Sermon 1425. Concern For Other Men's Souls
C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I say the truth in Christ, I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit, that I have great hea vinessand continual sorrow in my heart. For I could wish that I were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsman accordingto the flesh, who are Israelites, to whom pertains the adoption, and the glory, and the covenants, and the giving of the Law,and the service of God, and the promises; whose are the fathers, and of whom as concerning the flesh Christ came, who is overall, God blessed forever. Amen." Romans 9:1-5.
WHAT an intense man Paul was! Once convince him and his whole nature moved in the direction which he judged to be right. Hewas whole-hearted when he persecuted the Church of God and he was equally whole-hearted when, afterwards, he labored withall his might to build up the Church which he had sought to destroy! I would to God we were all as thorough-going in the serviceof our Lord! The pity is that so many professing Christians appear to have no heart, while others borrow a heart for someoccasions but do not seem to keep one permanently beating in their own bosoms. O for a warm, engine-like heart all consecratedand forever pulsing mightily!
What a change was worked in Saul of Tarsus, that he who was so ardent a persecutor should become so fervent a preacher! Hisconversion is one of the proofs of the Divinity of Christianity. The study of the story of Paul was the means of the conversionof Lord Lyttleton who read it with the design of exposing it as a hoax. His friend, Gilbert West, was, at the same time, consideringthe resurrection of our Lord in a similar spirit and, happily, with the same result-the friends met to unite in the jointconviction that the Bible is the Word of God! Dr. Johnson says of Lyttleton's, "Observations upon the Conversion and Apostleshipof St. Paul," "it is a treatise to which infidelity has never been able to fabricate a specious answer."
Consider for a moment the renowned conversion of Paul. It was singularly Providential that just at that period when the Churchneeded such a man, the Apostle with his remarkable education, his noble purpose and his acquaintance with Jewish and Greekliterature, should have been called out from the world and placed in the very forefront of the battle for Christ! Truly mighthe say that he was not a whit behind the very chief of the Apostles, though in his humility, he felt himself to be nothing.No name in the Christian Church can be pronounced with greater honor after that of our glorious Master than the name of Paulwho was, indeed, a wise master builder.
When you remember what he was by nature, you will marvel at the extraordinary change of thought and feeling which was workedin him! He who was cruel to the saints, who gave his voice against Stephen and held the garments of those that stoned him,became tenderhearted as a nurse towards her child! Though his Jewish brethren terribly persecuted him and pursued him fromcity to city, there is not a trace of resentment in any word he writes! Rather, he is full of gentleness. The lion had becomea lamb and he that breathed out threats breathed out prayers! He who seemed to burn with enmity became a flame of love!
Dear Friends, before we go any further, pause and answer this question-has such a change as this been worked in you? Perhapsyou have never been conspicuously a blasphemer or a persecutor as Paul was, but still, if converted, there will have beena very wonderful change in you. Old things will have passed away and all things will have become new. Do you feel that anddo you recognize the change both in your inner and outer life? If not, you must be born again! Unless you are converted andbecome as little children, you cannot enter into the kingdom of God!
Our first thought, after reading this passage, is, what a wonderfully tender and loving preacher Paul must have been. Oneof the early fathers was known to say that he wished he could have seen Solomon's temple in its glory, Rome in its prosperityand Paul preaching! I think the last the grandest sight of the three! Oh, to have heard him speak! It might have shamed usinto deeper tones of earnestness. Though, I suppose, his oratory was not very astonishing as mere rhetoric, for some saidhis speech was contemptible, yet it must have been wonderfully powerful upon the heart, for it abounded in sighs and tearsand other tokens of evident emotion! Besides, his awful intensity of look and tone must have made his discourses irresistible!
He would never have written as he has done in his Epistles if he had been one who could speak with icicles hanging about hislips. He must have spoken from a burning heart which shot forth red-hot bolts of fiery words! He poured his language out likelava from a volcano from the flaming furnace of his soul! His sentences burned their way into the hearts of those who heardhim! Brother, if you are called to preach the Gospel, let Paul be your model! I reckon that we never preach aright unlesswe pour out our inmost soul! And unless we long and hunger and thirst for the conversion of our hearers, we might as wellbe in bed and asleep! We shall teach them to be indifferent if we, ourselves, are indifferent.
