Christian Doctrine And Life -- By: D. W. Simon

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 041:163 (Jul 1884)
Article: Christian Doctrine And Life
Author: D. W. Simon


Christian Doctrine And Life1

Rev. D. W. Simon

Less than half a century ago it was usual in the pulpits of Congregational churches to treat Christian life as dependent on Christian doctrine. Most sermons began accordingly with an exposition of doctrine, and ended with a practical application. It was deemed necessary first to set forth principles, reasonings; then to appeal to the will and the emotions.

Some twenty-five or more years ago a decided reaction set in, and at the present moment it is almost the fashion to treat Christian doctrine as having very little to do with the Christian life. Hence an ever louder demand for “practical” preaching; hence the denunciation of all “doctrinal” preaching, whether orthodox or heterodox; hence too, in part, the desire, or at all events, readiness, either to shorten or altogether omit the sermon, and to substitute what is called “worship “in its stead — a worship which threatens to become, to a large extent, little more than aestheticism tinged with religiosity. Perhaps the majority of the most widely read sermons now published, if we except those of Spurgeon, are markedly non-doctrinal in character. I do not mean that they lack disciplined thought, but that they eschew or even make light of the incursions into the domain of systematic

theology which were formerly characteristic of published sermons. In many active and devoted Christian circles the notion prevails that the study of theology is rather a luxury than a necessity for the Christian believer and worker, especially if he be a layman. Sunday-school teachers and lay-preachers allow that a study of the Scriptures is necessary, but not of doctrine. Others see no need for systematic study of even the Scriptures; and as to the theology which it used to be the delight of their fathers to spell out in great folios, — they shrug their shoulders in amazement, if some enthusiast suggest to them to pursue a similar course. A cultured ministry is wanted, not a learned, especially not one learned in theology, unless it keep its learning out of its preaching, save perhaps on great occasions. Gentlemen who can read well, conduct the services with propriety, make no blunders, secure good singing, and preach with a freshness and thought-fulness that require little effort in the hearer — that is too frequently what people demand. “We toilers in the world come to church to hear the simple gospel, to be comforted and stimulated, not to have our minds put on rack of logical, doctrinal discourses,” I hear even deacons of churches saying; as though there were some incompatibility between cheering the heart and enlightening the intellect; as though t...

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