||delphia > REVIVAL LECTURES by Charles G. Finney (page 3 of 5)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
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Table of Contents
- LECTURE XI. - A WISE MINISTER
WILL BE SUCCESSFUL
A right discharge of the duties of a minister requires great wisdom - The amount
of success in the discharge of his duties (other things being equal) decides the
amount of wisdom employed by him.
LECTURE XII. - HOW TO PREACH
Several passages of Scripture ascribe conversion to man - This is consistent with
other passages which ascribe conversion to God - Several important particulars in
regard to preaching the Gospel.
LECTURE XIII. - HOW CHURCHES
CAN HELP MINISTERS.
The importance of the cooperation of the Church in producing and carrying on a revival
- Several things which Churches must do, if they would promote a revival and aid
LECTURE XIV. - MEASURES
TO PROMOTE REVIVALS.
God has established no particular system of measures to be employed - Our present
forms of public worship have been arrived at by a succession of new measures.
A WISE MINISTER WILL BE SUCCESSFUL
He that winneth souls is wise. -
I lectured last, from the same text, on the methods of dealing with sinners by "private"
Christians. My object at this time is to take up the more public means of grace,
with particular reference to the duties of Ministers.
As I observed in my last Lecture, wisdom is the choice and pursuit of the best end
by the most appropriate means. The great end for which the Christian ministry is
appointed, is to glorify God in the salvation of souls.
In speaking on this subject I propose to show:
I. That a right discharge of the duties of a minister requires great wisdom.
II. That the amount of success in the discharge of his duties (other things being
equal) decides the amount of wisdom employed by him in the exercise of his office.
I. THE RIGHT DISCHARGE OF MINISTERIAL DUTY.
- 1. A right discharge of the duties of a minister requires
great wisdom: I. On account of the opposition it encounters. The very end for which
the ministry is appointed is one against which is arrayed the most powerful opposition
of sinners themselves. If men were willing to receive the Gospel, and there were
nothing needed to be done but to tell the story of Redemption, a child might convey
the news. But men are opposed to the Gospel. They are opposed to their own salvation,
in this way. Their opposition is often violent and determined. I once saw a maniac
who had formed designs against his own life, and he would exercise the utmost sagacity
and cunning to effect his purpose. He would be so artful as to make his keepers believe
he had no such design, that he had given it all up; he would appear mild and sober,
but the instant the keeper was off his guard he would lay hands on himself. So, sinners
often exercise great cunning in evading all the efforts that are made to save them.
In order to meet this dreadful cunning, and overcome it, so as to save men, ministers
need a great amount of wisdom.
- 2. The particular means appointed to be employed in the
work, show the necessity of great wisdom in ministers. If men were converted by an
act of physical omnipotence, creating some new taste, or something like that, and
if sanctification were nothing but the same physical omnipotence rooting out the
remaining roots of sin from the soul, it would not require so much sagacity and skill
to win souls. Nor would there then be any meaning in the text. But the truth is that
regeneration and sanctification are to be effected by moral means - by argument,
and not by force. There never was, and never will be, any one saved by anything but
truth as the means.
- Truth is the outward means, the outward motive presented
first by man and then by The Holy Spirit. Take into view the opposition of the sinner
himself, and you see that nothing, after all, short of the wisdom of God and the
moral power of the Holy Spirit, can break down this opposition, and bring him to
submit Still, the means are to be used by men - means adapted to the end, and skillfully
used. God has provided that the work of conversion and sanctification shall in all
cases be done by means of that kind of truth, applied in that connection and relation,
which is fitted to produce such a result.
- 3. He has the powers of earth and hell to overcome, and
that calls for wisdom. The devil is constantly at work, trying to prevent the success
of ministers, laboring to divert attention from the subject of religion, and to get
the sinner away from God and lead him down to hell. The whole framework of society,
almost, is hostile to religion. Nearly all the influences which surround a man, from
his cradle to his grave, are calculated to defeat the design of the ministry. Does
not a minister, then, need great wisdom to conflict with the powers of darkness and
the whole influence of the world, in addition to the sinner's own opposition?
- 4. The same is seen from the infinite importance of the
end itself. The end of the ministry is the salvation of the soul. When we consider
the importance of the end, and the difficulties of the work, who will not say with
the apostle: "Who is sufficient for these things?" (2 Corinthians 2:16.)
- 5. He must understand how to wake up the professing Christians,
and thus prevent them from hindering the conversion of sinners. This is often the
most difficult part of a minister's work, and requires more wisdom and patience than
anything else. Indeed, to do this successfully, is a most rare qualification in the
Christian ministry. It is a point where almost all ministers fail. They know not
how to wake up the Church, and raise the tone of piety to a high standard, and thus
clear the way for the work of conversion. Many ministers can preach to sinners very
well, but gain little success, while the counteracting influence of the Church resists
it all, and they have not skill enough to remove the difficulty. There is only here
and there a minister in the country who knows how to probe the Church when it is
in a cold, backslidden state, so as effectually to awaken the members and keep them
awake. The members of the Church sin against such light, that when they become cold
it is very difficult to rouse them up. They have a form of piety which wards off
the truth, while at the same time it is just that kind of piety which has no power
or efficiency. Such professors are the most difficult individuals to arouse from
their slumbers. I do not mean that they are always more wicked than the impenitent.
They are often employed about the machinery of religion, and pass for very good Christians,
but they are of no use in a revival.
- I know ministers are sometimes amazed to hear it said that
Churches are not awake. No wonder such ministers do not know how to wake a sleeping
Church. There was a young licentiate heard Brother Foote the other day, in this city,
pouring out truth, and trying to waken up the Churches; and he knew so little about
it that he thought Mr. Foote was abusing the Churches. So perfectly blind was he
that he really thought the Churches in New York were all awake on the subject of
religion. So, some years ago, there was a great controversy and opposition raised,
because so much was said about the Churches being asleep. It was all truth, yet many
ministers knew nothing about it, and were astonished to hear such things said. When
it has come to this, that ministers do not know when the Church is asleep, no wonder
we have revivals! I was invited once to preach at a certain place. I asked the minister
what was the state of the
Church. "Oh," said he, "to a man they are awake." I was delighted
at the idea of laboring in such a Church, for it was a sight I had never yet witnessed,
to see every single member awake in a revival. But when I got there I found them
sleepy and cold, and I doubt whether one of them was awake.
Here is the great difficulty in keeping up revivals, to keep the Church thoroughly
awake and engaged. It is one thing for members to get up in their sleep and bluster
about and run over each other; and a widely different thing for them to have their
eyes open, and their senses about them, and be wide awake, so as to know how to work
- 6. He must know how to see the Church to work, when it
is awake. If a minister attempts to go to work singly, calculating to do it all himself,
it is like attempting to roll a great stone up a hill, alone. The Church can do much
to help forward a revival. Churches have sometimes had powerful revivals without
any minister. But when a minister has a Church that is awake, and knows how to set
his people to work, and how to sit at the helm, and guide them, he may feel strong,
and oftentimes may find that they do more than he does himself in the conversion
- 7. In order to be successful, a minister needs great wisdom
to know how to keep the Church to the work. Often the Church seems just like an assembly
of children. You set children to work, and they appear to be all occupied, but as
soon as your back is turned, they will stop and go to play. The great difficulty
in continuing a revival, lies here. And to meet it requires great wisdom. To know
how to break them down again, when their hearts get lifted up because they have had
such a great revival; to wake them up afresh when their zeal begins to flag; to keep
their hearts full of zeal for the work; these are some of the most difficult things
in the world. Yet if a minister would be successful in winning souls, he must know
when they first begin to get proud, or to lose the spirit of prayer; when to probe
them, and how to search them; in fact, how to keep the Church in the field, gathering
the harvest of the Lord.
- 8. He must understand the Gospel. But you will ask: "Do
not all ministers understand the Gospel?" I answer that they certainly do not
all understand it alike, for they do not all preach alike.
- 9. He must know how to divide it, so as to bring forward
the particular truths, in that order, and at such times, as will be calculated to
produce a given result. A minister should understand the philosophy of the human
mind, so as to know how to plan and arrange his labors wisely. Truth, when brought
to bear upon the mind, is in itself calculated to produce corresponding feelings.
The minister must know what feelings he wishes to produce, and how to bring to bear
such truth as is calculated to produce those feelings. He must know how to present
truth which is calculated to humble Christians, or to make them feel for sinners;
or to awaken sinners, or to convert them.
- Often, when sinners are awakened, the ground is lost for
want of wisdom in following up the blow. Perhaps a rousing sermon is preached Christians
are moved, and sinners begin to feel, and yet, the next Sabbath, something will be
brought forward that has no connection with the state of feeling in the congregation,
and that is not calculated to lead the mind on to the exercise of repentance, faith,
or love. It shows how important it is that a minister should understand how to produce
a given impression, at what time it may and should be done, and by what truth, and
how to follow it up till the sinner is broken down and brought in.
A great many good sermons that are preached, are lost for the want of a little wisdom
on this point. They are good sermons, and calculated, if well timed, to do great
good; but they have so little connection with the actual state of feeling in the
congregation, that it would be more than a miracle if they should produce a revival.
A minister may preach in this random way till he has preached himself to death, and
never produce any great results.
He may convert here and there a scattered soul; but he will not move the mass of
the congregation unless he knows how to follow up his impressions - so to execute
a general plan of operations as to carry on the work when it is begun. He must not
only be able to blow the trumpet so loud as to start the sinner up from his lethargy,
but when he is awakened, he must lead him by the shortest way to Jesus Christ; and
not, as soon as sinners are roused by a sermon, immediately begin to preach about
some remote subject that has no tendency to carry on the work.
- 10. To reach different classes of sinners successfully
requires great wisdom on the part of a minister. For instance, a sermon on a particular
subject may impress a particular class of persons among his hearers.
- Perhaps they will begin to look serious, or to talk about
it, or to cavil about it. Now, if the minister is wise, he will know how to observe
those indications, and to follow right on, with sermons adapted to this class, until
he leads them into the Kingdom of God. Then, let him go back and take another class,
find out where they are hid, break down their refuges, and follow them up, till he
leads them also, into the Kingdom. He should thus beat about every bush where sinners
hide themselves, as the voice of God followed Adam in the garden: ADAM, WHERE ART
THOU? till one class of hearers after another is brought in, and so the whole community
converted. Now, a minister must be very wise to do this. It never will be done till
a minister sets himself to hunt out and bring in every class of sinners in his congregation
- the old and young, male and female, rich and poor.
- 11. A minister needs great wisdom to get sinners away from
their present refuge of lies, without forming new hiding-places for them. I once
sat under the ministry of a man who had contracted a great alarm about heresies,
and was constantly employed in confuting them. And he used to bring up heresies that
his people had never heard of. He got his ideas chiefly from books, and mingled very
little among the people to know what they thought. And the result of his labors often
was, that the people would be taken with the heresy, more than with the argument
- The novelty of the error attracted their attention so much
that they forgot the answer. And in that way he gave many of his people new objections
against religion, such as they had never thought of before. If a man does not mingle
enough with mankind to know how people think nowadays, he cannot expect to be wise
to meet their objections and difficulties.
I have heard a great deal of preaching against Universalists, that did more harm
than good, because the preachers did not understand how Universalists of the present
day reason. When ministers undertake to oppose a present heresy, they ought to know
what it actually is, at present. It is of no use to misrepresent a man's doctrines
to his face, and then try to reason him out of them. He will say of you: "That
man cannot argue with me on fair grounds; he has to misrepresent my doctrines in
order to confute me." Great harm is done in this way. Ministers do not intend
to misrepresent their opponents; but the effect of it is, that the poor miserable
creatures who hold these errors go to hell because ministers do not take care to
inform themselves what are their real errors. I mention this to show how much wisdom
a minister must have to meet the cases that occur.
- 12. Ministers ought to know what measures are best calculated
to aid in accomplishing the great end of their office, the salvation of souls. Some
measures are plainly necessary. By measures, I mean the things which should be done
to secure the attention of the people, and bring them to listen to the truth. Erecting
buildings for worship, visiting from house to house, etc., are "measures,"
the object of which is to get the attention of people to the Gospel. Much wisdom
is requisite to devise and carry forward all the various measures that are adapted
to favor the success of the Gospel.
- What do politicians do? They get up meetings, circulate
handbills and pamphlets, blaze away in the newspapers, send ships about the streets
on wheels with flags and sailors, send conveyances all over the town, with handbills,
to bring people up to the polls - all to gain attention to their cause, and elect
their candidate. All these are their "measures," and for their end they
are wisely calculated. The object is to get up an excitement, and bring the people
out. They know that unless there can be an excitement it is in vain to push their
end. I do not mean to say that their measures are pious, or right, but only that
they are wise, in the sense that they are the appropriate application of means to
The object of the ministry is to get all the people to feel that the devil has no
right to rule this world, but that they ought all to give themselves to God, and
"vote in" the Lord Jesus Christ as the Governor of the universe.
Now, what shall be done? What measures shall we take? Says one: "Be sure and
have nothing that is new." Strange! The object of our measure is to gain attention,
and you must have something new. As sure as the effect of a measure becomes stereotyped,
it ceases to give attention, and then you must try something new. You need not make
innovations in everything. But whenever the state of things is such that anything
more is needed, it must be something new, otherwise it will fail. A minister should
never introduce innovations that are not called for. If he does, they will embarrass
him. He cannot alter the Gospel; that remains the same. But new measures are necessary,
from time to time, to awaken attention, and bring the Gospel to bear upon the public
mind. And a minister ought to know how to introduce new things, so as to create the
least possible resistance or reaction. Mankind are fond of form in religion. They
love to have their religious duties stereotyped, so as to leave them at ease; and
they are therefore inclined to resist any new movement designed to rouse them up
to action and feeling. Hence it is all-important to introduce new things wisely,
so as not to give needless occasion for resistance.
- 13. Not a little wisdom is sometimes needed by a minister
to know when to put a stop to new measures. When a measure has novelty enough to
secure attention to the truth, ordinarily no other new measure should be introduced.
You have secured the great object of novelty. Anything more will be in danger of
diverting the public mind away from the great object, and fixing it on the measures
themselves. And then, if you introduce novelties when they are not called for, you
will go over so large a field that, by and by, when you really want something new,
you will have nothing else to introduce, without doing something that will give too
great a shock to the public mind. The Bible has laid down no specific course of measures
for the promotion of revivals of religion, but has left it to ministers to adopt
such as are wisely calculated to secure the end. And the more sparing we are of our
new things, the longer we can use them, to keep public attention awake to the great
subject of religion. By a wise course this may undoubtedly be done for a long series
of years, until our present measures will, by and by, have sufficient novelty in
them again to attract and fix public attention. And so we shall never want for something
- 14. A minister, to win souls, must know how to deal with
careless, with awakened, and with anxious sinners, so as to lead them right to Christ
in the shortest and most direct way. It is amazing to see how many ministers there
are who do not know how to deal with sinners, or what to say to them in their various
states of mind. A good woman in Albany told me, that when she was under concern she
went to her minister, and asked him to tell her what she must do to get relief. He
said that God had not given him much experience on the subject, and advised her to
go to a certain deacon, who perhaps could tell her what to do. The truth was, he
did not know what to say to a sinner under conviction, although there was nothing
peculiar in her case. Now, if you think this minister a rare case, you are quite
deceived. There are many ministers who do not know what to say to sinners.
- A minister once appointed an anxious meeting, which he
duly attended, but instead of going round to speak to the individuals, he began to
ask them the catechism question: "Wherein doth Christ execute the office of
a priest?" About as much in point to a great many of their minds as anything
I know a minister who held an anxious meeting, and went to attend it with a written
discourse, which he had prepared for the occasion. This was just as wise as it would
be if a physician, going out to visit his patients, should sit down at leisure and
write all the prescriptions beforehand. A minister needs to know the state of mind
of individuals, before he can know what truth it will be proper and useful to administer.
I say these things, not because I love to do it, but because truth and the object
before me, require them to be said. And such instances as I have mentioned are by
no means rare.
A minister should know how to apply truth to all the situations in which he may find
dying sinners going down to hell. He should know how to preach, how to pray, how
to conduct prayer meetings, and how to use all the means for bringing the truth of
God to bear upon the kingdom of darkness. Does not this require wisdom? And who is
sufficient for these things?
II. SUCCESS PROPORTIONATE TO WISDOM.
The amount of a minister's success in winning souls (other things being equal) invariably
decides the amount of wisdom he has exercised in the discharge of his office.
- 1. This is plainly asserted in the text. "He that
winneth souls is wise."
- That is, if a man wins souls, he does skillfully adapt
means to the end, which is, to exercise wisdom. He is the more wise, by how much
the greater is the number of sinners that he saves. A blockhead may, indeed, now
and then, stumble on such truth, or such a manner of exhibiting it, as to save a
soul. It would be a wonder indeed if any minister did not sometimes have something,
in his sermons that would meet the case of some individual. But the amount of wisdom
is to be decided, other things being equal, by the number of cases in which he is
successful in converting sinners.
Take the case of a physician. The greatest quack may now and then stumble upon a
remarkable cure, and so get his name up with the ignorant.
But sober and judicious people judge of the skill of a physician by the uniformity
of his success in overcoming disease, the variety of diseases he can manage, and
the number of cases in which he is successful in saving his patients. The most skillful
saves the most. This is common sense. It is the truth. And it is just as true in
regard to success in saving souls, and true in just the same sense.
- 2. This principle is not only asserted in the text, but
it is a matter of fact, a historical truth, that "He that winneth souls is wise."
He has actually employed means adapted to the end, in such a way as to secure the
- 3. Success in saving souls is evidence that a man understands
the Gospel, and understands human nature; that he knows how to adapt means to his
end; that he has common sense, and that kind of tact, that practical discernment,
to know how to get at people. And if his success is extensive, it shows that he knows
how to deal, in a great variety of circumstances, with a great variety of characters,
who are all the enemies of God, and to bring them to Christ. To do this requires
- And the minister who does it shows that he is wise.
- 4. Success in winning souls shows that a minister not only
knows how to labor wisely for that end, but also that he knows where his dependence
- Fears are often expressed respecting those ministers who
are aiming most directly and earnestly at the conversion of sinners. People say:
"Why, this man is going to work in his own strength; one would imagine he thinks
he can convert souls himself." How often has the event showed that the man knew
very well what he was about, and knew where his strength was, too.
He went to work to convert sinners so earnestly, just as if he could do it all himself;
but that was the very way he should do. He ought to reason with sinners and plead
with them, as faithfully and as fully as if he did not expect any interposition of
the Spirit of God. But whenever a man does this successfully, it shows that, after
all, he knows he must depend for success upon the Spirit of God alone.
There are many who feel an objection against this subject, arising out of the view
they have taken of the ministry of Jesus Christ. They ask us: "What will you
say of the ministry of Jesus Christ - was not He wise?"
I answer: "Yes, infinitely wise." But in regard to His alleged "want
of success" in the conversion of sinners, you will observe the following things:
(a) That His ministry was vastly more successful than is generally supposed.
We read in one of the sacred writers, that after His resurrection and before His
ascension, "He was seen of above five hundred brethren at once" (1 Corinthians
15:6). If so many as five hundred brethren were found assembled together at one place,
we judge that there must have been a vast number of them scattered over the country.
(b) Another circumstance to be observed is that His public ministry was very
short, less than three years.
(c) Consider, too, the peculiar design of His ministry. His main object was
to make Atonement for the sins of the world. It was not aimed so much at promoting
revivals. The "dispensation of the Spirit" was not yet given. He did not
preach the Gospel so fully as His apostles did afterwards. The prejudices of the
people were so fixed and violent that they would not bear it. That He did not, is
plain from the fact that even His apostles, who were constantly with Him, did not
understand the Atonement. They did not get the idea that He was going to die; and
consequently, when they heard that He was actually dead, they were driven to despair,
and thought the thing was all gone by, and their hopes blown to the winds. The fact
was that He had another object in view, to which everything else was made to yield;
and the perverted state of the public mind, and the obstinate prejudices prevailing,
showed why results were not seen any more in the conversion of sinners. The state
of public opinion was such that they finally murdered Him for what He did preach.
Many ministers who have little or no success are hiding themselves behind the ministry
of Jesus Christ, as if He were an unsuccessful preacher.
Whereas, in fact, He was eminently successful, considering the circumstances in which
He labored. This is the last place, in all the world, where a minister who has no
success should think of hiding himself.
- 1. A minister may be very learned and yet not wise. There
are many ministers possessed of great learning; they understand all the sciences,
physical, moral, and theological; they may know the dead languages, and possess all
learning, and yet not be wise in relation to the great end about which they are chiefly
employed. Facts clearly demonstrate this. "He that winneth souls is wise."
- 2. An unsuccessful minister may be pious as well as learned,
and yet not wise. It is unfair to infer that because a minister is unsuccessful,
therefore he is a hypocrite. There may be something defective in his education, or
in his mode of viewing a subject, or of exhibiting it, or such a want of common sense,
as will defeat his labors, and prevent his success in winning souls, while he himself
may be saved, "yet so as by fire."
- 3. A minister may be very wise, though he is not learned.
He may not understand the dead languages, or theology in its common acceptation;
and yet he may know just what a minister of the Gospel wants most to know, without
knowing many other things. A learned minister, and a wise minister, are different
things. Facts in the history of the Church in all ages prove this. It is very common
for Churches, when looking out for a minister, to aim at getting a very learned man.
Do not understand me to disparage learning. The more learned the better, if he is
also wise in the great matter he is employed about. If a minister knows how to win
souls, the more learning he has the better. But if he has any other kind of learning,
and not this, he will infallibly fail of achieving that which should be the end of
- 4. Want of success in a minister (other things being equal)
- (a) That he never was called to preach, but has
taken it up out of his own head; or
(b) That he was badly educated, and was never taught the very things he needs
most to know; or
(c) If he was called to preach, and knows how to do his duty, he is too indolent
and too wicked to do it.
