John Hall (Presbyterian pastor)

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John Hall Magowan (1829–1898) was pastor of the Fifth Avenue Presbyterian Church, New York City, from 1867 until his death in Bangor, County Down, Ireland. The landmark New York church, that still stands today on Fifth Avenue at 55th Street, was built during his tenure.


  • Give according to your means, or God will make your means according to your giving.
    • Reported in Tryon Edwards, A Dictionary of Thoughts (1908), p. 194.

Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895)[edit]

Quotes reported in Josiah Hotchkiss Gilbert, Dictionary of Burning Words of Brilliant Writers (1895).

  • When the captain throws out his sheet-anchor, and the ship "rides at anchor," as it is called, there is a great strain on every link of that chain; and if one bad link breaks, off goes the anchor, and the ship is driven before the winds, and may be destroyed. Now, our character is very much like the chain; one bad piece vitiates and spoils it. So we must have a pure character.
    • P. 44.
  • When the Father would give men the light of the knowledge of His glory, how does He proceed? To what does He turn men's gaze? Not to His mighty works; not to creative or providential wonders; not to geological or astronomical facts; not to the data on which Paley and Bell and other admirable writers build up their argument from design; not to the still greater wonder of mind, but to " the face of Jesus Christ," that face that was more marred than any man's; that endured the ruffian blows; down which the blood drops trickled; that looked down on a mocking crowd from an ignominious cross.
    • P. 70.
  • A strong church is made up of well-ordered families, where intelligent, Christian parents bring up their children in the fear of the Lord, where the home of the week has its counterpart in the home of the Sabbath, where the hopes and joys of the living, and the blessed memories of the dead bind to the Lord and His church, where young men and maidens are glad when it is said to them, " Let us go unto the house of the Lord," where the tranquillity, and purity, and holy peace, the light and the love, form to the opening minds of the children a type and prophecy of the eternal Sabbath and the heaven above.
    • P. 144.
  • Congregations must justify their existence. If they only bring people together to be "very much pleased," why, the Lecture Bureaus will contract for all that " Did you worship? Were you edified? Did the Lord speak to you? Did you speak to Him? Do you mean more seriously to be pure, honest, upright, generous, manly, holy, from what you did and heard to-day? " These are the questions which the best part of mankind feel to be proper, and to which we must have affirmative replies.
    • P. 146.
  • A lazy, indolent church tends toward unbelief; an earnest, busy church, in hand-to-hand conflict with sin and misery, grows stronger in faith.
    • P. 147.
  • Keep clear of personalities in conversation. Talk of things, objects, thoughts. The smallest minds occupy themselves with persons. Do not needlessly report ill of others. As far as possible, dwell on the good side of human beings. There are family boards where a constant process of depreciating, assigning motives, and cutting up character, goes forward. They are not pleasant places. One who is healthy does not wish to dine at a dissecting table. There is evil enough in man, God knows. But it is not the mission of every young man and woman to detail and report it all. Keep the atmosphere as pure as possible, and fragrant with gentleness and charity.
    • P. 214.
  • We must keep up the standard of Christian living in the Christian laborer. Clean hands are needed to do Christian work. Character is before co-operation, being before doing. "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine."
    • P. 316.
  • Culture is good, genius is brilliant, civ1lization is a blessing, education is a great pr1vilege; but we may be educated villains.. The thing that we want most of ail is the precious gift of the Holy Ghost.
    • P. 320.
  • The minister is to be a live man, a real man, a true man, a simple man, great in his love, great in his life, great in his work, great in his simplicity, great in his gentleness.
    • P. 411.
  • The minister, who would be most like the Master, must go and, like Him, lay the warm, kindly hand on the leper, the diseased, the wretched. He must touch the blind eyes with something from himself. The tears must be in his own eyes over the dead who are to be raised to spiritual life. Jesus is our great exemplar.
    • P. 413.
  • That pastor effects the most in the end who comes into closest personal contact with his charge. No amount of organizing, no skill in creating machinery and manipulating "committees" is a substitute for this. Who feels the power of a tear in the eye of a committee?
    • P. 413.
  • As preachers we are to promote Christian culture, by bringing the dead branches to the living Vine, that, grafted into it, without a rag of hum1.n righteousness between, the life of Him may enter them; and by keeping them, as far as teaching and example can do it, abiding in Him, that they may bring forth fruit.
    • P. 413.
  • "How do you make your prayer-meetings interesting?" The whole subject is mixed up. "Interesting" to whom? The Lord? The suppliants? The spectators? The only way is to teach men to pray; to eliminate those who preach or rhapsodize or scold or "lament" interminably, to promote general fervor among the people, and apply to the meeting the ordinary principles of common sense.
    • P. 475.
  • Settle in your mind, that no sermon is worth much in which the Lord is not the principal speaker. There may be poetry, refinement, historic truth, moral truth, pathos, and all the charms of rhetoric; but all will be lost, for the purposes of preaching, if the word of the Lord is not the staple of the discourse.
    • P. 477.
  • To get, then, the mind of Christ,'and to declare it, is the primary end of the teaching offices of the church. The living body of sympathetic men, saturated with the truth and feeling of the Book, must bring it into contact with other men, through that marvelous organ the human voice, and with such aid as comes from the subtle sympathy that pervades assemblies of human beings.
    • P. 478.
  • Direct your arrows at objects without being personal; come near your hearers. Letters dropped into the post-office without address go to the dead-letter office, and are of no use to any body.
    • P. 479.
  • The text should sustain, suggest, and give tone to the sermon. The main thought of the text should usually be the main thought of the sermon. A text must not be a pretext.
    • P. 482.
  • A leading Welsh minister — and Welsh ministers are, I think, among the best preachers — was invited to preach an anniversary sermon before one of the great societies in London. Naturally anxious to disregard no propriety, he consulted the proper authority, the secretary. "Should I read my sermon?" "Oh, it is no matter, only bring some of your Welsh fire with you." " But you cannot, my dear sir, carry fire on paper." "No, that is true; but you may use the paper to kindle the fire."
    • P. 483.
  • We can no more have exact religious thinking without theology, than exact mensuration and astronomy without mathematics, or exact iron-making without chemistry,
    • P. 580.

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