Sermon 472. Believers-Lights In The World
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 28, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Do all things without murmurings and disputing, that you may be blameless and harmless, the sons of God, without rebuke,in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation, among whom you shine as lights in the world; holding forth the Word of Life,that I may rejoice in the day of Christ, that I havenot run in vain, neither labored in vain." Philippians 2:14-16.
We shall be very far from the truth if we suppose that Christian precepts have suffered any degeneration of meaning. If weimagine that the precepts of the Gospel were more stern in Apostolic times than in these later ages, we labor under a verygross and dangerous delusion. Fresh from theabominations of heathenism the early converts would naturally be placed under the mildest rules, rather than the more severe.If the Gospel could have known a change, the Apostle would have given its easiest precepts at the first, and then in thesebetter days the whole Revelationwould have been brought out and more stringent precepts would have been proclaimed.
Since, however, it is contrary to the genius of the Gospel to be progressive in its Revelation, since it was all revealedat once, we must never imagine that the precepts given by Paul may be toned down and diluted to suit the present age. I sayagain, Brethren, if these men, fresh from the foulStygian ditch of heathen abomination and lasciviousness, were nevertheless exhorted to the greatest sublimity of holiness,much more is it incumbent upon us to arrive at a very high state of Christian perfection and walk very near to God and bevery close imitators of Christ.
May God help us to hear, this morning, the address which Paul gave to the Church in Philippi. May we feel its full forge inour consciences and embody its full meaning in our lives.
The Apostle says, "Do all things"-by which he seems to teach the activity of the Christian Church, for the Christian religionis not mere thinking or feeling but doing and working for God. "Do all things without murmurings," without murmuring at God'sProvidence-which was a common viceof the heathen, who, on their tombstones often recorded their protest against God for having removed their darlings andupbraided Him as cruel and unkind for taking away their relatives.
"Do all things without murmurings against one another" Let your love be so hearty and sincere that you do not envy your richeror more talented Brethren. Let there be no low whispers traveling through your assemblies against those who ought to be esteemedamong you. Whatever you do, let nomurmuring be mixed with it, but labor with delight and suffer with patience. Let there be no murmurings even against theungodly world. If they are unjust, bear their injustice in silence. Be not always offering complaints. There are a thousandthings which you might speak of, butit is better that, like Aaron, you should hold your peace. To suffer in silence shall dignify you, and make you greaterthan ordinary manhood-for then you shall become like He-who before His accusers opened not His mouth.
The Apostle continues, do all things without "disputing." Dispute not with God. Let Him do what seems good to Him. Disputenot with your fellow Christians, raise not railing accusations against them. When Calvin was told that Luther had spoken illof him, he said, "Let Luther call me a devil if heplease, I will never say of him but that he is a most dear and valiant servant of the Lord." Raise not intricate and knottypoints by way of controversy. Remember, you have adversaries upon whom to use your swords, and therefore there is little needthat you should blunt their edgesby dashing at the armor of your fellows.
Dispute not even with the world. The heathen philosophers always sought occasions for debate. Be it yours to testify whatGod has told you, but court not controversy. Be not ashamed to contend earnestly for the faith once delivered to the saints,but never do it in a spirit of meredebating-never because you wish to gain a victory, but only because you would tell what God has bid you reveal. "Thatyoumay be blameless." Men will blame you, but you must seek, as Chris- tians, to lead lives that give no occasion for blame.Like Daniel, compel them to say ofyou, "We shall not find any occasion against this Daniel, except we find it against him concerning the Law of his God."
Erasmus writes of his great adversary, Luther, "Even Luther's enemies cannot deny but that he is a good man." Brethren, forcethis tribute from an unwilling world. Live so that as in Tertullian's age, men may say as they did in his time, "Such-and-sucha man is a good man, even though he is aChristian." The heathens thought the Christians the worst of men, but were compelled to confess them to be the best, eventhough they were Christians. "Be you blameless and harmless," says the Apostle. The Greek word might be translated "hornless,"as if you were to be creatures notonly that do no harm but could not do any.
