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Simplicity in Preaching

June 12, 2013

The Confederate soldier Sam Watkins recounted in his memoirs hearing one preacher “who was so ‘high larnt’ that I don’t think anyone understood him but the generals.  The colonels might every now and then have understood a word, and maybe a few of the captains and lieutenants, because Lieutenant Lansdown told me he understood every word the preacher said, and further informed me that it was none of your one-horse, old-fashioned country prayers that privates knew anything about, but was bang-up, first-rate, orthodox.”

Apparently, Lieutenant Lansdown shared the same conviction as one old lady who once went to hear Bishop J. C. Ryle preach and came away disappointed.  After the service she told a friend, “I never heard a Bishop.  I thought I’d hear something great.  He’s nowt.  He’s no Bishop.  I could understand every word.”

When Ryle heard what the lady had said, he said it was the greatest compliment ever paid to his preaching.  It comes as no surprise, then, that Ryle held in high esteem those men of the eighteenth century evangelical revival who, as he put it, “rightly concluded that the very first qualification to be aimed at in a sermon is to be understood.”  Ryle went on to say that these men “were not ashamed to crucify their style, and to sacrifice their reputation for learning.”

May the Lord of the harvest strengthen His laborers to preach the Gospel clearly, to edify His body and to proclaim the Good News of Christ Jesus to the lost in sound speech which is beyond reproach.

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