- WHEN GOD STEPPED DOWN – by Duncan Campbell
Now, before I begin the story, I would like to say one thing, and that is; that I did not bring revival to Lewis. It has grieved my heart, again, and again to read articles about “The man who brought revival to Lewis”. Notices on church boards, “Come, and hear the man, who brought revival to Lewis”. My dear people, it’s not true! I don’t carry revival about with me in my pocket. Revival broke out in Lewis, sometime before I went to the island. I thank God, for the privilege of being in its midst; for over three years. I went at the invitation, of one parish minister for ten days, but God kept me there for three years. Now, I’m thankful to God for the privilege of (perhaps in some small way) leading that movement, and teaching the young converts in the deep things of God.
Now, having said that, I want to read you a few lines from this little book; Lewis awakening. It will give you an idea of the desperate state, of this island prior to this gracious movement. The presbytery of Lewis meets to consider the terrible drift away, from the ordinances of the church. Especially, the drift away from the church by the young people of the island. Now, here are words, from a declaration that was read in all the congregations. The presbytery affectionately plead with their people, especially with the youth of the church, to take these matters to heart, and to make a serious inquiry, as to what must be the end; should there be no repentance. My dear people, take that to heart, should there be no repentance, and they call upon every individual as before God, to examine his or her life in the light of that responsibility, which pertains to us all. But, happily, in the divine mask, we may be visited by the Spirit of repentance, and return again unto the Lord, whom we have so grieved with our iniquities, and waywardness. Especially would the warn their young people, of the devil’s man traps, the cinema, and the public house. That was a declaration by the presbytery, read in all the congregations, and published in the local press.
Now, you might ask me, “What do you mean by revival”? There are a great many views, held by people today, as to what revival is. So, you hear men say, “Are you going out to the revival meetings?”, “We’re having a revival crusade”, and so on. There’s a world of difference, between a crusade, or a special effort in the field of evangelism. My dear people, that is not revival. As I already said from this platform, I thank God for every soul brought to Christ, through our special efforts, and for every season of blessing at our conferences, and at our conventions. We praise God for such movements, but is it not true that such movements do not, (as a general rule) touch the community? The community remains more or less, the same, and the masses go past us to hell, but in the revival, the community, suddenly becomes conscious of the movings of God; beginning with His own people. So that, in a matter of hours, (not days) in a matter of hours, churches become crowded. No information of any special meeting, but something happening that moves men and women to a house of God, and you’ll find within hours, scores of men, and women crying to God for mercy before them that kneel at church. You’ve read the history of revivals, the Jonathan Edward revival in America, that was what happened, and the Welsh revival, that is what happened, and the more recent Lewis revival, that is what happened.
When God stepped down, suddenly men and women all over the parish were gripped by the fear of God. Now, how did it happen? This to me is an interesting story, and I want to tell it in full. One evening, an old woman, eighty-four years of age, and blind; had a vision. Now, don’t ask me to explain this vision, because I cannot, but strange things happen when God begins to move, and this dear old lady, in the vision saw the Church of our Fathers crowded with young people. crowded with young people, and she saw a strange minister in the pulpit, and she was so impressed by this revelation because a revelation it was. She sent for the minister and told her story. The parish minister, was a God-fearing man, a man that longed to see God working. Oh, he had tried ever so many things to get the youth of the parish interested, but not one single teenager attended the church, that was the situation. Well, heart to this dear old lady to say to him, I’ll tell you what she said, “I’m sure Mr McCie, that you’re longing to see God working. What about calling your office bearers together, and suggest to them that you spend two nights a week; waiting upon God in prayer. You’ve tried mission, you’ve tried special evangelists, Mr McCie has you tried God?”. Oh, I tell you this is a wonderful old woman. So, he meekly obeyed, and said, “Yes, I’ll call the session together, and I will suggest that we meet on Tuesday night, and Friday night, and we’ll spend the whole night in prayer”. I told you, dear people, here were men that meant business. The dear old lady said, “Well, if you do that, my sister and I will get on our knees at ten o’clock on Tuesday, ten o’clock on Friday, and we’ll wait on our knees till four o’clock in the morning”. I tell you, this puts us to shame. So, they went to prayer, and I want to mention that they had, but one promise from God and that promise was, “For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground:” –Isaiah 44:3a. That’s God’s promise, and in their prayers (according to the minister), they would say again, and again, “God you’re a covenant keeping God, and you must be true to your covenant engagements”. The praying and the meetings continued for several months.
Until one night, a very remarkable thing happened. There, knelling amongst straw in the barn, the barn of a farm house; when suddenly, one young man rose, and read part of Psalm twenty-four: “Who shall ascend into the hill of God? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands, and a pure heart; who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity, nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing from the Lord”. He shut his Bible and then looking down at the minister, and at the other men who were kneeling there, he said this, (rather crude words, not so crude indelicate), but this is what he said, “It seems to me just so much humbug. To be praying, as we are praying, to be waiting as we are waiting, if we ourselves, are not rightly related to God. Oh, my dear brethren let’s take that to heart.” He began to pray, “God, are my hands clean? Is my heart pure?”, and that dear man got no further. He fell on his knees, and then on his face among the straw, and with in a matter of minutes, three of the elders fell into a trance. Now, please don’t come to me at the end of this meeting, and ask me, “What I really mean by men falling into a trance?” I cannot answer that question. All that I know is this, that when that happened in the barn, (now it’s happened in the Jonathan Edward revival; remember that. Not peculiar by any means to Lewis. It happened in America, it happened in the fifty-nine revival in Wales, not the nineteen-hundred revival, but the fifty-nine revival) this I can say, the moment that, that happened in the barn, a power was let loose that shook the whole of Lewis. I say shook Lewis! God stepped down. The Holy Spirit began to move among the people, and the minister (writing about what happened the following morning) said this, “You met God on meadow and moo land. You met Him in the homes of the people. God seems to be everywhere”.
