Editorial -- By: Richard L. Mayhue
MSJ 10:2 (Fall 99) p. 169
In my recent reading I was tremendously impressed with the pointed relevance of the article “Doctrinal Preaching” by William G.T. Shedd, first printed in 1877. I include it here for your edification.
An ignorant but well-meaning member of a Christian church was once asked how a certain minister had impressed the congregation by his preaching. The congregation were more than usually susceptible to religious impressions. A revival was in progress. The good man had this fact in his mind, in his answer to the inquiry. “He did not do well at all,” was the reply, “he came down and preached a doctrine sermon right in the midst of the interest!” We fear that this notion that doctrinal preaching is ill-adapted to promote the best interests of a church, is more common than it ought to be among those who are commanded to account those elders “worthy of double honor who labor in the word and doctrine,” and who are bidden to see that the “name of God and his doctrine be not blasphemed.”
The prejudice against doctrinal preaching arises from two causes. The first is the aversion of the heart to God’s revealed truth. Whenever this truth is stated doctrinally, it is stated clearly and pointedly; and the point pierces. It is hard to kick against the pricks. Men do not object to have the truth respecting sin, death, and hell presented poetically and sentimentally, because in this form it gives no trouble; but when it is stated plainly and accurately, they wince. Men are never convicted by a poem; they are by a doctrine.
The second objection to doctrinal preaching springs from the natural indolence of the human mind. It costs more mental effort to listen to a well-reasoned sermon, than to a flowery one that starts from no premises and comes to no conclusion. We do not believe that it is a complete definition of sin to say that it is laziness, but it is safe theology to say that every sinner is lazy. When, therefore, clear and logical statements of Christian truth are made, they require an effort on the part of the hearer to follow them from beginning to end. This effort he is unwilling to make, and instead of repenting of his sin and forsaking it, he decries doctrinal preaching.
But the fault is not always in the hearer. The preacher is often at fault. The clergy are affected by their congregations. Finding a disinclination in the congregation to listen to cogent preaching, to “reasoning out of the Scriptures,” the minister yields, and shrinks from the plain and solemn message which God has bidden him to deliver, and which he promised to deliver when he took his ordination vow. There are many reasons against such a course which we cannot mention in this brief article. Passing over all those grave and con...
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