« AnteriorContinuar »
sacts, as they are exhibited by witnesses, and to state them nakedly, as they appear to you; to weigh arguments with candour, and to give them in your exhibitions just that weight, which you believe them to possess, and no more. You may not, by this conduct, advance, in every instance, your property, or your character; but you will do what is right : you may not gratify your clients ; but you will be approved by good men, by your consciences, and by your God.
In the Desk, fidelity will require you to declare honestly and boldly, as Paul did, all the counsel of God. You will neither be willing to flatter, nor afraid to alarm, your hearers, so far as truth and duty require. Io no wise affect to say alarming things; but in no wise fear to say them. The Condition
The Condition of all impenitent sinners is an alarming condition; and cannot, if represented with truth, be otherwise represented.
The same fidelity will require you both to believe, and to preach, whatever you find in the Scriptures. If any thing, which the Scriptures appear to you to declare, contravene doctrines, which you know to be generally believed, especially by wise and good men, examine with modesty, and with care; but if you find yourselves compelled to differ from them, difler boldly and hon. estly. Your Reason, and all your advantages, were given you, that you might judge for yourselves.
At the same time, despise the love of innovation. The present is, emphatically, and to a degree of frenzy, the age of innovation. Beardless boys, treading on the threshold of science, pert coxcombs, the mere retailers of a few scientific terms, obtained, and understood, as parrots obtain and understand the language which they utter, will inform you, and have the impudence to inform mankind, that the present is the only enlightened age of man; that the world has slumbered in chains of ignorance and prejudice, for six thousand years ; that light has just begun to dawn upon the earth; and that true philosophy never condescended to bless mankind until the present age. Were all this trumpery true, how could these silly children know it to be true? Of philosophy, of the present, of past ages, they know nothing.
Beware of philosophical divinity, even when recommended
by the brightest names. Man cannot devise a theological system,
I said, says Solomoni, (Hodgson,) I shall attain it;
What man cannot invent, he is here equally unable to improve. Beware of attempting to mend the work of God. It is not consistent with probability, nor as I apprehend with the divine promise, that the Church of God should in all preceding ages have been universally ignorant of the substance of the Gospel. That part of it, which by itself, and by its enemies, has been termed orthodox, has in every age holden the doctrines of grace, or what are called the doctrines of the Reformation. It cannot be, that this vast body of divines and Christians should have been substantially wrong. But if they have been, Philosophy cannot set them right. To the Law and to the testimony, if you intend to rectify either yourselves or others. If any men speak not according to this Word, it is because there is no light in them. Before you teach others, learn, yourself, of the perfect teacher. The Bible only has brought men back from error to the truth of God. All the leading heretics have been Philnsophers, and their philosophy has been the ignis fatuus which has misled both them and their followers.
If you would be faithful, you will endeavour to preach alway, in the best manner you are able.
To this end follow the great example set before you in the Scriptures.
First. Examine carefully how the subjects of preaching are there handled. Mark ihe unceasing variety of matter and manner, and the comparative attention bestowed on each subject. Vary continually in your own discourses ; and let it not be said of you, that you preach in one narrow round of subjects, or that you handle all subjects in one unvaried manner. Allot to no subject a greater proportion of time and attention, than you see warranted
by the attention given to it by the Scriptores; and remember that all Scripture was equally given by the inspiration of God, and that all is pronounced by him to be profitable, for furnishing the man of God to every good work.
Secondly. Set every subject and sentiment, as much as may be, in that light, which is most agreeable to the views of Common
Draw your arguments, illustrations, and enforcements, de medio-from familiar sources, and objects. You may, indeed, in this way sacrifice a little literary pride; but, to compensate this loss, you will gain the attention, the esteem, and not improbably the Souls, of your hearers.
Ignorant and uneducated preachers are necessitated to tread in the same beaten track, and continually to reiterate the same things. In them it is a fault, that they preach at all; in you it will be a fault, to preach like them. If you preach learnedly, you will perhaps astonish your congregations; but you will most probably lose both them, and your labours.
Thirdly. Avoid both a florid, and a slovenly style. A chaste, manly, energetic style is the style of the desk, and, let me say, of all good writing. The attention ought to appear to have been bestowed on things, and not on words; and the beauty of the langua e ought to flow apparently from this, that such language was the most natural and obvious language to him, who had such good things to utter.
