This is the third of a series of lectures that was prepared at the request of the Faculty of the Hamilton Theological Seminary, NY; they were delivered before that institution in February, 1880. On the invitation of the respective faculties of The Rochester Theological Seminary, NY; and the Crozer Theological Seminary, Upland, PA, their delivery was repeated before these bodies.
Preparation For the Pulpit
By Thomas Armitage, 1880
“A workman that needeth not to be ashamed.” II Timothy 2:15
Beloved Brethren: -- Unless my mind is entirely misled, the only object of these Lectures is to offer you the first order of assistance in becoming what you all honestly aim at, namely, to be made powerful preachers of the gospel, and of the highest class. And as the stream must be governed both in its character and fullness by the fountain behind it, I must say more of the preacher than of his preaching. If the preacher can be made just right, I have no fear for his sermons. With this in view, the present lecture ought to be of the most profitable character; for with the single aim of making the tree good, that the fruit may be good also, it has cost me more care than any other in the course.
This address is intended to incite to the creation of sacred thought for the pulpit, rather than to forms of preparation and the arrangement of words; to the spirit of preaching, as of infinite consequence over its mechanics and dress. A great gulf is fixed between a preacher who has something which he must say, and one who puts words together that he may say something. But the man who has the most that is worth saying will make the severest preparation for its utterance. Robert Hall was asked, how many sermons a preacher could prepare in a week? He replied: “This depends upon his ability. If it is first-class in every respect, he might produce one by very hard work. A second-rate man could compose two with moderate ease; and a fool could turn out three, as easily as not.” A feeble preacher does not know how weak his productions are; while a master workman feels conscious shame, because he deems his work inferior to the severe test of his own powers. But the spirit of the weaker often inspires bliss in his hearers, while the unthinking interpret the mortification of the strongest into realized failure. Whether right or wrong, men generally take them at their own estimate, because they judge by their spirit; and so, seeming gold passes for bullion, while the solid metal is not current at all. But still, any preacher, whatever his spirit, who thinks himself exempted from toilful preparation, is an incurable failure from that moment.
The example of Thomas Shepherd gives in substance the whole spirit of pulpit preparation. In 1635, Archbishop Laud so persecuted him that he fled to America, and became pastor of First Church at Cambridge, Massachusetts. One says of him: “That he scarce ever preached a sermon, but some one or other of his congregation was struck with distress and cried out in agony, ‘What must I do to be saved?’ On his death-bed, he said to some young ministers: First, that the study of every sermon cost him tears. Second, before he preached any sermon he got good by it himself. Thirdly, he always went up into the pulpit, as if he were to give up his accounts unto his Master.” No minister could do these three things if he held back one power of his nature from pulpit preparation. What then, must be the spirit in which you address yourselves to this solemn and holy work? Those who attribute one man’s power to his thought, another to his voice, and another to his rhetoric and elocution, may think it very old-fashioned if I say at the start:
I. The most thorough preparation of all for preaching must be wrought in the very depths of the preacher’s own heart. If you knew, how, with intensity of soul, I hate all white-eyed cant and long-faced goodiness, you could not think that this proposition is laid down as a maudlin platitude. For in the matter of your personal salvation, you need no more piety than other folks. God will accept nothing of men who are not preachers, less than the love of all their heart, soul, and strength; and you can yield Him no more if you try. But when your personal salvation is secured, you do need an order of soul-consecration which runs in other channels, and leads to other purposes, than that of those who are not ministers. This special grace is promised to you, and you cannot be honest ministers without its acceptance. It vitally concerns your office-work; and must be added to that grace, which, after saving you, saves those who hear you. If you do your extraordinary duties as preachers as you do those ordinary acts which concern you as Christian men, your work will degenerate into a professional and perfunctory drudgery, which will make your ministry formal and mechanical. I am not speaking here of a devotion to God which means anything in general but nothing in particular. Do you need a head and a heart in order to preach? Not more than this special consecration, to illumine the head and hallow the heart.