If it will satisfy us to read through a little essay or to speak a few godly words without heart and life, we are not calledto the ministry-we are not sent, for we feel no woe upon us! We have not the anointing, for the live coal from off the altarhas never blistered our lips! John Bunyan says that he often felt, while preaching, that he would give up his own salvationfor the salvation of his hearers-and I pity the man who has not felt the same. To preach with the harps of angels ringingin your ears, anxious that all your hearers should stand, at last, among the elect company above, or to preach with the groansof Hell rising in your ears and piercing your heart, anxious beyond all things that no man who listens to your voice shouldever come into that place of torment-this is the Pauline style! The style of Demosthenes, the manner of Cicero, the methodof the forum-these are nothing! Commend me to the eloquence of Paul and to the oratory of his Master, for Paul was a greatpreacher because he caught his Master's spirit and spoke in the manner of Him of whom they said of old, "Never man spoke likethis Man."
Now, coming to the text and dwelling upon it, I shall want to notice first, the persons about whom Paul felt the anxiety whichhe expresses. Then, secondly, we shall look further into the character of that anxiety. And, lastly, we shall dwell awhileupon the excellence of each one of us feeling just as Paul did, for a thousand good results would follow if God the Spiritwould bring us to the same condition of heart!
I. First, then, WHO ARE THESE PEOPLE FOR WHOM PAUL WAS ANXIOUS BEYOND MEASURE? To begin with, they were his worst enemies!The name of Paul brought the blood into the face of a Jew. He spat in rage. More than 40 of them had bound themselves withan oath that they would slay him and the whole company of the circumcised seemed, wherever he went, to be moved by the sameimpulse. He frequently gathered large congregations of Gentiles who attended to him earnestly, but the Jews stirred up riotsand mobs and, frequently, he was in danger of his life from them. They detested him, regarding him as an accursed apostatefrom the faith of his fathers.
Remembering how earnest he had been against Christ, they could not believe in his sincerity when he became a Christian, or,if they did, they hated him as a fanatic whose delusion was mischievous beyond measure. His generous retaliation was to prayfor them-no, more-to carry the whole nation on his heart as a burden. "I have great heaviness," says he, "and continual sorrowof heart for my kinsmen according to the flesh." Now, if any of you, in following Christ, should meet with opposition, avengeit in the same way! Love most the man who treats you worst! If any man would kill you in his anger, kill him with your lovingprayers. If he strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other, also, in submission and lift both hands and eyes to Heavenand cry, "Father forgive them, for they know not what
Never let oppressors see your anger. They will observe your emotion and your grief and they will perceive that you are naturallyvexed and troubled, but let them also see that you bear them no malice and only desire their welfare. I commend this to thosewho have a hard fight for Christ in the workroom, in the midst of sneers and jests. Never use the devil's weapons, thoughthey lie very handy and look very suitable. Only use Christ's Omnipotent weapon of love and so shall you be His disciples.
Next, these people for whom Paul was in so much concern were his kinsfolk according to the flesh. It is well said that charitymust begin at home, for he that does not care for his own household is worse than a heathen and a publican. He
who does not desire the salvation of those who are his own kin, "how dwells the love of God in him?" Christianity is expansive-itmakes the bosom glow with love to all that God has made-but, at the same time, our love does not expand so as to lose forceand this is seen when it turns its power towards those who are nearest home. Is your husband unsaved? O Woman, love him toChrist! Is your child unconverted? O Parent, pray that child to Christ! Are your neighbors still out of Christ? Lay them onyour heart as an intercessor before God on their account-and cease not to plead till they are saved!
Think much of the heathen-by all means regard India and China and the like-but do not forget Newington, Butts, Lambeth andSouthwark, or wherever else it is your lot to live! Next to your homes let your own neighborhoods be first of all consideredand then your country, for all Englishmen are kin! Wherever we wander we are proud of our common country and, like the Romansof old, we are somewhat quick to make known our citizenship. Therefore, let us never cease to plead for this beloved islandand our kinsmen according to the flesh! Paul prayed for his countrymen and never let us bear within our bones a soul so deadas to forget our native land!
We may regard those for whom he prayed, in the next light, as persons of great privileges-a very important point. They hadprivileges by birth-"who are Israelites." Many of you are highly favored. You are not Israelites, but you are the childrenof godly parents which is much the same thing. Almost the first sound you ever heard from your mother's lips was the voiceof prayer for you. You can remember when you were taken, for the first time, to the House of Prayer, when, perhaps, you didnot understand anything, but still, your godly friends thought it well that you should sit, in your earliest days, in thecourts of the Lord's house! In that sense you are like the Jews. You have the privilege of being born in the midst of holyand gracious influences-an advantage not to be despised.
