HARLAN PAGE; OR, PERSONAL WORK FOR JESUS AN INTRODUCTION, BY C. H. SPURGEON.
OUR venerable friend, Cornelius Elyen, of Bury St. Edmund’s, Suffolk, has finished his long and honorable career as a preacher of the gospel, and has gone to his reward. We were requested by a dear friend to “weave a chaplet” for his memory, but having few or no materials, we have been unable to do so; both heart and hand are willing, but the facts which, like amaranthine flowers, should fashion the immortelle, are not at hand, so that affection cannot perform its task. Our departed friend was a prophet honored in his own country, for he exercised his useful ministry in his native town, and in the place wherein he was born devout men carried him to his burial, and made great lamentation over him. When we had just commenced our youthful pastorate at Water-beach, Cornelius Elyen, as a man of mark in that region, was requested to preach the anniversary sermons in our little thatched meeting-house, and right well we remember his hearty compliance with our request. We met him at the station as he alighted from a third-class carriage, which he had selected in order to put the friends to the least possible expense for his traveling. His bulk was stupendous, and one soon saw that his heart was as large as his body. He gave us much sage and holly advice during his visit, advice which came to us with much the same weight as Paul’s words came to Timothy. He bade us study hard, and mind and keep abreast of the foremost Christians in our little church; “for,” said he, “if these men, either in their knowledge of Scripture, or their power to edify the people, once outstrip you, the temptation will arise among them to be dissatisfied with your ministry, and, however good they are, they will feel their superiority, and others will perceive it too, and then your place in the church will become very difficult to hold.” We felt the common sense of the observation, and the spur was useful. The sermons of the day were homely, very homely in style, and preeminently practical. We remember his reading the narrative of Naaman the Syrian, and his pithy comments thereon; but one thing above all others fixed itself upon our memory, and when we heard of the good man’s departure it came before us with great vividness; he told us anecdotes of the usefulness of addressing individuals one by one about their souls, and urged the duty upon us with great earnestness, quoting again and again from the: life of a certain HARLAN PAGE.
From that day to this, being busy with a thousand matters, we have never looked up the biography which he so strongly recommended; but though it must be now some three and twenty years ago since we heard the sermon, our first thought, ‘when we learned of the death of Cornelius Elven, was HARLAN PAGE. We sent at once for the little book, and it has refreshed us greatly to read it; and as we wish every reader of The Sword and the Trowel to know all about HARLAN PAGE, we take this early opportunity of advising them to get the little book from the Religious Tract Society. Perhaps many of our friends will smile and reply, “We read the book years ago,” and our answer will be, “Then read it again.” Our own belief is that a book which is popular with one generation is often forgotten by the next, and that it is a good thing to bring it again under notice. We do not know of a more stimulating work for the common run of Christians, or one more likely to be of lasting service to them; and therefore with more than common earnestness we press its perusal upon all who value our judgment.
Mr. Harlan Page was an American mechanic of very ordinary abilities, who laid himself out to win souls for Jesus by personal conversations and by writing letters to individuals. His success was great, and, though he was no preacher, his power for good far exceeded that of most ministers. He lived only to lead sinners to Jesus, and probably brought himself to an early but honorable grave by the zeal which burned within his soul, and quite consumed him. He was no orator, but he knew how to pray and prevail. To gather children into the Sabbath-schools, to speak to wayfarers, to importune the careless, and encourage seekers — these were his daily occupations in every instant that he could spare from his workshop. One of his first efforts was to give away little cards, upon which he had printed striking words of warning to the impenitent, and his last office was in connection with the Tract Society of New York, which was happy enough to secure his priceless services. His whole biography is full of pleasing incidents of usefulness, but we have thought it best, instead of attempting to abridge the whole, to give our readers parts of a chapter of the work, which may be regarded as a summary of the whole; and having thus introduced Harlan Page, we will let his actions speak for themselves. “It may not be unimportant to bring together some of the characteristics of his efforts to honor Christ in the salvation of individuals as illustrated in the preceding history. It was the burden of his heart, and the purpose of his life. When engaged in his usual business, the religious welfare of persons with whose state he had become acquainted, was generally pressing on his mind; and it is now known, that for several years before he died, he almost always had by him a memorandum of the names and residences of a few individuals with whom he was to converse. 0n these he would call, as he went to and from his office, or religious meetings; and if no names were on his list, he felt that he was doing little good. He also uniformly had in his hat some awakening tracts, that he might present as he should judge them adapted to the state of those he met. Not unfrequently he would seize a few moments from his usual occupation, to go out and address some individual; and when the business of the day was closed, he hastened to some meeting or other religious engagement for the evening. It is believed that an entire month has frequently elapsed, during which he did not sit down for an hour, even in the bosom of his own family, to relax his mind, or rest. Every evidence of good accomplished gave him new joy; and every opening for usefulness added a new impulse to his efforts. He felt that, under God, the eternal joy or woe of immortal souls depended on his fidelity. Each evening and each hour brought its duties, which he felt could not be neglected or postponed. The present duty was still before him; and though “faint” he was still “pursuing.” His labors on the Sabbath were not less exhausting than on other days, and he doubtless thus failed of obtaining that “compensation for toil” which the animal constitution requires, and which is essential to a long life.
When urged, at the close of a day of fatigue, to spare himself and spend the evening at home, he would say, “Don’t attempt to persuade me away from duty. I have motive enough within myself to tempt me to enjoy repose with my family; but that will not save souls.” A little previous to his last sickness, as he returned from church, coughing, he was asked if he had not spoken too much in the Sabbath-school: “Perhaps I have,” he replied, “but how could I help it, when all eyes were fixed, and the children seemed to devour every word I said?”
