The present crisis affecting the world is A CRISIS OF THE WORD. What is at stake is the authority of the Word of God, and the right and timely declaration of the same.
As preachers we must not only hold to it, but labour to understand it more, read it more, and by conference with right-minded, sober and faithful men, by painstaking study in private, by prayer and self-examination, by sorting out the wheat from the chaff among the bewildering sheaves of theological ‘works’, and by every other means, to know how to refuse the evil and choose the good, ‘till by the mercy of God we become effective preachers of the Word.
“Butter and honey shall he eat, that he may know to refuse the evil and choose the good” (Isaiah 7:15) This principle of the glorious life of our great Redeemer and most adorable Lord, must be, according to our measure, the principle operating effectively in those who, after Him and according to His Spirit, ‘prophesy in His name.’
There are those in the ministry who ought never to be in it. There are those who enter it prematurely and without due carefulness and preparation. There are far too many who think that two or three years in a seminary will give them what they need. There is an increasing emphasis in neo-Calvinistic circles on University degrees as an essential condition for ministry of the Word, and certainly as a preferential qualification for ‘recognition’ in the wider fields of evangelical eminence. No doubt Mr. Spurgeon would find himself right out in the cold. There are more ways than one of acquiring intellectual prowess, and the present state of the student world, with its revolt against authority and decency, gives one furiously to think.
There are many men who enter the ministry at too tender an age and would be better to give up for the time being at any rate, and earn an honest living while pursuing the wholesome discipline of intensive study while they await the Lord’s REAL call.
Even Mr. Finney, whose name is not exactly beloved in the circles in which we move, said many things which were right and timely, none more so than when he complained of that system which took a man straight from school, sent him to University and College, and then headlong into the pulpit having been carefully insulated from childhood against adequate contact with and knowledge of the hard, cruel, and weary world which has to suffer under his ministry. Better enter the ministry late than early. The Kingdom of God won’t suffer because of our delayed entrance into the pulpit.
Here are some things to avoid.
AVOID EVANGELICAL REVISIONISM.
It begins with textual ‘problems’ – mainly existing only in the imagination of pseudo-scholars. Beware of any suggestion that what is known as THE RECEIVED TEXT OF HOLY SCRIPTURE is a defective instrument, and that the Bible of the Reformation and of the Puritans badly needs revision and expurgation. Read Dabney on “The Various Readings of the New Testament” (“Discussions” published by the Banner of Truth) and reach his conclusion that if present tendencies of evangelical ‘scholarship’ have their way, “the natural result will be, that the church of God will finally have no New Testament at all”. Again, “It is very clear that, practically, the people must either trust the Bibles they have, or believe in none. For there is no practical substitute. No two critics are agreed…” Stick to your Authorised Version. It is the best yet, or ever will be.
It is likely that there will be no revival, in the accepted sense, in this age of judgment, only a testimony raised.
Ideas about gifts of healing of the body soon displace wholesome concentration on the healing of the soul. The modern ‘healing campaign’ is one of the greatest and cruelest frauds of modern time. Don’t waste time agonising for baptisms of ‘power’ and other ‘Pentecostal’ aberrations. Those who talk most about these things exhibit least of the thing they advocate. Supernatural signs In the New Testament are ‘the signs of an apostle’ (2Cor.12:12) - and whatever else you may be you are not an apostle nor ever will be. And don’t forget that the ‘signs’ included the power of transmission of gifts, which expired with the apostolic office. Be content with what God pleases to give you and stir up the gift
that is in you of preaching and understanding all the counsel of God, for you are on a road of faith, not sight. Don’t be diverted from the real issue which is scriptural doctrine and exposition.
AVOID DANGEROUS PROPHETICAL INTERPRETATIONS.
Any prophetical interpretation is dangerous and subversive which, carried to its logical conclusion, tells you that much of the Old Testament and quite a substantial part of the New, is ‘not for the Church but for the Jew.’ Don’t let these pretentious theories deprive you of a whole Bible to preach from, or shackle you to Sadducean interpretations which the Jew was rejected for holding and acting upon 2,000 years ago. Don’t fall a victim to the ‘accommodation’ compromise which allows you only to preach from many parts of the Bible as a kind of exercise in secondary interpretation, permitted to you by leave of the Jew.
REMEMBER that the Old Testament was the only Bible the early Church had, until gradually the writings of the New Testament were completed and circulated. Study the apostolic use of the Old Testament, from the quotations of it in the New – and you will get many shocks, and. much wholesome instruction on how NOT to handle the Word of God deceitfully. If you will let them, there are men alive today who will take from you, in the name of the evangelical faith, most of the O.T. and a large slice of the N.T., including the Book of Revelation, the chief guide, counsellor and comfort of the Church of God through the fair weather and foul of her voyage down the last 20 centuries. If you believe that the whole or the most of Revelation is compressed into a fulfillment of seven years when the Church is not here to be interested, you are welcome to your view, even if it converts you into an evangelical Ebionite.
