At moderatorial sermon delivered in the High Kirk of
Edinburgh at the licencing of students by the Presbytery of Edinburgh, 2nd
Preach, saying, the kingdom of heaven is at hand.
Matthew 10. v. 7.
The issuing of a licence to preach is an ecclesiastical
procedure centuries older than the reformation,  This formality
demonstrated the Church's confidence in the licentiate's fitness to speak in
Christ's name and with his authority.
While this meeting of the presbytery coincides with the
passing of final church and university examinations, it is this significant
act of the church that marks the beginning of your ministry, to be completed
when the whole people of God in one place call you to be their minister.
Your final destiny is to be an overseer, a bishop, in the church of God.
Yet, as a precondition to all this, you have to assure the church that, as
the mediaeval latinists said, you are a preco, a watchman, a crier, a
herald, a proclaimer, a preacher. 
Therefore, I wish to point you towards your calling as a
bishop in the church of God - one who is given oversight in Christ's kirk in
Scotland. You will remember from your studies that a true bishop, prior to
the perversions of the office which, gradually developing in the
Constantinian age, reached their full damning effect in the later middle
ages, the true bishop was and is an overseer, interceder, preacher, pastor
and doctor of the church.
Above all else, your first responsibility, as understood
in the reformed tradition, is to be a preacher 
whose proclamation is sustained and enriched by all the other aspects of
Preach because you have something to say, not because you
have to say something. Be true to the Word of God and be true to yourself.
Do not be imprisoned in a particular school of theology. Exercise your
Christian freedom. Do not conform to transient temporary concepts. Do not
reiterate popular opinions even when you believe them to be true -such
popular views will be well known already and the pulpit is no place to seek
to secure popularity and praise.
If your preaching is not to be simply a church
recitation, your preaching must be prophetic. There must be a subordination
of the priestly to the prophetic.
Priest and preacher: these two words epitomise the
tensions which have existed in the church almost from the beginning. Even in
reformed churches such as our own, the continual institutional gravitation
towards the priestly where routine ritual and platitudinous repetitions of
words and phrases, deployed like incantations, smother all but the most
The task to which you are called ensures that, as a
prophetic preacher, you are encompassed by events and happenings, never
enveloped by an opiate smokescreen. With incisive understanding and
carefully chosen word, such a preacher's concern is to reveal the emptiness
behind crumbling facades. He is called to shake foundations, shatter
preconceived notions and lay bare the dry bones of the living who are dead
already, while, at the same instant, his mission is to discern the
potential, inevitable, divine renewal and the latent new purposeful patterns
which God is providentially thrusting into contemporary salvation history.
Such preaching demands strength to withstand the clerical
conformity of known ecclesiastics in church courts and the half identified
ones in congregations. The other great requirement is courage to endure the
inevitable odium as a proclaimer of truth - where in the church are truth
and openness wholeheartedly welcome? Have you the courage to struggle
against the soothing, sweet waters of the stream?
Throughout your ministry, you will find many who lack the
moral strength to preach and whose soliloquies are mere reinforcements for
their own introversion. Remember, however, the words of George Eliot: While
we are coldly discussing a man's career, sneering at his mistakes, blaming
his opinions, "evangelical" or "latitudinarian" and "pantheistic", that man
in his solitude is perhaps shedding hot tears because his sacrifice is a
hard one, because strength and patience are failing him to speak the
difficult word and do the difficult deed'. 
As a preacher, you should never forget that in the early
church the office of preacher and the office of doctor were considered to be
synonymous. Augustine was quite emphatic that the office of doctor was that
of a preacher of the Word, the herald of the gospel of Christ.
