Sermon Illustrations

Illustrations in Preaching, Part 1

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

The topic now before us is the use of illustrations in our sermons. Perhaps we shall best subserve our purpose by working out an illustration in the present address; for there is no better way of teaching the art of pottery than by making a pot. Quaint ‘Thomas Fuller says, “reasons are the pillars of the fabric of a sermon; but similitudes are the windows which give the best lights.” The comparison is happy and suggestive, and we will build up our discourse under its direction.

The chief reason for the construction of windows in a house is, as Fuller says, to let in light. Parables, similes, and metaphors have that effect; and hence we use them to illustrate our subject, or, in other words, to “brighten it with light,” for that is Dr. Johnson’s literal, rendering of the word illustrate.

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Principles of Teaching - Effective Illustrating

Every good craftsman has a toolbox—perhaps more than one. When there is a job to be done, a skilled craftsman does not assess the job primarily based on what tools can be used to get the job done. Instead, the focus is on what tools are needed in order to get the job done.

Of course, every now and then, the craftsman might acquire a new and wonderful tool that he can’t wait to use. Perhaps on those joyous occasions the craftsman might slightly depart from the most efficient path in order to add and enjoy the new wrinkle. In those instances, often the goal has changed from accomplishing a task to personal enjoyment.

If the craftsman is astute, he might be thinking with the long term in view—“If I learn how to incorporate this new tool now, on a project for which it is not really necessary, then when I really do need it, I will be comfortable and practiced, and will be better able to use it.” In either case, there are reasons that particular tools are used, and the skilled craftsman should be deliberate in those reasons.

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