SERMONS IN CANDLES BY C. H. SPURGEON FRIENDS at a distance who have heard of our lecture, entitled, “Sermons in Candles,” have asked us to give an outline of it in the “Sword and Trowel.”
This is an easy task, since we cannot attempt to present more than the fleshless inanimate skeleton, for to convey the form and soul of the lecture is impossible. With the candles lit before the eye to act as illustrations, and with plenty of time to enlarge upon each. point, and to give interesting anecdotes, it is far from difficult with a little preparation and animation, at once to edify and amuse an audience; but the same thing coolly written, calmly read, without the emblems, must, we fear, necessarily weary the most patient. However we comply with many requests and offer a digest of the matter. As a hymn to begin with, we give out one verse of a Scotch Psalm — “The Lord will light my candle so That it shall shine full bright; The Lord for me shall also turn My darkness into light.” The candle among illustrations is one of the most shining, and beams of truth dart from it on every side. In Scripture, the putting out of a candle is the chosen figure for the ruin of the wicked. (Job 18:6; 21:7.) The Patriarch in remembrance of his past prosperity sighs, “O that it were with me as in months past, when his candle shined about my head;” and the Psalmist sings in jubilant notes, “Thou Lord wilt light my candle.” Solomon compares conscience to a candle, in Proverbs 20:27; we rather think that in some men it can hardly be more than a farthing rush light. Of the virtuous woman it is said (Proverbs 31:18), to shew that her industry never ceases, “her candle goeth not out by night.” One sign of utter destruction given in the denunciations of the prophets is the absence of the light of a candle (Jeremiah 25:10); and, searching Jerusalem with candles is the Lord’s chosen image for his work of judgment when he comes to try the children of men. (Zephaniah 1:12.) Our Savior declares, “Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house.” He speaks of the single eye as having light like the bright shining of a candle (Luke 11:36); and tells us (Luke 15:8) of a woman who lit a candle and swept her house to find her lost piece of money. Even with descriptions of heaven itself this household comfort has a connection, for in the New Jerusalem “they need no candle, neither light of the sun.” (Revelation 22:5.) The golden candlestick of the old Tabernacle, and the seven golden candlesticks of the apocalypse, hardly come into the list, since they were candelabra in which oil was burned, and so had no connection with candles except in the name given to them by the translators.
We then proceed to give our emblems, having first honestly stated that we are much in debt to Robert Farlie, whose emblems, together with those of Jacob Cats, the Dutchman, are published by the Messrs. Longmans, and make up a most sumptuous volume.
Emblem 1. Seven candles of different lengths to illustrate seven periods of human life. The child of ten with great capabilities of usefulness in years to come is like a candle newly lit; the other stages like candles more and more burnt away come to a close at seventy with but a small remnant of existence left. Thus at a glance we learn our own mortality and hear the voice which cries, “Work while it is called to-day.” 2. Candle-box full of candles. The box well japanned, and of the best quality, representing a most respectable church containing many talented and influential members, but as the audience is not enlightened by either the box or its contents because none of the candles are lighted, so some churches are of no service to their age and neighborhood for want of heavenly fire to light them up. 3. A number of fine wax candles in candlesticks of different degrees of elevation and beauty, none of them alight, and a poor rushlight in a common stick doing more service than all its fine neighbors put together, because it has felt the flame, and has therefore power to diffuse light. The fine gentry look down upon the common plebeian rush with great disdain, but its only answer to all their sneers is its continuing to shine. 4. An unlit candle which is placed in candlesticks of all sorts, but gives no light in any one of them showing how graceless men often lay the blame of their uselessness upon their position in life, or on the churches where they happen to be placed, whereas if they had grace they would be useful everywhere, and having none they are of no service anywhere. Men who run from denomination to denomination, and complain that their want of success in the spiritual life is all owing to the people with whom they have been brought, into association, must be strangely ignorant of their own hearts. The lighted candle shines in any candlestick. 5. Trying to light a candle with an extinguisher upon it well sets forth the ill effect of prejudice in preventing a reception of the truth. When Dr. Taylor declared that he had read the Bible through thirteen times and could not find the Deity of Christ in it; Newton replied that a man might try to light a candle thirteen times with an extinguisher on it and fail in his design every time. 6. A dark lantern is no inapt representation of certain professors with ability, and we would fain hope with grace too, who do not benefit others, but keep their light to themselves. Trying to turn on the bull’s eye we burn our fingers and get an illustration of the bad temper with which these idle people generally resent the rebukes of those who would make them of use in the world. 