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objection and solution. As, Romans vi. 1, 2, “What shall we say then," &c.
There are some texts of reasoning which are extremely difficult to divide because they cannot be reduced into many propositions without confusion. As, John iv. 10, “ If thou knewest the gift of God," &c. I think it might tot be improper to divide it into two parts, the first including the genera. propositions cortained in the words ; and the second, the particular application of these to the Samaritan woman.
There are some texts which imply many important truths without ex pressing them; and yet it will be necessary to mention and enlarge apon them, either because they are useful on some important occasion, or be cause they are important of themselves. Then the text may be divided into two parts, one implied, and the other expressed.
In texts of history, divisions are easy; sometimes an action is related in all its circumstances, and then you may consider the action in itself first, and afterward the circumstances of the action.
To render a division agreeable, and easy to be remembered by the hearer, endeavour to reduce it as often as possible to simple terms.
As to subdivisions, it is always necessary to make them, for they very much assist the composition, and diffuse perspicuity into a discourse ; but it is not always necessary to mention them; on the contrary, they must be very seldom mentioned, because it will load the hearer's mind with a mul titude of particulars.
Discussion. There are four methods of discussion. Clear subjects must be discussed by observation, or continued application; difficult and import. ant ones by explication or proposition.
I. By Explication. The difficulty is in regard to the Terms, to the sub ject, or to both.
1. Explication of Terms. — The difficulties of these arise from three causes ; either the terms do not seem to make any sense, or they are equi vocal, forming different senses; or, the sense they seem to make at first appears perplexed, improper, or contradictory: or, the meaning, though elear, may be controverted, and is exposed to cavil.
Propose the ratio dubitandi, which makes the difficulty ; then determine it as briefly as you can.
2. Of Things. - Difficult things. If the difficulty arise from errors, or false senses, refute and remove them ; then establish the truth. If from the intricacy of the subject itself, do not propose difficulties, and raise objections, but enter immediately into the explication of the matter, and take care tó arrange your ideas well.
3. Important things, though clear, must be discussed by explication, be cause they are important,
There are two sorts of explications; the one, simple and plain, needs only to be proposed, and agreeably elucidated; the other must be confirmed, if it speak of fact, by proofs of fact; if of right, by proofs of right; if of both, proofs of both. A great and important subject, consisting of many branches, inay be reduced to a certain number of propositions or questions, and dis cussed one after the other.
N. B. Sometimes what you will have to explain in a text will consist of one or more simple terms; of ways of speaking peculiar to Scripture; of particles called syncategorematica; and sometimes of different propositions.
1. Simple terms are the divine attributes, goodness, &c., man's virtues or vices, faith, hope, &c. Simple terms are either proper or figurative; if figurative, give the meaning of the figure, and, without stopping long, pass on to the thing itself. Some simple terms must only be explained just as they relate to the intention of the sacred author; in a word, explain simplo terms as much as possible, in relation to the design of the sacred author. Sometimes the simple terms in a text must be discussed professedly, in order to give a clear and full view of the subject. Sometimes, when there are many, it might be injudicious to treat of them separately, but beauti fully to do it by coinparison.
2. Expressions peculiar to Scripture deserve a particular explanation, tecause they are rich in meaning; such as, “to be in Christ," "come after Christ," &c.
Particles called syncategorematica (such as none, some, all, now, when, &c.), which augment or limit the meaning of the proposition, should be carefully examined; for often the whole explication depends upon them.
3. When the matter to be explained in a text consists of a proposition, give the sense clearly; if necessary, show its importance; if it requirs con firmation, confirm it.
In all cases, illustrate by reasons, examples, comparisons of the subject; their relations, conformities, or differences. You may do it by consequences; by the person, his state, &c., who proposes the subject; or the persons to whom it is proposed; by circumstance, time, place, &c. You may il. lustrate a proposition by its evidence or inevidence. It is discoverable by the light of nature, or only by revelation. Let good sense choose the best topics.
Sometimes a proposition includes many truths which must be distin guished; sometimes a proposition must be discussed in different views; sometimes it has different degrees, which must be remarked; sometimes it is general, and of little importance; then examine whether some of its parts be not more considerable; if so, they must be discussed by a particu lar application.
II. By observation; which is best for clear and historical passages. Some texts require both explication and observation. Sometimes an observation may be made by way of explication. Observations, for the most part, ought to be theological; historical, philosophical, or critical, very seldom. They must not be proposed in a scholastic style, nor common-place form, but in a free, easy, familiar manner.
III. By continual application. - This may be done without explaining, or making observations. In this manner we must principally manage texts exhorting to holiness and repentance. In using this method something searching and powerful must be said, or better it should be let alone.
IV. By proposition. — The texts must be reduced to two propositions at least, and three or four at most, having a mutual dependence and connex
This method opens the most extensive field for discussion. In the for mer methods you are restrained to your text; but here your subject is the matter contained in your proposition.
