Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers


Chapter 38—The Evil of Long Sermons

[Special Testimonies, Series A 5:7-9 (1896).]

Dear Brother----,

Those who shall be mouthpieces for God should know that their lips have been touched with a live coal from off the altar, and present the truth in the demonstration of the Spirit. But lengthy discourses are a taxation to the speaker and a taxation to the hearers who have to sit so long. One half the matter presented would be of more benefit to the hearer than the large mass poured forth by the speaker. That which is spoken in the first hour is of far more value if the sermon closes then than the words that are spoken in an added half hour. There is a burying up of the matter that has been presented. TM 256.1

This subject has been opened to me again and again that our ministers were making mistakes in talking so long as to wear away the first forcible impression made upon the hearers. So large a mass of matter is presented, which they cannot possibly retain and digest, that all seems confused. TM 256.2

I have kept this before our ministering brethren, and begged them not to lengthen out their discourses. Some improvement has been made on this ground with the very best results. But few discourses have exceeded an hour. TM 257.1

While in America the light was given me in the night season concerning yourself. You had been speaking at great length, and still felt that you had not said all you wished to say, and were asking for a little more time. One of dignity and authority stepped before you, as you stood in the pulpit, and said: You have given the people a large amount of matter to consider; one half of what you have given would be of much greater profit than the whole. If energized by the Holy Spirit, it must make an impression on the human hearer. The Holy Spirit works the man, but if there are vital points to be made which are essential to be carried away by the hearer, a train of words is effacing that strong impression, pouring into the vessel more than it can retain, and is so much effort lost. To reserve the last half to be presented when the mind is fresh to receive it will be gathering up the fragments that nothing be lost. TM 257.2

The truth is a precious, vitalizing power. It is the entrance of the word that giveth light and understanding unto the simple. The truth should be spoken clearly, slowly, forcibly, that it may impress the hearer. When the truth in any line is presented it is essential for it to be understood, that all its precious food, the bread of life, the manna from heaven, may be received. Let every fragment be gathered up, that nothing be lost. In the presentation of the truth in preaching the word it is of consequence that nothing should be lost to the receptive hearer. The Lord Jesus is represented by the Holy Spirit, and is seeking to secure admission to the mind, and conviction comes to the heart and conscience; but the overmuch matter that is given is detrimental in its effect, it effaces the impression previously made. Speak short, and you will create an interest to hear again and again. TM 257.3

It is especially true that new and startling themes should not be presented to the people at too great length. In every address given, let there be an application of truth to the heart that whosoever may hear shall understand, and that men, women, and youth may become alive unto God. Try to lead all, from the least to the greatest, to search the word; for the knowledge of His glory is to fill the whole earth as the waters cover the sea. TM 258.1

[For further study: Testimonies for the Church 2:116-118, 616, 617, 672; 3:419; 4:261; 5:251, 252; Gospel Workers, 167, 168, 171.]