Sermon 1885. The Problem of the Age
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, FEBRUARY 7, 1886,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And His disciples answered Him, How can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?'" Mark 8:4.
I HAVE been, for a while, lying outside the crowd, unable either to feed the multitude or to bring the sick to the Master.Here and there I have helped one, as opportunity has occurred, but I have been called to rest rather than to serve. Yet allthe while I have never ceased from constant thought about the perishing multitudes-this great city and its sad estate, thiscountry, Ireland and continental nations are all under a cloud of deep depression. One can remove his body from the turmoil,but his heart is still in it. If ever there was a time when there was a call for the deep sympathy of all Christian peoplewith the perishing multitudes, it is just now. If ever the Church should gird herself to do her Master's service, it is today.Never forget that the Church is the Spouse of Christ. She is His chosen Bride and she is, therefore, to unite with Him inHis great enterprise among the sons of men. The work is salvation and that work is to be worked by means of Divine Truth,carried to men, externally, by human hands and, internally, through the Spirit of God. The Church will be false to her heavenlyBridegroom if she does not sympathize with the tenderness of His heart and enter into His gracious labor of love.
The question before us is certainly unique if we remember that those who asked it had seen a former miracle of feeding themultitude. It would seem that those who had seen 5,000 fed would not ask concerning the feeding of 4,000. "How can a man satisfythese men with bread here in the wilderness?" Inasmuch as on one memorable occasion they had seen the Master multiply loavesand fishes, they might have expected Him to do the same again. I grant you to the fullest that it was an inexcusable question.I will not offer the slightest apology for it, but yet it is a very natural question- natural, I mean, to that fallen anddepraved human nature which is our daily grief. He that knows what human nature is will be astonished at nothing evil thatit produces! I do not mean human nature merely unrenewed by Grace, but I mean that carnal nature which remains even in thedisciples of Christ. This is of such a character that it shamefully gives way to unbelief.
You ask me to give an instance-I point to you! Have you not often seen the hand of God? And yet the next time you have neededDivine help, you have been in anxiety and doubt. Remember how Israel saw the Red Sea divided and yet the people feared thatthey would die of thirst? When the riven rock had relieved them, they were next, afraid of hunger! And after the heavens hadrained them bread, they became alarmed at the size of the giants who dwelt in Canaan. All that God had done seemed to go fornothing with them-they relapsed into their old unbelief. Are you and I much better? Alas, we may here see ourselves as ina mirror! Those who have a smooth path often boast of a vast amount of faith, or what they think to be faith. But those whofollow a wilderness way must often confess to their shame that after receiving great mercy they still find unbelief creepingin.
This is shameful to the last degree and should cause us bitter sorrow and great fear lest we should provoke the Lord to anger!Before us must often rise the example of those whose carcasses fell in the wilderness because of their unbelief. All thismakes us fear that had we been with our Lord in the desert, we would not have behaved better than Peter and James and John!We, too, might have forgotten the former miracle of the loaves and have anxiously enquired, "How can a man satisfy these menwith bread here in the wilderness?"
The question, although it is thus surprising and inexcusable, may, however, be used this morning for our profit. It may atleast do this good-as we shall not be able to answer it on any human lines, it will show us our inability-and that is whatour Lord would make most clear before His power is revealed. I should not wonder but what He drew those
people into the desert on purpose that there might be no suspicion that when they were fed, they had not been supplied fromfields or gardens, or by the charity of inhabitants. It was a barren spot, out of which nothing could be grown! The discipleshad to feel this and recognize this and state this-and then the Lord had a clear platform for working His miracle. He wantsto clear you out, Brothers and Sisters! He wants to make you see what a weak, poor, petty, miserable thing you are! And whenHe has brought you to that, then His own arm shall be revealed in the eyes of all the people-and all who behold it shall giveHim the Glory due unto His name.
Let us come, then, to our question with the hope that it may be sanctified to holy ends.
