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General Rules of Sermons.


LTHOUGH the following general rules

are well known, yet they are too little practised: they ought, however, to be constantly regarded.

1. A sermon should clearly and purely explain a text, make the sense easy to be comprehended, and place things before the people's eyes so that they may be understood without difficulty. This rule condemns embarrassment and obfcurity, the most disagreeable thing in the world in a gospel-pulpit. It ought to be remembered, that the greatest part of the hearers are simple people, whose profit, however, must be aimed at in preaching : but it is impossible to edify them, unless you be very clear. As to learned hearers, it is certain, they will always prefer a clear before an obscure sermon; for, first, they will consider the simple, nor will their benevolence be content if the illiterate be not edi. fied ; and next, they will be loth to be driven to the necessity of giving too great an attention, which they cannot avoid, if the preacher be obscure. The minds of men, whether learned or ignorant, generally avoid pain; and the learned have fatigue enough in the study, without increasing it at church. (1)

2. A

(1) “ That which generally to explain ourselves always occasions cbfcurity (lays Mr. with brevity and conciseness. Rollin.) is our endeavouring One had better say too much



2. A sermon must give the entire sense of the whole text, in order to which it must be considered in every view. This rule condemns dry and bar


than too little. A style like intelligible; because it is for Salluft's or Tertullian's, every that end we speak. This fort where sprightly and concile, of neglect, which requires may fuit works which are not some genius and art, (as he intended to be spoken, and observes after Cicero.) and which can be read over and which proceeds from our being over again : but it is impro- more attentive to things than per for a sermon, which ought words, must not, however, to be so clear, as to reach be carried so far as to make even the most inattentive; the discourse low and grovellike as the sun strikes our eyes ing, but only clearer and without our thinking of it, more intelligible.--As obscuand almost in spite of us. The rity is the fault, which the supreme effect of this quality preacher should chiefly avoid, does not confijt in making and as the auditors are not alourselves understood, but in lowed to interrupt him, when speaking in such a manner they meet with any thing that we cannot be misunder- obscure, St. Austin advises. ftood." .'Tis a vicious him to read in the eyes and taste in some orators (adds he countenances of his auditors, from Quintilian.) to imagine whether they understand him they are very profound when or not; and to repeat the much is required to compre- same thing, by giving it difhend them; they don't con ferent turns, till he perceives fider, that every discourse ; he is understood ; an advanwhich wants an interpreter is tage which those cannot have, a very bad one. The supreme who by a servile dependence perfection of a preacher's style on their memories learn their ihould be to please the un sermons by heart, and repeat learned, as well as the learned, them as fo many

lessons." by exhibiting an abundance

Belles lettres, vol. 2. of beauties for the latter, and Mr. Rollin says, Obscurity being very perspicuous for the is generally occasioned by a former, But, in case these style too concise ; and others advantages cannot be united, have observed


ather St. Austin would have us fa- causes of obfcurity, among crifice the first to the second, which they place a very conand neglect ornaments, and mon one, a jingling of words, even purity of diflion, if it will multitude of tinkling contribute to make us more sounds, which one describes



ren explications, wherein the preacher discovers neither study nor invention, and leaves unfaid a great number of beautiful things, with which his text would have furnished him. Preachments of this kind are extremely disgustful; the mind is neither elevated, nor informed, nor is the heart at all moved. In matters of religion and piety, not to edify much is to destroy much; and a fermon cold and poor will do more mischief in an hour, than a hundred rich sermons can do good. I do not mean, that a preacher should always use his utmost efforts, nor that he should always preach alike well, for that neither can nor ought to be. There are extraordinary occasions, for which all his vigour must be reserved. But I mean, that, in ordinary and usual sermons, a kind of plenitude should satisfy and content the hearers. The preacher must not always labour to carry the people beyond themselves, nor to ravish them into extacies : but he must always satisfy them, and maintain in them an esteem and an eagerness for practical piety. (2)

3. The

and reproves thus, “ it is a it may not be beyond the vein of vein preaching, turn- meanejt of them. This he will ing found preaching into a sound certainly study to do, if his of preaching ; tickling men's defire is to edify them, rather ears like a tinkling symbal, than to make them admire feeding them zdecuaos xxx himself as a learned and highzdisuadi, spoiling the plain fpoken man.” Pajt, care, fong with descant and divi- chap. 9. fon,” &c.

