Lectures to my Students by C.H. Spurgeon.

Lectures to my Students
C.H. Spurgeon.


THE former series of my lectures met with a wclcomc which was by no means anticipated by their author. Everyone has received the book kindly, and some have grown enthusiastic over it. TO the gentlemen of the press I am deeply indebted for their cordid reviews, to the general public for largely purchasing, but specially to the many individuals who in pri& letters have sl~okcn of the work in approving words, which I am not ungrateful enough to forget, nor vain enough to repeat. A man may be allowed to feel glad when he is thanked for having been of service to his fellow men, and those men the ministers of the Lord. It is comforting to know t,hat you have aimed at usefulness, pleasant to believe that you have succeeded, and most of all encouraging to have been assured of it by the persons benefited. With no little fear and trembling the former lectures were submitted to the public eye, but the result is now looked back upon with unusual content.
As in duty bound and by gratitude prompted, thanksgivings to God are hereby very earnestly recorded, and indebtedness IS also expressed to kindly .hearts who have given my addresses so hearty a reception. One result of the unanimous generosit:y of my critics has been this second series of lectures : whether this will prove to be a fresh trial for patience, or a further source of satisfaction to my readers, time alone will show. predecessors. I hope the lectures arc not worse than their In some respects they ought to be better, for I have had three years’ more experience; but there is one valid
reason why the latter should hardly be expected to be equal to
the former, and it is this-the subjects are not numerous, and the first choice naturally takes off the cream, so that t,he next gather- ing must consist of minor topics. I hope, however, that the quality has not very seriously fallen off, and that the charity of my readers will not fail. At any rate, I do not offer that, which has cost me nothing, for I have done my best aud taken abundalit pains. Therefore with clear conscience I place my work at the service of my brethren, especially hoping to have a careful mstlizg from young preachers, whose profiting has been my principal aim. I have made my addresses entirely for students and beginners in preaching, and I beg that they may always be regarded from that point of view, for many remarks which are proper enough to be made to raw recruits it would be gross impertinence to place before masters in Israel. The mind by every candid reader. ie intent and object will be borne in.IV IXTRODUCTIO’ N.
I seize the present opportunity to call attention to the second of
my three books for students, for this is properly the tJh*d. 1 allude
to the volume entitled, (‘ Commenting and Covnmentaries.” It cm-bodies
the experience and informaiion of a lifetime, but being
very much occupied wit,11 a Catalogue of Commentaries it cannot
commend itself to popular tastes, and must be confined in its
circulation to those who wish for information upon expositor_v
works. To my own surprise it is in the tenth thousand, but
numbers of reders to whom it might be valuable h~zve not ;vet.
seen it. As almost dl t,he reviewers speak of it with m~~~l~ pralsc,
I think it. will be worth any young mau’ s while to bny it before he
gets far on in the formation of a library. It is on my heart, if life
is spared, to issue six half-crown books for preachers : the fourth,
which is much of it prepared, will be occupied with “ TJM ATE of
.TGustration,” and I am anxious in no one instance to waste time
and labour upon books which will not be read. Hence my reason
for mentioning the Commenting book in this place. Life IS short,
and time is precious to a busy man. Whatever we do we wish to
make the most of.
One more apology and note. The lectures upon “ Poster,
(Yesture, A&ova, etc.,” will probably be judged to make too much
of a secondary matter. I wish I could think so myself. My own
observation led me to think them needful, for it has scores of
times occurred to me to lament that speakers should neglect those
minor points until they spoil themselves thereby. It matters
little how a man moves his body ant1 hands so long as he does not
call attention to himself by becoming ungainly and grot,csque.
That many do this is a fact which few will deny, and m,y motive
is not to make mirth at good men’ s expense, but to prevent its
being done by their hearers. It is sad to see the Lord’ s mcssagc
marred by bemg ill told, or to have attention taken off from it by
the odd&s of the mcssengcr’ s manner. Could those who con-sider
me to be trifling only see the results of bad action, as they
are seen by those who wish that they did not set them, th&
would discover that a vcr.y serious purpose lies beneath the som&
what sarcastic humour which I have employed ; and if they also
believed, as I do, that such evils cannot be cured except by es-posing
them to ridicule, they would acquit me of trifling, even
if they did not approve of my mode of dealing with t,he e&l.
Hoping that some benefit m:t.y accrue to the rising race of
preachers, and through them to the church of God, this book is
offered to the Lord’ s service, in the hope that he will use it for his
own glory..THE lectures of which this volume is composed were tlelircretl at
the Pastors’ College, in the rear of the Metropolitan Tabernacle,
and, therefore, we take the liberty to not& that Institution in
these pages. To make the College known, and to win for it will-ing
friends, is confessedly one object of our publications upon the
mini&-y, which may, indeed, be viewed as merely the giving forth
to a wider area the instruction carried on within the College walls.
The Institution is intended to aid useful preachers in obtaining
a better education, It t,akes no man to make him a minister, but
requires tha.t its pupils should , as a rule, have exercised their gifts
for at least two years, and have won souls to ,Jcsns. These we receive,
however poor or backward they may be, am1 our entlcxvonrs are
all directed to the one aim t,h:tt thev should be instructed iu
the things of God, furnished for th&‘ work, and pract~isetl ilr the
gift of utterance. Much prayer is made by the Ohnrch in the
Tabernacle that this end may be accomplished, nor has the prayer
been in vain, for some 365 men who were trained in t,his mauner
are now declaring the gospel of Jesus. ILitlcs the students for
the regdar ministry, several hundreds of street l)reil(zhers, city mis-sionaries,
teachers, and workers of all kinds have passed through
our Evening Classes, and more than 200 men are now with us,
pursuing their callings by day and studying in the evening, We..
4~ for lnwll prayer from all our brethren, that the supply of
t8he Spirit may sanctify the teaching, and anoint every worker fol
the scrvicc of the Lord.
As it would be quite unwarrantable for us to illterferc with tllc
arrangements of other bodies of Christians, who have their own
methods of t.raining their ministers, and as it is obvious that WC
could not find spheres for men in denominations with which we
hnvo no ecclcsinstiral connection, we confine our College to
Daptist,s ; and, in order not to be harassed with endless contro-versies,
we invite t,hose only who hold those views of divine truth
which arc lx~ln&rlp known as CaZ&istic,-not that we care fol
names and phrases ; but, ns wc wisll to he understood, WC use a term
which conveys our meaning as nearly as any descriptive word can
do. Belicvmg the Cgrand doctrines of grace to be the natural
accompaniments of the fundamental evangelical t,ruth of retlcmp-tion
by the blood of Jesus, we hold aud teach them, not only in
our ministry to the masses, but in the more select instruction of
the class room. Latitudinarianism with its infidelity, and unsec-tarianism
with its intolerance, are neit,her of them friends of ours :
we delight in the man who helievcs, and therefore speaks. Olll
Lord has pivcn us no lxrmission to be liberal with what is none
of ours. We are to -give an account of every t&Ii with which we
are put in trust.
Our means for conducting this work are with the Most Nigh
God, possessor of heaven am1 earth. We have no list of sub-scribers
or roll of endowments. Our trust is in him whom we
desire to scrvc. He has supported the work for many years, by
moving his stewards to send us help, and we are sure t,hat he ~111
continue to do so as long as he desires us to pursue this labour of
love. We need at least ~!Zl20 overy week of the year, for we have
113 men t,o board, lodge, and educate, preaching stations to hire,
and new churches to help. Since our service is gratuitous in
every sense, we the more freely appeal to those who agree with w
in believing that to aid an earliest young minister to equip himself
for his life-work is a wort,hy effort. No money yields so large a
return, no work is so important, just now none is so absolutely
The Holy Spirit in connection with our Ministry –
The necessity of Ministerial Progress – – -LECTURF
III 1 .
The need of 11ccision for the Troth – – – – n !I
Open Air Preaching-a Sketch of its History – -LECTURE
Opm A i r Preaching-Rcrnarks t h e r e o n – – -LECTURE
Pmture, Action, Clcstruq etc. – – – – – 96
Posture, Action, Gesture, etc. (Second Lectnrcj – – 116
Illustrations of Action – – – – – – 137
Earnestness : its Marring and Maintcmmce – – 143
The Blind Eye and the I)caf Ear – – – – 1G8
On Conversion as our Aim – – – – – 17’ ) ..LECTURE I,
I HAvE selected a topic upon which it would be difficult to say
anything which has not been often said before ; but as the theme
is of the highest importance it is good to dwell upon it fre-quently,
and even if we bring fort,11 only old things and nothing
more, it may be wise to put you in remembrance of them.
MINISTRY,” or-the work of the Holy Ghost in relation to our-selves
as ministers of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
“3 beliebe in t$e @old @@et.” Having pronounced that sen-tence
as a matter of creed, I hope we can also repeat it as a
devout soiiloquy forced to our lips by personal experience. To us
the presence and work of the Holy Spirit are the ground of our
confidence as to the wisdom and hopefulness of our life work. If
we had not believed in the Holy Ghost we should have laid down
our ministry long ere this, for “ who is sufficient for these things ?”
Our hope of success, and our strength &r continuing the service,
lie in our belief that the Spirit of the Lord resteth upon US.
I will for the time being take it for granted that we are all of
us conscious of the existence of the Holy Spirit. We have said
we believe in him ; but in very deed we have advanced beyond
faith in this matter, and have come into the region of conscious-ness.
Time was when most of us believed in the existence of our
present friends, for we had heard of them by the hearing of the
ear, but we have now seen each other, and returned the fraternal
grip, and felt the influence of happy companionship, and therefore
we do not now so much believe as know. Even so we have felt
the Spirit of God operating upon our hearts, we have known and
perceived the power which he wields over human spirits, and we
know him by frequent, conscious, personal contact. By the sen-sitiveness
of our spirit we are as much made conscious of the
presence of the Spirit of God as we are made cognizant of the
existence of the souls of our fellow-men by their action upon our
souls, or as we are certified of the existence of matter by its action
upon our senses. We have been raised from the dull sphere of mere
mind and mat,ter into the heavenly radiance of the spirit-world ;
and now, as spiritual men, we discern spiritual things, we feel the
forces which are paramount in the spirit-realm, and we know that
there is a Holy Ghost, for we feel him operating upon our spirits.
If it were not so, we should certainly have no right to be in the
ministry of Christ’s church. Should we even dare to remain in
her membership ? But, my brethren, we have been spiritually
quickened. We are distinctly conscious of a new life, with all
that comes out of it : we are new creatures in Christ Jesus, and
dwell in a new world. We have been illuminated, and made to
behold the things which eye hath not seen; we have been guided
into truth such as flesh and blood could never have revealed. We
have been comforted of the Spirit: full often have we been lifted
up from the deeps of sorrow to the heights of joy by the sacred
Paraclete. We have also, in a measure, been sanctified by him ;
and we are conscious that the operation of sanctification is going
on in us in different forms and ways. Therefore, because of all
these personal experiences, we know that there is a Holy Ghost,
as surely as we know that we ourselves exist.
I am tempted to linger here, for the point is worthy of longer
notice. Unbelievers ask for phenomena. The old business doc-trine
of Gradgrind has entered into religion, and the sceptic cries,
‘l What I want is facts.” T&se are OUT facts: let us not forget to
use them. A sceptic challenges me with the remark, “ I cannot
pin my faith to a book or a history; I want to see present facts.”
My reply is, “ You cannot see them, because your eyes are blinded ;
but the facts are there none the less. Those of us who have eyes
see marvellous things, though you do not.” If he ridicules my
assertion, I am not atiall astonished. I expected him to do so, and
should have been very much surprised if he had not done SO ; but
I demand respect to my own position as a witness to facts, and I
turn upon the objector with the enquiry–” What right have you
to deny my evidence ? If I were a blind man, and were told by
you that you possessed a faculty called sight, I should be un-reasonable
if I railed at you as a conceited enthusiast. All you
have a right to say is-t h at you know nothing about it, but you
are not authorized to call us all liars or dupes. You may join _
with revilers of old and declare that the spiritual man is mad, -but
that does not disprove his statements.” Brethren, to me the.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINfSTRY. 3
phenomena which are produced by the Spirit of God demonstrate
the truth of the Christian religion as clearly as ever the destruction
of Pharaoh at the Red Sea, or the fall of manna in the wilderness,
or the water leaping from the smitten rock, could have proved to
Israel the presence of God in the midst of her tribes.
We will now come to the core of our subject. To US, RS
ministers, the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential. Without him
our office is a mere name. We claim no priesthood over and above
that which belongs to every child of God ; but we are the SUC-cessors
of those who, in olden times, were moved of God to
declare his word, to testify against transgression, and to plead his
cause. Unless we have the spirit of the prophets rest,ing upon us,
the mantle which we wear is nothing but a rough garment to
deceive. We ought to be driven forth with abhorrence from the
society of honest men for daring to speak in the name of the Lord
if the Spirit of God rests not upon us. We believe ourselves to be
spokesmen for Jesus Christ, appointed to continue his witness
npon earth ; but upon him and his testimony the Spirit of God
always rested, and if it does not rest upon us, we are evidently not
sent forth into the world as he was. At Pentecost the commence-ment
of the great work of converting the world was with flaming
tongues and a rushing mighty wind, symbols of the presence of the
Spirit ; .if, therefore, we think to succeed without the Spirit, we
are not after the Pentecostal order. If we have not the Spirit
which Jesus promised, we cannot perform the commission which
Jesus gave.
I need scarcely warn any brother here against falling into the
delusion that we may have the Spirit so as to become inspired.
Yet the members of a certain litigious modern sect need to be
warned against this folly. They hold that their meetings arc
under “the presidency of the Holy Spirit :” concerning which
notion I can only say that I have been unable to discover in
holy Scripture either the term or the idea. I do find in the
New Testament a body of Corinthians eminently gifted, fond of
speaking, and given to party strifes-true representatives of
those to whom I allude, but as Paul said of them, “1 thank
God I baptized nojze of YOU,” so also do I thank the Lord that, few
of that school have ever been found in our midst. It would seem
that their assemblies possess a peculiar gift of inspiration, not
quite perhaps amounting to infallibility, but nearly approximating
thereto. If you have mingled in their gatherings, I greatly
question whether you have been more edified by the prelections.4 TIIE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
produced under celestial presidency, than you have been by those
of ordinary preachers of the Word, who only consider themselves
to be under the influence of the Holy Spirit, as one spirit is under
the influence of another spirit, or one miud under the influence of
another mind. We are not the passive communicators of infalli-bility,
but the honest teachers of such things as we have learned,
so far as we have been able to grasp them. As our minds are
active, and have a personal esisteuce while the mind of the Spirit
is acting upon them, our infirmities are apparent as well as his
wisdom; and while we reveal what he has made us to know, we
are greatly abased by the fear that our own ignorance and error
are in a measure manifested at the same time, because we haw
not been more perfectly subject to the diviue power. I do not
suspect that you will go astray in the direction I have hinted at:
certainly the results of previous esperiments are not likely to
tempt wise men to that folly,
This is our first question. Whvei7a may we look fof* the aid Of
the Haly Sp{ait t When we have spoken on this point, we will,
very. solemnly, consider :a second-Now may we lose that assistance ?
Let us pray that, by God’ s blessing, this consideration may help
ps to retain it.
Wherein may we look for the aid of ,the Holy Spirit ? I should
reply&n seyen or eight ways.
.l. First, ?Le is tJte S&At of kuozoleQe,–” life shall guide you into
all truth.” In this char&cter WC need his teaching,
We have urgent need to study, for the teacher of others must
himself be instructed. &bitually to come into the pulpit unpre-pared
is unpardonable presumption : nothing can more effectually
lower ourselves and our office. After a visitation discourse by the
Eshop of Lichfield upon the necessity of earnestly studying the
Wo.rd, a certain vicar told his lordship that he could not believe his
doctrine, + for,” said he, “ often when I am in the vestry I do not
know what ,I am going to talk about ; but I go into the pulpit and
preach, .and think nothing of it.” His lordship replied, “ And you
are quite right in thinking nothing of it, for your churchwardens
have told me that they share your opinion.” If we are not
instructed, how cau we instruct ? If we have not thought, how
shall we lead others to think? It is in our study-work, in that
blessed labour when we are alone with the Book before us, that WC
need the help of the Holy Spirit. He holds, the key of the
heavenly treasury, and can enrich us beyond conception; be has
the clue of the most labyrinthine doctrine, and can lead us in the.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 5
way of truth. He can break in pieces the gates of brass, and cut
in sunder the bars of iron, and give to us the treasures of darkness,
and hidden riches of secret places. If you study the original,
consult the commentaries, and meditate deeply, yet if you neglect
to cry mightily uuto the Spirit of God your study will not profit
you ; but even if you are debarred the use of helps (which I trust
you will not be), if you wait upon the Holy Ghost in simple dc-pendencc
upon his teaching, you will lay hold of very much of the
divine meaning.
The Spirit of God is’ peculiarly precious to ns, because he
especially instructs us as to the person and work of our Lord Jesus
Christ ; and that is the main point of our preaching. He takes of
the things of Christ, and shows them unto as. I$ he had taken of
the things of doctrine or precept, we should have been glad of
Such gracious assistance ; but since he especially delights in the
things of Christ, and focusses his sacred light u;)on the cross, we
rejoice to see the centre of our testimony so diviinely illuminated,
and we are sure that the light will be diffused over all the rest of
our ministry. Let us wait upon the Spirit of God with this cry-“
0 Holy Spirit, reveal to us the Son of God, and. thus show us
the Father.”
AS the Spirit of knowledge, he not only instructs US’ as to the
gospel, but he leads us to see the Lord in all other matters. We
are not to shut our eyes to God in nature, or to God in general
history, or to God in the daily occurreuces of providence, or to
God in our own experience ; and the blessed Spirit is the inter-preter
to us of the mind of God in all these. If we cry, “Teach
me what thou wouldst have me to do ; or, show me wherefore thou
contendest with me ; or, tell me what is thy mind in this precious
providence of mercy, or in that other dispensation of mingled
judgment and grace,“- we shall in each case be well instructed;
for the Spirit is the seven-branched candlestick of the sanctuary,
and by his light all things are rightly seen. As Goodwin well obd
serves, CL There must be light to accompany t,he truth if we are t,o
know it. The experience of all gracious men proves this. What
is the reason that you shall see some things in a chanter at one
time, and not at another ; some grace in your hearts at one time,
and not at another; have a sight of spiritual things at one time,
and not at another? The eye is the same, but it is the Holy
Ghost that openeth and shutteth this dark lantern, as I may so
call it ; as he openeth it wider, or contracts it, or shuttoth it
narrower, so do we see more or less : and sometimes he shutteth it.6 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
wholly, and then the soul is in darkness, though it have never so
good an eye.”
Beloved brethren, wait upon him for this light, or you will abide
in darkness and become blind leaders of the blind.
2. In the second place, the Spirit is called the Spirit of wisdom,
and we greatly need him in that capacity ; for knowledge may be
dsngcrous if unaccompanied with wisdom, which is the art of
rightly using what we know. Bightly t,o divide the Word of God
is as important as fully to nuderstand it, for some who have evi-dently
understood a part of the gospel have given undue prominence
to that one portion of it, and have therefore exhibited a distorted
Christianity, to the injury of those who have received it, since
they in their turn have exhibited a distorted character in
consequence thereof. A man’ s nose is a prominent feature in his
face, but it is possible to make it so large that eyes and mouth, aud
everything else are thrown into insignificance, and the drawing
is a caricature and not a portrait: so certain important doctrines
of the gospel can be so proclaimed in excess as to throw the rest of
truth iuto the shade, and the preaching is no longer the gospel in
its natural beauty, but a caricature of the truth, of which carica-ture,
however, let me say, some people seem to be mightily fond.
The Spirit of God will teach you the use of the sacrificial knife to
divide the offerings ; am1 he will show you how to use the balances
of the sanctuary so as to weigh out and mix the precious spices iu
their proper quantities. ‘ Every experienced preacher feels this to
be of the utmost moment,, and it is well if he is able to resist all
temptation to neglect it, Alas, some of our hearers do not desire
to hear the whole counsel of God. They have their favourite
doctrines, and would have us silent on all besides. Many are like
the Scotchwoman, who, after hearing a sermon, said, “It was very
well if it lmdna been for the trash of duties at the I&?z~t* end.“
There are brethren of that kind ; they enjoy the comforting part-the
promises and the doctrines, but practical holiness must scarcely
be touched upon. Faithfulness requires us to give them a four-square
gospel, from which nothing is omitted, and in which nothing
is exaggerated, and for this much wisdom is requisite. I gravely
question whether any of us have so much of this wisdom as we
need. We are probably afflicted by some iuexcusable partialities
and unjustifiable leanings ; let us search them out and have done
with them. We may be conscious of having passed by certain texts,
not because we do not understand them (which might be justifiable),
but because we do understand them, nnd hardly like to say what.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. ?
they have taught us, or because there may be some imperfection
in ourselves, or some prejudice among our hearers which those
texts would reveal too clearly for our comfort. Such sinful silence
must he ended forthwith. To be wise stewards and bring forth
the right portions of meat for our Master’ s household we need thy
teaching, 0 Spirit of the Lord I
Nor is this all, for even if we know how rightly to divide the
Word of God, we want wisdom in the selection of the particular
part of truth which is most applicable to the season and to the
people assembled ; and equal discretion in the tone and manner in
which the doctrine shall be presented, I believe that many
brethren who preach human responsibility deliver themselves in so
legal a manner as to disgust all those who love the doctrines of
grace. On the other hand, I fear that many have preached the
sovereignty of God in such a way as to drive all persons who
believe in man’ s free agency entirely away from the Calvinistic
side. We should not hide truth for a moment, but we should have
wisdom so to preach it that there shall be no needless jarring or
offending, but a gradual enlightenment of those who cannot see it
at all, and a leading of weaker brethren into the full circle of
gospel doctrine.
Brethren, we also need wisdom in the way of putting things to
different people. You can cast a man down with the very truth
which was intended to build him up. You can sicken a man
with the honey with which you meant to sweeten his mouth. The
great mercy of God has been preached unguardedly, and has led
hundreds into licentiousness ; and, on the other hand, the terrors
of the Lord have been occasionally fulminated with such violence
that they have driven men into despair, and so into a settled de-fiance
of the Most High. Wisdom is profitable to direct, and he
who hath it brings forth each truth in its season, dressed in its
most appropriate garments. Who can give us this wisdom but the
blessed Spirit ? 0, my brethren, see to it, that in lowliest reve-rence
you wait for his direction.
3. Thirdly, we need the Spirit in another manner, namely, as
the live coal from off the altar, touching our lips, so that when we
have knowledge and wisdom to select the fitting portion of truth,
we may enjoy freedom of utterance when we come to deliver it.
“ Lo, this hath touched thy lips.” Oh, how gloriously a man
speaks when his lips are blistered with the live coal from the altar
-feeling the burning power of the truth, not only in his inmost
&ml, but on the very lip with which he is speaking! Mark at.8 THE HOLY SPJRJT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MJNISTRY.
such times how his very utterance quivers. Did you not notice in
the prayer-meeting just now, in two of the suppliaut brethren,
how their tones were tremulous, and their bodily frames were
quivering, because not only were their hearts touched, as ,I
hope all our hearts were, but their lips were touched, and their
speech was thereby affected. Brethren, we need the Spirit of
God to open our mouths that we may show forth the praises of
the Lord, or else we shall not speak with power.
We need the divine influence to keep us back from saying
mauy things which, if they actually left* our tongue, would
mar our message. Those of us who are endowed with the dan-gerous
gift of humour have need, sometimes, to stop and take the
word out of our mouth and look at it, and see whether it is quite
to edificatiou ; and those whose previous lives have borne them
among the coarse and the rough had need watch with lynx eyes
against indelicacy. Brethren, far be it from us to utter a syl-lable
which would suggest an impure thought, or raise a question-able
memory. We need the Spirit of God to put bit and bridle
upon us to keep us from saying that which would take the miuds
of our hearers away from Christ and eternal realities, and set
them thinking upon the grovelling things of earth.
Brethren, we require the Holy Spirit also to incite us in our
utterance. I doubt not you are all conscious of different states
of mind in preaching. Some of those states arise from your
body being in different conditions. A bad cold will not only spoil
the clearness of the voice, but freeze the flow of the thoughts.
For my own part if I cannot speak clearly I am unable to think
clearly, and the matter becomes hoarse as well as the voice.
The stomach, also, and all the other organs of the body, affect the
mind; but it is not to these things that I allude. Are you not
conscious of changes ,altogether independent of the body? When
you are in robust health do you not fiud yourselves one day as
heavy as Pharaoh’s chariots with the wheels taken off, and at
another time as much at liberty as “ a hind let loose “? To-day
your branch glitters with the dew, yesterday it was parched with
drought. Who knoweth not that the Spirit of God is in all this?
The divine Spirit will sometimes work upon us SO as to bear US
completely out of ourselves. From the beginning of the sermon
to the end we might at such times say, “ Whether in the body
or out of the body I cannot tell : God knoweth.” Everything
has been forgotten but the one all-engrossing subject in hand. If
I were forbidden to enter heaven, but were permitted to select my.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 9
state for all eternity, I should choose to be as I sometimes feel in
preaching the gospel. Heaven is foreshadowed in such a stat,e:
t,he mind shut out from all disturbing influences, adoring the
majestic and consciously present God, every faculty aroused and
joyously escited to its utmost capability, all the thoughts and
powers of t.he soul joyously occupied in contemplating the glory
of the Lord, and extolling to listening crowds the Beloved of our
soul ; and all the while the purest conceivable benevolence towards
one’s fellow creatures urging the heart to plead with them on
God’s behalf-what state of miud can rival this? Alas, we have
reached this ideal, but we cannot always maintain it, for we know
also what it is to preach in chains, or beat the air. We ma-y not
attribute holy and happy changes in our ministry to anything
less than the action of the Holy Spirit upon our souls. I am
sure the Spirit does so work. Ofteu and often, when I have had
doubts suggested by the infidel, I have been able to fling them to
the winds with utter scorn, because I am distinctly conscious of
a power working upon me when I am speaking in the name of
the Lord, infinitely transcending any personal power of fluency,
and far surpassing any energy derived from excitement such as I
have felt when delivering a secular lecture or making a spcech-so
utterly distiuct from such power that I am quite certain it
is not of the same order or class as the enthusiasm of the poli-tician
or the glow of the orator. May we full often feel the
divine energy, and speak with power.
4. But then, fourthly, the Spirit of God acts also as on afzoint-ing
oil, and this relates to the entire delivery-not to the utterance
merely from the mouth, but to the whole delivery of the discourse.
He cau make you feel your subject till it thrills you, and you
become depressed by it so as to be crushed iuto the earth, or
elevated by it SO as to be borne upon its eagle wings; making
you feel, besides your subject, your object, till you yearn for the
conversion of men, and for the uplifting of Christians to some-thing
nobler than they have known as yet. At the same time,
another feeling is with you, namely, an intense desire that God
may be glorified through the truth which you are delivering. You
are conscious of a deep sympathy with the people to whom you are
speaking, makiug you mourn over some of them because they
know so little, and over others becanse they have known much,
but have rejected it, You look into some faces, and your heart
silently says. CL The dew is dropping there ;” and, turning to
others, you sorrowfully perceive that they are as Gilboa’s dewless.10 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNEdTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
mountain. All this will be going on during the discourse. We can-not
tell how many thoughts can traverse the mind at once. I once
counted eight sets of thoughts which were going on in my brain
simultaneously, or at least within the space of the same second.
I was preaching the gospel with all my might, but could not help
feeling for a lady who was evidently about to faint, and also
looking out for our brother who opens the windows that he might
give us more air. I was thinking of that illustration which I had
omitted under the first head, casting the form of the second di-visiou,
wondering if A felt my rebuke, aud praying that B might
get comfort from the consoling observation, and at the same time
praising God for my own personal enjoymeut of the truth I was
proclaiming. Some interpreters consider the cherubim with their
four faces to be emblems of ministers, and assuredly I see no diffi-culty
in the quadruple form, for the sacred Spirit can multiply our
mental states, and make us many times the men we are by nature.
How much he can make of us, and how grandly he can elevate us,
I will not dare to surmise: certainly, he can do exceeding abund-antly
above what we ask or even think.
Especially is it the Holy Spirit’s work to maintain in us a devo-tionalframe
of mind whilst we are discoursing. This is a condition
to be greatly coveted-to continne praying while you are occupied
with preaching ; to do the Lord’s commandments, hearkening uuto
the voice of his word; to keep the eyo on the throne, and the wing
in perpetual motion. I hope we know what this meaus ; I am sure
we know, or may soon experience, its opposite, namely, t’he evil of
preaching in an undevotional spirit, What can be worse than to
speak under the influence of a proud or angry spirit 1 What more
weakening than to preach in an unbelieving spirit ? But, oh, to burn
in our secret heart while we blaze before the eyes of others I This
is the work of the Spirit of God. Work it in us, 0 adorable
Comforter !
In our pulpits we need the spirit of dependence to be mixed with
that of devotion, so that all along, from the first word t(o the last
syllable, we may be looking up to the strong for strength. It is
well to feel that though you have continued up to the present point,,
yet if the Holy Spirit were to leave you, you would play the fool
ere the sermon closed. Looking to the hills wheuce comet11 your
help all the sermon through, with absolute dependence upon God,
you will preach in a brave, confident spirit all the while. Per-haps
I was wrong to say Cc brave,” for it is not a brave thing to
trust God : to true believers it is a simple matter of sweet necessity-.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 11
how can they help trusting him ? Wherefore should they doubt
their ever faithful Friend ? I told my people the other morning,
when preaching from the text, “ My grace is sufficient for thee,”
that for the first time in my life I experienced what Abraham
felt when he fell upon his face and laughed. I was riding
home, very weary with a long ‘week’s work, when there came
to my mind this text-“ My grace is sufficient for thee 2’ but
it came with the emphasis laid upon two words : “My grace
is sufficient for tllee.” My soul said, “ Doubtless it is. Surely
the grace of the infinite God is more than sufficient for such a
mere insect as I am,” and I laughed, and laughed again, to think
how far the supply exceeded all my needs. It seemed to me as
though I were a little fish in the sea, and in my thirst I said,
“Alas, I shall drink up the ocean.” Then the Father of the
waters lifted up his head sublime, and smilingly replied, “Lit,tle
fish, the boundless main is sufficient for thee.,’ The thought made
unbelief appear supremely ridiculous, as indeed it is. Oh, brethren,
we ought to preach feeling that God means to bless the word,
for we have his promise for it; aud when we have done preaching
we should look out for the people who have received a blessing. Do
you ever say, ‘ L I am overwhelmed with astonishment to find that
the Lord has converted souls through my poor ministry”? Mock
humility I Your ministry is poor enough. Everybody knows that,
and you ought to know it most of all : but, at the same time, is it
any wonder that God, who said “My word shall not return unto
me void,” has kept his promise ? Is the meat to lose its nourish-ment
because the dish is a poor platter? Is divine grace to be
overcome by our infirmity ? No, but we have this treasure in
earthen vessels, that the excellency of the power may be of God
and not of us.
We need the Spirit of God, then, all through the sermon to keep
our hearts and minds in a proper condition, for if we have not the
right spirit we shall lose the tone which persuades and prevails,
and our people will discover that Samson’s strength has departed
from him. Some speak scoldingly, and so betray their bad temper;
others preach themselves, and so revea1 their pride. Some dis-course
as though it were a condescension on their part to occupy
the pulpit, while others preach as though they apologised for their
existence. To avoid errors of manners and tone, we must be led ’
of the Holy Spirit, who alone teacheth us to profit.
5. Fifthly, we depend entirely upon the Spirit of God to produce
actual ej’ ect from the gospel, and at this effect we must always aim..12 TIIF, IIOLY SPIRIT IN CONPI’ ECTION WIT11 OUR MINISTRY.
We do not stand up in our pulpits to display our skill in spiritual
sword play, but we come to actual fighting : our object is to drive the
sword of the Spirit through men’s hearts. If preaching can ever in
any sense be viewed as a public exhibition, it should be like the eshi-bition
of a ploughing match, which consists in actual ploughingr. The
competition does sot lie in t,he appearance of the l~lougl~s, hut in
the work done ; so let ministers be judged by the way in which
they drive the gospel plough, aud cut the furrow from end to end
of the field. Always aim at effect. “ Oh,” says one, “ I thought
you would have said, ‘Never do that.” I do also say, never aim
at effect, in the unhappy sense of that expression. Never aim at
effect after the mauner of the climax makers, poetry quoters,
handkerchief manipulators, and bombast blowers. Far better for
a man that he had never been born than that he should degrade a
pulpit into a show box to exhibit himself in. Aim at the right
sort of effect ; the inspiring of saints to nobler things, the leading
of Christians closer to their Master, the comforting of doubters
till they rise otit of their t,errors, t.he repentance of sinnel’s, and
their exercise of immediate faith in Christ. Without these signs
following, what is the use of our sermons ? It would he a miscr-able
thing to have to say with st certain archbishop, “ I have pdsacd
through many places of honour and trust, both in Church and
State, more than any of my order in England, for sevcnt,y years
before; but Were I assured that by my preaching I bad but con-verted
one soul to God, I should herein take more comfort that in
all the honoured offices that have been bestowed upon m e .”
Miracles of grace must be the seals of our ministry ; who can
bestow them but the Spitit of God? Convert a soul without the
Spirit of God! Why, you cannot even make a fly, much less
create a new heart and a right spirit. Lead the childrell of God
to a higher life without the Holy Ghost I fTou are inexpressibly
more likely to conduct them into carnal security, if you attempt
their elevation by any method of your own. Our ends can never
be gained if we miss the co-operation of the Spirit of the Lord.
Therefore, with strong crying and tears, wait upou him from day
to day.
The lack of distinctly recognizing the power of the Holy Ghost
lies at the root of many useless ministries. The forcible words of
Robert Hall are as trtle now as when he patired them forth like
molten lava upon a semi-socinian generation. “On the one hand
it deserves attention, that the most eminent and successful
preachers of the gospel in different communities, a Brainercl, R.TIIE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNiCTION WITH OUR MIXISTRY. 13
Baster, and a Schwartz, have been the most conspicuous for simple
dependence on spiritual aid ; and on the other that no success
whatever has attended the ministrations of those by whom this
doct,rine has been either neglected or denied, They have met.
wit,h such a rebuke of their presumpt,ion, in the total failure of
their efforts, that none will contend for the reality of Divine
interposition, as far as they are concerned ; for when has the arm
of the Lord been revealed to those pretended teachers of Christi-anity,
who believe there is no such arm? We must leave them to
labour in a field respecting which God has commanded the clouds
not to rain LI~O~I it, As if conscious of this, of late they have
turned their efforts into a new channel, and despairing of the con-version
of sinners, have confined themselves to the seduction of the
faithful; in which, it must be confessed, they have acted in a
manner perfectly consistent with their principles ; the propaga-tion
of heresy requiring, at least, no divine assistance.”
6. Next we need the Spirit of Godas the Spirit of supplications,
who maketh intercession for the saints according to the will of
God. A very important part of our lives consists in praying in
the Holy Ghost, and that minister who does not think so had
better escape from his ministry. Abundant prayer must go with
earnest preaching. We cannot be always on the knees of the
body, but t,he soul should never leave the posture of devotion.
The habit ‘ of prayer is good, but tbc spirit of prayer is better.
Regular retirement is to be maintained, but continued communion
with God is to be our aim. As a rule, we ministers ought never
to be many minutes without actually lifting up our hearts in
prayer. Some of us could honestly say that we are seldom a
quarter of an hour without speaking to God, and that not as a duty
but as an instinct, a habit of the new nature for which we claim
no more credit than a babe does for crying after its mother. How
could we do otherwise ? Now, if we are to be much in the spirit
of prayer, we need secret oil to be poured upon the sacred fire of
our heart’ s devotion; we want to be again and again visited by
the Spirit of grace and of supplications.
As to our prayers in public, let it never be truthfully said that
they are official, formal, and cold; yet they will be so if the supply
of the Spirit be scant. Those who use a liturgy I judge not; but
to those who are accustomed to free prayer I say,-you camlot
pray acceptably in public year after year without the Spirit of
God ; dead praying will become offensive to the people long before
that time. What then? Whence shall our help come? Certain.14 THE HOLY SPrRkT tN CONBECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
/ weaklings have said, “ Let us have a liturgy I” Rather than seek
divine aid they will go down to Egypt for help. Rather than be
dependent upon the Spirit of God, they will pray by a book I For
my part, if I cannot pray, I would rather know it, and groan over
my soul’ s barrenness till the Lord shall again visit me with fruit-fulness
of devotion. If you are filled with the Spirit, you will be
glad to throw off all formal fetters, that you may commit yourself
to the sacred current, to be borne along till you find waters to
swim in. Sometimes you will enjoy closer fellowship with God in
prayer in the pulpit than you have known anywhere else. To me
my greatest secrecy in prayer has often been in public; my truest
loneliness with God has occurred to me while pleading in the
midst of thousands. I have opened my eyes at the close of a
prayer and come back t,o the assembly with a sort of a shock at
finding myself upon earth and among men. Such seasons are not
at our command, neither can we raise ourselves into such conditions
by any preparations or efforts. How blessed they are both to the
minister and his people no tongue can tell ! How full of power
and blessing habitual prayerfulness must also be I cannot here
pause to declare, but for it, all we must look to the Holy Spirit,
and blessed be God we shall not look in vain, for it is especially
said of him that he helpeth our infirmities in prayer.
‘ 7. Furthermore, it is important that we be under t&e influence
of the Holy Ghost, as he is the Spirit of Jloliness ; for a very con-siderable
and essential part of Christian ministry lies in example.
