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press his own vileness, God accounts no honours too great for him
“He owns him as a pleasant child; expresses his compassionate regard for him, promises to manifest his mercy towards him, and grants him all that he himself can pos. sibly desire"
Divest the tenth Skeleton also of its divisions, and it will be equally clear.
By the world' we are to understand pleasure, riches, and honour
“ This, if considered in itself, is vile; if, as estimated by the best judges, worthless
“ The soul, on the contrary, if considered in itself, is noble; and if, as estimated by the best judges, invaluable
“ Such being the disparity between the value of the world, and that of the soul, we cannot but see what must be the result of a comparison between them
“ We suppose, for argument sake, that a man may possess the whole world, and that after having possessed it for awhile, he loses his own soul: what in the issue would he be profited ?
“ Whether we enter generally or particularly into this subject, the result will be still the same.”
These two Skeletons are selected in order to exemplify this idea, Ist, In a subject where the whole matter is contained in the text; and, 2dły, In a subject where nothing but the general idea is suggested: and if the reader will give himself the trouble to examine, he will find that every one of the other Skeletons may, with equal ease, be drawn out in the same manner. This is a point of considerable importance: for if the mind were necessarily cramped and fettered by this method of composition, it would be inexpedient to adopt it. But it is manifest that it leaves the mind at most perfect liberty: and while many advantages arise from it, there is no room at all for the principal objection, which might at first sight appear to le against it. But though these observations are made to shew that discourses might be formed from the Skele. tons as easily without divisions as with them, it is not to be thought that the mention of the divisions is a matter of indifference: the minds of the generality are not capable of tracing the connexion and coherence of a discourse : VOL. I.
The manner in which they
their attention will fag; they will lose much of what they hear; and have no clue whereby to recover it: whereas the mention of an easy and natural division will relieve their minds, assist their memories, and enable them to “ mark, learn, and inwardly digest” the word.
If any student, who has a view to the minis. should be used. try, should choose to employ a part of his sabbath in perusing any of these compositions, he would do well first to get a clear view of the great outlines of the discourse, and then to consider, under each part, what is contained in the brackets; consulting, as he proceeds, the passages of Scripture that are quoted. After this, if he will write over the whole, interweaving those passages, or such parts of them as refer immediately, to the sub ject, adding only a few words here and there to connect the whole, he will find that every Skeleton will make a discourse, which, if read distinctly, 'will occupy the space of nearly half an hour. In this way he may attain, with. out any great difficulty, a considerable knowledge of the Scriptures, together with a habit of thinking clearly and connectedly on the principal doctrines contained in them. If any one, who has entered upon the 'sacred office, should think them worthy of his attention, a different method of using them should be adopted. He, having finished his academical studies, has his time more at his own command; he should therefore make himself perfect master of the Skeleton before him, and then write in his own language, and according to his own conceptions, his views of the subject : and be will find that: “ verba provisam rem non invita' sequentur.” It is proper however to observe, that those parts, which have only one mark after them, need very little enlargement; whereas those which have three marks -- should be more fully opened.
But there is one caution which requires peusing them.
