« PreviousContinue »
The object of the present work has, in some measure, been explained by the prospectus which preceded and accompanied its publication. It is, what it has been somewhat contemptuously called, "a pulpit help;" though why such a term should be contemptuous, the writer is at a loss to perceive. The best sermons of our best divines are those which have received the most assistance. A sermon is a work so important, that no preacher who duly estimates it would like to rely solely on himself. It is impossible to take up the works of our great Caroline preachers without perceiving, on the very surface, how much they were indebted to the thoughts of others,-fathers, classics, writers of all descriptions, stored in their treasures of profound and multifarious learning. The arrangement of their materials, before composition, must have taken much time and mental effort. Yet without
such materials and such arrangement, the eloquence of a Barrow, the fancy of a Taylor, the logic of a Sanderson, the devotion of an Andrewes, would have produced very different results. We might have admired, but we should have been much less edified, if not occasionally misguided.
The "help" of an ample and well-digested course of theological reading is, doubtless, the best possible for the divine. But, before they have had time to compass this, our Clergy are required to preach ; some too, in consequence of the extent of their parishes, are never able to realize anything of the kind; yet all are expected to preach their own sermons. What, then, are they to do ? Reject all “pulpit helps,” because they cannot have the best? Even a heathen's philosophy could teach them better:
“Non possis oculo quantùm contendere Lynceus ;
Non tamen idcircò contemnes lippus inungi ;
It remains, then, that they take the best they can; and none can be more effectual, surely, than the provision and arrangement of materials. This is what consumes most time. This done, composition is comparatively an easy matter. “Rerum copia verborum
| Hor. i. Epist. i. 28 seqq.
copiam gignit." It appeared, then, to the writer, that, if he could provide his youthful or occupied brethren with sound and well-arranged materials, he would be doing service to them, and to the Church whom their labours would instruct. This is what is attempted in this work. If the execution were as good as the attempt is defensible, the writer would be consoled for any bywords by which the critics might please to designate his labours. But here it is that he feels his need of indulgence; which, however, he hopes will be granted him, if it be only for the sake of having attempted what ought long since to have been better done by his betters. He hopes he is quite open to a friendly criticism, which gives him credit for right intention, and, in that spirit, indicates defects, or suggests improvements.
But the question, at the present day, is not, whether "pulpit helps” shall be used; that is disposed of. It is only what helps shall be used: and therefore, unless " pulpit helps " be positively unlawful, (the burden of showing which must rest on those who condemn them,) it is important that such as are provided should at least be sound in doctrine. It is impossible to calculate how much the popular theology of our time, so different from that taught by those divines, whose names all professing members of our Church agree to
1 Cic. de Orat. iii.
honour, has been the growth of doctrines disseminated by outline sermons. If we must have“ pulpit helps,” surely it is important that they should be helps indeed; that their teaching should be Scriptural, Catholic, and Anglican.
To exhibit this aim in the following pages, it will be observed, perhaps with some surprise, that no writer of the present century is quoted for the confirmation of any theological opinion. This course has been pursued with great reluctance. Names of the present day will occur to every reader, names of whose sanction
every writer must be proud. The reader cannot more regret to miss them than the writer to omit them. But it was thought important to show, on independent grounds, that every doctrine here advocated has been accepted by the Church of England, and confirmed by the authority of those writers whose labours have received the sanction of years. Whatever is taught here can by no party be called the teaching of a modern school.
As the object of the writer has been to follow the Church in the order and character of her teaching, so has he, regarding the spirit of her year, endeavoured to make this work embrace a complete body of Christian doctrine,-all the Outlines, in this respect, like those of a drawing, forming one; an outline only, it is true; but still an unbroken outline. He has not con
sciously omitted one article of Catholic faith or practice.
The Outlines are furnished, where practicable, with an apparatus of Scriptural illustration, which may be beneficially pursued : and the writer has called attention to words in the original languages, the critical investigation of which will aid the composer in his study of the subject. It is not, of course, intended that the Clergy should perplex their people with philological discussions; but meditation on the original text will often prove a help to thought, and enable the preacher to wield his materials with greater copiousness and advantage. Indeed, the writer is perfectly sensible that there are few who will fill out his sketches exactly. To many, perhaps most, they will suggest rather than supply; and the preacher will make a better outline for himself than that here presented to him; and yet one which, but for this pulpit help,” he would not, perhaps, have made,—the mere want of time being the impediment. It has been the writer's aim to be suggestive, and to make his condensed matter easy of expansion. Those who will take the trouble to study his Outlines, will find that they contain virtually more than they verbally express. He has also, from time to time, indicated approved authors, by a perusal of whose writings a subject may be advantageously pursued.