Method In Sermons -- By: Leonard Withington

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 018:71 (Jul 1861)
Article: Method In Sermons
Author: Leonard Withington


Method In Sermons

Rev. Leonard Withington

Very much attention has been paid by most sermonizers to the method, the order, and the division of their discourses. In some associations, it is a constant exercise to exhibit the skeleton of a sermon as a subject of criticism; and yet the success of this labor, it seems to us, has borne no proportion to the labor itself. We have known some cases in which the order of a sermon has been bad just in propor-

tion to the labor bestowed upon it. There are two reasons for this result: One is, there is a spontaneous course of thought in our minds, which is only disturbed by an artificial attention to it; just as a winding river is sometimes changed by art into a straight canal; and, second, the mind of the writer has been injured for want of a comprehensive view of what the true design of method is: he has preferred a pedantic form of method, while all its freshness and power has been lost. We would, therefore, preface this discussion by stating what we suppose the true design of method to be.

The design is founded on the very nature of the human mind. Man is, himself, a system. Everything he sees around him is a unity of assembled truths. A house, a tree, an orchard, an animal, a field, an army — each one is a system, and every unity is a collection. The conception is then within us, and we have been trained up by our own consciousness, and all that is within us, to observe systems, and to be ourselves systematic; and of a system it may always be said, that there is one order of unfolding it which is the most simple and the best. It is founded in the nature of things. Hence the importance of method. It belongs to rational creatures. It has its foundation in the laws of thought.

It is very true that men differ in this ability to select the best method of presenting a subject. Method arises from a sort of intellectual foresight. The man of method thinks first of that which he executes last. Were you to see an archer preparing his bow, making ready his arrow on the string, taking deliberately his aim, and finally hitting his mark, you would see an emblem of the aim and ends of method in a discourse. The speaker has one great impression which he wishes to make. He always keeps his end in view. In his introduction, his figures, his diction, his arguments and his arrangement of them, he makes everything subservient to his last impression. No matter what his variety may be, if all accumulates on one point, and tends to one result. The first thing in method is :

The Introduction

The object of an introduction is to prepare the way for the subject. It should excite...

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