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ON SEVERAL OCCASIONS.
THE REV. JOHN WESLEY, A. M.
Some time Fellow of Lincoln College, Oxford.
IN TWO VOLUMES,
PUBLISHED BY B. WAUGH AND T. MASON,
J. Collord, Printer.
1. A GENTLEMAN in the west of England informed me a few days ago, that a clergyman in his neighbourhood designed to print, in two or three volumes, the Sermons which had been published in the ten volumes of the Arminian Magazine. I had been frequently solicited to do this myself, and had as often answered, “I leave this for my executors.” But if it must be done before I go hence, methinks I am the properest person to do it.
2. I intend, therefore, to set about it without delay: and if it pleases God to continue to me a little longer the use of my understanding and memory, I know not that I can employ them better. And perhaps I may be better able than another to revise my own writings; in order, either to retrench what is redundant, to supply what is wanting, or to make
4. To complete the number of twelve sermons in every volume, I have added six sermons to those printed in the Magazines; and I did this the rather, because the subjects were important, and cannot be too much insisted on.
5. Is there need to apologize to sensible persons, for the plainness of my style ? A gentleman, whom I much love and respect, lately informed me with much tenderness and courtesy, that “men of candour made great allowance for the decay of my faculties; and did not expect me to write now, either with regard to sentiment or language, as I did thirty or forty years ago." Perhaps they are decayed; though I am not conscious of it. But is not this a fit occasion to explain myself, concerning the style I use, from choice, not necessity? I could, even now, write as floridly and rhetorically as even the admired Dr. B—; but I dare not; because I seek the honour that cometh of God only.
* This Preface was written by Mr. Wesley for the edition of his Sermons, printed in 4 vols. 12mo.
show me any
What is the praise of man to me, that have one foot in the grave,
and am stepping into the land whence I shall not return? Therefore, I dare no more write in a fine style than wear a fine coat. But were it otherwise, had I time to spare, I should still write just as I do. I should purposely decline, what many admire, a highly ornamented style. I cannot admire French oratory: I despise it from my heart. Let those that please be in raptures at the pretty, elegant sentences of Massillon or Bourdaloue ; but give me the plain, nervous style of Dr. South, Dr Bates, or Mr. John Howe: and for elegance,
French writer who exceeds Dean Young or Mr. Seed. Let who will admire the French frippery; I am still for plain, sound English.
6. I think a preacher, or a writer of sermons, has lost his way, when he imitates any of the French orators; even the most famous of them; even Massillon or Bourdaloue. Only let his language be plain, proper, and clear, and it is enough. God himself has told us how to speak, both as to the matter and the manner : “If any man speak,” in the name of God, “ let him speak as the oracles of God;" and if he would imitate any part of these above the rest, let it be the First Epistle of St John. This is the style, the most excellent style, for every gospe preacher. And let him aim at no more ornament than he finds in that sentence, which is the sum of the whole gospel, “We love him, because he first loved us."
London, Jan. 1, 1788