I understand that for a regular preacher there is a temptation to become frustrated at the lack of change observed in the congregation following his preaching. A fruit of this frustration is a tendency to begin to moralize. He begins to preach sermons heavy in application.
I found a copy of The Craft of Sermon Illustration by W. E. Sangster in the secondhand box at St. John’s College library this morning. It only cost 30p. “Worth a punt.”, I thought.
I have had a quick skim through. On page 88, he says,
We have laid it down as a rule that an illustration cannot be a good illustration if it needs to have its point laboured. Even children have long since rebelled against sententious moralizing. They become restless the moment the unskilful speaker begins ‘applying’ his tale.
We have pointed out that with the exceptions of the Parable of the Sower, and the wheat and the tares, Jesus never applied his parables – and even then he did so only at the disciples’ request.
He said, ‘He that hath ears to hear, let him hear.’
That was all! It was all there, if you had a modicum of spiritual discernment to take it: tale and truth together.
That is not to say that a man may not give the point of his illustration a couple of hammer strokes when he has made it. Indeed, he would be wise to do so. But only a half-wit would confuse that with moralizing and it should be done with clean chiselled phrases which can be driven swiftly and sharply in.
Good stuff. Chiselled phrases. Interesting image.
Nor does he mince his words. Half-wit indeed.