The Sword and the Trowel, 1871
"Therefore seeing we have this ministry, as we have received mercy, we faint not" (2 Corinthians 4:1). "Not that we are sufficient of ourselves to think anything as of ourselves; but our sufficiency is of God" (2 Corinthians 3:5).
While we recognize that every believer has a ministry committed to him, we also see that certain individuals are more richly endowed with gifts and grace that they may be the instructors and helpers of others. No one can doubt that the spiritual condition of the Christian church is very much affected by the character of its ministry. For good or for evil, the leaders do actually lead to a very large extent. Under a drowsy preacher the spirit of the people becomes lethargic; a minister absorbed in politics leads his hearers into party strifes; and an unsound thinker and uncertain talker promotes heresy in his congregation. Satan knows full well the power of the ministry, and therefore he labors abundantly to pervert the minds of the Lord's servants, and also to raise up false teachers who may do his evil cause great service.
What sort of men do the churches need? The men whom God will honor must be gracious men, full of the Holy Ghost, called of God to their work, anointed, qualified, and divinely sustained. We cannot hope to see God glorified by men of doubtful piety or questionable experience.
We have remarked that great revivals of religion have been connected always with a revival of sound doctrine. Anything which we, as believers in Christ, would call a genuine revival of religion, has always been attended with clear, evangelical instruction upon cardinal points of truth. Justification by faith, starting like a giant from its sleep, called to its slumbering fellows -- that old truth was brought to the front, and to the poor the gospel was preached. Ruin, Redemption, Regeneration rung out with no uncertain sound. Man described as a sinner, fallen and ruined, Christ alone lifted up as the Saviour, and the need of the Holy Spirit's work insisted upon in plain, unmistakable language. "Ye must be born again" was thundered over the land. If we wish to promote the good of the churches, we must pray for ministers who are well instructed in the doctrines of the gospel and firmly established in the belief of them. We require preachers whose whole business here below shall be to promulgate a gospel dear to them as their lives, because they have experienced its saving power in their own souls.
The next thing we need in the ministry, now and in all time, is men of plain speech. "I use market language," said Whitefield, and we know the result. Anglo-Saxon speech, homely, plain, bold, nervous, forcible, never fails to move the English heart. The gospel's apples of gold are worthy to be carried in baskets of silver. Language should be fitted to the dignity of the subject. The most truly dignified language is, however, the simplest; simplicity and sublimity are next of kin. We need men who not only speak so that they can be understood, but so that they cannot be misunderstood. I speak for English people, and demand English preaching. If there be mystery, let it be in the truth itself, not in the obscurity of the preacher. We must have plain preachers.
Adapted by W.F. Bell, October 4, 2007
May God be pleased to raise up men of this caliber! We need preachers of God's grace!