Our people take much note of what we say out of the pulpit, and
what we do in the social circle and elsewhere. Do you find it
easy, my brethren, to be saints ?-such saints that others may
regard you as examples ? We ought to be such husbands that
every husband in the parish may safely be such as we are. Is it
SO? We ought to be the best of fathers. Alas I some ministers,
to my knowledge, are far from this, for as to their families, they
have kept the vineyards of others, but their own vineyards they
have not kept. Their children are neglected, and do not grow up
as a godly seed. Is it so with yours ? In our converse with our
fellow men are we blameless and harmless, the sons of God without
rebuke? Such we ought to be. I admire Mr. Whitfield’ s reasons
for always having his linen scrupulously clean. “ No, no,” be
would say, “these are not trifles ; a minister must be without
spot,, even in his garments, if he can.” Purity cannot be carried
too far in a minister. You have known an unhappy brother be-spatter
himself, and you have affectionately aided in removing the.TI-rR HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 15
Spots, but YOU have felt that it would have been better had the
garments been always white. 0 to keep ourselves unspotted from
the world! 130~ can this be in such a scene of temptation, and
with such besetting sins unless we are preserved by superior
power? If you are to walk in all holiness and purity, as be- s
cometh ministers of the gospel, you must be daily baptized into
the Spirit of God.
8, Once again, we need the Spirit as a Spirit of discernment,
for he knows the minds of men as he knows the mind of God,
and we need this very much in dealing with difficult characters.
There are in this world some persons who might possibly be
allowed to preach;but they should never be suffered to become
pastors. They have a mental or spiritual disqualification. In the
church of San Zeno, at Verona, I saw the statue of that saint in
a sitting posture, and the artist has given him knees so short that
he has no lap whatever, so that he could not have been a nursing
father. I fear there are many others who labour under a similar
disability : they cannot bring their minds to enter heartily into
the pastoral care. They can dogmatize upon a doctrine, and con-trovert
upon an ordinance, but as to sympathizing with an expe-rience,
it is far from them. Gold comfort can such render to
afflicted consciences ; their advice will be equally valuable with
that of the highlander who is reported to have seen an English-man
sinking in a bog on Ben Nevis. “ I am sinking I” cried the
traveller. “ Can you tell me how to get out ?” The highlander
calmly replied, “ I think it is likely you never will,” and walked
away. We have known ministers of that kind, puzzled, and
almost annoyed with sinners struggling in the slough of despond.
If you and I, untrained in the shepherd’ s art, were placed among
the ewes and young lambs in the early spring, what should we do
with them ? In some such perplexity are those found who have
never been taught of the Holy Spirit how to care for the souls of
men. May his instructions save us from such wretched incom-petence.
Moreover, brethren, whatever our tenderness of heart, or loving
anxiety, we shall not know how to deal with the vast variety of
cases unless the Spirit of God shall direct us, for no two indi-viduals
are alike; and even the same case will require different
treatment at different times. At one period it may be best to
console, at another to rebuke; and the person with whom you
sympathized even to tears to-day may need that you confront him
with a frown to-morrow, for trifling with the consolation which.16 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
you presented. Those who bind up the broken-hearted, and set
free the captives, must have the Spirit of the Lord upon them.
In the oversight and guiclance of a church the Spirit’ s aid is
needed. At bottom the chief reason for secession from our de-.
nomination has been the difficulty arising out of our church
government. It is said to “ tend to the unrest of the ministry.”
Doubtless, it is very trying to those who crave for the dignity of
officialism, and must need be Sir Oracles, before whom not a dog
must bark. Those who are no more capable of ruling than mere
babes are the very persons who have the greatest thirst for autho-rity,
and, finding little of it awarded to them in these parts, they
seek other regions, If you cannot rule yourself, if you are not
manly and independent, if you are not superior in moral weight,
* if you have not more gift and more grace than your ordinary
hearers, you may put on a gown and claim to be the ruling person
in the church ; but it will not be in a church of the Baptist or New
Testament order. For my part I sl~oulcl loathe to be the pastor
of a people who have nothing to say, or who, if they do say anything,
might as well be quiet, for the pastor is Lord Paramount, and
they are mere laymen and nobodies. I would sooner be the leader
of six free men, whose enthusiastic love is my only power over
them, than play the dictator to a score of enslaved nations. What
position is nobler than that of a spiritual father who claims no
authority aud yet is universally esteemed, whose word is given
only as tender advice, but is allowed to operate with the force of
law? Consulting the wishes of others he finds that they first
desire to know what he would recommend, and deferring always to
the desires of others, he finds that they are glad to defer to him.
Lovingly firm and graciously gentle, he is the chief of all because
he is the servant of all. Does not this need wisdom from above “1
What can require it more? David when established on the throne
said, “It is he that subdueth my people uncler me,” and SO may
every happy pastor say when he sees so many brethren of differing
temperaments all happily willing to be under discipline, and to
accept his leadership in the work of the Lord. If the Lord were
not among us bow soon there would be confusion. Ministers,
deacons, and elders may all be wise, but if the sacred Dove de-parts,
and the spirit of strife enters, it is all over with us. Brethren,
our system will not work without the Spirit of God, ancl I am
glad it will not, for its stoppages and breakages call our attention
to the fact of his absence. Our system was never intended to
promote the glory of priests and pastors, but it is calculated to.THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNEOTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 17
educate manly Christians, who will not take their faith at second-hand.
What am I, and what are you, that we should be lords
over God’ s heritage? Dare any of us say with the French king,
“ L’ etat, c’ est moi”–” the state is myself,“-1 am the most im-portant
person in the church ? If so, the Holy Spirit is not likely
to use such unsuitable instruments; but if we know our places
and desire to keep them with all humility, he will help us, and the
churches will flourish beneath our care.
I have given you a lengthened catalogne of matters wherein the
Iloly Spirit is absolutely necessary to us, and yet the list is very
far from complete. I have intentionally left it imperfect, because
if I attempted its completion all our time would have expired
before we were able to answer the question, How MAY WE LOSE
THIS NEEDFUL ASSISTANCE? Let none of us ever try the experi-ment,
but it is certain that ministers may lose the aid of the Holy
Ghost. Each man here may lose it. You shall not perish as be-lievers,
for everlasting life is in you; but you may perish as minis-ters,
and be no more heard of as witnesses for the Lord. Should
this happen it will not be without a cause. The Spirit claims
a sovereignty like that of the wind which bloweth where it
listeth; but let us never dream that sovereignty and capriciousness
are the same thing. The blessed Spirit acts as he wills, but he
always acts justly, wisely, and with motive and reason. At times
he gives or withholds his blessing, for reasons connected with our-selves.
Mark the course of a river like the Thames; how it winds
and twists according to its own sweet will: yet there is a reason for
every bend and curve: the geologist studying the soil and marking
the conformation of the rock, sees a reason why the river’ s bed di-verges
to the right or to the left: and so, though the Spirit of God
blesses one preacher more than another, and the reason cannot be
such that any man could congratulate himself upon his own good-ness,
yet there are certain things about Christian ministers which
God blesses, and certain other things which hinder success. The
Spirit of God falls like the dew, in mystery and power, but it is in
the spiritual world as in the natural: certain substances are wet
with the celestial moisture while others are always dry. Is there
not a cause? The wind blows where it lists; but if we desire to
feel a stiff breeze we must go out to sea, or climb the hills. The
Spirit of God has his favoured places for displaying his might.
He is typified by a dove, and the dove has its chosen haunts: to the
rivers of waters, to the peaceful and quiet places, the dove resorts;
we meet it not upon the battle-field, neither does it alight on
carrion. There are things congruous to the Spirit, and things;
contrar.y to his mind. The Spirit of God is compnrcd to light, and
light can shine where it wills, but some bodies are opaque, while
others are transparent ; and so there are men through whom God
the Holy Ghost can shine, and there are others through whom his
brightness never appears. Thus, then, it can be shown that the
Holy Ghost,, though he be the “free Spirit” of God, is by no means
capricious in his operations.
But, dear brethren, the Spirit of God may be grieved and vexed,
and even resisted: t,o deny this is to oppose the constant testimouy
of Scripture. Worst of all, we may do despite to him, and so in-sult
him that he will speak no more by us, but leave us as he left
king Saul of old. Alas, that there should be men in the Christian
ministry to whom this has happened; but I am afraid there are.
Brethren, what are those evils which will grieve the Spirit? I
answer, anything that would have disqualified you as an ordinary
Christian for communion with God also disqualifies you for feeling
the extraordinary power of the Holy Spirit as a minister: but,
apart from that, there are special hindrances.
Among the first we must mention a want of sensitiveness, or that
unfeeling condition which arises from disobeying the Spirit’ s in-fluences.
We should be delicately sensitive to his faintest move-ment,
and then we may expect his abiding presence, but if we are
as the horse and as the mule, which have no understanding, we
shall feel the whip, but we shall not enjoy the tender influences of
the Comforter. Another grieving fault is a want of truthfulness. When a great
musician takes a guitar, or touches a harp, and finds that the notes
are false, he stay3 his hand. Some men’ s souls are not honest;
they are sophistical and double-minded. Christ’ s Spirit will not
be an accomplice with men in the wretched business of shuffling and
deceiving. Does it really come to this-that you preach certain
doctrines, not because pou believe them, but because your congre-gation
expects you to do SO ? Are you biding your time till you
can, without risk, renounce your present creed and tell out what
your dastardly mind really holds to be true? Then are you fallen
indeed, and are baser than the meanest slaves. God deliver us
from treacherous men, and if they enter our ranks, may they
speedily be drummed out to the tune of the Rogue’ s March. If
we feel an abhorrence of them, how much more must the Spirit
You can greatly grieve the Holy Spirit by a general scantiness
of grace. The phrase is awkward, but it describes certain persons
better than any other which occurs to me. The Scanty-grace
family usually have one of the brothers in the ministry. I know
the man. He is not dishonest, nor immoral, he is not bad tempered,
nor self-indulgent, but there is a something wanting: it would not
be easy to prove its absence by any overt offcnce, but it is wanting
in the whole man, and its absence spoik everything. He wauts
the one thing needful. He is not spiritual, he has no savour of
Christ, his heart never burns within him, his soul is not alive, he
wants grace. We cannot expect the Spirit of God to bless a
ministry which never ought to have been exercised, and certainly a
graceless ministr.y is of that character.
Another evil which drives away the divine Spirit is pride. The
way to be very great is to be very little. To be very noteworthy
in your own esteem is to be unnoticed of God. If you must needs
dwell upon t,he high places of the earth, *you shall find the mountain
summits cold and barren: the Lord dwells with the lowly, but he
knows the proud afar off.
The HoIy Ghost is also vexed by laziness. I cannot imagine
the Spirit waiting at the door of a sluggard, and supplying the
deficiencies created by indolence. Sloth in the cause of the Re-deemer
is a vice for which no excuse can be invented. We our-selves
feel our flesh creep when we see the dilatory movements of
sluggards, and we may be sure that the active Spirit is equally
vexed with those who trifle ir_ the work of the Lord.
Neglect of private prayer and many other evils will produce the
same unhappy result, but there is no need to enlarge, for your own
consciences will tell you, brethren, what it is that grieves the Holy
One of Israel.
And now, let me entreat you, listen to this word :-Do you huno
what may happen if the Spikt of God be greatly gkeved and depart
f ram us? There are two suppositions. The first is that we never
were God’ s true scrvauts at all, but were only temporarily used by
him, as Balaam was, and even the ass on which he rode. Suppose,
brethren, that you and I go on comfortably preaching a while, and
are neither suspected by ourselves nor others to be destitute of the
Spirit of God: our ministry may all come to an end on a sudden,
and we may come to an end with it; we may be smitten down in
our prime, as were Nadab and Abidn, no more to be seen ministering
before the Lord, or removed in riper years, like Hophni and
Phineas, no longer to serve in the t,abernacle of the congregation..20 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY.
We have no inspired annalist to record for us the sudden cutting
off of promising men, but if we had, it may be we should read
with terror-of zeal sustained by strong drink, of public Phari-seeism
associated with secret defilement, of avowed orthodoxy
concealing absolute infidelity, or of some other form of strange
fire presented upon the altar till the Lord would endure it no
more, and cut off the offenders with a suddeu stroke. Shall this
terrible doom happen to any one of us ?
Alas, I have seen some deserted by the Holy Spirit, as Saul was.
It is written that the Spirit of God came upon Saul, but he was
faithless to the divine influence, and it departed, and an evil spirit
occupied its place. See how the deserted preacher moodily plays
the cynic, criticises all others, and hurls the javelin of detraction
at a better man than himself. Saul was once among the prophets,
but he was more at home among the persecutors. The disap-pointed
preacher worries the true evangelist, resorts to the witch-craft
of philosophy, and seeks help from dead heresies; but his
power is gone, and the Philistines will soon find him among the
slain. “Tell it not in Gath, publish it not in the streets of
Askelon ! ye daughters of Israel weep over Saul I Dow are the
mighty fallen in the midst of the battle I”
Some, too, deserted by the Spirit of God, have become like the
sons of one Sceva, a Jew. Tllese pretenders tried to cast out
devils in the name of Jesus, whom Paul preached, but the devils
leaped upon them and overcame them ; thus while certain preachers
have declaimed against sin, the very vices which they denounced
have overthrown them. The sons of Sceva have been among us in
England : the devils of drunkenness have prevailed over the very
man who denounced the bewitching cup, and the demon of un-chastity
has lcaped upon the preacher who applauded purity. If
the Holy Ghost be absent, ours is of all positions the most perilous ;
therefore let us beware.
Alas, some ministers become like Balaam. He was a prophet,
was he not ? Did he not speak in the name of the Lord ? Is he
not called “the man whose eyes are opened, which saw the vision
of the Almighty ?” Yet Balsam fought against Israel, and cun-ningly
devised a scheme by which the chosen people might be
overthrown. Ministers of the gospel have become Papists, infidels,
and freethinkers, and plotted the destruction of what they once
professed to prize. We may be apostles, and yet, like Judas, turn
out to be sons of perdition. Woe uuto us if this be the case!
Brethren, I will assume that we really are the children of God,.TIIE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR MINISTRY. 21
and what then ? Why, even then, if the Spirit of God depart
from us, we may be taken away on a sudden as the deceived pro-phet
was who fallcd to obey the command of the Lord in the days
of Jeroboam. He was no doubt a man of God, and the death of
his body was no evidence of the loss of his soul, but he broke
away from what he knew to be the command of God given specially
to himself, nud his ministry ended there and then, for a lion met
him by the way and slew him. May the Holy Spirit preserve us
from deceivers, and keep us true to the voice of God.
Worse still, WC ma,y reproduce the life of Samson, upon whom
the Spirit of God came in the camps of Dan ; but in Delilah’ s lap
he lost his strength, aud in the dungeon he lost his eyes. IIc
bravely finished his life-work, blind as he was, but who among us
wishes to tempt snch a fate?
Or-and this last has saddcncd mc beyond all expression,
because it is much more likely than any of the rest-we may be
left by the Spirit of God, in a painful degree, to mar the close of
our life-work as Moses did. Not to lose our souls, nay, not even to
lose our crowns in heaven, or even our reputations on cart11 ; but,
still, to be under a clotd in our last days through once speaking
unadvisedly with our lips. I have lately studied the later days
of the great prophet of Horeb, and I have not yet rccoveretl
from the deep gloom of spirit which it cast over mc. What was
the sin of Moses ? You need not enquire. It was not gross like
the transgression of David, nor startling like the failure of Peter,
nor weak and foolish like the grave fault of his brother Aaron;
indeed, it seems an infinitesimal offence as weighed in the balances
of ordinary judgment. But then, you see, it was the sin of Moses,
of a man favoured of God beyond all others, of a Icadcr of the
people, of a representative of the divine King. The Lord could
have overlooked it in anyone else, but not in Moses: Moses must
be chastened by being forbidden to lead the people into the pro-mised
lancl. Truly, he had a glorious view from the top of Pisgah,
and everything else which could mitigate the rigour of the sen-tence,
but it was a great disappointment never to enter tbc land of
Israel’ s inheritance, and that for once speaking unadvisedly. I
would not shun my Master’ s service, but I tremble in his presence.
Who can be faultless when even Moses erred ? It is a dreatlfnl
thing to be beloved of God. “ Who among us shall dwell with
devouring fire ? Who among us shall dwell with everlasting
burnings? He that walketh righteously and speakcth uprightly”-he
alone can face that sin-consuming flame of love. Brethren,.22 THE HOLY SPIRIT IN CONNECTION WITH OUR ?MINISTRY.
I beseech you, crave Moses’ s place, but tremble as you take it.
Fear and tremble for all the good that God shall make to pass
before you. When you are fullest of the fruits of the Spirit bow
lowest before the throne, and serve the Lord with fear. “ The
Lord our God is a jealous God.” Remember that God has come
unto us, not to exalt US, but to exalt himself, and we must see to
it that his glory is the one sole object of all that we do. “ He must
increase, and I must decrease.” Oh, nmy God bring us to this,
and make us walk very carefully and humbly before him. God
will search us and tq- us, for judgment begins at his own house,
and in that house it begins with his ministers. Will any of us be
found wanting ? Shall the pit of hell draw a portion of its
wretched inhabitants from among our band of pastors 1 Ter-rible
will be the doom of a fallen preacher: his condemnation
will astonish common transgressors. “ Hell from beneath is moved
for thee to meet thee at thy coming.” All they shall speak and
say unto thee, “Art thou also become weak as we? Art thou
become like unto us ?” 0 for the Spirit of God to make and
keep us alive unto God, faithful to our office, and useful to 0111
generation, and clear of the blood of men’ s souls. Amen..LECTURE II.
DEAR F ELLOW SOLDIERS ! We are few, and we have a desperat’ e
fight before us, therefore it is needful that every man should be
made the most of, and nerved to his highest point of strength. It
is desirable that the Lord’ s ministers should be the picked-men of
the church, yea, of the entire universe, for such the age demands ;
therefore, in reference to yourselves and your personal qualifica-tions,
I give you the motto, bL Go forward.” Go forward in per-sonal
attainments, forward in gifts and in grace, forward in fitness
for the work, and forward in conformity to the image of Jesus.
The points I shall speak upon begin at the base, and ascend.
I. First, dear brethren, I think it necessary to say to myself
and to you that we must go forwa& in OUT mental acquirements.
It wiil never do for us continually to present ourselves to God at
our worst. We are not worth his having at our best; but at any
rate let not the offering be maimed and blemished by our idleness.
“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart” is, per-haps,
more easy to comply with, than to love him with all our
mind; yet we must give him our mind as well as our affections,
and that mind should be well furnished, that we may not offer
him an empty casket. Our ministry demands mind. I shall not
insist upon “ the enlightenment of the age,” still it is quite certain
that there is a great educational advance among all classes, arld
that there will yet be much more of it. The time is passed when
ungrammatical speech will suffice for a preacher. Even in a
country village, where, according to tradition, “nobody knows
nothing,” the schoolmaster is now abroad, and want of education
will hinder usefulness more than it once did; for, when the speaker
wishes his audience to remember the gospel, they on the other
* This lecture was delivered to ministers who dad been educated at the Pastors
College as well as to students, hence certain differences of expression..24 FORWARD !
hand wiI1 remember his ungrammatical expressions, and will re-peat
them as themes for jest, when we could have wished thc.?y
had rehearsed the divine doctrines to one another in solemn
earnest. Dear brethren, we must cnltivate ourselves to the highest
possible point, and we should do this, firrt, by gathering in ltnow-ledge
that we may fill the barn, then by acquiring discrimination
that we may winnow the heap, and last,ly by a firm retentiveness
of mind, by which we may lay up the winnowed grain in the
storehouse. These three points may not be equally important, but
they are all necessary to a complete man.
We must, I say, make great efforts to acpire information,
especially of a Biblical kind. Wo must not confine ourselves to
one topic of study, or we shall not exercise our whole mental man-hood.
God made the world for man, and he made man with a mind
intended t,o occupy and use a,11 the world ; he is the tenant, and
nature is for a while his house ; wh.y should he shut himself out of
any of its rooms 9 Why refuse to taste any of the cleansed meats
the great Father has put upon the table? Still, our main busi-ness
is to st,udy the Scriptures. The smith’s main business is to
shoe horses ; let him see that he knows how to do it, for should he
be able to belt an angel with a girdle of gold he will fail as a
smith if he cannot make and fix a horse-shoe. It is a small matte1
that you should be able to write the most brilliant poetry, as pos-sibly
you could, unless you can preach a good and telling sermon,
which will have the effect of comfortiq saints and convincing
sinners. Study the Bible, dear brethren, through and through,
with all helps that you can possibly obtain: remember that the
appliances now within the reach of ordinary Christians are much
more extensive than the,y were in our fathers’ days, and therefore
you must be greater Biblical scholars if you would keep in front,
of your hearers. Intermeddle with all knowledge, but above all
things meditate day and night in the law of the Lord.
Be well instructed in theology, and do not regard the sneers of
those who rail at it because they are ignorant of it. Many
preachers are not theologians, and hence the mistakes which they
make. It cannot do any hurt to the most lively evangelist to be
also a sound theologian, and it may often be the means of saving
him from gross blunders, Now-a-days we hear men tear a single
sentence of Scripture from its connection, and cry “ Etueka !
Eureka ! ” as if they had found a new truth ; and yet they have
not discovered a diamond, but a piece of broken glass. Had they
been able to compare spiritual things with spiritual, had they.FORWARD ! 25
understood the analogy of the faith, and had they been acquainted
with the holy learning of the great Bible students of ages past,
they would not have been quite so fast in vaunting their marvel-lous
knowledge. Let us be thoroughly well acquainted with the
great doctrines of the Word of God, and let us be mighty in ex-pounding
Scripture. I am sure that no preaching will last so
long, or build up a church so well, as the exposit,ory. To renouuce
altogether the hortatory discourse for the expository would be run-ning
to a preposterous extreme ; but I cannot too earnestly assure
you that if your ministries are to be lastingly useful you must be
expositors. For this you must understand the Word yourselves,
and be able so to comment upon it that the people may be built
np by the Word. Be masters of your Bibles, brethren : whatever
other works you have not searched, be at home with the writings
of the prophets and apostles. 6‘ Let the word of God dwell in you
Having given precedence to the inspired writings, neglect no
field of knowledge. The presence of Jesus on the earth has sanc-tified
the realms of nature, and what he has cleansed call not you
common. All that your Father has made is yours, and you should
learn from it. You ma_y read a naturalist’ s journal, or a traveller’ s
voyage, and find profit m it. Yes, and even an old herbal, or a
manual of alchemy may, like Samson’ s dead lion, yieltl you honey.
There are pearls in oyster shells, and fruits on thorny boughs. The
paths of true science, especially natural history and botany, daop
fatness. Geology, so far as it is fact, and not fiction, is full of
treasures. History-wonderful are the visions which it makes to
pass before you-is eminently instructive ; indeed, every portion
of God’ s dominion in nature teems with precious teachings. B’ ollow
the trails of knowledge, according as you have the time, the op-portunity,
and the peculiar faculty; and do not hesitate to do so
because of any apprehension that you will educate yourselves up
to too high a point. When grace abounds, learning will not puff
you up, or injure your simplicity in the gospel. Serve God with
such education as you have, and thank him for blowing through
you if you are a ram’ s horn, but if there be a possibility of your
becoming a silver trumpet, choose it rather.
I have said that we must also learn to disc~~inzilznte, and at
this particular time that point needs insist)ing on. Alally run
after novelties, charmed with every invention: learn to judge
between truth and its counterfeits, and you will not be led astray.
Others adhere like limpets to old teachings, and yet these may
..26 FORWARD !
only be ancient errors : prove all things, and hold fast that which
is good. The use of the sieve, and the winnowing fan, is much
to be commended, Dear brethren, a man who has asked of the
Lord to give him clear eyes bv which he shall see the truth and
discern its bearings, and who, by reason of the constant exercise
of his faculties, has obtained an accurate judgment, is one fit to
be a leader of the Lord’ s host; but all are not such. It is painful
to observe how many embrace anything if it be but earnestly
brought before them. They swallow the medicine of every
spiritual quack who has enough of brazen assurance to appear to
be sincere. Be ye not s uch children in understanding, but test
carefully before you accept. Ask the Holy Spirit to give you the
faculty of discerning, so shall you conduct your flocks far from
poisonous meadows, and lead them into safe pasturage.
When in due t,ime you have gained the power of acquiring
knowledge, and the facult,y of discrimination, seek next for ability
to retain and hold firmly what you have learned. In these times
certain men glory in being weathercocks; they hold fast nothing,
they have, in fact, nothing worth the holding. They believed
yesterday, but not that which they believe to-day, nor that which
they will believe to-morrow ; and he would be a greater prophet
than Isaiah who should be able to tell what they will believe when
next the mo8n dot11 fill her horns, for they are constantly altering,
and seem to be born under that said moon, and to partake of her
changing moods. Tllese men may be as honest as they claim to be,
but of what use are they ? Like good trees oftentimes transplanted,
they may be of a noble nature, but they 3riug forth not,hing ;
their strength goes out in rooting and re-rooting, they have no
sap to spare for fruit. Be sure you have the truth, and then
be sure you hold it. Be ready for fresh truth, ij’ it be truth,
but be very chary how you subscribe to the belief that a better
light has been found than that of the sun. Those who hawk
new truth ahout the street, as the boys do a second edition of t,he
evening paper, are usually no better thau they should be. The
fair maid of truth does not paint her cheeks and tire her head
like Jezebel, following every new l~hilosopl~ic fashion ; she is con-tent
with her own native beauty, and her aspect is in the main t,he
same yesterday, to-day, and for ever. When men change often
they generally need to be changed in the most emphatic sense.
Our “ modern thought ” gentry are doing incalculable mischief to
t,he souls of men, and resemble Nero fiddling upon the top of a
tower with Eome burning at his feet. Souls are being damned,.FORWARD ! 27
and yet these men are spinning theories. Hell hqq)es wide, and
with her open mouth swallows up myriads, and those who should
spread the tidings of salvation are “pursuing fresh lines of
tllOUght.” Highly cultured soul-murderers will find their boasted
(‘culture ” to be no excuse in the day of judgment. For God’s
sake, let us know how men are to be saved, and get to the work:
to be for ever deliberating as to the proper mode of making
bread while a nation dies of famine is detestable trifling. It is
time weknew what to teach, or else renounced our office. “ For
ever learning and never coming to the truth ” is the motto of tile
worst rather than the best of men. I saw in Rome a statue of
a boy extracting a thorn from his foot; I went my way, and re-turned
in a year’s time, and there sat the selfsame boy, extracting
the intruder still. Is this to be our model? “ I shape my creed
every week,” was the confession of one of these divines to me.
Whereunto shall I liken such unsettled ones? Arc they not
like those birds which frequent the Golden Horn, aud are to be
seen from Constantinople, of which it is said that they are always
on the wing, and never rest.7 No one ever saw them alight on
the water or on the land, they are for ever poised in mid-air.
The natives call them “lost souls,” seeking rest and finding none.
Assuredly, men who have no persoual rest in t,he truth, if they
are not unsaved themselves, are, at least, very unlikely to save
others. He who has no assured truth to tell must not won&r
if his hearers set small store by him. We must know the truth,
understand it, and hold it with firm grip, or we caunot bope to
lead others to believe it. Brethren, I charge you, seek to know
and t,o discriminate ; and then, having discriminated, labour to be
rooted and grounded in the truth. Keep in full operation the
processes of filling the barn, winnowing the grain, and storing
it in granaries, so shall you mentally “ Go forward.”
2. We need to go forward in oratorical guala$Scations. I am
beginning at the bottom, but even this is important, for it is a
pity t,hat even the feet of this image should be of clay. Nothing
is trifling which can be of any service to our grand design. Only
for want of a nail the horse lost his shoe, and so became unfit for
t,he battle; that shoe was only a trifling rim of iron which smote
the ground, and yet the neck clothed with thunder was of no avail
when the shoe was gone. A man may be irretrievably ruined for
spiritual usefulness, not because he fails either in character or
spirit,, but because he breaks down mentally or oratorically, and,
therefore, I have begun with these points, and again remark t’hat.28 FORWA RZ) !
we must improve in utterance. Itis not every one of us who can
speak as some tim do, and even these men cannot speak up to
tlicir own ideal. If there be any brother here who thinks he cau
preach as well as he should, I would advise him to leave off alto-gether.
If he did so he would be acting as wisely as the great
painter who broke his palett.e, and, turning to his wife, said, “My
painting days are over, for I have satisfied myself, and therefore I
am sure my power is gnne.” Whatever other perfection may he
reachable, I am certain that he who thinks he has gained perfec-tion
in oratory mistakes volubility for eloquence, and verbiage for
argument. Whatever you may know, you cannot be truly efficient
ministers if you are not “apt to teach.” You know ministers
who have mistaken their calling, and evidently have no gifts for it:
make sure that none think the same of you. There are brethren
in the ministry whose speech is intolerable ; either they rouse you to
wrath, or else they send 70~ to sleep. No chloral can ever equal
some discourses in sleep-giving properties ; no human being, unless
gifted with iufiuite pat,ience, could long endure to listen to them,
and nature does well to give the victim deliverance through sleep.
I heart1 one say the other day that a certain preacher had no more
gifts for the ministry than an oyster, and in my own judgment
this was a slander on the oyster, for that worthy bivalve shows
great discretion in his openings, and knows when to close. If
some men were sentencetl to hear their own sermons it would be
A righteous judgment upon them, and they would soon cry out
with Cain, I “ My punishment is greater than I can bear.” IA us
not fall uuder the same condemnation.
Brethren, we should cult,ivate a clear sfylfz. When a m,nn does
not make mc understand what he means, it is because he does not
himself know what he menus. An average hearer, who is unable
to follow t,lle course of thought of’ the preacher, ought not to worry
himself, but to blame the preacher, whose business it is to make
the matter plain. If you look down into a well, if it be empty it,
will appear to bc very deep, but if there be water in it you will see
its brightness. I believe that rnanp “ deep” preachers are slmp1.v
so because they are like dry wells with nothing whatever in them,
except decaying leaves, a few stones, and perhaps a dead cat 01
two. If there be living water in your preaching it may be very
deep, but the light of truth will give clearness to it. It is not
enough to be so lilain that you can be understood, you must speak
so that you cannot be misunderstood.
We must cultivate a cogent as well as a clear style; our speech.FORWARD ! 29
must be forceful. Some imagine that this consism in speaking
loudly, but I can assure them they are in error. Nonsense does
not improve by being bellowed. God does not require us to shout
as if we were speaking to ten thousand when we are only ad-dressing
three hundred. Let us be forcible by reason of the ex-cellence
of our matter, and the energy of spirit which we throw
into the delivery of it. In a word, let our speaking be natural
and living. I h p o e we have foresworn the tricks of professional
orators, the strain for effect, the studied climax, the pre-arranged
pause, the theatric strut, the mouthing of words, and I know not
what besides, which you may see in certain pompous divines who
still survive upon the face of the earth. May such become extinct
animalsere long, and may a living, natural, simple way of t,alking
out the gospel be learned by us all ; for I am persuaded that such
a style is one which God is likely to bless.
Among many other things, we must cultivate persuasiveness.
Some of our brethren have great influence over men, and yet
others with greater gifts are devoid of it ; these last do not appear
to get near to the people, they cannot grip them and make them
feel. There are preachers who in their sermons seem to take their
hearers one by one by the button-hole, and drive the truth right
into their souls, while others generalise so much, and are so cold
withal, that one would think they were speaking of dwellers in
some remote planet, whose affairs did not much concern them.
Learn the art of pleading with men. You will do this well if you
often see t.he Lord. If I remember rightly, the old classic story
tells us that, when a soldier was about to kill Darius, his son, who
had been dumb from his childhood, suddenly cried out in surprise,
(‘ Know you not that he is the king?” His silent tongue was
unloosed by love to his father, and well may ours find earnest
speech when the Lord is seen by us crucified for sin. If there be . any speech m us, this will rouse it. The knowledge of the terrors
of the Lord should also bestir us to persuade men. We cannot do
other than plead with them to be reconciled to God. Brethren,
mark those who woo sinners to Jesus, fiud out their secret, and
never rest till you obtain the same power. If you find them very
simple and homely, yet if you see them really useful, say to your-self,
“ That is my fashion ; ” but if on the other hand you listen
to a preacher who is much admired, and on inquiry find that no
souls are savingly converted, say to yourself, 6LThis is not the
thing for me, for I am not seeking to be great, but to be really
usefti.30 FORWARD !
Let your oratory, therefore, constantly improve in clearness,,
cogency, naturalness, and persuasiveness. Try, dear brethren, to
get such a style of speaking that you suit yourselves to you7*
audiences. Much lies in that. The preacher who should address
an educated congregation in the language which he would use in
speaking to a company of costermongers would prove himself a
fool : and on the other hand, he who goes down amongst miners and
colliers with technical theological terms and drawing-room phrases
acts like an idiot. The confusion of tongues at Babel was more thorough
than we imagine. It did not merely give different languages to
great nations, but it made the speech of each class to vary from
that of others. A fellow of Billingsgate cannot understand a
fellow of Brazenose. Now as the costermonger cannot learn the
language of the college, let the college learn the language of the
costermonger. “ We use the language of the market,” said Whit-field,
aud this was much to his honour ; yet when he stood in the
drawing-room of the Countess of Huntingdon, and his speech
entranced the infidel noblemen whom she brought to hear him, he
adopted another style. His langua.ge was equally plain in each
case, because it was equally familiar to the audience : he did
not use the ipsissima verba, or his language would have lost its
plainness in the one case or the other, and would either have been
slang to the nobility, or Greek to the crowd. In our modes of
speech we should aim at being “ all things to all men” He is
the greatest master of oratory who is able to address any class of
people in a manner suitable to their coudition, and likely to touch
their hearts.
Brethren, let none excel us in power of speech : let none surpass
us in the mastery of our mother tongue, Beloved fellow-soldiers,
our tongues are the swords which God has given us to nse for him,
even as it, is said of our Lord, “ Out of his mouth went a two-edged
sword.” Let these swords be sharp. Cultivate your
powers of speech, and be amongst the foremost in the land for
utterance. I do not exhort you to this because you are remarkably
deficient; far from it, for everybody says to me, “We know the
college men by their plain, bold speech.” This leads me to believe
that you have the gift largely in you, and I beseech you to take
paius to perfect it.
3. Brethren, we must be even more earnest to go forward in
moral qualities. Let the points I shall mention here come home
to those who shall require them, but I assure you I have no special
persons among you in my mind’ s eye. We desire to rise to the.FORWARD ! 31
highest style of ministry, and if so, even if we obtain the mental
and oratorical qualifications, we shall fail, unless we also possess
high moral qualities.
There are evils which we must shake off, as Paul shook the
viper from his band, and there are virtues which we must gain at
any cost.
Self-indulgence has slain its thousands; let us tremble lest we
perish by the hands of that Delilah. Let us have every passiou
and habit under due restraint : if we are not masters of oursclvcs
we are not fit to be leaders in the church.
We must put away all notion of self-importance. God will not
bless the man who thinks himself great. To g1or.y even in the
work of God the Holy Spirit in yourself is to tread dangerously
near to self-adulation. ‘ 6 Let another praise thee, and not thinc
own lips,” aud be very glad when that other has sense enough to
hold his tongue.
We must also have our tempers well under restraint. A vigor-ous
temper is not altogether an evil. Men who are as easy as an
old shoe are generally of as little worth. I would not say to you,
“ Dear brethren, have a temper,” but I do say, “ If you have it,
control it carefully.” I thank God when I see a minister have
temper enough to be indignant at wrong, and to be firm for the
right ; still, temper is an edged tool, and often cuts the man who
handles it. “ Gentle, easy to be entreated,” preferring to bear
evil rather than inflict it,, this is to be our spirit. If any brother
here naturally boils over too soon, let him mind that when he does
do so he scalds nobody but the devil, and then let him boil away.
We must conquer-some of us especially-our tendency to
levity. A great d t is inction exists between holy cheerfulness,
which is a virtue, and that general levity, which is a vice. There
is a levity which has not enough heart to laugh, but trifles with
everything ; it is flippant, hollow, unreal. A hearty laugh is no
more levity than a hearty cry. I speak of that religious veneering
which is pretentious, but thin, superficial, and insincere about the
weightiest matters. Godliness is no jest: nor is it a mere form.
Beware of being actors. Never give earnest men the impression
that you do not mean what you say, and are mere professionals.
To be burning at the lip and freezing at the soul is a mark of
reprobation. God deliver us from being superfine and superficial :
may we never be the butterflies of the garden of God.
At the same time, we should avoid everything like t,he ferocity
of bigotry. I know a class of religious people who, I have no.$2 FORWARD !
doubt, were born of a woman, but they appear to have been suckled
by a wolf. I have done them no dishonour : were not Romulus
and Remus, the founders of Rome, so reared? Some warlike
men of this order have had sufficient mental power to found
dynasties of thought; but human kindness and brotherly love
consort better with the kingdom of Christ. We are not to go
about the world searching out heresies, like terrier dogs sniffing
– for rats ; nor are we to be so confident of our own infallibility as
to erect ecclesiastical stakes at which to roast all who differ from
us, not, ‘ tis true, with fagots of wood, but with those coals of
juniper, which consist of strong prejudice and cruel suspicion.
In addition to all this, there are mannerisms, and moods, and
ways which I cannot now describe, against which we must struggle,
for little faults may often be the source of failure, and to get rid
of them may be the secret of success. Count nothing little which
even in a small degree hinders your usefulness ; cast out from the
temple of your soul the seats of them that sell doves as well as the
traffickers in sheep and oxen,
And, dear brethren, we must acquire certain moral faculties
and habits, as well as put aside their opposites. He wi!l never do
much for God who has not integrity of spirit. If we be guided
by policy, if there be any mode of action for us but t,hat which is
straightforward, we shall make shipwreck before long. Resolve,
dear brethren, that you can be poor, that you can be despised,
that you can lose life itself, but that you cannot do a crooked
thing. For you, let the only policy be honesty.
