of ages, and reduced vast nations to the mere wreck of ancient empires, will only be dissipated by the vigorous action of enlightened mind. This agency must act chiefly through powerful writing and eloquent speaking. These have been the chosen media through which Providence has generally poured the light of the wise on the darkness of the ignorant.

The powerful pen and the eloquent tongue, which have held so lofty a place among the chosen agents of Providence, are still destined for high achievements. These were the instruments, even more than the sword of Washington, that broke from the neck of America the yoke of despotism. These are the instruments, also, by which the liberty of this young empire is becoming a fire to consume every monarchy on the footstool. What media more appropriate than these, through which the electric spirit of mental and moral renovation shall pass from breast to breast, and from realm to realm?

It was when Greece was the school of nations, that despotism on the thrones of Macedon and Persia quailed before eloquence. It was when Rome was the mistress of the world, that the mighty usurper of all its rights trembled at the single voice of Cicero. It was when popery held its mighty sceptre over all Europe, that by the eloquence of an obscure monk this vast system of a thousand years was made to quake to its centre. And who can doubt whether by this same wonder-working instrument the spirit of national renovation shall move on to that high and perfect triumph which Providence avowedly meditates? Nor let it be imagined that the effect of this tremendous engine will subside with the ebbing passions which the orator excited. It will not, like the meteor's glare, flash for a brief period across a startled world, and then quench itself for ever in the ocean of the past; but, like the rising lights in the heavens, it will shine with a steady and augmenting lustre.

If, then, the pen and tongue of eloquence are to breathe on every land a disenchanting spirit-a spirit that shall dash the system and crumble the thrones of despotism-a spirit that shall break the spell of Brahma and stop the car of Juggernaut-a spirit that shall dissipate the delusions of Mohammed, and give to the winds of heaven the trumpery of Catholicism-a spirit that shall carry to the goaded nations of Europe, and to the bleeding millions of the east, the balm which the laws and institutions of this youthful empire can furnish; if all this is to be effected by your inimitable art, with what quenchless ardor should it be cultivated! If a wondrous Providence has so crowded the nineteenth century with the elements of public happiness, that more may be accomplished for our race now, in one age, than in the dull round of past centuries, how overpowering the motives to brighten and multiply this amazing instrumentality!

May this highest endowment of the intellect never cease to reside among you. May many go out from this far-famed hall to speak, like the voice of God, to the ear of tyranny and of obdurate crime in deep-toned thunder, muttering through the stormy cloud--to speak in the ear of sighing grief, gentle as the zephyrs that fan the vernal flowers-to plead the cause of the oppressed stranger, of the crying orphan, and of the weeping widow, in strains of Æolian sweetness. But, above all, when a darkness, deeper than midnight, settles down on the dying hour, to speak in tones that will fix our spirit-eyes on the bright and abiding objects in the world of substance

and when eternity shall roll up its broad orb to reveal its long-concealed terrors, to let in on our ears, from the heights of Calvary, melting as the lutes of heaven, the voice of a dying Restorer.

For the Methodist Magazine and Quarterly Review.

SCRIPTURE EXPLAINED. " For I could wish that myself

were accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh," Rom. ix, 3.

ALTHOUGH sufficiently satisfied that a passage of Scripture may be innocently and profitably applied without having a strict regard to the primary design of the inspired writer; as I have sometimes heard the above text applied to enforce Christian benevolence, and a disinterested sacrifice and service in the cause of Christ; yet I consider it the duty of those who expound the word of God to seek, by all the helps they can obtain, the true meaning and design of the Holy Spirit, speaking in his servants, the prophets and apostles, that they may administer truth as well as grace to their hearers.

On the above text my mind has been settled for many years : but as my view differs so widely from most commentators, I have felt a great reluctance to offer my opinion publicly; and shall do it now with due deference to the piety and learning of those who differ from me. I will first give what I consider a literal reading of the text, and the criticism will be found principally in the punctuation.

