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But all these motives, however great and powerful, are nothing in comparison of those, which the Gospel does not borrow from the light of reason, but takes from its own source; I mean such as come from supernatural revelation. These motives are almost all comprehended in Jesus Christ, and in the mysteries of his economy, and they are such as must affect every soul, which is not, I do not say hard and insensible, but entirely dead in sin, or possessed by the devil; for, in one word, that God, after all our rebellions, and all our crimes, should yet be reconciled to us,-that he should give his Son,—that he should give him to be flesh and blood like us,—that he should give him to be our head, our brother, and our example, that he should give him to die for us, to die the most bloody, the most ignominious, and the most cruel death that could be conceived, is not this love and mercy worthy of eternal praise? And what horrible ingratitude must it be, if, after all this, we should be yet capable of wilfully sinning against a God so good, and of counting the blood of such a covenant an unholy thing?
After this, some moral consequences may be drawn from the truth you have proved; as, First, that Christi. anity is dishonoured when the outward profession of it is attended with a bad life; for it proves how little efficacy religion has had upon us, and it gives occasion to the profane to insult the Christian religion, and to impute to it the vices of its professors. Our conversations, says Ter. tullian, blush, when compared with our sentiments. St. Paul speaks strongerstill, The nameof God, sayshe, isblasphemed among the Gentiles through you. 2. You may also shew how they deceive themselves, who, without sanctification and good works, imagine themselves Christians. They arebyno means Christians; they scandalously bear a name which they have rashly usurped, but whichindeed does not belong to them; they are bastards, and not sons, or rather they are born of flesh and blood, but not of God: but true Christians, according to St. John, are born of God, and not of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man. 3. The vainest of all hopes is to imagine that we may be saved by the bare profession of Christianity, without any regard to good works. I own, the Christian religion gives life; but it is only to those who are sanctified. You shall live,
says the Apostle; but on what condition? if ye mortify the deeds of the body. The bare outward profession, far from saving men, will only aggravate their condemnation, according to this inviolable maxim of Jesus Christ; That servant, which knew his Lord's will, and prepared not him. self, neither did according to his will, shall be beaten with many stripes. In another place, describing the form of the last judgment, he says, Many will come to him in that day, saying, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name, and in thy name have cast out devils, and in thy name have done manywonderful works? But he will profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from me, ye that work iniquity. Depart into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels. Finally, you may
Finally, you may add reproofs and exhortations.
It must not be thought that these four ways of discussing texts are so heterogeneous that they can never be mixed together; on the contrary, there are a great many texts in which it will be necessary to make use of two, or three, and sometimes even of all the four ways. When a text is explained, it will be very often needful to make some observations also, and the matter will require as long an application. Sometimes, to explain a text well, the matter must be reduced into many propositions, as we have observed on these words, It is God that worketh in you to will and to do of his good pleasure. In like manner, when the method of observation is used, it very often happens that some part of the text needs explaining, and so of the rest. These four ways must be distinguished, for two reasons: 1st. Because these are very different from one another; to explain, to make observations, to apply, and to reduce to propositions, are four very different ways of treating texts. A composer, then, must not confound them together; but he must observe the difference well
, that he may use them properly. 2d. Because it is customary to give the discussion of a text the name of the prevailing manner of handling it. We call that the way of explication, in which there is more explication than observation. We not only call that the way of observation which has only observations, but that in which there is more observation than explication, or application; and
so of the rest.
OF THE EXORDIUM.
THE Exordium is that part, in which the minds of the hearers are prepared, and a natural and easy way opened to the discussion.
But, first, a question presents itself (on which opinions are much divided,) Whether exordiums be necessary? or even whether they be not in all cases quite useless, and in some hurtful? Whether it would not be better entirely to omit them, to begin immediately with the connexion of the text with the preceding verses, pass to the division, and so enter on the discussion? There are many of this opinion, and their reasons are, Ist. That there appears too much artifice in an exordium, which is more likely to dissipate, than to conciliate, the attention of your hearers. “It is evident (say they) to the auditors, that you design to come insensibly, and by a kind of artful manæuvre, to your matter, and to lead your hearers almost imperceptibly to it; but this seems a finesse altogether unworthy of the Gospel, and contrary to that sincerity, ingenuousness, gravity, and simplicity, which should reign in the pulpit. Indeed, when a wise hearer perceives you design to deceive him, he conceives a strong prejudice against you, and that prejudice will certainly be hurtful in the following part of the discourse.”