Like sheep that not only will not devour but cannot devour, for it were contrary to their nature. For they have no teeth withwhich to bite, no fangs with which to sting, no poison with which to slay. If you carry arrows, let them be dipped in love.If you bear a sword, let it be the sword of theSpirit, which is the Word of God. But otherwise, be everywhere, even among those that would harm you, "holy, harmless, undefiled,separate from sinners." "As the sons of God," the Apostle goes on to say-as if the dignity of our relationship should begetin us an equallydignified deportment. "Remember," says the old philosopher-"Remember, O Antigonus, that you are a king's son!" Remember,O Christian, that you are a son of the King of kings-even God Himself!
Soil not the fingers which are soon to sweep celestial strings. Let not those eyes become the windows of lust which are soonto see the King in His beauty-let not those feet be defiled in miry places, which are soon to walk the golden streets-letnot those hearts be filled with prideand bitterness which are soon to be filled with Heaven, and to overflow with ecstatic joy. As "the sons of God," rememberthat the eyes of all are upon you. More is expected from you than from other men, because you have a higher pedigree, foryou are descended from the veryhighest, Himself, and therefore should be the highest and best in the world.
The Apostle then adds, "without rebuke." Men whom the world cannot rebuke. Men who can stand right straight up and defy theirenemies to find any real fault in them. Men who can say without any Phariseeism, as Job did, "Lord, You know that I am notwicked." My Brethren, I would you were such thatmen must lie before they can revile you. I would have you men upon whose snow-white garments filth will not stick-who maybe, and must be slandered, but cannot be really rebuked. O Beloved, to use Paul's own words, "Be you sons of God without rebuke,in the midst of a crookedand perverse nation."
I have expounded the address of Paul. Permit me to remind you that all the while he is telling us to do this as the meansto an end-and what is the end? Why, that we may, "shine as lights in the world in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation."The means themselves are precious. To be"holy, harmless and undefiled," is a glorious matter of itself. But when such a bright thing becomes but a means, how excellentmust the end be! How desirable that you and I, and each one of us who has named the name of Jesus, should "shine as lightsin the world, holding forth theWord of Life"!
This brings me to the subject which I want to impress upon your hearts this morning. I would that every Believer here, whethermember of this Church or of any of the part of Christ's family, might see to it, that from now on he should shine as a lightin the midst of the darkness of this world,giving light to those that come within the range of his influence. There seems to me to be four things about which I maywell speak. First, here is publicity required-they cannot shine without it. Here is, secondly, usefulness intended. Here isthirdly, positionindicated-they are "in the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." And here is, fourthly, an argument suggested, that inthe day of Christ I may rejoice that I have not run in vain, neither labored in vain.
I. First then, here is A MEASURE OF PUBLICITY REQUIRED. You will note the text says they are to be lights. Now how can theybe lights without being seen, and of what use would they be if they could be unseen lights? I cannot tell! But then, theyare to shine, and how can they shine unless there issome radiance proceeding from them, and how this if they live in secret, and if they are never understood to be Christiansat all? But then, where does the text say they are to shine as lights?-in their house? No, "in the world." True, they areto be lights in their ownfamily-but moreover if they come up to the full standard of what they should be, they are to be lights in the world.
These three words-lights, lights shining, and lights in the world-most positively teach that a Christian must have some degreeof publicity, and that it is hardly possible for him to carry out his true character if he lives in such retirement and secrecyas never to be known to be aChristian. Some timid hearts there are, some gentle spirits, that shun altogether the exposure of their religion. They quoteNicodemus as if they did not know that Nicodemus is rather a beacon than an example. I would be far from crushing a tenderspirit, far from laughing at thenervousness which may keep a man in the back rank when he ought to stand in the forefront of the battle.
