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of logic and metaphysics, and the formalities of definition and division, syllogism and method, when they brought them so often into the pulpit ; but we hold those arts so much in contempt and defiance, that we had rather talk a whole hour without order and without edification, than be suspected of using logic or method in our discourses.
Some of our fathers neglected politeness perhaps too much, and indulged a coarseness of style, and a rough or aukward pronunciation ; but we have such a value for elegance, and so nice a taste for what we call polite, that we dare not spoil the cadence of a period to quote a text of scripture in it, nor disturb the har. mony of our sentences, to number or to name the heads of our dis, course. And for this reason, I have heard it hinted, that the Dame of Christ has been banished out of polite sermons, be. cause it is a monosyllable of so many consonants, and so barsh & sound.
But after all, our fathers with all their defects, and with all their weaknesses, preached the gospel of Christ to the sensible instruction of whole parishes, to the conversion of sinners from the errors of their way, and the salvation of muliitudes of souls. But it has been the late complaint of Dr. Edwards, and other worthy sons of the established church, that in too many pulpits ROW-a-days, there are only heard soine smooth declamations, while the hearers that were ignorant of the gospel, abide still with. out koowledge, and the profane sinners are profane still. O that divine grace would descend and reform what is amiss in all the sanctuaries of the nation. *
CHAP. VII.-Of writing Books for the Public.
IN the explication and distinction of words and things by definition and description; in the division of things into their several parts, and in the distribution of things into their several kinds, be sure to observe a just medium. We must not always explain and distinguish, define, divide and distribute, nor must we always omit it: sometimes it is useless and impertinent, sometimes it is proper and necessary. There is confusion brought into our argument and discourse by too many, or by too few of these. One author plunges his reader into the midst of things
* It appears by the date, at the bottom of this paper in the MSS. that it was written in the year 1718. The first and perhaps the second section of it, may seem now to be grown in a great measure out of date ; but whether the third is Dot at least as seasonable now as ever, may deserve serious co sideration. The astbor since this was drawn up, hato delivered his sentiments more fully io the first part of that excellent piece, entitled, An bumable attempt for tbe Revival of Religion, &c.
without due explication of them; another jumbles together without distinction, all those ideas wbich have any likeness ; a third is fond of explaining every word, and coining distinctions between ideas wbich have little or no difference; but each of these runs into extremes ; for all obese practices are equal hindrances to clear, just, and useful knowledge. It is not a long train of rules, but observation and good judgment, can teach us when to explain, define, and divide, and where to oinit it.
In the beginning of a treatise, it is proper and necessary sometimes to premise soine praecognita or general principles, · which may serve for an introduction to the subject in hand, and
give light or strength to the following discourse : but it is ridiculous, under a pretence of such introductions or prefaces, to wander to the most remote or distant themes, which have no near or necessary connexion with the thing in hand ; this serves for no other pur. pose but to make a gaudy shew of learning. There was a professor of divinity, who began an analytical exposition of the epistle to the Romans with such praecognila as these : first he shewed the excellence of man above other creatures, who was able to declare the sense of his inind by arbitrary signs; then he harangued upon the origin of speech ; after that he told of the wonderful invention of writing, and enquired into the author of that art which taught us to paint sounds : when he had given us the various opinions of the learned on this point, and distributed writing into its several kinds, and laid down definitions of them all at last he caine to speak of epistolary writing, and distinguished epistles into familiar, private, public, recommendatory credentials, and what not? Thence he descended to speak of the superscription, subscription, &c. And sowe lectures were foislied before he came to the first verse of St. Paul's epistle; the auditors, being half starved and tired with expectation, dropped away one by one, so that the Professor had scarce any learers to attend the college or the lectures which he had promised on that part of scripture.
The rules which Horace has given in his Art of Poetry, would instruct many a preacher and professor of theology, if they would but attend to them. He informs us that a wise author, such as Ilomer, who writes a poem of the Trojan war, would oot begin a long and far distant story of Jupiter in the form of a swan impregnating Leda with a double egg; from one part whereof Helen was hatched, who was married to Menelaus a Greek general, and then stolen from hiin by Paris, son of Priam king of Troy, which awakened the resentment of the Greeks against the 'Trojaos.
Nec gemino bellum Trojanum orditur ab ovo. But the writer, says he, makes all proper haste to the event of things, and does not drag on slowly, perpetually turning aside from his point, and catching at every incident to prolong bis story, as though he wanted matter to furnish out his tale.
Semper ad eventum festinat. Though I mast confess, I cannot think Homer bas always followed tbis rule in either of his two famous epic poems : but Horace does not hear what I say. There is also another rule near a-kin to the former.
As a writer or a speaker should not wander from his subject to fetch in foreigo matter from afar, so neither should he amass together and drag in all that can be said even on his appointed theme of discourse ; but he should consider what is bis chief design, what is the end he hath in view, and then to make every part of his discourse subserve that design. If he keep bis great end always in his eye, he will pass hastily over those parts or ap. pendages of his subject which have no evident connexion with his design, or he will entirely omit them, and hasten continually towards his intended mark ; employing his time, his study and labour, chiefly on that part of his subject which is most necessary to attain his present and proper end. This might be illustrated by a multitude of examples; but an author who should heap them together on such an occasion, might be in danger of becoming himself an example of the impertinence he is cautioning others to avoid.
