I recently finished Warren Wiersbe’s book, Walking With the Giants, from the 1970’s. It is an out of print book that has been updated and morphed into this book that is sold today. It was given to me by the senior pastor of the church that I did a preaching internship at when I was in college (no, that wasn’t in the 70’s). I had only skimmed the book when it was given to me since I was slammed with school work but I felt it was time to give the book its due.
This old version is focused on preaching and features short biographies of famous preachers as well as a handful of topics and recommended books for preachers on those topics. It definitely has an old school feel to it which makes much of the perspective seem dated but also has a timeless feel for the things that never change.
I loved hearing some of the stories of how the different preachers lived and approached the ministry. I learned fascinating details like the fact that “[C.H.] Spurgeon once preached a sermon in his sleep. His wife wrote down the main points and gave the outline to him the next morning–and he went to the tabernacle and preached it!”
I also loved some of the analogies and illustrations that were used back in the day but still ring true. “Francis Bacon, in one of his essays, compared students to spiders, ants, and bees, and we may justly apply the illustration to preachers. Some preachers never study but, like the spider, spin everything out from within, beautiful webs that never last. Some are like ants that steal whatever they find, store it away, and use it later. But the bee sets the example for us all: he takes from many flowers, but he makes his own honey.”
Most of the preachers listed in this book lived in much more conservative climates than our church today. While their collective views on alcohol seem to be similar there is a stark contrast in the public view of cigar smoking. It was one of the themes I noted throughout the book and here are a few examples:
“[R.W.] Dale wore his hair cut short, but he had a full beard and mustache. Some of the older people in his church were scandalized when the mustache appeared, and some people even wrote letters to the newspapers in protest! They felt it gave him ‘an air of levity and worldliness.’ There is no record that anybody was upset over his smoking. ‘Food and drink he could forego without a pang,’ wrote his son, ‘but cut off from tobacco, he was little better than a lost soul.'”
“It is well known that Spurgeon smoked, although it must be admitted that many famous British preachers smoked. (I have been told by one who ought to know that Campbell Morgan smoked as many as eight cigars a day!) Once Spurgeon was gently reprimanded for his smoking by a Methodist preacher. ‘If I ever find myself smoking to excess, I promise I shall quit entirely,’ Spurgeon said. ‘What would you call smoking to excess?’ the man asked. ‘Why, smoking two cigars at the same time!’ was the answer.”
“In spite of his mother’s pleas, [Phillips] Brooks continued to smoke; his ideal vacation was made up of ‘plenty of books and time and tobacco.'”
“T.H. Darlow wrote; ‘It was weird to watch him [W. Robertson Nicoll] as he lay there, amid a medley of newspapers and books and pipes and cigarette ashes, and to know that his brain was busy absorbing knowledge and incubating ideas all the time.'”
Great Preaching Quotes from Preachers
In addition to Wiersbe’s commentary, here are a handful of quotes from these famous preachers that really stood out to me.
“All God’s giants have been weak men, who did great things for God because they reckoned on His being with them.” Hudson Taylor
“Let a man be a true preacher, really uttering the truth through his own personality, and it is strange how men will gather to listen to him.” Phillips Brooks
“One never knows what is going to happen when he puts a truth to soak in the juices of the mind.” Charles E. Jefferson
“We are not, gentlemen, heathen philosophers finding out things; we are expositors of a revelation that settled things.” John Hall