C.N. Douglas, comp. Forty Thousand Quotations: Prose and Poetical. 1917.


The gracious dew of pulpit eloquence.


Sermons in stones and good in every thing.


He taught them how to live and how to die.

Wm. Somerville.

The pulpit style of Germany has been always rustically negligent, or bristling with pedantry.

De Quincey.

It is a good divine that follows his own instructions.


The life of a pious minister is visible rhetoric.


The world looks at ministers out of the pulpit to know what they mean when in it.


A good discourse is that from which one can take nothing without taking the life.


Be short in all religious exercises. Better leave the people longing than loathing.

Nathaniel Emmons.

Intelligible discourses are spoiled by too much subtlety in nice divisions.


Some clergymen make a motto, instead of a theme, of their texts.

Hosea Ballou.

Preaching, in the first sense of the word, ceased as soon as ever the gospel was written.


He who the sword of heaven will bear should be as holy as severe.


  • I preached as never sure to preach again,
  • And as a dying man to dying men.
  • Baxter.

  • The lilies say: Behold how we
  • Preach without words of purity.
  • Christina G. Rossetti.

    The Christian ministry is the worst of all trades, but the best of all professions.


    The pulpit is a clergyman’s parade; the parish is his field of active service.


    Oh for a forty-parson power!


    A verse may find him who a sermon flies, and turn delight into a sacrifice.

    George Herbert.

    The minister’s brain is often the “poor-box” of the church.


    And truths divine came mended from that tongue.


    To rest, the cushion and soft dean invite, who never mentions hell to ears polite.


  • So clomb the first grand thief into God’s fold;
  • So since into his church lewd hirelings climb.
  • Milton.

    With a little hoard of maxims preaching down a daughter’s heart.


    It is by the vicar’s skirts that the devil climbs into the belfry.


    Man makes up his mind he will preach, and he preaches.

    La Bruyère.

    Surely that preaching which comes from the soul most works on the soul.

    Thomas Fuller.

    Sermons are not like curious inquiries after new nothings, but pursuance of old truths.

    Jeremy Taylor.

    Style is the gossamer on which the seeds of truth float through the world.

    George Bancroft.

    Elegance of language must give way before simplicity in preaching sound doctrine.


    The orator is thereby an orator that keeps his feet ever on a fact.

    R. W. Emerson.

    I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done, than to be one of the twenty to follow mine own teachings.


    Style should be like window-glass, perfectly transparent, and with very little sash.


    Let him who would move and convince others, be first moved and convinced himself.

    T. L. Cuyler.

    If the truth were known, many sermons are prepared and preached with more regard for the sermon than the souls of the hearers.

    George F. Pentecost.

    O that our prelates would be as diligent to sow the corn of good doctrine, as Satan is to sow cockle and darnel!


    This I quarreled at, that he went far from his text to come close to me, and so was faulty himself in telling me of my faults.


    Sir, a woman’s preaching is like a dog standing on his hinder legs. It is not done well, but you wonder to see it done at all.


    Evil ministers of good things are as torches,—a light to others, a waste to none but themselves only.


    Pulpit discourses have insensibly dwindled from speaking to reading; a practice of itself sufficient to stifle every germ of eloquence.

    Sydney Smith.

    Many a meandering discourse one hears, in which the preacher aims at nothing, and—hits it.


    It requires as much reflection and wisdom to know what is not to be put into a sermon as what is.


    As there are certain mountebanks and quacks in physic, so there are much the same also in divinity.


  • Jest not at preacher’s language or expression:
  • How know’st thou but thy sins made him miscarry?
  • Herbert.

    Remember that God is as near to our mouth when we speak as that man is who leans his ear to our whispers.


    Some plague the people with too long sermons: for the faculty of listening is a tender thing, and soon becomes weary and satiated.


    He of their wicked ways shall them admonish, and before them set the paths of righteousness.


    We must judge religious movements, not by the men who make them, but by the men they make.

    Joseph Cook.

  • But Cristes loore, and his Apostles twelve,
  • He taughte, but first He followed it hymselfe.
  • Chaucer.

    Embellish truth only with a view to gain it the more full and free admission into your hearers’ minds; and your ornaments will, in that case, be simple, masculine, natural.


    Alas for the unhappy man that is called to stand in the pulpit and not give the bread of life!


    I would not have preachers torment their hearers, and detain them with long and tedious preaching.


    Remember, there are only a few model preachers. We have read of only one perfect Model, and He was crucified many centuries ago.

    C. H. Fowler.

    Always carry with you into the pulpit a sense of the immense consequences which may depend on your full and faithful presentation of the truth.

    R. S. Storrs.

    Men of God have always, from time to time, walked among men, and made their commission felt in the heart and soul of the commonest hearer.


