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WEEPING AND PREACHING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

A sermon preached at the Baptist Tabernacle of Los Angeles
Lord’s Day Evening, August 16, 2009

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).


I have often said that emotion and tears have accompanied every revival in the long history of Christianity. I have often said that we must see sinners brought to the point of tears if we are to see real conversions among us. And I have told you that there can be no real revival without tears. Last Sunday I gave this as one of the great hallmarks of the remarkable revival going on in China today. Having been an eye-witness to two very unusual, God-sent revivals, I can say to you with complete conviction that there can be no real revival, and very few real individual conversions, unless people are brought to tears over their sinful condition.

This is what happened during the first great revival on the Day of Pentecost. “They were pricked in their heart” (Acts 2:37). This undoubtedly means that they were so moved by the preaching that they wept and cried out, “Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37). Sing, “Lord, Send the Old-Time Power!”

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!
(“Pentecostal Power” by Charles H. Gabriel, 1856-1932).

During the preaching of Philip in Samaria, not long after the revival at Pentecost, we are told that

“…unclean spirits, crying with loud voice, came out of many”
       (Acts 8:7).

Yes, there was crying and even screaming following the preaching of Philip in that mighty revival in Samaria. Sing that chorus again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

When Paul sang and prayed, and an earthquake opened the doors of the prison where he and Silas were imprisoned, the jailer

“sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas” (Acts 16:29).

His trembling and falling down were undoubtedly accompanied by much emotion, and many tears. Sing it again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

But we must be careful to notice that in none of these instances are we told that the preachers themselves had tears when they were preaching. Yes, I know Paul said to the Ephesian Christians,

“I ceased not to warn every one night and day with tears”
       (Acts 20:31).

We are told that he did this in Ephesus. But we are not told that he did this every time he preached.

We are not told that Peter preached with tears at Pentecost. We are not told that Philip preached with tears at Samaria, or that Paul preached with tears to the Philippian jailer. We are told that these preachers were very earnest and very serious – but we are not told that they had tears every time they preached.

One of our young men said to me the other day, “What can you do to get the people to have tears over their sins?” That is a good question, and I will try to answer it to the best of my ability in this sermon.

I. First, the preacher must never weep and cry in the pulpit unless he
is moved by God to do so.

I chose those words very carefully. A preacher must not weep and cry in the pulpit unless God Himself moves him to do so. George Whitefield was often moved to tears when he preached. But he preached with tears only because he was moved to do so by God. Speaking of those who tried to copy Whitefield, and cry whenever they preached, Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones said, “Of course, a man who tries to produce an effect [by weeping in the pulpit] becomes an actor, and is an abominable imposter” (Martyn Lloyd-Jones, M.D., Preaching and Preachers, Zondervan Publishing House, 1971, p. 93). Dr. Lloyd-Jones experienced great revival in his early preaching, but he seldom if ever wept in the pulpit. He preached with great earnestness, but he avoided anything resembling acting.

I have thought of that sentence from Dr. Lloyd-Jones many times over the years. You see, I was an actor for several years as a teenager, before I was called to preach. I know very well, from the experience I had as an actor many years ago, how to produce tears. But it always seemed false and phony to me if I tried to do so when preaching the Gospel. I sometimes cry when I preach, though it is seldom. I never do so to “produce an effect,” because I believe Dr. Lloyd-Jones was right when he said it makes the preacher “an abominable imposter” – a mere actor! Above all, I must not resort to “acting” in the pulpit. So I only weep occasionally, when God Himself moves me to do so. I firmly believe that a preacher must never weep or cry in the pulpit unless he is moved by God.

I remember one famous preacher on television who had tears streaming down his face in virtually every sermon. He used his weeping to whip up his congregation, so they too would shout and weep. But little good came from it. That preacher turned out to be nothing more than an actor, and his ministry came to nothing in the end. Jesus warned us not to be,

“as the hypocrites, of a sad countenance: for they disfigure their faces, that they may appear unto men to fast” (Matthew 6:16).

Christ said this is sheer hypocrisy. No pastor who hopes to be a blessing should “disfigure” his face and weep like an actor! No, weeping in the pulpit must come from God – or, if not, the preacher must refrain from it altogether.

How, then can a preacher move people in his congregation to tears? That was a good question the young man asked me! I will try to answer it from history and from the Bible itself.

