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cation. Thus the apostle Peter, (2 Peter iii.) after treating of the general conflagration, very naturally concludes, “Seeing then that all these things shall be dissolved, what manner of persons ought ye to be in all holy conversation and godliness ;” and after taking notice of the new heavens and new earth, that shall succeed the present, he adds, “Wherefore, beloved, seeing that ye look for such things, be diligent that

ye may be found of him in peace without spot and blameless.” In like manner, the apostle Paul, after treating at some length of the resurrection, concludes the whole with this earnest exhortation, (1 Cor. xv. 58.) “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be ye stedfast, immoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, for as much as ye know that your labour is not in vain in the Lord.” ” It is almost only this part, which in explanatory discourses admits of warmth, and what may be called an address to the affections. A deep sense in the preacher of the importance of this improvement of every instruction which he gives, an affectionate desire of promoting the good of the people, and a zeal for the interests of religion and virtue are the only sure me. thods I know of, for qualifying him to address themi suitably and efficaciously.

137

LECTURE X.

Of Controversial Discourses.... Candour and Simplicity ever to be studied in

the Defence of Truth.

I HAVE now finished the consideration of the explanatory sermon, which is of all the kinds mentioned the simplest, and approaches nearest to what in the primitive church was called homily. The end of it, as was observed, is to dispel ignorance and to communicate knowledge, and for this purpose it addresses the understanding of the hearers. The next in order is the controversial, addressed also to the understanding, its end being to conquer doubt and error and to produce be. lief. In other words, by the first it is proposed to inform the hearers, by the second to convince them. It is the second kind, which I now intend to consider, and shall endeavour to despatch, what I have to offer upon it in the present lecture. There are many observations, such as those regarding the unity of the subject, the choice of a text, the topics proper for the exordium, the explication of text and context, where necessary, which hold equally in all the kinds and therefore need not be repeated in the examination of each different kind.

In regard to the unity of the subject, I shall only observe, that here it admits rather a clearer definition or description, than perhaps in any of the others. A controversial sermon is then strictly one, when there is only one thesis, as I may call it, that is, one proposi. tion, whether affirmative or negative, the truth of which it is the scope of the whole discourse to evince. Suppose a preacher should (in order to guard his people against some apparent danger of seduction; for, without some special reason of this sort, controversy

is not eligible in the pulpit,) judge it necessary to maintain the lawfulness of infant-baptism ; that which would constitute his performance one, is that the aim of the whole, and of every part, should unite in supporting this position, that it is agreeable to the gospel dispensation, that infants should be baptized. The thing might be illustrated by a thousand other examples, but it is really so plain in itself, that I could not consider it, as any other, than losing time to produce more instances.

In regard to the text, the same qualities are required here as in the former species, namely appositeness, simplicity and perspicuity. In regard to the first of these, the appositeness, let it be remarked here by the way, that it is not possible to find, on every subject, a text that has this quality in an equal degree. On some articles, the declarations of scripture are more explicit and direct; on others, not less certain even from scripture, the evidences at least in regard to the mode of expression are more implicit and indirect. I may ob. serve also that we are not to understand this quality of apposite so strictly, as to suppose, that by the text we should discover whether the intended sermon is to be explanatory or controversial. This is hardly ever to be expected. The text John iv. 24, "God is a spirit," is simple, perspicuous and apposite, either for an explanatory discourse on the nature of the Divine spirituality, or for a controversial discourse, whose aim is to evince the spirituality of God. Nay in a course of preaching on points, which may be controverted, this method, especially by a pastor in his own parish, is sometimes not improperly adopted. His division of the subject accordingly, when he first enters on it, may be this, first to explain the doctrine of his text whatever it be, secondly to evince the truth of that doctrine. As however the tenour of these two different parts, from the nature of the composition fitted to each, is very different, it is commonly better to disjoin them, so far as to make separate discourses of them, though from the same passage of sacred writ, the explanation being the subject of the first, and the proof of the subject of that which immediately succeeds the other. But when the explanatory part may with sufficient distinctness be despatched in a few sentences, I should admit that both parts may conveniently enough, and without violating the unity of design, be comprised in the same discourse. Something extremely similar we find to have taken place sometimes in the judiciary pleadings of the ancients, which I observed to have an analogy, in point of form, to controversial sermons. When the law was either obscure or complex, a separate explanation of the statute was made to precede the arguments either for, or against the accused. And we can easily perceive the expediency of this method for throwing light upon the proof, and assisting the hearers in discerning the justness of the reasoning. A

similar manner we find recommended by the example of some of the best preachers, both in French and in English.

In the controversial sermon after the gxordium, and el brief explanation of the text and context where necessary; the point of doctrine to be either supported or refuted, ought to be as distinctly, perspicuously and briefly as possible proposed, and then the method ought to be laid down, in which you intend to manage the argument. This method on different questions will be very different. When a controverted point is simple in its nature, and when there is only one opposing sentiment, which the preacher has to refute, the most common, and indeed the most natural method he can take will be, first to refute the arguments of the adversary, and secondly to support his own doctrine by proper proofs. On the first, his acquaintance with the adversary's plea must serve for a directory as to the method wherein he should proceed. Only let it be observed in general, that where one means honest. ly to defend truth and to detect error, he will ever find his account in employing the most plain and unequivocal expressions, and in exposing the ambiguities and indefinite terms, in which, it often happens, that the sophistry of the adverse party lies concealed. some of our theological disputes, and even some of those which have created the greatest ferments and most lasting animosities among christians, are merely verbal. These, as much as possible, ought to be avoided. Others, in which there is a real difference in opinion, as well as in expression, in the different sides, have nevertheless given rise to a deal of logoma-, chy in the manner wherein they have been managed.

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