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Practical Notes Preaching Quotations

Real Greatness and the Humiliation of Christ

John Chrysostom, Homilies on the Gospel of Matthew, Homily 65 (on Matthew 20:25-28)

And not as before, so now also doth He check them. For whereas before He brings little children into the midst, and commands to imitate their simplicity and lowliness; here He reproves them in a sharper way from the contrary side, saying, “The princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them, and their great ones exercise authority upon them, but it shall not be so among you; but he that will be great among you, let this man be minister to all; and he that will be first, let him be last of all;” showing that such a feeling as this is that of heathens, I mean, to love the first place. For the passion is tyrannical, and is continually hindering even great men; therefore also it needs a severer stripe. Whence He too strikes deeper into them, by comparison with the Gentiles shaming their inflamed soul, and removes the envy of the one and the arrogance of the other, all but saying, “Be not moved with indignation, as insulted. For they harm and disgrace themselves most, who on this wise seek the first places, for they are amongst the last. For matters with us are not like matters without. ‘For the princes of the Gentiles exercise dominion over them,’ but with me the last, even he is first.”

And in proof that I say not these things without cause, by the things which I do and suffer, receive the proof of my sayings. For I have myself done something even more. For being King of the powers above, I was willing to become man, and I submitted to be despised, and despitefully entreated. And not even with these things was I satisfied, but even unto death did I come. Therefore,” He saith, “Even as the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many.” “For not even at this did I stop,” saith He, “but even my life did I give a ransom; and for whom? For enemies. But thou if thou art abused, it is for thyself, but I for thee.”

Be not then afraid, as though thine honor were plucked down. For how much soever thou humblest thyself, thou canst not descend so much as thy Lord. And yet His descent hath become the ascent of all, and hath made His own glory shine forth. For before He was made man, He was known amongst angels only; but after He was made man and was crucified, so far from lessening that glory, He acquired other besides, even that from the knowledge of the world.

Fear not then, as though thine honor were put down, if thou shouldest abase thyself, for in this way is thy glory more exalted, in this way it becomes greater. This is the door of the kingdom. Let us not then go the opposite way, neither let us war against ourselves. For if we desire to appear great, we shall not be great, but even the most dishonored of all.

Seest thou how everywhere He urges them by the opposite things, giving them what they desire? For in the preceding parts also we have shown this in many instances, and in the cases of the covetous, and of the vain-glorious, He did thus. For wherefore, He saith, dost thou give alms before men? That thou mayest enjoy glory? Thou must then not do so, and thou shall surely enjoy it. Wherefore dost thou lay up treasures? That thou mayest be rich? Thou must then not lay up treasures, and thou shalt be rich. Even so here too, wherefore dost thou set thy heart on the first places? That thou mayest be before others? Choose then the last place, and then thou wilt enjoy the first. So that if it be thy will to become great, seek not to become great, and then thou wilt be great. For the other is to be little.

Categories
Preaching Quotations Theological Reflections

Augustine’s End

Here is some Karl Rahner, to prepare your heart for worship:

“Feast of St. Augustine”

When Augustine, a tired old man of seventy-five, lay down to die in 430, he had to await death in his city under siege. And when he looked back upon his life’s work, from his human viewpoint at that time, he could really speak his words: nihil sum nisi quod expecto misericordiam Dei*. I am no longer anything; yet only one thing am I: a clinging to the mercy of God.

His African church at the beginning of the end, the parties of the Arians and the Donatists, whom he might have believed to have eliminated by his spirit, again in ascendancy; the world of an ancient culture waning, everywhere dark night and terrestrial hopelessness. And his embattled heart often put itself the question whether the last judgment stood before the door: “Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I fear no evil; for you are with me.” Augustine did not doubt that he would not stray when it came to his God. The light of eternity lit up for him the darkness of his times, and faith’s hope in the eternal sabbath helped him endure courageously the heavy darkness of the six terrestrial days of unhappiness and need. For him the God of unfathomable ways and judgment was still also the God of love and mercy.

