Sermon 718. The Standard Uplifted In The Face Of The Foe
DELIVERED ON SUNDAY MORNING, OCTOBER 28, 1866,
BY C. H. SPURGEON, AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." Isaiah 59:19.
THE Hebrew seems to be very difficult to interpret in this verse and there have been as many translations given it as thereare days in the month. Upon the whole, one is most satisfied with the translation of our authorized version. And without troublingyour minds with a host of variousrenderings, we will keep to the one before us, which, even if it should not happen to be the precise truth taught in thepassage, it is, nevertheless, a great Scriptural Truth, and one which it is important for us just now to remember.
"When the enemy shall come in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard against him." This is referredby Dr. Gill and sundry other commentators to the latter days in which they believe there will be a most terrible apostasy-whenthe Man of Sin shall reach a yet greaterdevelopment than at present-and the Christian Church shall be brought to its very lowest ebb. At such a time the Spiritof the Lord will lift up a standard for the Truth of God and, by the power of His Grace, the kingdom of Jesus shall be revealedin fullest glory.
We are not, however, inclined to interpret this text in a restricted manner as relating solely to one period of time. Nothingshall induce me to attempt to interpret the prophecies. By God's Grace I will be content to expound the Gospel. I believeit to be one of the most fatal devices of Satan toturn aside useful Gospel ministers from their proper work into idle speculations upon the number of the beast and the meaningof the little horn. The prophecies will interpret themselves by their fulfillment-no expositor has yet arisen who has beenable to do it. Providence isthe true interpreter of prophecy-
"God is His own interpreter, And He will make it plain."
But for us to try the mysterious visions of Daniel and John before they are fulfilled will, I believe, be worse than folly.It will be a guilty waste of energy which should all be spent in the winning of souls. We shall only consider the generalprinciple, which is clear enough that when the enemyshall come in the greatest force against the people of God, at such times God's Holy Spirit shall put forth His gloriouspower, and a standard shall be lifted up against the inroads of the foe.
We shall first refer the text to the holy war in our own hearts. And secondly to the holy war which is being waged in theworld-not with flesh and blood-but with spiritual wickedness in high places.
I. First we shall take the general statement of the text as referring to THE CONFLICT WHICH IS RAGING IN THE CHRISTIAN'S INNERMAN. It is well for us distinctly to understand the position of the Christian. This is not the land of our triumph. Neitheris this the period of our rest. If we bind ourbrows with laurel and cast aside our armor, our folly will be extreme. The ship is not yet in the harbor-many storms mustyet beat upon her. The warrior has not slain the last of his foes, neither has the pilgrim fought with the last of the giants.
The moment of conversion is rather the commencement than the closing of spiritual warfare, and until the Believer's head shallrecline upon the pillow of death he will never have finished his conflicts. The war will not be over till we shall departand be with Christ, which is far better! BelovedChristian, you are in the land where foes abound! There are enemies within you-you are not delivered from the influenceof inbred sin. The new nature is of Divine origin, and it cannot sin because it is born of God-but the old nature, the carnalmind, is there, too, andit is not reconciled to God- neither, indeed, can it be! And therefore it strives and struggles with the new nature. Thehouse of Saul in our heart wars against the house of David and tries to drive it out and despoil it of the crown. This conflictyou must expect to havecontinued with more or less violence till you enter into rest.
Moreover, in the world without there are multitudes of foes. This vain world is no friend to the principle of the work ofDivine Grace. If you were of the world the world would love its own, but as you are not of the world, but of a heavenly race,you may expect to be treated as an alien andforeigner. No-as a hated and detested foe! All sorts of snares and traps will be laid for you. Those who sought to entanglethe Master in His speech will not be more lenient towards you. Moreover there is one whose name is called "the enemy," the"Evil One"-he is theleader among your adversaries! Hating God with all his might, he hates that which he sees of God in you.
