IT has very frequently happened that while men have been sketching out imaginary designs, they have missed actual opportunities. They would not build because they could not erect a palace; they therefore shiver in the winter cold. They would not be clothed in homespun, for they looked for scarlet and fine linen ere long; they were not content to do a little, and therefore did nothing. It is vain for us to be praying for an extensive revival of religion, and comforting each other in the hope of it, if meanwhile we suffer our zeal to effervesce, and sparkle, and then to be dissipated our proper plan is, with the highest expectations, and with the largest longings, to imitate the woman of whom it is written, “She hath done what she could,” by laboring diligently in such holy works as may be within our reach, according to Solomon’s precept, “Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might.” While believers are zealously doing what God enables them to do, they are in the high road to abundant success; but if they stand all the day idle, gaping after wonders, their Spiritual want shall come upon them as an armed man.
Andrew is the picture of what all disciples of Christ should be. To begin, then. This first successful Christian missionary was Himself a sincere follower of Jesus. While so many will wantonly thrust themselves into the offices of Christ’s Church, having no concern for the glory of His kingdom, and no part or lot in it, it will be always needful to repeat that warning, “Unto the wicked God saith, What hast thou to do to declare My statutes?” Men who have never seen the beauties of Emmanuel are not fit persons to describe them to others.
Andrew was earnest for the souls of others, though he was but a young convert. He appears to have beheld Jesus as the Lamb of God one day, and to have found out his brother Peter the next. Far be it from us to forbid you who but yesterday found joy and peace, to exert your new-born zeal and youthful ardor. No, delay not, but make haste to spread abroad the good news which is now so fresh and so full of joy to you. It is right that the advanced and the experienced should be left to deal with the captious and the skeptical, but you, even you, young as you are, may find some with whom you can cope some brother like Simon Peter, some sister dear to you, who will listen to your unvarnished tale, and believe in your simple testimony.
Andrew was a disciple, a new disciple, a commonplace disciple, a man of average capacity. He was not at all the brilliant character that Simon Peter his brother turned out to be. Throughout the life of Jesus Christ Andrew’s name occurs, but no notable incident is connected therewith. Though in afterlife he no doubt became a most useful apostle, and according to tradition sealed his life’s ministry by death upon a cross, yet at the first Andrew was, as to talent, an ordinary believer, one of that common standard and nothing remarkable. Yet Andrew became a useful minister, and thus it is clear that servants of Jesus Christ are not to excuse themselves from endeavoring to extend the boundaries of His kingdom by saying,” I have no remarkable talent, or singular ability.” I very much disagree with those who decry ministers of slender gifts, sneering at them, as though they ought not to occupy the pulpit at all. Are we, after all, as servants of God, to be measured by mere oratorical ability? Is this after the fashion of Paul, when he renounced the wisdom of words lest the faith of the disciples should stand in the wisdom of man, and not in the power of God? If you could blot out from the Christian Church all the minor stars, and leave nothing but those of the first magnitude, the darkness of this poor world would be increased sevenfold. How often the eminent preachers, which are the Church’s delight, are brought into the Church by those of less degree, even as Simon Peter was converted by Andrew! Who shall tell what might have become of Simon Peter if it had not been for Andrew? Who shall say that the Church would ever have possessed a Peter if she had closed the mouth of Andrew? And who shall put their finger upon the brother or sister of inferior talent and say. “These must hold their peace”? Nay, if thou hast but one talent, the more zealously use it. God will require it of thee let not thy brethren hold thee back from putting it out to interest. If thou art but as a glowworm’s lamp, hide not thy light, for there is an eye predestinated to see by thy light, a heart ordained to find comfort by thy faint gleam. Shine thou, and the Lord accept thee.
Every single professor of the faith of Christ is bound to do something for the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom. I would that all, whatever their talents, would be like Andrew in promptness. He is no sooner a convert than he is a missionary; no sooner taught than he begins to teach. I would have them like Andrew, persevering, as well as prompt. He first finds Peter — that is his first success, but how many afterwards he found, who shall tell? Throughout a long life of usefulness it is probable that Andrew brought many stray sheep to the Redeemer’s fold, yet certainly that first one would be amongst the dearest to his heart. “He first findeth Peter” he was the spiritual father of many sons, but he rejoiced most that he was the father of his own brother Peter — his brother in the flesh, but his son in Christ Jesus.