But if I should, by some Scriptural remarks, lead Christians to see that they are not to be always seeking retirement, butrather they must stand out and avow the Master. And if I can persuade the gentle spirit to bear its willing witness to Christ,thrice happy shall I be! Pharisees of old courtedpublicity. They could not give away one halfpenny in the street but they must sound a trumpet that everybody might see theirsplendid charity. They could not pray in their closet, but they must seek some corner of the street that every passerby mighthold up his hands in amazementat the man who was so good that he prayed even in the street!
The world has found this trick out. We usually say of ladies, when we find them working at parties, that they do not workat home. And we should surely think of people who pray in the streets, that they pray nowhere else. And of persons who showtheir charity publicly, that they show all that theyhave to show. Ostentatious religion nowadays is soon discovered and detected. But while we must be warned against the prideof the Pharisee, we must take care that we run not into another extreme. "Am I always to serve God by stealth? Am I neverto speak a good word for Christ lestsomebody should say I am proud?"
Your own conscience will be your guide in that matter. If you detect in yourself any desire to glorify yourself-then you arewrong in making your religion public at all. Plainly, if you discover that you are keeping back in order to get an easierpath for yourself-then you aregrievously wrong in seeking to hide your religion. If it is for God's honor for you to publish on the housetops what Hehas told you in the closet, do it. And if it is for Christ's honor to do only in the closet that which another man would doin the street, do it. Your consciencewill always teach you, if it is an enlightened conscience, when you might act boldly and when, on the other hand, you wouldbe cowardly.
I think there is no difficulty in steering between this Scylla and Charybdis. Any man with a little wisdom will soon discernwhat he ought to do. But do not, I pray you, make the Pharisee's pride an excuse for your cowardice. Never say, "I do notlike to make a profession because there are so manyhypocrites!" The more reason why you should make a profession that there may be some honest ones. Do not say, "Oh, I wouldnot, for fear people should think I am proud!" Why should you look at the fear of man which brings a snare-is it not yoursto obey God, rather than man?
I cannot understand Christ's words-"You are a city set on a hill which cannot be hid." Nor these, "Let your light so shinebefore men, that they may see your good works and glorify your Father which is in Heaven." Nor these, "He that with his mouthconfesses and with his heart believes on theLord Jesus Christ shall be saved."-I cannot understand these passages, if you are never to avow your faith, but keep yourreligion hidden up in a secret place and go to Heaven by stealth.
How much publicity, then, do we really think is necessary in a Christian? It is becoming that he should make a public avowalof his faith. He should come out from among the world and declare himself to be on the Lord's side. There is an ordinancewhich God has Himself ordained, which is the properway in which to make this profession-to be baptized in water, in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HolySpirit-thus openly being buried in water to show our death to the world, and rising out of the water to show that we hopeto live a new life as theresult of the resurrection of Christ from the dead.
If you should differ as to the form in which this profession is to be made, yet the profession should be made. If you wouldbe honest and true, you must in answer to the Master's summons, "Who is on the Lord's side?" come out and say, "Here am I,Lord, I am Your servant and I would serve You evento the end." You should also be associated constantly with Christian people. The one act of profession is not enough-itshould be continued by union with some visible Church of Christ. We find in the Apostle's days that those who were convertedwere added to the Church. It iswritten, "They first gave their own selves to the Lord and unto us by the will of God."
Christianity requires you to unite yourselves with those who are united to Christ. If the Church of Christ is the spouse ofJesus, you should seek to be a member of her visibly, as well as invisibly-especially you that are lately converted, for yourpresence in the Church is for your good,and much for the Church's comfort. The man that was healed stood with Peter and John. And it is written, when they saw theman that was healed standing with Peter and John, they could say nothing against them. The gathering together of the convertsto sustain the minister is a verygreat help in the propagation of the Truth of God as it is in Jesus.