Fourthly. Avoid affectation. Ridiculous every where, in the desk it is detestable If your own manner should not be the best, it will be the best which you can use.
A borrowed coat never sate well on any man.
Fifthly. Be seriously in earnest. Every preacher, if he would effect any thing, must both believe, and feel, what he declares. Froin earnestness, eloquent sentiments, and persuasive language, naturally spring. In truth, earnestness is itself the soul of eloquence. All men, when engaged and-earnest, are eloquent ; unless they have unhappily contracted, beforehaud, habits of awk. wardness, and violations of nature.
Sixthly. Use your own method of handling every subject. A general sameness bas been introduced into the preaching of this country, from an apprehension, that the established manner is the
only good one, or decidedly the best. Every Man thinks, as well as speaks, and acts, in a manner different from every other; and every man's manner is a good one, and for himself the best. А pleasing novelty may thus be thrown over your manner, which will scarcely be found in your matter. At the same time, seek not for such novelty. If you seek for it you will only be odd ; if you merely follow nature, you will be new.
4. You will be all citizens. In this character, love and support the institutions of your country. In this age of innovation, visiona- . ry philosophers have retailed abundantly their reveries, on political subjects, as well as others. They have discovered, that men are naturally wise and good, prone to submit to good goverument, and pleased to have their passions and appetites restrained ; and that all the errors and iniquities of our species are derived merely from the oppression of the privileged. and the great. From these principles, adopted in defiance of every fact, they have drawn consequences repugnant to every reason, and fraught with every fol. ly, danger, and mischief. You will find all men substantially alike, and all naturally ignorant, and wicked. You will find every man pleased, not merely to be free, but to tyrannize; and to indulge without restraint, and without degree, both appetite and passion; and to be impatient of every law, which in any degree restrains either. The most arrant tyranny, of which you will ever hear, is the tyranny of a mob; and the most dangerous domination, that of a Jacobin Society. All men, when assembled in multitudes, are more unreasonable, more unjust, more tyrannical, and every way more wicked, than when they are separate ; because they dare to be so. Whatever you find in man, better than I have asserted, is the
I result of human discipline, or of divine grace. In the Institutions of our own country, this discipline is more perfect, than it has been in any other. Proportionally great, and good, have been its effects; in proportion to these effects, is its inestimable value; and such, if you are wise and honest men, will be its value in your minds. Educated in knowledge, in morals, in religion, from the cradle to the grave, our Countrymen can enjoy their unexampled freedom, with safety, order, and peace. No nation, not thus educated, can long be free at all. More free than we are, Man, with
bis present character, cannot be. If we can preserve such freedom, we shall do, what has never been done. The only possible means of its preservation, miracles apart, is the preservation of those institutions, from which it has been derived.
All these are courses of conduct, without which you cannot, I conceive, be wise, honest, or useful, in your several characters. They are solemn Duties, which you owe to mankind, and to God. As such I have thought them proper subjects of this valedictory sermon. But,
5. You will, also, be men. You are creatures of the infinite God; the subjects of moral agency; accountable for the use of your time and talents; and advancing daily to the period, when you will be judged and rewarded.
In this character, I scarcely need remind you, that a steady adherence to rectitude in all your conduct, is of an importance which cannot be measured. Every aid, which will contribute to this end, you cannot but prize ; every motive you cannot but feel. The following suggestions will, of course, not be without their influence. In the
First place. Bring the condition, in which you thus stand, home to
your hearts. It is not a small, or inefficacious attainment, for Man to realize his condition; to make his state, and his destination, a serious part of his system of thinking; to calculate the business of his life for such a being as himself; and to suit the part, he is to act, to the character, which, at his creation, he was ne. cessitated to assume. Were this effectually done, the conduct of most if not of all, men would probably assume, in some measure a different complexion from that, which it actually wears.
Let not the mistakes of others influence you. With a manly independence of mind, think, understand, realize, what you are, and for what you are designed. Daily, and willingly remember, that you are not the beings of a day, but the heirs of eternity; that you were not designed, to shine, to flutter, and to expire; but through an endless progress to honour your Maker and to bless your fellow-creatures. Should these ideas be suitably impressed on your minds, should they be inwoven in the habits of your thought, you cannot fail to be affected by them, and in some measure to assume the propriety, and the dignity, of such a station.