THE COMMISSARIAT UNIVERSE.
A WEEK EVENING LECTURE, BY C. H. SPURGEON,
“That thou givest them they gather.” — Psalm 104:28.
THIS sentence describes the commissariat of creation. The problem is the feeding of “the creeping things innumerable, both small and great beasts, which swarm the sea, the armies of birds which fill the air, and the vast hordes of animals which people the dry land; and in this sentence we have the problem solved, “That thou givest them they gather.” The work is stupendous, but it is done with ease because the Worker is infinite; if he were not at the head of it the task would never be accomplished. Blessed be God for the great Thou- of the text. It is every way our sweetest consolation that the personal God is still at work in the world: leviathan in the ocean, and the sparrow on the bough, may be alike glad of this, and we, the children of the great Father, much more. The notion of modern philosophers appears to be that the world is like a clock which an omnipotent phantom has set agoing, and left to run on, each wheel acting upon its fellow by rigid law: or, as a brother remarked to me, they think the Lord has wound up the universe like a watch, and put it under his pillow and gone to sleep. What think you, brethren? do you find pleasure in a world bereaved of its God? To me such philosophy is dreary, for my soul pines for an infinite love which will give itself to me, and receive my love in return. I am orphaned, indeed, if my Maker will not pity me as his child, and hear my prayers, compassionate my tears, and succor and comfort me.
Babes want a mother’s heart as much as her hands. Would you wish to be a child brought up by machinery, washed by a mill wheel, rocked by a pendulum, fed from a pipe, dressed by a steel hand, and in fine committed to the care of a wonderful engine which could do everything except love you? You would miss the eyes which weep with you, and smile upon you, the lips which kiss you and speak lovingly to you, and the dear countenance which laughs as you are fondled and pressed to a warm bosom. No, I can neither accept a steam-engine instead of my mother, nor a set of laws in exchange for my God. There is a God who careth for all his creatures, and maketh the grass to grow for the cattle, and herbs for the service of man. There is a Father to whom we speak, and who hears us; one who waters the hills from his chambers, and satisfies the earth with the fruit of his works, to whom we may come boldly in every time of need.
Because Jehovah liveth the creatures are fed, he gives them their daily food, they gather it, and the work is done.
The general principle of the text is, God gives to his creatures, and his creatures gather. That general principle we shall apply to our own case as men and women, for it is as true of us as it is of the fish of the sea, and the cattle on the hills. “That thou givest them they gather.”
I. Our first point is this —WE HAVE ONLY TO GATHER,FOR GODGIVES. In temporal things: God gives us day by day our daily bread, and our business is simply to gather it. In the wilderness the manna fell outside the camp of Israel; they had not to make the manna, but to go out in the morning and gather it before the sun was hot. Providence has guaranteed all the children of God their necessary food, “Thy bread shall be given thee, and thy waters shall be sure”; our part in the business is to go forth unto our labor and gather it. True, in some cases needful food is not gathered without excessive labor, but this is occasioned by the injustice of man, and not by the arrangements of God; and when true religion shall have fully operated upon all classes of mankind, none shall need to toil like slaves.
They shall only need to perform such an amount of labor as shall be healthful and endurable. When no man oppresses his fellow, the work of gathering what God gives will be no hardship, but a wholesome exercise.
The sweat of labor will then be a blessed medicine.
In this light let us view our worldly business. We are to go forth unto our work and our labor until the evening, and to expect that bounteous providence will thus enable us to gather what the Lord himself bestows; and if by this means he gives us food and raiment, we are to be therewith content. If our faith can see the hand of God in all, it will be sweet to pick up the manna from the ground, and eat thereof with gratitude, because it tastes of the place from whence it came.
As to spirituals, the principle is true, most emphatically. We have, in the matter of grace, only to gather what God gives. The natural man thinks that he has to earn divine favor, that he has to purchase the blessings of heaven, but he is in grave error: the soul has only to receive that which Jesus freely gives. Mercy is a gift, salvation is a gift, all covenant blessings are gifts, we need not bring a price in our hands, but come empty-handed and gather what is laid before us, even as the birds gather their food, and the cattle on the hills feed on the herbage which freely grows for them.
This is one of the first principles of the gospel. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights,” and ours it is by faith to take our omer and fill it with the angels’ food which has fallen all around us, take it into our tent, and there feast, even to the full. ‘Tis God’s to give, ‘tis ours to gather. Faith’s sphere is that of the fleece which absorbs the dew, or the pool which is filled with the rain.
Believer, this is the rule in all spiritual things; you are to be a diligent gatherer, and to strive after high spiritual attainments, but still remember that your heavenly Father knows what you have need of before you ask him. These superior blessings are his gifts, and the surest way of obtaining them is to come to him for them, and receive them by faith. You have not to pluck covenant blessings out of a closed hand, you have only to take from the Lord’s open palm what he delights to bestow. For you to be straitened and poor gives no pleasure to him, rather will it delight him to fill you with his favor, and to enrich you with all the blessings of his grace.
If the calm quiet spirit of this thought could enter our minds, how happy we should be! We should then sit down at Jesu’s feet with Mary, and leave Martha to fret alone. To-morrow morning, before many of our eyes are open, the sun will be rising, and, as soon as his first beams salute the earth, the birds of every wing will awaken, and, seeing the light, they will begin to sing. But where is your breakfast, little bird? Where is the food for to-day for the nest full of little ones? The birds do not know, neither are they anxious, but they gather the first seed, or crumb, or worm which they find, and continuing to do so all day long, they are satisfied. Yes, and when summer is gone, and the long warm days are over, and cold winter sets in, the birds sit and sing on the bare boughs, though frost is on the ground, for they expect that God will give, and all they have to do is to gather. We may learn much from little birds, — yes, even from little birds in cages, for if those who keep them should forget to give them seed and water, they must die, must they not? And yet they sing. They have no great store, perhaps not enough to last them another day; but it does not fret them, neither do they cease their music, and I believe Luther well translated their song when he said that it meant this : — “Mortal, cease from toil and sorrow!