The passage reads thus:-"I speak the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience bearing me witness in the Holy Ghost, that I have great grief and unceasing anguish in my heart, (for I myself did wish to be accursed from Christ,) on account of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh; who are Israelites," &c. It will easily be perceived, by admitting the parentheses, that the truth which the apostle so solemnly avers, is, that his grief and anguish of heart were unceasing on account of his brethren, whom God was about to cast off: and not that he wished himself accursed for their sakes. I consider the words included in parentheses as a kind of sympathetic expletive, thrown in to palliate the severity of the punishment he was denouncing against his countrymen, with an intimation of the possibility of their obtaining mercy, on the ground that he had obtained mercy. The passage may be paraphrased thus:- What I say of the rejection of my couutrymen, I say by the authority and commission of Christ, and I dare not dissemble the tru h; for I have a consciousness of the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and, so far from feeling to rejoice in their calamity, I have great grief and unceasing pain in my heart on their account; for I know the blindness of their zeal and the deeprooled prejudices they have against Christianity, for I myself was as blind and bitterly opposed to Christ as they are: yea, my zeal and excessive madness against Christianity carried me beyond my equals; for I persecuted the disciples to strange cities, and compelled them to blaspheme.' I set at defiance and even invoked the curses of Christ, and wished to be separated from all part or inheritance in Him: and my sorrow and anguish of heart for them are the greater because they are Israelites, to whom periainelh the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, the law, the service, and the promises; and of whom was Christ, according to the flesh, who is God over all, blessed for ever. Amen.

My reasons for so understanding the apostle are,

1. That the Greek verb 'Hvyoun is in the indicative mood and imperfect tense, and should be read, “I did wish,and not“I could wish :" and I adopt the parentheses because útep, before “ my breihren," signities" on account of," and is the only proper connective between his great griet and the objects of it, with the assignable cause for the unceasing anguish in his heart. No other cause of sorrow is brought into view but the state of his brethren; unless we suppose his grief was on account of this terrible wish, which would be equally against the common interpretation. The rules of punctuation are comparatively of recent date, and were unknown in the days of ihe apostle; therefore the use of the parenthesis is no alteration of the text, and putting the sentence between commas, which is done in some editions, will produce the same effect.

2. There is nothing in this rendering that is forced or unnatural. No sentiment is here avowed that either shocks the feelings or perplexes the mind of the reader. It is a simple and frank confession of his past enmity against Christianity. By rendering the verb in the prelerite form, and using the parentheses, all the diffculties of the common reading disappear. We have only to ask, “When did you wish that terrible curse?" and the answer will be found in his own language: “When I held the garments of them that stoned Stephen, when I was a blasphemer, and compelled others to blaspheme." I gave the example, and wished myself accursed by Christ. Several good copies read vno instead of ato tov Xploto.

3. This interprelation is in accordance with his general style of writing, which is cheraclerized by strength and boldness of expression, rather than a graceful flow of eloquence. Many examples could be given; and possibly he might have had some allusion to this when he said to the Corinthians: "My speech and my preaching was not with ev Teidois hoyoic, the persuasive eloquence of human wisdom. It also agrees with his general history. He breathed threatenings and slaughter against the disciples, and eing exceedingly mad, he persecuted them even unto strange cities; compelled them to blaspheme; was himselt a blasphemer, a persecutor and injurious, but obtained mercy as one born out of due time, because he did it ignorantly in unbelief.

4. I prefer this explanation because I see no other way of escaping the imputation of a rash and vain wish; even if it had been indulged for a moment, and under the most extraordinary afflatus of the Spirit. All will agree that, as a Christian, he could not wish hiinself eternally cursed, or finally separated from Christ. To have wished himself cut off and separated from the communion of Christ and the body of his Church would have been a rash and preposterous wish; and to have wished himself doomed by Christ to suffer with his nation, or that he might bear the calamily in their siead, or even be appointed to suffer an ignominious death on their account, would have been a vain and idle wish; as he knew it could neither benefit them nor relieve their sufferings, for he has informed us that to such as reject Christ there is no other sacrifice.

Thus far I have given the harshest rendering that a literaltranslation of the text will admit. But the Greek terms, I am inclined to think, are capable of a much sofier interpretation. I would invite the attention of the learned inquirer to the 'Evxopat elval of Homer, who uses it as a strong affirmative: I profess to be, and to the derivation of anathema, from ava Tibnja, to place or set against as an enemy. The passage included in the parentheses will then read, “For I professed myself to be an enemy of Christ." This certaivly renders the whole passage intelligible and dispassionate, which well agrees with the solemn manner in which the apostle introduces the subject; and I see no solid objection against it; but I could point several very weighly reasons against the common interpretation. L. C.

« PreviousContinue »