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text, or in a paraphrase upon it. Nay, whatever further is of importance as to both these points, grace and salvation, will necessarily and more naturally occur, without doing any violence to the unity and simplicity of the discourse, in the illustration of the subject, which is purely to show in what respect divine grace is the genuine source of man's salvation. But would you have only one point? Where is then the distribution or partition of the subject, of which you spoke before? I would indeed have but one subject, though, where the nature of the thing will admit it, distributed for order's and for memory's sake into its different members, and then the several points in the division must appear as the constituent parts of one subject and one whole, and not as so many distinct though related subjects or wholes. Thus the forementioned subject may be illustrated under these two articles, which will make the heads of discourse : the plan itself of our redemption by the mediation of the Son is the result of grace or unmerited favour ; the completion of it in us by the operation of the Spirit also the result of grace. Both these manifestly center in the same point; salvation springs from grace. But if ye must draw in every thing that is related, you can never have done, till you have made your sermon a complete system of christian divinity.
The method in making sermons, which for a long time hath carried the vogue in this country over every other, and which is considered as very simple compared with the more laboured and intricate methods for. merly in use, is a division of every text, into what the schoolmen call the subject, the predicate and the copula. Thus, suppose the topic to be discussed were
the nature of the divine faithfulness, and the text I Cor. x. 13. “God is faithful ;” this most simple and apposite passage would be divided into three heads. The first would be the divine nature, the second the attribute of faithfulness, and the third the connection between the two. This is not discoursing on the subject, but cutting the text into fritters, where if the subject come in for a share, it is much ; often it is eluded altogether. But the impropriety, and if it were not for the commonness, I should say the puerility of this manner will appear better by applying it to other matters, in which the pulpit is not concerned. I shall suppose one hath it prescribed to bim as the subject of an oration, an inquiry into the antiquity of rhime. Accordingly he goes to work, and having well weighed every word and syllable of the question, he thus lays down his plan of operations. First, says he, I shall consider what is implied in the word antiquity, and all the different acceptations of which the term is susceptible; secondly, I shall consider the nature, import and properties of what is called rhime ; and thirdly, the relation in which the one stands to the other, or how far and in what respect the one may be justly predicated of the other. Could any one imagine that such a disquisitor understood the subject? Good people are sometimes offended at the application of the word eloquence to preaching. They think it savours of something merely human and too artificial. But the art of preaching, as in fact it hath been long taught and practised by the men, whom those people generally most admire, is the genuine offspring of the dialectic of the schools, and fifty times more artificial, or if
you will mechanical, than that which true rhetoric would inculcate. On the contrary, it is the business of the latter to bring men back from all scholastic pedantry and jargon, to nature, simplicity and truth. And let me add, that discourses on this plan will be found much more conformable, in manner and composition, to the simple but excellent models to be found in sacred writ.
Of Explanatory Sermons.... How the branches should be arranged and treated
....Of the Style.... Technical Language to be avoided and that of Scripture preferred....Abuse of Scripture Style....Of the Conclusion.
In my last discourse on christian eloquence, I considered part of the explanatory sermon, which was begun with, as the simplest, to wit, the exordium or introduction, the proposing of the design with the explication of the text and context, where such explication is necessary, and the division of the subject. I should now proceed to consider in what method the branches of the division should be ranged, how they should be treated, and the properest way of forming the conclusion. As to the first, the order in which the principal heads of a discourse ought to be arranged, this is sometimes of considerable consequence, sometimes it is a matter merely discretionary. It is of consequence, , when the knowledge of one part is, in its nature, prerequisite to the right understanding of another part; it is also of consequence, when in the order of time or of nature, the one part is conceived as preceding the other. The arrangement may be said to be discretionary, when neither of the above mentioned cases takes place. Suppose, for instance, the preacher's subject were the nature of evangelical repentance, and he were disposed to comprehend the whole under the three following heads, a proper sense and conviction of sin, pious and suitable resolutions from an apprehension of divine mercy through the mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord, and a real conversion or change to the obedience of God. The order, in which these topics have just now been mentioned, is the only order in which the subject could properly be discussed. The right understanding of every previous member is preparatory to the right understanding of that which follows. This arrangement will perhaps be considered also as fixed by the order of nature and of time. I shall for another instance recur to that mentioned in a former lecture. Suppose then the preacher's subject is to illustrate this important evangelical truth, that grace or the unmerited favour of God is the genuine source of man's sal. vation ; suppose further, that one chooses for the illus. tration of it the two topics also above mentioned ; the plan of our redemption by Jesus Christ is purely the result of grace or unmerited favour, the completion of this plan in us by the operation of the Spirit is also the result of grace. It is evident, that the order in which these two topics are now laid down, is the only natural order in which they could be treated. The plan is ever conceived as previous to the execution. But in another example of distribution taken from Til lotson, of the characters of gospel obedience into sincerity, universality and constancy, it is not perhaps material in what order you explain these particulars. As there are few cases however, in which even this circumstance, when attentively considered, will appear perfectly indifferent, I should like best the order wherein I have just now named them, though I could not