It would be better for him if a millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin. –Luke 17:2
It may long be remembered as the night Sinclair Ferguson went rogue.
The date was June 28, 2009. During the congregational singing, he felt an unusually strong impression to preach something altogether different — both text and topic — from the manuscript he was holding in his hand for the exposition he had prepared on Romans 6:6–14.
Here’s how he explained himself on the fly in abandoning the announced topic:
There are rare occasions when during the course of a service there is such an impression made upon one’s spirit and soul that one feels compelled to preach on something different from what has been announced. And feeling that compulsion earlier on in the service — those of you who were sitting in the gallery wondering why at points I was scribbling on a piece of paper will now realize that what I was doing was earnestly praying that if the Lord wanted me to preach on something different tonight he would at least give me an outline.
And provide an outline God indeed did. Instead of Romans 6, Ferguson took up 2 Timothy 3:14–15 and preached earnestly that his hearers not withhold the Scriptures from the little ones. Here’s the outline:
1. The value of children knowing the Scriptures from their infancy
2. The vital importance of parental faithfulness in difficult circumstances
3. The possibility of great usefulness for the most ordinary of Christians
4. The wonder of what our children can become, despite all the obstacles
In particular, the point on which Ferguson wanted to challenge his congregation was this: “What kind of instrument are you? I’m thinking particularly this evening about what kind of instrument are you in relationship to young people?”
This is an especially sobering warning from the veteran pastor to a young father like myself: “If you hide the Scriptures from your children, it may be better that a millstone be hung around your neck and you be cast into the midst of the sea than that you should ever imagine that you're behaving like a Christian parent.”
The sermon is well worth the listen for young Christian parents — and everyone else. The preaching is raw and powerful — and Ferguson’s rich Scottish accent is icing on the cake.
You can stream or download the message here.