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I Will Not Be a Velvet-Mouthed Preacher

This October will mark the 300th anniversary of the birth of George Whitefield, famed preacher of the First Great Awakening. Several years ago John Piper gave a biographical sketch of Whitefield that offered penetrating insights on his ministry. One story, recounted briefly below, gives insight into Whitefield’s passion in his preaching, for which he is renown.

I’ll tell you a story. The Archbishop of Canterbury in the year 1675 was acquainted with Mr. Butterton the [actor]. One day the Archbishop . . . said to Butterton . . . ‘pray inform me Mr. Butterton, what is the reason you actors on stage can affect your congregations with speaking of things imaginary, as if they were real, while we in church speak of things real, which our congregations only receive as if they were imaginary?’ ‘Why my Lord,’ says Butterton, ‘the reason is very plain. We actors on stage speak of things imaginary, as if they were real and you in the pulpit speak of things real as if they were imaginary.’”

Therefore, I will bawl [shout loudly], I will not be a velvet-mouthed preacher.

Some may read this quote and see it as only relating to those who are involved in a regular, ongoing preaching ministry. However, if one meditates on Whitefield’s insight, we can see that whether we are involved in parenting, teaching the Bible, counseling, or evangelism, we are called to speak of these realities depicted in Scripture as the most real and beautiful thing we can possibly talk about. Many things in this world will vie for our attention, but may our deepest passions and greatest joys be expressed over the truths about our great God contained in the Scriptures.

Jeremy Kimble (PhD, Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary) is Assistant Professor of Theological Studies at Cedarville University. He is an editor for Credo Magazine as well as the author of That His Spirit May Be Saved: Church Discipline as a Means to Repentance and Perseverance and numerous book reviews. He is married to Rachel and has two children, Hannah and Jonathan.

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