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The Message And The Man by J. Dodd Jackson


|And ye are witnesses of these things.

|And, behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem until ye be endued with power from on high.

|And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands and blessed them.

|And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven.| -- Luke.


We approach, at last, the end of our poor attempt. Its purpose has been to furnish a reminder of some things that are absolutely essential to the effective preaching of the Gospel. Let us recall the steps by which we have come thus far upon our way.

And first, it appeared to us that for true preaching you must have the true preacher; and the true preacher is he who, designated by Nature and by Divine calling, endowment and baptism, has come to personal certainty in respect of the great and vital truths committed to his keeping. Surrendered to God and his work, he nevertheless realises that among the trusts of which he holds stewardship is that of his own individuality to be used for the ends he is sent to consummate. He is a man of understanding gathered in the study of truth; of men; of the Church; of his own heart; of many other fields of knowledge. He lives in constant realisation of the greatness of his calling; the sublimity of his message and the certainty of victory for Israel's side. His soul is aflame with the passion of his labour; with devotion to his Master; with a love for his fellows learned at the foot of the cross. The supreme fact of his life is the fact of his own spiritual experience and in holy, happy memories he finds continual evidence of things Divine, and constant inspiration to prosecute his mission to the end. He is a man whose heart God has touched for the sake of the world. He is the chosen, qualified, and sworn ambassador of the King of Kings. He is the very representative and mouthpiece of God and of the Church to all with whom opportunity shall give him speech. In all this he is the successor of the first-called and qualified of the preaching band, making proof of his succession by faithfulness, holiness and success. Such is the true preacher, whether separated altogether to the work of the ministry or working with his hands, as did the greatest preacher of the Apostolic band, that he may |not be chargeable to any.|

From speaking of the messenger we turned to mention what seem to us to be the notes essential to a complete rendering of the message confided to him for transmission. The notes of accusation and of pity, of idealism and edification and cheer all need to be sounded by the preacher who would go back, at last, to the Lord who sent him with the joyful boast that he has |not shunned to declare the whole counsel of God.| Not only this, but we heard, as we came along our way, from the lips of those to whom the preacher would speak, enough to prove that it is for a message in which these notes are heard that they wait and listen. The world longs for a Gospel which shall satisfy the mind, guide the conscience and comfort the heart, the while it shows the way to the best in the life that is and the life that is to come. Such a Gospel we have. It remains only that we preach it in all its plenitude and promise.

|That we preach it|: -- Of this actual preaching we have also had something to say, both as to its form and as to certain great principles to be remembered by the messenger always and everywhere. It does matter much as to the manner in which the truth is expressed. It is possible to prevent the glorious results the message should produce by avoidable faults in the presentation of it. It is the preacher's duty, for the truth's sake, to make his sermons so attractive and so interesting that hearers shall not be repelled from partaking of the Divine provision for hungry and thirsty souls. It is his duty to make his sermons so simple in phrasing, so intelligible in arrangement, so luminous by illustration that the average hearer shall readily understand them. To the arts of persuasion and appeal he must devote special attention, for the purpose of the sermon is to induce men to believe and to act upon that belief. He must be a master of argument and of tact. He must learn to use every occasion; to find and enter every door; to turn everything to the advantage of his one great end. The sermon must be at once a work of wisdom, of grace and of art. It is the preacher's weapon in the warfare of his Lord. How carefully it should be fashioned; how bright it ought to be, how sharp, to reach the heart of the King's enemies!

And all these things we have brought to remembrance that, having them before us, we may be the better able to answer the question with which we started out: -- Whether this preaching of ours is in any way to blame for that spiritual and moral slide of which we hear so much? Are we such men as we have seen that preachers ought to be; so surely designated for our ministry; so wise; so sure; so full of the passion of our calling? Has the message we have sought to deliver expressed the whole that God has taught us and provided an answer to the deep questions and strange perplexing needs of those to whom we have ministered? Have the sermons in which our message has been set forth always been the best attempt we could make to reach the ear, subdue the mind and win the hearts of those who waited upon our utterance? Is there any need for self-reproach on our part, or can we answer all these questions with a gladness increasing with each successive reply? The reader will have a rejoinder ready. We do not ask to hear it. It will be enough that he whisper it to his own soul and into the ear of God. It might be of infinite service to the Church and to our fellows if, one and all, we pushed such an inquisition to an end in our secret hearts.

There remains now only one word to be added, and that word, the reader will perhaps have looked for earlier, for in every such discussion as the present it must come to utterance. For two reasons we have withheld it until the last and they are these. It is a word with which every reader will agree, and it is the most important word which can be spoken or written upon the subject. Is it necessary to say that it has reference to the deepest and most constant of all the preacher's needs -- the need of the Holy Spirit as an abiding presence in his heart, his mind, his work? Little did the Master say, as He charged those early preachers, concerning the methods of their preaching; little also as to its substance, but many were His words concerning the Holy Ghost who was to be their teacher, their remembrancer, their comforter and support. For Him they were to tarry |until the promise be fulfilled.|

And they did so tarry, and lo, He came and the young men saw visions and the old men dreamed dreams! Then, through the lips of plain, unlettered, toiling men there broke forth a new evangel upon the age which turned all the currents of the world. New things were spoken; new ideals lifted up; new hopes proclaimed, but the secret energy of it all was the new power that thrilled in every word.

New things the world had often heard, hopes, ideals, philosophies; some one was always bringing such wares to market, as they bring them to market still; but scarce a ripple on the sea of life did they one and all produce. These words lived and burned. Life was in them, and fire! That life and fire were His whose coming had filled the upper room with wind and flame!

The Holy Ghost in the heart of the preacher, and therefore in his message, filling every sermon with unction, spirituality, throb, life -- can there be effective and successful preaching without THIS? No, never; study you never so hard; train you never so carefully; bring to the work never such talents, such grace of diction, of construction, of delivery. |It is not by might nor by power, but by My spirit saith the Lord|!

And yet there is a duty of study and an obligation of training, and it is incumbent that the most precious of our gifts be polished and dedicated, that the best possibilities of argument, illustration and delivery be attained. In preaching, as in all the works and ways of life, God helps those who help themselves and nothing is worthy but the noblest and the highest.

The Holy Ghost in the heart of the preacher honoured by the grandest effort the preacher can make, the utmost faithfulness he can display: -- Can it be possible that in these words the twofold need of this very hour finds definition? Can we be sure, that if such a sentence were turned into a prayer, and came back upon us as a gracious answer to cries that would not be denied, the multitudes would not turn to us once again? What preaching would there be then; how warm would be the sanctuary; what a house of healing would it become; what a place of consolation and encouragement for hard-pressed men; how many problems would find solution; what visions would form themselves upon the darkened clouds overhanging many a human life! Preaching would be a living thing. Can it be possible that here and now LIFE is its greatest need and that the only way to obtain this life is by a return to that upper room of long ago? So we end with a question, as with a question we commenced. Since the world began it has been by the asking of questions that men have come to truth.


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