God provideth for the morrow.” There, then, is our first head; we have only to gather what God gives.
II. Secondly, it is certain thatWE CAN ONLY GATHER WHAT GOD GIVES; however eager we may be, there is the end of the matter. The most diligent bird shall not be able to gather more than the Lord has given it; neither shall the most avaricious and covetous man. “It is vain for you to rise up early, and to sit up late, to eat the bread of carefulness, for so he giveth his beloved sleep.” “Except the Lord build the house, they labor in vain that build it; except the Lord keep the city, the watchman waketh but in vain.”
What God gives you, you will be able to gather, but if you set about to heap up what your avarice lusts after, no blessing will attend it. What a difference is often seen in two men placed in the same position in life, with the same work to do, and very much the same possessions! You see one of them working cheerfully, happy as a king, sweetening his bread with content and joy in the Lord; while the other murmurs and repines, envying those who are richer, and filled with hard thoughts of God. What makes the one happy and the other wretched? Truly, only that the one has the grace of God to give him contentment, and so is full; and the other has a brutish hunger and greed, and so is left to be his own tormentor. As it is with the poor, so is it with the rich; the heart has more to do with making us happy than our possessions have. He whose soul is full of God, and faith, and contentment, is a truly rich man. The reflection that we can after all gather no more than God gives, should make us restful and contented. It teaches us our dependence upon God, and tends to lessen our selfconfidence, to moderate our desires, and to abate our cares.
Recollect, dear Christian friends, that the same remark holds good with regard to spirituals as well as temporals. You can only gather what the Lord grants you. Before preaching I was trying to find food for you all, and I began to pray for it, because I remembered that I could only gather for you what the Lord my God gave me. If I bring more than that, it will only be chaff of my own, and not good winnowed corn from his garner. I often need to think of this, for I have to feed a great multitude almost every day in the week with spiritual meat. Where is the poor minister to get the supply from if the Lord does not bring it to him? He waits, therefore, upon his God with humble faith and prayer, expecting that fit matter will be suggested. You also, dear friends, can only obtain when hearing the word what the Holy Spirit gives you. You may hear a thousand sermons, but you will gather nothing that will really quicken or feed your souls unless the Lord gives it to you. Unless the Spirit of the Lord puts fullness into the word, all the hearing in the world will be nothing worth. The Holy Ghost must take of the things of Christ, and reveal them to the inner man, or you will be surfeited with mere words, or puffed up with human opinions, and nothing more. “That thou givest them they gather,” and no more.
So is it when you go out to work for the Lord Jesus Christ among the ungodly. You will win as many souls as God gives you, but no one will be converted by your own power. When we have reason to believe that the Lord has much people in a city, it gives us much comfort in going there. I always do my best for my congregations, because I feel that they are always picked persons, sent to me by my Master: if there are few they are more than I can edify if he does not help me; and if there be many, so much the more help will my Lord afford me. I can only gather what the Lord gives. We may plant, and we may water too, but God must give the increase. We shall not be a sweet savor unto God, nor a savor of life unto life to any, unless the Almighty Spirit of the blessed God shall come forth and work with us. Should not this lead us to much prayer? No dependence should be placed upon man, or upon the outward form of worship, for the most successful preacher cannot by his own power quicken the dead sinner, or regenerate a depraved soul. The Holy Spirit must be with us, or we prophesy in vain. The most laborious reaper in the Lord’s harvest cannot gather more sheaves than his Master gives him. Pray for him, then, that he may not miss his reward; pray for him that he may be strong for labor, that his sickle may be sharp, his arm vigorous, and his harvest plenteous, that he may bring in a glorious load of sheaves to the garner. As for yourselves, when engaged in any service for God, take heed that you rest not in yourselves, for you can receive nothing unless it be given you from above. Your words will be no better than silence, your thoughts no more than day-dreams, and your efforts wasted strength, unless the Lord go before you. “Without me ye can do nothing” is a truth you must never forget.
III. Observe, thirdly, thatWE MUST GATHER WHAT GOD GIVES, or else we shall get no good by his bountiful giving.
God feeds the creeping things innumerable, but each creature collects the provender for itself. The huge leviathan receives his vast provision, but he must go ploughing through the boundless meadows and gather up the myriads of minute objects which supply his need. The fish must leap up to catch the fly, the swallow must hawk for its food, the young lions must hunt their prey. “What thou givest them they gather.” God has not prepared in his whole universe a single corner for an idle being. In no society does the sluggard succeed, and it is not desirable that he should. If a man will not work, the very best thing he can do is to die, for he is of no use alive, he is in everybody’s way, and like a fruitless tree he cumbers the ground. God gives, and if a man will not gather he deserves to starve. It is so in business; everybody knows we must be diligent there, for the hand of the diligent maketh rich. The Book of Proverbs deals very hard blows against sluggards, and Christian ministers do well frequently to denounce the great sin of idleness, which is the mother of a huge family of sins.
Idleness is a most contemptible vice, it covers a man with rags, fills him with disease, and makes him a ready servant of the devil. It is a shameful thing that God, who “worketh hitherto,” and made us on purpose that we should work, should see us wasting time and strength, and leaving good work unaccomplished. God will not feed you, idle man, his own verdict is — “ neither let him eat.” If you loaf about, and say, “The Lord will provide,” he will probably “provide” you a place in the workhouse, if not in the county jail. If the manna falls near him, and the lazy man will not take the trouble to gather it, his omer will not be filled by miracle, neither will an angel be sent to carry bread and meat to his table. Up, thou sluggard, and gather what the Lord has strewn.