He will not spare the arrows in his infernal quiver. He will shoot them all at you. There are no temptations which he knowsof-and he understands the art well from long practice-there are no temptations which he will not exercise upon you. He willsometimes fawn upon you, and at othertimes will frown. He will lift you up, if possible, with self-righteousness, and then cast you down with despair! You willalways find him your fierce, insatiable foe. Know this, then, and put on the whole armor of God! March with your sword alwaysdrawn in your hand as one who seesa foe in the path.
The text leads us to look for seasons when this position will be more than ordinarily perilous. Who that has gone on pilgrimagedoes not know that at certain times the enemy comes in upon him like a flood? Like a flood-suddenly, without notice-as whenthe mountain lake bursts throughits banks and rushes into the valley beneath, irresistibly destructive, sweeping everything before it in its headlong career!Insatiable! Sparing neither cattle, nor abode of man, nor provender for the ox, nor corn for the household-drowning youngand old in one waterygrave-with cold unfeeling power destroying all within its awful sweep!
The flood has no compassion, and yields to no entreaties. Such and so terrible are the onsets of our spiritual foes! Whensins, and doubts, and temptations assail us, who can, without Divine aid, stand against them? Who is able to resist them?You who are veterans in the spiritual fight, you knowright well that there are times when kings go forth to battle-seasons when the traitors within are unusually troublesome-andwhen you have need of extraordinary Grace. It will be well for you who know the spiritual conflict to be thoroughly consciousof your own utterimpotence against this terrific danger.
What can a man do against a flood? How shall he escape it or stem it? The strongest swimmer, though he strains every muscle,must, if he is unaided, yield to its overwhelming force. If a man has nothing to depend upon but his own vigorous struggling,what can he do against a foaming torrent? Notall the impetuous fury of a rushing flood can exceed the fury of our enemies! Where is the human strength which can availto endure its force? Christian, you are surrounded with enemies, and you, in your own person, are helpless in the day of battle!If you are not clothed withheavenly armor, you are like a naked man into whose flesh every dart must penetrate! If the shield of faith shall not coveryou, the spears of the tempter will soon reach your heart!
Against him you are crushed as a moth, and as easily trampled upon as a worm. You are as weak as water, as frail as dust.Your strength, your fancied strength, is perfect weakness-then what must your weakness be? Your highest natural wisdom isfolly-then what must your folly be? As wellshould a bird with broken wing attempt to mount into the skies as you attempt to reach Heaven by your own strength! As wellshould a child with a straw hope to stand against a host of armed men, as you to bear the onslaught of your spiritual enemies-unlessthe mighty God ofJacob should be your defense! Your warfare needs the Eternal arm to bear you through it, and yet you are weakness itself!How shall you be able to achieve the victory? Cease from self-confidence! Know yourself to be feebleness itself! Look aboveyou to a nobler and surer source ofstrength than yourself!
The text, after having plainly bid us to thoroughly realize our position, and after suggesting to us our weakness, bids usturn to our only help, a Helper mysterious but Divine. When the enemy comes in like a flood, what then? Shall the Christianstem it? It is not so written! Shall he avoid it?Not thus is it in the Word. Shall he fly to his minister? Shall he gather together his Christian friends and shall theyconjointly dam the stream or turn the battle? Not they! They are all alike weak, and their union will bring no strength. Whatcan a multitude of ciphers make? Theyare each one nothing, and add them all together they make but nothing. The united fullness of so much emptiness is onlya greater display of emptiness. The united wisdom of a thousand fools is only so much more folly.
Where, then, does the text direct us? It reminds us of One whose name we mention with affectionate reverence-the Spirit ofthe Lord. What do we not owe to Him already? Blessed Spirit! You are He who sought us when we were strangers, wandering fromthe fold of God! You strove with us when ourdesperate wills were set on mischief! You bowed us down at length as You convicted us of sin, of righteousness, and of judgmentto come. Blessed Spirit! It is to Him we owe our present holy comfort! He brought us to the Savior's Cross and opened ourblind eyes to see the wonders ofatoning love! He endeared the Savior, applied the promise, gave us the spirit of adoption, and taught us to say, "Abba,Father."
