Sermon 569. The Arrows Of The Lord'S Deliverance
DELIVERED ON TUESDAY EVENING, MARCH 22, 1864, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE OPENING OF UPTON CHAPEL, LAMBETH.
"You should have struck five or six times. Then had you struck Syria till you had consumed it: whereas now you shall strikeSyria but thrice.
2 Kings 13:19.
THAT deathbed scene speaks volumes for the power of holiness. Elisha was the Prophet of God-a man of no honorable stationexcept that he is always honorable whom God calls to serve Him. Joash the king of Israel-who has often rejected Elisha's admonitionsand continued to worship in thegroves of Baal though Elisha had denounced them and had proclaimed that Jehovah, alone, was their God. Now the Prophet isabout to die at the good old age of ninety and Joash comes to weep at his bedside. It was something remarkable for the kingto come there at all. Kings do notoften visit deathbed scenes, especially the deathbeds of God's servants!
But it was something more remarkable for that king to stand and look upon the decaying form of the aged Prophet and to weepover his face. More notable still was the language in which the king expressed his sense of the value of the Prophet to theState-"O my Father, my Father, the chariot ofIsrael and the horsemen thereof." He felt as if now all his strength was cut off. The king had trusted in his cavalry, thoughhe had but a slender force, and he compares the Prophet to that which he looked upon as being the strongest arm of his militaryservice. Or he looks upon theState now as being a chariot with wild horses and no stately Prophet to stand erect and hold the reins. Now have the reinsdropped and where will the chariot go? It will soon be overturned and the mad coursers will drag it here and there. So theking, out of a sort of selfishrespect for the Prophet-for it was respect and yet it was selfishness-stands and weeps over Elisha's dying bed.
Dear Friends, let us seek to live so that even ungodly men may miss us when we are gone! It is possible for us in a quiet,unobtrusive manner to so adorn the doctrine of God our Savior in all things that when we die many shall say, "Let me die thedeath of the righteous and let my last end be likehis." And men shall drop a tear and close the shutters and be silent and solemn for an hour or two when they hear that theservant of the Lord is dead. They laughed at him while he lived, but they weep for him when he dies. They could despise himwhile he was here, but now that heis gone they say, "We could have better missed a less-known man, for he and such as he, are the pillars of the commonweal.They bring down showers of blessing upon us all."
I would covet this earnestly as a gift, not for the honor and esteem of men, but for the honor and glory of God, that eventhe despisers of Christ may be compelled to see that there is a dignity, a respect about the walk of an upright man. Yet thescene at the deathbed of Elisha, fragrant as it iswith the tribute of respect paid to the Prophet by an ungodly and unprincipled monarch, is memorable for the lessons thenand there taught the king. And not less suggestive is it of profitable instructions to us. I propose, therefore, first ofall to consider the significant sign.Then I want you to join with me in censuring the slack-handed king. After which we shall have no difficulty, I think, inunanimously justifying the righteous wrath of the Prophet.
I. VERY SIGNIFICANT WAS THE SIGN. Israel was at that time engaged in warfare against Syria. As a sign that God intended togive victory to His people, the king is bid to take the bow and arrows. Elisha, as God's representative, puts his hand uponthe king's hands. The window is opened and the arrowis shot. As it flies through the air, the Prophet says that that arrow is the arrow of the Lord's deliverance of His peopleout of the hand of Syria. The interpretation of this symbolic act is simple enough. God will save.
Deliverance is of the Lord but it must be accomplished by human instrumentality. Joash must take the bow and arrows, but thehands of Joash cannot make the arrow speed unless Elisha, the representative of God, puts his hands there. So the man, Divinelystrengthened by God, shoots the arrow and thedeliverance comes. Such, from the beginning of time even until now, has been God's ordinary way of blessing His people andof gathering in His chosen. He works. The instrumentality is nothing without Him. He takes care to elect means which, fromtheir very feebleness, convince themost skeptical that the power cannot be in the creature! While, at the same time He rarely effects any great thing for Hispeople apart from human agency.