- 5. Those are the best educated ministers who win the most
- Ministers are sometimes looked down upon, and called very
ignorant, because they do not know the sciences and languages; although they are
very far from being ignorant of the great thing for which the ministry is appointed.
This is wrong. Learning is important, and always useful. But after all, a minister
may know how to win souls to Christ, without great learning; and he has the best
education for a minister, who can win the most souls to Christ.
- 6. There is evidently a great defect in the present mode
of educating ministers. This is a SOLEMN FACT, to which the attention of the whole
Church should be distinctly called, that the great mass of young ministers who are
educated accomplish very little.
- When young men come out of the seminaries, are they fit
to go into a revival? Look at a place where there has been a revival in progress,
and a minister is wanted. Let them send to a theological seminary for a minister.
Will he enter into the work, and sustain it, and carry it on? Seldom. Like David
with Saul's armor, he comes in with such a load of theological trumpery, that he
knows not what to do. Leave him there for two weeks, and the revival is at an end.
The Churches know and feel that the greater part of these young men do not know how
to do anything that needs to be done for a revival, and the complaint is made that
the young ministers are so far behind the Church. You may send all over the United
States, to theological seminaries, and find but few young ministers fitted to carry
forward the work. What a state of things!
There is a great defect in educating ministers. Education ought to be such, as to
prepare young men for the peculiar work to which they are destined.
But instead of this, they are educated for anything else. The grand mistake is this:
that the mind is directed too much to irrelevant matters; it is carried over too
wide a field, so that attention is diverted from the main thing and the young men
get cold in religion. When, therefore, they get through their course, instead of
being fitted for their work, they are unfitted for it.
Under a pretense of disciplining the mind, attention is in fact scattered, so that
when the young men come to their work, they are awkward, and know not how to take
hold, or how to act, to win souls. This is not universally the case, but too often
it is so.
It is common for people to talk loudly and largely about "an educated ministry."
God forbid that I should say a word against an educated ministry! But what do we
mean by an education for the ministry? Do we mean that they should be so educated,
as to be fitted for the work? If they are so educated, the more education the better.
Let education be of the right kind, teaching a young man the things he needs to know,
and not the very things he does not need to know. Let them be educated for the work.
Do not let education be such, that when young men come out, after spending six, eight,
or ten years in study, they are not worth half as much as they were before they went.
I have known young men come out after what they call "a thorough course,"
who could not manage a prayer meeting, so as to make it profitable or interesting.
An elder of a Church in a neighboring city, informed me of a case in point. A young
man, before he went to the seminary, had labored as a layman with them, conducting
their prayer meetings, and been exceedingly useful among them. After he had been
to the seminary, they sent for him and desired his help; but, oh, how changed! He
was so completely transformed, that he made no impression; the members soon began
to complain that they would "die" under his influences; and he left, because
he was not prepared for the work.
It is common for those ministers who have been to the seminaries, and are now useful,
to affirm that their course of studies there did them little or no good, and that
they had to unlearn what they had there learned, before they could effect much. I
do not say this censoriously, but it is a solemn fact, and in love I must say it.
Suppose you were going to make a man a surgeon in the navy. Instead of sending him
to the medical school to learn surgery, would you send him to the nautical school,
to learn navigation? In this way, you might qualify him to navigate a ship, but he
is no surgeon. Ministers should be educated to know what the Bible is, and what the
human mind is, and how to bring the one to bear on the other. They should be brought
into contact with mind, and made familiar with all the aspects of society. They should
have the Bible in one hand, and the map of the human mind in the other, and know
how to use the truth for the salvation of men.
- 7. A want of common sense often defeats the ends of the
Christian ministry. There are many good men in the ministry, who have learning, and
talents of a certain sort, but they have no common sense to win souls.
- 8. We see one great defect in our theological schools.
Young men are confined to books, and shut out from intercourse with the common people,
or contact with the common mind. Hence they are not familiar with the mode in which
common people think. This accounts for the fact that some plain men, who have been
brought up to business, and are acquainted with human nature, are ten times better
qualified to win souls than those who are educated on the present principle, and
are in fact ten times as well acquainted with the proper business of the ministry.
These are called "uneducated men." This is a grand mistake. They are not
learned in science, but they are learned in the very things which they need to know
as ministers. They are not ignorant ministers, for they know exactly how to reach
the mind with truth. They are better furnished for their work, than if they had all
the machinery of the schools.
- I wish to be understood. I do not say, that I would not
have a young man go to school. Nor would I discourage him from going over the field
of science. The more the better, if together with it he learns also the things that
the minister needs to know, in order to win souls - if he understands his Bible,
and understands human nature, and knows how to bring the truth to bear, and how to
guide and manage minds, and to lead them away from sin and lead them to God.
- 9. The success of any measure designed to promote a revival
of religion, demonstrates its wisdom; with the following exceptions:
- (a) A measure may be introduced for effect, to produce
excitement, and be such that when it is looked back upon afterwards, it will seem
nonsensical, and appear to have been a mere trick. In that case, it will react, and
its introduction will have done more harm than good.
(b) Measures may be introduced, and the revival be very powerful, and the
success be attributed to the measures, when in fact, it was other things which made
the revival powerful, and these very measures may have been a hindrance. The prayers
of Christians, and the preaching, and other things, may have been so well calculated
to carry on the work, that it has succeeded in spite of these measures.
(c) But when the blessing evidently follows the introduction of the measure
itself, the proof is unanswerable, that the measure is wise. It is profane to say
that such a measure will do more harm than good. God knows about that. His object
is, to do the greatest amount of good possible. And of course He will not add His
blessing to a measure that will do more harm than good. He may sometimes withhold
His blessing from a measure that is calculated to do some good, because it will be
at the expense of a greater good. But he never will bless a pernicious proceeding.
There is no such thing as deceiving God in the matter. He knows whether a given measure
is, on the whole, wise or not. He may bless a course of labors notwithstanding some
unwise or injurious measures. But if He blesses the measure itself, it is rebuking
God to pronounce it unwise. He who undertakes to do this, let him look to the matter.
- 10. It is evident that much fault has been found with measures
which have been pre-eminently and continually blessed of God for the promotion of
revivals. If a measure is continually or usually blessed, let the man who thinks
he is wiser than God, call it in question. TAKE CARE how you find fault with God!
- 11. Christians should pray for ministers. Brethren, if
you felt how much ministers need wisdom to perform the duties of their great office
with success, and how insufficient they are of themselves, you would pray for them
a great deal more than you do; that is, if you cared anything for the success of
their labors. People often find fault with ministers, when they do not pray for them.
Brethren, this is tempting God; for you ought not to expect any better ministers,
unless you pray for them. And you ought not to expect a blessing on the labors of
your minister, or to have your families converted by his preaching, when you do not
pray for him. And so for others, for the waste places, and the heathen: instead of
praying all the time, only that God would send out more laborers, you have need also
to pray that God would make ministers wise to win souls, and that those He sends
out may be properly educated, so that they shall be scribes well instructed in the
kingdom of God.
- 12. Those laymen in the Church who know how to win souls
are to be counted wise. They should not be called "ignorant laymen"; and
those Church members who do not know how to convert sinners, and who cannot win souls,
should not be called wise - as Christians. They are not wise Christians; only "he
that winneth souls is wise." They may be learned in politics, in all sciences,
or they may be skilled in the management of business, or other things, and they may
look down on those who win souls, as nothing but plain, simple-hearted and ignorant
men. If any of you are inclined to do this, and to undervalue those who win souls,
as being not so wise and cunning as you are, you deceive yourselves. They may not
know some things which you know; but they know those things which a Christian is
most concerned to know, and which you do not.
- It may be illustrated by the case of a minister who goes
to sea. He may be learned in science, but he knows not how to sail a ship. And he
begins to ask the sailors about this thing and that, and what this rope is for, and
the like. "Why," say the sailors, "these are not ropes, we have only
one rope in a ship; these are the rigging; the man talks like a fool." And so
this learned man becomes a laughing-stock, perhaps, to the sailors, because he does
not know how to sail a ship. But if he were to tell them one half of what he knows
about science, perhaps they would think him a conjurer, to know so much. So, learned
students may understand their Latin very well, and may laugh at the humble Christian,
and call him ignorant, although he may know how to win more souls than five hundred
I was once distressed and grieved at hearing a minister bearing down upon a young
preacher, who had been converted under remarkable circumstances, and who was licensed
to preach without having pursued a regular course of study. This minister, who was
never, or at least very rarely, known to convert a soul, bore down upon the young
man in a very lordly, censorious manner, depreciating him because he had not had
the advantage of a liberal education - when, in fact, he was instrumental in converting
more souls than any five hundred ministers like the one who criticized him.
I would say nothing to undervalue, or lead any to undervalue, a thorough education
for ministers. But I do not call that a thorough education, which they receive in
our colleges and seminaries. It does not fit them for their work. I appeal to all
experience, whether our young men in seminaries are thoroughly educated for the purpose
of winning souls. Do THEY DO IT?
Everybody knows they do not. Look at the reports of the Home Missionary Society.
If I recollect right, in 1830, the number of conversions in connection with the labors
of the missionaries of that society did not exceed five to each missionary. I believe
the number has increased since, but is still exceedingly small to what it would have
been had they been fitted, by a right course of training, for their work. I do not
say this to reproach them, for, from my heart, I pity them; and I pity the Church
for being under the necessity of supporting ministers so trained, or of having none
at all. They are the best men the Missionary Society can obtain.
I suppose I shall be reproached for saying this. But it is too true and too painful
to be concealed. Those fathers who have the training of our young ministers are good
men, but they are ancient men, men of another age and stamp from what is needed in
these days, when the Church and world are rising to new thought and action. Those
dear fathers will not, I suppose, see with me in this; and will perhaps think hardly
of me for saying it; but it is the cause of Christ. Some of them are getting back
toward second childhood, and ought to resign, and give place to younger men, who
are not rendered physically incapable, by age, of keeping pace with the onward movements
of the Church. And here I would say, that to my own mind it appears evident, that
unless our theological professors preach a good deal, mingle much with the Church,
and sympathize with her in all her movements, it is morally, if not naturally, impossible,
that they should succeed in training young men to the spirit of the age. It is a
shame and a sin, that theological professors, who preach but seldom, who are withdrawn
from the active duties of the ministry, should sit in their studies and write their
Letters, advisory or dictatorial, to ministers and Churches who are in the field,
and who are in circumstances to judge what needs to be done. The men who spend all,
or at least a portion, of their time in the active duties of the ministry, are the
only men who are able to judge of what is expedient or inexpedient, prudent or imprudent,
as to measures, from time to time. It is as dangerous and ridiculous for our theological
professors, who are withdrawn from the field of conflict, to be allowed to dictate,
in regard to the measures and movements of the Church, as it would be for a general
to sit in his bedchamber and attempt to order a battle.
Two ministers were one day conversing about another minister, whose labors were greatly
blessed - in the conversion of some thousands of souls. One of them said: "That
man ought not to preach any more; he should stop and go to - (a theological seminary
which he named), and proceed through a regular course of study." He said the
man had "a good mind, and if he were thoroughly educated, he might be very useful."
The other replied: "Do you think he would be more useful for going to that seminary?
I challenge you to show by facts that any are more useful who have been there. No,
sir, the fact is, that since this man has been in the ministry, he has been instrumental
in converting more souls than all the young men who have come from that seminary
in the time."
Finally: I wish to ask, who among you can lay any claim to the possession of this
Divine wisdom? Who among you, laymen? Who among you, ministers? Can any of you? Can
I? Are we at work, wisely, to win souls?
Or are we trying to make ourselves believe that success is no criterion of wisdom?
It is a criterion. It is a safe criterion for every minister to try himself by. The
amount of his success, other things being equal, measures the amount of wisdom he
has exercised in the discharge of his office.
How few of you have ever had wisdom enough to convert so much as a single sinner?
Do not say: "I cannot convert sinners. How can I convert sinners? God alone
can convert sinners." Look at the text: "He that winneth souls is wise,"
and do not think you can escape the sentence. It is true that God converts sinners.
But there is a sense, too, in which ministers convert them. And you have something
to do; something which, if you do it wisely, will ensure the conversion of sinners
in proportion to the wisdom employed. If you never have done this, it is high time
to think about yourselves, and see whether you have wisdom enough to save even your
Men! Women! You are bound to be wise in winning souls. Perhaps already souls have
perished, because you have not put forth the wisdom which you might, in saving them.
The city is going to hell. Yes, the world is going to hell, and must go on, till
the Church finds out what to do, to win souls. Politicians are wise. The children
of this world are wise; they know what to do to accomplish their ends, while we are
prosing about, not knowing what to do, or where to take hold of the work, and sinners
are going to hell.
HOW TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
He that winneth souls is wise.
- Proverbs. 11:30.
One of the last remarks in my last Lecture was this, that the text ascribes conversion
to men. Winning souls is converting men. I now design to show that:
I. Several passages of Scripture ascribe conversion to men; and that:
II. This is consistent with other passages which ascribe conversion to God.
III. I also purpose to discuss several further particulars which are deemed important,
in regard to the preaching of the Gospel, and which show that great practical wisdom
is necessary to win souls to Christ.
I. THE BIBLE SCRIBES CONVERSION TO MEN.
There are many passages which represent the conversion of sinners as the work of
men. In Daniel 12:3 it is said: "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness
of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever
and ever." Here the work is ascribed to men. So also in 1 Corinthians 4:15:
"Though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers:
for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel." Here the apostle
explicitly tells the Corinthians that he made them Christians, with the Gospel, or
truth, which he preached.
Again, in James 5:19, 20, we are taught the same thing. "Brethren, if any of
you do err from the truth, and one convert him; let him know, that he which converteth
the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide
a multitude of sins."
I might quote many other passages, equally explicit. But these are sufficient abundantly
to establish the fact, that the Bible does actually ascribe conversion to men.
II. THE BIBLE ASCRIBES CONVERSION TO GOD.
Here let me remark that to my mind it often appears very strange that men should
ever suppose there was an in consistency here, or that they should ever have overlooked
the plain common sense of the matter. How easy it is to see that there is a sense
in which God converts them, and another sense in which men convert them.
The Scriptures ascribe conversion to four different agencies - to men, to God, to
the truth, and to the sinner himself. The passages which ascribe it to the truth
are the largest class. That men should ever have overlooked this distinction, and
should have regarded conversion as a work performed exclusively by God, is surprising.
So it is that any difficulty should ever have been felt on the subject, or that people
should ever have professed themselves unable to reconcile these several classes of
The Bible speaks on this subject, precisely as we speak on common subjects. There
is a man who has been very ill. How natural it is for him to say of his physician:
"That man saved my life." Does he mean to say that the physician saved
his life without reference to God? Certainly not, unless he is an infidel. God made
the physician, and He made the medicine too. And it never can be shown but that the
agency of God is just as truly concerned in making the medicine take effect to save
life, as it is in making the truth take effect to save a soul. To affirm the contrary
is downright atheism. It is true, then, that the physician saved him; and it is also
true that God saved him.. It is equally true that the medicine saved his life, and
also that he saved his own life by taking the medicine; for the medicine would have
done no good if he had not taken it.
In the conversion of a sinner, it is true that God gives the truth efficiency to
turn the sinner to God. He is an active, voluntary, powerful agent, in changing the
mind. But the one who brings the truth to the sinner's notice is also an agent. We
are apt to speak of ministers and other men as only instruments in converting sinners.
This is not exactly correct. Man is something more than an instrument. Truth is the
mere unconscious instrument. But man is more: he is a voluntary, responsible agent
in the business. In a sermon, I have illustrated this idea by the case of an individual
standing on the banks of Niagara.
"Suppose yourself to be standing on the banks of the Falls of Niagara. As you
stand upon the verge of the precipice, you behold a man, lost in deep reverie, approaching
its verge, unconscious of his danger. He approaches nearer and nearer, until he actually
lifts his foot to take the final step that shall plunge him in destruction. At this
moment, you lift your warning voice above the roar of the foaming waters, and cry
out: 'Stop!' The voice pierces his ear, and breaks the charm that binds him; he turns
instantly upon his heel; all pale and aghast he retires, quivering, from the verge
of death. He reels and almost swoons with horror; turns, and walks slowly to the
hotel; you follow him; the manifest agitation in his countenance calls numbers around
him; and on your approach he points to you, and says: 'That man saved my life.' Here
he ascribes the work to you; and certainly there is a sense in which you had saved
him. But, on being further questioned, he says: "'Stop!" How that word
rings in my ears. Oh, that was to me the word of life!' Here he ascribes it to the
word that aroused him, and caused him to turn.
"But on conversing still further, he says: 'Had I not turned at that instant,
I should have been a dead man.' Here he speaks of it (and truly) as his own act.
But you directly hear him say: 'Oh, the mercy of God! If God had not interposed,
I should have been lost!' Now, the only defect in this illustration is this: In the
case supposed, the only interference on the part of God was a providential one; and
the only sense in which the saving of the man's life is ascribed to Him, is in a
providential sense. But in the conversion of a sinner there is something more than
the providence of God employed; for here, not only does the providence of God so
order it, that the preacher cries: 'Stop!' but the Spirit of God urges the truth
home upon him with such tremendous power as to induce him to turn."
Not only does the minister cry: "Stop!" but through the living voice of
the preacher, the Spirit cries: "Stop!" The preacher cries: "Turn
ye, why will ye die?" The Spirit sends the expostulation home with such power
that the sinner turns. Now, in speaking of this change, it is perfectly proper to
say, that the Spirit turned him; just as you would say of a man who had persuaded
another to change his mind on the subject of politics, that he had converted him,
and brought him over. It is also proper to say that the truth converted him; as,
in a case when the political sentiments of a man were changed by a certain argument,
we should say that argument brought him over. So, also, with perfect propriety, may
we ascribe the change to the preacher, or to him who had presented the motives; just
as he would say of a lawyer who had prevailed in his argument with a jury: "He
has won his case; he has converted the jury." It is also with the same propriety
ascribed to the individual himself whose heart is changed; we should say that he
has changed his mind, he has come over, he has repented. Now it is strictly true,
and true in the most absolute and highest sense; the act is his own act, the turning
is his own turning, while God by the truth has induced him to turn; still it is strictly
true that he has turned, and has done it himself. Thus you see the sense in which
it is the work of God; and also the sense in which it is the sinner's own work.
The Spirit of God, by the truth, influences the sinner to change, and in this sense
is the efficient Cause of the change. But the sinner actually changes, and is therefore
himself, in the most proper sense, the author of the change. There are some, who,
on reading their Bibles, fasten their eyes on those passages that ascribe the work
to the Spirit of God, and seem to overlook those which ascribe it to man, and speak
of it as the sinner's own act. When they have quoted Scripture to prove it is the
work of God, they seem to think they have proved that it is that in which man is
passive, and that it can in no sense be the work of man.
Some time ago a tract was written, the title of which was, "Regeneration, the
Effect of Divine Power." The writer goes on to prove that the work is wrought
by the Spirit of God; and there he stops. Now it had been just as true, just as philosophical,
and just as scriptural, if he had said that conversion was the work of man. It is
easy to prove that it is the work of God, in the sense in which I have explained
it. The writer, therefore, tells the truth, so far as he goes; but he has told only
half the truth. For while there is a sense in which it is the work of God, as he
has shown, there is also a sense in which it is the work of man, as we have just
seen. The very title to this tract is a stumbling block. It tells the truth, but
it does not tell the whole truth. And a tract might be written upon this proposition
that "Conversion, or regeneration, is the work of man" which would be just
as true, just as Scriptural, and just as philosophical, as the one to which I have
alluded. Thus the writer, in his zeal to recognize and honor God as concerned in
this work, by leaving out the fact that a change of heart is the sinner's own act,
has left the sinner strongly entrenched, with his weapons in his rebellious hands,
stoutly resisting the claims of his Maker, and waiting passively for God to make
him a new heart. Thus you see the consistency between the requirement of the text,
and the declared fact that God is the author of the new heart. God commands you to
make you a new heart, expects you to do it; and, if ever it is done, you must do
And let me tell you, sinner, if you do not do it you will go to hell; and to all
eternity you will feel that you deserved to be sent there for not having done it.
III. GOSPEL PREACHING AND SOUL WINING.
I shall now advert to several important particulars growing out of this subject,
as connected with preaching the Gospel, and which show that great practical wisdom
is indispensable to win souls to Christ.
- 1. In regard to the matter of preaching.
- (a) First, all preaching should be practical. The
proper end of all doctrine is practice. Anything brought forward as doctrine, which
cannot be made use of as practical, is not preaching the Gospel. There is none of
that sort of preaching in the Bible. That is all practical. "All Scripture is
given by inspiration of God, and is profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction,
for instruction in righteousness: that the man of God may be perfect, thoroughly
furnished unto all good works" (2 Timothy 3:16:17).
A vast deal of preaching in the present day, as well as in past ages, is called doctrinal,
as opposed to practical preaching. The very idea of making this distinction is a
device of the devil. And a more abominable device Satan himself never devised. You
sometimes hear certain men talk a wonderful deal about the necessity of "indoctrinating
the people." By which they mean something different from practical preaching;
teaching them certain doctrines, as abstract truths, without any particular reference
to practice. And I have known a minister in the midst of a revival, while surrounded
with anxious sinners, leave off laboring to convert souls, for the purpose of "indoctrinating"
the young converts, for fear somebody else should indoctrinate them before him. And
there the revival stops!
Either his doctrine was not true, or it was not preached in the right way.
To preach doctrines in an abstract way, and not in reference to practice, is absurd.
God always brings in doctrine to regulate practice. To bring forward doctrinal views
for any other object is not only nonsense; it is wicked.
Some people are opposed to doctrinal preaching. If they have been used to hear doctrines
preached in a cold, abstract way, no wonder they are opposed to it. They ought to
be opposed to such preaching. But what can a man preach, who preaches no doctrine?
