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as it were, sit in his seat and look through his eyes. He must bring before his mind “the mountains round about Jerusalem,” if he would properly say with David, “the Lord is round about his people.” He must behold the city built on rocky hills, and the temple towering high above the whole, if he would say with the psalmest's emotion, “great is the Lord, and greatly to be praised in the city of our God, in the mountain of his holiness; beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth is Mount Zion the city of the great King.” The reader may say with all humility, “Lord what is man that thou art mindful of him l’” but he will read more intelligently if he behold the youthful shepherd, seated during the hush of a clear midnight on some eminence, looking up with devout admiration to the heavens through which the moon and stars are shining, until filled with wonder at the vastness of the scene, he exclaims, “when I consider the heavens, the work of thy fingers, the moon and the stars which thou hast ordained, Lord what is man that thou art mindful of him 1"
Again, suppose it is the object of the preacher to investigate some historical portion of the Bible. He will certainly form a more adequate conception of the garden of Eden, if he endeavor to call it up before him, as it came fresh from the hands of its Creator, than though he read the second chapter of Genesis in the old plodding way, without any effort of the imagination. By the first method, he will look at it from the point on which Milton stood when he sung “ of man's first disobedience.” By the second, if he forms any conception of the garden, it will be like some pictures of it, which Macauley speaks of, found in old Bibles, “an exact square, enclosed by the rivers Pison, Gihon, Hiddekel, and Euphrates, each with a convenient bridge in the center; rectangular beds of flowers; a long
canal neatly bricked and railed in ; the tree of knowledge standing in the center of the grand alley, the snake twined round it, the man on the right hand, the woman on the left, and the beasts drawn up in an exact circle round them. In one sense the picture is correct enough; that is to say, the squares are correct; the circles are correct; the man and woman are in a most correct line with the tree; and the snake forms a most correct spiral.” So if he is reading the account of the deluge, he will get a vivid conception of it, and will feel, feel deeply God’s hatred of sin, if from some imaginary station he watch the coming up of that awful storm, and the progress of the terrific scenes which ensued. Or, if he is perusing the history of the Israelites under Mount Sinai, let him call up in some striking way, that morning on which a thick cloud gathered over the top of the mountain; let him gaze at the lightning, hear the thunder and the trumpets, feel the ground shaking beneath his feet, and the affrighted people standing afar off “because the Lord descended upon the mountain in fire, and the smoke thereof ascended as the smoke of a furnace.” Or if he be reading of the crucifixion, let him enter the streets of Jerusalem and witness the uproar. Let him follow that procession sweeping like a sea from the western gate. How every eye flashes with excitement! They are now on the hill called Calvary. The mob beat him whose heart is bursting for them. That groan “It is finished " The sky is black, the ground quakes, the rock-barred sepulchres are opened, and men long ago buried are walking about in their winding sheets. Now is not the reader, in some way like this, enabled, both to form a vivid conception of the scene on Sinai and Calvary, and also to receive deep impressions of God's justice and love *
Again, the preacher has turned, we will suppose, to a didactic portion of Scripture. If the truth taught is strictly in the form of an abstract principle, the meaning of the words lies upon their face; still in most instances it adds impressiveness to the truth to consider the circumstances under which it was originally delivered. The scenes witnessed by the Israelites at the foot of Sinai doubtless gave solemnity to the Law, and a contemplation of them by the reader would have a like effect. Our Savior often took advantage of time and place to give point to his instructions, and the earnest student of the Bible will endeavor to throw himself in imagination into those circumstances, if he would gain the force and beauty of these divine precepts. Was Jesus walking with his disciples in view of a city glittering in the sun, on some hill-side, he pointed his finger, saying, “like that, ‘ye are the light of the world.” Was he winding round the base of a mountain, he spoke of a faith by which his disciples might say to it in all its vastness, “be thou removed and cast into the sea, and it shall be done.” The lilies of the field, and the sparrow flying across their path, are made to teach lessons of trust in God’s providence. Is he passing by the field of the husbandman, he wraps up a mighty truth in the parable of the sower. Do the Pharisees and Scribes encounter him with subtle questions of no practical utility, he indulges for a time their vain inquisitiveness, and then alluding to their broad phylacteries and long prayers, he assures them that mere ceremonial strictness is an abomination in the sight of God; that instead of stopping in the vestibule of the sanctuary to admire its architecture, they should press into the temple, and when there should worship God and not the altar. These illustrations, drawn from the Savior's practice, teach a twofold lesson; they show that he who would ap