May you also possess the grand moral characteristic of courage.
By this we do not mean impertinence, impudence, or self-conceit ;
but real courage to do and say calmly the right thing, and to go
straight on at all hazards, though there should be none to give
you a good word. I am astonished at the number of Christians
who are afraid to speak the truth to their brethren. I thank God
I can sa,y this, there is no member of my church, no officer of the
church, and no man in the world to whom I am afraid to say
before his face what I would say behind his back. Under God I
owe my position in my own church to the absence of all policy,
and the habit of saying what I mean. The plan of making
things pleasant all round is a perilous as well as a wicked one. If
you say one thing to one man, and another to another, they will
one day compare notes and find you out, and then you will be
despised. The man of two faces will sooner or later be the object
of contempt, and justly so. Above all things avoid cowardice,.FORWABD !
for it makes men liars. If you have anything
ought to say about a man, let the measure of
that you feel you
what you say be __ thi&–” How much dare I say to his face 9” You must not allow
yourselves a word more in censure of any man living. If that be
your rule, your courage will save you from a thousand difficulties,
and win you lasting respect.
Having the integrity and the courage, dear brethren, may you
be gifted with an indomitable zeal. Zeal-what is it? How
shall I describe it? Possess it, and you will know what it is. Be
consumed with love for Christ, and let the flame burn continuously,
not flaming up at public meetings and dying out in the routine
work of every day. We need indomitable perseverance, dogged
resolution, and a combination of sacred obstinacy, self-denial, holy
gentleness, and invincible courage.
Excel also in one power, which is both mental and moral, namely,
the power of concentrating all your forces upon the work to which
you are called. Collect your thoughts, rally all your faculties,
mass your energies, focus your capacities. Turn all the springs of
your soul into one channel, causing it to flow onward in an undi-vided
stream. Some men lack this quality. They scatter them-selves
and fail. Mass your battalions, and hurl them upon the
enemy. Do not try to be great at this and great at that–to be
(‘ everything by turns, and nothing long ;” but suffer your entire
nature to be led in captivity by Jesus Christ, and lay everything
at his dear feet who bled and died for you.
4. Above all these, we need spiritual qual$‘ications, graces which
must be wrought in us by the Lord himself. This is the main
matter, I am sure. Other things are precious, but this is price-less
; we must be rich towards God.
We need to know ourselves. The preacher should be great in
the science of the heart, the philosophy of inward experience.
There are two schools of experience, and neither is content to
learn from the other; let us be content, however, to learn from
both. ‘ The one school speaks of the child of God as one who
knows the deep depravity of his heart, who understands the
loathsomeness of his nature, and daily feels that in his flesh there
dwelleth no good thing. “That man has not the life of God in
his soul,” say they, Lb who does not know and feel this, and feel it
by bitter and painful experience from day to day.” It is in vain
to talk to them about liberty, and joy in the Holy Ghost; they
will not have it. Let us learn from these one-sided brethren.
They know much that should be known, and woe to that minister
4.34 FORWARD !
who ignores their set of truths. Martin Luther used to say that
temptation is the best teacher for a minister. There is truth on
that side of the question. Another school of believers dwell
much upon the glorious work of the Spirit of God, and rightly
and blessedly so. They believe in the Spirit of God as a cleansing
power, sweeping the Augean stable of the soul, and making it
into a temple for God. But frequently they talk as if they had
ceased to sin, or to be annoyed by temptation; they glory as if
the battle were already fought, and the victory won. Let us learn
from these brethren. All the truth they can teach us let us know.
Let us become familiar with the hill-tops, and the glory that
shines thereon, the sermons and the Tabors, where we may be
transfigured with our Lord. Do not be afraid of becoming too
holy. Do not be afraid of being too full of the Holy Spirit. I
would have you wise on all sides, and able to deal with man both
in his conflicts and in his joys, as one familiar with both. Know
where Adam left you ; know where the Spirit of God has placed
you. Do not know either of t,hese so exclusively as to forget the
other. I believe that if any men are likely to cry, ‘ ( 0 wretched
man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this
death?” it will always be the ministers, because we need to be
tempted in all points, so that we may be able to comfort others.
In a railway carriage last week I saw a poor man with his leg
placed upon the seat. An official happening to see him in this
posture, remarked, u Those cushions were not made for you to put
your dirty boots on.” As soon as the guard was gone the man
put up his leg again, and said to me, 6‘ He has never broken his leg
in two places, I am sure, or he would not be so sharp with me.”
When I have heard brethren who have lived at ease, enjoying
good incomes, condemning others who are much tried, because
they could not rejoice in their fashion, I have felt that they knew
nothing of the broken bones which others have to carry through-out
the whole of their pilgrimage.
Brethren, know man in Christ, and out of Christ. Study him
at his best, and study him at his worst; know his anatomy, his
secrets, and his passions. You cannot do this by books ; you must
have personal spiritual experience; God alone cau give you that.
Among spiritual acquirements, it is beyond all other things
needful to know him who is the sure remedy for all human diseases.
Know Jesus. Sit at his feet. Consider his nature, his work, his
sufferings, his gIory. Rejoice in his presence : commune with him
from day to day. To know Christ is to understand the most.FORWARD ! 35
excellent of sciences. You cannot fail to be wise if you commune
with wisdom ; you cannot miss of strength if you have fellowship
with the mighty Son of God. I saw the other day in an Italian
grotto a little fern, which grew where its leaves continually glis-tened
and danced in the spray of a fountain. It was always green,
and neither summer’ s drought nor winter’ s cold affected it. So let
us for ever abide under the sweet influence of Jesus’ love. Dwell
in God, brethren ; do not occasionally visit him, but abide in him.
They say in Italy that where the sun does not enter the physician
must. Where Jesus does not shine the soul is sick. Bask in his
beams and you shall be vigorous in the service of the Lord. Last
Sunday night I had a text which mastered me :-cc No man knoweth
the Son but the Father.” I told the people that poor sinners who
had gone to Jesus and trusted him, thought they knew him, but that
they knew only a little of him. Saints of sixty years’ experience,
who have walked with him every day, think they know him; hut they
are only begimlers yet. The perfect spirits before the throne, who
have been for five thousand years perpetually adoring him, perhaps
think they know him, but they do not to the full. “ No man
knoweth the Son but the Father.” He is so glorious, that only
the infinite God has full knowledge of him, therefore there will be
no limit to our study, or narrowness in our line of thought, if we
make our Lord the great object of all our meditations.
IBrethren, as the outcome of this, if we are to be strong men, we
must be conformed to our Lord. Oh, to be Iike him! Blessed be
that cross on which we shall suffer, if we suffer for being made
like unto the Lord Jesus. If we obtain conformit*y to Christ, we
shall have a wondrous unction upon our ministry, and without that,
what is a ministry worth ?
In a word, we must labour for holiness of character. What is
holiness 8 Is it not wholeness of character ? a balanced condition
in which there is neither lack nor redundance? It is not morality,
that is a cold lifeless statue; holiness is life. You must hare
holiness ; and, dear bret,hren, if you should fail in mental qualifi-cations
(as 1 hope you will not), aud if you should have a slender
measure of the oratorical faculty (as I trust you will not), yet,
depend upon it, a holy life is, in itself, a wonderful power, and
will make up for many deficiencies; it is, in fact, the best sermon
the best man can deliver. Let us resolve that all the purity whiclr
can be had we will have, that all the sanctity which can be reached
we will obtain, and that all the likeness to Christ that is possible
in this world of sin shall certainly be in us through the work of the.36 FORWARD !
Spirit of God. The Lord lift us all as a college right up to a
higher platform, and he shall have the glory 1
5. Still I have not done, dear brethren. I have to say to YOU,
go forward in actual won& for, after all, we shall be known by
what we have done. We ought to be mighty in deed as well as
word. There are good brethren in the world who are impractical.
The grand doctrine of the second advent makes them stand with
open mouths, peering into the skios, so that I am ready to say,
.“ Ye men of Plymouth, why stand ye here gazing up into heaven P”
The fact that Jesus Christ is to CO.,X is not a reason for star-gazing,
but for working in the power of the Holy Ghost. Be not so taken
up with speculations as to prefer a Bible reading over a dark passage
in the Revelation to teaching in a ragged-school or discoursing to the
poor concerning Jesus. We must have done with day-dreams, and get
to work. I believe in eggs, but we must get chickens out of them.
I do not mind how big your egg is; it may be an ostrich’s egg if
you like, but if there is nothiog in it, pray clear away the shells.
If somethiug comes of it, God bless pour speculations, aud even if
you should go ‘a little further than I thiuk it wise to venture, still,
if you are more useful, God be praised for it. We want facts-deeds
done, souls saved. It is all very well to write essays, but
what souls have you saved from going down to hell? Your
excellent management of your school interests me, but how many
children have been brought into the church by it? We are glad
to hear of those special meetings, but how many have really been
born to God in them? Are saints edified 8 Are sinners converted?
To swing to and fro on a five-barred gate is not progress, yet some
seem to think so. I see them in perpetual Elysium, humming over
to themselves and their friends, “ We are very comfortable.” God
save us from living in comfort while sinners are sinking into hell.
In travelling along the mountain roads in Switzerland you will
oontinually see marks of the boring-rod; and in every minister’s
life there should be traces of stern Iabour. Brethren, do some-thing
; do something ; do something. While committees waste
their time o:-er resolutions, do something. While Societies and
Unions are making constitutions, let us win souls. Too often we
discuss, and discuss, and discuss, aud Sat,an laughs in his sleeve.
It is time we had done planning and sought something to plan. I
pray you, be men of action all of you. Get to work and quit
yourselves like men. Old Suwarrow’s idea of war is mine:
L‘Forward and strike! No theory I Attack! Form column !
Charge bayonets I Plunge into the centre of the enemy.” Our.FORWARD ! 37
one aim is to save sinners, and this we are not to talk about, but to
do in the power of God.
6. Lastly, and here I am going to deliver a message which weighs
upon me,-Go forward in the matter of thechoice of yotiv sphere qf action. I plead this da-y for those who cannot plead for. themselves,
namely, the great outlying masses of the heathen world. Our
existing pulpits are tolerably well supplied, but we need men who
will build on new foundations, Who will doe this ? Are we, as a
company of faithful men,clear in our consciences about the heathen?
Millions have never heard the name of Jesus, Hundreds of
millions have seen a missionary only once in their lives, and know
nothing of our King. Shall we let them perish ‘ 8 C&n we go to
our beds and sleep while China, India, Japan, ahd’ other nations
are being damned ? Are we clear of their blood ? Have they no
claim upon us ? We ought to put it on this footing-not ‘ ( Can
I prove that I ought to go t ” but ‘ *Can I prove that I ougJlt not
to go?” When a man cau prove honestly that be ought not to go
then he is clear, but not elser What answer do, you give, my
brethren ? I put it to you man by man.. I am not raising a
question among you which I have not honestly put to myself. 1
have felt that if some of our leading ministers would go forth it
would have a grand effect in stimulating the churches, and I have.
honestly asked myself whether I ought to go, After balancing
the whole thing I feel bound to keep my place, and I think the
judgment of most Christians would be the same 9 but I hope I
would cheerfully go if it were my duty to do so,- Brethren,
put yourselves through the same process. We must have the
heathen converted; God has myriads of his elect among them,
we must go and search for them till we find them. Man,y
difficulties are now removed, all lands are open to us, and distance
‘ is annihilated. True we have not the Pentecostal gift of tongues,
but languages are now readily acquired, while the art of printing
is a full equivalent for the lost gift. The dangers incident to mis-sions
ought not to keep any true man back9 even i.f they were ver.y
great, but they are now reduced to a minimum, There are hun-dreds
of places where the cross of Christ is unknown, to which
we can go without risk. Who will go S The men who ought to
go are young brethren of good abilities who have not yet taken
upon themselves family cares.
Each student entering the college should consider this matter,
and surrender himself t.o the work unless there are conclusive
reasons fb,r his not doing so. It is a fact that even for the.35 FOIWAKD~
colonies it is very difficult to find men, for I have had openings
in Australia which I have been obliged to decline. It ought not
to be so. Surely there is some self-sacrifice among us yet, and
some among us are willing to be exiled for Jesus. The Mission
languishes for want of men. If the men were forthcoming the
liberality of the church would supply their needs, and, in fact, the
liberality of the church has made the supply, and yet there are not
the men to go. I shall never feel, brethren, that we, as a baud of
men, have done our dut.y until we see our comrades fighting for
Jesus in every land in the van of conflict. I believe that if God
moves you to go, you will be among the best of missionaries, be-cause
you will make the preaching of the gospel the great feature
of your work, and that is God’ s sure way of power. I wish that
our churches would imit~ate that of Pastor Harms, in Germany,
where every member was consecrated to God indeed and of a
truth. The farmers gave the produce of their lands, the working-men
their labour ; one gave a large house to be used as a mission-ary
college, and Pastor Harms obtainedmoney for a ship which he
fitted out, to make voyages to Africa, and then he sent missionaries,
and little companies of his people with them, to form Christian
communities among the Bushmen. When will our churches be
equally self-denying and energetic P Look at the Moraviaus !
how every man and woman becomes a missionary, and how much
they a0 in consequence. Let us catch their spirit. Is it a right ,
spirit? Then it is right for us to have it. It is not enough for us
to say, “ Those Moravians are very wonderful people I ” We ought
to be wonderful people too. Christ did not purchase the Mora-vians
any more that1 he purchased us; they are under no more
obligation to make sacrifices than we are. Why then this back-wardness?
When we read of heroic men who gave up all for
*Jesus, we are not merely to admire, but to imitate them. VW10
will imitate them now ? Come to the point. Are there not
some among you willing to consecrate yourselves to the Lord 1
“ Forward ” is the watchword to-day 1 Are there no bold spirits
to lead the van ? Pray all of you that during this Pentecost the
Spirit may say, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work.”
Fmoad! 111 God’ s name, FORWARD ! !.LECTURE III.
SOME things are true and some things are false :-I regard that as
an axiom ; but there are many persons who evidently do not
believe it. The current principle of the present age seems to be.
“ Some things are either true or false, according to the point of
view from which you look at them. Black is white, and white is
black according to circumstances ; and it does not particularly
matter which you call it. Truth of course is true, but it would
be rude to say that the opposite is a lie; we must not be bigoted,
but remember the motto, ‘ 80 many men, so many minds,’ ” Our
forefathers were particular about maintaining landmarks ; the,v
had strong notions about fixed points of revealed doctrine, and
were very tenacious of what they believed to be scriptural ; their
fields were protected by hedges and ditches, but their sons have
grubbed up the hedges, filled up the ditches, laid all level, and
played at leap-frog with the boundary stones. The school of
modern thought laughs at the ridiculous positiveness of Reformers
and Puritans ; it is advancing in glorious liberality, and before
long will publish a grand alliance between heaven and hell, or,
rather, an amalgamation of the two establishments upon terms of
mutual concession, allowing falsehood and truth to lie side by side,
like the lion with the lamb. Still, for all that, my firm old-fashioned
belief is that some doctrines are true, and that state-ments
which are diametrically opposite to them are not true,-that
when (‘ No ” is the fact “Yes” is out of court, and that when
“ Yes ” can be justified: “ No ” must be abandoned. I believe
that the gentleman who has for so long a time perplexed our
courts is either Sir Roger Tichborne or somebody else ; I am not
yet able to conceive of his being the true heir and an impostor at
the same time. Yet in religious matters the fashionable standpoint
is somewhere in that latitude..40 TBE KEED OF DECISION FOR TIIE TRUTR.
We have a fixed faith to preach, my brethren, and we are sent
forth with a definite message from God. We are not left to fabri-cate
the message as we go aIong. We are not sent forth by our
Master with a general commission arranged on this fashion-“As
you shall think in your heart and invent in your head, SO preach.
Keep abreast of the times. Whatever the people want to hear, tell
them that, and they shall be saved.” Verily, we read not so.
There is something definite in the Bible. It is not quite a lump
of wax to be shaped at our will, or a roll of cloth to be cut
according to the prevailing fashion. Your great thinkers evidently
look upon the Scriptures as a box of letters for them to play with,
and make what they like of, or a wizard’ s bottle, out of which
they may pour anything theychoose,from atheism up to spiritualism.
I am too old-fashioned to fall down and worship this theory.
There is something told me in the Bible-told me for certain-not
put before me with a “ but ” and a “ perhaps,” and an “ if,” and a
‘ 6 may be,” and fifty thousand suspicions behind it, so that really
the long and the short of it is, that it may not be so at all; but
revealed to me as infallible fact, which must be believed, the
opposite of which is deadly error, and comes from the father
of lies.
Believing, therefore, that there is such a thing as truth, and
such a thing as falsehood, that there are truths in the Bible, and
that the gospel consists in something definite which is to be
believed by men, it becomes us to be decided as to what we teach,
and to teach it in a decided manner. We have to deal with men
who will be either lost or saved, and they certainly will not be
saved by erroneous doctrine. We have to deal with God, whose
servants we are, and he will not be honoured by our delivering
falsehoods ; neither will he give us a reward, and say, 6b Well done,
good and faithful servant, thou hast mangled the gospel as
judiciously as any man that ever lived before thee.” We stand
in a very solemn position, and ours should be the spirit of old
Micaiah, who said, “As the Lord my God liveth, before whom I
stand, whatsoever the Lord saith unto me that will I speak.”
Neither less nor more t,han God’ s word are we called to st,ate, but
that word we are bouncl to declare in a spirit which convinces the
sons of men that, whatever they may think of it, we believe God,
and are not to be shaken in our confidence in him.
Brethren, Cn what ought we to be positive? Well, there are
gentlemen alive who imagine that there are no fixed principles to
go upon. “ Perhaps a few doctrines,” said one to me, “ perhaps a.THE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTH. 41
few doctrines may be considered as established. It is, perhaps,
ascertained that there is a God ; but one ought not to dogmatise
upon his personality : a great deal may be said for pantheism.”
Such meu creep into the ministry, but they are generally cunning
enough to conceal the breadth of their minds beneath Christian
phraseology, thus acting in consistency wit.h their principles, for
their fundamental rule is that truth is of no consequence.
As for us-as for me, at any rate-1 am certain that there is a
God, and I mean to preach it as a man does who is absolutely
sure. He is the Maker of heaven and earth, the Master of
providence, and the Lord of grace: let his name be blessed
for ever and ever I We will have no questions and debates as
to him.
We are equally certain that the book which is called “the
Bible ” is his word, and is inspired : not inspired in the sense in
which Shakespeare, and Milton, and Dryden may be inspired, but
in an infinitely higher sense; so that, provided we have the exact
text, we regard the words themselves as infallible. We believe
that everything stated in the book that comes to us from God is
to be accepted by us as his sure testimony, and nothing less than
that. God forbid we should be ensnared by those various inter-pretations
of the modu,us of inspiration, which amount to little
more than frittering it away. The book is a divine production;
it is perfect, and is the last court of appeal-“ the judge which
ends the strife.” I would as soon dream of blaspheming my Maker
as of questioning the infallibility of his word.
We are also sure concerning the doctrine of the blessed Trinity.
We cannot explain how the Father, Son, and Spirit can be each
one distinct and perfect in himself, and yet that these three are
one, so that there is but one God; yet we do verily believe it,
and mean to preach it, notwithstanding Unitarian, Socinian,
Sabellian, or any other error. We shall hold fast evermore the
doctrine of the Trinity in Unit,y.
And, brethren, there will be no uncertain sound from us as to
the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ. We cannot leave the
blood out of our ministry, or the life of it will be gone ; for we
may say of the gospel, “ The blood is the life thereof.” ‘ The
proper substitution of Christ, the vicarious sacrifice of Christ, on
the behalf of his people, that they might live through him,-this
we must publish till we die.
Neither can we waver in our mind for a moment concerning
the great and glorious Spirit of God-the fact of his existence,.42 THE R’ EED OF DECISION FOE TJIE TBUTH.
his personality, the power of his working, the necessity of his
influences, the certainty that no man is regenerated except by
him ; that we are born again by the Spirit of God, and that the
Spirit dwells in believers, and is the author of all good in them,
their sanctifier and preserver, without whom they can do no good
thing whatsoever.*-we shall not at all hesitate as to preaching
these truths.
The absolute necessity of the new birth is also a certainty. We
come down with demonstration when we touch that point. We
shall never poison our people with the notion that a moral
reformation will suffice, but we will over and over again say to
them, “Ye must be born again.” We have not got into the con-dition
of the Scotch minister who, when old John Macdonald
preached to his congregation a sermon to sinners, remarked,
“ Well, Mr. Macdonald, that was a very good sermon which you
have preached, but it is very much out of place, for I do not
know one single unregenerate person in my congregation.” Poor
soul, he was in all probability unregenerated himself. No, we dare
not flatter our hearers, but we must continue to tell them that
they are born sinners, and must be born saints, or they will
never see the face of God with acceptance.
The tremendous evil of sin-we shall not hesitate about that.
We shall speak on that matter both sorrowfully and positively;
and, though some ver.y wise men raise difficult questions about
hell, we shall not fail to declare the terrors of the Lord, and the
fact that the Lord has said, “These shall go away into everlast-ing
punishment, but the righteous into life eternal.”
Neither will we ever give an uncertain sound as to the glorious
truth that salvation is all of grace. If ever we ourselves are
saved, we know that sovereign grace alone has done it, and we
feel it must be the same with others. We will publish, “ Grace I
grace 1 grace ! ” with all our might, living and dying.
We shall be very decided, also, as to justification by faith; for
salvation is “Not of works, lest any man should boast.” “Life in
a look at the Crucified One ” will be our message. Trust in the
Redeemer will be that saving grace which we will pray the Lord
t,o implant in all our hearers’ hearts.
And everything else which we believe to be true in the Scrip-tures
we shall preach with decision. If there be questions which
may be regarded as moot, or comparatively unimportant, we shall
speak with such a measure of decision about them as may be
comely. But points which cannot be moot, which arc esstntial.TIIE NEED OF DECISION FOE THE TRUTH. 43
and fundamental, will be declared by us without any stammering,
without any enquiring of the people, u What would you wish us
to say? ” Yes, and without the apology, “Those are my views,
but other people’ s views may be correct.” We ought to preach
the gospel, not as our views at all, but as the mind of God-the
t.estimony of Jehovah concerning his own Son, and in reference
to salvation for lost men. If we had been entrusted with the
making of the gospel, we might have altered it to suit the taste
of this modest century, but never having been employed to origi-nate
the good news, but merely to repeat it, we dare not stir
beyond the record. What we have been taught of God we teach.
If we do not do this, we are not fit for our position. If I have
a servant in my house, and I send a message by her to the door,
and she amends it on her own authorit,y, she may take away the
very soul of the message by so doing, and she will be responsible
for what she has done. She will not remain long in my employ,
for I need a servant who will repeat what I say, as nearly as pos-sible,
word for word; and if she does so, I am responsible for the
message, she is not. If any one should be angry with her on ac-count
of what she said, they would be very unjust ; their quarrel
lies with me, and not with the person whom I employ to act as
mouth for me. He that bath God’ s Word, let him speak it faith-fully,
and he will have no need to answer gainsayers, except with
a “ Thus saith the Lord.” This, then, is the matter concerning
which we are decided,
How are we to show this decision? We need not be careful to
answer this question, our decision will show itself in its own way.
If we really believe a truth, we shall be decided about it. Cer-tainly
we are not to show our decision by that obstinate, furious,
wolfish bigotry which cuts off every other body from the chance
and hope of salvation and the possibility of being regenerate or
even decently honest if they happen to differ from us about the
colour of a scale of the great leviathan. Some individuals appear
to be naturally cut on the cross; they are manufactured to be
rasps, and rasp they will. Sooner than not quarrel with you they
would raise a question upon the colour of invisibility, or the
weight of a non-exist,ent substance. They are up in arms with
you, not because of the importance of the question under discussion,
bnt because of the far greater importance of their being always
the Pope of the party. Don’ t go about the world with your fist
doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg
of your trousers. There is no sense in being a sort of doctrinal.44 THE NEED OF DECISION FOR TIIE TItUTII.
game-cock, to be carried about to show your spirit, or a terrier of
orthodoxy, ready to tackle heterodox rats by the score. Practise
the auaviter in mode as well as the fortiter in re. Be prepared to
fight, and always have your sword buckled on your thigh, but wear
a scabbard ; there can be no sense in waving your weapon about
before everybody’ s eyes to provoke conflict, after the manner of
our beloved friends of the Emerald Isle, who are said to fake their
coats off at Donnybrook Fair, and drag them along the ground,
crying out, while they flourish their shillelahs, “Will any gentle-man
be so good as to tread on the tail of my coat ? ” These are
theologians of such warm, generous blood, that they are never at
peace till they are fully engaged in war.
If you really believe the gospel, you will be decided for it in
more sensible ways. Your very tone will betray your sincerity ;
you&l1 speak like a man who has something to say, which he
knows to be true. Have you ever watched a rogue when he is
about to tell a falsehood t Have you noticed the way in which he
has to mouth it 3 It takes a long time to be able to tell a lie well,
for the facial organs were not originally constituted and adapted
for the complacent delivery of falsehood. When a man knows he
is telling you the truth, everything about him corroborates his
sincerit,y. Any accomplished cross-examining lawyer knows within
a little whether a witness is gemrine or a deceiver. Truth has her
own air and manner, her own tone and emphasis. Yonder is a
blundering, ignorant country fellow in the witness-box ; the counsel
tries to bamboozle and confuse him, if possible, but all the while he
feels that he is an honest witness, and he says to himself, “I should
like to shake this fellow’ s evidence, for it will greatly damage my
side of the question.” There ought to be always that same air
of truth about the Christian minister; only as he is not only
bearing witness to the truth, but wants other people to feel that
truth and own the power of it, he ought to have more decision in
his tone than a mere witness who is stating facts which may be
believed or not without any serious consequences following either
way. Luther was the man for decision. Nobody doubted that he
believed what he spoke. He spoke with thunder, for there was
lightning in his faith. The man preached all over, for his entire
nature believed. You felt, “Well, he may be mad, or he may be
altogether mistaken, but he assuredly believes what he says. He
is the incarnation of faith ; his heart is running over at his lips.”
If we would show decision for the truth, we must not only do so
by our tone and manner, but by our daily actions. A man’ s life is.THE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTFI.
always more forcible t,han his speech ; when men take stock
they reckon his deeds as pounds and his words as pence.
4’ 4
of him
If his
life and his doctrines disagree, the mass of lookers-on accept his
practice and reject his preaching. A man may know a great deal
about truth, and yet be a very damaging witness on its behalf,
because he is no credit to it. The quack who in the classic story
cried up an infallible cure for colds, coughing and sneezing between
every sentence of his panegyric, may serve as the image and symbol
of an unholy minister. The Satyr in &op’ s fable was indignant
with the man who blew hot and cold with the same mouth, and
well he might be. I can conceive no surer method of prejudicing
men against the truth than by sounding her praises througb the
lips of men of suspicious character. When the devil turned
preacher in our Lord’ s day, the Master bade him hold his peace ;
he did not care for Satanic praises, It is very ridiculous to hear
good truth from a bad man ; it is like flour in a coal-sack. When
I was last in one of our Scottish towns I heard of an idiot at the
asylum, who thought himself a great historic character. With
much solemnity the poor fellow put himself into an impressive
attitude and exclaimed, “I’ m Sir William Wallace I Gie me a bit of
bacca.” The descent from Sir William Wallace to a piece of
tobacco was too absurd for gravity ; yet it was neither so absurd
nor so sad as to see a professed ambassador of the cross covetous,
worldly, passionate, or sluggish. How strange it would be to hear
a man say, “I am a servant of the Most Higb God, and I will go
wherever I cau get the most salary. I am called to labour for the
glory of Jesus only, and I will go nowhere unless the church is of
most respectable standing. For me to live is Christ, but I cannot
do it under five hundred pounds per annum,”
Brother, if the truth be in thee it will flow out of thine entire
being as the perfume streams from every bough of the sandal-wood
tree ; it will drive thee onward as the trade-wind speeds the ships,
filling all their sails; it will consume thy whole nature with its
energy as the forest fire burns up all the trees of the wood. Truth
has not fully given thee her friendship till all t,hy doings are
marked with her seal.
We must show our decision for the truth by the sacrifices we
are ready to make. This is, indeed, the most efficient as well as
the most trying method. We must be ready to give up anything
and everything for the sake of the principles which we have
espoused, and must be ready to offend our best supporters, to
alienate our warmest friends, sooner than belie our consciences..46 TIIE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTH.
We must be ready to be beggars in purse, and offscourings in
reputation, rather than act treacherously. We can die, but we
cannot deny the truth. The cost is already counted, and we are
determined to buy the truth at any price, and sell it at no price.
Too little of this spirit is abroad now-a-days. Men have a saving
faith, and save their own persons from trouble; they have great
discernment, and know on which side their bread is buttered ; they
are large-hearted, and are all things tB all men, if by any means
they may save a sum. There are plenty of curs about, who would
follow at the heel of any man who would keep them in meat.
They are among the first to bark at decision, and call it obstinate
dogmatism, and ignorant bigotry. Their condemnatory verdict
causes us no distress ; it is what we expected.
Above all we must show our zeal for the truth by continually,
in season and out of season, endeavouring to maintain it in t,lle
tenderest and most loving manner, but still very earnestly and
firmly. We must not talk to our congregations as if we were half
asleep. Our preaching must not be articulate snoring. There
must be power, life, energy, vigour. We must throw our whole
selves into it, and show that the zeal of God’ s house has eaten us
UP* How are we to manifest our decision ‘ 3 Certainly not by harp-ing
on one string and repeating over and over again the same
truths with the declaration that we believe them. Such a course
of action could only suggest itself to the incompetent. The barrel-organ
grinder is not a pattern of decision, he may have persistency,
but that is not the same thing as consistency. I could indicate
certain brethren who have learned four or five doctrines, and they
grind them over and over again with everlasting monotony. I am
always glad when they grind their tunes in some street far re-moved
from my abode. To weary with perpetual repetition is not
the way to manifest our firmness in the faith.
My brethren, you will strengthen your decision by the recollection
of the importance of these truths to your own souls. Are your sins
forgiven? Have you a hope of heaven? How do the solemnities
of eternity affect you ? Certainly you are not saved apart from
these things, and therefore you must hold them, for you feel yen
are a lost man if they be not true. You have to die, and, being
conscious that these things alone can sustain you in the last article,
you hold them with all your might. You cannot give them up.
How can a man resign a truth which he feels to be vitally im-portant
to his own soul 1 He daily feels–” I have to live on it, I.THE NEED OF DECISION FOR TIIE TILUTII. 47
have to die on it, I am wretched now, and lost for ever apart from
it, and therefore by the help of God I cannot relinquish it.”
Your own experience from day to day will sustain you, beloved
brethren. I hope you have realised already and will experience
much more the power of the truth which you preach. I believe
the doctrine of election, because I am quit,e sure that if God had
not chosen me I should never have chosen him ; and I am sure he
chose me before I was born, or else he never would have chosen me
afterwards ; and he must have elected me for reasons unknown to
me, for I never could find any reason in myself why he should
have looked upon me with special love. So I am forced to accept
that doctrine. I am bound to the doctrine of the depravity of the
human heart, because I find myself depraved in heart, and have
daily proofs that there dwelleth in my flesh no good thing. I
cannot help holding that there must be an atonement before there
can be pardon, because my conscience demands it, and my peace
depends upon it. The little court within my own heart is not
satisfied unless some retribution be exacted for dishonour done to
God. They tell us sometimes that such and such statements are
not true ; but when we are able to reply that we have tried them
and proved them, what answer is there to such reasoning ? A
man propounds the wonderful discovery that honey is not sweet.
“But I had some for breakfast, and I found it very sweet,” say
you, and your reply is conclusive. He tells you that salt is
poisonous, but you point to your own health, and declare that you
have eaten salt these twenty years. He says that to eat bread is a
mistake-a vulgar error, an antiquated absurdity ; but at each
meal you make his protest the subject for a merry laugh. If you
are daily and habitually experienced in the truth of God’ s Word, I
am not afraid of your being shaken in mind in reference to it.
Those young fellows who never felt conviction of sin, but obtained
their religion as they get their bath in the morning, by jumping
into it-these will as readily leap out of it as they leaped in.
Those who feel neither the joys nor yet the depressions of spirit
which indicate spiritual life, are torpid, and their palsied hand has
no firm grip of truth. Mere skimmers of the Word, who, like
swallows, touch the water with their wings, are the first to fly from
one land to another as personal considerations guide them. They
believe this, and then believe that, for, in truth, they believe
nothing intensely. If you have ever been dragged through the
mire and clay of soul-despair, if you have been turned upside down,
and wiped out like a dish as to all your own strength and pride,.48 THE NEED OF DECISION FOR TIIE TRUTH.
and have then been filled with the joy and peace of God, through
Jesus Christ, I will trust you among fifty thousand infidels.
Whenever I hear the sceptic’s stale attacks upon the Word of
God, I smile within myself, and think, “ Why, you simpleton!
how can you urge such trifling objections? I have felt, in the
contentions of my own unbelief, ten times greater difficulties.”
We who have contended with horses are not to be wearied by
footmen. Gordon Gumming and other lion-killers are not to be
scared by wild cats, nor will those who have stood foot to foot with
Satan resign the field to pretentious sceptics, or any other of the
evil one’s inferior servants.
If, my brethren, we have fellowship with the Lord Jesus Christ,
we cannot be made to doubt the fundamentals of the gospel;
neither can we be undecided. A glimpse at the thorn-crowned
head aud pierced hands and feet is the sure cure for tc modern
doubt ” and all its vagaries. Get into the ‘ 6 Rock of Ages, cleft
for you,” and you will abhor the quicksand. That eminent
American preacher, the seraphic Summerfield, when he lay a-dying,
turned round to a friend in the room and said, “I have taken a
look into eternity. Oh, if I could come back and preach again,
how differently would I preach from what I have done before I”
Take a look into eternity, brethren, if you want to be decided.
Remember how Atheist met Christian and Hopeful on the road to
the New Jerusalem, and said, “ There is no celestial country. I
have gone a long way, and could not find it.” Then Christian said
to Hopeful, “ Did we not see it from the top of Mount Clear,
when we were with the shepherds ? ” There was an answer 1 So
when men have said, (4 There is no Christ-there is no truth in
religion,” we have replied to them, “ Have we not sat under his
shadow with great delight “3 Was not his fruit sweet to our taste?
Go with your scepticisms to those who do not know whom they
have believed. We have tasted and handled the good word of life.
What we have seen and heard, that we do testify ; and whether
men receive our testimony or not, we cannot but speak it, for we
speak what we do know, and testify what we have seen.” That,
my brethren, is the sure way to be decided.
And now, lastly, why should we at this particular age be decided
and bold? We should be so because this age is a doubting age.
It swarms with doubters as Egypt of old with frogs. You r ub
against them everywhere. Everybody is doubting everything, not
merely in religion, but in politics and social economics, in everything
indeed. It is the era of progress, and I suppose it must be the.THE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTIL 49
age, therefore, of unloosening, in order that the whole body politic
may move on a little further. Well, brethren, as the age is
doubting, it is wise for us to put our foot down and stand still
where we are sure we have truth beneath us. Perhaps, if it were
an a,gc of bigotry, and men would not learn, we might be more
inclined to listen to new teachers ; but now the Conservative side
must be ours, or rather the Radical side, which is the truly Con-servative
side. We must go back to the radix, or root of truth,
and staud sternly by that which God has revealed, and so meet the
wavering of the age. Our eloquent ncighbour, Mr. Arthur
Mursell, has well hit off the present age :-“
Have wc gone too far in saying that modern thought has
grown impatient with the Bible, the gospel, and the cross? Let
us sec. What part of the Bible has it not assailed? The Penta-teuch
it has long ago swept from the canon as unauthentic. What
we read about tlie creation and tlic flood is branded as fable. And
the laws about the landmarks, from which Solomon was not
ashamed to quote, arc buried or laid upon the shelf.
“ Diffcrcnt men assail different portions of the book, and various
systems level their batteries of prejudice at various points ; until
by some the Scriptnrc is torn all to pieces, and cast to the four
winds of heaven, and by even the most forbearing of the cultured
Vandals of what is called modern thought, it is condensed into a
thin pamphlet of morality, instead of the tome of teaching through
which we have ctcrnal life. There is hardly a prophet but has
been r%aic~~~etZ by the wiseacres of the day in precisely the same
spirit as they would review a work from Mudie’s library. The
Temnnite and the Shuhite never misconstrued the baited Job
with half the prejudice of the acknowledged i&ellects of our time.
I&ah, instead of being sawn asunder, is quartered and hacked in
pieces. The weeping prophet is drowned iu bis own tears. Ezckicl
is ground to atoms amidst his wheels. Da&l is devoured bodily
by the learned lions. And Jonah is swallowed by the deep
monsters with a more inexorable voracity than the fish, for they
never cast him up again. The histories and events of the great
chronicle are rudely cont,radicted and gainsaid, because some
schoolmaster with a slate and pencil cannot bring his sums right.
And every miracle which the might of the Lord wrought for the
favour bf his people, or the frustration of their foes, is pooh-poohed
as an absurdit-y, because the professors cannot do the like with
their enchantments. A few of what are called miracles may be
credible, because our leaders think they can do them themselves.
A few natural phenomena, which some doctor can show to a com-pany
of martinets in a dark room, or with a table-full of apparatus,
will account for the miracle of the Red Sea. An aeronaut goes up
in a balloon, and then comes down again, and quite explains away
the pillar of fire and of cloud, and trifles of that kind. And so
our great men are satisfied when they think that their toy wand
has swallowed up the wand of Aaron : but when Aaron’ s wand
threatens to swallow up theirs, they say that part is not authentic,
and that miracle never occurred.