Besides this association with Christians, there should be a daily carrying out of your Christianity in your life. It is notall that we say that shines. That may be only a flash, a sparkle, a display of fireworks-it is our daily acting which is thetrue shining out of Christ within. Let theservant prove her Christianity by being more attentive than any other. Let the master prove his by being more generous thanany other master. Let the rich man shine in his liberality. Let the poor man shine in his patience. Let each in every sphereseek to excel those who are not inChrist, that so everyone may prefer us in our position to the worldling in the same office, and take knowledge of us thatwe have been with Jesus and have learned of Him.
But to shine as lights, we must add the open testimony of our words. I will not give a rusty nail for your religion if youcan be quiet about it. I do not believe you have any. That which is nearest to the heart is generally most on the tongue.You must be constantly bearing your witness by thewords of your mouth for Christ, seeking to teach the ignorant, to warn the careless, to reclaim the backsliding and to bringthe wanderers to the Cross. You will have many opportunities in the sphere in which you move, avail yourself of them all,and so shall you shine as a light inthe world.
And there are times when you cannot shine without a very bold and stern decision for Christ. When the old Roman senator, inthe days of Vespasian, was told by the emperor that he might go into the senate house but he must hold his tongue, he answered,"I, being a senator, feel impelled to go intothe senate house, and being in the senate, it is the part of a senator to speak what his conscience dictates." "Then," saidVespasian, "if you speak you will die." "Be it known to you, O Emperor," said he, "that I never hoped to be immortal, nordid I ever wish to live when I mightnot speak my mind."
Brave Roman! We must have brave Christians, too, who say, "Being a Christian, it is mine to speak, and if that should costme all I have, and life itself, I never thought myself immortal, and I wish to die when I may not speak out that which Godhas written in my heart." There are times, I say,when if we should falter, or delay, we become traitors at once-make sure that in those "crises of your being"-you promptlyfollow your Lord.
So much of publicity I think is needed then-an open profession, a constant association with the Christian Church, a perpetualliving out of godliness, an open declaration of the same, and a deliberate decision when occasion shall present itself. Lookyou, Sirs, Christians are soldiers. If oursoldiers were to take it into their heads that they ought never to be seen, a pretty pass things would come to. What werethe soldiers worth when they shunned parade, and dreaded battle? Take off your regimentals, and be packing, Sirs! We wantnot men who must always lie skulkingbehind a bush, and dare not show themselves to friend or foe.
Christians are runners, too and what sort of runners are men who run in the dark? Not so, says the Apostle? He says, we are"encompassed about by so great a cloud of witnesses," and therefore bids us, "lay aside every weight and the sin that doesso easily beset us." What? Running match and nospectators! Ave Imperator! The champion salutes you! He prays you to dismiss the spectators. Conscript fathers, leave yourseats and you knights of the empire retire from the race! You common herd retire, or put your fingers to your eyes-here comesa runner who is so daintythat he cannot be looked at, a swift-footed racer who must be scrutinized by no vulgar eye or he will faint and lose thecrown.
Ha! ha! ha! ha! the mob laughs. "Ah," they say, "these are not the men to make a Roman holiday, these timid fools had betterplay with babes in the nursery, they are not fit to consort with men." What do you think of Christians who must have the stadiumcleared before they can enter the course?Rather, O sons of God, defy all onlookers. Crowd the seats and look on, you angels, and men, and devils, too-and see whatyou will. What matters it to the Christian, for he is looking unto Jesus! He runs not for you but for the reward-and whetheryou look or looknot-his zeal and earnestness are still the same. Christ is in him, and run he must, look on who will.
II. Secondly, here is in the text, USEFULNESS. "Well" says one, "if I were known to be a Christian what use would it be?"We will soon show you. One remark, however, I will make-the better Christian you are, the more public you will be-but theless will be thought of you! You havenoticed at night a star, it is only a little spark, but still it is very bright, and everybody says, "Do you see that star?"Yes, but there is a moon, why does not everybody say, "Look what a beautiful moon?" They notice the star first, because itis not usual to see stars sobrilliant. By-and-by, of a moonlight night, you will hear people say, "What a lovely moon!"