What was that? Revival! Revival!! Not an evangelist, not a special effort, not anything at all organised on the basis of human endeavour, but an awareness of God that gripped the whole community. So much so, work stopped. What was happening? People were meeting in groups, young men were gathering in a field, and begin to talk about this strange consciousness of God that had gripped the community. In a matter of days, I received a letter inviting me to the island, I was at that time in the midst of how very gracious movement on the island of Sky, it wasn’t the revival, but men and women were coming to Christ. God was glorified in the number of prominent men, who found the saviour at that time, but it wasn’t the revival. I mention that in Canada, or America, they would refer to it as a “Big Revival”, but it was definitely a move of God. So, I received this invitation to come to Lewis for ten days, and I wrote back to say that it wasn’t possible for me to do that, because I was involved in a holiday convention, on this island, and the speakers were arranged, and accommodation in the different hotels for the people that were coming from all over Britain. I cannot take a time to tell you how that convention had to be cancelled. Largely because the tourist board took the hotels over my head for a special Sky week that they were going to have. So, I had to cancel everything. I wrote the minister, he received the letter, and he went to the old lady with me, and read the letter to her, and this is what she said, “Mr McCie, that is what man is saying, but God has said something else, and he’ll be here within a fortnight”. I tell you, the convention wasn’t cancelled then, but she knew. Oh, my dear people listen: “The secret of the Lord is with them that fear him:” –Psalm 25:14a, and she knew Gods’ secret. I was on the island within ten days, and to spend ten days among the people.
I was met at the pier by the minister, and two of his office bearers. Just as I stepped off the boat an old elder came over to me, and faced me with this question, “Mr Campbell, can I ask you this question, are you walking with God?” Oh, here were men who meant business. Men who were afraid that a strange hand would touch the ark, “Are you walking with God?” well, I was glad to be able to say, “Well I think I can say this, that I fear God”. The dear man looked at me and said, “Well, if you fear God, that will do”. Then, the minister turned, and said, “We’re sure Mr Campbell, that you’re tired, and you must be longing for your supper, and supper will be ready for you in the manse, but I wonder if you would address a meeting in the Parish Church, just on the way to the manse, to show yourself to the people. There’ll be a fair congregation, I’m not saying a great number, but, oh anything between two and three hundred I expect. You see, there’s a movement among us”. Well, it will interest you dear people to know that I never got that supper, because I didn’t arrive at the manse until twenty minutes past five in the morning. I went to the church, (now this is the interesting bit because it deals with the outbreak of God in supernatural powers. The God of miracle revealing Himself in revival.) I preached in the church to a congregation of about three hundred, and I would say a good meeting. A wonderful sense of God, something that I hadn’t known since the nine-teen twenty-one movement, but nothing really happened. I pronounced the benediction, and I’m walking down the aisle, when this young man came to me, and said, “Nothing has broken out tonight, but God is hovering over us. He’s hovering over us, leave it be, and He’ll break through any moment”. Well, I must be perfectly honest, I didn’t feel anything, but you see here is a man; much nearer to God than I was. Oh, he knew the secrets. We’re moving down the aisle, and the congregation is moving out. They’re all out now, except this man and me. He lifted his two hands, and started to pray, “God you made a promise, to pour water on the thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground, and you’re not doing it”. He prayed, prayed, and prayed again until he fell again onto the floor in a trance. He’s lying there, I’m standing beside him for about five minutes, and then the doors of the church opened, and the session clerk came in. “Mr Campbell, something wonderful has happened. Revival has broken out. Will you come to the door, and see the crowd that’s here? (eleven o’clock mark you, eleven o’clock). I went to the door, and there must have been a congregation of between six, and seven hundred people gathered around the church. This dear man stood at the door and suggested that we might sing a song. They gave out Psalm a hundred and two “When Zion’s bondage God turned back, as men that dreamed were we, then filled with laughter was our mouth, our tongue with melody. They sang, and the sang, and they sang, and in the midst of it, I could hear the cry of the penitent, I could hear men crying to God for mercy, and I turned to the elder and said, “I think we had better open the doors again, and let them in”. Within a matter of minutes, the church was crowded at a quarter to twelve.
Now, where did the people come from? How did they know that a meeting was in progress in the church? Well, I cannot tell you, but I know this that from Village, and Hamlet the people came. Were you to ask some of them today, “what was it that moved you?” they couldn’t tell you. Only that they were moved by a power that they could not explain, and the power was such to hard to understand and see that they were hell-deserving sinners! Of course, the only place they could think of, where they might find help, was at the church. Here they were, between six, and seven hundred. There was a dance in progress that night in the parish, and while this young man was praying in the aisle; the power of God moved into that dance, and the young people (over a hundred of them) fled from the dance, as those fleeing from a plague, and they made for the church. I endeavoured to get up into the pulpit. I found the way blocked by young people, who’d been at the dance. When I went into the pulpit, I found a young woman, (a graduate of a university) who was at the dance, and she’s lying on the floor of the pulpit crying, “Is there nothing for me? Is there nothing for me? Is there nothing for me?”. God was at work, and the old lady’s vision, now actual and real. A church crowded with young people, as well as old.
Well, that meeting continued until four o’clock in the morning. As I was leaving the church a young man came to me, oh he’s not a Christian, but he’s a God fearing young man. He told me this story, “Mr Campbell, there must be anything between two, and three hundred people at the police station. They’re gathered there, and some are on their knees. Now, I cannot understand this.” Now, he wasn’t in the church you see, but here a crowd of men and women, from a neighbouring village, five and six miles away, were so moved by God, that they found themselves moving to the police station because the constable there was a God fearing, and well-saved man. Just next to the door Peggy’s Cotton. They were there, and this young man begged me to go along to the police station, and I went along, and I shall never, never forget, what my ears heard, and my eyes saw that morning. Young men were kneeling by the roadside. I think just now of a group of half a dozen, one of them under the influence of drink, and his old mother kneeling beside him, and saying, “Oh Willy, Willy are you coming at last? Willy, Willy are you coming at last?” Willy today is a parish minister, and from the group of young men, who sought the Lord that night; there are nine in the ministry today. God moved. My dear people, that’s revival. That’s God at work, and I make bold to say in passing, “That is the crying need of the Christian Church in Canada today, but not this effort, and effort on the basis of human endeavor, but a manifestation of God, that moves sinners to cry for mercy before they go near a place of worship.
My dear people, that was how it began there. That was how it began, and then it leapt over the bounds of the parish to neighbouring parishes. We are now addressing meetings through the day, we’re addressing meetings right through the night. I can remember once within twenty-four hours addressing eight meetings; crowded churches five times, twice out in a field, once down at the shore where men would come across a lot there, old men, and they were sober that night. So many of them found a saviour, that we followed them to a shore, and there we sang the songs of Zion at two o’clock in the morning before we left for their homes. Oh, my dear people, that’s God at work. That’s God at work. That’s revival.
