“There are some who preach before their people, like actors on the stage, to display themselves and to please their audience. Not such were the self-denied preachers of Ross-shire.
There are others who preach over their people. Studying for the highest, instead of doing so for the lowest, in intelligence, they elaborated learned treatises, which float like mist, when delivered, over the heads of their hearers. Not such were the earnest preachers of Ross-shire.
There are some who preach past their people. Directing their praise or their censure to intangible abstractions, they never take aim at the views and the conduct of the individuals before them. They step carefully aside, lest their hearers should be struck by their shafts, and aim them at phantoms beyond them. Not such were the faithful preachers of Ross-shire.
There are others who preach at their people, serving out in a sermon the gossip of the week, and seemingly possessed with the idea that the transgressor can be scolded out of the ways of iniquity. Not such were the wise preachers of Ross-shire.
There are some who preach towards their people. They aim well, but they are weak. Their eye is along the arrow towards the hearts of their hearers, but their arm is too feeble for sending it on to the mark. Superficial in their experience and in their knowledge, they reach not the cases of God’s people by their doctrine, and they strike with no vigour at the consciences of the ungodly. Not such were the powerful preachers of Ross-shire.
There are others still, who preach along their congregation. Instead of standing with their bow in front of the ranks, these archers take them in line, and, reducing their mark to an individual, never change the direction of their aim. Not such were the discriminating preachers of Ross-shire.
But there are a few who preach to the people directly and seasonably the mind of God in His Word, with authority, unction, wisdom, fervour, and love. Such as these last were the eminent preachers of Ross-shire.”
J C Ryle, Simplicity in Preaching:
“The first object of a minister should be to preach the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but “the truth as it is in Jesus.” But the next thing he ought to aim at is, that his sermon may be understood; and it will not be understood by most of his hearers if it is not simple.