Sermon 1137. To Sunday School Teachers And Other Soul-winners
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, OCTOBER 19, 1873,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth, and one converts him, lethim know, thathe which converts the sinner from theerror ofhis way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins." James 5:19,20.
JAMES is pre-eminently practical. If he were, indeed, the James who was called, "The Just," I can understand how he earnedthe title, for that distinguishing trait in his character shows itself in his Epistle, and if he were "the Lord's brother,"he did well to show so close a resemblance to his great Relative and Master who commenced His ministry with the practicalSermon on the Mount.
We ought to be very grateful that in the Holy Scriptures we have food for all classes of Believers and employment for allthe faculties of the saints. It was right that the contemplative should be furnished with abundant subjects for thought-Paulhas supplied them-he has given to us sound doctrine, arranged in the symmetry of exact order. He has given us deep thoughtsand profound teachings. He has opened up the deep things of God. No man who is inclined to reflection and thoughtfulness willbe without food so long as the Epistles of Paul are extant, for he feeds the soul with sacred manna.
For those whose predominating affections and imagination incline them to more mystic themes, John has written sentences aglowwith devotion and blazing with love. We have his simple but sublime Epistles, Epistles which, when you glance at them, seemin their wording to be fit for children, but when examined, their sense is seen to be too sublime to be fully grasped by themost advanced of men. You have from that same eagled-eyed and eagle-winged Apostle the wondrous visions of the Revelationwhere awe, devotion and imagination may enlarge their flight and find scope for the fullest exercise.
There will always be, however, a class of persons who are more practical than contemplative, more active than imaginative.And it was wise that there should be a James, whose main point should be to stir up their pure minds by way of remembranceand help them to persevere in the practical Graces of the Holy Spirit. The text before me is perhaps the most practical utteranceof the whole Epistle. The whole Epistle burns, but this ascends in flames to Heaven! It is the culmination as it is the conclusionof the letter. There is not a word to spare in it. It is like a naked sword, stripped of its jeweled scabbard and presentedto us with nothing to note but its keen edge.
I wish I could preach after the fashion of the text, but if I cannot, I will at least pray that you may act after the fashionof it. Downright living for the Lord Jesus is sadly needed in many quarters. Christian garnishing we have enough of, but solid,everyday, actual work for God is what we need. If our lives, however unornamented they may be by leaves of literary or politeattainments, shall, nevertheless, bring forth fruit unto God in the form of souls converted by our efforts, it will be well.They will then stand forth before the Lord with the beauty of the olive trees, which consist in its fruitfulness.
I call your attention very earnestly to three matters. First, here is a special case dealt with-"If any of you do err fromthe truth, and one converts him." While speaking of that special case the Apostle declares a general fact, "He who convertsthe sinner from the error of his ways shall save a soul from death and shall hide a multitude of sins." When I have spokenof these two points, I mean, thirdly, to make a particular application of the text-not at all intended by the Apostle, butI believe abundantly justified-an application of the text to increased effort for the conversion of children.
I. First, then, here is A SPECIAL CASE DEALT WITH. Read the verse and you will see that it was that of a backslider from thevisible Church of God. The words, "If any of you," must refer to a professed Christian. The erring one had been named by thename of Jesus and for awhile had followed the Truth of God. But in an evil hour he had been
betrayed into doctrinal error and had erred from the Truth. It was not merely that he fell into a mistake upon some lessermatter which might be compared to the fringe of the Gospel, but he erred in some vital doctrine-he departed from the faithin its fundamentals. There are some Truths of God which must be believed-they are essential to salvation-and if not heartilyaccepted the soul will be ruined. This man had professed orthodoxy, but he turned aside from the Truth on an essential point.
Now, in those days the saints did not say, as the sham saints do now, "We must be largely charitable and leave this Brotherto his own opinion. He sees the Truth of God from a different standpoint and has a rather different way of putting it-buthis opinions are as good as our own-and we must not say that he is in error." That is at present the fashionable way of triflingwith Divine Truth and making things pleasant all round. Thus the Gospel is debased and another gospel propagated. I shouldlike to ask modern Broad Churchmen whether there is any doctrine of any sort for which it would be worth a man's while toburn or to lie in prison. I do not believe they could give me an answer, for if their latitudinarianism is correct, the martyrswere fools of the first magnitude!
