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DOCTRINAL PREACHING. In these days, I fear that good, sound, old-fashioned, stout doctrinal preaching is going out of vogue. I beg of you, do not yield to this unhappy drift-no! not for an hour. Sound doctrine is the backbone of truly successful preaching. The mightiest discourses that have shaken vast assemblies, and sent sinners trembling to the Cross of Christ, have been vitalized by some stupendous “ doctrine,” or revealed teaching of Almighty God. My brilliant neighbour, Beecher, has unwisely said, that "doctrine is only the skin of truth set up and stuffed !” Just imagine St. Paul writing to Timothy, Give attendance to—the stuffed skin of truth!”
If you are ever dry, never be dry in your doctrinal sermons. Always preach with intense emotion. Heat your argument red-hot. Introduce all the lively and picturesque illustrations you can into your doctrinal discourses; it will make them interesting, and the truth will become pictorial to the mind's eye, and to the memory. This was our Saviour's method. What a matchless discourse on the doctrine of God's mercy to the sinner is the parable of the Prodigal Son! A good minister is nourished in the words of faith and of good doctrine.
The successful preacher must always have a method of his own. Find out your forte, and then stick to it. Study Lyman Beecher; study Griffin and Addison, Alexander and Spurgeon; but don't try to be either. Be yourself. The worst form of plagiarism to attempt to stand in another man's shoes. As to the methods of preparation for the pulpit, no rule is the best rule. God made some men to write, and some to extemporize. Dr. Chalmers wrote every syllable of his sermons, and then delivered them like a tornado. Spurgeon never writes a single sentence for the pulpit. Both these men used the best method. If I may be allowed to refer to myself, my own custom is to use all methods. Sometimes I use no manuscript; sometimes I write two-thirds, and sometimes only one-half of the sermon. The remainder I deliver under the heat of the moment. I change, too, the words of my manuscript as I go on; I make them shorter and sharper. If in my study I wrote the word “avocations,” when I come to preach I say business; if I wrote “ this commercial metropolis,” I shorten it into “ this great city;” and never, either in writing or speaking, do I use two fashionable words, so puzzling to the common people-objective and subjective.-Cuyler.
RECOGNITION ON EARTH.—The following is suggestive of an evil which exists in certain city churches. A city minister says he once preached
The Recognition of Friends in the Future,” and was told after service, by a hearer, that it would be more to the point to preach about the recognition of friends here, as he had been in the church twenty years and didn't know any.
“ He only breathes, but never lives,
Who much receives, but nothing gives.
HAVING GIFTS DIFFERING. ONE Sunday school teacher has one gift, another another. But each teacher has some gift. We mean that Christ never suffers a man or a woman whom He has counted worthy, putting him or her into this ministry, to be without some advantage of endowment or acquirement by which success may be commanded. One teacher will have by nature à specially engaging manner. Sweetness of voice, sweetness of eye, a smile that conquers, it may be a nameless grace in expression that you cannot locate in any feature—this is the gift of God to one teacher, by which young hearts are to be lured along to Christ. A second teacher, possessing no such advantage, will have a certain inward force of will that gives him easy and almost unconscious ascendency over other' minds. His voice does not win exactly, but there is a tone in it which enforces a wholesome and ungainsaid authority. It thrills through and through his pupils with a quiet sense of power that it is not best to challenge. The influence of such a teacher may be better over the moral development of some classes than it would be, if, without this spell of command, he were far more gifted with aptness to teach.
A third teacher may possess an unusual facility in imparting knowledge. Clear conception, full information, fluency of language, a vivid enthusiasm, will with him be alone sufficient to animate a class, and make their Sunday school exercise a weekly source of profit and delight to them. A fourth, without a single weapon of the equipments thus described, may nevertheless be so simply good, so unselfish, so religiously free from every repellant trait of character, that his naked goodness will be his perfect panoply. A fifth may succeed by the overflow of vital earnestness. The contagion of his own interest in the lesson and in the Christ of the lesson will communicate itself by a law of personal magnetisms of which we can give no account. A sixth will prove his fitness to teach hy an unfailing resourcefulness of invention, which keeps his class constantly whetted in appetite to the edge of a keen curiosity to know what novelty in presentation their teacher will this time produce from his inexhaustible treasury.
