The Sphere of the Pulpit, or the Mission of Minister's
2 Corinthians 4:2
But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully…


1. Conscience is not so much a faculty of being as the very stamina and substance of being — the "inner man" — the man of the man — that without which we should be sensuous organisms or thinking animals, but not men. This gives a felt connection with the spiritual universe. As without the physical senses I could never feel my connection with this material system, so without this conscience I could have no idea either of moral government or God.

2. Now, to this primary part of your nature the religious teacher has to appeal. There is a ministry which mainly aims at —

(1) The passions. If the emotions are stirred the discourse is considered powerful and effective. But I am bound to say that to aim at this as an end is to obstruct the true progress of virtue.

(2) The imagination. Poetic pictures and sonorous periods are forms into which all the ideas are thrown. But truth does not require your painting; it is itself beauty. Take your brush to set off the rainbow, or give a new tinge of splendour to the setting sun, but keep it away from the "rose of Sharon and the lily of the valley."(3) The intellect. Verbal criticisms, philosophic discussions, subtle distinctions, are the staple elements of its discourses.

(4) Now, I am far from supposing that religious teaching ought not to wake the passions, etc.; but I do feel that to aim at these as ends is to pervert religious teaching. The true teacher has to do with conscience — that which underlies and penetrates every other spiritual faculty and power in man.

3. But, whilst all men have consciences, their consciences are found existing in very different conditions. There is —

(1) The torpid class — those that have never been awakened, and those which, having been aroused, have relapsed into insensibility again. The former comprehends the copsciences of children and uneducated barbarians; the latter involves those which were once awakened by conviction, but which have sunk into apathy again. It is a solemn fact that a state of torpor is the general state in which the conscience is found.

(2) The alarmed class.

(3) The peaceful class — those consciences from which the sense of guilt has been removed. Now, in one of these general classes every man's conscience is to be found. Indeed, the true Christian man has passed through the first two, and is settled down in the last. In Romans 7. Paul gives this moral history of the "inner man."

II. The pulpit has to deal with the common conscience of humanity THROUGH THE MEDIUM OF THE TRUTH.

1. "The truth" Paul here calls the "Word of God," and "our gospel." To him, therefore, the special revelation of God developed in the teaching, embodied in the life and illustrated in the death of Jesus, was the truth — the truth humanity wanted to raise it from its fallen state.

2. Now, this truth Paul sought to manifest, so as to commend himself to "every man's conscience," and this his history shows him to have accomplished. He manifested the truth, not as it appeared in the traditions of the fathers, or in the formulae of sapless systems, but as it appeared "in Jesus" — which exactly suited each of the three classes of conscience.

(1) The element of truth in Jesus required to rouse the dormant conscience is the ethical. The conscience is the organ of moral vision; but, unless the light of moral law fall on it, it will be dead and useless. It is when the commandment comes that the conscience sees itself in the light of God, and exclaims, "The law is spiritual, but I am carnal — sold under sin."(2) The element of truth in Jesus required to pacify the alarmed conscience is the redemptive mercy of God.

(3) The element required to strengthen and to urge on to nobler efforts and higher attainments the pacified conscience is the alimental — the universal and ever-suggesting principles of Divine truth.

3. The pulpit, then, if it would do its work, must manifest the truth as in Jesus. It must cease to be the organ of party polemics, human formalities, abstract speculations. It must become the mouth of Christ. Truth in Him is not a dogma, but a life; not a mere letter, but a spirit. It is a thing of beauty and power. It meets the moral soul of humanity as light meets the eye, as water the parched tongue, as bread the hungry soul.

III. That the pulpit has chiefly to deal with the common conscience of humanity through the medium of the truth UNDER THE FELT INSPECTION OF ALMIGHTY GOD. The apostle set the Lord always before him: he toiled and suffered as "seeing Him who is invisible."

1. There are three causes of pulpit inefficiency which this would remove.

(1)  Man-fear.

(2)  Affectation.

(3)  Dulness.

2. How are these causes to be removed? Let the preacher feel that God is one of his auditors, and —

(1) Man-fear will depart. His spirit will rise superior to all ideas about the smiles or favours of man.

(2) All affectation will end. His simple nature will show itself in every gesture, look, and tone.

(3) All dulness will pass away. The deepest sympathies of the soul will heave under the eye of God, as the forest and field under the breath of spring, throwing out new forms of life and beauty every hour. Conclusion: Note —

1. The worth of the true pulpit.

2. The qualification for the true pulpit. Ministers must be pre-eminently men of conscience. The moral in them must transcend the intellectual, as the intellectual transcends the animal.

(D. Thomas, D. D.)

Parallel Verses
KJV: But have renounced the hidden things of dishonesty, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

WEB: But we have renounced the hidden things of shame, not walking in craftiness, nor handling the word of God deceitfully; but by the manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God.

The Self-Evidencing Nature of Divine Truth
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