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their eternal bell to please the ear. And Ritualism is aptly symbolised by its music. The Ritualistic chant is a beautiful wail, a melodious groan; just what Ritualism itself is, a constant weeping at the sepulchre, a religion of death instead of life, an endeavour to stop all the pulsations of human love and desire, and to wrap the whole mind and spirit in a winding-sheet. And so their spirit wails out in their music like the hollow sighs of mournful ghosts at midnight. There is a certain beauty about the whole thing, just as sometimes there is a beauty about a corpse; but from such a religion that “has its dwelling among the tombs,” good Lord, deliver us. I am not to be understood to recommend that we should imitate them in all their puerile details; but taking the principle of the advantage of variety illustrated in their example, apply it in our own conduct of religious worship.
This needful variety in preaching is attainable. We are not likely to labour much after that which we reckon beyond our reach. Let it therefore be a settled axiom with us, that we are all equal to the attainment of this desideratum. A man with an ordinary mind should think some fresh thoughts every day. Writing stimulates the power of thinking, therefore he should write down daily one good thought at least. Surely, a living, perceptive mind with so many varied things around it, ought to find it impossible to think on in the same dull routine. And consider, too, the extent of our theme. Does it not fill heaven and earth? If we can find no variety here, we shall find none anywhere. One might preach on the scheme of redemption for a lifetime, and exhibit a fresh phase of it in every sermon, and yet fail to exhaust the subject. The multitude of the stars of this heaven cannot be numbered. Like the world of nature, grace has infinite resources of freshness. Breadth, or concentration of view will equally interest. You may study a leaf or a landscape, and find equal food for meditation and wonder. The leaf with its stem and branching veins, its delicate tissue, and the subtle ministry of the flowing sap, its peculiar texture and colour, and its outline bearing a general analogy to that of the tree from which it was plucked, will move your admiration of the skill and wisdom of God, no less than the landscape with its million fluttering leares, and its breezy hills and plains, lying as if in conscious security beneath the protection of the bending sky. And grace is another heaven and earth. The love of God is like the blue heaven above us, now bright with the greater orb of his unspeakable gift, now sweetly glancing down in the starry jewellery of the promises; and should not the responsive life of his people be like the fair green carth, growing, blooming, bearing fruit, and offering back to heaven the fitting tribute in its spiritual fruitage and beauty? The infinite theme which the angels desire to look into, and which will furnish eternally unexhausted matter of contemplation in heaven, leaves us without excuse if we lack variety in preaching.
Through the husk and shell we reach now the kernel of our subjectthe best means of attaining this variety.
First, study books. Reading makes a full man, and we would counsel the preacher to give himself the benefit of wide reading. Unless he have in his unassisted brain the intellect of all the world besides, he will find much of suggestion and help in the thoughts of other men. Books are the brains of dead and living men preserved for our examination; or, if you will have it less unpleasantly put, thought embalmed, free spirit caught and prisoned in paper bonds. The man who studies may admit other men's minds into his own. He may speak in many voices, and with other tongues to his people. We recommend that a certain portion of each day be punctually devoted to this employment. But let not your reading be confined to theology. This were to practise a one-sided system of study injurious to the mind, and ineffectual to gain your object. Press all books into the service. Let science yield up her treasures, and poetry be enticed to hang her pearls around the neck of your theme ; let grave books lend you their solidity, and gay books impart their cheer; let old books add to you their quaintness, and new books contribute their freshness and bloom.
Add to your reading the study of God's three books, to wit-revelation, providence, nature. Read pre-eminently, deeply, continuously, the Bible, the freshest, the most varied, the sublimest, the sweetest of all books. Other requisites being granted, the man mighty in the Scriptures need not fear for his preaching on the score of variety. There are no words like the words of Scripture for reaching the human heart. Be thou, therefore, a disciple of the master-book. Let the Bible illustrate itself. Set its texts underneath its own pictures. Creation is gradually forming out of darkness ; chaos and old night have fled ; light, order, beauty, and life are being evolved under the creating hand of God: write underneath, “If any man be in Christ,
: , he is a new creature.” Israel is passing dryshod over Jordan. The waters have not dared to overwhelm the chosen race, for the ark stands in the midst of the river bed. Write under, “When thou passest through the waters, I will be with thee; and through the rivers, they shall not overflow thee.” Jericho is falling to ruins, not by the shock of the battering-ram, but by the blast of the trumpet, and the shout of the people. Write underneath, “The weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds." This is a field of hidden treasure, and to the attentive student the book will illustrate itself with marvellous richness.