"How can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?" First, this is a pressing problem-how to meet the needsof the multitude. Secondly, press as it may, it is one of tremendous difficulty. But thirdly, and cheeringly, it is capableof a very glorious answer. There is a Man who, from His infinite resources, can satisfy the countless myriads of our raceeven in this wilderness!
I. First, then, IT IS A VERY PRESSING PROBLEM. What is to be done for the perishing multitude? What is to be done to satisfymen's souls? I confine the question to spiritual matters at this time, though I, by no means, slight the dreadful social andmaterial questions which are also especially urgent at this hour.
At this present moment myriads of souls are in present need. We sometimes think too exclusively of salvation as having referenceto the world to come, but it has an urgent, all-important reference to this present state. A man who does not know Christis a wretched man! A man who has never been renewed in heart, who lives in sin and loves it, is a pitiable being, a lost soulover whom angels might weep! If there were no Heaven to miss and no Hell to merit, sin is a curse upon this life. It is Hellto live without a Savior! If there were no poverty in London, it would be quite enough to break one's heart to think thatthere is sin in it reigning over the ungodly.
That grievous side of London life which raises "the bitter cry," is not, after all, the worst side of it-it is, to a greatextent, the outer disease which marks a secret cancer at the heart! If drunkenness brought no consequences, if vice involvedno misery it would not be better, but far worse, for our race. It is a more horrible thing when wickedness wraps itself inscarlet and fine linen and when vice, by the help of an abominable protectorate, is enabled to escape Scot free. Sin rampantwithout check would be even worse than the present woe! It is an awful thing to think that masses of our fellow men have neverturned to their Creator with obedient hope, have never confessed their sin against Him and have lived without thanking Himfor His mercy, or trembling at His justice! Great Lord, You know better than we do what horror dwells in the ungodliness ofmen! Brothers and Sisters, the multitudes are without the Bread of Life! Shall we not distribute it among them at once?
The multitudes are, also, in awful peril as to the future. When our Savior looked with compassion on the multitude, He notonly noticed their present hunger, but He foresaw what would come of it. "If I send them away fasting to their own houses,they will faint by the way: for many of them came from far." Their immediate hunger touched the Savior, but He did not forgetits consequences-they would go back to their mountain dwellings and, in the attempt to climb their terraces, one would fallby the hillside from need of food, and another would drop in the sun from sheer exhaustion. Perhaps a mother carrying herbabe at her bosom might find it dead for lack of nourishment, or the women, themselves, might faint and perish by the way.This our tender Lord could not bear to think of. Thus, when we look into the future of a soul, we start back aghast from thevision!
In these times, my Brothers and Sisters, many attempts have been made to represent the condition of impenitent sinners inthe world to come as less dreadful than the plain Scripture declares it to be. I cannot see what practical result can ariseout of such teaching except it be the hardening of men's hearts and placing them more at ease than they are, now, in theirindifference with regard to their fellow men. I know that at this hour a master argument with my heart in seeking to savemy fellow men is the intolerable thought that if they die without a Savior, they enter upon a fixed state in which they willcontinue in sin and consequent misery without hope of change. I am anxious to save men from Hell, at once, because I see noother day of hope for them.
Since these things are so-and I am assured they are-every man who has a spark of humanity and a grain of Grace is bound tocry mightily unto God concerning the vast multitude of men who are passing away from under the sound of the Gospel and rejectingit-who are living in the land of Gospel light and willfully closing their eyes to it and so are choosing endless darkness!If you are not awakened to action, O Christian, by the twofold belief that sin in this life is an
intolerable evil and that, in the world to come, it involves endless woe, what will bestir you? If this does not awaken yourcompassion for men! If this does not bring you heart-break, are you not hard as stones, unfeeling as savage beasts?
