The burden of preaching.
Charles Spurgeon’s dogged stance against plagiarism in the pulpit.
With the recent hullabaloo surrounding certain preachers in certain denominations “stealing” sermons and being cagey about it, I figured I’d share a doozy of a sermon excerpt from the Prince of Preachers himself, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. Ironically, in the crossfire of conversation on the spiritual and ethical import of sermon plagiarism, Spurgeon’s name has been cited by some in the pro-plagiarism camp. When I first heard that, I knew that something was taken out of context. Spurgeon was decidedly not pro-plagiarism; Geoff Chang has a great article over on The Spurgeon Center blog detailing Spurgeon’s dogged stance against such a practice being promulgated in the pulpit. (Thank you, Dr. Strachan, for sharing that essay.)
But, rather than digress on that matter, as so many others have already done, I’d rather just share the words which Spurgeon himself produced. This excerpt is derived from a sermon Spurgeon originally delivered in the spring of 1889, entitled, “The Burden of the Word of the Lord.” May you be blessed by these words:
The prophets of old were no triflers. They did not run about as idle tellers of tales, but they carried a burden. Those who at this time speak in the name of the Lord, if they are indeed sent of God, dare not sport with their ministry or play with their message. They have a burden to bear — “The burden of the word of the Lord”; and this burden puts it out of their power to indulge in levity of life. I am often astounded at the way in which some who profess to be the servants of God make light of their work: they jest about their sermons as if they were so many comedies or farces. I read of one who said, “I got on very well for a year or two in my pulpit, for my great-uncle had left me a large store of manuscripts, which I read to my congregation.” The Lord have mercy on his guilty soul! Did the Lord send him a sacred call to bring to light his uncle’s mouldy manuscripts? Something less than a divine call might have achieved that purpose. Another is able to get on well with his preaching because he pays so much a quarter to a bookseller, and is regularly supplied with manuscript sermons. They cost more or less according to the space within which they will not be sold to another clerical cripple. I have seen the things, and have felt sick at the sorry spectacle. What must God think of such prophets as these? In the old times, those whom God sent did not borrow their messages. They had their message directly from God himself, and that message was weighty — so weighty that they called it “the burden of the Lord.” He that does not find his ministry a burden now will find it a burden hereafter, which will sink him lower than the lowest hell. A ministry that never burdens the heart and the conscience in this life, will be like a millstone about a man’s neck in the world to come.
The servants of God mean business; they do not play at preaching, but they plead with men. They do not talk for talking’s sake; but they persuade for Jesus’ sake. They are not sent into the world to tickle men’s ears, nor to make a display of elocution, nor to quote poetry: theirs is an errand of life or death to souls immortal. They have a something to say which so presses upon them, that they must say it. “Woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!” They burn with an inward fire, and the flame must have vent; for the Word of the Lord is as fire in their bones, consuming them. The truth presses them into its service, and they cannot escape from it. If, indeed, they be the servants of God they must speak the things which they have seen and heard. The servants of God have no feathers in their caps, but burdens on their hearts.
May the Lord continue to fill the pulpits of churches with servants who are ablaze with a gospel they must share. Praise be to God for the blessed burden of preaching.
Soli Deo Gloria. Amen.