On aphorisms

My first serious theological study was on Coleridge, who delved deeply into the idea of the ‘aphorism’ as a mode of instruction. He says, in his Aids to Reflection, that ‘[t]his twofold act of circumscribing, and detaching, when it is exerted by the mind on subjects of reflection and reason, is to aphorise…’ (footnote to ‘Introductory Aphorism XXV’); he goes on to say this: ‘[e]xclusively of the abstract sciences, the largest and worthiest portion of our knowledge consists of aphorisms…’ (‘Introductory Aphorism XXVII’). I’m not sure about that; but the intellectual work he commends, of attempting to boil down an insight into its tersest form, to state the whole essence of the matter...

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An aphorism on prayer

‘Prayer is a gift God gives, not a duty God demands.’

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An aphorism on evangelistic preaching

Written whilst listening to a sermon on John 3:16, which seemed to assume the subject of that verse was human faith, not divine love: ‘Our task is not to tell people that they must believe in Jesus, but so to tell them of Jesus that they must believe in Him.’

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An aphorism on preaching

‘A preacher does better to deserve attention than to demand it.’ ( I used a version of this in describing the second volume of Colin Gunton’s sermons in my ‘Introduction’, but it was developed in reflecting on the ministry of a faithful pastor whose sermons never excited, but always nourished.)

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