Isaiah: A Study For Preachers -- By: Archibald Duff

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 039:154 (Apr 1882)
Article: Isaiah: A Study For Preachers
Author: Archibald Duff


Isaiah: A Study For Preachers

Prof. Archibald Duff

One of the most significant features of the religious life of our day is the prevailing consciousness of ministers that they have very much to learn. The majority of men who are now in the pulpit and pastorate share the feeling sometimes expressed concerning them, that they know only a little of the business of preaching. Amateur preachers may claim that they preach better than the men who give their lives to the work. But the successors of him who cried, “Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!” and of him who wrote, “Who is sufficient for these things?” cry out with deepest humility to their younger fellow-workmen: “Be preachers! Be preachers!” And they hasten away past us, aged men although they be, hastening still onward toward a mark that must seem to them to be far ahead; for they are straining every nerve, searching deeper day and night for the eternal truths — searching with untold struggle for the words that shall truly bear the truth. Diligent, absorbed students they are in the profoundest sense.

It is, indeed, an absurdity to suppose that men will necessarily, or even probably, fall into the class of poor preachers, if they set themselves to study how to preach. Yet there has been much misdirected study in theological schools. I do not need to tell the tale of naturally gifted men, whose souls have been emptied of their enthusiasm by drudgery over things of secondary interest, chilled by lifeless customs, frozen hard by selfish systems. But the dream of a sacerdotal sacredness of the ministry, or of any traditional method of ministerial education, is fast following the divine right of kings to oblivion; and ministers are perhaps of all men

hardest at work, studying the facts and philosophy of their calling, finding and filling defects in their culture.

One cardinal defect has been the neglect to study God’s providential ordering of the religious life of men in all its details, the facts of the history of religion, and the philosophy of their development. Preachers have disregarded the relations of men to their spiritual forefathers. But this is to neglect the study of the Divine process of creating souls; it is to overlook God’s method of making Christians. Thus the divine work has not been understood, and there has followed failure in the preacher’s human work. Our theological seminaries have taught the history of Christian doctrine; and yet again and again in the course of their instruction it is their custom to pass almost without a thought the essential conditions, the foundations and the springs of that history of Christian doctrine. For they neglect the history of religious thought amongst mankin...

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