Sermon 346. All-Sufficiency Magnified
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, NOVEMBER 18, 1860, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." Philippians 4:13. THE former part of the sentence would be a piece of impudent daring without the latter part to interpret it. There have beensome men who, puffed up with vanity, have in their hearts said, "I can do all things." Their destruction has been sure andnear at hand! Nebuchadnezzar walks through the midst of the great city; he sees its stupendous tower threading the clouds;he marks the majestic and colossal size of every building, and he says in his heart, "Behold this great Babylon which I havebuilt. I can do all things." A few hours, and he can do nothing except that in which the beast excels him; he eats grass likethe oxen until his hair has grown like eagles' feathers, and his nails like birds' claws. See, too, the Persian potentate.He leads a million men against Greece; he wields a power which he believes to be omnipotent; he lashes the sea, casts chainsupon the waves, and bids it be his slave! Ah, foolish pantomime-"I can do all things!" His hosts melt away, the bravery ofGreece is too much for him-he returns to his country in dishonor! Or, if you will take a modern instance of a man who wasborn to rule and govern, and found his way upwards from the lowest ranks to the highest point of empire, call to mind Napoleon!He stands like a rock in the midst of angry billows; the nations dash against him, and break themselves. He, himself, putsout the sun of Austria, and bids the star of Prussia set. He dares to proclaim war against all the nations of the earth, andbelieves that he, himself, shall be a very Briarius with a hundred hands attacking a hundred antagonists at once! "I can doall things," he might have written upon his banners. It was the very note which his eagles screamed amid the battle. He marchesto Russia, he defies the elements; he marches across the snow, and sees the palace of an ancient monarch in flames. No doubt,as he looks at the blazing Kremlin, he thinks, "I can do all things." But you shall come back to your country alone; you shallstrew the frozen plains with men; you shall be utterly wasted, and destroyed! Inasmuch as you have said, "I propose and dispose,too," let Jehovah disposes of you, and take you from your seat, seeing you have arrogated to yourself omnipotence among men! And what shall we say to our Apostle, little in stature, stammering in speech, his personal presence weak, and his speechcontemptible-when he comes forward and boasts, "I can do all things"? O impudent presumption! What can you do, Paul? The leaderof a hated sect, all of them doomed by an imperial edict to death! You, you, who dare to teach the absurd dogma that a crucifiedMan is able to save souls; that He is actually King in Heaven, and virtually King on earth! You say, "I can do all things."What? Has Gamaliel taught you such an art of eloquence, that you can baffle all that oppose you? What? Have your sufferingsgiven you so stern a courage, that you are not to be turned away from the opinions which you have so tenaciously held? Isit in yourself you rely? No! "I can do all things," he says, "through Christ who strengthens me." Looking boldly around him,he turns the eyes of his faith humbly towards his God and Savior, Jesus Christ, and dares to say, not impiously, nor arrogantly,yet with devout reverence and dauntless courage, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
My Brothers and Sisters, when Paul said these words, he meant them. Indeed, he had to a great measure already proved the strengthof which he now asserts the promise! Have you ever thought how varied were the trials, and how innumerable the achievementsof the Apostle Paul? Called by Grace in a sudden and miraculous manner, immediately- not consulting with flesh and blood-heessays to preach the Gospel he has newly received! Then he retires a little while, that he may more fully understand the Wordof God. From the desert of Arabia, where he has girded his loins, and strengthened himself by meditation and personal mortification,he comes out. Not taking counsel with the Apostles, nor asking their guidance or their approbation, but at once, with singularcourage, proclaiming the name of Jesus, and proclaiming that he, himself, also is an Apostle of Christ! You will rememberthat after this, he undertook many difficult things-he withstood Peter to his face-no easy task with a man so bold and soexcellent as Peter was, but Peter might be a timeserver-Paul never! Paul rebukes Peter, even to his face. And then mark hisown achievements, as he describes them himself, "In labors more abundant, in stripes above measure." "In prisons more frequent,in deaths often. Of the Jews five times received