Sermon 687. Messengers Wanted
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, APRIL 22, 1866, BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Also I heard the voice of the Lord, saying, Whom shall I send, and who will go for Us? Then said I, Here am I! Send me."Isaiah 6:8.
God's great remedy for man's ruin of man is the sacrifice of His dear Son. He proclaims to the sons of men that only by theAtonement of Jesus can they be reconciled unto Himself. In order that this remedy should be of any avail to any man he mustreceive it by faith-for without faith menperish even under the Gospel dispensation. There is at the present moment great lack of men to tell out the story of theCross of Jesus Christ and many considerations press that lack upon our hearts. Think how many voices all mingle into thisone-"Who will go for Us?" Listento the wounds of Jesus as they plaintively cry, "How shall we be rewarded? How shall the precious drops of blood be madeavailable to redeem the souls of men unless loving lips shall go for us to claim by right those who have been redeemed byblood?"
The blood of Jesus cries like Abel's blood from the ground, "Whom shall I send?" and His wounds repeat the question, "Whowill go for us?" Does not the purpose of the Eternal Father also join with solemn voice in this demand? The Lord has decreeda multitude unto eternal life. He has purposed, witha purpose which cannot be changed or frustrated, that a multitude whom no man can number shall be the reward of the Savior'stravail. But how can these decrees be fulfilled except by the sending forth of the Gospel, for it is through the Gospel, andthrough the Gospel alone, thatsalvation can come to the sons of men!
I think I hear the awful voice of the purpose mingling with the piercing cry of the Cross appealing to us to declare the Wordof Life. I see the handwriting of old Eternity bound in one volume with the crimson writing of Calvary, and both togetherwrite out most legibly the pressingquestion-"Who shall go for us to bring home the elect and redeemed ones? The very sins of men, horrible as they are to thinkupon, may be made an argument for proclaiming the Gospel! Oh the cruel and ravenous sins which destroy the sons of men andrend their choicest joy inpieces!
When I see monstrous lusts defiling the temple of God, and many gods and many lords usurping the Throne of the Almighty, Ican hear the loud cry, "Who will go for Us?" Do not perishing souls suggest to us the question of the text? Men are goingdown to the grave perishing for lack of knowledge! Thetomb engulfs them, eternity swallows them up, and in the dark they die without a glimmer of hope! No candle of the Lordever shines upon their faces. By these perishing souls we implore you this morning to feel that heralds of the Cross are needed-neededlest these souls beruined everlastingly! Needed that they may be lifted up from the dunghill of their corruption and made to sit among princesredeemed by Christ Jesus! The cry wells into a wail of mighty pathetic pleading-all time echoes it and all eternity prolongsit-while Heaven,earth, and Hell give weight to the chorus.
Beloved, there are two forms of missionary enterprise conducted by two classes of agents. I so divide them merely for theoccasion-they are really not divided by any rigid boundary. The first is the agency of those specially dedicated to the ministryof the Word who give themselves wholly toit-who are able, by the generous effort of the Christian Church, or by their own means-to set their whole time apart forthe great work of teaching the Truth of God. As there are but few in this assembly who can do this, I shall not translatemy text in its reference toministers although it has a loud voice to such.
I shall rather refer to another and equally useful form of agency, namely, the Christian Church as a whole-the Believers who,while following their secular avocations, are heralds for Christ and missionaries for the Cross. Such are wanted here. Suchare needed in our colonies. Such might findample room in the great world of heathendom! Men and women, who, if they did not stand up beneath the tree to address theassembled throng, would preach in the workshop!
Who, if they did not teach the hundreds, would at the fireside instruct the twos and threes. We want both sorts of laborers,but I may do more good on this present occasion by stirring up this second sort.
You may all be teachers of Christ in another sense. You can all give yourself to the work of God in your own calling and promoteyour Master's glory perseveringly in your daily avocations. I lift up an earnest cry in God's name for consecrated men andwomen, who, not needing to wait till theChurch's hands can support them, shall support themselves with their own hands and yet minister for Christ Jesus whereverProvidence may have cast their lot. The person wanted, as described in the questions, "Whom shall I send? Who will go forUs?" The person wanted is viewed fromtwo points. He has a character bearing two aspects. The person wanted has a Divine side-"Whom shall I send?" Then he hasa human aspect-"Who will go for Us?"
