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Christ’s Sacrifice, Throne of Grace

IT has very frequently happened that while men have been sketching out imaginary designs, they have missed actual opportunities. They would not build because they could not erect a palace; they therefore shiver in the winter cold. They would not be clothed in homespun, for they looked for scarlet and fine linen ere long; they were not content to do a little, and therefore did nothing. It is vain for us to be praying for an extensive revival of religion, and comforting each other in the hope of it, if meanwhile we suffer our zeal to effervesce, and sparkle, and then to be dissipated our proper plan is, with the highest expectations, and with the largest longings, to imitate the woman of whom it is written, “She hath done what she could,” by laboring diligently in such holy works as may be within our reach, according to Solomon’s precept, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” While believers are zealously doing what God enables them to do, they are in the high road to abundant success; but if they stand all the day idle, gaping after wonders, their Spiritual want shall come upon them as an armed man.

Andrew is the picture of what all disciples of Christ should be. To begin, then. This first successful Christian missionary was Himself a sincere follower of Jesus. While so many will wantonly thrust themselves into the offices of Christ’s Church, having no concern for the glory of His kingdom, and no part or lot in it, it will be always needful to repeat that warning, “Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes?” Men who have never seen the beauties of Emmanuel are not fit persons to describe them to others.

Andrew was earnest for the souls of others, though he was but a young convert. He appears to have beheld Jesus as the Lamb of God one day, and to have found out his brother Peter the next. Far be it from us to forbid you who but yesterday found joy and peace, to exert your new-born zeal and youthful ardor. No, delay not, but make haste to spread abroad the good news which is now so fresh and so full of joy to you. It is right that the advanced and the experienced should be left to deal with the captious and the skeptical, but you, even you, young as you are, may find some with whom you can cope some brother like Simon Peter, some sister dear to you, who will listen to your unvarnished tale, and believe in your simple testimony.

Andrew was a disciple, a new disciple, a commonplace disciple, a man of average capacity. He was not at all the brilliant character that Simon Peter his brother turned out to be. Throughout the life of Jesus Christ Andrew’s name occurs, but no notable incident is connected therewith. Though in afterlife he no doubt became a most useful apostle, and according to tradition sealed his life’s ministry by death upon a cross, yet at the first Andrew was, as to talent, an ordinary believer, one of that common standard and nothing remarkable. Yet Andrew became a useful minister, and thus it is clear that servants of Jesus Christ are not to excuse themselves from endeavoring to extend the boundaries of His kingdom by saying,” I have no remarkable talent, or singular ability.” I very much disagree with those who decry ministers of slender gifts, sneering at them, as though they ought not to occupy the pulpit at all. Are we, after all, as servants of God, to be measured by mere oratorical ability? Is this after the fashion of Paul, when he renounced the wisdom of words lest the faith of the disciples should stand in the wisdom of man, and not in the power of God? If you could blot out from the Christian Church all the minor stars, and leave nothing but those of the first magnitude, the darkness of this poor world would be increased sevenfold. How often the eminent preachers, which are the Church’s delight, are brought into the Church by those of less degree, even as Simon Peter was converted by Andrew! Who shall tell what might have become of Simon Peter if it had not been for Andrew? Who shall say that the Church would ever have possessed a Peter if she had closed the mouth of Andrew? And who shall put their finger upon the brother or sister of inferior talent and say. “These must hold their peace”? Nay, if thou hast but one talent, the more zealously use it. God will require it of thee let not thy brethren hold thee back from putting it out to interest. If thou art but as a glowworm’s lamp, hide not thy light, for there is an eye predestinated to see by thy light, a heart ordained to find comfort by thy faint gleam. Shine thou, and the Lord accept thee.

Every single professor of the faith of Christ is bound to do something for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom. I would that all, whatever their talents, would be like Andrew in promptness. He is no sooner a convert than he is a missionary; no sooner taught than he begins to teach. I would have them like Andrew, persevering, as well as prompt. He first finds Peter — that is his first success, but how many afterwards he found, who shall tell? Throughout a long life of usefulness it is probable that Andrew brought many stray sheep to the Redeemer’s fold, yet certainly that first one would be amongst the dearest to his heart. “He first findeth Peter” he was the spiritual father of many sons, but he rejoiced most that he was the father of his own brother Peter — his brother in the flesh, but his son in Christ Jesus.

The object of the soul-winner is not to bring men to an outward religiousness merely. Little will you have done for a man if you merely make the Sabbath-breaker into a Sabbath-keeper, and leave him a selfrighteous Pharisee. Little will you have done for him if you persuade him, having been prayerless, to be a mere user of a form of prayer, his heart not being in it. You do but change the form of sin in which the man lives; you prevent him being drowned in the salt water, but you throw him into the fresh; you take one poison from him, but you expose him to another. The fact is, if you would do real service to Christ, your prayer and your zeal must follow the person who has become the object of your attention, till you bring him absolutely to close with grace and lay hold on Jesus Christ, and accept eternal life as it is found in the atoning sacrifice. Anything short of this may have its usefulness for this world, but must be useless for the world to come. To bring men to Jesus — O, be this your aim — not to bring them to baptism, nor to the meeting-house, but to bring them to His feet who alone can say, “Go in peace; thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee.”

To bring men to Jesus you can adopt the next means, with most of them, namely, that of instructing them, or putting them in the way of being informed concerning the gospel. It is a very wonderful thing that while to us the light of the gospel is so abundant, it should be so very partially distributed in this country. When I have expounded my own hope in Christ to two or three in a railway carriage, I have found myself telling my listeners perfect novelties. I have seen the look of astonishment upon the face of many an intelligent Englishman when I have explained the doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ; persons who have even attended their parish church from their youth up, I have met with, who were totally ignorant of the simple truth of justification by faith; ay, and some who have been to dissenting places of worship do not seem to have laid hold of the fundamental truth that no man is saved by his own doing, but that salvation is procured by faith in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This nation is steeped up to the throat in self-righteous doctrine, and the Protestantism of Martin Luther is very generally unknown. The truth is held by as many as God’s grace has called, but the great outlying world still talk of doing your best, and then hoping in God’s mercy, and! Know not what beside of legal self-confidence, while the master-doctrine that he who believes in Jesus is saved by Jesus’ finished work, is sneered at as enthusiasm, or attacked as leading to licentiousness. Tell it, then, tell it on all sides, take care that none under your influence shall be left in ignorance of it; I can bear personal witness that the statement of the gospel has often proved in God’s hand enough to lead a soul into immediate peace.

Not many months ago I met with a lady holding sentiments of almost undiluted popery, and in conversing with her I was delighted to see how interesting and attractive a thing the gospel was to her. She complained that she enjoyed no peace of mind as the result of her religion, and never seemed to have done enough. She had a high idea of priestly absolution, but it had evidently been quite unable to yield repose to her spirit. Death was feared, God was terrible, even Christ an object of awe rather than love. When I told her that whosoever believeth on Jesus is perfectly forgiven, and that I knew I was forgiven — that I was as sure of it as of my own existence; that I feared neither to live nor to die, for it would be the same to me, because God had given me eternal life in His Son, I saw that a new set of thoughts were astonishing her mind. She said, “If I could believe that, I should be the happiest person in the world.” I did not deny the inference, but claimed to have proved its truth, and I have reason to believe that the little simple talk we had has not been forgotten. You cannot tell how many may be in bondage for want of the simplest possible instruction upon the plainest truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Many, too, may be brought to Christ through your example. Believe me, there is no preaching in this world like the preaching of a holy life. It shames me sometimes, and weakens me in my testimony for my Master, when I recollect that some professors of religion are a disgrace not only to their religion, but even to common morality. It makes me feel as though I must speak with bated breath and trembling knees, when I remember the damnable hypocrisy of those who thrust themselves into the Church of God, and by their abominable sins bring disgrace upon the cause of God and eternal destruction upon themselves. In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful. Oh! Were the saints immaculate, our testimony would be like fire among the stubble, like the flaming firebrand in the midst of the sheaves of corn. Were the saints of God less like the world, more disinterested, more prayerful, more godlike, the tramp of the armies of Zion would shake the nations, and the day of the victory of Christ would surely dawn.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘A Young Convert and Successful Worker’

THE KIND OF LABORERS WANTED

WHAT kind of men does the Master mean to use? They must be laborers. The man who does not make hard work of his ministry will find it very hard work to answer for his idleness at the last great day. A gentleman who wants an easy life should never think of occupying the Christian pulpit, he is out of place there, and when he gets there the only advice I can give him is to get out of it as soon as possible; and if he will not leave the position voluntarily, I call to mind the language of Jehu concerning Jezebel, “Fling her down,” and think the advice applicable to a lazy minister. An idler has no right in the pulpit. He is an instrument of Satan in damning the souls of men. The ministry demands brain labor; the preacher must throw his thought into his teaching, and read and study to keep his mind in good trim. He must not weary the people by telling them the truth in a stale, unprofitable manner, with nothing fresh from his own soul to give force to it. Above all, he must put heart work into his preaching. He must feel what he preaches it must never be with him an easy thing to deliver a sermon, he must feel as if he could preach his very life away ere the sermon is done. There must be soul work in it, the entire man must be stirred up to effort, the whole nature that God has endowed him with must be concentrated with all its vigor upon the work in hand. Such men we want. To stand and drone out a sermon in a kind of articulate snoring to a people who are somewhere between awake and asleep must be wretched work. I wonder what kind of excuse will be given by some men at last for having habitually done this. To promulgate a dry creed, and go over certain doctrines, and expound and enforce them logically, but never to deal with men’s consciences, never to upbraid them for their sins, never to tell them of their danger, never to invite them to a Savior with tears and entreaties! What a powerless work is this! What will become of such preachers? God have mercy upon them! We want laborers, not loiterers. We need men on fire, and I beseech you ask God to send them. The harvest never can be reaped by men who will not labor; they must off with their coats and go at it in their shirt-sleeves; I mean they must doff their dignities and get to Christ’s work as if they meant it, like real harvest men. They must sweat at their work, for nothing in the harvest-field can be done without the sweat of the face, nor in the pulpit without the sweat of the soul.

