Therefore came I to you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent you have sent for me?
I. CONCERNING THE TRUE MINISTER, I affirm that —
1. He is a special creation of Divine grace. The mantle of the prophet is not personal property; God is its owner, and He Himself must determine who shall be invested with it.
(1) The processes through which men reach the pulpit are diverse; but if true, each has been guided by the Divine eye. Some require years of mental preparation; others are summoned at once from obscurity. What then? Shall each question the Divinity of the other's mission? God forbid! "There are diversities of operation, but the same Spirit." He who spoke the universe into being can suddenly qualify men to bear the standard of the Cross. He also who has established the processes of creation may gradually train men. We must therefore test the Divinity of each man's mission more by the results secured than by the discipline undergone. Every true minister is a special creation of Divine grace, just as every planet is a special creation of Divine power. He does not enter upon the publication of the gospel as a profession, but us a vocation. "Woe is me if I preach not the gospel." You may as well attempt to arrest the whirlwind, or roll back the planets, as to silence the God-created minister. Kings and councils have attempted the task; but above the fury and clamour of hell this voice has sounded, "Whether it be right in the sight of God to hearken unto you more than God, judge ye. For we cannot but speak the things which we have seen and heard." Aye! that is one secret of the true minister's power — he has "seen and heard" his Divine Master.
(2) The Divinity of this mission is in no wise affected by the variety of manner which may be adopted by individual ministers. Each man has his own style of working, and is never so effective as when he is natural. The whirlwind has a mission, and so has the zephyr; the summer sun and the wintry blast are alike useful; and so in relation to the spiritual ministry one man speaks in tones of thunder, and lays his grasp upon the pillars of the temple of sin. Another speaks in tenderness, and stretches forth a helping hand to those that "have no might." One man is peculiarly qualified to make havoc among the ranks of infidelity; another is constructive, and builds up the Church in its most holy faith. In the Christian ministry you find the accomplished scholar, the eagle-eyed critic, the eloquent orator. But you must not expect in any one man a summary of qualifications; take each in his own sphere, and be thankful for what he is, rather than regretful for what he is not. Do you depreciate the sun because without fragrance? the rose because without light?
2. He seeks the highest spiritual culture of his auditors.
(1) The sanctuary is not an academy in which the sciences are courted, or in which learned predictions are to be delivered. Men are less anxious to understand a technical theology than to be brought into contact with the life-giving religion of Jesus. After the anxieties of life, after fellowship with men destitute of Divine sympathy, your spirits require something more than scholastic criticisms.
(2) There will be great diversity in the character of my hearers. I shall not address all in the same strain, nor always luxuriate amid the green pastures of doctrine, assurance, and promise. I shall erect the standard of eternal rectitude, and give men to feel their true moral stature. I shall tear the mask from the hypocrite, and lay hold on the prodigal and try to woo him to repentance.
(3) The power of the Church consists in its piety. There is force in genius; but, contrasted with the strength of piety, it is weakness. There is power in money; but the pauper whose heart glows with love to the Saviour is a mightier power than the millionaire. Holiness is power; with it we are valorous as giants — without it we are "reeds shaken with the wind." Holiness is peace. The peace which exists apart from holiness is a treacherous lull. The mischief maker can secure no sympathy in a holy Church; every ear is closed to his slander, and every tongue ready to rebuke his impiety.
II. CONCERNING THOSE WHO WAIT UPON THE MINISTRY.
1. The pastor has a right to expect —
(1) Their punctual and regular attendance. This is necessary to enjoyment. The devotional part of the service is of the highest importance. And even, taking the lowest ground, there is something opposed to public decency and rectitude in late attendance.
(2) The exercise of a charitable judgment. While the enemy rages, let the friends unite! If you prove faithful, I shall calmly survey any external storm!
(3) An abiding interest in their prayers. Without prayer we shall perish. Prayer gives strength, elevation, self-oblivion.
(4) Their zealous cooperation. A minister feels himself strong just in proportion as he possesses the sympathy of his people.
2. The people must not expect —
(1) Uniformity in the mode of address. Ministers are but men. Their physical functions may be deranged, their social peace may be invaded, their souls may be distracted, and all such disturbances will produce an influence on their ministry. We must, therefore, be discriminating and sympathetic in relation to pulpit services, and must at all times endeavour to secure in worship what is lacking in meditation.
(2) A system of theology in every sermon. Some auditors are unreasonable enough to expect a preacher, in every discourse, to commence at the creation and end at the harps of heaven, paying special attention to intervening circumstances. My object will be to analyse each text, and to develop the meaning peculiar to it. I hold most tenaciously the great doctrines of Scripture; but it would be impossible to discuss these in connection with every Scriptural statement. At the same time it will be my aspiration ever to exalt Jesus as man's only and all-sufficient Saviour!
(3) Periodical visitation. Much time will be required to prepare for the pulpit, and the calls of the sick, the dying, and the penitent shall secure my fullest attention.
(J. Parker, D. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: Therefore came I unto you without gainsaying, as soon as I was sent for: I ask therefore for what intent ye have sent for me?