*[I am nothing but what I expect of the mercy of God {Editors Note}]

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Preaching Quotations Theological Reflections

Leo the Great’s Elevated Christology

Leo the Great, Sermon 77, On Whitsuntide, lii

The Lord Jesus does, indeed, say to His disciples, as was read in the Gospel lection, “if ye loved Me, ye would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I;” but those ears, which have often heard the words, “I and the Father are One,” and “He that sees Me, sees the Father also,” accept the saying without supposing a difference of Godhead or understanding it of that Essence which they know to be co-eternal and of the same nature with the Father. Man’s uplifting, therefore, in the Incarnation of the Word, is commended to the holy Apostles also, and they, who were distressed at the announcement of the Lord’s departure from them, are incited to eternal joy over the increase in their dignity; “If ye loved Me,” He says, “ye would assuredly rejoice, because I go to the Father:” that is, if, with complete knowledge ye saw what glory is bestowed on you by the fact that, being begotten of GOD the Father, I have been born of a human mother also, that being invisible I have made Myself visible, that being eternal “in the form of God” I accepted the “form of a slave,” “ye would rejoice because I go to the Father.” For to you is offered this ascension, and your humility is in Me raised to a place above all heavens at the Father’s right hand. But I, Who am with the Father that which the Father is, abide undivided with My Father, and in coming from Him to you I do not leave Him, even as in returning to Him from you I do not forsake you. Rejoice, therefore, “because I go to the Father, because the Father is greater than I.” For I have united you with Myself, and am become Son of Man that you might have power to be sons of God. And hence, though I am One in both forms, yet in that whereby I am conformed to you I am less than the Father, whereas in that whereby I am not divided from the Father I am greater even than Myself. And so let the Nature, which is less than the Father, go to the Father, that the Flesh may be where the Word always is, and that the one Faith of the catholic Church may believe that He Whom as Man it does not deny to be less, is equal as God with the Father.

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Preaching Quotations

Worshipping the Holy Trinity in Preaching

Leo the Great, Sermon 77, On Whitsuntide, lii

What the Father has the Son also has, and what the Father and the Son have, the Holy Ghost also has, because the whole Trinity together is One God. But this Faith is not the discovery of earthly wisdom nor the conviction of man’s opinion: the Only-begotten Son has taught it Himself, and the Holy Ghost has established it Himself, concerning Whom no other conception must be formed than is formed concerning the Father and the Son. Because albeit He is not the Father nor the Son, yet He is not separable from the Father and the Son: and as He has His own personality in the Trinity, so has He One substance in Godhead with the Father and the Son, filling all things, containing all things, and with the Father and the Son controlling all things, to Whom is the honor and glory for ever and ever. Amen.

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Preaching Quotations Theological Reflections

Truth and Passion: or, One Thing Leads to Another

From John Dryden’s Religio Laici, Preface

If any one be so lamentable a Critick as to require the Smoothness, the Numbers and the Turn of Heroick Poetry in this Poem; I must tell him, that if he has not read Horace, I have studied him, and hope the style of his Epistles is not ill imitated here. The Expressions of a Poem, design’d purely for Instruction, ought to be Plain and Natural, and yet Majestick: for here the Poet is presum’d to be a king of Law-giver, and those three qualities which I have nam’d are proper to the Legislative style. The Florid, Elevated and Figurative way is for the Passions; for Love and Hatred, Fear and Anger, are begotten in the Soul by shewing their Objects out of their true proportion; either greater than the Life, or less; but Instruction is to be given by shewing them what they naturally are. A Man is to be cheated into Passion, but to be reason’d into Truth.

