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  • CHARLES SPURGEON -
    THE SWORD AND THE TROWEL. - MARCH, 1868.


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    ACCIDENTS IN THE LORD’S WORK.

    “And the sons of the prophets said unto Elisha, Behold now, the pinaco where we. dwell with thee is too strait for us. Let us go, we pray thee, unto, Jordan, and take thence every man a beam, and let us make us a place there,, where we may dwell. And he answered, Go ye. And one said, Be content, I pray thee, and go with thy servants. And he answered, I will go. So he went with them, And when they came to Jordan, they cut down wood. But as one was lolling a beam, the ax head fell into the water: and he cried, and said, Alas, master! for it was borrowed. And the man of God said, Where fell it? And he showed him the place. And he cut down a stick, and cast it in thither; and the iron did swim. Therefore said he, Take it up to thee. And he put out his hand, and took it.” — Kings 6:1 — 7.

    HERE was an instance of a college for the training of men of God. The young teachers, who are called “sons of the prophets,” lived in the society of Elisha, that great master in Israel, and so far from imagining that it was wrong to instruct those who were moved of the Spirit to speak, the venerable prophet encouraged them to provide further accommodation, that others might share in his teachings. The whimsies of certain good people with regard to seminaries for ministers are founded in a misapprehension: it is both a good and a necessary work to educate those whom the Lord has called. Schools of the prophets there always have been, and always must be. Humanly speaking, the Reformation could never have spread over Europe, had it not been that both Luther and Calvin lectured to large classes of young men, who were attracted by their fame, and being filled with their spirit, went everywhere proclaiming the truth. Our Lord’s twelve apostles were his college of preachers, and .each of these committed the gospel to faithful men, who taught others also.

    This passage also gives a hint to those excessively spiritual people who object to building places for God’s worship, and whenever an enlargement, or a new structure is projected, cry out about hearing so much about bricks and mortar. Their wisest way is to give their immediate help to the enterprise, and. get the building done with, that they may never hear of it again. Young prophets must have houses, and as these will not grow of themselves, like mushrooms, there must be ‘some little talk about the matter, and earnest labor too. Elisha did not say, “There, there, do not trouble me about buildings; I desire to walk with God and think of heavenly things; I cannot possibly give attention to your carnal arrangements about building houses; no, he listened to their story, and when he saw them resolved upon the business, he went with them to afford them his countenance and company. Our personal experience of superfinely spiritual people who cannot endure the ordinary work of Christian churches, is just this — they are either lackadaisical, sentimental images of affectation, or mean, stingy hypocrites, who want an excuse for tightening their purse-strings’. While we are in this body, we shall want houses to meet in for public worship, almsrooms and orphanages for the relief of the poor, and schools for the instruction of the young; and it is as much a holy work to build these in our times, as it was for Bezaleel to fashion the tabernacle, or Solomon to erect the temple. Those excessively heavenly people who cannot condescend to such worldly work, ought not to eat their dinners, for that is a very fleshly operation; nor ought they to sleep as do others, or to array themselves in coats and waistcoats, for that is a very carnal fashion; they should rig themselves out with wings, and imitate the angelic in all things. Bah! One needs a great deal of patience to endure the nonsense of a certain class of very pretentious, but useless people.

    Our chief reason for noticing the incident before us, was to make an observation appropriate to our late trial, that in the best work for the Lord we have no guarantee against accidents, and the losses which they occasion. The young prophet was most landably engaged, and yet the head of his ax flew off, and fell into the water. Those who conclude that every successful work has the smile of God upon it, should remember that Babylon was mistress among the nations, and none could stand against her, yet was she abhorred of the Lord. Those, on the other hand, who see in every temporary calamity a proof that an enterprise is not according to the Lord’s mind, might condemn the preaching of the gospel itself, since in its very infancy it subjected so many to persecution and to cruel death. Whom the Lord loveth he chasteneth, and the works which he approves he often renders difficult. When the preacher at the Surrey Music Hall saw his congregation scattered by the uproar of wicked men, and mourned over precious life which was so suddenly sacrificed, there were friends who read in that shocking disaster an omen that the work was not of God, and that the preacher must desist; but the young man did not believe in omens, but in duty, and therefore, as soon as he could, he reappeared in his pulpit, and as the result of his after ministry in that place, it is not too much to say that thousands found Christ by his direct teaching, while the preaching of the word in cathedrals, abbeys, music halls, and theaters, became a tolerated agency, and even a popular method of evangelisation. During the last few days an unusually strong wind has demolished about six hundred pounds’ worth of property at the Stockwell Orphanage; will the conductor of that work be at all discouraged, and dream that the Lord’s hand is against him?

