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which, out of preaching, deprives it of its virtue and furnishes ground for the charge of "imbecility” that has been brought against it.
It will, I trust, be seen that it is not to preaching, so much as to the sort of it that goes on, that the weakness is attributable. There is preaching, so called, that is not preaching, and the word does not belong to it.
In the first place, a preacher is one who speaks with anthority; not that an express divine commission is here alluded to, however important that may be thought; but such authority is meant as a man will use who is sure of his premises. He will not allow them to be disputed, how. ever timid or uncertain he may be with respect to his own reasonings and deductions. The preacher must believe for himself, and he must ask the assent of his hearers, to the teaching of Holy Scripture, as the Truth. He must have his own decided grasp upon it, as ultimate and infal. lible—the only open question being as to the meaning of the Scriptures. He need not embrace any of the various theories of inspiration. It is enongh that he takes his anthoritative stand where he finds a “thus saith the Lord," and that too, with all the reverence of speech and manner that becomes such a stand. There must be no flippancy ; matter and inanner must correspond, otherwise the sermon will be worth no more than its logic is worth to them that hcar it, and even tbat may be lost through irreverence or levity of manner. Its positions will be disputed, the Pulpit will be lowered, and the whole process will fall into disesteem and consequent powerlessness. Such a preacher will be forever put on the defensive. This turns the Pulpit into a platform whoever may be in it, and the preacher sinks to the level of a disputer of this world. Let him lower, in his own eyes or those of his licarers, the Holy Scriptures a single inch from the reverential regard that is due to them, or let him go outside of them for the ground of bis teaching, or in any way abdicate his position as a messenger of God to man, and a host of specialists will come in through the door he leaves open for them. And he will find himself in an arena, where he must take his chance with all the men and women who have missions in this world no higher than he has tacitly confessed his own to be. The preacher who drops the positive truths of bis religion in dealing with disbelievers or disputers of them, in order to take up their own weapons, whatever else be does, ceases to preach. He becomes a man of science among scientists, or a politician among politicians, or he discourses of something abont which his hearers are presumed to know as much as he does, and commonly they know a great deal more. That is lecturing, or it is harangning, or it is disputing, not preaching.
Another element of strength in the Pulpit is doctrinal preaching. A distinction bas been wrongly taken between doctrinal and practical preaching. Doctrine should never have been preached in a way to allow of such a distinction. It has been presented as a mere skeleton, upon which the hearer might bang such clothing as pleased him, or leave it unclothed. It has not been brought to bear closely enough upon life and character to demonstrate its virtue. And so the cry has been to let dogma go, and to preach the living Christ. The first part of this demand has been yielded to largely. Accommodating preachers have left out of their sermons the frame work of the Christian religion, and given forth from the Pulpit a series of moral truths, divested of the motives and sanctions of Christianity. They have preached sentiment, which, having no adequate support for it put forward, has turned, in the hearer's mind, to mere sentimentality. Or, they give forth warnings and exhortations, which fall to the ground, for the want of any soleinn truth or stubborn fact underlying them, either in the word of God or the conscience of man.
And so the practical preaching that ignores doctrine deliquesces and is “like water that runneth apace." True it is, that the right sort of preaching is the living Christ. But, as has been said by some one, this demand requires that Christ should at least be preached, that He lives—and that is doctrine. The true stand is this—to preach doctrine, not as a mere system or framework of the faith, and never as a bare or scantily clothed skeleton. A skeleton, however, is necessary to a living, walking human being, if you will have him live and walk. And so the preacher must have that in the sermon he preaches. But he will never leave his skeleton in his hearers' hands, to be possibly clothed with flesh and blood, or to be left by him a mere heap of dry bones. The true preacher will clothe the skeleton himself; he will give it form and comeliness; he will warm it into flesh and blood before his hearers' eyes, and he will not let go of it till the Christ that is in it lives and breathes with the power that He is. Because doctrinal preaching stops short of this, it is dry uninfluential preaching. And because there are preachers that do nothing but try to make flesh and blood of their sermons, without a corresponding framework, there is literally no back bone to them and they collapse. The zeal that is in them is out of all proportion to any seeming occasion for it, and they last no longer than the sound of them lasts in the ears; the residuum is a heap of words; that is all that is carried away of such preaching, however pleasant the sound thereof, if anything is carried away. There are, therefore, two kinds of doctrinal preaching; one of which is practical preaching, in the essence and the worth of it, and the other is not preaching at all; it is syllogizing, or summing up, or some dry uninfluential mode of treatment that belongs in the preacher's study, not in bis Pulpit. As, in the preacher himself, it is the living personal man, with the glow on his face of life and feeling, that moves, so, in his sermons, it is clothing the doctrinal outlines that he holds in his bands with the flesh and blood of actual life, that makes the preaching strong with some. thing more than mere emotion. This is the only sort of preaching that will stir men to their feet with a power that will keep them moving when the sermon is done. It is admitted that some of the preachers most sought after,
we encounter now
preach a sort of religion that seems to have no creed and no dogmatic truth in it. But then we have yet to learn whether those sermons will outlast themselves, or even survive their delivery, save as specimens of touching sentiment, or mere oratory.
