INAUGURAL ADDRESS f3 DELIVERED AT THE THIRTEENTH ANNUAL CONFERENCE OF THE PASTORS’ COLLEGE, BY C. H. SPURGEON BELOVED friends, allow me to welcome you all most heartily. I have already received a blessing in the prayers which have been offered; and we have all, I think, enjoyed the earnest of a divine refreshing during the first hallowed hour of our meeting. Let us continue in the believing confidence that he who has already deigned to visit us will tarry with us until the time shall come for us all to say, “Let us go hence.” I can hardly indicate in a few words the run of my address; you will discover its subject or range of subjects as we go along, but if one line could contain it, it would be: — THE EVILS OF THE PRESENT AGE, AND HOW TO MEETTHEM. So far as I remember, every year has been an exceedingly critical period, and so far as I can see in history, almost every six months some fervid spirit or another has written about “the present solemn crisis.” There are persons who always believe in the imminent peril of the universe in general and of the church of God in particular, and a sort of popularity is sure to be gained by always crying “Woe, woe.” Prophets who will spiritually imitate Solomon Eagle, who went about the streets of London in the time of the plague, naked, with a pan of coals on his head, crying, “Woe, woe,” are thought to be faithful though they are probably dyspeptic. We are not of that order: we dare not shut our eyes to the evils that surround us, but we are able to see the divine power above us, and to feel it with us, working out its purposes of grace. We say to each of you what the Lord said to Joshua in the chapter we have just read, — “Be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed: for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest.”
Our trust is in the living God, who will bring ultimate victory to his own cause. Still, it is a wise thing to admit that these days have their own peculiar perils and trials. The kaleidoscope shifts, the scenes presented to our gaze are changed, whether for good or evil; good has infinite varieties, and so, has evil. We are not troubled, as our Puritan forefathers were, by persecution and oppression such as would take from us our civil rights and our liberty to worship God. Evil has assumed quite another form with us, and we must meet it as we find it. The battle front is altered, but do not imagine that the conflict will be less severe. I look for a sterner struggle than we have ever yet engaged in, and we must be prepared for it. During the progress of a battle, the Duke of Wellington was observed riding along the lines to a certain part of the field, and a soldier said to his fellow, “There goes the Duke, and there’s sure to be warm work.” Brethren, we have evidence that the Lord Jesus is with us, let us therefore set the battle in array. He is not a general who rides about for mere parade, he means fighting wherever he comes, and we may expect warm work! When he girds his sword upon his thigh, and rides forth on his white horse, you may rest assured that his sword will smite heavily, and his arrows will fly thick and fast, while on the other hand his enemies will furiously rage.
First among the evils of the age we must notice the return of superstition.
Ritualism has sprung up among us, and spread as most ill weeds do. It is, I suppose, distinguishable from Romanism by omniscience, but it is also probable that omniscience sees more of its likeness to Romanism then we do. It is sadly spreading, spreading everywhere. It suits our evangelical brethren in the Church of England to speak of “a noisy minority practicing ritualism,” and to remind us that each denomination has its difficulties; but to us, who are impartial onlookers, it seems that the most vital and vigorous part of the Anglican Church is that which is tainted with this error. The difference in the two parties is most marked, for the ritualists are brave as lions, and the evangelicals are timid as hares. You have only to go into the churches immediately around us, or into those of large towns, such as Brighton, to see the strength, the force, the determination, in a word, the detestable vitality of ritualism. Every doctrine of Romanism is preached by these men except the infallibility of the pope, and perhaps the celibacy of the clergy — the presence of certain rosy-cheeked boys and girls in the rectory garden proving many Anglicans to be soundly Protestant upon that point. I am persuaded that there are many priests in the Church of Rome who preach more gospel, and understand it better, than do these pretended priests in the Church of England. The worst of it is that the growth of sacramentalism in the Established Church is not like that of the mistletoe or a fungus upon an oak, it is a real and legitimate branch of the parent stem.
There is no man living, and there never was a man, and never can be one, who believes the whole of the Book of Common Prayer in its natural signification. The only way in which it can be done is by some such device as that of the two nuns who had borrowed a mule which would not go without being sworn at. As neither of them could be so profane as to swear, one good sister pronounced the first syllable of the French word sacre and the other finished it, and thus between the two the mule was made to go. So must it be with belief in the Prayer-book, no one man can believe it all; possibly high church, low church, and broad church can manage it between them. But if I were driven at the point of the bayonet to certify that one of the parties was a grain or two more consistent with the Prayer-book than the others I must declare in favor of the high church party. It is true that the articles are against them, but what are the articles?
They are only read over perhaps once in a lifetime. The mischief is in the catechism and the service book which are in constant use. We have not to deal with a parasitical evil, but with a natural off-shoot of the national vine, which will remain as long as the Book of Common Prayer is unrevised; and when will it be revised? Then, too, this mischief is carried on by men who mean it. They are in downright earnest. I believe there is among them a remnant who, despite their ceremonialism and their mummeries, are true believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. With them there is a host of mere believers in postures, masquerading, and drapery, and all that kind of rubbish; but there is, nevertheless, a gracious company whose sweet spirit breathes in holy hymns and in devout, Herbert-like utterances concerning our Lord, which we should be sorry to have missed. As a party they are earnest, they compass sea and land to make one proselyte, and great are the sacrifices which they make for the cause which they have espoused.
This system, my brethren, is well entrenched, and you have to dislodge it.
This superstition, too, is in harmony with the innate idolatry of the human heart; it offers gratification to the eye and to the taste, it sets up a visible priest and outward symbols, and these man’s fallen heart craves after. It offers to save men the necessity of thought by offering an outward service, and furnishing a priest to do your religion for you but alas it takes man off from the real and spiritual, it consoles hint without true regeneration, and buoys him up with hope though he has not submitted himself to the righteousness of Christ.
A second, and what I regard as an equally terrible, evil, is abounding unbelief. I am not speaking now of that coarse kind of infidelity which rails at the Scriptures, and blasphemes the name of the Lord our God. There is not much mischief in such a devil as that, he is too black, too plainly a fiend of hell! There is a more dangerous spirit now abroad, entering into Nonconformist churches, climbing into their pulpits, and notably perverting the testimony of some who count themselves somewhat, and are regarded as leaders by those who reckon themselves to be men of culture and intellect. Macaulay rightly said that theology is immutable, but these are for ever contradicting that opinion in the most practical manner, for their theology is fickle, as the winds. Landmarks are laughed at, and fixed teaching is despised. “Progress” is the watchword, and we hear it repeated ad nauseam. Very far are we from denying that men ought to make progress in the knowledge of the truth, for we are aiming at that ourselves, and by daily experience, by study, and by the teaching of the Holy Ghost we trust that in some humble measure we are gaining it. But words need interpreting — what is intended by progress in this case? Which way does it go? It is too often progress from the truth, which, being interpreted, is progressing backwards. They talk of higher thought, but it is an ascending downwards. I must use their terms and talk of progress, but their progress is a going from, and not a going to, the place of our desires. Evidently it is progress from usefulness. They invite us to follow them in their advance towards a barren Socinianism, for thither the new theology tends, or to something worse. Now, we know at the present time certain ancient chapels shut up, with grass growing in the front of them, and over the door of them the name Unitarian Baptist Chapel. Although it has been said that he is a benefactor of his race who makes two blades of grass grow where only one grew before, we have no desire to empty our pews in order to grow more grass. We have in our eye certain other chapels, not yet arrived at that consummation where the spiders are dwelling in delightful quietude, in which the pews are more numerous than the people, and although an endowment keeps the minister’s mouth open, there are but few open ears for him to address. It is pretty certain that Christ is not lifted up there, for he does not draw all men unto him. There is no attractive force, no power, no influence for good; it is a frost-bound religion, and we are not at all desirous of making an excursion to that sea of ancient ice. “Gentlemen,” we say to them, “you are immensely clever; we often wonder how one small head can carry all you know, but for all your cleverness we cannot give up the old, old gospel, for the results of your preaching do not fascinate us. Where are your converts? Where are your hearers? Where will your churches soon be found?” Handel on one occasion played the organ in a country church, and at the close of the service he gave a voluntary of such a sort that all the people lingered to hear it. The old organist was indignant, and said, “Now, let that alone, you can’t play the people out; let me do it.” These progressive gentlemen certainly can play the people out.
Their gifts of dispersion are amazing. Put them down in any warm-hearted Christian community and see if they will not scatter and divide it; place them in any town you may select, and though they may be at first attractive (for some are attracted by any novelty, however erroneous), yet after a short time, there being no life, there will be no power to retain the people.
We remember the experiment of Daventry, under that eminently godly man, Dr. Doddridge, and we are not inclined to try the like under any circumstances. That worthy man did not dogmatize to the “dear young men” who came to his college, but adopted the plan of letting them hear the argument upon each side that they might select for themselves. The result was as disastrous as if error had been taught, for nothing is worse than lukewarmness as to truth. Dissent became enervated with a fainthearted liberalism, and we had a generation of Socinians, under whom Nonconformity almost expired. Both General and Particular Baptists have had enough of this evil leaven, and we are not inclined to put it again into the people’s bread.
Besides, we are invited to follow the guidance of men who are not qualified to be leaders. I have waited with a good deal of interest to see whether modern thought would be capable of producing a man, a man of mark, of profound mind, and philosophic genius; but where is he? Where is the man who will found a school and sway his fellows; a man for the orthodox to tremble at, a great Goliath, head and shoulders above his fellows. Truly there are some who think they have power, and so they have amongst those young gentlemen whose moustachios are on the point of developing, but they have no influence over those who read their Bibles, have had experience, and are accustomed to try the spirits.
The great lights are the literary men who produce articles in certain reviews which are the oracles of the elite, or of those who think themselves so. I wonder how many these precious reviews sell, but that of course is of small consequence, because the quality of their readers is so high. See what airs a man gives himself because he reads a review! Are these things so very clever? I am unable to see it. I used to hear that evangelical writers produced platitudes; I believe they did, but surely they never wrote more watery trash than is produced in the present day in opposition to the orthodox faith, but then you see it is given out in such a latinized jargon that its obscurity is mistaken for profundity. If you have the time and patience to read a little of what is written by the modern-thought gentlemen, you will not be long before you are weary of their wordspinning, their tinkering of old heresies into original thought, and their general mystifying of plain things. It only needs a man of power to smash them up like potters’ vessels, but then the result would only be pieces of pottery. “Show us a man worth following,” say we, “and when you do we will not follow him, but fight with him: at the present we are not likely to leave Calvin and Paul and Augustine to follow you.”
We are invited, brethren, most earnestly to go away from the old-fashioned belief of our forefathers because of the supposed discoveries of science.
What is science? The method by which man tries to conceal his ignorance.
It should not be so, but so it is. You are not to be dogmatical in theology, my brethren, it is wicked; but for scientific men it is the correct thing. You are never to assert anything very strongly; but scientists may boldly assert what they cannot prove, and may demand a faith far more credulous than any we possess. Forsooth, you and I are to take our Bibles and shape and mold our belief according to the ever-shifting teachings of so-called scientific men. What folly is this! Why, the march of science, falsely so called, through the world may be traced by exploded fallacies and abandoned theories. Former explorers once adored are now ridiculed; the continual wreckings of false hypotheses is a matter of universal notoriety.
