« ПредыдущаяПродолжить »
temptation to relax, and to procrastinate. He may determine to spend as much time in his study, as if he could not utter a sentence without first writing it down. But he will not. I know too well what the native indolence of the human mind is. I have felt quite too much of it myself. It is scarcely hyperbolical to say, that every man is as lazy as he can be. There is not one in a hundred, who would work all day, if he could get along just about as well by working half the day.
In the freshness of his strength and the ardor of his first love, a minister who is resolved not to be trammeled at all in his delivery, may even write out his discourses for a time and commit them to memory; and this might perhaps be the best method, if he could bind himself to it for life; since it unites the advantages of careful writing, with a free elocution. But who is there that will do this for years, without faltering? Who is there, that will not under the pressure of parochial duties, or the languor of ill health, gradually lay aside his pen and trust to easier and more superficial preparations ? I do not believe, my son, that if you were to form the habit of preaching habitually without notes, you would study half as much in seven years, whatever good resolutions you might form, as you will, by habitual writing, nor that your discourses would be more than half as able and instructive.
I know yours is a western congregation, and I suppose your people have been chiefly accustomed to extempore preaching; but I take it for granted, they wish to be instructed, as well as moved by the preacher; and I have not a single doubt, but that in one year, you can work such a revolution in their views of written and unwritten sermons, by practically showing the difference between them, that they will secretly rejoice, whenever they see you place a full written manuscript in the Bible before you. Even those who are most prejudiced against reading sermons, will acknowledge, that with very few exceptions, these are your best performances. You may think me extravagant in what I am about to add, and perhaps I am ; but I do not believe there is one distinguished preacher in fifty, who abjures notes in the pulpit, that studies his subjects near so well, or becomes near so able a theologian, as if he had accustomed himself to preach, a part of the time at least, from full and carefully prepared manuscripts.
There is another argument in favor of writing for the pulpit, which perhaps may not strike your mind, as it does mine ; but which, I flatter myself, you will think worthy of consideration. The minister who preaches without notes, will almost as a matter of course, write out but very few sermons; which is the same thing as saying, that he will leave very little behind him, for the satisfaction of his friends, or the edification of the church. How bitterly do we often hear the admirers of celebrated preachers lament, after their decease, that their finest discourses are gone forever. I am as well aware as any body, that
I but few of the written sermons of ordinary preachers, have sufficient merit to call for their publication; and that there is a great deal of light matter in almost any man’s pile of manuscripts ; but that which would not
interest the public at all, may be precious and even profitable to children and children's children ; and in point of fact, we are indebted to the good old custom of writing sermons, for much of the best religious reading in our theological and family libraries. Some of the most useful of President Edwards' works, would in all probability, never have been written, had he not first brought out the substance of them, for the weekly instruction of his people.
You may possibly infer, my dear E., from the high estimate which I have put upon written sermons, compared with others, that I am going to advise you never to preach without writing, particularly on the sabbath. But you need feel no apprehensions on that score. I think you will find my views as liberal and accommodating as you could wish. So far from trying to persuade you to write out every sermon in full I should be
do it. I wish you to be able to preach, and to preach well, without notes; and, “ if need so require,” upon the shortest notice. My beau ideal, I confess, is this, that a minister should write out one sermon a week with great care and accuracy, and then after studying the subject of the other thoroughly, deliver it without writing at all. This is the method which I earnestly recommend for your adoption. By writing one discourse as well as you can, you will form and preserve the habit of close thinking and correct composition, while by delivering the other with extemporal freedom and animation, you will guard effectually against a dry and tiresome monotony. If you adopt this method, it will probably, in the beginning, cost
you more time to prepare for the latter exercise, than the former. You may find it easier to put down your thoughts upon paper, than to arrange and lay
in your memory, so as to have entire command of them and bring thein out at pleasure. But it is no objection to employing both modes, that it will cost more labor than either alone, provided it can be done. That it can be is certain, because it has been done. I can think of hardly any thing which would gratify me more than to hear, that the regular course of your ministry on the sabbath is, to preach an able, searching written discourse in the morning, and an equally well studied, connected and impressive unwritten discourse in the evening. Your ordinary weekly lectures may be still more free and extempo
It cannot be expected, that you will find time to write them out, and if you could, they would be less familiar and profitable, than the out-pourings of a well furnished mind and a warm heart.
I am affectionately, &c.
MY DEAR E.
WHETHER you preach written, or unwritten sermons, some will require a great deal more study than others. I have heard of a minister who could write a sermon in an evening, and make nothing of it; and I am sure, that in such a case it can make very little difference, what text or subject is chosen. But as you wish to make something of every text, and as some passages of scripture are “harder to be understood” than others, you must spend more time upon them. To appropriate just so many hours, and no more, to the composition of a discourse, be the subject what it may, is
, absurd. Sometimes, when the theme is familiar, and the truth which you wish to enforce is indisputable, you will be able to write out the body of a sermon at one or two sittings. In other cases, after laboring
, hard for two or three days, you will find it impossible to do justice to the subject without more time, and when this happens, instead of spoiling the sermon by a hasty finish, lay it aside for another week, and take something else, or exchange, as circumstances may require. I hope, my dear E., that if God permits you to preach long, you will be able to show many sermons, which have cost you more than one, or two weeks, of hard study. If any of your off-hand brethren should wonder at your great pains taking,