Sermon 1566. Cheer for the Worker and Hope for London
DELIVERED ON THURSDAY EVENING, OCTOBER 28, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"Then spoke the Lord to Paul in the night by a vision, Be not afraid, but speak and hold not your peace: for I am with youand no man shall set on you to hurt you: for I have much people in this city." Acts 18:9,10.
IT is clear from this, dear Friends, that even he who was not a whit behind the chief of the Apostles sometimes needed specialcomfort. It is possible that even the bravest of the brave may be afraid. Sinking of heart assailed even Samson while as yetthe thousand slain lay in heaps around him. Moses was cast down in the desert and David on the throne. Even iron will melt,much more a heart of flesh. Remember the faintness of Elijah when he said, "Let me die, I am no better than my fathers," andrecollect that this was a lion-like man, one of those ministers of God who are as a flame of fire! The second Elijah, he whorebuked Herod to his face, was sadly staggered while he lay in prison. John the Baptist sent to Jesus to inquire, "Are youHe that should come?"
No doubt those heroes who have fought the battle of the Truth of God and have driven back its adversaries have been men oflike passions with us and some of them of more than ordinary sensitiveness of feeling. Luther said, "Because I seem to bealways strong and merry, men think that I walk on a bed of roses, but God knows how it is with me." Perhaps no man ever experiencedsuch mighty joys and such tremendous despairs as did that mighty man who shook the papacy to its foundation! Even Paul wasnot without his tendency to fear. He writes in one of his Epistles: "When we were come into Macedonia, our flesh had no rest,but we were troubled on every side; without were fightings, within were fears." Do not think, therefore, my dear Brother orSister, if, in working for Christ, you get thoroughly cast down and sick of yourself, that you are undergoing an experienceunknown to the sons of God. It is by no means so.
Trembling takes hold on all in turns. Faintness is common enough on all hands. Fear, like the mist of the valley, steals overthe very garden of the Lord and there is not a flower in all the borders which is not, at times, bowed down with the weightof the chilly damp. But the Lord took care to visit His servant when he was in a measure of trouble, or afraid of being so.He came to him in the visions of the night. We do not expect to see the Lord Jesus Christ in visions, now, for, "we have amore sure Word of prophecy to which we do well to take heed, as unto a light that shines in a dark place"-we have the Wordof God, Inspired and Infallible! We have the whole of the Divinely written roll-we can read it when we will and from its pagesGod speaks with a clear and certain voice. A dream of the night might, perhaps, be only a dream, even in those olden timeswhen God did speak in visions-but this Word of the Lord is no delusion! It stands fast forever and ever and every promiseis sure, being made yes and amen in Christ Jesus.
When by faith we take the promise, it is as if Christ did speak it again to each one of us, for the promise is never exhausted.It is as fresh today, when I read it, as when the eyes of saints a thousand years ago found comfort in it! God is always appearingto you who have believing eyes! God is never silent until we are deaf. He speaks to us morning by morning and He has preceptupon precept for the quiet hours of eventide. The Lord did but appear to Paul during one night, for visions are short andfew, but any night you like to wake and open the Scriptures and seek for the power of the Spirit to rest upon them, you shallhear Jesus speaking to you-and any day you turn to that passage in Isaiah, you shall hear the very words that Jesus spoketo Paul, "Fear not, I am with you," with these additional words, "I am your God. When you go through the fire, you shall notbe burned, neither shall the flame kindle upon you."
Besides, visions and such like things belong to the infancy of the Church-now that she has grown strong, she exercises a greaterfaith in God and needs not that the Invisible should be supplemented by signs and wonders. If you plant a tree in an orchard,it is very common to put a big stake by the side of it to hold it up. Nobody thinks of putting a post to support an appletree which has been there for the last 50 years! In fact, it could hold the stake rather than borrow support from it.
When a ship leaves the docks and passes down the river, you will see it towed out till it reaches the sea. But that same vesselwill, by-and-by, spread all her sails and with a heavenly breeze to bear her along, she will need no tug to tow her to thedesired haven. The Church of God, today, is a tree that needs no support of miracles and visions! She is a vessel that hasbraved for 2,000 years the battle and the breeze and will still, till Christ comes, outride every storm!
