O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death.
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I will refer you to the next class of preachers, the experimental—How delightful it is to sit under an experimental preacher! Perhaps of all ministries this one is the most useful—he who preaches the doubts, the fears, the joys, the ecstasies of the people of God. How often do the saints see the footsteps of the flock, and then they find the Shepherd under an experimental minister!
WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): What I have always deemed the best kind of preaching is neither highly doctrinal nor dryly practical; but distinguished by what I should call experimentality, or a constant blending of the doctrines and practice of the Gospel strongly with the affections and feelings. Many have been sadly deficient here. Their sermons have had theology enough in them, and well methodized; but there was little in them to rend and melt.
ISAAC WATTS (1674-1748): Among the practical parts of Christianity, sometimes make it your business to insist on those subjects which are inward and spiritual, and which go by the name of experimental religion.
C. H. SPURGEON: The best teaching in the world is experimental; nothing wins upon men like personal witnessing, not merely teaching the doctrine as we find it in the Book, but as we have felt it in its living power upon our own hearts. When we begin to tell of its effect upon ourselves, it is wonderful what power there is upon others in that testimony.
WILLIAM MASON (1719-1791): Experimental preaching will always be offensive to the carnal and profane…He will sure to meet with the fiercest opposition from proud Pharisaical professors.
JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): Better abolish pulpits than fill them with men who have no experimental knowledge of what they preach.
C. H. SPURGEON: But do you know the effect of an experimental minister, purely so, I mean, when all else is put aside to make room for experience? There is one school of divines always preaching the corruption of the human heart. This is their style: “Except thou be flayed alive by the law; except thou art daily feeling the utter rottenness of thine heart; except thou art a stranger to full assurance, and dost always doubt and fear; except thou abidest on the dunghill and dost scrape thyself with a potsherd, thou art no child of God.”
This has been the preaching some experimental preachers, and the effect has been just this. Men have come to think the deformities of God’s people to be their beauty. They are like certain courtiers of the reign of Richard III, who it is said by history to have had a hump upon his back and his admirers stuffed their backs that they might have a graceful hump too. And there be many who, because a minister preaches of doubts and fears, feel they must doubt and fear too; and then that which is both uncomfortable to themselves and dishonouring to God comes to be the very mark of God’s people.
A. W. PINK (1886-1952): The preacher needs to be much on his guard lest he overdoes what is termed “experimental preaching.” If he virtually confines himself to the lines specified in the preceding paragraph his hearers will become too introspective, too busily engaged in looking within, and instead of their assurance being strengthened, genuine Christians will be filled with doubtings and questionings about their state.
C. H. SPURGEON: This is the tendency of experimental preaching, however judiciously managed, when ministers harp on that string and on that alone: the tendency is either to preach the people into a soft and savoury state, in which there is not a bit of manliness or might, or else into that dead and rotten state, in which corruption out-swells communion, and the savour is not the perfume of the king’s ointments, but the stench of a corrupt and filthy heart.
RICHARD CECIL (1748-1810): A man who looks exceedingly at one thing cannot see another. This is a common thing in observation.
A. W. PINK: Beauty is, primarily, a matter of proportion. Thus it is with the Word of God: its beauty and blessedness are best perceived when its manifold wisdom is exhibited in its true proportions. Here is where so many have failed in the past. A single phase of God’s Truth has so impressed this man or that, that he has concentrated his attention upon it, almost to the exclusion of everything else. Some portion of God’s Word has been made a “pet doctrine,” and often this has become the distinctive badge of some party.
C. H. SPURGEON: There is a certain breed of Calvinists, whom I do not envy, who are always jeering and sneering as much as ever they can at the full assurance of faith. I have seen their long faces; I have heard their whining periods, and read their dismal sentences, in which they say something to this effect—“Groan in the Lord alway, and again I say, groan! He that mourneth and weepeth, he that doubteth and feareth, he that distrusteth and dishonoureth his God, shall be saved.” That seems to be the sum and substance of their very ungospel-like gospel.
But why is that they do this? I speak now honestly and fearlessly. It is because there is a pride within them—a conceit which is fed on rottenness, and sucks marrow and fatness out of putrid carcasses. And what, say you, is the object of their pride? Why, the pride of being able to boast of a deep experience—the pride of being a blacker, grosser, and more detestable backslider than other people. “Whose glory is in their shame,” may well apply to them. A more dangerous, because a more deceitful pride than this is not to be found. It has all the elements of self-righteousness in it. I would sooner a man boast in his good works than boast in his good feelings, because you can deal with the man who boasts in his good works, you have plain texts of Scripture, and you convict him of being a legalist; but this other man boasts that he is no legalist; he can speak very sharply against legality; he knows the truth, and yet the truth is not in him, in its spirit, because still he is looking to his feelings, and not looking to the finished work of Christ. Of all the Diabolians that ever stole into the city of Mansoul, Mr. Live-by-feeling was one of the worst of villains, though he had the fairest face.
WILLIAM JAY: Whence arise many of the doubts and fears of Christians, but from their living more upon their frames and feelings than upon the clear and full views of the truth as it is in Jesus?
C. H. SPURGEON: Take any doctrine, and preach upon it exclusively, and you distort it. The fairest face in the world, with the most comely features, would soon become unseemly if one feature were permitted to expand while the rest were kept in their usual form. Proportion, I take it, is beauty, and to preach every truth in its fair proportion, neither keeping back any nor giving undue prominence to any, is to preach the whole truth as Christ would have it preached. On a Gospel thus entire and harmonious we may expect to have the blessing of the Most High.
JOHN CLAYTON (1754-1843): The faithful preacher may bear harder on one string than another: but he has respect unto all.