Preparing Sermons and Penetrating Preaching
Coming from the stable of the Reformation Scotland Trust, these two booklets explore the legacy of the Second Reformation in Scotland. This was a period of significant tension between church and state, with associated tension between theological movements. These booklets provide fascinating insights into the style of preaching that played a key part in spreading revival throughout Scotland at that time. Some of these insights are tied to the culture of that day but there are a surprising number of timeless truths that still speak strongly to the preacher today.
Each booklet is introduced by Maurice Roberts and there are gems here, even for those who might not share his churchmanship. The importance of hard work in preparation is stressed: ‘We believe firmly that a preacher may improve by paying attention to the method of his sermon preparation.’ The introduction to a sermon, normally written last, is vital: ‘It must never be long but, like a handshake, establishes the relationship between the preacher and the audience before the meat of the sermon is served to them.’ According to Roberts, application is crucial: ‘Most young preachers spend too long on the statement of doctrine and too little time on application to the conscience. This is a weakness and a common cause of boredom in the hearer.’
There then follow reproductions of seventeenth-century preaching training from the work of James Durham, Alexander Simson and John Livingstone. All these are worthy of study and carry the hallmarks of faithful and prayerful expository preaching.
A final note should be made of the call for a greater passion and conviction in preaching. ‘Let the preacher be fervent and fiery in bearing home the great doctrine preached upon men’s souls… let him not be ashamed if his tears flow freely, if his voice is choked with sobs, if his ardour impels him to smite the pulpit…’ While we are rightly cautious of manipulation or emotionalism, we must never forget that when God’s word is faithfully preached, God’s voice is heard.
Reviewed by John Birchall