Sermon 345. Self-Sufficiency Slain
DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, NOVEMBER 11, 1860, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
"Without Me you cam do nothing." John 15:5. CONSCIOUS of this Truth of God in my own case, I would earnestly seek the help of God's Spirit in preaching as in every otherspiritual exercise, for, without Him, I can do nothing! It is a remarkable fact that all the heresies which have arisen inthe Christian Church have had a decided tendency to dishonor God, and to flatter man. They have always had for their covert,if not for their open aim, the exaltation of human nature, and the casting down of the Sovereignty of Divine Grace. RobbingGod of the Glory which is due unto His name, these false prophets would shed a counterfeit luster upon the head of the rebelliousand depraved creature! On the other hand, the Doctrines of the Gospel, commonly known as the Doctrines of Grace, are distinguishedfor this peculiarity above every other, namely, that they sink the creature very low, and present the Lord Jehovah beforeus as sitting upon a Throne, high and lifted up! So true is this, that the most uneducated Christian may, even if he is incapableof refuting an erroneous discourse, always be able to discover its untruthfulness, if it glorifies man at the expense of God.The merest babe in Grace may carry this test with him-in the midst of the diversities of opinion with which he is surrounded,he may always judge, and judge infallibly, too, of the truth or falsehood of a doctrine by testing it thus-"Does it glorifyGod?"If it is so, it is true! "Does it exalt man?" Then it must be false! On the other hand, does it lay man very low andspeak of him in terms which tend to make him feel his degradation? Then doubtless it is full of the Truth of God! And doesit put the crown upon the head of God, and not upon the head of man's free will, or free agency, or good works? Then assuredlyit is a doctrine according to godliness, for it is the very Truth of the Lord our God! My text-the very words of Christ, containsin it a Doctrine which belongs to the class of those which speak against the vaunting of humanity, casting down its high hopes-andscorning its proud looks; and to the same degree this sentence honors Christ and lifts Him up in the estimation of all Hispeople. This morning I shall speak of my text thus-Jesus said, "Without Me you can do nothing." First, this is true of His saintsin matters relating to themselves. Secondly, this is even more manifestly true of unconverted and unregenerate men. Thirdlyit will be found by experience to be equally a fact if we look at saints in relation to sinners-without Christ the most earnestsaint can do nothing whatever for the conversion of the sinner! I. To begin, then, with THE SAINT IN RELATION TO HIMSELF. Jesus said to the Apostles and if to them, certainly as strongly,if not more so, to us, "Without Me you can do nothing." Let us explain this. Then try to support it. And then draw the practicallessons from it. 1. Child of God-Jesus Christ speaks to you personally this morning, and He says to you, "Without Me you can do nothing." Doyou understand this? Mark how decisively it speaks! I borrow from Augustine much of the exposition which follows. He observesthat this sentence seems to have been written to put an end to the impudent impostures of the Pelagians, for the text doesnot say, "Without Me you can hardly do anything;it will be with extreme difficulty that you will be able to accomplish a goodwork or to achieve a holy purpose." No, it lays the axe far more decisively to the root! It says, "Without Me you can do nothing"-absolutely,positively nothing at all! What? Even if I seek and strive; if I bring all my energies to a single point-concentrate all myfaculties to the purpose-can I not, then, do it? If I am extremely watchful; if I am intensely earnest; if I am sincerelyprayerful-can I not then accomplish something, even if the Spirit's influence is withheld? It may be it shall cost me muchdifficulty; it may be hard rowing against the stream; but may I not, with my own unaided power, if I strain it to the utmost-mayI not speed at least a little in the things of God? "No," says the Lord Jesus, "No. Without Me you can do nothing." Striveas you might-struggle as you might- your striving and your struggling would be misapplied strength! They would not speed youtowards the goal-they would but sink you deeper into the mire of desperation or of presumption. Mark, further, the text doesnot say, "Without Me