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arise when we think of the venerable age of the institution; the noble struggles in which it has been engaged; the extensive usefulness of which it is capable; and the eminent men, and the great eloquence it has frequently brought out; including, in modern times, the dignified persuasiveness of Principal Robertson, the graceful plausibility of Dr. George Hill, the principal's successor, as the leader of the Church's majority, the manly energy of Sir Harry Moncreiff, and the burning oratory of Chalmers. Connecting every jurisdiction, and every member of the Church (which then meant the people), into one body, it was calculated to secure the benefits, without the dangers, of an official superintendence of morals and religion; and to do, in a more open and responsible way, for the Church of Scotland what is done, or not done, by the bishops for the Church of England. Such a senate might have continued to direct and control the cheapest, the most popular, and the most republican established church in the world. Its essential defect is as a court of justice. Nothing can ever make a mob of 300 people a safe tribunal for the decision of private causes; and the Assembly's forms are framed as if the object were to aggravate the evil.
"It met in those days, as it had done for about 200 years, in one of the aisles of the then grey and venerable cathedral of St. Giles. That plain, square, galleried, apartment was admirably suited for the purpose; the more so that it was not too large; and it was more interesting from the men who had acted in it, and the scenes it had witnessed, than any other existing room in Scotland. It had beheld the best exertions of the best men in the kingdom ever since the year 1640. Yet was it obliterated in the year 1830 with as much indifference as if it had been of yesterday, and for no reason except a childish desire for new walls and change. The Assembly sat there for the last time in May 1829; and it has never been the Assembly since.
"Its bar, though beneath him, had several attractions for Jeffrey. It needed no legal learning, and no labour beyond attendance, but always required judgment and management; it presented excellent opportunities for speaking, especially as the two inconvenient checks of relevancy and pertinency were seldom in rigid observance, and it was the most popular of all our established audiences. He constantly treated them to admirable speeches -argumentative, declamatory, or humorous, as the occasion might require. Accordingly, he was a prodigious favourite. They felt honoured by a person of his eminence practising before them, and their liking for the individual, with his constant liberality and candour, was still stronger than their admiration of his talents, and even their detestation of his politics. It was thought a dull day when he was not there. And when there, he could say and do whatever he chose, but never risked his popularity by carelessness or presumption, and never once descended to the vulgarity of pleasing, by anything unbecoming a counsel of the highest character, and the best taste. He was once in some danger, when, in defending a clerical client against a charge of drunkenness, he first contested the evidence, and then assuming it to be sufficient, tried to extenuate the offence; and, among other considerations, asked, 'If there was a single reverend gentleman in the house who could lay his hand on his heart, and say that he had never been overtaken by the same infirmity?' There was an instant roar of order, apology, rebuke, &c. But he subdued them at once, by standing till they were quiet, and then saying, with a half innocent, half cunning air, I beg your pardon Moderator, it was entirely my ignorance of the habits of the Church,' and the offence was forgiven in a general laugh.
"It was in the Assembly, or in connection with its business, that he first became acquainted with his future friend, the late Sir Harry Moncreiff, Bart., whom it is the more necessary to mention, because there was no one who had a greater influence over Jeffrey's conduct and opinions, particularly in relation to Scotch matters.
"This eminent person was not merely distinguished among his brethren of the Church of Scotland, all of whom leant upon him, but was, in other respects, one of the most remarkable and admirable men of his age. Small grey eyes, an aquiline nose, vigorous lips, a noble head, and the air of a plain hereditary gentleman, marked the outward man. The prominent qualities of his mind were, strong integrity and nervous sense. There never was a sounder understanding. Many men were more learned, many more cultivated, and some more able. But who could match him in sagacity and mental force? The opinions of Sir Harry Moncreiff might at any time have been adopted with perfect safety, without knowing more about them than that they were his. And he was so experienced in the conduct of affairs, that he had acquired a power of forming his views with what seemed to be instinctive acuteness, and with a decisiveness which raised them above being slightly questioned. Nor was it the unerring judgment alone that the public admired. It venerated the honourable heart still more. A thorough gentleman in his feelings, and immoveably honest in his principles, his whole character was elevated into moral majesty. He was sometimes described as overbearing. And, in one sense, to the amusement of his friends, perhaps he was so. Consulted by everybody, and, of course, provoked by many, and with very undisciplined followers to lead, his superiority gave him the usual confidence of an oracle; and this, operating in a little natural dogmatism, made him sometimes seem positive, and even hard; an impression strengthened by his manner. With a peremptory conclusiveness, a shrill defying voice, and a firm concentrated air, he appeared far more absolute than he really was, for he was ever candid and reasonable. But his real gentleness was often not seen; for if his first clear exposition did not convince, he was not unapt to take up a short disdainful refutation, which, however entertaining to the spectator, was not always comfortable to the adversary. But all this was mere manner. His opinions were uniformly liberal and charitable, and, when not under the actual excitement of indignation at wickedness or dangerous folly, his feelings were mild and benignant; and he liberalised his mind by that respectable intercourse with society which im→ proves the good clergyman, and the rational man of the world."