Those poor gutter children, born, we scarcely know where, who pine in poverty and breathe an atmosphere of vice-their youngears are from the first so much acquainted with the voice of blasphemy that they will never tingle should the profanity ofHell be let loose around them. Those, I say, start in the race of life under terrible disadvantages! But you, some of you,have had everything in your favor! For you, the path of right is smooth and there are many beckoning you to walk in it. Andyet we tremble for you, lest you, with other children of the kingdom, should be cast out while many come from the east andfrom the west and sit down at the banquet of Grace! If there are any people we ought to pray for above others, it seems tome they are the unconverted who live in the light but will not see-who have the bread of Heaven upon the table before thembut will not eat-who have Free Grace and dying love sounding in their ears, but yet refuse the wondrous message of Grace!Beloved, let us not rest unless we feel a deep concern for those who stand on a par with Israelites, since they have the privilegeof being born under a Christian roof.
The objects of Paul's prayer had yet a higher privilege, for it is said, "to whom pertains the adoption." There was an outwardadoption. "Israel is my first-born," says God. Israel enjoyed national advantages and we, also, living in such a land as this,possess innumerable Gospel privileges. England is, as it were, the favorite of Heaven! God has been pleased to adopt the nationas His child, giving it special liberty, an open Bible, the free proclamation of the Gospel and the Church of God in the midstof it to be its light. To Israel belonged the glory, too. That is to say, God had revealed Himself in their midst from theMercy Seat in the bright light of the Shekinah.
And, oh, in this very House of Prayer, I am sure I may say it, the Lord has manifested His Glory very wonderfully! How manyhundreds have been turned from darkness to light in this place! At times the power of God has been gloriously revealed. Itwas so last Sunday evening! We felt it, we distinctly recognized it and we are looking for many to come forward to declarewhat God did for souls on that occasion! Well, then, if you have seen this Glory, if you have heard the glorious Gospel, ifyou have felt, in some degree the working of the gracious Spirit and have had some longings, some wishes towards salvation,what a sad thing will it be if, after all, you should be cast away! I fear that this will be true of many of you and I havegreat heaviness in my heart at the thought!
And then they had the first hold of all the spiritual gifts which the Lord bestowed upon the sons of men. They had, as itwere, a monopoly of Light and Truth among them. The Jewish people had been singularly favored-they had seen God revealingHis Son to them by types, by priests, by sacrifices, by the temple, by a thousand signs and marks. Verily the kingdom of Godhad come very near to them. But the privileges of the Jews were not greater than the privileges of men and women who hearthe Gospel in these days, for Christ is not so well seen in bleeding bulls and rams and hyssop
and scarlet wool as He is seen in the preaching of the Gospel! In the Gospel, God has torn the veil and made bare His heartto us in the Person of His dying Son.
You have no longer to search for the mind of God by mysterious hieroglyphs-it is written in plain letters and the wayfaringman, though a fool, need not err therein! You have but to hear it and with the exercise of an ordinary understanding, theletter of its meaning may be comprehended. And if there is a willing heart, no matter how small the capacity of the mind,there is intellect enough to receive the saving Truth of God! You do not now live in the moonlight of the Jewish dispensation,but you bask in the noontide sunlight of the Truth of God! God, who spoke to our fathers by the Prophets, has, in these lastdays, spoken to us by His Son who is the express image of His Person and the brightness of His Glory! "See that you refusenot Him that speaks."
Because we fear you may do so, our heart is heavy and we have sorrow of heart for some of you. We are distressed for you whosefeeling comes and goes like the midnight meteor. Your case is one of such peril that we are deeply concerned about you. OGod, help all Your servants to feel what a dreadful thing it will be for persons so highly privileged to be lost forever!I should not have completed the subject if I did not say that Paul had a great concern for these people because he saw themliving in the commission of great sin. Some of them were exceedingly moral and the bulk of them extremely religious, yet theywere living in gross sin! Do you know what is the greatest of sins? It is to be at enmity with God! The most damning of iniquitiesis to refuse Christ!