I forty stripes save one. Thrice was I beaten with rods, once was I stoned,thrice I suffered shipwreck; a night and a day I have been in the deep; in journeys often, in perils of waters, in perilsof robbers, in perils by my own countrymen, in perils by the heathen, in perils in the city, in perils in the wilderness,in perils in the sea, in perils among false brethren. In weariness and painfulness, in marches often, in hunger and thirst,in fasting, in cold and nakedness. Beside those things that are without, that which comes upon me daily, the care of all theChurches." Ah, bravely spoken, Beloved Paul! Yours was no empty boast. You have, indeed, in your life, preached a sermon uponthe text, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
And now, my dear Friends, looking up to Christ who strengthens me, I shall endeavor to speak of my text under three heads.First, the measure of it; secondly, the manner ofit/and thirdly, the message of it
I. As for THE MEASURE OF IT. It is exceeding broad; for it says, "I can do all things." We cannot, of course, mention "allthings," this morning; for the subject is illimitable in its extent. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
But let us notice that Paul here meant that he could endure all trials. It matters not what suffering his persecutors mightput upon him, he felt that he was quite able, through Divine Grace, to bear it; and no doubt though Paul had seen the insideof almost every Roman prison, yet he had never been known to quake in any one of them; though he understood well the deviceswhich Nero had invented to put torment upon Christians-he had heard, in his cell, no doubt, of those who were smeared withpitch and set on fire in Nero's gardens to light his festivities; though he had heard of Nero's racks and chains, and hotpincers, yet Paul felt persuaded that rack and pincers, and boiling pitch, would not be strong enough to break his faith."I can endure all things," he says, "for Christ's sake." He daily expected that he might be led out to die, and the dailyexpectation of death is more bitter than death, itself, for what is death? It is but a pang, and it is over! But the dailyexpectation of it is fearful; if a man fears death, he feels a thousand deaths in fearing one; but Paul could say, "I diedaily," and yet he was still steadfast and immovable in the hourly expectation of a painful departure! He was ready to beoffered up, and made a sacrifice for his Master's cause. Every child of God, by faith, may say, "I can suffer all things."What, though today we are afraid of a little pain; though perhaps the slightest shooting pang alarms us-yet I do not doubt,if days of martyrdom should return-the martyr spirit would return with martyrs' trials! And if once more, Smithfield's firesneeded victims, there would be innumerable victims found-holocausts of martyrs would be offered up before the shrine of theTruth of God-let us be of good courage under any temptation or suffering we may be called to bear for Christ's sake, for wecan suffer it all through Christ who strengthens us.
Then Paul also meant that he could perform all duties. Was he called to preach? He was sufficient for it, through the strengthof Christ; was he called to rule and govern in the Churches-to be, as it were, a traveling overseer, and bishop of the flock?He felt that he was well qualified for any duty which might be laid upon him, because of the strength which Christ would surelygive. And you, too, my dear Brother, if you are called this day to some duty which is new to you, be not behind the Apostle,but say, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I have seen the good man disappointed in his best hopes;because he has not won the battle in the first charge, he lays down his arms saying, "I feel that I can do no good in thisworld. I have tried, but defeat awaits me. Perhaps it were better that I should be still and do no more." I have seen thesame man, too, for a while lie down and faint, "Because," he said, "I have sown much, but I have reaped little; I have strewedthe seed by handfuls, but I have gathered only here and there an ear of precious grain." O be not a coward-play the man! Christputs His hand upon your loins today, and He says, "Up and be doing." And do you reply, "Yes, Lord, I will be doing, for Ican do all things through Christ who strengthens me." I am persuaded there is no work to which a Christian can be called forwhich he will not be found well qualified. If his Master should appoint him to a throne, he would rule well, or should Hebid him play the menial part, he would make the best of servants-in all places and in all duties the Christian is always strongenough, if the Lord his God is with him! Without Christ he can do nothing, but with Christ he can do all things!
