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Conclusion





We approach, at last, the end of our poor attempt. Its purpose has
been to furnish a reminder of some things that are absolutely essential
to the effective preaching of the Gospel. Let us recall the steps by
which we have come thus far upon our way.

And first, it appeared to us that for true preaching you must have the
true preacher; and the true preacher is he who, designated by Nature
and by Divine calling, endowment and baptism, has come to personal
certainty in respect of the great and vital truths committed to his
keeping. Surrendered to God and his work, he nevertheless realises
that among the trusts of which he holds stewardship is that of his own
individuality to be used for the ends he is sent to consummate. He is
a man of understanding gathered in the study of truth; of men; of the
Church; of his own heart; of many other fields of knowledge. He lives
in constant realisation of the greatness of his calling; the sublimity
of his message and the certainty of victory for Israel's side. His
soul is aflame with the passion of his labour; with devotion to his
Master; with a love for his fellows learned at the foot of the cross.
The supreme fact of his life is the fact of his own spiritual
experience and in holy, happy memories he finds continual evidence of
things Divine, and constant inspiration to prosecute his mission to the
end. He is a man whose heart God has touched for the sake of the
world. He is the chosen, qualified, and sworn ambassador of the King
of Kings. He is the very representative and mouthpiece of God and of
the Church to all with whom opportunity shall give him speech. In all
this he is the successor of the first-called and qualified of the
preaching band, making proof of his succession by faithfulness,
holiness and success. Such is the true preacher, whether separated
altogether to the work of the ministry or working with his hands, as
did the greatest preacher of the Apostolic band, that he may "not be
chargeable to any."

From speaking of the messenger we turned to mention what seem to us to
be the notes essential to a complete rendering of the message confided
to him for transmission. The notes of accusation and of pity, of
idealism and edification and cheer all need to be sounded by the
preacher who would go back, at last, to the Lord who sent him with the
joyful boast that he has "not shunned to declare the whole counsel of
God." Not only this, but we heard, as we came along our way, from the
lips of those to whom the preacher would speak, enough to prove that it
is for a message in which these notes are heard that they wait and
listen. The world longs for a Gospel which shall satisfy the mind,
guide the conscience and comfort the heart, the while it shows the way
to the best in the life that is and the life that is to come. Such a
Gospel we have. It remains only that we preach it in all its plenitude
and promise.

"That we preach it":--Of this actual preaching we have also had
something to say, both as to its form and as to certain great
principles to be remembered by the messenger always and everywhere. It
does matter much as to the manner in which the truth is expressed.
It is possible to prevent the glorious results the message should
produce by avoidable faults in the presentation of it. It is the
preacher's duty, for the truth's sake, to make his sermons so
attractive and so interesting that hearers shall not be repelled from
partaking of the Divine provision for hungry and thirsty souls. It is
his duty to make his sermons so simple in phrasing, so intelligible in
arrangement, so luminous by illustration that the average hearer shall
readily understand them. To the arts of persuasion and appeal he must
devote special attention, for the purpose of the sermon is to induce
men to believe and to act upon that belief. He must be a master of
argument and of tact. He must learn to use every occasion; to find and
enter every door; to turn everything to the advantage of his one great
end. The sermon must be at once a work of wisdom, of grace and of art.
It is the preacher's weapon in the warfare of his Lord. How carefully
it should be fashioned; how bright it ought to be, how sharp, to reach
the heart of the King's enemies!

And all these things we have brought to remembrance that, having them
before us, we may be the better able to answer the question with which
we started out:--Whether this preaching of ours is in any way to blame
for that spiritual and moral slide of which we hear so much? Are we
such men as we have seen that preachers ought to be; so surely
designated for our ministry; so wise; so sure; so full of the passion
of our calling? Has the message we have sought to deliver expressed
the whole that God has taught us and provided an answer to the deep
questions and strange perplexing needs of those to whom we have
ministered? Have the sermons in which our message has been set forth
always been the best attempt we could make to reach the ear, subdue the
mind and win the hearts of those who waited upon our utterance? Is
there any need for self-reproach on our part, or can we answer all
these questions with a gladness increasing with each successive reply?
The reader will have a rejoinder ready. We do not ask to hear it. It
will be enough that he whisper it to his own soul and into the ear of
God. It might be of infinite service to the Church and to our fellows
if, one and all, we pushed such an inquisition to an end in our secret
hearts.

There remains now only one word to be added, and that word, the reader
will perhaps have looked for earlier, for in every such discussion as
the present it must come to utterance. For two reasons we have
withheld it until the last and they are these. It is a word with which
every reader will agree, and it is the most important word which can be
spoken or written upon the subject. Is it necessary to say that it has
reference to the deepest and most constant of all the preacher's
needs--the need of the Holy Spirit as an abiding presence in his heart,
his mind, his work? Little did the Master say, as He charged those
early preachers, concerning the methods of their preaching; little also
as to its substance, but many were His words concerning the Holy Ghost
who was to be their teacher, their remembrancer, their comforter and
support. For Him they were to tarry "until the promise be fulfilled."

And they did so tarry, and lo, He came and the young men saw visions
and the old men dreamed dreams! Then, through the lips of plain,
unlettered, toiling men there broke forth a new evangel upon the age
which turned all the currents of the world. New things were spoken;
new ideals lifted up; new hopes proclaimed, but the secret energy of it
all was the new power that thrilled in every word.

New things the world had often heard, hopes, ideals, philosophies; some
one was always bringing such wares to market, as they bring them to
market still; but scarce a ripple on the sea of life did they one and
all produce. These words lived and burned. Life was in them, and
fire! That life and fire were His whose coming had filled the upper
room with wind and flame!

The Holy Ghost in the heart of the preacher, and therefore in his
message, filling every sermon with unction, spirituality, throb,
life--can there be effective and successful preaching without THIS?
No, never; study you never so hard; train you never so carefully; bring
to the work never such talents, such grace of diction, of construction,
of delivery. "It is not by might nor by power, but by My spirit saith
the Lord"!

And yet there is a duty of study and an obligation of training, and
it is incumbent that the most precious of our gifts be polished and
dedicated, that the best possibilities of argument, illustration and
delivery be attained. In preaching, as in all the works and ways of
life, God helps those who help themselves and nothing is worthy but the
noblest and the highest.

The Holy Ghost in the heart of the preacher honoured by the grandest
effort the preacher can make, the utmost faithfulness he can
display:--Can it be possible that in these words the twofold need of
this very hour finds definition? Can we be sure, that if such a
sentence were turned into a prayer, and came back upon us as a gracious
answer to cries that would not be denied, the multitudes would not turn
to us once again? What preaching would there be then; how warm would
be the sanctuary; what a house of healing would it become; what a place
of consolation and encouragement for hard-pressed men; how many
problems would find solution; what visions would form themselves upon
the darkened clouds overhanging many a human life! Preaching would be
a living thing. Can it be possible that here and now LIFE is its
greatest need and that the only way to obtain this life is by a return
to that upper room of long ago? So we end with a question, as with a
question we commenced. Since the world began it has been by the asking
of questions that men have come to truth.






Previous: On Appeal



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