Charles Simeon lists his General Rules of a Sermon. If you’re a preacher you will hopefully enjoy the reminders.
1) Should be Clearly and Purely Explaining the Text – “it is impossible to edify them unless you are clear”
- 2) Give the Entire sense of the Whole text – “a sermon cold and poor will do more mischief in an hour than a hundred rich sermons can do good”. Always maintain an esteem and eagerness for practical piety
3) The Preacher must be WISE, SOBER, and CHASTE – wise = don’t spend much time trying to be funny – sober = don’t spend your time on too many “what-ifs”, or “empty history”, or “meaningless investigations” – chaste = don’t be immodest in delivery or take listener’s minds to things that are not pure.
4) Be Simple and Grave – simple = good natural sense without metaphysical speculations – grave = avoid vulgar and proverbial sayings. “the pulpit is the seat of good natural sense”
5) The Understanding must be informed, but in a manner that Affects the HEART – either comfort or excite to acts of piety, repentance, or holiness
6) Avoid Excess – Ne Quid Nimis = don’t do too much
- must not be “too much genius” – too much brilliant, sparkling, and striking things point to yourself too much, and the Spirit isn’t evident. If the eye is dazzled too much, the mind is offended by the glare
- don’t be “overcharged” with doctrine – if the hearer’s memory can’t retain it all, in trying to retain it all they lose it all. A sermon should instruct, please, affect. So the instructive part should be done in an agreeable fashion
- Never strain any particular part – don’t exhaust or penetrate too far
- Figures must not be Overstrained – don’t stretch a metaphor to a allegory or carry a parallel to far. Know when to stop
- Reasoning must not be Carried too far – don’t stretch one chain to another to another to another. “a medium should be preserved” – before long the listener forgets what we were talking about
- As much as possible, Abstain from all sorts of observations Foreign to Theology – Like:
- Grammatical observations not within basic knowledge will wear them out, keep it seldom and pertinently
- Critical observations about different readings – USE them, but “spare the people”
- Avoid Philosophical and Historical observations unless they Heighten the Beauty
- Avoid use of quotes from Profane Authors, Rabbis, or Fathers. Use discreetly, properly, for good effect, not vain ostentation of learning
Then Charles Simeon Closes with 3 Things
- Take for your subject what you believe is the Mind of God
- Mark the Character of the Passage – where is the passage taking listeners (precept, promise, invitation, principle, etc)
- Mark the Spirit of the Passage – (tender, compassionate, indignant, menacing) let that be the spirit of your sermon. As ambassadors, we should speak ALL God speaks and AS he speaks – “the meaning should be the warp … the words should be the woof”
He says On Conclusions – be lively and animating, full of great and beautiful figures. Conclusions delight, in inventions of a fine imagination, and not so chaste or regular as the body. “There is no danger when a preacher, in a conclusion, gives himself up to the fire of his genius”
Let me close by saying that when we enter the pulpit to Preach, we have a task that ONLY “Belongs” to us in that it is a responsibility given us by God. It is God’s Word, and all the glory is his. Our words may not be “inspired” like scripture but they better be inspiring. They may not be God-Breathed, but they should come from God’s Heart to ours, and to the congregation. God speaks to us, the Holy Spirit is our guide, but we must study, read, learn, pray, and seek to move people by God and for God. God uniquely fitted us to deliver the word to the people he places in front of us, so use all we have, deliver it with integrity and passion, and leave the results to the Lord.