“The Romance of Preaching”! Under this title C. Silvester Horne delivered one of the most brilliant and inspiring series of all the Lyman Beecher Lectures at Yale. Speaking in 1914, a few months before the outbreak of World War I, with irrepressible optimism the British divine looked back at certain pulpit giants of other days. In every case he dealt with a man who belonged in what we know as the evangelical tradition: Moses and later prophets; John the Baptist and later apostles; Athanasius and Chrysostom; Savonarola, Calvin, and Knox; John Robinson and the Pilgrim Fathers; John Wesley and George Whitefield.

Risks In Contemporary Evaluation

Any lover of church history can make a longer list of pulpit giants, every man of them strongly evangelical. If a student were disposed to deal with a positive subject negatively, he could try to compile a list of non-evangelical pulpit giants. Whatever the procedure, a prudent compiler would follow Horne in not singling out any contemporary preacher. Among living pulpiteers often counted great, or nearly great, how many will be so regarded after the lapse of forty years? Not many, I judge. I am thinking of my own experience as a lifelong lover of sermons. If I were to name the preachers whom many ministers counted great in 1914, my younger readers would not recognize most of the names. For example, think of Charles Wagner in Paris, William Dawson in London, and Newell Dwight Hillis in Brooklyn. Time has a way of deflating many of our biggest balloons.

In the realm of preaching, what then does it mean for a man to be “great”? Personally, I seldom use the word great about anyone but God, but here I am serving as a reporter of what others have found. According to Barrett ...

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