A SERMON BY MR. C. H. SPURGEON. (SUGGESTED BY HIS BEING SUMMONED TO ATTEND THE POLICE COURT AS A WITNESS.)
“Ye are my witnesses, saith the LORD. “ — Isaiah 43:10.
It is some time since I have known what it is to be at leisure. One’s time from morning to night is occupied in different departments of the Master’s service, and it has been peculiarly troublesome to rue during the last week to be compelled[to spend many hours in a police court. While sitting on the bench my text has again and again occurred to me. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.”
A great trial is going on, of which all worlds constitute the jury — a great trial between the powers of evil and the one perfect Lord of good. Slanders have been vented against the name and majesty of heaven, and plots have been invented with the intent to overthrow holiness and truth. The whole fraternity of hell have stirred up their malicious craftiness to defame the God of heaven and earth. We know which way the suit will be decided, for we know where the truth lies; but, lo, these many centuries the matter has been hanging in the balances. Sometimes it has seemed that truth had gained the day, but at other times the powers of evil have come to the front. This trial is still proceeding. Satan brings up his witnesses, ready enough to lie and to establish the teachings of the father of lies; and, on the other hand, the Lord brings up his witnesses to bear testimony for truth and righteousness. There are many in this place of whom the text speaketh. “Ye are my witnesses, saith the Lord.” We are summoned in this great trial of the ages to stand forward as witnesses for God.
Very simply, indeed, let us talk of this matter. At the outset we will take the simple assertion thatWE ARE WITNESSES, and inquire what sort of witnesses we ought to be? I count it no small honor for the good Lord to call me as a witness in his case. Hence I, for one, am a willing witness. I need no subpoena to compel me to come forward and bear such witness as I can for the glory of his great name. Such of you as can cheerfully come forward for the Lord should attend to the duty of witnesses well. Let us see what are the main points of that duty.
First, let us be present to witness, in our proper place, at the proper Nine.
I know some Christians who are of a very “retiring” disposition. — I believe that is their favorite word. I fear truth would say they are cowardly, and hence they are silent when their witness should be borne. They are willing enough to bear testimony when thousands are. doing: the same, and they can shout “Hosanna” when all the streets are ringing with it; but not so many are prepared to witness for Christ when the hoarse cry of “Crucify him! crucify him!” is heard on every side. If we are witnesses for God we are bound to be witnesses to all that we know, but flesh and blood will suggest to us to be out of the way when unpopular truths are in question.
Certain brethren find it convenient to insist upon quiet portions of the word of God, and not on truths which might cause them trouble and provoke discussion. That doctrine which is received already they will affirm, because all men agree with them, but the very portion of truth which most needs witnessing is shirked, and even looked down upon with disfavor. Let us be always in the way when there is a witness wanted to be browbeaten and abused because he slates unpalatable truth. Never pick and choose in truth, or in your witness to it; or if you must make a choice, vindicate that truth most which is most despised. If you happen to be where men are blaspheming, witness against that blasphemy, calmly but firmly. If you dwell where error is taught, wait till you have a fair opportunity, and then stand up for Jesus. I do not say that you are to rush about like a knighterrant, fighting with everybody; but when there is a demand for a witness upon any point of truth, be you the man, and witness a good confession for Jesus your Lord.
Next, if we are witnesses for God, we should not only be in our place, but we should be willing to speak up when the time comes. No redeemed man must be in any degree an unwilling witness for his Lord. It is a pity when truth has to be extracted from us with as much difficulty as a decayed tooth. That is the best wine which flows most freely from the grape, and that is the best testimony which a man bears with cheerful spirit because he values the truth in his own soul, and would have others prize it too. The thought that our Lord Jesus was silent for us should prevent our ever being silent towards him. One word from his mouth in Pilate’s hall would have broken the spell which bound him to death, but he would not speak it; and now, if one word from our lip would sign our death-warrant, if it be a word for truth and Christ, let us speak it and joyfully accept the consequences God’s true children are never born dumb; therefore speak out like a true man. What thou knowest, tell What God has taught thee, teach. What thou hast learned in the closet, proclaim on the housetop; and what was whispered in thine ear in communion with thy God, blaze it abroad before all men. Speak up, speak up for Jesus. It is required of the Lord’s witnesses that they steak the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. Every witness in the court is sworn to do that, and every child of God is bound by the most solemn obligations to his Lord to do the same. Our God never requires a man to tell a lie for him.
The Jesuits have held the theory that the end sanctifies the means; and so those — I was going to say diabolical — beings suppose they are glorifying God when they heap falsehoods pile on pile. One of the chief qualifications for a priest is to be able to tell a lie without the slightest sign of blushing; and I must give some of them credit; for great proficiency in the art. Our Lord would not have us speak falsely for him, or even suppress the truth, to serve his cause. Occasions may sometimes arise when you feel — “Well, I don’t know: my friend will be annoyed if I confess that truth. I will not exactly deny my belief in it, but I will depreciate it as a small matter of very slender importance.” Thus you will do evi1 that good may come. Some say to themselves “I am in a false position, but had I not better remain in it, for it gives me great opportunities for usefulness. It is true I do. not believe in the teaching of my church, but may I not still belong to it? Her catechism and ritual do not represent my views, and there are many persons of an opposite way of thinking who are very glad to use the very language which I profess to believe in, and express thereby the most abominable of dogmas: all this is deplorable, but had I not better put up with it and go on as I am?” My dear friend, I do not believe that God ever desires any of his people to occupy a position in which they cannot be strictly truthful; and I do not believe that he will justify them in retaining such a position. Whether I am useful or not is not one half so ranch my business as whether: I am faithful and true.