The way of explication* is most proper to give the meaning of Scrip ture; this of systematical divinity; and it has this advantage, it will equally serve either theory or practice.
N. B. Though these four ways are different from each other, for many texts it may be necessary to use two or three, and for some, all the four the discourse has its name from the prevailing method of handling it.
The conclusion. This ought to be lively and animating, full of great and beautiful figures. Aiming to move Christian affections. As the love of God, hope, zeal, repentance, self-condemnation, a desire of self-correc tion, consolation, admiration of eternal benefits, hope of felicity, courage, and constancy in afflictions, steadiness in temptations, gratitude to God, recourse to him by prayer, and other such dispositions.
There are three sorts of dispositions ; the violent, tender, and elevated. 'To raise these, the conclusion should be violent, tender, or elevated. It may be sometimes mixed, it must always be diversified.
N. B. Let the peroration, or conclusion, be short ; let it be bold and lively. Let some one or more striking ideas, not mentioned in the discus sion, be reserved for this part, and applied with vigor.
* See No. I. on the previous page.
OF THE SKELETON OF A SERMON.
The existence of God.
" The fool hath said in his heart, there is no God." Psalms xiv. 1.
“ The fool háth said," — it is evident that none but a fool would have said it.
The fool, a term in Scripture, signifying a wicked man; one who hath lost his wisdom, and right apprehension of God; one dead in sin, yet one not so much void of rational faculties, as of grace in those faculties ; not one that wants reason, but one who abuses his reason.
“Said in his heart;" i. e. he thinks, or he doubts, or he wishes. Thoughts are words in heaven. He dares not openly publish it, though he darus se cretly to think it; he doubts, he wishes, and sometimes hopes.
“There is no God,”. - no judge, no one to govern, reward, or punish. Those who deny the providence of God. do, in effect, deny his existence; they strip him of that wisdom, gocduess, mercy, and justice, which are the glory of the Deity.
Men who desire liberty to commit works of darkness, would not only have the lights in the house dimmed, but extinguished.' What men say against Providence, because they would have no check, they would say in their hearts against the very existence of God, because they would have no judge.
The existence of God is the foundation of all religion. The whole build ing totters, if the foundation be out, of course. We must believe that he is, and that he is what he declared himself, before we can seek him, adore him, and love him.
It is, therefore, necessary we should know why we believe, that our be lief be founded on undeniable evidence, and that we may give a better reason for his existence, than that we have heard our parents and teachers tell us so. It is as much as to say, " There is no God," when we have no better arguments than those.
That we may be fully persuaded of, and established in this truth, on deavour,
1. To bring forward a few observations in the defence thereof.
1. All nature shows the existence of its Maker. We cannot open ont eyes but we discover this truth shine through all creatures. The whole universe bears the character and stamp of a First Cause, infinitely wise, infinitely powerful. Let us cast our eyes on the earth which bears us, and ask, "Who laid the foundation ? ” Job xxxviii. 4. Let us look on that vast arch of skies that covers us, and inquire, “ Who hath thus stretched it forth ?” Isaiah xl. 21, 52. “ Who is it also that hath fixed so many
luminous bodies, with so much order and regularity ?” Job xxvi. 13. The va, rious works of creation proclaim to us His eternal power and godhead." Romans i. 20; Acts xiv. 16, 17; xvii. 26. Every plant, every atom, as well as every star, bear witness of a Deity. Who ever saw statues, or pictures, but concluded there had been a statuary and limner? Who can behold garnients, ships, or houses, and not understand there was a weaver, a car penter, an architect? All things that are demonstrate something from whence they are. A man may as well doubt whether there be a sun when he sees his beams gilding the earth, as doubt whether there be a God, when he sees his works. Psalms xix. 1-6.
The Atheist is, therefore, a fool, because he denies that which evers
creature in his constitution asserts; can he behold the spider's net, or the silk-worm's web, the bee's closets, or the ant’s granaries, without acknow ledging a higher being than a creature, who hath planted that genius in them? Job xxxix.; Psalms civ. 24. “ The stars fought against Sisera." Judges v. 20. All the stars in heaven, and the dust on earth, oppose the Atheist. Romans i. 19, 20.
2. The dread of conscience is an argument to convince us of this truth Every one that finds me shall slay me,” Genesis iy. 14, was the language of Cain; and the like apprehensions are not seldom in those who feel the fury of an enraged conscience. The psalmist tells us concerning those who say in their heart, “There is no God," that “they are in fear, where no fear is,'' Psalms liii. 5. Their guilty minds invent terrors, and thereby confess a Deity, whilst they deny it, - that there is a sovereign Being who will punish. Pashur, who wickedly insulted the prophet Jeremiah, had this for his reward," that his name should be Magor-missabib,” i. e. " fear round about,” Jeremiah xx. 3, 4. When Belshazzar saw the hand writing, “his countenance was changed,” Daniel v. 6. Tha apostle who tells us, that there is : " law written in the hearts of men,” adds, their “ consciences also bear witness," Romans ii. 15. The natural sting and horror of con science are a demonstration that there is a God to judge and punish.