It was by His living power that we were quickened and made alive. We were lying, like Lazarus, rotting in the grave, untilHe called us forth. It is by His teaching that we have been enlightened thus far in the things of Christ. He has taught usall things, and brought all things to ourremembrance, whatever Christ delivered unto us. Up till now He has been our indwelling Guide, illuminating the darknessof our faith, constraining the waywardness of our will, sanctifying our nature, and bearing us onward against ourselves towardsthe ultimate perfection for whichour spirit pants.
Blessed Spirit! Brothers and Sisters, let us never grieve Him! "Quench not the Spirit." Let His faintest admonitions be obeyed.Whatever He says to you, do it. Let His power in our spirits be like that of the centurion in the ranks which he commanded.If He says unto us, "Go," may we go! And if Hesays unto His servant, "Do this," may it be said, "He does it." Let us beware of losing the comforts of His Presence lestwe have mournfully to bemoan His absence, crying out-
"Return, O holy Dove, return, Sweet Messenger of rest! I hate the sins that made You mourn, And drove You from my breast."
Let us cultivate an affectionate dependence upon His power and Presence. In all our Christian exercises let us wait upon Himfor strength. Let us entreat Him to incite our prayers and inspire our songs-in both exercises helping our infirmities andencouraging our hearts. Let us continuallybelieve in the Holy Spirit as the true life of all Christian effort! When we think of our ministries, let us refer themto the Spirit who gives them, and who alone can bless them. And for the many works which the Church performs let us only lookfor success to attend them as theHoly Spirit is pleased to put forth His power by them.
See then, dear Friends, we are not referred to one of whom we do not know, and who is a stranger to us, but our tearful eyesare bid to look for Divine assistance from our best and dearest Friend, from Him who, though He fills Heaven itself and isGod over all, blessed forever, yet makes our poorbodies to be His temples and dwells in the Church continually! It is said of the Holy Spirit that in our times of distressHe will come to our rescue. Has it not been so with us until now? Just when Faith was fainting, the Holy Spirit feasted herupon a comfortable promise whichFaith fed upon as Elijah did upon the cake baked on the coals, so that she went in the strength of that meat a forty days'journey into the wilderness!
When it appeared that our love had ebbed out till there was none of it left, the Holy Spirit came, and by revealing the gloriousPerson of the Lord Jesus, our soul, or ever it was aware, was made like the chariots of Amminadab. We thought, surely, nospiritual life remained in us, but the HolySpirit, heavenly Dove, came with all His quickening powers, and by shedding abroad a Savior's love He instantly rekindledthe flame upon the altar of our hearts. We were lifted up from lethargy to earnestness, from sloth to zealous industry! Wescarcely understood how it could bethat we, who groped with the mole, suddenly mounted with the eagle! This is the Spirit's work. When the enemy comes in likea flood He then lifts up in our hearts a standard against him. We have, then, to fall back as to our present difficulty, whateverit may be, upon spiritualpower.
Oh, Beloved, if the battle of salvation were to be fought by man alone, then you and I might throw down sword and shield anddespairingly give it all up-why should we waste our exertions in fruitless toil? But when we understand that the Spirit ofGod has laid bare His holy arm to save us,and that He works in us to will and to do of His own good pleasure-we are not afraid of the worst moment in the fight-weare not dispirited concerning the blackest hour of the conflict! Let the enemy rush forward with concentrated and infuriatedforce. Let the powers ofdarkness and of inward corruption advance with malignant might! There is One who is greater than they all-whose standardshall stop their onslaught!
Let the evil spirit do his uttermost, for then we shall see what the Holy Spirit can do when the fullness of His power isdisplayed! We cannot expect to see God at His best unless we see the devil at his worst. And when our plight becomes the mostdolorous, then shall our help become the mostglorious! When the creature is ready to die of despair, then there shall be an opportunity for the Creator's irresistiblearm to put forth its energy and to glorify itself in us!