    Not for a moment. The same event happeneth alike to all. Winds and tempests blow upon the good as well as the evil. When a storm is abroad, it shows no partialities, and is as likely to overturn an orphanage as a theater, to wreck a missionary ship as a pirate’s craft. Does this perplex the observer? It should not do so. God would have us serve him under trials and difficulties; to screen us from them would be to make babies of us, and not to develop the manly qualities of patience, courage, and perseverance.

    In this world and under its ordinary laws the Great Master would have us labor, not under a glass case of miracles and wonders, but under the cloudy skies which look down upon a fallen world: he trains us to work not as a race of amateurs protected from all the dust and sweat of ordinary life, and laid up in lavender by supernatural exemptions from hardships, but as real workmen, to whom things are as they are, who find trees hard to fell, and the heads of whose axes fly off unless they are well fastened on to their handles. Of course, if trust in providence be a guarantee against flood, wind, fire, and hail, it is clear that all who meet with such calamities are great sinners, and their works obnoxious to the Ruler of all things, but this can hardly be true, when we frequently see those called to suffer who are the very cream of the church of Christ. Paul was engaged upon no ill errand when he suffered shipwreck; his soul was fired with the noblest ambition of which sanctified humanity is capable, and yet the vessel was dashed to pieces. The fact is, that the same events may be curses to some and blessings to others, and thus a judgment which overwhelms the ungodly may be a gracious visitation to the saint. Our business is to learn the lessons which adversities are meant to teach us, and they’ are not difficult to discover. The case of the man with the lost are is to the point. When accident impedes us in the work of the Lord, we may expect a divine interposition, for, in the name ‘of his Master, the prophet caused the iron to swim. Our trials are often the shadows of coming mercies. We are made to draw back a little that we may with the more energy leap forward. We lose silver to find gold. God will appear at the ebb of the tide. He will turn the year at the shortest winter’s day. When he has shown us our entire dependence t/pen himself, he will stretch out his glorious arm and work deliverance. Such gracious help we believingly look for at the Orphanage.

    The Lord who is the Father of the orphans, will not destroy his own property wantonly — he has some good thing in store. The are may be in the water, but the prophet’s God can raise it, it shall not be lost. We may also feel deep gratitude that it is no worse. The are might have split some one’s head when it flew off, or it might have severely wounded the young workman himself. He was probably little used to felling trees, he was not a regular woodman certainly, for he had to borrow his are; he went to work eagerly but clumsily, and flourished his weapon at such a rate that it was a mercy when the dangerous implement was out of his unskillful hand. We have felt glad with regard to the building which we have lost, that it fell in good time before any children were on the premises. In all human probability they would have sought shelter during the gale under the very structure which is now a ruin, and many might have been crushed beneath the massive timbers. Thanks be to God that no worse mishap has occurred; nothing indeed but what may be replaced with a little exertion. We have not to say, “Alas, Master! it was borrowed,” for it was a free gift to us, and he whose generosity prompted the present has already offered to bear a share of the loss.

    No doubt the slipping of the are head taught the worker to ram it on more tightly next time. He would be more careful before he went to his chopping again, and in like manner we are now admonished to build in the most substantial manner, so that, so far as men can judge, no furious wind may damage our edifice again. The young man found it necessary to put out his hand to reach his are from the river, and thus he learned that divine help gave him no dispensation from exerting himself. Even so while we know that God will come to the rescue, we dare not be idle, but stir up all our friends to do their best, and the Lord being with us, all will be well.

