This is part 4 of “Preachers of the Past,” a series where we discuss four distinct preachers from the past, ranging from 347 A.D. to 1945.
We’ve included detailed preaching points for study and discussion towards the bottom of this post.
Some Background on G. Campbell Morgan (1863-1945)
Campbell Morgan was the son of a Baptist minister, and his home was one of such genuine piety that in later years he wrote: “While my father could not compel me to be a Christian, I had no choice because of what he did for me and what I saw in him.”
He received an excellent education at Gratton house, “The Douglas School for Young Gentlemen,” but never earned any academic degree.
When Campbell was 10 years old, D.L. Moody came to England for the first time. The effect of Moody’s ministry, combined with the dedication of Morgan’s parents, made such an impression on the life of young Morgan that, at the age of 13, he preached his first sermon. Two years later, he was preaching regularly in country chapels on Sundays and holidays.
He had a crisis of faith over the authority of the Bible, and stopped preaching for two years, but apart from that, from age 13 on, he never stopped preaching. Morgan would later say that “the Scriptures, as originally committed to writing, were safeguarded in every word by the Holy Spirit.”
Although he had no formal training for the ministry, his tireless devotion to the study of the Bible helped him to become a prominent Bible teacher of his day. In 1886, at the age of 23, Morgan left the teaching profession for which he had been trained and began a full-time ministry of the Word of God.
He was ordained to the Congregational ministry in 1890, having been rejected by the Wesleyan Methodists two years prior. He was known as a great evangelist, even more so than an expositor (by this I don’t mean an expository preacher, which he was, but an author/commentator/writer/expositor of God’s Word) in his early days.
Association with D.L. Moody
Morgan worked with Moody and Sankey in their evangelistic tour of Great Britain in 1883. His reputation as a preacher and Bible expositor soon encompassed England and spread to the United States.
In 1896, D.L. Moody invited him to give a lecture to the students at the Moody Bible Institute. This was the first of his 54 crossings of the Atlantic to minister the Word. After the death of Moody in 1899, Morgan became director of the Northfield Bible Conference.
The many thousands of converts from the ministry of Moody needed a teacher of the Bible to strengthen and deepen their faith, and G. Campbell Morgan became that teacher.
Pastorate at Westminster Chapel, London
In 1840 the area where Westminster Chapel now stands was relatively undeveloped. It was an unhealthy poverty-stricken slum—perhaps the worst in England. Since that time, the area has improved considerably and historic attractions such as Buckingham Palace and Westminster Abbey bring millions of tourists to the area each year.
Prior to the arrival of Dr. R.T Kendall in 1976, Westminster Chapel had three particularly famous pastors:
- The Revd. Samuel Martin (1842-1878),
- G. Campbell Morgan (1904-1917 &1933-1943), and
- Dr. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1939-1968).
The Congregationalists wanted a stronger Christian witness in the area. The impetus came from the Regent Street Chapel and the means from the Metropolis Chapel Building Association, who built a Chapel in Buckingham Gate on the site of the third Westminster Hospital. The building, seating 1,500 and with 22 members, opened on May 6, 1841.
Such was the diligence and success of the first pastor, Samuel Martin, that, by 1860, the church building could not accommodate the expanding membership. On July 6, 1865, the present building, seating 2,500, was opened (on the same site).
During the early years of this century, Westminster Chapel became known as the white elephant of Congregationalism. Many gifted men were approached about the pulpit vacancy, but none appeared interested. Serious consideration was given to selling the site and using the proceeds to build smaller churches away from the center of London.
Under God’s providence, when the situation was most critical, George Campbell Morgan accepted the challenge and the call to Westminster Chapel, where he began his ministry on the last Sunday of October 1904.
Morgan was a gifted preacher and teacher; he was a schoolmaster before ordination, with a tall imposing presence and perfect speaking voice. He was a Congregationalist by persuasion and was well-known in England. He brought his friend, Albert Swift, as a co-pastor.
Morgan also had well-planned organization, Bible-centered preaching and teaching, meaningful weekday and Sunday activities and services, and excellent cooperation with the people. He was in charge of the preaching and teaching while Swift supervised the Sunday School and youth work.
A sisterhood visited the poor and sick. Mr. Alfred Hewitt was a full-time evangelist. A Friday night Bible school was instituted (Friday was chosen because few other churches had Friday evening meetings) and it became the forerunner of the present-day Westminster Chapel School of Theology, and it is from this ministry that came The Analyzed Bible.
The first edition of the Westminster Record appeared in January 1905, founded by Morgan and edited by him and Swift Tithing. This was the beginning of missionary work that has continued ever since.
His preaching and his weekly Friday night Bible classes attracted thousands. Morgan proved himself to be an administrator of rare ability—reorganizing, renovating, and skillfully raising funds. The deteriorating structure of the Westminster Chapel was repaired and soon Westminster became a spiritual dynamo in the teeming metropolis.