But what kind of laborers are required? They must be men who will go down into the wheat. You cannot reap wheat by standing a dozen yards off and beckoning to it you must go up close to the standing stalks; every reaper knows that. And you cannot move people’s hearts, and bring men to Christ, by imagining yourself to be a superior being, who condescends wonderfully when he shakes hands with a poor man. There is a very genteel order of preaching which is as ridiculous as reaping with a lady’s ivory-handled pocket knife, with kid gloves on; and I do not believe in God’s ever blessing it. Get among the wheat, like men in earnest! God’s servants ought to feel that they are one with the people; whoever they are they should love them, claim kinship with them, feel glad to see them, and look them in the face and say, Brother. Every man is a brother of mine; he may be a very bad one, but for all that I love him, and long to bring him to Jesus. Christ’s reapers must get among the wheat.

Now, see what the laborer brings with him. It is a sickle. His communications with the corn are sharp and cutting. He cuts right through, cuts the corn down, and casts it on the ground. The man whom God means to be a laborer in His harvest must not come with soft and delicate words, and flattering doctrines concerning the dignity of human nature, and the excellence of self-help, and of earnest endeavors to rectify our lapsed condition, and the like. Such mealy-mouthedness may God curse, for it is the curse of this age. The honest preacher calls a sin a sin, and a spade a spade, and says to men, “You are ruining yourselves; while you reject Christ you are living on the borders of hell, and ere long you will be lost to all eternity. There shall be no mincing the matter, you must escape from the wrath to come by faith in Jesus, or be driven for ever from God’s presence, and from all hope of joy.” The preacher must make his sermons cut. He is not to the off the edge of his scythe for fear it should hurt somebody. The gospel is intended to wound the conscience, and to go right through the heart, with the design of separating the soul from sin and self, as the corn is divided from the soil. Our object is to cut the sinner right down, for all the comeliness of the flesh must be slain, all his glory, all his excellence must be withered, and the man must be as one dead ere he can be saved. Ministers who do not aim to cut deep are not worth their salt. God never sent the man who never troubles men’s consciences. Such a man may be an ass treading down the corn, but a reaper he certainly is not. We want faithful ministers; pray God to send them.

But then a laborer has only begun when he cuts the corn much more is wanted. As he cuts, he lets the corn fall on to his arm, and then he lays it along in rows, but afterwards he binds it together and makes it into bundles that it may be ingathered. So the laborer whom God sends into the field must be a gathering laborer; he must be one who brings God’s people together, who comforts those that mourn, and picks up from the earth those who were cut down by the sharp sickle of conviction. He must bind the saints together, edifying them in their most holy faith.

Remember also that the laborer’s work is never done in harvest time till he sees the corn housed, — until it is made into a stack or put into a barn, his toil is not over; and the Christian minister, if God has truly anointed him to His work, never leaves caring for souls till they get to heaven. He is like Mr. Greatheart, with Christiana and Mercy, and the children; he goes with them from the City of Destruction, right up to the River Jordan; and if he could he would go through the river with them. It is his business to march in front with his shield, to meet the dragons and giants with his sword, and protect the little ones. It is his to be tender to them as a shepherd with the lambs and a nurse with her children, for he longs to present them at the last to his Master and say, “Here am I, and the children that Thou hast given me.”

We are to pray to the Lord, for it is the Lord’s business. Only the Lord can send us the right men. He has a right to send whom He pleases, for it is His own harvest, and a man may employ whom he wills in, his own field. It would be all in vain to appeal to anybody else. It is of no use to appeal to bishops to find us laborers. God alone has the making of ministers, and the raising up of true workers, and therefore the petition must be addressed to Him. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest,” The Lord’s Prayer, in its first three petitions, contains this prayer: “Our Father which art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come, thy will be done, in earth, as it is in heaven.” Does not that mean, “Lord, send forth men who may teach this world to hallow Thy name, that they through Thy Spirit’s power may be the means of making Thy kingdom come, and causing Thy will to be done in earth as it is in heaven.” We ought to pray continually to the great Lord of the harvest for a supply of earnest laborers.

And do you notice the expression used here, “that he would send forth laborers.” Now, the Greek is much more forcible, it is that He would push them forward, and thrust them out; it is the same word which is used for the expulsion of a devil from a man possessed. It takes great power to drive a devil out, it will need equal power from God to drive a minister out to his work. I always say to young fellows who consult me about the ministry, “Don’t be a minister if you can help it;” because, if the man can help it, God never called him, but if he cannot help it, and he must preach or die, then he is the man. May the Lord push men out, thrust them out, drive them out, and compel them to preach the gospel; for unless they preach by a divine compulsion, there will be no spiritual compulsion in their ministry upon the hearts of others. “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would thrust out laborers into his harvest.”

Our Lord said, “into His harvest.” I like that, because the harvest is not ours. If that harvest shall perish, it is our heavenly Father’s harvest that perishes. This makes it weigh upon my soul. If they told me that the harvest of some harsh, overbearing tyrant was perishing, I might say, “Let it! If he had it, what good would it be to him or anybody else? He grinds the faces of the poor; who wants to see him rich?” But when it is our gracious God, our blessed loving Father, one cannot bear the thought, and yet Jesus puts it before us that it is God’s harvest which is perishing for want of reaping. Suppose an angel should take you upon his wing and poise you in mid-space some hundreds of miles above the earth, where you could look down on the globe with strengthened eyesight; suppose you rested there and the world revolved before you in twenty-four hours, the sunlight gradually coming upon all portions of it, and suppose that with the sunlight there should be rendered visible certain colors which would mark where there was grace, where there was idolatry, where there was atheism, where there was popery; you would grieve to see only here and there upon our globe, like little drops of dew, bright marks of the grace of God, but various shades of darkness would show you that the whole world lieth in the Wicked One still. And if the vision changed, and you saw the two hemispheres spread out like a map and transformed into a corn-field with corn all white for the harvest; how sad would you be to see here and there men reaping their little patches, doing the best they can, but the great mass of the corn untouched by the sickle. You would see leagues of land where never an ear was reaped that we know of, from the foundations of the world. You would be grieved to think that God’s corn is spoiling, men whom He has made in His own image, and made for immortality, perishing for lack of the gospel. “Pray ye,” that is the stress of the whole text — “Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he would, thrust forth laborers into his harvest,” that these fields may not rot before our eyes.

But I shall never preach,” saith one. If you do not preach you can serve God somehow else. Could you not start a prayer-meeting in your house? Some of you live in different parts of London, could not you commence new interests? Do something for Jesus. Some of you, good women, could you not get young women together and talk to them about the Savior? Ay, but perhaps some brother has been smothering in his heart a desire to go into the missionary field. Do not quench the Spirit. You may be missing your vocation while trying to suppress that desire. I would sooner you should burst into fanaticism, and become right-down fools in enthusiasm, than remain in a dead coolness, caring little for the souls of men. What do Christian people nowadays think of? If they hear about Japan, they say, “Oh, we shall have a new trade there;” but do they say, “Who among us can go to Japan to tell them of the gospel?” Do you not think that merchants, and soldiers, and sailors, and such-like people who trade with distant parts of the world, are the very persons to spread the gospel? Should not a Christian man say, “I shall try and find a trade for myself which will bring me into contact with a class of persons that need the gospel, and I will use my trade as the stalking-horse for Christ; since hypocrites use religion as a stalking-horse for gain, I will make my trading subservient to my religion.” “Oh,” says one, “we can leave that to the society.” God bless the society, and, I was going to say, smother the society, rather than allow it to smother personal effort. We want our godly merchants, working men, soldiers, and sailors everywhere to feel, “I cannot go and get a proxy in the shape of a society to do this for me; in the name of God, I will do it myself, and have a share in this great battle.” If you cannot labor yourself, the society is the grandest thing conceivable, for you may help others thereby; but still the main cry from Christ is that you yourself should go into the highways; and hedges, and as many as you find compel them to come in to the gospel feast.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘The Kind of Laborers Wanted’

ACCORDING TO YOUR FAITH

NOTHING is impossible to the man who knows how to overcome heaven by wrestling intercession. When we have seen one, two, or ten, or twenty penitents converted, and when we have sometimes been heartily thankful that a hundred have been added to the church in a month, ought we ever to have been satisfied? Should we not have felt that the prayer which was blessed to the conversion of a hundred, had it been more earnest, might, in the Divine purpose, have been answered with the conversion of a thousand? Why not? I do not know why London should not be shaken from end to end with gospel truth before this day twelve months. You will say, “We have not enough ministers.” But God can make them. He can find ministers for His truth — ay, if He willed it, among the very offscourings of the earth. He can take the worst of men, the vilest of the vile, and change their hearts, and make them preach the truth, if He pleases. We are not to look to what we have. The witness of the senses only confuses those who would walk by faith. See what He did for the Church in the case of Saul of Tarsus. He just went up to the Devil’s army, and took out a ringleader, and said to him, “Now, sir, you preach the gospel which once you despised.” And who preached it better? Why, I should not wonder if ere long in answer to prayer we see the Ritualistic clergy preaching the gospel! Who can tell — the Romish priests may yet do it, and repeat the tale of Luther and Melancthon. Were not Luther, and Melancthon, and Calvin, and their comrades, brought out of Papal darkness to show light unto the people? We have heard with our ears, why may we not see with our eyes, the mighty works of God? The Lord can find His men where we know nothing about them. “Of these stones,” said the Baptist, as he pointed to the banks of the Jordan, “of these stones God can raise up children unto Abraham”; and as He could then, so He can now. Let us not despair. If we will but pray for it, our heavenly Father will deny His children nothing. Come, do but come, in simplicity of heart, and according to your faith shall it be done unto you.

