Sermon 1972. A Bit of History for Old and Young
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JULY 10, 1887,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And he blessed Joseph and said, God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk, the God which fed me all my lifelong unto this day, the Angel which redeemed me from all evil, bless the lads." Genesis 48:15,16.
JOSEPH was one by himself. In Jacob's family he was like a swan in a duck's nest-he seemed to be of a different race fromthe rest, even from his childhood. He was the son of old age, the son of the elders, that is, a child who was old when hewas young, in thoughtfulness and devotion. He reached an early ripeness which did not end in early decay. In consequence ofthis, Joseph was one by himself in the peculiarity of his trials. Through his brothers' hatred of him, he was made to suffergreatly and, at last, was sold into slavery and underwent trials in Egypt of the severest kind. "The archers have sorely grievedhim and shot at him, and hated him." But, Brothers and Sisters, see the recompense, for he had blessings which were altogetherhis own. "His bow abode in strength and the arms of his hands were made strong by the hands of the mighty God of Jacob." Hewas as distinguished by the favor of God as by the disfavor of his brothers.
When Jacob is old and about to die, Joseph receives from him a blessing all to himself, in addition to that which he receivedwith his brothers. In the 49th chapter we read, "Gather yourselves together, and hear, you sons of Jacob: and hearken untoIsrael, your father." And they did so and received as a family such blessings as their father's prophetic eyes foresaw. Butbefore this, "by faith, Jacob blessed the two sons of Joseph" at a private interview especially granted to them. Had not histribulations abounded, his consolations would not so have abounded! Do you seem, yourself, my Friend, to be marked out forpeculiar sorrows? Do the arrows of affliction make your life their target and are you chastened above all other men? Do notbe regretful, for the arrows are winged by Covenant Love which designs, by their wounds, are to prepare you for a specialwork which will lead up to a special benediction from your Father who is in Heaven!
The day will come when you will be grateful for every smart you now endure-yes, grateful for that bitter pang of unkindnessfrom your brothers, though now it tortures your heart. The abundance of the Revelation of God is usually joined with a thornin the flesh either before or after it. Notwithstanding your grief, there shall yet be born to you, as to Joseph, a Manasseh,for God shall make you forget all your toil, and an Ephraim, for God shall make you fruitful in the land of your affliction.You shall be blessed above all others! "Even by the God of your father, who shall help you; and by the Almighty, who shallbless you with blessings of Heaven above, blessings of the deep that lies under, blessings of the breasts, and of the womb:the blessings of your father have prevailed above the blessings of my progenitors unto the utmost bound of the everlastinghills: they shall be on the head of Joseph, and on the crown of the head of him that was separate from his brethren."
Surely it is good for a man that he bears the yoke in his youth-his shoulders shall be the better able to bear the governmentwhen God shall lay it upon them! Instructed by affliction, the man shall become a father to his people and a comforter tothe afflicted.
Our text tells us that Jacob blessed Joseph and we perceive that he blessed him through blessing his children which leadsus to the next remark, that no more choice favor could fall upon ourselves than to see our children favored of the Lord. Josephis doubly blessed by seeing Ephraim and Manasseh blessed. Dear young people, to whom I now speak, your fathers can say, "Wehave no greater joy than this, that our children walk in the Truth of God." If any of you who are unconverted knew the deepsearching of heart of your parents about you, I think you would not long be careless and indifferent about Divine things.And if you could conceive the flashes of heavenly joy that would light up your parents'
hearts if they saw you saved in the Lord, it would be an inducement to you to consider your ways and turn unto the Lord withfull purpose of heart. God, Himself, next to giving to His chosen the Covenant of Grace, can do them no greater earthly kindnessthan to call their children, by His Grace, into the same Covenant! Will you not think of this?
Those of us who are parents are bound to do our best that our children may be partakers with us of the Divine inheritance.As Joseph took Ephraim and Manasseh to see their aged grandfather, let us bring our children where blessings may be expected.Let us be careful of the company into which we take our sons and daughters. Let us never conduct them where they may receiveharm rather than benefit. Carefully, lovingly, wisely-using no undue severity-let us guide them into likely places for theDivine benediction and encourage them to seek the blessing for themselves by the fact that their parents are seeking it forthem. The father who will not seize every opportunity of getting a blessing for his Eph-raim and Manasseh is not likely tosee the lads seeking the blessing for themselves. Especially should this care be taken by parents who are growing rich-whoseoffspring will be tempted by this very fact to seek grander society than the poor people of God can afford them.