This is also true of the Christian's inward struggles with his corruptions. Paul, I know, once said, "O wretched man thatI am, who shall deliver me from the body of this death?" But Paul did not stay there-his music was not all in a minor key!Right quickly he mounts the higher chords and sings, "But thanks be to God who gives us the victory through our Lord JesusChrist." I may be addressing some Christians who have naturally a very violent temper, and you say you cannot curb it. "Youcan do all things through Christ who strengthens you." I may be speaking to another who has felt a peculiar weakness of disposition,a proneness to be timid and yielding. My Brother, my Sister, you shall not disown your Lord, for through Christ who strengthensyou, the dove can play the eagle, and you who are timid as a lamb can be mighty and courageous as a lion! There is no weaknessor evil propensity which the Christian cannot overcome. Do not come to me and say, "I have strived to overcome my naturalslothfulness, but I have not been able to do it." I do declare, Brother, Sister, that if Christ has strengthened you, youcan do it! I don't believe there exists anywhere under Heaven a more lazy man than myself naturally. I would scarcely stirif I had my will, but if there is a man under Heaven who works more than I do, I wish him well through his labors! I haveto struggle with my sloth, but through Christ, who strengthens me, I overcome it! Do not say you have a physical incapacityfor strong effort; my Brothers and Sisters, you have not-you can do all things through Christ who strengthens you! A braveheart can master even a sluggish life. Often do I find Brethren who say, "I hope I am not too timid or too rash in my temper,or that I am not idle; but I find myself inconstant, I cannot persevere in anything." My dear Brothers and Sisters, you can!You can do all things through Christ who strengthens you. Do not sit down and excuse yourself by saying, "Another man cando this, but I cannot. The fact is, I was made with this fault-it was in the original mold-and it cannot be gotten rid of.I must make the best I can of it." You can get rid of it, Brother, there is not a Hittite or a Jebusite in all Canaan thatyou cannot drive out! You can do nothing of yourself, but Christ being with you, you can make their high walls fall flat evenas the walls of Jericho! You can go upon the tottering walls, and slay the sons of Anak, and although they are strong men,who like the giants had six toes on each foot and six fingers on each hand, you shall be more than a match for them all! Thereis no corruption, no evil propensity, no failing that you cannot overcome, through Christ who strengthens you! And there isno temptation to sin from without which you cannot also overcome through Christ who strengthens you!
Sitting one day this week with a poor aged woman who was sick, she remarked that oftentimes she was tempted by Satan. "Andsometimes," she said, "I am a little afraid, but I do not let other people know, lest they should think that Christ's disciplesare not a match for Satan. Why, Sir," she said, "he is a chained enemy, is he not? He cannot come one link nearer to me thanChrist lets him; and even when he roars ever so loudly I am not afraid with any great fear of him, for I know it is only roaring-hecannot devour the people of God." Now, whenever Satan comes to you with a temptation, or when your companions, or your business,or your circumstances suggest a sin, you are not timidly to say, "I must yield to this; I am not strong enough to stand againstthis temptation." You are not in yourself, understand that; I do not deny your own personal weakness; but through Christ,who strengthens you, you are strong enough for all the temptations that may possibly come upon you! You may play the Josephagainst lust; you need not play the David-you may stand steadfast against sin! You need not to be overtaken like Noah-youneed not be thrown down to your shame, like Lot-you maybe kept by God, and you shallbe. Only lay hold on that Divine strength,and if the world, the flesh, and the devil should beleaguer and besiege you day after day, you shall stand not only a siegeas long as the siege of old Troy, but 70 years of siege shall you be able to stand, and at last to drive your enemies awayin confusion, and make yourselves rich upon their spoils. "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