There are two persons yonder. They are both alive, but one of them lies in bed. He wakes, but he says, with the sluggard —

You have woke me too soon, I must slumber again,”

and when he gets up he gazes round with vacant wonder and strange bewilderment. He has no energy, he is listless, and we say of him, “What a lifeless creature he is! He is living, but with how little vitality?” Now, you see another man. His sleep is short; he wakes soon; he is out to his business; takes down the shutters; he is standing behind the counter waiting upon this customer and that; he is all active; he is here, there, and everywhere, nothing is neglected; his eyes are wide open, his brain is active, his hands are busy, his limbs are all nimble. Well, what a different man that is! You are glad to get this second man to be your servant; he is worth ten times the wages of the first. There is life in them both, but what a difference there is between them! The one is eagerly living, the other is drawling out an insipid existence. And how many Christians there are of this sort! They wander in on a Sunday morning, sit down, get their hymn book, listen to the prayer without joining in it, hear the sermon, but might almost as well not have heard it, go home, get through the Sunday, go in to business. With them there is never any secret prayer for the conversion of men; no trying to talk to children, or servants, or friends, about Christ; no zeal, no holy jealousy, no flaming love, no generosity, no consecrating of the substance to God’s cause! This is too faithful a picture of a vast number of professing Christians. Would it were not so? On the other hand, we see another kind of man — one that is renewed in the spirit of his mind; though he has to be in the world, his main thoughts are how he can use the world to promote the glory of Christ. If he goes into business, he wants to make money that he may have wherewith to give bountifully for the spread of the gospel. If he meets with friends, he tries to thrust a word in edgeways for his Master; and whenever he gets an opportunity, he will speak, or write, but he will be aiming to do something for Him who has bought him with His precious blood. Why, I could pick out, if it were right to mention names, some here who are all alive, till their bodies seem scarcely strong enough for the real vitality and energy of their souls. Oh! These are the cream of the Church, the pick and choice of the flock, the men who are true men, and the women who are the true daughters of Jerusalem.

So, it is not the great man who is loaded with learning that will achieve great work for God; it is the man who, however small his ability, is filled with force and fire, and who rushes forward in the energy which heaven has given him, that will accomplish the work — the man who has the most intense spiritual life, who has real vitality at its highest point of tension, and living, while he lives, with all the force of his nature for the glory of God. Put these three or four things together, and I think you have the means of prosperity.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘According to your Faith’

“ONLY BE THOU STRONG AND VERY COURAGEOUS”

JOSHUA 1:7

JOSHUA was very highly favored in the matter of promises. The promises given him by God were broadly comprehensive and exceedingly encouraging. But Joshua was not therefore to say within himself, “These covenant engagements will surely be fulfilled, and I may therefore sit still and do nothing.” On the contrary, because God had decreed that the land should be conquered, Joshua was to be diligent to lead the people onward to battle. He was not to use the promise as a couch upon which his indolence might luxuriate, but as a girdle wherewith to gird up his loins for future activity.

As a spur to energy, let us always regard the gracious promises of our God. We should sin against Him most ungratefully and detestably were we to say within ourselves, “God will not desert His people; therefore let us venture into sin”; and we are almost equally wicked if we whisper in our minds, “God will assuredly fulfill His own decrees, and give the souls of His redeemed as a reward to His Son Jesus, therefore let us do nothing, and refrain altogether from zealous Christian service.” This is not proper language for true children. This is the talk of the indolently ignorant, or of mere pretenders who do but mock God while they pretend to reverence His decrees. By the oath, by the promise, by the covenant, and by the blood which sealeth it, we are exhorted continually to be at work for Christ, since we are saved in order that we may serve Him, in the power of the Holy Ghost, with heart, and soul, and strength.

Joshua was especially exhorted to continue in the path of obedience. He was the captain, but there was a great Commander-in-Chief who gave him his marching orders. Joshua was not left to his own fallible judgment, or fickle fancy, but he was to do according to all that was written in the book of the law. So is it with us who are believers. We are not under the law, but under grace; yet still there is a gospel rule which we are bound to follow, and the law in the hand of Christ is a delightful rule of life to the believer.

Only be thou strong and very courageous, that thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee.” You supposed when you heard the words, “Only be thou strong and very courageous,” that some great exploit was to be performed, and the supposition was correct, for all exploits are comprehended in that one declaration, “That thou mayest observe to do according to all the law, which Moses My servant commanded thee.” The highest exploit of the Christian life is to obey Christ. This is such an exploit as shall never be performed by any man, except he has learned the rule of faith, has been led to rest upon Christ, and to advance upon the path of obedience in a strength which is not his own, but which he has received from the work of the indwelling Holy Ghost. The world counts obedience to be a meanspirited thing, and speaks of rebellion as freedom. We have heard men say, “I will be my own master; I shall follow my own will.” To be a free-thinker and a free-liver seems to be the worldling’s glory, and yet if the world could but have sense enough to convict itself of folly, upon indisputable proof being afforded it, it were not difficult to prove that a reveler of the obedient is a fool. Take the world’s own martial rule. Who is accounted to be the boldest and the best soldier but the man who is most thoroughly obedient to the captain’s command?

There is a story told of the old French wars which has been repeated hundreds of times. A sentinel is set to keep a certain position, and at nightfall, as he is pacing to and fro, the emperor himself comes by. He does not know the pass-word. Straightway the soldier stops him. “You cannot pass,” says he. “But I must pass,” says the emperor. “No,” replies the man, “if you were the little corporal in grey himself you should not go by,” by which, of course, he meant the emperor. Thus the autocrat himself was held in check by order. The vigilant soldier was afterwards handsomely rewarded, and all the world said that he was a brave fellow. Now, from that instance, and there are hundreds of such which are always; told with approbation, we learn that obedience to superior commands, carried out at all hazards, is one of the highest proofs of courage that a man can possibly give; to this the world itself gives its assent. Then surely it is not a mean and sneaking thing for a man to be obedient to Him who is the Commander-in-chief of the universe, the King of kings, and Lord Of lords. He who would do the right and the true thing in cold blood in the teeth of ridicule, is a bolder man than he who flings himself before the cannon’s mouth for fame; ay, and let me add, to persist in scrupulous obedience throughout life may need more courage than even the martyr evinces when once for all he gives himself to burn at the stake.

In Joshua’s case, full obedience to the divine common involved innumerable difficulties. The command to him was, that he should conquer the whole of the land for the favored tribes, and to the best of his ability he did it; but he had to besiege cities which were walled up to heaven, and to fight with monarchs whose warriors came to battle in chariots of iron, armed with scythes. The first conflicts were something terrible. If he had not been a bold and able soldier, he would have put up his sword and desisted from the strife; but the spirit of obedience sustained him. Though you and I have no Hivites and Jebusites to kill, no cities to pull down, no chariots of iron to encounter, yet we shall find it no easy thing to keep to the path of Christian consistency.

Moreover, Joshua had not only difficulties to meet with, but he made a great many enemies through his obedience. This was naturally so. As soon as it was known that Jericho had been taken, that Ai had been carried by assault, then we read of first one confederation of kings, and then of another, their object being to, destroy the power of Joshua, since these kings well knew that he would crush them if they did not crush him. Now, the Christian man is in a like plight. He will be sure to make enemies. It will be one of his objects to make none; but, on the other hand, if to do the right, and to believe the true, and to carry out the honest, should make him lose every earthly friend, he will count it but a small loss, since his great Friend in heaven will be yet more friendly and reveal Himself to him more graciously than ever.

Joshua, in his obedience, needed much courage, because he had undertaken a task which involved, if he carried it out, long years of perseverance. After he had captured one city, he must go on to attack the next fortress. The days were not long enough for his battles. He bids the sun stand still, and the moon is stayed; and even when that long day has passed, yet the morning sees him sword in hand still. Joshua was like one of those old knights who slept in their armor. He was always fighting. His sword must have been well hacked, and often must his armor have been blood-red. He had before him a life-long enterprise. Such is the life of the Christian, a warfare from end to end. As soon as you are washed in Christ’s blood and clothed in His righteousness, you must begin to hew your way through a lane of enemies, right up to the eternal throne. Every foot of the way will be disputed; not an inch will Satan yield to you. You must continue daily to fight. “He that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved”; not the beginner who commences in his own strength, and soon comes to an end, but he who, girt about with divine grace, with the Spirit of God within him, determines to hold on till he has smitten the last foe, and never leaves the battlefield till he has heard the word, “Well done, good and faithful servant!” Let the man who says that the Christian’s life is mean, and devoid of manliness, let him go and learn wisdom before he speaketh; for of all men the persevering believer is the most manly. Thou who boastest of thyself, of thy courage in sinning, thou yieldest to the foe; thou art a cringing car; thou turnest tail upon the enemy; thou courtest the friendship of the world; thou hast not courage enough to dare to do the right and the true; thou hast past under the yoke of Satan and thine own passions, and to conceal thine own cowardice thou art base enough to call the brave Christian man a coward. Out on thee, for adding lying to thine other vices!

Oftentimes, if we follow Christ we shall need to be brave indeed in facing the world’s customs. You will find it so, young man, in a mercantile house. You will find it so, husband, even in connection with your own wife and children, if they are unsaved. Children have found this so in the school. Traders find it so in the market-place. He that would be a true Christian had need wear a stout heart. There is a story told of Dr. Adam Clarke, which shows the courage which the youthful Christian sometimes needs. When he was in a shop in the town of Coleraine, they were preparing for the annual fair, and some rolls of cloth were being measured. One of them was too short, and the master said, “Come, Adam, you take that end, and I will take the other, and we will soon pull it, and stretch it till it is long enough.” But Adam had no hands to do it with, and no ears to hear his master’s dishonest order, and at last he flatly refused, whereupon the master said, “You will never make a tradesman; you are good for nothing here; you had better go home, and take to something else.” Now, that thing may not be done now, for men do not generally cheat in that open downright kind of way nowadays, but they cheat after more roguish fashions. The records of the Bankruptcy Court will tell you what I mean.

Bankruptcies one after another of the same person are doubled-distilled thieving, generally; not old-fashioned thieving like that which once brought men to transportation and to the gallows, but something worse than highway robbery and burglary. The genuine Christian will every now and then have to put his foot down, and say, “No, I cannot, and I will not be mixed up with such a thing as that,” and will have to say this to his master, to his father, to his friend, whose respect he desires to gain, and who may be of the greatest possible assistance to him in life. But if it be your duty, my dear brother and sister, thus to do the right, do it if the skies fall. Do it if poverty should stare you in the face. Do it if you should be turned into the streets to-morrow. You shall never be a loser by God in the long run; and if you have to Suffer for righteousness’ sake, blessed are you! Count yourselves to be happy that you have the privilege of making any sacrifice for the sake of conscience, for in these days we have not the power to honor God as they did who went to prison, and to the rack, and to the stake; let us not, therefore, cast aside other opportunities which are given to us of showing how much we love the Lord, and how faithfully we desire to serve Him. Be very courageous to do what the Lord Jesus bids you in all things, and let men judge you to be an idiot if they will, you shall be one of the Lord’s champions, a true Knight of the Cross.

