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sary in those primitive times, when men were extraordinarily inspired with special gifts; much more now, when we cannot expect any immediate infusion, but must apply ourselves to the natural proper means of attaining any ability.
3. Meditation and Study: "Meditate on these things,-give thyself wholly to them || (εv Tatois 1081) be in them; which phrase implies much intention and industry in our studies. Demosthenes would have such an one branded for a man pernicions to the commonwealth, who durst propose any thing publicly which he had not before-hand seriously pondered. What impudence is it then, in the great business of salvation, when a man appears before the church, angels, and God himself, to discourse in a loose, irreverent manner; so as to nauseate, and even to counteract the devotion and attention of the hearers, and thus to prostitute the esteem and authority of that sacred ordinance! +
$25. But now because amongst those helps of invention which fall under the rules of art, this of reading is one of the principal; therefore it will deserve particular consideration. There are two things which in our reading and study may be of great advantage, viz. Good books, and a right series of matter to be first and most exactly inquired into.
There is no external help more effectual to direct a man to pertinent useful matter, upon all subjects and occasions, than a well chosen library, wherein, upon any emergent doubt or difficulty, he may have recourse to the advice of grave and learned men, who (it may be) have bestowed a great part of their time and study in the solution of that particular question into which he hath occasion to inquire.
There are many men whose natural parts would extremely improve, and grow very eminent, if they had but the knowledge and help of such authors as are most suit.
|| 1 Tim. iv. 5.
Let such rash persons consider, Qualis sit res ovile Christi, quam pulchra et Deo grata sit ovium Christi societas, in cujus medio Dominus ille est, cui sol et luna famulantur, cui adsunt ministri ejus millia millium et decies centena millia! Quantæ molis est regnum Christi erigerc, et Satanæ palatia demoliri! Nic. Hemming, De Pastore.
able to their genius and employment; whereas, on the other hand, their abilities are much damped, and kept low, while they are confined only to a scanty, ill-chosen library. There is as much art and benefit in the right choice of those books with which we should be most familiar, as there is in the selection of friends or acquaintance with whom we may most profitably converse.
And this knowledge of books, as it is in itself a very specious part of learning, making oftentimes a more pompous shew than the knowledge of things, so it is likewise of very great use and advantage. For the attaining of this, the most proper, effectual mean is, our own study and experience in the works of several authors; but because that is a business of vast industry and much time, scarce consistent with the frequent returns of public service required of a constant preacher, unless before-hand he be qualified for this by his education and leisure; therefore, there is another help to expedite our inquiries of this kind; namely, the perusal of such books as give a particular account of all authors, the times when they lived, the works they have published, with the several subjects they have insisted upon, their editors, translations, &c. *
§ 26 (III.) The third and last point to be insisted upon is concerning EXPRESSION; in which there are two things to be considered, Phrase and Elocution. The phrase should be plain, full, wholesome, and affectionate.
1. It must be plain and natural; not darkened with the affectation of scholastic harshness, or rhetorical flourishes. Obscurity in the discourse is an argument of ignorance in the mind. The greatest learning is to be seen in the greatest plainness. The more clearly we understand any thing ourselves, the more easily can we expound it to others. When the notion itself is good, the best way to set it off, is in the most obvious, plain expression. St. Paul often glories in this, that his preaching" was not in wisdom of words, or excellency of speech; not with enticing words of men's wisdom, not as pleasing men, but
*. Instead of detaining the reader in the body of the work, as the original does, by a tedious enumeration of books and authors, we refer him to an Appendix on this subject, at the end of the volume.
God, who trieth the heart." A minister should speak 66 as the oracle of God +." And it will not become the majesty of a divine embassage to be garnished out with flaunting affected eloquence. How unsuitable is it to the expectation of a hungry soul, that comes to this ordinance with a desire of spiritual comfort and instruction, there to hear only a starched speech, full of puerile rhetoric! It is a mark of low thoughts and designs, when a man's chief study is about the polishing of his phrase and words.
§ 27. 2. It must be full; without empty and needless tautologies, which are to be avoided in every solid business, much more in sacred. Our expressions should be so close and appropriate, that they may not be obscure; and so plain, that they may not seem vain and tedious. To deliver things in a crude, confused manner, without digesting them by a previous meditation, will nauseate the hearers, and is as improper for the edification of the mind as raw meat is for the nourishment of the body.