Special consecration was vital to Christ’s work; and can you turn from it with the wave of your hand? When He said: “I sanctify myself,” He spoke not of personal purification, for He was “without sin;” but of complete setting apart to His work. He breathed the very air of sanctity, “rising a great while before it was day” to pray, and continuing “all night in prayer.” His disciples felt the sacred atmosphere which He threw around them, and cried: “Lord, teach us also to pray.” Intercession with His Father seemed to be a part of His personal character, and His unwearied devotion was honored. “I know that thou hearest me always.” None came so near to God’s throne as He. Even [Ernest] Renan says of Him: God does not “speak to him as some one out of himself; but God is in Him.” In like manner, His Apostles gave themselves up to prayer. This was as imperative upon them as their study of God’s Word. And why not? Had not Jesus spent the whole night in prayer for them, before the morning of their appointment? How true are the words of Massillon: “What a monster must a pastor be if he is not a man of prayer.”
Your sermons will do little good in the pulpit, unless all the integrities and energies of your soul have been penetrated by heart searching prayer in the study; and a sermon steeped in prayer on the study floor, like Gideon’s fleece saturated with dew, will not lose its moisture between that and the pulpit. The first step towards doing anything in the pulpit as a thorough workman, must be to kiss the feet of the Crucified, as a worshipper, in the study.
What right have you to go forth as His ambassador without a new interview with Him before proceeding on every new errand and message? The angels in heaven are ministers who do His pleasure. But what would you think of an angel who bore His message to you, after proudly refusing to prostrate himself at his Master’s feet before departing to obey His mandate? His mission to you would be a moral one; and his prime qualification for it must be moral too, no matter what his intellectual capacity might be. So, if your message is to tell upon the eternal life of your hearers you must deliver it, “in power, and in the Holy Spirit.” Therefore, pulpit preparation must lodge,
II. In an indwelling plenitude of the Holy Spirit. Your souls cannot be educated into spiritual things for your people, till the Spirit of God interpenetrates all your faculties. But your Lord knows better than you can, that He never gives His Spirit to bless any other message than that which He sends you to deliver. This is not the province of the Spirit in redemption. He is no more given to enforce miscellaneous truth, than He was to be crucified for men. His work is to apply the truth of the Crucified One when it is preached; and it is remarkable that the Bible nowhere sets forth stupidity in the ministry, as a sin of intellectual weakness; but as a radical defect of the heart. Much less then, is intellectual grasp the only power which a gospel preacher is to wield. This may be a sword of great finish, temper, and edge; but it is powerless as a feather, if a living heart behind a living hand does not send it home. He who preachers without a special unction from the Holy Spirit has no soul-tone which is adapted to the wants of his hearers.
If the Spirit alone can work moral renovation in our hearers, how can we be careless whether He holds them spellbound by our preaching? Besides, it is not a question entirely outside of ourselves whether He attends our preaching or not. The verity of Christ is pledged that the Spirit shall be given to those who ask Him. If it is of little consequence whether we study under His influence, why should we be anxious to preach under His influence? Your composition may be all that the pen can make it; but if it comes from a cold and dull soul, how can you expect the Spirit’s fevour to attend its delivery? What you can compose without Him you can preach without Him. But can He own you in the pulpit after you have disowned Him in the study? These are universal truisms; but alas! good reason suggests that they may be stoutly violated by those who admit them. They are accepted as general conclusions, but they are not learned as personal discoveries. Yet God has nowhere promised His Spirit as a mere help or adjunct to the preacher’s ability; but as his first and indispensable qualification.
