My brethren in the ministry of the Lord Jesus Christ, partakers with us in the fellowship of his sufferings, you will suffer the word of exhortation from me this morning, I am sure, and may God the Holy Spirit make it quick and powerful to all our souls, that throughout the coming year we may serve our Master with both our hands, and with all our heart, having the whole man anointed by the Holy Ghost, and having it laid as a whole burnt-offering upon the altar of our God.
I think it right to say before coming to the topic of this morning, that I am sure the church of God loves you and has sympathy with you. I think I speak the feelings of all who know your office and its trials when, I say, in the name of the church of the living God, — we thank you and wish you God-speed. Little can we tell what London would have been without you.
If there has been a great moral change pass over it, and I am sure there has, it is owing doubtless to the ministry, but equally as much to your untiring labors from house to house. I can scarcely dare to draw a picture of what London would have been if it had not been for the City Mission. I am quite sure that had it not been for this instrumentality our ministry would have been utterly powerless, in the darker parts at least, of those thickly populated lanes and alleys, where the voice of the minister cannot be heard.
We thank you, brethren, for the wisdom which you have displayed. I am sure there must have been a great deal of holy prudence and of Divine loveliness of spirit in you, or else, composed as you are of all sections of Christians, it would have been impossible for you to have been held together. I feel it must be a very responsible office indeed to be an officer of this institution. I have none of the qualifications for such a work as that.
I feel it so incumbent upon me to testify to everything that I believe, that although I can work heartily with all in Christ who differ from me, yet I think I should find it rather difficult to work side by side with those who would frequently have to contradict my opinions. You must be endowed, I think, with a large measure of Christian charity, and I think the officers must have received that wisdom for which our excellent brother just now intreated the Lord in prayer. May this wisdom, this love, and the zeal you have manifested continue and be increased. God send you in a seven-fold degree the unction of the Holy One. May you know all things, may you do all things, and may you be all things to all men, that by any means you may win some. In the name of the church of the living God, which is the pillar and ground of the truth, I thank you who are laborers in this society for the good and excellent work which you have done for the Lord Jesus Christ.
Perhaps it is but little of encouragement that the city missionary gets in his labor. It is not good for us often to have much encouragement. Our Master knows that we generally grow best when we are most pruned. He understands that the knife is one of the best instruments for making his vines fruitful. But I think, nevertheless, we ought to speak some words of holy encouragement to you who have been good soldiers of Jesus Christ, and who have not labored in vain.
But now I come to the topic of this morning. I have not taken a text, nor have I chosen any didactic subject. I knew to whom I should address myself, and have taken therefore a subject practical rather than doctrinal —\par EARNESTNESS — its absolute necessity in your office — the parts of the office in which it must be most apparent — what there is which would damp it — and some things which should tend to stimulate it.
First of all I refer to the absolute necessity of earnestness in your office.
Dissenting as I do from many of the opinions of that great man of God, Mr. Richard Baxter, I cannot but consider him to be the model minister of Christ. As a preacher he had such earnestness that he has been styled the English Demosthenes. Better still he knew so well the terrors of the Lord that scarcely could Paul himself have persuaded men with greater earnestness than did Baxter. He knew what it was to have his knees knocking together while he preached to sinners of the wrath to come.
Seldom did he go from his pulpit satisfied with his performances, but went to his knees to weep and bewail himself because he had not been more earnest with the souls of men. I do not marvel, however, at his earnestness in the pulpit, but what has made me consider him to he the very prince of preachers is the fact that he was equally earnest in the pastorate. Every house in Kidderminster was visited by Richard Baxter. There was not a child in the parish whom he had not catechized; there was not a backslider whom he had not warned; there was not a reprobate whom he had not addressed with solemn awe. The whole parish knew that Baxter considered himself to be the father of the flock. He did not only play the preacher in the pulpit, but the pastor in the parish. Now I scarce know by what stress of circumstances the minister’s work in London has become divided. I say honestly from my inmost soul, I do not conceive myself to be guilty of any dereliction of duty in the fact that I do take only one part of Baxter’s work.