Though I despair of explaining the measure of my text, so as to classify even the tenth part of, "all," let me make one furtherattempt. I have no doubt that the Apostle especially meant that he found himself able to serve God in every state. "I knowhow to be abased, and I know how to abound-everywhere and in all things I am instructed to be full and to be hungry, bothto abound and to suffer need." Some Christians are called to sudden changes, and I have marked many of them who have beenruined by their changes. I have seen the poor man exceedingly spiritual-minded; I have seen him full of faith with regardto Divine Providence, and living a happy life upon the bounty of his God, though he had but little. I have seen that man acquirewealth and I have marked that he was more stingy; that he was, in fact, more straitened than he was before! He had less trustin God, less liberality of soul. While he was a poor man, he was a prince in a peasant's garb; when he became rich, he waspoor in a bad sense-mean in heart with means in hand. But this need not be! Christ strengthening him, a Christian is readyfor all places. If my Master were to call me this day from addressing this assembly to sweep a street-crossing, I know notthat I should feel very contented with my lot for a while; but I do not doubt that I could do it through Christ who strengthensme! And you, who may have to follow some very humble occupation, you have had Divine Grace enough to follow it, and to behappy in it, and to honor Christ in it! I tell you, if you were called to be a king, you might seek the strength of Christ,and say in this position, too, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me." You ought to have no choice as towhat you shall be. The day when you gave yourself up to Christ, you gave yourself up wholly to Him; to be His soldier, andsoldiers must not be choosers. If they are called to lie in the trenches; if they are bid to advance under a galling fire,they must do it. And so must you, feeling that whether He bids you do one thing or another in all states and in all circles,you can do what God will have you do, for through Him you can do all things!
To conclude upon this point, let me remind you that you can do all things with respect to all worlds. You are here in thisworld, and can do all things in respect to this world. You can enlighten it; you can play the Jonah in the midst of this modernNineveh; your own single voice may be the means of creating a spiritual revival! You can do all things for your fellow men;you may be the means of uplifting the most degraded to the highest point of spiritual life; you can doubtless, by resistingtemptation, by casting down high looks, by defying wrath, by enduring sufferings-walk through this world as a greater thanAlexander, looking upon it all as being yours-for your Lord is the Monarch of it. "You can do all things." Then may you lookbeyond this world into the world of spirits. You may see the dark gate of death. You may behold that iron gate and hear itcreaking on its awful hinge; but you may say, "I can pass through that; Jesus can meet me; He can strengthen me, and my soulshall stretch her wings in haste, fly fearless through death's iron gate, nor fear the terror as she passes through! I cango into the world of spirits, Christ being with me, and never fear." And then look beneath you. There is Hell, with all itsdemons, your sworn enemy. They have leagued and banded together for your destruction. Walk through their ranks and as theybite their iron bonds in agony and despair, say to them as you look in their face, "I can do all things." And if loosed fora moment, if Diabolus should meet you in the field, and Apollyon should stride across the way and say, "I swear by my infernalden that you shall come no further; here will I spill your soul"-up at him! Strike him right and left, with this for yourbattle cry, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me," and in a little while he will spread his dragon wingsand fly away! Then mount up to Heaven; from the lowest deeps of Hell ascend to Heaven! Bow your knees before the eternal Throne;you have a message; you have desires to express, and needs to be fulfilled, and as you bend your knees, say, "O God, in prayerI can prevail with You; let me wonder to tell it; I can overcome Heaven itself by humble, faithful prayer." So you see, inall worlds-this world of flesh and blood, and the world of spirits in Heaven and earth and Hell-everywhere, the Believer cansay, "I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me."
II. Thus have I discussed the first part of our subject-the measure-I shall now talk for awhile upon THE MANNER.
How is it that Christ strengthens His people? None of us can explain the mysterious operations of the Holy Spirit; we canonly explain one effect by another. I do not pretend to be able to show how Christ communicates strength to His people bythe mysterious in-flowing of the Spirit's energy; let me rather show what the Spirit does, and how these acts of the Spirit,which He works for Christ, tend to strengthen the soul for "all things."
