ALONE, YET NOT ALONE BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Jesus answered them, Do ye now believe? Behold, the hour cometh, yea, is now come, that ye shall be scattered, every man to his own, and shall leave me alone and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” John 16: 31, 32.
Do ye now believe?” Then it seems that faith held them fast to Christ, but as soon as fear prevailed they were scattered, and left their Master alone.
Faith has an attracting and upholding power. It is the root of constancy, and the source of perseverance, under the power of God’s Spirit. While we believe we remain faithful to our Lord; when we are unbelieving we are scattered, every man to his own. While we trust, we follow closely; when we give way to fear, we ungratefully forsake our Lord. May the Holy Spirit maintain our faith in full vigor, that it may nourish all our other graces!
Faith being strong, no faculty of the inner man will languish, but if faith declines, the energy of our spiritual nature speedily decays. If ye believe not, ye shall not be established, but “the just shall live by faith,” to the fullest force of life.
This being noted, our meditation shall now be fixed alone upon the Savior’s loneliness, and the measure in which the believer is brought into the same condition.
THE LONELINESS OF THE SAVIOR.
Note the fact of it . He was left alone — alone when most as man he needed sympathy. Solitude to him during his life was often the cause of strength; he was strong in public ministry because of the hours spent in secret wrestling with God on the lone mountain side; but when he came to the hour of his agony his perfect humanity pined after human sympathy, and it was denied him. He was alone in the garden; though he took the eleven with him, yet must he leave eight of them outside at the garden gate; and the three, the choice, the elite of them all, though they were brought somewhat nearer to his passion, yet even they must remain at a stone’s cast distance. None could enter into the inner circle of his sufferings, where the furnace was heated seven times hotter. In the bloody sweat and the agony of Gethsemane the Savior trod the winepress alone. They might have watched with him, wept with him, prayed for him, but they did neither. They left his lone prayer to ascend to heaven unattended by sympathetic cries. He was alone too when put upon his trial. False witnesses were found against him, but no man stood forward to protest to the honesty, quietness, and goodness of his life. Surely one of the many who had been healed by him, or of the crowds that had been fed by his bountiful hand, or likelier still some of those who had received the pardon of their sins and enlightenment of their minds by his teaching might have come forward to defend him. But no, his coward followers are silent when their Lord is slandered. He is led to slaughter, but no pitying voice entreats that he may be delivered; true, his judge’s wife persuades her husband to have nothing to do with him, and her vacillating husband offers to liberate him if the mob will have it so, but none will raise the shout of “loose him and let him go.” He was not alone literally upon the cross, yet he was really so, in a deep spiritual sense. Though a few loving ones gathered at the cross’ foot, yet these could offer him no assistance, and probably dared not utter more than a tearful protest. Perhaps the boldest there was that dying thief who called him, “Lord,” and expostulated with his brother malefactor, saying, “This man hath done nothing amiss.” Few indeed were the voices that were lifted up for him. From the time when he bowed amid the deep shades of the Mount of Olives, till the moment when he entered the thicker darkness of the valley of death-shade, he was left to suffer alone.
Here was the fact, what was the reason for it . We conclude that fear overcame the hearts of his disciples. It is natural that men should care for their lives. They pushed this instinct of self-preservation beyond its legitimate sphere, and when they found that the Master was taken, and that probably the disciples might share his fate, they each one, in the panic of the moment, fled in haste. They were not all traitors, but they were all cowards for the time. They meant not to desert their Lord, they even scorned the thought when it was put to them in calmer moments, but they were taken by surprise, and like a flock of sheep they fled from the wolf.
They rallied after a little, and mustered courage enough to follow him afar off; they did not quite forget him; they watched him to his later end, they kept together after he was dead; they united to bury him, and they came together instinctively on the first day of the week. They had not cast off altogether their loyalty to their Lord and Master, for he was still keeping those whom the Father had given him that none of them might be lost, yet fear had defeated their faith for awhile, and they had left him alone.
There was a deeper reason, however, for this; it was a condition of his sufferings that he should be forsaken; desertion was a necessary ingredient in that cup of vicarious suffering which he had covenanted to drink for us.
We deserved to be forsaken, and therefore he must be. Since our sins against man deserved that we should be forsaken of men, he bearing our sins against man is forsaken of men. It cannot be that a runner should enjoy true friendship. Sin is a separating thing, and so when Christ is made the sin-bearer his friends must leave him. Besides this was one jewel in the crown of his glory. It was said in triumph by the great hero of old, who typified our Lord, “I have trodden the winepress alone; and of the people there was none with me.” To make that true in the severest sense, it was needful that the Captain of our salvation should by his single arm defeat the whole of hell’s battalions. His the sole laurels of the war; for his own right hand and his holy arm have gotten him the victory.
Can you for a moment enter into the sorrow of that loneliness ! There are men to whom it is a small matter to be friendless; their coarse minds scorn the gentle joys of fellowship. Sterner virtues may tread beneath their iron heel the sweet flowers of friendship; and men may be so defiantly selfreliant that like lions they are most at home amid congenial solitudes.
Sympathy they scorn as womanish, and fellowship as a superfluity. But our Savior was not such: he was too perfect a man to become isolated and misanthropical. His grand gentle nature was fall of sympathy towards others, and therefore sought it in return. You hear the voice of grief at the loss of brotherly sympathy in the mournful accents of that gentle rebuke, “what, could ye not watch with me one hour?” How could they sleep whilst he must sweat; how could they repose while he was exceeding sorrowful even unto death? He showed the greatness of his soul even in its depression when he lovingly excused them by saying, “The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.”
How sad to him it was that they should desert him! The brave Peter and all the rest of them, all taking to their heels! Worse still was it to receive the traitor’s kiss with the word, “Master, Master;” twice repeated, as the son of perdition betrayed his friend to win the bloodmoney! David lamented the villainy of Ahithophel, but the Savior even more keenly felt the treachery of Judas, inasmuch as he was of a more tender spirit than the Son of Jesse.
For Peter to say he knew him not and with cursing and swearing to deny him three times in succession, this was cruel. There was such an element of deliberation about that denial, that it must have cut the Savior to the very quick. But where was John — John who leaned on his bosom — that disciple whom Jesus loved — where was John? Did he not say a word, nor interject a single syllable for his dear friend? Has Jonathan forgotten his David? The Master might have said, “Thy love to me was wonderful passing the love of women,” but alas, John is gone; he has nought to say for his Master!” Though he remains at the cross’ foot to the last, yet even he cannot defend him. Jesus is all alone, all alone; and the sorrow of his lonely heart none of us can fully fathom.
This is a painful meditation, and therefore let us notice the result of our Savior’s loneliness . Did it destroy him? Did it overwhelm him? It pained him but it did not dismay him. “Ye shall leave me alone and yet I am not alone” saith he, “because the Father is with me.” The effect of that solace in his soul was wonderful. Our Savior did not turn aside from the purpose of redeeming his people, though they proved so unworthy of being redeemed. Might he not well have said, “You have forsaken me, I will forsake you”? It would but have seemed natural for him to have exclaimed, “You are types of all my people, you care little enough for me: I have come into this world to save you, but you do not care to rescue me; you have deserted me, and behold I leave you to your fate.” But no, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end;” and if they forsook him, yet he fulfilled to each one of them his ancient promise, “I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee.” The baptism wherewith he was to be baptized he would still accomplish, and be immersed in the floods of death for their sake.
Nor did he merely exhibit constancy to his purpose: he displayed great courageousness of spirit. He was all alone, but yet how peaceful he was!
The calmness of the Savior is wonderful. When he was brought before Herod, he would not utter one hasty or complaining word. His perfect silence was the fittest eloquence, and therefore he was majestically mute.
Before Pilate, until it was needful to speak, not a syllable could be extorted from him. All along in patience be possessed his soul. After the first struggle in the garden, he was quiet as a lamb, surrendering himself to the sacrifice without a struggle. His solemn deliberate self-surrender in his loneliness has an awfulness of love in it, fitter for thought than words. His brave spirit was not to be cowed, though it stood at bay alone, and all the dogs of hell raged around.
Mark, too, not only the constancy and the courageousness of our Savior, but his matchless unselfishness. For while they forsook him and fled, he forgave them in his inmost heart, and cherished no resentment. When he rose again his conduct to these runaways was that of a loving shepherd or a tender friend; he fully forgave them all. If he did mention it, it was only in that gentle way in which he inquired of Peter, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?” Reminding him of his failure for his lasting improvement and benefit, and giving him an honorable commission as the token that it was all condoned.
Enquire awhile the reason for this result . Why it was that our Savior, in his loneliness, thus stood so constant, and courageous, and forgiving? Was it not because he fell back into the arms of his Father when he was forsaken by his friends? It was even so. “The Father is with me .” Look carefully at that word. As the Savior uttered it, it was true that the Father’s presence was with him, but I beg you to remember that it was not true in every sense all the way through his passion. The Father was not with him on the cross in the sense of manifested personal favor. “My God, my God, why hast thou forsaken me?” shows that our Savior did not, at that time, derive comfort from any present revelation of the love of God to him as man. The conscious presence and display of love were taken away. There is another meaning, then, in these words — “Because the Father is with me;” and, surely it is this the Father was always with him his design . The enterprise he had undertaken was the salvation of his people, and the Father was wholly and ever with him in that respect. In that sense he was with him even when he deserted him. It was but a form of the Father’s being with Christ that he should be forsaken of God. We are not intending quite a paradox, and if it sound so, let us expound it. It was in pursuance of their one great design that the Father forsook the Son. Both were resolved upon the same gracious purpose, and therefore the Father must forsake the Son, that the Son’s purpose and the Father’s purpose in our redemption might be achieved. He was with him when he forsook him; with him in design when he was not with him in the smiles of his face. Furthermore, the Father was always with our Lord in his co-working . When Jesus was in Gethsemane, and the staves and lanterns were being prepared, the God of Providence was permitting and arranging all. When Jesus was taken before Caiaphas, and Herod, and Pilate, and Annas, Providence was allowing all things to be done; the Father was with Christ fulfilling the prophecies, answering the types and accomplishing the covenant. Through the whole sad chapter it might be said, “My Father worketh hitherto.” Even amid the thick darkness and the dire suffering of Christ, the Father was with Christ, working those very sufferings in him, for “it pleased the Lord to bruise him; he hath put him to grief.” Into this fact Christ slinks as into a sea of comfort. “The Father is with me.” “It is enough,” saith he; “my own chosen friends forsake me, and my dearest earthly friends leave me, those whom I have purchased with my blood deny me, but my Father is with me.” By a matchless exercise of faith, our Redeemer realized this, and was sustained.
We shall make practical use of our subject by considering THE CHRISTIAN IN HIS LONELINESS. No believer traverses all the road to heaven in company; lonely spots there must be here and there, though the most part to our heavenward pilgrimage is made cheerful by the society of fellowtravelers. “They go from company to company; every one of them in Zion appeareth before God.” Christ’s sheep love to go in flocks. “They that feared the Lord spake often one to another.” We take sweet counsel together and walk to the house of God in company, yet somewhere or other on the road every man will find narrow defiles and close places where pilgrims must march in single file.
Sometimes the child of God endures loneliness arising from the absence of godly society . It may be in early days he mixed much with gracious persons, was able to attend many of their meetings, and to converse in private with the excellent of earth; but now his lot is cast; where he is as a sparrow alone on the housetop. No others in the family think as he does, he enjoys no familiar converse concerning his Lord, and has no one to counsel or console him. He often wishes he could find friends to whom he could open his mind. He would rejoice to see a Christian minister, or an advanced believer; but, like Joseph in Egypt, he is a stranger in a strange land. This is a very great trial to the Christian, an ordeal of the most severe character; even the strong may dread it, and the weak are sorely shaken by it. To such lonely ones our Lord’s words, now before us, are commended, with the prayer that they may make them their own. “I am alone and yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” When Jacob was alone, at Bethel, he laid him down to sleep, and soon was in a region peopled by spirits innumerable, above whom was God himself. That vision made the night at Bethel the least lonely season that Jacob ever spent. Your meditations, Oh, solitary ones, as you read the Bible in secret, and your prayers as you draw near to God in your lone room, and your Savior himself in his blessed person, these will be to you the ladder. The words of God’s book made living to you shall be to your mind the angels, and God himself shall have fellowship with you. If you lament your loneliness, cure it by seeking heavenly company. If you have no companions below who are holy, seek all the more to commune with the things which are in heaven, where Christ sitteth at the right hand of God.
God’s people are frequently made lonely through obedience to honest convictions . It may happen that you live in the midst of Christians, but you have received light upon a part of God’s word which you had neglected, either a doctrine or an ordinance, or some other matter, and having received that light, if you are as you should be, you are obedient at once to it. It will frequently result from this that you will greatly vex many good people whom you love and respect, but to whose wishes you cannot yield.
Your Master’s will once known, father or mother cannot stand in your way; you do not wish to be singular, or obstinate, or offensive, but you must do the Lord’s will even if it sever every fond connection. Perhaps for a time prejudiced persons may almost deny you Christian fellowship: many a baptized believer has been made to know what it means, to be almost tabooed and shut out because he cannot see as others see, but is resolved to follow his conscience at all hazards. Under such circumstances, even in a godly household, a Christian who fully carries cut his convictions may find himself treading a separated path. Be bold, my dear brethren, and do not flinch. Your Savior walked alone, you must do so too. Perhaps this lone obedience is to be a test of your faith. Persevere; yield not a particle of truth. These very friends who now turn their backs on you, if they are good for anything, will respect you all the more for having the courage to be honest, and perhaps the day will come when, through your example, they will be led in the same obedient way. At any rate, do no mar your testimony by hesitancy or wavering, but follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. Fall back upon this truth you may displease and alienate friends, and be charged with bigotry, self-will, and obstinacy, but you are not alone when you follow the path of obedience, for the Father is with you. If what you hold is God’s truth, God is with you in maintaining it. If the ordinance to which you submit was ordained of Christ, Jesus is with you in it. Care not how either the church or the world revile, serve you your Master, and he will not dessert you. With all due deference to others, pay yet greater deference to the Lord who bought you with his blood, and where he leads follow without delay; the Father will be with you in so doing.
The solitary way is appointed to believers who rise to eminence of faith . In these days the common run of Christians have but struggling faith. Should you sift the great mountain of visible Christianity very carefully, will you find so much as ten grains of faith in the whole? The Son of man when he comes, keen as his eyes are to discover faith, shall he find it on the earth?
Here and there we meet man to whom it is given to believe in God with mighty faith. As soon as such a man strikes out a project and sets about a work which none but men of his mould would venture upon, straightway there arises a clamor “The man is over zealous,” or he will be charged with an innovating spirit, rashness, fanaticism, or absurdity. Should the work go on, the opposers whisper together, “Wait a little while, and you’ll see the end of all this wildfire.” Have we not heard them criticize an earnest evangelist by saying, “His preaching is mere excitement, the result of it is spasmodic;” at another time, “The enterprise which he carries out is Quixotic; his designs are Utopian.” What said the sober semi-faith of men to Luther? Luther had read this passage, “We are justified by faith, and not by the works of the law.” He went to a venerable divine about it, and complained of the enormities of Rome. What was the good but weak brother’s reply, “Go thou to thy cell, and pray and study for thyself, and leave these weighty matters alone.” Here it would have ended had the brave Reformer continued to consult with flesh and blood, but his faith enabled him to go alone, if none would accompany him. He nailed up his theses on the church door, and showed that one man at least had faith in the gospel and in its God. Then trouble came, but Luther minded it not, because the Father was with him. We also must be prepared, if God gives us strong faith, to ride far ahead like spiritual Uhlans, who bravely pioneer the way for the rank and the of the army. It were well if the church of God had more of the swift sons of Asahel, bolder than lions, swifter than eagles, in God’s service; men who can do and dare alone, the laggards take courage and follow in their track. These Valiant-for-truths will pursue a solitary path full often, but let them console themselves with this, “Yet I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” If we can believe in God he will never be behindhand with us; if we can dare, God will do; if we can trust, God will never suffer us to be confounded, world without end. It is sweet beyond expression to climb where only God can lead, and plant the standard on the highest towers of the foe.
Another form of loneliness is the portion of Christians when they come into deep-soul conflict . My brethren, you understand what I mean by that. Our faith at times has to fight for very existence. The old Adam within us rages mightily, and the new spirit within us, like a young lion, disdains to be vanquished, and so these two mighty ones contend till our spirit is full of agony. Some of us know what it is to be tempted with blasphemies we should not dare to repeat, to be vexed with horrid temptations which we have grappled with and overcome, but which have almost cost us resistance unto blood. In such inward conflicts saints must be alone. They cannot tell their feelings to others; they would not dare, and if they did their own brethren would despise or upbraid them, for the most of professors would not even know what they meant, and even those who have trodden other fiery ways would not be able to sympathize in all, but would answer them thus “These are points in which I cannot go with you.”
Christ alone was tempted, in. all points like as we are, though without sin.
No one man is tempted in all points exactly like another man, and each man has certain trials in which he must stand alone amid the rage of war, with not even a book to help him., or a biography to assist him, no man ever having gone that way before except that one man whose trail reveals a nailpierced foot. He alone knows all the devious paths of sorrow. Yet even in such byways the Father is with us, helping, sustaining, and giving us grace to conquer at the close.
We will not, however, dwell on this aspect of solitary walking, for we have three others to mention. Many dear brethren have to endure the solitude of unnoticed labor . They are serving God in a way which is exceedingly useful, but not at all noticeable. How very sweet to many workers are those little corners of the newspapers and magazines which describe their labors and successes, yet some who are doing what God will think a great deal more of at the last, never saw their names in print. Yonder beloved brother is plodding away in a little country village; nobody knows anything about him, but he is bringing souls to God. Unknown to fame, the angels are acquainted with him, and a few precious ones whom he has led to Jesus know him well. Perhaps yonder sister has a little class in the Sunday school; there is nothing striking in her or in her class; now and then a little child ascends to heaven to report her success, and occasionally another comes into the church; but nobody thinks of her as a very remarkable worker; she is a flower that blooms almost unseen, but she is none the less fragrant. Or shall we think of the humble City Missionary? The superintendent of the district knows that he goes his regular rounds, but has no idea of the earnest prayers and deep devotedness of that obscure lover of Jesus. The City Mission Magazine puts him down as trying to do his duty, but nobody knows what it costs him to cry and sigh over souls.
There is a Bible woman; she is mentioned in the report as making so many visits a week, but nobody discovers all that she is doing for the poor and needy, and how many are saved in the Lord through her instrumentality.
Hundreds of God’s dear servants are serving him without the encouragement of man’s approving eye, yet they are not alone, the Father is with them.