 This was re-emphasised at the reformation. A doctor of the church
is very different from a doctor in a university theological faculty. There
is a massive distinction between a wrestler with reality bringing life to a
dying world and the sustainer of a few life cells in an aloof and isolated
germ-free laboratory. The doctor of the church must have wisdom and power
from God permeating his study while an academic can often survive with some
You have been called upon already to 'be diligent to
study the things which are written in the Bible'. You are called to
display, by your life and thought, the twin lights of knowledge and
In a very, very few cases today, the situation may be as
described by Robert Louis Stevenson when he portrayed the Reverend Mr.
Soulis, minister of Balwearie, ttfu' o' book learnin', but wi' no
leevin' experience in religion", who, as opposed to his college education,
"would have learned more sitting in a peat-bog, like their forebears 'o the
persecution, wi' a Bible under their oxter an' a speerit o' prayer in their
By far the greater danger facing the ministry now is
being on the verge of illiteracy rather than being the 'bookish theoric' as
the villain Iago put it. 
Your have a duty to remain a scholar. Your scholarship
has to be deepened and widened and made more relevant as the years pass. You
will experience, at the heart of your being, as Luther put it, that
'not reading or speculating, but living, dying and being damned make a
theologian', yet there remain those printed words which will reveal fresh
insights gained from another man's hesitating suggestings, different
dimensions demonstrated which will reroute your mental and spiritual
energies, a carefully framed question which will guide you to an inspiring
answer, your tendencies towards an ivory tower mentality will be kept
in subjection and a self-generating dogmatism will be undermined.
Sustained and systematic scholarly work is essential if
your aspirations to be a preacher and a doctor of the church are to be
realised and your failure to be one will prevent you from being the other.
May I say that some of the most helpful insights for the
of the church, who are inevitably on the forefront of
much intellectual and spiritual involvement, have come from the approach of
such men as Eberhard Junge, particularly in his famous lecture, Theologische
Wissenschaft und Glaube im Blick auf die Armut Jesu'. 
There must always be held in tension the power and the
divine origin of the faith and the human poverty and tentativeness of
theological understanding. Your heart and spirit must be sensitive to God's
strengthening of your faith while your continuing
theological and biblical studies will be, at best, a lifelong search after
the truth within the limits of earthbound categories and human vocabulary.
In spite of all the work which has been done in the field
of practical theology, or maybe because of it, the bishop as pastor has
always been the most difficult of all the aspects of the ministry to
exercise with relevant meaningfulness.
The source of much of the difficulty arises from the
fact, as stated by Johannes B. Metz, that the generally accepted concept is
the church for the people not the church of the people.
 The nursing home mentality instead of an appraisal of the family
of God! That is, the shiners of the seats of ecclesiastical power are
continually concerning themselves, believing they have the best possible
motives, with the need to do something for the people. The people, the
plebeians, the laity, the members on a communion roll: they are there to be
visited, to be guided, to be counselled, to be informed, to be enlightened,
to be inspired, to be cajoled, and, if all else fails, to be organised or
In this situation, as Jurgen Moltmann said, at the Urban
Industrial Mission Conference in Tokyo three years ago, Therefore the
hierarchs are always trying to do the popular thing. They are affable,
condescending, and solicitous so that the people will not be aware of their
immaturity and their lack of control over their own future'.
 In the present day world of specialisation and the growing
desire of all humanity to have its every need met by some anonymous
specialist, the majority of people in the pews are blissfully happy to be
left just there and the church has played a great part in Joseph
Blenkinsopp's article, 'On Clericalism' which appeared, over a decade ago,
in New Blackfriars,  could be directly applied
to the Church of Scotland without much verbal alteration.
A pastor can only be a pastor when the whole church
understands that it is the cleros and the laos - the chosen
and the people of God. The pastor in the church today is faced with the
awesome and yet urgent task to make the congregation and himself realise
that he is nothing more and nothing less than a pastor pastorem. The
pastoral needs and the contemporary pastoral problems can only be faced by
the whole people of God. You will recall what Rabbi Chjim once said:
'Someone lost his way deep in the woods. A short time later, it happened to
another, who met the first. Without knowing what had occurred, the latter
asked which was the way out. The first replied, 'I don't know, but I can
show the lay leading deeper into the thicket and then let us seek the way
together. 'Brethren', said the Rabbi, 'Let us seek the way together'.
