There are some great books, past and present, on preaching and pastoral ministry. This one deserves to stand alongside the best. It has the advantage of being centred on one man through whose life, teaching and preaching the ministry is seen in a personal, living and practical rather than a mere theoretical way. Here the principles advocated by other writers come to life in one man - Archibald Alexander. It is the fruit of long, deep research by a contemporary American Presbyterian pastor and includes the use of much hitherto unpublished material.
The first part describes Alexander's spiritual experience and career from early days. This took place in the context of frequent revivals occurring in his part of Virginia in the late 18th century. His conversion and assurance came slowly but thereafter he exhibited a gift for spontaneous exhortation. Later he set up the Princeton Seminary with three students.
The main part is devoted to his work at Princeton and will be found of great help to present-day prospective and practising preachers. He advocated changing the 17th century style of sermons with many points to a less elaborate one directed to the conscience. He himself normally preached extemporaneously, which is why he left so few published sermons. He believed strongly in 'characteristical preaching' - that is, adapting material and style to the particular audience. Surely audience sensitivity should be our top priority.
There are excellent sections on 'Preparation of Heart' and 'The Matter of Preaching' (what to preach). The last part is about Alexander himself as a preacher, showing he preached as he taught others. No minister or student will regret the time and money he invests in this book.
Eric Lane, Yateley