Page images

ceeds from a fountain) is modified into a solid mass-and that too, for aught we perceive to the contrary, without the help of congelation. This folid mass is erected into some kind of building, and is fixed upon a rock, and though battered by rain, keeps its station.

Another example of mixed metaphors we find in the fame discourse. The recollected pleasures of humanity and virtue Thall maintain their wonted vigour, “ flourish in immortal youth," support us in the most critical moments of distress, like hope, be an anchor to the soul both sure and stedfast, make infirmity smile, smooth the bed of languishing, and render the evening of life' serene and chearful.' Now what connection is there in the several images of this gaudy picture? What is it that acts like an anchor and smooths a bed? This combination of inconsistent figures of speech is such a capital fault in language, and withal so common with those orators who are seized with the rage of eloquence the furor grandifonus - that we think it a duty, which as public Critics we owe to the world, to expose it to the ridicule it deserves, and thus guard, as far as our infuence extends, the English tongue from every innovation that the vanity of some and the folly of others are so frequently attempting to make on its purity and simplicity.

To the affectation of a pompous, high-sounding, figurative style, we may add another that is equally disgusting to persons of a chaste and well-regulated taste : and that is, the affectation of introducing scraps of plays in the very body of a sentence which treats of some grave or awful point of religion. These dramatic fragments are generally gathered from Shakespear : but however excellent they may be in their place, we think they look a little oddly by the side of a text of scripture. Take the following example of this absurd and conceited mixture of scripture and plays, &c. &c. • hope of immortality! thou art indeed our early, our anticipated heaven. Without thee we can do nothing : and with thee animating, fupporting, strengthening us, we are enabled to do and to suffer all things. good distrest”-I address you in the beautiful language of the moralist ;-“Ye noble few who here unbending Itand beneath life's pressure, yet bear up awhile.” Dispute it bravely. Quit yourselves like men: “ yet bide the pelting of this pitiless storm,” and “ lath the saucy waves” of discontent and murmuring, “ which throng and press to rob you of your prize.” “ The storms of wintry time shall quickly pass, and one unbounded spring encircle all."-St. Paul, Shakespear and Thomson ! Dulce fodalitium ! But Dr. Milne hath the art of joining together what good sense, decorum, and Christian reverence would always keep asunder :-at least in the pulpit !


66 Ye

Dr. Milne was not content with Job's own account of hima felf—an account sufficiently large and particular; but he must needs make an addition to it by foisting in a quotation from a play. The patriarch describing his former prosperity makes use of the following beautiful and simple allufion; “My root was spread out by the waters, and the dew lay all night upon my branch.” Dr. Milne spreads out this branch only for the purpose of blafting it in the end. In fine, says he, Job diffused his branches like Lebanon; and the Thade of him filled the land: yet in one night “ a storm, a robbery shook down his mellow hangings, stript him of his leaves, and left him bare to weather.”

We are the more severe on this puerile affectation of introducing hackneyed passages from plays, &c. into sermons, as the evil is become a growing one-especially among the younger part of the clergy. The gayer tribe amongst the Dissenters too are running very fast into this abfurdity: and as we consider it as a certain mark of a vicious taste, and a great abuse, not to fay a desecration, of the pulpit, we fhall make no apology for the freedom with which we have censured it; and fall be happy if any, warned by the example of Dr. Milne, attend more seriously to a maxim of the highest authority, viz—"Not to put a piece of new cloth upon an old garment; for that which is put to fill it up takech from the garment, and the rent is made worse!"

It is feldom that a pompous diction can be uniformly supported even by the greatest masters. Though it sometimes swells as if it was ready to burst into blank verse, and may perhaps take its vent and go off this way; yet we as frequently find an intermixture of low, flat words, which sinks the majesty of the sentence, and represseth the burning ardour with which it set out.

For example: Prosperous hitherto (says Dr. Milne), we entertain few apprehensions that the tide of prosperity can ever be changed. We attach ourselves to second causes. The great First Cause of all we discern not. We see not the Sovereign Wisdom which rules among the inhabitants of the earth and Sports itself with the affairs of mortals by subjecting them to perpetual vicissitudes.'

We have heard of an impudent fellow's Sporting a face upon an occasion at a table to which he had no invitation. We have heard also of a knavilh inn-keeper's Sporting off cyder for champaign on his guests when they have been half-Drunk. But never, till Dr. Milne informed us of it, did we either read or hear of Infinite Wisdom's sporting itself on any occasion whatsoever,


One low word spoils all the dignity and beauty of the following description of our Saviour's sufferings. Jesus wept : but when ? Was it when he endured the contradiction of linners against himself? Was it when he was betrayed by one diso ciple, denied by another, and abandoned by all ? Was it, &c. &c. &c. &c. His soul disdains the meanness. He dropt not a tear. He uttered not a groan. He spoke not a word. Was it then when scourged, when buffeted, when crowned with thorns, when arrayed in a ludicrous robe, when spit upon, when hoodwinked, when addressed with the mock honours of royalty, or when struck by the very servants with the palms of their hands?'

In a discourse on the deceitfulness of fin' (for the beginning of which he is indebted, though he doth not acknowledge the obligation, to Yorick's sermon on Conscience), we are presented with the following cluster of incompatible images. He fosters a viper which eats into his bowels. He drinks of a cup, which though sweet as honey, like the prophet's roll, yet like the book devoured by St. John, is bitter in the belly, nay stings as a serpent, and bites as an adder.' Here vipers, ferpents, adders, honey, prophets, apostles, books, rolls, bowels and bellies, " dance (as Junius observes of a similar mixture of strange figures) through all the mazes of metaphorical confufion!”

Dr. Milne fometimes condescends to soften the high tone of Ciceronian eloquence, and plays with pretty points and antitheses. • Is it (he asks) so difficult for a man to cross himself, as to take up the cross and follow the Saviour--through the rugged roads of adverlity, as through the “ primrose path” of affluence and splendor ?' Take another example of the preacher's delectable manner of sporting with words. • Tell me when he began to love you, and I will tell you to what age you are permitted to offend him. He loved you before you had an existence, and Thall you not love him whilst you exist? It was in the Aower of his years that the Saviour died for you : and in the flower of your years shall you disdain to live for him ?' Old puritanical

Dyer's Golden Chain"-- to be worn about the necks of the babes in Chrift, is not ornamented with a prettier toy!

One would imagine that Dr. Milne had been conversant with the writings of Dr. Everard and the myftic preachers of the last century, by the propenfity which he discovers of turning to allegory what is related as a fact. Hence he calls our Saviour the “invincible Sampson, who, if he had pleased, could have thivered the nails and the chains to atoms.'— By the same licence of departing from the letter, he talks of flaughtering, like Judith, our spiritual Holoferres that master-vice, which, though but one in species, produces, cherilhes, and fortifies many more.' Rev. May, 1780.



Dr. Milne's zeal against infidels and infidelity is so great, that he could not avoid a sort of a back-hand stroke at Mr. Hume, and his manner of quitting the world. He will boast to the last moments (says the Preacher) of a pretended strength of mind which shall flatter his vanity; incline to seem superior to vulgar errors, to brave the authority of heaven, and view the uncertainty of an hereafter with a fixed and tranquil eye ; leave to the spectators the dreadful pleasure of a witticism at the expence of his eternal salvation, and talk jocularly of Styx and Charon.' (Vid. Serm. On the Deceitfulness of Sin, p. 216. comp. with Dr. Adam Smith's Letter to William Strahan, Erq; affixed to Mr. Hume's Life.)

