Scattered thought arising from approximately four hours today spent discussing Puritan Preaching (material from a variety of sources).
1. Preaching puts forward the will of God from the word of God for the edification of the people of God.
2. Ministers must be bible experts, knowing the scriptures better than they know any other book.
3. Given the goal of edification, application is of most importance in preaching.
4. It is a sin to preach and have no application.
5. Application should be specific, direct, clearly arising from the teaching in question.
6. Application can console, exhort, admonish.
7. Exhortation involves spelling out the means of change as well as calling for such change.
8. Speech should be simple, and as unaffected as possible (the more affected the less effective - thanks Pete M).
9. Preaching should anticipate and deal with doubts and objections to the teaching in question.
10. Application should make listeners 'feel the word of God to be quick [i.e. alive] and powerful, and a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart' (Westminster Assembly Directory for the Publick Worship of God).
And a great quote (by a guy called Ryken, via a guy called Maclure) to round things off:
"For the Puritans, the sermon is not just hinged to Scripture; it quite literally exists inside the word of God; the text is not in the sermon but the sermon is in the text...listening to a sermon is being in the bible."
I have to admit to feeling rather like we are pygmies when we compare ourselves with these older brothers of ours. And I am a dwarf among the pygmies. Sometimes it feels like we are playing at sermons when we preach. Or half-starving the people. Or asking them to live off MacDonalds and Haribo. Or trying really hard to make the word of God boring.
But God is good, gracious, wise and sovereign. So, it must be time to pray more, devour more bible, think harder, graft longer, and focus more intently.