SOME MEMORABLE CONVERSIONS.
THE account which Richard Baxter gives of his own conversion has often been quoted as a testimony to the power of good books. When Richard was about fifteen years of age a certain day laborer known to the family lent them “an old torn book” called “Bunny’s Resolutions,” and the reading of this became a means of enlightenment. What happened farther goes to show the value of colportage, though colporteurs as an organized band were not known in England until centuries afterwards. A peddler, whose pack contained some indifferent wares, as well as others of sterling merit, one day halted at the Baxters’ house and sold a copy of Sibbes’s “Bruised Reed.” That book was the instrument used to confirm Richard in the faith: though, as is sometimes represented, it was not the means of his awakening. “The Bruised Reed” has in reality taken the honor due to the “old torn book” of the poor day laborer.
In the era of the Reformation it appears that educated men were frequently converted despite their former prejudices, if not in opposition to their prayers. Prince George of Anhalt was of this description; for after reading the books of Luther from mere curiosity, and not without inward misgivings as to his own weakness, he embraced the reformed faith and built up the church. Even more striking was the case of Vergerins, legate of the pope in Germany, and whose eminent services to the Roman see “His Holiness” purposed to reward with a cardinal’s hat. There were those about the court, however, who counseled a becoming caution; for having been so long absent from the center of orthodoxy, some suspected that Vergerius at least smelled of Lutheranism. On learning how matters stood the ecclesiastic was more than a little chagrined, being conscious of his own integrity and devotion to the church. He resolved to prove his sincerity by writing down the Reformation, in a book to be entitled “Against the Apostate Germans,” and he retired to a suitable retreat for that purpose. He set himself industriously to work at the task of reading the books of the enemy, but this reading was blessed to his conversion. He went to his brother to tell him what had occurred, and that brother likewise renounced popery. They both of them became zealous preachers and pillars in the Protestant church.
A Turk, who was baptized at St. Paul’s church in Covent Garden, in 1658, under the new name of Richard Christophilus, owed his conversion to a singular train of circumstances, which plainly showed the leading of Providence. At Constantinople he had served the Porte in a high official station, and by embracing Christianity he became liable to such torture and death as are characteristic of the Turkish rule. It happened that he had a slave who was a devout Christian, and this man could not be prevented by any of the ill-usage to which he was subjected from pressing upon his master the claims of the gospel. Though again and again repulsed, this procedure was at length successful; a breach was made in the great man’s Mahomedan bigotry, and he began to suspect that Christ was the Messiah and the prophet of Islam an impostor. At once resigning every brilliant prospect in life, he fled to Paris; but after seeking instruction at the hands of the Romish priests the fugitive felt disappointed, thinking that if such things were the doctrines of Christ there was some reason to return to Constantinople. Hearing that there were other sections of the church in the city the poor man determined to find them, and thus he was instructed in the truth by the Protestant pastors during a space of six weeks. He soon became happy in the faith, and renounced the abominations of Islam before the congregations of the church in London, where he was received into communion.
The Puritans believed that persons might be brought into paths of righteousness by severe dealing. An atheist, and a profane swearer, named White, was said to have been converted through seeing the devil at his bedside in the form of “a great ugly man,” whose smile was more repulsive than his frown. He was one of those commonplace boors who look upon hell and demons as names invented by interested parsons, and only by a terrible vision of the night was he cured of his illiterate belief.
A beautiful story illustrative of some of the very finest traits of the Christian character belongs to the family of Sergeant Granvil. The sergeant had two sons, and unfortunately the elder, on whom it was hoped the estate might be conferred, was a fast liver, and he promised soon to squander in waste and riot the property of which he was utterly unworthy.
As neither entreaty nor threatenings sufficed to bring about a reformation the father at last, in self-defense, settled the inheritance on the younger brother, who was of a more tractable disposition. After the good father’s death the youthful renegade sat down to meditate on his folly: he grew melancholy, but at length, perceiving that he had forfeited an earthly estate, he determined to lay hold on a better inheritance in heaven. The brother beheld the change with admiration, the evidences of its reality being quite convincing. Soon afterwards the friends of the family were invited to a great feast, at which the rejoicings suddenly took an unexpected turn. A dish was placed before the elder brother, and this on being uncovered was found to hold a pile of deeds transferring the whole of the property into his possession. The younger intimated that in so acting he had only done what their father would have done had he lived to see the blessedness of the change they themselves were privileged to witness.
The conversion of Mr. Studly, whose father was a Kentish lawyer who hated aught savoring of Puritanism with fervent hatred, presents many points of interest, and is besides illustrative of English life when Charles the Second reigned at Whitehall. Reared in the faith and practices of a cavalier, the younger Studly was no better than his tutors until he was arrested in his course of sin by a surprising adventure in the streets of London. Having on a certain occasion sat late at night with some roystering companions, he was returning homeward the worse for liquor, when he fell into a cellar which opened on the pathway, and lay at the bottom partially stunned, but with a dreadful suspicion floating in his mind that he had fallen suddenly into the infernal regions. Fortunately the shock was one which did not vanish as the morning dew on the return of consciousness. The habits which had occasioned the catastrophe were forsaken, the young man became subject to fits of melancholy, he took to reading, and sought by prayer to remove the burden which oppressed him. This change in the current of the young man’s life was not relished by the father, who at once adopted means to extinguish all this Puritan enthusiasm, such as dealing out rough treatment, and obliging the youth to engage himself with horses or worldly employments. When it was discovered that he read at night, candle was denied, but so long as fire-light sufficed for a substitute the want was scarcely felt. In the hope of curing what he supposed to be a religious distemper the father resorted to other means; he sent his son to France, expecting that the frivolous society of gay people would have the desired effect. All things turned out quite different from these expectations.
