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THE professed general design of this publication is, to
afford to Students and young Ministers a portable, yet comprehensive Encheiridion; in which they will find the most important and interesting rules and directions that relate to preaching, considered both as an art and a duty, reduced into perspicuous method, with all the brevity which is consistent with the nature of the subject.
The FIRST Discourse, On the Gift of Preaching, was originally published, about the middle of the last century, by Bishop WILKINS, who was eminent as a man of general science, and still more so as a devout christian and orthodox divine. His predilection for analysing all subjects in a scholastic manner, which was the too common fault of his contemporaries, often operated unfavourably against the elegance and forcible effect of his writings. In the present abridgment, it is proposed to preserve all the advantage of method, while the forbidding stiffness of it is avoided. The principal things left out are a very complex analysis of a body of divinity, and a large list of books, the greater part of which are obsolete. The former is, to almost every reader of the present day, utterly useless, tending only to per
plex the thoughts without adequate profit; and the latter is superseded by the Appendix to this volume.*
The SECOND Discourse, of preaching Christ, and the THIRD, Of particular and Experimental Preaching, were composed by Mr. JOHN JENNINGS, who kept an academy at Kibworth in Leicestershire, and who was the tutor of the celebrated Dr. DODDRIDGE. They were first published in 1723, with a recommendatory preface, by Dr. WATTS; and were soon after translated and published in the German language, by order of Dr. FRANCK, professor of divinity in the university of Halle, in Saxony. In Dr. WATTS'S preface are manifested the same simplicity and good sense; piety and zeal, that so eminently distinguish his other productions. The pious reader will be gratified with it.
"When I see a book well written for the instruction of mankind, I always hope it will spread its good influence as far and wide as it finds readers. But when I meet with a valuable treatise, whose design is to improve the sacred skill of preaching, I am ready to persuade myself, "Surely this will become a more extensive benefit; and the good influences of it will reach as many whole assemblies of men as there are ministers who shall happen to read it.” For this reason, I cannot but take a special satisfaction in recommending these two discourses to the world; which, in my opinion, are founded upon the general principles of christianity, and therefore invite the perusal of all, being written without the narrow spirit of a party. They seem to be calculated for the common good, nor have I observed
* WILKINS'S Ecclesiastes has been translated into the German Fanguage, by Mr. HENRY ITTERSHAGEN, who has added notes of his own, and augmented the catalogue of authors, especially Expositors of the scriptures. Vid. WOLFI Biblioth. Heb. tom. .280.
any thing in them that can justly give disgust, or awaken any reasonable resentment.
"It must be confessed, without controversy, that there are some things, wherein several preachers of the present time have the advantage of our learned and pious fathers; but there are other excellencies in the sermons of the puritanical age, which I should rejoice to find more studiously revived and cultivated in our day. Among these I know none of more eminent necessity, glory, and usefulness, than those two which are the subjects of this little book; I mean the evangelical turn of thought that should run through our ministry, and the experimental way of discourse on practical subjects.
"It has been justly observed, that where a great and universal neglect of preaching Christ hath prevailed in a christian nation, it hath given a fatal occasion to the growth of Deism and Infidelity; for when persons have heard the sermons of their clergy, for many years together, and find little of Christ in them, they have taken it into their heads, that men may be very good men, and go safe to heaven, without christianity; and therefore, though they dwell in a land where the gospel is professed, they imagine there is no need they should be christians. But what a blot and reproach would it be to our ministry, if infidels. and heathens should multiply among us, through such a woful neglect of preaching the peculiar doctrines of Christ!
"Besides, let us consider, how little hath been our success, in comparison of the multitudes converted by our fathers in the day of their ministry. Hath not this been matter of sore complaint these many years past? Now it is worth our inquiry, whether it may not be ascribed to the absence of Christ in our sermons. And what reason indéed can we have to expect the presence and influence of the Spirit of Christ, if we have his person, his offices, his
grace, and his gospel, out of our discourses, or give but a slight and casual hint at these glorious subjects which ought to be our daily theme? This is what our author would put us in mind of in his first discourse.
"And perhaps another cause of our want of success hath been this, That we have too much left off the way of our fathers, in distinguishing the characters of our hearers, and 'dividing the word aright to saints and sinners, to the stupid and the profane, the awakened and convinced, the mournful and penitent, the presumptuous and obstinate, the deserted and despairing.
"This method appears eminently in the labours of the former age. Those two great and good men, Mr. FLAVEL and Mr. BAXTER, might be divided in their sentiments on other subjects, but you find this conduct runs through all their practical writings. This is a great part of what the second discourse here recommends to us, under the title of ' experimental preaching.'
"Our author indeed assumes not so much to himself, as to address any besides students and younger ministers. But if in the middle age of life, we should examine our performances by the light of this treatise, it is possible we and our people might be gainers by it.
"Have we not been too often tempted to follow the modish way, and speak to our hearers in general terms, as though they were ALL converted already, and sufficiently made christians by a national profession? Have not some of us spent our labour to build them up in the practice of duties, without teaching them to search whether the foundation has been laid in an entire change and renovation of heart? Do we lead them constantly to inquire into the inward state of their spirits, their peculiar difficulties, dangers, and temptations, and give them peculiar assistance in all this. variety of the christian life?
"With how much more efficacy does the word of God impress the conscience, when every hearer finds himself.