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unusual freedom; proving the inspiration of the scripture by the usual arguments, and urging the hearers to obey the word of God. The next day a religious friend waited upon me, and stated that, as he was coming to the chapel with an infidel, he said to him, “I wish Mr. Edmondson would preach on the inspiration of the scriptures to-night,”—and that, when he heard the text and the sermon, he renounced his scepticism and went away with faith in the Divine Oracles. How shall we account for this, if we deny the secret influences of the Holy Spirit ? I state a matter of fact, and unbelievers may make what use of it they please ; but I am fully persuaded that I was under the direct influence of the Holy Spirit, and of the good done the praise was due to God.
From Colne we went to Leicester. The first year, Mr. Laycock was with us; the second, Mr. Richard Watson. Both of them were agreeable, and behaved with great propriety. I saw the mighty intellectual powers of Mr. Watson with pleasure. We often composed Essays on given subjects,—which he mentioned in after-life, as having done him good service when he commenced author.
In the year 1799 we were stationed at Burton-upon-Trent ; a long straggling Circuit, extending from the neighbourhood of Ashbourne, in the Peak of Derbyshire, to Tamworth and other places not far from Birmingham. The people in every place were affectionate, and many of them deeply pious.
On one of my visits to Stanton-in-the-Stones, near Ashbourne, I heard of Mr. Orp, who had formerly been a preacher in our Connexion, and who was, as I understood, a real friend to Methodism, though in a backsliding state. I had a great desire to see him. The next day I waited upon him at Prestwood, and was received by him and his family with great kindness. I talked to him about the state of his soul, prayed with one of his daughters who was sick, and urged him to return to the Lord his God. This bad a good effect. Soon after, I preached in his house to a large congregation on a Lord's-day evening, and many were turned to the Lord. In about three months I formed a class there, into which I received about twenty persons on trial, including Mr. and Mrs. Orp, and several others of the family. Mr. Orp began to preach again, and was well received, having gifts of a high order. He lived several years after I left the Circuit, and at length was called to his reward. I visited him in his last illness, was pleased with his experience, and preached his funeral sermon under a large tree to about a thousand people.
We removed to Ashby-de-la-Zouch. It was in this Circuit that the Rev. Walter Sellon preached with so much success. He was Curate of Breedon, but a real Methodist. Hundreds were turned to God through his instrumentality. Nearly all the old members, indeed, were his spiritual children.
My ministerial labours in this Circuit were rendered useful to many, and I had the affections of the people in every place. O that I had been more devoted to God! I often walked up to Breedon church, and venerated the place where Sellon had preached. The
church stands on a high hill, and commands a vast and delightful prospect. On that hill I often renewed my covenant engagements with God, when no eye saw me but His eye, and when no ear heard me but His ear.—At a place called Wilson I formed a diurnal plan of spending my time, which may be found in my Essay ON THE MINISTRY. It was made when I was thirty-five years old, and I used to call it the Wilson plan. Since that time I have not been able to form a better. *
*“I knew an Itinerant Preacher," says Mr. Edmondson, on this subject, “who formed the following diurnal plan, many years ago; and, as practicable by all in similar circumstances, I can cordially recommend it. He rose about five in the morning, and retired about ten, both in winter and summer. Till six he washed and dressed, read his Bible and prayed. Till eight he studied languages, particularly Greek and Hebrew. Till nine he breakfasted, avd engaged in family-prayer, filling up the time with reading. From nine to ten he wrote on some particular subject; never passing a day without a line. From ten to one, he either mounted his horse, if he had a journey, or visited the people from house to house, filling up the intervals of that time with a regular course of reading. From one till two he dined, and spent some time in private devotion. From two to three, he studied some art or science, going through a regular course similar to the plan which is recommended in this work. From three to six, he walked or rode to his appointed place, drank tea with his friends, and filled up the time, whether he went out or remained at home, with his course of reading. From six to seven he either studied and composed a sermon, or answered some letter. From seven to nine he preached, met the leaders, or held some other meeting; and filled up the time when he had a vacant night with reading. From nine to ten he walked home, supped, and prayed with his family; or, if from home, did the same in other families. He then retired, reviewed the day, wrote a few lines in a journal when necessary, and committed himself to God in prayer. The principal part of Saturday was spent in preparation for the pulpit; and the whole of Sunday was devoted to the work of the ministry." (ESSAY ON THE CHRISTIAN MINISTRY, pp. 342, 343.)