Now, in the daylight people do not say, "What a lovely sun!" No. "What a lovely landscape! What a beautiful view! Look atthe tints of those trees now the sun is shining!" Just so, the little Christian is like a star, bright in his little sphere.Others are like the moon, they excite admiration andattention to themselves. But a full-grown Christian, who should be perfectly conformed to the image of Christ, though givingmore light than either the moon or the star, would not be half so much looked at, for men would be looking at what he shedlight upon, rather than upon him.They would look to the doctrine that he taught rather than to how he taught it. They would be looking rather at the lessonof his life than at the life itself. So that if I should urge you to more and more publicity, it will not be for your sake,but that you may be more and moreforgotten, while the Truth of God is the more clearly seen.
But what is the use of lights, what is the use of Christians as lights? The answer is manifold. We use lights to make manifest.A Christian man should so shine in his life that those who come near him can see their own character in his life, can seetheir sins, can see their lost estate. He shouldso live that a person could not live with him a week without knowing the Gospel. His conversation should be such that allwho are about him should perfectly understand the way to Heaven. Things that men will not see and cannot see without him,should be very clear wherever he is.
Men sometimes read their Bibles and they do not understand the Bible because they want light. Like Philip, we should be willingto sit in the chariot and instruct the passerby, making manifest the meaning of God's Word, the power of God's Word, the wayof salvation, the life of godliness, and theforce of the Truth of God. May I ask each one of you, have you made men understand the Gospel better? "Ah," says one, "Ileave that to the minister." Then you have neglected your duty-repent of your great sin and ask God, now, to help you to bemaking manifest to all personswho come near you their sin and the Savior.
The next use of a light is to guide. The mariner understands this. When our sailors, some years ago had a Nore light, theythought they were getting on marvelously. But when they had the Mouse, the Maplin, the Swin Middle, and all the other lightson the sands, they soon found navigation mucheasier than it had been before. Every Christian should light some part of the voyage of life, and there should not be achannel without its light. Blessed pole star! How many a slave have you guided from the swamps and whips of the South up tothe country of the free? Blessed areyou, O Christian, if your light has led some soul to Jesus, to the land of the free, where the slave can never wear hisfetters again. I hope that you have often, when men have scarcely known it, pointed them the way to Christ, by saying, "Beholdthe Lamb of
Lights are also used for warning. On our rocks and shoals a lighthouse is sure to be erected. Christian men should know thatthere are plenty of false lights shown everywhere in the world. The wreckers of Satan are always abroad, tempting the ungodlyto sin under the name of pleasure. We must putup the true light upon every dangerous rock, to point out every sin and tell what it leads to, so that we may be clear ofthe blood of all men, shining as lights in the world.
Lights also have a very cheering influence, and so have Christians. Late one night we had lost our way in a park not far fromthe suburbs of London, and we were walking along and wondering where we were. We said, "There is a light over there," andyou cannot tell what a source of comfort thatcandle in a cottage window proved to us. I remember riding in a third class carriage, crowded full of people, on a darknight, when a woman at the end of the carriage struck a match and lit a candle-with what satisfaction was everybody's facelit up, as all turned to see it. Alight really does give great comfort. If you think it does not, sit in the dark an hour or two. A Christian ought to bea comforter-with kind words on his lips and sympathy in his heart-he should have a cheering word for the sons of sorrow.
Light, too, also has its use in rebuking sin. I think our street gas lamps are the best police we have. If those lamps wereout, we should need ten times the number of watchers, and there would be far more crimes. Why is it that thieves do not likethe light?-because their dark deeds can onlybe done in darkness. And how is it ungodly men do not like Christians? Why, because they rebuke them. And just as lightstend to make a city safe, and stop robberies and crime, so Christian men, when they are in sufficient numbers to act uponthe commonwealth, will make crime lesscommon-certainly they will compel it to hide its deformity under the shadows of night, whereas, before it might have walkedin the blaze of day with approbation.
But the Christian is a light in a very peculiar sense-he is a light with life in it. Turn the lantern upon that dead man'sface. You can see it cold and white, like the chiseled marble. Shoot the light right into his eyes. He does not see.
