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The Revival Preacher Circular No.7

Preaching That Promotes Revival (1)


In the invitation letter for people to become Revival Preachers, I quoted from J.C. Ryle, who wrote a book in 1868 about the great preachers of the previous century. I now reproduce more of what he said on that occasion, for it is still very relevant to our situation.

"The true remedy for all the evils of our day is the same remedy that proved effectual 100 years ago; the same pure doctrine that they used to preach, and the same kind of preachers. We want nothing new, no new systems, no new school of teaching, no new theology, no new gospel; we want nothing but the old truths rightly preached and rightly brought home to consciences, minds and wills…There never has been good done in the world except by the faithful preaching of evangelical truth. From the days of the apostles,…there have been no victories won, no spiritual success obtained, except by the doctrines which wrought deliverance 100 years ago. Therefore the first want of our day is a return to the old simple, sharply cut doctrines of our fathers in the last century, and the second want is a generation of like minded and like gifted men to preach them.

We have none who preach with such power as Whitefield or Rowland. We have none who in self denial, singleness of purpose, diligence, holy boldness and unworldliness come up to the level of Wesley, Grimshaw, Walker, Venn and Fletcher. Give us men like them who preach a message like theirs, and I have no fear that the Holy Spirit would grant us the same results."

"In what way," continued Ryle, "do present preachers not match up to their predecessors? a) They fall short in doctrine. Their doctrines are weaker and shallower, and less clear. b) They fall short in boldness. They are full of compromise, and afraid of making strong statements. They are too ready to make excuses, and qualify what they say, being afraid to condemn.) d) They fall short in fervour and fire. e) They fall short in directness and simplicity of language, speaking of ‘them’ and ‘us’ and not of ‘you’, being afraid to offend people. f) They fall short in life and holiness. They are not truly separated from the world, unmistakeable men of God, indifferent to the opinions of others, who make the world feel that a prophet is among them. g) They fall short in devotion to the Lord and His kingdom. Many are sidetracked by political issues, by concern for church maintenance, through seeking after ease and popularity, etc."

Ryle then goes on to issue a call to prayer for God to do the same things again, and greater things, for He is waiting to be entreated. The Interceders have been raised up, partly in answer to that call , and you, the Revival Preachers, are the answer to our prayers, so do not let Ryle down, nor the Lord, but seek to make sure that all of his hopes are realized. We will look in more detail at each of the points that Ryle makes, two in this circular, and more in future issues.

1. Prayer Based Preaching

The first aspect of the lives of these preachers that we need to realize is the fact that the preaching of these great men was all prayer based and prayer empowered.

Wesley told his preachers to get away from others, and spend at least five hours in prayer to God every day! You need to know that your sufficiency is from God.

It is said of George Whitfield that that "no man ever lived nearer to God. He knew that unless God, the Holy Ghost, accompanied the word spoken, no results and no blessing could, by any possibility, ensue. There lay the secret of his power."

William Bramwell wrote to a brother minister; "Oh how Satan will tempt you to lie in bed these cold mornings, when you should be engaged in prayer…every morning at five o’clock or before. By this practice, what wonders you would do with God…Arise, my dear brother. You will soon be gone." To another, Bramwell wrote; "Do you rise about four o’clock every morning? And in order to do this, do you retire to rest as soon as your work and meals are over, or do you sit and chat with the people?"

Humphrey Jones, the person through whom the 1858-60 Awakening came to Wales, wrote to a preacher friend: "Be a man of fervent prayer in secret. Pray several times a day, wrestling with God, each time, as though it were the last, refusing to get up from your knees until the Lord gives you the assurance that your prayers have been heard. Ask the Lord what to say to the people. Ask in faith, and with persistence." Then he gives timeless advice that others have followed: "Go straight from the secret place into the pulpit." It is no wonder that Jones was used so wonderfully.

