Attention All Pastors: Free advice from a good doctor.

In his thumbnail historiography of famous 19th-century preacher Robert Hall, Dargan writes on some of the troubles that Hall experienced during his pastorate at Cambridge. Some of these troubles, in fact,  would become so burdensome that they eventually caused Hall to lose his mind! Thankfully, however, he would later be attended to by the good Dr. Cox, and given some truly life-changing medical advice.Let the pastor pay attention. Dargin writes:

His ill-health and acute sufferings, together with the burdens of his pastorate, broke him down. His mind became unbalanced for a time . . . A second and later attack was more serious. He was placed under the care of Dr. Cox, near Bristol. [After a time in the “sanitarium”] Dr. Cox gave him three prescriptions; (1) leave Cambridge, (2) smoke, (3) get married. He did all three, and never lost his mind anymore.

Source: Dargan, Edwin Charles. A History of Preaching. Vol. 2. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1954

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The Potential Harm of Homiletics

I’m reading through Charles Dargan’s “History of Preaching” at the moment. Pure dynamite! Highly recommend (you can download the double-volume here, or read it on Logos here).

But anyway, I read something today that resonates deeply with me in terms of my own experience listening to preachers absolutely murder their texts by forcing the passage into all sorts of arbitrary and overly rigid homiletical divisions.

Make’s me all twitchy and crazy-like. . .

But personal involuntary reactions aside, I think that Dargin’s observation of the trend in post-Reformation preaching is illuminating in this regard.

“In the post-reformers more attention was given both to analytic and synthetic form. The sermons of Luther and Calvin broke away with a certain joyous freedom from the trammels of the scholastic method. This was especially true of their expository discourses, which were verse-by-verse comments rather than orderly addresses. Yet . . . the study of homiletics naturally tended to the reinstatement of this method. As is often the case in such matters, a needed improvement went too far. In much of the preaching of the period under review there is too much stiff and formal division of sermons.”

Couldn’t agree more. While sermons shouldn’t be running commentaries, I’d take a running commentary over an arbitrary division of the text any day of the week. . . especially on Sunday.