The GOSPEL TRUTH
A Summary of
Salvationist Publishing and Supplies, LTD
JUDD STREET, KING'S CROSS, W.C.1
I. What Is A Revival
II. IMPORTANCE OF A REVIVAL
III. REVIVALS AS AFFECTING THE CHURCH
IV. PREVAILING PRAYER
V. THE PRAYER OF FAITH
VI. THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
VII. BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
VIII. MEETINGS FOR PRAYER
IX. MEANS TO BE USED WITH SINNERS
X. To WIN SOULS REQUIRES WISDOM
XI. THE WISE MAN WILL BE SUCCESSFUL
XII. How TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
XIII. How CHRISTIANS CAN HELP THEIR LEADERS
XIV. MEASURES TO PROMOTE REVIVALS
XV. HINDRANCES TO REVIVALS
XVI. THE NECESSITY FOR AND EFFECT OF UNION
XVII. FALSE COMFORTS FOR SINNERS
XVIII. DIRECTIONS TO SINNERS.
XIX. THE INSTRUCTION OF CONVERTS
XX. FURTHER DIRECTIONS CONCERNING CONVERTS
XXII. GROWTH IN GRACE
WHAT IS A REVIVAL?
A REVIVAL pre-supposes the church to have lapsed into a backslidden state, and consists in the return of the church from her backsliding, and in the conversion of sinners.
1. A revival always includes conviction of sin on the part of professing Christians. The fountains of their hearts are broken up, there are deep heart-searchings, and often the conviction of sin is so deep that it produces agony of soul bordering on despair.
2. There is repentance and forsaking of sin, and deep humiliation before God on the part of Christians.
3. Christians have their faith, love, and zeal renewed. While in a backslidden state they are blind to the state of sinners around them. Their hearts are like marble; but in a Revival their faith is renewed. They realize the truths of the Bible and their hearts are filled with a tender burning love for souls. The spirit of agonizing prayer comes upon them, and they plead and pray for souls.
4. The power of the world and of sin over Christians is broken, and they enjoy a new sense of union and communion with God.
5. When the church is thus revived, the conviction and conversion of sinners follow. When Christians have deep feelings on the subject of religion, they invariably produce the same among sinners.
IMPORTANCE OFA REVIVAL
I. When is a Revival needed?
I. WHEN there is an absence of love, confidence, and unity among Christians.
When they are in a cold and backslidden state, they cannot and ought not to love one another with the love of complacency and approbation. It is in vain to can upon them to love one another while they are sunk in stupidity and coldness. They can only properly love one another when they see in each other the true reflection of the Spirit of Christ.
2. When there are jealousies, bitterness, and evil-speakings among Christians.
3. When the church becomes worldly in dress, equipage, parties, amusements, reading novels and worldly books.
4. When professing Christians fan into gross and scandalous sins.
5. When a spirit of controversy prevails among Christians.
6. When the wicked triumph over and mock at the church.
7. When sinners are careless and going down to Hell unconcerned. The duty of Christians is to awake them--like that of firemen in case of fire: their guilt is similar to that of firemen who will sleep on when the city is ablaze.
I1. Why is a Revival important?
I. A Revival is the only way of restoring the church and removing its reproach.
2. Nothing but a Revival can and ought to restore confidence amongst church members. By being revived confidence is restored and love renewed.
3. A Revival is the only way of arresting God's judgment from falling upon the church, as may be seen from the history of the Jews. Christians are more to blame for not being revived than sinners are for not being converted. Churches and whole denominations are often cursed because they refuse to be revived. Nothing but a Revival can save such a church from annihilation-from gradually dwindling away.
4. Nothing but Revival can prevent the means of Grace from doing injury to the unconverted, who will become hardened under careless preaching and go to Hell while their blood win be required of the church.
5. There is no other way but by a Revival for a church to grow in grace and be sanctified and fit for Heaven.
III. When may a Revival be expected?
I. When the providence of God indicates that a Revival is at hand. Those who have spiritual discernment can see the signs.
2. When the wickedness of sinners distresses and humbles Christians, and drives them to prayer and breaks them down. Then you may be certain that you are going to have a Revival. But the prevalence of wickedness is no bar to a Revival. The Devil may rage, but he cannot stop it.
3. When Christians have the spirit of prayer for a Revival.
When they go about groaning out their heart's desire. When they have real travail of soul. Unless they resist and grieve the Holy Spirit away, a Revival will invariably follow if they hold on until they prevail. Sometimes the minister may have this spirit of prayer-or it may be some humble obscure church member, but invariably some one has this spirit of prayer when a Revival is about to take place. Generally a Revival is more or less extensive as few or more persons have this spirit of prayer.
4. When preaching and efforts are specially directed to secure a Revival it is certain. There are fewer exceptions than for a farmer not to obtain a harvest when he has made the necessary preparations.
5. When Christians begin whole-heartedly to confess their sins to one another.
6. When Christians are willing to make the necessary sacrifice of time and strength.
7. When the minister is willing to risk offending the impenitent sinners and cold church members. He must be willing , if necessary, even to be driven out from his place.
REVIVALS AS AFFECTING THE CHURCH
"Breaking up the fallow ground' (Hosea 10:12)
WHEN ground has been once tilled and has afterwards been allowed to go to waste, it needs to be broken up and mellowed before seed can be put in. Similarly, the ground of a Christian's heart is liable to get dry and hard and unable to receive the seed.
How is the ground to be broken up?
I. Not by direct efforts to feel. The emotions or feelings are involuntary. They cannot be controlled directly by our resolving that we will feel in a certain way; but they can be controlled indirectly by turning the mind in a certain direction.
2. You must examine the state of your heart and mind and life, to see whether your life is waste or fruitful. You must consider your sins. Call up the past. Examine its true character. Take up your individual sins--go over them, note them as carefully as a merchant does his accounts.
A. SINS OF OMISSION
(a) Ingratitude for mercies, blessings, etc.
(b) Want of love to God, giving your affection to other things. God is jealous. Think of a wife or husband giving their heart to others. Such is the sin of many Christians.
(c) Neglect of Bible. God's Word ceases to be a pleasure. If read at all, it is read at random, carelessly, without reflection.
(d) Neglect of prayer--secret prayer, family prayer, public prayer, or if observed it is done in a formal, heartless manner, so as to grieve and insult God.
(e) Unbelief--disbelieving God's own solemn promises. For instance, where He has promised to give the Holy Ghost--charging God with unfaithfulness.
(f) Neglect of means of grace. Disrelish of spiritual duties or the unworthy manner in which such duties are performed. Want of feeling and faith. Prayers that are mere chatterings of a careless soul. No soul travail. No agony.
(g) Want of love for souls. Seeing them going to Hell without feeling compassion; without putting up a single fervent prayer, even on behalf of relations and friends.
(h) Want of care for the conversion of non-Christian nations.
(i) Neglect of duties. Neglect of watchfulness over one's own life and actions; not taking self to task for such negligence; being off one's guard, and sinning before the world and the church and God.
(j) Neglect of brethren. Failure to watch over their souls, to ascertain their spiritual condition and progress. Seeing them grow cold in religion and not warning them.
(k) Neglect of self-denial and sacrifice. These are a condition of discipleship.
B. SINS OF COMMISSION
(a) Worldly-mindedness and love of pleasure and ease.
(b) Pride. Vanity. Taking more trouble to adorn the body than the soul when going to Meetings. Thinking more about what men will say of you, more about outward appearances than about God and the appearance of the soul.
(c) Envying the talents, gifts, and graces of others. Preferring to think about their faults and failings rather than about their gifts. Pain because they are better or abler than self.
(d) Censoriousness, evil-speaking, fault-finding.
(e) Slandering people behind their backs, fault-finding unnecessarily.
(f) Levity--a light, trifling spirit before God; would not dare to behave before an earthly monarch as you do before God.
(g) Lying, deception, creating false impressions. Falseness in business or in social intercourse, by looks and words as well as deeds.
(h) Cheating others, in failing to do to them what you would have them do to you. The law of action (Golden Rule) laid down by Christ.
(i) Irritability, impatience, loss of self-control.
(j) Bad temper.
(k) Hypocrisy in prayers, half-hearted confession of sin.
(1) Robbing God, wasting His time, money, and talents.
(m) Hindering others' usefulness by speaking against them--destroying others' confidence in God's people.
(n) Loitering oneself, and wasting the time of others.
3. Do not try to get round these sins. Do not, as the farmers say, 'balk' the difficulties or obstacles. Confess to others, if necessary by post, the wrongs that you have done to them, and so far as you can, make reparation. Confess to God the things you have done against Him.
4. Go over the ground again and again. You will find that one sin will suggest others. Go over as thoroughly and carefully as if it were the Judgment Day, resolving to reform immediately your heart, your temper, or your conduct.
5. If your mind is still dark be sure that there is some cause. Endeavor to discover it. Deal thoroughly with yourself, then the spirit of prayer will follow.
6. After the ground of the heart has been thoroughly broken up, go and look at sinners on the road to Hell; talk to them, deal with them, guide them, and more feeling will follow.
THERE are two kinds of means necessary to promote a Revival:
I. PRAYERS TO INFLUENCE GOD.
2. TRUTH TO INFLUENCE MEN.
God's mind is not changed by prayer, but prayer produces such a change in us as renders it right for God to answer prayer. For instance, when a sinner repents, this makes it right for God to forgive. God is always ready to forgive, but cannot properly do so until the sinner repents. So when Christians offer effectual prayer, this is an essential link in Revivals, just as much as truth. Some have zealously used truth, but have laid little stress on prayer; hence the results have been poor. Truth, by itself, will only harden hearts. It is not necessarily always the same person who exercises prayer effectually as the one who uses truth. On the other hand, to rely solely on prayer is to tempt God. Both are necessary.
A. WHAT IS PREVAILING PRAYER?
I. Not merely benevolent desires. These are pleasing to God, but prevailing prayer is something more.
2. Prevailing prayer is prayer which obtains the blessing it seeks; prayer which effectually moves God; prayer which effects the object which it seeks.
B. ESSENTIAL ATTRIBUTES OF PREVAILING PRAYER.
I. You must pray for a definite object: not at random; not merely 'saying prayers.' Indefinite prayer is like sending up petitions to the Legislature without a definite object. The mind is so constituted that it is impossible to pray for a variety of objects at the same time. All instances of answered prayer have been for some definite object.
2. Prevailing prayer must be in accordance with the revealed will of God. This revelation of His will may be in any of the following ways:
(a) By express promises or prophecies in the Bible.
(b) By special providences which those who have spiritual discernment Can understand.
(c) By His Spirit. When God's people are at a loss what to pray for, the Holy Ghost helps, guides, teaches, and inspires them. If filled with the Spirit He will be our Guide.
3. There must be submission to God's will. Submission does not mean indifference.
4. Your desires must be commensurate with the importance of the object. Then if they are benevolent, and not contrary to the revealed will of God, there is reason to believe they will be granted. First, because of the general benevolence 01 God; and, secondly, because there is reason to believe that the Spirit Himself is exciting these desires.
5. The motives must be right. They must not be selfish.
There must be a supreme regard for God's glory. The prayers of parents are often based on pure selfishness. There is little or no regard for God's honor. Similarly, prayers for the heathen are often based merely on sympathy, because they are going to Hell; there is little or no distress because they are dishonoring God .
6. Prayer to prevail must be persevering. When Christians have lost the spirit of prayer, the mind is apt to wander, and is usually only got back by a prolonged effort. But when filled with anxiety for sinners a Christian is like a mother praying over her sick child. She will go about the house groaning out her desire to God. Jacob bore the mark of such prayer in his body for the rest of his life. Paul speaks of it as ' travail of soul' ; so Isaiah says, speaking of Christ: 'He shall see of the travail of His soul, and shall be satisfied.' Christ in Gethsemane prayed till drops of blood poured from His body. Such was His agony. I have known of persons in mid-winter praying until they have perspired. Jonathan Edwards says: 'If distress is allowable in case of fire or calamity, why not for souls?' So Revelation 12 describes the church as 'in travail of soul.' Similarly, the Psalmist speaks of 'rivers of water' running down his eyes; so also Jeremiah. This spirit is always met with in great Revivals in proportion to the greatness of the Revival.
7. To pray effectually you must pray a great deal. The Apostles of old are said to have prayed so much that they had callous knees.
8. Prayer must be in the name of Christ. He authorizes the use of His name in prayer, just as a millionaire might give us his cheque book.
9. There must be renunciation of all sin for ever.
10. Prayer must be in faith. Faith must rest on evidence, but having such evidences we are bound to believe God's promises, or His providences, or His special revelations, otherwise we make Him a liar. To follow the leadings of God's Spirit is not fanaticism. Some may make a mistake, but this is so with all things. 'As many as are led by the Spirit of God, they are the sons of God.'
C. WHY GOD REQUIRES STRONG AGONIZING DESIRE IN PREVAILING PRAYER.
I. It illustrates the strength of God's own feelings. Isaiah 53.11: 'He shall see of the travail of His soul, and hall be satisfied'; Gethsemane--'My soul is sorrowful, even unto death.' 'All day long have I stretched out My hands.'
2. It is the natural result of a clear view of the guilt and anger of sinners. Considering this, strong feeling is only reasonable. When no such feelings exist, piety is purely superficial.
3. The soul of the Christian thus exercised must have relief. God rolls this weight on to his soul to bring him nearer to Himself. When he is thus exercised he must come to God for relief. It is like the case of a convicted sinner.
His conviction increases to agony. So the Christian; he comes again and again to God. There is no relief. He becomes desperate. Then, finally, he rolls the burden on to Christ with childlike faith, and receives a wonderful assurance that his prayer is answered. Such an experience is often followed by the sweetest and liveliest feelings of joy unspeakable and full of glory. The absence of such soul travail is due to grieving the Holy Ghost by worldliness, pride, etc. The story of all great Revivals is similar. Compare Joel 19:17: 'Now, saith the Lord, turn ye even unto Me with all your hearts, and with fasting, and with weeping, and with mourning: and rend your hearts and not your garments, and turn unto the Lord your God.'
4. This strong desire forms a bond of union between Christ and the church. Christians feel just as Christ feels. They receive the outpouring at' His own great benevolent heart. Thus, with the preacher, words come fresh and warm from his lips as though from the very heart of Christ. Then the souls of his hearers are moved.
5. It constitutes a wonderful bond of union between warmhearted Christians and their converts. Their love resembles that of a mother for her infant. The converts are very dear to the heart of those who have prayed for them.
6. This kind of prayer is the only way in which the church can be properly prepared to receive great blessings, without being puffed up with pride. This agony humbles Christians in the dust before God. Then they are ready to receive the blessing, and the blessing increases their holiness, their love, and their humility.
D. SUCH PRAYER WILL AVAIL MUCH.
Many instances might easily be gathered. Take Elijah, and the famine in Israel, as quoted by James--he both closed and opened the windows of Heaven. Take the prayers of Knox--they were more feared by Queen Mary than the armies which opposed her. One day, after much prayer, Knox told his friends he had received the assurance of deliverance. The next news that came was that Mary was dead.
There was the case of a village blacksmith of stammering speech. One afternoon, he felt called to close his shop and pray. A Revival broke out, and sinners dated their conversion from the time when he commenced to pray. Many similar instances could be quoted.
E. PRACTICAL COUNSEL
I. Much prayer is lost because when persons have their hearts exercised they do not persevere. They allow their attention to be diverted to other things. When the mind is thus exercised, take care.
(a) Don't grieve the Spirit.
(b) Don't be diverted to other objects. Follow the leadings of the Spirit until prevailing prayer has been offered.
2. Without prevailing prayer, ministers will do little good. They need not expect success unless and until they offer such prayer. Sometimes the prayer may be offered by others, but usually the success of the minister depends on offering it himself.
3. The church must co-operate with its minister in offering prevailing prayer. Christians must confess their sins and get them put out of' the way. And then the Spirit of God will surely come down upon them.
THE PRAYER OF FAITH
I. Faith is an indispensable condition at prevailing prayer. It is not the same as the offering of benevolent desires. Faith ensures the particular blessing prayed for. James says emphatically: ' It shall be given him, but let him ask in faith, nothing wavering.'
2. What are we to believe?
(a) In God: that He exists and answers prayer. We are to believe in the efficacy of prayer.
(b) That we receive the very things we ask for.
3. When are we bound to make such prayer? When we have foundation on which to base our faith. Faith must have satisfactory foundation; to believe without such would be fanaticism. The ground or foundation of faith may be of the following kinds:
(a) Some special promise at God. For instance, to give us the Holy Spirit, and we have no right to put in an 'if ' when we pray for the Holy Spirit. We have no right in such an instance to say: 'If it be Thy will.' This is to insult God, as if He were insincere in making the promise.
(b) A general promise at God which we can reasonably apply to some particular case. For instance, when wickedness prevails we can quote Isaiah 59:19: 'When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him.' (The margin says: ' shall put him to flight.') This is a general principle of God's administration on which we can base our faith. Many similar promises can be quoted and applied. The Bible is full of them, applicable to every condition and circumstance. Those who walk with God in faith and prayer are often amazed at the richness of God's promises. We see the apostles constantly applying such promises, and we often wonder at our own previous blindness.
(c) A prophecy--that some event is according to the will of God. For instance, Daniel reading the Scriptures, found that the Jews were to return in seventy years. He did not sit down, and say it has to be, or it is bound to take place anyhow. He sought God by fasting and prayer. God will be inquired of regarding these things. The exact time may not be revealed, as it was to Daniel, and in that case we are not bound to believe until it is revealed.
(d) Indication by signs of the times or providences of God that something is about to happen, such as a Revival. Christ rebukes the Jews frequently because they could not discern the signs of the Messiah's coming. Those who have spiritual insight will see when a Revival is coming.
(e) A strong inward desire excited by the Spirit of God for special spiritual blessing. We should follow up such desires until the blessing is actually received. We are bound to infer that these desires are excited by the Spirit of God, and we should infer that God is willing to bestow the particular blessing which He lays upon our hearts to pray for. God does not trifle with His children. We should follow up these desires and exercise faith.
4. The prayer of faith always obtains the very blessing asked, not something else.
(a) Otherwise we could never know if the prayer was really answered.
(b) Otherwise it would necessarily follow that the Spirit had deceived us in exciting such desires.
(c) Christ Himself rebuked the idea that something else may be given instead of the blessing prayed for, and the whole history of the church proves that the very thing asked for is given.
5. How are you to offer the prayer of faith?
(a) Not by saying: 'Now I will pray in faith.'
(b) You must obtain evidence that God will bestow the blessing. The Bible is full of precious promises. A minister once went round to the praying members of his congregation and showed some of these promises to them, and asked them what they thought these promises meant. They all took the common-sense view, and thought the promises meant what they said. As a result a Revival started. Many others who have started to study the Bible in regard to the prayer of faith, before getting half-way through the promises, have been filled with the Spirit of God, and have realized that God's promises meant just what they say.
(c) Cherish good desires. Don't trifle with them. Don't grieve the Spirit. Good desires are often lost for want of care, by levity, by censoriousness, by worldliness. Watch and pray and follow up good desires.
(d) Entire and absolute consecration to God is indispensable for praying the prayer of faith. Holy men have always set apart time for renewing their covenant with God, and blessing has always followed.
(e) Persevere in prayer. Daniel persevered for twenty-one days before he got his answer. Christ teaches the same lesson in the Parable of the Unjust Judge, and speaks of the saints as crying day and night unto Him.
(f) Walk every day with God. He will tell you what to pray for, and will give you as much of the Spirit of prayer as your body can bear. Illustration, man who prayed with map of the world before him, crushed under the burden of the world. Died praying, prevailed as a prince with God in prayer.
6. Some objections answered:
(a) Some have said that this view of prayer amounts to a new revelation. Why not? Is not the Spirit of God to be allowed to speak to us?
(b) Why are so many children of godly parents lost? The parents have not prayed for them in faith.
(c) It is said that such prayer may lead to fanaticism.
True, some may think they are praying in faith when they are not, but the same applies to all spiritual truths. Some people may believe they are converted when they are not.
I. Those who have never had experience of believing prayer have reason to doubt their piety. They should examine themselves. Some of them, alas! know as little about the prayer of faith as Nicodemus did about the new birth. They have not really walked with God. It is as impossible to describe it to them as to describe a picture or colors to a blind man.
2. Millions are in Hell because professors have not exercised the prayer of faith: Promises have been under their very eye, signs have been all favorable, but there has been no faith to take hold of the promises.
3. Multitudes of professors will be covered with guilt on the Judgment Day for souls who have been lost because of their lack of faith.
4. Many professors live so far from God that it is useless to speak to them about the prayer of faith. In fact, they often take offence.
S. Have you ever prayed this prayer of faith until you knew when the blessing was coming? If not, examine your foundations. How can you live without offering such-prayer whilst surrounded by sinners, your relatives, your neighbors, backsliders, etc?
6. What a combined effort is being made to make the Bible a blank! The wicked try to do away with its threats, and the saints with its promises. What is left? Alas! there is very little of this prayer of faith apparent nowadays. What will become of us?
THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
I. WHAT Spirit is here spoken of? Undoubtedly, the Holy Ghost.
2. What does the Spirit do? He helps Christians to pray according to the will of God; that is, for those things which God wants them to have.
