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The Main Benefit Obtained by Preaching is…Not from Note-Taking!

The Doctor, and Jonathan Edwards, didn’t think we should be taking notes during a sermon. Martyn Lloyd-Jones quotes Edwards:

The main benefit obtained by preaching is by impression made upon the mind at the time, and not by an effect that arises afterwards by a remembrance of what was delivered. And though an after-remembrance of what was heard in a sermon is oftentimes very profitable; yet, for the most part, that remembrance is from an impression the words made on the heart at the time; and the memory profits, as it renews and increases that impression (Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol. 1, p. 294, Quoted in Martyn Lloyd-Jones, The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, pp. 359-360).

Lloyd-Jones then comments,

I would add that I have often discouraged the taking of notes while I am preaching. It is becoming a custom among evangelical people; but it is not, as many seem to think, the hallmark of spirituality!

The first and primary object of preaching is not only to give information. It is, as Edwards says, to produce an impression. It is the impression at the time that matters, even more than what you can remember subsequently…It is not primarily to impart information; and while you are writing your notes you may be missing something of the impact of the Spirit. As preachers we must not forget this (The Puritans: Their Origins and Successors, p. 360).

The main point, I think, for a preacher to take from these quotations is this: What are you aiming at in your preaching? Are you aiming to simply educate people, or are you aiming to rouse people, to enliven people, to see people changed on the spot?

Take this quote from Lloyd-Jones:

Thomas Cartwright…said, ‘As the fire stirred giveth more heat, so the Word, as it were, blown by preaching, flameth more in the hearers than when it is read.’ That is, to me, a very striking and most valuable statement. It tells us, incidentally, something of the purpose of preaching. The real function of preaching is not to give information, it is to do what Cartwright says; it is to give it more heat, to give life to it, to give power to it, to bring it home to the hearers…He is to inspire them, he is to enthuse them, he is to enliven them and send them out glorying in the Spirit (Ibid, pp. 376-377).

And that quote is reminiscent of Edwards:

I should think myself in the way of my duty, to raise the affections of my hearers as high as possibly I can, provided that they are affected with nothing but truth, and with affections that are not disagreeable to the nature of the subject (From Thoughts on Revival, Works of Jonathan Edwards, Vol 1. p. 391).


  1. I think the strongest arguments for listening to good, solid preaching come from Christ when He was restoring Peter. He didn’t say: “Inform My Sheep.” He said, “Feed My sheep.” That feeding comes through the preached word of God. How many notes do you take while eating the Thanksgiving dinner. Can you imagine our wives and what they would say if we did such a foolish thing? Then why do it while being fed spiritually? 🙂

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