During his first pastorate at Westminster, Morgan made almost annual trips to America. In 1916 he resigned from Westminster Chapel to do itinerant preaching. Between 1919 and 1932, Morgan traveled widely in evangelistic and preaching tours across the United States. Many thousands of people heard him preach in nearly every state and Canada.
For a year (1927-1928) he served on the faculty of the Bible Institute of Los Angeles, and for a year (1930-1931) he was a Bible lecturer at Gordon College of Theology and Missions in Boston. Between 1929 and 1932 he was pastor of the Tabernacle Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
Morgan’s appeal was phenomenal. Often when he spoke, the crowds were so large that police control was necessary.
His paramount contribution to the Christian faith was teaching the Bible and showing people how to study it for themselves. Superbly gifted, he dedicated his insight and eloquence to a single objective: communicating God’s truth with scholarly integrity, rhetorical lucidity, and arresting relevance.
Morgan published over 60 books and booklets, many of which are still available today. Lloyd-Jones called him “the last of the great pulpit personalities” and yet, he is most famous for being an evangelist and was happiest as a traveling preacher.
It is difficult to summarize Morgan. He was a gifted speaker who preached God’s Word. As such, one could say that he touched on every topic from the Bible, be it trials, salvation by grace through faith, Jesus’ parables, the Holy Spirit, money, the life of David, the Psalms, etc. He focused on the Cross, the person of Christ, God’s grace, holiness, discipleship, and all the topics that come through Biblical exposition.
He was well-rounded and a balanced teacher, and also instrumental in teaching people how to study the Bible for themselves. Good preachers teach the text, but also show the Church how to engage in study.
“The supreme work of the Christian minister is the work of preaching. This is a day in which one of our great perils is that of doing a thousand little things to the neglect of the one thing, which is preaching.”G. Campbell Morgan, Preaching.
That is a quote from Morgan’s book Preaching, which is out of print, but can be found in some libraries and on sale at used book stores. (ISBN 10: 0801059534 / ISBN 13: 9780801059537. Click here for copies available at AbeBooks.)
His other key points from Preaching:
- Morgan wrote Preachingin response to hundreds who asked him about his “methods of preparation in expository preaching.” He says that the apostle, prophet, evangelist, pastor, and teacher (Eph. 4:9-10) all have one thing in common: they all have preaching as their vocation.
- He distinguishes the key words used in reference to preaching in the Greek New Testament
- Euaggelizomeans to preach the Gospel, the proclamation of the Good News. It comes from the word from which we derive “evangelist.” This assumes that there is a man who gives the news, and the grace of God which made the news good.
- Kerussameans proclamation from a throne. It is used as a message delivered by a messenger on behalf of a ruler.
- After combining these thoughts, he defines preaching as: the declaration of the grace of God to human need on the authority of the throne of God, and it demands on the part of those who hear that they show obedience to the thing declared.
- Morgan quotes Bishop Frazier, who said, “This age wants, demands, and is prepared to receive, not the priest, but the prophet.” He goes on to say “Preaching is a great thing.”
- Morgan expounds upon three basic concepts of preaching: Truth, Clarity, and Passion.
- Truth: Paul told Timothy: Preach the Word (2 Tim. 4). He likens preaching to sharing a seed, which needs to be understood, developed, and applied. Preaching is based on the fact that God revealed Himself through the Incarnate Word, and through the Bible. Preachers reveal what human intellect alone cannot find out. The Spirit is involved of course, but He also uses the Word. Preachers reveal the mysteries of God (mysteries meaning, things which were not known, but have now been made known/ revealed. Preachers explain and reveal these truths). “When we cease to be other-worldly, we lose our ability to touch this world with any healing and uplifting power.” “Preaching is declaring the truth of God as it bears upon every local situation.” He also stressed that the preacher has divine authority and if it “is an exposition, interpretation, and application of some part of truth, it always carries authority.” “Our business is uttering the Word of God.”
- Clarity: The sermon should have a message that is perfectly clear, and we should depend upon the Spirit to help us in this clarity. The Holy Spirit makes the Word plain, since preaching is a demonstration of the power of the Spirit. Use words that all can understand: use “happiness” instead of “felicity.” Make sure the illustrations uplift the Word and not drag it down.
- Passion: Since we are sharing the most important things in the world – “the glory of life, the tragedy of sin, and its remedy” and the truth about God, we should be enthusiastic. The difference between many preachers and actors: “An actor presents fiction as though it were truth, and some preachers present truth as though it were fiction.” This is a high calling and should be done nobly, with zeal.
- He goes on to give advice we’ve heard before:
- choose appropriate chunks of texts and preach the central idea;
- do not preach your conviction/ideas, preach the text or you lose authority;
- craft the message carefully with exposition of the text, illustrations, quotes, etc.;
- read commentaries that give exegesis and give them priority over devotional works;
- be creative and use your imagination to think of ways to present the Bible;
- stay away from allegorizing; and
- have a clear outline in your head and make your divisions clear to the people.