preciate much of the great Teacher's instruction must summon before his mind the circumstances in which he spoke ; they teach also that the preacher's great Model employed his imagination in drawing illustrations from common events, and from objects in nature. Thus far we have considered the preacher as engaged in the search for the signification of the text; and while speaking of the use af. forded by the imagination, have intimated that it was liable to abuse. A few examples will illustrate this remark. The simple fact that Eve was formed from a rib taken from Adam's side has been made the foundation of an allegory. Adam sleeping has been considered a type of Christ dead upon the cross, and Eve a figure of the church which is consecrated and purified by the blood and water flowing from his wounded side. It is unnecessary to attempt an enumeration of patristic follies in exegesis of the Scriptures; with these, perhaps, the reader is more or less familiar. There are also frequent indications of perverted imagination on the part of modern writers and commentators upon the Bible. A certain English divine in interpreting the parable of the good Samaritan, thought he had struck upon a rich mine of truth. In his excited imagination, the person who went down from Jerusalem to Jericho, represented man descending from his state of innocence in Paradise ; the falling among thieves were the gross sins into which he fell; the certain priest who chanced that way and passed by on the other side, was the moral law ; and the Levite who came and passed by also, was the ceremonial law; the good Samaritan who had compassion on him was Christ; raising him up and placing him on his own beast was imputing to him the Savior's righteousness; bringing him to an inn was introducing him into the visible church; and the two pence left with the host to provide for his wants, were the sacraments of baptism and the Lord's Supper. Not long ago a cisatlantic bishop, in his zeal to test Episcopacy by Scripture, discovered that the twelve disciples were regularly advanced by their Master through the three clerical orders. When they were first called away from their nets to become fishers of men, they were advanced to “the holy order of deacons.” When Christ sent them out two by two, with power over unclean spirits, he promoted them to the order of priests. When he gave his final commission that they should go into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, he advanced them to the office of bishops | These are but specimens, yet they are sufficient to show that while the imagination is of use in biblical study, it is also liable to be perverted. Having properly investigated the passage chosen, the preacher completes his preparation by putting his materials into a definite form for delivery. Here the imagination may assist him in several ways. It will be of advantage to write in the presence of some great critic,+as Johnson or Macauley. In such a case the preacher will realize that he must beget something more than words of sounding brass, and something more than disjointed thoughts; his words may be musical, but must be full of sense, and his fit thoughts must be in fit places. It has been sometimes recommended that one write as if he were on trial for his life; and the saving or losing of his head depended on the character of his defense ; but it would be far better if the minister should summon before him his audience, with its peculiar circumstances and wants. Here, he sees old Mr. , tottering on the verge of the grave. True, the aged man has worn out his body in the service of Satan, and can present to God only the
sweepings and refuse of his being; but he has a soul whose redemption was precious. If the preacher should speak a word in season, this man, like the dying malefactor, may be saved at the eleventh hour. Then, again, he beholds a professor of religion who is at ease in Zion, and who gives no suitable evidence that his hope will abide the scrutiny of the last day. To expose the vanity of his expectations would be an unpleasant duty for the preacher, but he looks forward a little, and sees this man at the judgment bar, and that, with horror of disappointment, instead of rising to heaven, his portion is among hypocrites and unbelievers. Will not a faithful preacher endeavor to find out acceptable words, that, if possible, he may prevent such a disappointment * There, again, is a youth of great promise, but whose giddy steps, unless arrested, will bear him down to vice and final ruin. Ministerial effort cooperating with the divine Spirit may render him a monument of grace and a valiant standard-bearer of the cross. Thus the preacher may sur. vey his entire congregation, and, in the present wants and probable future condition of each individual, he will find a motive and means of successful exertion. While the advantage gained by writing in the ideal presence of others is a motive for the use of the imagination, it may be added that discourses in which this faculty appears are those which best secure the attention. It matters not how true and important the preacher's words are, if they are not heard. The assenting nod of the sleeper is the expression of his head, not of his heart. Cecil, when preaching a charity sermon on a summer afternoon, found it impossible to secure the attention of his hearers. Not to waste his words, or be defeated in his benevolent design, he paused for a moment, looked round upon his lolling parishioners, with a mingled feeling of pity and indignation, and then thundered in their ears: “Last week a man was hung at Tyburn l’” The people looked up and stared with astonishment at their pastor, while he, turning the anecdote to some practical account, proceeded with his discourse, and was listened to attentively until its close. Expedients of this kind may, perhaps, be properly used in some emergencies; but as a general rule they had best be avoided. In place of these, let the preacher's discourse glow with feeling and imagination, and his fit words fitly spoken will command listening ears. If it be objected to the use of this faculty, that it tends to draw off the mind from present scenes, we reply that it is often desirable so to do, because man is so absorbed in the pursuit of honor, wealth, and pleasure, that he seldom thinks seriously of his spiritual concerns. Bunyan's man, who “could look no way but downwards,” with a muck-rake in his hand, gathering up the small sticks and straws of the floor, instead of regarding the angel who called to him from above with a celestial crown, is not an unfair representation of most men. Let, then, this moral lethargy be broken up. If, by a proper use of the imagination, the preacher can so present eternal realities that they will be seen and felt, let him use this instrumentality; a channel may thus be opened through which regenerating grace will descend. It is far from being asserted that the preacher should do nothing more than aim to get the attention. He may rouse the sensibilities, and leave the heart cold and dead. Tears excited in the sanctuary may be no better than those which flow in the theatre. But when the soul is regenerated, it is in connection with the truth; the truth must be heard in order to produce its effects; and that it may be listened to, the attention must be gained, often in the way above speciVol. III.
