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LIBRARY 

OF THE 

University of California. 

GIFT OK 

Mrs. SARAH P. WALSWORTH. 

Received October, 1894. 
Accessions No.^V (Jl^f. Class No. 




E. B. WALSWORTH, KlMvil \l T 



LECTURES ON PREACHING 



DELIVERED BEFORE THE 



DIVINITY SCHOOL OF YALE COLLEGE 



IN JANUARY AND FEBRUARY, 1877 



REV. PHILLIPS BROOKS 

KECTOR OF TRINITY CHURCH, BOSTON 




NEW YORK 
E. P. DUTTON AND COMPANY 

1877 



UHIVBESI1 



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3 vt*/( 



$11*7 



Copyright, 1877, 
B. P BUTTON AND COMPANY. 



RIVERSIDE, CAMBRIDGE ! 

STEREOTYPED AND PRINTED BT 

H. 0. HOUGHTON AND COMPANY. 



[From the Records of the Corporation of Yale College, April 12, 1871.] 

" Voted, To accept the offer of Mr. Henry N. Sage, of Brooklyn, 
of the sum of ten thousand dollars, for the founding of a Lectureship 
in the Theological Department, in a hranch of Pastoral Theology, to 
be designated ' The Lyman Beecher Lectureship on Preaching/ to be 
filled from time to time, upon the appointment of the Corporation, by 
a minister of the Gospel, of any evangelical denomination, who has 
been markedly successful in the special work of the Christian min- 
istry." 



r U!TI7BESIT7 



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CONTENTS. 



LECTURE PAGE 

I. The Two Elements in Preaching .... 1 

,4^ (T"~ II. The Preacher Himself 35 

>— III. The Preacher in his Work 72 

IV. The Idea op the Sermon 108 

V. The Making of the Sermon 143 

VI. The Congregation 180 

- VII. The Ministry for our Age 217 

VIII. The Value of the Human Soul ... 255 






piriTBRsifr] 

LECTURES ON PREACHING. 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 



O INCE I received, some months ago, the invitation 
^ to deliver these lectures which I begin to-day, I 
have been led to ponder much upon the principles by 
which I have only half consciously been living and 
working for many years. This is part of the debt 
which I owe to those who have honored me with 
their invitation. It is interesting to one's self to 
examine and recognize and arrange the ideas which 
have been slowly taking shape within him during the 
busy years of work. I shall be very glad if you too 
are interested, as I try to recount them to you, and 
very thankful if you find in them any help or in- 
spiration. 

The personal character of this lectureship is very 
evident. It is always to be filled by preachers in 
active work, who are to come and speak to you of 
preaching. It is not a Homiletical Professorship. It 
is each man's own life in the ministry of which he is 
to tell. But certainly you do not expect from your 
l 



2 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Buccessive lecturers a series of anecdotes of what has 
happened to them in their ministry, nor a mere re- 
cital of their ways of working. It cannot be intended 
that this lectureship should exalt the interviewer into 
an organized and permanent institution. The hope 
must rather be that as each preacher speaks of our 
common work in his own way, whatever there may 
be of value in his personal experience may come, not 
directly but indirectly, into what he says, and make 
the privilege of preaching shine for the moment in 
your eyes with the same kind of light which it has 
won in his. 

I feel as I begin something of the fear which I have 
often felt in commencing a new sermon. It has often 
seemed to me as if the vast amount of preaching which 
people hear must have one bad effect, in leaving on 
their minds a vague impression that this Christian life 
to which they are so continually urged must be a very 
difficult and complicated thing that it should take 
such a multitude of definitions to make it clear. And 
so there is some danger lest these multiplied lectures 
upon preaching should give to those who are prepar- 
ing to preach an uncomfortable feeling that the work 
of preaching is a thing of many rules, hard to under- 
stand, and needing a great deal of commentary. For 
my part, I am startled when I think how few and 
simple are the things which I have to say to you. 
The principles which one can recognize in his minis- 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 3 

try are very broad and plain. The applications of 
those principles are endless ; but I should be very 
sorry indeed if anything that I shall say should lead 
any of you to confound the few plain principles with 
their many varied applications, and so make you think 
that work complicated and difficult which to him who 
is equipped for it, and loves it, is the easiest and sim- 
plest work in life. 

Let me say one word more in introduction. He 
who is called upon to give these lectures cannot but 
remember that they are given every year, and that 
he has had very able and faithful predecessors. There 
are certainly, therefore, some things which he may 
venture to omit without being supposed to be either 
ignorant or careless of them. There are certain first 
principles, of primary importance, which he may take 
for granted in all that he says. They are so funda- 
mental, that they must be always present, and their 
power must pervade every treatment of the work 
which is built upon them. But they need not be de- 
liberately stated anew each year. It would make 
these courses of lectures very monotonous ; and one 
may venture to assume that there are some elemen- 
tary principles upon whose truth all students of theol- 
ogy are agreed, and whose importance they all feel. 

I cannot begin, then, to speak to you who are pre- 
paring for the work of preaching, without congratu- 



4 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

lating you most earnestly upon the prospect that lies 
before you. I cannot help bearing witness to the joy 
of the life which you anticipate. There is no career 
that can compare with it for a moment in the rich 
and satisfying relations into which it brings a man 
with his fellow-men, in the deep and interesting in- 
sight which it gives him into human nature, and in 
the chance of the best culture for his own character. 
Its delight never grows old, its interest never wanes, 
its stimulus is never exhausted. It is different to a 
man at each period of his life ; but if he is the min- 
ister he ought to be, there is no age, from the earliest 
years when he is his people's brother to the late days 
when he is like a father to the children on whom he 
looks down from the pulpit, in which the ministry 
has not some fresh charm and chance of usefulness to 
offer to the man whose heart is in it. Let us never 
think of it in any other way than this. Let us re- 
joice with one another that in a world where there 
are a great many good and happy things for men to 
do, God has given us the best and happiest, and made 
us preachers of His Truth. 

I propose in this introductory lecture to lay before 
you some thoughts which cover the whole field which 
we shall have to traverse ; and the lectures which fol- 
low will be mainly applications and illustrations of 
the principles which I lay down to-day. It maywnake 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 5 

my first lecture seem a little too general, but perhaps 
it will help us to understand each other better as we 
go on. 

What, then, is preaching, of which we are to speak ? 
It is not hard to find a definition. Preachings _is_ the 
communication of truth by man to men. It has in 
it two essential elements, truth and personality. 
Neither of those can it spare and still be preaching. 
The truest truth, the most authoritative statement of 
God's will, communicated in any other way than 
through the personality of brother man to men is 
not preached truth. Suppose it written on the sky, 
suppose it embodied in a book which has been so long 
held in reverence as the direct utterance of God that 
the vivid personality of the men who wrote its pages 
has well-nigh faded out of it; in neither of these 
cases is there any preaching. And on the other 
hand, if men speak to other men that which they 
do not claim for truth, if they use their powers of 
persuasion or of entertainment to make other men 
listen to their speculations, or do their will, or applaud 
their cleverness, that is not preaching either. The 
first lacks personality* The second lacks truth. And 
preaching is the bringing of truth through person- 
ality. It must have both elements. It is in the 
different proportion in which the two are mingled 
that the difference between two great classes of ser- 
mons and preaching lies. It is in the defect of one 



>* OF THB^< 



6 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

or the other element that every sermon and preacher 
falls short of the perfect standard. It is in the ab- 
sence of one or the other element that a discourse 
ceases to be a sermon, and a man ceases to be a 
preacher altogether. 

If we go back to the beginning of the Christian 
ministry we can see how distinctly and deliberately 
Jesus chose this method of extending the knowledge 
of Himself throughout the world. Other methods no 
doubt were open to Him, but He deliberately selected 
this. He taught His truth to a few men and then 
He said, u Now go and tell that truth to other men." 
Both elements were there, in John the Baptist who 
prepared the way for Him, in the seventy whom He 
sent out before His face, and in the little company 
who started from the chamber of the Pentecost to 
proclaim the new salvation to the world. If He gave 
them the power of working miracles, the miracles 
themselves were not the final purpose for which He 
gave it. The power of miracle was, as it were, a 
divine fire pervading the Apostle's being and open- 
ing his individuality on either side ; making it more 
open God-wards by the sense of awful privilege, mak- 
ing it more open man-wards by the impressiveness 
and the helpfulness with which it was clothed. 
Everything that was peculiar in Christ's treatment 
of those men was merely part of the process by which 
the Master prepared their personality to be a fit 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 1 

nedium for the communication of His Word. When 
His treatment of them was complete, they stood 
fused like glass, and able to take God's truth in per- 
fectly on one side and send it out perfectly on the 
other side of their transparent natures. 

This was the method by which Christ chose that 
His Gospel should be spread through the world. It 
was a method that might have been applied to the 
dissemination of any truth, but we can see why it 
was especially adapted to the truth of Christianity. 
For that truth is preeminently personal. However 
tfie Gospel may be capable of statement in dogmatic 
iorm, its truest statement we know is not in dogma 
but in personal life. Christianity is Christ ; and we 
can easily understand how a truth which is of such 
peculiar character that a person can stand forth and 
say of it " I am the Truth," must always be best 
conveyed through, must indeed be almost incapable 
of being perfectly conveyed except through person- 
ality. And so some form of preaching must be es- 
sential to the prevalence and spread of the knowledge 
of Christ among men. There seems to be some such 
meaning as this in the words of Jesus when He said 
to His disciples, " As my Father has sent me into 
the world even so have I sent you into the world." 
It was the continuation, out to the minutest ramifi- 
cations of the new system of influence, of that per- 
sonal method which the Incarnation itself had in- 
volved. 



8 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

If this be true, then, it establishes the first of all 
principles concerning the ministry and preparation 
for the ministry. Truth through Personality is our 
description of real preaching. The truth must come 
really through the person, not merely over his lips, 
not merely into his understanding and out through 
his pen. It must come through his character, his 
affections, his whole intellectual and moral being. 
It must come genuinely through him. I think that, 
granting equal intelligence and study, here is the 
great difference which we feel between two preachers 
of the Word. The Gospel has come over one of them 
and reaches us tinged and flavored with his superfi- 
cial characteristics, belittled with his littleness. The 
Gospel has come through the other, and we receive it 
impressed and winged with all the earnestness and 
strength that there is in him. In the first case the 
man has been but a printing machine or a trumpet. 
In the other case he has been a true man and a real 
messenger of God. We know how the views which 
theologians have taken of the agency of the Bible 
writers in their work differ just here. There have 
been those who would make them mere passive in- 
struments. The thought of our own time has more 
and more tended to consider them the active mes- 
sengers of the Word of God. This is the higher 
thought of inspiration. And this is the only true 
thought of the Christian preachership. I think that 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 9 

one of the most perplexing points in a man's minis- 
try is in a certain variation of this power of trans- 
mission. Sometimes you are all open on both sides, 
open to God and to fellow-man. At other times 
something clogs and clouds your transparency. You 
will know the differences of the sermons which you 
preach in those two conditions, and, however little 
they describe it to themselves or know its causes, 
your congregation will feel the difference full well. 

But this, as I began to say, decrees for us in gen- 
eral what the preparation for the ministry is. It 
must be nothing less than the making of a man. 
It cannot be the mere training to certain tricks. It 
cannot be even the furnishing with abundant knowl- 
edge. It must be nothing less than the kneading 
and tempering of a man's whole nature till it becomes 
of such a consistency and quality as to be capable of 
transmission. This is the largeness of the preacher's 
culture. It is not for me, standing here or anywhere, 
to depreciate the work which our theological schools 
do. It certainly is not my place to undervalue the 
usefulness of lectures on preaching, or books on cler- 
ical manners. But none of these things make the 
preacher. You are surprised, when you read the 
biographies of the most successful ministers, to see 
how small a part of their culture came from their 
professional schools. It is a real part but it is a 
gmall part. Everything that opens their lives towards 



/ 



10 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

God and towards man makes part of their education. 
The professional schools furnish them. The whole 
world is the school that makes them. This is the 
great value of the great preachers if we can only 
read them largely enough, if we can read them not 
in a small desire to copy their details of living but in 
a large sympathetic wish to know what their life was, 
to see how the men became the men they were. This 
is the value of Baxter's story of himself, so unsus- 
piciously confident of the reader's interest in every- 
thing that concerns him, or of Robertson's painful but 
precious history, or of the strong, manly, constantly 
advancing life of Norman Macleod. I think that 
either of these books might be the ruin of a young 
minister who read it for the methods of his work, as 
either of them might be the making of him if he read 
it for the spirit and the spiritual history of the man 
of whom it told the story. In a time which abounds 
in biographies as ours does, especially in the biogra- 
phies of preachers, it is worth while, I am sure, to 
remember that another man's life may be the noblest 
inspiration or the heaviest burden, according as we 
take its spirit into our spirit, or only bind its meth- 
ods like a fagot of dry sticks upon our back. 

One other consequence of the fundamental charac- 
ter of preaching which I have stated must be the 
perpetual function of the pulpit. Every now and 
then we hear some speculations about the prospects 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 11 

of preaching. Will men continue to preach and will 
other men continue to go and hear them ? Books are 
multiplying enormously. Any man may feel reason- 
ably sure on any Sunday morning that in a book 
which he can choose from his shelf he can read some- 
thing more wisely thought and more perfectly ex- 
pressed than he will hear from the pulpit if he goes 
to church. Why should he go ? One answer to the 
question certainly would be in the assertion that 
preaching is only one of the functions of the Christian 
Church and that, even if preaching should grow ob- 
solete, there would still remain reason enough why 
Christians should meet together for worship and for 
brotherhood. But even if we look at preaching only, 
it must still be true that nothing can ever take its 
place because of the personal element that is in it. 
No multiplication of books can ever supersede the 
human voice. No newly opened channel of approach 
to man's mind and heart can ever do away with 
man's readiness to receive impressions through his 
fellow-man. There is no evidence, I think, in all 
the absorption in books which characterizes our much 
reading age, of any real decline of the interest in 
preaching. Let a man be a true preacher, reallyv 
uttering the truth through his own personality, and 
it is strange how men will gather to listen to him. 
We hear that the day of the pulpit is past, and then 
some morning the voice of a true preacher is heard 



12 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

in the land and all the streets are full of men crowd- 
ing to hear him, just exactly as were the streets of 
Constantinople when Chrysostom was going to preach 
y/ at the Church of the Apostles, or the streets of Lon- 
don when Latimer was bravely telling his truth at 
St. Paul's. 

The same is true of reading sermons. I think, as 
I shall have occasion to say more fully in some other 
lecture, that a sermon that has the true sermon 
quality in it, when it is made, preserves that quality 
even under the constraints of manuscript or print. 
And books of sermons which really bring the truth 
through personality to men, were never bought and 
read more largely than they are to-day. 

No ; the truth about this matter of the competition 
of the printed book with the preached sermon, seems 
to be what is true of every competition. It has led 
to more discrimination. There were things which 
people went to hear once but which they will not go 
to hear to-day. They can read better things of the 
same sort at home. But those things are not ser- 
mons. They never were sermons. The competition 
of print has interfered very much, is destined to in- 
terfere much more, — we may hope will not cease to 
interfere till it has caused it to disappear, — with the 
" pulpit droning of old saws," with the monotonous 
reiteration of commonplaces and abstractions ; but 
the true sermon, the utterance of living truth by liv- 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 13 

ing men, was never more powerful than it is to-day. 
People never came to it with more earnestness, or 
carried away from it more good results. 

I cannot help begging you, in the ministry which 
is before you, to beware of excusing your own failures 
by foolish talk about the obstinate aversioja-wliicn-JJie 
age has to the preaching of_ the Gospel. It is the 
meanest and shallowest kind of excuse. The age has 
no aversion to preaching as such. It may not listen 
to your preaching. If that prove to be the case, look 
for the fault first in your preaching, and not in the 
age. I wonder at the eagerness and patience of con- 
gregations. I think that there are two things which 
we ministers have to guard against in this matter : one, 
the tendency of which I have just spoken, to blame 
the impatience which men feel with false pretences of 
preaching, for the lack of success which our preach- 
ing brings ; the other, an exactly opposite tendency, 
to trust so confidently to the much tried patience of >/ 
the people, that we shall do our work carelessly from 
feeling too secure about our power. He who escapes 
both of these dangers, he who feels the magnitude 
and privilege of his work, he who both respects and 
trusts his people, neither assuming their indifference, 
so that he is paralyzed, or assuming their interest, so 
that he grows careless, — that man, I think, need envy 
no one of the preachers of the ages that are past the 
pulpit in which he stood, or the congregation to which 
oe preached. 



14 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Let us look now for a few moments at these two 
elements of preaching — Truth and Personality ; the 
one universal and invariable, the other special and al- 
ways different. There are a few suggestions that I 
should like to make to you about each. 

And first with regard to the Truth. It is strange 
how impossible it is to separate it and consider it 
wholly by itself. The personalness will cling to it. 
There are two aspects of the minister's work, which 
we are constantly meeting in the New Testament. 
They are really embodied in two words, one of which 
is " message," and the other is " witness." " This is 
the message which we have heard of Him and declare 
unto you," says St. John in his first Epistle. " We 
are his witnesses of these things," says St. Peter be- 
fore the Council at Jerusalem. In these two words 
together, I think, we have the fundamental concep- 
tion of the matter of all Christian preaching. It is 
to be a message given to us for transmission, but yet 
a message which we cannot transmit until it has en- 
tered into our own experience, and we can give our 
own testimony of its spiritual power. The minister 
who keeps the word "message" always written before 
him, as he prepares his sermon in his study, or utters 
it from his pulpit, is saved from the tendency to 
wanton and wild speculation, and from the mere pas- 
sion of originality. He who never forgets that word 
" witness," is saved from the unreality of repeating 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 15 

by rote mere forms of statement which he has learned 
as orthodox, but never realized as true. If you and 
I can always carry this double consciousnesSajbhat we 
are messengers, and that we are witnesses, we shall 
have in our preaching all the authority and independ- 1 
ence of assured truth, and yet all the appeal and 
convincingness of personal belief. It will not be we 
that speak, but the spirit of our Father that speaketh 
in us, and yet our sonship shall give the Father's \ 
voice its utterance and interpretation to His other \ 
children. 

I think that nothing is more needed to correct the 
peculiar vices of preaching which belong to our time, 
than a new prevalence among preachers of this first 
conception of the truth which they have to tell as a 
message. I am sure that one great source of the 
weakness of the pulpit is the feeling among the 
people that these men who stand up before them 
every Sunday have been making up trains of thought, 
and thinking how they should " treat their subject," 
as the phrase runs. There is the first ground of the 
vicious habit that our congregations have of talking 
about the preacher more than they think about the 
truth. The minstrel who sings before you to show his 
skill, will be praised for his wit, and rhymes, and voice. 



/ 



A 



But the courier who hurries in, breathless, to bring 
you a message, will be forgotten in the message that 
he brings. Among the many sermons I have heard, 



y 



16 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

I always remember one, for the wonderful way in 
which it was pervaded by this quality. It was a 
sermon by Mr. George Macdonald, the English au- 
thor, who was in this country a few years ago ; and 
it had many of the good and bad characteristics of his 
interesting style. It had his brave and manly hon- 
esty, and his tendency to sentimentality. But over 
and through it all it had this quality : it was a mes- 
sage from God to these people by him. The man 
struggled with language as a child struggles with his 
imperfectly mastered tongue, that will not tell the 
errand as he received it, and has it in his mind. As 
I listened, I seemed to see how weak in contrast was 
the way in which other preachers had amused me 
and challenged my admiration for the working of 
their minds. Here was a gospel. Here were real 
tidings. And you listened and forgot the preacher. 

Whatever else you count yourself in the ministry, 
never lose this fundamental idea of yourself as a mes- 
senger. As to the way in which one shall best keep 
that idea, it would not be hard to state ; but it would 
involve the whole story of the Christian life. Here 
is the primary necessity that the Christian preacher 
should be a Christian first, that he should be deeply 
cognizant of God's authority, and of the absoluteness 
of Christ's truth. That was one of the first princi- 
ples which I ventured to assume as I began my lect- 
ure. But without entering so wide a field, let me 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 17 

say one thing about this conception of preaching a^T 
the telling of a message which constantly impresses 
me. I think that it would give to our preaching 
just the quality which it appears to me to most 
lack now. That quality is breadth. I do not mean 
liberality of thought, not tolerance of opinion, nor any- 
thing of that kind. I mean largeness of movement, 
the great utterance of great truths, the great enforce- 
ment of great duties, as distinct from the minute, and 
subtle, and ingenious treatment of little topics, side 
issues of the soul's life, bits of anatomy, the bric-a- 
brac of theology. Take up, some Saturday, the list 
of subjects on which the ministers of a great city are 
to preach the next day. See how many of them seem 
to have searched in strange corners of the Bible for 
their topics, how small and fantastic is the bit of 
truth which their hearers are to have set before them. 
Then turn to Barrow, or Tillotson, or Bushnell— " Of v 
being imitators of Christ ; " " That God is the only 
happiness of man ; " " Every man's life a plan of 
God." There is a painting of ivory miniatures, and \s 
there is a painting of great frescoes. One kind of 
art is suited to one kind of subject, and another to 
another. I suppose that all preachers pass through 
some fantastic period when a strange text fascinates 
them ; when they like to find what can be said for 
an hour on some little topic on which most men could 
only talk two minutes ; when they are eager for sub- 



/ 



18 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tlety more than force, and for originality more than 
truth. But as a preacher grows more full of the con- 
ception of the sermon as a message, he gets clear of 
those brambles. He comes out on to open ground. 
His work grows freer, and bolder, and broader. He 
loves the simplest texts, and the great truths which 
run like rivers through all life. God's sovereignty, 
Christ's redemption, man's hope in the Spirit, the 
privilege of duty, the love of man in the Saviour, 
make the strong music which his soul tries to catch. 

And then another result of this conception of 
preaching as the telling of a message is that it puts 
us into right relations with all historic Christianity. 
The message never can be told as if we were the first 
to tell it. It is the same message which the Church 
has told in all the ages. He who tells it to-day is 
backed by all the multitude who have told it in the 
past. He is companied by all those who are telling 
it now. The message is his witness ; but a part of the 
assurance with which he has received it, comes from 
the fact of its being the identical message which has 
come down from the beginning. Men find on both 
sides how difficult it is to preserve the true poise 
and proportion between the corporate and the indi- 
vidual conceptions of the Christian life. But all will 
own to-day the need of both. The identity of the 
Church in all times consists in the identity of the 
message which she has always had to carry from her 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 19 

Lord to men. All outward utterances of the perpet- 
ual identity of the Church are valuable only as they 
assert this real identity. There is the real meaning 
of the perpetuation of old ceremonies, the use .of an- 
cient liturgies, and the clinging to what seem to be 
apostolic types of government. The heretic in all 
times has been not the errorist as such, but the self- 
willed man, whether his judgments were right or 
wrong. U A man may be a heretic in the truth," says 
Milton. He is the man who, taking his ideas not as 
a message from God, but as his own discoveries, has 
cut himself off from the message-bearing Church of all 
the ages. I am sure that the more fully you come to 
count your preaching the telling of a message, the 
more valuable and real the Church will become to 
you, the more true will seem to you your brother- 
hood with all messengers of that same message in all 
strange dresses and in all strange tongues. 

I should like to mention, with reference to the 
Truth which the preacher has to preach, two ten- 
dencies which I am sure that you will recognize as 
very characteristic of our time. One is the tendency 
of criticism, and the other is the tendency of mech- 
anism. Both tendencies are bad. By the tendency of 
criticism I mean the disposition that prevails every- 
where to deal with things from outside, discussing 
iheir relations, examining their nature, and not put- 
ting ourselves into their power. Preaching in every 



20 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

age follows, to a certain extent, the changes which 
come to all literature and life. The age in which we 
live is strangely fond of criticism. It takes all things 
to pieces for the mere pleasure of examining their 
nature. It studies forces, not in order to obey them, 
but in order to understand them. It talks about 
things for the pure pleasure of discussion. Much of 
the poetry and prose about nature and her wonders, 
much of the investigation of the country's genius and 
institutions, much of the subtle analysis of human 
nature is of this sort. It is all good ; but it is some- 
thing distinct from the cordial sympathy by which, 
one becomes a willing servant of any of these powers, 
a real lover of nature, or a faithful citizen, or a true 
friend. Now it would be strange if this critical ten- 
dency did not take possession of the preaching of the 
day. And it does. The disposition to watch ideas in 
their working, and to talk about their relations and 
their influence on one another, simply as problems, in 
which the mind may find pleasure without any real 
entrance of the soul into the ideas themselves, this, 
which is the critical tendency, invades the pulpit, and 
the result is an immense amount of preaching which 
must be called preaching about Christ as distinct from 
preaching Christ. There are many preachers who 
seem to do nothing else, always discussing Christian- 
ity as a problem instead of announcing Christianity 
as a message, and proclaiming Christ as a Saviour. 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 21 

I do not undervalue their discussions. But I think 
we ought always to feel that such discussions are not 
the type or ideal of preaching. They may be neces- 
sities of the time, but they are not the work which 
the great Apostolic preachers did, or which the true 
preacher will always most desire. Definers and de- 
fenders of the faith are always needed, but it is bad 
for a church, when its ministers count it their true 

j work to define and defend the faith rather than to 
preach the Gospel. Beware of the tendency to preach 

j about Christianity, and try to preach Christ. To dis- 
cuss the relations of Christianity and Science, Chris- 
tianity and Society, Christianity and Politics, is good. 
To set Christ forth to men so that they shall know 

| Him, and in gratitude and love become His, that is 

far better. It is good to be a Herschel who describes 

the sun ; but it is better to be a Prometheus who 
I 
brings the sun's fire to the earth. 

I called the other tendency the tendency of mech- 
anism. It is the disposition of the preacher to forget 
that the Gospel of Christ is primarily addressed to 
individuals, and that its ultimate purpose is the salva- 
tion of multitudes of men. Between the time when 
it first speaks to a man's soul, and the time when 
that man's soul is gathered into heaven, with the 
whole host of the redeemed, the Gospel uses a great 
many machineries which are more or less impersonal. 
The Church, with all its instrumentalities, comes in. 



22 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The preacher works by them. But if the preacher 
ever for a moment counts them the purpose of his 
working, if he takes his eye off the single soul as the 
prize he is to win, he falls from his highest function 
and loses his best power. All successful preaching, 
I more and more believe, talks to individuals. The 
Church is for the soul. I am not thinking of the fault 
or danger of any one body of Christians alone when 
I say this, not of my own or any other. The ten- 
dency to work for the means instead of for the end is 
everywhere. And, my friends, learn this at the be- 
ginning of your ministry, that just as surely as you 
think that any kind of fault or danger belongs wholly 
to another system than your own, and that you are 
not exposed to it, just so surely you will reproduce 
that fault or danger in some form in your own life. 
This surely is a good rule : whenever you see a fault 
in any other man, or any other church, look for it 
in yourself and in your own church. Where is the 
church which is not liable to value its machineries 
above its purposes, whose ministers are not tempted 
to preach for the denomination and its precious pe- 
culiarities, instead of for men and for their precious 
souls ? Let your preaching be to individuals, and to 
the Church always as living for and made up of indi- 
viduals. 

Of the second element in preaching, namely, the 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 23 

preacher's personality, there will be a great deal to 
say, especially in the next lecture. But there are 
two or three fundamental things which I wish to say 
to-day. 

The first is this, that the principle of personality 
once admitted involves the individuality of every 
preacher. The same considerations which make it 
good that the Gospel should not be written on the 
sky, or committed merely to an almost impersonal 
book, make it also most desirable that every preacher 
should utter the truth in his own way, and according 
to his own nature. It must come not only through 
man but through men. If you monotonize men you 
lose their human power to a large degree. If you 
could make all men think alike it would be very 
much as if no man thought at all, as when the whole 
earth moves together with all that is upon it, every- 
thing seems still. Now the deep sense of the solem- 
nity of the minister's work has often a tendency to 
repress the free individuality of the preacher and his 
tolerance of other preachers' individualities. His 
own way of doing his work is with him a matter of 
conscience, not of taste, and the conscience when it is 
thoroughly awake is more intolerant than the taste is. 
Or, working just the other way, his conscience tells 
him that it is not for him to let his personal peculiar- 
ities intrude in such a solemn work, and so he tries to 
bind himself to the ways of working which the most 



24 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

successful preachers of the Word have followed. I 
have seen both these kinds of ministers : those whose 
consciences made them obstinate, and those whose 
consciences made them pliable ; those whose con- 
sciences hardened them to steel or softened them to 
wax. However it comes about, there is an unmis- 
takable tendency to the repression of the individuality 
of the preacher. It is seen in little things : in the uni- 
form which preachers wear, and the disposition to a 
uniformity of language. It is seen in great things : in 
the disposition which all ages have witnessed to draw 
a line of orthodoxy inside the lines of truth. Wisely 
and soberly let us set ourselves against this influence. 
The God who sent men to preach the Gospel of His 
Son in their humanity, sent each man distinctively 
to preach it in his humanity. Be yourself by all 
means, but let that good result come not by culti- 
vating merely superficial peculiarities and oddities. 
Let^t be by winning a true self full of your own 
faith and your own love. The deep originality is 
noble, but the surface originality is miserable. It is 
so easy to be a John the Baptist, as far as the desert 
and camel's hair and locusts and wild honey go. But 
the devoted heart to speak from, and the fiery words 
to speak, are other things. 

Again, we never can forget in thinking of the 
preacher's personality that he is one who lives in con- 
stant familiarity with thoughts and words which to 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 25 

other men are occasional and rare, and which pre- 
serve their sacredness mainly by their rarity. That 
fact must always come in when we try to estimate 
the influences of a preacher's life. What will the 
power of that fact be? I am sure that often it 
weakens the minister. I am sure that many men 
who, if they came to preach once in a great while in 
the midst of other occupations, would preach with 
reality and fire, are deadened to their sacred work by 
their constant intercourse with sacred things. Their 
constant dealing with the truth makes them less V, 
powerful to bear the truth to others, as a pipe 
through which the water always flows collects its 
sediment, and is less fit to let more water through. 
And besides this, it ministers to self-deception and to 
an exaggeration or distortion of our own history. 
The man who constantly talks of certain experiences, 
and urges other men to enter into them, must come 
in time, by very force of describing those experiences, 
to think that he has undergone them. You beg men y' 
to repent, and you grow so familiar with the whole 
theory of repentance that it is hard for you to know 
that you yourself have not repented. You exhort to 
patience till you have no eyes or ears for your own 
impatience. It is the way in which the man who 
starts the trains at the railroad station must come in 
time to feel as if he himself had been to all the towns 
along the road whose names he has always been 



26 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

shouting in the passengers' ears, and to which he has 
for years sold them their tickets, when perhaps he has 
not left his own little way-station all the time. I 
know that all this is so, and yet certainly the fault is 
in the man not in the truth. The remedy certainly 
is not to make the truth less familiar. There is a 
truer relation to preaching, in which the constancy of 
it shall help instead of harming the reality and ear- 
nestness with which you do it. The more that you 
urge other people to holiness the more intense may 
be the hungering and thirsting after holiness in your 
own heart. Familiarity does not breed contempt 
except of contemptible things or in contemptible 
people. The adage, that no man is a hero to his 
valet de chambre., is sufficiently answered by saying 
that it is only to a valet de chambre that a truly 
eat man is unheroic. You must get the impulse, 
he delight, and the growing sacredness of your life 
ut of your familiar work. You are lost as a 
preacher if its familiarity deadens and encrusts, in- 
stead of vitalizing and opening your powers. And it 
will all depend upon whether you do your work for 
your Master and His people or for yourself. The 
last kind of labor slowly kills, the first gives life more 
and more. 

The real preparation of the preacher's personality 
for its transmissive work comes by the opening of 
his life on both sides, towards the truth of God and 



J 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 27 

►wards the needs of man. To apprehend in all 
leir intensity the wants and woes of men, to see the 
>roblems and dangers of this life, then to know all 
through us that nothing but Christ and His Redemp- 
ion can thoroughly satisfy these wants, that is what 
nakes a man a preacher. Alas for him who is only 
open on the man ward side, who only knows how mis- 
erable and wicked man is, but has no power of God 
to bring to him. He lays a kind but helpless hand 
upon the wound. He tries to relieve it with his 
sympathy and his philosophy. He is the source of 
all he says. There is no God behind him. He is no 
preacher. The preacher's instinct is that which feels 
instantly how Christ and human need belong together, 
neither thinks Christ too far off for the need, nor the 
need too insignificant for Christ. Never be afraid to 
bring the transcendent mysteries of our faith, Christ's 
life and death and resurrection, to the help of the 
humblest and commonest of human wants. There is 
a sort of preaching which keeps them for the great 
emergencies, and soothes the common sorrows and re- 
bukes the common sins with lower considerations of 
economy. Such preaching fails. It neither appeals 
to the lower nor to the higher perceptions of man- 
kind. It is useful neither as a law nor as a gospel. 
It is like a river that is frozen too hard to be navi- 
gable but not hard enough to bear. Never fear, as 
you preach, to bring the sublimest motive to the 



■ 



28 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

smallest duty, and the most infinite comfort to the 
smallest trouble. They will prove that they belong 
there if only the duty and trouble are real and you 
have read them thoroughly aright. 

These are the elements of preaching, then, — Truth 
and Personality. The truth is in itself a fixed and 
stable element ; the personality is a varying and 
growing element. In the union, of the two we have 
the provision for the combination of identity with 
variety, of stability with growth, in the preaching of 
the Gospel. The truth which you are preaching is 
the same which your brother is preaching in the next 
pulpit, or in some missionary station on the other 
side of the globe. If it were not, you would get no 
strength from one another. You would not stand 
back to back against the enemy, sustaining one an- 
other, as you do now. But the way in which you 
preach the truth is different, and each of you reaches 
some ears that would be deaf to the most persuasive 
tones of the other. The Gospel you are preaching 
now is the same Gospel that you preached when you 
were first ordained, in that first sermon which it was 
at once such a terror and such a joy to preach ; but 
if you have been a live man all the time, you are not 
preaching it now as you did then. If the truth had 
changed, your life would have lost its unity. The 
truth has not changed, but you have grown to fuller 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 29 

understanding of it, to larger capacity of receiving 
anti transmitting it. There is no pleasure in the / 
minister's life stronger than this, — the perception of 
identity and progress in his preaching of the truth as 
he grows older. It is like a man's pleasure in watch- 
ing the growth of his own body or his own mind, or 
of a tree which he has planted. Always the same it 
is, yet always larger. It is a common experience of 
ministers, I suppose, to find that sentences in their 
old sermons which were written years ago contain 
meanings and views of truth which they hold now 
but which they never had thought of in those early 
days. The truth was there, but the man had not 
appropriated it. The truth has not changed, but the 
man is more sufficient for it. Here is the power by 
which the truth becomes related to each special age. 
It is brought to it through the men of the age. If a 
preacher is not a man of his age, in sympathy with 
its spirit, his preaching fails. He wonders that the 
truth has grown so powerless. But it is not the 
truth that has failed. It is the other element, the 
person. That is the reason why sometimes the old 
preacher finds his well-known power gone, and com- 
plains that while he is still in his vigor people are 
looking to younger men for the work which they 
once delighted to demand of him. There are noble 
examples on the other side : old men with a person- 
ality as vitally sympathetic with the changing age as 



30 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the truth which they preach is true to the Word of 
God. They have a power which no young man can 
begin to wield, and the world owns it willingly. Peo- 
ple would rather see old men than young men in 
their pulpits, if only the old men bring them both 
elements of preaching, a faith that is eternally true, 
and a person that is in quick and ready sympathy 
with their present life. If they can have but one, 
they are apt to choose the latter ; but what they 
really want is both, and the noblest ministries in the 
Church are those of old men who have kept the fresh- 
ness of their youth. 

It is in the poise and proportion of these two ele- 
ments of preaching that we secure the true relation 
between independence and adaptation in the preach- 
er's character. The desire to meet the needs of the 
people to whom we preach may easily become ser- 
vility. Many a man has lost his manliness and won 
people's contempt in a truly earnest desire to win 
their hearts for his great message. Here is where the 
stable and unchanging element of our work comes in. 
There is something that you owe to the truth and 
to yourself as its preacher. There is a line beyond 
which adaptation becomes feebleness. There are some 
things which St. Paul will not become to any man. 
Nothing but this sense of the unchanging demands of 
the truth which we are sent to preach can keep us 
from giving our people what they want, instead of 



THE TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 31 

what they need. Keep a clear sense of what your 
truth requires of you. Count it unworthy of your- 
self as a minister of the Gospel to comfort any sorrow 
with less than the Gospel's whole comfortableness, or 
to bid any soul be perfectly happy in anything less 
than the highest spiritual joy. The saddest moments 
in every preacher's life, I think, are those in which 
he goes away from his pulpit conscious that he has 
given the people, not the highest that he knew how 
to give, but only the highest that they knew how to 
ask. He has satisfied them, and he is thoroughly 
discontented with himself. When a friend of Alex- 
ander the Great had asked of him ten talents, he ten- 
dered to him fifty, and when reply was made that 
ten were sufficient, " True," said he, " ten are suf- 
ficient for you to take, but not for me to give." 

If it is the decay of the personal element that 
weakens the ministry of some old men, I think it is 
the slighting of the element of absolute truth that 
degrades the work of preaching in many young men's 
eyes, and keeps such numbers of them, who ought to 
be there, from its sacred duties. The prevalence of 
doubt about all truth, and to some extent also the 
general eagerness of preachers to find out and meet 
the people's desires and demands, these two causes 
together have created the impression that the minis- 
try had no certain purposes or definite message, that 
the preacher was a promiscuous caterer for men's 

university) 



32 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

whims, wishing them well, inspired by a certain gen- 
eral benevolence, but in no sense a prophet uttering 
positive truth to them which they did not know be- 
fore, uttering it whether they liked it or hated it. 
Is not that the impression which many young men 
have of the ministry? Is it not natural that with 
that impression they should seek some other way to 
help their fellow-men ? And is there not very much 
indeed in the way in which preachers do their work 
to give such an impression? Everywhere, for the 
strengthening of the weak preacher, the enlivening 
of the dull preacher, the sobering of the flippant 
preacher, the freshening of the old preacher, the ma- 
turing of, the young preacher, what we need is the 
just poise and proportion of these two elements of the 
preacher's work, the truth he has to tell and the per- 
sonality through which he has to tell it. 

The purpose of preaching must always be the first 
condition that decrees its character. The final cause 
is that which really shapes everything's life. And 
what is preaching for? The answer comes without 
hesitation. It is for men's salvation. But the idea 
of what salvation is has never been entirely uniform 
or certain ; and all through the history of preaching 
we can see that the character of preaching varied 
continually, rose or fell, enlarged or narrowed, with 
the constant variation of men's ideas as to what it 



THE. TWO ELEMENTS IN PREACHING. 33 

was to be saved. If salvation was something here 
and now, preaching became a direct appeal to man's 
present life. If salvation was something future and 
far away, preaching died into remote whispers and 
only made itself graphic and forcible by the vivid 
pictures of torture addressed to the senses whose pain 
men most easily understand. If to be saved was to 
be saved from sin, preaching became spiritual. If to 
be saved was to be saved from punishment, preach- 
ing became forensic and economical. If salvation was 
the elevation of society, preaching became a lecture 
upon social science. The first thing for you to do is 
to see clearly what you are going to preach for, what 
you mean to try to save men from. By your con- 
viction about that, the whole quality of your minis- 
y will be decided. To the absence of any clear 
nswer to that question, to the entire vagueness as to 
hat men's danger is, we owe the vagueness with 
Which so many of our preachers preach. 

The world has not heard its best preaching yet. 
If there is more of God's truth for men to know, 
and if it is possible for the men who utter it to be- 
come more pure and godly, then, with both of its 
elements more complete than they have ever been be- 
fore, preaching must some day be a completer power. 
But that better preaching will not come by any sud- 
den leap of inspiration. As the preaching of the 



>c 



y 



34 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

present came from the preaching of the past, so the 
preaching that is to be will come from the preaching 
that is now. If we preach as honestly, as intelli- 
gently, and as spiritually as we can, we shall not 
merely do good in our own day, but help in some 
real though unrecorded way the future triumphs of 
the work we love. 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 



1\TY last lecture indicated very clearly the impor- 
■**-*- tance which I think belongs to the preacher's 
person in the work to which he is ordained. In 
my second and third lectures I want to dwell upon 
this subject and consider distinctively the preacher. 
After that we will look at the sermon. And in con- 
sidering the preacher, we may think of him first in 
himself and then in relation to his work. It is not 
a distinction that can be accurately and constantly 
maintained. The two views run together. But 
it will help me in making an arrangement of what 
I have to say ; and if we do not insist on it too 
strongly, it will aid our thoughts. To-day I take 
the first of these two topics, and shall speak of the 
preacher's personal character, the preacher in himself. 