It was not uncommon, at different periods of his life, for him in sleep to imagine himself addressing the impenitent, and to wake in a high state of excitement and in tears, occasioned by the deep sympathy he felt for their perishing condition. It is also known, that, when he saw no manifestations of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit, he would be at times in deep distress, would wrestle more abundantly in prayer, renew his efforts to arouse Christians to duty, and awaken the impenitent; and, more or less, conversions were almost always the result.
In short, it was not the great object of his spiritual life himself to be happy in religion, but rather by persevering labors and holy self-denial — like the apostle who testified that he died daily — to glorify God in winning souls to him. He ardently desired to devote the whole undivided efforts of his life to this work, and nothing but the duty of providing for the support of his family prevented it.
He had the most dear view of the necessity to every man of being born again. As soon as an individual came into his presence it seemed to be the first question of his mind, “Is this a friend or an enemy of God?” The next thing was, if impenitent, to do something for his conversion, or, if a Christian, to encourage him in duty. Whatever else he saw in an individual, he felt that it availed him nothing unless he had received Christ into his heart by a living faith. This he felt and urged to be the sinner’s first, great, and only duty in which he could be acceptable to God. This was exemplified at a meeting of his Sabbath-school teachers, when he called on each to know whether he thought he had a well-grounded hope in Christ or not, and recorded their several replies. Among them was an amiable young merchant, whom he highly respected, and who seemed not far from the kingdom of God. “Have you a hope?” he tenderly inquired. “No, sir,” was the reply. “Then I am to put down your name as having no hope?” “Yes, sir.” “Well, I write down your name as having no hope.”
The young man pondered on this decision and record of his spiritual state; was troubled, and soon came to our brother, saying, “I told you to put me down as having no hope, but I cannot say that.” He is now a member of the church, and a decided supporter of all her institutions.
He brought his efforts to bear upon individuals, and followed up impressions made. All the triumphs of the gospel, he knew, consist in the conversion and sanctification of individuals; and he was not satisfied with merely praying and contributing for the salvation of the world as a whole, or having a general impression made on the minds of a congregation. His intense desire was, that individuals should be turned from sin to God. Not unfrequently he would observe in the congregation a person unknown, to him, who seemed to give solemn attention to divine truth; ascertain who he was, and seek a personal interview; and, in all cases, if he left an individual to-day in an interesting state of mind, he would endeavor to see him again to-morrow, and follow up the impression at brief intervals, till there was no longer encouragement, or he had evidence of true conversion.
He had a clear sense of obligation, both in the sinner to repent, and in the Christian to devote all his powers to God. He felt, and labored to make others feel, that if any one neglected duty, the guilt was all his own; that God was ever ready to receive the returning prodigal; and that if any withheld their hearts, or aught they possessed from him, in the day of judgment they would be speechless. This sense of obligation he urged with unabating fervor. His heart was intent that it should be felt, and immediately carried out in an entire consecration to God. “Brother,” said he to a Christian who watched with him, “when you meet impenitent sinners, do not merely say calmly, ‘Friend, you are in danger;’ but approach them with a holy violence, and labor to ‘pull them out of the fire.’ They are going to perdition. There is a heaven and a hell.”
As a brother from Boston, to whom several of his letters were addressed, had called, and was about taking leave, he asked the dying man if he had any particular thought on his mind to express as he bade them farewell. “Ah! I can say nothing,” he replied, “but what has been repeated over and over; but could I raise my voice to reach a congregation of sinners, I would tell them, ‘their feet shall slide in due time’ — they ‘shall slide’ — there is no escape but by believing in Christ.”
He not only endeavored to alarm impenitent men, but to bring them to a decision that they will be the Lord’s.
While in his native place, he was absent one evening till so late an hour that his wife remonstrated with him for unreasonably tasking his own health, and separating himself from home. “I have spent this time,” said he, “in trying to persuade your poor impenitent brother to give his heart to Christ.” That impenitent brother was soon brought to accept of mercy, pursued a course of theological study, and is now serving God in the ministry.
On another occasion, while residing in New York, he had gone to a religious meeting, and returned late in the evening, when he was reminded of the danger that his protracted efforts might be more than he could ultimately sustain. “I have been standing this hour,” was his reply, “at the corner of the street, laboring with Mr. H. — (one of the teachers of his Sabbath-school), and trying to persuade him to submit to God.” Within a few hours the young man found peace, soon resumed his studies, which he had been pursuing for other ends, and he is now a devoted minister of Christ, gathering a flourishing church in one of the principal cities of the west. A letter from this young clergyman, received as these sheets were going to press, thus confirms this brief statement: — “The name of brother Page will ever be associated in my mind with all that is worthy of imitation in the Christian character. By the persuasions of an acquaintance, I was induced to engage as teacher in his Sabbath-school; and though I was then destitute of faith, he welcomed me, and won my confidence and love. Very soon he began to address me with the utmost apparent tenderness and anxiety in reference to my own salvation. His words sunk deep into my heart. They were strange words; for though I had lived among professors of religion, he was the first who, for nine or ten years, had taken me by the hand, and kindly asked, ‘Are you a Christian?’ ‘Do you intend to be a Christian?’ ‘Why not now? ’ Each succeeding Sabbath brought him to me with anxious inquiries after my soul’s health.