    Thus learning from adversity, we set our face steadfastly to our work, forasmuch as we know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. We have resolved to proceed at once with four more houses, the school, the master’s house, the dining hall, and the skeletons of three more houses, which will answer the purpose of the building which the wind has removed.

    May the Lord make the iron to swim.

    ZIGZAG FIRST to the right, then to the left, the road was ever ascending but always twisting, and thus, by easy marches, we were able to reach the summit of the pass; a straight line would have. been shorter for the eagle’s wing, but no human foot could have followed it. Nobody called us inconsistent for thus facing about; we kept the road, and no one could complain. If we honestly desire to gain the heights of divine truth, we shall find many zigzags in the road: here our face will front divine sovereignty with all its lofty grandeur, and anon we shall turn in the. opposite direction, towards the frowning peaks of human responsibility. What matters it if we appear to be inconsistent, so long as we keep to the highway of Scripture, which is our only safe road to knowledge! Angels may, perhaps, be systematic divines; for men it should be enough to follow the word of God, let its teachings wind as they may. — From the Note Book of my Travels.

    HOLY WATER.

    HOLY water, indeed! a vile mixture, neither fit for man nor beast. You see this liquid virtue at the doors of all the churches, ready for the brows of the faithful, but what is far more curious, you observe it in little pots placed for us in the cemeteries; and that the passer-by may give the dead a showery benediction, there are little sprinkling brushes in the pots with which to scatter the precious mixture. A mother’s tears over her dead babe are far more in place than such foolery. Holy water! bah! See how the rain pours down from yonder black cloud Which that sort of holy water is infinitely more likely to moisten the clay of the defunct, and bring plenteous blessing to the living, than all the hogsheads of aqueous fired that priests ever mumbled over.: Holy water, indeed. If there be such a thing, it trickest from the eye of penitence, bedews the cheek of gratitude, and falls upon the page of holy Scripture when the word is with power. Standing where, when the rain is over, one can see the fair Lake of Lucerne brimming with crystal, and the clouds among the Alpine peaks all charged with moisture, rendered golden by the sun’s clear shining, one feels indignant at the idea that the little driblets of nastiness in yonder· pots and shells should be generated, and all nature’s reservoirs accounted common or unclean. It needs no small measure of prudence to restrain a man from tumbling pots and pans and holy liquids headlong to the ground. Human folly, how far wilt thou not go when priests lead thee by the nose! — From the Note Book of my Travels. C. H. S.

    MUSINGS BY THE WAY

    “For this child I prayed.” — 1 Samuel 1:27.

    DEVOUT souls delight to look upon those mercies which they have obtained in answer to their supplications, for they can see God’s especial love in them. When we can name our blessings Samuel, that is, “asked of God,” they will be as dear to us as her child was to Hannah. How sweet was that water to Samson which he found at “the well of him that prayed.”

    Quassia cups turn all waters bitter, but the cup of prayer puts a sweetness into the draughts it brings. Did we pray for the conversion of our children?

    How doubly sweet, when they are saved, to see in them our own petitions fulfilled! Better to rejoice over them as the fruit of our pleadings than as the fruit of our bodies. Have we sought of the Lord some choice spiritual gift? When it comes to us it will be wrapped up in the gold cloth of his faithfulness and truth, and so be doubly precious. Have we petitioned for success in the Lord’s work? How joyful is the prosperity which comes flying upon the wings of prayer! It is always best to get blessings into our house in the legitimate way, by the door of prayer; then they are blessings indeed, and not temptations. Even when prayer for a time speeds not, the blessings grow all the richer for the delay: the child Jesus was all the more lovely in the eyes of Mary when she found him after having sought him sorrowing.

    That which we win by prayer we should dedicate to God as Hannah dedicated Samuel. The gift came from heaven, let it go to heaven. Prayer brought it, gratitude sang over it, let devotion consecrate it. Here will be a special occasion for saying, “Of thine own have I given unto thee.”

    Reader, is prayer your element or your weariness? Which? “A living dog is better than a dead lion.” — Ecclesiastes 9:4.

    Life is a precious thing, and in its humblest form it is superior to death.

