(John Angell James – “The True Christian”)
If we would gain benefit by the word, we must make our PROFITING the specific object of hearing it preached. By profiting I mean our growth in religious knowledge, affection, and practice; in other words, the increase of our holiness, spirituality, and heavenly-mindedness. In nothing, I believe, are professing Christians more deficient, than in their manner of, and motives for attending the public means of grace. It is painful and humiliating to think how extensively the gratifications of taste, and the pleasure produced by eloquence and oratory, are substituted for the cultivation of the mind in scriptural truth, and the improvement of the heart in Christian excellence. To be pleased—and not to be profited—is the object of the multitude. Hence the question, so often asked of those who have been listening to the solemn truths of salvation and eternity, “Well, how have you been pleased today?” And hence also, the common answer to such an inquiry, “O greatly delighted. It was a most eloquent sermon.” Pleased we may and ought to seek to be, but only as we are profited. Eloquence we may covet and admire; but then it should be the eloquence of truth, and not of mere rhetoric; the eloquence which makes us hate sin, love God, and mortify our corruptions; the eloquence which leaves us neither time nor disposition to praise, or scarcely think of the preacher, but absorbs us in the subject; the eloquence which burns into the very heart and consumes our lusts, and stimulates and strengthens our virtues; the eloquence of the Bible, and not of the schoolbook.