Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Hercules Collins on Preaching

I have previously commented on contentment as a theme in the new book on 17th Century London Baptist pastor Hercules Collins. In the second half of the book a number of excerpts are drawn from Collins book on pastoral ministry, The Temple Repaired. I am very pleased to hear that Steve Weaver is preparing an edition of this book for publication. Collins has much wisdom for us today on pastoral ministry.

I was amazed at how so many of Collins’ comments spoke directly to our situation today. Take for example this quotation on preaching:

“A good workman in the gospel lays his work well together, or else it wants that profit and beauty that otherwise it would have. Our discourses should hang as it were in a link or chain. Thus it is in all our Savior’s sermons and Paul’s epistles. There is a wonderful coherence and dependence of one thing upon another. When we name a text we should not take our farewell of it, as too many do, and not return to it again in our whole discourse. But we should closely follow the scope and design of the Spirit of God in that text, with that order and connection of the parts, that it may look beautiful and prove profitable.” (93)
We still need such good exhortations for orderly, coherent preaching, especially preaching which follows the flow of thought of the passage at hand. I could not help but smile at Collin’s reference to preachers reading a text and then never coming back to it. I know this is a common problem today but it was interesting to find it so clearly described in the past.

Collins also addresses the common problem of procrastination in sermon preparation:

“We should get the substance of our sermons if possible for the Lord’s day before Saturday, or else we may be at a loss, and have very poor and lean discourses.” (103)
So, pastors struggled with Saturday Night Fever in the 17th century as well!

Collins exhortations are timely, wise, gospel-centered, and God-honoring. I have been helped and encouraged by this book.


Dana Olson said...

It does sound like he is living (and preaching) today, doesn't it? I was actually taught in seminary by a professor who read his text, closed his Bible, and didn't refer to it again. Actually, I could say "not taught" by him. However, I have never followed his method. And I have certainly experienced the agony of waking on Saturday wondering where the week went! Bless you, Dr. Ray.

Ray Van Neste said...

Thanks Dana.