Mankind has always thought too highly of itself and scorns to be dependent on divine grace. God looks on and suffers their arrogant experiments to improve mankind. He withholds his displeasure to let them attempt to carry out their boasts through the powers of their degenerate nature and in so doing, they fail. Today, we are blessed with the instruments to see, hear, and read many sermons. There are churches everywhere. Yet sin is triumphant; and very few people are earnestly seeking to live the true Christian life of holiness. I fear that this condition will continue until our ministers and elders are humbled in the dust before God, acknowledging their own weakness, and professing their entire dependence upon Jesus Christ. Samuel Davies points to preaching as a case in point:
“So then neither is he that planteth any thing, neither he that watereth; but God that giveth the increase.” (I Corinthians 3:7, Hanover County, Virginia, Nov. 19, 1752)
Our observation furnishes us with such instances as these: Sometimes a minister who is an universal scholar, a masterly reasoner, and an accomplished orator, and withal sincerely engaged for the conversion of sinners, labors in vain, and all his excellent discourses seem to have no effect; while another of much inferior accomplishments is the successful instrument of turning many to righteousness. This cannot be accounted for without ascribing the distinction to the peculiar concurrence of divine grace; for if it depended upon the instruments, it would be quite the reverse. Sometimes a clear, convictive, and withal solemn and warm discourse has no effect; while at another time the same doctrines, delivered in a weak, incoherent manner, have strange efficacy, and reach the heart.
Sometimes the reading of a sermon has been the means of awakening careless sinners, when at other times the most solemn and argumentative preaching has been in vain. Sometimes we have seen a number of sinners thoroughly awakened, and brought to seek the Lord in earnest; while another number under the very same sermon, and who seemed as open to conviction as the former, or perhaps more so, have remained secure and thoughtless, as usual. And whence could this difference arise but from special grace?
We have seen persons struck to the heart with those doctrines which they had heard a hundred times without an effect. And indeed there is something in the manner of persons being affected with the word, which shows that the impression is not made by the word itself, or by any other power than divine. The truths that make such deep impressions upon their hearts are no new discoveries; they are the old common repeated truths of the gospel, which they had heard before a thousand times; and the manner in which they are represented by the minister may not be clearer than usual. But, to their surprise, these familiar doctrines flash upon them as new discoveries; they appear to them in a quite different light, as though they had never heard them before: and they reach the conscience, and pierce the heart with such amazing energy, that the sinner is cast into a consternation at his own stupidity, that he never had such apprehensions of things before. He was wont to regard the word as a speculation, or a pleasing song, but now he finds it living and powerful, etc., the secrets of his heart are laid open by it, and he is obliged to own that God is with it of a truth.
Thus a believer also discerns the doctrines of the gospel in a quite different light at one time than at another: he sees new glories in them. Hence one sermon leaves him cold and hard- hearted, while another, no better in itself, sets him all on fire. Hence also one receives advantage from a discourse which had no effect upon another: and from this proceeds the difference in judgment about the excellency of sermons, which we may observe among Christians. Every one forms a judgment according to his own sensations and not according to the discourse in itself. And indeed when we hear an exercised Christian expatiate in praise of a discourse, it is a happy sign that it was made of special service to him. Many such instances as these familiarly occur in the sphere of our observation; which prove, by matters of fact, which the success of the gospel depends upon the influence of divine grace. But we need not look about us to observe others. Turn your eyes inward upon what has passed in your own minds, and you shall find that your own experience proves the same thing. (“The Success of the Ministry of the Gospel, Owing to a Divine Influence”)
Filed under: Bible, Christianity, Faith, Grace, Holiness, Holy Spirit, Jesus Christ, Prayer, Preaching, Sermon | Tagged: God, Samuel Davies | 2 Comments »