By the Rev. John Hunt
Entire holiness in a minister is of the utmost importance concerning the success of their work. The only thing that can give success to the preaching of the Word, or indeed to any means made use of for the salvation of people, is the Holy Spirit.
There are three different kinds of effects produced by preaching. One on the outward senses. The preacher has a musical voice, elocution charms the ear, the congregation retires delighted beyond expression. Effect is also produced by other means. The preacher’s thoughts may be bold and grand. There may be a skillful application of figures, a graceful and dignified style, and such pathos as shall raise all who hear them out of their normal state of mind. When these two come together – good elocution and elevated thoughts, expressed by appropriate figures and langue – the preacher must produce an effect. But if these, excellent as they are, constitute the whole of a preacher’s power over their audience, it is sadly defective. People are affected similarly at the bar, at the senate, and at the theater. True, they are not concerned with similar truths. Still, the effect is essentially the same in nature, though different in its aspect. It is a natural effect, not moral.
The artist’s finest piece of sculpture ever formed is as destitute of life as the most uncouth irritation of nature created by the stone-ax of the barbarian. The finest piece of pulpit composition on the most affecting of all subjects, delivered in the most pathetic strain of natural or cultivated elocution, is of no avail in the great work of saving and renovating humanity without the aid of the Holy Spirit. There is often a great deal of feeling in a Christian audience, without much good being done, because the feeling is natural only. Sometimes the effects produced by the Spirit are designated animal feeling or more excitement.
The fact is, many of our calm, argumentative, intellectual preachers produce more natural excitement than some of the preachers who are called revivalists. The excitement, it is true, is intellectual, but it is natural notwithstanding. The calm, intellectual delight is the natural result of contemplating truth, especially revealed truth. Still, in many cases, it is as purely natural as the wild frenzy often manifested by weak people in a revival. There is a danger of enthusiasm on the one hand, and there is a danger of mere intellectual religion on the other. The only preaching that meets the case of the unsaved is that which produces conviction of sin and leads to faith in Christ, with its results-pardon, regeneration, and a holy life. Which prevents believers from feeding on the corrupted manna of past experience by leading them to the attainment of entire holiness, all the fullness of God, and the most intimate communion and fellowship with God, as well as entire devotedness to His blessed will alone.
No preaching will produce this effect but that which is accompanied by the Holy Ghost. The one who lives nearest to God has a right to expect more of this than any other. They are full of the Holy Spirit and will be the means of diffusing more of His sacred influence among others than those who only possess a small share of His presence and power in their hearts and of His agency in their ministrations. The vessels of the Lord’s house should be all-holy, whether they be of wood, stone, gold, or silver; to be fully fit for the Master’s use, they must be entirely holy.
Entire holiness sometimes has an amazing effect, even on what may be called the externals of a preacher’s preaching. With a heart full of the love of God, may a minister of ordinary intellect, of awkward delivery, of a disagreeable or untrained voice, and other natural disadvantages, has, nevertheless, uttered sublime thoughts in burning words, and illustrated them by appropriate and truly poetic imagery, and with a pathos that could not be resisted. This has been seen in Fiji, and who that has seen true religion has not witnessed it? It is an inspiration.
To such a case, the words of Job may be applied, “But the spirit in a person, the Almighty’s breath, gives understanding.” He brightens the perception, elevated the imagination, rectifies the judgment, and sheds His own light of life over the whole soul, giving vigor and feeling to thought and affection and pathos to expression. If a person has natural gifts, then the effect is so much more significant. We have an example of it in Mr. Whitfield, in Howell Harris, the Wesley’s, especially in Mr. Fletcher. Thousands of examples have been found among the Methodist of England and other lands and in different sections of the universal Church in our own and every other Christian country. What an abundant blessing for ministers to be filled with the Holy Ghost in His entire sanctifying grace and in the bestowment of those gifts which He is always willing to bestow on His servants who are entirely devoted!