We return to the topic of preaching in pictures. By “pictures” we do not mean illustrations. This facet of the homiletical art is not our present concern. Amazing possibilities of flashing images on the screen of the mind reside in a single word, it may be, or in a colorful phrase, or in a vivid sentence.
Henry Grady Davis, in his Design For Preaching, urges us to look well to words that are “sensuous rather than abstract, and specific rather than general.” By “sensuous,” he explains, is meant words that are “close to the five senses, suggesting pictures the mind can see, sounds it can hear, things it can touch, taste, smell.”
He singles out the late Peter Marshall as a preacher who went strongly for words and phrases that were bursting with image-creating power. Instead of saying vaguely, “We avoid thinking of death,” Marshall will say, “We disguise death with flowers.” Instead of referring abstractly to “the spot where Jesus lay,” Marshall will point to “the cold stone slab,” thereby creating at once a feeling-tone and a sharp etching in the mind. Or, once more, instead of being content with a general remark about “the odors of Jesus’ tomb,” Marshall will take pains to specify the “strange scents of linen and bandages, and spices, and close air, and blood.”
Earlier in this corner we have reminded ourselves that the Bible abounds with these lively concretions, these vivid metaphors, these sensory, image-springing sentences. Let it now be said that the growingly effective preacher will find a wealth of help in those wide tracts of reading where the literary masters have left their incalculably valuable treasures.
At this point my mind runs immediately to such a minister—indeed such an inspirer of ministers—as the late Professor ...1
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