A lodging was taken in the house of a godly Protestant pastor, who in due time returned to England with his young friend, though on the pastor’s character being discovered he was not permitted to remain in the home of the squire. As the youth still remained Puritanically inclined, a situation was obtained for him at Whitehall, where as gentleman-in-waiting to a lady of high station it was hoped he would forget his religion. It turned out precisely contrary; instead of conforming to the world he contributed to the reformation of those about him, and to the lady’s extreme satisfaction such order reigned in her establishment as she had never known before. Still perplexed as to what he should do next, but determined to carry his point, the elder Studly thought that marriage might probably win the victory where everything else had failed. A neighboring gentleman of wealth and position had a beautiful daughter who would in all respects make a desirable match, and it was determined that the incorrigible young Puritan should be united with this lady. This was the final attempt, and the penalty for not acceding to the paternal wish and returning to the world was forfeiture of the family estate. The young man so far yielded that he consented to woo the lady, and in order that no unnecessary obstacles might obstruct the way, loose, profane conversation or immoral doings were for the time, as far as was practicable, suspended in the household.
The family wore masks as it were until their true characters were concealed; but at the wedding dinner, which occurred soon afterwards, this mask was suddenly laid aside. Wine and profane talk were largely indulged in, and amid the riot the bride was heard to utter an oath. Horrified and humiliated, the bridegroom left the table, went to the stable to saddle his horse, and, unobserved, left the yard. In an agony of mind he now condemned himself for not having sufficiently sought the counsel of God in a momentous affair of life; but as the die was cast, and there was no path of retreat, he resolved that he would plead earnestly for the conversion of his wife. In the most solitary part of a neighboring wood he spent the afternoon in prayer and tears, and. the cry of his soul was the language of faith. While thus employed in quiet seclusion, the scene at the house was one of consternation and uproar. The bridegroom had mysteriously disappeared, and mounted horsemen were scouring the country in a wild and fruitless search. At length the missing one quietly returned, sought his wife in the solitude of her chamber, and in reply to her reproaches acquainted her with the occupation of the afternoon as well as with the story of his life experience. He spoke of God’s grace having led him this way and that way, till at last the lady’s curiosity was excited to ask the meaning of so singular a phrase. Still more surprising and welcome was her question: “Is there no grace for me, who am so wretched a stranger to God ?” “Yes, my dear,” replied the husband, “there is grace for thee; and I have been praying for it this day in the wood.” He believed, moreover, that his petition was heard, and now proposed that they should pray together. After such exercises, they presented a singular appearance before the ribald company at supper. Their eyes were red and swollen with weeping, though their features were staid with heavenly peace. “I beseech you, father, swear not,” said the bride, when her sire, according to custom, talked profanely, thus testifying to the miraculous change which had come over her since noon. The table was soon in a blaze of discord. “What!” said the elder Studily, rising in a consuming rage, conscious of being defeated at this final stage by a power which was irresistible, “What? is the devil in him? I would rather set fire to the four corners of my fair-built house than that he should enjoy it.” The old lawyer did according to his threats; for when he died, soon after, the estate was willed away, and the son received only ten pounds. The bride fared likewise, being denied her dowry on account of her Puritanical religion; but having £200 pounds of her own, they were able to take and stock a farm, the once fine lady cheerfully undertaking the many duties of a farmer’s wife. After prospering in this manner for a time, the tenants on the estate unexpectedly discovered that, after all, Mr. Studly was their legal landlord, as the father had no power to will away the property. Thus the good man altogether regained what he unmurmuringly surrendered for conscience’ sake.
The case of Saint Augustine, the greatest of the Christian fathers, is sufficiently interesting to be included in the category of remarkable conversions. He was born in the year 354, his father being a pagan at the time of his son’s birth, while his mother, Monica, was a model of Christian unselfishness and devotion, a worthy mother of an illustrious son. Being naturally inclined to pleasure and love of the world, Augustine in youth resisted the importunities of his mother to embrace the Christian faith, and following the example of his father, drank deep of earthly pleasures. He was an ardent lover of the stage, and in a day when, as a writer in the Encyclopoedia Brittanica tells us, “one of the most significant signs of a man having become a Christian was his habitual absence from the theater.
No one was more emphatic on this point afterwards than Augustine himself, and as the result of his own experience, he seems to have doubted whether, apart from the gross immoralities of the pagan stage, the indulgence in fictitious joys and woes is a warrantable excitement.” On renouncing idols, he embraced the heresies of Manichaeism, which, however, he soon relinquished for a better creed. He left Carthage, where he had lived as a student, glad to escape from its pagan abominations, and settled at Milan, where Ambrose was at the height of his fame and usefulness. In the preaching of the great bishop, Augustine found the light he had long needed, though the perfect peace of faith in Christ came not all at once into his soul. As he studied the Epistles of Paul, the inward struggles of his soul were prolonged and severe. One day he lay on the ground beneath a fig tree in his garden, overcome with groans and tears, longing for relief; and at the height of the conflict he imagined he heard these words coming from an invisible person: “Take up and read, take up and read.” His companion Alypius, who sat a short distance off, had the Scriptures in his hand, and in the Epistle to the Romans Augustine read: “Not in rioting and drunkenness, not in chambering and wantonness, not in strife and envying. But put ye on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh to fulfill the lusts thereof.” That was the moment of the victory of grace when, according to Augustine’s own confession, peace streamed into his soul, and the shades of doubt were chased away by heavenly light.
