A THUMP FROM A
“DOWN CASTER,” BEING AN ADDRESS BY MR. SPURGEON, AT THE COLLEGE, ON A FRIDAYAFTERNOON.
IHAVE metwith a queer sentence from an American source, which may show you what is meant by a mixed metaphor, warn you against vulgarity of speech, and at the same time read you a good practical lesson. This is the sentence : — “The following recipe for eloquence is given by a ‘Down-East orator Get yourself choke-full of your subject, knock out the bung, and let nature caper. ’” This is a genuine bit from a “Down-East” stump; and the conglomerate of figures is exceedingly grotesque and lively. I fancy I see the cotton umbrella waving with great energy during the delivery of this choice morsel. The sentence is not very seriously worded, but you may get solid benefit from it if you are inclined. A man need not be dull to be instructive.
There is an air of wit about the utterance which renders it the more suitable for a Friday-afternoon address, when you are all tired with a week’s hard work.
I call your attention to the first division of the subject, viz.,” Get yourself choke full of your subject. ” That is golden advice. Nothing can come out of a man if nothing is in him. The first work is to fill yourself, and then it will be easy to overflow to others. To the extempore preacher it is of the utmost importance that his theme should enter him, and take possession of his entire capacity; for then it will in due time find for itself all utterance; but if the truth is not first within his mind, his heart, and this soul, his talk will be poor, empty stuff. “Choke-full,” or “chock-fall” is the choice expression of our orator; as full as possible, fill up to the throat, full to choking. The more nearly you realize the utmost fullness the better for you and your discourse. I would have you full as the sea at flood-tide, full as the Nile when it overflows, fall as the earth in the time of harvest. If you prefer Scriptural metaphors, be full as the Israelite’s omer with manna, as Gideon’s fleece with dew, and as Cana’s waterpots with water. If we are not. full ourselves, how can we make full proof of our ministry? If the clouds be full of rain, they empty themselves upon the earth; but of what service are clouds without water? An empty hand cannot sow, n empty c, rib cannot feed, an empty grate cannot warm.
How are you to get choke-full of your subject? I answer, first, by thoroughly understanding it; knowing precisely what the text means, reading everything there is upon it, turning it over in your thoughts, considering it, meditating upon it and praying over it, until you have compassed the whole land. Above all men, you must read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest the truth. It is wonderful how a subject will open up if you keep on thinking about it continually. Our themes ought to be long enough with us to become our intimate friends. The ultimate thoughts of any man who has long ruminated upon a subject must be better worth hearing than the impromptu lucubrations of a great genius. A tenth-rate man will usually do better on a well-thought-of theme than a first-class man upon a new topic. I had rather hear the most commonplace man tell all he knows about a subject with which he is perfectly familiar, than I would hear the most talented man in the world upon a topic with which he has no acquaintance.
I suppose if I were to go into the street, a d bring in the first butcher that I met with, he would be able to tell us more about the anatomy of a bullock than the most earned professor of languages. On his own subject the butcher would beat us all. Familiarity with his theme is a great aid to a true preacher. In the case of the mere talker, ignorance may help loquacity, even as a horse without a load can travel farther and faster than one who has a burden to carry; but such speed is a vain thing. Better pant under a weight of heavenly food than run with an empty basket to mock famishing men. The pastor who aims at giving instruction must himself be well instructed in his theme, that he may have somewhat to impart t his flock.
We cannot afford to exercise the ministry of the hollow drum, which consists in much sound and little sense. We are to be real teachers of the ignorant, and builders-up of the saints; and to that end there must be thorough knowledge in our mind as well as utterance in our mouth.
But this kind of fullness will not be sufficient for usefulness. We must be choke-full of the subject in another sense, namely, by feeling its weight, estimating its importance, and suffering it to operate upon our hearts until we are mastered by it. It is good speaking when silence becomes impossible. You must feel, “I have something to say, and I must say it: my subject for next Sunday morning barns within me; I must speak upon it, I cannot hold my peace. Time and eternity both can me to deliver my soul upon this particular theme, and I hope the highest results depend upon it.”
