Preach as a Dying Man to Dying Men

cemetery-2894142_640In Words to Winners of Souls Horatius Bonar now directs us toward needed actions in the Lord’s service:

Many of our readers have seen, we doubt not, a small volume of Vincent, the non-conformist minister, respecting the great plague and fire in London. Its title is “God’s Terrible Voice in the City.” In it there is a description of the manner in which the faithful ministers who remained amid the danger discharged their solemn duties to the dying inhabitants, and of the manner in which the terror-stricken multitudes hung with breathless eagerness upon their lips, to drink in salvation ere the dreaded pestilence had swept them away to the tomb. Churches were flung open, but the pulpits were silent, for there was none to occupy them; the hirelings had fled.

Then did God’s faithful band of persecuted ones come forth from their hiding-places to fill the forsaken pulpits. Then did they stand up in the midst of the dying and the dead, to proclaim eternal life to men who were expecting death before the morrow. They preached in season and out of season. Weekday or Sunday was the same to them. The hour might be canonical or uncanonical, it mattered not; they did not stand upon nice points of ecclesiastical regularity or irregularity; they lifted up their voices like trumpets, and spared not. Every sermon might be their last. Graves were lying open around them; life seemed now not merely a handbreadth but a hairbreadth; death was nearer now than ever; eternity stood out in all its vast reality; souls were felt to be precious; opportunities were no longer to be trifled away; every hour possessed a value beyond the wealth of kingdoms; the world was now a passing, vanishing shadow, and man’s days on earth had been cut down from threescore years and ten into the twinkling of an eye!

Oh, how they preached! No polished periods, no learned arguments, no labored paragraphs, chilled their appeals or rendered their discourses unintelligible. No fear of man, no love of popular applause, no ever-scrupulous dread of strong expressions, no fear of excitement or enthusiasm, prevented them from pouring out the whole fervor of their hearts, that yearned with tenderness unutterable over dying souls.

“Old Time;” says Vincent, “seemed to stand at the head of the pulpit with his great scythe, saying with a hoarse voice, ‘Work while it is called today: at night I will mow thee down.’ Grim Death seemed to stand at the side of the pulpit, with its sharp arrow, saying, ‘Do thou shoot God’s arrows, and I will shoot mine.’ The grave seemed to lie open at the foot of the pulpit, with dust in her bosom, saying:—

‘Louden thy cry—To God, To men,
And now fulfill thy trust;
Here thou must lie—mouth stopped, breath gone,
And silent in the dust.’

“Ministers now had awakening calls to seriousness and fervor in their ministerial work, to preach on the side and brink of the pit into which thousands were tumbling. There was such a vast concourse of people in the churches where these ministers were to be found that they could not many times come near the pulpit doors for the press, but were forced to climb over the pews to them; and such a face was seen in the assemblies as seldom was seen before in London; such eager looks, such open ears, such greedy attention, as if every word would be eaten which dropped from the mouths of the ministers.”

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