Equivocation and suppression of truth cannot serve the cause of God. You are to speak the truth for God. He does not want you in one syllable or word to speak anything but the truth. And you are to bring out all the truth as far as the Lord has taught it to you. Do not conceal anything on the ground of policy. At the same time do not exalt, any one truth out of its fair proportion. If a man’s portrait had to be drawn it would be a mistake to paint his nose and nothing else, or to make that organ so large that you could not see his eyes. Never distort truth. Some doctrines fill up the background of a picture, but were never meant to stand in the front; still background, foreground, and every part must be truthful. My Lord will not call liars to witness for him, for they are detestable in his sight.
Remember, also, that we must be personal witnesses. A witness the other day got as far as, “And he says to me, says he” — but he was immediately stopped with the sharp rebuke that it was not evidence, and could not be listened to. In our courts of law we do not allow of second-hand evidence. “No,” says the judge, “what did you see yourself, my good man? We want to know that.” It is so with regard to your witness for God. You must testify what you have seen and felt for yourselves. It is very easy to read biographies of good men, and then come forward and talk experience; but. it is a very wicked thing to do. Let your experience be your own, and your testimony for God be what you have tasted and handled of his good word.
There is a vast. difference between second-hand spiritual, gossiping experience and the first — hand personal testing and trying of the promise and the word of God. You cannot tell what power you will have with children if you tell them how the Lord dealt with you when you were a child; and upon the unconverted, if you tell them what you have discovered of the folly of sinful pleasures, and the emptiness of the world. Nothing is more useful to a young convert than to tell him how you found the Savior, and what the Savior has been to you. In dealing with those who are doubting and desponding, your own trims and your own deliverances win be the most helpful subjects. Personal experience must furnish you with personal testimony, and this you must never withhold.
In the matter of witnesses there are great differences between one and another. Both witnesses may speak the truth, but you would far sooner believe one than the other, because of the previous character of the witness. Good lawyers do net count heads, but; they weigh them, and if they have one man of known position and honesty, and he will assert such a thing, they scarcely need to support his evidence; whereas, half-a-dozen witnesses of rather a shady description will scarcely be able to prove a fact. In witnessing for God the holier your character the better. It does not do to say one thing with your mouth and another thing with your hand. Your witness for Jesus Christ in the school will be spoiled if at home there is no piety, if in business there is a want of honesty. If your character is doubtful, you will rather damage than help the good cause. The devil once wanted to be a witness for Christ; and some of us would have thought it would be a fine stroke of policy to put the devil into the box, and make him speak the truth; but the Lord Jesus Christ would not have it. He said, “Hold thy peace and come out; of him.” Truth did not want any assistance from the father of lies. I do not invite the ungodly man to be a witness for Jesus Christ Unto the wicked God saith, “What hast thou to do to declare my statutes?” Still, if you are a child of God, the weight of your evidence will be considerably lessened if your character be not pure. For your Lord’s sake, then, I beseech you, watch your lives and walk according to his commands. Oh, never let it: be said that Christ was wounded by us — by us for whom he died — by us who have leaned our heads upon his bosom.
God grant that front first to last we may be mighty witnesses, because our character is known and read of all men. May the Holy Spirit, who sanctifieth us, help us in this matter.
One thing more. Every witness should be ready to bear cross-examination.
Oh, how some Christians dislike this. Even as to joining a church, I frequently hear my brother ministers say that we should make the way into the church as easy as possible, that we should not question the “dear young friends,” and a lot of rubbish of that kind. I, on the other hand, believe that if they cannot give a reason for the hope that is in them, it is time they should learn; and if they cannot face their own Christian brethren and relate their experience, it is more their minister’s fault than theirs. I am not going to gather together a horde of cowardly members, nor excuse any from declaring what the Lord has done for their souls. There are plenty of churches where young ladies and gentlemen are taken in because they write a very pretty little letter, and some friend hopes they are all right, and so they are received, and thus we are inundated with people who never speak for Christ, and tremble to call their souls their own. We have tot) much of this kid-gloved, lavender-watered religion, and for my part I would not care to march through the world with such a regiment of feather-bed soldiers. Give me the men who can bear persecution, who are ready to go into the streets and preach Christ at the corners, and are bold to speak a word for Jesus to anybody they shall meet. We need a race of heroes, of cowards we have plenty. Dear friends, we must bear to be cross-examined, for the world will cross-examine us with harsh words, sneers, insinuations, misrepresentations, and falsehoods. The more outspoken we are the more of running of the gauntlet we shall have to undergo; but we must be prepared for it. If our sires, not without blood, passed to their thrones, and we have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin, shall we speak of Christ with bated breath, or dastardly consent to hold our tongues? “I had as lief not be as live to be in awe of such a thing as I, myself.” Is a Christian man to be afraid of man, and conceal his principles for fear he should be ridiculed? God forbid. Leave shame for those who have no religion, or have a religion which is of no value. Let us be true witnesses for Christ in life and death, worthy of the ancestors that went before us, and mindful of the eyes which rest upon us.
We will now change the strain, and dwell upon the fact thatWE HAVE EVIDENCE TO GIVE.