The object of the soul-winner is not to bring men to an outward religiousness merely. Little will you have done for a man if you merely make the Sabbath-breaker into a Sabbath-keeper, and leave him a selfrighteous Pharisee. Little will you have done for him if you persuade him, having been prayerless, to be a mere user of a form of prayer, his heart not being in it. You do but change the form of sin in which the man lives; you prevent him being drowned in the salt water, but you throw him into the fresh; you take one poison from him, but you expose him to another. The fact is, if you would do real service to Christ, your prayer and your zeal must follow the person who has become the object of your attention, till you bring him absolutely to close with grace and lay hold on Jesus Christ, and accept eternal life as it is found in the atoning sacrifice. Anything short of this may have its usefulness for this world, but must be useless for the world to come. To bring men to Jesus — O, be this your aim — not to bring them to baptism, nor to the meeting-house, but to bring them to His feet who alone can say, “Go in peace; thy sins which are many are all forgiven thee.”
To bring men to Jesus you can adopt the next means, with most of them, namely, that of instructing them, or putting them in the way of being informed concerning the gospel. It is a very wonderful thing that while to us the light of the gospel is so abundant, it should be so very partially distributed in this country. When I have expounded my own hope in Christ to two or three in a railway carriage, I have found myself telling my listeners perfect novelties. I have seen the look of astonishment upon the face of many an intelligent Englishman when I have explained the doctrine of the substitutionary sacrifice of Christ; persons who have even attended their parish church from their youth up, I have met with, who were totally ignorant of the simple truth of justification by faith; ay, and some who have been to dissenting places of worship do not seem to have laid hold of the fundamental truth that no man is saved by his own doing, but that salvation is procured by faith in the blood and righteousness of Jesus Christ. This nation is steeped up to the throat in self-righteous doctrine, and the Protestantism of Martin Luther is very generally unknown. The truth is held by as many as God’s grace has called, but the great outlying world still talk of doing your best, and then hoping in God’s mercy, and! know not what beside of legal self-confidence, while the master-doctrine that he who believes in Jesus is saved by Jesus’ finished work, is sneered at as enthusiasm, or attacked as leading to licentiousness. Tell it, then, tell it on all sides, take care that none under your influence shall be left in ignorance of it; I can bear personal witness that the statement of the gospel has often proved in God’s hand enough to lead a soul into immediate peace.
Not many months ago I met with a lady holding sentiments of almost undiluted popery, and in conversing with her I was delighted to see how interesting and attractive a thing the gospel was to her. She complained that she enjoyed no peace of mind as the result of her religion, and never seemed to have done enough. She had a high idea of priestly absolution, but it had evidently been quite unable to yield repose to her spirit. Death was feared, God was terrible, even Christ an object of awe rather than love. When I told her that whosoever believeth on Jesus is perfectly forgiven, and that I knew I was forgiven — that I was as sure of it as of my own existence; that I feared neither to live nor to die, for it would be the same to me, because God had given me eternal life in His Son, I saw that a new set of thoughts were astonishing her mind. She said, “If could believe that, I should be the happiest person in the world.” I did not deny the inference, but claimed to have proved its truth, and I have reason to believe that the little simple talk we had has not been forgotten. You cannot tell how many may be in bondage for want of the simplest possible instruction upon the plainest truths of the gospel of Jesus Christ.
Many, too, may be brought to Christ through your example. Believe me, there is no preaching in this world like the preaching of a holy life. It shames me sometimes, and weakens me in my testimony for my Master, when I recollect that some professors of religion are a disgrace not only to their religion, but even to common morality. It makes me feel as though I must speak with bated breath and trembling knees, when I remember the damnable hypocrisy of those who thrust themselves into the Church of God, and by their abominable sins bring disgrace upon the cause of God and eternal destruction upon themselves. In proportion as a church is holy, in that proportion will its testimony for Christ be powerful. Oh! were the saints immaculate, our testimony would be like fire among the stubble, like the flaming firebrand in the midst of the sheaves of corn. Were the saints of God less like the world, more disinterested, more prayerful, more godlike, the tramp of the armies of Zion would shake the nations, and the day of the victory of Christ would surely dawn.