At this time, O servants of Jesus, you have the Word of God, which is better than visions! Oh, that tonight the Lord Jesuswould take of His own Word and, by His Spirit, speak it home to all who love Him! Then will they be as much refreshed as thoughthey were in Patmos with the beloved Disciple. My prayer has been especially that the Lord would say to each one here presentwho knows His name, "Be not afraid, but speak and hold not your peace; for I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurtyou: for I have much people in this city." I am to be understood as speaking to every blood-bought man and woman with theanxious desire that the words of the text should be laid home to the heart of each one. O Spirit of God, make Your servant'swords to be as fire among stubble, that so the Gospel flame may spread abroad!
I. And, first, Brothers and Sisters, notice briefly THE TENDENCY OF OUR WEAKNESS. That tendency is revealed in the first word-"Benot afraid." We feel, when we first find Christ, that we must speak for Jesus and we do. But after a while a foolish fearfreezes many a tongue and keeps many a lip silent that ought to be telling out the wondrous story of redeeming love. We getto be afraid. We are not, nowadays, afraid as the first Christians might have been-of the amphitheater and the lions, or ofNero and his sword. Happily, we are delivered from almost all open persecution, but there are times which evidently frightena good many.
For instance, some are afraid to speak for Jesus because of the defects of their education. They fancy that when educatedpersons are present, if they say anything for Christ, they will make a mistake in grammar or mispronounce a word and the verylearned folks will discover their ignorance and set them down for dunces. I have heard a young preacher say that in his earlydays, when he saw a gentleman with a white cravat come into the village chapel, he felt that he could not preach. Somethingvery dreadful about that, no doubt! Somebody from London has entered the cottage where the dear Brother has been trying totalk about Christ and he is in a cold sweat and he hardly knows why. The stranger has a respectable black coat on and is verydifferent from the agricultural laborers who make up the usual congregation and, for fear of him, the champion of the Crossis quaking!
Do you not notice that the good Brother's voice has undergone a serious toning down? He cannot speak with freedom and yet,if he only knew it, his best friend in the whole congregation is that well-dressed stranger. He is afraid of a Brother whowould best sympathize with him and most earnestly pray for him-the very Brother who would encourage him most if they couldhave a half-hour's talk together. Friend over yonder, are you blushing because this incident has happened once and again toyourself? Do you not think that whenever you have been checked in that way it has been very foolish? Has not pride been atthe bottom of it? Should we not be willing to be called blunderers? We should endeavor to do our Lord's work in the best possiblemanner, but if our education is deficient and we cannot overcome early disadvantages, ought we, therefore, to hold back? Shouldwe not be willing to save a soul anyway?
If we can declare the Gospel in a masterly manner, by all means let us do it! But if we are slow of speech and uncouth inutterance, let not these things silence us. Was not Moses slow of utterance? Was he silent? Did not Isaiah acknowledge thathis lips were unfit to deliver God's message? Was he, therefore, idle? If a man is learned and educated, let him reckon thathis learning should help him to simplicity-and if he is not educated, let him talk about Jesus Christ in his own way, withthe words that come fresh from his heart and let him never be afraid. I have known others to be fearful, on the other hand,because they have not gathered educated people to listen to them, but are surrounded by a rough lot whose manners and habitsdistress them. Sensitive Christians have shrunk from speaking to such characters for, they said, "Ah, they will turn it allto ridicule and we must not throw pearls before swine."
Brother, are you quite sure that you have any pearls and are you quite sure that the people are swine? I generally feel asif what I had to say was not so pearly that I need be alarmed about the swine treading on it! And, also, I have felt, concerningmy congregation, that as they have immortal souls, there is something about them which differentiates them from swine-andanyway, who am I to be so particular about the reception which men give to my words? Christ spoke even to those who refusedHim and shall not I do the same? Our Savior did not mean, by that expression, what you think He did. Some parts of our experienceare choice as pearls and these we may only tell to God's own people and not to those who can-
not appreciate them. But, as for the Gospel, preach it before all the swine that ever can be gathered together, for to suchis it sent!
