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and of consequence not doing justice to the last, and to the imTo avoid this, a provement. scheme of outlines, which looks through a whole subject, and through the improvement, promises to be useful. It will assist our thinking faculties. It will thus be seen what ideas will rise naturally under each head; what scripture passages, or other valuable illustrations or enforcements, may be introduced with advantage, here or there: And some adjustment may be made, in the setting out, of the proportions of the several parts of the discourse. Perhaps one of the first objects in the arrangement of a sermon, is to proportion it justly.
doubts, examine the original; consult the best commentators. With particular care examine the connexion; and the occasion, as the case may be, on which the words were spoken; for these, in general, are the best expositors. Every part should be understood; but the ideas, which are most prominent, and which were principal in the intention of the sacred writer, should be the leading ideas of the discourse. Generally, the impression from the first reading will determine which they are: And generally, the expectation of sensible hearers, from the first reading in public, will be raised accordingly.
The old distinction of veritas rei, and veritas loci,* is a sensible one, and should always be reThe soundest docmembered. trine should never be preached from a text which does not contain it for truth is dishonoured when brought in out of place.
Beside pondering what our theme contains, it is good to collect, as the time will allow, all the principal ideas on the same subject, which are scattered here and there through the Scriptures; whether they go to explain or illustrate, to confirm or enforce it. I am every day more convinced that great use should be made of the concordance, upon every great subject ;-as likewise of marginal references:-to compare scripture with scripture, and so be confirmed in its true meaning; to see the harmony of its parts, upon every great subject, and therein a stronger proof of its great Original; to see at the same time, the variety of lights in which the same great truths
But the prime object, of which we must never lose sight, is to communicate the great truths of God in a manner which will best commend them, as such, "to, every man's conscience," and best impress them according to their nature.
Let the text then originate the sermon, and dictate, generally, all its sentiments. Let this be visible from first to last: For the good effect of a discourse greatly depends on its both being and appearing to be scriptural. If this does not appear, it is either neglected as wanting authority, or it is received as the word of man, and therefore not to the purposes of religion for religion is built upon faith in God, not faith in the wisdom of men.
Having taken up, then, some sacred theme which comes home to men's bosoms, and their immortal interests; let us be sure, in the first place, that we understand it correctly. If there are
Truth real, and the truth in text.
are presented. By this they are understood the more fully; and you acquire a habit of thinking, at once more enlarged, and more correct. By this you are soon relieved of the anxiety abovementioned. You are furnished, in the setting out, both with variety and abundance of matter, and such as you are sure is of the very best kind :-so many affecting, so many sublime objects brought to view, and all in a manner perfectly corresponding with their nature; sentiment, argument, illustration, address, and turn of thought, all such as; HE who knew what was in man, has himself adapted to impress the consciences and hearts of men. How proper is it that we should in this way come continually to the Holy Oracle, to know what we are to say, and in what manner! And when together with the authority, the majesty, the impressiveness, of the Scripture itself, upon all great subjects, we take a serious view of the state of our hearers, old and young, we are then most likely to understand and feel our subject, and treat it properly. Let us not fail, however, to implore the help of the Great Teacher, in every line of it.
The way is now prepared for sketching the outlines of a sermon, according to the hints above given; arranging the heads, and the leading thoughts under each, in as natural and lucid order as we are able. After this, it is best of all if some good portion of time can be taken, before we sit down to write, in reviewing those outlines over and over, contemplating the particular ideas which ought to fill them up-perhaps minuting some of the
best: And this interval seems the most proper for reading able and pious authors on the same subject. I hope that a high esteem of such will be ever maintained; but servility is always to be avoided. I wish therefore that the general plan of discourse may be first sketched out; and as many particular ideas as naturally occur to our own best contemplations, without any other leading than that of holy Scripture itself. After this let us read at large, as we have tine, and with careful attention. Perhaps we shall find some of our ideas corrected, valuable additional thoughts suggested: possibly some useful amendments of our general plan. Of all let us avail ourselves. But let all be naturalized; and still the sermon will be our own, and will appear to be, as all our performances should. And who knows but this unbiassed and unfettered manner of setting out on a subject, provided it be humble and prayerful too, may carry you into some ideas" which great men have overlooked?”
Here I must close my paper, and perhaps may resume the subject hereafter.
I am, &c.
OBSERVATIONS ON THE ACCOUNT OF THE FIRST AND SECOND RESURRECTION; REV. XX. 4-6.
IN adverting to the future state of the church, it is of some importance to ascertain, what is meant by the first resurrection. Many, and some of them persons of note for learning and piety, suppose that
during the thousand years, in which Satan is to be bound, Christ will reign personally and visibly upon earth, and that the newly raised saints and martyrs, which shall be raised at the beginning of the thousand years, which is the first resurrection, will form his principal ministers, and reign with him in glory.
This opinion is principally grounded on the literal meaning of Rev. xx. 4-6. "And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them; and I saw the souls of them, that were beheaded, for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark in their foreheads, nor in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years. But the rest of the dead lived not again, until the thousand years were finished. This is the first resurrection. Blessed and holy is he, that hath part in the first resurrection; on such the second death hath no power; but they shall be priests of God and of Christ, and shall reign with him a thousand years." In favour of a literal interpretation of this passage I find it urged, that the most plain and obvious sense is always to be understood, as the true sense of a text; and that, as the literal sense is the most obvious, so it ought ever to be esteemed the true sense, unless in cases, where the connexion of the discourse, and the common use of the phrase in other places, show it to be used figuratively. But it is said there is nothing in this passage to induce us to put a figurative meaning on the first,
any more, than on the second resurrection.