I doubt not that these two sons of Egypt's prime minister were exposed to exceedingly great temptations. As the sons of avery wealthy and distinguished parent, their tastes might lie in an Egyptian direction. I believe that they were, nevertheless,greatly swayed to the right side and led to worship the God of Abraham, and of Isaac, and of Jacob, by the zeal of their father,Joseph, and by the recollection of the benediction of their dying grandfather. There is no trace of their having inclinedto the religion of the king and the nobles of Egypt-they adhered to the faith of their father. Oh that all the descendantsof Puritan fathers might be steadfast to the pure Truth of God in these evil days!
Furthermore, observe that if we want to bless young people, one of the likeliest means of doing so will be our personal testimonyto the goodness of God. Young men and women usually feel great interest in their fathers' life story-if it is a worthy one-andwhat they hear from them of their personal experience of the goodness of God will abide with them. We all read biographiesand we value the results of experience which we find there, but the biographies of our own relatives are peculiarly treasured.And when these biographies are not read, but spoken, what wonderful force they have! I remember in my younger days hearinga minister, blind with age, speak at the communion table and bear witness to us young people who had just joined the Church,that it was well for us that we had come to put our trust in a faithful God. And, as the good man, with great feebleness andyet with great earnestness, said to us that he had never regretted that he had given his heart to Christ as a boy, I feltmy heart leap within me with delight that I had such a God to be my God!
His testimony was such as a younger man could not have borne-he might have spoken more fluently, but the weight of those 80years at the back of it made the old man eloquent to my young heart! We who are growing gray in our Master's service oughtnot to be backward to speak well of His name. Why, my Brother, you will not be able to do so much good in Heaven as you canon earth, for they all know about it up there-but men here need our witness to the God whom we have tried and proved! Letus make occasions in which we may speak well of the Lord, even the God who has fed us all our life and redeemed us from allevil. This is one of the best ways in which to bless the lads. The benediction of Jacob was intertwined with his biography-theblessing which he had, himself, enjoyed, he wished for them-and as he invoked it, he helped to secure it by his personal testimony.
One thing further. I want you to note that Jacob, in desiring to bless his grandsons, introduced them to God. He speaks of"God before whom my fathers did walk: God who blessed me all my life long." This is the great distinction between man andman! There are two races-he that fears God and he that fears Him not. The religion of this present age, such as it is, hasa wrong direction in its course. It seeks after what is called "the enthusiasm of humanity," but what we need, far more, isenthusiasm for God! We shall never go right unless God is first, midst and last. I despair for benevolence when it is notbased upon devotion. We shall not long have love to man if we do not first and chiefly cultivate love to God. What our boysneed in starting in life is a God-if we have nothing else to give them, they have enough if they have God! What our girlsneed in quitting the nurture of home is God's love in their hearts-and whether they have fortunes or not, is a small matter!In fellowship with God lies the essence of true human life! Life in God, life by the knowledge of the Most High, life throughthe Redeeming Angel-this is life, indeed!
Jacob died as one who had been delivered from all evil, yes, even the evil of old age. His eyes were dim, but that did notmatter, for his faith was clear. I love to think that we are going where our vision of God will not be through the eyes, butthrough the spiritual perceptions. These were brighter in Jacob in his old age than ever before. His faith and love,
which are the earthly forms of those perceptions, were apprehending God in a more forcible manner than ever and, therefore,signified little that the eyes which he would need no longer were failing him. We cannot say that he was in decay, after all,for he was losing what he only needed in this world of shadows-and was gaining fitness for the higher state! His graciousfaculties grew as his bodily faculties declined and, therefore, he felt that his life was ending in a fullness of blessingsuch as he wished for the children of his dearest son. How ardently do I wish the same blessing for all the young people beforeme! The Lord God Almighty bless you! When your earth-born faculties fail you, may heavenly Graces more than supply their place!
All this is introduction, so now we must come at once and plunge into the discourse! And I will be brief upon each point ofit. Jacob's testimony, wherewith he blessed the sons of Joseph, has in it four points.