Let us ask, then, first, What sort of man may be a 
minister ? It would be good for the Church if it were 
a more common question. Partly because the motives 
which lead a young man to the ministry are so per- 
sonal and spiritual, partly because of our sense of the 



36 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

magnitude and privilege of the work, which makes 
us fear to be the means of excluding any worthy man 
from it, partly because, at present, while the harvest 
is so plenteous the laborers are so very few, — for 
these and other reasons, there is far too little discrim- 
ination in the selection of men who are to preach, 
and many men find their way into the preacher's 
office who discover only too late that it is not their 
place. When our Lord selected those to whom He 
was to commit His gospel, we are impressed with the 
deliberation and solemnity of the act : " And it came 
to pass in these days that He went out into a mount- 
ain to pray, and continued all night in prayer to 
God. And when it was day, He called unto Him His 
disciples and of them He chose twelve whom also He 
named apostles." There has certainly grown up in 
the Church a strong misgiving as to the whole policy 
of charitable people and benevolent societies who, 
with their lavish offers of help, gather into the min- 
istry, along with many noble, faithful men, a multi- 
tude who, amiable and pious as they may be, are of 
the kind who make no place in life for themselves, 
but wait till some one kindly makes one for them 
and drops them into it. I am convinced that the 
ministry can never have its true dignity or power till 
it is cut aloof from mendicancy, — till young men 
whose hearts are set on preaching make their way to 
the pulpit by the same energy and through the same 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 37 

difficulties which meet countless young men on their 
way to business and the bar. We believe the influ- 
ence which brings men to the pulpit to be a far holier 
one. It ought, then, to be a far stronger one ; and 
yet we trust less to its power than we do to the 
power of ambition and self-interest. It is a part 
of the whole unmanly way of treating ministers, of 
which there will be more to say. 

It is not easy to describe, with our large views of 
personal liberty and personal rights, what methods 
of inspection and authentication it may be well to 
use on the admission of preachers to their sacred 
work ; but what we most of all need is a clearer un- 
derstanding and a fuller statement of what are the 
true conditions of a minister's success, and so what 
qualities we have a right to ask of ourselves and of 
one another before we can feel that the true call to 
the ministry has been established. We must not 
draw the line too narrowly. There is nothing more 
striking about the ministry than the way in which 
very opposite men do equally effective work. You 
look at some great preacher, and you say, " There is 
the type. He who is like that can preach," and just 
as your snug conclusion is all made, some other voice 
rings out from a neighboring pulpit, and the same 
power of God reaches the hearts of men in a totally 
new way, and your neat conclusion cracks and breaks. 
Spurgeon preaches at his Surrey Tabernacle, and Lid- 



38 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

don preaches at St. Paul's, and both are great preach- 
ers, and yet no two men could be more entirely un- 
like. It must be so. If the preacher is after all only 
the representative man, the representative Christian 
doing in special ways and with a special ordination 
that which all men ought to be doing for Christ and 
fellow-man, then there ought to be as many kinds of 
preachers as there are kinds of Christians ; and there 
are as many kinds of Christians as there are kinds of 
men. 

It is evident, then, that only in the largest way 
can the necessary qualities of the preacher be enu- 
merated. With this provision such an enumeration 
may be attempted. 

I must not dwell upon the first of all the necessary 
qualities, and yet there is not a moment's doubt that 
it does stand first of all. It is personal piety, a deep 
possession in one's own soul of the faith and hope 
and resolution which he is to offer to his fellow-men 
for their new life. Nothing but fire kindles fire. To 
know in one's whole nature what it is to live by 
Christ ; to be His, not our own ; to be so occupied 
with gratitude for what He did for us and for what 
He continually is to us that His will and His glory 
shall be the sole desires of our life, I wish that I 
could put in some words of new and overwhelming 
force the old accepted certainty that that is the first 
necessity of the preacher, that to preach without that 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 39 

is weary and unsatisfying and unprofitable work, that 
to preach with that is a perpetual privilege and 

And next to this I mention what we may call men- 
tal and spiritual unselfishness. I do not speak so 
much of a moral as of an intellectual quality. I 
mean that kind of mind which always conceives of 
truth with reference to its communication and re- 
ceives any spiritual blessing as a trust for others. 
Both of these are capable of being cultivated, but I 
hold that there is a natural difference between men 
in this respect. Some men by nature receive truth 
abstractly. They follow it into its developments. 
They fathom its depths. But they never think of 
sending it abroad. They are so enwrapt in seeing 
what it is that they never care to test what it can do. 
Other men necessarily think in relation to other men, 
and their first impulse with every new truth is to 
give it its full range of power. Their love for truth 
is always complemented by a love for man. They 
are two clearly different temperaments. One of them 
does not and the other does make the preacher. 

Again, hopefulness is a necessary quality of the 
true preacher's nature. You know how out of every 
complicated condition of affairs one man naturally 
appropriates all the elements of hope, while another 
invariably gathers up all that tends to despair. The 
Latter kind of man may have his uses. There are 



40 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tasks and times for which no prophet but Cassandra 

\ is appropriate. There were duties laid on some of 

the old Hebrew prophets which perhaps they might 

\ have done with hearts wholly destitute of any ray of 
light. But such a temper is entirely out of keeping 

[with the Christian gospel. The preacher may some- 
times denounce, rebuke, and terrify. When he does 
that, he is not distinctively the preacher of Christian- 
ity. If his nature is such that he must dread and fear 
continually, he was not made to preach the gospel. 

If I go on and mention a certain physical condition 
as essential to the preacher, I do so on very serious 
grounds. I am impressed with what seems to me the 
frivolous and insufficient way in which the health of 
the preacher is often treated. It is not simply that 
the sick minister is always hampered and restrained. 
It is not merely that the truth he has within him 
finds imperfect utterance. It is that the preacher's 
work is the most largely human of all occupations. 
It brings a man into more multiplied relations with 
his fellow-man than any other work. It is not the 
doing of certain specified duties. You will be sadly 
mistaken if you think it is, and try to set jiown in 
your contract with your parish just what you are to 
do, and where your duties are to stop. It is the man 
offered as a medium through whom God's influence 
may reach his fellow-men. Such an offering involves 
the whole man, and the whole man is body and soul 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 41 

together. Therefore the ideal preacher brings the 
perfectly healthy body with the perfectly sound soul. 
Remember that the care for your health, the avoid-, 
ance of nervous waste, the training of your voice, and 
everything else that you do for your body is not 
merely an economy of your organs that they may be 
fit for certain works ; it is a part of that total self- 
consecration which cannot be divided, and which all 
together makes you the medium through which God 
may reach His children's lives. I cannot but think 
that so high a view of the consecration of the body 
would convict many of the reputable sins against 
health in which ministers are apt to live, and do the 
fundamental good which the tinkering of the body 
by specifics for special occasions so completely fails 
to do. 

I speak of only one thing more. I do not know 
how to give it a name, but I do think that in every 
man who preaches there should be something of that 
quality which we recognize in a high degree in some 
man of whom we say, when we see him in the pulpit, 
that he is a " born preacher." Call it enthusiasm ; call 
it eloquence ; call it magnetism ; call it the gift for 
preaching. It is the quality that kindles at the sight 
of men, that feel a keen joy at the meeting of truth 
and the human mind, and recognizes how God made 
them for each other. It is the power by which a 
man loses himself and becomes but the sympathetic 



42 LECTURES ON PEE ACHING. 

atmosphere between the truth on one side of him and 
the man on the other side of him. It is the inspira- 
tion, the possession, — what I have heard called the 
" demon " of preaching. Something of this quality 
there must be in every man who really preaches. He 
who wholly lacks it cannot be a preacher. 

All of these qualities which I have thus enumer- 
ated exist in degrees. All of them are capable of 
culture if they exist at all. All of them are difficult 
to test except by the actual work of preaching. I 
grant, therefore, fully, that it is difficult to draw out 
of them a set of tests which the secretary of an educa- 
tion society can apply to candidates, — as a recruiting 
sergeant measures volunteers around the chest, — and 
mark them as fit or unfit for the ministry. But from 
'their enumeration I think still that there does rise up 
before us a clear picture of the man who ought to be 
a preacher. Full of the love of Christ, taking all 
truth and blessing as a trust, in the best sense didac- 
tic, hopeful, healthy, and counting health, as far as it 
is in his power, a part of his self-consecration ; will- 
ing, not simply as so many men are, to bear sickness 
for God's work, but willing to preserve health for 
God's work ; and going to his preaching with the en- 
thusiasm that shows it is what God made him for. 
The nearer you can come to him, my friends, the bet- 
ter preachers you will be, the surer you may be that 
you have a right to be preachers at all. 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 43 

And the next question will be, When you have 
the right kind of man to make a preacher of, what 
are the changes you will want him to undergo that 
he may become a preacher. The formal ordination 
which he will meet by and by will be nothing, of 
course, unless it signifies some real experiences which 
have filled these years since his soul heard what it 
recognized as God's call to the ministry. We may 
set him apart from other men with what solemn cere- 
monies we may please, but he will be just like other 
men still, unless the power of the work to which he 
looks forward has entered into him during his careful 
preparation and made him different. 

What does this difference consist in ? What is the 
true preparation ? First, and most evident, there are 
his special studies which have been filling him with 
their spirit. Most men begin really to study when 
they enter on the preparation for their professions. 
Men whose college life, with its general culture, has 
been very idle, begin to work when at the door of 
the professional school the work of their life comes 
into sight before them. It is the way in which a bird 
who has been wheeling vaguely hither and thither 
sees at last its home in the distance and flies towards 
it like an arrow. But shall I say to you how often I 
have thought that the very transcendent motives of 
the young minister's study have a certain tendency 
to bewilder him and make his study less faithful than 



44 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

that of men seeking other professions from lower 
motives ? The highest motive often dazzles before it 
illuminates. It is one of the ways in which the light 
within us becomes darkness. I never shall forget 
my first experience of a divinity school. I had come 
from a college where men studied hard but said noth- 
ing about faith. I had never been at a prayer-meet- 
ing in my life. The first place I was taken to at the 
seminary was the prayer-meeting ; and never shall 
I lose the impression of the devoutness with which 
those men prayed and exhorted one another. Their 
whole souls seemed exalted and their natures were on 
fire. I sat bewildered and ashamed, and went away 
depressed. On the next day I met some of those 
same men at a Greek recitation. It would be little 
to say of some of the devoutest of them that they had 
not learnt their lessons. Their whole way showed 
that they never learnt their lessons ; that they had 
not got hold of the first principles of hard, faithful, 
conscientious study. The boiler had no connection- 
with the engine. The devotion did not touch the 
work which then and there was the work and the 
only work for them to do. By and by I found some- 
thing of where the steam did escape to. A sort of 
amateur, premature preaching was much in vogue 
among us. We were in haste to be at what we 
called " our work." A feeble twilight of the coming 
ministry we lived in. The people in the neigh- 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 45 

borhood dubbed us " parsonnettes." Oh, my fellow- 
students, the special study of theology and all that 
appertains to it, that is what the preacher must be 
doing always ; but he never can do it afterward as 
he can in the blessed days of quiet in Arabia, after 
Christ has called him, and before the Apostles lay 
their hands upon him. In many respects an ignorant 
clergy, however pious it may be, is worse than none 
at all. The more the empty head glows and burns, 
the more hollow and thin and dry it grows. " The 
knowledge of the priest," said St. Francis de Sales, 
" is the eighth sacrament of the Church." 

But again, the minister's preparation of charac- 
ter for his work involves something more intimate 
than the accumulation of knowledge. The knowledge 
which comes into him meets in him the intention of 
preaching, and, touched by that, undergoes a trans- 
formation. It is changed into doctrine. Doctrine 
means this, — truth considered with reference to its 
being taught. The reason why many men dislike 
the word doctrine is from their dislike of the whole 
notion of docility which is attached to it. Just as 
a citizen who is preparing himself for public office 
considers the law and character of the State not ab- 
stractly, but with reference to their application to 
the people whom he aspires to govern ; just as the 
student in a normal school learns everything wkh an 
under-consciousness that he is going to teach that 



46 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

same thing some day, influencing all the methods 
of his learning ; so the student preparing to be a 
preacher cannot learn truth as the mere student of 
theology for its own sake might do. He always feels 
it reaching out through him to the people to whom 
he is some day to carry it. He cannot get rid of 
this consciousness. It influences all his understand- 
ing. We can see that it must have its dangers. It 
will threaten the impartiality with which he will 
seek truth. It will tempt him to prefer those forms 
of truth which most easily lend themselves to didac- 
tic uses, rather than those which bring evidence of 
being most simply and purely true. That is the 
danger of all preachers. Against that danger the 
man meaning to be a preacher must be upon his 
guard, but he cannot avoid the danger by sacrificing 
the habit out of which the danger springs. He must 
receive truth as one who is to teach it. He cannot, 
he must not study as if the truth he sought were 
purely for his own culture or enrichment. And the re- 
sult of such a habit, followed with due guard against 
its dangerous tendencies, will be threefold. It wil 
bring, first, a deeper and more solemn sense of re- 
sponsibility in the search for truth ; second, a desire 
to find the human side of every truth, the point at 
which every speculation touches humanity ; and third, 
n, breadth which comes from the constant presence in 
the mind of the fact that truth has various aspects 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 47 

and presents itself in many ways to different people, 
according to their needs and characters. 

Along with this preparation for preaching goes 
another. I said the man who studied with the in- 
tention of teaching learned to see and seize the 
human side of all divinity. It is true, also, that he 
learns to seize the divine side of all humanity. The 
sources from which his preaching is to be fed open on 
every side of him. I can remember how, as I looked 
forward to preaching, every book I read and every 
man I talked with seemed to teem with sermons. 
They all suggested something which it seemed as if 
the preacher of the gospel ought to say to men. I 
have not found the sermons in them all as I went 
on ; not, I believe, because I was mistaken in think- 
ing they were there, but because I have grown less 
eager or keen in finding them. I think there is no 
point in which ministers differ from one another, and 
in which we all differ from ourselves, more than in 
this, — this open-mindedness and power of appropri- 
ating out of everything the elements of true instruc- 
tion. I find two classes of ministers of different hab- 
its in this respect. One of them abjures everything 
outside the narrowest lines of technically religious 
reading, has no knowledge of literature or art or sci- 
ence. The other minister cultivates them all, but his 
life in them is wholly outside of his life as a preacher. 
He changes his nature when he turns away from his 



48 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

sermon and takes a volume from his shelves. And 
his shelves themselves are divided. His secular and 
his religious books are ranged on opposite sides of his 
study. There is something better than either, — a 
true devotion to our work which will not let us leave 
it for a moment when we are once ordained ; preach- 
ers once and preachers always ; but a conception of 
our work so large that everything which a true man 
has any right to do or know may have some help to 
render it. And this is what you ought to be laying 
the foundation of in these preparatory days. 

You will see that I place very great value on this 
preparation, in which a man who is devout and ear- 
nest comes to that fitness for his work which St. Paul 
describes in a word that he uses twice to Timothy, — 
" apt to teach," " AiSaKTi/cos," the didactic man. It 
is not something to which one comes by accident or 
by any sudden burst of fiery zeal. No doubt there is 
a power in the untutored utterance of the new con- 
vert that the ripe utterances of the educated preacher 
often lack ; but it is not so much a praise to the new 
convert that he has that power as it is a shame to 
the educated preacher that he does not have it all 
the more richly in proportion to his education. And 
whatever else he has, the man who has leaped directly 
from his own experience into the pulpit will almost 
certainly be wanting in that breadth of sympathy and 
understanding which comes in the studies of the wait- 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 49 

ing years. He will know that other men are not 
made just like himself, but he will realize only him- 
self, and preach to them as if they were. He will 
be like the man whom Archbishop Whately tells of, 
who was born blind and afterwards brought to sight. 
" The room he was in, he said, he knew must be part 
of the house, yet he could not conceive that the 
whole house could look bigger than that one room." 
So our new Christian experience only slowly realizes 
that it is but one part of the universal Christian life. 
Only as our study carries us from room to room does 
the whole house grow real to us. 

Suppose our minister now actually preaching, and 
next let us ask, What are the elements of personal 
power which will make him successful ? Remember 
success in preaching is no identical, invariable thing. 
It differs in all whom we call successful men, and so 
only the broadest and most general description can 
be given of the qualities that will secure it. Special 
successes will require special fitness. But he who 
has these qualities that I enumerate is sure to suc- 
ceed somewhere and somehow. 

And first among the elements of power which make 
success I must put the supreme importance of char- 
acter, of personal uprightness and purity impressing 
themselves upon the men who witness them. There is 
a very striking remark in Lord Nugent's " Memorials 
of John Hampden," where, speaking of the English 



50 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Reformation, lie is led to make this general observa- 
tion : " Indeed, no hierarchy and no creed has ever 
been overthrown by the people on account only of 
its theoretical dogmas, so long as the practice of the 
clergy was incorrupt and conformable with their pro- 
fessions." I believe that that is strictly true. And it 
is always wonderful to see how much stronger are the 
antipathies and sympathies which belong to men's 
moral nature than those which are purely intellectual. 
Baxter tells us in an interesting passage how in the 
civil wars " an abundance of the ignorant sort of the 
common people which were civil did flock in to the 
Parliament and filled up their armies merely because 
they heard men swear for the Common Prayer and 
bishops, and heard men pray that were against them. 
And all the sober men that I was acquainted with 
who were against the Parliament were wont to say, 
' The king hath the better cause, but the Parliament 
the better men.' " The better men will always con- 
quer the better cause. I suppose no cause could be 



. so good that, sustained by bad men and opposed by 



any error whose champions were men of spotless 
lives, it would not fall. The truth must conquer, but 
it must first embody itself in goodness. And in the 
ministry it is not merely by superficial prejudice, but 
by the soundest reason, that intellect and spiritual- 
ity come to be tested, not by the views men hold so 
much as by the way in which they hold them, and 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 51 

the sort of men which their views seem to make of 
them. Whatever strange and scandalous eccentrici- 
ties the ministry has sometimes witnessed, this is cer- 
tainly true, and is always encouraging, that no man 
permanently succeeds in it who cannot make men 
believe that he is pure and devoted, and the only 
sure and lasting way to make men believe in one's 
devotion and purity is to be what one wishes to be 
believed to be. 

I put next to this fundamental necessity of char- 
acter as an element of the preacher's power the free- 
dom from self-consciousness. My mind goes back to 
a young man whom I knew in the ministry, who did 
an amount of work at which men wondered, and who, 
dying early, left a power behind him whose influence 
will go on long after his name is forgotten ; and the 
great feature of his character was his forgetfulness of 
self. He had not two questions to ask about every 
piece of work he did, — first, "How shall I do it 
most effectively for others ? " and second, " How shall 
I do it most creditably to myself ? " Only the first 
question ever seemed to come to him ; and when a 
task was done so that it should most perfectly accom- 
plish its designed result, he left it and went on to 
some new task. There is wonderful clearness and 
economy of force in such simplicity. No man ever 
yet thought whether he was preaching well without 
weakening his sermon. I think there are few higher 



52 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

or more delightful moments in a preacher's life than 
that which comes sometimes when, standing before a 
congregation and haunted by questionings about the 
merit of your preaching, which you hate but cannot 
drive away, at last, suddenly or gradually, you find 
yourself taken into the power of your truth, absorbed 
in one sole desire to send it into the men whom you 
are preaching to ; and then every sail is set, and your 
sermon goes bravely out to sea, leaving your self high 
and dry upon the beach, where it has been holding 
your sermon stranded. The second question disap- 
pears out of your work just in proportion as the first 
question grows intense. No man is perfectly strong 
until the first question has disappeared entirely. De- 
votion is like the candle, which, as Vasari tells us, 
Michael Angelo used to carry stuck on his forehead 
in a pasteboard cap, and which kept his own shadow 
from being cast upon his work while he was hewing 
out his statues. 

The next element of a preacher's power is genuine 
respect for the people whom he preaches to. I should 
not like to say how rare I think this power, or how 
plentiful a source of weakness I think its absence is. 
There is a great deal of the genuine sympathy of 
sentiment. There is a great deal of liking fou, cer- 
tain people in our congregations who are interesting 
in themselves and who are interested in what inter- 
ests us. There is a great deal of the feeling that the 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 53 

clergy need the cooperation of the laity, and so must 
cultivate their intimacy. But of a real profound re- 
spect for the men and women whom we preach to, 
simply as men and women, of a deep value for the 
capacity that is in them, a sense that we are theirs 
and not they ours, I think that there is far too little. 
But without this there can be no real strength in the 
preacher. We patronize the laity now that our power 
of domineering over them has been mercifully taken 
away. Many a time the tone of a clergyman who 
has talked of the relations of the preacher and the 
people, setting forth, with the best will in the world, 
their mutual functions, reminds one of the sermon of 
the mediaBval preacher, who, discoursing on this same 
subject, on the necessary cooperation of the clergy 
and the laity, took his text out of Job i. 14 : " The 
oxen were ploughing and the asses feeding beside 
them." There is no good preaching in the supercil- 
ious preacher. No man preaches well who has not 
a strong and deep appreciation of humanity. The 
minister is often called upon to give up the society of 
the cultivated and learned to whom he would most be 
drawn, but he finds his compensation and strength in 
knowing man, simply as man, and learning his ines- 
timable worth. 

I think, again, that it is essential to the preacher's 
success that he should thoroughly enjoy his work. I 
mean in the actual doing of it, and not only in its 



54 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

idea. No man to whom the details of his task are 
repulsive can do his task well constantly, however 
full he may be of its spirit. He may make one bold 
dash at it and carry it over all his disgusts, but he 
cannot work on at it year after year, day after day. 
Therefore, count it not merely a perfectly legitimate 
pleasure, count it an essential element of your power, 
if you can feel a simple delight in what you have to 
do as a minister, in the fervor of writing, in the glow 
of speaking, in standing before men and moving them, 
in contact with the young. The more thoroughly you 
enjoy it, the better you will do it all. 

I almost hesitate as I speak of the next element of 
fche preacher's power. I almost doubt by what name 
I shall call it to give the impression of the thing I 
mean. Perhaps there is no better name than Grav- 
ity. I mean simply that grave and serious way of 
looking at life which, while it never repels the true 
lightheadedness of pure and trustful hearts, welcomes 
into a manifest sympathy the souls of men who are 
oppressed and burdened, anxious and full of questions 
which for the time at least have banished all laughter 
from their faces. I know, indeed, the miserableness 
of all mock gravity. I think I am as much disgusted 
at it as anybody. The abuse and satire that have 
been heaped upon it are legitimate enough, though 
somewhat cheap. The gravity that is assumed, that 
merely hides with solemn front the lack of thought 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 55 

and feeling, that is put on as the uniform of a pro- 
fession, that consists in certain forms, and is shocked 
at any serious thought of life more truly grave than 
it is, but which happens to show itself under other 
forms which it chooses to call frivolous, this is worthy 
of all satire and contempt. The merely solemn min- 
isters are very empty, and deserve all that has been 
heaped upon them of contempt through all the age. 
They are cheats and shams. As they stand with 
their little knobs of prejudice down their straight 
coats of precision, they are like nothing so much as 
the chest of drawers which Mr. Bob Sawyer showed 
to Mr. Winkle in his little surgery : " Dummies, my 
dear boy," said he to his impressed, astonished vis- 
itor ; u half the drawers have nothing in them, and 
the other half don't open." I know what the abuse 
of such men means. I know there are men who de- 
serve it. But I cannot help thinking that we have 
about come to the time when all of that abuse is of 
the safe and feeble character which belongs to all 
satire of unpopular foibles and abuses which are in 
decay. I think that at least there is another creature 
who ought to share with the clerical prig the con- 
tempt of Christian people. I mean the clerical jester 
in all the varieties of his unpleasant existence. He 
appears in and out of the pulpit. He lays his hands 
on the most sacred things, and leaves defilement upon 
all he touches. He is full of Bible jokes. He talks 



56 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

about the Church's sacred symbols in the language 
of stale jests that have come down from generations 
of feeble clerical jesters before him. The doctrines 
which, if they mean anything, mean life or death to 
souls, he turns into material for chaff that flies back 
and forth, like the traditional banter of the Thames, 
between the clerical watermen who ply their boats 
on this side or that side of the river of Theology. 
There are passages in the Bible which are soiled v 
forever by the touches which the hands of ministers 
who delight in cheap and easy jokes have left upon 
them. 

I think there is nothing that stirs one's indignation 
more than this, in all he sees of ministers. It is a 
purely wanton fault. What is simply stupid every- 
where else becomes terrible here. The buffoonery 
which merely tries me when I hear it from a gang 
of laborers digging a ditch beside my door angers 
and frightens me when it comes from the lips of the 
captain who holds the helm or the surgeon on whose 
skill my life depends. You will not misunderstand 
me, I am sure. The gravity of which I speak is not 
inconsistent with" the keenest perception of the ludi- 
crous side of things. It is more than consistent with 
— it is even necessary to — humor. Humor involves 
the perception of the true proportions of life. It is 
one of the most helpful qualities that the preacher 
can possess. There is no extravagance which de- 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 57 

forms the pulpit which would not be modified and 
repressed, often entirely obliterated, if the minister 
had a true sense of humor. It has softened the bit- 
terness of controversy a thousand times. You can- 
not encourage it too much. You cannot grow too 
familiar with the books of all ages which have in 
them the truest humor, for the truest humor is the 
bloom of the highest life. Read George Eliot and 
Thackeray, and, above all, Shakespeare. They will 
help you to keep from extravagances without fading 
into insipidity. They will preserve your gravity while 
they save you from pompous solemnity. But humor 
is something very different from frivolity. People 
sometimes ask whether it is right to make people 
laugh in church by something that you say from the 
pulpit, — as if laughter were always one invariable 
thing ; as if there were not a smile which swept 
across a great congregation like the breath of a May 
morning, making it fruitful for whatever good thing 
might be sowed in it, and another laughter that was 
like the crackling of thorns under a pot. The smile 
that is stirred by true humor and the smile that 
comes from the mere tickling of the fancy are as 
different from one another as the tears that sorrow 
forces from the soul are from the tears that you com- 
pel a man to shed by pinching him. 

And there is no delusion greater than to think 
that you commend your work and gain an influence 



58 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

over people by becoming the clerical humorist. It 
builds a wall between your fellow-men and you. 
It makes them less inclined to seek you in their spir- 
itual need. I think that many of us feel this, and 
have a sort of dread when we see laymen growing 
familiar with clergymen's society. That society is 
on the whole lofty and inspiring, but there are some 
things in it of which you who are soon to become 
clergymen must beware. Keep the sacredness of your 
profession clear and bright even in little things. Re- 
frain from all joking about congregations, flocks, par- 
ish visits, sermons, the mishaps of the pulpit, or the 
makeshifts of the study. Such joking is always bad, 
and almost always stupid ; but it is very common, 
and it takes the bloom off a young minister's life. 
This is the reason why so many people shrink, I 
believe, from personally knowing the preachers to 
whom they listen with respect and gratitude. They 
fear what they so often find. But really the minis- 
ter's life may be a help and enforcement of all his 
preaching. The quality which makes it so is this 
which I call gravity. It has a delicate power of dis- 
crimination. It attracts all that it can help and it 
repels all that could harm it or be harmed by it. It 
admits the earnest and simple with a cordial wel- 
come. It shuts out the impertinent and insincere 
inexorably. Pure gravity is like the hinges of the 
wonderful gates of the ancient labyrinth, so strong 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 59 

that no battery could break them down, but so deli- 
cately hung that a child's light touch could make 
them swing back and let him in. 

There is another source of power which I can 
hardly think of as a separate quality, but rather as 
the sum and result of all the qualities which I have 
been naming. I jaiean Courage. It is the indispen- 
sable requisite of any true ministry. The timid min- 
ister is as bad as the timid surgeon. Courage is good 
everywhere, but it is necessary here. If you are 
afraid of men and a slave to their opinion, go and do 
something else. Go and make shoes to fit them. Go 
even and paint pictures which you know are bad but 
which suit their bad taste. But do not keep on all 
your life preaching sermons which shall say not what 
God sent you to declare, but what they hire you to 
say. Be courageous. Be independent. Only remem- 
ber where the true courage and independence comes 
from. Courage in the ministry is, I think, one of 
those qualities which cannot be healthily acquired if 
it is sought for directly. It must come as health 
comes in the body, as the result of the seeking for 
other things. It must be from a sincere respect for 
men's higher nature that you must grow bold to re- 
sist their whims. He who begins by despising men 
will often end by being their slave. A passionate 
desire to do men good is always the surest safeguard 
that they shall not do us harm. Jesus himself was 



60 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

bold before men out of the infinite love which He felt 
for men. That was the way in which He ruled them 
from His cross, and was their master because He was 
their servant even unto death. 

There is one other topic upon which I wished to 
dwell in this lecture, but on this I must speak very 
briefly. I wanted to try to estimate with you some 
of the dangers to a man's own character which come 
from his being a preacher. The first of these dan- 
gers, beyond all doubt, is Self-conceit. In a certain 
sense every young minister is conceited. He begins 
his ministry in a conceited condition. At least every 
man begins with extravagant expectations of what 
his ministry is to result in. We come out from it 
by and by. A man's first wonder when he begins to 
preach is that people do not come to hear him. After 
a while, if he is good for anything, he begins to won- 
der that they do. He finds out that old Adam is too 
strong for young Melanchthon. It is not strange that 
it should be so. It is not to the young minister's dis- 
credit that it should be so. The student for the min- 
istry has to a large extent comprehended the force 
by which he is to work, but he has not measured the 
resistance that he is to meet. He knows the power 
of the truth of which he is all full, but he has not 
estimated the sin of which the world is all full. The 
more earnest and intense and full of love for God and 
man he is, the more impossible does it seem that he 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 61 

should not do great things for his Master. And then 
the character of men's ministries, it seems to me, de- 
pends very largely upon the ways in which they pass 
out of that first self-confidence and upon what con- 
dition comes afterwards when it is gone. 

The first way in which life affects this self-confi- 
dence and lifts men out of their conceit is by Success, 
by letting us see the work which we are undertaking 
actually going on under our hands. It is only in poor 
men and in the lower things that success increases self- 
conceit. In every high work and in men worthy of 
it, success is always sure to bring humility. " Recog- 
nition," said Hawthorne once, " makes a man very 
modest." The knowledge that you are really accom- 
plishing results, and the reassurance of that knowl- 
edge by the judgment of your fellow-men, opens to 
you the deeper meaning of your work, shows you 
how great it is, makes you ashamed of all the praise 
men give you, as you see gradually how much better 
your work might have been done. I think that some 
of the noblest and richest characters among ministers 
in all times are those who have been humiliated by 
men's praises and enlightened by success. 

But there is another way by which men go out of 
their first satisfaction, by a door directly opposite to 
this, — by Failure. Failure and success to really work- 
ing ministers are only relative. Remember that no 
true man wholly succeeds or wholly fails. But the 



62 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

main difference in effect between what we call success 
and what we call failure in the ministry is here : suc- 
cess makes a man dwell upon and be thankful for how 
much a preacher can do ; failure makes a man think 
how much there is which no preacher can do, and is 
apt to weigh him down into depression. It confronts 
him with the magnitude of the task of the Christian 
ministry, not as a great temptation, but as a great 
burden. He is paralyzed as Hamlet was. 

u The time is out of joint : cursed spite, 
That ever I was born to set it right ! " 

Such an end of a young man's first high hopes ia 
terrible to see. The very power that once made him 
strong now weakens him. The weight that was his 
ballast and helped his speed sinks him when once the 
leak has come. There is no help except in a pro- 
founder retreat of the whole nature upon God, — such 
a perception of Him and of His dearness as shall take 
off our heavy responsibility and make us ready to fail 
for Him with joy as well as to succeed for Him, if 
such shall be His choice ; and ready to work as hard 
for Him in failure as in success, because we work not 
for success but for Him. The drawing of the man 
back into God by failure is always a noble sight, and 
no region of life has such noble specimens of it to 
show as the Christian ministry. 

There is another refuge when the young preacher's 
first self-conceit is shaken. It is into another self- 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 63 

conceit waich is smaller than the first. The be- 
leaguered householder refuses to surrender, and re- 
treats from his strong outer ramparts, defending one 
line after another till at last he dwells only in his 
most mean and worthless chamber. A man makes up 
his mind that he is not going to convert the world. 
The strongholds of the Prince of Evil evidently will 
not fall before him. He is to leave the unbuilt king- 
dom of God very much as he found it when he came 
into the ministry. But then he falls back upon some 
petty pride. " My church is full ; " " My name is 
prominent in the movements of my denomination ; " 
" My sermons win the compliments of people ; " or 
simply this, " I am a minister. I bear a dignity that 
these laymen cannot boast. I have an ordination 
which separates me into an indefinable, mysterious 
privilege." Here is the beginning of many of the 
fantastic and exaggerated theories about the minis- 
try. The little preacher magnifies his office in a most 
unpauline way. And you hear a man to whom no one 
cares to listen quoting the solemn words of God about 
"whether men will bear or whether they will for- 
bear," as if they had been spoken to him as much as 
to Ezekiel. 

What shall we say then ? "What is the true escape 
from the crudeness of the untried preacher which set- 
tles and centres all his thought upon himself ? It is 
an escape which many a preacher has found and grad- 



64 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

ually passed into. It is the growing devotion of his 
life to God, the more and more complete absorption 
of his being in the seeking of God's glory. As he 
goes on, the work unfolds itself. It outgoes all his 
powers. But as he looks over its increasing vastness 
he sees it on every side touching the omnipotence of 
God. As he sees more and more clearly that he will 
never do what he once hoped to do, it becomes clear 
to him at the same time that God will do it in His 
own time and way. His own disappointment is swal- 
lowed up and drowned in the promise of his Lord's 
success. He becomes a true John Baptist. He is 
happy with a higher joy, and works with an energy 
that he never knew before. This is the true refuge 
of the minister in the disenchantment of his earliest 
dreams. _^-~-^" 

Another of the dangers of the clergyman's life is 
Self-indulgence. The ways and methods of the min- 
ister's work are almost wholly at his own control. It 
is impossible for him to reduce his life to a routine. 
There are but few tests which he must meet at spe- 
cial times, as a business man must meet his notes 
when they are due. And a great deal of his work is 
of that sort which requires spontaneity for its best 
execution. The result of all these causes working to- 
gether is to create in many a minister a certain feel- 
ing that his faithfulness in his work is not to be 
judged as other men's faithfulness in their work is. 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 65 

Indeed, I think, the very consciousness of laboring 
under a loftier motive has often a tendency to weaken 
the conscientiousness with which each minute detail 
of work is met. There is a lurking Antinomianism 
in many a most arminian study. We are apt to be- 
come men of moods, thinking we cannot work unless 
we feel like it. There is just enough of the artistic 
element in what we have to do, to let us fall into the 
artist's ways and leave our brushes idle when the sky 
frowns or the head aches. But the artistic element 
is, after all, the smallest element in the true ser- 
mon. Its best qualities depend on those moral and 
spiritual conditions which may be always present in 
the devoted servant of God. And so the first busi- 
ness of the preacher is to conquer the tyranny of his 
moods, and to be always ready for his work. It can 
be done. The man who has not learned to do it has 
not really reached the secret of Jesus, which was such 
utter love for His Father and man, between whom He 
stood, as obliterated all thought of Himself save as a 
medium, through which the divine might come down 
to the human. We read of Jesus that He again and 
again grew heavy in spirit. In utter weariness, some- 
times, when His work was done, He would withdraw 
into a mountain, or put out in a boat upon the lake. 
We can feel the fluctuations of that humanity of His, 
*nd, interpreting it by our own, we can seem to see 
how one bright morning by the seaside He was exu- 



UBI7HRSIT; 



66 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

berant and joyous, and on another morning He would 
be sad and burdened. We can trace the differences 
in the kind of preaching of the two different days. 
But through it all there is nothing in the least like 
self-indulgence. We are sure that no day ever went 
without its preaching, because it found him moody 
and depressed. He did no mighty works in Naza- 
reth ; but it was because of the people's unbelief, not 
because of his own reluctance. So it may be with 
us. It is part of the privilege of our humanity, it is 
part of the advantage of our people in having men 
and not machines for ministers, that we preach the 
truth in various lights, or shades, according as God 
brightens or darkens our own experience ; but any 
mood which makes us unfit to preach at all, or really 
weakens our will to preach, is bad, and can be broken 
through. Then is the time for the conscience to be- 
stir itself and for the man to be a man. 

I wish that it were possible for one to speak to the 
laity of our churches frankly and freely about their 
treatment of the clergy. The clergy are largely what 
the laity make them. And though one may look 
wholly without regret upon the departure of that 
reverence, which seems to have clothed the preacher's 
office in our fathers' days, I think he must have many 
misgivings about the weaker substitute for it, which 
in many instances has taken its place. It was not 
good that the minister should be worshipped and 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 67 

made an oracle. It is still worse that he should be 
flattered and made a pet. And there is such a ten- 
dency in these days among our weaker people. I 
have already spoken of the way in which many men 
are petted into the ministry. It is possible for such 
a man, if he has popular gifts, to be petted all 
through his ministry, never once to come into strong 
contact with other men, or to receive one good hard 
knock of the sort that brings out manliness and char- 
acter The people who gather closest around a min- 
ister's life, believing his beliefs, and accepting his 
standards, make a sort of cushion between him and 
the unbelief and wickedness which smite other men 
in the face and wound them mercilessly at every turn. 
It is not wholly unnatural. The minister stands in 
a unique position to the community. In no other 
man's private affairs, his health, his comfort, his free- 
dom from financial care, are so many people so di- 
rectly interested. It is not strange that that interest 
in him and care for him, which ought simply to put 
him where, without personal fear or personal indebt- 
edness, he may bravely and independently be himself 
and speak out his own soul, should often be corrupted 
vnto a poison of his manhood, and a temptation to his 
\elf-indulgence. It is beyond all doubt the weak point 
of our American voluntary system which brings the 
minister into those close personal relations to his peo- 
ple, which on the whole are good and healthy, but 
\rhich have this one defect and danger. 



68 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

If you have read the life of Frederick Robertson 
you know how hateful many of the incidents of the 
life of a popular minister were to him. So they 
must be to every true man. If a man is not wholly 
true they find out his weak point and fix upon it. 
He begins to expect different treatment from other 
men. His personal woes and pains seem to him 
things of public interest. He grows first unhuman 
in the separation from the ordinary standards of his 
race, and that makes him inhuman, unsympathetic. 
The weak is always cruel. 

Mr. Galton, in his work on " Hereditary Genius," 
summing up the result of his reading in clerical biog- 
raphies, declares that " A gently complaining and 
fatigued spirit is that in which Evangelical Divines 
are very apt to pass their days." These words tell 
perfectly a story that we all know who have been in- 
timate with many ministers. That which ought to 
be the manliest of all professions has a tendency, prac- 
tically, to make men unmanly. Men make appeals 
for sympathy that no true man should make. They 
take to themselves St. Paul's pathos without St. 
Paul's strength. Against that tendency, my friends, 
set your whole force. Fear its insidiousness. "I feel 
no intoxicating effect," wrote Macaulay when the first 
flush of his success was on him, " but a man may be 
drunk without knowing it." Insist on applying to 
yourself tests which others refuse to apply to you. 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 69 

Resent indulgences which are not given to men of 
other professions. Learn to enjoy and be sober; 
learn to suffer and be strong. Never appeal for sym- 
pathy. Let it find you out if it will. Count your 
manliness the soul of your ministry and resist all at- 
tacks upon it however sweetly they may come. 

I had hoped to say some words, to-day, about one 
other danger of the preacher's life, I mean the dan- 
ger of narrowness. We all live within the rings of 
concentric circles. They extend one beyond another 
till they come to that outmost circle of all, the hori- 
zon where humanity touches divinity, as the earth 
meets the sky. Now I hold that all that is by God's 
appointment, and is intended for our best good. The 
narrowness is for the sake of breadth. I hold that 
every smaller circle is meant to carry the eye out 
to the next larger than itself, and so, at last, to the 
largest of all. You stand firm on your one little spot, 
and thence you look out and find yourself like Ten- 
nyson's eagle, " ringed with the azure world." So 
every smaller circle of your moral life is meant to 
carry you out, and make you realize the larger circles. 
You may be a better minister because you are clear in 
your denominational position as a Congregationalist 
or Episcopalian ; and because you are a minister you 
may be a better man. The danger is lest the smaller 
circle, instead of tempting the sight onward, jeal- 
ously confines it to itself. Narrowness is to be es- 



70 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

caped, not by deserting our special function, but by 
compelling it to open to us the things beyond itself. 
You will not be a better man by pretending that you 
are not a Christian, nor a better Christian by pre- 
tending to have no dogmatic faith. The true breadth 
comes by the strength of your own belief making you 
tolerant of other believers ; and by the earnestness of 
your Christianity teaching you your brotherhood even 
to the most unchristian men. 