7. A candle protected from the wind in a lantern clear and bright may picture the believer preserved in Christ Jesus, and surrounded by the care of a watchful providence. The lecturer lingers on this tempting theme to tell of God’s perpetual care over his people, and the consequent safety of the saints. 8. This emblem consists of a lantern much like that in No. 7, but one of the panes is broken, and therefore the wind enters and blows the light out; thus teaching that nothing but the perfect work of Jesus can protect us, for if we rely upon our own strength and righteousness, even if we have but one flaw, the wind of temptation will find it out, and we shall be ruined for ever. 9. A dirty, battered lantern, its filthiness rendered conspicuous by the light within. The faults, falls, and inconsistencies of Christians are all the more noticed because of their being professed followers of Jesus. The need of a clean lantern, or rather of a holy character, is hence insisted upon with earnestness. 10. Candle in a lantern with cracks in it through which the light gleams brightly, illustrating the effect of physical weakness and bodily suffering, in allowing the light of grace to shine through the rifts of our clay tenements.
Many ministers preach far more evangelically and sweetly after periods of sickness; for through the working of the Holy Spirit, the inner man grows strong while the outer man decayeth. When the pitcher shall be dashed to pieces by the rough hand of death then will the lamp shine forth in its true glory; till then, happy is the frailty which reveals the divine light. 11. Candle under a bushel: this needs no explanation. Putting the candle on the top Of the bushel suggests the propriety of making our difficulties and trials a means of spreading rather than concealing the light. 12. Candle covered with a bandbox through which the flame burns its way, and makes a blaze, teaching that opposition and persecution cannot hide the true believer’s grace, but are made the unwilling means of enabling him to produce a greater effect. Grace will not be hidden, but must shine forth. 13. God’s method of instrumentality illustrated by one candle lighting another, and that one a third, and so on. Thus travels on the holy flame, till the whole world is girdled with its glory. 14. A small taper lights a large candle, and thus poor simple-minded Christians have been the means of bringing talented and useful ministers and missionaries to a knowledge of the truth. Witness Owen blessed under an unknown country preacher, and John Bunyan cheered and comforted by the holy women of Bedford as they sat talking in the sun, 15. Acts of indiscreet zeal are checked by the emblem of a candle in a lantern blown out while trying to light another. Some, with much zeal and little real grace, have made sad work of their profession through entering upon paths of usefulness surrounded with peculiar perils to the young and inexperienced. 16. The night-light beautifully portrays those kind, attentive, generous women who do good at the bedsides of the sick, and in the homes of the poor. The night-light burns a certain number of hours, and our sisters are immortal till their work is done, Even in this humble employment the water around the light hints at caution and godly fear. 17. A noble wax candle appears to be yielding nothing but light, but when a sheet of bright tin is held over it, a jet blackness is very soon deposited, shewing that those men who in the Bible sense are perfect, are yet not absolutely so, but God’s matchless holiness soon detects the invisible sinfulness which is mixed with every action which they perform. It is not, however, our part to be constantly spying out our brethren’s faults, but rather to act as bright reflectors to increase their splendor. 18. The audience is not a little amused at the sight of a candle of very. great thickness with a most insignificant wick, setting forth the minister of great ability but little zeal whose ministry is a very feeble ray; and the professor who is very rich but has no heart to use his means for the Lord’s cause. 19. A thief in the candle is like some besetting sin. The sin runs away with much of our power for usefulness, just, as the thief makes the candle gutter and go to waste. 20. A sputtering candle — no inapt representation of the ill-tempered crotchety man who is for ever railing, muttering, and disagreeing. 21. A candle in a common guard shews the need of watchfulness, for one unguarded word like a spark may lead to the very worst consequences. 22. Need of the snuffers to take away our” superfluity of haughtiness.” In the temple there were golden snuffers, but no extinguishers. Rebukes, exhortations, and afflictions trim the lamps in God’s temple. 23. Small piece of candle on that economical little instrument, “the saveall.”
