A NEW YEAR’S LETTER TO MY MINISTERING BRETHREN.
BELOVED FRIENDS, The season invites to renewal of spiritual life. It suggests freshness and awakening. As there was of old a time when kings went forth to battle, so are there periods when to gird up our loins anew is the order of the day.
The furnishing of the armor, and the sharpening of the sword, are the duties now incumbent. Let the year of grace, 1870, be to us all a year of greater consecration, and more incessantly indefatigable effort for the great cause and kingdom of the Lord Jesus. To achieve this it will -be most helpful to begin the year well, and to do this there must he holy resolve, and a settling of the whole soul to the work.
Being debarred from serving the Lord by my own public ministry, it has been laid upon my heart to endeavor to stir up my brother ministers to use increased diligence while they are permitted the great pleasure and privilege of preaching the word. It is a hard trial to be laid aside, and harder still if the heart he pierced with regrets for opportunities unimproved when health was in possession. That you may never know such poignant sorrows is my earnest wish, and to help in that end I ask leave to address a few words to you. I pray that every syllable I write may be approved of God, and may be by the Holy Ghost rendered serviceable to you.
It has struck me painfully, that for some little time a somewhat listless spirit has fallen upon many of the churches, and perhaps upon the ministers. A short time ago we heard more of special services, revival meetings, and aggressive efforts upon the world than we do at present; perhaps these may still be in full and vigorous operation among your people, but in many places it is not so; the pace of holy work has slackened, and the church is falling back into that dreary routine which is easily reached and is so hard to escape. Nothing is more dreadful than stagnation, even heresy is not more deadly in its consequences. Sleep at the hour of battle would prove as disastrous to an army as the most deadly artillery. The spiritual morphia with which some churches appear to be drugged and drenched is for all practical purposes as injurious as the poison of infidelity. A church whose religion is mechanical and whose zeal is non-existent may soon become a nuisance but is never a blessing.
It may be a desponding fancy of a sick man, but my fear is, that we are many of us relaxing in our efforts for soul winning. We are not so bad as we were, but still we are declining from the proper temperature of zeal.
Meanwhile our direst enemies, the Romanising Anglicans, have taken up the weapons which we have laid aside, and are making most ostentatious, and it is to be feared most successful, use of them. They are evidently wise in their generation, for they not only borrow from Rome, but they copy from us, as their late season of special services clearly testifies. Blending’ a little precious gospel truth with their thrice accursed sacramentarianism, and disguising their popery with evangelical phraseology, these wolves of Antichrist have worn the clothing of the sheep t,; serve their crafty ends. Is this permitted by our Lord to irritate us to a renewed activity? Does he thus chide us by causing us to see how others burn with zeal, and in their ardor compass sea and land to make proselytes? Does he not say to us, “Behold how these men are quick to adopt all methods; are ye, my servants, dull of understanding?”
Allow me, beloved friends, to urge upon you, with all affection, the adoption of special means for the conversion of your congregations.
Despite the mischief done by wild excitement, there can be no question that the Holy Spirit does very graciously bless means prayerfully adopted by his servants, for arousing the church and ingathering sinners. Many pastors can bear witness, that persons who have remained undecided under their ordinary addresses, have been led to surrender their hearts to Jesus, at a special meeting where exhortation, persuasion, and instruction were all aimed at the seeker’s spiritual good. If God had but blessed such services in the smallest degree we ought to repeat them, but as he has in many eases eminently smiled upon them, our duty is dear as the sun.
Will you not then, ff you have hitherto omitted to do so, give serious heed to the suggestion that you should hold a series of services for calling in the careless population around you, and for leading to decision, under the power of the Holy Spirit, those who have heard in vain? To secure the ear of the outside world let all means be used. If men will not come into our chapels, let earnest services be held out of doors, or in halls, barns, or theatres, or wherever else the people will come. Every church should have its mission beyond itself upon some neutral ground for a week or two at least at this season. Were this done by every church, what a vast extent of new ground would at once be broken up! and be it ever remembered that virgin soft always bears the most luxuriant crop. Our congregations are like moors that have been shot over till little game remains, but the outside masses are like unbroken covers where every shot will have its reward.
Let our members be exhorted to assist us in drawing in the outlying multitude to hear the gospel. Let them hold cottage meetings, tea meetings, and other gatherings, which they may be qualified to arrange or assist in conducting. To win attention from our neighbors it may be in some eases best to eau in other preachers to give interest to the services. Certain individuals, whose gifts are of a special character, axe better adapted for evangelising and exhortation than the best of pastors may be; we ought to feel no difficulty in accepting the aid of such brethren. A new voice may attract ears that have grown dull of hearing under us. An exchange with a trusty brother may be good for both congregations and both preachers. We would by any means save some, and therefore no stone should be left unturned. No personal vanity or jealous fear must prevent our accepting the aid of brethren whose adaptation to evangelising work may exceed our own. Who are we that our standing in the church should be of such consequence as to be preserved at the expense of souls? If men are but saved what matters it whether we be highly esteemed or little set by? I trust we are any or all of us willing to be made as the mire of the streets if the Lord Jesus may but have a glorious high throne in the hearts of the sons of men.
Certain of the performances of the late Ritualistic mimicry of dissent were singularly ridiculous. The candle business was enough to excite the derision of every sane man, and certain other tomfooleries were equally idiotic; they may serve as a caution to those eager but imprudent spirits in our own ranks who hope to gain the popular ear by advertising slang titles of sermons, and to impress the heart by mere rant and declamation. Solid Bible doctrine, with sober faithful utterance, will succeed better than all the claptrap and cushion~ thumping of zealots. We want nothing vulgar, nothing theatrical, nothing in the Bombastes Furioso vein, in order to achieve success. The Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, eusured in all his plenitude of grace by the earnest entrearies of the church and the intercession of her Covenant Head, is our strength and pledge of victory: we dare not condescend to use unauthorised weapons when those appointed by the King himself are mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds.
My dear brethren, how soon shall we be laid aside from our work, and that for ever! Few and golden are the hours in which we may manifest our loving anxiety for our hearers’ souls. Our grave is preparing. Is our work clone? If mine be accomplished, I tremble as I think how poverty-stricken my life has been, compared to my opportunities; and I pray to have my years lengthened, that I may render a better account of my stewardship.
Your own feelings are much the same, and the more diligent you have been, the more surely will such confessions be made. None axe content with themselves but those who ought to be ashamed. Alas! we have been unprofitable servants, and deserve to be dismissed the royal service. Let us not allow our reflections to evaporate in mere regret, but let us, in the fear of God, seek to be more diligent in the future, Meanwhile, if we loiter, death does not; our hearers are perishing before our eyes; and the millions are passing into eternal misery (yes, my brethren, we dare believe no less than eternal misery) as fast as time can bear them. Impelled by the love which brought our Master from his throne, and made him a sacrifice for men, let us bestir ourselves. To us has he committed the word of reconciliation. We are ambassadors for Christ. Let us not bring contempt upon our office and reproach upon the gospel by a want of zeal; let us rather, by the good Spirit of the Lord, resolve to be instant in season and out of season.
Our private prayers, my brethren, must be more frequent and fervent’.
Could we not, as united in the one family in heaven and earth, enter into a brotherly compact to mention each other in our prayers at least once every day? Could not the months of January and february be specially marked by our reminding our people of our brethren in the ministry, both at home and abroad, and pressing upon them the peculiar needs of ministers, that they may join their prayers with ours that all the bishops, evangelists, and deacons of our churches may be thoroughly furnished unto every good work? The next three months would be a season to be remembered, if there should be unusual activity in all our churches, and prevalent intercession from all our members.
Brethren, what doth hinder us from receiving a great blessing? We are not straitened in God, let us not be straitened in our own bowels. For the love of our Lord Jesus, and the honor of his name, let us plead, and labor, and agonise, and believe, and the blessing will come, it shall not tarry.
Receive assurances of my purest and warmest love, pardon my forwardness in thus addressing you, and believe me ever to be your Brother and Servant for Jesus’ sake, C. H.SPURGEON.
SKETCH OF THE LATE MR THOMAS OLNEY’S LIFE. F23 THE Bible exhorts us to remember the way the Lord hath led us, and the fellow workers of our departed friend, Mr. Olney, earnestly desire to recal to mind the loving care and tender mercy of God towards their esteemed and aged brother.
He was born November 10th, 1790, in Tring, in the county of Herts. His father, Mr. Daniel Olney, was for many years a deacon of the Baptist church in theft town. Mr. Olney was sent to London from Tring, and apprenticed in the City to a wholesale mercer. He from his first entrance into London, attended the ministry of the well known Dr. Rippen, of Carter-lane Baptist Chapel. Here the Lord graciously met with him and saved his soul. He was proposed as a candidate for church fellowship, December, 1809. If we take this for a starting point, then he was for years a consistent and useful member of the church. In company with his brother, Mr. Daniel Olney, he was baptised and received into the church.