I must stop here. I have spoken very freely of 
these dangers and hindrances with which the preach- 
er's occupations beset his character. Yet you must 
not misunderstand me. There is no occupation in 
which it is so possible, nay so easy to live a noble life. 
These tares grow rank only because the soil is rich. 
The wheat grows rich beside them. The Christian 
ministry is the largest field for the growth of a human 
soul that this world offers. In it he who is faithful 
must go on learning more and more forever. His 
growth in learning is all bound up with his growth in 
character. Nowhere else do the moral and intellect- 
ual so sympathize, and lose or gain together. The 
minister must grow. His true growth is not neces- 
sarily a change of views. It is a change of view. It 
is not revolution. It is progress. It is a continual 
climbing which opens continually wider prospects. 
It repeats the experience of Christ's disciples of whom 



THE PREACHER HIMSELF. 71 

fcheir Lord was always making larger men and then 
giving them the larger truth of which their enlarged 
natures had become capable. Once more, I rejoice 
for you that this is the ministry in which you are to 
spend your lives. 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 



TTTHEN I was just about to begin the writing 
* * of this lecture, I chanced to be thrown for a 
day or two into the company of a young man who 
had been engaged in the work of the ministry only 
a few months. He was in the first flush and fervor 
of his new experience, and in listening to him I re- 
called much of the spirit with which I myself began 
many years ago. The spirit had not passed away, 
but the first freshness of many impressions had been 
ripened, I hope, into something better, but still into 
something soberer. He revived for me the delight 
of that new and strange relation to his fellow-men 
which comes when a young man who thus far in 
his life has had others ministering to him, finds the 
conditions now reversed and other men are looking ^ 
up to him for culture. There is the sober joy of 
responsibility. There is the surprised recognition of 
something which we have learned in some one of our 
schools of books or life, and counted useless, which 
now some man we meet welcomes when we give it to 
him as if it were the one thing for which he had been 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 73 

always waiting. There is the hopefulness that fears 
no failure. There is the pleasure of a new knowl- 
edge of ourselves as others begin to call out in us 
what we never knew was there. There is the joy of v 
being trusted and responded to. There is the deep- 
ened sacredness of prayer and of communion with 
God when we go to Him, not merely for ourselves and 
for the great vague world, but for a people whom we 
have begun to love and call our own, while we know 
that they are His. There is the discovery of the< 
better and devouter nature in men. There is the 
interest of countless new details and the inspiration^ 
of the noblest purpose for which a man can live. All 
these together make up the happiness and hope of 
those bright days in which a strong and healthy and 
devout young man is just entering the ministry of the 
Gospel. 

I wish to speak to you to-day about the preacher 
in his work, and what I shall have to say will natu- 
rally divide itself into suggestions with reference to 
the nature, the method, and the spirit of that work. 

I must recur to what I said in the first lecture 
about the true character of preaching. Preaching is 
the communication of truth through a man to men. 
The human element is essential in it, and not merely 
accidental. There cannot really be a sermon in a 
stone, whatever lessons the stone may have to teach. i 
This being so, we must carry out the importance of 



\ 



74 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the human element to its full consequence. It is not 
only necessary for a sermon that there should be a 
human being to speak to other human beings, but for 
a good sermon there must be a man who can speak • 
well, whose nature stands in right relations to those 
to whom he speaks, who has brought his life close to 
theirs with sympathy. In every highest task there 
is an instinctive tendency of men to shirk and hide 
under the protection of some idea of fate. And very 
often we hear ministers trying to escape responsibil- 
ity by vague and foolish statements that the truth is ** 
everything, and that it ought not to make any differ- 
ence to a congregation how or from whom they hear 
it. It is a latent fatalism, a readiness to count out 
of the highest operations the play of human free will 
and choice, which lies at the bottom of such speeches. 
The same reason which requires a man for a preacher 
at all requires as wise and strong and well-furnished, 
as skilful and as eloquent a man as can be found or 
made. The duty of making yourself acceptable to 
people, and winning by all manly ways their con- 
fidence in you, and in the truth which you tell, is 
one that is involved in the very fact of your being a 
preacher. And the dignity of the purpose gives dig- 
nity to many details which in themselves are trivial. 
The study of language and of oratory, which would 
belittle you if they were merely undertaken for your 
own culture, are noble when you undertake them in 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 75 

order that your tongue may be a worthier minister 
of God's truth ; and the assiduous attention to peo- 
ple, and their tastes and habits and ways of think- 
ing, which would be slavery if it had no object be- 
sides their pleasure or your own repute, is a lofty 
exercise, if it has for its purpose the finding out on 
which side of every man you can best bring to him 
the truth. Here stands a man, and two other men v 
are watching him. Both of them are studying his 
character. Both want to know what he thinks about, 
what his tastes are, how he spends his time. One of 
them is trying to find how he can best win from him 
a dollar or a vote. The other is trying to see what v 
is his true way to preach the Gospel to that fellow- 
man. There are the meanest and the noblest rela- 
tions which any man can occupy toward his fellow- 
man. The first is ignominious beyond description. 
It is a relation too low for any man to hold. A true 
man would rather starve than occupy it. But the 
other is a relation in which every man must stand 
who means to really preach to any brother. It is but 
the effort after what it is in our feeble power to at- 
tain of that, knowledge of humanity which was in 
Him who " knew what was in man," and who, there- 
fore, " spake as never man spake." 

It follows from this that the work of the preacher 
and the pastor really belong together, and ought not 
to be separated. I believe that very strongly. Every 



76 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

now and then somebody rises with a plea that is very 
familiar and specious. He says, how much better it 
would be if only there could be a classification of 
ministers and duties. Let some ministers be wholly v 
preachers, and some be wholly pastors. Let one 
class visit the flock, to direct and comfort them ; and 
the other class stand in the pulpit. You will not go 
far in your ministry before you will be tempted to 
echo that desire. The two parts of a preacher's work 
are always in rivalry. When you find that you can 
never sit down to study and write without the faces 
of the people, who you know need your care, look- 
ing out at you from the paper ; and yet you never 
can go out among your people without hearing your 
forsaken study reproaching you, and calling you 
home, you may easily come to believe that it would 
be good indeed if you could be one or other of two 
things, and not both ; either a preacher or a pastor, 
but not the two together. But I assure you you are 
wrong. The two things are not two, but one. There 
may be preachers here and there with such a deep, 
intense insight into the general humanity, that they 
can speak to men without knowing the men to whom 
they speak. Such preachers are very rare ; and other 
preachers, who have not their power, trying to do it, 
are sure to preach to some unreal, unhuman man of 
their own imagination. There are some pastors here 
and there with such a constantly lofty and spiritual 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 77 

view of little things, that they can go about from 
house to house, year after year, and deal with men and 
women at their common work, and lift the men and 
women to themselves, and never fall to the level of the 
men and women whom they teach. Such pastors are 
rare ; and other men, trying to do it, and never in more 
formal way from the pulpit treating truth in its larger 
aspects, are sure to grow frivolous gossips or tiresome 
machines. The preacher needs to be pastor, thaW 
he may preach to real men. The pastor must be 
preacher, that he may keep the dignity of his work 
alive. The preacher, who is not a pastor, grows re- 
mote. The pastor, who is not a preacher, grows 
petty. Never be content to let men truthfully say of 
you, " He is a preacher, but no pastor ; " or, " He is 
a pastor, but no preacher." Be both ; for you can- 
not really be one unless you also are the other. 

Of the pastor's function considered by itself there 
is, I think, but very little to be said, I count of little 
worth all sets of rules, all teaching directly on the 
subject. The books that teach a pastor's duty except 
in the way of the most general suggestion are almost 
worthless. They have the fault which belongs to 
all books on behavior, which are needless for those 
who do behave well and useless for those who do not. 
The powers of the pastor's success are truth and sym- 
pathy together. "Speaking the truth in Love," is - 
the golden text to write in the book where you keep 



78 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the names of your people, so that you may read it 
every time you go to visit them. Sympathy without 
truth makes a plausible pastor, but one whose hold 
on a parish soon grows weak. Men feel his touch 
upon them soft and tender, but never vigorous and 
strong. Truth without sympathy makes the sort of 
pastor whom people say that they respect but to 
whom they seldom go and whom they seldom care to 
see coming to them. But where the two unite, so 
far as the two unite in you, I think there will be 
nothing that will surprise you more than to discover 
how certain their power is. The man who has them 
cannot help saying the right word at the right time. 
You go to some poor crushed and broken heart ; you 
tell what truth you know, the truth of the ever ready 
and inexhaustible forgiveness, the truth of the unut- 
terable love, the truth of the unbroken life of im- 
mortality; and you let the sorrow for that heart's 
sorrow which you truly feel, utter itself in whatever 
true and simple ways it will ; then you come away 
sick at heart because you have so miserably failed ; 
but by and by you find that you have not failed, v ' 
that you really did bring elevation and comfort. 
You cannot help doing it if you go with truth and 
sympathy. This is the constant experience of the 
minister. This is the ground of confidence and hope 
with which he presses on from year to year. 
I am inclined to think, as 1 have already intimated, 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 79 

that the trouble of much of our pastoral work is in 
its pettiness. It is pitched in too low a key. It 
tries to meet the misfortunes of life with comfort and 
not with inspiration, offering inducements to patience 
and the suggestions of compensation in this life or 
another which lies beyond, rather than imparting 
that higher and stronger tone which will make men 
despise their sorrows and bear them easily in their 
search for truth and nobleness, and the release that 
comes from forgetfulness of self and devotion to the 
needs of other people. The truest help which one 
can render to a man who has any of the inevitable 
burdens of life to carry is not to take his burden off >/ 
but to call out his best strength that he may be able 
to bear it. The pastorship of Jesus is characterized 
everywhere byTtsTrankness and manliness. He meets 
Nicodemus with a staggering assertion of the higher 4 " 
needs of the spirit. The man who wants the inner- v 
itance divided is encountered with a strong rebuke 
of his presumptuous selfishness. And Simon Peter 
has the assurance of his forgiveness offered him in a s 
demand for work. All three of these instances and 
many others are richly suggestive of contrasts with 
what many of the ministers of Christ would do in the 
same circumstances. It is the utter absence of sen- 
timentality in Christ's relations with men that makes 
his tenderness so exquisitely touching. It is in the 
power, even in the effort, to awake the stronger 



<s 



80 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

nature of mankind that our modern pastorship is apt 
to be deficient. It ministers to women more than to y 
men. It tries to soothe with consolation more than 
to fire with ambition or to sting with shame. 

Perhaps there will be no better place than this for 
me to say that it is in the absence of the heroic el- 



ement that our current Christianity most falls short 
of the Christianity of Gospel times. We keep still the 
heroic language, but does it not often suggest strange 
incongruities ? Have not the pictures of some of our 
hymns, for instance, seemed sometimes strangely out 
of keeping with the lips that sang them ? A row of 
comfortable, self-contented, conservative gentlemen 
and ladies standing up, for instance, and singing 
" Onward, Christian soldiers marching as to war," or 
" Hold the fort for I am coming, Jesus signals still," 
reminds us all the more of how un military and un- 
heroic are the lives they live. It is not the mere dif- 
ference of dress. I doubt not the Christians in the 
Catacombs, or the colliers who listened to Whitefield 
when he preached at Bristol, might have sang hymns 
that were built on the same imagery, and nothing in- 
congruous would have been suggested. And yet they 
were as evidently men of peace as are our congrega- 
tions. But they were conscious of and showed the 
true intenseness of spiritual warfare. They knew the 
fight within, the terrible reality of the enemy, the ter- 
rible suspense of the struggle, the glorious delight of 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 81 

triumph. No, it is the unheroic character of mod- 
ern life and especially of modern Christianity. The 
life of Jesus Christ was radical. It went to the deep v 
roots of things. It claimed men's noblest and freest 
action. We, if we are his ministers, must bring the 
heroic into the unheroic life of men, demanding of 
them truth, breadth, bravery, self-sacrifice, the free- 
dom from conventionalities and an elevation to highs 
standards of thought and life. We must bring men's ' 
life up to Him and not bring Him down to men's^ 
life. This is the Christian pastor's privilege and duty. 

It seems to me that a large part of the troubles 
and mistakes of our pastoral life come from our hav- 
ing too high an estimate of men's present condition 
and too low an estimate of their possibility. If this 
be true, then what we need to make us better pastors 
is more of the Gospel which reveals at once man's 
imperfect condition and his infinite hope. Jesus was 
the perfect pastor in the way in which He showed V 
men what they were and what they might become. 
He never deceived and never discouraged them. The^ 
contact with His perfect humanity brought them at 
once shame and hope. And when He comes near to 
us now, when His Spirit does His appointed work of 
taking Him and showing Him to us, the same power, 
combined of shame and hope, comes into our lives. 
Let that be the model of our pastorship. 

But to return more definitely to preaching. I 

6 



82 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

think that one of the preliminary considerations 
about it — one characteristic of it so prominent that 
we are sure that He who sent men out to preach 
must have designed it — is that which I have already 
once alluded to, the pleasure that belongs to it, the 
way in which it thoroughly interests the best parts 
of the man who does it. I remember, as I recur to it, 
how much I have already said about it, and may have 
yet to say; but it is much upon my mind. For I 
think there is something unhappy in the frequency 
with which ministers dwell upon their work as if it 
were full of hardships and disappointments. Every 
power of man which has its natural and legitimate 
purpose brings two pleasures, one in the anticipation 
and attainment of its end, the other in its own exer- ^ 
cise. There is a delight in exercising faculties as 
well as in doing work, and in all the best activities of 
men the two will go together. This is all true of 
preaching. Its highest joy is in the great ambition 
that is set before it, the glorifying of the Lord and 
the saving of the. souls of men. No other joy on 
earth compares with that. The ministry that does 
not feel that joy is dead. But in behind that highest 
joy, beating in humble unison with it, as the healthy 
body thrills in sympathy with the deep thoughts and 
pure desires of the mind and soul, the best ministries 
have always been conscious of another pleasure which 
belonged to the very doing of the work itself. As 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 83 

we read the lives of all the most effective preachers * 
of the past, or as we meet the men who are powerful 
preachers of the Word to-day, we feel how certainly 
and how deeply the very exercise of their ministry 
delights them. The best sermons always seem to ^ 
carry the memory of the excited spring or quiet hap- 
piness, with which they are written or uttered. The 
soldier enjoys the battle as well as the victory. The 
carpenter enjoys the saw and plane as well as thev 
prospect of the full-built house. When W ilberf orce * 
heard of Macaulay's first offer of a chance of public 
life, he was silent for a moment, and then his face 
lighted up and he clapped his hand to his ear and 
cried, " Ah, I hear that shout again. Hear ! Hear ! 
What a life it was I In the case of the preacher 
this secondary pleasure, if I may call it so, consists in 
the enjoyment of close relationship with fellow-men 
and in the orator's delight in moving men. The fas- v 
tidious man or the cold man loses a great deal of the 
stimulus and unfading freshness of the ministry. 
Sometimes this pleasure grows very keen. I always 
remember one special afternoon, years ago, when the 
light faded from the room where I was preaching and 
the faces melted together into a unit as of one impres- 
sive pleading man, and I felt them listening when 
I could hardly see them ; I remember this accidental 
day as one of the times when the sense of the privi- 
lege of having to do with people as their preacher 



84 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

came out almost overpoweringly. It is good to treas- 
ure all such enjoyment of the actual work of preach- 
ing. It bridges over the times when the higher en- 
thusiasm flags, and it gives a deeper delight to it 
when it is strongest. 

I think that as we study the preaching of Jesus 
we admire above almost everything the way in which 
He was at once the Leader and the Brother of the v 
men He taught. He spake as one having authority 
always, but always His power was brought near to 
men by the complete way in which He made Himself 
one of them, by the evident reality with which He 
bore their sins and carried their sorrows. So that by 
as much as the Son of God was above men in His 
nature, by so much the more He came near to them 
in his sympathies and was a truer Son of Man 
than any of the wonderfully human prophets of the 
Old Testament, Isaiah, Jeremiah, or Ezekiel, to whom 
the same name is constantly applied. Now when we 
compare the ordinary preacher's life with that of Je- 
sus, I think we see how much more apt he is to 
have kept the position of leader than the position of 
brother of the people. At any rate, what we miss 
in a great deal of our preaching is that beautiful 
blending of the two whose power we recognize in the 
word and work of Jesus. We are the leaders of the 
people. Woe to our preaching if in any feeble, false 
humility we abdicate that place. The people pass 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 85 

us by and pity us if they see us standing in our pul- 
pits saying, " We know nothing particular about these 
things whereof we preach ; we have no authority ; 
only come here and we will tell you what we think, 
and you shall tell us what you think, and so perhaps 
together we can strike out a little light." That is 
not preaching. There has been pulpit talk like that, 
and men have always passed it by and hurried on to 
find some one who at least pretended to tell them the 
will of God. No, the preacher must be a leader, but v 
his leadership must be bound in with his brother- 
hood. It was as Man that Christ led men to God.>/ 
It must be as men that we carry on the work of 
Christ and help men's souls to Him. This truth 
seems to me to lie at the bottom of all the best suc- 
cesses, and the forgetfulness of it at the bottom of all 
the worst failures of the ministry. There is no real 
leadership of people for a preacher or a pastor except 
that which comes as the leadership of the Incarnation 
came, by a thorough entrance into the lot of those </ 
whom one would lead. 

And again, the limits of the preacher's leadership 
are very clear, and it is necessary that the young v- 
' minister should know them. Sometimes a preacher 
finds himself — and oftener still, some foolish friends 
by his side will make him think himself — one of the 
wisest men, perhaps the wisest man in his small cir- 
cle upon any of the ordinary topics of thought, upon 



86 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

art, or politics, or letters, or education. It is good 
for him to use his wisdom as it is for any other man. 
It is wrong for him to leave his wisdom unused as it 
is for any other man. He may do much good to the 
people, he may indirectly help his own peculiar mis- 
sion by sharing his knowledge with them. One of 
the most interesting pages of clerical life of which I 
know is Norman Macleod's account of his lectures to 
the weavers at Newmilns, on geology. Would that 
more of us were able to follow his example. All that 
is well ; but we must know that there is nothing in 
our quality as preachers Jhat gives us any claim to be 
authoritative guides to men in any of those things, 
neither in politics, nor in education, nor in science. 
Qn one thing only we may speak with authority, and 
that is the will of God. Nor even in the details of 
religious thought need we aspire to be their guides. 
I do not want — and certainly I know that if I did 
want I never should be able — to make the people who 
listen to me accept every view of Christian truth 
which I utter before them. I have no reason to 
believe that what I utter is clothed with an infalli- 
bility. In much of what one preaches he is satisfied 
if men take home what he says as the utterance of 
one who has thought upon the subject of which he 
speaks and wishes them to think and judge. Surely 
he does not declare to them his belief about the 
method of the atonement, with the same authority 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 87 

with which he bids them repent of sin, and warns 
them that without holiness no man shall see the 
Lord. Such line of difference every true preacher 
draws, and freely lets men see where it runs. If 
you attempt to claim authority for all your specula- 
tions you will end by losing it for your most sure 
and solemn declarations of God's will. 

One difficulty of the preacher's office is its sub- 1 
jection to flippant gossip, along with its exemption 
from severe and healthy criticism. There are people 
enough always to find out a minister's little faults, 
and let him hear of them ; but it is wonderful how 
he can go on year after year, without being once 
brought up to the judgment-seat of sound intelli- 
gence, and hearing what is the real worth of the 
words that he is saying, and the work that he is 
doing. There are plenty of people to do for him 
the office of the man whom Philip of Macedon kept 
in his service, to tell him every day before he gave 
audience, " Philip, remember thou art mortal," but 
hardly ever does he meet that sound and prompt 
investigation of his special work which comes to the 
author from his public, or the lawyer from his judge. v ' 
This makes for many men the worst possible condi- 
tion to labor in — a constant fretting by small cavils, i 
and no large estimation of the whole. It is like 
standing in a desultory dropping fire without being 
allowed to plunge into the battle, and settle at once " 



88 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the question of life or death. It makes supremely- 
essential to the minister that independence of men's 
judgments which can only come by the most absolute 
dependence on the judgment of the Lord, by living 
" ever in the great Taskmaster's eye." 

I should have liked to speak of one other danger 
of the preacher from his work. It is that which 
comes from the paralysis of great ideas. There are 
times when the vast thoughts of God stimulate us to 
action. There are other times when they seem to 
take all power of action out of us. These last times 
grow very frequent with some men, till you have the 
race of clerical visionaries who think vast, dim, vague 
thoughts, and do no work. It is a danger of all ar- 
dent minds. The only salvation, if one finds himself 
verging to it, is an unsparing rule that no idea, how- 
ever abstract, shall be ever counted as satisfactorily 
received and grasped till it has opened to us its prac- 
tical side and helped us somehow in our work. The 
spirit of practicalness is the consecration of the whole 
man, even the most ideal and visionary parts of him, 
to the work of life. 

With regard to the second point of which I spoke, 
the methods of the preacher's work, there are two dif- 
ficulties which beset us : one is the absence of method, 
and the other is the tendency to wrong methods. Let 
me say a few words to you on each of these. 



V 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 89 

There is a certain air of spontaneousness, a certain 
dislike of rule and system which belongs to a great 
many ministers' fundamental conception of the work 
of preaching. Rightly studied and weighed, no doubt, 
the teachings of Christ and of the whole New Testa- 
ment all look one way. They all involve the simple 
truth that he who works for God must work with his 
best powers ; and since among the effective powers 
of man the powers of plan and arrangement stand 
very high, the whole of the New Testament really 
implies that he who preaches must lay out the meth- 
ods and ways of preaching, as a merchant or a soldier 
lays out a campaign of the market or the battle-field. 
But at the same time there are many passages in 
the New Testament which seem to have in them 
something like a promise of immediate inspiration. ^ 
Christ bids His disciples : " Settle it, therefore, in 
your hearts not to meditate before what ye shall 
answer. For I will give you a mouth and wisdom 
which all your adversaries shall not be able to gain- 
say nor resist." These words, and others like them, 
were spoken indeed to certain disciples, and in view V 
of certain special emergencies of their life ; but, with 
our vague unscientific notions about inspiration, they 
have been easily appropriated by many a poor un- v 
inspired creature who has found himself the subject 
of ordination ; and a general impression of the piety 
*f extemporaneousness has spread more widely and 



90 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

reached more thoughtful and intelligent men than we 
suppose. I think, too, that the revolt of Protestant- 
ism against the minute and overstrained organization 
of the Romish Church has had very much to do with 
the creation of that distrust of methodicalness which 
prevails so largely among preachers. However it has 
come about, the fact is clear enough. Look at the 
way in which the pulpit teaches. I venture to say 
that there is nothing so unreasonable in any other 
branch of teaching. You are a minister, and you are 
to instruct these people in the truths of God, to bring 
God's message to them. All the vast range of God's 
revelation and of man's duty is open to you. And 
how do you proceed ? If you are like most minis- 
ters there is no order, no progress, no consecutive 
purpose in your teaching. You never begin at the 
beginning and proceed step by step to the end ofv 
any course of orderly instruction. You float over the 
whole sea of truth, and plunge here and there, like a 
gull, on any subject that either suits your mood, or 
that some casual and superficial intercourse with peo- 
ple makes you conceive to be required by a popular 
need. No other instruction ever was given so. No v 
hearer has the least idea, as he goes to your church, 
what you will preach to him about that day. It is 
hopeless for him to try to get ready for your teach- 
ing. I am sure that I may say (I suppose that this 
£ partly the reason why as an Episcopalian I have 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 91 

been asked to lecture here) that I rejoice to see in 
many churches outside our own that to which we owe 
bo much as a help to the orderliness of preaching, the 
observance of a church year with its commemorative v 
festivals, growing so largely common. It still leaves 
largest liberty. It is no bondage within which any 
man is hampered. But the great procession of the 
year, sacred to our best human instincts with the ac- 
cumulated reverence of ages, — Advent, Christmas, 
Epiphany, Good Friday, Easter, Ascension, Whit- 
sunday, — leads those who walk in it, at least once 
every year, past all the great Christian facts, and, 
however careless and selfish be the preacher, will not 
leave it in his power to keep them from his people. 
The Church year, too, preserves the personality of our -/ 
religion. It is concrete and picturesque. The his- 
torical Jesus is forever there. It lays each life con- 
tinually down beside the perfect life, that it may see 
at once its imperfection and its hope. 

But not to dwell any longer on this special in- 
stance, the order and course of preaching, the same 
absence of method is apt to show itself everywhere 
in a preacher's life. Beside the reasons for it which 
I have already suggested, it comes from a feeble sense 
of responsibility. The mental and the moral natures 
have closer connections than very often we allow them, 
and traits which we think wholly intellectual are con- 
«tantly revealing to us moral bases upon which they 



92 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

rest. We talk of clearness, for instance, as if it were 
purely a quality of style, but clearness in every speech 
addressed to men comes out of sympathy, which is a 
moral quality. So force implies conviction. And so 
the truest method involves conscientiousness. The 
intellectual and the spiritual belong together. Logi- 
cal arrangement of thought has real connection with 
a sincere desire to do right. The more you mean to 
do all the right, the more clearly your whole thinking 
processes will dispose themselves, and then, by the 
law of reaction, your orderly thinking will make it 
easier for you to do right. That which all men ought 
to remember, it behooves the minister more than all 
men not to forget, how closely the mental and moral 
natures are bound together in their characters and 
destinies. 

On this high ground, and on a ground that perhaps 
is lower but still is sound, I urge upon you the need 
of method and order in your life and work. Do not 
be tempted by the fascination of spontaneousness. 
Do not be misled by any delusion of inspiration. The 
lower ground is the support which well-considered 
and settled methods of operation give to the higher 
powers in their weaker moments. No one dreads 
mechanical woodenness in the ministry more than I 
do. And yet a strong wooden structure running 
through your work, a set of well-framed and well- 
jointed habits about times and ways of work, writing, 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 93 

studying, intercourse with people, the administration 
of charity and education, and the proportions between 
the different departments of clerical labor, is again 
and again the bridge over which the minister walks 
where the solid ground of higher motive fails him for 
a time. Routine is a terrible master, but she is a ser- 
vant whom we can hardly do without. Routine as a 
law is deadly. Routine as a resource in the temporary 
exhaustion of impulse and suggestion is often our sal- 
vation. Coleridge told the story when he sang, — 

" There will come a weary day 
When, overtaxed at length, 
Both hope and love beneath 
The weight give way. 
Then with a statue's smile, 
A statue's strength, 
Patience, nothing loth, 
And uncomplaining, does 
The work of both." 

But patience, while a strong power, is not quick- 
sighted, and works in ways and habits which have 
been made before. 

Of mistakes of method as distinguished from ab- 
sence of method in the ministry, experience has 
seemed to me to show that there is one comprehensive 
head under which a wonderfully large proportion of 
them all may be included. It is the passion for ex- 
pedients. I know of no department of human activ- 
ity, from the governing of a great nation to the doc- 



94: LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

toring of a little body, where the disposition is not 
constantly appearing to invent some sudden method 
or to seek some magical and concise prescription 
which shall obviate the need of careful, comprehen- 
sive study and long-continued application. But this 
disposition is nowhere so strong, I think, as in the min- 
istry. The bringing of truth, of Christ the Truth, 
to man, of the whole Christ to the whole man, you 
can think of no work larger in its idea than that. 
And evidently its methods must be as manifold as are 
the natures with which it deals. But we are con- 
stantly meeting people who seem to have epitomized 
all the needs of the Church, all the requirements of 
the successful minister, into some one expedient, some 
panacea which, if it could only be applied, would 
overcome every obstacle and bring on at once the per- 
fect day of preaching. These expedients are things 
good in themselves, making no doubt some very use- 
ful part of the great whole ; but when they are mag- 
nified into solitary importance and offered as solutions 
of the difficulties that beset the Gospel, they are ludi- 
crously insufficient. Many a young minister to-day 
is staking his whole ministry on some one such idea. 
He attributes every defect to the imperfect apprehen- 
sion of that idea in his community. He hopes for 
every good as that idea comes to be completely real- 
ized. He can expect no good without it. He can 
hardly conceive of any evil in connection with it. 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 95 

Perhaps his favorite idea is free churches ; a good 
idea indeed, an idea without which there could have 
been no Christian church at all ; an idea which be- 
yond all doubt does represent the standard of Chris- 
tianity, and to which Christian practice must some 
day return ; but by no means the only idea of wor- 
ship, nor suggesting by any means the only or the 
principal difficulty in the way of spreading the Gospel. 
You might break down every pew door and abolish 
every pew tax and yet wait to see your churches and 
the kingdom of God fill themselves full in vain. An- 
other's consuming thought is congregational singing. 
As you listen to him rushing hither and thither shout- 
ing the praises of his favorite method and dealing 
dreadful blows at the four-headed Cerberus which he v 
detests, you are almost ready to believe that if all 
the people only could lift up their voices and sing the 
walls of wickedness must tumble into dust. It is a 
good and healthy agitation. It is well that we should 
break through the tyranny of old methods and really 
sing the praises of the Lord. But it is not going to 
do the work of casting out sin and winning righteous- 
ness. When the army goes into battle the bands u 
must play, but they do not lead the host. And so it 
is again with the hobby of interdenominational inter- 
course, of Christian union. It is well, and I would 
that we had more of it. But, to borrow the army 
simile again, no courtesies between two regiments 



96 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

ever yet defeated the other army. And so of the 
church sociable which tries to entice the passer-by to 
the altar of the Lord with the familiar but feeble 
odor of a cup of tea. And so with the children's 
church ; one of the best and purest of the Church's 
inventions for her work, but by no means enough to 
make a special and peculiar feature of in any congre- 
gation. It almost always weakens the preacher for 
his preaching to adults. There is nothing so insig- 
nificant that some petty minister will not make it the 
Christian panacea. A young pastor said to me once, 
" Wherever else I fail, there is one point in which my 
ministry will be a success." " And what is that ? " 
said I, expecting something sweet and spiritual. " In 
printing," he replied. He had devoted himself to 
setting forth elaborate advertisements, and orders of 
services, and Sunday-school reward cards, and most 
complicated parish records, and I suppose his parish 
is strewn thick with those thick-falling leaves unto 
this day. No ! The clerical or parish hobby is either 
the fancy of a man who has failed to apprehend the 
great work of the Gospel, or the refuge of a man who 
has failed to do it. Its evils are endless. It makes a 
fantastic Christianity. It keeps us battering at one 
point in the long citadel of sin and lets the enemy 
safely concentrate all his force there to protect it. It 
robs us of all power of large appeal and confines the 
truth which we preach to some small class of people. 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 97 

It makes us exalt the means above the end, till we 
come to count the means precious, whether it attain 
the end or not. That is the death which many a par- 
ish life has died. As George Herbert has it, — 

" What wretchedness can give him any room 
Whose house is foul while he adores his hroom ? " 

But finally, and worst of all, the passion for expe 
dients and panaceas narrows our standards of Chris- 
tian life, and gives us false tests of what are Chris- 
tians. It is possible to come to think that there can 
be no conversion in a rented pew ; and that God will 
not hear the music of a choir, however devoutly it 
bears the praises of the people up to Him. Beware 
of hobbies. Fasten yourself to the centre of youru 
ministry ; not to some point on its circumference. 
The circumference must move when the centre moves, t 
The escape from the slavery of expedients is not 
in finding each one insufficient, and so changing it for 
another. The escape from despotism is never in a 
mere change of despots. Some men's ministry has 
been occupied all through in the substitution of hobby v 
for hobby year after year. Their history is made up 
of the record of the dynasties of successive expe- 
dients, following each other like the later Emperors, 
each murdering his predecessor and murdered in his 
turn. The escape must come in a larger human life v 
for the minister. He must come into larger knowledge 



98 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

of men, and be in the truest and best sense a man of 
the world. He must get out of the merely ecclesias- 
tical spirit; that is, he must cease to think of the 
Church as a petty institution, to be carried on by fan- 
tastic methods of its own. It must seem to him what 
it is, the type and pattern of what humanity ought to 
be, so to be kept large enough that any man, coming 
from any exile where the homesickness of his heart 
has been awakened, may find his true and native place 
awaiting him. The preacher then will know all kinds 
of men, keeping his life large enough to enter into 
sympathy with them. Let me make one special re- 
mark upon this head. Apart from its incidental ad- 
vantage, to his style and manner, I think it is good 
for a minister to do some work besides clerical work, 
and to write something besides sermons. But he 
must do it as a minister. And the proof of how large 
is his vocation, is that he can do it and yet be a min- 
ister in it all. He can write books, and yet be not a 
literary man but a minister. He can help the gov- 
ernment, and yet be not a politician but a minister. 
There are bad ways, but there are also good ways in 
which a clergyman may carry his clerical character 
with him wherever he goes. It may be to your dis- 
credit, or to your credit, that strangers say of you, 
" I should know he was a minister." For the best 
minister is simply the fullest man. You cannot sep- 
arate him from his manhood. Voltaire said of Louis 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 99 

XIV., " He was not one of the greatest men but cer- 
tainly one of the greatest kings that ever lived." It 
would not be possible to say that of any minister. 
He who was one of the greatest of ministers must be 
one of the greatest of men. 

The faults of a minister's method are apt to be of 
the simplest sort ; as his virtues are of no intricate or 
complicated kind, but the primary virtues of human- 
ity. I cannot then pass by what, after all, has seemed 
to me to lie at the bottom of a very large part of the 
clerical failures, and half-successes which I have wit- 
nessed. What is called a u success " in the ministry 
is, indeed, a "curious sort of phenomenon, very hard 
to analyze. It is half clay, half gold. It is half sec- 
ular and half religious, and the two halves are mingled 
so that it is impossible to separate them. There is 
too much of religious feeling in our communities to i^ 
call a minister successful unless he seems to be doing 
a really spiritual work, and on the other hand there 
is too steady a watch kept upon economical considera- 
tions, to give the praise of success to mere spiritual 
devotion, unless it carries with it the signs of material 
prosperity. The " successful minister " is a being of 
such mingled qualities that he leaves open room 
enough for many men who are not called successful, 
to be thoroughly good and nobly useful and very 
happy. But still this standard of success has its ad- 
vantages. It is intelligible. And it brings at once 






"CWIVBRSIT! 



100 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

forward the simplest of all causes of failure, and 
shows it to be the same that brings failure in every 
department of life. That cause is mere unfaithful- 
ness, the fact of men's not doing their best with the 
powers that God has given them. I think that it is 
hard to believe how common this trouble, underlying 
all troubles, is in the minister's life. I want to urge 
it upon you very earnestly. You watch the career of ^ 
some man who does not seem to succeed. You know 
his piety ; you recognize his intelligence ; you make 
all kinds of elaborate theories about what there is in 
his peculiar character that unfits him for effective- 
ness ; you dwell on his fastidiousness, his reserve, the 
wonderful sensitiveness of his nature. You picture 
him to yourself writing exquisite sermons, full of 
thought, which the people are too coarse to compre- 
hend. And then, with this picture of him in your 
mind, you come to know the habits of his life, and all 
your fine-spun pity scatters as you learn that, what- 
ever other hindrances there may be, the hindrance 
that lies uppermost of all is that the man is not do- \s 
ing his best. His work is at loose ends ; he treats his 
people with a neglect with which no doctor could 
treat his patients and no lawyer his clients ; and he 
writes his sermons on Saturday nights. That last I 
count the crowning disgrace of a man's ministry. It 
is dishonest. It is giving but the last flicker of the 
week as it sinks in its socket, to those who, simply to 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 101 

talk about it as a bargain, have paid for the full light 
burning at its brightest. And yet men boast of it. 
They tell you in how short time they write their ser- 
mons, and when you hear them preach you only won- 
der that it took so long. Ah ! my friends, it is won- 
derful what a central power is the moral law. The 
primary fact of duty lies at the core of everything. 
Operations which we think have no moral character, 
move by the power which is coiled up in that spring. 
Derange it in any man, and his taste becomes cor- 
rupted, and his intellect suffers distortion. The first 
necessity for the preacher and the hod-carrier is the ; 
same. Be faithful, and do your best always for every 
congregation, and on every occasion. 1 

A very curious study in human nature is the way 
•in which the moral sense sometimes suffers in connec- 

1 An unknown friend has called my attention to these good words 
of Cotton Mather, since this lecture was delivered. They are from 
the Ratio Disciplines, pp. 59 and 60. 

" If churches hear of ministers boasting that they have been in 
their studies only a few hours on Saturday, or so, they reckon that 
such persons rather glory in their shame. 

" Sudden sermons they may sometimes admire from their accom- 
plished ministers, when the suddenness has not been a chosen cir- 
cumstance. But as one of old, when it was objected against his public 
speeches (in matters of less moment than the salvation of souls), re- 
plied, ' I should blush at the incivility of treating so great and wise 
a people with anything but what shall be studied ; ' so the best min- 
isters of New England ordinarily would blush to address their flocks 
without premeditation." 



102 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tion with the highest spiritual experiences. A man 
who will cheat nowhere else will be a hypocrite in 
religion. A man who really wants to convert his 
brethren will sometimes try to do it by preaching 
other people's sermons as if they were his own. It 
is partly, I suppose, the vague sense of elevation 
which seems to have somewhat enfeebled the hold of 
the ordinary morality upon a man, as the earth's 
gravitation weakens for him who mounts among the 
stars. And in some men it is that demoralization 
which comes from feeling themselves in a place for 
which they are not fit, burdened with duties for which 
they have no capacity. And that, in political, or com- 
mercial, or clerical life, is the most demoralizing con- ^ 
sciousness that a man can feel. 

This question of faithfulness touches, I believe, 
almost all the difficulties in the way of constraint or 
dictation which a minister meets with from his people. 
I am apt to believe that almost all the troubles be- 
tween ministers and parishes are from the minister's 
folly if not from his fault. Not that there is not 
often enough blame upon the other side. But it 
seems to me reasonable that the minister, having an 
intenser and more concentrated interest in his parish 
than any layman has, should have that measure of 
control which, wisely used, might hinder almost any 
trouble before it grew vigorous enough to enlist the 
angry interest of the people whose lives are largely 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 103 

occupied with other things. There are such things 
as parish quarrels. If I am right, my friends, you 
will never have one in your parish which you might 
not have prevented, and never come out of one with- 
out injury to your character and your Master's cause. 
It is wonderful to me with what freedom a minister 
is left to do his work in his own way, if only his 
people believe in his scrupulous faithfulness. Take, 
for instance, the matter of preaching old sermons. 
It is not good. A new sermon, fresh from the brain, 
has always a life in it which an old sermon, though 
better in itself, must lack. The trouble is in the 
prominence of that personal element in preaching of 
which I spoke in my first lecture. You may take the 
sermon off the shelf, and when you have brushed the 
dust off the cover it is the same sermon that you 
preached on that memorable day when you were all 
afire with your new line of study or with the spiritual * 
zeal that was burning about you. You may reproduce *- 
the paper but you cannot reproduce the man, and the 
sermon was man and paper together. No, I would 
make as rare as possible the preaching of the same u 
sermon to the same people. But what I wanted to 
say was this, that the main objection which the people 
have to the preaching of old sermons is in the impres- • 
sion that it gives them of unfaithfulness and idleness. 
Let a minister's whole life make any such suspicion 
impossible and there is no complaint. The minister 



104 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

in whose faithfulness his people believe may use his 
own discretion. He must not play any tricks. He 
must not put old sermons to new texts. To put new 
sermons to old texts is better. But he may use his 
judgment, and those sermons, of which there is a cer- 
tain class, which do not lose but rather gain by repe- 
tition, he may repreach again and again till they 
grow to be to people like their most cherished hymns 
or passages from some long-loved book of devotion. 

One of the most remarkable things about the 
preacher's methods of work is the way in which they 
form themselves in the earliest years of his ministry, 
and then rule him with almost despotic power to the 
end. I am a slave to-day, and so I suppose is every 
minister, to ways of work that were made within two 
or three years after beginning to preach. The new- 
ness of the occupation, that unexpectedness of every- 
thing to which I alluded when I began to speak to 
you this afternoon, opens all the life, and makes it re- 
ceptive ; and then the earnestness and fresh enthusi- 
asm of those days serves to set the habits that a man 
makes them, to clothe them with something that is 
almost sacredness, and to make them practically al- 
most unchangeable. They are the years when a 
preacher needs to be very watchful over his discre- 
tion and his independence. When the clay is in the 
bank, it matters not so much who treads on it. And 
when the clay is hardened in the vase, it may press 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 105 

close upon another vase and yet keep its own shape. 
But when the clay is just setting, and the shape still 
soft, then is the time to guard it from the blows or 
pressures that would distort it forever. Be sure, 
then, that the habits and methods of your opening 
ministry are, first of all, your own. Let no respect, 
however profound or merited, for any hero of the 
pulpit make you submit yourself to him. Let your 
own nature freely shape its own ways. Only be sure 
that those ways do really come out of your own nat- 
ure, and not out of the merely accidental circum- 
stances of your first parish. And let them be intel- 
ligent, not merely such as you happen into, but such 
as you can give good reasons for. And let them be 
noble, framed with reference to the large ideal and 
most sacred purposes of your work, not with reference 
to its minute conveniences. And let them be broad 
enough to give you room to grow. It is with ideas 
and methods of work as it is with houses. To remove 
from one to another is wasteful and dispiriting ; but 
to find the one in which we have taken up our abode 
unfolding new capacity to accommodate our growing 
mental family, is satisfactory and encouraging. It 
gives us the sense at once of settlement and progress. 
He is the happiest and most effective old man whose 
life has been full of crowth, but free from revolution ; 
who is living still in the same thoughts and habits 
which he had when a boy, but has found them as the 



106 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Hebrews say that the Israelites found their clothes in 
the desert during the forty years, not merely never 
waxing old upon them, but growing with their growth 
as they passed on from youth to manhood. 

