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There was attention; there was feeling. Three thousand were sinitten down and rose at once to new and joyous life. There is generally feeling, where there is this discriminative style of address. The obstacle which arises from the insensibility of the dead heart is measurably overcome.
There is another obstacle, in a degree overcome by this mode of employing truth, namely, that which arises from the settled disinclination of men to the gospel. God's truth is a disrelished thing, generally loathed. Men naturally have no taste for it, no desire for it. Hence the injunction : Go, carry the message ; mete it out with fitness and skill, and convey it to the quarter where it is especially needed. The portion which is needed is often the very portion most repugnant to the soul; as the medicine' which the disease demands, is the most odious to the taste. We ask, will such select out from the mass and take the requisite portion of their own accord ? No, the Christian in fault, will just let alone the truth, which will operate against hiin, in the way of detection and reproof. The backslider will stand far away from the message, fitted to awaken and recover him. The impenitent man will avoid, if he can, the argument, which demolishes his delusion and rends away his excuses. There is no other course then, than to mete out and assign the apt and fitting truth, — with skill, direct,—with feeling urge it home. Sometimes it is like feeding a man with the lock-jaw; all that he receives has to be crowded between his teeth. I am here speaking of depravity in its more sullen, obdurate, unyielding features. By no adjustment of truth, or power of appeal, can we expect, ordinarily, to do men of this character any good.
But the preacher has not always such to preach to. By some providence of God, or some voice or influence from above, at length, the hardness and disinclination, as it respects many, begin to yield. The ear and heart, before shut, are now open. They come to the sanctuary, longing for the appropriate kind and style of truth. May we not suppose, that a single sentence, directed that way, will accomplish more, than a whole sermon hurled against closed and barred hearts? Where affliction bas softened, or the Spirit is striving, there is a spot thirsting for the divine word, as the weary earth thirsts for the genial shower. Let the preacher search out such spots on the otherwise cold and rocky field assigned him. Whenever they exist, let him meet them, with the truths demanded by their awakened sympathies—their realized perils and necessities, and he will assu
redly do good. The word will be received, and do its office of sanctification and redemption.
If it be thus indispensable, that the word of truth be rightly divided and discriminately assigned in order to its highest and best effects, it is important that the qualifications demanded in the preacher, for this distinctive, diversified mode, be understood and possessed. *
Among the things requisite in the preacher to skill and success in this style, are,
1. An enlarged and accurate knowledge of, and a symmetrical attachment to the system of truth. Truth is the preacher's instrument on wbich he relies as the means of every achievement. The scheme of truth, as a whole, is very nice in the adjustment of its parts and powers,- very delicate and precise in the arrangement of balancing considerations. Of course, it is very easily disturbed, and when disturbed, it becomes injurious and even destructive in its operation. Many of the single points of truth, by being urged too far, even on their appropriate line, are carried over into the region of error. It is indispensable, then, in order to divide off, and employ skilfully any one part of the system, that we understand the whole system, and the precise relation of the part or section we employ, to the whole system. When we hold up any one aspect of truth it must be in perfect knowledge and recollection of every other aspect. If not, the part presented will be liable to be inordinately magnified and extended. Suppose you put, as has often been done, the scheme of doctrine and precept, into rude and disqualified bands. The preacher of this sort, in his zeal to make the part he is upon, do its whole office and a little more, very soon induces disorder and conflict, where God ordained harmony. In one sermon, the divine sovereignty becomes a blind, inflexible fatalism. In another, man's ability, independence of bis Maker. In another, the impotence of the sinner, a release from responsibility. In another, free grace, freedom from holiness. He divides and dwells upon the sections, and successively magnifies and distorts them, till they turn in hostility upon each other, and the sermon of to-day is really and openly at war with the sermon of yesterday. All this proceeds from attempting to handle the parts, when the knowledge does not extend to the whole.
It is equally important that the attachment be enlarged and proportionate. Some have a strong doctrinal partiality. They SECOND SERIES, VOL. II. NO. III.
seem to live and move and have their spiritual being in a particular doctrine. In every prayer they thank God for that doctrine. In every sermon, it becoines the bone and body of discourse,
They have indulged the unique altachment till the mind has beaten a track on the favorite section of truth, from which it cannot for any length of time consent to depart. If the preacher starts in his discourse, from some other point, and apparently on some new route, he proceeds not far before he swings back into the old thoroughfare, and trudges out the time, with the complacent belief, that if there is not power in that line of thought, there is power nowhere. To succeed then in a distinctive and consequently diversified exbibition of truth, there must be a mind enlarged, enlightened and liberalized theologically.