- He then writes about having a good introduction that grasps the hearer—calling their attention and helping them prepare their minds/hearts, typically through an illustration—and a conclusion that calls people to action and fastens the truth upon their consciences. He disagreed that the Spirit alone applies the text, but sought to craft the last 10/15 minutes carefully so that the truth was not only explained, but applied.
From Morgan’s Preaching with Passion (this is an article, but has excerpts from the Preaching book):
“A man was formerly said to ‘handle his text.’ If he handles his text he cannot preach at all. But when his text handles him, when it grips and masters and possesses him, and in experience he is responsive to the thing he is declaring, having conviction of the supremacy of truth and experience of the power of truth, I think that must create passion. I am not arguing for mere excitement.
“Painted fire never burns, and an imitated enthusiasm is the most empty thing that can possibly exist in a preacher. Given the preacher with a message from the whole Bible, seeing its bearing on life at any point, I cannot personally understand that man not being swept sometimes right out of himself by the fire and the force and the fervor of his work.
“The preacher should never address a crowd without remembering his ultimate citadel is the citadel of the human will. He may travel along the line of emotions, but he is after the will. He may approach along the line of intellect, but he is after the will. When preaching becomes merely discussion in the realm of the intellect, or—forgive my use of the word—fooling in the realm of the emotions, and when preaching ends in the intellectual or emotional, it fails. It is successful only when it is able to storm the will, under the will of God. The preacher comes with good news; but he does not come with something to be trifled with. His message has an insistent demand, because he comes on behalf of a King.
“During the great Welsh Revival, it is said, a certain minister was marvelously successful in his preaching. He had but one sermon, but under it, hundreds of men were saved. Far away from where he lived in a lonely valley, news of this wonderful success reached a brother preacher. Forthwith he became anxious to find out the secret of his success. At length, reaching the humble cottage where the good man lived, he said, ‘Brother, where did you get that sermon?’
“He was taken into a poorly furnished room and pointed to a spot where the carpet was worn shabby and bare, near a window that looked out toward the mountains. The minister said, ‘Brother, that’s where I got that sermon. My heart was heavy for men. One evening I knelt there and cried for power to preach as I had never preached before.’”
Morgan also wrote an article based on Eph. 4:
“And he gave some, apostles; and some, prophets; and some, evangelists; and some, pastors and teachers” (Eph. 4:11).
“The business of those within the Church is to teach the word of truth in such form and fashion that the Church will be able to incarnate the Word, and flash the light on the world’s darkness. The apostolic function, which, technically is expressing truth in its balanced form and proportion, is always to that end. The pastoral function is breaking the Bread of Life, feeding the flock of God, leading individual souls to new appreciation, in order that by obedience thereto they may proclaim the truth. These gifts within the Church are bestowed in order that the Church may fulfill her function of being the pillar and the ground of the truth (1Tim. 3:15).
“The Church must not only fulfill its function by incarnation, she must do it also by proclamation. In order to do this, she has her prophets and evangelists. The function of the prophet is to proclaim the evangel, call men to repentance and faith. The prophet and the evangelist must speak on behalf of the Church, explaining the secrets of the Church’s experience. If there be no experience to explain, the declaration of a theory is of no avail. For one brief moment let us go back to the Day of Pentecost. Think of the significant and important fact, that Peter’s preaching was made possible by the Church’s enthusiasm. What attracted the crowd? A Church with its eyes aflame with light and its lips filled with song! All Jerusalem gathered together, and they were amazed, and they were perplexed, and they said, What meaneth this? The Church attracted the crowd by its enthusiasm, and so the opportunity of the preacher was created. This is the supreme work of the Christian Church, and it is only as she does her work that men and nations and the world will live by the Bible.”
Other quotes from Morgan:
- “To serve the Word is to fulfill the highest function of which man is capable.”
- “The man who preaches the cross must be a crucified man.”
- “Revival cannot be organized, but we can set our sails to catch the wind from heaven when God chooses to blow upon His people once again.”
- “To the individual believer indwelt by the Holy Spirit there is granted the direct impression of the Spirit of God on the spirit of man, imparting the knowledge of His will in matters of the smallest and greatest importance. This has to be sought and waited for.”
Preachers of the Past” is a four-part series written by The Rev. Canon David Roseberry and his study assistant.
Canon Roseberry is the President of LeaderWorks and, along with Phil Ashey of the American Anglican Council hosts RSVP (Rectors’ Summit for Vision and Planning), a four-day intensive retreat for Rectors of Anglican Churches. Information about RSVP’s annual retreat in December can be found at RectorsSummit.com.
Canon David has over 35 years of local congregational ministry, diocesan and national involvement, leadership, and ministry experience and is the founder of Leaderworks. He was the founding Rector/Pastor, Christ Church, Plano and currently serves as the Strategic Leader and Dean, Diocese of C4SO.