The Mystery of Spirit-Led Preaching

Ecclesiastes 12:10; Proverbs 5:21
       The words of the wise are as goads, and as nails fastened by the masters of assemblies, which are given from one shepherd.
       For the ways of man are before the eyes of the LORD.

JOHN NEWTON (1725-1807): Our Lord, during His personal ministry, frequently gave proofs that He knew the heart of man. When Zaccheus thought himself unknown and unseen, He called him by his name, Luke 19:5. He reminded Nathaniel of what had passed in secret under the fig-tree, John 1:48; and by a few words, brought to the remembrance of the woman of Samaria all that she had done in her life, John 4:29. A similar effect accompanies the preaching of His Gospel to this day. The Gospel is preached, when they who are present find the secrets of their hearts are made manifest; when the preacher, who perhaps never saw them before, reminds them of what they have done, or said, or thought, possibly of things transacted long ago, and almost forgotten by themselves; and likewise describes the very feelings of their hearts while he is speaking to them. It is usually in this way that conviction of sin first takes place; and in this way, that a convinced, burdened sinner meets with seasonable support and direction, so exactly suited to his case, that he almost thinks the preacher is speaking to none but himself.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): Well, to me, preaching is a great mystery. It’s one of the most mysterious things of all…I don’t know what your experience is, but personally, I find that I never know what’s going to happen when I enter the pulpit. I’m constantly being surprised.

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): It is noteworthy that God always selects our congregations for us, and His arrangements are always wise. I have frequently said to myself, “I shall have a picked congregation to-night;” and in some instances this has been very singularly the case. Persons have come hither who had themselves no thought of coming, till some special matter drew them; and then the word spoken has been so manifestly suited to their case, that it made them marvel…We have connected with us, as a Church, a brother in Christ who came into this place of worship with his gin bottle in his pocket one night. A chance-hit of mine—as some would have thought it, when I pointed to the man and told him of it, not knowing aught but that the feeling that I was moved thereunto—was the man’s first awakening.

JOHN FLAVEL (1630-1691): To all God’s purposes there is a time, a proper time; and He is pleased often to bring things to the minds of his ministers, which they had not thought of, just then when they have occasion to use them.

C. H. SPURGEON: Some months ago, while I was preaching [at Surrey Gardens Music Hall], I deliberately pointed to a man in the midst of the crowd, and said, “There is a man sitting there that is a shoemaker who keeps his shop open on Sunday, and who had his shop open last Sabbath morning, took nine pence, and there was four pence profit out of it. His soul is sold to Satan for four pence.”
      Later, a City Missionary going round the West end of town, saw a poor man reading one of my sermons. “Do you know Mr. Spurgeon?” he asked.
      “Yes, I have every reason to know him,” the man replied, “I have been to hear him, and under God’s grace I have become a new man. But shall I tell you how it was? I went to the Music Hall, and took my seat in the middle of the place, and the man looked at me as if he knew me, and deliberately told the congregation that I was a shoemaker, and that I sold shoes on a Sunday. And I did, sir. But, sir, I should not have minded that; but he said I took nine pence the Sunday before, and that there was four pence profit; and so I did take nine pence, and four pence was just the profit, and how he should know that I’m sure I can’t tell. It struck me that it was God who had spoken to my soul through him; and I shut up my shop last Sunday, and was afraid to open it and go there, lest he should [tell] about me again.”

JOHN FLAVEL: How often have I found this in the cases of many souls, who have professed they have stood amazed, to hear the very thoughts of their hearts discovered by the preacher, who knew nothing of them.

C. H. SPURGEON: A lady, who heard George Whitefield, in Scotland, preach upon the words, And the door was shut, Matthew 25:10, being placed near two dashing young men, but at a considerable distance from the pulpit, witnessed their mirth; and overhead one say, in a low tone, to the other, “Well, what if the door be shut? Another will open.” Whitefield had not proceeded far when he said, “It is possible there may be some careless, trifling person here to-day, who may ward off the force of this impressive subject by lightly thinking, ‘What matter if the door be shut? Another will open.’”
      The two young men were paralyzed, and looked at each other.
      Whitefield proceeded: “Yes, another will open. And I will tell you what door it will be: it will be the door of the bottomless pit!—the door of hell!—the door which conceals from the eyes of angels the horrors of damnation!”

JOHN NEWTON: How often, in the choice of a text, or in the course of a sermon, have I been led to speak a word in season! And what I have expressed at large, and in general, has been so exactly suited to some case which I was utterly unacquainted with, that I could hardly have hit it so well had I been previously informed of it.

C. H. SPURGEON: The Lord who knows what is done in the closet, knows how to direct His ministering servant so that he shall speak to the point, and speak to the heart…Numerous have been the instances when people have come to me after a sermon, and begged me not to tell anybody about them, being firmly persuaded from what I said that I knew their private history.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES: That has constantly been my experience. The preaching of the Gospel from the pulpit, applied by the Holy Spirit to the individuals who are listening, has been the means of dealing with personal problems of which I as the preacher knew nothing until people came to me at the end of the service saying, “I want to thank you for that sermon because if you had known I was there and the exact nature of my problem, you could not have answered my various questions more perfectly.”—It was the very thing they needed. Some problem, some perplexity, some difficulty, some tragedy had been oppressing them, and you have been given the very words that were necessary…I say it again, to the glory of God, this pulpit is the most romantic place in the universe as far as I’m concerned. And for this reason—I never know what’s going to happen when I get here. Never!


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