John Berridge was born in 1716 to a wealthy farmer who hoped Berridge would follow in his footsteps. Instead, Berridge became a minister due to his natural giftedness in reading and scholarly endeavors.
Yet, he was not converted until after he became vicar of Everton in Bedfordshire, England in 1755. J.C. Ryle notes that “As soon as he was converted he threw himself with constitutional energy into his Master’s service, with all his might, and soul, and strength.”
Like other Methodist preachers, he also began preaching outside his own parish and even outdoors when necessary. His preaching had a great impact as it has even been estimated that “he was the means of awakening no less than four thousand persons in one single year.”
He was a friend of the Countess of Huntingdon and that circle. And like other men God was using during this time, he was a man of humility, kindness, holiness, and self-denial. It was his preaching, holiness, articulation of the gospel, and love of souls that God used to make a spiritual impact in England in the 18th century.
Berridge died in 1793.
In one of his remaining letters, he gave this advice to a young minister. I think this is sound advice, and leave it with our readers to consider for their own ministries using godly prudence in the appropriate application in your particular context of preaching.
The remainder of this post is Berridge’s words.
When you open your commission, begin with laying open the innumerable corruptions of the hearts of your audience; Moses will lend you a knife, which may often be whetted at his grindstone. Lay open the universal sinfulness of nature; the darkness of the mind, the forwardness of the will, the fretfulness of the temper, and the earthliness and sensuality of the affections. Speak of the evil of sin in its nature, its rebellion against God as our Sovereign, ingratitude to God as our benefactor, and contempt both of His authority and love. Declare the evil of sin in its effects, bringing all our sickness, pains, and sorrows; all the evils we feel, and all the evil we fear; all inundations, and fires, and famines, and pestilences; all brawls, and quarrels, and fightings, and wars, with death to close these present sorrows, and hell afterwards to receive all that die in sin.
Lay open the spirituality of the law, and its extent, reaching to every thought, word, and action, and declaring every transgression, whether by omission or commission, deserving of death. Declare man’s utter helplessness to change his nature, or to make his peace. Pardon and holiness must come from the Saviour. Acquaint them with the searching eye of God, watching us continually, spying out every thought, word, and action, noting them down in the book of his remembrance, and bringing every secret thing into judgment, whether it be good or evil.
When your hearers are deeply affected with these things (which is seen by the hanging down of their heads), preach Christ. Lay open the Saviour’s almighty power to soften the hard heart, and give it repentance, to bring pardon to the broken heart, a spirit of prayer to the prayerless heart, holiness to the filthy heart, and faith to the unbelieving heart.
Let them know that all the treasures of grace are lodged in Jesus Christ for the use of the poor needy sinners, and that he is full of love as well as power; turns no beggar from his gate, but receives all comers kindly; loves to bless them, and bestows all his blessings tithe-free. Farmers and country people chop at that. Here you must wave the gospel flag, and magnify the Saviour supremely. Speak it with a full mouth, that his blood can wash away the foulest sins, and his grace subdue the stoutest corruptions. Exhort the people to seek his grace, to seek it directly, seek it diligently, seek it constantly, and acquaint them that all who thus seek shall assuredly find the salvation of God.