I hope that I shall not have disappointed your ex- 
pectation in what I have said about the preacher's 
methods by dwelling so largely upon principles, and 
going so little into details. It would be easy enough 
for any minister to amuse himself, and perhaps amuse 
you, by recitations from his diary. But it would not 
be good. I want to make you know two things: 
first, that if your ministry is to be good for any- 
thing, it must be your ministry, and not a feeble echo 
of any other man's ; and, second, that the Christian 
ministry is not the mere practice of a set of rules and 
precedents, but is a broad, free, fresh meeting of a 
man with men, in such close contact that the Christ 
who has entered into his life may, through his, enter 
into theirs. 

I have but a few words to add upon the spirit in 
which the preacher does his best work. After what 
I have been saying, my points will need no elabora- 
tion. Forgive me if I venture to put them in the 
Bimplest and strongest imperatives I can command. 

First, count and rejoice to count yourself the ser- 
vant of the people to whom you minister. Not in 
any worn-out figure but in very truth, call yourself 
and be their servant. 



THE PREACHER IN HIS WORK. 107 

Second, never allow yourself to feel equal to your 
Work. If you ever find that spirit growing on you, 
be afraid, and instantly attack your hardest piece of 
work, try to convert your toughest infidel, try to 
preach on your most exacting theme, to show your- 
self how unequal to it all you are. 

Third, be profoundly honest. Never dare to say 
in the pulpit or in private, through ardent excite- 
ment or conformity to what you know you are ex- 
pected to say, one word which at the moment when 
you say it, you do not believe. It would cut down 
the range of what you say, perhaps, but it would en- 
dow every word that was left with the force of ten. 

And last of all, be vital, be alive, not dead. Do 
everything that can keep your vitality at its fullest. 
Even the physical vitality do not dare to disregard. 
One of the most striking preachers of our country 
seems to me to have a large part of his power simply 
in his physique, in the impression of vitality, in the 
magnetism almost like a material thing, that passes 
between him and the people who sit before him. 
Pray for and work for fulness of life above every- 
thing ; full red blood in the body ; full honesty and 
truth in the mind ; and the fulness of a grateful love 
for the Saviour in your heart. Then, however men 
set their mark of failure or success upon your minis- 
try, you cannot fail, you must succeed. 



WX) 



'■ 






%jn 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 



T HAVE dwelt long upon the preacher and his char- 
-*- acter because he is essential to the sermon. He 
cannot throw a sermon forth into the world as an au- 
thor can his book, as an artist can his statue, and let 
it live thenceforth a life wholly independent of him- 
self. That is the reason why sermons are not ordi- 
narily interesting reading. At least that is one of the 
reasons. Now and then you do find a volume of ser- 
mons which, as it were, keep their author in them, 
so that as you read them you feel him present in the 
room. But, ordinarily, reading sermons is like list- 
ening to an echo. The words are there, but the per- 
sonal intonation is gone out of them and there is an 
unreality about it all. Now and then you find ser- 
mons which do not suggest their ever having been 
preached and they give you none of this feeling. But 
they were not good sermons, scarcely even real ser- 
mons, when they were preached. In general it is 
true that the sermon which is good to preach is poor 
to read and the sermon which is good to read is poor 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 109 

to preach. There are exceptions, but this is gener- 
ally true. 

Whatever is in the sermon must be in the preacher 
first ; clearness, logicalness, vivacity, earnestness, 
sweetness, and light must be personal qualities in 
him before they are qualities of thought and language 
in what he utters to his people. If you have your 
artist you have only to supply your marble and chisel 
with the mere technical skill, and you have your 
statue. If you have your preacher very little more 
is needed to set free the sermon which is in him. In 
this lecture and the next I want to speak about the 
sermon. I make a division which will not be very 
precise, but may be of some service ; and shall speak 
to-day more of the sermon in its general purpose and 
idea, and next Thursday more of the make and 
method of the sermon. 

It seems to me, then, that at the very outset the 
definite and immediate purpose which a sermon has 
set before it makes it impossible to consider it as a 
work of art, and every attempt to consider it so works 
injury to the purpose for which the sermon was 
created. Many of the ineffective sermons that are 
made owe their failure to a blind and fruitless effort 
to produce something which shall be a work of art, 
conforming to some type or pattern which is not 
clearly understood but is supposed to be essential and 
eternal. But the unreasonableness of this appears 



110 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the moment that we think of it. A sermon exists 
in and for its purpose. That purpose is the persuad- . 
ing and moving of men's souls. That purpose must 
never be lost sight of. If it ever is, the sermon flags. 
It is not always on the surface ; not always impetu- 
ous and eager in the discourses of the settled pastor 
as it is in the appeals of the Evangelist who speaks 
this once and this once only to the men he sees be- 
fore him. The sermon of the habitual preacher 
grows more sober, but it never can lose out of it this 
consciousness of a purpose ; it never can justify itself 
in any self-indulgence that will hinder or delay that 
purpose. It is always aimed at men. It is always 
looking in their faces to see how they are moved. It 
knows no essential and eternal type, but its law 
for what it ought to be comes from the needs and 
fickle changes of the men for whom it lives. Now 
this is thoroughly inartistic. Art contemplates and 
serves the absolute beauty. The simple work of art 
is the pure utterance of beautiful thought in beau- 
tiful form without further purpose than simply that — 
it should be uttered. The poem or the statue may L 
instruct, inspire, and rebuke men, but that design, if 
it were present in the making of the poem or the 
statue, vitiated the purity of its artistic quality. Art 
knows nothing of the tumultuous eagerness of ear- 
nest purpose. She is supremely calm and independ- 
ent of the whims of men. Phidias cast among a 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. Ill 

barbarous race must carve not some hideous idol 
which shall stir their coarse blood by its frantic ex- 
travagance, but the same serene and lofty beauty of 
Athene which he would carve at Athens. If it wholly 
fails to reach their gross and blunted senses, that is / Aj. $ 
no disgrace to it as a work of art, for the artistic_ and *Aa£V r 
the didactic are separate from one another. ^^ 

And yet we find a constant tendency in the his- "T^vk, 
tory of preaching to treat the sermon as a work of 
art. It is spoken of as if it were something which 
had a value in itself. We hear of beautiful sermons, 
as if they existed solely on the ground that " beauty 
is its own excuse for being." The age of the great 
French preachers, the age of Louis XIV. with its ser-*- 
mons preached in the salons of critical and sceptical 
noblemen, and of ladies who offered to their friends * 
the entertainment of the last discovered preacher, 
was full of this false idea of the sermon as a work of 
art. And the soberer Englishman, whether he be the 
Puritan praising the painful exposition to which he 
has just listened, or the Churchman delighting in the 
polished periods of Tillotson or South, has his own 
way of falling into the same heresy. I think it does 
us good to go back to the simple sermons of the New ^ 
Testament. I do not speak of the perfect discourses 
of our Lord, though in them we should find the 
strongest confirmation of what I am now saying : 
out take the sermons of St. Peter, of St. Stephen, 



112 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

of St. Paul, and from them come down to the ser- 
mons which have been great as sermons ever since. 
Through all their variety you find this one thing 
constantly true about them : they were all valuable 
solely for the work they could accomplish. They 
were tools, and not works of art. To turn a tool into 
a work of art, to elaborate the shape and chase the 
surface of the axe with which you are to hew your 
wood, is bad taste ; and to give any impression in a 
sermon that it has forgotten its purpose and been 
shaped for anything else than what in the largest 
extent of those great words might be described as 
saving souls, makes it offensive to a truly good taste 
and dull to the average man, who feels an incon- 
gruity which he cannot define. The power of the 
sermons of the Paulist fathers in the Romish Church 
and of Mr. Moody in Protestantism lies simply here : 
in the clear and undisturbed presence of their pur- 
pose ; and many ministers who never dream of such 
a thing, who think that they are preaching purely 
for the good of souls, are losing the power out of 
their sermons because they are trying, even without 
knowing it, to make them not only sermons, but 
works of art. There was an old word which I think 
has ceased to be used. Men used to talk of " ser- 
monizing." They said that some good preacher was 
" a fine sermonizer." The word contained just this 
vice : it made the sermon an achievement, to be at- 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 113 

tempted and enjoyed for itself apart from anything 
that it could do, like a picture or an oratorio, like 
the Venus of Milo or the Midsummer-Night's Dream. 

And here lies the truth concerning the way in which 
really high truth and careful thought may be brought 
to a congregation. We hear a good deal about preach- /> 
ing over people's heads. There is such a thing. But 
generally it is not the character of the ammunition, but 
the fault of aim, that makes the missing shot. There 
is nothing worse for a preacher than to come to think 
that he must preach down to people ; that they can- 
not take the very best he has to give. He grows to 
despise his own sermons, and the people quickly learn 
to sympathize with their minister. The people will 
get the heart out of the most thorough and thought-*-- 
ful sermon, if only it really is a sermon. Even sub- 
tlety of thought, the tracing of intricate relations of 
ideas, it is remarkable how men of no subtle thought 
will follow it, if it is really preached. But subtlety 
which has delighted in itself, which has spun itself 
fine for its own pleasure in seeing how fine it could 
be spun, vexes and throws them off; and they are 
right. Never be afraid to call upon your people to 
follow your best thought, if only it is really trying to 
lead them somewhere. The confidence of the minis- 
ter in the people is at the bottom of every confidence* 
of the people in the minister. 

What I have been saying bears also on what we 



*<£' 



114 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

hear, every now and then, from the days of the 
"Spectator" down, the expression of a wish that 
moderate ministers, instead of giving people their 
own moderate thought, would recur to the good work 
which has been already done, and read some sermon 
of one of the great masters. There too, there is the 
"sermonizing" idea. The real sermon idea is lost. 
Such a practice coming into vogue would speedily 
destroy the pulpit's power. Not merely would it be 
a confession of incapacity, but the idea of speech, of 
present address for a present purpose, would disap- 
pear. I do not think we could anticipate any con- 
tinual interest, scarcely any perpetual existence for 
the preaching work in case such an idea became prev- 
alent and accepted. 

The first good consequence of the emphatic state- 
ment that a sermon is to be considered solely with 
reference to its proper purposes will be in a new and 
larger freedom for the preacher. We make the idea 
of a sermon too specific, wishing to conform it to 
some preestablished type of what a sermon ought to 
be. There is nothing which a sermon ought to be 
except a fit medium of truth to men. There is no 
model of a sermon so strange and novel, so different 
from every pattern upon which sermons have been 
shaped before, that if it became evident to you that 
that was the form through which the message which 
you had to tell would best reach the men to whom 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 115 

you had to tell it, it would not be your right, nay, 
be your duty to preach your truth in that new form. 
I grant that the accepted forms of preaching were 
shaped originally by a desire for utility, and only * 
gradually assumed a secondary value and importance 
for their own sakes. That is the way in which every 
such superstitious value of anything originates. I 
grant, therefore, that the young preacher may well 
feel that a certain presumption of advantage belongs 
to those types of sermons which he finds in use. He 
will not wantonly depart from them. I am sure that 
all hearers of sermons will say : " Better the most 
abject conformity to rule than departure from rule for 
the mere sake of departure. Better the stiff move- 
ments of imitation than the fantastic gestures of de- 
liberate originality." But what I plead for is, that 
in all your desire to create good sermons you should 
think no sermon good that does not do its work. Let 
the end for which you preach play freely in and mod- 
ify the form of your preaching. He who is original 
for the sake of originality is as much governed by 
the type from which he departs as is another man 
who slavishly conforms to it ; but he who freely 
uses the types which he finds, and yet compels them 
always to bend to the purposes for which he uses 
them, he is their true master, and not their slave. 
Such originality as that alone at once secures the 
best effectiveness of the preacher, and advances at 



116 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the same time the general type and idea of the ser- 
mon, preserving it from monotony and making it bet- 
ter and better from age to age. 

Now let me turn to some of those questions affect- 
ing the general idea of what a sermon ought to be, 
which are continually recurring, and say a few words 
on each. 

One of the most interesting of those questions, 
which appears in many forms, arises from the neces- 
sity of which I have already so much spoken, of min- 
gling the elements of personal influence and abstract 
truth to make the perfect sermon. There are some 
sermons in which the preacher does not appear at all.; 
there are other sermons in which he is offensively and 
crudely prominent ; there are still other sermons 
where he is hidden and yet felt, the force of his per- 
sonal conviction and earnest love being poured through 
the arguments which he uses, and the promises which 
he holds out. Of the second class of sermons in 
which the minister's personality is offensively promi- 
nent, the most striking instance is what seems to 
me to have become rather common of late, and what 
I may call the autobiographical style of preach- 
ing. There are some preachers to whom one might • 
listen for a year, and then he could write their bi- J 
ography, if it were worth the doing. Every truth 
they wish to teach is illustrated by some event in 
their own history. Every change of character which 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 117 

irhey wish to urge is set forth under the form in 
which that change took place in them. The story 
of how they were converted becomes as familiar to 
their congregation as the story of the conversion of 
St. Paul. It is the crudest attempt to blend per-^ 
sonality and truth. They are not fused with one 
another, but only tied together. It has a certain 
power. It is wonderful how interesting almost any 
man becomes if he talks frankly about himself. You 
cannot help listening to the garrulous unfolding of 
his history. And in the pulpit no doubt it gives a 
certain vividness, when a popular preacher whose peo- 
ple are already interested in, and curious about his 
personality, after enforcing some argument, suddenly 
turns, and instead of saying, after the pulpit manner, 
" But the objector will reply," briskly breaks out 
with, " Last Monday afternoon a man came into my 
study," or " A man met me in the street, and said, 
Mr. this or that" (using his own name), "what do 
you make of this objection ? " It gives a clear con- 
creteness to the whole, and feeds that curiosity about 
each other's ways of living out of which all our 
gossip grows. 

The evils of the habit are evident enough. Not to ^ 
speak of its oppressiveness to the best taste, nor of 
the way in which its power dies out, as the much- 
paraded person of the minister grows familiar and 
unimposing, it certainly must have a tendency to 



118 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

narrow the suggested range of Christian truth and 
experience. In parishes where such strong promi- 
nence belongs to the preacher's personality, where the 
people are always hearing of how he learned this 
truth or passed through that emotion, all apprehen- 
sion of thought and realization of experience narrows 
itself. It is expected in just that way which has 
been so often and so vividly pictured. It is distrusted 
if it comes in other forms. The rich variety and^' 
largeness of the Christian life is lost. There are 
some parishes which, in the course of a long pastor- 
ate, have become but the colossal repetition of their 
minister's personality. They are the form of his ex- 
perience seen through a mist, grown large in size but 
vague and dim in outline. Every parishioner is a 
weakened repetition of the minister's ideas and ways. 
I think that what a minister learns to rejoice in more 
and more is the endless difference of that Christian 
life, which is yet always the same. It shows him the 
possibility of a Christianity as universal as humanity, 
a Christianity in which the diversity and unity of 
humanity might both be kept. And any undue promi- 
nence of himself in his teaching, loses the largeness 
on which the hope of this variety in unity depends. 

There is something better than this. There is a 
fine and subtle infusion of a man into his work, which 
achieves what this crude fastening of the two together 
attempts, but fails to accomplish. Take, for instance, 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 119 

the sermons of /R obertson ) You will know, from al- 
lusions to them which I have already made, that I 
sympathize very fully with that high estimate which/ 
such multitudes of people have set upon those re^ 
markable discourses. I think that in all the best 
qualities of preaching they stand supreme among the 
sermons of our time. And one of the most remark- JJ 
able things about them is the way in which the per- 
sonal force of the preacher, and the essential power 
of the truth, are blended into one strong impressive- 
nesss. The personality never muddies the thought. 
I do not remember one allusion to his own history,*--' 
one anecdote of his own life ; but they are his ser- 
mons. The thought is stronger for us because he has 
thought it. The feeling is more vivid because he has 
felt it. And always he leads us to God by a way^ 
along which he has gone himself. It is interesting to 
read along with the sermons the story of his life, to 
see what he was passing through at the date when 
this sermon or that was preached, and to watch, as 
you often may, without any suspicion of mere fanci- 
fulness, how the experience shed its power into the*-* 
sermon, but left its form of facts outside ; how his 
sermons were like the heaven of his life, in which the 
spirit of his life lived after it had cast away its body. 
There have, indeed, been preachers and writers 
whose utterance of truth has fallen naturally in the 
forms of autobiography, and yet who have been at 



j >i i 



120 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

once strong and broad. You can gather all of Lati- 
mer's history out of his sermons, and Milton has 
given us a large part of his teaching in connection 
with the events of his own life. But ordinarily that 
is true in literature, and certainly in preaching, which 
is true in life. It is not the man who forces they' 
events of his life on you who most puts the spirit of 
his life into you. The most unreserved men are not 
the most influential. A reserved man who cares for 
truth, and cares that his brethren should know the 
truth, who therefore is always holding back the mere 
envelope of accident and circumstance in which the 
truth has embodied itself to him, and yet sending 
forth the truth with all the clearness and force which 
it has gathered for him from that embodiment, he is 
the best preacher, as everywhere he is the most influ- 
ential man. Try to live such a life, so full of events W 
and relationships, that the two great things, the 
power of Christ and the value of your brethren's ' 
souls, shall be tangible and certain to you, not sub- 
jecta of speculation and belief, but realities which you j 
have seen and known ; then sink the shell of per- 
sonal experience, lest it should hamper the truth that 
you must utter, and let the truth go out as the shot 
goes, carrying the force of the gun with it, but leav- 
ing the gun behind. 

There is something beautiful to me in the way in 
which the utterance of the best part of a man's own 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 121 

life, its essence, its result, which the pulpit makes 
possible, and even tempts, is welcomed by many men, 
who seem to find all other utterance of themselves 
impossible. I have known shy, reserved men, who, 
standing in their pulpits, have drawn back before a 
thousand eyes veils that were sacredly closed when 
only one friend's eyes could see. You might talk 
with them a hundred times, and you would not learn 
so much of what they were as if you once heard them 
preach. It was partly the impersonality of the great 
congregation. Humanity, without the offense of in- *" 
dividuality, stood there before them. It was no vio- 
lation of their loyalty to themselves to tell their se- 
cret to mankind. It was a man who silenced them. 
But also, besides this, it was, I think, that the sight 
of many waiting faces set free in them a new, clear 
knowledge of what their truth or secret was, un- 
snarled it from the petty circumstances into which it 
had been entangled, called it first into clear conscious- 
ness, and then tempted it into utterance with an au- 
thority which they did not recognize in an individual 
curiosity demanding the details of their life. Our 
race, represented in a great assemblage, has more au-*" 
thority and more beguilement for many of us than 
the single man, however near he be. And he who is 
silent before the interviewer, pours out the very <- 
depths of his soul to the great multitude. He will 
not print his diary for the world to read, but he will 



122 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tell his fellow-men what Christ may be to them, so 
that they shall see, as God sees, what Christ has been 
to him. 

I think again that this first truth of preaching, the 
truth that the minister enters into the sermon, touches 
upon the point of which I spoke in my last sermon, 
the authority of the sermon. The sermon is God's 
message sent by you to certain of your fellow-men. 
If the message came to your fellow-men just as it 
came from God it must be absolutely true and must 
have absolute authority. If the fallible messenger 
mixes himself with his infallible message, the absolute 
authority of the message is in some degree qualified. 
But we have seen that the very idea of the sermon 
implies that the messenger must mingle himself with 
the message that he brings ; and, as a mere matter of 
fact, we know that every preacher does declare the 
truth from his own point of view and follows his own 
judgment, enlightened by his study and his prayer, 
when he declares how the eternal truth applies to 
temporary circumstances. Some things which you 
say from the pulpit you know; other things are your 
speculations. This is true very largely of the antici- 
pations and prophecies about the destiny of the Gos- 
pel, about the relations which the Gospel holds to the 
circumstances of special times in which ministers in- 
dulge. John Wesley used to say that " Infidels know, v' 
whether Christians know it or not, that the giving up 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 123 

witchcraft is in effect giving up the Bible." When 
we were children it used to be preached to us that the 
Bible must stand or fall with human slavery. And 
now we hear continually that this or that will happen 
to religion if such or such a theory of natural science 
should be accepted. Such prophecies are always bad. 
Tests which are not essential and absolute tests do 
great harm. But these are instances of the way in 
which speculations, personal opinions, prejudices, if 
you will, must attach themselves to any live man's 
utterance of the truth. It is inevitable ; and what 
must be the result ? Either all speculation must be 
cut away and the sermon be reduced to the mere rep- 
etition of indisputable and undisputed truth ; and the 
mere primary facts of Christianity which alone are 
held absolutely " semper, ubique et ab omnibus" must 
make the sum of preaching ; or else the preacher must 
let the people clearly understand that between the 
facts that are his message and the philosophy of those 
facts which is his best and truest judgment there is a 
clear distinction. The first come with the authority 
of God's revelation. The others come with what 
persuasion their essential reasonableness gives them. 
Now the first method is impracticable. No man ever 
did it. No man who claims to preach nothing but the 
simple Gospel preaches it so simply that it has not in 
it something of his own speculation about it. The 
other method is the only method. Even St. Paul 



124 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

came to it in his epistles. But how few preachers 
frankly adopt it. We cover all we say — our crude 
guesses, our ignorant anticipations — with a certain 
vague and undefined authority ; and men, hearing 
themselves called on to believe them all, and seeing 
part of them to be untrue, really believe none of 
them in any genuine or hearty way. We stretch our 
authority to try to make it cover so much that it 
grows thin and will not decently cover anything at 
all. Frankness is what we need, frankness to sayj 
" This is God's truth, and this other is what I think."' 
If we were frank like that, see what good things 
would come. The minister would have room for in- 
tellectual change and growth, and not have to steal 
them as if they were something to which he had no 
right. The people could hear many men preach and 
hear them differ from each other and yet not be be- 
wildered and confounded. And every preacher, with 
the clearly recognized right, would have to accept 
the duty of being a thinker in the things of God. 

One of the most interesting questions which meets 
us as we try to form an idea of what the sermon 
ought to be, is that suggested by the occasional or 
constant outcry against the preaching of Doctrine, 
and the call for practical sermons, or for what is 
called " preaching Christ only." Let me speak of 
this. I do not hold that the outcry is absurd. I do 
not think that it is one to which the preacher ought 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 125 

fco shut his ears. It is a very blind and unintelligent 
cry, no doubt. All popular outcries are that. Every 
popular movement and demand has in general the 
same history. It begins with a vague discontent 
that never even attempts to give an account of what 
it means, and it passes on into three different man- 
ifestations of itself; one, an honest attempt by its 
own adherents to declare its philosophy and give an 
intelligible reason for it ; another, an effort by those 
who dislike it to misrepresent and to defame it; a 
third the adoption of its phrases by people who care 
little about it but like to affect an interest in what- 
ever is uppermost. In this last stage the popular 
movement becomes a fashionable cant. There never 
was a stir and dissatisfaction, a dislodging and out- 
reaching of men's minds which did not show itself 
in all these forms. This dissatisfaction with what is 
called doctrinal preaching appears in all three. At 
the bottom it is a discontent with something that the ' 
souls of men feel to be wrong. Then comes the en- 
deavor of men to state the grievance, which is often 
very foolishly done, and would, if carried out, sweep 
away everything like positive Christianity together. 
Then comes the misrepresentation of the popular de- 
mand, which talks about it as if it all came of the 
spirit of indifference or unbelief. And then finally 
succeeds that which is the lowest degradation to 
which anything which might be an intelligent opinion 



126 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

can be reduced, the affectation which pretends to be in 
horror at anything like dogmatism, and repeats with- 
out meaning the praises of an undogmatic preaching. 
Now the minister meets all of these. What shall he 
do ? It is easy enough for him to expose the illogical 
reasoning, easy for him to see its misconceptions, 
easy for him to despise its cant, but it ought not to 
be easy for him to shut his ears to that out of which 
they all come, that deep, blind, unintelligent discon- 
tent with something which is evidently wrong. He 
must bring his intelligence to bear on that. It can- 
not tell what it means itself. He must find out what 
it means, and not be deterred by the offensiveness 
of any of its exhibitions from a careful understanding 
of its true significance. 

For it does mean something, and what it means 
is this : that men who are loc king for a law of life 
and an inspiration of life are met by a theory of 
life. Much of our preaching is like delivering lect- 
ures upon medicine to sick people. The lecture is 
true. The lecture is interesting. Nay, the truth of 
the lecture is important, and if the sick man could 
learn the truth of the lecture he would be a better 
patient, he would take his medicine more responsibly 
and regulate his diet more intelligently. But still 
the fact remains that the lecture is not medicine, and 
that to give the medicine, not to deliver the lecture, 
is the preacher's duty. I know the delusiveness of 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 127 

such an analogy. Let us not urge it too far ; but let 
us own that the idea which has haunted the religious 
life of man, and which is not true, has had a serious 
and bad effect on preaching. That idea is that the 
tenure of certain truths, and not the possession of a 
certain character, is a saving thing. It is the notion 
that faith consists in the believing of propositions. 
Let that heresy be active or latent in a preacher's 
mind, and he inevitably falls into the vice which 
people complain of when they talk about doctrinal 
preaching. He declares truth for its own value and u 
not with direct reference to its result in life. 

It is not my place to argue here that the idea of 
faith from which such preaching comes is not the 
scriptural idea, not the idea of Jesus. But it does 
come within my region to point out the influence that 
a man's first idea of saving faith must have upon his 
whole conception of a sermon. The preacher who 
thinks that faith is the holding of truth, musfc ever 
be aiming to save men from believing error and to 
bring them to the knowledge of what is true. The 
man who thinks that faith is personal loyalty, must 
always be trying to bring men to Christ and Christ 
to men. Which is the true idea ? That, as I said, 
it is not for me to discuss. But I may beg you to 
consider seriously what the faith was that Christ 
longed so to see in his disciples, and what that faith 
Viust be whose " trial " or education St. Peter says 



128 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

" is much more precious than of gold that perishes." 
Such words as those carry us inevitably into the 
realm of character, which we know is the one thing 
in man which God values and for which Christ 
labored and lived and died. 

This does seem to me to make the truth about the 
preaching of doctrine very plain. The salvation of 
men's souls from sin, the renewing and perfecting of 
their characters, is the great end of all. But that is 
done by Christ. To bring them then to Christ that 
He may do it, to make Christ plain to them that 
they may find Him, this is the preacher's work. But 
I cannot do my duty in making Christ plain unless I 
tell them of Him all the richness that I know. I 
must keep nothing back. All that has come to me 
about Him from His word, all that has grown clear 
to me about His nature or His methods by my in- 
ward or outward experience, all that He has told me 
of Himself, becomes part of the message that I must 
tell to those men whom He has sent me to call home 
to Himself. I will do this in its fulness. And this 
is the preaching of doctrine, positive, distinct, charac- 
teristic Christian Truth. Only, the truth has always 
character beyond it as its ulterior purpose. Not 
until I forget that, and begin to tell men about Christ 
as if that they should know the truth about Him, 
and not that they should become what knowing the 
truth about Him would help them be, were the final 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 129 

purpose of my preaching, not until then do I begin 
to preach doctrine in the wrong way which men are 
trying to describe when they talk about " doctrinal 
preaching." 

-i The truth is, no preaching ever had any strong 
/ power that was not the preaching of doctrine. The 
preachers that have moved and held men have always 
preached doctrine. No exhortation to a good life 
that does not put behind it some truth as deep as 
eternity can seize and hold the conscience. Preach 
doctrine, preach all the doctrine that you know, and 
learn forever more and more ; but preach it always, 
not that men may believe it, but that men may be 
saved by believing it. So it shall be live, not dead. 
So men shall rejoice in it and not decry it. So they 
shall feed on it at your hands as on the bread of life, 
solid and sweet, and claiming for itself the appetite 
of man which God made for it. 

I am inclined to think that the idea of a sermon is 
so properly a unit, that a sermon involves of necessity 
such elements in combination, the absence of any 
one of which weakens the sermon-nature, that the 
ordinary classifications of sermons are of little con- 
sequence. We hear of expository preaching and 
topical sermons, of practical sermons, of hortatory 
discourses, each separate species seeming to stand by 
itself. It seems as if the preacher were expected to 
determine each week what kind of sermon the next 
9 



130 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Sunday was to enjoy and set himself deliberately to 
produce it. It may be well, but I say frankly that 
to my mind the sermon seems a unit and that no 
sermon seems complete that does not include all these « - 
elements, and that the attempt to make a sermon of 
one sort alone mangles the idea and produces a one- 
sided thing. One element will preponderate in every 
sermon according to the nature of the subject that is 
treated, and the structure of the sermon will vary 
according as you choose to announce for it a topic or 
to make it a commentary upon some words of Christ 
or His apostles. But the mere preponderance of one 
element must not exclude the others, and the dif- 
ference of forms does not really make a difference of 
sermons. The preaching which is wholly exposition 
men are apt to find dull and pointless. It is heat 
lightning that quivers over many topics but strikes 
nowhere. The preaching that is the discussion of a 
topic may be interesting, but it grows unsatisfactory 
because it does not fasten itself to the authority of 
Scripture. It tempts the preacher's genius and in- 
vention but is apt to send people away with a feeling 
that they have heard him more than they have heard 
God. The sermon which only argues is almost sure ' 
to argue in vain, and the sermon which only exhorts 
is like a man who blows the wood and coal to which 
he has not first put a light. Either is incomplete 
alone; but to supplement each by the other in 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 131 

another sermon is certainly a very crude, imperfect 
way to meet the difficulty. It is better to start by 
feeling that every sermon must have a solid rest on 
Scripture, and the pointedness which comes of a clear 
subject, and the conviction which belongs to well- 
thought argument, and the warmth that proceeds 
from earnest appeal. I spoke of vagueness as the 
fault that most of all attended what is ordinarily 
called expository preaching. Besides this, there is 
the other fault of narrow view. I know that fault 
does not belong to it of necessity. I know that the 
expositor may refuse to become the mere ingenious 
interpreter of texts and the distiller of partial doc- 
trines out of one petal of a great book or argument 
which is a symmetrical flower. He may insist on 
taking in the purpose of the whole Epistle as he com- 
ments upon one isolated chapter. He may claim light 
from the manifold radiance of the whole New Testa- 
ment to let him see the meaning of a doubtful verse. 
But we all know the danger of the mere expositor of 
any book, whether that book be Shakespeare or the 
Bible. There is no reason why, in the Bible as in u 
Shakespeare, the minute study of parts should not 
be dangerous to the conception of the whole. The 
same powers and the same weaknesses of the humane 
mind are present in the sacred study as in what we 
call the profane study. The escape is not in the 
abandonment of minute and faithful study, but in the 



132 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

careful preservation of the larger purpose and spirit 
of the work. Our literature abounds in illustrations 
of the difference. Compare the noble and vivid 
pages of Dean Stanley's " Jewish Church " with the 
labor of the ordinary textual commentator, and which 
is the true expositor of the Old Testament? The 
larger view in which the poetry and the essential 
truth resides comes in the attempt to grasp the topic 
of the whole. And so that preaching which most 
harmoniously blends in the single sermon all these 
varieties of which men make their classifications, the 
preaching which is strong in its appeal to authority, 
wide in its grasp of truth, convincing in its appeal to 
reason, and earnest in its address to the conscience 
and the heart, all of these at once, that preaching 
comes nearest to the type of the apostolical epistles, 
is the most complete and so the most powerful ap- 
proach of truth to the whole man, and so is the kind 
of preaching which, with due freedom granted to our 
idiosyncracies, it is best for us all to seek and edu- 
cate. 

There is indeed another classification of sermons 
which often occurs to me and which I think is not 
without its use. It belongs not to the mere form 
which a sermon takes, but to the side on which it ap- 
proaches and undertakes to convince the human mind. 
Every reality of God may be recognized by us in its 
oeauty, its righteousness, or its usefulness. I may see, 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 133 

for instance, of God's justice either the absolute beauty 
of it, may stand in awe before it as the perfect utter- 
ance of the perfect nature, may desire to come near 
to it as the most majestic thing in the whole universe, 
may love it solely for itself. Or I may be possessed 
with the relations which it holds to my own moral nat- 
ure. It may impress me not so much as a quality in 
God as a relationship between God's life and mine. It 
may fill me with a sense of sin, make me realize temp- 
tation and stir the depths of moral struggle in my life. 
Or yet again, I may realize that justice as the regu- 
lative power of the universe, see how conformity to it 
means peace and prosperity from centre to circum- 
ference of this vast order. I may rejoice in it not 
for what it is but for what it does. Of these three 
conceptions of God's justice, one appeals to the soul 
and its intuitions of eternal fitness, the second to the 
conscience and its knowledge of right and wrong, the 
third to the practical instinct with its love of visible 
achievement. Now here we have the suggestions of 
three different sermons. The message which we have 
to bring is the same message, but we bring it to three 
different doors of the same manhood which it desires 
to enter. And one preacher will bring his message 
oftenest to one door, appealing mostly in his sermons 
to the soul, or to the conscience, or to the practical 
Bense. And one congregation or one generation will 
have one door more open than the others, its circum- 



134 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

stances in some way making it most approachable 
upon that side. Here is the free room for the per- 
sonal differences of men to play within the great unity 
of the sermon idea. Among the great French preach- u 
ers there has always been drawn an evident distinc- 
tion corresponding very nearly to this which I have 
defined. Masillon is the interpreter of the religious in- 
stinct, speaking to the heart. Bossuet is the preacher 
of dogma, appealing to the conscience. Bourdaloue 
is the preacher of morality, addressing himself to rea- 
son. Either of these sermons may be of the expos- 
itory or of the topical sort. All of them are able to 
bring Christ in some one of his offices to men, as 
Priest, Prophet, or King. Each of them is capable of 
blending with another. There is no such distinction 
between them that we may not find a great sermon 
here and there where the three are met, and where 
Christ in His completeness as the satisfaction of the 
loving heart, as the convicter and guide of the awak- 
ened conscience, and as the hope and inspiration of a 
laboring humanity, is perfectly set forth. According 
to the largeness of your own Christian life will be 
your power to preach that largest sermon. Only I 
beg you to remember in what different ways sermons 
may all be messages of the Lord. Let it save you 
from the monotonous narrowness of one eternally re- 
peated sermon. And, what is far more important, 
let it keep you from ever daring to say with cruel v 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 135 

flippancy of some brother who brings his message to 
another door of humanity from you,* that he " does 
not preach Christ." 

The best sermon of any time is that time's best 
utterance. More than its most ingenious invention or 
its most highly organized government, it declares the 
point which that time has reached. So I think that 
a man's best sermon is the best utterance of his life. 
It embodies and declares him. If it is really his, it 
tells more of him than his casual intercourse with his 
friends, or even the revelations of his domestic life. 
If it is really God's message through him, it brings 
him out in a way that no other experience of his life 
has power to do, as the quality of the trumpet de-* 
clares itself more clearly when the strong man blows 
a blast for battle through it than when a child whis- 
pers into it in play. Remember this, experience it in 
yourself, and then, when you hear your brother 
preach, honor the work that he is doing and listen as 
reverently as you can to hear through him some voice 
of God. They say that brother ministers make the 
most critical and least responsive hearers. I have not 
found them so. I have found them always fullest of 
sympathy. It would be much to their discredit and 
excite serious suspicions of their work if their mere 
familiarity with its details made them less ready to 
feel its spirit and to submit to its power. It is not 
so. Do not begin by thinking that it is so, and you 
will not find it so. 



136 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

I should like to devote part of what time remains 
to-day to some suggestions about the true subjects of 
sermons. I used a few minutes ago the phrase 
"preaching Christ;" and, without cant, it is Christ 
that we are to preach. But what is Christ ? " The 
saving power of the world," we say. Where is His 
power then to reach? Wherever men are wrong 
wherever men are capable of being better ; wherever^ 
His authority and love can make them better 
Wherever the abundance of sin has gone there the 
abundance of grace must go. There you and I, as 
ministers of grace, are bound to carry it. I confess i 
that at the very first statement of it this idea of/ 
Christ opens to me a range of the subjects, with which 
it is the preacher's duty and right to deal, which seema 
to have no limit. 

But let us go more into particulars. We hear to- 
day a great deal about how desirable it is that the 
pulpit, partly because it is and partly that it may 
more fully be, a power, should deal more directly 
than it does with the special conditions of the time, 
with the special vices, and the special needs of the 
days in which we live. It is urged that we ought to 
hear more often than we do now from our preachers 
concerning the right use of wealth, concerning the 
extravagance of society, concerning impurity and li- 
centiousness, concerning the prevalent lack of thor- 
oughness in our hurried life, concerning political 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 137 

corruption and misrule. I believe the claim is abso- » 
kitely right. I believe no powerful pulpit ever held 
aloof from the moral life of the community it lived 
in, as the practice of many preachers, and the theory 
of some, would make our pulpit separate itself and 
confine its message to what are falsely discriminated 
as spiritual things. But with regard to this interest 
of the pulpit in the moral conditions of the day, while 
I most heartily and even enthusiastically assert its 
necessity, I want to make one or two suggestions.. 
The first is, that nowhere more than here ought the 
personal differences of ministers to be regarded. Some 
men's minds work abstractly, and others work con- 
cretely. One man sees sin as an awful, all-pervading 
spiritual presence ; another cannot recognize sin un- 
less he sees it incarnated in some special vicious act, 
which some man is doing here in his own town. One 
man owns holiness as an unseen spirit ; to another, 
holiness is vague, but good deeds strike his enthusi- 
asm and stir him to delight and imitation. Now, 
neither of these men must ask the other man to 
preach just in his way. The first man must not call 
the second a " mere moralist ; " the second must not 
answer back by calling his accuser a pietist. Grant- 
ing that the preacher must attack the special sins 
around him, it is not true that every preacher, be the 
nature of his genius what it may, must be goaded and 
driven to it. It is good for us that there should be 



138 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

Borne men to preach, as it would not be well that all 
men should preach, of truth in its pure, invariable 
essence, and of duty in its primary idea, as it issues 
a yet undivided stream from the fountain of the will 
of God. 

But again, the method in which the pulpit ought 
Ito approach the topics of the time is even more im- 
jportant. It seems to me to be involved, if we can 
find it there, in the perfectly commonplace and fa- 
miliar statement that the visible, moral conditions of 
any life, or any age, are only symptoms of spiritual 
conditions which are the essential thing. But what 
is the meaning and value of a symptom ? Are there 
not two ? A symptom is valuable, first as a sign and 
test of inward processes which it is impossible to ob- 
serve directly, and it has a secondary value under the 
law of reaction, by which a wise restraint applied to 
the result may often tend to weaken and help destroy 
the cause. How then are symptoms to be treated ? 
Always with reference to the unseen conditions which 
they manifest. They are to be examined as tests of 
what these conditions are, and they are to be acted 
upon, not for themselves, but in the hope of reaching 
those conditions in behind them. Apply all this. 
You and I are preachers in the midst of a corrupt 
community. All kinds of evil practices are rife 
around us. We know — it is the first truth of the 
religion which we preach — that these evil practices • 



THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 139 

are not the real essential evil. It is the heart 
estranged from God, the soul gone wrong, the unseen 
springs of manhood out of order, upon which one eye 
is always fastened, and to which alone we know the 
remedy can be applied. What have we then to do 
with these evil practices, which we see only as the 
outward and visible signs of an inward and spiritual 
disgrace ? Just what I said above : First, honestly 
treat them as tests ; honestly own that, so long as 
these exist and wherever these exist, the spiritual 
condition is not right ; frankly admit of any man, 
whatever his professions of emotional experience, 
whatever he believes, whatever he " feels," that if he 
does bad things he is not a good man. So cordially 
put the spiritual processes of which you preach within 
the judgment of all men who know a good life from 
a bad one. And in the second place strike at the 
symptom always for the sake of the disease. Aimjit 
all kinds of vicious acts. Rebuke dishonesty, licen- 
tiousness, drunkenness, cruelty, extravagance, but al- 
ways strike in the interest of the soul to which you 
are a messenger, of which your Master has given you 
part of the care. Never let men feel that you and^ 
your gospel would be satisfied with mere decency, 
With the putting down of all vicious life that left the 
vicious character still strong behind. Surely such a 
protest against vice as this ought to be far more earn- 
est, more uncompromising, more self-sacrificing than 



(USI7BESIT7) 



140 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

one that worked on lower motives and took shorter 
views. It can make no concessions. It str ikes at all 
vices alike. It will not merely try to exchange one 
vice for another. It will hate vices more deeply in 
proportion as it realizes the depth of sin. 

