Deep Preaching

And the hand of the Lord was with them: and a great number believed, and turned unto the Lord.
~ Acts 11:21

Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.
~ Psalm 110:3

My beloved put in his hand by the hole of the door, and my bowels were moved for him.
~ Song of Solomon 5:4

The Lord GOD hath opened mine ear, and I was not rebellious, neither turned away back.
~ Isaiah 50:5

So then faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.
~ Romans 10:17

For it is God which worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure.
~ Philippians 2:13

Manner of Preaching With Deep Earnestness, by Thomas Murphy. The following contains an excerpt from Chapter Four his work, “Pastoral Theology: The Pastor in the Various Duties of His Office”.

Chapter Four — The Pastor in the Pulpit.

Manner of Preaching. Very much depends upon this. It should be made a careful and incessant study by every minister. The following reflections may assist in attaining to higher proficiency in an art which is the most sacred and exalted.

(a) Deep Earnestness. Every motive arising from his office, his trust, his character and his hope of success demands of the pastor that he should be fully in earnest in that which is his greatest work. He cannot preach aright in any other way. It is not meant that there must necessarily be much noise in the pulpit. Very often the highest emotion will subdue, and so prevent, noise. But what is meant is, that in preaching the heart should be enlisted–the whole heart–the heart inflamed by a sense of the importance of the subject—the heart filled with the strongest desire of effecting the objects for which the gospel is preached. This earnestness cannot be assumed or counterfeited; it must be genuine. It must spring from a sympathy with God and souls which has been produced by the Holy Ghost; and in every sermon the first care of the preacher should be to get his heart inflamed with it. He should pray and read the word and meditate until it is reached. It is the fundamental preparation for faithful and successful preaching.

What earnestness do we find characterizing the preachers of the New Testament! They were in earnest when in one place we hear them crying, “Now, then, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us, we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God.” Paul was in earnest when he could exhort, saying, “Therefore watch and remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.” Apollos was in earnest, since we read of him, “This man was instructed in the way of the Lord; and being fervent in the Spirit, he spake and taught diligently the things of the Lord.” These and other cases form a model which should be imitated.

The slumbering conscience of unrenewed men demands the greatest fervency in the preacher. There is a terrible insensibility about spiritual and eternal things which it often seems as if no motives could penetrate. And this stupor is found everywhere. Now, it is true that the Holy Ghost alone can break through this obstacle and arouse the heart to its danger and refuge; but it is also true that the Holy Ghost ordinarily works by means, and that by the means that are naturally the best adapted to accomplish the desired end. And what so likely to awaken the slumbering conscience as the preaching which flows from an ardent heart? What, in fact, has proved so effective as this divinely-appointed agency? The preacher, then, should apply his whole soul to awaken men. He should not be afraid of enthusiasm in a work so deeply important and so hard to be accomplished. If men see him awake and in earnest, and perseveringly so, they must be affected. If they see him indifferent, they will sleep the sounder.

How is it possible to preach of the awful realities of heaven and hell, of the soul and the everlasting ages, and of the death of Christ for the salvation of the lost, without the deepest emotion? Hell is a terrible reality. The prospect of its unutterable anguish, of its eternal torments, is dreadful. Then the thought that all the unconverted are posting on steadily and surely to its woes is appalling. But it might be escaped through the blood of the Son of God, and then would come a heaven of indescribable bliss and everlasting glory. Can we think of these things and not be overwhelmed at the thought? Can we speak of them without our hearts and words burning with the very deepest feeling? Can we preach of them in any other tone than that of the devoted McCheyne? He said : “Souls are perishing every day, and our own entrance into eternity cannot be far distant. Let us, like Mary, do what we can, and no doubt God will bless it and reward us openly. But an inch of time remains, and the eternal ages roll on for ever—but an inch remains for ever—but an inch on which we stand and preach the way of salvation to the perishing world.” Equally fervent was the purpose of Cecil: “Hell is before me, and thousands of souls shut up there in everlasting agonies. Jesus Christ stands forth to save men from rushing into this bottomless abyss; he sends me to proclaim his ability and his love. I want no fourth idea. Every fourth idea is contemptible; every fourth idea is a grand impertinence.”

