The Responsibility of the Preacher

Rom. 10:14,15.---'How shall they hear without a preacher? And how shall they preach, except they be sent?'

TRUTH needs an advocate. The evangel is latent till it finds the evangelist, the man with the gospel in his heart and in his experience, the man who can meet ignorance, doubt, and inquiry with the assured and tested word, 'We speak that we do know and testify that we have seen.' The living voice is the gospel's best advocate: 'When they heard this they were pricked to the heart.'. . .'Many of them which heard the word believed.' Here, then, is a soul subduing thing: the gospel has power to penetrate earth's darkest fears and thickest gloom; it is able to still the storms of passion and hate, to purify the blemished life, to send its quenchless hope through death to the far fields of eternity, and it awaits the chosen instrumentality of living souls to give it to mankind.

Personality is the most powerful thing in the world. The gospel is the revelation of the personality of God in the personality of Jesus Christ. Personality was revealed and communicated through personality. There is no other adequate way. The gospel is from first to last a mighty concern of persons. Truth at its highest incarnates itself in personality; personality at its best is truth personified: 'I am the truth,' said Jesus. the gospel lives and conquers by means of human contacts. And the communication of the gospel is the best evidence that the man himself has it; if he does not pass it on, one is entitled to doubt his possession of it.

Heaven's gate is shut to him who comes alone; Save you a soul and it shall save your own.

St. Paul wants to emphasize the responsibility of the preacher. He has just said, 'How shall they believe in him of whom they have not heard?' At least, that is how the Authorized Version renders it. But the Revised Version has, 'How shall they believe in him whom they have not heard.' According to the Authorized Version the difficulty of belief is that they have not heard about Christ. According to the Authorized the function of the preacher is to talk about Christ; but according to the Revised his function is to be a mouthpiece through whom Christ can speak about Himself. 'They are not likely to believe,' Paul says, 'unless they hear Christ.' if this was true when he wrote, it is abundantly true today. Many indeed today have heard about Christ; but there are multitudes who have never heard Christ. This ideal incomparably heightens the office of the ministry, and makes the work of the preacher very awful. No one has adequately conceived the function and office of the Christian preacher who regards the pulpit as the arena for an exhibition of his own originality or eccentricity of thought, instead of a position from which the mind and will of Christ may be declared to each generation, and where His very voice shall be recognized.

How do men come at any name for God that stimulates great hopes? No name of grace is written across the sky. Nature is anonymous. To call on God for life immortal men must have heard some great good thing about God, something so great and good that the soul knew it for truth at sight, as the ear knows music the moment it hears, and the eye knows beauty in the act of seeing. We, the feeblest and poorest of us, say things of God and man such as no science dares, no philosophy dreams. Genius is eloquent, but her imaginings are sober beside what the preacher tells his congregation about the love of God, the sacrifice of Christ, and the door of hope in the valley of death.

But how dare men preach except they be sent? If they were sent, if it be God's will that these great death-defeating things should be said, that faith and hope should be stimulated to the utmost, that alters the case. 'He that sent me,' was one of Christ's names for God, and our estimate of Jesus rises or falls as we accept or refuse the name. It adds the unit to what else is a mass of ciphers. Without it the Jesus of the great gospel sayings is absurd, but in its transfiguring light, how beautiful upon the mountains---Tabor, Olivet, Calvary!

Beautiful upon the mountains---in all ages and under all conditions---are the feet of him who bringeth glad tidings. Pheidippides, the swift courier, brought to Athens the joyful tidings of the victory of Marathon, and died with the single word of triumph upon his lips. So with more sacred messages. '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!'

But a man who brings such a message must be sure that it is true. He must be instructed, authorized, dispatched---how shall they preach, except they be sent? God must send. He alone has the authority, the power. He alone can make the proclamation necessary for the forgiveness of a single offender. He alone for a world. He alone can commission, teach, guide, equip messengers who are to carry such tidings as these.

So, when Jesus says, 'The harvest is plenteous, the laborers are few,' He does not bid men go, nor does He bid them call others; He bids them pray the Lord to send laborers into the harvest. So, when Paul describes the ministry of reconciliation, he says, God has committed it to us; we are ambassadors for Him; we beseech you in Christ's stead to be reconciled, and to accept the gracious proclamation which offers you the righteousness which is by faith.

It was so at the beginning. Christ chose twelve men. He did not write a treatise, or lay down the lines of elaborate organization, or draw up a code of laws or principles; He Himself lived, and taught, and worked, and---prepared men and sent them out. Partly in our Lord's lifetime, but much more after His death, apostleship was vital to the whole movement. The charter of missions begins with the words, Go ye, for I send you. So it was with Paul, who was called for a definite purpose, which he carried out with characteristic earnestness, fidelity, and success. His question, 'What wilt thou have me do?' was answered by the one word, 'Go to the Gentiles, to whom now I send thee.' And his credentials at the beginning of every letter are, 'Paul, a bond-slave and messenger of the Lord Jesus Christ, an apostle, not of man, nor through man, but of Him who revealed His Son in me that I might preach Him among the Gentiles.'

'As the Father hath sent me'---His own Apostle, by His own appointed authority, 'so I send you'---My messengers, under My appointed authority to convey to the world the Good News. The preacher is not a diplomatist, given a free hand to negotiate and try to make the best terms he can with his proposals: he is just a messenger, knowing he is sent to direct mankind to the one assurance and authority for salvation---Thy God is King.

Why this should be the one Divine method we need not stay to argue. It is natural for men to imagine that a universal salvation should be matter of universal revelation; to wonder why Jesus should be born so late in Bethlehem, and Christianity spread so gradually, so slowly; to question why the nations should so long be left in darkness, and so many remain still without light. Enough for the moment that the Divine method of saving the world is by an appeal on the part of men to their fellows. Not by a sign from heaven, but by dwelling among men, and teaching and drawing them to Himself, did the Son of God do His work in the world. His followers must be like Him.

Great truths must be passed through great experiences if they are greatly to move men. It is not truth in the abstract that saves, but truth as assimilated and reproduced in mind and heart, in experience and life. Man's mind is made for truth, but truth must be presented in a prepared state. It may be obtained through books, but the normal method is through 'preaching,' by which we need not say is not meant mere pulpit deliverance's. Books are fossilized human thoughts, and impart truth as the rays of the sun embodied in the coal furnish artificial light. But the match is needed to set the coal ablaze, and the experience, the sympathy, the living word from the living man are the chief powers which god the Holy Spirit uses for the work of bringing the gospel home to the hearts of men. As God's authority is needed to equip a messenger, so human instrumentality is needed to carry the message.

In Christ, timothy. Maranatha