To the opinions of these Bishop Burnet, after much great masters we add that of on the same subject, says, an ancient orator : gutopines preacher is to fancy himfelt μεν καλυμεν τας εν τω πληθει λεas in the room of the most un your dureusits; eloquentes dilearned man in the whole parish, cimus eos qui AD POPULUM and muft therefore put such verba facere poflunt. parts of his discourses as he Ifocrates orat. ad Nicoc. 3. would have all understand, in (2) It seems a very just refo plain a form of words, that mark of the editor of Mafil



3. The preacher must be wise, Sober, chaste. I say wise, in opposition to those impertinent people, who utter jeits, comical comparisons, quirks and extravagancies; and such are a great part of the preachers of the church of Rome. (3)

I say

lon's sermons, that "the in- than any two of the best jufterest, which we have in what tices of the peace, by their is spoken, can only render us exaétett diligence, could. It attentive. All the truths, is not to be doubted (adds he.) which the preacher declares, but that if this method (of if we cannot personally apply constant practical preaching.) them, are only heard with were once dropped among us, disguftful weariness, and we the generality of the people, figh for the close of a dif- whatever else may be done to course, wherein we have no obviate it, would in seven concern, and which is not years time relapse into as bad even addresied to us." Perhaps a state of barbarity as was ever this is the true reason of that in practice among the worst almost universal dissatisfaction of our Danish or Saxox ancess which appears in so many toss.” Prid.con. part 1.6.6. places under sermons. What (3) It is not worth while to ever is not suited to my condi- exenplify this rule from the tion has a coldness and a pover- Romilh church, nor indeed ty, in regard to me; nor can any from any of our own coma thing warm my mind rational- munion; the best use we can ly, which does not illuminate make of such things, fo conit. If one minister address me trary to the gravity and unas if I were poflefied of angelic corrupt speech of every man powers and purity, and ano of God, is to pass them over ther speak to me as he would in silence. But I cannot help to the trunk of a tree, expect. observing, that we ought noc ing,. 1 know not what, me to charge whole communities chanism to move me; the lat. with the extravagances of a ter forgets that I am a ratio- few. The following passages nal creature, the former does are found in a sermon preachnot remember that I am a de- ed by a protestant clergyman, praved creature; both (what. at Bow-church, before the ever subjects they discuss.) are fociety for reformation of peor and cold to me. Dean manners : " As for those, Prideaux fays, “ one good that drop'd in by chance, or minister, by his weekly preach- came out of custom or curiing, and daily good example, osity, or to spy cut our liberty, would set religion forwarder that we have in the Lord, or

I say sober, in opposition to those rash fpirits, who would penetrate all, and curiously dive into mysteries beyond the bounds of modesty. Such


it may be, they know not sacred test I know not, and why themselves; they have whether it requires constant, the same freedom here as in or but occasional conformity, the devil's chapel, to stay as I leave to the learned, to drink few or as many acts as they the church's health ; and I please, and when they have suppose the rule is, as in other heard as much as serves their cales, fill as ye love her; and turn, or something they do the says, O friends, drink, yea not like, or think it may be drink abundantly, Cant. v. 1. change, or dinner-time, they Now I must confess this is no are free to be gone; and as rigid test, if the liquor be they came unsent and unlook- good; nay, I'll grant 'tis a ed for, so they may depart not pleasant and agreeable," &c. defired; and the only remark Bilet's serm. plain English I shall make is, that they went preached Mar. 27, 1704. out from us, but they were not I beg pardon for transcribof us; for if they had been of ing this ituff; I only observe, us, they would no doubt have that there are fools in other continued with us.' “ Our communities, as well as in new church-champion (if I do that of Rome. Such things, not mistake him) can see no however, have a


bad efreason why the scriptures fect, as they destroy the graTould not be taken in an ar- vity of sacred things in the minian sense: we are forry same proportion in which for that, but can't help it, they fanctify the levity of only we pray that God would profane ones : yet let us not bless his eye-light."

imagine, that every kind of “ A great dueller frankly smartness in preaching is to confess'd to me, that he never be avoided. Let no preacher, entered the devil's lifts (which ander a grave pretence of he had often done) but with folemnizing our spirits, dully this full persuasion, that if he declaim us into the vapours: lost his life, his foul was un- such preaching, like a paffingdone for ever; only confidence bell at a funeral, tolls us into in his fill, and the fear of the land of darkness and the being posted, (and as his ex- fhadow of death. If we had a preflion was, piss'd on) per- term for every degree of pleahaps with the help of brandy sure in the mind, I should be propium, buoyed up his able to explain my meaning i {pirits from finking.” .but fee Quintilian's whole " Whether it be a civil or chapter de rifu, lib. 6.


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