OPENING THE CAMPAIGN BY C. H. SPURGEON.
The next six months are, in many churches, the period of harvest. Our richer friends will have returned from their sea-side vacation, and our poorer brethren will, during the long evenings, have better opportunities for attending our meetings; and therefore we look for larger meetings and less distracted thoughts. In the country, the harvest operations no longer engross attention, and in the town, for the most part, evening services have more attraction. Between this month and the spring, much may be accomplished if pastors and churches have a mind to work. The time has come: are the men ready to avail themselves of it? We judge it seasonable to give a word of exhortation this month, and we trust our readers will not only suffer it but accept it. No one can prescribe rules for other men, yet those who have actual and large experience may give useful hints.
We take it for granted that all are resolved that the season should be improved to the utmost, and all done that can be done to secure the blessing. Let this be spoken of publicly in the pastorís discourse, and regarded as being as much a settled fact as the gathering in of the harvest in its due season. It is important that ministers should at once call special attention to the usual power-meetings, by mentioning them from the pulpit, with a special request that they may be well attended, or, better still, by a sermon upon the topic; stirring up the pure minds of the brethren by way of remembrance. It may be exceedingly beneficial to hold a special meeting after one of the Sabbath services, or to impress the minds of the people with the commencement of the winter campaign by some extraordinary meeting for prayer and exhortation. Menís minds are exercised with many reflections when they see that the pastor is setting himself in a zealous manner to the work of God, and like a man :in earnest is availing himself of the opportunities of the season. Their own proverbs teach our people to make hay while the sun shines, and they judge of the sincerity of our efforts when they see us with common-sense prudence seizing the most profitable occasions. Every one of the members of a congregation should be made to feel, ó ďWhether I help or hinder, whether I unite in effort or am idle, whether I get a blessing or remain indifferent, the minister in Godís name has summoned the church to seek a gracious visitation of the Holy Spirit, and he acts like a man who will not rest without it.Ē Let the trumpet give a certain sound that every warrior may prepare himself for the battle. A lively, hopeful, prayerful commencement will give tone to all that follows.
Thus, having cried unto the Lord for strength, the church should each week make some distinct inroad upon the .territory of the archenemy. We assume that her Sabbath schools, her Bible classes, preaching stations, tract districts, open-air evangelizations, and so on, are all maintained :in firstclass vigor, and that grace rests on all the workers; what we have to propose is extra and beyond all this; ó we suggest that some new effort beyond all that; is already done should be made every week between Sabbath and Sabbath, or on the Lordís day itselfí. For instance, in the department of tract distribution, could not a number of selected tracts be produced at the meeting for prayer, paid for by the gifts of all, and then distributed to all for dissemination all over the district during the week.
Upon these might be printed the name of the place of worship, and the time of the services, and thus a double end might:, be answered. To give publicity to our services would greatly tend to increase our congregations.
In large towns tens of thousands do not even know of the existence of a chapel which may stand within a street or two of them. Handbills of a striking character could be issued, in the same manner, to be placed in shop windows, pasted on walls, or nailed up on gate posts, or elsewhere. By this means the church might bear testimony to the truth each week. If no other good came of it, the duty of witness-bearing would have been performed, and a sin of omission prevented. Of the first handbill given away at the Tabernacle we give a copy at the close of this paper. Funds for this would surely be forthcoming, every one would do something, and much would be accomplished. Or take another instance of what we mean. Is there yet room for more children in the Sabbath school? Then let, the meeting for prayer, at one of its gatherings, consider mainly the school, and plead for a blessing unto it., and let the godly persons there present agree to scour the neighborhood and bring in all the stray children. If the pastor and superintendent would come prepared with a map or plan, with districts marked out, they would probably find sufficient persons volunteering to do all the needful child.-hunting, and the whole meeting would feel a far greater interest in the Sabbath school than it has ever done before. Or, to carry our plan into another department., if rooms in cottages, parlors in larger houses, and such halls as can be hired, were engaged as advanced posts for evangelists services, so that fresh ground were broken up by all the preaching power of the church, and such services were held here one week, and there another, in each case assailing a fresh part of the enemyís wall, we lit, de know what good would follow. We must not be deterred by the idea that we should be thinning the congregation at home, or diminishing the central power. God has ways of recompensing, and takes care that the liberal church Shall be made fat. We have had too much of centralizing; God means us to divide, and so to increase and conquer. We fish one pond till there are no more fish left that are ever likely to be caught, while the same amount of effort elsewhere would, humanly speaking, be far more remunerative. We must launch out into the deep. We have dragged the shallows again and again, with much wear and tear to the net and very small results; who knows what shoals of great fishes are swarming in the waves further from the shore?
Each week, then, we suggest some distinct effort in advance, publicly announced and prayed over, and recognized as the effort of the church, or of that part of it which answers to the pastorís call, and gathers at the council of war held weekly at the prayer-meeting. Real work should be done, not talked about.
Meanwhile the congregation should be, by Godís help, vigorously plied with the gospel Within her own suburbs the church should make it hard for sinners to be at ease. Appeals should not only come from the pastor, but from all the members. Whichever way the unconverted turn they should be confronted with expostulations, entreaties, invitations, and warnings.