3. Why is the Holy Ghost thus employed? Because we are so ignorant, both as to the will of God revealed in the Bible, and still more as to His unrevealed will. Four means God has of leading us--Promises; Prophecies; Providences; the Holy Spirit. When all other means fail, the Holy Spirit teaches us.
4. How does the Holy Spirit do this?
(a) He brings our minds into warm contact with the condition of the Church and of sinners. He does not supersede our faculties, but brings the subject before our minds. The only way we can prevent ourselves from feeling is by turning away our minds to other subjects. As impossible not to feel as with fire, if we apply our hands to it. Take the hands away and we cease to feel. Keep them there and we must feel.
(b) He makes Christians feel the value of souls, the guilt and danger of sinners. When, blind and stupid, Christians grieve the Spirit away, they are unable to pray in faith.
(c) He leads Christians to understand and apply the Bible promises. The apostles were amazed at Christ's application of Scripture to Himself. So in all ages, Christians unable fully to apply the promises to passing events, till taught by the Holy Spirit. He is sent by Christ to instruct and guide His people, as well as to convince the world of sin.
(d) The Spirit leads Christians to desire and pray for things of which nothing is specifically said in the Bible. Applies the promises to individual cases. This is more common in village districts than in cities, owing to many distractions in ratter. The Spirit often excites to special prayer for individuals, leading thus to remarkable conversions.
(e) The Spirit often gives Christians spiritual discernment, respecting the movements and designs of Providence. True, some may be misled. But frequently, Christians able to look ahead to future happenings, thus are often led to foresee and pray for a Revival when others see no sign of it. Case of woman who felt a Revival at hand. Minister and elders could see no trace of it. She got carpenter to make benches and threw open her house. Powerful Revival followed.
5. In what degree are we to expect that the Spirit of God will affect the minds of Christians? The verse says: 'With groanings which cannot be uttered'--desires too deep for expression in words--can only find expression in groans, the language of the heart, which God understand.
6. How are we to know whether or not it is the Spirit of God which influences us?
(a) Not by any physical contact. We are not to expect any miraculous manifestation. The Holy Spirit is often grieved away by our not cherishing His influences and yielding to them. Christians are often misled and needlessly distressed. They think about the state of sinners, and are deeply distressed but do not realize that it is the Spirit of God that is there influencing them. At other times their minds are dark. They feel nothing. Now they feel intensely. Why? Because the Holy Spirit is putting the matter before their minds in a strong light. No devils would so lead us.
(b) We should try the spirits by the Bible. None need be led astray, or deluded as some are, if the Bible test is applied.
7. How can you get this influence of the Spirit of God?
(a) Offer fervent, believing prayer. God has definitely promised the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him. A professor of religion asked his minister about his own case. He had prayed for weeks and had not received the Holy Spirit. The minister asked what was his motive. He replied that he might be happy. Minister pointed out that this was mere selfishness. We should pray for the Spirit that we may be more useful in winning souls. . We should examine our prayers, and see whether they are thus tinged with selfishness.
(b) Use the means adapted to stir up your mind on the subject, and keep your attention fixed there. How is a sinner to get conviction? By thinking of his sins. Similarly, the saint should cherish the slightest impressions. Don't allow the mind to be drawn off to worldly objects. Look into Hell listen to the groans of the damned. Look into Heaven, listen to the songs of the redeemed. Look at the state of the world in rebellion against God. Learn Watts's Hymn (Salvation Army Song-Book, 158):My thoughts on awful subjects roll,
Damnation and the dead;
W hat terrors seize the guilty soul
Upon a dying bed!
(c) Watch unto prayer. Keep a look out to see if God is answering your prayers. Some never trouble to look.
(d) Do nothing to grieve the Holy Spirit. Confess and forsake sin. Make redress if you have injured some one. God will never dwell in hearts of those who are always justifying themselves, and too proud to humble themselves.
(e) Learn to obey God perfectly. Have no fellowship with sin. 'Be ye perfect. '
8. For whom does the Spirit intercede? For all saints--for any who are saints.
I. Little stress is laid upon the influence of the Spirit in prayer--much upon His influence in conversion. Both important. We never pray aright unless led by the Spirit.
2. When are we bound to believe that we shall receive the very blessing we ask for?
(a) When there is a special promise, as when we pray for the Holy Spirit.
(b)Where God makes a revelation of His will by His providence.
(c) Where some distinct prophecy exists.
(d) But where there is neither promise, providence, nor prophecy, the Spirit often leads God's people to pray in faith for particular objects by exciting their desires and directing them.
3. Necessary to have a high notion of the influence of the Spirit in prayer and in preaching. No good will be accomplished without Him. Let us be careful not to grieve Him by neglecting to pray in faith for an object, when He is pressing us to do so.
4. In praying for an object we must persevere till we get it. With what eagerness will Christians sometimes pursue some one particular soul till he is won for God.
5. No need to be afraid of being led astray by delusions if fully surrendered to God. His Spirit will lead us and we must follow His leadings.
6. Forms of printed prayer are likely to hinder the free working of the Holy Ghost.
7. Being impelled by the Holy Spirit to pray for special objects furnishes a test of character and condition of soul. If we are true saints, we are thus led. If we are not thus led, we either are not saints at all, or have done something to grieve away the Spirit, or are living in such a way that the Holy Spirit will not live with us. If so, we must repent.
8. Our understanding of this subject is important.
(a) We need it in order to be useful. We can neither walk with God, nor work with God, unless we have His Spirit.
(b ) We cannot be sanctified or remain so, without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Can't understand the Bible or apply it to ourselves without the Spirit. If we live as we ought, He has promised to abide with us.
9. People not so led and not indwelt by the Spirit are doubtful as to answers to prayer, conversions, revivals, etc. They don't see conversions, or they say--'we will wait and see if the converts stand.'
10. Those who have the spirit of prayer know when the blessing comes, just as Simeon and Anna recognized Christ as soon as He came, while the Scribes and Pharisees failed to do so. They know God when He comes, because they are looking out for Him.
I1. Christians need a deeper realization of this spirit of prayer. Usually those who are the most diligent in seeking the Salvation of souls, have also the largest measure of this spirit of prayer.
12. There are times when the spirit of prayer can only express itself in groans which cannot be put into words. There has been opposition to such expression in many churches. But the fact remains that this has marked all true revivals. To stifle it is to grieve the Holy Spirit.
13. Will you give yourselves up to prayer, and live so as to have the spirit of prayer all the time? Oh, for a praying church! Illustration--Minister who had a revival fourteen consecutive winters. One of his members used to pray every Saturday night till after midnight for the descent of the Holy Ghost. Will you lay yourself out in prayer till God pours down His blessing?
BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT
1. Individuals may have the Spirit of God, or be filled with the Spirit. You may have the Spirit.
(a) God has promised His Holy Spirit to those who ask: 'How much more shall your Father which is in Heaven give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him.'
(b) God commands: 'Be filled with the Spirit.' This is the highest possible evidence that you can have Him. God never commands what is impossible.
2. It is your duty to be filled with the Spirit because:
(a) God promises the Spirit to those who ask.
(b) God commands us to be filled with the Spirit.
(c) This is necessary that you should be useful and do good in the world.
(d) This is essential to your growth in grace.
(e) If you do not have the Spirit of God, you will dishonor God, disgrace the Church, and die and go to Hell.
3. Why many don't have the Spirit. Some will say they know nothing of this experience, and that either it is not true, or they must be all wrong. If nothing known, bound to be something wrong. The following are some reasons why Christians are not filled with the Spirit:
(a) Insincerity, hypocrisy. Religion a mere outside show. The Holy Spirit grieved with inconsistency; for instance, urging a visitor to call again, and saying after he has left that he is a bore and a nuisance. Insincerity. The Holy Spirit grieved.
(b) Levity, lightness, frivolity. The Spirit of God is solemn and serious.
(c) Pride, vanity, dressiness, worldliness.
(d) Love of money, trying to get rich, covetousness. When get money, stick to it, hoard it, won't part with it to save the world. Screw down the poor to the last penny, laborer, mechanic, and servant-persons under them. Dealing with persons of same or superior rank, often liberal, fair--afraid of reputation. Impossible for such to have the Holy Spirit.
(e) Lack of principle--want of conscience about little things. Very prevalent amongst Christians; for instance, not paying subscription for religious paper when due--cheating neighbor of his dues. How can Spirit of God dwell with such?
(f) Not fully confessing and forsaking sin. Confessing injuries to others reservedly, proudly, guardedly, partially; instead of the confession bursting forth freely and frankly from the heart, it is wrung from them reluctantly by the hand of conscience. After a partial, hard-hearted, cruel, hypocritical recantation, perhaps they will ask: 'Now, brother, are you satisfied?' God is not satisfied, and unless confession is frank, full, and, if possible, accompanied with reparation and remuneration, He will not accept it.
(g) Neglect of duty; for instance, family prayer--praying or speaking in public--entering ministry, etc. Need not expect Spirit of God unless and until we obey. Must yield first or die in the dark. Perhaps cherishing an unforgiving spirit for some wrong which has been done to us. Must forgive freely and fully, or cannot receive the Holy Spirit.
(h) Resisting the Spirit-resisting conviction. Many like to hear others' sins attacked, but not own. Regard such preaching as personal and abusive. How can such expect to have the Spirit?
(i) Not choosing to have the Spirit. Difference between desiring and choosing. Those who have the Spirit of God must live a different life, break off from worldly companions, give up world, confess their sins. So many don't choose. Prefer something else.
(j) Neglecting to pray, or to persevere in prayer, or when God is answering doing something to grieve Him.
(k) Neglecting to use the necessary means.
4. The guilt of not having the Spirit of God.
(a) Disobeying God's command in this involves guilt, just as much as other forms of disobedience, such as swearing, drunkenness, etc. Many Christians do not blame themselves if without the Spirit, because they say their prayers, go to church, etc. 'If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.'
(b) This guilt is equal to all the good you might do if you had Him. Christians, elders, church members, ministers, are responsible for all the good they might do, if filled with the Spirit.
(c) This guilt is further increased by all the evil you are sure to do if you do not have Him. You are a dishonor to your profession, a stumbling block to the church and world, and will prove so in the Day of Judgment.
5. The consequences of having the Spirit.
(a) You will be called eccentric. I never knew a man to be filled with the Spirit who was not looked upon as eccentric, because acting under influences, views, motives, different from those of ordinary people. If deeply imbued with the Spirit of God you will probably appear so to others, may even be thought deranged by those who know nothing of the Spirit's influences.
(b) If you have the Spirit, you will feel great distress regarding the condition of the Church and world. Some spiritual epicures expect to be always happy, and free from sorrow. Never a greater mistake! See how the prophets, apostles groaned, wept, were distressed in view of world's condition. The more you have of the Spirit the more clearly you will see the real state of sinners, and the more deeply you will be distressed.
(c) You will be grieved with the state of the Ministry.
Many true Christians weep to see ministers' earthliness and fear of man. Their piety, though real, is often superficial and shallow and not equal to that of some members. Often ministers have not enough depth of religion to search and wake up the church, to help those under temptation, to support the weak, direct and lead the strong, etc. When a minister goes with his church as far as his spiritual experience will allow, there he stops. Until he is broken up, consecrated, refilled with the Spirit, he can help them no more. He may preach sound doctrine--so does many an unconverted minister. But his preaching will lack the pungency, unction, practicality necessary. Too often the training given ministers in seminaries only weakens instead of strengthening them. Require to be fed themselves, instead of feeding the Church of God.
(d) You must expect frequent and agonizing conflicts with Satan. Lukewarm, slothful, worldly Christians, do not trouble Satan nor he them. But Satan understands very well that a Christian filled with the Spirit is a real danger to his cause and kingdom. And hence he often attacks such with the most terrible temptations.
(e) You will have great conflicts with yourself. Your own heart will at times seem in league with the Devil against you. (Christ said to Peter: 'The Spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. ')
(f) But, you will have peace with God. You may have the church, and sinners and the Devil all arrayed against you. But let those of you who groan, and pray, and wrestle, and weep, remember you will have peace that flows as a river so far as God is concerned.
(g) You will have peace of conscience. You will not be constantly goaded and racked by a guilty conscience. Your conscience will be quiet, unruffled as a summer lake.
(h) If filled with the Spirit, you will be useful. You cannot help being useful. Even if sick, and unable to go about, you will be more useful than a hundred who have no spirituality. Illustration: Man very sick, offering prayer of faith for different individuals, churches, and missions. Revivals followed. Often so exercised in prayer that his wife thought he would pray himself to death.
(i) You will not feel galled and irritated when people speak against you. Those who are irritated under such treatment, show that they have not the Spirit. You will be meek under persecution and will exemplify the Spirit of Christ.
(j) You will be wise in using means for the conversion of sinners. People are unfit to lead a Revival when not filled with the Spirit. Their fingers all thumbs. But when filled with the Spirit, they will use wise means and apply right truths.
(k ) You will be calm under afflictions and in severe trials.
(l) You will be resigned in death, prepared to die and not afraid.
6. Consequences of not being filled with the Spirit.
(a) You will often doubt and reasonably doubt, whether you are a Christian. You ought to doubt. The sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, and if you are not led by the Spirit, what reason have you to believe that you are His child?
(b) You will be unsettled in your views regarding the prayer of faith. It is so spiritual, and so much a matter of experience and not of speculation, that unless you are spiritual yourself, no amount of arguments will satisfy you.
(c) If you have not the Spirit yourself, you will be unable to understand those who have. You will be likely to condemn and find fault with those who have the Spirit, in order to justify yourself.
(d) You will probably be praised by the impenitent and by carnal professors as being rational, orthodox, consistent. You will be in just the frame to walk with them, because you are agreed.
(e) You will be troubled with fears about fanaticism.
(f) You will cavil at Revival measures that are decided and direct, and will complain at them as being 'new,' instead of rejoicing over their results in saving souls.
(g) You will be a reproach to religion.
(h) You will have little relish for the Bible.
(i) If you die without the Spirit you will fall into Hell.
1. Christians are as guilty for not having the Spirit as sinners are for not repenting. They are even more guilty, because they have more light.
2. All beings have a right to complain against Christians who have not the Spirit. God has placed His Spirit at your disposal to enable you to do His work, and without Him you cannot do it.
3. Christians without the Spirit hinder the work of God. If the Spirit is poured out at any time, such persons will grieve Him away.
4. Don't tempt God by waiting for His Spirit. Use the necessary means. Yield yourself to His influences. You must be childlike, and as yielding as air. You must not grieve Him by resisting Him. You must yield yourself up to His softest and gentlest motions, as when He calls you to pray.
5. Christians must be willing to make any sacrifice to enjoy the presence of the Spirit.
6. It is impossible to enjoy the presence of the Spirit in worldly society. Must break away.
7. Many professors of religion are as ignorant of spirituality as Nicodemus was of the new birth. Hence they cannot tell what to do in a Revival, and don't know how to deal with souls.
MEETINGS FOR PRAYER
PREVIOUS chapters have dealt with the subject of Secret Prayer. The present chapter deals with United Prayer.
I. The Object and Design of Prayer Meetings
1. To promote union among Christians. Nothing tends more to cement their hearts to one another than praying together, when there is a real outpouring of spirit. This creates feeling of union and confidence, and wipes out hard feelings and differences. Where there is real union in prayer, difficulties vanish.
2. To extend the spirit of prayer. Often one individual full of the spirit of prayer will communicate it to a whole Church, and a Revival will follow.
3. Another grand design is to move God. Not that prayer changes the mind and feelings of God. He has always been ready to hear and answer. But when the right kind of prayer is offered by Christians, it becomes proper for God to bestow a blessing. When Christians are united and pray as they ought, God opens the windows of Heaven and pours out His blessings.
4. Another important design is the conviction and conversion of sinners. Properly conducted Prayer Meetings are eminently calculated to produce this effect. When there is a Spirit of prayer, sinners must feel. An ungodly man once said he could very well bear the preaching of a certain minister, but when the minister prayed he felt awful-as though God were coming down on him. When Christians pray in faith, the Spirit of God is poured out, and sinners are melted down and converted on the spot.
II. The Manner of Conducting Prayer Meetings
1. Read a short suitable passage bearing on the object of the Prayer Meeting. Concentrate attention on this. Reading a long chapter and wandering over a large field distracts attention from the object in view.
2. The leader should make short appropriate remarks, explaining the nature of prayer, and bringing the object to be prayed for directly before the people. (A man can no more pray than do anything else without concentrating his thoughts. Then bring forward any promise, indication of providence, etc., as a reason for expecting an answer--a solid foundation on which to repose faith.
3. In calling on persons to pray, as far as possible give the Meeting up to the Spirit of God, and let those who are the most spiritual lead in prayer. But in some cases, it is necessary to guard against cold, worldly, fanatical, or crazy persons who might spoil the influence. Whether called on or not, it is best for those who are most spiritual to lead the way at the beginning and thus influence the rest.
4. Prayers should be very short. It is impossible for the congregation to follow a long tedious rambling prayer, going round the world, till everybody wishes it would stop, and undoubtedly God does so. Only those who don't possess the real spirit of prayer act in this way.
5. If it is a general Prayer Meeting, each one who prays should pray for some one object and then stop. If the Prayer Meeting is called for a special purpose, then let all pray for it.
6. If it is necessary to change the object prayed for, then the leader should preface such change with some suitable remarks, so presenting the new object to the people that their hearts will be stirred.
7. Keep the time fully occupied. Don't have awkward pauses waiting for some one to pray. This is like the damp of death upon a Meeting. On the other hand, it is helpful to have stated intervals of silent prayer, when all present are invited to lift their hearts to God in silence.
8. If sinners are present, let them be urged to immediate decision. This will be an inspiration to those who are converted, and will help them to see the guilt and danger of sinners and to pray for them.
III. Several things may defeat the design of a Prayer Meeting.
I. Where there is a want of confidence in the leader, in his piety, in his ability or judgment, whatever he may say will fall fiat.
2. Lack of spirituality of the leader. He will be unable to discern the leadings of the Spirit and will throw a chill over the Meeting by unsuitable remarks, etc. He will also be dull and dry and cold, and will freeze the Meeting. Such a one has no business to lead.
3. Want of suitable talents in the leader. Inability to lead Meetings, remarks producing levity or contempt, not guided by good sense, nor appropriate. He may be pious, but so weak that his prayers don't edify, but disgust. Better keep silent.
4. A bad spirit in the leader. If opposition to Revival has sprung up, preaching against the opposition will destroy the Revival. Necessary for the leader to guard his own spirit--avoid controversy.
5. Persons coming late to a Prayer Meeting distract attention.
6. Cold prayers and cold confessions of sin are like the damp of death on a Prayer Meeting.
7. Long rambling prayers and reading long passages of Scripture having no beating on object, opposition to new measures, everything stereotyped--all these will hinder.
8. Too much and unsuitable singing often injures a Prayer Meeting. The agonizing spirit of prayer does not harmonize with joyful songs. The spirit of prayer and agony for souls is not a spirit of joy, but of travail, of pleading with God with strong crying's and groans.
9. Controversial subjects. Controversies should be settled elsewhere.
10. Quenching the Spirit by too rigid adherence to usual forms. Watch narrowly the movements of the Spirit of God. Follow His leadings.
11. Refusing to pray when called on has often a chilling effect. Many profess to have no gift for prayer who would be offended if others said so. God's Spirit often grieved. God will not accept their excuses. If able to talk to their neighbors, can talk to God, if they have a heart for it.
12. Prayer Meetings are often spoiled by being spun out too long, till feeling exhausted and the spirit gone.
13. Heartless cold confessions of sin, repeated week after week, without intention of reform, will grieve God's Spirit.
14. Christians should not pray all the time for themselves. Can do this in their closets, and even then should pray for others. If they will forget themselves, enlarge their interests, and pray for others, this will create such feelings that they will go to work for souls.
15. Prayer Meetings may be spoilt by the want of appropriate remarks, owing to the leader being unsuitable or unready.
16. Sometimes individuals insist on speaking or praying who are justly obnoxious for their inconsistent lives. Such persons, instead of testifying for God, really testify against Him.
17. A want of union in prayer, when the hearts of those who are present do not really unite, is injurious. It is as though one should make a petition, and others oppose it.
18. Neglect of secret prayer is fatal. Christians who do not pray in secret cannot unite with power in a Prayer Meeting. They cannot have the spirit of prayer.
I. An ill-conducted Prayer Meeting often does more harm than good.
2. A Prayer Meeting is an index to the state of religion in a church. If a church neglects its Prayer Meeting, or if people come and have not the spirit of prayer, we know of course that the state of religion is low.
3. Every minister should know that if his Prayer Meetings are neglected all his labors are in vain.
4. No one should lead a Prayer Meeting who is not prepared in head and heart.
5. It is difficult to sustain interest in Prayer Meetings. Leader must be spiritual and capable, or they are bound to dwindle.
6. Highly important to keep up Prayer Meetings:(a) To promote union.
(b) To increase brotherly love.
(c) To cultivate Christian confidence.
(d) To promote growth in grace, and
(e) To cherish and increase spirituality.
7. Prayer Meetings should be so numerous as to exercise the gifts to all, and give each one opportunity for praying, testifying, etc.
8. Sinners should be invited to attend. Will add fervor to prayers. Should on no account be shut out. The great object is the conversion of sinners. Properly conducted Prayer Meetings should be helpful in this.
MEANS TO BE USED WITH SINNERS
'YE are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servants, whom I have chosen' (Isaiah 43:10).
