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BY JONATHAN EDMONDSON, A. M.
BY REV. J. P. DURBIN, D.D.
LATE PRESIDENT OP DICKINSON COLLEGE, CARLISLE, PA.
Never study to say all that can be said upon a subject; no error is greater than this.
Select the 'most useful, the most striking and persuasive topics which the text
SIXTH AMERICAN, FROM THE FIFTH LONDON EDITION.
BX 8333 •E46 55 1857
Entered, according to Act of Congress, in the year of our Lord 1845, by
SORIN & BALL, in the Clerk's Office of the District Court in and for the Eastern District
Ar the birth of our Saviour, the forms of the Jewish worship were established, and had become familiar to the people by their weekly observance in the Synagogues. Among the regular services was the reading of one lesson out of the Law, and one out of the Prophets, and these, or passages in them, often became the topic of remark, or the basis of an exhortation to the people, by some respectable member of the congregation, or some reputable stranger, who might chance to be present. From a passage in the 4th chapter of Luke, it would appear that our Lord Jesus often availed himself of this custom to unfold the Scriptures to his countrymen, and thereby to draw their attention from the subtle and corrupted interpretations of their Rabbis, to the plain and practical promises and teachings of their Prophets. The objects of his discourses were, to bring back his countrymen to a right interpretation of their Sacred books; to reform their worship and manners; and to fix their attention on himself as the Messiah. His style was as varied as the topics and the occasions. When he unfolded the prophecies and showed their application; or taught a pure morality of which his hearers had not dreamed, “all bare him witness, and wondered at the gracious words that proceeded out of his mouth :" When he denounced the corrupt teachings, and the more corrupt manners of his countrymen, the multitude exclaimed, “he teacheth as one having authority, and not as the Scribes.” When he spake of the destruction of the holy city, and the terrible dispersion of his nation, it was in strains of the most touching sorrow. Such was the preaching of our Lord Jesus Christ.
After his ascension to heaven the Apostles entered upon the execution of the great commission given them in these words,—“Go ye into all the world and preach my Gospel to every creature.” The topic of their preaching was the story of the birth, miracles, sufferings, death, resurrection and ascension of our Lord, and their object was to show that these fulfilled the conditions of the prophecies concerning the Messiah, and therefore that Jesus was the Christ. The experience which accompanied this new faith was often the subject of public confession, as in Paul's address before king Agrippa, and also of familiar conversation in the society of the disciples, as with the Elders at Miletus. Such
themes and occasions mark the Apostolic preaching. It had but little of the character of modern preaching; such as fixed times, selected texts, distributed topics, and previous preparation. All that we know of it is contained in the Acts of the Apostles.
In the second century public preaching bore nearly the same relation to the Christian worship, that it had done to the Jewish in the time of Christ. It consisted of familiar remarks in the midst of the church, upon the Lesson read, or upon some event in the life of Christ. And these remarks were not unfrequently made by a layman. The progress of society, for the sake of order, assigned the public instruction exclusively to those who were set apart by ordination to the peculiar work of the ministry; and consequently public preaching became topical, and adapted itself to the state of the church, both with respect to experience and doctrine. Frequently it was hortatory, intended to sustain the patience of the people under affliction and persecution: sometimes it was instructive, illustrating some one of the few doctrines contained in the Apostles' creed. Probably the preacher sat in the midst of his brethren, named no particular text, and made his exhortation, or exposition, without eloquence or order. These social discourses were called Ouidia, or plain and familiar conversations; which is the simple meaning of Homily, i. e., a short plain sermon.
The extension of Christianity brought it into contact with the philosophical systems of the Greeks and Orientals, and thus many new topics in morals and theology were raised, and became the subject of keen discussion. This state of the church required more varied talent and learning, and public preaching assumed a higher and more commanding position. It became speculative and controversial, artificial and rhetorical, and the simplicity and fervour of the first and second centuries entirely passed away. This is the period of the Fathers.
Upon the establishment of Christianity as the religion of the empire, and its almost universal corruption, public preaching well nigh ceased, and religion consisted in certain mysteries in the hands of the priesthood. The period of the cessation of public preaching in the church, as a part of public worship, has, with propriety, been called the dark ages.
For nearly a thousand years, from the 6th to the 16th century, there was no public preaching profitable to the people. The topics were ridiculously trivial, such as—Was Abel slain with a club? Of what sort of wood was it? Of what sort of wood was Moses' rod? Was the gold which the Magi offered to Christ coined, or in mass? The origin and history of the thirty pieces of silver which Jesus received, &c. The conflict between the Imperial and Papal powers, and the increasing