AVOID MODERN HOLINESS TEACHING –
– from whatever respectable source it comes. The present day holiness-devotional teaching has no roots in the Reformation. It departmentalises the Christian life and makes Christ the minister of sin, in that it preaches the insufficiency of conversion to rectify the life. It proclaims that you can have a conversion without holiness and be assured of heaven while pursuing the world’s way. Exaggeration? Then listen to this: “I believe that this is the crux of the problem today; we all want to be saved from certain sins, but we don’t want Jesus Christ to be Lord of our lives.” (G.B. Duncan, Keswick, 1965). “Some people want only as much of God’s salvation as will keep them out of hell, and they measure out with unconscious precision how much worldliness and sin they can still hang on to without jeopardising their chances” (David Shepherd, Filey, 1965). This Is “conversion” without repentance. Flee from it.
AVOID THE MODERN ABUSES OF THE PRAYER MEETING
Keep its ‘free for all’ under better control. Prayer meetings should be carefully governed by the ministry of the Word of God. The great prayer meeting of Acts 4 was distinguished by the priority it gave to the Holy Scriptures and the Sovereignty of God - “Lord thou art God which hast made heaven and earth, and the sea, and all that in them is; Who by the mouth of thy servant David hast said.......” Study that pattern of
prayer the Lord gave to His Church in Matthew 6:9-13; and note the priorities and the relative place given to actual petition. Remember Solomon’s inspired words in Eccles. 5:2 “Be not rash with thy mouth, and. let not thy heart be hasty to utter anything before God for God is in heaven and thou upon earth; therefore let thy words be few.”
DON’T PRESSURISE YOUNG AND IMMATURE PERSONS TO GO INTO “FULL-TIME” CHRISTIAN SERVICE.
Immaturity and the thinnest veneer of ‘qualification’ are no substitute for the mighty ministry exhibited in the men and women of God who founded modern missions. We cannot all be giants, but at least we can learn how to sling stones, and how to choose them from what brooks.
Here is a paradigm of priorities for preachers mainly young:
1. Be sure of the inspiration of the Word in the most absolute and unqualified degree.
2. Read and re-read the Word in its entirety, from Genesis to Revelation, till you know it as well as you know your face in the mirror. Some evangel¬ical ministers have never yet read their Bibles through systematically from beginning to end,
3. Strive to attain a true method of interpretation. Discard all such childish and dangerous puerilities as Dispensationalism, Judaism (that “all belongs to the Jew”), Pentecostalism, and cut and dried Sanctificationism. The testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy. Christ is the centre of all Scripture, and His Kingdom is the goal of all prophecy. Everywhere in the New Testament that kingdom is interpreted as being spiritual and eternal, even though the quoted passages from the O.T. appear to be earthly, temporal and Jewish. The Four Gospels are not just historical records of the life of Christ. They are all that and very much more. They are prophetic in every incident. Every act and work of Christ is Word and doctrine, who is Himself the Eternal Word and Wisdom of God. Dig deep brother! Treasure lies hid where none is ever suspected to be. There was a hidden prophetic meaning why the water of Cana was turned into wine. Find it!
4. Master the English language. Know your mother tongue. Don’t pronounce such words as ‘applicable’ and ‘lamentable’ with the accent on the second syllable, when it is the first syllable which counts. The only offence, for which Mr. Churchill said he would whip a boy, was for not knowing his mother tongue. Mr. Churchill learned to write and speak the most powerful English by reading Gibbon’s “Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”. Half the world speaks English. It is a great language and Shakespeare is never out of date. Cultivate the imagination. Don’t be a story teller, but use figure, metaphor and simile to electrify your doctrine. The Holy Spirit lays no premium on culpable ignorance and laziness. Language is one of God’s greatest gifts, and is the final proof of reason and the soul of man. There is no need to bark like a dog, roar like a bull or bleat like a sheep. Speak up like a man.
5. Master the art of preparation, by learning to write as well as to read and speak. Writing develops thought and makes it intelligible. It brings up fresh water from the deepest well.
6. Develop an. apparatus of study. That is, find out what books you should use. Here are some which may be considered indispensable:
1. A good commentary (M. Henry, Brown’s Bible, Scott’s Bible).
2. A good history (D’Aubigne’s Reformation, or Wylie’s History of Protestantism - the present age is appallingly ignorant of Church History, especially the history of the Reformation, from which it is supposed to take its roots).
3. A complete Theology (Calvin’s Institutes).
4. The Westminster Confession of Faith, with the Sum of Saving Knowledge, and its advice on sermonising.
5. Boston’s Fourfold State to get acquainted with the Covenant (or Federal) Theology,
6. Owen on Hebrews (for method of breaking down a text or a passage).
7. Any volume of sermons of the Puritan or Covenan¬ting period., noting “doctrine”, divisions and uses.
8. Study Bunyan with the aid of Alexander Whyte’s “Bunyan’s Characters”. Eloquence and style will be fashioned anew thereby.
9. Rutherford’s Letters, one a day only. A. Whyte’s “Samuel Rutherford and his correspondents” will be found invaluable as a commentary.