you can not do somegreat things-some special acts of piety, some high and supernatural deeds of daring-of self-denialand self-sacrifice." No, "Without Me you can do nothing.''" Including in the sentence, as you will clearly perceive, thoselittle acts of Divine Grace-those little deeds of piety-for which, perhaps, in our proud self-conceit, we think ourselvesto be already sufficiently equipped. You can do nothing;not only is the higher duty beyond your power, but the lesser duty,too. You are not capable of performing the lowest act of the Divine Life, except as you receive strength from God the HolySpirit! And surely, my Brothers and Sisters, it is generally in these little things that we find out most of all our weaknesses! Petercan walk the waves of the sea, but he cannot bear the jest of a little maid! Job can endure the loss of all things, but theupbraiding words of his false friends, though they are but words, and break no bones-make him speak far more bitterly thanall the sore boils, and pains which were in his very skin! Jonah said he did well to be angry, even unto death, about a gourd!Have you not often heard that mighty men who have outlived hundreds of battles have been slain at last by the most trivialaccident? And has it not been so with professed Christians? They stood uprightly in the midst of the greatest trials-theyhave outlived the most arduous struggles, and yet, in an evil hour, trusting to themselves, their foot has slipped under someslight temptation, or because of some small difficulty! John Newton said-"The Grace of God is as necessary to create a righttemper in Christians on the breaking of a china plate, as on the death of an only son." These little leaks need the most carefulstopping; the plague of flies is no more easy to be stayed than that of the destroying angel! In little, as well as in greatthings, the just must live by faith. In trifles as well as in nobler exercises, the Believer should be conscious of his owninability-should never say of any act, "Now I am strong enough to perform this; I need not go to God in prayer about this!This is so little a thing, it is beneath the dignity of God, and I am quite sufficient for it of myself." No, Believer, youare sufficient for nothing at all! Without Christ you can do nothing that is good; nothing that is right! "We have not sufficiencyof ourselves to think anything of ourselves, but our sufficiency is of God." "We know not what to pray for as we ought." "Wedo feel each day that to will is present with us, but how to perform that which we would, we find not." Our strength is notonly weakness, but perfect weakness-weakness even for little things-weakness for ounces as truly as for tons; weakness indrops of grief as well as of seas of sorrow; weakness for splinters of trial as well as for the terrible darts of the EvilOne. In everything, Christian, you are powerless apart from the Lord who is your Strength and your Salvation. Learn, then,the meaning of this text, "Without Me you can do nothing."
In further explaining the meaning of this passage, let me remark that Christ did not say "Without Me you can perfect nothing,"but, "Without Me you can donothing." The Pelagian might perhaps admit that the Christian could not complete the good workunaided, but then he might do much towards it. Says he, "If he does not finish, he may begin; if he is not the Omega, he mayat least be the Alpha. If he cannot bring out the glorious top stone and crane it up to the sublime height in which it isto stand forever and ever, he may at least dig out the foundations and lay in the first hidden stone." "No," says Christ,"Without Me you can do nothing." As in that last glorious leap when the Believer shall vault from his dying bed into the landof the living, all his strength must be of God-so must it be in that first trembling step when as a penitent he comes to Christ,and rests his soul on Him. Do not say, if you are about to undertake some enterprise, "I will begin this, and then God willgive me Grace to make up my deficiencies; but I will trust in myself as far as I can." Ah, you foolish one, your trowel iscovered with untempered mortar; you build with wood and hay and stubble! So far from its being yours to do much apart fromthe Spirit of God, you can do nothing whatever. You can neither lift a finger, nor stir a hand in this spiritual work apartfrom God! You cannot put on the white robe of Glory- no, more-you can not unwrap yourself from the clothes of your death!Even this must be done for you, from the beginning to the end.