You cannot make him live by the power of any human light. But the Believer is God's lantern, full of the Holy Spirit- andit happens often that through our testimony God shoots into the eyes of the dead a light which makes them live-so that thedarkness of Hades gives way to thebrightness of Glory and the midnight darkness of the spirit is made to fly before the rising Sun of righteousness.
We have dwelt long enough upon the uses of these lights, and I may only say, in concluding this point, I wonder what is thegood of a Christian who is not thus useful to the world? He has a treasure but he hoards it. What is the good of misers whilethey live? They are like swine which onlyeat-they are of no service till they die. Then they are cut up and their estates are pulled into pieces. And perhaps somegood may be gotten by those who gets something to eat from them. Vile is the wretch who hoards gold, but what is he who hoardsbread? The world is starvingand they hoard the Bread of Life. It is like manna-it breeds worms and they cannot eat it themselves, but they will notgive it to others.
A religion that is no blessing to others, is no blessing to me-I am just laying up for myself a mass of putridity. It willnever do my soul good, or else it would have compelled me to do good to others. But they are hoarding water, the Living Water.They are damming up the stream to keepenough for themselves, and what is it doing? It is covered with rank weeds. It breeds malaria. It turns foul. All mannerof loathsome creatures are in it. They are more foolish still, they are trying to hoard up the light, as if they would haveany the less if they let others haveit. Hoard up light as if there were only a scant supply.
Infamous! Diabolical! I wish there were a stronger word than that, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him beAnathema Maranatha," says Paul. And I question whether that dreadful anathema does not include within it those who do notlove souls, and therefore prove they do not loveChrist. For if they loved Christ they must love sinners. If they loved Jesus they must seek to extend His kingdom and tolet Him see of the travail of His soul.
III. But time waits not for me and I must proceed to touch with brevity upon the third point-POSITION INDICATED.
"But," says one, "I cannot shine, it is of no use talking about it, I am not in a position to do any good." The Apostle anticipatesyou. He says, "In the midst of a crooked and perverse nation." "If I were to remove from this," says one, "I might serve theLord's cause, but I cannot where I am."But, dear Friend, you are not to get out of it, you are to speak for your Lord where you are.
In the midst of that crooked and perverse nation you are to shine as lights in the world. Your position teaches you threethings. First of all, it should be an incentive to you. The worse the people are among whom you live, the more need have theyof your exertions. If they are crooked, the morenecessity that you should set them straight. And if they are perverse, the more need have you to turn their proud heartsto the Truth of God. The worse your position is, the more thankful you ought to be that you are in it. Where should the physicianbe but where there are manysick? Where is honor to be won by the soldier but in the hottest fire of the battle?
Do not blame your position if you are an unprofitable servant, but lay the blame upon yourself. If you find it hard to dogood where you are, it will be harder anywhere else. As the bird that wanders from her nest, so is the man that wanders fromhis place. Lazy workmen find fault with their toolsand employers. If you transplant a tree to make it produce more fruit, you may possibly succeed, but there are nine chancesto one that you will kill it altogether.
Again, as you are in such a position, let it administer a caution to you. They are a crooked and perverse nation, do not wonder,therefore, if they hate your light and try to blow it out. Be the more anxious not to give them any unnecessary offense. Letyour goodness be the only fault they can findin you. Ask the Lord to keep your lamp well trimmed for you. Beseech Him to protect it from their malicious breath. Be themore anxious to cultivate a close acquaintance with Christ, because a crooked nation would decoy you from Him. Do not tryto please men-make not theopinion of this generation your rule, for it is very crooked-and if you travel one way you will not please them unless youturn the other way, and then turn again to humor their crooks.
