Oldalképek
PDF
ePub

of Jesus Christ ; but he says, The grace of God hath , appeared to all men, teaching us to deny ungodliness and worldly lusts, to live soberly, righteously, and godly, in this present world; and so to be looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of the great God, and our Saviour Jesus Christ. Grace indeed ends in glory; but it can only do so by the intervention of holiness.

You may also allege, to the same purpose, the end of Jesus Christ's coming into the world, which was not only to destroy sin as it subjected us to eternal punishment, but as sin. You may finally shew how much it is for the glory of the Father and of Jesus Christ, and for the reality and plenitude of salvation, that the disciples of Jesus should be sanctified.

2. Affliction. Two things here must be discussed:1. The truth of the fact, that true believers are exposed to afflictions in this world. 2. The reasons why the Divine Wisdom subjects believers to these trials.

1. The truth of the fact results, 1. From the examples of all the great servants of God who have appeared in the world to this day; as Noah, Abraham, Lot, Moses, St. Paul, and all the other apostles of Jesus Christ. 2. From the whole history of the church, which was always nourished and increased in afflictions. This may be illustrated by the burning bush, which appeared to Moses; or by the ship, into which Jesus and his apostles went, tossed with waves, and exposed to the violence of winds and storms.

2. The reasons for this dispensation of Divine Providence may be taken from a common place of afflictions; as, By means of afflictions God restrains our impetuous passions, exercises our virtues, detaches us from the world, elevates us to the hope of a better life, and displays the glory of that admirable Providence which governs us. Afflictions also are particular honours, which God confers on us, by them enabling us to walk in the steps of Jesus Christ, and conforming us by them to our divine leader. For these reasons, and many more of the same kind, we may fairly conclude, that with profound wisdom Jesus Christ has called us to affliction, and joined the cross to the profession of true Christianity."

• This is somewhat abridged, for the same reason as the foregoing.

į

We have before observed, * that, beside simple terms, and singular expressions peculiar to Scripture, there are also sometimes in texts, particles, that are called syncategorematica, which serve either for the augmentation or limitation of the meaning of the proposition: As the word so in John iii. 16. “God so loved the world.” The word now in the virth of Romans; “ There is therefore now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus:"_ and in many more passages of the same kind.

Whenever you meet with these terms, carefully examine them; for sometimes the greatest part, and very often the whole of the explication depends upon them, as we have already remarked on that passage just now mentioned, God so loved the world: for the chief article in the doctrine of the love of God is its greatness, expressed by the word so.

It is the same with that other term now, There is, therefore, now no condemnation to them which are in Christ Jesus; for the word now shews, that it is a conclu. sion drawn from the doctrine of justification, which the apostle had taught in the preceding chapters; and it is as if he had said, From the principles which I have established, it follows, that there is now no condemnation, &c. Having then explained, 1. What it is to be in Christ Jesus; 2. What it is to be no more subject to condemnation; chiefly insist, in the third place, on the word now; and shew that it is a doctrine which necessarily follows from what St. Paul had established touching justification, in the foregoing chapters: so that this term makes a real part of the explication, and indeed the most important part.°

Sometimes these terms in question are not of conse. quence enough to be much dwelt on, but may be more properly passed with a slight remark. The word Behold, with which many propositions in Scripture begin, must be treated so; you must not make one part of this, nor insist on it too long. The same may be said of that familiar expression, of Jesus Christ, Verily, verily, which is an asseveration, or, if you will, an oath: but neither on this must you insist inuch. So again, Amen, or so be it, which closes some texts. Woe be to you, which Jesus Christ often

See ante, page 47. • See this exemplified in Skel. 45. where the discussion turns entirely upon the word “ henceforth.” See also Skel. 69. where the word " Amen” serves as the foundation of the whole discoursc.

repeats in the Gospel, with many more of the same kind. I know no certain rule to distinguish when they are important; but it must be left to the preacher's taste, and a little attention will make the necessary discernment very easy.

When the matter to be explained in a text consists of a proposition, you must, 1. Give the sense clearly and neatly, taking care to develope it of all sorts of ambiguity.

2. If it be requisite, shew how important in religion it is to be acquainted with the truth in hand; and for this purpose open its connexion with other important truths, and its dependence on them; the inconveniencies that arise from negligence; the advantageous succours which piety derives thence; with other things of the same nature.