God, who created all things, is the Agent. But He uses the creatures as tools and weapons in the hand of the skillful andthe mighty. He works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure. It is His pleasure. It is He who works in us. But thenit is for us to will and to do, because He works inus. Review the whole history of the Church as you find it in Scripture and you will see that this has ever been the fact.When God would save an elect company out of the mass of corruption grown, at last, too fetid for even His patience to endure,He saves the choseneight-how? By a miracle?
Call it a miracle if you will, but it was mechanical enough when Noah begun to lay timber upon timber, fastened them withnails and constructed the ark. It was a simple act of faith and a very rational act, too, to build a ship! Yet in that shipGod's chosen eight were preserved. You see the Graceof God and the obedience of Noah. You know that the Almighty devised the ark and human hands fashioned it according to thepattern He had given.
Go further on, to a yet more stupendous work of Divine power when God brought up His people out of Egypt with a high handand with an outstretched arm. When He led them through the sea as through the wilderness and made the depths stand uprightas a heap as though they were congealed in the heartof the sea. Here was God gloriously manifested so that the whole song was unto Jehovah and to Jehovah alone-"Sing unto theLord for He has triumphed gloriously, the horse and his rider has He thrown into the sea"!
Still, still, see you not that calm, meek man, rod outstretched, the symbol of abiding human instrumentality in the midstof Jehovah's wonders? God divides the sea, not Moses. But God divides not the sea without Moses' rod. So, too, when the Rockgave water in the wilderness, Moses' voice, andafterwards Moses' rod, must fetch the water out of that Rock. And when Jordan was divided, the feet of the priests wentfirst down to the river's edge and then-"What ailed you, O Jordan, that you were driven back?" Did the priests speak to it?Who dreams of such a thing? Andyet God did it not without the priests.
So was it with the capture of the various cities under Joshua. In that first and memorable one, the taking of Jericho, theydid but little when the walls fell flat to the ground on the seventh day. But you will remember that those walls did not falluntil the people had compassed the city the sevendays! Nor did they fall without the sound of the rams' horns and the shouts of the multitude. So again, turn to the timeof the Judges and how did God deliver His people then? Why, my Friends, you find at one time it is the ox-goad of Shamgar,and at another time it is the jawbonein the hand of Samson! Sometimes it is Gideon's lamp and pitcher and then it is Jephthah's good and true sword.
Ever is it true that God has means, selecting for His purposes things of earth to execute the fiats of Heaven. But I might,perhaps, weary you with mentioning the history of the kings and running on through the Prophets. Therefore let us come atonce to Apostolic times. Old Rome was to be subdued.The deep-seated idolatries of ages were to be rooted up and the fabulous deities were to be shaken from their pedestals.The Spirit of the Lord could do it in a moment-He might have convinced all men of the folly of idolatry-silently breathingupon human minds they mighthave been convicted of sin and turned to the great Father of Spirits.
A Revelation of Christ might have been given to every man without a single minister. But did He choose to do it? No, my Brethren,He did not. The twelve fishermen must first proclaim the Word and afterwards such men as Timothy and those who were the true"successors of the Apostles," must in everyregion preach the Words of Truth. Or, point me to a single period in the history of the Church where God has worked withoutinstrumentality and I will tell you that I suspect whether God has worked at all if I do not see the instruments He has employed.
Take the Reformation. Can you think of it without thinking of God? At the same time can you mention it without the names ofLuther, and Calvin, Zwingle and Melancthon? Then in the later Reformation in England, when our slumbering Churches were suddenlystarted from their sleep-who did it? TheHoly Spirit Himself-but you cannot talk of the revival without mentioning the names of Whitfield and Wesley-for God workedby means then, and He works by means still.