It is utterly impossible that I should take the other. If I can preach twice in the day here, and there, and everywhere, as an evangelist, and if I can say that I exhaust myself and can do no more, I think I cannot plead guilty if another part of the office is left to others. Throughout London the pastorate, especially among the Dissenting churches, has to be left to you, the city missionaries. You take not Baxter’s place in the pulpit, but you take his place in the houses. I hold him up to you as. the very mirror and pattern of a missionary, — from house to house instructing, in the streets exhorting, under each roof teaching, personally laboring for the souls of men. But mark, if you were to ask for Baxter’s plans of visitation you might when you read them over think them extremely ordinary, and having but little force in them. The power of Baxter lay, not in his method, but in his earnestness. There was such a fire in him that it all but consumed his bones. He was so passionate for the conversion of men that he was seldom in good health, and like a sword too sharp for its scabbard, his soul cut its way out of his body, and he died full of disease and pain. He would have done nothing, he would have been of no service to the church as, Richard Baxter, if it had not been for Richard Baxter’s earnestness. His divinity might have been worthless; his preaching might have been a delusion; his visitation an imposture, if it had not been that his soul was in his work, and the whole man was wherever Baxter was. To you, I say, in your office earnestness is above all things necessary. In the ministry earnestness is of the first importance, and yet the duties of the ministry, to our shame let it be spoken, may be discharged without earnestness. There are men who can hold together a congregation by the force of oratory. There are some who can enchain the ear and fascinate the heart by polished periods and glowing sentences, while they themselves know that they do but play the actor’s part, and speak to others what they have never felt themselves. Certainly a minister without earnestness is the most pitiable of objects, and yet he may have a measure of success. But to you this is impossible. Yon have no field for oratory; you have no opportunity for the exhibition of your powers of eloquence. Yours is downright hard work; there is nothing of beauty or of fascination in it, and without earnestness, what instrument is left to you? If you take away zeal from your heart, of what use are you? Might you not better lay down the name of the office than hold the title, if you do not fulfill it? If, on the other hand, you as missionaries had to be dispensers of the public alms, earnestness might not be so necessary. If you carried loaves in a basket on one arm, and if you carried in the other hand a well- loaded purse, the people would hail and welcome you, whether you were earnest or not. It would, but very little signify what fire of love there was in your heart; they would be content with the loaves and the fishes, and your wishes might be right well fulfilled. But since you are entirely divorced from opportunities of doing good by this means, since this is not your mission, I ask you, how can you hope the people will receive good at your hands if your hearts be cold towards them and indifferent to your holy cause? In other offices something may be done, while the heart is cold; nothing, I grant you, that is acceptable to God, but yet a something which looks like success; but in your case there can be nothing at all unless the whole soul be saturated through and through with the sacred oil, and then all set a-blazing as though it were one lamp of light and fire.
Let me ask you now, what can you do when you go abroad into the street, and rap at the first door, and enter it? What excuse have you for entering into an Englishman’s house, unless you go there in earnest? You have no right to enter his house as a matter of office. Your office of City Missionary no more entitles you to enter that man’s house than the office of a tradesman, or any other public office. Your only warrant is this, that you feel you have a call from God to tell the inhabitants of that house to escape from the wrath to come; but if you have not earnestness there is a clear proof that you have not God’s warrant for entering there. What are you but an intruder into a house, where you certainly will not be required a second time? If you are not in earnest, what will they say? “This man has undertaken to call and see me, and I will undertake that he shall not.” If, however, you be in earnest you may reasonably hope that the person may say, — “However little I may value that man’s visits, yet that man will call to see me, and he will be unhappy if I do not let him; so I had better listen to him and let him call again.” I say that your office is an intrusion upon the privacy of an Englishman if you do not carry earnestness into it; and if you have not this to excuse you, your office will very soon become contemptible in the eyes of those whom you visit.
You, my dear friends, as missionaries, need earnestness, moreover, because how is it possible that you shall render your account to the church unless you really do serve it with all your might? There always lies upon you and me what some of the ungodly consider an odium; they look upon us as being paid servants of the church. We are, and we think it no dishonor. The church does not pay us what our services are worth. Especially in your case is this true. Doubtless, the church would do so if she found that the means were ready to her hands, and she ought to do so if it were within her power: but, inasmuch as we are paid servants of the church, unless we be in earnest we take money which we have no right to take. I say that my yearly income is robbery to the church unless I serve it with my whole soul: and so is yours; if you do not put your whole heart into your work you have eaten bread for nought; you have taken money for services which you have not rendered. The church does not support you and me that we may be images to look at, but that we may be servants to labor. We are not maintained by the Christian church that we may go through a mere routine, but that we may give our body, soul, and strength to our Master’s service, the better being enabled to do so by being kept from the cares of this life.
How, I say, then, shall you render your account to the church unless you be in earnest?