This Essay is divided into twelve chapters, the subjects of which are,—THE MINISTERIAL CHARACTER; MENTAL ABILITIES; NECESSARY CALL TO THE MINISTRY; LITERARY STUDIES IN GENERAL ; BIBLICAL STUDIES ; COMPOSITION OF SERMONS; THE GIFT OF PRAYER; PREACHING THE WORD; VISITING THE SIck; CATECHISING YOUTH; PurlIC MEETINGS; GENERAL ADVICE ;-and it concludes with THE LIBRARY OF A CHRISTIAN MINISTER.”
Under each of these heads there is much valuable instruction. The language is plain, but pure ; and equally distant from the pompous and the mean : the sentences are generally laconic and perspicuous, and frequently contain as much thought as some modern gold-leaf-beater writers would spread over many pages. The Essay resembles a tree which is more remarkable for the quantity and richness of its fruit, than for the luxuriance of its foliage. As a specimen of the general character of the work, I select the following passages from the chapter on “ The COMPOSITION OF SERMONS.”
“ Divide your sermons correctly; and arrange your matter methodically.
“ The number of heads in your sermon must be determined by the number of parts in your text, for the one should answer to the other without variation. The following rules on this subject may be followed with safety : First, let your text, critically understood, form the basis of your sermon; secondly, let your general divisions include the entire sense of your text; thirdly, in all your divisions keep a
Our next removal was to Stourport. Our principal places were Stourport, Kidderminster, and Bewdley. There we had good congregations, devout societies, and many affectionate friends. We travel
steady eye to the unity of design in the passage before you ; and, fourthly, never add a general head which is not found in your text. On this plan the number of your general heads will vary with your subject, and on one occasion you will have two, on another three, and on another four. But when the number exceeds four, you should treat your subject by way of general and continued observation, which will admit of many more: yel in that case you should pass from one part to another by easy transitions, that you may preserve the unity and beauty of the whole subject. This is called textual preaching; and if you do not preach textually, why do you take a text ? A single word, taken from the dictionary, would suit a topical preacher. He delivers highly polished moral essays, like those of Addison's Spectator, or Johnson's Rambler ; but you are bound, by the highest authority, to PREACH THE WORD. The text of a fashionable preacher is a mere motto, which has no more to do with his sermon than a passage out of Homer's Iliad ; but your sermons should open the Holy Scriptures, that the people may see wondrous things in the law of their God. It would be useful, both to them and to yourselves, to deliver lectures occasionally on large and interesting portions of Holy Writ. But, when you adopt that plan, every verse which contains a complete sense should be divided and arranged in the most exact and lucid order. This was the plan of preaching in the purest ages of Christianity.
“ But, whether your text be a long one or a short one, always divide and sub-divide with exactness. Your sub-divisions should be few, and always to the point ; naturally arising out of the subject, and calculated to illustrate its meaning. Then your discourse will resemble a compact building, to which nothing of real use can be added, and from which nothing can be safely taken away. You will find a great number of sub-divisions extremely perplexing. They confuse your own mind, embarrass your hearers, and prolong your sermons beyond all reasonable bounds.
“But why should we name our divisions to a congregation ? Is it not better to conceal our plan?' We reply, first, your hearers should know that you have a plan, or they may be tempted to think you preach at random : secondly, they should be prepared, by the announcement of your plan, to follow you closely in the execution of it: and, thirdly, this will enable them to remember it afterwards. But if you omit the statement of your plan, whatever impression you make by a few brilliant expressions, they will forget the drift and design of your sermon; and, that being lost, the great end of preaching is completely defeated.............
“ In the composition of your sermons, think deeply on every part; and carefully weigh the whole in the balances of the sanctuary.
« Extensive knowledge cannot be acquired, either in divinity or the sciences, without deep thinking. When your thoughts are superficial in the composition of sermons, you will preach superficially; but when you view your subject on every side, and enter into all its depths and heights, you are able to furnish your hearers with extensive and profound information. If you do not think closely, you cannot reason accurately; and if you cannot reason accurately, you cannot instruct your people.
“ Acquire the habit of compressing your matter into a small compass, that you may be able to retain it yourselves, and that it may be easily remembered by your hearers.
“ Caryl's Exposition of Job, in two prodigious folios, is an excellent work ; but if other commentators were to follow his plan, “I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that should be written.' If you adopt a similar plan in composing sermons and in preaching, you will injure your health, and exhaust the patience of your hearers, without any good result. Our venerable Wesley said more in twenty minutes than many say in an hour; and you should study his
led, also, on the Clee-Hills, where we encountered many a bitter blast, and met with very poor accommodations; but the affection of the people, and the good that was done, encouraged us in these diffi
ulties. We regularly visited Ludlow and Bridgnorth; but those places were like the wayside, and the seed we scattered was picked up by the enemy of souls.