I. First, HE SPEAKS OF ANCESTRAL MERCIES. He begins with that "God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk." Aswith a pencil he sketches the lives of Abraham and Isaac. He does not fill in with coloring, but the outline is perfect-yousee the two men in their whole career in those few words-"God, before whom my fathers Abraham and Isaac did walk."
They were men who recognized God and worshipped Him beyond all others of their age. God was to them a real existence. Theyspoke with God and God spoke with them. They were friends of God and enjoyed familiar acquaintance with him. No agnosticismblinded their understandings and deadened their hearts. They were worshippers of the one living and true God. Happy childrenwho have such fathers! Happier children who are like such fathers!
They not only recognized God, but they acknowledged Him in daily life. I take the expression, "God, before whom my fathersAbraham and Isaac did walk," to mean that He was their God in common life. They not only knelt before God when they prayed,but they walked before Him in everything. When they went forth from their tents and when they returned from their flocks,they walked before God. They were never away from His service, or without His Presence. He was their dwelling place. Whetherthey sojourned under an oak or dwelt by a well. Whether they entertained strangers or walked in the field to meditate, theylived and moved in God. This is the kind of life for you and for me-whether we live in a great house or in a poor cottage,if we walk before God we shall lead a happy and a noble life-whether that life is public or obscure. Oh that our young peoplewould firmly believe this!
They walked before God, that is, they obeyed His commands. His call they heard, His bidding they followed. Abraham left countryand kindred to go to an unknown land which God would show him. Yes, more, he took his son, whom he greatly loved, and stoodprepared to sacrifice him at God's command! Isaac also yielded himself up to be slain, if so Jehovah willed. To them the willof the Lord was paramount-He was Law and Life to them, for they loved and feared Him. They were prompt to hear the behestsof God and rose up early to fulfill them. They acted as in the immediate Presence of the All-Seeing.
To the fullest they trusted Him. In this sense they always saw Him. We sometimes talk about tracing Him. We cannot trace Himexcept as we trust Him! And because they trusted, they traced Him. Notwithstanding all the danger and difficulty of theirpilgrim state, they dwelt in perfect security in an enemy's land, for the Lord had said, "Touch not My anointed and do MyProphets no harm." They were serene and tranquil because they walked before God, knowing Him to be their Friend-and that Hewas their shield and their exceedingly great reward. For temporal things they had no anxiety, for they lived upon the All-SufficientGod. Therefore these two men, Abraham and Isaac, though much tried, led peaceful lives-they conversed with Heaven while theysojourned on earth.
They enjoyed the favor of God, for this, also, is intended by walking before Him. His face was towards them-they sunned themselvesin His smile. God's love was their true treasure. We read that God had blessed Abraham in all things and of Isaac we heareven the Philistines say, "We saw certainly that the Lord was with you." God was their wealth, their strength, their exceedingjoy! I say again, happy sons who have such ancestors! Happier, still, if they follow in their track!
So Jacob spoke of Abraham and Isaac and so can some of us speak of those who went before us. Those of us who can look backupon godly ancestors now in Heaven must feel that many ties bind us to follow the same course of life. Had they transgressedagainst the Lord, our duty would have called us to quit the ways of the family, even as Abraham left his kindred who dwelton the other side of the flood. But as their way was right, we are doubly called to follow it because it is the good old wayand the way our godly fathers trod.
There is a charm about that which was prized by our fathers. Heirlooms are treasured and the best heirloom in a family isthe knowledge of God. When I spoke, the other day, with a Christian Brother, he seemed right happy to tell me that he sprangfrom a family which came from Holland during the persecution of the Duke of Alva. And I felt a brotherhood with him in claiminga like descent. I dare say our fathers were poor weavers, but I had far rather be descended from one who suffered for thefaith than bear the blood of all the emperors within my veins! There should be a sacredness to you young people in the faithfor which your ancestors suffered. Choose not the society of Egypt and its wealth and honors, but keep to the stock of Israeland claim the inheritance of Jacob as Ephraim and Manasseh did. Let it not be said that as your family increased in riches,it departed from the living God. Shall the goodness of God be perverted into a reason for apostasy?
