PREACH THE WORD
An account of David G. Crowter’s call to preach the gospel.
As the Lord may help me to speak of my exercises concerning the ministry, I think it would be as well first to mention three particular exercises which I felt so much; and then the way that the Lord brought it about so that my ministry began; and then some of the experiences that I have known since then in a general way.
First then, there are those particular exercises which I felt. One was a strong constraint in my heart; a desire to speak of those things that I had myself experienced, and of the treasures of the Word of God that were opened up to me. There was that desire which I would not have anticipated. But it is really not to be expected that the Lord would send one out into the ministry without making him more than willing to go. Now at first I felt that these thoughts of preaching were absurd. For me to preach seemed to be utterly impossible, and I would seek to put all such thoughts right out of my mind. But I did not have any success in that; as soon as I put them away they seemed to come back the more intensely.
When I asked the Lord to take them away it seemed to make
no difference either. Often in those days, it seemed to me that this was only my own imagiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.tion and would come to nothing. But I realised before very long, something of what
Paul meant when he said, “Necessity is laid upon me.” I did not lay it upon myself, but it was certainly there and I could not possibly shake it off. It was really laid upon me, and as time went on that desire intensified. When Mr. Wood preached at Burgess Hill and quoted the Saviour’s words, “Lovest thou me? Feed my sheep. Feed my lambs”, those commands seemed to go right to my heart.
Secondly, there was a deep conviction of my own complete helplessness in this. I well remember Mr. Delves once preaching from a word in Ezekiel chapter 40 where we read this:
“Son of man, behold with thine eyes, and hear with thine ears, and set thine heart upon all that I shall show thee; for to the intent that I might show them unto thee art thou brought hither: declare all that thou seest to the house of Israel.” That had quite an effect upon me, especially with reference to the valley of the dry bones, because I often seemed to be there. My own heart seemed to be as utterly uNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.ttractive and lifeless as a dry bone. I could see nothing was more impossible than for me to preach, apart from divine help.
Mr. Delves said that the Lord brought His servant into that valley to show what He can do with dry bones; that He can raise them to life; that He can indeed put life into that which seems to be so utterly dead and useless. I was increasingly convinced of the fact that it would be altogether impossible for me to say anything of benefit, of spiritual profit to others, except with the Lord’s help. Otherwise I realised it would only be the words of man and they are of no value for spiritual purposes.
Now, dear friends, consider, as far as you may be able, these two things having a powerful influence upon the heart. On the one hand it was like this: “I must preach, because necessity is laid upon me”; on the other hand, “I cannot preach because I am so utterly helpless.” And believe me, if you have these two exercises going along side by side, they nearly tear you apart. There are times when it seems as though one’s mind really cannot stand the strain of such powerful exercises pulling, so to speak, in quite opposite directions.
The third of these exercises was a constraint to yield myself entirely unto God. That word was very powerful and came again and again; “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price.” I felt, “No, I am not my own, and I do not want to be; I want to be the
Lord’s entirely.” I could enter into that word of the prophet, “One shall say, ‘I am the
LORD’S’.” Another word also came with much power (and like other words in this exercise was repeated again and again in my experience). The Lord said to His prophet after He had touched his lips with a live coal from off the altar: “Whom shall I send, and who will go for us?” And the response of my whole heart was, “Here am I; send
me.” Those verses of the hymn were deeply written in my heart in those days, and they have really been there ever since:
“Take my life and let it be
Consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days,
Let them flow in ceaseless praise.
Take my love, my Lord, I pour
At Thy feet its treasure store;
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, all, for Thee.”
Those were three exercises which mingled together and affected me over several years before I really commenced in the ministry.
