DO you not think that at times our getting lax in Christian work arises from our being very low in grace? As a rule, you cannot get out of a man that which is not in him. You cannot go forth yourself to your class and do your work vigorously if you have lost inward vigor. You cannot minister before the Lord with the unction of the Holy One if that unction is not upon you.
If you are not living near to God and in the power of God, then the power of God will not go forth through you to the children of your care; so that I think we should judge, when we become discontented and down-hearted, that we are out of sorts spiritually. Let us say to ourselves, “Come! my soul! What aileth thee? This faint heart is a sign that thou art out of health.
Go to the great Physician, and obtain from Him a tonic which shall brace thee. Come, play the man. Have none of these whims! Away with your idleness! The reaping-time will come, therefore thrust in the plow.” ‘Is not another reason why we become down-hearted to be found in the coldness and indifference of our fellow-Christians? We see others doing the Lord’s work carelessly and when we are all on fire ourselves we find them to be cold as ice: we get among people in the church who do not seem to care whether the souls of the children are saved or not, and thus we are apt to be discouraged. The idleness of others should be an argument for our being more diligent ourselves. If our Master’s work is suffering at the hands of our fellow-servants should we not try to do twice as much ourselves to make up for their deficiencies? Ought not the laggards to be warnings to us lest we also come into the same lukewarm condition? To argue that I ought to be a sluggard because others loiter is poor logic.
Sometimes, too — I am ashamed to mention it — I have heard of teachers becoming weary from want of being appreciated. Their work has not been sufficiently noticed by the pastor, and praised by the superintendent, and sufficient notice has not been taken of them and their class by their fellowteachers.
I will not say much about this cause of faintness, because it is so small an affair that it is quite below a Christian. Appreciation! Do we expect it in this world? The Jewish nation despised and rejected their King, and even if we were as holy as the Lord Jesus we might still fail to be rightly judged and properly esteemed. What matters it? If God accepts us we need not be dismayed, though all should pass us by.
Perhaps, however, the work itself may suggest to us a little more excuse for being weary. It is hard work to sow on the highway, and amidst the thorns — hard work to be casting good seed upon the rock year after year.
Well, if I had done so for many years, and was enabled by the Holy Ghost, I would say to myself: “I shall not give up my work because I have not yet received a recompense in it, for I perceive that in the Lord’s parable three sowings did not succeed, and yet the one piece of good ground paid for all.
Perhaps I have gone through my three unsuccessful sowings, and now is my time to enjoy my fourth, in which the seed will fall upon good ground.”
It is a pity, when you have had some years of rough work, to give all up now. Why, now you are going to enjoy the sweets of your former labor. It would be a pity, just when you have mastered your class, and prepared the way for a blessing, for you to run away from it. There is so much less of difficulty for you to overcome by as much as you have already overcome.
He who has passed so many miles of a rough voyage will not have to go over those miles again: do not let him think of going back. To go back, indeed, in this pilgrimage were shameful and as we have no armor for our back, it would be dangerous. Putting our hand to this plow and looking back will prove that we were unworthy of the kingdom. If there be a hundred reasons for giving up your work of faith, there are fifty thousand for going on with it. Though there are many arguments for fainting, there are far more arguments for persevering. Though we might be weary, and do sometimes feel so, let us wait upon the Lord and renew our strength, and we shall mount up with wings as eagles, forget our weariness, and be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might.
We have abundant encouragement in the prospect of reward. “In due season we shall reap, if we faint not.”
The reaping time will come. Our chief business is to glorify God by teaching the truth whether souls are saved or not; but still I demur to the statement that we may go on preaching the gospel for years and years, and even all our life-time, and yet no result may follow. They say, “Paul may plant and Apollos may water, but God giveth the increase.” I should like them to find that passage in the Bible. In my English Bible it runs thus: “I (Paul) have planted, Apollos watered; but God gave the increase.” There is not the slightest intent to teach us that when Paul planted and Apollos watered, God would arbitrarily refuse the increase. All the glory is claimed for the Lord, but honest labor is not despised. I do not say that there is the same relation between teaching the truth and conversion as there is between cause and effect, so that they are invariably connected; but I will maintain that it is the rule of the kingdom that they should be connected, through the power of the Holy Ghost. Some causes will not produce effects because certain obstacles intervene to prevent. A person may teach the gospel in a bad spirit; that must spoil it. A person may teach only part of the gospel, and he may put that the wrong way upwards. God may bless it somewhat, but yet the good man may greatly retard the blessing by the mistaken manner in which he delivers the truth. Take it as a rule that the truth of God prayed over, spoken in the fear of the Lord, with the Holy Spirit dwelling in the man who speaks it, will produce the effect which is natural to it. As the rain climbs not up to the skies, and the snow-flakes never take to themselves wings to rise to heaven, so neither shall the Word of God return unto Him void, but it shall accomplish that which He pleases. We have not spent our strength in vain. Not a verse taught to a little girl, nor a text dropped into the ear of a careless boy, nor an earnest warning given to an obdurate young sinner, nor a loving farewell to one of the senior girls, shall be without some result or other to the glory of God.