Do not these two methods of dealing with all 
symptoms describe the true attitude of the Christian 
preacher toward the evident vicious practices by 
which he is surrounded ? Conceiving of them thus, 
he is neither the abstract religionist devoted to the 
fostering of certain spiritual conditions, heedless of 
how they show their worth or worthlessness in the 
moral life which they produce ; nor is he the enlight- 
ened economist, weighing with anxious heart the evil 
of sins, but knowing nothing of the sinfulness of sin 
from which they come. He is the messenger of 
Christ to the soul of man always. His sermon about 
temperance, or the late election, or the wickedness of 
oppression, is not an exception, an intrusion in the 
current of that preaching which is always testifying 
of the spiritual salvation. He is ready to speak on 
any topic of the day, but his sermon is not likely to 
be mistaken for an article from some daily news- 
paper. It looks at the topic from a loftier height, 
traces the trouble to a deeper source, and is not sat^ 
isfied except with a more thorough cure. 
\ I do not know of any other principles th 
which can be applied to the somewhat disputed ques- 



y 



v 




THE IDEA OF THE SERMON. 141 

tion of political preaching. These seem to me suffi- 
cient. I despise, and call upon you to despise all 
the weak assertions that a minister must not preach 
politics because he will injure his influence if he 
does, or because it is unworthy of his sacred office. 
The influence that needs such watching may well be 
allowed to die, and, the more sacred the preacher's 
office is, the more he is bound to care for all the in- 
terests of every child of God. But apply the prin- 
ciples which I laid down, and I think we have a bet- 
texrule. See in the political condition the indication l- 
of thexnation's spiritual state, and aim in all you say 
about public affairs, not simply at securing order and 
peace, but at making good men, who shall constitute 
a u holy nation." The first result of the application 
of these principles will be that only a true moral is- 
sue will provoke your utterance. You will not turn 
the pulpit into a place whence you can throw out 
your little scheme for settling a party quarrel or se- 
curing a party triumph. But when some clear ques- 
tion of right and wrong presents itself, and men with 
some strong passion or sordid interest are going 
wrong, then your sermon is a poor, untimely thing if 
it deals only with the abstractions of eternity, and 
has no word to help the men who are dizzied with the 
whirl, and blinded with the darkness of to-day. It 
was good to be a minister during the war of the Re- 
bellion. A clear, strong, moral issue stood out plain, 



142 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

and the preacher had his duty as sharply marked as 
the soldiers. That is not the case in the same clear 
way now. It will not ordinarily be so. But still, the 
ordinary talk about ministers not having any power 
in politics is not true. In a land like ours, where 
the tone of the people is of vast value in public af- ! 
fairs, the preachers who have so much to do in the 
creation of the popular tone must always have their 
part in politics. 

I close this lecture with three suggestions, on which 
I had meant to dwell at large, but I have used up all 
my time. 

You never can make a sermon what it ought to be 
if you consider it alone. The service that accompa- 
nies it, the prayer and praise, must have their influ- 
ence upon it. 

The sermon must never set a standard which it is 
not really meant that men should try to realize in 
life. 

No sermon to one's own people can ever be con- 
ceived as if it were the only one. It must be part 
of a long culture, working with all the others. 

And yet, in spite of all these definitions and sug- 
gestions, I beg you to go away believing that the 
idea of the sermon is not a complicated, but a very 
simple thing. 



to 



- v^^ t ^± c^)u\<iZ 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 



AM to speak to you to-day about the making of a 
-*- sermon, and if you compare their titles you will see 
in what relation this lecture and the last stand to 
each other, for the make of a sermon must always be 
completely dependent upon the idea of a sermon. 
The idea is perfectly supreme. It is the formative 
power to which all accidents must bow. If any rule 
of the composition or form contradicts the idea, it is 
rebellious and must be sacrificed without a scruple. 
I have heard sermons where it was evident that some 
upstart rule of form was in rebellion against the essen- 
tial idea and the idea was not strong enough to put 
the rebellion down, and the result was that the ser- 
mon, like a country in the tumult of rebellion, had 
neither peace nor power. What I say to-day then is 
in subordination to what I said before. Any law of 
execution which I may lay down that is inconsistent 
with the idea and purpose of preaching is an intruder 
ind must be thrust aside. 

The elements which determine the make of any 
particular sermon are three, the preacher, the mate- 



144 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

rial, and the audience; just as the character of any 
battle is determined by three elements, the gun (in- 
cluding the gunner), the ammunition, and the fortress 
against which the attack is make. The reason why a 
sermon preached last Sunday in the Church of St. 
John Lateran at Rome differed from the sermon 
preached in the First Congregational Church of New 
Haven must have been partly that the preacher was 
a different sort of man, partly that the truth which 
he wanted to preach was different, partly that the 
man he wished to touch and influence was different, 
at least in his conception. Make these three ele- 
ments exactly alike, and all sermons must be per- 
fectly identical. It is because these three elements 
are never exactly the same, and yet there always is a 
true resemblance, that we have all sermons unlike one 
another and yet a certain similarity running through 
them all. No two men are precisely similar, or think 
of truth alike, or see the men to whom they speak in 
the same light. Consequently the make of every 
man's sermons must be different from the make of 
every other man's. Nay, we may carry this farther. 
No live man at any one moment is just the same as 
himself at any other moment, nor does he see truth 
always alike, nor do men always look to him the 
same ; and therefore in his sermons there must be the 
same general identity combined with perpetual vari- 
ety which there is in his life. His sermons will be 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 145 

all like and yet unlike each other. And the making 
of every sermon, while it may follow the same general 
rules, will be a fresh and vital process, with the zest 
and freedom of novelty about it. This is the first 
thing that I wish to say. Establish this truth in 
your minds and then independence comes. Then you 
can stand in the right attitude to look at rules of ser- 
mon making which come out of other men's experi- 
ence. You can take them as helpful friends and not 
as arrogant masters. I wish that not merely in ser- 
mon writing but in all of life we could all come to 
understand that independence and the refusal to imi- 
tate and repeat other people's lives may come from 
true modesty as well as from pride. To be independ- 
ent of man's dictation is simply to declare that we 
must live the special life which God has marked out 
for us and which he has indicated in the special 
powers which we discover in ourselves. We are fit 
for no other life. There can be nothing more modest 
than that. It is not pride when the beech-tree re- ^i* • 
fuses to copy the oak. He knows his limitations. 
The only chance of any healthy life for him is to be 
as full a beech-tree as he can. Apply all that, and 
out of sheer modesty refuse to try to be any kind of 
preacher which God did not make you to be. 

The lack of flexibility in the preacher, resulting in 
the lack of variety in the sermon, has very much to 
do with our imperfect education. The true result of 
10 



146 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

education is to develop in the individual that of which 
I have been speaking, the clear consciousness of iden- 
tity together with a wide range of variety. The 
really educated man will be always distinctly himself, 
and yet never precisely the same that he was at any 
other moment. His personality will be trained both 
in the persistency of its central stock and in its sus- 
ceptibility and responsiveness to manifold impres- 
sions. He will have at once a stronger stand and a 
wider play of character. But an uneducated man 
will be either monotonously and doggedly the same, 
or else full of fickle alteration. The defects of our 
education are seen in the way in which it sometimes 
produces the narrow and obstinate specialist, some- 
times the vague and feeble amateur in many works, 
but not often the strong man who has at once clear 
individuality and wide range of sympathy and action, 
This is the kind of man that the preacher above all 
ought to be. Education alone, thorough education, 
nothing but true, wise, devoted study can make him 
so. Education alone gives a man at once a good stand 
and a good outlook. It is the Frenchman's rule for 
fencing, "Bon pied, bon ceil," a good foot and a good 
eye. As I begin to speak to you about literary style 
and homiletical construction, I cannot help once more 
urging upon you the need of hard and manly study ; 
not simply the study of language and style itself, but 
study in its broader sense, the study of truth, of his- 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 147 

tory, of philosophy ; for no man can have a richly 
stored mind without its influencing the style in which 
he writes and speaks, making it at once thoroughly 
his own, and yet giving it variety and saving it from 
monotony. I suppose the power of an uneducated 
man like Mr. Moody is doing something to discredit 
the necessity of study among ministers and to tempt 
men to rely upon spontaneousness and inspiration. I 
.honor Mr. Moody, and rejoice in much of the work 
that he is doing, but if his success had really this 
effect it would be a very serious deduction from its 
value. When you see such a man, you are to con- 
sider both his exceptionalness and his limitations. In 
some respects he is a very remarkable and unusual 
man, and therefore not a man out of whom ordinary 
men can make a rule. And his work, valuable as it 
is, stops short at a clear line. He leaves undone what 
nothing but an educated ministry can do, and he who 
is most filled with thankfulness and admiration at that 
man's career ought to go the more earnestly to his 
books to try to be such a preacher as can help fulfil 
the work which the great revivalist begins. 

Every preacher's sermon style then ought to be his 
own ; that is the first principle of sermon making. 
" The style is the man," said Buffon. Only we must 
remember that the man is not something invariable. 
He is capable of improvement. He is something dif- 
ferent when he is filled with knowledge and affection 



148 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

and enthusiasm, from what he was in his first empti- 
ness. The practical conclusion then that will come 
from our first principle will not be simply that every 
preacher is to accept himself just as he finds himself, 
and hope for nothing better ; but rather this, that style 
is capable of indefinite cultivation, only that its main 
cultivation must come through the cultivation of the 
man; not by mere critical discipline of language, 
which at the best can only produce correctness, but 
by lifting the whole man to a more generous and ex- 
alted life, which is the only thing that can make a 
style truly noble. I think, indeed, that the question, 
as to wherein lies the power of a sermon style, corre- 
sponds very largely with the question about the inspi- 
ration of the Scriptures. Various ideas have prevailed 
about the point in which was lodged that quality of 
the Bible which makes us separate it from other books 
and talk about it as inspired. One idea of inspira- 
tion puts it in the language, and supposes each word 
to be a dictation of the Holy Ghost. Another idea 
puts it in the writer and supposes, with a profounder 
philosophy, that the power of exalted and truthful 
utterance was a truthful and exalted soul. Another 
idea puts it in the material. The history itself was 
full of God, and when men wrote that God-filled his- 
tory their writings were different from other men's, 
more full of the divine atmosphere, because of the 
strange divine character of the things they wrote 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 149 

about. And so the sermon comes forth peculiar. 
Wherein does its peculiarity reside ? Is it that a cer- 
tain language, certain forms of speech, belong there 
which do not belong to other literature ? Is it that 
the sermon writer is in a condition and an attitude 
that no other man ever quite assumes ? Is it that 
the subjects with which the sermon deals are more 
solemn, and more touching, more divine than any 
others ? No doubt all three ideas are true in their 
degrees, but no doubt, also, he who looks to the deep- 
est truth in the matter will get the deeper power. 
He who aspires to the strength of truth and charac- 
ter will be a stronger man than he who tries to pre- 
vail by the finish and completeness of his language. 



The history of a particular sermon begins with the 
selection of a topic. Ordinarily, except in purely ex- 
pository preaching, that comes before the selection of 
a text. And the ease and readiness of this selection 
depends upon the richness of a man's own life, and 
the naturalness of his conception of a sermon. I can 
conceive of but two things which should cause the 
preacher any difficulty in regard to the abundance of 
subjects for his preaching. The first is a sterility of 
his own mind ; the second is a stilted and unnatural 
idea of what the sermon he is going to write must 
be. Let the man's own mind be everywhere else ex- 
cept upon the things of God, let his own spiritual life 



150 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

be meagre and unsuggestive, let him feel no develop- 
ing power in his own experience, and I can see him 
sitting in despair, or hurrying hither and thither in 
distraction, as the day approaches when he must talk 
of something, and he has nothing of which to talk. 
Or let him once get the idea that every sermon, or 
that any particular sermon, is to be a great sermon, 
a "pulpit-effort," as the dreadful epithet runs, and 
again he is all lost. Which of these quiet, simple, 
practical themes that offer themselves is suitable to 
bear the aspirations and contortions of his eloquence ? 
The first of the difficulties I say no more about, only 
because I seem to have talked to you of nothing else 
than the way in which there must be a man behind 
every sermon, though, indeed, I do think that the 
most important, I had almost said the only important 
thing in this matter of learning to preach. But I say 
no more of that just now. This other matter let me 
dwell on for a moment. The notion of a great ser- 
mon, either constantly or occasionally haunting the 
preacher, is fatal. It hampers, as I said, the freedom 
of utterance. Many a true and helpful word which 
your people need, and which you ought to say to 
them, will seem unworthy of the dignity of your 
great discourse. Some poor exhorter coming along 
the next week, and saying it, will sweep the last 
recollection of your selfish achievement out of the 
minds of people. Never tolerate any idea of the dig- 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 151 

nity of a sermon which will keep you from saying 
anything in it which you ought to say, or which your 
people ought to hear. It is the same folly as making 
your chair so fine that you dare not sit down in it. 
There will come great, or at least greater sermons in 
every live minister's career, sermons which will stand 
out for vigor and beauty, distinctly above his ordi- 
nary work, but they will come without deliberation, 
the flowers of his ministry, the offspring of moments 
which found his powers at their best activity and 
him most regardless of effect. It is good and en- 
couraging, it helps one's faith in human nature, and 
it has an influence to keep us from the pulpit's beset- 
ting follies, when we see how universally the deliber- 
ate attempt to make great sermons fails. They never 
have the influence, and they very seldom win the 
praise that they desire. The sermons of which no- 
body speaks, the sermons which come from mind and 
heart, and go to heart and mind with as little con- 
sciousness as possible of tongue and ear, those are the 
sermons that do the work, that make men better men, 
and really sink into their affections. They are like 
the perfect days when no man says, " How fine it 
is ; " but when every man does his best work and 
feels most fully what a blessed thing it is to live. 

I think, too, that this wrong notion about sermons 
has led to a great deal of the bad talk which is run- 
ning about now among both clergymen and laymen 



152 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

about the excessive amount of preaching. " How is 
it possible," they say, " that any man should bring 
forth two strong, good sermons every week ? It is 
impossible. Let us have only one sermon every Sun- 
day ; and if the people will insist on coming twice to 
the church, let us cheat them with a little poor music 
and a ' few remarks,' and call it 4 vesper service,' or 
let us tell a few stories to the Sunday-school, and call 
it ' children's church ; ' but let us not preach twice to 
men and women. It is impossible." It is impossi- 
ble, if by a sermon you intend a finished oration. It 
is as impossible to produce that twice, as it is unde- 
sirable to produce it once a week. But that a man 
who lives with God, whose delight is to study God's 
words in the Bible, in the world, in history, in human 
nature, who is thinking about Christ, and man, and 
salvation every day, that he should not be able to 
talk about these things of his heart, seriously, lov- 
ingly, thoughtfully, simply, for two half hours every 
week, is inconceivable, and I do not believe it. Cast 
off the haunting incubus of the notion of great ser- 
mons. Care not for your sermon, but for your truth, 
and for your people ; and subjects will spring up on 
every side of you, and the chances to preach upon 
them will be all too few. I beg you not to fall into 
this foolish talk about too much preaching. It is not 
for us ministers to say that there is no need of more 
than one discourse a day. If you have anything to 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 153 

Bay, and say it bravely and simply, men will come to 
hear you. If you will preach as faithfully and 
thoughtfully at the second service as at the first, the 
second service will not be deserted. At any rate, it 
is our place to stand by our pulpits till men have de- 
serted us, and not, for the sake of saving our own 
credit, to shut the church doors while they are still 
ready to come and hear. 

But to return more closely to our subject; having 
settled in general what topics may be preached upon, 
how shall the topic for a single sermon, the sermon 
for next Sunday, be selected ? I answer that there 
are three principles which have a right to enter into 
the decision. They are the bent of the preacher's 
inclination, the symmetry and " scale " of all his 
preaching, and the peculiar needs of his people. I 
mention the three in the order in which they are apt 
to present themselves to the minister as he makes his 
choice. Reverse that order, begin with the last, and 
you have the elements of a right choice rightly ar- 
ranged. First comes the sympathetic and wise per- 
ception of what the people need ; not necessarily 
what they consciously want, though, remember, no 
more necessarily what they do not want. This per- 
ception is not the sudden result of an impression that 
has come from some lively conversation which has 
sprung up on a parish visit, not the desire to confute 
the cavil of some single captious disputant ; it is the 






154 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

aggregate effect of a large sympathetic intercourse; 
the fruit of a true knowledge of human nature, com- 
bined with a special knowledge of these special peo- 
ple, and a cordial interest in the circumstances under 
which they live. That evidently is no easy thing to 
win. It requires of a minister that timeliness and 
that breadth which it is very hard to find in union 
with each other. It is not something to be picked up 
in the easy intimacy of parochial visiting. It may be 
helped there, but it must be born of an alert mind, 
fully interested in the times in which it lives, and a 
devout soul really loving the souls with which it has 
to deal. 

The second element of choice, the desire to pre- 
serve a symmetry and proportion in our preaching, of 
course comes in to modify the action of the first. 
Not merely by our present perception of what people 
need, but in relation to our whole scheme of teach- 
ing, to what has gone before and what is to come 
after, the subject of next Sunday is to be selected. I 
have suggested to you in another lecture how great a 
help the ancient calendar of the church year is in 
this respect. The prolonged and connected course of 
sermons is a safeguard against mere flightiness and 
partialness in the choice of topics. The only serious 
danger about a course of sermons is, that where the 
serpent grows too long it is difficult to have the vital- 
ity distributed through all his length, and even to his 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 155 

last extremity. Too many courses of sermons start 
with a very vital head, that draws behind it by and 
by a very lifeless tail. The head springs and the tail 
crawls, and so the beast makes no graceful progress. 
I think that a set and formally announced course of 
sermons very seldom preserves both its symmetry and 
its interest. The system of long courses is apt to se- 
cure proportion at too great an expense of sponta- 
neity. The only sure means of securing the result 
is orderliness in the preacher's mind ; the grasp of 
Christian truth as a system, and of the Christian life 
as a steady movement of the whole nature through 
Christ to the Father. 

Then comes the third principle by which the choice 
is regulated, the principle that a man can preach best 
about what he at that moment wishes to preach 
about, the element of the preacher's own disposition. 
You can see why it should not be made the first ele- 
ment. I could tell you of pulpits which have sinned 
and failed by making it the first element. But you 
can see, also, why it must come in at least as the third 
element. It gives the freshness and joyousness and 
spring to the other two. You cannot think of a peo- 
ple listening with pleasure or vivacity to a sermon on 
a subject which they knew the minister thought they 
needed to hear about, and thought the time had come 
to preach about, but which they also knew that he 
did not care for, and did not want to preach upon. 



156 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The personal interest of the preacher is the buoyant 
air that fills the mass and lifts it. 

These three considerations then settle the sermon's 
topic. Evidently neither is sufficient by itself. The 
sermon preached only with reference to the people's 
needs is heavy. The sermon preached for symmetry is 
formal. The sermon preached with sole reference to 
the preacher's wish, is whimsical. The constant con- 
sideration of all three makes preaching always strong 
and always fresh. When all three urgently unite to 
settle the topic of some special sermon I do not 
see why we may not prepare that sermon in a solemn 
exhilaration, feeling sure that it is God's will that we 
should preach upon that topic then ; and, when it is 
written, go forth with it on Sunday to our pulpit, 
declaring, almost with the certainty of one of the old 
prophets, — u The Word of the Lord came unto me, 
saying." 

Let me add this, that the meeting of these various 
elements of choice is clearest when the selection is 
most deliberate. Always have the topic of your ser- 
mon in your mind as long as possible before you begin 
your preparation. Whatever else is hasty and extem- 
poraneous, let it not be your decision as to what you 
will preach about. 

The subject chosen, next will come the special prep- 
aration for the sermon. This ought to consist mostly 
in bringing together, and arranging, and illuminating, 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 157 

a knowledge of the subject and thought about it 
which has already been in the possession of the 
preacher. I think that the less of special preparation 
that is needed for a sermon, the better the sermon is. 
The best sermon would be that whose thoughts, 
though carefully arranged, and lighted up with every 
illustration that could make them clearer for this 
special appearance, were all old thoughts, familiar to 
the preacher's mind, long a part of his experience. 
Here is suggested, as you see, a clear and important 
difference between two kinds of preachers. One 
preacher depends for his sermon on special reading. 
Each discourse is the result of work done in the 
week in which it has been written. All his study 
is with reference to some immediately pressing oc- 
casion. Another preacher studies and thinks with far 
more industry, is always gathering truth into his 
mind, but it is not gathered with reference to the 
next sermon. It is truth sought for truth's sake, and 
for that largeness and ripeness and fullness of char- 
acter which alone can make him a strong preacher. 
Which is the better method ? The latter beyond all 
doubt. In the first place, the man of special prepa- 
rations is always crude ; he is always tempted to take 
up some half considered thought that strikes him in 
the hurry of his reading, and adopt it suddenly, and 
Bet it before his people, as if it were his true convic- 
tion. Many a minister's old sermons are scattered all 



158 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

over with ideas which he never held, but which once 
held him for a week, like the camps in other men's 
forests where a wandering hunter has slept for a 
single night. The looseness and falseness, the weak- 
ening of the essential sacredness of conviction which 
must come from years of such work, any one may see. 
And in the second place the immediate preparation 
for a sermon is something that the people always feel. 
They know the difference between a sermon that has 
been crammed, and a sermon which has been thought 
long before, and of which only the form, and the illus- 
trations, and the special developments, and the appli- 
cation of the thought, are new. Some preachers are 
always preaching the last book which they have read, 
and their congregations always find it out. The feel- 
ing of superficialness and thinness attaches to all they 
do. The exegesis of a passage which the man never 
thought of till he began to preach about it may be 
clever and suggestive, but it inspires no confidence. 
I do not rest on it with even that amount of assurance 
which the same man's careful study would inspire. 
It is got up for the occasion. It is like a politician's 
opinions just before election. But the strongest rea- 
son for the rule which I am stating comes from the 
very nature of the sermon on which I have dwelt 
so much. The sermon is truth and man together ; 
it is the truth brought through the man. The per- 
tonal element is essential. Now the truth which the 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 159 

preacher has gathered on Friday for the sermon 
which he preaches on Sunday, has come across the 
man, but it has not come through the man. It has 
never been wrought into his experience. It comes 
weighted and winged with none of his personal life. 
If it is true, it is a book's truth, not a man's truth 
that we get. It does not make a full real sermon. 

If I am right in this idea, then it will follow that 
the preacher's life must be a life of large accumula- 
tion. He must not be always trying to make ser- 
mons, but always seeking truth and out of the truth 
which he has won the sermons will make themselves. 
I can remember how, before I began to preach, every 
book I read seemed to spring into a sermon. It 
seemed as if one could read nothing without sitting 
down instantly and turning it into a discourse. But 
as I began and went on preaching, the sermons that 
came of special books became less and less satisfac- 
tory and more and more rare. Some truth which 
one has long known, stirred to peculiar activity by 
something that has happened or by contact with 
some other mind, makes the best sermon ; as the 
best dinner comes not from a hurried raid upon the 
caterer's, but from the resources of a constantly well- 
furnished house. Constant quotations in sermons 
are, I think, a sign of the same crudeness. They 
show an undigested knowledge. They lose the 
power of personality. They daub the wall with un* 



160 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tempered mortar. Here is the need of broad and 
generous culture. Learn to study for the sake of 
truth, learn to think for the profit and the joy of 
thinking. Then your sermon shall be like the leaping 
of a fountain and not like the pumping of a pump. 

For over six hundred years now it has been the 
almost unavailable custom of Christian preachers to 
take a text from Scripture and associate their 
thoughts more or less strictly with that. For the 
first twelve Christian centuries there seems to have 
been no such prevailing habit. This fact ought to 
be kept in mind whenever the custom of a text shows 
any tendency to become despotic or to restrain in 
any way the liberty of prophesying. At the present 
day there can be no doubt that the change in the 
way of considering the Bible which belongs to our 
times has had an influence upon our feeling with re- 
gard to texts and our treatment of them. The unity 
of the Bible, the relation of its parts, its organic 
life, the essentialness of every part and yet the dis- 
tinct difference in worth and dignity of the several 
parts, these are now familiar ideas as they were not 
a few years ago. There was a time when to many 
people the Bible stood, not merely a collection of 
various books, all equally the Word of God, all 
equally useful to men, but also as a succession of 
verses, all true, all edifying, all vital with the Gospel. 
& page of the Bible torn out at random and blown 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 161 

into some savage island seemed to have in it some 
power of salvation. The result of such a feeling 
was, of course, to clothe the single text with inde- 
pendent sacredness and meaning. It hardly mattered 
from what part of the Bible it might come. Solo- 
mon's Song and St. John's Gospel were preached 
from as if they taught the same truth with the same 
authority. The cynical author of the Ecclesiastes 
was made to utter the same message as the hopeful 
and faithful St. Paul. This is not the place to re- 
-count the causes for the change, nor to estimate its 
value or its dangers. Considered simply as it has 
affected the preacher's relation to the Bible I think 
there can be no doubt of the improvement it has 
brought. It has made the single text of less impor- 
tance. It has led men to desire an entrance into the 
heart and spirit of the Bible. It has made biblical 
study to consist, not in the weighing of text against 
text, but in the estimating of great streams of ten- 
dency, the following of great lines of thought, the 
apprehension of the spirit of great spiritual thinkers 
who " had the mind of Christ." The single verse is 
no longer like a jewel set in a wall which one mayj 
pluck out and carry off as an independent thing. It is 
a window by which we may look through the wall and 
see the richness it incloses. Taken out of its place 
it has no value. To enter thoroughly into the spirit 
of this new and better relation to the Bible seems to 
11 



162 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

me to be all that the preacher needs to guide him 
with reference to the selection and the use of texts. 
Make them always windows. Go up and look 
through them and then tell the people what you see. 
Keep them in their places in the wall of truth. I 
would not say that it is not good to use them, though 
certainly there may be true sermons without them. 
They are like golden nails to hold our preaching to 
the Bible. Whether the subject spring out of the 
text as stating the divine philosophy that underlies 
some Scripture incident, or the text spring out of the 
subject as describing some incident that illustrates 
divine philosophy, is unimportant. There are both 
kinds of sermons and both kinds are good. Only, as 
one rule that has no exceptions, let your use of texts 
be real. Never make them mean what they do not 
mean. In the name of taste and reverence alike, let 
there be no twists and puns, no dealing with the 
word of God as it would be insulting to deal with the 
word of any friend. The Bible has suffered in the 
hands of many Christian preachers what the block 
of wood which the savage chooses for his idol suffers 
from its worshipper. The same selection which con- 
secrates it as more sacred than other blocks of wood 
condemns it also to have all his ugly fancies and fan- 
tastic conceits painted and carved upon it. It is the 
most sacred and most hideous block of wood in the 
village. So the sacredness of the Bible has subjected 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 163 

it to a usage that no other book has received. Such 
a fantastic and irreverent way of manifesting our 
reverence has lasted too long. It is time that it were 
stopped. I beg you to do what you can to stop it. 
At least make your own use of the Bible reverent 
and true. Never draw out of a text a meaning 
which you know is not there. If your text has not 
your truth in it, find some other text which has. If 
you can find no text for it in the Bible, then preach 
on something else. 

I pass on to a few remarks, which will be mere 
suggestions, about the style of sermons. The mat- 
ter will control the style if it is free. The object of 
every training of style is to make it so simple and 
flexible an organ that through it the moving and 
changing thought can utter itself freely. I pity any 
man who writes the same upon all topics. He is evi- 
dently a slave to himself. To be yourself, yet not to 
be haunted by an image of yourself to which you are 
continually trying to correspond, that is the secret of 
a style at once characteristic and free. I go to hear 
a preacher whose style is peculiarly his own, and very 
often indeed I find him a slave to his own peculiari- 
ties. He must not' think anything except what is 
capable of being said in a certain way. A true style is 
like a suit of the finest chain armor, so strong that the 
thought can go into battle with it, but so flexible that 
t can hold the pencil in its steel fingers for the most 



164 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

delicate painting. For the acquisition of such a style 
no labor is too great. I think that it is good for 
every minister to write something besides sermons, — - 
books, articles, essays, at least letters ; provided he 
has control of himself and still remains the preacher, 
and does not become an amateur in literature instead. 
If he can do it rightly, it frees him from the tyranny 
of himself, and keeps him in contact with larger 
standards. Some of our noblest thinkers fail of effect 
for want of an organ of utterance, a free pulpit style. 
The trouble with them, often, is that they never 
wrote anything but sermons. Indeed I do not think 
there is any such thing as a sermon-style proper. He. 
who can write other things well, give him the soul 
and purpose and knowledge of a preacher and he will 
write you a good sermon. But he who cannot write 
anything well cannot write a sermon well, although 
we often think he can. To him who has no literary 
skill all subjects are alike. If you cannot swim, it 
matters not whether there be twenty or forty feet of 
water. 

In a word then I should say, get facility of utter- 
ance where you can ; in part at least, outside of ser- 
mon writing. Make your style characteristic and 
forcible by never writing unless you have something 
that you really want to say ; then let the changes of 
your truth freely play within it and shape its special 
forms. A style which is really a man's own will 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 165 

grow as long as he grows. One of the best things 
about Macaulay's life is his belief that as a writer he 
was improving to the last. It belonged to that vital- 
ity of which the man and the writing were both so 
full. 

The range of sermon writing gives it a capacity of 
various vices which no other kind of composition can 
presume to rival. The minister may sin in the same 
sermon by grandiloquence and meanness, by exag- 
geration and inadequacy. He needs a many sided 
watchfulness, or rather a perfectly true literary nat- 
ure, in order that he may do what Roger Ascham 
so quaintly and tellingly sums up thus, " in Genere 
Sublimi to avoid Nimium, in Mediocri to atteyne 
Satis, in Humili to eschew Parum." The way that 
advises he to do it is to study Cicero. Certainly, 
stated more generally, the true way is to know first 
what style is for, that it is an instrument and not 
an end, and then as an instrument to perfect it by 
every noble intimacy and laborious practice. 

It would be impossible to speak of this matter of 
style without saying something of the danger of imi- 
tation and the way to guard against it. It is con- 
nected with that personalness of the work of preach- 
ng about which I have said so much. A successful 
preacher is not like a successful author. He stands 
out himself more prominently through his work. 
Men realize him more and feel in themselves the same 



166 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

powers by which he has succeeded. A mere finished 
result such as the author gives us in his book does 
not excite the desire of imitation like the sight of the 
process going on in personal action before us in the 
pulpit. This is the reason why those preachers whose 
power has in it the largest element of personality are 
the richest in imitators. There are some strong 
voices crying in the wilderness who fill the land with 
echoes. There are some preachers who have done 
noble work, of whom we are often compelled to ques- 
tion whether the work that they have accomplished 
is after all greater than the harm that they have in- 
nocently done by spoiling so many men in doing it. 
They have gone through the ministry, as a savage 
goes through the forest, blazing his way upon the 
trees that stand around him, so that you can tell as 
you travel through the land just where they have 
been by the tones of voice and the turns of sentences 
which they have left behind them. They leave their 
imitators behind them when they die, and in a sense 
which is not pleasant " being dead yet speak." Often 
the circle of one man's influence widens, growing 
feebler and feebler until it meets the wave that is 
spreading from another centre, another popular pul- 
pit, and only there they obliterate each other and 
calmness is restored and freedom to be oneself is re- 
asserted. 

The dangers of imitation are two — one positive, 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 167 

the other negative. There is evil in what you get 
from him whom you imitate and there is a loss of 
your own peculiar power. The positive evil comes 
from the fact that that which is worst in any man is 
always the most copiable. And the spirit of the copy- 
ist is blind. He cannot discern the real seat of the 
power that he admires. He fixes on some little thing 
and repeats that perpetually as if so he could get the 
essential greatness of his hero. There is a passage 
in Macaulay's diary which is full of philosophy. u I 
looked through ," he says. " He is, I see, an im- 
itator of me. But I am a very unsafe model. My 
manner is, I think, and the world thinks, on the 
whole a good one, but it is very near to a very bad 
manner indeed, and those clear characteristics of my 
style which are the most easily copied are the most 
questionable." All this is very true of ministers. 
There is hardly any good pulpit style among us which 
is not very near to a very bad style indeed, and the 
most prominent characteristics are very often the 
most questionable. The obtuseness of the imitator is 
amazing. I remember going years ago with an intel- 
ligent friend to hear a great orator lecture. The dis- 
course was rich, thoughtful, glowing, and delightful. 
As we came away my companion seemed meditative. 
By and by he said " Did you see where his power 
lay ? " I felt unable to analyze and epitomize in an 
instant such a complex result and meekly I said " No, 



UJTI7SRSIT 

fcv /* m B» ^ ft. 



a 



168 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

did you? "Yes," he replied briskly, "I watched 
hira and it is in the double motion of his hand. 
When he wanted to solemnize and calm and subdue 
us he turned the palm of his hand down ; when he 
wanted to elevate and inspire us he turned the palm 
of his hand up. That was it." And that was all the 
man had seen in an eloquent speech. He was no 
fool, but he was an imitator. He was looking for a 
single secret for a multifarious effect. I suppose he 
has gone on from that day to this turning his hand 
upside down and downside up and wondering that 
nobody is either solemnized or inspired. 

The negative evil of imitation, the loss of a man's 
own personal power is even more evident and more 
melancholy. If it were only the men who were inca- 
pable of any manner of their own that caught up 
other people's manners it would not be so bad, but 
often strong men do it. Men imitate others who are 
every way their inferiors and so some pretentious 
blockhead not merely gives us himself, but loses for 
us the simple and straightforward power of some bet- 
ter man, as a log of wood lodged just in the neck of 
the channel stops the water of a free, live stream. 

I am convinced that the only escape from the power 
of imitation when it has once touched us — and re- 
member it often touches us without our conscious- 
ness — you and I may be imitating other men to-day 
and not at all aware of it — lies in a deeper serious- 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 169 

ness about all our work. What we need is a fuller 
sense of personal responsibility and a more real rev- 
erence for the men who are greater than we are. 
Give a man real personal sense of his own duty and 
he must do it in his own way. The temptation of 
imitation is so insidious that you cannot resist it by 
the mere determination that you will not imitate. 
You must bring a real self of your own to meet this 
intrusive self of another man that is crowding in upon 
you. Cultivate your own sense of duty. The only 
thing that keeps the ocean from flowing back into 
the river is that the river is always pouring down 
into the ocean. And again, if you really reverence 
a great man, if you look up to and rejoice in his good 
work, if you truly honor him, you will get at his 
spirit, and doing that you will cease to imitate his 
outside ways. You insult a man when you try to 
catch his power by moving your arms or shaping 
your sentences like his, but you honor him when 
you try to love truth and do God's will the better 
for the love and faithfulness which you see in him. 
So that the release from the slavery of superficial 
imitation must come not by a supercilious contempt, 
but by a profounder reverence for men stronger and 
more successful than yourself. 

With regard to the vexed question of written or 
unwritten sermons I have not very much to say. I 



170 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

think it is a question whose importance has been 
very much exaggerated, and the attempt to settle 
which with some invariable rule has been unwise, 
and probably has made stumbling speakers out of 
Borne men who might have been effective readers, or 
stupid readers out of men who might have spoken 
with force and fire. The different methods have their 
evident different advantages. In the written sermon 
the best part of the care is put in where it belongs, 
in the thought and construction of the discourse. 
There is deliberateness. There is the assurance of 
industry and the man's best work. The truth comes 
to the people with the weight that it gets from being 
evidently the preacher's serious conviction. There is 
self-restraint. There is some exemption from those 
foolish fluent things that slip so easily off of the ready 
tongue. The writer is spared some of those de- 
spairing moments which come to the extemporaneous 
speaker when a wretched piece of folly escapes him 
which he would give anything to recall but cannot, 
and he sees the raven-like reporters catch the silly 
morsel as it drops. Whatever may be said about the 
duty of labor upon extemporaneous discourses, the 
advantage in point of faithfulness will no doubt al- 
ways be with the written sermon. King Charles the 
Second used to call the practice of preaching from 
manuscript which had arisen during the civil wars, 
"this slothful way of preaching," but he was com- 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 171 

paring it probably with the method of preaching by 
memory, the whole sermon being first written and 
then learnt by heart, — a method which some men 
practice, but which I hope nobody commends. On 
the other hand, the extemporaneous discourse has the 
advantage of alertness. It gives a sense of liveliness. 
It is more immediately striking. It possesses more 
activity and warmth. It conveys an idea of steadi- 
ness and readiness, of poise and self-possession, even 
to the most rude perceptions. Men have an admira- 
tion for it, as indicating a mastery of powers and an 
independence of artificial helps. A rough backwoods- 
man in Virginia heard Bishop Meade preach an ex- 
temporaneous sermon, and, being somewhat unfamil- 
iar with the ways of the Episcopal Church, he said 
" He liked him. He was the first one he ever saw of 
those petticoat fellows that could shoot without a 
rest." 

It is easy thus to characterize the two methods ; 
but, when our characterizations are complete, what 
shall we say ? Only two things, I think, and those 
so simple and so commonplace that it is strange that 
they should need to be said, but certainly they do. 
The first is, that two such different methods must be- 
long in general to two different kinds of men ; that 
some men are made for manuscripts, and some for the 
open platform ; that to exclude either class from the 
ministry, or to compel either class to use the methods 



172 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

of the other, would rob the pulpit by silencing some 
of its best men. The other remark is that almost 
every man, in some proportion, may use both meth- 
ods ; that they help each other ; that you will write 
better if you often speak without your notes, and you 
will speak better if you often give yourself the disci- 
pline of writing. Add to these merely that the pro- 
portion of extemporaneous preaching may well be in- 
creased as a man grows older in the ministry, and I 
do not know what more to say in the way of general 
suggestion. The rest must be left to a man's own 
knowledge of himself and that personal good sense 
which lies behind all homiletics. 

But there is one thing which I want very much to 
urge upon you. The real question about a sermon is, 
not whether it is extemporaneous when you deliver 
it to your people, but whether it ever was extem- 
poraneous, — whether there ever was a time when 
the discourse sprang freshly from your heart and 
mind. The main difference in sermons is that some 
sermons are, and other sermons are not, conscious of 
an audience. The main question about sermons is, 
whether they feel their hearers. If they do, they are 
enthusiastic, personal, and warm. If they do not, 
they are calm, abstract, and cold. But that con- 
sciousness of an audience is something that may come 
into the preacher's study ; and if it does, his sermon 
springs with the same personalness and fervor there 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 173 

which it would get if he made it in the pulpit with 
the multitude before him. I think that every earnest 
preacher is often more excited as he writes, kindles 
more then with the glow of sending truth to men 
than he ever does in speaking ; and the wonderful 
thing is, that that fire, if it is really present in the 
sermon when it is written, stays there, and breaks 
out into flame again when the delivery of the sermon 
comes. The enthusiasm is stowed away and kept. 
It is like the fire that was packed away in the coal- 
beds ages ago and comes out now to give us its un- 
decayed and unwasted light. As you preach old ser- 
mons, I think you can always tell, even if the history 
of them is forgotten, which of them you wrote enthu- 
siastically, with your people vividly before you. The 
fire is in them still. Fe"nelon had a favorite maxim 
that anything which was truly written with enthu- 
siasm could be quickly learned even by some one else 
than its author. It is the same idea : that which 
once has true life in it never dies. Believe me, this 
is the most important principle about the matter. It 
differs, no doubt, in different subjects. Some kinds 
of discourses we can never write. They must be 
made as we deliver them. Others we may better 
write, if we can write with the people there before 
us. Some medicines you must mix on the spot ; 
others you may mix beforehand and they will keep 
their power. Only be sure that you are a true 



174 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

preacher, that you really feel your people, and the 
details of method may be settled by minute and 
personal considerations, — by your special fitness, in 
some degree even by your peculiar taste. I really 
think that you will be surprised to see how often this 
idea describes the secret of some power in a sermon 
which you have found it hard to discover while you 
have felt it very deeply. The minister who reads 
his manuscript had you with him as he wrote those 
pages. In the calm air of his study, sacred with the 
thought and prayer of years, nothing came in be- 
tween him and you ; and so the accidents of the 
paper and the reading amount to nothing. The ser- 
mon still speaks to you. But sometimes to an ex- 
temporaneous preacher his very extemporaneousness 
proves a dull, dead cloud, which wraps itself around 
him, and separates him from the people who are 
crowded up close about his feet. The struggles of 
thought are on him. He is busy with the choice of 
words. His mind is watching its own action as it 
seizes on thought after thought. There is a process 
of memory and a process of anticipation going on all 
the time which prevent his perfect occupation in the 
present act. He is forced to recollect himself, and so 
he does not feel the people. This, I am sure, is a 
true account of what is no unusual condition of the 
extemporaneous preacher's mind. I think that the 
best sermons that ever have been preached, taking 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 175 

all the qualities of sermons into account, have prob- 
ably been extemporaneous sermons, but that the num- 
ber of good sermons preached from manuscript have 
probably been far greater than the number of good 
sermons preached extemporaneously ; and he who 
can put those two facts together will arrive at some 
pretty clear and just idea of how it will be best for 
him to preach. 