And yet still further, to put the meaning in a forcible light. There might be some who would say, "Well, while the text maybe understood to say the Believer cannot commence any good thing, yet possibly he may, after it is commenced with great assistanceof God, the Holy Spirit, in his own salvation, he may do something apart from the Spirit." Ah, my Brothers and Sisters, whenthe Spirit of God is with us, we do much; when He is in us, He makes us the instrument of our own deliverance! But let theSpirit of God be taken away from the Christian, albeit that he is renewed, albeit that he has a new heart, and a right spirit,yet would he retain that new heart and right spirit not one single hour, no-not for a tenth of a second-if the Spirit of Godwere once withdrawn from him! There is no support for the New Life to be found in the natural soil of manhood! Every dew dropwith which the sweet flower of Paradise is nourished in our heart had to be brought there from Heaven, for naturally our heartis a rock too barren to yield any subsistence to the plants of Paradise! If in our soul there flows a river of the Water ofLife, its rise is in the mountains of God's eternal purpose! The river finds no tributary springs in our heart; flesh canyield no aid to spirit. Unrenewed nature can be a huge impediment to Divine Grace, but assistance it can never be! The ApostlePaul never found the old man a help to the new man. If it had been so, he would not have cried out-"O wretched man that Iam, who shall deliver me from the body of this death!" He would have shaken hands with that body of death, and thanked itfor its assistance if it yielded any; but he felt it was of no more use to him than would a dead, rotten, corrupt, filthynoxious carcass be to a living man if he had it chained side by side with him! When we shall get rid of self, and self's power,then we shall be strong; but all the strength of Nature is but a weakness to Divine Grace, and all the power and energy ofthe flesh is but an hindrance to the Lord and not a help to Him. Without Him-in the widest sense in which the language canbe possibly understood-we can do nothing!
2. And now, having thus sought to explain the text in regard to the Christian, let me try to support it. I would support it,first of all, by the common consent of all Believers in all ages. With the exception of ancient Pelagians and their modernoff-spring, I do not know that the Church has afforded any instance of any professors who have doubted the inability of manapart from God the Holy Spirit. Our confessions of faith are nearly unanimous upon this point. But I hear someone say-"Donot the Arminians believe that there is natural strength in man by which he can do something?" No, my Brothers and Sisters,the true Arminian can believe no such thing! Arminius speaks right well upon this point. I quote his words, as I have themin a translation-"It is impossible for free will, without Grace, to begin or perfect any true or spiritual good. I say, theGrace of Christ, which pertains to regeneration is simply and absolutely necessary for the illumination of the mind, the orderingof the affections, and the inclination of the will to that which is good. It is that which operates on the mind, the affections,and the will, which infuses good thoughts into the mind, inspires good desires into the affections, and leads the will toexecute good thoughts and good desires. It goes before, accompanies, and follows; it excites, assists, works in us to will,and works with us that we may not will in vain. It averts temptations, stands by and aids us in temptations, supports us againstthe flesh, the world, and Satan; and in the conflict, it grants us to enjoy the victory. It raises up again those who areconquered and fallen; it establishes them and endues them with new strength, and renders them more cautious. It begins, promotes,perfects and consummates salvation. I confess that the mind of the natural and carnal man is darkened, his affections aredepraved, his will is refractory, and that the man is dead in sin."
Richard Watson, who among modern Arminians is considered to be a standard divine, especially in the Wesleyan denomination,is equally clear upon this point. He fully admits that, "The sin of Adam introduced into his nature such a radical impotenceand depravity, that it is impossible for his descendants to make any voluntary effort (of themselves) towards piety and virtue,"and then he quotes with warm approval, an expression of Calvin's, in which Calvin says that, "Man is so totally overwhelmed,as with a deluge, that no part is free from sin, and therefore, whatever proceeds from him is accounted sin." It is very satisfactoryto have these testimonies to the common Doctrine of the Church. I know that some Arminians are not so sound, even as Arminiusor Richard Watson; I know that some of them do not understand any creed at all, not even their own, for in all denominationsthere are men so ignorant of all theology that they will venture upon any assertion whatever, claiming to be Arminian, orCalvinistic, without knowing what either Calvin or Arminius taught! Arminians would be much better, even if they were as goodas Arminius! Much as he swerved from the faith in some respects, he was not one-half as grave a heretic as multitudes of hisfollowers; but in many points would be as stern and unflinching a defender of the faith as John Calvin, himself!
