In the Digital Age, with so many other men’s work available at SermonAudio, blogs, ministry websites, etc., every preacher wrestles with using another man’s material. Augustine, in his fourth book on On Christian Doctrine, has some wisdom to offer us regarding this matter.
In his frankly titled Chapter 29, “It is permissible for a preacher to deliver to the people what has been written by a more eloquent man than himself,” we find the following words of wisdom. I have broken this chapter up into sections and added above them my own summary statements of the principles.
1) If your conscience will not allow you to use another man’s work, then do not do it.
If, however, he cannot do even this, let his life be such as shall not only secure a reward for himself, but afford an example to others; and let his manner of living be an eloquent sermon in itself.
2) If you do not know how to compose a text for a sermon, but have found someone who has done it well, then use it. Just be sure to give credit to the one you quote so as not to plagiarize.
There are, indeed, some men who have a good delivery, but cannot compose […]