The Pulpit Prophet -- By: William Ward Ayer

Journal: Bibliotheca Sacra
Volume: BSAC 124:496 (Oct 1967)
Article: The Pulpit Prophet
Author: William Ward Ayer

The Pulpit Prophet

William Ward Ayer

Conservationists are working feverishly in many places in the world to protect animal and bird life, and to see to it that there are enough sanctuaries for them in which to live and breed. Many species of bird and animal life in America have been completely destroyed. Many others are fighting for survival because man—the most selfish animal, who also is the greatest killer—makes too little provision for the continuance of God’s lesser creatures on this planet.

Within the span of my ministry I have seen a number of pulpit species all but disappear—at least they do not seem to be dominating the religious landscape as they once did. The one species on which I center attention now is a high-spirited, eagle-eyed, aggressive animal which I call “the pulpit prophet.” He often, though not always, occupied the pulpit of a great city. Sometimes he was a big man in a small place; but because he was a God-anointed student of both God’s Word and world affairs and because he built better sermonic “mouse traps” or “man traps,” the multitudes beat a path to his church door. But whoever he was and wherever he ministered, he was a known voice for righteousness. Whether he was large or small, he was a lion and had the leonine roar. God through the prophet Amos (1:2) said: “The LORD will roar from Zion, and utter his voice from Jerusalem”; and in Isaiah (42:13 ): “The LORD shall go forth as a mighty man; he shall cry, yea, roar; he shall prevail against his enemies.”

God told Isaiah, “Cry aloud, spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and shew my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins” (Isa 58:1). I do not believe God is talking here about dramatics and histrionics, but about that deep earnestness and concern, the holy boldness born of the fear of God. Whatever his tone of voice, his soul cries out and will not be silenced.

Few have noticed that before the Almighty gave Isaiah the vision of the Lord high and lifted up, in the sixth chapter, the prophet had pronounced six woes upon Israel in the fifth chapter. He sounds as though he were talking about our land today: (1) a woe against godless materialism; (2) a woe against worldly pleasure seeking: strong drink and sensuous music and dancing; hell, he said, had enlarged herself to receive the godless pursuers of lewd pleasure (vss. 11–14 ); (3) a woe upon vanity (vss. 18–19 ); (4) a woe upon those who call good and evil good ...

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