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but he is sorry that he is prevented; and then he designed also to have brought it down to the conscience of every man by a warm address; but his time being gone, he must break of.” He hurries over a hint or two, which should have been wrought up into exhortation or instruction, but all in great haste, and thus concludes his work. The obstinate and the careless sinners go away unwakened, unconvinced ; and the mourning soul departs uncomforted : the unbeliever is not led to faith in the gospel, nor the immoral wretch to haste to forsake his iniquities : the hypocrite and the man of sincerity are both unedified, because the preacher had not time. In short, he has finished his work, and he has done nothing.
When I hear this man preach, it brings to my remembrance the account which I have heard concerning the Czar of Muscovy, the first time that his army besieged a town in Livonia : he was then just come from his travels in Great Britain, where he and his ministers of state had learned the mathematics of an old acquaintance of mine: the Czar took great care to begin the siege in form : he drew all his lines of circumvallation and contravallation according to the rules of art; but he was so tedious and so exact in these mathematical performances, that the season was spent, he was forced to break up the siege, and retire without
the town. Ergates is another sort of preacher, a workman that need not be ashamed : he had in his younger days but few of these learned vanities, and age and experience have now worn them all off: he preaches like a man who watches for our souls, as one that must give an account; he passes over lesser matters with speed, and pursues his great design, namely, to save himself and 'them that hear him, i Tim. iv. 16. And by following this advice of St Paul, he happily complies with that great and natural rule of Horace, Always to make haste towards the most valuable end:
Semper ad eventum festinat.
He never affects to choose a very obscure text, lest he should waste too much of the hour in explaining the literal sense of it; he reserves all those obscurities till they come in course at his seasons of public exposition ; for it is his opinion that preaching the gospel for the salvation of men carries in it a little different idea from a learned and critical exposition of the difficult texts of scripture.
He knows well how to use his logic in his composures ; but he calls no part of the words by their logical name, if there be any vulgar name that answers it : reading and meditation have furnished him with extensive views of his subject, and his own good sense hath taught him to give sufficient reasons for every thing he asserts : but he never uses one of them till a proof is needful. He is acquainted with the mistaken glosses of expositors; but he thinks it need. less to acquaint his hearers with them, unless there be evident danger that they might run into the same mistake. He understands well what his subject is not, as well as what it is ; but when he would explain it to you, he never says, first, negatively, unless some remarkable error is at hand, and which his hearers may easily fall into for want of such a caution.
Thus in five or ten minutes at the most, he makes his way plain to the proposition or theme on which he designs to discourse ; and being so wise as to know well what to say, and what to leave out, he proportions every part of his work to his time; he enlarges a little upon the subject, by way of illustration, till the truth becomes evident and intelligible to the weakest of his hearers ; then he confirms the point with a few convincing arguments, where the matter requires it, and makes haste to turn the doctrine into use and improvement. Thus the ignorant are instructed, and the growing Christians are established and improved: the stupid sinner is loudly awakened, and the mourning soul receives consolation : the unbeliever is led to trust in Christ and his gospel, and the impenitent and immoral are convinced and softened, are melted and reformed. The inward
voice of the Holy Spirit joins with the voice of the minister ; the good man and the hypocrite have their proper portions assigned them, and the work of the Lord prospers in his hand,
This is the usual course and manner of his ministry. This method being natural, plain, and easy, he çasts many of his discourses into this form ; but he is no slave to forms and methods of any kind : he makes the nature of his subject, and the necessity of his hearers, the great rule to direct him what method he shall choose in every sermon, that he may the better enlighten, convince, and persuade. Ergates well knows that where the subject itself is entirely practical, he has no need of the formality of long uses and exhortations ; he knows that practice is the chief design of doctrine; therefore he bestows most of his labour vpon this part of his office, and intermingles much of the pathetic under every particular : yet he wisely observes the special dangers of his flock, and the errors of the time he lives in; and now and then (though very seldom) he thinks it necessary to spend almost a whole discourse in mere doctrinal articles. Upon such an occasion, he thinks it proper to take up a little larger part of his hour in explaining and confirm, ing the sense of his text, and brings it down to the understanding of a child.
