As I’m preparing to preach on Luke 8 this weekend, I came across a sermon from George Whitefield on the same passage. Using Luke 8:18 (“take heed, therefore, how ye hear”) as his text, he offers counsel for believers on how to listen to a sermon. Here is a quick summary of what he says.
“In order that you may hear sermons with profit and advantage….”
1. Come to hear them, not out of curiosity, but from a sincere desire to know and do your duty.
Formality and hypocrisy in any religious exercise, is an abomination unto the Lord. And to enter his house merely to have our ears entertained, and not our hearts reformed, must certainly be highly displeasing to the Most High God, as well as unprofitable to ourselves.
2. Prepare your heart before you hear and give diligent heed to the things that are spoken from the Word of God.
The sacred truths that gospel ministers deliver, are not dry insipid lectures on moral philosophy, intended only to amuse us for a while; but the great mysteries of godliness, which, therefore, we are bound studiously to liken to, left through our negligence we should either not understand them, or by any other means let them slip.
3. Do not entertain even the least prejudice against the minister.
Even if a preacher could speak with the tongue of men and angels, if his audience was prejudiced against him, he would be but as sounding brass, or tinkling cymbal. That was the reason Jesus Christ Himself could not do many mighty works, nor preach to any great effect among those of His own country; for they were offended at Him. Take heed therefore, and beware of entertaining any dislike against those whom the Holy Ghost has made overseers over you. Consider that the clergy are men of like passions with yourselves. But ministers speak not in their own, but in Christ’s name.
4. Be careful not to depend too much on a preacher, or think more highly of him than you ought to think.
Preferring one teacher over another has often been of ill consequence to the church of God. It was a fault which the great Apostle of the Gentiles condemned in the Corinthians (1 Cor. 1:12; 2:3-5). Are not all ministers sent forth to be ministering ambassadors to those who shall be heirs of salvation? And are they not all therefore greatly to be esteemed for their work’s sake?
5. Make particular application to your own hearts of everything that is delivered.
When our Savior was discoursing at the last supper with His beloved disciples and foretold that one of them should betray Him, each of them immediately applied it to his own heart and said, ‘Lord, is it I?’ (Matt. 26:22). Oh, that persons, in like manner, when preachers are dissuading from any sin or persuading to any duty, instead of crying, ‘This was intended for such and such a one!’ instead would turn their thoughts inwardly, and say, ‘Lord, is it I?’ How far more beneficial should we find discourses to be than now they generally are!
6. Pray to the Lord, before, during, and after every sermon.
Pray to endue the minister with power to speak, and to grant you a will and ability to put into practice what he shall show from the Book of God to be your duty. This would be an excellent means to render the word preached effectual to the enlightening and enflaming your hearts; and without this, all the other means before prescribed will be in vain.
If only all who hear me this day would seriously apply their hearts to practice what has now been told them! How ministers would see Satan, like lightning, fall from heaven, and people find the Word preached sharper than a two-edged sword and mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the devil’s strongholds!
You can read the entire sermon here.