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Monday, November 5, 2012

Counsel on Preaching from Abp Ussher

On Preaching
Archbishop James Ussher (1581–1656)
Episcopal Seal: Va mihi si non Evangelizavero.
from The Life and Times of Archbishop James Ussher 
(Green Forest: Master Books, 2005) pp. 113–115

 I       Read and study the Scripture carefully; wherein is the best learning and only infallible truth; they can furnish you with the best materials for your sermons, the only rules of faith and practice, the most powerful motives to persuade and convince the conscience, and the strongest arguments to confute all errors, heresies, and schisms. Therefore, be sure let all your sermons be congruous to them; and to this end it is expedient that you understand them, as well in the originals as in the translations.

II.     Take not hastily up other men’s opinions without due trial, nor vent your own conceits, but compare them first with the analogy of faith and rules of holiness recorded in the Scriptures, which are the proper tests of all opinions and doctrines.

III.    Meddle with controversies and doubtful points as little as may be in your popular preaching, lest you puzzle your hearers, or engage them in wrangling disputations,

IV.    Insist most on those points that end to affect sound belief, sincere love to God, repentance for sin, and that may persuade to holiness of life; press these things home to the conscience of your hearers, as of absolute necessity, leaving no gap for evasion, but bind them as close as may be to their duty; and as you ought to preach sound and orthodox doctrine, so ought you to deliver God’s message as near as may be in God’s words; that is, in such as are plain and intelligible, be in God’s words that is, in such as are plain and intelligible,  that the meanest of your auditors may understand; to which end it is necessary to back all practical precepts and doctrines with apt proofs from the Holy Scripture; avoiding all exotic phrases, scholastic terms, unnecessary quotations of authors and forced rhetorical figures, since it is

V.     Get you hearts sincerely affected with the things you persuade other to embrace, that so you may preach experimentally, and your hearers perceive that you are in good earnest, and press nothing upon them but what may tend to their advantage, and which yourself would venture your own salvation on.

VI.    Study and consider well the subjects you intend to preach on, before you come into the pulpit, and then words will readily appear themselves; yet think what you are about to say before you speak, avoiding all uncouth phantastical words or phrases; and so hinder their conversion, which is the main design of preaching. not difficult to make easy things appear hard, but to render hard things easy is the hardest part of a good orator as well as preacher. or nauseous, indecent or ridiculous express, which will quickly bring preaching into contempt and make your sermons and persons the subject of sport and merriment. or give any countenance to sin by word or deed.

VII.  Dissemble not the truth of God in any case, nor comply with the lusts of men, and so hinder their conversion, which is the main design of preaching.

VIII. But above all you must never forget to order your own conversation as becometh the Gospel, that so you may teach by example as well as precept, and that you may appear a good divine everywhere as well as in the pulpit; for a minister’s life and conversation is more heeded than his doctrine.

IX.    Yet after all this, take heed you be not puffed up with spiritual pride of your own virtues, nor with a vain conceit of your parts of abilities, nor yet be transported with the applause of men, nor dejected or discourage with the scoffs or frowns of the wicked and profane. 

Received by email from the Rev C. Bradley Wilson

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