To preach in a cold, unfeeling manner, to preach without earnestness, is sinful. It shows in the preacher a heart that is hard. It reveals an amount of selfishness or thoughtlessness or levity, or all of them combined, that ought to humble and alarm. The existence of such a state of mind should set us to inquire most anxiously how it is with our own souls. It should drive us quickly to the cross of Christ for pardon, and for the spirit of Him who felt so much for us that he died in our place. Deep is the guilt of handling the word of God in an unfeeling manner! The souls of all preachers should be awakened by the stirring appeal of Baxter: “How few ministers do preach with all their might, or speak about everlasting joy or torment in such a manner as to make men believe that they are in great sadness! It would make a man’s heart ache to see a company of dead and drowning sinners sit under a minister, and not have a word that is like to quicken or awaken them. To think with ourselves, ‘Oh if these sinners were but convinced and awakened they might yet be converted and live ! But, alas! we speak so drowsily or gently that sleepy sinners cannot hear. The blow falls so light that hard-hearted persons cannot feel it. Most ministers will not so much as put out their voice and stir up themselves to an earnest utterance. But if they do speak out loud and earnestly, how few do answer it with earnestness of matter! And then the voice doth but little good : the people will take it for but mere bawling when the matter doth not correspond. It would grieve me what excellent doctrine some ministers have in hand, and let it die in their hands for want of close and lively application. What fit matter they have for convincing sinners, and how little they make of it, and what a deal of good it might do if it were sent home, and yet they cannot or will not do it! Oh, sirs, how plain, how close and earnestly, should we deliver a message of such a nature as ours is! When the everlasting life or death of men is concerned in it, methinks we are nowhere so wanting as in this seriousness. There is nothing more unsuitable to such a business than to be slight and dull. What! speak coldly for God and for men’s salvation! Can we believe that our people must be converted or condemned, and yet can we speak in a drowsy tone? In the name of God, brethren, labor to awaken your hearts before you come; and when you are in the work, that you may be fit to awaken the hearts of sinners. Remember that they must be awakened or damned, and a sleepy preacher will hardly awake them.”

In each sermon we ought to deliver the message of God as if it were the last time we were to preach. Any sermon may be the last one for the preacher. It may be the last one for him; it may be the last one for some of his hearers; it probably will be the last one to some of them. This thought should stir up the whole heart. Oh how we should preach in view of it! How earnestly we should preach, since we are sure that we shall not often stand before exactly the same audience to warn and exhort them! It should be with us always as it was with Cecil on his dying bed : “Knowing he was about to die, he expressed a desire to live longer. He was asked, Why? That I might preach Christ.’ ‘But you have done this through your ministry. But, oh,’said he, ‘I would do it stronger, much stronger, than ever.’”

We should not be afraid of enthusiasm here. Enthusiasm is surely excusable when life and death and the souls of men and the glory of the Son of God are at stake. The apostles were enthusiasts in their preaching. Hear the enthusiasm of Paul: “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world is crucified unto me, and I unto the world.” In the preaching of the awfully solemn things of religion is the proper field for enthusiasm. It should be cherished here, and anything less should be considered cold-heartedness. A consuming zeal is needed in this age of worldliness and shallowness in religion, and at this time when the hearts of men are so desperately callous.

The great preachers who have made their mark upon their age have been in the highest sense enthusiasts. “Richard Sheridan used to say, ‘I often go to hear Rowland Hill, because his ideas come red hot from the heart.’ Dr. John M. Mason was asked what he thought was the forte of Dr. Chalmers. After a moment’s consideration he replied, “His blood-earnestness.’” The biographer of Baxter says: “In preaching, Baxter’s heart burnt within him, and while he was speaking a live coal from the altar fired his sermons with seraphic fervor. Into the pulpit he brought all the energies and sympathies of his entire nature. He had a large mind, an acute intellect, a melting heart, a holy soul, a kindling eye and a moving voice, and he called on all that was within him to aid him in his preaching. Being deeply earnest himself, he wished his hearers to be earnest. Himself being a burning light, he wished to flash the hallowed fire into the hearts of others. He seems never to have studied the action or the start theatric.’ The only teacher that gave him lessons in action and attitude was feeling, real, genuine, holy feeling, and this taught him how to look, how to move, how to speak. In preaching, as well as everything religious, he believed with Paul, ‘that it was good to be always zealously affected,’ and consequently that earnest, fervent preaching is truly apostolic.” There is great force in the remarks of Olin : “Success in religion depends on zeal, fervor. Cold preaching never does any good. Cold prayers are not answered. Cold efforts effect nothing. On the contrary, the simplest ministry of God’s truth if fervent is powerful. A fervent people are always prosperous. Their deep sympathies melt the hardest heart. God’s most honored instrumentality is such a people. Preacher and people together burning with the love of Christ and of souls constitute the favored instrumentality. This is irresistible; it makes the word irresistible through the Spirit.”