The Westminster Standards are a wealth of religious insight. They have stood the test of time theologically and are one of the most used theological standards to this day. One element of the Standards that is often neglected is the Directory for Public Worship. The Confession gets its air time (as it should) and Shorter Catechism memorized by many (where's the love for the Larger Catechism though?). And yet, the Directory for Public Worship so often flies under people's radar. This is a sad thing because it has truly invaluable insights into the nature of worship and its elements.
One of the elements of worship that it has a lot to say about is the sermon. It even has comments on the prayer before and after the sermon. There's a lot that could be said about this section. In truth, you should just read it yourself. As a primer, I want to offer what I find to be three nuggets in that particular section.
Be Free To Preach Expository Sermons In Different Ways
"Ordinarily, the subject of his sermon is to be some text of scripture, holding forth some principle or head of religion, or suitable to some special occasion emergent; or he may go on in some chapter, psalm, or book of the holy scripture, as he shall see fit."
When I was first turned on to expository preaching. I though that the only way it could be done was by doing expository journeys through a particular book of the Bible. And yet, as the directory states, that isn't the only way to preach expository sermons. The sense of the sermon should be the sense of the text. And yet, this can be accomplished a number of different ways. One can go through a whole book chunk by chunk. They can also do so doctrinally where they preach a series of sermons regarding particular doctrines. However, in every case, the subject of the text should be the subject of the sermon. The text determines where the sermon goes.
The Preacher Himself Benefits from the Preaching
"Preaching of the word, being the power of God unto salvation, and one of the greatest and most excellent works belonging to the ministry of the gospel, should be so performed, that the workman need not be ashamed, but may save himself, and those that hear him."
Preaching is a supernatural act. The preaching of the Word of God is the Word of God and Christ applies himself to hearers by it. Not only the hearers, though, the preacher himself! It is quite a remarkable moment to be preaching and sense that Christ himself is using you as his chosen instrument to carry his name. I recall one Sunday in particular when I was able to deliver the sermon. As I was proclaiming God's word to the people I knew without a doubt that Christ himself by the Spirit was bearing witness his word to me in and through my own preaching.
Preach Christ and Live Like You Mean It
"The servant of Christ, whatever his method be, is to perform his whole ministry... As taught of God, and persuaded in his own heart, that all that he teacheth is the truth of Christ; and walking before his flock, as an example to them in it."
Preaching is a messenger act. The Word does not originate from man but from God and preaching, as a ministry of the Word, is also that way. In preaching, the minister brings to the congregation that which he has been given and religiously persuaded. But what it is that he has been given? The truth of Christ! It is proclaiming not mere information but a person; Jesus Christ. Him the minister proclaims! But it doesn't stop there. Not only is the minister charged to so that all he teaches be the truth of Christ but he actually has to live his life in such a way that corresponds with that reality. In other words, a man cannot preach Christ one day and curse his wife the next. The congregation needs first and foremost the preaching of Christ every Lord's day but that ought not to be separated from the minister living their lives as an example.