10 Warfield on “Perfectionism” to keep your head above the waters of pseudo-devotionalism. You will also attend fewer ‘conventions’.
11. The works of Hengstenberg, Stier, Ebrard and (in lesser degree) Alford, will put you on the road to sane, balanced exposition, deep inner knowledge of the text of the Word, and the ultimate answer to modern unbelief. And don’t forget that Krummacher on “Elijah” and “Elisha” will teach you the power of the pulpit.
12. Good biography. The Life of Dr. Chalmers, for example, will revolutionise your English, enlarge your appetite for that which develops the mind, and give you wider spiritual horizons. Most biographies, however, are dangerous and misleading and ought never to have been written That is why Horatius Bonar specifically directed in his will that no-one should write his. Those biographies which tell of marvels in the answering of prayers for temporal provision deliverance are particularly dangerous. They standardise the idea that very few people have that sort of faith, and many impressionable young people do foolish things as a consequence. They call it ‘living by faith’ which they think means not earning their living, and waiting for some material thing to happen in a crisis. They ought to be told that the only time the Bible speaks about ‘living by faith’ it has to do with salvation.
You do not need to go to George Muller (great man though he was), or to Hudson Taylor, to discover that God is faithful. Every pious widow has in her cupboard a barrel of meal that does not waste and a cruse of of that does not fail, but no-one writes a book about it.
13. Don’t forget that the great secular authors have spiritual uses. Shakespeare, Spenser, Tennyson will give you an inexhaustible store of words and phrases, develop your powers of expression, and enlarge your imagination – unless you want always to speak in baby language.
14. High on your list of reading priorities place Augustine’s “Confessions”. They will show you the greatness of the soul of man and what it means to be redeemed by sovereign grace. In these confessions you will have converse with a mind which was one of the greatest gifts of God to any age, If you want to know yourself, and your own limited stature, read Augustine.
15. Develop your general knowledge. Glean in all pastures. Know the history of your own land and the birth-throes of Britain and modern Europe. A glance at Alison’s History of Europe, especially his brilliant excursus on the character of Russia in 1812, will rid you of many notions, and at least you won’t be too much bothered as some of our American friends are with the bogey of Russian Communism.
16. To round off your education and complete your Calvinism; clothing the idea of the divine Sovereignty with the ineffable glory of the doctrine of the Holy Trinity, read William Law’s “Spirit of Love” and “Spirit of Prayer” ----- but not, NOT, we solemnly warn you ---
NOT till you have got a mind strong enough and a faith virile enough to take it.
After forty years of the discipline hereinbefore described, you will feel yourself just about ready to begin the real pursuit of Divine knowledge. You may also tag along, if you wish, without any of these things, splashing in the shallow waters of the theological thought of the Twentieth century, but though you may think well of yourself, the angels will shake their heads.
[End of Part 1 of 2]
Supplement to Broad sheet No.8
ADVICE TO YOUNG PREACHERS
(Concluded from our last issue).
"If you consider yourself learned and imagine you have attained your goal, and feel proud of your booklets, preaching, and writing, as though you had done marvellously and preached wondrously, and if you are pleased because people praise you before others - and you must be praised or otherwise you feel like giving up; if you are minded like that my friend, just grip yourself by the ears, and, if you grip rightly you will find you have hold of a fine pair of big, long, shaggy donkey ears. Then go a little further and adorn yourself with golden bells so that wherever you go people can hear you coming and will say, 'Behold! There is that wonderful man who can write such excellent books and preach so remarkably.' Then certainly you will be blest, yes, more than blest, in that Kingdom where the fire of hell has been prepared for the devil and his angels."
The writer? Martin Luther (Psalm 119).
A preacher of the Word must seek the glory of Christ and the salvation of his hearers - in that order.
The missing note in preaching, even amongst so-called Calvinist and "Reformed" preachers, is often the glory, majesty and beauty of the Lord Jesus. We have heard magnificent expositions of high doctrine – but no Christ. We have heard great, excursive travelogues about Christian 'experience' with scarce a mention of the Son of God. Seneca and Marcus Aurelius could do just as well without a Bible. Here is a Stoicism on the grand scale, baptised with the Christian name – but no Christ to sanctify it and reduce it to worship, praise and adoration of Him who sits upon the throne.
Count up the verses of 1 Corinthians 1, and see how many times the name of Christ is mentioned. This is typical of Pauline exposition. Make it typical of yours. Before you commence your catalogue of instruction on the principles of Christian behaviour, do as Paul does in Romans 12, and learn, before any exercise in Christian ethics, to lay a foundation of Christian worship and gratitude and thankfulness for unspeakable and undeserved mercy – "I beseech you brethren, by the mercies of God, that you present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable unto God, which is your reasonable service."
And remember that the mercies to which the apostle refers in Rom.12:1 are those he has been expounding in the preceding chapters – mercies of grace, election, sovereign and free mercy, and redemption in Christ Jesus. The rule always is, "If ye love me keep my commandments." (John 14:15). There is no obedience save that which is founded upon adoring love and worship of the Redeemer.