It is charming thus to see the same variety in grace as in nature. The Lord does not cause the new creature to come forth in one set form and fashion.
The Holy Ghost is called by David “thy free Spirits” and so he is; working after his own sweet will, and not according to some invariable standard. He uses ordinarily the appointed instrumentality of public ministry, but sometimes he does without it, and calls in his chosen by other means; and this doubtless that we may not place our confidence in men, or dream that any agency is necessary with the Lord. This should inspire us with hope even for those who are beyond the reach of common means. Let us pray for them, for they are not beyond the reach of the Lord. Though the sinner may wander beyond the range of our voice, our eye, or our pen, yet not beyond gunshot of grace, nor beyond the omnipresence of eternal love.
EARNESTNESS IN MINISTERS A LECTURE TO THE STUDENTS OF THE PASTORS’ COLLEGE, BY C. H. SPURGEON.
IF I were asked what, all other things being equal, is the most essential quality for securing success in winning souls to Christ, I should reply, “earnestness:” and if I were asked a second or a third time, I should not vary the answer, for personal observation drives me to the conclusion that, as a rule, real success is proportionate to the preacher’s earnestness. Both great men and little men succeed if they are thoroughly alive unto God, and fail if they are not. We know men of eminence who have gained a high reputation, who attract large audiences, and obtain much admiration, who nevertheless are very low in the scale of soul-winners: for all they do in that direction they might as well have been lecturers on anatomy or political orators. It the same time we have seen their compeers in ability so useful in the matter of conversion that evidently their acquirements and gifts have been no hindrance to them, but the reverse; for by the intense and devout use of their powers, and the anointing of the Holy Spirit, they have turned many to righteousness. We have seen brethren of very scanty ability who have been terrible drags upon a church, and have proved as inefficient in their spheres as blind men in an observatory; but, on the other hand, men of equally small attainments are well known to us as mighty hunters before the Lord, by whose holy energy many hearts have been captured for the Savior. I delight in M’Cheyne’s remark, “It is not so much great talents that God blesses, as great likeness to Christ;” In many instances ministerial success is traceable almost entirely to an intense zeal, a consuming passion for souls, and an eager enthusiasm in the cause of God, and we believe that, in every case, where other necessaries are present, men prosper in the divine service in proportion as their hearts are blazing with holy love. “The God that answereth by fire, let him be God”; and the man who has the tongue of fire, let him be God’s minister. Brethren, you and I must, as preachers, be always earnest in reference to our pulpit work: we must resolve to bring it to the highest point of excellence. Often have I said to my brethren that the pulpit is the Thermopylae of Christendom: there the fight will be lost or won. To us ministers the maintenance of our power in the pulpit should be our great concern, we must occupy that spiritual watch-tower with our hearts and minds awake and in full rigor. It will not avail us to be laborious pastors if we are not earnest preachers. We shall be forgiven a great many sins in the matter of pastoral visitation if the people’s souls are really fed on the Sabbath-day; but fed they must be, and nothing else will make up for it.
The failures of most ministers who drift down the stream may be traced to inefficiency in the pulpit. The chief business of a captain is to know how to handle his vessel, nothing can compensate for deficiency there, and so our pulpits must be our main care, or all will go awry. Dogs often fight because there is a scarcity of bones, and congregations frequently quarrel because they do not get sufficient spiritual meat to keep them happy and peaceful.
The ostensible ground of dissatisfaction may be something else, but nine times out of ten deficiency in the rations is at the bottom of the mutinies which occur in our churches. Men, like all other animals, know when they are fed, and they usually feel good tempered after a meal; and so when our hearers come to the house of God, and obtain “food convenient for them,” they forget a great many grievances in the joy of the festival; but if we send them away hungry they will be in as irritable a mood as a bear robbed of her whelps.
Now, in order that we may be acceptable, we must be earnest when actually engaged in preaching. Cecil has well said that the spirit and manner of a preacher often effect more than his matter. To go into the desk with the listless air of those gentlemen who loll about the pulpit and lean upon the cushion as if they had at last reached a place of rest, is, I think, most censurable. To rise before the people to deal out commonplaces which have cost you nothing, as if anything would do for a sermon, is not merely derogatory to the dignity of our office, but is offensive in the sight of God. We must be earnest in the pulpit for our own sakes, for we shall not long be able to maintain our position as leaders in the church of God if we be not so. Moreover, for the sake of our church members, and converted people, we must be energetic, for if we are not zealous, neither will they be. It is not in the order of nature that rivers should run uphill, and it does not often happen that zeal rises from the pews to the pulpits; it is natural that it should flow down from us to our hearers. The pulpit must therefore stand at a high level of ardor, if we are, under God, to make and keep our people fervent. Those who attend our ministry have a great deal to do during the week. Many of them have family trials, and heavy personal burdens to carry, and they frequently come into the assembly cold and listless, with thoughts wandering hither and thither; it is ours to take those thoughts and thrust them into the furnace of our own earnestness, melt them by holy contemplation and intense appeal, and pour them out into the mold of the truth. We must regard the people as the wood and the sacrifice, well wetted a second and a third time by the cares of the week, upon which, like the prophet, we must pray down the fire from heaven. A dull minister creates a dull audience. You cannot expect the office-bearers and the members of the church to travel by steam if their own chosen pastor still drives the old broadwheeled wagon. The world also will suffer as well as the church if we be not fervent. We cannot expect a gospel devoid of earnestness to have any mighty effect upon the unconverted around us. One