There is no doubt whatever that Jesus Christ makes His people strong by strengthening their faith. It is remarkable that verymany poor, timid, and doubting Christians during the time of Queen Mary's persecution were afraid, when they were arrested,that they would never bear the fire. But a singular circumstance is that these generally behaved the most bravely, and playedthe man in the midst of the fire with the most notable constancy. It seems that God gives faith equal to the emergency, andweak faith can suddenly sprout and swell, and grow, till it comes to be great faith under the pressure of a great trial! Oh,there is nothing that braces a man's nerves like the cold winter's blast; and so, doubtless, the very effect of persecutionthrough the agency of the Spirit going with it, is to make the feeble strong!
Together with this faith, it often happens that the Holy Spirit also gives a singular firmness of mind-I might almost callit a celestial obstinacy of spirit. Let me remind you of some of the sayings of the martyrs, which I have jotted down in myreadings. When John Ardley was brought before Bishop Bonner, Bonner taunted him, saying, "You will not be able to bear thefire; that will convert you! The fire wood will be sharp preachers to you." Said Ardley, "I am not afraid to try it, and Itell you, Bishop, if I had as many lives as I have hairs on my head, I would give them all up sooner than I would give upChrist." That same wicked wretch held the hand of poor John Tomkins over a candle, finger by finger, saying to him, "I'llgive you a taste of the fire before you shall go there," and as the fingers cracked and spurted forth, Tomkins smiled andeven laughed in his tormentor's face, being ready to suffer as much in every member as his fingers then endured! Jerome tellsthe story of a poor Christian woman, who being on the rack, cried out to her tormentors as they straitened the rack, and pulledher bones asunder, "Do your worst; for I would sooner die than lie." It was bravely said-short, pithy words-but what a gloriousutterance! What a comment! What a thrilling argument to prove our text! Verily, Christians can do all things through Christwho strengthens them!
And not only does he thus give a sort of sacred tenacity, and obstinacy of spirit combined with faith, but often Christiansanticipate the joys of Heaven just when their pangs are greatest. Look at old Ignatius. He is brought into the Roman circus,and after facing the taunts of the emperor and the jeers of the multitude, the lions are let loose upon him, and he thrustshis arm into a lion's mouth, poor aged man as he is, and when the bones were cracking, he said, "Now I begin to be a Christian!"Begin to be a Christian-as if he had never come near to his Master till the time when he came to die! And there was Gordus,a, martyr of Christ, who said when they were putting him to death, "I pray you do not spare any torments, for it will be aloss to me hereafter if you do; therefore inflict as many as you can." What but the singular joy of God poured down from Heaven-whatbut some singular vials of intense bliss could have made these men almost sport with their anguish? It was remarked by earlyChristians in England, that when persecution broke out in Luther's days, John and Henry, two Augustine monks-the first whowere put to death for Christ in Germany-died singing. And Mr. Rogers, the first put to death in England for Christ, died singing,too-as if the noble army of martyrs marched to battle with music in advance! Why, who would charge in battle with groans andcries? Do not they always sound the clarion as they rush to battle, "Sound the trumpet, and beat the drums, now the conqueringhero comes"- indeed-comes face to face with death, face to face with pain, and surely they who lead the van in the midst ofsuch heroes should sing as they come to the fires! When good John Bradford, our London martyr, was told by his keeper, thathe was to be burned on the morrow, he took off his cap and said, "I heartily thank my God." And when John Noyes, another martyr,was just about to be burned, he took up a piece of fire wood, and kissed it and said, "Blessed be God that He has thoughtme worthy of such high honor as this." And it is said of Rowland Taylor, that when he came to the fire, he actually, as Ithink Fox says in his Monuments, "fetched a frisk," by which he means, he began to dance when he came to the flames, at theprospect of the high honor of suffering for Christ!
