Advice for a Superficial Preacher

John Wesley writing to John Trembath (August 17, 1760), a young minister who was a poor preacher, arguing that better reading is not a sufficient condition for better preaching, but it is a necessary one.

What has exceedingly hurt you in time past, nay, and I fear, to this day, is lack of reading.

I scarce ever knew a preacher who read so little.

And perhaps, by neglecting it, you have lost the taste for it.

Hence your talent in preaching does not increase. It is just the same as it was seven years ago. It is lively, but not deep; there is little variety; there is no compass of thought.

Reading only can supply this, with meditation and daily prayer.

You wrong yourself greatly by omitting this.

You can never be a deep preacher without it, any more than a thorough Christian.

Oh begin! Fix some part of every day for private exercise. You may acquire the taste which you have not; what is tedious at first will afterward be pleasant.

Whether you like it or not, read and pray daily.

It is for your life; there is no other way; else you will be a trifler all your days, and a pretty, superficial preacher.

Do justice to your own soul; give it time and means to grow.

Do not starve yourself any longer.

Take up your cross and be a Christian altogether.

Then will all the children of God rejoice (not grieve) over you, and in particular yours.

—”Letter to a Friend,” The Works of the Rev. John Wesley (London, 1813), 49.


2 thoughts on “Advice for a Superficial Preacher

  1. It would be really great if we could read a journal of John Trembath to see how this piece of advice worked out. Also, it would be interesting to see how a “message translation” would go. In those days everyone new the value of a good compass, but today that populace is shrinking.
    Hmmm . . . instead of “no compass of thought” it might read “it is as if your location finder on your I-phone is off and your head cannot find it’s way”. Yea, “no compass of thought” is much better:)

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