Faithful Shepherd 5A

Of the Preface after the prayer and of the text of the Scripture
Praise finished, he may either stand up or sit down, as the order of the Church is, it is indifferent. The Doctors in Jerusalem, it seems, sat. Our Saviour Christ sat (Mt 13:2; 5:1) but the Apostles stood up (Ac 3:16).
When to use a preface
It is not necessary ever to use a preface but men may if they please. It is sometimes convenient upon unusual occasions in more solemn assemblies, when one speaks to an unknown audience or to a congregation not ones own for the first time or in taking charge of a flock. He may begin as he thinks appropriate to stir up the audience to attention.
Where to get it
From the purpose of their coming, the material in hand being profitable and necessary; from a consideration of God's presence; from the professed Religion, their coming at that presence, the hope given from their former endeavours and the gifts of God in them; from some examples of good hearers; the commendation of hearing and commandment to do it in Scripture; from some sentence of Scripture, containing the drift of the sermon to be delivered; from what he thinks appropriate and as he is able.
Of giving of titles, beware of flattery
Our Saviour used a preface before his sermon (Lk 4:20, 21), so did the prophets before him (Ez 1, 2) and the Apostles after him sometimes (Ac 2:14, 10:34, 13:16). We may also use reverend titles and loving appellations, such as saying 'Men and Brethren, Fathers; you that fear God'. Yea, Luke can write 'Most noble Theophilus' and St Paul can say 'Most Noble Festus'. If in this we give what is due as we know and are Christianly persuaded, we offend not. But yet let us not be in this too much or many, nor often, nor go too far. Keep a wise moderation of the tongue, in what we may easily let slip and in heart beware of flattery. It were better to come a little short on the right hand in this (Jo 31:21, 22) than go too far on the left. Flattery is pernicious everywhere but chiefly a pestilent thing in the pulpit, where the very appearance must be forborne, which we will easily do before the basest but many can hardly do before princes, nobles and their bountiful patrons especially those that preach for praise or to to get a benefice, of which sort there are too many.
Of the text of Scripture
After the preface, declare with an audible voice what portion of Scripture is the text you will treat, whether a book or a chapter or some one or more verses in a chapter (Ne 8:8) and read the same once from the book. And if it be but a short text pronounce it again without the book, distinctly both times. If it be long, read it but once and utter only some part of the beginning again, with a 'and so forth'.
Read the text out of the best commonly approved translation and do not be a controller of it
Read it in the translation to ordinary people and in that which is most commonly received and best approved, and just as it is set down there, without addition, detraction or change of anything therein. It is not fit that everyone be a public controller of a publicly received translation. As it may argue some presumption or pride in the Corrector, so it may breed contention and leave a great scruple and cast doubts into the hearers minds, what reckoning to make of a translation. It also gives great advantage to the Papists who hereby labour to forestall many, so that they think little of translations, which we see can never be so well done and generally approved but some particular persons will be censuring the same, and that not only in private (a thing happily tolerable if the censure be true and wisely proceeded in) but also they must needs show their skill in pulpits. It may seem that such hold it an excellent thing to wag the finger and show off what they know and their opinions, as Persius says to the vain ones, Is your knowledge of no value, unless another know that you possess that knowledge? It is very necessary that the translation be most sound. But it is not expedient that public proclamation always be made of some small defects that by much investigation may fairly be noted in it by every ordinary person but only such faults as need noting, and that by learned men too.
With an ordinary audience we must use only our mother tongue
As the text must be read in the mother tongue, so here to speak a little briefly of it by the way, must the whole sermon before a common assembly, according to the prophets practice, the use of our Saviour, the reasons of St Paul, the custom of the Apostles and as the Primitive Fathers, the Greek and Latin Doctors of the church would do, as their extant sermons declare, without intermixing long sentences in strange languages not understood and different from their native speech.
A foreign tongue hinders the understanding of most hearers (except if it is used rarely, appropriately and briefly) they being ignorant of it and how it relates to what was before spoken or to that which follows after. Unless it is used with discretion, it is hiding from them what we profess rather than teaching them and an unprofitable misspending of time. First, there is no need to utter it, perhaps in Greek, then in Latin and after in English - a treble or a double labour for one. It may be one, two, three or some few more understand a little the languages but all the others do not. Must we therefore, pleasing ourselves, seek to delight the few, to win a little empty praise for our learning, while all the rest stand at a gaze, admiring what is said without edification? We that stand up in Christ's place must not seek our own commendation. There we must paint out the truth lively and plainly, proving ourselves faithful dispensers of God's secrets to the conscience of every believer, doing everything to the utmost of our power. Nevertheless, necessity constraining, such as sometimes to declare the emphasis of a word, often signifying more in the original than in the translation or to note some special phrases to convince someone proudly conceited about his knowledge or in a learned audience, I doubt not of a freedom in this.

1 comment:

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