Thursday, November 16, 2006

On Slippery Slopes, Sermons and Consciences

Here is an extract from a letter on the ministry of the Gospel written by the Welsh preacher John Elias. The letter is dated 16th January 1840:

"There is a great defect in the manner of many preachers. It can scarcely be said that the Gospel is preached by them. Their sermons are very confused; they contain many expressions which are not taught by the Holy Ghost; and subjects are so clothed with new words, that it is difficult to know what is meant.

Thought these preachers may not be accused of saying wht is false, yet, alas, they neglect stating weighty and necessary truths when opportunities offer. By omitting those important portions of truth in their natural connection, the Word is made subservient to subjects never intended.

The hearers are led to deny the truth that the preacher leaves out of his sermons. Omitting any truth intentionally in a sermon leads to the denial of it. Indeed, there are several deficiencies in many ministers; some acknowledge and lament them. There is room to suspect that those defects are intentional in others."

What do you think? Was Elias' assessment in the last paragraph right?

4 comments:

drew@jonah said...

Slippery slopes are difficult because they are not hard and fast rules. I know you are explicit that this blog is not a heresy hunt, but please indulge me an example. I think in the case of omission, one only has to look at someone like Joel Osteen. He's publicly stated that he omits sin from his sermons. Is he accountable for that? Where does such omission lead the congregation? How will they endure sound doctrine if no one has taught them?

-Drew

Martin Downes said...

At one level I presume that Joel Osteen is bound by the confessional statement of the church he serves (whatever that says). If he fails to teach those doctrines then his, and the church's, integrity is open to question.

One of the challenging things about Elias' statement is that if a preacher consistently omits to mention certain truths then the impression that he gives to his hearers is that these truths are not important.

As I was telling the congregation here this week, we believe in substitutionary atonement in our confession, sing about it in our worship, ask new members to affirm it when they join the church, and we sell books that uphold it. So I guess I'm saying that if the things of first importance are only found written on a piece of paper marked "our basis of faith" and found nowhere else then that places a big question mark on the health of the church.

Anonymous said...

"Omitting any truth intentionally in a sermon leads to the denial of it."

The practicalities of preaching tell us we cannot cover everything in one sermon - I think one needs to judge over a period of time. If major doctrines are omitted all the time, then we see a problem in the making.

Hiraeth said...

Amen! I was raised in a church where no-one mentioned to me that I needed to be born again! I only found this out when I went to university.

If we do not mention things because we find them 'hard', we give the impression that these things are not necessary.