Shortly after, he was married to Unity, the daughter of Mr. Potter, deacon of the Baptist church, Amersham, Bucks. He was accustomed, even in their earliest years, to take his children to Carter-lane Chapel, having a little chair fixed on the pew seat for the youngest.
Here he formed friendships, faithful till death, with many old Baptist worthies. Between Dr. Rippen and our departed friend a most cordial friendship was formed. For many years he sat in the pulpit with him, and also assisted his weak and failing strength in the administration of the ordinance of baptism.
The Sunday-school, the Baptist Home and Foreign Mission Societies, found in him a warm friend and liberal contributor.
In 1817, was commenced in Carter-lane Chapel an early Sabbath morning lecture. To be at the service by half-past six o’clock, to provide the necessary funds by collecting, to receive and welcome the various ministers, was to Mr. Olney at once a duty and a delight. His closest and dearest friendships were formed within the circle of the church. Not only did he say of the church, “Thy God shall be my God,” but also, “Thy people shall be my people.”
Great changes took place in the church. In 1829, Carter-lane Chapel became the property of the City, and was pulled down; Dr. Rippen became old and feeble; the love of some grew cold, and they left the. church in its hour of peril. Not so Thomas Olney: he remained manfully with the church.
He was appointed a trustee for the chapel in New Park-street, opened in 1833. His much-loved pastor and friend, Dr. Rippen, expired in his presence, it might as properly be said in his arms. It was our honored friend’s great privilege for some months by his care and kindness, to cheer the last days of his highly-esteemed friend and pastor, towards whose memory he cherished till his last days a most tender affection.
During all the time of erecting the new chapel in New Park-street, Mr. Olney may be said to have “favored the very dust of Zion.” From foundation to top stone he watched its progress with interest and prayer.
Prosperity was given under the ministry of Mr. James Smith, better known as Mr. Smith, of Cheltenham, the author of so many excellent little religious books. How gracious was God to our deceased brother? It was his happiness to see all his four sons baptised and join the church assembling within the walls of New Park Street Chapel. In 1838, he was, together with his friend Mr. Winsor, chosen deacon of the church. He faithfully served that office thirty-one years. He was ever remarkable for his early and constant attendance at the prayer-meeting, and other week-day services.
He truly loved the habitation of God’s house. But God had other mercies in store for him. His beloved Zion was to arise and shine. By the providence of God, Deacon Olney had his attention directed by his old friend, the late Mr. G. Gould, of Loughton, to our present honored pastor.
The church was then seeking a minister, and from his recommendation Mr. C. H. Spurgeon was invited, and became the honored and successful pastor of the church. Our Zion lengthened her cords and strengthened her stakes.
The church abundantly grew and was multiplied.
A new and far larger building was needed, a meeting in Mr. Olney’s house commenced the undertaking, and the work after much pains and prayer was accomplished. In 1855, “Father Olney,” as he was playfully styled by pastor and deacon, was chosen treasurer of the church, and by the help of his sons fulfilled the office until his death, together with those of deacon and elder.
He was treasurer fourteen years. “Of his love and devotion to both the pastor and the church we all are witnesses.” His greatest pride, we might almost use that word, was the work of God at the Tabernacle. He gloried and rejoiced in all that concerned the church. Every institution received his cordial co-operation; he loved college, orphanage, and almshouses, and helped them all to the extent of his ability. His fellow officers in the deaconship shared his esteem and love. And now that he has changed earthly for heavenly service and joy, may his memory and example stir us all to copy and follow him as far as he followed Christ.
Our departed friend had a childlike faith and humility. To believe in Jesus and to work for Christ was the very life of his new and better nature. He was eminently a true Baptist. In our departed “Father” the poor have lost a friend. The poor, and especially the poor of the church, always found in him sincere sympathy and help. By all his children his name will live in lasting remembrance and loving regard.
May the Lord raise up others like him for his church’s sake.
COLTON’ declares that in moments of despondency Shakespeare thought himself no poet; and Raphael doubted his right to be called a painter. We call such self-suspicions morbid, and ascribe them to a hypochondriacal fit; in what other way can we speak of those doubts as to their saintship, which occasionally afflict the most eminently holy of the Lord’s people!
