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Let the truth be defended by arguments distinctly explained and enforced, and in doing this, especially when the topics are drawn from holy writ, occasion may be taken of refuting the contradictory glosses or expositions of the opponents as you proceed. In this the preacher ought to consult carefully, what will give most simplicity and perspicuity to his reasoning. Further, a question is sometimes capable of being divided into two, or more, distinct though intimately related questions. In that case the heads of discourse may be the examination of each. When the arguments are numerous, it is better to class them under a few general heads or topics for the sake of memory, as those from reason, those from scripture, and the like.
As to the arrangement of the arguments, there may sometimes be in them a natural order, as when a right apprehension of one is previously necessary to the full conception of another. When they are not of this kind, the speaker ought to consider the disposition of his hearers. If their prejudices rather oppose his doctrine, he would need to begin with what he thinks will have the greatest weight with them, lest otherwise, by introducing the debate with what they shali think frivolous, he should disgust them in the entry, and avert their attention from what he has further to offer. In general, rhetoricians have recommended to begin and end with the strongest arguments, and throw the weakest into the middle. It is as important, that you should leave a good impression on their minds in ending the debate, as that you should bespeak their favourable
attention by what is of consequence in the beginning. They would have the orator act, in this respect, like the experienced commander, who puts his weakest troops into the middle; for though he has not the same dependance on them, as on those in the front and the rear, he knows they are of somê use by their number, and add to the formidable appearance of his army.
The conclusion here may very properly be introduced by an abstract or recapitulation of the argument, followed with a suitable improvement of the doctrine proved. There does not seem to be any material difference, in what constitutes a fit conclusion to an explanatory discourse, from what would suit a controversial one. Doctrine is the general subject of both discourses. In the one it is explained, in the other it is proved. The direct aim of the first is knowledge, but then the conviction or belief is taken for granted. The direct aim of the second is conviction.
In both, the proper application is the influence which the knowledge and belief of such a truth ought to have on our disposition and on our practice. Perhaps in the conclusion of controversial discussions, it might not be amiss to offer some observations with a view to moderate the unchristian animosities, which differences on these articles sometimes occasion among those, who all profess themselves to be the disciples of the same Master, and to show in general that error is more properly a ground of pity than of indignation.
OF COMMENDATORY DISCOURSES, OR THOSE AD
DRESSED TO THE IMAGINATION.
WE have now discussed the discourses addressed to the understanding, those two especially, the explanatory, whose end is information, by dispelling ignorance, and the controversial, whose end is conviction, by vanquishing doubt or error. I come now to that species which is addressed to the imagination. For as one way, and indeed a very powerful way, of recommending religion is by example, it must be conducive to the general end of preaching above mentioned, to make it sometimes the scope
a sermon, to exhibit properly any known good character of a person now dea ceased, by giving a lively narrative of his life, or of any signal period of his life, or an account of any particular virtue, as illustrated through the different periods of his life. For performances of this kind, the history of our Lord affords the richest fund of matter. In like manner, the lives of the saints recorded in scripture, the patriarchs, the prophets, the apostles and the martyrs, such at least with which, from the accounts given in holy writ, we have it in our power to be acquainted, make very proper subjects. Add to these, deceased persons eminent for virtue and piety,
whose characters are well known to the people addressed. Panegyrics of this kind on departed friends were more in use formerly, and commonly distinguished by the name of funeral orations. As praise of this kind was however sometimes prostituted, and as the usage itself in certain circumstances exposed the preacher to the temptation of making a sacrifice of truth from motives of interest, it is perhaps, upon the whole, no disad. vantage to the ministerial character, that the practice is, in this country, almost entirely laid aside, and that we are now very much confined in this respect to the examples which the sacred canon presents us with. Now to do justice to the respectable qualities and worthy actions of the good, is to present the audience with a beauteous and animated pattern of christian excellence, which, by operating on their admiration and love, raiseth in their minds a pious emulation. That we are, without attending to it, induced to imitate what we admire and love, will not admit a question. It might not want its use, though scripture hath not afforded here so large foundation or so ample materials, to delineate sometimes, in proper colours, the conduct of the vicious, with its natural consequences, in order to excite a proper degree of horror and detestation against vice. But this, it must be owned, would require to be handled still more tenderly. It is our duty to love and esteem the virtuous, but not to hate and abhor the vicious. Our hatred and abhorrence ought to be pointed only against vice, but not against the persons addicted to it; whom, in pity, we ought rather to study to reclaim. And though
the individuals themselves should be dead, and consequently in this respect beyond our power, whatever bears the odious appearance of calumny and personal invective is quite unbecoming the pulpit. Exhibitions in either way from the pulpit form that species of discourses, which falls under the third class above enumerated. They are addressed to the fancy, and their scope is to promote piety and virtue by insinuation, that is by the gentle but efficacious influence of example. Discourses of this kind were distinguished among the ancients by the name demonstrative; but as that word in our language is rather equivocal, I have chosen to denominate them, commendatory, from the purpose to which they are most commonly applied.
In regard to the choice of a text, as there is here sometimes greater difficulty of uniting all the qualities, which were formerly mentioned, as characteristical of a proper text, greater indulgence must be given. At any rate, let it be perspicuous and expressive of the happiness or amiableness of a well spent life, or of those virtues which the discourse itself will give principal scope for extolling. An appositeness to the individual person, who is the subject of the sermon, when it is a funeral oration, cannot be had, and therefore, an appositeness to the character is all that can be sought. When the person, who is the subject, is one of the scripture saints, it is better to chuse for a text some passage, wherein he in particular is spoken of. As to the introduction or exordium, there does not seem to be any thing very special requisite in this kind. The conimon qualities