On the third or fourth Sabbath he gave me the tract, ‘Way to be saved,’ which deepened my impressions. At his request I also attended a teachers’ prayer-meeting, conducted by him, where my soul was bowed down and groaned under the load of my guilt. At the close of the meeting, Mr. Page took my arm as we proceeded on our way to our respective homes, and urged upon me the duty and privilege of an immediate surrender of my heart to Christ, As we were about to part, he held my hand; and at the corner of the street, in a wintry night, stood pleading with me to repent of sin and submit to God. I returned to my home, and for the first time in many years bowed my knees in my chamber before God, and entered into a solemn covenant to serve him henceforth in and through the gospel of his Son. God was pleased, I trust, by his Holy Spirit, to seal my vows. If I have since had any Christian joy, or done anything to advance the cause of Christ, it is to be attributed to the Divine blessing on the faithfulness of brother Page.”
He expected success from God, through the blessing of the Holy Spirit, in answer to prayer. He felt that humble, self-denying effort, made in God’s strength, he would own and bless; but that for this he would be “inquired of” by his people. He loved prayer. Besides prayers at social meetings, with the families and individuals he visited, and on special occasions, frequently recurring, he regularly not only conducted family worship, accompanied by singing, but every morning and evening prayed with his wife as they retired and rose, and also poured out his heart to God alone in the closet. For the latter duty, when in his native place, he often retired to a consecrated spot in a grove, near his father’s house. If one of the household were about to take a journey, the family assembled and commended each other to God, which was frequently done on other occasions of special interest.
His prayers were usually short and fervent, and confined mainly to those topics which pressed with special force upon his mind. At all times prayer seemed to be a privilege, and the throne of grace a resting-place, and a solace to his heart. There is no doubt that it was by continual and fervent prayer that he imbibed that glowing sense of eternal things, that love to souls, and that heavenly unction which were, at once the spring of his fidelity, and, under God, the ground of his success.
So anxious was he that there should be more prayer in the churches, and such were his hopes, that, if the duty were properly presented, it would be felt and practiced, that he united with a brother, whose means were as limited as his own, in paying fifty dollars as a premium for a tract on prayer — himself drawing out minutely various hints to guide those who might write.
In his mind there was no jarring conflict between perfect obligation on the part of man, and perfect dependence in his relations to God. He knew both were revealed, momentous, eternal truths, and left all embarrassing questions of their consistency to be settled by God himself. It was enough to hear God speak, and to obey. He prayed as if a1l the efficiency and praise were God’s, and labored as if duty were all his own. His sense of dependence threw him on his knees, and his sense of duty summoned him to effort; and prayer and effort, and effort and prayer, were the business of his life. Blessed day to the church when this endless source of contention and controversy shall thus be settled in every Christians heart!
He was uniform and unwearied. I know not who has made or heard the charge of inconsistency in his Christian character. Those who knew him best, best knew how supreme in his heart was the business of glorifying God in the salvation of men. I have well considered the assertion; when I say, that during nine years in which we were associated in labors, I do not know that I ever passed an interview with him long enough to have any interchange of thought and feeling, in which I did not receive from him an impulse heavenward — an impulse onward in duty to God and the souls of men. No assembly, even of professed Christians, from which the spirituality of religion was excluded, whether met for social enjoyment, or in furtherance of some benevolent design, received his countenance; nor was he satisfied with what too justly seemed the strange anomaly of excluding Christ from the hours of social intercourse, and then, as it were, atoning for the sin by closing the interview with prayer.
The only remaining particular, which it seems important now to mention, is his fruitfulness in devising means for doing good. Of this point the history of his life is but an exemplification.
As the father of a family, he labored for the spiritual welfare of all his household, especially for the early conversion of his children. Of thirteen individuals, who resided in his family at different times in the city of New York, twelve became deeply anxious for their salvation. One of these was a Roman Catholic, whose attention to family worship was forbidden by her priest; one who was hopefully reclaimed from her backsliding, has since died; and six others gave, and, so far as known, still give evidence of saving conversion to God. Of his fidelity to his children, the testimony contained in the following expression of filial gratitude from his son in transmitting, by request, the letters he had received from his father, will be excused: — “In reviewing the letters I received from my father,” he says, “I see everywhere an expression of the tenderest solicitude, both for my temporal and eternal welfare; and oh! for some of that ardent desire for the salvation of souls to bear me forward in duty which impelled him onward, till he ceased his toils on earth, and entered on his rest in heaven. “I cannot refrain from bearing testimony to my father’s fidelity to my own soul. Well do I remember his endeavors, in my early childhood, to lead me to the Savior — his prayers — his entreaties — and the anxiety with which he followed me, year after year, while under the paternal roof, and when away, till he could speak to me no more. His kind voice I shall no longer hear. His affectionate smile of approval, or tears shed over my waywardness, I shall no more see. His kind intercourse with the members of his family, we shall no more share. He will no more call us around the hallowed family altar, lead us in the hymn of praise, and in pouring out the soul to God. He is in a more endeared, a happier, and holier sphere, enjoying the smiles and presence of his God and Redeemer. Pray for me, that I may have grace to follow his example, as he followed Christ, and at last to unite in his songs.”
Many pious young men were by him sought out and directed towards the ministry.
To the cause of missions, both in our own and pagan lands, he was steadfastly devoted. He not only turned his eye away from the accumulation of property, as the object of his life, but felt the duty, and claimed the blessedness to his own soul, of imparting for the cause of Christ a portion of what he had. On his dying-bed he mentioned to Mrs. Page that five dollars, which before his sickness he had subscribed to a benevolent object, remained unpaid. “We have consecrated to God,” said he, “and I had rather it should be paid. You had better pay it, and trust him.”
