Archibald G. Brown was a Baptist preacher who went to that place the Apostle Paul calls “far better” after an earthly life extending from 1844 to 1922. Charles H. Spurgeon described this former student and later close friend as “a brother tried and proved.” Brown was as well known to his generation as John Macarthur, Chuck Swindoll, and John Piper are to ours. As American southerners say, he walked in tall cotton.
The Banner of Truth Trust has recently published two volumes of Brown’s sermons: This God is Our God and The Face of Jesus Christ. The former preaches God as “Creator, Judge, and Savior”; the latter focuses on “The Person and Work of our Lord.” Both are full of God-exalting, Christ-prizing, soul enriching, and pulpit-strengthening expositions.
William Jay, another famous British preacher, says that sermons should “strike and stick.” Strike in the sense of grabbing one’s attention the way the reading of a rich aunt’s will would her only heir. Stick in the sense of staying with the hearer the way a song heard in the morning escorts you through the day. Any preacher wishing to preach strike and stick sermons should apprentice himself to Brown. The man knew how to preach.
Six characteristics of Brown’s preaching make him worth reading.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by a biblical view of the greatness of God. Donald G. Barnhouse became one of the most famous preachers in the 1940s-1960s America. One reason for his status was the content of his sermons. When he was a young minister, Barnhouse preached in his alma mater’s chapel at Princeton Seminary. After his sermon, Old Testament scholar Robert Dick Wilson took Barnhouse aside and told him, “You will have a successful ministry. That’s because you’re a Big Godder. Some of our graduates are little godders. They have a little God. He can’t inspire scripture or perform miracles. Others have a Big God. The Big God of the Bible. Barnhouse, you have a Big God. He’ll bless your ministry.” Like Barnhouse, Archibald G. Brown was a Big Godder. He preaches the God Moses praises in the words, “Who is like unto Thee, O Lord, who is like unto Thee? Glorious in holiness, fearful in praises, a doer of wonders.” This God is the living God, the One who inspires awe and allegiance, contrition and confidence, and meekness and mindfulness. Things, let it be said with honesty and humility, our generation of Christians—people and pastors—desperately need. If you wish to learn how to preach God’s greatness, Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by Christ-centeredness. Seminary president A. A. Alexander sent graduates into the fields white unto harvest with the words, “Young men, make much of the blood of Jesus in your ministries.” Brown does this. And he makes much of Jesus’ blood because he makes much of Jesus. With the Apostle Thomas, Brown bows and says to God’s Son, “My Lord and my God.” Consequently, with an unstudied eloquence born of intense devotion, Brown proclaims and commends our Lord as the Savior and Sovereign who alone is worthy of our trust, love, and devotion. If you wish to preach Jesus as, in the words of a dear friend, “the One thing worth everything,” Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by solemn truths. He does not shun to declare the whole counsel of God. Biblical themes such as the fear of God, the exclusivity of Jesus as the only way to God, the reality and severity of coming judgment, and the horror awaiting the impenitent in hell are preached with compassionate candor. Candor, because Brown pulls no punches. Compassion, because Brown knows that it’s truths like these that the Holy Spirit, both in the book of Acts and throughout Church history, uses to draw the lost to the Savior and cause the saved to grow in appreciation for what God in Christ has done for them. Is it debatable that the absence of conversions and consecration to Jesus is tied to the absence of these solemn truths from most pulpits? If you wish to learn how to preach those truths the Holy Spirit most uses to draw sinners to Jesus, Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by brief texts. He typically preached on texts that were burning bush gripping to him as he read his bible and reflected on “what to preach?” Sometimes a piece of verse like “Amen, O Lord” would grip him; at other times a whole verse would insist on accompanying him into the pulpit. But rarely did he take more than this. Is there not wisdom here, at least for younger preachers? Please hear a word of personal testimony. Most of my preaching has been via the method of taking a biblical book and methodically working through it. I fear much of my preaching resulted in what Spurgeon said a preacher’s laborious trek through Hebrews did for him: “Hebrews bored this poor Gentile to death.” I think my ministry would have been more useful had I followed a policy of taking shorter texts from various books on a weekly basis. If this idea grabs you and you wish to learn how to take a brief text and make it green pastures for God’s sheep, Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by clear language. Reading them reminds me of what an uneducated woman said about H. A. Ironside’s preaching. Invited by her son to come hear the famous Chicago preacher, in town for services, she went. And came back night after night until Ironside left town. She said, “I’ve heard him several times now and he ain’t said nothing I can’t understand.” Brown had Ironside’s clarity. Reading one of his sermons isn’t like reading a contract written by a lawyer, full of jargon making you scratch your head. Reading Brown’s like a newspaper article pruned by a tough editor so that it’s crystal clear. If you want to learn how to preach sermons that people understand, Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Brown’s sermons are characterized by sermon suggestiveness. Every preacher knows what it’s like to find the sermonic cupboard bare. Those times when ideas are harder to come by than a politician who keeps his promises. I’ve found that reading sermons on a regular basis is the equivalent of going through Kroger’s or Publix with a shopping cart. As I read ideas come to mind, texts open up, truths plead to be preached the way first graders raise their hand hoping the teacher will call on them. This happened to me over and over as I read Brown. Without even remotely coming close to plagiarizing, something he says in a sermon has suggested a sermon I could preach. If you want to read material that primes your creativity, Archibald G. Brown has much to teach you.
Along with the two volumes of sermons, the Banner of Truth also publishes A. G. Brown: Spurgeon’s Successor, Iain Murray’s splendid biography of this man of whom the world was not worthy.
All three are recommended to preachers wishing to become more able ministers of the New Covenant.