We buried our second son at Stourport. I suffered much on that occasion, but found it necessary to bow down to the will of God.I was once in danger of perishing in a great snow-storm on the CleeHills. I left Stourport after dinner, having to ride twenty miles to the new chapel on these heights. When I set off, the day was clear and calm ; but in about half an hour the clouds gathered, and the snow began to fall. When I had proceeded about fourteen miles, the snow was about a foot deep on the great road ; and when I entered on the hill, where there was no fence to keep me from the waste land, it was so deep that my horse could scarcely walk. I then called on a farmer, not far from the road,—hoping he would take me in, as he was a member of our society. He coolly observed, “It is a great snow, but you will soon reach the new chapel.” I instantly turned round, and made the attempt, without asking him to open the door; but, when I had gone a little farther, my spirits were broken, and I requested a woman at a small farm-house to afford me shelter. She said she had no room. I then went forward. After leaving the great road, and plunging into several deeps where I was almost smothered, I reached the gate leading to the chapel-yard ; but it was entirely covered with the drifted snow, so that I could not open it. A collier, who had a little cottage near the chapel, heard me call, and came out to my assistance. He soon cleared the way, led me into his house, made a great fire, dressed me in his pit-clothes, and took my horse to a stable on the summit of the hill. My congregation that evening, notwithstanding the inclemency of the weather, amounted to about twenty: I preached to them in my flannel dress,
method, and follow his example. On this plan there will be strength in your sermons; your congregations will never be weary of hearing you ; nor will you injure your health by long and useless harangues.”
“AU I have ever read on the subject,” says DR. ADAM CLARKE, “has never conveyed so much information to my mind on the original, and, in my opinion, the only proper mode of preaching, as Nehemiah viii. 8.
“ First, “They read in the book of the law of God.' The words of God are the proper matter of preaching; for they contain the wisdoin of the Most High, and reveal to man the things which make for his peace.
“Secondly, “They read distinctly.' They analysed, dilated, and expounded it, at large.
“Thirdly, “They gave the sense :' put weight to it; that is, showed its importance and utility; thus applying verbal criticism and general exposition to the most important purpose.
“Fourthly, They caused them to understand the reading. They understood, had a mental taste and perception of the things which were in the reading ; that is, in the letter and spirit of the text."
with considerable freedom and comfort. The next day I went over the open common to the Hill-houses ; but the snow was so deep, and there were so many coal-pits not very carefully covered, that I was in great danger nearly all the way. I asked a man whom I met, how the roads were farther on? He said, “ Very good; but I was up to the neck just now.” I soon found his words true, meeting with a ridge of snow, which could not be avoided, sufficiently deep to bury both me and my horse. But a good Providence conducted me safely through, to my appointed place. When I arrived there, the men of the house were from home, and the stable-door was completely covered with snow, which I had to remove. The good woman, having just finished her dinner, had nothing to set before an unexpected guest but bread and water; and I was thankful for that, being hungry and faint with my toils. In the evening I preached to a small congregation. The next day I went on to a place called “ The Bind,” where I remained till the great roads were opened ; and then returned to Stourport, by way of Bridgnorth and Kidderminster. My wife and friends had been greatly alarmed, knowing the dangers to which I had been exposed; but when I arrived in safety, their sorrow was turned into joy.
While I was in this Circuit, I visited the palace at Hartlebury, and saw a fine library which had been the property of Bishop Hurd. There I found four volumes of Fletcher's Works, in which he had written the following observations on the characters of Wesley, Fletcher, and Rousseau :
“ The author of these volumes was a man of fine parts and exemplary goodness, but tinged with fanaticism. He was a follower of John Wesley, but superior to him in everything except that in which the leader of a party must always excel,—worldly wisdom.
“ Fletcher and Rousseau were countrymen ; their character similar, yet different. The constitution of both was ardent; but piety predominated in the one,-in the other, vanity: hence the philosopher became an infidel, and the divine a Methodist.
Had the Bishop's piety been equal to his learning and good sense, he would neither have charged the disinterested Wesley with “worldly wisdom," nor the enlightened Fletcher with “ fanaticism.”
We removed to Dudley, by special invitation. Mr. John Simpson was with us the first year, and Mr. George Baldwin the second. Our congregations were good, our friends were very affectionate, and many sinners were truly converted to God.
In this Circuit I published the first Edition of my “SHORT SERMONS.”* The Printer engaged me to furnish him with a Commen
* These Sermons have had extensive circulation. They are short, but full ; containing lucid expositions of the texts on which they are founded. They are evangelical in doctrine, in experience, and in morals. Well adapted to the use of