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The Power from on High.
down to talk with Him, in the presence of His disciples, of the decease He should accomplish for Israel. Moses, with God on the mountain, came down with a shining face, shining so brightly that the people could not gaze upon him until he was veiled. So the minister, coming out of his closet from his seasons of fasting and prayer, is gifted with words which pierce to the hearts of the people ; and sometimes it seems as if his countenance shone like the face of Stephen, who, gazing up into heaven, was illumined by a ray from the Throne.
This spirit also brings before us the most solemn thoughts in reference to our congregations. Immortal souls come to listen for tidings of salvation. God has stirred them by His Holy Spirit, and sent them to hear. If they are saved, it must be through our words; and upon the issue of the sermon the destiny of immortal souls may be sealed. Who could preach carelessly, could he thus feel? Besides, it may be the last sermon that some one may hear. Almost every sermon is the last that some one shall hear. More persons die every week than there are pulpits in the land. Could we single out some person in the assembly who would never hear another sermon, how we would try to preach Jesus! Our eyes are sealed as to destiny, but that person is in the congregation, and we must draw the bow at a venture, trusting that the divine arm and eye will give to the bow sufficient tension, and to the arrow the right direction. Whenever I have heard of some person present in the assembly being called suddenly away by accident or disease, I have never felt regret that my sermon was not more beautiful or more polished, but I have regretted that it was not preached with more demonstration of the Spirit and of power.
I cannot conceal my conviction that, but for the indolence and negligence in those who occupy the sacred desk, this power would be more universal. It seems to me that the possibilities connected with preaching have been only partially realized, and that a brighter and more glorious day will yet dawn upon the Church.
If there is one thing above all others that I have desired for myself, and that above all others I covet for you, young gentle
men, it is this ministerial power, this baptism of fire. Seek for this more than for learning, for wisdom, for oratory; and, above all, more than for any thought of your acceptability or popularity. To preach one sermon like Livingstone's would be worth a life of service. I believe you all may bay such power that thousands shall be converted under your preaching. If the Bible be true, and if you are divinely called to the ministry, you are lifted out of the common circles of life, and God comes to dwell in you and to use all your powers for Himself. Your highest glory will be to appear as living, walking Christs among men, and you will feel, with the apostle, “For me to live is Christ."
THE RELATION OF THE PASTORATE
The pulpit is not the only sphere of the preacher's power. There are other spheres which are intimately associated with it. The minister is a pastor, as well as a preacher. He both feeds and cares for his flock. He not only leads them to pastures green and nourishing, but guards them against prowling beasts of prey, that thirst for their blood, as well as against precipices and morasses, where they might receive fatal injury.
As a preacher he speaks to the people collectively; but as a pastor he watches over them individually. By careful observation he learns their religious condition, their past advancement, the difficulties which they encounter, the hopes and fears which influence their lives, and is prepared to furnish them the truth which they need. Thus, too, the sermon which he delivers to the whole congregation becomes a source of spiritual power to each individual.
These two classes of work are so intimately associated, that it is impossible perfectly to separate them. The preacher cannot reap the full harvest of his labours without being a diligent pastor; and the pastor can accomplish but little without the truth and power of the pulpit. Pastoral duties are enjoined by the direct command of Christ, and are illustrated in His own glorious example. Their character is also exemplified in the labours of the apostles as they visited from house to house, and warned them day and night with tears.
I do not propose to discuss the duties of the pastorate, though the field is a very wide and fruitful one. I propose only to
Preaching outside of the Pulpit.
notice the influence which pastoral duties exercise upon the pulpit in giving to the preacher new zeal for his work, and in enabling him to trace the progress of that work as it may appear from time to time under his labours, and also in preparing the congregation to be more profited by bringing them into friendship and sympathy with the minister.
One form of this work is preaching outside of the regular pulpit. The parable of the supper was designed to instruct the disciples to go out into the highways and hedges and compel them to come in. We are not only to preach to those who are so anxious to hear us that they will come to the churches and aid in spreading the Gospel ; but we are to go forth and seek for those who will not attend the churches. The Saviour preached the Gospel on the mountain-side or from a boat on the Sea of Galilee. He addressed His disciples as they journeyed to and fro or rested by the wayside. He preached one of His most sublime sermons to a single hearer—the woman of Samaria---as He sat on the well; and His rich promise was given to the dying thief who was crucified at His side. He gave the benediction at the marriage in Cana of Galilee; spoke words of life at the death-bed of the ruler's daughter and gave comfort to sorrowing parents ; touched the bier on which was borne the son of the widow of Nain and raised him froñ the dead; called Lazarus back from the tomb to wipe away the tears from the eyes of his weeping sisters; and in His tenderness He took little children in His arms and blessed them. He was the preacher and the Saviour everywhere. The great apostle to the Gentiles in his work imitated his Master. He preached in the Jewish synagogues ; disputed in the school of Tyrannus; proclaimed the Gospel on Mars Hill; delivered sermons by the seaside ; spoke in an upper room through late hours of the night; and warned the people not only publicly, but from house to house. These examples teach us not to confine our ministrations to sacred edifices. We may meet with people in smaller companies; we may have audiences of less culture; but we will learn a more conversational and direct style of preaching. The ultimate position of the preacher is not merely the utterance of the truth so as to reach the understanding and
stir the emotions and affections, but to present every man perfect in Christ Jesus. This work is so vast it cannot be accomplished merely by sermons in the pulpit. They must be supplemented by personal visiting, conversation, and effort with each individual.
This pastoral visiting is essential to the preacher, that he may learn the condition and wants of his congregation. Without this knowledge there will be but little directness in his sermons; they will be comparatively profitless to his people. In his office of teacher, before he can instruct wisely and well, he must learn what his hearers already know. That he is a divine teacher and messenger not only does not release him from this duty, but rather intensifies his responsibility in it. The professor in college may understand well the highest functions in algebra, but it would be simple folly to lecture upon them to those who had not learned the first principles of arithmetic, or to discuss the peculiar properties of the sections of a cone before those who had not studied the elements of geometry. Professors in every college, teachers of every science, examine their students before they admit them to recite in the various departments, that instruction may be given according to their several advancements. If this be necessary in acquiring that kind of knowledge which is very desirable, yet without which a man will still live, move, and be both useful and happy, how much more important is it in acquiring that knowlege which is essential to his happiness here and hereafter!
To one unacquainted with Christian congregations, and with Christian instruction, it must be a perfect marvel how one discourse can suit a congregation composed of all grades of ages, talents, acquirements, and accomplishments, and by one who often knows not the condition of scarcely a person in the audience. The basis of such teaching is found only in the universal application of the elementary truths of the Gospel to every human heart.
The settled pastor, who has served his congregation for many years, who has baptized and married a generation, who has buried friends and parents, may be supposed to have a general