When you have prepared a sermon therefore, go over your notes and ask yourself, "Where in this sermon has Christ been glorified? Does the whole revolve around Him and present Him to the sinner as the only Saviour and to the saint as the Beloved in whom alone we are accepted?"
It will aid you in the preparation of right sermons if you can sum up all you have tried, to say in one sentence. The old divines were accustomed to stating their "doctrine" first, then expounding -it.. Try their method.
We have said (in our last edition) that many suppose, a year or two in college will qualify them for the pulpit. We are bound to say also that many others boast of no such advantages, but unlike Mr. Spurgeon they have made no real effort to improve their minds and develop their powers and gifts.
Many expect success to come to them with no effort or travail on their part. Something they call 'revival' is going to solve their problems and put them on the map.
We have heard the great talking their way through an hour's sermonising which the discerning see clearly has no preparation or thought behind it. It is easy for some men to talk, and right well they do it.
We have heard asses speaking with man's voice, but unlike Balaam's unfortunate little beast, they have rebuked no-one.
Do not under-rate the power of the pulpit, The Christian ministry is primarily the exposition of the Word. We have heard it said that there is a pastoral side and a pulpit side. This is a false division. The pulpit is the chief pastoral function - the feeding of the sheep. To go through the entire Bible, explaining its teaching and enforcing its doctrine is to lead the sheep into green pastures and beside still waters. To do this adequately some men will need to stay much longer in the same pulpit than they are wont to do in these days of easy, quick (and ambitious) change.
DON'T EXPECT A MILLENNIUM.
Anyone who thinks that the revival of Reformed and Calvinistic teaching will bring in the Millennium is mistaken. It won't. But there will be no sort of future without it. Nothing else will stand in the evil days now coming upon us. Arminianism (the doctrine of the sovereignty of human initiative in salvation) is bound to fall ignominiously in the ruthless war which now lies ahead of us when a total effort is being made to crush out of human thought the very conception of God, and when the lying subtlety of the Evil One would, if it were possible, deceive the very elect. The coming down¬fall of Arminianism is already exemplified in the capitulation of Dr. William F. Graham ("Billy" to his friends) to Rome and to ecumenicalism. His own well-edited newspaper has just told us of the honorary degree recently conferred upon him by an American Roman Catholic educational institution. They who know their God will "be strong and do exploits" is a word which belongs to those who know Him as God Absolute, in sovereign and grand control of all causes and events, and who doeth according to His will in the army of heaven and amongst the inhabitants of the earth....".
EXHORTATIONS AND PROHIBITIONS.
Learn to preach. Don't just stand there as though you are trying to hold down a lectureship. You are dealing with souls as well as minds. Move the feelings of your hearers by moving your own with judicious discretion.
Be lively and earnest. Speak with conviction and authority, as though you believe what you say and say what you believe, and that what you say is life or death to the hearer.
But don't get hysterical. Avoid extravaganza and pantomime or, as the Westminster Confession aptly says, 'cadences of voice which lead the hearer to despise the man or his message.'
Don't be dramatic. Don't overdo it. At the same time don't be cold and impassive, and oh! so insufferably solemn.
Don't bellow. You'll shatter the deaf aids of the hard of hearing and you'll fill the auditorium with confused sound so that even those with sharp ears will find it offensive. more important than decibels is articulation.
Avoid comical and embarrassing mannerisms.
Don't address your hearers with one hand in your trouser pocket. It's rude. We've noticed some Americans have developed the habit of addressing God in prayer in the same attitude. Don't copy them. And don't adopt that most stupid of poses known as "College Stoop".
Don't be nervous. Don't perspire before you go in. Don't suffer agonies beforehand. They're only people you are going to talk to, and they need you, and you know – or ought to know – a great deal more about your subject than they do. Nervousness is not a sign of anxiety for souls, but a subtle form of pride - the fear of not doing well before the crowd, or the penalty of inadequate and perfunctory preparation.
We have seen men like caged bears going around before a meeting as though they cannot rest.
Be faithful to your text. It is the Word of God, and you may be answerable for making it say something which God never intended. Don't be like the very famous preacher (whose name we durst not even hint at) who spoke at a great convention gathering on two phrases gathered at random from unrelated texts, and hung upon them an address which had not the vaguest relationship to the respective passages. The phrases were: "Follow me and I will make you;" and "That we might be made" (Mark 1:17; 2 Cor.5:2l). The former relates to the calling of the apostles, the latter to the doctrine of justification, but the celebrated man borrowed them for an entirely different purpose, namely, to show how God can make us into all kinds of shapes and all manner of vessels, whether for utility or ornament. He could have done just as well with a couple of lines from Shakespeare.
Be discriminate about the use of the first person singular and the second person plural. Don't talk AT your congregation; talk TO them. "We" is often preferable to "I" or "You" for it associates yourself with your fellow-sufferers and you don't sound so very superior and dictatorial.
Wit is a God-given faculty and its root meaning is "wisdom". Don't be too inhibited. Sometimes wit puts a sharp edge on hardened steel. It can arrest and stimulate a moribund congregation. But be awfully careful it is God-given wit and not foolery, and keep it on the tightest rein. If it arises naturally out of your matter, it won't harm, but if it is introduced for its own sake it is an error which can prove fatal.
