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THE MONTHLY ANTHOLOGY,
ADDRESS BY THE EDITORS,
FOUR years have expired since the first publication of the Anthology, and we have now commenced the fifth volume. originally undertaken by a society of gentlemen for their own amusement, and for the diffusion of literary taste. As it was begun without any sanguine expectations of success, the mortification of disappointment was precluded; and the proprietors, satisfied with a subscription sufficient to defray the expense of publication, have cheerfully continued their labours, without the prospect or desire of pecuniary remuneration.
They are fully sensible, that the Anthology has never been a favourite with the publick at large, nor were they ambitious of popularity; since they scorned to discuss the trifling topicks of the day, and to gratify the malice of tattling gossips with the little tales of private slander. But from the ablest pens in the United States they have received praise, more than enough to satisfy reasonable vanity, and from the liberality of their patrons, sufficient encouragement to induce them to persevere. Amongst the subscribers to the Anthology they may proudly boast of the first names in the country, of those most distinguished by political knowledge, general information, extensive learning, the integrity of their publick conduct, and the virtues of their private life.
Without promising improvements, which may not be realized, they may reasonably flatter themselves, that the future numbers of this work will not be inferiour to the former, as the literary labourers will be increased. It is their ambition to diffuse useful knowledge, and inspire a taste for literature among their fellow-citizens. If they should Vol. V. No. 1. A 200813
succeed in this laudable attempt, they will be amply rewarded by the pleasing consciousness of having done the state some service. If they should ultimately fail in their object, however deeply they may regret the want of success, they will console themselves with reflecting, that they have omitted no exertion to deserve it.
FOR THE ANTHOLOGY.
OBSERVATIONS ON ALLOWING THE CLERGY THE OCCASIONAL USE OF PRINTED DISCOURSES.
IN the Anthology for September 1805 (vol. ii. p. 454) there was a short piece with the same title, as is prefixed to this, and upon the same subject. In what follows, it is not intended directly to repeat any thing already said; but to enlarge upon some of the considerations formerly suggested, and perhaps to add some new remarks to the same purpose.
The religious and moral principles of the greater part of Christians depend very much upon the stated instructions of the sabbath. Of those truths, which we do not disbelieve, it is necessary, that we should be perpetually reminded. Practical principles of the most serious importance have no proper influence upon our conduct, not because we doubt their evidence, but because we forget their authority. To these principles, therefore, it is necessary very frequently not to require our assent, but to recal our attention. To keep alive then the remembrance of those truths, which it is of most consequence that man should remember, nothing perhaps immediately contributes more, than the publick discourses of the sabbath. There are many, who have but little leisure to read, and many, who have
but little inclination; and of those, who have both, more read for amusement,than for instruction,and more for instruction, than for moral improvement. There are those therefore, from whose minds all serious thoughts might fade away and disappear, if it were not for the continual reimpression and renewal, which is afforded by the publick discourses and other exercises of the sabbath.
If this then be true, if any thing like what I have stated be one of the purposes of publick preaching, it is not of little moment that this mode of instruction should be always such, as to produce its proper effect; and especially that it never should be such, as to have a contrary tendency, such as only patient piety can hear without forgetting the seriousness, the importance, and the Sublimity of its subject. It is matter for unpleasant meditation to consider the condition of a christian society, engaged perhaps throughout the week principally in secular concerns, and coming together sabbath after sabbath,not to have inattention reclaimed, not to have attention rewarded, but to sleep away the time of instruction, or to sit impatiently till released from their constraint, and to hear
without even transient interest, discourses upon subjects the most solemn that can engage human speculation. Thus it may be, however, without any thing to blame in the preacher, and perhaps without any deficiency of his in natural talents.
To write well is not an easy task; and this is one of those observations, to which we assent so readily and with so little attention of mind, as not to take a view of their necessary consequences. But to write well, it has sometimes been contended, is not required in a preacher; and his subjects, it has been said, are such, as to render it of little consequence what may be his mode of expression. To write well and eloquently, however, is nothing more, than to write in such a manner, as will most powerfully impress upon the minds of others what we ourselves strongly conceive. It is to substitute argument for assertion; the written tones of interest and feeling for exclamations and epithets, method for confusion, clearness for obscurity, and conciseness for repetition. Now there is scarcely any diffidence, which may not be roused to question and to doubt by assertions too dogmatical; there is scarcely any interest, which may not be suppressed by exclamations and epithets, and scarcely any attention, which may not be wearied out by confusion, and obscurity, and repetition. Such, then, are some of the evils of a clergyman's not writing well; but to write well is for him especially difficult.