of the excuses most soporific to the conscience of an ungodly generation is that of half-heartedness in the preacher. Men tacitly draw from the indifference of the minister the conclusion that the subject is of no great consequence. “Surely,” say they, “if the person whose business it is to warn us of the wrath to come felt that his message was really true, and if he believed that there was but one way of escape from the terrible danger, he would not speak to us in any but the most hearty and moving terms.” If the sinner finds the preacher nodding while he talks of judgment to come, he concludes that the judgment is a thing which the preacher is dreaming about, and he resolves to regard it all as mere fiction. The whole outside world receives serious danger from the cold-hearted preacher, for it draws the same conclusion as the individual sinner: it perseveres in its own listlessness, it gives its strength to its own transient objects, and thinks itself wise for so doing. How can it be otherwise? If the prophet leaves his heart behind him when he professes to speak in the name of God, what can he expect but that the ungodly around him will persuade themselves that there is nothing in his message, and that his commission is a farce? Earnestness in the pulpit must be real. It is not to be mimicked. I have seen it counterfeited, but every person with a grain of sense could detect the imposition. To stamp the foot, to smite the desk, to perspire, to shout, to bawl, to quote the pathetic portions of other people’s sermons, or to pour out voluntary tears from a watery eye will never make up for true agony of soul and real tenderness of spirit. The best piece of acting is but acting; those who only look at appearances may be pleased by it, but lovers of reality will be disgusted. What presumption! What hypocrisy it is by skillful management of the voice to mime the passion which is the genuine work of the Holy Ghost. Let mere actors beware, lest they be found sinning against the Holy Spirit by their theatrical performances. We must be earnest in the pulpit because we are earnest everywhere; we must blaze in our discourses because we are continually on fire. Zeal which is stored up to be let off only on grand occasions is a gas which will one day destroy its proprietor. Nothing but truth may appear in the house of the Lord; all affectation is strange fire, and excites the indignation of the God of truth.
Be earnest, and you will seem to be earnest. A burning heart will soon find for itself a flaming tongue. To sham earnestness is one of the most contemptible of dodges for courting popularity; let us abhor the very thought. Go and be listless in the pulpit if you are so in your heart. Be slow in speech, drawling in tone, and monotonous in voice, if so can best express your soul; even that would be infinitely better than you make your ministry a masquerade, and yourself an actor. But our zeal while in the act of preaching must be followed up by intense solicitude as to the after results; for if it be not so we shall have cause to question our sincerity. Here, I think, I cannot do better than allow a far abler advocate to plead with you, and quote the words of Dr. Watts: — “Be very solicitous about the success of your labors in the pulpit. Water the seed sown, not only with public but secret prayer. Plead with God importunately that he would not suffer you to labor in vain. Be not like that foolish bird the ostrich, which lays her eggs in the dust, and leaves them there regardless whether they come to life or not (Job 39:14-17). God hath not given her understanding, but let not this folly be your character or practice; labor, and watch, and pray that your sermons, and the fruit of your studies, may become words of divine life to souls.”
It is an observation of pious Mr. Baxter (which I have read somewhere in his works), that he has never known any considerable success from the brightest and noblest talents, nor from the most excellent kind of preaching, nor even when the preachers themselves have been truly religious, if they have not had a solicitous concern for the success of their ministrations. Let the awful and important thought of souls being saved by my preaching, or left to perish and be condemned to hell through my negligence, I say, let this awful and tremendous thought dwell ever upon your spirits. We are made watchmen to the house of Israel, as Ezekiel was; and, if we give no warning of approaching danger, the souls of multitudes may perish through our neglect; but the blood of souls will be terribly required at our hands (Ezekiel 3:17, etc.)
Such considerations should make us instant in season and out of season, and cause a zeal for the Lord’s house to eat us up at all times. We ought to be all alive, always alive. Our ministry must be emphatic, or it will never affect our times; and to this end our hearts must be habitually fervid, and our whole nature fired with an all-consuming passion for the glory of God and the good of men.
Now, my brethren, it is sadly true that true earnestness when we once obtain it may be easily damped, and as a matter of fact it is more frequently chilled in the loneliness of the village pastorate than amid the society of warm-hearted Christian brethren. The devout Adam once observed that “a poor country parson, fighting against the devil in his parish, has nobler ideas than Alexander the Great ever had;” and I will add that he needs more than Alexander’s ardor to enable him to continue victorious in his holy warfare. Zeal also is more quickly checked after ten years of continuance in the same service than when novelty gives a charm to our work. Mr. Wesley says, in his fifteenth volume of “Journals and Letters,” “I know that, were I myself to preach one whole year in one place, I should preach both myself and most of my congregation asleep.”
What then must it be to abide in the same pulpit for many years!
Earnestness may be, and too often is, diminished by neglect of study. If we have not exercised ourselves in the word of God, we shall not preach with the fervor and grace of the man who has fed upon the truth he delivers and is therefore strong and ardent. An Englishman’s earnestness in battle depends, according to some authorities, upon his being well fed; he has no stomach for the fight if he is starved. If we are well nourished by sound gospel food, we shall be vigorous and ardent. An old blunt commander at Cadiz is described by Selden as thus addressing his soldiers: — “What a shame will it be, you Englishmen, who feed upon good beef and beer, to let these rascally Spaniards beat you that eat nothing but oranges and lemons!” His philosophy and mine agree he expected courage and valor from those who were well fed. Brethren, never neglect your spiritual meals, or you will lack stamina and your spirits will sink.
