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· With regard to the explanation of the text and coutext, unless they could in some way contribute to the illustration of the character, which is the subject of the eulogy, it were better not to attempt it. If the text be sufficiently perspicuous and apposite, there can be no necessity; and there is no sort of discourse to which any thing, that has the remotest appearance of verbal criticism, is worse adapted than to this. The design of the sermon should be proposed with simplicity and distinctness. One may add the mention of the method, in which it may be thought proper to prosecute the .subject, unless it shall appear to be so simple and natural, as to render even the bare intimation of it
As to the method in which the different parts should be digested and arranged, that may be different as suits the particular taste and talents of the speaker, or as suits best the materials he hath to work upon.
Ail the methods that occur to me for treating subjects of this kind, may be reduced to the three following. First the order of time may be followed. This method I shall call the historical. If this be the disposition adopted, there can be no question as to what should precede and what should succeed in the discourse. If there be much ground to go upon, it may not be amiss, for the ease of the memory, to divide the life you are to recommend as a pattern, into certain distinct periods, proposing to consider each severally in its order. If the materials you are supplied with for this purpose are not very plentiful, or if, whatever has been remark. able in the person's life which can be of any
service to you, is comprised within a narrow compass of time, it will be better to follow the natural order, without using
the formality of proposing it to the hearers, or dividing the discourse into separate heads, for this ought never to be considered as absolutely necessary. The second method of arrangement is, by considering separately the most eminent virtues displayed in the life you propose to recommend to the admiration of your hearers. This I shall call the logical method. Suppose the subject, for example, were the life of Jesus Christ, and one were inclined to divide the virtues thereby illustrated into three classes, those which have self for the immediate object, those which have other men, and those which have God. The greatest objection I know of, that lies against this method, is that it generally occasions frequent recurring to the same actions and events, in which different virtues may have been illustrated. This, unless managed very dexterously, will have the appearance of tiresome repetitions. But to return to the example given of the life of Christ. Each of the heads above named may be illustrated through all the different periods of his life, or they may be subdivided into inferior branches. For example, the first of these, the duties a man owes to himself, may be understood to imply the virtues of humility, temperance and fortitude; humility or a superiority to pride and vanity ; temperance or a superiority to appe. tite; and fortitude or a superiority to fear. But such subdivisions are not often convenient, in as much as they commonly tend more to burden than to assist the memory. If the preacher were to make one of the general heads only, the whole subject of one discourse, such a division of that head would be very proper. But if the whole example of Christ is the subject of a single discourse, the case is very different. Subdivisions for the greater part ought to be avoided. The sort of discourse, to which they seem most adapted, is the explanatory, whose principal excellence appears to be in perspicuity and precision. Let it be observed however, that the method implied in a subdivision may often be conveniently followed, when it is not in so many words proposed. A third method, that may be employed in panegyrical discourses, as when two or three memorable events or actions are the sole fund, from which all the materials employed by the encomiast must be derived, is to illustrate the virtues displayed in the person's conduct on these several occasions, as the separate heads of discourse. And this method may, for distinction's sake, be denominated, the dramatical. As to the manner of prosecuting the design through all its different branches, I do not intend to enter into particulars. It is not my purpose to give a full institute of eloquence, but only to apply to the pulpit, as far as they are applicable, the general rules laid down by the ancients, referring you to their writings for the illustration, and particularly to remark to you the differences which the very different nature of the subject, of the occasion, of the end, of the character, to be supported by the speaker, and of the character of the audience, should give rise to. Now it must be acknowledged, that no sort of discourse from the pulpit hath so close a resemblance in respect both of the subject and of the end, and sometimes also of the occasion, to the judicial and deliberative orations, as this sort of encomiums hath to the demonstrative orations of the ancients. To their institutes therefore, I must refer you for more particular information. It is not my intention by these lectures to supersede the study of ancient critics and orators, but only to assist you in applying their rules and examples to cases so different from those with which alone they were concerned. I shall therefore in these discourses, insist chiefly on what is different and peculiar in the eloquence of the pulpit.
And here, one of the first differences that offers itself to our observation, is, that the ancients had a much wider range in what might properly be made the subject of their praises. Pedigree, intellectual abilities, even qualities merely corporeal, such as beauty, health, strength, agility, nay those commonly called the goods of fortune, as riches, friends, rank, all came in for a share in the encomium. I do not deny that any of these may passingly be mentioned in a sermon, but it would ill become the dignity of the sacred function, to enlarge on these qualities in such a manner, as to seem to place a merit in things, which are totally independent of our will, and of which therefore the com. mendation in another can be of no service to a hearer in the way of example; but may, on the contrary, very readily do hurt in teaching him to place an undue value on things not in his power, and about which, as a christian, he ought not to have the least anxiety. Nothing therefore must appear to be the subject of panegyric to the preacher, but moral excellence. Nothing ought to be enlarged on as a topic of discourse, but what can properly be held up to the audience as a subject, which it is incumbent on them to imitate, in other words, as the object of a noble emulation. I acknowledge, that those other qualities, accidental in respect of us, as I may call them, which have no necessary connection with virtue or religion, and are only
physically good, may find a place in a discourse of this kind, when they are introduced not for their own sakes, but as it were, in passing, and in order to set off real virtues. Thus the high birth of the person, you extol, may be mentioned in order to add the greater lustre to his humility ; his riches may be taken notice of by the way, in order to shew how well he understood the proper use of wealth, and in order to set off to the greater advantage how moderate he was in regard to gratifications merely personal, and how liberal and charitable in supplying the wants and contributing to the accommodation and comfort of others. It will be easily understood, that in the same way, almost every such advantage of person or fortune may be introduced. This would not be to exhibit wealth or nobleness of birth, as an object calculated to excite the ambition of the hearers, a thing exceedingly absurd in any, but more especially in the preacher of the humble religion of Jesus; but it would be to give an instructive lesson to the rich and noble, in regard to the use they ought to make of these advantages. It must be owned, on the other hand, that qualities physically bad may be rendered instrumental for the same purpose of giving higher relief to the virtues of the character. Thus the poverty of the person may serve greatly to enhance and recommend his patience, his contentment, his resignation, his prudence, his economy, nay even his charity and beneficence. In like manner, low birth and want of education may be made subservient to display to more advantage the industry and application of mind, which could surmount these signal disadvantages so perfectly, that the defect could never have been discovered from his behaviour and conver