Quotes on Preaching by Alexander Vinet (1797-1847)

Discussion in 'A Puritan's Mind Updates' started by C. Matthew McMahon, Mar 27, 2017.

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  1. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Vinet was quoted by everyone who wrote anything good on preaching and the pastoral ministry (Dabney, Plumer, Taylor, Bridges, etc.).

    I've been posting some quotes on Twitter, but sometimes Vinet has longer quotes than 160 characters that would do preachers well to hear.

    I've completed updating his first work on Pastoral Theology, and its in review - there are some sweet quotes from that, but I am working through his monster work on homiletics which runs 700 pages+. I'm going to simply quote some of his passages here in this thread.
  2. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    This quote is relevant to the way preachers "argue and prove" their sermons as they progress.

    "In general, refutation does not suffice without proof, and does not have the force of proof. Preachers are more inclined to refute than to prove, to destroy than to build up. It is more easy, more flattering to self-love, more in accordance with our natural passions. Every one is eloquent in anger; love, and peace seldom make men eloquent. In the pulpit, affirmative argumentation is of the highest value. In morality and in religion, it is much more important to give assurance of truth, than to refute error...It is only light that can swallow up darkness; we are to, “overcome evil with good,” (Romans 12:21). Yes, but we are to condescend to the weaknesses and necessities of our brethren, which are as our own weaknesses and necessities. God, in restoring us to the truth, had to overthrow within us many idols of our heart, of our understanding; he destroyed much, refuted much, before he proved; he disabused us before he showed us his glory; many souls have acquired a taste of the truth through a distaste of earthly things. What God does, we should do also." (Homiletics, 155).
  3. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Some past quotes from Twitter:

    “The mission of the minister, his avowed undertaking, is to detach from the earth those to whom he preaches.”

    “Every preacher ought to adopt these words of Paul; they are the Christian preacher’s motto; he is to know nothing but Jesus Christ.”

    “The minister speaks either on the part of man to God, or on the part of God to man; in the first he prays, in the second he preaches.”

    “As much as pastoral zeal in the care of souls adds force to preaching, so much does negligence in the pastor enfeeble the preacher.”

    “To give knowledge, to produce faith, is the two-fold task of the preacher in every sermon.”

    “After too many proofs on an argument by the preacher, the hearer is overwhelmed, and something more intimate than logic rises up within him and protests against your conclusions.”
  4. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Be careful in argumentation, and arguing wrongly, or overdoing it.

    “The preacher may arrive by basic teaching at impossible, even absurd results. Rev. Bourdeloue, in his admirable sermon on impurity, goes too far when he strives to prove that the carnal man is in greater darkness than the devils; he ought only to have said that the sinner, enlightened by hell, will suffer more. We may be rigorously teaching and be lacking in good sense. Reasoning, moreover, when it is too much prolonged, too dialectic, wearies attention, and goes beyond the bounds within which it is commonly obtained.”
  5. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    The number of proofs to an argument. So many preachers do this to fill up their sermons....

    "Only let us not imagine that number [of argued proofs] may be a substitute for quality. Twenty half-proofs do not make ten proofs. Taken together, they are only one half-proof. One false and questionable reason perhaps does more harm than two decisive proofs do good. " (174)
  6. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    In moving the hearer to action during argumentation, the preacher is required to "touch" the soul:

    "In all cases, then, we must present to the soul what is suited to attract it, or, as we say, touch it. So long as you have only made proof, so long as your proof has only reached the intellect of man, the hearer has not been touched; he remains intact." (176)

    This is so often the case in sermons. Something profound might be preached, but if it is not applied / argued in the right way, it loses its velocity and lands short of its objective.
  7. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    In dealing with the way preaching is done - “We must beware of erecting the fear of ridicule into a motive; for men, under the power of it, will no longer avoid evil as evil, but as ridicule; they will no more repent of sin although sin is still stupidity. We must guard against it, for ridicule attaches itself almost as easily to good as to evil. It is respect for man, nothing else, that ridicule invokes! Moreover, though ridicule may make us avoid an action, it does not amend the soul.” (184)

    Convincing the hearer of truth does not come by violence in our speech - “We are not envious of a triumph obtained by surprise or by violence. We maintain that emotion should neither replace nor precede proof.” (188)

    “Unction is the general savor of Christianity; it is a gravity accompanied by tenderness, a severity tempered with sweetness, a majesty associated with intimacy; see the Psalmist’s expression, “Mercy and truth have met together, righteousness and peace have kissed each other,” (Psalm 85:10).” (192)

    Nota bene, “Unction must never be lacking to true Christian preaching.” (194)

    “Authority is especially essential in a Christian preacher, who speaks on the part of God himself, and who announces the oracles of God. We should offend sincere souls by not putting this seal on our discourse; we should even surprise those who do not believe our gospel.” (196)

    “The pursuit of wandering sheep, should always be within the essence of our ministry.” (201)

    “The minister speaks in the name of God, and as to the things of God, has no wish to know anything, except what he has learned from God himself.” (203)

    This is why the same sermon preached by the same minister may differ greatly in various churches - “A good Christian discourse must be useful and applicable out of the church for which it was made, since all preaching for substance, relates to the fundamental traits of human nature, I think it ought be required that each pastor’s preaching should have the unquestionable stamp of the place and circumstances in which he exercises his ministry.” (208)

    “Christianity alone is what is to be spoken in the pulpit. To know in order to believe, to believe in order to know, consequently, to know and believe, and both in order to action — this is the whole of religion — it is also the whole of preaching.” (221)

    TAKE NOTE OF THIS: “Order is the character of true discourse; there is no discourse without it.” (227)
  8. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    My wife being exceedingly sick today, while resting, I thought I would engage in some reading about sermonizing.

