Transcribed from the 1888 "Joyful News" edition by David Price, email@example.com
BROKEN BREAD FROM AN EVANGELIST'S WALLET.
BY THOMAS CHAMPNESS.
"JOYFUL NEWS" BOOK DEPOT, ROCHDALE.
B. Wrigley & Sons, Limited, Printers, Acker Street, Rochdale.
ELIZA M. CHAMPNESS,
MY WIFE AND TRUEST FRIEND,
COLLECTION OF FRAGMENTS
BY HER YOKE-FELLOW IN THE GOSPEL.
ROCHDALE, September, 1888.
This is a book made up of fragments. The Master once said "Gather up the fragments that nothing be lost." It may be that victuals will be found here that may feed those who cannot sit down to a meal. Many of the articles have appeared in Joyful News already, but, perhaps, are none the worse for that. We send out this little book in the hope that both crust and crumb will be eaten!
I. SPIRITUAL FARMING.—NO. 1. DRAINING.
If the men who farmed England in the olden time could return, few things would surprise them more than the condition of the land. Many a field now bearing good crops each year, was in "the good old times" moorland or fen. Sheep and cattle graze where once only wild birds could live. Drainage has made the change. The land, once too cold and wet to allow anything valuable to grow, has been by grips and drain pipes, made to produce food for man and beast.
Is it not so on God's farm? "Ye are His husbandry," and just as the farmer knows that if he cannot have his wet land drained, his seed will be starved, or the young corn perish with the cold, so we who toil in the Lord's fields need to learn that in many places the first thing to be done is to
DRAIN THE LAND.
Do any of our readers complain that they cannot get an answer to their prayers for a revival, and that all the preaching and teaching seem to be wasted? Let us advise them to look under the surface. Are there not
CAUSES FOR THE FAILURE?
Would it not be well to try what draining the land would do? Are the most influential men cold and unresponsive to the call of the Spirit? What sort of people take the lead in the prayer meetings? Are they left to the zealous poor? Does every man of wealth and culture hurry home and leave the preacher to shift for himself? Who are the stewards? Are they men who will do their utmost to welcome strangers, or does their example tell on others so much that a visitor never has a word of welcome or a grip of the hand? What is the singing like? Is it of the colourless, tame style, whose only sign of life is the rapid gallop which kills devotion in so many places?
How is the Bible read by the preacher? Does he confine himself to the narrow round which he has read so often in the ears of the people that it has lost its charm—or does he seek out that which will be sure to interest; and does he read as if he believed it?
We think our readers know some congregations in which there can be no revival until the drainer has been at work, and that which starves the seed removed. What we want is to have the question asked at the next leader's or quarterly meeting.
WHAT WILL IT COST TO GET SOME DRAIN-PIPES?
A GOOD SHILLING IS BETTER THAN A BAD SOVEREIGN.
II. LITTLE MOSES. SERVE THE CHILDREN FIRST.
The story of Moses teaches us that LITTLE FOLKS ARE VERY HELPLESS. There he is in that basket. He cannot care for himself. He is in the power of the king's daughter. If she liked she could have had him killed, for it was plain to be seen that he was one of the Hebrew children. When you were in your cradle how weak you were, how helpless. If your mother had not cared for you, my dear boy, you would never have troubled the tailor to measure you for your new suit. Do you ever think how much you are in your mother's debt? When you were hungry she fed you, when you were cold she warmed you, when you were sick she nursed you. And you can pay her back. Not in money, for when you are old enough to earn gold you will not be rich enough to do that; but you can reward her by obedience, by love, and by letting her know by your kindness that you do not forget what she did for you years ago.
LITTLE FOLKS ARE WATCHED BY GOD. The crocodiles could have swallowed up the little chap at one mouthful, but they never even saw him. God steered the little bark, and brought its voyage to an end in a safe harbour. If anyone but the kind-hearted lady who became his second mother had seen him, the story of his life might have been very short. And the same God watches you, my dear child.
There is an Eye which never sleeps; and in the night, when even your mother has closed her eyes, God does not shut His. Do you ever think that in the darkness the eye of God can see you just as well as in the daylight? If it had not been so, you would not have grown in your sleep, as you have done every night. There have been many dangers near to you which you never knew, but God did, and has watched over you for good all your life. Thank Him, for even your mother could not have helped you, if God had not done so.
LITTLE FOLKS MAY BECOME GREAT MEN. That baby became one of the greatest men in Old Testament history. And how was it? He stuck to his book. We read that "Moses was learned in all the wisdom of the Egyptians." This could not have been if he had scamped his lessons, could it? Then he left the company of the wicked, though it cost him a great deal, and he chose to be one of the people of God. The boy and girl who will follow his example will do well for themselves, for the life of Moses was one of the greatest honour, and, though he had to pay the price which must be paid if we would win the smile of God, he has been rewarded. Honour has come to him that never came to anyone else; for we learn from the Book of Revelation that in heaven his name is greatest of the great, for the saints sing "The song of Moses, the servant of God," and
THE SONG OF THE LAMB.
III. SPIRITUAL FARMING.—NO. 2. PLOUGHING.
There have been during the last few years great improvements in the construction of the plough, but no one dreams of any substitute for it. Ploughing is as necessary as sowing; that is to say, the land must be stirred and prepared for the seed. In heavenly husbandry there are some well-meaning folk who would dispense with the plough, and preach faith without repentance, but only to find that the birds of the air get most of the seed! If there is to be an abiding work there must be conviction of sin, and knowledge of guilt, and for this end there is nothing better than a plough, made of Sinai steel and wood grown on Calvary.
There are some directions given in the Old Book which it will pay our ploughmen to study. One is as to the choice of the team. Don't yoke an ass with an ox (see Deut. xxii, 10). In your motive power see to it there is no mixture of vanity with duty. You will not succeed in concealing the fact. A donkey is one of the worst of animals to hide. IT WILL TALK!
Let there be no stopping at home because the wind is in the east. "The sluggard will not plough by reason of the cold." If the ploughman means to succeed he must count on suffering; and if the devil cannot find anyone on his side to oppose, he will raise up some imbecile Christian to do so, who by some sneer or cold criticism, will try to keep the plough idle. Instead of looking which way the wind blows, get to work.
There must be no looking back. Mark the Master's words in Luke ix, 62. Keep your eye on the mark, just as the ploughman looks at the staff he has fixed as his guide. Keep looking unto Jesus. Many a preacher, who could make hell tremble for its own, has, by looking back, become respectably commonplace. So the fine promise of his youth dies ignobly, and is laid in the grave of Demas! Whether it be a bag of gold, or a fair face, or a pillow of down, thou art called to look back upon, do as the Master did—set thy "face toward Jerusalem."
Keep a good heart on it. "He that ploweth should plow in hope." What is called success does not mean reaping only. The plough is as honourable as the sickle, though they may not make a feast, or dress thy team with flowers! Whistle at the plough, and in time thou shalt be bidden to the harvest supper. John Baptist was a ploughman, and that was all; yet there are some reapers who would gladly exchange places with him, badly paid as he was. In these days too often the honour is paid to the successful evangelist, and those who ploughed and sowed are forgotten; but the time is coming when the promise shall be fulfilled—
"THE PLOUGHMAN SHALL OVERTAKE THE REAPER."
IV. A SHORT HOME MISSION SERMON.
"The Iron did swim."—2ND KINGS, vi, 6.
DID IT? THEN SUNKEN THINGS MAY RISE.
The axe had fallen into the river, to the great sorrow of the man who had used it. He was an honest man, for he mourned over the fact that it was borrowed. "It has sunk to rise no more;" and yet it swam! Why lose hope of the fallen and degraded? They are no lower down than the axe head was when at the bottom of the Jordan. "The iron did swim." How? for
SUNKEN THINGS DO NOT RAISE THEMSELVES.
If the axe had been let alone, it might have been at the bottom of the river now. The man who felt its loss called on a higher power than his own. He told his sorrow to one who had sympathy for him. Do we cry unto God about those who have sunk out of our reach? The lapsed masses, as we call them, were not all born so. Many of them have been Sunday scholars, and some of them church members. How do we feel about them? Does the thought of their degradation ever bring an "alas!" from our hearts? Elisha's God is nearer to us than the prophet was to the man who lost the axe. "Call on Him WHILE He is near."
"The iron did swim." How was it done?
SOMEBODY SHOWED IT THE WAY.
An example was put before it. A stick was thrown in, and the iron imitated it. O, the power of a godly example! Let us who work among the ungodly show them the way to live. Let the churches move over the places where the degraded lie. We shall never lift them while we remain in our beautiful churches and chapels. Only this week we saw the iron made to swim, by the personal contact of ministers and well-dressed people taking hold of the street folk, and cheerily inviting them into God's house. A man may be only "a stick" when in the pulpit; but in hearty personal dealing with the degraded, he may be one who can make the iron to swim.
* * * * *
A good man, the other day, was advising Ministers to preach more on the doctrine of "Entire Sanctification." One of them replied,
"LET US LIVE IT, THAT IS THE BEST WAY TO PREACH IT."
Perhaps both were right; one thing is certain, that the way to make the doctrine more popular is, to have more of those who believe it to "live it." We might greatly increase the number of preachers, for every Christian might preach. Women as well as men, we might preach every day, for every duty would be a pulpit, and every trial an oration. No one would complain the sermons were too long; for all people are willing that you should never cease to do them good. What say you reader! Will you enter the ranks of this Ministry?
V. THE BATTLE OF THE BEANFIELD. 2 SAMUEL, xxiii, 11, 12.
What a picture is here! A field of ripe beans, just ready for the harvest, and then the leaves and pods all blood-stained or trampled down! Those Philistines liked to fight rather than to work, preferring plunder to ploughing, so they would cross the border and carry away the results of the farmer's toil. But they made a mistake in coming where Shammah lived!