    This truth is eminently certain in spiritual things. It is better to be the least in the kingdom of heaven than the greatest out of it. The lowest degree of grace is superior to the noblest development of unregenerate nature. Where the Holy Ghost implants divine life in the soul there is a precious deposit which all the refinements of education and the ennoblings of philosophy cannot match. The thief on the cross excels Caesar on his throne; Lazarus among the dogs is better than Cicero among the senators; and the most unlettered Christian is, in the sight of God, superior to Plato. Life is the badge of nobility in the realm of spiritual things, and men without it are only courser or finer specimens of the same lifeless material, needing to be quickened, for they are dead in trespasses and sins.

    A living, loving, gospel sermon, however unlearned in matter and uncouth in style, is better than the finest discourse devoid of unction and power. A living dog keeps better watch than a dead lion, and is of more service to his master; and so the poorest spiritual preacher is infinitely to be preferred to the exquisite orator who has no wisdom but that of words, no energy but that of sound. The like holds good of our prayers and other religious exercises; if we are quickened in them by the Holy Spirit, they are acceptable to God through Jesus Christ, though we may think them to be poor and worthless things; while our grand performances in which our heart is absent, like dead lions, are mere carrion in the sight of the living God. Oh for living groans, living sighs, living despondencies, rather than lifeless songs and dead cairns! Better anything than death. The snarlings of the dog of hell will at least keep us awake, but dead faith and dead profession — what greater curses can a man have? Quicken us, quicken us, O Lord!

    SPENCER’S THINGS NEW AND OLD.

    TO read everything would be impossible. Some hooks it is unwise to read at all and of others a little may suffice. If somebody would boil down modern literature into the essence of knowledge, and sell it out in shilling’s-worths, he would deserve the heartiest commendations; for as things now are, what with the hone of platitude, the gristle of verbosity, and the suet of fine writing, our largest masses of literary provender hardly afford a man a breakfast of really nutritious mental food. It seems that two hundred years ago from this very date, John Spencer, who was not a scholar by profession, but humbly calls himself a lover of learning and learned men, issued a goodly tome, in which he presented his readers with extracts from all the authors within his reach: extracts metaphorical and curious, and for the most part judicious and valuable, lie must have been a marvel of industry, for his quotations number 2283, and are taken from the classical, patristic, puritan, and every other school of authorship. To every paragraph he has appended “the names of those at whose torch he bas lighted his taper,” and thus as quaint Thomas Fuller says. “he hath revived the memories of many worthies, and of their speeches which otherwise had utterly been lost.” lie took care to place an appropriate heading over every extract, and to furnish an excellent index. Having, like the her, sucked honey from ten thousand flowers, he stored it with the greatest diligence in well-arranged cells, and having lived out his hour like the rest of us poor working bees, he died. leaving his dripping honeycombs to us, his heirs. Up till the present year, “Spencer’s Things New and Old” have been a cabinet whitebait dinner for the few, rather than a banquet for the many, but now his dainties are brought to every man’s door, and all the world may purchase them. Mr. Dickinson and Mr. Tegg have each issued an edition of this valuable work, and we fear there is more fear of a glut in the market than of a scarcity. In this case, too many cooks will not spoil the broth, nor will they cause, damage to the company, but we are half afraid the worthy men may stall themselves, or lind their viands growing moldy in the cupboard. It is a thousand pities that by some mutual arrangement they had not avoided the loss, which, unless the public be very discerning, must accrue to one or both of the publishers, it is not possible for us to have a preference for either of the editions. How happy could we be with either.