The world saith, “We must not be too precise.” Hypocritical world! The world means that it would be glad to get rid of God’s law altogether, but as it scarcely dares to say that point-blank, it cants with the most sickening of all cant, “We must not be too particular, or too nice.” As one said to an old Puritan once, “Many people have rent their consciences in halves could not you just make a little nick in yours?” “No,” he said, “I cannot, for my conscience belongs to God.” “We must live, you know,” said a moneyloving shopkeeper, as his excuse for doing what he could not otherwise defend. “Yes, but we must die,” was the reply, “and therefore we must do no such thing.” There is no particular necessity for any of us living. We are probably better dead, if we cannot live without doing wrong.

The very essence of obedience, I have said, lies in exactness. Probably your child, if sometimes disobedient, would still, as a general rule, do what you told him. It would be in the little things that thorough-going and commendable obedience would appear. Let the world judge of this for itself. Here is an honest man. Do people say of him, “He is such an honest man that he would not steal a horse”? No, that would not prove him to be very honest; but they say, “He would not even take a pin that did not belong to him.” That is the world’s own description of honesty, and surely when it comes to obedience to God it ought to be the same. Here is a merchant, and he boasts, “I have a clerk, who is such a good accountant that you would not find a mistake of a single penny in six months’ reckoning.” It would not have meant much if he had said, “You would not find a mistake of ten thousand pounds in six months’ reckoning.” And yet if a man stands to little things, and is minute and particular, worldlings charge him with being too stringent, too strict, too straitlaced, and I know not what besides; while all the time, according to their own showing, the essence of honesty and of correctness is exactness in little things.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘Only be Thou Strong and Very Courageous’

OBEDIENCE

THE path of obedience is generally a middle path. “Turn not from it, to the right hand or to the left.”

There is sure to be a right hand, there is sure to be a left hand, and both are probably wrong. There will be extremes on either side. I believe that this is true in ten thousand things in ordinary life, and also true, in spiritual things in very many respects.

The path of truth in doctrine is generally a middle one. There are certain tremendous truths, such as divine, sovereignty, the doctrine of election, covenant transactions, and so forth; and some men cast such a loving eye upon these truths that they desire to be, and are, quite blind to all other truths besides. These great and precious doctrines take up the whole field of their vision, and another and equally valuable part of God’s Word is either left unread, or else twisted round into some supposed reconciliation with the first-named truths. Then, again, there are others who think much of man. They have deep sympathy with the human race. They see man’s sin and ruin, and they are much charmed with the mercy of God and the invitations of the gospel which are given to sinners, and they become so entranced with these truths in connection with the responsibility of man, and man’s free agency, that they will see nothing else, and declare all other doctrines, except these, to be delusions. If they admit the doctrines of grace to be true, they think them valueless, but they generally consider them to be untrue altogether. It seems to me that the path of truth is to believe them both; to hold firmly that salvation is by grace, and to hold with equal firmness that the ruin of any man is wholly and entirely his own fault; to maintain the sovereignty of God, and to hold the responsibility of man also; to believe in the free agency of both God and man; neither to dishonor God by making Him a lackey to His creatures’ will, nor, on the other hand, to rid man of all responsibility, by making him to be a mere log or a machine. Take all that is in the Bible to be true. Never be afraid of any text that is written by the sacred pen. When you turn the pages over, I do hope you never feel as if you wish that any verse could be altered, I trust you never desire that any text might be amended so as to read a little more Calvinistic, or a little more like the teaching of Armenius. Always stand to it that your creed must bend to the Bible, and not the Bible to your creed, and dare to be a little inconsistent with yourselves, if need be, sooner than be inconsistent with God’s revealed truth.

With regard to our words; the course of speech generally is, on the one hand to say too much, or on the other hand to say too little; to be silent when the wicked are before us, or else to be rash with our lips and betray a good cause through our rashness in defending it. There is a time to speak, and there is a time to be silent, and he that judgeth well will mark his opportunities and take the middle course. He will neither be garrulous with advice that is not required, nor will he be cowardly and dumb when he ought to bear testimony for his Master. The, same holds good with regard to zeal.

Neither to the right hand nor to the left must the Christian turn, with regard to the reliance of his soul, in the matter of his eternal salvation. “None but Jesus” must be the constant watchword of our spirit. Some will call us in this direction, and some in that. The wrecker’s beacons would entice us upon the rocks in a thousand directions, but let us steer by the sun or by the pole-star, and not trust to the treacherous guides of human fancy. Keep close to this, that “other foundation can no man lay than that which is laid, Jesus Christ the righteous.”

So in the matter of faith itself, let us keep the middle place. Let us not be as some are — presumptuous, and refusing to examine themselves, declaring that they must be right. Let us remember that

He who never doubted of his state,

He may — perhaps he may too late.”

Let us not fall, on the other side, into constant doubting, imagining that we never can be fully assured, but must always be raising the question —

“‘Tis a point I long to know,

Oft it causes anxious thought;

Do I love the Lord or no?

Am I His, or am I not?”

Let us ask God to guide us into the middle path, wherein we can say, “I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that He is able to keep that which I have committed unto Him until that day”; careful, watchful, prayerful, as much as if our salvation depended upon our own vigilance; relying upon the sure promise, and the immutable oath, knowing that we stand in Christ, and not in ourselves, and are kept by the mighty God of Jacob, and not by any power of our own. This middle path, wherein we turn not to the right hand of presumption, nor to the left hand of unbelief, is the path which God would have us tread.

This rule, too, for I might continue to apply it in scores of ways, will also hold good with you in your daily life in the matter of your general cheerfulness or otherwise. Some people never smile. Dear souls! They pull the blinds down on Sunday. They are sorry that the flowers are so beautiful, and think that they ought to have been whitewashed; they almost believe that if the garden beds were of a little more serious color it would be advisable.

Let no man be deceived with the idea that if he carries out the right, by God’s grace he will prosper in this world as the consequence. It is very likely that, for a time at least, his conscientiousness will stand in the way of his prosperity. God does not invariably make the doing of the right to be the means of pecuniary gain to us. On the contrary, it frequently happens that for a time men are great losers by their obedience to Christ. But the Scripture always speaks as to the long run; it sums up the whole of life — there it promises true riches. If thou wouldst prosper, keep close to the Word of God, and to thy conscience, and thou shalt have the best prosperity. Thou wilt not see it in a week, nor a month, nor a year, but thou shalt enjoy it ere long. Hundreds have I seen, and I speak within bounds when I speak of that number, who in different times of dilemma have waited upon me, and asked my advice as to what they should do. I have almost always noticed that those persons who temporize, or attempt to find out a policy of going between, and doing as little wrong as possible, but still just a little, always blunder out of one ditch into another, and their whole life is a life of compromises, of sins, and of miseries; if they do get to heaven they go there slipshod, and with thorns piercing their feet all the way. But I have noticed others who have come right straight out, and rent away the cords which entangled them, and they have said, “I will do the right, if I die for it”; and though they have had to suffer (I could mention some cases where they have suffered for years, very much to the sorrow of him who gave them the advice upon which they acted, not because he regretted giving them the advice, but regretted that they had to suffer), yet always there has been a turn somewhere or other, and by-and-by they have had to say, “I thank God, after all, notwithstanding all my crosses and losses, that I was led to be faithful to my convictions, for I am a happier man, if not a richer man.” In some cases they have absolutely been richer men, for after all, even in this world, “honesty is the best policy.” It is a very low way of looking at it, but right and righteousness do in the end, in the long run, get the respect and the esteem of men. The thief, though he takes a short way to get rich, yet takes such a dangerous way that it does not pay; but he who walks straight along the narrow road shall find it to be the shortest way to the best kind of prosperity, both in this world and in that which is to come.

One good brother, whose shoe-latchet I am not worthy to unloose, said, on one occasion, that when he went up the Rhine, he never looked at the rocks, or the old castles, or the flowing river, he was so taken up with other things! Why, to me, nature is a looking-glass in which I see the face of God. I delight to gaze abroad, and

Look through nature up to nature’s God.”

But that was; all unholiness to him. I confess I do not understand that kind of thing; I have no sympathy with those who look upon this material world as though it were a very wicked place, and as if there were here no trace whatever of the Divine hand, and no proofs of the Divine wisdom, nor manifestations of the Divine care. I think we may delight ourselves in the works of God, and find much pleasure therein, and get much advanced towards God Himself by considering His works. That to which I have thus referred is one extreme. There are others who are all froth and levity, who profess to be Christians, and yet cannot live without the same amusements as worldlings; must be now at this party, and then at that; never comfortable unless they are making jokes, and following after all the levities and frivolities of the world. Ah! The first is a pardonable weakness, in which there is much that is commendable, but this is a detestable one, of which I can say nothing that is good. The Christian, I think, should steer between the two. He should be cheerful, but not frivolous. He should be sustained and happy under all circumstances; have a friendly and a kindly word for all, and be a man among men as the Savior was, willing to sit at the banquet, and to feast and rejoice with those that do rejoice; but still heavenly-minded in it all, feeling that a joy in which he cannot have Christ with him is no joy, and that places of amusement where he cannot take his Lord with him are no places of amusement, but scenes of misery to him. He should be constantly cheerful, happy, and rejoicing, and yet at the same time he should evince a deep solemnity of spirit which removes far from him everything that is sacrilegiously light and trifling.

By the same rule, arrange your business. Some men in business act in such a way that from morning till night they can think of nothing but business. I have had to mourn over some Christians who, when they have had enough, did not know it — when they were doing as much as they could do with health to their souls, and had no more need of gain, yet they must needs launch out into something else that would take away all opportunities of serving God’s cause, and all time for reflection and thought, and that would thus bring barrenness and leanness into their souls. Others we have to complain of, who do not work enough at their callings. They are at a sermon when they ought to be behind the counter, or they are enjoying a prayer-meeting when they ought to be mending their husbands’ stockings. They go out preaching in the villages when they had better be earning; money to pay their creditors. There are extremes, but the true Christian is diligent in business, and is also fervent in spirit, seeking to combine the two. The believer would be like one of old, “a just man and devout,” not having one duty smeared with the blood of another duty.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘Obedience’

WORKERS WHO ARE SUCCESSFUL

HOW is it likely,” says one, “that we can hope to make an impression upon the present age? What means have we but the simple gospel of Jesus Christ?” We are certainly not among the wealthy, and we count not amongst us the great ones of the land. Our membership has always been, and still is, among the poor. How shall we expect to tell upon so huge a city as this, or to exert any influence upon so great a country; and, above all, how shall we make any impress upon the population of the whole globe? We are weak, but we are not weaker than the first disciples of Christ. Neither were they learned, nor were they the wealthy of the earth: fishermen, the most of them, by no means men of cultivated ability — their tramp was that of a legion that went forth to conquer as well as to fight.

