Wednesday, January 17, 2007

There go the Ships

So, last night at Andrew's Bible Talk Training session, Simon mentioned a sermon outline by CH Spurgeon called "There go the ships", in which that one sentence was the basis for the whole sermon. Courtesy of (click "authors", "CH Spurgeon", "Psalm 104") we have the talk's outline right here:

Ver. 26. —There go the ships. (See" Spurgeon's Sermons, "No. 1,259.)
1. We see that the ships go.
(a) The ships are intended for going.
(b) The ships in going at last disappear from view.
(c) The ships as they go are going upon business.
(d) The ships sail upon a changeful sea.
2. How go the ships?
(a) They must go according to the wind.
(b) But still the mariner does not go by the wind without exertion on his own part.
(c) They have to be guided and steered by the helm.
(d) He who manages the helm seeks direction from charts and lights.
(e) They go according to their build.
3. Let us signal them.
(a) Who is your owner?
(b) What is your cargo?
(c) Where are you going?

I can see how you could give a really good talk using this outline, though it would probably be more like a topical talk than the expository preaching we're learning about. What do other people think about it?


At 11:58 am, Blogger Dave said...

Oh, and I have to add - I love the "hints to the village preacher" title. Does anyone know if Spurgeon wrote that of if it's something the website author did?

At 8:02 pm, Blogger Andrew Richardson said...

Thanks for posting that Dave - great conversation starter.

With some hesitation in criticising a great preacher like Spurgeon, I'd have to say I don't think he's really done any justice to his text on this occasion.

If you look at the psalm, the ships are there to reinforce the bigness of the ocean, which is reinforcing God's greatness in making it. I can't see the faintest hint in psalm 104 that the ships are a metaphor for God's people.

One of the biggest problems with using the Bible in this way (especially in todays climate) is that it feeds the myth that there is no absolute truth. I mean if there goes the ships can mean what Spurgeon says it means - it can mean anything. Perhaps it's some advice about transport - Christians should only travel by Ship. Maybe it's saying Christians should always go on holidays by the sea where you can see the ships go by. As far as I can see those interpretations have just as much connection to psalm 104 as Spurgeons.

A good rule of thumb about Biblical interpretation is that a normal reader, with the appropriate understanding of background and context, should be able to come up with my interpretation. If not - it's probably off the mark.

Unfortunatly I don't think any normal reader would ever come up with Spurgeon's interpretation.


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