Did God send out of His bosom His only-begotten Son to die for men and do men reject Him? Ah, this is worse than rejectingthe Law! This is worse than rejecting the Gospel! It is a direct personal insult to the loving God-this rejecting the Sonof God, His only Son, His bleeding, dying Son! Here sin reaches its climax and surpasses itself in infamy! These men rejectedChrist and set up their phylacteries, their paying of tithes of anise and mint and cumin, their fasting thrice in the weekand I know not what trifles besides, in insulting competition with the Savior! In the same manner at this hour, many personsvalue their external religiousness above faith in Jesus. They attend to the ceremonies of this Church or of the other andrefuse the righteousness of God in Jesus Christ! The greatest of sins lies there!
You may as easily be lost religiously as irreligiously unless your religion is God's religion and is based upon faith in Hisdear Son! This grieved the Apostle, that they were mad against Him whom they ought to have loved, and were violent againstHim in whom they should have believed, so that they had become a race anathematized from Christ! I know he means that, becausehe says he could wish that he himself could stand in their place and take that anathema upon himself which he felt was uponthem. They had said, "His blood be on us and on our children" and Paul knew that it would be! He remembered the Master's wordswhen He said, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her chickensunder her wings and you would not! Behold your house is left unto you desolate." He could see in spirit the siege of Jerusalem-themost tremendous of all human slaughters-the most fearful of all scenes of blood enacted on the face of the earth! And Hisheart sank within him and his spirit quailed at the thought of the tremendous judgment!
Some in these days describe the penalty of sin as though it were a trifle. I beseech you, do not regard it such! If I hadone dying before me whom I loved, if I was in any fear about the salvation of that dying person, I would not say, "Perhapswhen you go out of this world you may be unsaved, but there is a larger hope, and I would not have you distress yourself aboutimmediate repentance, for mercy may come to you in another state." Sirs, I dare no more talk that way than administer a draughtof poison to one I love! No, rather would I say. "My Brother, my Sister, it is now or never with you. Seek the Lord whileHe may be found! Call upon Him while He is near! For when once the Master of the house has risen up and shut the door andyou begin to stand outside and knock and to say, 'Lord, Lord, open unto me,' He will not say, 'Wait a while. I will open by-and-by,'but His final reply will be, 'Verily I say unto you, I know you not.'"
There is no hope of blessing for those who die impenitent anyhow or anywhere! They must depart, depart, depart, and that forever!O my Hearer, I beseech you, do not run the risk of the everlasting wrath of God! May God help you, by His infinite mercy,to feel how terrible a thing it is to be out of Christ, for our God is a consuming fire and it is written, "Beware you thatforget God, lest I tear you in pieces and there be none to deliver."
Now the thought of all this made the Apostle feel great heaviness and continual sorrow in his heart for his brethren, hiskinsfolk according to the flesh. If he had thought that they would be annihilated when they died, he would have had no heavinessabout them. If men and women are nothing, after all, but cats and dogs and have no immortal souls, I, for
one, will never bother my head about them. If they can die, let them die-it is nothing to me that they should be immortal!It is because I know that they are immortal and if they die unsaved they will have forever to endure the wrath of God thatmy soul feels and desires to feel more than ever, a continual heaviness of heart concerning every unsaved soul that stilllives! May God grant us more of this heaviness of spirit! May we be deeply pained by that dread, awful, overwhelming-I willeven dare to add-horrifying thought of souls being lost forever!
II. I have spoken enough, then, as to the persons for whom Paul was anxious. Now let us notice, secondly, HIS DESCRIPTIONOF THIS ANXIETY, which was very truthful. There was no sham about it. It is pretty easy to work yourself up into a state offeeling, but it was not passing emotion with Paul, it was deep, true, constant grief. He says, "I say the truth in Christ,I lie not, my conscience also bearing me witness in the Holy Spirit." He did not fancy that he felt, but he really was heart-brokenfor guilty souls. He did not sometimes get up into that condition or down into it, but he lived in it. "I lie not," he says,"I do not speak more than the truth. I do not exaggerate." For fear he should not be believed he asserts as strongly as isallowed to a Christian man-"I say the truth in Christ. I lie not."
