Alexander Somerville (1811-1855) was one of the closest friends of Robert Murray McCheyne. Serving the Lord in Glasgow and having a powerful ministry in his own right, we see something of Somerville’s rigorous preparation in his “Rules for sermon writing.” These are sane and above all spiritually-minded guidelines. Why not print them off, as I have, and pin them in near proximity to wherever you prepare your sermons?
1. Pray without ceasing for clear views of your subject, for help in composition, in committing to memory, and in delivery.
2. Pray without ceasing for the people you are to address.
3. Remember you are to speak to souls who must either be impressed or hardened by the sermon you deliver.
4. Write for Christ and of Christ.
5. Remember that the Holy Spirit not merely can alone show to the heart the things that are Christ’s, but that He must be recognised as doing so by us. Keep the Spirit’s peculiar office and work continually in view.
6. Remember that what you write must have eternal consequences.
7. Write as one who must give an account to Christ for so doing.
8. Write for a people who must give an account to Christ for the manner in which they hear.
9. Never write for the sake of magnifying yourself.
10. Remember the flock of Christ must not be fed with ingenuities, but with the bread of life.
11. Write from the heart with simplicity, plainness (so that a little child may comprehend), and godly sincerity.
12. Pray for other congregations and for your own companions in the work of preaching.
13. Never write without this before you – and read at least three times in the composition of each discourse.