« PrécédentContinuer »
use, both of the Latin word demonstrativus, and of the Greek aлodεixtinos among critics, orators and poets. Another difference I beg you will remark, is between conviction and persuasion, which, in common language, are frequently confounded. To speculative truth, the term, conviction, only with its conjugates, ought to be applied. Thus we say properly, I am convinced of the being of a God. In popular language, we should sometimes in this case say persuaded, but this application of the term is evidently inaccurate. He hath proved the truth of revelation to my full conviction. I attempted to convince him of his error. And even in regard to moral truth, when no more is denoted but the assent of the understanding, the proper term is to convince. I am convinced it is my duty, yet I cannot prevail on myself to do it. This is well illustrated by that of the poet,
Video meliora proboque,
I am convinced, but not persuaded; My understand. ing is subdued but not my will: the first term always and solely relates to opinion, the second to practice. The operation of conviction is merely on the understanding, that of persuasion, is on the will and resolution. Indeed the Latin word persuadeo, is susceptible of precisely the same ambiguity with the English. It is this double meaning, which gave occasion to that play upon the word used by Augustine, when he said, "Non persuadebis, etiamsi persuaseris." The import of which in plain English manifestly is, Though your arguments may convince my reason, they shall not determine my resolution: Or, you may convince, but shall not persuade me. The first of the distinctions
now mentioned will serve to discriminate the argumentative or controversial, from the demonstrative or commendatory, the other distinguishes the controversial from the persuasive.
I would further observe, that though any one discourse admits only one of the ends above enumerated as the principal, nevertheless in the progress of a discourse, many things may be advanced, which are more immediately and apparently directed to some of the other ends of speaking. But then it ought always to appear, that such ends are introduced as means, and rendered conducive to that which is the primary intention. Accordingly the propriety of these secondary ends, will always be inferred from their subserviency to the principal design. For example, a sermon of the first or second kinds, the explanatory or the controversial, addressed to the understanding and calculated to illustrate or evince some point of doctrine, may borrow aid from the imagination, and admit metaphor and comparison. But not the bolder and more striking figures, as that called phantasia, prosopopeia and the like, which are not so much intended to throw light on a subject as to excite admiration; much less will it admit an address to the passions, which never fails to disturb the operation of the intellectual faculty. Either of these, it is obvious, far from being subservient to the main design, simple explanation or proof, would distract the attention from it. Such arts, however, I cannot call them legitimate, have sometimes been successfully used, but in such cases, if impartially examined, the scope of the speaker will be found to have been more to cloud than to enlighten the understandings of his hearers, and to deceive rather than to edify. They
are of those unlucky arts, which are naturally fitted more for serving a bad cause, than a good one, and by consequence, when used in a good cause, rather hurt it with the judicious, by rendering it suspected.
Now before I proceed to consider the rules which ought to be observed in these different sorts of composition resulting from their respective natures, I shall make a few remarks on a kind of discourses very common in this country, which come not under the general name of sermons, and follow rules peculiar to themselves. As the Bible is with us protestants acknowledged to be the repository, and indeed the only original, full, and untainted repository of christian knowledge; and as the study of it is maintained to be a duty incumbent on every disciple of Christ, that kind of discourses with us commonly called lectures, have been devised as means of facilitating to the people the profitable reading of holy writ. We acknowledge indeed, that in all things essential to salvation, scripture is sufficiently perspicuous even to the vulgar; and that, in such important matters, if any man crr, it will be found more the fault of the heart than of the head. But this acknowledgment is nowise inconsistent with the avowal, that there are in this repository many things highly useful and instructive, which do not immediately appear upon the surface, which require more time and application to enable us to discover, and in which in particular it is the province of the pastor to lend his assistance to the illiterate and the weak. That people may be put in a capacity of reading with judgment and without difficulty, those parts of scripture which are most closely connected with the christian faith and practice, lecturing, or as it is called
in some places, expounding, hath been first prescribed by our church rulers. The end or design of a lecture therefore, is to explain the train of reasoning contained, or the series of events related, in a certain portion of the sacred text, and to make suitable observations from it, in regard either to the doctrines, or to the duties of our religion. As all discourses of this kind consist of two principal parts, the explication, and the remarks or inferences, so they may be distributed into two classes, according as the one or the other constitutes the principal object of the expounder. In discourses of the first class, it is the chief design of the speaker to explain the import of a portion of scripture, which may not be perfectly clear to christians of all denominations. In the second, it is his great scope to deduce from a passage, whose general or literal meaning is sufficiently perspicuous, useful reflections concerning providence, the economy of grace, or the conduct of human life. Were we nicely to distinguish the two kinds, I should say that the ultimate end of the former is to teach the people to read the scriptures with understanding, and of the latter to accustom them to read them with reflection. The former therefore may more properly (according to the current import of the words) be termed an exposition, and the latter a lecture. And in this manner we shall afterwards distinguish them. Both are properly of the explanatory kind, though from the complex nature of the subject, the form of composition will be very different from that of the first class of sermons mentioned above. Indeed several English sermons, for instance those on the compassionate Samaritan, the prodigal son, or any other of our Lord's parables, may strictly be denominated
lectures in the sense to which we just now appropriated the term. And of this sort also are several of the homilies of the ancient fathers. Nay there are some discourses, that go under the general appellation of sermons, particularly of Bishop Hoadley and Doctor Clarke, that properly belong to that class we distinguished by the name exposition, being no other than a sort of familiar commentary on some of the most difficult passages in the epistolary writings of the apostle Paul. They differ from us in Scotland, only in the manner in which the explication is introduced from the pulpit. We take the whole portion of scripture for a text, they commonly a single verse in the end of ìt, by means of which all the other verses as connected, are more awkwardly ushered into the discourse; for as all these share equally in the explication, so in most cases the remarks bear no more relation to the text, than to any other sentence in the context. The relation is commonly to the whole taken together, and not to a part considered separately. That it may not be necessary to return afterwards to the consideration of these two classes of discourses, which I denominate expositions and lectures, I shall now make a few observations in regard to their composition, and so dismiss this article.
And first, as to the subject to be chosen care should be taken, that as much as possible it may be one, that is, one distinct passage of history, (if taken from any of the historical books of scripture) one parable, one similitude, one chain of reasoning, or the illustration of one point of doctrine or of duty. When a minister purposes in a course of teaching to give the exposition of a whole book of scripture, it is of much greater