"My preaching was not with enticing words of man's wisdom — but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power." 1 Corinthians 2:4.
Truth is most lovely when it is in the plainest dress. The star shines brightest, in its native luster. Who goes to embroider a pearl? or paint over gold? It is a sign of a wanton Christian to look most at the fringing and garnishing of a truth. Many like the dressing — but loathe the food. When men preach rather words than matter, they catch people's ears, not their souls; they do but court — not convert.
To let others go on in sin securely, is not charity but cruelty! If a man's house were on fire, and another should see it, and not tell him of it for fear of waking him — would this not be cruelty?
Some ministers love to soar aloft, like the eagle, and fly above the people's capacities, endeavoring rather to be admired than understood. Ministers should be stars to give light — not clouds to obscure the truth. It is cruelty to souls when we go about to make easy things hard. Many are guilty of this in our age, who go into the pulpit only to tie knots.
If a man were invited to a feast, and there being music at the feast, he should so listen to the music, that he did not mind his food, you would say, Surely he is not hungry. So when men are for jingling words, and like rather gallantry of speech than spirituality of matter — it is a sign they have surfeited stomachs, and itching ears.
Oftentimes God crowns his labors, and sends most fish into his net — who though he may be less skillful, is more faithful; and though he has less of the brain — yet has more of the heart.
It is better to have God approve — than the world applaud. There is a time shortly coming when a smile from God's face will be infinitely better than all the applauses of men. How sweet will that word be, "Well done, good and faithful servant! Enter into the joy of your Lord." (Matthew 25:21).
What pains some men take to go to Hell, "They weary themselves to commit iniquity" (Jeremiah 9:5). The devil blows the horn, and men ride post to Hell, as if they feared Hell would be full before they would get there! Do men take all these pains for Hell — and shall we not take pains for the kingdom of Heaven? The more pains we take for Heaven — the more welcome will death be to us. He who has spent his time in serving God, can look death in the face with comfort. He was wholly taken up about Heaven, shall be taken up to Heaven. He traded before in Heaven, and now he shall go to live there.
Christ teaches the heart. Others may teach the ear, Christ the heart. "Whose heart the Lord opened" (Acts 16:14). All that the dispensers of the word can do, is but to work knowledge — Christ works grace. They can but give the light of the truth; Christ gives the love of the truth. They can only teach what to believe — Christ teaches how to believe. Christ gives us a taste of the word. Ministers may set the food of the word before you, and carve it out to you; but it is only Christ can cause you to taste it. "If so be you have tasted that the Lord is gracious," (1 Peter 2:3). "Taste and see that the Lord is good" (Psalm 34:8). It is one thing to hear a truth preached, another thing to taste it. David had got a taste of the word. "You have taught me: how sweet are Your words to my taste! Yes, sweeter than honey to my mouth!" (Psalm 119:102, 103).
Some speak much of the light of reason improved. Alas! the plumb-line of reason, is too short to fathom the deep things of God; the light of reason will no more help a man to believe, than the light of a candle will help him to understand.
"The natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them" (1 Corinthians 2:14). He may have more insight into the things of the world than a believer — but he does not see the deep things of God. A swine may see an acorn under a tree — but he cannot see a star!
If you will have the teachings of Christ, walk according to the knowledge you have already. Use your little knowledge well — and Christ will teach you more. "If any man will do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself" (John 7:17).
Lay aside those dispositions which may render the preached word ineffectual — such as curiosity. Some go to hear the word preached, not so much to get grace, as to enrich themselves with notions. Having "Itching ears" (2 Timothy 4:3). "You are unto them as a very lovely song of one that has a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument" (Ezekiel 33:32). Many go to the word to feast their ears only; they like the melody of the voice, and the novelty of the opinions (Acts 17:21). This is to love the garnishing of the dish — more than the food. It is to desire to be pleased rather than edified.
Lay aside prejudice. The Sadducees were prejudiced against the doctrine of the resurrection. Sometimes prejudice is against the truths preached, and sometimes against the person preaching. "There is yet one man, Micaiah, by whom we may inquire of the Lord — but I hate him!" (1 Kings 22:8). This hinders the power of the word. If a patient has an bad opinion of his physician, he will not take any of his medicines, however good they may be.
Lay aside covetousness. Covetousness is not only getting worldly gain unjustly — but loving it inordinately. This is a great hindrance to the preached word. The seed which fell among thorns was choked. The covetous man is thinking on the world, when he is hearing; his heart is in his shop. "They sit before you as My people, and they hear your words. . . . but their heart goes after their covetousness" (Ezekiel 33:31).
Lay aside partiality. Partiality in hearing is when we like to hear some truths preached — but not all. We love to hear of Heaven — but not of self-denial; of reigning with Christ — but not of suffering with Him. "Speak unto us smooth things" (Isaiah 30:10), such as may not grate upon the conscience. Many like the comforts of the word — but not its reproofs.
Lay aside censoriousness. Some, instead of judging themselves for sin, sit as judges upon the preacher; his sermon had either too much gall in it, or it was too long. They would sooner censure a sermon than practice it.
Lay aside disobedience. "All day long I have stretched forth My hands unto a disobedient and gainsaying people" (Romans 10:21). If, when God speaks to us in His word, we are deaf — when we speak to Him in prayer, He will be dumb!