We should use the last relics of talent and life in the Redeemer’s cause. Gathering up the fragments is the duty of all imitators of the Lord Jesus. 24. An hourglass and a candle are a picture of life’s use. The sand runs, the candle burns, so we are not meant to spare ourselves, but to spend and be spent. He fulfills his destiny best who lives with all his might, making no provision for the flesh. 25. Burning the candle at both ends well sets forth the profligate’s folly.
Body and soul he ruins; principle and interest he spends; and time and eternity he treats with equal carelessness. 26. Steel filings dropped upon the flame of a candle produce sparklers and little stars; yet the filings seem the most likely things to put it out.
Afflictions which appear as if they would destroy the Christian, are made the means of a grander display of the power of divine grace. 27. By placing two candles of different heights upon the table, with the short one behind the longer one, you have a shadow cast upon your book, and can scarcely see to read it; but by putting the shorter candle in front you get the light of both: so if the brother of high degree will but give honorable preference to the brother of low degree, the result will be most profitable to the Church at large, but if the poor and lowly be put in the background, all will suffer loss. 28. Light inside a lantern inscribed with the words TAKE ALIGHT, hinting at the way in which we ought to communicate all that we know to those who Unhappily are groping in darkness. 29. We conclude with a chandelier holding a great assemblage of lights of various colors and sizes, which is a feeble remembrancer of the One Church, with its unity of luster, and its variety of beauty. All the lights melt into one illumination, — individuals and parties are forgotten in the one blaze of light; so shall it be in heaven.
As we could scarcely carry out the rest of our metaphors in actual emblems we have secured in dissolving-views the following illustrations among others, they are all taken from Robert Farley’s book. 1. A rushlight and the sun rising, to compare great things with small, and set forth our own nothingness in the presence of the great Sun of Righteousness. 2. A candle hanging on the wall till it has grown mouldy and covered with cobwebs, to show that if we do not bum out in diligence we shall rot away in our place of idleness. 3. Blind man for whom the candle shines in vain, a true picture of carnal minds which see not the light of God, and cannot therefore be expected to appreciate our feebler beams. 4. Candle painted on black ground, with the motto, “Darkness addeth glory to me.” The sinfulness of the times will be a foil to the Christian’s virtues. 5. Mice eating an unlit candle, to show how graceless professors perish, being eaten up with their sins of covetousness, worldliness, and the like. 6. A maid putting a candle into the hot socket of a candlestick where another has just burned out, to illustrate the need of patience, and the mischief of hastiness. 7. A candle held by a hand before the fire with the intent to light it between the bars; it is melting rapidly, and the motto suitably runs, “Quickly, or I am consumed.” This metaphor has a loud call to those who are slack in winning souls, while men are perishing on every hand. 8. A candle dying out while the morning star is shining outside the window. Motto,” O morning star, bring, the day. This expresses the earnest longing of our soul towards the coming of the Lord in his glory. 9. The last is a snuff which has just died out as a sign that all is ever, giving us a hint that it is time to say, “FAREWELL.”
DIONYSIUS the tyrant king of Syracuse, was pronounced by Damocles the flatterer, the happiest man on earth. The king, in order to convince him of his mistake, invited Damocles to a banquet, and caused him to be robed and treated as a sovereign. During the entertainment, a sword hung suspended by a single horse-hair from the ceiling, over the head of Damocles; and thus was typified the happiness of a tyrant.
