We have often a number of good and affectionate but very weak hearers. They are always afraid that we shall offend other hearers. Hence, if the truth be spoken in a plain and pointed manner, and seems to come close home to the conscience, they think that surely it ought not to have been spoken, because So-and-so took offence at it. Truly, my brethren, we are not slow to answer in this matter. If we never offended, it would be positive proof that we did not preach the gospel. They who can please men will find it quite another thing to have pleased God. Do you suppose that men will love those who faithfully rebuke them? If you make the sinner’s heart to groan, and waken his conscience, do you think he will pay you court and thank you for it? Not so; in fact, this ought to be one aim of our ministry, not to offend, but to test men and make them offended with themselves, so that their hearts may be exposed to their own inspection. Their being offended will reveal of what sort they are. A ministry that never uproots will never water; a ministry that does not pull down will never build up. He who knows not how to pluck up the plants which God has not planted, scarcely knows how to be a worker of God in his vineyard. Our ministry ought always to be a killing as well as a healing one—a ministry which kills all false hopes, blights all wrong confidences, and weeds out all foolish trusts, while at the same time it trains up the feeblest shoot of real hope, and tends comfort and encouragement even to the weakest of the sincere followers of Christ.
For meditation: Over the past few days the readings have concentrated on serious matters of eternal life and death. Have they offended you? While the Christian should avoid giving unnecessary offence (Matthew 17:27; 1 Corinthians 10:32), the Lord Jesus Christ offended others when it was necessary (Matthew 13:57; 15:10; John 6:61). Christians have no reason to feel ashamed, if others take offence at Christ (1 Peter 2:8) and his cross (Galatians 5:11).
Sermon no. 423 5 December (Preached 8 December 1861)