The Message and the Man: / Some Essentials of Effective Preaching

Produced by Al Haines


The Message
and the Man:

Some Essentials of Effective Preaching





The Rev. James Jackson



It would be strange, indeed, if in the procession of annual volumes of which this lecture is an unit, there did not arrive a book about preaching. The work of the preacher holds so large a place in the service and worship of God; it is, to all appearance, so essential to the accomplishment of the purposes of the Redeemer; its content and quality mean so much to the life and health of the Church; it has played—and is destined to play—so great a part in the saving of mankind, that, sooner or later, it was bound to come within the purview of this lectureship.

Now that, at last, the inevitable has happened, it may be said that the following pages have been written under the conviction that one of the greatest needs of the present day is a pulpit revival—a revival which will issue in a new endeavour to realise the highest possibilities of the divinest of callings. Many of late years have wandered from the fold of the Church; mighty is the multitude of those who have never been within her fellowship. The author is more than convinced that any attempt to claim and reclaim must, to be successful on a large scale, commence in a renaissance of Gospel preaching. With the preacher, more than with the ecclesiastic or the musician or the theologian, not to mention the Biblical critic and the religio-social worker, rests the task of solving the great problem of twentieth century Christianity. This problem is neither a critical nor a theological one, but simply that of the age-long campaign:—How shall we so commend the Christ as to draw the world to His feet?

To this avowal, the writer would venture to add a brief personal explanation. Strongly convinced, though he is, of the soundness of the view expressed above, he did not enter willingly upon the task of this book. His brother preachers will know what it is to be captured by a text which comes uninvited and persistently demands to be preached upon. How often such an arrest finds its subject unwilling, doubtful of his powers, afraid to be obedient to the unsought command! So came the subject of this essay to the writer thereof. For long he tried strenuously, though vainly, to make his escape to the refuge of some other topic wherein he might, less daringly, discharge the responsibilities of this lectureship. He disclaims, therefore, any presumption of which he may be accused in attempting an enterprise which some may think is outside his province or beyond his powers. This book embodies not a challenge, but a surrender!

One word more may be allowed. Surely, no one will need to be told that the “Hartley Lecture” is delivered under the auspices of the Primitive Methodist Church, or that its delivery is included in the programme of its Annual Conference. This will explain why the reader will find, here and there, in the chapters here assembled, certain denominational allusions of a historic and biographical character. Primitive Methodists will readily understand them and, we hope, discover that they add force to argument—strength to appeal. Readers of other denominations will not find that the meaning of the writer is obscured by any one of these references. As for the principles sought to be commended and emphasised, any application they may have is not limited by denominational boundaries.

LONDON, June 1st, 1912.



Chapter I.The Designation of the Preacher
“     II.Things to be Realised
“    III.The Need for Certainty
“    IV.Individuality
“      V.Concerning “Understanding”
“     VI.Passion


Chapter I.The Note of Accusation
“     II.The Note of Pity
“    III.The Note of Idealism
“    IV.The Note of Edification
“     V.The Note of Cheer


Chapter I.On Attractiveness
“     II.On Transparency
“    III.On Appeal




“There is a river, the streams whereof shall make glad the city of God, the holy place of the tabernacles of the Most High.”—Psalms.

“Then said he unto me, These waters issue out toward the east country and go down into the desert.”

“And by the river upon the bank thereof, on this side and on that side, shall grow all trees for meat, whose leaf shall not fade, neither shall the fruit thereof be consumed: it shall bring forth new fruit according to the months, because their waters they issued out of the sanctuary; and the fruit thereof shall be for meat, and the leaf thereof for medicine.”—Ezekiel.

“But the water is nought, and the ground barren.”—2 Kings.



Among the many problems of a problem-ridden time the most important, as it is the most difficult, is that of the apparent arrest which has befallen the progress of Protestant Christianity in this and other lands. For a long period now, we have heard from the various churches an annually repeated story of decreases in membership, in congregations, in Sunday School scholars. We have been told, also, of a general decay of reverence for sacred things, of a growth of frivolity, a surrender of high ideals and of old faiths to the spirit of materialism which more and more, so it is said, dominates the age. That Sabbath of our youth; that attachment by families to the sanctuary which was so marked a feature of our national life; that fine old English home life and filial piety; that deep communal consciousness of God which, whether it produced personal profession of religion or not, did at least create a sense of the seriousness of life and duty and so make our people strong to labour and endure—these things, we are informed, will soon be no more. Regarding the situation, all thoughtful men are concerned and some are panic stricken. The account given by the latter is to the effect that religion is losing its hold; that the Church is being left high and dry; that the morality of classes and masses alike shows darker signs of degeneration with the coming of each succeeding day.