I used to notice a remark which was made concerning the revival in the north of Ireland, that there seemed to be no prominentinstrumentality. The moment I saw that, I mistrusted it. Had it been God's work more fully developed through instrumentality,I believe it had not so speedily come to aclose. We grant you that God can work without means and even when He uses means He still takes the Glory to Himself, forit is all His own. Yet it has been the rule, and will be the rule till the day of means shall come to an end, that just asGod saved man by taking upon Himselfman's flesh, so everywhere in the world He calls men by speaking to them through men of their own flesh and blood.
God Incarnates Himself-if I may use so strong an expression in a restricted sense-in His Spirit Incarnates Himself in thechosen men, especially in His Church, in which He dwells as in a temple. And then through that Church He is pleased to blessthe world. Now we must hold thisforever. We are not to let the arrows lie still and say, "God will do His own work. Elisha will shoot the arrows." Thisis idleness. We have had enough of this! Look at those Churches which say, "God will do His own work." You will find thatthe more these people talk about God'sdoing His own work, the more they sink into a fatal apathy.
No Sunday school. No care for the conversion of souls. Just bigotry, bitterness of spirit, carping and backbiting againstall those who are willing to labor in the Master's vineyard. And when they have entangled Brethren whose conversion was effectedunder other ministries than their own, they talkas if they had been re-converted and did not know the Truth of God till they heard the particular, excellent, superfine,hot pressed Gospel which they deliver! There is all that sort of thing among them. You see a spirit the reverse of amiable.A mind palpably contrary to that whichwas in Jesus Christ.
On the other hand, it is an equally dangerous error to suppose that we are to take the arrows and shoot without God. Thisis, in fact, the more dangerous of the two. Although, if I have to compare two devils together, I know not which is the worstof these evil spirits-the spirit that idlysays-"Leave it to God"-or the spirit which goes about God's work without depending on Him. O Lord of Hosts, it is not bymight, nor by power, but by Your Spirit! Nevertheless the love of Christ constrains us to spend and be spent in His cause.
II. And now, secondly, let us CENSURE THE SLACK-HANDED KING. The Prophet gave him the bow and the arrows and bade him shootdown upon the ground. It was left to him. God foreknew and had predestinated how many victories he should win. But still,at the same time, it is marvelous how our freeactions tally exactly with God's predestination! He is bid to shoot and he shoots once. He draws his bow and shoots again.A third time he draws the bow and then throws it down slack upon the ground.
The Prophet is angry with him for he will only have three victories. If he had struck the ground six times he would have hadsix victories. But inasmuch as he only shot the three times, he is only to have three triumphs. The king is to be censuredand censured severely. But as he is dead and goneand our censure cannot much affect him, let us censure those who now imitate him. And we think that we can find very manyof the same sort!
How many Believers have but little faith and seem quite content to have but that little? They cannot grasp the promise ofGod and believingly expect to have it fulfilled. They scarcely know their own interest in Christ. They are safe enough, butthey are generally wretched enough. They cannot takeGod at His Word and therefore their temporal troubles and their spiritual cares press very heavily upon them. Oh that theyhad Grace to strike the ground six times! Oh that they knew how to cast all their burdens on Him who cares for them! Oh thatthe Lord would give them new faithso that they would trust Him implicitly and leave their souls in the hands of Him who shed His heart's blood that He mightredeem them from wrath!
Why, I do not know, dear Friends, that there is any necessity for us to be always doubting and fearing and trembling! Somethink there is. But this is because they have not a high idea of the standing of the child of God and of the position whichGod would have him attain. They shoot the threearrows and they say-"I am saved, that is enough. I shall get to Heaven." Oh that they would go on shooting till they couldget a Heaven below, till they could begin by strong faith to-
"Read their title clear, To mansions in the sky," and rejoice with joy unspeakable and full of glory!