On the other hand, the London preacher, Mr. Spurgeon, owes his sustained popularity, to the preaching of a few strong doctrines, strongly held and boldly put forward. And the same may be said of Mr. Moody. So that doctrinal preaching need not be eschewed because it must needs be unwelcome preaching. There is no doubt that doctrine was preached tifty years ago among us more clearly and sharply than it is now. It is because so many of the preachers of that day failed to clothe properly their skele.
a traditionary prejudice against doctrinal preaching. The evil, however, has not stopped here. Doctrine has been so extensively ignored or cautiously put forward in the Pulpit, in obedience to this prejudice, that the pews are getting unused to it and grow restive under it. We are hearing from them the cry for toleration more and more loudly. The Pulpit yields, it echoes the demand; toleration is the watchword of the day. One distinguished preacher has “ toleration to a large extent." And though he may have in his mind varying modes of worship, rather than varying doctrines, the apprehension is not ill grounded that the Christianity that is coming, will turn a cold eye upon all definiteness that is likely to offend. That the drift is that way cannot be denied.
There are signs of sympathy between the adherents of opposite extremes in this Church, both in doctrine and ritual, for no purpose that has come to light, other than that of tolerating, excusing or forgiving one another. We seem to be approaching an era of universal handshaking and cordiality. He who shall prefer a charge of heresy against either extreme, will have to encounter the opposition of both. Each holding his own opposing and irreconcilable views against the other, but aware that he needs toleration to a large extent.” This portends, within the Church a new Evangelical Alliance, and that is a tacit agreement each to hold his peace in the presence of the other. That sort of peace has been hitherto regarded in this Church as a pleasant delusion. But it is to be feared, as a sign of the relaxing hold on doctrinal truth by preachers of the gospel ; and there is a worse than a mere fear of its effects upon the pews. There it is the trumpet giving "an uncertain sound.” And what that means, St. Panl has told us.
Another element of strength in the Pulpit may be called preaching the gospel in its fullness, that it may make itself so felt in our social life as to be obeyed there, and that is the proof of strong preaching. Neither the morality of the gospel, nor the solemn motives and sanctions it discloses, can be safely left ont of the Pulpit, nor can they be, without danger, lowered or altered from the position they occupy in the New Testament. The Pulpit has been teeming with discourses upon the sins of the times.” And yet, to one who reads such of them as get into print, they seem largely lacking in the true gospel persuasion to virtue and its dissuasions from vice; or, these are altered in some way out of the constraint that belongs to them, gospel of love" seems to be on the lips of preachers who forever fail to anchor the love they preach where God has anchored it, namely: in the cross of Christ. God has fixed there His estimate of the guilt of sin and crime. That measure of the love of God, and that measure of human guilt, it is laid on every preacher of the gospel to proclaim, even to the extent of a woe upon him if he preach it not.
I will illustrate what I mean by a lack of preaching the fullness of the gospel in a single direction. It is in that which St. Paul calls “the terror of the Lord.” In the history of a certain style of preaching on this subject we have got to the point where the question is raised of the duration of the future punishment. That question, it is humbly submitted, should be left by preachers of the