From their writings and their teachings, it appears to me that the modern thinkers treat the whole compass of revealed Truthwith entire indifference and, though perhaps they may feel sorry that wilder spirits should go too far in free thinking, andthough they had rather they would be more moderate, yet, upon the whole, so large is their liberality that they are not sureenough of anything to be able to condemn the reverse of it as a deadly error. To them black and white are terms which maybe applied to the same color, as you view it from different standpoints. Yes, and so are equally true in their esteem. Theirtheology shifts like the Goodwin Sands and they regard all firmness as so much bigotry. Errors and truths are equally comprehensiblewithin the circle of their charity.
It was not in this way that the Apostles regarded error. They did not prescribe large-hearted charity towards falsehood, orhold up the errorist as a man of deep thought whose views were "refreshingly original." Far less did they utter some wickednonsense about the probability of there living more faith in honest doubt than in half the creeds. They did not believe injustification by doubting, as our neologians do. They set about the conversion of the erring professor-they treated him asa person who needed conversion-and viewed him as a man who, if he were not converted, would suffer the death of his soul andbe covered with a multitude of sins.
They were not such easy-going people as our cultured friends of the school of "modern thought," who have learned, at last,that the Deity of Christ may be denied, the work of the Holy Spirit ignored, the Inspiration of Scripture rejected, the Atonementdisbelieved and regeneration dispensed with! They say the man who does all this may be as good a Christian as the most devoutBeliever! O God, deliver us from this deceitful infidelity which, while it does damage to the erring man, and often preventshis being reclaimed, does yet more mischief to our own hearts by teaching us that Your Truth is unimportant, falsehood a trifleand so destroys our allegiance to the God of Truth and makes us traitors, instead of loyal subjects, to the King of kings!
It appears from our text that this man, having erred from the Truth, followed the natural logical consequence of doctrinalerror and erred in his life as well, for the 20th verse, which must, of course, be read in connection with the 19th , speaksof him as a "sinner converted from the error of his way." His way went wrong after his thought had gone wrong. You cannotdeviate from Truth without being wrong, in some measure-at any rate, deviating from practical righteousness. This man haderred from right acting because he had erred from right believing. Suppose a man shall imbibe a doctrine which leads him tothink little of Christ? He will soon have little faith in Him and become little obedient to Him and so will wander into self-righteousnessor licentiousness.
Let him think lightly of the punishment of sin and it is natural that he will commit sin with less compunction and burst throughall restraints. Let him deny the need of the Atonement and the same result will follow if he acts out his belief. Every errorhas its own outgrowth, as all decay has its appropriate fungus. It is in vain for us to imagine that holiness will be as readilyproduced from erroneous as from truthful doctrine! Do men gather grapes off thorns, or figs off thistles? The facts of historyprove the contrary.
When the Truth of God is dominant, morality and holiness are abundant. But when error comes to the front, godly living retreatsin shame. The point aimed at with regard to this sinner in thought and deed was his conversion-the turning of him around,the bringing him to right thinking and to right acting. Alas, many professed Christians do not look upon backsliders in thislight-neither do they regard them as hopeful subjects for conversion. I have known a
person who has erred hunted down like a wolf. He was wrong to some degree, but that wrong has been aggravated and dwelt upontill the man has been worried into defiance! The fault has been exaggerated into a double wrong by ferocious attacks uponit. The manhood of the man has taken sides with his error because he has been so severely handled. The man has been compelled,sinfully, I admit, to take up an extreme position and to go further into mischief, because he could not stand to be denouncedinstead of being reasoned with.
And when a man has been blameworthy in his life, it will often happen that his fault will be blazed abroad, retailed frommouth to mouth, and magnified until the poor erring one has felt degraded-and having lost all self-respect-has given way tofar more dreadful sins. The object of some professors seems to be to amputate the limb rather than to heal it. Justice hasreigned instead of Mercy. Away with him! He is too foul to be washed, too diseased to be restored! This is not according tothe mind of Christ, nor after the model of Apostolic Churches. In the days of James, if any erred from the Truth and fromholiness, there were Brethren found who sought their recovery and whose joy it was, thus, to save a soul from death and tohide a multitude of sins.