The way of holiness in which your fathers went is a fitting way for you and it is seemly that you maintain the godly traditionsof your house. In the old times they expected sons to follow the secular calling of their fathers and although that may beregarded as an old-world mistake, yet it is well when sons and daughters receive the same spiritual call as their parents.Grace is not tied to families, yet the Lord delights to bless to a thousand generations! Very far are we from believing thatthe new birth is of blood, or of the will of the flesh, or of the will of man. The will of God reigns here supreme and absolute-butyet there is a sweet fitness in the passing on of holy loyalty from grandfather to father and from father to son. I like tofeel that I serve God "from my fathers." I feel that it is right and comely that I should be found preaching out of my wholesoul the same doctrine which my grandfather and my father preached-and equally fit that my sons should be found, as they are,preaching no other Gospel than that which we have received-"Jesus Christ the same yesterday, today and forever!"
I say again, if our fathers were wrong, we ought boldly to dissent from them and obey God rather than man, but where theyare right we are bound to follow them! I stood, last Wednesday in a sort of dream as I gazed upon my much-beloved grandfather'splace of sepulcher. I was encouraged by seeing the record of his 54 years of service in the midst of one church and peopleand I rejoiced that, could he rise from the dead, he would find his grandson preaching that same old-fashioned and much-despisedCalvinistic doctrine of the Grace of God which was his joy in life and his comfort in death!
A godly ancestry casts responsibility upon young people. These Ephraims and Manassehs perceive that their fathers knew theLord and the question arises, Why should they not know Him? O my beloved young Friends, the God of your fathers will be foundof you and be your God! The prayers of your fathers have gone before you-let them be followed by your own. Be hopeful of beingheard at that Mercy Seat where they found Grace to help in every time of need. They died in the hope that you would fill theirplaces-shall not their hopes become facts? Do I speak to some who have godly parents in Heaven and yet they are, themselves,pursuing the ways of sin or of worldliness? Registered upon that file are your mother's prayers. I trust they will yet beheard. Even now they stand like a hedge about you, making it hard work for you to go to Hell! Will you force your way to Hellover a father's grave? Will you, by a desperate effort, push aside your pleading mother's form and pursue your dreadful roadto ruin? If so, you will involve yourselves in tremendous guilt. I beseech you, hear the tender voice of love which now invitesyou to be blest!
A godly ancestry should invest a man's case with great hopefulness. May he not argue, "If God blessed my ancestors, why shouldHe not bless me? If they sought mercy and found it, why should not I? My father and my mother were not perfect any more thanI am, but they had faith in God and He accepted them and helped them. If I have faith in God, He will accept me and be faithfulto me. They were saved as sinners trusting in the blood of Jesus and why should not I?" I beseech you, put this argument tothe test and you will find it holds good.
II. Thus we have seen Jacob seeking to bless his seed by bearing testimony to the blessings which God had bestowed upon hishouse. Now he comes to deal with PERSONAL MERCIES. The old man's voice faltered as he said, "The God which fed me all my lifelong." The translation would be better if it ran, "The God which shepherded me all my life
He spoke of the Lord as his Shepherd. Jacob had been a shepherd and, therefore, he knew what shepherding included-the figureis full of meaning. There had been a good deal of Jacob about Jacob and he had tried to shepherd himself. Poor sheep thathe was, while under his own guidance he had been caught in many thorns and had wandered in many wildernesses. Because he wouldbe so much a shepherd to himself, he had been hard put to it. But over all, despite
his willfulness, the shepherding of the Covenant God had been exercised towards him and he acknowledged it. O dear saintsof God, you to whom years are being multiplied, give praise to your God for having been your Shepherd! You delight in the23rd Psalm-sing it sometimes with variations by using the past tense-"The Lord has been my Shepherd and I have known no need.He has made me to lie down in green pastures; He has led me beside the still waters. Yes, though I have walked through thevalley of the shadow of death in times of great darkness, yet I have feared no evil: for He has been with me, His rod andHis staff have comforted me." Bear your witness to the shepherding of God, for this may lead others to become the sheep ofHis pasture.
This shepherding had been perfect. Our version rightly says that the Lord had fed Jacob all his life long. Take that senseof it and you who have a daily struggle for subsistence will see much beauty in it. Jacob had a large family and yet theywere fed. Some of you say, "It is all very well of you to talk of Providence when you have few to provide for." I answer,it is better, still, to talk of Providence where a large household requires large provision! Remember Jacob had 13 children,yet his God provided them bread to eat and clothes to put on. None of that large company were left to starve. You think, perhaps,that Jacob was a man of large estate. He was not so when he began life. He was only a working man-a shepherd. When he lefthis father's house he had no attendants with camels and tents. I suppose he carried his little bit of provision in a handkerchiefand when he laid down that night to sleep, with a stone for his pillow, the hedges for curtains, the heavens for his canopy,and the earth for his bed, he had no fear of being robbed.
