First, In every sermon we should have an errand; and one of such importance that if it be received or complied with it will issue in eternal salvation.—I say nothing of those preachers who profess to go into the pulpit without an errand, and to depend upon the Holy Spirit to furnish them with one at the time. I write not for them, but for such as make a point of thinking before they attempt to preach. Even of these I have heard some who, in studying their texts, have appeared to me to have no other object in view than to find something to say, in order to fill up the time. This, however, is not preaching, but merely talking about good things. Such ministers, though they think of something beforehand, yet appear to me to resemble Ahimaaz, who ran without tidings. I have also heard many an ingenious discourse, in which I could not but admire the talents of the preacher; but his only object appeared to be to correct the grosser vices, and to form the manners of his audience, so as to render them useful members of civil society. Such ministers have an errand; but not of such importance as to save those who receive it, which sufficiently proves that it is not the gospel.
In preparing for the pulpit, it would be well to reflect in some such manner as this:—I am expected to preach, it may be to some hundreds of people, some of whom may come several miles to hear; and what have I to say to them? Is it for me to sit here studying a text merely to find something thing to say to fill up the hour? I may do this without imparting any useful instruction, without commending myself to any man’s conscience, and without winning, or even aiming to win, one soul to Christ. It is possible there may be in the audience a poor miserable creature, labouring under the load of a guilty conscience. If he depart without being told how to obtain rest for his soul, what may be the consequence? Or, it may be, some stranger may be there who has never heard the way of salvation in his life. If he should depart without hearing it now, and should die before another opportunity occurs, how shall I meet him at the bar of God? Possibly some one of my constant hearers may die in the following week; and is there nothing I should wish to say to him before his departure? It may be that I myself may die before another Lord’s day: this may be the last time that I shall ascend the pulpit; and have I no important testimony to leave with the people of my care?
Excerpt from: “Sermons–Subject-Matter of Them,” Letter II, in Thoughts on Preaching: Letters to a Young Minister.
Fuller, A. G. (1988). The Complete Works of Andrew Fuller: Memoirs, Sermons, Etc. (J. Belcher, Ed.) (Vol. 1, pp. 715–716). Harrisonburg, VA: Sprinkle Publications.