The case of the multitude is laid upon the Church of God. The Lord Jesus Christ took up all the hungry thousands and laidthem at the feet of His disciples. These were His own words, as He commissioned them, "Give you them to eat." It was a greathonor to them to be taken into co-partnership with their Lord-a high privilege to be workers together with Him in relievingthis far-spread hunger. It was a great honor, but what a responsibility it involved! If one of them had quietly stolen intothe background, whispering to himself, "this is a Quixotic notion." If another had hidden behind a rock and said, "I shallpray about it, but that is all I can do"-why what a disgrace it would have been to them! Instead of which, they were foundtrue-hearted to their Master and, the burden being laid upon them, they took up that burden in a fashion-and their Lord enabledthem to carry it with joy. They had the special happiness of handing out the bread to the vast host who gratefully receivedthe gift. The 12 were very popular men that day, I guarantee you, and they were looked upon with great envy by all who surroundedthem! Was it not a high privilege to distribute food among so many hungry men, women, and children? They must have been flushedwith excitement and filled with delight! I know I would have been. To go among a crowd of eager, hungry people and to feedthem to the full is a work an angel might covet! I am sure that many generous hearts here are already devising ways of feelingthis delight. Are you not? I mean literally! Will you not help to relieve the present distress by gifts of food and clothing?
Returning to the spiritual aspect of the matter-the Lord has called His Church in these days to this work-onerous and, indeed,impossible without Himself! But with Him, honorable, simple and easily accomplished. He calls His Church to the great taskof feeding the multitudes of London, the multitudes of our empire, the multitudes throughout the whole world! And since Heis present to multiply our loaves and fishes, the pressing problem may not be abandoned in despair.
Brothers and Sisters, we cannot put aside this work! We that are Christians cannot escape from this service! The Master haslaid it upon us and the only way to get out of it is by renouncing His leadership altogether! To attempt to be a Christianand not to live for your fellow men is hypocrisy! To suppose that you can be faithful to Christ and let these multitudes diewithout an effort is a damnable delusion! He is a traitor to his Master who does not enter heart and soul into the great life-workof that Master-and His life-work was-"that the world through Him might be saved" (John 3:17). If you will say good-bye to Jesus, you may run away with your own loaf and your own little fish and eat them in secretselfishness. But if you mean to be with Christ, you must bring your loaf and your fish here and contribute it-you must bringyourself and be the personal dispenser of the multiplied bread and fish-and you must persevere in the distribution till thelast man, the last woman, the last child shall be filled! Then Jesus shall have all the Glory of the feast, but to you willbe the honor of having been a servitor at His royal table in the august banquet of His love.
So you see where we are this very morning. We are called to work out a very pressing problem-"How can a man satisfy thesemen with bread here in the wilderness?" Let us not sleep, as do others, but let us awaken ourselves to work side by side withthose dear and faithful Brothers and Sisters who are toiling manfully to hand out the Bread of Life to the millions of thiscity, the teeming myriads of this world!
II. But now secondly, IT IS A PROBLEM OF TREMENDOUS DIFFICULTY. The difficulty of feeding the 4,000 was enormous, but thedifficulty of saving the multitudes of the human race is as high above it as the Heaven is high above the earth! After all,this miracle only gave a single meal to a few thousand who soon grew hungry again-the work needed is to feed myriads so thatthey shall not hunger again, forever! Think of this!
For first, what a thing it is to satisfy the needs of a single soul! I would like those who think the salvation of souls fromsin to be easy to try to convert one person. Sunday school teacher, did you ever attempt to bring one girl to Christ, yourself?She shall be one of the sweetest children in the whole school, but if you have attempted her conversion without seeking Divineaid in prayer and without looking to the Spirit of God to influence that little heart for good, you have made a miserablefailure of it! If you had to save a soul, where would you begin? The introduction of a holy thought into carnal minds is amiracle as great as to get a beam of light into a blind eye, or a breath of life into a dead body! How hard it is to delivera man from brutish carelessness and make him think of his soul, eternity and God! As to renewing the stony heart, as to quickeningthe dead soul into life, who can do it? Here we enter into the region of miracles! Can you create a fly? When you have createdthe most minute creature, then talk about making a new heart and a right spirit!
