THE Authorized Version has it, “Thou hast multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.” This is not consistent with the connection; and the Revised Version has very properly put it, “Thou hast multiplied the nation.
Thou hast increased their joy.” I have not any learning to display; but I think I could show you, if this were the proper time, how the passage came to be read with a “not,” and I could also prove to you, that, in this instance, the Revisers were right in making their alteration.
We feel that we ought to be glad when others are joined to the church, because we look back, with exquisite pleasure, upon our own joining it. I remember the trouble it cost me to join the church. I think I went to see the pastor some four or five days running; he was always too busy to see me, till at last I told him it did not matter, for I would go to the churchmeeting, and propose myself as a member; and then he, all of a sudden, found time to see me, and so I managed to get into the church, and confess my faith in Christ. That was one of the best day’s work I ever did, when I openly declared my faith in Christ, and united myself with His people! I think many could say the same; they remember when they united with the people of God, and publicly avowed their faith.
Conversion must be the Lord’s work. The only multiplication of the Church of God that is to be desired is that which God sends: “Thou hast multiplied the nation.” If we add to our churches by becoming worldly, by taking persons who have never been born again; if we add to our churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the life of the worldling, our increase is worth nothing at all; it is a loss rather than again. If we add to our churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions, rather than by explaining truth to the understanding; if we add to our churches otherwise than by the power of the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Jesus Christ, the increase is of no worth whatever. A man picked himself up from the gutter, and rolled up against Mr. Rowland Hill, one night as he went home, and he said, “Mr. Hill, I am pleased to see you, sir. I am one of your converts.” Rowland said, “I thought it was very likely you were. You are not one of God’s converts, or else you would not be drunk.” There is a great lesson in that answer. My converts are no good; Rowland Hill’s converts could get drunk; but the converts of the Spirit of God, those who are really renewed in the spirit of their mind, by a supernatural operation, these are a real increase to the church of God. “Thou hast multiplied the nation.” Pray hard that the Lord may continue to send us converts. He never sends the wrong people. However poor they may be, however illiterate, if they are converted, as they will be if the Lord sends them, they are the very people that we want. May God send us thousands more! “The people that walked in darkness have seen a great light they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them hath the light shined.” When God brings men to the church, they are the people who have undergone a very remarkable change. They have come out of darkness, palpable, horrible, into light, marvelous and delightful. God sends no other than these. If you are not changed characters, if you are not new creatures in Christ Jesus, if you cannot say, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see,” the church cannot receive you as you are, and God has not sent you. Now, who can turn us from darkness unto light but God? ‘Who can work this great miracle within the heart? Darkness of heart is very hard to move. Who but God can make the eternal light burst through the natural darkness, and turn us from the power of Satan unto God?
Conversion must have a distinct relation to Christ. “For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be upon His shoulder: and His name shalt be called Wonderful, Counselor, the Mighty God, the everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” We want converts who know this Christ, men and women to whom He is “Wonderful,” to whom He has become the” Counselor.” We want no additions to the church of those who cannot call Him “the mighty God, the everlasting Father.” We want men and women to whom Christ has become “the Prince of Peace.”
If these are added to us, the church groweth exceedingly. If others are added, they do but increase our burden; they become our weakness; in many cases they become our disgrace.
The joy of any growing church will be such as God gives That is the kind we desire to have. If anybody wishes to see the church grow that we may excel other churches, that is not the joy that God gives. If we like to see converts because we are glad that our opinions should be spread, God does not give that joy. If we crave converts that we may steal them from other people, God does not give that joy, if it be a joy. I do not think God is the lover of sheep-stealers, and there are plenty such about. We do not desire to increase our numbers by taking Christian people away from other Christian communities. No, the joy which God gives is clear, unselfish delight in Christ being glorified, in souls being saved, in truth being spread, and in error being baffled.
The husbandman expects a harvest. He says, “It is so many weeks to harvest.” He sows his seed with a view to harvest. He turns in a man to clear out the weeds with a view to harvest. He has a barn, and he has a threshing-machine, all with a view to harvest. Well, now, every church should be looking out for a spiritual harvest. One said to me, once, “I have preached for several years, and I believe God has blessed the Word; but nobody ever comes forward to tell me so.” I said to him, “Next Lord’sday, say to the people, ‘I shall be in the vestry, when the sermon is finished, to see friends who have been converted.’“ To his surprise, ten or twelve came in; and he was taken quite aback; but, of course, quite delighted. He had not looked for a harvest, so of course he did not get it. My first student went out to preach on Tower Hill, Sunday after Sunday. He came to me, and said,” I have been out preaching now for several months on Tower Hill, and I have not seen one conversion.” I said to him, rather sharply, “Do you expect God is going to bless you every time you choose to open your mouth?” He answered, “Oh! no, sir; I do not expect Him to do that.” “Then,” I replied, “that is why you do not get a blessing.” We ought to expect a blessing. God has said, “My Word shall not return unto Me void;” and it will not. We ought to look for a harvest, lie who preaches the gospel with his whole heart, ought to be surprised if he does not hear of conversions; and he ought to begin to say in his heart, “I will know the reason why,” and never stop till he has found it out. The joy of harvest is what we have a right to expect.