The Spirit is to invest His sanctified intellect with clear, sacred thought; and then the preacher is to clothe it in words, as his soul has apprehended the truth. It amounts to nothing that we concede the doctrine, or that we wake up now and then in spasmodic reproachfulness for its experimental neglect. Unless we are filled with the Spirit, our preaching will fail. The great reason given by the Spirit Himself, why “much people was added to the Lord” under the preaching of Barnabas at Antioch, is, that he “was a good man, and full of the Holy Spirit.” To all human perception, there is an enormous waste of preaching so far as saving results are concerned; because the Spirit’s energy is not possessed in the preacher’s work. We are reminded of a man scattering good seed by the bushel, without manifesting the slightest expectation that it will grow; or the least distress if it fails. Would it be too much to say, that we might look for a hundred-fold more of fruit, if we availed ourselves of that primal element of power which our Lord has procured for us in our high calling as preachers! This only can give vital breath to our sermons, and success to their delivery. The first act of our Lord on His mediatorial throne, in fact the very object of His ascension was to place His Spirit within the bosom of His church; and it is appalling to see the pharisaical flippancy with which that prodigious undertaking is acknowledged and yet the slight dependence which is placed upon the marvelous provision. Honest preachers may well tremble when they find themselves all anxious to learn the secret of powerful preaching; and yet deliberately neglect that one supreme energy which the whole Godhead has provided, to give this very power unto men. If we sincerely want to bring preaching back to its primitive efficiency, our common, sluggish notions on this subject must be thrown to the winds; for that efficiency is located by Christ Himself in the Spirit, as the sole Agent and Administrator of the gospel; and it cannot be transferred to any other source whatever.
The worst feature which follows any slight put upon the Spirit’s resources is a pernicious abuse of the doctrine of divine sovereignty. When we neglect the terms on which His energies may be possessed; and so “grieve” and “quench” Him that He withdraws from us, and leaves us to our own guilty apathy, we fall headlong into this abuse. It would be open blasphemy to say that we do not possess the Spirit at all times, because He is fickle, arbitrary, and capricious in bestowing His influences. But where is the material difference between saying this openly, and that heart infidelity which thinks Him arbitrary because He is sovereign?
Thomas W. Jenkyn forcibly illustrates this wrong doing. He supposes that the crops have failed year by year, although the farmers have plowed, and sowed, and cultivated the ground as usual. At last they awake to the inquiry whether some arbitrary influences have not modified the sun, and water, and air? For they solace themselves with the persuasion that they have done their duty at any rate. So they meet in convention to consider the whole subject and conclude that this is a sovereign act of God to punish them for their sins. Some of them, however, think that if the suspension of harvest were for their sins, the act could not be sovereign. The cause lodged in themselves. Remove the sin, and secure the harvest, they reasoned. They said: The regular returning seasons prove that seed-time and harvest are unaltered; and the questions arise, whether we have sown the right seed in the right soil? Whether we have slumbered while the birds of the air picked it up? Whether we sowed too late in the season? Whether we neglected its tillage when it was sown? Whether there was some unwisdom, some laziness, some fault of our own, which argued our reluctance to work with the laws of growth, and to pay the full price which God demands for a harvest? What right, then, have we, as ministers, to lay our failures at the divine door, by any sort of implication? Yet, how many preachers have we all known who practically conclude that the sovereign will of the Spirit leaves souls about them to perish, even though they have done all that they ought to do to save them?