Then you see another class of people who are just the same as to their knowledge. They do not understand the deep things ofGod. They are content to know that which saves the soul from ruin and the remedy which is provided in Christ, but they donot know, and perhaps do not care to know, thedoctrine of God's electing love. They never dive into the doctrine of God's immutable faithfulness to His chosen people.They let the deep things of God lie still for strong men, but they, themselves, are content to be babes.
Oh, dear Friends, how much you miss who neglect to study God's Word. And what blessings do you cast away from yourselves whoare willing to be ignorant of the most sublime Truths of Revelation! I would that instead of shooting three times, you wouldhave Grace to shoot more and more and more tillyou comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths and lengths and breadths of the love of Christ which passesknowledge. You will see, perhaps, these same people, or others like them, who are very content about their daily walk andconversation. They are not drunkards.They do not swear. They are scrupulously truthful. They commit no breach of Sunday-but when you have said this, you havesaid about as much as you can say of them.
Their religion seems to have made them moral, but it would be difficult to perceive that it has made them holy. There is verylittle family prayer-not much interest taken in the conversion of the children. There is an angry temper, perhaps, which issomewhat curbed but still the Brotherthinks that it is impossible to curb it any more and so he tolerates himself in the occasional indulgence of it. There ismuch which is not inconsistent, perhaps, in the eye of the world, but which is most certainly not consistent in the mind ofthe Spirit of God. These Brethrenhave, in fact, shot three times and they have struck the ground once or twice, but they have not made a clean sweep of theirbesetting sins. They still tolerate some of them. They have not reached to a high point of holiness.
Now I am as far as anybody from believing that a man ever will be perfect in this life, but I will never be satisfied tillI am! And if I cannot be perfect, I will seek, by God's Grace, to get as near to it as possible. And this should be the laborof every Christian. Not in order to save himself,but because he is saved he should labor after the very highest degrees of holiness and seek that God might shine throughhim as through a lamp and that men may take knowledge of him that he has been with Jesus and learned of Him. High faith, highknowledge, high living-oh whatblessed Christians should we have if these three went together!
So, too, there are many Christians who do not shoot more than three times, inasmuch as they are content with very low enjoyments.Oh the many, the many professors who all their days are subject to bondage! Now Christ came to deliver such from the fearof death. And yet though Christ came to do it,it is not done in their case. They do not receive the Spirit of Adoption, but they seem to have received the spirit of bondageagain to fear, and they think that this is the rule with God's people. When they read of some saints who have climbed themountains and have had sweetfellowship with Christ, they say, "Ah, such men are uncommon and such experiences are like angels' visits, few and far between.We cannot get up to this."
I do believe, dear Friends, that this spirit creeps over us all. We read the biography of such a man as Brainerd and we shutup the book and sigh and say, "Oh I could never be so devoted as he was!" We have turned over the life of Whitfield and whenwe have read it, we have said, "Ah, a veryextraordinary man-a very extraordinary man! It is not likely that I shall ever get his zeal." And when we turn to the OldTestament and read of Abraham, we say, "Yes, Abraham's faith was very wonderful. But we do not look upon him as a patternwhich we are to imitate-webelieve that his faith is something set up high in a niche-to which we can never get."
My Brethren, this is all wrong! I believe that the Christian man ought not to be content to be equal with Abraham, becauseAbraham lived in the dark, before the Sun had risen. It was, at least, but twilight in Abraham's day. And yet if he had somuch faith when he could only see through the dimsmoke of sacrificial rams and bulls, how much more faith and confidence in God ought you and I to have when we see ChristHimself, and when God speaks to us through His Son? Shame on us that we are content to be such dwarfs when we might grow intogiants-that we are herefrittering away our time when we might immortalize ourselves and glorify our Lord.
How is it that we are content to bring forth a lean ear, and then a scanty ear, when there should be seven ears upon one stalk,like the plenty of Egypt? How is it that we have here and there a cluster, when instead, if we did but shoot more, if we hadmore faith and more confidence in God, wemight be like the grapes of Eshcol, whose clusters were too heavy for one man to carry? Yes, I am afraid there is in thisChristian land very, very much of this stopping short of what we might be. We do not press on and reach to that which is before,but saying, "I am saved," we arecontent and sit down before we reach the goal, or have apprehended that for which we were apprehended of Christ Jesus.