Zeal may, on the other hand, be damped by our studies. There is, no doubt, such a thing as feeding the brain at the expense of the heart, and many a man in his aspirations to be literary has rather qualified himself to write reviews than preach sermons. A quaint evangelist was wont to say that Christ was crucified beneath Greek, Latin, and Hebrew. It ought not to be so, but it has often happened that the student in college has gained light but lost heat. He has gathered fuel, but lost the spark which is to kindle it.
True earnestness may be greatly lessened by levity in conversation, and especially by levity with brother ministers, in whose company we often take greater liberties than we should like to do in the society of other Christians.
There are excellent reasons for our feeling at home with our brethren, but if this freedom be carried too far we shall soon feel that we have suffered damage through vanity of speech.
We shall often find ourselves in danger of being deteriorated in zeal by the cold Christian people with whom we come in contact. What terrible wet blankets some professors are! Their remarks after a sermon are enough to stagger you. You think that surely you have moved the very stones to feeling, but you painfully learn that these people are utterly unaffected.
You have been burning and they are freezing; you have been pleading as for life or death, and they have been calculating how many seconds the sermon occupied, and grudging you the odd five minutes beyond the usual hour, which your earnestness compelled you to occupy in pleading with men’s souls. If these frostbitten men should happen to be the officers of the church, from whom you naturally expect the warmest sympathy, the result is chilling to the last degree, and all the more so if you happen to be young and inexperienced: it is as though an angel were confined in an iceberg. “Thou shalt not yoke the ox and the ass together” was a merciful precept: but when a laborious, ox-like minister comes to be yoked to a deacon who is not another ox, it becomes hard work to plough.
Frequently the audience itself, as a whole, will dishearten you, You can see by their look and manner that the people are not appreciating your warmheard endeavors, and you feel discouraged. Those empty benches also are a serious trial, and if the place be large, and the congregation small, the influence is seriously depressing: it is not every man who can bear to be “a voice crying in the wilderness.” Disorder in the congregation also sadly afflicts sensitive speakers. The walking up the aisle of a woman with a pair of pattens, the squeak of a new pair of boots, the frequent fall of umbrellas and walking-sticks, the crying of infants, and especially the consistent lateness of half the assembly: — all these tend to irritate the mind, take it off from its object, and diminish its ardor. We hardly like to confess that our hearts are so readily affected by such trifles, but it is so, and not at all to be wondered at. As pots of the most precious ointment are more often spoilt by dead flies than by dead camels, so insignificant matters will destroy earnestness more readily than great trials. Under a great discouragement a man pulls himself together, and then throws himself upon his God, and receives divine strength: but under lesser annoyances he may possibly worry, and the trifle will irritate and fester till serious consequences follow.
Pardon my saying that the condition of your body must be attended to, especially in the matter of eating, for any measure of excess may injure your digestion and make you stupid when you should be fervent. From the memoir of Duncan Matheson I cull an anecdote which is much to the point — “In a certain place where evangelistic meetings were being held, the lay preachers, among whom was Mr. Matheson, were sumptuously entertained at the house of a Christian gentleman. After dinner they went to the meeting, not without some difference of opinion as to the best method of conducting the services of the evening. ‘The Spirit is grieved; he is not here at all, I feel it,’ said one of the younger, with a whine which somewhat contrasted with his previous unbounded enjoyment of the luxuries of the table. ‘Nonsense,’ said Matheson, who hated all whining and morbid spirituality; ‘nothing of the sort. You had just eaten too much dinner, and you feel heavy.’” May it not be very possible that dyspepsia has on other occasions been mistaken for backsliding, and a bad digestion has been set down as a hard heart? I say no more; a word to the wise is enough.
Long continued labor without visible success is another frequent damp upon zeal. Quaint Thomas Failer observes that “herein God hath humbled many painstaking pastors, in mulling them to be clouds, to rain, not over Arabia the happy, but over Arabia the desert and stony.” If non-success humbles us it is well, but if it discourages us we ought to look about us with grave concern. It is possible that we have been faithful and have adopted wise methods, and may be in our right; place, and yet we have not struck the mark; we shall now feel heavily bowed down and feel scarcely able to continue the work, though if we do so we shall one day reap a ripe harvest, which will more than repay us for all our waiting. “The husbandman waiteth for the precious fruits of the earth”; and with a holy patience begotten of zeal we must wait on, and never doubt that the time to favor Zion will yet come.
Nor must it ever be forgotten that the flesh is weak and naturally inclined to slumber. We need a constant renewal of the divine impulse which first started us in the way of service. We are not as arrows which find their way to the target by the sole agency of the force with which they started from the bow, nor as birds which bear within themselves their own motive power; we must be borne onward like the ship by the instant; and constant power of the heavenly wind, or we shall manifest no speed. Preachers sent from God are not musical boxes which, being once wound up, will play through their set tunes, but they are trumpets which are utterly mute until living breath shall cause them to give forth a certain sound. We read of some who were dumb dogs, given to slumber, and such would be the character of us all if the grace of God did not prevent. We have need to watch against a careless, indifferent spirit, and if we do not so we shall soon be as lukewarm as Laodicea herself. [To be continued. ] PREACHING ON UNPROFITABLESUBJECTS. AT Mentone the shepherds bring their flocks down to the beach among the stones. What can be their motive? Not a green blade is to be seen: there is surely nothing to eat, yet the poor sheep regularly traverse the hard shingle.
Is this the reason why the mutton is so hard? But this strange habit of the shepherds can be paralleled at home. Do not certain preachers bring their people to consider dry, unpractical, worthless themes, as barren of all food as the stone of the Mediterranean shore? So we have been informed by some of those lean sheep which look up but are not fed. What can be their motive for conducting their flocks to such waste places? Is this the reason why they find the people so hard in heart when it comes to supporting the cause?