At another time, perhaps, he particularly designs to entertain the few learned and polite among his auditors; and that with this view, that he may ingratiate his discourses with their ears, and may so far gratify their curiosity in this part of his sermon, as to give an easier entrance for the more plain, necessary, and important parts of it into their hearts. Then he aims at, and he reaches the sublime, and furnishes out an entertainment for the finest taste; but he scarcely ever finishes his sermon without compassion to the unlearned, and an address that may reach their consciences with words of salvation.
I have observed him sometimes, after a learned discourse, come down from the pulpit as a man ashamed, and quite
out of countenance : he has blushed and complained to his intimate friends, lest he should be thought to have preached himself, and not Christ Jesus his Lord: he has been ready to wish he had entertained the audience in a more unlearned manner, and on a more vulgar subject, lest the servants, and the labourers, and tradesmen there, should reap no advantage to their souls, and the important hour of worship should be lost as to their improvement. Well he knows, and keeps it upon his heart, that the middle and lower ranks of mankind, and people of an unlettered character, make up the greater part of the assembly; therefore he is ever seeking how to adapt his thoughts and his language, and far the greatest part of all his ministrations, to the instruction and profit of persons of common rank and capacity; it is in the midst of these that he hopes to find his triumph, his joy and crown in the last great day; for not many wise, not many noble are called.
There is so much spirit and beauty in his common conversation, that it is sought and desired by the ingenious men of his age : but he carries a severe guard of piety always about him, that tempers the pleasant air of his discourse, even in his brightest and freest hours ; and before he leaves the place (if possible) he will leave something of the favour of heaven there : in the parlour he carries on the design of the pulpit, but in so elegant a manner that it charms the
company, and gives not the least occasion for censure. His polite acquaintance will sometimes rally him for talking so plainly in his sermons, and sinking his good sense to so low a level : but Ergates is bold to tell the gayest of them, “ Our public business, my friend, is chiefly with the weak and the ignorant, that is, the bulk of mankind; the poor receive the gospel : the mechanics and day labourers, the women and children of my assembly, have souls to be saved ; I will imitate my blessed Redeemer, in preaching the gospel to the poor ; and learn of St Paul to become all things to all men, that I may win souls, and lead many sinners to heaven by repentance, faith, and holiness.”
SECT. SECT. II.
A branching Sermon. · I HAVE always thought it a mistake in the preacher to mince his text or his subject too small, by a great number of subdivisions ; for it occasions great confusion of the understandings of the unlearned. Where a man divides his matter into more general, less general, special, and more particular heads, he is under a necessity sometimes of saying, firstly or secondly, two or three times together, which the learned may observe; but the greater part of the auditory, not knowing the analysis, cannot so much as take it into their minds, and much less treasure it
in their memories in a just and regular order ; and when such hearers are desired to give some account of the sermon, they throw the thirdly's and secondly's into heaps, and make very confused work in a rehearsal, by intermingling the general and the special heads. In writing a large discourse this is much more tolerable * ; but in preaching it is less profitable, and more intricate and offensive.
It is as vain an affectation also to draw out a long rank of particulars in the same sermon under any one general, and run up the number of them to eighteenthly, or sevenand-twentiethly. Men that take delight in this sort of work will cut out all their sense into shreds; and every thing that they can say upon any topic shall make a new particular.
This sort of folly and mistaken conduct appears weekly in Polyramus's lectures, and renders all his discourses lean and insipid. Whether it proceed from a mere barrenness of thought, and a native dryness of soul, that he is not able to vary his matter, and to amplify beyond the formal topics of analysis, or whether it arise from affectation of such a way of talking, is hard to say : but it is certain that the chief part of his auditory are not over-much profited or
pleased. Especially as words may be used to number the generals and figures of different kinds and forms, to marshal the primary and secondary ranks of particulars under them.