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5. And, finally, they are yet to be fulfilled in the last and great deliverance at Jesus Christ's second coming.
In like manner discuss these words of Isaiah, quoted by St. Paul; Behold me and the children whom the Lord hath given me. Heb. ii. 13. The first degree of the accomplishment of these words was in Isaiah and his children; the second, in Jesus Christ and his disciples at the first preaching of the Gospel; and the third, in Jesus and bis followers at the last day, when he shall present us to his Father to be glorified.
The same may be said of Ezekiel's vision of the bones which rose from the dead, for it has three degrees of accomplishment: 1. In the deliverance of the Jews from their Babylonian captivity. 2. In the deliverance of the church by the ministry of the Gospel. 3. In the last resurrection. There are many passages of Scripture which must be explained in this manner.
In regard to those propositions which seem inconsider. able when taken in a general sense, but which are very important in a particular explication, they may be exemplified by these two passages.
Psal. xxxvii. 3. Inhabit the land. At first sight, it seems as if there was nothing in these words; nevertheless, a particular explanation will discover many excellent truths in them.
So again, Prov. xv. 3. The eyes of the Lord are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. In the general notion of this proposition, which only regards the omniscience of God, there does not seem to be any thing extremely important: but if you descend, as you ought, to particulars, you will perceive,
i. A providential knowledge regulating and determining all events, and directing them to their ends.
2. A knowledge of approbation in regard to the good and of condemnation in regard to the wicked.
3. A knowledge of protection and recompence on the one side, and of chastisement and punishment on the other. So that this passage contains the whole doctrine of Providence--the punishments of the wicked, and the benedictions which accompany the just.
C H A P. VI.
OF TEXTS TO BE DISCUSSED BY WAY OF OBSERVATION.
SOME texts require a discussion by way of consideration, or observation. The following hints may serve for a general direction.
1. When texts are clear of themselves, and the matter well known to the hearers, it would be trifling to amuse the people with explication. Such texts must be taken as they are, that is, clear, plain, and evident, and only observations should be made on them.
2. Most historical texts must be discussed in this way; for, in a way of explication, there would be very little to say. For example, what is there to explain in this passage? Then Jesus, six days before the passover, came to Be. thany, where Lazarus was, which had been dead, whom he raised from the dead. There they made him a supper, and Martha served: but Lazarus was one of them that sat at table with him. John xii. Would it not be a loss of time and labour to attempt to explain these words? and are they not clearer than any comments can make them? The way of observation, then, must be taken.
3. There are some texts which require both explication and observation, as when some parts may need explaining For example, Acts i. 10. And while they looked stedfastly toward heaven, as he went up, behold two men stood by them in white apparel. Here it will be necessary to explain in a few words the cause of their looking stedfastly toward heaven; for by lifting their eyes after their divine Master, they expressed the inward emotions of their minds. It will be needful also to explain this other expression, As he went up; and to observe, that it must be taken in its plain popular sense; and that it signi. fies not merely the removal of his visible presence, while he remained invisibly upon earth, but the absolute absence of his humanity. This is the natural sense of the words; and the observation is necessary to guard us against that sense which the church of Rome imposes on them for the sake of transubstantiation. You may also briefly explain this other expression, Behold! two men; and shew that they were angels in human shapes. Here you may discuss the question of angelical appearances under human forms. Notwithstanding these brief explications, this is a text that must be discussed by way of observation.
Observę, in general, when explication and observation meet in one text, you must always explain the part that needs explaining, before you make any observations; for observations must not be made till you have established the sense plain and clear.
4. Sometimes an observation may be made by way of explication, as when you would infer something important from the meaning of an original term in the text. For example; Acts ii. 1. And when the day of Pentecost was fully come, they were all with one accord in one place.