You may tell where the learned have encamped by the debris left behind of suppositions and theories as plentiful as broken bottles. As the quacks which ruled the world of medicine in one age are the scorn of the next, so has it been, and so will it be, with your atheistical savans and pretenders to science. But they remind us of facts. Are they not yet ashamed to use the word. Wonderful facts, made to order, and twisted to their will to overthrow the actual facts which the pen of God himself has recorded! Let me quote from “Is the Book Wrong?” by Mr. Hely Smith, a pamphlet worthy of an extensive reading. “For example, deep down in the alluvial deposits in the delta of the Nile were found certain fragments of pottery. Pottery, of course, implies potters, but these deposits of mud, Sir Charles Lyell decreed, must have taken 18,000 years to accumulate, therefore there must have been men following on the occupations of civilized life at least 7000 years before the creation of man as recorded in Scripture. What clearer proof could be wanted that the Book was wrong? For who would presume to suspect Sir C. Lyell of making a mistake in his work? A mistake, however, he had made, for in the same deposits of mud, at the same depth in which this ‘pre-Adamite pottery’ was discovered, there also turned up a brick bearing the stamp of Mahomet Ali! [Yet we were bound to shift the Bible to suit that ‘fact’ — muddy fact!] Again, some curiously-shaped pieces of that were discovered in 1858 in what has been called ‘the famous cavern at Brixham.’ It was at once decided that the flints showed signs of human workmanship, and as they were found in company with the bones of extinct animals, it was also at once considered proved that man must have existed in immensely remote ages, and the evidence was said to have ‘revolutionized the whole of Western Europe on the question of man’s antiquity.’ The history of these flints is remarkable. For fourteen years they were kept under lock and key in the rooms of the Geological Society, but public curiosity was gratified by plaster casts shown at the cavern, and by illustrated descriptions published in an imposing volume. According to the evidence thus afforded to the public, there seemed no doubt left but that these flints bore the marks of the mind and hand of man, thus associating man with a pre-Adamite race of animals. The cause of truth owes a debt of gratitude to Mr. Nicholas Whitley, hon. secretary of the Royal Institution of Cornwall, for the acuteness which led him to suspect that there was something wrong, the perseverance with which he followed up his suspicions, and the boldness with which he made public the result, which was simple but suggestive. The plaster casts, the drawings and descriptions, were not the casts, drawings, or descriptions of the real flints found in the cavern! The originals were, with one or two exceptions, evidently purely natural specimens of flints; and persons who have seen the landscape stones and the marvelous likeness of human faces on inaccessible rocks, will not be disposed to overthrow the whole of revelation because of one or two curiously-shaped stones found in company with the remains of extinct animals. If the cause had not been so weak, what was the necessity for trying to strengthen and supplement it by presenting the public with false statements? With regard to all these supposed that implements and spears and arrow-heads, found in various places, it may be as well to mention here the frank confession of Dr. Carpenter. He has told us from the presidential chair of the Royal Academy that no ‘logical proof can be adduced that the peculiar shapes of these flints were given them by human hands.’” So the bubbles go on bursting, and meanwhile more are being blown, and we are expected to believe in whatever comes, and wait with open mouth to see what comes next. But we shall not just yet fall down and worship the image of human wisdom, notwithstanding all the flutes, harps, sackbuts, psalteries, dulcimers, weekly papers, quarterly reviews, and boastful professors. Show us a man of science worthy of the name, and then we will not follow him if he dares to oppose revealed truth; but show us one in whom the next generation will believe; at present there is not one alive worthy to be compared with Newton and other master minds reverent to the Scriptures, compared with whom these men are mere pretenders.
See, my brethren, we have unbelief, scientific and otherwise, to contend with, and we must meet it in the name of the Lord.
Another manifest evil of this our time is not so serious, but it is exceedingly annoying, I refer to the spirit of disintegration which infects portions of the church of God and causes much heartburn and discord in certain quarters. Years ago, when a man was converted, he used, as a matter of course, to unite with that church with which he most nearly agreed, and work for the Lord in connection with it; but now a brother does not like to go to the place where most of the Christians in the town or village assemble, but he prefers to hold a meeting in his own room, in order to show that he dislikes sectarianism, and believes in Christian unity. Not caring to work with any recognized organization, because it is denominational, he feels bound to form a little denomination of his own.
We would not in an angry spirit forbid these brethren because they follow not with us, but we cannot conceal the fact that by thus working alone they are injuring themselves, weakening our churches, and robbing us of those who ought to be our most efficient helpers. I fear that some are bitten with the notion that work outside the church is more useful than regular efforts; but a little experience will, I hope, teach many of them better. Christian labors disconnected from the church, are like sowing and reaping without having any barn in which to store the fruits of the harvest; they are useful but incomplete. I trust the evil of Ishmaelitish enterprise will gradually cure itself, but meanwhile it goes on, and loving, earnest people are decoyed away from our fellowship. On the other hand, it is a good thing for some brethren who “count themselves something though they be nothing,” to have the opportunity of finding a sphere of activity, where they will probably be less troublesome to us than they would have been nearer home. Some persons distinguished by a kind of piety which might be called mag -piety, are happiest where they can talk most. They are fond of hearing themselves speak, and can sing, “How charming is the sound” such are best accommodated in assemblies of their own convening. We have this to deal with, and to some brethren it is a cause of heart break, and has bowed them down with grief of soul. Many an earnest pastor can testify to this.
The fourth evil is one to which I call your very earnest attention, the growth of wickedness in the land, especially in two forms, which we ought not to overlook. One is the growing worldliness among professing Christians. They are indulging in extravagance in many ways, in luxurious habits, dress, equipages, feastings, and so on, and wasting the substance of which they are stewards. When a man is giving liberally to the cause of God I count it very foolish to forbid his spending liberally in other ways, for men usually spend by scale. It would be absurd to hold up a wretched miser who gives nothing either to God or man as an example to a liberal spender: but there is too much of ostentatious extravagance abroad which wastes the Master’s money in worldly pleasurable and doubtful amusements, yes, and amusements worse than doubtful. Some who are called ministers of Christ have in these days even defended amusements which moralists have felt bound to abandon, but let us hope that such ministers will not repeat the mistake. We must be careful, wise, and yet decided in our dealings with this growing evil, or we shall lose all spirituality from the churches. But, beside this, have you not noticed with horror the increase of the national sin of drunkenness throughout the land?
Only look at the bill for intoxicating drinks! That amount cannot be expended annually without producing a terrible record of drunkenness, crime, disease, and death. Ten years ago it is pretty certain that men drank quite enough: to what must we impute this ever-growing consumption?
The evil is positively appalling. I look upon the law permitting the sale of wines and spirits at the grocers as one of the most mischievous pieces of modern legislation. To my grievous knowledge the sin of intoxication among women has been suggested in some instances and promoted in others by this easy and respectable method of obtaining strong drink. For women to drink is loathsome even to men who can freely indulge in it themselves. Is it really more shameful that women should be drunken than men? It has that appearance, and the frequency of the evil among them proves that the drink cancer is getting nearer to the heart of the body politic. I was in France, at the Carnival at Mentone, and I remarked again and again that I saw no sign of intoxication. All day long the peasants and townspeople amused themselves with masks, and music, and comfits, amusements fit for little children, but I saw no drunkenness, and do not think there was any. Yet France is a Popish country: do we not blush to think that it should excel us in so ordinary a virtue as sobriety? One of my friends said to me, “If this Carnival had been held in England, these people would have been all drunk before they started the procession.” Several years ago when staying on the island of Heligoland I noticed with regret a regulation that no more than four English sailors should come ashore at one time, and then each one must be attended by a soldier till he returned to the boat. I saw hale and hearty sailors come to the little town and walk up the street, but how differently they reeled back, and how difficult it seemed to get them safely away. Are our fellow-countrymen to become the scorn of mankind for their drunkenness? The world will begin to cry shame upon the Christian church unless something is done in this matter. Consider the suffering and poverty which arise out of the waste of money involved in this vice, and the crime which is its inevitable result. The whole land reeks before the Lord, and is corrupt with this sin. If Christians do not labor to stay this evil who will do it? If ministers do not seek to the utmost of their ability to apply a remedy, the world will think that their outcry against unbelief and other evils is not very sincere. He who does not cry out against the wolf cannot surely be at enmity with the lion.
These are the mischiefs. Now for the REMEDY.
What are we to do to meet this superstition, and this unbelief, and this disintegration, and this growing drunkenness? I have only one remedy to prescribe, and that is that we do preach the gospel of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, in all its length and breadth of doctrine, precept, spirit, example, and power. To give but one remedy for many diseases of the body is the part of an empiric, but it is not so in the affairs of the soul, for the gospel is so divinely compounded as to meet all the evils of humanity, however they may differ from one another.
We have only to preach the living gospel, and the whole of it, to meet the whole of the evils of the times. The gospel, if it were fully received through the whole earth, would purge away all slavery, end all war, and put down all drunkenness and all social evils; in fact you cannot conceive a moral curse which it would not remove, and even physical evils, since many of them arise incidentally from sin, would be greatly mitigated and some of them for ever abolished. The spirit of the gospel, causing attention to be given to all that concerns our neighbor’s welfare, would promote sanitary and social reforms, and so the leaves of the tree which are for the healing of the nations would work their beneficial purpose. Keep to the gospel, brethren, and you will keep to the one universal, never-failing remedy. You have read of sieges, in which the poor inhabitants have been reduced to skeletons, and fevers and diseases scarcely known at other times have abounded: when the city has at last surrendered, if you wished to give the people what would meet all their wants, you would begin with giving them food. Hunger lies at the bottom of the fever, hunger has caused the other diseases, gaunt and grim, and when the constitution is again built up by food it will throw off most of the other ills. Give the bread of life to the multitude, and the maladies and diseases of fallen humanity will be divinely removed. I am sure it is so. It is evident enough that the gospel meets superstition. In the Revelation we read “Babylon is fallen, is fallen,” and we see her cast like a millstone in the flood. But was it not because a little before we read “I saw another angel fly in the midst of heaven, having the everlasting gospel to preach unto them that dwell on the earth.” Between the fall of Babylon and the flight of the angel there was an intimate connection. If you were to enter a ruin and could not bear the hooting of the owls and the presence of the bats, and wanted to disperse them, if you could let the blessed light shine into the deserted halls, the bats and owls would soon find their wings. Let the flambeaux blaze in every corner and the creatures of darkness will quit the scene. Do you wish to put an end to baptismal regeneration, the lie of lies? Procliaim spiritual regeneration by the Holy Ghost, and exalt the work of the Spirit of the Lord. Would you make men see through the sham of Romish and Anglican priesthood.
Proclaim the everlasting priesthood of the Great Melchisedec. If you would end belief in sacraments, proclaim the substance, of which ordinances can never be more than the shadow. You will find men turn away from the husks when you set before them solid food, God by his Spirit being with you to give them the wisdom to discern between things that differ.
As to the unbelieving business, my brethren, I bear my witness that the preaching of the gospel confronts it well. I was speaking to a brother minister concerning the number of young men who fall into one form or another of false doctrine. When I told him that I was very little troubled in that way he replied, “I don’t suppose you are. Calvinism drives them away, it does not allow them enough scope. A man of that kind would not come to hear you many times.” Now I am bold to say that in some preaching dovecotes are provided for the birds of doubt, and I am not surprised that they fly in clouds, and as doves to their windows. Preach the doctrines of grace, dear brethren, and those who like not your Lord will either be changed themselves or change their minister. Preach the gospel very decidedly and firmly, no matter what people may say of you, and God will be with you. Some would like us to treat the Bible as if it were a peal of bells sounding forth from a church steeple which we can make to say whatever we please: rather let us sound forth Scriptural truth like a trumpet, giving a certain sound that people may know that there is a meaning in it, and may learn at the same time what that meaning is.
I give the progressive gentlemen a motto to be engraved on their escutcheon, for which I hope they will be very grateful, it is this — “Ever learning. ” It is their boast that they are ever learning. Accept it, gentlemen, but take the whole of it, “and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7. They themselves confess that they do not come to definite knowledge, for they are always telling us that what they teach today they may repudiate tomorrow, for a process of development is going on, so that having commenced with the oyster of Calvinism they may yet reach the superlative manhood of atheism, for where else will it stop?
Preach the truth with all your hearts as God teaches it to you, and this plague will be stayed. As to disintegration, I know of no way of keeping God’s people together like giving them plenty of spiritual meat. The simple shepherd said that he tied his sheep by their teeth, for he gave them such good food that they could not find better, and so they stayed with him. Be this our custom as the Holy Spirit shall help us. Let us also labor by our preaching to make church fellowship a great deal more real. Have we not many times heard the remark, perhaps a pardonable one, “I will never go to another church meeting.” Why should it be so? An old story furnishes me with an illustration. A clergyman was burying a corpse, and not knowing whether to use the word “brother’” or “sister” in the service, he turned to one of the mourners and asked, “Is it a brother or a sister ?” “No relation at all, sir,” was the prompt reply, “only an acquaintance.” We are always talking about beloved brethren and sisters, but on examination how much of real brotherhood is there in most churches? Does it not amount to this — “No relation at all, only an acquaintance.” Do you wonder that people start a little meeting of their own where they hope that there will be a little more communion? Try to make church fellowship full of life and love by preaching and living the gospel of love and brotherhood. Be to your people like a father among his children, or an elder brother among his brethren, that you may be the means of blessing to them, and at the same time meet the evil of disintegration. As to that terrible matter of drunkenness, I believe there are many palliations for the disease, but I am equally certain that there is no complete and universally applicable cure for it except the gospel. The best way to make a man sober is to bring him to the foot of the Cross. It is a practical question, well worth your pondering, whether in order to bring him there it may not be necessary to get him sober first, for we cannot hope to see men converted when they are drunk. You may find it wise to use with rigor all the appliances which the temperance movement has so amply provided, but whether you personally agree to do so or not, if you see others earnestly warbling with the demon of drink, even though they use weapons which you do not admire, do not despise them nor treat them otherwise than as allies. Let your own personal habits be such as shall tend to overthrow the evil, and to encourage those who are laboring to that end. Let the current and tone of your conversation be always friendly to the man who fights this foe, even if he does not come upon your platform, for the enemy is so strong and so all-devouring that no honest helper may be scorned. But, after all, the gospel is the needle-gun of the conflict. If you could make every man in England sign the pledge of total abstinence you could not secure sobriety for any length of time, since pledges are too often broken; but if men’s hearts are changed, and they become believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, then the stamina of principle will by divine grace be given to the mental constitution, promises will be kept, and vices will be forsaken.
