God's Pulpit

God's Pulpit

It is true that the man of God must "re­prove, rebuke, exhort," but that is only part of the apostolic admonition. These things are to be done "with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). In the R.S.V. the words are rendered "be unfail­ing in patience and in teaching."

ON PAGE two of this issue will be found a motto for preachers. It was taken from the door leading to the pulpit of one of our churches in Johannesburg. Although used in our magazine some years ago we felt it was arresting enough to use once more especially because of a criticism which had been made the week the motto had been drawn to our attention. A gathering of friends graced our home one Sabbath. We had all been to church that day, some nearby, some farther afield, and we were comparing notes on the serv­ices. In our church we had had a good sermon and we plainly said so.

Then one of our visitors observed, "We had another scolding, as usual!" We will not repeat more, save to say that if people should not talk publicly in that way, nei­ther should we preachers provide the temp­tation for them to do so.

It is true that the man of God must "re­prove, rebuke, exhort," but that is only part of the apostolic admonition. These things are to be done "with all longsuffering and doctrine" (2 Tim. 4:2). In the R.S.V. the words are rendered "be unfail­ing in patience and in teaching."

"Not a Throne"

The pulpit is not a place from which the minister dispenses orders and inces­santly reproves both the faithful and the unfaithful. If he would fill his sermons with the "teaching ("didache")" of Christ, the reproof would go silently home to the heart of the hearer through the compelling power of truth. Cracking the whip, haranguing the people, denunciatory-speech aimed at everything and everybody, cheapens the pulpit and disgusts the peo­ple. It is a poverty-stricken pulpit where the preacher's only weapon is a whip. These habits can be cured if a man will think, study, and preach the great and posi­tive themes of the Word of God, of which the Lord Jesus Christ is the beginning and the end.

Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), Scottish preacher and theologian, was the brilliant pastor of a Scottish church when he was only twenty-three. His small congregation loved him, but could not understand why, after a hard week's work, they came to church only to hear the marvelous young preacher thundering away against all kinds of sins as though the members had spent the week in open shame. This went on from 1803 to 1811, when a sudden change came.

Chalmers ceased to thunder against the grosser crimes and against the iniquities of Napoleon, but every day he had something fresh to say about the love of God, about the cross of Christ, and about the way of salvation.1

Chalmers' explanation was that in 1811 he was converted after eight years of what has been called "whiplash preaching." He carried with him into a wider ministry of preaching, teaching, and writing the les­sons thus learned among the humble Scot­tish cottagers, where the last four years of his preaching produced many a trophy of redeeming grace.

John Bunyan (1628-1688) was once a "whiplash" preacher, and says:

I went for the space of two years crying out against men's sins and their fearful state because of them. After which the Lord came in upon my own soul with peace and comfort through Christ. He gave me many sweet discoveries of blessed grace through Him. Wherefore now I altered my preaching and did much labour to hold forth Christ in all His of­fices, relations and- benefits unto the world. After this God led me into something of the mystery of the union with Christ.2

We have long had before us such ad­monition as the following:

It is natural for some to be sharp and dictatorial, to lord it over God's heritage; and because of the manifestation of these attributes, precious souls have been lost to the cause.3

Perhaps some of us need to drop the whip, and, abasing ourselves at the foot of the cross, learn anew that love is Christ's most potent weapon, that truth as it is in Him is the great sanctifier of the soul,4 and the Holy Spirit the greatest corrector of wrong5 and the one guide into all truth.6

No! The pulpit is "not a throne"!

There is no denying that some pages in Christian history reveal certain preachers as setting themselves up as the last word on every question under the sun—even those that have no legitimate place in God's pul­pit.

"Not a Judgment Bar"

The pulpit is not a judgment bar before which any and every question of human controversy can be decided. Failure to grasp this will find the preacher in deep water. He does not know everything and is not expected to. His textbook, the Bible, does not answer all human problems. It is a textbook of the science of salvation, and not a vade mecum to every question under the sun.

How often preachers have allowed them­selves to be drawn into political contro­versy to the detriment of their success as pastors and evangelists! Christian workers of all classes should not be drawn "into debate or controversy on political or other questions."7 To counsel and advise on great moral issues before the public is one thing; to press a certain solution dogmat­ically and publicly is quite another.