The law of nature and providence holds good in spiritual things. “That thou givest them they gather.” There is a spirit abroad in the world — not so powerful now, thank God, as it used to be — which talks a great deal about grace and predestination; and therein I rejoice to hear what it has to say, but its inference from those truths is that men are to sit still, to be passive in salvation, and to look upon themselves as so many logs, as if they had no will in the matter, and were never to be called to an account concerning the gospel which they hear. Now, this kind of doctrine virtually teaches that what God gives drops into our mouths, and we need not gather it at all; the very reverse of the Savior’s exhortation to labor for the meat which endureth unto life eternal. Sovereign grace will not take us to heaven by the hair of our heads, or save us in our sleep, whether we will or no. Such teaching would have been repudiated by the apostles, for it acts like chloroform upon the conscience, and plunges the soul into a deadly lethargy. The fact is, brethren, there is a predestination, and the doctrines of election and effectual grace are true, nor may we deny them; but yet the Lord deals with men as responsible beings, and bids them “strive to enter in at the strait gate,” and to “lay hold on eternal life.” Such exhortations are evidently intended for free agents, and indicate that our salvation requires energetic action. It would not appear from Scripture that we are to lie dormant and be merely acted upon, for “the kingdom of heaven suffereth violence, and the violent take it by force.” Of men as well as birds it is true, “what thou givest them they gather.” God gives you faith, but you must believe. God gives you repentance, but you must repent. These graces are the work of God, but they are also the acts of man. How often shall we need to remind these brethren that the Holy Ghost does not believe for us?
How can he? Is faith a matter to be done by proxy? Neither does the Holy Ghost repent for us; it is absurd to entertain such a notion. We must ourselves personally believe and repent. If any man does not repent as his own act and deed, his repentance and faith are not such as are spoken of in Scripture, or required by the gospel. Brethren, we should pray, repent, and believe, as much as if all these were wholly our own, but we are bound to give God all the glory of them, because it is only by his grace that we either can or will perform them. Men must hear the word, for “faith comes by hearing;” they must believe the word, for without faith it is impossible to please God, and they must repent of sin, for if sin be not forsaken pardon is not given. They must fly to the city of refuge or the man-slayer will destroy them. They must escape for their lives to the mountains, or the fire from God will overwhelm them in the city of destruction. “That thou givest them they gather.” We must gather, or we shall not have.
Brethren in Christ, we must not expect spiritual gifts without gathering them. For instance, our souls need food, but we may not expect the Lord to feast us unless we use the means, hear or read his word, attend to private devotion, and the like. These are channels of grace to us, and woe be to us if we neglect them. If you saw your friend so emaciated that you could count his bones, and so weak that he could scarcely stand, you would inquire what had reduced him so much, for he used to be a strong hearty man. “My dear friend, what can it be?” You question him, and expect him to tell you of some mysterious disease, but no, his tale is far more simple; he confesses that he does not eat, that he has given up having regular meals, and very seldom takes an ounce of nourishment. You quite understand his feebleness and decline, he is injuring his constitution by denying it nutriment. Now, when a Christian man complains that he is full of doubts and fears, and has no joy in the Lord as he used to have, and no enjoyment in prayer or labor for Jesus; if you find out that he neglects all week-night services, never goes to the prayer-meeting, reads anything rather than his Bible, and has no time for meditation, you need not inquire further into his spiritual malady. The man does not gather what God provides. He lets the manna lie outside the camp, and allows the water to flow untasted from the rock, and he must not be astonished that his soul is not in a right condition. Christians will find that if they “neglect the assembling of themselves together, as the manner of some is,” and if they forget to wait upon the Lord and renew their strength, they will fall into a miserable, weak, low condition, and their souls will be full of doubts, cares, and anxieties, such as they never would have known if they had walked nearer to God, and maintained intimate communion with the Savior.
As it is with ourselves, so is it with us in reference to others. God will give us souls if we pray for them, but we must seek after them. When the Lord calls a man to speak in his name, he intends to give him some success, but he must be on the watch to gather it. Some ministers have preached the gospel long, but have never seen much fruit, because they never tried to gather it; they have had no meetings for inquirers, nor encouraged the young converts to come to them for help. What God has given them they have not gathered. Many professors are always wishing that the church would increase, they would like to see an aggressive work carried on against the world; why do they not set about it? Why stand they gazing up into heaven? Do they expect to see souls converted without means? Dear brethren, it will not do for us to get silly notions into our heads; up to this day God has been pleased to use instrumentality, and until the second advent he will continue to do so. When the Lord descends from heaven it will be time enough for us to talk of what he will then do, but till he comes let us continue to gather the souls he gives us. We are not in such great need of conferences about how to win souls, as of men who will do it. I vote for less talk and more work. We cannot have too much prayer, but we certainly need more effort. The Lord is saying,” Get thee up, wherefore liest thou thus upon thy face?” “Why criest thou unto me?” said he to Hoses; “speak to the children of Israel that they go forward!” We cry, “Awake, awake, 0 arm of the Lord I” and he replies, “Awake, awake, put on thy strength, O Zion!” God is awake enough, the arousing is needed by us. We have been praying for his Spirit, and rightly enough; but the Spirit of God is never backward, we are straitened in ourselves. He would use us if we were vessels fit for his use. Oh that we yielded ourselves fully to the Spirit of God to be borne which way he wills, even as the clouds are driven by the wind; then he would draw and we should run, he would give and we should gather.
IV. The fourth turn of the text gives us the sweet thought thatWE MAY GATHER WHAT HE GIVES. We have divine permission to enjoy freely what the Lord bestows.