    In considering the sermon, introductions to sermons are often superfluous. The preacher should resolve to preach the text, and so, begin with the text. Do not dance around the text to lighten it by some illustrious illustration. Preachers often think the illustration as an exordium somehow "strengthens" the text, as if the word of God needs help. Vinet says, "By detaining the people long on the threshold of a house into which we have promised them entrance, we give them good reason to be impatient." (264)
    Last edited: Apr 30, 2017
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  9. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    The subject matter of the sermon ought to be announced at the exordium, not illustrated. "Let us only say, that it ought to be announced in a precise manner, so that the mind may direct itself immediately, and without hesitation, to a determinate point...we [preachers] must restrict ourselves to a small number of words selected with the greatest care." (268)
  10. Quickened

    Quickened Puritan Board Senior

    Is this going to be made available for purchase?
  11. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Vinet has two works, one on Pastoral Theology which runs about 400 pages, and one on homiletics which runs about 500 pages. I've finished working on Pastoral Theology first. I'm in its proofing stage.

    I'm working on my initial edit also on the other book which is supplying all these great quotes. It's long, and intensive that way. I'm thinking that it will be done within the month if I dont get sidetracked with anything.

    Both will be updated and available.
  12. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Concerning the form of preaching, "Doubtless nothing can be more false, more unworthy the seriousness of the pulpit, than to seek innovation for innovation’s sake, or independence for the sake of independence" Vinet, 292.
  13. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Concerning the manner of style in preaching, "But, frankly, we have no right to speak of divine things in a bad style." Vinet, 316.
  14. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    "There is nothing more noble than Christian truth. I do not suppose the preacher to intend to produce either laughter or a smile. I only admonish him to be on his guard lest he use terms which, in spite of him, may have this effect." Vinet, 359, 363.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
  15. Ask Mr. Religion

    Ask Mr. Religion Flatly Unflappable

    That last portion, yes, but... seems to imply that what he formerly chastises, is permissible as a condescension and in imitation of what God does. Am I reading this correctly?
  16. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    Yes and no. He wants us not to normally not argue too formally, knowing that those listening are not going to follow a scholarly diatribe.
    But.....we also have to consider the work that God does, which we are to imitate. But in this example, he is explaining the following:

    "3. To avoid a too formal way of reasoning. Argumentation may be affirmative or negative, simple or combined, direct or indirect. 1. Affirmative and negative argumentation. Affirmative argumentation establishes truth; negative argumentation refutes error."

    He then explains:

    "In all cases in which it seems necessary, we must divide the difficulty. Refutation ordinarily gains by a division of the objection. It is seldom that one reply alone can demolish directly with a single stroke, all parts of the error. Such orators as Bourdaloue and Massillon[1] have perhaps pursued this method too far, but used with moderation, it is of great advantage in refutation. The hearer sees you conqueror many times in succession; he perceives that there are many errors on the other side, and many truths on yours. We shall always be feeble, if we have no regard to the contradictor which exists in souls. A discussion is necessary in a sermon. Finally, we must know how to take the offensive, and, if possible, turn the objection into a proof. Prolonging the defensive, enfeebles us; and to defend ourselves to advantage, we must make the attack. Great preachers have always observed this rule. In the error which we decompose or attack, we should find the very germs of truth.",[2]

    [1] Bourdaloue, second part of the Sermon sur l’Aumone, (Edition Lefevre, tome ii., p. 80), and Massillon, Sermon sur la Verite, d’ un Avenir. Edition Lefevre, tome i., p. 167.

    [2] See the Sermon of Saurin, sur l’Aumone; et les conferences de Massillon.
    Last edited: Sep 7, 2017
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  17. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    "Wit is but a poor supplement of eloquence, it is much more common; and the orator should not suffer himself to be ensnared by it." Vinet, 391.
  18. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    "Finally, that the affluence of imagery is unsuitable to the pulpit. If the style of the preacher ought not to be sombre, still less should it be frivolous; and profuse imagery, even if perfectly proper, regarded in itself, destroys its gravity. For the same reason we must exclude metaphors which show too much ingenuity, and which incline to wit. In general, wit and eloquence are hostile to each other, especially wit and pulpit eloquence, with which every appearance of frivolity is especially incongruous." Vinet, 394.
  19. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    In the last part of the book, the Appendix, Vinet has a speech he delivered upon his inauguration into the university to be a minister's minister. He says of the preacher, "See what vivacity then will be in his word, what urgency in his demands. See with what strength a doctrine must bind souls, all the knots of which are so closely tied. See what importance preaching must possess, in which each discourse, by a happy necessity, contains the whole counsel of God." 435.

    "The zeal of the messenger excited by the very nature of his message leads him to multiply himself, to abound, so to speak, in places, persons and occasions." 437.
  20. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    With poor preachers, "Respect his motives while you censure their effects." 454.
  21. C. Matthew McMahon

    C. Matthew McMahon Christian Preacher

    I've finally completed Vinet's work. It will take me some time to get it fully ready, so I'm thinking sometime in October.
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