Previous chapters have dealt with prayer as a means for moving God to pour out His Spirit. The present chapter deals with means for the conviction and conversion of sinners.
Inattention to religion the chief cause of indifference. No being can look persistently at the great truths of religion without feeling deeply. Even the Devil cannot. He trembles. Angels feel. God feels. Conviction of truth always creates feeling.
God's grand design in leaving Christians in the world is that they may be His witnesses, may call the world's attention to Him, compel them to see the, difference between those who believe and those who reject the Gospel. Inattention the great obstacle. Miracles have sometimes been used to arrest attention, but where repeated lose power. World needs an omnipresent miracle, able not only to arrest attention, but fix it, and keep the mind in warm contact till it yields.
Hence God has always scattered His people, if necessary by persecution, war, etc Would not allow them to settle down together, however agreeable to themselves. 'They went everywhere preaching the Word.'
Propose to examine: (I) to what particular points Christians are to testify for God; and (2) the manner in which they are to testify.
I. To what points are God's children to testify?
Generally to the truth of the Bible. This a Christian knows from experience. Like a person looking in a mirror sees his own face. So looking in Bible, sees exact picture of self.
Particular truths to which Christians should witness are:
1. Immortality of the soul. Clearly revealed in the Bible.
2. Vanity and unsatisfactory nature of earthly good.
3. Satisfying nature of religion.
4. Guilt and danger of sinners. The reality of Hell as a place of eternal punishment for the wicked.
5. Christ's love for sinners.
6. Necessity for Holiness and an entire renovation of character and life, for ·all who would enter Heaven.
7. Necessity for self-denial and living above the world.
8. Necessity for meekness and humility.
9. Necessity for strict honesty and integrity.
II. How are God's children to testify
By precept and example--with their lips and by their lives. No right to be silent&emdash;should 'rebuke, exhort, entreat with all long-suffering and doctrine.' But mainly by their example. Actions speak louder than words. Both combined most powerful. Should live, walk, and talk, as if they really believe the Bible.
1. Must live as if they believe the soul to be immortal. Precept without example useless.
2. The life must testify to the vanity and unsatisfying nature of this world. Useless to declare this unless life backs up. If professors' lives contradict their testimony, if women as eager for dress and fashions, men for things of world, quite ridiculous to testify that these things are vanity. They feel this and are dumb.
3. The satisfying nature of religion. Here again Christians' lives must back up their testimony. If their lives show they hanker after the world and can't be happy without it, and that, as for going to Heaven, they would far rather remain on earth, and are as afraid to die as an infidel, they perjure themselves and testify by their lives that there is nothing in religion.
4. The guilt and danger of sinners. Christians are bound to warn sinners of their awful condition and to urge them to flee from the wrath to come. But the manner of doing it is everything. Where earnest, sinners are often convicted by Christians' very manner. If the manner does not correspond with the message, they will not believe. May tell a man his house is on fire in such a way that he will not believe it. If you show no tenderness, no compassion by your eyes, features, voice, solemn and earnest manner, they will not believe you. If manner of parents to child, wife to husband, Christian to sinner, cold, hard, dry, heartless, they will not believe the message.
5. The love of Christ. Here the testimony must be backed by the regard shown for His precepts, and the honor of His Kingdom. Must act as if blaming sinners for rejecting His love. Too often Christians make the very opposite impression, namely, that Christ is so compassionate that they have little to fear from Him. They use the love of Chris as a cloak for sin; and when duty and holiness and work for God are dwelt upon they call it legal preaching, and say they want the Gospel of Love and Mercy. Their lives testify against it all by worldly conformity,
6. The necessity of Holiness to enter Heaven. Here everything depends on a holy life backing up the testimony. But many Christians do not either attempt, or expect to live a holy life, but drift along in a loose, unhappy, sinful and abominable way, at which the Devil laughs, because it is of all others the surest way to Hell.
7. The necessity for self-denial. Here example is all powerful. But carnal professors think they are showing sagacity and prudence by bringing down religion to the level of the world, by conforming to the world, by not scaring people from religion through the strictness of the Gospel They argue that you will drive sinners away otherwise. This seems plausible, but is not true. But it leads sinners to say: 'There is so little difference between their life and mine, God can't send me to Hell and take them to Heaven.' Unless the contrast is made clear between a holy and worldly life, sinners cannot be made to feel the necessity for a change. If Christians accommodate their religion to the world, they render its Salvation impossible. How can you make people believe that self-denial and separation from the world are necessary unless you practise what you preach?
8. Meekness, humility, and heavenly mindedness. Some so irritable, resent injuries, fly in a passion, and thus seal their own lips. Nothing so powerful in its effects upon sinners as enduring insults and wrong meekly. Christ when reviled, reviled not again.
9. Necessity for strictest honesty and integrity. This applies to all branches of business, and when adhered to creates a powerful effect on sinners. Example, prompt and humble confession by a lady of an extra egg given by mistake. Said nothing at time, but came back and confessed. If Christians would only adhere strictly to this principle they would soon capture the business of the world, and would compel the ungodly to conform to same standard of integrity.
So in politics, let it once be known that Christians wil1 only vote for men of high character and pure morals, no matter what party they belong to, very soon only such men would be put up for office. No party would dare to offer a swearer, profligate, rum-seller as candidate. The system of voting with a party, however bad the character of their candidate, is wrong in principle and ruinous to the best interests of mankind. Such men themselves look upon Christians who do it as hypocrites.
I. It is unreasonable for professing Christians to wonder at the indifference and carelessness of sinners: They are so taken up with business, pleasure, and things of this world, that they will not examine the Bible for themselves. They would feel if they thought. They never will feel unless God's witnesses rise up and testify. But when large numbers of Christians by their lives testify against instead of for the truth, no wonder sinners are careless.
2. Through inconsistency sinners get Gospel-hardened, however good the preaching may be. But let the church wake up and act and sinners will quickly feel. If Christians would live one week as if they believed the Bible, sinners would melt down before them. But imagine a lawyer spreading his case before judge and jury, and suppose his first witness flatly contradicts all he has said, what good will his pleading or eloquence do? So with a minister preaching to a cold God-dishonoring church. The very manner in which they leave the church contradicts the sermon, as if nothing was the matter. Though the minister warn and weep, no effects are produced. The Devil himself would feel that he could not better the business in his own interests.
3. The standard of Christian living must be raised. If religious machinery of every kind were provided for the whole world, and the church contradicted the preaching by their lives, it would have no effect. Often where there is most machinery there is least religion. I never knew means for a Revival fail, where Christians live consistent lives. One of the first things is so to raise the standard of holy living as to hang out the truth of the Gospel before all men. Without this, if an angel, or apostle, or if Jesus Christ Himself came, it would have no effect while the preaching was contradicted by the lives of God's people.
4. Every Christian by his or her conduct witnesses for one side or other. Looks, dress, demeanor, witness for or against religion. At every step we tread on chords that will vibrate through eternity. A person who says: 'Give me dress, fashion,' etc., the world judges accordingly. Worldliness, pride, levity, irritability, bad temper, are like tearing open Christ's wounds afresh. Christ may well weep, and all Heaven mourn, at the way in which professors expose His cause to contempt before the world.
5. It is easy to see why Revivals seldom prevail in great cities. God's witnesses are bowing down to the shrine of fashion and worldliness. The preaching is contradicted by the Christians' lives. How can we expect a Revival? Do the sinners around you see a solemnity in your countenance, tears in your eyes, because souls are perishing?
6. God and humanity have great reason to complain because His witnesses turn and testify point blank against Him by their lives. They testify that there is no truth in the Gospel. How guilty. Going to the Judgment red all over with the blood of those they might have saved. They testify by their lives that to make a mere profession and lead a moral life is religion enough! What a doctrine of devils--enough to ruin the whole human race!
To WIN SOULS REQUIRES WISDOM
THE most common definition of wisdom is the selection of the most appropriate means for accomplishing an end. God says: 'He that winneth souls is wise.'
The present chapter is to direct God's people in their personal efforts for the conversion of sinners. Public preaching and the labors of ministers will be dealt with in another chapter.
I. How to deal with the careless sinner
1. Time. It is important to select the right time. Due regard should be paid to this, or failure may result.
(a) Address the careless person, if possible, when he is disengaged from other business. For instance, a farmer, merchant, clerk, housewife, engaged in lawful business, will often be offended if called off. He ought to postpone everything, but if he did he would not be careless. We must take him as we find him, careless, impenitent, and treat him accordingly.
(b) Get hold of him, if possible, at a time when he is not excited about some other subject, which may prevent his giving due attention to the question of his soul's Salvation.
(c) Try to get him when sober. It is difficult to create conviction of sin when a man is under the influence of liquor.
(d) Try to get him when in good humor, and not when excited, irritable, and angry. The truth is, sinners hate God, and though their hatred may be dormant, it is easily aroused.
(e) Try to get him alone. The man who before others will resist the truth, or laugh it off, will often break down when alone. In regard to families and groups, it is best to deal with each one individually and not when all are together. Example: twenty-one young men in a boarding house, dealt with one by one, all hopefully converted.
(f) Put forth effort when events have created a serious impression, such as death, sickness, bereavements, misfortune.
(g) Seize the earliest opportunity for dealing with those around who are careless. Don't keep putting it off. If no opportunity offers, make one. Let it be a matter of business. Follow the person up till you succeed, or are satisfied nothing can at present be done.
(h) If you have a feeling for any particular person, make an opportunity of seeing him while the feeling is on you. If you have a benevolent feeling and desire for such a person's Salvation, you have reason to believe the Spirit of God is moving you, and that God is ready to bless the efforts you make. Let it be a subject of special and importunate prayer, and seek an opportunity for pouring out your heart to him and leading him to Christ.
2. Manner. Much will depend on the manner in which you approach a careless sinner.
(a) Let it be kind. If you are harsh and dictatorial, you will probably offend and drive him away. Make him feel you love his soul and are seeking his highest welfare.
(b) Be solemn. Avoid all lightness and levity of manner or language. You are engaged in a very solemn work, which will affect your friend or neighbor, for time and eternity. Who can trifle under such conditions?
(c) Be respectful. A rude, rough, harsh manner, will arouse opposition. Paul says: 'Be pitiful, be courteous, not rendering railing for railing, but contrariwise blessing.'
(d) Be very plain. Don't cover up. Lay open character and life, not to wound, or offend, but because necessary. Must probe before able to heal.
(e) Address conscience. In public can work on emotions, and awaken soul through feelings, but in private conversation unable to pour out soul in impassioned way. Must get hold of conscience.
(f) Stick to great fundamental truths necessary for Salvation. Don't allow him to run off into sectarian arguments. Tell him his present business is to save his soul, not to settle theological controversies.
(g) Be very patient. If he has a real difficulty, clear it up. If it is a mere put off, don't argue, but show him he is not sincere, and that he is sinning in making excuses.
(h) Guard your own spirit--don't get angry or excited.
Nothing will please some sinners better than to be able to say they have made a saint mad.
(i) Don't take sides with him if he is making false excuses. If he says he can't do his duty, don't say anything to encourage him in the falsehood. Show him he can. If he finds fault with Christians, don't take his part against them. Tell him he has not to answer for their sins--he has sins enough of his own. Show him his spirit is wicked and censorious.
(j) Deal with his particular sins. Don't beat about the bush. Make him feel you mean him. Some people are afraid of hurting sinners' feelings. This is wrong. If you know his history, bring up his particular sins, kindly but plainly.
(h) Usually best to be short. Bring things to a point and try to force to immediate decision. Avoid creating impression that you don't wish him to repent now.
(I) Pray with him, or you leave your work unfinished.
I1. How to deal with the awakened sinner
1. Distinguish carefully between those who are awakened and those convicted of sin. Persons often. awakened by some providential circumstance, such as sickness, bereavement, misfortune, or by the Spirit of God. They are willing to listen. Pour in the truth. Show the strictness of Divine Law, and how it condemns the heart and life. Once attention is secured, conviction and conversion are often the work of a few moments. Can often do more in five minutes with an awakened sinner than in years with careless and indifferent:
2. Amazing cruelty of those who neglect to speak to such and deal thoroughly, when they are perhaps anxious to be helpful. Blaze of light should be poured in. Try to bring to immediate decision.
III. How to deal with the convicted sinner
By a convicted sinner is meant one who feels himself convicted by the law of God, understands that law, realizes his guilty condition, and knows the remedy. Often requires great wisdom to deal with such.
1. When a person is convicted and not converted, but remains in an anxious state, there is generally some reason, some particular difficulty to be overcome. If a doctor finds his general and usual remedies fail, he must try to find out the cause. Often known to the individual. Sometimes it may have escaped his attention.
(a) Perhaps some heart-idol which he will not give up, such as money, companions, worldly amusement.
(b) Possibly has injured some one in property, character, etc. Must confess, forsake, make restitution.
(c) Often some particular sin which he will not give up. He may excuse it as being a little one, or argue that it is no sin; for instance, tobacco. Many condemned, but will not give this up, though know it to be injurious to health and waste of God's money.
(d) Restitution needed for some wrong--defrauding some one. A common form of sin among merchants and business men. Some souls driven to absolute despair, resisting the Spirit in a matter of this kind.
(e) Intrenching himself in a determination not to yield some particular point, such as attending some Meeting, going to the penitent-form. Until he yields the controversy, he cannot get through. It was not perhaps essential, but by stubbornness he has made it so, has taken a stand against God.
(f) Cherishing a bad feeling against some one, owing to a fancied or real wrong. Must give up. 'When ye stand praying, forgive.'
(g) Sometimes a wrong notion about what requires to be done to get saved. He may be waiting for God to do something before he submits, instead of submitting to God right away. Sometimes waiting for more conviction of sin, or more fear of Hell. Show no need to wait. Often waiting to have same experience as somebody else, a common mistake.
Sinners often layout a way for themselves, how they will feel, and how get converted. Show them this is wrong. Let God lead them His own way. Others wait to be made subjects of prayer. Often try to fit themselves to come by humiliation, sacrifice, prayer. Hunt them out of these refuges.
Others get the idea that their sins are too great to be forgiven, or that they are given up by God, when all the while God's Spirit has been convicting them of sin. Many distressing cases of this kind. They will say they have committed the unpardonable sin. Sometimes a good plan to say: 'Well, suppose you have. What then? Is that any reason why you should not submit to God, break off from your sins, and do all the good you can, even supposing God will not forgive you? Even if you go to Hell you ought to do this.'
Such persons often brood upon themselves and their own condition. Try to get them to look away to Christ.
2. No Compromise. Be careful not to compromise with convicted sinners on points where they have a difficulty, or they may get a false hope, and think they are converted when they are not. For instance, with the rich young ruler, Christ put His finger on the spot, with the result that he went away sorrowful. Had Christ acted otherwise he would probably have had a false hope, joined the church, and gone to Hell.
Such persons usually ask whether they must give up this or that (some love of the world), or do the other. Must deal thoroughly. Make them feel they, their money, time, talents are not their own, but Jesus Christ's. The church is full of hypocrites, people with false hopes, because they have been allowed to feel their money is their own, they can do what they like with it. Thus they drift along to Hell.
Do thorough work. Destroy every refuge. Don't allow them to make a mere selfish submission, as if they were making a bargain with God, exchanging sin for Salvation. Insist on full submission and unconditional surrender, giving God their all.
I. Study, reflect, pray how to deal with sinners so as to secure their conversion. The main business of every Christian is to save souls. People don't know how to do it, because they never study it. Similar failure would attend their business, unless they studied it.
2. Hence, many professors do more harm than good in their attempts to deal with souls.
3. Find out the point where the Spirit is pressing, and push the same. Don't divert the sinner's attention. If he writhes under the truth, press it home, till he yields.
4. Revivals often much injured by treating awakened sinners as though convicted, and saying, repent, submit, when they are not yet convinced of their guilt, and don't know what real submission means.
5. Convicted sinners are in a very solemn and critical condition. Turning point when eternal destiny will probably be settled. In some respects more solemn than Judgment Day. Now it will be settled, then revealed. The Spirit will not always strive. Question is settled while the Spirit strives. Ours an awful responsibility. A look, a word, an act may push them in the wrong direction. Never an angel employed in such solemn work. Like doctor performing a critical operation on which the patient's life hangs. How solemnly, carefully, prayerfully should we walk, how skillfully work!
THE WISE MAN WILL BE SUCCESSFUL
THIS chapter deals with public means of grace. The object of the Christian ministry is to glorify God in the Salvation of souls.
I. A right discharge by a minister of his duties requires great wisdom
1. His work involves the encountering of opposition. If men were willing to receive the Gospel, a child might convey the message. But they are not. They are opposed to their own Salvation in God's way and on God's terms. Their opposition is often violent and determined. Hence great wisdom needed.
2. Men are not converted by an act of physical omnipotence, but by presentation of the truth, as the instrument, by the agency of man, backed up by the Holy Spirit. The opposition of the sinner is such that nothing short of the wisdom of God, and the moral power of the Holy Spirit can break it down. But the means must be skillfully used by men.
3. All the powers of earth and Hell require to be overcome. The Devil is constantly planning to divert public attention from the subject. The whole framework of society is hostile to religion. Nearly all the influences which surround a man from the cradle to the grave are calculated to defeat the work of God's ministers.
4. The importance of the end, the Salvation of immortal souls, proves the necessity of wisdom.
5. He must understand how to wake up the church. This is often his most difficult task. Few ministers understand how to wake up a church, and keep it awake. Some who can preach well to sinners, totally fail in arousing a cold, backslidden church. Their people have sinned against the light. They have a form of piety which wards off the truth, but has no power or efficiency. Here is the great difficulty in keeping up Revivals, to keep the church thoroughly awake and engaged. Members may bluster about for a time, but this is very different from knowing how to influence God and work for Christ.
6. He must know how to set his people to work when they are awake, Must not attempt to do it all himself. Some churches have had Revivals without a minister. But a minister who can sit at the helm and wisely guide a wide-awake church will often find his people do more than he does himself.
When their hearts get lifted up because they have had such a great Revival, he must know how to break them down again, must probe them, keep up their real spirit of prayer, etc. Christians are often like children, you set them to work, they seem all engaged; you turn your back, they stop and go to play. Hence, difficulty of keeping up and continuing a Revival.
7. He must know how to present the Gospel, follow up impressions made, bring the kind of truth needed to bear on souls. Must know how to humble Christians, awake sinners and get them saved. Very often impressions created, but lost for want of following up. Some remote subject brought in which has no connection, attention distracted.
8. It requires wisdom to reach different classes of sinners. When one class aroused, look serious, talk, perhaps object, follow up till they are brought in, and then get another till all are reached.
9. It needs wisdom to hunt sinners out of their refuges of lies, and to avoid creating other hiding-places. Illustration , a minister, who got his ideas out of books, and not by mixing with his people, warned them about dangers of which they knew nothing. They were more taken with the error than its cure. Again, even where an error actually exists, its ground is often changed. Must find out what people are saying and thinking now. If we misquote them, it only makes them angry, and strengthens them in their error.
10. He must understand what measures are necessary to reach sinners, and how to introduce them wisely. Illustration, the politician who wants to arouse the people's attention and get their votes. Meetings, posters, handbills, flags, processions, all intended to create an excitement. Similarly, object of preacher to make everybody feel the Devil has no right to rule the world, but that all should give their hearts to God and vote in the Lord Jesus. Some object to new measures. But they must be new. As soon as a measure becomes old, it ceases to arrest attention. Then something new becomes necessary. Here wisdom is needed. Men are fond of form of religion, something that saves them trouble, and hence they resist innovations. So, important to introduce such wisely, so as not to create unnecessary opposition.
11. Wisdom is needed to know when to stop introducing new measures, otherwise attention may be diverted from the message to the measures, and nothing new may be available at a later time, when it is really needed.
12. Ministers should know how to deal with careless, awakened, and anxious sinners, and how to lead them to Christ by the shortest and most direct way. Many are totally ignorant of these points. A minister should thoroughly understand how to apply truth to all the situations in which he may find dying sinners going to Hell. He should know how to preach, how to pray, how to use all the means for bringing God's truth to bear on the kingdom of darkness. What wisdom then does he require?
II. The amount of a minister's success in winning souls (other things being equal) invariably decides the amount of wisdom he has exercised in the discharge of his office.
1. The most skilful doctor is the one who cures the most sick people. The most unskillful may stumble upon an occasional cure. So with souls. It is not the minister who here and there wins an occasional soul, but the one who is most uniformly successful, who is really wise in skillfully adapting the means to the end.
2. It is a matter of history that success in soul-winning greatly depends upon the wisdom exercised.
3. Success in winning souls is evidence that a man understands the Gospel and human nature, and has tact and common sense. If his success is great, it proves that he can deal with a great variety of characters, who are all enemies to God, and bring them to Christ. To do this requires great wisdom. Such a minister is wise.
4. Success in soul-winning proves that he depends on God. True, he works as jealously as if he had to do it all himself without any help from God. But he knows very well that he must depend on the Holy Ghost for his success.
Objection. Some object that this cannot be so, because the ministry of Christ was not successful, though He was wise. Yes; He was infinitely wise, and He was successful.(a) His ministry was vastly more successful than some suppose. We read of 'five hundred brethren' seeing Him in one place and there must have been many more scattered over the country.
(b) His ministry was very short, only three years.
