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God: and God said to Ezekiel, Go, and speak unto the children of thy people; and tell them, Thus saith the Lord God; whether they will hear, or whether they will forbear.
Others appear pleased to excite, and form their discourses in such a manner, as to excite, a hostility to truth, even beyond that, which is natural to man. Yet it is recorded of him, who is styled in the Scriptures the Preacher, that he sought to find out acceptable words.
Some preachers, who dwell upon the Law, exhibit it not only as the rule of our duty, but as the ground of our Justification.
Others leave the Law chicliy, or wholly, out of their discourses, even as a rule of obedience.
To all these and other similar modes of preaching, equally contrary to reason and revelation, I oppose, both as a refutation, and a censure, the charge of St. Paul to Timothy, cited above, and the solemn reasons by which it is enforced. Man cannot call in question the importance, or the usefulness, any more than the truth of the Word of God. Whatever he has been pleased to reveal is useful to mankind; and is to be received by them with reverential and grateful acknowledgments. It is to bc believed: it is to be obeyed : it is to be employed to accomplish the very ends, for which it was revealed.
All Scripture, says St. M.! is profilable. Let me subjóin that we cannot tell, with any cez: what particular doctrine, precept, or fact, will be most proliable: that is, on a given occasion. Often, very often, ministers have found those discourses most useful to their hearers, from which they had scarcely cherished any hopes.
3. A Preacher is bound to give lo each subject that degree of place and importance, which is given to it by the Scriptures.
This rule, I am aware, can only be followed generally. In a case, so imperfectly definite, cxaciness of conformity is evidently unattainable, and, happily for us, unnecessary; But a general conformity to it is sufficiently easy, and obviously our duty.
On some subjects the Scriptures dwell abundantly; exhibiting them always as primary parts of the system of truth and duty, which they contain. Others they plainly present to us as comparatively of little importance.“ Judgment, Mercy, and Faith, are weightier malters of the law : while, compared with these, Tithing Mint, Anise, and Cummin, is of little consequence. When it is said, Except ye repent, ye shall all perish; Without faith it is impossible to please God; IVithout holiness no man shall see the Lord; it is impossible for us not to perceive, that faith, repentance, and holiness, are of supreme importance to man. But the observance, or non-observance, of one day above another, (I refer not, here, to the Sabbath) modes of worship, and many other things of a similar nalure, are plainly of very inferior consequence. The
manner, in which these subjects are respectively exhibited in the Scriptures, furnishes ample proof, that these observations are just.
The Scriptures themselves are a perfect pattern of the time, car and pains, which the preacher is to bestow on the respective subjects of his discourses in all ordinary circumstances. That on which they lay the greatest stress, is most to engross his attention, and his sermons. That, on which they lay the least stress, is least to be dwelt upon by him.
I say this is to be done in ordinary circumstances. But there are peculiar occasions, frequently cccurring, which demand his peculiar attention. His hearers may be especially addicted to some particular sins, or in especial danger from particular errors; qor may peculiarly need to be taught certain truths, or urged 10 certain acts of duty. These will then require his peculiar ciforts : and for such efforts, in such cases, he will find an ample warrant in the Scriptures. Timothy, and Tilus, 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 10 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 grcalest 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 fol. lows 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 lilile 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, chiuks himself wiser than God, he must perceive kis opinioa to be wholly out of place, unfounded, and unhappy Vol. IV.
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 copics it, and he only, will do the most good SERMON CLIII.
in his power.
THE EXTRAORDINARY MEANS OF GRACE.-THE MANNER OP
MATTHEW xxviii. 19.-Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations.
FROM these words I proposed in the preceding discourse to examine,
1. The End;
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 cxisted 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 estimatc.
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 fide 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 he 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 St. Paul's opinion, Common sense exactly harmonizes. To teach is in communicate knowledge. But the cacher, who is not understood, communicates nothing.
Plainness of preaching involves Perspicuity, and Precision, of language; and, indeed, Purity, and Propriety, also. Our words ought to be English, and to be used as they are customarily used. They ought, also, lo 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 ambiguities; the effect of which is only to perplex those who hear. If these are admitted into sermons through carelessness, the preacher is incxcusable: 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 inay sometimes scive to show the learning of the preacher : but will prevent his sernions 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, he the subjeci almost what it may, of the M tphysical 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 understoodd, 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.
Ilappily, 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 incoinparably better filled to popular audiences. Common Sense, the most valuable faculty (if I may call it such) of man, finds all