There is something very significant in that expression, "Brethren, if any of you do err from the truth." It is akin to thatother word, "Considering yourself, also, lest you also be tempted," and that other exhortation, "Let him that thinks he standstake heed lest he fall." He who has erred was one ofyourselves, one who sat with you at the Communion Table, one with whomyou took street counsel. He has been deceived and by the subtlety of Satan he has been decoyed. But do not judge him harshly.Above all do not leave him to perish unpitied. If he never was a saved man, he is still your Brother and it should be yourbusiness to bring back the prodigal, and so to make glad your Father's heart. "Still, for all his slips," he is one of God'schildren.
Follow him up and do not rest till you lead him home again. And if he is not a child of God. If his professed conversion wasa mistake, or a pretence-if he only made a profession, but had not the possession of vital godliness-yet still follow himwith sacred importunity of love-remembering how terrible will be his doom for daring to play the hypocrite and profane holythings with his unhallowed hands. Weep over him if you feel compelled to suspect that he has been a willful deceiver, forthere is sevenfold cause for weeping. If you cannot resist the feeling that he never was sincere, but crept into the Churchunder cover of a false profession, I say, sorrow over him the more, for his doom must be the more terrible and, therefore,the greater should be your commiseration for him. Seek his conversion, still.
The text gives us clear indications as to the persons who are to aim at the conversion of erring Brethren. It says, "If anyof you do err from the truth, and one converts him." One what? One minister? No, anyone among the Brethren. If the ministershall be the means of the restoration of a backslider, he is a happy man and a good deed has been done. But there is nothingsaid here concerning preachers or pastors, not even a hint is given-it is left open to any member of the Church. And the plaininference, I think, is this-that every Church member seeing his Brother err from the truth, or else in practice, should sethimself, in the power of the Holy Spirit, to this business of converting this special sinner from the error of his way.
Look after strangers by all means, but neglect not your Brothers and Sisters. It is the business, not of certain officersappointed by the vote of the Church hereunto, but of every member of the body of Jesus Christ, to seek the good of all theother members. Still there are certain members upon whom in any one case this may be more imperative. For instance, in thecase of a young Believer, his father and his mother, if they are Believers, are called upon by a sevenfold obligation to seekthe conversion of their backsliding child. In the case of a husband, none should be so earnest for his restoration as hiswife-and the same rule holds good with regard to the wife. So, also if the connection is that of friendship, he with whomyou have had the best acquaintance should lie nearest to your heart-and when you perceive that he has gone aside, you should,above all others, act the shepherd towards him with kindly zeal.
You are bound to do this to all your fellow Christians, but doubly bound to do it to those over whom you possess an influencewhich has been gained by former intimacy, by relationship, or by any other means. I beseech you, therefore, watch over oneanother in the Lord and when you see a Brother overtaken in a fault, "you which are spiritual, restore such an one in thespirit of meekness." You see your duty-do not neglect it! Brethren, it ought to cheer us to know that the attempt to converta man who has erred from the Truth of God is a hopeful one. It is one in which success may be looked for and when the successcomes it will be of the most joyful character.
Verily it is a great joy to capture the wild, wandering sinner, but the joy of joys is to find the lost sheep which was oncereally in the fold and has sadly gone astray. It is a great thing to transmute a piece of brass into silver, but to the poorwoman it was joy enough to find the piece of silver which was silver, already, and had the king's stamp on it, though forawhile it was lost. To bring in a stranger and an alien and to adopt him as a son suggests a festival-but the most joyousfeasting and the loudest music are for the son who was always a son, but had played the prodigal-and yet after being lostwas found, and after being dead was made alive again!
I say, ring the bells twice for the reclaimed backslider! Ring them till the steeple rocks and reels! Rejoice doubly overthat which had gone astray and was ready to perish, but has now been restored. John was glad when he found poor backsliding,but weeping Peter, who had denied his Master. He cheered and comforted him, and consorted with him till the Lord, Himself,had said, "Simon, son of Jonas, do you love Me?" It may not appear so brilliant a thing to bring back a backslider as to reclaima harlot or a drunk-but in the sight of God it is no small miracle of Grace-and to the instrument who has performed it, itshall yield no small comfort.
