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same moral sense, which he considers as the mental ear, in due perfection, he may tune his soul with as much ease, as a musician tunes a musical instrument. The disciple of Doctor Clarke, on the contrary, talks to us in somewhat of a soberer strain, and less pompous phrase, but not a jot more edifying, about unalterable reason and the eternal fitness of things, about the conformity of our actions to their immutable relations and essential differences. , All the various sects or parties in religion have been often accused of using a peculiar dialect of their own, when speaking on religious subjects, which though familiar to the votaries of the party, appears extremely uncouth to others. The charge, I am sensible, is not without foundation, though all parties are not in this respect equally guilty. We see however that the different systems of philosophy, especially that branch which comes under the denomination of pneumatology, are equally liable to this imputation with systems of theology. I would not be understood, from any thing I have said, to condemn in the
either the books or systems alluded to. They have their excellencies as well as their blemishes; and as to many of the points in which they seem to differ from one another, I am satisfied that the difference is, like some of our theological disputes, more verbal than real. Let us read even on opposite sides, but still so as to preserve the freedom of our judgment in comparing, weighing, and deciding, so that we can with justice apply to ourselves, in regard to all human teachers, the declaration of the poet,
Nullius addictus jurare in verba magistri.
And even in some cases, wherein we approve the thought in any of those authors, it may not be proper to adopt the language. The adage, which enjoins us to think with the learned, but speak with the vulgar, is not to be understood as enjoining us to dissemble; but not to make a useless parade of learning, particularly to avoid every thing in point of language which would put the sentiments we mean to convey beyond the reach of those with whom we converse. It was but just now admitted, that the different sects or denominations of christians had their several and peculiar dialects. I would advise the young divine, in forming his style in sacred matters, to avoid as much as possible the peculiarities of each. The language of holy scripture and of common sense afford him a sufficient standard. And with regard to the distinguishing phrases, which our factions in religion have introduced, though these sometimes may appear to superficial people and half thinkers sufficiently perspicuous, the appearance is a mere illusion. The generality of men, little accustomed to reflection, are so constituted, that what their ears have been long familiarized to, however obscure in itself or unmeaning it be, seems perfectly plain to them. They are well acquainted with the terms, expressions, and customary application, and they look no farther. A great deal of the learning in divinity of such of our common people as think themselves, and are sometimes thought by others, wonderful scholars, is of this sort. It is generally the fruit of much application, strong memory and weak judgment, and consisting mostly of mere words and phrases, is of that kind of know
ledge which puffeth up, gendereth self-conceit, that species of it in particular known by the name of spiritual pride, captiousness, censoriousness, jealousy, malignity, but by no means ministereth to the edifying of the hearers in love. This sort of knowledge I denominate learned ignorance, of all sorts of ignorance the most difficult to be surmounted, agreeably to the observation of Solomon, “Seest thou a man wise in his own conceit, there “ is more hope of a fool than of him." Would you avoid then feeding the vanity of your hearers, supplying them with words instead of sense, amusing them with curious questions and verbal controversies, instead of furnishing them with useful and practical instruction, detach yourselves from the artificial, ostentatious phraseology of every scholastic, or system-builder in theology, and keep as close as possible to the pure style of holy writ, which the apostle calls “ the sincere or unadulter“ated milk of the word.” The things, which the Holy Spirit hath taught by the prophets and apostles, give not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but in the words which the Holy Spirit teacheth, a much more natural and suitable language. But be particularly attentive that the scripture expressions employed be both plain and apposite. The word of God itself may be, and often is handled unskilfully. Would the preacher carefully avoid this charge, let him first be sure that he hath himself a distinct meaning to every thing he advanceth, and next examine, whether the expression he intends to use be a clear and adequate enunciation of that meaning. For if it is true, that a speaker is sometimes not understood, because he doth not
express his meaning with sufficient clearness, it is also true that sometimes he is not understood, because he hath no meaning to express.
The last advice I would give on the head of perspicuity is, in composing, to aim at a certain simplicity in the structure of your sentences, avoiding long, intricate, and complex periods. Remember always that the bulk of the people are unused to reading and study. They lose sight of the connection in very long sentences, and they are quite bewildered, when, for the sake of rounding a period, and suspending the sense till the concluding clause, you transgress the customary arrangement of the words. The nearer therefore your diction comes to the language of conversation, it will be the more familiar to them, and so the more easily apprehended. In this too the style of scripture is an excellent model. So much for perspicuity.
The next quality I mentioned in the style, was, that it be affecting. Though this has more particularly a place in those discourses, which admit and even require a good deal of the pathetic, yet, in a certain degree, it ought to accompany every thing that comes from the pulpit. All from that quarter is conceived to be, mediately or immediately, connected with the most important interests of mankind. This gives a propriety to the affecting manner in a certain degree, whatever be the particular subject. It is this quality in preaching, to which the French critics have given the name of onction, and which they explain to be, an affecting sweetness of manner which engages the heart. It is indeed that warmth, and gentle emotion in the address and language, which serves to show, that
the speaker is much in earnest in what he says, and is actuated to say it from the tenderest concern for the welfare of his hearers. As this character how: ever can be considered only as a degree of that which comes under the general denomination of pathetic, we shall have occasion to consider it more fully afterwards. It is enough here to observe, that as the general strain of pulpit elocution ought to be seasoned with this quality, this doth necessarily imply, that the language be ever grave and serious. The necessity of this results from the consideration of the very momentous effect which preaching was intended to produce; as the necessity of perspicuity, the first quality mentioned, results from the consideration of the character sustained by the hearers. That the effect designed by this institution, namely the reformation of mankind, requires a certain seriousness, which though occasionally requisite in other public speakers, ought uniformly to be preserved by the preacher, is a truth that will scarcely be doubted by any person who reflects. This may be said in some respect to narrow his compass in persuasion, as it will not permit the same free recourse to humour, wit, and ridicule, which often prove powerful auxiliaries to other orators at the bar and in the senate, agreeably to the observation of the poet,
Ridiculum acri Fortius et melius magnas plerumque secat res. At the same time, I am very sensible that an air of ridicule in disproving or dissuading, by rendering opinions or practices contemptible, hath been attempted with approbation by preachers of great