act of delivering a sermon
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Preaching is the act of delivering a sermon, an oration by a prophet or member of the clergy which addresses a Biblical, theological, religious, or moral topic, usually expounding on a type of belief, law or behavior within both past and present contexts.


  • There is no such thing as preaching patience into people, unless the sermon is so long that they have to practise it while they hear.
  • And pulpit, drum ecclesiastic,
    Was beat with fist instead of a stick.
  • Oh, for a forty-parson power to chant
    Thy praise, Hypocrisy!
    • Lord Byron, Don Juan (1818-24), Canto X, Stanza 34. Sydney Smith quotes this as "a twelve-parson power of conversation".
  • I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
    Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life,
    Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
    That he is honest in the sacred cause.
  • Would I describe a preacher,
    * * * *
    I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
    In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain,
    And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
    And natural in gesture; much impress'd
    Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
    And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
    May feel it too; affectionate in look,
    And tender in address, as well becomes
    A messenger of grace to guilty men.
  • The things that mount the rostrum with a skip,
    And then skip down again, pronounce a text,
    Cry hem; and reading what they never wrote
    Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
    And with a well-bred whisper close the scene!
  • He that negotiates between God and man,
    As God's ambassador, the grand concerns
    Of judgment and of mercy, should beware
    Of lightness in his speech.
  • Alas for the unhappy man that is called to stand in the pulpit, and not give the bread of life.
    • Ralph Waldo Emerson, an Address to the Senior Class in Divinity College, Cambridge (July 15, 1838).
  • But in his duty prompt at every call,
    He watch'd and wept, he pray'd and felt for all.
  • Judge not the preacher; for he is thy judge:
    If thou mislike him, thou conceiv'st him not.
    God calleth preaching folly. Do not grudge
    To pick out treasures from an earthen pot.
    The worst speak something good. If all want sense,
    God takes a text, and preaches patience.
    • George Herbert, The Temple (1633), The Church Porch, Stanza 72. Quoting, "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels." II Corinthians, IV. 7.
  • Sir, a woman preaching is like a dog's walking on his hind legs. It is not done well: but you are surprised to find it done at all.
  • When a person comes to love God, it is an eternal change more remarkable than the most remarkable event in the world. Whether it happens, when it happens, no one can tell him. The preacher of repentance in his inner being can help him to become aware, can help him in self-concern to seek the certitude of the spirit as God’s Spirit witnesses with this person’s spirit that he loves God. But only God can give him this certitude. Keep him awake in certitude in order to seek after certitude, this the preacher of repentance can do; he says: All things serve you for good when you love God.
  • [H]e was often interrupted by the deep hum of his audience; and when, after preaching out the hour-glass, which in those days was part of the furniture of the pulpit, he held it up in his hand, the congregation clamorously encouraged him to go on till the sand had run off once more.
    • Macaulay, "History of England," II., 177, on the sermons of Bishop Burnet; reported in James William Norton-Kyshe, Dictionary of Legal Quotations (1904), p. 233, n. 1.
  • So clomb the first grand thief into God's fold;
    So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
  • He of their wicked ways
    Shall them admonish, and before them set
    The paths of righteousness.
  • And truths divine came mended from that tongue.
  • Show me the steep and thorny way to heaven,
    Whiles, like a puff'd and reckless libertine,
    Himself the primrose path of dalliance treads,
    And recks not his own rede.
  • He who the sword of heaven will bear
    Should be as holy as severe;
    Pattern in himself to know,
    Grace to stand, and virtue go.
  • It is a good divine that follows his own instructions; I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.
  • By thy language cabalistic,
    By thy cymbal, drum, and his stick.
  • A little, round, fat, oily man of God.

Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations

Quotes reported in Hoyt's New Cyclopedia Of Practical Quotations (1922), p. 629-31.
  • Of right and wrong he taught
    Truths as refined as ever Athens heard;
    And (strange to tell) he practis'd what he preach'd.
    • John Armstrong, The Art of Preserving Health (1744), Book IV, line 301.
  • I met a preacher there I knew, and said,
    Ill and overworked, how fare you in this scene?
    Bravely! said he; for I of late have been
    Much cheered with thoughts of Christ, the living bread.