Have not many of us to complain that the enemies of God's people still like to plunder our harvest fields? How Satan grasps at our elder scholars! He is not content with gutter-children. He likes to take our young men and women, and so we hear drunken men quote scripture, and bloated women hum psalm tunes!
What shall we do? We read, "The people fled from the Philistines." Shall we leave the results of our Sunday school work in the hands of the enemy? Is it not time that we made a stand? The thing is becoming monotonous, so much so, that in some places it is thought not worth being grieved about, that the young men and women, who have passed through our schools, never attend the chapel, and are lost to us for years, if not for ever!
"Soldiers of Christ arise!"
If a lad enlists, and is sent to Aldershot, we soon put the chaplain on his track, and shall we not do something for those who are carried away by those sons of Anak which we call the theatre and racecourse? Would it not pay us to have a holy band of men and women to hunt up our lapsed scholars, and to fight for the harvest we sowed and have waited for so long, only to see it carried away by the Philistines?
In all our large towns there are neighbourhoods where the enemy of God and man is strongly entrenched. And yet there are churches and chapels in those streets. The few who attend those places pass houses, once respectable, but now given up to vice. Homes where there was once family worship, are now, to use the words of the Wise man, "The way of hell, going down to the chambers of death."
What is to be done? "There are not many members now." "There is no one to work." So it might have been said in the bean-field; the people were gone, all gone but Shammah. He stood, and God showed, then, as now, that He was prepared to stand by the minority, if it were loyal to Him, for He wrought a great, not an ordinary one, but a great victory!
There are yet great victories to be won when we turn on our pursuers. Don't be carried away by bad example. We go with a multitude to do evil, when we refuse to fight for the results of past work done by ourselves or our fathers. Shammah seems to have said, "If I am to die, I will die here among the beans. Better so than pine to death for want of them." Is it not true that with the harvest of our toil they carry away our faith in God, and in His word? Much of the Bible is lost to those who flee rather than fight. A great deal of our hymn book is for
Those battle songs cannot be enjoyed by men who never leave the barracks. No wonder the old tunes are not sung by craven hearts. Let those of us who have left Shammah to fight alone, rejoin him, then we shall have the joy of conquest, and the gladness of those who divide the spoil.
* * * * *
WAITING AND READY.
The other day, looking out of a train, as we stopped at a country station, I saw a row of buckets painted red, with the word FIRE on each of them. There they were, waiting to be used, if occasion required, and I noticed that each of them was filled with water. Only a humble kind of agent is a bucket, yet being full of water and near at hand, it is easy to see that in the event of fire breaking out there, it is more than likely it would be put out without doing much damage.
Are we,—Ministers, Local Preachers, Sunday School Teachers, Class-leaders, and other workers—are we ready for use? It is not enough that people can tell by our appearance that we are separated for service—are we ready? It did not suffice the man in charge of that little station to have those buckets on the stand, and it is not enough that we are in the pulpit or the class-room.
ARE WE FILLED?
We can be filled with that which will put out the fire, and if we are not full, who is there to blame but ourselves? Those buckets might have been neglected till the hoops dropped off, and the power to hold water was gone, all because they were not kept full, and if so, they would be an apt illustration of some who have ceased to be the men they were, and only that they fill the same place, we should not dream of them being used at all.
VI. "HIS CHAINS FELL OFF." ACTS xii. 7.
IN ANSWER TO PRAYER:—Do you know any one tied and bound? Have you prayed for them without ceasing? Are you conscious of the enemy putting YOUR hands or feet in fetters? Are you unable to reach that purse which was at one time always within your grasp, so that now you do not give to the poor as you once did? Are your feet prevented from going on errands of mercy? Do the manacles keep you at home on Sundays, instead of walking muddy lanes to preach? If so, how do you like it? Do you not think you should cry to God?
We know a godly and cultivated minister who got into Doubting Castle, some years ago. He was losing hold of God, and his duty was becoming irksome, so he cried unto the Lord in his trouble. "I let them all go to bed," said he, "and had an all-night of prayer," and his chains fell off.
VERY QUIETLY. Not a single soldier was awakened. God can speak in loudest tones, as at Phillippi. He can bring His people out without anyone knowing, till they tell the tale themselves. It has often been the case, that some gentle, quiet preacher has been the instrument of deliverance to the Lord's chosen ones. There has been a revolution in nature. What a blessed change! How the chains of winter have fallen off, and that surly east-wind jailer been dismissed without noise or clamour.
When free, Peter went to tell those who had prayed him out. He found them in a state of great surprise. How good of God not to limit our success in prayer by our faith, or the want of it. In this also He does "exceeding abundantly." Still they did not fail, depend on it, to praise the Lord. Herod soon found it out, and was abashed. He would not dare to meet a Christian in the street, for the smile on the believer's face would say, "His chains fell off." Do not let us who can pray be ever discouraged. We can touch the heart of God, so let us sing—
"The Lion of Judah shall break every chain, And give us the victory again and again."
I.—Feed an ass once, and he will know the place again. Feed a sinner all his life, and you only make him more capable of rebellion (verses 2 and 3.)
II.—There are no wounds smart like those given by God's rod (verses 6 and 8.)
III.—Sin manufactures dunces so stupid, that even God's rod cannot mend them (verse 5.)
IV.—Religion without piety sickens God (v. 11, 14.) There are folk in church and chapel more hateful to God than those in the public-house.
V.—Sin is dirt (verse 16.)
VI.—God can bleach even crimson-dyed hands (v. 18.)
VII.—Those who are strong to sin shall burn in a fire hotter than their lusts, and more quenchless than their hatred to goodness (verses 28 and 31.)
VII. LEAPING AND PRAISING. ACTS iii, 8.
Little did the lame man's friends think that this was the last time they should ever carry their dear one to the spot where he begged his bread. Perhaps you have offered your last prayer to-day for some one's salvation. He may come home to say, "Carry me no more, but let me walk with you to heaven."
No one could blame the poor fellow for being excited. He had never walked before, and the delight he felt made him use his new found strength. You see he has dropped his crutches. Anyone could light the fire with them now, he needed them not. Reader, do you still use spiritual crutches? Why not look for the fulfilment of the prophet's words, "Then shall the lame man leap as an hart."
HE ENTERED WITH THEM.
He could not have been persuaded to leave them; indeed, we read of him further on standing with the apostles when they were brought before the magistrates. It is a good sign when men stay with those who were made a blessing to them. If Methodism had with her to-day all she has lifted from poverty and degradation, she would need neither testimonials nor benefactors.
VIII. "THE LORD HATH NEED OF HIM." MARK xi, 3.
What! of an Ass? Yes, "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world." He gets renown to Himself by "using things which are despised." Let us never despair of the most foolish of men, if he become the servant of Jesus. It is said of the great John Hunt, that when a young man, he gave no promise of the talents he shewed in the work of the Ministry. We have spoken with one who knew him before his conversion, who made us smile as he described his gait and style of life. Yet this ungainly ploughboy became a man whom to know was to admire. It was in Christ's hands, though, he improved so greatly.
DOES THE LORD REALLY NEED AN ASS? Yes. The Scriptures foretold that Jesus should come "riding upon an ass." Is it not beautiful to think of the poor despised Ass fulfilling so grand a prophecy? "The knowledge of the Lord shall cover the earth." We may help that on. Will the young men and women who read this bear in mind that no one ever used this ass till Jesus did? Why should He not be the first to use you? "What!" say you. "Do you compare us to an ass?" Well, if we do, the Bible is before us. "Man be born like a wild ass's colt." And, if you have not remembered the claims God has upon you, the poor ass has the best of it, for the Lord says "The ox knoweth his owner, and the ass his Master's crib, but Israel doth not know, my people doth not consider." Have you noticed that unconverted men and women are pictured in Exodus xiii. 13, where you see a young ass with his neck broken? The Lord needs you that He may redeem you from your fate, and that you may be spared to bear his yoke.
Is not the best way to elevate men, to let the Lord have the use of them? However coarse and mean we are by nature, He can refine and elevate us. And any part of our life that is in danger of baseness may be lifted to beauty and blessing by putting it under the Christ. What a change came over this animal in one short day! An ass in the morning, but the
THRONE OF GOD
before the sun went down!
* * * * *
IN THE WILDERNESS SHALL WATERS BREAK OUT.
Is not that good news for you? After being so long without a revival, would it not be welcome? Welcome you say—welcome as water in a desert. Yes, and that is just what is promised. A revival in THE MOST UNLIKELY PLACE IN THE CIRCUIT, where even the raciest of preachers seems to be dull, and where there is a monotony which would shame a prison. Yes, there, right there, look out for the water, not stagnant, but water that "breaks out." "Then shall the lame man leap as the hart" that finds the stream it needs, and the "dumb shall sing," for this living water shall quench his thirst, and loosen his dried-up tongue. When shall it be? Young local preacher, why not when thou preachest the next time? Look for it to the throne of God and the Lamb.—Rev. xxii., 1.
IX. TWELVE BASKETS FULL OF FRAGMENTS GATHERED FROM THE MIRACLE OF CHRIST FEEDING THE MULTITUDE.
1.—MAN NEEDS HELP. "They have nothing to eat." (Mark vi. 36.)
2.—GOD IS BETTER THAN GOOD MEN. "Send them away," said the disciples. (Mark vi. 36.) "They need not depart," the Lord replied. (Matt. xiv. 16.)
3.—MINISTERS SHOULD ALWAYS BE ON THE LOOK-OUT FOR THE CHILDREN, THEY GIVE HELP AS WELL AS TROUBLE. Andrew said, "There is a lad here." (John vi. 9.)