Never mind where you work care more about how you work. Never mind who sees, if God approves. If he smiles, be content. We cannot be always sure when we are most useful. A certain minister with very great difficulty reached a place where he had promised to preach. There was deep snow upon the ground, therefore only one hearer came. However, he preached as zealously as if there had been a thousand. Years after, when he was traveling in that same part of the country, he met a man who had been the founder of a church in the village, and from it scores of others had been established. The man came to see him, and said, “I have good reason to remember you, sir, for I was once your only hearer; and what has been done here has been brought about, instrumentally through my conversion under that sermon.” We cannot estimate our success. One child in the Sabbath-school converted may turn out to be worth five hundred, because he may be the means of bringing ten thousand to Christ.
It is not the acreage you sow; it is the multiplication which God gives to the seed which will make up the harvest. You have less to do with being successful than with being faithful. Your main comfort is that in your labor, you are not alone, for God, the eternal One, who guides the marches of the stars, is with you.
There is such a thing — I would God we might reach it — as the solitude of elevated piety . In the plain everything is in company, but the higher you ascend the more lone is the mountain path. At this moment there must be an awful solitude on the top of Mount Blanc. Where the stars look silently on the monarch of mountains, how deep the silence above the untrodden snows! How lonely is the summit of the Matterhorn, or the peak of Monte Rosa! When a man grows in grace he rises out of the fellowship of the many, and draws nearer to God. Unless placed in very happy circumstances he will find very few who understand the higher life, and can thoroughly commune with him. But then the man will be as humble as he is elevated, and he will fall back necessarily, and naturally upon the eternal fellowship of God. As the mountain pierces the skies, and offers its massive peak to be the footstool of the throne of God, so the good man passes within the veil, unseen by mortal eyes, into the secret place of the tabernacle of the Most High, where he abides under the shadow of the Almighty.
The last solitude will come to us all in the hour of death . Down to the river’s brink they may go with us, a weeping company wife, and children, and friends. Their kind looks will mean the help they cannot give; to that river’s brink they may go in fond companionship, but then, as with our Lord the cloud received him out of his disciples’ sight, so must we be received out of sight of our beloved ones. The chariot of fire must take Elijah away from Elisha. We must ascend alone! Bunyan may picture Christian and Hopeful together in the stream, but it is not so; they pass each one alone through the river! Yet we shall not be alone, my brethren; we correct our speech; the Father will be with us; Jesus will be with us; the eternal Comforter will be with us; the everlasting Godhead in the Trinity of persons shall be with us, and the angels of God shall be our convoy. Let us go our way, rejoicing that when we shall be alone we shall not be alone, because the Father is with us. “THOU LORD KNOWEST THY SERVANT” THOU knowest, Lord, thou knowest all about me, And all the winding ways my feet have trod; And now thou know’st I cannot go without thee, To guide me onward through the swelling flood.
Thou know’st my way — how lone, how dark, how cheerless, If thy dear hand I fail in all to see; Bright with thy smile of love, my heart is fearless When in my weakness I can lean on thee. Give me thy presence! go thou, Lord, before me; Make a plain path where all is rough and drear; So let me trust the love that watched o’er me, And in the shadows still believe thee near.
ANNA SHIPTON THE MINISTRY NEEDED BY THE CHURCHES, AND MEASURES FOR PROVIDING IT BY C. H.SPURGEON.
WITH noveltheories of ministry we will not deal: we assume that we address those who believe that pastors and teachers are officers in the Christian church, recognized by Scripture. While we recognize that every believer has a ministry committed to him, we also see that certain individuals are more richly endowed with gifts and grace that they may be the instructors and helpers of others. This being taken for granted, we proceed.
No one can doubt that the spiritual condition of the Christian church is very much affected by the character of its ministry. For good or for evil, the leaders do actually lead to a very large extent. Doubtless the hearers influence the preacher, but for the most part the stronger current runs the other way. “Like priest, like people,” is a well-known and truthful proverb, applicable with undiminished force to those who scorn the priestly title.
Under a drowsy preacher the spirit of the people becomes lethargic; a minister absorbed in politics leads his hearers into party strifes; a would-beintellectual essayist breeds a discipleship marked by affectation of superior culture; and an unsound thinker and uncertain talker promotes heresy in his congregation. Satan knows full well the power of the ministry, and therefore he labors abundantly to pervert the minds or the Lord’s servants, and also to raise up false teachers who may do his evil cause great service.
It is clear, therefore, that it be at all in our power to bless the church of our own day with sounder doctrine and more vital godliness our first efforts, whatever they may be, should strike at once at the root of the matter, and begin with the ministry. For manifest reasons, it is difficult to do much in moldling the ministry which is already in the field. Men who have for years been teachers of others, have become stereotyped in their spirit and modes of action and thought; and although they in a measure feel the influence of others, yet it is too late in the day to do much in fostering what has been neglected, or producing what is absent in them. In any case, prevention is better than cure. To effect much in shaping a preacher’s life, the molding influences must surround him in his student days, while he is as yet like clay on the potter’s wheel, or malleable iron upon the blacksmith’s anvil. It appears to us that the maintenance of a truly spiritual College is probably the readiest way in which to bless the churches. Granting the possibility of planting such an institution, you are no longer in doubt as to the simplest mode of influencing for good the church and the world. We are certainly not singular in this opinion, for to successful workers in all times the same method has occurred. Without citing the abundant incidents of earlier times, let us remember the importance which John Calvin attached to the College at Geneva. Not by any one of the Reformers personally could the Reformation have been achieved, but they multiplied themselves in their students, and so fresh centers of light were created. In modern times, it is significant that the labors of Carey and Marshman necessitated the founding of Serampore College; while the gracious work in Jamaica called for a somewhat similar institution at Calabar. Wherever a great principle is to be advanced, prudence suggests the necessity of training the inert who are to become advancers of it. Our Lord and Savior did just the same when he elected twelve to be always with him, in order that, by superior instruction, they might become leaders of the church.
In the formation of a college, the design of which is to bless the church through the ministry, the question arises, What sort of men do the churches need? The answer to that question will largely shape our action. That enquiry being answered, one other remains What will be the best means of procuring and instructing such men?
In replying to the first question, we shall not venture into speculations, or follow our own prejudices, but shall seek to give a reply consistent with Scripture and observation.
The men whom God will honor must be gracious men , full of the Holy Ghost, called of God to their work, anointed, qualified, and divinely sustained. We cannot hope to see God glorified by men of doubtful piety or questionable experience. On this we are all agreed, and we will not dwell longer upon it..
We have remarked that great revivals of religion have been connected always with a revival of sound doctrine . That great religious excitements have occurred, apart from gospel truth, we admit; but anything which we, as believers in Christ, would call a genuine revival of religion, has always been attended with clear, evangelical instruction upon cardinal points of truth. What was the sinew and backbone of the Reformation? Was it not the clear enunciation of gospel truths which the priesthood had withheld from the people? Justification by faith, starting like a giant from its sleep, called to its slumbering fellows; and together these great doctrines wrought marvels. The Reformation was due not so much to the fact that Luther was earnest, Calvin learned, Zuingle brave, and Knox indefatigable, as to this — that the old truth was brought to the front, and to the poor the gospel was preached. Had it not been for the doctrines which they taught, their zeal for holiness, and their self-sacrifice, their ecclesiastical improvements would have been of no avail. The power lay not in Luther’s hammer and nails, but in the truth of those theses which he fastened up in the sight of all men. The world to-day feels but little the power which Calvin wielded in the Senate of Geneva; but thousands of minds are swayed by the theology which he so forcibly promulgated. One instance in history might not suffice to prove a point, but there are many others. The great modern Reformation in England under Whitfield and Wesley was accomplished by the old orthodox doctrines, I grant you that we, as Calvinists, gravely question the accuracy of much that the Wesleyan Methodists zealously advocated; yet we do not feel that we are exercising any charity but merely speaking the honest truth, when we say that the disciples of Wesley, as well as the followers of Whitfield, brought out very clearly and distinctly the vital truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Their views upon predestination and kindred points we could not endorse, but the three great R’s were in the teaching of every Methodist, whether Calvinist or Arminian — Ruin, Redemption, Regeneration rung out with no uncertain sound. You could not hear a sermon from any of them, without hearing man described as a sinner, fallen and ruined, Christ alone, lifted up as the Savior, and the need of the Holy Spirit’s work insisted upon in plain, unmistakable language. “Ye must be born again” was thundered over the land. If we wish to promote the good of the churches, we must pray for ministers who are well instructed in the doctrines of the gospel and firmly established in the belief of them. Whatever else they may not be able to explain, they must hold forth the great truth, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, and show the way in which he saves them. We want men whose doctrines are distinct, who hold firmly with all their hearts the truths which they are chosen to defend, men who upon fundamental points dare not equivocate and are never obscure; we require preachers whose whole business here below shall be to promulgate a gospel dear to them as their lives, because they have experienced its saving power in their own souls. They must not only be sound in the faith, but clear in their testimony. To waver upon the atonement, or the work of the Holy Spirit, or salvation by grace, is not merely dangerous but fatal to a preacher’s usefulness. Let those who doubt be silent; to others it is given to say, “I believed, therefore have I spoken.”
No church can be benefited by untruthful teaching. The world’s true hope lies in the direction of revealed truth, not in the region of intellectual speculations and dubious philosophies.
The next thing we need in the ministry, now and in all time, is men of plain speech . The preacher’s language must not be that of the classroom, but of all classes; not of the university, but of the universe. Men who have learned to speak from books are of small worth compared with those who earned from their mothers their mother tongue — the language spoken by men around the fireside, in the workshop, and in the parlor. “I use market language,” said Whitfield, and we know the result. I rejoice in the Latinity and Germanic jargon of certain schools of pedantic and pretentious intellectualism, because their learned clatter renders them powerless with the masses; but I mourn when similar hideousnesses of speech are adopted by evangelic divines, for it assuredly weakens their testimony. Anglo- Saxon speech, homely, plain, bold, nervous, forcible, never fails to move the English ear. At the same time we don’t desire a race of coarse men, who regard slang as being plain speech, which it certainly is not. Admitted that a coarse man may have his sphere, it is equally certain that he is unfitted for many other spheres of equal importance. If it be granted that a spice of vulgarity may adapt a man for special service among navies and costermongers, we question whether even with them there may not be a more excellent way, and there are other people in the world to be considered besides these. We are confident that, ordinarily, coarseness is weakness, and ought to be avoided; and we should no more think of preaching the gospel in the slang of the thieves’ kitchen, than in the jargon of the Neologists. The gospel’s apples of gold are worthy to be carried in baskets of silver. Language should be fitted to the dignity of the subject.
The most truly dignified language is, however, the simplest; simplicity and sublimity are next of kin. Gospel simplicity is equally removed from childishness and coarseness. Bunyan’s English is as pure as it is plain. Our grand old authorized version is a model of speech; though marred here and there by an antique indelicacy, it is, as a whole, perfection itself, both for grandeur and simplicity of style. We need men who not only speak so that they can be understood, but so that they cannot be misunderstood. The plodding multitudes will never be benefited by preaching which requires them to bring a dictionary with them to the house of God. Why should they be called to work on the day of rest in order to get at the minister’s meaning? Of what use is it to them to listen to spread-eagle talk, which conveys to them no clear sense? The Reformation banished an unknown tongue from the reading desk; we need another to banish it from the pulpit.
I speak for English people, and demand English preaching. If there be mystery, let it be in the truth itself, not in the obscurity of he preacher. We must have plain preachers. Yet plain speech is not common in the pulpit.
Judging from many printed sermons, we might conclude that many preachers have forgotten their mother tongue. The language of half our pulpits ought to be bound hand and foot, and with a millstone about its neck, cast into the sea: it is poisoning the “wells of English undefiled,” and worse still, it is alienating the working classes from public worship.
It is a very proper thing in expressing one’s sentiments among students and scholars, to use those technical phrases which have been collected from all languages, and generally accepted among the educated. The Latin, the Greek, the German, the French, and other tongues have all given us words which convey to the learned shades of meaning which the less plastic Saxon cannot compass; but to the mass of the people such speech is to all intents and purposes a foreign language. The Latinity of some preachers reminds us of the old fable of the boy thief perched in the apple tree. The owner of the orchard tells him to come down, but his words are laughed at.
He then tries turf, the rogue is not dislodged. At last he throws stones at him, and the boy is soon at his feet. Now the devil does not care for your dialectics, and eclectic homiletics, or Germanic objectives and subjectives; but pelt him with Anglo-Saxon in the name of God, and he will shift his quarters.
Supposing, therefore, the matter and the speech to be correct, we next need men who, as to the order of their intelligence, rather come under the denomination of common sense men , than of schoolmen and rhetoricians.
A gentleman who nowadays wins the repute in clerical circles of being highly intellectual, is generally a sort of spiritual Beau Brummel. The famous Beau was asked if he had ever eaten a vegetable? and replied, that he thought he had once tasted a pea. So our modern high-flyers have heard that there are such persons as “sinners,” and believe they may be met with in the Haymarket and in the slums. They have no idea of the fall of man, but have read about the “lapsed condition of humanity.” These gentlemen, whose mouths could by no contortion pronounce the word “Damnation.” and who have considerable sympathy for that, being of whom they might correctly say, “Oh, no! we never mention him,” are very attractive to the idiotic classes, but to men they are loathsome.. The style of sermonizing of those who affect to be “thinking men,” is elevated, very elevated, as elevated as the manner of Lord Dundreary would have been, if that distinguished nobleman had become a clergyman. “Thinking men” of this superfine order consider anything orthodox quite beneath them; and in the pulpit they affect obscurity, quote Strauss, frequently speak of Goethe (careful as to the pronunciation of the name), and cannot get through a discourse unless they mention Comte, or Renan, or some of our home-bred heresy-spinners, such as Maurice and Huxley. They are very great at anything metaphysical, geological, anthropological, or any other ology, except theology. They know a little of everything, except vital godliness and Puritanic divinity; the first is usually too rigid a thing for them, and the second they sniff at as consisting of mere platitudes. When a “thinking man” has reached so sublime a condition of self-conceit that he can sneer at; such giants in mind and learning as John Owen, Goodwin, Charnock, and Manton, and talk of them as teaching mere common-places, in a heavy manner, not at all adapted to the advanced thought of the nineteenth century, we may safely leave him and his thinking to the oblivion which assuredly awaits all windy nothings. For the present we may observe that England requires no further supply of these eminent personages, and there’s certainly no need to establish any more colleges for their production. There are circles where such ministries are appreciated; here and there a suburban congregation of very respectable do-nothings will cluster around such a man and account him a prodigy; but among the working population, the real sinew, and blood and bone of England, there is no further space for the superficial intellectualism which has vaunted itself for its little hour, and is gradually writing its own doom. Our churches call for men whose thoughts are worth thinking; whose thoughts follow in the wake of the revealed word of God, who feel that they are not dishonored by treading in the track of the Infinite. We must have ministers whose education has taught them their own ignorance, whose learning has made them revere the Scriptures; men whose minds are capable of clear reasoning, brilliant imagination, and deep thought; but who, like the apostle Paul, who was all this, are content to say, and feel themselves honored in saying, “God forbid that I should glory, save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ.” Such a man is more precious than the gold of Ophir. In him the Lord finds an instrument which he can consistently employ. He is a man among men, a practical, working, thoughtful teacher. Eschewing all flighty notions, specious novelties, mental eccentricities and philosophizings, he determines to know nothing among men save Jesus Christ and him crucified. He is not one of those who follow after butterflies, but knowing that the gospel is the power of God unto salvation, he goes to work, rough-handed it may be, but nevertheless in downright earnest, to do practical work in seeking to win souls.
Another point must also be noted if we would see great success attending the ministry. We require men of popular sympathies ; men of the people, who feel with them. We are not prepared to subscribe to any political creed, except this “God hath made of one blood all nations of men.” All forms of government turn out bad or good as the case may be; but this much is certain, that unless a man is a lover of the people in his inmost soul he will never be greatly useful to them. The people do not require more of those gentlemen who condescend to instruct the lower orders, being authorized by the State to assume airs of dignity because they are our rectors, towards whom we ought to walk with lowly reverence. The squires admire this, and the peasantry unwillingly submit to it for awhile; but the end of this business is at hand. Our dissenting churches call for other treatment. The Nonconformists of England are a race of freemen; their forefathers found it inconvenient to be slaves in the days of Charles the First, and the sons of the Ironsides do not intend to be priest-ridden now. As we do not bow before the parish priests, we certainly do not intend to pay homage to the aristocratic airs of a pompous youngster fresh from college. London’s millions spurn the foppery of caste, they yearn for great hearts to sympathize with their sorrows; such may rebuke their sins and lead their minds, but no others may lecture them. The working classes of England are made of redeemable material after all; those who believe in them can lead them. A minister should welcome both rich and poor. Far be it from any servant of God to despise the godly because their hands are hard with honest toil. Be it ours to honor worth rather than wealth; and to esteem men for their spirituality, and grace, and holiness, rather than for their purses and mansions. We do not desire to see preachers of the gospel rudely and lawlessly democratic in politics, ready to have fling at different ranks and classes; we want no Red Republicans in the pulpit, but we rejoice when we see that a man is thoroughly, heartily, lovingly with the people. Such was John Knox, and such were Whitfield, Rowland Hill, Jonathan Edwards, and others, famous in pulpit annals. We must be men of themselves if we wish ever to move them. We must be advanced beyond them in knowledge, spirituality, and grace, for we are leaders; but, like our Lord, we must be “chosen out of the people.” While our government is set upon abolishing the system of purchasing commissions in the army, in order that there may be more sympathy between the officer and the ranks, we must labor for the promotion of the same feeling in the church militant.
The more our hearts beat in unison with the masses, the more likely will they be to receive the gospel kindly from our lips.
The church of God calls for men whose one object is to save souls . The final result of some ministries appears to be a Gothic chapel in the place of the less ornamental but more serviceable old meeting-house. The good man feels that he has ministered to edification as a wise master-builder, when he hears passers-by say of his new edifice, “What a gem of a place!” We have known gentlemen of the cloth, whose hearts have been mainly set upon getting up a well-performed service, going as far as they dare in vestments and ornaments, and aping our Anglican Papacy in almost every aspect. As if we did not know when the chapter was finished, we are told, “Here endeth the first lesson,” or “Here endeth the second lesson”! and much is thought to be attained when that piece of mimicry is allowed; anthems and chants are greedily sough after; an organ, of course; a stone pulpit stuck in a corner; and then nothing will do but the brother must introduce at least a fragment of liturgy. Let but the poor creature have his way in all this, and his little heart overflows with joy, and he feels, “I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.” Such gentlemen have mistaken their vocation: they would make capital conductors of concerts, masters of the ceremonies, man-milliners, or arrangers of shop-windows, but their talents are thrown away among Dissenters.
