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Discussion Forum : General Topics : The Preacher: His Life and Work by John Henry Jowett

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crsschk
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Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re:

But a second reason is given why the themes of the pulpit should be more widely varied than those of a past generation. We are told that there is a tragic lapse of interest in the Church. The Church is now surrounded by a multiplicity of conflicting or competing interests. Modern life has put on brighter colours: it has become more garish, more arresting, more mesmeric. Society has become more enticing, and lures of pleasure abound on every side. And all this is making the Church seem very grey and sombre, and her slow, old- fashioned ways appear like a "one-horse shay" amid the bright, swift times of automobile and aeroplane! And therefore the Church must "hurry up" and make her services more pleasant and savoury. Her themes must be "up-to-date." They must be "live" subjects for "live" men! They must be even a little sensational if they are to catch the interest of men who live in the thick of sensations from day to day.

I can quite understand men who take this position, and I think they offer certain reasonable counsels which it will be our wisdom to heed. But on the other hand I think the road is beset with perils which we must heed with equal vigilance. The Apostle Paul recognized changing assortments of circumstances, and he resolved upon a certain elasticity, and he became "all things to all men" that he might l "save some." But in all the elasticity of his relations he never changed his themes. He moved amid the garishness of Ephesus, and Corinth, and Rome, but he never borrowed the artificial splendour of his surroundings and thereby eclipsed the Cross. No "way of the world" seduced him from his central themes. Wherever he went, whether to a little prayer-meeting by the river-side in Philippi, or amid the aggressive, sensational glare of Ephesus or Corinth, he "determined to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and Him crucified." And I am persuaded that amid all the changed conditions of our day - the social upheavals, the race for wealth, the quest of pleasure, we shall gain nothing by hugging the subordinate, or by paying any homage to the flippancy and frivolity of the time. The Church is in perilous ways when she begins to borrow the sensational notes of the passing hour. One of the clearest and wisest counsellors of our time, a man who knew the secrets of men because he dwelt in "the secret place of the Most High," gave this straight counsel to the ministry a little while ago: "Against religious sensationalism, outré sayings, startling advertisements, profane words, irreverent prayers, the younger ministry must make an unflinching stand, for the sake of the Church and the world, for the sake of their profession and themselves." I do not think these words describe an imaginary peril. The peril is already at our gates; in some quarters it has been an actual menace to our worship, and here and there the menace has become a "destruction that wasteth at noonday." There is a certain reserved and reticent dignity which will always be an essential element in our power among men. We never reach the innermost room in any man's soul by the expediencies of the showman or the buffoon. The way of irreverence will never bring us to the holy place. Let us be as familiar as you please, but let it be the familiarity of simplicity, the simplicity which clothes itself in all things natural, chaste, and refined. And I think if we were to exercise ourselves upon things supremely beautiful we should find that we had hit upon the supremely sensational, and that the out-of-the-way themes, the glaring titles, the loud advertisements, are undesirable ministers in the quest and cure of souls.

([i]* Note, keep in mind that this was written in 1912![/i])


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Mike Balog

 2006/3/9 9:49Profile
crsschk
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Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 John Jowett: The Preacher

What are the needs of the people who face us in the pews? In their innermost souls what do they crave? Are they hungering for the rediscussion of newspaper topics, with only the added flavour of the sanction of the sanctuary? Shall the preacher be just a visible editor, presenting his message amid the solemn inspirations of prayer and praise? What is the apostolic guidance in the matter? When I turn to apostolic witness and preaching I am growingly amazed at the fulness and glory of the message. There is a range about it, and a vastness, and a radiance, and a colour which have been the growing astonishment of my latter years. When I turn to it I feel as though I am in Alpine country; majestic heights with tracts of virgin snow; suggestions of untraversed depths with most significant silence; mighty rivers full and brimming all the year round; fields of exquisite flowers nestling beneath the protecting care of precipitous grandeur; fruit- trees on the lower slopes, each bearing its fruit in its season; the song of birds; the moving air; the awful tempest. Turn to one of Paul's epistles, and you will experience this sense of air, and space, and height, and grandeur. Turn to Ephesians, or Colossians, or Romans, and you feel at once you are not in some little hill-country, and still less on some unimpressive and monotonous plain, you are in mountainous country, awful, arresting, and yet also fascinating, companionable, intimate. In Ephesians you lift your wondering eyes upon the ineffable Glory, but you also wander by rivers of grace, and you walk in paths of light, and you gather "the fruits of the Spirit" from the tree that grows by the way. I say it is this vastness, this manifold glory of apostolic preaching which more and more allures me, and more and more overwhelms me as the years of my ministry go by. There is something here to awaken the wonder of men, to lead them into holy awe, to brace their spirits, to expand their minds, and to immeasurably enlarge their thought and life.