4.—YOUTH CAN GIVE TO JESUS WHAT NO ONE ELSE POSSESSES. "There is a lad here which hath five barley loaves." (John vi. 9.)
5.—UNBELIEF WOULD FAIN CRAMP THE LOVE OF JESUS. "What are they among so many." (John vi. 9.)
6.—"ORDER IS HEAVEN'S FIRST LAW." The crowd must sit down in companies of fifty before Jesus would feed them. "He commanded them to make them all sit down by companies." (Mark vi. 39.)
7.—CHRIST WOULD NOT HAVE US EAT WITHOUT ASKING A BLESSING. "Looking up to heaven he blessed." (Matt. xiv. 19.)
8.—CHRIST'S HANDS CAN DO NO MORE THAN OURS. It was His touch that multiplied the loaves. If the disciples had kept the one basket, there would have been many faint by the way. Faith is the truest economy. (Matt xiv. 19.)
9.—THE USE OF THE CHURCH IS TO PASS IT ON. "Gave the loaves to the disciples, and the disciples to the multitude." (Matt. xiv. 19.)
10.—EAT WHAT GOD SENDS. You cannot be saved by knowing the doctrine any more than looking at bread will satisfy hunger. "They did all eat, and were filled." (Matt. xiv. 20.)
11.—WHEN GOD IS THE HOST THERE WILL BE PLENTY FOR EVERYBODY. "As much as they would." (John vi. 11.) "Enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore."
12.—OMNIPOTENCE DISLIKES WASTE. "Gather up the fragments." (John vi. 12.) "And they took up of the fragments that remained twelve baskets full." (Matt. xiv. 20.) A basketful for each apostle.
WAIT HERE FOR THIRD-CLASS.
Passengers on the London "Underground" have often seen the sign-boards, telling the travellers where to wait for the class they mean to travel in. And there is sure to be a large group near one—the notice for third- class passengers. It is so in the road to heaven. Forgetting that the Master has paid first-class fare for us, too many ride third, meaning, when they get to the station where tickets are collected, to change into the first, for all want to die happy. Live holy. Be first-class Christians, and then God will see to it that you die so as to bring honour to Him.
X. SPIRITUAL FARMING.—NO. 3. CULTIVATION.
We have already called the attention of our readers to the subject of ploughing, but we feel we have not pressed upon them with the force it deserves, the necessity of what the Bible calls "breaking up the fallow ground." What the plough and spade do for the land we must have done for the minds of those who sit in Methodist pews. Unsaved men and women must be compelled to look the truth in the face. Farmers know that so long as the land is hard and cloddy, the seed has no chance to get the nourishment by which it lives; besides by turning it over, the plough exposes that which has been hidden to the light of day, and it is by turning it up that it gets the benefit of the atmosphere. The nitrogen contained in the air is filled with that which the growing seed requires to find in the land, if it is to do well for the worker. Have we not thirty-fold crops where we ought to have hundredfold, for want of better ploughs? The heathen who spoke of preaching as "turning the world upside down" hit on the truth; and those of us who fail to turn up the soil are not likely to reap all we might do. The other day we heard an intelligent man tell the story of his conversion. He was awakened under the preaching of Mr. Robinson Watson. He said, "I never used to listen to sermons, I sat in the corner of the pew and thought of business, or any machine I was planning, and did not hear a word, but Mr. Robinson compelled me to think and act."
Does not this man represent many? Are these people to be allowed to come and go, without, in some way or other, being compelled to listen? Let every one of us, from the top to the bottom of the Plan, say, God helping me, I will break up the ground. Indifference shall become difficult. Some of us can remember listening to men whom we feared when they opened the hymn book, for if they began the service with one of the hymns in "Exhorting sinners to return to God," we knew there would be difficulty in getting to sleep, either in the pew then, or in bed, hours afterwards. Perhaps the greatest want of the church to-day is men who can, by handling the Bible like a gardener does his spade, cause it to be said "The sinners in Zion are afraid, tearfulness hath surprised the hypocrites."
BETTER FEED A FAT PIG THAN A PUBLICAN.
XI. SPIRITUAL FARMING—NO. 4. SOWING.
Those of us who live in the country are reminded, as we see the springing corn, that some one has been at work—the blade comes from the buried seed. Honest work has been done before there can be seen the appearance of good.
Let those of us who work for the great harvest, be
MINDFUL OF WHAT WE SOW.
Let us have nothing in the seed-basket that cannot be termed what Jesus called "The word of the kingdom." There will be no difficulty in obtaining that. Farmers don't stint the sower, and God will not withhold seed from His labourers. Let the youthful preacher be encouraged, for just as you have seen the sower fill his basket from the sack, so there is, in the Bible, enough for each, enough for all, enough for evermore.
Sow BIBLE IDEAS:—
"Put the Bible into them, my brother," said an earnest Scotch divine to us many years ago, and there is nothing grows as well, or yields as much, as the Bible, used as seed. People may tell you that they want something else, something more attractive and pleasing. Yes, but they won't say so in the time of harvest. You may plant your field with flower-seeds, sow tulips, marigolds, mignonette, &c., those will look very well in June and July, but how about September? The very people that asked for them in spring will curse you for them in autumn.
BIBLE IDEAS ABOUT GOD:—
His love of righteousness, His hatred of evil; His love of man, but His dislike to sin; His delight in benevolence, but His determined hostility to wrong-doing. We need to show not only God's pity for sinners, but His inflexible justice, which did not spare His well-beloved Son, when He bore our sins.
BIBLE IDEAS ABOUT CONDUCT:—
Never mind being called legal, if you can back your preaching by the Bible. Put the truth into the people about honesty, industry, and self- denial. Let others spend their time in talking of the angels with bright wings of gold; let us teach men how God means them to live in this world. Those of us who wish to learn how to sow, should study Jesus and Paul. They are examples of what sowers should be.
BIBLE IDEAS ABOUT REPENTANCE:—
"These things teach and exhort." One secret of the want of lasting success, is that we do not preach repentance. Men need to have right ideas on this subject. Those who have not repented cannot believe unto righteousness; they can believe unto feeling, but not to right doing! It is not a question so much of tears, as of turning away from sin. The greatest of penitents said, "I turned my feet unto thy testimonies."
BIBLE IDEAS ABOUT JESUS:—
That He died for us according to the scriptures. When the Master wished to take away the sadness from His disciples, as they walked to Emmaus, "He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself." This is what we must do. Put the truth, as it is in Jesus, into the hearts of the people. Let us show from the word of God, that "By His stripes we are healed." Nothing gives abiding peace like the thought, Christ has died for my sins. This will lead to loving Jesus, with the kind of affection which will not be tempted to grieve Him by doing that which is evil. Let us see to it that we get the seed in.
IT IS NOT ENOUGH TO GET IT ON THE LAND, WE MUST PUT IT IN.
No preacher has done his work thoroughly who does not use the harrow. There are some so-called teachers, who don't know what the gospel harrow is. This is why the catechism is not taught. The ancient plan of catechising in the church ought to be more general than it is. Why should we not hide the word of God in the hearts of our hearers, by causing them to think over what we have said? We may not be able to get them formally to answer questions, but we may make them think. Some preaching is like raking with the teeth upwards. It may be easier and more speedy, but it is not so likely to hide the seed. It is a good practice for those who have been listened to by others, to talk to themselves after the sermon or lesson is over, and to say, Soul, what hast thou done to-day? How many Bible truths hast thou put into the hearts of the people?
DIDST THOU PUT THEM IN?
If thou didst, never fear but thou shalt see harvest some day. His word does not return void. This is not true of thy word, or of anyone else's, but "the word of the Lord abideth for ever!"
XII. "AND WE WILL—"
The prophet Micah was struck with the energy and devotion of the heathen to their gods. He saw the grip these idols had of their votaries, how no expense was spared, no sacrifice withheld, for the sake of a filthy lie embodied in a stone or golden image. While he listened to the songs of the heathen, his heart warmed as he thought of the greatness of Jehovah, and so he cried out—"All people will walk every one in the name of his God, and we will walk in the name of the Lord our God for ever and ever."—Micah iv. 5.
Why should we not serve Jehovah with the same intensity that the heathen shew in their worship? Why should not holiness to the Lord be as enthusiastic and powerful in the lives of Christians as sin formerly was? Why should not men be as much moved by the indwelling Spirit, as they were when full of drink? For instance, you may see, when a man is half drunk, how his pocket is opened; he will stand treat all round; every one in the room may have whatever he likes to order, "Give it a name!" says the drink-inspired heart. Now, we ask, why should not those who are under the power of the Holy Ghost go to some poor widows and "stand treat all round," by taking the fatherless children to some shop where their poor naked feet shall be well shod?
Shall we not have a shout over the perseverance and patient continuance of the converts? See the worshippers of the race horse, as, whipped and spurred, the winner draws out from the ruck and passes the post first! How the mad votaries of the gambling idol make the air ring with their cries! And shall not we be as interested as we see men and women contend successfully for "the prize?" Is not the cant sometimes on the side of those who are so anxious for what they call decorum? Let us like Micah, say, "WE WILL," too. How hard it is to win the heathen over to leave their false gods! And shall we not walk for ever and ever in Jehovah's name? Why should not Satan and all who help him regard efforts to make apostates as a forlorn hope? O for a strong grip of God! Do some of our readers feel their weakness, and tremble lest they should go back to the assemblies of the heathen? Let us remind them of the promise—"I will strengthen them in the Lord, and they shall walk up and down in His name." (Zech. x. 12.)
