George Whitefield, Introduction, Preachers, Preaching, Sermon Introduction, Sermon Strucutre, Sermons
This will be an analysis of the structure and content of Whitefield’s sermon “Walking With God” based upon Genesis 5:24, “And Enoch walked with God; and he was not; for God took him.”
Whitefield begins the sermon by posing an issue, which the sermon will resolve:
Various are the pleas and arguments which men of corrupt minds frequently urge against yielding obedience to the just and holy commands of God.
He then restates and narrows the issue:
But, perhaps, one of the most common objections that they make is this, that our Lord’s commands are not practicable, because contrary to flesh and blood;
He then narrows the point further by turning it into an accusation in the mouth of those who refuse obedience:
and consequently, that he is ‘an hard master, reaping where he has not sown, and gathering where he has not strewed’. These we find were the sentiments entertained by that wicked and slothful servant mentioned in the 25th of St. Matthew; and are undoubtedly the same with many which are maintained in the present wicked and adulterous generation.
Notice that at the end of this section he puts the complaint into the mouth of some who are hearing him. Whitfield knows the objection presented and he allows the one who would reject the message Whitfield brings. Whitefield effectively says to such a one, I’m talking to you.
Whitefield does not something which would not perhaps be the first move of a preacher. Rather than try to argue with them on the basis of some shared value, Whitefield states God knows and has answered this objection in the Scripture:
The Holy Ghost foreseeing this, hath taken care to inspire holy men of old, to record the examples of many holy men and women; who, even under the Old Testament dispensation, were enabled cheerfully to take Christ’s yoke upon them, and counted his service perfect freedom.
Whitefield then begins to lay out the persons who prove his point:
The large catalogue of saints, confessors, and martyrs, drawn up in the 11th chapter to the Hebrews, abundantly evidences the truth of this observation. What a great cloud of witnesses have we there presented to our view? All eminent for their faith, but some shining with a greater degree of luster than do others. The proto-martyr Abel leads the van.
At this point, Whitefield slows to consider Enoch. First, he notes the extraordinary thing about Enoch.
And next to him we find Enoch mentioned, not only because he was next in order of time, but also on account of his exalted piety; he is spoken of in the words of the text in a very extraordinary manner. We have here a short but very full and glorious account, both of his behavior in this world, and the triumphant manner of his entry into the next. The former is contained in these words, ‘And Enoch walked with God’. The latter in these, ‘and he was not: for God took him’. He was not; that is, he was not found, he was not taken away in the common manner, he did not see death; for God had translated him. (Heb. 11:5.)
Next, Whitefield considers what little can be surmised about Enoch.
Who this Enoch was, does not appear so plainly. To me, he seems to have been a person of public character; I suppose, like Noah, a preacher of righteousness. And, if we may credit the apostle Jude, he was a flaming preacher. For he quotes one of his prophecies, wherein he saith, ‘Behold, the Lord cometh with ten thousands of his saints, to execute judgment upon all, and to convince all that are ungodly among them, of all their ungodly deeds which they have ungodly committed, and of all their hard speeches, which ungodly sinners have spoken against him’.
However, Whitfield does not allow his imagination to stray, and contents himself with God’s commendation of the man:
But whether a public or private person, he has a noble testimony given him in the lively oracles. The author of the epistle to the Hebrews saith, that before his translation he had this testimony, ‘that he pleased God’; and his being translated, was a proof of it beyond all doubt. And I would observe, that it was wonderful wisdom in God to translate Enoch and Elijah under the Old Testament dispensation, that hereafter, when it should be asserted that the Lord Jesus was carried into heaven, it might not seem a thing altogether incredible to the Jews; since they themselves confessed that two of their own prophets had been translated several hundred hears before.
Rather than running to some anecdote from 5,000 sermon illustrations, Whitfield has spent the opening section raising an issue directly and then looking to the Scripture for an example which illustrates and answers the issue raised in the first sentence. Too often, the introduction to the sermon is merely a time for bad story telling or jokes.
Having introduced his subject Whitfield then closes the introduction and sets out what he will develop at length:
But it is not my design to detain you any longer, by enlarging, or making observations, on Enoch’s short but comprehensive character: the thing I have in view being to give a discourse, as the Lord shall enable, upon a weighty and a very important subject; I mean, walking with God. ‘And Enoch walked with God.’ If so much as this can be truly said of you and me after our decease, we shall not have any reason to complain that we have lived in vain.
Whitefield has done a great deal in this introduction. First, he has raised a topic which the sermon will answer. Second, he has provided some general Bible knowledge, by using the Scripture as the basis for his illustration and discussion. Third, he has shown that walking with God is a laborious or painful thing. Fourth, he has set out the hope of the Gospel as illustrated by Enoch’s example. In the remainder of the sermon, Whitefield will set out how both a believer and one who is not yet a believer may walk with God.