I. -- Never be daunted by a small congregation.
It is very nice to have a crowd, but then that is not the lot of us all, and we must not keep our best sermons for large audiences. It may be that the few are able to appreciate our best efforts. Jesus Christ said some of His best things to individuals. John iii.16 was not said to a crowd, but to one. Indeed, if we were to take out of the gospels what Jesus said to small audiences, we should rob them of their choicest portions. So, if, when we get to the chapel we find that there are more pews than people, let us preach to those who are there. Why grumble at the few who have come, perhaps a long way? Let us feed these with the choicest of the wheat. It may be an historic time for anything you know. There may be someone there whom your sermon may lead to Jesus, and who himself may become a preacher.
II. -- Interest your Audience.
How skilfully Jesus went to work to lay hold of this giddy woman! He spoke of what to a native of the East must have been a surprise, and a delightful idea. He goes on to tell of being delivered from that plague of those hot climates, thirst, and excites her wonder by speaking of a well of water springing up in a man!
To our younger brethren, let us say that it is not easy to succeed if we do not make what we say interesting. We do not love sensationalism, but we do love savouryness. Let all your sermons be seasoned with salt. Not a few of us fail because we forget to make what we say savoury. Let us excite the imagination of those who listen to us, and then we may pour into the attentive ear that which will be of solid benefit. How shopkeepers strive to strike the eye of the passengers by skilfully dressing their windows, so as to catch the attention! Shall it be said that they take more pains to sell their goods than we do to get the gospel into the hearts of our hearers!
III. -- Make your hearers conscious of the supernatural.
"Sir," said the woman, "I perceive thou art a prophet." And this we can all do. We can every one be on such terms with heaven as to make those who listen to us know that we hold commerce with the skies. We may not be eloquent or learned, but we may be prayerful and impassioned. Preaching is unlike all other kinds of speaking. We have no business in the pulpit except when under the direct influence of the Holy Ghost. We knew a man who, for some years of his ministry, was dull and unpractical, but there came upon him a baptism of power, and then we heard his preaching described as "white heat." Why should not this be in every one of us? It is not possible for us to be alike, nor is it desirable, but we may all make our hearers say, "This man comes from God. His prayers and his preaching convince us that he is owned by the God of Elijah."
IV. -- Set your converts to work.
We read "The woman then left her waterpot, and went into the city," and soon there was a crowd round the Saviour. It is not said that Jesus told her to do so, but she had heard words that were like fire in her bones. She had been convinced of sin, and knew that God had spoken to her. Is not this the way to fill our chapels? Say things that wake up the conscience, and alarm the sinner, and he must tell about it. Or shew the cross so plainly that the anxious one finds the Lord, and is able to rejoice, and very soon there will be an unpaid agency at work. Of course it will not obtain to the same extent in every case. We are among those who have to mourn that our preaching is not as effective as it ought to be, but we are taking our own physic, and can testify that since we have acted on the lines we have laid down, God has been pleased to give us greater power over our congregations, and we have seen greater results follow the preaching, poor as it is.
FOR PREACHERS WHO MAKE THE
THE GRINDSTONE IS THE MOST