Most of those who serve the devil mean to forsake him before they die. They are self-deceived in many cases, and die as they live. Let us determine that "for ever and ever" shall be our motto. "Signed for life," as the teetotaler sometimes says. "This God is our God for ever and ever. He will be our guide even unto death." We need a guide all the way, till we come to the other side of Jordan. After then, no possibility of falling or loss; but though we shall need no guide, we shall delight in the Lord for ever. When this paper comes into the hands of our readers, the CONFERENCE will have begun its Sittings. Let every Methodist, from Dan to Beersheba, say, "We will sustain the new President with our prayers, as we did the man of God who went before him." And the Lord whom our fathers served shall rejoice in the energy and patient continuance of His people. He shall not complain that we worked harder and sacrificed more for the Gods we served before, than we do for Him; but the heathen shall see signs of the greatness of Jehovah in the enthusiasm and perseverance of His people.
"AS LONG AS HE LIVETH HE SHALL BE LENT TO THE LORD."
Two things are worthy of notice here. First, Hannah brought her son to God's house and left him there to minister. In this she kept the vow she had made (see verse 11). If all promises made in days of trouble were kept as this woman kept hers, there would be some wondrous changes. We must not suppose that Hannah did not feel the removal of her beloved son from her own home, but she made the sacrifice, and God honoured her to all time by recording her gratitude in the Book of books, and made her son a national blessing.
SAMUEL STAYED WHERE HIS MOTHER PUT HIM.
He began to be a minister when a child, and he continued to be so to the end of his life. Few lives have been so honourable and honoured as his was. But it would not have been so if he had not continued to serve the God of his mother. Are there not some of our readers who are tempted to leave the Bible and Sunday school, and to turn their backs on the religion of their parents? Remember that to turn your back on the God of your mother is to hoard up dishonour and misery for yourself and those dear to you, for what Hannah sang is yet true,
"THE PILLARS OF THE EARTH ARE THE LORD'S."
XIII. "IT IS THE KING'S CHAPEL." AMOS vii. 13.
"Go somewhere else and preach, you ignorant peasant! What do you come here for, spoiling our enjoyment, and keeping us awake at nights? Don't you know this is no common conventicle? It is the place where the king says his prayers! Away with you, or we will take off your head!" So said Amaziah, the priest, and so says many a one to-day. Cannot you let us rest in the enjoyment of our sins? You seem to forget that our god is made of
We are not common pot-house people! Preach against drunkenness, if you like; that is a sin which increases the rates! Preach against prostitution, for we are afraid our sons will be entrapped some of these days. Preach against love of dress, or anything else that costs money, for we have to pay sadly too much to tailors and milliners for our children and wife; but let us alone, for our god is GOLD.
Now, Amos, what do you say to that? Won't you go home to Tekoa, and spend the rest of your time looking after the cattle? "Nay, verily, but till I die, I will make Jeroboam howl with rage and vexation of spirit, for he follows the sins of the man who made Israel to sin." It is the work of the preacher to bring hell within sight of those, who, by their selfish love of gold, make others to sin. Let the king know that I will make him feel as though his crown was red hot. His honours shall burn him, and his food shall scorch his tongue. It is in the king's chapel where I will preach as I never preach anywhere else, for it is Jeroboam against whom I am sent.
O! Amos, lift up thy voice with strength against these worshippers of golden calves! Remember thy spiritual ancestry. Forget not the prophet that came from Judah many a year ago. How he testified against that golden god, and how Jeroboam's arm was paralyzed when he would have had the prophet slain. Why are we so mealy-mouthed in denouncing these golden-idol men? Is not the worship of money the hidden nourisher of public sin? Could the gin-palace exist but for the worship of Mammon? Could those streets of bad houses in London and other large towns flaunt their shame, were it not for high rents? They pay well! As sure as there is a God in heaven, shall these, who make money out of the sin of others, gnash their teeth in endless torment. Amos! He is in thy congregation! Do not preach to him of Heaven! but HELL! Thou art not talking to the prodigal son, but to those who have got his portion in their iron safe! Let them feel that hell is moved to meet them, and that they are listening to one who has the Word of the Lord in his lips, which is—
PREPARE TO MEET THY GOD!
And you who would stop Amos—Hear ye the Word of the Lord! There is an heritage of shame waiting for you. Amaziah! wouldest thou send the rough- tongued prophet away? "Thy wife shall be an harlot, and thou shalt die." Shame while thou dost live, and a dishonoured grave, for this is the portion of those who would hinder faithful preachers from speaking the Word of the Lord to the men who are setting up GOLD FOR GOD.
XIV. "ENCOURAGE HIM!" DEUT. i. 38.
"Encourage" who? Why, your new Minister. He will need it. No one but God knows how much some men suffer in leaving old friends and going among strangers. One of our most popular preachers told us that when he goes into a new circuit, he feels like a tree that has been transplanted, and for a time seems nearer death than life. And it is more than likely the man who has just come to your place is feeling acutely the separation from old friends, and the strangeness of everything around him. Do not be surprised, then, if he is not as friendly at first, as the man was who has gone away.
"ENCOURAGE HIM!" for there will be plenty to do the other thing. The enemy of souls, when he is not able to turn back God's soldier, will do all he can to wound him, and if he can hire some fool of a Christian to do it, all the better for his purpose. It will be easy to discourage by quarrels, jealousy and fault-finding. In fact, it requires so little mental ability to find fault, there is no difficulty in finding someone to do that, but don't let it be you. Someone else will see to it that the new Minister has not too easy a time of it. But do you try your utmost to make him feel that he has come where all he does will be appreciated, and that he will never need to go out of his own circuit to find those who will love him for his works' sake, till they know him well enough to love him for his own.
"ENCOURAGE HIM,"—by being at the services regularly, and in time, and especially at the Prayer-Meeting. Stay to the Sunday night one, and go to the one held in the week. What a comfort for the Minister to see the vestry filled when he gets to the Weekly Prayer-Meeting! and when you are there, or on your knees at home, pray for him; for if Paul needed the prayers of the Church, much more do the Preachers to-day.
"ENCOURAGE HIM!" by taking the advice he gives you when he is in the pulpit. A doctor would feel it if his medicine was treated as many sermons are. What would the medical man think if he saw the bottle of physic poured down the sink, or left in the bottle untasted, till there was a cupboard full of bottles? He would not feel like preparing any more. How a preacher is encouraged to make fresh sermons, when he sees that his last was taken into the heart and life of some of his hearers.
"ENCOURAGE HIM!" by letting him know of anyone who has received good from his preaching or visits. You need not be afraid of making him proud. He has had enough of the other kind, or, as we sometimes say, he is sure to have "a stone in the other pocket." We remember visiting one of our sick class-leaders one Monday, who said, "Who was the young man who preached here last night?" "Why, that was the new Minister!" "Well, you must tell him a woman was converted." It will "ENCOURAGE HIM," and James says, "If one convert him, LET HIM KNOW!"
XV. "WE HAVE NO MIGHT." 2 CHRON. xx. 12.
YET WE NEED IT VERY MUCH. We are in great weakness, and we need power, for there is a great multitude come against us. It is not the wisest policy to ignore the strength of our enemy. Jehoshaphat did not. It is well for us to know the strength of our foes, but let it not lead us to despair. Who shall number the host of the foes against whom we must fight? They come to rob us of our inheritance, and if we submit, we shall be enslaved.
WE have no might, but WE KNOW WHO HAS. The pious king said (verse 6), "In Thine hand is there not power and might, Art not Thou God?" Is there more than one God? Some Christians talk as though the Lord had been obliged to give up some of His power to Bradlaugh & Co. Where is the sign of a divided kingship? Could all the host of God's foes have prevented the earthquakes? Do they know when the next will take place? It is still true that God "shaketh the earth and the pillars thereof tremble" (Job ix. 6)
"This awful God is ours, Our Father and our love."
WE KNOW HOW TO GET MIGHT, FOR WE CAN PRAY. Jehoshaphat did not first of all review his troops, he called a meeting for prayer. The nation fasted and prayed, and the king led the devotions of his people. What a prayer! Have you noticed the four questions he puts to his God? And with what pathos he says "Our eyes are upon Thee!" Shall not the people of God imitate Judah? "They gathered themselves together to ask help of the Lord." Why should we not make this the motto of our weekly prayer meetings—
TO ASK HELP.
Not only the men, but the women and children came to the meeting. Would not the mothers and the little ones pray? They knew that their foes would carry them away captive, if God did not help. Would it not be well to encourage our children to cry to the Lord? Would He not hear them, think you?
Promise of the needed help soon came. The Holy Ghost fell upon one of the sons of Asaph, and he soon told his message:—
"THE BATTLE IS NOT YOURS, BUT GOD'S."
He always makes His people's cause His own, when they trust Him. Shall we not live so that our lives shall become part of the divine estate? So that we cannot be hurt without its injuring the Lord of heaven? "The Lord will be with you on the morrow." Is some preacher reading this on the Saturday night? It may be some young Minister, or Local Preacher, who is fearing for his reputation, or for the ark of God. Brother, read over with care this address of the Levite, v. 15-17. Then, like the godly monarch, shew others how to praise the Lord. It is well to notice that the people, led by their ministers, stood up to praise the Lord, and on the next day, before the victory, they praised the Lord. What a scene it must have been! How the angels would keep time with their harps, as the choir sang the anthem, "Praise the Lord! for His mercy endureth for ever."
THEY NEEDED NOT TO FIGHT.
The Lord did that. He sent His hosts, and all that Judah needed to do was to gather the spoil. When shall we spoil our foes? When shall we loot the devil? How one's fingers itch to take his goods! The time is coming when we shall gather the wealth and power he now possesses, when the hosts of darkness shall come against the people of God only to be slain; and when there shall be no difficulty in raising money for good objects, for the devil's coffers shall be at our service. Let us not lose sight of the fact that the same week the great multitude came against the Lord's inheritance, there were more precious jewels than could be carried away, and the place where the foe was encamped came to be called
"THE VALLEY OF BLESSING."