If you can be silent it will be a pity to break the sacredness of quiet; but if you must speak, then in the name of the Highest say on. Thus prophets spake of old, and their speech has lived. It was born of the travail of their souls, and it became all the more honorable because thus brought forth in sorrow. When the gospel swells the heart, it will soon move the. tongue.
When every inward faculty is mastered by the truth, the man will grow eloquent despite himself. Diffidence of manner, or slowness of utterance, will be carried away as with a flood when a full hearts bursts forth impelled by hidden forces.
When your theme possesses you mentally and emotionally, you will be able to speak about it; for every man speaks well when it is rather his topic than himself that speaks. When self-consciousness nears the vanishing point, and the truth fills the whole horizon, utterance is at, hand. I scarcely give a moment’s thought as to my words when the holy sense has saturated me, and set my heart on fire.
Our second head is specially plain: it consists of the words, “knock out the bung ” — a thing more easily said than done; and yet in some cases quite unnecessary. Usually, if the former direction be attended to, and the man is choke-full, the bung is driven out by a force from within; but, alas, that is not invariably the case. In some instances the bung’ is so fast that it is hard to remove it. The question should then arise, — had it not better be let alone? If a man cannot speak, why should he dream that he is called to be a minister? Yet we know men who preach to edification, and are used by the Holy Spirit for conversions, to whom it is hard work to express themselves; there is much in them, and that of the best kind, but it does not readily flow forth. Now, this may arise from fear of man, and this is a snare in which we must not be taken, like birds by the fowler. A true man will scorn to be conquered by his own cowardice. Or it may come of an extravagantly high opinion of the educational attainments of the people, and this should be corrected by more accurate observation; they are not all Masters of Arts, or Doctors of Divinity. As a rule, they are good average folk, who will be pleased with us if we preach the gospel plainly. Or it may be caused by want of practice in public speaking, and that goes to be remedied by industry. Yet if there be a natural inability )f speech, let a man be quiet. I wish brethren who aspire to the pulpit, but are prosy and unattractive, would revise their own ideas of their calling and destiny. It seems to me that a creature is not called to fly if it has no wings; and a man is not called to preach if he has no utterance. The difficulty of keeping out of the ministry men who ought to be kept out of it is most severe in the cases of men who can talk but have nothing to say: they feel the fierce passion of talk, a fever of the jaw, but nobody wants to listen to them, and few will even abide within range of their elocution: why will they climb a pulpit? why not seek some boundless contiguity of shade, and there, like Orpheus, compel trees and rocks to own their mighty power? Oh, that they would try! Alas, they will not; but they seem doomed to speed along a barren track, for ever ploughing without a share, sowing without seed, and running without tidings. -We have no power to silence them: only Omnipotence could do it, and that power does not interfere, but leaves a sufficient number of Canaanites to be thorns in our side. These are the plague of the pulpit, and the horror of the pew.
Our friends who think but cannot speak are rather more a plague to themselves, and. therefore are the more likely to accept the warning which cries to the man without speech that he will be wise to hold his tongue.
Brother, ‘write if you have not the gift of free speech, and yet are fitted to instruct. Do not inflict your heaviness upon hearers, but impress your weight upon readers. If the bung will not come out, let the good liquor flow forth at a slower rate, and let the press be the cup in. which you present it to the thoughtful. “Knock out the bung.” I suppose that means, let the subject which has filled you come running forth in language in the most natural way. to not be so very particular about the mode of utterance, but let the truth flow forth in its own sweet way, with a natural abandon, which will in itself be graceful. Too much care in this matter spoils everything. Some men ‘m speaking take a dozen words out of their mouths, look at them, put them back again, and then try another set. This operation can be distinctly seen by their hearers, and it is not pleasant. If it is unwise to change horses in the middle of a stream, it is worse to be picking and choosing words when in the midst of a discourse. It is a sin to indulge in a tawdry finery of language, as some do. Go-ahead, and give out your meaning in language which boils up from your soul. never mind ornament and polish. Those first dozen words would have, expressed your meaning, but they seemed too plain and commonplace, and therefore you called them in, that betterdressed phrases might fill their place. What a pity I What a loss of power! every-body thinks of the speaker, and so attention is taken from his subject, ad his hope of doing good is done for. Do not try to let your discourse flash forth in pretty little fountains, but knock the bung out, and let the heavenly truth make its own channel.
