The same is true of all great orators except, of course, political stump speakers, who necessarily must cover all the “issues.” The political speaker is sorry enough that this is true—but there is no help for it; “the questions of the day” must all be answered. But you, Mr. Preacher, need not be so encyclopedic; and you ought to be illuminating and uplifting on one subject in half an hour—and no longer. That light is brightest which is condensed.
The Christian religion is a livable creed, is it not? It is a day-by-day religion; a here-and-now religion. True, it comprehends eternity, and its perfect flower is immortal life and peace. But that is for the hereafter. This side of the grave, Christianity is a code of conduct. So, peculiarly human subjects for your sermons are endless—subjects of present interest.
Think of the intimate and personal subjects of Christ’s teachings. He spoke of prayer and the fulfilment of the law, of master and servant and of practical charity, of marriage, divorce, and the relation of children to parents; of manners, serenity, and battlings; of working and food and prophecy; of trade and usury, of sin and righteousness, of repentance and salvation. Yet by means of all this he made noble the daily living of our earthly lives and gloriously triumphant the ending of them.
Speak helpfully therefore. Remember that the great problem with each of us is how to live day by day; and that is no easy task, say what you will. This human talking with human beings is not only consistent with the preaching of your religion—it is the preaching of your religion. Christ came to save sinners, but how? By faith? Yes. By repentance? Yes. By these and by many other things; but by conduct also.
I do not think the ordinary layman cares to hear you preach about some new thing. The common man prefers to hear the old truths retold. Indeed, there can be nothing new in morals. “Our task,” said a clear-headed minister, “is to state the old truths in terms of the present day.” That is admirably put. In science progress means change; in morals progress means stability. No man can be said to have uttered the final word in science; but the Master uttered the final word in morals.
Many people greatly debate whether the minister of the Gospel should “mix up in politics.” There is a protest against ministers using their pulpits to express views on our civic and National life.
I have no sympathy with such views. Of course the preaching of his holy religion is the minister’s high calling; of course the spiritual life practically applied should receive his exclusive attention. But does not that include righteousness in the affairs of our popular government? Does it not involve uprightness in public life?
It seems to me that the Master took a considerable part in public affairs. Did he not even scourge the money-changers from the Temple? And John Knox, Wesley, and other great teachers of the Word profoundly influenced the political life and movements of their time. Savonarola, to whom I have so often referred, was a skilled politician, though of so high a grade that he may be justly called a statesman.