His familiarity with the character and religious bearing of all the Society’s publications, and with the general state and wants of the community, rendered him skillful in selecting publications appropriate to the different fields and circumstances for which they are designed, and also in giving an impulse and a wise direction to the feelings and efforts of Christians who were continually calling for the transaction of business; and in all, it abundantly appears that he felt that the efficiency was alone with God, and that he mingled continual prayer for the gift of gifts, the accompanying influences of the Holy Spirit.
Is it wonderful that God should bless his efforts? — that in each church with which he stood connected, individuals when relating their religious experience, should be heard referring to his faithful endeavors as the means of bringing them to Christ? — that a revenue of souls should have been gathered from the place of his nativity; thirty-two teachers he brought publicly to profess Christ from one of his Sabbath-schools, and nine of them have set their faces towards the ministry? — that thirty-four souls should hopefully have been gathered by him and his fellow-laborers from one ward of the city; and fifty-eight, in connection with his efforts and those of a few endeared associates, have been brought to join themselves to the people of God from the tract and Bible houses? — that individuals should come to his dying bed, and thank him, with tears, for his fidelity to their own souls? Is it wonderful that, in speaking to her who is now his widow, of his early departure, and looking back on his work on earth as ended, he should, with the solemnity of eternity on his countenance, say — “I know it is all of God’s grace, and nothing that I have done; but I think have had evidence that more than one hundred souls have been converted to God through my own direct and personal instrumentality”?
Look at the influence of such a Christian life on a large scale. Suppose every Christian labored, not to say with such talents, but with such a heart to the work. Suppose there were ten such Christians in every evangelical church throughout our land, and God should equally bless their labors! how would they rouse their fellow Christians to duty! how would they search the highways and hedges and by God’s grace compel the ungodly to come in! how would they instruct the rising age! how would they hold up the hands of faithful ministers! how would the Holy Spirit, be shed down in answer to their prayers! how would their influence penetrate through every vein of this great community! and how soon would living piety here pour its influence on every benighted land! Such a light as would then shine could not be hid. It would illumine the world, and Christ would come and possess the nations.”
A GOLDEN SENTENCE.
A BRIEF DISCOURSE BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Jesus saith unto them, My meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work.” John 4:34,.
THIS text contains in it much consolation for those who are desirous of salvation; more of example to those who are saved: and most of all of matter for praise concerning our Lord himself, who is its spokesman.
I. Let us begin by noticing that THE TEXT CONTAINS MUCH OF CONSOLATLON FOR THOSE ANXIOUS ONES WHO WOULD FAIN FIND MERCY THROUGH JESUSCHRIST.
You who are trembling under a sense of sin will perceive that the work of saving souls is called by Christ “his Father’s will.” I know you are very prone to imagine that Christ is full of pity but that the Father is austere, severe, an avenging judge; you slander your God by such a supposition. “The work of mercy is the will of him that sent me,” saith Christ, “all that I am doing when I am seeking the soul’s good of a poor sinful Samaritan woman, at the margin of this well, is according to my Father’s mind.”
Christ was not, as it were, introducing men to a mercy from which God would fain keep them, but he was bringing to reconciliation with God those concerning whom the benevolent will of God was that they should be saved; and more, concerning whom the effectual will of God was that they should also be brought into covenant relation with himself, and should enjoy eternal life. Sinner, if thou gettest into the garden of the Lord’s grace thou hast not come there as an intruder. The gate is open; it is God’s will that thou shouldst come. If thou receivest Christ into thy heart thou wilt not have stolen the treasure; it was God’s will that thou shouldst receive Christ. If with broken heart thou shalt come and rest upon the finished sacrifice of Jesus, thou needst not fear that thou wilt violate the eternal purpose, or come into collision, with the divine decree. God’s will has brought thee into a state of salvation. One of the most vain fears that a man can entertain is the dread that the Father will be unwilling to forgive; or the equally absurd fear that he may possibly find a decree of God shutting him out when he is anxious to be reconciled. Where God gives the will to come to Jesus, we may be sure that the eternal purpose has gone before. O awakened sinner, thine anxious desire, thy prayerfulness, thy longing for God, are but the shadows of the divine will upon thine own will. Imagine not that thou canst get the start of God in the race of mercy. “No sinner can be beforehand with thee; Thy grace is almighty, preventing and free.” If thou desirest, God has long ago desired. If thou purposest in thy heart God has long ago purposed. Thou needest never be troubled about divine predestination. The Gospel which we preach is that to which thou shouldst give thine attention, Rest assured that God has never spoken in secret, in a dark place of the earth, and said, “Seek ye my face in vain.” He has never passed a secret decree in the council-chamber which shall contravene the open promise of his mercy. “Whosoever believeth on the Son hath everlasting life.” If thou comest to Christ and castest thyself upon him, thou needest entertain no suspicion that thou art violating the will of God, for salvation is the will of God which Jesus Christ has come to fulfill.
