Below, I have enumerated some of Andrew Fuller’s (1754-1815) observations about sermon preparation and sermon notes from his letter on “The Composition of a Sermon.”
- Do not overload your memory with words.
- Write down a few leading things for the sake of arrangement and assistance of memory; but not a great deal. Memory must not be overburdened.
- Never carry what you write into the pulpit.
- Avoid vulgar expressions: do not affect finical ones, nor words out of common use.
- As to division and arrangement, it barely respects the assortment of your materials. You must endeavour to understand and feel your subject, or the manner in which you divide it will signify but little.
- But if both these may be taken for granted, then I should say much depends, as to your being heard with pleasure and profit, on a proper discussion and management of the subject. At all events avoid a multiplying of heads and particulars. A few well-chosen thoughts, matured, proved, and improved, are abundantly more acceptable than when the whole is chopped, as it were, into mince-meat. 1
Elsewhere, in “The Nature of the Gospel, and the Manner in which it Ought to be Preached,” Fuller exhorts preachers,
Salvation by Jesus Christ is God’s last remedy—his ultimatum with a lost world, Mark 16:16; Acts 4:12. There remaineth no other sacrifice for sins. Then do not trifle on such subjects as these, lest you lose your own soul. What can be thought of you if you employ your time in making pretty speeches, and turning elegant periods, instead of endeavouring to “save yourself and them that hear you!” What if, instead of beseeching sinners to be reconciled to God, you should crack jokes before them, to excite a laugh!
Read and think for yourself on every subject. Read the Bible, not merely for texts, but for Scriptural knowledge. Truth attained in this way is like property—it will wear the better for having been acquired by dint of industry. 2
1. Andrew G. Fuller, (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 724). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.
2. Andrew G. Fuller, (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, p. 495). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.