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no sermon should want) unity and perspicuity throughout. But being very solicitous that nothing should be omitted which could contribute to the perfection and usefulness of that invaluably Essay, he has made the attempt: with what success he leaves to a candid public to determine. He begs the reader, however, to take notice, that the introducing of all the topics into one discourse is a thing by no means to be imitated. It is done here only with an intention to set in a clear light the nature and use of those topics. In fact, a person who would write a judicious discourse, must not only not undertake to bring in every topic, but he must not fetter himself by an endeavour to illustrate any topic. He must consult the nature of the text or subject he is discussing, and must follow whithersoever that may lead him. The mind filled with any subject, will naturally suggest such topics as are most calculated to reflect light upon it: whereas a regard to this or that particular topic will be very likely to render the discourse incoherent and confused.
III. The nature and intent of his own Skeletons.
INSTRUCTION relative to the composition of Sermons is of great importance, not only to ministers, but, eventually, to the community at large. And it were much to be wished that more regard were paid to this in the education of those who are intended for the ministry. It has sometimes been recommended to the younger clergy to transcribe printed sermons for a season, till they shall have attained an ability to compose their own. And it is to be lamented, that this advice has been too strictly followed: for, when they have once formed this habit, they find it very difficult to relinquish it: the transition from copying to composing of sermons is so great, that they are too often discouraged in their first attempts, and induced, from the difficulty they experience in writing their own sermons, to rest satisfied in preaching those of others. Hence has arisen that disgraceful traffic in printed sermons, which instead of meeting with encouragement from the clergy, ought to have excited universal indignation. To remove, as far as possible, these difficulties from young beginners, is the intent of these Skeletons. The directions given in Mr. Claude's Essay on the Composition of a Sermon, which is prefixed to these Skeletons, cannot fail of being helpful to every one who will study them with care: but there appears to be something further wanted; something of an intermediate kind between a didactic Essay like Clande's, and a complete Sermon; something, which may simplify the theory, and set it in a practical light. Mr. Claude himself has interspersed several sketches, with a view to illustrate the different parts of his Essay: but these, though suited to the end which he proposed, are not sufficiently full to subserve the purpose of which we are now speaking.
A scheme, or Skeleton of a discourse, is that species of composition to which we refer. It should be not merely a sketch or outline, but a fuller draft, 'containing all the component parts of a Sermon, and all the ideas necessary for the illustration of them, at the same time that it leaves scope for the exercise of industry and genius in him who uses it. The pious and learned Bishop Beveridge has written four volumes of such Skeletons, under the title of "Thesaurus Theologicus:" and if the Author had intended them for publication, he would probably have so completed his design as to supersede the necessity of any similar work. Even if the Editor had disposed the materials in a more judicious method, they would have appeared to much greater advantage. That so great a Divine should write so many compositions of that kind solely for his own use is a clear demonstration of his judgment with respect to the utility of them in general: and the circumstance of his never intending them for the pub. lic
eye, is sufficient to exculpate any one from the charge of presumption who should attempt an improvement. in the in The following Skeletons are not intended
particularly to exemplify Mr. Claude's rules: the examples, which he himself adduces in confirmation of his directions, are sufficient for his purpose;
* For this use of the wor! “Skeleton," see Johnson's Dictionary. · A Student would find it not unprofitable, in this view, to analyze some judicious Sermons, and to make use of those analyses as the groundwork of his own compositions.
How they were composed.
and the multiplying of other examples would rather have diverted the reader from his subject than aided him in the prosecution of it. There are indeed all the different kinds of discussion contained in the Skeletons. But instead of illustrating particular rules, they are all intended rather to illustrate one general rule; namely, to shew how texts may be treated in a natural manner. The Author has invariably proposed to himself three things as indispensably necessary in every discourse; UNITY in the design, PERSPICUITY in the arrangement, and simpliCITY in the diction."