But that is not the whole of the advice of our “Down-East” orator. closes with the injunction, “let nature caper. ” Give nature hr head, and let her dash forward at her own pace. Do not even mind if she is a bit frisky; it only shows her energy. Every man ought to be natural, but pre-eminently so when he has received a new nature; every man ought to be himself, but then he ought to be a good creature when he is himself. Let a man in preaching be himself, but let him not be himself till he has himself been made such as God would approve. Naturalness seems to be a simple matter, but to some men it would seem to be a great puzzle: it is unnatural to them to be natural; they were born up six pairs of stairs, and can never get down more than three of them. Yet natural you must be, or I shall have no joy of you. I would recommend to you the example of Philip Henry upon another matter.. Everybody in his time had taken to wearing a periwig, and as for. Henry was as bald as Elisha, he was advised to do the same; but no, the good man was wont to say, “As long as I have three hairs of ray’ own I will never’ wear other people’s.” Now you, John Smith, keep to the gifts f John Smith, and do not be Dr. Parker; and you, Thomas Brown,. be Thomas Brown, and don’t make people say, “See how he imitates Spurgeon”; for they are apt to add, sotto voce, “and what a fool he makes of himself!”
There must be no trying after the mode and method of a man of culture, or even of a man of homely robustness. Whatever is good in another you may imitate; but there are personal peculiarities of your own which it would be wrong to suppress, or even to overlay with borrowings from, others. I do not say that you are the handsomest of men, but I do say that you will be much uglier than you need be if you become the apes of others.
Our orator says, “let nature caper. ” I quote him, but advise you to accept his dictum with several grains of salt. You need not cut capers at all. But if he means, — let nature exercise freedom, and exhibit agility, life, delight, then I am with him to the letter. The less of bonds and restraints the better.
A truly sanctified man is all the better if the smell of a field is upon him, and not the smell of a stable. Take all liberties which are holy. Be at home in the pulpit. Let your heart dance, and your style too. Freshness is precious as a jewel, and. there is very little of it about. Disdain bit and bridle, such as conventionality would force upon you. Be free, and use your liberty for the glory of God and the good of men. Caper, if by capering be meant — enjoy the utmost liberty. Preach as boys play, and as men leap when some great joy has come to them. Let it be a recreation to proclaim the gospel, a delight, an honor, a privilege, to preach Christ.
One word of advice I would add, and that is, place your tap as near as ever you can to the bottom of your barrel. I know some learned men who do not teach at all in proportion to their knowledge, because they are huge tuns of learning, but they never allow more than a little of it. to flow forth.
So little food do they hand out from their huge granaries that the people go away hungry. As for myself, I am a very small vessel, but then I empty out my stores. All that I know I tell. I preach all that I have on hand upon my subject, therefore the people get more from me than they do from far superior men. As the most of us are of average or inferior ability, let us always do our very best. Preach all you know every time. Do not imagine that you ought to reserve a little for the next occasion. You may be dead before the next. sermon is due.. Do not keep any of the manna until the morning, or you will see what will happen. “But what am I to do on Sabbath week?” The first question is, what are you to do next Sabbath? I should advise you to take the Lord’s days as they come.’ Say all that you know the next time you preach. Say all that you know every time, and then in the course of the week work hard for more. Trim your lamps with fresh oil. Go to them that sell, and buy for yourselves. There is one store which is always full, and always accessible. Pray every morning, “Give us this day our daily bread,” and when you receive it, give it to the people, and bless the Lord, for to him are the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever and ever. Amen.
