Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Preaching in a Familiar Mode

A portion of a letter from J. C. Philpot, to Mr. Grace, about preaching in the county of Dorset in comparison to preaching in the city of London, August 3, 1863:

I find a great difference in my preaching here and in London; not that there is any change in doctrine or experience, but a rustic population requires a more simple and almost familiar mode of utterance than suits a London congregation. It is not that I study my style, or seek to adapt it to different classes of people; but the thing comes, as no doubt you have felt, almost intuitively, without study or forecast. It is like sitting down to converse with my old almshouse woman… We naturally necessarily drop into that style of speech which adapts itself to the person we converse with. And I am well convinced unless a minister can in this sense be all things to all men it will much limit his usefulness. We need not be low, we need not be vulgar, we need use no word which would offend the most fastidious ear, and yet be perfectly intelligible to the fisherman on the beach or the woman that cleans the chapel. I have often admired our Lord’s discourses from this point of view, independent of their solemn weight and power. What dignified simplicity, what exquisite clearness! Intelligible to the lowest, and yet, in their dept, unfathomable to the highest capacity.

Letters and Memoir of Joseph Charles Philpot, first published in 1871, reprinted by Baker Book House, 1981, p. 379.

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