Among a certain order of divines the one aim evidently is the collection of what they are pleased to call highly intelligent audiences. It has been admitted of certain preachers that their hearers were certainly very few; but then it was claimed that the quality made up for the quantity! And what quality, think you, is that of which they boast? Eminent piety? Deep experience? Great usefulness? No a bit of it! The rich and rare excellence of the slender audience lay in this, that not above one man in ten of them honestly believed the Bible to be inspired; not a fiftieth part could unhesitatingly have asserted their faith in the atonement, and probably not above one soul among them knew anything savingly of the grace of God, and that lonely individual was uneasy under the ministry. After this mode some gentlemen estimate congregations, and if they can succeed in collecting a synagogue of Arians, deists, semi-infidels, and heretics of various orders, then their fellows of the same clique exclaim, with intense delight, “A deeply thoughtful ministry has gathered around it all the intellect of the district.” It has been usual to find little wool where there has been great cry, and the proverb is very applicable in this case. Those superficial beings, the Puritans, and those unintelligent persons of the type of Johnathan Edwards and Andrew Fuller, are, to our mind, far better models than he intellectual dandies, who have been in fashion.
The education of the intellect is not our cardinal work; our teaching should be full of wisdom, but not the wisdom of metaphysics and speculations; we are not apostles of Plato and Aristotle, but ministers of Christ. As he was, so are we also in this world: he came to seek and to save that which was lost, and our errand is the same. Accepting the revelation of Christ as the highest wisdom of God, we go forth with no other philosophy than that of Christ crucified. To turn from darkness to light the bewildered multitudes, to rescue from the destroyer the deluded crowd, to lead to Jesus as many as he has chosen — this is our life-work, from which nothing shall tempt us.
Soul-winners can never be too numerous; but it is a question whether the church is not sufficiently stocked with prophetical brethren, to whom what is to happen in the next twelve years is as plain as the sun at noonday. In some eases the time expended in fashioning and expounding a system of history to fit in with the vials and trumpets has seriously interfered with turning sinners from the error of their ways. Nothing should-be the preacher’s aim but the glory of God through the preaching of the gospel of salvation. Only let the ministry be supplied with men who drive at the conscience, and in the Spirit’s power convince men of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come; men who strike at the heart, and are not satisfied until their hearers have laid hold on eternal life and closed in with the divine proclamation of mercy let such, I say, abound among us, and again the church will be “terrible as an army with banners.”
For the rest, it is desirable that brethren of varying abilities be forthcoming; we want the profound, and the eloquent of the first rank; we need also the earnest and godly of ordinary capacity, for there is work for the very zealous and devout whose attainments are but small. Usefulness has been vouchsafed to holy men of all grades of talent. Infinite wisdom has ordained variety in gifts and degrees in ability for ends most gracious.
No man can be too educated or too gifted for any position in the Christian church; yet some forms of culture, while they fit a man for one position, may somewhat disqualify him for usefulness in others. Work among our London poor needs the very ablest men; yet we could mention very gifted brethren who would be miserable to the last degree, if they were compelled to labor in the Golden Lane Mission, or in Seven Dials, and certainly they would not be more wretched than they would be inefficient. They would drive away rather than attract the poor fallen masses around them. Yet, they are men of undoubted ability, and in their own positions they wield a powerful influence for good. The very education which adapts a man to labor among the more refined, may make him too sensitive to be able to cope with the roughness of certain classes among whom others work with great success. I say again, I do not think that the loftiest talent is too great for work among the most sunken classes, and that in fact those who can deal with them are men of genius of a rare order; but it is certain that there are grades of talent, and that all of these are needed to complete the circle of the church’s demands. A man whose gifts entitle him to address thousands becomes restless in a hamlet; another brother, whose voice and ability would never compass more than two or three hundred, finds that very hamlet a place of happy labor. Men of all orders are sent us by the Holy Spirit; all are not apostles, nor are all apostles equal to Paul. Each man after his own order, and for his own place; all are members of the one body, but they fulfill divers offices. If the church is to be well served, we must secure men who can speak to the educated of the West end, and we must; not reject those who from their culture find themselves at home in Bethnal Green. We want men who will stir our large towns where intellect is quick and sharp, and men who will move the less volatile but perhaps more stable minds of the country villages. No man may say, “Here is my model for a minister, and every man should be framed upon that shape.”
He would leave half the church, if not more, unsupplied, even if there were an unlimited upgrowth of the model men whom he desires.
We want ministers who, however various their talents, have but one spirit, and that one spirit, must be the Spirit of God; they must be tided with love, love to the church and to those yet to be ingathered out of the world; brethren of deep humility, who feel their need of divine help, but men of triumphant faith, who feel assured that the Lord works with them. We want men of self-sacrifice, willing to put up with all sorts of inconveniences, and even sufferings, to attain their end; men of dogged resolution, who mean to be successful, and cannot be put off the track; men who have given themselves up to God wholly, spirit, soul, and body, without reserve, doing one thing only, preaching among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ, that God may be glorified in their mortal bodies, whether they live or die. Give us such men as these, and their attainments may not be all we could wish, but this one spirit filling them, the Holy Ghost descending upon them, they shall bring back to the church the apostolic era, and we shall see the work of God revived.
Surely we command the agreement of most Christian people in the opinions we have stated; if it be not so, we are bold enough to say that we ought to do so, for all along through history it can be confirmed that the men who have been most precious to the church have been such as we have described. Find us a revival the whole world’s history through, produced by a gentleman whose speech could not be understood. or whose sympathies were not with the people. Great evangelists have never been philosophical essayists, but men of simple gospel views. The Reformers and true fathers of the church have been men of practical common-sense habits, who went to the business of soul-winning in an earnest downright way, disdaining the little conventionalities and prettinesses which charm the weaker sort. They all without exception aimed at conversions. They did not hit on soul-winning by chance; they were not aiming at something else, and by accident managed to bring a great many to the Savior: they flew towards this one object, like an arrow to its target. There were great distinctions between Calvin and Luther, Whitfield and Wesley, Jonathan Edwards and Rowland Hill: their culture, talents, and position differed greatly, but they were all of one spirit, and God blessed them all.
We will now push on to our second point — the means of procuring such men . The first and best means is for the church to value the ascension gifts of her Lord, which were men ordained by himself for her edification and increase. Prayer for the sending of fit men must be continuous and fervent.
Our Savior himself bade us pray the Lord of the harvest to send more laborers into the harvest; but perhaps throughout Christendom no prayer is more seldom offered indeed, we hear from some quarters complaints that there are too many laborers already. A murmur monstrous, to say the least.
But honest prayer leads to action. It has led us to it. We believe that the Pastors’ College has been one among other means used of God to promote the end we have been describing; and without intending, even by implication, in any degree or manner to criticize other institutions, we mean to show how our own effort seems to us adapted to its work.
The design being to discover earnest men, men of differing talents and abilities, suited for various places, one thing is very clear, namely, that the church should make the area from which she draws her supplies as wide as herself . To many excellent men the lack of pecuniary means has been a serious barrier. The number of young preachers in a denomination like the Baptists — which is one of the poorer branches of the Nonconforming family — who can afford to pay even a small sum for their own education and maintenance during three, four, five, or six years at a training institution, must necessarily be small. They are earning nothing at the time, and the sacrifice of what would have been their income is all that most of them can afford. A large number of men of real ability could not even clothe themselves during a college course, for they have no store, and their friends are poor. Why should the churches lose their services from our pulpits, or receive them in a raw, half-developed state? Should not every vestige of difficulty on this score be swept away, prudently and wisely, but effectually? Where the selection is carefully made, it is a great pleasure to feel that the wealth or poverty of the applicant does not sway the judgment one single iota, but higher qualifications are alone considered. There should be a clear way for any gracious and qualified man into the place where he may be taught the way of God more perfectly; no lack of money should block up his path. A great number of excellent brethren enter our ministry without education; all honor to them all what they accomplish; but while these worthy brethren do well, who shall say that they might not have achieved more if they had been better equipped for their work? Now it ought to be the object of the denomination to set these men who will become preachers, whether they are educated or not, to submit themselves to a preliminary instruction which will make them more efficient, if such instruction there be. The College ought to be so arranged that none of them should say by way of excuse for not entering it, “We could not afford it.” Their case should be wholly and entirely met. A number of gifted men are at this moment useful in the Sunday School and in occasional addresses, who would develop into notable preachers if they were encouraged to exercise their gifts by the knowledge that, if found qualified, there would be an opportunity for them to multiply their talents. We know that the spirit of preaching the gospel has been largely poured out upon our own church, and fostered by the presence of our school of the prophets; and we doubt not that other congregations have been influenced in the same way. At any rate, our College is open to the poorest. We constantly receive men whose food and raiment, as well as lodging and education, are furnished for them as a free gift from the institution; and though we are glad when they can help themselves (and some few not only help, but bear all their own charges), yet we never mean to set up a golden, silver, or even a copper gate to the Pastor’s College, but to the poorest man, whom we believe the Lord has called, the porter opens cheerfully the door.
Another matter calls for attention. The degree of scholarship required upon entering College should be so arranged as to exclude none solely on its own account . Many a preacher who has come to us and succeeded best, would not, when he entered, have passed an examination at an ordinary dame school. It is sad that any man of twenty years should be in such a state of ignorance; but when the Lord converts a youth of the most ignorant class, and puts the living fire into him, shall we leave him unaided?
As things have been until now, the unlettered condition of many a peasant and laborer has been well nigh inevitable. England has been far behind Scotland in this respect, and it is to be hoped that matters will now improve. At least for the present distress, I have been unable to see why a man who has the gift to speak earnestly and to move human hearts, should be denied an education because he is so terribly in need of it. What if he does not know the rudiments of English grammar? Let us take the blundering Apollos, and begin at the beginning with him. Because he labored under disadvantages in his childhood of poverty, and perhaps of sin, is he for ever to be crushed down? Must he achieve the impossible before we help him over the difficult? Let the man who has some education fight his way alone, rather than leave the other unhelped. I would assist both. Let the church, when the Lord sends her a man of rough but great natural ability, and of much grace, meet him all the way, take him up where he is, and help him even to the end. This we daily seek to do. But there needs the opposite balancing principle of restriction . There must be always in every institution a most earnest, determined resolution that none shall be received but such as are confidently believed to be deeply gracious, whose piety is beyond reasonable dispute, testified to by many who have known them, manifested by the fruits of their labors, certified in all ways that are possible. Even then we fear some will thrust themselves in unawares, but no vigilance must be spared. Those only should be received who have given indisputable proofs, as far as human judgment can ever do, that they love the gospel, that they seek only the glory of God, and all because they feel how much they owe to him who has redeemed their souls from going down into the pit. Certain denominations make a small matter of grace, and look alone to other qualities: we know a church where a man would be nearly as eligible for the ministry being graceless as if he were perfect; but it must not be so among us. It would be almost impossible to be too stringent in this respect. As Caesar’s wife must be not only blameless but beyond suspicion, so must the Christian minister be spotless — yea, more, he must be full of good works to the glory of God. That we have sought to separate between the precious and the vile our Master knows full well.
If we would have the right men, again, they should not be untried , but should have preached sufficiently long to have tested their aptness to teach.
No education can give a man ability if he has none. Amongst the first of ordinary gifts for the ministry is the gift of utterance; — that cannot be produced by training. I do not know of what value elocutionary classes may be. I suppose they are of some use; the existence of professors of elocution leads us to hope that they may be of some utility; but he would be an extraordinary elocution master who could teach a man to speak who had no aptness for it; in fact, it cannot be done. Now, no one can prove his fitness to impress others except by trial; it is, therefore, a wise regulation that the preacher should be asked, “Have you for a sufficient time — say two years or thereabout — exercised your gift, and have you in the judgment of persons qualified to speak been somewhat successful? We do not ask you whether you have already achieved anything remarkable, for then you would not want college help, but have you brought souls to Jesus, and been generally acceptable to believers?” To my mind, it is clear that no others ought to be admitted under any pretense whatever. If a college receives students because they know so much Greek, or so much mathematics, or can write a theme, it has no more facts before it from which to form a judgment as to the men’s eligibility for the Christian ministry, than if they were asked, “Could you stand on your head?” or, “Are you six feet high?”
So far we have looked only towards the students, but we have already said that men who will be a blessing to the church, must plainly preach gospel truths. Very well; then it is of the utmost importance that the College should teach those truths, and teach them plainly . But no books will spread orthodox doctrine unless they are in the hands of sound men. It is imperative that the tutors should be not only believed to be sound, but they should be known to have a determined predilection for the old theology, to be saturated with it through and through; to be, in fact, Puritans themselves, and not mere teachers of puritanic theology; men who love the gospel defend it, and are ready to die for it. We cannot expect to have the right men sent out unless the tutors who exercise so very potent a part in the training of their minds are valiant for the truth themselves. Our joy is that in this respect the Lord has favored us very greatly. Our dear friend, Mr. Rogers, who is at our head, is a John Owen for erudition, with a rare spice of motherwit. He is so venerable in years that we venture to say this much of him; is to the rest of us who form the staff, wherever we fail, we are certainly not less stanch in the old-fashioned theology.
In addition to biblical instruction, without limit, it is important that each man should receive as much education as he is able to bear . There should not be any cast-iron rule, so that a brother who would reach his best condition if he acquired a common English education, should be obliged to muddle his poor head with Hebrew. There should be different courses of instruction for different men. ‘We have always endeavored to carry out this idea, but with varying success; for many brethren who need urging further are content to pause, while others who had better halt clamor to go forward, and our wish is to yield to their desires as far as we dare. We have always from the very first tried to see what a brother could learn, and to let him learn what he could.
It has appeared to us that the chief aim should be to train preachers and pastors rather than scholars and masters of arts . Let them be scholars if they can, but preachers first of all, and scholars only in order to become preachers. The Universities are the fit places for producing classical scholars, let them do it; our work is to open up the Scriptures, and help men to impress their fellows’ hearts. It is certain that the man who has sacrificed everything to mathematical and classical eminence is not one whit the better esteemed by our churches, because experience has taught them that he is not superior as an instructor or exhorter. Our one aim is to assist men to be efficient preachers. If we miss this, we think ourselves to have failed, whatever else we attain.
In order to achieve all these things, it is a very grand assistance to our College that it is connected with an earnest Christian Church. If union to such a church does not quicken his spiritual pulse it is the student’s own fault. It is a serious strain upon a man’s spirituality to be dissociated during his student-life from actual Christian work, and from fellowship with more experienced believers. At the Pastors’ College our brethren can not only meet, as they do every day, for prayer by themselves, but they can unite daily in the prayer-meetings of the church, and can assist in earnest efforts of all sorts. Through living in the midst of a church which, despite its faults, is a truly living, intensely earnest, working organization; they gain enlarged ideas, and form practical habits. Even to see church management and church work upon a large scale, and to share in the prayers and sympathies of a large community of Christian people, must be a stimulus to right-minded men, Our circumstances are peculiarly helpful, and we are grateful to have our institution so happily surrounded by them. The College is recognized by the Tabernacle church as an integral part of its operations, and supported and loved as such. We have the incalculable benefit of its prayers, and the consolation of its sympathies.
We think it a fit thing that students who are to become ministers in sympathy with the people, should continue in association with ordinary humanity . To abstract them altogether from family life, and collect them under one roof, may have its advantages, but it has counterbalancing dangers. It is artificial, and is apt to breed artificialness. It may be objected, that residing, as our men do, with our friends around, they may be disturbed by the various family incidents. But why should they not? In future life the same difficulties will occur, for they are not likely to be Lord Bishops, whose studies will be out of the reach of a babe’s cry or the street noise. Recluse life or collegiate life is not the life of the many, and much of it soon puts a man out of harmony with the everyday affairs of life. It is dangerous to engender tastes and habits which in afterlife cannot be gratified, and especially habits which, if they could be abiding, would tend to weakness;. Besides, the association of a number of young men has great perils about it, which we need not now rehearse; we will only mention the tendency to levity. Buoyant spirits are not to be condemned, but they usually find vent enough without the encouragement of constant companionship with their like. To keep fourscore young men constantly under the same roof, and so to direct them that they shall remain as earnest and gracious as when they came to you, is a feat which some may have accomplished, but which we shall not attempt. Let the men meet at their studies, form suitable friendships, and go home at night to staid orderly households of much the same class as they may hope their own to be in future years.
Above all, if we are to discover the right sort of men, we must have an institution in which spiritual life is highly esteemed and carefully fostered .
Watching as we do with anxious heart, we feel we can honestly bless God for the gracious spirit which rests upon the College just now. The most of the brethren have been rich partakers in the influence of our Special Services. We have heard with great joy of their earnestness and prayerfulness. It did us good to hear one say that he had been warned against losing his spirituality by going to College, but he now felt that he could live nearer to God than ever. Nor is this our occasional experience, it is more or less prevailingly our constant element. There have been seasons when it has been a very profitable means of grace to the president to attend his class, and associate with his young friends; for though they were students, eagerly looking after ordinary knowledge, yet they evidently walked with God in all they did. We desire to have it so at all times. There has never been among us any undervaluing of faith and enthusiasm because associated with educational defects, or any treatment of prayer as a needless formality; but on the contrary, a very earnest coveting of spiritual gifts has been the rule. We try to realize how mighty thing is nearness to God, and how grand it is to live under the divine influence of his Spirit.
Under God, the College has been the instrument of extending the Savior’s kingdom, by founding new churches, and we hope to do far more in future years, if the Lord shall send us means. We do not so much care to build on other men’s foundations, by sending ministers to old-established churches, our wish is to found new interests and break up fresh ground. In this aim we have had much fraternal co-operation from the Associations and denominational societies. Our design is the same as theirs, and mutual aid is the way to success, under God’s blessing. Hundreds of towns and large villages are yet without the pure gospel ministry, and friends on the spot, by working with us, can find the way to form a church and evangelize the district.
There is little fear of our driving older ministers out of the field; we would rather enlarge the area for their cultivation. We point to London, where we have planted a number of strong, healthy, vigorous churches, which cause us great joy, and we can devoutly say, “What hath God wrought!” Let the kind reader observe how few of the old metropolitan pulpits we have touched, and how many new places we have helped to create. We believe there are some forty churches in the metropolitan district alone which have arisen from our College work, with the aid of friends and the Association.
We gravely question whether the advance of religion in any denomination has been more solidly rapid than it has been with the Baptists in London, and in that we have had an honorable share. We have seen great things, but very little compared with what we hope yet to see, God helping us. We lift up our hearts and hands to the Most High, and bless the Eternal for all his mercies, craving still for more.