POVERTY IS HARD, BUT IT MAKES A GOOD GRINDSTONE.
XVI. "BE PERFECT." 2 COR. XIII. 11.
Why not? What possible objection can there be to perfect Christianity? You like perfection in other things. You like your watch to keep "perfect time." If you are measured for a coat, you like "a perfect fit." You like other people to be perfect in their actions, so far as you are concerned. You wish your children to obey you; your wife to love you without ever wavering; those who owe you money to pay up twenty shillings to the pound; your servants to do their work according to order; in a word, if you served God as you wish everybody to serve you, you would be a perfect man. Is that so? Then why object to "Christian Perfection?" You say,
"I DON'T BELIEVE IN SINLESS PERFECTION."
Well, we wish to be practical and to do you good, and so we will take lower ground. Do you believe that it is possible for God to make you a very much better man than you are? O yes! Then why not allow Him to have His own way? Is this not the reason why some men are not striving after "Perfection?" They like to be as they are. Going forward means suffering, self-denial, a struggle,—"There are giants in the land."
Some other time we will try to encourage those who are really anxious to possess the good land, by shewing that Joshua and Caleb were right in saying of the sons of Anak, "They are bread for us." "The bigger they are the more there is for us to eat;" but just now, we are anxious to shew these non-believers in perfection, that, till they are all God is prepared to make them, they must not say a word against our doctrine.
May you not be speaking against God's power to heal, to make whole? Is it not a reflection on the Divine Workman, to say that he cannot restore man to be so that He can say once more, "It is very good?" It behoves us to speak with bated breath here, but we may venture to say that the grace which made an Enoch, can make a nineteenth century saint, so lovely in his character, that all men shall say, "This is God's own work, and is like all things which come from His hand."
"BUT MANY OF THESE WHO PROFESS TO HAVE OBTAINED THIS BLESSING ARE SO MANIFESTLY MISTAKEN."
Yes, we agree with you there. Before long we shall have something to say to those who believe in "Christian Perfection," but we are dealing now with those who do not. We think that those who are "perfect," will often be the last to profess it. Any way, they will have very little to say about themselves, though their mouths will be filled with the praise of God, who has done great things for them. We almost always suspect those who have too much to say, and wish we could make them to see how their loud talk and small deeds tell against the doctrine. One proof that a man is not perfect, is his censoriousness concerning those who do not see things as he does, or call them by the same name. But of these we will speak at another time. What we are now concerned about is that we should strive to be all that God has promised to make us, and thus become living expositions of the ability of the Lord to answer Paul's petition:—
"I PRAY GOD, YOUR WHOLE SPIRIT AND SOUL AND BODY BE PRESERVED BLAMELESS."
XVII. "MAKE THIS VALLEY FULL OF DITCHES." 2 KINGS, iii., 16.
What for? To receive that without which they must perish. We read in verse 9 "There was no water." Application was made to the prophet Elisha, who declared that there should soon be plenty, but that the army must at once make channels for it to flow in. This was done, and during the offering of the morning sacrifice, water came in abundance, and filled the ditches.
Let us be ready for great blessing. We need an outpouring of the Spirit, but are we ready for it? Would not a great revival surprise many Christians? In London, Messrs. Moody and Sankey will soon begin their work, and the Christians of that city should be on the look-out for great results. Doubtless there are committee meetings, and much organization is going on, but the work must not be left to organizations. Let every Christian in London make a ditch to bring the living water to his own home.
We hope to hear that in Liverpool, where Mr. Hughes is so soon to begin work, and in the places where the other connexional evangelists are preaching, the gospel channels will be dug by Methodists' hands. All three of these devoted men wish that our people should prepare the way, and thus have the stream of blessing flow to their hearts and homes. The District Missionaries also are needing help. Let us make it easier work for them, by opening the way. We know digging means work, and some Christians are so very respectable, they would feel insulted if God asked them to become one of His navvies. On the other hand, there are thousands of our people who would be glad to help if only some one would show them the way.
But what is laid upon our hearts most of all is, that something more should be done to assist Circuit Ministers and Local Preachers to evangelize. If nothing is effected besides what is done by the men set apart as evangelists, we shall have a large portion of the country unwatered. "Make the valley full of ditches." Let every Methodist feel, that till every impediment is taken out of the way, and every thing done to help on a revival in his own circuit, and in his own chapel, his work is not finished. If each does his best, there will soon be a flowing of water. Do we hear some say, "There are so many among us who will not dig?" Just so, and therefore some of us must dig night and day. Get the spade called "Prayer," and keep it bright. Let the prayer meeting become
A GANG OF EXCAVATORS!
Let us not be satisfied till we are sure that, when the revival comes, we shall be ready.
Let our Class-leaders make enquiry how many of their members are praying and working for a revival. Let everything be done to make our ordinary services very attractive. Let our Choirs, and those who have charge of the musical part of the services, do their part to make the singing pleasant and lively. It is a grievous thing to note how slovenly this part of the service is in some places. For instance, in many chapels where they have a chant-book, the run is on three or four. It is a symptom of inertness when STELLA is sung as though it were the only 6-8's tune. Will someone see to it, that a ditch is dug to every singing pew in Methodism?
We repeat the question. Are we ready for an outpouring of the Spirit? Have we all the channels cleaned out which our fathers dug, and are we digging fresh ones? Do we look as if a revival would be welcomed? Does the enemy know that he may expect an attack, or is he chuckling over our rusty spades and swords?
A WORD TO PARENTS.
Brother Moses Welsby was speaking with me at some Open-air Meetings at Radcliffe, the other day, and he told of seeing a lad being taken to prison, and as he was going his father called out, "Keep thy spirits up, lad, it will soon be over," but the lad replied,
"I SHOULD NOT BE GOING NOW IF YOU HAD SHEWED ME A BETTER EXAMPLE."
What sort of a model are you? Can your children copy you with safety? Are your actions what you would like to see over again in your boys and girls? Perhaps some who read this are in danger of being driven from God at the last day. If so, shall you be chained to your children, and will your punishment be all the greater because they say,
"WE SHOULD NOT HAVE BEEN IN HELL IF YOU HAD SET US A BETTER EXAMPLE?"
XVIII. "THERE IS A SOUND OF ABUNDANCE OF RAIN." 1 KINGS, xix. 41.
So said the man of God. Rain was much needed, for famine stared them in the face. Even Ahab himself had walked many weary miles to seek grass for his horses; other men's cattle had perished, and if the drought had continued, everything would have died. Still, it was not Ahab who heard the sound of the rain. There was no sign of it. The heavens were as brass, the sky was without a cloud, everything was burned up with dry heat, and yet, said Elijah, "There is a sound of abundance of rain." It is so in the spiritual world. There are those who know of a coming Revival long before there is any sign. They have felt their prayers being answered, and have heard the cry of the penitent sinner, though, as yet, he seems to be as hard and careless as ever.
"So AHAB WENT UP TO EAT AND TO DRINK." Not so Elijah, he went up to the top of Carmel. The man of God "CAST HIMSELF DOWN ON THE EARTH, AND PUT HIS FACE BETWEEN HIS KNEES." Those who would procure blessings must not expect to win them at the table of luxury and ease, but by climbing the hill of difficulty, and in the humbling of self. If we would bring the blessing down, we must be prepared to say, "No," to our own likings, and to refuse that which would gratify flesh and blood. If we would prevail in prayer, we must be alone with God. The priests who fed at Jezebel's table could not bring rain, or they would have saved themselves from the sword of Elijah. We need not to look toward the sea till we have bowed before the Lord, then we may expect some sign of the coming Revival.
We must not be discouraged if the servant tells us "THERE IS NOTHING!" Masters see more than servants can, or they would not be masters. "Go again seven times," as though he said "Do not interrupt me with thy 'Nothings!'" Come and tell me when there is "Something;" and the seventh time he saw the "little cloud." Some of us have looked from the hill, over the sea, in a far off tropical land, and have seen that same little cloud many a time, as it spread all over the sky, and soon there was rain enough to stop the traveller.
AND SO SHALL IT BE IN METHODISM ERE LONG.
If we mistake not, last Sunday's work among our young people is the result of many earnest prayers, and the sign of coming prosperity.
Some will be ready to say "It is nothing to make a stir about. They were only children." "A little cloud!" Only the size of a man's hand. Yes, but what man? "The man Christ Jesus." "Ahab, get thee down, that the rain stop thee not." We shall not be surprised to hear of Revivals like some we have known, which turned other meetings into soul-converting agencies. Tea Meetings, and Missionary Meetings, where the people have come in crowds, not to applaud eloquence, but to ask—"What must we do to be saved?" We expect news of this sort, and that, ere long. May the hand of the Lord be on Elijah, then shall he run before Ahab, and prayer shall be mightier than the power which moves those who eat and drink!
XIX. A CLEAN TONGUE.
One of the first things the doctor does when he comes to see you, is to ask to look at your tongue, and one glance will tell him how much difficulty he has to contend with. If the tongue is foul, he knows that there is inward mischief, and he must lose no time in cleansing that of which the tongue is but an indicator.
As we pass along our streets our ears are assailed with language of the most horrid description. If one needed any information as to the state of public morals, the foul-mouthed men and boys, aye, and we regret to say, too often, women and girls, would tell of the state of heart into which many thousands of our country people have been corrupted. And in many cases, this has become habitual, and what might be termed natural.
