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His discourses from the pulpit in particular attracted universal admiration. They were composed with uncommon care; and, occupying a middle place between the dry metaphysical discussion of one class of preachers, and the loose incoherent declamation of another, they blended. together, in the happiest, manner, the light of argument with the warmth of exhortation, and exhibited captivating specimens of what had , hitherto been rarely heard in Scotland, the polished, well-compacted, and regular didactic oration.

In consequence of a call from the TownCouncil and General Session of Edinburgh, he was translated from the Canongate to Lady Yester's, one of the city churches, on the rith of October 1754: and on the 15th day of June 1758, he was promoted to the High Church of Edinburgh, the most important ecclesiastical charge in the kingdom. To this charge he was raised at the request of the Lords of Council and Session, and of the other distinguished official characters who have their seats in that church. And the uniform prudence, ability, and success, which, for a period of more than forty years, accompanied all his ministerial labours in that conspicuous and difficult station, sufficiently evince the wisdom of their choice.

Hitherto his attention seems to have been devoted almost exclusively to the attainment


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of professional excellence ; and to the regular discharge of his parochial duties. No production of his

yet been given to the world by himself, except two sermons preached on particular occasions, some translations, in verse, of passages of Scripture for the Psalmody of the Church, and a few articles in the Edinburgh Review ; a publication begun in 1755, and conducted for a short time by some of the ablest men in the kingdom. But standing as he now did at the head of his profession, and released by the labour of former years from the drudgery of weekly preparation for the pulpit, he began to think seriously on a plan for teaching to others that art which had contributed so much to the establishment of his own fame. With this view, he communicated to his friends a scheme of Lec tures on Composition; and, having obtained the approbation of the University, he began to read them in the College on the 11th of December 1759. To this undertaking he brought all the qualifications requisite for executing it well; and along with them a weight of reputation, which could not fail to give effect to the lessons he should deliver. For, besides the testimony given to his talents by his successive promotions in the Church, the University of St. Andrew's, moved chiefly by the merit of his eloquence, had in June 1757, conferred on him the degree of D.D. a literary honour which, at Vol. I.



that time was very rare in Scotland. Accord ingly his first Course of Lectures was well attended, and received with great applause. The patrons of the University, convinced that they would form a valuable addition to the system of education, agreed in the following summer to institute a rhetorical class, under his direction, as a permanent part of their academical establishment: and on the 7th of April 1762, his Majesty was graciously pleased « To erect and en“ dow a Professorship of Rhetoric and Belles 6 Lettres in the University of Edinburgh, and " to appoint Dr. Blair, in consideration of his " approved qualifications, Regius Professor there

of, with a salary of £70." These Lectures he published in 1783, when he retired from the labours of the office; and the general voice of the Public has pronounced them to be a most judicious, elegant, and comprehensive system of rules for forming the style and cultivating the taste of youth.

About the time in which he was occupied in laying the foundations of this useful institution, he had an opportunity of conferring another important obligation on the literary world, by the part which he acted in rescuing from oblivion the poems of Ossian. It was by the solicitation of Dr. Blair and Mr. John Home that Mr. Macpherson was induced to publish his Fragments of Ancient Peetry; and their patronage was of


essential service in procuring the subscription which enabled him to undertake his tour through the Highlands for collecting the materials of Fingal, and of those other delightful productions which bear the name of Ossian. To these productions Dr. Blair applied the test of genuine criticism, and soon after their publication gave an estimate of their merits in a Dissertation which, for beauty of language, delicacy of taste, and acuteness of critical investigation, has few parallels. It was printed in 1763, and spread the reputation of its author throughout Europe.

The great objects of his literary ambition being now attained, his talents, were for many years consecrated solely to the important and peculiar employments of his station. It was not till the year 1777 that he could be induced to favour the world with a volume of the Sermons which had so long furnished instruction and delight to his own congregation. But this volume being well received, the public approbation encouraged him to proceed: three other volumes followed at different intervals; and all of them experienced a degree of success of which few publications can boast. They circulated rapidly and widely wherever the English tongue extends ; they were soon translated into almost all the languages of Europe ; and his present Majesty, with that wise attention to the interests of religion and literature which distinguishes his reign, was graciously pleased to judge them


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worthy of a public reward. By a royal mandate to the Exchequer in Scotland, dated July 25th, 1780, a pension of £200 a year was conferred on their author, which continued unaltered till his death.

The motives which gave rise to the present volume * are sufficiently explained by himself in his Address to the Reader. The Sermons which it contains were composed at very different periods of his life; but they were all written out anew in his own hand, and in many parts, re-composed, during the course of last summer, after he had completed his eighty-second year. They were delivered to the publishers about six weeks before his death, in the form and order in which they now appear. And it may gratify his readers to know, that the last of them which he composed, though not the last in the order adopted for pub. lication, was the Sermon on A Life of Dissipation and Pleasurea sermon written with great dig. nity and eloquence, and which should be regarded as his solemn parting admonition to a class of men, whose conduct is highly important to the community, and whose reformation and virtue he had long laboured most zealously to promote.

The Sermons which he has given to the world are universally admitted to be models in their kind; and they will long remain durable

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* This life was originally annexed to the fifth and last volume.


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