But the two meet together-the human and Divine unite in the last words, "for Us." Here is a man, nothing more than a man ofhuman instincts, but clad, through Divine Grace, with super-human, even with Divine authority. Let us look, then, at thistwo-sided person. He is divinelychosen-"Whom shall I send?" As if in the eternal counsels this had once been a question, "Who shall be the chosen man. Whoshall be the object of My eternal love, and in consequence shall have this Grace given him that he should tell to others theunsearchable riches ofChrist?" Beloved, what a mercy it is to us who are Believers that to us this is no more a question-for sovereignty has pitchedupon us and eternal mercy, not for anything good in us, but simply because God would have it so, has selected us that we maybring forth fruit untoHis name.
As we hear the question, let us listen to the Savior's exposition of it. "You have not chosen Me, but I have chosen you andordained you that you should go and bring forth fruit, and that your fruit should remain." The workers for the living Godare a people chosen by the Most High. He sends whomHe wills. He makes choice of this man and not another, and in every case exercises His own sovereign will. This questionindicates a person cheerfully willing, and this is what I meant by the human side of the messenger. "Who will go for Us?"The man sought for is one who will gowith ready mind-there would be no need to ask, "who will go?" If a mere slave or machine without a will could be sent.
Beloved, the purpose of God does not violate free agency, or even the free will of man. Man is saved by the will of God, butman is made willing to be so saved! The fault is not in the hyper-Calvinist that he insists upon sovereignty, nor in the Arminianthat he is so violent for free agency. Thefault is in both of them because they cannot see more truths than one, and do not admit that truth is not the exclusiveproperty of either, for God is a Sovereign, and, at the same time, man is a responsible free agent!
Many among us are perpetually seeking to reconcile truths which probably never can be reconciled except in the Divine mind.I thank God that I believe many things which I do not even wish to understand. I am weary and sick of arguing and understanding,and misunderstanding. I find it true rest andjoy, like a little child, to believe what God has revealed and to let others do the puzzling and the reasoning. If I couldcomprehend the whole of Revelation I could scarcely believe it to be Divine! But inasmuch as many of its doctrines are toodeep for me and the whole scheme istoo vast to be reduced to a system, I thank and bless God that He has deigned to display before me a Revelation far exceedingmy poor limited abilities.
I believe that every man who has Jesus has Him as a matter of his own choice-it is true it is caused by Divine Grace, butit is there-it is there. Ask any man whether he is a Christian against his will and he will tell you certainly not, for heloves the Lord and delights in His Lawafter the inward man. Your people are not led unwillingly to You in chains, O Jesus, but Your people shall be willing inthe day of Your power. We willingly choose Christ because He has from of old chosen us! In the matter of holy work every manwho becomes a worker for Jesus is sobecause he was chosen to work for Him-but he would be a very poor worker if he himself had not chosen to work for Jesus!
I can say that I believe God ordained me to preach the Gospel, and that I preach it by His will-but I am sure I preach itwith my own will, too, for it is to me the most delightful work in all the world! If I could exchange with an emperor I wouldnot consent to be so lowered. To preach theGospel of Jesus Christ is one of the sweetest and noblest employments and even an angel might desire to be engaged in it.The true worker for God must be impelled by Divine election, but yet he must make and will make, by Divine Grace, his ownelection of his work. The two meettogether in this-the man is sent by the Three in One, who here asks, "Who will go for Us?"
Every faithful Christian laborer labors for God. Brethren, when we tell others the story of the Cross we speak of God theFather. It is through our lips that the prodigal son must be reminded that the hired servants have bread enough and to spare.It may be through us that he will be shown his ragsand his disgrace. Through us he will discover more clearly the disgrace of feeding swine. The Spirit of God is the efficientAgent, but it is by us that He may work. It is by us that the Divine Father falls upon the neck of His prodigal child. Hedoes it, but it is through theteaching of His Word in some form or other. The promises are spoken by our lips, the sweet invitations are delivered byour tongues. We, as though God did beseech them by us, are to pray them in Christ's stead to be reconciled to God. God theFather says to you who know and loveHim, "Will you go for Me and be an ambassador for Me?"
Nor must we forget our tender Redeemer. He is not here, for He is risen. He will come again, but meanwhile He asks for someoneto speak for Him, someone to tell Jerusalem that her iniquity is forgiven. Someone to tell His murderers that He prays forthem, "Father, forgive them." To assure theblood-bought that they are redeemed. To proclaim liberty to the captive, and the opening of the prison doors to them thatare bound. Jesus from His Throne of Glory says, "Who will go for Me and be a speaker for Me?"