So far you have followed me in the general truth, I will now give a few practical exhortations. The old, old gospel is to be preached, it is not to be ground out like tunes from a barrel organ, but to be preached in the very best way, and by God’s blessing we are so to work up the church that both ourselves and our fellow members shall confirm the witness of the gospel, and be hearty and unanimous in spreading it.
To begin with, we must have more knowledge of the gospel. It is not every minister that understands the gospel: many ministers who understand its elements have never attempted to grasp and to preach the whole of it, and even he who knows most of it needs to understand it better. You must preach the whole of the gospel. The omission of either a doctrine or an ordinance or a precept may prove highly injurious. Even points which others think trivial must not be trivial to the man who would make full proof of his ministry.
Do not, for instance, fail to be faithful upon believers’ baptism, for if that part of your testimony be left out, an ingredient essential to meet superstition will be wanting. Though it may seem at first sight as if you might very well leave out a minor doctrine without mischief, do not so, for since the God who put it into the word is supremely wise, he is not a wise man who would leave it out. Fulfill the whole of your commission: “teaching them,” says your Lord, “to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you.” Preach the gospel north, south, east, and west, but be sure you preach the whole gospel as far as God has taught it you, and nothing else.
To accomplish this we are bound to search and study in order to know more and more of the inspired word. Have you not found that. the precious gospel is like a cavern into which you must enter bearing the torch of the Holy Spirit, who alone can show you all things? Were you not astonished as you stood in the first chamber and saw its clear soft silver light? What treasures were all around you, for all its walls were slabs of silver, and the roof was hung with filigree of the precious metal. “I have found it! I have found it!” cried you for very joy. But just then one of the shining ones touched you on the shoulder and said, “Come hither, and I will show thee greater things than these.” You passed through a portal hitherto unobserved, and lo, there opened up another chamber more lofty and more spacious than the last. The floor, the roof, and the pendant stalactites were all of gold — pure gold, like unto transparent glass; and then you said, “Now have I entered the inner most shrine of truth.” Yet was there more to be seen, for again the shining one touched you, another secret door flew open, and you were in a vast hall, where every form of precious stone flashed forth upon you: rubies and jaspers, and emeralds, and amethysts emulated each other’s beauties, while all in a blaze of light the terrible crystal and all manner of choice gems made the cavern to shine like a thousand firmaments crowded with stars. Then you marveled indeed. And now, perhaps having seen such treasures, you are of opinion that nothing more remains, but God’s glory as yet no mortal hath fully seen, and the divine Spirit waits to lead you by study and prayer to a yet clearer vision of the deep things of God. In order to preach the gospel well we must have such a knowledge of it that we are practically conversant with it. We must have it in our hearts, and also, as the proverb has it, at our fingers’ ends.
We must be rich that we may scatter treasures. We must be scribes well instructed that we may be apt to teach. Let us see well to this, dear brethren; and if any of you have at all slurred your private studies and your communion with God, and your deep searching of the word, I pray you do not so; for you may get on a little while with the stores you have on hand, but they will be soon spent, or become moldy. Gather fresh manna every morning; gather it fresh from heaven. Manna is all very well out of a brother’s omer if I cannot go where it falls, but God’s rule is for each man to fill his own omer. Borrow from books if you will; but do not preach books, but the living word. Get much inward knowledge, and then deal it out.
Secondly, we must seek after a deeper and more experimental acquaintance with the gospel. The word “experimental” is one which theology has manufactured; and it is not correct, for true religion is no experiment. Surely it is a well ascertained fact, a force the result of which may safely be predicted, for no cause more certainly ensures its effect. But we mean “experiential,” or that which groweth out of experience; pardon the uncomely coinage. Does a man know any gospel truth a right till he knows it by experience? Is not this the reason why God’s servants are made to pass through so many trials, that they may really earn many truths not otherwise to be apprehended? Do we learn much in sunny weather? Do we not profit most in stormy times? Have you not found it so — that your sick-bed — your bereavement — your depression of spirit, has instructed you in many matters which tranquillity and delight have never whispered to you? I suppose we ought to learn as much by joy as by sorrow, and I hope that many of my Lord’s better servants do so; but, alas, others of us do not; affliction has to be called in to whip the lesson into us. Brethren, a minister who handles the word of God as one who has tried and proved it is known at once by his congregation. Even the unconverted know the touch of the practiced surgeon of souls. If a woman who never nursed anybody before were to come to your bedside to attend to you during an illness you would find it out without being told. But mark the skilled nurse.
Note the wonderful way in which she makes up your pillow! What an art she has in putting on the bandages! How downy are her fingers when she touches the wounded flesh! And if she has ever been afflicted as you now are how pleasantly she says, “Ah, I know how you suffer. I understand that feeling; for I have felt the same.” Why you feel that nurse to be the very one you needed. There is a way of talking about the gospel and its privileges and duties in a style which does not come home to the heart at all. I once read the following criticism upon a certain preacher. I do not think it was at all just as applied to that minister and so I shall not mention his name, but the remarks were as follows: — “He preaches as if you had no father or mother, no sister or brother, no wife or child, no human struggles and hopes; as if the great object of preaching was to fill you with Biblical pedantry, and not to make the man better, wiser, stronger than before. Perhaps it may be, because this is the case, that the church is so thronged. You need not tremble lest your heart be touched, and your darling sin withered up by the indignant denunciations of the preacher. He is far away in Revelation or in Exodus, telling us what the first man did, or the last man will do; giving you, it may be, a creed that is scriptural and correct, but that does not interest you; that has neither life, nor love, nor power; as well adapted to empty space as to this gigantic Babel of competition, and crime, and wrong, in which we live and move.”
Such a criticism would justly apply to many preachers. They do not treat the gospel as a practical thing, or as a matter of fact which immediately concerns the people before them. If the gospel referred only to certain unclothed humanities in the bush of Australia, they could not themselves appear to be less interested in it. A pleading experimental sermon from them we could not expect, nor even the simple gospel, except so far as they may occasionally condescend to men of low estate by abusing themselves from the serenity’s in which their highnesses exist in order to consider a few of the depravities of the lower classes. This will never do.
No, we must have personal experience of the things of God. As to our own depravity we must feel it and mourn it; and as to the glorious power of the grace of God and the wondrous riches of Christ, we must go on to realize these in our own souls more and more, if we are to preach with power and meet the evils of the times.
I have to say, thirdly, that we must keep to the gospel more continually. I do not know any audience to whom there is less need to say this than to the present; but, still, let us “stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.” It is worth while stirring up that which is pure, the impure will be best let alone. Seeing that ye have these things, let me excite you to have them more abundantly. Often, very often, ought we to teach the simple rudiments of the gospel. It is astonishing, after all the preaching that there has been in England, how little the gospel is understood by the mass of men. They are still children, and have need to be told the A B C of the gospel of Christ. Keep most to those themes, brethren, which are most soul-saving — to those which are practically useful to the people. Keep close to the cross of Christ. Point continually to the atoning sacrifice and to the doctrine of justification by faiths, which, when preached aright, are never preached without the divine approbation. Every truth is important, let it have its due place; but do not suffer many secondary truth to take you away from the first. Aristotle, in his wonderfully unnatural natural history, tells us that in Sicily the herbs in the woods and fields smell so exceeding sweetly that the dogs lose all scent of their prey, and so are unable to hunt.
Let us beware of such herbs. There is to our minds — to mine, I know — a great fascination in poetry, in true science, in metaphysics, and the like; but you, I trust, dear brethren, will prove to be dogs of so keen a scent that the perfume of none of these shall prevent your following closely after the souls of men, for whom you hunt at your Master’s bidding. No doubt many are taken off from the main pursuit, and think, when they have taken to frivolous philosophizing, that they have outgrown their fellow Christians, but be not ye of their mind.
A woman was once very busy in fetching out of her burning house her pictures and her choicest pieces of furniture. She had worked for hours at it, toiling hard to save her little treasures, when on a sudden it came to her mind that one child was missing. One child had been left in the burning house, and when she rushed back again that chamber had long ago been consumed, and the child had, doubtless, perished. Then did she wring her hands, and bitterly bewail her folly. Every bit of furniture that she had saved she seemed to curse, and wished that she had not saved it, because by looking after such poor stuff she had lost her child. Even so every little piece of curious learning and quaint proverb, and deep doctrine that you manage to save from the fire will only accuse your conscience if you let men’s souls perish. We must have them saved, and it is infinitely better that fifty of those admirable discourses upon a difficult point should lie by till we are dead than that we should bring them out and waste fifty Sundays when precious souls are waiting for the good news of mercy. I have often wondered what some sermons were preached for, what design the preacher had in concocting them. I would not suspect the preachers of wishing to display themselves; what else they meant I do not know. Caligula marched his legions with the beating of drums and sounding of trumpets, and display of eagles and banners down to the sea-shore, to gather cockles. And there are sermons of that sort: beating drums and sounding trumpets and flaunting flags, and cockles. A beautiful story is told of the famous Bernard. He preached one day to a congregation with marvelous eloquence and poetic diction; he charmed them all; but when the sermon was done, Bernard was observed to walk away disquieted. He wandered into the wilderness and spent the night alone, fasting because of sadness. The next day, at the time for preaching, he was ready, and delivered himself of a common-place discourse which the great gentlemen who had listened to him the day before thought nothing of, but the poor of the people understood his words and drank them in, and though he heard the censures of the critics, he was observed to walk away with a smile upon his face, and to eat his bread with a merry heart. When one asked the reason, he said, “Heri Bernardum: hodie Jesum Christum. ” “Yesterday I preached Bernard; but today Jesus Christ.” You, my brethren, will feel happy when you have preached unto them Jesus, and, whoever frowns, your sleep will be sweet to you, for your Master has accepted you.
Keep to the gospel, then, more and more and more. Give the people Christ and nothing but Christ. Satiate them, even though some of them should say that you also nauseate them with the gospel. At every meal set out the salt without prescribing how much. If they do not like it (and there are creatures that cannot endure salt), give them all the more, for this is your Lord’s mind.
I would add that in our preaching we must become more and more earnest and practical. That paragraph which I read to you just now concerning a certain divine, must never be true concerning us. We must preach as men to men, not as divines before the clergy and nobility. Preach straight at them. It is of no use to fire your rifle into the sky when your object is to pierce the heart. To flourish your saber finely is a thing which has been done so often that you need not repeat it. Your work is to charge home at the heart and conscience. Fire into the very center of the foe. Aim at effect. “Oh! oh!” say you, “I thought we ought never to do that.” No, not in the perverted acceptation of the term, but in the right sense aim at effect — effect upon the conscience and upon the heart. Some preachers remind me of the famous Chinese jugglers, who not long ago were everywhere advertised. One of these stood against a wall and the other threw knives at him. One knife would be delivered into the board just above his head, and another close by his ear, while under his armpit and between his fingers quite a number of deadly weapons were bristling. Wonderful art to be able to throw to a hair’s breadth and never strike! How many among us have a marvelous skill in missing! “Be not afraid,” says the preacher, “I am never personal, never give home-thrusts.” Stand quite still, my friend! Open your arms! Spread out your fingers! Your minister has practiced a very long while, and he knows how to avoid troubling you in the least with truth too severely personal. Brethren, cultivate that art if you desire to be damned and your hearers also; but if you desire both to save yourselves and them that hear you, cry to your Lord for faithfulness, practicalness, heart-moving power. Never play at preaching, nor beat about the bush; get at it, and always mean business. Plutarch tells us of two men at Athens who were nominated for a public office. One of them was famous for his oratory, and to gain the election he gave a description of what he could and would do if the citizens would choose him. He would have charmed them with his fine promises, but they knew him too well. His rival was a man of few words and simply said, “All that this gentleman has said I mean to do. ” Now, be ye of that kind, not speakers of the word only, but doers also. Have you not heard scores of sermons about the gospel, and about what the gospel is to do? Is it not a grand thing at a public meeting to give a glorious description of what the gospel has accomplished and what it will accomplish, though you have contributed nothing to the grand result? But of what avail is it to preach about the gospel, let us preach the gospel itself. Hope not to alarm the foe by a description of a Krupp-gun, but wheel up your artillery and open fire. Don’t be content with describing conviction of sin, but labor in the power of the Spirit to produce conviction at once. Don’t satisfy yourself by picturing the peace which follows upon believing, but preach the truth which men are to believe, so that they may actually obtain the peace which you describe. We want more of what I call the “doing” preaching, and less of the “talking” preaching. Set yourselves steadily to labor with men even to an agony. Show men their sin. Set it out before them, and say, “Sinner, is not this sin? Are you so blind that you cannot see it. If you cannot see it I will mourn your blindness and pray the ever-blessed Spirit to open your eyes. And do not you see Christ, sinner? I have seen him! It was the most blessed sight I ever beheld, for his wounds are my healing and his death is my life. I have nothing to show you but Christ my master, but a look at him will save you. I will pray the Holy Spirit to illuminate you, but if you do not understand, it shall be the fault of your mind and not of my language.” We have heard sermons preached in which the minister prayed God to save souls, but unless he had departed from his usual laws of procedure it was not possible for the Almighty God to use such discourses for any such purpose, for they have consisted of mere trifling with words, or an exposition of some minute point of opinion, or a philosophizing away of the mind of the Spirit. Pray the Lord to save your hearers, and then drive at them as though you could save them yourself. Trust in God, and then employ such logical arguments as may convince the judgment and such pathetic appeals as may touch the heart, so that if effects depend upon causes you may see them produced, God’s hand being with you.
