These Sketches and Skeletons are the verbatim outlines of Sermons which have been delivered to a congregation in London, and several of them have been preached on particular occasions, both in North and South Britain. The Author has ever been desirous of keeping prominently before him the edification of his hearers; and he has sought to effect this, by trying to use great plainness of speech. It has long been his settled conviction that fine preaching is neither calculated to honor God, nor prove saving to souls. He conceives to preach usefully ought to be the ambition of every man of God, and that every thing else can but be of secondary importance To effect this, a suitable portion of Scripture should be chosen, clearly explained, and powerfully urged upon the hearts of the hearers.
He may just say, for the information of those who desire to excel in usefulness, that he has gained indescribable advantages from perusing the Puritan and the Nonconformist Divines, and believes no one can be familiar with Bishop Hall, Bolton, Sibbs, Caryl, Manton, Baxter, and Howe, without being more eminently qualified to labor in the vineyard of Christ. He has also found great benefit from an acquaintance with the writings of Leighter Henry, Evans, Grove, Barrow, Bishop Beveridge; and, among the moderns, he is ardently attached to the sermons of Stennett, R. Robinson, Belfrage, Lavington, Dr. Wardlaw, Jay, and C. Bradley; and he feels confident that these works will be read by thousands so long as evangelical piety shall have any place in our land.
The word of God furnishes the Christian minister with an endless variety of subjects; and it is only by keeping up this varied mode of address, that congregations can long be instructed and edified. Works that suggest numerous topics, and throw some little light upon them, are certainly calculated to assist the Christian minister, especially that large and worthy class of men whose time for reading and study is of the most limited description. Ministers who have obtained the inglorious reputation of preaching the sermons of others, will never avail themselves of Sketches and Outlines, as they require considerable thought and labor in filling them up; but they are generally persons who possess to a prodigious degree the faculty of committing words, to memory; and hence they revel among the splendid sermons of the day, and find it necessary to use all—from the first word of the introduction, to the last in the application,—lest their own meagerness of thought and poverty of expression should be made manifest.
In regard to the unfavorable opinion many entertain of the value of volumes like the present, it may be said with truth, that Outlines of Sermons are not designed to render ministerial study and preparation for the pulpit unnecessary; but to suggest a variety of topics to the preacher, and aid him more efficiently in making arrangements for his work. It is thus that architectural designs and plans are studied, by those entering upon that profession. And it is thus, too, that works of science and art are intended to help those who are practically following such pursuits. Such a use will never produce mental indolence, or place the minister of the gospel in the equivocal light of a mere borrower and retailer of the thoughts of others. Common honesty requires that men deliver their own discourses, unless they intimate the contrary to their audience. Yet, in doing this, they have an unalienable right to consult every author calculated to give them information or assistance in their work.
From the extensive patronage which the volumes of Sketches and Skeletons have received, the author has been induced to prepare a volume limited to typical and metaphorical topics. He is aware that these subjects have been very extensively abused, and that many persons attach an overweening importance to every thing of an allegorical or figurative character. This, however, can be no reason why we should neglect those beautiful types and similitudes which occupy so very prominent a place in the divine word.
The author has not attempted either a critical analysis, or a general exposition, of all the subjects which might be considered typical or figurative, but has selected those which appeared to him most interesting, and adapted for real usefulness to the general class of hearers. The profit of our auditory should ever be first,—ever preeminent. Compared with this, every thing else is trifling and unimportant.