Another consolation is here given to every seeking soul, namely, that Jesus Christ is sent into the world on purpose to save. If I know that I am sick, and that a physician has come into the street on purpose to heal, I feel no difficulty about inviting him into my house. If I know that I am poor, and that a princely almoner has come with plentiful liberalities to distribute to the poor, I have no difficulty in asking of him: why should I, if I know that he has come with the very object and intent to do that which I want him to do? Now, wherever there is an empty sinner a full Christ has come on purpose to fill that empty sinner. Wherever there is a thirsty spirit the river of life is poured out on purpose for that thirsty soul to drink. If thou hungerest after Christ rest assured that Christ has met with thee, and discerns in thee one of those whom he came to call. He would not have made thee hunger, nor made thee thirst, nor made thee feel thine emptiness if it had not been his intention to remove thy hunger, slake thy thirst, and fill thine emptiness to the full. Look upon the Savior as being commissioned by his Father to save sinners, Never indulge the thought that he came to save better ones than thou art, and that thou art just beyond the pale of his mercy, but instead thereof let thy sinfulness, thy nothingness, thy conscious weakness, thine utter ruin and hell-desert — let these inspire thee with a surer hope that thou art such as Jesus Christ came to deliver.
He came to seek and to save that which was lost. Who more lost than thou art? Believe, then, that he came to seek and to save thee, and cast thyself upon him, and thou shalt find it so. Here, then, is a double comfort: it is both the will of God and the mission of Christ that sinners should be saved.
Perhaps the greatest consolation to a despairing sinner which this text affords is the delight which Jesus Christ experiences in the work of saving souls. It was his one object. From of old he looked forward to the day when a body should be prepared for him that he might come into the world to redeem. When the fullness of time was come he was no unwilling servitor to our souls. “In the volume of the book it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God!” Down from the portals of the skies the Savior came with glad alacrity, willing, panting to save. When he was on earth he was nothing loth to seek out the guilty; nay, it was alleged against him, “This man receiveth sinners, and eateth with them.” He could have healed the leper, if he had pleased, while he stood at a distance, but he chose to touch him when he healed him, to show how near he had come to humanity, that he did not shrink from it, but that it was his delight to come into contact with all the woe and suffering of our fallen race. He did not retire from sinners to guard his holiness in solitude. He did not surround himself with a bodyguard to keep off the throng, but there he was among them, surrounded by a press of common folks, many thronged him, and some touched him who received healing virtue through their believing touch. He was at the beck and call of everybody. He had not time so much as to eat, and when he did, through weariness, seek a little rest, they followed him on foot and persecuted him with their entreaties; yet he was never angry, but always full of compassion towards them. He was a willing Savior; and found his soul’s delight in winning souls. That great crowning work of suffering and death by which souls were effectually redeemed Was no unwilling service. He said he had a baptism to be baptized with, and that he was straitened until it was accomplished. The cup was bitter as hell, but he longed to drink it. His death was to be at once the most ignominious and the most painful that could be devised, and yet he thirsted for it. “With desire, Lord, have I desired to eat this passover,” said he. He did not hide himself away when he was wanted, but he went to the garden, and Judas knew the place, and when they sought him he said, “Wherefore have ye come out; to seek me as a thief with lanterns and with staves?”’ He was willing to yield himself up. No bonds could have bound him, and yet he bound himself. They could not have dragged him to the cross, nor myriads like them, but he went like a lamb to the slaughter, and like a sheep before her shearers was he dumb, and opened not his mouth. All that wondrous passion upon Calvary was a free-will offering for us; it was a voluntary sacrifice to the fullest possible extent. What if I say that even in his deepest agony Christ had a joy unknown? I think we have too much forgotten the wonderful joy which must have filled the Savior’s heart even when going to the cross. Beloved, you cannot suffer for others, if you have a benevolent nature, without feeling joy that you are taking the suffering from them: and we know that it was because of “the joy that was set before him” that he “endured the cross, despising the shame.” As he dived into the black waves of grief he could see the precious pearl which he counted to be of greater price than all, and that sight sustained him with a latent joy, if I may so call it, which did not sparkle at the time, but which lay there slumbering within his soul even when “he was exceeding sorrowful, even unto death.” And now that Christ has gone up on high, poor trembling sinner, he has no greater joy than this, in seeing of the travail of his soul in souls redeemed by him, both by price and. by power, from death and sin.
Jesus wept over Jerusalem because it would not be saved, but Jesus rejoices greatly over sinners who repent. This is his joy, and his crown of rejoicing — even ye poor tremblers who come and look to his cross and find life in his death, and healing in his wounds.
I cannot bring out the comfort of this text to you as I could wish. Words fail me, but I would urge those of you who want to find peace and faith, to make a point of thinking very much about Christ. We not only lay hold on the cross by faith, but it is the cross which works faith in us. If you would think more often of the mercy of God, and the will of God, and the mission of Christ, and the lovingkindness of Christ, your, soul would probably be led by the Spirit, by that course of thought, to believe in Jesus. Your dwelling constantly upon your sin, and your hardness of heart, has a great tendency to drive you to despair. It is well to know your heart to be hard, and your sin to be great, but as a man is not healed by simply knowing that he is sick, and is not likely to get his spirits comforted by merely studying his disease, so you are not likely to find faith by ranking amongst the filth of your fallen nature, or trying to find. something good in yourselves which is not there, and will not be there. Your wisest course is to think much of Jesus, and look to him. You will soon find hope in him if you look for it there. You will soon discover grounds for comfort if you look to God in the person of his Son. If you regard the will of God as it is revealed on Calvary, and read it in the crimson lines written adown the Savior’s pierced body, you will soon perceive that his will is love. Turn away from the wounds which the old serpent has given you, and look to the brazen serpent. Look away from your own death to the death of Jesus, and, recollect, that your repentance apart from Christ, will only be a legal repentance, full of bondage, and will be of no avail to you. As old Wilcocks says, “Away with that repentance which does not weep at the foot of the cross.” If you do not look to Jesus Christ when you repent, your repentance is not an evangelical repentance, but a repentance which needeth to be repented of. Do, I pray you, receive the truth which I have put before you, or, rather, which the text so plainly presents. The salvation of sinners is the will of God, the work of Christ, and the joy of Christ. Is not this good news?
