« ZurückWeiter »
by hearing, and hearing by the word of God," and "how shall they hear without a preacher?"" "Of His own will begat He us with the word of truth." This word of truth was then a preached word; and now, in order to affect the mind and heart, it must be presented to them. And we ask, is it a matter of indifference how the truth is presented? Ought not the best mode of presenting it to be constantly striven after? and is not this the cultivation of Pulpit Eloquence in the highest degree? The fact that, after all, the success of the effort depends upon God, can afford no apology for indolence, or indifference with regard to that effort. The law of our nature, the universal practice of men, the example of God, and His Word also, these teach us, that, when an end is set before us for our attainment, and means are put within our reach whereby we may attain unto it, we ought to make the best use of those means irrespectively of all considerations of dependence on another power. The peculiarity that attends the calling of the preacher of the gospel does not at all affect the general principle. The Grecian Orator
"-whose resistless eloquence
Wielded at will that fierce democratic,
Shook the arsenal, and fulmined over Greece,
addressed men of like capabilities and passions with those who listen to the Christian preacher. Minds, hearts are to be reached. Man is speaking to his fellow-man; and the simple fact that God giveth the increase can afford not the slightest reason why his lips should not drop the honey of persuasion, and every energy be strung to its highest pitch to pour forth burning words, to be eloquent for the truth. It is in the use of right means, in obedience to the true laws of our nature, that the efficient operation of the Holy Spirit may be expected. He who endeavors to employ his powers in the best manner, while yet humbly realizing his dependence on a higher power, alone has a right to expect sucHe who makes that dependence a plea for negligence or carelessness, has cause for shame and fear. It is a great absurdity to suppose that the cultivation of the power of presenting truth most effectually, is inconsistent with the most devout and humble looking unto God for aid. It is a great breach of charity to suppose that those who would attain to eloquence are fostering vanity and the love of display. It is a crime against reason not to admit that one form of presenting truth may be more effective than another. It is a breach of true reverence towards God to imagine that He would set forth any doctrine that would prevent our endeavoring to attain unto the best form of the presentation of truth. If any one will say that God needs not
1 Rom. 10: 14, 17.
* Jas. 1: 18.
the device of human art or science for the accomplishment of His purposes; we admit this, but reply: that it is revealed as His gracious purpose to accomplish the work of bringing His people unto faith in Christ, by the preaching of the gospel by human lips; and further, God can, we believe, bless any and every effort of His servants in His cause. But does it not clearly appear to be in harmony with all that we know of His character and purposes, and modes of action, to suppose that those efforts which are best directed-that is directed with the wisest reference to known principles of human nature and revealed truth, He will be most likely to crown with abundant success? All husbandmen are alike dependent upon God for success in their employment. But his fields will produce most largely who is best acquainted with agriculture, best skilled in the use of means for the cultivation of the soil, and most diligent in the application of them. And the analogy is fair and convincing in its application to spiritual husbandry. It matters not that the dependence is in one case for physical blessings, and in the other for spiritual. The same God presides in both cases. Undoubtedly He has an equally well ordered, and carefully observed system of laws for spiritual things as for physical, though those laws may not be so well known to us. He is a God of order, always and essentially, and what we call anomalies, both in the physical and the spiritual world, we may rely upon it, are parts of His system, provided for from the beginning. If there be certain arrangements of arguments, certain forms of expression, certain tones of voice, certain modes of gesticulation, better adapted than others to convey Divine truth clearly, forcibly, affectingly to the heart-surely, God would have the speaker make use of these in preference to all others-surely, it is the use of them which He will be most likely to bless and make successful-surely, He would not have the grand truth of His sovereignty and our dependence in the least degree hinder our attainment and employment of them. Now the great object of the study and practice of Sacred Rhetoric and Pulpit Eloquence is the acquisition and use of those arrangements of arguments, those forms of expression, those tones of voice, those modes of gesticulation, which are best adapted to persuade men to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness. And what is there in this that should be at all retarded or obstructed by the doctrine of our dependence on the Holy Spirit? In a word, what shall hinder the most devout mind from selecting the best weapons, burnishing them most brightly, giving them the keenest edge, and using them most manfully in the conflict with God's great enemy' ?
I have already hinted that God has by His own example taught us, that He does not view it as a matter of indifference
what truths are selected for presentation, or in what manner they are presented. His omniscient mind made its selection out of modes best adapted for exhibiting to us His character and will. We cannot tell why other ways of showing us His holiness and love might not have been devised and chosen, unless it were that the way which the gospel teaches was better adapted than all others—best adapted for the accomplishment of the end in view. Therefore, Christ Jesus came with the words of Eternal Life. Therefore, He came speaking as never man spake, living as never man lived, dying as man never died. Therefore, such an atonement was made, and in such a manner. God, we may venture to say, saw that this mode was better adapted than all others for bringing to bear on the souls of men those truths which should result in their salvation, and, therefore, He chose it. We do but humbly imitate His high example when, taking the truths which He has furnished as our means of operation, we cultivate the faculties with which we are endowed for the purpose of presenting those truths most effectively to our fellow
2. The doctrine of dependence on the Holy Spirit, so far from repressing effort, should call out every energy of the preacher, and incite him to the greatest efforts in the cultivation of true eloquence.
