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would inculcate. On the contrary, it is the business of the latter to bring men back from all scholastic pedantry and jargon, to nature, simplicity and truth. And let me add, that discourses on this plan will be found much more conformable, in manner and composition, to the simple but excellent models to be found in sacred writ.
Of Explanatory Sermons....How the branches should be arranged and treated
...Of the Style.... Technical Language to be avoided and that of Scripture preferred....Abuse of Scripture Style....Of the Conclusion.
last discourse on christian eloquence, I considered part of the explanatory sermon, which, was begun with, as the simplest, to wit, the exordium or introduction, the proposing of the design with the explication of the text and context, where such explication is necessary, and the division of the subject. I should now proceed to consider in what method the branches of the division should be ranged, how they should be treated, and the properest way of forming the conclusion. As to the first, the order in which the principal heads of a discourse ought to be arranged, this is sometimes of considerable consequence, sometimes it is a matter merely discretionary. It is of consequence, when the knowledge of one part is, in its nature, prerequisite to the right understanding of another part ; it is also of consequence, when in the order of time or of nature, the one part is conceived as preceding the other. The arrangement may be said to be discretionary, when neither of the above mentioned cases takes place. Suppose, for instance, the preacher's subject were the nature of evangelical repentance, and he were disposed
to comprehend the whole under the three following heads, a proper sense and conviction of sin, pious and suitable resolutions from an apprehension of divine mercy through the mediation of Jesus Christ our Lord, and a real conversion or change to the obedience of God. The order, in which these topics have just now been mentioned, is the only order in which the subject could properly be discussed. The right understand, ing of every previous member is preparatory to the right understanding of that which follows. This arrangement will perhaps be considered also as fixed by the order of nature and of time. I shall for another instance recur to that mentioned in a former lecture. Suppose then the preacher's subject is to illustrate this important evangelical truth, that grace or the unmerited favour of God is the genuine source of man's sal. vation ; suppose further, that one chooses for the illustration of it the two topics also above mentioned ; the plan of our redemption by Jesus Christ is purely the result of grace or unmerited favour, the completion of this plan in us by the operation of the Spirit is also the result of grace. It is evident, that the order in which these two topics are now laid down, is the only natural order in which they could be treated. The plan is ever conceived as previous to the execution. But in another example of distribution taken from Tillotson, of the characters of gospel obedience into sin. cerity, universality and constancy, it is not perhaps material in what order you explain these particulars. As there are few cases however, in which even this circumstance, when attentively considered, will appear perfectly indifferent, I should like best the order where. in I have just now named them, though I could not
deny, that in any order they might be treated with sufficient perspicuity. Indeed in the other instance also above mentioned of prayer, as divided into its constituent parts, petition, confession and thanksgiving, the order is perhaps as much discretionary, as in any example that could be produced. Again, as in the explication of the principal heads or topics, there may be scope for a subdivision, the same remarks will hold with regard to the arrangement of the constituent members of that subdivision. But as it is impossible, that one who himself understands the subject that he treats, should not perceive the dependance of the parts and consequently the natural order, where the subject gives scope for it, I should think it losing time to enter more minutely into the discussion of this point. I shall only further remark on the article of arrangement, that as a multiplicity of divisions and subdivisions is not only cumbersome to the memory, but savours too much of artifice and a kind of minute and finical precision, a speaker ought carefully to avoid it. Do not imagine, that by this I mean to recommend a rambling and desultory manner of treating a subject. Nothing can be farther from my intention. I know well the power of method for assisting both the understanding and the memory, and with how much justice Horace hath styled it lucidus ordo, as being that, which, of all qualities, tends most to throw light upon a subject. But though a just and natural order ought ever to be preserved in the disposition of the sentiments in a serion, the formality of always proposing or laying down that order, especially in the subordinate parts or inferior branches of a discourse, is rarely the most eligible method for recommending what you say to the attention of the hearers.
Need I add, that in general in this kind of dis. courses the style should be remarkably simple and perspicuous. The immediate end is distinct apprehension. It therefore admits but few ornaments, some. times indeed it will receive very properly a sort of painting or imagery, which seems more immediately intended to delight the fancy, but which seasonably enough relieves the minds of the hearers from too intense an application of thought, to what in itself may be called a sort of abstract truth, an application, of which the generality of hearers are very little capable ; at the same time that it fixes their attention, and even conveys to them more distinct conceptions by a happy illustration of things less known by things familiar to them. Thus the great truths in relation to the kingdom of heaven were ever illustrated to the people by Him, whom we ought to regard as our pattern in teaching as well as in life and practice, by the common incidents and affairs of this world, with which they had occasion to be well acquainted. I would not however by this be understood to recommend so close an imitation of our Lord's manner, as to endeavour to convey every thing in parables and allegories. I am afraid, this might give scope for too close a compari. son, which would redound greatly to the disadvantage of any modern speaker ; besides, I must acknowledge that though in what concerns the matter, the great truths of religion remain invariably the same, yet in what regards the general manner of communicating them, the mode or custom of the country where we live, ought not altogether to be overlooked. In a re