After you have finished any discourse which you design for the public, it would be always best, if other circumstances would permit, to let it sleep some time before you expose it to the world, that so you may have opportunity to review it with the indifference of a stranger, and to make the whole of it pass under a new and just examination : for no man can judge sojustly of his own work, wbile the pleasure of his invention and performance is fresh, and has engaged his self-love too much on the side of what he has Dewly finished. If an author would send a discourse into the world, which should be most universally approved, he should consult persons of every different genius, sentiment and party, and endeavour to learn their opinions of it. In the world it will certainly meet with all these. Set it therefore to view amongst several of your acquaintance first, who may survey the argument on all sides, and one may happen to suggest a correction which is entirely neglected by others; and be sure to yield yourself to the dictates of true criticism, and just censure, wheresoever you meet with them ; nor let a fondness for what you have written, blind your eyes against the discovery of your own mistakes.
When an author desires a friend to revise his work, it is tou frequent a practice to disallow almost every correction which a jadicious friend would make ; he apologizes for this word, and the other expression ; he vindicates this sentence, and gives his to justify those expressions, and vindicate those little lapses they were guilty of, rather than they will condescend to correct those little mistakes, or recal those improper expressions. O that we could put off our pride, our self-sufficiency, and our infallibility, when we enter into a debate of truth. But if the writer is guilty of mingling these things with his grand argument, happy will that reader be who has judgment enough to distinguisha them, and to neglect every thing that does not belong to the original theme proposed and disputed.
Yet here it may be proper to put in one exception to this general observation or remark, namely, when the second writer attacks only a particular or collateral opinion which was maintained by the first, then the fourth writing may be supposed to contain a necessary part of the complete force of the argument, as well as the second and third, because the first writiog only occasionally or collaterally mentioned that sentiment which the second attacks and opposes; and in such a case, the second may be esteemed as the first treatise on that controversy. It would take up too much time should we mention instances of this kind, which might be pointed to in most of our controversial writers, and it might be invidious to enter into the detail.*
Sect. II.-Of reading Controversies. WHEN we take a book into our bands wherein any doctrine or opinion is printed in a way of argument, we are too often satisfied and determined before-hand, whether it be right or wrong; and if we are on the writer's side, wę, are generally tempted to take his arguments for solid and substantial; and thus our own former sentiment is established more powerfully, without a sincere search after truth.
If we are on the other side of the question, we then take it for granted that there is nothing of force in these arguments, and we are satisfied with a short survey of the book, and are soon persuaded to pronounce mistake, weakness and insufficiency concerning it. Multitudes of common readers, who are fallen
* Upon this it may be remarked farther, that there is a certain spirit of modesty and benerolence which never fails to adoro a writer on such occasions, and which generally does him much more service in the judgment of wise and seosible men, than any poignancy of satire with which he migbt be able to animate his productions ; aod as this always appears amiable, so it is peculiarly charming when the opponent shews that periness and petulancy which is so very common OD such occasions. When a writer, instead of pursuing with eager reseotment the antagonist that has gived such prorocation, calmly attends to the main question in debate, with a poble negligence of those little advantages which ill-na-ure and ill-mansers always give, he acquires a glory far superior to any trophies which wit cap raise. And it is bighly probable, that the solid rostruction his pages may contain, will give, a contiouance to his writings far beyond what tracis of peevish controversy are to expect, of which the much grealer port are corpo away into oblivion by th: wind they raise or burned in their own flames,
into any error, when they are directed and advised to read a treatise that would set them right, read it with a sort of dis. gust which they have before entertained ; they skim lightly over the arguments, they neglect or despise the force of them, and keep their own conclusion firm in their assent, and thus they maintain their error in the midst of light, and grow incapable of cou viction.
: But if we would indeed act like sincere searchers for the truth, we should survey every argument with a careful and unbiassed mind, whether it agree with our foriner opinion or po : we should give every reasoning its full force, and weigh it in our sedatest judgment. Now the best way to try what force there is in the arguments which are brought against our own opinions is, to sit down and endeavour to give a solid answer, one by one, to'every argument that the author brings to support his own doctrinė ; and in this attempt, if we find there some arguments which we are not able to answer fairly to our own minds, we should then begin to bethink ourselves, whether we liave not been bitherto in a mistake, and whether the defender of the contrary sentiments may not be in the right. Such a method as this, will effectually forbid us to pronounce at once against those doctrioes, and those writers, which are contrary to our sentiments; and we shall endeavour to find solid arguments to relute their positions, before we entirely establislı ourselves in a contrary opinion,
Volatillis had given himself up to the conversation of the free.thinkers of our age, upon all subjects; and being pleased with the wit and appearance of argument, io some of our mo. dern deists, had too easily deserted the christian faith, and gone over to the camp of the infidels. Among other books which were recommended to him to reduce him to the faith of the gospel, he bad Mr. John Reynold's Three Letters to a Deist pul irito his hand, and was particularly desired to peruse the third of them with the utmost care, as being an upansircrable defence of the truth of christianity. He took it in hand, and after having given it a short survey, lie told his friend he saw nothing in it, but the common arguments which we all use to support the religion in which we had been educated, but they wrought no conviction in him; nor did he see sufficient reason to believe that the gospel of Christ was not a piece of enthusiasmo, or a mere imposture.
Upon this the friend who recommended Mr. Reynold's Three Lettere to his study, being confideot of the force of truth which lay there, entreated of Volatilis that lie would get himself down with diligence, and try to answer Mr. Reynold's Third Letter in vindication of the gospel; and that he would show under every head, how the several steps wirich were taken in the propagation of the christian religion, might be the natural effects