If he preaches no doctrine, he preaches no Gospel. And if he does not preach it in
a practical way, he does not preach the Gospel. All preaching should be doctrinal,
and all preaching should be practical. The very design of doctrine is to regulate
practice. Any preaching that has not this tendency is not the Gospel. A loose, exhortatory
style of preaching may affect the passions, and may produce excitement, but will
never sufficiently instruct the people to secure sound conversions. On the other
hand, preaching doctrine in an abstract manner may fill the head with notions, but
will never sanctify the heart or life.
(b) Preaching should be direct. The Gospel should be preached to men, and
not about men. The minister must address his hearers. He must preach to them about
themselves, and not leave the impression that he is preaching to them about others.
He will never do them any good, further than he succeeds in convincing each individual
that he is the person in question.
Many preachers seem very much afraid of making the impression that they mean anybody
in particular. They are preaching against certain sins - not that these have anything
to do with the sinner; they would by no means speak as if they supposed any of their
hearers were guilty of these abominable practices. Now this is anything but preaching
Thus did not the prophets, nor Christ, nor the apostles. Nor do those ministers do
this, who are successful in winning souls to Christ.
(c) Another very important thing to be regarded in preaching is, that the
minister should hunt after sinners and Christians, wherever they may have entrenched
themselves in inaction. It is not the design of preaching to make men easy and quiet,
but to make them ACT. It is not the design, in calling in a physician, to have him
give opiates, and so cover up the disease and let it run on till it works death;
but to search out the disease wherever it may be hidden, and to remove it. So, if
a professor of religion has backslidden, and is full of doubts and fears, it is not
the minister's duty to quiet him in his sins, and comfort him, but to hunt him out
of his errors and backslidings, and to show him just where he stands, and what it
is that makes him full of doubts and fears.
A minister ought to know the religious opinions of every sinner in his congregation.
Indeed, a minister in the country is inexcusable if he does not. He has no excuse
for not knowing the religious views of all his congregation, and of all that may
come under his influence. How otherwise can he preach to them? How can he know how
to bring forth things new and old, and adapt truth to their case? How can he hunt
them out unless he knows where they hide themselves? He may ring changes on a few
fundamental doctrines - Repentance and Faith, and Faith and Repentance - till the
Day of Judgment, and never make any impression on many minds. Every sinner has some
hiding place, some entrenchment, where he lingers. He is in possession of some darling
LIE, with which he is quieting himself. Let the minister find it out, and get it
away, either in the pulpit or in private, or the man will go to hell in his sins,
and his blood will be found on the minister's skirts.
(d) Another important thing to observe is, that a minister should dwell most
on those particular points which are most needed. I will explain what I mean.
Sometimes he may find a people who have been led to place great reliance on their
own resolutions. They think they can consult their own convenience, and by-and-by
they will repent, when they are ready, without any concern about the Spirit of God.
Let him take up these notions, and show that they are entirely contrary to the Scriptures.
Let him show that if the Spirit of God is grieved away, by and by, when it shall
be convenient for the sinner to repent, he will have no inclination.
The minister who finds these errors prevailing, should expose them. He should hunt
them out, and understand just how they are held, and then preach the class of truths
which show the fallacy, the folly, and the danger of these notions.
So, on the other hand, he may find a people who have such views of Election and Sovereignty,
as to think they have nothing to do but to wait for "the moving of the waters."
Let him go right over against them, urge upon them their ability to obey God, show
them their obligation and duty, and press them with that until he brings them to
submit and be saved.
They have got behind a perverted view of these doctrines, and there is no way to
drive them out of the hiding place, but to set them right on these points. Wherever
a sinner is entrenched, unless you pour light upon him there, you will never move
him. It is of no use to press him with those truths which he admits, however plainly
they may in fact contradict his wrong notions. He supposes them to be perfectly consistent,
and does not see the inconsistency, and therefore it will not move him, or bring
him to repentance.
I have been informed of a minister in New England, who was settled in a congregation
which had long enjoyed little else than Armenian preaching, and the congregation
themselves were chiefly Armenians. Well, this minister, in his preaching, strongly
insisted on the opposite points, Election, Divine Sovereignty, Predestination, etc.
The consequence was, as might have been expected where this was done with ability,
that there was a powerful revival. Some time afterwards this same minister was called
to labor in another field, in this State, where the people were all on the other
side, and strongly tinctured with Antinomianism. They had got such perverted views
of Election and Divine Sovereignty, that they were continually saying they had no
power to do anything, but must wait God's time. Now, what does the minister do, but
immediately go to preaching the doctrine of Election. And when he was asked how he
could think of preaching the doctrine of Election so much to that people, when it
was the very thing that lulled them to a deeper slumber, he replied: "Why, that
is the very class of truths by which I had such a great revival in -"; not considering
the difference in the views of the people. You must take things as they are; find
out where sinners lie, pour in truth upon them there, and START THEM OUT from their
refuges of lies. It is of vast importance that a minister should find out where the
congregation is, and preach accordingly.
I have been in many places in times of revival, and I have never been able to employ
precisely the same course of preaching in one as in another.
Some are entrenched behind one refuge, and some behind another. In one place, Christians
will need to be instructed; in another, sinners. In one place, one set of truths;
in another, another set. A minister must find out where people are, and preach accordingly.
I believe this is the experience of all preachers who are called to labor from field
(e) If a minister means to promote a revival, he should be very careful not
to introduce controversy. He will grieve away the Spirit of God. In this way, probably,
more revivals are put down than in any other. Look back upon the history of the Church
from the beginning, and you will see that ministers are generally responsible for
grieving away the Spirit and causing declensions by controversy. It is the ministers
who bring forward controversial subjects for discussion, and by and by they get very
zealous on the subject, and then get the Church into a controversial spirit, and
so the Spirit of God is grieved away.
If I had time to go over the history of the Church from the days of the apostles,
I could show that all the controversies that have taken place, and all the great
declensions in religion, too, are chargeable upon ministers. I believe the ministers
of the present day are responsible for the present state of the Church, and it will
be seen to be true at the judgment. Who does not know that ministers have been crying
out "Heresy," and "New Measures," and talking about the "Evils
of Revivals," until they have got the Church all in confusion? Oh, God, have
mercy on ministers! They talk about their days of fasting and prayer, but are these
the men to call on others to fast and pray? They ought to fast and pray themselves.
It is time that ministers should assemble together, and fast and pray over the evils
of controversy, for they have caused it. The Church itself would never get into a
controversial spirit, unless led into it by ministers. The body of Church members
are always averse to controversy, and would keep out of it, only they are dragged
into it by ministers. When Christians are revived they are not inclined to meddle
with controversy, either to read or hear it.
But they may be told of such and such "damnable heresies" that are afloat,
till they get their feelings enlisted in controversy, and then farewell to the revival.
If a minister, in preaching, finds it necessary to discuss particular points about
which Christians differ in opinion, let him BY ALL MEANS avoid a controversial spirit
and manner of doing it.
(f) The Gospel should be preached in those proportions, that the whole Gospel
may be brought before the minds of the people, and produce its proper influence.
If too much stress is laid on one class of truths, the Christian character will not
have its due proportions. Its symmetry will not be perfect. If that class of truths
be almost exclusively dwelt upon, that requires great exertion of intellect, without
being brought home to the heart and conscience, it will be found that the Church
will be indoctrinated in those views, but will not be awake, and active, and efficient
in the promotion of religion. If, on the other hand, the preaching be loose, indefinite,
exhortatory, and highly impassioned, the Church will be like a ship with too much
sail for her ballast. It will be in danger of being swept away by a tempest of feeling,
when there is not sufficient knowledge to prevent its being carried away with every
wind of doctrine. If Election and Sovereignty are too much preached, there will be
Antinomianism in the Church, and sinners will hide themselves behind the delusion
that they can do nothing. If, on the other hand, doctrines of ability and obligation
be too prominent, they will produce Arminianism, and sinners will be blustering and
When I entered the ministry, there had been so much said about Election and Sovereignty,
that I found it was the universal hiding place, both of sinners and of Christians,
that they could not do anything, or could not obey the Gospel. And wherever, I went,
I found it indispensable to demolish these refuges of lies. And a revival would in
no way have been produced or carried on, but by dwelling on that class of truths,
which hold up man's ability, and obligation, and responsibility.
It was not so in the days when President Edwards and Whitefield labored.
Then, the Churches in New England had enjoyed little else than Armenian preaching,
and were all resting in themselves and their own strength. These bold and devoted
servants of God came out and declared those particular doctrines of grace, Divine
Sovereignty and Election, and they were greatly blessed. They did not dwell on these
doctrines exclusively, but they preached them very fully. The consequence was that
because in those circumstances revivals followed from such preaching, the ministers
who followed continued to preach these doctrines almost exclusively. And they dwelt
on them so long that the Church and the world got entrenched behind them, waiting
for God to come and do what He required them to do; and so revivals ceased for many
Now, and for years past, ministers have been engaged in hunting them out from these
refuges. And here it is all-important for the ministers of this day to bear in mind
that if they dwell exclusively on Ability and Obligation, they will get their hearers
back on the old Armenian ground, and then they will cease to promote revivals. Here
are ministers who have preached a great deal of truth, and have had great revivals,
Now, let it be known and remarked, that the reason is, they have hunted sinners out
from their hiding places. But if they continue to dwell on the same class of truths
till sinners hide themselves behind such preaching, another class of truths must
be preached. And then if they do not change their mode, another pall will hang over
the Church, until another class of ministers shall arise and hunt sinners out of
those new retreats.
A right view of both classes of truths, Election and Free-agency, will do no hurt.
They are eminently calculated to convert sinners and strengthen saints. It is a perverted
view that chills the heart of the Church, and closes the eyes of sinners in sleep.
If I had time, I would remark on the manner in which I have sometimes heard the doctrines
of Divine Sovereignty, Election, and Ability preached. They have been exhibited in
irreconcilable contradiction, the one against the other. Such exhibitions are anything
but the Gospel, and are calculated to make a sinner feel anything rather than his
responsibility to God.
By preaching truth in proper proportions, I do not mean mingling all things together
in the same sermon, in such a way that sinners will not see their connection or consistency.
A minister once asked another: "Why do you not preach the doctrine of Election?"
"Because," said the other, "I find sinners here are entrenched behind
Inability." The first then said he once knew a minister who used to preach Election
in the forenoon and Repentance in the afternoon. But, bringing things together that
confound the sinner's mind, and overwhelm him with a fog of metaphysics, is not wise
preaching. When talking of Election, the preacher is not talking of the sinner's
duty. It has no relation to the sinner's duty. Election belongs to the government
of God. It is a part of the exceeding richness of the grace of God. It shows the
love of God - not the duty of the sinner. And to bring Election and Repentance together
in this way is diverting the sinner's mind away from his duty. It has been customary,
in many places, for a long time, to bring the doctrine of Election into every sermon.
Sinners have been commanded to repent, and told that they could not repent, in the
same sermon. A great deal of ingenuity has been exercised in endeavoring to reconcile
a sinner's "inability" with his obligation to obey God.
Election, Predestination, Free-agency, Inability, and Duty, have all been thrown
together in one promiscuous jumble. And, with regard to many sermons, it has been
too true, as has been objected, that ministers have preached: "You can and you
cannot, you shall and you shall not, you will and you will not, and you will be lost
if you do not!" Such a mixture of truth and error, of light and darkness, has
confounded the congregation, and been the fruitful source of Universalism and every
species of infidelity and error.
(g) It is of great importance that the sinner should be made to feel his guilt,
and not left to the impression that he is unfortunate. I think this is a very prevalent
fault, particularly in books on the subject. They are calculated to make the sinner
think more of his sorrows than of his sins, and feel that his state is rather unfortunate
than criminal. Perhaps most of you have seen a lovely little book, recently published,
entitled "Todd's Lectures to Children." It is exquisitely fine, and happy
in some of its illustrations of truth. But it has one very serious fault. Many of
its illustrations, I may say most of them, are not calculated to make a correct impression
respecting the guilt of sinners, or to make them feel how much they have been to
blame. This is very unfortunate. If the writer had guarded his illustrations on this
point, so as to make them impress sinners with a sense of their guilt, I do not see
how a child could have read through that book and not have been converted. Multitudes
of the books written for children, and for adults too, within the last twenty years,
have run into this mistake to an alarming degree. They are not calculated to make
the sinner condemn himself. Until you can do this, the Gospel will never take effect.
(h) A prime object with the preacher must be to make present obligation felt.
I have talked, I suppose, with many thousands of anxious sinners.
And I have found that they had never before felt the pressure of present obligation.
The impression is not commonly made by ministers in their preaching that sinners
are expected to repent NOW. And if ministers suppose they make this impression, they
deceive themselves. Most commonly any other impression is made upon the minds of
sinners by the preacher than that they are expected now to submit. But what sort
of a Gospel is this? Does God authorize such an impression? Is this according to
the preaching of Jesus Christ? Does the Holy Spirit, when striving with the sinner,
make the impression upon his mind that he is not expected to obey now? Was any such
impression produced by the preaching of the apostles? How does it happen that so
many ministers now preach, so as, in fact, to make an impression on their hearers
that they are not expected to repent now? Until the sinner's conscience is reached
on this subject, you preach to him in vain. And until ministers learn how to preach
so as to make the right impression, the world never can be converted. Oh, to what
an alarming extent does the impression now prevail among the impenitent, that they
are not expected to repent now, but must wait God's time!
(i) Sinners ought to be made to feel that they have something to do, and that
is, to repent; that it is something which no other being can do for them, neither
God nor man; and something which they can do, and do now. Religion is something to
do, not something to wait for. And they must do it now, or they are in danger of
(j) Ministers should never rest satisfied, until they have ANNIHILATED every
excuse of sinners. The plea of "inability" is the worst of excuses. It
slanders God so, charging Him with infinite tyranny, in commanding men to do that
which they have no power to do. Make the sinner see and feel that this is the very
nature of his excuse. Make the sinner see that All pleas in excuse for not submitting
to God are acts of rebellion against Him.
Tear away the last LIE which he grasps in his hand, and make him feel that he is
absolutely condemned before God.
(k) Sinners should be made to feel that if they now grieve away the Spirit
of God, it is very probable that they will be lost forever. There is infinite danger
of this. They should be made to understand why they are dependent on the Spirit,
and that it is not because they cannot do what God commands, but because they are
unwilling. They are so unwilling that it is just as certain they will not repent
without the Holy Ghost, as if they were now in hell, or as if they were actually
unable. They are so opposed and so unwilling, that they never will repent in the
world, unless God sends His Holy Spirit upon them.
Show them, too, that a sinner under the Gospel, who hears the truth preached, if
converted at all, is generally converted young; and if not converted while young,
he is commonly given up of God. Where the truth is preached, sinners are either Gospel-hardened
or converted. I know some old sinners are converted, but they are rather exceptions,
and by no means common.
- 2. I wish to make a few remarks on the manner of preaching.
- (a) It should be conversational. Preaching, to be
understood, should be colloquial in style. A minister must preach just as he would
talk, if he wishes fully to be understood. Nothing is more calculated to make a sinner
feel that religion is some mysterious thing that he cannot understand than this formal,
lofty style of speaking which is so generally employed in the pulpit. The minister
ought to do as the lawyer does when he wants to make a jury understand him perfectly.
He uses a style perfectly colloquial.
This lofty, swelling style will do no good. The Gospel will never produce any great
effects until ministers talk to their hearers, in the pulpit, as they talk in private
(b) It must be in the language of common life. Not only should it be colloquial
in its style, but the words should be such as are in common use.
Otherwise they will not be understood. In the New Testament you will observe that
Jesus Christ invariably uses words of the most common kind.
The language of the Gospel is the plainest, simplest, and most easily understood
of any language in the world.
For a minister to neglect this principle is wicked. Some ministers use language that
is purely technical in preaching. They think to avoid the mischief by explaining
the meaning fully at the outset; but this will not answer. It will not effect the
object in making the people understand what he means. If he should use a word that
is not in common use and that people do not understand, his explanation may be very
full, but the difficulty is that people will forget his explanations, and then his
words are so much Greek to them. Or if he uses a word in common use, but employs
it in an uncommon sense, giving his special explanations, it is no better; for the
people will soon forget his special explanations, and then the impression actually
conveyed to their minds will be according to their common understanding of the word.
And thus he will never convey the right idea to his congregation. It is amazing how
many men of thinking minds there are in congregations, who do not understand the
most common technical expressions employed by ministers, such as regeneration, sanctification,
Use words that can be perfectly understood. Do not, for fear of appearing unlearned,
use language which the people do not understand. The apostle says: "If I know
not the meaning... he that speaketh shall be a barbarian unto me" (1 Corinthians
14:11). And: "If the trumpet give an uncertain sound, who shall prepare himself
to the battle?" (v. 8). In the apostle's days there were some preachers who
were marvelously proud of displaying their command of language, and showing off the
variety of tongues they could speak, which the common people could not understand.
The apostle rebukes this spirit sharply, and says: "I had rather speak five
words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach others also, than ten
thousand words in an unknown tongue" (v. 19).
I have sometimes heard ministers preach, even when there was a revival, when I have
wondered what that part of the congregation would do, who had no dictionary. So many
phrases were brought in, manifestly to adorn the discourse, rather than to instruct
the people, that I have felt as if I wanted to tell the man: "Sit down, and
do not confound the people's minds with your barbarian preaching, that they cannot
(c) Preaching should be parabolical. That is, illustrations should be constantly
used, drawn from incidents, real or supposed. Jesus Christ constantly illustrated
His instructions in this way. He would either advance a principle and then illustrate
it by a parable - that is, a short story of some event, real or imaginary - or else
He would bring out the principle in the parable. There are millions of facts that
can be used to advantage, and yet very few ministers dare to use them, for fear somebody
will reproach them. "Oh," says somebody, "he actually tells stories!"
Tells stories! Why, that is the way Jesus Christ preached. And it is the only way
to preach. Facts, real or supposed, should be used to show the truth. Truths not
illustrated, are generally just as much calculated to convert sinners as a mathematical
demonstration. Is it always to be so?
Shall it always be a matter of reproach, when ministers follow the example of Jesus
Christ in illustrating truths by facts? Let them still do it, however much the foolish
reproach them as story-telling ministers! They have Jesus Christ and common sense
on their side.
(d) The illustrations should be drawn from common life, and the common business
of society. I once heard a minister illustrate his ideas by the manner in which merchants
transact business. Another minister who was present made some remarks to him afterwards.
He objected to this illustration particularly, because, he said, it was too familiar,
and was "letting down the dignity of the pulpit." He said all illustrations
in preaching should be drawn from ancient history, or from an elevated source, that
would keep up the dignity of the pulpit. Dignity indeed! Just the language of the
devil. He rejoices in it. Why, the object of an illustration is to make people see
the truth, not to bolster up pulpit dignity.
A minister whose heart is in the work does not use an illustration in order to make
people stare, but to make them see the truth. If he brought forward his illustrations
from ancient history, it could not make the people see; it would not illustrate anything.
The novelty of the thing might awaken their attention, but they would lose the truth
itself. For if the illustration itself be a novelty, the attention will be directed
to this fact as a matter of history, and the truth itself, which it was designed
to illustrate, will be lost sight of. The illustration should, if possible, be a
matter of common occurrence, and the more common the occurrence the more sure it
will be not to fix attention upon itself, but to serve as a medium through which
the truth is conveyed.
The Savior always illustrated His instructions by things that were taking place among
the people to whom He preached, and with which their minds were familiar. He descended
often very far below what is now supposed to be essential to support the dignity
of the pulpit. He talked about hens and chickens, and children in marketplaces, and
sheep and lambs, and shepherds and farmers, and husbandmen and merchants. And when
He talked about kings (as in the marriage of the King's son, and the nobleman that
went into a far country to receive a Kingdom), He made reference to historical facts
that were well known among the people at the time. The illustration should always
be drawn from things so common that the illustration itself will not attract attention
away from the subject, but that people may see, through it, the truth illustrated.
(e) Preaching should be repetitious. If a minister wishes to preach with effect,
he must not be afraid of repeating whatever he may see is not perfectly understood
by his hearers. Here is the evil of using a written sermon. The preacher preaches
right along just as he has written it down, and cannot observe whether he is understood
or not. If he should interrupt his reading, and attempt to catch the countenances
of his audience, and to explain where he sees they do not understand, he grows confused.
If a minister has his eyes on the people to whom he is preaching, he can commonly
tell by their looks whether they understand him. If he sees that they do not understand
any particular point, let him stop and illustrate it; and if they do not understand
one illustration, let him give another, and make it clear to their minds before he
goes on. But those who write their sermons go right on, in a regular consecutive
train, just as in an essay or a book, failing, through want of repetition, to make
the audience fully comprehend their points.
During a conversation with one of the first advocates in America, he expressed the
view that when preachers experience difficulty in making themselves understood, it
arises from the fact that they do not repeat their points sufficiently. Said he:
"In addressing a jury, I always expect that whatever I wish to impress upon
their minds, I shall have to repeat at least twice; and often I repeat it three or
four times, and even as many, times as there are jurymen before me. Otherwise, I
do not carry their minds with me, so that they can feel the force of what comes afterwards."
If a jury, under oath, called to decide on the common affairs of this world, cannot
apprehend an argument, unless there is so much repetition, how is it to be expected
that men will understand the preaching of the Gospel without it?
In like manner the minister ought to turn an important thought over and over before
his audience, till even the children understand it perfectly. Do not say that so
much repetition will create disgust in cultivated minds. It will not disgust. This
is not what disgusts thinking men. They are not weary of the efforts a minister makes
to be understood. The fact is, the more simple a minister's illustrations are, and
the more plain he makes everything, the more men of mind are interested. I know,
in fact, that men of the first minds often get ideas they never had before, from
illustrations which were designed to bring the Gospel down to the comprehension of
a child. Such men are commonly so occupied with the affairs of this world, that they
do not think much on the subject of religion, and they therefore need the plainest
preaching, and they will like it.