Seek, then, my Brothers and Sisters, those who were of us but have gone from us! Seek those who still linger in the congregationbut have disgraced the Church and are put away from us, and rightly so, because we cannot countenance their uncleanness. Seekthem with prayers, tears and entreaties, if perhaps God may grant them repentance that they may be saved. Here I would sayto any backsliders who are present, let this text cheer you if you have a desire to return to God. Return, you backslidingchildren, for the Lord has bid His people seek you! If He had not cared for you He would not have spoken of our search afteryou. But having put it so and made it the duty of all His people to seek those who err from the faith-there is an open doorbefore you-and there are hundreds who sit waiting like porters at the gate to welcome you!
Come back to the God whom you have forsaken, or if you never did know Him, O that this day His Spirit may break your heartsand lead you to true repentance, that you may in real truth be saved! God bless you, poor Backsliders! If He does not saveyou, a multitude of sins will be upon you and you must eternally die. God have mercy upon you, for Christ's sake.
II. We have opened up the special case and we have now to dwell upon a GENERAL FACT. This general fact is important and weare bound to give it special attention, since it is prefaced with the words, "Let him know." If any one of you has been themeans of bringing back a backslider, it is said, "Let him know." That is, let him think of it, be sure of it, be comfortedby it, be inspirited by it. "Let him know" it, and never doubt it. Do not merely hear it this morning, beloved fellow Laborer,but let it sink deep into your heart.
When an Apostle Inspired of the Holy Spirit, says, "Let him know," I evoke you, do not let any indolence of spirit forbidyour ascertaining the full weight of the Truth. What is it that you are to know? To know that he who converts a sinner fromthe error of his way shall save a soul from death! This is something worth knowing, is it not? To save a soul from death isno small matter. Why, we have men among us whom we honor every time we cast our eyes upon them, for they have saved many preciouslives! They have manned the lifeboat or they have plunged into the river to rescue the drowning. They have been ready to risktheir own lives amid burning timbers that they might snatch the perishing from the devouring flames. True heroes, these, farworthier of renown than your bloodstained men of war. God bless the brave hearts! May England never lack a body of worthymen to make her shores illustrious for humanity.
When we see a fellow creature exposed to danger our pulse beats quickly and we are agitated with desire to save him. Is itnot so? But the saving of a soul from death is a far greater matter! Let us think what that death is! It is not non-existence.I do not know that I would lift a finger to save my fellow creature from mere non-existence! I see no great hurt in annihilation-certainlynothing that would alarm me as a punishment for sin. Just as I see no great joy in mere eternal existence if that is all thatis meant by eternal life, so I discern no terror in ceasing to be. I would as soon not be as be, so far as mere colorlessbeing or not being is concerned.
But eternal life in Scripture means a very different thing to eternal existence. It means existing with all the facultiesdeveloped in fullness of joy-existing not as the dried herb in the hay, but as the flower in all its beauty. To die, in Scripture,and, indeed, in common language, is not to cease to exist! Very wide is the difference between the two words to die and tobe annihilated. To die as to the first death is the separation of the body from the soul-it is the resolution of our natureinto its component elements. To die the second death is to separate the man, soul and body, from his God,
who is the life and joy of our manhood. This is eternal destruction from the Presence of the Lord and from the Glory of Hispower. This is to have the palace of manhood destroyed and turned into a desolate ruin for the howling dragon of remorse andthe hooting owl of despair-forever.
The descriptions which Holy Scripture gives of the second death are terrible to the last degree. It speaks of a "worm thatnever dies." A "fire that never can be quenched." Of "the terror of the Lord" and "tearing in pieces." Of the "smoke of theirtorment which goes up forever and ever." And of "the pit which has no bottom." I am not about to bring all these terriblethings together, but there are words in Scripture which, if pondered, might make the flesh creep and the hair stand on endat the very thought of the Judgment to come. Our joy is that if any of us are made, in God's hands, the means of convertinga man from the error of his ways, we shall have saved a soul from this eternal death! That dreadful Hell the saved one willnot know. That wrath he will not feel. That being banished from the Presence of God will never happen to him! Is there nota joy worth worlds in all this?
Remember the addition to the picture. If you have saved a soul from death you have introduced it into eternal life. By God'sgood Grace there will be another chorister among the white-robed host to sing Jehovah's praise! Another hand to smite eternallythe harpstrings of adoring gratitude. Another sinner saved to reward the Redeemer for His passion. Oh, the happiness of havingsaved a soul from death! And it is added, that in such case you will have "covered a multitude of sins." We understand thisto mean that the result of the conversion of any sinner will be the covering up of all his sins by the atoning blood of Jesus.How many those sins are, in any case, none of us can tell, but if any man is converted from the error of his ways, the wholemass of his sins will be drowned in the red sea of Jesus' blood and washed away forever.