God was with him, but apart from that, he had nothing to begin life with but his own hands. Whatever he received from hisfather Isaac afterwards, he had at first to fight his own way-but he knew no lack either at the beginning or at the end, forhe could speak of the great Elohim as, "the God which fed me all my life long." Hundreds of us can say the same! I rememberone who came to be wealthy who used to show me with great pleasure the tree axle of the truck in which he used to wheel hisgoods through the streets when he began in business-I liked to see him mindful of his original. Mind you do not go and say,"See how I have got on by my own talents and industry!" Talk not so proudly, but say, "God has fed me." Mercies are all thesweeter when seen to come from the hand of God.
But besides being fed, Jacob had been led, even as sheep are guided by the shepherd who goes before them. His journeys, forthat period, had been unusually long, perilous and frequent. He had fled from home to Padanaram. After long years he had comeback to Canaan and had met his brother, Esau. And after that, in his old age he had journeyed into Egypt. To go to Californiaor New Zealand in these times is nothing at all compared to those journeys in Jacob's day! But he says, "God has shepherdedme all my life long" and he means that the great changes of his life had been wisely ordered. At home and in exile, in Canaanand in Goshen, God had been a shepherd to him. He sees the good hand of God upon him in all his wanderings, until he now findshimself sitting up on his bed and blessing Joseph through his sons.
I am glad that he went into detail with these young men, for they needed to be confirmed in their fidelity to God. They werein a perilous condition, for they had the entree of the rank and fashion of Egypt and were tempted to forsake the poor familyof the Hebrews. Some of you young fellows begin where your fathers left off and, having the means of self-indulgence, youare apt to follow the fashions and frivolities of the period. Oh that the Holy Spirit may make you feel that you need Godwith you with wealth as much as your fathers needed God without wealth! You may yet come to beggary with all your inheritanceif you cast off the fear of the Lord and fall into sin. You who begin life with nothing but your own brains and hands, trustingin your father's God, shall yet have to sing as your fathers sang, "the God which fed me all my life long."
Young men and young women beginning life, I charge you seek first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness! It is not lifeto live without God-you miss the kernel, the cream, the crown of life if you miss the Presence of God! Life is but a bubbleblown up of toil and trouble without God! Life ends in blighted hope if you have not hope in God. But with God you are asa sheep with a Shepherd-cared for, guided, guarded, fed, led-and your end shall be peace without end!
III. Thirdly, bear with me while I follow Jacob in his word upon REDEEMING MERCIES. "The Angel which redeemed me from allevil." There was to Jacob a mysterious Person who was God and yet the Angel or Messenger of God. He puts this Angel side byside with Elohim, for this Angel was God. Yet was He his Redeemer. He saw Him doing the office of the next-of-kin-though God,He was his Kinsman and, as his Kinsman, effected redemption for him! Jacob's faith enabled him, like Job, to know that hisRedeemer lives. He saw that this Covenant Messenger had redeemed him from all evil and he magnified the name of the Lord whorevealed Himself in this Angel!
When Jacob was in his sorest straits, this Redeeming Angel always interposed. He fell into an evil state through the influenceof his mother and he did Esau serious wrong. He fled for his life and at that time there was a great gulf between him andGod. Then that Angel came in and bridged the gulf with a ladder by which he might rise to God. The Kinsman, God, came in andshowed Jacob how the abyss might be crossed, so that he might return to his God. When he was away in Padanaram, he began tosink very low while chaffering with churlish Laban. Then, again, the Angel came and said, "Get you out from this land andreturn unto the land of your kindred." The Redeeming Angel held back wrathful La-ban-and when Esau came to meet him in hotanger, the Angel specially appeared to Jacob. The Angel wrestled, as a Man, with Jacob to get Jacob out of Jacob and raisehim into Israel! How marvelous was the redemption which was worked for him that night at Jabbok! Jacob came forth from theconflict limping, but he walked before the Lord far better than before! That same mysterious Person had bid him go down intoEgypt with the promise that He would go down with him. It was the Angel of God's Presence who held His shield over Jacob andpreserved him from all evil.
