His Writings 03

PreachingIt is clear that despite early deficiencies, Beddome was a greatly used preacher and as he matured he was among the most acceptable Baptist preachers of his day. Robert Hall spoke of there being ‘bone and sinew and marrow in them which shows a great mind’. (This is a marginal comment in a book of Beddome sermons quoted in a life of Hall by Morris. Cf Homes, 68. In an appendix he quotes Hall saying ‘I do not know any sermons of the kind equal to them in the English language’). Rippon’s Baptist Register (320) says of Beddome,
'Though his voice was low, his delivery was forcible and demanded attention. He addressed the hearts and consciences of his hearers. His inventive faculty was extraordinary and threw an endless variety into his public services. Nature, providence and grace had formed him for eminence in the church of Christ.’
And earlier,
The labours of this good man were unremitted and evangelical. He fed them with the finest of the wheat. No man in all his connexions wrote more sermons, nor composed them with greater care - and this was true of him to the last weeks of his life. In most of his discourses the application of a student and the ability of a divine were visible.
He also remarks on his wide knowledge of Scripture and his gift for apt quotation of texts to bolster his arguments. As for his theology he was, it says, opposed to Arminianism and to Antinomianism. He held that believers are delivered from the Law as a covenant of works but subject to it as a rule of life. (Cf eg Sermon XVI ‘The right use of the law’, Volume II, 134).
In his preface to the hymn collection of 1817, Robert Hall agreed. He favourably notes Beddome’s wide reading, deep learning, originality and his ‘chaste, terse and nervous diction’. He also observes how,
As a preacher, he was universally admired for the piety and unction of his sentiments, the felicity of his arrangement, and the purity, force and simplicity of his language, all of which were recommended by a delivery perfectly natural and graceful. (Robert Hall, Recommendatory preface, Hymns)
Brooks says
'His invention seemed almost unlimited; while the extent and correctness of his Biblical knowledge were evidently great .... In the pulpit he was emphatically at home. He completely overcame the defect of his early efforts; and by high and various endowments succeeded in arresting the attention and exciting the feelings of the most numerous auditories.' (Brooks, 61).
The Baptist Register says that he often took unusual texts but made them familiar and clear. With a familiar text he, ‘distributed it with novelty, discussed it with genius, and seldom delivered a hackneyed discourse.’ In his mature years he had great facility as an extempore preacher. A C Underwood, quoting Rippon, speaks of his ability to ‘sketch his picture at the foot of the pulpit, to colour it as he was ascending, and, without turning is eyes from the canvas, in the same hour, to give it all the finish of a master’. (A C Underwood, A history of the English Baptists, London, Kingsgate Press, 1947, 140).
A classic example occurred at a ministers’ meeting in Fairford, Gloucestershire. He did not use notes and for some reason as he came to preach he forgot what the sermon was to be. On the way from pew to pulpit he leaned over and asked the church’s pastor ‘Brother Davis, what must I preach from?’ Thinking it an odd remark Davis replied, in rebuke, ‘Ask no foolish questions’. Not understanding correctly, Beddome went on to deliver a ‘remarkably methodical, correct, and useful’ sermon on Titus 3:9 ‘Avoid foolish questions’! ( This sermon appears to be Sermon X in Volume V, see Beddomes’ One Hundred Village Sermons, London, Samuel Burton and Simpkin and Marshall, 1825, Volume V, 84).
He was appreciated not only by fellow Baptists. For example on August 7th, 1776, John Sutcliff (1752-1814) was ordained to the Baptist church at Olney, Buckinghamshire. Beddome did not take part but was present and was prevailed upon to preach in the evening. He preached on Zechariah 11:12. John Newton, then vicar of Olney, was present and wrote in his diary ‘He is an admirable preacher, simple, savoury, weighty’. (Haykin, 167. Also found in Haykin’s biography of Sutcliff, One heart and one soul, John Sutcliff of Olney, his friends and his times, Darlington, Evangelical Press, 1994, 118-120). Newton had also heard him the previous June on 2 Corinthians 1:24. The sermon ‘gave me a pleasure I seldom find in hearing. It was an excellent discourse indeed, and the Lord was pleased to give me some softenings and relentings of heart. (Cf also Haykin, 167 and Haykin, Sutcliff, 118-120. The diaries of Newton are kept at Princeton University).
[This turn of events is gratifying because when, many years before, Newton was undecided in his mind, whether to go into the established church, or to join the dissenters he had heard Beddome at the Baptist meeting in Warwick and it had had 'a considerable effect on his mind to increase his disinclination to become a dissenting minister'.]
Between 1807 and 1820 a number of his sermons were printed in a series of eight slim volumes. They contain 20 sermons each (except for the last which has only 18) under the title ‘Short discourses adapted to village worship or the devotion of the family’. By 1824 one volume was in its sixth edition and by 1831 another was in its fifth. These volumes were also issued in larger combined form and in 1835 another set of 67 sermons was published. The sermons were undoubtedly popular. Spurgeon is one eminent 19th Century preacher who refers to them. (See references to them in his Treasury of David for example. According to J R Watson, Spurgeon also liked Beddome’s hymns. The Evangelical Library copy of the fourth edition of Volume 4, published 1817, has pencil markings suggesting that some sermons were read to congregations in the Sussex area between 1836 and 1862).
They are textual sermons, although there is a run of eight sermons on 1 Thessalonians 5:16-22 in Volume IV and occasional pairs of sermons such as a pair on self-examination (from Psalm 139), another on Hebrews 12:14, on Acts 16:29-31 and a fourth on Revelation 3:20 The heavenly stranger and The heavenly stranger received. They cover a fairly broad range of Scripture, from Exodus 13:21 to Revelation 17:14 (the heavenly calling). There are awakening sermons such as that on ‘Views of death’ (Rev 6:7, 8) or ‘The sin and danger of delay in matters of religion’; evangelistic ones such as that on ‘Seeking the Lord’ (Matt 28:5) or ‘Free forgiveness’ (Lk 7:42); searching ones such as that on ‘The distinguishing character of Christians’ (Jn 17:16) or ‘On the folly of profession without forethought’ (Lk 14:28) and sanctifying sermons such as that on ‘The Christian’s pursuit’ (Ps 63:10) or ‘The duty of imitating God’ (Eph 5:1).
Brooks (61) says of the written sermons, ‘Admired for their evangelical sentiments and practical tendency, they are scarcely less pleasing in the simplicity and clearness of their style.’ The sermons are based on notes and so cannot properly represent the actual preaching. However, in recent years Peter Naylor (Picking up a pin, 59) has commended them as 'models of the art of preaching, displaying as they do a lively understanding both of Scripture and of the soul of man.'
He cites Beddome (60) as a living embodiment of his own dictum, 'All that ministers can do is to persuade; God must do the rest. Without his efficacious influence, all the force of reasoning, and all the charms of eloquence will be lost. Paul may plant, and Apollos water; but it is God that giveth the increase.'