Gospel Fear and PreachingJeremiah Burroughs (1599-1646) - A Popular Independent Puritan Preacher and a Member of the Westminster Assembly.
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“The holiness of God is the height of God’s excellency.”
How fear and preaching go together.
It may be a use of a great deal of encouragement to all the ministers of God to preach to people. It may be that sometimes even they are discouraged, and think to themselves, “Lord, how hard are the hearts of men, and how difficult it is to work upon the hearts of men! I have labored with all my might. I have studied and sought to invent all the arguments I possibly could, the most moving arguments that I could possibly imagine. When I have been in my study, I have thought to myself, ‘Surely if the Lord is pleased to bless these truths that I am to deliver, they will work upon the hearts of people.'” And when it comes to the preaching of that sermon, perhaps the minister finds that they are not at all stirred one whit. “Why, Lord, what shall I do then? I cannot think ever to speak things that are more powerful than those that I have spoken, and those have done no good. Therefore I am afraid I shall never do good.
Oh, no, do not say so and do not think so. The Lord is pleased sometimes to show us our vanity this way, and to rebuke us. Many times the Lord will not go along with the ministry of the Word when it comes with the greatest power and the strongest arguments and, yet, at another time, the Lord will be pleased to bless a word that you only speak in passing. It may do more than all the others. There is scarcely any one faithful minister in the world who observes the work of God upon his ministry who does not find this to be true. Yet this is no argument why a minister should not labor with all his might and come with the strongest arguments. He is bound to do his duty. Aye, be not discouraged. He may afterwards prevail, and God, I say, may bless many things that come from him. And therefore, I would exhort those who are to speak to such an audience with the words of Ecclesiastes 11:6: “In the morning sow thy seed, and in the evening withhold not thy hand; for thou knowest not whether shall prosper, either this or that, or whether they both shall be a like good.
Therefore, let ministers go on and sow their seed and preach still. That which they have spoken (perhaps they have been delivering arguments that they thought would have moved the heart of a devil) has been opening the miserable condition of men and opening the riches of Jesus Christ. Well, there must be no discouragement; go on and sow your seed in the morning, and in the evening withhold not your hand. Go on and preach again and again, and let the Word of God be presented before the hearts of the people. Though it has not wrought at one time, yet it may work at another time. Yea, though you should grow weaker and weaker, yet for all that the Lord may do good to you, even when you are at your weakest. In 2 Timothy 2:25 the apostle says to Timothy, “In meekness instructing those that oppose themselves, if God, peradventure will give them repentance.” Peradventure this day a truth may be handed from God to a soul – peradventure this text, peradventure that text, and so the soul may be brought in.
Taken from Jeremiah Burrough’s “Gospel Fear” (pages 80,81).