Let us inquire to what matters of fact we are able to bear witness?
Let us think a little. Supposing us all to be Christians, we cannot all bear witness to precisely the same facts, because there is a growth of experience; bat vet there are some facts to which all of us who know the Lord can bear most positive testimony.
First, we can bear witness to many of the attributes of God, as for instance, that he is true. We find him stating in his Word that man is fallen…that his heart is deceitful. Is it so, brethren? What is your witness about yourselves?
If you cannot speak of other people, how do you find it in yourselves?
Truly I must bear painfully decided witness to the depravity of my heart!
When I saw, or thought I saw, the evil of my nature, I was driven to despair by the sight, and though a sight of Jesus Christ has given me peace, yet I never can forget how vile my nature is. It only needs that God should withdraw his grace, and as the floods drowned all the world, so would the deeps of our depravity drown everything gracious within us. We. know that God has spoken the truth there, because facts in our own case prove it. The Lord has promised that whoso believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall have eternal life. We have believed in Jesus Christ; have we found that new life has been bestowed upon us? Let us speak out. Are we conscious of possessing a heavenly life? If there is anything true in the world, we are sure that this is so. Grace has changed us. Eyes have we, with which we see the invisible, ears have we with which we hear the eternal. We have learned to realize the things not seen as yet, our faith is “the, substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen.” There is a spirit-life within us. We cannot describe it. We could net make another man who is unconscious of such a life know what it is; but that we have it is a certain fact, and we bear willing witness to it. There are some who ridicule religion altogether, and have ridiculed this fact among the rest; yet they have no right to do so. There are many of us Who are as honest and trustworthy as other people. and almost as sensible. If we were to enter a witness-box our evidence would not, be questioned: even those who ridicule us would believe us there, why do they not believe us now? Why they should think it proven that there is no such thing as a new life, because they have not felt it, I cannot see. Negative evidence is worthless in such a case. If we bear testimony that we have felt it, it is fair that they should accept the testimony, whether they personally know the truth of it or not. At any rate, let us be very, very plain about it, and say, “Yes, our God was true in what ]he said about our fallen state, and God is true in what he says about the renewal of the soul by the Holy Ghost through faith in Jesus Christ.”
That God is true will also appear in his answering our prayers, his delivering us in time of trial, his fulfilling his promises, and in divers other ways. Whenever any of these occur to us let us stand forth as witnesses and say, “Surely the Lord is true.”
We ought, also, to bear witness, beloved, to the love of God. We have an old proverb that everybody should speak as he finds. Speak of the Lord as you have found hits. I am sure that this is more than I shall ever be able to do to my own satisfaction. My blessed God! Was there ever any like unto thee! If the gods of the heathen were gods, yet were they not worthy to be mentioned in the same day with our blessed God. What love he has lavished upon some of us! I doubt not that all of you who know the Lord will echo my words, but I must say that the Lord surprises me every day with his lovingkindness and his tender mercies, He melts me down by the fires of his grace. I cannot understand why he is so good to me. If he had only pardoned his rebellious child, and allowed him to be a scullion in the royal kitchen, I would have kissed his feet with gratitude; but, behold, he has said unto me “Thou art no more a servant, but a son, and if a son then an heir, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ.” If he had only permitted me to have one glimpse of his love, so as to let my soul know that I was not utterly lost, I would have praised him to all eternity; instead of which, he has made all his goodness pass before me, and proclaimed his glorious name. As to his tenderness to me in providence, his goodness in chastening, his gentleness in restoring me, am overwhelmed with it.
Blessed be his name! You may have what master you like, but he is mine for ever; and you may worship what God you please, but I will have none but the Lord. You may praise up year beauties as you please, but my Beloved is altogether lovely.
Again, brethren, we can testify to our Lord’s wisdom, can we not? We younger folk cannot do it so well as our elders; but my veteran friends here who are getting into their sixties and seventies delight when they speak of the wisdom of the Lord. Yon are living proofs that all the ways of the Lord are wise, for he has overruled all things for your good, and here you are to praise his name. By-and-by, when life’s journey is more nearly over, we shall be able to tell to others yet more of that wisdom and prudence wherein the Lord has abounded towards as. For the present let us testify what we know.
Beloved friends, we can also bear witness to the immutability of God. Of course, our span of life is so little at the longest that we cannot bear much witness to the eternal unchangeableness of Jehovah. Still, take our fiveand- twenty years of Christian experience; or some of you can take your fifty, has there been any change in your God? We are fickle as the winds that: blow; but there certainly has been no change in him. He loved us, and he loves us still; he forgave us, and he forgives us still; he chastened us, and he chasteneth us still; but he sustained us, and he sustains us still. Immutable his will; Tho’ dark may he my frame, His loving heart is still Eternally the same.
My soul thro’ teeny changes goes, His love no variation knows.” We have proved this by actual trial. Perhaps in the time of trouble we thought that his love was failing as; but in looking back we confess how wrong we were. There was as much love in the Lord’s chastenings as in his caresses, we were as much loved when we were hiding under the shadow of his wings as when we were reveling in the light of his countenance.
Blessed be his name, he changes not.