As to the actual success of the Institution, we thank God that we have most hopeful signs. The churches of Great Britain gladly receive our young brethren as soon as they are ready; indeed, our great difficulty is to retain them for the whole of our short period. But above this fact our joy is that we can report actual results of soul-winning. The gross increase of the churches under the pastorates of our brethren during the six years in which we have gathered their statistics, is 16,455, and the clear increase is 11,177. This does not include the churches abroad, nor does it represent all those at home, since we have never yet succeeded in inducing all the churches to report. Surely it is no small matter that sixteen thousand souls have been ingathered from the world. It makes our heart glad when we thus see the boundaries of Messiah’s kingdom increased.
America welcomes our men; many have gone, and more will go. As the people of England remove to swell the great Republic, it is but fitting that a fair quota of the shepherds should go with the flock. No work can be more important than that of supplying the spiritual needs of newly-settled regions.
Our highest wish has not yet been fully realized. We long to receive the missionary call, but it has come only to one or two. We pray the Holy Ghost to separate some of our number to work among the heathen, and we ask our brethren to unite with us in the same petition.
Our funds come to us without lists of annual subscriptions. When the Lord’s stewards receive intimations from him, they send us a portion of their goods, and up to this hour we have known no lack. As for the future we have no doubt or anxiety. The Lord is our Treasurer. For all we lean upon him. We wish every kindred institution Godspeed, and believingly commit our own dear life-work to the Lord our helper who cannot fail us.
GREAT MERCIES BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IF the ungrateful man were asked to count up his great mercies , he would mention two or three things, and fancy that he had completed the catalogue. The most of us, in our ordinary moods, would not require a ream of letter paper to write out what we carelessly conceive to be a comprehensive and extended list. Now, this comes of our forgetfulness and shallow understanding, and will, perhaps, never be remedied till all our faculties are perfectly developed and sanctified, as they will be in the land of the perfected. When we are a little awakened, it is astonishing how the area of our mercies is increased in the estimation of our judgment; the eye is cleared with a few briny tears, and straight; way it sees a hundred objects which it observed not before. To the soul chastened by divine correction, mercies swarm and teem where aforetime there seemed but few.
Take note of this, reader. I jot it down while I am newly escaped from the chamber of affliction, and the impression is fresh on me: it is a great mercy to be able to change sides, when lying in bed . Did I see you smile? I meant no pleasantry, but intended to write a sober, serious sentence. Did you ever lie a week on one side? Did you ever try to turn, and find yourself quite helpless? Did others lift you, and by their kindness only reveal to you the miserable fact that they must lift you back again at once into the old position, for bad as it was, it was preferable to any other? Do not smile again, but listen while I add — it is a great mercy to get one hour’s sleep at night . You go to bed, and never reckon upon opening your eyes again till your seven or eight hours are over, but some of us know what it is, night after night, to long for slumber and find it not. O how sweet has an hour’s sleep been when it has interposed between long stretches of pain, like a span of heaven’s blue between the masses of thundercloud! We have blessed God more for those clear moments of repose titan for whole weeks of prosperity.
We are not about to continue our enumeration of choice and precious mercies at any length, for having once introduced the reader to a Christian invalid, we have placed him under the tuition of one who can continue the blessed schedule of mercy indefinitely; and if the record of one sick chamber should be all rehearsed, the next, if tenanted by a gracious sufferer, would, with sweet variations, prolong the strain. What a mercy have I felt it to have only one knee tortured at a time! What a blessing to be able to put the foot on the ground again, if but for a minute! What a still greater mercy to be able to get from the bed to a chair and back again!
What folly it is, however, to put down a few of these benefits selected from so many more! it is as though we would catalogue the cattle; on a thousand hills, or enumerate the waves of ocean. We pick and cull a few mercies; but on what principle? Is it not a childish, vain, and ignorant feeling which prompts our selection? We call those things mercies which please us, ease us, suit our wants, and fall in with our cravings. Truly they are so, but not less gracious are those benefits which cross us, pain us, and lay us low. The tender love which chastises us, the gentle kindness which bruises us, the fond affection which crushes us to the ground — these we do not so readily recount; yet is there as much of divine love in a smart as in a sweet, as great a depth of tenderness in buffeting as in consoling. We must count our crosses, diseases, and pains, if we would number up our blessings.
Doubtless it is a mercy to be spared affliction, but he would be a wise man who should tell which of the two was the greater boon — to be for the present without chastisement or to be chastened? We judge that in either case “It is well” with the righteous, but we will not have a word said to the disparagement of affliction. Granted that the cross is very bitter, we maintain with equal confidence that it is also very sweet We have a cloud of mercies around us as well as a cloud of witnesses. As the meadow is besprent with a thousand gay flowers, and we tread upon them without attempting to count them, even thus is it with our life in Christ Jesus: it is mercy, all mercy — mercy too great for reckoning. Our life is a wood, wherein are tangled thorns; but listen a moment! Is it not full of sweet songbirds, akin to those of Paradise? God is good to us at all points, and greatly good too. There is no royal road to learning, but there is a royal road to heaven — a causeway of loving kindness, paved with crystal blocks of grace, all of pure gold, like unto transparent glass. In the wilderness a highway has been made straight for the chosen people: every valley has been exalted, and every mountain and hill laid low. “How precious also are thy thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them! If I should count them, they are more in number than the sand.”
SHIVERING JEMMY A MISERABLE impostor in the streets of London was accustomed to extract money from the pockets of the charitable by standing in a public position in the winter weather, clothed in rags, and shivering as with ague and extreme cold. He was a great adept at shivering, and could imitate it to a marvel. At last he shivered in very deed without shamming, and could not cease from it, whether he would or not. Summer or winter, in all places, his shivering was as constant as that of an aspen: he had violated Nature’s laws in his attempts to deceive, and fate took a dreadful revenge upon him; for the rest of his life he carried with him the name of Shivering Jemmy , and no explanation of the title was required by those who looked upon him.
Eat one plum front the devil’s trees, and you must eat a bushel. Talk falsehood at a trot, and you must soon lie at a gallop. Beware of anything approaching to the false, for falsehood has a terrible fascination about it.
Like the spider, it casts film after film over its victim, but it never suffers him to escape is toil. Paint the face, and it must be painted .
The same is true of other vicious habits. He who brags once is sure to boast again, and at last he unconsciously pitches all his conversation on the high key, and becomes renowned for “tall talk.” A religious professor who runs over his devotions in a formal manner, will find formality grow upon him, till genuine prayer and real emotion will utterly leave him; the man will become for ever a heartless pretender. It is dangerous to preach an affected sermon, in which the lips utter more than the heart can actually endorse, the tendency will be for the minister to be always talking above himself, and what is this but to be a professional liar? We fear that some have feigned sympathy with others till now their tears lie ready salted in the corners of their eyes, and their cant is something more than stale. Others have so often expressed emotions which they did not feel, that it has become habitual with them to roll their eyes and clasp their hands under a sermon, or during the singing of a hymn they are “Shivering Jemmies” in the streets of the New Jerusalem, a pitiable and a disgusting sight.
Nothing is more to be dreaded than the insensible growth of hypocrisy.
Since we are none of us free from a measure of self-deception, the danger is that the false within us may grow to power, and obtain a sort of established respectability within the little world of our nature. Better anything than a religious windbag. It were impossible to imagine a fate more horrible than to be all smoke — a pious fraud, a holy sham, a nothing blown out with foul gas. It were better to think ourselves incapable of a holy emotion, and to be breaking our hearts because of our obduracy, than to be shivering with a sham sensitiveness, to which we have attached the idea of eminent tenderness of spirit. O Lord, deliver us from every false way. Save us from deceit.
USE THE PEN YOUNG ministers would do well to remember that for purposes of Leaching there are two fields of usefulness open to them, and that both deserve to be cultivated. The utterance of truth with the living voice is their main business, and for many reasons this deserves their chief attention; but the publishing of the same truth by means of the press is barely second in importance, and should be used to the full measure of each man’s ability. It is a surprising thought that what is written to-day in our study may in a few weeks be read beyond the Alleghanies, and before long may lift up its voice at the Antipodes. And as space is thus overleaped, so also time; for if the world should last another five hundred years, the author of an immortal sentence will continue still to speak from the glowing page. The press performs marvels. So noble an agency, so far reaching, so potent, so available, ought not to lie idle. Every man who addresses his fellow creatures with the voice should try his hand at pen and paper, if only for his own sake; it will correct his style, give it more accuracy, more condensation; probably, therefore, more weight. The possibility of doing good to the souls of men is a grand incentive which needs no other to supplement it, and such a possibility beyond all question exists when warmhearted thought is expressed in telling language, and scattered broadcast in type among the masses. Young men, look to your goosequills, your Gillets;, or your Waverleys, and see if you cannot write for Jesus. “What, in the name of reason, can move an Editor to perpetrate such a paragraph as the above, when we are already bored and pestered with the immeasurable effusions of hundreds of scribblers, who are only spoilers of good foolscap?” We admit the naturalness of the question, and we feel its force feel it all the more because we have just now been for some hours up to our neck in a stagnant pool of printed dullness, and have almost caught a literary cramp. Look at that volume of poetry. We cannot review it; we have tried till we do not mean to try again; we fear it would worry us into a fresh attack of our ever-ready enemy the gout. “Our brain is tired, our heart is sick.” The poems are just an everlasting ding-dong, ding-dong of commonplaces and pretty phrases, all meaning nothing at all. Do you see that volume of sermons? The good man who issues them declares that he did it in deference to the wish of his hearers: a very common excuse, by the way. He might well have prayed, “Save me from my friends.” The discourses are no doubt pious, and well intended, but to print them was a blunder of the first magnitude. There is a book on Romanism, and another on Matrimony. We have read them both, and expect some day or other to be rewarded for our patient perseverance, but as yet it is numbered among those good deeds which bring no present profit to him who performs them.
But indeed the list of volumes over which we have done penance is too long for rehearsal. We shudder at the recollection. We frequently wonder how we survive our sufferings in the review department; sifting a wagon had of chaff to find one solitary grain of wheat is nothing to the labor in vain which is allotted us by many authors. We pride ourselves upon our extreme gentleness in criticism, but we should soon lose all repute among our readers for this amiable virtue if we did criticize in print all the books sent to us; a considerable number of them it would be cruelty to notice, and in mercy to the authors we pass by their offspring and say nothing where nothing good could be said. [N.B. Those gentlemen whose books are not yet noticed in our magazine will please not to write and scold us next post.
Let them hope that their productions are so good that we are too fascinated to begin as yet to criticize; at any rate, let no author wear a cap unless he finds it to be a correct fit.] All this is a digression, to show that we are not forgetful of the fact that this press-ridden nation already groans beneath tons of nonsense and platitude, and needs no addition to the enormous burden. We frankly own that if another great historical fire should do for modern literature a similar work to that which was so providentially wrought at Alexandria, we should not fret. If we saw the commencement of the blaze we should be in no hurry to arouse Captain Shaw and his men with the brass helmets, but should like to see it burn merrily on, especially if it would consume for ever all the small-beer poetry, the interpretations of prophecy, and — well — well, nineteen books out of twenty, at the least: ninety-nine out of every hundred would be a still more desirable purification. “Yet you began by stirring up young men to write. Where your consistency?” Our answer is that we did not exhort anybody to write such stuff, as commonly is written. On our bended knees we would say to many a man who threatens to commit authorship, “we pray you do no such evil.”
But we return to our first paragraph, and say again that the pen is a great means of usefulness, and it ought not to lie idle. Let a man wait till he has something to write, and let him practice himself in composition till he can express his meaning plainly and forcibly, and then let him not bury his talent. Let him revise, and revise again. Let him aim at being interesting, endeavoring to write not for the butter-shop, but for readers; and above all, let him write under the impulse of a holy zeal, burning to accomplish a real and worthy end.. The columns of religious magazines and newspapers are always open to such contributions, and if the author has no other broadsheet in which to publish his thoughts, he may be well content with the pages of periodical literature. Whatever may be the faults of our reviews and other periodicals, they are undoubtedly a great institution, and might be made far more influential for the highest ends, if men of greater grace were found among their writers. It is a worthy ambition to endeavor to seize these molders of the public mind, and make them subservient to true religion. The words of Dr. Porter, in his “Homiletics,” may be most appropriately quoted here: — “Young men destined to act for God and the church, in this wonderful day, think on this subject. Recollect that religious magazines, and quarterly journals, and tracts of various form, will control the public sentiment of the millions who shall be your contemporaries and your successors on this stage of action for eternity. To whose management shall the vast moral machinery be intrusted, if the educated sons of the church, the rising ministry of the age, will shrink from the labor and responsibility of the mighty enterprise? Learn to use your pen, and love to use it. And in the great contest that is to usher in the triumph of the church, let it not be said that you were too timid or indolent to bear your part.”
Good men there have been and are who could do far more service for God and his church by their pens if they would write less and write better. They flood our second-rate magazines with torrents of very watery matter; their style is slipshod to a slovenly degree; their thoughts are superficial; their illustration hackneyed; they weary where they mean to win. Let such brethren take time to mend their pens, the world will continue to rotate upon its own axis if we do not see their names next month at the head of an article. Work must be put into papers if they are to last. Easy writing is usually hard reading. The common reader may not observe the absence of honest work in a poem, sermon, or magazine article, but he manifestly feels the influence of it, for he finds the page uninteresting, and either goes to sleep over it; or lays it down. Young man, earnest in spirit, if you have any power with the pen, make up your mind to cultivate it. Do your best every time you compose. Never offer to God that which has cost you nothing.
Do not believe that good writing is natural to you, and that you need not revise; articles will not leap out of your brain in perfect condition as the fabled Minerva sprang from the head of Jove. Read the great authors, that you may know what English is; you will find it to be a language very rarely written nowadays, and yet the grandest of all human tongues. Write in transparent words, such as bear your meaning upon their forefront, and let them be well chosen, correctly arranged, and attractively ordered. Make up your mind to excel. Aim high, and evermore push on, believing that your best efforts should only be stepping stones to something better. The very best style you can attain will be none too good for the glorious themes upon which you write.
But, remember, there is a more material business than mere excellence of composition. Your manner is important, but your matter is far more so.
Tell us something well worth knowing when you write. It is folly to open your mouth merely to show your teeth; have something to say, or speak not at all: ink is better in the bottle than on the paper if you have nothing to communicate. Instruct us, impress us, interest and improve us, or at least try to do so. It is a poor achievement to have concocted a book in which there is neither good nor hurt, a chip in the porridge, a correctly composed nothing; but to have pleaded with men affectionately, or to have taught them efficiently, is a result worthy of a life of effort. Try, brother, not because it is easy, but because it is worth doing. Write until you can write; burn half a ton of paper in the attempt, it will be far better in the flames than at the printer’s; but labor on till you succeed. To be a soul-winner by your books when your bones have mouldered is an ambition worthy of the noblest genius, and even to have brought hearts to Jesus by an ephemeral paper in a halfpenny periodical is an honor which a cherub might envy.
Think of the usefulness of such books as “James’ Anxious Enquirer,” and “The Sinner’s Friend.” These are neither of them works of great ability, but they are simple and full of the gospel, and therefore God blesses them. Is it not possible for others of us to produce the like? Let us try, and God helping us, who can tell what we may do.
One concluding word to our young brother. We would not recommend you to try poetry. Write reason before you write rhyme. The usual way is to sacrifice the sense to the jingle: do you adopt the other plan. Do not expect public men to spare time to read your manuscripts: apply to some judicious friend nearer home. Do not be thin-skinned, but accept severe criticism as a genuine kindness. Write legibly if you expect your article to be accepted by an editor: he cannot waste time in deciphering your hieroglyphics. Condense as much as possible, for space is precious, and verbiage is wearisome. Put as much fact as you can into every essay, it is always more interesting than opinion; narratives will be read when sentiments are slighted. Keep the main end in view, but aim at it prudently; do not worry readers with ill-timed moralizings and forced reflections. Ask a blessing on what you compose, and never pen a sentence you will on your dying bed desire to blot. If you attend to these things, we shall not repent of having said, to you, “Use the pen.”
WANT OF NATURALNESS IN PREACHING SYDNEY SMITH tells us: — “I went, for the first time in my life, some years ago, to stay at a very grand and beautiful place in the country, where the grounds are said to be laid out with consummate taste. For the first three or four days I was perfectly enchanted; it seemed something so much better than nature that I really began to wish the earth had been laid out according to the latest principles of improvement. . . . In three days’ time I was tired to death: a thistle, a nettle, a heap of dead bushes — anything that wore the appearance of accident and want of intention — was quite a relief. I used to escape from the made grounds, and walk upon an adjacent goose common, where the cart-ruts, gravel-pits, bumps, irregularities, coarse ungentleman like grass, and all the varieties produced by neglect, were a thousand times more gratifying than the monotony of beauties the result of design, and crowded into narrow confines.”
Now, this is precisely the result produced upon most hearers by a too elaborate style of preaching. At first it astonishes, amazes, and delights; but in the long run it palls upon the mind, and even wearies the ear. The high art displayed in sentences, polished into perfect smoothness, is certainly very wonderful, but it ere long becomes very wearisome, Men cannot for ever look at fireworks, nor pass their days among artificial flowers. The preaching which maintains its attractiveness year after year is after the order of nature, original, unaffected, and full of spontaneous bursts which the laws of rhetoric would scarcely justify. Homely illustrations, a touch of quaintness, a fullness of heart, thorough naturalness, and outspoken manliness are among the elements which compose a ministry which will wear, and be as interesting at the end of twenty years as at first. Of the refined politeness of a drawing-room most people have enough in a single evening; to continue such a manner of intercourse for a week would be intolerable; but the familiar communion of the family never tires, home’s genuine and spontaneous fellowship grows dearer ever year. The parallel holds good between the deliverances of a grandiloquous elocution and the utterances of a warm heart. The Primitive Methodist being asked to return thanks after dining with the squire, thanked God that he did not have such a good dinner every day, or he should soon be ill; and when we have occasionally listened to some great achievement of rhetoric, we have felt the same grateful sentiment rising to our lip. A whipped cream or a syllabub is an excellent thing occasionally, but it is very easy to grow tired of both of them, while bread and cheese or some such homely fare can be eaten year after year with a relish. If it be natural to a man to be very elegant and rhetorical, let him be so: flamingoes and giraffes are as God made them, and therefore their long legs are the correct thing; but let no man imitate the proficient in an elevated style, for geese and sheep would be monstrous if perched on high. To be sublime is one thing; to be ridiculous is only a step removed; but it is another matter. Many in laboring to escape rusticity have fallen into fastidiousness, and so into utter feebleness. It may be that to recover their strength they will have to breathe their native air, and return to that natural style from which they have so laboriously departed.