Poor sinner, whatever the Lord has given in his gospel to sinners you may freely gather. When the manna fell in the wilderness no guards were appointed to keep off the people. No inquiry was made as to the character or experience of those who came to gather it; there it was, and no one was denied. Over the heads of the people might have sounded the words, “Whosoever will, let him come and take of the manna freely.” Tests and qualifications there were none, and yet the special design was the feeding of Israel. No discriminating divine cried out, “You must not come unless you feel a law-work within, and are sensible sinners.” Not a word of the sort was whispered. The Lord has appointed no one to keep sinners away from the water of life, but he has chosen many to bid poor souls draw near and drink, and the Holy Ghost himself puts forth his power to draw men to it. Jesus says, “Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out,” and I for one have no commission to discourage any, nor will I. What he gives you, you may gather. The little birds ask no questions as to whether they may enjoy the seeds or the worms; they see the food and take it boldly: so, sinners, it is not for you to raise difficulties about the mercy of God: “Whosoever believeth in the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved,” and that whosoever is a wide word. Thou need’st not say, “I do not know whether I am elected.” Neither can I tell you, nor anybody else, for “the Lord knoweth them that are his,” and none of us know anything about it, except so far as his Spirit teaches us that we ourselves are his. Your thoughts should run in another direction: Christ Jesus came to save sinners, are you a sinner? “Whosoever will, let him come.” Are you willing? Then come along with you, and quibble no longer. God does not guard his great garden of grace as men protect their little patches, wherein they hang up old garments or dead crows to keep the birds away. The Lord giveth freely and upbraideth not. Certain preachers hang up the dead black crow of their own morbid experience to scare away poor sinners from coming to simple faith in Jesus. The Lord has no scarecrows in his garden. Do but come, thou blackest of sinners, and he will receive thee. The strangest bird, with speckled wing, may freely gather what mercy gives. Whatever is preached in the gospel as the object of faith, every one that believes may have; whatever is promised to repentance, every one that repents may have, and whatever is promised to coming to Christ every one that comes to Christ shall have. “That thou givest them they gather,” for God gives it to be gathered. He gave the manna on purpose to be eaten; he would not have sent bread from heaven if men had not wanted it, and if he had not meant to feed them. Grace must have been meant for sinners, it will suit no other persons. If I have a hard heart, the Spirit of God can soften it: why should he not do so? Here is a foul sinner, and yonder is a fountain filled with blood which cleanses completely, why should he not wash? What was Christ meant for but to be a Savior? And if he be a Savior, why should he not save me? Surely when I am thirsty, and I see the water springing before me, I may as well drink. Sinner, there is a spring open here by the grace of our Lord Jesus, and you are come this way, and therefore I suggest to you, and I pray the Spirit of God also to suggest it to you, that between the fountain and the thirsty soul there ought to be a connection at once begun.
God invites you, your need constrains you, may his Spirit draw you; for even now what he has given you may gather!
V. The last thought is,GOD WILL ALWAYS GIVE US SOMETHING TO GATHER. It is written, “the Lord will provide.” The other day as I walked on a common, I picked up a dead sparrow; going a little further, I found another; and my friend said to me, “I have found another,” and he remarked, “It must have been a bad season; these birds must have been starved.” “No, no,” I said, “you are not going to pick up dead sparrows killed by the weather. That cottager, over the hedge, has some rows of young peas, and he keeps a gun.” Men kill the birds, God does not starve them.
Brother, if you are under the guardian care of God you shall not want. If you are your own shepherd you will probably stray into very lean pastures one of these days; but if the Lord is your shepherd, you shall not want, he will make you to lie down in green pastures. “The young lions do lack,” for they take care of themselves; “but they that trust in the Lord,” although they are very often very simple-minded and easily imposed upon,” shall not lack any good thing,” for God will take care of them. I have often noticed how wonderfully poor widows manage to live and struggle through with large families. When they were dependent upon their husbands they were often badly off, and when their husbands died it seemed as if they must starve; but if they are Christian women they look to God, and God becomes their husband, and he is a far better husband than the man they have lost. When God takes the children in hand and becomes their father, they cannot lack; help is raised up in unexpected quarters, and they are provided for, they can scarcely tell how. If in providence we have learned to live by faith, we may be sure the Lord will not fail us. “He will not suffer the soul of the righteous to famish.”
Thus is it also in spiritual things. If you are willing to gather, God will always give. Go to the Bible and say, “Lord, give me a promise,” and you will find one suitable to your case. Go and hear his servants, whom he has sent; go with hearts ready to receive the word and you will not return empty. The Lord will make us speak to your case as much as if we knew all about you. Bring your largest vessel with you, and the Lord will fill it to the brim. Never does a believer open his mouth wide but the Lord fills it.
Be you ready to gather, and you may be right well assured that the divine fullness will never cease to supply your need.
Thus from a very simple text we have had our lesson; go home and feed upon what you have gathered, and take care to bless the name of the Lord.
CLAUDE BROUSSON, THE APOSTLE OF THE DESERT.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
WHEN towardsthe close of the seventeenth century the French king, in a. subtle but most oppressive manner, began to exterminate his Protestant subjects under cover of law, Claude Brousson was their bold advocate in the various courts in which their cases were tried. Sacrificing his own prospects as a barrister and risking his liberty and his life, he pleaded for his brethren before the judges as long as the semblance of justice remained. It must be a very eloquent lamb which can plead successfully the claims of the flock before a bench of wolves, and such was the attempt of Brousson.
Louis XIV. did not at first deny the rights which by the Edict of Nantes had been accorded to the Reformed Church, but he issued vexatious decrees and placed obnoxious restrictions upon Protestants and their worship. Rules were promulgated which could be readily made into the occasions of offense; indeed, the ordinary worship of God could not be carried on even in the quietest manner, and in the most retired place, without violating some regulation or other. It would have been charity to have said at once that the Huguenots should not live in France; it was the refinement of cruelty to grant them liberty by law upon conditions with which it was impossible for them to comply. Brousson used his profound knowledge of French law with great discretion and zeal, but it was not a case in which either learning or earnestness could avail; the despotic king had made up his mind to crush out heresy from his dominions, and he proceeded to do so despite the statutes of the realm, and in the teeth of common honesty. When heretics are in the case, no faith need be kept with them; has not the Catholic Church long taught her children this unique morality? While Oliver Cromwell lived, the eldest son of the church knew better than to molest the Protestants; but when the great Protector’s place was occupied by a debauched nobody, the arguments which restrained the tyrant’s hand were removed, and persecution laughed at oaths, charters, and edicts.
When Claude Brousson could be of no more service to his friends in the law courts he aided his pastor in the spiritual oversight of the church at Nismes, of which he was an elder. Not long, however, was he to have peace, for four hundred dragoons were suddenly marched into the city to seize the principal Protestants, of whom he was recognized as one. A public proclamation was issued in which he was proscribed, and all persons were forbidden to harbor him on pain of being imprisoned and having their houses pulled down.
