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which may be taken from any other source; and that on a double account. First, it may be supposed, that not only all the serious part, but even the much greater part of the audience, being better acquainted with these, will both more readily perceive and more strongly feel the application which the preacher makes of them ; and secondly, the authority of holy writ gives an additional weight to that which is the intent of the narrative. I do not say however, that a reacher, in quoting instances, examples and authorities, ought to confine himself entirely to the sacred history. Our blessed Lord, though addressing himself only to Jews, did not hesitate to lay the foundation of some of his parables in those customs, which had arisen solely from their intercourse with the Romans. Of this the parable.you have Luke xix. 12, &c. of the nobleman who travelled into a distant land, in order that he might obtain the royal power, and return king over his countrymen, is an evident instance. Such was become the general practice in all the provinces and states dependant upon Rome. The royalty was often not to be attained without applications to the Roman senate ; and these were often thwarted, as in the parable, by counter applications, either from the people, or from some rival for power. Nay, there is very probably in that parable an allusion to some things, which had actually happened in regard to the succession of Archelaus, son of Herod king of Judea, with which many of his hearers could not fail to be acquainted, the thing having happened but recently and in their own time. Nor was the apostle Paul at all scrupulous in illustrating the sublimest truths of the gospel, by the exercises and diversions which obtained at that time among the ido. latrous Greeks. But even in those cases wherein scripture doth not furnish the facts, it supplies us with an excellent pattern of a natural, simple and interesting manner in which the relation ought to be conducted. I shall only add on this article that the different circumstances ought to be so fitly and so naturally connected, that those which precede may easily introduce those which follow, and those which follow may appear necessarily to arise out of those which precede. This, by adding to the credibility and verisimilitude, greatly increases the effect of the whole. I shall not at this time say any thing of those qualities which more regard the expression than the thought, as there will be scope for this afterwards.
The second thing comprised under the term thought, or sentiment, was explication, in which I include also description and definition. And on this, the rules laid down upon the former article will equally hold good. The same care and attention will be requisite, both in culling and disposing the particulars, that the whole may be neither tedious nor unsatisfactory. In regard to disposition and arrangement, there is rather more art necessary in this case than in the former. In the former, to wit, narrative, all the material circumstances are successive, and the order of introducing them must in a great measure be determined by the order of time. But in explication, they are simultaneous, and therefore require the exercise of judgment and reflection, in assigning to each its proper place and order in the dis
Need it be added, that in all descriptive enumerations particular care ought to be taken, that nothing foreign be comprehended, and that nothing which properly belongs to the subject be omitted.
The logical rules in regard to definition are sufficiently known, and therefore shall not here be repeated. On the whole, in regard to both the preceding articles, a certain justness of apprehension is of all things the most important in a speaker. If he has not a clear conception of the matter himself, it can never be expected, he should convey it to others.
The third thing mentioned as belonging to the thought was reasoning. When it is considered, what a mixed society a christian assembly for the most part is, and how little the far greater number, even of what are called the politest congregations, is accustomed to the exercise of the discursive faculty, it will be evident that any thing in the way of argument would need to be extremely simple, consisting of but a very few steps, and extremely clear, having nothing in it that is of an abstract nature, and so not easily comprehended by them, and nothing that alludes to facts which do not fall within ordinary observation. If the argument is not deduced from experience, or the common principles of the understanding, but from the import of the words of scripture, one would need to be particularly distinct in setting the sacred text before them, avoiding as much as possible, every thing that savours of subtlety, conceit or learned criticism. Something indeed of criticism, when the point to be proved, is a point merely of revelation, cannot always be avoided. In general, however, we are warranted to say, it ought to be avoided as much as possible. The passages of holy writ, therefore, which you make choice of, in support of your doctrine, ought to be always the plainest and the most direct. Though you should perhaps find other passages, in which, to a man of letters, there
might appear equal or even stronger evidence, yet if such passages would require a commentary or elaborate disquisition to elucidate them, they are not so convincing to the people, and should, therefore, be let alone. It may not be improper here, however, before we dismiss this article, to examine a little what the occasions are which require reasoning from the pulpit, and what are the different topics of argument adapted to the different natures of the subject. These last are very properly divided into practical and speculative. In the former, the preacher argues to inforce the practice of a duty recommended by him; in the latter, to gain the belief of his hearers to a tenet he thinks fit to defend. In the former case, it is his aim to evince the beauty, the propriety, the equity, the pleasantness or the utility of such a conduct both for time and for eternity. His topics therefore are all drawn from common life and experience, from the common sense of mankind and the most explicit declarations of holy writ, topics in a great measure the same with those on which men of all conditions are wont to argue with one another, in regard to what is right and prudent in the management of their ordinary secular affairs. Such were the topics, to which our Lord himself had recourse in his parables, always illustrating the reasons and motives which ought to influence in the things of eternity, by the reasons and motives which do commonly influence us in the things of time. Such topics are consequently, if properly conducted, level to the capacities of all. Whereas in the latter case, when the subject is of doctrinal points or points of speculation, the resources of the preacher are extremely different. His reasoning must then be drawn from the essential na
tures and differences of things, and the comparison of abstract qualities, or perhaps from abstruse and critical disquisitions on the import of some dark and controverted passages of scripture, which, it must be owned, are beyond the sphere of the illiterate. I would not by this be understood to mean, that controversy should never be admitted into the pulpit. We are exhorted by the apostle Jude“ earnestly to contend for the faith, which was once delivered to the saints." And Paul in his epistles hath given us an excellent example of this laudable zeal in support of the fundamental doctrines of our religion, against those who denied or doubted them. This he shews, as on several other occasions, so in particular in the defence of the doctrine of the resurrection, and in opposition to that false dogma of the Judaizing teachers of his time, that the observance of circumcision and of the other ceremonies of the law is necessary to salvation. And indeed from the reason of the thing it is manifest, that in a religious institution founded on certain important truths or principles, through the belief of which only it can operate on the hearts and influence the lives of men, it must be of the utmost consequence to refute the contrary errors, when they appear to be creeping in or gaining ground among the people. But before the preacher attempt a refutation of this kind, there are two things he ought impartially and carefully to inquire into. First, he ought to inquire, whether the tenet he means to support be one of the great truths of religion or not. It may be a prevalent opinion, it may have a reference to the common salvation, nay more, it may be a true opinion, and yet no article of the faith which was once delivered to the saints. These articles are neither