30 June 2010

Helpful Quote on Preaching?

The following quote comes from Henry Ward Beecher (1813-1887) in his Yale Lectures on Preaching of 1872. It was today's Reading IV in For All the Saints, vol. IV, p. 173. Just out of curiosity, I'd like to know what you, the readers of this blog--especially the clergy though also welcoming responses and insights from lay readers--think about the content of this quote:

There are, also, some specialties in this true Christian love and sympathy that bear upon the pulpit. In the first place, the whole cast of your thought and the subjects with which you deal are to bear the impress of this good news,--that God is Love, and that God so loved the world, that, having died for it, he now sits at the right hand of God, a risen Saviour, to live for it.

If you preach justice alone, you will murder the gospel. If you preach conscientiously, as it is called; if you sympathize with law and with righteousness as interpreted by the narrow rule of a straight line; if you preach, especially, with a sense of vindictive retribution,--I do not care who the criminals are,--you will fail of your whole duty. There must be justice, and punitive justice, of course; but, after all, "Vengeance is mine," saith the Lord. It is a quality so dangerous to handle that only Infinite Love is safe in administering it. No mortal man should dare to touch it, for it is a terrible instrument. You are to administer all the great truths, the most rugged truths, in the spirit of the truest sympathy, benevolence, and love.

So, what say you? Is the content of this quote helpful for the preaching task or not? If so, how so? If not, why not? How does it help, or not, the preacher diagnose our sin and then give us the healing medicine of Jesus the Physician of the soul? Pros? Cons? What's helpful? What's not?

Now it's your turn. Comments, questions, or "smart remarks"?


Rev. Eric J Brown said...

Some of this might sound stranger to us given the 19th Century terminology - but the thrust is good (if not as fully fleshed out). One must preach Christ - Christ Crucified for you. He tends to sort of just blow past the crucifixion (it's something Jesus did, now He's on to the good stuff) - but it's fairly well set up.

Rev. James Leistico said...

General comment - I agree with Eric.
More specific comments -
1) This is just a selected quote from the writing, so maybe Beecher has more Gospel in this writing than we see.
2) (related to #1) It is the nature of the beast of teaching that it is more Law emphatic, but there is little sympathy/forgiveness/Gospel for the preacher who has gone down the wrong path.
3) Beecher's comments on man not being able to handle vengeance reminded me of a certain story about a ring and Hobbits written after Beecher's death.