I have heard such men tell the churches that “The Lord could not do many mighty works amongst them, because of their unbelief.” By “mighty works,” they actually meant the conversion of sinners; never stopping to consider that Jesus spoke here of miracles; and refused to work new miracles for those who rejected the evidence of the miracles which He had already wrought. And so they lay the blame of neglecting salvation upon others, as if sinners had no responsibility whatever in the matter; and as if a just and loving God would send one class of men, out of the church, to perdition, for the sin of another class, in the church; while the second sinning class is comfortably saved. What a shocking perversion of Christ’s words! The truth is that when we see no saving fruit follow our preaching it is time to bow in lowly heart-searching before the Spirit; and to be careful how we charge our folly at the door of a holy God, and of His redeemed church. Honesty should compel us to say frankly, whether we have preached as we might and ought, or stubbornly refused to alter our whole course when it was clear that we must; and whether we have actually exhausted all the divine means appointed for procuring the power of the Holy Spirit in our ministry. Can we vindicate our fidelity against the assumed neglect of the Spirit Himself, when we know that we have not complied with those terms on which He could clothe us with power, consistently with His own honour? When the Spirit of God has thus prepared you to form and preach a sermon, then:
III. Lay all your mental and emotional nature under contribution to accomplish this holy labor. Thus fortified, you cannot allow yourself to think of saying anything in your discourse but that (1) which is highly manly. Nothing makes a man so noble and high-minded, as when he is imbued fully with the Spirit of God. His first thought is anent [regarding] the holy grandeur of his work and its vast claims upon him. He feels in his heart of hearts that he is a worker together with the Holy Father, the Holy Son, and the Holy Spirit. And then, every feeling of petty meanness and unmanliness must take its flight from his heart. God’s work must be done by His own power, and so, in a God-like way. Secure this holy impulse, and (2) it will endow you with a proper conviction of your responsibility to God, to man, and to yourself. It will (3) give both firmness and flexibility to your will; and so, through your will as the regnant attribute, uniqueness to your whole work; for that will must control your whole nature. Then (4) you will shake off all narrow restrictions also, upon your range of thought and stores of knowledge; and be drawn under the Spirit of wisdom to meddle with all truth under the sun. You will rise above all low commonplaces and unmeaning indirectness. It is sure to give maturity and sacredness to your thought, genial freshness to your expression, and personal strength to hold your mind under a full sympathy with the laws of truth. Th is illumination of the Spirit will (5) lay bare to you the hidden sense of Scripture. You will (6) find yourself impelled to repress all tendencies to every form of personal vanity; not being likely to preach yourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord. The law of adaptation will assert itself over you at once. Your chief concern will be to know how to bless mankind; and the temptation will be broken, to please the ear instead of winning the heart. A man who bows before Jehovah in his study, till he is filled with the Holy Spirit, cannot comfortably get it into his head, that he may pride himself on his pulpit composition and make a great parade of his labor, learning, or fastidiousness of style. He will make it in all respects the best that he can command; but he cannot be vain of the result when he remembers what has passed between him and the Holy Spirit in the study; for in an important sense he is not the author of the production. And this companionship with God will save him (7) from dawdling away his time on empty moral essays for the pulpit; and deliver him from mere sentimentalities, and an aesthetic taste thrown forth in loose poetic scraps. The same must be true (8) concerning those “men of straw,” so commonly set up in the pulpit to be thoroughly whipped before the congregation; in the shape of German negations and abstruse theories, which nobody cares a straw about when the preacher is through. Such speculations remind you of the poor pilloried sinner, who in olden times sat upon the “cutty stool” before the Scotch pulpits to be laughed at. Or they call to mind the hanging of Judas in Spain, on Good Friday. A suit of clothes is stuffed with straw and hung by the neck in the market place; but is let down at noon and night, to be well thrashed by the infuriated populace, and at last is publicly burnt. Thus, like his pulpit antitype, Judas ends in froth and smoke. Nor can a preacher while under that influence of the Spirit which has cost his soul so dear a struggle (9) Spend his time on tinseled trickery, effeminate ornamentation, and finical glitter; all the time blunting the sword which the Spirit has put into his hands, by gilding its edge.
No, my brethren, when you seek the Spirit’s guidance, He will lead you into the depths of thought, and save you from the yeast on the crest of the waves. A perfect sailor is afraid of the coast, it is so full of rocks; he craves plenty of sea-room. If he feels the least ripple of air, he spreads every sail for the breeze to take him out quickly to mid-ocean. So the true preacher waits in the calm for the first breath of wind that “bloweth where it listeth,” till it freshens and carries him out into deep sea-soundings, in unexplored latitudes of gospel thought. And what is quite as important (10) a preacher’s soul imbued with the Holy Spirit will be delivered from all that ignorant impudence which is brazen enough to insult God and man, by going into the pulpit to stand there in “Christ’s stead,” without the most thoughtful preparation. Besides (11) if the Spirit of God is enshrined in your hearts, you cannot conveniently put into your sermon any vulgar claptrap, or clownish levity. Your heart will be full; and your words and conduct will be those of a Christian gentleman. When the pulpit preparation of the heart is from the Lord in the study, so will be the answer of the tongue before the congregation.