I need scarcely add to you, brethren, that we must be more and more simple and clear in the preaching of the gospel. I think we are pretty clear and plain already, but sometimes young men are fascinated by some famous preacher whose style is grandiose, sublime, or involved. They see the thing done very splendidly, and as they look on they marvel, and by degrees think they will try that, too; and so they put on the seven-league boots, large enough for them to live in, and the result is ridiculous, nay, worse than that, it is spiritually useless. When a man tries to do the magnificent, with elaborate sentences, and pompous diction, and grandeur of manner, it must and will come to nought. There is also a tendency among some young gentlemen to go off into excessive quotation of poetry.
There are fine young men who probably were born with a rose between their lips, and with a nightingale singing above their bed when first their infant cries were heard, and these are for ever consecrated to the sublime and beautiful. Every breeze wafts to them from the mountains of Araby the sweet odors of poetic thought. “They scarce their mouths can ope But out there flies a trope.” Very fine! very fine, brethren; but do not be beguiled with it. As much as ever you can avoid all artificial oratory, or what simpletons now-a-days mistake for eloquence. The word is shamefully used, but in the common acceptation of the term the most detestable thing is eloquence. Speak from your heart and never mind eloquence. Do not speak after the manner of oratory; speak as a lover of souls, and then you will have eloquence, real eloquence. The oratory which allies itself with the dancing-master, and practices before a looking-glass, and is fond of classical geography, and obscure verses from unknown poets, is for ever to be abhorred by you.
Perishing sinners do not want your poetry, they want Christ. If you are poetical ride on the back of your poetry, but do not let it ride you. What you have to do is to be the means of saving souls, and look you well to that. If soldiers can win a battle and sing sweetly at the same time, by all means let them sing, but if it so happens that while regarding the harmonies they miss a cut at their enemies, let the singing come to an end at once.
There, young warrior, give over your crotchets and quavers and vault into your saddle. I Regard your pulpit as your steed, and dash into the battle like Khaled of old, smiting right and left with dauntless valor; and when you come back you will have more honor from your Master than he who stayed at home to arrange the plumes of his helmet, and then at length rode out bedizened to admiration only to come home like that glorious hero of old time who “marched up a hill and down again.”
I must hasten on to notice that if we are to make the gospel meet the evils of the time, we must be quite sure to exemplify it in our lives when out of the pulpit. I thank God I know, in the case of numbers of brethren here, that the gospel which they preach is illustrated in their lives by their selfdenials and self-sacrifices. It charms me when I hear a brother say, “I left my position to go to one where my income would be twenty pounds a year less, for I felt that there was a wider sphere of usefulness before me, and that I should not be building on another man’s foundation, but conquering new territory for Christ.” I glory in God’s grace as shown in many of you, because of your zeal, your endurance of poverty, and your faith in God.
The Lord will bless you. It delights my soul to think that the spirit of the apostles and martyrs is in many of you. You make sacrifices for Christ and say nothing about them, content to do grandly though none proclaim it. Go on, my brethren, in the name of the Lord. I hope you will not have to suffer more than needs be, but where there is a needs be take you the suffering joyfully. If we cannot conquer without the loss of a few men, do not let us hesitate for a moment. If we cannot take this Malakoff without filling the trench with dead bodies, let us leap in. Let us never shrink from poverty, rebuke, or hard labor; but determine that the old flag shall be carried to the top of the fortress, and, in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, error shall be trodden under foot as straw is trodden for the dunghill. Ah, it is a cause worthy of your utmost zeal, if you could spill your blood in a thousand martyrdoms a day the cause deserves it. It is the cause of God, the cause of Christ, the cause of humanity. Preach the gospel, brethren, preach it all, and preach it with the Holy Ghost sent down from heaven, and you shall yet save this perishing world, but may God help you to live in the spirit of the gospel, or you will fail.
I am afraid that there are some ministers who get into a pulpit, intending there to stick. There is no moving them, and they never move the people. It is sometimes remarked to me, “Some of your men move about a good deal.” “Yes,” I say, “many shall run to and fro, and knowledge shall increase.” I like the self-sacrifice of a man who feels that he can move and will move when he can do more good elsewhere. Never move or stay for selfish reasons, but hold yourself at your great Captain’s beck and call. An old Scotch minister, as he was riding along, saw, according to his own description, something coming which greatly alarmed him. It was a gypsy riding aloft upon an ass which he had loaded high with fagots. The beast which the minister was riding was alarmed as well as its rider, set its feet down very firmly, and put its ears back, after the manner of amiable horses! “And,” said the minister in describing it, “I prepared myself for a fall, so that I fell somewhat more easily.” “But,” said a friend, “I should have got off.” That idea had never crossed the worthy man’s mind. So it is with some ministers, they prepare themselves to be dismissed by their people, but never propose to remove of their own will. It is within my knowledge that a brother, not of our Conference, said to his people, when they were in a most earnest manner endeavoring to get rid of him, “it was the Spirit of God that brought me here, and I shall never go till the Spirit of God leads me to go away, and that will be a very long while. ” The last sentence cast suspicion on all that preceded it, for, surely, he could not foretell what the mind of the Spirit might be. Stay or move, brethren; go to Africa, or America, or Australia, or flit from John o’Groat’s house to the Land’s End, only do accomplish your mission and glorify God. Be holy, be gracious, be prayerful, be disinterested, be like the Lord Jesus: thus only will your lives be consistent with your ministries.
One thing more, and it is this. Let us, dear brethren, try to get saturated with the gospel. I always find that I can preach best when I can manage to lie a-soak in my text. I like to get a text and know its meaning and bearings, and so on; and then, after I have bathed in it, I delight to lie down in it and let it soak into me. It softens me, or hardens me, or does whatever it ought to do to me, and then I can talk about it. Become saturated with spices and you will smell of them. You need not be very particular about the woods and phrases if the spirit of the text has filled you. Thoughts will leap out and find raiment for themselves, a sweet perfume will distill from you and spread itself in every direction — we call it unction. Do you not love to hear a brother speak who abides in fellowship with Jesus. Even a few minutes with such a man is refreshing, for, like his Master, his paths drop fatness. Dwell in the truth and let the truth dwell in you. Be baptized into its spirit and influence that you may impart thereof to others. If you do not believe the gospel do not preach it, for you lack an essential qualification; but even if you do believe it, do not preach it until you have taken it up into yourself as the wick takes up the oil. So only can you be a burning and a shining light. Personally to me the gospel is something more than a matter of faith: it has so mingled with my being as to be a part of my consciousness, an integral part of my mind, never to be removed from me.
If stretched upon the rack I might be weak enough in the extremity of pain to say that I did not believe the truth; but I could not help believing it still.
Faith in the old orthodox creed is not a matter of choice with me now. I am frequently told that I ought to examine at length the various new views which are so continually presented. I decline the invitation: I can smell them, and that satisfies me. I perceive in them nothing which glorifies God or magnifies Christ, but much that puffs up human nature, and I protest that the smell is enough for me. “Should all the forms that men devise Assault my faith with treacherous art, I’d call them vanities and lies, And bind the gospel to my heart.” I hope the truths of the gospel have become our life: experience has incorporated them with our being. Be laid low with pain, and nothing will then suffice you but gracious realities. Bind philosophy around an aching heart, and see if it will relieve the agony. Take a draught of modern thought, and see if it will cure despair. Go to sick beds, where men are looking into eternity, and see if the principles of the skeptical school can help the sick to die in triumph.
Brothers, I beseech you keep to the old gospel, and let your souls be filled with it, and then may you be set on fire with it. When the wick is saturated, let the flame be applied. Fire from heaven is still the necessity of the age.
They call it “go,” and here is nothing which goes like it, for when it kindles upon a prairie or a dry forest all that is dry and withered must disappear before its terrible advance. May God himself, who is a consuming fire, ever burn in you as in the bush at Horeb. All other things being equal, that man will do most who has most of the divine fire. That subtle, mysterious element called fire — who knoweth what it is? It is a force inconceivably mighty. Perhaps it is the motive force of all the forces, for light and heat from the sun are the soul of power. Certainly fire, as it is in God, and comes upon his servants, is power omnipotent. The consecrated flame will, perhaps, consume you, burning up the bodily health with too great ardor of soul, even as a sharp sword wears away the scabbard, but what of that?
The zeal of God’s house ate up our Master, and it is but a small matter if it consume his servants. If by excessive labor we die before reaching the average age of man, worn out in the Masters service, then, glory be to God, we shall have so much less of earth and so much more of heaven.
And suppose we should be abused, misrepresented, and slandered for Christ’s sake, then glory be to God that we had a reputation to lose for his sake, and blessed be our Lord who counted us a worthy to do it. Be on fire within yourselves with perfect consecration to God, and then you will blaze in the pulpit.
There are the evils, brethren. I have tried to set them forth; you will not forget them. But we have only one remedy; preach Jesus Christ, and let us do it more and more. By the roadside, in the little room, in the theater, anywhere, everywhere, let us preach Christ. Write books if you like, and do anything else within your power; but whatever else you cannot do, preach Christ. If you do not always visit your people (though I pray God you may not be blameworthy there) yet preach. The devil cannot endure gospel preaching, nothing worries him so much as preaching. The pope cannot bear it, nothing makes him so ill as preaching. Preaching is our great weapon — use it perpetually. Preaching is the Lord’s battering-ram, wherewith the walls of old Babylon are being shaken to their foundations.
Work on with it, brothers, work on. Preach, preach, preach, preach, preach, preach, till you can preach no more, and then go above to sing the praises of God in heaven, and make known to the angels the wonders of redeeming love.
ADVERTISING FOR THE DEVIL.
THERE are many well-meaning people in the world who do a good deal of gratuitous advertising for Satan. They seem to doubt whether anything is settled until they settle it; and so they go to work disputing with unseen opponents, and confuting in the pulpit theories which, to most of their hearers, are as unknown and unintelligible as Sanscrit.
A minister expressed great surprise at seeing an objectionable book on the table of a friend, but was informed that his curiosity was excited by the minister’s denouncing the book on the previous Sunday, and at once he went and bought it.
We shall do well to remember that our harvest depends upon the amount of wheat which we sow, and not upon the number of tares which, we pull up. We may work ourselves to death in trying to undo what Satan has done, and we shall find him at last too agile for us to overtake him. We shall do better to work for God with all the energy of devout and devoted hearts, trusting him to bless his own Word, and bring to naught the devices of evil men and devils.
An earnest writer has well said: “Teachers have better work than to advertise the devil’s nostrums.” The best way, as a rule, to preach down error, is to preach up truth. Fill the mind and saturate the soul with the truth of God’s word, and there shall be no room for error. Seldom attack error directly; but if you throw down the gauntlet to the devil, be sure you give him a deadly lunge. Error is a plant of such prolific growth, that the more you try to pull it up by the roots, the more you will cause them to sprout. Sow ‘the good seed of the kingdom’ in every spot of the ground, and you will choke out and keep out error by the presence of truth. We have paid too much respect to Satan. We owe him nothing but contempt and disobedience. Let us stop abusing the devil and the pope, and begin in good earnest to teach God’s word. If that word abide in us richly, if we teach it fully, we shall have little occasion to mourn over the power of error. “Never before has God more signally honored his own Word. Never before was the Bible more bitterly opposed; never before was it so tenderly loved and widely read as now. Never before was prayer more questioned; never before was prayer more graciously answered. Truth is mighty; as God lives it will prevail. Let us believe it, teach it, and live it. Let us fill the minds of our children with the truths of God’s word; and by his blessing, new trophies to redeeming grace shall be won in every class. ” — From the Boston “Christian. ” THE COLLEGE REPORT FOR 1876-77 BY C. H. SPURGEON IT becomes more difficult every year to prepare a Report for our friends, because we have already said all that can be said, and said it in several ways. Our College is now in middle life, and this is at once the most laborious and the least romantic period of existence. We are quietly plodding on, doing nothing new, but persevering in downright hard work.