    The portly volume of Mr. Dickinson is just the book for shelves which are enriched with Puritanic folios, for which we must ever feel a reverence and love. Of course, such a book is heavy, but then we do not hold it up, but the table bears the weight, and then the type and the large page are delightful. Moreover, in this volume, we have Cawdray’s remarkable compilation, and so have two treasures in one. As for Mr. Tegg’s two volumes, they are of a convenient and usable size, and one ran turn round to the fire with a copy in one’s hand. The volumes are well got up, and will he preferred by many, though we, ourselves personally, cannot see a pin to choose between the two editions, they are both so exceedingly good. As a cluster from Eshcol made men long for the vineyards of Canaan, perhaps a specimen or two will make our readers desirous to purchase the work. 1266. Idleness the cory inlet to all temptations. — It was the speech of Mr. Greenham (some time a painful preacher of this nation) that when the devil tempted a poor soul, she came to him for advice, how she might resist the temptation, and he gave her this answer: Never be idle, but be always well employed; for in my own experience I have found it, when the devil came to tempt me, I told him that I was not at leisure to hearken to his temptation, and by this means I resisted all his assaults. Thus must all of us do, when the devil comes to tempt any of us, say: I am not at leisure to lend an ear to thy temptations, I am otherwise employed, I am in the work of my God, busied in the work of my lawful calling, and taken up with the thoughts of God’s blessings thereupon, then he will never be able to fasten upon thee; for so it is, that he never gets advantage of any man or woman, but either when they are out of God’s way, or idle, or have their hands in some sinful action, then it is that they do even tempt the tempter to tempt them, and lay themselves open to a world of sin and wickedness.” “1323. How it is that Faith challengeth the superiority over other graces. — Take a piece of wax and a piece of gold of the same magnitude, the wax is not valuable with the gold; but as the wax hangs at the label of some will, by virtue of which some great estate is confirmed and conveyed, so it may be worth many hundred pounds. So faith considered purely in itself, doth challenge nothing more than other graces, nay, in some sense it is inferior, it being an empty hand; but as this hand receives the precious alms of Christ’s merits, and is an instrument or channel through which the blessed streams of life flow to us from Him, so it doth challenge a superiority over, and is more excellent than, all other graces whatsoever.” “1349. Conscience spoils the wicked man’s mirth. — There is a story of one who undertook in a few days to make a fast sheep lean, and yet was to allow him a daily and large provision of meat, soft and easy 1odging, with security from all danger, that nothing should hurt him. This he effected, by putting him into an iron grate, and placing a ravenous wolf hard by in another, always howling, fighting, scenting, scratching, to come at the poor sheep; which, affrighted with this sad sold and worse sight, had little joy to eat, less to sleep, whereby his flesh was suddenly abated. And thus it is that all wicked men have the terrors of an affrighted conscience constantly, not only barking at them, but biting them, which spoil all their mirth, dissweetens their most delicious pleasures with the sad consideration of the sins they have committed and punishment they must undergo when, in another world, they shall be called to an account for what they have done here in the flesh.” “1367. Complete Christian Duty. — It was the speech of Mr. Bradford, that he could not leave a duty till he had found communion with Christ in the duty, till he had brought his heart into a duty-frame. He could not leave confession till he had found his heart touched, broken and humbled for sin; nor petition, till he had found his heart taken with the beauties of the things desired, and carried out after them; nor could he leave thanksgiving, till he had found his spirit enlarged, and his soul quickened in the return of proses: just like that of St. Bernard, who found God in every duty, and communion with him in every prayer; this was true, sincere, complete Christian duty. And thus it is that the soul taken with Christ desires converse with him in prayer, in hearing, and in meditation, on, Isaiah 58:9.

    And such too is the genius of a soul taken up with Christ, that duty doth not content it, if it find not Christ in the duty; so that, if the end of a duty hath not left it on this side Christ, it hath left it so far short of true comfort.” “1417. Riches, the danger of them being not well used. — In an artichoke, there is a little picking meat, not so wholesome as delicious, and nothing to that it shows for; more than the tenth part is unprofitable leaves; and besides, there is a core in the midst of it which will choke a man if he take not good heed. Such a thing is wealth that men so covetously desire; it is like some kind of fish, so full of bones and unseen, that no man can eat of them without great danger. The rich man’s wealth is very troublesome to the outward man, like a long garment that is too wide, if he tread upon it, he may chance to catch a fall a fall into much discontent and envy of the world; but to the soul, riches if not well employed, prove very pernicious, making a man vainly confident; thinking that he is so walled and moated about, that he is out of all gunshot when he is more open to danger than a poorer man, then they make him proud: and pride, saith St. Bernard, is the rich man’s cozen, it blows him up like a bladder with a quill; then he grows secure, and so falls into sudden ruin.