But, above all, what account shall you and I render to our God at the last if we go about our work listlessly and carelessly? How shall we stand at the judgment-bar? How shall we bear to hear it said, “I sent you to perishing sinners, and you. sought not to save them. I sent you in the name of Him that bled, and you had no eyes to weep. I bade you testify in my name, and as though you felt the terrors of the Lord to persuade men, but you did not persuade them; you missed opportunities of doing good; you passed by seasons when the heart was impressible; and when you might have driven home the truth; and there they are in hell! — the thousands of your district — and there they are, weeping and wailing, and gnashing their teeth — the sinners that were in the streets, and lanes, and houses where you were called to visit.” What shall you and I say in that day? What will the unfaithful minister dare to say? Will not his knees begin to shake through the tremors of an unutterable fear? Will not a double hell, a hell multiplied in proportion to the number of souls who, by his instrumentality were damned, seize upon his soul at once? Oh! better for us that we had never been born, that a double mill-stone were about our necks, and that we were cast into the midst of the sea, than that we should be ministers and missionaries for Christ, and yet not throw our hearts into the work. I implore and beseech you — and in so doing I lift up my heart to God, that what I ask you to do I may be enabled to do myself — “What your hand findeth to do, do it with all your might, and what God gives you to do, do it as a man would do it who knew he should die when it is done. Live each day as though that day were the end of living here, and be prepared to die when each visitation shall be over, as though the patting off of your coat at night should be but the signal for the putting on of your shroud, so, surely shall you live to purpose, and God, even our God, shall bless us; God shall bless us, and that right early.’” But now permit me to turn to the second part of my subject, upon which I have somewhat trenched already. There are parts of your office which must claim earnestness at your hands. I have already alluded to one, namely, that of house-to-house visitation. Now let me repeat it, — your visitation from house to house is an unwarrantable intrusion, unless you have a mission from God to enter the house. The warrant of heaven allows me to go anywhere; as the sheriff with Her Majesty’s warrant shall enter any house, so may we, with the warrant of the King of kings. But that warrant you have not, and you will not have the impudence to think that you have it, unless you are in earnest for the winning of souls to Christ. Now, I suppose that every missionary here would give the same answer to a question I am about to put, What is the object of your life? I do not suppose that anyone here would give another answer than this one, “The object of my life is to win souls.” I do :not think, brethren, you would say, “My object is to get people to go where their souls may be won, by asking them to attend the house of God.” I think you would not say, “My object is to get children to attend the Sabbath-school.” All that would be true; these are incidental objects, and very important things indeed. But you would say, “No; my direct and special end in living is the immediate conversion of the souls under my charge.” You have not reached to the dignity of your position unless you can say that. I have often thought of Sabbath-school teachers; indeed, there are very many of them who say that they are teaching in the school that they may prepare the children’s minds for the ministry. I believe the object of all true Sabbath-school teaching is the immediate conversion of the children’s souls, as children. And so with you; you are not to say, “I am to lift these people to another stage.” No, your object is in the hand of God the Holy Ghost; and may God, of his own Divine sovereignty, send down that rich anointing upon you; your object is that now these souls may be converted to God, and converted to God BY YOU. I say it solemnly, though it may be a hard point, that unless souls are converted by you, you have lived in vain; unless you personally are, in the hand of God, the instrument of bringing souls to Christ you have not answered the end of your being, much less of your office. It will be in vain for me to say, “Ah! but I induced such an one to attend the house of prayer and he was converted.” Very well, and you did well; but you did not that which your soul ought to strive and long for. I can understand a City Missionary who has had but very few spiritual children; I can understand his laboring for a time in vain; but I cannot understand either minister or missionary being happy while he is not blessed. I can comprehend my preaching, and yet God’s withholding the dew of heaven from it! but I could not comprehend myself to be anything less or better than a monster if I could preach and be content and happy unless souls were saved under my preaching. May God seal our mouths in eternal silence sooner than let us preach and be content while souls are being damned. I should look upon it as being all but a type of apostasy, a very proof of reprobation, if my heart, as a minister, did not yearn for souls, and travail in birth till Christ be formed in them.
Now, since I believe this is your object, what can you do without earnestness? You may do without Latin and Greek, you may do without learning, you may do without ten thousand things, but you cannot win souls without earnestness. God has blessed many a fool to the salvation of souls, but he never blessed a cold-hearted man. The Lord uses strange instruments. I have known sinners converted to God by members of my congregation, instrumentally — men who could not speak a single sentence grammatically — men, who, I am sure, would misquote Scripture at such a wretched rate that I should be frightened to listen to them; yet I have seen genuine conversions under them. But I never did see many genuine conversions under any man, however great his ability, or however apparently great his industry, unless he was full of life and fire. We do want light; but, more than all, we want fire. We want to be like John the Baptist, who was a burning as well as a shining light. You must burn your way through this world; there is no other way to get on. If ever you are to do good for Christ, it must be by carrying sword and fire before you; the sword of the Spirit, and the fiery energy of his divine influences. Without these two things you may bear the name, but you will never rightly fulfill the office of a missionary and minister for Christ.
