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PREFACE TO THE FOURTH SERIES
It is proposed shortly to issue a volume entitled “Pulpit Notes," which will consist of the skeleton or outline which Mr. Robertson prepared before delivering bis Sermons. In some cases only a line or a single word is given to indicate a division of his subject; in others he has written out a whole thought, to be further amplified and completed in course of preaching
The Editor believes that such a volume will be of seryice in two ways—first, as offering suggestions to preachers in the preparation or consideration of their addresses; and, secondly, as being sufficiently complete for purposes of home-reading where it is the custom at family prayers, or on Sundays, to read a short discourse, occupying but a few minutes.
With reference to the first of these, it seems to be felt very generally that the pulpit is not what it was originally intended to be. There is a wide-spread opinion that it was designed for the edification of the mind as well as the heart; and it may be that one great cause of the indifference with which men are said to listen to preachers, arises from the fact, that for the most part their addresses are far below the intelligence of their audience, who are wearied with the trite repetitions of platitudes that neither instruct nor inform. These Sermons and "Pulpit Notes" evidence the character of a teaching, not only earnestly listened to, but also most influential. Perhaps the contrast between
these and the sermons usually preached, may suggest a means of re-awakening an interest now almost dormant in the minds of listeners. In this view, a volume will shortly be issued, and if it be found successful another will be put to press.
The Editor appends a portion of a letter from a friend on the subject of preaching, because it serves to show that the indifference he has adverted to springs from other causes than mere irreligiousness.
-I think one great need in our pulpit ministrations is naturalness ; by which I mean an exact recognition of the facts of our daily life. The phrase, “the dignity of the pulpit,” has given a fatally artificial character to the mass of sermons. Mr. Spurgeon and his vulgar slang is a violent reaction from the cold unfelt conventionalities with which men have grown so familiar; and his success is due to the fact that he recognizes the men and women before him as flesh and blood-sinning, suffering, tempted, failing, struggling, rising. Like all extreme reactions, it shocks a great many by its levity, its irreverence, and its vulgarity.
But it is in this direction must come our pulpit reform. We come day after day to God's house, and the most careless one of us there, is still one who, if he could really hear a word from God to his own soul, would listen to itay, and be thankful for it. No heart can tell out to another what waves of temptation have been struggled through during the week past—with what doubtful success. How, after the soul has been beaten down and defiled, with what bitter anguish of spirit it has awoke to a knowledge of its backslidings and its bondage to sin :--not to this or that sin merely, but to a general sense of sinfulness pervading the whole man, so that Redemption would be indeed a joyful sound.
Many are miserable in their inmost hearts, who are light-hearted and gay before the world. They feel that no heart understands theirs, or can help them. Now, suppose the preacher goes down into the depths of his own being, and has the courage and fidelity to carry all he finds there, first to God in confession and prayer, and then to his flock as some part of the general experience of Humanity, do you not feel that he must be touching close upon some brother-man's sorrows and wants? "Be ye as I am, for I am as ye are.” Many a weary and heavy-laden soul has taken his burden to the Saviour, because he has found some man of “like passions with himself," who has suffered as he has, and found relief. I think a bold faithful experimental preaching rarely fails to hit some mark, and oftentimes God's Spirit witnesses to the truth of what is said, by rousing this and that man to the feeling,
“Why I, too, have been agonizing, and falling, and crying for just such help as this. Ah, this man has indeed something to say to me.”
I may be wrong in my opinion, but it is one of deep conviction, gained long ago, that no amount of external evidence in the way of proof of the truth of Christianity is worth any thing in the way of saving a human soul.
There is always as much to be said on one side as the other, because, just as Archimedes could not move the earth without a fulcrum, so there must be something taken for granted in all external evidence, which a rigid logician might fairly demur to granting. But when, as with the Spirit of God, the voice of a man reaches his fellow-man, telling him of his inner aspirations and failures, his temptations, his sins, his weakness—not in generals, but in details—of light that has come and has been extinguished ; of hopes born, yet not nourished; of fears which have grown stronger and stronger, and which refuse altogether to be silent, even in the midst of the engagements or pleasures of life-does not the man feel that here is a revelation of God's truth as real and fresh as if he had stood in the streets of Jerusalem, and heard the Saviour's very voice? The man feels that, in this word, which has, so to speak, “ told him all that ever he did,” there must be a divine life. “One touch of nature makes the whole word kin."
I think that a ministry which should work mightily amongst a peoplo would be one which very rarely is heard any development of the modus operandi or “plan of salvation ;" in which proof of the divine mission of Christ, or of God's revelation, was never attempted, but in which the great facts themselves were set forth as the alone solution of the wants, sorrows, and sins of the hearers; in which the fact of Adam's fall, and any consequences it had on the human race, were only touched upon incidentally; but in which the individual man's fall was pressed home upon him from his own certain convictions. Not because Adam fell, and the race fell in him, but because you have fallen-therefore you need a Saviour, and divine life and light are indispensable.
The man who quietly slumbers under Adam's sin and its tremendous consequences-his relation to which consequences how is it possible for a poor uneducated person to comprehend ?—may be aroused to a sense of his connection with the fact of a fall in himself, and a need of such a restorer as Christ. I am sure I don't know whether this is orthodox or not; but I doubt whether orthodox creeds and confessions of doctrine have ever turned one soul from the error of his ways, or brought him in real earnest to Christ. Let us look at this boldly: Seventeen thousand pulpits echo in our land every Sunday, to what each preacher considers the soundest form of Christ's Gospel. Is it God's word that is preached ? Has He changed His purpose ? Has He ceased to care for man?—and does He no longer intend that “His word shall not return to him void ?" Yet where is the divine evidence that it is His word which is preached, as shown in hearts quickened and aroused
which are behind, and reaching forth
unto those things which are before, I
press toward the mark for the prize of
Preached June 10, 1849.
Preached November 4, 1849.
name shall be called no more Jacob, but