Associate the study of providence with your Bible reading. Providence both in history and daily life will furnish many an effective illustration, and point many a lesson. Nothing has a more powerful influence on men's minds than fact. He who makes discreet use of facts in bis sermons will not be an ineffective preacher.
Ponder over God's book of nature. Never was there in sacred cloister a more richly illuminated missal than this. Christ made much use of it. “I am the true vine.” “ Consider the lilies of the field.” “Behold the fowls of the air." Let your sympathies be drawn out by nature. Lean over the railing of some rustic wooden bridge, and look into the rippling stream below. Sit down amongst the hyacinths in the wood. Read your Bible there, and you will understand it better. Mrs. Gatty's Parables from Nature are suggestive as to the method of drawing out spiritual and moral truths from the world around us. There is a subtle sympathy possessed by some with the winds, and flowers, and the hazy woods, that enables them to extort from nature her secrets. Beecher is one of these nature kings. There are in his sermons passages
of exquisite natural poetry, and passages withal that come wonderfully close to the human heart, which are unrivalled in their own peculiar line. If you can obtain that subtle sympathy you will see and hear in nature more than ordinary men. The depth will no longer say, “It is not in me," nor the sea, It is not with me." All things will unfold their treasures to you. The stone will break open at your touch, and reveal its casket of jewels; the ocean will yield its pearls of truth; flowers will make your sermons fragrant; and from all quarters of the earth the winds will bring you their messages, strange and beautiful as the lands from which they come. But nature tells her secrets only to her lovers.
Study also human nature. The faculty of hitting off character in a few graphic touches is a great element of power in preaching. Analyse character wherever you meet with it, till you are able to produce in a few seutences full-length portraits of the persons to whom or of whom you speak. Nothing is farther from my meaning than indulgence in coarse personality. Some who practise it think it a fine thing. They are alone in that opinion. But the preacher has to do with men ; a certain knowledge of human nature is essential to him, and the more thorough and practical that knowledge is, the better.
While practising this habit of universal observation accustom yourself to apply it as universally to the illustration and enforcement of truth. Although some naturally possess this power, it may like all things else be greatly cultivated. In all your reading, marking, and learning, assimilate whatever is available, by that process of inward digestion recommended in the prayer-book. Be like the loadstone which attracts the steel filings. I have seen wire suspended in a chemical solution till it crystallised the substance to itself in beautiful forms. Be like this wire ; come out of your book with the crystals of thought and illustration sticking all over you, and let them sparkle in your discourses.
Seek variety in the choice of your subjects. Unless you have great fertility of thought you will scarcely elect to preach on the same text for seven Sundays in succession. Look over the subjects of your sermons occasionally, to find out whether any important topic has been omitted. Let your general reading and your pastoral visits also be suggestive. Preach not from the New Testament alone, neither when in the Old Testament confine yourself to the Psalms. Take sometimes a didactic, sometimes a pictorial text. The choice of your subjects may be influenced by many things around you. Follow God in his arrangement of the year, and let the seasons give the key-note to your changes. Spring time and harvest, summer and winter, should not cease in your sermons. The spring will give you resurrection topics; and the snowdrops and crocuses will suggest the fresh sweet flowers of grace in the heart. The summer will bring its illustrations of the maturity of the Christian life, and recall to your memory many a Bible sentence which specially belongs to that season. Such texts as, “The shadow of a great rock’in a weary land,” or, " The sun shall not smite thee by day,” would not be so well appreciated at Christmas time; just as, on the other hand, “Who can stand before his cold ?” is hardly suitable for the month of June. “Herein is my Father glorified, that
ye bear much fruit,” is an autumn text. One half of your people will have gathered their fruit the week before, and they will listen accordingly; and the other half will be gathering it the week after, and you will have hung a sermon for thein on every bough. The manytinted foliage will be suggestive. The bright scarlet and yellow leaves leaping from their boughs, and floating on the autumn wind to their resting-place on some green bank, will furnish an emblem of the joyful death of the believer; the departure of the wicked you will liken to the sombre brown leaves that fade and decay, as if in conscious gloom, and fall to rot in the damp ditch below. In winter, when the snow-flakes are falling thick, and covering the hills and hedges with white, you will preach on the notable words in the first chapter of Isaiah's gospel, or the cry of the penitent king in the fifty-first Psalm. Or, again, take advantage of current events of public interest. Avail yourself of the signing of the treaty of peace, and let your people hear you “preaching peace by Jesus Christ.” Isaiah, in his sixty-second chapter, turned to account the royal wedding of Hezekiah and Hephzibah : “ Thou shalt no more be termed Forsaken; neither shall thy land any more be termed Desolate : but thou shalt be called Hephzibah, and thy land Benlah : for the Lord delighteth in thee, and thy land shall be married. For as a young man marrieth a virgin, so shall thy sons marry thee : and as the bridegroom rejoiceth over the bride, so shall thy God rejoice over thee.” We might also quote a more recent example of the same thing. * Here is a text for the Census day: “The Lord shall count, when he writeth up the people, that this man was born there;” and if you should be asked, why the Lord is to perform the work, reply, that it is a great multitude, which no man could number.” Even events associated with sinful amusement may be advantageously used by the preacher. The English games may suggest to you, as the Grecian games to the apostle, admonitions for the Christian life. “Let us run with patience the race that is set before us.” “ He that striveth for the mastery is temperate in all things." Samson found honey in the destroyer, physicians employ poisons in the healing art, and why may not we distil gospel truths even from the most unpromising materials ? Within due limits this practice may be profitably followed, care being always taken not to debase our ministry, but to elevate the theme to the level of Scripture dignity.