Now I want your attention for just a moment while I try to show some of the reasons why the king did not shoot more. I cannottell certainly, but I think some of the reasons which I am going to give you may be correct. Perhaps he felt rather tendertowards the Syrians. It is just possible that hefelt he did not want to hurt them too much. He would be victorious-he would get his enemy under his feet. But if he didmore he would crush him outright and he hardly wanted to do that.
So I think that some professors do not want to be too hard with their sins-they have a sort of hidden tenderness towards theirown corruptions. O, dear Friends, how very angry we get when somebody tells us a little too plainly about our faults! Andhow angry we are with anything which seeksto cut the throat of our favorite sin! Ah, we do not know how tender we are to our sins, any of us, whereas the viper'sbrood should be crushed in the nest! We are often saying as we wound them, "Yes, keep them under. But no-I could not givethem all up-I couldnot-no, I must have just a little indulgence. There must be this and that."
The laying of the axe to the root of the tree is not pleasant work. Lop the big boughs off if you like, but laying the axeto the root-no, we do not quite like that. There is in us, after all, through our natural corruptions, a hankering attachmentto our sins. The old man says, "Spare them,"and it needs much Grace and triumphant Grace, too, to say, "No! Hew them to pieces before the Lord and let not even thebest of the sheep or of the cattle be spared." Tenderness to sin will always check us in any great growth in Grace. We shallnot use God's bow as much as we shouldif we once begin to pamper self-indulgence, to cultivate our own ease and make provision for the flesh.
Again, perhaps the king did not go on to shoot because he thought it was hardly his business to be employed as a bowman. "Whyshould I stay here forever," says he, "shooting arrows? I did not object when the Prophet's hand was upon me, to shoot. Butto stand here and keep striking the ground ishardly the occupation for a king!" And then the thought, perhaps, that he should have three victories and that would beenough. "Why, it will be something wonderful! Three victories, one after another, will be quite enough to crown me with everlastingrenown and I do not want morethan that." And so he did shoot but three times.
And how many a Believer seems to say, "Can I always be keeping watch over my corruptions? Am I to be so precise and to liveso near to God? What? Am I to be so much in prayer? Am I to be such a Bible student, and to be so much occupied? No, if Ican overcome some of my sins and be a respectableChurch member and do a little in the Sunday school, and get to Heaven-that is enough." You do not want, you see, to be madegood. You do not want to be made Christlike. You do not want to be able to triumph over your sins. You mistake your high calling-youthink you arecalled to be a slave, when you are called to reign! You fancy that you are called to wear sackcloth, when you are bid toput on scarlet and fine linen! You think that God has called you to a dunghill, whereas He has called you to a throne! Youimagine that you are to be but here andthere-the skirmishers in the battle-when He has called you to stand in the front rank and to fight constantly for His cause.
I think, also, that the king may have begun to doubt whether the victories would really come. He knew very well that he hadnot many soldiers and that Syria was very strong, so he thought, "Well, it takes some faith to think that I shall beat themthree times, but it is not likely I shall do it thefourth." He doubted the Divine power and the Divine promise because of his own weakness. And many a Christian does that.I think, Brethren, that we who are in the ministry might do vastly more for God than we do, if, remembering our own weakness,we did not let that overshadow God'sstrength.
Why, what cannot a man do when he has faith in God? Without Christ we can do nothing. But remember the converse of that proposition-thatwith Him we can do all things. If He will be with me I can do all things, or can bear all sufferings. Let us not forget this.And never let a sense of humanweakness mar our clear perception of the might and majesty of God. Let us shoot often, for as often as we shoot, God willanswer our faith.