Now, the Lord led me in various, rather strange ways before I fiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.lly went out into the ministry, and I will try to relate something of that now, as He may help me. By this time we were attending Crowborough chapel on the Lord’s Day. The ministry was very profitable to me, so helpful in this and in other respects. On Sunday evenings when we were home with the children, and also on a Thursday evening, I often used to go to the TaberNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.cle at Hastings, the chapel where Mr. Tobitt used to preach. On those Thursday evening meetings there was a
Bible study, and various people would, in turn, read a passage and make some comments on it; and I was asked to do that. I felt constrained to do so; I had a good deal of the exercise of the ministry upon me by that time. I soon began to realise afresh that in this case it would be no use at all for me just to think some thoughts of my own and bring them before the people; I so needed the Lord to give me words to speak, and to help me to speak them. That is the way I went on for some time, and after a while the pastor there said that the Lord had been speaking through me, and encouraged me to continue. Soon it seemed to me that I had said all that I could say, but week by week there was given me more to speak. It was really a great wonder to me that every Thursday for some eight months I gave that little exposition, or address; every week the Lord gave me more. To me it was really a miracle, just as much as the cruse of oil that never failed when the prophet Elijah was there.
Eventually there was a Sunday free at the TaberNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.cle. The pastor there asked me to preach, and I sought the Lord very earnestly as to know what to do. The only word that I could get was the single word ‘Wait’, so I declined. That was in February. In July that year there were four vacant Sundays. A. certain minister had been sought to fill them, but for some reason or other he was quite unobtaiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.ble, and I was asked to take one or other of those Sundays and to preach there.
Now this was becoming an urgent matter, and I had only about a week, in the end, to say whether I would do this in dependence upon
the Lord, or not. The first night of that week I stayed up late and earnestly sought the
Lord, but it was rather in a way of desperation, and that did not really help. The next evening, in my reading, I came to those verses concerning the Saviour in Gethsemane. I saw as I had never seen before, that though He was perfect, and His human soul was sinless, yet
He shrank from that which was before Him. I was well aware that my case was no parallel to His, but I knew what it was to shrink before that which seemed to be now so prominently before me. That evening I stayed up late and it was so different. I could now pray,
“Nevertheless not my will but thine be done.” My will was quite swallowed up in the
Lord’s will. I was perfectly content to preach or not to preach; to go or to stay; the
Lord’s will had taken complete control.
The next day, on the Wednesday, in the book that I was reading a sentence came to me with such effect. It was the sentence, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee.” Now the substance of that verse had been with me for many years. I might have mentioned it before as it came to me before I had any real thoughts of the ministry. One Whit-Monday at Scaynes Hill I went into the chapel and there was such an amazing, profound sense of the Lord’s presence from the moment I entered. Mr. Tyler preached, and he read the last chapter in Matthew’s gospel ending with that word, “And lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen.”
I felt sure that he would preach from that verse. But it became obvious that he was not going to; he opened the Bible in Genesis and he spoke from the similar words of the Lord to
“Behold, I am with thee, and will keep thee in all places whither thou goest; for I will not leave thee, until I have done that which I have spoken to thee of.” That had been with me all those years – the Lord’s promise of His continual presence in that way, especially to
His servants; and now it came again. This much revived the impression made upon me many years before, when the Lord had said to me, “My Spirit that is upon thee, and my words that
I have put into thy mouth shall not depart out of thy mouth, nor out of the mouth of thy seed, nor out of the mouth of thy seed’s seed, from henceforth, even for ever.” I could not see, at that time, that the Lord had put any words into my mouth, but it was very different now. When that word came to me again on that particular Wednesday, in a different place, “I have put my words in thy mouth,” I knew the Lord had done this already. Another word had also been much on my mind, “He that hath my word, let him speak my word faithfully.” Then I felt persuaded that I must go.
The next morning in my private reading a word was opened up to me in such a way that I knew that I must speak from it. That evening when I went to the chapel, right away one of the trustees read the first chapter of Jeremiah in which those two words occur close together, as I had not realised: “I am with thee”, and “I have put my words in thy mouth.”
This very much confirmed me and so I agreed to preach the next
Sunday, which I did from the words in the 2nd chapter of Isaiah which had so been opened up to me: “Enter into the rock, and hide in the dust, For fear of the Lord, and for the glory of his majesty.” I felt very much helped of the Lord then and on the other three
Sundays in that month when I was asked to preach, so much so that I felt strongly confirmed. I had previously felt convinced of this, that before I could ever preach, I must know that I was sent of God. I felt that a man going up the pulpit stairs has quite enough on his mind, without any uncertainty about whether he should be there or not. I am so thankful that the Lord made that so clear to me, and ever since then has so graciously confirmed it, so that I have known. I especially needed that confirmation because a very trying period was coming up.
