صور الصفحة
النشر الإلكتروني

such references to Scripture, as should leave no reasonable doubt of its accordance with "the mind

of the Spirit" of God. In every one of the Discourses also I have so clearly marked the method, that the entire scope of the passage may be seen with the glance of an eye; and the Young Minister may be able to prosecute his work with ease according to his own judgment, making no other use of what is contained within the brackets, than to enlarge or confirm his own views of the subject.

These my best endeavours, such as they are, I lay before your Grace for your approbation, and commend to God for his divine blessing, without which they can be of no avail.

I am,


Your Grace's most obliged

And devoted Servant,



May 20, 1833.



NSTRUCTION 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. 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 annexed 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 Claude's, and a complete Sermon; something which may simplify the theory, and set it in a practical light.

The following Skeletons are not intended particularly to exemplify Mr. Claude's rules. There are indeed all his different kinds of discussion contained in the Skeletons. But instead of illustrating particular rules, they are all intended rather to

a For this use of the word "Skeleton," see Johnson's Dictionary.

[blocks in formation]

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 which these discourses are formed. As soon as the subject is chosen, the first inquiry is, What is the principal scope and meaning of the text? Let us suppose, for instance, that the text of Jer. xxxi. 18-20, 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, reflect light upon the main subject. The next inquiry is, of what parts does the text consist, or into what parts may it be most easily and naturally resolved? Here an obvious division occurs: it is evident that the text contains, 1st, 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 been spoken, the people would still be left without any precise knowledge of 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 to 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 Matt. xvi. 26, 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 introduced 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 divisions. 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 forementioned 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 to God the glory of it

"In such a state he is most acceptable to God

"Whilst he can scarcely find terms whereby to express 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 possibly desire."

Divest the Skeleton of Matt. xvi. 26, of its divisions, and it will be equally clear.

[ocr errors]

"By the world' we are to understand pleasure, riches, and honour

« السابقةمتابعة »