Charles Simeon

Jeremiah 23:28-29
KJV. "He who has my word, let him speak my word faithfully. What is the chaff to the wheat? says the Lord. Is not my word like as fire? says the Lord; and like a hammer, that breaks the rock in pieces?"

NIV. "Let the prophet who has a dream tell his dream, but let the one who has my word speak it faithfully. For what has straw to do with grain?" declares the LORD. "Is not my word like fire," declares the LORD, "and like a hammer that breaks a rock in pieces?"

Of all the different orders of mankind, there is not any that is more influential on society than that of Christian ministers. The prophets of old, if truly faithful to their God, were means and instruments of diffusing incalculable blessings through the countries where they lived. The false prophets, on the contrary, hardened the people in their wickedness, and brought down the heaviest judgments on those whom they misled. Ministers of the present day produce similar effects, only on a more contracted scale.

The prophets, whether true or false, were listened to as inspired; and, consequently, as bearing an authority far beyond what any minister at this time can assume.

But still, as expounders of God's revealed will, we are listened to with much respect and deference; and we are the means of dispensing much good or evil to our hearers, according as we approve ourselves faithful or unfaithful to the office we sustain, and to the Master whom we profess to serve. This is strongly intimated in the passage before us; in which we have,

I. A solemn injunction to all who bear the office of the ministry.

As ministers, the Word of God is put into our hands, and a dispensation is committed to us to preach it; and that office we must execute "faithfully".

1. We must speak the Word unreservedly, without concealment.

We must "declare unto our people the whole counsel of God, Acts 20:27," and "not keep back from them anything that can be profitable unto them, Acts 20:20." We are at liberty indeed to consider what is suited to the state of our hearers, and what they are capable of receiving, Mark 4:33. Our object must be, to benefit their souls, Proverbs 11:30; and, consequently, we do well to adapt our instructions to their capacities, administering "milk to babes, and meat to those who are of full age, 1 Corinthians 3:1-2. Hebrews 5:11-14."

But in this discrimination we must not be regulated by carnal policy; but must act as before God, "Therefore, since through God's mercy we have this ministry, we do not lose heart. Rather, we have renounced secret and shameful ways; we do not use deception, nor do we distort the word of God. On the contrary, by setting forth the truth plainly we commend ourselves to every man's conscience in the sight of God! 2 Corinthians 4:1-2." Our motto must be that of the Apostle Paul, "Unlike so many, we do not peddle the word of God for profit. On the contrary, in Christ we speak before God with sincerity, like men sent from God! 2 Corinthians 2:17."

2. We must speak the Word impartially, without respect of persons.

All idea of "pleasing men" must be utterly abandoned—for if we please men, or seek to do so, we cannot be the servants of Jesus Christ, Galatians 1:10. Peter erred in this respect, when, for the sake of gratifying the Jewish converts, he inculcated, even on the Gentiles, the observance of the Jewish ritual, Galatians 2:11-14.

The fidelity of Paul is that which we ought to follow. He says, "For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as men approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel. We are not trying to please men but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from men, not from you or anyone else, 1 Thessalonians 2:3-6."

Whether we address rich or poor, we must "Therefore, since we have such a hope, we are very bold! 2 Corinthians 3:12." "For we do not preach ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake! 2 Corinthians 4:5."

3. We must speak the Word boldly, without fear.

The prophets of old were enjoined "not to fear the face of man, even though briers and thorns should be with them, and they should dwell among scorpions;" and to speak boldly all that God had commanded, lest he should, in just indignation for their cowardice, confound them before their people, Jeremiah 1:8; Jeremiah 1:17 and Ezekiel 2:6-7.

We must expect to meet with opposition; for who, among the Prophets or Apostles, ever escaped it? Even our blessed Lord himself, with all his wisdom and grace, was an object of hatred to an ungodly world. In the same way, we must expect, that "those who hate the light" will hate us who set it before them! John 3:19-20.

But, however we are threatened, our answer to every opponent must be, "Judge for yourselves whether it is right in God's sight to obey you rather than God. For we cannot help speaking about what we have seen and heard!" Acts 4:19-20." If we are called to seal the truth with our blood, we must regard it rather as an honor than a shame, Acts 5:41, and rather as a ground of commendation than a subject of condolence, Philippians 2:17-18.

This injunction is further enforced by,

II. An unanswerable appeal to the whole world.

1. Here is an appeal to our judgment.

Everyone knows what a light and worthless thing "chaff is, in comparison with wheat." And is not the application of this image to the subject before us both clear and obvious? Of what use were the assertions of the false prophets? They only deceived the people to their eternal ruin!