3. Having placed it in a clear light, and shewn its importance, if it require confirmation, confirm it. In all cases endeavour to illustrate, either by reasons or examples, or comparisons of the subjects with each other, or by remarking their relation to each other, or by shewing their comformities or differences, all with a view to illustrate the matter that you are discussing. You, may also illustrate a proposition by its consequences, by shewing how many im. portant inferences are included in it, and flow from it.

You may beautify a proposition by its evidence, by shewing that the truth, of which you speak, is discoverable by the light of nature; or by its inevidence, observing that it is not discoverable by the light of nature, but is a pure doctrine of revelation.

In fine, you may illustrate by the person, who proposes the subject; by the state in which he was when he proposed it; by the persons to whom it is proposed; by circumstances of time and place, &c. All these may give great openings; but they must be judiciously and discreetly used; for to attempt to make an assemblage of all these in the discussion of one proposition, would be trifling, endless, and pedantic.

Sometimes one single proposition includes many truths, which it will be necessary to distinguish: but, in doing this, take care that each truth, on which you intend to insist, be of some importance in religion, not too common, nor too much known. This your own good sense must discern.

Sometimes one proposition must be discussed in the different views in which it may be taken; and in this case you must remark those different relations.

Sometimes the doctrine contained in the proposition has different degrees, which it will also be necessary to remark.

Sometimes the proposition is general, and this generality seems to make it of little importance. In this case you must examine, whether some of its parts be not more considerable: if they be, you will be obliged to discuss these parts by a particular application. But I will give you examples of each.

First, To give the sense of a proposition neat and clear, and afterwards to confirm and illustrate it, let us take Eph. i. 18. The eyes of your understanding being enlightened, may ye know what is the hope of his calling and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.

This text must be divided into two parts. The first is the apostle's prayer, May God enlighten the eyes of your understanding! The second is the end of this illumination, that ye may know what is the hope of his calling, and what the riches of the glory of his inheritance in the saints.

1. The apostle's wish or prayer contains a proposition, which is, that it is God who enlightens the eyes of our understanding. To give clearly the sense, you must first observe, in a few words, that Scripture frequently borrows the names and images of the faculties of the body to represent those of the soul; therefore it gives us feet to walk in the way of righteousness, hands to work out our salvation, knees to bow at the name of Jesus, ears to hear the sacred truths of the Gospel, a mouth to eat the Alesh and drink the blood of Jesus Christ, and eyes to see the mysteries of his kingdom. All this is founded not only on the natural conformity, or resemblance, which there is between the operations of the soul and the organs of the body, but also on the Scripture-manner of calling the whole of our regeneration and conversion a new man. Here, then, eyes of the understanding is an expression agreeable to the ordinary style of Scripture, and signifies simply our understanding, the faculty by which we know and judge objects.

2. But, beside this, you must remark, that our eyes have two very different uses. One consists only in viewing objects indifferently, for no other purpose than our diversion; as when in a rural walk we look at the starry heavens, or admire extensive plains and flowing rivers: this may be called a simple view of contemplation. The other goes farther, and consists not barely in seeing objects, but in looking at them so as to conduct and regu. late our actions:--so a traveller sees roads in his journey; 80 a man sees his friend, to open his own heart, and ask his friend's advice; so a prisoner sees his deliverer, to ask his freedom: this may be called a view of action or direction. Thus it is with the undersanding: it has two functions; one a simple knowledge of objects, as of physical or metaphysical truths, called in the schools, specu. lative knowledge: the other, a knowledge of objects, in order to act by them, and to use them for a rule and a guide; as when we know the nature of virtue, and the precepts of morality, the rules of arts, and the maxims of jurisprudence: this is what the schools call practical knowledge. Now here the understanding is spoken of, not in the former, but latter sense; for the mysteries of the Christian religion are not mysteries of simple contemplation; the Scripture does not propose them for our diversion, nor to gratify our curiosity; but they are mysteries of practice, which we ought to know, in order to act towards them, by embracing them with all the powers of our hearts, by receiving their impression and yielding to their energy; in one word, by making them the rule of our conduct. The apostle's proposition then means, That it is God, who, by the interior light of his spirit, opens the eyes of our understandings, to receive, as we ought, the truths of his word; thereby enabling us to judge of them, to love and follow them, and to make them the rules of our conduct.

The proposition, thus explained, must be proved. This may be done directly, or indirectly; indirectly, by producing divers passages of Scripture, which represent the greatness of natural depravity, and the inability of man to convert himself. Such passages are very numerous, as

« ElőzőTovább »