Let me offer only a few suggestions upon one or 
two other points, and first, with regard to illustra- 
tions. The Christian sermon deals with all life, and 
may draw its illustrations from the widest range. 
The first necessity of illustration is that it should be 
true, that is, that it should have real relations to the 
subject which it illustrates. An illustration is prop- 
erly used in preaching either to give clearness or to 
give splendor to the utterance of truth. Both ob- 
jects, I believe, are legitimate. Ruskin says that 
" All noble ornament is the expression of man's de- 
light in God's work." And so I think that we con- 
fine too much the office of illustration if we give it 
only the duty of making truth clear to the under- 
standing, and do not also allow it the privilege of- 7 
making truth glorious to the imagination. Arch- 
bishop Whately's illustrations are of the first sort, 
Jeremy Taylor's of the second. The ornament that 
fills his sermons is almost always the expression of 
man's delight in God's truth. But both sorts of illus- 



176 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

tration, as you see, have this characteristic. They 
exist for the truth. They are not counted of value 
for themselves. That is the test of illustration which 
you ought to apply unsparingly. Does it call atten- 
tion to or call attention away from my truth ? If the 
latter, cut it off without a hesitation. The prettier 
it is, the worse it is. Here as everywhere the love of 
truth for itself is the only salvation. Love the truth, 
and then, for your people's good and for your own 
delight, make it as beautiful as you can. 

As to the subjects from which illustrations may be 
drawn, I cannot but think that it would be well if we 
made a much greater use of the history of the Old 
Testament to illustrate the Gospel of the New. And 
for these reasons : first, that the two have an essential 
connection with each other and so they come together 
with peculiar sympathy and fitness ; second, that the 
very antiquity of that history makes it timeless and 
passionless, as it were, and so enables us to use it 
purely as ornament or illustration, without the danger 
of its introducing side issues from its own life ; and 
thirdly, we should thus revive and preserve people's 
acquaintance with the Old Testament which is al- 
ways falling into decay. The second of these reasons 
shows where the weak spot is in the illustration 
drawn from the events of the current hour, which is 
otherwise so strong and vivid. It is difficult to make 
it serve purely as an illustration. It brings in its 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 177 

own associations and prejudices. It is to o alive. J t 
is as if you made the cornice of your house out of 
wood with so much life in it that it sprouted after it 
was up, and hid with its foliage the architecture which 
it was intended only to display. It was hard during 
the rebellion to illustrate the Christian warfare by 
the then familiar story of the soldier's life without 
hearing through the sermon the drums of the Poto- 
mac, and seeing the spires of Richmond quite as much 
as the walls of the New Jerusalem in the distance. 
Besides this, an over eagerness to catch the last sen- 
sation to decorate your sermon with, gives a certain 
cheapness to your pulpit work. With cautions such 
as these in mind, we cannot still afford to lose the 
freshness and reality which comes from letting men 
see the eternal truths shining through the familiar 
windows of to-day, and making them understand that 
the world is as full of parables as it was when Jesus 
painted the picture of the vineyard between Jerusa- 
lem and Shechem, or took his text from the recent 
terrible accident at Siloam. 

One prevalent impression about sermons, which 
prevails now in reaction from an old and disagreeable 
method, is, I think, mistaken. In the desire to make 
a sermon seem free and spontaneous there is a prev- 
alent dislike to giving it its necessary formal struct- 
ure and organism. The statement of the subject, 
the division into heads, the recapitalation at the end, 
12 



178 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

all the scaffolding and anatomy of a sermon is out of 
favor, and there are many very good jests about it. 
I can only say that I have come to fear it less and 
less. The escape from it must be not negative but 
positive. The true way to get rid of the bonyness 
of your sermon is not by leaving out the skeleton, 
but by clothing it with flesh. True liberty in writ- 
ing comes by law, and the more thoroughly the out- 
lines of your work are laid out the more freely your 
sermon will flow, like an unwasted stream between its 
well-built banks. I think that most congregations 
welcome, and are not offended by clear, precise state- 
ments of the course which a sermon is going to pur- 
sue, carefully marked division of its thoughts, and, 
above all, full recapitulation of its argument at the 
close. A sermon is not like a picture which, once 
painted, stands altogether before the eye. Its parts 
elude the memory, and it is good before you close to 
gather all the parts together, and as briefly as you 
can, set them as one completed whole before your 
hearer's mind. Leave to the ordinary Sunday-school 
address its unquestioned privilege of inconsequence 
and incoherence. But give your sermon an orderly 
consistent progress, and do not hesitate to let your 
hearers see it distinctly, for it will help them first to 
understand and then to remember what you say. 

Of oratory, and all the marvellous mysterious ways 
of those who teach it, I dare say nothing. I believe 



THE MAKING OF THE SERMON. 179 

in the true elocution teacher, as I believe in the exist- 
ence of Halley's comet, which comes into sight of this 
earth once in about seventy-six years. But whatever 
you may learn or unlearn from him to your advan- 
tage, the real power of your oratory must be your 
own intelligent delight in what you are doing. Let 
your pulpit be to you what his studio is to the artist, 
or his court room to the lawyer, or his laboratory to 
the chemist, or the broad field with its bugles and 
banners to the soldier, only far more sacredly let your 
pulpit be this to you, and you have the power which 
is to all rules what the soul is to the body. You have 
enthusiasm which is the breath of life. 

I have spoken to-day about the making of a ser- 
mon. I alluded at the beginning of one lecture to a 
young man whom I saw just entering on his work. 
To-day I have been thinking of one whom I knew — 
nay, one whom I know — who finished his preaching 
years ago and went to God. How does all this seem 
to him ? — these rules and regulations of the preach- 
er's art, which he once studied as we are studying 
them now. Let us not doubt, my friends, that while 
he has seen a glory and strength in the truth which 
we preach, such as we never have conceived, he has 
seen also that no expedient which can make that 
truth a little more effective in its presentation to the 
world is trivial, or undignified, or unworthy of the 
patient care and study of the minister of Christ. 



THE CONGREGATION. 



[" HAVE said what I had to say about the preacher 
-*- and about the sermon. To-day I want to speak to 
you about the congregation. There is something re- 
markable in the way in which a minister talks about 
" my congregation." They evidently come to seem to 
him different from the rest of humankind. There is 
the rest of our race, in Europe, Asia, Africa, and 
America, and the Islands of the Sea, and then there 
is " my congregation." A man begins the habit the 
moment he is settled in a parish. However young, 
however inexperienced he may be, he at once takes 
possession of that fraction of the human family and 
holds it with a sense of ownership. He immediately 
assumes certain fictions concerning them. He takes 
it for granted that they listen to his words with a 
deference quite irrespective of the value of the words 
themselves. He talks majestically about " what I 
tell my congregation "as if there were some basis 
upon which they received his teachings quite different 
fronrthat upon which other intelligent men listen to 
one who takes his place before them as their teacher. 



THE CONGREGATION. 181 

He supposes them to be subject to emotions which he 
expects of no one else. He thinks that, in some mys- 
terious way, their property as well as their intelligence 
is subject to his demand, to be handed over to him 
when he shall tell them that he has found a good use 
to which to put it. He imagines that, though they 
are as clear-sighted as other people, little devices of 
his which are perfectly plain to everybody else impose 
upon them perfectly. He talks about them so un- 
naturally that we are almost surprised when we ask 
their names and find that they are men and women 
whom we know, men and women who are living ordi- 
nary lives and judging people and things by ordinary 
standards, with all the varieties of character and 
ways which any such group must have, whom he has 
separated from the rest of humanity and distinguished 
by their relation to himself and calls " my congre- 
gation." 

I think that a good deal of the unreality of clerical 
life comes from this feeling of ministers about their 
congregations. I have known many ministers who 
were frank and simple and unreserved with other 
people for whom they did not feel a responsibility, 
but who threw around themselves a cloak of fictions 
and reserves the moment that they met a parishioner. 
^They were willing to let the stranger clearly see that 
there were many things in religion and theology 
%vhich they did not know at all, many other questions 



182 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

on which they were in doubt, points of their church's 
faith which they thought unimportant to salvation, 
methods of their church's policy which they thought 
injudicious. All this they would say freely as they 
talked with the wolf over the sheepfold wall, or with 
some sheep in the next flock ; but in their own flock 
they held their peace, or said that everything was 
right, and never dreamed that their flock saw through 
their feeble cautiousness. The result of all this has 
sometimes been that parishioners have trusted other 
men more than their minister just because he was 
their minister, and have gone with their troublesome 
questions and dark experiences to some one who 
should speak of them freely because he should not 
feel that he was speaking to a member of his congre- 
gation. 

It is easy to point out what are the causes of this 
feeling which we thus see has its dangers. The bad 
part in it is a love of power. The better part is an 
anxious sense of responsibility, made more* anxious 
by the true affection which grows up in the preacher's 
heart. It is almost a parental feeling in its worse as 
in its better features, in its partialness and jealousy 
as well as in its devotion and love. But besides these 
there is another element in the view which the 
preacher takes of his congregation which I beg you 
to observe and think about. It is the way in which 
he assumes a difference in the character of people 



THE CONGREGATION. 183 

when they are massed together from any which they 
had when they~were looked at separately. This is 
the real meaning of the tone which is in that phrase 
" my congregation." It is to the minister a unit of 
a wholly novel sort. There is something in the con- 
gregation which is not in the men and women as he 
knows them in their separate humanities, something 
in the aggregate which was not in the individuals, a 
character in the whole which was not in the parts. 
This is the reason why he can group them in his 
thought as a peculiar people, hold them in his hand 
as a new human unity, his congregation. 

And no doubt he is partly right. There is a prin- 
ciple underneath the feeling by which he vaguely 
works. A multitude of people gathered for a special 
purpose and absorbed for the time into a common in- 
terest has a new character which is not in any of the 
individuals which compose it. If you are a speaker 
addressing a crowd you feel that. You say things to 
them without hesitation that would seem either too 
bold or too simple to say to any man among them if 
you talked with him face to face. If you are a spec- 
tator and watch a crowd while some one else is speak- 
ing to it, you can feel the same thing. You can see 
emotions run through the mass that no one man there 
would have deigned to show or submitted to feel if 
he could have helped it. The crowd will laugh at 
jokes which every man in the crowd would have de- 



184 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

spised, and be melted by mawkish pathos that would 
not have extorted a tear from the weakest of them by 
himself. Imagine Peter the Hermit sitting down 
alone with a man to fire him up for a crusade. Prob- 
ably all this is less true of one of our New England 
audiences than of any other that is ever collected in 
our land. In it every man keeps guard over his indi- 
viduality and does not easily let it sink in the char- 
acter of the multitude. And yet we are men and 
women even here, and the universal laws of human 
nature do work even among us. And this is a law of 
nature which all men have observed. " It is a strange 
thing to say," says Arthur Helps in " Realmah," "but 
when the number of any public body exceeds that of 
forty or fifty, the whole assembly has an element of 
joyous childhood in it, and each member revives at 
times the glad, mischievous nature of his school-boy 
days." Canning used to say that the House of Com- 
mons as a body had better taste than the man of the 
best taste in it, and Macaulay was much inclined to 
think that Canning was right. 

What are the elements of this new character which 
belongs to a congregation, a company of men ? Two 
of them have been suggested in the two instances 
which I have just quoted, — the spontaneousness and 
liberty, and the higher standard of thought and taste. 
It is not hard to see what some of the other elements 
ire. There is no doubt greater receptivity than there 



THE CONGREGATION. 185 

is in thejfldividual. Many of the sources of antago- 
nism are removed. The tendency to irritation is put 
to rest. The pride of argument is not there ; or is 
modified by the fact that no other man can hear the 
argument, because it cannot speak a word, but must 
go on in a man's own silent soul. It is easier to give 
way when you sit undistinguished in an audience, 
and your next neighbor cannot see the moment when 
you yield. The surrender loses half its hardness 
when you have no sword to surrender and no flag to 
run down. And, besides this, we have all felt how 
the silent multitude, in the midst of which we sit or 
stand, becomes ideal and heroic to us. We feel as if 
it were listening without prejudice, and responding 
unselfishly and nobly. So we are lifted up to our 
best by the buoyancy of the mass in which we have 
been merged. It may be a delusion. Each of these 
silent men may be thinking and feeling meanly, but 
probably each of them has felt the elevation of the 
mass about him of which we are one particle, and so 
is lifting and lifted just as we are. Who can say 
which drops in the great sweep of the tide are borne, 
and which bear others toward the shore, on which 
they all rise together ? 

This, then, is the good quality in the character of 
the congregation. It produces what in general we 
<jall responsiveness. The compensating quality which 
takes away part of the value of this one is its irre- 



186 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

sponsibility. The audience is quick to feel, but slow 
to decide. The men who make up the audience, 
taken one by one, are slower to feel an argument or 
an appeal to their higher nature, but when they are 
convinced or touched, it ' is comparatively easy to 
waken the conscience, and make them see the neces- 
sity of action. I have often heard the minister's ap- 
peals compared to the lawyer's addresses to the jury. 
" Look," men say, " the lawyer pleads, and gets his 
verdict." " You plead a hundred times. You argue 
week after week, and men will not decide that Chris- 
tianity is true, nor steadfastly resolve to lead a new 
life." The fallacy is obvious. We are like lawyers 
pleading before a jury, which in the first place feels 
itself under no compulsion to decide at all ; and in 
the second place, if it decides as we are urging it, 
must change its life, break off its habits, and make 
new ones, which it does not like to contemplate. 
There is no likeness between it and that body of 
twelve men, who cannot go home till they decide one 
way or the other, and who have no selfish interest to 
bias their decision. No wonder that our jury listens 
to us as long as it pleases, perhaps trembles a little 
when we are most true and powerful, and then, like 
Felix, who was both judge and jury to St. Paul, 
shuts up the court, and departs with only the dim- 
mest feeling of responsibility, saying, " Go thy way 
for this time. I will hear thee again of this matter." 



THE CONGREGATION. 187 

The result of all this is that in the congregation 
you have something very near the general humanity. 
You have human nature as it appears in its largest 
contemplation. Personal peculiarities have disap- 
peared and man simply as man is before you. This is 
a great advantage to the preacher. " It is more easy 
to know man in general than to know a man in par- 
ticular," said La Rochefoucauld. If in the crowd to 
whom you preach you saw every man not merely in 
general but in particular, if each sat there with his 
idiosyncrasies bristling all over him, how could you 
preach? There are some preachers, I think, who 
are ineffective from a certain incapacity of this larger 
general sight of humanity which a congregation ought 
to inspire. It has been said of the French preachers 
that Bossuet knew man better than men, but Fe*nelon 
knew both man and men. There are some preach- 
ers who seem to know men but hardly to know or to 
be touched by man at all. They are ready with 
special sympathies and with minute advice in the 
dilemmas of detail which men encounter ; but the 
sight of their race does not rouse them, and they are 
not able to bring to bear upon a people those univer- 
sal and eternal motives of the highest human action, 
which, however they may distribute themselves into 
special motives for special acts, still have a real unity 
and are the springs of many goodnesses of many 
kinds. Such men may have a certain fitness to be 



188 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the spiritual advisers of individuals, but it is not 
easy to see how they can be powerful preachers to 
mankind. 

I think that it is almost necessary for a man to 
preach sometimes to congregations which he does not 
know, in order to keep this impression of preaching 
to humanity, and so to keep the truth which he 
preaches as large as it ought to be. He who minis- 
ters to the same people always, knowing them mi- 
nutely, is apt to let his preaching grow minute, to for- 
get the world, and to make the same mistakes about 
the Gospel that one would make about the force of 
gravitation if he came to consider it a special arrange- 
ment made for these few operations which it accom- 
plishes within his own house. I think there are few 
inspirations, few tonics for a minister's life better than, 
when he is fretted and disheartened with a hundred 
little worries, to go and preach to a congregation in 
which he does not know a face. As he stands up 
and looks across them before he begins his sermon, 
it is like looking the race in the face. All the noble- 
ness and responsibility of his vocation comes to him. 
It is the feeling which one has had sometimes in 
travelling when he has passed through a great town 
whose name he did not even learn. There were men, 
but not one man he knew ; houses, shops, churches, 
bank, post-office, business and pleasure, but none of 
them individualized to him by any personal interest. 



THE CONGREGATION. 189 

It is human life in general, and often has a solemnity 
for him which the human lives which he knows in 
particular have lost. And this is what we often find 
in some strange pulpit facing some congregation 
wholly made up of strangers. 

But this should be occasional. A constant travel- 
ling among unknown towns would no doubt weaken 
and perhaps destroy our sense of humanity alto- 
gether. There can be no doubt that it is good for a 
man that his knowledge of a congregation should be 
primarily and principally the knowledge of his own 
congregation, certain dangers of a too exclusive re- 
lationship being obviated by preaching sometimes 
where the people are all strange. It is remarkable 
how many of the great preachers of the world are 
inseparably associated with the places where their 
work was done, where perhaps all their life was 
lived. In many cases their place has passed into 
their name as if it were a true part of themselves. 
Chrysostom of Constantinople, Augustine of Hippo, 
Savonarola of Florence, Baxter of Kidderminster, Ar- 
nold of Rugby, Robertson of Brighton, Chalmers of 
Glasgow, and in our New England a multitude of • 
Buch associations which have become historic and 
compel us always to think of the man with the place 
and of the place with the man. Everywhere a man 
must have his place. The disciples are sometimes 
set before us as if our pastoral life of modern times 



190 LECTURES ON 1 REACHING. 

were an entire departure from their methods ; and 
yet they had their pastorates. Think of St. Paul at 
Ephesus. Think of St. John in the same city. Think 
of St. James at Jerusalem. The same necessity, may 
we not say, which required that the Incarnation 
should bring divinity, not into humanity in general, 
but into some special human circle, into a nation, a 
tribe, a family, requires that he who would bear fruit 
everywhere for humanity should root himself into 
some special plot of human life and draw out the 
richness of the earth by which he is to live at some 
one special point. There is nothing better in a cler- 
gyman's life than to feel constantly that through his 
congregation he is getting at his race. Certainly the 
long pastorates of other days were rich in the knowl- 
edge of human nature, in a very intimate relation 
with humanity. These three rules seem to have in 
them the practical sum of the whole matter. I beg 
you to remember them and apply them with all the 
wisdom that God gives you. Eirst. Have as few con- 
gregations as you can. Second. Know your congre- 
gation as thoroughly as you can. Third. Know your 
congregation so largely and deeply that in knowing 
it you shall know humanity. 

I have lingered too long upon the congregation as 
a whole. Let me go on to speak of that which ap- 
pears to every minister as he takes a certain congre- 
gation to be his congregation and comes to know 



THE CONGREGATION. 191 I 



them very well. Then the unity in which he saw 
them the first time he stood before them breaks up, 
and they are divided into various classes. Between 
that one great gathering which fills the house and 
the individuals of whom it is composed, there are 
divisions into various groups, which with certain 
modifications here and there, appear in every congre- 
gation in the land. Let us see what they are. 

First and most prominent in every congregation 
there are some persons who peculiarly represent it to 
the world. They live in the Church, as it were. 
Their whole life is bound up in its interests. They 
may be church officers or not. They are part of its 
history and of its present life. The congregation 
goes by their name almost as readily as, in your Con- 
gregational fashion, by the minister's. They are the 
persons to whom every new enterprise in church life 
looks first for approval and then for the means of its 
execution. They are what are sometimes called the 
" pillars of the Church." And such people are very 
valuable. Often their lives are very noble and de- 
voted. There are people so prominently representa- 
tive of churches, whose life is as truly a consecrated 
life, with an ordination of its own, as any minister's. 
They give a solidity and permanence to the con- 
gregation, preserve its continuity and identity in 
the midst of the continual changes of these parts of 
4) which are less firmly fixed. They gather their 



192 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

strength about the minister. They save him from 
falling into that heresy which has beset all Christian 
history and been the fruitful source of many kinds 
of woes, the heresy that the clergyman is the Church. 
They constantly remind him that the people are the 
Church, and that he is the Church's servant. I rec- 
ognize the value of this element in the congregation 
very heartily. I think that every parish needs such 
laymen. It would be a very loose and incoherent 
thing without them. But still I want you to notice 
the dangers that may come in connection with the 
special prominence and special usefulness of a few 
members of the Church. There is chance always of 
the Church becoming a sort of club, providing for 
the wants, perhaps indeed the highest spiritual 
wants, of a few, but forgetting that it has the world 
about it and was meant for all men. This is a danger 
which belongs to the very fact of a recognized body 
called the congregation. It is a danger which is in- 
tensified when in the centre of that body there is a 
core which emphasizes all its qualities and spirit, the 
congregation of the congregation. The congregation 
ought to be exclusive only, as our old professor of 
theology used to say of the Gospel, as the light in 
the Pharos was covered with glass merely that it 
might burn the more brightly and shed the more 
light abroad. Remember this danger. Give much 
time and thought and care to the outskirts of your 



;fU 



THE CONGREGATION. 193 

parish, to its loose and ragged fringes ;, seek the peo- 
ple who just drift within your influence, and who 
will drift away again, if your kind strong hand is not 
upon them. Do not spend too much time in the safe 
sheepfold where the ninety-nine are secure, while 
there are sheep upon the mountains. Be sure that 
nothing will make the core and heart of your con- 
gregation so solid as a strong drawing inward of its 
loose circumference. The strong and settled men of 
your church will value you and your usefulness to 
them more highly if they see you busy among the 
wretched, the careless, and what men dare to call the / 
worthless souls. And there is another danger, I 
think, which the congregation in the congregation 
brings with it. The laymen who are most active and 
interested in church life are very often not the most - 
receptive hearers. They are apt to take a few truths 
for settled, and, realizing them very fully, using them 
in their church work constantly, to ask no more, in- 
deed to be hardly open to any more. They are half 
clergyman, half layman, without the full receptivity 
and mental enterprise which belongs to either. This 
is the reason why they sometimes become dogmatic, 
and not merely do not care themselves to speculate 
or learn, but, with an honest and narrow fear, be- 
grudge the clergy and their fellow laymen an eager- 
ness for truth which overruns their own settled lines. 
The strongest bigotry is often found among theolog- 



13 



194 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

ical laymen rather than among clergymen. The 
pillars of the Church are apt to be like the Pillars . 
of Hercules, beyond which no man might sail. Dean 
Stanley, in an essay upon the connection of Church 
and State, says of the lay element in Church Synods : 
" The laymen who as a general rule figure in such 
assemblies do not represent the true lay mind of the 
Church, still less the lay intelligence of the whole 
country. They are often excellent men, given to 
good works, but they are also usually the partisans of 
some special clerical school ; they are in short clergy- 
men under another form rather than the real laity 
themselves." He is writing on an English subject, 
but his words describe a danger which we in America 
can recognize, and which makes us glad to go on and 
find in the congregation other elements besides this 
most valuable, this indispensable one of which I have 
been speaking. 

To pass at once, then, to the other extreme, there is 
in very many, if not in all, congregations in these 
days what we may call the supercilious hearer. He 
is a man who for some reason comes to church, but is 
out of sympathy what goes on there. He is sceptical 
about the truth of what we believe and preach. You 
come to know that hearer. You are sure that he is 
critical. You are aware that some safe, sonorous, and 
unmeaning statements, which some of your people 
will take because they have the right words in them, 



THE CONGREGATION. 195 

and the true ring about them, he seizes on the mo- 
ment that they fall from your lips and tears their 
flimsiness to pieces in his merciless mind. Sometimes 
your heart has sunk as you have said some foolish 
thing and not dared to look him in the face, but felt 
sure that it has not escaped him. In one of his Lent 
discourses Massillon upbraids such hearers. " It is 
not to seek corn," he says, " that you come into 
Egypt. It is to seek out the nakedness of the land. 
Exploratores Estis, ut videatis infirmiora terrse hujus 
venistis." Now, such an element in a congregation, 
though it may be very small, cannot but influence the 
preacher. What shall he think about it ? He ought 
to start, it seems to me, by feeling that the very pres- 
ence of such men in church means something. They 
have not come wholly, certainly they will not come 
continually, for the malicious reason which Massillon 
ascribes. There is some better and deeper cause, even 
though the man is not conscious of it himself. The 
preacher has a right to believe this, and so the man's 
presence may become not an embarrassment but an 
inspiration. And then, when this is gained, he may 
become a help in other ways. He keeps the atmos- 
phere of the church fresh. He makes you aware as 
you preach of the unbelief which you have no right 
to forget. He incites you with the sense of difficulty 
and the consciousness of criticism. A parish of critics . 
would be killing, but a critic here and there is tonic 



196 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

He keeps the walls of your church from growing so 
solid that as you preach, you cannot, as you ought, 
look through them as if they were glass, and preach 
in the present remembrance of the multitudes who 
never come to church, and do not know your truth, 
and yet for whom your truth is just as true and might 
be just as helpful as it is to you. This man makes 
all this real to you. He compels you to remember it. 
It is strange how the general scepticism about us may 
not put us out, or disturb us at all, while a special 
case close by us will excite us and waken all our 
powers. It is like the way in which you can go on 
with your private work or thought, perfectly well, 
perhaps all the better, for the general roar of the city, 
while a single hammer clanging under your window 
distracts you and compels you to hear it. How shall 
such a critic enter into your preaching ? What in- 
fluence shall it have upon your sermon to know that 
he is there ? The influence, I should say, of making 
the whole sermon more true and conscientious, more 
complete in the best qualities that belong to all good 
sermons. But not the influence of changing the ser- 
mon's essential character. Preach the Gospel all the 
more seriously, simply, mightily if you can, because 
of the unsympathetic criticism that it has to meet, 
but let it be the same Gospel which you would pour 
into ears hungry to receive it. The two faults that 
you have to avoid in preaching to unbelief are, Defi- 



THE CONGREGATION. 197 

ance and Obsequience. One makes the unbeliever 
hate your truth, and the other makes him despise it. 
Be frank, brave, simple. There is nothing the un- 
believer honors like belief. Let the influence of 
your supercilious and sceptical audience be primarily 
upon yourself, making you more serious and eager ; 
then let it come indirectly into your sermon, not 
changing its topic but filling it with a stronger power 
of conviction and of love. Of course I am speaking 
now, not of the sermons in which one specially deals 
with some special phase of scepticism, but only of 
the general tenor of a man's preaching in view of this 
part of his congregation. 

The next element in the congregation of which I 
wish to speak is less interesting than these two ; per- 
haps, also, more puzzling. In every congregation 
there are many people who come to church, as it 
seems, purely from habit. As with the supercilious 
hearers, it is hard to tell why they come, but not now 
because of any positive reasons why they should not, 
but merely from the absence of any reasons why they 
should. Such a hearer seems to be docile, but his 
docility consists in never doubting or denying what 
you say. He has probably grown up in the Church. 
There is more or less of the notion of respectability 
attaching to that mysterious impulse which every 
Sunday turns his steps toward the sanctuary. Prob- 
ably if you could get deep enough, deeper than his 



198 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

own consciousness of its causes, you would find that 
some vague fear had something to do at least with 
the origin, perhaps with the continuance of this 
strange habit. He is no unusual sight. He comes 
and goes in all our churches. In many churches it 
seems as if such as he made up a large part of the 
congregation. Now what shall we say of him ? First 
of all, certainly, as we said of the critic, that we have 
a right to believe that we have not wholly fathomed 
the secret of his presence. At least we may hope 
that, however unconsciously and vaguely, the spirit 
of the place has reached him. Hoping this, you may 
expect to see the unconscious impulse develop into a 
conscious seeking, if you can intensify the spirit of 
the place, and make it more positive about him. 
The form in which the change takes place will vary 
according to his character. It may be sudden and 
vehement ; a conversion as true and picturesque as 
any that comes to one who, after years of brutal 
ignorance, hears for the first time the story of the 
Saviour. Or it may be very gradual, the slow, still 
drawing to a focus, and quickening into fire of that 
heat which he has been absorbing, without knowing 
it, so long. There are two effects of every sermon, 
one special, in the enforcement of a single thought, or 
the inculcation of a single duty ; the other general, in 
the diffusion of a sense of the beauty of holiness and 
the value of truth. To the second of these effects, 



THE CONGREGATION. 199 

tiiis routine listener has been susceptible during many 
a service and sermon that seemed to pass across him 
like the wind. However the awakening comes, there 
is no happier sight for any minister to see. It puts 
new vigor into him, makes him believe his truth by 
one more evidence, and teaches him that lesson which 
the preacher must know, but which he can only learn 
thoroughly out of experiences such as this, that it is 
not his business to despair of anybody. Perhaps, so 
far as the minister is concerned, this is the final cause 
of this most discouraging being's presence in the con- 
gregation. He furnishes the minister now and then 
with an encouragement such as nobody but himself 
could furnish. And, in the mean time, sitting there 
with the calm countenance which has faced so many 
sermons, if anything could sting the jaded and com- 
monplace minister into freshness and pointedness, it 
would seem as if it must be this man's presence. He 
shames you and inspires you. He makes you feel 
your responsibility, and makes you eager not to boast 
of it. He reminds you of your duty and your fee- 
bleness. He rebukes anything fantastic or unreal 
in your preaching. He tempts your plainest, and 
directest, and tersest truth. There is a prayer in an 
old Russian Liturgy which always seemed to me the 
very model of a minister's prayer, which I wish that 
all of us ministers could learn to pray continually, 
and which this man in your congregation makes you 



200 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

■ 

pray with double earnestness, — " O Lord and Sover- 
eign of my Life, take from me the Spirit of idleness, 
despair, love of power, and unprofitable speaking." 

But from these classes let us turn to that part of a 
congregation which constitutes its chief and most in- 
spiring interest. I mean those who in any way are 
to be characterized as earnest seekers after truth,. It V 

c ■ —————— 

is the element that calls out all that is best in a 
preacher. Very often as we read Christ's teachings, 
we can almost feel His eye wandering here and there 
across the motley crowd around Him, till He finds 
some one man evidently in earnest, and then the v 
discourse sets towards him, and we almost feel the 
Saviour's heart beat with anxiety to help some poor 
forgotten creature, who has long since past out of the 
memory of man, but in whom on that day so long 
ago He saw a seeker. And we may say with cer- 
tainty that any man who has not in him the power 
of quick response to the appeal of spiritual hunger, 
lacks a fundamental quality of the true preacher. 
There are some men who cannot see bodily pain with- 
out a longing to relieve it, which begets an ingenuity 
in relieving it, out of which spring all the best refine- 
ments of the doctor's art. There are other men who, 
just in the same way, perceive the wants and longings 
of men's souls, and in them is begotten the holy 
ingenuity which the true preacher uses. The soul 
quickens the mind to its most complete fertility. 



THE CONGREGATION. 201 

I do not subdivide this class. It includes the whole 
range of personal earnestness. The heart just con- 
scious of some need, all ignorant of what it is, dis- 
satisfied and restless, not alone from the unsatisfac- 
toriness of earthly things, but likewise from a true 
attraction which comes to it from a higher life, this 
heart is close beside another which has long known 
the truth and long rested on the love of Christ but 
yet is always craving a deeper truth and a more un- 
hindered love. The two hearts belong together. 
They help to throw the same kind of spirit into the 
congregation. They send up the same kind of in- 
spiration to the preacher. It is good always to think 
of these two hearts together, to count your congrega- 
tion, not by the point in Christian attainment which 
you conceive them to have reached, but by the spirit- 
ual desire and eagerness which you can perceive in 
them. We may mistake the first. We can hardly 
be mistaken about the second. Here must be the 
preacher's real encouragement. Behind all tests which 
the church-membership lists and the contribution 
boxes can furnish, there lies the knowledge, which 
comes out of all his anxious intercourse with them, 
whether these men and women to whom he preaches 
are seeking for more truth and higher life. It seems 
•is if one of the ways in which the Lord's beatitude 
about the hungerers and thirsters after righteousness 
came true was by the power to help them which the 



202 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

very sight of their thirst and hunger gave to those 
whom God had sent to be their feeders. 

And I believe that the proportion of this class in 
the general congregation is much greater than we are 
apt to imagine. In all life, and nowhere more than 
in what we say about the Church and its work, cyn- 
ical and disparaging ideas are capable of much more 
clever, epigrammatic statement than hopeful ideas. So 
they have easy currency and impose on people. It is 
easy to draw the picture of the faithless or frivolous 
elements in a congregation till it appears as if the 
whole company which meets every Sunday were in an 
elaborate conspiracy to make sport of itself, as if a 
crowd of people came together to criticise what none 
of them believed, and to endure with half-concealed 
impatience what none of them cared anything about. 
But such a picture, the more cleverly and sweepingly 
it is drawn, evidently disproves itself. If that were 
the congregation, evidently there would not long be 
any congregation. If that were what their meeting 
meant, evidently they would not meet again and again 
year after year. No mere momentum of a past im- 
pulse could carry along so dead a weight. No, there 
is in the congregation as its heart and soul a craving 
after truth. Believe in that. Let it give an expec- 
tant look to the whole congregation in your eyes. 
Let it fill your study as you write at home. And if 
among the elements which make up your great con- 



THE CONGREGATION. 203 

gregation you grow bewildered and cannot tell to 
which one you ought to write or speak, I do not 
hesitate at all to say let it be this one. This is the 
spirit to which if you speak you will be sure to speak 
most universally. One sermon here and there to 
those who are entirely indifferent, beating their 
sleepy carelessness awake ; one sermon here and 
there to those who are scornfully sceptical, showing 
them if you can how weak their superciliousness is, 
a sermon fired if need be with something of " the 
scorn of scorn;" one sermon here and there per- 
haps for those rare few whose life seems to have mas- 
tered truth and bathed itself in love, a sermon of 
congratulation and of peace ; but almost all your ser- 
mons with the seekers in your eye. Preaching to 
them you shall preach to all. The indifferent shall 
be awakened into hope; the scornful shall feel some 
sting of shame ; and before those who are most con- 
scious of what God has done for them shall open 
visions of what greater things he yet may do, and 
like St. Paul they may forget the things behind and 
press forward with a new desire. 

It is from the recognition of this element in the 
congregation that the minister's perception of the 
necessary variety of Christian life proceeds. All 
earnestness emphasizes individuality. So long as you 
see no personal anxiety in your people's eyes, you 
may calmly form your own plans about them, make 



(TTiriTBRSITTl 

\ fr* _ oar ^ w . II 



204 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

up your mind what they are to be made, and go to 
work to make them that with certain expectation 
that they will take your truth in just your way, and 
shape their lives into the mould which you lay before 
them as if it showed the only shape of Christian char- 
acter. But when you feel the anxious wish of men 
and women really seeking after truth, when the cry 
" What must I do to be saved ? " sounds in your 
quickened ears from all the intent and silent pews, 
then is the time when you really learn how wide and 
various salvation is. The revival and the inquiry 
room must always widen a man's conception of Chris- 
tianity, and they are only the emphatic expressions of 
what is always present and may always be felt in 
every congregation. A minister once said to me how 
strange it seemed to him that he had been preaching 
one truth in one language for years and yet the 
people who came to him moved by the truth he taught 
never conceived it in his form, nor used, as they told 
him their experience, the language in which he had 
set the truth before them. It troubled him. It made 
him wonder whether the language he had used was 
wrong and false; perhaps also whether ~ the truth 
which they stated so differently really was the same 
truth which he had tried to teach them. To me it 
rather showed that there must have been truth and 
noble reality about his words, a genuinely feeding 
power, that men should have taken them as they 



THE CONGREGATION. 205 

take the healthy corn out of the fields and turn it 
into all kinds of strength and work. However that 
may have been, the more truly you think of your con- 
gregation as seekers after salvation, to whom you are 
to open the sacred doors, the more ready you will be 
to see each entering in to a salvation peculiarly his 
own. You will be glad and not sorry when a man 
tells you what God has done for him, and only gradu- 
ally you find that it is the truth which you told him, 
transformed into some new shape of which you never 
dreamed, that is the new treasure of his life. 

These, then, are the elements which make up the 
congregation. They are the constant factors. In 
order to realize the congregation entirely, we must 
think of it as not closed, but open, and always in- 
cluding some people who as mere strangers have wan- 
dered in and taken their seats among the people who 
are always there. They suggest the outside world. 
Their unfamiliar faces remind the preacher of the 
general humanity. They are not classified at all. 
They are simply men and women. I think it is a 
great advantage to a congregation that it should have 
such an element. They are to a congregation what 
the few people who came into contact with Jesus who 
were not Jews — such as the Syrophenician woman, 
and the Centurion, and the Greeks, who asked to see 
him — were to Christ's disciples. They kept men's 
conception of His ministry from closing in tightly to 



206 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the Jewish people. This is the danger of the coun- 
try parish, where you know everybody who comes 
into the church. You forget the mission to the world. 
I know no safeguard against such forgetfulness but a 
deep sense of the general humanity of the people un- 
derneath their special characters, which shall make 
them true specimens of the race, as well as the dis- 
tinct individuals, whose faces, names, and ways you 
know. 

These are the elements, then. Now mingle these 
elements in your mind, and ask what sort of body 
they make. What will be the general characteristics 
of this assemblage, so heterogeneous and yet with 
such a true unity in it, which we call The Congrega- 
tion ? It has the genuine solidity which comes from 
certain fundamental assumptions. It is gathered as 
a Christian gathering. It is not loose and incohe- 
rent, like the multitude who stood about Paul on the 
Hill of Mars, merely asking in general for what is 
new, or, more earnestly, for what is true. It has a 
positive character. It accepts a positive authority. 
And yet it is alert and questioning. The truth which 
it desires is open to abundant varieties of conception 
and application. It is this combination of solidity 
with vitality, this harmonizing of settled conditions 
with constant activity and growth, which makes, I 
think, the most marked character of the Christian 
congregation. It is an institution pervaded with in- 



THE CONGREGATION. 207 

dividual life; it is an assembly of individuals to 
which has been given something of the coherence of 
an institution. It is the home at once of Faith and 
Thought. Try to keep all of this character in your 
congregation. Remember both its institutional char- 
acter and its individual character. Do not try to 
make it a highly organized machine, nor to let it 
merely dissipate into an audience. Make it one, with- 
out losing its multitude ; treat it as many, without 
forgetting its oneness. Let it be full of the spirit of] 
authoritative truth, and at the same time of per- 
sonal responsibility for thought and action. 

If we look at the Christian congregation in another 
and perhaps a simpler way, it stands as perhaps the 
best representative assembly of humanity that you 
can find in the world. Men, women, and children 
are all there together. No age, no sex must monopo- 
lize its privileges. All ministrations to it must be full 
at once of vigor and of tenderness, the father's and 
the mother's touch at once. Riches and poverty 
meet indifferently in f k^ i'^^ Vmwavm- if. i^ny fr fl fa 
the reality, of the congregation. Even learning and 
ignorance are recognized as properly meeting there. 
However difficult it may be to do it, it is clearly rec- 
ognized that men ought to preach so that the wisest 
and the simplest alike can understand and get the 
blessing. Here, then, is pure humanity. What other 
assembly so brings us together on the simple warrant 



208 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

of our race. This is what I always think is meant 
by that record of the ministry of Jesus, " The com- 
mon people heard Him gladly." It was not the poor 
because of some privilege that belonged to their pov- 
erty. It was those, rich or poor, wise or rude, in 
whom the fundamental elements of human life were 
unclouded by artificial culture. Pharisee or publican, 
fisherman or philosopher, if they had not forgotten 
to be men, they were still " common people," and 
heard the human Saviour gladly. It was to their hu- 
manity He preached, and nothing that He knew of 
God was too precious to be brought, if He could bring 
it, to their understanding. Preach to this same hu- 
manity, and you too will give it your best. Trust 
the people to whom you preach more than most min- 
isters do. Begin your ministry by being sure that if 
you give your people your best thought, it will be 
none too good for them. They will take it all. Only 
be sure that it is real, and that you are giving it to 
them for their best good, and that it is what, if they 
did receive it, would do them good, and then give 
them the very best and truest that you know. For 
one minister who preaches " over people's heads " 
there are twenty whose preaching goes wandering 
about under men's feet, or is flung off into the air, in 
Jie right intellectual plane perhaps, but in a wholly 
wrong direction. 
Not that there must not be discrimination ; only it 



THE CONGREGATION. 209 

must not be in the quality of your thought. Never 
your best thought for the old, your cheap thought for 
the children ; never your best thought for the rich, 
and poor thought for the poor. The best that you 
can give is not too good for any one ; but in that 
giving of the best, there is need for the most true and 
delicate discrimination as to how it shall be given, 
and which part of it shall be given to this congrega- 
tion and which to that. It is not a matter of rule. 
It belongs to wise and sympathetic instinct. To cul- 
tivate that instinct, to learn to feel a congregation, 
to let it claim its own from him, is one of the first 
duties of a minister. Until you do that you may be 
a great expounder, a brilliant " sermonizer," but you 
cannot be a preacher. Never to be tempted to pro- 
foundness where it would be thrown away ; never to 
be childlike when it is manly vigor that you need ; 
never to be dull when you mean to be solemn, nor 
frivolous when you mean only to be bright; this 
comes from a very quick power of perception and 
adaptation. Our work has always had some curious 
connections with the art of fishing. Let me quote 
you from Isaak Walton what Piscator says to Vena- 
tor while they sit by the stream-side at breakfast, on 
the morning of the first lesson in trout-fishing. I 
was struck by its appropriateness to the subject of 
discrimination in preaching. It may help you, if you 
remember it, when you come to " fish for trout with 
14 



210 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

a worm " yourself, and may make no unfit rule for 
real timeliness in the pulpit. " Take this for a rule," 
he says, " when you fish for trout with a worm, let 
your line have so much and not more lead than will 
fit the stream in which you fish ; that is to say, more 
in a great troublesome stream than in a smaller that 
is quieter, as near as may be so much as will sink the 
bait to the bottom and keep it still in motion and not 
more." Weight and movement, — these are what we 
need in fishing and in preaching. 