Now remember, your Savior came to this world with two objects-He came to destroy death and to put away sin. If you converta sinner from the error of his ways you are made like He in both these works. After your manner, in the power of the Spiritof God, you overcome death by snatching a soul from the second death, and you also put away sin from the sight of God by hidinga multitude of sins beneath the Propitiation of the Lord Jesus. Observe here that the Apostle offers no other inducement forsoul-winners. He does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you will have honor. True philanthropy scornssuch a motive!
He does not say if you convert a sinner from the error of his ways you will have the respect of the Church and the love ofthe individual. Such will be the case, but we are moved by far nobler motives! The joy of doing good is found in the gooditself-the reward of a deed of love is found in its own result. If we have saved a soul from death and hidden a multitudeof sins, that is payment enough, though no ear should ever hear of the deed and no pen should ever record it. Let it be forgottenthat we were the instrument, if good is but effected. It shall give us joy even if we are not appreciated and are left inthe cold shade of forgetfulness. Yes, if others wear the honors of the good deed which the Lord has worked by us, we willnot murmur-it shall be joy, enough, to know that a soul has been saved from death-and a multitude of sins have been covered.
And, dear Brothers and Sisters, let us remember that the saving of souls from death honors Jesus, for there is no saving soulsexcept through His blood. As for you and for me, what can we do in saving a soul from death? Of ourselves nothing, any morethan that pen which lies upon the table could write "Pilgrim's Progress!" Yet let a Bunyan grasp the pen and the matchlesswork is written. So you and I can do nothing to convert souls till God's eternal Spirit takes us in hand-but then He can dowonders by us and get Himself glory by us-and it shall be joy enough for us to know that Jesus is honored and the Spirit magnified!Nobody talks of Homer's pen. No one has encased it in gold, or published its illustrious achievements. Nor do we wish forhonor among men-it will be enough for us to have been the pen in the Savior's hand with which He has written the Covenantof His Grace upon the fleshy tablets of human hearts. These are golden wages for a man who really loves his Master-Jesus isglorified-sinners are saved.
Now I want you to notice, particularly, that all that is said by the Apostle, here, is about the conversion of one person."If any of you do err from the truth, and one converts him, let him know that he who converts the sinner from the error ofhis ways shall save a soul from death." Have you ever wished you were a Whitfield? Have you ever felt, young man, in yourinmost soul, great aspirations to be another McCheyne, or Brainerd, or Moffat? Cultivate the aspiration, but at the same timebe happy to bring one sinner to Jesus Christ, for he who converts one is bid to know that no mean thing is done! He has saveda soul from death and covered a multitude of sins. And it does not say anything about the
person who is the means of this work. It is not said, "If a minister shall convert a man, or if some noted eloquent Divineshall have worked it."
If this deed shall be performed by the least babe in our Israel. If a little child shall tell the tale of Jesus to its father.If a servant girl shall drop a tract where some one poor soul shall find it and receive salvation. If the most humble preacherat the street corner shall have spoken to the thief or to the harlot, and such shall be saved, let him know that he that turnsany sinner from the error of his ways, whoever he may be, has saved a soul from death and covered a multitude of sins! Now,Beloved, what comes out of this but these suggestions? Let us long to be used in the conversion of sinners! James does notspeak concerning the Holy Spirit in this passage, nor of Jesus Christ, for he was writing to those who would not fail to rememberthe important Truths of God which concern both the Spirit and the Son of God. But yet it may be right, here, to remind youthat we cannot do spiritual good to our fellow creatures apart from the Spirit of God. Neither can we be blessed to them ifwe do not preach to them "Jesus Christ and Him crucified." God must use us, but oh, let us long to be used! Pray to be usedand cry to be used!
Dear Brothers and Sisters, let us purge ourselves of everything that would prevent our being employed by the Lord! If thereis anything we are doing, or undoing, any evil we are harboring, or any Grace we are neglecting which may make us unfit tobe used of God, let us pray the Lord to cleanse, mend and scour us till we are vessels fit for the Master's use. Then letus be on the watch for opportunities of usefulness. Let us go about the world with our ears and our eyes open, ready to takeadvantage of every occasion for doing good. Let us not be content till we are useful and make this the main design and ambitionof our lives. Somehow or other we must, and will, bring souls to Jesus Christ!