Our Good Shepherd never conducts us to the stony shore. “He maketh me to lie down in green pastures, he leadeth me beside the still waters.” The Hidden Life. Thoughts on Communion with God. By Rev.ADOLPH SAPHIR.
John F. Shaw and Co. SWEET evangelical doctrine always flows from Mr. Saphir’s tongue and pen. Unction is his prevailing characteristic rather than depth or variety; but that one quality will always make his works precious among the more spiritual of the Lord’s people He often bring out the choicest thought from passages of the Word which had not struck us before in the light in which he sets them. In the present instance the theme is one of great importance, and is handled with much spiritual power. His admirable power of arranging texts is well set forth in the opening passage of the book, which we subjoin. “There is a hidden wisdom. The apostle Paul writes: ‘We speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world unto our glory’ (1 Corinthians 6:7). The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him. In the hidden center of their being God makes them to know wisdom (Psalm 51:6). They have an unction from above, which teacheth them of all things, and is truth (2 John 2:27). ‘Knowest thou where wisdom is found? and where is the place of understanding?… The depth saith, it is not in me: and the sea saith, it is not with me’ (Job 28:12,14). But Jesus declares that the Father hath revealed it unto babes (Matthew 11:25). “There is a hidden glory. It is manifested, and yet only faith can behold it.
Jesus changed the water into wine at the marriage of Cana, and showed forth his glory. Men saw, and yet did not see; but his disciples believed in him (John 2:11). Jesus raised Lazarus from the grave. There were many witnesses, yet only they who believed saw the glory of God, and the Son of God glorified: (John 11:4,40). The glory of God is beheld by faith in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Corinthians 3); and Jesus Christ is known only by those who know the mystery of his cross and resurrection (Philippians 3:10), and are waiting to be glorified together with him (Romans 8:17). “There is a hidden life far, far away — high, high above. It is life hid with Christ in God; life born out of death; as it is written, ‘For ye have died, and your life is hid’ (Colossians 3:3). It is mysterious in its commencement. ‘The wind bloweth where it listeth, and thou heareth the sound thereof, but cause not tell whence it cometh, and whither it goeth: so is every one that is born of the Spirit’ (John 3:8). It is mysterious in its progress: ‘I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me’ (Galatians 2:20). It is mysterious in its consummation — the marriage of the Lamb (Revelation 19:7,9). We shall be for ever with the Lord. “There is a hidden manna. We have meat to eat which the world knows not of (John 4:32). ‘There is an unseen river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God’ (Psalm 46:4; Revelation 22:1). Only God’s children see it, and know the Source from whence it cometh, and the Ocean whither it is flowing. It is impossible to deny the mystic character of Christianity when we consider such passages as these: ‘If a man love me, he will keep my words: and my Father will love him, and we will come unto him, and make our abode with him’ (John 14:28). ‘Christ will manifest himself unto us, and not unto the world.’ ‘They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.’ ‘The natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God.’ ‘Christ dwelleth in the heart by faith.’ ‘labor, striving according to his working, which worketh in me mightily.’ “If we know these hidden things, then are we ourselves hidden ones, who shall be made manifest when Christ, who is our life, shall appear.” Brighter days for Working Men. ByWILLIAM GLENN.
John Kempster and Co.
A WELL intended mass of rhymes upon teetotalism and other worthy subjects. We wonder if anybody will ever read it through; if so, we venture to quote from it, and say: “I’m very glad that he’s held up so brave; I’m sure he’s worked as hard as any slave; With wholesome food and coffee there’s no fear That he’ll knock up for want of Fleece’em’s beer.”
Mrs. Bartlett, and her Class at the Tabernacle. By her son,EDWARD H. BARTLETT.
With a preface by C. H.SPURGEON, and a portrait. Price Halfa- crown. Passmore & Alabaster. IT was most meet that some memorial of Mrs. Bartlett should be written, and who more fit to prepare it than her own son, who has succeeded to her work? There might have been found more tutored and accustomed pens, but none could know so well the life of this earnest woman, or so well understand the spirit which animated it. All who knew our departed helper will, we feel sure, be glad to possess this unpretending tribute to her memory. It is stimulating, and unveils much of the inner life of the Tabernacle Church. We were requested to correct and revise it, but we thought it better not to do so, but to let it be the son’s own memorial of his mother; and hence it comes forth to the world in all simplicity, with some things which the critics would have omitted, but which other folk will rejoice in. A Peep Behind the Scenes. By Mrs.WALTON. Religious Tract Society.
EVERYONE knows what to expect from the authoress of “Christie’s Old Organ.” Our lady reviewer tells us that it is a darling book, full of gospel and full of life. It is the story of child who lived in a traveling cart. “There now,” said the lady “if ever you do praise a tale, be sure to say the kindest things possible for this story, for it is one of the sweetest and most gracious ever written.” Our readers will clear out a whole edition after seeing this. The Pentateuch and Hebrews analyzed and illustrated. By the Rev.JAMES DAVIDSON, M.A. Edinburgh: A. Elliot, London; Simpkin, Marshall, and Co.