  • I preached as never sure to preach again,
    And as a dying man to dying men.
  • Faites ce que nous disons, et ne faites pas ce que nous faisons.
    • Do as we say, and not as we do.
    • Giovanni Boccaccio, Decameron, from the French of Sabatier de Castres, Troisième Journée, Novelle VII.
  • For the preacher's merit or demerit,
    It were to be wished that the flaws were fewer
    In the earthen vessel, holding treasure,
    But the main thing is, does it hold good measure?
    Heaven soon sets right all other matters!
  • Hear how he clears the points o' Faith
    Wi' rattlin' an' thumpin'!
    Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath,
    He's stampin', an' he's jumpin'!
  • Take time enough: all other graces
    Will soon fill up their proper places.
  • But Cristes loore, and his Apostles twelve,
    He taughte, but first he folowed it hymselfe.
  • There goes the parson, oh illustrious spark!
    And there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk.
  • The priest he merry is, and blithe
    Three-quarters of a year,
    But oh! it cuts him like a scythe
    When tithing time draws near.
  • A kick that scarce would move a horse,
    May kill a sound divine.
  • Go forth and preach impostures to the world,
    But give them truth to build on.
  • God preaches, a noted clergyman,
    And the sermon is never long;
    So instead of getting to heaven at last,
    I'm going all along.
  • The proud he tam'd, the penitent he cheer'd:
    Nor to rebuke the rich offender fear'd.
    His preaching much, but more his practice wrought;
    (A living sermon of the truths he taught:)
    For this by rules severe his life he squar'd:
    That all might see the doctrines which they heard.
  • They shall knaw a file, and flee unto the mountains of Hepsidam whar the lion roareth and the Wang Doodle mourneth for its first born—ah!
    • Burlesque Sermon in Cole's Fun Doctor. Attributed to Andrew Harper as a travesty on sermons preached by itinerant preachers on the Mississippi. Found in Speaker's Garland, Volume VIII. Also claimed for Dow—Patent Sermons.
  • Even ministers of good things are like torches, a light to others, waste and destruction to themselves.
    • Richard Hooker. Quoted by Gladstone (1880). See Morley's "Life of Gladstone.", Book VIII, Chapter I.
  • And he played on a harp of a thousand strings,
    Spirits of just men made perfect.
    • Burlesque Sermon, ascribed to Rev. Henry Taliaferro Lewis, in the Brandon (Miss.) Republic (1854). Claimed for St. George Lee and William P. Brannan. Found in Dow's Patent Sermons. T. L. Masson's Masterpieces of Humor.
  • As pleasant songs, at morning sung,
    The words that dropped from his sweet tongue
    Strengthened our hearts; or, heard at night,
    Made all our slumbers soft and light.
  • Skilful alike with tongue and pen,
    He preached to all men everywhere
    The Gospel of the Golden Rule,
    The New Commandment given to men,
    Thinking the deed, and not the creed,
    Would help us in our utmost need.
  • It is by the Vicar's skirts that the
    Devil climbs into the Belfry.
  • The gracious Dew of Pulpit Eloquence,
    And all the well-whip'd Cream of Courtly Sense.
  • He was a shrewd and sound divine
    Of loud Dissent the mortal terror;
    And when, by dint of page and line,
    He 'stablished Truth, or startled Error,
    The Baptist found him far too deep,
    The Deist sighed with saving sorrow,
    And the lean Levite went to sleep,
    And dreamt of eating pork to-morrow.
  • His sermon never said or showed
    That Earth is foul, that Heaven is gracious,
    Without refreshment on the road
    From Jerome, or from Athanasius.
    And sure a righteous zeal inspired,
    The hand and head that penned and planned them,
    For all who understood, admired—
    And some who did not understand them.
  • The lilies say: Behold how we
    Preach without words of purity.
  • I have taught you, my dear flock, for above thirty years how to live; and I will show you in a very short time how to die.
    • Sandys, Anglorum Speculum, p. 903.
  • Perhaps thou wert a priest,—if so, my struggles
    Are vain, for priestcraft never owns its juggles.
  • He taught them how to live and how to die.
  • "Dear sinners all," the fool began, "man's life is but a jest,
    A dream, a shadow, bubble, air, a vapour at the best.