I remember one night a man coming to me, and saying, would it be possible for you to visit our parish? Well, I said, it all depends on when I could visit the parish, I think it would be possible for me to go, you could have me between one and two o’clock in the morning. So, it was decided that I should go at one o’clock. Half past one I arrived there to find a large church (one of the large churches in Lewis) crowded to capacity with as many outside. I spoke there for an hour and then left the church with hundreds crying to God. I say hundreds, crying to God for mercy. I left the church, and another young man came to me, and said, Mr Campbell there must be between three, and five hundred people in a field down here, and they’re wondering, the elders there are wondering if you could come down and address them? I went down, and I found this crowd; oh it was easy to address them cause the spirit of God was hovering over us. The spirit of God moving, and I saw a man lying on the ground. Oh, he’s in distress of soul, in terrible distress. Then, four young girls, I would say about sixteen years of age, they came over and they knelt beside him, and I hear one of them saying, listen to Jesus that saved us last night, can save you now, and that man was saved of the four young lassies prayed around him. My dear people, that’s revival.
But, I think I ought to tell you a rather amusing incident. We weren’t in favour with all. There was a certain section of the Christian church that bitterly opposed me. Oh, I was a matter minion, and I was teaching strange doctrine. When I was proclaiming that the baptism of the Holy Ghost was a definite subsequent experience to conversion. Now, my dear people, I believe that, well it is. I want to say this in passing, that I believe it was because the people grasped that truth, that we can say today, we know practically nothing of backsliding, from that gracious movement of years ago. It is because they entered into the fullness, because of that a stream of men and women going out into full-time service. We’re singing at this meeting when I saw the door of a cottage opening, and I saw an old woman coming out with a black shall on her, and she walked over, and she got a hold of one of the elders. A tall man, a strong man, a heavy man, and she said to him, “I wish you people would go home, and let people sleep”. I can still see that dear man going over to her, and taking her by the shoulders, and shaking her, and saying, “Woman! Get a way home, you’ve been asleep long enough”,
From that meeting, I went back, back to Belfast, and when we arrived at the manse (the minister was with me) we found an elder waiting for us to say that a farmer was in great distress of soul. Now, this man hadn’t been in a church for twelve years. He just lived for his cattle and horses. He lived for the earth, and he had a Godly wife, and a Godly daughter and they were concerned about him. They invited me prior to this incident to the farm, and I spoke to the old man, and he said, “Ah well, I may turn up at the church sometime”. There to after that, he was seen walking down the road to the church, and one of the elders said, that he thought the suit he had on was the suit that he married in. It wasn’t certain if it was or not. He went to the church, and the church was so crowded that he had to sit on the pulpit steps just quite near to me, and God spoke to him. Oh, he was in a fearful state. Crying, and repeating “God Hell is too good for me! Hell is too good for me!” oh, that we could see the conviction, and there’s one thing that I’d been crying for at this conference; that conviction of souls will get men and women prostrate in the presence of God. Oh, give it to us! give it to us! That night, after being at this field meeting, I among the elderly, and the minister went to the farm. We found every room in the farm house packed with people praying. Oh, they were praying for the farmer. They were afraid that he would go mental. So, I said to the wife, where is Donald? Oh, he’s down in the room there, he’s in a terrible state. Oh, that God may have mercy on the mightiest sinner. Oh, she was speaking a truth, may God have mercy on the mightiest sinner. So, we went down the passage, and she gently opened the door, and there’s a farmer on his knees, and again he kept repeating, God can you have mercy on me? Can you have mercy on me? I seem to feel that hell is too good for me, and there he is. We’re standing at the door, he’s quite unconscious of us being there, and then the wife spoke. Now, you needn’t laugh at this, I’m just stating a fact. The wife spoke, and this is what she said, “There’s the mighty sinner, and may he take his tummy full of it”. That was the word she used, “May he take his tummy full up” what does she mean? Oh, she was crying to God, with God would shake him out of his sin, that his experience of God would be real. Let him stew in his conviction, in the words of Millie Morris. Let them stew in their conviction, leave them there.
Leave them there, let God be with them. Though that I feel dear people, that we take things out of the hand of God by our council. Oh, that we might get to the place where with implicit confidence in God, we leave the work to Him. The following night, he asked for a meeting in the house, in the morning God met with them, in a glorious deliverance he asked for a prayer meeting. Do you know that out of that prayer meeting there were four ministers in the church today? Donald McCloud’s prayer meeting.
Now, I could go on, talking to you about incidence, and how it began, but I think that I ought to mention of one or two of the supreme features of the movement. First of all, of course, it was the awareness of God. That to me was the outstanding thing. This sense of God, the fear of God in the parish, and in the neighbouring parish. You could speak to any person, and you’d find them thinking about God, and crying for mercy. Now, that is a fact that cannot be disputed. God was everywhere, and because of this awareness of God the churches were crowded; crowded through the day right on through the night, till five and six o’clock in the morning. In revival, time does not exist. You see, the presence of God puts to plate purulence, how oft have I cried to God would so move in our midst that the program would go, and the oppression takes the place, but that was what happened.
