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inspired. But then, on the other hand, it is neither modest nor prudent in the preacher, especially if a young man, to be at every turn censuring the translators, and pretending to mend their version. It is not modest, as they, over whom the corrector assumes a superiority, are allowed on all hands to have been men of eminent talents and erudition. And it is not prudent, as this practice never fails to produce in the minds of the people a want of confidence in their Bible, which tends greatly to lessen its authority. Therefore, though I am by no means for ascribing infallibility to any human expositors, propriety requires, that we should neither too often, nor too abruptly tax with blundering, before such a promiscuous audience as our congregations commonly are, men of so respectable memory. Manly freedom of inquiry, becoming a protestant, becoming a Briton, tempered with that decent reserve which suits the humble chris. tian, will guard the judicious against both extremes, an overweaning conceit of his own abilities, and an implicit faith in those of others. And indeed in regard to every thing, which may be introduced either in the way of criticism or comment, it ought ever to be remembered, that it is not enough, that such an observation is just, that such an interpretation hath actually been given, or that such an opinion hath been main. tained; the previous inquiry, which the preacher ought to make by himself is, whether it be of any consequence to the people to be informed of the observation, comment or opinion. This inquiry impartially made will prove a check against the immoderate indulgence of what is perhaps the natural bent of his own genius, whether it be to critical or controversial disquisition, and which it is not always easy for youth, commonly impetuous and opinionative, duly to restrain. If on other occasions, more especially on this, the apostolical admonition ought to be sacredly observed, that “nothing proceed out of the speaker's mouth, but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace to the hearers.” But for our direction in this kind of discernment, no precepts, it must be acknowledged, will suffice. A fund of good sense is absolutely necessary, enlightened by a knowledge of mankind. In this, as in every other kind of composition, the maxim of the poet invariably holds,
Scribendi recte sapere est principium et fons.
I shall just add the fifth and last observation in relation to the remarks or inferences. These, as was hinted already in the exposition, whose chief aim is to throw light on the sacred text and remove the difficulties, are to be considered as only a subordinate part of the discourse; in the lecture, they are to be considered as the principal. In the former therefore they do not require to be so fully treated, as in the latter. It is enough, that the remarks are just in themselves, pertinent in regard to the subject of discourse, and exprest with sufficient perspicuity and energy. But in the lecture, properly so called, where the observations are the primary object of the speaker, and that for which the passage of scripture was chosen as a text, it is not enough that they be just, pertinent and perspicuous, they require besides, to be more copiously treated, and such of them as are of a practical nature to be more warmly enforced. Nay, they admit all that variety in respect of illustration, proof, and recommendation, which are to be found in discourses explanatory, controversial or persuasive. Only for the sake of unity, it may be proper to add, that all the remarks compared among themselves should be congenial, and tend to illustrate one another, that is, all doctrinal, or all practical; and whether the one, or the other, that they be points nearly and mutually related, that thus the discourse may, if I may so express myself, be of one colour and tenour throughout. Quick transitions from the warmth of the pathos, to the coldness of criticism, from the moral and persuasive to the abstract and argumentative, or inversely, from the critical to the pathetic, and from the abstract to the persuasive, are neither natural nor easy. Now the transitions here, if there be any, must be quick, even immediate, since they result from the different natures of the remarks that immediately succeed one another. In the first kind, which we distinguished by the name exposition, there is no occasion for so much delicacy in regard to the inferences deduced; because in it, they being only of a secondary nature in respect to the scope of the performance, particular discussions would neither be proper nor expected. All that is requisite is that they be true, fairly deduced and properly expressed. Now thus much, whatever be the nature of the truths remarked, can make no alteration in the character of the performance. In this species, the observations are properly no more than inferences, whose evidence, illustration, or enforcement should always be found in the exposition that preceded them; whereas in the lecture properly so called, though the connection of the remarks with the portion of scripture previously and briefly explained, ought to be very clear, they are introduced with the express view of being supported, illustrated or enforced in the body of the discourse, to which the explication of the text serves only as an introduction.
So much shall serve for what we call expositions or lectures, I shall next proceed to the different sorts of sermons above defined.
Of Explanatory Sermons..... The choice of a Subject and of Texts. IN
my last prelection on the subject of pulpit eloquence, after enumerating the different sorts of discourses, from the consideration of the faculty addressed, I entered particularly into the examination of those, which with us are commonly called lectures, and which we divided into two sorts, one, whose principal end was to remove difficulties in a passage not perfectly clear; the other, whose aim was to form and enforce useful observations from a passage naturally fitted to give scope for reflection. The first we called exposition, the second lecture. I now return to the consideration of those discourses, which come under the general denomination of sermons, and which were distributed into five orders, the explanatory, the controversial, the commendatory, the pathetic and the persuasive. The first and the simplest is the explanatory, which may be defined a sermon addressed to the understanding of the hearers, and of which the direct view is to explain some doctrine of our religion, or the nature and extent of some duty. In this species of discourses, the preacher's antagonist (if I may so express myself) is ignorance, which it is his business to dispel.