But, my dear friends, there is another point in which earnestness is especially needed by you, and that will be in your own private prayers. The Mission cannot prescribe how many hours you should spend in prayer; but how many hours do you spend in prayer? We may not suggest how long you should, but I think we may each ask ourselves, How long during the past year did I spend on my knees? It would be a very singular jotting for us all if we were to keep a memorandum, and put down how long each day we were at prayer. My brethren, we should be startled to see what an immeasurably little time we spend on our knees! The Lord doth not reprove us this day for lack of preachings, and teachings, and visitings, but he reproveth us because we have brought him no sweet cane of honey; we have not filled him with the fire of our sacrifices in private. I do feel every day that the power of a minister must be on his knees. I know of a truth that, when I have been backward in supplication, I may have prepared my sermon as carefully as possible, I have always been powerless in the delivery of it. I can bear my testimony, as a constant preacher of Christ’s gospel, that it is prayer that makes men strong. And it must be so with you.
If you go to your work without prayer, I pity ye, brethren, I pity ye: but if you can come back from your work without prayer, I can not only pity, but upbraid. Shall I see sin in its naked deformity, and not pray for God not to cleanse it? Shall I be called every day to walk in the midst of the thick Egyptian darkness of this city, and not cry to the Sun of Righteousness to arise? Can I stand by the bedside of the dying and offer a prayer there, and not come home to pray for that dying man? If I can, oh! search me, good Lord, for it may be that, after all, I am but a hypocrite, and thy truth is not in me. You who see the evil, you who come in positive contact with it, I cannot imagine you ever being of any service if that contact with evil does not drive you to your knees; and if you lose earnestness there, if you cease to be much in your closet, you had better resign your office; I am sure you had. Every day you hold it you add sin to sin; and every hour you continue in it you do but aggravate your iniquity, and grieve the Holy Spirit. Take heed, lest he utterly leave you to go to your work alone, and then what will you do?
And then, again, my dear friends, you particularly need earnestness, I am sure, in your cottage meetings. The mission has a fiction that you are not allowed to preach. You all do preach, every one of you. You do not take a text, a single text, but you expound the Scriptures; and it is a distinction without a perceivable difference, so far as I can observe. But your teaching or preaching differs, from that of the ministry in this respect — we can command the crowded audience, and it is but honest to say there is a kind of excitement given to the speaker when the room is well filled, and especially when it is capacious. I have heard some say they believed they could very easily preach, if they had but three thousand to listen to them. I only wish they would try it; they might find that, while there are some advantages, there are, on the other hand, some few disadvantages. I would not, however, over-estimate these. But when you have a cottage-meeting, and there are four, or five, or six — three of them babies — crying, I cannot conceive of your getting on unless you are downright in earnest.
Imagine that you have twenty, and out of those twenty the major part are persons who are utterly unconcerned — men who have been induced by their wives to come in and listen to you, and who sit all the while as if they wished they were out of it, and could be at the public-house. You speak, you read the Scriptures, you tell an anecdote, you look round, and wish that that man in the corner would but look as if he were at all interested, but he won’t; you rack your brains to think of something else. Excellent practice for you, most holy practice for you; but again you see there is but little perceivable effect produced. Now, my dear brethren, if you are not right alive in this matter, :if you have not, in short, the determination that you will discharge your conscience, you will go home the most miserable of men, because you lack, I say, that enthusiasm of the great assembly; you lack the afflatus of publicity; and if you are not filled with the Holy Ghost, and with fire from on high, you must be wretched in your office, and, I am certain, you must be unsuccessful in it. If you be really earnest, I can conceive that those men who have not listened to the Word before are the best hearers in. the world. They are like men whose eyes are just opened, and they see the stars, and how great is their surprise! These are not gospel-hardened sinners that you have; they are not men that have had the gospel drummed into their ears till they have become deaf by its influence; but there they are, and as they see you earnest they do not criticize your style, and they pull not your words to pieces; but, seeing that you mean what you say, they give you an earnest hearing, and God will bless you. He must bless you. He never did make a man in earnest to win souls in such a way as this, without intending that the souls should be won, and be really brought to Christ.