The proclamation was heard by Brousson as he stood near the window of the house to which he had retired, and his danger appeared to be imminent; for during the night he overheard, through the partition which separated his room from that of his host, the husband and wife deliberating what should be done upon this painful occasion. The former declared that he should be obliged to deliver him up, in order to escape from the penalties of the proclamation; but the latter, in a manner worthy of her sex, asserted that she was ready to endure any extremity rather than Brousson should be betrayal; and they concluded their conversation by resolving that they would confer with himself in the morning. The result was that he remained with them during the day; and in the evening, adopting a disguised dress, he committed himself to the streets, in which he spent the two following nights, anxiously watching to find an opportunity to escape from the city.
This he found while the guards were somewhat inattentive to their duties, and with other emigrants he reached Switzerland in November, 1683. The two ministers of Nismes were condemned, the one to be broken alive upon the wheel and the other to be hung; but as they both escaped, the Romanists relieved their minds by inflicting those punishments upon their effigies.
The Protestant cantons of Switzerland received the persecuted church of the Huguenots with open arms. As the Popish oppressions increased, vast numbers fled from France — from thirty to ninety persons arrived every day at Geneva — and when at length the Edict of Nantes was revoked the numbers were greatly swollen. Two hundred ministers were among the escaped, and as the most of them found shelter at Lausanne, that town enjoyed a perpetual Sabbath, and from the daily prayers, preachings, and conferences, the whole city seemed transformed into a temple of praise.
The expense of such extensive hospitality, though cheerfully borne, became at length a burden; and although Zurich and the cantons which lay further from the French border joyfully took their share of the service, it was a great relief when, in reply to a petition presented by Brousson, Frederick William, Elector of Brandenburgh, and father of the first king of Prussia, offered a free asylum in his dominions, and the other states of Germany followed his example. The crowds who were thus sheltered may be judged of by the fact that in Berlin alone, where the French church had seldom been attended by more than two hundred, the number of communicants, without counting the mere hearers, amounted to two thousand.
As the persecution raged more and more vehemently, the rush over the boundaries into Holland, Germany, and Switzerland increased. Not less than six hundred ministers fled for their lives, and many of them found almost the whole of their flocks in the places of their exile. Though the Protestant refugees had been obliged to leave behind them houses and lands, and the whole of their possessions of every kind, except the most portable, they were mostly persons skilled in manufacture and trade, and therefore, through the kindness of those among whom they found shelter, they soon rose above abject need, and by their industry rendered their exile comparatively comfortable. It was then that the voice of Brousson was lifted up to stir the ministers out of their nests; it grieved his brave spirit to learn that there did not remain in France one of the ministers of the former churches, and he resolved to stir up their pure minds by way of remembrance. In a letter which he published in 1688 he used the following arousing words: “Since you are not simple believers, but pastors also, consider, my brethren, whether by your retirement and protracted absence, you fulfill the obligations of your calling. It is true that men have forbidden you to preach, but does not God command you to do it? If it had only been men who had put you in the ministry, they might have the power to interdict you; but since it is God who has ordained you to preach his gospel, none but himself can impose silence upon you.” He further observes — if, instead, of retiring before your persecutors, you had remained in the country; if you had taken refuge in forests and caverns; if you had gone from place to place, risking your lives to instruct and rally the people until the first shock of the enemy was past; and had you even courageously exposed yourselves to martyrdom — as’ in fact, those have done who have endeavored to perform your duties in your absence — perhaps the examples of constancy, zeal, and piety, which you thus set forth, might have animated your flocks, revived their’ courage, and arrested, the,, fury of your enemies.” He urged them to return at all hazards, adding, But since the ravening wolves have entered into the fold and are destroying the flock of Christ, the faithful minister should arm himself with courage, go valiantly to the combat, and drag the prey from their teeth; he should not wait until he is sought; but it is for himself to seek the flock and expose his life for their salvation.” And he concluded, “Let us weep together, my honored brethren, on account of the sins which have brought upon us the terrible judgments with which we are visited; let us humble ourselves before God; let us confess our iniquities, beseech his mercy, and implore the aid of his Holy Spirit to enlighten, to sanctify, to counsel, and to strengthen us. Let us renew our devotion to God and to his cause; let us vow solemnly that from henceforward we will be faithful, and it may be the Lord in great mercy will turn to us again and bless us.”
The publication of such sentiments created much sensation among the escaped ministers; some defended their position with arguments which evidently contented their own consciences, others were greatly grieved, and one at least, in high dudgeon, styled Brousson “a fanatic, a hypocrite, and an impious person, who meddled with matters which did not belong to his vocation.” No doubt that wrathful brother had been at great pains to quiet his conscience, and was naturally indignant that any one should endeavor again to arouse it, and give him all his trouble over again.
Brousson answered with great ability, and greater patience and piety, but his best reply was found rather in his deeds than in his words. The angry minister haying concluded his remarks with a challenge to Brousson “first to return to .France himself,” Brousson, though not a minister, and therefore having no official call to do so, resolved to take his life in his hand, and return to the place from which he had fled. At the best this would throw him into the position of a fugitive, hunted as a partridge upon the mountains, and added to this was the daily risk of capture and subjection to the horrible torture of being broken upon the wheel, a death so full of torments that we will not dare to describe it. Our hero counted the cost, and determining to run all risks, he prep axed himself for the enterprise in that manner which is sure to strengthen the soul and inspire it with divine ardor: he poured out his soul before the Lord in fervent and continual prayer, and kept many extraordinary days of fasting and humiliation, in which he wrestled with God that he would show him the right way, and crown his design with success. This done, with one companion he plunged into the danger, and was found in Southern France, attending secret meetings in towns, addressing assemblies in lonely glens and ravines, and hiding from his pursuers in those natural caves which abound in the mountains around Nismes. Sometimes in lone spots carefully chosen, and cautiously made known by a secret appointment, as many as 4,000 of the reformed would meet for worship; and as their ministers had fled, the Spirit of God moved men from among themselves to speak the divine word, and we are not surprised to find that among the foremost of these was Brousson. The brethren very soon regularly appointed him to be a pastor among them, an honor which few would have coveted, for a price was put upon his head, and all vigilance was used by his enemies to apprehend him.