It may perhaps be not unuseful to point
out the manner in wbich these discourses are formed. As soon as the subject is chosen, the first enquiry is, What is the principal scope and meaning of the text? Let us suppose, for instance, that the text of the ninth Skeleton were the subject. Upon examination, it appears to be a soliloquy of the Deity, expressing what He had seen to be the workings of Ephraim's mind, and declaring the emotions which the sight of his penitent child had occasioned within his own bosom. Having ascertained this, nothing is to be introduced into any part of the discourse, which does not, in some way or other, refect light upon the main subject. The next enquiry is, Of what parts does the text consist, or into what purts may it be most easily and naturally resolved? Here an obvious division occurs: it is evident that the text contains, Ist, The reflections of a true penitent; and, 2dly, The reflections of God over him. This division being made, the discussion of the two parts must be undertaken in their order. But how shall we elucidate the first head? Shall we say, that the penitent is roused from his lethargy, humbled for his transgressions, stimulated to prayer? &c. &c. Such a distribution would, doubtless, contain many useful truths; but they are truths which may be spoken from a thousand other texts as well as this; and after they had
d It is not intended by “Simplicity of diction” that the language should never be figurative, or sublime: the language ought certainly to rise with the subject, and should be on many occasions nervous and energetic: but still, it is a vicious taste to be aiming at, what is called, fine language: the language should not elevate the subject, but the subject, it.
been spoken, the people would still be left without any precise knowledgeof the portion of Scripture which should have been opened to them. If the text did not contain any important matter, it would then be proper, and even necessary, to enter in this general manner into the subject: but if the text itself afford ample means of elucidating the point that is under discussion, it is always best to adhere io that. In order then to enter fully into the subject, we examine more carefully, what are the particular reflections which God noticed in the penitent before us? And here we observe a further discrimination: the penitent's experience, is delineated at two different periods; one in the beginning, and the other in the progress, of his repentance. This distinction serves to open an easy method for arranging what shall be spoken..
Upon investigating still more accurately his expressions, it appears that he laments his past incorrigibleness in the ways of sin, and, with an humble expression of his hope in God, implores converting grace., Soon afterwards, reflecting with a kind of joyful surprise upon the progress he has made, he thankfully ascribes the honour to God, through whose illuminating and converting grace, he has been enabled to make such attainments. This experience being not peculiar to Ephraim, but common to all true penitents, we illustrate and confirm it by suitable passages of holy writ. A similar process is then pursued with respect to the second head; and when that is arranged and discussed in like manner, we proceed to the application. The nature of the application must depend in some measure on the
subject that has been discussed, and on the state of the congregation to whom it is addressed. Where there are many who make a profession of godliness, it will be necessary to pay some attention to them, and to accommodate the subject in part to their state, in a way of conviction, consolation, encouragement, &c. But where the congregation is almost entirely composed of persons who are walking in “ the broad way” of worldliness and indifference, it may be proper to suit the application to them alone. In either case it may be done by inferences, or by address to distinct characters, or by a general address: but, for the most part, either of the former methods is preferable to the last. As for the exordium, that is the last part to be composed; and Mr. Claude's directions for it cannot be improved.
Here then is an example of a discourse made on a text that affords an abundance of useful and important matter. But this is not the case in all texts: take the tenth, for instance. In that, the general scope of the text is, to declare the value of the soul; the distribution of it into its leading parts might be varied in many ways: but whatever distribution were adopted, one must of necessity supply from one's own invention matter for the illustration of it; because the text itself, though very important, does not limit one to any particular considerations.
By the adoption of such a plan as this, many good ends are attained: for not only is unity preserved, and a perspicuity diffused through the whole, but a variety of ideas suggest themselves which would not otherwise occur to the mind: an hackneyed way of treating texts will be avoided: the observations will be more appropriate: they will arise in a better order, and be introducd to more advantage: the attention of the audience will be fixed more on the word of God: their memories will be assisted: and the very reading of the text afterwards will bring to their minds much of what they have heard: besides, they will be more enabled to discern beauties in the Scripture when they peruse it in their closets. But it may be thought, that, on this plan, it will be always necessary to use divi. sions. This, however, is by no means the case: every text drawn up after this manner, must of necessity have an unity of design; and wherever that is, the divisions may be either mentioned or concealed, as the writer shall choose. Let the fore-mentioned text in Jer. xxxi. be treated without any division at all; and the same arrangement will serve exactly as well as if the divisions were specified.
It will stand thus
“A true penitent in the beginning of his repentance reflects on his incorrigibleness in the ways of sin, and pleads with God to turn and convert his soul
*«. When he has advanced a little in his repentance, he reflects with gratitude on the progress he has made, and he gives the glory of it to God
“ In such a state he is most acceptable to God“Whilst he can scarcely find terms whereby to ex.