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In expounding a sacred book, its general object, or objects, should be clearly understood and distinctly exhibited. A careful attention to this rule will greatly increase the interest of hearers. It will enable them, in a great measure, to see the end from the beginning; and to follow the preacher, step by step, in his illustrations. It will secure him from the obscurity and perplexity, to which, otherwise, the occurrence of unanticipated subjects may expose him. This rule will be found of particular importance in giving expositions of any of the epistles of the New Testament.
It is a very important object too, in this kind of preaching, carefully to mark, and to observe the distinction, between facts and sentiments which are to be illustrated; those which are simply to be impressed or enforced; and those which are to be proved. From disregard of this rule, has resulted great confusion in discourses; great absurdity; and an entire waste of the labour both of preparing and of hearing them. Nor is it less necessary to be aware of the impropriety of accumulating arguments in demonstration of that which no one doubts; of attempting to make that clearer, which every one understands; or of giving the deepest impressions to subordinate considera tions and motives, or the highest importance to sentiments and principles, which can exert but a partial and limited influence on character.
Expositions differ essentially from sermons. In a sermon, a text is perhaps expounded. But it is very important in sermons to maintain unity of object. A sermon is designed to give an impression of some doctrine, or duty of religion; or if it inculcates the various duties of any condition, or relation; or is intended to shew the bearing of different doctrines on christian duties; still the subject is, or should be, single, however various may be its illustrations, or the motives that enforce it. But an exposition may comprehend several subjects. Or if it have but one, as may be the case in expounding a parable, some parts of the Epistles, &c. the object will be, far more than in a sermon, the illustration of scripture. It will be a particular consideration of every part of the passage, with a view of making it understood by the hearers, as it was understood by those to whom it was immediately addressed. To expound is to explain, or to lay open the meaning of a passage. When this is done, exposition, properly speaking, is done. Having made this clear to the mind of the hearer, you may indeed give it all the moral point you can; but in as few words as possible. The shorter is the direct application, in almost every case, it will be more strongly felt, and more effec
I will only add, that it is not necessary to have given much attention to the effects of religious controversy, to be persuaded that, to whatever good it may be conducive when it is managed with a christian spirit, and when the subjects of it may be deliberately examined by readers who have leisure for the employment, it is never with advantage carried into the pulpit. It is an important object of preaching to bush the tumult of passion; to enlist in the service of religion and virtue all that strength and enterprise, which passion would give to vice; to unite men in affection, even when they cannot be united in sentiment; and to bring them as far as possible to unity of opinion, by shewing them, and by making them feel, how inseparably united are their interests in christian truth, and in all the means of real piety and of final happiness. Expository preaching has the advantage, more directly than any other, of fixing the attention of those to whom it is addressed, exclusively on the word of God; and if the lessons that are taught from it are made plainly to appear to be His word, and the duties that are inculcated to be His will, in the minds of comparatively few will there be any direct resistance. From the authority of God, it will be felt, there lies no appeal. But if the interpretations of different classes of christians be brought together, and opposed to each other, passion will be awakened, and opposed to passion. Men will lose sight of the tribunal of God, in the zeal they will feel for their own, and against the sentiments of others. They will become more interested to maintain their own opinions, and to put down those of others, than either to know what is truth, or to secure the divine favour. They will be very liable to mistake their own character of angry disputants, and noisy railers, for that of defenders of the faith, and the true followers of the Lord. A caution against controversy in expository preaching is peculiarly necessary, because this kind of preaching may be made, more easily than ordinary sermons, a vehicle of controversy. But if so employed, it will certainly defeat the most important object of this mode of teaching the word and will of God.
REMARKS OF JEREMY TAYLOR UPON THE CALVINISTIC DOCTRINE OF ORIGINAL SIN.
THERE is perhaps no name among English theologians, which stands higher than that of Jeremy Taylor. He was eminent for the wonderful force and fertility of his genius, his extensive
learning, and the holiness of his life. He was particularly distinguished for his liberal and catholic feelings, living as he did in an age of bigotry and fanaticism, and when religious parties in England had been exasperated against each other by a long series of mutual injuries. His 'Liberty of Prophecying' was one of the earliest books, in which the principles of toleration were stated and defended. I have lately been looking into his writings on the subject of Original Sin, and have thought that the readers of the Disciple might be gratified by the following extract, in which be expresses, in the strong language of unperverted feeling, the common sentiments of human nature respecting this doctrine.