What were all the nations in our Lord's day but a swinish multitude and yet He bade us preach the Gospel to every creature!The worse the men, the more they need the Gospel and the more we are bound to carry it to them! Brothers and Sisters in Christ,it is your business, whoever may be around you, to tell what Jesus Christ has done for you! "But they would laugh at it."Well, well, there are worse things than that in the world! Making people laugh is not the worst thing that can be done. Iwould sooner increase mirth in the world than sorrow. If I made men's hearts ache about nothing, as our novelists often do,I would throw away my pen and hold my tongue! But if, in consequence of some awkwardness or eccentricity, people smile atme-well, if they are the happier, it cannot hurt me. Why should they not laugh at me? And am I not, after all, ridiculous?"No," says one, "I do not think I am." Ah, but my Brother, there is a comic side to you as well as to everybody else and thereis something about you, I dare say, that is ridiculous!
I have generally found that the man who could not bear to be ridiculed was some precise kind of body who was the very personto excite remarks. Oh, be content to take a little of the rough with the smooth for your Master's sake! Some hearts cannotbe got at until, first of all, they feel a keen aversion to what they hear. Better that they should rave with wrath than feelnothing! We must get the oyster open, somehow, and if this may be done by a tempting bait as well as by sheer force, thenlet us try the gentle experiment. It may be the creature will only open out of spite and perhaps it thinks to nip us whenit shuts its shell-but we thrust in the knife of the Gospel and the deed is done! While they are criticizing our manner, wecan stab at their sin!
Sometimes the aversion which people display and the contempt which they profess to feel for the preacher may only be a secondarymeans of enabling the Gospel to get at them the better and, if it is so, why should we be afraid? We have known Brothers whohave trembled at the slightest degree of publicity. They are tender souls and do not like to be seen. I would not harshlycondemn all, for certain minds are quiet and timid and must be allowed to do good by stealth. But I cannot thus excuse all,either, for some are blamably deficient in courage. There is a beautiful modesty about them, but I would have them rememberthat modesty is not all the virtues, nor can it be a substitute for them. The soldier who was so very modest that he retiredbefore the battle, I have heard say, was shot.
And as for Christian people who are so very modest that they get out of the way of everything that is to be done for Christ,I do not know how they will answer for it to their superior Officer at the last. Come, dear Brother, you sang the other day-
"Am I a soldier of the Cross,
A follower of the Lamb
And shall I fear to own His cause,
Or blush to speak His name?"
and so on and yet you are a coward? Yes, put it down in English-you are a coward! If anybody called you so, you would turnred in the face and perhaps you are not a coward in reference to any other subject. What a shameful thing it is that whileyou are bold about everything else you are cowardly about Jesus Christ! Brave for the world and cowardly towards Christ!!A Christian ought to be afraid to be afraid, for His Lord has said, "Whoever, therefore, shall be ashamed of Me and of Mywords in this adulterous and sinful generation; of him, also, shall the Son of Man be ashamed, when He comes in the gloryof His Father with the holy angels."
"Oh, but I am naturally timid," says one. It is to you, then, that the Lord's word is addressed-"Say to them that are of afearful heart, Be strong, fear not." I have heard and I think I have observed that the bravest men in the hour of danger aretimid in the prospect of it. They say that a fire-eater who dashes to the battle is often the man who fails, but he who standstrembling at the first shot-in his inmost soul dreading death-is, nevertheless, the very man to act the hero's part becausehe is so overpowered by a stern sense of duty that he masters fear and steadily keeps his position with cool, immovable resolve-
"The bra ve man is not
He who feels no fear,
For that were stupid and irrational.
But he whose noble soul, its fear subdues,
And bravely bares the danger nature shrinks from."
