08 September 2007

Preach Plainly

Your weekly dose of Spurgeon
posted by Phil Johnson

The PyroManiacs devote some space each weekend to highlights from The Spurgeon Archive. The following excerpt is from the sermon "Pentecost," delivered at the Metropolitan Tabernacle Sunday morning, 24 May 1863:
ever was there a sermon more commonplace than that of Peter, and let me tell you that it is one of the blessed effects of the Holy Spirit to make ministers preach simply.

You do not want the Holy Spirit to make them ride the high horse and mount up on the wings of the spread-eagle to the stars; what is wanted is to keep them down, dealing with solemn subjects in an intelligible manner.

What was the theme of this sermon? Was it something so intellectual that nobody could comprehend it, or so grand that few could grasp it? No, Peter just rises up and delivers himself somewhat like this—"Jesus Christ of Nazareth lived among you; he was the Messias promised of old; you crucified him, but in his name there is salvation, and whosoever among you will repent and be baptized shall find mercy." That is all! I am sure Mr. Charles Simeon in his "Skeleton Sermons" would not have inserted it as a model, and I do not suppose that any college professor alive would ever say to his students—"If you want to preach, preach like Peter."

Why, I do not perceive firstly, secondly, thirdly, and fourthly, to which some of us feel compelled to bind ourselves. It is in fact a commonplace talking about sublime things—sublime things which in this age are thought to be foolishness and a stumbling-block. Well then, may the Spirit of God be poured out to teach our ministers to preach plainly, to set our young men talking about Jesus Christ, for this is absolutely necessary.

When the Spirit of God goes away from a Church it is a fine thing for oratory, because then it is much more assiduously cultivated. When the Spirit of God is gone, then all the ministers become exceedingly learned, for not having the Spirit they need to supply the emptiness his absence has made, and then the old-fashioned Bible is not quite good enough; they must touch it up a bit and improve upon it, and the old doctrines which used to rejoice their grandmothers at the fire-side are too stale for them; they must have an improved and a new theology, and young gentlemen now-a-days show their profound erudition by denying everything that is the ground, and prop, and pillar of our hope, and starting some new will-o'- the-wisp which they set their people staring at.

Ah! well, we want the Spirit of God to sweep all that away. Oh that my dear sister who conducts the female class, and all who are in the Sunday-school, may be helped just to talk to you about Christ. When you get the Spirit of God to come upon you like fire and like a rushing mighty wind it will not be to make you doctors of divinity, and scholars, and great elocutionists; it will only be just for this, to make you preach Christ, and preach him more simply than ever you did before.

C. H. Spurgeon


12 comments:

donsands said...

" .. may the Spirit of God be poured out to teach our ministers to preach plainly"

Amen to that prayer.

One question. What is CH saying about "Charles Simeon in his "Skeleton Sermons""?

Phil Johnson said...

Spurgeon liked Simeon, so this was not a criticism, any more than the reference to enumerated points in the message (a practice of Spurgeon's) was meant to suggest that Spurgeon's own style was wrong. He was merely pointing out that the organized outlines of Simeon and the enumerated points of Spurgeon are by no means the only right sermonic forms, else Peter's Pentecost sermon would be disqualified as a good sermon, and that would be ludicrous.

Spurgeon's point, simply, is that clarity is infinitely more important than form.

Robert N. Landrum said...

"A sheep must be fed on the ground."
"We must preach according to the capacity of our hearers. The Lord Jesus did not say 'Feed my giraffes,' but 'feed my sheep.' We must not put the fodder on a high rack by our fine language, but use great plainness of speech" (Spurgeon, Salt Cellars vol. I).

Patrick Eaks said...

C H Spurgeon Said:

When you get the Spirit of God to come upon you like fire and like a rushing mighty wind it will not be to make you doctors of divinity, and scholars, and great elocutionists; it will only be just for this, to make you preach Christ, and preach him more simply than ever you did before.

Thanks Phil for this reminder! This is truly what the Church needs in this desperate day in which we live.

I am reminded of this scripture:

Acts 4:13 - Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marvelled; and they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.

donsands said...

"Spurgeon liked Simeon, so this was not a criticism"

Thanks for explaining this.

Drew said...

I don't like most of what is on your blog, but this is just what I needed to hear. Thanks.

Keith B said...

I like most of what is on your blog, this is just what I needed to hear. Thanks.

Sewing said...

How prescient a sermon, and how excellent a summary of the Gospel.

I like Robert's "Feed my giraffes" line. Giraffes and gorillas...Spurgeon sure had a thing for animal imagery! (I've read that he had a stuffed gorilla with him when he preached on creation, versus the newly promulgated theory of evolution.)

philness said...

Spurgeon had twin boys. Did they become preachers as well? Any knowledge of his direct descendants?

Carla Rolfe said...

I tried to comment on this yesterday and it crashed my browser. :-(

In any event, these weekly Spurgeon posts are something I look forward to and I'm glad you put them up. This one in particular you could repost once a week for a year, and it would still remain timely - especially that last paragraph.

Good stuff! Thank you, once again.

Mark B. Hanson said...

Perhaps a larger problem in our day is not the complication of the sermon, but the dumbing down of the Gospel in preaching, and even modern Bible translations. This is the equivalent of trying to make the pearls tasty to the swine.

"Christ and Him crucified" - but we must stop far short of trying for "Christ and Him simplified".

Anita Hensley said...

excellent post- thanks!

@Mark: Christ and Him crucified IS Him simplified. Uncomprehensible perhaps but simple. Spurgeon had it right and so did Peter!