C. H. S.
“AND IT WAS SO” A DISCOURSE BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“And it was so.” GENESIS 1:7.
YOU will find these words six times upon the first page of revelation. God spake and said, “Let there be a firmament” “and it was so.” He said, “Let the dry land appear.” “and it was so.” He bade the earth bring forth grass, “and it was so.” He ordained the sun and moon for lights in the firmament of heaven, “and it was so.” Whatever it was that he willed, he did but speak the word, “and it was so.” In no single case was there a failure.
There was not even a hesitation, a pause, or a demand for a more powerful agency than the divine word. In each case, Jehovah spake, “and it was so.”
Nor is this first week of creation the only instance of the kind, for in no case has the word of God fallen to the ground; whether of promise or of threatening, the word has been confirmed and fulfilled. “As it was in the beginning, it is now, and ever shall be, world without end;” whatsoever the mighty God decrees, foretells, declares, or promises, shall ere long come to pass.
I shall ask you to accompany me in a mental voyage down the stream of history, to show that this has been the case as far as all history is concerned up till now. “And it was so .” The Lord’s will has been law; his word has been followed by fact. Dictum factum , as the Latins say. We shall then endeavor to show that, with an immutable God, it will be so continually in the great and in the small, in the affairs of the world, and in our own personal matters. What God hath promised shall come to pass, and at the winding-up of all history, it shall be said, “God said this, and that, and it was so.”
We stand at the fountain-head of human history, and hear the Lord declare of our parents, that in the day in which they should break his commands, and eat of the forbidden fruit, they should surely die, “and it was so .” They died that moment. That spiritual death, which was the great and essential part of the sentence, was there and then fulfilled. The likeness and image of God was broken in them immediately, and we are dead in trespasses and in sins by reason of their death. He warned them also, when his wrath as it were glanced aslant from them to smite the soil on which they stood, that the earth should bring forth thorns and thistles to them, and that in the sweat of their face they should eat bread, and truly it has been so. The earth has yielded her harvests, but she has produced her thorns and briars also; and though the curse of labor has became a blessing, yet man’s toil and woman’s travail vindicate the divine veracity.
When all flesh had corrupted its way, God repented that he had made man, and sent his servant Noah as a preacher of righteousness to threaten a universal flood. It did not appear very probable that the dense population of the earth could all be swept away, and that the billows should rear their proud heads above the mountains; but it turned out that Noah was no fool, and his prophecy was no raving. God had said the world should be drowned, “and it was so .” The sluices of the great deep beneath were drawn up, the cataracts of heaven descended, and none escaped, save the few, that is eight, whom God enclosed within the ark.
A little farther on, the Lord appeared to his servant Abraham, and told him that the wickedness of Sodom had been so great that the cry had gone up even to his throne; and the Lord communicated to his servant that he would go and see if it was altogether according to the cry thereof; and if so, Sodom should be destroyed. Abraham pleaded, and his intercession almost prevailed; but as no righteous salt was found in the filthy cities of the plain, it was doomed to perish. They had given themselves to strange flesh, and a strange judgment must therefore come upon them. Hell must fall out of heaven upon such abominable offenders “and it was so ,” for when the morning dawned, Sodom was utterly consumed, and the smoke thereof went up to heaven.
You know how God kept his covenant with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who were strangers with him, dwelling in tents, looking for a better city, that is, a heavenly. Whatever promise was made to the patriarchs was fulfilled to the letter in all respects “it was so .” When they went down into Egypt, God declared that after four hundred years he would bring them hence; and though the tribes appeared to be naturalized in Egypt, and were rooted to the soil, yet God would bring them forth; and though Pharaoh took strong measures, and thought to hold them fast, yet God had said that they should come out with a high hand, and an outstretched arm “and it was so .” Let the wonders which he wrought on the fields of Zoan, the plagues which overthrew the sons of Ham; let the going forth out of Egypt, and the terrors of the Red Sea, when the depths covered all the chivalry of Egypt, let these remind you that, as God had spoken, so it was. Pharaoh was hardened but he was not able to resist the Almighty will: he stands for ever in history as a memorial that none shall harden himself against the Most High and prosper, for the Lord doeth as he wills in heaven and in earth, and in all deep places. Hath he said, and shall he not do it? “Is anything too hard for the Lord?”
I should not weary you, I think, if I were to dwell a little while upon the promise that God gave to Israel that he would lead the tribes through the wilderness, and surely bring them to their inheritance. It appeared very unlikely that they would enter into Canaan, when for forty weary years they wandered in the pathless wilderness; yet the Jordan was crossed in due season, and Jericho was taken. He said they should every man possess his portion, and each tribe its lot “and it was so .” The Canaanites dwelt in cities that were walled up to heaven, and they lashed into the battle in chariots of iron, yet were they overcome, for God had said it “and it was so.” He cast out the heathen, and planted the vine which he had brought out of Egypt; he overthrew Og and Sihon, “and gave their land for an heritage, for his mercy endureth for ever.” Many a time after Israel had been settled in the land did they provoke the Lord to jealousy, so that he sent prophet after prophet, and their message was, “If ye thus sin against the Lord ye shall be given into the hands of your enemies” “and it was so .”
But when they were sorely smitten they repented, and they cried unto God, and he had pity upon them; and then he sent another of his servants with a gentle message, saying, “Turn unto me, and repent, and I will deliver you” “and it was so .” In every case he kept his word, whether for chastening them or delivering them. Evermore was he faithful. When, in the later period of their history, Sennacherib blasphemed the Lord, his servant Hezekiah took the cruel letter of Rabshakeh and laid it before the Lord in the temple, and cried mightily unto him; and Isaiah came with the promise, “He shall not come into this city, nor shoot an arrow there, nor come before it with shield, nor cast a bank against it.” Who could put the hook into the nose of that leviathan? Who could turn him back by the way that he came? The Lord had said it should be done, “and it was so ;” for that night the destroying angel went through the host of the Assyrians, and there fell of corpses on the plain so many as the leaves of autumn. Hath God promised to rescue his children? Then be assured that, however numerous their foes, his word shall not fail. Then came that dark day when Israel and Judah were theatened with captivity in a strange land. They sinned, and lo! “it was so .” They were exiled far away. By the waters of Babylon they sat down and wept; they wept when they remembered Zion; but there came a promise to them — a promise which they had left all unread and forgotten in their sacred books, that after the lapse of seventy weeks they should return again, and once more see the land of their fathers “and it was so .” God raised up for them a friend, and a helper, and the captives came back again to their land.
Let us quote the grandest instance of all. The Lord promised, immediately after the Fall, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent’s head.
That promise had been succeeded by many others, and those in Israel who knew the Lord waited for the coming of the deliverer. The promise tarried long. Day and night devout men cried unto God, for their patience was sorely tried, yet they confidently expected the messenger of God who would suddenly come in his temple; and when the fullness of time was come, “it was so .” The everlasting God was found tabernacling among men, and they “beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.” It was the master-promise of all — the promise of the greatest gift that God has bestowed upon mankind, and that promise was kept, kept to the letter, and to the hour. He had said it should be, “and it was so ,” though it was a wonder beyond all wonder.
We might pursue our theme, and show you that as far as past events have gone, God’s word has been verified. But now, though we keep to history, we shall leave the large volume of the public records, and ask you to take down from its shelf that little diary of yours, the pocketbook of your own life’s story, and there observe how God’s word has been true. You remember in your youth the warnings that you received, when you were told that the ways of sin might be pleasantness at the first, but would end in sorrow. You were told that the cup might sparkle at the brim, but the dregs thereof were full of bitterness. Did you test that statement in the days of your early manhood? Ah! then I know you cannot deny that it was as God had declared. He said, “The wages of sin is death,” “and it was so .” He said it would be bitterness in the end thereof, “and it was so .” He told you that the fascinations of sins were as destructive as they were alluring, and truly “and it was so .” If you have tasted that the Lord is gracious, you will blush as you answer the question, “What fruit had ye then in those things whereof ye are now ashamed?” It fell on a day, as God would have it, that your eyes were opened to see your lost estate, and there was a voice which spoke in the gospel, and said, “If thou wilt return unto me, return; only confess the transgressions that thou hast sinned against me, and I will forgive thee. Come and put thy trust in my Son, and thy iniquity shall be blotted out like a cloud thy transgressions like a thick cloud.” You came to Jesus led by sovereign grace. You washed in the fountain of his blood, guided to it by the Holy Spirit. What is your testimony? You were promised salvation, pardon, peace. My testimony is, “and it was so ;” is not that yours also? O the joy of believing in Jesus! O the bliss of casting one’s self into the Father’s arms, and pleading the merits of the Only Begotten!
There is a peace or God that passeth all understanding which comes to our faith when we exercise it upon Christ. Peace was promised, “and it was so .” Since the time when you believed in Jesus you have had many wants both spiritual and temporal; but he has promised, “No good thing will I withhold from them that walk uprightly.” What say you, brethren and sisters? Your needs have come, have the supplies come also? I am sure you will say “ it was so” — strangely so — but always so. As my day my strength has been. The shoes of iron and of brass have had rough usage, but they have not worn out. The all-sufficient God has proved that his grace is all-sufficient for us. Our personal history bears witness that, with regard to the providence of God, and to the supplies of his grace, he said he would grant us enough, “and it was so .” He told you that when you believed in his word he would hear your prayers. Three times he put it in varied form, “Ask and it shall be given you; seek and ye shall find; knock and it shall be opened unto you.” Brethren, you have been to the mercyseat, and tried whether God hears prayer, and it has been so — he did hear prayer. We believed his word, and in due time our faith has been turned to sight, and the promise has been fulfilled. We have read in God’s Word that he would sanctify our trials to us, and that “all things work together for good to them that love God, to them who are the called according to his purpose;” what, then, is my witness, after having been week after week, and even month after month, racked with pain, and laid low with sickness, what have these things been to me? Have they worked my good? Do they bring forth the comfortable fruits of righteousness? My truthful witness is, “and it was so .” I feel persuaded that every Christian shalt have to say of his afflictions that they have been blessed to him “Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now have I kept thy word,” said one of old, and many in these modern times can say the same. “It is good for me that I have been afflicted;” the Lord said it would be, “and it was so .”
Up to this hour it has always been true with regard to us, his people that what the Lord has said he has surely performed. We can — “Sing the sweet promise of his grace, And the performing God.” Let me remind you that our history is only the common experience of all God’s people, and if there be anything uncommon in the stories of the saints, then there is only a more than usually clear confirmation of the truth. Look at the martyrs, they suffered what we can scarcely bear to read of, yet the Lord said he would be with them: “and it was so .” They wore the chain for Christ’s sake, and he promised to be their companion “and it was so .” They went to the stake or bowed their head to the ax, and they were promised that even to the end he would be with them: “and it was so .” Right along, through all the history of the church militant, and I might also ask the confirmation of the church triumphant too, the saints declare that “it was so.” Christ hath kept his word to the letter. Not one good thing hath failed of all that he ever promised to his people.
And now, having taken this very brief run through history, let me ask you to follow me when I say that as it has been in the past so it will be. It is always good reasoning when we are dealing with God to infer the future from the past “Because thou hast been my help, therefore in the shadow of thy wings will I rejoice.” Hearing the same God and the same promises, we may expect ever to see the same results. As for the future, a large part of Scripture is as yet unfulfilled. Many persons try to interpret it, but the man is not born who can explain the Revelation; yet whatever God has there declared, will be explained by providence. God is his own interpreter, and he will make it plain. Whatever he hath there promised, it shall be said of it by-and-by “and it was so .” We learn that there is to be a wide spread of the gospel: “Surely all flesh shall see the salvation of God;” Ethiopia shall stretch on her arms to Christ; be assured that it shall so be. Let the missionary toil on, and the devil rage on if he will — the devil shall be disappointed, and the servant of God shall have his desire. God will honor his church, when she has faith enough to believe in his promises. There is to be in the fullness of time a second coming of the Lord Jesus. He who went up from Olivet left this as his promise, that in the same manner as he went up into heaven, he would return again. He shall surely come. Virgin souls who are awake, and watching for the midnight cry, will hear it ere long. And when he cometh, the dead in Christ shall rise; there shall be a resurrection of the just at his appearing. So he hath promised; and “blessed and holy is he that hath part in the first resurrection on such the second death hath no power.” There are no bonds of death that can hold the saints in their graves when the Lord descends; at the sound of the archangel’s trumpet, God has said they shall rise, “and it shall be so.” They shall every one of them return from the land of the enemy. And then the glory — the Millennial splendor — we will not explain it, but we know that it is promised, and whatever has been declared shall surely be; the saints shall possess the kingdom, and shall reign with Christ. And heaven and the glory-land, and the eternal future, where the ever blessed God shall reveal himself unto his servants, and they shall see his face, and his name shall be in their foreheads: every golden word, every sapphire sentence which glows and sparkles with the glory of the Most High, and the lovingkindness of the Infinite — all shall be fulfilled it: shall be said of the whole, “and it was so.” Ay! and the dread future of the lost — those awful words that tell of fires that burn, and yet do not consume; and of a wrath that slays, and yet men live beneath its power, verily, verily, these shall all be fulfilled. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but not one word that God hath spoken shall fail. “These shall go away into everlasting punishment, and the righteous into life eternal.” Of doom or of glory, of promise or of threatening, it shall be said, “and it was so .” And when the end shall come, and Christ shall deliver up the kingdom to God even the Father, and the drama of history shall be ended, and the curtain shall drop, and God shall be all in all, all shall be summed up in this sentence, “He spake and it was done; he commanded and it stood fast: he said it, ‘and it was so .’” I desire, dear brethren and sisters, for your consolation, to bring his truth home to yourselves, if the Spirit of God will enable me. “It was so” — this has been true — it shall be so to you. God’s promises shall all be kept to you personally. God will fulfill his word to you in every letter. Observe, there will occur cases in which there will be no visible help toward the fulfillment of the divine promise, and no tendencies that way; but, if God has pledged his word, he will keep it. Note well, that in the erection of the world, there was nothing to help God. With whom took he counsel, and who instructed him? When he began to fit up the world for man, and to furnish the house which he had made in the beginning, there was darkness, and that was no aid; there was chaos, and that was no help. Now you are troubled at the present time; your condition is one of confusion, disorder, darkness, you see nothing that could make God’s promise to come true, not a finger to help, no one even to wish well to you. Never mind, God wants no helper; he works gloriously alone. See how the earth stands.
What hangeth it on? He hangeth the earth upon nothing. Look at the unpillared arch above it. There are no buttresses, no supports, no props to the sky, yet it has not fallen, and it never will. “Trust ye in the Lord for ever; for in the Lord Jehovah there is everlasting strength;” and if he has given you a promise, and you have laid hold upon it though nothing should appear to aid its fulfillment, yet it shall be fulfilled; you will have to write, “ant it was so.”
Yes, and this shall be the case, though many circumstances tend the other way. When there seems to be a conflict against God — not only no help, but much resistance; do not thou fear. What matters it to God? Though all the men on earth and all the devils in hell were against him, what mattereth it? Though heaps of chaff contend against the wind, what mattereth it to the tempest? They shalt be whirled along in its fury. What if the wax defy the flame — it shall but melt in the fervent heat? If all the world and all hell should declare that God will not keep his promise, yet he will perform it; and we shall have to say, “it was so.” No opposition can stay the Lord. But you may say, “This cannot be true, surely, in my case. I could have believed it on a great scale, but for myself!” Ah! doth God speak truth in great things and lie in little ones? Will thou blaspheme the Most High by imagining that in public acts of royalty he is true, but in the private deeds of his family he is false? What would be a worse imputation against a man?
Who shall throw such a charge upon the eternal God? The Lord promised his servant Elijah to take care of him: did he not make the ravens feed him?
Did he not send him to the widow of Sarepta, and multiply her meal and her oil? He was as true to him in the raven’s matter, and in the handful of meal matter, as when in the business of the great rain he bowed his head between his knees on Carmel, and saw at length the heavens covered with clouds and the land deluged with showers. God wilt keep his word in little things to you. Do not imagine that he forgets your mean affairs. The hairs of your head are numbered. A sparrow lights not on the ground without your Father. Are you not better than the sparrows which are sold at three for two farthings in the market? Will you not rest in your Father’s care, and believe that his promise shall be fulfilled? “Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy water shall be sure; thou shalt dwell in the laud, and verily thou shalt be fed.”
God’s word stands true, even when our unworthiness is in the way. I know you have fancied, “If I were a great saint, God would surely keep his word to me, but I being a very grievous sinner, how shall he be gracious to me?”
And dost thou think that God is good and truthful only to the good and true? Wouldst thou be so thyself? Surely we must deal honestly with all men, whosoever they may be. Their character is no excuse for our marring our own reputation. And so, poor sinner, if thou come to God, he will not cheat thee, and say, “I said, ‘If, thou confess thy sin thou shalt have mercy;’ but I did not mean it for such an one as thou art.” No, Christ has said, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out;” and if thou come, though thou be the blackest sinner out of hell, yet Christ shall be true to thee; for it is not thy character, but his character, that is to be considered in the promise. Even if we believe not, he abides faithful: he cannot deny himself.
Yes and his promise comes true, and we have to say of it, “and it was so ,” even in cases of our own confessed incapacity to receive it. Take the case of Abraham, for that is typical of many others in this respect; he had the promise of a son and heir, and though as for his own body, it was as dead, and Sarah was well stricken in years; Abraham did not consider himself or Sarah, but believed the promise, and in the fullness of time, there was the sound of laughter in the tent, for Isaac was born. We err when we become so depressed by our own incapacity as to conceive doubts of God’s faithfulness. The Lord gives the promise that the barren woman shall keep house, and it is so . Our desert-hearts shall have the blessing; it shall drop upon the pastures of the wilderness, and the little hills shall rejoice on every side. Our weakness shall not hinder the divine promise. He is able to bless us even when we feel only fit to be cursed. Oh, empty one, God can fill you! O dried branch and withered tree, thou that standest like an oak, smitten by lightning, only fit for the burning, the Lord, the everlasting God can quicken thee, and put fresh sap in thee, and make thy branch to bud again to the glory of his holy name. He promises, and if thou believest, thou shalt have to say, “and it was so .”
It will be thus right on to the end of the chapter. A few days ago I stood by the side of a dear departing brother, who feebly lifted his hands from the bed, and said just these few words “Christ, Christ, Christ is all.” And then he said, as I bade him good-bye, “We shall meet in heaven. I shall go there soon and you will follow; but I hope it will be a long while before you do.”
