How can we be sure of a preacher’s calling? Is he a sinner in need of a salary or a sinner who has been given the breath of a new life and thinks of God’s Will above his own? Charles H. Spurgeon elaborates on this idea:
If we really believe a truth, we shall be decided about it. Certainly we are not to show our decision by that obstinate, furious, wolfish bigotry which cuts off every other body from the chance and hope of salvation and the possibility of being regenerate or even decently honest if they happen to differ from us about the color of a scale of the great leviathan. . . . Don’t go about the world with your fist doubled up for fighting, carrying a theological revolver in the leg of your trousers. . . .
If you really believe the gospel, you will be decided for it in more sensible ways. Your very tone will betray your sincerity; you will speak like a man who has something to say, which he knows to be true. . . . Luther was the man for decision. Nobody doubted that he believed what he spoke. He spoke with thunder, for there was lightning in his faith. The man preached all over, for his entire nature believed. You felt, “Well, he may be mad, or he may be altogether mistaken, but he assuredly believes what he says. He is the incarnation of faith; his heart is running over at his lips.”
If we would show decision for the truth, we must not only do so by our tone and manner, but by our daily actions. A man’s life is always more forcible than his speech; when men take stock of him they reckon his deeds as pounds and his words as pence. If his life and his doctrines disagree, the mass of lookers-on accept his practice and reject his preaching. . . . I can conceive no surer method of prejudicing men against the truth than by sounding her praises through the lips of men of suspicious character. . . . [How absurd and sad] to see a professed ambassador of the cross covetous, worldly, passionate, or sluggish. How strange it would be to hear a man say, “I am a servant of the Most High God, and I will go wherever I can get the most salary. I am called to labor for the glory of Jesus only, and I will go nowhere unless the church is of most respectable standing. For me to live is Christ, but I cannot do it under five hundred pounds per annum.”
Brother, if the truth be in thee it will flow out of thine entire being as the perfume streams from every bough of the sandal-wood tree; it will drive thee onward as the trade-wind speeds the ships, filling all their sails; it will consume thy whole nature with its energy as the forest fire burns up all the trees of the wood. Truth has not fully given thee her friendship till all thy doings are marked with her seal. We must show our decision for the truth by the sacrifices we are ready to make. . . . We must be ready to give up anything and everything for the sake of the principles which we have espoused, and must be ready to offend our best supporters, to alienate our warmest friends, sooner than belie our consciences.
We must be ready to be beggars in purse, and offscourings in reputation, rather than act treacherously. We can die, but we cannot deny the truth. The cost is already counted, and we are determined to buy the truth at any price, and sell it at no price. Too little of this spirit is abroad now-a-days. Men have a saving faith, and save their own persons from trouble; they have great discernment, and know on which side their bread is buttered; they are large-hearted, and are all things to all men, if by any means they may save a sum. There are plenty of curs about, who would follow at the heel of any man who would keep them in meat. They are among the first to bark at decision, and call it obstinate dogmatism, and ignorant bigotry. Their condemnatory verdict causes us no distress; it is what we expected.
Above all we must show our zeal for the truth by continually, in season and out of season, endeavoring to maintain it in the tenderest and most loving manner, but still very earnestly and firmly. We must not talk to our congregations as if we were half asleep. Our preaching must not be articulate snoring. There must be power, life, energy, vigor. We must throw our whole selves into it, and show that the zeal of God’s house has eaten us up. (“The Need for Decision for the Truth,” From Lectures to My Students, Volume 2, Lecture 3, pages 43-46)
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