Perhaps, one of the main and outstanding features was this deep; deep conviction of sin. Now, I can’t explain this. You’d have to be there to see it, and there are two incidents. That dear old lady came to me one day, and she said, “I feel lead to ask you to go to this particular part of this parish. There are mighty sinners there, that need salvation”. Well, I said to her, you know I’ve no meetings to go there. There are men there that are bitterly opposing me, and ah, I don’t suppose I could get any place to hold a meeting, and she looked at me and said this; “Mr Campbell, if you were leading us near to God as you ought to be, He would reveal His secrets to you also”. I took that as a rebuke, and I went back to the manse and I said to the minister, I think we ought to spend the morning with old Peggy and wait upon God with her in the room. So, she agreed, and she and her sister knelt with her in their little room, and that dear woman began to pray, and I can give you her prayer. “God, you remember the conversation we had this morning at two o’clock? And you told me you were going to visit this part of the parish with revival, and I’ve just spoken to Mr Campbell about it. But, he’s not prepared to think of it. You better give him wisdom because the man badly needs it”. Well, that was her heart, and when we rose from our knees; I said to her, well Peggy now, where do you wish me to go, and where is the meeting to be held? “Oh, you go, and God will provide the congregation and the meeting place”. Well, Peggy, I’ll go, I’ll get better; get better. I went on the following evening, and there must have been a congregation of anything between three and four hundred. Gathered around this bungalow (seven-room bungalow), and the bungalow was so packed, and so many young people anxious to be in it, that the man of the house (who wasn’t a Christian, but a God fearing man) suggested that they should get into the beds in rows of threes, take off their shoes, and pack themselves. Well, that was what they did. Rows of threes on their knees in the different beds. Not one of them could tell you what moved, by a sovereign God they were aware. I spoke for about ten minutes when one of the elders came to me, and said, “Mr Campbell, will you come around to the end of the house? Some of the leading men in the village are crying to God for mercy, and if you go there, we’ll go to the peach shack over here where you she those women crying to God on their knees”. I went around to the end of the house, and there they were. The men that old Peggy saw, that would become pillars in the church of their Fathers, and today those men are pillars in the church. My dear people that are the revival that I believe in.
In the midst of those crying to God for mercy, there were to pipers. I think most of you know that I was a piper, and playing bagpipes at a concert, and dancing, God met with me, and spoke to me and saved me. Miracle working God. Well, two of them are there. Now, those two pipers were advertised to play at a concert and dance in a neighbouring parish, and the minister of that parish was there. He was the man who spoke to me, and said “Go to the end of the house”, and he and his wife are looking at the two pipers. Oh, they’re there crying to God for mercy. He turned to his wife, and he said, “Look here, we’ll go back to the parish, and we’ll go to the dance, and we’ll tell them there what is happening in Belfast”. So, off they went (fifty miles), arrived when the dance was in progress. Went to the door, and was met by the son of a schoolmaster. “What are you wanting here Mr McLennan”? Oh, I just come to the dance. “Oh, but we know you haven’t come for the dance to dance”. But, as the parish minister, he claimed the right and went in. There dancing, and he stepped onto the floor. Young men, young women, I’ve an interesting story to tell you. The two pipers aren’t with you, they’re not with you, they’re crying to God for mercy in Belfast. A stillness. Oh, the stillness of eternity (in putting the words of the minister) came to the dance, and then he said, young listen, I would like you to sing a psalm with me, and I think we ought to sing Psalm fifty, where God is depicted as a flame of fire. He began to sing (he’s leading it himself). When he came to the second verse, suddenly there was a cry, the young man fell on the floor, and began to cry to God for mercy. In five minutes the hall was empty, and are now in three buses (coaches that brought young people from other parishes), and in the coaches on their knees crying to God for mercy. Listen, the young man who fell on his knees that night was now serving in a parish church, just before I came across to Canada. That’s God at work. The Spirit of God so moved, the conviction was so terrible, that we could only leave them there.
I suppose you’ve read about the most remarkable movement. The Acts of the Apostles repeated again. It’s in the village, a young girl (who was with you here for several years, and came to us last year) she was up there just now, and she was over at the house that shook when the elder prayed. Now, that was what happened at midnight. The situation was difficult, again bitter opposition, bitter opposition. He’s teaching error. So, it went on, but at midnight this man got up to pray, and I still recall his words. “God do you know that your honour is at stake? Do you know that you made a promise that you’re not fulfilling? Now, there are five ministers here along with Mr Campbell. I don’t know where any of them stand. Not even Mr Campbell. But, if I know anything at all about my own poor heart, I think I can say that I’m thirsting. I’m thirsting for a manifestation of your power”, and then about the quarter to two in the morning he stood up, and said this, “God, on the basis of your promise to pour water on the thirsty, I now take it upon myself to challenge you to fulfil your covenant engagement”. When that man said that, the farm house shook like a leaf. Now, the elder minister said to me, “I’m a sinner”. When John Smote stopped praying I pronounced the benediction and went out of the church to find the whole community alive. The whole community alive, and a gracious movement broke out, that is spoken of in Scotland today as the revival.
One of the mighty movements in the midst of this gracious dissertation. You know that the drinking house was closed that night, and it’s never been opened since. Never been opened since. The men who used to drink there, and spend their evenings there are now praying in our prayer meetings, and one of them is a minister in Southern Arabia. Oh, I could go on, but that was how the movement began. Conviction, distress of soul, thirty young men standing at a hall, holding nothing but the amount of beer that was to be brought the parish for the dance on Friday. Some of them come to the others and say, “Boy’s let us increase the amount I believe that this is the last time that beer is going to come to this parish”. Another young man said, (angered) “Are you suggesting that revival is going to come to this godless parish”? “I cannot say what is going to happen, or what is going to come, but something is happening to me”. That was all that he said. Listen, dear people, thirty young men fell on their knees in front of the public hall, and were there for over an hour, and all of them saved, and eleven of them are office bearers in that church today, and that is one community. After that gracious movement, when you couldn’t find the single unsaved soul in the parish, and that community.
My dear people, do you good folk understand what revival means? Have you a conception of what it means to see God working? The God of miracles, sovereign, and supernatural. Moving in the midst of men, and hundreds swept into the kingdom. Oh, that we might see it, that we might see it. Now, my time’s gone, but ah, you ask what are the fruits of it? You already said that you know nothing about backsliding, well, that is true. I could count on my five fingers, all who dropped out of the prayer meetings. You see, in Lewis, and in the high land generally, they would no more believe that you were a Christian, than they would believe that the devil was a Christian, if you don’t attend the prayer meetings. I agree with them. I certainly agree with them. When a soul is born again, suddenly there is created a hunger to be among the praying people of God. The prayer meetings become crowded. You couldn’t find a parish in Lewis today that hasn’t five prayer meetings. It was stated in the midst of the movement, “There are more people attending the prayer meetings now, than attended public worship on a Communion Sunday”. Now, that’s true. Well, that is one of the outstanding features relative to the fruit that remains, and from those prayer meetings, now get a hold of this, from those prayer meetings a movement has begun now, that is sweeping through Lewis. Where is it? Among whom? Among the teenagers, among young men, and young women that some time ago would be making their way to the town of the pictures, or to the dance, or to the drinking houses in the town, but today in their scores.