II. But I said that the text WAS MUCH MORE AN EXAMPLE TO BELIEVERS, and so it is.
Every word here is instructive to the follower of the Lord Jesus Christ. “As he is, so are we also in this world,” and the more we become like him the more have we attained to that which God would have us be.
Note in the text, first of all, Christ’s subserviency. He says, “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me.” He says nothing about his own will. Thus early did he say, “Not my will, but thine be done.” The man of the world thinks that if he could have his own way he would be perfectly happy, and his dream of happiness in this state or in the next is comprised in this, that his own wishes will be gratified, his own longings fulfilled, his own desires granted to him. This is all a mistake. A man will never be happy in this way. It is not by setting up his own will, and crying, “Great is Diana of the Ephesians;” but perfect happiness is to be found in exactly the opposite direction, namely, in the casting down of our own will entirely, and asking that the will of God may be fulfilled in us. “This is my meat,” says the sinner, “to do my own will.” Jesus Christ points to another table, and says, “This is my meat, to do the will of him that sent me; my greatest comfort, and the most substantial nourishment of my spirit, are not found in carrying out my own desires, but in submitting all my desires to the will of God.”
Beloved, our sorrows grow at the roots of our self will. Could a man have any sorrow if his will were utterly subdued to the will of God? In such a case would not everything please him. Pain, if we did not kick against it, would have a wondrous sweetness; losses would positively become things to rejoice in, as affording opportunities for patience; we should even take joyfully the spoiling of our goods. When we have conquered ourselves we have conquered all; when we have won the victory over our own desires, and aversions, and have subdued ourselves, through sovereign grace to the will of God, then must we be perfectly happy.
Notice in the text, however, in the next place, not only subserviency, but also a recognized commission. O Christian, cultivate full subserviency to the divine will, and let it be your desire also to see clearly your commission from on high. It is the will of God; ay, but it is well for us to add “The will of him that sent me.” If I am a soldier, when I am sent upon an errand I have not to consider what I shall do, but, having received my commands, I am bound to obey. Do not many Christians fail to see their commission? It has come to be a dreadfully common belief in the Christian Church that the only man who has a “call,” is the man who devotes all his time to what is called the “ministry,” whereas all Christian service is ministry, and every Christian has a call to some kind of ministry or another. It is not every man that will become “a father in Israel,” for “ye have not many fathers;” it is not every man who can become even an instructor, or an exhorter, but each man must minister according to the gift he hath received. Ye are a nation of priests. Instead of having some one man selected who becomes a priest, and so maintains the old priestcraft in the Christian church, Jesus our Lord and Head has abolished that monopoly for ever. He remains the one great Apostle and High Priest of our profession, and we in him are made, each one of us, through his grace, kings and priests unto God. You are each of you, as believers, sent into this world with a distinct commission, and that commission is very like the commission given to your Master. In your measure the Spirit of the Lord is upon you, and he has sent you to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and to preach the acceptable year of the Lord. Into the atonement you cannot intrude, Christ has trodden the winepress alone, and of the people there was none with him, but in the place of service you will be no intruder, it is your dwelling-place. You are called to follow Christ your Lord in all holy labor for souls. “As the Father hath sent me, even so send I you;” is not this a part of his dying commission, not to the Apostles only, but unto all the saints? Let us endeavor to recognize this. When Christ was sent of God he did not forget that he was sent. He did not come into this world to do his own business after he had once been sent to do his Father’s will. So you and I must not act as though we were living here to make money, or to bring up our families, and make matters comfortable for ourselves. We are, if we are Christians, sent into the world upon a divine errand, and oh! for grace to recognize the errand and to perform it.
Further, notice the practical character of our Lord’s observations on these two points, He says, “My meat is” — what? To consider? To resolve? To calculate? To study prophecy as to when the world will end? To meditate upon plans by which we may be able one of these days to do something great? Not at all. “My meat is to do the will of him that sent me.” The meat of some people is to find fault with others who do Christ’s will, they never seem to have their mouths so well filled as when remarking upon the imperfections of those who are vastly better than themselves. This is like glutting one’s self with carrion, and is unworthy of a man of God. Did you ever know a man whom God blessed who had not some crotchet or singularity? I think I never knew such a man or woman either. Whenever God blesses us there is sure to be something or other to remind men that the vessel containing the treasure is an earthen vessel. Foolish people are so fond of crying “Look at the meanness of the vessel!” as though no treasure were contained within. Were they wise they would understand that this is a part of the divine appointment, that we should have this treasure in earthen vessels that the excellency of the power may be of God, and not of us. Could you do God’s work better, think you? I wish you would try! It is generally true that those who cavil at others, find it inconvenient to walk in any path of usefulness at all.
There are others, of a somewhat better disposition, who find it their meat to project new methods. They invent grand schemes. There is a house to be built for God’s people to worship in, and they always know how to build it, so many people are to give so much, and so many so much; the practical part of the business being how much they will give themselves, but upon that point they have remarkably little to say. They are always talking of some grand scheme or other for impossible Christian union, or some magnificent but impracticable Christian effort. Our Lord was practical.