But my dear Friends, instead of dwelling upon this point any longer, let me make one or two other remarks. Suppose for a momentthat the Doctrine of our text were not true, and that Christians had power in themselves to do something. Take down your Bibleswhen you get home, and see what a great many promises of the Word of God would be without any value to you. God never madea promise which was not necessary. Now if I have strength of my own, God certainly will not need to make me a promise of givingHis strength to me! But inasmuch as there are scores of promises in which it is written, "Unto him who has no might, He increasesstrength"-inasmuch as we are often told that, "young men do faint, and are weary, and the youths do utterly fail, but theywho wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength"-I think you see that the very fact of these promises prove that they areneeded, and if needed, it must be because man is weak. But again, what should we make of the praises of the saints? Have younot heard them all through Holy Scripture ascribing their strength and their power to God? Did they not all, from the first,even to the last, confess that all their fresh springs were in Him? That He, the Lord Jehovah, was their strength and theirsong, and had become their salvation? Did they not unanimously confess that their sufficiency was of God, that when they wereweak, then were they strong? That in themselves they were nothing? I say, what do you make of these praises? What are they?Are they not mere empty wind, if these men really had in themselves strength and power to do good? And what are the songsbefore the Throne of God-those eternal cries of, "Salvation be unto our God who sits upon the Throne, and unto the Lamb"?How can they ascribe power and dominion and might to Him forever and ever, if their power was of themselves? Must there notbe a mingled strain? And while they sing the power of Divine Grace, must there not be some interludes in which they will chantthe power of Nature, too? If they came to Heaven partly by God, and partly by themselves, must not some of the saved harperssing to Divine Grace, but others of them vary the strain, at least at intervals, to the praise of him who by his own strengthdid snap the fetters of his sin, and by his own watchfulness did preserve himself unto eternal life? It is blasphemy to thinkthus! Oh, no, my Brothers and Sisters, it is because they had no power on earth but that in which God gave to them that theyhave no song in Heaven except the song which exalts and praises God!
Other arguments, I suppose, are unnecessary, but yet let me mention one other. If it were so, that man had power in himself,what were the need of the Holy Spirit's office at all? The office of the Holy Spirit becomes at once useless if man can doanything and everything! What need to quicken men by the Spirit, if they can take the first step towards quickening themselves?What need to strengthen us with might according to His Spirit in the inner man, if the inner man is already strong enoughin its own natural power? What need that the Spirit should daily teach God's people, if they can instruct themselves? Whatneed that I should pray, "Hold You me up," if I can hold myself up? Prayers for spiritual aid are prayers for mercies thatare unneeded if we have strength of our own. I declare that if man has Grace enough to keep himself one single hour from sin,it is not necessary for him to pray at least during that hour! Why should he want more strength than he needs? Should he haveit to spend it upon his lusts? If it is possible for me to perform any one holy action apart from the Lord Jesus, then letme at least perform that one action independently of Him. Let me for that time dispense with the Holy Spirit. But you revoltfrom such an idea! I say your blood would curdle if I should continue to talk thus. "No," you say, "day by day we have needto pray. Hour by hour we have need to trust. 'My Soul, wait you only upon God, for my expectation is from Him.'" I am compelledto feel each day I can no nothing without Him-my strength is wholly His. The very fact that the offices of the Holy Spiritare needed, by our experience, proves that we can do nothing without Him.