Dryden is correct and incorrect in the last sentence, depending on how we take him. As a statement of what happens, there is truth in the statement that a man is cheated into Passion (though considered in that journalistic light it seems hardly correct to say that men are reason’d into Truth, considering how rarely that happens). As a statement of the right method of procedure, it may be all right as far as telling you the easy way to raise passions; but that cannot be commended. Now applying this to preaching, I suppose it would scarcely be possible to exaggerate the horrors of sin and hell; and I am convinced it would not be possible to exaggerate the glory of Christ and the majesty of God. And so, when it comes at least to ultimate things, reasoning into truth and inciting into passion ought to go hand-in hand. The reasoning into Truth is the means of inciting into a just and proper Passion. To this may be added some words from J.I. Packer’s article “Jonathan Edwards and the Theology of Revival” in Puritan Papers, v.2: (quoting Edwards Works, v.1:394,391 –London, 1840 edition)

It is sometimes imagined that, because in the pulpit he read a manuscript in a steady, quiet, even tone, and avoided looking at his congregation as he spoke, he did not share the Puritan concern to preach directness, authority and felt power….

But this is a mistake. Edwards knew very well that “the main benefit obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered.” And when the earnestness and vehemence of Whitefield and the Tennents during the revival of 1740 came under fire from the Latitudinarians, who saw it as a regrettable lapse into “enthusiasm,” Edwards ran to their defense:

I think an exceeding affectionate way of preaching about the great things of religion, has in itself no tendency to beget false apprehensions of them; but on the contrary, a much greater tendency to beget true apprehensions of them, than a moderate, dull, indifferent way of speaking of them…. If the subject be in its own nature worthy of very great affection, then speaking of it with great affection is most agreeable to the nature of that subject… and therefore has most of a tendency to beget true ideas of it. … I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth…. I know it has long been fashionable to despise a very earnest and pathetical way of preaching; and they only have been valued as preachers, who have shown the greatest extent of learning, strength of reason, and correctness of method and language. But I humbly conceive it has been for want of understanding or duly considering human nature, that such preaching has been thought to have the greatest tendency to answer the ends of preaching…. An increase in speculative knowledge in divinity is not what is so much needed by our people as something else. Men may abound in this sort of light, and have no heat…. Our people do not so much need to have their heads stored, as to have their hearts touched; and they stand in the greatest need of that sort of preaching, which has the greatest tendency to do this.

(…)

“His words,” wrote his first biographer, Samuel Hopkins, “often discovered a great deal of inward fervour, without much noise or external emotion, and fell with great weight on the minds of his hearers; and he spake so as to reveal the strong emotions of his own heart, which tended, in the most natural and effectual manner, to move and affect others.” Such a feeling communication of felt truth was, in fact, precisely what the Puritans had had in mind when they spoke of “powerful” preaching.

Perhaps the thread of the quotation has led us rather far astray from where he started with Dryden. I’m sure you all saw how what Edwards says bears on and corrects what Dryden says (is it not remarkable that Edwards is a better guide to preaching than a hurried poet who converted to Roman Catholicism and it would seem almost never revised anything he wrote?). But allow me to fuss briefly at both Packer and Edwards as well as at old Dryden.

Packer may be correct (he certainly knows more about it than I do) that the Puritans thought of a “feeling communication of felt truth” when it came to defining powerful preaching: and I certainly would not wish to suggest that this couldn’t or doesn’t enter in to the constitution of powerful preaching. But when Paul speaks of preaching that was powerful (1 Thessalonians 1:4-6) the power seems measured by the effect, not by the sensations or liberty or emotions of the preacher. In other words, however we define powerful preaching with regard to the preacher, we must not forget that in preaching there is also a congregation to be considered.