But in order to enable His people to do all things, Christ also quickens the mental faculties. It is astonishing what powerthe Holy Spirit can bestow upon the mind of men! You will have remarked, I do not doubt, in the controversies which the ancientconfessors of the faith have had with heretics, and persecuting kings and bishops, the singular way in which poor illiteratepersons have been able to refute their opponents. Jane Bouchier, our glorious Baptist martyr, the maid of Kent, when she wasbrought before Cranmer and Ridley, was able to nonplus them entirely. Of course we believe part of her power lay in the goodnessof the subject, for if there is a possibility of proving infant Baptism by any text in the Bible, I am sure I am not awareof the existence of it! Popish tradition might confirm the innovation, but the Bible knows no more of it than the Baptismof bells, and the consecration of horses! But, however, she answered them all with a singular power-far beyond what couldhave been expected of a countrywoman. It was a singular instance of God's Providential judgment that Cranmer and Ridley, twobishops of the Church who condemned this Baptist to die-that she said when they signed the death-warrant, that burning wasan easy death, and they had themselves to try it in later days. She said, "I am as true a servant of Christ as any of you,and if you put your poor sister to death, take care, lest God should let loose the wolf of Rome on you, and you have to sufferfor God, too." How the faculties were quickened to make each confessor seize every opportunity to avail himself of every mistakeof his opponent, and to lay hold of texts of Scripture which were as swords to cut in pieces those who dared to oppose them,is really a matter for admiration!
Added to this, no doubt, also, much of the power to do all things lies in the fact that the Spirit of God enables the Christianto overcome himself. He can lose all things because he is already prepared to do it; he can suffer all things, because hedoes not value his body as the worldling does; he can be brave for Christ because he has learned to fear God, and, therefore,has no reason to fear man. A healthy body can endure much more fatigue, and can work much more powerfully than a sick body.Now, Christ puts the man into a healthy state, and he is prepared for long injuries, for hard duties, and for stern privations.Put a certain number of men in a shipwreck; the weak and feeble shall die-those who are strong and healthy-who have not byvoluptuousness become delicate, shall brave the cold, and rigors of the elements, and shall live. So with the quickened, yetfeeble, professor; he shall soon give way under trial; but the mature
Christian, the strong temperate man, can endure fatigues, can perform wonders, can achieve prodigies-because his body is well-disciplined,and he has not permitted its humors to overcome the powers of the soul.
But observe that our text does not say, "I can do all things through Christ, which has strengthened'me." It is not past, butpresent strength that we need. Some think that because they were converted 50 years ago, they can do without daily suppliesof Divine Grace. Now the manna that was eaten by the Israelites when they came out of Egypt had to be renewed every day, orelse they would starve. So it is not your old experiences, but your dailyexperiences; not your old drinking at the well oflife, but your dailyrefreshing from the Presence of God that can make you strong to do all things.
III. But I come now to the third part of my discourse, which is THE MESSAGE OF THE TEXT. "I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me."
Three distinct forms of the message-first, a message of encouragement to those of you who are doing something for Christ,but who begin to feel painfully your own inability. Cease not from God's work, because you are unable to perform it of yourself.Let it teach you to cease from yourself, but not from your work! "Cease you from man whose breath is in his nostrils," butcease not to serve your God; rather in Christ's strength, do it with greater vigor than before. Remember Zerubbabel. A difficultyis in his path, like a great mountain, but he cries, "Who are you, great mountain? Before Zerubbabel you shall become a plain."If we did but believe ourselves great things, we should do great things. Our age is the age of littleness, because there isalways a clamor to put down any gigantic idea. Everyone praises the man who has taken up the idea, and carried it out successfully;but at the first, he has none to stand by him. All the achievements in the world, both political and religious, at any time,have been begun by men who thought themselves called to perform them, and believed it possible that they could be accomplished.A parliament of wiseacres would sit upon any new idea-sit upon it, indeed-yes, until they had utterly destroyed it! They wouldsit as a coroner's inquest, and if it were not dead, they would at least put it to death while they were deliberating. Theman who shall ever do anything is the man who says, "This is a right thing; I am called to do it; I will do it. Now, then,stand up all of you-my friends or my foes, whichever you will-it is all the same; I have God to help me, and it must and shallbe done." Such are the men who write their records in the annals of posterity; such the men justly called great, and theyare only great because they believed they could be great-believed that the exploits could be done!
