Eighteenth Century advice to preachers

John Berridge advice to itinerant preachers
John Berridge of Everton was an ordained preacher in the Church of England in the eighteenth century, a contemporary of Whitefield, Wesley, and Howell Harris. After several years of preaching while still unconverted he was born again and upon seeing God’s grace in his life he began to preach wherever he could find a crowd, six days each week and still Pastor his flock in Everton. He advises those that preach with the following exhortation:
As Paul was, so be thou a fool for Christ’s sake, yea the very scum and off-scouring of all things. The preacher must be prepared to lose the world’s esteem. Happy is the man who has lost it wholly and honestly. Secret prayer and the study of scriptures are foremost when preparing to preach. His advice was to ‘ Look simply unto Jesus for preaching food;’ and what is wanted will be given, and what is given will be blessed, whether it be a barley or a wheaten loaf, a crust or a crumb. Your mouth will be a flowing stream, or a fountain sealed, according as your heart is. Avoid all controversy in preaching, talking, or writing; preach nothing down but the devil and nothing up but Jesus Christ. Much reading and thinking may make a popular minister, but much secret prayer must make a powerful preacher.
Berridge had simple rules in preaching;
The open-air preacher must be wise and not preach in working hours. He must conclude before six in the morning and live as his host usually lived. He was not to allow people to give him treats. He was not to rail against opposing clergy. A host must not be kept up late at night in order that they can rise early in the morning. An itinerant preacher should leave immediately after breakfast and morning family prayer are over. If possible he should not dine where he preaches in order to save the people expense. The preacher must be prepared to trust God to open the way as He did for the children of Israel through the wilderness. A rural dean or rambling bishop must be able to preach without notes and have a great desire to spread the Gospel. Overall the preacher must feel the need of God’s grace throughout the whole of his life.
I see it now, and do confess,
My utter need of Jesus’ grace,
And of his Spirit’s light;
I beg His kind and daily care.
O Lord my heart and tongue prepare,
To think and speak aright.
Prepare my tongue to pray and praise,
To speak of providential ways,
And heavenly truths unfold;
To strengthen well a feeble soul,
Correct the wanton, rouse the dull,
And silence sinners bold.
The theme of Berridge’s Gospel preaching was regeneration, in contrast to what he considered the normal preaching of morality. A moral conduct shall avail him nothing, without a new birth, a new nature from above. He firmly believed that the preaching of the law was important, for that will ‘make you feel the scores’. The law was preached before the Gospel: ‘Fresh plowing also must go before every fresh seeding’; the law before the Gospel. His advice to a young preacher is this: Begin with laying open the innumerable corruptions of the hearts of your audience; Moses will lend you a knife, which may be often whetted at his grindstone. Lay open the universal sinfulness of nature; the darkness of the mind, the frowardness of the will, the fretfulness of the temper, and the earthliness and sensuality of the affections. Speak of the evil of sin in its nature; its rebellion against God as our Sovereign, ingratitude to God as our benefactor, and contempt both of His authority and love… lay open spirituality of the law, and its extent, reaching to every thought, word, and action, and declaring every transgression, whether by omission or commission, deserving of death. Declare man’s utter helplessness to change his nature, or to make his peace. Acquaint them with the searching eye of God, watching us continually, spying out every thought, word and action, noting them down in the Book of remembrance, and bringing every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or bad.
When your hearers are deeply affected with these things ( which is seen by the hanging down of their heads ) preach Christ. Lay open the Saviour’s almighty power to soften the hard heart, and give it repentance, to bring pardon to the broken heart, a spirit of prayer to the prayerless heart, holiness to the filthy heart, and faith to the unbelieving heart. Let them know that all the treasures of grace are lodged in Jesus Christ for the use of the poor needy sinner, and that He is full of love as well as power; turns no beggar from His gate, but receives all comers kindly; loves to bless them, and bestows al His blessings tithe free. Farmers and country people chop at that. Here you must wave the gospel flag, and magnify the Saviour supremely, Speak it with a full mouth ( ore rotundo ) that this blood can wash away the foulest sins, and His grace subdue the stoutest corruptions. Exhort the people to seek His grace, to seek it directly, seek it diligently, seek it constantly, and acquaint them that all who thus seek shall assuredly find the salvation of God. There are many distractions but Christ is all powerful. Not only is Christ the message but He is also the reaper.

One Response to Eighteenth Century advice to preachers

  1. Scott smith says:

    Great and helpful post!!

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