Lessons in Preaching From Alexander Duff

Alexander Duff was a fine Scottish minister, and one of the most powerful preachers of his time, who devoted the great portion of his life being spent for the gospel in India.  Not many of his sermons, from what I can tell, have been recorded; but there is at least one out there.  It was an ordination sermon he preached, on the text of Ezekiel 33:7-9.  It is a powerful sermon, and much more than an ordination message.  In his message, Duff shows us how to preach.  He does not merely instruct, or lecture, on the office of the ministry.  He deals in earnest with the very souls of those present.  He does not merely discourse upon the purpose and necessity of preaching–he preaches–as a dying man to dying men.  In these short selections we are given a glimpse of how this powerful missionary dealt with the souls of men.  We see the incredible value of especially 3 aspects of his preaching:  1) Declaring the truth about man; 2) Holding out to men the free offer of the gospel; and 3) The great value of warnings, exhortations, and pleadings.  Hope it is a blessing. . .

The Truth About Man

“How, then, are we to deal with such of this description as are now present?  How are we to bring home the arrows of conviction into your consciences? Or, shall we desist from the attempt altogether? Shall we leave you undisturbed?  Shall we, out of a false and temporizing charity, allow you to proceed onwards without sounding an alarm? Shall we, with a view to win your good opinion, dismiss the peculiar doctrines of Christianity as dry, and harsh, and offensive to ears polite?  Shall we rather descant on the beauties of virtue, the decencies and moralities of social and private life, or the speculations of a vain but fascinating philosophy?  Shall we dwell on the dignity of human nature, and extol its excellencies, and magnify its pretensions to glory and honor, and even to the praise and approbation of the great God  Ah, then, would we only prove the murderers of your immortal souls―cruelly exemplifying the conduct of the fiendish man, who could amuse thoughtless children with toys and sweetmeats, till he allured them to the brink of the fatal precipice, down which they tumbled and were dashed to pieces in the fall!  Great God, forbid that we should thus be guilty of the blood of souls. . .”

The Free Offer Of The Gospel

“But we know full well, that, however necessary in arousing, the terrors of the Lord can never soften into the obedience of love; and if dwelt upon exclusively, might drive weak minded men into despair.  Praise, then, eternal praise to Jehovah, Lord of Hosts, that, amid the threatenings of impending judgment, and the storms of a coming vengeance, the heavens have rent asunder, and the Sun of Righteousness has burst, in effulgent glory, on a tempest-tossed and shipwrecked world. . .

Only return to the stronghold as prisoners of hope, and Christ, with all the blessings of the new covenant, will be yours.  Are ye ignorant and foolish?  He is made of God unto you, Wisdom.  Are ye guilty and condemned?  He is made of God unto you, Righteousness.  Are ye vile and polluted? He is made of God unto you, Sanctification.  Are ye captive and enthralled? He is made of God unto you, Redemption.  Are ye in darkness?  He is the brightness of the Father’s glory.  Are ye in sorrow and sadness?  He is the Consolation of Israel.  Are ye labouring under spiritual maladies?  He is the balm in Gilead, and the Almighty Physician there.  Are ye cold and callous, dead in trespasses and sins, without even the will to be saved?  He sends forth the Comforter to quicken, and subdue, and apply all the enriching influences of his grace.  To sinners of every degree; to sinners of every name and age; to sinners of every rank, and temper, and disposition; we “preach Christ crucified, the power of God, and the wisdom of God,” for your salvation.”

Warnings, Exhortations, and Pleadings

“We again testify and declare, that if Heaven continue to frown upon you, it is because of your hardened impenitence. If ye are miserable, and without hope, the fault is your own. If ye die in your sins, your blood will be on your own heads.  If ye perish, it is not for want of a Saviour.  If ye agonize for ever under the load of unforgiven sin, it is not because you have not been warned and entreated; for how shall ye escape if ye neglect so great salvation?  And to leave you finally without excuse―we protest and appeal in the presence of angels and of men!  If―in the immediate view of those affecting memorials of a once suffering but now exalted Saviour, the piercing spear, and the crown of thorns, and the bloody sweat, and the accursed tree―ye still rush on, with “frantic speed,” to the gulf of perdition, will ye not deservedly perish?  What!  Deservedly perish?  Oh, righteous Father!  Shall thy children first raise the standard of an impious rebellion against thee―and, in the view of infinite mercies, with the flag of peace waving before their eyes, and the banner of free pardon streaming from the walls of the New Jerusalem, shall they still set at nought all thy counsel, and deliberately resolve to perish?  Perish miserably and everlastingly, by plunging the unhallowed weapons, that proved impotent against thee, not into frail bodies that must crumble into dust, but into their own souls―those precious souls that will never die  Must thine unnatural children be left thus to perish in their madness, as they deserve?  No, no.  Once more we hear the voice from heaven, breaking in accents of tenderness on the stillness of this assembly ―

“As I live I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked.” Awake, arise, then, ye who still slumber and sleep, and even at the eleventh hour, shall Christ give you light.  “Awake, arise, or be for ever fallen.”  ”