August 31, 2020

A Fresh Text

The Skating Minister, Henry Raeburn (ca. 1795)
An excerpt:
In many instances the sermons prepared during the first few years of a ministry served for all its subsequent continuance, with perhaps some modifications or additions suggested by the altered circumstances of the time. It used to be said of some clergymen that they kept their sermons in a barrel, which when emptied was refilled again with the old manuscripts. Dr. Hanna, the biographer of Chalmers, used to tell of one such minister who had preached the same short round of sermons for so many years that at last the beadle was deputed by one or two members of the congregation to ask whether, if he could not prepare a new sermon, he would at least give them a fresh text. Next Sunday, to the astonishment of the audience, the minister gave out a text from which he had never before preached: "Genesis, first chapter, first verse, and first clause of the verse." Every Bible was opened at the place, and the listeners, nearly all of whom were ignorant of the suggested arrangement, leant back in their pews in eager anticipation of the new sermon. With great deliberation the preacher began: "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. Who this Nicodemus was, my brethren, commentators are not agreed." And the old story of Nicodemus was repeated, as it had been so often before.
Scottish Reminiscences, by Archibald Geikie 
(Glasgow: Maclehose & Sons, 1904), pp. 80-81

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