In complete public worship, there should be the preaching of God’s Word.  I can find no record of church assemblies in the New Testament in which preaching and teaching orally does not occupy a most prominent position.  It appears, to me, to be the chief instrument by which the Holy Spirit not only awakens sinners, but also leads on and establishes saints.  I observe that, in the very last words that Paul wrote to Timothy, as a young minister, he especially enjoins on him to “preach the Word” (2 Timothy 4.2).  I cannot, therefore, believe that any system of worship in which the sermon is made little of or is thrust into a corner can be a scriptural system or one likely to have the blessing of God.  I have no faith in the general utility of services composed entirely of prayer-reading, hymn-singing, sacrament-receiving, and walking in procession.  I hold firmly, with Bishop Latimer, that it is one of Satan’s great aims to exalt ceremonies and put down preaching.  There is a deep meaning in the words, “despise not prophesying” (1 Thessalonians 5.20, AV).  A contempt for sermons is a pretty sure mark of a decline in spiritual religion.

From: Worship: Its Priority, Principles, and Practice by J. C. Ryle (Edinburgh: The Banner of Truth Trust, 2005), pp. 18-19.  This booklet is excerpted from Ryle’s Knots Untied (1877).


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