Sermon Preparation

Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 6)

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Stir the fire also by frequent attempts at fresh service. Shake yourself out of routine by breaking away from the familiar fields of service and reclaiming virgin soil. I suggest to you, as a subordinate but very useful means of keeping the heart fresh, the frequent addition of new work to your usual engagements. I would say to brethren who are soon going away from the College, to settle in spheres where they will come into contact with but few superior minds, and perhaps will be almost alone in the higher walks of spirituality, — look well to yourselves that you do not become flat, stale, and unprofitable, and keep yourselves sweet by maintaining an enterprising spirit. You will have a good share of work to do and few to help you in it, and the years will grind along heavily; watch against this, and use all means to prevent your becoming dull and sleepy, and among them use that which experience leads me to press upon you.

I find it good for myself to have some new work always on hand. The old and usual enterprises must be kept up, but somewhat must be added to them. It should be with us as with the squatters upon our commons, the fence of our garden must roll outward a foot or two, and enclose a little more of the common every year. Never say “it is enough” nor accept the policy of “rest and be thankful.” Do all you possibly .can, and then do a little more.

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Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 5)

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Earnestness and Personal Faith

The fire of our earnestness must burn upon the hearth of faith in the truths which we preach, and faith in their power to bless mankind when the Spirit applies them to the heart. He who declares what may or what may not be true, and what he considers upon the whole to be as good as any other form of teaching, will of necessity make a very feeble preacher. How can he be zealous about that which he is not sure of? If he knows nothing of the inward power of the truth within his own heart, if he has never tasted and handled of the good word of life, how can he be enthusiastic?

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Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 4)

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Physical Condition

Pardon my saying that the condition of your body must be attended to, especially in the matter of eating, for any measure of excess may injure your digestion and make you stupid when you should be fervent. From the memoir of Duncan Matheson I cull an anecdote which is much to the point:

“In a certain place where evangelistic meetings were being held, the lay preachers, among whom was Mr. Matheson, were sumptuously entertained at the house of a Christian gentleman. After dinner they went to the meeting, not without some difference of opinion as to the best method of conducting the services of the evening. ‘The Spirit is grieved; he is not here at all, I feel it,’ said one of the younger, with a whine which somewhat contrasted with his previous unbounded enjoyment of the luxuries of the table. ‘Nonsense,’ replied Matheson, who hated all whining and morbid spirituality; ‘Nothing of the sort. You have just eaten too much dinner, and you feel heavy.’”

Duncan Matheson was right, and a little more of his common sense would be a great gain to some who are ultra spiritual, and attribute all their moods of feeling to some supernatural cause when the real reason lies far nearer to hand. Has it not often happened that dyspepsia has been mistaken for backsliding, and a bad digestion has been set down as a hard heart? I say no more: a word to the wise is enough.

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Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 3)

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Now, my brethren, it is sadly true that holy earnestness when we once obtain it may be easily damped; and as a matter of fact it is more frequently chilled in the loneliness of a village pastorate than amid the society of warm-hearted Christian brethren. Adam, the author of “Private Thoughts,” once observed that “a poor country parson, fighting against the devil in his parish, has nobler ideas than Alexander the Great ever had;” and I will add, that he needs more than Alexander’s ardor to enable him to continue victorious in his holy warfare. Sleepy Hollow and Dormer’s Land will be too much for us unless we pray for daily quickening.

Yet town life has its dangers too, and zeal is apt to burn low through numerous engagements, like a fire which is scattered abroad instead of being raked together into a heap. Those incessant knocks at Our door, and perpetual visits from idle persons, are so many buckets of cold water thrown upon our devout zeal. We must by some means secure uninterrupted meditation, or we shall lose power. London is a peculiarly trying sphere on this account.

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Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 2)

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The world also will suffer as well as the church if we are not fervent. We cannot expect a gospel devoid of earnestness to have any mighty effect upon the unconverted around us. One of the excuses most soporific to the conscience of an ungodly generation is that of half-heartedness in the preacher. If the sinner finds the preacher nodding while he talks of judgment to come, he concludes that the judgment is a thing which the preacher is dreaming about, and he resolves to regard it all as mere fiction.

The whole outside world receives serious danger from the cold-hearted preacher, for it draws the same conclusion as the individual sinner: it perseveres in its own listlessness, it gives its strength to its own transient objects, and thinks itself wise for so doing. How can it be otherwise? If the prophet leaves his heart behind hint when he professes to speak in the name of God, what can he expect but that the ungodly around him will persuade themselves that there is nothing in his message, and that his commission is a farce.

Hear how Whitefield preached, and never dare to be lethargic again.

Winter says of him that

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Earnestness: Its Marring and Maintenance (Part 1)

C.H. Spurgeon’s Lectures to My Students, Second Series, Lecture 8. (Editor’s note: Paragraph breaks have been added to ease reading.)

If I were asked—What in a Christian minister is the most essential quality for securing success in winning souls for Christ? I should reply, “earnestness”: and if I were asked a second or a third time, I should not vary the answer, for personal observation drives me to the conclusion that, as a rule, real success is proportionate to the preacher’s earnestness.

Both great men and little men succeed if they are thoroughly alive unto God, and fail if they are not so. We know men of eminence who have gained a high reputation, who attract large audiences, and obtain much admiration, who nevertheless are very low in the scale as soul-winners: for all they do in that direction they might as well have been lecturers on anatomy, or political orators.

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How Then Shall We Preach?

Should students be taught a single approach to expositional preaching?

For almost two thousand years, expositors have been answering the clarion call of Paul to “Preach the Word” (2 Tim. 4:2). Even a cursory review of history demonstrates that God has gifted his church (Eph. 4:11–13) with a host of faithful expositors. Men like Tertullian, Justin Martyr, Augustine, John Chrysotom, John Wyclif, Ulrich Zwingli and John Calvin each proclaimed the Word to their generation. Puritans like Richard Baxter, John Owen, Thomas Manton and John Bunyan are also noteworthy. Others like Charles Haddon Spurgeon and David Martyn Lloyd-Jones set a high standard for preachers.

Even in this post-modern generation God continues to have a voice to proclaim His Word. For each preacher whose name is easily recognizable, there is a host of faithful yet unknown men laboring to expound the Word of God to His people. Additionally, homiletic professors in Bible colleges and seminaries seek, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to teach “faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also” (2 Tim. 2:2).

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