But yet I must repeat again, in all these things in which you, as missionaries, are engaged, I can see no hope whatever for you unless you be terribly in earnest; unless as if life and death, as if eternity and judgment, were before your eyes, you were ready to live and die for the winning of souls. You can write your journal, and make it look very respectable, and yet do no good. You may fulfill your visits, just as an animated corpse might go round to the doors; the more visits the more sins to you in such a case as that. You may stand and be commended by the officers of the Society; using all discernment, they may not be able to detect the lack that is in you. But, oh! my brethren, you cannot be accepted of your God, and this is where you and I must stand. It is little to us to be accepted of men; it is little to us to be thought industrious or earnest; the great matter is to be so, and to have those witnesses in our conscience, that in all sincerity, as in the sight of God, we have served the Lord Christ, and endeavored to bring his lost sheep to his fold.
Well now, I purpose to spend a few minutes longer in marking those things which are hindrances and drawbacks to your earnestness. One of the first is habit. “Habit!” say you — “can holy and religious habits ever become antagonistic to zeal?” Yes, my experience teaches me so. I frequently catch myself, when reading the Scriptures for my own private devotion, looking at the verses to see what sort of texts they will make; and I must confess that when in private prayer, pleading my own case before God, I find a very strong influence which would carry me off at a tangent to pray as a minister rather than as a man. One of the sternest difficulties of my Christian experience is to keep my own vineyard watered while basted with watering the vineyards of others. Now, I do not know whether you have ever felt it, but, when you first went out as a young missionary, was there not something solemn and awful, about the first time you went your round?
Do you not remember how you prayed that morning? I should not wonder but that you rose early that morning to have some special time in prayer.
Well, you did not succeed to your satisfaction, perhaps, the first time. Do you recollect that hallowed uneasiness which you felt — that sacred tribulation within — because you could not do as you would? Brothers, do you feel that now? Why do you not? There is certainly as good ground for it. The fact is, that, such creatures are we, the good ground has helped to strangle the good thing, and we shall have continually to struggle against this, or else what shall we come to be, after all, but as the blind horse going round and round the mill-wheel, and may God deliver us from that! I would go to the next sermon that I shall preach with as holy a trembling, with as entire a dependence upon the Spirit’s help, as I did when as a lad or child of sixteen I stood up to address an assembly. But I do feel that it is difficult to keep there. One begins to think, “Well, I have done it so many times, I shall not break down now.” The very thoughts do not really cross the mind, or if they cross it, they flit so swiftly that you do not perceive them, yet they leave their impression. One comes to perform every religious duty as an automaton. Unless we look very carefully to ourselves, we get like a machine wound up, and we are something like the toys which sometimes our children have, which only need a certain quantity of sand at the top, and they run on until they run down. Now, above all things, we must struggle and strive against this. I hate ministerialism, but I always find it creeping upon me. One gets inside a pulpit, and begins to feel that you are not as other men are. Now I like, if I can, to preach as a sinner to sinners; as one saved by grace to tell the love which Christ had towards me, the chief of sinners, and less than the least of all saints. Now, I do not doubt that as soon as ever you get out your little book to take with you — as soon as ever that is in your hands — you feel like a missionary, and not like a sinner saved by grace. But, I pray you, do not feel like a missionary; feel like a sinner who has been washed with the precious blood. You will never do good if you go to your work ex officio ; you must go to it ex anima ; — not because of your office, but because of your soul being in it; because your heart yearns towards sinners, because you must have them saved. Strive not against the habits — they are good — but against that evil tendency which, somehow or other, Satan, who is exceeding crafty, manages to cast over our very best habits.