Is it absolutely necessary that the text should be taken from the Bible ? Christ availed himself of any passing incident, not only in his private conversations with the disciples, as when he spoke of the lilies and the vine, but also in his public discourses, as on the sower and the calamity at Siloam. Indeed, only once, I think, did he take a text from
Ι the Bible, namely, in the synagogue at Nazareth. The apostles, though they often founded their addresses on a chain of reasoning from Scripture when they preached to Jews, as often told out their gospel without a text. I am not recommending the plan as one to be often adopted, but merely venture to throw out the hint. I have not yet
* The “ (xample" referred to is “ The Röyal Wedding." By C. H. Spurgeon. Published on the occasion of the marriage of the Princess Louise and the Marquis of Lorne.
discovered the commandment, “ Thou shalt not preach without a text from Scripture.” We should commit no sin in feeling ourselves at liberty to take advantage of any arrestive incident, rather than let it pass unemployed because it was not a Bible text ; and though a text might easily be found that would work it up, its very absence sometimes might more effectually arrest the attention of the people. Su an address need not be lacking in Scripture truth. This we must use if we would have God's blessing on our efforts. But the mere presence of a text at the head of a discourse is no guarantee, as we all know too well, that there is necessarily any Scripture truth in the sermon that follows.
Having chosen your subject, study variety of treatment. Sometimes treat it generally, taking a comprehensive view ; at other times, in detail, using the microscope to examine into its very texture. The motto, “ Stick to your text,” is the first principle of this science. You know how Rowland Hill counselled young preachers. He said the gospel was a milch cow, which always gave plenty of milk, and of the best quality. “I never write my sermons,” said he; “I always trust. to the gospel. I first pull at justification, then give a plug at adoption, and afterwards a bit at sanctification, and so on, till I have in one way or other filled my pail with gospel milk; and if you will only do the same, young men, depend upon it you will make far better ministers than you will ever do by writing your sermons and preaching from memory.” Now this advice, however witty, I venture to characterise as eminently vicious. Only a man of Rowland Hill's originality could act upon it without certain ruin to the freshness of his preaching. But if the peculiar teaching of each text be conscientiously brought out, a man of but medium ability need not fear becoming stale. Aim, therefore, to discover and exhibit the speciality of your text. Let this be your golden rule. Make a note of it; and as you value your reputation, avoid swivel sermons: that is to say, such as can be turned indiscriminately to any text. May I, without an appearance of presumption, be allowed to express the opinion that this is one great element in the freshness of certain sermons familiar to us all? Let me give, as an instance, at random, a sermon, dated January 8th, on the words, “Come unto me, all ye that labour,” etc. It is a well-worn text, and deservedly so; yet the sermon is entirely new. The preacher took the microscope, and peered into the recesses of the sentences, and brought out that beautiful idea of “ Rest, and Rest,” which we revelled in as we read. There is a sermon of the same preacher, from Isaiah liii. 6 : “ The Lord hath laid on him the iniquity of us all”-a text from which he had preached before, but he secured a perfectly new interest by bringing out the deeper meaning indicated in his title, “Individual sin laid on Jesus." If we resolutely refuse to leave the text till we have caught from its lips its own idiom of truth, we shall surprise ourselves, as well as benefit the people, by the freshness of Bible thought.
A different point of view, or a different light, will sometimes vividly show up a text. Like a bas-relief it has its own character and beauty when the light is held full in front; but take the light to the side, and the piece is thrown out in bold shadow with startling distinctness. Do you recollect the emotions with which you first beheld a familiar land