We do not mean to make an exhaustive enumeration. Our purpose is merely to draw this practical lesson, that each teacher should strengthen himself at his own strongest point, and not too eagerly covet the gift of another; while the superintendent should make it an object of observation to discover the respective fortes of his teachers, and, like a good general, assign their positions accordingly. And let each remember, that whatever his several gifts, he is answerable to God as a steward of His manifold grace.- Rev. W. C. Wilkinson in the Sunday School Journal.
BORROWED TROUBLES.--There is a little insignificant weed, which creeps into some of our rivers and canals, and is thought at first of but little consequence. But by-and-by it is found to have grown so rapidly, and spread out its rope-like roots and stems so far and wide, that vessels are tangled in it, and unable to go on until it is cleared away. Just so it is with these little borrowed troubles. They grow so fast, if we nurse them, that they seriously hinder all the good we might do.
TO A YOUNG SABBATH SCHOOL TEACHER. You are endeavouring to feed Christ's lambs. Always remember that He watches you with intense interest; that for every thrill of love toward Him or them, there is a corresponding one in His infinite heart. How much greater is His love for you or them than yours toward Him or them! For every trembling fear and shrinking sense of unfitness, you shall have His sympathy; and how great is His sympathy! Also, you shall have the promised aid, even " the word of wisdom and the word of knowledge,” which is given “ by the same Spirit,” (1 Cor. xii. 8.)
I believe in the undying influence of moral and religious instruction, even when apparently vain. The seed may require years to germinate; but it is not lost. Remember this in your instructions to your pupils. A child of a good minister grew up irreligious, and apparently regardless of all that had been taught him. He went to sea against his parents' wishes. While on the coast of Africa he, with some others, had been amusing themselves with looking at some curious things made by a little native boy. After a while the boy said, “Now I must go: this is the hour that the good man comes to tell us about Jesus. I love to hear it, and I want to learn more about Him." These words sank into the heart of the minister's son. He thought how this little heathen boy received and loved those truths to which he, with all his good instruction, had turned a deaf ear. The seed so long buried in his heart by pious parents sprang to life; and the love of Jesus bloomed there, and inAuenced his future life.
No good word or thought can die. Even if it do not find a lodgment in the souls you would benefit, its reflex influence will benefit you. And the nearer you keep to your great Model in imparting instruction, the more likely are you to succeed. As He did, so do you,-endeavour to associate every religious principle or grace with some object in Nature, or illustration drawn from common life. If you ask Him respecting this, He will teach you. He will talk with you by the wayside, or in your silent hours, when you sit at work, or muse upon your bed. A teacher in a mission school used illustrations such as these in her
and in after years more than one spoke of them, saying, “I can never forget them.” One said, “I never look at the sunset clouds without remembering what you taught us when pointing to them.” Another said, “ I never see the trees in blossom but I think of what you said,that God looked for more beautiful blossoms in my heart, even love to God. This led to my conversion.”
Above all things, my friend, always seek to present Christ to them in some way, either in His character or teachings.--The Christian Banner.
TRY KINDNESS.—There is nothing that touches the heart like kindness. Deal kindly with children, and they will soon learn to love you. Gain their love, and you can lead them whithersoever you will. Be unkind, and they will fear and distrust you. And once this fear and distrust gains à foothold, it requires "prayer and fasting” to root it out.
PORTRAIT OF A GOOD TEACHER.
A TESTIMONY FOR SUNDAY SCHOOL TEACHERS.