Can nothing be done? Is the name of the Divine Being and that of our Saviour to be profaned constantly without any check? If so, it will grow worse and worse, until we may expect national sin to bring down national punishment, and we shall have to say, "Because of swearing the land mourneth."
Those who have charge of the education of our children might help, by constantly speaking against bad language, and by punishing those who continue to offend. Parents, also, should check the slightest tendency in this direction. We have heard of a good woman, who, overhearing one of her boys using what she called "dirty words," took him to the sink, and washed out his mouth, not sparing the soap! Sometimes when we have heard men defiling their tongues with filthy talk, we have wished their mothers had served them the same.
Nor is this offence against God and good taste always confined to the ignorant. There are those who have been well taught—men of ability, and some who make a profession of religion, who indulge in unseemly language, and delight in stories which are termed "smutty." We know how farmers dislike the "smut" in their wheat, how an otherwise good crop will be lowered in value, because the black grain will, when ground, darken the flour. Is it not so with these men of unclean lips? The filthy allusions and improper stories which pollute their conversation make their life infectious, and their companionship dangerous. Let us reprove them, or at least avoid them, as we would the plague.
If we would keep a clean tongue, we must pray "Create in me a clean heart, O God!" This can be done, and the Lord, who has told us that He will not admit into His heaven that which worketh abomination, will gladly cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of His holy Spirit, then shall our tongue glorify Him continually.
Should this fall into the hands of one of those whose foul tongue shews that his heart is corrupt, we would ask him how he would like to have his conversation reported by a short-hand writer, and printed in the "Standard," or "Daily News," with his name attached? But is it not a fact, that his words are being taken down, and when the books are opened before an assembled universe at the last day, will not his soul tremble, as he finds that God has listened all the time, and the language used years ago, is to control his destiny, for He who will come to be our Judge has said to the swearer and filthy speaker—
"BY THY WORD THOU SHALT BE CONDEMNED."
A WORD TO FATHERS.
Have you ever thought how it is that in the prayer we call our Lord's, God is spoken of as Father? Do you not see that your child calls you by one of the names—the Christ-chosen name of the Devine Being? Is there not a sermon in that to everyone of us who has children of his own? Perhaps you have never given the matter a thought that for some of the early years of you children you may be giving them a caricature of God in your ungodly conduct. Let us lay this to heart, and strive, by God-like actions, to teach our little ones what God is like. By long suffering and gentleness towards ignorance and weakness;—by stern denunciation, in life as well as word, of everything that is mean and deceitful;—by delighting in mercy, and readiness to give to those who need, to our children, "Our Father," may become a stepping stone to the knowledge of God.
XX. THE RED LAMP.
Travelling by express train the other day, we found that we were stopped a long distance from the station where we were timed to stop, and looking out of the window, saw a red light ahead. That accounted for it, we knew there was something in the way. The driver knew what he was about, and though anxious to go on, did not move until the red light was changed to white.
Some of those who read this paper are living in sin. To such, the Bible speaks out in plain terms, and, like the Red Light, would stop them.
"THE END OF THESE THINGS IS DEATH."
You cannot go any further without danger. Why run the risk? That Red Lamp seems to say, "If you will come on, you will be slain." What should we think of any one who urged the driver to go on, in spite of the warning? Would you not call him "fool" and "madman?" Just so, and you will do well to call those who urge you to despise the warnings of the Bible, by the same names.
We should not think much of the wisdom of any one who said of the Red Lamp, "Why take any notice of that old-fashioned thing? We have outgrown these childish ideas!" Would not your reply be, "Danger is danger, and safety is safety!" We have not outgrown death and the grave, and it is still true, in spite of the march of science, that a train coming into collision with another means suffering to those who are in it. Sin is yet sin, and we cannot break the Commandments of God without having to suffer. And as for the Bible being old-fashioned, we feel, that which kept our fathers from hell shall keep their sons also.
Here is one of the Red Lamps of the Bible, which young men would do well to consider—
"HER HOUSE IS THE WAY TO HELL!"
Young man, there is the Red Light! Stop! Do not go one step further! There are plenty of fools to tell you that
"THIS IS SEEING LIFE."
The Bible says—"The dead are there, and her guests are in the depths of hell." If everything had to be called by its right name, just as sign- boards tell us what is to be procured within, like "Furniture Dealer," "Boot and Shoe Maker," fancy the sign-board that would have to be put over the house of the "strange woman." Here is a suitable inscription, which we take from the Bible.—Prov. ii. 19:—
"NONE THAT GO UNTO HER RETURN AGAIN."
This is putting a Red Lamp over her door, is it not? Will you heed the warning? Or do you mean to be one of those of whom the Bible speaks,
"AND THOU SHALT MOURN AT THE LAST, WHEN THY FLESH AND THY BODY ARE CONSUMED, AND SAY, 'HOW HAVE I HATED INSTRUCTION AND MY HEART DESPISED REPROOF?'"
XXI. A SERMON ON THE BOAT RACE.
In finding illustrations for our teaching at the river-side, we shall be in good company, for that manly preacher, Paul, had seen wrestlers and race-runners. It is true that then, athletics had not been disgraced by betting; and it is only of very late years that the struggle on the Thames has been polluted by gamblers.
There are not a few who read our paper, who will be on the lookout to know as soon as possible, whether
DARK OR LIGHT BLUE
has won. For ourselves we care not, but we are anxious to make use of the contest as a parable, before the race is forgotten.
If you would row as to obtain, you must mind certain things, and these are pictures of what we must do, would we gain the heavenly prize.
I.—WE MUST KEEP THE BODY UNDER.
So thought Paul.—See 1st Cor. ix, 25 and 27. Those sixteen young fellows who will pull the oars in the race, have, for months, been undergoing strict physical training. This means abstinence from all that could be said to weaken the frame, or lower the action of the heart. There are only certain things they may eat and drink. They must have the right amount of sleep, and no more. Exercise of the most bracing kind they must take every day, and eschew every practice that could weaken the nerves or muscles in the slightest degree.
And he that would win the heavenly race must say "No," to self, and "flee youthful lusts," and "endure hardness." He whose soul can be mastered by his body has lost the bridle, and cannot wonder if he lose the prize.
II.—WE MUST SECURE A GOOD START.
Just before the Starter gives the word to go, the men paddle till the cord which the coxswain holds at arm's length is tight, and every man has his oar ready for the dash into the water and away. To lose time at the start is to find that a chance has been thrown away.
"Remember thy Creator in the days of thy youth." "They that seek Me early shall find Me." He who would be a first-class Christian, must begin betimes. Time lost is lee-way, that cannot be recovered, strive as we like.
III.—WE MUST BE WELL STEERED.
In the picture parable you can see who is steering. Don't let him come aboard you! Proverbs iii. 6, tells you whom to trust with the tiller ropes.
"HE SHALL DIRECT THY PATHS."
If young men would only let the Bible "coach them," they would be saved from many a blunder and defeat. It is important to have, as steersman, one who knows the currents, and just when to alter the course. The youngster who steers the University boat has been up and down the river many a time, till he has learned everything he needs to know. Let me ask you, "Who steers?" If SELF-WILL does, you are undone.
IV.—NEVER CEASE STRIVING TILL YOU HAVE WON.
Your adversary will not. He will pursue you till you have gained the prize. "He who to the end endures," is the saved man. It is very instructive to note how many backsliders there are among professors of mature age. The most grievous cases of falling away are not from the ranks of young disciples, but from those who ought to have been safe examples for them! If you have lived to be grey-headed, remember your silver hair may make a fool's cap yet! There are other lessons, but they will keep till another year. We will end our Sermon with some lines of Charles Wesley's, not known to all our readers:—
"But did the great apostle fear He should not to the end endure, Should not hold out, and persevere, And make his own election sure? Could Paul believe it possible, When all his toils and griefs were past, Himself should of salvation fail, And die a reprobate at last?"
"Who then art thou that dar'st reject The sacred terms, the humbling awe, As absolutely saved,—elect,— And free from an abolished law? DOST THOU NO SELF-DENIAL NEED, NO WATCH, OR ABSTINENCE SEVERE; In one short moment perfected! An angel—an immortal here?"
One wonders how it came to have that name! We cannot help feeling, that if other titles were as well-deserved, it would be a blessing to the world. For instance, if Nobleman, Gentleman, Reverend, &c., were as descriptive as this day's name, there would be many happier people than there are.
No wonder that it should be called "Good," for it helps us to look back to the time when the best action the world has known, or can know, was done. We gaze upon the Cross, and we thank God for His unspeakable gift. One knows not which to admire the most: the Love that could smite the Well-beloved, or the Love that could, for the sake of enemies, bear the blow?
How do our readers mean to spend the day? We have no right to bind any man's conscience, and seek to have others do as we do, except they are led in the same direction, and yet we wonder how those who observe the day at all, can allow themselves to spend it in dissipation.
We are no admirer of those who make the day one of sadness and gloom.
IT IS GOOD-FRIDAY,
and we cannot understand how men can allow themselves to act as though it were Bad Friday, as though they could hear the hammer nailing Christ to the cross. A high churchman's conscience is a wonderful thing, and in nothing is it so surprising as this, that it can allow itself to act as though Jesus were slain and in His tomb! Has not the Lord Himself spoken? Let us listen to Him who speaks in rebuke to those who would darken our homes and places of worship, and cheat themselves into a sentimentality which again sees the corpse of Jesus laid in Joseph's grave.
"I AM HE THAT LIVETH AND WAS DEAD, AND BEHOLD I AM ALIVE FOR EVERMORE."
It cannot be pleasing to Jesus to be spoken of as though He was once more in the hands of His enemies.