Very prosaic, but at the same time very fruitful, is the history which can be thus summarized. We have gone on now for twenty years, aiding our young brethren to preach the gospel more intelligently, and we are by no means weary of the work, or shaken in our conviction as to its extreme necessity; but, on the contrary, we are more than ever wedded to the service, and are resolved so long as we live to continue in it. Our plans and methods are the same as at the first, because we have not been shown any reason for altering them, but have accumulated proofs of their efficiency.
Instead of drawing back or changing our course, we are taking counsel for the continuance of the Pastors’ College when we shall have ended our own personal career; and there are indications that the Lord will enable us to place the institution upon a permanent footing for generations yet to come.
Although there is nothing in mere plodding perseverance which can furnish matter for a sensational report, yet there is sterling value in it. Many can start an institution (for we have seen it done), but they lose their breath after a little running, and either let the work die, or turn it over to others, and try something newer and more dazzling. It has been our privilege to be associated with brethren who are not given to change, but are endowed with patient continuance in well doing, and so the College holds on its way without faltering. It is our duty to render praise to God for this, for whoever the laborers may be, he only can establish the work of our hands upon us. He only could have raised us up so many generous and faithful friends by whose liberality we are enabled to carry on the work, and he only could have sent success to the men who have gone forth. To him be grateful praise.
During the year the number of students has been greater than ever; it constantly varies, but it has reached at one time as many as one hundred and ten, but the funds have increased in like proportion, and there has been no lack. Men have been forthcoming in such large numbers as to enable us to make a very careful and jealous selection without fear of running short of accepted students. The men now with us are equal to any former body of brethren we have ever had, and many of them are preachers of great promise. Our brother and all the tutors have been spared to us in excellent health, and everything has worked as we could desire.
The Evening Classes, in which men who desire to serve the Lord can obtain a gratuitous education, have been very efficiently conducted, have gathered up large numbers of young men, and have been a great source of supply to the College, besides sending out colporteurs, city missionaries, lay preachers, Sabbath-school teachers, and workers of all sorts. Between two and three hundred names are on the books of this Christian Working Men’s College, and a fine spirit prevails among them.
We have now been able to purchase the freehold of the College, which was before held upon lease for eighty years, of the Ecclesiastical Commissioners, and we have put the property in trust, together with a sufficient sum to pay the rates and keep it in repair. This is a very glad event to the President, and he begs his friends to unite with him in gratitude to God. No debt, no rent, and virtually no rates: the College is thus housed by the gracious Lord, who has removed all difficulties and sent all supplies in answer to prayer. Our trustees are the brethren who conduct the Orphanage, and are at our side in every good work — in fact, the deacons of the church at the Tabernacle.
An old friend of the College sent us the other day the following remarks, which he thought should be incorporated in the Report, although he wished us to put them into other language. We shall not, however, hammer them on our anvil, but give them just as we received them, for we could not improve them. “The wisdom and grace of God in the institution of this College are increasingly manifested every year. Such a necessity for its existence could not be foreseen by its first promoters. That there was some need for its origin for a better provision for the plain preaching of a plain gospel was seen and felt, but little did they think that a departure from the true faith would have proceeded so rapidly as to render this College so needful for the preservation of the old gospel as it has now become. ‘This is the Lord’s doing, it is marvelous in our eyes.’ It was the Lord’s doing that the President was led to the idea of a Pastors’ College. It is the Lord’s doing that young men in exact conformity with that idea have been provided. It is the Lord’s doing that they have zealously and unitedly acquiesced in the instructions that have been given them. It is the Lord’s doing that spheres of usefulness have been presented to them. It is the Lord’s doing that they have faithfully adhered, almost without exception to the doctrines for the maintenance of which this College was raised up both by God and man. It is the Lord’s doing that those doctrines have been preached by them with unexampled success, and in few, if in any, instances in vain. Some have ranked among the foremost for distinction and usefulness in the denomination, the majority are increasingly influential and of solid worth, and the humblest of them are not less qualified for their own particular spheres. ‘This also cometh forth from the Lord of hosts, who is wonderful in counsel and excellent in working.’ “It is wonderful indeed that such a gospel should have been provided for lost and helpless men, and that it should please God by the foolishness of preaching (not by foolish preaching, but, by what to wise men after the flesh may seem foolishness), to save them that believe; but having instituted this method of salvation it is not wonderful that this alone should receive the divine sanction and blessing. It is not wonderful that the plain and earnest preaching of a pure gospel should have the greatest influence upon the minds and hearts of men, because it alone comes within the promise for that end. Effects there may be of a certain intellectual and moral worth from other preaching, but in proportion as they are the result of real gospel teaching, in that proportion only will they give real peace to the soul. It is by confining themselves almost exclusively to the fundamental doctrines of the gospel that the students from this College have awakened unusual interest, and have been favored with unusual success. They owe their prominence in no small degree to the omissions of others. With or without learning and eloquence, they have shown what are the truths that are most blessed for the conversion of sinners and the consolation of the saved.
Presented as living truths in their own experience, they have been received as such by others. Such, we are thankful to say, have been the results of the College, and such they continue to this day. “Hitherto the College has been gradually increasing. Last month it was twenty years old, and it may now be considered to have nearly attained its full growth. There is a certain size for everything, in which it becomes most complete and most conducive to its own ends, It is so with flowers and trees, with animals and men, with families and nations, and communities of every kind. It is not less so with colleges. Universities do not furnish the best examples for religious purposes. The amalgamation of dissenting colleges has not answered the expectations that led to its formation. The Pastors’ College is limited by its accommodation and its relation to a single pastorate, and, having come up to those limits, may be considered providentially to have arrived at its full growth. No great advance of its funds will be henceforth required, but only that they be well sustained.
Already its supply of pastors is in excess of all the other Baptist colleges combined. It has outlived the jealousies and fears awakened by its first appearance, has gained the confidence of kindred institutions, and been recognized as an established power for great good both in the church and the world. “If such have been the achievements of its youth, much more may be expected from its manhood. What if all that has hitherto been done by its instrumentality were undone! Where would the majority of the 380 men have been who have now successfully engaged, and some for many years, in the Christian ministry? No provision was made for them in other colleges, so that in all human probability they would have remained in the same private capacity, and upon the same level from which they came amongst us. Where would the many chapels have been that have been erected for their use, the new churches which have been formed, and the old churches which have been revived by their instrumentality? Where would the many souls have been if all that has been effected through their instrumentality were now to be undone? How many would have to quit their glorious high thrones in heaven, put off their spotless robes, lay down their golden harps, resign their crowns, and leave their blest abodes for regions of sorrow and despair? How many thousands of rejoicing pilgrims to the heavenly Jerusalem must go back to the world of sin and sorrow from whence they came? How many who have been comforted by their ministrations must resume their old burdens, and return to their perplexities and fears? How many awakened by their faithful appeals must return to their former indifference, without God and without Christ in the world?
The change would be felt by many in all lands, and when to these considerations we add the saving benefits which these many thousands may have conveyed, or may hereafter convey, to others, the blessings resulting from the College are incalculable. It is not an unfair method of argumentation thus to suppose all that has been done by the College to be undone. If we would know the benefit which the earth derives from the sun for a single day, we have only to suppose its light for that one day to be withheld; or the benefit of refreshing showers in a time of drought:, we have only to suppose all their quickening and reviving influence to be withdrawn. To know the value of health, and outward mercies of any kind, we have only to think what we should have been, and where we should have been, without them. Why may we not judge in the same way of all spiritual good, with all the additional force it acquires from that good abiding for ever? Should the college now in its twenty-first year expire, it will not have lived in vain; but it has, we trust, a long life of a yet more vigorous and effective manhood before it, and its past benefits will prove but the dew of its youth in comparison with the showers of blessings which are stored up in it for many ages yet to come.”
THE COLLEGE REPORT FOR 1876-7.
BY C. H. SPURGEON (CONTINUED) WHILE diligently considering how we could give variety to our reports it occurred to us that it would be a new feature to print extracts from the letters which we have received. Our joy in reading the budget of epistles from all parts of the earth has been very great, and we hope that our thousands of donors will share therein. We feel deeply grateful to all our brethren who so kindly sent in accounts of their work. To print all would need a large pamphlet, and as we cannot afford that, we have picked a little here and there, leaving quite as good behind.
We shall intersperse our own notes and remarks as we cull from these letters.
It is with much pleasure that we see our beloved but much afflicted brother Archibald Brown still prospering abundantly in the great house which he has been enabled to build, and we are glad to see that London has gained other successful workers from our ranks, some of whom occupy leading positions. Mr. Cuff is urging on his great enterprise at Shoreditch, Mr. Collins has come to John Street, Bedford Row, and Mr. Bax to Salters’ Hall, while such brethren as Mr. Tarn, of Peckham, Mr. White, of Talbot Tabernacle, Mr. Sawday, of Pentonville, Mr. Inglis, of Victoria Park, are a few among many soul-winners who are favored with memorable success in our great city.
The ancient church of Broadmead, Bristol, has had a season of great prosperity under Mr. Gange; a few sentences will show what material progress has been necessitated by the spiritual advance. “We are enlarging Broadmead for the second time since my pastorate commenced. ‘The old chapel remained for over 200 years the size it was when built. We enlarged it five years ago, and are now spending 2,500 upon it. This will bring the old, long-hidden meeting-house out into a public street, so that Broadmead is now visible for the first time; and it will give us 400 more sittings, making ours one of the largest chapels in the provinces.”
Other churches in Bristol have their song to sing, and we only omit mention of them from want of space, but the good secretary of the church in Thrissel! Street has sent us such an excellent account of God’s blessing upon Mr. Osborne’s pastorate there, that we must give it entire. “It is with great joy and thanksgiving that we send this our first report to you, and though we have for many years ‘lien among the pots,’ yet we can rejoice that God has indeed been mindful of us, and, like the dove, our wings are receiving the sprinklings of gold and silver. Thrissell Street Chapel, the only Baptist cause in a district containing 40,000 inhabitants, has for many years been in a very dead and desolate condition, but we bless and praise our heavenly Father that, in the answer to the prayers of some of his children whose minds were stirred up with anxiety concerning the state of this cause, there has been a grand revival. The Pastor, who had been settled here over thirty years, resigned a little more than two years since, when the few, who had for a long time sorrowed and moaned over their condition, immediately set themselves to prayer that God would cause the light of his countenance to shine upon them, which prayer was answered by his sending amongst us our present beloved Pastor, the Rev. W. Osborne, a choice for which we have not had cause, to regret but to abundantly praise and give thanks. In the first place, our present Pastor came to a church in which there was no organization, certainly there was a school, but it was far from being in a working and satisfactory condition. Twelve months since one of our present deacons was led to take the leadership of the Bible Class which at that time numbered only twelve, but which now, by the blessing of God, numbers over 100, and out of which twenty have been received into the church. Another one of our deacons was led to organize a Tract Society which now is in thorough working order, and tracts are every week distributed in between twenty and thirty districts. Our next anxiety was concerning the School, but after much prayer we were able to see our way clear, difficulties were removed, and one of our earnest working brethren was led to take the superintendence of this agency, the result of which gives us great cause for thanksgiving, and we are rejoicing in the fact that not a few are deeply anxious concerning their souls eternal welfare. For several years previous to Mr. Osborne coming into our midst the baptistery had been closed, but at the end of the first month it was opened, and since that it has been regularly opened every month, with but two exceptions, which were owing to repairs and cleaning.
As you will see by the Report, seventy-six fresh members have been added to the church. We have also been enabled to thoroughly clean and renovate the Chapel and Schoolrooms, and, instead of being a dead church where all seem sleeping, we have a church full of workers, anxious for the salvation of sinners. Our Pastor’s earnestness and zeal in his work, together with his geniality, seemed to have sent an electric current, through the church, and to such an extent has God blessed him in his work that every Tuesday evening he is kept from 8:30 till 10 seeing inquirers. We feel now we want more room, and this is a matter which is occupying our minds at the present, and about which we are earnestly praying for guidance.
In none of these things, however, do we take glory to ourselves, but bless and praise God for his mindfulness of us, and to-day we seem to hear his voice saying to us, ‘For this my son was dead and is alive again; and was lost and is found.’” Many letters of similar character have been read by us, and have made our heart leap for joy, and if we do not print them all, it is not from want of appreciation, but lack of space. The extraordinary success of Mr. Silverton, at Nottingham, the steady work of Mr. Medhurst and other brethren at Portsmouth, and other tempting matters might call for notice, but we forbear.