LESS GILDING AND MORE CARVING LORD ALVANLEY had been dining on one occasion with Mr. Greville, whose dining-room had been newly and splendidly decorated. The meal was, however, a very meager and indifferent one. Some of the guests were flattering their host upon his magnificence, taste, and hospitality. “For my own part,” interposed Alvanley, “I would rather have seen less gilding and more carving.” The like preference has arisen in our mind when hearing or reading rhetorical discourses with little or no gospel in them. Fine bones, but where shall we look for the marrow and fatness? Grand expressions, but what do they express? A sermon should be like a meal; it should in every instance feed the soul with heavenly meat. Mere words, however well arranged, can never do this; there must be sound exposition, and solid doctrine, or the hungry will look up despairingly, and depart sorrowing.
The gilder may be very well dismissed. His art destroys its own ends when the gilt is overdone; what we want. is the carver, and a noble joint before him into which he may cut without fear. Flowers if you please, but. fruit also. Gilding in its place; but ten times as much carving, or we pray thee have us excuse. C.H.S.
THE MISERY OF A WOUNDED CONSCIENCE WHEN, once the conscience is wounded, no outward circumstances can produce peace. As royal robes would be no comfort to a man whose bones were broken, so the greatest worldly wealth could not cheer a heart broken by a sense of sin. Luther says wisely, “One drop of a bad conscience swallows up a whole sea of worldly joy.” It is infinitely better to lie in peace of mind on a bed of straw, in a dungeon, than with a guilty conscience to stretch one’s dainty limbs upon abed of down, with curtains embroidered in gold, and fringes bespangled with pearls. Sin says our joys as Jehu slew all the house of Ahab; neither can anything restore so much as one of them to life till sin is gone.
How strangely must Adam have felt in the garden after he had broken his Maker’s law! The sun shone as brightly as ever, and the earth was as gloriously bedecked with flowers; the rivers still glided over their sands of gold, and the trees spread their umbrageous foliage along their banks; the birds sang as sweetly as ever, and the beasts sported on the lawns as peacefully as before; color, and fragrance, and music, and balmy airs were all there as at the first: but Eden was now no paradise to man. Sin had not put out the sun, and yet the sinner had no light; it had not blasted the bowers, but yet the sinner found no pleasant shade. He had no taste for the most luscious fruits, but ran to hide himself among the thickest boughs.
Surely it may have been in mercy as well as in judgment that the Lord drove out the man, for his guilty conscience must have been lashed as with whips of wire when he saw the goodness against which he had sinned, and the happiness from which he had fallen. Heaven itself would be no heaven to a guilty conscience. Outward blessings seem like mockery to a soul which inwardly writhes under the curse. A change of scene will not distract these thoughts, neither will fascinating amusements divert this melancholy.
Human plasters are too narrow for this sore. So long as the cause remains the effect will continue; while the arrows of God are sticking in the conscience., no medicine on earth can give the soul relief.
Oh, man, give over ministering your quackeries to wounded spirits! No longer argue or upbraid, flatter or delude, charm or chide; you are all at sea upon thins business. If the patient be laid at Jesus’ feet he will heal at once.
Heart disease is his. One word from his lip will remove the sin, and the believing soul will leap into immediate peace and joy: but other physician for this malady there is none. C.H.S.
MEMORIAL UPON THE JUBILEE HOUSE WE thought our friends who cannot visit London might like to see the inscription upon the marble slab which is affixed to the Jubilee House, and therefore we insert a copy of it. The somewhat lengthy quotation from the Psalm is an accurate photograph of the Pastor’s personal experience, and of the triumphs of the Lord in the adjoining Tabernacle. Power has been seen in weakness, healing by sickness, and joy through he sorrow. Mr. Spurgeon- has preached sermons upon the various verses here engraved, and he will probably make a book of these, and of personal memories of the Lord’s goodness. Indeed, the walk would have been done by this time had not sickness prevented. The experience of so many years of mercy ought to be recorded for the comfort and establishment of others who are living by faith upon the Lord God of Israel. We cannot err’ in abundantly uttering the memory of the Lord’s great goodness. “O magnify the Lord with me, and let us exalt his name together.”
JUNE 19TH, 1884.