(c) The main object of His ministry was to make an atonement for the world. The dispensation of the Holy Ghost was not yet given. State of public opinion was such that they finally murdered Christ for what He did preach, and even His disciples did not at first understand the necessity for His death.
(d) As a matter of fact, Christ was eminently successful, and this is the last excuse which unsuccessful ministers should make for their non-success.
1. A minister may be very learned, and yet not be wise to win souls. He may know languages, science, and yet be unable to win souls. Facts prove it.
2. He may also be pious; it does not follow that he is a hypocrite, because he is unsuccessful. There may be some lack of common sense, something defective in his training. He himself may be saved 'yet so as by fire.'
3. On the other hand, a minister may be wise to win souls without being learned. A learned minister and a wise one are two very different things. Churches commonly look out for a learned minister, without stopping to consider whether he is wise to win souls. If he lacks this wisdom he will fail. If he possesses it, the more learning he has the better.
4. The want of success (other things being equal) proves that:(a) Either he was never called to preach, but took it up out of his own head.
(b) Or, that he was badly trained, and not taught the things he needed most to know.
(c) Or, if he was called and knows his duty, that he is too indolent and wicked to do it.
5. Those are the best educated for the ministry who win the most souls. It is a mistake to regard such as ignorant, because they may not know sciences and languages.
6. Young men from seminaries are seldom fit to take part in a Revival.
The grand mistake is that their minds are too much directed to irrelevant matters; their attention is diverted from the main object; and hence they get cold and become unfitted for their work. They are awkward, and don't know how to win souls. Shut off from the outside world, they are not familiar with the way the common people think. Hence men with business training and no theological experience have made far more successful preachers. Such have sometimes been called 'uneducated,' but this is a mistake. They are trained in winning souls.
Ministers should be trained to know what the Bible is, and what the human mind is, and how to make one bear on the other, and should know how to use the truth for the Salvation of men.
7. Want of common sense often prevents a minister from being successful.
8. When a measure succeeds in bringing souls to God, it is wise, except that if used simply to create excitement the after-effect may be bad and produce a reaction. It should also be remembered that something quite different may have produced the Revival, and not really the measures, which may even have hindered it. For instance, the Revival may be due to prayers and preaching of a powerful character, rather than to the measures to which it is attributed.
But apart from this, if measures succeed in creating or helping a Revival, they are evidently wise. God has blessed them, and He could not have been deceived or mistaken.
9. Let those who blame such successful measures beware. They are setting themselves up as knowing better than God.
10. Christians should pray for ministers. People often find fault when they ought to pray for them. Instead of praying only for more laborers, we should pray for wisdom for those already there.
11. Laymen who know how to win souls, should not be regarded as 'ignorant,' and those who do not know should not be called wise, as Christians. For instance, a minister at sea, knowing nothing about a ship, will appear ignorant to a sailor, though he may be very learned in other things.
12. Have we this wisdom, and is it proved by our success? Or are we trying to make out that our non-success has nothing to do with it? It is a safe means for any minister to tell how far he is exercising wisdom.
Men, women, you are bound to be wise in winning souls. Perhaps already souls have perished and are now in Hell, because you did not possess and exercise the wisdom that might have saved their souls! Statesmen are wise, business men are wise, but the church goes stumbling along not knowing what to do.
How TO PREACH THE GOSPEL
THE text ascribes conversion to men. Winning souls is converting men.
I. The Bible ascribes conversion to men.
Daniel 12:3: 'They that turn many to righteousness (shall shine) as the stars for ever and ever. '
I Corinthians 4:15: Paul claims that he was the spiritual father of the Corinthians.
James 5:20: 'He which converteth the sinner ... shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins.' Many similar passages might be quoted.
2. The Bible also attributes conversion to God. The Scriptures ascribe conversion to four different agencies; namely, to men, to God, to the truth, and to the sinner himself. Similarly, a sick man ascribes recovery to his doctor, to the medicine, to himself for obeying the directions, and to God for sending the doctor and medicine. So with conversion. Some have mistakenly held that the sinner is entirely passive, and that God alone is the active agent. This is a mistake. God commands the sinner to repent, and conversion will be brought about as a result of his own act.
3. Great practical wisdom is needed to win souls.
I. The matter of preaching
1. All preaching should be practical. The proper end of all doctrine is practice. Doctrine is intended to regulate practice. The two cannot be separated. To preach doctrines as separate from practice, in a cold abstract way can do no good. And on the other hand a loose, exhortatory style of preaching may excite the emotions, but will not produce sound conversions.
2. Preaching should be direct. The Gospel must be preached to men, not about them. The preacher must address his hearers about themselves, not about others. Many seem afraid to make the impression that they mean anybody in particular. It is the sin and not the sinner they rebuke. This is not preaching the Gospel. The preacher will never do any good except in so far as he makes the sinner feel he means him.
3. The minister must diligently hunt out sinners wherever they have entrenched themselves in inaction. His duty is not to give them opiates, but to make them act; not to coyer up their sins, but to discover and destroy them. He ought to know the religious opinions of every member of his congregation. This is easy in a village, but more difficult in a city. How else can he adapt his preaching to meet their needs? Every sinner and backslider has some hiding-place--some lie with which he seeks to quiet his conscience. The minister's duty is to hunt it out, or the man will go to Hell in his sins, and his blood will be required of the minister.
4. He must dwell on those particular truths which are most needed by the people to whom he speaks. Some people imagine they can repent whenever they like. To such he needs to point out the danger of grieving away the Spirit, when they never will repent, however much they may be able. Others may be hiding behind the sovereignty of God, and waiting for God to do for them what they must do for themselves. The minister must hunt them out of the particular refuges of lies where they are entrenched. I have been in many different places in times of Revival, and have never been able to employ exactly the same course of preaching in one as another.
Different sets of truths are needed. Sometimes the Christians need instruction, sometimes the sinners.
5. He must avoid controversy, or he will invariably grieve away the Spirit of God. Many Revivals have been stopped by ministers dragging in controversial subjects.
6. The Gospel should be preached in its right proportions. Sometimes sinners hide behind their supposed inability to repent; at others behind God's sovereignty. Others, again, think they can repent whenever they like. The truth must be adapted to their need.
7. The sinner must be made to feel his guilt: He must be made to think, not that he is an unfortunate to be pitied, but a criminal to be condemned. Many books have this fault. Unless the preacher makes the sinner blame and condemn himself, he fails.
8. The sinner must be made to feel his present obligation to repent now, to submit to God on the spot. The impression prevails to an alarming extent, that they are not expected to repent now, but must wait God's time. What kind of a Gospel is this?
9. Sinners must be made to feel that they have something to do, and that is to repent. This is something which no other being, God nor man, can do for them, something which they can do, and do now. Religion is something to do, not something to wait for. And they must do it now, or are in danger of eternal death.
10. Ministers must annihilate every excuse made by sinners. That of inability is the worst of all, since it charges God with being an infinite tyrant in asking us to do what we cannot. Make the sinner feel that every excuse is an act of rebellion against God. Tear away his last lie.
11. Sinners must be made to feel that if they now grieve away the Spirit of God, they will probably be lost for ever. There is an infinite danger of this. They are dependent on the Spirit. If He is grieved away, their case is hopeless. They should be shown that where the Gospel is preached, sinners are usually converted when young, or not at all. Comparatively few old sinners are converted. Where the truth is preached they are usually converted when young, or become Gospel-hardened.
II. The manner of preaching
1. Preaching to be understood should be conversational, colloquial in style, A minister must preach just as he would talk, if he wishes to be understood. A lofty mouthing style will only make sinners feel religion is something mysterious, which they cannot understand. A lawyer addressing a jury wants to make them understand, and talks to them in a natural, colloquial manner. Ministers should talk to their hearers in the pulpit just as they do in conversation.
2. The minister must use the language of common life, words in common use, if he is to be understood. The language of the Gospel is the plainest, simplest in the world, such that a child can understand. For ministers to use hard technical words is wicked; no matter how carefully they may explain their meaning, the explanation will be forgotten. Paul says the man is a barbarian who uses words the people do not understand. He would rather speak five words that could be understood than ten thousand in an unknown tongue.
3. Illustrations, parables, stories of facts, real or supposed, should be freely used, as was done by Jesus Christ Himself.
4. The illustrations should be drawn from common, everyday life. Those who attempt to draw illustrations from ancient history and science, in order, as they say, to uphold the dignity of the pulpit, miss the mark. The object of an illustration is to make people see the truth, and not to uphold pulpit dignity. Otherwise people's attention is distracted from the truth itself to the illustration, and it hinders instead of helping. Such far-fetched stories are strongly tinctured with vanity and an attempt to display learning, and are calculated to distract attention from the truth of the story itself, thus hindering instead of helping.
5. The preacher must not be afraid of repeating himself. He must turn over the same truth again and again, illustrating it and driving it home till he leads his hearers to understand it thoroughly. This is what lawyers do in addressing a jury. They go over the main points again and again until they are satisfied the jury understand. Such plain preaching is most effective with all classes. The speaker should watch the faces of his hearers to see whether they are taking in what he says, and should go over the same ground and again enforce a truth where necessary.
6. A minister must feel deeply on his subject, and then he will suit his actions to his words. A teacher of elocution said he had been trying to train ministers for fourteen years, and he knew they did not believe what they preached. About all other subjects they spoke naturally, about religion they were unnatural and stilted. Mere words will never express the full meaning of the Gospel. Gestures are of more importance than many suppose. A stiff, formal, cold delivery cannot create conviction. When ministers are not natural, it is because they do not feel deeply.
7. The minister must aim at converting his congregation. Many sermons have no such definite aim, and the preacher would himself be surprised if they produced such an effect. Example: minister apologizing to a convicted sinner for having hurt his feelings.
8. A minister should be able to answer and remove and anticipate the difficulties and objections of sinners. What does a lawyer do? He foresees and answers every objection the other side may raise. The cause of Christ is said to have few able advocates.
9. He must not be monotonous and dull. People are never so in conversation. A dull manner will send sinners to sleep.
10. A preacher must appeal to feelings to arrest attention, and then probe conscience, Mere appeals to feelings will tend to create false hopes, and may create excitement, but will not result in sound conversions. To get these must deal faithfully with conscience.
11. A preacher should try to find out the effect of his sermons. A doctor who went on dosing his patients without finding out the effect of his medicines, would surely deserve to fail. A minister must find out as he goes along whether his instructions are received and understood, and must find out and remove any difficulties that remain.
1. We see why so few leading minds in a community get converted. Most of them remain infidels at heart, because the Gospel has never been convincingly put before them. They have not been made to see the truth and feel its power. Where the reasonableness of the Gospel is presented to them, it often breaks them down more easily than others, and brings them to the feet of Christ.
2. Written sermons cannot produce proper effect.
(a) The labor involved in preparing such is too great.
(b) They cannot and do not produce the right effect, and do not present the truth in its right form.
(c) The speaker cannot change his appeal so as to make the people feel he means them. Written sermons were unknown in the apostles' days, and had their origin in times of political difficulty. The habit is due to bad training. The mechanical labor of writing is really a hindrance to thinking. Lawyers do not write their speeches. A written sermon is usually much less remembered than one spoken, with or without notes. It is much easier to repeat the former without its being recognized or remembered, than the latter, because the manner in which an extempore sermon is preached is much more natural and dramatic than is possible with a read sermon. The power of gesture, looks, attitude, is lost when a sermon is read.
3. All studies should aim at making a minister ready for his work. Often he becomes dry, hard, cold, lifeless, and preaches without power or unction owing to a faulty system of training:
4. All ministers should be revivalists and all preaching should be revival preaching--that is, it should tend to promote the practice of religion.
5. Two objections are sometimes raised to the style of preaching here advocated:
(a) That such preaching lowers the dignity of the pulpit; that is, to preach in a colloquial, lawyer-like style. But it is just this conversational, simple style that carries conviction to the hearts of the hearers and is understood.
(b) That it is theatrical. The great actor, Garrick, was once asked by the Bishop of London why actors could move their audiences to tears, while ministers could hardly get any one to listen. He replied, 'Because we represent fiction as reality, and you represent reality as fiction.' Ministers should learn from the stage the importance of delivering the truth in such a manner as will carry conviction to the heart of the sinner.
6. Ministers should not be chosen for their popularity, or learning, but for their ability to win souls. Apart from this, however learned and popular, they are a deadweight.
7. The great need of the church is to get a supply of ministers of the right sort--soul-winners.
How CHRISTIANS CAN HELP THEIR LEADERS
'And it came to pass when Moses held up his hand that Israel prevailed and when he let down his hand Amalek prevailed' (Exodus 17:11).
You will remember this passage, and how Aaron and Bur held up Moses' hands till Amalek was defeated. Moses' attitude denotes prayer. The action of Aaron and Hur typifies the duty of churches to co-operate with their pastors in prayer and effort.
It is of the utmost importance that churches should co-operate with ministers in producing and carrying on a Revival.
1. There are some things that Christians must AVOID if they would support their ministers.
(a) By all means avoid utterly the idea both in theory and practice that a minister is to promote Revivals alone. Many persons are prone to take a passive attitude, as if they had nothing to do. They have employed a pastor, and they expect him to feed them with comfortable sermons. That is the way not to Heaven, but to Hell. Where there is no church, or very few members, God may promote a Revival without such help. He did so with the apostles. But where there is a church whose members will not work, their influence is worse than infidelity. It is impossible for them to take neutral ground. Professors can in this way do the Devil's work better than by open opposition, because they retain their influence; whereas if they opposed, everybody would say they had no religion. If inactive, they are like soldiers leaving their general to fight the enemy alone, while they look on.
(b) Do not complain about your minister not having a Revival if you are not doing your own duty. It is a common thing for churches to blame their minister, when he is perhaps much more awake than they are.
Again, it is very common for Christians to complain of the low state of their church and pastor, when they themselves are low, forgetting that a church is made up of individuals and that their own low state may constitute a stumbling-block. The church cannot awake till each member takes hold of himself and humbles himself before God and repents and wakes up and does his duty, instead of putting all the blame on the church or organization to which he belongs.
(c) Do not let your minister kill himself by attempting to carryon the work alone, while you refuse to help him. It is not uncommon for ministers to lay down their lives in a vain and prolonged effort to create a Revival, where the church refuses its co-operation. An elder went to ask a minister to come and revive a cold, dead congregation. They had had two good ministers. One had worked himself to death and the other had broken down in health. The minister replied to the elder, 'God forbid that you should have a third to come and rock your cradle while you sleep on! Let the congregation repent of their sin and wake up, and then God will send them another minister!' They did so, broke down, and a Revival followed. Churches do not realize how often their coldness and backwardness may be the cause of the death of ministers. They work and toil, and pray and agonize; till they wear out and die, and then perhaps the church will blame them for working too hard.
(d) Be careful not to complain of plain, pointed preaching, when its reproofs fasten on yourselves. Do not rebel against the truth and call it personal. Preaching cannot be too plain. Some say the faults of the church should not be exposed before the world, but the world knows them very well already. They have been committed before the world. A church that refuses to be rebuked cannot expect a Revival.
Sometimes a church becomes alarmed lest plain, pointed preaching should offend ungodly members of the congregation, who are wealthy and help to support it. Such a church can never have a Revival. Christ can do very well without the money of the ungodly, and the object of preaching should be to get them converted.
(e) Do not take sides with the wicked in any way; as, for instance, when they complain that the preacher is pointed and personal. Do not admit for a moment that such preaching is wrong or imprudent, or you will strengthen the sinner in his impenitence. What is personal preaching? No individual is benefited by preaching until he is made to feel that it means him. To whom is your minister to preach, if he is not to mean those to whom he preaches? Better send him away.
(f) If you mean to assist your minister in promoting a Revival, do not by your lives contradict his preaching. If he preaches that sinners are going to Hell, do not give the lie to it by your levity and unconcern. It is like saying 'Don't be afraid, sinners. You are all right. Do you think we would laugh and joke if you were real1y going to Hell? If your house were on fire we should not do so, much less if your souls were really in danger.' What use is it to attempt a Revival with such a church?
(g) Do not needlessly waste your minister's time. Do not keep him from his knees, or study, or Bible, or soul-saving, to talk to him about useless nothings. Remember his time is more precious than gold.
(h) Be sure not to sanction anything that diverts public attention from the subject of religion. Sometimes circles of parties will be got up, and to give an appearance of religion they will invite the minister, and perhaps conclude such gatherings with prayer, whilst gluttony, extravagance, and fooleries are connected with them, and public attention distracted from religion. Let any of you who have attended such say whether they fit you for prayer, or increase your spirituality, or whether, through their influence, sinners are brought to God, or Christians led to agonize in prayer for souls.
2. There are many things which Christians should do in order to promote a Revival and aid their ministers.
(a) Christians must attend to the temporal wants of their ministers and set their minds free to devote their whole time and attention to winning souls. They must not screw them down to the last fraction, and see how cheap they can get them, till they are embarrassed to meet the needs of themselves and their families.
(b) Deal honestly with the minister. Remember you are dealing with Christ. See that he has his needs met.
(c) Be punctual with his payments. Don't let them get into arrears. How can churches which do this expect a Revival? Don't let him have to ask for payment. Nothing is so embarrassing. Often those who are most particular about their business engagements and payments are slack and careless about their religious payments, because only their conscience and not their credit is involved. It is vain for such to pray for a Revival.
(d) Pray for your minister, not merely in a formal way in meetings, but in secret prayer. There can be no substitute for this. I have known individual members bear up their minister in prayer till the answer has come, and Revivals have broken out. Whereas the best of ministers will preach in vain, and his words bound back into his face, where the congregation fails to back him up with their prayers--real heart prayers, wrestling with God for his success.
(e) See that the temporal needs of the minister are met by the church, irrespective of the ungodly, or he may be tempted to withhold part of the truth and soften down his message for fear of offending them.
(f) The meeting-place should be made comfortable, or people cannot give proper attention, and if they cannot attend, they cannot be converted. They have come to hear for their lives and they ought to be placed so that they can hear with all their souls. This does not mean show and display, which only serve to distract attention and to hinder instead of helping.
(g) The meeting-place should be kept as clean as we would keep our own houses. Many meeting-places are slovenly, dusty, and dirty, so that people have to mind where they kneel or sit, instead of listening to what is being said.
(h) In cold climates the regulation of the heating arrangements needs careful attention; in hot climates, the sun and air and windows.
(i) Ventilation is most important. Where the air passes through so many lungs, it must be kept pure, or the congregation will feel an irresistible desire to go to sleep and the sermons will be preached to deaf ears.
(j) Dogs and young children should be left at home.
Whilst a mother is tossing her child in the vain attempt to quiet it, the attention of the whole congregation will be distracted, and as for dogs they had better be dead than distract the people's attention. A deacon's dog may do more harm in a meeting than he has done good in all his life.
(k) Church members should be trained to aid their minister by visiting from house to house and trying to save souls. It is impossible for the minister to do it all without neglecting his secret prayer, preparation, and study.
(1) Suitable individuals should be chosen for conducting Bible classes. Those who are impressed at Meetings should be invited to attend these classes, and efforts made for their definite conversion.
(m) Sunday-schools should be organized and efforts made to get the children definitely converted.
(n) Church members should watch over each other's souls and not leave the whole burden of visitation to their pastor. They should pray for and with each other.
(o) Christians should watch the effect of preaching, and when they see somebody impressed should follow him up, and either speak to him individually, or get some one else to do so.
(p) Don't give away all the preaching to others. Apply the truth honestly to yourself and put it into practice.
(q) Stand by your minister in his plans for advancing the work, even if it costs something. When a pastor is wise to devise plans and his church -ready to execute them, they can carry everything before them. But a church that hangs back and will do nothing that costs a little money and sacrifice is like a millstone round the minister's neck and cannot expect a Revival.
(r) Members should attend and take part in Prayer Meetings as well as preaching services. Some absent themselves from the former, but they should be called on to do something. They must be prepared not merely to listen to sermons, but to learn their duty and do it.
(s) Each individual should find out what he can do and do it. The members should be like a band of soldiers, each ready to do his part. The business of their leader is to train, direct, and lead them on, so that each may do his part.
I. More blame may attach to the church than to the minister for failure. Some churches are so worldly, or careless, that an angel from Heaven could not further a Revival among them.
2. Congregations are verily guilty if they do not stand by and aid their minister in his work and help by their lives and efforts to create a Revival atmosphere. Instead of this, many churches resist and stand in his way. It would be better for him to go elsewhere.
3. Many churches sponge on others to do for them what they can quite easily do for themselves. Such can never expect a Revival. This may be due to imperfect teaching. Every member should understand that his possessions are God's, and not his own, and that he is personally responsible for the support of God's work. This has not been sufficiently insisted upon, hence the churches have a low standard. Let them bring the tithes into God's storehouse, and He will pour out His blessing upon them.
4. Let the church rise up and do its duty and second its minister wholeheartedly in his efforts, and the car of Salvation will move on though all Hell may oppose, and sinners will be converted. But if a church stands still, and looks on and leaves its minister to do everything, it will not only fail to have a Revival, but its members will finally find themselves in Hell for their disobedience and unprofitableness.
MEASURES TO PROMOTE REVIVALS
'These men, being Jews, do exceedingly trouble our city, and teach customs which are not lawful for us to receive, neither to observe, being Romans' (Acts 16:20,21).
THE men here spoken of were Paul and Silas. Those who opposed them did so because their preaching had interfered with their gains. So, they objected to the preaching and especially to the measures used. It has always been so.