(f) A minister should always feel deeply upon his subject, and then he will
suit the action to the word, and the word to the action, so as to make the full impression
which the truth is calculated to make. He should be in solemn earnest in what he
says. I heard a most judicious criticism on this subject: "How important it
is that a minister should feel what he says.
Then his actions will, of course, correspond to his words. If he undertakes to make
gestures, his arms may go like a windmill, and yet make no impression." It is
said to require the utmost stretch of art on the stage for the actors to make their
hearers feel. The design of elocution is to teach this skill. But if a man feels
his subject fully, he will naturally do it. He will naturally do the very thing that
elocution laboriously teaches. See any common man in the streets who is earnest in
talking; see with what force he gestures. See a woman or a child in earnest - how
natural! To gesture with their hands is as natural as it is to move their tongue
and lips: it is the perfection of eloquence.
No wonder that a great deal of preaching produces so little effect. Gestures are
of more importance than is generally supposed. Mere words will never express the
full meaning of the Gospel. The manner of saying it is almost everything. I once
heard a remark made, respecting a young minister's preaching, which was instructive.
(He was uneducated, in the common sense of the term, but well educated to win souls.)
It was said of him: "The manner in which he comes in, and sits in the pulpit,
and rises to speak, is a sermon of itself. It shows that he has something to say
that is important and solemn." That man's manner of saying some things I have
known to move the feelings of a whole congregation, when the same things said in
a prosy way would have produced no effect at all.
A fact which was stated upon this subject by one of the most distinguished professors
of elocution in the United States, ought to impress ministers. (The man was an unbeliever.)
He said: "I have been fourteen years employed in teaching elocution to ministers,
and I know they do not believe the Christian religion. Whether the Bible is true
or not, I know these ministers do not believe it. I can demonstrate that they do
not. The perfection of my art is to teach them to speak naturally on this subject.
I go to their studies, and converse with them, and they speak eloquently. I say to
them: 'Gentlemen, if you will preach naturally, just as you speak on any other subject
in which you are interested, you do not need to be taught. That is just what I am
trying to teach you. I hear you talk on other subjects with admirable force and eloquence.
Then I see you go into the pulpit, and you speak and act as if you do not believe
what you are saying.' I have told them, again and again, to talk in the pulpit as
they naturally talk to me. Yet I cannot make them do it; and so I know they do not
believe the Christian religion."
I have mentioned this to show how universal it is, that men will gesture right, if
they feel right. The only thing in the way of ministers being natural speakers is,
that they do not DEEPLY FEEL. How can they be natural in elocution, when they do
(g) A minister should aim to convert his congregation. But, you will ask:
Does not all preaching aim at this? No. A minister always has some aim in preaching,
but most sermons were never aimed at converting sinners. And if sinners were converted
under them, the preacher himself would be amazed. I once heard a story bearing on
this point. There were two young ministers who had entered the ministry at the same
time. One of them had great success in converting sinners; the other, none. The latter
inquired of the other, one day, what was the reason of this difference. "Why,"
replied his friend, "the reason is, that I aim at a different end from you in
preaching. My object is to convert sinners, but you aim at no such thing; and then
you put it down to the Sovereignty of God that you do not produce the same effect,
when you never aim at it. Take one of my sermons and preach it, and see what the
effect will be." The man did so, and preached the sermon, and it did produce
effect. He was frightened when sinners began to weep; and when one came to him after
meeting to ask what he should do, the minister apologized to him, and said: "I
did not aim to wound you, I am sorry if I have hurt your feelings!" Oh, horrible!
(h) A minister must anticipate the objections of sinners, and answer them.
What does the lawyer do, when pleading before a jury? (Oh, how differently from human
causes is the cause of Jesus Christ pleaded!) It was remarked by a lawyer, that the
cause of Jesus Christ had the fewest able advocates of any cause in the world. And
I partly believe it. Does not a lawyer go along in his argument in a regular train,
explaining anything that is obscure, and anticipating the arguments of his antagonist?
If he did not, he would lose his case, to a certainty. But ministers often leave
one difficulty and another untouched. Sinners who hear them feel a difficulty, and
never know how to remove it, and perhaps the minister never takes the trouble to
know that such a difficulty exists. Yet he wonders why his congregation is not converted,
and why there is no revival. How can he wonder at it, when he has never hunted up
the difficulties and objections that sinners feel, and removed them?
(i) If a minister means to preach the Gospel with effect, he must be sure
not to be monotonous. If he preaches in a monotonous way, he will preach the people
to sleep. Any monotonous sound, great or small, if continued, disposes people to
sleep. The falls of Niagara, the roaring of the ocean, or any sound ever so great
or small, has this effect naturally on the nervous system. And a minister cannot
be monotonous in preaching, if he feels what he says.
(j) A minister should address the feelings enough to secure attention, and
then deal with the conscience, and probe to the quick. Appeals to the feelings alone
will never convert sinners. If the preacher deals too much in these, he may get up
an excitement, and have wave after wave of feeling flow over the congregation, and
people may be carried away as with a flood, and rest in false hopes. The only way
to secure sound conversions, is to deal faithfully with the conscience. If attention
flags at any time, appeal to the feelings again, and rouse it up; but do your work
(k) If he can, it is desirable that a minister should learn the effect of
one sermon, before he preaches another. What would be thought of the physician who
should give medicine to his patient, and then give it again and again, without trying
to learn the effect of the first? A minister never will be able to deal with sinners
as he ought, till he can find out whether his instruction has been received and understood,
and whether the difficulties in sinners' minds are cleared away, and their path open
to the Savior, so that they need not go on stumbling and stumbling till their souls
- 1. We see why so few of the leading minds in many communities
- Until the late revivals, professional men were rarely reached
by preaching, and they were almost all infidels at heart. People almost understood
the Bible to warrant the idea that they could not be converted. The reason is obvious.
The Gospel had not been commended to the conscience of such men. Ministers had not
reasoned so as to make that class of mind see the truth of the Gospel, and feel its
power; consequently such persons had come to regard religion as something unworthy
of their notice.
Of late years, however, the case is altered, and in some places there have been more
of this class of persons converted, in proportion to their numbers, than of any other.
That is because they were made to understand the claims of the Gospel. The preacher
grappled with their minds, and showed them the reasonableness of religion. And when
this is done, it is found that this class of mind is more easily converted than any
They have so much better capacity to receive an argument, and are so much more in
the habit of yielding to the force of reason, that as soon as the Gospel gets a fair
hold of their minds, it breaks them right down, and melts them down at the feet of
- 2. Before the Gospel takes general effect, we must have
a class of extempore preachers, for the following reasons:
- (a) No set of men can stand the labor of writing
sermons and doing all the preaching which will be requisite.
(b) Written sermons are not calculated to produce the requisite effect. Such
preaching does not present the truth in right shape.
It is impossible for a man who writes his sermons to arrange his matter, and turn
and choose his thoughts, so as to produce the same effect as when he addresses the
people directly, and makes them feel that he means them. Writing sermons had its
origin in times of political difficulty. The practice was unknown in the apostles'
days. No doubt written sermons have done a great deal of good, but they can never
give to the Gospel its great power.
Perhaps many ministers have been so long trained in the use of notes, that they had
better not throw them away. Perhaps they would make bad work without them. The difficulty
would not be for want of mind, but from wrong training. The bad habit is begun with
the schoolboy, who is called to "speak his piece." Instead of being set
to express his own thoughts and feelings in his own language, and in his own natural
manner, such as Nature herself prompts, he is made to commit another person's writing
to memory, and then he mouths it out in a stiff and formal way. And so when he goes
to college, and to the seminary, instead of being trained to extempore speaking,
he is set to write his piece, and commit it to memory.
I would pursue the opposite course from the beginning. I would give him a subject,
and let him first think, and then speak his thoughts. Perhaps he will make mistakes.
Very well, that is to be expected in a beginner. But he will learn. Suppose he is
not eloquent, at first. Very well, he can improve.
And he is in the very way to improve. This kind of training alone will raise up a
class of ministers who can convert the world.
But it is objected to extemporaneous preaching, that if ministers do not write, they
will not think. This objection will have weight with those men whose habit has always
been to write down their thoughts. But to a man of different habit, it will have
no weight at all.
The mechanical labor of writing is really a hindrance to close and rapid thought.
It is true that some extempore preachers have not been men of thought. But so it
is true that many men who write sermons are not men of thought. A man whose habits
have always been such, that he has thought only when he has put his mind on the end
of his pen, will, of course, if he lays aside his pen, at first find it difficult
to think; and if he attempts to preach without writing, will, until his habits are
thoroughly changed, find it difficult to throw into his sermons the same amount of
thought, as if he conformed to his old habit of writing. But it should be remembered
that this is only on account of his having been trained to write, and having always
habituated himself to it. It is the training and habit that render it so difficult
for him to think without writing. Will anybody pretend to say that lawyers are not
men of thought? That their arguments before a court and jury are not profound and
well digested? And yet every one knows that they do not write their speeches.
I have heard much of this objection to extempore preaching ever since I entered the
ministry. It was often said to me then, in answer to my views of extempore preaching,
that ministers who preached extemporaneously would not instruct the Churches, that
there would be a great deal of sameness in their preaching, and they would soon become
insipid and repetitious for want of thought. But every year's experience has ripened
the conviction on my mind, that the reverse of this objection is true. The man who
writes least, may, if he pleases, think most, and will say what he does think in
a manner that will be better understood than if it were written; and that, just in
the proportion that he lays aside the labor of writing, his body will be left free
to exercise, and his mind to vigorous and consecutive thought.
The great reason why it is supposed that extempore preachers more frequently repeat
the same thoughts in their preaching, is because what they say is, in a general way,
more perfectly remembered by the congregation, than if it had been read. I have often
known preachers who could repeat their written sermons once in a few months, without
the fact being recognized by the congregation. But the manner in which extempore
sermons are generally delivered is so much more impressive, that the thoughts cannot
in general be soon repeated without being remembered.
We shall never have a set of men in our halls of legislation, in our courts of justice,
and in our pulpits, who are powerful and overwhelming speakers, and can carry the
world before them, till our system of education teaches them to think, closely, rapidly,
consecutively, and till all their habits of speaking in the schools are extemporaneous.
The very style of communicating thought, in what is commonly called a good style
of writing, is not calculated to leave a deep impression. It is not laconic, direct,
pertinent. It is not the language of nature.
In delivering a sermon in this essay style of writing, it is impossible that nearly
all the fire of meaning, and power of gesture, and looks, and attitude, and emphasis,
should not be lost. We can never have the full meaning of the Gospel, till we throw
away our written sermons.
- 3. A minister's course of study and training for his work
should be exclusively theological.
- I mean just as I say. I am not now going to discuss the
question whether all education ought not to be theological. But I say education for
the ministry should be exclusively so. But you will ask: Should not a minister understand
science? I would answer: Yes; the more the better. I would that ministers might understand
all science. But it should all be in connection with theology. Studying science is
studying the works of God. And studying theology is studying God.
Let a scholar be asked, for instance, this question: "Is there a God?"
To answer it, let him ransack the universe, let him go out into every department
of science to find the proofs of design, and in this way to learn the existence of
God. Let him ransack creation to see whether there is such a unity of design as evinces
that there is one God. In like manner, let him inquire concerning the attributes
of God, and His character. He will learn science here, but will learn it as a part
of theology. Let him search every field of knowledge to bring forward his proofs.
What was the design of this plan? What was the end of that arrangement? See whether
everything you find in the universe is not calculated to produce happiness, unless
Would the student's heart get hard and cold in study, as cold and hard as college
walls, if science were pursued in this way? Every lesson brings him right up before
God, and is, in fact, communion with God, which warms his heart, and makes him more
pious, more solemn, more holy. The very distinction between classical and theological
study is a curse to the Church, and a curse to the world. The student spends four
years in college at classical studies, with no God in them; and then three years
in the seminary, at theological studies; and what then? Poor young man! Set him to
work, and you will find that he is not educated for the ministry at all.
The Church groans under his preaching, because he does not preach with unction, or
with power. He has been spoiled in training.
- 4. We learn what revival preaching is. All ministers should
be revival ministers, and all preaching should be revival preaching; that is, it
should be calculated to promote holiness. People say: "It is very well to have
some men in the Church, who are revival preachers, and who can go about and promote
revivals; but then you must have others to indoctrinate the Church." Strange!
Do they know that a revival indoctrinates the Church faster than anything else? And
a minister will never produce a revival if he does not indoctrinate his hearers.
The preaching I have described is full of doctrine, but it is doctrine to be practiced.
And that is revival preaching.
- 5. There are two objections sometimes brought against the
kind of preaching which I have recommended.
- (a) That it is letting down the dignity of the pulpit
to preach in this colloquial, lawyer-like style. They are shocked at it. But it is
only on account of its novelty, and not for any impropriety there is in the thing
itself. I heard a remark made by a leading layman in regard to the preaching of a
certain minister. He said it was the first preaching he had ever heard, that he understood,
and the minister was the first he had heard who spoke as if he believed his own doctrine,
or meant what he said. The layman further said that when first he heard the minister
preach - as if he really meant what he said - he came to the conclusion that such
a preacher must be crazy! But, eventually, he was made to see that it was all true,
and then he submitted to the truth, as the power of God for the salvation of his
What is the dignity of the pulpit? What an idea, to see a minister go into the pulpit
to sustain its dignity! Alas, alas! During my foreign tour, I heard an English missionary
preach exactly in that way. I believe he was a good man, and out of the pulpit he
would talk like a man who meant what he said. But no sooner was he in the pulpit
than he appeared like a perfect automaton - swelling, mouthing, and singing, enough
to put all the people to sleep. And the difficulty seemed to be that he wanted to
maintain the dignity of the pulpit.
(b) It is objected that this preaching is theatrical. The Bishop of London
once asked Garrick, the celebrated actor, why it was that actors, in representing
a mere fiction, should move an assembly, even to tears, while ministers, in representing
the most solemn realities, could scarcely obtain a hearing. The philosophical Garrick
well replied: "It is because we represent fiction as reality, and you represent
reality as a fiction." This is telling the whole story. Now, what is the design
of the actor in a theatrical representation? It is so to throw himself into the spirit
and meaning of the writer, as to adopt his sentiments, and make them his own: to
feel them, embody them, throw them out upon the audience as a living reality.
Now, what is the objection to all this in preaching? The actor suits the action to
the word, and the word to the action. His looks, his hands, his attitudes, and everything,
are designed to express the full meaning of the writer.
Now, this should be the aim of the preacher. And if by "theatrical" be
meant the strongest possible representation of the sentiments expressed, then the
more theatrical the sermon is, the better. And if ministers are too stiff, and the
people too fastidious, to learn even from an actor, or from the stage, the best method
of swaying mind, of enforcing sentiment, and diffusing the warmth of burning thought
over a congregation, then they must go on with their prosing, and reading, and sanctimonious
starch. But let them remember, that while they are thus turning away and decrying
the art of the actor, and attempting to support the "dignity of the pulpit,"
the theaters can be thronged every night. The common sense of the people will be
entertained with that manner of speaking, and sinners will go down to hell.
- 6. A congregation may learn how to choose a minister. When
a vacant Church is looking out for a minister, there are two leading points on which
attention is commonly fixed:
- 1. That he should be popular.
2. That he should be learned. These are very well. But the point that should be the
first in their inquiries is: "Is he wise to win souls?" No matter how eloquent
a minister is or how learned, no matter how pleasing and how popular is his manners,
if it is a matter of fact that sinners are not converted under his preaching, it
shows that he has not this wisdom, and your children and neighbors will go down to
hell under his preaching.
I am happy to know that many Churches will ask this question about ministers, and
if they find that a minister is destitute of this vital quality, they will not have
him. And if ministers can be found who are wise to win souls, the Churches will have
such ministers. It is in vain to contend against it, or to pretend that they are
not well educated, or not learned, or the like. It is in vain for the schools to
try to force down the throats of the Churches a race of ministers who are learned
in everything but what they most need to know.
It is very difficult to say what needs to be said on this subject, without being
in danger of begetting a wrong spirit in the Church towards ministers. Many professors
of religion are ready to find fault with ministers when they have no reason; insomuch,
that it becomes very difficult to say of ministers what is true, and what needs to
be said, without one's remarks being perverted and abused by this class of professors.
I would not, for the world, say anything to injure the influence of a minister of
Christ, who is really endeavoring to do good. But, to tell the truth will not injure
the influence of those ministers who, by their lives and preaching, give evidence
to the Church that their object is to do good, and win souls for Christ. This class
of ministers will recognize the truth of all that I have said, or wish to say. They
see it all and deplore it. But if there be ministers who are doing no good, who are
feeding themselves and not the flock, such ministers deserve no influence. If they
are doing no good, it is time for them to betake themselves to some other profession.
They are but leeches on the very vitals of the Church, sucking out its heart's blood.
They are useless, and worse than useless. And the sooner they are laid aside and
their places filled with those who will exert themselves for Christ, the better.
- 7. Finally. It is the duty of the Church to pray for us,
ministers. Not one of us is such as he ought to be. Like Paul, we can say: "Who
is sufficient for these things?" ( 2 Corinthians 2:16.) But who among us is
like Paul? Where will you find such ministers as Paul? They are not here. We have
been wrongly educated, all of us. Pray for the schools, and colleges, and seminaries.
And pray for young men who are preparing for the ministry.
- Pray for ministers, that God would give them this wisdom
to win souls.
And pray that God would bestow upon the Church the wisdom and the means to educate
a generation of ministers who will go forward and convert the world. The Church must
travail in prayer, and groan and agonize for this. This is now the pearl of price
to the Church - to have a supply of the right sort of ministers. The coming of the
millennium depends on having a different sort of ministers, who are more thoroughly
educated for their work. And this we shall have so sure as the promise of the Lord
holds good. Such a ministry as is now in the Church will never convert the world,
but the world is to be converted, and therefore God intends to have ministers who
will do it. "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that He would send forth
laborers into His harvest" (Luke 10:2).
HOW CHURCHES CAN HELP MINISTERS
And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that
Israel prevailed: and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed. But Moses' hands
were heavy; and they took a stone, and put it under him, and he sat thereon; and
Aaron and Hur stayed up his hands, the one on the one side, and the other on the
other side; and his hands were steady until the going down of the sun. And Joshua
discomfited Amalek and his people with the edge of the sword .
- Exodus 17:11-13.
You who read your Bibles will recollect the connection in which these verses stand.
The people of God, in subduing their enemies, came to battle against the Amalekites,
and these incidents took place. It is difficult to conceive why importance should
be attached to the circumstance of Moses holding up his hands, unless the expression
is understood to denote the attitude of prayer. But then his holding up his hands,
and the success attending it, will teach us the importance of prayer to God, for
His aid in all our conflicts with His enemies. The cooperation and support of Aaron
and Hur have been generally understood to represent the duty of Churches to sustain
and assist ministers in their work, and the importance of this cooperation to the
success of the preached gospel. I shall make this use of it on the present occasion.
As I have spoken of the duty of ministers to labor for revivals, I shall now consider
the importance of the cooperation of the Church in producing and carrying on a revival.
There are various things, the importance of which in promoting a revival have not
been duly considered by Churches or ministers - things which, if not attended to,
will make it impossible that revivals should extend, or even continue for any considerable
time. In my last two Lectures, I have been dwelling on the duties of ministers, for
it was impossible for me to deliver a course of lectures on revivals, without entering
more or less extensively into that department of means. I have not done with that
part of the subject, but have thought it important here to step aside and discuss
some points, in which the members of the Church must stand by and aid the minister,
if they expect to enjoy a revival. In discussing the subject, I propose to mention:
I. Several things which Christians must avoid, if they would support ministers.
II. Some things to which they must attend.
I. THINGS THAT MUST BE AVOIDED.
- 1. By all means keep clear of the idea, both in theory
and practice, that a minister alone is to promote revivals. Many professing Christians
are inclined to take a passive attitude on this subject, and feel as if they had
nothing to do. They have employed a minister, and paid him to feed them with instruction
and comfort, and now they have nothing to do but to sit and swallow the food he gives.
They are to pay his salary and attend on his preaching - and they think that is doing
a great deal. And he, on his part, is expected to preach good, sound, comfortable
doctrine, to bolster them up, and make them feel comfortable. So, they expect to
go to heaven.
- I tell you THEY WILL GO TO HELL if this is their religion!
That is not the way to heaven!
Rest assured that where this spirit prevails in the Church, however good the minister
may be, the Church has taken the course to prevent a revival.
Be the minister ever so faithful, ever so devoted, ever so talented and eloquent,
though he may wear himself out, and perhaps destroy his life, he will have little
or no revival.
Where there are very few members, or none, a revival may be promoted without any
organized effort of the Church, because there is no Church to organize; and in such
a case, God accommodates His grace to the circumstances, as He did when the apostles
went out, single-handed, to plant the Gospel in the world. I have seen instances
of powerful revivals where such was the case. But where there are means, God will
have them used. I had rather have no Church in a place, than attempt to promote a
revival in a place where there is a Church which will not work. God will be inquired
of by His people, to bestow His blessings. The counteracting influence of a Church
that will not work, is worse than infidelity. There is no possibility of occupying
neutral ground, in regard to a revival, though some professors imagine they are neutral.
If a professor will not give himself to the work, he opposes it. Let such a one attempt
to take middle ground, and say he is "going to wait and see how affairs shape"
- why, that is the very ground the devil wants him to take. Professors can in this
way do his work a great deal more effectually than by open opposition. If they should
take open ground in opposition, everybody will say they have no religion. But, by
taking this middle course they retain their influence, and thus do the devil's work
In employing ministers Churches must remember that they have only employed leaders
to lead them on to action in the cause of Christ. People would think it strange if
any country should propose to support a general, and then let him go and fight alone!
