The Qualities Necessary For Preaching

by Humbert of Romans

Chapter Two


We shall now consider the necessary qualities of a preacher. Some pertain to his life; others to his knowledge, his language, his merit, or to his person.

VII. The Preacher’s life

He ought to live a truly good life. St. Gregory says,

“Before preaching the word of God, he must examine his own life.”

There are certain conditions essential to a good life, and, consequently, these conditions are necessary for a preacher. His life ought to be in harmony with his conscience, for a troubled conscience will prevent him from lifting up his voice fearlessly. St. Gregory rightly says,

“No one can have confidence in preaching good doctrine, if his tongue is paralyzed by a bad conscience.”

His life ought to be irreproachable; for how can he reproach others with what he himself is guilty of? That is why the Apostle wrote to the Philippians,

“Without blemish in the midst of a depraved and perverse generation . . . holding fast the word of life” (Phil. 2:15,16),

in order to preach it to others.

His life ought to be as austere as John the Baptist’s, the preacher of penitence, or St. Paul’s who said,

“I chastise my body and bring it into subjection lest perhaps after preaching to others I myself should be rejected” (I Cor. 9:27).

Elevated to a lofty plane by the very nature of the office, the life of God’s minister must be without blemish, since his conduct ought to measure up to the dignity of this sacred work. Isaiah exhorted this when he wrote:

“Get thee up upon a high mountain, though that bringest good tidings to Zion” (Isaiah 40:9).

Notice, however, that it does not suffice that the preacher’s conduct be simply inoffensive. His life ought to be a shining light to all men and he should preach to them by word of mouth and, above all, by good example, in the manner described by St. Paul:

“ . . . Among these you shine like stars in the world, holding fast the word of life . . .” (Phil. 2:15-16).

We have noticed in a previous passage that this remark of the Apostle is appropriately applied to those engaged in preaching the Divine Word.

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Nor should the preacher’s own life be out of harmony with his words.

“Do not let you actions betray your words, lest, while you speak to the Faithful, they say within themselves: ‘Why don’t you yourself do the things that you preach?’”

is the admonition of St. Jerome.

His life ought to diffuse, round about him, the perfume of good example. He must be like the Apostle, the favorite of Christ, in order to draw others to himself.

“The renown of Judas Maccabee extended even to the ends of the world” (I Macc. 3:9),

declares the sacred text, which the gloss applies to the good preacher, charged with defending God’s cause and His law.

This is an excerpt from the Preachers Institute publication:

On the Formation of Preachers

You can purchase the Ebook HERE, the Kindle version HERE

About Fr. John A. Peck

Director of the Preachers Institute, priest in the Orthodox Church in America, award-winning graphic designer and media consultant, and non-profit administrator.
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