Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Simplicity in Preaching by J.C. Ryle

J. C. Ryle has long been one of my favorite writers (or preachers). The style that he uses in his writings (or sermons) is simple, easy to understand, and filled with illustrations that bring life to his meaning. It was a special gift that he had, but one in which is needed by all preachers.

While at the Parkside Basics Conference, I ran across a little booklet by Ryle that I have never seen before. Simplicity in Preaching is the printed form of a lecture that Ryle gave to a clerical audience. In this little book, he gives his view of how preachers should preach, at least in the sense of being able to communicate clearly and simply.

I have always been concerned that what I preach is understood. I have always cared that people get it, that it is clear and simple. That does not mean it cannot be deep, but as we speak forth the depths of the truth of God, we say it in a way that everyone can understand it. Probably one of the compliments I hear the most about my preaching style is that it is easy to follow. I never want to get far from that thought in my preaching. For that, I am deeply thankful. Today is my main study day. As I study, this thought will be in the forefront of my mind: Keep It Simple!

Wanting to continue to learn this, I gave this short book a quick read. Let me summarize Ryle's main points in this little booklet (although I give the main points, all preachers, you should purchase this book and read it).


(a) For one thing, I ask all my readers to remember that to attain simplicity in preaching is of the utmost importance to every minister who wishes to be useful to souls.

(b) The next thing I will say is that to attain simplicity in preaching is by no means an easy matter.

(c) Let me observe in the next place, that when I talk of simplicity of preaching, I would not have my readers suppose I mean childish preaching.

(d) Finally, let me observe, that it is not coarse or vulgar preaching that is needed. It is quite possible to be simple, and yet to speak like a gentleman, and with the demeanor of a courteous and refined person.

I. If you want to attain simplicity in preaching, take care that you have a clear view of the subject upon which you are going to preach!

II. Try to use in all your sermons, as far as you can, simple words!

III. If you wish to attain simplicity in preaching, take care to aim at a simple style of composition!

IV. If you wish to preach simply, us a direct style!

V. If you would attain simplicity in preaching, you must use plenty of anecdotes and illustrations!


(a) Whatever we preach, or whatever pulpit we occupy, whether we preach simply or not, whether we preach written or extempore, we ought to aim not merely at letting off fireworks, but at preaching that which will do lasting good to souls . . . Let us aim so to preach, that what we say may really come home to men's minds and consciences and hearts, and make them think and consider.

(b) All the simplicity in the world can do no good, unless you preach the simple gospel of Jesus Christ so fully and clearly that everybody can understand it. If Christ crucified has not his rightful place in your sermons, and sin is not exposed as it should be, and your people are not plainly told what they ought to believe, and be, and do, your preaching is of no use.

(c) All the simplicity in the world is useless without a good lively delivery.

(d) Above all, let us never forget that all the simplicity in the world is useless without praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, and the grant of God's blessing, and a life corresponding in some measure to what we preach.


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