Some of you have perhaps to contend with another great damper to your zeal, namely, your being yoked with cold-hearted persons in your labor. I can conceive it must be a very heavy drawback to a missionary to have for his district superintendent a person who does not go forward with him heartily in Christ’s work. Let us not suppose that there are many such, but there must, be some such. If when you think you see an opening for a ragged-school, when you see that such and such an agency might excellently be undertaken and with the greatest possible hope of success, — if then cold water be thrown at once upon, it, I can conceive that you feel in your heart an exceeding heaviness, and you go to your knees, wishing before God that you could meet with some one who would run as swiftly as you would wish to run, and help you as you would desire to be helped. I am afraid that I am myself guilty in this respect sometimes. I have great pleasure in having associated with myself one or two excellent missionaries. I dare say I do not always give them so cordial a shake of the hand as they might wish, or quite so sweet a smile, but I think they know that that is generally forgetfulness; it is not a want of heart with them in their work. If I had an assembly of ministers here who were the superintendents, I would say to them, “Always give the missionary a kind word; and if you cannot go with him in all his plans, yet, at any rate, go as far as ever you can.” You have, too, in your district, no doubt, to come into contact with Christian people who sneer at you; who think that your office is an innovation, or who, if they have got over the old anachronism, still think that you intrude, possibly, or that you do too much. Now, my dear brethren you are not children, you are not boys, and you are not to be put back by anything of that sort, I am sure, if you have to serve God. You do not expect to serve Christ earnestly without meeting with rebuffs, do you? You will be bitterly mistaken if you do. Let me assure you that in Christ’s church any man who is more earnest than his fellows will at the first meet with greater opposition from the church than from the world. Let him, however, but persevere; let him bear that holy trial and ordeal which God has ordained in order that he may be qualified to take his seat among the heroes of the Christian church; let him but persevere, and then the church will be his best friend. So will you find it; if there be any Christians who do chide you and hold you back — if you do but persevere, these very men will be your best helpers. You have but to overcome their timidity, or their caution, and their prudence; you cannot overcome it by despising it; you cannot overcome it by ridiculing if — but by stern yet sacred perseverance. You shall lead even the most timid of the Lord’s soldiers to feel that where some can go on with victory they must dare to follow, that the blessing of God may be shared by them as it is with you. We wish for you the heartiest co-operation of all the ministers of Christ; and I pray that all of us who are called to be district superintendents over any districts may have your most earnest prayers, that we may be your helpers, and not your hinderers in the work.
No doubt there is one other thing which more than any of these will tend to quench your zeal, and that is, an apparent want of success. You have set your heart, perhaps, on the conversion of such-and-such a person. You think he is laid to your heart. You do all that is within your power, and that man becomes more hardened than before. There is a lane where you wish to throw a little light, but it seems the people are determined you shall not come in, and shut the door in your face. You invent a great many little plans to get in; you put a tract through the keyhole, or something of that sort, yet you cannot succeed. All your efforts are in vain; like waves that dash upon a rock, they are broken into spray and return again upon you.
Ah! and let; me say now — I am not speaking to men, I trust, merely, but to Christian men, — Oh! shall you and I ever be discouraged and give up our work because we see no immediate success? We will be troubled if we see it not, but we will not be discouraged. My brethren, how long; did Jesus Christ woo us before he won our hearts? How many times, in the ministry, did he knock at our door before that door was opened? And if it be now opened to his coming, what was it but his mighty grace that made an entrance into that heart which was close shut up, like Jericho, against him? If, then, we have tried the patience of the King of kings, if we have grieved the Spirit, it is a very simple matter if our patience should be tried, and if we should be grieved. Then let us think, the longer we shall be in struggling after a soul, the more precious it will be to us when we shall, at last obtain it. The more we shall have to tug and toil to get this jewel out of the mine the more gloriously shall it glitter in our crown when Christ the Judge shall come and honor his people with himself. Come, let not these things put us back; but rather let us hear the voice of God saying to us whenever we meet with peculiar difficulty — “Here is a case, Christian, for redoubled zeal. Here is a high mountain, and there is a need that thou shouldest be industrious in climbing it.” Is there a stream? Then thou must with lusty arms stem the forceful current. The more difficulties, the more need that we should put the whole man into the work. Instead of being an argument against earnestness, it should be the very sternest plea for it. I have now preached the Gospel seven years in London; and I was compelled to say the other Sunday, I was something like Jacob, who served seven years for Rachel, but obtained Leah instead. Now, you will perhaps find out the same. I meant by that, that there were some of my congregation whom I had hoped would be saved, — I had always looked upon them as being seals to my ministry by and by; but seven years of earnest entreaty, and they are not saved, though the Lord has given me full many others in the stead thereof. Well, it may be so with you. Just where you thought your instrumentality would fail, it will be most successful; and, probably, a man whom you gave up as hopeless, will be the person who shall fulfill the desire of your heart and cause you to trust the power of the Gospel, seeing that it has power to save such a one as he was.
I fear lest I weary you, and therefore I would close by giving you some encouragements to your zeal. There are reasons why our zeal and earnestness should become more than ever it was. Scarcely need I mention them, except it be to recapitulate, and stir up your pure minds by way of remembrance.