(From the Sunday School Times.) ALTHOUGH the voice of God has distinctly said, “My word shall not return to me void, but shall accomplish that which I please, and prosper in the thing whereto I send it,” how many Sabbath school teachers are discouraged because the fruit of their labours does not at once appear! Let such teachers heed the following facts :
I was recently called to visit a young man who was said to be sceptical on the subject of religion; but whose supposed nearness to death made him an object of great anxiety to his Christian friends. A glance at his appearance on entering his room convinced me that his days on earth would be few. His conversation shewed that he was not prepared to meet his God. I realized his awful position, and felt great anxiety for his salvation. But how could I approach him successfully? To my delight I found that he was not so much a sceptic as I had been led to suppose. He readily assented to the truths of the divine Word; but, like too many others, he had slighted them all life long, and now stood on the outer edge of eternity dreading the result. I spoke to him of Jesus and His love. But the matchless story of the cross failed to awaken any interest. I inquired of his past history, to see if anything in that would furnish ground on which to reach his heart. I found he had been a soldier in the rebel army during the late war; that he had been wounded five times in as many engagements. I tried to melt his heart by speaking of God's goodness in delivering him from death on the field of battle. In this I failed. I asked of his parents. But nothing I learned of them gave room for special remark. Providentially some reference was made to the Sabbath school, and at once my young friend was interested. By simply mentioning the name his mind was led back to the early days of youth, and all its associations at once rushed upon him. He gave me an account of the school he attended, of its superintendent and teachers, and of his own conduct there. He spoke with regret of the unkind manner in which he had received his teacher's efforts; and from the feeling he manifested I saw that his heart was tender on this point at least. God enabled me through this avenue to reach his soul. A few days after this visit I called on him again, and I found him feebler and more wasted than before. Pain was fust completing its dread work. But his dull eye brightened up at my presence, and stretching out his hands to greet me, he said: “Oh, sir, since you were here I have met with a change of heart! I have been thinking much of what I learned in the Sabbath school, and have been led to accept the Saviour I heard of there. How true it is,” he added, “ that the impressions one receives in the Sabbath school are never effaced! In the hurry of life you may forget them, but they abide with you still.” In a few days afterward be passed away, rejoicing triumphantly in the Saviour.
As I turned away from his grave, I wished from my heart that every desponding Sunday school teacher could have heard his dying words. Í thought how jealously God guards the seed we scatter, and how often He brings from it an unexpected harvest. With Him to watch over our labours, we cannot toil in vain. And from the grave of this converted scholar I went to work again with a brave heart. And now, when my labour is trying, and I am tempted to despond, I try to remember his dying words: How true it is that the impressions one receives in the sabbath school are never effaced! In the hurry of life you may forget them, but they abide with you still."
LIFE OF CHRIST.—No subject is more familiar to the highest religious thought of the present day than the earthly life of Christ. It has been treated from every point of view. Rationalism, sentimentalism, philosophy, have done their best or worst. But still the life remains, unique, beyond our analysis, above our criticism, the source of all the finest thinking, the holiest feeling, and the noblest living, that the world contains. Christ is Christianity. “ He that hath seen Me bath seen the Father.” “I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father but by Me.”—Prof. Green in Sunday School Teacher.
Pulpit READING.—The clergy of the present day are supposed to be educated. In Presbyterian pulpits, at least, very few are admitted who have not passed through a collegiate course, or its equivalent. And, as a matter of fact, it is doubtless true, that the clergy possess and exhibit a degree of literary and intellectual cultivation equal to that of any of the learned professions. As logical thinkers, as ready, correct, pungent writers, as effective public speakers, they compare favourably with any other class of educated men. But there is one element of culture which is rarely found in the pulpit-one, too, which should be found there, if anywhere—and that is, the ability to read the Word of God aright. The careless, slovenly, monotonous, unintelligible manner in which this most important exercise of public service is performed in two-thirds of the pulpits of the land is simply disgraceful. Such excruciating work do many, even good preachers, make of read a plain chapter in the Bible! Hurrying along, as if finding their commission in the language, " He may run who reads," mispronouncing words, misplacing emphasis, or else ignoring it altogether; muttering, stammering, stumbling through the appointed task, like a blind man attempting to walk over stony places or break through a hedge. It is enough to make a cultivated ear ache to listen to it. Even good readers elsewhere make miserable work with the Bible in the pulpit.-Christian Worker.