We shall produce one specimen more of the Preacher's zeal ; and it will serve as a farther specimen of his happy talent at antithesis. "Would you take those for your models whose names offer themselves with horror to remembrance, the Vani, nis, the Spinofas, the Woolstons, the Voltaires ? or the Now, gentle Reader, doft thou not expect some modern champion of the Christian church to figure in the contrast ? - the Pascals, the Boyles, the Newtons, the Lockes, the Lytteltons? -Thou art miltaken! Dr. Milne opposes to the Spinosas, the Woolstons and the Voltaires — the Abrahams, the Josephs, the Jobs, the Elijahs, the Daniels, the apostolical men, who thone as lights in the world. Maintain (says he) if you can this parallel.' It is not our business, nor the business of any one's but the Doctor's, to maintain such a parallel ; and it will require more ingenuity than he is possessed of to maintain it with any grace.

Dr. Milne, and the partial friends who persuaded him to commit his compositions to the inspection of the public, will certainly accuse us of great severity and ill-nature in treating him with such freedom as we have in the preceding remarks. But when we think we have discharged an honest, though harsh and ungrateful duty; and when we know that we have done it without the Nightest personal prejudice against the Author, or even the most distant knowledge of the man, any farther than he hath made himself known to us by his publications, we shall acquit ourselves to our own consciences, and confider every splenetic- reflection from partiality and disappointment as a thing of course. We consider Dr. Milne as a most dangerous and corrupt model for our young divines-who are too easily captivated by the charms of a false and fpecious eloquence, to the neglect, and perhaps the contempt, of those words of truth and soberness, which aim more at the conviction of the judgment than at the inflammation of the passions; and gain by a calm and lasting effect, what they miss by sudden and violent emotions.


[ocr errors]

ART. IV. Principles of Ele&ricity, containing divers new Theorems

and Experiments, together with an Analysis of the fuperior Advantages of high and pointed Conduktors, &c. By Charles Viscount Mahon, F.R.S. 410. 106. 6 d. Boards. Elmly. 1779. HOUGH the ingenious and noble Author of this per

formance professes to establish in it'the fundamental laws of Electricity;' the present is not an elementary treatise of that science. The reader is accordingly supposed to be acquainted with the common experiments, and the general properties of electricity, which have been already established by others.

The Author first treats of Electric Atmospheres; and endeavours to shew that they are constituted of the particles of air surrounding the electrified body. If, for instance, the body be positively electrified, he maintains that it will deposit, upon all the particles of air that surround it, and come successively in contact with it, a proportional part of its fuperabundant electricity: so that they will become likewise positively electrified, and form a positively electrified atmosphere *. The fame reasoning is applied, mutatis mutandis, to negatively electrified bodies, and their negative atmospheres.

From this principle, and the observation that the density of an electrical atmosphere diminishes, in a certain ratio, as the distance from the electrified body increases, as well as from other confiderations, the Author undertakes to assign the cause, why an electrified body, to which a projecting point is affixed, parts with, or receives, electricity more readily than a smooth cylindrical or globular body :-Because the superabundant electricity of the body, which we will suppose to be positively electrified, and which, in all cases, tends to quit it, will, when a point is affixed to it, meet with less resistance to its escape ; as the point projects beyond the dense part of the electrical atmosphere of the body, into the rarer and, consequently, more unrefifting part of that atmosphere. But the escape of the electric matter from any part of a smooth cylindrical body, pofitively electrified, is prevented or impeded; because every part of its surface is in contact with the denses part of its own strongly resisting electric atmosphere. The surface too of the point being extremely small, the less will be the resistance op

We wonder that the Author should take no notice of those ob. fervations of Dr. Franklin, that seem to militate against this doctrine; particularly his experiment, in which a large electrified cork ball, fixed to the end of a filk ftring, was whirled swiftly round a hundred times in the air, like a ling; without sustaining any sensible loss of electricity, after having passed through 800 yards of air. Sce his Experiments and Obfervations on Elearicity, &c Letter VI. Ff 2


« PreviousContinue »