1. Under the Gospel, God has established no particular measures for promoting religion.
Under the Jewish dispensation, special measures were commanded. But these were typical of Christ, and when He had come, these were abolished, and the apostles received the simple commission to preach the Gospel to every living creature. In doing so, Christ Himself used no special forms and ceremonies. Nor did the apostles when baptized with the Holy Ghost. We are not told whether they prayed, or sang, or how often they did it, nor that any apostle adopted the form followed by any other.
However, to secure the best results, and to reach the largest number of people with the Gospel, some measures became necessary; and hence, in process of time, churches were built and meetings were regularly held.
2. Our present measures have been reached by degrees and by a succession of new measures.
(a) Ministerial Dress. It was the custom for ministers to wear cocked hats and wigs. When these were given up, quite an excitement was created. It was said to be undignified for a minister to dress like others. Even now in the pulpit many ministers are obliged to wear special dresses, and it is generally thought proper for them to wear black coats and special ties and collars. The wiping out of these practices has been a distinct benefit to the church. But their adoption and giving up have caused as much excitement as if they had been essential to religion. The changes have been denounced as 'new measures,' however beneficial they might be.
(b) The order of public worship has been subject to similar changes and upheavals.i. Psalm Books. First the Psalms were sung. Then a rhymed edition was introduced, and then an improved edition. Each change produced excitement and opposition as a new measure. Still more was this the case when original hymns were introduced. This was looked upon as a terrible innovation, and some left their church as a protest.
ii. Giving hymns out, line by line, was commonly practised, when books were few and expensive. The introduction of hymn books created quite a disturbance.
iii. Choirs of special singers for the improvement of singing and music led to still more vigorous protests.
iv. Pitch pipes were next used to start the singing and some members left the church. 'What! Whistle in the House of God!' To them it seemed profanation.
v. Instrumental music, led to still greater opposition, just as if there were a 'Thus saith the Lord' for every old custom.
vi. Extempore prayers were much opposed by those who had been accustomed to read their prayers out of a book.
vii. Preaching without notes was looked upon by some as an innovation. They were not aware that written-sermons were introduced at a time of political stress by preachers who were afraid of being accused of having said something against Government. Written sermons were themselves an innovation, and were unknown to the apostles.
viii. Kneeling in prayer was denounced as an innovation by those who had always been accustomed to pray standing.
(c) Laymen praying or preaching was often looked upon and denounced as a most dangerous innovation.
(d) Women praying and preaching in public still leads to much opposition.
(e) Even missions and Sunday-schools have been opposed as new measures, not found in the Bible and likely to distract the church.
(f) Many prominent religious leaders have met with much opposition for introducing innovations.i. The apostles were great innovators. They rooted out the whole Jewish system.
ii. Luther and the Reformers were innovators, and their attempt to cut loose from the forms and ceremonies of the Catholic Church, bathed Europe in blood.
iii. Wesley and Whitefield caused riots by their innovations, but are now universally regarded as wise and devoted workers. So with President Jonathan Edwards of America.
(g) In later days similar objections have been raised to anxious meetings, protracted meetings, to the penitent-form or anxious seat.i. In anxious meetings, those who are anxious, or under conviction, are dealt with individually and collectively and their errors removed.
ii. Protracted meetings and Revival campaigns are not new. The Jewish festivals were such. All denominations have had them, where religion has flourished.
3. In planning Revival campaigns, various important points ought to be considered:
(a) A careful choice should be made as to the most convenient season. This was so with the Jewish festivals. To arrange campaigns in the height of harvest in the country, or in the city when people are necessarily preoccupied with urgent business, is tempting God. The harvest and the business must be regarded as being God's, just as much as the Meetings. Real duties never interfere with each other.
(b) A Revival campaign should usually be conducted from start to finish by the same person and not by a succession of ministers, who cannot get to know the spiritual condition of the people, nor what truths are needed. A patient who called in a different doctor every day would soon be killed, Get the right kind of man and get him to stay on to the end.
(c) There should not be so many Meetings as to interfere with the duties of private prayer and the family. Otherwise Christians lose their spirituality and hold of God and the Meetings run down.
(d) Families should not neglect prayer and other duties to entertain strangers. Hospitality should be strictly limited to actual necessities. Often those who are to be the most relied on for help with the Meetings are entirely shut out by devoting their whole time to lavish entertainment of guests, and their influence and help is lost to the work. This should be carefully guarded against.
(e) Avoid keeping very late hours night after night, and also avoid irregularity of meals. Otherwise health may break down and the Revival stop.
(f) Avoid sectarianism, or the Meetings will be spoilt.
(g) Beware of placing dependence on a series of Meetings as though that by itself would produce a Revival. Some have thought that all that was required was to arrange Meetings and send for some minister of note, and a Revival must follow, without the church preparing itself and getting into the right spirit.
(h) Avoid supposing that there cannot be a Revival without a special campaign. There is a danger of rushing about when such Meetings are on, and dropping into a cold, torpid, inactive state in between. And thus the campaigns themselves get into disfavor.
4. The penitent-form, mercy-seat, or anxious-seat is a special seat, or place, where the anxious may come to be dealt with, prayed with, and their difficulties removed.
(a) Everybody knows that when people are troubled about their souls, there is a strong tendency to keep their concern private. If they can be persuaded to break away from this sense of shame and pride, a great deal has been accomplished.
(b) The penitent-form helps to detect deception and delusion and prevents people indulging in false hopes. For instance, a temperance lecturer may speak with such power that hundreds in his audience may say to themselves that they will never touch another drop of liquor. But if he stops short, and asks them then and there to sign the pledge, how many will draw back and excuse themselves? Thus their insincerity is revealed to themselves and to others. So it is in respect to the penitent-form. A sinner might think that he is willing to do anything and might go away imagining he is converted when he is not. But when this test is applied he sees that if he is not willing to do so small a thing, much less is he really willing to submit to God in all things. It uncovers the delusion of the human heart, and prevents many spurious conversions.
(c) The church has always found it necessary to have some kind of test. In the days of John the Baptist and the apostles this was baptism, and those evangelists who oppose the penitent-form usually have some other device, such as standing up, or stopping behind when the rest leave, or going to another room to be dealt with. These are all similar in principle.
1. In the entire history of the Church, there has never been an extensive reformation except by new measures. When the church gets settled down into some form upon which it relies, only by new measures can it be aroused and awakened. It seems impossible for God Himself to arouse people except by new measures in any case. He has always employed them as the best and wisest way of producing a Revival. And they have always met with strenuous opposition, because they were new, but have received His recognition and blessing.
2. There have been two chief dangers which have led to declensions following the greatest Revivals.
(a) The bad spirit of the old school, and their unreasonable opposition to every new measure has produced a reaction in the churches, which have pronounced their verdict in favor of the new measures.
(b) Then some rash individuals, realizing that the church was sick of the old cry against new measures, have gone forward rashly and done foolish arid unwise things and created a reaction against all new measures, and thus religion has had a serious setback.
3. The cry against the new measures referred to in this chapter is highly ridiculous. We see the value of prolonged campaigns and efforts for winning souls and the value of the penitent-form or inquiry-room.
4. We see why those who have opposed new measures have themselves regularly failed in creating Revivals and winning souls. They have been so taken up with the evils, real or imaginary, attending a Revival, that they have overlooked the blessed results.
5. Without new measures it is impossible for the church to succeed in gaining the attention of the outside world. There are so many counter excitements--politics, wars, business, pleasure, that unless new measures are introduced, the world's attention cannot be gained. This should, however, be done wisely, carefully, and prayerfully, and with a view to avoiding exciting unnecessary opposition. But new measures we must have, and not settle down to stereotyped forms.
6. We must have more earnest preaching. The old dull, stiff, formal style will not do. The times have changed, and we must change with them. An unlearned and uneducated preacher with fire and dash in his talk will command the attention of the people better than the dull preacher, however learned and well meaning.
7. Young ministers should be given right views in regard to Revivals and should not be taught to fear new measures. These should be adopted as necessity arises. Those who refuse to adopt them will grieve the Holy Spirit, and God will raise up others in their place to do their work.
8. The opposition to new measures savors strongly of fanaticism, though such persons often raise this very objection to new measures. The Gospel has left its workers absolute discretion as to the wisest measures to be adopted, and there is no more a 'Thus saith the Lord' for the old measures than for the new. The only thing required is that they should conform to decency and order.
HINDRANCES TO REVIVAL
'I am doing a great work, so that I cannot come down. Why should the work cease, whilst I leave it, and come down to you?' (Nehemiah 6:3).
THE story of Nehemiah shows how the enemies of God tried in various ways to divert him from the great work in which he was engaged. This has always been done, whenever a great work of God has been in progress.
1. Undoubtedly a Revival is a great work, because the objects involved are great, namely:(a) The Glory of God.
(b) The Salvation of men.
2. There are many things which may stop a Revival.
Some have thought that a Revival could not be hindered or stopped, because it is a work of God. But so is a field of wheat. It is just as possible to injure the one as the other.
(a) A Revival will cease when the church thinks it is going to cease. It does not matter what enemies say or believe. But if the church which is the instrument of the Revival loses faith, it will invariably cease, since Christians must labor in faith, and they cannot do so, if they believe it is going to cease.
(b) A Revival will cease when Christians consent that it should cease. If they see the danger, and it fills them with agony and concern, and drives them to their knees in prayer, it will not cease. But if they do not try to avert the danger, they consent to the Revival ceasing.
(c) It will cease when Christians lose their fire and power, and when their words and prayers become cold and mechanical.
(d) 1t will cease when Christians get the idea that the work will go on without their aid. This is not so. The sinner cannot be converted unless he does his part, for conversion consists in turning to God. Neither can he be converted unless the church does its duty in presenting the truth.
(e) It will cease when Christians prefer to turn aside to what they regard as their own business, and begin to think they cannot afford sufficient time from their worldly employments to carry on the Revival.
(f) When those who have carried it on get proud of the Revival and begin to boast about it, the Revival will cease. The opposition or indifference of those who take no part in it, will not stop it. But when those who have carried it on, get puffed up, God's Spirit will leave them and the Revival cease. Unsuitable, boastful accounts are sometimes written to the papers. Beware.
(g) Revivals sometimes cease because of not taking sufficient time for food and sleep. Thus those who are carrying on the work become exhausted and the Revival stops.
(h) Revivals cease when the church stops to speculate and argue about abstract doctrines that have no bearing upon practice.
(i) When churches begin to wrangle and quarrel over the converts and a spirit of controversy and bitterness arises in trying to gain proselytes, a Revival will cease.
(j) When Christians are mean and niggardly in their gifts to God's work a Revival cannot continue.
(k) A Revival will be checked when the church grieves the Holy Spirit.i. By not realizing dependence on Him. By getting to rest in its own strength, being lifted up with its success and failing to give God the glory. There is a constant danger of men and churches taking the glory to themselves, especially in published accounts. The Holy Spirit is grieved. Many a hopeful Revival has been killed in this way.
ii, By speaking disparagingly of and undervaluing a great work of God.
(l) When Christians lose the warm spirit of brotherly love, which makes them naturally call each other 'brother' and 'sister,' when they lose this glow of affection, the Spirit is grieved and the Revival ceases.
(m) A Revival will cease unless Christians are frequently broken down and revived. Their hearts are liable to get crusted over and lose their relish for divine things--their unction and prevailing power in prayer diminish. Then unless they are re-consecrated and re-baptized they will do injury to the work. I have never been engaged in a Revival with anyone who would keep in the spirit who did not pass through this process of breaking down every two or three weeks. Revivals die down, because Christians become mechanical, and it' is important that ministers should know how to break them down again.
(n) When Christians begin to lose the spirit of self-denial and sacrifice, and give way to self-indulgence, then they gradually become dull and lazy and fearful and useless, and grieve the Holy Spirit and stop the Revival.
(0) Controversy about new measures will stop a Revival.
(p) When those who are engaged in a Revival allow themselves to be upset by those who oppose it, and get a bad spirit, the Revival will stop. Let them take no notice, but go on with their work. A pastor was once put on his trial for new measures, but the church went on praying and believing, and the Revival continued.
(q) Anything that distracts public attention from the Revival may cause it to cease. The appearance of an angel upon the scenes might have this effect, if it distracted attention.
(r) Resistance to the temperance movement may stop a Revival. Christians can no longer be neutral on this question. The man's hands are red with blood who stands aloof on the question.
(s) Similarly a Revival may be stopped by a church taking wrong ground on some great moral question such as slavery. The church must testify to the truth, or she stands perjured by God, and the Spirit will leave her.
(t) Neglecting the claims of Missions will again cause Revivals to cease.
(u) A church will grieve the Spirit if it fails to send workers into the ministry.
(v) Slandering Revivals will often cause them to cease.
The opposition of sinners and blasphemers and the outside world cannot check a Revival. But it is different when the church itself misrepresents and slanders a Revival. The Spirit is grieved and the work declines.
(w) Ecclesiastical difficulties will often grieve the Spirit and stop a Revival. Some of the most successful revivalists have been called away from their work to answer charges before their church leaders regarding the use of new measures. Their time has been wickedly wasted, arid public attention distracted from the great work of winning souls.
(x) Censoriousness on the part of those who are carrying on a Revival will stop it. While they retain a humble spirit the work will go on, but when they allow themselves to become bitter, to retaliate and reply, the Spirit will be grieved and the Revival cease.
3. There are many things which ought to be done that a Revival may continue.
(a) Ministers themselves must deeply and wholeheartedly repent. It is not enough for them to call on their congregation to do so. They must humble themselves before God. Especially must those do it who have opposed Revivals.
(b) Those churches which have opposed Revivals must humble themselves and repent.
(c) Those who have been engaged in carrying on the work must repent. If they have allowed a bitter; censorious, harsh spirit to creep in, they must repent, and not attempt to justify themselves by saying that others are more to blame.
(d) Christians must take right ground on politics and must vote only for honest, moral, upright men, who are fit to be trusted with authority. If 'the Church will take a resolute stand, only men of character will be put forward by all parties.
(e) The Church must sanctify the Sabbath. There is a vast and increasing tendency to neglect the Sabbath.
(f) The church must take right ground regarding temperance and moral reform. It has no right to be neutral. It must make its voice heard against drink and immorality, if it wishes for God's blessing on its work.
(g) There must be more done for all the great objects of Christian benevolence, the Bible, Missions, education, etc., or the Church will displease God.
(h) Let the whole church go to work for the Salvation of souls. Instead of writing and speaking against the measures used, let Christians show a more excellent and successful way. Instead of standing aside and finding fault, let every one put his hand to the plough. Otherwise, Revivals will cease, and God will hold Christians answerable for the souls that perish.
1 , It is high time that there should be deep and solemn heart-searching on the part of all. Instead of criticizing one another, let us all humble ourselves before God.
2. Let us repent and forsake our sins and amend our ways. Let us drop all minor differences and unite in winning souls.
3. If the church will rise up and do her duty, religion will soon triumph in the world.
4. In all Revivals there is a constant tendency to decline and backslide. What shall we do? God has been brandishing His blazing sword of war over our heads. We must get down into the dust before Him and take hold of His great work unitedly. Let each one do his duty individually, and make up his mind to have a Revival. Do not let us blame one another, or that abstract thing, the church; but let us take hold of ourselves, and each do his part in bringing about a great Revival of religion. .
THE NECESSITY FOR AND EFFECT OF UNION
'Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in Heaven' (Matthew 18:19).
THE number 'two' is here given as the smallest number between whom there can be an agreement, with a view to encouraging us where numbers are small.
I. We must be 'agreed' in prayer in order to come within this promise.
1 . We must be agreed in our desires for the object. Sometimes people agree in words, but not in desires. In fact, God may see that in heart some are not desiring, and even resisting the object in question.
2. The motive, the reason why, we pray and desire should be the same. Some may desire a Revival for the. Glory of God and Salvation of sinners, while others desire it to increase their members and income, or out of mere natural affection to get their friends saved, or as an answer to their enemies. Those who pray must be agreed as to their motive.
3. The desires and motives must not only be the same, but must be good. The supreme motive, must be to glorify God. For instance, parents often agree in desire for their children's conversion, but the motive is simply because they are their children, and the prayer remains unanswered. Many prayers are from purely selfish motives, and are offensive to God. Thus a church may desire a Revival because it is afraid of being broken up, or because some other denomination is getting on better. Multitudes of requests for Revival meetings are based on purely selfish reasons, which must be abhorrent to God. Also many prayers for missions and for the conversion of the non-Christian nations are based on wrong motives. Instead of expressing horror at the fact of so many millions of souls being in rebellion against God, the fact that they are in danger of going to Hell is chiefly, almost solely, dwelt upon. Pity for sinners' punishment instead of horror at their guilt. The latter view must be deeply felt by Christians and exhibited to sinners before a great world Revival can be expected. Similarly, parents must come to see that their unconverted children are rebels 'against God,' and must learn to take God's part against their own children.
4. There must be united Faith. This condition is always implied in prevailing prayer. We must understand the ground on which our faith is based and must unite in absolutely believing that the blessing will come.
5. We must be agreed as to the time when we desire the blessing. Some may desire a Revival now, while others are not prepared to make the necessary sacrifice of time, business, etc. They may therefore. want in their hearts to have it some other time. Some may not be prepared to humble themselves, break up their fallow ground, and place themselves in a position to receive the blessing now. God looks at the heart and sees whether there is real union.
6. There must not only be a general agreement as to time, but the time must be the present. Unless we are agreed to have a Revival now, we shall not use the means, and if we do not use the means, the Revival cannot come.
II. We must be agreed in everything that is essential for obtaining the blessing we seek. It must not merely be a general agreement in asking, but it must be an agreement 'as touching' everything essential to the bestowment and reception of the blessing.
1. We must be agreed in believing the possibility and reality of Revivals.
2. We must agree as to their necessity. Many prefer the quiet; ordinary services, and think the work can be better done in that way. They do not agree as to their necessity.
3. We must agree as to their importance, otherwise we cannot pray with the earnestness and agony which prevails, I do not believe there can be found a single case of a church turned away and refused a Revival by God, where its importance was realized, and fervent, prevailing prayer offered.
4. We must agree in having correct scriptural ideas about several things connected with Revivals.(a) The necessity of Divine agency to produce a Revival. Must feel this deep down in our hearts, not merely as a theory.
(b) Why Divine agency is necessary? Not because sinners are unable to repent, or are to be regarded as poor creatures to be pitied. This throws the blame of their rebellion on God. Such an attitude is often taken both in prayer and in exhortation. This is taking the sinner's part against God. This is insulting God, and charging Him with injustice. The only reason why God's agency is needed is to overcome the sinner's obstinacy, and make him willing to do what he can do, and what God hourly requires him to do.
(c) We must agree in recognizing that a Revival is not a miracle, but is, like other events, brought about by the use of means. Otherwise we shall never use those means.
(d) We must be agreed that human agency is just as indispensable as Divine.
Some people hold the notion that God can convert sinners without human agency. But there is no evidence that He ever does. He certainly cannot without the agency of the sinner himself. Conversion involves obedience to the truth, and to obey the truth the sinner must know it. Ordinarily, God uses human agency to make known the truth.
5. We must agree as to the measures required to promote a Revival. If a ship has to be sailed, or a business operated, those doing it must be agreed as to the measures.(a) We must agree as to the Meetings to be held. Some may be against any new Meetings, others may be for too many, and others may object to long Meetings. All should be agreed as to what and how many and when Meetings are to be held.
(b) We should agree as to the manner of conducting the Meetings. Usually it will be best to be guided largely from day to day by the Spirit without laying too much stress on measures new or old.
6. We must be agreed in the manner of dealing with penitents. If one says 'repent,' and another says 'go home and think about it,' and another 'read some book,' and so on, the sinners will get confused and will not know what to do. All must understand how to deal with sinners and must know how to press them to an immediate decision.
7. We must be agreed to remove stumbling-blocks out of the way.(a) Discipline must be exercised by the removal of members who are a reproach to religion. The church must act unitedly in the matter, or divisions and heart-burnings arise and the Revival is hindered.
(b) There must be mutual and hearty confessions.
(c) Forgiveness of enemies is necessary where there are quarrels and disagreements among members. They must break down, confess their faults, and cherish a forgiving spirit.
8. We must agree as to the necessary arrangements for the Revival, and as to bearing and sharing the expenses, so that the burden does not fall unduly upon a few. A mean, parsimonious spirit grieves the Spirit and hinders a Revival.
9. We must agree to labor ourselves, and do our part in carrying on the Revival. Also how, we are to labor, making the necessary arrangements for visiting neighbors, praying and conversing with them.
10. We must agree to persevere till we obtain the blessing. Some bluster about at the beginning, and when some difficulty turns up they get discouraged and give in.
1. We see why so many godly parents fail to get their children converted. Either they are not agreed as to how it is to be done, or their motive is wrong. Perhaps one desires to train them for the world, and the other for God. There is no real agreement.
2. We see the hypocrisy of those who pray for a Revival and yet are not prepared to do their part to bring one about. What should we think of a farmer who prayed for a crop and would neither plough nor sow?
3. We see why so many prayers offered by churches remain unanswered, Christians have not been really agreed.
4. Many persons imagine that the text merely means asking for what they want, and have not understood that they must be agreed as to the how, when, and why. 'If two persons desire to go to London together, they must agree as to the route, time, and ship.