This is no more absurd, or destructive, than for a minister to attempt to go forward
alone. The Church misconceives the design of the ministry, if the minister is left
to work alone. It is not enough that they should hear his sermons. That is only the
word of command, which the Church is bound to follow.
- 2. Do not complain of your minister because there is no
revival, if you are not doing your duty, for if you are not doing your duty, that
alone is a sufficient reason why there should be no revival. It is a most cruel and
abominable thing for Church members to complain of their minister, when they themselves
are fast asleep. It is very common for professors of religion to take great credit
to themselves, and quiet their own consciences, by complaining of their ministers.
And when the importance of ministers being awake is spoken of, such people are always
ready to say: "We never shall have a revival with such a minister"; when
the fact is that their minister is much more awake than they are themselves.
- Another thing is true in regard to this point, and worthy
of notice. When the Church is sunk down in a low state, professors of religion are
very apt to complain of the Church, and of the low state of religion. That intangible
and irresponsible being, the "Church," is greatly complained of by them,
for being asleep. Their complaints of the low state of religion, and of the coldness
of the Church or of the minister, are poured out dolefully, without any seeming realization
that the Church is composed of individuals, and that until each one will take his
own case in hand, complain of himself, and humble himself before God, and repent,
and wake up, the Church can never have any efficiency, and there never can be a revival.
If, instead of complaining of your minister, or of the Church, you would wake up
as individuals, and not complain of him or them until you can say you are pure from
the blood of all men, and are doing your duty to save sinners, the minister would
be apt to feel the justice of your complaints, and if he would not, God would either
wake him up or remove him.
- 3. Do not let your minister kill himself by attempting
to carry on the work alone, while you refuse to help him. It sometimes happens that
a minister finds the ark of the Lord will not move unless he lays out his utmost
strength, and he has been so desirous of a revival that he has done this, and has
died. And he was willing to die for it. I could mention cases in which ministers
have died in consequence of their labors to promote a revival where the Church hung
back from the work.
- A minister, some years since, was laboring where there
was a revival; and was visited by an elder of a Church at some distance, who wanted
him to go and preach there. There was no revival there, and never had been. The elder
complained about their state, and said they had two excellent ministers, one of whom
had worn himself completely out, and died; and the other had exhausted himself, grown
discouraged, and left them. They were a poor and feeble Church, and their prospects
very dark, unless they could have a revival, and so he begged this minister to go
and help them.
The minister at last replied by asking: "Why did you never have a revival?"
"I do not know," said the elder; "our minister labored very hard,
but the Church did not seem to wake up, and somehow there seemed to be no revival."
"Well, now," said the minister, "I see what you want; you have killed
one of God's ministers, and broke down another so that he had to leave you; and now
you want to get another there and kill him; and the devil has sent you here to get
me to go and rock your cradle for you. You had one good minister to preach for you,
but you slept on, and he exerted himself till he absolutely died in the work. Then
the Lord let you have another, and still you lay and slept, and would not wake up
to your duty.
And now you have come here in despair, and want another minister, do you? God forbid
that you should ever have another while you do as you have done. God forbid that
you should ever have a minister till the Church will wake up to duty."
The elder was affected, for he was a good man. The tears came into his eyes, and
he said it was no more than they deserved. "And now," said the minister,
"will you be faithful, and go home and tell the Church what I say? If you will,
and they will be faithful, and wake up to duty, they shall have a minister, I will
warrant them that." The elder said he would, and he was true to his word; he
went home and told the members how cruel it was for them to ask another minister
to come among them, unless they would wake up. They felt it, and confessed their
sins, and wakened up to duty, and a minister was sent to them, and a precious and
powerful revival followed.
Churches do not realize how often their coldness and backwardness may be absolutely
the cause of the death of ministers. The state of the people, and of sinners, rests
upon their mind; they travail in soul night and day; and they labor in season and
out of season, beyond the power of the human constitution to bear, till they wear
out and die. The Church knows not the agony of a minister's heart, when he travails
for souls, and labors to wake up the members to help, but still sees them in the
slumber of death. Perhaps they will sometimes rouse up to spasmodic effort for a
few days, and then all is cold again. And so many a faithful minister wears himself
out and dies, and then these heartless professors are the first to blame him for
doing so much.
I recollect a case of a good minister, who went to a place where there was a revival,
and while there heard a pointed sermon to ministers. He received it like a man of
God; he did not rebel against God's truth, but he promised God that he never would
rest until he saw a revival among his people. He returned home and went to work;
the Church would not wake up, except a few members, and the Lord blessed them, and
poured out His Spirit; but the minister laid himself down on his bed and died, in
the midst of the revival.
- 4. Be careful not to complain of plain, pointed preaching,
even when its reproofs fasten on yourselves. Churches are apt to forget that a minister
is responsible only to God. They want to make rules for a minister to preach by,
so as to have his discourses fit them. If he bears down upon the Church, and exposes
the sins that prevail among the people, they call it "personal," and rebel
against the truth. Or they say: "He should not preach so plainly to the Church
before the world, for it exposes religion; he ought to take members by themselves
and preach to the Church alone, and not tell sinners how bad Christians are."
But there are cases where a minister can do no less than show the house of Jacob
their sins. If you ask: "Why not do it when we are by ourselves?" I answer:
"Just as if sinners do not know you do wrong! I will preach to you by yourselves,
about your sins, when you will get together by yourselves to sin. But as the Lord
liveth, if you sin before the world, you shall be rebuked before the world. Is it
not a fact that sinners do know how you live, and that they stumble over you into
hell? Then do not blame ministers, when they see it to be their duty to rebuke the
Church openly, before the world. If you are so proud that you cannot bear this, you
need not expect a revival. Do not call the preaching 'too plain,' simply because
it exposes the faults of the Church. There is no such thing as preaching too plainly."
- 5. Sometimes professors take alarm lest the minister should
offend the ungodly by plain preaching. And they will begin to caution him against
it, and ask him if he had not better alter a little so as to avoid giving offense,
and the like. This fear is specially excited if some of the more wealthy and influential
members of the congregation are offended, lest they should withdraw their support,
no longer give their money to help to pay the minister's salary, and so cause the
burden to come the heavier on the Church. They can never have a revival in such a
Church. Why, the Church ought to pray, above all things, that the truth may come
on the ungodly like fire. What if they are offended? Christ can get along very well
without their money. Do not blame your minister, or ask him to change his mode of
preaching so as to please and conciliate the ungodly. It is of no use for a minister
to preach to the impenitent, unless he can preach the truth to them. And it will
do no good for f hem to pay for the support of the Gospel, unless it is preached
in such a way that they may be searched and saved.
- Sometimes Church members will talk among themselves about
the minister's imprudence, and create a party, and get into a very wrong spirit,
because the wicked are displeased. There was a place where there was a powerful revival,
and great opposition. The Church became alarmed, for fear that if the minister was
not less plain and pointed, some of the impenitent would go and join some other congregation.
And so one of the leading men in the Church was appointed to go to the minister,
and ask him not to preach quite so hard, for, if he continued to do so, such-and-such
persons would leave the congregation. The minister asked: "Is not the preaching
true?" "Yes." "Does not God bless it?" "Yes."
"Did you ever see the like of this work before in this place?" "No,
I never did."
"Then, 'get thee behind me, Satan.' You have come upon the devil's errand! You
see God is blessing the preaching, the work is going on, and sinners are converted
every day; and now you come to get me to let down the tone of preaching, so as to
ease the minds of the ungodly." The man felt the rebuke, and took it like a
Christian; he saw his error and submitted, and never again was heard to find fault
with plainness in preaching.
In another town where there was a revival, a woman who had some influence (not pious)
complained very much about "plain, pointed, personal preaching," as she
called it. But, by and by, she herself became a subject of the work. After this some
of her impenitent friends reminded her of what she used to say against the preacher
for "preaching so hot."
She said her views were altered now, and she did not care how hot the truth was preached;
not even if it was red hot!
- 6. Do not take part with the wicked in any way. If you
do it at all, you will strengthen their hands. If the wicked should accuse the minister
of being imprudent or personal; and if the Church members, without admitting that
the minister is so, should merely agree that "personal preaching is wrong,"
and talk about "the impropriety of personal preaching," the wicked would
feel themselves strengthened by such remarks. Do not unite with them at all, for
they will feel that they have you on their side against the minister; you adopt their
principles, use their language, and are understood as sympathizing with them. What
is personal preaching? No individual is ever benefitted by preaching until he is
made to feel that it means him. Such preaching is always personal. It often appears
so personal to wicked men that they feel as if they were just going to be called
out by name before the congregation. A minister was once preaching to a congregation,
and, when describing certain characters, he said: "If I were omniscient, I could
call out by name the very persons that answer to this picture." A man cried
out: "Name me!" And he looked as if he were going to sink into the earth.
He afterwards said that he had no idea of speaking out; but the minister described
him so perfectly that he really thought he was going to call him by name. The minister
did not actually know that there was such a man. It is common for men to think their
own conduct is described, and they complain: "Who has been telling him about
me? Somebody has been talking to him about me, and getting him to preach at me!"
I suppose I have heard of five hundred or a thousand just such cases. Now, if the
Church members will admit that it is wrong for a minister to mean anybody in his
preaching, how can he do any good? If you be not willing your minister should mean
anybody, or preach to anybody, you had better dismiss him. To whom must he preach,
if not to the persons, the individuals before him? And how can he preach to them,
when he does not mean them?
- 7. If you wish to stand by your minister in promoting a
revival, do not, by your lives contradict his preaching. If he preaches that sinners
are going to hell, do not give the lie to it, and smile it all away, by your levity
and unconcern. I have heard sinners speak of the effect produced on their minds by
levity in Christians after a solemn and searching discourse. They feel solemn and
tender, and begin to feel alarmed at their condition; and they see these professors,
instead of weeping over them, all light and easy: as much as to say: "Do not
be afraid, sinners, it is not so bad, after all; keep cool and you will do well;
do you think we would laugh and joke if you were going to hell so fast? We would
not laugh if only your house were on fire; still less if we saw you burning in it!"
Of what use is it for a minister to preach to sinners in such a state of things?
- 8. Do not needlessly take up the time of your minister.
Ministers often lose a great deal of time by individuals calling on them, to talk,
when they have nothing of importance to talk about, and have come on no particular
errand. The minister, of course, is glad to see his friends, and often too willing
to spend time in conversation with his people, as he loves and esteems them. Professors
of religion should remember, however, that a minister's time is worth more than gold,
for it can be employed in that which gold can never buy. If the minister be kept
from his knees, or from his Bible, or from his study, that they may indulge themselves
in his conversation, they do a great injury. When you have a good reason for it,
you should never be backward to call upon him, and even take up all the time that
is necessary. But if you have nothing in particular to say that is important, keep
- 9. Be sure not to sanction anything that is calculated
to divert public attention from the subject of religion. Often, when it comes the
time of year to work, when the evenings are long, and business is light, and the
very time to make an extra effort; at this moment somebody in the Church will "give
a party," and invite some Christian friends, so as to have it a religious party.
And then some other family must do the same, to return the compliment. Then another,
and another, till it grows into an organized system of parties that consumes the
whole winter. Abominable! This is the grand device of the devil, because it appears
so innocent, and so proper, to promote good feeling, and increase the acquaintance
of Christians with each other. And so, instead of prayer meetings, they will have
- The evils of these parties are very great. They are often
got up at great expense; and the most abominable gluttony is practiced in them. I
have been told that in some instances professed Christians have made great entertainments,
and excused the ungodly prodigality in the use of Jesus Christ's money, by giving
what was left, after the feast was ended, to the poor! Thus making it a virtue to
feast and riot, even to surfeiting, on the bounties of God's providence, under pretense
of benefitting the poor. This is the same in principle with a splendid ball which
was given some years ago, in a neighboring city. The ball was got up for the benefit
of the poor, and each gentleman was to pay a certain sum, and after the ball was
ended, whatever remained of the funds thus raised, was to be given to the poor.
Truly this is strange charity: to eat, and drink, and dance, and when they have rioted
and feasted until they can enjoy it no longer, they deal out to the poor the crumbs
that have fallen from the table. I do not see, however, why such a ball is not quite
as pious as such Christian parties. The evil of balls does not consist simply in
the exercise of dancing, but in the dissipation, and surfeiting, and temptations
connected with them.
But it is said they are Christian parties, and that they are all, or nearly all,
professors of religion, who attend them. And furthermore, that they are concluded,
often, with prayer. Now I regard this as one of the worst features about them; that
after the waste of time and money, the excess in eating and drinking, the vain conversation,
and nameless fooleries, with which such a season is filled up, an attempt should
be made to sanctify it, and palm it off upon God, by concluding it with prayer. Say
what you will, it would not be more absurd or incongruous, or impious, to close a
ball, or a theatrical performance, or a card party with prayer.
Has it come to this; that professors of religion (who profess to desire the salvation
of the world), when calls are made upon them from the four winds of heaven, to send
the Gospel, to furnish Bibles, and tracts, and missionaries, to save the world from
death, should waste large sums of money in an evening, and then go to the Missionary
Meeting and pray for the heathen?
In some instances, I have been told, they find a salve for their consciences in the
fact that their minister attends their parties. This, of course, would give weight
to such an example; for if one professor of religion made a party and invited the
minister, others would do the same. The next step they take may be for each to give
a ball, and appoint their minister a manager! Why not? And perhaps, by and by, he
will do them the favor to play the fiddle. In my estimation he might quite as well
do it, as go and conclude such a party with prayer. I should advise any congregation
that is calculating to have a circle of parties, in the meantime to dismiss their
minister, and let him go and preach where the people would be ready to receive the
Word and profit by it, rather than have him stay and be grieved, and killed, by attempting
to promote religion among them, while they are engaged, heart and hand, in the service
of the devil.
Professors of religion should never arrange anything that may divert public attention
from religion, without having first consulted their minister, and made it a subject
of special prayer. And if they find it will have an adverse effect, they ought never
to do it. Subjects will often come up before the public which have this tendency;
some course of Lectures, some show, or the like. Professors ought to be wise, and
understand what they are about, and not give countenance to any such thing until
they see what influence it will have, and whether it will hinder a revival. If it
will do that, let them have nothing to do with it. Every such thing should be estimated
by its bearing upon Christ's Kingdom.
II. SEVERAL THINGS WHICH CHURCHES MUST DO.
That is to say, things which they must do if they would promote a revival and aid
- 1. They must attend to his temporal wants. A minister who
gives himself wholly to his work cannot be engaged in worldly employments, and of
course is entirely dependent on his people for the supply of his temporal wants,
including the support of his family. I need not argue this point here, for you all
understand this perfectly. It is the command of God, that "they which preach
the Gospel should live of the Gospel" (1 Corinthians 9:14). But now look around
and see how many Churches do in this matter.
- For instance, when they want a minister, they will cast
about and see how cheaply they can get one. They will calculate to a farthing how
much his salt will cost, and how much his flour, and then set his salary so low as
to subject him to extreme inconvenience to pay his way and keep his family.
A minister must have his mind at ease, to study and labor with effect, and he cannot
screw down prices, and barter, and look out for the best chances to buy to advantage
what he needs. If he be obliged to do this, his mind is embarrassed. Unless his temporal
wants are so supplied, that his thoughts may be abstracted from them, how can he
do his duty?
- 2. Be honest with your minister. Do not measure out and
calculate with how much salt and how many bushels of grain he can possibly get along.
- Remember, you are dealing with Christ, and He calls you
to place His ministers in such a situation, that, with ordinary prudence, temporal
embarrassment may be out of the question.
- 3. Be punctual with him. Sometimes Churches, when they
are about to welcome a minister, have a great deal of pride about giving a salary,
and they will get up a subscription list, and make out, in the total, an amount which
they never do pay, and very likely never expected to pay. And so, after one, two,
three, or four years, the society gets three or four hundred dollars in debt to the
minister, and then they expect him to forego it. And all the while they wonder why
there is no revival! This may be the very reason - because the Church has LIED. They
have faithfully promised to pay so much, and have not done it. God cannot consistently
pour out His Spirit on such a Church.
- 4. Pay him his salary without being asked. Nothing is so
embarrassing to a minister as to be obliged to dun his people for his salary. Often
he creates enemies and gives offense by being obliged to call, and call, for his
money - even then not getting it as he was promised. They would have paid it if their
credit had been at stake; but when it is nothing but conscience and the blessing
of God, they "let it lie along." If any one of them had a note due at the
bank, you would see him careful and prompt to be on the ground before three o'clock,
lest he should lose his character. But they know the minister will not ask them for
his salary, so they are careless, and then let it run into arrears, and he must suffer
the inconvenience. This is not so common in the city as it is in the country. But
in the country I have known some heartrending cases of distress and misery, by the
negligence and cruelty of congregations in withholding that which was due. Churches
live in habitual lying and cheating, and then wonder why they have no revival. How
can they wonder?
- 5. Pray for your minister. Even the apostles used to urge
the Churches to pray for them. This is more important than you imagine. Ministers
do not ask people to pray for them simply as men, nor that they may be filled with
an abundance of the Spirit's influences, merely to promote their own personal enjoyment.
But they know that unless the Church greatly desires a blessing upon the labors of
a minister, it is tempting God for him to expect it. How often does a minister go
into his pulpit, feeling that his heart is ready to break for the blessing of God,
while he also feels that there is no room to expect it, for there is no reason to
believe that the Church desires it! Perhaps he has been for hours on his knees in
supplication, and yet, because the Church does not desire a blessing, he feels as
if his words would bound back in his face.
- I have seen Christians who would be in an agony, when the
minister was going into the pulpit, for fear his mind should be in a cloud, or his
heart cold, or he should have no unction, and so a blessing should not come. I have
labored with a man of this sort. He would pray until he got an assurance in his mind
that God would be with me in preaching, and sometimes he would pray himself ill.
I have known the time when he has been in darkness for a season, while the people
were gathering, and his mind was full of anxiety, and he would go again and again
to pray, till finally he would come into the room with a placid face, and say: "The
Lord has come, and He will be with us." And I do not know that I ever found
I have known a Church bear up their minister in prayer from day to day, and watch
with anxiety unutterable, to see that he had the Holy Ghost with him in his labors!
When Christians feel and pray thus, oh, what feelings and what looks are manifest
in the congregation! They have felt anxiety unutterable to have the Word come with
power and take effect; and when they see their prayer answered, and when they hear
a word or a sentence come WARM from the heart, taking effect among the people, you
can see their whole souls look out of their eyes! How different is the case where
the Christians feel that the Minster is praying, and so there is no need for them
to do so. They are mistaken. The Church must desire and pray for the blessing. God
says He will be inquired of by the house of Israel. I wish you to feel that there
can be no substitute for this.
I have seen cases in revivals, where the Church was kept in the background in regard
to prayer, and persons from abroad were called on to pray in all the meetings. This
is always unhappy, even if there should be a revival, for the revival must be less
powerful and less salutary in its influences upon the Church. I do not know but that
I have sometimes offended Christians and ministers from other places, by continuing
to call on members of the Church to pray, and not on visitors. It was not from any
disrespect, but because the object was to get that Church which was chiefly concerned,
to desire, and pray, and agonize for a blessing.
In a certain place, a "protracted meeting" was held, with no good results;
but, on the contrary, great evils were produced. I was led to make inquiry for the
reason, and it came out that throughout their meetings not one member of their own
Church was called on to pray, but all the prayers were made by persons from elsewhere.
No wonder there was no good done. The leader of the meeting meant well, but he undertook
to promote a revival without getting the Church into the work. He let a lazy Church
lie still and do nothing, and so there could be no good result.
Churches should pray for ministers as the agents for breaking down sinners with the
word of truth. Prayer for a minister is often made in a set and formal way, and confined
to the prayer meetings. They will say their prayers in the old way, as they have
always done: "Lord, bless Thy ministering servant whom Thou hast stationed on
this part of Zion's walls!" and so on; and it amounts to nothing, because there
is no heart in it. The fact often is that they never thought of praying for him in
secret; they never have agonized in private for a blessing on his labors. They may
not omit it wholly in their meetings, for if they do that, it becomes evident that
they care very little indeed about the labors of their minister. But that is not
the most important place. The way to present effectual prayer for your minister is,
when you are in secret, to wrestle with God for success to attend his labors.
I knew a case of a minister in ill-health, who became depressed and cast down in
his mind, and was very much in darkness, so that he did not feel as if he could preach
any longer. An individual of the Church was awakened to feel for the minister in
such a situation, and to pray that he might have the Holy Ghost to attend his preaching.
One Sabbath morning, this person's mind was very much exercised, so that he began
to pray as soon as it was light, and prayed again and again for a blessing that day.
And the Lord in some way directed the minister within hearing of his prayer. The
person was telling the Lord just what he thought of the minister's situation and
state of mind, and pleading, as if he would not be denied, for a blessing. The minister
went into the pulpit and preached, and the light broke in upon him, and the Word
was with power, and a revival commenced that very day.
- 6. A minister should be provided for by the Church, and
his support guaranteed, irrespective of the ungodly. Otherwise he may be obliged
either to starve his family, or to keep back a part of the truth so as not to offend
sinners. I once expostulated with a minister whom I found was afraid to come out
fully with the truth. I told him I was surprised he did not bear upon certain points.
He told me he was so situated that he must please certain men, who would be touched
thereby. It was the ungodly that chiefly supported him, and this made him dependent
- And yet perhaps that very Church which left the minister
dependent on the ungodly for his bread, would turn round and abuse him for his want
of faith, and his fear of men. The Church ought always to say to the minister: "We
will support you; go to work; let the truth pour down on the people, and we will
stand by you."
- 7. See that everything is so arranged that people can sit
comfortably in the meeting. If people do not sit in ease, it is difficult to get
or to keep their attention. And if they are not attentive, they cannot be converted.