The Spirit secured in the study, will give (12) concentration and unity to your sermons. Our Lord never attempted to teach more than one thing at one time. And in this respect your preaching will become like His. He avowed a great truth, and then opened it fully. What a marked example you have of this in the thirteenth chapter of Matthew, where His one theme is “the kingdom of God;” but set forth in so many parables. After the proclamation, came the parable. Like Jacob, He drove the sheep and lambs as they were able to bear it, lest if overdriven they should faint. Straight, clear, deep work marked His teaching; giving one thing at a time as men could bear it. He announced a great principle, and then went on to perfection in its treatment. Concentration and unity marked both His methods and topics.
And yet another thing (13). When your sermons are prepared under the influence of the Holy Spirit, a stamp of reality, which cannot be counterfeited, will rest upon your productions. One of the greatest elements of pulpit power is that animus which tells the hearer that the preacher believes every word which he says. And if he does not, he cannot make the people believe him. Generally, his best answer to all sorts of skepticism is felt in the fact that the people discover a flame upon the altar of his soul, which they cannot mistake for a cloud of smoke. His zeal is so pure that there is no faint nor equivocal conviction behind it, and men feel its heat as no rule or rhetoric can supply it artificially. There is depth and weight in such words. Empty art may trammel you and make you one-sided and lead you to the hollow iteration of stock phrases; but the people will see that your higher faculties are not employed in the realms of conviction. James Hamilton beautifully says, “A chemist may analyze the wine of Lebanon, and he may tell you that it contains so many salts and alkalies; and you may combine all these, you may mix them in just proportions, but chemistry will never create what the vintage yielded. To make the wine of Lebanon needs Lebanon itself -- the mountain with its gushing heart and aromatic springs.” And so here. When the Spirit of God is in you all subterfuges for reality will be abandoned as lying mockeries, because your conscience will be quickened against all false dependencies.
And, last of all, on this point (14), you will sacredly guard all your interpretations of Scripture. The Spirit never leads a preacher into that fanaticism which forces the letter of Scripture to contradict its spirit; or its spirit to invalidate its letter. He prompts him to reach its sense by the use of great principles, impartially and fairly used. Close scrutiny will prevent random interpretations, and all orders of pious stretching to make the Bible mean what it never intended. It is a scandal and a pious fraud to distort Scripture in that way. No man would dare to ill-treat any author but the Holy Spirit, or any book but the Bible, by isolating the sense of passages from all their natural connections. Who spake or wrote these words? To whom were they addressed? What called them forth? And what did they express to those who heard them at the time? These are the questions that an honest man will put in reaching the sense of the Sacred Books, and answers to these questions will settle their sense and use now.
IV. This order of pulpit preparation will infuse through your own spirit that only gentle temper which the pulpit will allow, and which Jesus Himself threw into all His preaching. The Spirit of God in a preacher’s heart celebrates the bands of wedlock between his heart and lips, by the passion of holy love. Christ and His Apostles showed their love to their hearers in little things as well as great; even in the deferential manner in which they addressed them.
