The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.
On the old Glasgow coat-of-arms were the words — "Let Glasgow flourish by the preaching of the Word and the praising of His name." That has been shortened now into "Let Glasgow flourish" — but the original was as I have said. The fact that that could be taken as the motto of one of the prominent cities of Scotland is a sign of the deep and far-reaching influence which preaching exerted in past days.
I. WHAT PREACHING HAS DONE IN THE PAST. Both in our own and in other lands some of the mightiest triumphs that have ever been achieved were brought about by the preaching of the Word. Since the days of Elijah downward, it has played an important part in moulding the destinies of the world. Jonah, an old preacher of righteousness, turned a mighty city unto God by means of his summons to repentance. In the Christian Church we can mark the influence of preaching making itself directly felt in the early ages. We have the preaching of Jesus, so original, so full of beauty, so touched with deep love and mercy that it thrilled the heart of multitudes, and paved the way for the future acceptance of His cause. We have the beaming enthusiasm of John; the direct home-thrusts of Peter; the logical grasp and gathering impetus of Paul — all of which have left an indelible mark, not only upon the Christian Church, but upon the whole history of the world. Almost all the great movements of the Middle Ages have been identified with great preaching. One of the greatest and most daring attempts on the part of a preacher to achieve great things is identified with the name of Savonarola. That simple monk threw out the most powerful factions that ever ruled in Florence. For a time he blossomed out as a great leader, and sought to establish a City of God upon earth. He failed ultimately, and partly by his own error, but the extraordinary success that he for a time achieved over prince and people is one of the red-letter days in the history of preaching. In our own country it has achieved great triumphs, and has been reckoned one of the distinctive features of Scottish life. Since the days of Knox the pulpit has been the foremost institution in the country — most powerful for good or evil. The preacher has been listened to as the veritable servant of God, and his message taken as if it came from highest Heaven.
II. THE PLACE THAT PREACHING HOLDS AMONGST US TO-DAY. There is no question that the pulpit to-day does not occupy the same place of undisturbed authority that it did during the first two centuries after the Reformation, or even that it has done within the last fifty years. It is no longer the social, religious, and intellectual leader of the people. Other influences have sprung up and taken their place amongst us and exercised their authority. A very different set of conditions exists amongst us to-day. Never did cheaper and better books exist. Another great obstacle to the unquestioned authority of the pulpit is the change that has taken place in the public temper. At the days of the Reformation the principle of the right of individual judgment was established. But in these days we have carried that principle to a length that was never dreamt of then. Now every man reckons himself just as good a judge of right and wrong as any other man.
III. WHAT WORK HAS STILL TO BE DONE BY THE PULPIT. There are many who seem to have so completely despaired of the power of preaching in the future, that they advise us to resort to all sorts of expedients in order to fill the churches. All this shows a genuine distrust of the power of preaching to impress the public. That is not preaching which does not come straight from the Word of God. Lastly, the pulpit has a great work to perform in helping to solve, in a Christian manner, the social and political problems of the age.
(D. Woodside, B. D.)
Parallel VersesKJV: The Lord gave the word: great was the company of those that published it.