Old advice, which every eager preacher could learn from.

The Literature Network, posts a letter by to a young clergyman, in 1720, by Jonathon Swift. I have to admit, till tonight, I had never heard of Jonathon Swift, but, his letter, is full of interesting advice

I take it for granted, that you intend to pursue the beaten track, and are already desirous to be seen in a pulpit, only I hope you will think it proper to pass your quarantine among some of the desolate churches five miles round this town, where you may at least learn to read and to speak before you venture to expose your parts in a city congregation; not that these are better judges, but because, if a man must needs expose his folly, it is more safe and discreet to do so before few witnesses, and in a scattered neighborhood.

My favorite points are found in this paragraph though.

The first is the frequent use of obscure terms, which by the women are called hard words, and by the better sort of vulgar, fine language; than which I do not know a more universal, inexcusable, and unnecessary mistake, among the clergy of all distinctions, but especially the younger practitioners. I have been curious enough to take a list of several hundred words in a sermon of a new beginner, which not one of his hearers among a hundred could possibly understand, neither can I easily call to mind any clergyman of my own acquaintance who is wholly exempt from this error, although many of them agree with me in the dislike of the thing. But I am apt to put myself in the place of the vulgar, and think many words difficult or obscure, which they will not allow to be so, because those words are obvious to scholars, I believe the method observed by the famous Lord Falkland[1] in some of his writings, would not be an ill one for young divines: I was assured by an old person of quality who knew him well, that when he doubted whether a word was perfectly intelligible or no, he used to consult one of his lady’s chambermaids

I was taught to preach to the congregations hearts. To do that, you have to ensure you use words which they can understand. Even if those words to you, might seem too simple. Our preachers can do well, to learn from Ernest Hemingway. 

About Craig Benno

I'm an average aussie guy who has lived perhaps a not so average life.
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