The subject of preaching is divine truth, centrally the gospel as revealed in Jesus Christ.
Therefore the preacher with such a holy ministry must have a discipline of heart and mind
and conduct himself to preach effectively.
Among the requisites piety must be placed first, then natural gifts, knowledge, and skill.
Piety is a quality of the soul.
It is moral earnestness rooted in a continuing experience of fellowship with God.
It is reverent devotion to the will of God.
It is not an act or a pretense.
It is not austere, but moves with the glow and warmth of the Christian graces.
It is not otherworldly in any sense of proud withdrawal from human interest,
but mingles with life in the strength of Christian virtues.
It is not weak, but heroic, and is the inspiration of that heroism which is
the 'brilliant triumph of the soul over the flesh.'
It is spiritual reality that entertains no simulation, and spiritual realism that recognizes
and challenges the moral and spiritual enemies of life.
It is not too much to say that this quality of spirit is the prime requisite to
effectiveness in preaching.
It inspires the preacher himself with ardent zeal, and keeps the flame alive amid
all of the icy indifference by which he will often be encompassed.
It gains for him the good will and sympathy of his hearers, the most ungodly of whom
will feel that devout earnestness on his part is becoming and entitles him to respect.
And to this is promised the blessing of God upon the labors which it prompts.
2. Natural gifts
The preacher needs the capacity for clear thinking, with strong feelings,
and a vigorous imagination.
He also needs the capacity for expression, and the power of forcible utterance.
Many other gifts will help his usefulness; these are indispensable to any high degree of efficiency.
Each of these can be improved almost indefinitely, some of them developed in one who
had not been conscious of possessing them; but all must exist as natural gifts.
There must be knowledge of religious truth and of such things as throw light upon it,
knowledge of human nature in its relations to religious truth and of human life
in its actual conditions around us.
Cicero believed that the orator ought to know everything.
There is, of course, no knowledge which a preacher might not make useful.
It should be the preacher's sacred ambition to know all that he can learn by lifelong
and prayerful endeavor.
Piety furnishes motive power; natural gifts, cultivated as far as possible supply means;
knowledge gives material, and then there is skill.
This does not refer merely to style and delivery but also to the collection, choice,
and arrangement of materials.
Henry Clay became an accomplished orator by the cultivation of his natural gifts.
He mentioned that during his early life in Kentucky, he "commenced, and continued for years,
the practice of daily reading and speaking upon the contents of some historical
or scientific book.
These offhand efforts were made sometimes in a cornfield, and others in the forest,
and not unfrequently in some distant barn, with the horse and the ox for my auditors."
Henry Ward Beecher, the premier orator of the American pulpit, serves as
an outstanding example of the value of studying the principles of rhetoric and oratory.
He mastered the classic textbooks of rhetoric, took special training in speech,
studied the sermons of great preachers.
He was always alert to discover what other masters of pulpit discourse could teach him
about the fine points of his profession.
The only way to learn to preach is to preach.
Adapted from On the Preparation and Delivery of Sermons by John Broadus, pp. 6 -- 8
(Rhetoric is defined as a study of the technique and rules for using language effectively,
especially in public speaking).