The success of a preacher is not so much in the strength of his logic, or the splendor of his rhetoric, as in the atmosphere of love in which both his pulpit and pastoral work are ensphered. The brainy man will be admired, but admiration is not ministerial success. It converts no sinners. The man of a warm heart will be loved.
Gospel salvation makes sanctified human love its electric wire to souls distant from God, and melts them into penitence. It is not possible for all preachers to be as irresistible in argument as Chillingworth, as brilliant in diction as MaCaulay, or as his gifted limner, Punshon; but all may have the baptism of love, perfect love to God and man, love the fountain of pathos and of power to sway men, drawing them to God.
If this secret of success is within every one's reach, how can it be obtained? Some tell us that we must commune with nature, study the beautiful flower, listen to His voice in the zephyr, and, in a reverent and childlike attitude, read earth and sky as two pages of God's love-letter to man. It is true that "part of his name divinely stands, on all His creatures writ." But only the sentiment of love, not the real virtue of love to God, will be awakened by the study of nature. The contemplation of Nature is one thing, but communion with the Personal God is another and far superior thing. Sentimental love bearing the Christian name will prompt no sacrifices, awaken no quenchless zeal, inspire no unspeakable joy, eradicate no inward depravity, tame no evil passion, make no roll of heroes, thrust out no evangelists, and erect no trophy of victory over the world. That this is a truthful description you will not deny after an examination of the characters of those who profess this kind of love to God. On their return not from communion with God on the Lord's Day, not in the house of prayer, but in the forest or field, what kind of fruits do they bear? Are they aflame with that love to God which obeys with gladness all his known commands, and diligently searches his Word for a more accurate knowledge of his will? Are they burning with zeal to spread his kingdom? Do they so earnestly love their fellow-men in the pagan lands, or in the slums of our great cities, that they gladly sacrifice for the success of Christian missions? Worshipers of nature have never been known to bear these practical proofs of genuine Christian love. They have not been to its source, they do not know the Person who enkindles every truly believing heart into a flame of love by dropping a spark from the skies. "Hope maketh not ashamed because the love of God is shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit given unto us."
Others assert that we do not need the Spirit to reveal God's love, that the Bible is all the revelation that we need. It is true that the Bible is our sufficient revelation of God's attributes, the principles of his moral government, the law he has given us, and the Redeemer whom he has provided. But my pardon and purity are personal facts which it is not the province of God's written Word to reveal, but his Spirit only. "No man knoweth the Son but the Father; neither knoweth any man the Father, save the Son and he to whomsoever the Son will reveal him." Many talk glibly about a Father to whom they have never been introduced by the Son through the mission of the Spirit, crying in their hearts "Abba, Father." They belong to the "many" to whom the Judge will say, "I never knew you, depart from me." Salvation includes much more than a book knowledge of God. It is quite probable that the entire New Testament, if not the whole Bible, will be found in hell in the memories of those who have read it, but have failed to be regenerated by the Holy Spirit. Thousands have read the Gospels, and have seen the Son of God pass four times before their eyes, and have failed to know him as their personal Savior. They can admire his sinless character and still say, "This man shall not rule over us." They are not new creatures, because they refuse to be born of the Spirit. They may have a historical faith in Jesus Christ, but they come short of that evangelical trust which receives him as the Savior and enthrones him as king. "They have the form of godliness while denying its power." Trusting in a form is building your mansion on a cloud instead of the Rock of Ages.
This is the great peril of nominal Christians. Their number increases rapidly wherever persecution has ceased and Christianity has become fashionable. They have never been transformed by its power. They have never really submitted to God and received his adorable Son as their infallible teacher, effectual Savior, and rightful Lord. They have never cast themselves in utter self-despair upon the merits of his atonement, crying, "for me, for me my Savior died." They have never received a response from heaven, the witness to their adoption, uttered by the Holy Spirit with a voice which no one knows excepting him in whose heart it has consciously resounded. They have no power because they have no life. They may have culture, science, money, and social standing, but they have no grip upon God, the source of all power. What they need is that vital power which overcomes the inertia of nature and makes the sluggish active.
Look at the apostles. Like all men they once preferred ease to toil, security to peril, and life to death. After Pentecost they knew no rest, shunned no peril, and counted not their own lives dear unto them in their attestation of the truth that Jesus is the Messiah of the Jews and the Redeemer of the world. Peter, who less than two months before had uttered cowardly lies, vainly confirming them with oaths, shaking with terror at the presence and questions of a servant girl, now looks the assembled Jewish magnates in the eye, and boldly declares that they with wicked hands have crucified the Prince of Life. Timidity yields to the might of the Holy Spirit having full sway in the believer's soul. Many regenerate persons are weakened by timidity. They are spiritual mutes in public and private. Utterance and boldness would be theirs if by faith they would submit their hearts to be strengthened by the might of the Spirit.
— edited from Jesus Exultant Chapter 11.