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the same day at Lothbury, at St. John’s, morning and afternoon, and at Spitalfields in the evening—he found four congregations at these places, in many respects, quite distinct from one another; and yet he adapted his preaching, with admirable skill, to meet their habits of thinking. But when he had gained the attention, he was ever on the watch not to weary. He seemed to have continually before his eyes the sentiments of our great critic and moralist:* “Tediousness is the most fatal of all faults: negligences or errors are single and local, but tediousness pervades the .."; other faults are censured, and forgotten; but the power of tediousness propagates itself. He that is weary the first hour, is more weary the second; as bodies forced into motion, contrary to their tendency, pass more and more slowly through every successive interval of space.” Mr. Cecil would say, “You have a certain quantity of attention to work on : make the best use of it while it lasts. The iron will cool, and then nothing, or worse than nothing, is done. If a preacher will leave unsaid all vain repetitions, and watch against undue length in his entrance and width in his discussion, he may limit a written sermon to half an hour, and one from notes to forty minutes; and this time he should not allow himself to exceed, except on special occasions.” His power of ILLUSTRATION was great and versatile. His topics were chiefly taken from Scripture and from life. His manner of illustrating his subjects by Scripture examples, was the most finished I have ever heard. They were never introduced violently or abruptly; but his matter was so moulded in preparation for them, by a few well-turned sentences, that the illustration seemed to be placed in the Scripture almost for the sake of the doctrine.
* Lives of the Poets, vol. III. p. 35.
The general features of the character or history . were left in the back-ground, and those only which were appropriate to the matter in hand were brought forward, and so were presented with great force to the mind. His talent in discriminating the striking features and connecting them with his matter was so peculiar, that the histories of Abraham, of Jacob, of David, and of St. Paul, seemed in his hands to be ever new, and to be exhaustless treasures of illustration. The turn both of his mind and of his experience seemed to lead him to this method. What he did, therefore, with ease and feeling, it was natural should be done frequently; and, accordingly I have scarce-ly ever heard, a sermon from him in which there were not repeated exercises of this peculiar talent, and in some sermons almost the entire subject has been treated in this manner. This talent of illustrating his subjects, and particularly of seizing incidents for improvement, gave an edge to his wise admonitions in private; and fixed them deep in the memory. Riding with a friend in a very windy day, the dust was so troublesome, that his companion wished they were at their journey's end where they might ride in the fields free from dust: and this wish he repeated more than once while on the road. When they reached the fields, the flies so teazed his friend’s horse, that he could scarcely keep his seat on the saddle. On his bitterly complaining, “Ah! Sir,” said Mr. Cecil, “when you were in the road the dust was your only trouble, and all your anxiety was to get into the fields: you forgot that the fly was there ! Now this is a true picture of human life: and you will find it so in all the changes you make in future. We know the trials of our present situation; but the next will have trials, and perhaps worse, though they may be of a different knid.”
At another time, the same friend told him he should esteem it a favour, if he would tell him of any thing which he might in future see in his conduct which he thought improper. “Well, Sir!” he said, “many a man has told the watchman to call him early in the morning, and has then appeared very anxious for his coming early; but the watchman has come before he has been ready for him! I have seen many people very desirous of being told their faults; but I have seen very few who were pleased when they received the information. However, I like to receive an invitation, and I have no reason to suppose you will be displeased till I see it is so. I shall therefore remember that you have asked for it.” His style, particularly in preaching and in free conversation, was easy and natural. If he ever laboured his expression, it was in search of emphasis, rather than precision—of words which would penetrate the soul, rather than round his period and float in the ear. He considered that vigorous conceptions would clothe themselves in the fittest expressions—
Verba -- - - -
or, as Milton has admirably said—“True eloquence I find to be none, but the serious and hearty love of truth: and that, whose mind soever is fully possessed with a fervent desire to know good things, and with the dearest charity to infuse the knowledge of them into others, when such A MAN would speAk, his words, like so many nimble and airy servitors trip about him at command, and, in well-ordered files, as he would wish, fall aptly into their own places.” His written style has less ease than that of his conversation or preaching. He excelled rather in strong intuitive sense, than in a train of argument; and more in the liveliness of his thoughts, than in WOL. I. 13
their arrangement. He would put down his thoughts as they arose—often at separate times, and as suggested by the occasion—and was not always nice in rejecting obsolete expressions, or antithesis in sense. This occasioned a want of flow and ease in many parts of his writings, which the warmth of conversation or preaching swept away. IMPREssion was the leading feature of his ministry. Perhaps the INForMAtion conveyed by it to the mind was not sufficiently systematic and minute. He had seen so much the evil of spending the preacher's time in doctrinal statements, that possibly there was some deficiency in this respect in his own practice. When, indeed, he had to introduce religion to his congregation at St. John’s or Chobham, on his first entering on those charges, he dealt with them as a people needing information on first principles: but my remark applies to the habit and course of his ministry. For, however true it is, that, when a man becomes a serious reader of God’s word he must grow in the knowledge of the truth; yet many will still read the Bible with an indiscriminating mind, unless their minister's statements give them, not only a lucid general view of doctrines, but somewhat of a systematic and connected view ; and not a few—buried in the cares of the world—will derive all their notions of the system of divine truth from what they hear in public. Mr. Cecil wrote and spoke to mankind. He dealt with the business and bosoms of men. An energy of truth prevailed in his ministry, which roused the conscience; and a benevolence reigned in his spirit, which seized the heart: yet I much question whether the prevailing effect of his preaching was not determination grounded on conviction and ADMIRATION, rather than on EMotion. When in perfect health and spirits, and master of his subject, his eloquence was finished and striking: but though there was often a tenderness which awakened corresponding feelings in the hearer, yet his eloquence wanted that vehement passion which overpowers and carries away the minds of others. —si vis me flere, dolendum est
Primum ipsi tibi This is a great secret for getting hold of the heart. But as not much of the impassioned entered into the composition of his nature, and he was at the same time pre-eminent in genius and judgment, it could not but follow that ADMIRATION should affect the hearer more frequently than stroNg FEELING. A friend has told me that he has often lost the benefit of the truth which Mr. Cecil has uttered, in admiration of the exquisite manner in which it was conveyed. And I have again and again detected this in myself; and found I have been watching eagerly for what would fall next from him, not in the spirit of a new-born babe that desires the sincere milk of the word that I might grow thereby, but for the gratification of a mental voluptuousness. I desire no one will suppose that I impute to him any of the studied artifices of eloquence. No man sought more than he did, that his hearers’ faith should not stand in the wisdom of men, but in the power of God. No man more sincerely aimed to have his speech and his preaching not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but in demonstration of the spirit and of power: yet, moreover, because the preacher was wise, he still taught the people knowledge; yea, he GAve good HEED, and sought out, and set IN order the messages of divine mercy. The preacher sought to FIND out acceptable words, yet that which was written was upright, even words of truth. He could not but treat his subjects in this exquisite manner while his taste, his genius, and his nature remained; but this could not but be sanctified to his Master's honour, while he retained