Monday, September 22, 2008

Henry Scougal on Preaching

"If a man could speak fire, and blood, and smoke, if flames should come out of his mouth instead of words, if he had a voice like thunder, and an eye like lightning, he could not sufficiently represent the dreadful account which an unfaithful pastor shall make....

"Again, preaching is an exercise of which many are ambitious, and none more so than those that are the least qualified for it; but it is not so easy a matter to perform this task aright. To stand in the presence of God, and speak to his people in his name, with that seriousness, gravity and simplicity, that zeal and concern which the business requires; to accommodate ourselves to the capacity of the common people, without disgusting the more knowing ones; to awaken drowsy souls, without terrifying tender consciences; to carry home the charge of sin, without the appearance of personal reflection; in a word, to approve ourselves unto God as workmen that need not be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

"You see, sirs, to what a dreadful and important charge you aspire. Consider, I beseech you, what great pains are necessary to fit you for it. It is not a knowledge of controversy, or the gift of eloquence; much less, a strong voice and bold confidence, that will prepare you for it. Your greatest work lies within, in purifying yourselves, and learning that wisdom which is necessary to win souls. Begin, I pray you, and preach to your passions, and try what good you can do to your friends and neighbours. Be not forward in rushing into public; it is better to be drawn than to run.

"Again, we are not to entertain our people with subtle questions, and metaphysical niceties, etc. Let us study to acquaint them with the tenor of the Gospel-covenant, and what they must do to be saved; and teach them their duties to God and men. But it is not enough to speak these things, to tell men what their duty is; we must endeavour to stir them up by the most powerful and effectual persuasions. The judgment being informed, we must move the affections and this is the proper use of our preaching. 'The people that commonly sit under the pulpit (as the excellent Herbert observes) are usually as hard and dead as the seats they sit on, and need a mountain of fire to kindle them.' The best way is to preach the things first to ourselves, and then frequently to recollect in whose presence we are, and whose business we are doing."


Taken from a sermon Scougal delivered before the synod of Aberdeen called "Importance and Difficulty of the Ministerial Function." Cited in the introduction to Scougal's The Life of God in the Soul of Man (Christian Focus, 1996), pp. 33-34.

1 comment:

Jonathon said...

Great book.

"The worth and excellency of a soul is to be measured by the object of it's affections." Henry Scougal....

Great book from a young dead man!