Don't say anything out of place. Don't use words like 'sex' which in correct English has nothing to do with modern perversion of meaning. Christ spoke of adultery. Nor must you use the term 'homosexual' even though it is embodied in an Act of Parliament. It is a word specially invented by modern psychology to make the vilest of sins sound harmless. Paul speaks of sins which are 'against nature'. Stick to Paul. The guilty will know what you mean well enough.
Nor must you be always harking back to certain sins of the flesh as though there were not others to which we may be more prone - lying, malice, envy, spite, anger, pride.
Contrary to what is usually said, don't expect sudden conversions every time you preach, and don't agonise for them beforehand as though God needs persuading to fulfill His promise to Christ that "all the Father giveth me shall come me to me". The souls aren't yours, but Christ's. God does not need pleading with to save sinful men. Rather ask God for grace to be faithful, clear and plain, and not to let you say foolish things or handle the Word of God deceitfully. Then patiently and confidently leave the issue with Him. Most true conversions lie at the end of a long process, like the seed sown in secret….
Remember how men like Bunyan, Boston and Augustine were converted, and don't forget that in the case of the Dying Thief, he was dying. He had less than half a day to live. It had to be quiet.
Avoid those evangelical-fallacies. Pay no heed to the story told of a famous evangelist who once heard the statement made, "The world has yet to see what God can do with one man fully yielded to Himself;" as though Paul had never lived, or Peter or Augustine, or Athanasius, or Luther, or Calvin, or Knox. If the great man did indeed reply, "I'll be that man," he wasn't anyway, and neither will you be. The whole idea springs from the modern focus on man and the switch from the divine to the human in modern theology and evangelism.
Don't lie abed in the morning. Any man who ever did anything rose early – except Mr. Churchill, but then he did not go to bed till two or three in the morning. Samuel Rutherford rose at 5 a.m.
Be grown up about prayer. Prayer is not just petition; it is the highest act of communion with God. It is not an attempt to bend the will of God to our shape but the earnest desire of a soul soaring in the high atmosphere of the holy Presence, to be conformed to the will of God. Its highest expression was in the Gardens "Not my will but thine be done, even if I must drink this cup."
If you would pray well in the pulpit, soak yourself in the Psalms of David, particularly the 119th psalm, and learn from that manual of prayer, praise and petition how to approach God and what petitions to frame. Pulpit prayer means hard work.
If you can do all this and lift yourself above praise and blame; if you will work hard and sweep aside with the contempt it deserves the pulpit rubbish of today; if you can be fearless and faithful and have a sound mind as well as the Spirit of love and power; if you will attend to your personal cleanliness and clean your teeth every time you go to meet your people; if you will keep yourself clean and sweet within and without; if you can keep your head when the entire evangelical world is losing its; if you can be humble before God as well as resolute before men – yours will be the pulpit and all that goes with it, of joy and sorrow, patience and tears, and what is more, you may in another place hear Someone say, in a glorious day without a cloud, "Well done, good and faithful servant. Thou hast been faithful in a very little…"
THE ART OF THE PREACHER
By August Hermann. Francke (1691).
The following extract is from a treatise never before seen in English, and recently translated from the German by Mr. J.H. Manton, M.A., of Loughborough, England. It is used here by the kind permission of the translator.
What procedure ought to be followed in teaching and preaching, so as to produce real fruit in the church? My answer to this broad question is as follows:
(1) Take great care that in this demand for a certain procedure you do not make conversion into a work of man, consisting of a particular knack and technique. For Paul says our faith must stand in demonstration of the spirit and of God's power (l Cor.2:5).
(2) You must not tie down God and the work of the Holy Spirit to any particular thing. For experience will show that where God's work is most sought for, there it is least met with, and that a word or discourse on which you place least reliance strikes nearest home. This is how God casts down all human cleverness, art and wisdom, and demonstrates that even God's foolishness is wiser than men.
(3) Above all, you yourself must have a proper grasp of divine truth and be in a state of genuine faith that works by love, You must submit from the heart to God's leading (the only wise leading there is); beware of robbing God of the glory of His work through your vain desire for conversions, but rather go on with a quiet mind, following gladly and undismayed in the holy footsteps of the Lord, taking no personal credit for any fruit that is produced, nor regarding the lack of it as a reflection on yourself. Do not let yourself be dazzled by increasing numbers, since many who fled from Egypt were destroyed in the wilderness, but rather, with Paul, see to it that as God's steward you are found faithful. He who lives this kind of life will be shown by God Himself the way he should go. He will guide him with His eye. But he who knows nothing of this way has a wearisome, difficult office with many worries and anxieties; he will frequently start things at random, and even if he were given a procedure to follow, he would still be like a man who has been given a precious remedy, but who does not know how to apply it when faced with all the various circumstances of the illness, the people concerned, and so on. In short, preaching and teaching is not an art, but a work of the Holy Spirit, and even if it is an art, the Holy Spirit must still be the master who teaches you the art, and you must always remain His disciple. Never aim to become a "master" of preaching, else you will spoil it, however, well you do it. Thus Paul writes: "We having the same spirit of faith, according as it is written, I believed, and therefore have I spoken, we also believe, and therefore speak". (2 Cor.4:13).