Brothers and Sisters, let us also tell of the redeeming mercies of the Lord Jesus towards us! He redeemed us on the bloodytree, but He has also redeemed us from our death in sin. Do you remember the place and time when Jesus first met with you?Perhaps not. But blessed be the Redeeming Angel that quickened me into spiritual life! I recall the place and time with pleasure!He redeemed us, also, from despair when, under a sense of sin, we could not dare to hope. He came to us and showed us ourhealing in His wounds and our life in His death. Afterwards, when our corruptions began to rise and we had a hard battle tobelieve that such sinners were, indeed, saved, the Redeeming Angel confirmed our faith and gave us inward strength. Do wenot well remember when He said unto us, "I have loved you with an everlasting love: therefore with loving kindness have Idrawn you"? I want you to look back and remember the times when you were sick and this Redeeming Angel so sweetly visitedyou that you were half afraid to get well, for fear you should lose His Pres-ence-your bed had become a throne to you!
You remember, too, when that pinch came in business, so that you could not see how to provide things honest in the sight ofall men. Then Jesus revealed His love and bade you think of the lilies and the ravens which neither spin nor sow and yet areclothed majestically and fare sumptuously! Many a time has the Lord delivered you because He delighted in you. When you werelikely to fall into sin. When you were very wrong in spirit, He beheld you in pity and restored your soul. Though you wereso lukewarm that He was ready to spue you out of His mouth, yet He knocked at your door and when you admitted Him, He camein and supped with you-and your soul was soon on fire with love to Him! He restored your soul and the love of your espousalscame back to you. Blessed Redeemer, how graciously do You deliver! Oh that we more often thought of the interpositions ofthe loving Christ! He did not only redeem us when He died, but He still redeems us by His living power! This is the sum ofour life-the Angel of the Covenant has delivered us day by day, is delivering us and will deliver us to the end! Do you wonderthat we commend Him to our offspring and desire to commit them to His loving care? Young Friends who know not the Savior,I would gladly lead you to this Guardian Angel, this God-like Man who will save you from all evil from this day forth andforevermore!
IV. Now comes the last point-I do not know if anyone has gone to sleep in this close atmosphere, but if so, let him kindlywake up, for I have something to say which will interest him. Jacob has spoken of ancestral mercies, personal mercies andredeeming mercies-and now he deals with FUTURE MERCIES as he cries-"Bless the lads." He began with blessing Joseph and hefinishes with blessing his lads. O dear Friends, if God has blessed you, I know you will want Him to bless others! There isthe stream of mercy, deep, broad and clear-you have drunk of it and are refreshed, but it is as full as ever! It will flowon, will it not? You do not suppose that you and I have dammed up the stream so as to keep it to ourselves! No, it is toostrong-too full a stream for that! It will flow on from age to age. God will bless others as He has blessed us. Unbelief whispersthat the true Church will die out. Do not believe it! Christ will live and His Church will live with Him till the heavensare no more. Has He not said, "Because I live, you shall live also?" "Oh," you say, "but we shall not see such holy men inthe next generation as in past ages." Why not? I hope the next age will see far better men than any of those who are withus at this time! Pray that it may be so. Instead of the fathers, may there be the children and may these be princes beforethe Lord!
The stream of Divine Grace will flow on. Oh, that it may take our sons and daughters in its course! "Bless the lads." Sundayschool teachers, is not that a good prayer for you? Pray the Lord to bless the lads and the lasses, because He has
blessed you. There is the stream-it must flow somewhere-pray, "Lord, make it flow to my family and to my class." For Yourmercy's sake, gracious Lord, "bless the lads."
We need not say in what precise form or way the blessing shall come. Let us leave it in all its breadth of inconceivable benediction.May the Lord bless our youth as only He can do it! And if He causes them to fear and trust Him, He will be blessing all ofus and blessing ages to come. Upon these Ephraims and Manassehs will depend the work of the Lord in the years to come. Therefore,with emphasis we pray, "Bless the lads." All for us, we are content to work on, saying, "Let Your work appear unto Your servants."But our anxious desire is that our children may reap the result of our labors and, therefore, we add, "and Your glory untotheir children."