3. Now let us discuss this Doctrine. We see here a reason for the deepest humility. Are you proud, Believer, because you havedone some little service to the Church, and to your times? Who makes you to differ, and what have you which you have not received?Have you shed a little light upon the darkness? Ah, who lit your candle? And who is it who keeps you still shining, and preventsyou from being extinguished? Have you overcome temptation? Hang not up your banner-do not decorate your own bosom with theglory, for who made you strong in the battle? Who made your sword sharp and enabled you to strike home? Remember, you havedone nothing whatever of yourself; if you are this day a vessel unto honor, decorated and gilded-if now you are a preciousvase, filled with the sweetest perfume-remember you did not make yourself so! You are the clay, and He is the Potter. Youmay be a vessel unto honor, yet not a vessel unto your own honor-you are a vessel unto the honor of Him that made you! Ifyou stand among your fellow men as the angels stand among the fallen spirits-a chosen one, distinguished from them-remember,it was not any goodness in yourselfthat made you to be chosen, nor has it been any of your own efforts, or your own power,which has lifted you out of the miry clay, and set your feet on the Rock and established your goings! Off with the crown fromyour proud head, and lay down your honors at the feet of Him who gave them to you! Come with cherubim and seraphim, and veilyour face and cry, "Not unto us, not unto us, but unto His name be all the Glory forever and ever."
And when you are thus bowed down with humility, be prepared to learn another lesson, namely-never to depend on yourself again.If you have anything to do, go not forth to do it leaning on an arm of flesh! First bow your knees and ask power of Him whomakes you strong, and then you shall come back from your labor rejoicing. But if you go in your own strength, you shall breakyour plowshare on the rock; you shall sow your seed by the side of the salt sea upon the barren sand, and you shall look uponthe naked acres in years to come-they shall not yield you so much as a single blade to make your heart glad. "Trust in theLord forever, for in the Lord Jehovah is everlasting strength." But that strength is not available to you as long as you reposein any strength of your own. He will help you if you are but as a worm, but if you are strong in yourself, He will take awayHis own power from you and cause you to stumble and fall. And happy shall it be if you stumble not to be broken into pieces!Learn, then, the Divine Grace of depending daily upon God and do this constantly with proper humility.
Ah, my Brothers and Sisters, I would speak very earnestly here before I turn from this point, for this is a common vice withus all-to wish to grow independent. We get a little stock of Grace on hand, and we think we will spend our pocket money beforewe will go again to our Father's treasury. We have a little faith; our Master honors us with enjoyment of His Presence, andwe grow so great that we cry, "My mountain stands firm-I shall never be moved." Ah, there is always a trial near at hand.Do we not make most of our trials through our boasting, and do we not kindle our own furnace with the fuel of our pride? Ifwe were more childlike, resting more simply on the Spirit's power, should we not be more happy? Does not God our Father hideHis face, because to see His face too much might make us exalted above measure? Does not that thorn tear our flesh becauseotherwise we would lie upon the bed of carnal security and sleep all day long? Oh, we might always be on the mountaintop ifwe had not such dizzy heads and such slippery feet; we might always have our mouths full of sweetness if it were not thatwe are so weak that we cannot always bear these sweet things, and must have a draught of wormwood that we may be brought back,again, by a bitter tonic into a healthy state of soul. I pray you seek to lie flat on the ground before our God, for everyinch we rise higher than that, is an inch too high; not an inch Heavenward, but an inch Hell-bent. Every grain of self-strengthwe gain is a grain of weakness and every particle of self-reliance is but a new particle of poison infused into our veins!From all reliance upon self and all carnal security, good Lord deliver us!
II. I now turn to the second part of the discourse, upon which I shall dwell briefly but earnestly. "Without Me you can donothing." If this is true of the saint, we affirm that it is equally, if not even more forcibly true of THE SINNER.
