[April 30, 1864.
ONCE A WEEK.
the town, and a conviction of future trouble arose in Jane Chesney's heart as she gazed after him. But she never guessed how bitter that trouble was to be.
Some men simply purchase sermons and preach them. It would not be correct to say that they serve God and their congregations with what "costs them nothing," although manuscript sermons—as we discover from advertisements in the Times, and other papers—can be had cheap.
With some preachers sermonising is a labour of love, with others it is a work of great ingenuity. Sermons are supposed to be manufactured out of texts of Scripture. Some may, possibly, doubt this, on account of the small number of modern sermons which retain any-thing like the meaning or spirit of the text. Like the logwood port manufactured in England, they possess no true flavour of the grape, of "wine on the lees."
The division of a text of scripture into various parts for the production of a sermon is sometimes called a skeleton, and sometimes a plan. Both terms are equally happy, and graphically descriptive of the process. Some sermons are composed to such an extent of divisions and sub-divisions, that they are not inappropriately called "skeletons," or "bags of bones."
In making a skeleton—that is, a real skeleton, of man, beast, or bird—it is necessary to scrape away all the flesh, and work and rub till the bones are 'very dry.'' When brought to this state of perfection, it is put on wires. The sermoniser adopts a similar plan. He divests his text of everything but the mere words, which he separates from each other.
After such a separation of parts, we could scarcely expect the original words or thoughts to be re-arranged in their natural order, were this even intended. It requires some skill and practice, after taking a watch to pieces, to put the wheels and spindles, and spring, and the rest of the parts into their proper position, so as to produce regular motion.
The discourses put together in this way by the sermoniser, after the inhuman process of dissecting the "living words," are as curious, as specimens of composition, as they are deficient in natural arrangement,—
For rattling hones together fly
From the four corners of the sky.
But, strange to say, while we might defy even Milton himself to create a soul under their ribs, or to produce a healthful circulation of divine truth through their frames, the preacher manages to ride off upon them with ease and rapidity; they are not unsuited for the parade and exercise of the modern pulpit.
But the effect of such a process on a passage of scripture is to divest it of its divine nature—of its inspiration. It is now no longer what was; it is not even like it. The author of the words would not know them in their skeleton form. Were St. Paul to see one of his sentences reduced to this condition, he would deny that any word, or bone of it, belonged to him.
Sermonising consists of two parts, the constructive and the destructive parts. We have given an analytical outline of the destructive part, the synthetical, or constructive, requires a more perfect illustration.
The skeleton of a sermon is often called the "division" of a discourse. By division we are not to understand a logical division, which requires a logical differentia, or such a division as exhausts the subject, and brings the whole of it under consideration. The reader may perhaps call to mind divisions stated in this way:—
I. Notice what the text contains.
II. Notice what it does not contain.
Here, it is true, we have "a neat logical division," and there can be no doubt that it exhausts the subject. Whether the illustration of the second head would be likely to exhaust, most, the patience of the hearer, or the power of the preacher, would depend on circumstances.
Here we are reminded of one of the most pungent and witty things ever penned on the subject of bad sermons. It is given in the work of an old German, on retributive punishments, in which he says that in the next world all unworthy and prosy clergymen will be condemned to pass the whole of their time in reading the bad sermons they have composed in this. A most horrible punishment.
How often have we admired the patience with which pious people hear some of these preachers out. "Here's at you, till twelve o'clock to-night!" exclaimed a good Presbyterian, placing his great coat beneath him on the hard bench, when the preacher came to "twenty-sixthly."
The division of a discourse, as we have already observed, is sometimes called a "plan." The sermoniser works out these plans or divisions with all the ingenuity and perseverance of the Chinese in cutting and putting