The danger by which Brousson was now surrounded required the exercise of the utmost caution. Several regiments of dragoons had been sent into that part of the country, for the purpose of suppressing every kind of meeting for religious worship by the Protestants, and especially to hinder their holding public assemblies. It was necessary, therefore, to be informed, as fax as possible, in what places the soldiers held garrison, and to obtain speedy intelligence of their movements. For this information he could generally rely upon the inhabitants, who in many instances were friendly to the cause of the gospel. It was also necessary to proceed with promptitude, in order to avail himself of opportunities for engaging in his work, of which, by timorous delays, he might otherwise often be deprived.
Accordingly, as far as practicable, he followed one uniform plan of procedure: upon the first night of his arrival in any place, the most retired spot in the neighborhood was selected; if in the :woods, a few lanterns were hastily hung upon adjacent boughs; outposts were stationed to give notice in case of discovery, and an assembly ,was addressed; not, however, without commencing and concluding with the solemn services of prayer and melodious praise. He proceeded thus promptly, that time should not be allowed for his presence to be widely known, and that the assembly might not be too numerously attended, and thereby occasion be given for its observation by the magistrates and soldiers, or their spies. Immediately after the conclusion of the meeting, he sought a few hours’ repose in some hiding-place; and if be deemed it sale to stay in the same neighborhood throughout; the following day, it was his practice to hold a more private meeting for prayer and mutual encouragement in the morning, another at three o’clock in the afternoon, and a third in the evening. These private meetings were intended, one for the benefit of young persons, and the other for his more intimate friends, who administered to his support, and also those who were unable to attend the general service. The succeeding night he spent in traveling to another place, as be avoided being seen abroad by daylight, lest he should be recognized. This method he uniformly adopted during the period of his ministry in France; and, by a punctual observance of the regular time at which he thus held his meetings, they were known to the friends of the cause without being discovered by his enemies. The fact that be had arrived at a certain locality being known, was in itself a sufficient notice that, if possible, an assembly would be held upon the same night, or before the dawn of the next morning; and that as long as he tarried, private meetings would be punctually maintained. In this manner, he generally presided at three or four assemblies each week, beside two upon the Sabbath day, one early in the morning and one at noon or night, as might be the more prudent. Sometimes the danger of being interrupted, or of being afterwards watched, obliged him to hold ten or twenty of these meetings before he had been able to stay a sufficient time in any one place to obtain adequate repose. Thus the preacher was always on the wing, and his only opportunity for thorough rest was found upon occasions when he found it needful to lie completely hidden in some winding cavern in the wild deserts among the mountains, there meanwhile suffering frequently cold and hunger, and that constant fear of surprise which is the most westying of all. In these lone dens he wrote many letters, tracts, petitions, and treatises, and alternating between prayer and penmanship, his life in his solitude was probably as profitable to the church as when he was testifying to the flock of Christ.
Notwithstanding the malicious vigilance of his enemies, Brousson continued to evade them. He must have been covered by the power of the Highest, for his deliverances were both multiplied and marvelous. Had it not been for the loving faithfulness of the godly he would have been betrayed a hundred times, but he seemed to wear a charmed life, and his pursuers acted as if they had suddenly been blinded just when their victim was within their grasp. His ministry was naturally much prized by the people, for the word of the Lord was rarely to be beard in those days, but it had also a high intrinsic value; he spoke faithfully, impressively, and zealously, as a man who died daily, and could not afford to run so fearful a risk except for the highest of ends. Men in his condition are not occupied with trifles and refinements, neither do they speak in a listless and formal manner; their tried position keeps them close to the vitals of the gospel and the grand realities of eternity, and imparts to all their utterances a deep impressiveness far excelling anything which the emphasis and accent of mere rhetoric can command. In the course of his ministry Brousson revived the flagging zeal of the brethren, restored back-sliders, and turned many to the faith, so that the boast of Louis that he had .crushed the Protestant interest turned out to be an idle one, for the real ,spiritual life in the desertassemblies was probably greater, purer, and more fervent than any which could have been seen among them while their temples were in their own possession, and liberty was allowed them.
After four years and five months of toilsome and dangerous labor, our hero was compelled to retreat to Lausanne, and this had happened none too soon, for his health had been so impaired by his privations, and so worn and weather-beaten was his figure, that the enthusiastic welcome which he received from his friends was tempered by the painful sensations which his appearance excited. The fire had not consumed him, but it had dried up the vigor of his life. It was well that he was forced into rest, or he would soon have been in the grave.
At this time Brousson visited England, and was received with love and honor, as a faithful servant of the Lord Jesus, and afterwards he was elected pastor of the Walloon church at the Hague. But the zeal which burned within him would not let him rest in Holland; he longed to be among his old friends in the desert, to seek the good of those whom persecution had driven from the faith, and to console those who remained faithful to it. Under the. direction of guides who knew all the precipices, fords, caves, and ravines, disguised by turns as a soldier, a shepherd, or a merchant, he passed through France, and in every place called together the faithful and stirred them up to constancy in the faith. Having traveled through Normandy, as well as other parts of France, he found the dangers of arrest to be so increasingly imminent that he again returned to Switzerland.
In 1697 Brousson set out on his third journey to the south of France, the journey which was to end in his death, The nature of the risks which he ran may be guessed from the following extract from a letter from a Protestant minister in the province of Orange to a refugee in Holland : — “ Mens.
Brousson has just escaped being taken. I am informed that this is the fourth fearful danger which he has escaped within two months, and yet he always maintains his wonted constancy and resignation. His preservation is a kind of miracle, especially in the last instance, for he was betrayed. The house in which he stayed was surrounded, but happily he had just time to descend into a well, and to hide himself in a niche formed at the side, and near the surface of the water. The soldiers who sought for him looked down the well one after the other, at least twenty times, but God, who protected his servant, did not allow them to search further, although it was known for certain that he was in the house when the soldiers entered. He has received letters from various parts advising him to quit the province, or that he will be traced; but he replied, that in following his duty the Lord causes him to experience so much consolation in the work of the ministry, and that although ‘ he feels in himself the sentence of death,’ he trusts that God who has delivered him from ‘ so great a death,’ and who daily delivers him, will deliver him in time to come, so long as he shall deem it expedient for his glory, and for his own individual salvation.” Frequently did our hero lie hidden behind rocks while soldiers were within a few yards of him, and sometimes he had to stand still till nearly frost-bitten, because the slightest movement would have led to his discovery.