Wherever they went and wielded the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God, their enemies were put to confusion. It is true they died in the conflict. Some of them were slain by the sword, and others of them were rent in sunder by wild beasts; but in all these things they were more than conquerors through Him that loved them. The primitive Church did tell upon its age, and left a seed behind which the whole earth could not destroy; and so shall we by God’s grace if we are equally set upon it, equally filled with the divine life, equally resolved by any means and by all means to spread abroad the savor of Jesus Christ’s name; our weakness shall be our strength, for God shall make it to be the platform upon which the omnipotence of His grace shall be displayed. Keep together, keep close to Christ; close up your ranks. Heed the battle cry; hold fast the faith; quit yourselves like men in the conflict, and the gates of hall shall not prevail against you. Only may the King Himself lead us onward to the fray, and we shall not fear the result.

If we pant to see the Word of God increase, multitudes added to the disciples, and a great company of those who are least likely to be saved brought in, there must be an adequate instrumentality. Nothing can avail without the operation of the Holy Spirit and the smile from heaven. Paul planteth, Apollos watereth, and God giveth the increase. We must never begin our catalogue of outward means without referring to that blessed and mysterious potentate who abides in the Church, and without whom nothing is good, nothing efficient, nothing successful.

Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly dove,

With all Thy quickening powers.”

This should be our first prayer whenever we attempt to serve God, for if not, we begin with pride, and can little hope to succeed by prowess. If we go the warfare at our own charges we must not marvel if we return stained with defeat. O Spirit of the living God, if it were not for Thy power we could not make the attempt, but when we rely upon Thee we go forward in confidence.

I have been struck lately, in looking through the history of the Reformation and of the times; before the Reformation, with the remarkable downrightness of the testimony of the early preachers, If you look at the life of Farren you find him not preaching about the gospel, but preaching the gospel. So it was with John Calvin. He is looked upon now, of course, as a theologian only, but he was really one of the greatest of gospel preachers. When Calvin opened the Book and took a text, you might be sure that he was about to preach “Through grace are ye saved, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” And it was the same with Luther. Luther’s preaching was just the ringing of a big bell, the note of which was always, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and live! It is not of works, lest any man should boast, but by faith are ye saved, and by faith alone.” They spake this, and they spake it again; neither did they couch the doctrine in difficult words, but they labored with all their might, so to speak, that the plowman at the plow-tail should understand, and that the fish-wife should comprehend the truth. They did not aim at lofty periods and flowing eloquence; of rhetoric they had a most contemptible opinion, but they just dashed right on with this one truth, “He that believeth hath everlasting life;” “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved.” If we are to see the Church of God really restored to her pristine glory, we must have back this plain, simple, gospel preaching. I do believe that the hiding of the cross beneath the veil of fine language and learned dissertation is half the cause of the spiritual destitution of our country. Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners.

We must have not only plain preaching but plain teaching. Sunday-school teachers must teach this same gospel. A certain denomination has made the confession that after having had their schoolrooms crowded with children, they do not know that any of those children have afterwards come to be attendants at the places of worship. Miserable confession! Miserable teachers must they be! And have we not known teachers who believed in the doctrines of grace, and they would have fought earnestly for them, but in the schoolroom they have twaddled to the little children in this kind of way — “Be good boys and girls; keep the Sabbath; do not buy sweets on a Sunday; mind your fathers and your mothers; be good, and you will go to heaven!” — which is not true, and is not the gospel; for the same gospel is for little children as for grown-up men — not “Do this and live,” which is after the law that was given by Moses, but “Believe and live,” which is according to the grace and truth that came by Jesus Christ. Teachers must inculcate the gospel if they are to see the salvation of their classes; the gospel, the whole gospel, and nothing but the gospel, for without this no great thing will be done.

And if we would see the gospel spread abroad in London as once it did in Geneva, as once, under John Knox, it died in Scotland, as it did in Luther’s day throughout Germany, we must have much holy living to back it all up. After we have done the sermon, people say, “How about the people that attend there? What about the church-members, are they upright? Are they such people as you can trust? What about their homes? Do they make good husbands? Are they good servants? Are they kind masters?” People will be sure to inquire this, and if the report of our character be bad, it is all over with our testimony. The doctor may advertise, but if the patients are not cured, he is not likely to establish himself as being well skilled in his art; and the preacher may preach, but if his people do not love the gospel, they kick down with their feet what he builds up with his hands.

Yet all this would not suffice unless we add individual personal exertion. According to Christ’s law, every Christian is to be a minister in his own sphere; every member of the Church is to be active in spreading the faith which was delivered not to the ministers, but delivered to the saints, to every one of them, that they might maintain it and spread it according to the gift which the Spirit has given them.

Shall I venture a parable? A certain band of men, like knights, had been exceedingly victorious in all their conflicts. They were men of valor and of indomitable courage; they had carried everything before them, and subdued province after province for their king. But on a sudden they said in the council-chamber, “We have at our head a most valiant warrior, one whose arm is stout enough to smite down fifty of his adversaries; would it not be better if, with a few such as he to go out to the fight, the mere men-at-arms who make up the ordinary ranks, were to stop at home? We should be much more at our ease; our horses would not so often be covered with foam, nor our armor be bruised in returning from the fray, and no doubt great things would be done.” Now, the foremost champions, with fear and trembling, undertook the task and went to the conflict, and they fought well, no one could doubt it; to the best of their ability they unhorsed their foe and they did great exploits. But still, from the very hour in which that scheme was planned and carried out, no city was taken, no province was conquered, and they met together and said, “How is this? Our former prestige is forgotten; our ranks are broken; our pennons are trailed in the dust; what is the cause of it?” When out spoke the champion, and said, “Of course it is so! How did you think that some twelve or fifteen of us could do the work of all the thousands? When you all went to the fight, and every man took his share, we dashed upon the foe like an avalanche, and crushed him beneath our tramp; but now that you stay at home and put us, but a handful, to do all the work, how can you expect that great things should be done?” So each man resolved to put on his helmet and his armor once again, and go to the battle, and so victory returned. We must not spare a single one, neither man nor woman, old nor young, rich nor poor, but you must each fight for the Lord Jesus according to your ability, and that His kingdom may come, and that His will may be done upon earth even as it is in heaven.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘Workers Who Are Successful’

ANGELS VISIT SODOM

EVERY believer should be an ambassador from heaven. “As My Father hath sent Me,” said the Well-beloved, “even so send I you.” You are sent to gather together the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and, like your Master, to seek and to save that which is lost. I speak solemnly to you who have wept over Jerusalem, and who are proving your true love to souls by your exertions for them, and I remind you that it is a glorious work to seek to save men, and that for its sake you should be willing to put up with the greatest possible inconveniences.

The angels never hesitated when they were bidden to go to Sodom. They descended without demur and went about their work without delay. Although the report of Sodom’s detestable iniquity had gone up to heaven, and the Lord would bear no longer with that filthy city, yet, from the purity of heaven, the angels did not hesitate to descend to behold the infamy of Sodom; where God sent them, they failed not to go. “There came two angels to Sodom at even.” What, angels? Did angels come to Sodom? To Sodom, and yet angels? Ay, and none the less angelic because they came to Sodom, but all the more so, because in unquestioning obedience to their Master’s high behests they sought out the elect one and his family, to deliver him and his from impending destruction. However near to Christ you may be, however much your character may be like that of your Lord, you who are called to such service, must never say, “I cannot talk to these people, they are so depraved and debased; I cannot enter that haunt of sin to tell of Jesus; I sicken at the thought; its associations are altogether too revolting to my feelings; but, because you are there wanted, men of God, you must there be found. To whom should the physician go but to the sick, and where can the distributor of the alms of mercy find such a fitting sphere as among those whose spiritual destitution is extreme. Be ye angels of mercy each one of you, and God speed you in your soul-saving work. As ye have received Christ Jesus into your hearts, so imitate Him in your lives. Let the woman that is a sinner receive of your kindness, for Jesus looked on her with mercy; let the man who has been most mad with wickedness be sought after, for Jesus healed demoniacs; let no type of sin, however terrible, be thought by you to be beneath your pity, or beyond your labor, but seek ye out those who have wandered farthest, and snatch from the flame the firebrands which are already smoking in it.

When you go to lost souls, you must, as these angels did, tell them plainly their condition and their danger. “Up,” said they, “for God will destroy this place.” If you really long to save men’s souls, you must tell them a great deal of disagreeable truth. The preaching of the wrath of God has come to be sneered at nowadays, and even good people are half-ashamed of it; a maudlin sentimentality about love and goodness has hushed, in great measure, plain gospel expostulations and warnings. But, if we expect souls to be saved, we must declare unflinchingly with all affectionate fidelity, the terrors of the Lord. “Well,” said the Scotch lad, when he listened to the minister who told his congregation that there was no hell, or at any rate only a temporary punishment, “Well,” said he, “I need not come and hear this man any longer, for if it be as he says, it is all right, and religion is of no consequence, and if it be not as he says, then I must not hear him again, because he will deceive me.” “Therefore,” says the apostle, “Knowing the terrors of the Lord we persuade men.” Let not modern squeamishness prevent plain speaking. Are we to be more gentle than the apostles? Shall we be wiser than the inspired preachers of the word? Until we feel our minds overshadowed with the dread thought of the sinner’s doom we are not in a fit frame for preaching to the unconverted. We shall never persuade men if we are afraid to speak of the judgment and the condemnation of the unrighteous. None so infinitely gracious as our Lord Jesus Christ, yet no preacher ever uttered more faithful words of thunder than He did. It was He who spoke of the place “where their worm dieth not and their fire is not quenched.” It was He who said, “These shall go away into everlasting punishment.” It was He who spake the parable concerning that man in hell who longed for a drop of water to cool his tongue. We must be as plain as Christ was, as downright in honesty to the souls of men, or we may be called to account for our treachery at the last. If we flatter our fellows into fond dreams as to the littleness of future punishment, they will eternally detest us for so deluding them, and in the world of woe they will invoke perpetual curses upon us for having prophesied smooth things, and having withheld from them the awful truth.