AVERY commendable attempt at an analysis of the Pentateuch and the Hebrews, somewhat resembling the headings of the chapters inserted in the authorized version. The writer aims at bringing out the general structure of the books of Scripture, and the train of incident in their narratives or lines of argument. There are many maps, and the author has spared no pains, but we are afraid, that there will be few readers. The result of much thought is not a book, but an outline table of contents, with brief explanations, not at all likely to be extensively consulted. The Worship of Bacchus a great Delusion. Illustrated by Drawings, Diagrams, Facts, and Figures. James Clarke and Co. VERY sensible, popular teaching upon the inutility of alcohol as a source of nutriment. It will furnish the temperance advocate with many forcible illustrations when pleading with those who consider beer and porter to be necessary to give them strength for labor. No fallacy can be more transparent, but none is more prevalent.
THIS month we commence another phase of work for the Lord by sending forth Messrs. Clarke and Smith as evangelists. Last year we supported Mr. Higgins, who moved about among the Churches and did much service, but he has now settled, and we have found two brethren in all respects fitted for the work, who will go together. They commenced August 14 at the Tabernacle, and had good meetings throughout the week, Mr. Smith’s silver trumpet is very useful in attracting people from the street, and then Mr. Clarke and himself knows how to address them in a lively, earnest manner. The evangelists are going first to Stockton, Hartlepool, and neighborhood, where they will remain a month or more. We are sure they will make a stir, and by God’s blessing souls will be gathered in. They will send us monthly reports, which we hope to condense and insert in these columns. A friend from Scotland so heartily approves of the idea that he sends £10, and another brother has sent £3. As the cost of such a work must be considerable, we are willing to be helped by those who believe that evangelists are needed, and that they occupy a very useful place in the work of the church; but if no one unites in the service we shall carry it on, for our mind is made up that regular evangelists, in connection with the churches, and not mere free lances, would be a great blessing in these times.
August 7 — The men of the College mustered at Mr. Coventry’s fields, which were kindly lent to us by that gentleman. A day’s outdoor exercise secures the men’s coming in time to begin the hard work of the session. It rained hard, but we were very happy under the tent with Professor Hodge, and Messrs. Smith and Pigott from India, Our father, and other good friends. We have now 113 men: the paying out is very rapid for so many, but he who sends the mouths will send the bread, though our receipts occupy small space this month.
While we were writing the above paragraph, we received the deeply painful information that our beloved brother in Christ and son the faith William Priter, of Middlesborough, had fallen asleep. What a loss he is, his people know best, but we mourn him deeply. He was one who feared God above many, a true gospel preacher and a great winner of souls. All who know him will lament his early departure, for beside what the Lord had already wrought by him he was a man of such superior talents and remarkable ripeness in prudence that we looked to him as one who would occupy a still more prominent position and become a leader in our Israel. We insert the following notice from the local journal, which is in no single expression overstrained. These are our sorrows, but we have great joy in having been favored to lead this dear brother to Jesus, and in having aided his endeavors to go forth equipped for the fight, here is the extract: “It is our painful duty this morning to inform our readers that the Rev. William Henry Priter, of Middlesborough, died at his residence, Linthorpe-road, at a few minutes after seven o’clock yesterday evening. The announcement will be received with the deepest regret by all the inhabitants of Middlesborough who had the slightest acquaintance with him. Since he came to-labor amongst them his devotion to his pastoral duties has won the esteem and affection of the members of his church and congregation, while the action he has taken in public matters has rendered him quite a favorite with the general public, he was universally regarded as a young man who, possessing considerable ability, was always ready to do what he could for the good of his fellow-townsmen, and the regret that a life which appeared so full of promise has been cut short at so early a stage will be widely felt.
The rev. gentleman was born in Devonshire in 1851, and he was therefore but twenty-six years of age. While but a youth he became a student in Mr. Spurgeon’s Pastors’ College, and when nineteen years of age he received the call, and was appointed pastor to the Baptist church, Park-street, Middles-borough. He succeeded the Rev. M. Bontems, and found the Baptist church then composed of about sixty members, and worshipping in the rooms in Park-street, now used as a Sunday-school and lecture rooms.
Some idea may be given of the zeal with which he has labored during his residence in Middlesborough when we remember that at the last church anniversary he referred in terms of thankfulness to the fact that since his appointment to the church he had baptized over five hundred persons, and there are now on the church books three hundred and eighty members. He also set himself to work to build a place of worship which should be quite equal to the growing demands of his congregation. The site chosen was in Newport-road, the back of the church adjoining the schoolrooms in Parkstreet, and in March, 1874, he had the satisfaction of seeing opened a large and commodious place of worship, which will remain a lasting monument of the zeal which he brought to bear on his work. He was more than once offered charges, but he declined to be lured away from his first appointment merely for the sake of pecuniary advantage. In 1875 he went on a tour to Rome, for the purpose of recruiting his health, as he was then suffering from weakness, the result of overwork. He returned somewhat strengthened, but had not long been amongst his people when he burst a blood vessel, and was unable to undertake his duties as pastor for six or seven weeks. Since then he had enjoyed tolerable health, though he could never be described as a strong man, until about three weeks ago, when he called in his medical attendant, Dr. Williams. He was suffering from congestion of the lungs, but afterwards appeared so fully recovered that Dr. Williams felt justified in going on a journey to Wales, leaving him in the care of his assistant. But on Friday last Mr. Priter was suddenly taken ill, and from that time had been confined to his bed. Hopes and fears had succeeded each other until yesterday forenoon, when Dr. Hedley and Dr. M’Cuaig were called in, and consulted with Dr. Williams’s assistant, and the conclusion that was then arrived at was that it was but a question of a few hours. During the afternoon the rev. gentleman, who was conscious to the last, turned on his side and said that soon he felt he would get rest, and at seven o’clock he passed away. The deceased gentleman was unmarried.
