Edited By Zachary Guiliano and Cameron Partridge
5. George Herbert on the “Dangerous” Art of Preaching
Regina L. Walton
Almighty and ever-living God: bless this portion here assembled together, with thy unworthy servant speaking to them. Teach thou me, that I may teach them: sanctify and enable all my powers, that in their full strength I may deliver thy message reverently, readily, faithfully, and fruitfully. Make thy word a swift word, passing from the ear to the heart, from the heart to the life and conversation: that as the rain returns not empty, so neither may thy word, but accomplish that for which it is given, in the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, Amen.
George Herbert, “Prayer before preaching.”1
IN HIS conduct manual for ministers The Country Parson, the poet and Anglican priest George Herbert (1593–1633)2 has his model Parson tell his congregation “that Sermons are dangerous things, that none goes out of Church as he came in, but either better, or worse…”3 Indeed, in 1632 (the approximate year of Herbert’s writing of The Country Parson), sermons were dangerous: for preachers who preached on illegal theological topics, or for parishioners who, tired of a lack of sermons, took matters into their own hands and organized illegal “lectureships” by unauthorized Puritan preachers; both groups could run afoul of the Crown and the episcopal establishment with dire and sometimes disfiguring consequences. But Herbert is primarily talking about the power of sermons, which is really the power of God’s word, to change hearts and ← 107 | 108...
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