Let us now, for a minute or two, take two or three instances in which this great Truth of God is conspicuous. This is trueof a soul under conviction of sin. This is Satan's hour and opportunity with many seeking souls. When sin is heavy upon theChristian and his soul is burdened, he is very aptto be, as John Bunyan says, "Tumbled up and down in his mind," till he hardly has his right wits and senses. The terrorsof the Law are sometimes so distracting that the poor heart which is the subject of them scarcely knows darkness from light,or light from darkness!
At such a times, just when Satan knows that the creature is very weak and without courage to resist him, he comes in withsome detestable suggestion, either that such a soul is appointed to everlasting destruction and to present despair, or thatits sins are past forgiveness-that it hascommitted the unpardonable sin-or that it is not in a right state to receive mercy. He will say its heart is hardened, leftby the Spirit, and is quite unfit to receive Divine favor. If all these insinuations are driven out, one by one, Satan hasas many more. In fact, thevariety of temptations with which Satan can assault a troubled, seeking soul, is as nearly infinite as possible.
A wide pastoral experience has never enabled us to set any limit to the craft of Satan-for though the temptations of thisstate are very much the one like the other, yet in no two cases are they precisely similar. It is a part of Satan's policyto make each man think that his case is the onlyone of the kind. That he is peculiar. That there is no description given of him in the Word of God, no promise meant forhim. That he is one whom God did not, in fact, intend to bless, and therefore left him entirely out of His Word.
And this old Liar, who was a murderer from the beginning, continues to pour in these horrible thoughts one after another,not distilling them like drops of poison, but as if to make sure of his prey, pouring them into the human heart like a flood-sometimesso commingled and indistinct thatthe person who is the subject of them cannot tell one from another-so that his friends may give him comfort. He is so beset,so downcast, that he is like a struggling fly in the midst of a flood that is carried on, whirled round and round in everyeddy, tossed on every wave,without a hope of being rescued from the stream. Now what is to be done? The foe has fairly got possession of the fieldand treads it under foot, and plows it up, and dyes it with blood. What is to be done?
Why, nothing can be done in such a case without the Holy Spirit's interposition! The preacher tries to comfort. He seeks outgoodly words by which he may bring peace. But he is disappointed, for the case of many a soul beset with sin is the minister'snonplus. As they used to say of certaindiseases, that they were the scandal of the physician, the physician could not touch them-so some soul-sicknesses are thescandal of the minister! Though we can find promises which should suit the case and do teach doctrines which ought to givecomfort, yet it is one thing tofind the medicine, and quite another thing to bring the soul to receive it.
As the old proverb has it, "One man may bring a horse to the water, but twenty cannot make it drink." And one man may bringa soul to the promise, but twenty men cannot make that promise to be received by the soul. But oh, the joy of my text: "TheSpirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard againsthim"! And that standard, in your case, poor troubled Soul, will be the CROSS! He will lift up before your eyes the sufferingSon of God! This is the standard that makes Hell flee! Satan knows the power of that heel which once he bruised-the foot ofJesus has already broken hishead-and he takes flight whenever God's Son is lifted up. I beseech you, poor Sinner-and may the Holy Spirit enable you-Ibeseech you to look to the slaughtered Lamb of God upon Calvary's Cross.
There is Atonement for sin in those sufferings! There is readiness to receive you in that pierced heart! There is cleansing,sanctifying power in that water which flows with blood from His opened side! There is nothing asked of you but to look andlive. And oh, at this moment may the Holy Spirit dofor you what I cannot-may He lift up that standard in your heart, that all your doubts and fears may flee at once-and thebattle may be yours because Christ has espoused your cause! I believe it will be so. You may be a long time in the darkness,but you shall not alwaysbe there. Never did a soul perish that sought the Lord with all its heart. You may be outside Mercy's door and knock, andit may be a cold wintry day and your very fingers may get chilled as you hold the rapper-but the door must open ultimately,there is no question aboutthat! God must un-God Himself before He can refuse a pleading sinner! If you are willing to be
God's, God is willing to be yours, for He never yet turned the human will where He had not already made up His own will asto the salvation of that soul. The Spirit of the Lord will be your Helper.