And do you not think, too, that it is very likely that the king despised the Prophet's plans? Why, he seemed to say, thiswas absurd, striking the ground in this way! If there were any men to be shot at, he would not spare the arrows. But to strikethe ground in this way-absurd! Ridiculous!So, too often, we miss a blessing because we do not like God's plans. We have got some new scheme of our own. It is notpreaching the Gospel-that is old-fashioned. We will try something else. It is better than going out into the highways andhedges and compelling them to comein. No, we want a shorter cut than that! We keep fancying that if we were to give up some ordinance-perhaps if we held ourtongues about Baptism-or if we were to cut about this doctrine and that, we should get on better.
Ah, this is all wrong, dear Friends. Carnal policy may take its place in the cabinet and in the government of the land, butnever in the House of God! If right is right, pursue it. If God commands it, do it and leave the consequences to Him! If Hebids you shoot on the ground, you shoot on theground. You may see no Assyrian there. But every time you shoot, that arrow finds the heart of your enemy and shall layhim low.
I would, dear Friends, that I could so speak tonight as to give the members of this Church a very high and noble ambitionto do much and to get much for God-to get much Grace-to have much holiness-to do much work. In fact, I wish I could bringyou into such a state of heart as theProphet wished to see in Joash-that you would take the arrows and shoot them off.
III. THE RIGHTEOUS WRATH OF THE PROPHET is our third point. And we think WE CAN WELL JUSTIFY HIS ANGER. We do not like tosee either an old man, or a dying man angry. But I think the Prophet here did well to be angry, even though at the hour ofhis death. Oh how he loved the people and how he weptto think that their king was standing in their light and was robbing them of precious privileges!
Now when I look, dear Friends, upon many Church members and see how utterly idle and careless they are about Christ's causeand how many professors seem to be as dead as the seats they sit upon and to have no more Grace than worldlings, I think ifmy soul were warmed with something like a holypassion against them, I might say, with more truth than Jonah, "I do well to be angry." How much Israel suffers from theslack-handedness of the king! Oh, Christians, you suffer yourselves! You miss a thousand comforts! What you might do for Godyou are unable to do! What you mightsit down and feed upon yourselves you utterly miss because you will not go on farther and seek higher attainments!
And all your Brethren suffer, too. Your prayers at the Prayer Meeting have not that fervor and unction which they would haveif you lived nearer to God. Your experience is not so profitable to them as it would be if you walked nearer to Christ. Thewhole Church treasury is robbed by you. Churchmembership is a sort of joint-stock company. We, each one of us, take out of that stock and put into it. There is a prayertreasury-we all want to be prayed for. There is taking out of it. We must all put prayers into the treasury and those memberswho do not pray-andare there such? And those members who do not yearn over souls-and are there not such? Those members who have no zeal forGod-and are there such?-rob the treasury of God! And I know not why I might not compare them to Ananias and Sapphira, forthey keep back a partof the price. God have mercy upon them for this!
The Church has greatly suffered on this account. Why, if this king had shot more arrows, Syria would have been quite overcomeand cut in pieces. But because he was slack in this, Syria waves her proud banner over captive maids and sorrowing widowswhose husbands have been slain in battle and weepin the streets of Samaria. The devil rejoices when he sees slumbering Christians! The world laughs in its sleeve at professorsnowadays because it says, "In the old Puritan times, when we saw a Christian we were afraid of him. Ah, when a man joinedthe Church in those days, he was aman who meant what he said. But ah, there are so many of them now who only join the Church to be respectable. And they onlygo to a place of worship because of custom that the people may trade with them and be cheated-that they may talk with themand hear such idle talk asthey would not hear from men in the streets, who never profess anything! Ah, we have almost overcome and destroyed the Churchwhen we see her members behaving so."