Now, brethren, besides the things which have a manifest respect to God, in which we are witnesses to the character of the Most High, there are other facts to which we testify, and one is this: we can witness to the power of prayer. As I uttered that last word, my eye caught the glance of a sister below me whom I will not indicate. She and I knew how we wrestled together in prayer for a certain sick daughter, and how the Lord heard us, so that I rose from my knees and said to her, “Go your way you will fled your daughter recovering when you reach the house.” She knows that she found it so, and how, since then, in many other ways, God has heard her prayers. I speak to some with whom prayer is an every-day matter; a commerce with God which they do not carry on at certain seasons, but all the year round; and, if you do that, answers to prayer become so usual that you forget a large proportion of them, and only the more singular abide upon your memory. If a man tells me. that God does not hear prayer, I laugh in his face. He might as well tell me that the sun does not shine, or that twice two do not make four. God hears prayer every day, and every hour of the day, and I know it, and man might sooner beat nee out of the belief that I exist than out of this knowledge that God listens to my requests. Upon this point I do not stand alone, for there are thousands who will unite in declaring “Verily there is a God that heareth prayer.” When I hear brethren say how wonderful it is that God has heard prayer, I think it far more wonderful that they should talk so, for surely it is not surprising that God should keep his word. No, these are the common places of genuine Christianity — a prayer-giving God working in the heart, and a prayer-answering God working both in providence and in grace. Brethren, never be slow to bear your testimony to a prayer-hearing God.
We are also quite clear upon the efficacy of the gospel. Where the gospel is truly preached there will be results; and where the gospel is believed it is the power of God unto salvation. Some here present are witnesses to that.
You have taught a class in the school, and you have seen the boys or girls converted to God. There are brethren in connection with this church who have evangelized the lowest parts of London, and they have seen those regions abound in precious fruit unto God. Others haw. introduced the gospel to the utterly fallen, and they have seen them reclaimed. The manhood which appeared extinct has become bright; the womanhood which seemed to be crushed out has shone like a precious jewel. God’s gospel has done wonders It is not remarkable that a minister gets skeptical if he never sees conversions. The proof of the gospel lies in what it does. If it does not: save men from sinning, if it does not lift up the fallen, if it does not; give light and joy to the despairing, then, surely, it lacks the evidences of its divine mission; for even Jesus Christ himself gave to his own mission this as the proof — “The deaf hear, the blind see, the lepers are cleansed, the poor have the gospel preached to them.” If these things be not true now, we may doubt whether the gospel which we preach be the gospel of Jesus Christ. But we can bear witness — and, oh, how joyfully we do it! — that the gospel has not lost its power.
Another point, as God’s witness, we can speak to is the sweetness of near communion with himself — a theme upon which I hardly dare to trust my wandering tongue. Oh, brethren, there is nothing like the joy which comes of high fellowship with God. Mr. Aitken told us the other afternoon that he would give us a recipe for being miserable; I think his words were — “Be half-and-half Christians.” He said, “If you are a worldling you will get some sort of pleasure: you will get the painted bubble, though it will soon burst, but you will get that; and if you are a genuine, thorough-going Christian you will get the joy of the Lord; but if you are a sort of neitherthis- nor-the-other you will get nothing.” Have you never seen little boys, when they go to bathe in the morning, stand up to their knees shivering? Of course they shiver. The way to get warm is to plunge in head first. Some professors stand in very shallow water, and they shiver and cry — “Tis a point I long to know, Oft it causes anxious thought” — and so on. Oh, my brother give yourself up wholly to Christ, and the joy of the Lord will be yours as it is ours. These are some of the things we can speak of.
Very briefly, in the third place. When a witness is called for one side he is against the other side: so we also must remember that OUR EVIDENCE CONDEMNS THE OTHERSIDE. We are witnesses against sin. Sin comes with a painted face like Jezebel; but we witness that she is a destroyer and must die. The pleasures of sin are but a masquerade of misery. Happy they who never drink of the cup which this siren presents. My God, grant that none of our young friends may try the pleasures of vice, for they are as deadly hemlock. Those who have been converted in later life bear very sorrowful witness that sin is misery, and that the wages of sin is death.
We bear witness also against self. Many say with the proverb, “Self is the man” — self will save — self is righteous; but our witness is that self has no strength to performs his own resolutions, that self is a ragged beggar When he thinks himself a king — that self is emptiness and vanity, deceit and death. We bear that witness now, and we always shall have to bear it.
We bear our witness against unbelief. Is there any Christian here who has ever gained anything by being unbelieving? Has any child of God ever escaped from trouble by mistrusting the faithfulness of the Lord? No, we have been losers all round by cur unbelief, but never gainers. Unbelief is a sorry cheat. Mr. Bunyan says that Incredulity was taken and condemned to be hanged, but he very rightly says that he broke out of prison, “for he was a nimble-jack.” The only part of “Pilgrim’s Progress” that I felt inclined to find fault with was where Mr. Greatheart cut Giant Despair’s head off, for to my knowledge he is still alive, But Bunyan sets that right by saying in his rhyme — “Sin can rebuild his castle, make’t remain, And make Despair, the giant, live again.” Oh, that wretched unbelief. Brethren, let your witness against it be clear and distinct.
Moreover, we bear testimony against Satan, whom we know to be a deceiver, a liar, and a murderer. Evil is never good, nor dare we give place to it in order to turn it to useful ends. We must resist the evil one, steadfast in the faith, and ever witness that he is the deadly foe of the soul, whatever disguise he may assume.
