I am sure I will come back to both Thielicke and Spurgeon in the days to come, but let’s end this Thielicke on Spurgeon week with another hefty paragraph. In a sense it brings us full circle, back to where we started – the need to seek to improve our preaching. Let’s drink deep of the water in this paragraphian well:
Have we not taken the perfectly proper recognition that it is not we but the Word itself that creates a hearing for itself and made of that recognition a “pretext for evil,” an excuse for slovenly neglect of rhetoric? Is it not a misconception of the doctrine of justification when we allow “by faith alone” to become an abstention from works, including the work of rhetoric? When a man preaches the pure Word of God and the pews are empty or those attending go to sleep in church, we are all too ready to make a virtue of our lack of sues and talk about the offense that must necessarily accompany the preaching of the gospel. We have a great talent for persuading ourselves that it is not only the stones which can cry out but that the empty pews will testify for us. And yet it may have been due only to the miserable structure of our sermons that people who value intellectual order were unable to follow them without torturously abusing their minds, and finally giving it up. Perhaps it was also our poorly used voice that caused people to indulge in church rather than at home their desire for sleep. Or we stood like stock-fish in the pulpit, or we revolved our arms like paddle wheels, or we kept threatening with our fists, or rattling our dentures – in short, we did not pay enough attention to, we did not cultivate, the instrumental factor. We did not grieve over the poorly fired, porous “earthen vessels” of our disorderly sermon outlines and our miserable rhetoric. On the contrary – what a strange perversion! – we were pleased with them because, after all, the wretchedness of the vessel seemed only to enhance the treasure it contained. (p.17)
2 thoughts on “Stock-Fish and Dentures”
This reminds me of John MacArthur’s father, who told him to never enter the pulpit unprepared.
I think the lack of sermon preparation is an issue of conscience. Some of us (I’ll include myself here) have had our consciences seared such that we are OK entering into the preaching of God’s word without enough preparation. This thought in your final post in the series is a clarion call to step back into a state of guilt of not working hard enough to bring God’s word to God’s people–and letting it challenge us to do better.
Thanks for these excerpts from Thielicke’s book. I know of the book, but haven’t read it yet. Now, you’ve whetted my appetite!