5. Ordinarily, a Revival among those outside the church will prevail and extend in proportion to the union of prayer and effort inside the church. If the union is general, the Revival will continue. If it is interrupted, the Revival will cease.
6. It is further noteworthy that the Revival will usually affect the same class outside as inside. If the women in the church are most in earnest, the women will be principally affected. If it is the young people, the same will be the case. If the heads of families are specially affected, the same class will be reached outside. When a Revival fails to reach any particular class of the impenitent, pains should be taken to arouse that portion of the church who are of the same age and standing.
7. We see why different denominations have been permitted by God to spring up. In view of the many differences of plans and opinions, It is better that this should be so, and much good results from the breaking up of the church into sections, which can agree to work harmoniously together. Revivals have often been broken up by attempting to unite those who disagree as to principles arid methods. The Spirit of God has been grieved by the confusion and controversy that have arisen.
8. Sometimes a church is split into parties which are only kept together by some worldly consideration as to finance or building. God has allowed something to tear them asunder with the happiest result, and both have been blessed with Revivals. Where such is the case, let them separate amicably like Abraham and Lot.
9. We see why a few persons perfectly united in spirit and plans can more easily build up a new church than a far larger number who are not so agreed.
10. We can see what glorious things may be expected when all God's people see eye to eye, and all petty jealousies and differences are laid aside. Then will 'nations be born in a day.'
11. There is great ignorance in the churches on the subject of Revivals. Few make the subject one of prayerful and careful study. If people went about building a house as foolishly and unsystematically as they do the House of God, no house would ever be built. The work of promoting Revivals of religion requires study and thought and knowledge of principles, and skill in applying the Word of God.
12. Many ministers are totally ignorant how to promote and carry on Revivals.
13. How important is it that all members of the church should be trained like the soldiers of an army to know just what to do and say during a Revival, so that each may take his place. Instead of this, one often sees Christians in a time of Revival running here and there like a lot of children playing at building a house, and not knowing--what?--the very work for which God has left them on earth.
14. We see why Revivals are often so short, and often produce a reaction. Church members are not trained. They act from feeling rather than principle. Foolish and unnecessary mistakes are made, the Spirit is grieved, and the work ceases.
15. We see the grave responsibility of the church regarding the sinners who are among them. If they can have what they ask, when they are agreed 'as touching' the thing asked, the blood of lost souls will surely be required of them.
16. See the guilt of ministers in not informing themselves and in not instructing their churches on this momentous subject. What is the end of the Christian ministry but to instruct and marshal God's host, and lead them on to victory? No minister has begun to understand or do his duty, if he has neglected to instruct his church to work for God in the promotion of Revivals.
17. We see what pious parents can do for the conversion of their children, when they are agreed 'as touching' all things.
18. We see in view of this promise the awful guilt of the church in not being so agreed. The blood of lost souls will be required of her. Will you now be agreed? Multitudes of souls are drifting down to Hell, because this blessed promise is neglected, and the church is not agreed 'as touching' their salvation.
FALSE COMFORTS FOR SINNERS
'How then comfort ye me in vain, seeing in your answers there remaineth falsehood' (Job 21:34)
JUST as Job's friends based their comforts on wrong grounds, so nowadays false comforts are given to sinners.
I. Anxious sinners must be instructed
The fact of their anxiety shows they must have had some instruction. Now all difficulties and darkness must be cleared, their errors removed, their self-righteous props broken down; they must be made to renounce everything and rest in Christ alone. The last thing anxious souls will usually do is to throw themselves as lost and guilty rebels on Christ alone for Salvation. Comparatively few ministers or professors know how to lead them to do this effectually.
II. Anxious sinners are always seeking comfort
They imagine they are seeking Christ, or religion. But this is a mistake. Religion is obeying God. To seek religion implies a willingness to obey God. To say that an impenitent sinner is seeking to obey God, is as much as to say that he is willing and longs to obey God, and that God will not let him. The fact is, he is seeking a hope, a comfort, a deliverance from Hell, without obeying God. He is looking for some one to comfort him and make him feel better, without yielding to God's terms. Hence false comforts have been administered, and countless souls lost.
III. Some of the false comforts given to sinners
There is no end to these. The main object with many is to comfort. There is only one way to give real comfort, God Himself has fixed the conditions. The sinner must repent of his sins, forsake them and turn to God. Nothing else can make him happy, comfort him, or do him any good. Our object should be the same as God's, to make the sinner then and there obey God. To relieve his distress or comfort him should be a secondary object. Our concern, should be rather for the honor of God than the sinner's comfort.
Hence parents, relatives, friends bringing an anxious sinner have often to be sent away, as they take the sinner's part when his conscience is being probed.
A number of commonly offered false comforts will now be considered:
1. Some say, 'What have you done? You are not so bad!' Just as if sinners had never done anything wicked and had no cause to feel distressed.
So mother to son, or husband to wife. The truth is they have been infinitely worse than they think. No sinner ever had an idea of his sins greater than they are. It is probable that a man could not live under the full weight of his sins. God has in mercy spared us that worst of sights--a naked human heart. The sinner's guilt is more deep and damning than he sees, and his danger, too. If he saw them as they really are, he would probably not live one moment. A sinner may have a mistaken idea which causes him distress, as, for instance, that he has committed the unpardonable sin, or grieved away the Spirit, or sinned away his last chance; but to tell the most moral or naturally amiable person in the world, that he is good enough, or not so bad as he thinks, is to deceive him and ruin his soul. Let those who do it beware.
2. Others comfort by saying that 'Conversion is a progressive work.' They say ,perhaps, they don't believe in these sudden conversions. The sinner will get better by degrees. This eases his distress, but is false as the bottomless pit. Regeneration or conversion is not a progressive work. It follows immediately the first act of genuine obedience to God. To talk about it as progressive is to show as little knowledge about conversion as Nicodemus had.
3. Sometimes sinners are advised to dismiss the subject from their minds for the present, as though God were treating the sinner too hard in pressing him to immediate surrender. The strivings of the Spirit will never hurt a sinner. It is resisting God that will damage him, not submission. The proper course is to instruct him, correct his mistakes and make the way of Salvation so plain that he may see it right before him. Remember, if an awakened sinner once deliberately dismisses the subject, he will probably never take it up again. Push him to an immediate surrender.
4. A distressed sinner is sometimes told that religion is cheerful and not gloomy. But he has no religion and has infinite reason to be alarmed. To tell an impenitent, unsaved sinner to be cheerful is the same as telling the devils in Hell to cheer up. The sinner is on the verge of Hell, a rebel against God. His distress is due to his refusal to submit. We ought not to try to be more compassionate than God. God is ready to comfort him, the moment he submits. To tell a rebel against God to cheer up! Horrible!
5. Anything that involves religion in mystery may afford a sinner relief from the pressure of present obligation, and render his agony less acute, but will be full of peril to his soul. Pour in the light. Let him clearly see his duty, and force him up to immediate surrender.
6. Whatever relieves the sinner from a sense of blame gives him false comfort, leading to death. If he can only throw a part of the blame on God, or upon his circumstances, or nature, he will feel relieved. The more he feels himself to blame, the greater will be his distress.
7. To tell the sinner of his inability to obey God, or do what he ought is to give false comfort. He naturally infers that God will not send him to Hell for not doing what he can't do. He can and must submit.
8. Anything that gives him the idea that he is to be passive in religion, to wait God's time, to leave his conversion to God, is false comfort. It is as though he had to wait for his arm to be amputated, and he will infer again he is not to blame. Repentance is the sinner's own act, something which can't be done for him. He must do it himself or it will never be done.
9. It is false comfort to tell a sinner to wait God's time. It is like saying God is insincere when He commands the sinner to repent at once. It puts the blame of his delay upon God, and justifies the sinner in postponing his decision.
10. It is false comfort to tell a sinner to do anything for relief, which he can do without submitting his heart to God. Sinners will often agree to do anything that will relieve them from the pressure of immediate surrender.
11. Telling a sinner to use the means of grace is giving him an excuse for continued rebelling. It is evading duty. God says submit, repent now. Nothing else will do. The sinner may use the means of grace till the Judgment Day, and not be a particle the better.
12. Praying for a new heart again puts the blame upon God, and relieves the sinner's anxiety. God says to the sinner, repent, submit, now.
13. Telling a sinner to persevere is wrong. If he does, what will happen? He will be damned. His anxiety only arises from his resisting the Spirit of God. If he would submit it would cease. Will you tell him to persevere in disobeying.
14. Telling a sinner he is in a good way and must press forward is also wrong. His face is not toward Heaven, but Hell. He is not in a good way. God tells him to stop, and he will not do so. That is the cause of his distress.
15. Telling him to try to repent implies that God is asking him to do something very difficult, there being a doubt whether he can do it. This relieves his anxiety. God says, Repent, not try to repent. It is something the sinner can do.
16. 'Pray for repentance, conviction, or for the Holy Ghost'--all this is just what the sinner wants, because it relieves him from the pressure of immediate submission. He wants just a little more time. Bid him submit now.
17. 'God is trying your faith by keeping you in the furnace'--this is another quite mistaken statement, as if God were preventing him from being saved. The delay is on the part of the sinner, not of God, who says, 'My Spirit shall not always strive.'
18. 'Do your duty and leave your conversion with God'--this is the same as telling him that it is not his duty to be converted now. If he did his duty he would be converted now.
19. 'Don't be discouraged. I was a long time like this before I got comfort,' you may say. If so, it is the last thing to be told to a sinner. It does not follow that God will spare him as long as He spared another. To speak thus is to encourage him in rebellion against God.
20. 'I have faith to believe you will be converted,' some will say to a sinner. On what does such faith rest? Not on the promises of God. To speak thus gives him an excuse for postponing decision. Instead of throwing him on to Christ, he is turned off to hang upon his friend's faith for his Salvation.
21. 'I will pray for you.' This is false comfort, because it leads the sinner to trust in another's prayers instead of trusting in Christ. The sinner will say, 'I have faith in his prayers, and his anxiety will be gone.' This is the kind of faith the Devil likes these to have--faith in a Christian's prayers instead of faith in Christ.
22. 'I rejoice to see you in this way and hope you will hold out.' What is this but rejoicing to see him rebelling against God? His danger is all the greater because he is no longer asleep as before. Instead of rejoicing we ought to be in agony at seeing him resisting the Holy Spirit.
23. 'You have not repented enough.' As a matter of fact he has not repented at all. To tell him he has repented at all is to tell him a lie and to cheat him of his soul.
24. 'You are in a prosperous way.' The sinner is not in a prosperous way, He is resisting the Spirit and is on his way to Hell. The Church seems in league with the Devil to mislead him.
25. Another common way of giving ease and comfort is to quote some promise which is not intended for sinners but for saints.i. 'Blessed are they that mourn, for they shall be comforted.' We might as well tell the Devil this. Why is the sinner in distress? Because, he will not submit. He feels he must give up sin or be damned. He refuses and resists and hence his distress.
ii. 'Seek and ye shall find.' This promise was made to Christians, who ask in faith, and seek to do the will of God. To apply it to an impenitent sinner is only to deceive him. It is to cherish a fatal delusion. If he had a sincere desire to do the will of God, he would give up sin and would be a Christian. We might as well comfort Satan with such a promise.
iii. 'Let us not be weary in well-doing, for in due time we shall reap if we faint not.' To apply this to a sinner is absurd. He has never done well, and has never done more ill than now. Reap? Yes, he shall reap the damnation of Hell, if he does not give up his sins.
26. Some professors of religion are fond of saying, 'I will tell you my experience.' This is a dangerous snare. The sinner will try and imitate the speaker's experience. But he never will have feelings just like his. No two ever had the same feelings. Men's experiences are as unlike as their faces. It encourages him to delay and to postpone his submission to God.(a) 'God has begun a good work in you and He will carry it on.' This relieves the sinner from the intolerable pressure of present obligation to repent and submit at once. As well might a farmer say, 'God has begun a good work in my field and He will carry it on,' while neglecting to do his part. We often find that sinners imagine they have broken off their sins when they have not really done so, or that they have done what they can, when really they have done nothing at all, except resist God with all their might. To tell such that God will do the rest is fatal.
(b) 'Be thankful for conviction, conversion is sure to follow.' He may well be thankful that he is out of Hell, but to tell him to be thankful while he is resisting and disobeying God is absurd and dangerous.
(c) False comfort is often given to sinners in praying for them.i. They are often prayed for as if they were to be pitied rather, than blamed, and as if they were mourners, and could not help sin, and as if they were sorry for it. The Bible never speaks of sinners in this way. It pities them not as mourners, but as mad guilty rebels, deserving Hell.
ii. Praying for them as poor sinners to be pitied as unfortunate. The Bible always speaks of them as guilty rebels deserving Hell.
iii. Praying that God would enable them to repent, as if God were asking them to do something impossible.
iv. 'These sinners are seeking Thee sorrowing.' It is a lie. Christ is seeking them. They are resisting Him, not seeking Him. No sinner ever sought Christ with all his heart three minutes without finding Him.
v. 'Lord, have mercy on these penitent souls--or humble souls.' They are neither penitent nor humble. Much harm has been done by songs about sinners as poor or humble. They are guilty rebels refusing to submit to God.
vi. 'Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do.' This prayer does not apply to a sinner under gospel light who is resisting the Spirit. He does know what he does.
vii. 'Lord, direct these sinners, who are inquiring the way to Zion with their faces thitherward.' Their faces are Hellward, not Heavenward.
viii. Praying that sinners may have more conviction, or may go home solemn, or may consider the subject, instead of praying that they may repent now. These are such prayers as the Devil wants; they relieve sinners' conviction and make them postpone decision.
ix. We should never pray so as to make sinners feel that we hope they are Christians already, or will be some day. Multitudes are deceived in this way just when they are on the point of surrendering to God.
1. These false comforts are given from false pity. As well might a surgeon put on a plaster when he knows that he ought to amputate an arm. That is not benevolence.
2. Such treatment is in fact cruelty. We should lay open to the sinner the worst of his case, his guilt and danger, and insist on immediate submission. To do this often requires nerve. I have sometimes been surrounded with sinners in such agony that some would be lying on the floor, and others shriek as if just going to Hell. A man who would give false comfort to such is not to be trusted.
3. Owing to such false comforts being given sinners sometimes become deranged, or are driven to despair, when if they were taught to submit they would get relief.
4. If you are going to deal with sinners, remember you will soon meet them at the Judgment Bar, and be sure to deal with them in such a way that if they are lost, it will be their own fault. Suppress your false sympathy and let the naked truth cleave them asunder.
5. Sinner, ask those who direct you 'If I do that, shall I be saved?' You may be anxious and not be saved. You may pray and not be saved. You may use means and not be saved. Do not follow such directions, lest you should die while doing it, and then there is no reprieve.
6. Never tell a sinner to do anything which does not include immediate submission to God. It is infinitely dangerous. Alas! that so few have skill enough to apply the Gospel remedy, and courage and firmness to stand by and see the Spirit of God do the work in breaking up the old foundations and crush all the false hopes of a sinner and break him down at the feet of Jesus.
DIRECTIONS TO SINNERS
'What must I do to be saved?' (Acts 16:30).
I PROPOSE to show what are the instructions that should be given to sinners, with a view to their speedy and effectual conversion.
I. What are not proper directions for anxious sinners
When a sinner asks in earnest, 'What must I do to be saved?' it is vitally important that he should receive the right reply.
1. No direction should be given that will leave him in his sins. No answer is proper with which, if he comply, he would not go to Heaven the next minute if he were to die.
2. No direction should be given that does not imply a change of heart, or a right heart, or hearty obedience to Christ, or actually becoming a Christian. Anything that falls short of this is of no use. It will not bring him any nearer to the Kingdom, but will lead him to defer the very thing he must do to be saved.
Sinner, whatever you do, so long as you remain in rebellion, is sin. Whether you read your Bible or not, go to Meetings or not, pray or not, it is nothing but rebellion every moment. If an armed rebel refuses to surrender, but reads the statute book, would that be considered a reason for pardoning him? So you, sinner, are only insulting God so long as you remain impenitent and unsaved, no matter whether you read His Word and pray, or let it alone. You are a rebel against God.
II. What is a proper answer to the inquiry, 'What must I do to be saved?'
Anything that includes, a right heart, if understood and done, will result in his Salvation. The object of the Spirit of God in striving with sinners is to dislodge them from their hiding-places, and compel them to submit to God then and there. But the errors, conditions, and characters of sinners differ, and you need in each case to find out what is their particular error, and what the Spirit is pressing them to do.
The following are the most common directions to give:
1. Repent. This is generally a suitable direction. But sometimes the Spirit may be bearing down on some other point. In the times of the apostles the great question was the acceptance of Jesus as the Son of God and Messiah (so now with the Mohammedans). Thus we find them constantly saying, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus.' At other times it may be found that the sinner has some other controversy; such as family prayer. He must submit before he can be saved.
But even when the right instruction is to repent, it is often necessary to tell the sinner both what you do and do not mean by this word. Sinners are often befogged. They may think remorse is repentance. If so, then Hell is full of repentance, for it is certainly full of remorse, unutterable and eternal. Others imagine that regret at having sinned is repentance, or the remonstrances of conscience, or conviction of sin, or strong fears of Hell. Sinners must be shown that the Devil himself may have all of these, and yet remain a devil.
Repentance is a change of mind, views and feelings in regard to sin itself. When we hear that a man has changed his mind, we know that this means a change of views, feelings, and conduct. This is Repentance. It always implies:
(a) Abhorrence of sin. Feeling towards sin just as God feels, and
(b) Forsaking sin.
The: sinner who really repents does not feel towards his sins as impenitent sinners imagine they would feel. They think they would be obliged to stay away from cinemas, parties, amusements; and other things that they now delight in; whereas, when they truly repent their mind is changed, and they abhor the things they once delighted in, and love the things they once disliked. It is true there are some professors who would like to go back to these things, and who are only deterred from doing so by the fear of what others may say. But if they feel so it is because they have no religion. They do not hate sin. If they were really converted they would loathe these things. Instead of lusting for the flesh-pots of Egypt, they would find their highest pleasure in pleasing God.
2. Believe the Gospel.
Here again it is necessary to explain to them what is faith.
They will often say that they do believe it, whereas the careless sinner does not believe the Gospel at all. It is a mistake to say that he is even an intellectual believer. The Devil is, and that is why he trembles. What makes a sinner anxious is that he begins to be an intellectual believer, and this makes him feel. No being in Heaven, earth, or Hell can really believe the truths of the Gospel, and not feel. The anxious sinner has faith of the same kind as the devils, but not so much of it, and therefore does not feel so much. The man that does not feel at all on the subject of religion is an infidel, be his professions what they may. He that feels nothing, and does nothing, believes nothing.
Faith does not consist in an intellectual conviction that Christ died for you in particular, nor in a belief that you are a Christian, or that you ever will be, or that your sins are forgiven. But faith is that trust or confidence in the Bible, that leads the individual to act as if it were true. This was the faith of Noah, Abraham, Moses. They believed, and acted accordingly.
3. Give your heart to God. Here again it is necessary to make the sinner understand what this means. I have asked more than a thousand sinners this question, and they would always say that they were willing and even anxious to do it. But when I asked them what they understood this to be, they have seldom given me a correct answer.
Ask a woman what it is to give her heart to her husband, and she will at once reply, 'It is to place my affections on him, and to try to please him in everything.' Very well, strive to please God in everything, place your affections on Him, love Him supremely.
4. Submit to God. Sinners will often say that they are willing to submit, when really they do not understand what it means. True submission is yielding obedience to God. A rebel submits when he lays down his arms, and obeys the laws. So the sinner submits when he consents in his heart to be and to do whatever God shall require.
5. Confess and forsake your sins. A sinner must both confess and forsake. If he has wronged men, he must confess and make reparation to man. If he has robbed God of time, talents, and money, he must confess and make reparation to God. If he continues to regard his money as his own; to spend as he likes on himself and on his family, and refuses to recognize his stewardship to God, he is like a clerk robbing his master's till. Has that man forsaken sin? Is that man going to Heaven? I tell you No. If he has not surrendered himself and all he has to God, he has not taken the first step on the way to Heaven. .
6. 'Choose ye this day whom ye will serve.' This was the common direction to sinners in the Old Testament times. It was easier for them to understand than a call to believe on the distant Messiah. It is just as good now as it was then. Sinners are called to choose--What? Whether they will serve God or the world; whether they will follow Holiness or sin.
Any of these directions, if complied with, will lead to true conversion. It is a mistake to suppose that faith or submission or repentance must come first. Whatever point the Spirit is urging on the sinner, when he yields that he is converted. If his thoughts are directed to Christ, the first exercise will be Faith; if to sin, it will be Repentance; if to his future course in life, it will be choosing God's service; if to God's government, it will be Submission. The rest will be included. We must find out on what point the Spirit is pressing him, and must hold him to it until he yields, and must not distract his attention to other points.
III. Several errors into which anxious sinners are liable to fall
I. Many suppose that they must make themselves better, or prepare themselves in some way, so as to recommend themselves to God's mercy. They will not understand that all they have to do is to accept mercy and Salvation from God. They must be made to understand that it is impossible to make themselves any better until they do what God requires. Every breath they breathe, they are growing worse until they do the very thing that God requires.
2. Others suppose that they must remain a considerable time under conviction as a kind of punishment for their sins before God will be willing to forgive them. They must be made to see clearly that they are thus miserable only because they refuse to accept the relief which God is offering them.