In closing, I wish to bear a personal testimony by narrating an incident in my own life. I have been preaching in Essex thisweek and I took the opportunity to visit the place where my grandfather preached so long-and where I spent my earliest days.Last Wednesday was to me a day in which I walked like a man in a dream! Everybody seemed bound to recall some event or otherof my childhood. What a story of Divine Love and Mercy did it bring before my mind! Among other things, I sat down in a placethat must always be sacred to me. There stood in my grandfather's manse garden two arbors made of yew trees, cut into sugar-loaffashion. Though the old manse has given way to a new one and the old chapel is also gone, yet the yew trees flourish as before.
I sat down in the right hand arbor and I thought of what had happened there many years ago. When I was a young child stayingwith my grandfather, there came to preach in the village Mr. Knill who had been a missionary at St. Petersburg and a mightypreacher of the Gospel. He came to preach for the London Missionary Society and arrived on the Saturday at the manse. He wasa great soul-winner and he soon spied out the boy. He said to me, "Where do you sleep? for I want to call you up in the morning."I showed him my little room. At six o'clock he called me up and we went into that arbor. There, in the sweetest way, he toldme of the love of Jesus and of the blessedness of trusting in Him and loving Him in our childhood. With many a story he preachedChrist to me and told me how good God had been to him.
And then he prayed that I might know the Lord and serve Him. He knelt down in that arbor and prayed for me with his arms aboutmy neck. He did not seem content unless I kept with him in the interval between the services and he heard my childish talkwith patient love. On Monday morning he did as on the Sabbath and again on Tuesday. Three times he taught me and prayed withme and before he had to leave, my grandfather had come back from the place where he had gone to preach-and all the familywere gathered to morning prayer. Then, in the presence of them all, Mr. Knill took me on his knee and said, "This child willone day preach the Gospel and he will preach it to great multitudes. I am persuaded that he will preach in the chapel of RowlandHill, where, (I think he said), I am now the minister."
He spoke very solemnly, and called upon all present to witness what he said. Then he gave me sixpence as a reward if I wouldlearn the hymn-
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
I was made to promise that when I preached in Rowland Hill's Chapel that hymn should be sung. Think of that as a promise froma child! Would it ever be other than an idle dream? Years flew by. After I had begun, for some little time, to preach in London,Dr. Alexander Fletcher had to give the annual sermon to children in Surrey Chapel, but as he was taken ill, I was asked, ina hurry, to preach to the children. "Yes," I said, "I will, if the children will sing, 'God moves in a mysterious way.' Ihave made a promise long ago that so that should be sung."
And so it was-I preached in Rowland Hill's Chapel and the hymn was sung! My emotions on that occasion I cannot describe. Stillthat was not the chapel which Mr. Knill intended! All unsought by me, the minister at Wotton-Under-Edge, which was Mr. Hill'ssummer residence, invited me to preach there. I went on the condition that the congregation should sing, "God moves in a mysteriousway"-which was also done. After that I went to preach for Mr. Richard Knill, himself, who was then at Chester. What a meetingwe had! Mark this! He was preaching in the theater! His preaching in a theater took away from me all fear about preachingin secular buildings and set me free for the campaigns in Exeter Hall and the Surrey Music Hall. How much this had to do withother theater services you know-
"God moves in a mysterious way His wonders to perform."
After more than 40 years of the Lord's loving kindness, I sat again in that arbor! No doubt it is a mere trifle for outsidersto hear, but to me it was an overwhelming moment. The present minister of Stambourne Meeting House and the
members of his family, including his son and his grandchildren, were in the garden and I could not help calling them togetheraround that arbor while I praised the Lord for His goodness. One irresistible impulse was upon me-it was to pray God to blessthose lads that stood around me! Do you not see how the memory begat the prayer? I wanted them to remember, when they grewup, my testimony of God's goodness to me-and for that same reason I tell it to you young people who are around me this morning!
God has blessed me all my life long and redeemed me from all evil-and I pray that He may be your God. You that have godlyparents, I would specially address. I beseech you to follow in their footsteps, that you may one day speak of the Lord asthey were able to do in their day. Remember that special promise, "I love them that love Me and those that seek Me early shallfind Me." May the Holy Spirit lead you to seek Him this day and you shall live to praise His name as Jacob did!