Any one, acquainted with literary history, may easily recollect many instances of the patient and long continued labour, which men of genius and study have employed in producing their works of ex
cellence. But, unlike writers on general literature, the preacher of the gospel is limited in the choice of his subjects. He has the difficult task of rendering us attentive to the repetition of those truths, which have been often repeated, of making what is familiar, impressive; and, if he intends the amendment of his hearers, (and what preacher does not ?) of giving new force to those motives, which have long presented themselves without effect. To perform, however, what is so difficult, he is not allowed leisure to wait for those hours of mental illumination, when every thing within is visible and distinct; and for those happier moments, when his thoughts come warm from the heart, or glowing from the imagination; but he is condemned to write without intermission; it may be, amid perplexity, and vexation, and sickness; or it may be, when his mind, urged to its allotted labour, can do little more than exhaust itself by its exertions.
To write without intermission is indeed possible; but to think without intermission is not equally easy. Uninterrupted mental exertion in a little time destroys the health and the understanding. We have frequently known,' says Buchan, even a few months of close application to study, ruin an excellent constitution.' Of mental exertion none is more severe than the labour of invention. A clergyman, therefore, obliged as he is at present to continual composition, has this alternative, either to perform his duty in such a manner as will hardly satisfy himself, or to perform it in such a manner that he will not perform it long.
The clergy, it is true, find some, but it is in general very insuffi
cient, relief in making use of each other's mutual assistance. But to many clergymen, especially to those in the country, frequent exchanges, as they are called, may from various causes be not convenient; and why should not these, or why should not any, who are thus disposed, borrow the assistance of the dead instead of the living, and make use of the writings of those, to whom time has given its sanction, as teachers of moral and religious wisdom?
What is said above may, perhaps, have more effect, if considered in connection with some of the observations, formerly made upon this subject. But will not, it may be asked, the practice here recommended tend to encourage indolence and neglect of duty? Before directly replying to this objection, let me inquire what is the profit that a preacher's weekly discourses should always be of his own composing or what is the advantage of obliging him to say, in his own language, what he may find already said much more eloquently and impressively perhaps, than is within his powers of thought and expression? But in direct reply it may be observed, that to write is indeed required at present; but that there are no means of compelling indolence to write with labour and attention, and that by such a temper of mind the task of composing may be made suffi. ciently easy. As it is at present, then, if a clergyman be dispirited and indolent, his society suffer, for they hear from him dull and careless discourses of his own; but, if the plan now proposed were adopted, his society might be gainers from his writing little, for they would then hear from him discourses of others, probably much
better than what any exertions of his own could produce.
I have formerly remarked upon the very defective education of most clergymen in our country, owing to the neglected state of literature among us, and of their being obliged to acquire after their settlement, if it be acquired at all, much of that learning which is most immediately connected with their profession. It is probable, that but very few of our clergy have much knowledge of those rapid improvements, which in the last half century have been made in the study of the scriptures; of those discoveries in the East, by which their authenticity has been illustrated; of that patient labour, by which their genuine text has been cleared from corruptions; and of that critical acuteness and research, by which their meaning has been laid bare from the obscurity which time had gathered round it. But in a country like ours, where there are so few men of literary leisure, and where there is so little reward for literary exertion, the clergy should be allowed, I speak coldly, they should be encouraged to exert their talents for the purpose of diffusing general instruction, and in the cause of general literature. Among the clergy of other nations, there are places of comparative ease, which unquestionable merit may most commonly command, and to which we are indebted for many of those works, by which religion has been most successfully defended, and virtue most powerfully encouraged, for works such as the Analogy of Butler, or the Sermons of Massillon. I do not contend, that to our clergy should be granted either the dignity or the emolument of such stations, but only that we