II. Second, the preacher must be very serious in the pulpit if he
expects sinners to be moved with Holy Spirit conviction that
leads to conversion.

George Whitefield almost always preached with tears in his eyes. He was very sincere, and his tears undoubtedly came from God. But there were far fewer tears, and far less emotion, in those who heard him than there were when John Wesley preached – and Wesley, to my recollection, seldom if ever shed tears when he preached. Yet Wesley has been strongly criticized for the great outbursts of crying and weeping, and even screaming, during his sermons. This happened repeatedly when Wesley preached without a tear in his eyes, but this happened far less under the preaching of Whitefield with tears streaming down his face in every sermon. This is a plain fact that anyone can discover by reading the history of the preaching of those two great men. My conclusion is this – weeping in the pulpit does not necessarily produce weeping among the people who hear the preacher. I am not criticizing Whitefield at all. Many times I have called him “the greatest preacher of all time” – with the exception of the Apostle Paul. I am simply pointing out from recorded history that Wesley’s comparatively stiff and unemotional, tearless preaching produced far more weeping and emotion among his congregations. How could that be? It is often explained in terms of psychology. But I believe the answer lies elsewhere.

John Wesley encouraged people to weep. Whitefield discouraged it. Though I consider Whitefield the greatest preacher of all time in the English-speaking world, I think he was mistaken on this point. His patron, the Countess of Huntington, once said to Whitefield, “Let them scream. It will do them a great deal more good than your preaching.”

Although Jonathan Edwards himself never wept in the pulpit, his congregations often did so. During the height of revival they were often reduced to tears. These manifestations occurred while Edwards read his sermons from a full manuscript in a rather emotionless voice, more closely resembling the style of Wesley than the far more emotional preaching of Whitefield.

The main evangelist in the Second Great Awakening was Dr. Asahel Nettleton. Dr. Nettleton did not weep in the pulpit. His preaching was solemn, rather than emotional. Yet at the height of several of the revivals he conducted those who were lost were reduced to tears, and even physical prostrations, falling to the ground under conviction of sin. Sing that chorus again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

My conclusion is this – conversions and revivals do not depend on the pulpit tears of a preacher. Rather, the emotions sinners experience depend on the sincerity and seriousness of the preacher, attended by the work of the Holy Spirit in the hearts of those in the congregation who are lost. How can the preacher move more people to tears? The answer is that he cannot. He can only deliver his sermon with sincere and serious earnestness. What people feel regarding conviction of sin lies beyond the preacher’s ability. Only the Holy Spirit can bring true conviction of sin.

“And when he is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment” (John 16:8).

Sing it again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

How are the lost moved emotionally? How do they come under real conviction of sin? The preacher must be sincere, not an actor. The preacher must be solemn and serious. The preacher must be gripped by the truth he is preaching. The preacher must “lift up his voice,” as Peter did on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14). The preacher must preach both the law and the Gospel. He must tell people that they are “sinners in the hands of an angry God,” as Jonathan Edwards did. He must tell them to “fly to Christ,” as Jonathan Edwards did. He must tell them that nothing can save them from the wrath of God but the cleansing Blood of the once crucified, now ascended, Christ. He must preach, as John the Baptist did,

“Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29).

Sing the chorus again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

III. Third, the preacher, and the saved in his congregation, must have
real pathos and love for the lost.

Yes, the Bible tells us to weep. Yes, it says,

“They that sow in tears shall reap in joy” (Psalm 126:5).

Yes, Dr. John R. Rice correctly said,

The price of revival, the cost of soul winning,
   The long hours of praying, the burden, the tears…
(“The Price of Revival” by Dr. John R. Rice, 1895-1980).

But notice that he said, “the burden, the tears.” He was speaking of an inner burden for the lost that only the Holy Spirit can give. He would be the first to tell us that there is no “magical” power in “man-made” tears. The “burden” must come from God. It must be sincere and real, as it was with Jesus, who was,

“a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3).

Sing the chorus again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

Yet only twice in the four Gospels are we told that Jesus wept. And neither time was He preaching. Please turn in your Bible to Luke 19:41.

“And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it” (Luke 19:41).

He wept over the sinfulness of the city. But He was not preaching when He did this. He wept over the city in prayer. But shortly afterwards He gave them a very strong sermon, filled with judgment. Read verses 45 and 46.