Now I’m not saying it’s revival. Not in the sense that we witnessed it some years ago, but in parishes tonight you will find perhaps half a dozen prayer meetings in progress. They’re in the church, and from the church they go for a bite of supper, and then to houses here and there, to wait upon God till two o’clock in the morning, and in those prayer meetings, young people, young men and women, teenagers, and others are coming savingly to Christ. There’s a woman recently who has a story to tell. Perhaps when she comes back, she’ll tell you all about it. That is if we let her go. I think I said to Mr Maxwell, “If you can give us half a dozen other Miss Bangles, will work with them with open arms, in the work of the mission in pagan England”. But, that is true, the movement continues, and perhaps another feature, one of two, the fruits the number of men and women that had to go forth into full-time service in the ministry, and in the foreign field.
An Infallible Sign of Revival – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
A Sermon Delivered on Lord’s Day Evening November 12, 1876, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, London, England.
“The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day. Isaiah 2:11
In the eternal past, the Lord alone was exalted. When He dwelt alone of ever the earth was, and when He commenced the mighty works of His creation, and the universe sprang into being at the fiat of His unhindered will, He alone was exalted. He made multitudes of creatures; perhaps we have no idea how many of them there were, and in what varied forms intelligent beings were created, but the Lord alone was exalted. Every angel adored Him: every creature knew its Lord. It was an ill day when there broke out a rival spirit, and when evil began to set up its throne in opposition to the God of good. The leader of the angels– the light bearer, sought to erect a rival throne. “How art thou fell from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning” Isa 14:12.
Then, by and by, in process of time, upon this world, God’s glory was dimmed; here, too, another spake and was believed, and God was doubted. Another claimed man’s love and gained it, and God was disobeyed; on earth no longer was the Lord alone exalted as He had been in the quiet glades of Eden when our first parents worshipped none but God, and counted it the very cream and flower of their being that they might serve the highest who had made them what they were. New, look where we may in this poor, fallen world, the Lord alone is not exalted; but there are lords many and gods many– spiritual wickednesses and principalities of evil– which set themselves up in opposition to the great King of kings and Lord of lords. Yet as surely as Jehovah liveth,
He will win the victory in this conflict. Ere the drama of the world’s history shall come to a close, it shall be known throughout the entire universe that the Lord, He is God, and the Lord alone shall be exalted.
It is a part of the work of grace– nay, it is the main object of the work of grace, and it is an object also of the work of providence to subserve this great end– that the Lord alone shall be exalted. For your comfort and for your instruction then, first, notice the occasions when my text has been true. I shall take the text out of its connection, not, I hope, unduly, and show that on a large scale there are several days in which the Lord alone has been exalted, and then we will come back to a little quiet meditation and look into our own experience to see whether there have not been days with us when the Lord alone has been exalted.
I. Come then, first, and notice WHEN THE LORD ALONE HAS BEEN EXALTED ON A LARGE SCALE.
The Lord alone has been exalted among men whenever He has been pleased to reveal Himself in the plenitude of His power. The revelations under the law were mainly revelations girt with terror. Under the Old Testament dispensation, you find God coming out of His place to shake terribly the earth. When He bows the heavens and comes down, the mountains flew at His presence. The Lord alone was exalted in those days when He vindicated His justice and displayed His power against His enemies. Remember the flood when, after so many years of warning, the ark being prepared for the salvation of the believing few, God was pleased to draw up the flood-gates of heaven and to bid the cataracts of earth leap upward instead of downward, till over all the face of the world there was nothing but one mighty all-devouring wave. When in majestic silence the ark floated over the bosom of the world which had become the grave of Jehovah’s creatures, then the Lord alone was exalted in that day. And when men had multiplied again upon the face of the earth, and His people had gone down into Egypt; you know well the story, how proud Pharaoh said, “Who is the Lord that I should obey his voice?” Ex 5:2.
Then Moses came and with many strokes of his mystic rod he afflicted the fields of Zoan, he turned their waters into blood, and slew their fish. He spake and the flies came, and the frogs and the locusts, and that without number; yea, the Lord smote all the first-born of Egypt, the chief of all their strength, and in that night, when a cry went up from every Egyptian household, and the people of Israel were led forth like sheep by the hands of Moses and Aaron, the Lord alone was exalted. Then the nations knew that Jehovah wrought His will among the sons of men.
Nor was that all. When in their desperation the Egyptians pursued the Israelites into the very depths of the sea, the Lord burned and looked upon them and troubled the host of Pharaoh and took off their chariot wheels so that they drove heavily, when the sea returned in the fullness of its strength, and the depths had covered them until there was not one of them left, then Miriam’s song, “Sing ye to the Lord, for he hath triumphed gloriously” Ex 15:1,21, was but an exposition of our text, “The Lord alone shall be exalted in that day” Isa 2:11,17.
Time would fail me to tell forth all His mighty works, nor is there any need for me to recapitulate the records of the book of the wars of the Lord, “for the Lord is a man of war: the Lord is his name” Ex 15:3; and when He cometh forth to battle, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
May we never live to see a pestilence sweep through this land! But should such a visitation of God come upon us, then will our houses of prayer are thronged and men will begin to cry unto the highest. May we never hear the noise of war in our streets! If such a calamity should befall us, and the Lord takes the sword of war out of the scabbard, men will begin to learn righteousness. May He be pleased to have mercy upon us and lead us by gentle means to glorify His name. Were He to come in judgement than would the spirit of atheism and of idolatry, which now with brazen faces dare confront the gospel of Christ, betake themselves to darkness in which they were begotten. When the Lord comes forth in terror then is He alone exalted. Let us change the theme now, and see, too, how whenever God comes forth in his great mercy His name alone is exalted.
The day when the infant Church of Christ gathered in an upper room and sat there, all its members being of one heart and of one soul, and the Lord revealed His grace by the baptism of the Holy Spirit – when was heard the sound of the rushing mighty wind, when the tongues of fire sat on the disciples– when they began to speak as the Spirit gave them utterance, and thousands were added to the Church, that was a day when the Lord alone was exalted. Was there any whisper on that day of honour to be given to Peter, or to John, or to James, in the Church of God? Think you there was any trace of the spirit that could say, “I am of Cephas,” and “I am of John”? Ah, no. The name of the Lord was very precious to His people that day. They gave glory to the Lord both in the temple and in their own houses, eating their bread with gladness of heart. Only let the Lord show Himself in great blessing, then He alone is exalted. Behold, His enemies fly before Him because of His grace.