Brethren, we must be earnest, because we are ourselves so greatly in debt to the rich, free, and sovereign grace of God. Let us recollect this morning that first hour when our sins were forgiven. It is fresh and vivid upon some of our memories. We remember when the burden fell from off our backs; when we saw the wounds of Christ, and knew ourselves to be his. Oh, that blessed morning! — that blessed morning! What preachers we should have made if we could have been put into a pulpit there and then! What household visitors should we have been if we could have been sent at that very moment to go and tell to a family what Christ had done for us! And then, brethren, we were only in debt to Christ for one item; and now, the bill is so long we cannot measure it. And do we love him less now than we did then? When he had only healed our iniquity we loved him; and now that he has been pleased not only to heal our diseases, but to satisfy our mouth with good things, so that our youth has been renewed like the eagle’s, shall we love him less? I say, God forbid! And yet I query, brethren, whether any of us go to our work now as we should have done if this were the first day of our conversion. Come, I say now, recall the place where you were; think of the hole of the pit and the miry clay. Think also of where you are.
Put your foot down upon the Rock of Ages now, and feel that you are safe in Christ. Look at your covering now, — arrayed in his :righteousness.
Look at your sustentation now, — fed with the bread from heaven, and made to eat of the body and blood of Christ. Think of your end, and of that which has been provided for you, — the mansions of the blessed in the land, of rest hereafter. And will not these things make you feel that you are drowned debtors to Christ — over head and ears in debt to him? Oh, what do we not owe thee, Jesus, — what do we not owe thee! If we could give our bodies to be burned; if this flesh could be eaten of dogs and rent piecemeal from the bones, ‘twere small sacrifice for thee. And, could we give up heaven for thee; if we could be kept out of it for ages to preach, and teach, and suffer for thee, we might well be content, and think it two heavens to lose heaven for awhile if we might but the better show our love for thee. If there be a man among you who is not in debt to Christ, this plea can have no power with you. If there be one among you who is not washed in his blood; if there be one among you who will be saved by his own merits, or by his own strength, you have no call to be in earnest; there is no need that you should give your heart to Christ. But such a man there is not; therefore spend and be spent each one of you: and may the Lord accept the sacrifice, through Christ, the great High Priest!
As a further reason let me say, brethren, how earnest we ought to be, because, except we are in earnest, our souls can never be in sympathy with the soul of Christ. I see him new standing on the hill. He looks down upon the city; he marks the gilded roof of the temple, and the streets, and he weeps. He foresees the total destruction of that city, “beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth.” In vision he marks her streets crimsoned with gore, and her temple already in flames; and what does he say? Does he harden his heart; by some ideas of divine sovereignty? Does he stand there callous and dry-eyed, feeling that this is predestinated and must be, and that therefore he need not weep? No. We believe that Christ knew the destiny of Jerusalem, but he wept over it too. Down from his eyes the torrents ran; down his cheeks they scalded furrows for themselves: but at last he bursts out in passionate grief, “0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem! how often would I have gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under her wings, and ye would not?” Now, if your heart does not feel like that, it is not in harmony with Christ’s. There must be the same weepings, the same longings, the same yearnings, or else we have not had fellowship with Christ in the great end and aim of his incarnation — the salvation of the souls of men. Tell me not of your communings in your closets; tell me not of your raptures and your ecstasies, when your soul has been like the chariots of Amminadib. These things are blessed if they are coupled with the other; but, unless you have fellowship with Christ in labor, fellowship with him in perseverance, fellowship in suffering, I care not for your ecstasies or your reveries; they are hollow and deceitful things. If you have worked with Christ, and dwelt with Christ, then I do not marvel that sometimes you feed with him who feedeth among the lilies, and that in choice moments you can say, “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me,” Oh, let the Crucified One stand before each one of us this morning! I think I see him, and he looks at me and says, “I gave my blood to save sinners; wilt thou not give thy life too?”
And if I feel faint and weary, methinks he puts his hand upon. me and he says “Son of man, I have set thee to speak unto this multitude, for I have much people in this city; be strong and fear not; by my wounds I charge thee, be thou faithful unto death.” By the wounds of Jesus, I charge you, brethren; “by his agony and bloody sweat, by his cross and passion, by his precious death and burial, by his glorious resurrection and ascension,” — in his name I charge you, be ye faithful unto death, and ye shall inherit the crown of life.
