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THE FIRST DIALOGUE, BETWEEN A. AND B. AND C.
A. WELL, Sir, I suppose you have been hearing the sermon to which you would have carried me. I have but very little curiosity that way, and am content with our parish minister.
B. I was charmed with my preacher. You had a great loss, Sir, in not hearing him. I have hired a pew, that I may not miss one of his Lent sermons.
O! he is a wonderful man. If you did but once hear him, you could nev. er bear any other.
A. If it be so, I am resolved never to hear him. I would not have any one preacher give me a distaste of all others; on the contrary, I should choose one that will give me a relish and respect for the word of God, as may dispose me the more to hear it preached every where. But since I have lost so much by not hearing this fine discourse you are so pleased with, you may make up part of that loss, if you will be so kind as to communicate to us what you remember of it.
B. I should only mangle the sermon, by endeavouring to repeat any part of it. There were an hundred beauties in it that one cannot recollect, and which none but the preacher himself could display.
A. Well; but let us at least know some. thing of his design, his proofs, his doctrine, and the chief truths he enlarged on. 'Do you remember nothing ? Was you unattentive?
B. Far 'from it: I never listened with more attention and pleasure.
C. What is the matter then, do you want to be entreated ?
B. No: but the preacher's thoughts were so refined, and depended so much on the turn and delicacy of his expressions, that though they charmed me while I heard them, they cannot be easily recollected; and though one could remember them, if they be expressed in other words, they would not seem to be the same thoughts; but lose all their grace and force.
A. Surely, Sir, these beauties must be very fading, if they vanish thus upon the touch, and will not bear a review. I should be much better pleased with a discourse which has more body in it, and less spirit; that things might make a deeper impression on the mind, and be more easily remembered. What is the end of speaking but to persuade people, and to instruct them in such truths as they can retain ?
Now you have begun, Sir, I hope you will go on with this useful subject.
À I wish I could prevail with you, Sir, to give us some general notion of the elegant harangue you heard.
B. Since you are so very urgent, I will tell you what I can recollect of it. The text was this,* 'I have eaten ashes like bread.' Now could any one make a happier choice of a text for Ash-wednesday! he shewed us that, according to this passage, ashes ought this day to be the food of our souls, then in his preamble he ingeniously interwove the story of Artemesia, with regard to her husband's ashes. Hist transition to his Ave Maria was very artful; and his division was extremely ingenious: you shall judge of it. 1. “Though this dust, said he, be a sign of repentance, it is a principle of felicity: 2. Though it seems to humble us, it is really a source of glory : 3. And though it represents death, it is a remedy that gives immortal life.' He turned
Psalm cii. 9. † The Romish preachers, in the preamble of their sermons, address themselves to the Virgin Mary; and are ofttimes very artful in their transition to it, as our author observes. We have a remarkable example of this in one of the greatest French orators, M. L'Esprit Flechier, bishop of Nismes, who seems to be oftner than once alluded to in these dialogues. In his panegyric on S. Joseph he introduces his Ave Maria thus, -Every thing seems to concur to the glory of my subject; the Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, and Mary, are concerned in it; why may I not hope for the assistance of one of them, the grace of the other, and the intercessions of the Virgin ? To whom we will address ourselves in those words that the an. gel said to her, and which S. Joseph no doubt often repeated; Hail! Mary, &c. Panegyriques, vol. i. p. 71.
this division various ways, and every time he gave it a new lustre by his antitheses. The rest of his discourse was not less bright and elegant; the language was polite ; the thoughts new; the periods were harmonious; and each of them concluded with some surprising turn. He gave such just characters of common life, that his hearers found their various pictures faithfully drawn: and his exact anatomy of all the passions equalled the maxims of the great RocheFOUCAULT; in short, I think it was a master-piece. But, Sir, I shall be glad to know your opinion of it.
A. I am unwilling to tell you my thoughts, or to lessen your esteem, of it.
We ought to reverence the word of God; to improve ourselves by all the truths that a preacher explains; and avoid a critical humour, lest we should lessen the authority of the sacred function.
B. You have nothing to fear, Sir, at present. It is not out of curiosity that I ask your opinion ; but because I would have clear notions of it; and such sulid instructions as may not only satisfy myself, but be of use to others; for you know my profession obliges me to preach. Give us your thoughts therefore, without any reserve; and do not be afraid either of contradicting or offending me.
A. Since you will have it so, I must obey your commands. To be free then; I conclude, from your own account of this sermon, that it was a very sorry one.