Changes took place at the TaberNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.cle. The Pastor left and I was not asked to preach there any more; and no one else asked me either. So I had a call to preach, I had the exercise and burden of the ministry, and I had nowhere to go. No one who has not actually gone through that experience can really appreciate just how trying and how perplexing,it is. First, I have to confess, I really kicked against this. I was quite rebellious about it. But I soon began to realise that the Lord would have His will and there was nothing I could do in rebelling against it that would be of the slightest use. For many weeks I walked through those verses at the beginning of the 5th chapter of Romans. For some weeks it was:
“Tribulation worketh patience.” At first I found that I had not a scrap of patience of my own, and that I so needed the Lord to give me that patience. And then it was the next part, and so on, until I came to that: “The love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy
Ghost which is given unto us.” Then I could see that I had been so mistaken about this particular cross – that it was really meant as a great blessing, and that this waiting period was very much for my good. Rutherford when he was tried by being imprisoned for a long period, said that at first he could only see the black side of the cross, but after a while he could see the white side as well. The Lord showed me, too, that there was a ‘white side’ of the cross. It was a wonderful day when I could see love written all over it, and realised that this had come to me not as any mistake, but with a Father’s love. How very true those lines really are:-
“Trials make the promise sweet;
Trials give new life to prayer;
Trials bring me to His feet,
Lay me low and keep me there.
Trials must and will befall;
But with humble faith to see
Love inscribed upon them all,
This is happiness to me.
Then I was perfectly content to wait. In fact I did not want to come out of that trial until it was the Lord’s will. But in the course of time the exercise increased. I remember
Mr. Godley speaking somewhat from that word, “A time to keep silence, and a time to speak.” I had had a time to keep silent and the time was coming when I must speak. I felt much concerned in hearing a sermon by Mr. Delves on the prayer of Moses in the 90th Psalm upon “the work of our hands”. When he spoke about the work of the ministry I could so enter into that matter. It drew my heart to such an extent that I was almost inclined to speak to him about it. But I had no need, for that week I received a letter from him asking me if I would like to relate my exercises to him, which in due course I did. Then in that period everything I had experienced before was so wonderfully confirmed; it all came back again.
Mr. Godley spoke from a word that had affected me before, regarding the power of God’s love to draw: “Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power”; and I was made so willing. Other words came with power, “Certainly I will be with thee.” “Have not I commanded thee?” And again there was that word, “I have put my words in thy mouth.” One Lord’s day afternoon Mr. Delves spoke from that word, “Ye are not your own; for ye are bought with a price.” After he had spoken for a while concerning these things, he said, “If you feel like that, that is Jesus claiming you.” And He did claim me. I had to speak of those things before the Church at Crowborough and went out into the regular ministry. This was about sixteen years ago now.
I might mention too, the way that another word from which Mr. Delves had preached years before had so affected me: “But my God shall supply all your need according to His riches in glory by Christ Jesus.” Sometimes those words, ‘ALL YOUR NEED’ seem to be written in giant letters. I do not think you can really appreciate just how great my need is, but you must surely, many of you, have some realisation that it is very great. How exceedingly precious has been that word in which God promises a full, certain supply for that need!
Well, what of these years in the ministry? What can I say about my experiences in the ministry over the years? Three things especially I want to say. First, it has been a most wonderful revelation of the unfailing faithfulness of God. I have preached thousands of times in perhaps a hundred different places; I have taken church meetings, baptisms, communion services, Sunday school addresses, funerals, and so on. What can I say about all the different situations? Dear friends, you may come into the chapel feeling very low and perhaps very lifeless at times; and you can sit quietly in a seat and hope that nobody knows. But the minister cannot do that; he has to go on. Sometimes, no doubt, he feels just as dull and dry as you do, and perhaps even more tempted and harassed by the evil one with all kinds of evil suggestions and wicked thoughts, yet he has to go and preach. But, you see, the Lord
does give such wonderful promises. I really ventured into the ministry like a man leaning on two sticks. The Lord had said to me, “I have put my words in thy mouth” and “Fear thou not, for I am with thee.” Countless times I have pleaded those words before I have stood up to preach; and now I have to say that the Lord has always, always, fulfilled His gracious promises. When I tell you that the Lord will keep the promises He has made, those exceeding great and precious promises, I am just telling you what I have experienced myself over and over and over again all these years, and what I am experiencing the very moment I tell you such things. I know that God keeps His word. I have proved it thousands and thousands of times, and I would say tonight from the bottom of my heart, “Blessed be the Lord who has given rest unto his people Israel; there hath not failed one word of all his good promise.”