2. Though it be admitted that the book of Revelation is a very figurative and mystical book, and that it is many times very difficult to be certain, when the literal sense is the true sense; yet it is plain, that we cannot understand the second resurrection, and the general judgment in a figurative sense. But, if the first resurrection is to be understood figuratively, so must the second. If the first resurrection is to be understood of a general revival of religion, then the rest of the dead must mean the spiritually dead, or those who shall remain unconverted after the first resurrection. Consequently we must believe that all those, who remain unconverted, after that first resurrection, must remain unconverted, until the end of the thousand years, i. e. that all unconverted adults, and all children born during that period, must die in their sins. This is justly viewed, as a great absurdity; and, if it be a necessary consequence of the opinion that the first resurrection is a spiritual resurrection, certainly the literal meaning of the passage ought to be preferred.
But however this opinion may be sanctioned by the names of many eminent both for learning and piety; yet the reasons, adduced in support of it, appear to be more ingenious than solid. Good reasons may be given, notwithstanding all that is urged to the contrary, for understanding the resurrection, mentioned in this passage, rather in a figurative than in a literal sense, and for believing all circum
stances considered, that the figurative is, in this instance, the most obvious sense. It is allowed on all hands that, if this passage ought to be understood of a literal resurrec tion of the saints and martyrs, this is the only passage of Scripture, in which that truth is revealed. And, as the prophetic parts of Scripture speak abundantly about the future state of the church, particularly about the millennium, it is at least very strange that so essential a part of it as the resurrection of the saints and martyrs, and the personal reign of Christ upon earth, should not only not be expressly mentioned, but not so much as once alluded to in any other part of sacred writ. This, it is true, is of itself no sufficient objection; for, where there is a plain, unequivocal "thus saith the Lord," one such express testimony is a sufficient foundation for our belief of any particular doctrine or fact. But whether this be that express testimony, or whether the passage may not be understood in a figurative sense, in a way perfectly agreeable to the scripture style and manner of expressing events of a similar nature, shall now be a subject of inquiry.
To understand this passage, it is necessary to ascertain, what is meant by the first resurrection; who by those, that have a part in it, and who by the rest of the dead, who are to live again at the expiration of the thousand years, and not before. Let it be observed, that the martyrs, who were slain for the witness of Jesus, and the rest of the dead, are the two sorts of slain perVol. II. No. 12.
sons of opposite characters, who are spoken of in this and the foregoing chapters. For a long time the enemies of Christ and his people had been in great power, and persecuted his faithful followers; putting many of them to death. To these John has reference, when he says, "I saw the souls of them, that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus and the word of God, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years." Of their thus living again he speaks, when he says, "This is the first resurrection." By the rest of the dead we are to understand the hosts of enemies and persecutors, who had received the mark of the beast and worshipped his image, and who were slain by the sword, that proceeded out of the mouth of him, that sat on the white horse, i. e. of Christ. In the same manner, in which the martyrs, who had been slain for the witness of Jesus, were to live again, during the thousand years, were the rest of the dead, the enemies and persecutors, who had been slain by the sword of him, that sat upon the horse, to be raised at the expiration of that period, when Satan was to be loosed out of his prison, and go out to deceive the nations, which are in the four corners of the earth, Gog and Magog, to gather them together to battle. It is not supposed that by the living of "the rest of the dead," at the expiration of the thousand years, we are to understand that the old enemies and persecutors of the church will be literally raised from the dead; to compose the armies of Gog and Magog; but the evidence in favour of a lite
ral resurrection is equally strong and destroy the saints. Both in the one case, as in the other. the resurrection of the saints and The presumption therefore is, martyrs at the commencement that both refer to a figurative of the millennium, and that of resurrection, a resurrection of the rest of the dead at the close the cause, not of the individuals of it, seem, even in this chapter, engaged in it. In this vast ar- to be plainly distinguished from my of enemies, which was to the literal resurrection, which is compass the camp of the saints, represented, as taking place, not under Gog and Magog, not the at the end of the thousand years, bodies, but the souls of the rest when Satan was to be loosed, but of the dead, of the remnant who after the final overthrow of Gog were slain by the sword of Christ, and Magog, the last enemies of were to live again: So in the pre- Christ. This literal resurrecseding period, wherein Satan was tion is described from ver. 11th, bound, not the bodies, but the to the end of the chapter. This souls of the martyrs were seen is represented, as a resurrecby John, as living and reigning tion, not of the souls, but of with Christ. Both the one and the bodies of men; not as the the other were to live and reign, resurrection of one class only, not in their proper persons, but of all characters and descripbut in their respective succes- tions. sors, who would be actuated by the same spirit, and make a part of the same body with selves. After Satan was bound, John in vision saw a race of men of the same character and spirit with the ancient martyrs, and in reality their genuine successors, making a part of the same body, in whom the cause, for which they had suffered, revived and triumphed as really, as if they had been all raised from the dead. But, during this period, the enemies and persecutors of Christ and his cause lived not again; they had no successors openly to espouse their cause, and carry on the warfare against Christ and his people. But after this happy period, when Satan shall be let loose again out of his prison, a race of men will arise of the same spirit and temper with the ancient enemies and persecutors, by whom one more attempt will be made to support their cause, and distress
Taking the whole passage into view, to explain both the first rethem-surrection and the living of the rest of the dead figuratively seems agreeable to the most obvious, natural sense. "I saw the souls of them that were beheaded, and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years," is a mode of expression no where used, unless it be here, to denote a literal resurrection of the body. Nay, it is so unlike the mode of expression, used in other places of Scripture, where a resurrection of the body is intended, that it is scarcely reasonable to suppose the same thing to be meant.
The reasons, why a figurative sense of this passage is preferred, will appear in a still stronger point of light, if we consider that the representation of the revival of a sinking cause by a resurrection is a figure, very commonly used in Scripture. The resurrection of the dry