Now, we are of those who, while trying to look facts in the face, endeavour, also, not to see double and to keep heart of hope. It is easy to make too much of statistics, and very easy, in a moment of depression, to come to conclusions concerning the state of the Church, and the life of the world, which a day of brighter and truer mood will greatly modify. There is no cause for either panic or pessimism, but there is cause for the asking of questions as to reasons for the condition of things, for the making of suggestions for their improvement.

And of such questions, many have been asked, questions relating to the Church, her methods, her teaching, her attitude to the world around her, to great social and moral issues. Of suggestions, too, there have been many, and many of them have been seriously received and adopted as the starting points of changes and modifications, the purpose of which has been to stay the progress of alleged decline in this field or in that. Beyond all admiration, has been the willingness to make sacrifices and put forth efforts to win back the wanderer to the fold which have been exhibited by those to whom changes are not always the most agreeable things in the world. The unfortunate thing is that, notwithstanding all that has been done, it cannot be claimed that the problem has been solved.

Now, it is a recognition of this problem, and of the fact that all efforts so far made to find a solution and devise a remedy have failed to meet with the success which had been hoped for, that has determined our choice of a subject for this—the fourteenth Hartley Lecture. Can it be possible, that in some degree, the preaching of the preachers has been to blame for the things we mourn?

From America we hear of a new profession which has been called into existence as a result of the fierce competition of industrial and commercial life. It is the profession of “the business doctor,” and already the idea has been justified. All is not well, perhaps, with some great firm; rivals are getting ahead; profits are declining, and “the business doctor” is called in to investigate and prescribe. He goes from department to department, considering the methods pursued, checking the expenditure on this, on that, on the other. He interviews the partners, the managers, the men down through the various grades; the books are open to him. He presents his diagnosis and writes his prescription. The “business doctor” has been at work in the churches—in our Church. He has looked into many things. He has made some suggestions. They have not all been foolish, but, as yet, he has not quite hit upon the very thing. He has, however, not altogether finished his work. Why should he not come into the preacher’s department, into the pulpit, into the study? Why should he not be permitted to read some of those treasured manuscripts which have been—shall we say the joy, or shall we say the discipline?—of so many congregations? Why should he not be allowed to bring paper and pencil, and, ensconced in a pew commanding full view of the rostrum, write down the thing that is true about the part we take in the work of saving the world? Perhaps he may find that all is well. Perhaps he may find that all is not quite well. If this should be the case, how important that we should know it. Discovery is often the starting point of improvement.

That, in view of the situation referred to, we should, each of us for himself, consider his preaching, is the suggestion we would make to every preaching reader of the pages to follow. We leave the figure of the “business doctor,” for every illustration is of limited usefulness, which is a good thing to learn. There is but one authority capable of conducting this inquiry in such a way as inevitably to make discovery of the real truth. That authority is surely the preacher’s own conscience as taught, illuminated and guided by the Holy Spirit. At once we make a confession:—This lecture raises a question, but does not presume to answer it. We will be satisfied to set men asking and answering for themselves. Here is the inquiry:—Am I, as a preacher, in any way to blame for the decline in Church prosperity, for the lack of conversions, for such signs and results of spiritual indifference as are to be seen on every hand? This question may pave the way for others:—Is there anything amiss with the substance of my preaching, with its methods, with its spirit? If there be weakness here or there; if it lack the true note; if it have lost strength to grip, sharpness to probe, power to heal; if, in short, it lacks aught of being the means of grace it was designed to be, can it be brought, once more, on to the right lines? Our words may be as a river refreshing the Church of God, and flowing out through the portals of the sanctuary, bearing fertility and healing to the world; they may, again, from loss of virtue, fail to enrich the waiting land. There will be living trees by the living stream. There will be barrenness where “the water is nought”!

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