God moves in a mysterious way
His wonders to perform;
He plants his footsteps in the sea,
And rides upon the storm.
Blind unbelief is sure to err,
And scan his work in vain:
God is his own interpreter,
And he will make it plain. — William Cowper.
Thou shalt not curse the deaf, nor put a stumblingblock before the blind, but shalt fear thy God: I am the Lord. — Leviticus 19:14
Cursed be he that maketh the blind to wander out of the way: and all the people shall say, Amen. — Deuteronomy 27:18
Can the blind lead the blind? shall they not both fall into the ditch? — Luke 6:30.
THE fact that the Gospel is such as has now been indicated does not imply that all clergymen are evangelistic, or that all the clergymen of any one denomination are evangelistic. We need not search closely in order to find those who are ranked as Christian ministers who have very little sympathy with the evangelistic spirit. There are quite a few, taking all clergymen into account, who make but little use of the Gospel in their ministrations. They know Shakespeare better than they know the Bible; they are more familiar with the heathen poets than with the Psalms; they are more earnest readers of the novels of the day than of the epistles of Paul. They pride themselves on their scholarly attainments, and are never so well pleased as when they are recognized as belonging to the literary class. Their sermons are essays; their themes are poetical, fanciful, impractical. The people listen, and if they receive any impression it will be expressed by “How beautiful! how soothing!” These preachers have little use for the Ten Commandments or the Lord’s Sermon on the Mount; and the ethics of the Bible is too exacting and severe to command their attention or challenge an honest effort to fulfill its requirements. Such preachers are blind leaders of the blind, if, indeed, they have enough of plan or purpose to lead anybody. Duty, conscience, retribution, eternity, cross-bearing, Christ-following are all ignored. If the intellect is gently agitated, if the zesthetic nature is slightly stimulated, if an indefinite hope of future good and eternal well-being is faintly produced, it is about all that is anticipated or expected. It would be well for the Church and the world if such preachers, when they pass off the stage of action or inaction, might leave no successors. They are cumberers of the ground— barren fig trees. They are not evangelistic, and they have no desire to be. If Christianity had to depend upon them for continuance and vitality it would practically die out in the course of two or three generations. We need a ministry of the heart, as well as of the head, a ministry that will appeal to all the God-given faculties of the emotional nature, and so win men to that service which is perfect freedom and to that joy which is unspeakable and full of glory. The human heart is a harp of a thousand strings, and we need a ministry that can sweep with loving touch all chords and stir the whole being. An evangelistic ministry, warmhearted, full-souled, loving, brotherly, can do this; and no other can. Such a ministry was never more needed than now.
Then we have a class of ministers who never forget the mint, anise, and cumin, like those of whom we read in the New Testament who, laying aside the commandments of God, gave themselves with all diligence to the frequent washing of their hands and of pots and cups and tables and brazen vessels. They are taken up with rites and ceremonies, and think more of posture and dress, of bookstands and altars, of robes and mantles, of candles and crucifixes, of censers and incense, of ordinations and historic fables, of rituals and church authority, than they do of the great and eternal truths of God’s word and a holy life. The letter that killeth is everything to them, while the spirit that giveth life is well-nigh forgotten or buried without the hope of resurrection. It is sad but true, as the history of the ages proves, that a ritualistic ministry is not qualified to represent a living Christ or to do the work which a waiting world so sadly needs. There is absolutely no force, no power for good, in such as these; they cannot reclaim this world and bring it back to God. Under their leadership the Church will drift away from Christ and will become frivolous, worldly, formal, dead, until at last Christ will say: “I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love. Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.”
Besides these two classes of ministers just mentioned we havea third. They are not found in large numbers in the evangelical Churches, though here and there one may be found; they abound in the so-called liberal Churches; they are in this country and England and on the Continent. It would be somewhat difficult to mention a name that would exactly describe them. They commonly assume to be “advanced thinkers,” “progressive theologians,” “higher critics,” “profound ‘scholars,’ “abreast-of-the-age, up-to-date investigators of all knowledge.” They are really flavored with Renan, Strauss, Baur, Wellhausen, with a lingering trace of Astruc, Voltaire, Paine, and Spinoza. They know better than all the Jews, and all the evangelical historical students of all ages, who wrote the Pentateuch and Joshua and the Psalms and Isaiah and Daniel. They are very largely given to evolving their knowledge from their own inner consciousness. They seem to lack sincerity, modesty, honesty, and candor. When they finish their work on the Holy Scriptures there is little left but a wreck. They eliminate prophecies, especially those concerning Christ; they throw out everything that is supernatural; they make the authors of some of the most wonderful and magnificent portions of the Old Testament to be unknown, unnamed, and unheard-of men, who lived a thousand years after Moses and are supposed to have been among the exiles of Babylon. The work done by these destructive, rationalistic, arrogant critics would be bad enough if confined to the Old Testament; but, if possible, the destruction they make of the New is still worse. They degrade Christ; they will not tolerate the idea of miracles; they seem to have a virulent hatred of what is spiritual and supernatural. Whatever these people may call themselves, whatever in their pride of scholarship and opinion they may assume to be, there is one name they ought to be compelled to wear. They are destructive rationalists. They exalt human reason to a dizzy height, and then bow before its dictates. Unbroken, unimpeached history, that goes back for thousands of years, has no weight with them. They make a Babel of their discussions, for no two of them agree; they have added but little, if any, additional light of research and Biss: scholarship to that already in possession of evangelical, historical, theological students. They are destructive to the last degree, for the natural and logical outcome of their teachings must be the loss of all faith in the Bible as the word of God. Good men may be deluded by these destructives and still hold on to their goodness; converted men to some extent may be drawn away by the babblings of these destructives and yet hold on to their hope in Christ; but the inevitable tendency of this destructive rationalism is toward deism and atheism. It is a cause of unspeakable regret that any man holding these views should be tolerated in any evangelical pulpit or school of theology, for the ultimate outcome will be as baleful as the exhalations of the deadly upon a tree.
By Bishop W. F. Mallalieu
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel