WHEN the Lord spoke by His servant, Jeremiah, His Word was “like as a fire.” There was something burning about it human nature did not like it, but human nature was made to feel its force and power. When the false prophets spoke, they would bow and cringe to the people, and say all manner of soft and pleasing things; but when Jeremiah spoke, in the name of Jehovah, every word seemed to tell upon his hearers. It was as when a mighty man lifts up a sledge-hammer, and brings it down with all his force upon the stone he means to break. The message did not comfort the ungodly, but it broke their hearts, for the prophet was seeking, if possible, to separate them from their sins. “The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his master’s crib;” and we are not so foolish that we do not know what truth it is that cheers and comforts our heart, and what kind of teaching it is that makes us glad in the midst of the winter of our discontent. There is far too much teaching, nowaday, that will not comfort a mouse. You might hear it to all eternity, and never be relieved of a single ounce of the burden of life. You might come in and out of the house of God, and you might perhaps say, “Yes, it is very pretty;” but what is that to a man who has the burden of life to carry, and the battle of life to fight? But when you hear the glorious gospel of the blessed God, it lifts you up out of your discouragements, and makes you say, after all, “It is worth while to live, it is worth while to suffer, it is worth while to press forward; for we see the great love the Lord hath towards us, and what good things He hath laid up in store for them that love Him.” The Word of the Lord is like a fire, for it warms and comforts the hearts of His people.
But God’s Word is like “a hammer that breaketh the rock in pieces.” I should think that it does not require any great education to learn how to use a hammer; I do not know, it may do; but it seems that to use a hammer aright, one has nothing to do but to strike with it. A stone-breaker, for instance, gets a good strong hammer, and a heap of stones to strike at, and he has but to hit them as hard as he can, and to keep on hitting till all are broken. Brethren, when you preach, take the gospel hammer, and strike as hard as ever you can with it. “Oh, but I must try to improve the look of my hammer; it must have a mahogany handle!” Never mind about the mahogany handle; use your hammer for striking, for hammers are not for ornament, they are meant to be used for real hard work. And when you come to use the gospel as it ought to be used, the result is wonderful; it is a rock-breaking thing. “Oh!” you cry, “there is a very obdurate man there!”
Strike at him with the gospel. “Oh, but he ridicules and scoffs at the truth!”
Never mind if he ,does, keep on smiting him with the gospel. “Oh, but in a certain district, I have wielded this hammer against the rock for years, and nothing has come of it!” Still go on wielding it, for this is a hammer that never failed yet. Only continue to use it; everything is not accomplished with one stroke; nor, perhaps, with twenty strokes. The rock that does not yield the first time, nor the second time nor the third time, nor the twentieth time, will yield at last. There is a, process of disintegration taking place at every stroke; the great mass is inwardly moving even when you cannot see that it is doing so; and there will come at last one blow of the hammer which will seem to do the deed, but all the previous strokes contributed to it, and brought the rock into the right state for breaking it up at last. Hammer away, then, with nothing but the gospel of Jesus Christ.
The heart that is struck may not yield even year after year, but it will yield at last.
Now, put the two together, — the fire and the hammer, — and you will see how God makes His servants who are to be instruments for His use. He puts us into the fire of the Word; He melts, He softens, He subdues. Then He takes us out of the fire, and welds us with hammer strokes such as only He can give, till He has made us fit instruments for His use; and He goes forth to His sacred work of conquering the multitudes, having in His hands the ‘polished shafts ‘that He has forged with the fire and the hammer of His Word.
How often have we seen men, who have not been moved even by the law of God, at last won to Christ by the gospel, — the gospel of free grace and dying love, full forgiveness for the greatest sinners; immediate, irreversible pardon given in a moment to every sinner who believes in Christ! Oh, how this gospel has’, ‘.acted like a fire, and burned up all the sinner’s opposition! How this gospel has also been like a hammer to break down human obstinacy! The gospel of redemption through the precious blood of Jesus, the gospel which tells; of full atonement made, the gospel which proclaims that the utmost farthing of the ransom prize has been paid, and that, therefore, whosoever believeth in Jesus is free from the law, and free from guilt, and free from hell, — the telling out of this gospel has made men’s hearts burn within them, and has dashed out ‘the very brains of sin, and made men joyfully flee to Christ. So, preach the gospel then, the gospel of justification by faith, the gospel of regeneration by the Holy Ghost, the gospel of final perseverance through the unchanging love of God. Preach the whole of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, as it is revealed in the covenant of grace, and you will be doing fire-and-hammer work of the very choicest son.
As God’s Word is like a fire and like a hammer, if we have used it upon ourselves, let us try to use it upon others. I have an opinion that there are a great many persons in this world, whom we give up as hopeless who have never been really tried and tested with the gospel in all their lives. I am afraid that there are persons of whom we speak as unlikely to be converted, who have never been fully brought under the influence of the fire of God’s Word, or beneath the fall of the hammer of the gospel. “I brought one person,” says somebody. I am glad you have; but have you ever spoken faithfully to that person about his soul? “Well, I do not know that I have I have said a little to him.” Have you ever plainly put the gospel before him? “Well, I do not think he was quite the person to be spoken to in that fashion.” Ah!! see that you thought you were going to burn him without using fire, and to break that rock without lifting the hammer. The fact is, you believed that .something better than the gospel fire was wanted in his case, or that something gentler than the gospel hammer was needed.
Will you not try that old-fashioned hammer upon him? Will you not try that old fire upon him? I have heard of congregations where men have said, “There is no good to be done there,” and I have wondered if they were to try preaching one of the old-fashioned sort of gospel sermons, if they could get Whitefield to preach, or have someone to preach the same truth as Whitefield preached, what results would follow. When I am told that the hearts of the people are not affected by the preaching in any place, I ask, “But was it the gospel with which you tried to affect them? Was it the very Word of God that was preached?” Our words are like paper pellets thrown against the wall, they effect nothing; but God’s Word is like a shot fired from one of the greatest Woolwich cannon. Where it comes, it crushes through every obstacle, and destroys everything that is opposed to it.
Why should we not always set the whole truth before those whom we seek to save? I believe that, sometimes, even in Sunday-schools, children are taught “to love gentle Jesus,” and so on, as if that were the way of salvation. Why not tell them to believe in the Lord Jesus Christ? Why is love to take the place of faith? Let it be the same gospel for the children that you give to the adults. Try them with the same gospel, and see what will come of it; and let this work be attempted everywhere. “But,” says someone, “there are certain districts where you cannot do any good if you try to preach the gospel. You must fiddle to the people, and drum to them; and then you must have amusements and entertainments for them, you must have penny readings and concerts.” Very well, convert sinners that way if you can; I do not object to any method that results in the winning of souls. Stand on your head if that will save the people; but still, it seems to me that if God’s Word is like a fire, there is nothing like it for burning its way; and if God’s Word is like a hammer, there can be nothing like that Word for hammering down everything that stands in the way of Jesus Christ. Why, then, should we net continually try the gospel, and nothing but the gospel? “Well,” says one, “but the poor people are dirty; we must have various sanitary improve-merits.” Of course we must; go on with them as fast as ever you can; the more of such things, the better. There is nothing like soapsuds and whitewash for dirty people and dirty places; but you may whitewash and soapsud them as long as you like, yet that will not save their souls without the gospel of Christ. You may go to them and plead the cause of temperance with them, and I hope you will; the more of it, the better. Make teetotalers of every one of them if you can, for it will be a great blessing to them; but still, you have not really done anything permanent if you stop there. Try the gospel! Try the gospel! Try the gospel! When the gospel was tried against the world in the days of Paul, — when the power of the great empire of ‘Rome had crushed out liberty, and when lust of the most abominable kind made the world reek in the nostrils of God, — nothing was done but preaching Jesus Christ and Him crucified, and the common people heard of Jesus Christ, heard of Him ,gladly, and believed in Him; and very soon down went the false gods, down went the brutal lusts of the Roman empire, and a great part of the world was permeated with the gospel; and it will have ‘to be done again, and it must be done again. But remember that it is only to be done by that same Word of the Lord which did it the first time; and the sooner we get back to that ‘Word, the better; and the more we throw away everything else but the simple telling out of that Word, the more speedy will be the victory, and the more swift and sure will be the triumph for our God and for His Christ.