Unconverted sinner, behold thyself in the above picture. Thou fanciest that thou art happy. Ah! thou art woefully deceiving thyself. Thy pleasures are short in duration! Thou art clothed in borrowed garments of vanity, and art seated at the banquet table of thy pleasures, with the sword of Divine judgment suspended over thine head by a slender thread. (See Ecclesiastes 11:9, and Luke 12:16,21.) Any moment then mayest be cut down by the hand of death, and be hurried all unprepared before the judgment seat of Christ. Oh! be no longer blinded; but turn thine eyes upward and see thy danger. Know that thou art a sinner: “for all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (Romans 3:23.)
As a sinner thou art already condemned. The curse of God hangs over thee, and in a moment thou mayest be in hell. Turn off thine eyes from sin and self, and look unto Jesus, who is now both able and willing to save even thee if thou believest on him.
When the sinner believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, he is made by sovereign grace a king and a priest unto God. He is arrayed in “the best robe,” the imputed righteousness of Christ. He is enabled by faith to sit down at the King’s “banqueting” table, whereon are spread the daintiest dishes, and a feast of wine. Instead of the flaming sword of justice, the “banner of Jesus “love hangs over his head. (Song of Solomon 2:4; Isaiah 25:6; Luke 15:22,23; Revelation 1:6.) Such is the royal provision made by the Jehovah of hosts for every or and needy sinner, who by rumple clinging faith, trusts in his dear Son, whose “precious blood” cleanses the vilest from all sin. May infinite love glorify itself by admitting you to the marriage-feast of glory.
SUCH IS LIFE.
A bubble, brilliant with rainbow hues, delighting the eye of mouth for a moment and then gone for ever, leaving not a trace behind.
Man wilt thou risk thine all upon that bubble? Be wise and seek substantial good, and since this can never be found beneath the skies, cry to the God of Heaven for his gracious aid.
SUCH IS LIFE. A
gourd, like that of Jonah, which cometh up in a night and dieth in a night. Wilt thou make its leaves thine only shelter? Then what wilt thou do when the gourd is withered and the hot sun of divine wrath scorches thee! O that thou wouldst fly to Jesus who is the shadow of a great rock in a weary land.
SUCH IS LIFE.
A meteor blazing its moment and then lost in darkness! If thou be sane thou wilt desire another and more lasting light than this can give thee! The Sun of Righteousness shines on for ever.
SUCH IS LIFE.
Like the swift ship which skims the deep and soon disappears beneath the horizon’s line! Shall thy happiness be as fleeting as this? Dost thou not long for a more enduring joy.
SUCH IS LIFE. As the eagle which hasteth to its prey, so passeth away thine earthly existence! Whither art thou flying? Immortal Spirit, to what country art thou bound? Thou canst not pause, but thou mayest think, and it may be the Lord may turn thee heavenwards!
SUCH IS LIFE.
An arrow speeding from a bow, a hart bounding over the plain. Speed is found in its highest degree in our life; none can outrun it. O friend, art thou ready for the grave and the judgment, for in a few days thou must know more of them than now.
SUCH IS LIFE.
A flower which bloometh for a little season and then withereth away. Ye young, ye gay, ye proud, are ye so silly as to dream that your earthly life will last for ever. Think of your latter end, and seek that friend, who will be with you in life and in death, even Jesus the sinner’s Savior.
METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE STATISTICS THE Christian Church was designed from the first to be aggressive. It was not intended to remain stationary at any period, but to advance onward until its boundaries became commensurate with those of the world. It was to spread from Jerusalem to all Judea, from Judea to Samaria. and from Samaria unto the uttermost part of the earth. It was not intended to radiate from one central point only; but to form numerous centers from which its influence might spread to the surrounding parts. In this way it was extended in its first and purest times. The plan upon which the apostles proceeded, and the great apostle in particular in his mission to the Gentiles, was to plant Churches in all the great cities and centers of influence in the known world. The theory of one centralization of authority and action in human governments, however extensive the empire may become, is not that which was originally enjoined either by precept or practice in the New- Testament Church. It was the Church theory of the Jewish dispensation which was partly political, and adapted for one nation only; but on that very account could not apply to a-form of government designed for the whole world. The new wine would have caused that old bottle to burst. We all know how that Church-theory has been tried, and how, through the fermentation of the little gospel truth it retained, it swelled until it burst. So far as the Church has returned to the centralizing influence of separate and independent Churches, it has regained its original prosperity; its first life has returned with its first mode of action; and increasing activities in that direction have generated increase of life. Soon as, after long perseverance and suffering, it was left free to its original action, those numerous institutions arose which are now deemed essential appendages to a vital and flourishing Christian community. The influence of the past had established a deep-rooted conviction that the officials were the only authorized agents for Church extension; but gradually the cooperation of the whole Church was required, and was found to be the appropriate and healthful exercise of all its gifts and graces. A Church, in which each member has something to do towards its increase, is in its proper and normal state. In proportion as it grows, it must seek to grow more, because growth is necessary to the most healthy state of life; and in proportion as it blesses others, it is itself blest* “I will make them,” is the promise, “and the places round about my hill a blessing.” What follows? “And I will cause the shower to come down in his season; there shall be showers of blessing.” There has not only been the shower in its season in the Church of the Metropolitan Tabernacle, there have been showers of blessing. Why? Because it has sought a blessing, not upon itself alone, but upon others. Of the places round about this hill of Zion which have been made a blessing, we are now to speak. Of the rising and fruitfulness of that hill, we spoke in a former number; we propose here to do little more than enumerate the several institutions at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, reserving the description of each for future occasions.
The chapel in New Park-street is still retained in connection with the Church at the Tabernacle, but it is hoped that by its sale another building will be erected in a more eligible locality. Services are regularly held there, and the Sunday-school is ably sustained. The Sunday-school at the Tabernacle numbers about 900 scholars and 75 teachers. Other Sundayschools, and ragged schools, are sustained and conducted in other districts, in connection with the Tabernacle. The College, at first, was sustained by the pastor only. As it rose in usefulness and promise, the assistance of others was cheerfully rendered. In 1861, it was adopted by the Church as one of its own institutions; and became united with it at the opening of the Metropolitan Tabernacle. The number of the students at the present time is 91. Apart from these, there are evening classes for young men for languages, science, and elementary tuition; the attendants at which number on the whole about 230. Popular lectures, during the winter months are delivered on Friday evenings in the lecture-hall to students and the public in general. Man of the students are engaged in preaching on Sabbath days in the metropolis and its suburbs, and in distant parts of the country; others are employed in connection with an Evangelists’ Association which has numerous preaching- stations in neglected districts, and sends forth a host of men to proclaim the gospel in the open air. This association is chiefly sustained by the students at the evening classes. There are numerous Bibleclasses in connection with the Tabernacle. One is held every Monday evening, after the prayer-meeting, at which Mr. Rogers presides. This class is for discussion on given topics, for the purpose of practice in extemporaneous speaking, as well as instruction in Biblical subjects. It is well attended by all classes, and is particularly beneficial as a test of the oratorical powers of those who are desirous of entering the College. Bibleclasses are conducted by Mr. Stiff, Mr. Hanks, and Mr. John Olney. All are efficient and well at- tended. A ladies’ class, conducted by Mrs. Bartlett, is both the most numerous and most remarkable in its immediate results: it numbers nearly 700, and 63 have joined the Church from it during the past year. There is a Bible-society depot at the Tabernacle, at which Bibles are sold at cost-price. here is a Tract Society in extensive operation There is a Jews’ Society which holds its meetings monthly. A Ladies’ Benevolent Society, a Maternal Association, a Missionary Working and a Sunday School Working are also in full operation. A Fraternal Association has lately been established, with the view of promoting more union of heart and effort amongst pastors and Churches of the same denomination.
