The previous post in this series may be found here:
Shedd comes to the second element of an effective sermon style: Force. “Force is power manifested; power streaming out in all directions, and from every pore of the mind.” William Greenough Thayer Shedd. “Homiletics and Pastoral Theology.”
To understand this matter of force, we must understand Shedd’s definition of a preacher (he is a herald), his understand of the source of power (the objective Word), and his means for the herald bringing the Word with power (study).
First, the preacher as herald:
The preacher is a herald, and his function is proclamation. In this way, the ideas which he presents to his fellow-men augment, instead of diminishing his strength. He gives no faster than he receives. He simply suffers divine truth, which is never feeble and never fails, to pass through his mind, as a medium of communication, to the minds of his fellow-men.
Second, all the power comes from the text. He begins this argument with a proposition concerning the functioning of the human mind: “The efficient power of the human intellect results not from spinning out its own notions and figments, but from contemplating those objective and eternal ideas, to which it is pre-conformed by its rational structure”
Put more plainly, ““It was made to receive truth into itself, and not to originate it out of itself. The human mind is recipient in its nature, and not creative; it beholds truth, but it does not make it.”
Therefore, “The mind cannot think successfully, without an object of thought, and the heart cannot feel strongly and truly, without an object of feeling. There can be no manifestation of power therefore, and no force in the finite mind, except as it has been nourished, stimulated and strengthened by an object other than itself.”
When it comes to preaching, the objective truth which stands before the mind as truth is the Word of God, “We shall be able to answer this question, by considering the fact that the written revelation stands in the same relation to the sacred orator, that the world of nature does to the philosopher. The Bible is something objective to the human mind, and not a mass of subjective thinking which human reason has originated.”
And, ““Human reason, therefore, is the subject, or the knowing agent, and the Scriptures are the object, or the thing to be known. All true power, consequently, in the sacred orator, springs from this body of objective verity”
Third, to convey the objective reality of the Scripture, the preacher must be “mighty in he Scriptures”:
Hence, the preacher’s first duty, in respect to the property of style under consideration, is to render himself a Biblical student. The term is not employed here in its narrower signification, to denote one who is learned in the literary externals of the Bible, and nothing more. A genuine Biblical student is both an exegete, and a dogmatic theologian. He is one whose mind is continually receiving the whole body of Holy Writ into itself in a living and genial way, and who, for this reason, is becoming more and more energetic in his methods of contemplation, and more and more forcible in his modes of presentation. A truly mighty sacred orator is “mighty in the Scriptures.
This is far more than knowing everything about the Scripture. Rather, he must know the Scripture. He must be taken by the reality of the Scripture:
Scripture should not lie in the preacher’s mind in the form of congregated atoms, but of living, salient energies. True Biblical knowledge is dynamic, and not atomic. There is no better word to denote its nature, than the word imbue. The mind, by long-continued contemplation of revelation, is steeped in Divine wisdom, and saturated with it.