‘ 6 Nor does the New Testament fare any better than the Old at
the hands of these invaders. TIlere is no toll of deference levied
on their homage as they pass across the line. They recognise no
voice of warning with the cry, ‘ Take thy shoes from off thy feet,
because the place whereon thou standest is holy ground.’ The
mind which halts in its career of spiritual rapine on any reverential
pretext, is denounced as ignorant or slavish. To hesitate to stamp
the hoof upon a lily or a spring flower is the sentimental folly of a
child, and the vanguard of the thought of the age has only pity
and a sneer for such a feeling, as it stalks upon its boasted march
of progress. We are told that the legends of our nurseries are
obsolete, and that broader views are gaining ground with thought-ful
minds. We are unwilling to believe it. The truth is, that a
few, a very few, thoughtful men, whose thinking consists in
negation from first to last, and whose minds are tortured with a
chronic twist or curve, which turns them into intellectual notes of
interrogation, have laid the basis of this system ; these few honest
doubters have been joined by a larger band who are simply restless ;
and these again by men who are inimical to the spirit and the
truths of Scripture, and together they have formed a coterie, and
called themselves the leaders of the thought of the age. They have
a following, it is true ; but of whom does it consist ? Of the mere
satellites of fashion. Of the wealth, the pedantry, and the
stupidity of our large populations. A string of carriages is seen
‘ setting down ’ and ‘ taking up ’ at the door where au advanced
professor is to lecture, and because the milliner is advertised from
floor to ceiling in the lecture room, these views are said to be
gaining ground. But in an age of fashion like this, who ever
suspects these minions of the mode of having any views at all ? It
becomes respectable to follow a certain namcfor a time, and so the
vainlings go to follow the name and to display the dress. ‘ Gut as
to views, one would no more suspect such people of having any
views than they would dream of charging more than a tenth part.THE NEED OF’ DECISION FOR THE TRUTH. 51
of the crowds who go to the Royal Academy’s exhibition with
understanding the laws of perspective. It is the thing to do: and
so every one who has a dress to show and a lounge to air, goes to
show it, and all who would be in the fashion (aud who would not ?)
are bound to advance with the times. And hence we find the
times advancing over the sacred precincts of the New Testament,
as though it were the floor of St. Alban’s or of a professor’s
lecture room ; and ladies drag their trains, and dandies set their
dress-boots on the authenticity of this, or the authority of that, or
the inspiration of the other. People who never heard of Strauss,
of Bauer, or of Tiibingen, are quite prepared to say that our
Saviour was but a well-meaning man, who had a great many fault,s,
and made a great many mistakes ; that his miracles, as recorded in
the New Testament, were in part imaginary, and in part account-able
by natural theories; that the raising of Lazarus never
occurred, since the Gospel of John is a forgery from first to last;
that the atonement is a doctrine to be scouted as bloody and
unrighteous ; that Paul was a fanatic who wrote unthinkingly, and
that much of what bears his name was never written by him at all.
Thus is the BibIe rubbed through the tribulum of criticism from
Genesis to Revelation, until, in the faith of the age in which we
live, as represented by its so-called leaders, there are but a few
inspired fragments here and there remaining.”
Moreover, after all, this is not an earnestly doubting age ; we
live among a careless, frivolous race. If the doubters were honest
there would be more infidel places of concourse than there are ; but
infidelity as an organised community does not prosper. Iufidelit,y in
London, open and avowed, has come down to one old corrugated
iron shed opposite St. Luke’s. I believe that is the present posi-tion
of it. “ The Hall of Science ” is it not called ? Its litera-ture
was carried on for a long time in half a shop in Fleet Street,
that was all it could manage to support, and I don’t know whether
even that half shop is used now. It is a poor, doting, drivelling
thing. In Tom Paine’s time it bullied like a vigorous blasphemer,
but it was outspoken, and, in its own way, downright and earnest
in its outspokenness. It commanded in former clays some names
which one might mention with a measure of respect ; Hume, to
wit, and Bolingbroke, and Voltaire were great in talent, if not in
character. But where now will you find a Hobbes or a Gibbon ?
The doubters now are usually doubters because they do not care
about truth at all. They are indifferent altogether. Modern
scerticism is playing and toying with truth ; and it takes to.52 THE NEED OF DEOWION FOR THE TRUTIL
“ modern thought ” as an amusement, as ladies take to croquet or
archery. This is mthing less than an age of millinery and dolls
and csmetly. Even good people do not believe out and out as
their fathers used to do. Some even among Nonconformists are
&n~cfully lax in their convictions ; they have few masterly con-victions
such as would lead them to the at:die, or even to imprison-ment.
Rlolluscs have taken the place of men, and men a re
turned to jelly-fishes. Far from us be the desire to imitate
Moreover it is an age which is very impressible, and therefore I
should like to see you very decided? that you ma.? impress it. The
wonderful progress made in England by the 1l1gh Church move-ment
shows that earnestness is power. The ltitualists believe
something, and that fact has given them influence. To me their
distinctive creed is intolerable nonscuse, and their proceedings are
cliildisli foo1er.y; but they have dared to go against the mob, and
have turned the mob round to their side. Bravely did they battle,
let us sa,y it to their honour ; when their churches hccamc the sccncs
of riot and disorder, and there was raised tlic terrible howl of “No
Popery ” by the lower orders, they boldly confronted the foe and
never winced. They welit against the whole current of what was
thought to be the deep-seated feeling of England in favour of
Protestantism, and with scarcely a bishop to patronisc them, and
but few loaves and fishes of patronage, t,llcy have incrcascd from a
handful to become the dominant and most vital party in the
C’ hurch of England, and to our intense surlnk and horror they
have brought people to receive again the Popcry which we thought
dead and buried. If anybody had told me twenty years ago that
the witch of Endor would become Queen of Eugknd, I should as
soon have believed it as that we should now have such a IIigh
Church development ; but the fact is, the men were cnrncst and
ckcitled, and held what they believed most firmly, and did not
hcsitn.te to push their cause. The age, therefore, can bc im-pressed
; it will receive what is taught by zealous men, whether it
it be truth or falsehootl. It may lx objected that falsehood will be
received the more rc:ulily ; that is just possible, but anytlling will
be acccptcd by men if you will but pa& it with tremendous
energy ad living carnestucss. If they will not receive it into
their hearts in a spiritual SWSR, yet at any rate there will be a
mental assent and consent, very much in proportion to the energy
with which you proclaim it; ay, and God will bless our decision
too, so that when the mind is gained by our earnestness, and the.THE NEED OF DECISION FOR THE TRUTH. 53
attention is won by our zeal, the heart itself will be opened by
the Spirit of God.
We must be decided. What have Dissenters been doing to a
great extent Iately but trying to be fine? How many of our
ministers are labouriug to be grand orators or intellectual thinkers?
That is not the thing. Our young ministers have been dazzled
by that, and have gone off to bray like wild asses under tht: notion
that they would then be reputed to have come from Jerusalem, 01’
to have been reared in Germany. The world has found them out.
There is nothing now I believe that genuine Christians dcspisc
more than the foolish affectation of intellectualism. You will heal
a good old deacon say, “Mr. So-and-so, whom we had here, was a
very clever man, and preached wonderful sermons, but the cause has
gone down through it. We can hardly support the minis&,
and we mean next time to have one of the old-fashioned ministers
back again who believe in something and preach it. There will br
no addition to our church else.” Will you go out and tell the
people that you believe you can say something, but you hardly
know what; you are not quite sure that what you preach is cor-rect,
but the trust-deed requires you to sa,y it, and therefore vou
say it 4: Why, you may cause fools and idiot,s to be pleased &th
you, and you will be sure to propagate infidelity, but you cannot
do more. When a prophet comes forward he must speak as from
the Lord, and if he cannot do that, let him go back to his bctl.
It is quite certain, dear friends, that now or ncvcr we must be
decided, because the age is manifestly drift,ing. You cannot watch
for twelve mouths without seeing how it is going down the tide;
the anchors are pulled up, and the vessel is floating to destruction.
It is drifting now, as near as I can tell you, south-east, and
is nearing Cape Vatican, and if it drives much further in that
direction it will be on the ro&s of the Roman reef. WC must
get aboard her, and connect her with the glorious stcam.tug of
gospel truth, and drag her back. I should be glad if I could t&B
her round bT Cape Calvin, right up into the Bay of Calvar.y, ant1
anchor her m the fair haven which is close over by Vera Cruz, OI
the cross. God graut us grace to do it. We must have a strong
hand, and have our steam well up, and defy the current; and so
by God’s grace we shnll both save this age aud the generations
yet to come..LECTURE IV.
THERE are some customs for which nothing can be pleaded, except
that they are very old. In such cases antiquity is of no more
value than the rust upon a counterfeit coin. It is, however, a
happy circumstance when the usage of ages can be pleaded for a
really good and scriptural practice, for it invests it with a halo of
reverence. Now, it can be argued, with small fear of refutation,
that open air preaching is as old as preaching itself. We are at
full liberty to believe that Enoch, the seventh from Adam, when
he prophesied, asked for no better pulpit than the hill-side, and
that Noah, as a preacher of righteousness, was willing to reason
with his cotemporaries in the ship-yard wherein his marvellous
ark was buiIded. Certainly, Moses and Joshua found their most
convenient place for addressing vast assemblies beneat#h the un-pillared
arch of heaven. Samuel closed a sermon in the field at
Gilgal amid thunder and rain, by which the Lord rebuked the
people and drove t,hcm to their knees. Elijah stood on Carmel,
and challenged the vacillating nation, with “How long halt ye
between two opinions ?” Jonah, whose spirit was somewhat
similar, lifted up his cry of warning in the streets of Nineveh, and
in all her places of concourse gave forth the warning utterance,
“ Yet forty days and Nineveh shall be overthrown !” To hear
Ezra and Nehemiah “all the people gathered themselves together
as one man into the street that was before the water gate.”
Indeed, we find examples of open air preaching everywhere around
us in the records of the Old Testament.
It may suffice us, however, to go back as far as the origin of
our own holy faith, and there we hear the forerunner of the
Saviour crying in the wilderness and lifting up his voice from the
river’ s bank. Our Lord himself, who is yet more our pattern,
delivered the larger proportion of his sermons on the mountain’ s
side, or by the sea shore, or in the streets. Our Lord was to all.OPEN AIR PREACHING-A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY. 55
intents and purposes an open air preacher. He did not remain
silent in the synagogue, but he was equally at home in t,be field.
We have no discourse of his on record delivcrcd in the chapel
royal, but we have the sermon on the mount, and the sermon in
the plain ; so that the very earliest and most divine kind of
preaching was practised out of doors by him who spakc as never
man spake.
There were gatherings of his disciples after his decease, within
walh, especially that in the upper room ; but the preaching was
even then most frequently in the court of the tcmplc, or in
such other open spaces as were available. The notion of holy
places and consecrated meeting-houses had not occurred t’ o them
as Christians ; they preached in the temple because it was tile
chief place of concourse, but with equal earnestness “in every
house they ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ.”
The apostles and their immediate successors delivered their
message of mercy not only in their own hired houses, and in the
synagogues, but also anywhere and everywhere as occasion served
them. This may be gathered incidentally from the following
statement of Eusebius. “ The divine and admirable discipics of
the apostles built up the supcrstruct,ure of the churches, the
foundations whereof the apostles had laid, in all places where they
came ; they everywhere prosecuted the preaching of the gospel,
sowing the seeds of heavenly doctrine throughout the whole world.
Many of the disciples then alive distributed their estates to the
poor; and, leaving their own country, did the work of evangelists
to those who had never yet heard the Christian faith, preaching
Christ, and delivering the evangelical writings to them. No
sooner had they planted the faith in any foreign countries, and
ordained guides and pastors, to whom they committed the care of
these new plantations, but they went to other nations, assisted by
the grace and powerful working of the Holy Spirit. As soon as
they began to preach the gospel the people flocked universally to
them, and cheerfully worshipped the true God, the Creator of the
world, piously and heartily believing in his name.”
As the dark ages lowered, the best prcachcrs of the gradually
declining church were also pseachers in the open air ; as were also
those itinerant friars and great founders of religious orders who
kept alive such piety as rcmaincd. We hear of Berthold, of
Ratisbon, with audiences of sixty or a hundred thousaud, in a
field near Glatz in Bohemia. There were also Bernards, and Ber-nardines,
and Anthonys, aud Thomases of great fame as travelling.5F OPEN AIR PREACHING-A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY.
preachers, of whom we cannot find time to speak particularly.
Dr. Lavington, Bishop of Excter, being short of other argu-ments,
stated, as a proof that the Methodists were identical with
the Papists, that the early Friar Preachers wcrc great at holding
forth in the open fields. Quo&g from Ribatlcneira, he nicntiolls
Peter of Verona, who had “ a divine talent in preaching ; neithcsr
churches, nor streets, nor market-plnccs could cont,ain the great
concourse that rcsortctl to hear his sermons.” The learned bishop
might have easily multil)lied his csamples, as WC also could do, but
they wonld prove nothing more than that, for good or evil, field
preaching is a great power.
When Antichrist had commenced its more universal sway,
the Reformers before the Reformation were full often open air
preachers, as, for instance, Arnold of Brescia, who denounced Papal
usurpations at the very gates of the Vatican.
It would be very easy to prove that revivals of religion have
usually been accompanied, if not caused, by a considcrablo amouut
of preaching out of doors, or in unusual places. The first avowed
preaching of Protestant doctrine was almost necessarily in the opcu
air, or iu buildings which were not dedicated to worship, for these
were in the hands of the Papacy. Truc,Wycliffe for a while preached
the gospel in the church at Lutterworth; Huss, and Jerome, and
Savonarola for a time delivered semi-gospel addresses in counec-tion
with the ecclesiastical arrangements around them ; but when
t,hey began more fully to know and proclaim the gospel, they wcrc
driven to find other platforms. The Reformation when yet a babe
was like the new-boru Christ, and had not where to lay its head,
but a company of men comparable to the heavenly host proclaimed
it untlcr the open heavens, where shepherds and common people
heard them gladly. Thoug$~out England WC have several trees
remaining called “ gospel oaks.” There is one spot on the other
side of the Thames known by the name of “ Gospel Oak,” and
I have myself preached at Rtltllcstone, in Surrey, under the far- , spreading boughs of an ancient oak, bcueath which Johu &lox is
said to have proclaimed t,he gospel during his sojourn in Euglantl.
Full many a wild moor, and loue hill side, and secret spot in the
forest have been consecrated in the same fashion, and traditions
still linger over caves, and dells, and hill t,ops, where of oltl time
the bands of the faithful met to hear the word of the Lord.
Nor was it alone in solitary places that in clays of yore the voice
of the preacher was heard, for scarcely is there a market cross
which has not served as a pulpit for itinerant gospellers. During.OPEN AIR PREACHING-A SKETCII OF ITS IIISTORY. 57
the lifetime of Wycliffe his missionaries traversed the country,
everywltcre preaching the word. An Act of Parliament of Eichat*d
II. (1382) sets it forth as a grievance of the clergy that a nnmbc~r
of persons in frieze gowns went from town to town, without the
license of the ordinnrius, and preached not only in cltttrchcs, but i u
churcltyartls, and market-places, and also at fairs. ‘ To bear tllcse
heralds of the cross the count,ry people flocked in great numbers,
and the soldiers mingled with the crowd, ready to defend tlte
preachers with their stvords if any offered to molest tltcm. AftcJr
Wycliffc’ s decease bis followers scrupled not to use the same
methods. It is specially recorded of William Swintlerby t,hat,
“ bcitte excommunicated, and forbidden to preach in any church
or cltt%chyard, he made a pulpit of two mill-stones in the High-street
of Leicester, and there preached ‘ in contempt of the:
bishop.’ ‘ There,’ says Knighton, ‘ you might see throngs of
people from every part, as well from the town as tlte country,
double the number there used to be when they might hear him
lawfully.’ ”
In Germany and otlter continental countries the Eeformation
was greatly aided by the sermons delivered to the masses out of
doors. We read of Lutheran preachers perambulating the country
proclaiming the new doctrine to crowds in the market-places,
and burial-grounds, and also on mountains and in meadows. At,
Goslar a Wittemberg student preached in a meadow plantd with
lime-trees, which procured for his hearers the designation of “ the:
Lime-tree Brethren.” PA b’ u ignB tells us tliat at Appenzcl, as
the crowds could not be contained in the churches, the preaching
was held in tlte fields and public squares, and, notwithstanding
keen opposition, tlic hills, meadows, and mountains echoed witlt
the glad tidings of salvation. In the life of Fare1 we meet with
incidents connected with out-of-doors ministrp ; for itistancc, wltcri
at Mctz he preached ltis first scrmou in the clturcltyard of tlto
Dominicans, his enemies caused all the bells to be tolled, but his
voice of tltunder overpowered the souncl. In NcucltSltcl we arc
told that “the whole town became his church. He l)rc~:tcltetl itt
the market-place, in tltc streets, at the gates, before tltc EIOUSCR,
and in the squares, and with suclt persuasion and effect that hc
won over many to tlie gospel. The people crowded to hear his
sermons, and could not be kept back either by threats or per-suasions.”
From Dr. WTlie’ s “History of Prot&antism” I borrow the
following:–” It 1s said that. tlte first field-preaching in the Nether-.58 OPEN AIR PREACHING-A SKETCH OF ITS HISTORY.
lands took pIace on the 14th of June, 1566, and was h&l in the
neighbourhood of Ghent. The preacher was Herman Mod& who
had formerly been a monk, but was now the reformed pastor at
Oudenard. ‘ This man,’ says a Popish chronicler, ‘ was the first
who vcnturcd to preach in public, and there were 7,000 persons
at his first sermon.’ . . . . The second great field-preaching took
place on the 23rd of July following, the people assembling in a
large meadow in the vicinity of Ghcnt. The ‘ Word ’ wns precious
in those days, and the pcol~lc, eagerly thirstiqg to hear it, prc-pared
to remain two days consecutively on the gronnd. Their
arrangements more rcscmbled an army pitching their camp than
a peaceful multitude asscnibled for worship. Around the wor-shippers
was a wall of barricades in the shape of carts and
wa,ggons. Sentinels were placed at all the entrances. A rude
pulpit of planks was hastily run up and placed aloft on a cart.
Modet was preacher, and around him were many thousands of
persons, who listened with their pikes, hatchets, and guns lying by
their sides ready to bc grasped on a sign from the sentinels who
kept watch all around the assembly. In front of the entrances
were erected stalls, whcrcat pcdlars offered prohibited books to all
who wished to buy. Along the roads running into the country
were stationed certain persons, whose office it was to bid the
casual passenger turn in and hear the Gospel. . . . . When the
services were finished, the multitucle would rcl)air to other tlis-tricts,
where they encamped after the same fashion, and remained
for the same space of time, and so passed through the whole of
West Flanders. At these conventiclcs the Psalms of David,
which had been translated into Low Dntch from the version of
Clement Marot, and Theodore Beza, were always sung. The
odes of the Hebrew king, pealed forth by from five to ten
thousand voices, and borne by the breeze over the woods and
meadows, might be heard at great distances, arresting the plough-man
as hc turned the furrow, or the travellcr as he lmrsued his
way, and making him stop and wonder whcuce the minstrelsy
prococded.” It is most interesting to observe that congregational
singing is sure to revive at the same moment as gospel-preaching.
In all air
weather, and are not every hour in danger of a shower; but if
we meet SUZ, Jove, as the Latins say, we must expect the Jove of
the hour to be Jupiter plucius. We can always have a dclugc if
we do not wish for it, but if we fix a service out of doors for nest
Sunday morning, we have no guarantee that we shall not all be
drenched to the skin. It is true that some notable sermons have
been preached in the rain, but as a general rule the ardour of onr
auditors’ is hardly so great as to endure much damping. Besides,
the cold of our winters is too intense for services out of doors all
the year round, though in Scotland I have heard of sermons amid
the sleet, and John Nelson writes of speaking to “a crowd too
large to get into the house, though it was dark and snowed.” Such
things may be done now and then, but exceptions only prove the
rule. It is fair also to admit that when people will come within
walls,. if the house be so commodious that a man could not readily
make more persons hear, and if it be always full, there can be no
need to go out of doors to preach to fewer than there would be in-doors
; for, all things considered, a comfortable seat screened from.78 OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
the weather, and shut in from noise and intrusion, is helpful to a
man’ s hearing the gospel with solemnity and quiet thought. A
well ventilated, well managed building is an advantage if the
crowds can be accommodated and can be induced to come ; but
t’ hese conditions are very rarely met, and therefore my voice is
for the fields.
TJle great benejt of open-air preaclhg is tJ)at we get so many new
comers to liear the gospel WJLO otherwise would never Jlear it. The
gospel comtnand is, “ Go ye into all the world and preach the
gospel to every creature,” but it is so little obeyed that one would
imagiue that it ran thus, u Go into your own place of worsltip
and preach the gospel to the few creatures who will come inside.”
“ Go ye into the highways and hedges and compel them to come
in,“-albeit it constitutes part of a parable, is worthy to be taken
very literally, and in so doing its meaning will be best carried out.
We ought actually to go int,o the streets and lanes and highways,
for there are lurkers in the hedges, tramps on the highway, street-walkers,
and lane-haunters, whom we shall never reach unless we
pursue them into their own domains. Sportsmen must not stop
at home and wait for the birds to come and be shot at, neither
must fishermen throw their nets inside their boats and hope to
take many fish. Traders go to the markets, they follow their
customers and go out after business if it will not come to them;
aud so must we. Some of our brethren are prosing on and on,
to empty pews and musty hassocks, while they might be conferring
lasting benefit upon hundreds by quitting the old walls for awhile,
and seeking living stones for Jesus. Let them come out of Reho-both
and find room at the street corner, let them leave Salem and
seek the peace of neglected souls, let them dream no longer at
Bethel, but make an open space to be none other than the house
of God, let them come down from Mount Zion, and up from
Anon, and even away from Trinity, and St. Agnes, and St.
Michael-aod-All-Angels, and St. Margaret-Pattens, and St. Ve-dast,
and St. Ethelburga, and all the rest of them, and try to find
new saints among the sinners who are perishing for lack of
I have known street preaching in London remarkably blest to
persons whose character and condition would quite preclude their
having been found in a place of worship. I know, for instance, a
Jewish friend who, on coming from Poland, understood nothing
whatever of the English language. In going about the streets
on the Sunday he noticed the numerous groups listening to.OPEN AIR PREACHING-REXARKS THEREOX. 79
earnest speakers. He had never seen such a thing in his own
country, where the Russian police would be alarmed if groups
were seen in conversation, and he was therefore all the more
interested. AS he acquired a little English he became more and
more constant in his attendance upon street speakers, indeed, it
was very much with the view of learning the language that he
listened at the first. I am afraid that the English which he
acquired was not of the very best, which judgment I form as
much from what I have heard of open air oratory as from having
listened to our Jewish friend himself, whose theology is better
than his English. However, that “Israelite indeed” has always
reason to commend the street preachers. How many other
strangers and foreigners may, by the same instrumentality, have
become fellow-citizens with the saints and of the housebold of
God we cannot tell. Romanists also are met with in this manner
more frequently than some would suppose. It is seldom prudent
to publish cases of conversion among Papists, but my own obser-vation
leads me to believe that they are far more common than
they were ten years ago, and the gracious work is frequently com-menced
by what is heard of the gospel at our street corners.
Infidels, also, are constantly yielding to the word of the Lord thus
brought home to them. The street evangelist, moreover, wins
attention from those eccentric people whose religion can neither
be described nor imagined. Such people hate the very sight of
our churches and meeting houses, but will stand in a crowd to
hear what is said, and are often most impressed when they affect
the greatest contempt.
Besides, there are numbers of persons in great cities who have
not fit clothes to worship in, according to the current idea of what
clothes ought to be; and not a few whose persons as well as their
garments are so filthy, so odorous, so unapproachable, that the
greatest philanthropist and the most levelling democrat might
desire to have a little space between himself and their lively indi-vidualities.
There are others who, whatever raiment they wear,
would not go into a chapel upon any consideration, for they
consider it to be a sort of punishment to attend divine service.
Possibly they remember the dull Sundays of their childhood and
the dreary sermons they have heard when for a few times they
have entered a church, but it is certain that they look upon persons
who attend places of worship as getting off the punishment the,)
ought to elltlure ill the next world by suffering it in this w&hi
instead. The Sunday newspaper, the pipe, and the pot, hare more.so OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
cllarms for them than all the preachments of bishops and parsons,
whether of chnrch or dissent. The open-air evangelist frequently
picks up these members of the “ No church” party, and in so
doing he often finds some of the richest gems that will at last
adorn the Redeemer’ s crown : jewels, which, by reason of their
roughness, are apt to be unnoticed by a more fastidious class of
soul-winners. Jonah in the streets of Nincveh was heard by
multitudes who would never have known of his existence if he had
hired a hall; John the Baptist by the Jordan awakened an in-terest
which would never have been aroused had he kept to the
synagogue ; and those who went from city to city proclaiming
everywhere the word of the Lord Jesus would never have turned
the world upside down if they had felt it needful to confine them-selves
to iron rooms adorned with the orthodox announcement,
“ The gospel, of the grace of G-od will (D.V.) be preached here
next Lord’ s day evening.”
I am quite sure, too, that if we could persuade our friends in
the country to come out a good many times in the year and hold a
service in a meadow, or in a shady grove, or on the hill side, or
in a garden, or on a common, it would be all the better for the usual
ILearers. The mere novelty of the place would freshen their
interest, and wake them LIP. The slight change of scene would
have a wonderful effect upon the more somnolent. See how
mechanically they move into their usnal place of worship, and how
mechanically they go out again. They fall into their seats as if
at last they had found a resting place; they rise to sing with an
amazing effort, and they drop down before you have time for a
doxology at the close of the hymn because they did not notice it,
was coming, What logs some regular hearers are! Many of
them are asleep with their eyes open. After sitting a certain
number of years in the same old spot, where the pews, pulpit,
gttllerics, and all things else are always the same, except that they
get a little dirtier and dingier every week, where everybody
occupies the same position for ever and for evermore, and the
minister’ s fact, voice, tone are much the same from *January to
December,-you get to feel the holy quiet of the scene and
listen to what is going on as though it were addressed to “the
dull cold ear of death.” As a miller hears his wheels as though
he did not hear them, or a stoker scar&y notices the clatter of
his engine after enduring it for a little time; or as a dweller in
London never notices the ceaseless grind of the traffic ; so do
many members pf our congregations become insensible to the most.OPEN AIR PREACHINQ-REMARKS THEREON. 81
earnest addresses, and accept them as a matter of course. The
preaching and the rest of it get to be so usual that they might as
well not be at all. Hence a change of place might be useful, it
might prevent monotony, shake up indifference, suggest thought,
and in a thousand ways promote attention, and give new hope of
doing good. A great fire which should burn some of our chapels
to the ground might not be the greatest calamity which has
ever occurred, if it only aroused some of those rivals of the
seven sleepers of Ephesus who will never be moved so long as the
old house and the old pews hold together. Besides, the fresh air
and plenty of it is a grand thing for every mort,al man, woman,
and child. I preached in Scotland twice on a Sabbath day at
Blairmore, on a little height by the side of the sea, and after
discoursing with all my might to large congregations, to bc counted
by thousands, I did not feel one-h@f so much exhausted as I
often am when addressing a few hundreds in some horrible black
hole of Calcutta, called a chapel. I trace my freshness and
freedom from lassitude at Blairmore to the fact that the windows
couId not be shut down by persons afraid of draughts, and that
the roof was as high as the heavens are above the earth. My con-viction
is that a man could preach three or four times on a Sabbath
out of doors with less fatigue than would be occasioned by one dis-course
delivered in an impure atmosphere, heated and poisoned
by human breath, and carefully preserved from every refreshing
infusion of natural air.
Tents are bad-unutterably bad: far worse than the worst
buildings. I think a tent is the most objectionable covering for a
preaching place that was ever invented. I am glad to set tents
used in London, for the very worst place is better than none, and
because they can easily be moved from place to place, and are not
very expensive; but still, if I had my choice between having nothing
at all and having a tent, I should prefer the open air by far. Under
canvas the voice is deadened and the labour of speaking greatly in-creased.
The material acts as a wet blanket to the voice, kills its
resonance, and prevents its travelling. With fearful exertion, in
the sweltering air generated in a tent, you will be more likely t.o be
killed than to be heard. You must have noticed even at our own
College gatherings, when we number only some two hundred, how
difficult it is to hear at the end of a tent, even when the sides are
open, and the air is pure. Perhaps you may on that occasion
attribute this fact in some degree to a want of attentiveness and
quietness on the part of that somewhat jubilant congregation, but
still even when prayer is offered, and all is hushed, I have observed
a great want of travelling power in the best voice beneath a
If you are going to preach in the open air in the country, you
will perhaps have your choice of a spot wherein to preach; if not,
of course you must have what you can get, and you must in faith
accept it as the very best. Hobson’ s choice of that or none makes
the matter simple, and saves a deal of debate. Do not be very
squeamish. If there should happen to be an available meadow
hard by your chapel, select it because it will be very convenient
to turn into the meeting-house should the weather prove unsuit-able,
or if you wish to hold a prayer-meeting or an after-meeting
at the close of your address. It is well to preach before your
regular services on a spot near your place of worship, so as to march
the crowd right into the buqding before they know what they are
about. Half-an-hour’ s out-of-door speaking and singing before your
ordinary hour of assembly will often fill an empty house. At the .
same time, do not always adhere to near and handy spots, but
choose a locality for the very opposite reason, because it is far
away from any place of worship and altogether negIected. Hang
up the lamps wherever there is a dark corner ; the darker the more
need of light. Paradise Row and Pleasant Place are generally
the least paradisaical and the most unpleasant: thither let your steps
be turned. Let the dwellers in the valley of the shadow of death
perceive that light has sprung up for them.
I have somewhere met with the recommendation always to
preach with a wall behind you, but against that I respectfully
enter my caveat. -Have a care of what may be on the other side
of the wall! One evangelist received a can of scalding water
from over a wall with the kinclly remark, “ There’ s soup for
Protestants !” and another was favoured with most unsavomy
bespatterings from a vessel emptied from above. Gideon Ouseley
began to preach in Roscommon wit,h his back against the gable of
a tobacco factory in which there was a window with a wooden
door, through which goods were hoisted into the loft. Would
you be surprised to learn that the window suddenly opened, and
that from it descended a pailful of tobacco water, an acrid fluid
most painful to the eyes ? The preacher in after years knew better
than to put himself in such a tempting position. Let his expe-rience
instruct you.
If I had my choice of a pitch for preaching, I should prefer to
front a rising ground, or an open spot bounded at some little.orEN AIR PREAOEIINO-REMARKS THEREON. 83
distance by a wall. Of course there must be sufficient space to
allow of the congregation assembling between the pulpit and
the bounding object in front, but I like to see an end, and not
to shout into boundless space. I do not know 8 prettier site for
a sermon than that which I occupied in my friend Mr. Duncan’ s
grounds at Benmore. It was a level sweep of lawn, backed by
rising terraces covered with fir-trees. The people could either
occupy the seats below, or drop down upon the grassy banks, as
best comported with their comfort, and thus I had part of my
congregation in rising galleries above me, and the rest in the arca
around me. My voice readily ascended, and I conceive that if
the people had been seated up the hill for half-a-mile they would
have been able to hear me with east. I shouItI suppose that,
Wesley’ s favourite spot at Gwennap Pit must be somewhat aft,cr
the same order. Amphitheatres and hillsides are always favourite
spots with preachers in the fields, and their advantages will be at
once evident to you.
My friend Mr. Abraham once produced for me a grand cathe-dral
in Oxfordshire. The remains of it are still called cd Spur-aeon’
s Tabernacle,” and may be seen near Minster Lovell, in the
form of a quadrilateral of oaks. Originally it was the beau ideul
of a preaching place, for it was a cleared spot in the thick forest
of Witchwood, and was reached by roads cut through the dense
unclerwood. I shall never forget those “ alleys green,” and the
verdant walls which shut them in. When you reached tCe inner
temple it consisted of a large square, out of which the underwood
and smaller trees had been cut away, while a sufficient number of
young oaks had been left to rise to a considerable height, and
then overshadow us with their branches. Here was a truly mag-nificent
cathedral, with pillars and arches : a temple not made
with hands, of which we might truly say,
“ Father, thy hand
Hath reared these venerable columns, tfmu
Didst weave this verdant roof.”
I have never, either at home or on the Continent, seen archi-tecture
which could rival my cathedral. “ Lo, we hc~nrd of it
at Ephratah: we found it in the fields of the wood.” The blue
sky was visible through our clerestory, and from the great window
at the further end the sun smiled upon us toward evening. Oh,
sirs, it was grand indeed, to worship thus beneath the vaulted firma-ment,
beyond the sound of city hum, where all around ministered.84 OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
to quiet fellowship with God. That spot is now cleared, and
the place of our assembly has been selected at a little distance
from it. It is of much the same character, only that my boundary
walls of forest growth have disappeared to give place to an open
expanse of ploughed fields. Only the pillars and the roof of my
temple remain, but I am still glad, like the Druids, to worship among
the oak trees. This year a dove had built her nest just above my
head, and she continued flying to and fro to feed her young, while
the sermon proceeded. Why not? Where should she be more
at home than where the Lord of love and Prince of Peace was
adored ? It is true my arched cathedral is not waterproof, and
other showers besides those of grace will descend upon the
congregation, but this has its advantages, for it makes us the
more grateful when the day is propitious, .and the very precari-ousness
of the weather excites a large amount of earnest prayer.
I once preached a sermon in the open air in haying time during
a violent storm of rain. The text was, “ De shall come down like
rain upon the mown grass, as showers that water the earth,” and
surely we had the blessing as well as the inconvenience, I was
sufficieutly wet, and my congregation must have been drenched,
but they stood it out, and I never heard that anybody was the worse
in health, though, I thank God, I have heard of souls brought to
Jesus under that discourse. Once in a while, and under strong
excitcm@, such things do no one auy harm, but we are not to
expect miracles, nor wantonly venture upon a course of proce-dure
which might kill the sickly and lay the foundations of disease
in the strong.
I remember well preaching between Cheddar Cliffs. What a
noble position ! What beauty and sublimity! But there w-as great
danger from falling pieces of stone, moved by the people who sat
upon the higher port,ions of the cliff, and hence I would not choose
the spot again. We must studiously avoid positions where serious
accident might be possible. An injured head qualifies no one for
enjoying the beauties of nature, or the consolations of grace.
Concluding a discourse in that place, I called upon those mighty
rocks to bear witness that I had preached the gospel to the people,
and to be a testimony against them at the last great day, if theg
rejected the message. Only the other day I heard of a person to
whom that appeal was made useful by the Holy Spirit.
Look well to the ground you select, that it is not swampy. I
never like to see a man slip up to his knees in mire while I am
preaching. Rushy places are often so smooth and green that WC.OPEN AIR PREACHIN+REMARKS THEREON. 85
seIect them without noting that they are apt to be muddy, and to
give our hearers wet feet. Always inconvenience yourself rather
than your audience : your Master would have done so. Even in the
streets of London a concern for the convenience of your hearers is
one of the things which conciliates a crowd more than anything.
Avoid as your worst enemy the neighbourhood of the Normandy
poplar. These trees cause a perpetual hissing and rustling sound,
almost Iike the noise of the sea. Every leaf of certain kinds of
poplar is in perpetua1 motion, like the tongue of Talkative. The
noise may not seem very loud, but it will drown the best of voices.
” The sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees ” is all
very well, but keep clear of the noise of poplars and some other
trees, or you will suffer for it. I have had painPu1 qerience of
this misery. The old serpent himself secmcd to hiss at me out of
those unquiet boughs.
Practised preachers do not care t,o have the sun directly in their
faces if they can help it, neither do they wish their hearers to be
distressed in like manner, and therefore they take this item inbo
consideration when arranging for a service. In London we do
not see that luminary often enough to be much concerned upon
this point.
Do not try to preach against the wind, for it is an idle attempt’ .
You may hurl your voice a short distance by an amazing effort,
but you cannot be well heard even by the few. I do not often
advise you to consider which way the wind blows, but on this occa-sion
I urge you to do it, or you will labour in vain. Preach so
that the wiud carries your voice towards the people, and does not
blow it down your throat, or you will have to eat your own
words. There is no telling how far a man may be heard with the
wind. In certain atmospheres and climates, as for instance in
that of Palestine, persons might be heard for several miles; and
single sentences of well-known speech may in England be recog-nised
a long way off, but I should gravely doubt a man if he
asserted that he understood a new sentence beyond the distance of
a mile. Whitfield is reported to have been heard a mile, and I have
been myself assured that I was heard for that distance, but I am
somewhat sceptical.* Half-a-mile is surely enough, even with the
wind, but you must make sure of that to be heard at aI1.
* From “ Chambers’ Book of Days” we borrow the following note :-6‘
Mrs. Oliphant, in her ‘ Life of the Rev. Edward Irving,’ states that he had
been on some occzuions clearly heard at the distance of half-a-mile. It has.86 OPEN AIR PREACHING-REIMARKS THEREON.
In the country it ought to be easy to find a fit place for preach-ing.
One of the earliest things that a minister should do when he
leaves College and settles in a country town or village is to begin
open air speaking. He will generally have no difficulty as t,o the
position; the land is before him and he may choose according to
his own sweet will. The market-cross will be a good beginning,
then the head of a court crowded with the poor, and nest the
favourite corner of the idlers of the parish. Cheap-Jack’ s stand
will make a capital pulpit on Sunday night during the village fair,
and a wagon will serve well on the green, or in a field at a little
distance, during the week-day evenings of the rustic festival. A
capital place for an al fresco discourse is the green where the old
elm trees, felled long ago, are still lying in reserve as if they
were meant to be seats for your congregation ; so also is the burial
ground of the meeting-house where Lc the rude forefathers of the
hamlet sleep.” Consecrate it to the living and let the people
enjoy “ Meditations among the Tombs.” Make no excuses, then,
but get to work at once.