 The last and the least important function comes logically
after this Rabbinical word: the role of the bishop as an overseer.
In an age when the cult of the personality, the leader,
the star, dominates the thinking of organisation which even claim to be
democratic, it is difficult to prevent the church from falling into dangers
presented by such constitutional ideas. It is only as a parish minister that
you will not just see the distasteful irrelevance of such concepts but if
such notions are accepted they will paralyse your ministry. It is well to
remember that you are not called to be solely a minister of the Word of God
but you are called to be a minister to the people of God. Remember the words
of Jesus, The kings of the Gentiles exercise lordship over them; and they
that exercise authority upon them are called benefactors. But ye shall not
be so: but he that is greatest among you, let him be as the younger; and he
that is chief, as he that doth serve. ... I am among you as he that serveth'.
Against such a background of duties and responsibilities,
expectations and encouragements, you are called to preach but what is to be
preached? As I said in the course of an address to the Synod of Lothian some
months ago: "What do we hear from pulpits? There is a wide choice! The candy
floss preaching which leads to rampant diabetes, bringing blindness and foot
rot, or 'the ballet of bloodless categories', as Dr. F. H. Bradley wrote,
that gyrate and dance in a vacuum. There is, on the one hand, the
seventeenth century orthodoxy which induces schizophrenia in the simple and,
on the other, the social gospel of the dilettante which is neither
condescendingly considered in the Cafe Royal nor smirked at in the Artisan
Bar. There are the vapours in which nothing can come alive as not one spark
is flying upwards, or one can hear the exhalings of the Expository Times of
the purloinings or plagiarisations of the printed word preached in the time
of the good old Queen or a little later!"  But
you shall not be so! You are commanded to preach, saying, The kingdom of God
is at hand'.
The burden of your message is that God has indeed great
purposes for this generation of the children of the whole earth. There is
already something substantial about the things for which mankind hopes in
God. There is indisputable evidence bearing witness to those
vital, life giving things which are yet not seen. Your theme is the whole of
God's salvation history that embraces mankind.
As Edward Irving wrote one hundred and fifty years ago:
"Doctrines should be like mighty rivers which fertilise our island ... Pour
ye out your whole undivided heart before the oracles of God. Be free to
catch all its moods and all its inspiration. Then shall you be thoroughly
furnished for every good work". 
1. G. R. Owst, Preaching in Mediaevel England.
Cambridge. 1926. 1 and passim.
2. c.f. e.g., Medaieval Latin Word-List. edd. J.
H. Baxter and C. Johnson. Oxford. 1934. 322.
3. The reformation tradition beginning with Luther, c.f.
e.g., K. G. Steck, Lehre und Kirche bei Luther. Munich. 1963.
5. Sermon 71 in Patrologiae cursus completus. ed.
J. P. Migne. series Latina, Paris. 1844-64. xxxviii. Col. 456f.
6. As in the Book of Common Order service for
7. Thrown Janet.
8. W. Shakespeare, Othello, I. i. 24.
9. Reprinted in E. Jiingel, Unterwegs zur Sache:
Theologische Bemerkung. Munich. 1972. 11-33.
10. J. B. Metz, 'Kirche und Volk oder der Preis der
Orthodoxie' in Stimmen
der Zeit. 1974. cxcii. 797-811.
11. J. Moltmann, The Open church. Invitation to a
messianic life-style. London. 1978.99.
12. 1965. 562f.
13. Quoted in Aufschlusse: Ein Glaubensbuch. edd.
E. H. Amberg et al. Berlin. 1977. 9.
14. Luke xxii. 25-26, 27b.
15. Has the Church a Future? supra. ??.
16. Oracles of God: Four Orations. Jor Judgement to
Come: An argument. In Nine Parts. London. 1823.