"There are one sort of Calvin's scholars, whom we for distinction's sake call Supralapsarians, who are so fierce in their sentences of predestination and reprobation, that they say God looked upon mankind, only, as his creation, and his slaves, over whom he having absolute power, was very gracious that he was pleased to take some few, and save them absolutely; and to the other greater part he did no wrong, though he was pleased to damn them eternally, only because he pleased; for they were his own; and Qui jure suo utitur, nemini facit injuriam, says the law of reason; every one may do what he pleases with his own. But this bloody and horrible opinion is held but by a few; as tending directly to the dishonor of God, charging on him alone, that he is the cause of men's sins on earth, and of men's eternal torments in hell; it makes God to be powerful, but his power not to be good; it makes him more cruel to men, than good men can be to dogs and sheep; it makes him give the final sentence of hell without any pretence or colour of justice; it represents him to be that which all the world must naturally fear, and naturally hate, as being a God delighting in the death of innocents; for so they are when he resolves to danin them: and then most tyrannically cruel and unreasonable; for it says, that to make a postnate pretence to justice, be decrees that men inevitably shall sin, that they may inevitably but justly be damned; like the Roman Lictors, who, because they could not put to death Sejanus's daughters, as being virgins, defloured them after sentence, that by that barbarity they might be capable of the utmost cruelty; it makes God to be all that for which any other thing or person is or can be hated; for it makes him neither to be good, nor just, nor reasonable; but a mighty enemy to the biggest part of mankind; it makes him to hate what himself hath made, and to punish that in another which in himself he decreed should not be avoided; it charges the wisdom of God with folly as having
no means to glorify his justice, but by doing unjustly, by bringing in that which himself hates, that he might do what himself loves; doing as Tiberius did to Brutus and Nero the sons of Germanicus; Varia fraude induxit ut concilarentur ad convitia, et concitati perderentur; provoking them to rail, that he might punish their reproachings. This opinion reproaches the words of the Spirit of Scripture; it charges God with hypocrisy and want of mercy, making him a Father of cruelties and not of mercy.******** So that I think, that the Atheists, who deny that there is a God, do not so impiously against God, as they that charge him with foul appellatives, or maintain such sentences, which if they were true, God could not be true. * * * * * * ***
"But because these men even to their brethren seem to speak evil things of God, therefore, the more wary and temperate of the Calvinists bring down the order of reprobation lower; affirming that God looked upon all mankind in Adam, as fallen into his displeasure, hated by God, truly guilty of his sin, liable to eternal damnation, and they being all equally condemned, he was pleased to separate some, the smaller number far, and irresistibly bring them to Heaven; but the far greater number he passed over, leaving them to be damned for the sin of Adam; and so they think they solve God's justice; and this was the design and device of the Synod of Dort."
Taylor then proceeds to state the account of original sin given by the famous Westminster Assembly, which we shall quote at length hereafter, and then observes:
"This device of our Presbyterians and of the Synod of Dort is but an artifice to save their proposition harmless, and to stop the out-cries of scripture and reason, and of all the world against them. But this way of stating the article of reprobation is as horrid in effect as the other. For,
Is it by a natural consequent that we are guilty of Adam's sin, or is it by the decree of God? Naturally it cannot be, for then the sins of all our forefathers, who are to their posterity the same that Adam was to his, must be ours; and not only Adam's first sin, but his others are ours on the same account. But if it be by the decree of God, by his choice and constitution, that it shall be so, as Mr. Calvin and Dr. Twisse (that I inay name no more for that side) do expressly teach, it follows. that God is the author of our sin; so that I may use Mr, Calvin's words; "How is it that so many nations with their children should be involved in the fall without remedy, but, because God would have it so?" And if that be the matter, then to God, as to the cause, must that sin and that damnation be accounted.
And let this then be considered, whether this be not as bad as the worst; for the Supralapsarians say, God did decree that the greatest part should perish, only because he would; the Sublapsarians say, that God made it by his decree necessary, that all we who were born of Adam should be born guilty of original sin, and he it was who decreed to damn whom he pleased for that sin, in which he decreed they should be born; and both these he did for no other consideration than because he would. Is it not therefore evident that he absolutely decreed damna tion to these persons? For he that decrees the end, and he that decrees the only necessary and effective means to the end, and decrees that it shall be the end of that means, does decree absolutely alike, though by several dispensations; and then all the evil consequents which I reckoned before to be the monstrous productions of the first way, are all daughters of the other, and if Solomon were here, he could not tell which were the truer mother.
Now that the case is equal between them, some of their own chiefest do confess; so Dr. Twisse. If God may ordain men to hell for Adam's sin, which is derived unto them by God's only constitution, he may as well do it absolutely without any such constitutions. The same also is affirmed by Maccovius and by Mr. Calvin; and the reason is plain; for he that does a thing for reason which himself makes, may as well do it with out a reason, or he may make his own will to be the reason, because the thing, and the motive of the thing, come in both cases equally from the same principle, and from that alone.
Now if the doctrine of absolute reprobation be so horrid, so intolerable a proposition, so unjust and blasphemous to God, so injurious and cruel to men, and that there is no colour or pretence to justify it, but by pretending our guilt of Adam's sin, and damnation to be the punishment, then, because from truth nothing but truth can issue, that must needs be a lie from which such horrid consequences do proceed. * * * * But if all these fearful consequences, which reason and religion so much abhor, do so certainly follow from such doctrines of reprobation, and these doctrines wholly rely upon this pretence, it follows, that the pretence is infinitely false and intolerable; and that (so far as we understand the rules and measures of justice) it cannot be just for God to damn us for being in a state of calamity, to which state we entered no way but by his constitution and decree."