During the oral part of practical theology in the first theological examination Professor Dr. Wilhelm Rothfuchs gave me an unseen quote by Charles Haddon Spurgeon. I was to put it into context and evaluate it step-by-step. Thankfully, I had read quite a bit by the eloquent Helmut Thielicke, who had always been an ardent fan of Spurgeon (perhaps just to tease Werner Elert?) and in the process done his fair share of introducing this English revival preacher to a German audience via translations. Well, that worked for us too. I passed that exam – and heeded much of Spurgeon´s practical advice for preachers. Just like that down-to-earth Pope John XXIII, Spurgeon was very much in practical homiletics and gave good advice like opening up windows for fresh air. Much in line with the famous theme of Vatican II “aggiornamento”: Let the church look outside into the world – and let the world look inside the church too. Well, this morning there was a reading by Spurgeon in Dobberstein (Pg. 226-227). You might like it as much as I did. It´s on “Trust Only in God” and is quoted from his “Letters to my students” (Pg. 265)
“By all the castings down of his servants, God is glorified, for they are led to magnify him when again he sets them on their feet, and even while prostrate in the dust their faith yields him praise. They speak all the more sweetly of his faithfulness and are the more firmly established in his love. Such mature men as some elderly preachers are, could scarcely have been produced if they had not been emptied from vessel to vessel, and made to see their own emptiness and the vanity of all things round about them. Glory be to God for the furnace, the hammer and the file. Heaven shall be all the fuller of bliss because we have been filled with anguish here below, and earth shall be better tilled because of our training in the school of adversity.
The lesson of wisdom is, be not dismayed by soul-trouble. Count it no strange thing, but a part of ordinary ministerial experience. Should the power of depression be more than ordinary, think not that all is over with your usefulness. Cast not away your confidence, for it hath great recompense of reward. Even if the enemy´s foot be on your neck, expect to rise and overthrow him. Cast the burden of the present, along with the sin of the past and the fear of the future, upon the Lord, who forsaketh not his saints. Live by the day – aye, by the hour. Put not trust in frames and feelings. Care more for a grain of faith than a ton of excitement. Trust in God alone and lean not on the reeds of human help. Be not surprised when friends fail you: it is a failing world. Never count upon immutability in man: inconstancy you may reckon upon without fear of disappointment. The disciples of Jesus forsook him; be not amazed if your adherents wander away to other teachers: as they were not your all when with you, all is not gone from you with their departure. Serve God with all you might while the candle is burning, and then when it goes out for a season, you will have the less to regret. Be content to be nothing, for that is what you are. When your emptiness is painfully forced upon your consciousness, chide yourself that you ever dreamed of being full, except in the Lord. Set small store by present rewards; be grateful for earnests by the way but look for the recompensing joy hereafter. Continue with double earnestness to serve your Lord when no visible result is before you. Any simpleton can follow the narrow path in the light: faith´s rare wisdom enables us to march on in the dark with infallible accuracy, since she places her hand in that of her great Guide. Between this and heaven there may be rougher weather yet, but it is all provided for by our covenant Head. In nothing let us be turned aside from the path which the divine call has urged us to pursue. Come fair or come foul, the pulpit is our watchtower, and the ministry our warfare; be it ours, when we cannot see the face of God, to trust under the shadow of his wings.”