Up, then, you tremblers and play the man! In the matter of speaking for Jesus this should not be a severe ordeal. Oh, do not,I pray you, let timidity so check you that you cannot speak a word to your own children-cannot pray with your own girl, cannotplead as a father with your own boy, cannot speak as a neighbor or a fellow workman to the man who works side by side withyou at the bench. May God help you to get out of the cold shade of cowardice, for the text says, "Be not afraid."
Still, I hear you say, "I am afraid to speak out for religion because I should bring down upon myself a world of oppositionat home." That is painful, my dear Friend, but though painful, it is a part of the cost which you reckoned upon when you tookup the Cross to follow Jesus. It is a part of the cost that, "a man's foes shall be they of his own household." "The brothershall deliver up the brother to death and the father the child," says Christ. It was so in old times. It is so now. It isterrible to think of what some young people have had to suffer for being faithful to their convictions. But when we considerthat it is all for Jesus' sake, happy are they who are honored to endure on that account!
For His sake, what were it if we were martyred? What were it if all men did forsake us? We ought to have such an esteem forJesus that if all were to become our foes and to hunt us to death, we would still say, "It is well, since hereby I becomea living sacrifice for Christ." Now, I charge every Christian here to be speaking boldly in Christ's name, according as heor she has opportunity and especially to take care of this tendency of our flesh to be afraid which leads, practically, toendeavors to get off easily and save ourselves from trouble. Fear not! Be brave for Christ! Live bravely for Him who diedlovingly for you!
II. We now come to the second point-and this we will also speak upon briefly-it is THE CALLING OF OUR FAITH. "Be not afraid,but speak and hold not your peace." It is the vocation of faith to be a speaker. When the heart believes, the mouth followssuit and makes confession. Faith made Noah a preacher and caused it to be said of Abel, "He, being dead, yet speaks." "I believed,"said David, "therefore have I spoken." And others unite with Him in saying, "We believe and therefore speak." Paul says ofthe Thessalonians, "For from you sounded out the Word of the Lord not only in Macedonia and Achaia, but also in every placeyour faith to God-ward is spread abroad; so that we need not to speak anything." You see their faith had a sound about itas of a trumpet and the Gospel was made known, thereby, in all regions! Faith lives on the Word of God and then gives a voiceto that Word. A dumb faith is a questionable Grace. Faith first speaks to Christ and then speaks for Christ. It hears Hisvoice and then acts as an echo by repeating it!
Why ought those that believe in Christ speak for Him? I answer, first, because, Brothers and Sisters, we are debtors. We areput in trust with the Gospel for other people. Let us not be false to our trusteeship, but faithful stewards of the mysteriesof God. Let us take care that the light is not hid under a bushel and that the talent is not wrapped in a napkin. We havethe Bread of Life in our houses-let it not be hoarded, neither let a single hungry soul knock at our door in vain becausewe are asleep or too idle to attend to the call. We are the reservoirs of God's Gospel that it may flow out of a hundred pipesto thirsty souls who may come from all quarters of the earth and drink! Paul says, "I am debtor, both to the Greeks and tothe barbarians, both to the wise and to the unwise." We owe something to every man that lives.
"Oh," says one, "I do not see that." But has not the Lord said, "You shall love your neighbor as yourself? That is a wordof very wide range, for every human being is your neighbor. The Samaritan was neighbor to the Jew. The Roman Catholic is neighborto the Protestant. The Muslim is neighbor to the Christian and the heathen is neighbor to us all. You never pass "a heathenChinese," or a Zulu in the street without owing him something, according as you have an opportunity to do him good. We are,all of us, of one family and because of the tie of the one blood there is a debt of brotherhood from all who are enlightenedto those who are yet in darkness. Who can tell what we owe to Christ? He seems to say, "Pay it back to My Brothers and Sisters.If you love Me, feed My sheep; feed My lambs. If you want to do good for Me, do good to Mine. Bring in those that I have redeemedwith blood; for this is the best reward you can give Me for having laid down My life for you." You are a keeper of the GospelOracles, my Brother. Take care, then, that you speak and are not silent!