It is these people, who may be Christians, but who are only half Christians. These people who are not altogether cold, butwho still are not hot. These people whom I would not shovel away with the dross, but who nevertheless are so adulterated withbase metal that you can scarcely call them puregold. It is these people who make the daughter of Philis-tia to rejoice and the sons of the adversary to triumph. How Jehovah'sname was dishonored! In Assyria's streets they laughed at Jehovah. They said that their gods were greater than He. Oh whata shame it is that you and Ishould ever put Christ to more shame than He endured for our sakes!
My Brothers and Sisters, what do we think of ourselves if we have ever in any measure crucified the Lord afresh and put Himto open shame? It is not only inconsistent Christians who do this but those Christians who do not seek to come up to the standard-whoare contented to be poor in Gracewhen they might be rich. I believe that such persons bring much dishonor to Christ by their doubting, by their hard thoughtsof Christ, by their miserable countenances and often, too, by their want of zeal, their want of prayer and their shallownessin the ways of God.
Look abroad and see how busy men are in the world! When a man wants to make money, see how he rises early and sits up lateand eats the bread of carefulness! It is wonderful what ingenuity men put forth to get a fortune, what desper- ate attemptsthey make! How they will go to India and sweat underthe burning sky and brave the fever there. Why, there are thousands of England's sons who do this year by year. See howat the North Pole bold and brave men have sacrificed their lives to force a passage. Men have been willing, in scientificexperiments, to sacrifice socialcomforts, risk their health and forfeit their lives!
It seems to me that everybody is enthusiastic except Christians, and that men can get their blood hot on any subject exceptreligion! In these days the ice has been given to the Church of God and the fire has been cast upon the world. Look at thedevil's advocates, how they compass sea and land tomake one proselyte. If you are dead and dull, they will not be so here at your next-door neighbors-St. George's Cathedral!You may be careless about the poor, but they will not be! You may, perhaps, cease to be much in prayer and much in action,but you will find that theywill not cease their incantations!
Why, when the devil comes to a man he will say to him, "Come with me! I want you to leave your wife and children tonight!Come with me," and away the man goes to some low pot-house. "I want you to go in here," says the devil, and the man goes in-perhapsa respectable man, as the world has it."Now," says the devil, "I want you to drink ale and stout. It will make your brain reel. It will make your eyes red tomorrowmorning and perhaps send you into delirium tremors." "I will do it," says the man and he drinks it pleasantly and sweetlyas though he were drinking draughtsof Heaven's own nectar.
It may be that he goes reeling home, or has to be carried there, but he is quite ready to go again and again, though he maybeggar his children and see his weeping wife and his starving family. He does it all so cheerfully and thinks, in fact, thathe is a very fine fellow and is only enjoyinghimself, though he brings untold miseries unto his family. You will sometimes see a man go into vice and bring his own bodyto the verge of the grave and make himself a mass of rottenness at the command of the devil and yet he never grumbles at hismaster, never thinks of runningaway from him!
And here is my Lord, whose service is perfect freedom, who gives us to eat and to drink of better food than angels ever tasted!Who the more we do for Him the more He rewards us and the more strength He gives us to work with. And yet we are cold anddull and dead! And if we are asked to dosomething, we say we have so many calls. Or if we are asked to go upon some enterprise which has a little dishonor or discomfortconnected with it, we go back-would lie in bed and take our ease! Oh what a shame, what a shame this is!
Prophet, you did well to be angry! I would that some burning spirits would come among us and speak even bitterly to us, ifthey could but make us feel that-
"Life is real, life is earnest," and that the cause of Christ demands that spirit, soul and body should be at the highesttension, at the very sternest stretch, spending and being spent, even unto blood-resisting sin and contending for the masteryof Christ!
Well now, I took this text because it seemed to me-I do not know how it seems to you-as if it were a lesson to your ministerand to you tonight. Here you are, come into this new Chapel and into a neighborhood new to you. We who are come here fromother Churches, as the old Prayer Bookversion puts it, "Wish you good luck in the name of the Lord." We wish for you the highest and the best prosperity thatwe desire for ourselves. But we do want to impress upon you that while God will help you and stand by you, always rememberthat the Church must be active.