Moreover, that blessed Spirit, under whose dispensational power we live at the present hour, has no voice to speak to thesons of men audibly except by His people. And though He works invisibly and mysteriously in the saints, yet He chooses lovinghearts, and compassionate lips, and tearful eyes tobe the means of benediction. The Spirit descends like the cloven tongue, but He sits upon disciples-there is no restingplace for the Spirit of God nowadays within walls, and even the Heaven of heavens contains Him not, but He enthrones Himselfwithin His people. He makes usGod-bearers, and He speaks through us as through a trumpet to the sons of men.
So you see that the adorable Trinity cry to you, you blood-bought, blood-redeemed sons of God, and says, "Are you seekingto promote Our glory? Are you effecting Our purposes? Are you winning those purchased by Our eternal sacrifice?" Turning tothe Church assembled here the Lord pronounces thoseancient questions, "Whom shall I send? Who will go for Us?"
By God's help, we would say a little upon the person offering himself. "Here am I! Send me." The person offering himself isdescribed in the chapter at very great length-he must be an Isaiah. Being an Isaiah, he must, in the first place, have felthis own unworthiness. My Brother, my Sister,if you are to be made useful by God in soul-winning you must pass through the experience which Isaiah describes in the chapterbefore us. You must have cried in bitterness of spirit, "Woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips!" God will never fill youwith Himself until He hasemptied you of your own self. Till you feel that you are weak as water you shall not see the splendor of the Divine power.
May I ask, then, those of you who feel desirous to serve God, this experimental question, "Have you been made fully consciousof your own utter unfitness to be employed in any work for God, and your own complete unworthiness of so great an honor asto become a servant of the living God? If you havenot been brought to this you must begin with yourself-you cannot do any good to others-you must be born-again! And one ofthe best evidences of your being born-again will be a discovery of your own natural depravity and impurity in the sight ofGod.
Now, Beloved, I want you to notice how it was that Isaiah was made to feel his unworthiness. It was first by a sense of thePresence of God. "I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted up." Have you ever had a consciousness of the Presenceof God? The other day I was prostrated in soul,utterly prostrated, with this one word "I Am!" There is everything in that title, the I Am! God is the truest of all existences.With regard to all other things, they may or may not be, but I Am!
It came with such power to me. I thought, Here am I sitting in my study, whether I am, or whether that which surrounds mereally is, may be a question, but, God is-God is here. And when I speak God's Word in His name, though I am nothing, God iseverything, and as to whether or not His Wordshall be fulfilled there cannot be any question, because He still is called, not, "I Was," but "I Am," Infinite, Omnipotent,Divine! Think of the reality of the Divine Presence, and the certainty of that Divine Presence everywhere, close here, justnow! "I Am!" O God, if we are not,yet You are!
I scarcely think that any man is fit to become a teacher of others till he has had a full sense of the Glory of God crushinghim right down into the dust, a full sense of that word, "I Am." You know a man cannot pray without it, for we must believethat He is, and that He is the Rewarder of themthat diligently seek Him. And if a man cannot pray for himself, much less can he rightly teach others. There must be thefullest conviction of the reality of God, an overwhelming sight and sense of His Glory, or else you cannot benefit your fellows.The source of Isaiah's sense ofnothingness was that Isaiah saw the Glory of Christ!
Have you ever sat down and gazed upon the Cross till, having read your own pardon there, you have seen that Cross rising higherand higher till it touched the heavens and overshadowed the globe? Then you have seen and felt the Glory of Him who was liftedup, and have bowed before the regal splendorof Divine Love, incarnate in suffering humanity, and resplendent in agony and death. If you have ever beheld the visionof the Crucified, and felt the glory of His wounds, you will then be fit to preach to others.
I have sometimes thought that certain Brethren who preach the Gospel with such meager power and such lack of unction haveno true knowledge of it. There is no need to talk of it with bated breath. It is sneered at as being such a very simple tale-"Believeand live"-but after all, nophilosopher ever made such a disclosure! And if a senate of discoverers could sit through the ages they could not bringto light any fact equal to this-that God was in Christ reconciling the world unto Himself. Well may you open your mouth boldlywhen you have such a subjectas this to speak upon! But if you have never perceived its Glory, you are utterly incapable of fulfilling God's errand.
Oh, to get the Cross into one's heart! To bear it upon one's soul, and above all, to feel the Glory of it in one's whole beingis the best education for a Christian missionary whether at home or abroad! It will strike you too, dear Friends, that theparticular aspect in which this humiliation maycome to us will probably be a sense of the Divine holiness, and the holiness of those who see His face. "Holy, holy, holy,Lord God of Hosts!" was the song which overawed the Prophet. What messengers are those who serve so holy a God? Free fromearth and all its grossness, likeflames of fire they flash at His command!