The congregation being what it is, let me ask, in 
the few moments that remain to-day, what it can do 
for the preacher, both in the way of help and in the 
way of danger. 

In the way of help, it brings him the inspiration of 
its numbers, the boldness and freedom of its miti- 
gated personality, and the larger test of his work. It 
is not safe to judge of the effect of your work by any 
one individual ; but when a congregation pronounces 
on it, not by the unreliable witness of praise, but by 
the testimony of its evidently changed condition, its 
higher life, its more complete devotion, it is never 
wrong. Do not despise the witness that even the 
meanest of your people bear to your faithfulness or 
unfaithfulness. When it really rains, the puddles as 
well as the oceans bear witness to the shower. Trust 
jrour people's judgment on your work : what they 



THE CONGREGATION. 211 

say about it, a good deal ; but what it does upon 
them, much more. 

And I cannot help bearing witness to the fairness 
and considerateness which belongs to this strange 
composite being, the congregation. His insight is 
very true, and his conscience on the whole is very 
right. If he sees that his minister is totally devoted 
to him, and giving his life up to his work, he stands 
by that minister of his and provides for him abun- 
dantly. If he sees that his minister is taking good 
care of his own interests, he lets him do it, as he 
would let any other man, and does not trouble him- 
self about it, as there is no reason that he should. 
Whether the minister feels the congregation or not, 
the congregation feels the minister. Often the horse 
knows the rider better than the rider knows the horse. 
There may be exceptions which would not justify my 
confidence. In all these lectures I am only giving 
you the impressions which have come out of my 
own experience. I am sure it will be well if you 
can never allow yourself to complain that your con- 
gregation neglect you without first asking yourself 
whether you have given them any reason why they 
should attend to you. 

Indeed, the danger of the congregation to the min- 
ister comes more from their indulgence than from 
their opposition. The feeling of the strongest min- 
isters about the superficialness of clerical popularity 



212 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

is very striking. Nothing seemed to vex Robertson 
bo much as to be talked of as the idol of the crowd. 
Indeed, he is absolutely morbid about it, and hates 
that to which he need only have been indifferent. It 
would seem as if mere popularity, to a man of any 
independence, was the driest of all Dead Sea fruits. 
And there is reason why it should be so. It is the 
worst and feeblest part of your congregation that 
makes itself heard in vociferous applause, and it ap- 
plauds that in you which pleases it. Robertson, in 
one of his letters, says of a friend : " He has lost his 
power, which was once the greatest that I ever knew. 
The sentimental people of his congregation attribute 
it to an increase of spirituality, but it is, in truth, a 
falling-off of energy of grasp." Those words suggest 
the cause of many a minister's decay, the Capua where 
many a preaching Hannibal has been ruined. " Turba 
est argumentum pessimi," says Seneca. There are 
certain other causes which help to produce the im- 
pression, but still there is truth in the belief that 
much of the best thinking and preaching of the land 
is done in obscure parishes and by unfamous preach- 
ers. The true balance, if we could only reach and 
keep it, evidently is in neither courting nor despising 
the popular applause, to feel it as every healthy man 
feels the approval of his fellow-men, and yet never to 
be beguiled by it from that which is the only true 
object of our work, God's truth and men's salvation. 



THE CONGREGATION. 213 

And remember this, that the only way to be saved 
from the poison of men's flattery is to be genuinely 
devoted to those same men's good. If you really 
want to drag a man out of the fire, you will not be 
distracted into self-conceit by his praises of the grace 
and softness of the hand that you reach out to him. 
You will say, " Stop your compliments and take 
hold." 

The subject of the popularity of ministers is indeed 
a curious one, and may well merit a few moment's 
study. We hardly realize, I believe, how far the de- 
sire for popularity in this time and land has taken 
the place of the ambition for preferment which we 
read of in English clerical history, and which has 
so strongly and so justly excited our dislike. He 
who used there to seek the favor of a bishop, or some 
other patron, bids here for the liking of the multitude. 
It is a question hardly worth the asking, which ambi- 
tion calls out the lower arts, or does the greater mis- 
chief. Both are very bad. To set one's heart on 
being popular is fatal to the preacher's best growth. 
To escape from that desire, one needs to know that 
the men who are in no sense popular favorites do 
much of the very best work of the ministry. In all 
work there seems to be generally two classes of 
workers, one whose processes of working are ap- 
parent, the other whose results only appear. Now 
most popular preachers seem to me to belong to the 



214 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

first class, and to owe their popularity to that charac- 
teristic. Not only what they do, but the way in which 
they do it interests people. It is not only the power 
of the truth which they declare : it is the eloquence 
of the sermons in which they declare it. It is not 
only the gracious influence they exercise : it is their 
gracious way of exercising it, the smile, the tone, the 
transparent vision of the kindly heart. Let a man 
understand this, and it will certainly require no very 
profound philosophy or devotion for him to let the 
popularity go if he can do the work. The popularity 
is an accident : the power is essential. 

And, no doubt, the absence of lively popular favor 
has an influence in enabling a minister to apprehend 
the larger indications of the successful working of his 
truth. The people's applause emphasizes the small 
success, and tempts a man to be content with that. 
He who works in silence becomes aware of the larger 
movements of the truth and the surer conquests of 
the power of God. The small signs fail ; there is no 
glitter in the arms, no shout of triumph anywhere, 
but often the very silence lets one hear more clearly 
the great progress that is going on all over the field. 

Again, there is great difference in men according 
as they seem to possess or to lack themselves the 
qualities and conditions which they try to create in 
other people. Some men are all afire themselves, and 
seem to fire others by contagion ; other men appear 



THE CONGREGATION. 215 

cold, but send forth fire from their very coldness. 
Some men are full of movement and so make others 
move; other men seem sluggish and yet awaken 
others to a vitality which they do not seem to possess 
themselves. 

" The enormous axle-tree 
That whirls (how slow itself ! ) ten thousand spindles." 

In general, the popularity, the quick general sym- 
pathy and admiration, will go with the first class of 
men. The others will do their work in quietness, 
with much power but not much observation. 

To be your own best self for your people's sake. 
That is the true law of the minister's devotion. 
" Loquendum ut multi, sapiendum ut pauci " — the 
thought of the few in the speech of the many — that 
describes a popular power which any preacher has 
not only the right but the duty to covet. 

The whole of the relation, then, between the 
preacher and the congregation is plain. They belong 
together. But neither can absorb or override the 
other. They must be filled with mutual respect. 
He is their leader, but his leadership is not one con- 
stant strain, and never is forgetful of the higher guid- 
ance upon which they both rely. It is like the rope 
by which one ship draws another out into the sea. 
The rope is not always tight between them, and all 
the while the tide on which they float is carrying 
them both. So it is not mere leading and following. 



216 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

It is one of the very highest pictures of human com- 
panionship that can be seen on earth. Its constant 
presence has given Christianity much of its noblest 
and sweetest color in all ages. It has much of the in- 
timacy of the family with something of the breadth 
and dignity that belongs to the state. It is too sa- 
cred to be thought of as a contract. It is a union 
which God joins together for purposes worthy of His 
care. When it is worthily realized, who can say that 
it may not stretch beyond the line of death, and they 
who have been minister and people to each other here, 
be something holy and peculiar to each other in the 
City of God forever ? 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 



f AM to speak to you to-day upon the preacher in 
his special relation to our own time. There is a 
strange sound, perhaps, when we think about it, in 
the very suggestion that the preacher of the Gospel 
is to be something special with reference to the spe- 
cial time in which he lives. For we have dwelt upon 
the one universal and eternal message which the 
preacher is sent to carry to the world. That message 
never changes. The identity of Christianity lies in 
its identity. Nay, the identity of man is bound up 
with it ; and so long as man is what he is, what God 
has to say to him by His servants will certainly al- 
ways be the same. And so the preacher, as the 
bearer of that message, must have his true identity, 
must stand before men in essentially the same figure 
and speak with essentially the same voice in all the 
ages. Where, then, does the adaptation of a preacher 
to his own age come in ? The best answer, perhaps, 
would be, by way of illustration, in the position 
which every live and cultivated man holds with refer- 
ence to the time he lives in. He is, in the first place, 



218 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

a man in universal human history. His are the 
rights, the duties, and the standards which belong to 
all men simply as men. In proportion as he is a 
strong, wise man, this larger life is real to him. He 
knows that he will live his special life more healthily 
for himself and more helpfully to his brethren, not 
by forgetting, but by remembering his place in the 
general and continuous humanity. It will keep his 
sight truer. Many times it will preserve his inde- 
pendence when it is in danger from the fleeting pas- 
sions of the hour. But yet he lives the special life. 
He is a man of his own day, thoroughly interested 
in the questions that are exciting men around him, 
pained by the troubles, delighted by the joys, and 
busy in the tasks of his own time. His broad hu- 
manity and broad culture makes him a man of all 
days ; his keen life and quick sympathies and healthy 
instincts and real desire for work, make him a man 
of his own day. We can all see the ideal complete- 
ness of such a life. Whenever we have seen a man 
at all attaining it, we have felt how complete he was. 
The incompleteness of men comes as they fall short 
of this on one side or the other. The man who be- 
longs to the world but not to his time, grows abstract 
and vague, and lays no strong grasp upon men's lives 
and the present causes of their actions. The man 
who belongs to his time but not to the world grows 
thin and superficial. 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 219 

And just exactly this is true about the preacher. J 
There are the constant and unchanging needs of men, 
and the message which is addressed to those needs 
and shares their unchangeableness ; and then there* 
are the ever-varying aspects of those needs to which 
the tone of the message, if it would really reach the 
needy ^>ul, must intelligently and sympathetically 
correspcjad. The first of these comes of the preach- i 
er's larger life, his study of the timeless Word of 
God, his intercourse with God in history, his personal 
communion with his Master, and the knowledge of 
those depths of human nature which never change 
whatever waves of alteration may disturb the sur- 
face. The second comes from a constantly alert j 
watch of the events and symptoms of the current 
times, begotten of a deep desire that the salvation of 
the world, which is always going on, may show itself 
here and now in the salvation of these particular men 
to whom the preacher speaks. / If we leave out the 
difference of natural endowments and of personal de- 
votedness, there is nothing which so decides the dif- 
ferent kinds as well as the different degrees of min- 
isters' successes as the presence or absence of this 
balance and proportion of the general and special, the 
world-consciousness and the time-consciousness. The 
abstract reasoner, laying his deep trains of thought 
which run far wide of the citadels where sin is now 
entrenched, and never shatter a stone of present 



/ 



220 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

wickedness with their ponderous explosions, whatever 
other good things he may do, fails as a preacher to 
men. The mere critic of the time who, with no deep 
principles and no long hopes, goes on his way merrily 
or fiercely lopping off the ugly heads of the vices of 
the time with his light switch or valiant sword, he, 
too, fails in his work, and by and by is wearied and 
distressed as he finds the surface character of all the 
reformation to which he brings his converts. It is 
the first sort of preaching that wearies men when 
they complain of what they call a very profound but 
a very dull sermon. The second is what makes peo- 
ple dissatisfied with a sense of unthoroughness as 
they come home still mildly tingling from what they 
call a sensational sermon. The first man has aimed 
at truth without caring for timeliness. The second 
man has been so anxious to be timely that he has 
perhaps distorted truth, and certainly robbed her of 
her completeness. Truth and timeliness together 
make the full preacher. How shall you win such 
fulness ? Let me say one or two general words, and 
leave particulars of the method to come out, if they 
may, all through the lecture. First, seek always 
truth first and timeliness second, — never timeliness 
first and truth second. Then, let your search for 
truth be deliberate, systematic, conscientious. Let 
your search for timeliness consist rather in seeking 
for strong sympathy with your kind, a real share in 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 221 

their occupations, and a hearty interest in what is 
going on. And yet again; let the subjects of your 
sermons bejnostly eternal truths, and let the timeli- 
ness come in the illustration of those truths by, and 
their application to, the events of current life. So 
you will make the thinking of your hearers larger, 
and not smaller, as you preach to them. 

So much in general. But now let us come to this 
most interesting age in which we live and in which 
we are set to preach. I want to point out two or 
three of its broadest characteristics and see how they 
affect the preacher's work. I do not undertake any 
such task as a general estimate of the character of 
our strange century and country. I only want to 
indicate some points in it which come directly home 
to you and me, and to see, if we can, how we shall 
treat them. Let me speak of the feeling of our time 
about Truth and Life in general, about the Ministry 
and about the Bible. 

In the first place, then, there are certain vaguely 
conceived but real difficulties lying in people's minds 
to-day against which the Gospel that we preach 
strikes. We meet them in a great variety of forms. 
We find their spirit appearing in regions of intelli- 
gence where there cannot be any understanding of 
their intellectual statements. The most common, the 
most wonderfully subtle and pervasive of all these is 
the notion of Fate, with all the consequences which 



222 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

it brings with it to the ideas of responsibility and 
even to the fundamental conception of personal Life. 
We are so occupied with watching the developments 
of fatalistic philosophy in its higher and more scien- 
tific phases that I think we often fail to see to what 
an extent and in what unexpected forms it has found 
its way into the common life of men and is governing 
their thoughts about ordinary things. The notion of 
fixed helplessness, of the impossibility of any strong 
power of a man over his own life, and, along with 
this, the mitigation of the thought of responsibility 
which, beginning with the sublime notion of a man's 
being answerable to God, comes down to think of 
him only as bound to do his duty to society, then 
descends to consider him as only liable for the harm 
which he does to himself, and so finally reaches the 
absolute abandonment of any idea of judgment or 
accountability whatever, — all this is very much more 
common than we dream. It runs down through all 
the degrees of lessening consciousness. There is 
nothing stranger than to watch how the intelligent 
speculations of the learned become the vague preju- 
dices of the vulgar. You can shut up nothing within 
the scholar's study-door. For good or for mischief \ 
all that the wisest are thinking becomes in some 
form or other the basis upon which the ignorant live. 
Partly this, and partly a power which works just the 
other way. Partly that the learned are led on by 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 223 

their oneness with all their brethren to take for the 
subjects of their study those things to which the 
interest of the unlearned has been turned and to 
reduce to philosophical expression those ideas by 
which the rudest are shaping their lives. Whatever 
the interaction of the two causes may have been, the 
result is here a certain suspicion of fatalism all 
around us. With it come the inevitable conse- 
quences of hopelessness and restraint pervading all 
society and influencing all action, different in differ- 
ent natures, hard and defiant in some, soft and lux- 
urious in others, but in all their various forms 
unfitting men for the best happiness, or the best 
growth, or the best usefulness to fellow-men. This 
is what we find scattered through the society in 
which we live. This is what you have got to preach 
to, my young friends. You will not escape it by 
ministering to one class of people rather than to an- 
other, for it runs everywhere. You will leave it in 
the study only to find it in some new form in the 
workshop. You will silence it in the dull querulous 
discontent of the boor only to hear it in the calm and 
resigned and lofty philosophy of the sage. What 
preaching can you meet it with? Certainly one 
may point out the broadest features of the preaching 
which alone can meet it. It must be positive preach- 
ing. There never was an age when negative preach- 
ing, the mere assertion of what is not true, showed 



224 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

its uselessness as it does to-day. It does no good to 
show the fatalist that fatalism is untenable. He 
does not really believe it ; it is only that he seems to 
be unable to believe anything else. You disprove it, 
and that only adds another to the heap of things that 
are incredible. You must preach positively, telling 
him what is true, setting God before his heart and 
bidding it know its Lord. And it must be preaching 
to the conscience. The conscience is the last part of 
our personality that dies into the death of fatalism. 
It must be the first part of us that wakens to the 
privileges and obligations of personal life. Make a J 
man know that he is wicked and that he may be good, j 
and his self and God's self will be realities to him j 
which no juggle of words can make him believe do j 
not exist. And, thirdly, there never was an age that | 
so needed to have Christ preached to it, the personal 
Christ. In his personality the bewildered soul must 
re-find its own personal life. In the service of Him 
it must re-discover the possibility and the privilege of 
duty. The haunting scepticism must be invaded by 
preaching such as this. The doubt which has grown 
up so vaguely and will give no account of itself, must 
be overshadowed and undermined, overshadowed by 
the vivid majesty of God in Christ, undermined by 
the sense of sin and the necessity of righteousness. 
The only hope of its complete dispersion is to pro- 
duce the Christian life which is its own assurance, 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 225 

declares its own freedom and prophesies its own 
possibilities. 

I speak of this tendency to doubt concerning spir- 
itual and personal forces principally as it appears all 
through the movements of society and the lives of 
common men. I have not much to say here about 
the way in which the preacher meets it in the theo- 
ries of science, the guesses at the philosophy of the 
universe which the philosophers of our time have made 
so plentifully. But nobody can listen to sermons 
nowadays and not be struck by seeing how con- 
fusedly the purpose of preaching and the function of 
the preacher seems to be apprehended by those who 
preach. Among the preachers who busy themselves 
with what modern science is doing and saying, we 
can easily discern several classes. One class claims 
competently to criticise the work of specialists and to 
revise their judgments, even about those subjects on 
which they ought to be authorities. It attempts to 
pronounce with competence upon the results of scien- 
tific inquiry in a summary way which it would never 
tolerate with reference to its own peculiar subjects of 
study. It is needless to say how this class puts itself 
into the power of those whom it criticises. It can get 
the material for its criticism only from them. So 
soon as it leaves the field of general reasoning and 
attempts to touch the question of scientific fact, it 
must look for its facts to those who, for the time, it is 

15 



226 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

treating as its adversaries. It is reduced to some- 
thing of the helplessness to which the Israelites were 
brought when the Philistines who had conquered 
them compelled them to come to their smiths to 
sharpen every man his share, and his coulter, and 
his axe, and his mattock. Another class seems to 
stand ready, not merely to disown the power of com- 
petent criticism, but to accept with headlong zeal 
every momentary conclusion of modern science, even 
before the scientific world itself has learned to treat 
it as more than a probable hypothesis ; and seems to 
be all the more eager to accept it the more entirely 
it seems to be in conflict with the faith of Chris- 
tianity. No one will deny, I think, that there are 
among the disciples of natural science to-day some 
men who curiously repeat on their own ground every 
offensive and arrogant peculiarity of the priestcraft 
whose historical enormities they so fondly and truly 
upbraid. It is an interesting illustration of how 
human nature is the same at heart, and, if it be bad, 
will show the same kind of badness whether it wear 
the priest's surplice or the professor's gown. To this 
overbearing assumption this second class is always in 
great haste to prostrate itself. Surely the spirit of 
both of these classes is not good. Either is bad; 
either the competence with which some clergymen 
attempt to pronounce upon the value of scientific 
theories, or the panic in which other clergymen seem 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 227 

to be waiting only to surrender to the first man with 
a hammer or a microscope who challenges them. 
There is another class still which seems to be merely 
frightened. A sense of vague inevitable danger is 
continually haunting those who feel how wholly in- 
competent they are to master or even to comprehend 
the thing they fear. They hate and dread the very 
name of Science. They would really, literally, silence 
its investigations if they could. As the best thing 
which they can do, they are very apt to devise or to 
adopt some exceedingly fantastic and exaggerated 
form either of church government or of ritual, or of 
doctrine, which they clothe with artificial sacredness, 
and then set it up to keep the advancing monster 
back, as they said that the Chinese piled their most 
sacred crockery upon the track to stop the progress 
of the first locomotive that came thundering through 
their land. All fanaticism is closely bound to fear. 
These are the dispositions with which some minis- 
ters meet the spirit of the day. These are the vari- 
ous classes. Among these classes comes some new 
minister, and stands and says, To which shall I be- 
long? Is there not something better than either? 
Indeed there is. It is possible for you and me, tak- 
ing the facts of the spiritual life, to declare them with 
as true a certainty as any preacher ever did, in what 
men call the " ages of faith." They are as true to- 
day as they ever were. Men are as ready to feel 



228 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

their truth. The spiritual nature of man, with all 
its needs, is just as real a thing, and Christ is just 
as truly and richly its satisfaction. To speak to it 
and offer Him is your privilege and mine. And yet 
not to be unregardful of what men are thinking by 
our side, to watch it, so far as we may to understand 
it all, but always to watch it with a desire to see, not 
what it will say to overthrow, but what it will say to 
strengthen and enlarge the truth we preach ; to watch 
it with a feeling that it may modify our conception 
and statement of the truth, but with no fear at all 
that it ever can destroy the truth itself ; this does 
seem to me to be the temper for the preacher of to- 
day. Our truth stands on its own evidence, but it 
has its connections with all the truth that men are 
learning so wonderfully on every side. To listen to 
what they learn, not that we may see whether our 
truth of the soul and of God is true, but that we may 
come to truer and larger ways of apprehending it, 
this is our place. If we can take this place, it will 
give us both firmness and freedom; it will free us 
alike from the uselessness of doubt and the useless- 
ness of bigotry. 

I seem to see strange panic in the faces of the min- 
isters of to-day. I have seen a multitude of preach- 
ers gathered together to listen to one who expounded 
scientific theories upon the religious side, and making 
the hall ring with vociferous applause of statements 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 229 

which might be true or not, but certainly whose truth 
they had not examined, and in which it certainly was 
not the truth but the tendency to help their side of 
the argument that they applauded. I think that 
that is not a pleasant sight for any one to see who 
really cares for the dignity and purity of his profes- 
sion. 

The preacher must mainly rely upon the strength 
of what he does believe, and not upon the weakness 
of what he does not believe. It must be the power 
of spirituality, and not the feebleness of materialism 
that makes him strong. No man conquers, no true 
man tries to conquer merely by the powerlessness of 
his adversary. I think the scene which I just de- 
scribed was principally melancholy, because it sug- 
gested a lack of faith among the ministers themselves. 
And one feared that that was connected with the ob- 
stinate hold upon some untenable excrescences upon 
their faith which they chose to consider part of the 
substance of their faith itself. So bigotry and cow- 
ardice go together always. 

But after all, in days like these, one often finds 
himself falling back upon the simplest truths con- 
cerning the whole matter of belief. If there be dis- 
proof or modification of what we Christians hold, the 
sooner it can be made known to us the better. We 
are Christians at all, if we are Christians worthily, 
because we are first lovers of the truth. And if our 



230 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

truth is wholly true, it is God's before it is ours, and 
we may at least trust Him with some part of its care. 
We are so apt to leave Him out. 

And there is one strong feeling that comes out of 
the extravagant unbelief of our time, which has in it 
an element of reassurance. The preacher and pastor 
sees that in human nature which assures him of the 
essential religiousness of man. He comes to a com- 
plete conviction that only a religion can overthrow and 
supplant a religion. Man, wholly unreligious, is not 
even conceivable to him. And so, however he may 
fear for single souls, the very absoluteness of much of 
the denial of the time seems to offer security for the 
permanence of faith. 

But the main thing is to know our own ground as 
spiritual men, and stand on its assured and tested 
strength. And that strength can be tested only by 
our own experience ; and so once more we come round 
to our old first truth, that the man is behind the min- 
istry, that what is in the sermon must be in the 
preacher first. 

Here must come what useful work we can do for 
those who are bewildered and faithless in these trying 
times. If you are going to help men who are ma- 
terialists, it will not probably be by a scientific dis- 
proof of materialism. It will be by a strong live 
offer of spiritual realities. It is not what the minis- 
ter knows of science, but how he grasps and presents 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 231 

his spiritual verities, that makes him strong. Many 
ignorant ministers meet the difficulties of men far 
wiser than themselves. I may know nothing of spec- 
ulative atheism. It is how I know God that tells. 

I do not dispara ge controversy. Theology must be 
prepared to maintain her ground against all comers. 
If she loses her power of attack and defense, she will 
lose her life, as they used to say that when the bee 
parted with his sting he parted with his industry and 
spirit. Only not every minister is made for a contro- 
versialist, and the pulpit is not made for contro- 
versy. . The pulpit must be positive, telling its mes- 
sage, trusting to the power of that message, expecting 
to see it blend into harmony with all the other truth 
that fills the world ; and the preacher, whatever else 
he may be elsewhere, in the pulpit must be positive 
too, uttering truth far more than denying error. 
There is nothing that could do more harm to Chris- 
tianity to-day than for the multitude of preachers to 
turn from preaching Christ whom they do under- 
stand, to the discussion of scientific questions which 
they do not understand. Hear the conclusion of the 
whole matter. Preach positively what you believe. 
Never preach what you do not believe, or deny what 
you do believe. Rejoice in the privilege of declaring 
God. Let your people frankly understand, while you 
preach, that there is much you do not know, and that 
Joth you and they are waiting for completer light. 



232 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

I must not linger longer on this topic. May God 
help you, as you meet it constantly, to be wise and 
true. 

Another of the questions which belong to this time 
of ours in some peculiar ways is the question of tol- 
eration, — the relation of truth to partial truth and 
error. This again, like every deep pervading ques- 
tion, has its form for the learned and for the un- 
learned. To the scholar it comes with the specula- 
tions, for which the enlarged acquaintance with other 
lands and times have furnished such abundant food, 
about comparative religions. To the unscholarly it 
offers itself in the prevailing disposition to exalt con- 
duct above belief, and ask not what views a man 
holds, but what sort of life he lives. In both these 
cases the tendency of our time is no doubt toward 
tolerance. The scholar and the ignorant man alike 
are both content that their neighbors should think 
differently from them about religion. The very de- 
sire for the stake has died away. We look back to 
the sixteenth and seventeenth century and wonder at 
the enormities of bigotry. We are all thankful for 
the progress; but often as we read the books of the 
time, often as we talk with our friends, there is a 
misgiving which intrudes. How much of this tolera- 
tion is indifference ? How many of these people that 
are kindly to their neighbors' faiths are careless about 
their own ? How much of the difference between us 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 233 

and the zealots of the seventeenth century has come 
from our weakened hold on truth- ? They believed 
with all their hearts, and were intolerant ; we have 
grown tolerant, but then we do not believe as they 
believed. We must realize their intensity before we 
presume to sit in judgment on their intolerance. So 
often we are only trying to be mutually harmless. 
We are like steamers lying in the fog and whistling, 
that we may not run into others nor they into us. 
It is safe, but commerce makes no great progress 
thereby, and it shows no great skill in navigation. 
And then there comes the picture of a higher state 
than either the seventeenth or nineteenth century 
has reached. We see that here, as everywhere, man- 
kind has been advancing in a halting and awkward 
way, first dragging one side forward, and only gradu- 
ally dragging the other side along to meet it. There 
was a time when men were standing with their love 
of truth in advance of their love of personal liberty. 
We see that we are standing now with our love of 
personal liberty in advance of our love for truth. We 
anticipate a time when the love of truth shall have 
come up to our love of liberty, and men shall be cor- 
dially tolerant and earnest believers both at once. 
When that comes it will be a new thing in the world. 
It has been seen in beautiful or splendid individu- 
als scattered all through the ages, but there has been 
10 age in which the mass of thinkers were at once 



234 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

strong in positive belief, and tolerant of difference of 
opinion. 

Now it is certainly the minister's duty to inculcate 
positive belief. We rejoice that it has also been recog- 
nized as the minister's duty to foster charity and tol- 
erance. In the minister, then, would seem to rest the 
hope of that better time to come when both of these 
together are to bless the world. As he goes about 
among his people he is perpetually saddened by their 
unnatural divorce. He hears some member of his 
church talk about truth. He listens to clear state- 
ments of the Gospel ; wise, sound discriminations ; 
true scriptural explanations of the mysteries of God 
and man and grace. And all uttered with a deep 
fervor, which shows how the man loves the truth he 
knows. The preacher says, " What clearness ! " 
" What faith ! " and rejoices over his disciple. And 
just then some stray word drops from the glowing 
lips which shows with what a strangeness, amounting 
almost to antipathy, this believer looks upon other 
people who hold truth differently from himself; with 
what a sense of narrow and exclusive privilege he 
treasures his orthodox belief. Or, just the opposite. 
Some hearer of your preaching delights you with his 
ardent charity for all religions, until you find that he 
has no real religion of his own. He upbraids the 
bigot without ever having dreamed of the intense be- 
lief which has made the bigot what he is. In either 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 235 

case there is a disappointment in the result of your 
work as it appears in these two men. Belief and 
charity are not yet in their true association. Mercy 
and truth have not yet met together. And you set 
yourself, as you walk home from your two parish calls, 
to think what you can do to bring about their union. 
What the minister can really do is this. I give it 
in no special rules. I know none. If I did, I should 
not think it worth my while or yours to come here 
and repeat the little methods of my working which 
would not help you. I only give here, as I have 
tried to all along, the principles for which the grace 
of God and your good sense, if you have both, will 
find for you the applications. The preacher can, 
first always insist on looking and on making his peo- 
ple look on doctrines not as ends but means; and 
so, if other men less perfectly reach the same ends 
by means of other doctrines, he will be able to re- 
joice in their attainment of the end without doing 
dishonor to or valuing one whit the less the truth 
which as it seems to him leads much more directly 
and fully to the great attainment. " Master," said 
John, " we saw one casting out devils in thy name, 
and we forbade him because he folio we th not with 
us." And Jesus said, "Forbid him not, for there is 
no man which shall do a miracle in my name that 
can lightly speak evil of me. For he that is not 
against us is on our part." I suppose the day is past 



H36 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

when people strengthened their sense of the impor- 
tance of the Gospel and of their privilege in hearing 
it, and of their duty to carry it to the heathen, by 
asserting that no heathen could be saved who had not 
heard it. But something of the same spirit lingers 
still at home. The grosser forms of an error will 
often disappear before its milder ones. And many 
men, many ministers, are apt to emphasize the value 
of the truth to themselves by asserting or at least 
implying consequences which they do not really think 
would follow on its rejection by their neighbors. The 
abandonment of such a way of thinking and talking 
would be a great step forward toward the desired 
union of belief and charity. 

And again the preacher may industriously and dis- 
criminatingly set himself to discern what there is 
good in the heart of the system that he tolerates, and, 
tolerating it for that good, may so keep his absolute 
standards and his love for his own truth unimpaired. 
The weakness of a large part of our tolerance for 
other systems than our own is that it is not discrimi- 
nating. It is a mere sentiment. It thinks that it 
is narrow not to tolerate, and so it says, " Come now 
and let us tolerate ; " but it never dissects out that 
soul of goodness in things evil or only half good 
which should make it possible to tolerate them cor- 
dially and be glad of their existence ; and so while 
it wastes its cheap and unmeaning compliments upon 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 237 

them, it often has no real sympathy with them, and 
either despises or hates them underneath its compli- 
ments. This is the kind of tolerance that haunts 
the anniversary platforms where sects are met to- 
gether, where men seem to have forgotten that there 
are any differences between them, and from which 
they go back to their pulpits without a perceptible 
mitigation in the blindness with which they misap- 
prehend the whole position of their neighbor who is 
preaching in the next street to them. Toleration as 
a mere fashion and sentiment is very feeble. It must 
study and appreciate that which is good in what it 
appreciates. To see the positive truths that underlie 
the Roman Catholic errors, that is the only way to 
be cordially tolerant of Romanism, and yet keep 
clearly and strongly one's own Protestant belief. 

It is possible for earnest belief to be united with 
ardent charity, and it is for us who preach the Gos- 
pel of Christ to show the possibility in all our life 
and preaching. Value the ends of life more than its 
means, watch ever for the soul of good in things evil, 
\nd the soul of truth in things false, and beside the 
richer influence that will flow out from your life on all 
to whom you minister, you will do something to help 
the solution of that unsolved problem of the human 
mind and heart, the reconciliation of hearty tolerance 
with strong positive belief. 

I have been speaking of some of the intellectual 



238 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

characteristics of our time which the preacher must 
encounter. They are very prominent. But there are 
other characteristics of a different sort that force 
themselves upon us almost as much. We talk about 
the scientific character of our age. We think of it 
as wholly given up to the search after knowledge. 
But after all there is a vast preponderance of the ac- 
tivity of our time which is in no sense scientific. 
The commercial and social and political movements 
which go on about us cannot be said, I think, to have 
any more of the scientific spirit, to show any more 
tendency to revert to facts and trust to established 
principles, than those same movements have always 
manifested. The trouble witli these great continuous 
and universal interests of life no doubt has its con- 
nections with the danger which besets the study of 
science. What we have to fear is the magnifying 
of second causes to the forgetfulness of the first cause 
and the final cause of things. We need to remember 
as we preach with what enormous urgency this dan- 
ger is pressing upon the lives of the men and women 
to whom our preaching is addressed. The men and 
women are living in the midst of the intense but 
superficial excitement which comes of the unnatural 
and exclusive vividness of second causes. It seems to 
the business man as if Wealth were the king of every- 
thing ; as if it made reputation, made happiness, al- 
most made character. It seems to the man or woman 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 239 

oi society as if Fashion, in some supreme reserve of 
queenship where she sits and whence her undisputed 
mandates come, were the supreme arbiter of destiny. 
It is the frankness with which men own that their 
views of the forces which govern things stops with 
these immediate causes, wealth and fashion and the 
pleasure of the senses, that appals us now. They do 
not even go through the form of recognizing some 
spiritual force farther back. " Alas, there are no 
more hypocrites now," cried the Abbe Poulle in 
France in the last century. And it was indeed a 
symptom. As humanity is constituted, when men 
no longer give themselves the trouble to make an im- 
itation, it proves how little the reality is honored ; 
and the very carelessness of men about affecting any 
thought of higher causes is an indication of how the 
lower causes have absorbed the attention and are try- 
ing to satisfy the needs of men. 

This is the world to which we have to bring the 
Gospel, the story that begins with " God created the 
heaven and the earth," and goes on with the record 
of God's power and love until it comes to the proph- 
ecy of the spiritual Judgment Day. What can we 
do to get that story of the one first cause home to the 
leart of this eager, feverish age worshipping in its 
Pantheon of second causes ? JFirst, O my brothers 
who are to be pastors of the Church, we can take 
watchful care that the Church herself is true to her 



240 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

belief in God as the source of all power. One of the 
most terrible signs of how the spirit of sordidness has 
filled the world is the lamentable extent to which it 
has pervaded the Church. The Church is constantly 
found trusting in second causes as if she knew of no 
first cause. She elaborates her machineries as if the 
power lay in them. She goes, cap in hand, to rich 
men's doors, and flatters them and dares not tell 
them of their sins because she wants their money. 
She lets her officers conduct her affairs with all the 
arts of a transaction on the street or an intrigue in 
politics, or only shows her difference of standards and 
freedom from responsibility by some advantage taken 
which not even the conscience of the exchange or of 
the caucus would allow. She degrades the dignity of 
her grand commission by puerile devices for raising 
money and frantic efforts to keep herself before the 
public which would be fit only for the sordid ambi- 
tions of a circus troupe. You must cast all that out 
of the church with which you have to do, or you will 
make its pulpit perfectly powerless to speak of God 
to our wealth-ridden and pleasure-loving time. You 
must show first that His Church believes in Him and 
trusts Him and is satisfied in Him, or you will cry in 
vain to men to come to Him. To do this, you must 
not only cast out at your doors the disreputable tin- 
sel of church life of which I have been speaking. You 
must believe in man as the child of God enough to 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 241 

preach to him at once the highest spiritual truth 
about his Father. Many a well-meaning preacher is 
all wrong here, I think. He says, " You must take 
men as you find them. You must speak to such fac- 
ulties and perceptions as are awake in them." And 
so because he sees the economical perceptions very 
acute in our commercial time, he preaches the econ- 
omy of goodness. He shows men how holiness will 
pay. He knows there is a higher truth, but he can- 
not trust men to hear it. He hopes to lead them on 
to it by and by. Ah, that is all wrong. There is in 
every man's heart, if you could only trust it, a power 
of appreciating genuine spiritual truth ; of being 
moved into unselfish gratitude by the love of God. 
Continually he who trusts it finds it there. A hun- 
dred men stand like the Spanish magnates on the 
shore and say, " You must not venture far away. 
There is no land beyond. Stay here and develop 
what we have." One brave and trustful man like 
Columbus believes that the complete world is com- 
plete, and sails for a fair land beyond the sea and 
finds it. The minister who succeeds is the minister 
who in the midst of a sordid age trusts the heart of 
man who is the child of God, and knows that it is 
not all sordid, and boldly speaks to it of God his 
Father as if he expected it to answer. And it does 
answer ; and other preachers who have not believed 
in man, and have talked to him in low planes and 

16 



242 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

preached to him half gospels which they thought 
were all that he could stand, look on and wonder at 
their brother-preacher's unaccountable success. There 
have always been illustrations of this. There never 
were more striking ones than in our time. With all 
the sordidness of our time, the preachers that nave 
been the most powerful have been the most spiritual. 
His theology has something of the taint of mercena- 
riness about it, but of all the great revivalists I do 
not know where we shall find any one who has 
preached more constantly to the good that there is in 
man and assumed in all men a power of spiritual ac- 
tion than Mr. Moody. There is nothing finer than 
to see a soul, which amazes the men in whom it rises, 
rise up in men, when he who trusts it to answer to the 
highest call speaks to it of the love of God. In all 
your preaching echo the ministry of Jesus, who spoke 
to the lowest and most sensual people directly of the 
everlasting love, and by the trust He had in them 
brought them to His Father. 

I do not think that one could rightly suggest the 
characteristics of our time which a minister encoun- 
ters without naming a tendency to sentimentalness 
which shows itself in a great deal of our religion, and 
which, both directly and indirectly, does our work 
great harm. It is connected with the other features 
of the time, with the prevalence of doubt and unbe- 
lief. It is most natural that when a multitude of men 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 243 

have more or less deliberately taken up the idea that 
the foundations of faith are shaken, when they are 
afraid to say that they hold the truths of religion to 
be literally and absolutely true, when even the au- 
thority of religion as the lord of morality is dis- 
turbed, and men are looking somewhere else than to 
God for a constant reason why they should do right, 
and when yet, with all this, the impulses of rever- 
ence and worship remain strong, it is inevitable then 
that a certain religion of sentiment should grow up, 
of which it is impossible to say how much it believes, 
but which delights in glowing and vague utterances of 
feeling. No one can read our hymns, whether they 
be of the rudest revival sort or the translated mediae- 
valisms of ritualism, without feeling what I mean. 
They are very beautiful often, but, compared with the 
hymns that our fathers sang, they are weak. They 
lack thought, and no religion that does not think is 
strong. It may be in reaction from the way in which 
many of the old hymns were made to labor with a 
process of reasoning that struggled on most unlyri- 
cally from verse to verse, that the favorite hymn of 
to-day discards connected thought and seems to try 
only to utter moods of mystic feeling, or to depict 
some scene in which the spiritual parable is apt to be 
lost in the brightness of the sensuous imagery. I 
think that the same thing is true of prayers. A 
prayer must have thought in it. The thought may 



244 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

overburden it so that its wings of devotion are fas- 
tened down to its sides and it cannot ascend. Then 
it is no prayer, only a meditation or a contemplation. 
But to take the thought out of a prayer does not in- 
sure its going up to God. It may be too light as well 
as too heavy to ascend. I saw once in a shop-window 
in London a placard which simply announced " Limp 
Prayers." It described, I believe, a kind of Prayer 
Book in a certain sort of binding which was for sale 
within ; but it brought to mind many a prayer to 
which one had listened, in which he could not join, 
out of which had been left the whole backbone of 
thought, and to which he could attach none of his 
own heart's desires. 

I know that there have always been sentimentalists 
in religion. Mysticism, which at its best is a very high 
and thorough action of the whole nature in apprehend- 
ing spiritual truth, is always degenerating into senti- 
mentalism. But it is dangerous to-day because it so 
frankly claims for itself that it is religion. Disown- 
ing doctrine and depreciating law, it asserts that re- 
ligion belongs to feeling, and that there is no truth 
but love. You will meet it surely in your first parish 
at the very door. Some of the sweetest and noblest 
natures there are sure to be full of it, and show it to 
you very winningly. Others will set it before you as 
mere weak self-indulgence. You will find many of 
the strongest brains and consciences in town separated 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 245 

entirely from the church, because they consider it, as 
they would say if they spoke their whole minds out 
to you, to be the very shop and banquet room of sen- 
timentalism. You cannot ignore this as you preach. 
You cannot help struggling against its influence upon 
yourself. The hard theology is bad. The soft theol- 
ogy is worse. You must count your work unsatis- 
factory unless you waken men's brains and stir their 
consciences. Let them see clearly that you value no 
feeling which is not the child of truth and the father 
of duty. And to let them see that you value no 
other feeling you must value no other feeling either 
in yourself or them. 

It is natural for sentimentalism and scepticism to 
go together, like the fever and the chill, and the 
same mixture of deeper faith and more conscientious 
duty must be medicine for both. 