And what is true of apostolic preaching has been true of all great preaching down to this very hour. Take Thomas Boston. We are told that his language was "tasked and strained to the utmost, to admeasure and to understand," when he spoke of "those redemptive blessings which meet all men's necessities . . . the full and irrevocable forgiveness of sins; reinstatement in the divine favour and friendship; the gift of the Holy Spirit in his enlightening, purifying, and peace-giving influences, turning men into living temples of the living God; victory in death and over death; the reception of the soul at death into the Father's house, and the beatific vision of God." These were the themes of transcendent interest which enriched and glorified the preaching of Thomas Boston, and which made it so mighty a power for the highest good that there was scarcely a cottage home in all Ettrick in which some of his converts could not be found.

Or take Spurgeon. You may not like his theology. You may resent some of the phraseology in which his theology is enshrined. But I tell you that, with Spurgeon's preaching as your guide, your movements are not limited to some formal exercise on a barren asphalt area, or confined to the limits of some small backyard. Hear him on the love of God, on the grace of Christ Jesus, on the communion of the Holy Ghost. Hear him on such texts as "Accepted in the Beloved," "The Glory of His Grace," "The Forgiveness of Sins," "The Holy Spirit of Promise," "The Exceeding Greatness of His Power to Usward Who Believe" - hear him on themes like these, and you have a sense of vastness kindred to that which awes you when you listen to the Apostle Paul. Every apparently simple division in the sermon is like the turning of the telescope to some new galaxy of luminous wonders in the unfathomable sky.

Or take Newman. What was it that held the cultured crowds in St. Mary's enthralled in almost painful silence? I know there was the supreme genius of the preacher. There was also that mysterious fascination which always attaches to the mystic and the ascetic, to those who are most evidently detached from the jostling and heated interests of the world. But above and beyond these there was the vastness and the inwardness of the themes with which he dealt. His hearers were constrained from the study to the sanctuary, from the market- place to the holy place, even to "the heavenly places in Christ Jesus." The very titles of his sermons tell us where he dwelt: "Saving Knowledge," "The Quickening Spirit," "The Humiliation of the Eternal Son," "Holiness Necessary for Future Blessedness," "Christ Manifested in Remembrance," "The Glory of God." The very recital of the themes enlarges the mind, and induces that sacred fear which is "the beginning of wisdom." The preacher was always moving in a vast world, the solemn greatness of life was continually upon him, and there was ever the call of the Infinite even in the practical counsel concerning the duty of the immediate day.

I say this has been the mood and the manner of all great and effective preaching. It was even so with the mighty preaching of Thomas Binney. "He seemed," says one who knew him well, "to look at the horizon rather than at an enclosed field, or a local landscape. He had a marvellous way of connecting every subject with eternity past and with eternity to come." Yes, and that was Pauline and apostolic. It was as though you were looking at a bit of carved wood in a Swiss village window, and you lifted your eyes and saw the forest where the wood was nourished, and, higher still, the everlasting snows I Yes, that was Binney's way, Dale's way, the way of Bushnell, and Newman, and Spurgeon - they were always willing to stop at the village window, but they always linked the streets with the heights, and sent your souls a- roaming over the eternal hills of God. And this it is which always impresses me, and impresses me more and more the solemn spaciousness of their themes, the glory of their unveilings, their wrestlings with language to make the glory known, the voice of the Eternal in their practical appeals; and this it is which so profoundly moved their hearers to "wonder, love, and praise."


