On Commentaries

“The closet is the best study. The commentators are good instructors but the author himself is far better” (1)

“Preaching is not an imitative exercise. Every preacher is to regard himself as an original exhibitor and enforcer of the terms of human salvation; a channel of gracious speech, markedly different from every other.
…Turn it which way we will, the conclusion is always before us, the preacher’s preaching is just another form of himself; i.e., if he does his own thinking; exhibits no emotions that he does not actually feel; and presents divine truth, not as a bundle of opinions which orthodoxy has agreed upon, but as so much vital blood that has been made to course in his veins, and therefore takes the form of his own Christian life. It is these live men whom God supremely calls; men who have eaten the word, as a prophet did, and into whom it has passed to become a perpetual throb in their hearts; so that when it comes forth again, it will proceed upon its errand, bearing the warmth of their innermost experiences; those experiences therein are traced the musings which continued until they could find vent only in fire; the fire that burns quickly into other souls, melts where it burns, and remoulds where it melts.” (2)

“You must think through what Scripture says in order to be able to share the significance of commentary information. No commentator has room to write down all the implications, insights, and truths given in a text. No distant educator or long-dead scholar knows your situation or your congregation’s concerns. It is not wise habitually to run to commentaries as the first step of sermon preparation, lest your thoughts start running in a groove carved by someone not in touch with what God’s people need you to address today.” (3)


1. Quoted in Helmut Thielicke, Encounter with Spurgeon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1977), 116.
2. Joseph Ruggles Wilson, “In What Sense Are Preachers to Preach Themselves?” Southern Presbyterian Review 25 (1874): 355-57.
3. Bryan Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching: Redeeming the Expository Sermon (Grand Rapids: Baker, 2018), 58.

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