The rev. gentleman was a member of the Middlesborough School Board, his views being decidedly unsectarian. During the last two or three years he has taken an interest in all public matters, and when the public meeting was held in Middlesborough condemning the Bulgarian atrocities committed by the Turks he delivered a speech in which his strong and manly condemnation of the perpetrators of the outrages made a favorable impression upon his hearers. He also took great in interest in the Middlesborough Sunday School Union.”
Our friend, Mr. B. Vickery, has made the Orphanage a handsome present of a drinking fountain, which causes great delight among our thirsty boys.
It is really a beautiful object, and a pretty ornament to the grounds. Our good friend gives it in memory of his deceased wife, but we shall use it in remembrance of himself and his frequent kindnesses. He first gave us light by putting new burners and glasses all over the Tabernacle, and now he gives us water: may his light never be dim, and his joy always overflow.
We have also received from “The Southwark Society for the Improvement of Men employed in Manufactories” the whole of their Library and other property. Upon winding up the association the members voted their stock to the Orphanage, and thus we have gained 1,300 volumes to our library, with cupboards to keep them in, and also a magic lantern, which will not be allowed to rust. We thank those who thought so well of us as to make us their legatees; best possible use will be made of the bequest.
A thousand thanks to all friends who received our poor orphans for a holiday. May God reward them a thousandfold. Friends at Reading have invited all down for a grand holiday on August 28, and promise to pay all expenses. That town has acted in a princely manner to our Institution; it seems to be full of great-hearted people. We mention no names, for fear of giving offense to modesty, but there is a pastor there whose love to his College, and its grateful President, seems to be unbounded, and he fires others with the same feeling.
On Tuesday, Aug. 14, we opened the little chapel which has been built for our sons at Bolingbroke Grove. The friends filled the house, and afterwards took tea upon our grounds. There will be no debt upon the chapel, for enough was given to pay everything within £30, and we believe that several who meant to give only need the intimation that the time is come, and they will quite complete the work.
August 19. — On this Sabbath all seat-holders at the Tabernacle vacated their seats in the evening, and though no bills had been used, and the fact was only announced in the papers, the crowds began to assemble an hour before time. The house was soon packed in every corner by a congregation in which the male element very far predominated. The audience was singularly mixed a large number being persons from the West End, while others were evidently new to places of worship. In the judgment of our most reliable brethren, it was the best service we ever had; to God be all the glory. Some two or three hundred remained, professedly in an anxious state, and many more were conversed with by our workers, who were dotted here and there all over the place. Several confessed Christ, and rejoiced in his salvation, and we hope fruit will appear in days to come, as well as on the spot.
During the evening, addresses were given in the grounds of the Orphanage, where a large and interested open air meeting was held. Some were Tabernacle friends, but many were residents in the neighborhood. The Evangelists’ Society, under our Elder Elvin, supplied two earnest speakers.
On the same day services were held in a tent pitched along the front gardens of some houses in Bermondsey. This tent has to be erected on Saturday night and removed early on Monday morning. In Bermondsey, very few of its many thousands attend any place of worship, and our heart is touched at the consideration of the condition of the people. Mr. Wm.
Olney, has an eminently practical and living mission in Green Walk, and is doing great good, but what is all that can be done in this way among so many? Messrs. Olney, Smith and Clark conducted services on the Sabbath, and many heard who never heard before. We hope that this effort, which will last four Sundays, will lead on to some further permanent and extensive mission work. London will become a great danger to the realm if the working people are not Christianized. In some localities the streets are the same on the Sabbath as on the week-days. All shops are open, and trade is even more brisk than on the week-days. The men neglect religion altogether. There are churches and chapels with miserable congregations; and many of their preachers are very well fitted for their own people, but quite incapable of talking “market language,” and getting at the outlying heathendom all around. O Lord, how long! It is time that dwellers in our great city began to cease from being content with being saved themselves, and thought about others in a practical manner. Awake, awake, O Zion.
— The Society is in full work, and we have two agents traveling expressly to try and extend its operations. Our efforts have been rewarded by applications for Colporteurs in the following new districts: — Bulwick, Northampton-shire; Whitchurch, Shropshire; Neston, Cheshire; Kidderminster, Worcestershire; Widnes, Lancashire. There are many districts where the Colporteur is greatly needed, and would do an immense amount of good, but local funds cannot be obtained, owing to the poverty of the neighborhood. Colporteurs might be sent to some of these if friends would subscribe specially for the purpose. The total of our Fund for increased capacity is now £601 actually received, so that we still need £200, and then a generous friend has promised to give the other £200, to make up the £1,000. There are 62 agents at work at present.
Good news continues to come from the Cape of Good Hope of the success of our student there. The brother went out in simple faith, depending upon God and the people whom he might gather, and without seeking aid from us he has preached the Word, gathered a self-supporting church, and led them on in evangelizing to their utmost the outlying population. When more doors open men are ready. We have several brethren waiting to go for missionaries, but our society has not the means for further extension, nor do we know what to do. We have just paid the passage money of Mr. Blackie, who goes out to Delhi with Mr. Smith, not depending upon the Missionary Society’s funds, but hoping that when he is prepared to preach to the heathen he may be commendeth to their notice; or that some English church in India may desire his services, so that he may ultimately labor in that great country. O that he may prove the pioneer of many more. There is a missionary spirit in the College, and much prayer is offered that doors may open, but work among the heathen on present plans is expensive, and we cannot yet see how we are to get at it. If the Missionary Society had mere means it would be glad enough to undertake new work; but how can bricks be made without straw? We almost sigh for access to those deep, unconsecrated purses which swing at the sides of many professed Christians, while the heathen are perishing.