Instead of making a distinction here, as I have done under the first head, let me at once speak to the conscience. Sinner,the child of God who has been quickened and renewed, feels that without Christ he can do nothing. How much more must thisbe true of you, for you are absolutely dead in trespasses and sins! When the branch is in the vine, and has been grafted intothe good olive, it can then bring forth no good fruit without the stem. How much less, then, can you hope to do anything,for you are not even grafted in! You belong to the wild olive-how can you bring forth fruit? If when the Christian's facehas been made white, he cannot keep it so, how much more shall the Ethiopian-such as you are-change his skin, or the leopardhis spots? If when healed of his leprosy, the Believer feels that the leprosy would break out daily were it not for the constantmiraculous power of the Good Physician, how much less can you, all over defiled with the leprosy of sin, make yourself clean?Sinner, it is true of you that unless visited by the Holy Spirit, unless united to Christ, you can do nothing. We do not assertthat you are physically incapable-you can perform natural acts-you can go to the House of God; you can read God's Word; youcan do a thousand things which only need your arms and legs, and eyes. Nor are you even mentally incapable. You can discernbetween good and evil; you can judge of truth and error, and in choosing the false, and rejecting the true, you are verilyguilty. We speak now of your actions spiritually, not morally. Of all spiritual acts, you are as totally incapable as thedead in the graveyards, or as the dried bones after they have passed through the fire. There remains in you no spiritual life,no spiritual power with which to help yourself. You are utterly ruined, entirely undone! And in yourself you are beyond thereach of all hope, and of all human help. Yet remember, I pray you, that this incapacity of yours is a sinful one. It is notone which is your misfortune, but your sin. You are incapable of righteousness, but you are capable enough of iniquity, andyour very incapacity is in itself a deadly and a damning sin. Again-your incapacity does not deliver you from your duty; thoughyou can do nothing, it is equally your duty to do everything which God commands!
Though you cannot pay the debt, for you are utterly bankrupt, it is still your duty to pay it. God has not remitted His Lawbecause you have lost power to obey. No, even the Gospel itself does not take back one of its precepts because you cannotfulfill them in and of yourself! Still does God demand of you that you should, "love the Lord your God with all your heart,with all your soul, and with all your strength." Though you can no more do this than you can fly, still does He demand ofyou that you turn from sin, and that you believe in the Lord Jesus with all your heart, though you can no more accomplishthis than a stone can transform itself into an angel, or silent rocks chant forth the hallelujahs of eternity! Thus, you see,Sinner, in what a state you are. You have a Lord to demand of you, but you have nothing wherewith to pay! You have the sameclaims upon you as Adam had in the Garden, but you have lost all capacity to fulfill the demand. Oh, Sinner! What a lost thingyou are! What a lost thing you are!
But I hear someone say, "Preaching like this will paralyze men's exertions and make them say, 'I can do nothing.'" Ah, myFriends, it is just this which we wish to make them say! We wish to paralyze their exertions; we wish to strike them witha sense of their inability. Do not think I would deny or shrink from the consequences of this Truth of God upon the sinner'sconscience-it is just this I wish to bring him to! The Arminian seeks to bring men to activity. I seek to bring him to nosuch thing at first, but to a sense of his inability; for when the sinner has come to know his inability, then God the Spiritworks in him, and then shall the activity begin! But activity apart from a sense of inabilityis but putting the sinner ona path which seems to lead to Heaven, but which will really lead to Hell! I care not, though it should be said thousands havebeen converted by a preaching contrary to this; the conversion of most of these has been a fallacy. I have been lately ina district where a most excellent Brother in Christ had worked a very great revival. It was said that nearly every personin the town had been converted, and the town is as drunken, as profane, as blasphemous this day, as it was before! I am persuadedthat much of the excitement and fanatical ravings which have disgraced the true revival movement, are no more the work ofGod, but the work of Satan, himself! I would discern between the precious and the vile. God hasmade bare His arm-multitudeshave been converted during the last few years by true revival work-but that excitement which has attended some of these revivalsis nothing more than the excitement of the passions of men- making men weep about their parents, but not about their sins-makingthem cry about their children, but not about their souls-making them tremble for the moment, but not reaching their inmostheart! We shall need to have the Master come again, with a fan in His hand, thoroughly to purge His floor! I may state anunpalatable Truth of God, but the floor is getting heaped with chaff now, and preachers are receiving into Churches men whowill need to be cast out again! They may be received with sound of trumpet, but they will have to be thrust out the back doorwith the noise of weeping, because they were not savingly converted to God. I feel in my own conscience that I were not clearof man's blood unless I did declare that any conversion which does not bear in it a consciousness of man's total loss andruin-any conversion which does not teach man the fact that he can do nothing-is a conversion from which he needs to be converted,and a repentance which needs to be repented of.