The Pulpit Orator has every incitement to exertion which stimulates the orator of the forum or the assembly; while he has
; superadded the great stirring thoughts that he is an appointed instrument of God for the accomplishment of the noblest ends, that the truths which he preaches are Divinely uttered truths, selected because of their adaptedness to reach the souls of men, and that there is the promise of a Divine blessing to accompany his labors. He has not, indeed, the stimulant of the political aspirant who seeks for power, nor of the ambitious orator whose aim is renown. But every good and noble motive which may make a man eloquent bears with force on him. He views his audience as men, to be influenced by all the means which usually affect mankind. There are intellects before him which are to be enlightened—judgments that are to be convinced-hearts that are to be moved—wills that are to be persuaded. And he is to ply these with all the arguments which the wide domain of truth can furnish, and with all the motives that lie within the circumference of human affection. And there is no power of speech, no art of expression, that may not be made subservient to his purpose. The end which he sets before him how noble ! how glorious ! how worthy to call forth his every energy, kindle the most glowing enthusiasm, and pour the richest force into his utterance. He utters a panegyric-and it is on godliness. He pours forth invective--and it against sin. He denounces an adversary-it is Satan. He arouses to arms—but it is to the taking of the armour of righteousness. He stirs up to conflict—but it is with the foe of the soul. He kindles the love of liberty on the altar of the heart—it is of the glorious liberty of the children of God. He excites to revolt those who are in servitude-but they are the slaves of sin whom he arouses to burst their galling chainsHe persuades—and to what? to forsake sin and follow holiness -to abandon ruin and secure safety—to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness.
Look at yonder assembly, densely crowded in the open area, listening with eager interest to him who addresses them from that eminence. Mark how his words burn in upon their souls. Catch his tones, mark the flashing of his eye, see his action full of thought and power, and listen to his words, forceful, crowded full of meaning, each drawn with carefulness from its fountain ; see the weapons which he wields, how directly his arrows are aimed, how skilfully he advances towards his object, how he takes hold upon each feeling of the heart, how he enkindles indignation, hatred, courage, resistance, against the enemy of their country-until, at length, that whole assembly rends the air with their
cry “ to arms, to arms, lead us against the eneray !" And was all this skill and power on the part of the great Athenian, producing such glory for his country, and himself, the offspring of uncultivated nature or of slight effort ? Far from it. It came as the triumphant effect of patient toil, of untiring perseverance. It was the result of concentrated energies. Now mark the audience of the Christian speaker-men of like passions with other men—and contemplate the great object which he has in view, and shall not it call out all his energies, and is it not worthy to receive most patient and careful preparation ? With an end to be gained infinitely transcending in importance that which inspired the efforts of Demosthenes, with the same means for gaining it spread before him, with human hearts and human minds to be moved by varied arguments and influence of fact, and voice, and look, and word-should he not exert to the very highest degree every energy which he possesses to enable him to speak well and successfully on such a theme? Suppose that there were no doctrine of the Holy Spirit's influence-suppose that he were left to believe success to be dependent entirely on his own exertions, oh, how should he exercise himself, and study and strive by every means which gives man influence over his fellow-man to be successful in winning them to Christ! Who would not then say that Eloquence, such eloquence as made the Roman senate yield, such eloquence as shook the throne of the Macedonian king, were a most blessed power power to
—a be sought for by the Christian preacher with all the diligence, and self-denial, and persevering labor of which man is capable ? And now introduce the doctrine of the Holy Spirit-and what
should be its effect? What though the audience he addresses are opposed to the truth? Is there not the greater need of a skilful and powerful presentation of the truth? Although there is in their hearts an obstacle which no mere eloquence even of truth can overcome, it is still true that that obstacle is to be overcome by the instrumentality of the eloquence of truth, and thus, again, that there is need of its skilful and powerful presentation. And while it is true that all his success depends on the will of the Sovereign Spirit, it is also true that the action of that will lies. ever in the direction of a right use of means, and of the general laws of our being. But more than all this-when he knows that it is the province of the Holy Spirit to remove that very obstacle which hinders his success-when he remembers the promise of the Giver of the Spirit to be always with those who preach His Word-when he has reason to believe that as he speaks the Spirit is present to give efficacy to this Word, shall he not stir himself up to greater zeal, and more earnest effort? What though it be the Spirit's office to make the gospel effectual unto salvation, is it not his office to preach that gospel unto dying men? Is he not sent forth to beseech men to be reconciled to God--and shall not the fact that God sends him, and that God accomplishes His work through him, make him the more anxious most eloquently and powerfully to beseech them? He who realizes that he speaks as God's ambassador, that God is with him, that the Spirit is promised, that the final success of his preaching is dependent on One who knoweth most fully the heart of man, who has purposes of mercy, and has determined that His Word shall not return unto Him void-he who realizes these things will have a motive superadded to all other motives arising from a love to the souls of men, and a contemplation of the vast interests at stake to stimulate him to strive after the highest degree of Eloquence. The thought that he is co-operating with the great Divine Spirit, in the conducting of a system, in which, by Divine arrangement, human instrumentality forms an essential part, ought to make the preacher most careful to stir up the gift that is within him, and to strive in the highest manner to speak well in behalf of that which is right. Surely he who is honored with such an office, and called to a work of such vast importance, should be willing to consecrate to the service of the Lord nothing short of the best of his possessions-to attain unto nothing less than the highest excellence of which he is capable, in the performance of his work. The doctrine of dependence, while intended and calculated to make us humble, is also a doctrine of encouragement. And in both aspects it ought favorably to affect the Eloquence of the pulpit-making a man forget himself while most diligently employing all his abilities. Without this doctrine how could man ever hope to overcome the obstinacy, and remove the misery