See the loving refinement of Paul when he spoke to them through their honoured nationality as, “Men of Israel,” “Men of Judah,” “Men of Athens,” Or, when he addressed them officially, as, “Elders of the people,” “Rulers of the people.” Or, through their manhood, as,“Sirs,” “Men, brethren, and fathers.” Whatever the provocation might be, they never gave the slightest sign of ill-temper or peevishness. Ill-temper and crossness are out of place anywhere; but in the pulpit they are intolerable. A scolding minister in the pulpit loses all the weight of his moral judgment. He foolishly dreams that his terrible rebuke confounds the sons of men. Under the idle supposition, perhaps, that he is very faithful and very dauntless, men detect his strange fire as readily as they see a painted ship rocking upon a painted ocean. His anger may blister his own tongue and singe his own reputation; but it burns nobody else, much less does it melt them. A sinner never feels that his lost condition is the cause of the preacher’s anger; consequently, he rightly counts it all “sound and fury, signifying nothing,” except that its author did not trouble the throne of grace much in his study. No man ever dared to pray to the Lord to make him ill-tempered in the pulpit; so that it never comes in answer to prayer. The chief effect that it produces upon unregenerate men is to make them wonder how a servant of God can let a bad spirit howl through him so much like the tantrums of a demon. Preachers may easily fall into this snare, especially when they are dealing out the terrible threatenings of the Bible. But it is an easily besetting sin for some preachers. They are sour in their godliness, and preparation for the morose in their preaching; generally sarcastic, snappish sharp and vinegarish in the pulpit. It is said of a distinguished preacher, that in an able sermon he “scolded his congregation for an hour and a quarter about the love of Christ.” Yet, it is not at all likely that he was angry because our Lord loved them. But he acted as if he were. And here again we can go back to the example of the Lord.
He was the perfect model of that inner temper which gives tone to all gospel preaching. Deep love with Him was a fashion of speech as well as an affection of soul. He was so uniformly patient, hopeful, and cheerful in His heart-temper, that He has never had a preacher in His church, whose preaching showed so little of the harsh, hard, and gloomy as His own. It was always fresh, genial, and delightful. At times He chided His hearers, warned and rebuked them even; but never scolded. As the heavenly type of preaching, He could not indulge in that spirit. Only those of His servants who have the adequate wisdom to be angry “and sin not” in the pulpit, can afford to do that. How shocking would the thought be, that He could degrade Himself by assailing men’s petty faults, much less lay aside His delicacy and benevolence, to play the personal scold.
He knew the terrors of the Lord; gathered and launched them like a thunderbolt; but His spirit melted into love while He did so. At times, when in contact with masked hypocrites, whose spirits He read infallibly, His sternness bordered on severity; but you feel a loving spirit beneath His words. We cannot mistake His vehemence for violence. He could brave the wrath of inveterate hate; and yet weep in pure sympathy. He hurled indignation at arrant hypocrisy; and insinuated consolation like sunbeams into penitent hearts. His rebukes were accompanied by a tender exhortation to “repent,” and an earnest appeal to “flee from the wrath to come.” He wished to save them. The fearful thought that men should perish, threw the great deep of His soul into commotion as He looked down on Jerusalem, till grief sobbed down His cheeks in tears.
Analyze His most abrupt sentences, and you find that loving conviction which makes every word speak volumes. It was a concentrated force, which convulsed men’s consciences with guilty fears. Sin that was curable stirred all His compassions: malignity that was incurable He cast aside with indignation. You find every element in His words but that of crude, violent address under the pretence [sic] of fidelity. The structure of His words shows their spirit, as well as the connecting circumstances. He combined what Socrates requires in a perfect character, the greatest possible gentleness towards the curable, with the most high-souled indignation against the incorrigible. Then, we do not know how overpoweringly touching were His tones and gestures when He made His most impassioned utterances; accompaniments which often affect the heart more than their attendant words. He alarmed Peter out of His ambition, with a lofty “Get thee behind me, Satan;” and He dissolved him into compunction by a look. A remark will be particularly in place here, upon a very grave point.
It is more than questionable, whether any minister is in the right frame of mind to preach about eternal punishment, till love melts his heart and voice and eye into pleading tenderness. The preacher’s work is not to threaten men, nor to upbraid them for being bad, but to persuade them to be better. Harsh, hard argument, censorship and satire, denunciation and declamation, will not do this. Fenelon pierced this subject through and through, when he said: “Under the pretense of Apostolical preaching there are some persons, who imagine that they need only bawl and speak often of hell and the devil. Without doubt, a preacher ought to affect people by strong, and sometimes even by terrible images. But it is from the Scriptures he should learn to make strong and powerful impressions. For want of this knowledge, a preacher oftentimes doth but stun and frighten people; so that they remember but few clear notions; and even the impressions of terror they receive are not lasting. This mistaken simplicity that some affect is often a cloak for ignorance; and at best it is such an unedifying manner of address, as can not be acceptable either to God or man.”