"It was the habit of Daniel Rowland, in addition to his normal times of prayer, to seek God’s face with a prolonged season of prayer and intercession before taking a service."

Maynard James wrote, "It is the man of prayer who breathes out the spirit of prayer. It is the man of living faith who is contagious, who infects others. To know the mind of God in matters of genuine revival, we must pay a price that few seem willing to pay. It is to daily wait upon the Lord in the secret place of prayer until His word burns in our souls, and the breath of His Holy Spirit revitalizes our inner being"

E.M. Bounds wrote "It is right to study God’s word and to know it well. It is right to know about the world and the way it is operating, but preachers must be great prayers, or they will be the greatest of backsliders, rationalistic, heartless professionals."

"Many preachers," said Richard Owen Roberts, "are more concerned with producing great sermons, and getting a good reputation than with honouring God and seeking His glory alone. What a tragedy that preaching, which was devised by God as an instrument of salvation for those who believe, should prove to be one of the greatest possible hindrances to the progress of the gospel and to revival in times of great apostasy. Does the way you prepare and preach hinder or promote revival? Which receives the greatest attention: the preparation of your words and phrases, or prayer for empowerment from the Holy Spirit? Which is your greater focus: creating satisfaction in the people and praise for the preacher, or reducing the complacent to tears of contrition and repentance? What are you really seeking: the pleasure of knowing that your sermon has been praised, or the joy of seeing your people radically affected by the truth of God?"

Is your main aim to be used as a channel through whom the Holy Spirit can work, even if it means you being embarrassed by pleading with your people or breaking down and crying in front of them? Oh for more preachers like Robert Murray M’Cheyne. Be determined to be like him.

Leonard Ravenhill wrote, "We will have no broken hearted people in the pews until we have broken hearted people in the pulpits."

Your broken heart and your prayer life is the key to everything else.

2. Preaching backed up by a surrendered life.

"Whoever wants to save his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it," said the Son of God. The Pharisees found this saying hard, for they valued the things of this life, their position, their reputation, their power and their prosperity. They, therefore, rejected the way of Jesus, the way of humility, of losing everything the world holds dear. Ever since, other people, especially leaders, have also found this saying hard to accept, but true followers of the Lamb have accepted it with joy.

Paul, the apostle, told the elders of the church in Ephesus that he had served the Lord with all humility and with tears. He coveted nothing belonging to anyone else. He had worked hard, and had helped the poor and the weak. He had gone through trials and afflictions and imprisonment, but he did not regard his life of any value, if only he might fulfil the ministry he had received from the Lord. As a result, he experienced opposition in almost every place he visited, was driven out from cities, was regularly beaten with rods and whips, was in constant danger and often near to death. As a genuine preacher of the gospel, you have no right to expect anything less.

All the great revival preachers lived very simple lives, existing on very little, not seeking anything for themselves. John Wesley, in particular, is known for the frugality of his existence, giving away almost everything he received, supporting preachers, schools and orphanages, finishing up with just two spoons; and on the way, suffering opposition and persecution, which was very violent on many occasions.

Samuel Chadwick, who saw revival in his ministry in Leeds, said, "The greatest single hindrance to deep, permanent and spreading revival is carnality and worldliness in ministers. No preacher or Christian worker can lift another person higher than his own experience. Worldliness is, basically, not a matter of not drinking alcohol or smoking, but it is trying to fit in with the world, trying to please the world and not offend it; trying to please people rather than God. If your preaching is, in any way, trying to please others, rather than declare the eternal word of God, that is worldliness."

"Where are the men who refuse to become entangled in the cares and riches and pleasures of this life?" wrote Byron Paulus. "Where are the men who are willing to endure hardship as good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and who esteem the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of this world? Where are the men who care for nothing but the kingdom of Christ and the souls of men? These are the men who will be used by God to prepare the way for a revival, and will help to bring it about."

You have committed yourself to this. It is an awesome responsibility that you can fulfil only by seeking His help day and night.