Who then, am I-a poor creature, cribbed, cabined, and confined within this house of clay? Who am I-a sinful worm of the dust,that I should aspire to the service of so thrice holy a God? Oh let us serve the Lord with fear and rejoice with trembling,fearful lest we should do mischiefwhile seeking to do good, and pollute the altar while attempting to offer sacrifice upon it!
The next preparation for Christian work is we must possess a sense of mercy. Then flew one of the seraphims and took a livecoal from off the altar. We explained in our reading that the altar is for sacrifice, and that the lip must be touched witha coal of that sacrifice. Then, being so touched,they derive two effects. In the first place, the lips are purged of iniquity, and in the next place they feel the influenceof fire, enabling them to speak with vehemence and force. Beloved Hearer, you say, perhaps in zeal, "I desire to serve Christand to tell abroad the story ofHis Cross." Have you proved that story to be true? Were you ever washed in the fountain? How can you bid others come ifyou have never come yourself?
Have your sins been put away? "I hope so." Do you know it? I question if you can preach with any power till you have a fullassurance of your own salvation. To teach the Gospel with "but" and "if is a poor teaching. You Sunday school teachers cannothope to do much good to others while you doubtyour own acceptance in the Beloved. You must know that you are saved! Oh Beloved, you must feel the touch of that live coal!You must feel that Christ gave Himself for you. You Little-Faiths may get to Heaven, but you must keep in the back rank whilehere-we cannot put you inthe front of the battle!
Though God may make you of service, we cannot expect you to be eminently of service. The man who would serve God must knowhimself to be saved! The effect of that live coal will be to fire the lips with heavenly flame. "Oh," says one man, "a flamingcoal will burn the lips so that the man cannotspeak at all." That is just how God works with us-it is by consuming the fleshly power that He inspires the heavenly might.Oh let the lips be burnt, let the fleshly power of eloquence be destroyed-but oh for that live coal to make the tongue eloquentwith Heaven'sflame-the true Divine power which urged the Apostles forward and made them conquerors of the whole world!
According to the text the man who will be acceptable must offer himself cheerfully. "Here am I!" How few of us have in verydeed given ourselves to Christ? It is with most professors, "Here is my half guinea, here is my annual contribution," buthow few of us have said, "Here am I"? No, we sing ofconsecration as we sing a great many other things which we have not realized-and when we have sung it we do not wish tobe taken at our word. It is not, "Here am I!" The man whom God will use must in sincerity be a consecrated man.
I have explained that he may still keep to his daily work, but he must be consecrated to God in it. He must sanctify the toolsof his labor to God and there is no reason why they should not be quite as holy as the bronze altar or the golden candlestick.You will observe that the person who thusvolunteered for sacred service gave himself unreservedly. He did not say, "Here am I, use me where I am," but "send me."Where? No condition as to place is so much as hinted at. Anywhere, anywhere, anywhere-send me!
Some people are militia-Christians-they serve the King with a limitation and must not be sent out of England. But others aresoldier-Christians who give themselves wholly up to their Lord and Captain. They will go wherever He chooses to send them.Oh come, my Master, and be absolute Lord ofmy soul! Reign over me and subdue my every passion to do and be and feel all that Your will ordains. Blessed prayer! Maywe never be content till we get all that is to be gotten by way of joyful experience and holy power, nor until we yield allthat is to be yielded by mortal man tothe God whose sovereign right to us we claim!
Notice one more thought, that while the Prophet gives himself unreservedly, he gives obediently, for he pauses to ask directions.It is not, "Here am I! Away I will go," but "Here am I! Send me." I like the spirit of that prayer. Some people get into theirhead a notion that they must do somethinguncommon and extraordinary, and though it may be most unreasonable and most irrational, it is for that very reason thatthe scheme commends itself to their want of judgment. Because it is absurd, they think it to be Divine! If earthly wisdomdoes not justify it, then certainlyheavenly wisdom must be called in to endorse it!
Now I conceive that you will find that whenever a thing is wise in God's sight it is really wise, and that a thing which isabsurd is not more likely to be adopted by God than by man! Though the Lord does use plans which are called foolish, theyare only foolish to fools, but not actually foolish.There is a real wisdom in their very foolishness-there is a wisdom of God in the things which are foolish to man. When aproject is evidently absurd and ridiculous, it may be my own but it cannot be the Lord's and I had better wait until I canyield up my whims, and subjectmyself to Divine control, saying, "Here am I! Send me."