In the preceding quotation, Lord Cockburn has only glanced at what, for many subsequent years, formed some of the most remarkable passages in the life both of his friend and of himself, and the recollection of which will never be effaced from the minds of those who are old enough to have witnessed the amicable, often repeated, and brilliantly conducted struggles, of an oratorial kind, to which we are now alluding-we mean the encounters between Jeffrey and Cockburn at the bar of the General Assembly, which for so many years formed the chief objects of attraction to that venerable court.
It must be understood that, in the times to which we are now referring, none of these great general questions, or subjects of debate, had arisen, to which so much of the attention of the Church Courts, and of the country generally, has of late been given. In fact, the General Assembly had often very little to do, or wherewithal to pass away the time, and to amuse the minds of its often far-travelled members;-the custom, therefore, was, to set aside, not subjects or general questions for debate on particular days, but what were termed cases-that is to say, prosecutions, in most instances, against individual clergymen who had fallen, or were alleged to have fallen, into bad odour with their presbyteries, or with some of their parishioners. The great ambition of the
prosecuting and the defending parties was to get Jeffrey feed on the one side, and Cockburn on the other; and every day on which there was to be no compearance of these two popular rhetoricians, was held to be a blank day in the calendar, and not worthy of collecting the members to their seats in the Assembly.
And spirited, and admirable, and never to be forgotten, these contests of the two orators undoubtedly were-and great was the treat which their encounters presented both to the country ministers in the Assembly, and to all ranks of the public. The house, of course, was crowded from top to bottom;-after some almost formal business, which was soon put aside, the two advocates might be seen making their way through the assembled crowd to their seats at the slightly elevated, not very roomy, and gently sloping bar.-Jeffrey, then young, full of animal life and activity, with his black hair uncrushed by any wig, and slightly toupied at the top of his head; and Cockburn, in full forensic dress, with pale but fully developed, and rather handsome and expressive features-Jeffrey's countenance, and finely developed dark eye, undergoing a perpetual variation of expression according as he chose, or as his subject led him to be brilliant, or argumentative, or pathetic, or humorous-Cockburn's features, fixed as by an effort of his will, rather than in obedience to any inward insensibility of his mind-Jeffrey sporting with his topics, as if his great delight was to wander round them, and to put them in every attitude which his own ingenuity and matchless fluency enabled him to conjure up-and Cockburn, hitting the leading points of his subject with now and then a few emphatic and powerfully-telling strokes-Jeffrey, admirable at mystifying his audience by withdrawing their attention from what might have been viewed as the points least favourable to his client, and captivating the minds of his hearers by the splendour and the brilliant facility of his diction-and Cockburn, equally distinguished by the firm grasp which he took of what were really the strong points of his case, the statement of which, in unadorned, and almost purely Scotch phraseology, he not unfrequently accompanied by movements of his arms, and emphatic strokes of his hand upon the bar, that seemed to tell the audience how surely he had now "struck the nail upon the head"— Jeffrey, seeming to forget his client in the exuberant enjoyment of his own powers of analysis and of declamation-and Cockburn, by a different process, seeming entirely to identify himself with his client, and speaking in the very language, and with the aid of the same pronouns, and even local peculiarities of diction which the person for whom he pleaded might himself have chosen, if actually addressing the Courtfinally, Jeffrey's wit sometimes losing its point from the very fluency and brilliancy of the language in which it was conveyed, and Cockburn's telling with additional effect upon the audience from the very homely and apparently unambitious terms in which it was clothed. And, during the whole of this animated display of logic, of rhetoric, and of fun, there was, at almost every intervening moment, the united roar or chuckle of laughter from the entire body of the house-the members apparently being of opinion that there was always a covered and extremely piquant allusion in every bit of argument or of oratory which might casually, and
perhaps unconsciously, drop from the lips of the orators ;-then came the waiving of handkerchiefs in the gallery, and the repressed attempts on the part of the occupants of that portion of the house to join in the general applause, which attempts were as instantly checked by a singularly toned and protracted voice commanding "silence," and issuing from the neighbourhood of the throne, where all the pomp and formality of antiquated and sovereign dignity was displayed, and as the result of the whole, the prevailing conviction, that though the one advocate was unquestionably the most highly gifted, and altogether the most wonderful man, the other was, at any rate, the most intelligible, and most effective speaker; and that, though you would choose Jeffrey if you had a cause and a Court which required the exhibition of splendid powers of language and of ingenuity, yet Cockburn would be your man, if an ordinary audience was to be addressed, and your cause required only a plain statement of facts, an emphatic delivery, and an appearance of perfect sincerity on the part of the advocate.
