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“A History of Preaching, Vol. 1 (From the Apostolic Fathers to the Great Reformers),” E.C. Dargan; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich. 577 pages (paperback edition), $3.95. 

This book dates from 1904 and comes from the pen the Professor of Homiletics at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

It is not an easy task to write history interestingly; and I would say that a history of preaching is not the easiest history to write. The author has succeeded admirably, however; and at the same time has furnished a book with much valuable information.

This is not to say, of course, that I would agree with every evaluation of the preachers and their preaching which are mentioned in this book. Calvin, for example, could be more sympathetically treated. 

In spite of my personal aversion for paperbacks, especially when the .books involved are worthwhile, I recommend this volume as a good addition to the library of anyone interested in the study of homiletics.

—HCH 

“The Sermon, Its Homiletical Construction,” R.C.H. Lenski; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Mich. 314 pages (paperback), $2.95 

Some months ago I wrote that there were not very many good books available in the field of homiletics. Shortly thereafter I received two good ones for review. This is one of them.

The author is better known, perhaps, for his New Testament commentaries. But he was for many years Professor of Languages and Theology at Capital University, Columbus, Ohio; and this volume came from his sixteen years of teaching Homiletics. 

One does not expect Lenski to be Reformed; he was a Lutheran, and his Lutheran views shine through a book of this kind also. Yet this is an orthodox textbook on Homiletics, not a plentiful item in a day when the art of preaching is largely an abandoned art. And while this reviewer certainly does not agree with all that is said about the homiletical construction of the sermon in this volume, yet there are many valuable insights and suggestions and warnings in the book. As is stated in the introduction, “Here is a useful tool for the student and the preacher.” 

Here are a few tidbits to whet the appetite of the would-be preacher: 

“The text is to be the real source from which the substance of the sermon is drawn. Once this is fully settled, there will be no question about employing a text and using it in the right way after it is selected. Whatever else we may use in the sermon, . . . everything must be amalgamated with the central contents of the text. The thoughts furnished by the text are always chief and supreme. Whatever leads away from these thoughts is unsuitable material.” (pp. 10, 11) 

“If one or two sentences are plucked from the Bible and made to adorn a religious address, we have a mere motto, not a text at all. To use mottoes of this kind means not only to lose the advantages of a text, it means something worse. It amounts to a degradation of the Word of God. That Word in all, even its minutest parts, is not intended for ornament, but as food for the soul.” (p. 12) 

“Stick to the text! That means, Be faithful to it. By reading a text in the pulpit the preacher virtually promises that he will preach on that text. The pulpit is the last place in the world in which to break, or fail to redeem, a promise, even though that promise be only implied. It is vastly better to omit the text and the promise it involves, than to be faithless to the text and its promise.” (p. 36) 

Or let today’s “relevant” preacher heed this warning: “One of the fruits of the old vulgar Rationalism is that its exponents grew expert in preaching anything from any text. Modern rationalism still cultivates this treacherous art to a considerable degree. Each text is seemingly rubber, and nobody can guess beforehand in which direction the preacher will stretch it.” (p. 37) 

There is many a preacher today who can find much valuable advice and instruction in this book. 

This reprint is recommended. 

—HCH 

“Cyclopedia of Biblical, Theological, and Ecclesiastical Literature,” John McClintock and James Strong; Baker Book House, Grand Rapids, Michigan

This is not a review, but an advance notice of a worthwhile reprint by Baker Book House. And while I do not usually give such advance notices of publications, but limit this department to actual reviews; yet I consider this undertaking of sufficient merit to notify all who are interested in valuable additions to their libraries, so that they may obtain these volumes as they come from the press. 

“McClintock and Strong” is an old-time standard work which covers exhaustively the entire field of religious knowledge. I have in my personal library an old 10-volume set. According to Baker’s news release, this reprint will be in a 12-volume set, containing more than 31,000 articles, more than 17 million words, covering 12,490 double column pages. As you can imagine, there is a wealth of information to be obtained from volumes like these. 

Plans are to publish the 12 volumes at the rate of 4 volumes per year, beginning with Volume One in September of this year. They will be priced at $14.95, but there will be a special price of $12.95 for those who subscribe to the entire set. The price may seem steep; but I would consider this a good investment; and it is a bit less painful when you can pay for only one volume at a time. 

Congratulations to Baker Book House on this project! 

These volumes will make a good addition to any church library or any student’s or minister’s library. 

—HCH