Images de page

of these important truths delivered in the gospel was never intended to terminate in being understood and assented to, but in having a happy influence on the disposition of mind and whole behaviour. It was not given to gratify our curiosity, but to regulate our lives. Hence it is, that we find it so frequently in scripture joined with epithets and attributes expressive of this quality, a most holy faith, a doctrine according to godliness, and sound doctrine, eynouveoa Sidao xahia wholesome instruction, not (as the expression has been sometimes perverted by the bigoted retainers to a party) a precise conformity in phraseology and opinion to all the little captious particularities of the sect. It is impossible to conceive any thing more remote from the original signification of the word, sound. It is a term, which marks not the logical justness of a theory, but its beneficial tendency; it is not the truth of any notion which can denominate it sound, but the salutary influence it hath on human life, that which makes it serve as food and medicine to the soul. Whatever in divinity is void of such influence, like the far greater number of the metaphysical questions agitated among contro. vertists, whether true or false, is hollow and unsound, a barren insignificant speculation : whatever hath an opposite influence, (and such doctrines also have been broached) and tends to subvert the foundation of mutual love and obligations to the practice of virtue, is more properly termed poisonous. Nay the pure unadulterated tenets of the gospel have so direct and manifest a tendency to enforce sanctity of life and manners, that when any of them are treated of by the inspired writers of the New Testament, the subject is almost invariably concluded by such a practical appli

cation. Thus the apostle Peter, (2 Peter iii.) after treating of the general conflagration, very naturally concludes, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness ;” and after taking notice of the new heavens and new earth, that shall succeed the present, he adds, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that ye may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless."

In like manner, the apostle Paul, after treating at some length of the resurrection, concludes the whole with this earnest exhortation, (1 Cor. xv. 58.) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” It is alınost only this part, which in explanatory discourses admits of warmth, and what may be called an address to the affections. A deep sense in the preacher of the importance of this improvement of every instruction which he gives, an affectionate desire of promoting the good of the people, and a zeal for the interests of religion and virtue are the only sure methods I know of, for qualifying him to address them: suitably and efficaciously.



of Controversial Discourses.... Candour and Simplicity ever to be studied in

the Defence of Truth.


HAVE now finished the consideration of the explanatory sermon, which is of all the kinds mentioned the simplest, and approaches nearest to what in the primi. tive church was called homily. The end of it, as was observed, is to dispel ignorance and to communicate knowledge, and for this purpose it addresses the under- . standing of the hearers. The next in order is the controversial, addressed also to the understanding, its end being to conquer doubt and error and to produce be. lief. In other wor's, by the first it is proposed to inform the hearers, by the second to convince them. It is the second kind, which I now intend to consider, and shall endeavour to despatch, what I have to offer upon it in the present lecture. There are many obstrvations, such as those regarding the unity of the subject, the choice of a text, the topics proper for the exordium, the explication of text and context, where necessary, which hold equally in all the kinds and therefore need not be repeated in the examination of each different kind,

In regard to the unity of the subject, I shall only observe, that here it admits rather a clearer definition or description, than perhaps in any of the others. A controversial sermon is then strictly one, when there is only one thesis, as I may call it, that is, one proposi. tion, whether affirmative or negative, the truth of which it is the scope of the whole discourse to evince. Sup. pose a preacher should (in order to guard his people against some apparent danger of seduction; for, without some special reason of this sort, controversy is not eligible in the pulpit,) judge it necessary to maintain the lawfulness of infant-baptism; that which would constitute his performance one, is that the aim of the whole, and of every part, should unite in supporting this position, that it is agreeable to the gospel dispensation, that infants should be baptized. The thing might be illustrated by a thousand other examples, but it is really so plain in itself, that I could not consider it, as any other, than losing time to produce more instances.

In regard to the text, the same qualities are required here as in the former species, namely appositeness, simplicity and perspicuity. In regard to the first of these, the appositeness, let it be remarked here by the way, that it is not possible to find, on every subject, a text that has this quality in an equal degree. On some articles, the declarations of scripture are more explicit and direct; on others, not less certain even from scripture, the evidences at least in regard to the mode of expression are more implicit and indirect. I may

ob, serve also that we are not to understand this quality of apposite so strictly, as to suppose, that by the text we should discover 'whether the intended sermon is to be explanatory or controversial. This is hardly ever to be expected. The text John iv. 24, “God is a spirit,” is simple, perspicuous and apposite, either for an explanatory discourse on the nature of the Divine spirituality, or for a controversial discourse, whose aim is to evince the spirituality of God. Nay in a course of preaching on points, which may be controverted, this method, especially by a pastor in his own parish, is sometimes not improperly adopted. His division of the subject accordingly, when he first enters on it, may be this, first to explain the doctrine of his text whatever it be, secondly to evince the truth of that doctrine. As however the tenour of these two different parts, from the nature of the composition fitted to each, is very different, it is commonly better to disjoin them, so far as to make separate discourses of them, though from the same passage of sacred writ, the explanation being the subject of the first, and the proof of the subject of that which immediately succeeds the other. But when the explanatory part may with sufficient distinctness be despatched in a few sentences, I should admit that both parts may conveniently enough, and without violating the unity of design, be comprised in the same discourse. Something extremely similar we find to have taken place sometimes in the judiciary pleadings of the ancients, which I observed to have an analogy, in point of form, to controversial sermons, When the law was either obscure or complex, a sepa. rate explanation of the statute was made to precede the arguments either for, or against the accused. And we can easily perceive the expediency of this method for throwing light upon the proof, and assisting the hearers in discerning the justness of the reasoning. A

« PrécédentContinuer »