Frequent seasons should be set apart for inquirers: the pastor and officers should lay themselves out to converse with all presons under concern of soul.. No one should find it difficult to unbosom his doubts, or relate his struggles after pardon: all experienced believers should be upon the watch to lend their aid. If the undecided will not come to us we must go to them; the members of the church must individually see to them one by one; but the bulk of them will come to an interview if properly invited, and if their first venture should prove profitable they are pretty sure to desire a second.
Love all on fire with holy zeal must make the meetings pleasing, and induce the timid to take courage, the retiring to be less backward, and the selfcondemned to be more at ease in the company of believers. What sweeter work is there than to speak to an audience gathered on purpose to learn the way of salvation? Sweet as it is, few find it easy to discharge the work aright. One goes away from such gatherings sighing and crying because oneís heart; is not more tender and oneís mind more wise in soul-winning.
No one can calculate the personal influence of a beloved minister when he comes side by side with a seeker and pleads with him alone. Under God it is like one of our old three-deckers lying side by side with an enemyís manof- war and pouring in broadsides of red-hot shot; you may see the vessel under fire quiver from stem to stern, and its attempts at reply grow fainter and fainter at every round. Ministers who hold no such meetings, and give souls no opportunity for private discourse, are surely unaware of their duty, or ignorant of their power.
During the sacred crusade a courage of sermons upon the first truths of the gospel would be peculiarly appropriate, and if all hearers were urged to bring friends with them it would be well. For the seat-holders to give up their seats occasionally, and to make it public that, working men were welcome, would be a hopeful experiment. If this were done once a month, and all the seats could be filled with a new set of hearers, what a blessing it might be. Where it. has been tried it has been attended with the most admirable results. At any rate the preacher must. dwell largely at this time upon arousing and soul-saying topics. He must preach Jesus most distinctly, and the plan of justification by faith as clearly as words can put it. The more advanced truths can wait; awhile, but the rudiments of the gospel must be laid before menís minds, if peradventure they may believe and live. Every sermon should have a warm side for sinners, and never be concluded without the proclamation of free grace. This, backed by believing prayer which secures the co-operation of the Holy Spirit, will not be without its effect. After each sermon, announce that inquirers will be immediately seen, and encourage them to stay behind. Also publish frequently the way of joining the church, and urge secret believers to confess their Lord. Let no one say, ďI wish to be baptized, but do not; know where to apply.Ē Keep the church agencies above board, and make plain paths for the feet of seekers. More lies in this than some would suppose.
It will be well that the young should have peculiar attention paid to them.
Mothersí prayer-meetings should be in full force, and why not fathersí prayer-meetings too? These last must be held at very convenient times or they will be a failure, as our experience has shown. Meetings for prayer for the young themselves. :if well conducted, will be eminently beneficial.
There are young believers in the church who would feel at liberty to pray at such meetings, and their example would, by Godís blessing; influence other youths. Addresses should also, at this season, be given to the schools by other than the regular teachers, and the pastor or qualified persons should undertake this task. The little ones mast be made to see that they are lovingly cared for by the church. If meetings could be held at which two or three lively, affectionate exhortations should be given, and opportunities offered for private conversation afterwards, it would surprise some to see how many of the young would gladly come forward to tell their gracious feelings and receive further instruction. In this field we reap not because we do not sow, or because we sow without faith. If day ,schools could be visited also by the minister to tell out the common salvation, precious souls would doubtless be his reward. Private seminaries, as well as the more public schools, should also have a visit from the: workers in the church.
The church-officers and all the leading workers should come together often during this time of Zionís travailing, both for mutual encouragement and united prayer: the pastorís presence would be a stimulus at such meetings, and therefore should not be lacking so long as time and strength hold out.
One such assembly held an horní before the regular prayer-meeting, has just been convened at the Tabernacle, and it has made our heart sing for joy. The church members also should come together alone, and stir each other up to increased love and good works. Why not more of such meetings? Why is not the church-meeting utilized to a far greater extent? It might be and must be. To break bread together at such times would also be very profitable, and tend much to the sustenance of spiritual strength.
Every believer should be doubly on the alert in watching for souls. None in that congregation should be able to say, ďWe attended that place, but no one spoke to us.Ē There should be much hand to hand battling with unbelievers, for this mode of wrestling with sin is greatly blest, and it is the duty of all who are themselves partakers of the divine life. If all members of the church became seekers of souls they would, with Godís blessing, all become winners of souls. This would yield a season of increase such as our present experience has not enabled us to realize.
O that the Lord would send forth real power into our midst! We need not great talents or intense excitements; with what we already have the battle may be won if the Lord will put his Spirit within use. The ox-goad, the jawbone, the sling-and-stone, and the ramís-horn trumpet have each been made an irresistible weapon; with God the instrument is little, his might is everything. Only let us be strong in faith, full of zeal, and very courageous for the Lord our God, and the Lord will bless us.
Brethren, our marching orders are FORWARD!
COPY OF HANDBILL DISTRIBUTED ON SEPTEMBER 16TH, AT THE TABERNACLE ó A QUESTION!
Where wilt thou spend Eternity?
Nay; donít tear down the bill; This question means but good to thee, And will be answered still To shun the light, or shut the sight, Thy Cup of Wrath may fill.
Eternity where wilt thou spend?
Donít say ó ďI cannot tell.Ē
The life thou leadest now will end In Heaven or else in Hell.
O Friend, bethink thee well!
The above may be had of Passmore and Alabaster, 4, Paternoster Building.
Size 20 in. by 15 in. Price 3s. per hundred.