Hard Preaching

It's hard to preach hard things.
But we must.

For years churches have shrunk back from declaring the "whole counsel of God." (Acts 20:27) It's not just the liberal churches and their omittance of doctrines such as sin or Hell or the exclusivity of Christ. Evangelical churches are just as guilty of avoiding certain "hard" topics.

Speaking from almost two centuries ago, Charles Bridges addresses this serious problem with gentle counsel and balanced warnings. He identifies one extreme of preaching a pet-doctrine to the neglect of others, and the other extreme of out-right neglecting a difficult doctrine. Bridges says,
We must declare our testimony without concealment --not indeed forcing offensive truths into undue prominence; yet not daring to withhold them in their Scriptural proportion--adapting our statements to the spiritual capacities of our people; yet jealous, that we omit nothing from our own or our hearers' disgust to particular doctrines;--"not handling the word of God deceitfully; but by manifestation of the truth commending ourselves to every man's conscience in the sigh of God." [2 Corinthians 4:2]

Bridges goes on to warn "against over-statements, or an undue partiality for individual points, which is equally unscriptural with an undue concealment."  "Judicious preaching," he says, "implies a clear display of every Doctrine of the Gospel..." (emphasis added)

It is in this section (and at the risk of being accused of ignoring his own warnings) that he singles out the doctrines of divine election as those that go too often by the way side in preaching and presenting the scope of Salvation. In a beautiful balance, he states, 
...in declaring the freeness of the invitations of the Gospel,
we must hide the basis of our effectual calling.
In displaying the riches of grace,
we must not forget to trace them to the sovereign pleasures of God.
We must enforce the obligations of holiness as connected with, and resulting from,
the eternal designs of God.
Continuing the balance, he says these must be brought "forth in their due place and order," and yet to avoid "forced and needless repetition."

Bridges then gives some insight as to the reason these doctrines are neglected. He suggests the following:

Much prejudice against these particular doctrines had doubtless arisen from a controversial and repulsive mode of statement, unconnected with that humility, watchfulness, holy devotedness, and enjoyment of Christian privileges... We must watch against repugnance to the study of any particular portions of Scripture; which is the sure indication of a wrong temper of heart--of a want of "trembling at the word" --and of a disposition even to cancel what our proud hearts cannot receive.

In other words, it's often pride in the heart of the preacher delivering this message that attributes to pride in the heart of the parishioner who will not receive it. But there is also a greater risk of pride for those who refuse to preach these hard things.  Bridges footnotes a section of John Calvin's Institutes on this same topic, from which I quote below:
But for those who are so cautious or fearful that they desire to bury predestination in order not to disturb weak souls--with what color will they cloak their arrogance when they accuse God indirectly of stupid thoughtlessness, as if he had not foreseen the peril that they feel they have wisely met? Whoever, then, heaps [disgrace] upon the doctrine of predestination openly reproaches God, as if he had unadvisedly let slip something hurtful to the church.
Calvin's Institutes, Book III, Chapter XXI, Section 4; Pg. 926
God forgive us for thinking we know better than You what people need to hear from our pulpits.
Help us to preach hard things.

Soft preaching makes hard people. Hard preaching makes soft people. ~ John MacArthur

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