And, taking it all together as a mass, though this handful of seed may be eaten of the birds, and that other seed may die on the hard rock, yet, as a whole, the seed shall spring up in sufficient abundance to plentifully reward the sower and the giver of the seed. We know that our labor is not in vain in the Lord. Go to your classes with this persuasion, “I shall not labor in vain, or spend my strength for nought.” “According to your faith, so be it unto you.” Take a little measure, and you shall have it filled with the manna of success, but take a great omer, and in its fullness you shall have abundance. Believe in the power of the truth you teach. Believe in the power of Christ about whom you speak. Believe in the omnipotence of the Holy Ghost, whose help you have invoked in earnest prayer. Go to your sowing, and reckon upon reaping. “Let us not be weary, for we shall reap.” We shall reap. It is not, “We shall do the work, and our successors shall reap after we are gone.” We ought to be very pleased even with that, and no doubt such is often the case. But we shall reap too. Yes, I shall have my sheaves, and you will have yours The plot which I have toiled and wept over shall yield me my sheaves of harvest, and I shall personally gather them. I shall reap. “I never thought much of myself as a teacher,” says one, “I always feel that I am hardly competent, and I notice that the superintendent has only trusted me with the little children; but I am so glad to hear that I shall reap. I shall reap. I shall have a dear little one, saved in the Lord, to be my portion.” I pray you, if you have never reaped yet, begin to hope. You teachers who are always punctual, I mean of course, if you do not come in time, you do not care whether you reap or not; but I speak to punctual teachers, I speak also to earnest teachers — for if you are not earnest you will never reap: you punctual, earnest, prayerful teachers shall reap. Some teachers do not go in for reaping, and they will not enjoy it. But I am speaking now to real, hardworking, earnest Sunday-school teachers who give their hearts to it, and yet have seen no results. According to the text, you shall reap. Come, my persevering comrades, let us not be discouraged: In due season we shall reap,” even we. You shall have your share with others. Though you feel as though you must give it up, you shall yet reap. After sowing all this while, do not cease from labor when reaping time is so near. If I were a farmer, if I did give up my farm, it should be before I sowed my wheat, but if I had done all the plowing and the sowing, I should not say to my landlord, “There are six weeks and then cometh harvest, and I desire to let another tenant come in.” No, no. I should want to stop and see the harvest gathered and the wheat taken to market. I should want to have my reward.
So wait for your recompense, specially you that have been discouraged, — In due time we shall reap, if we faint not.” We who have thought least of our service, and perhaps have exercised least faith, and endured most searchings of heart and most groaning and crying before the Lord, we also “in due season shall reap, if we faint not.” What reward can equal the conversion of these young immortals? Is it not the highest felicity that we can enjoy on earth, next to communion with our Lord, to see these little ones saved? Taking the Sunday-school, however; on a broad scale, I think your reward partly lies in rearing up a generation of worship-loving people.
We cannot get at the great masses of London, do what we may. Go into what evangelistic assembly you may, you will soon detect from the manner of the singing that the bulk of the people have been accustomed to sacred song. We do not know how to get at the great tens of thousands; but you do. You reach them while they are little, and you send them home to sing their hymns to their fathers, who will not come and sing them. They go and tell their mothers all about Jesus, so that the children of London are the missionaries of our city. They are Christ’s heralds to the families where ministers would be totally shut out. You are training them up, and if you do this work well (and I charge you to look well to the connecting link between your senior classes and the church), if you do this work well, we shall require more places of worship, and more earnest ministers, for the people will take to coming to the house of prayer. When that day arrives there will be a grand time for the preachers of the Word. In some villages of England, and especially in Scotland, you will scarcely find a single person absent when the house of God is open! They all go to the kirk, or to the meeting-house. Alas, it is not so in London. We have hundreds of thousands who forget the Sabbath. We have, I fear, more than a million of our fellow-citizens who go so seldom to a place of worship that they may be said to be habitually absent. It will be a grand thing if you can change all this, and give us church-going millions.
And then, I believe that to you there will be another reward, namely, that of saturating the whole population with religious truth. All children are now to be taught to read. Shall they read so as to grow up highwaymen and thieves, or shall they read so as to become servants of the living God?
Very much of that must depend upon you. You will, in due subordination to all other objects, take care to introduce your children to interesting but sound literature. Your boys must read and if you are the teacher of a boy who reads “Jack Sheppard,” you will be sadly to blame if he continues to delight in such an abomination. I trust that your leaven will leaven the whole lump of our country; that you will be the means of improving the moral tone of society, and as generation, follows generation I trust we shall see a nation bright with religious knowledge, devout with religious thought, and in all things exalted by justice and truth.