The attorney and the theologian gather the dry bones, but on the preacher and the barrister lie the fourfold task of mortising the joints into each other, binding them with the sinews of argument, clothing them in living beauty and vitalizing the whole structure with the flame of impassioned earnestness. Only when this has been done will they live.
So thoroughly distinct are the two offices it rarely happens that a professional theologian becomes an efficient preacher. The concentration and exclusive exercise of one faculty unfits him for a task demanding many.
People do not come to church to hear spoken treatises or witness dissecting operations on subtle distinctions. They come to be instructed, pleased and moved.
Again, for the perfect fulfilment of the preacher’s task, amongst other gifts he must have imagination; but to the master of an exact science like theology an exuberant fancy might prove a fatal dowry.
A clear statement of this truth holds out hopeful encouragement to the man whose theological attainments could not be described as “brilliant”: it teaches, too, the man who has distinguished himself in theology that if he ambitions being a preacher he has an entirely new set of sciences to master, but, best of all, it breaks into small bits an oft-used weapon in the hands of the young preacher’s arch-enemy—the critic.
[Side note: The critic at work]
How often do we see this self-constituted oracle rely for his sole support on this sophistry?
You turn from a church door filled with admiration; there is a glow of rapture around your heart; every nerve is tingling; you have been enthralled. A truth, old indeed but now dressed in a new robe, lives before your mind with a meaning and a richness of colour never experienced before. Your will is swept captive on the crest of that subtle tide of unseen fire that seems to fill the air. You are bracing yourself to a heroic resolve. The preacher’s voice, like ceaseless music, is still thrilling down through the avenues of your soul. When the critic comes and in pity asks you—“Do you really think that a good sermon?” he compassionates your poor judgment, leads you to the library, takes down a volume of Lehmkuhl or Suarez, and with a triumphant wave of his hand assures you that every idea in that sermon may be found there.
You are now face to face with the most perplexing of sophistries—the half truth.