In closing, let me say that there sure times when our witness is peculiarly valuable. Do you ask — and when is that? I reply, Your witness will be precious when others are sinfully silent, if you live in a place where there are few earnest Christians, and error abounds, be faithful, my brother. Your light is needed where lamps are few. You need not find fault with others, for that will not help the matter. If the place is dark, shine the more, if error prevails hold forth the truth. There is no argument against error equal to truth, advocated, delighted in, and practiced. Testimony becomes more precious as it becomes more scarce. You might have held your tongue, perhaps, had advocates been plentiful; but now that they are so few be doubly earnest, like your divine Lord, to bear witness to the truth.
Witnesses become valuable, again, in times of persecution. Have you been made to suffer for Christ’s sake? Brother, be glad, for “so persecuted they the prophets that were before you.” If you can be patient, if you can bear ridicule without resentment, if, being reviled, you do not revile again, you have a grand opportunity. The world looks on a man under scoffing and ridicule to observe how he behaves; and if he conducts himself like a Christian it feels this power, and respects his consistency. Give way a little, and you will have to give way more, and be despised; but adherence to principle commands respect. Put your foot down; stand firmly where God would have you stand, and your testimony will gather value flora the very ridicule which is poured upon it. My brethren and sisters, your testimony will be none the less valuable because you are poor. Nothing does the gospel more honor than the godly lives of humble Christians. It honors the gospel when a man both wears a coronet and prays, but how few have done so! The poor man who is happy, contented, thankful, and trustful is one of God’s nobility, and the church of God honors him. We rejoice to see such men standing in the witness-box to declare the lovingkindness of the Lord.
Testimony becomes all the weightier as we grow older. People pay more attention to the words of experienced men; it is natural and right that they should do so. As years creep upon us, we ought to be all the more earnest that our testimony for God should be clear, solid, and frequent. An aged Christian who has little or nothing to say for his Master is a sad drawback to young beginners. I very greatly deprecate the example of some who have been long professors, but who still remain babes in Christ, if they be in Christ at all. It is a great pity to see the head white with the sunlight of heaven, and yet so little of heaven in the daily conversation. Rise up, ye grave and reverend sires, and declare the faithfulness of our God.
Very choice, too, are the testimonies of the sick. It is a great trial when those whom we love are continually suffering, we wish we could bear their pains awhile and give them respite: yet no greater blessing can come to a man’s house than an afflicted child of God. The tried ones go so deep, they speak so sincerely and so touchingly. There is no nonsense about their religion. Racking pain very soon drives away illusions; and pretences and shams do not stand before the solemn reality of continued sickness.
Witnesses in the furnace of affliction are powerful indeed. We hear no songs in the night till breasts are pierced with the thorn. If there were not some who, like the Arab divers, plunge deep into the depths of sorrow, we should have fewer pearls; but there are such, and their testimonies are precious. When your turn and mine come to go upstairs awhile, and preach from our beds, God grant that we may deliver gracious sermons.
Lastly, there is something peculiarly valuable about the testimony of the dying saint. The Lord might well say to these, “Ye are my witnesses.”
Some of us remember testimonies that we were privileged to gather up from dying men’s lips, and they have been great strengtheners to our faith.
I remember a brother who used[to walk out to preach in the villages, a man of very little talent, but with a great heart. I hardly know any word of witness more powerful than the utterances of his last hours, lie was blinded by disease, and when he heard a friend’s voice he addressed him thus — “And when ye see my eyestrings break, How sweet my minutes roll!
A mortal paleness on my cheek, But glory in my soul.”
His tones of joy added deep solemnity to his words.
Oh, those sweet testimonies of the dying, how we store them up! Children talk of Jesus in their last hours as wisely as old men. Mothers and fathers leave witnesses behind them precious as gems. But I refrain: you and I will go soon; may grace enable us to expire with a glad witness on our tongues.
Alas, I recollect as I finish that some of you are not witnesses for God, for you know nothing about him. Remember, if you are not witnesses for God, you will be prisoners at his bar; and you must either occupy the witnessbox for God, or else take the prisoner’s place, to be tried, cast, and found guilty. Oh, sinners, I wish you would try our God, whose witnesses we are.
If we had found him untrue, we would tell you. If we had found that Christ could not save, we would tell you. If we had found that God could not pardon, we would tell you. If religion made us miserable, we would tell you, or you would find it out. If God could not be trusted in providence, and did not hear prayer, we would tell you, for we hope we would not maintain a lie. But we have no such disclosures to make; we bear our willing testimony for God. Remember, it is written, “Him that cometh to me I will in nowise cast out.” Go and test the veracity of that promise, and God bless you, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
MITE OR SPIRIT — WHICH?
WITTY writer, in describing a thoroughly business man, says, “He knows the world as a mite knows cheese. The mite is born in cheese, lives in cheese, beholds cheese. If he, thinks at all, his thoughts (which of course are mitey thoughts) are of cheese. The cheese press, curds, and whey, the frothy pail, the milkmaid, cow, and pasture, enter not the mite’s imagination at all. If any one were to ask him, ‘Why cheese? ‘ he would certainly answer, ‘ .Because cheese ;’ and when he is eaten by mistake, he tastes so thoroughly of the cheese that the event remains unnoticed, and his infinitesimal identity becomes absorbed in the general digestion of casein matter, without comment of consumer.”