To "satisfy," says the text-"how shall a man satisfy these men?" To satisfy a soul is a work which only God can accomplish!Open your mouth, O man of ambition! We put the round world upon his tongue and when he has swallowed it, he cries, like Alexander,for another! He is no more satisfied with the whole world than with a pill of bread! As to the spiritual cravings of men,how can you satisfy them? Pardon for sin, a hope of eternal life, likeness to Christ-these are necessary to satisfy-how canwe give them? The world has no such food in all its stores! The work is impossible at the outset, when only one claimant appears!How can a man satisfy the spiritual hunger of a single soul? I should like every Christian man to be laid low with this thought,that he may be driven entirely out of conceit of himself and may at once cry to the Strong for strength and use the simpleweapon of the Gospel in the power of the Holy Spirit-and not in his own strength.
But, Brothers and Sisters, what am I talking about? One soul! What of that? Think of the numbers who need heavenly bread!We have not only one soul, not only one million souls, but hard upon five millions of immortal beings in this single city!In this huge world what myriads have we? A thousand millions would not compass the countless army now encamping on the globe!Would we deliberately exempt one of these from hope? Would we desire one of these to be willfully left to perish? Must notall be fed, if possible? Shall not every man, woman and child, as far as our desire can go, partake of the feast? Well, then,where are we? We are altogether at sea! Why, we have not a notion of what a million is! It will take a very, very long timeeven to count to that number. Think of this City of London-why, you shall ride through it, or you shall traverse it on wearyfoot for a year-and at the end you shall only wonder more at its incalculable vastness! To supply this great metropolis withgracious influences is a labor worthy of a God! The Church of God is called to feed all these with the Bread of Heaven-andall those out yonder in the heathen world! O Feebleness! What can you do alone? Yet, O Feebleness, how gloriously God canuse you for the accomplishment of His Divine purposes! There is the problem. Said I not truly that it is one of tremendousdifficulty?
What seems to have struck the disciples was the place they were in-it was a desert place. Perhaps you might see, here andthere, a little bitter herbage which a goat would disdain to browse, but for the most part it was bare ground. Our Evangelist,in describing the first miracle, is quite graphic in describing the green grass, but in this case he says that they sat on"the ground"-the ground bare of green grass. There were no corn fields, nor fruit-bearing plants. There was literally nothingto turn to account. If the stones could have been turned into bread, the people might have been filled, but the ground, itself,yielded absolutely nothing. I may be supposed, perhaps, to croak when I say that the present period is as bare of all helpto the Gospel as that ground was barren of help to the feast. The world has never known a period less helpful to the Gospelthan the present! We read in the Revelation of a time when "the earth helped the woman," but it is not so now. I see no elementfavorable to the conversion of the world to Christ, but everything is in array against it.
The people are not so attentive to the Gospel as once they were-the masses do not care even to enter the House of Prayer.In London they have, to a very large extent, ceased to care about the preaching of the Word. They are to be reached-blessedbe God, they shall be reached-but the tendency of the times is not towards religion, but towards unbelief, materialism andsordid selfishness. A current, no, a torrent, of unbelief is roaring around the foundations of society and our pulpits arereeling beneath its force. Many Christian people are only half-believers now-they are almost smothered in the dense fog ofdoubt which is now around us. We have come into cloud-land and cannot see our way. Many are sinking in the slough and thoseof us who have our feet upon the Rock of Ages have our hands full with helping our slipping friends.
