The Importance of Doctrinal Preaching

I have been casually reading through The Connecticut Evangelical Magazine (c. 1800), which primarily related testimonies, news, articles, and hymns revolving around the Second Great Awakening. The following short article helps us see something of the character and concern of this time, and is instructive for us today.

According to the accounts which have been published respecting the late revival of religion, in different places, we find that no such wild disorderly things have attended the work, as prevailed in the season of the religious awakening near 60 years ago [i.e., the First Great Awakening]. And to what must this be imputed? Is it not owing to the increase of doctrinal light among us? Without any disparagement to our venerable ancestors, may we not conclude that the doctrines of the gospel are more distinguishingly taught and better understood, than they were in general in this country, a little above a half century past? I think this inference may be fairly drawn from the different manner in which religious awakenings are now conducted and treated, from what they then were. And this evinces the great importance of the ministers of the gospel being faithful in explaining and inculcating the fundamental and leading sentiments of Christianity, upon their hearers. Nor ought their apparent inattention to be the least objection against doctrinal preaching. Because in the dullest seasons, people will get and retain some ideas of what they are taught; and especially will the truths they have repeatedly heard come afresh to their minds, when their attention is duly excited to the great things of another world. Some are advocates for practical preaching only; tho’ this is necessary in its proper place, yet all who are well skilled in scriptures of truth, will own that a right doctrinal knowledge is essential to lay a foundation for a right faith, right exercises, and a right practice. It must be granted that the knowledge which people gain of scripture doctrines while unregenerate is as useful to them when they are brought to love religion, as that they afterwards acquire. And where persons who have been poorly indoctrinated are made the subjects of conviction and conversion, they frequently run into many wild and erroneous opinions, which not only tend greatly to cramp their minds, and to destroy their peace, but prove prejudicial to the interest of religion.

It may be further observed, that no preaching has a more direct tendency to strike the minds of sinners with a deep conviction of their lost, guilty and ruined state, than which points out their total depravity; the nature of their impotency; the character of God; his sovereignty in the dispensations of his blessings; or that which brings into view the character and offices of Jesus Christ; or the of regeneration, of justification by faith alone. The great doctrines which bring to view the resurrection, the last judgment, heaven and hell are peculiarly calculated to strike careless minds with awe, and to lead them to think on their ways, and to look out for a way of escape from the wrath to come.

It may be further remarked that where preachers confine themselves chiefly or altogether to practical discourses, their preaching will soon become trite, and void of sentiment.

Connecticut, Sept. 16, 1800


Content Matters

I solemnly charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by His appearing and His kingdom:
preach the word;
be ready in season and out of season;
reprove, rebuke, exhort, with great patience and instruction.
For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths.
But you, be sober in all things, endure hardship,
do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry.
2 Timothy 4:1-5




A Prayer for Power on the Means of Grace

O Thou, at whose almighty word
The glorious light from darkness sprung!
Thy quick’ning influence afford,
And clothe with pow’r the preacher’s tongue.

Though ’tis thy truth he hopes to speak,
He cannot give the hearing ear:
‘Tis thine, the stubborn heart to break,
And make the careless sinner fear.

Thus we would in the means be found,
And thus on thee alone depend;
To make the gospel’s joyful sound,
Effectual to the promised end.

Now, while we hear thy word of grace,
Let self and pride before it fall;
And rocky hearts dissolve apace,
In streams of sorrow at thy call.

Olney Hymns, p. 125, no. 18

Preaching Without Notes

An interesting article from the Orthodox Presbyterian Church’s Ordained Servant

True passion on the part of the preacher is obvious to his hearers, and it conveys to those hearers something of the importance of what he’s preaching. But polished language may well be the enemy of passion. No doubt undisciplined passion can lead to infelicitous speech, but passion affects hearers beyond what mere eloquent words can do.

Those of you who preach, do you use a full manuscript? None? Or something in between? Why?