And when it comes to Edwards, I must fuss provisionally. I don’t know whether the quotation from him could properly be limited to that time period—as the references to “our people” might suggest—or whether he believes his words to be universally applicable. If the latter is the case, then I do not believe that his words can be accepted without qualification, because there are times when an “increase in speculative knowledge in divinity” is precisely what is needed. Albert Martin has remarked this with regard to Thessalonians 4: in the first two verses Paul attempts to stir them up, because they already know; but in v.13 he instructs them because they need to know. We could also mention that according to Paul there is a zeal that is not according to knowledge. I am not accusing Edwards of denying that, you understand; I simply think it as well to be explicit on that point lest someone should seize on the quote from him and either begin to throw over or justify throwing over instruction for emotional manipulation (which Edwards’ example certainly does not encourage).

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Practical Notes Preaching Quotations

Some Advice to Ministers

From John Owen, Commentary on Hebrews 6:1
It is the duty of ministers of the gospel to take care, not only that their doctrine they preach be true, but also that it be seasonable with respect unto the state and condition of their hearers.
Herein consists no small part of that wisdom which is required in the dispensation of the word. Truths unseasonable are like showers in harvest. It is “a word spoken in season” that is beautiful and useful, Proverbs 25:11; yea, “every thing is beautiful in its own time,” and not else, Ecclesiastes 3:11. And two things are especially to be considered by him who would order his doctrine aright, that his words may be fit, meet, and seasonable:
1. The condition of his hearers, as to their present knowledge and capacity.
Suppose them to be persons, as the apostle speaks, of “full age,” such as can receive and digest “strong meat,” — that have already attained some good acquaintance with the mysteries of the gospel. In preaching unto such an auditory, if men, through want of ability to do otherwise, or want of wisdom to know when they ought to do otherwise, shall constantly treat of first principles, or things common and obvious, it will not only be unuseful unto their edification, but also at length make them weary of the ordinance itself. And there will be no better effect on the other side, where the hearers being mostly weak, the more abstruse mysteries of truth are insisted on, without a prudent accommodation of matters suited unto their capacity. It is, therefore, the duty of stewards in the house of God to give unto his household their proper portion.
(…)
And as it will be a trouble unto him who esteems it his duty to go forward in the declaration of the mysteries of the gospel, to fear that many stay behind, as being unable to receive and digest the food he hath provided; so it should be a shame to them who can make no provision but of things trite, ordinary, and common, when many, perhaps, among their hearers are capable of feeding on better or more solid provision. Again,
2. The circumstances of the present time are duly to be considered by them who would preach doctrine that should be seasonable unto their hearers; and these are many, not here to be particularly insisted on. But those especially of known public temptations, of prevalent errors and heresies, of especial opposition and hatred unto any important truths, are always to be regarded; for I could easily manifest that the apostle in his epistles hath continually an especial respect unto them all. (…) Some important doctrines of truth may, in the preaching of the gospel, be omitted for a season, but none must ever be forgotten or neglected. — So deals the apostle in this place, and light hath been sufficiently given us hereinto by what hath already been discoursed.
(…)
It is only an intellectual perfection, a perfection of the mind in knowledge, that is intended. And this may be where there is not a moral, gracious, sinless perfection. Yea, men may have great light in their minds, whilst their wills and affections are very much depraved, and their lives unreformed.

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Practical Notes Preaching Quotations

Partial Systems Are Terribly Limiting

John Newton, Forty-One Letters on Religious Subjects, Letter VII, “On the Propriety of a Ministerial Address to the Unconverted.”

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We should undoubtedly endeavour to maintain a consistency in our preaching; but unless we keep the plan and manner of the Scripture constantly in view, and attend to every part of it, a design of consistency may fetter our sentiments, and greatly preclude our usefulness. We need not wish to be more consistent than the inspired writers, nor be afraid of speaking as they have spoken before us.

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Preaching Quotations

Denmark, Clairvaux & Geneva

The observation of Bernard well deserves to be remembered: The name of Jesus is not only light but food also, yea, oil, without which all the food of the soul is dry; salt, without which as a condiment whatever is set before us is insipid; in fine, honey in the mouth, melody in the ear, joy in the heart, and, at the same time, medicine; every discourse where this name is not heard is absurd. Calvin’s Institutes II.16.1

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