Sermon Illustrations

Anecdotes from the Pulpit, Part 2

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered to the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 2: Anecdotes from the Pulpit (continued; read the series)

I shall make up this present address by quoting the examples of great preachers, beginning with the era of the Reformation, and following on without any very rigid chronological order down to our own day. Examples are more powerful than precepts; hence I quote them.

First, let me mention that grand old preacher, Hugh Latimer, the most English of all our divines; and one whose influence over our land was undoubtedly most powerful. Southey says, “Latimer more than any other man promoted the Reformation by his preaching”; and in this he echoes the more important utterance of Ridley, who wrote from his prison, “I do think that the Lord hath placed old father Latimer to be his standard-bearer in our age and country against his mortal foe, Antichrist.”

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Anecdotes from the Pulpit, Part 1

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered to the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 2: Anecdotes from the Pulpit

It is pretty generally admitted that sermons may wisely be adorned with a fair share of illustrations; but anecdotes used to that end are still regarded by the prudes of the pulpit with a measure of suspicion. They will come down low enough to quote an emblem, they will deign to use poet’s imagery; but they cannot stoop to tell a simple, homely story. They would probably say in confidence to their younger brethren, “Beware how you lower yourselves and your sacred office by repeating anecdotes, which are best appreciated by the vulgar and uneducated.”

We would not retort by exhorting all men to abound in stories, for there ought to be discrimination. It is freely admitted that there are useful and admirable styles of oratory which would be disfigured by a rustic tale; and there are honored brethren whose genius would never allow them to relate a story, for it would not appear suitable to their mode of thought.

Upon these we would not even by implication hint at a censure; but when we are dealing with others. who seem to be somewhat, and are not what they seem, we feel no tenderness; nay, we are even moved to assail their stilted greatness. If they sneer at anecdotes, we smile at them and their sneers, and wish them more sense and less starch.

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Illustrations in Preaching, Part 7

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered to the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

Elaboration into minute points is not commendable when we are using figures. The best light comes in through the clearest glass: too much paint keeps out the sun. God’s altar of old was to be made of earth, or of unhewn stone, “for,” said the word, “if thou lift up thy tool upon it, thou hast polluted it:” Ex. xx:25.

A labored, artificial style, upon which the graver’s tool has left abundant marks, is more consistent with human pleadings in courts of law, or in the forum, or in the senate, than with prophetic utterances delivered in the name of God and for the promotion of his glory. Our Lord’s parables were as simple as tales for children, and as naturally beautiful as the lilies which sprang up in the valleys where he taught the people. He borrowed no legend from the Talmud, nor fairy tale from Persia, neither fetched he his emblems from beyond the sea; but he dwelt among his own people, and talked of common things in homely style, as never man spake before, and yet as any observant man should speak. His parables were like himself and his surroundings; and were never strained, fantastic, pedantic, or artificial.

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Illustrations in Preaching, Part 6

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered ot the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

It may be well to note that illustrations should not be too prominent, or, to pursue our figure, they should not be painted windows, attracting attention to themselves rather than letting in the clear light of day. I am not pronouncing any judgment upon windows adorned with “glass of various colors which shine like meadows decked in the flowers of spring”; I am looking only to my illustration.

Our figures are meant not so much to be seen as to be seen through. If you take the hearer’s mind away from the subject by exciting his admiration of your own skill in imagery, you are doing evil rather than good. I saw in one of our exhibitions a portrait of a king; but the artist had surrounded his majesty with a bower of flowers so exquisitely painted that everyone’s eye was taken away from the royal figure. All the resources of the painter’s art had been lavished upon the accessories, and the result was that the portrait, which should have been all in all, had fallen into a secondary place.

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Illustrations in Preaching, Part 5

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered ot the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

Illustrations should really cast light upon the subject in hand, otherwise they are sham windows, and all shams are an abomination. When the window-tax was still in force many people in country houses closed half their lights by plastering them up, and then they had the plaster painted to look like panes; so that there was still the appearance of a window, though no sunlight could enter. Well do I remember the dark rooms in my grandfather’s parsonage, and my wonder that men should have to pay for the light of the sun.

Blind windows are fit emblems of illustrations which illustrate nothing, and need themselves to be explained. Grandiloquence is never more characteristic than in its figures; there it disports itself in a very carnival of bombast. We could quote several fine specimens of sublime spread-eagleism and magnificent nonsense, but one alone may suffice as a favorable sample of a form of display which is rather more common across the water than in these old-fashioned regions. The author’s name we will not mention, but the extract is given verbatim, and is taken from a sermon upon “To die is gain.” Let the young preacher ponder and wonder, but let him not imitate.

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Illustrations in Preaching, Part 4

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered ot the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

Illustrate, by all means, but do not let the sermon be all illustrations, or it will be only suitable for an assembly of simpletons. A volume is all the better for engravings, but a scrap-book which is all woodcuts is usually intended for the use of little children. Our house should be built up with the substantial masonry of doctrine, upon the deep foundation of inspiration; its pillars should be of solid Scriptural argument, and every stone of truth should be carefully laid in its place; and then the windows should be ranged in due order, “three rows” if we will: “light against light,” like the house of the forest of Lebanon.

1260 reads

Illustrations in Preaching, Part 3

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered ot the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

Illustrations tend to enliven an audience and quicken attentions. Windows, when they will open, which, alas, is not often the case in our places of worship, are a great blessing by refreshing and reviving the audience with a little pure air, and arousing the poor mortals who are rendered sleepy by the stagnant atmosphere. A window should, according to its name, be a wind-door, through which a breath of air may visit the audience; even so, an original figure, a noble image, a quaint comparison, a rich allegory, should open upon our hearers a breeze of happy thought, which will pass over them like life-giving breath, arousing them from their apathy, and quickening their faculties to receive the truth.

1256 reads

Illustrations in Preaching, Part 2

Third Series of Lectures to My Students

The Art of Illustration: Being Addresses Delivered ot the students of The Pastor’s College, Metropolitan Tabernacle

By C. H. Spurgeon, 1905

Lecture 1: Illustrations in Preaching [Continued. Read the series.]

Windows greatly add to the pleasure and agreeableness of a habitation, and so do illustrations make a sermon pleasurable and interesting. A building without windows would be a prison rather than a house, for it would be quite dark, and no one would care to take it upon lease; and, in the same way, a discourse without a parable is prosy and dull, and involves a grievous weariness of the flesh.

The preacher in Solomon’s Ecclesiastes “sought to find out acceptable words,” or, as the Hebrew has it, “words of delight”: surely, figures and comparisons are delectable to our hearers. Let us not deny them the salt of parable with the meat of doctrine. Our congregations hear us with pleasure when we give them a fair measure of imagery: when an anecdote is being told they rest, take breath, and give play to their imaginations, and thus prepare themselves for the sterner work which lies before them in listening to our profounder expositions.

1247 reads

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