His was true heaviness, real sorrow. Do we feel the same, or is it only a little excitement at a revival meeting, a chancefeeling which passes over us through sympathy with other people who are earnest? May the Lord plow your soul deep, dear Friend!If He means you to be a soul-winner, He will. May the plowers make deep furrows upon your heart, as once they did upon yourMaster's back! You are not fit to carry souls on your heart till it has been bruised with grief for them. You must feel deeplyfor the souls of men if you are to bless them. Paul's feeling was very gracious. It was not an animal feeling, or a naturalfeeling-it was a gracious feeling, for He says-"I say the truth in Christ." When he was nearest to his Lord. When he feltmost his union with Christ and communion with Him, then he felt that he did mourn over men's souls.
It was truth in Christ that he was expressing because he was one with Christ! He had a love for sinners because his very soulwas knit to Christ. He had a heaviness such as his Master knew when He, also, was very heavy and sweat great drops of bloodin Gethsemane, in the day of His passion. O Beloved, we need the Spirit of God to work this feeling in us! It is of no useto try to get it by reading books, or to pump yourself up to it in private-this feeling is the work of God! A soul-winneris a creation. As a Christian has to be created, so out of a Christian the soul-winner has to be fashioned. There has to bea careful preparation, a softening of the soul to make the worker know how naturally to care for the welfare of others. Paulhad been trained and qualified for soul-saving work. He says that his conscience bore him witness that he spoke the truthand then he says the Holy Spirit bore witness with his conscience. May we have such a manifest love for sinners that we canask the Holy Spirit to bear witness that we have it!
Brothers, Sisters, I am sometimes afraid that our zeal for conversion would not stand the test of the Holy Spirit. Perhapswe want to increase our denomination, or enlarge our Church for our own honor. Or we want to get credit for doing good, orto feel that we have power and influence over others. None of these motives can be tolerated! Our concern for souls must beworked in us by the Holy Spirit. It must come irresistibly upon us and become a master passion. Just as the birds, when theeggs are in the nest, have upon them what the Greeks call an oropyn-a natural feeling that they must sit on those eggs andthat they must feed those little fledglings which will come from the eggs-so if God calls you to win souls, you will havea natural love for them, a longing worked in you by the Holy Spirit so that the whole of your being will run out in that direction,seeking the salvation of men!
Then the Apostle goes on to say that he had great heaviness-not only heaviness, but great heaviness. Was he, therefore, anunhappy man? By no means! He had great joy in other things, though he had great heaviness on this point. We are not to imaginethat Paul went about publicly groaning and sighing because Israel was not saved. Oh, no! He rejoiced in the Lord and badeothers rejoice. But still there was the skeleton in the closet-a silent, heartbreaking grief was on him. We are many men inone and each man is a very complicated piece of mental machinery. We can be in great heaviness and in great exultation atthe same time! Whenever Paul's thoughts turned towards his Jewish brethren, a great heaviness came upon him. It bore him downand he would have sunk under it if it had not been for sustaining Grace. "O God," he said, "shall my nation perish? Shallmy people die? Shall my kinsmen be anathema? Shall it come to this, that they shall hear the Gospel in vain and perish, afterall?"
He had great heaviness and he tells us that this did not come on him at times, but that he always felt it whenever his thoughtsturned that way-I have "continual sorrow in my heart." In his very heart, for it was not a superficial desire. A
continual sorrow, for it was no fitful emotion. It always grieved him to think that his kinsmen should reject Christ. He thoughtof Jerusalem and of its doom. He thought of his brethren and their unbelief-and then he thought of how they had been the enemiesof Christ and, therefore, sorrow filled his heart. I could wish that in full many a professor the same sorrow reigned, forthen there would be much more holy work done for souls! The strongest expression which Paul uses is that which is containedin the third verse, "For I could wish that I were accursed from Christ for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh."
The margin reads, "separated from Christ." Now this text has so puzzled the expositors that they have done their very bestto kill it and tear out its heart-to get rid of its obvious meaning. They have invented all kinds of interpretations, suchas that he did once wish himself separated from Christ. Now, do you think the Apostle Paul would have begun by saying, "Isay the truth in Christ. I lie not," and so on, if, after all that mountain of expression, he was going to bring out thislittle insignificant sense, that once upon a time he also wished to be separated from Christ? Besides, the Greek does notbear such a preposterous rendering! Our version has given, as fully as it could, the meaning of the Apostle. The gentlemenwho like to dissect texts and pull them to pieces say, "Well, but he could not have wished to be an enemy to Christ, an enemyto God and to be lost-and yet he could not be lost without being an enemy to Jesus."
