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1847.] The Distinction between Certainty and Necessity.
of God. His purposes in no supposable way contravene their freedom. The grand difficulty in regard to this whole matter is, that mankind too generally confound the meaning of the words "certainty" and "necessity." They will not distinguish between an event which is only certain and one which is necessary; in other words, between an event which will be or which it is known will be, and one which must be. The confusion which prevails in many minds on this one point is the ground of nearly all their mistakes and difficulties respecting human freedom. God's purposes imply only the certainty not the necessity of future events. There is a plain difference between what is necessary and what is only certain, and this difference ought to be seen and remembered. That is necessary which must be; that is certain which will be or rather which some being knows will be. Now there is a difference, as every one can easily see, between my saying that "I must do a thing,” and saying that “ I will do it" or that "it is known that I will do it." "I must do it," implies that there may be some force compelling my action. I might say, "I must go," if I were dragged along by superior force. "I will do it," may imply great freedom, a consciousness of that freedom, and a use of that freedom, perhaps even in overcoming resistances which lie in the way of doing the thing purposed. I might say, "I will go, whatever may be said to the contrary." There is a difference between saying of an event, "it must be," and saying merely “it will be," or "it is known that it will be." "It must be," implies that there are causes at work which will necessarily and resistlessly bring the event to pass. "It will be" or "it is known that it will be," implies no such compulsion. It leaves the manner in which the future event is to be brought about wholly undetermined. It asserts simply and solely, that the event is future, is known to be so, and will take place. It may take place by the action of a necessitating cause, or it may take place by the free agency of God or of some of his creatures. Let this distinction between necessity and certainty, this distinction between what has sometimes been called natural and moral necessity, be clearly apprehended and always kept in sight, and the difficulties with which this subject has been embarrassed, would nearly all be removed. And let the heart cheerfully submit to the great truth, that God reigns throughout the universe according to his own good pleasure, and the remaining darkness would soon flee away. The illuminated mind would then see men not as trees walking, but walking and acting as men in the full, free, and unfettered use of all their bodily, mental and moral powers.
POWER IN THE PULPIT.
By Edwards A. Park, Bartlet Professor in Andover Theol. Seminary.
THERE are some who dislike the phrase, 'power in the pulpit.' They think that it derogates from the honor of him who saith, "not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit." The sacred Scriptures, however, attribute an efficacy to the whole word of God, and in a special degree to his gospel; why then may not we ascribe a like efficacy to this word, to this gospel, when preached, or which is the same thing, a kind of power to the pulpit? This is indeed a secondary power, one which worketh upon hearers while God worketh in them; but although subordinate to the influences of the Holy Ghost, although dependent upon them for all its success, it is still an energy, an effective instrument, or an instrumental efficiency. That absolute Sovereign who hath mercy on whom he will have mercy, hath chosen, (and who shall resist his will?) to bless such methods of preaching his word as are in themselves most wisely fitted to improve our moral nature. In the depth of our conviction that the renewal of the soul requires a direct agency of the great First Cause, we should not overlook the influence of those second causes which are also, under the Spirit's operation, and in a subordinate way, effective in elevating the character of men.
If then there is an instrumental power in certain methods of preaching the gospel, the question arises, what are these methods, or what are the elements of this power? When we call to mind the tens of thousands of ministers who are exerting an influence Sabbath after Sabbath on hundreds of thousands of laymen; when we consider that the effectiveness of the pulpit has, in comparison with other efficiences, declined among us to an alarming extent within the last fifty years, and that an extensive religious apathy is one result of this decline; when we see that our intellectual and moral growth, our social order and even our civil freedom are under God dependent on the preacher's instrumentality, and that the popular wants, if not the popular wish, demand a soul-reviving dispensation of the word, we feel constrained to say, that the question, what are the most efficient modes of preaching the gospel, is the great question of the present age.
Various measures of moral reform have been proposed, but we have reason to believe that the chief and radical reformation of men will be the effect of the divine word orally delivered, and accompanied with the influences of divine grace. This is a question, therefore, which concerns not the minister only, but laymen also; for as a minister ought to preach, so ought his people to hear; they are bound to encourage him in the path which he is obligated to pursue, and they should never condemn but always defend that style of discourse which is, in its own nature, the most effective. By sustaining an efficient ministry they become the benefactors not of the church alone, but of the nation and world also. To specify a few of the elements of power in the pulpit, will be the design of the present essay; not those elements which are insisted on most frequently, but those which are mentioned more seldom, and of which at the present day there is the greatest need.
In the first place, then, preaching, in order to be powerful, must often be argumentative. It is thought by some that a minister should assume the correctness of what he declares, and should expend his energy in applying, not in proving the truth. They who attend the sanctuary, it is said, profess by their very attendance, that they believe the doctrines which are there advanced. But the mere fact of being present in the house of God, does not imply a faith in the teachings of the pulpit. Many will ostensibly unite in a worship which they deem unreasonable. They must be convinced by argument, that the minister's assertions are solemn verities, or they will remain merely ostensible worshippers.