Look, on the other hand, at the labors of Moses, of David, of Elijah, of Paul; who can estimate the value of their services?

So it is, in a measure, with every minister of Christ, who truly and faithfully discharges the high office committed to him. He feeds many, he nourishes many, comforts many, yes, and "saves many souls from death! 1 Timothy 4:16 and James 5:20."

God declares that this effect would have followed the ministrations of former prophets—if they had been truly upright, "If they had stood in my counsel, and had caused my people to hear my words, then they would have turned them from their evil way, and from the evil of their doings, verse 22." And though there surely is a great difference between the labors of different men in point of real efficiency, even while substantially they preach the same truths—yet the labors of those who bring forth a mixed and mutilated Gospel are not to be compared with those of a faithful servant of Christ, who "preaches the truth in love," and exemplifies it in his life and conduct.

2. Here is an appeal to our experience.

God's Word, if faithfully declared, is "living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart! Hebrews 4:12." Let anyone that has ever noticed its effects, say, whether it is not "like fire," which dissolves the hardest metal; and "like a hammer, which breaks in pieces" even adamant itself.

Go to the populous city of Nineveh, and see all orders of men, from the greatest to the least, dissolved in tears at the preaching of one single prophet! Jonah 3:4-10. Or look back to the day of Pentecost, when, by the preaching of Peter, three thousand people—many with their hands yet reeking with the Savior's blood, were converted to the Lord.

Are not these instances sufficient to show what wonders the Word of God is able to effect? Truly, "it is mighty, through God, to the pulling down of the strongholds of sin and Satan, and to the bringing of even the very thoughts of men into captivity to the obedience of Christ! 2 Corinthians 10:4-5."

Say, then, whether these are not potent arguments for fidelity in the exercise of ministerial functions? The teaching of man-pleasing doctrines saves no one, benefits no one. But a simple preaching of "Christ crucified is the power of God unto salvation!" to millions of the human race, 1 Corinthians 1:23-24. Romans 1:16. To this, many of you, I trust, can bear testimony; yes, and I hope are living witnesses of its truth; in that "you have turned to God from idols, to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from Heaven, even Jesus, who has delivered us from the wrath to come! 1 Thessalonians 1:5; 1 Thessalonians 1:9-10."


1. Let me discharge, as I am able, my duty to you.

"Yet when I preach the gospel, I cannot boast, for I am compelled to preach. Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel" with all fidelity! 1 Corinthians 9:16-17." If so much as one of you should perish through a lack of faithfulness on my part, his blood would be required at my hands! Ezekiel 33:6-8. You must not expect me, therefore, to "prophesy unto you smooth things," or to "speak peace to you when there is no peace." No. I must, at the peril of my soul, "speak God's Word unto you faithfully."

Now, there are three things which I must require at your hands:

The first of these is repentance. I must declare unto you, that "unless you repent," truly, deeply, and from your inmost souls repent, "you shall all—all without exception, perish in Hell!"

The next thing which I must call for, is faith, even faith in the Lord Jesus Christ, as the only Savior of sinners. And I must warn you, that without faith in Christ there is no hope; for "there is no other foundation on which any man can build," "nor any other name given under Heaven whereby any man can be saved."

In addition to this, I must also require obedience, even a spiritual, cheerful, unreserved obedience to every command of God. And in the name of Almighty God I declare, that "without works all your faith is dead," and, that "without holiness no man shall see the Lord."

2. Let me call on you to make a due improvement of my testimony.

It is true, that even "though Paul should plant and Apollos water"—they would, if left to themselves, labor only in vain. "It is God alone who can give the increase" to the seed that is sown.

But this will be no excuse for you, who make the Word of no avail.

If you would pray unto God, he would hear you. If you would earnestly seek his salvation, the gospel would come to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction!

Remember, I beg you, that the Word delivered, if it is not "a savor of life unto life, will become unto you a savor of death unto death."

True it is, that the "fire" burns but dimly, and the "hammer" is but feebly applied; still, if God would by his Spirit kindle the flame—then it should be sufficient to burn even to your inmost souls. If he would reveal his mighty arm, no rocky heart in the universe would be able to withstand its force.

"He has put his treasure in earthen vessels, on purpose that the excellency of the power may appear to be of Him." He delights to "perfect his own strength in his people's weakness." It is this that encourages me to speak; and it may well also encourage you to hear. Look to Him, then, to use his wonder-working rod, as in the days of old; and to accomplish by it the salvation of your souls!