Now we will suppose that there is another case present, and try and apply the text. After conversion it frequently happens,and especially to those who have been guilty of gross sin before conversion, that temptation comes in with unusual force.You must not suppose that a man who is converted fromdrunkenness will never be tempted to drunkenness again. He will! That will probably be his burden for a long time. Any personwho has fallen into lust will find it in his bones, and though he hates it and strives against it, yet there will be timeswhen it will be as much as he cando and more than he could do without God's Grace to stand against it.
Some of us who from the early period of our conversion were spared the grosser sins have nevertheless been tormented withvery horrible temptations. I believe God sends great temptations to those of His ministers whom He means to use to comfortafflicted souls. Oh the horrible blasphemies, theinfernal suggestions, the worse than hellish thoughts that some of God's servants have had to struggle with by the hourtogether so that they clapped their hands to their mouths for fear such thoughts should ever be spoken! These men have hatedthese evil thoughts even to loathing,and have endeavored to cast them out and shake them off as Paul shook the viper from his hand into the fire, and yet theycould not be rid of them.
It is a dreadful thing to be tempted as some of God's best servants are tempted, for there is no Christian, let him live wherehe may, who will wholly escape temptations. And full often the more eminently useful, the more eminently tempted. What then?Why, at such times look not to your ownexperience for strength, neither turn to your own wisdom for guidance-for then your trouble will be ten times worse thanbefore! Go not to these broken cisterns, for they hold no water. But I charge you, Christian, go to the strong for strength!Go to the blessed Spirit whoalone can effectually lift up the standard, rally your soul anew to the conflict and give you the victory! You shall conquerthrough the Lamb's redeeming blood! This is the victory which overcomes the world, even our faith. We shall need spiritualreinforcements and we shall havethem in the time of trouble.
Another case sometimes occurs to a Christian when it is not so much enticement to sin as temptation to doubt. What a mercyit would be if we could live without doubting! But so common are doubts and fears that Mr. John Bunyan, the greatest masterof Christian experience that ever lived, in his,"Holy War," represents an army of doubters as trying to capture the city of Mansoul. He divides them into a great numberof regiments-there are the Election Doubters, the Calling Doubters, the Perseverance Doubters, and so on. And these fellows,with the great Hell drum whichthey kept continually beating, much alarmed the town of Mansoul.
They even forced an entrance into it, and well-near took the castle of the heart itself. But they could not quite take thecitadel, and were ultimately driven out. When doubts and fears prevail, do not tell me that you can get rid of them when youlike. I know they are sins, and they are strongsins. I know it is a disease to doubt, but it is a disease which is very common among God's people-I wish it were not-andwhen these gloomy doubts prevail, there is no comfort in the heart nor joy in life-
"For oh, when gloomy doubts prevail, I fear to call You mine. The springs of comfort seem to fail, And all my hopes decline."
What, then, shall we do? Why, once again fly to the Comforter, and cry, "Blessed Consoler of Your people, You whose balmywings can bring us peace, descend!" When He works within us, and spreads abroad those wings of love, order reigns insteadof confusion. He says, "Let there be light!" And thethick darkness yields, and there is light. And our soul rejoices "with joy unspeakable and full of glory."
Now this is the experience, I believe, of every Christian, and it shall be your experience, my beloved Brothers and Sisters,if you can but cast yourself upon Divine power. I leave this promise in its relation to our inward state, only reminding youthat it is a sure and true promise. It is one ofGod's "shalls," and it is a comfortable thing when you grasp a Divine "shall." "The Spirit of the Lord shall lift up a standard."It is as true now as when Isaiah wrote it. It is true of you! It is true in your present darkness! You shall find it true!And in Heaven you shall beartestimony that the Spirit of God does lift up the battle standard against the enemy in the day of conflict.
