Sivut kuvina
PDF
ePub

some particular sins, or in especial danger from particular errors; or may peculiarly need to be taught certain truths, or urged to certain acts of duty. These will then require his peculiar efforts: and for such efforts, in such cases, he will find an ample warrant in the Scriptures. Timothy, and Titus, were expressly commanded to inculcate particular things in a peculiar degree, because they were peculiarly necessary. Ministers are directed to contend earnestly for the faith, once delivered to the saints; and are said to be set for the defence of the Gospel. They are, therefore, required to defend those parts of it most frequently, as well as most strenuously, which are most questioned; and to oppose with the greatest vigour those errors, from which their hearers are in the greatest danger. In this manner Christ preached: in this manner preached the Prophets, and the Apostles : steadily directing their discourses to the occasions, which gave them birth. This is, indeed, the plain dictate of common sense; and, with these warrants, will be certainly, as well as safely, followed by every wise and faithful Minister.

The Bible is written in a manner, perfectly fitted to produce the best effects on the moral state of man. The preacher, who follows closely this divine example, may therefore rationally hope to produce the best moral effects on his hearers. On the contrary, he, who wanders from it, ought, while he censures himself deeply for his disrespect to this perfect pattern, to believe, that he shall find little consolation in the fruits of his preaching. In vain will he plead, that, in his view, some other mode will be better suited to the wants of his hearers. In vain will he think himself wise above that which is written. In vain will he plead the nature and influence of any doctrines, or precepts, as viewed by his own judgment. God, who knew the nature of all precepts, and doctrines, has written such of them in the Scriptures, and in such a manner, as his own wisdom determined to be best for man. Unless the preacher, therefore, thinks himself wiser than God, he must perceive his opinion to be wholly out of place, unfounded, and unhappy.

To the Law, and to the testimony : if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them. This sentence is equally applicable to the parts, as to the whole, of this word; and precisely just with respect to their importance, and influence, as well as to their truth. In both respects the Scriptural exhibition is perfect. He who copies it, and he only, will do the most good in his power,

SERMON CLIII.

THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.

THE MANNER OF PREACHING.

MATTHEW Xxviii, 19.

Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.

From these words I proposed in the preceding discourse to examine,

1. The End;
II. The Nature;
III. The Subjects; and,
IV. The Manner; of Preaching.

The three first of these heads I discussed at that time; and shall now go on to consider the

IV. Viz. The Manner of Preaching.

It is not enough, that Sermons contain the truth; important and indispensable as this is. A Sermon may contain Evangelical truth, and that only; and yet may exhibit it in such a Manner, as to prevent a great part of its proper efficacy. Nor does the evil always stop here. Instances have existed in the world, and that not very unfrequently, in which preachers have uttered nothing, but what was strictly Evangelical, and yet have only amused, wearied, or disgusted sober, patient, and candid hearers. The Manner, therefore, in which truth is preached, may possess an importance, which it would be difficult to estimate. Vol. V.

28

The views, which I have formed of this subject, may be exhibited under the following heads.

1. The Gospel ought ever to be preached Plainly; so as to be clearly, and easily, understood by those who hear.

St. Paul, in 1 Cor. xiv. 19, says, I would rather speak five words with my understanding, that wilh my voice I might teach others, also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue. From the conclusion of this passage, and the general tenour of his reasoning in this chapter, it is evident, that to speak with the understanding denotes to speak that, which would be understood, not by himself only, but by those who heard him. This, he informs us, was of more value in his estimation than the supernatural power of speaking with tongues, however coveted, and however splendid an endowment.

With Si. Paul's opinion, Common sense exactly harmonizes. To teach is to communicate knowledge. But the teacher, who is not understood, communicates nothing.

Plainness of preaching involves Perspicuity, and Precision, of language; and, indeed, Purity, and Propriely, also. Our words ought to be English, and to be used as they are customarily used. They ought, also, to express that, and that only, which we intend, and to express it clearly. All this, as you know, is necessary to writing and speaking well, generally. Peculiarly is it necessary, when we address popular assemblies; a great part of whom are accustomed to plain language only; and supremely, when we utter the doctrines and precepts of the Gospel, infinitely important as the means of Eternal life.

Our phraseology ought carefully to be cleared of all ambigui- . ties; the effect of which is only to perplex those who hear. If these are admitted into sermons through carelessness, the preacher is inexcusable: if through doubt in his mind, he is bound to say nothing concerning the subjects of his doubts, unless when compelled to acknowledge them to his audience.

Technical, or scientifical, language is, also, to be excluded from popular sermons. This may sometimes serye to show the learning of the preacher: but will prevent his sermons from being useful to his audience.

A still greater trespass against plainness of speech, and much

more common in the desk, is committed in what is called Metaphysical Preaching. The science of Metaphysics, as you well know, is that, which is employed about the nature of things. As this subject is peculiarly abstruse, and demands nice and difficult disquisition ; all discussions, which are nice and difficult, are familiarly termed Metaphysical. Most young preachers are fond of Metaphysical subjects; and, be the subject almost what it may, of the Metaphysical mode of discussion. Nor are young preachers alone in these respects.

- All preaching, of this nature, is, however, chiefly useless, and commonly mischievous. No ordinary congregation ever understood, to any valuable purpose, Metaphysical subjects: and no congregation, it is believed, was ever much edified by a metaphysical manner of discussion.

Whenever distinctions become subtile and nice; they cease to be made by the common mind; and, however clear the preacher's views may be, they will never, in this case, become the views of his audience. After attempting for a while to follow him in his ingenious career, and finding themselves unable, they will give up the attempt in despair, and disgust.

Happily, the duty of the preacher, and the interest of his congregation, do not demand this mode of preaching. Few Theological subjects ordinarily require discussions of this nature : and none of them, unless on rare and peculiar occasions, require them in the desk. The obvious investigations of common sense are incomparably better fitted to popular andiences. Common Sense, the most valuable faculty, (if I may call it such,) of man, finds all its premises either in revelation, or in facts; adopts arguments, only of the a posteriori kind; extends its reasonings through a few steps only; derives its illustrations from familiar sources ; discriminates, only where there is a real difference; and admits conclusions, only where it can see their connection with the premises. At theoretical philosophy it laughs. Theoretical divinity it detests. To this faculty the Scriptures are almost universally addressed. The subjects, which they contain, are, to a considerable extent, Metaphysical; and often so abstruse, as to defy human investigation. Yet they are almost

« EdellinenJatka »