  • There goes the parson, oh illustrious spark!
  • And there, scarce less illustrious, goes the clerk.
  • Cowper.

    Language the most forcible proceeds from the man who is most sincere. The way to speak with power, or to write words that pierce mankind to the quick, is to speak and write honestly.

    E. L. Magoon.

    The greatest thoughts are wronged, if not linked to beauty; and they win their way most surely and deeply into the soul when arranged in this their natural and fit attire.

    W. E. Channing.

    Jesus chose this method of extending the knowledge of Himself throughout the world; He taught His truth to a few men, and then He said, “Now go and tell that truth to other men.”

    Phillips Brooks.

  • But in his duty prompt at every call,
  • He watch’d and wept, he pray’d and felt for all.
  • Goldsmith.

    I have taught you, my dear flock, for above thirty years how to live; and I will show you in a very short time how to die.


  • He of their wicked ways
  • Shall them admonish, and before them set
  • The paths of righteousness.
  • Milton.

    I should not like to preach to a congregation who all believed as I believe, I would as lief preach to a basket of eggs in their smooth compactness and oval formality.


    When men come with nets in their ears, it is good for the preacher to have neither fish nor fowl in his tongue. But blessed be God, now we need not lie at so close a guard.


    A preacher should have the skill to teach the unlearned simply, roundly, and plainly; for teaching is of more importance than exhorting.


    A minister, without boldness, is like a smooth file, a knife without an edge, a sentinel that is afraid to let off his gun. If men will be bold in sin, ministers must be bold to reprove.

    Rev. W. Gurnall.

    To endeavor to move by the same discourse hearers who differ in age, sex, position and education, is to attempt to open all locks with the same key.

    J. Petit-Senn.

    The province of the soul is large enough to fill up every cranny of your time, and leave you much to answer for if one wretch be damned by your neglect.


    I would have every minister of the gospel address his audience with the zeal of a friend, with the generous energy of a father, and with the exuberant affection of a mother.


    Grant that I may never rack a Scripture simile beyond the true intent thereof, lest, instead of sucking milk, I squeeze blood out of it.


    There are three things to aim at in public speaking: first, to get into your subject; then to get your subject into yourself; and, lastly, to get your subject into your hearers.

    Bishop Gregg.

    It is a good divine that follows his own instructions. I can easier teach twenty what were good to be done than be one of the twenty to follow mine own teaching.


    Many preachers shine in the pulpit who lose their brilliancy in common conversation. They require the stimulus and magnetism of an audience to render them forcible and eloquent.

    J. L. Basford.

    Tell men that God is love; that right is right, and wrong, wrong; let them cease to admire philanthropy, and begin to love men; cease to pant for heaven, and begin to love God; then the spirit of liberty begins.

    F. W. Robertson.

    Let us never forget that, to be profited, that is, to be spiritually improved in knowledge, faith, holiness, joy and love, is the end of hearing sermons, and not merely to have our taste gratified by genius, eloquence and oratory.

    John Angel James.

    Every sermon must have a solid rest in Scripture, and the pointedness which comes of a dear subject, and the conviction which belongs to well-thought argument, and the warmth that proceeds from earnest appeal.

    Phillips Brooks.

    You don’t want a diction gathered from the newspapers, caught from the air, common and unsuggestive; but you want one whose every word is full-freighted with suggestion and association, with beauty and power.

    Rufus Choate.

    A hard and unfeeling manner of the threatenings of the Word of God is not only barbarous and inhuman, but calculated, by inspiring disgust, to rob them of all their efficacy.

    Robert Hall.

  • He that negotiates between God and man,
  • As God’s ambassador, the grand concerns
  • Of judgment and of mercy, should beware
  • Of lightness in his speech.
  • Cowper.

    It is easier to declaim like an orator against a thousand sins in others than to mortify one sin in ourselves; to be more industrious in our pulpits than in our closets; to preach twenty sermons to our people than one to our own hearts.

    John Flavel.

  • As pleasant songs, at morning sung,
  • The words that dropped from his sweet tongue
  • Strengthened our hearts; or, heard at night,
  • Made all our slumbers soft and light.
  • Longfellow.

  • And, as a bird each fond endearment tries
  • To tempt its new-fledg’d offspring to the skies,
  • He tried each art, reprov’d each dull delay,
  • Allur’d to brighter worlds, and led the way.
  • Goldsmith.

  • Hear how he clears the points o’ Faith
  • Wi’ rattlin’ an thumpin’!
  • Now meekly calm, now wild in wrath,
  • He’s stampin’, an’ he’s jumpin’!
  • Burns.

  • Of right and wrong he taught
  • Truths as refined as ever Athens heard;
  • And (strange to tell) he practis’d what he preach’d.
  • John Armstrong.