They have come to hear for their lives, and they ought to be so situated that they
can hear with all their souls, and have nothing in their bodily position to call
for attention. Churches do not realize how important it is that the place of meeting
should be made comfortable. I do not mean showy. All your glare and glory of rich
chandeliers, and rich carpets, and splendid pulpits, make for the opposite extreme,
taking off the attention just as effectually, and defeating every object for which
a sinner should come to a meeting. You need not expect a revival there.
- 8. See that the house of God is kept clean. The house of
God should be kept as clean as you want your own house to be kept. Churches are often
kept excessively slovenly. I have seen them where people used so much tobacco, and
took so little care about neatness, that it was impossible to preach with comfort.
Once, in a protracted meeting, the thing was charged upon the Church (and they had
to acknowledge it), that they paid more money for tobacco than they did for the cause
of Missions. There is an importance in these things, which is not realized. See that
man! What is he doing? I am preaching to him about eternal life, and he is thinking
about the dirty pew.
- 9. It is important that the house should be just warm enough,
but not too warm. Suppose a minister comes into a house and finds it cold; he sees,
as soon as he gets in, that he might as well have stayed at home; the people are
shivering, their feet are chilled, and they feel as if they should take cold; and
the minister wishes he were at home, for he knows he cannot do anything; but he must
preach, or the congregation will be disappointed.
- Or, he may find the house too warm, and the people, instead
of listening to the truth, are fanning themselves and panting for breath. By and
by a woman faints, and makes a stir, and the train of thought and feeling is all
lost, and so a whole sermon is wasted. These little things take off the attention
of people from the words of eternal life. And very often it is so, that if you drop
a single link in the chain of argument, you lose the whole, and the people are damned,
just because the careless Church does not see to the proper regulation of these little
- 10. The house should be well ventilated. Of all houses,
a church should be the most perfectly ventilated. If there be no change of the air,
it passes through so many lungs that it becomes bad; its vitality is exhausted, and
the people pant, they know not why, and feel an almost irresistible desire to sleep;
the minister preaches in vain; the sermon is lost, and worse than lost. I have often
wondered that this matter should be so little the subject of thought. The elders
and officials will sit and hear a whole sermon, while the people are all but ready
to die for the want of air, and the minister is wasting his strength in preaching
where the room is just like an exhausted receiver; there they sit and never think
to do anything in the matter. They should take it upon themselves to see that this
is regulated rightly; that the house is just warm enough, and the air kept pure.
How important it is that they should be awake on this subject; that the minister
may labor to the best advantage, and the people give their undivided attention to
the truth which is to save their souls.
- It is very common, when things are wrong, to have it all
laid to the sexton, or caretaker. Often, however, the sexton is not to blame. If
the building is cold and uncomfortable, very often it is because the fuel is not
good, or the stoves not suitable, or the place is so open it cannot be warmed. If
it is warm, perhaps somebody has intermeddled, and heaped on fuel without discretion.
Or, if the sexton is in fault, perhaps it is because the Church does not pay him
enough for his services, and he cannot afford to give the attention necessary to
keep the place in order. Churches sometimes screw down the sexton's salary to the
lowest point, so that he is obliged to slight his work. Or they will select one who
is incompetent, for the sake of getting him cheap. Let an adequate payment be made
for the work, and it can be done, and done faithfully. If one sexton will not do
it rightly, another will, and the Church must see that it is done aright. What economy!
To pay a minister's salary, and then, for the want of a small sum added to the sexton's
wages, everything is so out of order that the minister's labors are all lost, souls
are lost, and your children and neighbors go down to hell!
Sometimes this uncleanliness, and negligence, and confusion, are chargeable to the
minister. Perhaps he uses tobacco, and sets the example of defiling the house of
God. Perhaps the pulpit will be the filthiest place in the house. I have sometimes
been in pulpits that were too loathsome to be occupied by human beings. If a minister
has no more piety and decency than this, no wonder things are "at loose ends"
in the congregation. And generally it is even so.
- 11. People should leave their very young children at home.
I have often known children to cry just at that stage of the services that would
most effectually destroy the effect of the meeting. If children weep, they should
instantly be removed. I have sometimes known a mother, or a nurse, sit and toss her
child, while its cries were diverting the attention of the whole congregation.
- 12. The members of the Church should aid the minister by
visiting from house to house, and trying to save souls. Do not leave all this to
the minister. It is impossible he should do it, even if he were to give all his time,
and neglect his study and private prayer. Church members should take pains and qualify
themselves for this duty, so that they can be useful in it.
- 13. They should hold Bible classes. Suitable individuals
should be selected to hold Bible classes, for the instruction of the young people,
and where those who are awakened or affected by the preaching, can be received and
be converted. As soon as persons are seen to be touched, let them be invited to join
the Bible class, where they will be properly treated, and probably they will be converted.
The Church should select the best men for this service, and should all be on the
look out to fill up the Bible classes. It has been done in this congregation. It
is a very common thing when persons are impressed, that they are observed by somebody,
and invited to join the Bible class. They accept the invitation, and there they are
converted. We want more teachers, able and willing to take charge of such classes.
- 14. Churches should sustain Sabbath Schools, and in this
way aid their minister in saving souls. How can a minister attend to this and preach?
- Unless the Church will take off these responsibilities,
and cares, and labors, he must either neglect them, or be crushed. Let the members
be WIDE AWAKE, let them watch and bring in children to the school, teach them faithfully,
and lay themselves out to promote a revival in the school.
- 15. They should watch over the members of the Church. They
should visit each other, in order to stir each other up, know each other's spiritual
state, and "consider one another to provoke unto love and to good works"
- (Hebrews 10:24). The minister cannot do it, he has not
time; it is impossible he should study and prepare sermons, and at the same time
visit all the members of the Church as often as is necessary to keep them advancing.
The members are bound to watch over each other's spiritual welfare. But how is this
done? Many do not know one another. They meet and pass as strangers, and never ask
about one another's spiritual condition. But if they hear anything bad of one, they
go and tell it to others. Instead of watching over them for their good, they watch
for their halting. How can they watch for good when they are not even acquainted
with each other?
- 16. The Church should watch for the elect of preaching.
If the members are praying for the success of the preached Word, they will watch
for it, of course. They should keep a look-out, and when any in the congregation
give evidence that the Word of God has taken hold of them, they should follow it
up. Wherever there are any exhibitions of feeling, those persons should be attended
to, instantly, and not left till their impressions wear off. They should be spoken
to, or visited, or got into the anxious meeting, or into the Bible class, or brought
to the minister. If the members do not attend to this, they neglect their duty. If
they attend to it, they may do incalculable good.
- There was a pious young woman, who lived in a very cold
and wicked place. She alone had the spirit of prayer, and she had been praying for
a blessing upon the Word. At length she saw an individual in the congregation who
seemed to be affected by the preaching, and as soon as the minister came from the
pulpit, she came forward, agitated and trembling, and begged him to go and converse
with the person immediately. He did so, the individual was soon converted, and a
revival followed. Now, one of your stupid professors would not have seen that that
individual was awakened, but would have stumbled over half a dozen such without noticing.
Professors should watch every sermon, and see how it affects the congregation. I
do not mean that they should be stretching their necks and staring about the house;
but they should observe, as they may, and if they find any person affected by preaching,
they should put themselves in his way, and guide him to the Savior.
- 17. Beware, and do not give away all the preaching to others.
If you do not take your portion, you will starve, and become like spiritual skeletons.
- Christians should take their portion to themselves. Though
the sermon should be quite searching to them, they should still make the honest application,
lay it alongside their heart, and practice it, and live by it.
Otherwise, the preaching will do them no good.
- 18. Be ready to aid your minister in carrying out his plans
for doing good.
- When the minister is wise to devise plans for usefulness,
and the Church ready to execute them, they may carry all before them. But when the
members hang back from every enterprise until they are actually dragged into it -
when they are opposing every proposal, because it will cost something, they are a
dead weight upon a minister.
I was once attending a "protracted meeting," where we were embarrassed
because there were no lamps to the building. I urged the people to get them, but
they thought the expense would be too much! I then proposed to get them myself, and
was about to do it, but found it would give offense, and we went without. But the
blessing did not come, to any great extent. How could it? The Church began by calculating
to a nicety how much it would cost, and they would not go beyond that exact figure
to save souls from hell.
So, where a minister appoints such a meeting, such people object, because it will
cost something. If they can offer unto the Lord that which costs nothing, they will
do it. Miserable helpers they are! Such a people can have no revival. A minister
might as well have a millstone about his neck, as such a Church. He had better leave
them, if he cannot teach them better, and go where he will not be so hampered.
- 19. Church members should make it a point to attend prayer
meetings, and attend in time. Some will always attend the preaching, because they
have nothing to do but to sit and hear and be entertained, but they will not attend
prayer meetings for fear they should be called on to do something.
- Such members tie up the hands of the minister, and discourage
Why do they employ a minister? Is it to amuse them by preaching? Or is it that he
may teach them the will of God, that they may do it?
- 20. Church members ought to study and inquire what they
can do, and then do it. Christians should be trained like a band of soldiers. It
is the duty and office of a minister to train them for usefulness, to teach and direct
them, and lead them on in such a way as to produce the greatest amount of moral influence.
And then the Christians should stand their ground and do their duty, otherwise they
will be right in the way. But I could write a book as large as this Bible before
me, in detailing the various particulars which ought to be attended to.
- 1. You see that a minister's want of success may not be
wholly on account of a want of wisdom in the exercise of his office. I am not excusing
negligent ministers; I never will spare ministers from the naked truth, nor apply
flattering titles to men. If they are blameworthy, let them be blamed. And, no doubt,
they are always more or less to blame when the Word produces no effect. But it is
far from being true that they are always the principal persons to blame. Sometimes
the Church is much more to blame than the minister; if an apostle or an angel from
heaven, were to preach, he could not produce a revival of religion in that Church.
Perhaps they are dishonest to their minister, or covetous, or careless about the
conveniences of public worship. Alas! what a state many country churches are in,
where, for the want of a small expenditure, everything is inconvenient and uncomfortable,
and the labors of the preacher are lost.
- They "dwell in ceiled houses" themselves, and
let "the house of God lie waste" (Haggai 1:4). Or the professors of religion
counteract all the influence of the preaching by their ungodly lives. Or perhaps
their worldly show (as in most of the Churches in this city) annihilates the influence
of the Gospel.
- 2. Churches should remember that they are exceedingly guilty,
to employ a minister and then not aid him in his work. The Lord Jesus Christ has
sent an ambassador to sinners, to turn them from their evil ways, and he fails of
his errand, because Churches refuse to do their duty. Instead of recommending his
message, and seconding his entreaties, and holding up his hands in all the ways that
are proper, they stand right in the way, and contradict his message, and counteract
his influence, and souls perish. No doubt, in most of the congregations in the United
States, the minister is often hindered so much that for a great part of the time
he might as well be on a foreign mission as be there, for any effect of his preaching
in the conversion of sinners, for he has to preach over the heads of an inactive
and stupid Church.
- Yet these very Churches are not willing to have their minister
absent a few days to attend a "protracted meeting." "We cannot spare
him; he is our minister, and we like to have our minister here"; while at the
same time, they hinder all he can do at home. If he could, he would tear himself
right away, and go where there is no minister, and where the people would be willing
to receive the Gospel. But there he must stay, though he cannot get the Church into
a state to have a revival once in three years, to last three months at a time. It.
might be well for him to say to the Church: "Whenever you are determined to
take one of these long naps, I wish you would let me know it, so that I can go and
labor somewhere else in the meantime, till you are ready to wake again."
- 3. Many Churches cannot be blessed with a revival, because
they are "sponging" out of other Churches, and out of the treasury of the
Lord, for the support of their minister, when they are abundantly able to support
him themselves. Perhaps they are depending on the Home Missionary Society, or on
other Churches, while they are not exercising any self -denial for the sake of the
Gospel. I have been amazed to see how some Churches live. One Church, as I have said,
actually confessed that the members spent more money for tobacco than they gave for
Missions. And yet they had no minister, because "they were not able to support
- There is actually one man in that Church who is himself
able to support a minister, but still they have no minister and no preaching!
The Churches have not been instructed in their duty on this subject. I stopped in
a place where there was no preaching. I inquired of an elder in the Church why it
was so, and he said it was "because they were so poor." I asked him how
much he was worth; he did not give me a direct answer, but said that another elder's
income was about five thousand dollars a year; and I finally found out that this
man's was about the same.
"Here," said I, "are two elders, each of you able to support a minister,
and because you cannot get outside help, you have no preaching. 'Why, if you had
preaching' it would not be blessed." Finally, he confessed that he was able
to support a minister, and the two together agreed that they would do it.
It is common for Churches to ask for help, when in fact they do not need any help,
and when it would be a great deal better for them to support their own minister.
If they get funds from the Home Missionary Society, when they ought to raise sufficient
themselves, they may expect the curse of the Lord upon them, and this will be a sufficient
reason for the Gospel proving to them a curse, rather than a blessing. Of how many
might it be said: "Ye have robbed God, even this whole Church (Malachi. 3:9).
I know a Church which employed a minister for half the time, and felt unable to pay
his salary for that. A Women's Working Society in a neighboring town appropriated
their funds to this object, and assisted this Church in paying the minister's salary.
The result was, as might be expected; he did them little or no good. They had no
revival under his preaching, nor could they ever expect any, while acting on such
a principle. There was one m an in that congregation who could support a minister
all the time. I was informed by a member, that the Church members were supposed to
be worth two hundred thousand dollars. Now if this be true, here is a Church with
an income, at seven per cent., of fourteen thousand dollars a year, who felt themselves
too poor to pay two hundred dollars for the support of a minister to preach half
the time, but would suffer the women of a neighboring town to work with their own
hands to aid them in paying the sum. Among the elders of this Church, I found, too,
that several used tobacco; two of them, however, subsequently signed a covenant,
written on the blank leaf of their Bible, in which they pledged themselves to abandon
that sin for ever.
It was in a great measure simply for want of right instruction that this Church was
pursuing such a course, for, when the subject was taken up, and their duty laid before
them, the wealthy man of whom I am speaking said that he would pay the whole salary
himself, if he thought it would not be resented by the congregation, and do more
hurt than good; and that if the Church would procure a minister, and go ahead and
raise a part of his salary, he would make up the remainder. They can now not only
support a minister half the time, but all the time, and pay his salary themselves.
And they will find it good and profitable to do so.
As I have gone from place to place laboring in revivals, I have always found that
Churches were blessed in proportion to their liberality. Where they have manifested
a disposition to support the Gospel, and to pour out their substance liberally into
the treasury of the Lord, they have been blessed both in spiritual and in temporal
things. But where they have been parsimonious, and let the minister preach for them
for little or nothing, these Churches have been cursed instead of blessed. And, as
a general thing, in revivals of religion, I have found it to be true that young converts
are most inclined to join those Churches which are most liberal in making efforts
to support the Gospel.
The Churches are very much in the dark on this subject. They have not been taught
their duty. I have, in many instances, found an exceeding readiness to respond, when
the subject was laid before them. I knew an elder who was talking about getting a
minister for half the time, because the Church was poor, although his own income
was considerable. I asked him whether his income would not enable him alone to support
a minister all the time? He said it would. And on being asked what other use he could
make of the Lord's money which he possessed, that would prove so beneficial to the
interest of Christ's Kingdom, as to employ a minister not only half, but all the
time, in his own town, he concluded to set himself about it. A minister has been
obtained accordingly, and I believe they find no difficulty in paying him his full
The fact is, that a minister can do but little by preaching only half the time. If
on one Sabbath an impression be made, it is lost before a fortnight comes round.
As a matter of economy, a Church should lay itself out to support the Gospel all
the time. If they get the right sort of a minister, and keep him steadily at work,
they may have a revival, and thus the ungodly will be converted, and come in and
help them; so that in one year they may have a great accession to their strength.
But if they employ a minister only half the time, year after year may roll away,
while sinners are going to hell, and no accession be made to the strength of the
Church from the ranks of the ungodly.
The fact is, that professors of religion have not been made to feel that all their
possessions are the Lord's. Hence they have talked about giving their property for
the support of the Gospel! As if the Lord Jesus Christ were a beggar, and they were
called upon to support His Gospel as an act of almsgiving!
A certain merchant was paying a large part of his minister's salary: one of the members
of the Church was relating the fact to a minister from another place, and spoke of
the sacrifice which this merchant was making. At this moment the merchant came in.
"Brother," said the minister, "you are a merchant. Suppose you employ
a clerk to sell goods, and a schoolmaster to teach your children; and you order your
clerk to pay your schoolmaster, out of the store, such an amount, for his services
Now, suppose your clerk gave out that he had to pay this schoolmaster his salary,
and should speak of the sacrifices that he was making to do it: what would you say
to this?" "Why," said the merchant, "I should say it was ridiculous."
"Well," said the minister, "God employs you to sell goods as His clerk,
and your minister He employs to teach His children, and He requires you to pay the
salary out of the income of the store.
Now, do you call this your sacrifice, and say that you are making a great sacrifice
to pay this minister's salary? No: you are just as much bound to sell goods for God
as he is to preach for God. You have no more right to sell goods for the purpose
of laying up money than he has to preach the Gospel for the same purpose. You are
bound to be as pious, and aim as singly at the glory of God, in selling goods, as
he is in preaching the Gospel. And thus you are as fully to give up your whole time
for the service of God as he does. You and your family may lawfully live out of the
profits of this store, and so may the minister and his family, just as lawfully,
If you sell goods from these motives, selling goods is just as much serving God as
preaching; and a man who sells goods on these principles, and acts in conformity
to them, is just as pious - just as much in the service of God - as he is who preaches
the Gospel. Every man is bound to serve God in his calling; the minister by teaching;
the merchant by selling goods; the farmer by tilling his fields; and the lawyer and
the physician by plying the duties of their professions. It is equally unlawful for
any one of these to labor for the meat that perisheth. All they do is to be for God,
and all they earn, after comfortably supporting their families, is to be dedicated
to the spread of the Gospel and the salvation of the world."
It has long enough been supposed that ministers must be more pious than other men,
that they must not love the world, that they must labor for God: that they must live
as frugally as possible, and lay out their whole time, and health, and strength,
and life, to build up the Kingdom of Jesus Christ. This is true. But although other
men are not called to labor in the same field, and to give up their time to public
instruction, yet they are just as absolutely bound to consider their whole time as
God's; and have no
more right to love the world, or accumulate wealth, or lay it up for their children,
or spend it upon their lusts, than ministers have.
It is high time for the Church to be acquainted with these principles. The Home Missionary
Society may labor till the Day of Judgment to convert people, but will never succeed,
till the Churches are led to understand and feel their duty in this respect. Why,
the very fact that they are asking and receiving aid in supporting their minister
from the Society while they are able to support him themselves, is probably the very
reason why his labors among them are not more blessed.
I would that the American Home Missionary Society possessed a hundred times the means
that it now does, of aiding feeble Churches that are unable to help themselves. But
it is neither good economy nor piety to give funds to those who are able, but unwilling,
to support the Gospel. For it is in vain to attempt to help them, while they are
able, but unwilling, to help themselves.
If the Missionary Society had a ton of gold, it would be no charity to give it to
such a Church. But let the Church bring in all the tithes to God's storehouse, and
He will open the windows of heaven and pour down a blessing (Malachi 3:10). But let
the Churches know assuredly that, if they are unwilling to help themselves to the
extent of their ability, they show the reason why such small success attends the
labors of their ministers.
Here they are, "sponging" their support from the Lord's treasury! How many
Churches lay out their money for tea, and coffee, and tobacco, and then come and
ask aid from the Home Missionary Society! I will protest against aiding a people
who use tea and tobacco, and live without the least self-denial, wanting to offer
God only that which costs them nothing (2 Samuel 24:24).
Finally: if they mean to be blessed, let them do their duty - all their duty, put
their shoulder to the wheel, gird on the Gospel armor, and come up to the work. Then,
if the Church is in the field, the car of salvation will move on, though all hell
oppose, and sinners will be converted and saved. But if a Church will leave all the
labor to the minister, and sit still and look on while he is working, and themselves
doing nothing but complain of him, they will not only fail of a revival of religion,
but, if they continue slothful and censorious, will, by and by, find themselves in
hell for their disobedience and unprofitableness in the service of Christ.
MEASURES TO PROMOTE REVIVALS
These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city,
and teach customs, which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being
Romans. - Acts 16:20, 21.
"These men," here spoken of, were Paul and Silas, who went to Philippi
to preach the Gospel, and very much disturbed the people of that city, who supposed
that the preaching would interfere with their worldly gains.
And so they arraigned the preachers of the Gospel before the magistrates of the city,
as culprits, and charged them with teaching doctrines, and especially employing measures,
that were not lawful.
In discoursing from these words I design to show:
I. That, under the Gospel dispensation, God has established no particular system
of measures to be employed, and invariably adhered to, in promoting religion.
II. That our present forms of public worship, and everything, so far as measures
are concerned, have been arrived at by degrees, and by a succession of New Measures.
I. GOD HAS ESTABLISHED NO PARTICULAR MEASURES.
Under the Jewish dispensation, there were particular forms enjoined and prescribed
by God Himself, from which it was not lawful to depart. But these forms were all
typical, and were designed to shadow forth Christ, or something connected with the
new dispensation that Christ was to introduce. And therefore they were fixed, and
all their details particularly prescribed by Divine authority. But it was never so
under the Gospel.
When Christ came, the ceremonial or typical dispensation was abrogated, because the
design of those forms was fulfilled, and they were therefore of no further use. He
being the Antitype, the types were of course done away at His coming. THE GOSPEL
was then preached as the appointed means of promoting religion; and it was left to
the discretion of the Church to determine, from time to time, what measures should
be adopted, and what forms pursued, in giving the Gospel its power.
We are left in the dark as to the measures pursued by the apostles and primitive
preachers, except so far as we can gather from occasional hints in the Book of Acts.