I asked him whether that was quite a benediction, and he said, “You know what I mean. The church needs you.” About half-past five this afternoon, he who rejoiced that he would soon be in heaven entered within the gate of pearl. He had served us well as a deacon of this church, and now he sees the face of the ever blessed. He believed while here on earth that it was bliss to be with Christ, and he finds it so; he is saying, “The half has not been told me.” Well, well, whether we live to old age, or depart in mid-life, or die in early youth, what matters it. We shall find that passing across the river is delightful when at eventide it is light. And O the glory of the everlasting daybreak! The splendor of the sun that goeth no more down! O the bliss of beholding saints and angels, and seeing the king in his beauty!
The messengers of God said that heaven is blessed, and it is so — it is so.
They said, “Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord,” and it is so.
I would leave a thought with those who are exercised with doubts and fears about the Lord’s sure mercies. It is a very hard thing that we should doubt our God, but we do; and therefore let us shoot arrows at unbelief.
Note well, that when God spake in the creation, “and it was so,” there was only his power concerned. Supposing he had spoken, and it had not been so; then the only result would have been that God was proved not to be omnipotent. But his might did not fail him; his glorious attribute of power showed its majesty, and what the Lord spake was accomplished. Yet in this instance only one attribute was at stake. Now, when you consider one of God’s promises recorded in the Bible, there is more than one attribute engaged for its fulfillment; there are two at least, for there is the divine truth at stake as well as the divine power. If be said it should be, and it is not, it is either that he would not or he could not; if he could not, then his power has failed; but if he would not when he promised, then his truth is forfeited. We have, therefore, a double hold when dealing with covenant promises, and may rest in two immutable things wherein it is impossible for God to lie. But sometimes in certain promises even more is observable, for instance, you will have known the Lord these ten or twenty years, have been helped hitherto; and suppose the Lord were to fail you now, then not only are his power and his truth compromised, but his immutability also , since he wound then have changed, and would no longer be the same God to-day as he was yesterday. Three attributes are leagued upon your side; you have three sacred pledges. Frequently also you have God’s wisdom brought into the affair in hand. You have been in great difficulty, and you have seen no means of escape; but you have laid the case before God, and left it there; he has promised that he will “deliver thee in six troubles; yea, in seven there shall no evil touch thee.” He has also said, “Cast thy burden upon the Lord, and he shall sustain thee;” now, if he does not deliver and sustain, there are four attributes at stake. His power — can he do it? His truth — will he keep his promise? His immutability — has he hanged? His wisdom — can he find a way of escape? Frequently, my brethren, the Lord’s honor is also brought into the field in addition to the other attributes. You recollect how Moses put it when the Lord said, “Let me alone, that my wrath may wax hot against them; and that I may consume them.” Then Moses said, “Wherefore should the Egyptians speak, and say, for mischief did he bring them out, to slay them in the mountains, and to consume them from the face of the earth?” See, too, how Joshua uses the same argument with the Lord “The Canaanites and all the inhabitants of the land shall hear of it: and what wilt thou do unto thy great name?” O that is grand pleading — that is grand pleading! Now if the Lord has brought you into deep waters, and you have put your trust in him, and said, “I know that he will deliver me,” if he does not do so, the enemy will say, “It is a vain thing to trust in God, for the Lord does not preserve his people.” His honor is a stake; and, ah, he is a jealous God. He will rouse himself, and go forth like a man of war to show himself strong in the behalf of them that trust in him. In addition to all this, divine love is included in the issue. How did Moses put it? The people said, “Because there were no graves in Egypt, hast thou taken us away to die in the wilderness?” And Moses argued it thus — “Didst thou bring all these people out that they might lie in the wilderness.” Hast thou no love? Wilt thou be cruel to the sons of men? Even thus may we plead with the benevolence and pity of the Lord. “Will the Lord cast off for ever? Will he be favorable no more?” ‘“And can he have taught me to trust in his name, And thus far have brought me to put me to shame?” Is it so that he has taught me to long after the sweetness of his grace, and yet will he deny it to me? Does the Lord tantalize men in this way? I could have been happy enough in my poor ignorant way as a sinner. But now that I have been made to taste of higher and sweeter things, I shall be doubly wretched, if I may not enjoy them. If he makes men hunger and thirst, and then does not feed them, he is not a God of love. But he is a God of love, and therefore he cannot treat his servants so. You remember Luther used to say that when he saw that God was in his quarrel, he always felt safe. “Thine honor is at stake,” he would say, “and it is no business of Luther’s: it is God’s business when God’s gospel is concerned.” Every attribute is pledged as a guarantee that every promise shall be kept. Here faith may gather strength, and rest assured that the covenant is sure in every jot and tittle. If one child of God who has put his trust in Jesus should perish, the everlasting covenant of grace would have failed, for it is a part of its stipulations. “A new heart also will I give you, and a right spirit, will I put within you. From all your filthiness, and from all your idols, will I cleanse you.” And if I have come to Jesus, and rested in him, and after all, do not find salvation and eternal life, then the covenant has become a dead letter.
This it never shall be. “Although my house be not so with God, yet hath he made with me an everlasting covenant, ordered in all things and sure.” He will not suffer his promise to fail.
Last word of all, remember that the very blood of Christ is at stake in the matter of God’s promise. If a poor guilty sinner shall come and rest in Jesus, and yet is not saved, then Jesus Christ is grievously dishonored — he has shed his blood in vain. Shall they perish on whom his blood is sprinkled? Is the fountain, after all its boasted efficacy, become a mockery?
Is there no power in the atonement of Jesus to cleanse the guilty? Ah, beloved, he said it would cleanse, and it was so, it is so, and it shall be so for evermore. They who rest in Christ shall not perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of his hand. Each one of us, as we arrive in heaven, shall add our testimony to the general verdict of all the saints, and say, “it was so .” He said it, and he fulfilled it, glory be unto his name! If any soul comes to Jesus at this hour, he shall find eternal life. “He that believeth, and is baptized, shall be saved.” Such is the gospel. The Lord grant his great blessing. Amen.
BE SHORT Long visits, long stories, long essays, long exhortations, and long prayers, seldom profit those who have to do with them. Life is short. Time is short.
Moments are precious. Learn to condense, abridge, and intensify. We can bear things that are dull, if they are only short. We can endure many an ache and ill, if it is over soon; while even pleasure grows insipid, and pain intolerable, if they are protracted beyond the limits of reason and convenience. Learn to be short. In making a statement, lop off branches; stick to the main facts in your case. If you pray, ask for what you believe you will receive, and get through; if you speak, tell your message and hold your peace; if you write, boil down two sentences into one, and three words into two. Always when practicable avoid lengthiness — learn to be short.
A VISIT TO CHRIST’S HOSPITAL BEING A SHORT SERMON BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted. Their soul abhorreth all manner of meat; and they draw near unto the gates of death. Then they cry unto the
LORD in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses.
He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh that men would praise the LORD for his goodness, and for his wonderful works to the children of men! And let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving, and declare his works with rejoicing.” Psalm 107:17-22.
IT is a very profitable thing to visit an hospital. The sight of others’ sickness tends to make us grateful for our own health, and it is a great thing to be kept in a thankful frame of mind, for ingratitude is a spiritual disease, injurious to every power of the soul. An hospital inspection will also teach us compassion, and that is of great service. Anything that softens the heart is valuable. Above all things, in these days, we should strive against the petrifying influences which surround us. It is not easy for a man, who has constantly enjoyed good health and prosperity, to sympathize with the poor and the suffering. Even our great High Priest, who is full of compassion, learned it by carrying our sorrows in his own person. To see the sufferings of the afflicted, in many cases, would be enough to move a stone, and if we go to the hospital and come back with a tenderer heart, we shall have found it a sanatorium to ourselves. I purpose, at this time, to take you to an hospital. It shall not be one of those noble institutions so pleasingly plentiful around the Tabernacle; but we will take you to Christ’s Hospital, or, as the French would call it, the Hotel de Dieu , and we shall conduct you through the wards for a few minutes, trusting that while you view them, if you are yourself healed, you may feel gratitude that you have been delivered from spiritual sicknesses, and an intense compassion for those who still pine and languish. May we become like our Savior, who wept over Jerusalem with eyes which were no strangers to compassion’s floods: may we view the most guilty and impenitent with yearning hearts, and grieve with mingled hope and anxiety over those who are under the sound of the gospel, and so are more especially patients in the Hospital of God.
We will go at once with the psalmist to the wards of spiritual sickness.
And, first, we have set out before us THE NAMES AND CHARACTERS OF THE PATIENTS.
You see, in this hospital, written up over the head of every couch the name of the patient and his disease, and you are amazed to find that all the inmates belong to one family, and, singularly enough, are all called by one name, and that name is very far from being a reputable one. It is a title that nobody covets and that many persons would be very indignant to have applied to them — “Fool .” All who are sick in God’s hospital are fools, without exception, for this reason, that all sinners are fools. Often, in scripture, when David means the wicked, he says, “the foolish;” and, in this he makes no mistake, for sin is folly. Sin is foolish, clearly, because it is a setting up of our weakness in opposition to omnipotence. Every wise man, if he must fight, will choose a combatant, against whom he may have a chance of success, but he who wars with the Most High commits as gross a folly as when the moth contends with the flame, or the dry grass of the prairie challenges the fire. There is no hope for thee, O sinful man, of becoming a victor in the struggle. How unwise thou art to take up the weapons of rebellion! And the folly is aggravated, because the person who is opposed is one so infinitely good that opposition to him is violence to everything that is just, beneficial, and commendable. God is love: shall I resist the infinitely loving? He scatters blessings: wherefore should I be his foe? If his commandments were grievous, if his ways were ways of misery and his paths were paths of woe, I might have some pretense of an excuse for resisting his will. But O my God, so good, so kind, so boundless in grace, ‘tis folly, as well as wickedness, to be thine enemy. Besides this, the laws of God are so supremely beneficial to ourselves, that we are our own enemies when we rebel. God’s laws are danger signals. As sometimes on the ice those who care for human life put up “Danger ” here and there, and leave all that is safe for all who choose to traverse it, so God has left us free to enjoy everything that is safe for us, and has only forbidden us that which is to our own hurt. If there be a law which forbids me to put my hand into the fire, it is a pity I should need such a law, but a thousand pities more if I think that law a hardship. The commands of God do but forbid us to injure ourselves. To keep them is to keep ourselves in holy happiness; to break them is to bring evil of all kinds upon ourselves in soul and body.
Why should I violate a law, which if I were perfect I should myself have made, or myself have kept finding it in force. Why need I rebel against that which is never exacting, never oppressive, but always conducive to my own highest welfare, The sinner is a fool, because he is told in God’s word that the path of evil will lead to destruction, and yet he pursues it with the secret hope that in his case the damage will not be very great. He has been warned that sin is like a cup frothing with a foam of sweetness, but concealing death and hell in its dregs; yet each sinner, as he takes the cup, fascinated by the first drop, believes, that to him, the poisonous draught will not be fatal. How many have fondly hoped that God would lie unto men, and would not fulfill his threatenings! Yet, be assured, every sin shall have its recompense of reward; God is just and will by no means spare the guilty. Even in this life many are feeling in their bones the consequences of their youthful lusts; they will carry to their graves the scars of their transgressions. In hell, alas, there are millions who for ever prove that sin is an awful and an undying evil, an infinite cure which hath destroyed them for ever and ever. The sinner is a fool, because, while he doubts the truthfulness of God, as to the punishment of sin, he has the conceit to imagine that transgression will even yield him pleasure. God saith it shall be bitterness: the sinner denies the bitterness, and affirms that it shall be sweetness. O fool to seek pleasure in sin! Go rake the charnel to find an immortal soul; go walk into the secret springs of the sea to find the source of flame, It is not there. Thou canst never find bliss in rebellion. Hundreds of thousands before thee have gone upon this search and have all been disappointed; he is indeed a fool who must needs rush headlong in this useless chase, and perish as the result. The sinner is a fool — a great fool — to remain as he is in danger of the wrath of God. To abide at ease in imminent peril and scorn the way of escape, to love the world and loathe the Savior, to set the present fleeting life above the eternal future, to choose the sand of the desert and forego the jewels of heaven; all this is folly, in the highest conceivable degree.
Though sinners are fools, yet there are fools of all sorts. Some are learned fools. Unconverted men, whatever they know, are only educated fools.
Between the ignorant man who cannot read a letter and the learned man who is apt in all knowledge there is small difference, if they are both ignorant of Christ; indeed, the scholar’s folly is in this case the greater of the two. The learned fool generally proves himself the worst of fools, for he invents theories which would be ridiculed if they could be understood, and he brings forth speculations which, if they were judged by common sense, and men were not turned into idiotic worshippers of imaginary authority, would be scouted from the universe with a hiss of derision.
There are fools in colleges and fools in cottages.
There are also reckless fools and reckoning fools. Some sin with both hands greedily; “A short life and a merry one” is their motto; while the socalled “prudent” fools live more slowly, but still live not for God. These last, with hungry greed for wealth, will often hoard up gold as if it were true treasure, and as if anything worth the retaining were to be found beneath the moon. Your “prudent,” “respectable” sinner will find himself just as much lost as your reckless prodigal. They must all alike seek and find the Savior, or be guilty of gross folly. So, alas! there are old fools as well as young ones. There are those who after an experience of sin burn their fingers at it still. The burnt child dreads the fire, but the burnt sinner lovingly plays with his sin again. Hoar hairs ought to be a crown of glory, but too often they are fool’s caps. There are young sinners who waste the prime of life when the dew is on their spirit, and neglect to give their strength to God, and so miss the early joy of religion, which is the sweetest, and makes all the rest of life the sweeter: these are fools. But what is he who hath one foot hanging over the mouth of hell, and yet continues without God and without Christ, a trifler with eternity?
I have spoken thus upon the name of those who enter God’s hospital; permit me to add that all who go there and are cured agree that this name is correct. Saved souls are made to feet that they are naturally fools; and, indeed, it is one stage in the cure when men are able to spell their own name, and when they are willing to write it in capital letters and say, “That is mine! If there is no other man in this world who is a fool, I am. I have played the fool before the living God.” This confession is true, for what madness it is to play the fool before the Eternal One, with your own soul as the subject of the foolery? When men make sport, they generally do it with trifling things. A man who plays the fool, and puts on a cap and bells, is wise in comparison with him who sports with his God, his soul, heaven, and eternity. This is folly beyond all folly. Yet the sinner, when he is taken into God’s hospital, will be made to feel that he has been such a fool, and that his folly is folly with an emphasis. He will confess that Christ must be made unto him wisdom, for he himself by nature was born a fool, has lived a fool, and will die a fool, unless the infinite mercy of God shall interpose.
Now, for a minute, let us notice THE CAUSE OF THEIR PAINS AND AFFLICTIONS.
“Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities, are afflicted.” The physician usually tries to find out the root and cause of the disease he has to deal with. Now, those souls that are brought into grief for sin, those who are smarting through the providential dealings of God, through the strikings of conscience, or the smitings of the Holy Spirit, are here taught that the source of their sorrow is their sin. These sins are mentioned in the text in the plural. “Fools because of their transgression, and because of their iniquities.” How many have our sins been! Who shall count them? Let him tell the hairs of his head first. Sins are various, and are therefore called “transgressions and iniquities.” We do not all sin alike, nor does any one man sin alike at all times. We commit sins of word, thought, deed, against God, against men, against our bodies, against our souls, against the gospel, against the law, against, the week-day duties, against the Sabbath privileges — sins of all sorts, and these all lie at the root of our sorrows. Our sins also are aggravated; not content with transgression, we have added iniquities to it. No. one is more greedy than a sinner, but he is greedy after his own destruction, He is never content with revolting: he must rebel yet more and more. As when a stone is rolled downhill its pace is accelerated the further it goes, so with the sinner, he goes from bad to worse.
Perhaps I speak to some who have lately come into God’s hospital. I will suppose a case. You are poor, very poor, but your poverty is the fruit of your profligate habits. Poverty is often directly traceable to drunkenness, laziness or dishonesty. All poverty does not come from that. Blessed be God there are thousands of the poor who are the excellent of the earth, and a great many of them are serving God right nobly; but I am now speaking of certain cases, and probably you know of such yourselves, where, because of their transgression and iniquities, men are brought to want.
There will come to me sometimes a person who was in good circumstances a few years ago, who is now without anything but the clothes he tries to stand upright in, and his wretchedness is entirely owing to his playing the prodigal. He is one of those whom I trust God may yet take into his hospital. At times the disease beaks out in another sort of misery. Some sins bring into the flesh itself pains which are anticipatory of hell; yet, even these persons may be taken into the hospital of God, though they are afflicted, to their shame, through gross transgression. Oh, how many there are in this great City of London of men and women who dare not tell their condition, but whose story is a terrible one indeed, as God reads it. Oh that he may have pity upon them, and take them into his lazar house, and heal them yet through his abundant grace!
In more numerous cases the misery brought by sin is mental. Many are brought by sin very low, even to despair. Conscience pricks them; fears of death and hell haunt them. I do remember well when I was in this way myself; when I, poor fool, because of my transgression and my iniquities was sorely bowed in spirit. By day I thought of the punishment of my sin; by night I dreamed of it. I woke in the morning with a broaden on my heart — a burden which I could neither carry nor shake off, and sin was at the bottom of my sorrow. My sin, my sin, my sin, this was my constant plague.
I was in my youth and in the hey-day of my spirit; I had all earthly comforts, and I had friends to cheer me, but they were all as nothing. I would seek solitary places to search the Scriptures, and to read such books as “Baxter’s Call to the Unconverted” and “Alleyne’s Alarm,” feeling my soul ploughed more and more, as though the law, with its ten great black horses was dragging the plough up and down my soul, breaking, crushing, furrowing my heart, and all for sin. Let me tell you, though we read of the cruelties of the Inquisition, and the sufferings which the martyrs have borne from cruel men, no racks, nor firepans, nor other instruments of torture can make a man so wretched as his own conscience when he is stretched upon its rack. Here, then, we see both the fools and the cause of their disease.
Now, let us notice THE PROGRESS CF THE DISEASE. It is said that “their soul abhorreth all manner of meat,” like persons who have lost their appetite, and can eat nothing; “and they draw near unto the gates of death,” they are given over and nearly dead.
These words may reach some whose disease of sin has developed itself in fearful sorrow, so that they are now unable to find comfort in anything.
You used to enjoy the theater; you went lately, but you were wretched there. You used to be a wit, in society, and set the table on a roar with your jokes; you cannot joke now. They say you are melancholy, but you know what they do not know, for a secret arrow rankles in your bosom.