Constantly we hear the allegation that the purely Scriptural doctrine of eternal retribution drives men into infidelity. Nor can we wonder, if we examine the spirit and style in which it is commonly preached. Can you think of anything so offensive, as that flourish of triumph seen in the flaming eye, the violent gesture, and felt in the boastful voice, which so often attends what is regarded as a crushing logical thunder-storm, in defense of this fearful truth? It reminds you of the brandish and gloat of a savage over a fallen foe and his agonies; rather than of a broken-hearted brother who would die to save him. Brethren, it is simply repulsive and disgraceful. When our Lord treated of such themes, He did it with a grandeur of pitying force, and a holy dignity of self-control, which left the impress of the solemn truth so deep that no man gainsaid Him or His doctrine on this subject. It is unjust to hide from ourselves the fatal possibility of launching out the threatenings of the Lord in a wrathful manner; which carries the impression of ungovernable revenge and resentful feelings on the part of the declaimer, more than of soul-moving compassion. Deep feeling, even when it is good is powerful only as it is restrained and thrown back upon the will, till the will forces the springs of the heart to the deepest pathos and lamentation. Unrestrained feeling is the weakest of all things; and when it is ill-feeling, it exposes its victim to ridicule and jeer. When a prisoner stands at the bar tried for his life, he cares little for the passionate noisy advocate who pleads against him. It is the calm passionless summing up and sentence of the judge which falls like a mill-stone on his soul. When Chief Justice Shaw pronounced sentence of death upon Professor Webster, the murderer of Dr. Parkman in Boston, he burst into tears because he must doom the culprit to death. The moral effect upon the criminal was the same as the look of Christ upon Peter; up to that hour he had denied his crime, he now confessed his sin, went out “and wept bitterly.” A bad spirit in the pulpit will soon work the ruin of any minister, and it is but right that it should. How far such wickedness has arrayed the so-called genius and spirit of Christianity against the revealed truth of an eternal retribution, is worthy of our profound consideration.
My Young Brethren: All these guards and helps furnished by Christ through the Holy Spirit, to aid you in preaching Jesus, exhibit His wonderful foresight and goodness to His ministers, in anticipating every want of the ministry, and providing for it by sending the Spirit to fill His place in the church. “Be ye filled with the Spirit.” He will give you a flattering lip, a weeping love, and a compassionate heart toward the lost. When the multitude see you “moved with compassion,” as your Master was, their souls will melt with yours. Your temper and style so softened, will silence all that is flippant and boisterous; and instead of your hearers saying, “Almost thou makest me an infidel,” they will ask you to lead them to the Saviour’s feet.
Besides this, the indwelling Spirit will save you from every form of that contemptible, whining softness which affects deep sensibility while destitute thereof. This is truly the proper class of that whimpering emptiness which could not shed a real tear to save a soul; but which will still insist on telling the sharp-eyed world, principally through the nose, that the heart is as dry as Jacob’s well. I can account in no other way for that hateful, pious, twanging style of talking, which is so popular with large classes of preachers, go where you will. Such specimens are piping reeds, dry and cured, and shaken with their own wind. One of the greatest sins of the modern pulpit is simulated pathos, for heart-felt fervour. Sweet temper and deep tenderness must be caught from the Holy Spirit, and enshrined in your breasts with their native Deity.*
* The lecturer has often been asked, and by devout brethren too, “How we may possess the Holy Spirit?”
(1.) That our Redeemer evinced His holy intensity by praying all night: Luke 6:12.
(2.) He promised the Spirit to that three-fold faith which “asks,” “seeks,” and “knocks:” Luke 11:9-13.
(3.) In this way only the Apostles received the promised Spirit: Acts 1:14; 2:1.
[From Christopher Cockrell, Editor: Berea Baptist Banner, November & December, 2007. Scanned and formatted by Jim Duvall.]
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