“Men may try; but they will try in vain, when they attempt to convert the weapons for defending against infidelity, into bread to feed God’s hungry children.” -(Ichabod Spencer, Pastors Sketches, 59)
In the context of this quote Spencer is lamenting the overabundance of speculations about faith and the continual labor to defend and explain the faith against those that do not believe. The problem, says Spencer, is that “speculations about faith have no tendency to invite faith”. Rather they tend to do just the opposite. “Many of our treatises on the subjects of faith…are so filled up with explanations, and labored justifications, and attempted analogies, that they have more tendency to awaken doubt than call forth faith”.
If I am reading Spencer correctly he is saying that shepherds ought to be careful not to feed their sheep with weapons used to fight off wolves. A shepherds crook may help wayward sheep and fight off enemies but it makes a pretty unsavory and unhelpful meal for hungry sheep.
Yet how often is the sermon that you hear on Sunday more geared towards displaying the folly of the world as opposed to feeding and nurturing hungry sheep? Defend them, yes; but a good shepherd realizes that his task is far more than just keeping the wolves out. He has to feed them too. Starved sheep are just as dead as wolf-bitten ones.