Spiritual Preaching of Christ Crucified
" I was with you in weakness, and in fear, and in much trembling."
Are not all God's ministers men of weakness, fear and trembling—most of all those in whom greatest power and blessing are manifested ? Again, are not the servants of God who show the greatest fearlessness and courage, who most sternly rebuke sin and announce judgment, men of tenderness and affection ? And who, like the beloved disciple, separates so sternly and severely Church and world, light and darkness, God and Satan ?
But the servant's weakness, fear and trembling need not dishearten or dismay him, or interfere with the most abundant success since God shows His wisdom and power in that which the world regards as foolishness and weakness.
" Not with excellency of speech or of wisdom, . . . Not with enticing words of man's wisdom."
Is it possible for a preacher to have too much knowledge or culture, or too great power of reasoning or imagination, in order to preach the Gospel as it ought to be preached ? What knowledge or gift but may here find most ample, delightful and profitable exercise? But whoever proclaims the Gospel, though Christ is preached by the eloquent lips of an Apollos, the preaching of the Gospel is foolishness. The Gospel is a declaration, not an argument. We announce the great deeds of God, as Peter did on the day of Pentecost ; he being filled with the Spirit declared the wonderful salvation works of God -Christ crucified, Christ raised, Christ sending forth the Spirit. These (acts he preached also to Cornelius ; these facts Paul preached everywhere.
The power of the Gospel is in the Gospel itself, not in our proofs and commendations. The Gospel must be preached, that is, asserted and declared. The preacher must trust in nothing else but the power of the Spirit blessing and applying the message. He must remember, that in the facts he announces. Clod Himself speaks directly to the conscience and heart of man, alike to the ignorant and to the princes of intellect. His great and his only care is to deliver the message. If human reasoning, however cogent, and illustrations, however beautiful, and eloquence, however fascinating, obscure and overlay, either to the preacher or to the hearer, the simplicity of the Gospel facts, then better were it a thousand times that in the most illiterate and rude speech of the weakest believer (he cross of Christ should be set forth ; for it pleases God by the foolishness of preaching to save them that believe. Not them that admire and enjoy, and are convinced by argument, and conciliated by seeing learning and taste allied to the proclamations of truth, but them that by faith receive the divine message.
The preaching of the Gospel, however legitimately allied to natural gifts and mental acquirements, must always retain the mark of crucifixion. It does not become us to be orators. There is an element in human eloquence which is not according to the Gospel of Christ crucified : (here is a consciousness of power, of influence, which is not according to (he Gospel. We do not wish to influence, move, soften, terrify, mould ; we look to God, that He, by making His truth come into contact with the heart, may draw men unto Himself. We do not wish to sway an audience as the great orators of the world, keeping them, for the moment at least, under a spell of enchantment, their minds and wills under a potent fascination. No, God is to hold and sway, filling men with awe, terror, contrition, love, joy and hope. When Whitefield described the miserable condition of a blind beggar on a dangerous road, friendless, deserted even by his dog, and about to lake a fatal step which would have hurled him to certain destruction, when he spoke with such graphic power and vividness that the whole audience of the most cultivated, refined minds was kept in breathless silence, and Lord Chesterfield actually made a rush forward to save the poor old man ; this was a marvellous triumph of eloquence, but was any one converted by it? What different power was in his simple declaration of the curse which rests on every sinner, and of the blessing which from a crucified Saviour, is ready to descend on the guiltiest, when the Spirit applied it to the hearts of the Kingsdown colliers, and tears made furrows in their begrimed checks, and careless and profligate men were changed into believers and saints. Preaching is of grace, not of nature, still less of art; it is God's power and not man's.
" But in demonstration of the Spirit and of power."
For Paul preached the Word of God. This is more than preaching according to the Scriptures. Even without the Spirit men may preach according to the Scriptures. He who preaches the Word of God preaches what he has received by the Spirit, of God as a special message, for the special occasion before him, and with utterance asked for and given he speaks unto men. Christ is seen, and Christ is received by faith ; the things of God are understood, and they arc appropriated. What the preacher describes, the Holy Ghost reveals and bestows upon the hearer. Christ crucified may he seen by the reason and imagination as a picture ; there is no reality, no life. But when spiritual preaching is received, Christ crucified is seen by the heart as a living and loving Saviour ; we see and we possess. Oh what a solemn and blessed thing is spiritual preaching!