When we have affectionately and plainly told the sinner that the wages of sin will be death, and that woe will come because of his unbelief, we must go farther, and must in the name of our Lord Jesus, exhort the guilty to escape from the deserved destruction. The angels, though they understood that God had elected Lot to be saved, did not omit a single exhortation or leave the work to itself, as though it were to be done by predestination apart from instrumentality. They said, “Arise, take thy wife and thy two daughters which are here, lest thou be consumed.” How impressive is each admonition! What force and eagerness of love gleams in each entreaty! “Escape for thy life; look not behind thee; neither stay thou in all the plain; escape to the mountain, lest thou be consumed.” Every word is quick and powerful decisive and to the point. Souls want much earnest expostulation and affectionate exhortation to constrain them to escape from their own ruin. Were they wise, the bare information of their danger would be enough, and the prospect of a happy escape would be sufficient; but they, as they are utterly unwise, as you and I know, for we were once such as they are, they must be urged, persuaded, and entreated to look to the Crucified that they may be saved. We should never have come to Christ unless divine constraint had been laid upon us, neither will they; that constraint usually comes by instrumentality; let us seek to be such instruments. If it had not been for earnest voices that spoke to us, and earnest teachers that beckoned us to come to the cross, we had never come. Let us therefore repay the debt we owe to the Church of God, and seek as much as lieth in us to do unto others as God in His mercy hath done to us. Be active to persuade men with all your powers of reasoning and argument, salting the whole with tears of affection. Do not let any doctrinal notions stand in the way of the freest persuading when you are dealing with the minds of men, for sound doctrine is perfectly reconcilable therewith.

I recollect great complaint being made against a sermon of mine, “Compel them to come in,” in which I spake with much tenderness for souls. That sermon was said to be Armenian and unsound. It is a small matter to me to be judged of men’s judgment, for my Master set His seal on that message; I never preached a sermon by which so many souls were won to God, as our church meetings can testify; and all over the world, where the sermon has been scattered, sinners have been saved through its instrumentality, and, therefore, if it be vile to exhort sinners, I purpose to be viler still. I am as firm a believer in the doctrines of grace as any man living, and a true Calvinist after the order of John Calvin himself; but if it be thought an evil thing to bid the sinner lay hold on eternal life, I will be yet more evil in this respect, and herein imitate my Lord and His apostles, who, though they taught that salvation is of grace, and grace alone, feared not to speak to men as rational beings and responsible agents, and bid them “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” and “labor not for the meat which perisheth, but for that meat which endureth unto everlasting life.” Cling to the great truth of electing love and divine sovereignty, but let not these bind you in fetters when, in the power of the Holy Ghost, you become fishers of men.

Where words suffice not, as they frequently will not, you must adopt other modes of pressure. The angel took them by the hand. I have much faith under God in close dealings with men; personal entreaties, by the power of the Holy Spirit, do wonders. To grasp a man’s hand while you speak with him may be wise and helpful, for sometimes, if you can get one by the hand and show your anxiety by pleading with him, God will bless it. It is well to cast your words, as men drop pebbles into a well, right down into the depth of the soul, quietly, solemnly, when the man is alone. Often is such a means effectual where the preacher with his sermon has labored in vain. If you cannot win men by words, you must say to yourself, “What can I do?” and go to the Lord with the same inquiry. By the pertinacity of your earnestness you must trouble them into thoughtfulness. As by continual coming the woman wearied the unjust judge, so do you by your continual anxiety and perseverance weary them in their sins till they will fain give you a little heed in order, if possible, to be rid of you, if for nothing else. If you cannot reach them because they will not read the Bible, yet you can thrust a good book in their way, which may say to them what you cannot say; you can write them a letter, short but earnest, and tell them how you feel; you can continue in prayer for them; you can stir up the arm of God, and beseech the Most High to come to the rescue. There have been cases in which, when everything else has failed, a tear, a tear of disappointed love, has done the work. I think it was Mr. Knill who, one day, when distributing tracts amongst the soldiers, was met by a man who cursed him, and said to his fellow soldiers, “Make a ring round him, and I will stop his tract distributing once for all,” and then he uttered such fearful oaths and curses that Knill, who could not escape, burst into a flood of tears. Years afterwards, when he was preaching in the streets, a grenadier came up and said, “Mr. Knill, do you know me?” “No, I do not,” said he, “I don’t know that I ever saw you.” “Do you recollect the soldier who said, ‘Make a ring round him and stop his tract-distributing,’ and do you recollect what you did?” “No, I do not.” “Why, you broke into tears, and when I got home those tears melted my heart, for I saw you were so in earnest, that I fell ashamed of myself, and now I preach myself that same Jesus whom once I despised.” Oh that you might have such a strong love for perishing sinners that you will put up with their rebuffs and rebukes, and say to them, “Strike me if you will, but hear me; ridicule me, but still I will plead with you; cast me under your feet as though I were the off-scouring of all things, but at any rate, I will not let you perish, if it be in my power to warn you of your danger.”

We ought to remember that we are the messengers of God’s mercy to the sons of men. “The Lord being merciful unto him.” The angels had not come to Lot of themselves; they were the embodiment and outward display of God’s mercy. Christians in the world should view themselves as manifestations of God’s mercy to sinners, instruments of grace, servants of the Holy Spirit. Now mercy is a nimble attribute. Justice lingers; it is shod with lead, but the feet of mercy are winged. Mercy delights to perform its office. So should it be with us a delight to do good to men. God can save men without instruments, but He very seldom does it. His usual rule is to work by means. Oh that the mercy of God would work mightily by us! Let us remember, as we mingle with society, that God has committed to us the ministry of reconciliation. If angels were sent upon this ministry, surely they would be incessantly active; they would fly with all their might from place to place to do the Lord’s will; shall we who are honored in this be less active than they? As much as lieth in us, let us redeem the time, because the days are evil; let us be instant in season and out of season, let us sow beside all waters, and let it be our earnest endeavor to make full proof of our service, whatever that service may be, that at last it may be said, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant thou hast been faithful over a few things, I will make thee ruler over many things.”

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘Angels Visit Sodom’

AN EARNEST MAN

HALF-A-DOZEN words from a tender mother to a boy who is just leaving home for an apprenticeship, may drop like gentle dew from heaven upon him. A few sentences from a kind and prudent father given to the daughter, still unconverted, as she enters upon her married life, and to her husband, kindly and affectionately put, may make that household for ever a house of God. A kind word dropped by a brother to a sister, a little letter written from a sister to her brother, though it should be only a line or two, may be God’s arrow of grace. I have known even such little things as a tear or an anxious glance work wonders.

You perhaps may have heard the story of Mr. Whitefield, who made it his wont wherever he stayed to talk to the members of the household about their souls — with each one personally; but stopping at a certain house with a Colonel, who was all that could be wished except a Christian, he was so pleased with the hospitality he received and so charmed with the general character of the good Colonel and his wife and daughters, that he did not like to speak to them about decision as he would have done if they had been less amiable characters. He had stopped with them for a week, and during the last night, the Spirit of God visited him so that he could not sleep. “These people,” said he, “have been very kind to me, and I have not been faithful to them; I must do it before I go; I must tell them that whatever good thing they have, if they do not believe in Jesus they are lost.” He arose and prayed. After praying he still felt contention in his spirit. His old nature said, “I cannot do it,” but the Holy Spirit seemed to say, “Leave them not without warning.” At last he thought of a device, and prayed God to accept it; he wrote upon a diamond-shaped pane of glass in the window with his ring these words: — “One thing thou lackest.” He could not bring himself to speak to them, but went his way with many a prayer for their conversion. He had no sooner gone than the good woman of the house, who was a great admirer of him, said, “I will go up to his room: I like to look at the very place where the man of God has been.” She went up and noticed on the window-pane those words, “One thing thou lackest.” It struck her with conviction in a moment. “Ah!” said she, “I thought he did not care much about us, for I knew he always pleaded with those with whom he stopped, and when I found that he did not do so with us, I thought we had vexed him: but I see how it was; he was too tender in mind to speak to us.” She called her daughters up. “Look there, girls!” said she, “see what Mr. Whitefield has written on the window! ‘One thing thou lackest.’ Call up your father.” And the father came up and read that too, “One thing thou lackest!” and around the bed whereon the man of God had slept they all knelt down and sought that God would give them the one thing they lacked, and ere they left that chamber they had found that one thing, and the whole household rejoiced in Jesus.

It is not long ago since I met with a friend, one of whose church members preserves that very pane of glass in her family as an heirloom. Now, if you cannot admonish and warn in one way, do it in another: but take care to clear your soul of the blood of your relatives and friends, so that it may never crimson your skirts and accuse you before God’s bar. So live and so speak and teach, by some means or other, that you shall have been faithful to God and faithful to the souls of men.

Earnestness often gives prudence, and puts a man in the possession of tact, if not of talent. Andrew used what ability he had. If he had been as some young men are of my acquaintance, he, would have said, “I should like to serve God. How I should like to preach! And I should require a large congregation.” Well, there is a pulpit in every street in London, there is a most wide and effectual door for preaching in this great city of ours beneath God’s blue sky. But this young zealot would rather prefer an easier berth than the open air; and because he is not invited to the largest pulpits, does nothing. How much better it would be if, like Andrew, he began to use the ability he had among those who are accessible to him, and from that stepped to something else, and from that to something else, advancing year by year! If Andrew had not been the means of converting his brother, the probabilities are that he never would have been an apostle.

Christ had some reason in the choice of His apostles to their office, and perhaps the ground of His choice of Andrew as an apostle was this: “He is an earnest man,” said He, “he brought me Simon Peter; he is always speaking privately to individuals; I will make an apostle of him.” Young men, if you become diligent in tract distribution, diligent in the Sundayschool, you are likely men to be made into ministers; but if you stop and do nothing until you can do everything, you will remain useless — an impediment to the Church instead of being a help to her. Dear sisters in Jesus Christ, you must none of you dream that you are in a position in which you can do nothing at all. That were such a mistake in providence as God cannot commit. You must have some talent entrusted to you, and something given you to do which no one else can do. Find out, then, what your sphere is, and occupy it. Ask God to tell you what is your niche, and stand in it, occupying the place till Jesus Christ shall come and give you your reward. Use what ability you have, and use it at once.

