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Proper Eloquence in Preaching

foxcroft gospel ministry“When ministers study to be florid rather than solid, and labor continually for lofty phrases and great swelling words of vanity, they are only spinning a spider’s web. The prater perhaps may win applause, but the minister in the meantime may not win a soul, the divine end of preaching.  They must follow the example of Christ, the great Teacher sent from God, who did not come with excellency of speech and the enticing words of man’s wisdom, but with much plainness of speech.  It was prophesied concerning Him, ‘He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young’ (Isa. 40:11).  These expressions reveal to us Christ’s tender care of souls and His humble familiarity in teaching His people, tempering His provisions to every taste and clothing His instructions with language calculated to every capacity.  Herein it becomes ministers to imitate Him, and not tower aloft above low understandings in lawless altitudes of expression (as the manner of some is) but using a style level to the unlearned and unskillful, delivering their thoughts with a natural turn of speech and in the most entertaining images, which, where the matter is weighty and important, is voted by the best judges to be the truest eloquence.  However, there is no doubt that some particular occasions, audiences, and subjects will bear something more of politeness without vanity than one would ordinarily choose.”

(Thomas Foxcroft [1697-1769], The Gospel Ministry, 32-33)

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