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Hercules Collins on Sermon Preparation

March 28, 2007

Thanks to Steve Weaver’s post last week, we can reflect a little on Hercules Collins thoughts on sermon composition.

To what I have said I shall add some further helps by way of direction and instruction to those that are inclined to the ministration of the gospel.

Consider my whole method in speaking, 1. To the Penman of the Epistle. 2. To the Time when written. 3. The Occasion. 4. The Scope. Not that there will be always need upon every subject to take notice of these things, yet upon some subjects there may be need to take notice of some or all of them.

Secondly, consider how your text coheres and depends upon what goes before it, but stand no longer upon it than what may make your way plain to the text. Some have spent so much time upon a context, that by that time they came to their text the hour was almost gone, though they did not know whether they should preach in the same place again.

Thirdly, make an exact division of your text, if your text calls you to it, for that will be profitable in the helping of you to matter.

Fourthly, explain any difficult terms, but spend not time needlessly in explanation, if things are easily understood without it.

Fifthly, raise as many doctrines as the text will allow, and make what good use you can of every one of them, but insist most on the chief scope of the place.

Sixthly, your doctrine being laid down, prove it from the Word of God by two or three Scriptures at most; because in the mouth of two or three witnesses every truth is established. After you have proved it, then lay down the reasons and arguments of the point why and wherefore it is so. … Some persons lay down some propositions just after their doctrine. But whatever is done in that, may be done in an use of instruction. But that is at your liberty, whether you will do it in propositions, or an use of instruction.

And then, what use you make, let it be always natural from the doctrine, and draw as many inferences from it as it will bear; for they are generally very divine things.

Mark one thing, that all doctrines will not afford the same uses. There is, (1.) The Use of Information. (2.) Caution. (3.) Trial and Examination. (4.) Refutation. (5.) Instruction. (6.) Reprehension. (7.) Exhortation, with its motives and directions. (8.) Admiration. (9.) Consolation. Now you must consider which of all these, or any other uses, will be most naturally handled from your doctrine.

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