In London, or any other large town, it is a great thing to find
a vacant spot where you can obtain a right to hold services at your
pleasure. If you can discover a piece of ground which is not yet
built over, and if you can obtain the use of it from the owner
till he covers it, it will be a great acquisition, and worth a slight
expense in fencing ; for you are then king of the castle and dis-turbers
will be trespassers. I suppose that such a spot is not often
obtainable, especially by persons who have no money ; but it is
worth thinking about. It is a great gain when your place of
worship has even a small outside space, like that at Surrey Chapel,
or upon the Tabernacle steps ; for here you are beyoud the inter-ference
of the police or drunken men. If we have none of these,
we must find street corners, triangles, quiet nooks, and wide spaces
wherein to proclaim the gospel. Years ago I preached to enor-mous
assemblies in King Edward’ s Road, Hackney, which was
been alleged, however, that Black John Russell, of Kilmarnock, celebrated by
Burns in no gracious terms, was heard, though not perhaps intelligibly, at the
distance of a full mile. It would appear that even this is not the utmost
stretch of the phenomenon. A correspondent of the JameJon’ s Journal, in
1828, states that, being at the west end of Dumferline, he overheard part of a
sermon then delivering at a tent at Cairneyhill by Dr. Black : he did not miss
a word, ‘though the distance must be something about two miles :’ the
preacher has, perhaps, seldom been surpassed for distinct speaking and a clear
voice : ‘ and the wind, which was steady and moderate, came in the direction
then open fields, but now not a spare yard remains. On those
occasious the rush was perilous to life and limb, and there seemed
no limit to the throngs. Half the number would have been safer.
That open space has vanished, and it is the same with fields at
Brixton, where in years gone by it was delightful t,o see the
assembled crowds listening to the word. Burdened with the rare
trouble of drawing too many together, I have been compelled to _ abstain from these exercises in London, but not from any lessened
sense of their importance. With the Tabernacle always full I
have as large a congregation as I desire at home, and therefore do
not preach outside except in the couut,ry ; but for those ministers
whose area under cover is but small, and whose congregations
are thin, the open air is the remedy whether in London or in
the provinces.
III raising a new interest, and in mission operations, out of door
services are a main agency. Get the people to listen outside that
they may by-and-by worsl~i~ inside. You want no pulpit, a chair
will do, or the kerb of the road. The less formality the better,
and if you begin by merely talking to the two or three around you
and make no pretence of sermonizing you will do well. More good
may be done by personal talk to one than by a rhetorical address
to fifty. Do not purposely interfere with the thoroughfare, but if
the crowd should accumulate do not hasten away in sheer fright :
the policeman will let you know soon enough. You are most
wanted, however, where you will be in no danger of impeding
passers-by, but far more likely to be in danger yourself-I refer to
those ceut,ral courts and blind alleys in our great cities which lie
out of the route of decency, and are known to nobody but the
police, and to them principally through bruises and wounds. Talk
of discovering the interior of Africa, we need explorers for Frying-pan
Alley and Emerald-Island Court : the Arctic regions are well
nigh as accessible as Dobinson’ s Rents and Jack Ketch’ s Warren.
Heroes of the cross-here is a field for you more glorious than the
Cid ever beheld when with his brave right arm he smote the ‘a?-nim
hosts. “Who will bring me into the strong city? Who ~111
lead me into Edom ?” Who will enable us to win these slums and
dens for Jesus? Who can do it but the Lord? Soldiers of Christ
who venture into these regions must expect a revival of the practices
of the good old times, so far as brickbats are concerned, aud I have
known a flower-pot fall acci.dentally from an upper window iu a re-markably
slanting direction. Still, if we are boru to be drowned we
shall not be killed by flower-pots. Uuder such treatment it may be.88 OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
refreshing to read what Christopher Hopper wrote under similar
conditions more than a hundred years ago. “ I did not much re-gard
a little dirt, a few rotten eggs, the sound of a cow’ s horn,
the noise of bells, or a few snowballs in their season; but some-times
I was saluted with blows, stones, brickbats, and bludgeons.
These I did not well like : they were not pleasing to flesh and
blood. I sometimes lost a little skin, and once a little blood,
which was drawn from my forehead with a sharp stone. I wore a
patch for a few days, and was not ashamed; I gloried in the cross.
And when my small sufferings abounded for the sake of Christ,
my comfort abounded much more. I never was more happy in
my own soul, or blessed in my labours.”
I am somewhat pleased when I occasionally hear of a brother’ s
being locked up by the police, for it dots him good, and it
does the people good also. It is a fiue sight to see the minister
of the gospel marched off by the servant of the law! It excites
sympathy for him, and the next step is sympathy for his message.
Many who felt no interest in him before are eager to hear him
when he is ordered to leave off, and still more so when he is taken
to the station. The vilest, of maukind respect a man who gets
into trouble in order to do them good, and if they see unfair oppo-sition
excited they grow quite zealous in the man’ s defence.
I am persuaded that the more of open air preaching there is in
London the better. If it should become a nuisance to some it will
be a blessing to others, if properly conducted. If it be the gospel
which is spoken, and if the spirit of the preacher be one of love and
truth, the results cannot be doubted : the bread cast upon the waters
must be found again after many days. The gospel must, how-ever,
bc preached in a manner worth the hearing, for mere noise-making
is an evil rather than a benefit. I know a family almost
driven out of t,hcir senses by the hideous shouting of monotonous
exhortations, and the howling of “ Safe in the arms of Jesus ”
near their door every Sabbath afternoon by the year togcthcr.
They are zealous CluGstiaus, and would willingly help their tor-mentors
if they saw the slightest probability of usefulness from
the violent bawling : but as they seldom see a hearer, and do not
think that what is spoken would do any good if it were heard, they
complain that they are compelled to lose their few hours of quiet
because two good men think it their duty to perform a noisy but
perfectly useless service. I once saw a man preaching with no
hearer but a dog, which sat upon its tail aud looked up very
reverently while its master orated. There were no people at.OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON. 89
the windows nor passing by, but the brother and his dog were
at their post whether the people would hear or whether they
would forbear. Once also I passed au ‘ earnest dcclaimcr, whose
hat was on the ground before him, filled with papers, and there
was not even a dog for an audience, nor any one within hearing,
yet did he “waste his sweetness on the desert air.” I hope it
relieved his own mind. Really it must be viewed as an essential
part of a sermon that somebody should hear it: it cannot be a great
benefit to the world to have sermons preached in vacua.
As to style in preachhy out of doors, it should certainly be
very different from much of that which prevails within, and per-haps
if a speaker were to acquire a style fully adapted to a street
audience, he would be wise to bring it indoors with him. A great
deal of sermonizing may be defined as saying nothing at extreme
length ; but out of doors verbosity is not admired, you must say
something and have done with it and go on to say something more,
or your hearers will let you know. ((Now then,” cries a street
critic, “let us have it, old fellow.” Or else the observation is
made, “Now then, pitch it out I You’ d better go home and learn
your lesson.” “ Cut it short, old boy,” is a very common admo-nition,
and I wish the presenters of this advice gratis could let
it be heard inside Ebenezer and Zoar and some other places sacred
to long-winded orations. Wllere these outspoken criticisms are
not employed, t,he hearers rebuke prosiness by quietly walking
away. Very unpleasant this, to find your congregation dispersing, . but a very plain intimation that your ideas are also much dispersed.
In the street, a man must keep himself alive, and use many
illustrations and anecdotes, and sprinkle a quaint remark here and
there. To dwell long on a point will never do. Reasoning must be
brief, clear, and soon done with. The discourse must not be
laboured or involved, neither must the second bead depend upon
the first, for the audience is a changing one, and each point must
be complete in itself. The chain of thought must be taken to
pieces, and each link melted down and turned into bullets : you
will ueed not so much Saladin’ s sabre to cut through a muslin
handkerchief as Cceur de Lion’ s battle-axe to break a bar of iron.
Come to the point at once, and come tbcre with all your might.
Short sentences of words and short passages of thought are
needed for out of doors. Long paragraphs aud long arguments
had better be reserved for otlmr occasions. In quiet country
crowds there is much force in an eloquent silence, now and then.90 OPEN AIR PREACHINU-REMARKS THEREON.
interjected; it gives people time to breathe, and also to reflect.
Do not, however, attempt this in a London street; you must go
ahead, or someone else may run off with your congregation. In
a regular field sermon pauses are very effective, and are useful in
several ways, both to speaker and listeners, but to a passing com-pany
who are not inclined for anything like worship, quick, short,
sharp address is most adapted.
In the streets a man must from beginning to end be intense, and
for that very reason he must be condensed and concentrated in
his thought and utterance. It would never do to begin by saying,
“My text, dear friends, is a passage from the inspired word, con-taining
doctrmcs of the utmost importance, and bringing before
ns in the clearest manner the most valuable practical instruction.
I invite your careful attention and the exercise of your most candid
judgment while we consider it under various aspects and place it
in different lights, in order that we ma.y be able to perceive its
position in the analogy of the faith. In its exegesis we shall find
an arena for the cultured intellect, aud the refined sensibilities.
As the purling brook meanders among the meads and fertilizes t,he
pastures, so a stream of sacred truth flows through the remarkable
words which now lie before us. It will be well for us to divert
the crystal current to the reservoir of our meditation, that we
may quaff the cup of wisdom with the lips of satisfaction.”
There, gentleman, is not that rather above the average of worcl-spinning,
and is not the art very generally in vogue in these days ?
If you go out to the obelisk in Blackfriars Road, and talk in that
fashion, you will be saluted with “ Go on, old buffer,” or “ilirL)t
ILe file ? M Y E Y E I ” A very vulgar youth will cry, “ What a
mouth for a t,ater !” and another will shout in a tone of mock
solemnity, “ AMEN !” If you give them chaff tliey will cheerfully
return it into your own bosom. Good measure, pressed down and
running over will they mete out to you. Shams and shows will
have no mercy from a street gathering, But have something to say,
look them in the face, say what you mean, put it plainly, boldly,
earnestly, courteausly, and the-y will hear you. Never speak against
time or for the sake of hearing your own voice, or you will obtain
some information about your personal appearance or manner of
oratory which will probably be more true than pleasing, “ Crikcy,”
says one, “wouldn’ t he do for an undertaker ! He’ d make ‘ em
weep.” This was a compliment paid to a melancholy brother
whose tone is peculiarly funereal. “There, old fellow,” said a
critic on another occasion, “you go and wet your whistle. You.OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON 91
must feel awfully dry after jawing away at that rate about
nothing at all.” This also was specially appropriate to a very
heavy brother of whom we had aforetime remarked t’ hat he would
make a good martyr, for there was no doubt of his burning well, he
was so dry. It is sad, very sad, that such rude remarks should be
made, but there is a wicked vein in some of us, which makes us
take note that the vulgar observations arc often very t,rue, and
“ hold as ‘ twere the mirror up to nature.” As caricature often
gives you a more vivid idea of a man than a photograph would
afford you, so do these rough mob critics hit off an orator to the
life by their exaggerated censures. The very best speaker must be
prepared to take his share of street wit, and to return it if need
be ; but primness, demureness, formality, sanctimonious long-windedness,
and the affection of superiority, actually invite offen-sive
pleasantries, and to a considerable extent deserve them.
Chadband or Stiggins in rusty black, with plastered hair and huge
choker, is as natural an object of derision as Mr. Guido Fawkes
himself. A very great man in his own esteem will provoke im-mediate
opposition, am1 the affectation of supernatural saintliness
will have the same effect. The less you are like a parson the
more likely you are to be heard; and, if you are known to be a
minister, t,he more you show yourself to bc a man the bct,tcr.
“ What do you get for that, governor?” is sure to be asked, if
you appear to be a cleric, and-it will be well to tell them at oucc
that this is extra, that you are doing overtime, and that there is
to be no collection, ‘ 6 You’ d do more good if you gave us some
bread or a drop of beer, instead of them tracts,” is constantly
remarked, but a manly manner, and the outspoken declaration
that you seek no wages but their good, will silence that stale
The nction of the street preacher shonld be of the very best. It,
should be purely natural and unconstrained. No spcakcr should
stand up in the street in a grotesque manner, or he will weaken
himself and invite attack. The street preacher should not imitate
his own minister, or the crowd will spy out the imitation very
speedilg, if the brother is anywhere near home. Neither should
he strike an attitude as little boys do who say, “My name is
Korval.” The stiff straight posture with the regular up and
down motion of arm and hand is too commonly adopt,ed : and I
would even more condemn the wild-raving-maniac action which
some are so fond of, which seems to be a cross between Whitcfield.02 OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
with both his arms in the air, and Saint George with both his feet
violently engaged in trampling on the dragon. Some good men
are grotesque by nature, and others take great pains to make
themselves so. The wicked Londoncrs say, “ What a cuw J” 1
only wish I knew of a cure for t,he evil.
All mannerisms should be avoided. Just now I observe that
nothing can be done without a very large Bagster’ s Bible with a
limp cover. There seems to be some special charm about the large
size, though it almost needs a little perambulator in which to pus11
it about. With such a Bible full of ribbons, select a standing in
Seven Dials, after the pattern of a divine so graphically clesc,ribed
by Mr. McCree. Take off your hat, put your Bible in it, and
place it on the ground. Let the kind friend who approaches YOU
on the right hold your umbrella. See how eager the dear man is
to do so 1 Is it not pleasing ? He assures you he is never so
happy as when he is helping good men to do good. Now ~10s~
your eyes in prayer. When your devotions are over, eomebotl~
will have projted by the occasion. Where is your affectionate
friend who held your umbrella and your hymn-book ? Where is
that well-brushed hat, and that orthodox Bagster S Where ? oh,
where ? Echo answers, “ Where ? ”
The catastrophe which I have thus described suggests that a
brother had better accompany you in your earlier ministries, that
one may watch while the other prays. If a number of friends will
go with you and make a ring around you it will be a great acqui-sition,
and if these can sing it will be still further helpful. The
friendly company will attract others, will help to secure order, and
will do good service by sounding forth sermons in song.
It will be very desirable to speak so as to be heard, but there is
no use in incessant bawling. The best street preaching is not that
which is done at the top of your voice, for it must be impossible
to lay the proper emphasis upon telling passages when all along
you are shouting with all your might. When there are no
hearers near you, and yet people stand upon the other side of the
road and listen, would it not be as well to cross over and so save
a little of the strength which is now wast,ed? A quiet, pcue-trating,
conversational style would seem to be the most telling.
bfcn do not bawl and halloa when they are pleading in dccpcst
earnestness ; they have generally at such times less wind and a
little more rain : less rant and a few more tears. On, on, on
with one monotonous shout and you will weary evcrybociy ant1
wear out yourself. Be wise now, therefore, 0 ye who would.OPEN AIR pREACIIINa–RE;MARKS THEREON. 93
succeed in declaring your Master’ s message among the multitude,
and use your voices as common sense would dictate.
In a tract published by that excellent society “ The Open Air
Mission,” I notice the following
1. A good voice.
2. Naturalness of manner.
3. Self-possession.
4. A good knowledge of Scripture and of common things.
5. Ability to adapt himself to auy cougrcgation.
6. Good illustrative powers.
7. Zeal, prudence, and common sense.
5. A large, loving heart.
9. Sincere belief in all he sajrs.
10. Entire dependence on the Holy Spirit for SUCCCSS.
11. A close walk with God by prayer.
12. A consistent walk before men by a holy life.
If any man has all these qualifications, the Queen had better
make a bishop of him at once, yet there is no one of these qualities
which could well be dispensed with.
Interrnptions are pretty sure to occur in the streets of London.
At certain places all will go well for months, but in other positions
the fight begins as soon as the speaker opens his mouth. There
are sensons of opposition : different schools of adversaries rise and
fall, and accordingly there is disorder or quiet. The best tact will
not always avail to prevent disturbance ; when men are drunk there
is no reasoning with them, and of furious Irish Papists we may say
much the same. Little is to be done with such unless the crowd
around will co-operate, as oftentimes they will, in removing the
obstructor. Certain characters, if they fiud that preaching is
going on, will interrupt by hook or by crook. They go on l)url)ose,
and if answered once and again they st,ill perscvcrc. One con-stant
rule is to be always courteous and good teml)ercd, for if YOU
become cross or angry it is all over with you. Another rule is
to keep to your subject, and never be drawn into side issues.
Preach Christ or nothing : don’ t dispute or discuss escel)t with
your eye on the cross. If driven off for a moment ahvaTs LC
on the watch to get back to your sole topic. Tell them the old,
old story, and if they will not hear that, move on. Yet be adroit,
and take them with guile. Seek the one object by many roads.9-i OPEN AIR PREACHING-REMARKS THEREON.
A little mother-wit is often the best resource and will work
wonders with a crowd. _.%&ommie is the next best tGng to grace
on such occasions. A brother of my acquaintance silenced a
violent Romanist by offering him his stand sud requesting him
to preach. The man’ s comrades for the very fun of the thing
urged him on, but, as he declined, the dog in the manger fable
was narrated and t,he disturber disappeared. If it be a real
sceptic who is assailing you it is prudence to shun debate as much
as possible, or ask him questions in return, for your business is not
to argue but to proclaim the gospel. Mr. John McGregor says
“ ScepGcs are of many kinds, Some of them ask questions to get
answers, and others put difficulties to puzzle the people. An
honest sceptic said to me in a crowd in Hyde-park, ‘I have been
trying to believe for these ten years, but there is a contradiction
I cawaot get over, and it is this : we are told that printing was
invented not five hundred years ago, and yet that the Bible is five
thousand years old, and I cannot for the life of me see how this
can be.’ Nay I the crowd did not laugh at this man. Very j>w
people in a woud Lnow much more tlLan ?le did about the Bible. But
how deeply they drank in a half energy, concentrated faculty, am1
intense zeal.
Another method of the grotesque may be correctly called the
labomhus. Certain brethren will never fail in their ministry from
want of physical exertion : when they mount the rostrum they
mean hard work, and before long they puff and blow at it as if
they were labourers working by the piece. They enter upon a sermon
with the resolve to storm their way through it, and carry all before
them: the kingdom of heaven snffereth violence with them in
another sense besides that which is intended in Script,nre. “ How is
your new minister getting on?” said an erquiring friend to a rustic
hearer. “ Oh,” said the man, “ he’ s sure to get on, for he drives at
sin as if he were knocking down an ox.” An excellent thing to
do in spirit, but not to be performed literally. When I have occa-sionally
heard of a wild brother taking off his collar and cravat,
upon a very hot day, and even of his going so far as to divest himself
of his coat, I have thought that he was only putting himself into a
condition which the physical-force orator might desire, for he
evidently regards a sermon as a battle or a wrestling match. An
Irish thunderer of my acquaintance broke a chair during a decla-mation
against Popery, and I trembled for the table also. A
distinguished actor, who became a convert and a preacher
late in life, would repeatedly strike the table or floor with his staff
when he grew warm in a speech. He has made me wish to close
my ears when the smart raps of his cane have succeeded each
?ther with great rapidity and growing force. What was the.‘ 122 POSTURE, ACTION, QESTURE, ETC.
peculiar use of the noise I could not tell, for we were all awake,
and his voice was sufficiently powerful. One did not mind it, how-ever,
from the grand old man, for it suited the “ tine frenzy” of
his whole-hearted enthusiasm, but the noise was not so desirable
as to be largely called for from any of us.
Laborious action is frequently a relic of the preacher’ s trade in
former days : as an old hunter cannot quite forget the hounds, so
the good man cannot shake off-the habits of the shop. One brother
who has been a wheelwright aIways preaches as if he were making
w-heels. If you understand the art of wheelwrighting, you cau
see most of the processes illustrated during one of his liveliest dis-courses.
You can detect the engineer in another friend, the cooper
in a third, and the grocer with his scales in a fourth. A brother
who has been a butcher is pretty sure to show us how to knock
down a bullock when he gets at all argumentative. As I have
watched the discourse proceed from strength to strengt.h, and the
preacher has warmecl to his work, I have thought to myself, “Here
comes the pole-axe, there goes the fat ox, down falls tbe prize bul-lock.,
’ Now, these reminiscences of former occupations are never
very blameworthy, and are at all times less obnoxious than the
altogether inexcusable awkwardnesses of gentlemen who from their
youth up have dwelt in the halls of learning. These will sometimes
labour quite as much, but with far less likeness to useful occupa-tions
; they beat the air and work hard at doing nothing. Gentle-men
from the universities are frequently more hideous in their
action than commonplace people; perhaps their education may
have deprived them of confidence, and made them all the more
fidgety and awkward.
It has occurred to me that some speakers fancy that they are
beating carpets, or chopping sticks, or mincing sausage-meat, or
patting butter, or poking their fingers into people’ s eyes. Oh,
could they see themselves as others see them, they might cease
thus to perform before the public, and save their bodily exercise
for other occasions. After all, I prefer the vigorous, laborious dis-plays
to the more easy and even stately airs of certain self-possessed
talkers. One rubs his hands together with abounding self-satisfaction,
“ M’ sshin,o his hands with invisible soap
In iltlperceptible water,”
and meanwhile utters the veriest platitudes with the air of a man
who is outdoing Robert Hall or Chalmers. Another pauses and looks
round with a dignified air, as if he had communicated inestimable.POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC. 123
information to a highly favoured body of individuals who might
reasonably be expected to rise in a state of intense excitement
and express their overwhelming sense of obligation. Nothing
has been said beyond the merest schoolboy talk ; but the air
of dignity, the attitude of authority, the very tone of the man,
all show how thoroughly satisfied he is. This is not laborious
preaching, but it occurs to me to mention it becttlise it is the very
reverse, and is so much more to be condemned. A few simpletons
are, no doubt, imposed upon, and fancy that a man must be saying
something great when he delivers himself in a pompous manner;
but sensible persons are at first amused and afterwards disgusted
with the big manner, “ 2c la grand s&pew.” One of the great
advantages of our College training is the certainty that an inflated
mannerism is sure to be abated by the amiable eagerness with
which all our students delight in rescuing a brother from this
peril. Many wind-bags have collapsed in this room beneath your
tender handiing, never, I hope, to be puffed out to their former
dimensions. There are some in the ministry of all the churches
who would be marvellously benefited by a little of the very candid
if not savage criticisms which have been endured by budding
orators at your hands. I would that every minister who has
missed such an instructive martyrdom could find a friend suffi-ciently
honest to point out to him any oddities of manner into
which he may insensibly have fallen.
But here we must not overlook another laborious orator who is
in our mind’ s eye. We will name him the perpetual motion
preacher, who is all action, and lifts his finger, or waves his hand,
or strikes his palm at every word. He is never at rest for a
moment. So eager is he to be emphatic that he effectually defeats
his object, for where every word is emphasized by a gesture nothing
whatever is emphatic. This brother takes off men’ s minds from
his words to his movements: the eye actually carries the thoughts
away from the ear, and so a second time the preacher’ s end is
missed. This continual motion greatly agitates some hearers, and
gives them the fidgets, and no wonder, for who can endure to see
such incessant patting, and pointing, and waving?’ In action, as
well as everything else, ‘ 6 let your moderation be known unto all
Thus I have mentioned three species of the grotesque-the
stiff, the mechanical, and the laboriolls-and I have also glanced
at the lazily dignified. I will close the list by mentioning two
others. There is t?ae martial, which also sufficiently borders on the.124 POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC.
grotesque to be placed in this category. Some preachers appear to
be fighting the good fight of faith every time they stand before a
congregation. They put themselves into a fencing attitude, and
either stand on guard against an imaginary foe, or else assault the
unseen adversary with stern determination. They could not look
more fierce if they were at the head of a regiment of cavalry, nor
seem more satisfied at the end of each division of discourse if they
had fought a series of Waterloos. They turn their heads on one
aide with a triumphant air, as if about to say-“ I have routed
that enemy, and we shall hear no more of Aim.”
The last singularity of action which I shall place under this
head is the X-timed. In this case the hands do not keep time with
the lips. The good brother is a little behindhand with his action,
and therefore the whole operation is out of order. You cannot at
first make the man out at all : he appear5 to chop and thump with-out
rhyme or reason, but at last you perceive that his present
, action is quite appropriate to what he said a few seconds before.
The effect is strange to the last degree. It puzzles those who do
not possess the key to it, and when fully understood it loses none
of its oddness.
Besides these oddities, there is a class of action which must, to
use the mildest term, be
described as altogether ugly.
For these a platform is
“ generally necessary,” for a
man cannot make himself so
thoroughly ridicmous when
concealed in a pulpit. To
grasp a rail, and to drop
down lower and lower till
you almost touch the ground
is supremely absurd. It may
be a proper position as a
prelude to an agile gym-nastic
feat, but as an accom-paniment
to eloquence it is
than once. I have found it monstrous; yet have I seen it more
difficult to convey to my artist the extraordinary posit,ion, but the
woodblock may help to show what is meant, and also to render
the attitude obsolete. One or two brethren have disported them-selves
upon my platform in this queer manner, and they are quite
weltionie to do the same again, if upon seeing themselves tkn5.POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC. * 125
roughly sketched they consider the posture to be commanding and
impressive. It would be far better for such remarkable performers
if it were reported of them as of that great Wesleyan, ltichard
Watson : “ He stood perfectly erect, and nearly all the action that
he used was a slight motion of the right hand, with occasionally
a significant shake of the head.”
The habit of shrugging the shoulders has been allowed to \
tyrannise over some greachers. A number of men are round-shouldered
by nature, and many more seem determined to appear
so, for when they have anything weighty to deliver they back
themselves up by elevating their backs. An excellent preacher
at Bristol, lately deceased, would hunch first one shoulder and
then another as his great thoughts struggled forth, and when they
obtained utterance he looked like a hunchback till the effort was
over. What a pity that such
a habit had become inveterate !
How desirable to avoid its forma-tion
! Quinctilian says : “ Some
people raise up their shoulders in
speaking, but this is a fault in
gesture. Demosthenes, in order
to cure himself of it, used to
stand in a. narrow pulpit, and
practise speaking with a spear
hanging over his shoulder, in such
a manner that if in the heat
of delivery he failed to avoid this
fault,, he would be corrected by
hurting himself against the 1)oint.”
This is a sharp remedy, hut the
gain would be worth an occasional
wound if men who distort the
human form could thus be c~~cl
of the fault.
At a public meeting upon one occasion a gentleman who ap-peared
to be very much at home and to speak with a great deal
of familiar superiority, placed his hands behind him under his
coat t,ails, arid thus produced a very singular figure, especially
to those who took a side view from the platform. As the
speaker became more animated, he moved his tails with greater
frequency, reminding the observer of a water-wagtrail. It
must be seen to be appreciated, but one exhibition will bo,.126 I POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC.
enough to convince any sensible mau that however gracefui a
dress coat may bc, it by no means minister5 to the solem-nity
of the occasion to see the tails of that garment projecting
from the orator’ s rear. You may also have seen at meetings the
gentleman who places his hands on his hips, and either looks as if
he defied all the world, or as if he endured considerable pain.
This position savours of Billingsgate and its fish-women far more
than of sared eloquence. The
arms “ a kim6o,” I think they call
it, aud the very sound of the
word suggests the ridiculous ra-ther
than the sublime. We may
drop into it for the moment rightly
enough, but to deliver a speech
in that posture is preposterous.
It is even worse t,o stand with
your hands in your trousers like
the people one secas at French
railway stations, who probably
thrust their hands into their
pockets because there is nothing
else there, and nature abhors a
vacuum. For a finger in the
waistcoat, pocket for a moment
no one will be blamed, but to
thrust the hands into the tron-sers
is outrageous. An utter contempt for audience and subject
must have been felt before a man could come to this. Gentlemen,
because you are gentlemen, you will never need to be warned of
this practice, for you will not descend to it. Ollce in a while befor<:
a superfinely genteel and affected audience a man may be tempt4
to shock their foolish gentility by a freedom and easiness which is
meant to be the protest of a brusque manliness ; but to see a man
preach the gospel with his hands ill his pockets does uot remind
you of either a prophet or an apostle. There are brethren who do
t,llis ever and anon who can afford to do it from their general
force of character : these are the very men who should do notthing
of the kind, because their example is powerful, and they are sornc-w’
hat responsible for the weaklings who copy them.
Another unseemly style is nearly allied to the last’ , though it is
not quite so objectionable. It may be seen at public dinners of the
common order, where white waistcoats need a little extra display,.POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC. 127
and at gatherings of artizans where an employer has given his men
a treat, and is responding to the toast of “ the firm.” Occasionally
it is exhibited at religious meetings, where the speaker is a man of
local importance,
and feels that he
is monarch of all
he surveys. In this
case the thumbs
are inserted in the
arm-holes of the
waistcoat, and the
speaker throws
back his coat and
reveals the lower
part of t,lie vest.
I have called this
the penpin style,
ant1 -1 am unible _ h
to find a better
comparison. For a footman or a coachmau at a soi7&?, or for R
member of the United Order of Q,ueer Fellows, this attitude ma,y
be suitable and dignified, and a venerable sire at, a family gathering
may talk to his boys aud girls iI1 that position ; but ior a public
speaker, and much more for a minister, as a gmeral lmbit, it is
as mmh out of character as a posture can be.
First cousin to this fashion is that of holding ou to the coat near
the collar, as if the speaker considered it necessary to hold himself
well in hand. Some grasp firmly, and then ruu the hands up and
down as if the,y meaut to double the coat in a new place, or t,o
lengthen the collar. They appear to hang upon their coat-fronts
like a man clutching at two ropes : one wonders the garment does
not split at the back of the neck. This practice adds nothing to
the force or perspicuity of a speaker’s style, and its probabIe sig-nification
is, “1 am quite at ease, and greatly enjoy hcariug my
own voice.”
As it would be well to stamp out as many uglinesses as possible,
I shall mention even those which are somewhat rare. I rcmem-her
an able minister who was accustomed to look into the palm of
his left hand while with his right he appeared to pick out his ideas
therefrom. Divisions, illustrations, and telling points all seemed
to be growing in his palm like so many flowers; and these he seemed
carefully to take LIP by the roots one by one and exhibit to tlte.128 POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURfi, ETC.
people. It mattered little, for his thought was of a high order of
excellence, but yet the action was by no means graceful.
A preacher of no mean order was wont to lift his fist to his brow
and to tap his forehead gently, as if he must needs knock at the
mind’ s door to wake up his thoughts : this also was more peculiar
than forcible.
To point into the left hand with the first finger of the right as
if boring small holes into it, or to use the aforesaid pointed finger
as if you were stabbing the air, is another freak of action which
has its amusing side.
Passing the hand over the brow when the thought is deep, and
the exact word is not easy to find, is a very natural motion, but
scratching the head is by no means equally advisable, though per-haps
quite as natural. I have seen this last piece of action carried
toconsiderable lengths, but I was never enamonred of it.
I cannot avoid mentioning an accidental grotesquenesswhich is ex-ceedinglycommon.
Some brethren
always lay down the law with an
outspread hand, which they con-tinue
to move up and down with
the rhythm of every sentence.
Now &is action is excellent in its
way if not carried on too mo-notonously,
but unfortunately it is
liable to accidents. If the earn-est
orator continues to lift his
hand upward and downward he
is in great danger of frequently
presenting the aspect which my
artist has depicted. The action
verges upon the symbolic, but
unhappily the symbol has been
somewhat vulgarized, and has
been described as CC putting the
thumb of scorn to the nose of con-tempt.”
Some men unwittingly perpetrate this a score times during a discourse.
You have laughed at these portraits which I have drawn for
your edification-take care that no one has to laugh at you
because you fall into these or similar absurdities of action.
I must confess, however, that I do not think so hadlp of any
of these, or all of them pat together, as I do of the superjine.POSTURE, ACTION, UESTURE, ETC. 12'3
st,yle, which is utterly despicable and abominable. It is worse
than the commonly vulgar, for it is the very essence of vulgarity,
flavoured wit,h affectations and airs of gentility. Rowland Hill
sketched the thing which I condemn in his portrait of Mr.
Taplash ; of course it was a more correct representation as to detail
fifty years ago than it is now, but in the main features it is still
sufficiently accurate : u The orator, when he first made his appear-ance,
would be primmed and dressed up in the most finished style ;
not a hair would be found out. of place on his empty pate, on which
the barber had been exercising his occupation all the Sunday
morning, and powdered till as white as the driven snow. Thus
elegantly decorated, and smelling like a civet-cat, through an
abundance of perfumery, he would scent the air as he passed.
Then, with a most conceited skip, he would step into the pulpit,
as though stepping out of a band-box; and here he had not only
to display his elegant production, but his elegant self also : his
delicate white hand, exhibiting his diamond ring, while his richly-se&
ted white handkerchief was unfurled, and managed with
remarkable dexterity and art. His smelling-bottle was next
occasionally presented to his nose, giving different opportunities
to display his sparkling ring. Thus having adjusted the im-portant
business of the handkerchief and the smelling-bottl?, he
had next to take out his glass, that he might reconnoitre the fair
part of his auditory, with whom he might have been gallanting
and entertaining them with his cheap talk the day before: and
these, as soon as he could catch their eye, he would favour with a
simpering look, and a graceful nod.*
This is a pungent prose version of Cowper’ s review of certain
“ messengers of grace ” who “relapsed into themselves” when thr
sermon ‘ was ended : very little selves they must have been.
“Forth comes the pocket mirror. First we stroke
An eyebrow ; next compose a straggling leek ;
Then with an air, most gracefully performed,
Fall back into our seat, extend an arm
And lay it at iti ease with gentle care,
With handkerchief in hand depending low.
The better hand more busy gives the nose
Its bergamot, or aids the indebted eye,
With opera glass, to watoh the moving scene,
And recognize the slow retiring fair.-Now
this is fulsome, and affenda me more
Than in a churchman slovenly neglect
And rustic coarseness would.”
“ Rustic coarseness ” is quite refreshing after one has been
wearied with inane primness. Well did Cicero exhort orators to
adopt their gestures rather from the camp or the wrestling ring
than from the dancers with their effeminate niceties. Manliness
must uever be sacrificed to elegance. Our working classes will
never be brought even to consider the truth of Christianity by
teachers who are starched and fine. The British artizan admires
manliness, and prefers to lend his ear to one who speaks in a
hearty and natural style : indeed, working men of all nations are
more likely to be struck by a brave negligence than by a foppish
attention to personal appearances. The story told by the AbbB
Mullois is, we suspect, only one of a numerous class.* “ A con-verted
Parisian operative, a man of a wilful but frank disposition,
full of energy and spirit, who had often spoken with great success
at the clubs composed of men of his own class, was asked by
the preacher who had led him to God, to inform him by what
instrumentality he, who had once been so far estranged from reli-gion,
had eventually been restored to the faith. (‘ Your doing
SO,” said his interrogator, “may be useful to me in my efforts to
reclaim others.” “ I would rather not,,” replied he, ‘ 6 for I must candidly tel1
you that you do not figure very conspicuously in the case.”
4‘ No matter,” said the other, ‘ 6 it will not be the first time that
I have heard the same remark.”
“Well, if you must hear it, I can tell you in a few words how
it took place. A good woman had pestered me to read your
little book-pardon the expression, I used to speak in that style
in those days. On reading a few pages, I was so impressed that
I felt a strong desire to see you.
“ I was told that you preached in a certain church, and I went
to hear you. Your sermon had some further effect upon me ; but,
to speak frankly, very little ; comparatively, indeed, none at all.
What did much more for me was your open, and simple, and good-natured
manner, and, above all, your ill-combed hair ; fog I have
always detested those priests whose heads remind one of ‘ a hairdresser’ s
assistant; and I said to myself, ‘ That man forgets himself on
our behalf, we ought, therefore, to do something for his sake.’
Thereupon I determined to pay you a visit, and you bagged me.
Such was the beginning and end of the affair.”
There are silly young ladies who are in raptures with a dear
* Id. L’ Abb6 Isidore Mulloiq in his work, “ The Clergy and the Pulpit in their
Relations to the People.”.POSTURE, ACTION, QESTURE, ETC. 131
young man whose main thought is his precious person ; these, it
is to be hoped, are becoming fewer every day : but as for sensible
men, and especially the sturdy workmen of our great cities, they
utterly abhor foppery in a minister. Wherever you see affectation
YOU find at once a barrier between that man and the common-sense
multitude. Few ears are delighted with the voices of
peacocks. *
It is a pity that we cannot persuade all ministers to be men, for
it is hard to see how otherwise they will be truly men of God.
It is equally to be deplored that we cannot induce preachers to
speak and gesticulate like other sensible persons, for it is impossible
that they should grasp the masses till they do. All foreign
matters of attitude, tone, or dress are barricades between us and
the people: we must talk like men if we would win men. The
late revival of millinery in the Anglican Church is for this reason,
as well as for far graver ones, a step in the wrong direction. A
hundred years ago the dressiness of the clergy was about as con-spicuous
as it is now, but it had no doctrinal meaning, and was
mere foppery, if Lloyd is to be believed in his “Metrical Plea for
He abuses rectors very heartily, and among the rest describes
a canonical beau :-“
Behold Nugoso ! wriggling, shuflling on,
A mere church-puppet, an automaton
In orders : note its tripping, mincing pace,
Religion creams and mantles in its face I
It’s all religion from the top to toe!
But milliners and barbers made it so.
It wears religion in the modish way,
It brushes, starches, combs it every day :
Its orthodoxy lies in outward things,
In beavers, cassocks, gowns, bands, gloves, and rings :
It shows its learning by its doctor’s hood,
And proves its goodness,-‘cause its clothes are good.”