He is bound to rejoice in a harvest who has sorrowed in ploughing, and in the sowing of the seed, and in watching his crop when it was in the ear, and when frost, and blight, and mildew threatened to destroy it. Many of us here can rejoice with the joy of harvest, because, in those converted to Christ, we see the fruit of our soul’s travail, I find that I am very generally the spiritual grandfather of those who come, rather than their father in the faith; for I find that you, whom God gave me in years past are, many of you, diligent in seeking the souls of others, In the case of many who join the church, their conversion is due to this sister and to that, to this brother and to that, rather than distinctly to my ministry. I am very glad to have it so. I have spoken to two friends, both of whom said to me, “I am your spiritual grandchild.” One from America said so. I asked, “How is that?”
The answer was, “Mr. So-and-so, whom you brought to Christ, came out to America, and he brought me to Christ.”
It is a joy which has solid ground to go upon. I do not know of a more joyful occasion than when young men and women, and, for the matter of that, old men and women, too, are brought to confess Christ, and to unite with His people. It is a very joyful thing to attend a wedding; but it is always a speculation as to how it will turn out; but when you come to see a soul yield itself to Christ, there is no speculation about that; you have a blessed certainty. Oh, methinks the angels sing more sweetly than ever as they hear a man, or woman, or child say, “I trust in Jesus; I confess His name.” When we know and believe that true faith in Christ means present salvation, there is a great joy about that. I heard of some preachers who say that there is no such thing as a present salvation; and though they constantly preach, they tell the people, every now and then, that they may be saved when they come to die; but there is no such thing as being saved now. I should like to present those brethren with a little “Catechism for the Young and Ignorant,” which Mr. Cruden was wont to give away; for, if they are not young, they certainly must be ignorant of the first principles of the faith. You are saved, if you have believed in Christ Jesus. You are saved even now. If you were not, I do not see any, reason why we should rejoice over you with the joy of harvest.
This is a joy in which many may join; for, in the harvest, anybody who likes may rejoice. There is the proprietor of the field; he rejoices. How greatly Christ rejoices! There are the laborers; they may shout as they bring home the loads; they know what that field of wheat has cost. Let us, who are working for Jesus, have the joy of harvest. The on-lookers, too, as they go by, and see the harvest gathered in, will stop, and even give a shout over the hedge. If you are not yourself saved, you might be glad that other people are. Even if you are not yourself going to Heaven, rejoice that others are choosing the blessed road. I invite even you to come, and share with us the joy of harvest. The gleaner, Ruth, over yonder, says, “I have stooped many times. I have almost broken my back over the work; and I have only picked up this little handful.” I know you, sister, and I am pleased that you should bring even one to Christ. know you, my brother; and I rejoice with you that you should bring even one child to the Savior.
Though you be but a gleaner, join heartily with us in the joy of harvest.
What say we of those who never sow? Well, they will never reap; they will never have the joy of harvest. Am I addressing any professing Christians who never sow, never speak a word for Christ, never call at a house, and try to introduce the Savior’s name, never seek to bring children to the Savior, take no part in the Sunday — school, or other service for Christ?
Do I address some lazy man here, spiritually alive only for himself? Oh, poor soul, I would not like to be you, because I doubt whether you can be spiritually alive at all! Surely, he who lives for himself is dead while he lives; and you will never know the joy of bringing souls to Christ; and when you get to heaven, if you ever do get there, you will never be able to say,” Here, am I, Father and the children Thou hast given me.” Thou wilt have to abide eternally alone, having brought no fruit unto God in the form of converts from sin. Shake yourselves up, brothers and sisters, from sinful sloth. “Oh! ” says one, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” No, I will tell you your name; it is Cain. You are your brother’s murderer; for every professing Christian, who is not his brother’s keeper, is his brother’s killer; and be you sure that it is so; for you may kill by neglect quite as surely as you may kill by the bow or by the dagger.
What say we to those who have never reaped? Well, that depends. Perhaps you have only just begun to sow. Do not expect to reap before God’s time. “In due season ye shall reap if ye faint not.” There is a set season for reaping. But, if you have been a very long time sowing, and you have never reaped, may I ask the question, Where do you buy your seed? If I were to sow my garden year by year, and nothing ever came up, I should change my seedsman. Perhaps you have bad seed, and have not sown the gospel pure and undiluted. You have not brought it out in all its fullness. Go to the Word of God, and get “seed for the sower” of a kind that will feed your own soul, for it is “bread for the eater”; when you sow that kind of seed, it will come up.