Standing before God with a child-like faith and trusting in Him without question, it does not matter to us, personally, ifthe surrounding darkness should deepen into seven midnights black as Hell, for we walk by faith and not by sight. Though theearth were removed and the mountains cast into the midst of the sea, we would still hold to God and to His Christ in a deathgrip of unshaken confidence. But the mass of professors are not so. I constantly meet with Brethren who are reeling to andfro and staggering like a drunk and are at their wits' end! And, rejoicing that I have been given my sea-legs, I have to cheerthem and assure them that we are not shipwrecked after all. The good ship is not going down! The everlasting Truth of Godis as sure as ever! The day is not far distant when the Lord shall send us a great calm. It will, before long, come to passthat the infidel philosophies of the 19th Century will be exhibited to little children in our Sunday schools as an instanceof the monstrous folly into which wise men were allowed to plunge when they refused the
Word of the Lord! I am as sure of it as I am sure I live, that the present wisdom is foolery written large and that the doctrinewhich is now rejected as the effete theory of Puritans and Calvinists will yet conquer human thought and reign supreme! Assurely as the sun which sets tonight shall rise tomorrow at the predestined hour, so shall the Truth of God shine forth overthe whole earth! But this era is a desert place-in pulpits and out of pulpits, in social morals and in politics, it is a drearywilderness. "How can a man satisfy these men with bread here in this wilderness?"
The Lord has often suffered the multitude to be in straits that He might work gracious deliverances. Take a modern instance.One hundred and fifty years ago or so, there was a general religious lethargy in England and ungodliness was master of thesituation. The devil, as he flew over England, thought that he had drugged the Church so that it would never wake again. Howdeceived he was! A student at Oxford, who had been a pot-boy down in Gloucester, found the Savior and began to preach Him.His first sermon was said to have driven 19 people mad because it awakened them to true life. Certain other scholars in Oxfordmet together and prayed-and were dismissed by the university for the horrible iniquity of holding a Prayer Meeting! Out ofthe same university came another mighty evangelist-John Wesley- and he, with Whitefield, became the leader of the great Methodistrevival! Its effects are with us to this day. The archenemy soon found that his hopes were blighted, for the Church awokeagain! Poor miners were listening to the Gospel- their tears were making gutters down their black cheeks, while seraphic mentold them of pardoning love. Then respectable dissent awoke from its bed of sloth and the Church of England began to rub hereyes and wonder where she was. An evil time brightened into a happy era! Shall it not be so again? Have no fear about it!All things shall work together for good. The Lord brings the people into the wilderness on purpose that there it may be seenthat it is not the earth, but Himself, that feeds the people!
The sting of the question before us, however, I have not quite brought out-it was human feebleness. His disciples answeredHim-"How can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?" How can a man do it? We are only men. If we wereangels! Oh, if we were angels! Well, what of it? If we were angels I am sure we would be quite out of the business, for, "Untothe angels has He not put in subjection the world to come, whereof we speak?" The angels are not in the field. But how cana man or a woman do it? How shall a man feed this multitude? "Why, see," says one, "what I am! I am no great orator, I havenot ten talents, I am a weak creature! How can I feed this multitude? What can I do?" This is the sting of it all to earnesthearts. "Ah," says one, "if I were So-and-So, what I would do!" You may thank God you are not anybody but yourself, for youare best as you are, though you are not much to speak of now. "But if I were somebody else, I could do something," which meansthis-that since God has chosen to make you what He has made you, you will not serve Him! But if He will make you somebodyelse-that is, if your will may be supreme, then, of course the house will be rightly ordered. You had better be what you areand a little better-and get to work and serve your Master and no longer talk about, "How shall a man do this or that?"
The possibilities of a man are stupendous! God with a man, nothing is impossible to that man! Give us not the power of gold,or rank, or eloquence, or wisdom, but give us a man! Our Lord thought so when He went up to Heaven. He meant, as He enteredthe pearly gates, to scatter a Divine largess among His people down below-and He reached His hand into His Father's treasuryand He took out of it-what? He took men! "And He gave some, Apostles and some, Prophets and some, Evangelists and some, pastorsand teachers." These were His ascension gifts to the sons of men!