    In a thousand pounds of law I find not a single ounce of love,
    A blind man killed the parson's cow in shooting at the dove;
    The fool that eats till he is sick must fast till he is well,
    The wooer who can flatter most will bear away the belle."
    * * * * * *
    And then again the women screamed, and every staghound bayed;
    And why? because the motley fool so wise a sermon made.
  • Le sermon edifie, et l'example detruit.
    • The sermon edifies, the example destroys.
      (Practice what you preach.)
    • Abbé de Villiers, from a story in L'Art de Prêcher.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)


Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • Style is the gossamer on which the seeds of truth float through the world.
  • I preached right to their consciences, and the result was a great revival of religion came up there; and after that I never heard any thing about infidelity.
  • Avoid all controversy in preaching, talking, or writing; preach nothing down but the devil, and nothing up but Jesus Christ.
  • Embellish truth only with a view to gain it the more full and free admission into your hearer's minds; and your ornaments will, in that case, be simple, masculine, natural.
  • In general, rely mainly on Scriptural arguments, and prefer those that are plain and unquestionable.
  • Jesus chose this method of extending the knowledge of Himself throughout the world; He taught His truth to a few men, and then He said, " Now go and tell that truth to other men."
  • Every sermon must have a solid rest in Scripture, and the pointedness which comes of a clear subject, and the conviction which belongs to well-thought argument, and the warmth that proceeds from earnest appeal.
  • The truth is, no preaching ever had any strong power that was not the preaching of doctrine. The preachers that have moved and held men have always preached doctrine. No exhortation to a good life that does not put behind it some truth as deep as eternity can seize and hold the conscience. Preach doctrine, preach all the doctrine that you know, and learn forever more and more; but preach it always, not that men may believe it, but that they may be saved by believing it.
  • Let the sermon thou hast heard be converted into prayer.
  • The accent of conviction is made up of a mixture of faith, power, and love combined, forming a characteristic which is at once simple, pious, and grand, redolent of inspiration and sanctity. Here are no fabulous joys and woes; no hollow, fantastic sentimentalities; no wire-drawn refinings, either in thought or feeling; the passion that is traced before us has glowed in a living heart; the opinion he utters has risen in his own understanding, and'been a light to his own steps.
  • The greatest thoughts are wronged, if not linked to beauty; and they win their way most surely and deeply into the soul when arranged in this their natural and fit attire.
  • We doubt whether a man ever brings his faculties to bear with their whole force on a subject, until he writes upon it.
  • You don't want a diction gathered from the newspapers, caught from the air, common and unsuggestive; but you want one whose every word is full-freighted with suggestion and association, with beauty and power.
  • It is a great mistake to think any thing too profound or rich for a popular audience. No train of thought is too deep, or subtle, or grand — but the manner of presenting it to their untutored minds should be peculiar. It should be presented in anecdote, or sparkling truism, or telling illustration, or stinging epithet; always in some concrete form, never in a logical, abstract, syllogistic shape.
  • Let him who would move and convince others, be first moved and convinced himself.
  • The orator is thereby an orator that he keeps his feet ever on a fact.
  • Style should be like window-glass, perfectly transparent, and with very little sash.
  • Be short in all religious exercises. Better leave the people longing than loathing. No conversion after the first half hour.
  • I would have every minister of the gospel address his audience with the zeal of a friend, with the generous energy of a father, and with the exuberant affection of a mother.
  • It is easier to declaim like an orator against a thousand sins in others than to mortify one sin in ourselves; to be more industrious in our pulpits than in our closets; to preach twenty sermons to our people than one to our own hearts.
  • Remember, there are only a few model preachers. We have read of only one perfect Model, and He was crucified many centuries ago.
  • Settle in your mind, that no sermon is worth much in which the Lord is not the principal speaker. There may be poetry, refinement, historic truth, moral truth, pathos, and all the charms of rhetoric; but all will be lost, for the purposes of preaching, if the word of the Lord is not the staple of the discourse.
  • To get, then, the mind of Christ,'and to declare it, is the primary end of the teaching offices of the church. The living body of sympathetic men, saturated with the truth and feeling of the Book, must bring it into contact with other men, through that marvelous organ the human voice, and with such aid as comes from the subtle sympathy that pervades assemblies of human beings.