You are struck in the whole of his life with the practical character of it. He was no visionary, and no fanatic. Though his holy soul was on fire as much as the most fanatical zealot that ever lived, all his plans and methods were the wisest that could possibly be arranged; so that if men had sat down in their coolest prudence to devise schemes, had they been rightly led they must have devised the very schemes which this warm-hearted, passionate Savior carried out. He did not theorize, but act. My dear brethren and sisters, I hope we shall earn the same commendation. Many Christians are too fond of mysticisms, quiddities, oddities, and strange questions which minister not unto profit, I heartily wish they would try to win souls for Jesus in the old-fashioned Bible way. Every now and then some particular phase of truth crops up, and certain Christians go perfectly mad about it, wanting to pry between leaves that are folded, or to find out secrets which are not revealed, or to reach some fancied eminence of self-conceited perfection in the flesh. While there are so many sinners to be lost or to be saved, I think we had better stick to preaching the gospel. As long as this world contains millions of those who do not know even the elementary truths of Christianity, would it not be as well for us first of all to go into the highways and hedges, and tell men of our dying Savior, and point them to the cross? Let us discuss the millennium, and the secret rapture, and all those other intricate questions by-and-by, when we we have got through more pressing needs. Just now the vessel is going to pieces, who will man the life-boat? The house is on a blaze, and who is he that will run the fireescape up to the window? Here are men perishing for lack of knowledge, and who will tell them that there is life in a look at the crucified One? He is the man who shall give men meat to eat; but all others, though they may carry a dish of most exquisite china, will probably give them no meat, but only make them angry at being tantalized with empty wind. Christ’s satisfaction of heart was of a most practical kind; he was subservient to God as a commissioned servant, and busy with actually doing the will of God.
But the gist of the text lies here. Our Lord Jesus Christ found both sustenance and delight in thus doing the will of God in winning souls.
Believe me, brethren, if you have never known what it is to pluck a brand from the burning, you have never known that spiritual meat which, next to Christ’s own self, is the sweetest food a soul can feed upon. To do good to others is one of the most rapid methods of getting good to yourselves.
Read the diaries of Whitefield and of Wesley, and you will he struck with the fact that you do not find them perpetually doubting their calling, mistrusting their election, or questioning whether they love the Lord or not. See the men, preaching to their thousands in the open air, and hearing around them the cries of “What must we do to be saved?” Why, brethren, they had no time for doubts and fears. Their full hearts had no room for such lumber. They felt that God had sent them into this world to win souls for Christ, and they could not afford to live desponding mistrustful lives.
They lived unto God, and the Holy Ghost so mightily lived in them that they were fully assured that they partook of his marvelous power. Some of you good people, who do nothing except read little Plymouthy books, and go to public meetings, and Bible readings, and prophetic conferences, and other forms of spiritual dissipation, would be a good deal better Christians if you would look after the poor and needy around you. If you would just tuck up your sleeves for work, and go and tell the gospel to dying men, you would find your spiritual health mightily restored, for very much of the sickness of Christians comes through their having nothing to do. All feeding and no working makes men spiritual dyspeptics. Be idle, careless, with nothing to live for, nothing to care for, no sinner to pray for, no backslider to lead back to the cross, no trembler to encourage, no little child to tell of a Savior, no grey-headed man to enlighten in the things of God, no object, in fact, to live for; and who wonders, if you begin to groan, and to murmur, and to look within, until you are ready to die of despair? But if the Master shall come to you, and put his hand upon you, and say — “I have sent you just as my Father sent me; now go and do my will,” you will find that in keeping his commandments there is great reward. You would find meat to eat that you know nothing of now. Let us have practical Christianity, my brethren. Let us never neglect doctrinal Christianity, nor experimental Christianity, but if we do not have the practice of it in being to others what Christ was to us, we shall soon find the doctrines to be without savior, and the experience to be flavored with bitterness. Christ found joy in seeking the good of the Samaritan woman, Her heart, hitherto unrenewed, satisfied him when he had won it to himself.
Oh the joy of winning a soul! Get a grip from the hand of one whom you were the means of bringing to Christ; why, after that, all the devils in hell may attack you, but you will not care for them, and all the men in the world may rage against you, and say you do not serve God from proper motives, or do not serve him in a discreet way; but since God has set his seal upon your work, you can afford to laugh at them. Do but win souls beloved, through the power of the Holy Spirit, and you shall find it to be a perennial spring or joy in your own souls.
But, notice: our Lord says, in addition to his finding it his meat to do God’s will that he also desired to finish his work. And this is our satisfaction, to persevere till our work is finished. We shall never be content — “Till all the blood-bought race Shall meet around the throne; To bless the conduct of his grace, And make his wonders known.” You do not know how near you may be to the completion of your work.
You may not have to toil many more days. The chariot-wheels of eternity are sounding behind you. Hasten, Christian! Use the moments zealously, for they are very precious. You are like the work-girl with her last inch of candle. Work hard! “The night cometh wherein no man can work.” “I paint for eternity” said the painter; so let us do, let us work for God as those whose work will endure when selfish labors shall burn as wood, hay, and stubble in the last tremendous fire. To finish his work! To finish his work!