This fondness for comely array led to a stiff propriety in the pulpit :
they called it “ dignity,” and prided themselves upon it. Propriety
and decorum were their chief concern, and these were mingled
with pomposity or foolish simpering according to the creature’ s
peculiarities, until honest men grew weary of their hollow per-formances
and turned away from such stilted ministrations. The
preachers were too much concerned to be proper to have any con-cern
to be useful. The gestures which would have made their
words a little more intelligible they would not condescend to use,.132 POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC.
for what cared they for the vulgar? If persons of taste were
‘ satisfied, they had all the reward they desired, and meanwhile the
multitudes were perishing for lack of knowledge. God save us
from fine deportment and genteel propriety if these are to kedp
the masses in alienation from the public worship of God.
In our own day this sickening affect&ion is, we hope, far
more rare, but it still survives. We had the honour of knowing
a minister who could not preach without his black kid gloves, and
ivhen he upon one occasion found himself in a certain pulpit with-out
them, he came down into the vestry for t,hem. Unfortunately
one of the deacons had carried into his pew, not his own hat, as he
intended, but the preacher’ s, and while this discovery was being
made, the divine was in terrible trepidation, exclaiming, (‘ I never
do pre&ch without gloves. I cannot do it. I cannot go into the
pulpit till you find them.” I wish he never had found them, for
he was more fitted to stand behind a draper’ s counter than to
occupy the sacred desk. Slovenliness of any sort is to be avoided
in a minister, but manliness more often falls into this fault than
into the other effeminate vice; therefore shun most heartily this
worst error. Cowper says,
“ Zn my soul I loathe all affectation,”
and so does every sensible man. All tricks and stage effects are un-bearable
when the message of the Lord is to be delivered. Better
a ragged dress and rugged speech, with artless, honest manner, than
clerical foppery. Better far to violate every canon of gracefulness
thau to be a mere performer, a consummate actor, a player upon
a religious stage. The caricaturist of twenty years ago favoured
me with the name of Brimstotie, and placed side by side with me a
simpering elocutionist whom he named Treacle. I was thoroughly
satisfied with my lot, but I could not have said as much if I had
been represented by the companion portrait. Molasses and other
sugary matters are sickening to me. Jack-a-dandy in the pulpit
makes me feel as Jehu did when he saw Jezebel’ s decorated : head and painted face, and cried in indignation, “Fling her
It would greatly trouble me if any of my remarks upon grotesque
action should lead even one of you to commence posturing aad
performing ; this would be to fly from bad to worse. We men-tioned
that Dr. Hamilton took lessons from a master, in order to
escape from his infirmity, but the result was manifestly not very
encouraging, and I gravely’ fear that more faults are created than.POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC. 133
cured by professional teachers : perhaps the same result may follow
from my own amateur attempt, but I would at least prevent that
misfortune as far as possible by earnest warnings. Do not think
of how you will gesticulate when you preach, but learn the art of
doing the right thing without giving it any thought at all.
Our last rule is one which sums up all the others ; be natural in
your action. Shun the very appearance of studied gesture. Art
is cold, only nature is warm; let grace keep you clear of all
seeming, and in every action, and in every place, be truthful,
even if you should be considered rough and uncultivated. Your
mannerism must always be your own, it must never be a polished
lie, and what is the aping of gentility, the simulation of passion,
the feigning of emotion, or the mimicry of another man’ s mode of
delivery but a practical lie.
“ Therefore, gvaunt all attitude ‘ and stare,
And start theatric, practised at the glass !”
Our object is to remove the excrescences of uncouth nature, not to
produce artificiality and affectation ; we would prune the tree and
by no means clip it into a set form. We would have our students
think of action while they are with us at college, that they may
never have need to think of it in after days. The matter is too
inconsiderable to be made a part of your weekly study when you
get into the actual battle of ministerial life; you must attend to.134 POSTURE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC.
the subject now, and have done with it. You are not sent of God
to court smiles but to win souls ; your teacher is not the dancing-master,
but the Holy Spirit, and your pulpit manner is only worth
a moment’ s thought because it may hinder your success by causing
people to make remarks about the preacher when you want all
their thoughts for the subject. If the best action had this effect
I would urge you to forswear it, and if the worst gestures would
prevent such a result I would advise you to practise t,hem. All
that I aim at is to advocate quiet, graceful, natural movements,
because they are the least likely to be observed. The whole
business of delivery should be one; everything should harmonize;
the thought, the spirit, the language, the tone, and the action
should be all of a piece, and the whole should be, not for the
winning of honour to ourselves, but for the glory of God and
the good of men; if it be so there is no fear of your violating the
rule as to being natural, for it will not occur to you to be other-wise.
Yet have I one fear, and it is this: you may fall into a
foolish imitation of some admired minister, and this will to some
extent put you off from the right track. Each man’ s action should
suit himself and grow out of his own personality. The style of
Dr. Goliath, who is six feet high, will not fit the stature and
person of our friend Short who is a Zaccheus among preachers;
neither will the respectable mannerism of an aged and honoured
divine at all befit the youthful Apollos who is barely out of his
teens. I have heard that for a season quite a number of young
Congregational ministers imitated the pastor of the Weigh House,
and so there were little Binneys everywhere copying the great
Thomas in everything except his thoughtful preaching. A ru-mour
is current that there are one or two young Spurgeons about,
but if so I hope that the reference is to my own sons, who have a
right to the name by birth. If any of you become mere copyists
of me I shall regard you as thorns in the flesh, and rank you
among those whom Paul says “ we suffer gladly.” Yet it has been
wisely said that every beginner must of necessity be for a time a
copyist; the artist follows his master while as yet he has barely
acquired the elements of the art, and perhaps for life he remains
a painter of the school to which he at first attached himseif ; but
as he becomes proficient he develops his own individuality, grows
into a painter with a style of his own, and is all the better and
none the worse for having been in his earliest days content to
sit at a master’ s feet. It is of necessity the same in oratory, and
therefore it may be too much to say never copy anyone, Lot it.PbSTLJRE, ACTION, GESTURE, ETC 135
posture graceful Z Perhaps
not. Yet is it not exactly
what it should be 4 Can you
find any fault with it? Is it
not Knox-like, and full of
power? It would not suit one
man in fifty; in most preachers
it would seem strained, but in
the great Reformer it is cha-racteristic,
and accords with
his life-work. You must re-member
the person, the times
and his surroundings, and
then the mannerism is seen
to be well becoming a hero-preacher
sent to do an Elijah’ s work, and to utter his rebukes in
the presence of a Popish court which hated the reforms which he
demanded. Be yourself as he was himself ; even if you should be
ungainly and awkward, be yourself. Your own clothes, though
they be homespun, will fit you better’ than another man’ s, though
made of the best broadcloth ; you may follow your tutor’ s style of
dress if you like, but do not borrow his coat, be content to wear
may be better to exhort you to imitate the best action you can
find, in order that your own style during its formation may be
rightly moulded. Correct the influence of any one man by what
you see of excellence in others ; but still create a manner of your
own, Slavish imitation is the practice of an ape, but to follow
another where he leads aright, and there only, is the wisdom of a
prudent man. Still never let a natural originality be missed by
your imitating the best models of antiquity, or the most esteemed
among the moderns.
In conclusion, do not allow my criticisms upon various gro-tesque
postures and movements to haunt you in the pulpit ; better
perpetrate them all than be in fear, for this would make you
cramped and awkward. Dash at it whether you blunder or no.
A few mistakes in this matter will not be half so bad as being
nervous. It may be that what would be eccentric in auother
may be most proper in you ; therefore take no man’ s dictum as
applicable to every case, or to
your own. See how John
Knox is pictured in the well-known
engraving. Is his.136 POSTURE, ACTION, C:F.STURE, ETC.
one of your own. Above all, be so full of matter, so fervent, and
so gracious that the people will little care how you hand out the
word ; for if they perceive that it is fresh from heaven, and find
it sweet and abundant, they will pay little regard to the basket in
which you bring it to them. Let them, if they please, say that
your bodily presence is weak, but pray that they may confess that
your testimony is weighty and powerful. Commend yourself to
every man’s conscience in the sight of God, and then the mere
mint and anise of posture will seldom be taken into account.
While preparing this lecture it occurred to me to copy a plate
which I found in Austin’s Chironomia, in the hope that it may
afford some direction to young speakers. As my lecture mainly
shows how not to do it, this may be a little help in the positive
direction. Of course I do not recommend that so much action
should be used in reciting this one piece, or any other ; but I
would suggest that each posture should be considered apart. Most
of the attitudes are natural, striking, and instructive. I do not
admire them all, for they are here and there a little forced, but as
a whole I know of no bett,er lesson in so short a compass, and
being in verse the words will be the more easily remembered.
Considerable expense has been incurred in producing these
plates and the wood-engravings of the previous lectures, and
therefore the present volume of lectures is a few pages shorter
than its predecessor ; but anxiety to do the thing thoroughly for the
good of my younger brethren has led me toinsert what I earnestly
hope will be of some slight service to them. Often a mere hint is
sufficient, Wise men from one example Iearn all, and I trust
that the following illustratious may suffice to give to many be-pinners
the clue to proper and expressive attitude and gesture…139.141
b 1 were asked–What in a Christian minister is the most
essential quality for securing success in winning souls for Christ? I
should reply, “ earnestness”: and if I were asked a second or a
third time, I should not vary the answer, for personal observation
drives me to the conclusion that, as a rule, real success is propor-tionate
to the preacher’ s earnestness. Both great men and little
men succeed if they are thoroughly alive unto God, and fail if they
are not so. We know men of eminence who have gained a high
reputation, who attract large audiences, and obtain much admira-tion,
who nevertheless are very low in the scale as soul-winners : for
all they do in that direction they might as well have been lecturers
on anatomy, or political orators. At the same time we have seen
their compeers in ability so useful in the business of conversion that
evidently their acquirements and gifts have been no hindrance to
them, but the reverse; for by the intense and devout use of their
powers, and by the anointiug of the Holy Spirit, they have turned
many to righteousness. We have seen brethren of very scanty
abihties who have been terrible drags upon a church, and havTe
proved as inefficient in their spheres as blind men in an observa-tory;
but, on the other hand, men of equally small attainments are
well known to us as mighty hunters before the Lord, by whose holy
energy many hearts have been captured for the Saviour. I de-light
in MCheyne’ s remark, “It is not so much great talents that
God blesses, as great likeness to Christ.” In many instances minis-terial
success is traceable almost entirely to an intense zeal, a con-suming
passion for souls, and an eager enthusiasm in the cause of
God, and we believe that in every case, other things being equal,
men prosper in the divine service in proportion as their hearts are
blazing with holy love. “ The God that answereth by fire, let
him be God “; am1 the man who has the tongue of fire, let him be
God’ s minister.
Lbethreu, you aad I must, as preachers, be alwqs earnest in
rtference to our pubit work. IIere we must labour to attain the
very highest degree of excellence. Often have I said to my brethren
that the puIpit is the Thermopyhe of Christendom : there the fight
will be lost or won. To us ministers the maintenance of our power
in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that
spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in
full vigour. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we
are not earnest preachers. We shaI1 be forgiven a great many
sins in the matter of pastoral visitation if the people’ s souls
are really fed on the Sabbath-day ; but fed they must be, and
nothing else will make up for it. The failures of most ministers
who drift down the stream may be traced to inefficiency in the
pulpit. The chief business of a captain is to know how to handle
his vessel, nothing can compensate for deficiency there, and SO our
pulpits must be our main care, or all will go awry. Dogs often
fight because the supply of bones is scanty, and congregations
frequently quarrel because they do not get sufficient spiritual
meat to keep them happy and peaceful. The ostensible ground of
dissatisfaction may be something else, but nine times out of ten
deficiency in their rations is at the bottom of the mutinies which
occur in our churches. Men, like all other animals, know when
they are fed, and they usually feel good tempered after a meal;
and so when our hearers come to the house of God, and obtain
4’ food convenient for them,” they forget a great many grievances
in the joy of the festival, but if we send them away hungry
they wil1 be in as irritable a mood as a bear robbed of her
Now, in order that we may be accept,able, we must be earnest
tohen actually engaged in preaching. Cecil has well said that the
spirit and manner of a preacher often effect more than his matter.
To go into the pulpit with the listless air of those gentlemen who
1011 about, and lean upon the cushion as if they had at last reached
a quiet resting place, is, I think, most censurable. To rise before
the people to deal out commonplaces which have cost you nothing,
as if anything would do for a sermon, is not merely derogatory
to the dignity of our office, but is offensive in the sight of God.
We must be earnest in the pulpit for our owu sakes, for we shall
not long be able to maint,ain our position as leaders in the
church of God if WC are dull. Moreover, for the sake of our
church members, and converted people, we must be energetic,
for if we are not zealous, neither will they be. It is not in the.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING ABD MAINTENANCE. 147
order of nature that rivers should run uphill, and it does not often
happen that zeal rises from the pew to the pulpit. It is natural
that it should flow down from us to our hearers ; the pulpit must
therefore stand at a high level of ardour, if we are, under God, to
make and to keep our people fervent. Those who attend our
ministry have a great deal to do during the week. Many of them
have family trials, and heavy personal burdens to carry, and thej
frequently come into the assembly cold and listless, with thoughts
wandering hither and thither ; it is ours to take those thoughts
and thrust them into the furnace of our own earnestness, melt them
by hoi_y contemplation and by intense appeal, and pour them out into
the mould of the truth. A blacksmith can do nothing when his
fire is out, and in this respect he is the type of a minister. If all
the lights in the outside world are quenched, the lamp which burns
in the sanctuary ought still to remain undimmed; for that fire no
curfew must ever be rung. We must regard the people as the
wood and the sacrifice, well wetted a second and a third time by the
cares of the week, upon which, like the prophet, we must pra.y
down the fire from heaven. A dull minister creates a dull
audience. You cannot expect the office-bearers and the members
of the church to travel by steam if their own chosen pastor still
drives the old broadwhecled wagon. We ought each one to be like
that reformer who is described as “ Vividus vultus, vividi occuZi,
vividcz manq denipe olnnia vi&da,” which I would rather freely
render–“a countenance beaming with life, eyes and hands full of
life, in fine, a vivid preacher, altogether alive,”
“Thy soul must overflow, if thou
Another’s soul would reach,
It needs the overflow of heart
To give the lips full speech.”
The world also will suffer as well as the church if we arc not
fervent. We cannot expect a gospel devoid of earnestness to
have any mighty effect upon the unconverted around us. OllC
of the excuses most soporific to the conscience of an ungodly
generation is that of half-heartedness in the preacher. I f the
sinner finds the preacher nodding while he talks of judgment to
come, he concludes that the judgment is a thing which tbc
preacher is dreaming about, and he resolves to regard it all as
mere fiction. The wbolc outside world receives serious danger
from the cold-hearted preacher, for it draws the same conclusion as
the individual sinner : it perseveres in its own listlessness, it gives
its strength to its own transient objects, and thinks itself wise for.148 EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE.
so doing. How can it be otherwise ? If the prophet leaves his heart
behind him wheu he professes to speak in the name of God, what
can he expect but that the ungodly around him will persuade
themselves that there is nothing in his message, and that his
commission is a farce.
Hear how Whitefield preached, and never dare to be lethargic
again. Winter says of him that ‘ 6 sometimes he exceedingly wept,
and was frequently so overcome, that for a few seconds you would
suspect he never would recover ; aud when he did, uature required
some little time to compose herself. I hardly ever knew him go
&hrough a sermon without weeping more or less. His voice was
often intcrrupt,etl by his affections ; and I have heard him say iu
&the pulpit, ‘ You blame me for weeping ; but how can I help it,
wheu you will not weep for yourselves, abhough your own im-.
mortal souls are ou the verge of destruction, and, for aught I know,
,you are hearing your last sermon, and may never more have au
*opportunity to have Christ offered to you 2’ ”
Eafszestness in the pulpit nzust be real. It is not to bc mimicked.
We have seen it counterfeited, but every person with a grain of
sense could detect the imposition. To stamp the foot, to smit,c
the desk, to perspire, to shout, to bawl, to quote the pat,hetic por-tions
of other people’ s sermons, or to pour out voluntary tears
from a watery eye will never make up for true agony of soul
and real tenderness of spirit. The best piece of acting is but
.acting ; those who only look at appearances may be pleased
by it, but lovers of reality will be disgusted. What presumption I-,
what hypocrisy it is by skilful mauagement of the voice to mimic
the passion which is the genuine work of the Holy Ghost. Let
mere actors beware, lest they be found sinning against the Holy
Spirit by their theatrical performances. We must be earnest
in the pulpit because we are earnest everywhere ; we must blaze
in our discourses because we are continually on fire. Zeal
which is stored up to be let off only on grand occasions is a gas
which will one day destroy its proprietor. Nothing but truth may
appear in the house of the Lord ; all affectation is strange fire,
aud excites the indignation of the God of truth. Be earnest, and
you will seem to be earnest. A burning heart will soon find for
itself a flaming tongue. To sham earnestness is one of the most
contemptible of dodges for courting popularity; let us abhor the
very thought. Go and be listless in the pulpit if you are so in your
heart. Be slow in speech, drawling in tone, and monotonous in
voice, if so you can best espress your soul; even that would be.EARSESTSESS : ITS MARRING AND 3IAIBTENANCE. 149
infinitely better than to make your miuistry a masqucradc and
yourself an actor.
But our zeal w&le in the act of preaching must be followed up by
intense solicitude as to the after results ; for if it be not so WC shall
have cause to question our sincerity, God will not send a harvest
of souls to those who ncvcr watch or water the fields which they
have sown. When the sermon is over we have only Ict down the
net which afterwards we are to draw to shore by prayer and watch-fulness.
Here, I think, I cannot do better than allow a far abler
advocate to plead with you, and quote the words of Dr. Watts :-“
Be very solicitous about the success of your labours in the pulpit.
Water the seed sown, not only with public, but secret prayer.
Plead with God importunately that he would not suffer you to
labour in vain. Be not like that foolish bird the ostrich, which lays
her eggs in the dust, and leaves them there regardless whether they
come to life or not. (Job xxxix. 14-1’ 7). God hath not given her
understanding, but let not this folly be your character or prac-tice;
labour, and watch, and pray, that your sermons and the fruit
of your studies may become words of Divine life to souls.
It is an observation of pious Mr. Baxter (which I have read somea
where in his works), that he has never known any considerable
success from the brightest and noblest talents, nor from‘ the most
excellent kind of preaching, nor even when the preachers thcmselvcs
hav@ been truly religious, if they have not had a solicitous concern
for the success of their ministrations, Let the awful and import,ant
t,hought of souls being saved by our preaching, or left to perish and
to be condemned to 1~11 through our negligence,-1 say, let this
awful and tremendous thought dwell ever upon our spirits. We
are made watchmen to the house of Israel, as Ezekiel was; and,
if we give no warning of approaching danger, the souls of multi-tudes
may perish through our neglect ; but the blood of souls will
be terribly required at our hands (Ezekiel iii. 17, I&C.),”
Such considerations should make us instant in season and out of
season, and ‘ cause us at all times to be clad with zeal as with a
cloak. We ought to be all alive, and always alive. A pillar of
light and fire should be the preacher’ s fit emblem. Our ministry*
must be emphatic, or it will never affect these thoughtless times;
and to this end our hearts must be habitually fervent, and our
whole nature must be fired with an all-consuming passion for the
glory of God and the good of men.
EITow, my brethren, it is sadly true that holy carucstncss wbcn.150 EARNESTNESS : ITS XARRING AND MAINTENAKCE.
we once obtain it may be easily damped; and as a matter of fact
it is more frequently chilled in the loneliness of a village pas-torate
than amid the society of warm-hearted Christian brethren.
Adam, the author of cl I’rivate Thoughts,” once’ observed that “ a
poor country parson, fighting against the devil in his parish, has
nobler ideas than Alexander the Great ever had ; ” and I will add,
that he needs more than Alexander’s ardour to enable him to con-tinue
victorious in his holy warfare. Sleepy IIollow and Dormer’s
Land will bc t,oo much for us unless we pray for daily quickening.
Yet town life has its dangers too, and zeal is apt to burn low
through numerous engagements, like a fire which is scattered
abroad instead of being raked together into a heap. Those inces-sant
knocks at our door, and perpetual visits from idle persons, are
so many buckets of cold water thrown upon our devout zeal. We
must by some means secure uninterrupted meditation, or we shall
lose power. L d on on is a peculiarly trying sphere on this account.
Zeal also is more quickly checked after long years of con-tinuance
in the same service than when novelty gives a charm
to our work. Mr. Wesley says, in his fifteenth volume of
“ Journals and Letters,” “1 know that, were I myself to preach
one whole year in one pIace, I should preach both myself and most
of my congregation asleep.” What then must it be to abide in the
same pulpit for many years 1 In such a case it is not the pace that
kills, but the length of the race. Our God is evermore the same,
enduring for ever, and hc alone can enable us to endure even to
the end. Hc, who at the end of twenty years’ ministry among the
same people is more alive than ever, is a great debtor to the
quickening Spirit.
Earnestness may bc, and too often is, diminished by neglect of
study. If we have not exercised ourselves in the word of God,
we shall not preach with the fervour and grace of the man who has
fed upon the truth hc delivers, and is thercforc strong and ardent,.
An Englishman’s earnestness in battlit depends, according to some
authorities, upon his being well fed : he has no stomach for the
fight if he is starved. If we are we11 nourished by sound gospel
food we shall be vigorous and fervent. An old blunt commauder
at Cadiz is described by Selden as thus addressing his soldicrs:-“
What a shame will it be, you Englishmen, who feccl upon good
beef and beer, to let these rascally Spaniards beat you that eat
nothing but oranges and lemons ! ” His l~liilosophy and mine
agree: 1 ie e=i cc ec courage and valour from those who were well ,_ p t 1
nourished. Brethren, never ncglcct your spiritual meals, or you will.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE. 151
jack stamina and your spirits will sink. Live on the substantial
doctrines of grace, and you will outlive and out-work those who
delight in the pastry and spllabubs of 6i modern thought.”
Zeal may, on the other hand, be damped by our studies. There
is, no doubt, such a thing as feeding the brain at the expense of
the heart, and many a man in his aspirations to be literary has
rather qualified himself to write reviews than to preach sermons.
A quaint evangelist was wont to say that Christ hung crucified
beneath Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. It onght not to be so, but it
has often happened that the st,udent in college has gathered fuel,
but lost the fire which is to kindle it. It will be to our evcr-lasting
disgrace if we bury our flame beneath the faggots which
are intended to sustain it. If we degenerate into bookworms it
will be to the old serpent’ s delight, and to our own misery.
True earnestuess may be greatly lessened by levity in conver-sation,
and especially by jesting with brother minist,ers, in whose
company we often take greater liberties than we would like to
do in the society of other Christians. There are excellent
reasons for our feeling at home with our brethren, but if this
freedom be carried too far we shall soon feel that we have suffered
damage through vanity of speech. Cheerfulness is one thing, and
frivolity is another ; he is a wise man who by a serious happiness
of conversation steers between the dark rocks of moroseness, and
the quicksands of levity.
We shall often find ourselves in danger of being deteriorated in
zeal by the cold Christian people with whom we come in contact.
What terrible wet blankets some professors are I Their remarks
after a sermon are enough to stagger you. You think that surely
you have moved the very ston8.s to feeling, but you painfully learn
that these people are utterly unaffected. You have been burning
and they are freezinah ; you have been pleading as for life or death
and they have been calculating how many seconds the sermon
occupied, and grudging you the odd five minutes beyond the usual
hour, which your earnestness compelled you to occupy in pleading
with men’ s souls. If these frost-bitten men should happen to be
the officers of the church, from whom you naturally expect the
warmest sympathy, the result is chilling to the last degree, and all
the more so if you are young and inexperienced : it is as though
an angel were confined in an iceberg. “Thou shalt not yoke the
ox and the ass together” was a merciful precept: but when a
laborious, ox-like minister comes to be yoked to a deacon who
is not another ox, it becomes hard work to plough. Some crabbed.152 EARNESTNESS : ITS 3fARRING AND JIAINTES~~XCE.
professors have a great deal to answer for in this matter. One of
them not so very long ago went tip t.o an earnest young evangc-list
who had been doing his best, and said, ‘ ( Young man, do YOU
call that preaching ? ” He thought himself faithful, but he was
cruel and uncourteous, and though the good brother survived the
blow it was none the less brutal. Such offences against the Lord’s
little ones are, I hope, very rare, but they are very grievous, and
tend to turn aside our hopeful youth.
Frequently the audience itself, as a whoIc, will damp your zeal.
YOU can see by their very look and manner that the people are
not appreciating your warm-hearted endeavours, and you feel dis-couraged.
Those empty benches also are a serious trial, and if
the place be large, and the congregation small, Ihe inflacnce is
seriously depressing : it is not every man who can bear to be
“ a voice crying in the wilderness.” Disorder in the congrega-tion
also sadly afllicts sensit,ive speakers, The walking up the
aisle of a woman with a pair of pattcns, the squeak of a pair
of new boots, the frequent fall of umbrellas and walking-sticks,
the crying of infants, and especially the consistent lateness
of half the assembly ;-all these tend to irritate the mind, take it
off from its object, and diminish its ardour. We hardly like
to confess that our hearts are so readily affected by such trifles,
Lut it is so, and not at all to be wondered at. As pots of the
most precious ointmeut are more often spoilt by dead flits than b,y
dead camels, so insignificant matters will destroy earnestness more
readily than greater annoyances. Under a great discouragement a
man pulls himself together, and then throws himself upon his God,
and receives divine strength : but under lesser depressions he may
possibly worry, and the trifle will iiritate and fester till serious
consequences follow.
Pardon my saying that the condition of your body must be
attended to, especially in the matter of eating, for any measure of
excess may injure your digestion and make you st,upid when you
should be fervent. From the memoir of Duncan Matheson I cull
an anecdote which is much to the point : “In a certain place
where evangelistic meetings were being held, the lay preachers,
among whom was Mr. Matheson, were sumptuously entertained at
the house of a Christian gentleman. After dinner they went to
the meeting, not without some difference of opinion as to the best
method of conducting the services of the evening. ‘ The Spirit is
grieved ; he is not here at all, I feel it,’ said one of the younger,
with a whine which somewhat contrasted with his previous.EARXESTiVESS : ITS JIARR1NG AND MAINTENANCE. 1%
unbounded enjoyment of the luxuries of the table. ‘ Nonsense,’
replied Mathcson, who hated all whining and morbid spirituality ;
‘ Nothing of the sort. Y ou 1lave just eaten too much dinner, and
you feel heavy,) ” Duncan Matheson was right, and a little more
of his common sense would be a great gain to some who are ultra
spiritual, and attribute all their moods of feeling to some supcr-natural
cause when the real reason lies far nearer to hand. Has
it not often happened that dyspepsia has been mistaken for back-sliding,
and a bad digestion has been set down as a hard heart ? I
sa,y no more : a word to the wise is enough.
Many physical and mental causes may operate to create apparent
lethargy where there is at heart intense earnestness. Upon some
of us a disturbed night, a change ‘ in the weather, or an unkind
remark, will produce the most lamentable effect. But those who
complain of want of zeal are often the most zealous persons in
the world, and a confession of want of life is itself an argu-ment
that life exists, and is not without v&our. Do not spare
yourselves and become self-satisfied ; but, on the other band,
do not slander yourselves and sink into despondency. Your owu
opinion of your state is not worth much: ask the Lord to search
Long continued labour without visible success is another frequent
damp upon zeal, though if rightly viewed it ought to be an incentive
to sevenfold diligcncc. Quaint Thomas Fuller observes that
“ herein God hat11 humbled many painstaking pastors, in making
them to be clouds to rain, not over Arabia the happy, but over
Arabia the desert and stony.” If non-success humbles us it is
well, but if it discourages us, and especially if it leads us to think
bitterly of more prosperous brethren, we ought to look about us
with grave concern. It is possible that WC have been faithful and
have adopted wise methods, and are in our right place, and yet
we have not struck the mark ; we &all probably be heavily bowed
down and feel scarcely able to continue the work ; but if we pluck
up courage and increase our earnestness we shall one day rc’ ap a
rich harvest, which will more than &pay us for all our waiting.
“The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth”;
and with a holy patience begotten of zeal we must wait on, and
never doubt that the time to favour Zion will yet come.
Nor must it ever be forgotten that the flesh is weak and
naturally inclined to slumber. We need a constant renewal of
the divine impulse wbicb first started us in the way of service.
We are not as arrows, which find their way to t,he target by tho.154 EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE.
de agency of the force with which they started from the bow;
nor as birds, which bear within themselves their own motive
power : we must be borne onward, like ships at sea, by the con-stant
power of the heavenly wind, or we shall make no headway.
Preachers sent from God are not musical boxes which, being once
wound up, will play through their set tunes, but they are trumpets
which are utterly mute until the living breath causes them to
give forth a certain sound. We read of some who are dumb
dogs, given to slumber, and such would be the character of us all
if the grace of God did not prevent. We have need to watch
against a careless, indifferent spirit, and if we do not so we shall
soon be as lukewarm as Laodicea itself.
Itemcmbcring then, dear brethren, that we must be in earnest,
and that we cannot counterfeit earnestness, or find a substitute for
it, and t.hat it is very easy for us to lose it, let us consider for
a while the ways and means for retaining all our fervour and
gaining more. If it is to continue, oz~r earnestness must 6e
kindled at an immortal Jlame, and I know of but one-the flame
of the love of Christ, which many waters cannot quench. A
spark from that celestial sun will be as undying as the source
from whence it came. If we can get it, yea, if we have it, we shall
st,ill be full of enthusiasm, however long we may live, however
greatly we may be tried, and however much for many reasons we
may be discouraged. To continue fervent for life we must possess
the fervour of heavenly life to begin with. Have we this fire? We
must have the truth burnt into our souls, or it will not burn upon
our lips. Do we understand this? The doctrines of grace must
bc part and parcel of ourseIves, interwoven with the warp and woof
of our being, and this can only be effected by the same hand which
originalIy made the fabric. We shall never lose our love to Christ
aud our love to souls if the Lord has given them to us. The Holy
Spirit makes zeal for God to be a permanent principle of life rather
than a passion,- does the Holy Spirit rest upon us, or is our
prcscnt fervour a mere human feeling? We ought upon this point
to be seriously inquisitorial with our hearts, pressing home the
question, Have we the holy fire which springs from a true call to
the ministry? If not, why are we here? If a man can live with-out
preaching, let him live without preaching. If a man can be
content without being a soul-winner-I had almost said he had
better not attempt the work, but I had rather say-let him seek
to have the stone taken out of his heart, that he may feel for
perishing men. Till then, as a minister, he may do positive.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE. 155
mischief by occupying the place of one who might have succeeded
in the blessed work in which he must be a failure.
TheJtpe of our earnestness must burn upon the hearth of faith in
die truths which WC preach, and faith in their power to bless man-kind
when the Spirit applies them to the heart. He who declares
what may or what may not be true, and what he considers upon the
whole to be as good as any other form of teaching, will of necessity
make a very feeble preacher. How can he be zealous about that
which he is not sure of? If he knows nothing of the inward
power of the truth within his own heart, if he has never t’ asted
and handledof the good word of life, how can he be enthusiastic?
But if the Holy G-host has taught us in secret places, and made our
soul to understand within itself the doctriuewhichwe are to proclaim,
t’ hen shall we speak evermore with the tongue of fire. Brother,
do not begin to teach others till the Lord has taught you. It must
be dreary work to parrot forth dogmas which have no interest for
your heart, and carry no conviction to your understanding. I
would prefer to pick oakum or turn a crank for my brcnkfast, like
the paupers in the casual ward, rather than be the slave of a con-gregation
and bring them spiritual meat of which I never t*astr
myself. And then how dreadful the end of such a course must be!
How fearful the account to be rendered at the last by one who
publicly taught what he did not heartily believe, and pcrpetratcd
this detestable hypocrisy in the name of God I
Brethren, if the fire is brought from the right place to the
right place, WC have a good beginning ; and the main elements of
a glorious ending. Kindled by a live coal, borne to our lips from
off the altar bg the winged cherub, the fire has begun t,o feed upon
our inmost spirit, and there it will burn though Satan himself
should labour to stamp it out.
Yet the best flame in the world needs renewing. I know not
whether immortal spirits, like the angels, drink on the wing, and
feed on some superior manna prepared in heaven for them; but
the probability is that no created being, though immortal, is
quite free from the necessity: to receive from without sustenance
for its strength. Certainly the flame of zeal in the rencwcd heart,
however divine, must be continually fed with fresh fuel. Even the
lamps of the sanctuary needed oil. Feed the jame, my brother, feed
it Jiepuaatly ; feed it with holy thought and contemplation, cspc-cially
with thought about your work, your motives in pursuing it,
the design of it, the helps that are waiting for you, and the grand
results of it if the Lord be with you. Dwell much upon the love.1% EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AXD MAINTENANCE.
of God to sinners, and the death of Christ on their behalf, and the
work of the Spirit upon men’s hearts. Think of what must be
wrought in men’s hearts ere they can be saved. Remember, you
are not sent to whiten tombs, but to open them, and this is a work
which no man can perform unless, like the Lord Jesus at th
grave of Lazarus, he groans in spirit; and even then he is powerless
apart from the Holy Ghost. Meditate with deep solemnity upon
the fate of the lost sinner, and, like Abraham, when you get up
early to go to the place where you commune with God, cast an
eye towards Sodom and see the smoke thereof going up like the
smoke of a furnace. Shun all views of future punishment which
~oulcl make it appear less terrible, and so take off the edge of your
anxiety to save immortals from the quenchless flame. If men are
indeed only a nobler kind of ape, and expire as the beasts, you may
well enough let them die unpitied; but if their creation in the image
of God involves immortality, and there is any fear that through
their unbelief they will bring upon themselves endless woe, arouse
yourselves to the agonies of the occasion, and be ashamed at the
bare suspicion of unconcern. Think much also of the bliss of the
sinner saved, and like holy Baxter derive rich arguments for earnest-ness
from “ the saints’ everlasting rest.” Go to the heavenly hills
and gather fuel there ; pile ou the glorious logs of the wood of
Lebanon, and the fire will burn freely and yield a sweet perfume
as each piece of choice cedar glows in the flame. There will be
no fear of your being lethargic if you are continually familiar with
eternal realities.
Above all, feed the flame with intimate fellowship with Christ.
No man ‘ was ever cold in heart who lived with Jesus on such terms
as John and Mary did of old, for he makes men’ s hearts burn
within them. I never met with a half-hearted preacher who was
much in communion with the Lord Jesus. The zeal of God’ s
house ate up our Lord, and when we come into contact with him it
begins to consume us also, and we feel that we cannot but speak the
things which WC have seen and heard in his company, nor can WC
help speaking of them with t,he fervour which comes out of actual
acquaintance with them. Those of us who have been preaching
for these five-and-twenty years somctimcs feel that the same work,
the same subject, the same people, and the same pulpit, arc together
apt to beget a feeling of monotony, and monotony may soon lead
on to weariness. But then we call to mind another sameness, which
becomes our complete deliverance; there is the same Saviour,
and we may go to him in the same way as we did at the first, since.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AX’ D MAINTENANCE. 157
he is “Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and to-day, and for ever.”
In his presence we drink in the new wine and renew our youth.
He is the fountain, far ever flowing with the cool, refreshing
water of life, and in fellowship with him we find our sonls quickened
into perpetual energy. Beneath his smile our long-accustomed
work is always delightful, and wears a brighter charm than
novelty could have conferred. We gather new manna for our
people every morning, and as we go to distribute it we feel an
anointing of fresh oil distilling upon us. “ They that wait ~~011
the Lord shall renew their strength ; they shall mount up with
wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; ad they shall
walk, and not faint.” Newly come from the presence of him that
welketh among the golden candlesticks we are ready to write or
speak unto the churches in the power which he alone can give.
Soldiers of Christ, you can only be worthy of your Captain by
abiding in fellowship with him, and listening to his voice as Joshua
did when he stood by Jordan, and enquired–“ What saith my
Lord unto his servant?”
Fan thejame as well as feed it. Fan it with much supplication.
We cannot be too urgent with one another upon this point:
no language can be t,oo vehement with which to implore ministers
to pray. There is for our brethren and ourselves an absolute
necessity for prayer. Necessity!-1 hardly like to talk of that, let
me rather speak of the deliciousness of prayer-the wondrous
sweetness and divine felicity which come to t~he soul that lives
in the atmosphere of prayer. John Fox said, “ The time we spend
wit11 God in secret is the sweetest time, and the best improved.
Therefore, if thou lovest thy life, be in love with prayer,” The
devout Mr. Hervey resolved on the bed of sickness-“ If God shall
spare my life, I will read less and pray more.” John Cooke, of
Maidenhead, wrote-“ The business, the pleasure, the honour,
and advantage of prayer press on my spirit with increasing force
every day.” A deceased pastor when drawing near his end, ex-claimed,
“ I wish I had prayed more ; ” that wish many of us
might utter. There should be special seasons for devotion, and it
is well to maintain them with regularity; but the spirit of prayer
is even better than the habit of prayer : to pray without ceasing is
better than praying at intervals. It will be a happy circum-stance
if we can frequently bow the knee with devout brethren,
and I think it ought to be a rule with us ministers never to
separate without a word of prayer. Much more intercession would
rise to heaven if we made a point of this, especially those of us.158 EARKESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE.
who have been fellow-students. If it bc possible, let prayer and
praise sanctify each meeting of friend with friend. It is a re-freshing
practice to have a minute or two of supplication in the
vestry before preaching if you can call in three or four warm-hearted
deacons or other brethren. It always nerves me for the
fight. But, for all that, to fan your earnestness to a vehement.
fla.me you should seek the spirit of continual prayer, so as to
pray in the Holy Ghost,, everywhere and always ; in the study,
in the vestry, and in the pulpit. It is well to be pleading ever-more
with God, when sitting down in the pulpit, when rising
to give out the hymn, when reading the chapter, and while
delivering the sermon ; holding up one hand to God empty,
in order to receive, and with the other hand dispensing to the
people what the Lord bestows. Be in preaching like a conduit
pipe between the everlasting and infinite supplies of beavcn and
the all but boundless needs of men, and to do this you must reach
heaven, and keep up the communication without a break. Pray
for the people while you preach to them ; speak with God for them
while you are speaking with them for God. Only so can you
expect to be continually in earnest. A man does not often rise
from his knees uncarnest ; or, if he does, he had better return to
prayer till the sacred flame descends upon his soul. Adam Clarke
once said, “ Study yourself to death, aud then pray yourself
alive again ” : it was a wise sentcncc. Do not attempt the first
without the second ; neither dream that the second can be honestly
accomplished without the first. Work and pray, as well as wabch
and pra.v; but pray always.