Still, I hear another say, "It must be an ill thing to bring men to feel that they can do nothing." It is no ill thing! Iwould to God that every sinner felt it in his own soul. "But," says one, "I knew a man who used to say he could do nothing,therefore, he would not try." My Friend, what that man said is one thing; what he felt was another. I venture to affirm thatthat man did not believe what he said, or he would not have added the last sentence. He thought in his own heart that he couldbelieve, and could repent, and could be saved when he liked. He still treasured up in his soul the fallacy that one of thesefine days, when he had a more convenient season, he would come to Christ! That was his inmost thought. What he said was buta mere pretense to screen his conscience from your rebuke. Why, men and women, if you could be made to feel that you wereso lost, so ruined, that you could do nothing, it would fill you with trembling and with self-despair, and then you wouldcry out in the midst of your horror, "Lord save me, or I perish." "God be merciful to me, a sinner." I say again, it is becauseyou do not feel it, but only say you do, and you therefore make your saying it an excuse for a need of feeling it. I prayGod the Spirit strike you now with a sense of powerlessness, that at once you may fall flat on your face, and feel in yourinmost heart that your salvation lies in Christ's hands and not in your own! And that if you are saved, it must be the workof Divine Grace in you, and of Divine Grace for you; it cannot be your own work since you have no power to do it, in and ofyourself!
If I could only bring you there! Oh, my God, bring the sinner there! I pray You, bring him there! If you are come there already,poor Sinner, God has begun a good work in you. I tell you, if you are come to know this Truth of God really in your very heart,God the Spirit has begun to save you, and the work of His own hands, He will never leave. Do not misunderstand me! If youmerely say, "I can do nothing-(any man can say that)-that is not the Spirit's work! But if you feel you can do nothing, thenthat is the Spirit's work! Is not this Doctrine very unpalatable? There are many of my hearers who do not like it; perhapsthey will go away and say, "This is a hard saying-who can bear it?" I do not expect the natural man to receive a spiritualTruth of God! If you have received it, I thank God for it. He who strips you will clothe you; He who has killed you this morningwill quicken you; He who has made you feel that you can do nothing will give you strength to do all things. If you could seethe bottom of your own treasury, that there is not a farthing left in it-if you could feel your own emptiness-I am sure youwould soon see Christ's fullness, and would discover that He is able to save unto the uttermost those who come unto God byHim. Remember, though we can do nothing, He can do all things-though we can neither begin nor end-"He is Alpha and Omega,the Beginning and the End, the Author and the Finisher of our faith."
III. I now close with the third head, "Without Me you can do nothing." This is true of THE SAINT ON THE SINNER'S ACCOUNT.