Be this our aim. When the great missionary to the Indians was dying, the last thing that he did was to teach a little child its letters, and when someone marveled to see so great a man at such a work he said he thanked God that when he could no longer preach he had at least strength enough left to teach that poor little child. So would he finish his life’s work, and put in the last little stroke to complete the picture. It should be our meat and our drink to push on, never finding our meat in what we have done but in what we are doing and still have to do; finding constantly our refreshment in the present work of the present hour as God enables us to perform it, spending and still being spent. Never let us say, “I have had my day; let the young people take their turn.” Suppose the sun said, “I have shone; I shall not rise to-morrow.” Imagine the stars in their beauty saying, “We have for so long a time shot our golden arrows through the darkness, we will now retire for ever.” What if the air should refuse to give us breath, or the water should no longer ripple in its channels, or if all nature should stand still because of what it once did — what death and ruin would there be! No, Christian, there must be no loitering for you; each day be this your meat, to do the will of him that sent you, and to finish his work.
III. And now, lastly, I have not strength, neither have you the time, to consider THE GLORY WHICH JESUS CHRIST SHOULD HAVE FROM US, when we know that he could truly say, “It is my meat to do the will of him that sent me and to finish his work.” How could he ever have loved us? It is strange that the Son of God should have set his affections upon such unworthy beings. I should not have wondered, my brother, at his loving you, but it is a daily marvel to me that Jesus should have loved me. It is a wonder of wonders that he should come to save us; that when we were so lost and ruined that we did not even care about his love, but rejected it when we heard of it, and despised it even when it came with some degree of power to our hearts, that he should still have loved us notwithstanding all. “Tis strange, ‘tis passing strange, ‘tis wonderful”! Yet, so it is. He has no greater delight than in saving us, and in bringing us to glory. Shall we not praise him? Do not our hearts say within themselves, “What shall I do, my Savior, to praise? Wherewithal shall I crown his head? How shall I show forth my gratitude to him who found such delight in serving me?”
Beloved, may the love of God be shed abroad, in our hearts by the Holy Spirit which is given to us. Let every flying hour confess We bring the gospel fresh renown; And when our lives and labors cease May we possess the promised crown.
From this day forth may it be our meat and drink is to do the will of him that sent us, and to finish his work.
I leave the text with you, my brethren in Christ, and may God give you grace practically to carry out its meaning. I leave it with you, ye unconverted, and may it be as cords of love to draw you to Jesus Christ; and his shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.
NOTES WE laid the first stone of the new buildings for the Pastors’ College on Tuesday, October 14, and the day will ever be one of the brightest recollections of our heart. Our loving people from seven in the morning to ten at night never ceased to pour in their offerings, each one saying a kind word to the pastor as the money was given. Happy is the minister who has such a people. Mainly by small sums the amount was made up to £1,000, and the ministers and students brought in another £300. We began the day with prayer, and the students continued the devotions right on. The day was fine, the people enthusiastic, the speakers in good trim, and all was as we could desire it, best of all the Lord was there. Our enterprise is now going on to completion, and if all our readers were now to send in their help we should soon crown the edifice. This will be done, and again, we shall have to magnify the God of grace. Never before was any work in our hands carried out with so little trouble.
It is delightful to read the account of the meetings of the Baptist Union at Nottingham; evidently the divine presence was enjoyed. The address of Dr. Landels on Ritualism was a splendid deliverance. “There is a future for you Baptists,” said Neander, and we mean to realize it by the Lord’s gracious help.
Like many of our readers, we were amazed to find the Christian World charging us with believing in the damnation of infants. Never did we give any man an excuse for such a calumny; we loathe the notion as we detest murder. The newspaper writer must have very sore withers, or he would not kick out so wildly at the touch of our hand. We accept his handful of mud as the evidence that his conscience pricked him. As to the editor of the Christian World, much as we dislike his theology, we cannot believe that he approves of such an assault; we have always found him a gentleman, and therefore we expect the amende honorable at his hands before this reaches our readers.
A new Baptist interest is to be raised in Aldershot. One of our College men is to commence in a few days.
The friends who have met at Palmerston Hall, Wimbledon, have bought the hall, and made it their permanent place of worship. We have apportioned them £200, but they greatly need further aid.
It was a great joy to us to journey to Bradford to assist in the opening services of the new chapel of our brother, Mr. J. P. Chown. We had a good season in St. George’s Hall, and the Lord was there. It is interesting to record that before we reached Bradford Mr. Chown’s friends had cleared the new chapel of all debt, and therefore the collections were divided between the Bradford Infirmary and the Stockwell Orphanage. Our share is to be £125, and we are truly grateful for it; it cheers us at a time when subscriptions come in but slowly.
At Bedford, on October the 22nd. we preached in Mr. Howard’s great implement house to three or four thousand people. The collections were divided between the Baptist and Wesleyan churches. We are coming nearer, for we both hate Ritualism and neology. Both denominations have definite views on the great gospel doctrines, and abhor the looseness of “modern thought.”
The Sunday-school teachers at Tabernacle have had a very gracious season of special prayer, and are looking for a great blessing. The setting apart of a time for intercession by the Sunday School Union was a most wise and holy thought, we feel sure that throughout all Sabbath schools which duly observed the occasion the largest blessings will follow. O for living teaching, and the quickening of youthful hearts into immediate conversion to God!
We are requested to state in connection with the China Mission that a letter awaits J. J. S. at 422, Holloway Road Post-office, from T. P. H., 82, Dempsey Street. We may add that we hope the papers upon China will lead friends to help Mr. Hudson Taylor’s Inland Mission, and any sums sent to us will be punctually forwarded.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle, by Mr. J. T. Wigner: — September 29th, fifteen. By Mr. J. A. Spurgeon: — October 2nd, fourteen.