But, next, you and I were saved by the testimony of other people who spoke to us personally. I owe a great deal of my beingbrought to Christ to my parents to whom I would always be grateful for their spiritual care of me. And as a parent, I am torepay that obligation by teaching my own children. I owe very much to a very excellent teacher in a day school. I did try,when I personally taught children, to pay back my teacher by teaching others. I owed still more to such men as Baxter andBunyan who left their books for me to read. I have tried to write earnest books, that I may recompense, as well as I can,the Church of God for the loan which it made to me in that direction. Most of all, I owe my decision, under God, to a manI
never knew, who humbly and simply preached Christ crucified to me-and I would desire to be always preaching Christ crucifiedto others, as the best way of making some sort of return.
Undoubtedly the most of us were brought to Christ by the personal testimony of others and, therefore, we have an obligationto pass on the sacred deposit. Even in those few cases in which no living voice was used, yet the Word of God was made usefulto the soul-and where would the Word of God have been if it had not been for Wickliffe and Tyndale and those holy men whopreserved it to us at the peril of their lives and wrote out a translation of it for the common people- dipping their pensin their own heart's blood to accomplish the deed? We are all debtors to the Church of God and let us repay the gift! We shallbe shamefully ungrateful unless we do this.
Next, let me ask how we to are expect the Gospel to be kept alive in the world if we do not hand it on to the next generationas the former generation handed it down to us? It is from one lip to another that the Word of God is passed with a kind ofliving flame which books are not likely to communicate. Oh, shall it ever be said a century from now, "The people of 1880never thought of us of1980? They let the Gospel go! They allowed the doctrines to be denied, one after the other, and herewe are without them, to perish in the darkness! The people of the Tabernacle knew the priceless Truth of God, but they carednot to make it known and here we are in ignorance through their indifference"? Oh, let it never be so! Let not the next centuryhave to rebuke the professors of the present one and say, "You were false to God. Your men never preached the Gospel, thoughthey had the gift! Your women never told it out to those about you and so the light flickered and almost went out and we arenow left to suffer for your negligence."
May God grant that we may be clear of the blood of souls. What a crime it will be if we murder generations of men by our cowardlysilence! Besides, it seems to me that common humanity calls upon every Christian to seek the salvation of others. They areperishing! Will you let them perish? "God have mercy on them," you say? Yes, but is that all? Have you nothing but that hurriedprayer to give them? "Be you warmed! Be you filled," you say to the hungry and cold and yet you fill them not from your ownstores. God's curse will light on such inhuman conduct! It is ours to labor by pleadings and entreaties to snatch our infatuatedneighbors from the fiery wave which will soon overwhelm impenitent sinners! But if we do not earnestly seek them, they shallperish and God will require their blood at the watchman's hands! He has set each one of His people to take a part of the watchfor the souls of men. Are we awake at our post? Oh, see you well to this, I pray you, each man, each woman for himself orherself! If we love God, we must love our Brothers and Sisters, also. If the Gospel has saved us, we must wish to see otherssaved! Unless we are altogether hypocritical, we must burn with strong desire to bring others to the Savior!
I have been pleased as I have looked around, to see such a goodly number of young men here tonight. Never was the weatherworse and yet our numbers are great and among us are young men in the hundreds! Comrades, I welcome you! I would gladly enlistyou this night into the service of Christ! Come as volunteers! Or if you cannot manage that, come as pressed men. Oh, thatthe Lord Jesus Christ may lay His pierced hands on some young men and say, "You are studying, but what for? Study for Me andMy cause." And to another, "You are working hard to prosper in business, but you have another call and you must consecrateyourself more directly to Me." Or to another man, "You are in business, making money. Are you using it for Me? Are you layingit out for the spread of My kingdom?" I would to God that He would call out to Himself a troop of valiant ones at this goodhour!
