Tips on Preaching the Gospel
John Berridge of Everton
“Expect plain fare and plain lodging where you preach, yet perhaps better than your Master had. Suffer no treats to be made for you, but live as your host usually lives, else he may grow weary of entertaining you; and go not from house to house. If you dare to be zealous for the Lord of Hosts, expect persecution and threats; but heed them not. Bind the Lord’s word to your heart. The promise is doubled for your encouragement. The chief blocks in your way will be the prudent Peters, who will beg, entreat, and beseech you to avoid irregularity. Give them the same answer that Christ gave Peter, ‘they savour of the things which be of men.’—Heed them not.
“When you preach at night, go to bed as soon as possible, that the family be not kept up, and that you may rise early. When breakfast and morning family prayers are over, go away directly, that the house may be at liberty. If you would do work for the Lord, as you seem designed, you must venture for the Lord. The Christian’s motto is—Trust and go forward, though the sea is before you. Do then as Paul did, give up thyself to the Lord; work, and confer not with flesh and blood, and the Lord be with thee.”
These instructions, which are copied from a letter to one of his subordinates, were to regulate their manners; and with regard to the matter of their preachings, we find such as the following:-
When you state your commission, begin with laying open the innumerable corruptions of the hearts of your audience; Moses will lend you a knife which may be often whetted at his grindstone. Lay open the universal sinfulness of nature —the darkness of the mind,—the frowardness of the Will,—the fretfulness of the temper, and the earthliness and sensuality of the affections. Speak of the evil of sin in its nature—its rebellion against God as our sovereign—ingratitude to God as our benefactor—and contempt both of his authority and love. Declare the evil of sin in its effects—bringing on all our sickness, pains, and sorrows—all the evils we feel, and all the evils we fear—all inundations, and fires, and famines, and pestilences—all brawls, and quarrels, and fightings, and wars, with death to close these present sorrows, and hell afterwards to receive all that die in sin.
“Lay open the spirituality of the law, and its extent, reaching to every thought, word, and action, and declaring every transgression (whether of omission or commission) deserving of death. Declare man’s utter helplessness to change his nature, or to make his peace. Pardon and holiness must come from the Saviour. Acquaint them with the searching eye of God, watching us continually, spying out every thought, word, and action, noting them down in the book of his remembrance, and bringing every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil.
“When your hearers are deeply affected with these things (which is seen by the hanging down of their heads), preach Christ. Lay open the Saviour’s almighty power to soften the hard heart, and give it repentance– to bring pardon to the broken heart, a spirit of prayer to the prayerless heart, holiness to the filthy heart, and faith to the unbelieving heart. Let them know that all the treasures of grace are lodged in Jesus Christ, for the use of the poor needy sinner, and that he is full of love as well as power—turns no beggar from his gate, but receives all comers kindly—loves to bless them, and bestows all his blessings tithe-free. Farmers and country people chop at that. Here you must wave the Gospel flag, and magnify the Saviour supremely. Speak it, ore rotundo, that his blood can wash away the foulest sins, and his grace subdue the stoutest corruptions. Exhort the people to ‘seek his grace, to seek it directly, seek it diligently, seek it confidently; and acquaint them, that all who thus seek shall assuredly find the salvation of God.” Of his own preaching, it has been said, that “When he explained the nature, end, and use of the law, he was very awful and affecting.” “And now” (to adopt his own words) “I dealt with my hearers in a very different manner from what I used to do. I told them very plainly, that they were the children of wrath, and under the curse of God, though they knew it not, and that none but Jesus Christ could deliver them from that curse. I told them, if they had ever broken the law of God once in thought, word, or deed, no future good behaviour could make any atonement for past miscarriages. For, if I keep all God’s laws to-day, this is no amends for breaking them yesterday; if I behave peaceably to my neighbour this day, it is no satisfaction for having broken his head yesterday. So that, if once a sinner, nothing but the blood of Jesus can cleanse me from sin.”
From ‘History of Revivals of Religion in the British Isles’ by Mary Lundie Duncan 1836, pp 47-49