Andrew proved his wisdom in that he set great store by a single soul. He bent all his efforts at first upon one man. Afterwards, Andrew, through the Holy Spirit, was made useful to scores, but he began with one. What a task for the arithmetician, to value one soul! One soul sets all heaven’s bells ringing by its repentance. One sinner that repenteth maketh angels rejoice. What if you spend a whole life pleading and laboring for the conversion of that one child? If you win that pearl it shall pay you your life worth. Be not therefore dull and discouraged because your class declines in numbers, or because the mass of those with whom you labor reject your testimony. If a man could earn but one in a day he might be satisfied. “One what?” saith one. I meant not one penny, but one thousand pounds. “Ah,” say you, “that would be an immense reward.” So if you earn but one soul you must reckon what that one is; it is one for numeration, but for value it exceeds all that earth could show. What would it profit a man if he gained the whole world and lost his soul? And what loss would it be to you, if you did lose all the world, and gained your soul, and God made you useful in the gaining of the souls of others? Be content, and labor in your sphere, even if it be small, and you will be wise.

You may imitate Andrew in not going far afield to do good. Many Christians do all the good they can five miles off from their own house, when the time they take to go there and back might be well spent in the vineyard at home. I do not think it would be a wise regulation of the parochial authorities if they required the inhabitants of St. Mary, Newington, to remove the snow from the pavement of St. Pancras, and the inhabitants of St. Pancras to keep clean the pavement of St. Mary, Newington. It is best and most convenient that each householder should sweep before his own door; so it is our duty to do, as believers, all the good we can in the place where God has been pleased to locate us, and especially in our own households. If every man has a claim upon me, much more my own offspring. If every woman has some demand upon me as to her soul, so far as my ability goes, much more such as are of my own flesh and blood. Piety must begin at home as well as charity. Conversion should begin with those who are nearest to us in ties of relationship. I stir you up, not to be attempting missionary labors for India, not to be casting eyes of pity across to Africa, not to be occupied so much with tears for popish and heathen lands, as for your own children, your own flesh and blood, your own neighbors, your own acquaintance. Lift up your cry to heaven for them, and then afterwards you shall preach among the nations. Andrew goes to Cappadocia in his after-life, but he begins with his brother; and you shall labor where you please in years to come, but first of all your own household, first of all those who are under your own shadow must receive your guardian care. Be wise in this thing; use the ability you have, and use it amongst those who are near at hand.

Perhaps somebody will be saying, “How did Andrew persuade Simon Peter to come to Christ?” He did so, first, by narrating his own personal experience: he said, “We have found the Messiah.” What you have experienced of Christ tell to others. He did so next by intelligently explaining to him what it was he had found. He did not say he had found some one who had impressed him, but he knew not who he was; he told him he had found the Messiah, that is, Christ. Be clear in your knowledge of the gospel and your experience of it, and then tell the good news to those whose soul you seek. Andrew had power over Peter because of his own decided conviction. He did not say, “I hope I have found Christ,” but, “I have found him.” He was sure of that. Get full assurance of your own salvation. There is no weapon like it. He that speaks doubtingly of what he would convince another, asks that other to doubt his testimony. Be positive in your experience and your assurance, for this will help you.

Andrew had power over Peter because he put the good news before him in an earnest fashion. He did not say to him, as though it were a commonplace fact, “The Messiah has come,” but no, he communicated it to him as the most weighty of all messages with becoming tones and gestures, I doubt not, “We have found the Messiah, which is called Christ.” To your own kinsfolk tell your belief, your enjoyments, and your assurance, tell all judiciously, with assurance of the truth of it, and who can tell whether God may not bless your work?

Andrew won a soul, won his brother’s soul, won such a treasure! He won no other than that Simon, who at the first cast of the gospel net, when Christ had made him a soul-fisherman, caught three thousand souls at a single haul! Peter, a very prince in the Christian Church, one of the mightiest of the servants of the Lord in all his usefulness, would be a comfort to Andrew. I should not wonder but what Andrew would say in days of doubt and fear, “Blessed be God that He has made Peter so useful! Blessed be God that ever I spoke to Peter! What I cannot do, Peter will help to do; and while I sit down in my helplessness, I can feel thankful that my dear brother Peter is honored in bringing souls to Christ.” Your fingers are yet to wake to ecstasy the living lyre of a heart that up till now has not been tuned to the praise of Christ; you are to kindle the fire which shall light up a sacred sacrifice of a consecrated life to Christ. Only be up and doing for the Lord Jesus, be importunate and prayerful, be zealous and self-sacrificing. I make no doubt of it, that, when we have proved our God by prayer, He will pour down such a blessing that. We shall not have room to receive it.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Counsel for Christian Workers, ‘An Earnest Man’

 

ON HALTING BETWEEN TWO OPINIONS

MOST of the people who were before Elijah thought that Jehovah was God, and that Baal was god too; and that for this reason the worship of both was quite consistent. The great mass of them did not reject the God of their fathers wholly, nor did they bow before Baal wholly; but as polytheists, believing in many gods, they thought both Gods might be worshipped, and each of them have a share in their hearts. “No,” said the prophet when he began, “this will not do, these are two opinions; you can never make them one, they are two contradictory things which cannot be combined. I tell you that instead of combining the two, which is impossible, you are halting between the two, which makes a vast difference.” “I will build in my house,” said one of them, “an altar for Jehovah here, and an altar for Baal there. I am of one opinion; I believe them both to be God.” “No, no,” said Elijah, “it cannot be so; they are two, and must be two. These things are not one but two opinions. No, you cannot unite them.” Many say, “I am worldly, but I am religious too; I can go to worship God on Sunday; I went to the Derby the other day: I go, on the one hand, to the place where I can serve my lusts; I am to be met within every dancing room of every description, and yet at the same time I say my prayers most devoutly. May I not be a good Churchman, or a right good Dissenter, and a man of the world too? May I not, after all, hold with the hounds as well as run with the hare? May I not love God and serve the devil too — take the pleasure of each of them, and give my heart to neither?” We answer, “Not so, they are two opinions; you cannot do it, they are distinct and separate.”

Mark Antony yoked two lions to his chariot; but there are two lions no man ever yoked together yet — the Lion of the tribe of Judah and the lion of the pit. These can never go together. Two opinions you may hold in politics, perhaps, but then you will be despised by everybody, unless you are of one opinion or the other, and act as an independent man. But two opinions in the matter of soul-religion you cannot hold. If God be God, serve Him, and do it thoroughly; but if this world be God, serve it, and make no profession of religion. If you think the things of the world the best, serve them; devote yourself to them, spite your conscience, and run into sin. But remember, if the Lord be your God, you cannot have Baal too; you must have one thing or else the other. “No man can serve two masters.” If God be served, He will be a master; and if the devil be served he will not be long before he will be a master; and “ye cannot serve two masters.”

Oh! be wise, and think not that the two can be mingled together. How many a respectable deacon thinks that he can be covetous, and grasping in business, and grind the faces of the poor, and yet be a saint! Oh! Liar to God and to man! He is no saint; he is the very chief of sinners! How many a very excellent woman, who is received into Church fellowship amongst the people of God, and thinks herself one of the elect, is to be found full of wrath and bitterness — a slave of mischief and of sin, a tattler, a slanderer, a busybody; entering into other people’s houses, and turning everything like comfort out of the minds of those with whom she comes in contact — and yet she is the servant of God and of the devil too! Nay, my lady, this will never answer; the two never can be served thoroughly. Serve your master, whoever he be. If you do profess to be religious, be so thoroughly; if you make any profession to be a Christian be one; but if you are no Christian, do not pretend to be. If you love the world, then love it; but cast off the mask, and do not be a hypocrite.

The double-minded man is of all men the most despicable; the follower of Janus, who wears two faces, and who can look with one eye upon the (socalled) Christian world with great delight, and give his subscription to the Tract Society, the Bible Society, and the Missionary Society, but who has another eye over there, with which he looks at the Casino, the Cole-hole, and other pleasures, which I do not care to mention, but which some may know more of than I wish to know. Such a man is worse than the most reprobate in the opinion of anyone who knows how to judge. Not worse in his open character, but worse really, because he is not honest enough to go through with that he professes.

Tom Loker, in “Uncle Tom,” was pretty near the mark when he shut the mouth of Haley, the slaveholder, who professed religion, with the following common sense remark: — “I can stand most any talk of yours, but your pious talk — that kills me right up. After all, what’s the odds between me and you? ‘Tain’t that you care one bit more or have a bit more feelin’ — its clean, sheer, dog meanness, wanting to cheat the devil and save your own skin; don’t I see through it? And your getting religious, as you call it, after all, is a deal too mean for me, run up a bill with the devil all your life, and then sneak out when pay time comes.” And how many do the same everyday in London, in England; everywhere else! They try to serve both masters; but it cannot be; the two things cannot be reconciled; God and Mammon, Christ and Belial, these never can meet; there never can be an agreement between them, they never can be brought into unity, and why should you seek to do it? “Two opinions,” said the prophet. He would not allow any of his hearers to profess to worship both. “No,” said he, “these are two opinions, and you are halting between the two.”

It was a day to be remembered when the multitudes of Israel were assembled at the foot of Carmel, and when the solitary prophet of the Lord came forth to defy the four hundred and fifty priests of the false god. We might look upon that scene with the eye of historical curiosity, and we should find it rich with interest. Instead of so doing, however, we shall look upon it with the eye of attentive consideration, and see whether we cannot improve by its teachings. We have upon that hill of Carmel and along the plain three kinds of persons. We have first the devoted servant of Jehovah, a solitary prophet; we have, on the other hand, the decided servants of the evil one, the four hundred and fifty prophets of Baal; but the vast mass of that day belonged to a third class — they were those who had not fully determined whether fully to worship Jehovah, the God of their fathers, or Baal, the god of Jezebel. On the one hand, their ancient traditions led them to fear Jehovah, and on the other hand, their interest at court led them to bow before Baal. Many of them, therefore, were secret and half-hearted followers of Jehovah, while they were the public worshippers of Baal. The whole of them at this juncture were halting between two opinions. Elijah does not address his sermon to the priests of Baal; he will have something to say to them by-and-by, he will preach them horrible sermons in deeds of blood. Nor has he aught to say to those who are the thorough servants of Jehovah, for they are not there; but his discourse is alone directed to those who are halting between two opinions.

