Essay / Theology

“Why So Much Preaching Is Lost Among Us”

Isaac AmbroseThe Puritan Isaac Ambrose (1604-1664) wrote a large book called Looking Unto Jesus. If I call it a devotional book, you’ll simply need to upgrade your notion of what a devotional book could be, or the condition to which all devotional books should aspire. Ambrose wrote it with the design of placing the mind of his readers in the presence of Jesus Christ. It’s more than 600 pages long, and demands close attention. But it trains the mind in attending to Jesus like no other book I’ve ever encountered (well, okay, John’s gospel does better).

One of the central distinctions Ambrose makes is between simply knowing something on the one hand, and considering it on the other. Both are modes of “looking unto Jesus,” but but considering a truth about Jesus is a step further than simply knowing it.

In the section on Christ’s resurrection, Ambrose explains the difference:

It is not enough to know a saving necessary truth,  but it is required farther that we digest truths and that we draw forth their strength for the nourishment and refreshing of our poor souls. As a man may in half an hour chew and take into his stomach that meat which he must have seven or eight hours at least to digest, so a man may take into his understanding more truths in an hour than he is able to digest well in many.

What good those men are like to get by sermons or providences who are unaccustomed to this work of meditation, I cannot imagine. It is observed by some that this is the reason why so much preaching is lost amongst us; why professors that run from sermon to sermon and are never weary of hearing or reading have notwithstanding such languishing starved souls; because they will not meditate.

And therefore God commanded Joshua not only to read the law but to consider of it and dwell upon it; “This book of the law shall not depart out of thy mouth but thou shalt meditate therein day and night” (Joshua 1:8).

Why, this is the duty that I am now pressing to, if thou knowest these things, consider, ruminate, meditate, ponder on them again and again. And because this work requires enlargedness of heart and spirit, therefore take it into parts and consider of each of them apart by itself…

Easter Sunday is a single day, and great things are spoken on that day. But the whole season following is Easter season, and the risen Christ is with us, to be considered daily.

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