As Rachel cried, "Give me children, or I die," so may none of you be content to be barren in the household of God! Cry andsigh until you have snatched some brand from the burning and have brought at least one to Jesus Christ, that so you, also,may have saved a soul from death and covered a multitude of sins.
III. And, now, a few minutes, only, to the point which is not in the text. I want to make A PARTICULAR APPLICATION of thiswhole subject to the conversion of children. Beloved Friends, I hope you do not altogether forget the Sunday school. And yetI am afraid a great many Christians are scarcely aware that there are such things as Sunday schools at all. They know it byhearsay but not by observation. Probably in the course of 20 years they have never visited the school, or concerned themselvesabout it. They would be gratified to hear of any success accomplished, but though they may not have heard anything about thematter, one way or the other, they are well content.
In most Churches you will find a band of young and ardent spirits giving themselves to Sunday school work. But there are numbersof others who might greatly strengthen the school who never attempt anything of the sort. In this they might be excused ifthey had other work to do. But, unfortunately, they have no godly occupation but are mere killers of time-while this workwhich lies ready to hand, and is accessible and demands their assistance-is entirely neglected. I will not say there are anysuch sluggards here, but I am not able to believe that we are quite free from them, and therefore I will ask Conscience todo its work with the guilty parties.
Children need to be saved! Children may be saved! Children are to be saved by instrumentality! Children may be saved whilethey are children. He who said, "Suffer the little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not, for of such is the kingdomof Heaven," never intended that His Church should say, "We will look after the children by-and-by when they have grown upto be young men and women." He intended that it should be a subject of prayer and earnest endeavor that children, as children,should be converted to God! The conversion of a child involves the same work of Divine Grace and results in the same blessedconsequences as the conversion of an adult.
There is the saving of the soul from death, in the child's case, and the hiding of a multitude of sins. But there is thisadditional matter for joy-that a great preventive work is done when the young are converted. Conversion saves a child froma multitude of sins. If God's eternal mercy shall bless your teaching to a little prattler, how happy that boy's life willbe compared with what it might have been if it had grown up in folly, sin, shame and had only been converted after many years!It is the highest wisdom and the truest prudence to pray for our children that while they are yet young their hearts may begiven to the Savior-
"It will save them from a thousand snares, To mind religion young. Grace will preserve their following years, And make theirvirtues strong."
To reclaim the prodigal is well, but to save him from ever being a prodigal is better! To bring back the thief and the drunkis a praiseworthy action, but so to act that the boy or girl shall never become a thief or a drunk is far better!
Therefore Sunday school instruction stands very high in the list of philanthropic enterprises and Christians ought to be mostearnest in it. He who converts a child from the error of his way prevents, as well as covers, a multitude of sins. And, moreover,it gives the Church the hope of being furnished with the best of men and women. The Church's Samuels and Solomons are madewise in their youth. Davids and Josiahs were tender of heart when they were tender in years. Read the lives of the most eminentministers and you shall usually find that their Christian history began early. Though it is not absolutely necessary, yetit is highly propitious to the growth of a well-developed Christian character, that its foundation should be laid on the bottomof youthful piety.
I do not expect to see the churches of Jesus Christ ordinarily built up by those who have, through life, lived in sin, butby the bringing up in their midst, in the fear and admonition of the Lord, young men and women who become pillars in the Houseof our God. If we want strong Christians we must look to those who were Christians in their youth. Trees must be planted inthe courts of the Lord while yet young if they are to flourish well and long. And, Brothers and Sisters, I feel that the workof teaching the young has, at this time, an importance superior to any which it ever had before, for at this time there areabroad those who are creeping into our houses and deluding men and women with their false doctrine. Let the Sunday schoolsof England teach the children well!
Let them not merely occupy their time with pious phrases, but let them teach them the whole Gospel and the Doctrines of Graceintelligently. And let them pray over the children and never be satisfied unless the children are turned to the Lord JesusChrist and added to the Church-and then I shall not be afraid of Popery. Popish priests said of old that they could have wonEngland back, again, to Rome, if it had not been for the catechizing of the children. We have laid aside catechisms, I thinkwith too little reason, but at any rate, if we do not use godly catechisms we must bring back decided, plain, simple teaching-andthere must be pleading and praying for the conversion of the children-the immediate conversion of children unto the Lord JesusChrist.
