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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 Seven-and-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 Topick shall make a new Particular.
This Sort of Folly and mistaken Conduct appears Wickly in Polyramus's Lectures, and renders all his Discourses lean and insipid. Whether it proceed from a mere Barrenness of Thought and a native Driness of Soul, that he is not able to vary his Matter and to amplify beyond the formal Topics of an 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-inuch profited or pleased. When I fit under his Preaching I fancy myself brought into the Valley of Ezekiel's Vision; it was full of Bones, and behold, there were very many in the Valley, and lo, they were very dry. Ezek. xxxvii. 1, 2.
it is the Variety of Enlargement upon a few proper Heads that clothes the dry Bones with Flesh, and animates them with Blood and Spirits ; it is this that colours the
Discourse, makes it warm and strong, and renders the divine Propositions bright and perswalive: It is this brings down the Doctrine or the Duty to the Understanding and Conscience of the whole Auditory, and commands the natural Affections into the Interest of the Gospel : In short, it is this that, under the Influence of the holy Spirit, gives Life and Force, Beauty and Success to a Sermon, and provides Food for Souls. A single Rofe-bush, or a Dwarf-pear with all their Leaves, Flowers and Fruit about them, have, more Beauty and Spirit in themselves, and yield more Food and Pleasure to Mankind, then the innumerable Branches, Boughs and Twigs of a long Hedge of Thorns. The Fruit will feed the Hungry, and the Flower will refresh the Fainting, which is more than can be said of the thickest Oak in Bajban, when it has lost its vital Joice; it may spread its Limbs indeed far and wide, but they are naked, withered and fapless.
T S it not possible to forsake one Extreme I without running into a worse? Is there no Medium between a Sermon made up of sixty dry Particulars, and a long loose Declamation without any Distinction of the
Parts Parts of it? Must.the Preacher divide his Work by the Breaks of a Minute-Watch, or let it run on incessant to the last Word, like the flowing Stream of the Hour-Glass that measures his Divinity ? Surely Fluvio preaches as though he knew no Medium; and having taking a Disgust heretofore at one of Polyramus's Lectures, he rcfolved his Discourses should have no Distinction of Particulars in them. - His Language flows fmoothly in a long Connection of Periods, and glides over the Ear like a Rivulet of Oyl over polish'd Marble, and like that too leaves no Trace behind it. The Attention is detained in a gentle Pleasure, and (to say the best Thing possible of it) the Hearer is foothed into something like divine Delight; but he can give the enquiring Friend scarce any Account what it was that pleased him. He retains a faint Idea of the Sweetness, but has forgot the Sense.
TELL me Fluvio, is this the most effectual Way to instruct ignorant Creatures in the scveral Articles of Faith, and the various Duties of the Christian Life? Will such a long uniform Flow of Language imprint all the distant Parts of christian Knowledge on the Mind, in their best Form and Order? Do you find such a gentle and gliding Stream of Words, most powerful to call up the Souls of Sinners from their dangerous or fatal Le'thargy? Will this indolent and moveless Species of Oratory make a thoughtlefs Wretch attend to Matters of infinite Moment ? Can a long purling Sound awaken a fleepy Conscience, and give a perishing Sinner just No. tices of his dreadful Hazard? Can it furnish his Understanding and his Memory with all the awful and tremendous Topics of our Religion, when it scarce ever leaves any distinct Impression of one of them on his Soul? Can you make the Arrow wound where it will not stick? Where all the Discourse vanishes from the Remembrance, can you suppose the Soul to be profited or enriched ? When you brush over the closed Eyelids with a Feather, did you ever find it give Light to the Blind ? Has any of your soft Harangues, your continued Threads of silken Eloquence ever raised the Dead? I fear your whole Aim is to talk over the appointed Number of Minutes upon the Subject, or to practise a little upon the gentler Passions, without any Concern how to give the Understanding its due Improvement, or to furnish the Memory with any lasting Treasure, or to make a knowing and a religious Christian.
Ask old Wheat field the rich Farmer, ask Plowdorun your Neighbour, or any of his Family who have fate all their Lives under your Ministry, what they know of the common Truths of Religion, or of the special Arti. cles of Christianity. Desire them to tell you, what the Gospel is, or what is Salvation ?
What What are their Duties toward God, or what they mean by Religion? Who is Jesus Chrift, or what is the Meaning of his Atonement or Redemption by his Blood ? Perhaps you will tell me yourself, that you have very sel. dom entertained them with these Subjects. Well, enquire of them what is Heaven? Which is the Way to obtain it, or what Hope they have of dwelling there ? Entreat them to tell you, wherein they have profited as to Holiness of Heart or Life, or Fitness for Death. They will soon make it appear by their awkward Answers, that they understood very little of all your fine Discourses, and those of your Predecessors; and have made but wretched Improvement of forty Years attendance at Church. They have now and then been pleased perhaps with the Mufic of your Voice as with the Sound of a sweet Instrument, and they mistook that for Devotion; but their Heads are dark fill, and their Hearts carthly; they are mere Heathens with a Chrifiian Name, and know liitle more of God than their Yokes of Oxen. In short, Polyrainus's Auditors have some Confusion in their knowledge, buit Fluvic's Hearers have scarce any Knowledge at all.