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).