li will be proper here to explain and enforce the Greek word ówolonador, which is translated with one accord; for it signifies, that they had the same hope, the same opinions, the same judgment; and thus their unanimity is distinguished from an exterior and negative agreement which consists in a mere profession of having no different sentiments, and in not falling out; but this may proceed from negligence, ignorance, or fear of a tyrannical authority. The uniformity of which the church of Rome boasts, is of this kind; for, if they have no disputes and quarrels among them on religious matters (which; however, is not granted), it is owing to the stupidity and ignorance in which the people are kept, or to that indifference and negligence which the greatest part of that community discover towards religion, concerning which they seldom trouble themselves; or to the fear of that tyrannical domination of their prelates, with which the constitution of their church arms them. Now, consider such an uniformity how you will, it will appear a false peace. If ignorance or negligence produce it, it resembles the quiet of dead carcasses in a burying-ground, or the profound silence of night when all are asleep; and if it be owing to fear, it is the stillness of a galley-slave under the strokes of his officer, a mere shadow of acquiescence produced by timidity, and unworthy of the name of unanimity. The disciples of Jesus Christ were not uniform in this sense: but their unanimity was inward and positive; they were of one heart, and one soul. This explication, you perceive, is itself a very just observation;
and there are very many passages of scripture which may be treated of in the same manner.
5. Observations, for the most part, ought to be theological; that is to say, they should belong to a system of religion. Sometimes, indeed, we may make use of observations historical, philosophical, and critical; but these should be used sparingly and seldom, on necessary occasions, and when they cannot well be avoided; and even then they ought to be pertinent, and not common, that they may be heard with satisfaction. Make it a law to be generally very brief on observations of these kinds, and to inform your audience that you only make them enpassant.
There are, I allow, some cases, in which observations remote from theology are necessary to the elucidating of a text. · When these happen, make your observations professedly, and explain and prove them. But, I repeat it again, in general, observations should be purely theological; either speculative, which regard the mysteries of Christianity; or practical, which regard morality: for the pulpit was erected to instruct the minds of men in religious subjects, and not to gratify curiosity; to inname the heart, and not to find play for imagination.
6. Observations should not be proposed in scholastic style, nor in common-place guise. They should be seasoned with a sweet urbanity, accommodated to the capacities of the people, and adapted to the mangers of good men. One of the best expedients for this purpose is a reduction of obscure matters to a natural, popular, modern air. You can never attain this ability, unless you acquire a habit of conceiving clearly of subjects yourself,a and of expressing them in a free, familiar, easy manner, remote from every thing forced and far-fetched. All long trains of arguments, all embarrassments of divisions and subdivisions, all metaphysical investigations, which are mostly impertinent, and, like the fields, the cities, and
Acquire a habit of conceiving clearly of subjects. “1. Conceive of things clearly and distinctly in their own nature. 2. Conceive of things completely in all their parts. 3. Conceive of things comprehensively in all their properties and relations. 4. Conceive of things extensively in ail their kinds. 5. Conceive of things orderly, or in a proper method.” Dr. Watt’s Logic, chap. vi.
the houses, u hich we imagine in the clouds, the mere creatures of fancy, all these should be avoided.
7. Care, however, must be taken to avoid the opposite extreme, which consists in making only poor, dry, spiritless observations, frequently said under pretence of avoiding school-divinity, and of speaking only popular things. Endeavour to think clearly, and try also to think nobly. Let your observations be replete with beauty, as well as propriety, the fruits of a fine fancy under the direction of a sober judgment. If you be inattentive to this article, you will pass for a contemptible declaimer, of mean and shallow capacity, exhausting yourself and not edifying your hearers; a very ridiculous character!
Toopen more particularly some sources of observations, remark every thing that may help you to think and fa. cilitate invention. You may rise from species to genus, or descend from genus to species. You may remark the different characters of a virtue commanded, or of a vice prohibited. You may enquire whether the subject in question be relative to any other, or whether it do not suppose something not expressed. You may reflect on the person speaking or acting, or on the condition of the person speaking or acting. You may observe time, place, persons addressed, and see whether there be any useful considerations arising from either. You may consider the principles of a word or action, or the good or bad consequences that follow. You may attend to the end proposed in a speech or action, and see if there be any thing remarkable in the manner of speaking or acting. You may compare words or actions with others similar, and remark the differences of words and actions on different occasions. You may oppose words and actions to contrary words and actions, either by contrasting speakers or hearers. You may examine the foundations and causes of words, or actions, in order to develope the truth or falsehood, equity or iniquity of them. You may sometimes make suppositions, refute objections, and distinguish characters of grandeur, majesty, meanness, infirmity, necessity, utility, evidence, and so on. You may advert to degrees of more or less, and to different interests. You may distinguish, define, divide, and, in a word, by turn