The following is an excerpt from Charles Spurgeon’s book, Lectures to My Students, about the propriety of using anecdotes in preaching:1
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.
A sermon preached at Calvary Baptist Church in Simpsonville, SC in 2016.
Imagine with me that on Christmas morning, one of the gifts you receive is a small box. You hold it in your hands, and it isn’t very heavy. You shake it and it rattles a little. You know that good gifts come in small packages, so you tear off the paper with anticipation. Inside you find a key. Would you be excited?
What thought goes through your head? “What does this key fit?” It could be the key to a car. That would be a nice gift, wouldn’t it? It could be the key to a boat, or a Wave Runner, or a four-wheeler, or maybe a snowmobile. (That wouldn’t be so exciting in South Carolina, more so in Iowa where I live now.)
The point is, you know that the key itself is not the gift. The key represents the gift, and it gives you ownership of the real gift and the ability to use the gift, whatever it is.
The Bible talks about a key that is associated with our celebration of Jesus Christ’s birth. Three different people are said to have this key. The key represents authority and control. Each person uses the authority and control that comes with the key differently.
As we look at what the Bible says about this key, see if you can think of how it connects to Christmas. No Googling!
Preached January 15th, 1860 by C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
Giving thanks unto the Father, which hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light: Who hath delivered us from the power of darkness, and hath translated us into the kingdom of his dear Son. (KJV, Colossians 1:12-13)
This passage is a mine of riches. I can anticipate the difficulty in preaching and the regret in concluding we shall experience this evening because we are not able to dig out all the gold which lies in this precious vein. We lack the power to grasp and the time to expatiate upon that volume of truths which is here condensed into a few short sentences.
We are exhorted to “give thanks unto the Father.” This counsel is at once needful and salutary. I think, my brethren, we scarcely need to be told to give thanks unto the Son. The remembrance of that bleeding body hanging upon the cross is ever present to our faith. The nails and the spear, his griefs, the anguish of his soul, and his sweat of agony, make such tender touching appeals to our gratitude—these will prevent us always from ceasing our songs, and sometimes fire our hearts with rekindling rapture in praise of the man Christ Jesus. Yes we will bless thee, dearest Lord; our souls are all on fire. As we survey the, wondrous cross, we cannot but shout—
O for this love let rocks and hills
Their lasting silence break,
And all harmonious human tongues
The Savior’s praises speak.