The smaller churches often receive a larger proportionate blessing than those of greater size: here is a letter from Mr. Smith, Malton, Yorkshire, a brother in feeble health, and, like most of the brethren, with but small income. “When I came down here I found the chapel empty and forsaken by all, with the exception of a few members. For the last ten years the place has been going down. Some could remember a baptism seven years ago of one person, but since then no members were added, and the church had become so low that they came to the conclusion they could not keep open any longer, but the Lord willed it otherwise. I was sent to preach for two Sabbaths as the last trial. I left the Tabernacle with our beloved President’s blessing and his promised prayers. When I arrived at Malton I found, with all effort in posting bills, announcing a student from Mr. Spurgeon’s Tabernacle, only twelve persons were present at the morning service. At the close, I invited all who could to join me and help in an open-air service before the service in the evening. At the time appointed five persons came, and after much earnest prayer for divine help, we took our stand at a point where I could be seen and heard in four of the main streets in the town. We commenced by singing one of Mr. Sankey’s hymns, and to our surprise the people came from every quarter until by the end of our meeting not less than three hundred persons were present. We closed and invited all who did not attend a place of worship to come with us. Our friends led the way and the crowd came too, and that night the Baptist chapel was full, and not only was the chapel filled, but the Lord filled our hearts. We had a good meeting, and good was done.
Many stayed behind for counsel and prayer. I could give you many most interesting and wonderful answers to prayer, and conversions; but I know your limited space, and therefore send you the result of our labor. I have been here one year and a half. Many have found the Lord. I have baptized over fifty persons, and they are useful, active members. We commenced a Bible class; five on the first Sunday, now over a hundred attend every Sunday afternoon. We had a Sunday-school numbering twelve, teachers included. Now we have two hundred and twelve teachers, etc., Our schoolroom is so small, we are hoping to get a new and larger one. Our congregation has not fallen away, but is growing, and at the commencement of this winter some had to go away from want of room. We commenced improvements and enlargements. This has been done and nearly all the sittings let, and we have paid £200 for alteration, cleaning, and repairs. We have £30 yet to pay. When we have done that other things must be done. We commenced a mission station at Old Malton; and it has been very successful, many have been saved there. This year we commenced a local paper called “The Malton Monthly Magazine.” We had four hundred copies monthly; next month we hope to increase to five hundred. We hold thirteen meetings in the week, all well attended, and growing in interest and blessing. We give our heartfelt thanks to the Lord our God who has blessed us and made us a blessing, and pray that we may still go on to glorify his holy name.”
Very interesting is the news from Eastcombe, near Stroud, as showing what can be done in the villages if ministers have spirit and zeal. Mr. Brett and his excellent wife have done grand service to Nonconformity and to the gospel by their united endeavors. “We are surrounded with High Churchism, and the only elementary school was connected with the High Church party. The children who attended were compelled to be ‘christened,’ or refused admittance, and told that they were heathen children. In view of this state of things, my wife and myself resolved to commence a day-school on the British and Foreign School system. We commenced it and taught the children ourselves.
The Lord greatly blessed the effort, and now we have the joy of seeing the matter taken up; and a master has been engaged, who commenced his duties on the 1st inst. We have about seventy scholars, which has left the opposition with about sixteen. We all look to this as a future source of strength to the church and the cause of truth. We shall be tried this year, as funds are low. The preached word has been blessed to the conversion of sinners.
Besides those received into the church during the past year, there are several persons waiting for baptism, and we have hopeful signs of may others. The congregation steadily increases. The week evening meetings are very well attended. There is evidently a spirit of hearing amongst the people. The Sunday-school is in a prosperous condition. During the past two years it has increased in numbers about forty, The church during the same period has increased by nearly fifty members. We have a night school, which has done much to check the influence of the Conformists. The temperance work in which we have engaged has given us more influence with the people, and has made many homes happier. We have been enabled to clear off nearly all the debt of about £200, besides paying for a new heating apparatus, and repairs done to chapel, etc. We bless God for what we have been enabled to do for him. Our strength has been sorely tried sometimes with meetings every evening during the week, Saturday inclusive, and always five meetings on Sunday; but our heavenly Father has been faithful, and has given strength equal to our day. We feel, after all, but very little has been done compared with what is to be done.”
Villages where there are living churches and an earnest ministry become themselves centers of influence for the hamlets around, but the village bishop’s office is no sinecure, as witness the work needed to carry on the operations of the church at Eythorne, in Kent. “To write a complete record of the work here during the year would be to write a small volume, as will be seen by a simple statement of the various agencies in operation amongst us. First on the list is the work in Eythorne itself, with three Sunday services, Sunday-school, and prayer meetings. Next may be mentioned the chapel at Ashley, at a distance of two miles, where preaching services, Sunday-school, and week-evening meetings are regularly conducted. We have also a chapel at Eastry, four miles distant, where preaching services, Sunday-school, prayer-meetings, and various classes are most successfully carried on. Then, seven miles off, is our chapel at Barnswell, where Sunday services and school are constantly maintained. In addition to the work at these Chapels we have regular Sunday and week-evening services at Barfrestone, two miles off; Adisham, five miles; and Woodnesborough, seven.
Though the increase in the membership of the church has not been large during the year, the spirit of hearing is greater, the congregations being much larger at most of the chapels, and especially at Eythorne. We have a good earnest brother constantly working as colporteur, who is also an acceptable supply at our village stations, taking his turn with the pastor and the local preachers in the church. Many interesting facts might be mentioned in connection with the work, but, fearing to trespass on the President’s valuable time, a simple outline of the sphere of labor must suffice.”
Churches in a low estate have been greatly revived in scores of cases, and this is almost as difficult and quite as important a work as to found new interests.
Here is a letter which refers to Mr. West’s work in Boston: “If our statistics are to me unsatisfactory, yet we have had a year of what my people call ‘great prosperity.’ [The people are quite right, for there is a clear increase of thirty-one.] When I settled in January last year the cause was very low, not more than forty people meeting together in the morning, and the high pews rendering them almost invisible. We have since repewed the chapel, and substituted a platform for the old pulpit, in which I felt too near the skies to be in sympathy with the people; and now we have a comfortable place of worship. Our congregations have greatly increased, and in the evening our chapel is filled. The spiritual condition of the church is much better, and although we are still very imperfect, yet we are getting into some- thing like working order. We have had several conversions and baptisms; amongst others three men and their wives.”
The following is from Smethwick: “When I came here, in July last, the church was in a very low condition, and consisted of fifty members, the average congregation being about the same. This was exceedingly distressing in a large population of about thirty thousand souls, and especially as this is the only Baptist church representing that vast number of people.
But although our numbers were small, yet there were some warm and earnest hearts among the people who mourned over the low state of the church, and longed for its increased prosperity. For some few weeks matters did not seem to improve, until one Thursday night I preached from the words, ‘Though thy beginning be small, yet thy latter end shall greatly increase.’ This seemed to be the dawn of brighter days to our church, and after the service I met together with some earnest brethren, and organized a house to house visitation, as we knew that more than one-half the population attended no place of worship. This was successfully carried out in direct answer to prayer; our congregation began greatly to increase, and many came forward to offer themselves for baptism. Since that time the church and congregation have steadily increased, and the number of additions reported on the accompanying form (namely, 49) does not nearly represent the direct evidence which we have had of God’s blessing. There are many now who are still waiting for baptism, and a large number are anxiously inquiring. Amongst other special efforts that have been made there is one that has been particularly blessed, that is, a special service in the Public Hall for working men. We there had a congregation of nearly 700 of the working classes, the majority of whom attended no place of worship, and they listened earnestly and attentively whilst I preached very simply and plainly upon the conversion of Saul of Tarsus. We have had many tokens for good resulting from that service, and I shall be under the mark if I say that it was the means of a permanent increase to our congregation of 50 of the working men. There is a great deal of interest now amongst the people in reference to the subject of baptism, that point never having before been brought prominently to the front. It is then with much joy that I can speak of the work here, and there is only one thing which is a serious drawback to us, that, is, we have not sufficient accommodation for our services. We have no school-room, consequently the Sunday-school is compelled to be carried on in the chapel. We have nearly 200 children, and if we had accommodation the number could at once be increased to four or five hundred. The chapel also is much too small for the congregation; it seats about 850, and generally on Sunday evenings we have 500 people there, as the aisles and every available place are occupied; even then many are often unable to gain admittance.
We have decided to erect both chapel and schools, the former to seat about 800 people, but our great difficulty is want of funds.”
Our brethren have been remarkably successful in raising new churches, but we can only give one typical instance, which will show how much the operation of breaking up new ground calls for liberal help from Christian friends, for at the first the young churches are seriously tried by financial difficulties, and we often marvel as we see them weather the storm. If friends would come forward with means, we know of scores of towns where we are as yet unrepresented, and where the presence of Baptists would be a means of benefit to all the other communities, stirring them up to greater zeal, if nothing else. Where are the Lord’s stewards who will aid us in home and foreign missionary operations? This is the case we have selected. “You will doubtless remember that in 1873, Mr. H. C. Field undertook the joint pastorate of Burslem and Newcastle, with the object of working both places up to the position of independent support, i.e., for each church to have a pastor entirely to itself. This object has been reached this year, Mr. Field settling here entirely in July; Newcastle having just secured the services of BrotherG. Dunnett from the College. In this we gratefully rejoice, having realized our object in three years’ time. During the same period our progress in other matters has been very encouraging. In 1873, at Burslem, we had only 24 members and a small iron chapel, which would only seat 120 at the utmost, and which place was only worth £55 when it came into the market; now we rejoice over a membership of 59 and a beautiful tabernacle in course of erection, to seat 400 persons, at a cost, with land, of £2,200, half of which sum we have raised. The foundation was laid, and the ceremony took place, on September 5th, the receipts of the day being £150.
We are worshipping until the new tabernacle is finished in the Wedgwood Institute, and can rejoice over increased congregations; our increase to church this year has been 18, and after deducting losses by death, dismission, etc., we have a clear gain of 13. The Newcastle church while in union with us was enabled to reduce its debt of £600 to £320, and to raise its membership 24 to 51.
In many cases the reports are quietly worded, but mean very much, as those friends know who are upon. the spot. We know of no work more solid than that done by Mr. Lauderdale, at Grimsby, and by Mr. Durban, at Chester. Here are the simple records. “The church at Grimsby is abiding in the blessing of God. A deep interest in the work is very manifest. We have not seen all we desire or hope to see, but do not believe for a moment that we shall be disappointed in our expectation, for our expectation is from Him.
We are erecting a new chapel in the chief street, and in a most eligible position, which will accommodate about 400 more than the one we now worship in. The latter will be retained, if possible, for school-room and lecture-hall, a want long felt. We have scholars, but with the larger space we could have as many more.
Toward the chapel our own friends have contributed nearly £2,000 during the past year, and the ladies are working hard to increase the funds. The entire cost will be about £5,000. The whole of our attention therefore must of necessity be centered in this great work.
Help is much needed.” “The Baptist church at Chester, under the pastorate of W. Durban, is now well and fairly established, the membership being steadily on the increase. We are newer without some happy conversions, and the church is among the most harmonious of communions. A new chapel is likely to be built this year, and altogether the prospects are full of promise and encouragement.” [The Duke of Westminster has given the ground, his architect has prepared the plans, and the building will be a credit to the denomination.] Thus could we fill page after page, but these specimens will suffice. During the year we have sent out Mr. Hamilton to the Cape of Good Hope, where no Baptist Church existed, and his success has greatly cheered us. He says: “On Nov. 29, 1876, we began the church with 22; now we have 44, and more applicants. Our Sabbath-school has 50 children, and 10 teachers. The attendance at all the services is good. There is a meeting for prayer or preaching every day of the week.”
At the request of the friends in Christchurch, New Zealand, we sent them Mr. Dallaston, who has been received with open arms, and has the happiest prospects before him.
Our brethren in America, who are now numerous, appear to be usefully and successfully engaged, but they find as many difficulties in the States as others do at home. Letters of the most cheering character have, however, come from some of them.
The Australian brethren are doing well, and are not unmindful of “the old house at home.”
During the year the brethren settled over the poorer churches have again participated in the bounty of a friend “unknown yet well known,” who counts it a great pleasure to aid those who labor among a poor people.
Mrs. Spurgeon’s Book-fund has also been eminently helpful to the libraries of many who, without its assistance, would have no new reading to keep their thoughts fresh, and inspire renewed zeal. Our friends, when they find their exchequer in a healthy condition, cannot do better than assist our beloved wife in this most useful department of service. To give a preacher new books is like putting fuel upon a fire, or watering a drooping plant.
We end abruptly, but not without again praising the Lord, who has used a feeble instrumentality to produce results exceeding abundant above what we asked or even thought.
A THOUGHT FOR THE BELIEVER
“As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgression from us.” — Psalm 103:12.