Well, brethren, it will be even so by and by also “in that day” of which we were reading just now with so much delight, when “the mountain of the Lord’s house shall be exalted on the top of the mountains, and all nations shall flow unto it” Isa 2:2.
There is to come a day when Christ shall be known and loved of every land. When the dwellers in the wilderness shall bow before him and His enemies shall lick the dust. I am not going into any details or prophetic descriptions of the millennium, but we do expect a day when the gospel shall win its way over this whole globe, and the poor world, instead of being swathed in mist and fog, shall come out of the cloud of her unbelief and out of the darkness of her sin, and shine like her sister stars at the feet of her great Creator. In that day the Lord alone shall be exalted. You will hear no more of the name of Pope, or Patriarch, or great religious leader receiving the chief honour; no great name set in the front of a section of the church shall be shouted in that day; the Lord alone shall be exalted.
So again it will be when yet ‘farther on in human history the end shall come when you and I and all of the woman born shall stand before the dread tribunal of the last great day; then shall the Lord alone be exalted.
There shall be no pomp of kings before that great white throne: there shall be no glare of riches there before the prince of the kings of the earth: honour and fame were so feverishly sought and so highly prized by the sons of men, shall melt away then like the fat of rams. Kings and their serfs, princes and their subjects shall stand together. There shall be no idol gods in that day, nor shall men receive the homage of their fellows, but while the earth shall be reeling to its doom, and the heavens themselves dissolving, the Lord alone shall be exalted. Jehovah’s great and glorious name shall fill all ears and His Majesty shall impress all hearts. May we be found in Christ in that great day! The Lord grant it for His mercy’s sake.
II. Now, in the second place, I am going to talk to you on humbler topics, endeavouring to bring our subject down to our own experience and to see WHEN THE LORD ALONE HAS BEEN EXALTED ON A SMALLER SCALE.
When it is written, the Lord alone shall be exalted in that day, we may understand that what is true on a great scale is equally true on a little scale in God’s kingdom. He works according to rule so that if you split up some great crystal of His providence into as small fragments as you please each fragment shall be found to be crystallised in the same form. So, if in the grand events of history God is to be exalted, you will also find that in the little world of your own experience– in the history which is only recorded in your own pocketbook– in the story of your own life– that God is exalted too. Brothers and sisters, many of you already know, and I pray that others here who as yet do not know it may be brought to know it, that there have been red-letter days in your life when the Lord alone has been exalted. One of the earliest of these blessed days was when you first had a sense of sin. Ah, I had no thought how black I was until that day. I had never dreamed how corrupt was my heart, how vile my nature, how desperate my condition, how near the borders of hell I stood, till then. There came at length that day, in which the light of God shone into my soul and I saw the evil of my state, the danger of my condition, and the horrible rottenness of my whole nature even to the very core. Do you remember such a day in your experience, beloved brethren?
I know you do. Oh, what a withering day it was. Your flesh is grass, and do you not remember when the grass withered, and when the flower thereof faded away because the Spirit of the Lord was blowing upon it? Surely the people is grass. Do you recollect when you perceived in your heart a new rendering of that old passage, “And we all do fade as a leaf and our iniquities like the wind have taken us away, when you found your righteousness to be only a fading leaf and the strength of your passions to be like the wind that took you right away and carried you– you knew not whither? You seemed to be like a sear leaf blown away in a tempest of sin. Before that, you had thought yourself to be very fine; very few were more respectable or honourable than you; if you had not many glittering virtues, yet you felt you had no degrading vices; there was much about you that others might imitate, and if people did not respect you, you felt very angry; you felt they ought to pay great deference to such a one as you were, But you did not feel like this on that day– not on that day! No. In that day you threw your idols to the moles and to the bats; you wanted to forget that you ever thought you were righteous; you felt ashamed of even your most precious golden idol– your self-righteousness; you wanted to disown it, and you were afraid anybody should remind you that you ever worshipped it.
It seemed such a horrible thing that you should ever have talked about acceptance before God by your good works. Good works!
The very thought seemed a sarcasm on God, an irony of the devil. Good works indeed! Your prayers, your tears, your church-goings, your chapel-goings, all seemed like so much dung.’ You understood Paul’s strong language that day, your own righteousness was as offensive to you as he was to him. You put all your old hopes away with abhorrence. Oh, I know what happened to you, the Lord alone was exalted that day. If anybody had preached a sermon that day about the dignity of human nature, you would have been inclined, like Jenny Geddes, to throw a stool at his head. If anybody had talked that day of the great things man is capable of, and of virtue that still remain in him after the slight mischief of the fall, you would have felt indignant at such infamous falsehood, for God had stripped you bare of all your glory. In that day you felt yourself to be cast into a ditch, and your own clothes abhorred you.
But, oh! if anyone had preached of the splendour of the great God that day, of the infinite majesty of His holiness, and of His justice, you would in silence have bowed your head and shed tears of contrition which would have been the best form of adoption from your penitent heart. If they had begun to preach the amazing mercy and the love of God in Christ, your heart would have leapt to hear the very sound of it, for there are no two things that ever so sweetly meet together as an empty sinner and a full Christ. When a soul sees itself it has got the eye with which to see Jesus. He that can see his own deformities, shall not be long before he sees the Lord’s unspeakable perfections. In that day of self-humbling, and cutting away, and casting down, I know the Lord alone was exalted in your soul.
Well, then there came another day in your experience which is very sweet to remember, the day when you saw Jesus hanging on the tree; when you put your trust in him and knew that he had taken away your iniquity and blotted out your sin.
Oh, I do remember that day, it was my best marriage day and birthday too; the day when I knew that sin was gone and gone forever. How bright the cross shone that day! How bright were the eyes of Jesus, and how fair his wounds! Ah, the Lord alone was exalted that day. Had anybody preached to me of the power of sacraments and the magic of priests, I had abhorred them in my inmost soul, and I would have spoken my horror of the thought of giving the glory of the Lord to another. When the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanseth from all sin, where is the dastard that dares ask me to let him wash me and to let him put away my sin for me? The blood, the blood of Jesus hath taken all our guilt away, once and for ever; and woe betide the man that dares to stand up and put himself side by side with the all-cleansing Christ! That was how we felt. The Lord alone was exalted in that day. We fell just the same today. I am sure if people knew the power of the blood of Christ they could never become slaves to the superstitions of men. If they felt the force of being justified by faith in Jesus Christ they would be like Martin Luther when he sprang from his knees on Pilate’s staircase, never to go another step in the weary round of man-made ordinances.
