As a student of theology, Ralph Erskine made the rounds to many of Edinburgh’s notable churches to hear the great preachers of his day. In his journal he recorded notes and assessment of each sermon. In one entry he noted only, “not very good — no word of Christ.” I wonder what assessment Erskine would make of preaching in our day? Would he hear a word of Christ or merely a moralistic prescription for self-improvement?
Scottish divine, Thomas Chalmers noted the spiritually fatal effect of the entertaining, self-help, power-of-positive-thinking type preaching of his day that lacked a word of Christ. He aptly remarked that such preaching was
“like a winter’s day, short and clear and cold. The brevity is good, the clarity is better; the coldness is fatal. Moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.”
The Middle Ages, steeped in superstition and error, had no lack of interesting preaching. Its art and rhetoric; its value as entertainment was without rival in the frivolities of Medieval life. Yet it lacked the sunlight of the gospel. It had the form of godliness but was bereft of gospel power because it spoke no word of Christ. Calvin describes this preaching.
“Indeed what one sermon was there from which old wives might not carry off more fantasies than they could devise at their own fireside in a month? For, [these] sermons … contained smooth stories, or not unamusing speculations, by which the people might be excited to cheerfulness. Only a few expressions were thrown in from the Word of God, that by their majesty they might procure credit for these frivolities. But as soon as the Reformers raised the standard, all these absurdities in a moment disappeared from among us.”
The Reformation grew in the soil of expository, gospel preaching. Preaching that proclaimed salvation by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. Today’s preaching often aims merely to excite the hearers to cheerfulness and tell a few smooth stories. Yet such moonlight preaching ripens no harvest.
Why does the Reformation still matter? And why does Solus Christus, “In Christ Alone,” still matter? Join us this Lord’s Day, October 22, as we consider these questions. We meet from 5:00 – 6:30 pm in The Commons at St. Andrews Anglican Church at 8300 Kanis Rd in Little Rock. Click here for directions.
Come with a friend you and join us for fellowship and conversation. We look forward to seeing you there.