Insights for many

Published April 1, 1999

IT WAS SAID of Father Arthur Stanton, 19th-century priest and renowned preacher at St. Alban’s, Holborn, in London, that of all who have ever been catholic and evangelical at once, he had the most perfect synthesis – not of the mind but of the soul. A later writer drew attention to the remarkable similarity between Stanton’s published sermons and those of the great Baptist preacher, Charles Spurgeon, which appeared a few years earlier.

But then, Spurgeon himself once said that he had no scruples about giving his congregation “a dose of another man’s brains, and each proclaimed the Gospel effectively in his own constituency. While this collection of 17 sermons may well help busy parish clergy on days when another’s brains seem to function better than one’s own, they also offer devotional reading and meditative insights to a much wider audience.

[pullquote] Because many of these sermons were preached in the somewhat rarefied milieu of an academic community, some are perhaps more scholarly and intellectually demanding than might be offered in the average parish church. However, the evangelical tradition of Wycliffe College with its emphasis on the centrality of preaching means that the gospel message is clear and unequivocal.

All the preachers are either graduates or faculty members of Wycliffe. Their sermons follow the classical style of preaching, rather than the more informal “homily” in current vogue. For me, two stand out, the first by Reginald Stackhouse relating old and new in a sermon built around Isaac in the Old Testament; it also offers insights that could offer alternatives to predictable platitudes around the changing millennium. The second, by Chris Barriger, applies scriptural standards to conflict in the church, and could profitably be studied by all those merrily tossing theological Molotov cocktails at each other over issues presently dividing us.

Like most collections, the quality is uneven, but the cumulative effect is positive. Citations and quotations are identified at the end of the book, though footnotes on the page or at the end of each sermon might have been more helpful. And one of the contributors acknowledges indebtedness to another preacher – shades of Spurgeon and Stanton!


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