Phillips Brooks—one of the great American preachers of the 19th century—offered this counsel in his Bohlen Lectures on Preaching delivered before the Divinity School of Yale College in January/February 1877:

First, count and rejoice to count yourself the servant of the people to whom you minister. Not in any worn-out figure but in very truth, call yourself and be their servant.

Second, never allow yourself to feel equal to your work. If you ever find that spirit growing on you, be afraid, and instantly attack your hardest piece of work, try to convert your toughest infidel, try to preach on your most exacting theme, to show your self how unequal to it all you are.

Third, be profoundly honest. Never dare to say in the pulpit or in private, through ardent excitement or conformity to what you know you are expected to say, one word which at the moment when you say it, you do not believe. It would cut down the range of what you say, perhaps, but it would endow every word that was left with the force of ten.

And last of all, be vital, be alive, not dead. Do everything that can keep your vitality at its fullest. Even the physical vitality do not dare to disregard. One of the most striking preachers of our country seems to me to have a large part of his power simply in his physique, in the impression of vitality, in the magnetism almost like a material thing, that passes between him and the people who sit before him. Pray for and work for fulness of life above everything; full red blood in the body; full honesty and truth in the mind; and the fulness of a grateful love for the Saviour in your heart. Then, however men set their mark of failure or success upon your ministry, you cannot fail, you must succeed.

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2 thoughts on “Four Rules for Preachers”

  1. dgh says:

    Justin, I know it’s a slow time of year, but you’re seriously recommending Brooks?

  2. Pete says:

    Didn’t really care for his 4th point. Sounds a little scary – humanistic; fleshly. Sorry.

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Justin Taylor


Justin Taylor is senior vice president and publisher for books at Crossway and blogs at Between Two Worlds. You can follow him on Twitter.

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