While we regret that so many people in our country should make this day one of rioting and extravagance, we are sure that it is in some degree a reaction from the usages of those who would have us spend the day in sorrow. That which is unreal must in time become unsatisfactory, and those who would compel us to live over again the sorrows of Calvary, may drive us to football, or that which is worse! Let men once think that the church has turned actor, and they will say, "No, we will go to the theatre, for there the acting is better done."
EVERY DAY we should visit in spirit the cross of Jesus, for every day we need the merit of the atonement, and the stimulus of that example of self- forgetfulness. Let us turn away from the so-called realism which would hang the world in black, and, at the same time let us avoid those who would make this a day of revelry. There is a middle path, one upon which Christ smiles, and a path we can tread any day, and thus make it GOOD—we mean the
PATHWAY OF SELF-SACRIFICE.
For the joy of blessing others, let us be willing to endure shame or pain. There is always pleasure to be earned by those who are willing to pay the price,—the pleasure of unselfishness,—but this cannot be tasted except by those who seek their highest joy in the wellbeing of others. Our risen and glorified Lord tastes this joy every day, Good-Friday not excepted, and we think it will lead us to spend the day according to His will, if we seek for ourselves all the blessings He purchased with His blood, and none more earnestly than that sanctifying Spirit who will help us to follow His blessed example, and, by caring others,
MAKE EVERY GOOD.
THE CROWN CANNOT BE INDEPENDENT OF THE SPADE!
XXIII. PETER THE PREACHER.
Yes! the Preacher! for it is in this way he has earned the right to be remembered. Perhaps his sermon at Pentecost was more remarkable in its results than any sermon has been since. The question arises in the minds of thinking men, "Is there any reason why preaching now should be less effective than it was when men first began to preach the Gospel of Jesus Christ?" One thing is certain, human nature has not improved, and hell is as great a fact now as then. God's love for men has not decreased. He is still interested in the human race, and the promise, as Peter put it, is "to all that are afar off."—Acts ii. 39.
"WHY, THEN, DO WE NOT SEE THE SAME RESULTS?
We do in kind, but not in number. Why not in both? Is not the answer to be found in Acts i. 14?
"These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication."
Is not the Church of to-day weak in the knee? Do we pray as the men and women did who waited for the promise of the Father in the upper room? Peter would pray. He had all the instinct of a preacher, and would feel his heart bound at the thought that he was to be a witness of God's readiness to pardon. His prayer would differ from many others. How he would plead for the power that would crown him with the diadem of a preacher! There was a time when he had prayed—"Depart from me, for I am a sinful man." Now, his cry would be—"Come to me, let not my sins cause Thee to stay, but come quickly." There are many of us who feel we need to cry to Peter's Saviour and Lord, for we have allowed doubts to hide His face, or self-indulgence to fence Him about. Let every preacher who reads these words unite with us in pleading for a Pentecost that shall renew our commission, and make all men to know that a risen Saviour is our King, and a promised Comforter our portion,
WHAT A BLOW TO SOCINIANISM, BOTH OF IDEA AND WORD, WOULD A 'SECOND PENTECOST' BECOME!
We do not here mean to dwell on the example shewn to the Church by the accord in prayer, the many pleading, so differently, and yet in harmony; we are writing now for preachers, knowing that hundreds of workers will read every line we write, and we are thus led to enquire further—
HOW FAR PETER'S SERMON IS LIKE THE SERMONS WE PREACH?
Some who have read it, as it is printed, have said, "We should not have invited such a preacher to our circuit:" but such people forget that the accompaniments of preaching cannot be printed. Who can write down the spiritual atmosphere? Who can reproduce the tone of voice in which Peter spoke? How can he describe what some of us have felt—the unction—the never-to-be-forgotten emotions of the soul? Depend upon it, these were present in a remarkable manner.
But beside all this, there are the Bible facts. Peter knew his Bible and could quote it. How familiar he must have been with the Old Testament! Could he have found, in any part of the book, passages more telling and more suitable? If we knew our Bible better, we should not need to do as the manner of some is, round off common-place ideas of our own, with pretty poetry of someone else's!
Then, the preacher was not afraid to tell the congregation what sins they had committed. Many of them were what is called "good sort of people, went to place of worship, and paid their way," &c. But it was true, "Jesus of Nazareth, a man approved of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." Let us who preach, cry to God to give us His Spirit, that we may tell those who hear us of their sins. How are they to be convinced of sins, if they are not told of them?
Nor was Peter satisfied with the good feeling, or even with seeing the people moved. It was not enough for him that his hearers were pricked in the heart, he would have them do more. Would he not have said to many of those who have gone into the inquiry-room, "I am not satisfied that you are in earnest. You want God to save you in your sins." Repentance is impossible to those who are not conscious of guiltiness. And, without repentance, faith holds the cup of water to one who was never thirsty. Do you wonder that it is loathsome? He might drink if it were not so pure,
BUT IT TAKES THIRST TO RELISH WATER!
This is a tempting subject, we could say much more, but we will only add, that the last word in the chapter, which tells of "Peter the Preacher," gives the result of such sermons as his—
XXIV. "WHEN SOLOMON WAS OLD."
"It came to pass when Solomon was old, that his wives turned away his heart after other Gods."
1 KINGS xi. 4.
Who could have predicted that this would come to pass? And yet it is often so, for it is still true that
NO AMOUNT OF KNOWLEDGE WILL SAVE FROM BACKSLIDING THOSE WHO REFUSE TO LISTEN TO GOD.
We learn from verse 10 that God had taken pains to save Solomon from idolatry, (see 1 Kings vi. 12, and xi. 6). But what good is it for even God to try to save a man who will have his own way? And yet one would have thought that a man who knew what Solomon knew, would have not bowed down to gods of wood and stone! It is not always at our weakest place we fail! It is well for us to be aware of this. Who would have expected Moses to fail in his temper, or Elijah in his courage? Solomon must have hated himself when he bowed before these graven images, and must have looked with loathing on those filthy idols before whom he was prostrate, and yet he went on in his evil way. How the priests who offered the idolatrous sacrifices would rejoice in their illustrious pervert! Will any of us ever give the foes of God cause for exultation? Do not tell me that you are too well instructed! Are you wiser than Solomon? "Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom. Let him that glorieth glory in this, that he understandeth and knoweth Me."—Jer. ix, 23-24. You are safe only as you are willing to be led by the word of God.
WHAT IS THE BIBLE TO YOU?
Is it a lamp to your feet? Not merely a lantern to keep you out of the mire, but a treasure like that miner's lamp; a light by which he is not only guided, but able to walk in the shadow of death. All around him is the gas that would slay him, and yet by that lamp he walks to the place of safety! This is what the Bible must be to you, or it is nothing.
Mind you, it is not enough for you to know the Bible. We have heard drunken men quote it with correctness, but it had not saved them from the demon which haunted them. It is an instructive thought that the man who wrote some of the Bible, who is spoken of in the pulpit as "The Wise Man," the author of the Book of Proverbs, was led away into sin and eternal disgrace. In fact, it matters not what we know, if we are not led of the Spirit we shall come to grief. The more deeply a ship is laden, if she gets aground, the more likely she is to become a wreck. It takes the wisest of men to make the fool Solomon became. Perhaps the most serious aspect of this story is, that it was not while the king was young, but when grey-headed, that he wandered from God, and this leads me to say that
THE WORST CASES OF BACKSLIDING ARE AMONG THOSE WHO ARE NO LONGER YOUNG.
We should not have been surprised if Solomon had been led away by youthful passion or indiscretion, but we are shocked to find that it was when he ought to have been venerable that he became vicious—"When Solomon was old." We should have expected history would have told us of the power he exerted over the people; how the nation saw in his silver locks the crown of glory he had spoken of in his book. It would have seemed natural to have read of great gatherings of the people of different nations, listening to his wondrously wise words. Instead of this, the news spread far and wide that the wise king had stooped to folly of the worst degree.
My brothers! what sort of old men shall we make? If we are allowed to remain among our fellows, shall we live the life that shall make men thank God for our length of days, or will they wish we had died in our youthful prime? There are men whose youth was like the mountain stream, which cheered everything it touched. Born among the mountains, and wedding other brooks and streamlets, uniting them in a river, clear and lovely, along whose banks children loved to play. But later on, as it became broad and deep, taking in pollution and garbage, until the clear and joyous river is changed into a great sewer, filling the air with noxious smells, and defiling the face of nature with its liquid blackness. Such is life to some men—Solomon was one, perhaps the worst.
One is ready to ask—Can this be the man to whom God spake in large promise? Is this he whose prayer brought into the temple the manifested presence of the Almighty? Can it be possible that this hoary idolater had been the favourite of Jehovah? Alas! it is only too true. More than once we have known men whose prayers could bring heaven to earth, and lift earth to heaven, but who have lived too long, and ere they fell into a dishonoured grave, brought shame to the cross of Jesus, and gave the enemies of God food for laughter. Let those among us who are no longer young, see to it that we are not among those who fall more deeply into sin than it is possible for young disciples to do.
What should we think if Westminster Abbey became a gin-palace? If all around its gates lewd men and dishonoured women stood and cracked their filthy jokes; if from its lovely choir the drunkard's song was heard? Verily, you say, "It is nigh to blasphemy to imagine such a thing. We had rather that it had been burned to ashes when the fire of London destroyed St. Paul's. Would that it had reached far enough West to destroy the ancient pile rather than it should be so polluted!" Aye, aye, you are right, and yet to see a man who, in his youth was a Christian, but in his old age has become an apostate, is a more sorrowful sight still. Alas! that it should be so common.
How did it come about? What scheme of hell led to this? What combination of men and fiends accomplished this tragedy? It was love—affection, infatuation, for that which ought not to have been loved, "King Solomon loved many strange women, besides the daughter of Pharaoh," as the margin puts it. And this leads me to say that
A MAN'S FEMALE FRIENDS FRAME HIS FORTUNES.