What other reasons shall I need to give? We must now draw to our close, but we must give just this one: Fellow-laborers for Christ, let us renew our zeal this morning, when we think of our noble comrades. It is often useful to us to read some good biography. When I read Wesley’s “Journal,” or Whitefield’s “Life,” I always find there is an influence attending the reading, like the reading of the Scriptures themselves. I mean, not so divine, but yet invigorating — perhaps to a less degree, but yet invigorating to my spirit. Think of some who were in your ranks, whom God has blessed and rendered honorable. The City Mission does not lack its heroes.
I take it that when the Church shall sing of “the noble army of martyrs,” and “the goodly fellowship of the apostles,” there will have to be put into her song yet a hymn of praise for that glorious company of missionaries who have ascended to God, and who praise him before the throne. I do think that you, with your toils — sometimes with your poverty, but ye are rich, — with your various rebuffs and persevering toil for souls, with your midnight watchings, with your frequent labors, — -I think that you are worthy to stand in the front rank of the army of Christ. But you think not so of yourselves. You are willing to be the servant of servants, that you may thus by your Master be honored and blessed. I charge you, by the names of those saints of God who have suffered in Christ’s holy cause, by all the men and women who in devotedness have given up their whole substance and their whole time to Christ, be ye worthy of this glorious cause. Runners, open your eyes, and look at the glorious assembly that surrounds you. See ye not the cloud of witnesses? Play the man, if ever ye were men, play the man before such spectators. When such spirits look on, who will not run? “Lay aside every weight, and run with patience the race that is set before you, looking unto Jesus, the author and finisher of your faith.” If at the old Olympic and Isthmian games men thought they must strain every nerve and muscle, because Greece looked on, what shall we say to you, when the world looks on, and the church looks on, and hell looks on, and heaven looks on? By all these, the spectators of your warfare, fight, fight lawfully, and win the crown, through the grace of your Lord Jesus Christ.
That crown is the last argument for zeal. I could not help weeping while we sang that hymn just now about our glorious appearance before God.
Oh, there may be some missionaries here to-day to whom a message which I gave last night to my congregation may be applicable, “This year thou shalt eat of the fruit of the land of Canaan.” There are some among us here this morning who in all probability will not be here this day twelvemonths.
Well, I think we might contend which it should be. ‘Twere a sweet boon, ‘twere a blessed benison of heaven, to be allowed to take the reward so soon. It will be so with some of us. There, now, do not trouble yourselves so much about the sickness in your families; you will not have to see that sickness many months, for you will be where “the inhabitant is never sick.”
Come, now, be not desponding, because you have not seen all you could wish. Your Master shall say to you this year, “Come up higher; come up higher!” “The way may be rough, but it cannot be long, So smooth it with hope, and cheer it with song.” Some of you, too, my brethren, are fathers in Christ; you are veterans in this army. Well, you perhaps may hope that your race shall be the sooner run. God cheer you at the last, yea, and cheer you now, by that splendid prospect of eternal bliss which lies before the servant of Christ. And is it true, and can it be possible, that I shall be near and like my God? And shall this head ever wear a crown? Shall I ever be fellow with the angels, and co-worshipper with cherubim and seraphim? Jesus, Master, shall I see thee face to face, and lie emparadised in thy bosom? Then God forbid that I should ever think of these light afflictions which are but for a moment.
Save me, Lord, save me, from ever degrading my spirit by being bowed by these temporary trials, these momentary difficulties, when an eternal heaven, and a bliss unspeakable is my reward. Come, brethren, it is but a narrow stream, a river, — ford it, Canaan lies beyond. Think not that you have many difficulties; when you set them side by side with what you are to win, there are no difficulties whatever. I say, there is no battle and no fighting, when I think of the splendor of the victory, for when we shall ride with Christ; triumphant through heaven’s streets, we shall forget the scars of battle and the garment rolled in blood; and I think, then, instead of wishing that we had had fewer difficulties and fewer trials, we shall, if it were lawful, even wish that we had lived a more arduous life of toil, that we had suffered more, that we might be glorified with Christ, and feel that we were really glorified with him, when we were called to stand side by side and foot to foot with him, and have fellowship with his sufferings and his labors.
The blessing of the Lord God, the God of Israel, rest on you my brethren.
The Lord anoint you this day with fresh oil. Ye remind me of the sitting of the apostles. Come, thou mighty, rushing wind, and fill this house! Ye cloven tongues of fire, descend and rest upon us! With that tongue of fire, and that divine breath of life in you, may you and I, and each of us, go out this day and all our days to labor for Christ, plucking sinners out of the midst of the fire, and so honoring the name of him whose love is our joy, whose presence is our comfort, and whose breast shall be our heaven. God bless you, for Jesus’ sake!