We do not know how many times they sang, how many times they prayed, in public worship,
nor even whether they sang or prayed at all in their ordinary meetings for preaching.
When Jesus Christ was on earth, laboring among His disciples, He had nothing to do
with forms or measures. He did from time to time in this respect just as it would
be natural for any man to do in such cases, without anything like a set form or mode.
The Jews accused Him of disregarding their forms. His object was to preach and teach
mankind the true religion. And when the apostles preached afterwards, with the Holy
Ghost sent down from heaven, we hear nothing about their having a particular system
of measures for carrying on their work; nor do we hear of one apostle doing a thing
in a particular way because others did it in that way. Their commission was: "Go
and preach the Gospel, and disciple all nations." It did not prescribe any forms.
It did not admit any. No person can pretend to get any set of forms or particular
directions as to measures, out of this commission. Do it - the best way you can;
ask wisdom from God; use the faculties He has given you; seek the direction of the
Holy Ghost; go forward and do it.
This was their commission. And their object was to make known the Gospel in the most
effectual way, to make the truth stand out strikingly, so as to obtain the attention
and secure the obedience of the greatest number possible. No person can find any
form of doing this laid down in the Bible. It is preaching the Gospel which there
stands out prominently as the great thing. The form is left out of the question.
It is manifest that in preaching the Gospel there must be some kind of measures adopted.
The Gospel must be presented before the minds of the people, and measures must be
taken so that they can hear it, and be induced to attend to it. This is done by building
churches, holding stated or other meetings, and so on. Without some measures, the
Gospel can never be made to take effect among men.
II. PRESENT FORMS ARRIVED AT BY DEGREES.
Our present forms of public worship, and everything so far as measures are concerned,
have been arrived at by degrees, and by a succession of New Measures.
- 1. I will mention some things in regard to the ministry.
- Many years ago, ministers were accustomed to wear a peculiar
habit. It is so now in Roman Catholic countries. It used to be so here. Ministers
had a peculiar dress as much as soldiers. They used to wear a cocked hat, bands (instead
of a cravat or stock), small clothes, and a wig. No matter how much hair a man had
on his head, he must cut it off and wear a wig. And he must wear a gown. All these
things were customary, and every clergyman was held bound to wear them, and it was
not considered proper for him to officiate without them. All these had doubtless
been introduced by a succession of innovations, for we have no good reason for believing
that the apostles and primitive ministers dressed differently from other men.
But now all these things have been given up, one by one, in America, by a succession
of innovations or new measures, until now, in many places, a minister can go into
the pulpit and preach without attracting special notice, although dressed like any
other man. And in regard to each of these alterations the Church complained as much
as if it had been a Divine institution given up. It was denounced as an innovation.
When ministers began to lay aside their cocked hats, and wear headgear like other
men's, it grieved the elderly people very much; it looked so "undignified,"
they said, for a minister to wear a round hat. When, in 1827, I wore a fur cap, a
minister said: "That is too bad, for a minister."
When ministers first began, a few years since, to wear white hats, it was thought
by many to be a sad and very undignified innovation. And even now they are so bigoted
in some places that a clergyman lately told me how, in traveling through New England
last summer, with a white hat, he could perceive that it injured his influence. This
spirit should not be looked upon as harmless; I have good reason to know that it
is not harmless. There is at this day scarcely a minister in the land who does not
feel himself obliged to wear a black coat, as much as if it were a Divine institution.
The Church is yet filled with a kind of superstitious reverence for such things.
Thinking men see this to be mere bigotry, and are exceedingly in danger of viewing
everything about religion in the same light on this account.
So, in like manner, when ministers laid aside their bands, and wore cravats or stocks,
it was said they were becoming secular, and many found fault.
Even now, in some places, a minister would not dare to be seen in the pulpit in a
cravat or stock. The people would feel as if they had no clergyman, if he had no
bands. A minister in this city asked another, but a few days since, "if it would
do to wear a black stock in the pulpit?" He wore one in his ordinary intercourse
with his people, but doubted whether it would do to wear it in the pulpit.
So in regard to small clothes: they used to be thought essential to the ministerial
character. Even now, in Roman Catholic countries, every priest wears small clothes.
Even the little boys there, who are training for the priest's office, wear their
cocked hats, and black stockings, and small clothes. This would look ridiculous amongst
us. But it used to be practiced in America. The time was when good people would have
been shocked if a minister had gone into the pulpit wearing pantaloons instead of
small clothes. They would have thought he was certainly going to ruin the Church
by his innovations. I have been told that, some years ago, in New England, a certain
elderly clergyman was so opposed to the "new measure" of a minister's wearing
pantaloons that he would, on no account, allow them in his pulpit. A young man who
was going to preach for him had no small clothes, and the old minister would not
let him officiate in pantaloons, but said: "My people would think I had brought
a fop into the pulpit, if they saw a man there with pantaloons on; and it would produce
an excitement among them." And so, finally, the young man was obliged to borrow
a pair of the old gentleman's clothes, and they were too short for him, and he made
a ridiculous figure enough. But anything was better than such a terrible innovation
as preaching in pantaloons! Reason, however, has triumphed.
Just so it was in regard to wigs. I remember one minister, who, though quite a young
man, used to wear an enormous white wig. And the people talked as if there were a
Divine right about it, and it was as hard to give it up, almost, as to give up the
Bible itself. Gowns also were considered essential to the ministerial character.
And even now, in many congregations in this country, the people will not tolerate
a minister in the pulpit, unless he has a flowing silk gown, with enormous sleeves
as big as his body. Even in some of the Congregational churches in New England, they
cannot bear to give it up.
Now, how came people to suppose a minister must have a gown or a wig, in order to
preach with effect? Why was it that every clergyman was held obliged to use these
things? How is it that not one of these things has been given up in the Churches,
without producing a shock among them? They have all been given up, one by one, and
many congregations have been distracted for a time by the innovation. But will any
one pretend that the cause of religion has been injured by it? People felt as if
they could hardly worship God without them, but plainly their attachment to them
was no part of their religion, that is, no part of the Christian religion. It was
mere superstition. And when these things were taken away, they complained, as Micah
did: "Ye have taken away my gods" (Judges 18:24). No doubt, however, religious
character was improved by removing these objects of superstitious reverence. So that
the Church, on the whole, has been greatly the gainer by the innovations. Thus you
see that the present mode of a minister's dress has been gained by a series of new
- 2. In regard to the order of public worship.
- The same difficulties have been met in the effecting of
every change, because the professing Christians have felt as if God had established
just the mode which they were used to.
(a) Psalm Books. Formerly it was customary to sing the Psalms. By and by there
was introduced a version of the Psalms in rhyme. This was "very bad," to
be sure. When ministers tried to introduce them, the Churches were distracted, the
people displayed violent opposition, and great trouble was created by the innovation.
But the new measure triumphed.
Yet when another version was brought forward, in a better style of poetry, its introduction
was opposed, with much contention, as yet a further new measure. Finally came Watts's
version, which is still opposed in many Churches. No longer ago than 1828, when I
was in Philadelphia, I was told that a minister there was preaching a course of Lectures
on Psalmody, to his congregation, for the purpose of bringing them to use a better
version of psalms and hymns than the one they were accustomed to. And even now, in
a great many congregations, there are people who will rise and leave, if a psalm
or hymn is given out from a new book. If Watts's version of the Psalms should be
adopted, they would secede and form a new congregation, rather than tolerate such
an innovation! The same sort of feeling has been excited by introducing the "Village
Hymns" in prayer meetings. In one Presbyterian congregation in New York, within
a few years, the minister's wife wished to introduce the Village Hymns into the women's
prayer meetings, not daring to go any further. She thought she was going to succeed.
But some of the careful souls found out that it was "made in New England,"
and refused to admit it.
(b) "Lining" the hymns. Formerly, when there were but few books,
it was the custom to "line" the hymns, as it was called. The deacon used
to stand up before the pulpit, and read the psalm or hymn, a line at a time, or two
lines at a time, when then the rest would join in. By and by, they began to introduce
books, and let every one sing from his own book. And what an innovation! Alas, what
confusion and disorder it made! How could the good people worship God in singing
without having the deacon to "line" the hymn in a "holy" tone;
for the holiness of it seemed to consist very much in the tone, which was such that
you could hardly tell whether he was reading or singing.
(c) Choirs. Afterwards, another innovation was brought in. It was thought
best to have a select choir of singers sit by themselves, so as to give an opportunity
to improve the music. But this was bitterly opposed. How many congregations were
torn and rent in sunder by the desire of ministers
and some leading individuals, to bring about an improvement in the cultivation of
music, by forming choirs! People talked about "innovations," and "new
measures," and thought great evils were coming to the Churches, because the
singers were seated by themselves, and cultivated music, and learned new tunes that
the old people could not sing.
It used not to be so when they were young, and they would not tolerate such novelties
in the Church.
(d) Pitchpipes. When music was cultivated, and choirs seated together, then
the singers wanted a pitchpipe. Formerly, when the lines were given out by the deacon
or clerk, he would strike off into the tune, and the rest would follow as well as
they could. But when the leaders of choirs began to use pitchpipes for the purpose
of pitching all their voices on precisely the same key, what vast confusion it made!
I heard a clergyman say that an elder in the town where he used to live, would get
up and leave the service whenever he heard the chorister blow his pipe. "Away
with your whistle," said he; "what, whistle in the house of God!"
He thought it a profanation.
(e) Instrumental music By and by, in some congregations' various instruments
were introduced for the purpose of aiding the singers, and improving the music. When
the bass viol was first introduced, it made a great commotion. People insisted they
might just as well have a fiddle in the house of God. "Why, it is a fiddle,
it is made just like a fiddle, only a little larger; and who can worship where there
is a fiddle? By and by you will want to dance in the meeting-house." Who has
not heard these things talked of as though they were matters of the most vital importance
to the cause of religion and the purity of the Church? Ministers, in grave ecclesiastical
assemblies, have spent days in discussing them. In a synod in the Presbyterian Church,
it was seriously talked of by some, as a matter worthy of discipline in a certain
Church, that "they had an organ in the house of God." This was only a few
years ago. And there are many Churches now that would not tolerate an organ. They
would not be half so much excited on being reminded that sinners are going to hell,
as on hearing that "there is going to be an organ in the meeting-house."
In how many places is it easier to get the Church to do anything else than work in
a natural way to do what is needed, and wisest, and best, for promoting religion
and saving souls? They act as if they had a "Thus saith the Lord"
for every custom and practice that has been handed down to them, or that they have
long followed themselves, even though it is absurd and injurious.
(f) Extemporary prayers. How many people are there who talk just as if the
Prayer Book was of Divine institution! And I suppose multitudes believe it is. And
in some parts of the Church a man would not be tolerated to pray without his book
being before him.
(g) Preaching without notes. A few years since a lady in Philadelphia was
invited to hear a certain minister preach, and she refused, because he did not read
his sermons. She seemed to think it would be profane for a man to go into the pulpit
and talk, just as if he were talking to the people about some interesting and important
subject. Just as if God had enjoined the use of notes and written sermons. They do
not know that notes themselves are an innovation, and a modern one too. They were
introduced in a time of political difficulty in England. The ministers were afraid
they should be accused of preaching something against the Government unless they
could show what they had preached, by having all written beforehand. And, with a
time-serving spirit, they yielded to political considerations, and imposed a yoke
of bondage upon the Church. And now, in many places, extempore preaching is not tolerated.
(h) Kneeling in prayer. This has made a great disturbance in many parts of
the country. The time has been in the Congregational Churches in New England, when
a man or woman would be ashamed to be seen kneeling at a prayer meeting, for fear
of being taken for a Methodist. I have prayed in families where I was the only person
that would kneel. The others all stood. Others, again, talk as if there were no other
posture but kneeling, that could be acceptable in prayer.
- 3. In regard to the labors of laymen.
- (a) Lay prayers. Much objection was formerly made
against allowing any man to pray or to take a part in managing a prayer meeting,
unless he was a clergyman. It used to be said that for a layman to pray in public,
was interfering with the dignity of ministers, and was not to be tolerated. A minister
in Pennsylvania told me that a few years ago he appointed a prayer meeting in the
Church, and the elders opposed it and "turned it out of house." They said
they would not have such work; they had hired a minister to do the praying, and he
should do it; and they were not going to have common men praying.
Ministers and many others have very extensively objected against a layman's praying
in public, especially in the presence of a minister; that would let down the authority
of the clergy, and was not to be tolerated. At a synod held in this State, there
was a synodical prayer meeting appointed. The committee of arrangements, as it was
to be a formal thing, designated beforehand the persons who were to take part, and
named two clergymen and one layman. The layman was a man of talent and information
equal to most ministers. But a Doctor of Divinity got up and seriously objected to
a layman being asked to pray before that synod. It was not usual, he said; it infringed
upon the rights of the clergy, and he wished no innovations! What a state of things!
(b) Lay exhortation. This has been made a question of vast importance, one
which has agitated all New England and many other parts of the country, whether laymen
ought to be allowed to exhort in public meetings.
Many ministers have labored to shut up the mouths of laymen entirely. Such persons
overlooked the practice of the primitive Churches. So much opposition was made to
this practice, nearly a hundred years ago, that President Edwards had actually to
take up the subject, and write a labored defense of the rights and duties of laymen.
But the opposition has not entirely ceased to this day. "What, a man that is
not a minister, to talk in public! It will create confusion; it will let down the
ministry: what will people think of ministers, if we allow common men to do the same
things that we do?" Astonishing!
But now all these things are gone by in most places, and laymen can preach and exhort
without the least objection. The evils that were feared, from the labors of laymen,
have not been realized, and many ministers are glad to induce laymen to exercise
their gifts in doing good.
- 4. Women's prayer meetings. Within the last few years women's
prayer meetings have been extensively opposed. What dreadful things! A minister said
that when he first attempted to establish these meetings, he had all the clergy around
opposed to him. "Set women to pray? Why, the next thing, I suppose, will be
to set them to preach!" Serious apprehensions were entertained for the safety
of Zion if women should be allowed to get together to pray, and even now it is not
tolerated in some Churches.
- So it has been in regard to all the active movements of
Missions and Sunday Schools have been opposed, and have gained their present hold
only by a succession of struggles and a series of innovations.
A Baptist Association in Pennsylvania, some years since, disclaimed all fellowship
with any minister that had been liberally educated, or that supported Missions, Bible
Societies, Sabbath Schools, Temperance Societies, etc. All these were denounced as
New Measures, not found in the Bible, and that would necessarily lead to distraction
and confusion in the Churches. The same thing has been done by some among the German
Churches. And in many Presbyterian Churches there are found those who will take the
same ground, and denounce all these things, with the exception, perhaps, of an educated
ministry, as innovations, new measures, "going in your own strength," and
the like, and as calculated to do great evil.
- 5. I will mention several men who, in Divine providence,
have been set forward as prominent in introducing innovations.
- (a) The apostles - who were great innovators, as
you all know. After the Resurrection, and after the Holy Spirit was poured out upon
them, they set out to remodel the Church. They broke down the Jewish system of measures,
and rooted it out, so as to leave scarcely a vestige.
(b) Luther and the Reformers. You all know what difficulties they had to contend
with, and the reason was, that they were trying to introduce new measures - new modes
of performing the public duties of religion, and new expedients to bring the Gospel
with power to the hearts of men. All the strange and ridiculous things of the Roman
Catholics were held to by Rome with pertinacious obstinacy, as if they were of Divine
authority; and such an excitement was raised by the attempt to change them, as well-
nigh involved all Europe in bloodshed.
(c) Wesley and his coadjutors. Wesley did not, at first, break from the Established
Church in England, but formed little classes everywhere, which grew into a Church
within a Church. He remained in the Episcopal Church; but he introduced so much of
new measures as to fill all England with excitement, and uproar, and opposition;
and he was everywhere denounced as an innovator and a stirrer up of sedition - a
teacher of new things which it was not lawful to receive.
Whitefield was a man of the same school, and, like Wesley, was an innovator. I believe
he and several individuals of his associates were expelled from College for getting
up such a new measure as a social prayer meeting. They would pray together and expound
the Scriptures, and this was such a daring novelty that it could not be borne. When
Whitefield came to America what an astonishing opposition was raised! Often he well
nigh lost his life, and barely escaped by the skin of his teeth. Now, everybody looks
upon him as the glory of the age in which he lived. And many of our own denomination
have so far divested themselves of prejudice as to think Wesley not only a good,
but a wise and pre-eminently useful man. Then, almost the entire Church viewed them
with animosity, fearing that the innovations they introduced would destroy the Church.
(d) President Edwards. This great man was famous in his day for new measures.
Among other innovations, he refused to baptize the children of impenitent parents.
The practice of baptizing the children of the ungodly had been introduced into the
New England Churches in the preceding century, and had become nearly universal. President
Edwards saw that the practice was wrong, and he refused to do it, and the refusal
shook all the Churches of New England. A hundred ministers joined and determined
to put him down. He wrote a book on the subject, and defeated them all. It produced
one of the greatest excitements there ever was in New England.
Nothing, unless it was the Revolutionary War, ever produced an equal excitement.
The General Association of Connecticut refused to countenance Whitefield, he was
such an innovator. "Why, he will preach out of doors, and anywhere!" Awful!
What a terrible thing that a man should preach in the fields or in the streets! Cast
him out!All these were devoted men, seeking out ways to do good and save souls.
- 6. And precisely the same kind of opposition was experienced
by all, obstructing their path and trying to destroy their character and influence.
- A book, still extant, was written in President Edwards'
time, by a doctor of divinity, and signed by a multitude of ministers, against Whitefield
and Edwards, their associates and their measures. A letter was published in this
city by a minister against Whitefield, which brought up the same objections against
innovations that we hear now. In the time of the late opposition to revivals in the
State of New York, a copy of this letter was taken to the editor of a religious periodical
with a request that he would publish it. He refused, and gave for a reason, that
if published, many would apply it to the controversy that is going on now. I mention
it merely to show how identical is the opposition that is raised in different ages
against all new measures designed to advance the cause of religion. In the present
generation, many things have been introduced which have proved useful, but have been
opposed on the ground that they were innovations. And as many are still unsettled
in regard to them, I have thought it best to make some remarks concerning them. There
are three things, in particular, which have chiefly attracted remark, and therefore
I shall speak of them. They are: anxious meetings, protracted meetings, and the anxious
seat. These are all opposed, and are called " new measures."
(a) Anxious meetings. The first that I ever heard of under that name were
in New England, where they were appointed for the purpose of holding personal conversation
with anxious sinners, and to adapt instruction to the cases of individuals, so as
to lead them immediately to Christ. The design of them is evidently philosophical,
but they have been opposed because they were new. There are two modes of conducting
an anxious meeting, either of which may effect the object in view.
(1) By spending a few moments in personal conversation, in order to learn the state
of mind of each individual, and then, in an address to the whole meeting, to take
up their errors and remove their difficulties.
(2) By going round to each, and taking up each individual case, and going over the
whole ground with each one separately, and getting them to promise to give their
hearts to God. Either way the meetings are important, and have been found most successful
in practice. But multitudes have objected against them because they were new.
(b) Protracted meetings. These are not new, but have always been practiced,
in some form or another, ever since there was a Church on earth.
The Jewish festivals were nothing else but protracted meetings. In regard to the
manner, they were conducted differently from what they are now.
But the design was the same: to devote a series of days to religious services, in
order to make a more powerful impression of Divine things on the minds of the people.
All denominations of Christians, when religion prospers among them, hold protracted
meetings. In Scotland they used to begin on Thursday, at all their Communion seasons,
and continue until after the Sabbath. The Episcopalians, Baptists, and Methodists,
all hold protracted meetings. Yet now, in our day, they have been opposed, particularly
among Presbyterians, and called "new measures," and regarded as fraught
with all manner of evil, notwithstanding that they have been so manifestly and so
extensively blessed. I will suggest a few things that ought to be considered in regard
(1) In appointing them, regard should be had for the circumstances of the people;
whether the Church is able to give attention and devote time to carrying on the meeting.
In some instances this rule has been neglected.
Some have thought it right to break in upon the necessary business of the community.
In the country they would appoint the meeting in the harvest-time, and in the city
in the height of the business season, when all the men are necessarily occupied,
and pressed with their temporal labors.
In defense of this course it is said, that our business should always be made to
yield to God's business; that eternal things are of so much more importance than
temporal things, that worldly business of any kind, and at anytime, should be made
to yield and give place to a protracted meeting.
But the worldly business in which we are engaged is not our business. It is as much
God's business, and as much our duty, as our prayers and protracted meetings are.
If we do not consider our business in this light, we have not yet taken the first
lesson in religion; we have not learned to do all things to the glory of God. With
this view of the subject - separating our business from religion, we are living six
days for ourselves, and the seventh for God. REAL DUTIES NEVER INTERFERE WITH EACH
Weekdays have their appropriate duties, and the Sabbath its appropriate duties, and
we are to be equally pious on every day of the week, and in the performance of the
duties of every day. We are to plow, and sow, and sell our goods, and attend to our
various callings, with the same singleness of view to the glory of God, with which
we go to Church on the Sabbath, and pray in our families, and read our Bibles. This
is a first principle in religion. He that does not know and act on this principle,
has not learned the "A B C" of piety, as yet. Now, there are particular
seasons of the year, in which God, in His providence, calls upon men to attend to
business, because worldly business at the time is particularly urgent, and must be
done at that season, if done at all; seed-time and harvest for the farmer, and the
business seasons for the merchant. And we have no right to say, in those particular
seasons, that we will quit our business and have a protracted meeting. The fact is,
the business is not ours. And unless God, by some special indication of His providence,
shows it to be His pleasure that we should turn aside and have a protracted meeting
at such times, I look upon it as tempting God to appoint one. It is saying: "O
God, this worldly business is our business, and we are willing to lay it aside for
Thy business." Unless God has indicated it to be His pleasure to pour out His
Spirit, and revive His work at such a season, and has thus called upon His people
to quit, for the time being, their ordinary employments, and attend especially to
a protracted meeting, it appears to me that God might say to us in such circumstances:
"Who hath required this at your hand?"