They add, in the second place, that “exordiums are extremely difficult to compose, and justly styled the crosses of preachers. Should some small advantage be gained by exordiums, it would not be of consequence enough to induce us to compose them. In so doing we should waste a part of our time and strength, which might be much more usefully employed.”
They say, thirdly, that “the principal end proposed in an exordium is, either to conciliate the hearer's affection, or to excite his attention, or to prepare the way to the matters to be treated of: but all these are to be sup. posed As to their affection, pastors, who preach to their own flocks, ought not to doubt that. We speak to Christians, to persons who consider us as the ministers of Jesus Christ, whom, consequently, they respect and love. As to attention, it ought also to be supposed; not only because pulpit-subjects are divine and salutary to men, but also because such only come to public worship as desire to hear the word of God attentively; and, indeed, if the auditors have not that disposition of themselves, an exordium cannot give it them. Such a disposition is an effect of a man's faith and piety; and it is not to be thought, that an exordium of eight or ten periods can convert the worldly and profane, or give faith and piety to those who have them not. As to what regards the introducing of the matter to be treated of, the bare reading of the text sufficiently does that; for, according to the common way of preaching the text contains the subject to be discussed.";
Finally, they add, “delivering an exordium is only mispending time, uselessly dissipating a part of the hearers' attention, so that afterwards they frequently sleep very quietly when you enter on the discussion. Would it not be better, then, immediately to engage them in the matter, so that their attachment may afterward serve to maintain their attention, according to the natural inclination which all men have to finish what they have once begun?"
But none of these reasons are weighty enough to persuade us to reject exordiums, or to be careless about them. As to the first; The art which appears in an exordium, so far from being odious in itself, and seeming unnatural to the hearers, is, on the contrary, altogether natural. It is disagreeable to enter abruptly into theological matters without any preparation. It would not be necessary were our minds all exercised about divine things: but as, alas! we are in general too litue versed in such exercises, it is good to be conducted to them without violence, and to have emotions excited in us in a soft and insensible manner. It is not finesse and deceit, since in doing it we only accommodate ourselves to the weakness of man's mind, and, indeed, it is what he himself desires. Moreover, it is to be observed, that hearers are now so habituated to an exordium, that if they heard a preacher enter abruptly into his matter, they would be extremely disgusted, and would imagine the man was aiming to do with them what the angel did with Habak
kuk, when he took him by the hair of bis head, and transported him in an instant from Judea to Babylon. Some time, then, ought to be employed gently to lead the mind of the hearer to the subjects of which you are going to treat. You are not to suppose that he already understands them, nor that he is thinking on what you have been meditating, nor that he can apply it instantly without preparation.
The second reason may have some weight with weak and lazy preachers; but it has none with wise and dili. gent students: and, after all, exordiums are not so difficult as to be impracticable: a little pains-taking is sufficient, as we every day experience.
The third is not more considerable. I grant, preachers ought to suppose the love and affection of their hearers; yet it does not follow, that they ought not to excite it, when they preach to them. Perhaps their affection is not always in exercise; it may be sometimes suspended and even opposed by contrary sentiments, by coolness and indifference, by hatred or envy, arising from the defects of the pastor (for, however able, he is not perfect,) or from the depravity of the hearers. The same may be said of attention, although they ought to have it entirely for the divine truths which the preacher speaks; yet, it is certain, they have it not: and all that a preacher can desire is, that his hearers have a general disposition to hear the Gospel. The preacher must endeavour to give them a peculiar attention to such matters as he has to discuss. As to the rest, it must not be thought that the bare reading of the text, or the connexion, or the divi. sion only, can produce that effect; a greater compass must be taken, to move the human mind, and apply the subject. And this also may be said of preparation, for which an exordium is principally designed. The reading of the text may do something; connexion and division may contribute more; but all this, without an exordium, will be useless.
Nor is it difficult to answer the fourth reason; for beside the advantages of an exordium, which are great enough to prevent our calling it lost time, its parts are ordinarily so short, that they cannot justly be accused of dissipating or fatiguing the hearers' minds. To which I