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Mike Balog

 2006/3/18 11:06Profile
crsschk
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Joined: 2003/6/11
Posts: 9192
Santa Clara, CA

 Re: John Jowett: The Preacher

Well now, is our preaching to-day characterized by this apostolic vastness of theme, this unfolding of arresting spiritual wealth and glory? I ask these questions not that we may register a hasty and careless verdict, but to suggest a serious and personal inquiry. Dr. Gore, the Bishop of Oxford, has been recently telling us what he thinks is the perilous tendency of the ministers and teachers of the Protestant religion. He declares that we are seeking refuge from the difficulties of [i]'thought in the opportunities of action.[/i]' That is a very serious suggestion. It would mean that we are intensely busy in the little village shop, and have no vision of the pine forests, or of the august splendours of the everlasting hills. And it would mean something more than this. We are not going to enrich our action by the impoverishment of our thought. A skimmed theology will not produce a more intimate philanthropy. We are not going to become more ardent lovers of men by the cooling of our love for God. You cannot drop the big themes and create great saints.

But altogether apart from what Dr. Gore thinks of our preaching, what do we think of it ourselves? In the light of the example of the Apostle Paul, of his teaching and preaching, and by the example of the other great preachers I have named, how does it fare with our familiar themes? Are they always in the village shop, or is there always a suggestion of the mountains about them? Are they thin, and small, and of the dwarfed variety? Can our language very easily say all that we have got to say, or does it fail to carry the glory we would fain express? Is it not true that our language is often too big for our thought, and our thought is like a spoonful of sad wine rattling about in a very ornate and distinguished bottle? Men may admire the bottle, but they find no inspiration in the wine. Yes, men admire, but they do not revere; they appreciate, but they do not repent; they are interested, but they are not exalted. They say, "What a fine sermon!" not, "What a great God!" They say, "What a ready speaker!" and not, "Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God!"

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It is this note of vastitude, this ever-present sense and suggestion of the Infinite, which I think we need to recover in our modern preaching. Even when we are dealing with what we sometimes unfortunately distinguish as "practical" duties we need to emphasize their rootage in the eternal. It is at the gravest peril that we dissociate theology and ethics, and separate the thought of duty to men from the thought of its relation to God. When the Apostle Paul, in the twelfth chapter of Romans, begins to be hortatory, preceptive, practical, it is because he has already prepared the rich bed in which these strong and winsome graces may be grown. Every precept in the twelfth chapter sends its roots right down through all the previous chapters, through the rich, fat soil of sanctification and justification, and the mysterious energies of redeeming grace. We employ a universe to rear a lily-of- the-valley. We need the power of the Holy Spirit to rear a fruit of the Spirit. We require evangelical grace if we would t create evangelical patience. We require "the truth as it is in Jesus" if we would furnish even a truly courteous life. Ruskin says that if you were to cut a square inch out of any of Turner's skies you would find the infinite in it. And it ought to be that if men were to take only a square inch out of any of our preaching, they would find a suggestion which would lead them to "the throne of God and of the Lamb."

All this means that we must preach upon the great texts of the Scriptures, the fat texts, the tremendous passages whose vastnesses almost terrify us as we approach them. We may feel that we are but pigmies in the stupendous task, but in these matters it is often better to lose ourselves in the immeasurable than to always confine our little boat to the measurable creeks along the shore. Yes, we must grapple with the big things, the things about which our people will hear nowhere else; the deep, the abiding, the things that permanently matter. We are not appointed merely to give good advice, but to proclaim good news. Therefore must the apostolic themes be our themes: The holiness of God; the love of God; the grace of the Lord Jesus; the solemn wonders of the cross; the ministry of the Divine forgiveness; the fellowship of His sufferings; the power of the Resurrection; the blessedness of divine communion; the heavenly places in Christ Jesus; the mystical indwelling of the Holy Ghost; the abolition of the deadliness of death; the ageless life; our Father's house; the liberty of the glory of the children of God. Themes like these are to be our power and distinction. "O thou that tellest good tidings to Zion, get thee up into the high mountain. O thou that tellest good tidings to Jerusalem, lift up thy voice with strength: lift it up: be not afraid: say unto the cities of Judah, Behold your God!"


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Mike Balog

 2006/3/18 11:12Profile





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