fied. This done, let those truths be faithfully presented which the Spirit most highly honors, and the preacher's words may become mighty through God to the salvation of souls. In efforts to secure the attention, some resort to wit and sarcasm. A sense of the ludicrous is, generally, the fruit of a fine imagination, detecting a thousand analogies not at once perceived by the common eye. Under certain restraints, this may give both force and a delicate beauty to style; but it often engenders a wit on whose point there is no healing balm. The preacher's satire may cut the sensibilities; but his commission runs, that he should wield the sword of the Spirit, which slays only to make alive, and that he should possess the wisdom of the serpent, not his venom. The following sentences from Dr. South will show, that while such use of the imagination probably secured the attention of his hearers, it doubtless injured his religious influence. In one of his sermons, he says that Judas Iscariot, “to receive and swallow, as he did, the sop, seasoned with those terrible words, “It had been good for that man had he never been born,” must have had a furious appetite and a strong stomach, thus to catch at a morsel with the fire and brimstone all flaming about it, and, as it were, digest death itself, and make a meal on perdition.” Again, he is severe upon those who say, but do not; and represents one of these persons as standing forth on the defensive and saying: “I am a great hearer and lover of sermons ; it is the very delight of my righteous soul; indeed I am so entirely devoted to the hearing of them that I have hardly any time left to practice them; and will not all this set me right for heaven P Yes, no doubt, if a man were to be pulled up to heaven by the ears ” Such preaching, it must be admitted, will get the attention, but it
will be at the expense of interests which should be held sacred. It is said the bear is sometimes taught to dance by being made to stand on heated iron. Now, his flaming eye, and brisk movements, may give infinite sport to the showman and the spectators, but it must not be forgotten that bruin is in uncomfortable circumstances. With proper limitations then, we say, let the imagination be employed, and thereby the attention may be roused and riveted, and a way opened for the successful presentation of truth. We have, thus far, considered the preacher as engaged in the preparation of his message: let us now, very briefly, contemplate the assistance which imagination may afford him in the delivery of truth. This, of course, will vary among different individuals, according to the degree in which they possess this saculty; but the aid which it may furnish to every one, is not inconsiderable. Force in delivery depends chiefly upon the tones of the voice, the expression of the eye, and simple earnestness in manner. Suppose then that the preacher's theme is some truth once uttered by John, Paul, or Christ. He may endeavor to conceive how it sounded when it fell from their lips; how, with the grace which they possessed, their feelings gave solemnity to the voice, animation to the countenance, and impressiveness to the whole demeanor. Again he is solemnly impressed by the thought that his office brings him into a peculiar connection with the souls of men. GALEN once said, “an unskillful sculptor spoils only a block of marble, but an unskillful physician spoils a man;” the preacher reflects that if he is unskillful he may destroy the soul. With such an impression, he looks forward, in thought, to the time when his work shall be finished, and he with the people of his charge, summoned to the judgment.
On the one hand, if he has been faithless to his high trust, he meets some who have been ruined through his remissness; and who perhaps lift their reproachful eyes as if to declare, “ had it not been for thee, oh ! my pastor, I had not been lost.” What keen remorse, what bitter self-reproach must be the portion of such a preacher! On the other hand, if he has been faithful, he meets redeemed spirits waiting to proclaim him the instrument of their conversion; and the Chief Shepherd gives him the glad welcome, “Thou hast been faithful in a few things, enter into the joy of thy Lord.” Reflections like these will serve to prepare him to “Preach as if he ne'er should preach again As dying man to dying men.” His voice, his eye, his gesticulation, will all be eloquent. But some object to the use of the imagination by the sacred orator, and require that truth be presented in her simple, native form, without garb or coloring. To this we reply, that she should not indeed be so decked off with millinery that we can not discern her features; but has divine truth such charms for the human eye, that to be loved she needs only to be seen 2 Alas! all experience gives a negative reply. We may learn something here from the actions of men in the common affairs of life. When an advocate at the bar is endeavoring to prove the guilt of the criminal, and secure a prompt verdict, he does something more than merely to state the evidence. He leads the jury, in imagination, to the scene of bloodshed; he brings before them the fiendish assault, the imploring look, the death-blow, the stiffened corse, the agonized friends, and then he asks the jury to judge righteous judgment. If, however, it is necessary for the secular orator to pursue this course in cases where he is obliged to contend with but little prejudice, and where the novelty of the subject