Nor is the argumentative discourse needful for the positive unbelievers alone. It is also requisite for that large class of men who yield a formal assent to the truth, but still have no vivid nor well defined conceptions of it; no strongly fortified confidence in it. Such men demand a new, a more distinct impression of religious doctrine upon their intellect. When they have worked their way through a process of argument, they begin to feel that the objects of their vague belief are momentous realities. Their previously dull assent is brightened up into a luminous conviction. Their cold and weak belief is warmed and strengthened into an energetic faith.
Nor is it merely for the purpose of freshening men's confidence in propositions which they had before idly believed, that argument is useful. It is also a means of moral excitement. It wakes up the intellect, and when the mind is enlivened, the heart is the more VOL. IV. No. 13. 9
easily aroused. Besides, there is an alternation in the soul; and when the reasoning powers have been tasked, there rises a predisposition to indulge in feeling. The hearer is inclined to relieve himself from the tension of the mental faculties by the play of the affections. As when the mind is sluggish the heart will be stupid, so when the intellect is in vigorous activity, it will stir up the fountains of feeling; it will in time become wearied with its reasoning processes, and then the soul will refresh itself in a change from thought to emotion. Nor is this all. The heart is not to be taken by direct assault. It must be carried captive ere it is aware. If we forewarn the hearer of our intended appeal to his sensibilities, he will brace himself against us. He must be intellectually interested in the subject, before he will be morally affected by it. Now there is no better way of engaging the intellect of man than the way of argument. Talk of his idleness as you will, he loves to reason. Speak of proofs as cold and hard, they do quicken his powers. He was made for discussing the truth and for living conformably with it. And when we have once allured him to a rational investigation of a theme, we may easily direct his thoughts to the moral influence of it; and the affections will often steal out unnoticed, when they could not be forced out by an imperative summons, nor begged out by soft entreaties. An abrupt exhortation will repel; a mere exhortation will satiate and disgust the inquisitive hearer; but when a principle has been demonstrated by absorbing argument, there will be sidelong influences of it, insinuating themselves upon his heart; and he who thought to be a mere philosophical examiner, finds himself a weeping child of the truth. Further, the use of argument gives a prominence to religious doctrine. The reasons are like pillars on which the truth is seen to rest; and on the summit of which it lies, attracting the attention of all men to itself. It is this conspicuous position, this prominence of truth which adds dignity and power to the pulpit. Moreover, that which is reasoned out is, therefore, highly valued and revered. Costing labor, and that of a manly kind, it is so much the better esteemed. Deduced from fundamental principles, it seems impregnable and commands deference. It is proved to be not an individual opinion, but a truth founded in the nature of things, or expressly revealed from heaven. Audiences may look down upon their preacher as a man, but, entirely depraved though they are, they will in some way defer to the authority of Jehovah and the eternal laws of being. The minister is shorn of his strength, when
he seems to be uttering his own notions, or the dogmas of his sect. He must appear to be enforcing those immutable verities which are not so truly said to be made for our race, as the race was made for them. He must conceal himself behind his subject; the doctrine must stand out foremost, not as his doctrine, but as God's. It must speak, rather than the man himself. But for this end, it must be proved; be urged forward by strong reasonings. Projecting out into full view, it must be propped up by massive buttresses; and thus it strikes the eye and fills the mind with an impression of strength which no man, as such, can make. Let the vanity of a preacher induce him to hold up a doctrine in his own hands, and claim obeisance to it because he asserts it, and he will lose the very regard which he aims to secure; but let him show that the doctrine is self-sustained and is unassailable on its own foundations, that it is a principle which God has revealed and for which Christ died, and it will have authority over men; it will command their homage, involuntary perhaps, but still homage; it will excite feeling, wrong it may be, but yet feeling. "My word shall not return unto me void," saith the Holy One.
Accordingly we find that the ablest ministers of the gospel have been those who "applied their hearts to seek out wisdom and the reason of things." In reading the sermons of the elder Edwards, we stand in awe; for he speaks not as one who sings a pleasant song, but in the name of him who says, Preach the preaching that I bid thee." There is something in his discourses that presses us, crowds upon us, follows hard after us; and if we flee from it, it is close upon our footsteps; and there is no sense in our trying to escape it. It is the power of God's word, shown to be God's word, identified as such, and therefore we cannot stay it in its onward urging. Overcome by his argument we fall a prey at once to his appeal. His discussion interests us; we are first surprised, then taken captive, and afterward borne along "whithersoever the governor listeth." So was it with Paul. "He reasoned in the synagogue every Sabbath," and as he once "reasoned of righteousness, temperance and judgment, Felix trembled." He was not afraid of abstruse preaching, nor of metaphysical preaching, but he uttered words hard to be understood and liable to be wrested by the unlearned and unstable; still he enforced them by such compressed ratiocination as to make his hearers feel, that in striving against him they were striving against God. The direct tendency of strong argument is, to transfer the reasoner's appeal from the sphere of his own opinions to the sphere of