Now,” says the prophet, “if the Lord be God, follow Him. Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions; if you believe the Lord to be God, carry it out in your daily life; be holy, be prayerful, trust in Christ, be faithful, be upright, be loving; give your whole heart to God and follow Him. If Baal be God, then follow him; but do not pretend to follow the other.” Let your conduct back up your opinion; if you really think that the follies of this world are the best, and believe that a fine fashionable life, a life of frivolity and gaiety, flying from flower to flower, getting honey from none, is the most desirable, carry it out. If you think the life of the debauchee is so very desirable, if you think his end is to be much wished for, if you think his pleasures are right, follow them. Go the whole way with them. If you believe that to cheat in business is right, put it up over your door — “I sell trickery goods here;” or if you do not say it to the public, tell your conscience so; but do not deceive the public. If you mean to be religious, follow out your determination thoroughly; but if you mean to be worldly, go the whole way with the world. Let your conduct follow out your opinions. Make your life tally with your profession. Carry out your opinions whatever they be. But you dare not; you are too cowardly to sin as others do, honestly before God’s sun; your conscience will not let you.

How long halt ye between two opinions?” Ye middle aged men, ye said when ye were youths, “When we are out of our apprenticeship we will become religious; let us sow our wild oats in our youth, and let us then begin to be diligent servants of the Lord.” Lo! Ye have come to middle age, and are waiting till that quiet villa shall be built, and ye shall retire from business, and then ye think ye will serve God. Sirs, ye said the same when ye came of age, and when your business began to increase. I therefore solemnly demand of you, “How long halt ye between two opinions?” How much time do you want? Oh! Young man, thou saidst in thine early childhood, when a mother’s prayer followed thee, “I will seek God when I come to manhood;” and thou hast passed that day; thou art a man, and more than that, and yet thou art halting still. “How long halt ye between two opinions?” How many of you have been churchgoers and chapel-goers for years! Ye have been impressed, too, many a time; but ye have wiped the tears from your eyes, and have said, “I will seek God and turn to Him with full purpose of heart;” and you are now just where you were. How many more sermons do you want? How many more Sundays must roll away wasted? How many warnings, how many sicknesses, how many tollings of the bell to warn you that you must die? How many graves must be dug for your family before you will be impressed? How many plagues and pestilences must ravage this city before you will turn to God in truth? “How long halt ye between two opinions?” Would God you could answer this question, and not allow the sands of life to drop, drop, drop from the glass, saying, “When the next goes I will repent,” and yet that next one findeth you impenitent. You say, “When the glass is just so low, I will turn to God.” No; it will not answer to talk so; for thou mayest find thy glass empty before thou thoughtest it had begun to run low, and thou mayest find thyself in eternity when thou didst but think of repenting and turning to God.

The prophet cries, “If the Lord be God, follow Him; if Baal, then follow him,” and in so doing, he states the ground of his practical claim. Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions. There is another objection raised by the crowd. “Prophet,” says one, “thou comest to demand a practical proof of our affection; thou sayest, Follow God. Now, if I believe God to be God, and that is my opinion, yet I do not see what claim He has to my opinions.” Now, mark how the prophet puts it: he says, “If God be God follow Him.” The reason why I claim that you should follow out your opinion concerning God is, that God is God! God has a claim upon you, as creatures, for your devout obedience. One person replies, “What profit should I have, if I served God thoroughly? Should I be more happy? Should I get on better in this world? Should I have more peace of mind?” Nay, nay, that is a secondary consideration. The only question for you is, “If God be God follow Him.” Not if it be more advantageous to you; but “if God be God follow Him.” The Secularist would plead for religion on the ground that religion might be the best for this world, and best for the world to come. Not so with the prophet; he says, “I do not put it on that ground, I insist that it is your bounden duty, if you believe in God, simply because He is God, to serve Him and obey Him. I do not tell you it is for your advantage — it may be, I believe it is — but that I put aside from the question; I demand of you that you follow God, if you believe Him to be God. If you do not think He is God; if you really think that the devil is God, then follow him; his pretended godhead shall be your plea, and you shall be consistent; but if God be God, if He made you, I demand that you serve Him; if it is He who puts the breath into your nostrils, I demand that you obey him. If God be really worthy of worship, and you really think so, I demand that you either follow Him, or else deny that He is God at all.” “How long halt ye?” I will tell them; ye will halt between two opinions, all of you who are undecided, until God shall answer by fire. Fire was not what these poor people wanted that were assembled there. When Elijah says, that “The God that answereth by fire let him be God,” I fancy I hear some of them saying, “No; the God that answereth by water let him be God; we want rain badly enough.” “No,” said Elijah, “if rain should come, you would say that it was the common course of providence; and that would not decide you.” I tell you, all the providences that befall you undecided ones will not decide you. God may surround you with providences; He may surround you with frequent warnings from the deathbed of your fellows; but providences will never decide you. It is not the God of rain, but the God of fire that will do it. There are two ways in which you undecided ones will be decided by-and-by. You that are decided for God will want no decision; you that are decided for Satan will want no decision; you are on Satan’s side, and must dwell forever in eternal burning. But these undecided ones want something to decide them, and will have either one of the two things: they will either have the fire of God’s Spirit to decide them, or else the fire of eternal judgment, and that will decide them.

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Warning for Daily Life, ‘On Halting Between Two Opinions’

THE CASTLE OF SELF

STRANGE to say, the great number of those who are saved are just the most unlikely people in the world to have been saved, while a great number of those who perish were once just the very people whom, if natural disposition had anything to do with it, we should have expected to see in Heaven. Why, there is one who in his youth was a child of many follies. Often did his mother weep over him, and cry and groan over her son’s wanderings; for what with a fierce high spirit that could brook neither bit nor bridle, what with perpetual rebellions and ebullitions of hot anger, she said, “My son, my son, what wilt thou be in thy riper years? Surely thou wilt dash in pieces law and order, and be a disgrace to thy father’s name.” He grew up; in youth he was wild and wanton, but wonder of wonders! On a sudden he became a new man, changed, altogether changed; no more like what he was before than angels are like lost spirits. He sat at her feet, he cheered her heart, and the lost, fiery one became gentle, mild, humble as a little child, and obedient to God’s commandments. You say, wonder of wonders! But there is another. He was a fair youth; when but a child he talked of Jesus; often when his mother had him on her knee he asked her questions about Heaven; he was a prodigy, a wonder of piety in his youth.

As he grew up the tear rolled down his cheek under any sermon; he could scarcely bear to hear of death without a sigh; sometimes his mother caught him, as she thought, in prayer alone. And what is he now? He has just come from sin; he has become the debauched, desperate villain, has gone far into all manner of wickedness and lust, and sin, and has become more corrupt than other men could have made him; only his own evil spirit, once confined, has now developed itself, he has learned to play the lion in his manhood, as once he played the fox in his youth. It very frequently is so. Some abandoned, wicked fellow, has had his heart broken, and been led to weep and has cried to God for mercy, and renounced his vile sin; whilst some fair maiden by his side hath heard the same sermon, and if there was a tear she brushed it away; she still continues just what she was, “without God and without hope in the world.” God has taken the base things of the world, and has just picked His people out of the very roughest of men, in order that He may prove that it is not natural disposition, but that “Salvation is of the Lord” alone.

With sinners, this doctrine is a great battering-ram against their pride. I will give you a figure. The sinner in his natural estate reminds me of a man who has a strong and well-nigh impenetrable castle into which he has fled. There is the outer moat; there is a second moat; there are the high walls; and then afterwards there is the dungeon and keep, into which the sinner will retire. Now, the first moat that goes round the sinner’s trusting place is his good works. “Ah!” he says, “I am as good as my neighbor; twenty shillings in the pound down, ready money, I have always paid; I am no sinner; ‘I tithe mint and cummin;’ a good respectable gentleman I am indeed.” Well, when God comes to work with him, to save him, he sends his army across the first moat; and as they go through it, they cry, “Salvation is of the Lord;” and the moat is dried up, for if it be of the Lord, how can it be of good works? But when that is gone, he has a second entrenchment — ceremonies. “Well,” he says, “I will not trust in my good works, but I have been baptized, I have been confirmed; do not I take the sacrament? That shall be my trust.” “Over the moat! Over the moat!” And the soldiers go over again, shouting, “Salvation is of the Lord.” The second moat is dried up; it is all over with that. Now they come to the first strong wall; the sinner, looking over it, says, “I can repent, I can believe, whenever I like; I will save myself by repenting and believing.” Up come the soldiers of God, His great army of conviction, and they batter this wall to the ground, crying, “ ‘Salvation is of the Lord.’ Your faith and your repentance must all be given you, or else you will neither believe nor repent of sin.” And now the castle is taken; the man’s hopes are all cut off; he feels that it is not of self; the castle of self is overcome, and the great banner upon which is written “Salvation is of the Lord” is displayed upon the battlements.

But is the battle over? Oh, no; the sinner has retired to the keep, in the center of the castle; and now he changes his tactics. “I cannot save myself,” says he, “therefore I will despair; there is no salvation for me.” Now this second castle is as hard to take as the first, for the sinner sits down and says, “I can’t be saved, I must perish.” But God commands the soldiers to take this castle too, shouting, “Salvation is of the Lord;” though it is not of man, it is of God; “he is able to save, even to the uttermost,” though you cannot save yourself. This sword, you see, cuts two ways; it cuts pride down, and then it cleaves the skull of despair. If any man say he can save himself, it halveth his pride at once; and if another man say he cannot be saved, it dasheth his despair to the earth; for it affirms that he can be saved, seeing, “Salvation is of the Lord.”

WHAT IS THE OBVERSE OF THIS TRUTH? Salvation is of God: then damnation is of man. If any of you perish, the blame will not lie at God’s door; if you are lost and cast away, you will have to bear all the blame and all the tortures of conscience yourself; you will lie forever in perdition, and reflect, “I have destroyed myself; I have made a suicide of my soul; I have been my own destroyer; I can lay no blame to God.” Remember, if saved, you must be saved by God alone, though if lost you have lost yourselves. “Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die O house of Israel.”

Charles H. Spurgeon – Words of Warning for Daily Life, ‘The Castle of Self’