We have recently heard a venerable bishop quoted as saying that "a revival may occur at any place where are God and a Methodist preacher." We understand by this that every preacher, who is as holy and as believing as he ought to be, may at will, at any time and in any place, see the simultaneous conversion of sinners. The necessary inference is, that all who do not constantly witness this are living in a cold and semi-backslidden state. This inference is afflicting thousands of Christian ministers who enjoy the fullness of the abiding Comforter. Both the inference and the assertion from which it is drawn are untrue.
The great work of a preacher in a certain place may be almost wholly within the Church, to save those who are but slightly healed, and to fill the membership with spiritual power to such a degree that they may act with saving efficacy on the impenitent long after he has passed from that to another field of labor, or to his final reward. God has varieties of work and different agencies, and it is just as foolish for the hand to say to the foot, "You might be a hand if you only had faith," as to say, "I have no need of thee." When we hear such extravagant assertions we are inclined to say "Amen" to a wish recently expressed in our hearing, "O for a baptism of common sense!"
We cannot conclude without exposing and refuting the widely prevalent and mischievous error of estimating the usefulness of a preacher solely by the number of penitent seekers who crowd his altar and receive baptism at his hands. This great and glorious work may be done while neglecting to instruct and build up believers, leading them on from first principles, the milk for babes, to that advanced experience of the perfected believer who requires strong meat for his spiritual sustenance. Thus his Church may be increasing in quantity and decreasing in quality at the same time.
The real power of a Church may decline under a revival preacher. He may be repeating the folly of the priest who undermined the temple in his eagerness to get coal to keep its altar fires burning. Methodists especially cannot be too often told that the hidings of spiritual power are not found in the last census report. "Not by might, (a host in the Hebrew,) nor by power, but by my Spirit, saith the Lord." Zech. 4:6.
The people who, in these modern times, have largely taken the appointing power in their own hands, should understand that in clamoring for a preacher who may make the greatest stir in their community, and secure the largest rental of the pews, and in passing by the man through whom the highest spiritual purity and power of the Church may be attained, they are not wise. A Church whose members are all aflame with the fullness of the Spirit will always afford a healthful attraction to the unconverted, and will always be making aggression upon the unbelieving world.
"Star preachers" are the poorest possible substitute for a sanctified Church.
— edited from Love Enthroned, Chapter 16.