Truly this is a photograph of the mere worldling; he is of the earth earthy, he feeds upon earth like the serpent who was doomed to have dust for his meat, he accumulates earth, he adds field to field, he thinks and dreams of the earth, and when he dies, though his body is buried in earth, his all is gone because he is removed from the only sphere of his joys. We must not expect wise judgments from him as to heavenly things, for they are far above and out of his sight. Is he an infidel, or a philosopher of the Tyndall school, we need not wonder, what more can he be? Alas, poor mite! What can he know beyond his cheese?
How different is the regenerate man. He lives with a heavenly life, and his conversation is in heaven. He has borne the image of the earthy, but the image of the heavenly is now stamped upon him. His nature grows into the character of his spiritual meat, and his thoughts, desires, and aspirations are for the things eternal and divine. His whole mind is seasoned and flavored by that Holy Spirit which dwells in him, and is preparing him to dwell for ever above. Reader, which are you, the earth-worm, or the new-born spirit? Search well your heart and see.
TESTIMONIAL TO MR. OLNEY.
THE history of the Olney family forms an interesting chapter in the records of the church at the Tabernacle. Mr. Thomas Olney, senior, was one of our earliest and truest friends, and was spared to us until the Tabernacle had been erected, and the institutions of it set in going order. He was always ready to render the moral and material aid at his command, and, in a thousand ways, proved himself a deacon worthy of the name; indeed he was a deacon of deacons, as evidently made for it as Moses was made to lead the children of Israel. He was universally beloved and esteemed, and Father Olney’s name is still a household word among us. Out of his four sons, all members of the Tabernacle, one has suddenly fallen asleep since we commenced this month’s magazine. He was a warm friend of the Lord’s cause, and was about to have become deacon of the new chapel at Balham. The surviving members of the family have been true and devoted, like their father, and Mr. Thomas is the treasurer of the church, but Mr. William has been the most prominent in spiritual work. At the time we undertook the pastorate he had been a member of the church for twenty years, and had proved his worth in connection with the various offices he had filled, but we believe that the last twenty-two years have out-. stripped their predecessors.
His piety being of the most pronounced and ardent type, he has been the pastor’s right-hand man in all things pertaining to the spiritual work of the church. He has a passion for souls, and when warm in the work of addressing them, he is one of the most fluent speakers we have ever met with. In the conduct of evangelistic services and prayer meetings he has displayed an ability which, had he entered the ministry, would have placed him in the foremost rank of successful pastors. During the pastor’s absences on the Continent, he has worked with double energy, and many have been gathered into the church by special services. Other officers of the church toil for it with great self-sacrifice, and deserve our warmest love, but the peculiar gifts of this brother have made him one by himself.
Few men are more widely known or more justly esteemed. The students of the College have found in him one of their truest friends, and, when settled in their various spheres, they have been only too glad to secure his services as chairman or preacher. For some years past he has been impatient of the restraints of business, and has longed to be set free, to devote his whole time and talents to the Master’s cause, but the way was not quite clear. A painful and distressing disease, alas betrayed itself some months ago, and for the present his more public labors are suspended, and the chamber of affliction has become his place for glorifying God. The Lord has the sovereign disposal of his servants, and he doeth all things well, else we should be utterly cast down by this most grievous loss. As it is, we pray that it may long be postponed. Should our beloved brother be called away after his forty years’ service he will leave a blank which few can fill, but the record of his life-work will form a history for which the church will be abundantly grateful.
It was most appropriate that the church should desire an opportunity for presenting him with a testimonial expressive of their love and esteem. and should be glad to record their indebtedness to his life and labors. An address, beautifully engrossed and framed and glazed, was presented on Monday, September 27th, at a large meeting of the church and congregation, and is worded as follows :- To our beloved brother,WILLIAM OLNEY, Senior Deacon of the Church worshipping at the Metropolitan Tabernacle.
Dear Friend, — We have all of us thanked God for many years for the gifts and graces with which he has seen fit to endow you, and for that spirit of love and burning zeal for which you have been distinguished. We are all sensible of the debt of gratitude which we owe to the Great Head of the church for raising you up among us, to be the friend and helper of us all, from the pastor to the youngest member. We all love you heartily and esteem you very highly for your works’ sake. Therefore we have watched with deepest sorrow your declining health and severe afflictions, and we have not ceased to pray for your complete restoration to health, if the Lord will.
We have groaned in spirit at the very thought of your being taken from us, and viewed your sickness as a chastisement upon us all. We have not failed to see that your illness has by no means damped your ardor, but has been sanctified to the maturing of your piety; and for this very reason we are the more solicitous that you may recover strength.
Dear Brother, your partial recovery has filled us all with hopeful joy, and we have made it the opportunity for presenting you with this token of our pure and fervent affection. You are very precious to us, for we see the spirit of your Master in you, and we long to have you among us for many years to come. Long may it be ere our Lord and \,\[aster will say to you, as he will do, “Well done, good and faithful servant.” Peace he to you and to your beloved household, to which the church has so many ties. May you live to a green old age, as your honored father did before you, and, with your beloved brothers, see the good of Zion all your days. In the name of our Lord Jesus we wish you every blessing.
Signed on behalf of the whole church at our meeting, In presenting the testimonial the Pastor paid a hearty tribute to the value of his beloved friend and coadjutor, but he felt that he dared not attempt to express a thousandth part of what he felt.
When Mr. Olney rose to reply many in the audience were moved to tears.