What have we to do with these beggarly things when Christ our Lord has set us free and saved us for ever from the wrath to come? A sight of Thy Cross, O Jesus, makes the priests topple down like Dagon before the ark, and the sacraments that once were trusted in, to be despised if placed side by side with thee. Thou alone is exalted in that day.
Since then we have had some other very happy days. The life of a Christian has many illuminated letters in it. Our roll is not written within and without with lamentation. We have high days and holidays, and there are times of nearness to Christ which hardly dare to describe here. I could venture to talk of them to two or three choice friends that know the secret of the Lord, but these things are not for all ears. These are days when we realise the meaning of the Song of Songs, and bless God that ever the book of Canticles was written, else there would have been in the Bible no expression for our ardent love to Christ. On such days we say with rapture, “Let him kiss me with the kisses of his mouth” SOS 1:2. “Thy love is better than wine” SOS 1:2. “He brought me to the banqueting house and his banner over me was love” SOS 2:4. “Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples: for I am sick of love” SOS 2:5. “His left hand is under my head, and his right hand doth embrace me” SOS 2:6. “I charge you, O ye daughters of Jerusalem, by the roes and by the hinds of the field, that ye stir not up, nor awake my love, till he pleases” SOS 2:7; 3:5. Read Rutheford’s letters if you know the secret beforehand; if not, they will be an enigma to you, even as the Song of Solomon must always be.
This much we may say, when Christ draweth us near to him, “The Lord alone is exalted in that day.” When he wraps us in his crimson vest and shows us all his name and saith, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love, therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee. I have graven thee on the palms of my hands” Jer 31:3, O brethren, “the Lord alone is exalted in that day.” Then self has gone. We cry, “I am black but comely;” and the blackness strikes us as much as the comeliness that Christ has put upon us. We sink into nothing at his feet. The manifestation of his glorious love makes us cry like Job, “I have heard of thee by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye seeth thee, wherefore I abhor myself and repent in dust and ashes” Job 42:5. The Lord alone is exalted in that day.
Well, you know, brothers and sisters, that after some of those high flights, when we have been on the top of the mount of transfiguration, we get exalted above measure, and then we have to be humbled. It is a wretched confession to make, but God’s people know how true it is. We wander from the Lord, and for a while, He leaves us to ourselves, when we exalt ourselves. But return from our wandering, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. You know how, perhaps, there have been weeks of estrangement between you and your Lord; He has been jealous of your heart, and you have been cold to him; you have gone perhaps into the world with too worldly a spirit, and the sweetness of His word has departed from you, and His voice is no longer heard in your soul. Then you begin to cry, “Restore unto me the joy of thy salvation and uphold me with thy free Spirit” Ps 51:12. You know what it is to cry:
“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still;
But now I find an aching void
The world can never fill.” “Return, O holy Dove! return,
Sweet messenger of rest!
I hate the sins that made thee mourn
And drove thee from my breast.”
Ah! when you get your prayer answered, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. Do you know what it is to go creeping to the mercy-seat where once you used to go so boldly; to go there with many tears and with much shame when you used to go with a radiant face, and yet to find your Jesus waiting there? Do you know what it is to turn to the grand old book that once you used to read with sacred glee, and look there for a sinner’s promise such as might suit a broken heart, and to find it come home with just the old power, tall the bones which had been broken began to sing again, and your heart once more was joyous in the presence of your Lord? Ah, then I know your own beauty has been turned to ashes and all your comeliness has disappeared, for when the Lord restores a soul that soul also restores the Lord to His proper place, and the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
But at this rate, my time will all be gone before I am half through my story.
Let me, therefore, hasten to say, dear brothers and sisters, that the Lord is exalted when a church begins to sigh and cry for the Lord’s presence. I hope that the power of the Lord is not forsaking us in any measure here, but it is my feet, my jealousy, lest He should in any wise depart from us– lest the spirit of prayer should go from us– lest love to souls should leave us and there should not be abundant conversions in the School and in the ministry, and everywhere around our borders. Should such a time of death over come to us, it will be a grand thing when a church can get together and begin to groan and cry for the Lord to return in power. When a church fools it, must get a blessing – I hope we are feeling it now – in proportion as that desire grows into an agony, the Lord alone will be exalted in that day. The preacher will feel, indeed he does feel every day more and more, his own unworthiness and inability for such a work; every other worker will, in proportion as the desire for God’s glory shall increase, feel himself to be less and less and still less and less in his own esteem. Oh, when we once come to wish for souls, nobody cares about being important, nobody wishes to be in the front; everybody wants to be there if he can serve God, but he does not want any place of honour, or court any badge of distinction by which he shall be known.
A church in agony for souls wants only to see men converted, and she does not care how or by whom the work is done so long as the people are but brought to Christ. Then is the Lord alone exalted.
When the blessing comes; and it is a notable day when it comes– when the word is with power and men are stricken down and begin to cry for mercy– when the inquirers are many and the converts are multiplied, and God blesses each brother and each sister with success in soul-winning– oh, then at such times the Lord alone is exalted. I do believe that whenever God sends prosperity to the church and to the members of the church begin to ascribe the success to themselves, the blessing is almost sure to go. God will not bless proud workers. If you are going to have a part of the fish for yourself, you may cast the net where you like but you shall take nothing; but when you are fishing for your master he will fill your net to the full. I often think – and therein am I glad in days of sorrow– that when God means to bless any one of us, He generally lowers us into the very dust. When we are willing to be nothing, then the Lord alone is exalted in that day. If you that are cooks were about to serve a dinner, you would not use a dish, I am sure until first of all, you had cleaned it. You would first wipe it right out, then you would set it on the shelf, and when you wanted a goodly dish with which to serve up goodly meat, you would reach down the empty dish that you had well wiped, would not you? Some of us do not get quite wiped out of our last success, and so we have no more. We still retain a flavour of our last self-congratulation, and so the Master will not use us.