Granted all these assumptions, it still remains true that, both in nature and in His work of grace, God shows Himself to be God of order; in neither sphere does He ever "put the cart before the horse". So Paul requires that Timothy shall "rightly divide the word of truth". For this reason a teacher of the gospel can see in scripture the order which God observes in the conversion of men . This will enable him to recognise all the more clearly the manifold wisdom of God, and in his own experience to submit all the more wholeheartedly to the sovereignty of the blessed Holy Spirit, thereby coming into line with the way Christ and His apostles taught. A man may be upright in heart without having properly learnt how to feed the flock as the faithful Chief Shepherd does. He wants to walk more closely in His footsteps, and an approach such as this may shed clearer light on those sacred footsteps.
WHAT COLLEGE SHOULD I GO TO?
The following is written in reply to a student who asked for advice on degree courses in theology with a view to (a) the Ministry, (b) the teaching profession:-
You present me with a real dilemma in your letter, for the present outlook with regard to the colleges is so confused and frustrating. You are right up against the futilities and corruptions of the London University course and many have turned from it in disgust, or swallowed it down with the utmost distaste. You would need prayerfully to examine your soul on this point and decide whether to take part with Moses who esteemed the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt (Heb.11). Is our lot in these days to go to Christ 'outside the camp' bearing His reproach? Or do these scriptures apply in a problem like your own, where there is no question of surrendering Christ for worldly advantage? These are questions only you can answer in the end.
There is another point which may be helpful. It is as to whether anyone can ever be truly qualified to teach divinity who has not already sustained a pastoral ministry. My own opinion is very definite, that one of the things we are suffering from these days (and for a few generations past) is that divinity has become a profession, by-passing the pastoral office. The prime example of the true combination of the two is in John Owen, in his greatest work (the greatest work of the Puritan era in fact) his Epistle to the Hebrews. You will observe that it is written in sermonic style, and comes from the vestry more than the study, the pulpit rather than the desk. The former divines were first and foremost pastors and preachers. Most of Matthew Henry's commentaries were delivered first of all in the pulpit. The theology of Luther, Calvin and Knox grew directly out of their pastoral ministries. It is this which made their divinity so power¬ful and so relevant. I cannot see any justification for abandoning this way. Most of our theologians today are not divines, and most of our divines are not theologians. This divorce between desk and pulpit I think is fatal to both preaching and theology.
It is in the light of all this that I would with all due caution counsel you to proceed with the utmost care, taking all into account, and considering whether the great call today is not rather for young men who can preach the full counsel of God with conviction, animation, urgency and know¬ledge.
I know that this in itself raises a fresh series of problems. It is hard for young men of conscience to find their way into the pulpit, and it is so much easier to take the denominational way with its ready stipends and attractive opportunities. But how long will these things last? We may have to come down yet to circles of believers whose pastor has to earn his own living in the ordinary way. Already in most parts of the country the average evangelical congregation is round the 30-50 mark and is likely to stay there. This may be the Lord's appointment to enable the sheep to be cared for in an evil time. Most preachers fancy themselves swaying the multitudes like Spurgeon. We have got to get those fancies out of our system and learn to take the hard road with Christ in an evil day. Here and there the Lord chooses to plant strategic communities in great numbers for special purposes, but these are not His normal workings.
Success is apt to be measured on the human level by the crowds, which throng, and the faithful man who ministers to the few is rated rather low, but maybe he is more likely to shine forth as the sun in the Kingdom of the Father than many of the popular Thunderers.
COUNSEL FOR YOUNG PASTORS
(The following article is from an address given by Mr. Charles D. Alexander to a young man at his induction to his first Pastoral Charge, circa 1968).
This is a solemn time for a man to be set apart for the ministry of the Word. And be very sure that you ARE so set apart. Because you have not had an approved college course, you are nonetheless a minister of the Word than Mr. Spurgeon, who also had no college course. Because the hands of the presbytery have not been laid upon you, yours is not an inferior kind of appointment any more than was Mr. Spurgeon’s who was never ordained by man; nor was John the Baptist, nor Amos the prophet, nor a great many more that we could mention. If Martin Luther’s only ordination was what he received at the stained hands of Rome’s Bishops, he too was never ordained, and a hundred thousand more.
Furthermore, let me impress upon you that you are no less set apart for the ministry by reason of the fact that you will continue to earn your living in a secular occupation. Many a good man has had to earn his daily bread while preaching the gospel to a regular congregation. Even William Carey was reproached with pursuing a secular occupation as though this meant he was no Minister of the Word - Or that he was some sort of second class Minister. His reply is world famous: “My business is to preach the gospel: I cobble shoes to pay expenses.” In any case, the day has now gone by when this slur has any meaning. There are plenty of Ministers today in Britain who are glad to take part time jobs to eke out their slender salary. Don’t forget that Paul was a tent making apostle who, when the circumstances demanded, worked with his hands not only to supply his own needs, but also those who were with him.