Stir the fire also by frequent attempts at fresh scrvicc. Sbnke
yourself out of routine by breaking away from the familiar fields
of service and reclaiming virgin soil. I suggest to you, as a
subordinate but very useful means of keeping the heart fresh,
the frequent addition of new work to your usual engagetncnt3.
I would say to brethren who are soon going away from the
College, to settle in spheres where they mill come mto contact
with but few superior minds, and p&aps will be almost alone iu
the higher walks of spirituality,-look well to yourselves that you
do not become flat, stale, and unprofitable, and keep yourselves
sweet by maintaining an enterprising spirit. Tou will have a
good share of work to do, and few to help you in it, aud the
years will grind along heavily; watch against this, am1 USC all
means to prevent your becoming dull and sleepy, and amoug them
use t,hat which experience leads me to press upon you. I find it.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE. 159
good for myself to have some new work always on hand. The old
and usual enterprises must be kept up, but somewhat must be added
to them. It should be with us as with the squatters upon our
commons, the fence of our garden must roll outward a foot or two,
and enclose a little more of the common every year. Never say “ it
is enough,” nor accept the policy of 6‘ rest and be thankful.” DO
all you possibly can, and then do a little more. I do not know by
what process the gentleman who advertises that he can make
short people taller attempts the task, but I should imagine that
if any result could be produced in the direction of adding a
cubit to one’ s stature it would be by ever-y morning reaching up
as high as you possibly can on tiptoe, and, having done that, trying < day by day to reach a little higher. This is certainly the way to
grow mentally and spiritually,-“ reaching forth to that which is
before.” If the old should become just a little stale, add fresh
endeavours to it, and the whole mass will be leavened anew. Tr.y
it and you will soon discover the virtue of breaking up fresh ground,
invading new provinces of the enemy, and scaling fresh heights to
set the banner of the Lord thereon. This is, of course, a second-ary
expedient to those of which we have already spoken, but still
it is a very useful one, and ma,y greatly benefit you. In a country
town, say of two thousand inhabitants, you will, after a time, feel,
“ Well, now-, I have done about all I can in this place.” What
then? There is a hamlet some four miles off, set about opening
a room there. If one hamlet is occupied, make an excursion to
another, and spy out the land, and set the relief of its spiritual
destitution before you as an ambition. When the first place is
supplied, think of a second. It is your duty, it will also be your
safeguard. Everybody knows what interest there is in fresh work.
A gardener will become weary of his toil unless he is allowed to
introduce new flowers into the hothouse, or to cut the beds upon
the lawn iii a novel shape ; all monotonous work is unnatural and
wearying to the mind, therefore it is wisdom to give variety to your
Far more wcigbty is the advice, keep close to God, and keep close
to your fellow men whom you are seeking to bless. Abide under the
shadow of the Almighty, dwell where Jesus manifests himself,
and live in the power of the Holy Ghost. Your very life lies in
this. Whitefield mentions a lad who was so vividly conscious of
the presence of God that he would generally walk the roads with
his hat off. How I wish we were always in such a mood. It
would be no trouble to maintain earnestness then..160 EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AKD MAINTENANCE.
Take care, also, to be on most familiar terms with those whose
souls are committed to your care. Stand in the stream and fish.
Many preachers are utterly ignorant as to how the bulk of the
people are living; they are at home among books, but quite at sea
among men. What would you think of a botanist who seldom saw
real flowers, or an astronomer who never spent a night with the
smrs ? Would they be worthy of the name of men of science ?
Neither can a minister of the gospel be anything but a mere
empiric unless he mingles with men, and studies character for him-self.
‘ ( Studies from the l i f e ,“- gentlemen, we must have plenty
of these if we are to paint to the life in our sermons. Read men as
well as books, and love men rather than opinions, or you will be
inanimate preachers.
Get into close quarters with those who are in an anxious state.
Watch their difficulties, their throes and pangs of conscience.
It will help to make you earnest when you see their eagerness
t,o find peace. On the other hand, when you see how little earnest
the bulk of men remain, it may help to make you more zealous
for their arousing. Rejoice with those who are finding the Sa-viour
: this is a grand means of revival for your own soul. When
you are enabled to bring a mourner to Jesus you will feel quite
young again. It will be as oil to your bones to hear a weeping
penitent exclaim, “ I see it all now I I believe, and my burden is
gone : I am saved.” Sometimes the rapture of newborn souls will
electrify you into apostolic intensity., Who could not preach after
having seen souls converted? Be on the spot when grace at last
captures the lost sheep, that by sharing in the Great Shepherd’ s
rejoicings you may renew your youth. Be in at the death with
sinners, and you will be repaid for the weary chase after them
which it may be you have followed for months and years. Grasp
them with firm hold of love, and say, “Yes, by the grace of God,
I have really won these souls c’ and your enthusiasm will flame
If you have to labour in a large town I should recommend
you to familiarize yourself, wherever your place of worship may
be, with the poverty, ignorance, and drunkenness of the place.
Go if you can with a City missionary into the poorest quarter, and
you will see that which will astonish you, and the actual sight of
the disease will make you eager to reveal the remedy. There is
enough of evil to be seen even in the best streets of our great cities,
but there is an unut,terable depth of horror in the condition of the
slums. As a doctor walks the hospitals, so ought you to traverse the.EARNESTNESS : ITS MARRING AND MAINTENANCE. 161
lanes and courts to behold the mischief which sin has wrought. It
is enough to make a man weep tears of blood to gaze upon the deso-lation
which sin has made in the cartb. One day with a devoted
missionary would be a fine termimxion to your College CO~IX, ad
a fit preparation for work in your own sphere. See the masses
living in their sins, defiled with drinking and Sabbath-breaking,
rioting and blaspheming ; and see them dying sodden and har-dened,
or terrified and despairing : surely this will rekindle es-piring
zeal if anything can do it. The worl(l is full of grinding
poverty, and crushing sorrow ; shame and death are the portion of
thousands, and it needs a great gospel to meet the dire necessities
of men’ s souls. Verily it is so. Do you doubt it? Go and see
for yourselves. Thns will you learn to preach a great salvation,
and magnify the great Saviour, not with your mouth only, but
with your heart; and thus will you be married to your work
beyond all possibility of deserting it.
Death-beds are grand schools for us. They are intended to
act. as tonics to brace us to our work. I have come down from
the bed-chambers of the dying, and thought that everybody was
mad, and myself most of all. I have grudged the earnestness
which men devoted to earthly things, and half said to myself,-Why
was that man driving along so hastily ? Why was that womnu
walking out in such finery? Since they were all to die so soon,
I thought nothing worth Qlcir doing but preparing to meet their
God. To be often where men die will help us to teach them
both to die and to live. M‘ Cheyne was wont to visit his sick or
dying hearers on the Saturda*y afternoon, for, as he told Dr. James
Hamilton, “Before preaching he liked to look over the verge.”
I pray you, moreover, measure your work in the light of God.
Are yen God’ s servant or not ? If you are, how can your heart
be cold? Are you sent by a dying Saviour to proclaim his love
and win the reward of his wounds, or are you not 1 If you are,
how can you flag ? Is the Spirit of God upon you? Has the
Lord anointed you to preach glad tidings to, the poor? If hc has
not, do not pretend to it. If h 1 e las, go in this tllp might, and the
Lord shall be thy strength. Yours is not a t,rade, or a profession.
Assuredly if YOU measure it by the tradesmau’ s measure it is the
poorest business on the face of the earth. Consider it as a pro-fession
: who would not prefer any other, so far as golden ffnins or
worldly honours arc concerned ? But if it be a divine calling,
and you a miracle-worker, dwelling in the supernatural, ail<1
working not for time but for eternity, then you belong t,o a nobler
guild, and to a higher fraternity than any that spring of earth
and deal with time. Look at it aright, and you will own that it
is a grand thing to be as poor as your Lord, if, like him, you
may m&c many rich ; you will feel that it is a glorious thing
t.o be as unknown and despised as were your Lord’ s first followers,
because you are making him known, whom to know is life eternal.
You will be satisfied to be anything or to be nothing, and the
thought of self will not enter your mind, or only cross it to bc
scouted as a meanness not to be tolerated by a consecrated man.
There is the point. Measure your work as it should be measured,
ancl I am not afraid that your earnestness will be diminished.
Gaze upon it by the light of the judgment day, and in view of the
eternal rewards of faithfulness. Oh, brethren, the present joy of
having saved a soul is overwhelmingly delightful; you have felt
it, I trust, and know it now. To save a soul from going down to
perdition brings to us a little heaven below, but what must it be
at the day of judgment to meet spirits redeemed by Christ, who
learned the news of their redemption from our lips ! We look
forward to a blissful heaven in communion with our Master, but
we shall also know the added joy of meeting those loved ones whom
we led to Jesus by our ministry. Let us endure every cross, and
despise all shame, for the joy which Jesus sets before us of winning
men for him.
One more thought may help to keep up our earnestness. Con-sider
the great evil which will certainly come upon us and upon
our hearers if we be negligent in our work. “ They shall perish ”
-is not that a dreadful sentence ? It is to me quite as awful as
that which follows it,–“ but their blood will I require at the
watchman’ s hand.” Wow shall we describe the doom of an un-faithful
minister ? And every unearnest minister is unfaithful. I
wou1d infinitely prefer to be consigned to Tophet as a murderer of
men’ s bodies than as a destroyer of men’ s souls ; neither do I
know of any condition in which a man can perish so fatally, so
infinitely, as in that of the man who preaches a gospel which he
does not believe, and assumes the office of pastor over a people
whose good he does not intensely desire. Let us pray to be found
faithful always, and ever. God grant that the Holy Spirit may
make and keep us so..LECTURE IX,
IIAVING often said in this room that a minister ought to have
one blind eye and one deaf ear, I have excited the curiosity of
several brethren, who have requested an explanation ; for it
appears to them, as it does also to me, that the keener eyes and
ears we have the better. Well, gentlemen, since the text is some-what
mysterious, you shall have the exegesis of it.
A part of my meaning is expressed in plain language by
Solomon, in the book of Ecclesiastes (vii. 21): “Also take no heed
unto all words that are spoken; lest thou hear thy servant curse
thee.” The margin says, “ Give not thy heart to all words that
are spoken ;“-do not take them to heart or let them weigh with
you, do not notice them, or act as if you heard them. You
cannot stop people’ s tongues, and thercforc the best thing is
to stop your own ears and never mind what is spoken. There is
a world of idle chit-chat abroad, and he who takes note of it will
have enough to do. He will find that even those who live with
him are not always singing his praises, and that when he has
displeased his most faithful servants they have, in the heat of the
moment, spoken fierce words which it would be better for him
not to have heard. Who has not, under temporary irritation,
said that of another which he has afterwards regretted ? It is
the part of the generous t,o t,reat passionate words as if they had
never been uttered. When a man is in an angry mood it is
wise to walk away from him, and leave off strife before it be
meddled with; and if we are compelled to hear hasty language, we
must endeavour to obliterate it from the memory, and say with
David, “But I, as a deaf man, heard not. I was as a man that
hearcth not, and in whose mouth are no reproofs.” Tacitus des-cribes
a wise man as saying to one that railed at him, “ You
are lord of your tongue, but I am also master of my ears”-you
may say what you please, but I will only hear what I choose..164 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
We cannot shut our ears as we do our eyes, for we have no ear
lids, and yet, as we read of him that “ stoppeth his ears from hcar-ing
of blood,” it is, no doubt, possible to seal the portal of the ear
so that nothing contraband shall ent,cr. we would say of the
general gossip of the village, and of the unadvised words of angry
friends-do not hear them, or if you must hear them, do not lay
them to heart, for you also have talked idly am1 angrily in your
day, and would even now be in an awkwa.rd position if you were
called to account for every word that you have spoken, even about
your dearest friend. Thus Solomon argued as he closed the passage
which we have quoted,- “For oftentimes also thine own heart
knoweth that thou thyself likewise hast cursed ot8hcrs.”
In enlarging upon my text, let me say first,-when you com-mence
your ministry make up your miud to begin with a clean sheet ;
be deaf and blind to the longstanding diferences which may survive in
the church. As soon as you enter upon your pastorate you may be
waited upon by persons who are anxious to secure your atlhcsion I
to their side in a family quarrel or church dispute ; be deaf and
blind to these people, and assure them that bygones must be by-gones
with you, and that as you have not inherited your predecessor’ s
cupboard you do not mean to eat his cold meat. If any flagrant
injustice has been done, be diligent to set it right,. but if it be a
mere feud, bid the quarrelsome part,y cease from it, and tell him
once for all that you will have notbing to do with it. The
answer of Gallio will almost suit you : “If it were a matter
of wrong or wicked lewdness, 0 ye Jews, reason would that I
should bear with you : but if it be a question of words and names,
and vain janglings, look ye to it; for I will be no judge of such
matters.” When I came to New I’ ark-street Chapel as a young
man from the country, and was chosen pastor, I was speedily in-terviewed
by a good man who had left t,hc church, having, as he
said, been “ treated shamefully.” He meutioned the names of half-a-
dozen persons, all prominent members of the church, who had
behaved in a very unchristian manner to him, he, poor iunoccut
sufferer, having been a model of patience and holiness. I learned
his character at once from what he said about others (a motlc of
judging which has never misled me), and I made ~113 my mind how
to act. I told him that the church had been in a sadly unscttlcd
stat,e, and that the only wa,y out of the snarl was for every one to
forget the past and begin again. He said that the lapse of years
did not alter facts, and I replied that it would alter a mau’ s view
of them if in that time he had become a wiser and a better man..THE RLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR. 165
I-Iowever, I added, that all the past had gone away with my
predecessors, that he must follow them to their new spheres, aud
settle matters with tlum, for I would not touch the affair with
a pair of tongs. He waxed somewhat warm, but I allowed him
to radiate until he was cool again, and we shook hands and parted.
IIe was a good man, but constructed upon an uucomfortablc priu-ciple,
so that he came across the path of others in a very awkward
manner at times, and if I had gone into his narrative and examined
his case, there would have been no end to the strife. 1 am
quite certain that, for my own success, and for the prosperity of
the church, I took the wisest course by applying my Mud eye
to all disputes which dated previously to rn.y advent. It is the
extreme of unwisdom for a young man fresh from college, or from
another charge, to suffer himself to be earwigged by a clique, and
to be bribed by kindness and flattery to become a partisan, and so
to ruin himself with one-half of his people. Know nothing of
parties aud cliques, but be the pastor of all the flock, and care for
all alike. Blessed are the peacemakers, and one sure way of peace-maliinCg
is to let the fire of contention alone. Neither fan it, nor
stir it, nor add fuel to it, but let it go out of itself. Begin your
miuistry with one blind eye and one deaf ear.
I sl~oul~ recomlr2e?zd the use of tlie same faculty, OP wad qf
,fuculty, with regard to finance in the matter of your own salary.
Tbero are some occasions, especially in raising a new rhurch, when
you may have no deacon who is qualified to manage that depart-ment,
and, therefore, you may feel called upou to undertake it
yours&es. In such a case you are not to be censured, you ought
even to be commcndcd. Many a time also the work would come
to an end altogether if the prcncher did not act as his own deacon,
nut1 fiud supplies both temporal and spiritual by his owu exertions.
To these exceptional cases I have nothing to say but that I admire
the struggling worker and deeply sympathize with him, for he is
overweighted, and is apt to be a less successful soldier for his Lord
because he is entangled with the affairs of this life. In churches
which are well established, and afford a decent maintenance, the
miuistcr will do well to supervise all things, but interfere with
notliiug. If deacons canuot be trusted they ought not to bc
deacons at all, but if they arc worthy of their office they are worthy
of our confidence. I know that instauces occur in which they are
sadly incompetent and yet must be borne with, and in such a
state of things the pastor must ol)en the eye which otherwise
would have remained blind. Eather than the management of.166 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
church funds should become a scandal we must resolutely intcr-fere,
but if there is no urgent call for us to do so we had better
believe in the division of labour, and let deacons do their own work.
We have the same right as other officers to deal with financial
matters if we please, but it will be our wisdom as much as possible
to let them alone, if others will manage them for us. When the
purse is bare, the wife sickly, and the children numerous, the
preacher must speak if the church does not properly provide for
him; but to be constantly bringing before the people requests for
an increase of income is not wise. When a minister is poorly remu-nerated,
and he feels that he is worth more, and that the church
could give him more, he ought kindly, boldly, and firmly to corn-municate
with the deacons first, and if they do not take it, up he
should then mention it to the brethren in a sensible, business-like
way, not as craving a charity, but as putting it to their sense of
honour, that “the labourer is worthy of his hire.” Let him say
outright wha.t he t,hinks, for there is nothing to be ashamed of, but,
there would be much more cause for shame if he dishonourcd him-self
and the cause of God by plunging into debt : let him there-fore
speak to the point in a proper spirit to the proper persons,
and there end the matter, and not resort to secret complaining.
Faith in God should tone down our concern about temporalities,
and enable us to practise what we preach, namely-“ Take no
thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink ; or,
Wherewithal shall we be clot,hed ? for your heavenly Father
know&h that ,ye have need of all these things.” Some who have
pretended to live by faith have had a very shrewd way of drawing
out donations by turns of the indirect corkscrew, but you will
either ask plainly, like men, or you will leave it to the Christian
feeling of your people, and turn to the items and modes of church
finance a blind eye and a deaf ear.
53e blind eye and the deqf ear will come in exceedingly well in
connection with tJle gossips of tJLe place. Every c.hurch, and, for the
matter of that, every village and family, is plagued with certain
Mrs. Grundys, who drink tea and talk vitriol. They are never quiet,
but buzz around to the great annoyance of those who are devout
and practical. No one needs to look far for perpetual motion, he
has only to watch their tongues. At tea-meetings, Dorcas
meetings, and other gat,herings, they practise vivisection upon the
characters of their neighbours, and of course they are cager to try
their knives upon the minister, the minister’ s wife, the minister’ s
children, the minister’ s wife’ s bonnet, the dress of the minister’ s.THE BLIND EYE AND TIIE DEAF EAR. 167
daughter, and how many new ribbons she has worn for the last six
months, and so on nd injnitufn. There are also certain persons
who are never so happy as when they are “ grieved to the heart” to
have to tell the minister that Mr. A. is a snake in the grass,
that he is quite mist,aken in thinking so well of Messrs. B and c.,
and that t,hev have heard quite “ promiscously ” that Mr. z). and
his wife are badly matched. Then follows a long string about
Mrs. E., who says that she and Mrs. F. overheard Mrs. G. say to
Mrs. Il. that Mrs. J. should say that Mr. K. and Miss L. were
goin‘ g to move from the chapel and hear Mr. M., and all because
of what old N. said to young 0. about that Miss P. Never listen
to such people. Do as Nelson did when he put his blind eye to the
telescope and declared that he did not see t,he signal, and therefore
would go on with the battle. Let the creatures buzz, and do not
even hear them, unless indeed they buzz so much concerning one
person that the matter threatens to be serious ; then it will be well
to bring them to book and talk in sober earnestness io them.
Assure them that you are obliged to have facts definitely before
you, that your memory is not very tenacious, that you have many
things to think of, that you are always afraid of making any
mistake in such matters, and that if they would be good enough
to writ,e down what they have to say the case would be more fully
before you, and you could give more time to its consideration.
Mrs. Grundy will not do that ; she has a great objection to making
clear and definite statements ; she prefers talkinff at random.
I heartily wish t,hat by any process we could put down gossip,
but I suppose that it will never be done so long as the human race
cont,inues what it is, for James tells LLS that “ every kind of heast,s,
and of birds, and of serpents, and of things in the sea, is tamed,
and hath been tan& of mankind: but t,he tongue can no man
tame; it is an unruly evil, full of deadly poison;.” What can’ t
be cured must be endured, and the best way of enduring it is not
to listen to it. Over one of our old cast,les a former owner 113s
inscribed these lines-TIIE~
Thin-skinned persons should learn this motto by heart. The talk
of the village is never worthy of notice, and you should never
t,ake any interest in it except to mourn over th3 malice and hcart-lessness
of which it is too often the indicator.
Mayow in his “Plain Preaching” very forcibly says, ‘ 6 If yen.168 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
were to see a woman killing a farmer’ s ducks and geese, for the
sake of having one of the feathers, you would see a person acting
as WC do when we speak evil of anyone, for the sake of the
pleasure we feel in evil speaking. For the pleasure we feel is
not worth a single f&her, and the pain we give is often greater
than a man feels at the loss of his property.” Insert a remark of
this kind now and then in a sermon, when there is no special
gossip abroad, and t i may be of some benefit to the more sensible :
I quite despair of the rest.
Above all, never join in tale-bearing yourself, and beg your wife
to abstain from it also. Some men are too talkative by half, and
remind me of the young man who was sent to Socrates to learn
oratory. On being introduced to the philosopher he talked SO
incessantly that Socrates asked for double fees. 6‘ Why charge me
double? ” said the young fellow. “ Because,” said the orator, “ I
must teach you two sciences : the one how to hold your tongue and
the other how to speak.” The first science is the more difficult,
but ai,m at proficiency in it, or you will suffer greatly, and create
trouble without end.
Avoid with your whole soul that spirit of suspicion which sours
some men’ s lives, aud to all tlhgs jYom zol&J~ you might harshly
d~cw an unkind inference tzwrl a blind eye avid n deaf ear. Suspicion
makes a man a torment to himself and a spy towards others.
Once begin to suspect, and causes for distrust will multiply
aro~md yen, ad your very suspiciousness will create the major
l)art of them. Many a friend has been transformed into an enemy
by being suspected. Do not, therefore, look about you with the
eves of mistrust, nor listen as an eaves-dropper with the quick ear
o’ f fear. To go about the congregation ferreting out disaffection,
like a gamekeeper after rabbits, is a mean employment, and is
generally rewarded most sorrowfully. Lord Bacon wisely advises
“ the provident stay of enquiry of that which we would be 10th to
find.” When nothing is to be discover-cd which will help us to
love others we had better cease from the equir.y, for we may drag
to light that which may bl: the commcncemcnt of years of con-tention.
I am not, of course, referring to cases requiring disci-pline
which must bc thoroughly investigated and boldly dealt wit,h,
but I have upon my mind mere personal matters where the main
sufferer is yourself ; here it is always best not to know, nor to wish
to know, what is being said about you, either by friends or foes.
Those ~110 praise us are probabl,y as much mistaken as those who
abuse LIS, and the one may be rognrded as a set off to the other, if.THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR. 169
indeed it be worth while taking any account at all of mau’ s jutlg-ment.
If we have the approbation of our God, cert,ified by a
placid conscience, we can afford to be indifferent to the opinions of
our fellow men, whether t,hey commend or condemn. If we
cannot reach this point wc are babes and not men.
Some are childishly anxious to know their friend’ s opinion of them,
and if it contain the smallest element of dissent or censure, they
regard him as an enemy forthwith. Surely we are not popes, and
do not wish our hearers to regard us as infallible! We have
known men become quite enraged at a perfectly fair aud rcason-able
remark, and regard an honest friend as an opponent who
deli&cd to find fault; this misrepresentation on the one side has
soou produced heat on the other, aud strife has ensued. How much
better .is gentle forbearance I You must be able to bear criticism,
or you are not fit to be at the head of a congregation; and you
must let the critic go without reckoning him amoug your dejdly
foes, or you will prove yourself a mere weakling. It is wisest
always to show double kiudncss where you have been severely
handled by one who thought it his duty to do so, for he is
probably an honest man and worth winning. He who in your
early days hardly thinks you fit for the pastorate ma*y yet become
your firmest defender if he sets that you grow in grace, and ad-vauce
in qualification for the work; do not, therefore, regard him
as a foe for truthfully expressing his doubts ; does not your own
heart confess that his fears were not altogether grouudlcss? Turu
your deaf ear to what you judge to be his harsh criticism, and
endeavour to preach better.
Persons from love of change, from pique, from advance
in their tastes, aud ot,hcr causes, may become uneasy under
our ministry, aud it is well for us to know nothing about it.
I’ erceiving the danger, we must not bet,ray our discovery, but
bestir ourselves to improve our sermons, hoping that the good
people will be better fed and forget their dissatisfaction. If they
are truly gracious persons, the incipicut evil will pass away, and no
real discolitent will arise, or if it does you must not provoke it by
suspecting it.
Where I have known that there existed a measure of disaffection
to myself, I have not recognised it, unless it has been forced upon
me, but, have, on the contrary, acted towards the opposing person
with all the more courtesy and friendliness, and I have uever
heard auy more of the matter. If I had treated the good man as
au opponent, he would have done his best to take the part assigned.170 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
him, and carry it out to his own credit; but I felt that he was a
Cllristian man, and had a right to dislike me if he thought fit, and
that if he did so I ought not to think unkindly of him; and
therefore I treated him as one who was a friend to my Lord, if
not to me, gave him some work to do which implied confidence in
him, made him feel at home, and by degrees won him to be an
attached friend as well as a fellow-worker. The best of people
are sometimes out at elbows and say unkind things ; we should
be glad if our friends could quite f&-get what we said when we
were peevish and irritable, and it will be Christlike to act towards
others in this matter as we would wish them to do towards US.
Never make a brother remember t,hat he once ut,tered a hard speech
in reference to yourself. If you see him in a happier mood, do
not mention the former painful occasion : if he be a man of right
spirit he will in ftiture be unwilling t,o vex a pastor who has
tseated him so generously, and if he be a mere boor it is a pit,y
to hold any argument with him, and therefore the past had better
go by default.
It would be better to be deceived a hundred times than to live
a life of suspicion. It is intolerable. The miser who traverses
his chamber at midnight and hears a burglar in every falling leaf
is not more wretched than t.he minister who believes that plots are
hatching against him, and that reports to his disadvantage are
being spread. I romember a brother who believed that he was
being poisoned, and was persuaded that even the seat he sat upon
and the clothes he wore had by some subtle chemistry become
saturated with death ; his life was a perpetual scare, and such is
the existence of a minister when he mistrusts all around him.
Nor is suspicion merely a source of disquietude, it is a moral evil,
and injures the character of the man who harbours it. Suspicion
in kings creates tyrann,y, in husbands jealousy, and in miuist,ers
bitterness ; such bitterness as in spirit dissolves all the tics of the
pastoral relation, eating like a corrosive acid into the very soul
of the office and making it a curse rather than a blessiug. Wbe;r.
once this terrible evil has curdled all the milk of human kiudnesr
in a man’ s bosom, he becomes more fit for the detective police force
than for the ministray ; 1 1 i ie a spider, he begins to cast out his lines,
and fashions a web of tremulous threads, all of which lead up to
himself and warn him of the least touch of even the tiniest midge.
There he sits in the centre, a mass of sensation, all nerves and raw
wounds, excitable and excited, a self-immolated martyr drawing
the blazing faggots about him, and apparently anxious to be.THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF E.\B. 171
burned. The most faithful friend is unsafe under such con-ditions.
The most careful avoidance of offcnce will not secure
immunity from mistrust, but will probably be construed into
cunning and cowardice. Society is almost as much in danger from
a suspecting man as from a mad dog, for he snaps on all sides
without reason, and scatters right and left the foam of his mad-ness.
It is vain to reason with the victim of this folly, for with
perverse ingenuity he turns every argument the wrong way, and
makes your plea for confidence another reason for mistrust. It
is sad that he cannot see the iniquity of his groundless censure
of others, especially of those who have beeu his best friends and
the firm& upholders of the cause of Christ.
“ I would not wrong
Virtue so tried by the least shade of doubt :
Undne suspicion is more abject baseness
Bven than the guilt suspected.”
No one ought to be made an offender for a word ; but, when suspi-cion
rules, even silence becomes a crime. Brethren, shun this vice
by renouncing the love of self. Judge it t,o be a small matter what
men think or say of you, and care only for their treatment of your
Lord. If you are naturally sensitive do not indulge the wcak-ness,
nor allow others to play upon it. Would it not bc a great
degradation of your ofice if you were to keep an army of spies
in your pa#y to collect information as to all that your peol)le
said of you? And yet it amounts to this if you allow certain
busybodies to bring you all the gossip of the place. Drive the
creatures away. Abl1or those mischief-making, tattling hand-maidens
of strife. Those who will fetch will carry, and IIO doubt
the gossips go from your house aud report every observation which
falls from your lips, with plenty of garnishing of their own. IZe-member
that, as the receiver is as bad as the thief, so the hearer of
scandal is a sharer in the guilt of it. If there were no listening ears
t,here would be no t,alebearing tongues. While you are a buyer of
ill wares the demand will create the supply, and the factories of
falsehood will be working full time. No one wishes to become a
creator of lies, and yet he who hears slanders with pleasure and
believes them with readiness will hatch many a brood into active life.
Solomon sa,ys “ a whisperer separateth chief friends.” (Prov.
xvi. 28.) Insinuations are thrown out, and jealousies aroused,
till “mutual coolness ensues, and neither can understand why;
each wonders what can possibly be the cause. Thus the firmest,
the longest, the .warmest, and most confiding attachments, the.172 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
sources of life’ s sweetest joys, are broken up perhaps for ever.“*
This is work worthy of the arch-fiend himself, but it could never
be done if men lived out of the atmosphere of suspicion. As it is,
the world is full of sorrow through this cause, a sorrow as sharp as
it is s:lperfluous. This is grievous indeed I Campbell eloquently
remarks, ‘ 6 The ruius of old friendships are a more melaucholp
spectacle to me than those of dcsolatcd palaces. They exhibit
the heart which was once lighted LIP with joy all damp and
deserted, and hauuted by those birds of ill omen that nestle in
ruins.” 0 suspicion, what desolat.ions thou hast made iii the earth !
Learn to disbelieve those who have no faith in their brcthrcn.
Suspect those who would lead you to suspect others. A resolute
unbelief in all the scantlalmongcrs will do much to repress their
mischievous energies. Matthew 1’ 001 in his Cripplegate Lecture
sap, “Common fame hath lost its reputation long since, and I do
not know anything which it hat11 done in our day to regain it;
therefore it ought not to be credited. How few reports there are
of auy kind which, when they come to be examined, we do not find
to be false I For my part, I reckon, if I believe one report in
twenty, I make a very liberal allowance. Especially distrust re-proaches
and evil reports, because these spread fastest, as being
grateful to most persons, who suppose their own reputation to be
never so well grounded as when it is built upon the ruins of
other men’ s.” Because the persous who would render you inis-trustful
of your friends are a sorry set, and because suspicion is
in itself a wretched and tormenting vice, resolve to turn towards
the whole business your blind eye and your deaf car.
Need I say a word or two about the wisdom of never Ihea&zg
what was not meant for you. The eaves-dropper is a meau person,
very little if anything better than the commou informer ; and he
who says he overheard may be considered to have heard over and
above what he should have done.
Jeremy Ta+ylor wisely and justly observes, “Never list,en at
the door or window, for besides that it coutaius in it a danger
and a snare, it is also invading my neighbour’ s privacy, and a lay-ing
that open, which he therefore encloses that it might not bc
open.” It is a well worn proverb that listeners seldom hear arty
good of themselves. Listening is a sort of larceny, but the goods
stolen are never a pleasure to the thief. Information obtained by
clandestine means must, in all but extreme cases, be more injury
* Dr. Wardhw on Proverbs..THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR. 173
than benefit to a cause. The magistrate may judge it expedient
to obt.ain evidence by such means, but I cannot imagine a case in
which a minister should do so. Ours is a mission of grace and
peace; we are not prosecutors who search out condemnatory evi-dence,
but friends whose love would cover a multitude of offences.
The peeping eyes of Canaan, the son of Ham, shall never be in
our employ; we prefer the pious delicacy df Shem and Japhet,
who went backward and covered the shame which the child of evil
had published with glee.
To opinions and remarks about yourself turn also as a gzneyal
r&e the blind eye alid the deaf ear. Public men must expect public
criticism, and as the public cannot be regarded as infallible, public
men may expect to be criticized in a wa+y which is neither fair nor
pleasant. To all honest and just remarks we are bound to give
due measure of heed, but to the bitter verdict of prejudice, t’ he
frivolous faultfinding of men of fashion, the stupid utterances of
the ignorant, and ihe fierce denunciations of opponent)s, we may
very safely turn a deaf ear. We cannot expect t,hose to approve
of us whom we condemn by our testimony against their favourite
sins their commendation would show that we had missed our
mark. We naturally look to be approved by our own people, the
members of our churches, and the adherents of our congregations,
and when they make observations which show t,hat they are not very
great admirers, we may be temptecl to discouraacmellt if net to
anger : herein lies a snare. When I was about to leave my village
charge for London, one of the old men prayed that I might be
“delivered from the bleating of the sheep.” For the life of me I
could not imagine what he meant, but the riddle is plain now, and
I have learned to offer the prayer myself. Too much considera-tion
of what is said by our people, whether it be in praise or in
depreciation, is not good for us. If we dwell on high with “ that
great Shepherd of the sheep ” we shall care little for all the con-fused
bleatings around us, but if we become “carnal, and walk as
men,” we shall have little rest if we listen t.o this, that, and the
other which evcrg poor sheep may bleat about us. Perhaps it is
quite true that you were uncommonly dull last Sabbath morning,
but there was no need that Mrs. Clack should come and tell you
t,hat Deacon Jones thought so. It is more than probable that
having been out in the country all the previous week, your preach-ing
was very like milk and water, but there can be no necessit,y for
your going round among the people to discover whether they
noticed it or not. Is it not enough that your conscience is uneasy.i74 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
upon the point? Endeavour to improve for t,he future, hut do
not want to hear all that every Jack, Tom, and Mary may have to
say about it. On tl10 other hand, you were on the high horse in
your last sermon, and finished with quite a flourish of. trumpets,
and you feel considerable anxiety to know what impression you
produced, Repress your curiosity : it will do you no good to
enquire. If the people should happen to agree with your verdict,
it will only feed your pitiful vanity, and if the,y think otherwise
your fishing for their px&e will injure you in their esteem. In
any case it is all about yourself, and this is a poor theme to be
auxious about ; play the man, and do not demean yourself by
seeking compliments like little children when dressed in new
clothes, who say, “See my pretty frock.” Have you not by this
time discovered that flattery is as injurious as it is pleasant? It
softens the mind and makes you more sensitive to slander. In
proportion as praise pleases you censure will pain you. Besides, it
is a crime to be taken off from your great object of glorifying the
Lord Jesus by petty considerations as to your little self, and, if
there were no other reason, this ought to weigh much with you.
Pride is a deadly sin, and will grow without your borrowing the
parish water-cart to quicken it. Forget expressions which feed
your vanity, and if you find yourself relishing the unwhole-some
morsels confess the sin with deep humiliation. Payson
showed that he was strong in the Lord when he wrote to his
mother, “You must not, certainly, my dear mot;her, say oue word
which even looks like an intimation that you think me advancing in
grace. I cannot bear it. All the people here, whether friends or
enemies, conspire t.0 ruin me. S t a an and my own heart, of course,
will lend a hand ; and if you join too, I fear all the cold water which
Christ can throw upon my pride will not prevent its breaking out
into a destructive flame. As certainly as anybody flatters and
caresses me my heavenly Father has to whip me: and au un-speakable
mercy it is that he condescends to do it. I can, it is
true, easily muster a hundred reasons why I should not be proud,
but pride will not mind reason, nor anything else but a good
drubbing. Even at this moment I feel it tingling in my fingers’
ends, and seeking to guide my pen.” Knowing something myself
of those secret whippings which our good Father administers to
his servants when he sees them unduly exalted, I heartily add my
own solemn warnings against your pampering the flesh by listening
to the praises of the kindest friends you have. They are in-judicious,
and you must beware of them..THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR 175
A sensible friend who will unsparingly criticize you from week
t0 week will be a far greater blessing to you than a thousand un-discriminating
admirers if you hare sense enough to bear his
treatment, and grace enough to be thankful for it. When I was
preaching at t,he Surrey Gardens, an unknown censor of great
ability used to send me a weekly list of my mispronunciations and
other slips of speech. He never signed his name, and that was my
only cause of complaint against him, for hc left rnc in a debt
which I could not acknowledge. I take this opportunity of con-fessing
my obligations to Km, for with genial temper, aud an
evident desire to benefit me, hc marked down most relentlessly
everything which he supposed me to have said incorrectly. Con-cerning
some of these corrections he was in error himself, but for
the most part he was right, and his remarks enabled me to
perceive and avoid many mistakes. I looked for his weekly
memoranda with much interest, aud I trust I am all thebetter for
them. If I had repeated a sentence two or three Sundays before,
hc would say, “ See same expression in such a sermon,” mentioning
number and page. He remarked on one occasion that I too often
quoted the line
“Nothing in my hands I bring,”
and, he added, ‘ 6 we are sufficiently informed of the vacuity of your
hands.” He demanded my authority for calling a man cocec~ua;
and so on. Possibly some young men might have been clis-couraged,
if not irritated, by such severe criticisms, but they
would have been very foolish, for in reseuting such correction t,hcy
wou!d have been throwing away a valuable aid to progress No
money can purchase outspoken honest judgment, and when we
caii get it for nothing let us utilize it to the full& estent. The
worst of it is that of those who offer their judgmcuts few are
qualified to form them, and we shall be pestered with foolish, irn-pertiucnt
remarks, unless we turu to them all the blind eye and
the deaf ear.
