32514 without a church
No man can speak of the things of God with any success until the doctrine which he finds in the book he finds also in his heart. We must bring down the mystery and make it plain, by knowing, by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, its practical power on the heart and conscience. My dear readers, the gospel which we preach is most surely revealed to us by the Lord; but, moreover, our hearts have tried and proved, have grasped, have felt, and have realized its truth and power. If we have not been able to understand its heights and depths, yet we have felt its mystic power upon our heart and spirit. It has revealed sin to us better; it has revealed to us our pardon. It has killed the reigning power of sin; it has given us Christ to reign over us, the Holy Spirit to dwell within our bodies as in a temple.
Now we must speak. I do not urge any of you to speak of Jesus who merely know the Word as you find it in the Bible, your teaching can have but little power; but I do speak earnestly to you who know its mighty influence upon the heart, who have not only heard of the babe but have seen him in the manger, taken him up in your own arms and received him as being born to you, a Saviour to you, Christos, the anointed for you, Jesus the Saviour from sin for you. Beloved, can you do otherwise than speak of the things which you have seen and heard. God has made you to taste and to handle of this good word of life, and you must not, you dare not hold your peace, but you must tell to friends and neighbours what you have felt within.
These were shepherds, unlettered men. I will warrant you they could not
read in a book; there is no probability that they even knew a single letter.
They were shepherds, but they preached right well; and, my dear reader,
whatever some may think, preaching is not to be confined to those learned
gentlemen who have taken their degrees at Oxford or at Stanford or at
any College or University, It is true that learning need not be an impediment to grace, and may be a fitting weapon in a gracious hand, but often the grace of God has glorified itself by the plain clear way in which unlettered men have understood the gospel and have proclaimed it. I would not mind asking the whole world to find a living legend that has brought more souls to Christ Jesus than Billy Graham.
If the whole bench of bishops have done a tenth as much in the way of soul-winning as that one man, it is more than most of us give them credit for. Let us give to our God all the glory, but still let us not deny the fact that this sinner saved, with the brogue of the collier still about him, fresh from the coal pit, tells the story of the cross by God’s grace in such a way that Right Reverend Fathers in God might humbly sit at his feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn soul. It is true an uneducated brother is not fitted for all work-he has his own sphere, but he is quite able to tell of what he has seen and heard, and so it strikes me is every man in a measure.
If you have read the text of Jesus and seen the words from his voice when he spoke them, if you have received truth as from the Lord, felt its tremendous power as coming from God to you, and if you have experienced its might upon your own spirit, why you can surely tell out what God has written within. If you cannot get beyond that into the deeper mysteries, into the more knotty points, well, well, there are some who can, and so you need not be uneasy; but you can at least reveal the first and foundation truths, and they are by far the most important. If you cannot speak in the pulpit, if as yet your cheek would mantle with a blush, and your tongue would refuse to do her office in the presence of many, there are your children, you are not ashamed to speak before them; there is the little cluster round the hearth on Christmas night, there is the little congregation in the workshop, there is a little audience somewhere to whom you might tell out of Jesus love to lost ones.
Do not get beyond what you know; do not plunge into what you have not experienced, for if you do you will be out of your depth, and then very soon you will be floundering and making confusion worse confounded. Go as far as you know; and since you do know yourself a sinner and Jesus a Saviour, and a great one too, talk about those two matters, and good will come of it. Beloved, each one in his own position, tell what you have heard and seen;
publish that abroad among the sons of men. But were they authorized? It is a great thing to be authorized! Unauthorized ministers are most shameful intruders! Untrained men entering the pulpit, who are not in the apostolically succession, can be indeed unsettling and very horrible!
To me this horror seems very like a schoolboy’s fright at a boy which his fears had conjured up. I think if I saw a man slip through the ice into a cold grave, and I could rescue him from drowning, it would not be so very horrible to me to be the means of saving him, though I may not be employed by the Royal Humane Society. I imagine if I saw a fire, and heard a poor woman scream at an upper window, and likely to be burned alive, if I should wheel the fire-escape up to the window, and preserve her life, it would not be so very dreadful a matter though I might not belong to the regular Fire Brigade. If a company of brave volunteers should chase an enemy out of their own county, I do not know that it would be anything so shocking, although a whole army of mercenaries might be neglecting their work in obedience to some venerable military rubric which rendered them incapable of effective service.
But mark you, Jesus was not passed the seminar of religion, neither were Matthew, Mark, Luke, John and Paul. But they were the ones who brought us the story, brought us the Gospel. Just as the shepherds and others like them are in the apostolically succession, and they are authorized by divine ordinance, for every man who hears the gospel is authorized to tell it to others. You do have that authority here it is in confirmation strong from Holy Writ: “Let him that heareth say, Come “that is, let every man who truly hears the gospel bid others come to drink of the water of life. This is all the warrant you require for preaching the gospel according to your ability. It is not every man who has ability to preach the Word; and it is not every man that we should like to hear preach it in the great congregation, for if all were mouth, what a great vacuum the Church would be; yet every Christian in some method should deliver the glad tidings.
Our wise God takes care that liberty of prophesying shall not run to riot, for he does not give efficient pastoral and ministerial gifts to very many; yet every man according to his gifts, let him minister. Every one of you though not in the pulpit, yet in the pew, in the workshop, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, do make known the saviour of Jesus Christ. Be this your authority: “Let him that heareth say, Come.” I never thought of asking any authority for crying “ Fire,” when I saw a house burning; I never dreamed of seeking any authority for doing my best to rescue a poor perishing fellow-man, nor do I mean to seek it now! All the authority you want, any of you, is not the authority which can stream from prelates decorated with lawn sleeves, but the authority which comes direct from the great Head of the Church, who gives authority to every one of those who hear the gospel, to teach every man his fellow, saying, “Know the Lord.” Here, dear brethren, is one way for you to keep a right holy, and in some sense a right merry, Christmas. Imitate these humble men, of whom it is said, “When they had seen it they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning the child.”