Preach for the Common Man!

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There are times when I encounter a young expositor (or wannabe) who feels that his knowledge (or at least his ability to parrot someone else’s knowledge) must be on display in his sermons; so he speaks in such a way that the man in the pew cannot understand him, and he feels all the more spiritually superior than most for his erudition.

I am a simple preacher. I can wax eloquent too. But why? To prove that I have degrees hanging on my walls? As I think of all the godly men that I respect, both currently and in history, those men used simple language, but spent time in deep study and deeper prayer. They sought to preach for the benefit and edification of the people, not to lift themselves up.

Apparently, Richard Baxter, a most eminent Puritan, would agree with me. More importantly, I think I am in the company of my Savior, who taught with clarity and power to the common man.

“All our teaching must be as plain and simple as possible. This doth best suit a teacher’s ends. He that would be understood must speak to the capacity of his hearers. Truth loves the light, and is most beautiful when most naked. It is the sign of an envious enemy to hide the truth; and it is the work of a hypocrite to do this under pretense of revealing it; and therefore painted obscure sermons (like painted glass in windows which keeps out the light) are too oft the marks of painted hypocrites. If you would not teach men, what do you in the pulpit? If you would, why do you not speak so as to be understood? I know the height of the matter may make a man not understood, when he hath studied to make it as plain as he can; but that a man should purposely cloud the matter in strange words, and hide his mind from the people, whom he pretendeth to instruct, is the way to make fools admire his profound learning, and wise men his folly, pride, and hypocrisy. Some men conceal their sentiments, under the pretense of necessity, because of men’s prejudices, and the unpreparedness of common understandings to receive the truth. But truth overcomes prejudice by the mere light of evidence, and there is no better way to make a good cause prevail, than to make it as plain, and as generally and thoroughly known as we can; it is this light that will dispose an unprepared mind. It is, at best, a sign that a man hath not well digested the matter himself, if he is not able to deliver it plainly to others.”

—Richard Baxter, The Reformed Pastor

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