192 tJle case of false reports against yowself, for the most pnrt use the
deuf ear. Unfortunately liars are not yet extinct, and, like Richard
Baxter aud John Bunyan, you may be accused of crimes which your
soul abhors. Be not staggered thereby, for this trial has befallen
the very best of men, and even your Lord did not escape the en-venomed
tongue of falsehood. In almost all cases it is t)he wisest
course to let such things die a natural death. A great lie, if
unuoticed, is like a big fish out of water, it dashes and plunges aud
beats itself to death in a short time. To answer it is to supply it.176 THE BLIND EYE AND THE DEAF EAR.
with its element, and help it to a longer life. Falsehoods usdly
carry their own refatnt,ion somewhere about them, and sting
themselves to death. Some lies especially have a peculiar smell,
which betrays their rottenness to every honest nose. If you are
disturbed by them the object of their invention is partly answered,
but your silent endurance disappoints malice and gives you a
partial victory, which God in his care of you will soon turn into
a complete deliverance. Your blameless life will be your best
defence, and those who have seen it will not allo;v you to be con-demned
so readily as your slandcrcrs cspcct. Only abstain from
fighting your own battles, and in nine cases out of ten your
accusers will gain not,hing by their malevolence but chagrin for
themselves and contempt from others. To prosccutc the slanderer
is very seldom wise. I remember a beloved servant of Christ
who in his youth was very sensitive, and, being falsely accused, pro-ceeded
against the person at law. An apology was offered, it
withdrew every iota of the charge, and was most ample, but the good
man insisted upon its being printed in the newspapers, and the
result convinced him of his own unwistlom. Multitudes, who
would otherwise have never heard of the libel, asked what it
meant, and made comments thereon, generally concluding with
the sage remark that he must have done something imprudent
to provoke such an accusation. He was heard to say that so long
as he lived he would never resort to such a method again, for be
felt that the public apology had done him more harm that the
slander itself. Standing as we do in a position which makes us
choice targets for the devil and his allies, our best course is to
defend our innocence by our silence and leave our reputnt,ion
with God. Yet there are exceptions to this general rule. When
distinct, definite, public charges are made against a man he is
bound to answer them, and answer them in the clearest and
most open manner. To decline all investigation is in such a case
practically to plead guilty, and whatever may bc the mode of
putting it, the general public ordinarily regard a refusal to
reply as a proof of guilt. Under mere worry and annoyance it
is by far the best to be altogether passive, but when the matter
assumes more serious proportions, and our accuser dcfics us to a
&fence, we are bound to meet his charges with honest statements
of fact. In every instance counsel should be sought of tbc: Lord
as to how to deal with slanderous tongues, and in the issue inno-cence
will be vindicated and falsehood convicted.
Some ministers have been broken in spirit, driven from their.THE BLIND EYE Ah-D THE DEAF EAR. 177
position, and even injured in character by taking notice of village
scandal. I know a fine young mnu, for whom I predicted a career
of usefulness, who fell into great trouble because he at first
allowed it to be a trouble and then worked hard to make it so.
He came to me and complained that he had a great grievance;
and so it was a grievance, but from beginning to end it was all
about what sotne half-dozen women had said about his lxocedurc
after the death of his wife, It was originally too small a thing
to deal with,-a Mrs. Q. had said that she should not wonder if
the minister married the servant then living in his house; another
represeuted her as saying that he ought to marry her, and then a
third, with a malicious ingenuity, found a deeper meaning in thus
words, and construed them into a charge. Worst of all, the dear
sensitive preacher must needs trace the matter out aud accuse a
score or two of people of spreading libels against him, and even
threaten some of them with legal proceedings. If he could have
prayed over it in secret, or even have whistled over it, no harm
would have come of the tittle-tattle ; but this dear brother could
not treat the slander wisely, for he had not what I earnestly
recommend to you, .namely, a blind e,ye and a deaf ear,
Once more, my brethren, the blind eye and the deaf ear will be
useful to you in relation to other chrches and t?leir pastors. I am
always delighted when a brother in meddling with other people’ s
business burns his fingers. Why did he not attend to his own
concerns and not episcopize in another’ s diocese ? I am frequentlv
requested by members of churches to meddle in their home dis-putes;
but unless they come to me with authority, officialI!
appointing me to be umpire, I decline. Alexander Cruden gave
himself the name of “ the Corrector,” and I have never envied him
the title. It would need a peculiar inspiration to enable a man to
set,tle all the controversies of our churches, and as a rule those
who are least qualified are the most eager to attempt it. For the
most part interference, however well intentioned, is a failure.
Internal dissensions in our churches are very like quarrels between
man and wife: when the case comes to such a pass that they
must figbt it out, the interposing party will be the victim of their
common fury. No one but Mr. Verdant Green will interfere in
a domestic battle, for the man of course resents it, and the Iady,
though suffering from many a blow, will say, “ You leave rn!
busband alone ; he has a right to beat me if he likes.” However
great the mutual animosity of conjugal combatants, it seems to
be forgotten in resentment against intruders; and so, amongst the
very independent denomination of Baptists, the person outsitlc
the church who interferes in any manner is sure to get the
worst of it. Do not consider yourself to be the bishop of a11
the neighbouring churches, but be satisfied with looking after
Lystra, or Derbe, or Thessalonica, or whichever church may have
been allotted to your care, and leave Philippi and Ephcsus iu
the hands of their own pastors. Do not encourage disaffected
persons in finding fault with their minister, or in bringing you
news of evils in other congregations. When you meet your
brother ministers do not be in a hurry to advise them ; they know
their duty quite as well as you know yours, and your judgment
upon their course of action is probably founded upon partial infor-mation
supplied from prejudiced sources. Do not grieve your
neighbours by your meddlesomeness. We have all enough to do
at home, and it is prudent to keep out of all disputes which do not
belong to us. We are recommended by one of the world’ s proverbs
to wash our dirty linen at home, and I will add another line to it, and
advise that we do not call on our neighbours while their linen is in
the suds. This is due to our friends, and will best promote peace.
“ He that passeth by and meddleth with strife belonging not to
him, is like one that taketh a dog by the ears “;–he is very apt
to be bitten, and few will pity him. Bridges wisely observes that
“Our blessed Master has read us a lesson of godly wisdom.
He healed the contentions in his own family, but when called to
meddle with strife belonging not to him, he gave answer-‘
Who made me a judge or a divider over you ?’ ” Self-constituted
judges win but little respect; if they were more fit
to censure they would be less inclined to do so. Nany a trifling
difference within a church has been fanned into a great flame by
ministers outside who had no idea of the mischief they were
causing: they gave verdicts upon ez pnrtc stateme&, and so
egged on opposing persons who felt safe when they could say
that the neighbouring ministers quite agreed with them. My
counsel is that we join the bLKnownothings,” and never say a
word upon a matt,er till we have heard both sides ; and, morc-over,
that we do our best to avoid hearing either one side or
the other if the matter does not concern us.
Is not this a sufficient explanation of my declaration that I have
one blind eye and one deaf ear, and that they are the best eye alit1
ear I have?.LECTURE X.
THE grand object of the Christian ministry is the glory of God.
Whether souls arc converted or not, if Jesus Christ be faithfull~y
preached, the minis& has not laboured in vain, for he is a swecbt
savour unto God as well in them that perish as in them that are
saved. Yet, as a rule, God has sent us to preach in order that
through the gospel of Jesus Christ the sons of men may bc
reconciled to him. Here and there a preacher of righteousness,
like Noah, may labour on aud bring none beyond his own family
circle into the ark of salvation ; and another, like Jeremiah, may
mccp in vain over an impenitxnt nation ; but, for the most pw.rt,
the work of preaching is intended to save the Iicarew It is
ours to sow even in stony places, where no fruit rewards our
toil; but still we are bound to look for a harvest, and mourn if
it. does not appear in due time.
The glory of God being our chief object, we aim at it by seeking
the edification of saints and the salvation of sinners. It is a noble
work to instruct the people of God, and to build t,hem up in their
most holy faith : we may by no means neglect this duty. To this
end we must give clear st,atemcnts of gospel doctrine, of vital
experience, and of Christian duty, and never shrink from declaring
the whole counsel of God. In too many casts sublime truths
arc held in abeyance under the prctence that they arc not
przticnl ; whereas the very fact that they are revealed proves
that the Lord thinks them to bc of value, and woe unto us if WC
pretend to be wiser than ho. We may say of any and evcr.v doct,rinc
of Scripture-“
To give it then B tongue is wise in mzm.”
If any one note is dropped from the divine harmony of t8rul,h
the music may be sadly marred. Your people may fall into grave.180 ON CONVERSION AS OUR AIM.
spiritual diseases through the lack of a certain form of spiritual
nutriment, which can only be supplied by the doctrines which you
withhold. In the food which we eat there are ingredients which
do not at first appear to be necessary to life; but experience
shows that they arc requisite to health and strength. Phosphorus
will not make kesh, but it is wanted for bone; many earths and
salts come under the same description-they are necessary in due
proportion to the human economy. Even thns certain trut,lls
which appear to be little adapted for spiritual nutriment arc, never-theless,
very beneficial in furnishing believers with backbone and
muscle, and in repairing the varied organs of Christian manhood.
We must preach “the whole truth,” that the man of God may bc
thoroughly furnished unto all good works.
Our great object of glorifying God is, however, to be mainly
.achieved by the winning of souls. We must see souls born unto
God. If we do not, our cry should be that of Rachel “ Give
me children, or I die.” If we do not win souls, we should mourn
,as the husbandman who sees no harvest, as the fisherman who re-turns
to his cottage with an empty net, or as the huntsman who
has in vain roamed over hill and dale. Ours should be Isaiah’ s
language uttered with many a sigh and groan–” Who hath be-lieved
our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?”
,The ambassadors of peace should not cease to weep bitterly until
sinners weep for their sins.
If we intensely desire to see our hearers believe on the Lord
Jesus, how shall we act in order to be used of God for producing
such a result? This is the theme of the present lecture.
Since conversion is a divine work, we must take care that WC
depend $ntaXy upon the Spirit of God, and look to him for power
over men’ s minds. Often as this remark is repeated, I fear WC
too little feel its force ; for if we were more truly sensible of our
need of the Spirit of God, should we not study more in depen-dence
upon his teaching ? Should we not pray more importu-nately
to be anointed with his sacred unction? Should we not in
preaching give more scope for his operation? Do we not fail in
many of our efforts, because we practically, though not doctrinally,
ignore the Holy Ghost? His place as God is on the throne, and
in all our enterprises he must be first, midst, and end: we are
instrument.s in his hand, and nothing more.
This being fully admitted, what else should be done if we hope
to see conversions ? Assuredly we should be care@ to preach
most prominently those trutlcs wAich are likely to lead to this end..ON CONVERSION AS OUR _4IM. 181
What truths are those ? I answer, we should first and foremost
preach Christ, and him cruc$ed. Where Jesus is exalted souls
are attracted ;–“ I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto me.”
The preaching of the cross is to them that are saved the wisdom
of God and the power of God. The Christian minister should
preach all the truths which cluster around the person and work
of the Lord Jesus, and hence he must declare very earnestly and
pointedly the evil of sin, which created the need of a Saviour.
Let him show that siu is a breach of the law, that it nccessitatcs
punishment, and that the wrath of God is revealed against it,.
Let him never treat sin as though it were a trifle, or a mis-fortune,
but let him set it forth as exceeding sinful. Let him
go into particulars, not superficially glancing at evil in the
gross, but mentioning various sins in detail, especially those most
current at the time : such as that all-devouring hydra of drunkcn-ness,
which devastates our laud; lying, which in the form of
slander abounds on all sides ; and licentiousness, which must be
mentioned with holy delicacy, and yet needs to be denounced
unsparingly. We must especially reprove those evils into which
our hearers have fallen, or are likely to fall. Explain the ten
commandments and obey the divine injunction: “ show mv
people their trausgressious, and the house of Jacob their sins.“’
Open up the spirituality of the law as our Lord did, aud show
how it is broken by evil thoughts, intents, and imaginations.
By this means many sinners will be pricked in their hearts. Old
Bobbie Flockhart used to say, “It is of no use trying to sew with
the silken thread of the gospel unless we pierce a way for it with
the sharp needle of the law.” The law goes first, like the needle,
and draws the gospel thread after it: therefore preach con-cerning
sin, righteousness, and judgment to come. Let such
!anguage as that of the fifty-first Psalm be often explained : sllow
that God rcquireth truth in the inward parts, and that purging
with sacrificial blood is absolutely needful, Aim at the heart.
Probe the wound and touch the very quick of the soul. Spare
not the sterner themes, for men must be wounded before they can
be healed, and slain before they can be made alive. No man will
ever put on the robe of Christ’ s righteousness till hc is stripped of
his fig leaves, nor will he wash in the fount of mercy till he pcr-ceives
his filthiness. Therefore, my bret,hren, we must not cease to
declare the law, its demands, its threatenings, and the sinner’ s
multiplied breaches of it.
Teach the dgwavity of human nature. Show men that sin is not an
x&lent, hut the genuine outcome of their corrupt hearts. Preach
the doctrine of the natural depravity of man. It is an unfashion-able
truth ; for nowadays ministers arc to be found who are very
fine upon “ the dignity of human nature.” The “ lapsed state of
Ill:tll " –that is the phrase-is sometimes alluded t,o, but the car-ruption
of our nature, and kindred themes are carefully avoided :
Ethiopians are informed that they may whiten their skins, and
it is hoped that leopards will rcmovc their spots. Bretlircn, yen
will not fall into this delusion, or, if you do, you may espect few
conversions. To prophecy smooth things, and to extenuate the
evil of our lost estate, is not the VW- to lcatl men to Jesns.
Brethren, the necessity for the IIoij~ Ghost’ s &the operations will
follow as a matter of course upon the former teac&ing, for dire
necessity demands divine interposition. Men must be told that
t’ hey are dead, and that only the Holy Spirit can quicken them ;
that the Sl)irit,works according to his own good pleasure, and that,
110 man can claim his visitationsor deserve his aid. This is thou$t
t’ o be very discouraging teaching, and so it is, bnt men need to be
discouraged when they are seeking salvation in a wrong manner.
T0 put them out of conceit of their own abilit,ics is a great help
toward bringing them to look out of self to another, even the
I lord Jesus. The doctrine of election and other great truths
which declare salvation to be all of grace, and to be, not the right
of the creature, but the gift of the Sovereign Lord, arc all calcu-lated
to bide pride from man, and so to preparc him 60 receive the
mercy of God.
We must also set bcforc our hearers the justice of God ant1
lJt~ certainty that euely tramgvession will 6e piwbld. ” Often
Illllst RU
“ Before them p!ace in dwnd rmay,
The pomp of that tremendous day
When Christ with cloutls shall come.”
Sound in their ears the doctrine of the second advent, not as a
ciiriosity of propliecp, but as a solemn ~xactical fxt. It is idle to
set fort11 our Lord in all the tinkling bravery of an earthly
kingdom, after the manner of brethren who believe in a revived
.Iudaism ; we need to preach the Lord as coming to jndpe the
world in righteousness, to summon the nations to his bar, and to
separate them as a shepherd divitletll the sheep from tile goats.
Paul pa&xl of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come,
and made Felix tremble : these themes are equally powerful now.
IVe rob the gospel of its power if we leave out its t~hreatenings of.ON CONVERSION AS OLR AIJI. 183
punishment. It is to be feared that the novel opinions upon
annihilation and restoration which have afflicted the Church in
these last days have caused many ministers to be slow to speak
concerning the last judgment and its issues, and consequently the
terrors of the Lord have had small influence upon either preachers
or hearers. If this be so it cannot be too much regretted, for one
great means of conversion is thus left unused.
Beloved brethren, we must be most of all clear upon the great
soul-saving doctrine of tl~e atonemant; WC must preach a real bon& fide
substitutionary sacrifice, and proclaim pardon as its rcsnlt. Cloudp
views as to atoning blood are mischievous to the last degree ; souls
are held in unnecessary bondage, and saints are robbed of the calm
confidence of faith, because they &e not definitely told that “ God
hat11 made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin, that we might
he made the righteousness of God in Him.” We must preach sub-stitution
straightforwardly and unmistakeabl,y, for if any doctrine
be plainly taught in Scripture it is this,–“ The chastisement of
our peace was upon Him, and with His stripes we are l~&d.” “He,
IIis own self, bare our sins in IIis own body on the tree.” This
truth gives rest to the conscience by showing how God can be just,
and the justifier of him that b&v&h. This is the great net of
gospel fishermen : the fish are drawn or driven in the right direc-tion
by other truths, but this is the net itself.
If men are to be saved, we must in plainest terms preach jus&
jcatio?h Zy faith, as the method by which the atonement becomes
effectual in the soul’ s experience. If we arc saved bp tbc substi-tutionary
work of Christ, no merit of ours is wanted, and all men
have to do is by a simple faith to accept what Christ has already
done. Jt is delightful to dwell on the grand truth that “ This man,
aft,er he had offered one sacrifice for sins for ever, sat down on the
right hand of God.” 0 glorious sight-the Christ sitting down
in the place of honour because his work is done. Well may the
soul rest in a work so evidently complete.
Justification by faith must never be obscured, and yet all arc
not clear upon it. I once heard a sermon upon “They that sow
in tears shall reap in joy,” of which the English was, ‘ ( Be good,
very good, and though you will have to suffer in consequence,
God will reward you in the end.” The preacher, no doubt,
believed in justification by faith, but IIC very distinctly pr~achctl
the opposite doctrine. Many do this when addressing children,
and I notice that they generally speak to the little ones about
loving Jesus, and not upon believing in him. Tllis must leave a.184 OZJ COXVERSION AS OUR BIY.
mischievous impression upon youthful minds and take them off
from the true wa_y of peace.
Preach earnestly tAe love of Cod in Cfwist Jesus, and magnify
the abouncling mercy of the Lord ; but always preach it in con-nection
with his justice. Do not estol the single attribute of love
in the method too generally followed, but regard love in the high
theological sense, in which, like a golden circle, it holds within
itself all the divine. attributes : for God were not love if hc
were not just, and did not hate every unholy thing. Never esal t
one attribute at the expense of another. Let boundless mercy be
seen in calm consistency with stern justice and unlimited sovc-reignty.
The true character of God is fitted to awe, impress, ant1
humble the sinner : be careful got to misrepresent your Lord.
All these truths and others which complete the evangelical
system are calculated to lead men to faith; therefore make them
the staple of your teaching.
Secondly, if we are intensely anxious to have souls saved we
must not only preach the truths which are likely to lead up to thi$
end, but we must use modes of luzndling those tmths whiclr we
likely to conduce tflereto. Do yen enquire, what are they ? First,
you must do a great deal by way of imtwction. Sinners are not
saved ilz darkness but from it; “that the socll be without know-ledge,
it is not good.” Men must be taught concerning themselves,
their sin, and their fall ; their Saviour, redemption, regenerat,ion,
and so on. Many awakened souls would gladly accept Gd’ s way
of salvation if they did but know it ; they arc akin to those of whom
the apostle said, “And now, brethren, 1: wot that through ignorance
yc did it.” If you will instruct them God will save them: is it
not written, “ the entrance of thy word giveth light “? If the Holy
Spirit blesses your teaching, t,hcy will see how wrong they hnvo
been, and they will be led to repentance ant1 faith. 1 do not
believe in that preaching which lies mainly in shouting, “ Jklievc !
believe I bclicve !” In common justice you are bound to tell the
poor people what they are to believe. There must, bc instruction,
otherwise the exhortation to bclievc is manifestly ridiculous, and
must in practice be abortive. I fear that some of our ort,hodos
brethren have been prejntliced against the free invitations of the
gospel. by hearing the raw, undigcstctl harangues of revivalist
speakers whose heads are loosely put together. The best way to
preach sinners to Christ is to preach Christ to sinners. Eshorta-tions,
entreaties, and beseeching, if not accompanied with sound
instruction, are like firing off powder without shot. You may.ON CONVERSION AS OUR AIN. 185
shout, and weep, and plead, but you cannot lead men to believe
what they have not heard, nor to receive a truth which has never
been set before them. “Because the preacher was wise, ho still
taught the people knowledge.”
While giving instruction it is wise to uppeal to the unde~*standi~~g.
True religion is as logical as if it were not emotional. I am not an
admirer of the peculiar views of MI. r Finney, but I have no doubt
that he was useful to many; and his power lay in his use of clear
arguments. Many who knew his fame were greatly disappointed
at first hearing him, because he used few beauties of speech and
was as calm and dry as a book of Euclid ; but he was exactly
adapted to a certain order of minds, and they were convinced and
convicted by his forcible reasoning. Should not persons of an
argumentative cast of mind be provided for? We are to be all
things to a11 men, and to these men we must become argumen-tative
and push them into a corner with plain deductions and
necessary inferences. Of carnal reasoning we would have none,
but of fair, honest pondering, considering, judging, and arguing
the more the better.
The class requiring logical argument is small compared with the
number of those who need to be pleaded with, by way of emotiowl
persuasion. Tlrey require not so much reasoning as heart-argument
-which is logic set on fire. You must argue with them as a
mother pleads with her boy that he will not grieve her, or as a fond
sister entreats a brother to return to their father’ s home and seek
reconciliation : argument must be quickened into persuasion by the
living warmth of love. Cold logic has its force, but when made red
hot with affection the power of tender argument is inconceivable.
The power which one mind can gain over others is enormous,
but it is often best developed when the leading mind has ceased
to have power over itself. When passionate zeal has carried the
man himself away his speech becomes an irresistible torrent, sweep-ing
all before it. A man known to be godly and devout, and felt
to be large-hearted and self-sacrificing, has a power in his very
person, and his advice and recommendation carry weight because
of his character; but when he comes to plead and to persuade,
even to tears, his influence is wonderful, and God the Holy Spirit
yokes it into his service. Brethren, we must plead. Eutreaties and
besecchings must blend with our instructions. Any and ever.y appeal
which will reach the conscience and move men to fly to Jesus we
must perpetually employ, if by any means we may save some. I
have sometimes heard ministers blamed for speaking of themselves.186 ON CONVERSION AS OUR AM.
when they are pleading, but the censure need not bc much
regarded while we have such a prcccdcnt as the csnml)le of
Paul. To a congregation who love you it is quite allowable
to mention your grief that many of them are unsaved, and
your vehement desire, and incessant prayer for their conversion.
You are doing right, w11en you mention your own cspcricncc of the
goodness of God in Christ Jesus, and plead with men to come
and taste the same. We must not be abstr&ions or mere oficials
to OLX pcxq~le, but we must plead wit,h them as real flesh and
I)lood, if we would see them convtrted. When you can quote
yonrsclf as a living instance of what grace has done, the plea is
t,oo powerful to Le witl~held through fear of being charged with
Sometimes, too, we must change our tone. Instead of instruct-ing,
reasoning, and persuading, we mnst come to threnteuing,
and declare the wrath of God upon impenitent souls. We must
lift the curt,ain and let them set the future. Show them their
tlanger, and warn them to escape from the wrath to come. This
done, we must retnrn to invitation, and set bcforc the awakened
mind the rich provisions of infinite grace which are freely pre-sented
to the sons of men. In our Master’ s name we must give
the invitation, crying, “ Whosoever will, let him take the water of
life freely.” Do not be deterred from this, my brethren, b,y those
nltra-Calvinist,ic theologians who say, “ You rna,y instruct and warn
the ungodly, but you must not invite or entreat them.” And why
not? “ Becnune they are dead sinners, and it is therefore absurd to
invite them, since they cannot come.” Wherefore then may we
warn or instruct them ? Tlle argument is so strong, if it be strong
at all, that it sweeps away all modes of appeal to sinners, and they
alone are logical who, after they have preached to the saints, sit
down and say, “ The election hat11 obtained it, and the rest were
blinded.” On what ground are we to address t,he ungodly at all’ ?
If we are only to bid them do such things as they are capable
of doing without the Spirit of God, we ace reduced to mere
moralists. If it bc absurd to bid the dead sinner believe and live,
it is equally vain to bid him consider his stat,e, and reflect upon
his future doom. Indeed, it would be idle altogether were it not
that true l)rcac~hing is an act of faith, and is owned by the Holy
Spirit as the nic2nis of working spiritual miracles. If WC were by
onrselves, and did not expect divine interpositions, we should be
wise to keep within t,he bounds of reason, and lxrsua,dc men t,o do
ody what we see in them the ability to do. We should then bid.ON CONVERSION A8 OUR AIM. 187
the living live, urge the seeing to see, and persuade the willing to
will. The task would be so easy tha.t it might even seem to he
superfluous ; certainly no special call of t,hc Holy Ghost would be
needed for so ver*y simple an undertaking. But, bret,hrcn, whcrc
is the mighty power and the victory of faith if our ministq
is this and nothing more? Who among the sons of men woultl
t,hink it a great vocation to be sent into a synagogue to say to a
l’ erfectly vigorous man, “ Eke up and walk,” or to the possessor
of sound limbs, (‘ Stretch out thine hand.” He is a poor Ezclricl
whose greatest achievement is to cry, “ Ye living souls, live.”
Let the two metllods be set side by side as to practical result,
am1 it will bc seen that those who never exhort sinners arc scldon~
winners of souls to any great estcnt,, but they maintain their
churches by converts from other systems. I have even heard them
s;~y, “ Oh, yes, the Methodists and Xevivalists arc beating the
hctlgcs, but we shall catch mauy of the birds.” If I harbourctl
such a mean thought I should be ashamed to express it. A system
which cannot touch the outside world, hut must leave arousing and
converting work to others, whom it judges to be uuso~mcl, writes
its own condemnat~ion.
l\gain, br&hren, if we wish to see souls saved, we must be wise
as to the times when WC address the unconverted. Very little
common sense is spent over this matter. Under certain ministries
there is a set time for speaking to sinners, and this comes as
regularly as the hour of noon. A few crumbs of the feast
are thrown to the dogs under the tabIc at the close of the dis-course,
and they treat your crumbs as you treat them, namcl~~,
with courteous indifference. Why should the wnrning word be
always at the hinder end of the discourse when hearers are most
likely to be weary ? Why give men notice to buckle on their
harness so as to be prepared to repel our attack “1 When their
interest is excited, and they are least upon the defensive, then let
fl,v a shaft at the careless, aud it will frequently be more effectual
than a whole flight of arrows shot against them at a time when
tlrey are thoroughly encased in armour of proof. Surprise is a
great element in gaining attention and fixing a remark upon the
memory, and times for addressing the careless should be chosen
wit,h an eye to that fact. It may be very well as a rule to scclc
the edification of the saints in the morning discourse, but it would
be wise to vary it, and let t.1~ unconverted sometimes have the chief
labour of your preparation and the best service of the day..1.88 ON CONVERSIOZi AS OUR AIL%
Do not close a single sermon without addressing the un$rodly, but
at the same time set yourseIf seasons for a determined and con-tinuous
assault upon them, and proceed with all your soul to
the conflict. On such occasions aim dist,inctly at immediate COW
versions; Iabonr to remove prejudices, to resolve doubts, to COW
quer objections, and to drive the sinner out of his hiding-places
at once. Sumtnon the cl7urch-members to special prayer,
beseech them to speak personally both with the concerned and the
unconcerned, and be yourself doubly upon the watch to address
individuals. We have found that our February meetings at t.hc
Tabcrnaclc have yielded remarkable results: the whole month
being dedicated to special effort. Winter is usually the preacher’s
harvest, because the people can come together better in tho long
evenings, and are debarred from out-of-door exercises a77d a7nnse-ments.
Be well prepared for the appropriate season when “kings
60 forth to battle.”
Among the important elements in the promotion qf conaersios
are your own tone, temper, and spioi,*it in preaching. If you preach
the truth in a dull, monotonous style, God may bless it, but in all
probability he will not; at s77y rate the tendency of such a style
is not to promote attention, but to hinder it. It is not often that
sinners are awakened by ministers who are themsclvcs asleep.
A hard, unfeelillg mode of speech is also to be avoided; want
of tenderness is a sad lack, and rep& rather than attracts.
The spirit of Elijah may startle, and where it is exceedingly
intense it may $0 far to prepare for the reception of the gospel ;
but for actual conversion more of John is needed,–love is the
win7iing force. We must love men to Jesus. Great hearts
are the main qualificatioas for great preachers, and we must
cuItivate our affections to that end. A t the same time o77r
manner must not degrcncrate into the soft arid saccharine cant
which some men affect who are for ever cZe&ng everybody, and
fawning upon people as if they hoped to soft-sawder them into
godliness. Manly persons are disgusted, and suspect hypocrisy
when they hear a preacher talking molasses, Let us be bold and
outspoken, and never address our hcarcrs as if WC were asking a
favour of them, or as if they would oblige the Redeemer by
allowing him to save them. We are bound to be lowly, but our
ofice as ambassadors should prevent our being servile.
Happy shall we be if we preach bclievia$rly, always expecting
the Lord to bless his own word. This will bpive us a quiet co&
dence which will forbid petulance, rashness, and weariness. If we.ON CONVERSION AS OUR AIM. 189
ourselves doubt the power of the gospel, how can we preach it with
authority ? Feel that yen are a favoured man in being allowed
to proclaim the good news, and rejoice that your mission is fraught
with eternal benefit to those before you. Let the people see how
glad and confident the gospel has made you, and it will go far
t,o make them long to partake in its blessed influences.
Preach very solemnly, for it is a weighty business, but let your
matter be lively and pleasing, for this will prevent solemnit,~
from souring int,o dreariness. Re so thoroughly solemn that all
your faculties are aroused and consecrated, and then a dash of
humour will only add intenser gravity to the discourse, even as a
flash of lightning makes midnight darkness all the more impressive.
Preach to one point, concentrating all your energies upon the
object aimed at. There must be no riding of hobbies, no
introduction of elegancies of speech, no suspicion of personal dis-play,
or you will fail. Sinners are quick-witted pt?OlJk?, and soon
detect even the smallest effort to glorify self. Forego everything
for the sake of those you long to save. Be a fool for Christ’ s sake I
if this will win them, or be a scholar, if that will be more
likely to impress them. Spare neither labour in the study, prayer
in the closet, nor zeal in the pulpit. If men do not judge their
souls to be worth a thought, compel them to see that their minister
is of a very different opinion.
Mean conversions, expect them, and prepare for them. Resolve
that your hearers shall either yield to your Lord or be without
excuse, and that this shall be the immediate result of the sermon
now in hand. Do not let the Christians around you wonder
when souls are saved, but urge them to believe ‘ in the un-diminished
power of the glad tidings, and teach them to marvel
if no saving result follows the delivery of the testimony of Jesus.
Do not permit sinners to hear sermons as a matter of course, or
allow them t,o play with the edged tools of Scripture as if they
were mere toys; but again and again remind them that every true
gospel sermon leaves them worse if it does not make them better.
Their unbelief is a daily, hourly sin; never let them infer from
your teaching that they are to be pitied for continuing to make
God a liar by rejecting his Son.
Impressed with a sense of their danger, give the ungodly no rest
in their sins ; knock again and again at the door” of their hearts,
and knock as for life and death. Your solicitude, your earnestness,
your anxiety, your travailing in birth for them God will bless to
their arousing. God works mightily by this instrumentality..130 ON CONVRRSION AS OUR AIM.
Hut our agony for souls must be real and not feigned, ant1
therefore our hearts must be wrought into true sympathy wil-h
God. Low piety means little spiritual power. Extremely
pointed addresses may be delivered by men whose hearts are out
of order with the Lord, but their result must be small. There
is a something in the very tone of the man who has been with
*Jesus which has more power to touch the heart than the most
perfect oratory: remember this and maintain an unbroken walk
with God. You will need much night-work in secret if you are to
gather many of your Lord’ s lost sheep. Only by prayer am1
fasting can you gain power to cast out the worst of devils. Let
men say what they will abo:lt sovereignty, God connects speci:il
success with special states of heart, and if these are lacking hc
will not do many mighty works.
AZ addition to earnest preaclhy it will be wise to use other means.
If you wish to see results from your sermons you must be accessible
to enquirers. A meeting after every service may not be desirable,
9 but frequent opportunities for coming into direct contact with
your people should be sought after, and by some means created.
It is shocking to think that there are ministers who have no
. method whatever for meeting the anxious, and if they do see
here and there one, it is because of the courage of the seeker, autl
not because of the earnestness of t,be pastor. From the very first
pou should appoint frequent and regular seasons for seeing all
who are seeking after Christ,, and you should continually invite
such to come and speak with you. In addition to this, holtl
numerous cnquirers’ meetings, at which the addresses shall be all
intended to assist the t,rouhletl and guide the pcrplcxed, and
with these intermingle fervent prayers for t,he individuals present,
and short testimonies frotn recent converts and others. As a11
open confession of Christ is continually mentioued in COIIIIC(‘ -t,
ion with saving faith, it is your wisdom to make it easy for
believers who are as yet following Jesus by night to come forward
and avow their allegiance to him. There must be no persuading
to make a profession, but there should be every opportunity for SO
doing, and no stumbling-block placed in the way of hopeful minds.
As for those who are not so far advanced as t,o warrant ally
thought of baptism, you may be of the utmost, benefit to them by
personal intercourse, and t,herefore you should seek it. Doubts
may be cleared away, errors rect,ified, and terrors dispelled by a
few moments’ conversation; I have known instances in which a
life-long miser.y has been ended by a simple explanation which
might have been given pars before. Seek out t,Ilc wanderiqg
sh(Aep one by one, and when you find all your thoqhts needed fol
a single individual, do not grudge your labour, for your Lord in
his parable represents the good shepherd as bringing home his lost
sheep, not in a flock, but one at a time upon his shoulders, ant1
rejoicing so to do.
With all that you can do your desires will not be fulfilled, for
soul-winning is a pursuit which grows upon a man; the more he is
reward4 with conversions the more eager he bccomcs to see
greater numbers born unto God. Hence you will soon discover
that yosb ?zeelE help $” many are to be bought in. The net soon
becomes too heavy for one pair of hands to drag to shore when it
is filicd with fishes; and your fellow-helpers must be beckonctl
to your assistance. Great things are done by the Holy Spirit
when a whole church is aroused to sacred energy : thm there
arc hundreds of testimonies instead of one, and these strengthen
each other; then advocates for Christ succeed cncb other ant1
work into each other’ s hands, while supplication ascends to heaven
with the force of united importunity ; thus sinners arc encom-passed
with a cordon of earnest entreaties, and heaven itself
is called into the field. It would seem hard in some congrega-tions
for a sinner t,o be saved, for whatever good he may receive
from the pulpit is frozen out of him by t& arctic atmosphere
with which he is surrouncIed: and on the other hand some churches
make it hard for men to remain unconvert,ed, for with holy zeal
they persecute the careless into anxiety. It should be our ambi-tion,
in the power of the Holy Ghost, to work the entire church
into a fine missionary condit,ion, to make it like a Leyden ja1
charged to the full with divine electricity, so that whatever
comes into contact with it shall feel its power. What can one
man do alone? What can he not do with an armv of enthusiasts
around him ? Contemplate at the outset the possibility of having
a church of soul-winners. Do not succumb to the nsual itlca, that,
we can only gather a few useful workers, and that the rest of the!
community must inevitably be a dead weight : it m:lp possibly so
halq~n, but do not set out wit,h that notion or it will be verified.
The usual need not bc the universal ; bcttcr things are possibh
than anything yet attained ; set your aim high and spare no effort
to reach it. Lnbour to gather a church alive for Jesus, evcrv
member energetic to the full, and the whole in incessant activit)
for the salvation of men. To this end there must be the best of
preaching to feed the host into strength, continual prayer io.192 O S COXVEGSIOX A S OUI: AIJf.
bring down the power from on high, and the most heroic csamplc
on your OWI~ prt to fire their zeal : then under the diviue blessing
a common-sense mana~gemcnt of the entire force cannot fail to
produce the most dcsirahle issues. Who among you can grasp
this irlea arid embody it in actual fact ‘?
To call in another brother every uow and then to take the lead
in evangelistic services will be found very wise and useful; fol
there are some fish that never will be taken in your net, but will
surely fall to the lot of another fisherman. Fresh voices pene-trate
where the accustomed sound has lost effect, and thy tend
also to beget a deel)cr interest in those already attentive. Sound
and prudent evangelists may lend help even to the most eflicient
pastor, and gather in fruit which he has failed to reach ; at any
rate it makes a break in the continuity of ordinary services, and
renders them less likely to become monotonous. Never suffer
jealousy to hinder you in this. Suppose another lamp should
outshine yours, what will it matter so long as it brings light t,o
those whose welfare you are seeking? Say with Moses, “ Would
God all the Lord’ s servants were prophets.” He who is free from
selfish jealousy will find that no occasion will suggest it ; his
people may be well aware that their pastor is excelled by others
in talent, but they will be ready to assert that he is surpassed
by none in love to their souls. It is not needful for a loving son
to believe that his father is the most learned man in the parish ;
he loves him for his own sake, and not because he is superior to
others. Call in every now and then a warm-hearted neighbour,
utilize the talent in the church itself, and procure the services
of some eminent soul-winner, and this may, in God’ s hands, break
up the hard soil for you, and bring you brighter days.
In fine, beloved brethren, by any means, by all means, labour to
glorify God by conversions, and rest not till your heart’ s desire is
f lllfilled.
Paawmre and Alabnhx, Steam Printers, 31, Little Britaiu, KU.


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