Not one word. I know that every single time I have ever stood up in the Lord’s Not currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.me, He has been my Helper according to His own word. He said He would supply all my need, and He has all these years in all these different places. Oh, it is exceedingly wonderful, it is inexpressibly sweet to prove so constantly the unfailing faithfulness of God!
Then also, there is a love for the work. I truly love to preach. I love the gospel that I preach; I love the people to whom I preach; and I love the Lord who sent me to preach. You may think it rather strange that anyone should say that he loves to preach, but I do count it a priceless privilege, the greatest honour that the Lord could possibly bestow upon a man, and a sacred delight. When I was young I rather had the impression that ministers were to be pitied. I heard that they were so burdened, that they were so tempted, that they were so often in darkness and bondage, that it seemed to me that I ought to be very sorry for them. I am so thankful that I do not feel like that. There is a lot of truth in all those things, of course, but still I never seemed to hear of the other side – the wonderful liberty that the Lord so often gives, the continual experience of the Lord’s unchanging goodness. Think of all the different occasions, and all the different feelings that a minister can have – like you have; in season, out of season, he comes to preach. Now I’m opening my heart to you in a way I have not done before and I probably will not again. Dear friends, often and often before a sermon I have to say, “Lord, I cannot possibly preach: it is altogether beyond my power.” But the people are there; they are waiting, and I really cannot bear to think of them going away without receiving something for their souls. What can I do? I cannot try to preach; that would be futile. There is only one thing I can do, and that is to cast myself entirely into the merciful hands of God. And dear friends, He never, never, never fails. The apostle Paul could say concerning his imprisonment,
“Nevertheless, the Lord stood by me and strengthened me.” And often, over the years, I have really felt such a sense of the
presence of the Lord, that I could scarcely have wondered if I could have really seen Him there beside me. It is not always so, but the liberty that He gives is really beyond all expression. I have sometimes felt that I could not ask for more liberty than the Lord has just given. Last Lord’s day, for instance, morning or evening, for myself I could have quite happily gone straight from the pulpit into Paradise. You see, dear friends, I do need your prayers, but I do not ask for your pity. The Lord is such a good and faithful Master to serve.
FiNot currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.lly, there is the matter of answered prayer. Every sermon is the answer to innumerable prayers. I do not mean the well-phrased, formal, polite kind of prayers. I mean particularly little heart-cries – those short cries which come right out of your heart, like
“Lord, help me.” But in every case the Lord has so wonderfully answered prayer. A good many times it has been very much as Bunyan describes in Pilgrim’s Progress. His Christian was walking on a little Not currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.rrow path; there was no room to move either one way or the other and he was beset with evil spirits. He seemed to have no weapon left, and so he took to him the weapon of ‘All-prayer’, and went on for a long time crying, “O Lord, I beseech Thee, deliver my soul.” I have often been like that. I can say, “This poor man cried, and the Lord helped him, and saved him out of all his troubles.” “Having obtained help from God, I continue unto this day.” I could not possibly continue without. I could not speak for five minutes. You may think that surprising; you may think, “Surely there is always something you can find to say.” But you see it is not like that. It is no good me finding something to say; I need the Lord to find it for me, to give it to me so that then I can speak in His Not currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.me. This means much prayer:
“God answers prayer.
Sometimes when hearts are weak,
He gives the very things we seek;
But often faith must take a deeper rest,
And learn to trust God’s silence when He does not speak,
For He whose Not currently available. If you have a copy of this item please let us know.me is love will send the best.
Stars may burn out, nor mountain walls endure,
But God is true; His promises are sure
To all who seek.”
I will end with that prayer of Moses which is so suitable still: “Let thy work appear unto thy servants, and thy glory unto their children. And let the beauty of the Lord our God be upon us; and establish thou the work of our hands upon us; yea, the work of our hands establish thou it.”