II. Let us now turn to the second head-THE HOLY WAR AMONG US. The Christian Church is too conspicuous an object of Divinelove not to be the butt of the malice of the powers of darkness. From the very moment when the Church was born, Satan, likeHerod, tried to destroy the young Child. And ifthe flames of persecution and the inventions of heresy could have destroyed the Church, she would have been destroyed longago. There have been distinct periods all down Church history when the enemy has come in upon her, making a more than unusuallyterrific and effectiveonslaught.
How terrible was the attack upon the early church when Peter was laid in prison, James having already been slain with thesword. Herod designed to extirpate the whole band of followers of the despised Nazarene, and after him the Pharisaic zealof Saul hounded them to death. But the Spirit of Godvery speedily made amends for all Herod's operations, and the persecutions of the Pharisees met with a most effectual rebuffwhen the leader in them was himself converted, and Saul of Tarsus became Paul, the Apostle of the Gentiles!
The spiritual power which rested upon the Church in the early ages was sufficient for her protection against the malevolenceof her enemies. Not only so, but it was so mighty that it made profit out of that which was for its damage! The zeal of theChurch turned her persecutions into fiery chariotsin which she rode forth triumphantly to the uttermost ends of the earth. Satan stirred a series of persecutions which youwho are acquainted with history will remember to have been of the most ferocious kind. These persecutions we may compare toNebuchadnezzar's furnace when it washeated seven times hotter-but not so much as the smell of fire passed upon the Church! The game of persecution was playedout and ended in the total defeat of the persecutor, for do you not remember how the saints volunteered to die, and even pantedfor the martyrs' crown?
Young men came before the tribunals. Young men, did I say? OLD men leaning upon their staffs, and women, and even little childrencame to the tribunal and shouted that they were followers of Jesus! The prisons were crowded with Christians and the amphitheatresglutted with their blood. The spiritof holy boldness was so abundant that the foe was baffled! Glutted with blood, he turned with loathing from the murder ofthe inoffensive sheep which was once so great a luxury to him. The Spirit of God, by giving to Christians an indomitable couragewhich made them, as it were,insensible to pain and defiant of Death in his most ghastly form, lifted up a standard against the fury of the enemy!
Then Satan changed his tactics and set on that baptized heathen Constantine to profess to become a Christian. And he, forreasons of State-craft and subtle policy, made Christianity the national religion-and thus struck the most fearful blow atthe heart of Christianity. The union of Churchand State is a fatal blow to true religion! The king's hand, wherever it falls upon the Church of Christ, brings the king'sevil with it! There never was a Church whose spirituality survived it yet, and there never will be. Christ's kingdom is notof this world, and if we try tomarry the Church of Christ to a worldly kingdom we engender innumerable mischiefs.
So it happened that when the Church became outwardly glorious she became spiritually debased. Her communion table glitteredwith gold and silver plates, but her communion with Christ was not so golden as before. Her ministers were enriched, but theirdoctrine was impoverished. For every ounce ofoutward gold which she gained, she lost a treasure of Divine Grace. Her bishops became lords, and her flocks were famished.Her humble meeting places were exchanged for grand basilicas, but the true Glory of God was departed. She became like theheathen around her, and began to setup the images of her saints and martyrs, till at last, after years of gradual declension, the Church of Rome ceased to bethe Church of Christ and that which was once nominally the Church of Christ actually became the Antichrist.
Black darkness covered the lands, and dark ages set in. Finally, instead of pardon bought with the blood of Jesus, false priestsmade merchandize of souls, and pardons were hawked in the streets! Finally, instead of deacons and elders adorned with holinessand purity, monks, and nuns, and priests,and even popes became monsters of filthiness! And instead of justification by faith, men proclaimed justification by pilgrimagesand by penances! The crucifix took the place of Christ Jesus, and a piece of bread was lifted up as a god and men bowed beforeit, and said, "These beyour gods, O Israel, that redeemed you from the wrath to come."