    SENTRIES.

    WHILE the Austrian general was staying at the Hotel de Ville, upon the Grand Canal, at Venice, we lodged at the same house, and so often as we passed his rooms, whether by day or night, we encountered two sentries on guard at the door. Our heart said to itself, whenever the King of kings deigns to make a chamber of our spirit, let us set holiness and devotion to be sentries at the entrance. When our Beloved visits us he must not be disturbed; ill thoughts must be repulsed, and carnal desires kept at a distance. With drawn swords let watchfulness preserve the sanctity of Immanuel’s rest. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he please.” — From the Note Book of my Travels. C. H. S.

    REVIEWS.

    Retrospect and Forecast in Relation to Missionary Enterprise. Two sermons preached in Fuller Chapel, Kettering. ByJAMES MURSELL.

    London: Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row. VOICES from Kettering deserve attention; Mr. Mursell does no discredit to the pulpit of Andrew Fuller; his two sermons are affectionate, bold, and seasonable. The Baptist Missionary Society must be revived and reformed, or it will pine like a fading flower: such judicious suggestions as those of Mr. Mursell deserve the gravest attention of all its friends, and we urge every missionary spirit to ponder them well. Eighteenpence or one shilling is, we suppose, the price, but publishers forget to inform us. Moyley and Tyndall on Miracles. An Essay. By Wm. Fowler, LL.B. London:

    Longmans.

    WHEN our merchant princes are valiant for the truth, the fact is refreshing to the Christian heart, and tends to break the gloom which a survey of the present age is sure to cast upon the reflecting. Mr. Fowler has a clear, calm, logical mind; he readily finds out the weak place in his opponent’s argument, and he handles the spiritual rapier with such dexterity, that all his thrusts cut and kill. Among philosophical doubters Mr. Fowler will do wonders. The Desert and the Holy Land ByALEXANDER WALLACE, D.D., Author of” The Bible and Working People,” “Poems and Sketches,” etc. Edinburgh:

    William Oliphant & Co. IT is not easy, after the many books that have been published of recent years on Palestine, to write a work on so popular a subject, with any claims to orginality, either or matter or style. Yet Dr. Wallace has succeeded in both beyond his pretensions. He has told us what he saw and felt in visiting the land teeming with so many hallowed associations; his descriptions of Eastern’ scenes are graphic and interesting, the incidents of his travels are humorous and illustrative of Oriental life and manners; while the account of his journey through the desert is vividly presented to the reader, who, if already acquainted with current books on the subject, will find match here that will strike him with special interest and peculiar freshness. Dr. Wallace’s book is one that may be profitably read and re-read, which is more than we can say of many works on the same subject, of far higher pretensions. The Nonsuch Professor in his Meridian Splendor; or, The Singular Actions of Sanctified Christians. By Wm. Secker. London: R. Dickinson, Farringdon Street.

    THIS is a nonsuch work, sparkling with wit weighty with wisdom and rich with unction. It would be superfluous to criticize a treatise upon which succeeding ages of divines have set the seal of their approval. The Sunday Scholars’ Annual: containing Stories and Ballads for Sunday Scholars. Third Series. Elliot Stock, 62, Paternoster Row. THESE stories and ballads, so pleasantly told and so capitally illustrated, will be sure to gain great favor with our young folk. The little volume is cheap, tasteful, and elegant. The Hero of the Desert; or, Facts more wonderful than Fiction. By the Rev. James Spong. The Book Society, 28, Paternoster Row.

    ASERIES of discourses upon the life of Moses. Excellent family reading, earnest, impressive, and interesting. Not a book for suggesting new thought, or opening up deep mysteries; but good, useful, practical reflections, suitable to the many. We should not quite coincide in some of Mr. Spong’s modes of putting the truths which touch upon Sovereignty and Responsibility, but still we are surprised to find that we so nearly agree, where there is so much room for difference. The hardening of Pharaoh’s heart is not so easily disposed of as some may think; it would be far easier to measure the sun’s surface with a two-foot rule than to fathom the depth of this great mystery.

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