RUMINATING upon this text the other day, it came to me with a peculiar sweetness after this fashion: “As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from” — himself? Yes, that is true, but the text says, “from us,” from us. And this was what passed through my mind — “Then my sin is gone away from me , from me ! Here am I, fretting that I am not what I should be, and groaning and crying before God about a thousand things; but, for all that, there is no sin upon me; for, ‘As far as the east is from the west, so far hath he removed our transgressions from us .’
From ourselves our sins have gone; from us, as well as from his book, and from his memory, they have been removed. “But I committed them,” says one. Ah, that you did. Your sin was yours, yours with a vengeance! It was like that poisoned tunic which Hercules put on, which he could not drag from him let him do what he might, but which burned deep into his flesh and bones. Such were your transgressions. You could not tear them off.
But God has taken them off — every one of them — if you have believed in Jesus; and where is that tunic of fire now? Where is it? It shall be sought for, but it shall not be found, yea, it shall not be, saith the Lord. It is gone for ever. I sometimes see believers troubling themselves as if all their sins were laid up like a treasure in an iron safe in some part of their house. It is not so; it is not so. Your guilt is carried to an infinite distance, and will never be charged against you. The eternal God has removed your sins, and they are removed; be ye sure of this. They are all gone; gone for ever; Satan may stand and howl for accusers, and say, “Come forth and accuse the child of God!” and you yourself may inwardly fear that they will come, and therefore you may put on your filthy garments, and go in before the great judge, and stand there like a wretched criminal about to be tried. But what does Jesus say when he comes into the court? He says, “Take away his filthy garments from him!” What right has he to put them on; for I have taken them away from him long ago with my precious blood? Take them off! Set a fair miter on his head. This is one whom I have loved and cleansed: why does he stand in the place of condemnation, when he is not condemned and cannot be condemned, for there is now no condemnation?
Ah, we many times go down into the hold of the vessel and there we lie amongst the cargo, and the ship-men put the hatches on, and there we are, half stifled, when we might as well come up on the quarter deck and walk there, full of delight and peace. We are moaning and fretting ourselves, and all about what does not really exist. I saw two men, yesterday, handcuffed and marched to the prison-van to be taken off to gaol. They could not move their wrists for they were manacled. Now, suppose I had walked behind them, holding my wrists in the same way, never opening my hands, nor stirring them, but crying, “I once had handcuffs on.” And suppose it was said, “Well, but are they not taken off?” and I were to reply, “Yes, I have heard that they are gone, but somehow, through habit, I go about as if I wore them still,” — would not everybody say, “Why, that man must be insane!” Now you, child of God, once had the handcuffs on; your sins were upon you; but Jesus Christ took them off. When you believed in him, he took the fetters away; why do you go about in bondage? “I am afraid!” say you. What of, man? What of? Are you a believer and afraid of your old sins? You are afraid of things which do not exist. Your sins are so gone that they cannot be laid to your charge. Will you rise to something like the truth of your position? You are not only pardoned, but you are an accepted child of God. Go to your Father with joy and thankfulness, and bless him for all his love to you. Wipe those tears away, smooth those wrinkles from your brow: take up the song of joy and gladness, and say with the apostle Paul, “Who shall lay anything to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth. Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.” — C. H.S.THE CONFESSIONAL.
ACCORDING to the papers a certain reverend “curate in charge” in the south has recently alluded to the subject of confession in the following select and instructive terms. He says: — “Let them come boldly to God’s appointed priest to receive absolution. They did not know what a tender tie would soon spring up between themselves and him — a tie more lender than ever existed between husband and wife or any other relation. ” This is very frank language and deserves to be well weighed. We do not dispute the truth of the assertion, but, on the contrary, believe it to be only too true. Who are the husbands whose wives are to be bound to the reverend father by this tender tie? With this warning before them are they going each one to march down to the church with his wife on his arm and see the good gentleman who intends to form this tender tie. Will the fathers and brothers of England also contemplate this tying process with cool satisfaction? Is our nation, given up to a deadly lethargy upon the matter of popery, and will they allow these false priests for ever to go on from one thing to another till they fetch over the Pope and his cardinals, red hats and blazing stakes and all?
We are among those who would as warmly defend the liberty of a Catholic as we would our own, but liberty is not license, neither does liberty give leave to a servant to act as a master. The clergy are bound to do the religion of the nation in the way which the nation prescribes, and it has never yet, either by an Act of Parliament or by any other mode of expression, agreed to the practice of auricular confession. Summon the men of England and put it “yea” or “nay,” “Shall your wife and daughters confess to the parish clergyman, who calls himself a priest?” and it would be carried in the negative amid much enthusiasm and waving of horsewhips.
Why then are the Ritualistic gentlemen allowed, in the name of the national religion, to carry on a loathsome practice, which has only to be mentioned to excite universal execration? The peace of families can never be maintained while the confessional exists, the word home may as well be left out from the Englishman’s vocabulary when the women of the household have other confidants for their most secret thoughts besides their natural guardians.
The bishops appear to care very little what the papistical party may next proceed to do, legislative enactment’s are also impotent to restrain them; our servants have become our masters, and refuse to perform their functions according to order. What then? Would it not be better to give these gentlemen a quarter’s salary and their full liberty to find other situations? At any rate if we close the Establishment to which they belong if they continue at their pranks they will not then have the national authority to back them up. This “tender tie” business is not to John Bull’s taste, we are quite sure. In the barbarous days of the past a sour apple tree and a less tender tie would have been the reward of any man who tried to “confess” Mr. Bull’s daughters. Happily that period has passed away; but we hope that Paterfamilias will find gentle but equally efficacious ways of protecting the easily beguiled, and will in some way or other put an end to this very “tender tie” business. One of the best ways will be to refrain from entering Anglican mass-houses, and attending only at places where the gospel is preached without the admixture of popish rites. Too many attend Tractarian performances merely to see the embroidery, floriculture, and posturing; but from seeing the softer sort go on to admiring, and thence to accepting. Better cut the connection at once before any of these tender ties are formed. — C. H.S.THE REFINER’S FIRE.
“He is like a refiner’s fire.” — Malachi 3:2 NO sorrowful cross Of sickness or loss, Has in itself virtue to purge away dross.
One furnace alone, With breath of grace blown, Can soften and hallow this heart of a stone.
With delicate Skill, And fuel at will, The Savior refineth and purgeth us still.
His love never tires, But kindles new fires, To burn up, our idols and paltry desires. The dross that will stay In flames of to-day, More fuel tomorrow shall melt it away.
As Fresh scums arise, Fresh faggots he tries, And ever keeps melting, and thus purifies.
Where flesh can’t survive Grace gets a revive, And in a bush burning will crackle and thrive.
Thine heavenly art, Great Chemist, impart, To separate tinsel and dross from my heart.
And let me not dread The furnace to tread, But conquer the world through Jesus my Head. — John Berridge (altered) . The Faith once Delivered to the Saints; or, Doctrinal, Experimental, and Practical Godliness Vindicated and Enforced, and the Errors of the Times Exposed. By the Late John Fox. Elliot Stock.
THE late John Fox must have had a very odd notion of what is meant by cordiality, for he says of his little book, — “To the people, and to the ministry or servants of the various sectarianisms of the present day, this work and labor of love is cordially dedicated by the author.” Grim cordiality this, which begins by describing the churches as “the various sectarianisms.” Equal cordiality towards Baptists and Calvinists will be found all through the book; but the revisers of the work, who knew the author personally, assure us that “any acerbities of expression found in this book were not written in a spirit of bitterness or vindictiveness.” We quite believe it, for it often happens that, persons who write fiercely are among the meekest of men when the pen is out of their hands. We hope that the miniature portraits taken by the late excellent John Fox were more successful as works of art than this volume as a piece of theology. The good man’s portrait of a Calvinist is so far from the truth that we are glad that we never sat to him, for he would probably have depicted us with horns and hoofs. It is among the ironies of history that this book is printed by a firm of sound Calvinistic Baptists, so that it is probable that all the good which will ever come from the production of the miniature portrait painter’s book will fall to the share of one of the men whom he most vehemently denounces. Peace to his ashes! Calvinists can bear such assaults as his with unruffled serenity. Central Truths. By the REV.CHARLES STANFORD.
Hodder and Stoughton; and Power in Weakness, by the same author and publishers.
THE issue of these volumes in plain stiff covers at two shillings and eighteen pence will, we trust, bring them within the reach of many poor men who have hitherto been unable to procure them. The books themselves are too well known to need our commendation. Their chaste style and mellow tone have long ago placed them among the Christian classics. Winds of Doctrine. ByCHARLES ELAM, M.D. Smith, Elder, and Co., 15, Waterloo-place.
THE most absurd theories will have their admirers if they come from men of great scientific attainments. Their speculations will be taken upon the credit of their actual discoveries. But as real wealth often leads to ruinous speculations, so real scientific knowledge often leads to more than ordinary folly. Those to whom we should look for real acquisitions and clear reasonings in natural science are the first to overleap its boundaries and to substitute their own reveries for established facts. They may reason themselves into the descendants of apes and lobsters and material molecules, but have no right, we think, to do so for others. As from nothing man gradually came — so we are required to believe — to nothing he gradually returns. “If this doctrine,” says the book before us, “as now held by a large and powerful section of the scientific world, does indeed, as it professes, afford the only plausible solution of the various problems of ontology, then it follows naturally and of necessity that matter is allsufficient, and that man is an automaton without spirit or spontaneity. Then is our immortality a dream; volition, choice, and responsibility are mere delusions; virtue, vice, right, and wrong are sounds without possible meaning; and. education, government, rewards, and punishments, are illogical and mischievous absurdities. Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we shall be carbonic acid, water, and ammonia.” We are thankful for the author’s scientific refutation of such errors, and are yet more thankful that our own common sense upon these subjects still remains. After Work . A Magazine for Home Reading.WILLIAM POOLE, 12A, Paternoster Row.
AWELL-MEANING magazine, advocating temperance and virtue. It may be useful among working people, but it does not exhibit any very remarkable ability. The Holy War by John Bunyan versified. By E. J. James Nisbet and Co., Berners Street.
IT has often occurred to us that Bunyan’s “Holy War” has received far less attention than it deserves. In metaphysics it is not surpassed by other works upon mental philosophy; nor in experience by other writers upon experimental Christianity. It might have even taken the place of “Pilgrim’s Progress” if it had come out before it. Both allegories are powerfully descriptive of a type of true godliness from which, it is to be feared, the church is fast receding. This poetic version will serve, we hope, to direct fresh attention to the “Holy War.”
NOTES OUR notes this month will be very few, for our College Address occupies all the space. We have to apologize for the great length of our first article, and of the accounts; but it was unavoidable, and we hope our friends have sufficient interest in our work to bear with it.
The College Conference, though a trying occasion to the President, who was incessantly occupied, was one of the most joyful seasons of our life.
The brethren met in great numbers with increased enthusiasm; every meeting was good, for the Lord was there. At Mr. Phillips’ supper more help was given than ever, amounting to over £2,200; and we are most grateful to God, and to all his servants, specially to our bounteous host, and to the generosity of the chairman, and another friend, who gave £200 each. What hath God wrought! We do not look to money power; still money is needed and it has come, and the divine blessing with it.
Of our students Mr. Short, late of Sittingbourne, has gone to Marlborough Crescent, Newcastle: Mr. Ney, Mr. Burt, and Mr. Edgerton from the College to Amersham, Mildenhall, and Beccles.
Our brief reply to the Bishop of Manchester has created no little amusement in the North, for we spoke of the bishop’s wife and daughters, and it appears that the worthy prelate is unmarked. We really are not to blame for that, nor for making the mistake; for on the ground that “a bishop must be blameless, the husband of one wife,” it was not a wild flight of imagination, suppose that the worthy prelate was married. One ferocious writer charges us with gross ignorance for this error, and wonders at our presumption in trying to teach otters: well, we are afraid that upon the important matter of the bishops’ wives and families we are somewhat at sea, and perhaps our critic will direct us to a work which will furnish us with all particulars, with the latest additions.
Any Independent church needing an old-fashioned gospel minister, and an experienced pastor, would we think do well if they were to hear our beloved father, who is at this time without a pastorate. He can be addressed Mr. John Spurgeon, Mount Pleasant, Barnsbury Square, Islington. We insert this without his knowledge, because we hope that some of our Independent readers may know of a suitable sphere for him.
Mrs. Spurgeon has handed us the following letter in reference to her Book Fund, and we beg special attention to it: “My very dear Mr. Editor, — I am able to report the Book Fund ‘very prosperous,’ so far as the distribution of books is concerned, for as the work becomes more widely known the demands increase in number and urgency, and are met by a glad and speedy response; but I regret to say that the funds do not show a corresponding activity and energy, in fact, they are, as our City friends would express it, ‘very dull and greatly depressed.’