I feel somewhat, tonight, in thinking about London, as Farel did when he met with Calvin. Calvin was yet a young man. He hadwritten his famous, "Institutes," and Farel, at Geneva, saw what mental force there was in him. Here is the story from Bungener-"Farel,alike humble and courageous, had often asked if another would not succeed better than he and a sort of presentiment had bidhim wait in hope of such a man. Calvin was unwilling to undertake the work. He was not made, he said, for such an office.He was willing to be a laborer in the great harvest which was ripening, or to be a soldier of the Lord, but this, he was convinced,was not his task. If He had rendered some service, it was by means of a book, the fruit of silence and of study. Farel isurgent...Calvin educed fresh reasons and it seemed as though he wanted to deter Farel by exhibiting to him the defects ofhis future colleague. He knew himself, he said. He was tenacious and obstinate. Once more he asked that he might be left inobscurity to busy himself in studies, for it was only thus he could be of any value. Then Farel broke out, 'Your studies area pretext! I tell you that if you refuse to associate yourself with my work, God will curse you for having sought yourselfand not Christ.' Calvin yielded to God and not to man-and the man always remained dear and venerable in his eyes."
Calvin was henceforth prompt and sincere in the work of the Lord, even when his body was tortured with diseases and worn downwith pain. Would God I might find some such man here who would, this night, respond to the voice saying to him, "Be not afraid,but speak and hold not your peace." A youth looks round and says, "I wonder whether that young man is sitting next to me?"Never mind about your neighbor-look to yourself! Are you the young man? Are you the consecrated woman? Take heed lest a curselight on you if you are disobedient to the heavenly vision!
III. But now, thirdly, THE ENCOURAGEMENT OF OUR SERVICE. Let us dwell on that a little while. "Be not
afraid, but speak and hold not your peace, for I am with you." There is the first encouragement-God's Presence-"I am withyou." When a man speaks for God, God speaks in Him. We never go to war for God at our own charges-He is sure to be with theman who is with Him. If you seek yourself, you will run without God. If you desire honor among men, you shall have no honorfrom God. But if your heart is set upon the blessing of your fellow men and the extension of your Redeemer's kingdom, Godis with you. He never was away from any man who sought holiness, virtue and eternal life. What cause, then, can there be forfear? If God is with you, who can be against you?
Have God with you and you have strength enough, wit enough, gold enough-for you have Grace enough! Does He not say, "My Graceis sufficient for you"? He will give you thought and judgment and utterance. And He will give you within all and above all,a mysterious power which none shall be able to resist. He will help you to acquire what you have not and wisely to use whatyou have. If He gives you not the tongue of the learned, He will use you where your need of learning cannot hinder you. Hehas a sphere for you somewhere. Only trust in Him and be not afraid! O that precious word, "I am with you." What more canthe most fearful require? Come, be of good courage. Take up your cross! Take up your daily service! In these shall lie a presentcomfort and a future reward and your God says, "My Presence shall go with you and I will give you rest."
The next consolation is God's protection. "No man shall set on you to hurt you." The Jews dragged Paul before the judgmentseat of Gallio and Paul must have been amazed when he saw the persecutors, themselves, beaten. The great King knows how toprotect His own ambassador! When men meddle with one of God's burning and shining lights, they will, sooner or later, burntheir fingers. There is a disposition about some ungodly men to fly at Christian ministers just as gnats do at candles andthey generally meet with the gnats' fate. "Touch not My anointed and do My Prophets no harm," is still the shelter of God'sministers. "No weapon that is formed against you shall prosper and every tongue that rises in judgment against you, you shallcondemn," is a promise which abides the same.
"Still," says one, "I am half afraid." But then the Lord is your protection and who is he that shall harm you if you followthat which is good? How feeble all your enemies are! Who are you that you should be afraid of a man that shall die and ofthe son of man that is but as dust. "Fear not them which can kill the body, but afterwards have no more that they can do;but fear Him who, after He has killed, has power to cast into Hell. Yes, I say unto you, Fear Him." The protection of Godshould be a constant fountain of comfort to God's people.