One is often amused to find one's self publicly abused for doing the very thing the opposite of which one was abused for theweek before! And sometimes in the same newspaper article you will nowadays catch the writer first falling foul with you fordoing one thing, and then falling foul with youfor not doing it again. It is a crooked and perverse nation- the man who tries to please man shall find himself in a labyrinthof the most mazy kind. He shall be a wretched time server all his life and a detestable hypocrite even to his death. Sucha man, to use a rusticsimile, is like a toad under a harrow, he will have to be crawling continually to escape the spikes on the right and theiron ties on the left. And he will probably die a miserable death with the iron in his soul at the last. Be cautious, butbe particularly cautious againstexcessive caution. Please the Lord and let men please themselves.
Once more, while the eyes of perverse men should be an incentive and a caution to you, do not forget the rich consolationafforded by the fact that all the saints have endured the like trial. Are you in the midst of a crooked people? So was Paul.So was the Church at Philippi-so are all thesaints. Remember that as they won their crowns in a strife which was none of their choosing, so must you. They were notcarried on beds of down to Heaven, and you must not expect to travel more easily than they. They had to hazard their livesunto the death in the high places of thefield, and you shall not be crowned till you also have endured hardness as a good soldier of Jesus Christ.
The road of your pilgrimage will not be smooth if it is the way of the Apostles and Prophets. Soft raiment, delicate nursing,dainty feeding and luxurious ease belong to the palaces of earth-but not to the company without the camp who bear their Lord'sreproach. I charge you, O servants ofthe Lord, and you who are members of this Church especially, stand fast, wait, watch and wrestle. Be steadfast, unmovable,always abounding in the work of the Lord.
IV. To conclude, there is an ARGUMENT SUGGESTEAD. It is a very affectionate and touching one which I mean to take the libertyof applying to you, my Beloved flock. "That I may not run in vain, nor labor in vain in the day of Christ." The Apostle wasthe founder of the Church at Philippi. He hadwatched over them with all the anxiety of one who had planted and watered, and who looked for the increase. He thereforeappealed to the affection which he knew they had for him. "I have run," argues the Apostle, "with all men looking on and gazing-manyof them hating andscoffing. I have run with all my might, would you have me run in vain? I have labored, I have labored more than they all,"the Apostle could say, "would you have me labor for nothing?"
He knew the answer they would give him would be, "No, Beloved Paul, we would see you win the prize for which you did run,and reap the fruit for which you did labor." "Well," argues the Apostle, "but I cannot, except you shine as lights in theworld. You disappoint my hopes, you snatch the prizefrom my grasp, you fill me with anguish, if you are not holy, heavenly-minded witnesses for Christ." I use the same argumentwith you. To the stranger here today it will have no force. But with many of you I know it will be an argument of power.
How many out of this congregation first learned of Jesus from my lips? A multitude of you were brought to Christ through thepreaching of the Word here, or in Park Street, or the Surrey Gardens, or Exeter Hall. The Word was feebly preached in roughlanguage, then, as now-but God ownedit-not to tens nor twenties, but to hundreds yes, to thousands of you-and, by His Grace, not to you only-but to people inevery land and of every kindred. The Lord has made my spiritual children as many as the stars of Heaven for multitude. I rejoice,yes, I mustrejoice, when I hear continually of the multitudinous conversions which are worked by the Holy Spirit through the sermonsboth printed and preached.
God is with us and He does not let one Word fall to the ground. But what if you, as a Church, should be idle? What if yourlives should be unholy? What if you should lack zeal and faith to testify for Christ? What then? My best expectations aredefeated, my life has been a failure, and all that Ihave done falls to the ground. I have thought it in my heart, and I earnestly pray to my God that it may come to pass thathere, as in a barracks, a great army may find its constant lodging place. That afterwards the Lord may pour you out like avast conquering host, upon all partsof the world, to teach and testify, and live and labor, and speak for Christ. Surely, my Brothers and Sisters, you woulddesire this yourselves! I pray for it! Will you unite in desiring it and praying for it with me?