My dear Friends, if you take passionate expressions to pieces with icy hands, you will never understand anything which comesfrom the heart! Of course the Apostle never thought of wishing that he could be an enemy to Christ! But he did, sometimes,look at the misery which comes upon those who are separated from Christ until he felt that if he could save his kinsmen byhis own destruction, yes-by himself enduring their heavy punishment-he could wish to stand in their place. He did not saythat he ever did wish it, but he felt as if he could wish it when his heart was warm. His case was parallel with that of Moseswhen he prayed the Lord to spare the people and said, "If not, blot my name out of the Book
Do you think He wished it done? No! It was because that blotting out would have been, to him, the most horrible thing supposablethat, therefore, he went even to that length for the good of his people! Because the last of all things the Apostle couldhave thought of was being separated from Christ, therefore he says there were times when he could even have borne that mosthorrible, unthinkable thing if he could but have saved the people! Is there a minister of Christ who has not, sometimes, usedexpressions which cool logic could never justify? Why, Sirs, love knows nothing of grammar even in its common talk! A truepassion grinds words to dust. When the heart is full of love, even the boldest hyperboles are simple truths! Extravagancesare the natural expression of warm hearts even in ordinary things and, when a man's whole soul gets to seething like a caldronand boiling like a pot with sympathy and pity for men that are being lost, he speaks what, in cold blood, he never would havesaid.
What the cool doctrinalist pulls to pieces and the critic of words regards as being altogether absurd, true zeal, nevertheless,feels! Some of us have felt, at times, that our lives would have been cheaply spent a thousand times over by the bloodiestand most cruel deaths if we could save our hearers! And there have been moments of passion when we have been ready to say,"Ah, if even my destruction could save them, I could almost go that length." Why this is Christ's method! This is Christ'smethod! "He saved others, Himself He could not save." It may be an extravagance in us, since we are not able to redeem ourBrothers and Sisters or give God a ransom, but it is a blessed extravagance! Men are extravagantly prudent, nowadays, extravagantlydubious, extravagantly profane-and some of them extravagantly able to deny what their conscience must know is true!
They may, therefore, well permit the minister of Christ to be extravagant in his love for others. I like a bit of hyperbolein our hymns. For instance, I admire the extravagance of that verse of Addison's-
"But, oh, eternity's too short To utter half Hispraise."
A gentleman said to me," That cannot be, because eternity cannot be short and, therefore, it cannot be too short!" If theLord had put a drop of poetry into that critic's nature, he would not have dealt so harshly with the poet's language! Andif the same Lord had put a little of the fire of Grace into the nature of some hard-headed commentators, they would have understoodthat this passage is not meant to be cut to pieces and discussed-but it is intended to be taken boiling hot and poured uponthe enemy after the fashion of the olden times, when they poured melted lead or boiling pitch upon the besiegers who wishedto take a tower or city!
Such a text as this must be fired off red-hot! It spoils if it cools! It is a heart business, not a head business! The Apostlemeans us to understand that there was nothing which he would not suffer if he might save his kindred according to the
III. Well, now, I close my sermon by speaking upon THE EXCELLENCIES OF THIS SPIRIT, because I pray the Lord to work it ineach of you. I wish all felt it, but there are generally some in every Church who will never warm up to the right point. Ifwe could once get the whole Church up to blood heat, we might be content. I never want you to get to fever heat, but to bloodheat-the heat of the blood of Christ-to love as He loved! Oh, to get there and to stay there! Well, what would be the result,if we all felt as Paul did? The first effect would be likeness to Christ! After that manner He loved-He did become a cursefor us! He entered under the awful shadow of Jehovah's wrath for us. He did what Paul could wish but could not do. He passedunder the awful sword that we might be delivered from its edge forever!