The last comfort is God's predestination. Predestination is an ugly word to some people, but I cannot help that. Here is thedoctrine in the text-"I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurt you, for I have much people in this city." That isto say, many who belonged to Christ, though they were as yet heathens. The Lord does not speak of those who were converted!Paul did not need a Revelation in the night to tell Him that God had much people in that city, if by that was meant the personswho professed faith in Christ, for he knew all about them. Night and day he had watched over them. But God knew that He hadan elect people in Corinth whom He must save-a redeemed people that Christ specially bought from among men to be His own people,of whom the Lord had said, "Other sheep have I that are not yet of this flock."
Paul was cheered by the good news that God had many chosen and redeemed ones in Corinth whom He must save! I learn from thisthat the doctrine of God's predestination is no check to labor. "If there are so many that will be saved," says one, "thenwhy do you preach?" That is why we do preach! If there are so many fish to be taken in the net, I will go and catch some ofthem! Because many are ordained to be caught, I spread my nets with eager expectation. I never could see why that should repressour zealous efforts! It seems to me to be the very thing that should awaken us to energy-that God has a people and that thesepeople shall be brought in! Why, it nerves me to labor when I remember that His Word shall not return void-it shall prosperin the thing where He has sent it!
If God has ordained to save men, yet it is a part of the ordinance that they shall be saved through the preaching of the Wordof God, for "faith comes by hearing and hearing by the Word of God"-and not without faith and the Word shall
any man be saved! Nor has God ever said that any should, or ever purposed that any should! The purpose embraces the meansfor the carrying out of the purpose and that decree which predestinates the salvation of many in Corinth predestinates thatPaul should go there and that he should stay there a year and a half-and night and day, with tears, should seek the soulsof men! What a comfort it ought to be to all earnest workers that God has many people yet unsaved whom He will save and mustsave! Thus we go to work under the sweet shadow of the Divine decree, stimulated by it to labor with all our might.
The next thing we learn is that the certainty of success should be a great stimulus to us. That is why the Lord said to Paul,"I have much people in this city." You and I are bound to preach the Gospel, even if never a soul were converted by it, forthe great objective of the Gospel is the Glory of God and God is glorified even in those who reject the Gospel! Still, itis a very sweet help to earnestness when we know that we shall not labor in vain, or spend our strength for nothing. "I havemuch people in this city" nerves Paul to go forth and proclaim bravely, in every place, that Word of God which is to bringthe people of God home to Himself.
But, next, we see very clearly that old means and methods are quite sufficient to save souls. Our Lord did not say, "Paul,be not afraid, but deliver a Sunday afternoon lecture with a nonsensical title and little or no Gospel in it." No, no! OurMaster said, "Speak and hold not your peace, for I have much people in this city." God's way of saving souls is the best way,after all! You and I may get up all sorts of inventions and He may wink at our follies and let us go on with them, but Hisway of saving souls is speaking the Gospel and nothing other than the Gospel! I should like to see in the world, again, arevival like that under Jonathan Edwards in which there were no extravagances, no utterances of false doctrine, no makinga noise and a riot-but just the preaching of the old-fashioned Doctrines of Grace!
Those Truths of God brought on a revival of a deep and enduring kind. Men were filled with an awful fear of God and they repentedbitterly and mended their ways and sought Jesus in dreadful earnest and rested not till they found Him! They did not singjigs, but they wept as one that is in bitterness for her firstborn. They flaunted no banners, but they laid hold on Jesusin the secret of their souls. They did not often shout, but they went home and talked, one to another, of what God had beendoing in their souls and they lived near Him. I would like to see that old kind of work and life among us again! The HolySpirit may work as He pleases, but still, that order of revival seemed to be deep and permanent and the results were foundafter many days-whereas, nowadays-where are the converts of your revivals? Where are the converts after a little time haspassed? All Paul did, when he knew there was much people in that city, was just to go and speak the Gospel and not be afraid-I,for one, mean to keep to the old-fashioned way.
