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OF THE DIOCESE OF TUAM.
BY JOSIAH HORT,
LATE LORD ARCHBISHOP OF TUAM,
Held there on WEDNESDAY, July 8, MDCCXLII.
OF THE DIOCESE OF TUAM, &c.
My reverend brethren, THE providence of God having called me to the government of this diocese, I have judged it not improper for me to communicate my thoughts to you with regard to the execution of your ministerial office, in order to the edification and salvation of the souls respectively committed to your charge.
To this end I shall reduce what I have to say to you under two general heads.
The first relates to your conduct in the actual performance of divine offices in the house of God.
The second relates to your behaviour at large towards your parishioners.
In speaking to the former, I shall confine myself to these four branches of your office, namely, preaching, praying, catechising, and expounding the holy scriptures.
I shall begin with preaching, which is one of those means appointed by our Saviour, for the enlightening the minds, awakening the consciences, and reforming the manners of your hearers. In order to answer these great ends, some degree of skill and address, as well as of pains and study, will be requisite : and I shall, for the sake chiefly of such of you as have not been long in holy orders, communicate my sentiments with regard to the subject, the composition, the style, and the pronunciation of a sermon,
The subject of a sermon ought to be some point of doctrine that is necessary for a Christian to know; or some duty that is necessary for him to practise, in order to his salvation. I speak this in opposition to subtile questions and curious speculations, that are above the common level of the auditory, and which have often no other effect, than to disquiet the minds and consciences of those who do not rightly understand them; and if they please curious and itching ears, yet will edify no man in faith and a good life.
Upon this occasion I would recommend it to young preachers especially, to compose a set of sermons upon the chief articles of the Christian religion, according to their natural order and dependence. By this means they will improve their own knowledge at the same time that they are teaching their hearers : but this should be done in the plainest and easiest manner, laying aside metaphysical niceties and the jargon of the schools, and especially avoiding to explain mysteries; for this is generally giving 'words and terms without meaning; and no man has ever succeeded in the attempt.
When a useful subject is chosen, the next care of the preacher is to find out some proper and pertinent text, that will naturally lead him to pursue his subject, and that will yield him those doctrines and practical deductions which he had in his view, without force and torture. For want of this, the whole operation will be laborious, obscure, and perplexed to the composer; and the discourse will be void of that perspicuity, which is necessary to engage the attention of the hearers. And I am sure there is no want of such texts upon all subjects in the Bible.
It has given me disgust to observe in some preachers a certain affectation of choosing such texts as appear remote and foreign to their subject, that by this means they may have opportunity of shewing their wit and ingenuity in fetching that out of a text, which nobody imagined could be in it. They would do something miraculous, like bringing water out of a dry rock in the wilderness, in order to surprise their auditory: but this will ever give distaste to good judges, and there is no occasion for putting one text upon the rack, to make it speak that which would paturally and easily arise out of another, that might as well have been chosen in the room of it.
When a useful subject and a pertinent text are chosen, the next work is composition, or the ranging of such thoughts as naturally arise upon the subject, into a convenient order and method : this will be the plan of his discourse; and the composer will reap no small advantages from this practice.
First, As it will help him to enter all his loose and detached thoughts in their proper places, for want of