Applying this to spiritual things, only believe, young man, that God can make something of you; be resolved that you willdo something for Christ, and you will do it! But do not go driveling through this world, saying, "I was born little." Of courseyou were, but were you meant to be little, and with the little feebleness of a child all your days do little or nothing? Thinkso and you will be little as long as you live and, you will die little and never achieve anything great. Just send up a thoughtof aspiration, oh, you of little faith.! Think of your dignity in Christ-not of the dignity of your manhood-but the dignityof your regeneratedmanhood, and say, "Can I do all things, and yet am I to shrink first at this, then at that, and then atthe other?" Be as David, who, when Saul said, "You are not able to fight with this Goliath," replied, "Your servant slew boththe lion and the bear, and this uncircumcised Philistine shall be as one of them." And he put his stone into the sling, andran cheerfully and joyously-so Goliath fell and he returned with the bloody dripping head. You know his brothers said at first,"Because of your pride, and the naughtiness of your heart, you came to see the battle." All our elder Brothers and Sisterssay that to us if we begin anything; they always say it is the naughtiness of our heart, and our pride. Well, we don't answerthem; we bring them Goliath's head, and request them to say whether that is the effect of our pride, and the naughtiness ofour heart. We wish to know whether it would not be a blessed naughtiness that should have slain this naughty Philistine! Sodo you, my dear Brothers and Sisters. If you are called to any work, go straight at it, writing this upon your escutcheon,"I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me-and I will do what God has called me to do, whether I am blessed orwhether I am left alone."
A second lesson is this-take heed, however, that you get Christ's strength; you can do nothing without that. Spiritually,in the things of Christ, you are not able to accomplish even the meanest thing without Him. Go not forth to your work, therefore,till you have first prayed; that effort which is begun without prayer will end without praise! That battle which commenceswithout holy reliance upon God, shall certainly end in a terrible rout! Many men might be Christian victors, if they had knownhow to use the all-prevailing weapon of prayer. But forgetting this, they have gone to the fight, and they have been defeatedright easily. O be sure, Christian, that you get Christ's strength! Vain is eloquence; vain are gifts of genius; vain is ability;vain are wisdom and learning-all these things may be serviceable when consecrated by the power of God-but apart from the strengthof Christ, they shall all fail you! If you lean upon them, they shall all deceive you; if you lack the all-sufficient strengthof Jesus Christ, you shall be weak and contemptible, however rich or however great you may be in these things.
Finally, the last message that I have is this-Paul says, in the name of all Christians, "I can do all things through Christwho strengthens me." I ask, not in Paul's name only, but in the name of my Lord and Master Jesus Christ, "How is it that someof you are doing nothing?" If you could do nothing, you might be excused for not attempting it, but if you put in the slightestpretense to my text, you must allow my right to put this question to you. You say, "I can do all things"-in the name of reason,I ask why are you doing nothing? Look what multitudes of Christians there are in the world. Do you believe if they were allwhat they profess to be, and all to work for Christ, there would long be the degrading poverty, the ignorance, the heathenism,which is to be found in this city? What cannot one individual accomplish? What could be done, therefore, by the tens of thousandsof our Churches? Ah, professors! You will have much to answer for with regard to the souls of your fellow men! You are sentby God's Providence to be as lights in this world; but you are rather dark lanterns than lights! How often are you in company,and you never avail yourself of an opportunity of saying a word for Christ? How many times are you thrown in such a positionthat you have an excellent opportunity for rebuking sin, or for teaching holiness-and how seldom do you accomplish it? Anold author named Stuckley, writing upon this subject, said, "There were some professed Christians who were not as good asBalaam's ass; for Balaam's ass once rebuked the mad prophet for his sin; but there were some Christians who never rebukedanyone all their lives long. They let sin go on under their very eyes, and yet they did not point it out; they saw sinnersdropping into Hell, and they stretched not out their hands to pluck them as brands, from the burning; they walked in the midstof the blind, but they would not lead them; they stood in the midst of the deaf, but they would not hear for them! They werewhere misery was rife, but their mercy would not work upon the misery; they were sent to be saviors of men, but by their negligencethey became men's destroyers."