“And he went into the temple, and began to cast out them that sold therein, and them that bought; Saying unto them, It is written, My house is the house of prayer: but ye have made it a den of thieves” (Luke 19:45-46).

Let us follow the example of Jesus. Let us weep for the lost in private prayer, and then confront them with their sin in the preaching!

The second time we are told that Jesus wept is in John 11:35. Please turn there and read verses 35 and 36 aloud.

“Jesus wept. Then said the Jews, Behold how he loved him!” (John 11:35-36).

Jesus knew that He would raise Lazarus from the dead. But He wept and even “groaned” as He came toward the grave of Lazarus. Then He prayed (John 11:41-42). And finally Jesus preached a short sermon. It is given in John 11:43. Please read that verse aloud.

“And when he thus had spoken, he cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth” (John 11:43).

I think that should be our pattern. We should weep and even groan over those who are “dead in trespasses and sins” (Ephesians 2:1). We should pray for their salvation. And then we should cry “with a loud voice…come forth.”

“And he that was dead came forth, bound hand and foot with graveclothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus saith unto them, Loose him, and let him go” (John 11:44).

That is the pattern Jesus gave us the second time we are told that He wept! Weep and pray for the lost, and then preach to them “come forth to Christ.” Sing the chorus again!

Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power!
   Thy floodgates of blessing on us throw open wide!
Lord, send the old-time power, the Pentecostal power,
   That sinners be converted and Thy name glorified!

We must not think that Jesus wept only on those two occasions. Since He was “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief” (Isaiah 53:3) He must have wept at other times as well. We are told four times that He was “moved with compassion” (Matthew 9:36; Matthew 14:14; Mark 1:41; Mark 6:34). But only in the last verse are we told that He was “moved with compassion toward them…and he began to teach them many things.” Undoubtedly He was “moved with compassion” every time He preached, but it is not recorded in the four Gospels. And we are never told that He wept while He preached, only that He wept before He actually gave a sermon (Luke 19:41; John 11:35, 38).

I take it from the example of Christ that most of our weeping and prayers are to be done in private, or sometimes during the services before the preaching, but that we are to be “a friend of publicans and sinners” when we sit down to eat with them and be friendly to them, as Christ did (Matthew 11:19).

Then let us weep and pray for sinners when we are alone in prayer, or in the prayer meetings, or perhaps sometimes in the services. Let us go forth from our prayers and weepings to preach to lost sinners, and then to be a blessing to the lost who come to our church, after the services! Sing, “Make Me a Channel of Blessing.”

Make me a channel of blessing today,
   Make me a channel of blessing, I pray;
My life possessing, my service blessing,
   Make me a channel of blessing today.
(“Make Me a Channel of Blessing” by Harper G. Smyth, 1873-1945).

Pray for conviction of sin (all pray). Pray for lost people to come to Jesus, and be cleansed from sin by His Blood (all pray).

(END OF SERMON)
You can read Dr. Hymers’ sermons each week on the Internet
at www.realconversion.com. Click on “Sermon Manuscripts.”

Prayer Before the Sermon by Dr. Kreighton L. Chan.
Solo Sung Before the Sermon by Mr. Benjamin Kincaid Griffith:
“Old-Time Power” (by Paul Rader, 1878-1938).


THE OUTLINE OF

WEEPING AND PREACHING

by Dr. R. L. Hymers, Jr.

“Now when they heard this, they were pricked in their heart, and said unto Peter and to the rest of the apostles, Men and brethren, what shall we do?” (Acts 2:37).

(Acts 8:7; 16:29; 20:31)

I.   First, the preacher must never weep and cry in the pulpit unless he is moved by God to do so, Matthew 6:16.

II.  Second, the preacher must be very serious in the pulpit if he expects sinners to be moved with Holy Spirit conviction that leads to conversion, John 16:8; Acts 2:14; John 1:29.

III. Third, the preacher, and the saved in his congregation, must have real pathos and love for the lost, Psalm 126:5; Isaiah 53:3; Luke 19:41, Luke 19:45-46; John 11:35-36, 41-42, 43; Ephesians 2:1; John 11:44; Matthew 9:36; 14:14; Mark 1:41; 6:34; Matthew 11:19.