In the last place-the work which such persons will be called to undertake. Isaiah's history is a picture of what many andmany a true Christian laborer may expect. Isaiah was sent to preach very unpleasant truth, but like a true hero he was verybold in preaching it. "Isaiah is very bold,"says the Apostle. Now if you are called of God either to preach or teach, or whatever it is, remember the things you haveto preach or teach will not be agreeable to your hearers. Scorn on the man who ever desires to make truth palatable to unhallowedminds. If he modulates hisutterances or suppresses the Truth which God has given him even in the slightest possible degree to suit the tastes of men,he is a traitor and a coward!
Let him be drummed out of God's regiment, and driven from the army of God altogether! God's servants are to receive God'smessage, and whether men will hear or whether they will not, they are to deliver it to them in the spirit of old Micaiah,who vowed, "As the Lord my God lives, whatever the Lordsaid to me, that will I speak." But this is not the hardest task-the most severe labor is this-we may have to deliver unpleasanttruth to people who are resolved not to receive it! To people who will derive no profit from it, but rather will turn it totheir owndestruction.
You see in the text that ancient Israel was to hear but not to receive-they were to be preached to, and the only result wasto be that their heart was to be made fat, and their ears dull of hearing. What? Is that ever to be the effect of the Gospel?The Bible tells us so. Our preaching is asavor of death unto death, as well as of life unto life. "Oh," says one, "I should not like to preach if that is the case."But remember, Brother, that the preaching of the Cross is a sweet savor of Christ either way. The highest object of all toa Christian laborer is not to winsouls-that is a great object-but the great object is to glorify God! Many a man has been successful in this who did notsucceed in the other. If Israel is not gathered, still, if we bear our testimony for God, our work is done.
No farmer thinks of paying his men in proportion to the harvest. He pays his workers for work done, and so will it be withus, by God's Grace! And if I happen to be a very successful laborer here, I boast not, nor claim any large reward on thataccount. I believe that had I preached the Gospel withearnestness and waited upon God, and if He had denied me conversions, my reward would be as great at the last, in some respects,because the Master would not lay to my door a non-success which could not be attributed to myself.
Now it would be a very pleasant thing for me to ask you whether you would go for God in your daily vocation and tell of Jesusto sinners who are willing to hear of Him-you would all be glad to do that. If I were to ask which sister here would takea class of young women, all anxious to findChrist, why you would all hold up your hands! If I could say, "Who will take a class of boys who long to find the Savior?"you might all be glad of such an avocation-but I have to put it another way lest you should afterwards be dispirited. Whoamong you will try and teach theTruth of God to a drunken husband?
Who among you will carry the Gospel to despisers and profligates and into places where the Gospel will make you the objectof rage and derision? Who among you will take a class of ragged roughs? Who among you will try and teach those who will throwyour teaching back upon you with ridicule andscorn? You are not fit to serve God unless you are willing to serve Him anywhere and everywhere. You must, with the servant,be willing to take the bitter with the sweet. You must be willing to serve God in the winter as in the summer. If you arewilling to be God's servant at all,you are not to pick and choose your duty and say, "Here am I, send me where there is pleasant duty." Anybody will go then!
If you are willing to serve God you will say today, "Through floods and flames if Jesus leads, I will, by the Holy Spirit'said, be true to my following." Now, though I have said nothing particularly with regard to foreign missions, I have preachedthis sermon with the view that God will stir youall up to serve His cause, and particularly with the hope that the missionary feeling being begotten may show itself ina desire also to carry the Gospel into foreign parts.
Pastor Harms has lately been taken to his rest, but those of you who know the story of his life must have been struck withit-how an obscure country village, on a wild heath in Germany, was made to be a fountain of living waters to South Africa!The poor people had little care for the name ofJesus till Harms went there, and, notwithstanding that I have no sympathy with his Lutheran High-churchism and exclusiveness,I may say he went there to preach Christ with such fire that the whole parish became a missionary society, sending out itsown men and women to preach Christcrucified.
That ship, the Candace, purchased by the villagers of Hermansburgh with their own money, went to and from South Africa, takingthe laborers to make settlements and to undertake Christian enterprise in that dark continent. The whole village was saturatedwith a desire to serve God and preach theGospel to the heathen, and Harms at the head of it acted with a simple faith worthy of Apostolic times! I would that myGod would give me what I should consider the greatest honor of my life-the privilege of seeing some of the Brothers and Sistersof this church devoted to theLord and going forth into foreign parts.
One gave his farm for students to be educated, another gave all he had, until throughout Hermansburgh it became very muchlike Apostolic days when they had all things in common, the grand object being that of sending the Gospel to the heathen.The day may come when we who have been able to dosomething for this heathen country of England may do something for other heathen countries in sending out our sons and daughters.