The scene was most impressive, and will not soon be forgotten. The stillness was solemn in the extreme as he proceeded to speak in tremulous tones. Had he come from the other world to deliver a last message to the people among whom he had lived and labored, it could not have been more effective. His reply was as follows : — I most cordially accept your very handsome present with great gratitude, and warm and earnest thanks. It is all the more welcome to me as it comes as a testimonial of your Christian love and affection, and not in any measure as a matter of merit or reward.
In the latter sense it would have been incongruous and out of place, as my forty years’ connection with this church has left me every year deeper and deeper in debt to the church — in fact, under obligations which I shall never be able to repay.
The day of my baptism and joining the church was truly the happiest and best day of my life, and here I have found ever since then my choicest companions and dearest friends. In your worship and service I have spent the happiest hours of my life. Here I have learned the most important lessons which have been taught me from my youth up, and in the service of this church I have found the noblest sphere of Christian work, and have frequently been brought into such close fellowship with another world that heaven has begun on earth, and my soul has been filled with joy unspeakable, and full of glory.
In giving myself to the church at fifteen years of age, I was enabled to do so fully, and became at once from that time a regular attendant on the Sabbath and week-day services, which I have never ceased to attend regularly from that time till now. To this I owe much of the joy and peace I have had in the service of the Lord, and I feel confident there is no means of sanctification and growth in grace so effectual as an earnest interest in the welfare of the church to which you belong, and a regular attendance at all its services. The week-day services have frequently been blessed to my sours good, even more than I realized on the Sabbath-day, and there is nothing I more strongly recommend to the younger members of this church than a regular attendance at the prayer-meetings and week-evening lectures. My first post of service for the church was in its Sabbath-school, and there I labored for twenty years as teacher, secretary, and superintendent; afterwards I worked for the Lord in leading the singing at the week-evening services, and since then in the distribution of tracts, the visitation of the sick, addressing the different classes, and in attending to the duties of elder and deacon.
It has been my privilege to secure the esteem of the five successive pastors who have presided over the church during my membership, though to none of them have I been so indebted as to our present honored and beloved pastor, whose ministry has been to me, as to many hundreds of thousands, a constant source of instruction and joy. I might say much more, but I feel in the present state of my health it is not advisable. I will therefore close by again thanking you for the testimonial you have given me, by expressing the earnest wish that this church may greatly prosper in every respect.
Peace be with you, brethren. “Be ye steadfast, unmoveable, always abounding in the work of the Lord.”
When he had concluded the reading he added a few words expressive of the peace he had enjoyed during his most painful affliction. Not for one moment had his confidence in God been shaken, nor had a single cloud eclipsed the face of his Savior; then, with an emphasis which only such circumstances could impart, he urged the unconverted to seek the Lord. A wave of emotion broke over the entire audience, and every soul was thrilled. In the closing hymn the congregation sang of the confidence which had been expressed by the beloved friend whom they had met to honor and commend to the grace of God. “Safe in the arms of Jesus, Safe on his gentle breast, There by his love o’er shadowed, Sweetly his soul shall rest.” In the death of Mrs. Bartlett and the illness of Mr.W. Olney the church and its pastors have sustained two of the heaviest losses which could possibly have happened to them, but the divine Head of the Church will no doubt overrule all for good, and out of our midst there will arise others who will bear the ark of the Lord. After two-and-twenty years of the Lord’s abounding lovingkindness, it would be shameful to doubt him, and therefore we are not afraid. Still there is grave cause for constant prayer, and we ask it of all our friends.
In answer to many inquiries, we are happy to state that Mrs. Spurgeon is out of immediate danger, and, although appearances are not implicitly to be relied upon, she appears to us to be decidedly better, and is certainly freer from pain. Her physicians believe her to be so much better that we may safely take our needed holiday in the south. She herself earnestly wishes us to go, fearing lest there should be two invalids in the house at the same time. She has ever thought more of her husband’s welfare than her own, looking at the matter from the highest of all points of view, namely, the needs of the church of God.
During her extreme illness, the work of distributing books to ministers has been delayed, but Mrs. Spurgeon has now resumed it. The delight with which the volumes sent out have been received is a great joy to the poor invalid, and to us it is a matter of supreme satisfaction. We have met with brethren who have only four books, and others who have a few more, all of a worthless character, for hardly one out of the number would be worth buying for sixpence at a book-stall. There is an absolute famine of books among poor Baptist ministers, and the work of supplying them is one of the most needful which Christian charity can undertake. We are feeding the church when we feed the minister’s mind. God the Holy Spirit must teach him to profit, but by supplying instructive books we have at least used the means. So long as funds last Mrs. Spurgeon will continue the distribution, and it is not supposable that she will be left without the needful money, while so many of our Masters stewards are increasing in wealth She has still a number of copies of “Lectures to my Students” to give to any poor minister who may apply, whether a Baptist or not. Letters to her at Nightingale Lane, Clap-ham, Surrey, will be speedily attended to.