§ 28. 3. It must be sound and wholesome; not tainted with any erroneous, corrupt doctrine, or the affectation of novelty. False opinions many times insinuate themselves, by the use of suspicious phrases; and it is a dangerous fault, when men cannot content themselves with the wholesome form of sound words; but do altogether affect new light and new language, which may in time destroy practical godliness and the power of religion.||
$29. 4. It must be affectionate and cordial; as proceeding from the heart, and an experimental acquaintance with those truths which we deliver, Quod procedit e corde
* 1 Cor. i. 17; ii. 1, 4. 1 Thess. ii. 4. + 1Pet. iv. 11.
Non quærit æger medicum eloquentem, sed sanantem. Quid mihi lusoria ista proponis ? Non est jocandi locus, ad miseros vocatus es, opem te laturum naufragis, captis, ægris, intentæ securi subjectum præstantibus caput, quo diverteris? Quid agis? Cujuscunque orationem vides politam et solici tam, scito animum in pusillis occupatum. Seneca, Epist. vi.
|| 1 Tim. vi. 3, 20. 2 Tim. i. 13. Tit. ii. 7.
redit in cor. It is a hard matter to affect others with what we are not first affected with ourselves t. It is said of John the Baptist, that he was a burning and shining light. Ardere prius est, lucere posterius; ardor mentis est, lux doctrine. This is to speak in the evidence and demonstration of the Spirit and power. There is a common relation to this purpose of several learned men, who, having a great while, with much argument and strength of reason, contended with one another about persuading him to be baptized, he, being learned also, could still evade all their arguments: at length, a grave pious man amongst them, of no note for learning, stands up, and bespeaks him with some downright affectionate expressions, which wrought so effectually upon the other, that he presently submitted; yielding this reason, Dum audiebam rationes humanas, humanis rationibus repugnabam; cæterum simul atqae audivi spiritum loquentem, cessi spiritui; and it is reported of Junius, before his conversion, that, meeting once with a countryman as he was on a journey, and falling into discourse with him about various points of religion, he observed the plain fellow to talk so experimentally, with so much heartiness and affection, as made him first begin to think, that sure there was something more in those truths than his notional human learning had yet discovered; which occcasioned his more serious inquiry into them, and afterwards his conversion. Such great power is there in these cordial expressions.
§ 30. As for the manner of composing sermons, it will not be convenient for one that is a constant preacher to pen all his discourses, or tie himself to phrases. When we have the matter and notion, or subject and method well digested, the expressions of it will easily follow; 'whereas, to be confined to particular words, besides the great oppression of the memory will likewise much prejudice the operations of the understanding and affections. The judgment will be much weakened, and the affections become dull, when the memory is over much burdened. A man cannot ordinarily be so much affected himself (and consesequently, he cannot so easily affect others) with what he
+ Præcipuum ad persuadendum est amare quod suades. Amanti pectus ipsum suggerit orationis ardorem.
speaks by rote, as when he takes some liberty to prosecute a matter according to his more immediate apprehensions of it. Many particulars may be suggested, that were not before thought of, when he expatiates upon any subject, according to the workings of his own affections and the various alterations that may appear in the auditory; and then, besides, this liberty will breed, such a fitting confidence, as should be in that orator, who is to have power over the affections of others, of which such an one is scarce capable, who shall so servilely tie himself to particular words and expressions, from which he dares not vary, for fear of being out.
But a man cannot expect a good habit of preaching thus, without much study and experience. Young beginners should use themselves to a more exact and elaborate way; when a good style and expression is first learned by penning, it will afterwards be more easily retained in discoursing.
$31. In the elocution, there are two extremes to be avoided; - too much boldness, and too much fear.
1. Against too much rashness and boldness, consider the special presence of God and angels, the solemn dignity of those sacred mysteries with which we are intrusted, the weighty business of saving souls; and "who can be sufficient for these things?" It was an usual saying of Luther, Etsi jam senex, et in concionando exercitus sum, tamen timeo quoties suggestum conscendo; and he found by experience, that when he was most distrustful of his own preparations, then were his labours accompanied with some special blessing and efficacy; and, on the other hand, when he was most confident, then he failed most.
2. Against too much fear, consider, that it does not become the business we are about; we should speak the word with boldness; God has promised his assistance, that his strength shall appear in our weakness. It does not become the dignity or excellency of our calling; we are the angels, the ambassadors of God (SUNERGOI) his fellow-workers; and besides, this timorousness in the speaker will much hinder the efficacy and power of the word on the
*For further direction in the composition of Sermons, see Disc. vii. of this volume.