What was done in this emergency? All through that long, long period of darkness the Spirit of God lifted up a standard amongthe faithful few. Up yonder on the snow-clad Alps, and down deep in the secluded valleys of Piedmont, the Lord kept alivethe "two witnesses" for the truth. The Albigensesand Waldenses, hunted like partridges upon the mountains, were God's standard-bearers and maintained that unbroken lineof true Apostolic succession from which we date our succession-a succession infinitely purer than the Tractarian chain ofinfamous prelates and Popishpriests! The Spirit of God maintained the living Church in the day of her obscurity in France, Hungary, Bohemia, Switzerland,and other regions-till at last the men came whom Jehovah had ordained most greatly to bless!
The nations rejoiced at the coming of Luther and his great allies, Zwingli and Calvin. What a lifting up of the standard wasthen seen, my Brothers and Sisters! They said that Luther's words were carried on the wings of angels! The sermon which hepreached today was dispersed by means of theprinting press so that tomorrow heard it thundering along the foot of the Apennines, and old Rome itself trembled at thevoice of the monk of Germany! Then God lifted up a standard in England, and our glorious old Hugh Latimer, with simple andrough speech rebuked kings, and spokethe Truth of God in the presence of the mighty!
And up there in Scotland John Knox published the Gospel of Jesus with all the energy of his fiery nature. The Spirit of Godlifted up the Cross, and, like the sound of a clarion, a voice was heard resounding over hill and dale, "By the works of theLaw there shall no flesh living be justified.""Therefore, being justified by faith, we have peace with God, through Jesus Christ our Lord." It needs not that I shouldtell the tale how, in succeeding years, throughout England Christianity had declined to the verge of death-when drunken parsonspolluted the pulpits, andwere zealous in nothing but in feasting and fox-hunting! When Dissenting ministers were either semi-Socinian or else sosomnolently orthodox as not to care whether men's souls were saved or damned!
Then, again, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard! Six young men were expelled from Oxford for praying, and these men,driven sorely against their will to uncanonical action, began to preach in the open air! Crowds in London gathered at Moorfieldand Kennington. The Kingswood miners caughtthe flame of Divine Grace! Cornwall, far away, began to blaze with spiritual fervor. The uttermost ends of our island perceivedthat God the Holy Spirit had visited us, that the "Daystar from on high" was shining again!
The name of "Methodist" was the terror of Satan and the joy of the Church-
"See how great a flame aspires, Kindled by a spark of Grace! Jesus'love the nations fires, Sets the kingdoms on a blaze."
Then men knew that the blessed Spirit of the living God had appeared and lifted up a standard against false doctrine and sin.Dear Friends, I am not giving you this history for the mere purpose of detailing it, but with a practical end. I believe thatno exaggeration would be possible as to thepresent unhappy condition of certain sections of the Christian Church. The enemy is, indeed, coming in like a flood. Thistime the peril is within the visible Church, itself. We have High Church-what is it but bastard Popery!? We have Broad Church-whatis it butdishonest infidelity!?-An infidelity which takes the pay of a church whose foundations it labors to undermine.
These two powers are advancing at present like two armies in victorious march. They are sweeping everything before them. Ourtimid and weak hearted Evangelical friends have been so long accustomed to submit that they have little stomach for the fight.They have acted so miserable a part in thegreat conflict that the power they once possessed has been taken from them and they are a pitiable instance of the weakeningeffect of accustoming one's tongue to the use of language against which the conscience revolts! They are not now an integerin the calculation-theirfriends and their foes, alike, know their utter unfitness for the battle!