At length the saint became a martyr; he was betrayed by one who thirsted like another Judas for the price of blood. The magistrate to whom he was delivered received him with undisguised reluctance, but others of another mind, higher in authority, were eager to seize him, and his doom was sealed. Short was the delay; he was condemned to be broken alive upon the wheel after having suffered the rack, and the tortures, both ordinary and extraordinary. When the court pronounced the sentence on him, he was not moved in the least, but showed a most undaunted courage — a soul incapable of fear. tie was a man above the love of life and fear of death, absolutely and entirely resigned unto God’s will. He was brought to the rack, stretched upon the bench, and the torture was presented to him, but he told the commissioner that he had already told his .judge the whole truth concerning himself; that if they had forgotten or omitted to ask him anything more of himself, he would freely, fully, and faithfully answer them; but if they would urge him to discover and betray others, it was bootless in them to attempt it; for he would rather endure ten thousand racks, and be torn into a thousand pieces, than to accuse his brethren and dishonor his ministry. He was spared the torture, and, being loosened from the rack, he repeated aloud — “At all times I will bless The Lord my God; his worthy praise His glory and renown always My mouth shall still express.” Break forth, my soups glad voice; Boast in thy Savior dear: The faithful meek thereof shall hear And shall with me rejoice.” Psalm xxxiv.
The courage and meekness of Brousson had wrung this favor from the intendant, by whose order it was that the pain and torture had been remitted. Another remarkable evidence immediately afterwards occurred of the influence of his piety, together with the gracious supports which he received in maintaining the truth in his last conflict; when the intendant had passed sentence upon him that he must die, he sent two learned Dominican friars to try whether they could gain him over to their religion. They reasoned a long time with him, but Brousson defended the cause of Christ and of the truth with such strength of evidence, that the friars gave ground, and were in such a manner convinced and silenced, that they could not answer him. Indeed, the arguments of a man that suffers death in confirmation of the faith which he hath taught, carry a great weight with them, and that same grace which converted the executioners of the primitive Christians was pleased to display its efficacy on these two friars.
They desired at parting to embrace Brousson, who, observing their emotion, pressed them most earnestly to give glory unto God, and to abandon their idolatrous religion, telling one of them in particular that it was his highest interest so to do, and to defer no longer; “for,” said he, “the coming of the Lord draweth nigh, and I am verily persuaded that you and I shall meet again in a very short time.” The event ratified the truth of his prediction, for the said friar died three days after Brousson, at which the survivor was so terrified that he quitted his convent and fled to Amsterdam.’
Whilst these things were transacting in the citadel, the carpenters were busily engaged in erecting a scaffold in the midst of the esplanade, a space of ground between the citadel and the city, the scene of countless martyrdoms in the intendancy of De Basville. At about four o’clock in the afternoon, Brousson was conducted from prison to suffer his awful sentence. By his side walked the Abbe Camarignain, the lieutenant of the citadel, and an officer of the Presidial Court. He was unfettered, and did not appear, as was usual with criminals, only in a shirt, but in his ordinary dress, with his hat and wig. A guard of soldiers formed the escort, and two battalions were stationed in lines upon the esplanade. No insult was allowed to be offered to him, nor was he plagued with those impertinent comforters that inofficiously thrust themselves upon the dying Protestants; I mean (says Mr. Quick) monks, priests, and Jesuits. My author, who was an eye-witness of his martyrdom, informs me that he behaved like a true Christian of an invincible spirit — one who triumphed over death. Nearly twenty thousand spectators attended, most of the nobility of the city and country, besides many foreigners, all desirous to catch a glance of the person who had so long pursued such an extraordinary career. But especially the Protestants were interested in the scene, many of whom came from a distance of thirty miles and more, hoping to hear some of his last words and to receive his parting benediction; in this, however, they were disappointed, effectual means having been taken that none but those immediately near him should be able to catch his voice. From the moment of his appearance, until he had ceased to live, the drums of the regiments, amounting to more than twenty, beat a quick march. As he walked, he took notice of no one, although as he passed by them, the people wept and groaned; but he continued in earnest prayer, with his eyes and hands lifted up to heaven. The composure with which he ascended the scaffold, and his heavenly countenance, bespoke the calmness that reigned in his soul. To the captain of Count de Broglio’s guards, who had escorted him to Montpellier, he gave his watch, and to one of the intendant’s messengers, who had waited upon him during his imprisonment, he presented his cloak.
This done, he essayed to utter a few words as his dying testimony, but the drummers hereupon beating an alarm, he briefly protested that, whatever might be said to the contrary, his only object in returning into France was to fulfill his ministry, in exhorting his brethren to steadfastness; and that he had never failed to inculcate obedience in all things which did not interfere with duty to God. In his last act of devotion, he prayed in few and modest terms for grace to support him in his own solemn situation, but with animation and fluency breathed out fervent petitions in behalf of his suffering brethren, the nation, and its sovereign and magistrates. He then proceeded himself to put off his clothes to the shirt, and yielded himself to be placed upon the wheel, the spokes of which were let into it in the form of a St. Andrew’s cross. As his hands and feet were being bound thereto by ropes, he observed calmly, “It is a comfort to me that my death hath some resemblance to that of my Lord,” At this moment his sentence was again read to him; and, to the surprise of all that heard it, and subsequently to the spectators beyond the reach of hearing it, it announced that he was to be strangled to death, and afterwards broken. “This,” remarks Sir. Quick, “was an unexpected favor. God doth sometimes soften lions.” :Mr. Quick further relates this very affecting incident. The executioner, having fastened him, went down the scaffold, and, being just under the holy martyr, when he had strangled him, the billet brake in his hand, so that Brousson came to himself’ again and prayed. The Abbe Camarignain, hearing him call upon God, came near to him, and Brousson seeing him, said “.Slay God Almighty reward your great charity towards me, and grant us this mercy, that we may see each other’s face in paradise.” These were the last words Claude Brousson was heard to speak in this world. When he was dead they immediately brake him upon the wheel, and afterwards, according to the usual custom, the wheel, with its burden, was raised upon poles, an exhibition, certainly not such as it was intended to be — of infamy — but of triumph.