So assured, however, am I that the work is the Lord’s, and that he will not suffer it to fail, that I am full of expectancy, and am looking out every day for some fresh proof of his goodness in inclining the hearts of his people to help me in this sorely needed service. Not in vain did I stand by your side when, some time since, you were ‘watching the ebb,’ for I hope I then learned a lesson of patient waiting for the Lord’s good time, which will sweetly avail me in this my hour of need. If you think fit to let our friends know how busy yet how bankrupt I am, it may be the Lord will send me help by the hands: anyhow, in the comfortable confidence that aid will come speedily, I remain, Your very happily, ‘THE MANAGER OF THE BOOK FUND.’” Baptisms at Metropolitan Tabernacle. By Mr. J. A. Spurgeon: — March 26th twenty-one. By Mr. V. J. Charlesworth: April 5th, eight. Advance Thought. ByCHARLES E.GLASS. Trubner and Co., Ludgate Hill.
ADVANCE thought may be in error as well as in truth, and there can be little doubt in the minds of those who understand the difference between them to which the advance here belongs. It is an advance from revelation to reason, and from reason to spiritual medium-ship, as it is here called. The author professes to be inspired as much as the penmen of the sacred oracles. Be it so, but certainly not with the same Spirit. He speaks of “the immense influence which leading minds like that of Jesus, or in our own time that of Thomas Carlyle or J. S. Mill, exercise over mankind,” which may suffice to show that he is not one to whom “discerning of spirits” has been given. We should advise him to beat a retreat rather than advance any further. The Highway of Salvation. By H. K.WOOD.
Hodder and Stoughton, 27, Paternoster Row. AMID so many books pointing downwards, we gladly welcome every addition to those which point out the way upwards to life eternal. The highway of salvation is clearly delineated in this little volume. Elementary as it may be, it may attract some by its numerous anecdotes, both new and old, whose interest might not be awakened by any other means. Memorials of the Life and Work of the Rev. William Johnston, M. A., D.D., Limekilns. William Oliphant and Co., Edinburgh.
THIS same Dr. Johnston was one of the notables in Scotland of the 19th century. He was not a Chalmers, or a Macleod, or a Guthrie, but he was not unworthy to be mentioned in connection with them. He was preeminent both in his pastoral influence and in his public career. He was little known in other countries, but well known in his own land. He was ever in advance of the above-named divines in advocating the most liberal measures of his own times. His memoir, and specimens of his sermons and speeches upon public occasions, are here comprised in one volume. Young ministers will do well to peruse it for the promotion of their own piety and zeal. Our Social Relationships and Life in London. By Rev.WILLIAMBRADEN.
James Clarke and Co., 13, Fleet St. IT is not from what these discourses are, so much as from what they are not, that they are not in full sympathy with our ideas of a gospel ministry.
We could not afford to give up so large a portion of our public teaching almost exclusively to social relationships, and especially in the early part of a ministerial career. Judging from the place which the duties of social life occupy in the teachings of Paul and of Peter, and the instructions given to Timothy upon the subject, and the motives by which they are enforced, excellent as these discourses may be, there is a still more excellent way.
Men do not want to know what their social duties are so much as to be instructed in the gospel principles from which they will spontaneously flow. The Three Caskets, and other Essays. By Miss E. J.WHATELY. W. Hunt and Co., 12, Paternoster-row.
A curious title of fabulous origin is here applied to three principal schools of theology in the present day. The connection between the things and their name is not, we think, very clear or very interesting. This, however, is but a small part of the volume. The essays that follow upon Christian doctrines and duties have that clear ring of gospel truth which will find an echo in every renewed heart. This lady is a better theologian than the majority of preachers in our day. Nor is it for want of ability to comprehend, or of culture to appreciate the various phases of modern thought that the old paths are preferred to the new, for she is fully aware of all the novelties and their arguments. The two chapters upon “Thoughts on Prayer” cannot fail to be helpful even to those who are most familiar with the subject. The composition will bear comparison with our first-rate authors.
We do not make these notes a record of the news of the churches, because all that kind of information our readers have already met with in the weekly papers, and they will have the “cauld kail het again” in several of our contemporaries.
The first week of the May meetings belonged to the Baptists, and it was as happy and enthusiastic a feast of brotherly love as could be well looked for this side heaven. Owing to great changes in the arrangements of our Societies, several brethren were removing from offices long occupied with honor, and therefore there was an unusual amount of thanking and testimonializing, but this was quite unavoidable from the peculiarity of the circumstances and quite unregretable from the excellence of the persons who were the recipients of our denominational honors. It is far better to have too much congratulation than too much contention.
It was a great joy to and that Dr. Landels and his coadjutors had obtained promises of £52,000 towards the Annuity Fund. The proper course will, we hope, be followed promptly, namely, to strike while the iron is hot and get in £80,000, for all will be needed to keep aged ministers from starving.
We know the need; facts upon our memory are almost too bad to be written. Our friends who hold the promises would do well also to remember that they will probably lose 10 per cent. of them. Deaths, removals, failures, and so on, render any subscription which extends over five years, among the best of people, a matter requiring heavy discount.
We are delighted to think that the fund has been so far established, and we both hope and believe that it will be of essential benefit in binding the brethren together; the greater have herein helped the less, and given a pledge to do so in other matters also. The Baptists are no longer a heap of units; we are coming together, cohering and uniting in one, and in all this ultimate designs of God for the spread of his truth are manifesting themselves. Never were the signs more hopeful. God is with us; and the whole brotherhood feel the value and need of that presence. We see everywhere the true evangelic spirit in happy contrast with other quarters where intellect is idolized and novelty of doctrine sought after.
April 26th. The Annual Meeting of the Baptist Missionary Society at Exeter Hall was thoroughly good, and well sustained throughout. The Society’s income has increased, and part of its debt is gone, but it is still in arrears. Annum subscribers of a guinea, or half-a-guinea, are wanted to increase the reliable income. There must be many well-to-do Baptists who are not subscribers, and the heathen are perishing. All through our churches there is a sound missionary spirit but the fire needs stirring.
Brethren! sisters! can we let our mission remain in debt? By the love we bear to our Lord, it must not be. Write Mr. Alfred Baynes, Baptist Mission House, Castle Street, Holborn, London.
May 1st. We had the pleasure of preaching for our friend Dr. Landels at Regent’s Park, and of speaking at a meeting, during which Sir Robert Lush, in the name of the church and congregation, presented our good brother with £1,000. It served him right. Few can conceive how hard he has worked during the past years for the Annuity Fund, and how he has concentrated all his faculties upon the accomplishment of the benevolent purpose. His church has had to put up with a good deal on this account, and it has not only done so most patiently, but, to crown it all, shows its appreciation. of its pastor in this royal fashion. May the happiness of pastor and people abound yet more and more.
It has long been our desire to speak with the merchants and gentlemen of the City of London upon the weighty concerns of religion. The way opened through our being invited to address members of the Stock Exchange at Cannon Street Hotel. The meeting was so successful that we looked round for place to repeat the service, but could find none except the Friends’ Meeting House, Bishopsgate. To the honor of these brethren, conservative as Quakers are apt to be, they lent us their largest meeting-house very freely, and on May 2nd, at one o’clock, we found the house filled with city notables, to whom we spoke of the Claims of God. A few earnest friends had quietly given away tickets, and an audience of 1,000 or 1,200 was thus secured without a single bill or advertisement. On May 8th we had a second assembly of like character, only the feeling was deeper and more evident. It was a grand sight to see those city men — men only, streaming in to the moment, and then listening with discriminating earnestness as we pleaded for faith in Jesus. Brethren in Christ of all denominations surrounded us and begged us to continue such hopeful work. We have arranged for two addresses in June, but, alas, our physical strength has failed us, and while we write this we are laid by the heels in the Lord’s prison-house, whereof the north-east wind is the jailer. The kind brotherliness of the Society of Friends affects our heart; some in that Society are very dear to us. Will brethren in Christ seek for a blessing upon this effort?
May 2nd. Liberation Society Meeting. “Politics at the Tabernacle,” said one. Yes, politics, or anything else when duty calls. While the crown rights of Jesus are insulted by a church taking her laws from Caeser it is not for the world to protest, but for the people of God. Reforms in social arrangements may be left to that common sense of justice which still lives in many, but ecclesiastical crimes are not readily judged by carnal men, and it needs that spiritual men should speak out emphatically where Jesus and his glory as head of the church are concerned. This is not a matter to be left to skeptics and worldlings. We hope that in Scotland the question will be fought out upon religious grounds only, and the keen sense and theological acumen of the people will soon settle the controversy. The meeting at the Tabernacle was enthusiastic to the utmost possible degree; our friends are reckoning upon easy’ and speedy victory — we are not, but victory for the truth will come all in good time, and we are content to struggle on.
We hail with great satisfaction the advance towards a settlement upon the Burials Bill. The subject is not appropriate for party strife, and we do not wonder that the Archbishops felt that to maintain the exclusiveness of the past was not desirable, either from a Christian or ecclesiastical point of view. Dissenters must see to it that whatever is done is done thoroughly to prevent future heart-burnings. Although we are not among the sensible dissenters who accepted an invitation to Lambeth Palace, we are nevertheless fully confident that the Archbishop of Canterbury desires to conciliate his Nonconformist brethren, and has quite faith enough in them to leave the conducting of services at the grave to their discretion; but this is not the question: we must not leave the humble village pastor to the mercy of the pompous rector, whose dignity at home, where he is a little pope, it is not easy for those to conceive who only see him during his visit to town, where he resides among ordinary mortals as one of themselves.
May 7. — The colporteurs were many of them brought up from the country to have a few days of prayer and conference. We spoke to them in the afternoon, and were pleased to see, so fine a band of Christian men.
The Tabernacle Colportage Society is doing a world of good. Its peculiar agency suits the condition of affairs,, and meets the case of sparse populations. It is wrong to wish for riches, but if we could stumble on a gold mine we would at once multiply our agents by ten, and the sixty should become six hundred. Instead, however, of finding treasure in that wholesale way, we have to mourn that comparatively few friends encourage this grand work. The general funds are sustained with difficulty.
The capital fund still needs £400 even to go on with, and for enlargement, which is our aim and desire, we shall need still more. How can we trade without capital and keep on in and in our case, it puts us to all sorts of trouble. The responsibility, however, lies not with us but those of God’s stewards who withhold their help. Mr. Corden Jones, Colportage Society, Metropolitan Tabernacle will be happy to send a Report to any address, and also to hear of likely young men with consecrated hearts, who will undertake Colportage work.
On Sabbath, May 13, the Tabernacle was open in the evening to all comers, the congregation having been requested to stay away. To our great delight our regular attendants were all absent; never surely were people more hearty and unanimous in carrying cut the wish of their pastor; but then that wish commends itself so thoroughly to their judgments that it is the less wonder that they yield to it. We want to bring in outsiders, and when we looked at our audience, crowded to the last deuce of endurance, and saw also the great masses who had to be turned away as soon as service began, we saw more than ever the need of these clearings out of the saved ones to let the uncalled ones come within hearing of the gospel. We had help from on high, and we look for many converts as the result of the evening’s work. At the close of the service we felt the fell stroke of our bodily enemy, and went home to learn for some few days the varied forms which pain is able to assume. Brethren, pray for us that the fiery furnace may be of essential service by fitting us more completely for our Master’s service.
Baptist and Independent Churches should never choose a minister without inquiring as to his standing among the people with whom he last labored.
No church would willfully choose an unworthy person as pastor, but we know a man who has gone from church to church and disgraced himself again and again. Even now he is seeking a pastorate, and will probably get one if he can manage to keep the deacons from inquiring as to his previous career. We were shocked the other day to see a man announced as a newly recognized minister whose character is of the foulest. Of course, as soon as matters are made known the pretender is discharged, but meanwhile what evil is done, and what dishonor is brought upon the cause of God. Our organizations are more than sufficient to enable the churches to protect themselves, but if they will neglect the most ordinary precautions they are themselves rest blameworthy should they find their pulpits profaned by unholy men. In the cases of men claiming to belong to the Pastors’ College, it will always be well to write to us for the list, and if the name is not there the fact will be instructive.
Mr. James Wilson of our College has become pastor of the church at Shotley Bridge, Durham.
We rejoice to find that our Tabernacle young ladies have taken up with vigor a Flower Mission. Flowers are given away at the hospitals with texts of Scripture appended to them. Country friends can help by sending flowers, carriage paid, so as to arrive on Wednesday, directed, Secretary of the Flower Mission, Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
The annual fete day will be held on the Pastor’s birthday, Tuesday, June 19th. Will country friends please take this as an intimation to send on goods for the sale which will be held on that day, and also to come up themselves and see the buildings and the boys.