You go to a place of worship, but you find no comfort even there. The manner of meat that is served to God’s saints is not suitable to you. You cry, “Alas, I am not worthy of it.” Whenever you hear a thundering sermon against the ungodly, you feel, “Ah, that is me!” but, when it comes to “Comfort ye, comfort ye my people,” you conclude, “Ah, that is not for me.” Even if it be an invitation to the sinner, you say, “But I do not feel myself a sinner, I am not such an one as may come to Christ. Surely I am a castaway.” Your soul abhorreth all manner of meat, even that out of God’s kitchen. Not only are you dissatisfied with the world’s dainties, but the marrow and fatness of Christ himself you cannot relish. Many of us have been in this way before you. The text adds, “They draw nigh unto the gates of death.” The soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death, and feels that it cannot bear up much longer. I remember using those words of Job once in the bitterness of my spirit, “My soul chooseth strangling rather than life;” for, oh the wretchedness of a sin-burdened soul is intolerable. All do not suffer like strong conviction, but in some it bows the strong man almost to the grave. Perhaps, my friend, you see no hope whatever; you are ready to say, “There cannot be hope for me. I have made a covenant with death and a league with hell; I am past hope. There were, years ago, opportunities for me, and I was near unto the kingdom; but, like the man who put his hand to the plough and looked back, I have proved myself unworthy.” Troubled heart, I am sent with a message for you: “Thus saith the Lord, your covenant with death is broken and your league with hell is disannulled. The prey shall be taken from the mighty, and the lawful captive shall be delivered.” You may abhor the very meat that would restore you to strength, but he who understands the human heart knows how to give you better tastes and cure these evil whims; he knows how to bring you up from the gates of death to the gates of heaven. Thus we see how terribly the mischief progresses.
But now the disease takes a turn. Our fourth point is THE INTERPOSITION OF THE PHYSICIAN.
“Then they cry unto the Lord in their trouble, and he saveth them out of their distresses. He sent his word, and healed them, and delivered them from their destructions.” The Good Physician is the true healer. Observe, when the physician comes in — when “they cry unto the Lord in their trouble.” When they cry, the physician has come. I will not say that he has come because they cry; that would be true, but there is deeper truth still — they cried because he came. For, whenever a soul truly cries unto God, God has already blessed it by enabling it to cry. Thou wouldst never have begun to pray, if the Lord had not taught thee. God is visiting a soul, and healing it, when it has enough faith in God to east itself, with a cry, upon his mercy. I cannot hope that there is a work of grace in thee yet, till I know thou prayest. Ananias would not have believed Paul converted, had not it been said, “Behold he prayeth!” Note the kind of prayer here: it was not taken out of a book, and it was not a fine prayer in language, whether extempore or pre-composed: it was a cry . You do not need to show your children how to cry: it is the first thing a new-born, child does. It wants no schoolmaster to teach it that art. Our School Boards have a great deal to teach the children of London, but they need never have a department for instruction in crying. A spiritual cry is the call of the new-born nature expressing conscious need. “How shall I pray?” says one. Pour thy heart out, brother. Turn the vessel upside down, and let it run out to the last dreg, as best it can. “But I cannot, pray,” says one.
Tell the Lord you cannot pray, and ask him to help you to pray, and you have prayed already. “Oh, but I don’t feel as I should!” Then confess to the Lord your sinful insensibility, and ask him to make your heart tender, and you are already in a measure softened. Those who say, “I don’t feel as I should,” are very often those who feel most, Whether it be so or no, cry. If thou art a sin-sick soul, thou canst do nothing towards thy own healing, but this thou canst cry. He who hears thy cries will know what they mean.
When the surgeon goes to the battle-field after a conflict, he is guided to his compassionate work by the groans of the wounded. When he hears a soldier’s cry, he does not inquire, “Was that a Frenchman or a German, and what does he mean?” A cry is good French, and excellent German too; it is part of the universal tongue. The surgeon understands it, and looks for the sick man. And, whatever language, O sinner, thou usest, uncouth or refined, if it be the language of thy heart, God understands thee without an interpreter.
Note well, that as we have seen when the physician interposed, we shall see now what he did . He saved them out of their distresses, and delivered them from their destructions. Oh, the infinite mercy of God! He reveals to the heart pardon for all sin; and, by his Spirit’s power, removes all our weaknesses. I tell thee, soul, though thou be at death’s door at this moment, God can even now gloriously deliver thee. It would be a wonder if your poor burdened spirit should within this hour leap for joy, and yet, if the Lord visit thee, thou wilt do so. I fall back upon my own recollection: my escape from despondency was instantaneous. I did but believe Jesus Christ’s word, and rest upon his sacrifice, and the night of my heart was over: the darkness had passed, and the true light had shone. In some parts of the world there are not long twilights before the break of day, but the sun leaps up in a moment: the darkness flies, and the light reigns; so is it with many of the Lord’s redeemed, as in a moment their ashes are exchanged for beauty, and their spirit of heaviness for the garments of praise. Faith is the great transformer. Wilt thou cast thyself now, whether thou live or die, upon the precious blood and merits of the Savior Jesus Christ? Wilt thou come and rest thy soul on the Son of God? If thou dost so, thou art saved: thy sins which are many are now forgiven thee. As of old, the Egyptians were drowned in a moment in the Red Sea — the depths had covered them, there was not one of them left; so, the moment thou believest, thou hast lifted a mightier rod than that of Moses, and the sea of the atoning blood, in the fullness of its strength, has gone over the heads of all thine enemies: thy sins are drowned in Jesus’ blood. Oh, what joy is this, when, in answer to a cry, God delivers us from our present distresses and our future destructions! But how is this effected? The psalmist saith, “He sent his word and healed them.”’ “His word .” How God ennobles language when he use it! That word “word ” is uplifted in Scripture into the foremost place, and put on a level with the Godhead. “THE WORD.” It indicates a God-like personage, for, in the beginning was the Word; nay, it denotes God himself, for the Word was God. Our hope is in the Word — the incarnate Logos , the eternal Word. In some aspects our salvation comes to us entirely through the sending of that Word to be made flesh, and to dwell among us. He is our saving health, by his stripes we are healed. But here the expression is best understood of the gospel, which is the word of God. Often the reading of the Scriptures proves the means of healing troubled souls; or else, that same word is made effectual when spoken from a loving heart with a living lip. What might there is in the plain preaching of the gospel! No power in all the world can match it. They tell us, now-a-days, that the nation will go, over to Rome, and the gospel candle will be blown out. I am not a believer in these alarming prophecies; I neither believe in the Battle of Dorking, nor in the victory of Pius the Ninth. Leave us our Bibles, our pulpits, and our God, and we shall win the victory yet. Oh, if all ministers preached the gospel plainly, without aiming at rhetoric and high flights of oratory, what great triumphs would follow? How sharp would the gospel sword be if men would but pull it out of those fine ornamental, but useless, scabbards!
When the Lord enables his servants to put plain gospel truth into language that will strike and stick, be understood and retained, it heals sick souls, that else might have lain fainting long! Still the word of God in the Bible and the word of God preached cannot heal the soul unless God send it in the most emphatic sense. “He sent his Word.” When the eternal Spirit brings home the word with power, what a word it is! Then the miracles of grace wrought within us are such as to astonish friends and confound foes.
May the Lord, even now, send his word to each sinner, and it will be his salvation. “Hear, and your soul shall live.” Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God, and faith brings with it all that the soul requires. When we have faith, we are linked with Christ; and so our salvation is ensured.
That brings us to the last point — THE CONSEQUENT CONDUCT OF THOSE WHO WERE HEALED.
First, they praised God for his goodness. What rare praise a soul offers when it is brought out of prison! The sweetest music ever heard on earth is found in those new songs which celebrate our late deliverance from the horrible pit and the miry clay. Did you ever keep a linnet in a cage and then bethink yourself that it was hard to rob it of its liberty? Did you take it out into the garden and open the cage door? Oh! but if you could have heard it sing when it had fairly escaped the cage where it had been so long, you would have heard the best linnet music in all the wood. When a poor soul breaks forth from the dungeon of despair, set free by God, what songs it pours forth! God loves to hear such music.
Note that word of his, “I remember thee, the love of thine espousal, when thou wentest after me into the wilderness.” God loves the warmhearted praises of newly emancipated souls; and he will get some out of you, dear friend, if you are set free at this hour.
Notice that these healed ones praised God especially for his goodness . It was great goodness that such as they were should be saved. So near death’s door and yet saved! They wondered at his mercy and sang of “his wonderful works to the children of men.” It is wonderful that such as we were should be redeemed from our iniquities; but, our Redeemer’s name is called Wonderful, and he delights in showing forth the riches of his grace.
Observe that, in their praises, they ascribe all to God: they praise “him for his wonderful work.” Salvation is God’s work, from beginning to end.
Their song is moreover comprehensive, and they adore the Lord for his love to others as well as to themselves; they praise him “for his wonderful works to the children of men.”
Forget not that they added to this praise sacrifice: “Let them sacrifice the sacrifices of thanksgiving.” What shall be the sacrifices of a sinner delivered from going down into the pit? Shall he bring a bullock that hath horns and hoofs? Nay, let him bring his heart; let him offer himself, his time, his talents, his body, his soul, his substance. Let him exclaim, “Let my Lord take all, seeing he hath saved my soul.” Will you not lay yourselves out for him who laid himself out for you? If he has bought you with a price, confess that you are altogether his. Of your substance give to his cause as he prospers you; prove that you are really his by your generosity towards his church and his poor.
In addition to sacrifice, the healed one began to offer songs, for it was to be a “sacrifice of thanksgiving .” May those of you who are pardoned sing more than is customary now-a-days. May we, each one of us, who have been delivered from going down to the pit, enter into the choir of God’s praising ones, vocally singing as often as we can, and in our hearts always chanting his praise.
Once more, the grateful ones were to add to their gifts and psalms a declaration of joy at what God had done for them. ‘“Let them declare his works with rejoicing.” Ye who are pardoned should tell the church of the Lord’s mercy to you. Let his people know that God is discovering his hidden ones. Come and tell the minister. Nothing gladdens him so much as to know that souls are brought to Jesus by his means. This is our reward.
Ye are our crown of rejoicing, ye saved ones. I can truly say, I never have such joy as when I receive letters from persons, or hear from them personally the, good news, “I heard you on such-and-such a night, and found peace;” or, “I read your sermon, and God blessed it to my soul.”
There is not a true minister of Christ but would willingly lay himself down to die, if he could thereby see multitudes saved from eternal wrath. We live for this. If we miss this, our life is a failure. What is the use of a minister unless he brings souls to God? For this we would yearn over you, and draw near unto God in secret, that he would be pleased in mercy to deliver you.
But, surely, if you are converted, you should not conceal the fact. It is an unkind action for any person who has received life from the dead, through any instrumentality, to deny the worker the consolation of hearing that he has been made useful; for the servant of God has many discouragements, and he is himself readily cast down, and the gratitude of those who are saved is one of the appointed cordials for his heavy heart. There is no refreshment like it. May God grant you grace to declare his love, for our sake, for the church’s sake, and, indeed, for the world’s sake. Let the sinner know that you have found mercy, perhaps it will induce him to seek also. Many a physician has gained his practice by one patient telling others of his cure. Tell your neighbors that you have been to the hospital of Jesus, and been restored, though you hated all manner of meat, and drew near to the gates of death; and may be a poor soul, just in the same condition as yourself, will say, “This is a message from God to me.” Above all, publish abroad the Lord’s goodness, for Jesus’ sake. He deserves your honor. Will you receive his blessing, and then like the nine lepers give him no praise?
Will you be like the woman in the crowd, who was healed by touching the hem of his garment, and then would fain have slipped away? If so, I pray that the Master may say, “Somebody hath touched me,” and may you be compelled to tell us all the truth, and say, “I was sore sick in soul, but I touched thee, O my blessed Lord, and I am saved, and to the praise of the glory of thy grace will tell it; I will tell it, though devils should hear me; I will tell it, and make the world ring with it, according to my ability, to the praise and glory of thy saving grace.”
BY THE EDITOR. SOME animals make up for their natural weakness by their activity and audacity; they are typical of a certain order of men. Assumption goes a long way with many, and, when pretensions are vociferously made and incessantly intruded, they always secure a measure of belief. Men who affect to be of dignified rank, and superior family, and who, therefore, hold their heads high above the canaille , manage to secure a measure of homage from those who cannot see beneath the surface. There has by degrees risen up in this country a coterie, more than ordinarily pretentious, whose favorite cant is made up of such terms as these: “liberal views,” “men of high culture,” “persons of enlarged minds and cultivated intellects,” “bonds of dogmatism and the slavery of creeds,” “modern thought,” and so on. That these gentlemen are not so thoroughly educated as they fancy themselves to be, is clear from their incessant boasts of their culture; that they are not free, is shrewdly guessed from their loud brags of liberty; and that they are not liberal, but intolerant to the last degree, is evident, from their superciliousness towards those poor simpletons who abide by the old faith. Jews in old times called Gentiles dogs, and Mahometans cursed unbelievers roundly; but we question whether any men, in any age, have manifested such contempt of others as is constantly evidenced towards the orthodox by the modern school of “cultured intellects.” Let half a word of protest be uttered by a man who believes firmly in something, and holds by a defined doctrine, and the thunders of liberality bellow forth against the bigot. Steeped up to their very throats in that bigotry for liberality, which, of all others, is the most ferocious form of intolerance, they sneer with the contempt of affected learning at the idiots who contend for “a narrow Puritanism,” and express a patronizing hope that the benighted adherents of “a half-enlightened creed” may learn more of “that charity which thinketh no evil.” To contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints is to them an offense against the enlightenment of the nineteenth century; but, to vamp old, worn-out heresies, and pass them off for deep thinking, is to secure a high position among minds “emancipated from the fetters of traditional beliefs.”
Manliness and moral courage are the attributes in which they consider themselves to excel, and they are constantly asserting that hundreds of ministers see with them, but dare not enunciate their views, and so continue to preach one thing and believe another. It may be so here and there, and the more is the cause for sorrow; but we are not sure of the statement, for the accusers themselves may, after all, fancy that they see in others what is really in themselves. The glass in their own houses should forbid their throwing stones. If they were straightforward themselves, they might call others to account; but, in too many cases, their own policy savors of the serpent in a very high degree. The charge could not be fairly brought against all, but it can be proven against many, that they have fought the battles of liberality, not with the broad sword of honest men, but with the cloak and dagger of assassins. They have occupied positions which could not be reconciled with their beliefs, and have clung to them with all the tenacity with which limpets adhere to rocks. Their testimony has, in some cases, been rendered evidently worthless, from the fact that with all their outcry against orthodoxy, they did their best to eat the bread of the orthodox, and would still have continued to profess, and yet to assail, orthodox opinions had they been permitted to do so. Whether this is honest is doubtful: that it is not manly is certain.
These gentlemen of culture have certainly adopted peculiar tactics. The misbelievers and unbelievers of former ages withdrew themselves from churches as soon as they found out they could not honestly endorse their fundamental articles; but these abide by the stuff, and great is their indignation at the creeds which render their position morally dubious.
Churches have no right to believe anything; comprehensiveness is the only virtue of a nenomination; precise definitions are a sin, and fundamental doctrines are a myth: this is the notion of “our foremost men.” For earnest people to band themselves together to propagate what they hold to be the very truth of God, is in their eyes the miserable endeavor of bigots to stem the torrent of modern thought; for zealous Christians to contribute of their substance for the erection of a house, in which only the truths most surely believed among them shall be inculcated, is a treason against liberality; while the attempt to scure our pulpits against downright error, is a mischievous piece of persecution to be resented by all “intellectual” men.
The proper course, according to their “broad views,” would be to leave doctrines for the dunces who care for them. Truths there are none, but only opinions; and, therefore, cultivated ministers should be left free to trample on the most cherished beliefs, to insult convictions, no matter how long experience may have matured them, and to teach anything, everything, or nothing, as their own culture, or the current of enlightened thought may direct them. If certain old fogies object to this, let them turn out of the buildings they have erected, or subside into silence under a due sense of their inferiority.
It appears to be, now-a-days, a doubtful question whether Christian men have a right to be quite sure of anything. The Jesuit argument that some learned doctor or other has taught a certain doctrine, and that, therefore, it has some probability, is now practically prevalent. He who teaches an extravagant error is a fine, generous spirit: and, therefore, to condemn his teaching is perilous, and will certainly produce an outcry against your bigotry. Where the atonement is virtually denied, it is said that a preacher is a very clever man, and exceedingly good; and, therefore, even to whisper that he is unsound is libelous: we are assured that it would be far better to honor him for his courage in scorning to be hampered by conventional expressions. Besides, it is only his way of putting it, and the radical idea is discoverable by cultured minds. As to other doctrines, they are regarded as too trivial to be worthy of controversy, the most of them being superseded by the advancement of science and other forms of progressive enlightenment.
The right to doubt is claimed clamorously, but the right to believe is not conceded. The modern gospel runs thus: “He that believes nothing and doubts everything shall be saved.” Room must be provided for every form of skepticism; but, for old-fashioned faith, a manger in a stable is too commodious. Magnified greatly is the so-called “honest doubter,” but the man who holds tenaciously by ancient forms of faith is among “men of culture” voted by acclamation a fool. Hence, it becomes a sacred duty of the advanced thinker to sneer at the man of the creed, a duty which is in most cases fully discharged; and, moreover, it is equally imperative upon him to enter the synagogue of bigots, as though he were of their way of thinking, and in their very midst inveigh against their superstition, their ignorant contentedness with worm-eaten dogmas, and generally to disturb and overturn their order of things. What if they have confessions of faith?