3. Sinners often wait for different feelings before they submit to God. But those feelings depend upon their submitting, and they can never have them until they do submit. It is like saying you must wait till you love God before you begin to love Him.
4. Others think that they must wait for God to change their hearts. That is the very thing God is waiting-and anxious to do as soon as the sinner repents, submits, believes.
5. Sinners often imagine that they are willing to serve God when they are only desiring. They must be shown the difference between desiring and choosing. We often desire a thing very much, but do not choose it. The price is too high, or the sacrifice too great. So, while we desire it we do not choose it. When anyone actually chooses to obey Christ he is a Christian, but all desires that do not terminate in actual choice are nothing.
6. Sinners often imply that they are offering God their hearts, and that He is not willing to receive them--that they are willing to do their part, but God is not willing to do His. This is absurd. It is like saying that you are willing to love God, but He is not willing to be loved by you.
7. Sinners sometimes think they repent when they are only convicted. Whenever you find them resting in any lie you must let the truth sweep it away, or they will stumble into the depths of Hell.
8. Sinners are often taken up with looking at themselves, to see if they cannot find something to recommend them to God, some feeling. The proper course is to turn a sinner from himself, and to make him look at some duty that requires to be performed, or to look to Christ, and perhaps before he is aware he will find that he has submitted to God.
I. The labor of ministers is greatly increased, and the difficulties in the way of a man's Salvation multiplied, by the false instructions to sinners. The consequence is that directions which used to be plain are now obscure. Sinners are taught to regard Faith as a principle, and not as an act, and Repentance as something put into them instead of an exercise of the mind. Hence, it is no longer enough to say, 'Believe on the Lord Jesus' or 'Repent.' You must explain not only what you do mean, but what you do not mean, or they misunderstand you, and either get a false relief from their anxiety by throwing off their duty upon God, or are driven to despair by thinking that they cannot do what God requires.
2. These false instructions are worse than none. It is most difficult work for a minister to get sinners out of these refuges of lies in which they are entrenched, which excuse the sinner and throw the blame on God. Thus the simplest Gospel truths have been clogged and mystified. People have been told in the same breath that they must repent and that they cannot do so.
3. There is great danger, when sinners are under conviction of either smoothing over the case so that they will entertain a false hope of being saved when they are not, or that their conversion may be of a poor, weak, wavering type.
4. When a sinner is under conviction the probe must be used firmly and thoroughly. Every excuse must be torn away, and he must be shown plainly what he is and what he ought to be. For want of this, the conversion of many appears to be rather a change of opinion than a change of heart. But when thoroughly dealt with they come out as strong Christians, and can be depended on. If, on the other hand, you undertake to make converts without cutting up their errors, and tearing away their false hopes, you may make a host of hypocrites or of puny, dwarf Christians, always doubting, easily turned back, and worth nothing.
5. Protracted seasons of conviction are generally due to defective instruction. Where the teaching is clear and faithful, conviction is usually deep and pungent, but short.
6. Where instructions are clear, if the sinner does not submit, his convictions quickly disappear. The Spirit leaves him, and he is lost. When sinners are befogged by false teaching they may drag on for years, but when the truth is clearly brought to bear upon their minds, and all their excuses and hiding places are torn away, if they do not quickly surrender their case is hopeless, and their convictions usually leave them never to return. If there is a sinner who reads these lines, and sees his duty clearly, take care how you delay. If you do not submit you may expect the Spirit of God to forsake you, and then you are lost.
7. To tell a sinner to wait, is little less than giving him permission to continue in sin. Such directions are not only wicked, but ruinous and cruel. If they do not destroy the soul, as no doubt they often do, they defer the sinner's enjoyment of God and Christ, and he stands a great chance of losing his soul while listening to such directions.
8. Those conversions which have been the most sudden have generally been the best. A contrary opinion is often expressed, and such conversions are looked upon with suspicion. This is a great mistake. There is not a single case of protracted conviction in the whole Bible. All the conversions recorded there were sudden. These long and tedious convictions are invariably due to wrong instruction. Afraid of sudden conversions! Why, some of the best Christians of my acquaintance were convicted and converted in the space of a few minutes. In one quarter of the time I have been speaking, many of them have been awakened and converted and have been bright and shining lights ever since, and have shown the same decision of character in all their doings.
THE INSTRUCTION OF CONVERTS
'Feed My lambs' (John 21:15).
CHRIST was referring, no doubt, to the care of young converts, when He urged Peter to prove his love by feeding the lambs whom He here specially commits to his care.
I. The hopes of young converts
I. Apart from the assurance given by the Holy Spirit, it is unwise to encourage persons to hope that they are Christians. There is danger of judging prematurely. Or, if not, it is better that they should find out the truth for themselves, even though they do not see it at once. They may break down lower than ever, then they will come out so clear and decided that they will know where they are.
2. When a person expresses a hope, and at the same time has doubts, it is generally because the work is not thorough. Such need breaking down. They are lingering around the world or they have not broken off from their sins. There is usually some good reason for their doubts. It is necessary to apply the probe whilst the Spirit of God is dealing with them. Do not suffer them to hope until they have made a clean sweep of everything. This was how Christ dealt with Peter. He had been converted, and then he became puffed up with spiritual pride and fell. Christ broke him down by His thrice repeated question, and then he became a stable and devoted Christian the rest of his days.
3. There is no need for converts to have or express doubts as to their conversion. Does a woman doubt whether she loves her husband? She knows it because she feels it, and acts accordingly. It is equally absurd for a man to say that he does not know whether he loves God or not. It has long been supposed to be a mark of humility to doubt. The notion that there is virtue in doubt is a device of the Devil. A real Christian has no need to doubt, and usually when one is full of doubts we ought to doubt for him and help him to doubt. It is inconsistent with the usefulness of a Christian to be always entertaining doubts. It not only makes him gloomy, but it makes him a stumbling block to sinners. A cheerful, settled hope is indispensable to usefulness. Young converts should be taught that instead of there being any virtue in doubting, it is a sin to have any reason to doubt, and a sin if they doubt without any reason, and a sin to be gloomy and to disgust sinners with religion.
II. The duty of young converts to make a profession of religion and join some church
I. On no account must they wait. They must be taught to give up the waiting system. When they see a duty they must do it. If they set out in religion by waiting, they will always be waiting, and never do anything to much purpose through life.
2. It does not follow that the church must immediately admit the young convert. But then the responsibility is with the Church, and not with the convert. There is a difference between the city and the country. In the city it may require a few days to inquire about the convert, if he is a stranger. In the country this is not necessary, as every one is well known. The less delay the better. It is a great mistake to keep the convert waiting to see if he is going to stand. It is like throwing a young child into the street to see whether it is going to live, and saying, 'If it is a healthy child we will take care of it,' when that is the very moment it wants nursing and care. Ought the Church to cast her new-born babes into the street, and say, 'If they die they ought to'? That is not what the apostles did. They took their young converts into the church immediately, and without delay, though most of them were converts from raw heathenism. Jesus Christ says to the church, 'Here, take these lambs and feed them, and watch over them and protect them.' And what does the church do? Why, turn them out upon the mountains, among the wild beasts, to starve or perish, to see whether they are alive or not. Did Jesus ever tell the Church to treat them in so barbarous a way? Never. It is the very way to throw their minds into doubt and darkness.
3. The minds of young converts should not be ensnared by examining too minutely on doctrinal points before receiving them. The object is, not to find out how much they know, or to cross-examine them like a lawyer does a suspicious witness, but simply to know if they have experienced a change of heart. .
4. Sometimes converts are afraid to make a profession of religion in case they should be deceived. I would always deal decidedly with such a case. A hope that will not warrant a profession of religion is obviously worse than no hope, and the sooner it is torn away the better.
5. Sometimes converts will excuse themselves from joining a church by saying that they can enjoy religion just as well without doing so. This is always suspicious, and usually means that they want to leave the way open to go back to the world without the reproach of instability or hypocrisy. It is false on the face of it. Religion consists in obeying God, and such a person proposes to begin by disobeying Him.
III. The importance of giving right instruction to converts
Ordinarily their Christian character through life is molded and fashioned according to the manner in which they are dealt with when converted. Then they can be led with a hair. Much of their comfort and usefulness through life depends on their being properly and thoroughly dealt with as young converts.
IV. Some things which should not be taught to young converts
1. You will not always feel as you do now. This is just the way to make a convert backslide. It is one of the grand devices of Satan to bring about the very thing which it predicts. It prepares the mind to expect to backslide, and not to be surprised when this takes place. By and by, says the old Christian, you will be as cold as we are. Thus when the convert's warmth begins to decline he feels that it must be expected, and he takes it as a matter of course. SHAME! He should be taught to go forward all the time, and to grow in grace all the time. There is no need for converts to backslide.
2. Wait till you see whether you can hold out. In other words, don't do anything that constitutes religion till you see whether you have religion. Religion consists in obeying God, and these wise teachers tell a young convert, Don't obey God until you see whether you have obeyed Him, or have received the mysterious lump of substance called religion. This waiting system is all wrong. Let him go along, and do his duty and obey God. The only evidence he can have is that he is heartily engaged in doing the will of God.
3. Wait till you get strength before you set to work. But the only way to get strength is by exercise. This is not only true of the body, but of the mind and of all the powers of the soul. Without exercise they cannot grow.
4. Young converts should not be made sectarian in their feelings. Sectarian distinctions should not be dwelt upon, or they are likely to become bigoted and narrow, and more zealous for the traditions of the elders than for the Salvation of souls.
V. Some of the things important to teach young converts
1. Teach them to distinguish between emotion and principle. By emotion I mean that state of mind of which we are conscious, and which we call feeling, an involuntary state of mind arising from certain circumstances. By principle I do not mean any substance, or root, or seed implanted in the soul, but the voluntary decision of the mind, the firm determination to do one's duty and to obey God because it is right to do so. When acting on principle, whatever may be the state of his feelings he will do his duty cheerfully, readily, and heartily. Many young converts are guided entirely by their feelings. They must be taught not to wait for feelings, but to do their duty. It is probable that the feelings will come when they begin to do their duty.
2. They should be taught that they have renounced the ownership of themselves and of all their possessions, or if they have not done this they are not Christians. They should not be left to think that anything they possess is their own--time, property, influence, talents, body--all are God's and must be held at His disposal. The very idea of being a Christian is to be entirely devoted to God. A man has no more right to withhold anything from God than he has to rob his employer. God is in an infinitely higher sense the owner of all than his employer can be. The Church is very correct in theory, and very wrong in practice in such matters. Young converts must be told that they are just as worthy of damnation if they show a covetous spirit, and turn a deaf ear while the whole world is calling for help as if they we're living in some gross form of sin, or worshipping idols.
3. Teach them to cultivate a tender conscience. I have been amazed to see how little conscience there is even among those whom we hope are Christians. This is because they were never taught to cultivate a tender conscience. It has been so often resisted that it has become blunted, and does not act. Young converts should be taught to keep their conscience just as tender as the apple of their eye. They should watch their conduct and motives, and maintain such a habit of listening to conscience that it will always be ready to give a stern verdict on all occasions. If rightly attended to, conscience may be made so pure and powerful that it will always respond exactly to the word of God. Present to such a Christian any duty, self-denial, or sacrifice, and only show him the word of God for it and he will embrace it without objection.
4. Teach them to pray without ceasing. They should always be in a prayerful spirit, no matter what happens. For instance, a young convert will fall into some sin, and then he feels that he cannot pray, and waits for the keen edge of his distress to pass away. He must be told never to do this, but to go right to Christ in his agony, and confess his sin out of the fullness of his heart, and get a renewed pardon and peace. Again, he must not neglect to pray when he feels dark and has no desire to pray: that is the very time when he needs to pray. He should go straight to God, and confess his coldness and darkness, and tell God just how he feels, and the clouds will roll away.
5. Warn them against having a false standard in religion.
They must not accept the standard of old and cold professors, and think they are doing pretty well if they are as good as others. They must take Christ as their model. While their hearts are warm they must be taught to aim high in Holiness, and not to settle down.
6. Teach them to do all their duty. They must not pick and choose, or compromise, but must do all their duty to their family, the church, the sinners around, with regard to the disposal of their property, the conversion of the world. Press them to it while their hearts are warm.
7. They should have no interests separate from Christ.
Matte them feel this. Insist that they are members of Christ. They must keep their motives pure, and must not let self come in.
8. They should set out with a determination to aim at being useful in the highest degree possible. They must not rest satisfied with merely being useful. If they see an opportunity of doing more good they must embrace it, no matter at what cost it may be. If a Christian is satisfied he can do more good by remaining where he is, let him do so. But if he can do more good by changing his employment, he is bound to do so. He is come into a new world, and should regard himself as a new man. How else can he bear the image of Christ if he is not prepared to do all the good he can?
9., Converts must aim, not at happiness but usefulness.
The church is full of Christians who would rather spend their time in singing joyful hymns than in agonizing prayer for sinners, but they do not show such fruits as would make their example one to be imitated. Such was not the temper of the Apostles. They travailed for souls, and labored in dangers and deaths and weariness to save sinners. A deep agony for souls is more profitable than high flights of joy.
Converts must go forward, not thinking of comfort but of duty, not seeking for rapture but righteousness. They will, in fact, enjoy a more solid happiness by thinking nothing about it, but patiently devoting themselves to the will of God.
10. They should be taught to have moral courage. This does not mean boasting and bragging, but doing their duty fearlessly regardless of consequences, with meekness and firmness.
11. They should be taught sound doctrine. Without turning their minds from their practical duties, they should be shown fully and plainly the leading doctrines of the Bible. The mind cannot grow without knowledge, any more than the body can without food. Create in their minds such an appetite for knowledge that they will eat the Bible up, devour it, love it.
12. Young converts should be guarded against censoriousness. If warm and zealous on the Lord's side, they are very liable to be censorious when they see cold, dead professors. They must be checked at once.
13. They must learn to say 'No.' When they are first converted they will usually cut themselves off from their old associates, if after a time these begin to come around them again, and tempt them to mix in company and attend parties, then they soon become cold. The Bible, prayer, and meetings are neglected. Teach them to say 'No' to the beginnings of temptation.
14. They must be led to count nothing a sacrifice which they do for God. If they really love God, to talk about making sacrifices for Him will be like making sacrifices for themselves.
15. They should be taught to be strictly honest. Often there is very little conscience, even among Christians. Promises made are easily broken. Subscriptions are not paid. The conscience becomes soiled. Pure, simple uprightness must mark the child of God,
FURTHER DIRECTIONS CONCERNING CONVERTS
'Feed my Lambs' (John 21:15).
1. Converts should be early made to understand in what religion does and does not consist. Upon this subject there is much misunderstanding even on the part of ministers.
A. What religion does not consist in
I. Religion is not growth in doctrinal knowledge. The Devil has doctrinal knowledge, but he has no religion. Growing in doctrinal knowledge is not the same as growing in grace, and must not be confounded with it.
2. Religion is not a substance. It is not a root or seed or spark, which remains hidden in their minds, without being manifest by obeying God.
3. Religion does not consist in raptures or high flights of feeling. These are involuntary emotions, and may exist in full power where there is no religion. I have known persons swoon with high feelings who had no religion. Religion is obedience to God, the voluntary submission of the soul to the will of God.
4. Religion does not consist in performing what are often called religious duties, such as praying, reading the Bible, or attending Meetings, Many are very zealous in performing these, while they neglect what they call the common duties of life, which constitute real piety. There may be great strictness in these forms and ceremonies without a particle of real religion.
5. Religion does not consist in desires to do good actions. Desires that do not result in choice and action are not virtuous. The wickedest man on earth may have strong desires after holiness. People often base their hopes of Heaven on these desires. They desire to do their duty, but they don't do it, because on the whole they don't choose to do it. If this idea could be made prominent and riveted on men's minds, it would probably annihilate the false hopes of half the Church, who are living on their good desires, while doing nothing for God.
6. Converts should understand that nothing that is selfish is religion. Whatever desires, choices, or actions they may put forth, if the reason be selfish, there is no religion in them. A man may just as easily commit sin in praying, reading his Bible, or going to Meeting, as in anything else, if his motive is selfish. If he does these things merely to promote his own happiness, it is superlative wickedness.
7. No outward action has anything good, unless it is performed from right motives and from the heart, to please God.
B. What true religion does consist in
1. Young converts should be taught that religion consists in obeying God from the heart.
2. Young converts should be taught that self-denial is one of the leading features of the Gospel. They should be made to understand that self-denial is one of the leading features. They are not religious at all, unless they are willing to take up their cross daily and deny themselves for Christ. For want of such instruction there is very little self-denial in the church. How seldom are people told that self-denial is the leading feature of Christianity. How seldom are Christians asked to deny or sacrifice to give to any object. They are only asked to give what they can spare, or do without--to offer to the Lord what costs them nothing. What an abomination. There is no religion. Jesus Christ exercised self-denial for the Salvation of the world, so did the apostles. Are we to call ourselves followers of Christ and temples of the Holy Ghost, when we never deprive ourselves of any personal enjoyment to promote His Kingdom? Young converts must be made to see that unless they are willing to lay themselves out for God and be ready to sacrifice life and everything else for Christ, they have not the Spirit of Christ and are none of His.
3. They must know what Sanctification is. Sanctification involves 'Obedience' and as a progressive thing consists in obeying God more and more perfectly.
4. They must know what perseverance really is. Some people think it means, 'Once converted, sure to go to Heaven.' But the true idea is, that if a man be truly converted, he will continue to obey God, and as a consequence will be sure to go to Heaven. If he does not obey he will assuredly go to Hell.
5. They must be religious in everything. They cannot obey in some things and disobey in others. Obedience to God consists in a state of the heart. It is being willing to obey God in all things. If they refuse to obey God in any one point, or duty, they are guilty of disobedience in all.
6. They must be temperate in all things. This applies not only to liquor, but to eating and living generally. There is very little conscience in the churches about this. Christians spend at least five times as much on needless self-indulgence as they do on trying to save the world. Ten thousand voices cry out from Heaven, Hell, and earth; Do something to save the world, and do it NOW, and the Church will not deny itself its needless indulgence to do so. The time to teach this lesson is when their consciences are young and tender, and before they become hardened by self-indulgence.
7. They must be just as religious in their business as they are in praying and going to Meetings. They must be just as holy, just as watchful in their daily employments, and aim just as singly at God's glory, as in prayer, or all their religious performances will be an abomination.
8. They must be just as holy as they think their ministers ought to be. Where does the Bible say; 'You ministers must love God with all your heart, and do all to the glory of God'? This is said to all alike, and he who tries to excuse himself from any duty or self-denial by putting it off upon ministers, or who adopts a lower scale of holy living for himself, is in great danger of proving himself a hypocrite. Much depends on the instructions given to young converts.
9. They should aim at being perfect. It is the duty of all to aim at being perfect. It should be their constant purpose to live wholly to God and obey all His commands. They should live so that if they should sin it would be an inconsistency, an exception, in which they act contrary to the fixed and general purpose of their lives. Again, they must not only aim at being perfect, but those who profess it must prove it by their lives.
10. They must exhibit their light. If young converts do not exhibit their light to the world, it will go out. They must not wait till they have a great deal of light, but use what they have. Let them boldly hold up their little twinkling rushlights, and then God will pour in the oil and make them blazing torches. But God will not keep a light burning that is hid. Why should He?
11. They should be taught how to win souls. They must learn how to save souls and be made to feel that this is their main object in life. How different is the course usually pursued. They get into the church and are left to go along in their business just as before. They do nothing, and are taught to do nothing, for Christ. The only change is, they go more regularly to church on Sunday, and let the minister feed them, as it is called. But if he does feed them, they do not grow strong, for they cannot digest it, because they take no exercise. They are spiritual dyspeptics. Now the great object of God in leaving Christians in the world is to pull sinners out of the fire. If they do not effect this they had better be dead. Young converts should be taught this as soon as they are saved. They should learn to do this right away--to save sinners.
II. How young converts should be treated by the Church.
1. Old professors ought to be able to give them wise advice, but as a rule they don't know how to train them, and such advice as they do give is usually all wrong. Hence there is much backsliding.
2. Set them to work. They are often put away behind the old dry members and elders, to keep them humble, lest they should get puffed up with spiritual pride; whereas the way to keep them humble is to set them to work for God, and then He will be with them and will keep them humble.
3. Warn them of their dangers, as a mother does her children. I have known churches totally neglect their young converts, regard them with suspicion, never train them to a life of usefulness, and when they find them growing cold, turn round and abuse them because they did not hold out. But see that mother with her child. How differently she acts. Does she let it put its hand in the candle, or allow it to run into danger unwarned and unguarded? Young converts do not know the dangers that surround them; the devices of the Devil, the temptations of the world, the power of their own passions and habits, and unless properly warned and guarded, they will fall. How great then is the guilt of the church in neglecting them!
4. Be tender in reproving them. This is often done in a harsh, abrupt, censorious way, more like scolding than brotherly admonition, and wounds their feelings, and does more harm than good. Many persons under pretence of being faithful, hurt converts by their severe manner, and drive them into despair. Converts are like little children just learning to walk, and we should carefully remove the stumbling-blocks from their path, and tenderly pick them up and encourage them when they stumble.
5. Point out faults in a kind way. They are but as children, know little about religion, and need to be corrected. But unless this is done in a tender, prayerful way, it may do more harm than good.
