P.T. Forsyth, Positive Preaching and Modern Mind, “The Preacher and the Age”
Moreover, let the religious public at least have some consideration for its ministry, which it irritates and debases by trivial ethics, and the impatient demand for short sermons and long “socials.” Let it respect the dignity of the ministry. Let it cease to degrade the ministry into a competitor for public notice, a caterer for public comfort, and a mere waiter upon social convenience or religious decency. Let it make greater demands on the pulpit for power, and grasp, and range, and penetration, and reality. Let it encourage the ministry to do more justice to the mighty matter of the Bible and its burthen, and not only to its beauty, its charm, its sentiment, or its precepts. Let it come in aid to protect the pulpit from that curse of petty sentiment which grows upon the Church, which rolls up from the pew into the pulpit, and from the pulpit rolls down upon the pew in a warm and soaking mist.
There is an element in the preacher’s eloquence which only the audience can give. Let it do so by being, not less exacting but more—only, exacting on the great right things. Let it realize that for true eloquence there must be great matter, both in him who speaks and in those who hear. The greatest eloquence is not that of the man but of the theme.
There is no such supporter of a minister as the man who, he knows, studies the Bible with as much earnestness as himself, if with fewer facilities. Such supporters add immeasurably to the staying power of a Church. If our people are experts of the Bible we shah have none of the rude remarks of philanthropy about the time the minister wastes on theology.
I say that, in the present state of the Church, and certainly for the sake of its pulpit, its ministers, and its future, theology is a greater need than philanthropy. Because men do not ‘know where they are. They are only steering by dead reckoning—when anything may happen. But theology is “taking the sun.” And it is wonderful—it is dangerous—how few of our officers can use the sextant for themselves. Yet what is the use of captains who are more at home entertaining the passengers than navigating the ship?