Brothers and Sisters, I sometimes hear of men called Revivalists, and I suppose it is imagined that there is some power inthem or about them to create a revival. I would be sorry to wear the title lest I should be thought to arrogate any powerto myself. I know, too, that people sometimes plan to have a revival at a certain time-as if the Spirit of God were at theirdisposal-as if they could make the wind, which blows where it pleases, and when it pleases, come at their beck and at theircommand! I think all that is beginning at the wrong end! Instead, we ought to hold meetings for prayer, to confess our inability.If we began by feeling we could not do anything, we would do everything; but when we begin by thinking we can do everything,we shall end in doing nothing! The Church of today needs more and more to have this fact driven right into her heart. Churchof God, you are powerless! You have no strength, no might to convert a single soul apart from the Spirit of God! Have anyof you proved this to be true in your own experience? Perhaps I look upon a father who has many children. He says, "Thereis one of my sons who completely confounds me. I have prayed for him, I have talked with him, I have sought to instruct him.But I can only go up to my chamber, and on my knees feel that unless God will save him, that boy will never be saved." Itis a good thing that you should feel this, for now you will go to work in the right way, using not your owntools, nor yourownpower, but the strength of God! And I, too, may come up into the pulpit feeling I may preach-yes, with the tongues of menand of angels I may preach-not I, alone, but all my Brothers in the ministry-we may all of us preach vehemently, earnestly-butthere will be no power whatever in our preaching for the winning of a single soul, apart from that Spirit of God who goesforth with the Word!
We need ministers to always feel that it is not the mere adaptation of the sermon to the salvation of souls, but the applicationof that sermon to the soul. It is not the mere fact that we are earnest, but the energy of the Spirit going with our earnestness,to quicken the heart, and awaken the conscience! Sunday school teachers, you must pray to understand this; it will not unnerveyou, it will not paralyze you-it will make you strong-for when we are weak, then we are strong. You need to feel that youcould no more convert a child in your class than create a world-that you could no more change a heart than make an ocean blaze-orcompel the solid granite to mount in watery fountains to the sky! You know that this is in God's hand, not in yours! Yoursit is to use the means, but God's to work the result! Go, then, each of you, beloved of your God, to your separate works,casting aside all your own trust, and depending simply, wholly, and entirely upon God!
I do believe there would be much more good done in the world if some of those who try to do good, looked less to their owncarnal power to do it. I mean by this, if they had less apparent power, they would have more strength. There is a story toldby Toplady of a Doctor Guyse, a very learned man. He was in the habit of preparing his sermons very carefully, and he usedto read them very accurately. He did so for years, but there was never known to be a sinner saved under him-never such a wonder!The poor good man-for he was an earnest man and wished to do good-was one day at prayer in the pulpit, praying to God thatHe would make him a useful minister. When he had finished his prayer, he was stone blind! He had sufficient self-possessionto preach the sermon extemporaneously, which he had prepared with notes. People did not notice his blindness, but they neverheard the doctor preach such a sermon as that before! There was deep attention; there were souls saved! He found his way fromthe pulpit and began to express his deep sorrow that he had lost his eyesight, when some good old woman who was present, said,perhaps a little unkindly, but still very truthfully-"Doctor, we have never heard you preach like this before, and if thatis the result of your being blind, it is a pity you were not blind 20 years ago, for you have done more good today than youhave done in 20 years."
So I do not know whether it would not be a good thing if some of our fine sermon readers were struck blind. If they were compelledto be less elaborate in the preparation of their sermons; to lose some half-dozen hard words, which they always write downas soon as they meet with them, and use them as stones in the middle of the sermon; if, when they came up into the pulpit,though condemned by critics as speaking vulgar language, they might talk of commonplace things such as poor people could appreciate-ifthey would only do this, God being with them, the absence of their mental power would be the means of more spiritual power,and we would have reason to thank God-that the man had become less-and that God did shine out with greater resplendence! Forwhat are many learned men, after all, but stained glass windows to keep out the light? Oh that we had more men who were asthe plain glass of the poor man's cottage, to let the Light of God shine through them! Let the Church feel that her poweris not mentalpower, but spiritualpower! "Not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, says the Lord." She might then useall her learning, all her education, and all her eloquence. She would use them well, too, if she did but feel that these werebut her weapons in the hand of Godfor the pulling down of strongholds.
May God add His blessing for Jesus Christ's sake.