Solomon began wrong; he allowed his affection to fasten itself on a stranger—an Egyptian. It is a question worth considering, whether we preachers say enough to the people on this question of matrimony. A man's marriage is sure to tell on his history. He can never be the same again he was before. He may wed one who shall help him to be good, whose voice shall be like church bells calling him to prayer. Or he may fasten himself to one, who, like Jezebel, shall stir up her husband to deeds of shame and cruelty. Sometimes we have felt, when we have seen some marriages, that it would have been a fitting thing if a hearse had been among the carriages, for there lay DEAD HOPE on its way to a grave from which there could be no resurrection!
Young man! what woman is it you like the best? Who is her god? Fashion? Pleasure? What is the name of the deity she worships? If it is anyone rather than Jehovah, beware! Before you die, she shall turn you as Solomon was turned. What is that you say? You are not such a fool! Well, that remains to be seen. Are you one of those who trust in his own heart? If so, remember what he is called. See Prov. xxviii. 26. Is not the helm of your life in her hands now? Would you love her as you do, if she had not the reins of your soul in her grasp? If Solomon had known all that was to follow when he first looked on the daughter of Pharaoh, he would have died before he would have made her his bride. Let not this sad story be in any way a prophecy of your future. There are plenty of women whom to know is to be elevated, and whom to wed would be to foretaste the companionship of heaven. Wives are often the architects and the husbands the builders. See to it, that the woman you love does not make you lay out the foundation of a jail. She may tell you it is a palace, but neither of you have yet seen the elevation. She only draws the ground-plan.
There is yet another scene in this tragedy. Solomon, by his folly, lost his son's estate. God said, "I will surely rend the kingdom from thee." Rehoboam was the poorer for his father's sin.
OUR CHILDREN BECOME THE HEIRS OF OUR CRIMES.
Some other day, it may be, we will take the story of the son. Let it suffice to-day that we learn the lesson the Bible would teach us. Solomon's sun went down in a cloud. It is a disputed question whether Solomon repented in time to save his soul. There ought to have been no question as to whether he was in heaven or no. As it is, we don't know that David has one of his children with him, except the baby boy who died despite his father's fasting and prayer. Surely no one more than David will need to have that promise fulfilled—"God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." It may be that David has needed to be comforted, because the builder of the temple is among those who died in idolatry.
Let every father among us bear in mind, that when we neglect prayer, or give up devotion, because we want the time for seeking gold or any other idol, we are mortgaging our children's future. Giving up religious exercises is like cutting down the trees on an estate, the next heir will know the want of them. No man can be said to be a good father, who, for the sake of any worldly good, impoverishes the souls of his offspring. "Turned away his heart after other gods," means turning away the kingdom of Israel. Sin cannot be separated from sorrow, and this is as true to- day as it was in the days of Solomon.
XXV. ABRAHAM AND ISAAC. GENESIS xxii.
1.—"After these things."
What things? See verse 33 in preceding chapter. After Abraham had given himself to prayer. It often happens that grace is given for grace. God prepares his own for trial and suffering by revealing Himself.
"GOD DID TEMPT."—Like a workman who is conscious the work is well done, fears not the scrutiny which waits his labour. When the smith has put good work into the iron cable, he does not then fear the strain of the test put upon it, and God knew what He had done to Abraham in the grove at Beersheba. If we have a Beersheba, we need not fear Moriah.
2.—"Isaac, whom thou lovest."
God has a right to the best. He does not ask us to do what He has not done Himself. "He gave his only begotten Son."
3. "Rose up early."
Abraham was prompt. Where there is a task to be performed, lose no time. Work does not grow easier by delay. Do not fritter away strength in trifles; begin at once upon the duties which call for instant obedience. We do not read that Abraham asked Sarah's advice, the command was plain. She might not have been willing. Never ask advice from those whom God does not trust.
"CLEAVE THE WOOD."—He did not act as some do, take no pains in preparation. The Holy Ghost is not to act as brains in an empty skull. Get ready, then go. Some would have climbed the hill, and then, because there was no one near from whom they could borrow an axe to cut the wood, would have come back with an excuse, and in so doing picture not a few who fail, because they are not able to sing—
"READY for all Thy perfect will, My acts of faith and love repeat."
5.—Abide ye here with the Ass."
The young men would have hindered Abraham from binding his son on the altar. Whatever would interfere with prayer, when we retire for that purpose, or with sacrifice, when we make the effort, should be left behind. Leave hinderers with the ass, they will be in congenial society!
6, 7, 8, 9.—"The Knife," "The Fire," "The Wood."
Where is the lamb? Isaac's words would pierce his father's heart. How came it the young man yielded? Was there a struggle? Did Abraham bind him by force? There is no indication in the story of any resistance. Do the words of Jesus cast any light, "Abraham saw My day, and was glad?" Received him in a figure" (Heb. xi. 19.) Did father and son see what was to occur in the distance?
10.—"Took the knife to slay his son."
God tries us to the full. His tests are no shams. Before the Hall-mark is put on the metal, the acid proves it genuine.
11 and 12.—"Lay not thine hand on the lad."
No one spoke to God when it pleased Him to bruise His Well-beloved.
13.—"A ram caught in a thicket."
God cleaves His wood, He is ready, always prepared.
14.—"Call the name of that place,
THE LORD WILL PROVIDE."
What would he have called it before his deliverance? Let us not be too quick to name events. It may be we shall want to alter if we do.
Obedience is the joyful mother of children,—children that are born to bless. He who can always obey will find every step leads to a throne.—Rev. iii. 21.
These are a few lessons which I shall not do more than name:
I.—GOD'S FRIENDSHIP DOES NOT EXCLUDE TRIAL.
The man who is called the friend of God was told to slay his son.
II.—GREAT JOYS CONTAIN GREAT SORROWS.
The name of this son was Laughter. The more we enjoy a Gift of God, the more we shall feel it when we are called to part. Hold joys with a slack hand.
III.—IN GREAT EXTREMITIES LOOK FOR GREAT DELIVERANCES.
The ram is in the thicket all the time.
IV.—GREAT TRIALS WILL YIELD SWEET MEMORIES.
None of Abraham's journeys cost him so many tears as this, and none were so pleasant to recall.
PERHAPS CALVARY IS THE SWEETEST SPOT ON EARTH TO GOD.
XXVI. OIL FOR LAMPS. MATTHEW xxv. 1-13.
God's kingdom is imperfect as yet, for it is not said to be like five, but ten virgins. It is worthy of our careful thought that it is to be made perfect by contraction, not expansion. The King is to say "Depart!" as well as "Come!"
We do not attempt anything like exposition of this solemn and yet charming parable, but rather to notice some of the most easily perceived truths it discovers.
I.—A Light is better than a Lamp.
All the ten took their lamps. Very likely there was variety in the shape and material of the lamp, but only five of them had lamps that kept alight, for some of them had no means of replenishment. For anything we know, the lamps of the foolish were as good as the others, may-be better, but the flame and not the frame is the important matter. We cannot have the power without the form. Grace must have the human material, but we may have the human without the Divine. Our Bibles, our Prayers, our Hymns, all these are channels of grace, as the lamp and the wick are essential to the flame, but the lamp may not be lighted, or it may have gone out! It is not a question of John Keble, or General Booth, but is the singing from the heart? The "Amen" may be shouted or intoned, but if not real, it is worse than smouldering wick.
II.—We may as well be without oil as not have enough to endure to the end.
All ten lamps were at one time burning. In the margin of verse 10, we read, "Our lamps are going out." What a lesson to the backslider! You once were a burning and a shining light, but you did not seek grace to help in time of need, and your lamp is gone out. Better never have made a profession if there be not grace to sustain the flame. Aye, and perhaps you, with a lamp which has gone out, you have been a preacher, or a teacher, and have, before now, enforced this very lesson on your hearers. If there is a sight in this world over which angels might weep, it is a preacher without a light. Better go to hell from a race-course than a pulpit!
III.—The gates or the palace may be shut while we are calling on the oil seller.
"While they went to buy, the Bridegroom came." There is an old saying, that "praying breath was never wasted." But this parable does not teach that lesson. There are not a few who think they can atone for the sins of a long life by crying with their dying breath, "Lord, have mercy on me!" But the truth is, there may be the fear of punishment without any penitence, and cries for dread of hell may not be the sacrifice of a broken and a contrite heart.
Let us not put off our repentance too long, or while we are sending for the minister to instruct us, death may claim us for his prey. Or while we are saying to the teacher of religion, "What must I do to escape hell?" the fetters may be fastened on our soul. The palace-gate may swing to before we can make the oil-man hear.
IV.—That which lets the five wise in to the palace, keeps out the five foolish.
"The door was shut." The five were in, and then came the other five, to find the gate closed. Then they begin to cry "Open to us!" but in vain. The door makes all the difference. If you enter, it is by the door; if you are shut out, it is the door that closes against you. "I am the door," said Jesus, and it is yet true. "No man cometh to the Father but by Me." Yes, Jesus is the True and Living way, and the only one. But if we are lost, it will be the aspect of Jesus which will slay our last hope. It is the wrath of the Lamb which is so dreadful. Have you ever thought of it, my brother, that Christ is to be Life or Death to thee? If he does not shut thee into heaven, He will shut thee out. Shall you ever be one of the group which cry, as their last prayer, "Lord! Lord! open to us!"
DO NOT BE ONE OF THOSE WHO PRAY LIKE ABEL AND LIVE LIKE CAIN.
XXVII. "CAST A STONE AT HER!" JOHN viii. 7.
Cast a stone at whom? At a woman! Why not at a man?