The preacher and the “abiding wonder”

For most of us, Friday marks the beginning of the weekend. Time to relax, hang with friends, hit the pool, take the family somewhere fun. But the weekend is not so relaxing for the men who are preparing to preach God’s Word in their churches. By Saturday night–as we are in the middle of relaxation–the preacher is beginning to feel the heavy weight of his responsibility. Aware of this, I have tried used Fridays to encourage preaching pastors who read this blog. And I want to do that today.

The following quote originates from a long out of print book on preaching, The Preacher: His Life and Work by J. H. Jowett (1912). Tom Bombadil—this blog’s most insightful reader—recently recommended this book to me. Last night I started Jowett’s book and read about half of it, unable to put it down until sleep overtook me.

There are several poignant quotes on the importance of gospel-centered preaching, the importance of the pastor’s soul health, and the greatness of the pastoral calling. At one point Jowett speaks about grandeur of the calling to preach divine mystery. Listen to how Jowett puts it:

…a man who enters through the door of divine vocation into the ministry will surely apprehend “the glory” of his calling. He will be constantly wondering, and his wonder will be a moral antiseptic, that he has been appointed a servant in the treasuries of grace, to make known “the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

You cannot get away from that wonder in the life of the Apostle Paul. Next to the infinite love of his Saviour, and the amazing glory of his own salvation, his wonder is arrested and nourished by the surpassing glory of his own vocation. His “calling” is never lost in the medley of professions. The light of privilege is always shining on the way of duty. His work never loses its halo, and his road never becomes entirely commonplace and grey. He seems to catch his breath every time he thinks of his mission, and in the midst of abounding adversity glory still more abounds. And, therefore, this is the sort of music and song that we find unceasing, from the hour of his conversion and calling to the hour of his death:

“Unto me, who am less than the least of all saints, is this grace given, that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”

“For this cause I Paul, the prisoner of Jesus Christ for you Gentiles, if ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward!”

“Whereunto I am ordained a preacher, and an apostle, a teacher of the Gentiles in faith and verity!”

Do you not feel a sacred, burning wonder in these exclamations, a holy, exulting pride in his vocation, leagued with a marveling humility that the mystic hand of ordination had rested upon him? That abiding wonder was part of his apostolic equipment, and his sense of the glory of his calling enriched his proclamation of the glories of redeeming grace. If we lose the sense of the wonder of our commission we shall become like common traders in a common market, babbling about common wares.

I think you will find that all great preachers have preserved this wondering sense of the greatness of their vocation.

—J. H. Jowett, The Preacher: His Life and Work (Harper and Brothers, 1912), pp. 20-21.

2 thoughts on “The preacher and the “abiding wonder”

  1. Think you Tony-
    First for being sensitive to the Pastors who are preparing to step into that frightful and austere place behind the pulpit and declare the Word of the Lord. And for letting us know you will be doing this often-encouraging them on Friday, I’m sure they appreciate the support and take it as a token of the concern and support of Christ Himself.
    And thank Tom for recommending such a treasure from the past for you to get this post from. Actually Eerdmans did a series of books like this for pastors, I have several of them. The last one I picked up in a used book store- it was the 1907 selection, “Positive Preaching and the Modern Mind” by P.T. Forsyth. It was my first Forsyth read, though I’ve seen quotes from him for a long time. I have to say, he is just as rich as Jowett in a different sort of way. He was an english congregationalist, elected in 1905 as Chairman of the C.Union of England and Wales. Now that you know Jowett, I recommend Forsyth, if you do not already know him.

  2. You’ll remember that Forsyth, and especially his volume, *The Cruciality of the Cross*, proved particularly helpful to Lloyd-Jones in his early career as the Doctor was developing his thoughts on the atonement.

    Forsyth’s journey from theological liberalism (a la Ritschl) to an evangelical confession is a moving chapter in the history of the church. Per crucem Christi ad lucem! Through the Cross of Christ to the Light!


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