I love these comments on preaching. The author, Reverend John Kennedy, was speaking of the preachers of Ross-shire who were not like those described at the beginning of each paragraph, but like those described at the end. I’ve left out his specific references to those particular preachers, because I think it helps us who are unfamiliar with them to be able to make a timeless application today.
“There are some who preach before their people, like actors on the stage, to display themselves and to please their audience. Not such were the self-denied preachers…
There are others who preach over their people. Studying for the highest, instead of doing so for the lowest, in intelligence, they elaborate learned treatises, which float like mist, when delivered, over the heads of their hearers. Not such were the earnest preachers.…
There are some who preach past their people. Directing their praise or their censure to intangible abstractions, they never take aim at the views and the conduct of the individuals before them. They step carefully aside, lest their hearers should be struck by their shafts, and aim them at phantoms beyond them. Not such were the faithful preachers…
There are others who preach at their people, serving out in a sermon the gossip of the week, and seemingly possessed with the idea that the transgressor can be scolded out of the ways of iniquity. Not such were the wise preachers…
There are some who preach towards their people. They aim well, but they are weak. Their eye is along the arrow towards the hearts of their hearers, but their arm is too feeble for sending it on to the mark. Superficial in their experience and in their knowledge, they reach not the cases of God’s people by their doctrine, and they strike with no vigor at the consciences of the ungodly. Not such were the powerful preachers…
There are others still who preach along their congregation. Instead of standing with their bow in front of the ranks, these archers take aim in line and, reducing their mark to an individual, never change the direction of their aim. Not such were the discriminating preachers…
But there are a few who preach to the people directly and seasonably the mind of God in His Word with authority, unction, wisdom, fervor and love …”
Revd. John Kennedy, The Days of the Fathers in Ross-shire (Inverness, 1895), pages 22-23.
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