Biographical and critical material
Melvill is not yet what is usually called a middle-aged man. His constitution and physical powers are feeble. His lungs and chest needing constant care and protection, often seem determined to submit no longer to the efforts they are required to make in keeping pace with hia high-wrought and intense animation. The hearer sometimes listens with pain, lest an instrument so frail, and struck by a spirit so nerved with the excitement of the most inspiring themes, should suddenly break some silver cord, and out to silence a harper whose notes of thunder, and strains of warning, invitation, and tenderness, the church is not prepared to lose. Generally, however, one thinks but little of the speaker while hearing Melvill. The manifest defects of a very peculiar delivery, both as regards its action and intonation; (if that maybe called action which is the mere quivering and jerking of a body too intensely excited to be quiet a moment) — the evident feebleness and exhaustion of a frame charged to the brim with an earnestness which seems laboring to find a tongue in every limb, while it keeps in strain and rapid action every muscle and fibre, are forgotten, after a little progress of the discourse, in the rapid and swelling current of thought in which the hearer is carried along, wholly engrossed with the new aspects, the rich and glowing scenery, the bold prominences and beauiiTul landscapes of truth, remarkable both for variety and unity, with which every turn of the stream delights him. But then one must make haste, if he would see all. Melvill delivers his discourses as a war-horse rushes to the charge. He literally runs, till, for want of breath he can do so no longer. . . .
It is in the expository character of this author's discourses, that we would present them for imitation. . . . His aim is confined to the single object of setting forth plainly and instructiveiy some one or two great features of scriptural truth, of which the chosen passage is a distinct declaration. . . . In other words, Melvill is strictly a preacher upon texts, instead of subjects; upon truths, as expressed and connected in the Bible, instead of topics, as insulated or classified, according to the ways of man's wisdom. This is precisely as it should be. — Editor’s Preface, Sermons
- Brief biography in Illustrated London News
- Editor’s Preface to an American Edition of Melville’s Sermons (1838)
Melvill’s Sermons with full text or extensive discussions on this site
"The Death of Moses"
"The Difficulties of Scripture"
"The First Prophecy"
"Infidelity of the Jews"
"Simon the Cyrenian"
Theme and technique
- The Self as Type of Christ: Writing, Civilization, Nature, and God
- A Lesson in Dying
- Moses’ Sin and Those of the Common Man
- The Conflict of Holy and Human: Type and its Complications in “The Death of Moses”
- Moses as a Model for Christians
- First-Person Narrative and the Experience of Moses' Death
- Mediation on the “Typical” in Melvill's “The Death of Moses”
- Humanizing Moses
Influence and reputation — well-known admirers
Last modified 10 April 2018