A WORD FROM THE BELOVED’S OWN MOUTH BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“And ye are clean.”—John 13:10.
AS Gideon’s fleece was fall of dew so that he could wring out the moisture, so will a text sometimes be when the Holy Spirit deigns to visit his servants through its words. This utterance of our Savior to his disciples has been as a wafer made with honey to our taste, and we doubt not it may prove equally as sweet to others.
Observe, dear reader, carefully what the eulogium is which is here passed upon the Lord’s beloved friends. “Ye are clean.” This is the primeval blessing, so soon lost by our first parent. This is the virtue, the loss of which shut man out of Paradise, and continues to shut men out of heaven.
The want of cleanness in heart and hands condemns sinners to banishment from God, and defiles all their offerings. To be clean before God is the desire of every penitent, and the highest aspiration of the most advanced believer. It is what all the ceremonies and ablutions of the law can never bestow, and what Pharisees with all their pretensions cannot attain. To be clean is to be as the angels are, as glorified saints are, yea as the Father himself is. Acceptance with the Lord, safety, happiness, and every blessing, always go with cleanness of heart, and he that hath it cannot miss of heaven. It seems too high a condition to be ascribed to mortals, yet by the lips of him who could not err, the disciples were said, without a qualifying word, or adverb of degree, to be “clean;” that is to say, they were perfectly justified in the sight of eternal justice, and were regarded as free from every impurity. Dear reader, is this blessing yours? Have you ever believed unto righteousness? Have you taken the Lord Jesus to be your complete cleansing, your sanctification and redemption? Has the Holy Spirit ever sealed in your peaceful spirit the gracious testimony, “ye are clean”? The assurance is not confined to the apostles, for ye also are “complete in him,” “perfect in Christ Jesus,” if ye have indeed by faith received the righteousness of God. The psalmist said, “Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow;” if you have been washed, you are even to that highest and purest degree clean before the Lord, and clean now. O that all believers would live up to their condition and privilege; but alas! too many are pining as if they were still miserable sinners, and forgetting that they are in Christ Jesus forgiven sinners, and therefore ought to be happy in the Lord.
Remember, beloved believer, that as one with Christ you are not in the gall of bitterness with sinners, but in the land which floweth with milk and honey with the saints. Your cleanness is not a thing of degrees, it is not a variable or vanishing quantity, it is present, abiding, perfect, you are clean through the Word, through the application of the blood of sprinkling to the conscience, and through the imputation of the righteousness of the Lord Jesus Christ. Lift up then your head and sing for joy of heart, seeing that your transgression is pardoned, your sin is covered, and in you Jehovah seeth not iniquity. Dear reader, read no further, till by faith in Jesus you have grasped this privilege. Be not content to believe that the priceless boon may be had, but.lay hold upon it for yourself. You will find the song of substitution a choice song if you are able to sing it. “In my surety I am free, His dear hands were pierced for me; With his spotless vesture on Holy as the Holy One.” Much of the force of the sentence before us lies in the person praising To be certified as clean by the blind priests of Rome, would be small comfort to a true Christian. To receive the approving verdict of our fellow men is consoling, but it is after all of small consequence. The human standard of purity is itself grossly incorrect, and therefore to be judged by it is but a poor trial, and to be acquitted a slender comfort; but the Lord Jesus judges no man after the flesh, he came forth from God and is himself God, infinitely just and good, hence his tests are. accurate and his verdict is absolute. I wot whom he pronounces clean is clean indeed. Our Lord was omniscient, the least evil in his disciples he would have at once detected; if there had remained upon them an unpardoned sin he must have seen it; if any relic of condemnation had lingered upon them he must have detected it at once, no speck could have escaped his all-discerning eye; yet did he say without hesitation of all but Judas, “Ye are clean.” Perhaps they did not catch the full glory of this utterance; possibly they missed much of that deep joyous meaning, which is now revealed to us by the Spirit; otherwise what bliss to have heard with their own ears from those sacred lips, so plain, so positive, so sure a testimony to their character before God! Yet our hearts need not be filled with regret because we cannot hear that everblessed voice with these our earthly ears, for the testimony of Jesus in the word is quite as sure as the witness of his lips when he spake among the sons of men, and that testimony is, “Whosoever believeth is justified from all things.” Yes, it is as certain as if you, dear reader, heard the Redeemer himself speak, that you are free from all condemning sin, if you are looking with your whole heart to Jesus only as your all in all. What a joy is yours and mine! He who is to judge the world in righteousness has himself affirmed us to be clean. By how much the condemnation of guilt is black and terrible, by so much the forgiveness of sin is bright and comforting. Let us rejoice in the Lord whose indisputable judgment has given forth a sentence so joyous, so full of glory. “Jesus declares me clean, Then clean indeed I am, However guilty I have been, I’m cleansed through the Lamb.