The Atheist is a fool, because he ussiu violence to his conscience. The operations of conscience are universal. The iron bars upon Pharaoh's conscience at last gave way. Exodus ix. 27.
3. Universal consent is another argument. The notion of a God is found among all nations; it is the language of every country and region; the most abominable idolatry argues a Deity. All nations, though ever so barbarous and profligate, have confessed some God. This universal verdict of mankind is no other than the voice of God, the testimony of the language of nature; there is no speech, nor tongue where this voice is not heard.
Is it not, therefore, folly for any man to deny that which nature has en graven on the minds of all ?
4. Extraordinary judgments. When a just revenge follows abominable crimes, especially when the judgment is suited to the sin; when the sin is made legible by the inflicted judgments. “The Lord is known by the judgments which he executes," Psalms ix. 16. Herod Agrippa received the flattering applause of the people, and thought himself a God; but was, by the judgment inflicted upon him, forced to confess another. Acts xii. 21 - 23: Judges i. 6,7; Acts v. 1- 10.
5. Accomplishments of prophecies. To foretell things that are future, as if they did already exist, or had existed long ago, must be the result of a mind infinitely intelligent. “Show the things that are to come hereafter.” Isaiah xli. 23. “I am God, declaring the end from the beginning.” Isaiah xlvi. 10. Cyrus was prophesied of, Isaiah xliv. 28, and xlv. 1, long before he was born ; Alexander's sight of Daniel's prophecy concerning his victo ries moyed him to spare Jerusalem. The four monarchies are plainly deciphered in Daniel, before the fourth rose up. That power, which foretells things beyond the wit of man, and orders all causes to bring about those predictions, must be an infinite power : the same as made, sustains, and governs all things according to his pleasure, and to bring about his own ends; and this being is God. “I am the Lord, and there is none else,' Isaiah xlv. 6, 7.
What folly, then, for any to shut their eyes, and stop their ears; to at tribute those things to blind chance, which nothing less than an infinitely wise and infinitely powerful Being could effect !
II. A few observations.
1. If God can be seen in creation, study the creatures; the creatures are the heralds of God's glory. “The glory of the Lord shall epdare" Psalms civ. 31.
The world is a sacred temple ; man is introduced to contemplate it. As grace does not destroy nature, so the book of redemption does not blot out the book of creation. Read nature; nature is a friend to tryth.
2. If it be a folly to deny or doubt the being of God, is it not a folly also not to worship God, when we acknowledge his existence? “To fear God, and keep his commandments, is the whole duty of man."
We are not reasonable if we are not religious. “Your reasonable ser vice," Romans xii. 1.
3. If it be a folly to deny the existence of God, will it not be our wisdom since we acknowledge his being, often to think of him ? It is the black mark of a fool, “ God is not in all his thoughts," Psalms x. 4.
4. If we believe the being of God, let us abbor practical Atheism. Ac tions speak louder than words.
“They professed that they knew God," Titus i. 16. Men's practices are the best indexes to their principles. “Let your light shine before men." Matthew v. 16.
The following Skeletons are on a different plan,*
1. Psalm xlvi. 1,“ God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble."
Sorrow is our common lot, many seem to know little of it, the widow, fatherless, &c.; text needs no explanation.
I. The wonderful condescension of God in assuming this character to wards man, — not, however, according to the usual reasoning, - man's greatness, - his progressive faculties will equal angels, &c. Surpass all intelligence except God, - but there will still be an infinite distance between God and many Man's moral estate ; these the reasons.
ĮI. The emphasis of the text, present, very present, - our mechanical habits, – the divine presence not realized, - a man first awakened or convicted feels it, - but soon is lost, — suppose a pure and holy being were present at your sins, - as an angel, — but God is present! See the Christian in a storm at sea, — hearing the crash, indulging sin. +
Objection to the infinite God's caring for man, — all worlds particles of sand. - How should this thought affect us, – Mother! Jesus stood at the coffin of thy infant child, at the grave of thy parents! He is with thee. Shall we weep and repine even in a garret, when God is with us ?
III. Cautiousness of the text. — He is a help, - not sole deliverer, shere is something for us to do, – prayer is one reason of it. - Nothing therwise. — Farmer. - Mechanic, health by medicine.
IV. Applicability of the text to all the poor unfortunate, - stranger, widow, -orphan, mourner,
Christian in temptation, - quality of all, a guilty conscience.
2. Rev. vii. 17,“ God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes.” Context, - Nature and probable design of these prophecies. —
1. Afflictions in the present state of the Christian, an important and ad vantageous part of his moral discipline. 1. The fact that they are per mitted, shows that they are advantageous. - How many instances, - texts.
2. They afford exercise for our Christian virtues, moral, - fortitude patience, resignation.
3. They show us the futility of worldly comforts, - our friends die,health and beauty fade, wealth and pleasure must be left behind us.
* They are, in fact, the notes of a distinguished extemporaneous preacher.