The meetings of the Baptist Union at Plymouth were, we trust, really profitable all through. We felt ashamed to be so very prominent, for it is the last thing in our thoughts to wish to be placed in the front; but the friends would have it so, and we yielded. It is, however, contrary to our own idea of things wise and proper for one person to occupy so much space in these meetings, and hence we have frequently staid away altogether, and propose to do so next time. Let the younger men have opportunities of coming forward, and let the preachers and speakers be selected from as wide a range as possible, consistently with efficiency. We feel very anxious that the proposed Annuity Fund for Aged Ministers and their Widows should not fall through. It is a sin and a shame that we, as Baptists, have not had such a fund long ago, and we ought not now to permit an hour’s unnecessary delay. We propose that our wealthier friends should give £100 a year each for five years, or less sums if these are too large, so as to raise a capital sum of from £20,000 to £50,000. Then if upon a certain Sabbath all the churches would make a desperate effort, and put their ministers upon the fund, with all the premiums paid up for life, this would be a grand commencement. The principle of each minister’s insuring his own life for an amount which he will receive as a matter of right is a sound one. To add as much as possible to the amount which will come to him should be the ambition of all who love the Lord, and desire to roll away reproach from that portion of the church to which we belong.
Infirm ministers and widows of the Lord’s servants have a claim upon us, and our Baptist friends must not allow the present project to end in talking and planning. We can do the work if we only resolve to do it Wanted — a first-class secretary, and a liberal public. Let the watchword be for all Baptists throughout the kingdom “
ALL AT IT,” for one of the grandest causes conceivable.
This month we have had many generous helps, but one of them, for magnitude, exceeds all others. The good friends at Reading have held a Bazaar for our Orphanage, and the net result is £1,158! We never dreamed of such a thing, and can hardly realize it now. This is royal munificence, surpassing anything done for us by any town in England. We are overwhelmed by the loving respect which we received personally, and yet more by this token of interest in our work. We can never sufficiently thank these noble helpers. Everybody in the town, of every sect, seemed to have a hand in the work from the mayor down to the artisan. Specially are we grateful to our beloved friend, Mr. W. Anderson, of King’s Road Chapel, and certain ladies of his congregation, whom we should like to mention, but we fear we should grieve rather than please them if we did. We bless the name of the Lord and take courage. We can now go away to our short rest without the slightest anxiety on the score of the Orphans.
Among the contributions of the month some are very pleasant as being given out of the Lord’s purse by those who regularly devote a portion of their substance to the Lord, and one is peculiarly so as being part of the first wages of one of the Orphans.
Additional Colporteurs have been appointed to the following new districts — Bacup, Lancashire, a large, densely populated, and manufacturing district. Countesthorpe, in the neighborhood of Leicester, an agricultural district, partly supported by the Leicestershire Baptist Association. Stow on-the Wold, Gloucestershire, being the second district partly supported by the Oxfordshire Baptist Association. Hawkhurst, Kent, supported by local subscriptions, forwarded by Mrs.J. Brine.
We hope that other county associations, in addition to those now mentioned, and several others affiliated with our Society, will soon take up this valuable, important, and economical work of Christian colportage.
Wherever fairly tried it gives growing satisfaction; and while mainly aiming at the counteration of the perils of pernicious literature, our system of Colportage blends true missionary work with its book-hawking enterprise; and has been blessed by God to the conversion of many souls. If only the necessary funds were forthcoming there are many needy districts which might be worked with good results at once.
Applications for the appointment of men in districts where £40 a year can be guaranteed may be sent to Mr. W. Cordon Jones, Pastors’ College, Temple Street, S.E.
The venerable Thomas Cooper, without fee or reward, has delivered three lectures on the Christian Evidences to the students. He was heard with great enthusiasm. In addition to the good which he accomplishes, it is a great intellectual treat to listen to “the old man eloquent.”
Mr. Paxton Hood has commenced a course of lectures to the College upon “The Defenses of the Old House of Faith.” After their delivery they will probably see the world in print.
Our friend Mr. Chown has engaged to lecture at the College during our absence. Mr. Sankey, of our College, has accepted the unanimous invitation of the church at Ramsey, Hunts. Mr. Ensoll also goes to Attercliff, near Sheffield, with most hearty welcomes from all concerned.
On Monday, Oct. 11, a very happy and hearty meeting was held at the Tabernacle to bid farewell and God speed to four members of the church who are going forth among the heathen, and to one brother of another church who sails with them. Miss Bertha Thorne goes to undertake Zenana work, and Miss Burnett goes to be married to our brother Mr. Charles Brown, who is already in the field. Mr. Gammon goes to Turk’s Island, and was unavoidably absent. These friends go forth in connection with the Baptist Mission, and there was a grand muster of friends of that society.
The other two missionaries elect were brethren who go forth under the superintendence of the apostolic Hudson Taylor, to labor among China’s millions; one of these, as we have said, is from our church. Our Sabbath School has of late been very fruitful of missionaries, and the College also.
May all this be but as the first gleams of the morning. Four at a time is hopeful. When shall we see the young warriors go forth by forties for the Lord Jesus?
Monday, Oct. 17. — The prayer-meeting was rendered doubly interesting by an address from Mr. Thomas Ness, once our assistant minister, but for a long time laid aside by ill health. We were all glad to hear his clear and loud utterance of most suitable exhortation, creating the hope in every heart that he may long be spared, and may sufficiently recover strength to be able to preach the gospel frequently, if not constantly.
Our friends at Charles Street, Kenning-ton, have taken down their old chapel to save it the trouble of tumbling down. Their minister, Mr. Griffin, is a worthy brother, and they are an earnest people. We commend them just now to the kindly aid of our friends. The late Mr. Thomas Attwood, their former pastor, was a choice .spirit, but the church could never grow in the confined and dilapidated structure in which it worshipped; we are rejoiced to see the new house in actual course of erection.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle; By Mr. J. A. Spurgeon: September 23rd, twenty-three; September 30th, twenty-two.