Missionary work is not neglected. Two City Missionaries are sustained by the Church and people; two other missionaries on the Continent, in Germany; and considerable aid is given to foreign missions. We have here the rare instance of a Christian Church containing within itself all the varied appliances of Christian zeal’ in modern times. These have risen successively, and expanded, as the spontaneous and appropriate expression of that zeal. This may go far to show that it accords with apostolic times. If the principles and motives be the same, the fruits, allowing only for the difference of circumstances, will be the same. Nor is it difficult to see a similar diversity in the methods of aggression in the primitive Churches, according to the circumstances of those times. The Church at Jerusalem had its mission both to the Jews and to the heathen. There it was, says Paul, that “James, Peter, and John gave to me and Barnabas the right hand of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.” The Church at Antioch had its foreign mission; for it sent forth Paul and Barnabas on a missionary tour into and prayed, and laid their hands on them, they sent them away.” They had their Pastor’s College; for Paul says to Timothy, “The things that thou hast heard of me among many witnesses, the same commit thou to faithful men, who shall be able to teach others also.” They had their Home Missions; for of the Church at Thessalonica, it is said, “From you sounded out the word of the Lord in Macedonia and Achaia.” They had their Tract Societies, as far as circumstances would allow. — “ When this epistle,” said Paul to the Church at Colosse, “is read among you, cause that it be read also in the Church of the Laodiceans.” They had their Bible Classes. “These were more noble than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness of mind, and searched the Scriptures daily, whether those things were so.” There were Mrs. Bartlett’s classes in those times. “Help those women which labored with me in the Gospel.” They had their Benevolent Socratics. hath pleased them of Macedona and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem.” They had their working ladies for the poor. Honorable mention is made of one to show how honorable it is in all. “There was at Joppa a certain disciple named Tabitha, which by interpretation is called Dorcas: this woman was full of good works and alms-deeds which she did.” We are then informed of what those alms-deeds con-slated. We should have supposed they consisted in money only; but no she gave her time and her labor. At her death, “all the widows stood by Peter weeping, and showing the coats and garments which Dorcas made while she was with them.” If there were no Sunday-schools in the first Churches, it was simply because they had neither the learning nor the books required, not even the Scriptures. A foundation was laid for them by the Master, when he said, “Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not: for of such is the kingdom of heaven.” Although, therefore, all the institutions connected with our Churches are of recent origin, the germs of them existed in primitive times, and remained for development when that which hindereth should be taken out of the way. New as they may be in practice, they are not new in principle or theory. They are the natural growth of true Church-principles, which struggle for expansion by event legitimate means and on every side.
Remove the pressure of outward violence and inward formality, and the Church springs up to this as to its natural state, and breathes its native air.
It is by the great variety of aggressive means that the zeal and efforts of each and all the members of our Churches are brought to bear upon the same end. It enables every one to answer the question for himself, “Lord, what wilt that thou have me to do?”
Such a Church, with its many agencies in incessant operation, becomes a power, not in this country merely, but in the world Such were the first Churches in Corinth, in Philippi, in Ephesus, and in Rome. Most of these arose, as in the case before us, almost entirely from the labors of one man.
Is not this then, we ask, as we appeal to its efficiency, as we appeal to its spirituality, as we appeal to its internal harmony, as we appeal to its development of all Christian gifts and graces, and as we appeal to its freedom from all the evils of secular ecclesiasticism, — Is not this the fashion after which the Gospel was originally designed to spread, and in which it can best be extended in any country and in. any age? The combination of many churches in one system of organization for the support of missions, both at home and abroad, may be the best thing when Churches are small and feeble in themselves; but it is second-best only to the primitive plan. It is more costly, and it creates a power unknown to the apostles, and detrimental to the liberty of individual Churches. We admit its great utility in a transition state from false to genuine Christianity, and are thankful for its results, but, at the same time, we are persuaded it has its limits, and is chiefly valuable, as it restores to the Church, and multiplies its own centers of illumination.