God has a right to dispose of our time as He pleases, to require us to give up any
portion of our time, or all our time, to duties of instruction and devotion. And
when circumstances plainly call for it, it is our duty to lay aside every other business,
and make direct and continuous efforts for the salvation of souls. If we transact
our business upon right principles, and from right motives, and wholly for the glory
of God, we shall never object to go aside to attend a protracted meeting, whenever
there appears to be a call for it in the providence of God.
A man who considers himself a steward or a clerk, does not consider it a hardship
to rest from his labors on the Sabbath, but a privilege. The selfish owner may feel
unwilling to suspend his business on the Sabbath. But the clerk who transacts business,
not for himself, but for his employer, considers it a privilege to rest on the Sabbath.
So we, if we do our business for God, will not think it hard if He makes it our duty
to suspend our worldly business and attend a protracted meeting. We should rather
consider it in the light of a holiday. Whenever, therefore, you hear a man pleading
that he cannot leave his business to attend a protracted meeting - that it is his
duty to attend to business, there is reason to fear that he considers the business
as his own, and the meeting as God's business. If he felt that the business of the
store or the farm was as much God's business as attending a protracted meeting, he
would, doubtless, be very willing to rest from his worldly toils, and go up to the
house of God and be refreshed, whenever there was an indication on the part of God,
that the community was called to that work. It is highly worthy of remark, that the
Jewish festivals were appointed at those seasons of the year when there was the least
pressure of indispensable worldly business.
In some instances, such meetings have been appointed in the very pressure of business
seasons, and have been followed with no good results, evidently for the want of attention
to the rule here laid down. In other cases, meetings have been appointed in seasons
when there was a great pressure of worldly business, and have been signally blessed.
But in those cases the blessing followed because the meeting was appointed in obedience
to the indications of the will of God, and by those who had spiritual discernment,
and understood the signs of the times. In many instances, doubtless, individuals
have attended who really supposed themselves to be giving up their own business to
attend to God's business, and in such cases they made what they supposed to be a
real sacrifice, and God in mercy granted them the blessing.
(2) Ordinarily, a protracted meeting should be conducted throughout, and the labor
chiefly performed, by the same minister, if possible. Sometimes protracted meetings
have been held, and dependence placed on ministers coming in from day to day, and
there has been no blessing. The reason has been obvious. They did not come in a state
of mind which was right for entering into such work; and they did not know the state
of people's minds, so as to know what to preach. Suppose a person who is sick should
call a different physician every day. Neither would know what the symptoms had been,
what was the course of the disease or of the treatment, what remedies had been tried,
or what the patient could bear.
The method would certainly kill the patient. Just so in a protracted meeting, carried
on by a succession of ministers. None of them get into the spirit of it, and generally
they do more harm than good.
A protracted meeting should not, ordinarily, be appointed, unless they can secure
the right kind of help, and get a minister or two who will agree to stay on the ground
till the meeting is finished. Then they will probably secure a rich blessing.
(3) There should not be so many public meetings as to interfere with the duties of
private prayer and of the family. Otherwise Christians will lose their spirituality
and let go their hold of God; and the protracted meeting will prove a failure.
(4) Families should not put themselves out so much, in entertaining strangers, as
to neglect prayer and other duties. It is often the case that when a protracted meeting
is held, some of the principal families in the Church, I mean those who are principally
relied on to sustain the meetings, do not get into the work at all. And the reason
is, that they are "cumbered with much serving." They often take needless
trouble to provide for guests who come from a distance to the meeting, and lay themselves
out very foolishly to make an entertainment, not only comfortable but sumptuous.
It should always be understood that it is the duty of families to have as little
working and parade as possible, and to get along with their hospitality in the easiest
way, so that they may all have time to pray, and go to the meeting, and to attend
to the things of the Kingdom.
(5) By all means guard against unnecessarily keeping late hours. If people keep late
hours, night after night, they will inevitably wear out the body; their health will
fail, and there will be a reaction. They sometimes allow themselves to get so excited
as to lose their sleep, and become irregular in their meals, till they break down.
Unless the greatest pains are taken to keep regular, the excitement will get so great,
that nature will give way, and the work will stop.
(6) All sectarianism should be carefully avoided. If a sectarian spirit breaks out,
either in the preaching, or praying, or in conversation, it will counteract all the
good of the meeting.
(7) Be watchful against placing dependence on a protracted meeting, as if that of
itself would produce a revival. This is a point of great danger, and has always been
so. This is the great reason why the Church in successive generations has always
had to give up her measures - because Christians had come to rely on them for success.
So it has been in some places, in regard to protracted meetings. They have been so
blessed, that in some places the people have thought that if they could only have
a protracted meeting, they would have a blessing, and sinners would be converted
of course. And so they have appointed their meeting, without any preparation in the
Church, and have just sent for some minister of note and set him to preaching, as
if that, would convert sinners. It is obvious that the blessing would be withheld
from a meeting got up in this way.
(8) Avoid adopting the idea that a revival cannot be enjoyed without a protracted
meeting. Some Churches have got into a morbid state of feeling on this subject. Their
zeal has become all spasmodic and feverish, so that they never think of doing anything
to promote a revival, only in that way.
When a protracted meeting is held, they seem to be wonderfully zealous, but then
sink down to a torpid state till another protracted meeting produces another spasm.
And now multitudes in the Church think it is necessary to give up protracted meetings
because they are abused in this way. This ought to be guarded against, in every Church,
so that they may not be driven to give them up, and lose all the benefits that protracted
meetings are calculated to produce.
- By this I mean the appointment of some particular seat
in the place of meeting, where the anxious may come and be addressed particularly,
and be made subjects of prayer, and sometimes be conversed with individually. Of
late, this measure has met with more opposition than any of the others.
What is the great objection? I cannot see it. The design of the anxious seat is undoubtedly
philosophical, and according to the laws of mind. It has two bearings:
(a) When a person is seriously troubled in mind, everybody knows there is
a powerful tendency to conceal it. When a person is borne down with a sense of his
condition, if you can get him willing to have it known, if you can get him to break
away from the chains of pride, you have gained an important point towards his conversion.
This is agreeable to the philosophy of the human mind. How many thousands are there
who will bless God to eternity, that, when pressed by the truth, they were ever brought
to take this step, by which they threw off the idea that it was a dreadful thing
to have anybody know that they were serious about their souls.
(b) Another bearing of the anxious seat is to detect deception and delusion,
and thus prevent false hopes. It has been opposed on the ground that it was calculated
to create delusion and false hopes. But this objection is unreasonable. The truth
is the other way.
Suppose I were preaching on the subject of Temperance; and that I should first show
the evils of intemperance, and bring up the drunkard and his family, and show the
various evils produced, till every heart were beating with emotion. Then I portray
the great danger of moderate drinking, and show how it leads to intoxication and
ruin, and that there is no safety but in TOTAL ABSTINENCE, till a hundred hearts
are ready to say: "I will never drink another drop of ardent spirit in the world;
if I do, I may expect to find a drunkard's grave." Now I stop short, and let
the pledge be circulated, and every one that is fully resolved is ready to sign it.
But how many will begin to draw back and hesitate, when you call on them to sign
a pledge of total abstinence! One says to himself: "Shall I sign it or not?
I thought my mind was made up, but this signing a pledge never to drink again - I
do not know about that." Thus you see that when a person is called upon to give
a pledge, if he is found not to be decided, he makes it manifest that he was not
sincere. That is, that he never came to that resolution on the subject, which could
be relied on to control his future life.
Just so with the awakened sinner. Preach to him, and, at the moment, he thinks he
is willing to do anything; he thinks he is determined to serve the Lord; but bring
him to the test; call on him to do one thing, to take one step, that shall identify
him with the people of God or cross his pride, and his pride comes up, and he refuses;
his delusion is brought out, and he finds himself a lost sinner still; whereas, if
you had not done it, he might have gone away flattering himself that he was a Christian.
If you say to him: "There is the anxious seat, come out and avow your determination
to be on the Lord's side," and if he is not willing to do so small a thing as
that, then he is not willing to do anything, and there he is, brought out before
his own conscience. It uncovers the delusion of the human heart, and prevents a great
many spurious conversions, by showing those who might otherwise imagine themselves
willing to do anything for Christ that in fact they are willing to do nothing.
The Church has always felt it necessary to have something of the kind to answer this
very purpose. In the days of the apostles baptism answered this purpose. The Gospel
was preached to the people, and then all those who were willing to be on the side
of Christ were called on to be baptized.
It held the precise place that the anxious seat does now, as a public manifestation
of a determination to be a Christian.
In modern times, even those who have been violently opposed to the anxious seat,
have been obliged to adopt some substitute, or they could not get along in promoting
a revival. Some have adopted the expedient of inviting the people who are anxious
for their souls, to stay, for conversation, after the rest of the congregation have
retired. But what is the difference? This is as much setting up a test as the other.
Others, who would be much ashamed to employ the anxious seat, have asked those who
have any feeling on the subject, to retain their seats when the rest retire. Others
have called the anxious to withdraw into a Lecture-room.
The object of all these is the same, and the principle is the same - to bring people
out from the refuge of false shame. One man I heard of, who was very far gone in
his opposition to new measures. In one of his meetings he requested all those who
were willing to submit to God, or desired to be made subjects of prayer, to signify
it by leaning forward and putting their heads down upon the pew before them. Who
does not see that this was a mere evasion of the anxious seat, that it was designed
to answer the same purpose, and that the plan was adopted because it was felt that
something of the kind was important?
Now, what objection is there against taking a particular seat, or rising up, or going
into the Lecture room? They all mean the same thing; and they are not novelties in
principle at all. The thing has always been done in substance. In Joshua's day he
called on the people to decide what they would do, and they spoke right out in the
meeting: "The Lord our God will we serve, and His voice will we obey" (Joshua
- 1. If we examine the history of the Church we shall find
that there never has been an extensive reformation, except by new measures. Whenever
the Churches get settled down into a norm of doing things, they soon get to rely
upon the outward doing of it, and so retain the form of religion while they lose
the substance. And then it has always been found impossible to arouse them so as
to bring about a reformation of the evils, and produce a revival of religion, by
simply pursuing that established form. Perhaps it is not too much to say, that it
is impossible for God Himself to bring about reformations but by new measures. At
least, it is a fact that God has always chosen this way, as the wisest and best that
He could devise or adopt. And although it has always been the case, that the very
measures which God has chosen to employ, and which He has blessed in reviving His
work, have been opposed as new measures, and have been denounced, yet He has continued
to act upon the same principle. When He has found that a certain mode has lost its
influence by having become a form, He has brought up some new measure, which would
BREAK IN upon lazy habits, and WAKE UP a slumbering Church. And great good has resulted.
- 2. The same distinctions, in substance, that now exist,
have always existed, in all seasons of reformation and revival of religion. There
have always been those who particularly adhered to their forms and notions, and precise
way of doing things, as if they had a "Thus saith the Lord" for every one
of them. They have called those that differed from them, who were trying to roll
the ark of salvation forward, "Methodists," "New Lights," "Radicals,"
"New School," "New Divinity," and various other opprobrious names.
And the declensions that have followed have been uniformly owing to two causes, which
should be by no means overlooked by the Church.
- (a) The Old School, or Old Measure party, have persevered
in their opposition, eagerly seizing hold of any real or apparent indiscretions in
the friends of the work In such cases the Churches have gradually lost their confidence
in the opposition to new measures, and the cry of "innovation" has ceased
to alarm them. Thus the scale has turned.
(b) But now mark me: right here, in this state of things, the devil has, again
and again, taken the advantage. When the battle has been fought and the victory gained,
the rash zeal of some well-meaning, but headstrong individuals, has brought about
a reaction, that has spread a pall over the Churches for years. This was the case,
as is well known, in the days of President Edwards. Here is a rock, upon which a
lighthouse is now built, and upon which if the Church now run aground, both parties
are entirely without excuse. It is now well known, or ought to be known, that the
declension which followed the revival in those days, together with the declensions
which have repeatedly occurred, were owing to the combined influence of the continued
and pertinacious opposition of the old School, and the ultimate bad spirit and recklessness
of some individuals of the New School.
The note of alarm should be distinctly sounded to both parties, lest the devil should
prevail against us at the very point, and under the very circumstances where he has
so often prevailed. Will the Church never learn wisdom from experience? When will
it come to pass that the Church will be revived, and religion prevail, without exciting
such opposition in the Church as eventually brings about a reaction?
- 3. It is truly astonishing that grave ministers should
really feel alarmed at the new measures of the present day, as if new measures were
something new under the sun, and as if the present form and manner of doing things
had descended from the apostles, and were established by a "Thus saith the Lord";
when the truth is, that every step of the Church's advance from the gross darkness
of Popery, has been through the introduction of one new measure after another. We
now look with astonishment, and are inclined to look almost with contempt, upon the
cry of "innovation" that has preceded our day; and as we review the fears
that multitudes in the Church have entertained in bygone days, with respect to innovation,
we find it difficult to account for what appear to us the groundless and absurd,
at least, if not ridiculous, objections and difficulties which they made. But, is
it not wonderful, at this late day, after the Church has had so much experience in
these matters, that grave and pious men should seriously feel alarmed at the introduction
of the simple, the philosophical, and greatly-prospered measures of the last ten
years? As if new measures were something not to be tolerated, of highly disastrous
tendency, that should wake the notes and echoes of alarm in every nook and corner
of the Church.
- 4. We see why it is that those who have been making the
ado about new measures have not been successful in promoting revivals.
- They have been taken up with the evils, real or imaginary,
which have attended this great and blessed work of God. That there have been evils,
no one will pretend to deny. But I believe that no revival ever existed since the
world began, of as great power and extent as the one that has prevailed for the last
ten years, which has not been attended with as great or greater evils. Still, a large
portion of the Church have been frightening themselves and others, by giving constant
attention to the evils of revivals. One of the professors in a Presbyterian Theological
Seminary felt it his duty to write a series of letters to Presbyterians, which were
extensively circulated, the object of which seemed to be to sound the note of alarm
through all the borders of the Church, in regard to the evils attending revivals.
While men are taken up with the evils instead of the excellences following a blessed
work of God, how can it be expected that they will be useful in promoting it? I would
say all this in great kindness, but it is a point upon which I must not be silent.
- 5. Without new measures it is impossible that the Church
should succeed in gaining the attention of the world to religion. There are so many
exciting subjects constantly brought before the public mind, such a running to and
fro, so many that cry "Lo here!" and "Lo there!" that the Church
cannot maintain her ground without sufficient novelty in measures, to get the public
ear. The measures of politicians, of infidels, and heretics, the scrambling after
wealth, the increase of luxury, and the ten thousand exciting and counteracting influences
that bear upon the Church and upon the world, will gain men's attention, and turn
them away from the sanctuary and from the altars of the Lord, unless we increase
in wisdom and piety, and wisely adopt such new measures as are calculated to get
the attention of men to the Gospel of Christ. I have already said that novelties
should be introduced no faster than they are really called for; they should be introduced
with the greatest wisdom, and caution, and prayerfulness, and in a manner calculated
to excite as little opposition as possible. But new measures we must have. And may
God prevent the Church from settling down in any set of forms, or getting the present
or any other edition of her measures stereotyped.
- 6. It is evident that we must have more arousing preaching,
to meet the character and wants of the age. Ministers are generally beginning to
find this out. And some of them complain of it, and suppose it to be "owing
to new measures," as they call them. They say that such ministers as our fathers
would have been glad to hear, cannot now be heard, cannot get a pastorate, nor secure
an audience. And they think that new measures have perverted the taste of the people.
But this is not the difficulty. The character of the age is changed, but these men
retain the same stiff, dry, prosing style of preaching, that answered half a century
- Look at the Methodists. Many of their ministers are unlearned,
in the common sense of the term - many of them taken right from the shop or farm,
and yet they have gathered congregations, and pushed their way, and won souls everywhere.
Wherever the Methodists have gone, their plain, pointed and simple, but warm and
animated, mode of preaching has always gathered congregations. Few Presbyterian ministers
have gathered such large assemblies, or won so many souls. Now, are we to be told
that we must pursue the same old, formal mode of doing things, amidst all these changes?
As well might the North River be rolled back, as the world converted under such preaching.
Those who adopt a different style of preaching, as the Methodists have done, will
run away from us. We must have powerful preaching, or the devil will have the people,
except what the Methodists can save! Many ministers are finding out already, that
a Methodist preacher, without the advantages of a liberal education, will draw a
congregation around him which a Presbyterian minister, with perhaps ten times as
much learning, cannot equal, because he has not the earnest manner of the other,
and does not pour out fire upon his hearers when he preaches.
- 7. We see the importance of having young ministers obtain
right views of revival. In a multitude of cases I have seen that great pains are
taken to frighten our young men, who are preparing for the ministry, about "the
evils of revivals," and the like. Young men in some theological seminaries are
taught to look upon new measures as if they were the very inventions of the devil.
How can such men have revivals? So when they come out, they look about and watch,
and start, as if the devil were there. Some young men in Princeton a few years ago
came out with an essay upon the "Evils of Revivals." I should like to know,
now, how many of those young men have enjoyed revivals among their people, since
they have been in the ministry; and if any have, I should like to know whether they
have not repented of that piece about "the evils of revivals"?
- If I had a voice so loud as to be heard at Princeton, I
would speak to those young men on this subject. It is high time to talk plainly.
The Church is groaning in all her borders for the want of suitable ministers. Good
men are laboring, and are willing to labor night and day, to assist in educating
young men for the ministry, to promote revivals of religion; and yet when young men
come out of the seminary some of them are as shy of all the measures that God blesses
as they are of Popery itself.
Shall it be so always? Must we educate young men for the ministry, and have them
come out frightened to death about new measures? They ought to know that new measures
are no new thing in the Church. Let them go to work, and keep at work, and not be
frightened. I have been pained to see that some men, in giving accounts of revivals,
have evidently felt it necessary to be particular in detailing the measures used,
to avoid the inference that new measures were introduced; evidently feeling that
even the Church would undervalue the revival unless it appeared to have been promoted
without new measures. Besides, this caution in detailing the measures in order to
demonstrate that there is nothing new, looks like admitting that new measures are
wrong because they are new, and that a revival is more valuable when it is not promoted
by new measures. In this way, I apprehend that much evil has been done; and if the
practice is to continue, it must come to this, that a revival must be judged of by
the fact that it occurred in connection with new, or with old, measures. I never
will countenance such a spirit, or condescend to guard an account of a revival against
the imputation of old or new measures. I believe new measures are right; that is,
that it is no objection to a measure, that it is new, or old.
Let a minister enter fully into his work, and pour out his heart to God for a blessing,
and whenever he sees the want of any measure to bring the truth more powerfully before
the minds of the people, let him adopt it and not be afraid, and God will not withhold
His blessing. If ministers will not go forward, if they will not preach the Gospel
with power and earnestness, if they will not turn out of their tracks to do anything
new for the purpose of saving souls, they will grieve the Holy Spirit away, and God
will visit them with His curse, and raise up other ministers to do His work in the
- 8. It is the right and duty of ministers to adopt new measures
for promoting revivals. In some places the Church members have opposed their minister
when he has attempted to employ those measures which God has blessed for a revival,
and have gone so far as to give up their prayer meetings, and give up laboring to
save souls, and stand aloof from everything, because their minister has adopted what
they call "new measures" - no matter how reasonable the measures are in
themselves, nor how seasonable, nor how much God may bless them. It is enough that
they are called "new"; they will not have anything to do with new measures,
nor will they tolerate them among the people. And thus they fall out by the way,
and grieve away the Spirit of God, and put a stop to the revival, when the world
around them is going to hell.
- 9. Finally, this zealous adherence to particular forms
and modes of doing things, which has led the Church to resist innovations in measures,
savors strongly of fanaticism. And what is not a little singular, is, that fanatics
of this stamp are always the first to cry out "fanaticism." What is that
but fanaticism in the Roman Catholic Church, which causes them to adhere with such
pertinacity to their particular modes, and forms, and ceremonies, and fooleries?
They act as if all these things were established by Divine authority; as if there
were a "Thus saith the Lord" for every one of them. Now, we justly style
this a spirit of fanaticism, and esteem it worthy of rebuke. But it is just as absolutely
fanatical for the Presbyterian Church, or any other, to be sticklish for her particular
forms, and to act as if they were established by Divine authority. The fact is that
God has established, in no Church, any particular form, or manner of worship, for
promoting the interests of religion. The Scriptures are entirely silent on these
subjects, under the Gospel dispensation, and the Church is left to exercise her own
discretion in relation to all such matters. And I hope it will not be thought unkind,
when I say again, that to me it appears that the unkind, angry zeal, for a certain
mode and manner of doing things, and the overbearing, exterminating cry against new
measures, SAVOR STRONGLY OF FANATICISM.
- The only thing insisted upon under the Gospel dispensation,
in regard to measures, is that there should be decency and order. "Let all things
be done decently and in order"(1 Corinthians 14:40). We are required to guard
against all confusion and disorderly conduct. But what is meant by decency and order?
Will it be said that an anxious meeting, or a protracted meeting, or an anxious seat,
is inconsistent with decency and order? I should most sincerely deprecate, and most
firmly resist, whatever was indecent and disorderly in the worship of God's house.
But I do not suppose that by "order," we are to understand any particular
set mode, in which any Church may have been accustomed to perform its service.
LECTURES 1-5 of page 1
LECTURES 6-10 of page 2
LECTURES 11-14 of page 3 (this page)
LECTURES 15-18 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 19-22 of page 5 ---New Window
"Sermons from the Penny Pulpit"
by C. G. Finney
Main Page ---New Window
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices