The Manner of the Man in the Pulpit

I Thessalonians 1:5
       Our gospel came not unto you in word only, but also in power, and in the Holy Ghost, and in much assurance; as ye know what manner of men we were among you for your sake.

RICHARD BAXTER (1615-1691): Observe the matter and manner of the most heart-affecting minister; let him be as a pattern for your imitation.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): I would have you remember, that preaching is a gift. It cannot be learned by industry and imitation only, as a man may learn to make a chair or a table: it comes from above; and if you patiently wait upon God, He will bestow this gift upon you, and increase it in you. It will grow by exercise. To him that hath shall be given, and he shall have more abundantly. And be chiefly solicitous to obtain an unction upon what you do say…I hope you will endeavour likewise to be plain and familiar in your language and manner―though not low or vulgar.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Above all; do not put on a ‘parsonic’ voice. What a terrible thing that is, and yet how common. Young men develop this bad habit; they hear others and they begin to use the same affected parsonic unnatural voice. It offends people.

D. L. MOODY (1837-1899): I detest the kind of people that take a religious tone when they begin to talk to you on the subject of religion, and have a peculiar whine that makes you think of cant. Be natural.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): You hardly ever hear a man speak in the pulpit in the same way he would speak in the parlour. Why, I hear my brethren, sometimes, when they are at tea or dinner, speak in a very comfortable decent sort of English voice, but when they get into their pulpits they adopt a sanctimonious tone, and fill their mouths with inflated utterance, or else whine most pitifully. They degrade the pulpit by pretending to honour it; speaking in a voice which God never intended any mortal to have.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: The answer to this is simply Be yourself! You are never meant to be anything but yourself. Endless trouble is caused by our being anxious to be something we are not!

C. H. SPURGEON: A hard, unfeeling mode of speech is also to be avoided; want of tenderness is a sad lack, and repels rather than attracts.

WILLIAM S. PLUMER (1802-1880): Much less should men lay themselves liable to the charge of being pulpit scolds.

WILLIAM GURNALL (1617-1679): Sinners are not pelted into Christ with stones of hard provoking language, but wooed into Christ by heart melting exhortations.

C. H. SPURGEON: At the same time our manner must not degenerate into the soft and saccharine cant which some men affect who are for ever dearing everybody, and fawning upon people as if they hoped to soft-sawder them into godliness. Manly persons are disgusted, and suspect hypocrisy when they hear a preacher talking molasses. Let us be bold and outspoken, and never address our hearers as if we were asking a favour of them, or as if they would oblige the Redeemer by allowing him to save them. We are bound to be lowly, but our office as ambassadors should prevent our being servile.

MARTIN LUTHER (1483-1546): [A preacher] should have a good voice.

JAMES HAMILTON (1814-1867): George Whitefield combined a voice of rich compass, which could equally thrill over Moorfields in musical thunder, or whisper its terrible secret in every private ear.

C. H. SPURGEON: Vary the tone of your voice often; be like the weather―have sun, sleet, rain, then dry up, anything but fog: don’t mystify the Gospel, nor yet parsonify it.

THOMAS ALLEN REED*(1826-1899): When a speaker has a distinct articulation, combined with a clear, strong voice, the reporter, who has to follow him, is in Elysium; that is, if the utterance is not too rapid, or the style of composition too difficult. The combination, however, is rare. It has a very striking example in Mr. Spurgeon―to a clear, ringing, musical voice he adds an almost perfect articulation. The average rate of public speaking is about 120 words a minute. Some speakers vary greatly in their speech. I have, for example, a memorandum of a sermon by Mr. Spurgeon, showing that during the first ten minutes he spoke at the rate of 123 words a minute; the second ten minutes, 132; the third ten minutes, 128; the fourth ten minutes, 155; and the remaining nine minutes, 162; giving an average of about 140 minutes a minute. Another sermon shows an average of 125 words a minute.

C. H. SPURGEON: In some ministries there is no life or power, no unction or savour…There are ministers whose sermons, and whose whole services, are so much a matter of routine, and so utterly lifeless, that if power from on high were to come upon them, it would altogether bewilder them…The same things are said, in the same tone and manner, year after year. I have heard of a preacher, whom one of his people likened to a steeple, which had but two bells in it, for, he said, “It is always, ‘Ding dong, ding dong, ding dong, ding dong.’” “Oh!” said his friend, “you ought to be grateful that you have as much variety as that, for our man has only one bell, and his note is for ever ‘Ding, ding, ding, ding.’”

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

RICHARD BAXTER: Methinks we should not speak a word to men in matters of such consequence without tears, or the greatest earnestness that possible we can.

J. C. RYLE (1816-1900): Richard Baxter had an earnestness of manner that swept every thing before it like a torrent…He always spoke like one who saw God, and felt death at his back.

RICHARD BAXTER: I preached as never like to preach again, and as a dying man to dying men.

JOHN BUNYAN (1628-1688): I preached, sometimes, as a man in chains to men in chains, hearing the clanking of my own fetters while I preached to those who were bound in affliction and iron.

C. H. SPURGEON: Luther trembled before he went into the pulpit, so also did John Welsh and John Newton.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: When the saintly Robert Murray M’Cheyne walked into his pulpit at Dundee, before he had opened his mouth, people would begin to weep and were broken down. Why? Well, there was a solemnity about the man. He had come from the presence of God. He did not trip into his pulpit lightly and crack a joke or two to put everybody at ease and to prepare the atmosphere. No, there was a radiance of God about him. There was a terrible seriousness. And if we believe in a Holy God, and in the wrath of God upon sin, if we believe that without the gospel men and women are going to hell, how can we trifle, how can we be flippant and jocular?

WILLIAM S. PLUMER: He who “woos a smile” when he should “win a soul” is a charlatan,** not an ambassador for God. Men are naturally triflers in sacred things. When the preacher is a harlequin** and the pulpit a stage, the world applauds and perishes. But due reflection on the awful business of a true minister of Christ will put levity far away.

WILLIAM GURNALL: If thou wilt play the mountebank,** choose not the pulpit for thy stage.


*Editor’s Note: Thomas Allen Reed wrote a biography of Sir Isaac Pittman, the inventor of shorthand stenography, but we know nothing of Reed’s religious convictions. However, we have included the unique record he has left us of C. H. Spurgeon’s pulpit speaking; and we hope that Reed was not merely a hearer of the Gospel, but a believer of it.

**Editor’s Note: A charlatan is a fraud; a harlequin is a jester or a clown; a mountebank is a person who deceives others for personal gain; the word originally meant a person who sold patent medicines in public places.


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