Though we speak thus of what God can make of us, we are in and of ourselves poor creatures. We do meet with a perfect Brother,now and then, and I always feel inclined to break that bubble. The imperfections of the perfect are generally more glaringthan those of ordinary Believers! Alas, we are all such poor, frail creatures, that we are driven away from all confidencein ourselves and we ask with emphasis the question, "How can a man satisfy these men with bread here in the wilderness?"
III. I am happy, therefore, to come to a blessed conclusion in the third head of our discourse, by saying that, laying theemphasis on its weakest word, "How can a man?"-THIS QUESTION IS CAPABLE OF A VERY GLORIOUS ANSWER.
I might almost say, as John the Baptist did, "There stands One among you, whom you know not." Though He has stood a amongus all these centuries, yet His people scarcely know Him. Who knows Him fully? "Oh," says one, "I know Christ." Yes, in asense, but yet He passes knowledge. "I believe in God," says one. Are you sure you do? I remember reading of a certain ministerwho spent many days in wrestling prayer because he was tempted to doubt whether there
was a God. And when he came into the full conviction of it, he said to his people, "You will be surprised at what I say; butit is a far greater thing to believe in God than any of you know." And so it is a greater thing to believe in Jesus than mostpeople dream! To believe in the notion of a god is one thing, but to believe God is quite another matter. One said to me whenI was troubled, "Have you not a gracious God?" I answered, "Certainly I have." He replied, "What is the good of having Him,then, if you do not trust Him?" I was sorely struck by that reply and felt humbled in spirit. We do not fully know what Jesusis. He is far above our highest thought of Him. He stands among us and we know Him not.
But what I want you to think of is, that this wonderful Man can feed this people with bread this day-and in this wilderness.I hope to make you believe it by the power of the Spirit of God. Therefore I ask you, first, to listen to what this Man says.I read to you just now this narrative as we find it in the 15th of Matthew. Turn again to the 32nd verse-"Jesus called Hisdisciples unto Him, and said-"Stop a moment. Prepare your ears for music"? No, He said, "I have compassion on the multitude."Oh, the sweetness of that word! When you are troubled about the people, troubled about Ireland, troubled about London, troubledabout Africa, troubled about China, troubled about India-hear the echo of this word-"I have compassion on the multitude."If Jesus spoke thus to His people while here, He equally says it now that He is exalted on high, for He has carried His tenderhuman heart up to Heaven with Him! And out of the excellent Glory we may hear Him still saying, in answer to His people'sprayers, "I have compassion on the multitude." There is our hope! That heart through which the spear was thrust and out ofwhich there came blood and water, is the Fountain of hope to our race! "I have compassion on the multitude."
Hear Him speak, again, and I think you will grant that there is much sweetness in the utterance. At the end of the 32nd versewe read, "I will not send them away fasting." We do not wish to judge Peter and James and John, but it seems to me that afterhearing the Master say, "I will not send them away fasting," they hardly ought to have said, "How can a man satisfy thesemen with bread here in the wilderness?" They ought quietly to have replied, "Good Lord, You have asked us a question whichYou must, Yourself, answer, for You have distinctly made the promise, 'I will not send them away fasting!'"
Do you think the Lord Jesus Christ means, after all, to leave this world as it is? It is written that, "God sent not His Soninto the world to condemn the world, but that the world through Him might be saved." Will He forego His purpose? The chronicleof time's history will not wind up with this horrible state of things. The loom of Providence will not leave its piece ofcloth with its edge so fearfully unraveled-it shall be finished off in due order and yet be bordered with threads of gold!The Glory of God shall yet illuminate history from the beginning even to the end. All flesh shall see the salvation of Godand all nations shall yet call the Redeemer blessed. "I will not send them away fasting." The people must, therefore, eatbread from the Lord's hands. Great Master, the task is far too much for us, alone! But if You have said, "I have compassionon the multitude, I will not send them away fasting," then we will feed them at Your command. Your humble servants are waitingto do Your bidding, whatever it may be, assured that You will be with them in it all.
