James S. Stewart Wayne E. Shaw November 1 James Stuart Stewart was selected as the greatest preacher of the twentieth century by Preaching Magazine in a poll of its readers and contributing editors shortly before the new millennium began. The choice would have embarrassed Stewart and it surprised some of those polled, but not those of us who sat in his classes, visited in his home, devoured his books and fell under the spell of his preaching. Through his preaching and teaching, Stewart made Christian orthodoxy fascinating and applicable to daily life. His sermons demonstrate that he had a high view of the Bible and a supreme view of Jesus Christ. Also, his sermons and lectures are in a sense autobiographical because they reveal him as an able scholar, a uniquely gifted preacher, and a deeply devoted Christian. Born July 21, 1896, in Dundee, Scotland, Stewart grew up in a home that was strongly Christian. His mother was the daughter of a minister and his father, William Stewart, worked for the YMCA in the afterglow of the Moody-Sankey revival that had swept across Scotland. Among the influences in his formative years, he listed the ministers in his boyhood congregation, the Christian example of his parents, and an English teacher who put great stress on essays and required them to memorize “great chunks” of the poetry of their land. He attended Edinburgh University and graduated with his college and seminary degrees from St. Andrews University. After doing post-graduate study in Bonn, he was ordained into the Church of Scotland in 1924. For the next 23 years he carried on a busy ministry in three successive churches, preaching twice each Sunday, teaching classes, doing pastoral work and researching and writing at various levels. His pulpit work at North Morningside in Edinburgh gained him an international reputation. People came from far and wide to hear “Stewart of Morningside.” In 1947 Stewart was called to the Chair of New Testament Language, Literature, and Theology at New College, Edinburgh University, where he served for nineteen years until his retirement in 1966. That appointment freed him not only to teach but also to fill pulpits throughout the British Isles and in many parts of the English speaking world. Students at New College said that his lectern sometimes became a pulpit, but his pulpit never became a lectern. He was appointed a chaplain to King George V in 1951, and later he served as a chaplain to Queen Elizabeth. He was chosen moderator of the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1963, serving as the Church of Scotland’s leading ambassador for a year. He died July 30, 1990. Wide reading, personal devotions and pastoral work became the raw materials for Stewart’s sermons. He set aside up to an hour a day for devotional Bible reading and prayer, taking notes in a journal on any sermon ideas that came to him during those times, which he saved against “a dry season.” He also spent an hour each day studying a solid piece of theology quite apart from direct preparation for his sermons. Typically, the rest of the mornings were filled with Bible study and direct sermon preparation. His reading included devotional and literary classics, classical sermons, science, literary criticism, history and biography, drama, fiction and poetry. Stewart sharpened his mind by reading from prominent enemies of the Christian faith. His pastoral work was carefully planned and required many long hours, especially at North Morningside, since potential assistants were conscripted for military service in World War II. Stewart aimed to have one sermon done by Wednesday, the other by Friday. His sermon topics came from the Christian calendar, notes from his devotional journal or a series of six to eight sermons through a book of the Bible.  Convinced that the preacher who expounds the Bible has endless variety at his disposal, he preached comprehensively on the great themes of the faith. His method of preparation was to write down his thoughts on the biblical text and the theme and then organize the chaos. Though he manuscripted every sermon for the first ten years in order to improve his style, he carried only a single sheet of paper into the pulpit with his outline and any quotations on it. “If I misquoted a piece of English literature,” he said, “an elder would meet me at the door to correct me from memory.” Stewart’s sermons always had size and substance. They were about God in Christ and the difference He makes for our lives. His themes, though wide and varied, were always Christological and kerygmatic. He believed that preaching exists, “not for the propagating of views, opinions, and ideals,” but for “the proclamation of the mighty acts of God.” Its essence consists of proclaiming “that prophecy was fulfilled; that in Jesus of Nazareth, in His words and deeds, His life and death and resurrection, the new age had arrived; that God had exalted Him, that He would come again as Judge, and that now was the day of salvation.”  Few preachers have demonstrated better how to move the same theological themes from the scholarly lecture to the sparkle and challenge of the sermon. His Cunningham lectures, A Man in Christ: Vital Elements of St. Paul’s Religion and his Duff lectures, Thine is the Kingdom: the Church’s Mission in Our Time, firmly established Stewart as a scholar and set forth his doctrinal, Christological, and kerygmatic themes, linking them to what it means to be a Christian and a community of faith in the present era. These same themes are addressed to preachers at a more popular level in his Warrack lectures, Heralds of God, and his Yale lectures, A Faith to Proclaim. In Heralds of God he discussed the preacher’s world, theme, study, technique and inner life. In A Faith to Proclaim, which he wrote as a sequel to Heralds of God, he set forth “the essential message of our evangelism” as proclamation and social action. The church’s theology must be “passionately missionary,” and that means proclaiming the Incarnation, Forgiveness, the Cross, the Resurrection and Christ. If one were asked to summarize the Christian faith in one word, he said, it would have to be the word “Resurrection.” These same kerygmatic themes thread their way through his six books of published sermons (the first two are in the “Scholar as Preacher” series) as they are proclaimed, illustrated and applied homiletically. Stewart considered himself an expository preacher. For him the aim of exposition is to bring about an encounter with Christ. He believed that when the Bible is faithfully expounded, men and women still encounter God in Christ in several ways: in His mighty works, in His words, in His person and in the missionary proclamation of His mighty acts of redemption. The key to Stewart’s expository preaching is his insistence on the inherent link between the background of ancient Israel or the apostolic era and the foreground of the present situation based on a Christological interpretation of the Bible. Since that link is not always apparent, the preacher’s task is to find it. His view of imagination, which he called “faith by another name,” further fueled his approach to expository preaching. “One does not abstract Christianity from history or eliminate its imagery without turning it into something quite different in the process.” It does more than fill in gaps in the biblical material; it allows the preacher to identify both with the people of the Bible and with our contemporaries, and thus it contributes to relevant expository preaching. Biblical exposition requires balancing the two preaching moods of the gospel, the indicative and the imperative, but the accent falls on what God has done in Christ before coming to what he expects of us. In summary, Stewart fused scholarship and evangelism in a style and delivery that was bold, stirring, positive, lyrical, joyous and often exhilarating. One of his sermon titles captures it well: “The Romance of Orthodoxy.” And so does a statement by one of his friends, “When he preaches, the trumpets are there.” When you read his sermons today, you can sometimes hear the echo of those trumpets. –Wayne E. Shaw is Dean Emeritus and Professor of Preaching at Lincoln Christian Seminary in Lincoln, Ill. Preaching, November/December, 1999. Interview with Stewart, New College, Edinburgh.  A Faith to Proclaim, pp, 14, 15. A Faith to Proclaim, p.7. A Faith to Proclaim, p. 11. The Gates of New Life and The Strong Name. Preaching, November/December, 1999.  Interview with Stewart, New College, Edinburgh.  Heralds of God, pp. 111- 113, 154, 167.  Interview with Stewart, New College, Edinburgh.  Heralds of God, p. 5.  A Faith to Proclaim, pp, 14, 15. A Faith to Proclaim, p.7. A Faith to Proclaim, p. 11. The Gates of New Life and The Strong Name.  Heralds of God, pp. 111- 113, 154, 167.  Interview with Stewart, New College, Edinburgh.  Heralds of God, p. 5. Lecture tapes on Expository Preaching , Reigner Recording Library, Union Theological Seminary in Richmond, Virginia. Personal Interview, Edinburgh.