An Exhortation To Preachers And Teachers
By Charles H. Spurgeon
"The mouth of the Lord has spoken it" (Isa. 1:20).
The true preacher, the man whom God has commissioned, delivers his message with awe and trembling because, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it." He bears the burden of the Lord and bows under it. Ours is no trifling theme but one which moves our whole soul. They called George Fox a Quaker, because when he spoke he would quake exceedingly through the force of the Truth of God which he so thoroughly apprehended. Perhaps if you and I had a clearer sight and a closer grip of God’s Word, and felt more of its majesty, we should quake also. Martin Luther, who never feared the face of man, yet declared that when he stood up to preach he often felt his knees knock together under a sense of his great responsibility.
Wholeheartedness and Reverence
Woe unto us if we dare to speak the Word of the Lord with less than our whole heart and soul and strength! Woe unto us if we handle the Word as if it were an occasion for display! If it were our own word, we might be studious of the graces of oratory. But if it is God’s Word we cannot afford to think of ourselves – we are bound to speak it, "not with wisdom of words, lest the cross of Christ should be made of no effect" (1 Cor. 1:17). If we reverence the Word, it will not occur to us that we can improve upon it by our own skill in language. Oh, it were far better to break stones on the road than to be a preacher, unless one had God’s Holy Spirit to sustain him – our charge is solemn and our burden is heavy.
The heart and soul of the man who speaks for God will know no ease, for he hears in his ears that warning admonition – "If the watchman warn them not they shall perish. But their blood will I require at the watchman’s hands" (Ezek. 33:6).
If we were commissioned to repeat the language of a king we should be bound to do it decorously lest the king suffer damage. But if we rehearse the Revelation of God, a profound awe should take hold upon us and a godly fear lest we mar the message of God in the telling of it. No work is so important or honorable as the proclamation of the Gospel of our Lord Jesus – and for that very reason it is weighted with a responsibility so solemn that none may venture upon it lightly, nor proceed in it without an overwhelming sense of his need of great Divine Grace to perform his office aright.
We live under intense pressure, who preach a Gospel, of which we can assuredly say, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it." We live rather in eternity than in time – we speak as though we saw the Great White Throne and the Divine Judge before whom we must give an account of not only what we say but how we say it.
Because the mouth of the Lord has spoken the Truth of God, we therefore endeavor to preach it with absolute fidelity. We repeat the Word as a child repeats his lesson. It is not ours to correct the Divine Revelation but simply to echo it. I do not take it to be my office to bring you new and original thoughts of my own. But rather to say, "The Word which you hear is not mine but the Father’s which sent Me" (John 14:24). Believing that, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it," it is my duty to repeat it to you as correctly as I can after having heard it and felt it in my own soul. It is not mine to amend or adapt the Gospel. What? Shall we attempt to improve upon what God has revealed? The Infinitely Wise – is He to be corrected by creatures of a day?
Is the infallible Revelation of the infallible Lord to be shaped, moderated and toned down to the fashions and fancies of the hour? God forgive us if we have ever altered His Word unwittingly – wittingly we have not done so, nor will we, by His grace. His children sit at His feet and receive His Words and then they rise up in the power of His Spirit to publish far and near the Word which the Lord has given. "He that has My Word, let him speak My Word faithfully" (Jer. 23:28), is the Lord’s injunction to us. If we could abide with the Father according to our measure, after the manner of the Lord Jesus and then come forth from communion with Him to tell what He has taught us in His Word, we should be accepted of the Lord as preachers and accepted also of His living people far more than if we were to dive into the profound depths of science, or rise to the loftiest flights of rhetoric.
What is the chaff to the wheat! What are man’s discoveries to the teachings of the Lord! "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it." Therefore, O man of God, add not to His Words lest He add to you the plagues which are written in His Book and take not from them, lest He take your name out of the Book of Life!
Again, as, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it," we speak the Divine Truth with courage and full assurance. Modesty is a virtue. But hesitancy when we are speaking for the Lord is a great fault. If an ambassador sent by a great king to represent his majesty at a foreign court should forget his office and only think of himself, he might be so humble as to lower the dignity of his prince, so timid as to betray his country’s honor. He is bound to remember not so much what he is in himself but whom he represents. Therefore he must speak boldly and with the dignity which beseems his office and the court he represents.
It was the custom with certain Oriental despots to require ambassadors of foreign powers to lie in the dust before them. Some Europeans, for the sake of trade interests, submitted to the degrading ceremony. But when it was demanded of the representative of England, he scorned thus to lower his country. God forbid that he who speaks for God should dishonor the King of kings by a pliant subservience. We preach not the Gospel by your leave. We do not ask tolerance, nor court applause. We preach Christ crucified and we speak boldly as we ought to speak – because it is God’s Word and not our own. We are accused of dogmatism. But we are bound to dogmatize when we repeat that which the mouth of the Lord has spoken. We cannot use "ifs" for we are dealing with God’s "shalls" and "wills." If He says it is so, it is so. And there is the end of it. Controversy ceases when the Lord speaks.
Those who fling aside our Master’s authority may very well reject our testimony – we are content they should do so. But if we speak that which the mouth of the Lord has spoken, those who hear His Word and refuse it, do so at their own peril. The wrong is done not to the ambassador but to the King. Not to our mouth but to the mouth of God, from whom the Truth has proceeded.
We are urged to be charitable. We are charitable. But it is with our own money. We have no right to give away what is put into our trust and is not at our disposal. When we have to do with the Truth of God we are stewards and must deal with our Lord’s treasury, not on the lines of charity to human opinions but by the rule of fidelity to the God of Truth. We are bold to declare with full assurance that which the Lord reveals. That memorable Word of the Lord to Jeremiah is needed by the servants of the Lord in these days: "...Gird up your loins and arise, and speak unto them all that I command you: be not dismayed at their faces, lest I confound you before them. For, behold, I have made you this day a fortified city and an iron pillar and bronze walls against the whole land, against the kings of Judah, against the princes thereof, against the priests thereof and against the people of the land. And they shall fight against you. But they shall not prevail against you; for I am with you, says the Lord, to deliver you" (Jer. 1:17-19).
When we speak for the Lord against error, we do not soften our tones. But we speak thunderbolts. When we come across false science, we do not lower our flag – no, not for an hour. One Word of God is worth more than libraries of human lore. "It is written," is the great gun which silences all the batteries of man’s thought. They should speak courageously who speak in the name of the Lord, the God of Israel.
Speak with Diligence and Perseverance
I will also add that because, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it," therefore we feel bound to speak His Word with diligence – as often as ever we can and with perseverance – as long as ever we live. If we had common themes to speak about, we might leave the pulpit as a weary pleader quits the forum. But as, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it," we feel His Word to be as fire in our bones and we grow more weary with refraining than with testifying. O my brethren, the Word of the Lord is so precious that we must in the morning sow this blessed Seed and in the evening we must not withhold our hands. It is a Living Seed and the Seed of Life and therefore we must diligently scatter it. Brethren, if we get a right apprehension concerning Gospel Truth – that, "The mouth of the Lord has spoken it" – it will move us to proclaim with great ardor and zeal.
Many of you are not preachers but you are teachers of the young, or in some other way you try to publish the Word of the Lord – do it, I pray you, with much fervor of spirit. Enthusiasm should be conspicuous in every servant of the Lord. Let those who hear you know that you are all there – that you are not merely speaking from the lips outwardly – but that from the depths of your soul your very heart is welling up with a good matter when you speak of things which you have made, touching the King.
– Excerpted and condensed from the sermon "The Infallibility of Scripture."