Hercules Collins’ Tips on Preaching

The following excerpt is from Hercules Collins, The Temple Repair’d: or, An Essay to Revive the Long-Neglected Ordinances, of Exercising the Spiritual Gift of Prophecy for the Edification of the Churches; and of Ordaining Ministers Duly Qualified (London: 1702), 33-35. This selection is due to be published along with approximately 40 others in July in a volume on the piety of Hercules Collins by Reformation Heritage Books.

If thou hast much of God’s presence in preaching, be not overconfident that the sermon shall do most good. And if you art in a dull frame in preaching, so long as you preach God’s Word, do not despair of a good effect. For some have experienced some sermons blest which they thought were lost, and have heard nothing to their comfort of that sermon they expected most from, and this is done that no flesh might glory in God’s presence (1 Cor. 10:31).

Let us preach and prophesy according to the proportion of faith and knowledge, speak experimentally and feelingly. That which comes from the heart is generally carried to the heart, then it is we preach to edification. And to that end let not your sermons in common be very long. It is better to leave the people longing than loathing. Get your hearts sincerely affected with those things you persuade others to, that your hearers may see that you are in good earnest, and that you deliver nothing to the people but what you are willing to practice yourselves, and venture your salvation upon.

Take not hastily other men’s opinions without due trial, nor vent your own conceits, but compare them first with the analogy of faith and rules of holiness, the holy Scriptures, which are the proper tests of all opinions and doctrines. Meddle with controversies and doubtful matters as little as may be in public auditories, lest you puzzle your hearers and hinder their edification. Insist on those points that tend to sound belief, sincere love to God, and holy conversation. And it is good for ministers to have a body of divinity in their heads and hearts, that they may be able to preach in season and out of season. A worthy minister being called of a sudden to preach without any previous preparation, preached an excellent sermon on the priestly office of Christ, and being thanked by some after he had done this good discourse, having so little warning, made this answer, “It is good for a minister to have a body of divinity in his head.”

If you use any metaphor or similitude, let it be always as short as may be convenient, and so delivered, that the matter may be the better explained by it. Thus the Holy Ghost calls Christ a rock, because he defends his church against the gates of hell. So he is called a lamb, that we may the better understand his meekness and usefulness. He is called a vine, and his members branches, to show that a believer’s life, beauty, strength, growth, and fruitfulness is in Christ the vine, and that without him they can do nothing.

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