    The object of preaching is constantly to remind mankind of what mankind are constantly forgetting; not to supply the defects of human intelligence, but to fortify the feebleness of human resolutions.

    Sydney Smith.

    The clergy are at present divided into three sections: an immense body who are ignorant; a small proportion who know and are silent; and a minute minority who know and speak according to their knowledge.

    Professor Huxley.

    The theater has often been at variance with the pulpit; they ought not to quarrel. How much is it to be wished that in both the celebration of nature and of God were intrusted to none but men of noble minds.


    It is a glorious occupation, vivifying and self-sustaining in its nature, to struggle with ignorance, and discover to the inquiring minds of the masses the clear cerulean blue of heavenly truth.

    Hosea Ballou.

    Whatever is preached to us, and whatever we learn, we should still remember that it is man that gives, and man that receives; it is a mortal hand that presents it to us, it is a mortal hand that accepts it.


    The defects of a preacher are soon spied. Let a preacher be endued with ten virtues, and have but one fault, that one fault will eclipse and darken all his virtues and gifts, so evil is the world in these times.


    It was said of one who preached very well and lived very ill, “that when he was out of the pulpit it was pity he should ever go into it; and when he was in the pulpit, it was pity he should ever come out of it.”


    Preachers say, “Do as I say, not as I do.” But if a physician had the same disease upon him that I have, and he should bid me do one thing and he do quite another, could I believe him?


    That is not the best sermon which makes the hearers go away talking to one another, and praising the speaker, but which makes them go away thoughtful and serious, and hastening to be alone.


    Do not, as some ungracious pastors do, show me the steep and thorny way to heaven; whiles, like a puffed and reckless libertine, himself the primrose path of dalliance treads, and recks not his own rede.


    Formerly it was the fashion to preach the natural; now it is the ideal. People too often forget that these things are profoundly compatible; that in a beautiful work of imagination the natural should be ideal, and the ideal natural.


  • I venerate the man whose heart is warm,
  • Whose hands are pure, whose doctrine and whose life,
  • Coincident, exhibit lucid proof
  • That he is honest in the sacred cause.
  • Cowper.

  • Judge not the preacher; for he is thy judge:
  • If thou mislike him, thou conceiv’st him not.
  • God calleth preaching folly. Do not grudge
  • To pick out treasures from an earthen pot.
  • The worst speaks something good.
  • Herbert.

  • At church, with meek and unaffected grace,
  • His looks adorn’d the venerable place;
  • Truth from his lips prevailed with double sway,
  • And fools, who came to scoff, remain’d to pray.
  • Goldsmith.

    In England we see people lulled asleep with solid and elaborate discourses of piety, who would be warmed and transported out of themselves by the bellowings and distortions of enthusiasm.


    Of all sorts of flattery, that which comes from a solemn character and stands before a sermon is the worst-complexioned. Such commendation is a satire upon the author, makes the text look mercenary, and disables the discourse from doing service.

    Jeremy Collier.

    All things with which we deal preach to us. What is a farm but a mute gospel? The chaff and the wheat, weeds and plants, blight, rain, insects, sun,—it is a sacred emblem from the first furrow of spring to the last stack which the snow of winter overtakes in the fields.


    In pulpit eloquence, the grand difficulty lies here,—to give the subject all the dignity it so fully deserves, without attaching any importance to ourselves. The Christian messenger cannot think too highly of his prince, nor too humbly of himself.


    Settle in your mind, that no sermon is worth much in which the Lord is not the principal speaker. There may be poetry, refinement, historic truth, moral truth, pathos, and all the charms of rhetoric; but all will be lost, for the purposes of preaching, if the word of the Lord is not the staple of the discourse.

    John Hall.

    I love a serious preacher, who speaks for my sake and not for his own; who seeks my salvation, and not his own vainglory. He best deserves to be heard who uses speech only to clothe his thoughts, and his thoughts only to promote truth and virtue.


    There are but few talents requisite to become a popular preacher; for the people are easily pleased if they perceive any endeavors in the orator to please them. The meanest qualifications will work this effect if the preacher sincerely sets about it.


    Oh, the unspeakable littleness of a soul which, intrusted with Christianity, speaking in God’s name to immortal beings, with infinite excitements to the most enlarged, fervent love, sinks down into narrow self-regard, and is chiefly solicitous of his own honor.


  • The things that mount the rostrum with a skip,
  • And then skip down again, pronounce a text,
  • Cry hem; and reading what they never wrote
  • Just fifteen minutes, huddle up their work,
  • And with a well-bred whisper close the scene!
  • Cowper.

    The meanness of the earthen vessel, which conveys to others the gospel treasure, takes nothing from the value of the treasure. A dying hand may sign a deed of gift of incalculable value. A shepherd’s boy may point out the way to a philosopher. A beggar may be the bearer of an invaluable present.