culiar attention. In the Skeletons many passages of the holy Scriptures are quoted, partly for the conviction of the reader's own mind, and partly to furnish hini with the proper materials for confirming his word. These passages, if they were all formally quoted, would make the sermon a mere rhapsody, a string of tests, that could not fail to weary and disgust the audi
A caution to be attended to in
ence. But if they be glanced at, if the proper parts only be
But the author begs leave to observe, that the very plan of suggesting the whole substance of a sermon in two pages, of shewing in so small a space how to introduce, divide, discuss, and apply every subject, and of referring to the most important passages of Scripture that can refiect light upon it, necessarily precludes all the ornaments of language, and induces somewhat perhaps of obscurity. But if there be found some reason for that complaint, " brevis esse laboro, obseurus fio,” it is hoped the candid reader will consider it as a fault incident to the plan itself; and if he meet with any expression which appears 200 unqualified, he is requested to remember, that a thousand qualifying clauses might be introduced into a fall discourse, which could not possibly find place in such compositions as these: if he would regard these in their proper view, he must consider them only as rough mate
prepared to his hand, that out of them he may con
struct an edifice, modelled and adorned according to his
There is another objection indeed, which has been mentioned to the Author by some of his most judicious friends. It is feared that these Skeletons, especially if their number be increased, may administer to sloth and idleness. But he apprehends they are so constructed, that they cannot possibly be used at all, unless a considerable degree of thought be bestowed upon them. Nor does he think that any person, who has ever found the pleasure of addressing his congregation in his own words, will be satisfied with reciting the compositions of another. On the other hand, if some who would otherwise have preached the sermons of others, be drawn gradually to compose their own, and if others, who have been rude and incoherent, be assisted in the exercise of their judgment, it will tend to wipe off disgrace from the established Church, and eventually, it is hoped, to benefit the souls of many.
It is not possible to say what is the best mode of preaching for every individual, because the talents of men are so various, and the extent of their knowledge so different. It seems at all events expedient that a young minister should for some years pen his sermons, in order that he may attain a proper mode of expressing his thoughts, and accustom himself to the obtaining of clear, comprehensive, and judicious views of his subject: but that he should always continue to write every word of his discourses seems by no means necessary. Not that it is at any time expedient for him to deliver an unpremeditated harangue: this would be very unsuitable to the holy and important office which he stands up to discharge. But there is a medium between such extemporaneous effusions and a servile adherence to what is written : there is a method recommended by the highest authori. ties, which, after we have written many hundred sermons, it may not be improper to adopt: the method referred to is, to draw out a full plan or skeleton of the discourse, with the texts of Scripture which are proper to illustrate or enforce the several parts, and then to express the thoughts in such language as may occur at the time. This plan, if it have some disadvantage in point of accuracy or elegance, has, on the other hand, great advantages over a written sermon: it gives a Minister an opportunity of speaking with far more effect to the hearts of men, and of addressing himself to their passions, as well by his looks and gesture, as by his words.
Archbishop Secker, in his last charge, after observing, in reference to the matter of our sermons, “We have, in fact, lost many of our people to sectaries by not preaching in a manner sufficiently evangelical,” (p. 299.) adds, in reference to the manner of our preaching, “ There is a middle way, used by our predecessors, of setting down, in short notes, the method and principal heads, and enlarging on them in such words as present themselves at the time: perhaps, duly managed, this is the best.” (p. 315.) He then proceeds to express his disapprobation of what is called Mavdating of Sermons, or repeating them from memory. This custom obtains much among foreign Divines, and throughout the whole Church of Scotland; and in the Statute Book of our University there is an order from King Charles II. that this should be practised by all the Clergy, as well when preaching before the University and at Court, as before any common audience. This shews at least, that if a Minister had thoroughly studied his discourse, it was deemed no ob
• i.e. Between written discourses, and unpremeditated addresses.
FMr. Vice-Chancellor and Gentlemen, - Whereas his Majesty is informed, that the practice of reading Sermons is generally taken up by the Preachers before the University, and therefore continued even before himself, his Majesty hath commanded me to signify to you his pleasure that the said practice, which took beginning with the disorders of the late times, be wholly laid aside, and that the aforesaid Preachers deliver their Sermons, both in Latin and English, by memory or without book, as being a way of preaching which his Majesty judgeth most agreeable to the use of all foreign Churches, to the custom of the University heretofore, and the nature and intendment of that holy excrcise.
" And that his Majesty's commands in the premises may be duly regarded and observed, his farther pleasure is, that the names of all such ecclesiastical persons, as shall continue the present supine and slothful way of preaching, be from time to time signified unto me by the Vice-Chancellor for the time being, upon pain of his Majesty's displeasure.
MONMOUTH. * October 8th, 1674." (Page Soo of the Statute Book.)