The Dead Still Preach

Ecclesiastes 9:5 states quite bluntly, “For the living know that they will die, but the dead know nothing, and they have no more reward, for the memory of them is forgotten.” The vast majority of those who’ve died are forgotten (or will soon be forgotten). Most of us leave surprisingly little evidence of our having existed behind.

Yet by God’s grace, not all of the dead remain silent. Many of our brothers and sisters in Christ continue to minister, encourage, and admonish through the words they wrote down. These titans of the faith are our examples and forerunners. Reading Augustine’s Confessions or Calvin’s Institutes soaks us in the historical reality of Christianity. We become further connected to the great cloud of witnesses whose races have already been run.

Throughout the history of the church, much of the great theologians were also pastors of a local congregation to whom they preached at least once a week (often more). Even some who were not pastors still found themselves regularly preaching in their church (i.e. Luther). Yet this significant portion of their lives seems to be commonly forgotten. The tragedy of such a neglect is that it paints off-kilter portraits of these men. Many whom we call great theologians certainly wrote for the benefit of the church universal, but they did so while also shepherding a local church. Week after week, they labored to feed their congregations the Word, while also guarding them from the teeth of false teachers and their seductive doctrines.

Fortunately, many sermons throughout church history have been preserved, allowing us to meet the pastor, not just the theologian. But diving into the sermons of men like Chrysostom or Edwards can be rather intimidating. First, many are very unfamiliar with church history and its key figures therein. Second, reading the classic works of theology is lofty enough of a goal without also adding sermons to the reading list.

The first Sunday of each month I will be recording sermons from church history for a series called Dead Men Preaching. I recorded a reading of the sermon below by Thomas Watson back in 2020 whenever our church read through Heaven Taken by Storm together. Titled “Parting Counsels”, Watson delivered this message to his church after the Act of Uniformity ejected him from the pastorate. The best place to read this and other sermons from this time is Sermons of the Great Ejection from the Puritan Paperback series.

I, of course, won’t claim to agree with each person’s theological views (or even with everything in the sermons that are read). If you want to know what I believe, you can read or listen to my sermons. These are their messages; I’m just sharing them. These dead men are still preaching, and they’re worth hearing.


One thought on “The Dead Still Preach

  1. George Higginbotham

    “Books may preach when the author cannot, when the author may not, when the author dares not, yea, and which is more, when the author is not.” Thomas Brooks (1608-1680)

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