He who hopes that the battle of Protestantism will be fought by the Evangelicals trusts in a broken reed. I only wish I couldthink otherwise, but I cannot. What is to be done? I discern no sign of help from any quarter but from above. It is our hopethat the Holy Spirit will now interpose and saveHis Church. This is a dark hour, and now will He show His strength! We have now no desire that the bishops should interferewith the Ritualists-they have let them tamper with the Church so long that everybody asks what is the use of bishops? Alasfor the Church of God if thebishops were the only guardians! Even the interference of Parliament will avail little. Let parliament look after politicsand leave religion alone! What we need is something superior to bishops and Parliament-we need the Holy Spirit-and if theHoly Spirit will take thematter in hand, He will make very short work with all this imitation of Romanism!
But how will it be done? I think I see the beginning of it. A general spirit of prayer will come over those Churches whichare faithful. Already it is descending! Almost in every quarter the spirit of devotion is increasing. Our Brethren in
London have appointed, as you know, the fifth of November to be spent by all the ministers, deacons, and elders of our Churchesas a day of fasting and prayer to entreat the Lord's blessing upon the universal Church. I find our friends are to do thesame in Birmingham, and in most of the largetowns. And all this has come without any dictation from anyone. Indeed, we have no power to dictate in our denomination-ithas come spontaneously-the Brethren moving towards one another as by a common instinct, coming together in the time of danger.
I think I perceive among Christian men, generally, the relinquishment of controversy about minor points and a determinationfor union about the one great thing. We feel that we must stand together, shoulder to shoulder, as a solid phalanx in thisday of conflict and fight with heavenly weapons, orelse it will go ill with us. We feel we must cry to God, for no one else can help us. With this spirit of prayer I believethere is returning to us in the Church-I may be optimistic but I think I see it-a deeper love to the old truth than thereused to be. Do not myBrethren in the ministry preach more of Christ than they once did? Are they not tired of philosophical essays and returningto the simple Truth of God? They are no longer teasing us with Genesis and geology, but give us more of Christ on the Cross!We know that preaching science andethics instead of the Gospel is all wrong, and our Brethren see that it is so.
It was but the other day I heard a Wesleyan minister stating that the reason why they had, to a great extent, lost a blessingfor the last few years, was because they had not given enough prominence to the Doctrines of Grace, and he pointed to thisHouse of Prayer and the prosperity that God givesto this Church as an indication that if Christ is preached and nothing but Christ-and if salvation by blood is the one stapletheme-there is no fear of there being hearers, nor of there being converts, for the old standard, whenever it is uplifted,brings victory withit! You have only to let the standard of Christ's Truth be opened to the breeze, and the battle is ours!
Now I think I can see that the Spirit of God is lifting up this standard! There is more Gospel preaching, more earnest declarationof Christ in England than there has been for many a day. Now, Brothers and Sisters, as the Spirit begins, let us follow! Whatis a standard lifted up for but for everysoldier to rally to it? Press where you see it displayed to the wind! Press to it, every man among you! The soldier doesnot look at a standard as being a place from which he is to march, but around which he is to rally in the day when it is indanger. Every man must do his duty nowin the Christian Church, and count it a privilege to do it! You must scatter the Gospel! You must tell it with your lips!You must pray for it with your hearts! You must distribute it as it is printed!
Do all you can to increase the sale of sound Gospel literature, but use your own mouths, also, to tell of the Savior's love.Every man, now, to his post today, for now must we awake out of sleep! Oh, if the Holy Spirit will but visit us now, we neednot fear concerning old Rome. Like chaff beforethe wind, the foes shall fly-they shall be driven like thin clouds before a Biscay gale! When once God comes into the fight,woe unto you who are His enemies! Woe unto you! You may fight like mighty men, but you know the might of Israel's sword inancient times, and you shallfeel it now!
Soldiers of Jesus, never despair! My Brothers and Sisters, do not even fear! Be of good courage! Be confident! God is on ourside. "Immanuel"-let that be your watchword-"God with us-Immanuel." Be very courageous and very earnest, and the Spirit ofthe Lord will lift up a standardwhen the enemy comes in like a flood. God grant it for His name's sake. Amen.