Thus was another added to the white-robed band who are more than conquerors, having passed through great tribulation and washed their robes in the blood of the Lamb. May this brief memoir, which we have carefully condensed, lead many of our readers to exhibit the like courage and selfsacrifice.
WE are proceeding with Vol. IV. of the “Treasury of David,” as rapidly as possible, and a large part of it is in the printer’s hands, but it is not a work which we can hurry over, for we desire to do it well.
We are sorry to be compelled to omit the continuation of Mr. Carr’s remarkably able article upon “Melchizedek.” This deeply interesting paper will be continued next month.
Having with all our heart and soul denounced priests, some genius in one of the daily papers accuses us of want of charity, and intimates that there is not much likeness between us and the monk who brought Christianity to England. We can assure this scribbler that we hope there is no similarity, for all that his blessed monk did was to force Popery upon a nation, which had long before received the knowledge of the gospel by means of apostolical or Baptist missionaries. It would have been a great blessing if that monk had never touched these shores, and it will be a day of jubilee when the last monk, friar, nun and priest shall die out from among men.
Charity to priests is like charity to tigers and rattle-snakes; let those feel it who can. They have their civil rights, and no one wishes to deprive them of them; but, as to being at all velvety in our speech concerning them, we are not to the manner born, and shall never learn it.
With deep regret we mark how far the Congregationalists appear to be straying from the old orthodoxy’s. One of them informs us that the wicked will be annihilated, and another that they will be ultimately restored — which are we to believe? Our own intention is to labor with all our might to save men from “everlasting punishment.” We do not wonder, after the cloudy atonement in which some Independents believe, that they are also bent upon evaporating the law as well as the gospel. So far from Baptists wishing to form one body with the Independents, such things as these create fresh gulfs between us. They have often told us that there is no reason for two denominations, and we suppose that they are resolved to create a reason. Some of us would almost as soon be identified with the Church of England as with the Congregational Union, now that its members allow the grossest errors to be vented in its assemblies almost without protest. Surely there are some of the old Puritan sort left who will stand up for the faith once delivered unto the saints.
The annual meeting of the Stockwell .Orphanage was a very happy one. A fine .day, a large attendance, great interest, and much liberality, are items which tend to make a fete agreeable. Nearly £200 was the amount brought in; but our funds are still at a low ebb, for in twenty days that amount has vanished like dew from the grass when the sun arises. We heartily thank those friends who have entertained some of our orphans during the holidays, and we are also grateful for presents in kind. It is a happy work to care for the fatherless; we invite all our readers to join us in the pleasure.
We have received most pleasant letters from our brethren, Messrs. Charles Brown and Robert Spurgeon, in India. We hope they will make two of the most efficient missionaries of modern times. The Lord grant it. Our earnest desire and prayer for our church and college are that many missionaries may be raised up among us and thrust forth among the heathen.
Now is the time for open air preaching’. No minister should keep within the walls of a building when he can preach the gospel upon the beautiful green sward with the blue heavens above him. Brethren, come out of your dens and corners, and make the gospel to be heard by those who are ignorant of it. Fishermen do not wait for the fish to swim to them, but they go after them. Turn out into the highways and hedges and compel the people to come in. In great cities, where there are no fields accessible, use halls etc., and in some way reach the outside non-hearing masses.
Mr. Wenger, one of the most esteemed of our missionaries, who has come home for his health, tells a most affecting story of a number of shipwrecked sailors, who took to the boat, but were lost upon the sea for thirty days, with only nine days’ provisions. Each day began with prayer and the reading of our “Morning by Morning,” which gave them great comfort.
Divine providence caused them to be taken up by the vessel in which Mr. Wenger was sailing just as they were ready to perish.
Right royal actions deserve to be recorded. The Messrs. Cory, of Cardiff, have generously allotted to the Stockwell Orphanage £1,000 worth of shares, fully paid up, in their new colliery, and they have given the same amount to the College. This will almost exactly free both institutions from rates and taxes, and we feel deeply grateful for it. If wealthy men thus gave of their substance as a general thing, the Lord’s exchequer would be filled to the brim.
A clergyman writes to inform us that the gout is sent to us as a judgment from God for opposing the Church of England. If a swollen leg proves that a man is under God’s displeasure, what would a broken neck prove? We ask the question with special reference to the late Bishop of Oxford. As for the information that on account of our late speech at the Liberation Society’s meeting we shall soon have another attack, and in all probability will be carried off by it, we will wait and see if it be true. Despite the fact that the writer claims to be a clergyman, we are no more disturbed than if he had signed his name Zadkiel. The amount of bitterness which the post has brought us during the last month has proved to our own satisfaction that our blows have not missed the mark; but none write so furiously as our Evangelical friends, who probably are more uneasy in their consciences than others of the State-church clergy.
We have only two numbers more to issue and “The Interpreter” will be complete. We hope that our subscribers will aid our efforts to improve family devotion, by purchasing this work.
Our settlements of students for this month are numerous and hopeful. Mr. Cox has gone to the church at Market Harboro’, whilst our young brother Higgins has commenced his work as an evangelist, from which we expect much good. Mr. Haines has settled at Eye, in Suffolk, and Mr. Javan with the friends at Lower Norwood, and Mr. Tomkins abides at Barking. Mr. Charlton has accepted the invitation of the church at Maldon, in Essex. Mr. Strong has left to carry on the work at Fareham, which promises much success Mr. Hetherington has settled at West Hartlepool, and Mr. Roberts has gone for three months to try and raise a cause at Aldershot.
Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle by Mr. J. A. Spurgeon : — May 21, nineteen May 28, eighteen; June 4, eighteen.