The pulpit must of necessity be a place where controversial issues are dealt with. In a certain sense the main issues of Chris­tianity are controversial. Sin, atonement, redemption, the deity and nature of Christ, the inspiration of Scripture, the eschatology of Scripture—these are all issues from which we must not, dare not, shrink. Here is a warning word from the famous W. H. Griffith Thomas:

We have to take care that we are not mere con­troversialists, for this type of man is one of the most unlovely, unspiritual, and objectionable of beings. We must not wage war for the love of it, but if we find it necessary to wage it, we must do so in love.8

In the very nature of our position Ad-ventist preachers, with an unpopular mes­sage, can easily become denunciatory, con­troversial, and condemnatory. So many things contrary to God's Word have to be opposed, and the faith once for all delivered to the saints must be defended and commended. We have to preach so that the arrows of the Word reach human hearts, and it must be done after the divine pattern in Christ:

Every time He addressed the people, whether His audience was large or small, His words took saving effect upon the soul of some one. No message that fell from His lips was lost. Every word He spoke placed a new responsibility upon those who heard. And to-day the ministers who in sincerity are giv­ing the last message of mercy to the world, rely­ing on God for strength, need not fear that their ef­forts will be in vain.9

It is possible to make God's pulpit heav­en's trysting place with needy sinners, and not a judgment bar that metes out nought but condemnation.

"Not a Theatrical Stage"

Under the pressure of filling the church, preachers have sometimes resorted to novel expedients. The preacher who advertised "How a Man Sinned by Having His Hair Cut" had a novel title by which to intro­duce Samson; but was it dignified? Did it add to the attractiveness of the church? Did it draw others than the curious?

No one likes to listen to the preacher who stands unmoved and lifeless as a statue while he preaches. How can men be on fire with a message impregnated with life-and-death issues and be statuesque, un­emotional, unmoved, and unmoving? But when emotion and sensationalism run riot, then the pulpit degenerates into a theater.

Surely the House of God is not a Theatre, or a Concert-Hall, or a Circus, where it becomes the great object of the proprietor to fill the building, and make it pay.10

In this age of extravagance and outward show, when men think it necessary to make a display in order to gain success, God's chosen messengers are to show the fallacy of spending means needlessly for effect. As they labor with simplicity, humility, and graceful dignity, avoiding everything of a theatrical nature, their work will make a lasting impression for good.11

"A Table for Hungry Souls"

One of the great failures in pulpit min­istry today is seen in the quality of its sermons. In too many cases they cry out to heaven that preachers—Adventist and non-Adventist alike—are not studying the life-giving Word. Just as surely as this con­tinues the enemy will come in like a dev­astating flood and sweep away the faith of many. Many persons who remain in churches served mainly by non-Biblical preaching become weak in the faith and are often easy prey for un-Biblical teach­ing. We must "feed the flock of God" 12 or it will languish.

The table the Lord has prepared for His people is His will revealed in Holy Writ. There are only two ways in which God's people can feast on that Word—they study in private or they listen in public. A small number do both. Every preacher knows that private Bible study is almost nonex­istent. In a group of Christian college stu­dents 73 per cent recently admitted they have never prayed with either one of their parents, and it is almost certain that the same confession applies to Bible study.

It therefore remains for the preacher to help by his sermons, studies, and inter­views to try to fill this terrifying vacuum in the lives of his people.

The minds of men must be called to the Scrip­tures as the most effective agency in the salvation of souls, and the ministry of the word is the great educational force to produce this result.13

The pulpit must become the Lord's table around which the hungry church family gathers, and it must here be fed, inspired, and built up in the "most holy faith." 14 Here the Holy Word must be dis­pensed and the holy Christ exalted.

The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ, and the Saviour desired to fix the faith of His followers on the word.15

Preachers who make the sermon hour a feast of good scriptural things for the hun­gry soul can make the pulpit a dispensary of redeeming grace for hungry souls, and a place from which the Redeemer's wel­come voice can be heard from week to week.

Father of mercies, in Thy Word 

What endless glory shines!

For ever be Thy name adored, 

For these celestial lines.

Here the Redeemer's welcome voice 

Spreads heavenly peace around;

And life and everlasting joys 

Attend the blissful sound.

—Anne Steele


1 Charles L. Goodfel, Cyclopedia of Evangelism, pp. 135, 136.

2 Ibid., pp. 136. 137.

3 Testimonies to Ministers, p. 223; cf. 280. 301.

4 John 17:17-20.

5 John 16:8.

6 John 16:13.

7 Testimonies, vol. 6. p. 122.

8 W. H. Griffith Thomas, The Work of the Ministry, p. 150.

9 Gospel Workers, pp. 150. 151.

10 Joseph Gowan, Homiletics, p. 157.

11 Gospel Workers, p. 346. 

12 1 Peter 5:2.

13 Testimonies, vol. 6. p. 288.

14 Jude 20.

15 The Desire of Ages, p. 390.

H. W. Lowe


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