These contests, which sometimes took place on almost every day of the sitting of the Court, were usually on each day prolonged from midday till dinner-time, when the house began to change in some measure its original occupants; when the members began for the rest of the evening, their very differently conducted, and sometimes not very justly terminated deliberations; and when the two pleaders, having doffed their gowns, might be seen walking amicably, arm in arm, down the Earthen Mound, and bent, it may be, at a social dinner, on amusing themselves, by the recollection of the curious incidents of the scene which they had left, and of which their forenoon exertions had formed the principal attraction. Lord Cockburn has recorded, in the passage which we last quoted, that these encounters, with more or less frequency, were continued for twenty years after his first contest with Jeffrey at the bar of the Assembly in 1807; and it is delightful now to think how amicably, and in how gentlemanlike fashion these struggles were invariably conducted, there not having occurred, perhaps, through the whole of that time, an allusion or remark on the part of either of the orators that could have given just offence to the other, and made them less disposed for their usual amicable and hilarious walk after the contest, so far as they were concerned, was concluded.
It is touching, even to us, amidst such recollections, to think of the solemn duty which Lord Cockburn has now been called to do for his friend-and if, on reviewing these passages, a shade of sadness has not unfrequently come over our minds-we can easily conceive that, in the case of Lord Cockburn, whose attention during the composition of this biography, must have been drawn to a far more fixed and vivid contemplation of the scenes that are gone, the emotions excited by the recollection must often have been of a very profound and overpowering solemnity.
In the further prosecution of this review, we shall have our attention called to subjects of far more extensive interest, and it may be, so far as the opinions of the subject of the biography were concerned, of a more questionable nature.
(To be continued.)
NOTES OF A VISIT TO THE GREAT EXHIBITION. BY A COUNTRY MINISTER,
IN drawing my remarks to a close, I must remind you, Mr. Editor, of the warning I gave you at the outset. I told you of my unfortunate tendency to wander from my text, and to descant on things in general, instead of sticking to the point in question. My warning was not without good ground, as I have almost lost sight of my subject in discussing professional matters. Sometimes a preacher is so anxious to clear the ground before going into the heart of his subject, that his sermon is all preface; his time is up before he has well entered upon the topics on which he was to put forth his main strength. I find myself now in a similar position. I have hitherto been only prefacing, and the mass of notes which I accumulated when inspecting the Crystal Palace is almost altogether untouched. I find, however, that it would be utterly hopeless to expand them so as to make the subjects intelligible within a reasonable compass, and I must therefore content myself with a very general survey.
After enjoying the repose of the Sabbath, I commenced with renewed vigour the examination of the treasures of science and art in the Crystal Palace; and while passing from the temple of Christianity to that of science, it may not be out of place to remark, that it was on the site of the Crystal Palace that that wonderful man, George Whitefield, produced perhaps the most powerful impression that occurred during the whole course of his ministry. His own powerful eloquence was, however, aided by the dread eloquence of Nature. It was on the occasion of an earthquake that he addressed a vast concourse of many thousands in Hyde Park. The terrible undulations which are never mistaken by man or beast were felt in all parts of the city. The houses rocked, and the ships in the river broke loose from their moorings. Panic-struck, the inhabitants deserted their homes, and poured in a continuous stream into Hyde Park, where they thought they would be secure from the tottering houses. It was in the darkness of the night that this happened, so that the scene was all the more awful. The form of George Whitefield was seen dimly rising above this panic-stricken mass, and every ear was instantly rivetted by that voice, which had such a mysterious power in thrilling the human soul.* Never were the realities of an eternal world brought home with such awful power to the human heart as on that memorable night. Never was the mute eloquence of Nature so wondrously combined with the human voice to sist the trembling sinner before the judgment-seat of the Eternal. How solemn the thought
• Whitefield, like many other preachers, took his favourite illustrations from the sea, and sometimes the scenes which he painted had all the vividness of reality. It is told that, on one occasion, he described a shipwreck so truthfully, and cried out with so much earnestness, "What must we do to be saved," that a sailor, who was present, answered, at the top of his voice," Why, take to the long-boat."