Richard Baxter on Hearing The Word Preached (pt.2)

by Eugene Hor on August 3, 2011

manheadphoneHere’s a edited and shortened version of the second section of Richard Baxter on ‘Profitably Hearing The Word Preached’.  If you’d like to read section 1, you can click here.  As I’ve often said at church after preaching each week, “I’ve discharged my duty in faithfully feeding you, now you must discharge your duty in digesting the Word, and when you do that worship is complete”.  So as a listener who sits under the Word each week, in section 2, Baxter outlines how to ‘remember’ what you hear.

Section 2. Directions for Remembering what you Hear.

Direct. I. It greatly helps memory to have a full understanding of the matter spoken which you would remember. Ignorance is one of the greatest hindrances to memory. Therefore labour most for a clear understanding of what you hear.

Direct. II. A deep, awakened affection is a very powerful help to memory. We easily remember any thing which our estates or lives lie on, when trifles are neglected and soon forgotten. Therefore labour to get all to your hearts, according to the next following directions.

Direct. III. Method is a very great help to memory. Therefore be acquainted with the preacher’s approach to preaching method; and then you are put into a path or tract, which you cannot easily go out of.

Direct. IV. Numbers are a great help to memory. As if the reasons, the uses, the motives, the signs, the directions, be six, or seven, or eight; when you know just the number, it helps you much to remember, which was the first, second, third, etc.

Direct. V. Names also and signal words are a great help to memory. You may remember one word and cannot remember all the sentence ; but that one word may help you remember much of the rest.

Direct. VI. It is a great help to memory, often in the time of hearing to call over and repeat to yourselves the things that have been spoken, the reasons, uses, motives, etc. For otherwise to hear Something once, and think of it no more till the sermon is done, would never serve my turn to keep it.

Direct, VII. Grasp not at more than you are able to hold, lest thereby you lose all. If there be more particulars than you can possibly remember, lay hold on some which most concern you, and let go the rest; perhaps a other may rather take up those, which you leave behind.

Direct. VIII. Writing is an easy help for memory, to those that can use it. Some question whether they should use it, because, it hinders their affection. But that must be differently determined according to the difference of subjects, and of hearers. Some sermons are all to work upon the affections at present, and the present advantage is to be preferred before the after perusal: but: some must more profit us in after digestion and review. Some know so fully all that is said, that they need no notes ; and some that are ignorant need them for perusal.

Direct. IX. Peruse what you remember, or write down, when you come home: and fix it speedily before it is lost; and hear others that can repeat it better. Pray it over, and discuss it with others.

Direct. X. If you forget the very words, yet remember the main drift of all; and get those resolutions and affections which they drive at. And then you have not lost the sermon, though you have lost the words; as he hath not lost his food, that hath digested it, and turned it into flesh and blood.

A full unedited version of Section 2 in pdf, can be downloaded here.

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john flavelThose of you who preach and teach the Bible regularly should be encouraged by John Flavel (1628-1691).  Apart from his fearlessness in preaching the gospel in the face of incredible opposition, was the way God used his preaching.  Joel Beeke in his book Meet The Puritans highlights that many who heard his preaching would say that you could not sit under his ministry unaffected.  The power of his preaching came from the depts of his spiritual experience or his time spent immersed and meditating on the Scriptures.  Beeke writes that, ‘he spent hours in meditation and self examination … (and) attained to a well grounded assurance, the ravishing comforts of which were many times shed abroad in his soul; this made him a powerful and successful preacher, as one who spoke from his own heart to those of others.  He preached what he felt, and what he had handled, what he had seen and tasted of the word of life and they felt it also.‘ (p.249)

Robert Murray M’Cheyne speaks of an American immigrant Luke Short who remembered listening to Flavel preach when he was 15 years old.  The text was, ‘if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ – a curse be on him.  Come Lord Jesus!’ from 1 Cor.16:22.  85 years after hearing Flavel preach on the horror of dying under God’s curse, God converted him when he was 100 years old as he meditated on that sermon.  The seed that was planted came to life 85 years later.  God’s Word never comes back empty, in either bringing judgment or bringing life (Is.55:11)

So preachers who preach each week, Sunday School teachers, small group leaders and youth leaders who prepare and teach the Bible each week – be diligent and give yourself wholeheartedly to what you do, immerse yourself in your preparation, meditate on the Word you’re preparing to teach, apply it to your soul, and bring it to your people faithfully.  Sometimes the fruit of your preaching and teaching will come 85 years later!

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Preparing A 5 Year Preaching Plan

July 21, 2011

Here are some of my thoughts on preparing a 5 year preaching program for your church. The Benefits Of An Expository Preaching Plan 1)    A expository preaching program ensures that the congregation is taught the whole counsel of God over time. 2)    A expository preaching program helps our congregation know where we are going in […]

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