The Spirit of God waits to help us in this effort. He is with us if we are with Him. He is ready to bless the most humbleteacher and even the infant classes shall not be without a benediction. He can give us words and thoughts suitable to ourlittle auditory. He can so bless us that we shall know how to speak a word in season to the youthful ear. And oh, if it isnot so, if teachers are not found, or, being found, are unfaithful, we shall see the children that have been in our schoolsgo back into the world like their parents-hating religion because of the tedium of the hours spent in Sunday school-and weshall produce a race of infidels, or a generation of superstitious persons! The golden opportunity will be lost and most solemnresponsibility will rest upon us. I pray the Church of God to think much of the Sunday school. I beseech all lovers of thenation to pray for Sunday schools. I entreat all who love Jesus Christ and would see His kingdom come, to be very tender towardsall youthful people and to pray that their hearts may be won to Jesus.
I have not spoken, this morning, as I should like to speak, but the theme lies very near my heart. It is one which ought topress heavily upon all our consciences, but I must leave it. God must lead your thoughts into it. I leave it, but not tillI have asked these questions-What have you been doing for the conversion of children, each one of you? What have you donefor the conversion of your own children? Are you quite clear upon that matter? Do you ever put your arms around your boy'sneck and pray for him and with him? Father, you will find that such an act will exercise great influence over your lad. Mother,do you ever talk to your little daughter about Christ and Him Crucified? Under God's hands you may be a spiritual as wellas a natural mother to that well-beloved child of yours.
What are you doing, you who are guardians and teachers of youth? Are you clear about their souls? You weekday schoolmasters,as well as you who labor on Sunday-are you doing all you should that your boys and girls may be brought, early, to confessthe Lord? I leave it with yourselves. You shall receive a great reward if, when you enter Heaven, as I trust you will, youshall find many dear children there to welcome you into eternal happiness! It will add another Heaven to your own Heaven,to meet with heavenly beings who shall salute you as their teacher who brought them to Jesus. I would not wish to go to Heavenalone-would you?
I would not wish to have a crown in Heaven without a star in it because no soul was ever saved by my means-would you? Therethey go, the sacred flock of blood-bought sheep! The great Shepherd leads them. Many of them are followed by twins, and othershave, each one, their lamb. Would you like to be a barren sheep of the great Shepherd's flock? The
scene changes. Hearken to the tramping of a great host! I hear their war music. My ears are filled with their songs of victory!The warriors are coming home and each one is bringing his trophy on his shoulder, to the honor of the great Captain. Theystream through the gate of pearl! They march in triumph to the celestial Capitol, along the golden streets, and each soldierbears with him his own portion of the spoil. Will you be there? And being there will you march without a trophy and add nothingto the pomp of the triumph? Will you bear nothing that you have won in battle, nothing which you have ever taken for Jesuswith your sword and with your bow?
Again, another scene is before me: I hear them shout the "harvest home" and see the reapers bearing, everyone, his sheaf.Some of them are bowed down with the heaps of sheaves which load the happy shoulders-these went forth weeping, but they havecome again rejoicing-bringing the sheaves with them. Yonder comes one who bears but a little handful, but it is rich grain-hehad but a tiny plot and a little seed corn entrusted to him-and it has multiplied well according to the rule of proportion.Will you be there without so much as a solitary ear? Never having plowed nor sown, and therefore never having reaped? If so,every shout of every reaper might well strike a fresh pang into your heart as you remember that you did not sow-and thereforecould not reap.
If you do not love my Master, do not profess to do so! If He never bought you with His blood, do not lie to Him and come toHis Table and say that you are His servant! But if His dear wounds bought you, give yourself to Him and if you love Him feedHis sheep and feed His lambs! He stands here unseen by my sight, but recognized by my faith! He exhibits to you the marksof the wounds upon His hands and His feet, and He says to you, "Peace be unto you! As My Father has sent Me, even so I sendyou. Go you into all the world and preach the Gospel to every creature, and know this, that he that converts a sinner fromthe error of his ways shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins."
Good Master, help us to serve you! Amen.
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-James 5.