I beg you, also, to think for a moment of what the Lord did not say, because He was speaking about common bread; but of whatwe know to be true of Him concerning His spiritual supplies for men. The greatest spiritual need of man is the pardon of sinby an Atonement. Brothers and Sisters, if the question were now standing, "Where shall we find an Atonement?" it would indeedstagger us! Blessed be God, that question does not remain, for the Atonement has been presented, completed and fully accepted!Jesus has said, "It is finished," and the real difficulty is over. The Cross has rolled away the stone from the sepulcherand hope has arisen! The application of the Atonement may be difficult, but it must be a small labor compared with the makingof the Atonement. The well has been dug-the drawing of the water is an easier task. If Jesus died, there must be life formen! If He has prayed, "Father, forgive them," there must be pardon for the guilty! If Jesus has risen into Glory, our racecannot perish in shame! We argue from the Cross a millennium of Glory! This Man can satisfy the people because of the richmerit of His blood!
Next, remember that this glorious Man is now invested with Omnipotence. His own words are, "All power is given unto Me inHeaven and in earth. Go you, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them." Our Jesus is Omnipotent. It is He who, bythe infinite wisdom of God, made the world and without Him was not anything made that was made. Is anything hard for the Creator?Is anything impossible, or even difficult to Him who rules all things by the power of His Word? Courage, Brothers and Sisters-thegrand question is answered! Since there is a full Atonement and there is an exalted Savior with all power in His hands, whatremains to dismay us?
Listen once more. The Spirit of God has been given. Better than Christ's bodily Presence among us is the Presence of the HolySpirit. It was expedient that Jesus should go away that the Holy Spirit might abide with us as a greater blessing for theChurch! Is the Holy Spirit gone? Has the Holy Spirit left the Church of God? Is the Church appalled by her difficulties thoughthe Spirit of God is poured out upon her? What is she thinking? Has she forgotten herself? Has she become insane? Brothersand Sisters, with Jesus Himself slain as an Atonement-Jesus exalted as a Prince and a Savior at the right hand of God andwith the Divine Spirit abiding with us forever-what is there impossible to the Church of God?
So I close by one more point, which is this-As I have made you hear our Lord's words and also led you to remember the infiniteresources at His disposal, I now want you to anticipate His working. How does the Christ work among men? How will He proceedwhen He gets fairly to work among the masses? There are varieties of operations, but there is a continuity of law runningthrough them all. The Divine line of action is much the same in all cases.
The way of the Christ was, first of all, to find out what there was which He could use. The little provisions provided byHis followers consisted of a few loaves and fishes. Is it not wonderful how the Lord sometimes finds out little matters whichhave been hidden away and makes much of them? Scotland was once under the sway of unbelief and formalism- how was it to bedelivered? Thomas Boston went into a shepherd's hut and found a book which had become extremely scarce. It was Fisher's, "Marrowof Modern Divinity." Boston rejoiced in the Light of the Gospel which flashed in upon his soul and he began to bear witnessto it. A great controversy followed and, what was far better, a great awakening! The lovers of the marrow of the Gospel soonbroke the bones of error! See what one book may do? Sweden, too, was greatly blessed by the discovery in a country house ofan old copy of Luther on Galatians. See how one voice may wake a nation?
Brothers and Sisters, who knows what may come out of seven loaves and a few small fishes? Yes, the enemies may do what theylike-they may preach what they please-they may take away one pulpit after another from the orthodox. They may even bury usunder the rubbish of evolution and false philosophy-but we shall rise again! These small clouds will soon blow over. Theremay not remain one single sound expounder of the Gospel, but as long as God lives, the Gospel will not die! Its power mayslumber, but before long it shall awake out of sleep and cry like a mighty man who shouts by reason of wine! As long as wehave one match left, we can yet set the world on fire! As long as one Bible remains, the empire of Satan is in danger! Onlybarley loaves and a few small fishes were in the possession of the Apostolic company, but Jesus found them and began to workwith them!
