I spent a few hours last evening working on editing the text of Hercules Collins’ The Temple Repair’d. Virtually every line is applicable to preachers today. Most have an “ouch” factor. Such is the following indictment of lazy preachers by Mr. Collins.
If it be the duty of gospel ministers to study to divide the Word of God aright, then we fairly and naturally infer, that it is their sin that preach and neglect study. You may easily perceive from the pulpit whether the man hath wrought hard at his study the week before, or not. We may say of sermons as some do of pieces of work amongst men: We say of some work, there is no labour, there is no pains in it, it is a very slight thing. But it may be said of others on the contrary, this is a good piece of work this is well wrought, here is labour in this, this is substantial work. As there are too few painful labourers, so I fear there are too many loiterers concerned in this glorious employment; the Holy Ghost speaks of some watchmen sleeping, “loving to slumber.”
2. This doctrine refutes the opinion of those that think it unlawful to study to declare God’s mind, and will contemptuously speak against it, as if we were to preach by inspiration, as the prophets and apostles of old did. What can be a better confutation of those men than our text? Which commands ministers to study to show themselves good workmen; and to meditate in God’s law day and night. To meditate in the law, the revealed Word of God, the rule of life, so as to draw the ground of our faith, and the comfort of conscience out of the promises of grace.
3. This affords us a use of caution. If it be ministers duty to study, then be cautioned against idleness in the great things of God, and the concerns of immortal souls; the Lord hath often reproved idle shepherds. There is so much precious time spent in the world and pleasures thereof, that there is a very small remnant of the week left, I fear by too many, so that they have not sufficient time to improve the talent God hath given them; and what can be expected then but a lean discourse, if not a confused one, when the Sabbath comes?