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IN A SERIES OF
BOOK OF ESTHER.
By JOHN M: LOWRIE,
FORT WAYNE, INDIANA.
PRESBYTERIAN BOARD OF PUBLICATION,
No. 821 CHESTNUT STREET.
Entered according to the Act of Congress, in the year 1859, by
JAMES DUNLAP, TREAS.,
in the Clerk's Office of the District Court for the Eastern District of
STEREOTYPED BY JESPER HARDING & SON, PHILADELPHIA.
THE THEME of this volume has been furnished to its writer from so high a source, that modesty does not forbid him to regard the things here treated of, as of the deepest interest and value. That he should rise to the dignity of his subject was not to be expected; to fall far below is not so great a matter, since truth has a value apart from the ability of its advocates, and the most valuable teachings are usually plain and simple. Indeed if it were possible to select a hundred discourses—the best specimens of eloquent, forcible, and instructive preaching in the history of the church-and present them, consecutively, before any people, in a single pulpit, within a year or two, the success of the plan would be small, either to secure interest, or to do good. No element is more important to the interest and profit of any teaching than appropriateness of occasion and place. "A word fitly spoken is like apples of gold in pictures of silver."* The foolishness of preaching is the chosen instrumentality of Divine wisdom for the spread of the gospel ; a living ministry the church will ever require; and the successful style of preaching in every age will be that which is most nearly adapted to the circumstances and demands of the times. It is no wonder that hundreds of pastors are highly esteemed by their own congregations, not only for their kind sympathies and their wholesome counsels, but also for able and eloquent public ministrations, who yet never acquire an extended reputation. It is no wonder that discourses which have held an audience spell-bound in their delivery, yet do not seem of any special excellence when committed to the printed page. Intellectual power in a pastor is but one of the elements of his usefulness. He should be a "scribe well instructed in the kingdom of righteousness;" but his wisdom is as needful to apply the truth as to expound it. His Lord has described his office as that of a steward, giving to each of his fellow servants - his portion of meat in due season.” And no man can be such a steward ; no man can enter into the feelings of others so as to reach their necessities, without awakening his own affections and sympathies to such a degree as to shape his meditations, chasten his delivery, and modulate his tones to suit the various exigencies of his people. Hence there is an impropriety in applying to the usual discourses of the pulpit, the rules of rhetorical composition or logical discussion, which may justly apply to the occasional efforts of elaborate oratory. Many a useful and excellent sermon owes its chief attraction to paragraphs of local interest; to allusions understood only by the hearers; or to the greater stress laid upon certain points which a logical treatment of the topic would have placed in a minor position. It strengthens these thoughts to notice that the most famous discourses in all ages have been called forth by special occasions; and that the best remains of many a public speaker are not those upon which he has bestowed the greatest thought and care.
* Prov. xxv. 11.
But though the fitting word to the occasion is so important to the interest and profit of public instructions, we may not therefore argue that every preacher should confine his teachings to his immediate hearers; that printed discourses are unprofitable ; or that a reader may not, in some degree, sympathize with the original cir. cumstances that are involved in the speaker's words. We contend that no book can displace the living teacher of the gospel ; but we claim that much pleasure and profit may be derived from the publication of discourses that have been preached before a congregation, and that bear the marks of adaptation to their particular occasions. There are even advantages which the reader has, especially in a series of discourses, over those that have heard them. If he is willing to make allowances for the feebler passages, that are necessary to maintain the connection ; for the occasional introduction and urgency of thoughts, that appear to him little relevant; for repetitions, that may be natural and proper in discourses separated in their delivery by weeks and months; and for the diffuseness of style, that suits the pulpit better than the volume, the reader can better get the impression of the whole
; better select his own favourable time for the lessons afforded him; and better ponder the more forcible thoughts that seem to require more than a single hearing
The writer of these pages, as a pastor, is constantly accustomed to lecture upon the Scenes and Characters of