Every single individual must take his portion in this sacred fight, in this grand crusade against sin. I pray Brother Evansnever to stay his hand from the shooting of the arrows. If God shall bless him in one effort, let him go on to another. Ifhe sees seven souls converted, let him mourn that itis not eight. If he sees the place filled, let him, even then, not rest satisfied but let his cry still be for somethingbeyond. And, as the eagle rests not, but flies upward, ever facing the sun, such may his course be-onward and upward and trueto the line-until theMaster shall take him into His Glory in the rest which remains for the people of God.
And you who are here, do you sit still? Do not say, "Well, if we get these seats comfortably filled we shall be content."I hope you may have them filled, but I hope you will not, then be content! No, let it be your aim, then, to pray that Godwill convert the seat-holders, that the congregationshall become the Church. And do not be content, then! Ask that the aisles may be filled, that God will convert the standersand that your Church may burst the walls of the house in which you meet. Do not think that your standard of a Prayer Meetingis to be a low one. Do not beginto say, "If we have twenty or thirty at a Prayer Meeting that will do."
Why, many of our Churches are below even that standard! Do not be content even with fifty, but go on shooting. Yes, BrotherEvans, go on. And you members of this Church-go on shooting your arrows! Do not ask God for a little, but open your mouthwide and God will fill it! Take care that youopen it as wide as ever you can. Ask Him for great things and when you ask do not ask as though you thought you were veryventuresome. No, but ask because He is sure to give! Believe that God can and will give you a gracious justification for believingin Him. Ask, too, because Heknows what your hearts cannot even conceive of, for He is able to do exceeding abundantly beyond what you can ask!
Do not be content, I pray you, at Upton Chapel, with being a nice, respectable, strong Church in the denomination! Do notbe content with that! I say it very sorrowfully, but we have known some Churches which did run well. They have got a goodplace of worship, a very handsome building with littlebits of colored glass and the people's faces on Sundays are all sorts of colors. And when they have got to this pitch theyhave said, "Well, we are very respectable people. We do not want the poor people. We do not want to go into the lanes andhighways and hedges and fetch themin." In fact, they get sometimes to be like some of your old servants-you hardly know which is master and which is servant.And so the Lord may hardly know which is master in the Church-these people, or Himself-for they will not do what He tellsthem. They have gottoo big for that. They could do it once, but they cannot do it now.
Now that will not be the case here for years to come. I hope it may never be the case here. But may you ever be a faithfulChurch! May you ever be a working Church till the Lord Himself shall come. May God grant that you may keep on shooting yourarrows, that you may expect great things and dogreat things. And now, you members of the Church and all of us who are here present, let us consecrate ourselves anew untoGod. Let us ask ourselves tonight whether we have not been shooting too few arrows. Whether we have not thought too much ofthe little we have been doing.Whether we might not have done more. Whether we must not do more. Whether now, for the future, we will not believe God'spromises more firmly. Preach His Word more boldly. Tell it to others more frequently. Give to God more liberally. Pray toGod more earnestly, consecrate anddevote ourselves to the Lord more perfectly.
I am sure there is room for great improvement in the best of us. O Lord, what a spark is my love to You! Oh that You wouldblow it into a flame, till it were as coals ofjuniper! To use the words of an old minister-"David said, 'The zeal of Yourhouse has eaten me up,' but it will be a longtime before some people are eaten up. It has not begun to nibble at them yet and there is no fear of their being eaten up."
Now I would like to see a man "eaten up" with his religion! I would that the Christian would give himself up so completelyto the mighty whirlwind of Divine Grace that it might carry him away and make him but as a particle of straw in its tremendouscourse! The Lord grant you power and Grace thusto be given up to Him and thus to serve Him! May God now add His own blessing, for Christ Jesus' sake. Amen.