2. Success in this varied style of exhibition requires a mind liberalized in a literary and rhetorical respect. There is failure often, on account of fixed and uniform mental habitudes. Some are so uniquely constituted and trained, intellectually, that they cannot, or think they cannot present truth in the varying styles and aspects demanded for its widest impression and productiveness. One possesses predominantly the imaginative faculty. He deals in exquisite imagery and harmonious periods. He is taken with these things, and supposes that every body else will be. Another has the reasoning faculty very strongly developed. Nothing but rigid demonstration affects him, and, as he supposes, will affect others. Another, is of so quick sensibility, that proof or no proof, he feels with almost equal intensity. One ranges most readily and naturally around the terrific region of Sinai. Another dwells with most facility and success on the milder themes of Calvary and the August Sufferer there. Most will recollect the very graphic contrast drawn by Robert Hall, between Andrew Fuller and James Toller, two contemporaneous ministers of Kettering. .
Mr. Fuller appeared to most advantage when occupied in delecting sophistry, repelling objections, and ascertaining with microscopic accuracy, the exact boundaries of truth and error. Mr. Toller gave his attention chiefly to those parts of Christianity wbich come most into contact with the imagination and the feelings, over which he exerted a sovereign ascendency. Mr. Fuller convinced by his arguments, Mr. Toller subdued by his pathos. The former made his hearers feel the grasp of his intellect, the latter, the contagion of his sensibility. Mr. Fuller's discourses identified themselves after they were heard with trains
of thought, Mr. Toller's with trains of emotion. The illustrations employed by Mr. Fuller, (for he also excelled in illustration) were generally made to subserve the clearer comprehension of his subject; those of Mr. Toller consisted chiefly of appeals to the imagination and the heart. Mr. Fuller's ministry was peculiarly adapted to detect hypocrites, to expose fallacious pretensions to religion, and to separate the precious from the vile ; he sat as “the refiner's fire and the fuller's soap.” Mr. Toller was most in his element when exhibiting the consolations of Christ, dispelling the fears of death, and painting the prospects of eternity. We have here an illustration of the varying mental aptitudes and inclinations of men ; and we see how they stand in the way of that divided and diversified exhibition of truth, so necessary to its largest results. The duty of the minister in this respect is plain. In order to reach and benefit every class, every variety of cultivation and taste, he must reach after a certain largeness, liberality, and versatility of mind ; not be forever one thing in style, and spirit and tone. He must cultivate an aptitude in a great variety of directions. In the first place, pungent, significant intention, in whatever way he does turn; then, the power of turning a great many ways, and of presenting truth in all its parts, motives, and aspects, doctrinal or practical, mild or severe, calm or fervid, gorgeous or simple, logical or hortatory, as the object to be gained, the minds to be affected may require Ministers, as a general thing, may attain to a good degree, this diversified power, these opposite aptitudes. They must, if they would gain access to the greatest number of minds. If any are sensible of a bias to one class of topics, or one style of exhibition, they can resist this propensity, and range in other modes, and other regions, and must, if they would achieve the largest practicable amount of impression and of good.
3. Another thing on the part of the preacher, requisite to the style of exhibition which has been advocated, is knowledge of men,—that accurate knowledge which is gained by a free intercourse with and study of them in all their prejudices, passions, interests, and pursuits. This knowledge is indispensable to the preacher as the means of meeting with any sureness, the exigencies of his flock,—the varying forms of the wide spread malady, the peculiarities of trial, of feeling and belief, which exist within the sphere of his labor, and which demand prompt and special appliances. If he has not the knowledge in question, he knows nothing as he ought to know. His treasures, gathered from all ages and a universe of books, will avail bim but little, in this real work of life and death, if he is destitute of good, plain, homespun common sense. If he has not wit enough, adroitly to guide him in disbursing his treasures, if he is so indiscriminately, so insanely prodigal of them, as to throw them out under swine's feet, he might just as well be loaded with pebbles as with pearls ; just as well for the swine, just as well for bimself. I must leave this point, though its importance demands a more extended consideration. For here we have a prominent cause why certain men, turn out so differently from what is anticipated. Some, on the one hand of very limited literary and theological advantages, transcend expectation. The reason is, though they have not read the world of books, the folios of the past and the present; they have read, in its best openings, that most original and stirring, and instructive of all books, the real world of character, living, moving, acting men. They know the common mind. They understand human nature. Hence all the truth they have, is brought into very significant and effective service. On the other hand, some of large qualifications and promise, disappoint expectation. The reason is, while they are familiar with the world of books, they are sadly ignorant of the world of men,-ignorant of the very beings whom it is their duty and office to save. They do not wield the sword of the Spirit with intelligent and discriminative aim. They do not command respect and gain influence, simply because they know not men. Multitudes, without question, have gone down to the weepings and wailings of endless death, jeering along the way and making themselves merry at some of the indiscretious—the pointless and unfitting appeals, and erratic strokes of the ministry appointed to warn and save them.
4. Moral courage-strength and decision of purpose are demanded for the divided and distinctive style of presentation. It is this style we have seen, which does the execution. A little fragment of truth-a pebble from the brook, by a stripling thrown, will often accomplish more, against even a giant depravity, than a huge mass of rock, cut entire from the mountain, though hurled in the same direction with a giant's strength. It is not the broad magnificent surface, but the presented point which pricks the heart and goads the conscience. And wbile it pricks and goads, it is apt to irritate. I plead for no rude and causeless exasperation. I have no sympathy with those