6. Do not speak of their faults behind their backs.
III. Some of the evils which result from defective instruction to young converts.
1. If not fully instructed, they will never be grounded in those fundamental principles which are necessary for a right course of action under all circumstances. Defective Christian character through life results from defective instruction.
2. They will not grow in grace. Their religion will dwindle and decay. Truth is the fruit of the mind and gives strength. Where the teaching is neglected or wrong, the religious character grows feeble.
3.1f they do not see clearly, they will not live consistently, and will live and die in doubt as to whether they really are converted. Whereas if rightly instructed they side with the right on questions which are constantly arising--tracts, temperance, etc.
4. If not properly instructed they will probably backslide and disgrace religion. They will go no further than the first emotions of their conversion carry them, and will decline and become 'periodical' Christians, blustering about when a Revival is on, and then becoming as dead and cold as a northern winter.
'The backslider in heart shalt be filled with his own ways' (Proverbs 14:14).
I. Who are backsliders?
1. I mean by a backslider a person who is truly converted and is a Christian, but has left his first love. His zeal has grown cold. The ardor of his feelings and the depth of his piety are abated. Such a person is a 'backslider in heart.' He may keep up all the forms of religion, read his Bible, worship in public and private regularly, but the fine edge of pious feeling is blunted, the spirit of it is gone--he is a backslider in heart. If such there be who reads these lines, I mean you, no matter what may be your position or standing in the Church--you are entered as such in the Book of God.
2. The backslider is one who was once converted, but who does not enjoy secret prayer, nor hold daily communion with God. A man may pray a great deal and be often on his knees, and yet have no real communion with God, no spirit of prayer. If so, he is a 'backslider in heart.'
3. If you do not enjoy the Word of God--if it has ceased to be of interest to you--if you prefer other books to the Bible--if you do not conform your life to it, you are a backslider.
4. If you are worldly-minded, and if the things of the world are constantly uppermost in your mind, you are a backslider.
5. If you can look at the condition of the churches and of religion without painful anxiety, grief, and prayer, you are a backslider.
6. If you do not realize how low the state of religion really is, and can be satisfied to go along without Revivals and conversions, you are a backslider. It is not enough that there are no dissensions and that the membership keeps up.
7. When the wickedness of sinners ceases to grieve you and distress you, it is a sure sign of backsliding. The Psalmist said, 'Rivers of waters run down mine eyes, because they keep not Thy law.'
8. The backsliders' prayers are few and far between. Those who enjoy prayer, pray frequently. If you do not spend as much time in prayer as in eating, write yourself down a backslider. He is a glutton or worse, who spends more time in feeding his body than in prayer.
9. The backslider prays slightly, carelessly, without fervency--there is not wrestling with God for a blessing. He suffers various trifling excuses to interfere either with his private or public prayers. Those who really enjoy prayer will suffer nothing to interfere with it.
Beloved, let me stop and ask you who read these lines whether any of these signs apply to you? If so, write yourself down as a backslider and take the necessary steps for your restoration.
II. Some of the principal causes of backsliding
1. Ill will against any person, no matter how much they may have injured you. I defy you to pray, unless you forgive. If you think you pray, you are deceived.
2. Having too much worldly business. God requires us to be busy--always to be usefully employed--business is a duty. But we must never allow it to encroach on secret prayer, or to eat out our religion. God never requires this. Men are God's stewards--His clerks. Think of a clerk being too busy to confer with his employer! It is a sure sign of backsliding, and that we are doing business for ourselves, and not for God when business becomes too absorbing.
3. Being associated in business with a worldly partner. Such will infallibly backslide. The reason is obvious. The unconverted man does not conduct his business on Christian principles; he does not dream of doing his business for God, and if you fail to do this, you are ruined in your soul and must backslide. I could give countless instances of backsliding due to this cause. I do not believe an instance to the contrary can be found.
4. The influence of worldly companions. If you continue after conversion to associate with such, you are bound to backslide.
5. Taking as a partner in life one who is not a Christian, and therefore not a friend of God.
6. Fear of giving offence to worldly friends by being strictly religious is a fruitful cause of backsliding.
7. Neglect of, or carelessness in secret prayer. This is usually the first step in backsliding--to pray shorter and with less fervency. The way to avoid backsliding is to resist these beginnings and to take alarm at the very outset.
8. Neglecting the Bible. If you neglect the Bible or read it carelessly you will surely backslide. No one who has a Bible can get on in his soul unless he reads it. It is amazing how little real Bible knowledge there is in the Church. This shows how little Christians care for, or study it, and how little they really believe in it as the Word of God.
9. Want of strict honesty. This will surely undermine all religion. This is one reason why there is so little of the spirit of prayer in great cities, because there is so much cheating and dishonesty, which eats out religion. Professors of religion must have conscience enough to believe in a judgment to come, and that God listens to every bargain, and every lie told behind the counter.
10. Covetousness. Nothing has such a tendency to deaden religion. The covetous are the most difficult to wake up, or keep awake. Sometimes one finds a minister or an elder who loves money. They will be of no use, till they give up that passion. You might as well appoint the Devil as a covetous man. He will only do hurt. He will hold back the church. If you have any such, get rid of them as quickly as you can. God expressly forbids appointing to position those who are 'greedy of filthy lucre' and no church can prosper that tolerates such leaders.
11. Want of perfect truth and sincerity in conversation. People do not exactly call this lying, but it is so like lying that I don't know what else to call it. A man cannot have a conscience void of offence who is in the habit of exaggerating, coloring, and reaching after the marvelous in his stories. He will backslide. The only way to avoid it is always to tell the naked, simple truth, just as carefully as if you were on oath; or as if you believed that God was listening to every word.
12. Talebearing. Show me a man or woman who loves to hear or tell a secret and I will show one who is already a backslider, and who will grow worse and worse unless he repents.
13. Levity. This is such an obvious cause of backsliding that I need not dwell upon it.
14. Gluttony. An intemperate way of eating and drinking leads to a great deal of backsliding. I am not referring to users of intoxicating liquors, but to those who eat so much as to take the edge off their feelings and stupefy their minds, so that they are not as bright and active after eating as before. Show me a man who sits and eats till he is more inclined to sleep than to pray, and there is one who is beginning to be a glutton already. He cannot keep from backsliding. He is intemperate. God regards him as such.
III. The consequences of backsliding
1. Backsliders are the most unhappy people in the world.
They neither enjoy God nor the world. They have too much religion to enjoy the world, and too much of the world to enjoy God. They are filled with their own ways. You who are in this state know that this is true.
2. Backsliders are the most guilty people on earth because:(a) They have clearer knowledge than others of their duty. They have more light, and therefore more responsibility and guilt.
(b) Their temper will be bad; they will always be grumbling and complaining.
(c) They sin against peculiar obligations. They know what it is to feel the delight of pardoned sin, to feel the love of God in their hearts.
(d) They are covenant-breakers. They are perjured. To profess religion is to take an oath of allegiance to God. To backslide is to break it.
(e) They bring up an evil report against religion by going after the world, its amusements, its honors, or its riches. Thus they are traitors to the cause of Christ. Who can measure the guilt of such a course?
3. Backsliders are the most despicable of all people. Both sides condemn and despise a backslider. He is a deserter from both. He first deserted the world to join the Church, and then went back and tried to join the world again. Who can trust such a man? Who can help despising him?
4. They are the most inconsistent people in the world. They adhere consistently to neither party. Their theory contradicts their practice, and their practice their theory.
5. They are the most difficult to please. No class makes so much trouble for a minister. If he preaches so, as to commend himself to their conscience, he hurts their feelings and they oppose him for being harsh and personal. If he spares their feelings, then their conscience condemns them and they have no confidence in his honesty, and say, 'We shall never get awake with such preaching.' A minister ought not to conciliate the feelings of backsliders by any compromise, but ought to tear open their hearts and pour in the burning truth, till he wakes them from their sleep of death.
6. Backsliders are often the most hardened class. They are so used to the Gospel that they cease to be moved by it. At last they become so hard it is impossible to move them.
7. Backsliders are loathsome to God. Christ threatens to spew them out of His mouth. Backsliders, how can you dare to approach God, when you know that He feels like this toward you, unless and until you do works meet for repentance.
8. They are the most injurious to the cause of Christ. They do more harm than an infidel and hinder the conversion of sinners.
9. They are the most hypocritical. They serve neither God nor the Devil sincerely, and can be trusted by neither.
10. When the backslider remains away from God, the very thing which he dreaded and which caused him to backslide will sooner or later come upon him. If it was reputation, position, or money--the very curse will fall upon him which he has dreaded--he will be 'filled with his own ways.' God will blast his riches or his honors. Countless instances could be quoted.
11. One who continues in a backslidden state, may expect that God will let him fall into some disgraceful sin, which will blast the remainder of his life and send him to the grave covered with regret and misery.
1. The only way for young converts to keep from backsliding is to avoid the beginning of decline. Like drunkenness it comes on gradually, from small beginnings. Total abstinence from sin is the only safety. Avoid the little sins, as they are called, such as neglect of prayer.
2. Young converts must be watched over and guarded, as a mother guards her child from danger. Ask them early and frequently, 'Do you pray as frequently and fervently as you did?'
3. Praise God for the stripes with which He visits the backslider, to bring him back.
4. If you are a backslider and God does not chastise you, you have good reason to fear that God has given you up, or that you never were converted, or that you are a hypocrite. If He does chasten you, submit at once, before He adds stroke upon stroke, or finally casts you off forever.
GROWTH IN GRACE
'Grow in Grace' (2 Peter 3:18).
THE word Grace, when used in reference to God, means 'undeserved favor,' or beneficence. When used in reference to man, it means Holiness. The text commands us to grow in Holiness, or to increase in conformity to God.
I. What is meant by growing in grace
To grow in grace is to become more and more like God.
It is to exhibit in our lives the character of God. It is to obey more and more perfectly the law of God, to become more and more holy.
II. Some things which are not evidences of growth in grace, though often supposed to be such
1. A professor of religion may become more fluent in prayer, and more eloquent in preaching, without being more holy. He may improve by more exercise, and yet be a sinner or a hypocrite all the time. If he has grace, he will grow in gifts. Not to improve is an evidence that he has no grace. No one can exercise himself in obeying God without improving. But by itself it is not a proof that he is growing in grace.
2. Growing in knowledge is not a proof of growth in grace. Knowledge is indispensable to grace, and to growth in grace. But knowledge is not grace. A man may know more and more of God's law, and of his own guilt, and yet not grow in grace.
3, It is not evidence of growing in grace that a man thinks he is growing. Both impenitent persons and
professors often imagine they are doing well, when as a matter of fact it is only because their consciences have become seared and their hearts hard by continual disobedience, they feel less sense of sin. When a man really grows in grace he gets a deeper realization of the exceeding sinfulness of sin and the strictness of God's law. If he compares himself. with a low standard, he will imagine he is doing pretty well. Thus the reason why some people do not think the Church is cold is because they are cold themselves. If you shut your eyes you will not see the dirt which may be on you, though to others around you it may be quite evident. Those who really advance in Holiness have usually the most humble and debasing view of themselves because they get an ever clearer view of God's requirements. Indeed, they often feel as if they were growing worse rather than better.
III. Some evidences of growing in grace
1. To grow in grace is to grow in purity of motive.
Sinners are only selfish in all they do. The convert often acts from mixed motives, some of which are pure; while others, are selfish. To grow in grace is to grow in purity of motive, to exclude selfish reasons and to seek only the Glory of God. Are we so acting, leaving self more and more out of view?
2. To grow in grace is to act less and less by emotion or feeling, and more and more by principle--doing what is right, rather than what we feel like doing. Young converts are usually borne along by the tide of their feelings, and unless they feel deeply it is often difficult to get them to act. But to grow in grace means that they learn to obey God whatever their feelings may be. They often wait for the feeling to come before acting. They must learn that the best way to get the feeling is to obey. To act thus on principle is to grow in grace.
3. Another evidence is more love to God, more affection for His character and government, and for all the institutions of religion, for the Sabbath and for all the commands of God. But let no one say, while he neglects his duty, and his heart is therefore cold, that he is growing in principle, although he has less feeling than others. To grow in principle is to grow in obedience, and it is vain for a man who is neglecting his duty to say that he is growing in grace.
4. To grow in grace is to grow in love to men, to desire more and more that the whole world should be saved. Christians' views and affections should rise and expand until, like God, they yearn for all men that they may repent and be saved. Beloved, does it appear so to you? Is this your state of mind? Are you more and more weighed down with the idea that men are going to Hell? Have you intense desire for all men to repent and turn to God?
5. Those who grow in grace have more and more self-loathing, humility, and self-abasement. I suppose that saints will increase in this to all eternity. I see in it nothing inconsistent with the happiness of Heaven. Until Job had a sight of God, he justified himself. But when he saw God, he abhorred himself in dust and ashes. So was it also with Isaiah. This is the natural result of having a clear view of God. It makes a person sink down in self-abasement lower and lower and STILL LOWER. Beloved, do you know anything of this? Do you feel day by day as if you wanted to get lower and lower in the dust before God?
6. An increasing hatred of sin is another sign of growing in grace. A person thus growing feels ever less disposed to compromise with any sin in either himself or in others. He will feel towards sin just as God feels.
7. He has less relish for the world. He does not care for worldly company or books or newspapers. He prefers the most spiritual company and books. He has no desire for the wealth, honors, and pleasures of the world. He seeks only to use money to glorify God and to do good to man.
8. He enjoys the fellowship of saints, and loves to join them in religious exercises.
9. Those who grow in grace find it is more and more easy to forgive their enemies. Young converts are in danger of having bitter feelings against any who have injured them. This brings darkness into the soul and hinders their communion with God. They lose the spirit of prayer and finally backslide. It is a sign of growing in grace when we find it easy to forgive those who have injured us.
10. Such become more charitable, and put the best construction on the actions of others.
11. They feel less and less anxiety about worldly things. A growing Christian will obey the command 'Be careful for nothing.' All anxiety about the world is wicked. Those who grow in grace have more and more confidence in God, and less and less love for the world, and therefore less anxiety about it.
12. They are more ready to give away their property. They will love to give and will do it from the right motives. Do you give according to your ability, or only to keep up appearances?
13. They feel as though they have no interests apart from Christ. Their time, talents, property, life itself, are part and parcel of Christ's Kingdom.
14. They become more willing to confess their faults to men. This is often a hard lesson to learn. Men are willing to confess their faults to God, but to confess to men, to a servant, to an enemy, this is a mark of grace. Have you this mark of grace?
15. A person growing in grace cares less and less for the opinions of men. When he sees his duty he will not turn aside, although public opinion may be all against him. The frowns or flatteries of the world will not influence him.
IV. How to grow in grace
1. Watch against besetting sins.(a) Levity. This is the besetting sin of many, and unless such place a tenfold watch on their lips, they will never grow in grace. Once yielding to it may put out your light for the rest of the day, besides preparing the way for a repetition, so that unless you are firm and watch and pray, you will be undone, and will grieve the Spirit.
(b) Censoriousness. Young converts are especially in danger of this. They are full of ardor and are soon amazed at the coldness and apathy of old professors, and well they may be. Heaven and earth are amazed at the way these lay stumbling blocks in the way. And so young converts are liable to say hard and censorious things; But they must avoid talking about the faults of others, or they will grieve away the Spirit and will not grow in grace.
(c) Anger. Women lose their temper with servants; men with clerks, or get angry with Government. How can they grow in grace?
(d) Pride. Guard against pride and vanity in all their forms, in dress or furniture. How many persons feed and foster their own bad passions--they tempt themselves. Young converts should be warned.
(e) Selfishness in all its forms. This is the foundation, fountain, and sum total of all the wickedness under heaven. Watch here. Don't act from selfish motives. In your bargains, deal just as you would if you were dying. Do as you would be done by. If you are about to deal in any other way than you would do, if God stood visibly before you--stop. The Devil is in that bargain. Say, stand away self; l am doing this business for God.
(f) Sloth. How many are lazy, unprofitable, not willing to work! They are a moth in the church.
(g) Envy. Does it pain you to see others going ahead of you in prosperity, or influence or talent? Or are you pleased? Examine your feelings. Beware.
(h) Ambition. By this sin angels fell. It makes growth in grace impossible.
(i) Impure thoughts. Turn away your thoughts, if you find yourself in danger. Guard your eyes and ears and all your senses, or they will become the inlets of temptation and sin. If you let your mind run on, it is impossible for you to avoid impure thoughts. This is your responsibility. The will can control the thoughts. You can think of one thing, or you can think of another, as you please, and thus control your feelings, and this is why you are responsible for them. If you suffer your thoughts to dwell on a subject, you cannot help being affected by it. In all such cases go away, turn off your mind, or impure thoughts. will fester in your soul.
2. Take pains to exercise all the Christian graces. If a child does not exercise its powers, it will never be anything but a child. Similarly the graces of the soul can get strength by exercise. Exercise yourself especially in those things where you find yourself most deficient. If you are exposed to some particular sin, guard yourself there. If deficient in some particular grace, exercise that.
3. If love of the world is your temptation, guard yourself just there. Shut down the gate. Don't add to your possessions. What would you think of a drunkard who filled his cellar with all kinds of tempting drinks? If you are tempted with this love of money, give often, give heartily, liberally; if necessary, give everything you have to destroy this hateful spirit of avarice, and if you do, you will find your soul will grow in grace.
4. Guard against pride, vanity, flattery, dress, as against the gates of death.
5. Conquer the natural reluctance to confess your faults. Break through and confess to everybody you have injured. Practise it till you get victory.
6. Cultivate decision of character. To walk with God, a man must walk contrary to the world. He must face public sentiment, both in the world, and in the church. If he can be over-awed by opposition, enticed by flattery and smiles, he is certain not to stem the tide which is bearing him away from God. He must be willing to know and do all his duty, or he cannot maintain the spirit of prayer, or keep his conscience void of offence to God and man. Most men give way to a man-pleasing, man-fearing spirit, and thus grieve the Holy Spirit. It needs a firmness and decision of character to keep up prayer and other secret duties, even more than those of a public nature.
7. Great meekness is required for growing in grace. Meekness is patience under injuries. A want of meekness is a sad defect in Christian character. To resent injuries, to stand up for one's rights or reputation, or to fret, are marks of an unlovely disposition, and prevent the soul from growing in grace. The young convert must learn to be meek.
V. Evidences of Declension
Some of these have already been dealt with on the chapter on backsliding, and I will mention others.
1. Growing weary of giving for the extension of Christ's Kingdom. When a man gives from the right motives, the more he gives the more he loves to give.
2. Unwillingness to converse on spiritual subjects. In the ardor of their first love young converts delight to speak on such things. When they lose their relish for it, they are declining in grace.
3. When a person does not love so well to pray, read his Bible, or attend services, this is a sign of spiritual declension.
4. Taking more delight in public religious performances than in secret prayer is another sign.
5. The young convert delights in Revivals. When he declines in piety he loses his relish for them.
6. To become critical about the measures used in Revivals is another sure sign of declension.
VI. How to escape from a state of Declension
1. You must frankly admit that you are in such a state. Nothing is more sad about the backsliders than their unwillingness to admit that they are such, and their endeavors to cover and excuse their condition.
2. Apply to yourself what God says to backsliders as though you were the only one in the world.
3. Search out and remove the cause of your declension. If it is some self-gratification, such as tobacco, or some worldly idol, give it up. .
4. Give up whatever comes between your soul and God. Give it away; sell it, burn it, destroy it, rather than let it hinder your soul.
5. Apply afresh to God for pardon and peace. Go to Him as fully as at first, confessing and forsaking your sins. Then He will heal your backslidings.
1. There is no such thing as standing still in religion. People talk as if religion were something they could cover up and keep. It is not so. It is obedience to God. When a man disobeys, he is out of touch with God.
2. The plea that persons grow in grace while they decline in religion is abominable and untrue.
3. There are few persons that do grow in grace. If people would only attend seriously to this matter, they could grow more in six months than they otherwise would in a whole lifetime.
4. How little trouble is taken by religious leaders to teach and train their young converts to grow in grace. What is the result? A general state of coldness and stupidity in the church. One great cause of this is that the leaders themselves do not grow in grace. If they did, their example would inflame their people to follow in their steps.
5. Unless ministers themselves grow in grace, it is impossible for their people to do so. 'Like priest like people.'
6. Young ministers should take special pains to grow in grace. How many students for the ministry come out of their colleges with hearts as cold and hard as their college walls. It would be far better for them to stop studying and give up all idea of the ministry. They can only do harm. Better no minister than such. The church is bound to go back under them. I would tell young men kindly but firmly not to be ministers unless they thrive in their souls.
The whole system is wrong. The intellect is cultivated, while the moral feelings are allowed to run to waste. Theology is studied in a cold abstract way, as if it were Euclid. The student learns to write a pretty sermon, and to stand and gesture, with no more religion in his preaching than the molten calf. There is no Holy Ghost in the performance.
7. It is just as essential for promoting Revivals to make the church grow in grace as to preach to sinners and make them submit to God. Young converts will no more grow in grace than sinners will get saved without proper preaching and training. .
8. Revivals cease because when converts get to a certain point, they stand still, and decline for want of proper teaching, that would prove them, show them where they are, and keep them ever advancing, growing in grace. Let the minister find out where his people are, and keep pouring in the appropriate truth all the time, then Revivals instead of declining will increase in power continually.
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