Preaching with Tears

Acts 19:31
       Remember, that by the space of three years I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears.

J. W. ALEXANDER (1804-1859): No man can be a great preacher without great feeling.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): You cannot read the accounts of the revivals of the past without observing that the emotional element was always prominent.

ANDREW FULLER (1754-1815): The gospel is a message full of importance, and therefore you must be in earnest.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): When the Kingswood colliers, near Bristol, first heard it from George Whitefield’s lips, they wept till their black faces were seamed with white lines of tears.*

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): The first discovery of their being affected was the sight of the white gutters made by their tears, which plentifully fell down their black cheeks as they came out of their coal-pits. Hundreds of them were soon brought under deep conviction, which, as the event proved, happily ended in a sound and thorough conversion…Sometimes, when twenty thousand people were before me―the opening firmament above me, the prospect of the adjacent fields with the sight of thousands, some in coaches, some on horseback, and some in the trees, and at times all affected and in tears—to which sometimes was added the solemnity of the approaching evening—were almost too much for, and quite overcame me.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE (1813-1843): Such was George Whitefield; that great man scarcely ever preached without being melted into tears.

J. HALL (circa 1861): The preaching of Whitefield came down upon the ears of the people like rain upon the new-mown grass. Depend upon it, Whitefield could never have preached that sermon, “Sinners in the hand of an angry God.” ** He would have been compelled to stop a hundred times in the course of the sermon to preach the love of Christ to sinners, and to shed tears over souls in peril of the wrath to come.

THOMAS COLLINS (1810-1864): A man full of Christ-like tears is a noble creature. Such concern melts men, and tells with God.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The Apostle Paul reminds the elders of the church at Ephesus of how he preached “with tears.” And Whitefield used to preach with tears. When have you and I last preached with tears? What do we know, to use the phrase of Whitefield, about preaching a ‘felt Christ’? Is not this the cause of the trouble today?

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You may have sound doctrine and yet do nothing unless you have Christ in your spirit. I have known all the doctrines of grace to be unmistakably preached, and yet there have been no conversions; for this reason, that they were not expected and scarcely desired. In former years many orthodox preachers thought it to be their sole duty to comfort and confirm the godly few who by dint of perseverance found out the holes and corners in which they prophesied. These brethren spoke of sinners as people whom God might possibly gather in if He thought fit to do so; but they did not care much whether He did so or not. As to weeping over sinners as Christ wept over Jerusalem; as to venturing to invite them to Christ as the Lord did when He stretched out His hands all the day long; as to lamenting with Jeremiah over a perishing people, they had no sympathy with such emotions, and feared they savoured of Arminianism.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: I am one of those who believes that Calvinism should always lead to great preaching; and when it does not I query the genuineness of the Calvinism.

CHRISTMAS EVANS (1766-1838): Let the preacher influence himself; let him reach his own heart if he would reach the hearts of others; if he would have others feel, he must feel himself.

C. H. SPURGEON: I was once preaching upon conversion and salvation, and I felt within myself, as preachers often do, that it was but dry work to tell this story, and a dull, dull tale it was to me; but on a sudden the thought crossed my mind, “Why, you are a poor, lost, ruined sinner yourself; tell it, tell it as you received it; begin to tell of the grace of God as you trust you feel it yourself,” Why, then, my eyes began to be fountains of tears; those hearers who had nodded their heads began to brighten up, and they listened, because they were hearing something which the speaker himself felt, and which they recognized as begin true to him if it was not true to them.

HENRY CLAY FISH (1820-1877): I have never preached a sermon to others that I have not first preached to my own soul.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): I preached what I did feel―what I smartingly did feel.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: More and more I can see that ministers must preach to themselves…When have you known a congregation to be really moved? When have you heard a congregation crying out?

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): As for myself, as I am ashamed of my dull and careless heart, and of my slow and unprofitable course of life, so the Lord knows I am ashamed of every sermon that I preach: when I think what I am and who sent me, and how much the salvation and damnation of men is concerned in it, I am ready to tremble, lest God should judge me a slighter of His truth, and the souls of men, and lest in my best sermons I should be guilty of their blood. Methinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears, or the greatest earnestness that possible we can.

JOHN OWEN (1616-1683): It is an easier thing to bring our heads to preach than our hearts to preach…A man may preach every day of the week and not have his heart engaged once.

C. H. SPURGEON: I dread getting to be a mere preaching machine, without my heart and soul being exercised in this solemn duty…I do not know how a preacher can be much blessed of God who does not feel an agony when he fears that some of his hearers will pass into the next world impenitent and unbelieving.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: Would ministers preach for eternity, they would act the part of true Christian orators, for then they would endeavour to move the affections and warm the heart, and not constrain their hearers to suspect that they dealt in the false commerce of unfelt truth.

ROBERT MURRAY M’CHEYNE: Ah! how we shall be amazed at our coldness when we get to heaven!

GEORGE WHITEFIELD: A good pulpit sweat would heal the cold.

*Editor’s Note: George Whitefield first preached to the Kingswood coal miners in February, 1739.
**Editor’s Note: Sinners in the hand of an angry God was a powerful sermon preached by Jonathan Edwards at Enfield, Connecticut on July 8, 1741, during the American Revival known as “the Great Awakening.” His sermon was interrupted many times by people moaning and crying out “What shall I do to be saved?”


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