The Use Of Motives In Preaching -- By: Edward I. Bosworth

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 047:185 (Jan 1890)
Article: The Use Of Motives In Preaching
Author: Edward I. Bosworth

The Use Of Motives In Preaching

Rev. Professor E. I. Bosworth

The great problem which confronts the preacher is how-to make bad men good and good men better. He looks out over his pulpit and sees before him human beings in a certain frame of mind, with certain beliefs and controlling purposes. He desires to produce in these human beings a certain other frame of mind with different beliefs and purposes. The query is, How shall the change be secured? It is to the study of this question that his life is devoted.

It seems evident that the pastor who would be successful in prosecuting this study must have a reasonably clear conception of three things: (1) The existing state of his parishioner’s mind and heart in each case. This is not the work of a moment. It sometimes requires months or years to get possession of the previous connections and family history which indicate the real attitude of the man whose case is under consideration. (2) The state of mind and heart required. There must be nothing hazy in the pastor’s conception of what it is to be a Christian. (3) The means to be employed in securing the passage from the given to the required moral state. These statements seem to be almost truisms, but there are many things in the machinery of modern church organization which tend to obscure them. It is to the last of these three that special attention will be given in this article—the means to be employed in producing changes in moral character.

We suppose moral character to consist in choices and the result of these choices upon the entire personality.

The only way to influence choices is to present motives; so that this part of the preacher’s study consists in a consideration of what motives are best adapted to produce a desired choice, and the best method of presenting them. It is, of course, understood that this conception of character as being influenced by the human presentation of motives, in no sense eliminates the work of the Holy Spirit. No presentation of truth moves the unregenerate heart to right choices without his influence; but he has chosen to respect the nature of the human mind, and work upon it through motives. Upon some proper knowledge of motives and how to use them depends the preacher’s ability to co-operate with the Spirit of God.

Perhaps there is sometimes a tendency to underestimate the importance of a skilful use of motives in influencing human conduct, and to displace it by vigorous, direct exhortation. When a shrewd man desires to influence men to action he first presents a motive, and waits for it to accomplish its result. If it fails, he tries another; and if he finds no motive which will lead to the desired choice, he spends ve...

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