I know already that you do not suffer from any foolish sense of inferiority in the presence of those who have had a more formal or academic introduction to the Ministry. You have met too many already of this vintage to fear an encounter with them. The knowledge of modern science and art which some of these young gentlemen bring with them from the corridors of learning is indeed impressive, but their knowledge of the Bible not so good. They are often up to date with the latest out-of-date Bible theory, and can tell you very readily why you cannot trust the sacred volume, but we are still waiting for one of them to adopt the role of the super-prophet and tell us where truth may be found if not in the Holy Scriptures.
However, I need only remind you of the words of David – another who came into the ministry by an unorthodox road: Psalm 119: 99-100.
You will not of course decry true scholarship, and you will seek instruction from the best teachers, living, or dead - mostly dead, I think. But you will try the teachers, as to whether they be of God or no, for many false prophets are gone out into the world. Like Mr. Spurgeon, you have already used your time well and have read prodigiously with a retentive mind. Your teachers have been tried and proved, and they have been the greatest of all scholars. You have sat at the feet of the early Church Fathers and imbibed something of their spirit and piety. You have had special regard for the greatest of them all that man of gigantic mind and experience, Augustine of North Africa. You have met and conversed with the greatest of the Reformers, and have learned divine truth almost from the very lips of Luther and Calvin. You have met the best of the Puritans, you are conversant with the Wesley’s and the Whitefield’s of the 18th century, and finally you have had your theological education leveled off and prepared to combat the devilish errors of modern times by the help you have received from the theo1ogians of the last century, who stood against the new Rationalism then rising in Germany. Chief amongst these were those towering warriors of learning and of faith, Ernest Hengstenberg and Rudolf Stier, with whom you are well acquainted.
You have not done much with the men of the 20th century, but your piety has not suffered in consequence, and when we look around and see what theological rationalism and Bible-scorning infidelity have done for most of the great denominations we are not disconcerted. You have the answer to modern rationalism and 20th century apostasy, and you have it from the unanswerable labors of those great men of last century whose eagle eye saw what was coming and sounded the Alarm of War while the enemy was still mustering at the gate.
You are called upon, sir, to be faithful to Christ, and that means faithfulness to His Word. Nothing is known of Christ in this wide world but what we have in the Sacred Volume, therefore your first duty is to be faithful to this Word which we declare (and which you accept) as divinely and verbally inspired, the on1y rule of faith and conduct; the Bible, all the Bible, and nothing but the Bible. You will perhaps be mixing at times with men who don’t speak that language, who may be charming in their attitude to a young man like yourself, but who secretly in their hearts despise your naive faith and your so-called Bibliolatry. Don’t commit yourself to them. Don’t be patronized by them. Don’t be a lick-spittle to their false and infidel theology. Don’t try to commend yourself to them. Let them know right away there is a Declaration of War between you and all the sort of them. They are doing the devil’s work and are the devil’s dupes and agents, who deny one phrase or sentence of this Holy Book. They are destroyers of faith and of mankind who destroy faith in this Book.
You are already on treacherous and forbidden ground, young man; the very instant you make the slightest concession to their errors. You owe more to the souls given to your charge than you do to the pretensions of such men. The last battle is oh, sir. Don’t compromise. The Judge is at the gate. Don’t seek to please men. Be a marked man for Christ. Let them say of you, “That man is dangerous - watch him. That man is a trouble maker - get rid of him.” Rejoice and be exceeding glad, for so they said of the prophets, which went before you.
Make this Book your constant companion. Never harbor a doubt that it was not only divinely sent from heaven in all its parts, but likewise divinely preserved and transmitted so that nothing has been lost, nothing altered, and nothing added. Beware of those who say, “Ah! The originals were inspired but they are lost; what has come down to us is not what was originally given. As for the AV….” Beware I say of men who speak like this. They don’t speak as scholars, for no true scholar would say such a thing. They speak as doubters and scorners, as ignorant and obtuse. They are not friends of Christ and of truth. Don’t compromise, I say, not, at any cost. Nail your colors to the mast.
A British Admiral once said, “I’ve taken the depth to a fathom, And will sink with a right good will: For I know when we’re all of us under the tide - My flag will be fluttering still.”
We repeat: this is a grave and solemn time for a man to be set apart for the Ministry of the Word. There never was a time when the advice of Alexander Whyte was more appropriate: when answering the question of a young man, “Should I enter the ministry?” “Don’t,” he said, “unless you cannot do anything else.”
It is a solemn and serious time because the devil is a reality. In every field of human experience today there is a conspiracy of hell to destroy the truth, and in its place to exalt sin, vice, and violence. You are up against all the power of hell itself, and there is only one weapon, which the devil respects, and that is the truth. When we say “the truth” we mean the Bible and the right understanding and propagation of it.
