THE ONE MAN MINISTRY
A comment from a sermon by C. H. Spurgeon
Every now and then there creeps up in the Church a sort of striving against God’s ordained instrumentality. I marked it with sorrow during the Irish Revival. We constantly saw in some excellent papers remarks which I thought exceedingly injurious, wherein it was made a subject of congratulation that no man was concerned in the work, no eminent preacher, no fervent evangelist;
the whole was boasted to be conducted without human instrumentality. That was the weakness of the Revival, not its strength. You say it gave God the more glory. Not so. God gets the most glory through the use of instruments. When God works without instruments, doubtless He is glorified; but He knows Himself in which way He gets the most honour, and He has Himself selected the plan of instrumentality as being that by which He is most magnified in the earth. We have this treasure. How? Alone? Without any earthly accompaniment? No; but in earthen vessels. What for? That God may have less glory? No; but in the earthen vessels on purpose “that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us”. God makes the infirmity of the creature to be the foil to the strength of the Creator. He takes men who are nothing in themselves and works by them His splendid victories. Perhaps we should not admire Samson so much if he had dashed the Philistines in pieces with his fist, as we do when we find that with such a weapon, so unadapted to the work, as the jaw-bone of an ass, he laid on heaps the thousands of his foes. The Lord takes ill-weapons, that with them He may work great deeds. When He said, “Let there be light, and there was light” without any instrument, He showed His glory; but when instead thereof He takes the apostles and says
again, “Let there be light”, and sends them forth who were darkness in themselves, and makes them the medium of lighting up a dark world, I say there is a greater glory; and if the morning stars sang together when they first saw light upon the new-made earth, surely the angels in heaven rejoiced yet more when they saw light thus streaming upon the dark earth through men, who, in and of themselves, would only have increased the blackness and made the gloom more dense. God works by means of men whom He specially calls to His work, and not as a rule without them. The Plymouth-ist strives to get rid of the pastorate, but he never can, for the Lord will ever continue to give pastors after His own heart to feed His people, and all attempts made by the flock to dispense with these pastors will lead to leanness and poverty of soul. The outcry against the “one-man ministry” comes not of God, but of proud self-conceit, of men who are not content to learn although they have no power to teach. It is the tendency of human nature to exalt itself which has raised up these disturbers of the peace of God’s Israel, for they will not endure to submit themselves to the authorities which God has Himself appointed, and abhor the teachings of the apostle, where He says, by the Spirit of God, “Obey them that have rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief:
for that is unprofitable to you”. Brethren, I warn you, there is a spirit abroad which would pull down the men whom God Himself has raised up, that would silence those into whose mouths God has put the tongue of fire, that foolish men might prate according to their own will to the profit of no one, and to their own shame. As for us, we shall, I trust, never cease to recognize that agency by which the Lord works mightily among us. We would check no ministry in the Church of God. We would but be too glad to see it more abundantly exercised. Would God that all the Lord’s servants were prophets! But we enter our solemn protest against that spirit which, under pretence of liberty to all, sets aside the instrumentality by which the Lord especially works. He will have you still keep the fishermen to their nets and to their boats; and your new ways of catching fish without nets, and saving souls without ministers, will never answer, for they are not of God. They have been tried, and what has been the result of the trial?
I know not a Church in existence that has despised instrumentality, but it has come to an end within a few years either by schism or decay. Where upon the face of the earth is there a single Church that has existed fifty years where God’s chosen instrumentality of ministry has been despised and rejected? “Ichabod!” is written upon their walls. God rejects them because they reject God’s chosen way of working. Their attempts are flashes
in the pan, meteoric lights, will-o’-the-wisps, swellings of proud flesh, bubbles of foam, here to-day and gone for ever on the morrow.