It has happened of late, especially to me, to see God's hand very visibly. Never in my experience have I seen so much spiritualactivity as just now, and while it is true of all sections of the Christian Church, it has been peculiarly so of that sectionover which it is my lot to preside. Thesermons have been now for eight years scattered in English, Welsh, French, Dutch, German, Swedish-in fact, in all Protestantlanguages. At first there were many conversions-there are still. Next I find that those who were regular subscribers to thesermons begin toreceive the doctrine of the preacher. The converts to Christ grow and get clear views of the Truth of God. Even in the pointof Baptism there are great numbers who are convinced that it is most Scriptural that only Believers should be baptized. Verymany have come here, and in thepool beneath, I have baptized them into the name of Christ.
Our denomination does not increase. I am not very anxious that it should, for as it stands at present I have no great lovefor it. But our principles are spreading marvelously, and in this I must rejoice. As the result of this I have constantlyletters like this, "Sir, Sir, I live in a villagewhere the Gospel is not preached. There is a Church, it is true, but we have a Puseyite clergyman. Cannot you do somethingfor us? You have many young men training for the ministry, could you not send a friend to preach in my drawing room?"
Then comes another-"Sir, the Chapel has been shut up in our village a long time, could you not come and help us?" Then thereare many of this kind-two Christian men write, wishing to be baptized into Christ-they come, they go back. Within a monththere are four more from the samevillage. They go back and I almost forget them, but they do not forget me. Soon, the whole six will write a letter-thisis a common thing-and say, "Could not we be formed into a Church? We will find a room-can you send someone to preach to us?"This happens everyweek, and your minister feels that as long as ever he has a man, he will say, "I will do it for you." And as long as hehas any money of his own he will say, "Oh, yes, I will do it for you."
But every now and then he wishes that he had some who would stand by him in larger attempts. Cheerfully you give week afterweek for the support of our young ministers, and I think our friends will continue to do this. At any rate, the Lord willprovide and friends far away may be moved to assistus. I want still more aid, for the field is ripe, and we want more harvest men to reap it. It grows, the thing grows-everyday it increases. It started but as a little flake of snow and now like an avalanche it sweeps the Alps' sides bare beforeits tremendous force.
I would not now that you should prove unworthy of the day in which you live, or the work to which God has called us as a Church.Four Churches of Christ have sprung of our loins in one year and the next year shall it not be the same? And the next andthe next, if the Holy Spirit is with us, and Hehas promised to be with us, if we are with Him.
Now, in regard to the particular effort at Wandsworth, for which a collection is to be made. When I was sore sick some threeyears or more ago, I walked about to recover strength and walked through the town of Wandsworth. I thought, "How few attenda place of worship here. Here are various Churchesbut there is ample room for one of our own faith and order. Something must be done," I thought, "If I could start a manhere preaching the Word, what good might be done." The next day, some four friends from the town called to see me, one a Baptistand the three others were desirousof Baptism, "Would I come there and form a Church?"
We took the large rooms at a tavern and preaching has been carried on there ever since. Beginning with four, the Church hasincreased to one hundred and fifty. I have greatly aided the interest by going there continually and preaching and helpingto support the minister. Now, a beautiful piece ofground has been taken, and a Chapel is to be erected, and I firmly believe there will be a very strong cause raised. Wehave many rising Churches, but this one has just come to such a point, that a House of Prayer is absolutely needed. I shouldnot have asked you for this aid sosoon, but the rooms in which they worship are now continually used for concerts on Saturday evenings and are not altogetheragreeable on Sunday.
I would just as soon worship in one place as another, for my own part, but I see various difficulties are now in the way,which a new Chapel will remove. I hope you will help them in so doing. Help me in the earnest effort of my soul to hold forththe Word of Life and to let Christ's kingdom comeand His will be done. You that feel no desire to honor the Master-you that care nothing for the spread of His kingdom-youthat are satisfied to hold your heads down and not boast and glory in Him-stand back and assist us not.
But you who would help His kingdom-you who love His name-you who are the debtors of His Grace-help the cause everywhere, andhelp it this day. For Christ's sake, I ask it of you and by His Grace you will not deny me.