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recommendation, which are to be found in discourses explanatory, controversial or persuasive. Only for the sake of unity, it may be proper to add, that all the remarks compared among themselves should be congenial, and tend to illustrate one another, that is, all doctrinal, or all practical; and whether the one, or the other, that they be points nearly and mutually related, that thus the discourse may, if I may so express myself, be of one colour and tenour throughout. Quick transitions from the warmth of the pathos, to the coldness of criticism, from the moral and persuasive to the abstract and argumentative, or inversely, from the critical to the pathetic, and from the abstract to the persuasive, are neither natural nor easy. Now the transitions here, if there be any, must be quick, even immediate, since they result from the different natures of the remarks that immediately succeed one another. In the first kind, which we distinguished by the name exposition, there is no occasion for so much delicacy in regard to the inferences deduced; because in it, they being only of a secondary nature in respect to the scope of the performance, particular discussions would neither be proper nor expected. All that is requisite is that they be true, fairly deduced and properly expressed. Now thus much, whatever be the nature of the truths remarked, can make no alteration in the character of the performance. In this species, the observations are properly no more than inferences, whose evidence, illustration, or enforcement should always be found in the exposition that preceded them; whereas in the lecture properly so called, though the connection of the remarks with the portion of scripture previously and briefly explained, ought to be very clear, they are introduced with the express view of being supported, illustrated or enforced in the body of the discourse, to which the explication of the text serves only as an introduction. So much shall serve for what we call expositions or lectures, I shall next proceed to the different sorts of sermons above defined.
Of Explanatory Sermons..... The choice of a Subject and of Texts.
my last prelection on the subject of pulpit eloquence, after enumerating the different sorts of discourses, from the consideration of the faculty addressed, I entered particularly into the examination of those, which with us are commonly called lectures, and which we divided into two sorts, one, whose principal end was to remove difficulties in a passage not perfectly clear; the other, whose aim was to form and enforce useful observations from a passage naturally fitted to give scope for reflection. The first we called exposition, the second lecture. I now return to the consideration of those discourses, which come under the general denomination of sermons, and which were distributed into five orders, the explanatory, the controversial, the commendatory, the pathetic and the persuasive. The first and the simplest is the explanatory, which may be defined a sermon addressed to the understanding of the hearers, and of which the direct view is to explain some doctrine of our religion, or the nature and extent of some duty. In this species of discourses, the preacher's antagonist (if I may so express myself) is ignorance, which it is his business to dispel.
The first thing, that falls under consideration, is the choice of a subject. And in this, care ought to be t ken, that whether it be more or less extensive, it may be strictly and properly one, that it may neither be imperfect, and consequently afford the audience but an indistinct apprehension of the matter discussed, whether it be the explication of a tenet, or of a precept of christianity; nor redundant, by being conjoined with other points or topics, which however useful in themselves, are neither immediately connected with, nors necessary to the elucidation of what is properly the subject. The rule of the poet,
Sit quod vis simplex duntaxat et unum,
will be found a good rule, not only in epic and dramatic poetry, but in
evey kind of composition without exception. The reason is, it is founded in nature, and what is adapted to the faculties of a being such as man. When things are brought together into a discourse, between which there is no immediate connection, that which happens to be last said goes far to obliterate out of the minds of the hearers all that went before. There being no natural and manifest relation between the things themselves, and no dependance that the one has on the other, the last mentioned thought or topic doth as it were exclude its predecessor, by entirely occupying its place. Whereas in clearing up the several parts of one entire subject, whatever it be, the explication of every other branch or member, as you advance, necessarily tends, by the laws of association in our ideas, to recal to our reflections the account given of those that preceded, with which its several parts are naturally and intimately connected. That we may form some idea of the influence of connection, simplicity and unity upon the memory, do but consider the effect in point of remembrance, for it is of this only I am now speaking, that would be produced upon an audience by one of our Lord's parables, for example, or by a distinct passage
of his history, or of that of the apostles, or by any one speech of Peter or Paul recorded in the Acts, and compare with it the effect that will be produced by reading an equal portion of the book of Proverbs, or of the 119th psalm, in neither of which was there any connection of sentiments proposed, the greater part of the first being intended merely as a collection of wise observations, but independent one of another, on the conduct of life; and the other as a collection of pious ejaculations, arranged, not by affinity in the sentiments, but by the letters in the Hebrew alphabet with which the several sentences begin. But · what is necessary to constitute this unity of subject and design, we shall have occasion more particularly to consider afterwards.
A subject being chosen, the next thing to be sought is the text. This seems calculated to answer a double purpose. In the first place, it serves as a motto to the discourse, notifying to the congregation the aim and subject of the preacher ; secondly, being taken from sacred writ, it adds a certain dignity and importance to the subject, shewing that it hath a foundation in scripture, the only standard of our religion. It may not be amiss here to examine a little, some objections, that have been thrown out by a celebrated writer of the present century, in his Age of Lewis the 14th, against this method so universally practised by preachers of introducing their subject to the hearers by a text.