The next thing was a secret and mysterious multiplication. The bread began to grow in the disciples' hands as before it hadgrown in the ground. Peter had a loaf in his hand and he began to break off a corner. To his amazement, it was just as bigas before! So he broke off the other end and gave that to another hungry person and lo, the loaf was still intact! He kepton breaking as fast as he could and the loaf continued increasing till everybody had received his full! Wonderful hands theywere, were they not? No, they were not-they were only the rough hands of weather-beaten fishermen. Those other hands whichfirst took and blessed, and broke, were doing the deed all the while! It is wonderful how God works by our hands and yet Hisown hands do it all.
Apart from human agency, the Lord can impress the minds of men and women and so multiply His Truth. I heard of a woman inthe Isle of Skye, when there was very little Gospel preaching, there, who all of a sudden felt God was not working in Skye.She journeyed till she reached the ferry and then she crossed to the mainland. She asked those she met where she could findGod. At last she met with a good woman who said, "I will tell you where you will find Him." She took her into a place of worshipwhere Jesus was plainly set forth. She heard the Gospel and went back to tell others about the Savior!
The devil's work is never done-but it is undone, again, in five minutes when the Grace of God is at work. Even in our asheslive our little fires-a breath from Heaven shall kindle them into a flame! God is never at a loss for agents. He could turnthe Pope into an Evangelist, a cardinal into a reformer, a priest into a preacher of the Gospel! The most superstitious, themost ignorant, the most infidel, the most blasphemous, the most degraded may yet be made the champions of His Truth. Thereforelet no man's heart fail him-the bread shall be multiplied and the people shall be fed!
It was done by everybody distributing his portion. Peter was dividing his loaf and many people were specially pleased to befed by Peter. It was quite right that they should be. If Peter fed them, let them be satisfied with Peter. Yonder was Johnwith the same bread, breaking it with less impetuosity and more graciousness of manner. And yonder was
James working away very steadily and methodically. But what of the difference of distribution? The bread was the same. Solong as the people were filled, what did it matter which hand passed them their bread and fish? Dear Friends, do not imaginethat God will bless one preacher, only, or one denomination only! He does bless some preachers more than others, for He isSovereign, but He will bless you all in your work, for He is God.
I shall never forget one day, when my dear old grandfather was alive, I was to preach a sermon. There was a great crowd ofpeople and I was late, for the train was delayed and, therefore, the venerable man commenced to preach in my place. He wasfar on in his sermon when I made my appearance at the door. Looking at me, he said, "You have all come to hear my dear grandsonand, therefore, I will stop that you may hear him. He may preach the Gospel better than I can, but he cannot preach a betterGospel, can you, Charles?" My answer from the aisle was, "I cannot preach the Gospel better, but if I could, it would notbe a better Gospel." So it is, Brothers-others may break the bread to more people, but they cannot break better bread thanthe Gospel which you teach, for that is bread from our Savior's own hands!
Get to work, each one of you, with your bread-breaking, for this is Christ's way of feeding the multitude! Let each one whohas, himself, eaten, divide his morsel with another. Today fill someone's ear with the good news of Jesus and His love. Endeavorthis day, each one of you who are Christian people, to communicate to one man, woman, or child, something of the spiritualmeat which has made your soul glad. This is my Master's way, will you not drop into it? You cannot propose a better! Nonecan contrive a method more likely to be successful, more honorable to your Lord and more beneficial to yourself! Bring yourbarley loaf, bring your little fish and put your provision into the common store. Take it back again from the great Master'shands filled with that blessing which makes it fruitful and multiplies it-and then feed the multitude with it! So shall yougo forth with joy and be led forth with peace. So be it. Amen.