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what sound doctrine, and a sound mind mean, never failing, so far as they know it, to declare the whole counsel of God.
The advice of Paul to Titus, I presume, was intended for the purposes of his general conversation; and more immediately for his public ministry. In all things showing thyself a pattern of good works, in doctrine uncorruptness, gravity, sincerity. This uniform general conduct of a minister is of the greatest importance in his family, his visits to his flock, his attendance on the sick, and his intercourse with general society. His speech must be always with grace, seasoned with salt, that he may know how to answer every man, Col. iv. 6. Thus, his conversation will be as it becometh the gospel of Christ; an example to believers, sincere, instructive, affectionate, and solemn; setting the most impressive and amiable pattern to all around. Besides, it is a fact, which must be admitted, that, as a man is in his study, and in his general conversation, so will he appear in his public ministrations, and receive a correspondent attention from his hearers.
Sound speech, in the public ministry of the gospel, is undoubtedly expected. This not only relates to a clear, correct, forcible pronunciation, but the communication of sacred truth, in a solid, conspicuous manner, without the shadow of ambiguity. Not according to the dogmas of men, but in the pure letter and spirit of divine truth. Every man, therefore, should preach as did Paul; not with enticing words of man's wisdom, but, in demonstration of the spirit and of power; clothing his ideas, and confirming his doctrines in the pure language of scripture.
The benefits to be produced by sound speech, whether in conversation or in preaching, are many and valuable. Especially, as there are to be found persons of a contrary part. That is, inimical to the truth of Christ, and rejecting its influence. Some denying the authenticity of revelation; others the divinity of Christ and of the Holy Spirit; while others disclaim the idea of salvation alone through the obedience and death of the Lord Jesus. When, therefore, sound speech is employed with faithfulness and tenderness, resisting gainsayers, it is frequently the case that thereby God so convinces them of their errors, that they no longer condemn, and have no evil thing to say of such a servant of Christ. May such effects more abundantly appear !
That the mind, and the powers of speech are capable of improvement, will not easily be denied. Man, with his various faculties, is a creature of growth; and for this reason Paul so strongly recommended Titus to cultivate sound speech. In the early stages of life, we know comparatively little ; our knowledge, both natural and sacred, is progressive by instruction, and in proportion to our years we learn the inestimable value of a sound mind, and the importance of cultivating sound speech. The organs of speech are justly analogous to an instrument of music. When the artist has finished his instrument, it must necessarily be attuned; and in its continued use, frequently demands the retouch of his hand to preserve and increase the melody of sound. That the comparison between the faculty of speech and an instrument of music is scripturally correct, you have only to recur to the Lord's address to Ezekiel on the reception of his ministry among the people. Lo, thou art to them as a very lovely song,
of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well upon an instrument, xxxiii. 32. By the voice we convey our sentiments and feelings to each other, through the medium of the ear. And, by the same mean, the minister of Christ engages the attention of his hearers, convinces the judgment, consoles the afflicted, and conveys pleasure to the attentive assembly. For this reason our Lord sent forth, not angels, but men, endowed with speech, to preach the gospel to every creature.
From these general reflections, arising from the text, I presume you must be convinced of the importance of sound speech being cultivated by every minister of the gospel for his increase in private and in public usefulness. And, if this be admitted, ought we not to exert every justifiable effort in favour of our rising ministers to obtain so important an acquisition? It is confessed, that, for years, many of our religious denominations have not only neglected to afford young men necessary aid to cultivate their gifts; but to such a measure they have manifested a mistaken opposition.* It is with pleasure I perceive this prejudice gradually to subside. Efforts are now making to assist our pious young men for their attaining useful knowledge. An Institution is formed, the present scite of which is in the city of Philadelphia; and a corresponding branch with which in this city, is now convened, being their first anniversary.
* Since the delivery of this discourse, the author has received correct information, that the Rev. Isaac Eaton, A. M. late of Hopewell, in New-Jersey, had the honour of being the first person among the American Baptists, who opened a seminary for the education of youths for the ministry. It continued eleven years, and produced many learned and valuable men.
Edwards's Hist. Vol. 2, p. 49. B
Upon this occasion, therefore, it may not be improper or unacceptable for me to recite to this assembly, some of the different branches of instruction, with their utility, which, under the blessing of God, are afforded to our students, in hope of their more abundant usefulness.
Reading. This is obviously necessary. We have no instance in which Christ sent out any of his disciples to preach who were incompetent to read. Paul enjoined Timothy to give himself to reading. And if this was necessary to Timothy, who knew the holy scriptures from his youth, how important is the admonition to every young minister of the gospel! We can have no hesitation in saying, that Paul himself was a man of general reading; and, upon necessary occasions could quote the heathen poets. Indeed, general reading is one way for knowing humankind, and which is very important to every person, especially in public life. I presume Paul, by this injunction to Timothy, did not only wish him to pursue a private course of reading, but of publicly reading the word of God; for it is easy to be perceived that this is connected with exhortation and doctrine. 1 Tim. iv. 13. Paul, in the name of the Lord, charged that his epistle to the Thessalonians should be read to all the holy brethren. 1 Thess. v. 27. I am therefore persuaded, that the reading of the scriptures should make a part of public worship; and that it is necessary a young minister should learn the art of reading distinctly, and solemnly, for the edification of the congregation. A man may be a good preacher, and at the same time a very indifferent reader; but, a good reader generally makes a more correct preacher. For these reasons it is we wish our young men scrupulously to learn the art of reading; which, in itself, is so proper and beneficial to the public.
GRAMMAR. No one surely will question the utility of qualifying a public speaker for addressing his audience in his own language, with a degree of correctness, in order clearly to be understood. For the want of which, many have been at a loss to convey their ideas, and failed of giving desirable instruction. And in fact it must be an acknowledged disgrace to any society to withhold this branch of education from any one who is solicitous io deliver his discourses in correct, plain language, suited to the various classes of his hearers, without their being offended by a multitude of barbarisms.
Logic. This is the art of using our reason upon a subject, to investigate its nature, extract the principles on which it is founded, and from them draw such just conclusions, as may convey salutary conviction to the heart. This branch of study is of great utility to a minister, in order to understand the principles of doctrine, and rightly to explain many texts in the word of God, so as to render them plain and intelligible to their hearers.
HISTORY AND GEOGRAPHY. These I combine, for the one is connected with the other. History is the record of facts in relation to individuals, families, cities and nations. Geography is the knowledge of the earth; the climate, soil, productions, trade and commerce of its various countries. The knowledge of these are found extremely useful to enlarge the intelligent mind, and certainly must be valuable to every young minister. But the history and geography of the Bible are of importance to every student in divinity, for explaining the countries, persons and habits, therein described, in order to illustrate metaphors and yarious texts of importance.