His lips can never lie, His eye is never blind, If he acquit, I can defy All hell a fault to find.” It may cheer us to call to mind the person,s praised. They were not cherubim and seraphim, but men, and notably they were men compassed with infirmity; there was Peter, who a few minutes after was forward and presumptuous; and, indeed, it is not needful to name them one by one, for they all forsook their Master and fled in his hour of peril. Not one among them was more than a mere child in grace, they had little about them that was apostolic except their commission, they were very evidently men of like passions with us; yet their Lord declared them to be clean, and clean they were. Here is good cheer for those souls who are hungering after righteousness, and pining because they feel so much of the burden of indwelling sin; for cleanliness before the Lord is not destroyed by our infirmities, nor prevented by our inward temptations. We stand in the righteousness of another. No measure of personal weakness, spiritual anxiety, soul conflict, or mental agony can mar our acceptance in the Beloved. We may be weak infants, or wandering sheep in ourselves, and for both reasons we may be very far from what we wish to be, but as God sees us we are viewed as washed in the blood of Jesus, and we, even we, are clean every whit. What a forcible expression, “clean every whir;” every inch, from every point of view, in all respects, and to the uttermost degree!
Dear reader, if a believer, this fact is true to you, even to You. Hesitate not to drink, for it is water out of your own cistern, given to you in the covenant of grace. Think not that it is presumption to believe the word, marvellous though it be. You are dealing with a wonderful Savior, who only doeth wonderful things, therefore stand not back on account of the greatness of the blessing, but rather believe the more readily because the word is so like to everything the Lord doeth or speaketh. Yet when thou hast believed for thyself and cast every doubt to the wind, thou will not wonder less, but more, and it will be thy never-ceasing cry, “Whence is this to me?” How is it that I who wallowed with swine should be made pure as the angels? Delivered from the foulest guilt, is it indeed possible that I am made the possessor of a perfect righteousness? Sing, O heavens, for the Lord hath done it, and he shall have everlasting praise. “Yes, thou, my soul, e’en thou art clean, The Lord has wash’d thee white as snow, In spotless beauty thou art seen, And Jesus hath pronounced thee so.
Despite thy conflicts, doubts, and fears, Yet art thou still in Christ all fair, Haste then to wipe away thy tears, And make his glory all thy care.”
The time when the praise was given is not without instruction. The word of loving judgment is in the present tense, “Ye are clean.” It is not “ye were clean,” that might be a rebuke for purity shamelessly sullied, a condemnation for wilful neglect, a prophecy of wrath to come; neither is it “ye might have been clean,” that would have been a Stern rebuke for privileges rejected, and opportunites wasted; nor is it even “ye shall be clean,” though that would have been a delightful prophecy of good things to come at some distant period; but ye are clean, at this moment, in this room, and around this table. Though but just then Peter had spoken so rudely, yet he was then clean. What comfort is here amid our present sense of imperfection; our cleanness is a matter of this present hour, we are, just here in our present condition and position, “clean every whit.” Why then postpone our joy? the cause of it is in possession, let the mirth be even now overflowing. Much of our heritage is certainly future, but if there were no other boon tangible to faith in this immediate present, this one blessing alone should awaken all our powers to the highest praise. Are we even now clothed with the fair white linen which is the righteousness of saints? then let us sing a new song unto Jehovah-Tsidkenn, the Lord our Righteousness. May the Holy Ghost now bear witness with every believing reader, “and ye are clean.” “Then may your souls rejoice and sing, Then may your voices sweetly ring, For if your souls through Christ are dear, What cause have you to faint or feat’?”
COURAGE SIR FRANCIS DRAKE, being in a dangerous storm in the Thames, was heard to say, Must I who have escaped the rage of the ocean, be drowned in a ditch!” Will you, experienced saints, who have passed through a world of tribulation lie down and die of despair or give up your profession because you are at the present moment passing through some light affliction? Let your past preservation inspire you with courage and constrain you to brave all storms for Jesus’ sake.