Is the Gospel preacher practical? The man who gives himself to prayer and the ministry of the Word, who delegates to others the lesser ministry of waiting on tables – is such a man a blessing or a bane to the Church and society? Perhaps in the short-term, it may seem that way. But when we take a step back and view aright the man of God who sacredly devotes the lion share of his time to the ‘closet’ labors of his study, we will see him not only as highly practical. He will emerge as the best doer of good to His fellow men.
The following extracts from Alexander’s Thoughts on Preaching explore this mystery with profound insight.
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§ 74. To do good to men, is the great work of life; to make them true Christians is the greatest good we can do them. Every investigation brings us round to this point. Begin here, and you are like one who strikes water from a rock on the summits of the mountains; it flows down over all the intervening tracts to the very base. If we could make each man love his neighbour, we should make a happy world. The true method is to begin with ourselves, and so to extend the circle to all around us. It should be perpetually in our minds.
§ 75. Beneficence.—There are two great classes of philanthropists, namely, those who devise plans of beneficence, and those who execute them. If we cannot be among the latter, perhaps we may be among the former. Invention is more creative than execution. Watt has done more for mechanics than a thousand steam-engine makers. The devisers of good may again be divided into those who devise particular plans, such as this or that association or mode of operation, and those who discover and make known great principles. The latter are the rarer and the most important. Hence a man who never stirs out of his study may be a great philanthropist, if he employs himself in discovering from the study of the Scriptures and the study of human nature, those laws which originate and condition all effectual endeavours for human good.