    Nothing is text but what is spoken of in the Bible and meant there for person and place; the rest is application; which a discreet man may do well; but it is his scripture, not the Holy Ghost’s. First, in your sermons use your logic, and then your rhetoric; rhetoric without logic is like a tree with leaves and blossoms, but no root.


    When I compare the clamorous preaching and passionate declamation too common in the Christian world with the composed dignity, the deliberate wisdom, the freedom from all extravagance, which characterized Jesus, I can imagine no greater contrast; and I am sure that the fiery zealot is no representative of Christianity.


    The grand aim of a minister must be the exhibition of gospel truth. Statesmen may make the greatest blunders in the world, but that is not his affair. Like a king’s messenger, he must not stop to take care of a person fallen down: if he can render any kindness consistently with his duty, he will do it; if not, he will prefer his office.


    Gospel ministers should not only be like dials on watches, or mile-stones upon the road, but like clocks and larums, to sound the alarm to sinners. Aaron wore bells as well as pomegranates, and the prophets were commanded to lift up their voice like a trumpet. A sleeping sentinel may be the loss of the city.

    Bishop Hall.

    His words had power because they accorded with his thoughts; and his thoughts had reality and depth because they harmonized with the life he had always lived. It was not mere breath that this preacher uttered; they were the words of life, because a life of good deeds and holy love was melted into them. Pearls, pure and rich, had been dissolved into the precious draught.

    Nathaniel Hawthorne.

    The most intelligent hearers are those who enjoy most heartily the simplest preaching. It is not they who clamor for superlatively intellectual or æsthetic sermons. Daniel Webster used to complain of some of the preaching to which he listened. “In the house of God” he wanted to meditate “upon the simple varieties, and the undoubted facts of religion;” not upon mysteries and abstractions.

    Austin Phelps.

    The minister should preach as if he felt that although the congregation own the church, and have bought the pews, they have not bought him. His soul is worth mo more than any other man’s, but it is all he has, and he cannot be expected to sell it for a salary. The terms are by no means equal. If a parishioner does not like the preaching, he can go elsewhere and get another pew, but the preacher cannot get another soul.


  • The proud he tam’d, the penitent he cheer’d:
  • Nor to rebuke the rich offender fear’d.
  • His preaching much, but more his practice, wrought;
  • (A living sermon of the truths he taught;)
  • For this by rules severe his life he squar’d:
  • That all might see the doctrines which they heard.
  • Dryden.

  • Skilful alike with tongue and pen,
  • He preached to all men everywhere
  • The Gospel of the Golden Rule,
  • The New Commandment given to men,
  • Thinking the deed, and not the creed,
  • Would help us in our utmost need.
  • Longfellow.

  • He was a shrewd and sound divine
  • Of loud Dissent the mortal terror;
  • And when, by dint of page and line,
  • He ’stablished Truth, or startled Error,
  • The Baptist found him far too deep,
  • The Deist sighed with saving sorrow,
  • And the lean Levite went to sleep
  • And dreamt of eating pork to-morrow.
  • Praed.

  • Would I describe a preacher,
  • *****
  • I would express him simple, grave, sincere;
  • In doctrine uncorrupt; in language plain,
  • And plain in manner; decent, solemn, chaste,
  • And natural in gesture; much impress’d
  • Himself, as conscious of his awful charge,
  • And anxious mainly that the flock he feeds
  • May feel it too; affectionate in look,
  • And tender in address, as well becomes
  • A messenger of grace to guilty men.
  • Cowper.

    Let all your preaching be in the most simple and plainest manner; look not to the prince, but to the plain, simple, gross, unlearned people, of which cloth the prince also himself is made. If I, in my preaching, should have regard to Philip Melancthon and other learned doctors, then should I do but little good. I preach in the simplest manner to the unskillful, and that giveth content to all. Hebrew, Greek and Latin I spare until we learned ones come together.


    To know whether a minister, young or still in flower, is in safe or dangerous paths, there are two psychometers, a comparison between which will give as infallible a return as the dry and wet bulks of the ingenious “Hygrodeik.” The first is the black broadcloth forming the knees of his pantaloons; the second the patch of carpet before his mirror. If the first is unworn and the second is frayed and threadbare, pray for him; if the first is worn and shiny, while the second keeps its pattern and texture, get him to pray for you.

    O. W. Holmes.

    To get, then, the mind of Christ, and to declare it, is the primary end of the teaching offices of the church. The living body of sympathetic men, saturated with the truth and feeling of the Book, must bring it into contact with other men, through that marvelous organ, the human voice, and with such aid as comes from the subtle sympathy that pervades assemblies of human beings.

    John Hall.