By Rev. Russell H. Conwell
The highest ambition of every preacher should be to inaugurate at once the greatest revival of the new century. The militant church should sweep into the new century with the shout of victory. There is much in our Zion that ought to be cast overboard before we drop anchor in the twentieth century. Our ideal church, with her gates thrown wide open day and night, and sinners constantly thronging her altars in quest of salvation, is not in sight. The history of the Christian Church is one of alternate lights and shades. She has been swept by great tides of salvation, followed by declension. But for her periodical revivals, the church would not hold her own in the battle against sin. Whether this is God’s order, or the result of chronic habit upon the part of the church, or a necessity of the mental and moral constitution of our humanity, we may not be too certain, but we incline strongly to the notion that the Pentecostal enduement of the whole church would put an end to her sporadic history, and inaugurate a simultaneous forward movement which would hasten the millennium and take the world for Christ.
In the promotion of revivals the preacher and the gospel are indispensable. Nothing can break the spell of sin, quicken the dead soul, and cause it to glow and stir with spiritual life, but the omnipotent Word of God. The gospel is the power of God unto salvation to all who believe. The preacher is God’s ordained instrument in the conduct of a genuine revival. He is to inspire, instruct, and lead the militant host to victory. His relation to the work is one of great responsibility. He needs heavenly wisdom, undaunted courage, invincible faith, and Christly patience. He can either help or hinder. His first duty is to keep out of the way. He must not be an obstructionist, but a constructionist. We have known many revivals to be thwarted and defeated by a well-meaning preacher unconsciously standing in the way of the Holy Ghost. The liberty of the Spirit must not be infringed in a revival. The preacher is humanly responsible for the conduct of the meeting, but much grace and wisdom are needed lest he should assume unwarranted prerogatives and the Holy Spirit be grieved. He is a fortunate conductor who knows just when and where to put on the brakes. No serious mistake can obtain while the leadership of the Holy Spirit is recognized and followed. Self-conceit and self-opinionation must find no place in the successful leader of the revival. God will not divide the honors with men. The preacher must be clothed with humility and dominated with a passion to save souls and glorify God “We preach not ourselves, but Christ Jesus the Lord, and ourselves your servants for Jesus’ sake.” “He who would be greatest among you, let him be the servant of all.” The preacher must be emptied of self and filled with the Holy Spirit, who would touch the secret springs of power and win souls to Christ.
The preacher in the revival should not talk too much. Many revivals have been talked to death by the preacher. We have known preachers who were constantly warning the members not to talk too long, who themselves seemed never to know when to talk or when to stop. The successful commander is not the one who does all the fighting, nor all the talking, but has acquired the happy art of directing and developing the talents of the church. He is to generate and utilize all the interest possible for the good of every service. It is unfortunate when the preacher becomes a talking-machine and monopolizes the time in long sermons and miscellaneous remarks, as if nothing was complete until he has his say. In this case quality is greatly to be desired above quantity. Words are not to be counted, but weighed. The preacher should never forget that there is no substitute for the Holy Ghost. He may beat the air and bruise his wings, and in his misguided zeal become desperate, but all is as sounding brass or tinkling cymbal without the Holy Ghost. The gift of tongues has its place, but the crowning gift is the gift of the Holy Ghost.
Native ability and refined culture are elements of power when employed under the sway of the Holy Ghost. The art of soul-saving is a divine art, and cannot be learned in the schools, nor can it be imitated. It must be the genuine thing or nothing. No human device nor mechanical regime will avail anything. To your knees, O men of God! Tarry until you are filled with the Holy Ghost, and the revival needed will be on.Temple College, Philadelphia, 1900