We ministers cannot help noting with interest 
among the symptoms of our time the way in which 
the preacher himself is regarded. To remark the 
changed attitude which the people generally hold to- 
wards ministers is the most familiar commonplace ; 
to mourn over it as a sign of decadence in the re- 
ligious spirit is the habit of some people. But the 
reasons of it are plain enough and have been often 
pointed out. The preacher is no longer the manifest 
superior of other men in wit and wisdom. That def- 




246 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

erence which was once paid to the minister's office, 
upon the reasonable presumption that the man who 
occupied it was better educated, more large in his 
ideas, a better reasoner, a more trustworthy guide in 
all the various affairs of life than other men, if it were 
paid still would either be the perpetuation of an old 
habit, or would be paid to the office purely for itself 
without any presumption at all about the man. This 
latter could not be long possible ; no dignity of office 
can secure men's respect for itself continuously unless 
it can show a worthy character in those who hold it. 
I am glad that the mere forms of reverence for the 
preacher's office have so far passed away. I am not 
making a virtue of necessity. I rejoice at it. Noth- 
ing could be worse for us than for men to keep tell- 
ing us by deferential forms that we are the wisest of 
men when their shelves are full of books with far 
wiser words in them than the best that we can 
preach ; or that we are the most eloquent of men 
when there are better orators by the score on every 
side ; or that we are the best of men when we know 
of sainthoods among the most obscure souls before 
which we stand ashamed. No manly man is satis- 
fied with any ex-officio estimate of his character. 
Whether it makes him better or worse than he is, he 
cares nothing for it. And so the nearer that minis- 
ters come to being judged like other men just for 
what they are, the more they ought to rejoice, the 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 247 

more I think they do rejoice. But what then ? Is 
the minister's sacred office nothing? Does not his 
truth gain authority and his example urgency from 
the position where he stands ? Indeed they do. It 
seems to me that the best privilege which can be 
given to any man is a position which shall stimulate 
him to his best and which shall make his best most 
effective. And that is just what is given to the min- 
ister. An official position which should substitute 
some other power for the best powers of the man 
himself, and should make him seem effective beyond 
his real force, would be an injury to him and ulti- 
mately would be recognized as an empty sham itself, 
I quarrel with no man for his conscientious belief 
about the high and separate commission of the Chris- 
tian ministry. I only quarrel with the man who, 
\ resting satisfied with what he holds to be his high 
commission, is not eager to match it with a high 
character. The more you think yourself different 
from other men because you are a minister, the more 
try to be different from other men by being more 
fully what all men ought to be. That is a High 
Churchmanship of which we cannot have too much. 

I hold then that the Christian ministry has still in 
men's esteem all that is essentially valuable, and all 
fchat it is really good for it to have. It has a place 
of utterance more powerful and sacred than any 
other in the world. Then comes the question, What 



'TJjriVIRSITY! 



248 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

has it to utter? The pedestal is still there. Men 
will not gather about it as they once did perhaps, 
without regard to the statue that stands upon it. 
But if a truly good statue stands there the world can 
see it as it could if it stood nowhere else. 

There are two great faults of the ministry which 
come, one of them from ignoring, the other from re- 
belling against, this change in the attitude of the 
minister and the people towards each other. The 
first is the perpetual assertion of the minister's 
authority for the truth which he teaches. To claim 
that men should believe what we teach them because 
we teach it to them and not because they see it to be 
true is to assume a place which God does not give 
us and men will not acknowledge for us. Many a 
Christian minister needs to be sent back to him whom 
we call the heathen Socrates, to read these noble 
words in the Phaedo — which whole dialogue, by the 
way, is itself no unworthy pattern of the best quali- 
ties of preaching. " You, if you take my advice, will 
think little about Socrates, but a great deal about 
Truth." 

And the other fault is the constant desire to make 
people hear us who seem determined to forget us. 
This is the fault of the sensational preaching. A 
large part of what is called sensational preaching is 
simply the effort of a man who has no faith in his 
office or in the essential power of truth to keep him- 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 249 

self before people's eyes by some kind of intellectual 
fantasticalness. It is a pursuit of brightness and vi- 
vacity of thought for its own sake, which seems to 
come from a certain almost desperate determination of 
the sensational minister that he will not be forgotten. 
I think there is a great deal of nervous uneasiness of 
mind which shows a shaken confidence in one's posi- 
tion. It struggles for cleverness. It lives by mak- 
ing points. It is fatal to that justice of thought 
which alone in the long run commands confidence 
and carries weight. The man who is always trying 
to attract attention and be brilliant counts the mere 
sober effort after absolute truth and justice dull. It 
is more tempting to be clever and unjust than to be 
serious and just. Every preacher has constantly to 
make his choice which he will be. It does not be- 
long to men, like angels, to be u ever bright and 
fair " together. And the anxious desire for glitter is 
one of the signs of the dislodgment of the clerical 
position in our time. 

There is a possible life of great nobleness and use- 
fulness for the preacher who, frankly recognizing and 
cordially accepting the attitude towards his office 
which he finds on the world's part, preaches truth 
and duty on their own intrinsic authority, and wins 
personal power and influence because he does not 
seek them, but seeks the prevalence of righteousness 
and the salvation of men's souls. 



250 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The relation of our time to the Bible is another 
subject which must interest a preacher very deeply. 
The Bible is the authority by which we preach ; and 
to find the people whom our preaching interests so 
largely uninterested in and ignorant of the source 
from which our truth is drawn, must awaken some 
questions as to whether our preaching is wholly 
right. I do not speak now of the prevalent doubts 
about the Bible, though they are of course connected 
very closely, both as cause and effect, with men's 
ignorance about it. I speak merely of the fact of 
that undoubted ignorance. Who is there among our 
people that knows the Old Testament ? Where are 
the people that in any real sense know the New ? 

If we look for the reasons of such ignorance about 
a book which lies on everybody's table, and whose 
name is on everybody's lips, they are not hard to 
find. First there is in our time a great reaction 
from the belief that men once had in the saving 
power of the Bible. Men who have read a book not 
because it was true or because they wanted to get at 
its lessons, but because they thought it was safe to 
read it and unsafe not to read it, just as soon as 
the notion of safety is loosened from it, will be less 
ready to care for its truth and to feel its power than 
that of other books. This is human nature. The 
stronger feeling about the Bible has kept down the 
more familiar feeling which attaches us to other 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 251 

books. Another reason is, of course, the crowd of 
other books, their cheapness and their apparent press- 
ingness. Even the man who knows that the Bible is 
the best of books, will read the last new treatise on 
religion instead of the Bible, because he knows the 
Bible belongs to all ages, and can never pass out of 
date, while with this " latest publication " it is to- 
day or never. And yet another reason is the preva- 
lent disposition to consider the Bible the clergy's 
book. We wonder at the pusillanimity with which 
the people of the Middle Ages and the Romanists of 
to-day have submitted to restrictions on the reading 
of the Bible, and to the acceptance of whatever ac- 
count of it their preachers chose to give. The real 
truth is that they like this state of things ; and many 
of our Protestants like it too, and of their own free 
will treat the Bible so exactly as the Mediaeval 
Christian was compelled to treat it that it ought not 
to seem strange. And another reason is, that the 
clergy by their unreal fantastic treatment of the 
Bible often do what they can to make the people 
think that it is indeed unintelligible except to one 
who holds a very complicated key, and so that it is 
not for the like of them to touch it. This is the 
evil of all unreal exegesis. It throws an unreal air 
about the book of God. I heard of a sermon on the 
first verse of the forty-first psalm which declared it to 
be a statement of the mission of Christ and the 



252 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

scheme of the Atonement. Imagine a believing dis- 
ciple going home after that sermon and reading his 
Bible with the slightest hope of knowing what 
it meant ! And another reason still is our unbiblical 
preaching. I mean our preaching about all topics 
with various degrees of wisdom but with nothing 
which would suggest that what we give men is only 
a few drops out of a spring of truth and life, and so 
would send them eagerly to the fountain to drink 
their fill. 

Against these tendencies to make the Bible unreal 
and uninteresting there has come the protest of the 
new way of treating it and the new books about it, 
I know the danger of superficialness which attends 
the realistic treatment of the Bible. I know how apt 
it is to carry the mind up to a certain point of ama- 
teur interest and leave it there. Certainly no one 
can praise it except as an introduction to a spiritual 
richness which is far deeper than itself, but in our 
day it is something to be very glad of that Milman 
and Stanley, and Farrar and the author of "Ecce 
Homo," in literature, and Holman Hunt and Bida, in 
the region of art, have made the outer life of the 
Bible live anew, and by sweeping aside the mist of 
unreality that hung about its door have opened the 
way for a deeper entrance into its spirit than man 
has yet attained. 

There is need of every special effort to make men 



THE MINISTRY FOR OUR AGE. 253 

know the Bible. The Bible class, the expository lect- 
ure, the illustrative picture, none of them can do too 
much. But there is yet greater need that you and 
I who preach should let the people see that we are 
men of the Bible, that we know its letter and are 
possessed by its spirit, that out of it directly comes 
the support of our own religious life and the food 
which we offer in our preaching. 

I must not let my lecture grow any longer. I have 
tried to point out to you some of the peculiarities of 
our time which we as preachers must encounter. I 
must not close without begging you not to be ashamed 
or afraid of the age you live in, and least of all to 
talk of it in a tone of weak despair. In the beginning 
of the last century many men talked of Christianity 
as if it were an effete superstition. And yet behold 
the new life which has come forth since from that 
which men then called dead. The state of things 
which then existed may seem to be renewed, though 
it is not possible for men to be as wholly unbelieving 
in the nineteenth century as they were in the eigh- 
teenth. But out of what men now call a slow death 
new life will come. In many ways we can see clearly 
that it is not death, but some strange change and 
progress of the methods of life by which we are sur- 
rounded. To be thoroughly in sympathy with the 
Ige, to admire everything in it that is admirable, to 



\/ 



254 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

rejoice in its great achievements, to see the beauty 
of the superb material structure which it is building 
for the better spirituality which is to come to dwell 
in it, to love to trace the strange nomadic currents of 
spiritual desire which run, often grotesquely or fran- 
tically, through its tumultuous life, to see with joy 
how its new needs bring out new sides of helpfulness 
in the ever helpful Gospel of Christ, this is the true 
culture of a preacher for our time. He believes in it 
and loves it, and sees its great strong faults against 
the background of its noble qualities. He thanks 
God, who sent him here to work ; for he is sure that 
while there have been many centuries in which it 
was easier, there has been none in which it was more 
interesting or inspiring for a man to preach. 




THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 



npHERE is a power which lies at the centre of all 
success in preaching, and whose influence reaches 
out to the circumference, and is essential everywhere. 
Without its presence we cannot imagine the most 
brilliant talents making a preacher of the Gospel in 
the fullest sense. Where it is largely present, it is 
wonderful how many deficiencies count for nothing. 
It has the characteristics which belong to all the most 
essential powers. It is able to influence the whole 
life as one general and pervading motive ; and it can 
also press on each particular action with peculiar 
force. Under its compulsion a man first becomes a 
preacher, and every sermon that he preaches is more 
or less consciously shaped by its pressure ; as the 
whole round world and each round atom are shaped 
and held in shape by the same laws. Without this 
power, preaching is almost sure to become either a 
struggle of ambition or a burden of routine. With 
it, preaching is an ever fresh delight. The power is 
the value of the human soul, felt by the preacher, 
and inspiring all his work. 



256 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The power of that motive has been assumed in 
all that I have said to you. But it seems to me to 
be so supremely important ; the ministry which is 
full of it is so rich ; the ministry which lacks it is so 
poor, that I determined, when I undertook the duty 
which I complete to-day, that this last lecture should 
be given to a serious consideration of the importance 
and value of this mainspring, which lies coiled up \> 
within all the complicated machinery of the ministry, 
the realized value of the human soul. 

As to its importance, we get our clearest impres- 
sion if we look at the earthly ministry of Jesus. 
There are many accounts to be given of His wondrous 
work. People may say many ingenious things about 
it, and many of them are true. But we are sure that 
he has put his hand most certainly upon the central 
power of Christ's ministry, who holds up before us 
the intense value which the Saviour always set upon • 
the souls for which He lived and died. It shines in 
everything He says and does. It looks out from His 
eyes when they are happiest and when they are sad- 
dest. It trembles in the most loving consolations, 
and thunders in the most passionate rebukes which 
come from His lips. It is the inspiration at once of v 
. His pity and His indignation. And it has made the 
few persons on whom it chanced to fall, and in whose 
histories it found its illustrations, the men and women 
who represented humanity about Him in Palestine — 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 257 

Nicodemus, Peter, John, the Pharisees, the Mag- v 
dalen, the woman of Samaria, and all the rest — 
luminous forever with its light. That power still 
continues wherever the same value of the human 
soul is present. If we could see how precious the 
human soul is as Christ saw it, our ministry would v 
approach the effectiveness of Christ's. "I am not 
convinced by what you say. I am not sure that I 
cannot answer every one of your arguments," said a 
man with whom a preacher had been pleading, "but 
one thing which I confess I cannot understand. It 
puzzles me, and makes me feel a power in what you 
say. It is why you should care enough for me to 
take all this trouble, and to labor with me as if you 
cared for my soul." It is a power which every man 
must feel. It inspires the preacher ; and his hearers, 
catching its influence, become soft and ready to re- 
ceive the truth. It is strength in the arm which 
strikes, and tenderness in the rock which receives 
the blow. 

The other motives of the minister's work seem to • 
me to stand around this great central motive as the 
staff officers stand around a general. He needs them. 
They execute his commands. He could not do his 
work without them. But he is not dependent upon 
them as they are upon him ; any one of them might 
fall away and he could still fight the battle. The 
power of the battle is in him. If he falls, the cause 

33 



258 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

is ruined. So stan^ the subordinate motives of the 
ministry around the commanding motive, the realized 
value of the human soul. They are the motives 
which I have had occasion to dwell on one by one in 
the course of these lectures. They are the pleasure 
of work, the mere delight in the exercise of powers 
which is natural to any man who is healthy both in 
body and mind ; the love of influence, that gratifica- 
tion in feeling our life touch another life for some 
good result, which is also natural and healthy ; the 
perception of order, that love of regulated movement, 
of the rhythm of righteousness in the lives and ways 
of men, which in its higher forms is noble, though in 
the lower it degenerates into routine ; and lastly the 
pure concern for truth, the pleasure in seeing right 
ideas take the place of wrong ideas, which may be 
quite separate from any regard for the interest of the 
person in whom the change takes place. These are 
the nobler members of the staff of the great general. 
There are more ignoble ones who volunteer their 
services and wear something like his uniform and 
cannot always be distinguished from his true ser- 
vants ; such as emulation, and the love of fame, and 
the pride of opinion, and the enjoyment of congenial 
society. I will not dwell on those. These others are 
the real staff of the general. But when we look at 
their group, how the commanding motive whom they 
serve towers up far above them all. They get their 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 259 

highest dignity from serving him. For in his service 
each of them, which is abstract in itself, comes into 
actual contact with man ; and no abstract principle 
has shown its full power or given its full pleasure 
until it has opened the essential relations which exist 
between it and human nature. It is the great priv- 
ilege of the ministry that it is kept in constant nec- 
essary contact with mankind. Therein lies its health- 
iness. Man in his mystery and wonderfulness is 
more full of the suggestion of God than either ab- 
stract truth or physical nature. And so the true 
preacher, in spite of his imperfect opportunities for v 
study, in spite of his separation from the beauty of 
the natural world, has the chance to know more of 
God than the profoundest speculative philosophy or J 
the most exquisite scenery of earth could reveal to 
him. 

Let me try then to point out to you what some of 
the effects will be in a man's preaching from a true 
sense of the value of the human soul, by which I' 
mean a high estimate of the capacity of the spiritual 
nature, a keen and constant appreciation of the attain- 
ments to which it may be brought. And first of all 
it helps to rescue the Gospel which we preach from 
a sort of unnaturalness and incongruity which is very 
apt to cling to it. This is, I think, very important. 
Consider what it is that you are to declare week after 
week, to the men and women who come to hear you. 



260 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The mighty truths of Incarnation and Atonement 
are your themes. You tell them of the birth and 
life and death of Jesus Christ. You picture the 
adorable love and the mysterious sacrifice of the 
Saviour. And you bind all this to their lives. You 
tell them that in a true sense all this was certainly 
for them. I do not know what you are made of, if 
sometimes, as you preach, there does not come into 
your mind a thought of incongruity. What are you, 
you and these people to whom you preach, that for 
you the central affection of the universe should have 
been stirred ? You know your own life. You know 
something of the lives they live. You look into their 
faces as you preach to them. "Where is the end 
worthy of all this ministry of almighty grace which 
you have been describing? Is it possible that all 
this once took place and, by the operation of the Holy 
Spirit, is a perpetual power in the world, merely that 
these machine-lives might run a little truer, or that 
a series of rules might be established by which the 
current workings of society might move more smooth- 
ly ? That, which men sometimes make the purpose 
of it all, is too unworthy. The engine is too coarse 
to have so fine a fire under it. You must see some- 
thing deeper. You must discern in all these men 
and women some inherent preciousness for which 
even the marvel of the Incarnation and the agony of 
Calvary was not too great, or it is impossible that you 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 261 

should keep your faith in those stupendous truths 
which Bethlehem and Calvary offer to us. Some 
source of fire from which these dimmed sparks come, 
some possible renewal of the fire which is in them 
still, some sight of the education through which each 
soul is passing, and some suggestion of the special 
personal perfectness to which each may attain, all 
this must brighten before you, as you look at them ; 
and then the truths of your theology shall not be 
thrown into confusion nor faded into unreality by 
your ministry to men. The best thing in a minister's 
life is the action of his works and his faith on one 
another; his experience of the deeper value of the 
human soul making the wonders of his faith more 
credible, and the truths of his faith always revealing 
to him a deeper and deeper value in the soul. 

I think that nobody can preach with the best 
power who is not possessed with a sense of the mys- 
teriousness of the human life which he preaches to. 
It must seem to him capable of indefinite enlarge- 
ment and refinement. He must see it in each new 
person as something original and new. This must 
be something which belongs to his whole conception 
»f man as the child of God. It must not be the mere 
inspiration of his whim, attributed in great richness 
to some lives which chance to take his fancy but 
ignored in others. He must see it in all men simply 
as men. When he undertakes to lead them he must 



262 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

feel the mystery and spontaneity of the lives that he 
takes under his teaching. He must be a careful stu- - 
dent of the characters he trains. He cannot carry 
people over the route of his ministry as a ferryman 
carries passengers across the river, always running 
his boat in the same line and never even asking the v 
names of the people whom he carries. He must 

/count himself rather like the tutor of a family of 
princes, who, with careful study of their several dis- 
positions, trains the royal nature of each for the spe- 
cial kingdom over which he is to rule. 

Here is where the preacher and the poet touch. 
Every true preacher must be a poet, at least in so far 
as to see behind all the imperfections of men a certain 
ideal manhood from which they have never separated, 
which underlies the life and lends its value to the 
blurred and broken character of every one. A belief 
in the Incarnation, in the divine Son of Man makes 
such poets of us all. It is interesting to see in how 
many ministers the hopefulness of this ideal poetic 
view of human life overcomes the tendencies of nat- 
ural temperament, the discouragement of poverty and 
disease and the disenchanting influence of intercourse 
with men, and keeps ministers the most hopeful class 
of men. They are always standing where, if they 
will, they may listen for the bells that shall " ring in 
the Christ that is to be." I have seen ministers try 
to crush back this noble tendency of their vocation 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 263 

and to assume a cynicism and a hopelessness which 
they did not feel, so that other men might not call 
them childish. And I have seen men of the world 
disappointed when they came to such ministers and 
did not find in them the childlike hope and trust 
that they expected, but only false and despairing 
thoughts of human nature like their own ; as if the 
ice came up to the fire to warm itself, and found the 
fire ashamed of being warm and trying hard to make 
itself as cold as ice. 

I might dwell, also, on this value of the human 
soul for its own sake, as constituting the constant re- 
serve of pleasure in the ministry. There are other 
pleasures in our work, as I have recounted to you 
already ; but they are all, to a certain extent, de- 
pendent upon circumstances. A parish uproar which ' 
reveals the bad reality of life, may scatter some of 
them. Poverty, which deprives you of the means of 
culture, and takes away the power of carrying out 
your plans, may rob you of others. But the new 
pleasure of dealing with man as man, as a being val- 
uable in himself, for this no peculiar happiness of 
circumstances is needed. Wherever men are, you 
may have it. Nobody but Robinson Crusoe is shut 
out from it, and even to him the Man Friday is sure 
to come. 

And herein lies the real fellowship of the ministry. 
There are no fellow-workers who come so close 



264 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

together as fellow-workers in the ministry of the 
Gospel ; and their companionship is closest when 
they most deeply know this truth of the essential 
value of the human soul. A preacher comes to 
me from Africa, or from some church of another de- 
nomination in the next street, which often seems 
farther off than Africa. It depends upon what the 
power of our preaching is, how near we come to- 
gether. If we are both given to machineries, each, 
of us valuing only what a certain sort of people may 
become under the peculiar culture of the denomina- 
tion which he represents, then we talk together, 
however pleasantly, only over our fences, and shake 
hands, however cordially, only through the slats. If 
we both really value the soul of man, we understand 
each other ; the different methods of our work do 
not keep us apart but bring us together, for they are 
the means by which we manifest to one another the 
deep motive which is the power of both our lives. 
The fences are turned into bridges. Certainly, Chris- 
tian union, whenever it comes, must come thus, not 
by compromise and the adjustment of various forms 
of government and worship, but by the develop- 
ment in all preachers of all kinds of that value for 
man in Christ which burrows far beneath the dif- 
ferences of forms and flies far above them. It 
may be given to some people in these days to take 
iirect steps toward organic Christian union. I bid 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 265 

them God speed. But if that is not our task let us 
know, and let us rejoice in knowing, that we are 
doing, perhaps, as much as they for the millenium, 
if, in ourselves and those who hear us, by whatever 
partial name we and they may be called, we are do- 
ing what we can to make strong that sense of the 
value of the human soul which, by its very nature, 
is universal, and cannot be partial. Here is where 
the zealous partisan, who is at the same time an 
earnest Christian, is often working better than he 
knows. He is like a jealous farmer who prays for v 
rain to water his field that it may be richer than 
his neighbor's ; but the heaven is too broad for him, 
and will not limit its bounty by the intention of his 
prayer. It will rain, but it cannot rain between 7 ' 
fences ; and so his selfish prayer brings refreshment ' 
for the alien acres for which he does not pray. 

And as this power in the ministry lies deepest, so 
it lasts longest. The veteran preacher, I think, 
keeps the enjoyment and tries to keep the practice of 
his work later in life than the veteran in almost any 
other occupation. That always seems to me a touch- 
ing and convincing proof of the excellence of our 
calling. It shows better and better as it grows 
older. The delightful French artist, Millet, used to 
say to his pupils : " The end of the day is the 
proof of a picture," " La fin du jour, c'est l'e*preuve 
d'un tableau." He meant that the twilight hour 



266 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

when there is not light enough to distinguish details 
is the most favorable time to judge of a picture as a 
whole. And so it is with the ministry. When the 
cross-lights of jealous emulation and the glare of 
constant notoriety are softening toward the darkness 
in which lies the pure judgment of God and the 
peace of being forgotten by mankind, then that 
which has been lying behind them all the time 
comes out ; and the old preacher who has ceased to 
care whether men praise or blame him, who has 
attained or missed all that there is for him of success 
or failure here, preaches on still out of the pure sense 
of how precious the soul of man is, and the pure de- 
sire to serve a little more that which is so worthy of 
his service, before he goes. 

Let me follow still farther the enumeration of the 
qualities which grow up in the preacher from his 
value for the human soul. Courage is one of its 
most necessary results. The truest way not to be 
afraid of the worse part of a man is to value and try 
to serve his better part. The patriot who really ap- 
preciates the valuable principles of his nation's life, 
is he who most intrepidly rebukes the nation's faults. 
And Christ was all the more independent of men's 
whims because of His' profound love for them and 
complete consecration to their needs. There come 
three stages in this matter ; the ^firgt, a flippant 
superiority which despises the people and thinks of 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 267 

them as only made to take what the preacher chooses 
to give to them, and to minister to his support ; the 
second, a servile sycophancy which watches all their 
fancies, and tries to blow whichever way their vane 
points ; and the third, a deep respect which cares too 
earnestly for what the people are capable of being to 
let them anywhere fall short of it without a strong 
remonstrance. You have seen all three in the way 
in which parents treat their children. I could show 
you each of the three to-day in the relation of differ- 
ent preachers to their parishes. Believe me, the last 
is the only true independence, the only one that it 
is worth while to seek, or indeed that a man has any 
right to seek. An actor may encourage himself by 
despising or forgetting his audience, but a preacher 
must go elsewhere for courage. The more you prize 
the spiritual nature of your people, the more able you 
will be to oppose their whims. There must be the 
fountain of your independence. 

And here too is the power of simplicity and abso- 
lute reality. All turgid rhetoric, all false ornament, 
all doctrinal fantasticalness must disappear in the 
presence of a supreme absorbing value for the souls 
of men. The conscience and the taste, when both 
are pure, will coincide. Every divorce which separates 
them is a parting of what God has joined together. 
The two are most essentially united in the functions 
of our sacred office. The man whose eye is set upon 



268 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

the souls of men, and whose heart burns with the de- 
sire to save them, chooses with an almost unerring 
instinct what figure will set the truth most clearly 
before their minds, what form of appeal will bring it 
most strongly to their sluggish wills. He takes those 
and rejects every other. The mere unwarlike citizen 
goes lounging through the Tower of London, and 
among the old armor there he praises that which he 
calls beautiful. The soldier walks through the same 
halls, and, with a soldier's instinct, thinks no armor 
beautiful which will not kill the enemy or protect the 
man who wears it. That is the final principle of all 
right choice, the touchstone of good taste. The ser- 
mon is to be sacrificed to the soul, the system of work 
to the purpose of work always. It strikes at the 
root of all clerical fastidiousness and the tyranny of 
order. It is wonderful how the character of all orna- i 
ment in a sermon declares itself. That which really 
belongs to the purpose of the sermon is always good. 
That which is there for its own sake every pure taste, 
however untrained, instantly feels to be bad. The 
one is like the sculpture on an old cathedral which, 
however rude, was meant to tell a story. The other 
is like the carving on our house-fronts which is meant 
merely to look pretty, and so fails of even that. 
There are some men born to positions of such dignity y 
that they are doomed to be either illustrious or ridic- 
ulous. And so ornament when it is applied to a ser- 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 269 

raon must either do the lofty work of making truth 
plain and glorious or it fails of everything. It cannot 
be allowed simply to amuse or please as may the or- 
nament of an essay or a poem. 

But our principle goes deeper than this. This con- 
trolling value for the human soul must save a preacher 
also from a narrow treatment of the souls under his 
care. If he values them more than any theory of his 
own about how souls generally are to be treated, he 
will be broad and try only to lead each into that en- 
tire obedience to God which results in such different 
experiences for us all. The ascetic theorist values 
self-sacrifice for its own sake and would enforce it in- 
discriminately. The theorist of self-indulgence says, 
" No, pain is a curse. Pleasure is good. Shun pain. 
Do what is pleasant." The teacher who values the 
souls which he teaches more than any theory says 
something different from either. He says, " Not en- 
joyment and not sorrow, but the meeting of your will 
with the will of God, whatever it may bring, is the 
purpose of all discipline. Be ready for any way which 
God shall choose to bring your will to His." But to 
this large wisdom no teacher can be brought except 
by a true sense of the preciousness of the soul of man. 

It cannot be denied, and it must not be forgotten, 
that this absorbing conviction of the value of the 
human soul has its besetting danger. That danger is 
not slight nor casual. It is important and essential. 



270 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

The danger is lest, in our eagerness to help the spir- 
itual nature which we so highly value, we should be 
led to judge of the truth of any idea by what we 
think might be its influences on the soul for which 
we are so anxious. The tendency to estimate and 
treat ideas according to what appear their probable 
effects on human character has been, no doubt, a 
great besetting sin of spiritual teachers always. I 
suppose that it cannot be wholly separated from any 
vocation which is bound at once to seek for truth and 
to educate character. This is the way in which a 
great deal of half-believed doctrine comes to be cling- 
ing to and cumbering the church. Men insist on be- 
lieving and on having other people believe certain 
doctrines, not because they are reasonably demon- 
strated to be true, but because, in the present state of 
things, it would be dangerous to give them up. This 
is the way in which one man clings to his idea of 
verbal inspiration, and another to his special theory 
of the divine justice, and another to his material no- 
tion of the resurrection, and yet another to his notion i 
of the Church's authority and the minister's commis- 
sion. It is a very dangerous danger, because it wears 
the cloak of such a good motive ; but it is big with . 
all the evil fruits of superstition. It starts with a 
lack of faith in the people and in truth and in God. 
Jesus bids us not to cast pearls before swine, but he 
does not bid us to feed even swine on pebbles. " God 



rHE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 271 

forbid," says Bishop Watson, " that the search after 
truth should be discouraged for fear of its conse- 
quences The consequences of truth may be subver- 
sive of systems of superstition, but they can never be 
injurious to the rights or well-founded expectations 
of the human race." There is nothing that one would 
wish to say more earnestly to our young and ardent 
ministers than this. Never sacrifice your reverence 
for truth to your desire for usefulness. Say nothing 
which you do not believe to be true because you think n 
it may be helpful. Keep back nothing which you 
know to be true because you think it may be harmful. 
Who are you that you should stint the children's 
drinking from the cup which their Father bids you to 
carry to them, or mix it with error because you think 
they cannot bear it in its purity ? We must learn in 
the first place to form our own judgments of what 
teachings are true by other tests than the conse- 
quences which we think those teachings will produce ; 
and then, when we have formed our judgments, we 
must trust the truth that we believe and the God 
from whom it comes, and tell it freely to the people. 
He is saved from one of the great temptations of the 
ministry who goes out to his work with a clear and 
constant certainty that truth is always strong, no 
matter how weak it looks, and falsehood is always 
weak, no matter how strong it looks. 

But if we bear this danger in our minds and are 



272 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

upon our guard against it, then the value for our 
brethren's souls will help us to avoid many false 
standards. It will give interest to many people 
whom otherwise we should find very uninteresting. 
There is much in the minister's training to make him 
value purely intellectual companionships. There is 
a tendency in many ministers, whose disposition leads 
them to value truth more than men, to let them- 
selves be drawn almost exclusively into the society of 
those whose ways of thought are like their own. I 
think it is a wonder to many people who are not min- 
isters, how one man who is the pastor of a great par- 
ish can be genuinely interested in so many people of 
such various characters and lives. A good many 
people and even some clergymen take it for granted 
that it is not possible, and treat the appearance of 
such universal interest as a pretence, necessary in . 
order to keep up the parish feeling, and so a very 
valuable accomplishment in a minister. But it is not 
so. No man ever did it successfully, year after v 
year, as a pretence. The secret of it all is simply 
the great sense of the value of the human soul 
brought home and individualized upon these human 
souls committed to our care, as a magistrate sees all 
the dignity of the law represented in the settlement 
of the petty quarrel that is brought before his court. 
The large conception of the value of humanity must v 
go before the special value of one's own parishioners ; 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 273 

otherwise the pastoral relation softens into mere per- 
sonal fondness, or else hardens into a rigid and for- 
mal treatment of the people according to arbitrary 
classifications which lose alike their general human- 
ity and their personal distinctness. There is a min- 
istry which is all the more personal because of its 
broad humanness ; a ministry which, beginning with 
the sacredness of man, counts all men sacred, and*/ 
touches, with its own peculiar pressure upon each, 
the lives of strong men and little children, of women 
and boys and girls, of working people and people of 
idle lives, of saints and sinners, as the rain and dew 
of God which water the earth feed both the oak-tree 
and the violet ; a ministry which makes its care for 
every soul dearer and more sacred to that soul be-*' 
cause it is evidently no mere personal fondness, but 
one utterance of that Christliness which deeply feels 
the preciousness of the souls of all God's children. 

I have not time to dwell upon the help which a 
perpetual value for the souls of men must render to 
our own spiritual life, and so to our efficiency as 
preachers. Indeed, it is the great power by which 
our souls must grow. This is the ministry of the 
people to the preacher, which is often greater than 
any ministry that the preacher can render to the 
people. I assure you that the relation between the 
pastor and his parish is not right if the pastor thinks x 
the obligation to be all upon one side, if while he 

18 



274 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

lives with them and when he leaves them he is not 
always full of gratitude for what they have done for v 
him. A pastor who is insensible to this cannot do 
the best good to his people. And the sort of help 
which a minister gets from his congregation whose 
souls he values, is a direct complement of the good 
which he gets from his study. He needs them both. 
His study furnishes him with ideas, with intellectual 
conceptions, and his congregation furnishes him with 
an atmosphere in which these ideas ripen to their 
best result. The minister as he grows older changes 
some of the opinions which he used to hold. The 
new opinions, it is to be hoped, are truer than the 
old ones were. But greater than all such changes 
are the deepening convictions about all spiritual 
things which come from the long years of dealing 
with men's souls and which color every opinion 
whether new or old. The conviction that truth and 
destiny are essential and not arbitrary, that Chris- 
tianity is the personal love and service of Christ, and 
that salvation is positive, not negative, — convictions 
such as these they are that fill and richen the preach- 
er's maturer years; and they are convictions whose 
clearness and strength he owes to that occupation 
which has both demanded and cultivated a value for 
the souls of men. 

As to the nature of this value for the human soul, 
notice, I beg you, that it is something more than the 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 275 

mere sense of the soul's danger. It is a deliberate 
estimate set upon man's spiritual nature in view of 
its possibilities. The danger in which that nature 
stands by sin intensifies and emphasizes the value 
which we set upon it, but it does not create that 
value. I think that this is important. I think that 
we are sometimes apt to let our anxiety for the sal- 
vation of souls degenerate into a mere pity for the 
misery into which they may be brought by sin ; and 
the result of such a low thought is that when we 
have been brought to believe that a soul is, as we 
say, " safe," that it has been forgiven and will not 
be punished, we are satisfied. The thought of rescue 
has monopolized our religion and often crowded out 
the thought of culture. I think that the tone of the 
New Testament is different from this. I know how 
eminently there the truths of danger and rescue 
always appear. I know that Christ "came not to 
call the righteous but sinners to repentance," and 
that He was called Jesus because He should " save 
His people from their sins ; " but all the time behind 
the danger lies the value of that spiritual nature 
which is thus in peril. It is not solely or principally 
the suffering which the soul must undergo ; it is the 
loss of the soul itself, its failure to be the bright and 
wonderful thing which, as the soul of God's child, it 
<*ught to be. That is the reason why the process of 
salvation cannot stop with the removal of penalties 



X 






276 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

and the forgiveness of sins. It must include all the 
gradual perfection of the soul by faith and love and 
obedience and patience. This is the reason, too, why 
those who have taken only a half view of the com- 
plete salvation are apt to be severe on those who 
have seen only the other half. Half a truth is often 
more jealous of the other half than of an error. 

This larger and deeper value for the human soul, I 
think, is seen in all the sermons of the greatest 
preachers. It is not mere pity for danger that in- 
spires them to plead with men. That might move 
them to a sort of supercilious exertion, no matter how 
intrinsically worthless was the thing in peril, as one 
might start up to pluck even an insect from the can- 
dle's flame. But it is a glowing vision of how great 
and beautiful the soul of man might be, of what great 
things it might do if it were thoroughly purified and 
possessed by the love of God and so opened free chan- 
nels to His power. 

There are special causes which make this great 
power of which I have been speaking, the sense of 
the value of the soul, more difficult to win and keep 
in this age of ours than it has been in many other 
times. There are two characteristics of our time 
which have their influence upon it. One is the ten- 
dency of philosophy to divert itself from man and 
turn towards other nature, and in its study of man 
to busy itself least with his spiritual nature, most 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 277 

with his physical history. The other is the strong 
philanthropic disposition which prevails about us, the 
desire to relieve human suffering and to promote 
human comfort and intelligence. The first of these 
tendencies would certainly make it more than usually 
hard to realize the spiritual value of humanity ; and 
the second, while it makes much of man, cares mainly 
for his material well-being and is always disposed to 
treat the individual as subservient to the interests of 
the mass. The general result is one of which I think 
that there can be no doubt, a difficulty in the real, 
vivid, perpetual sense of the worth of man's spiritual 
nature such as has very rarely beset those in other 
ages who have tried to serve their fellow-men. At 
such a time we need to hold very strongly to the con- 
stant facts of human life which lie below all such tem- 
porary changes, and to be very sure of their reappear- 
ance. We need a keen, quick-sighted faith which 
shall discover the first signs of what must surely 
come, a reaction from the partial tendencies of the 
time. We need a generous fairness to discover 
thought and feeling which is really spiritual but 
which has cloaked itself, even to its own confusion, 
in the forms and phrases of the time. 

But, more than all of these, we who are preaching 
in such days as these need to understand these meth- 
ods by which in any time we must acquire and pre- 
serve the sense of the preciousness of the human soul. 



f 



278 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

What are these methods ? First of all, before a man 
can value the souls of other men, he must have learnt 
to value his own soul. And a man learns to value 
his own soul only as he is conscious of the solemn 
touches of the Spirit of the Lord upon it. Ah, my 
friends, here is the real reason why he who preaches 
to the inner life of others must himself have had anv 
inner life. Not that he may take his own experience 
and narrowly make it the type to which all other 
experiences must conform ; but that, having learnt 
how God loves him, having felt in many a silent hour 
and many a tumultuous crisis the pressure of God's 
hands full of care and wisdom, he may know, as he 
looks from his pulpit, that behind every one of those 
faces into which he looks there is a soul for which 
God cares with the same thoughtfulness. In his 
closet he has first seen the light which from his closet 
he carries forth to illuminate the humanity of his 
congregation and bring out all its colors. The per- 
sonal desire to be pure and holy, the personal con- 
/ sciousness of power to be pure and holy through 
Christ, reveals the possibility of other men. 

Again, a preacher's view of all theology ought to 
be colored with the preciousness of the human soul. 
It is possible for two men to hold the same doctrine 
and yet to differ very widely in this respect. To one 
of them the Christian truths reveal much of the 
glory and mercy of God ; to the other they shine also 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 279 

with the value of the spiritual manhood. To this 
last the Incarnation reveals the essential dignity of 
that nature into union with which the Deity could so 
marvellously enter. The Redemption bears witness 
of the unspeakable love of God, but also of the value 
underneath the sin of man, which made the jewel / 
worth cleaning. And all the methods of Sanctifica- 
tion, all the disciplines of the Spirit open before the 
watchful minister new insight into the possibilities of 
that being upon whom such bounty of grace is lav- 
ished. I think that we ought to distrust at least the 
form in which we are holding any theological idea, if 
it is not helping to deepen in us the sense of the pre- 
ciousness of the human soul, first impressing it as a 
conviction and then firing it into a passion. There is 
not one truth which man may know of God which 
does not legitimately bear this fruit. I beg you more 
and more to test the way in which you hold the truth 
of God by the power which it has to fill you with 
honor for the spiritual life of man. 

It is evident as we look at the ministry of Jesus / 
that He was full of reverence for the nature of the 
men and women whom He met. There was nothing 
which He knew of God which did not make His 
Father's children precious to Him. We see it even 
in His lofty and tender courtesy. How often I have 
*een a minister's manners either proudly distant and 
conscious of his own importance, or fulsome and fawn- 



-V 



280 LECTURES ON PREACHING. 

ing with a feeble affectionateness that was unworthy 
of a man, and have thought that what he needed was 
that noble union of dignity and gentleness which 
came to Jesus from His divine insight into the value 
of the human soul. 

One other source from which the knowledge of this 
value comes let me mention in a single word. It is 
by working for the soul that we best learn what the 
soul is worth. If ever in your ministry the souls of 
those committed to your care grow dull before you, 
and you doubt whether they have any such value 
that you should give your life for them, go out and 
work for them ; and as you work their value shall 
grow clear to you. Go and try to save a soul and 
you will see how well it is worth saving, how capable 
it is of the most complete salvation. Not by ponder- 
ing upon it, nor by talking of it, but by serving it 
you learn its preciousness. So the father learns the 
value of his child, and the teacher of his scholar, and 
the patriot of his native land. And so the Christian, 
living and dying for his brethren's souls, learns the 
value of those souls for which Christ lived and died. 

And if you ask me whether this whose theory I 
have been stating is indeed true in fact, whether in 
daily work for souls year after year a man does see 
in those souls glimpses of such a value as not merely 
justifies the little work which he does, but even 
makes credible the work of Christ, I answer, surely, 



THE VALUE OF THE HUMAN SOUL. 281 

yes. All other interest and satisfaction of the minis- 
try completes itself in this, that year by year the 
minister sees more deeply how well worthy of infi- 
nitely more than he can do for it is the human soul 
for which he works. 

I do not know how I can better close my lectures 
to you than with that testimony. May you find it 
true in your experience. May the souls of men be 
A always more precious to you as you come always 
nearer to Christ, and see them more perfectly as He 
does. I can ask no better blessing on your ministry 
than that. 

And so may God our Father guide and keep you 
always. 



THE END. 




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