You do not know the despair that comes over us preachers time after time as we look down upon the faces of our congregations and feel, “What shall I do to put a sharp enough point upon this truth to get it into the heart of some man who has been sitting there as long as I have been standing here and is never a bit better for it?”  Our most earnest preaching is like putting a red-hot iron into a pond: the cold water puts it out and closes above it, and there is no more heard nor seen of it.  Our old Puritan forefathers used to talk about gospel-hardened sinners.  I believe that there are people listening to me now who have become so inured to Christian preaching that, like artillery horses, they will not move a muscle or quiver if a whole battery of cannon is fired off under their noses.  God knows I despair sometimes, many a time, when I think of the hundreds of people to whom I speak, year after year, and how there seems next to nothing in the world to come of it all.Alexander Maclaren (1826-1910), from a meditation on Matthew 5.20.


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