For the first time in human history the atheistic spirit has moved into the Church visible and grins and shouts from thousands of pulpits that the Bible is out. That is how serious it is today. There is no other weapon with which to strike down the devil. Coffee bars, youth clubs, birth pills for teenagers, loads of education on the facts of life - these are barriers of straw to the raging Atlantic billows from the ocean of Satanic lies, which have broken through our dykes and are now inundating our civilization.
It is a fearfully solemn time to he inaugurated to the office of the Christian ministry, not only because of the foot of Satan, but also because of the fact of the flesh. Know your own self, and your own limitations, young man. Don’t be ambitious. Don’t try to be a Spurgeon or a Whitefield. God has broken that mould, and you are already too late in life anyway. The flesh would exalt you in your own eyes, and make you think you are greater than you are. Remember the words of the great apostle: “Who is Paul? Who is Apollos? Who is Cephas?” We might add, “And where were they a few years after Paul uttered the words?” Your life is short. Already your time is running out. A short time after your departure not even your name will be known on earth. Make sure therefore that it is known in heaven, and it will be best known there as you reckon yourself at your exact size in relation to Christ, who is all, and of whom alone it is written that He rides prosperously because of truth, meekness and righteousness. Beware of the flesh as it stirs up the lower passions. Many strong men have gone down because they did not watch and pray; and never think yourself that you are stronger than other men, when the apostle himself said, “Lest after having preached to others….”
It is a dreadfully solemn time in which to be instituted to the Ministry, because of the world and its present state, There are three great enemies which are destroying the church in the world, today; Rationalism, Romanism, and Ecumenicalism. They are the three evil spirits like frogs, which are foretold in the latter days, which shall go forth on the face of the earth to gather all nations together to the last battle against God Almighty. They existed in Judaistic times - the Sadducees, the Pharisees, and the Herodians. They are a hundred times more potent today. Beware or them. Rationalism destroys the Bible; Romanism substitutes for it the rags and bones of pagan superstition. Ecumenicalism is the product of them both - a false unity only to be attained by the sacrifice of the fundamentals of the truth.
There is an over-riding fact of time, which makes this an almost terrifying moment for a man to be instituted to the Ministry. They are talking today about new discoveries - a new age - what will happen in the year 2,000 AD. But that age may never be reached. The climax of the ages is not in the year 2,000. It is NOW. NOW is the moment of decision. Before man destroys himself from off the face of the earth, God will act. At any moment now the Lord will return. How the Pharisees laugh, and what a loud guffaw is heard from the tobacco-drenched dens where the Sadducees meet to get rid of the Bible. “The Lord is coming! Hear this, ye wise and prudent! Here is a man who actually believes the world is coming to an end and that Christ will return in glory and power”.
But it is true. It matters nothing that the world is on the verge of exciting change; that science is reaching a most thrilling moment. The world could not end just now! But it can, just as a man is cut down in sudden death. The fatal thrombosis seizes him and takes him away, to leave behind him his half-matured plans and his half-finished tasks. Man’s work can never be complete anyway. What matters is the completion of God’s task – and if we mistake not, that task is nearly ended. When that moment of completeness comes, and God’s task of redemption is ended; when every last one given to Christ before the foundation of the earth, is safely in, and the uttermost has been done to bring to Christ His crowning glory, then something more than a fatal thrombosis will seize upon universal nature. The fire of God’s judgment will consume all the works of man. The vast constellations of heaven will be shaken down and vanish away. Time will recede, the veil will be drawn aside, and we shall see the king in His beauty. There shall no longer be incompleteness, tears, pain, or dying. Parting will be no more, and the wicked will cease from troubling.
The Bible critics want to take this away. They say this is folly, but it isn’t. It is hope. Only with the final dismissal of time, and the rolling up of the sky, can that chapter be ended which has filled all creation with groaning and tears: “Lo He comes with clouds descending….”
The Bible is the only Book, which gives us any assurance on this point, and YOU of all people don’t need for me to tell you that no volume is better attested by evidence human and divine; the facts of the Word of God are beyond dispute, and he who would be wise had better just bow his head before these sacred oracles and pray that in the face of all this blinding light, his soul might become as a weaned child.
You must not only KNOW all this and be firmly and unshakably rooted therein, but you must make yourself competent to assert, defend, and preach it in any company.
You must be fearless in the proclamation of this Word. You must he uncompromising with error, and you must not accommodate yourself to men of doubt. Remember what David said in the first Psalm: “Blessed is the man who walketh not….”
You must be fearless of the charge of being counted a trouble¬maker; an obscurantist and a disturber of churches, for nothing else will avail in the last crisis to which we are now exposed.
If’ you are not sure of your credentials, turn back now, young man, while there is time, but if you know Christ and are sure of Him; if He to you is Savior, Redeemer and Lord: if you believe this to be His life giving and creative Word, His wisdom and power enclosed in the covers of a Book, to be released in preaching by the Power of the Holy Spirit, then go ahead and preach all of it, leave nothing out, shun not to declare all the counsel of God - and God will bless you in the doing of it, and in due time, His time (not your time), He will vindicate His Word through you.