Once again, dear Friends, usefulness, according to the text is the best protection a man can have. Notice that. "No man shallset on you to hurt you, for I have much people in this city." When God means to save people by any man, that man will livetill the chosen are gathered in! He may go to sea, but storms cannot drown him! He may be waylaid by ungodly men, but robberscannot hurt him! He is immortal till his work is done! There is no protection for anybody, depend upon it, like usefulness-Godwill not allow the goat to browse upon the branch that bears fruit-or the blast to wither. Men of God have gone into feverlairs, using all care and precaution and they have been protected from the pestilence.
It has happened that Christian men have been in perils by robbers, perils by false brethren, perils everywhere, but they havesurvived all and triumphed in all-and when they have not been thus upheld, it may have been because their ministry was ended.They went Home because their day's work was over! Where else should they go? They went back to their Father, for their Fatherhad no more need of them abroad. As long as God has anything for you to do, nothing will ever kill you, my Brother! Go aheadand fear not. "I have much people in this city." Go to win them and you shall be safe!
I believe that our position at this time is very much that of Paul's, for we, too, hope, trust and believe that God has muchpeople in this city. What a city it is! Not one among us has any idea of the size of London! You shall go, today, to a well-rememberedspot and find yourself, all of a sudden, in a region which you never saw before-a township which has sprung up overnight!I remember an old oak tree and a pond with geese and cowslips growing in the meadow. It is a mile in town at the present momentand the tree is gone and everything that was around it. Instead of a hedgerow I sigh to see an endless wilderness of brownbricks and stucco. Oh, this great city! It grows at an awful rate, but God has much people in it, depend upon it!
I believe God means to bless London largely. You will ask, "Why?" Well, I look back upon its past history and I have hope.The martyrs' blood lies here! When all the country was yielding its martyrs, London furnished its full share. On this
very spot where we now are, three were burnt for the Truth of God's sake. Old chronicles say, "At the Butts at Newington,three Anabaptists were burnt." These were among the earliest of martyrs, before Protestants were known or thought of. Anabaptistswere always a prey and they who killed them thought they did God a favor! Members of our ancient persecuted Church were oftenburnt for the Truth's sake and for Christ's sake in London-and from the ground, their blood is calling still! All over thisLondon of ours, the preaching of the Gospel was precious in the old times. You hear the name of, "Gospel Oak," as you travelin the North of London and the tree was so called because there the Gospel was preached and crowds gathered beneath its shadeto listen to the joyful sound! All about the city secret groups met to worship God after the Gospel way.
Now, the Lord will never let the blood of the martyrs die out! It will forever be the seed of His Church. See, again, howLondon kindled with holy fire in the days of Whitfield and Wesley. Go but a mile from this place and notice Kennington Park,once Kennington Common. What thousands used to gather there to hear the Gospel preached! The men of the south of London lovedthe Gospel! Multitudes of them still do. I feel sure that God will yet bless London because at this very moment, if the Gospelis preached so that people can understand it, they will throng to hear it! Alas, poor men cannot understand half the preachers.They preach Latin fit for drawing rooms. If they would go to Billingsgate and learn English, they might get on.
You say, "That would be very rough English!" Well, but the roughest of English might be better than the Latinized jargon ofmost of our pulpits. When men preach the Gospel plainly and simply, they will never lack a congregation in this great city,I am certain of it. Away in a hack street down in a hollow way just beyond Barclay and Perkins's brewery, where there areno cabs, or other public conveyances-right out of the world and into the mud-the crowds came and discovered a boy years agoand they followed him because he preached the Gospel in a way which they could understand. They will find a man anywhere ifhe will but preach the Gospel of Christ! I am sure that the Lord has much people in this city because there is a hungeringand thirsting after the Gospel, if they could but get at it.
Go ahead, then, Brothers and Sisters! Talk about Christ! Talk about Him everywhere! Talk about Him in the workshop! Speakabout Him quietly and modestly, prudently and gently, but carry out the blessed Words of my text-"Be not afraid, but speakand hold not your peace." Be this to each one his word of good cheer, "For I am with you and no man shall set on you to hurtyou: for I have much people in this city." God bless you, for Christ's sake. Amen and amen!