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Many persons who maintain the worship of God in their houses, wish, occasionally at least, to blend instruction with devotion ; but they are not able to deliver anything of their own, nor can they easily avail themselves of satisfactory assistance from others.
We have commentators—but expositions are designed to be consulted, rather than read, and are calculated to aid sacred criticism, and promote a general knowledge of the scriptures rather than to enliven the exercises of social piety. We have also paraphrases—but these too often consist of a mere languid redundancy of words, which, by pretending to illustrate, only oppresses and incumbers the sense, and generally serves no other purpose than to destroy the simplicity, weaken the force, and diminish the effect of the word of truth. " In the very best compositions of this kind,” says a judicious writer, “the gospel may be compared to a rich wine of high flavour, diluted in such a quantity of water, as renders it extremely vapid.” Paraphrase is useful only in cases of obscurity, but the word of God, generally considered, is not hard to be understood. We do not apply the same censure to the reflections which are found at the end of the chapters or paragraphs, and which sum up their contents.
These are often exceedingly valuable and useful : but it is easy to see that they are not very well adapted to the design before us. They are necessarily too refined in their coherence, too extensive in their review, too general in their remark, to leave a forcible impression on the minds of common readers or hearers.
Sermons have been often employed, and many discourses have been published professedly for the use of families. But it las been remarked -That these discourses have not been distinguished from others, either in their length, their style, or their subjects. It has been asked—Is there no difference in circumstances between public worship and domestic devotion ? It has been said—Let a minister place himself in a private family, and lead the morning or evening devotion, and he will soon find how unsuitable it would be to deliver in a parlour, a sermon which he had prepared for the pulpit.
Discourses, to be used on such occasions as these, should be short—not commonly surpassing ten minutes; never more than a quarter of an hour. As children and servants often form the greater part of the little assembly, and should never be overlooked-these addresses should be plain and apprehensible, not argumentative nor very paragraphical—they should be easy and natural, not elaborate, nor highly polished-they should be entertaining and interesting, not dry and soporific.
Hence they should shun the formality of method and numerous divisions ; and abound with short and significant sentences, bold images, stri