The Wanderer

As I walked through the wilderness of this world …

Preaching Christ

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What do some of the masters say?

Charles Spurgeon:

A young man had been preaching in the presence of a venerable divine, and after he had done he went to the old minister, and said, “What do you think of my sermon?”  “A very poor sermon indeed,” said he.  “A poor sermon?” said the young man, “it took me a long time to study it.”  “Ay, no doubt of it.”  “Why, did you not think my explanation of the text a very good one?”  “Oh, yes,” said the old preacher, “very good indeed.”  “Well, then, why do you say it is a poor sermon?  Didn’t you think the metaphors were appropriate and the arguments conclusive?”  “Yes, they were very good as far as that goes, but still it was a very poor sermon.”  “Will you tell me why you think it a poor sermon?”  “Because,” said he, “there was no Christ in it.”  “Well,” said the young man, “Christ was not in the text; we are not to be preaching Christ always, we must preach what is in the text.”  So the old man said, “Don’t you know young man that from every town, and every village, and every little hamlet in England, wherever it may be, there is a road to London?”  “Yes,” said the young man.  “Ah!” said the old divine “and so from every text in Scripture, there is a road to the metropolis of the Scriptures, that is Christ.  And my dear brother, your business in when you get to a text, to say, ‘Now what is the road to Christ?’ and then preach a sermon, running along the road towards the great metropolis – Christ.  And,” said he, “I have never yet found a text that had not got a road to Christ in it, and if I ever do find one that has not a road to Christ in it, I will make one; I will go over hedge and ditch but I would get at my Master, for the sermon cannot do any good unless there is a savour of Christ in it.”[1]

Bishop J. C. Ryle:

Let it be a settled principle in our minds, in reading the Bible, that Christ is the central sun of the whole book.  So long as we keep Him in view, we shall never greatly err in our search for spiritual knowledge.  Once losing sight of Christ, we shall find the whole Bible dark and full of difficulty.  The key of Bible knowledge is Jesus Christ.[2]

Alexander MacLaren:

A ministry of which the Christ who lived and died for us is manifestly the centre to which all converges and from which all is viewed, may sweep a wide circumference, and include many themes.  The requirement bars out no province of thought or experience, nor does it condemn the preacher to a parrot-like repetition of elementary truths, or a narrow round of commonplace.  It does demand that all themes shall lead up to Christ, and all teaching point to Him . . . . Preaching Christ does not exclude any theme, but prescribes the bearing and purpose of all; and the widest compass and richest variety are not only possible, but obligatory for him who would in any worthy sense take this for the motto of his ministry, “I determine not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ and Him crucified.”[3]

The Puritans, as reviewed by Joel Beeke:

The experimental preaching of the Reformers and Puritans focused on preaching Christ.  As Scripture clearly shows, evangelism must bear witness to the record God has given of his only begotten Son (Acts 2:3; 5:42; 8:35; Romans 16:25; 1 Corinthians 2:2; Galatians 3:1).  The Puritans thus taught that any preaching in which Christ does not have the pre-eminence is not valid experiential preaching.  William Perkins said that the heart of all preaching was to ‘preach [only] one Christ by Christ to the praise of Christ’.  According to Thomas Adams, ‘Christ is the sum of the whole Bible, prophesied, typified, prefigured, exhibited, demonstrated, to be found in every leaf, almost in every line, the Scriptures being but as it were the swaddling bands of the child Jesus’.  ‘Think of Christ as the very substance, marrow, soul, and scope of the whole Scriptures’, advised Isaac Ambrose.  In this Christ-centred context, Reformed and Puritan evangelism was marked by a discriminating application of truth to experience.[4]

William M. Taylor:

The Gospel, as Paul preached it, was far-reaching enough in its application to touch at every point the conduct and experiences of men.  The Cross, as he used it, was an instrument of the widest range and of the greatest power.  When, therefore, I insist that you like him should “preach Jesus Christ and Him crucified,” I do not mean to make the pulpit for you a battery, of such a nature that the guns upon it can strike only such vessels as happen to pass immediately in front of its embrasures.[5] On the contrary, I turn it for you into a tower, whereon is mounted a swivel-cannon, which can sweep the whole horizon of human life, and strike down all immorality, and ungodliness, and selfishness, and sin. . . . I do not mean that you should keep continually repeating the words of “the faithful saying” like a parrot-cry, until every particle of meaning has dropped out of them; but rather, that you should make application of the great principles that lie beneath the Cross, to the ever-varying circumstances and occurrences of life, and that in such a way as at once to succor the Christian and arrest and convert the sinner.[6]

Andrew Fuller:

If you preach Christ, you need not fear for want of matter.  His person and work are rich in fulness.  Every Divine attribute is seen in him.  All the types prefigure him.  The prophecies point to him.  Every truth bears relation to him.  The law itself must be so explained and enforced as to lead to him. . . . The preaching of Christ will answer every end of preaching.  This is the doctrine which God owns to conversion, to the leading of awakened sinners to peace, and to the comfort of true Christians.  If the doctrine of the cross be no comfort to us, it is a sign we have no right to comfort.  This doctrine is calculated to quicken the indolent, to draw forth every Christian grace, and to recover the backslider.  This is the universal remedy for all the moral diseases of all mankind.[7]

Thomas Foxcroft:

Ministers then must study to feed their flocks with a continual feast on the glorious fullness there is in Christ; they must gather fruits from the branch of righteousness, from the tree of life for those who hunger, not feeding them with the meat which perishes, but with that which endures to everlasting life.  They must open this fountain of living waters, the great mystery of godliness, into which all the doctrines of the gospel that are branched forth into so great a variety do, as so many rivulets or streams making glad the city of God, flow and concenter.

They must endeavor to set forth Christ in the dignity of His Person, as the brightness of His Father’s glory, God manifest in the flesh; in the reality, necessity, nature, and exercise of His threefold office of Prophet, Priest, and King, in both His state of humiliation and exaltation; in the glorious benefits of His redemption, the justification of them who believe, the adoption of sons, sanctification, and an inheritance that does not fade away, reserved in heaven for the saints; in the wonderful methods and means in and by which we are called into the fellowship of the Son our Lord, and made partakers of the redemption by Christ; in the nature, and significance, the excellency and worth, of all the ordinances and institutions of Christ, with the obligations on all to attend upon them.

Whatever subject ministers are upon, it must somehow point to Christ.  All sin must be witnessed against and preached down as opposed to the holy nature, the wise and gracious designs, and the just government of Christ.  So all duty must be persuaded to and preached up with due regard unto Christ; to His authority commanding and to His Spirit of grace assisting, as well as to the merit of His blood commending – and this to dash the vain presumption that decoys so many into ruin, who will securely hang the weight of their hopes upon the horns of the altar without paying expected homage to the scepter of Christ.  All the arrows of sharp rebuke are to be steeped in the blood of Christ; and this to prevent those desponding fears and frights of guilt which sometimes awfully work to a fatal issue.  Dark and ignorant sinners are to be directed to Christ as the Sun of righteousness; convinced sinners are to be led to Christ as the Great Atonement and the only City of Refuge.  Christ is to be lifted up on high for the wounded in spirit to look to, as the bitten Israelites looked to the brazen serpent of old.  The sick, the lame, and the diseased are to be carried to Christ as the great Physician, the Lord our Healer; the disconsolate and timorous are to be guided to Christ as the Consolation of Israel, and in us the hope of glory.  Every comfort administered is to be sweetened with pure water from this Well of salvation, which only can quench the fiery darts of the evil one.  The promises of the gospel are to be applied as being in Christ “yea, and in Him Amen, unto the glory of God by us” (2 Cor. 1:20).  So the threatenings of the law are to light and flash in the eyes of sinners as the terrors of the Lord and sparks of the holy resentment of an incensed Savior, which hover now over the children of disobedience and will one day unite and fall heavy upon them.  The love of Christ for us is to be held forth as the great constraining motive to religion, and the life of Christ as the bright, engaging pattern of it.  Progress and increase in holiness are to be represented under the notion of abiding in Christ and growing up into Him who is the Head, even Christ.  Perfection in grace is the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, and eternal life is a being forever with the Lord where He is, beholding His glory and dwelling in our Master’s joy.

Thus, in imitation of the apostolic way of preaching, there must be a beautiful texture of references to Christ, a golden thread twisted into every discourse to leaven and perfume it so as to make it express a savor of the knowledge of Christ.  Thus every mite cast into the treasure of the temple must bear this inscription upon it which was once the humble language of a pious martyr in the flames, “None but Christ, none but Christ,” so that everyone, beholding in the Word preached as in a glass the glory of the Lord, may be changed into the same image, from glory to glory.[8]


[1] Charles H. Spurgeon, “Christ Precious to Believers,” sermon no. 242 in The New Park Street Pulpit (1860; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 1994), 5:140.  Also told, in slightly different form, in The Soul Winner (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1964), 106-107.


[2] J. C. Ryle, Expository Thoughts on the Gospels: Luke 11-24 (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2007), 501.

[3] Alexander MacLaren, Old Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, date not known) 204.

[4] Joel Beeke, What is Reformed Experimental Preaching? (Grace Online Library),|42|394 accessed 14 May 09.

[5] Embrasures are the openings in battlements.

[6] William M Taylor, The Ministry of the Word (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 2003), 102-03.  This whole chapter on “The Theme and Range of the Pulpit” would bear close reading in this regard.

[7] Andrew Fuller, “Preaching Christ” in Complete Works (Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications, 1988), 1:503-504.

[8] Thomas Foxcroft, The Gospel Ministry (Grand Rapids, MI: Soli Deo Gloria, 2008), 8-11.

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