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suade from one class of motives only, there should be something in the text, that points to these motives.
Thus in the first case, suppose the speaker's intention be to persuade to repentance from every motive which either reason or scripture affords, his text may be the simple command Repent, which occurs in several places of the gospel, or if he does not like one so brief, he may take these words of the apostle Paul, Acts xvii. 30. “God now commandeth all men every where to repent.” But if he would persuade to repentance from the single consideration of its connection with the remission of sins, these words of Peter (Acts iii. 19.) will do better, “Repent ye therefore and be converted, that
may be blotted out;" for the words be converted are merely explanatory, and therefore do not render the sentiment complex, whatever may be said of the expression. Or, if the speaker's intention (which is near of kin to the former) be to persuade to repentance from this consideration, that future misery is the inevitable consequence of final impenitence, he may take these words of our Lord (Lu. xiii. 15.) “ Except ye repent, ye shall all perish.” To a christian life in general one may persuade from various motives. Suppose from the native excellence of genuine virtue or true righteousness, the text in that case may be Pro. xii. 26. “The righteous is more excellent than his neighbour;" or from the present felicity to be found in the ways of religion, these words, Ps. xix. 11. “ In keeping of them there is great reward,” may serve as a text. Let it be obsery. ed, that such a text as this requires some explanation of the context, without which the subject is not to be understood, the matter spoken of being expressed ly by a pronoun. When this is not the case, and when the passage adopted appears independent and perfectly intelligible by itself, it may stand for a general rule, that such explanations are better let alone, and deserve to be considered, but as a sort of digressions at the best. If the intention were to persuade to a good life from the consideration of the comfort it brings in trouble, and especially in the views of death, this passage might answer, Ps. xxxvii. 37. “ Mark the perfect man and behold the upright, for the end of that man is peace.” Bourdaloue, a celebrated French preacher of the last century, persuades to the same thing from the consideration of the future happiness of the saints from these words of our Saviour, Lu. vi. 23. « Behold your reward is great in heaven.” It deserves to be remarked, that there is here not only a reference to the context for the character or conduct to which the reward is promised, but that when ye do recur to the preceding words, they seem rather to refer to this in particular, the suffering of persecution and reproach for righteousness' sake. Yet as this itself is one of the noblest fruits and surest evidences of real sanctity, the choice cannot justly be deemed an inexcusable liberty. The reward is very properly considered, as ultimately to be attributed to that principle, from which the conduct flows. In persuading to particular duties, or dissuading from particular vices or temptations to vice, when the speaker intends (as it is not indeed so common here to confine one's self to one class of motives) to employ every argument of weight, which the subject presents to him, a single precept, briefly and plainly expressed, seems the most convenient choice for a text. If the design is to persuade to the love of God, these words are proper, Matt. xxii. 37. “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” If to the love of men, verse 39. " Thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself.” These passages may, in ike manner, serve as foundations for discourses explanatory of these duties. And as was remarked on the controversial sermon, we may observe here, that the minister in his own parish may, if he thinks it necessary, begin with a discourse explaining the duty enjoined or the vice prohibited, (if the text contains a prohibition,) and in his next discourse from the same words, make it his business to persuade them to the one, or dissuade them from the other. But in
many cases it must be acknowledged, that such previous explanatory discourse is not necessary; the full import of the precept being perfectly level to every ordinary capacity. Thus if the subject were to dissuade from the vice of lying, a proper text would be these words of Paul, Col. iii. 9. “ Lie not one to another.” If against detraction, Ja. iv. 11. “ Speak not evil one of another.” In such plain cases, it must be owned, there would be little occasion for many words, and much less for a separate discourse, in order to explain the import and extent of the prohibition.
In regard to the method, however different the matter be, as something of the argumentative form must be preserved, the rules laid down in the controversial discourse may be of some use. One may begin, with showing the weakness of those pleas or arguments by which the dissolute, the vicious or the profane commonly defend their own conduct, and seduce others into the same track; and then produce positive argu
ments or motives to influence his hearers to that con• duct which he recommends. Or it may not be necessary, to make a separate article of the adversary's plea ; a place, for whatever is requisite in this way, may be found by the preacher, as he proceeds in the support of his own cause. In this case the different topics of argument may constitute the heads of discourse. Bourdaloue, on the text above mentioned, proposed to persuade his hearers to a pious and virtuous life from the consideration of the recompense that awaits the just in the world to come. And from these three different qualities of that recompense, its certainty, its greatness, its eternity, finds topics of argument for influencing his hearers to a proper regard to it. And these three topics divide the discourse. In treating each, he contrasts that quality he is illustrating with something of an opposite nature ever to be found in the rewards or pleasures of sin, their precariousness in opposition to its certainty, their insignificancy in opposition to its greatness, and their transitoriness in opposition to its eternity. As to the method, in which the different topics are to be arranged, the same observations will hold that were made on the controversial discourse, and therefore shall not be repeated. The arrangement above mentioned seems to be the best in that particular subject, yet I could not say, it were absolutely necessary. You may begin perhaps with equal propriety with the greatness of the reward, as with its certainty; but in any case, it seems most fit, that you should conclude with the eternity. When the different motives are mentioned in the text, the preacher may very properly take notice of the different clauses, as the foundations of his different heads. But when they are
not explicitly mentioned, it savours of conceit and
puerility to make them out by straining the words. This is a fault, into which the last mentioned orator, misled by the taste of the age and nation, frequently falls. Of the three topics aforesaid, only one can properly be said to be expressed in the text, namely the great-, ness; yet he finds something in the words to serve as separate foundations to the several heads. First, says he, I shall consider the certainty pointed out in the emphatic term with which the sentence is introduced, Ecce, behold. Secondly the greatness, merces vestra multaest, your reward is great. Thirdly, the eternity, in cælo, in heaven. It may not be amiss to observe, that in making the transition from one topic or head. of discourse to another, it will often prove very helpful to the memory, to point out in brief, how much you have already evinced, and what you are in the next place proceeding to evince.
As to the conclusion, it is very proper, first, to give a sum of the argument, in order to infix the whole more effectually on the minds of the hearers, and then more warmly to address the passions. If the preceding part has been suitably conducted, the people will be prepared for entering into the subject, with all the warmth that the speaker can desire. The way of practical inferences or speculative corollaries is not well suited to this kind of discourse. With regard to the first, the whole tenour of the sermon is practical, and therefore needs not a formal application of this kind; besides that to enforce any thing else, than what was the direct aim of the whole, is really diverting the hearers' attention, and in some degree undoing the effect of what was said. Still more unsuitable are