They have no right to accept them, and, therefore, let them be held up to ridicule, Men, now-a-days, occupy pulpits with the tacit understanding that they will uphold certain doctrines, and from those very pulpits they assail the faith they are pledged to defend. The plan is not to secede, but to operate from within, to worry, to insinuate, to infect. Within the walls of Troy, one Greek is worth half Agamemnon’s host; let, then, the wooden horse of liberality be introduced by force or art, as best may serve the occasion. Talking evermore right boastfully of their candor and hatred of the hollowness of creeds, etc., they will remain members of churches long after they have renounced the basis of union upon which these churches are constituted. Yes, and worse; the moment they are reminded of their inconsistency they whine about being persecuted, and imagine themselves to be martyrs. If a person, holding radical sentiments, insisted upon being a member of a Conservative club, he would meet with small sympathy if the members would not allow him to remain among them, and use their organization as a means for overthrowing their cherished principles. It is a flagrant violation of liberty of conscience when a man intrudes himself into a church with which he does not agree, and demands to be allowed to remain there, and undermine its principles. Conscience he evidently has none himself; or he would not ignore his own principles by becoming an integral part of a body holding tenets which he despises; but he ought to have some honor in him as a man, and act honestly, even to the bigots whom he so greatly pities, by warring with them in fair and open battle. If a Calvinist should join a community like the Wesleyans, and should claim a right to teach Calvinism from their platforms, his expulsion would be a vindication, and not a violation, of liberty. If it be demanded that in such matters we respect the man’s independence of thought, we reply that we respect it so much that we would not allow him to fetter it by a false profession, but we do not respect it, to such a degree that we would permit him to ride rough shod over all others, and render the very existence of organized Christianity impossible. We would not limit the rights of the lowest ruffian, but if he claims to enter our bed-chamber the case is altered; by his summary expulsion we may injure his highly-cultured feelings and damage his broad views, but we claim in his ejection to be advocating, rather than abridging, the rights of man. Conscience, indeed! What means it in the mouth of a man who attacks the creed of a church and yet persists in continuing in it? He would blush to use the term conscience if he had any, for he is insulting the conscience of all the true members by his impertinent intrusion. Our pity is reserved for the honest people who have the pain and trouble of ejecting the disturber with the ejected one, we have no sympathy; he had no business there, and, had he been a true man, he would not have desired to remain, nor would he even have submitted to do so had he been solicited.
This is most illiberal talk in the judgment of our liberal friends, and they will rail at it in their usual liberal manner; it is, however, plain common sense, as all can see but those who are willfully blind. While we are upon the point, it may be well to inquire into the character of the liberality which is, now-a-days, so much vaunted. What is it that these men would have us handle so liberally? Is it something which is our own, and left at our disposal? If so, let generosity be the rule. But no, it is God’s truth which we are thus to deal with, the gospel which he has put us in trust with, and for which we shall have to render account. The steward who defrauded his lord was liberal; so was the thief who shared the plunder with his accomplice; and so were those in the Proverbs, who said, “let us all have one purse.” If truth were ours, absolutely; if we created it, and had no responsibilities in reference to it, we might consider broad-church proposals; but, the gospel is the Lord’s own, and we are only stewards of the manifold grace of God, and of stewards it is not so much required that they be liberal, but that they be found faithful. Moreover, this form of charity is both useless and dangerous. Useless , evidently, because all the agreements and unions and compromises beneath the moon can never make an error a truth, nor shift the boundary-line of God’s gospel a single inch. If we basely merge one part of Scriptural teaching for the sake of charity, it is not, therefore, really merged, it will bide its time, and demand its due with terrible reprisals for our injustice towards it; for half the sorrows of the church arise from smothered truths. False doctrine is not rendered innocuous by its being winked at. God hates it whatever glosses we may put upon it; no lie is of the truth, and no charity can make it so.
Either a dogma is right or wrong, it cannot be indifferent. Conferences have been held of late between Baptists and Paedobaptists, in which there has been most oily talk of mutual concessions, one is to give up this and the other that. The fit description of such transactions is mutual, or rather united, treason to God. Will the word of God shift as these conspirators give and take? Are we, after all, our own law-makers; and is there no rule of Christ, extant? Is every man to do as seemeth good in his own eyes? If we, on the one side, set up immersion on our own authority, and they, on the other side, bring forward the infant on their own account, we may both very wisely drop our peculiarities, for they are of man only, and, therefore, of superstition. But, if either side can find support in God’s word, woe to it if it plays false to the will of the Great Head. We quote this merely as an illustration; and, as it concerns minor matters, it the more clearly sets forth the emphatic stress which we would lay upon loyalty to truth in the weightier matters of our great Master’s law. The rule of Christians is not the flickering glimmer of opinion, but the fixed law of the statute book; it is rebellion, black as the sin of witchcraft, for a man to know the law, and talk of conceding the point. In the name of the Eternal Kin, who is this liberal conceder, or, rather, this profane defrauder of the Lord, that he should even imagine such a thing in his heart?
Nor is it less important to remember that trifling with truth is to the last degree dangerous . No error can be imbibed without injury, nor propagated without sin. The utmost charity cannot convert another gospel into the gospel of Jesus Christ, nor deprive it of its deluding and destroying influence. There is no ground for imagining that an untruth, honestly believed, is in the least changed in its character by the sincerity of the receiver; nor may we dream that the highest culture renders a departure from revealed truth less evil in the sight of God. If you give the sick man a deadly poison instead of a healing medicine, neither your broad views of chemistry, nor his enlightened judgment upon anatomy, will prevent the drug from acting after its own nature. It may be said that the parallel does not hold, and that error is not deadly, but here we yield not, no, not for an hour. Paul pronounced a curse upon any man or angel who should preach another gospel, and he would not have done so, if other gospels were harmless. It is not so long ago that men need forget it, that the blight of Unitarian and other lax opinions withered the very soul of the Dissenting Churches; and that spirit has only to be again rampant, to repeat its mischief. Instances, grievous to our inmost heart, rise up before our memory at the moment of men seduced from their first love, and drawn aside from their fathers’ gospel, who only meant to gather one tempting flower upon the brink of the precipice of error, but fell, never to be restored. No fiction do we write, as we bear record of those we have known, who first forsook the good old paths of doctrine, then the ways of evangelic usefulness, and then the enclosures of morality. In all cases, the poison has not so openly developed itself, but we fear the inner ruin has been quite as complete. In the case of public teachers, cases are not hard to find where little by little men have advanced beyond their “honest doubt,” into utter blasphemy. One notorious instance will occur to all of a man, who, having ignored the creed of his church, and, indeed, all lines of fixed belief, has become the very beacon of Christendom, from the astounding nature of the blasphemy which he pours forth. In him, as a caricature of advanced thought, it is probable that we have a more telling likeness of the real evil, than we could by any other means have obtained. It may be that Providence has allowed him to proceed to the utmost lengths, that the church might see whereunto the much-vaunted intellectual school would carry us.
We are not believers in stereotyped phraseology, nor do we desire to see the reign of a stagnant uniformity; but, at this present, the perils of the church lie in another direction. The stringency of little Bethel, whatever may have been its faults, has no power to work the mischief which is now engendered by the confusion of the latitudinarian Babel. To us, at any rate, the signs of the times portend no danger greater than that which an arise from landmarks removed, ramparts thrown down, foundations shaken, and doctrinal chaos paramount.
We have written this much, because silence is reckoned as consent, and pride unrebuked lifts up its horn on high, and becomes more insolent still.
Let our opponents cease, if they can, to sneer at Puritans whose learning and piety were incomparably superior to their own; and, let them remember that the names, which have adorned the school of orthodoxy, are illustrious enough to render scorn of their opinions, rather a mark of imbecility than of intellect. To differ is one thing, but to despise is another. If they will not be right, at least, let them be civil, if they prefer to be neither, let them not imagine that the whole world is gone after them. Their forces are not so potent as they dream, the old faith is rooted deep in the minds of tens of thousands, and it will renew its youth, when the present phase of error shall be only a memory, and barely that.
THE GOSPEL OF THE DEVIL A SKELETON SERMON. BY T. MARSHALL.
“Ye shall not surely die.” Genesis 3:4.
DOCTRINE.GOD WILL NOT PUNISH SIN NOT THE WAY HE SAYS HE WILL.
What the Devil’s Gospel is. 1. He has a Gospel. 2. It is an ancient Gospel. 3. It is a plausible Gospel. 4. It is a lying Gospel.
What it does . 1. Comforts the wicked. 2. Encourages men in their sins. 3. Hinders men from repentance.
What it leads to . 1. Suspicion of God’s character. 2. Transgression of God’s law. 3. Dislike of God’s presence.
What it, ends in . 1. Separation from God. 2. Shameful nakedness. 3. Irremediable misery.
BELIEVE IT NOT.
ST. BRELADE’S BAY A GOSSIP BY C. H. SPURGEON.
NEVER dispute about scenery. Besides, the old rule which warns you against arguing upon matters of taste, there is the other, that it is better not to compare things which were no meant for comparison. We were one day at the Plemont Caves, and the next in St. Brelade’s Bay: the first, rugged and grand beyond description; the second, fair and beautiful. The question as to which was the finer scenery was suggested, but was dismissed as not a topic to be tolerated by sensible people. Each was, in its own way, surpassing; contrast was conspicuous, but comparison was absurd. You cannot take the fields all flower-bedecked, and the waves flashing and for ever changing, and the clouds fleecy, grey, or blazing with the red sunset, and say of them, “Here we have positive, comparative, and superlative.”
No, they are each and all superlative. God’s works are all beautiful in their season, all masterpieces; there is nothing second rate among them. Jersey may glory in Plemont and its other rugged headlands, and it may equally rejoice in the more quiet beauty of the bays of which S. Brelade’s is the type.
The propensity to compare is frequently indulged in equally foolish and far more injurious ways. It cuts us to the heart when we hear excellent ministers decried, because they are not like certain others. Persons will actually discuss the graded rank and comparative merit of Punshon and Binney, Landells and Brock, forgetting that the men are different persons, and no more to be placed as first, second, third, and fourth, than cowslips and oysters, gazelles and dolphins. You cannot logically institute comparisons where they do not hold. Rugged Cephas has his place and order, and he is neither better nor worse, higher nor lower in value, than polished Apollos. No one inquires which is the more useful — a needle or a pin, a spade or a hoe, a wagon or a plough — they are designed for different ends, and answer them well; but they could not exchange places without serious detriment to their usefulness. It is true that A excels in argumentative power; let him argue, then, for he was made on purpose to convince men’s reasons; but, because B’s style is more expository, do not despise him, for he was sent not to reason, but to teach. If all the members of the mystical body had the same office and gift, what a wretched malformation it would be; it would hardly be so good as that, for it would not be a formation at all. If all ears, mouths, hands, and feet were turned into eyes, who would hear, eat, grasp, or move? A church with a Luther in every pulpit would be all fist; and, with a Calvin to fill every pastorate, she would be all skull. Blessed be God for one Robert Hall, but let the man be whipped who tries in his own person to make a second. Rowland Hill is admirable for once, but it is quite as well that the mould was broken. There is a great run just now for little Robertsons of Brighton, but there will soon be a glut in the market.
Why not appreciate the good in all true preachers of the gospel, and glorify God in each of them? Never let us say, “This is my man and there is no other equal to him.” It may be that our favorite is the most notable in his own peculiar order; but then, other orders of men are needed and fulfill an equally important function. The sublime and commanding style of Isaiah should not put us out of patience with the plaintive tones of Jeremiah, nor with the homeliness of Hosea, or the abruptness of Haggai.
So much for moralizing on that point; we must make a halt, dismount, and come to closer quarters with this bay of St. Brelade.
What is to ‘be seen? The guide-book tells of “a delicious little cove, with fantastic rocks and recesses, known as the Creux Fantomes, or Fairy Caves.” Come along, worthy comrades, we will explore them first of all, and rest afterwards in some cool grot, where neither shall the sun light on us nor any heat. Shalt we inquire the way? It may be as well; for where these fairy dwellings are, we are only vaguely informed: they lie somewhere on the western side, but a mile or two more or less makes a difference to a limping traveler. Does anybody know of these wonders? It seems not. We get information at last about these “unknown, mysterious caves, and secret haunts,” but then we learn, also, that “there is no practicable way to them.” Not the first things which we have desired to look into which have been beyond our reach. It is disappointing though!
Instructive, at least, suggestive also. There are unapproachable men as well as caves. How many preachers have affected mystery and educated themselves into obscurity. They have become, by laborious art, little else than spiritual painted windows, which admit only a dim religious light. Few have the presumption to try to understand them. They do not claim to be infallible; but none would question their right, if they styled themselves “incomprehensible.” Their thoughts may be as wonderful as these Creux Fantomes; but, alas, there is no path to their meaning which an ordinary understanding can follow. Their jargon, it is to be hoped, is to themselves its own exceeding great reward; to others, it is sound and nothing more.
Adieu, then, to the fairies. Let us examine some more ordinary and accessible places. Here is the ancient church. Who was this Saint Brelade?
Was he any relation of Ingoldsby’s renowned St. Medard, who was so remarkably hard and solid about the parietal bone that his pate was not crushed even when the arch enemy of all saints hurled at it the weight of a great, big stone? We hope he was not at all of that breed, for we are not partial to those of whom the witty satirist sings, “St. Medard, he was a holy man, A holy man I ween was he, And even by day, When he went up to pray, He would light up a candle that all might see!” Well, well, what matters who the good soul was? here is his church, and a native ready to open the churchyard gate. Here on the left of the entrance is a good notion, a money-box for the poor, with an inscription in French. “Jesus, etant assis vis-a-vis du tronc, regardait comment le peuple mettait de l’argent daus le tronc.” Mark 11:41. A text even more suitable in French than in its English form “Jesus sat over against the treasury, and beheld how the people cast money into the treasury.” With that text before their eyes, surely many professing Christians would contribute more, and in a better spirit. We should be ashamed to give grudgingly, if we felt sure that Jesus saw. This Scripture needs to be put up over weekly offering boxes, for it is generally neglected in the reading, all persons being in a hurry to get to the widow’s mites. With all due respect to that most admirable widow, we are afraid that she has innocently been a shield for covetous hypocrites. Rich men contribute a guinea to some enterprise requiring tens of thousands, and they modestly say, “Put it down as the widow’s mite.”
My dear sir, it was in the plural, two mites, so please make it two guineas, so as to be accurate in number at any rate: and then remember, that she gave all her living, and you defraud the woman if you call your donation by her name, and yet do not give a tenth nor a hundredth; nay, perhaps not even a thousandth part of your substance to the Lord. It were to be wished that some minute subscribers out of magnificent incomes would become “widow’s indeed;” or, at least, give “widow’s mites” in deed and of a truth.
The church — we are in it now — is a plain, decent, Christian place of worship, thoroughly well whitewashed. Capital stuff that lime-white to kill the Tractarian bug or worm, a pest very discernible in many of our parish churches, and about as destructive as the white ant in India.
Churchwardens could not do better than try a coat of lime, at the same time remembering that the insect will cling to altar cloths, processional banners, or any other old rags which may be cumbering the place. If crosses, holy candle-sticks, censers, and other trumpery to which these creatures attach themselves could be removed, it would be well; but we beg the purifiers not to carry these implements anywhere near Dissenting chapels for fear the plague should spread there also. If a gracious providence should command a mighty strong east, west, north, or south wind to take away these creatures, we should greatly rejoice, for they cover the face of the earth, so that, the land is darkened. There were other evidences of purity in St. Brelade’s church, besides the fair white upon its walls. There stood a plain communion table, with four legs, simple and unadorned, and over it, as usual, were the apostles’ creed, Lord’s prayer, and decalogue. No frippery here. Moreover, there were suitable texts above and below each of these inscriptions; and we specially marked that over the creed were these words “He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved,” with this most appropriate text, by way of interpreter, beneath: “With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.” We commend these parallel Scriptures to the careful and prayerful consideration of all readers of The Sword and the Trowel .
In the grave yard were the hillocks and stones which memorialize not only the rude forefathers of the hamlet, but many from far and near, who came to Jersey, saw, and died. Inscriptions there were, English and French, a few in unmitigated doggerel, and many more of the usual rhymes of the sort, to which Pope’s criticism might be applied “Where’er you find ‘the cooling western breeze,’ In the next line ‘it whispers through the trees;’ If crystal streams ‘with pleasing murmurs creep,’ ‘The reader’s threatened, not in vain, with ‘sleep.’” There surely should be some censorship of churchyard poetry, which might be elevating in sentiment and expression, but is too often neither. We were fortunate enough, however, to stumble on one epitaph which we copied eagerly, for it seemed to us, in its way, to be quite a gem “Weep for a seaman, honest and sincere, Not cast away, but brought to anchor here; Storms had o’erwhelmed him but the conscious wave Repented, and resign’d him to the grave.
In harbor, safe from shipwreck now he lies Till Time’s last signal blazes through the skies; Refitted in a moment, then shall he Sail from this port, on an eternal sea.” The Eton boy’s lines upon “The Conscious Water,” which “saw its God, and blushed,” were evidently in the versifier’s mind in line three; and the ring of some of the expressions reminds us much of Watts’ Lyrics.
We looked into the very ancient building called the “Chapelle des Pecheurs,” or Fisherman’s Chapel, and marked the rude frescoes, now happily passing away into well deserved decay. What men of taste can see in the worse than childish daubs of the mediaeval times, we know not; they are not merely grotesque, but comic, and in many eases revolting and blasphemous. Venerate the old if you will; but let old idols, and abominations, “portrayed upon the wall round about,” be devoured as speedily as possible by the salutary tooth of time. We should like half-anhour with a stout hammer and a ladder in several of our parish churches; and we would leave behind us improvements in architecture worth of imitation by future architects. “Reformations which another, Hating much the Popish reign — Some faint, evangelic brother, Seeing, might take heart again.” We, certainly, did not cross the Channel to spend our time inside a vaulty and dilapidated building, so away to the sea. What a splendid plain of sand; but see how it is stirred and moved by the wind. Such fine particles, in such constant motion, will assuredly blind us. Let us make a rush through it for the rocks, and then we can sit by the side of Mr. Disraeli’s melancholy ocean; or, what Pollok calls, the “tremendous sea.” Judge our surprise when we find that the raging sandstorm reaches no higher than our knees, and all above is clear enough. Odd, very odd, to be beaten about the ankles by a torrent of blowing particles; and up here, in the region of breathing and seeing, to be serenity itself. If our daily trials could be kept under foot in the same manner, how happily might we live. The things of earth are too inconsiderable to be allowed to rise breast high. “Let not your heart be troubled.”
Out on the rocks, we enjoy the breeze and the view; and, looking back on the bay of St. Brelade, half envy the cottagers whose profound quiet is unmolested by the shriek of locomotives, the roll of cabs, and the discord of barrel organs. By us, the blue wave must be left for the black fog, and the yellow sands for the dingy bricks; but there are souls to be won by thousands amid the millions of London, and, therefore, we will return to duty with willing step. With all the advantages of a country life — and they are many and great — the active servant of God will prefer the town, because there he sows in wider fields, and hopes for larger harvests. Dr. Guthrie once said, “I bless God for cities;” and he rightly called them “the active centers of almost all church and state reforms, and the cradles of human liberty.” We, also, bless God for cities, for there the willing crowds hang on the preacher’s lips, there the laborious church is gathered, the student trained, the evangelist tutored, the mind inflamed by contact with mind, and the pulse of godliness quickened. We pronounce Raleigh’s blessing, on the country “Blest silent groves! O may ye be For ever mirth’s best nursery.” But, we choose to spend our days where larger human harvests, white for the sickle, wait for the reaper’s coming.