  • Direct your arrows at objects without being personal; come near your hearers. Letters dropped into the post-office without address go to the dead-letter office, and are of no use to any body.
  • A leading Welsh minister — and Welsh ministers are, I think, among the best preachers — was invited to preach an anniversary sermon before one of the great societies in London. Naturally anxious to disregard no propriety, he consulted the proper authority, the secretary. "Should I read my sermon?" "Oh, it is no matter, only bring some of your Welsh fire with you." " But you cannot, my dear sir, carry fire on paper." "No, that is true; but you may use the paper to kindle the fire."
  • The text should sustain, suggest, and give tone to the sermon. The main thought of the text should usually be the main thought of the sermon. A text must not be a pretext.
  • His words had power because they accorded with his thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and depth because they harmonized with the life he had always lived. It was not mere breath that this preacher uttered; they were the words of life, because a life of good deeds and holy love was melted into them. Pearls, pure and rich, had been dissolved into the precious draught.
  • To preach practical sermons as they are called, that is, sermons upon virtues and vices, without inculcating those great Scripture truths of redemption, grace, etc., which alone can incite and enable us to forsake sin and follow after righteousness, what is it but to put. together the wheels, and set the hands of a watch, forgetting the spring, which is to make them all go?
  • Let us never forget that, to be profited, that is, to be spiritually improved in knowledge, faith, holiness, joy, and love, is the end of hearing sermons, and not merely to have our taste gratified by genius, eloquence, and oratory.
  • His admired discourses remind me of the colored shavings with which we fill empty grates in the summer time.
  • But even genuine argument for the truth is not preaching the gospel, neither is he whose unbelief is thus assailed likely to be brought thereby into any mood but one unfit for receiving it. Argument should be kept to books; preachers ought to have nothing to do with it,— at all events in the pulpit. There let them hold forth light, and let him, who will, receive it, and him who will not, forbear. God only can convince.
  • Language the most forcible proceeds from the man who is most sincere. The way to speak with power, or to write words that pierce mankind to the quick, is to speak and write honestly.
  • If the truth were known, many sermons are prepared and preached with more regard for the sermon than the souls of the hearers.
  • The most intelligent hearers are those who enjoy most heartily the simplest preaching. It is not they who clamor for superlatively intellectual or aesthetic sermons. Daniel Webster used to complain of some of the preaching to which he listened. "In the house of God" he wanted to meditate" upon the simple varieties, and the undoubted facts of religion;" not upon mysteries and abstractions.
  • Tell men that God is love; that right is right, and wrong, wrong; let them cease to admire philanthropy, and begin to love men; cease to pant for heaven, and begin to love God; then the spirit of liberty begins.
  • Elegance of language must give way before simplicity in preaching sound doctrine.
  • I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teachings.
  • The object of preaching is, constantly to remind mankind of what mankind are constantly forgetting; not to supply the defects of human intelligence, but to fortify the feebleness of human resolutions; to recall mankind from the by-paths where they turn, into that broad path of salvation which all know, but few tread.
  • John Bunyan, while he had a surpassing genius, would not condescend to cull his language from the garden of flowers; but he went into the hayfield and the meadow, and plucked up his language by the roots, and spoke out in the words that the people used in their cottages.
  • The great bell of Moscow is too large to be hung, the question arises, what was the use of making it? Some preachers are so learned that they cannot make themselves understood, or else cannot bring their minds to preach plain, gospel sermons; here, too, the same question might be asked.
  • Always carry with you into the pulpit a sense of the immense consequences which may depend on your full and faithful presentation of the truth.
  • Whether you do your work with notes or without them, do it courageously, earnestly, with devotion; with a glad sense of the greatness of it, and a full consecration of every force and faculty to it.
  • If any of you ever go into the pulpit "simply upon the cold legs of custom," be very careful to take a manuscript with you. But if you go to speak to the assembly because your mind is full of the truth, and you long to impart that truth to them, for their sake and for God's sake, — then charge your mind with it, and speak with all the force you can give it, without any notes.
  • I verily believe that the kingdom of God advances more on spoken words than it does on essays written and read; on words, that is, in which the present feeling and thought of the teaching mind break into natural and forceful expression.

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