"Am I my brother's keeper?" was the language of Cain. Cain has many children even at this day. You areyour brother's keeper!If you have Divine Grace in your heart, you are called to do good to others. Take care lest your garments are stained andsprinkled with the blood of your fellow men; mind, Christians, mind, lest that village in which you have found a quiet retreatfrom the cares of business, should rise up in judgment against you, to condemn you, because, having means and opportunity,you use the village for rest, but never seek to do any good in it! Take care, masters and mistresses, lest your servant'ssouls be required of you at the Last Great Day. "I worked for my master; he paid me my wages, but he had no respect to hisgreater Master, and never spoke to me, though he heard me swear and saw me going on in my sins." Mind, I speak, Sirs, to someof you! I would I could thrust a thorn into the seat where you are now sitting, and make you spring for a moment to the dignityof a thought of your responsibilities! Why, Sirs, what has God made you for? What has He sent you here for? Did He make starsthat should not shine, and suns that should give no light, and moons that should not cheer the darkness? Has He made riversthat shall not be filled with water, and mountains that shall not stay the clouds? Has He made even the forests which shallnot give a habitation to the birds? Or has He made the prairie which shall not feed the wild flocks? And has He made you fornothing? Why, Man, the nettle in the corner of the Churchyard has its uses, and the spider on the wall serves her Maker. Andyou, a man in the image of God, a blood-bought man-a man who is in the path and track to Heaven, a man regenerated, twicecreated-are you made for nothing at all but to buy and to sell, to eat and to drink, to wake and to sleep, to laugh and toweep, to live to yourself? Small is that man who holds himself within his ribs; little is that man's soul who lives withinhimself. Yes, so little that he shall never be fit to be a compeer with the angels, and never fit to stand before Jehovah'sThrone!
I am glad to see so large a proportion of men here. As I always have a very great preponderance of men-therefore, I supposeI am warranted in appealing to you-are there not here those who might be speakers for God, who might be useful in His service?The Missionary Societies need you, young men! Will you deny yourselves for Christ? The ministry needs you-young men who havetalents and ability-Christ needs you to preach His Word. Will you not give yourselves to Him? Tradesmen! Merchants! Christneeds you to alter the strain of business, and reverse the maxims of the present day-to cast a healthier tone into our commerce.Will you hold yourselves back? The Sunday school needs you! A thousand agencies require you! Oh, if there is a man here todaywho is going home to his house, and when he gets there will say this afternoon-"Thank God I have nothing to do." And if tomorrowwhen you come home from your business, you say, "Thank God I have no connection with any Church-I have nothing to do withthe religious world; I leave that to other people. I never trouble myself about that"-you need not trouble yourself aboutgoing to Heaven! You need not trouble yourself about being where Christ is-at least until you can learn that more devotedlesson-"The love of Christ compels me; I must do something for Him! Lord, show me what You would have me to do. and I willbegin this very day, for I feel that through You, Christ strengthening me, I can do all things."
God grant the sinner power to believe on Christ-power to repent-power to be saved; for, Christ strengthening him, even thepoor lost sinner, "can do all things"-things impossible to fallen nature can he do-by the enabling of the Spirit, and thepower of Christ resting on him!.