Brethren, I want you to feel that you would pass under poverty if you could save souls better by being poor! That you wouldgladly endure sickness if from your sick bed you could speak better for Christ than now! Yes, and that you would be readyto die if your death might give life to those dear to you! I heard of a dear girl, the other day, who said to her pastor,"I could never bring my father to hear you, but I have prayed for him long and God will answer my request. Now, dear pastor,"she said, "you will bury me, won't you? My father must come and hear you speak at my grave. Do speak to him, then. God willbless him." And he did and her father was converted! The death of his child brought him to
Oh to be willing to die if others may be saved from the eternal death! God give us just such a spirit as that! This shouldbe our constant feeling-how else can we become like Christ? If we have this spirit it will save us from selfishness. Theysay-but it is a great falsehood-that we teach people to look after their own salvation and then, being saved, we bid themwrap themselves up in self-content. Was anything ever spoken more contrary to fact? We do urge men to seek to be saved fromsin! How can they bear to abide in it? But the first instinct of a saved soul, to which we continually appeal, is a longingto bring others to Christ! Yet, Brothers and Sisters, lest there should grow up in your spirit any of that Pharisaic selfishnesswhich was seen in the elder brother in the parable, ask to feel a heaviness for your prodigal younger brother who is stillfeeding swine!
Pray for him that he may come to his father's house. It will keep your soul sweet if you open the window of sympathy and letthe heavenly air of love blow through you. This will save you from any difficulty about forgiving other people. I do not supposethat Paul forgave the Jews for what they did to him, because he never went the length of thinking that he had anything toforgive-he loved them so much that he took their ill usage without anger or resentment! He loved them and, therefore, he borewith them. You will bear with those who scoff at you and you will put up with the idleness of the boys and girls in your classif you love them! Love mankind with all your soul and you will feel no difficulty in exercising patience, forbearance andforgiveness.
This spirit will also keep you from very many other griefs. Some people are always fretting for need of something to fretabout. No people are more uneasy than those who have nothing to do and nothing to think about! Such persons keep a littlegrowlery in the house and use it as a trouble factory where they invent grievances. There are people that I know of who oughtto be as merry as the birds of the morning and yet they are always worrying and stewing about nothing at all. Now, the bestway to kill one grief is to introduce another. John Foster wrote of the expulsive power of a new affection and I want youto experience it. Get love for the souls of men-then you will not be whining about a dead dog, or a sick cat, or about theconceits of a family and the little disturbances that John and Mary may make by their idle talk. You will be delivered frompetty worries (I need not further describe them) if you are concerned about the souls of men!
When certain persons come to me with their sentimental sorrows, I wish the Lord would fill them with the love of souls andmake their hearts break with anxiety for their conversion-then would their griefs be of a nobler sort. You would no longerweep over a mole hill if you began to move mountains! Get your soul full of a great grief and your little griefs will be drivenout. These thoughts of Paul about his brethren cause us to feel that we, too, may make our lives sublime if in our heartsthere shall burn the same ardent affection towards our fellow men. If you are moved by this feeling, it will put you muchupon prayer. You will bring one and another before God, because you cannot help it. That is the right style of praying-whena man does not pray at a set time because it is his rule, but prays because he has an awful weight upon him and pray he must!
You cannot force yourself to this, but when the Spirit of God has brought you to it, you will pray day and night for thosewhom you love! As you go down the road, something will suggest your praying for them. The very oaths and blasphemies so commonin our streets will make you pray for sinners. A gracious meeting where some are saved will move you to prayer. A thousandthings will lead you to pray and that prayer will lead you to effort-to proper and fitting effort. It is wonderful how a mancan talk to souls when he loves them! If any one of you should say, "I do not feel any particular concern about other people'ssouls, but still, I will look out for somebody and speak to him," you will fail in it, Brothers and Sisters. You must lovebefore you can plead! You must have such a concern for a man that you feel even if you could not say anything, still, youcould put your hand on his shoulder and blurt out, "Friend, I am concerned about your salvation." The evident concern of yourspirit will be one of God's ways of touching the hearts of others. I suppose His Spirit has used deep emotion more than almostany other instrument in arousing careless minds.
Now, tonight, a good many of our friends are away, for the lawful claims of business detain them at this season. I hope thatyou who have come here on such a week evening are among those who aspire to the highest things in the kingdom of God. Do so,I pray you-they are all before you and within reach-and among them, aspire after great sensitiveness as to others. Let othermen's sins grieve you! Let their eternal destiny be often on your mind! No better spur can be needed. You will labor for theirgood in proportion as you feel for them. I do not think that I can ask a better thing for the unconverted than that the convertedmay be in heaviness over them!
We long to see many enquirers coming forward. Very well. Enquiring saints always bring enquiring sinners. "For this will Ibe enquired of by the house of Israel"-not by the sinners first of all-but "by the house of Israel, to do it for them." MyBrethren, go and enquire at the Lord's hands and then you will soon prove a blessing to others!