When He puts us in hot water, makes us see our filth, and then wipes us right out, and we perhaps are inclined to say, “Lord, I am good for nothing now,” we shall be more likely to be of some service to Him. Perhaps He will put us on the shelf for a while. He can easily do that with some of us; a little twinge of pain and sickness, and we are useless. We seem to say, “Lord, what am I but an empty, cracked dish?” Ah, but then he comes and takes us down and use us, and that is worth waiting for. I always expect a greater blessing when there is greater soul-humbling among us. Would not you be glad to be humbled, dear brother, if God would use you more as a consequence? Today I saw as I went home sores old rocks and broken bricks and pieces of all sorts of earthenware put by the side of the road because the road is going to be widened, and I thought to myself, “If the Lord would only use me as an old broken clock to help to make a roadway for Him to ride through London, so that He might be glorified, I would be glad to be thus honoured. Do not you feel so too? Well, perhaps he will take you at your word some of these days. Brother, if God humbles you in order to use you, you may not like it as much as you think you will, but still, that is how we should demean ourselves. We should be willing to be anything, or to be nothing, according to His will.
When Christian men feel they must live to the glory of God somehow, I know there is a blessing coming– ay, that the blessing has come, for then the Lord alone is exalted. When the man of God says, “I must not live any longer for saving money or simply to bring up my children respectably, or to get a subsistence for myself,” then the Lord is exalted. And when Christian men feel that they cannot live for a party or for a section of the church, but that they must live for God and Christ, and for the pure word of the Gospel, and that everything else must go overboard except that which is for the glory of God, then we may be sure that the Lord has amongst us, and that He is working mightily. Behold, these are the signs thereof. When He has insulted all pride, dimmed all human glory, and magnified Himself, then indeed we have times of refreshing from His presence and the Lord alone is exalted in that day.
Now I have almost done. But I want you to notice that there is a day coming; it will come very soon to some of our venerable friends around me: it will come very soon– perhaps quite as soon– to some of us in middle life who are still in health, the day when we shall be called to go upstairs, because the Master has a message for us. When we read the message, it will say, “The time has come for thee to gather up thy feet in thy bed and to meet thy father’s God.” O brothers and sisters, the Lord alone will be exalted in that day if we are indeed His people. I fancy I see the dying minister when they bring up to him his sermons. Can he glory in them? He says, “I bless God that He enabled me to preach his truth. `Unto me who am less than the least of all saints is this grace given that I should preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,’ but I cannot glory in these.” If you shall bring up to him the number of his converts, and shall tell him of the churches that he built up, and the places that he has evangelised; I will tell you what he will say, “God forbid that I should glory save in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ” Gal 6:14. There take the best saint among us and put him on the borders of Emmanuel’s land, and let him hear the bells of heaven ring out the never-ending Sabbath: listen whether he will talk about himself or about the little church to which he belongs as if it were the whole Church of God. Oh no, no, no, a thousand times no.
On the borders of Emmanuel’s land, all the glory is to the Lord alone. Redeeming blood, love, effectual calling, persevering grace,– all these will be sung about, but there will be no songs about ourselves or aught else but God when we come there. Mother, are you making an idol of that babe? You will not be able to do that when you come near your departing hour. Christian man, are you making an idol of anything you have in this world? It will be utterly abolished then. Anything wherein you are trusting and finding comfort will fail you then. The Lord alone will then be your stay and your song! The Lord alone then! If you feel the bottom as you wade into the river, you will feel that it is good. But, by and by, you will be where there is no bottom; the river will be a river to swim in, and then will you want to know that underneath you are the everlasting arms. If you are sure of this you will take that mighty plunge as when a swimmer stretcheth out his hand to swim, and you will be in glory in a moment.
And, beloved, when we get the glory, the Lord alone will be exalted there. What a difference will come over us in the matter of those little things wherein we glory now? Petty trifles sometimes lift us up very high. Oh, how loftily we carry our heads sometimes, poor fools that we are, because of this thing in which we are superior to some fellow worm, or that thing in which we have not erred as some other man has done. But oh, up there, up there, up there, all harps will be for Jesus! All the vials shall be full of odours for Jesus. Harps and tongues, voices and strings, all for the three-one God; all for the Lord alone. Free grace begins to teach. us here that God alone mush be exalted, and when we have learnt that lesson, well then, glory will come in to cap the whole and make us feel that it was absurd even to imagine that any person or any thing could share the glory with the infinite majesty of God.
There, now, I have done. Only I would ask you this– Is there one here that will not give God all the glory? If so, dear brother, you cannot be saved. Salvation may almost hinge upon this question,– Art thou willing to be saved so that the Lord alone shall be exalted in thy salvation? Art thou willing no more to trust in thy good works, thy prayers, thy tears, thy feelings, or anything else of thine own, but to come and trust in the finished work of Jesus, and give thyself up absolutely and entirely to be his. Art thou willing to be his servant, his property for ever, that henceforth thy only glory may be in his dear name, thy only boasting in his cross? If so, he accepts thee and he will save thee, but if thou must have the glory then thou shalt not have the salvation. Where then will thy glory be? He that glorieth in himself shall perish, but he that will glory only in the Lord shall live for ever. God bless you, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
The Story of God’s Mighty Acts – Charles Haddon Spurgeon
This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 17th, 1859, in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall.
The use of this building was necessary in order to accommodate the regular congregations of between 5,000 and 9,000 people. References are made in the sermon to the revivals then being experienced in the United States and Northern Ireland.
“We have heard with our ears, O God, our fathers have told us, what work thou didst in their days, in the times of old.” Psalm 44:1.
PERHAPS there are no stories that stick by us so long as those which we hear in our childhood, those tales which are told us by our fathers, and in our nurseries. It is a sad reflection that too many of these stories are idle and vain, so that our minds in early infancy are tinctured with fables, and inoculated with strange and lying narratives.
Among the early Christians and the old believers in the far-off times, nursery tales were far different from what they are now, and the stories with which their children were amused were of a far different class from those which fascinated us in the days of our childhood. No doubt Abraham would talk to young children about the flood, and tell them how the waters overspread the earth, and how Noah alone was saved in the ark. The ancient Israelites, when they dwelt in their own land, would all of them tell their children about the Red Sea, and the plagues which God wrought in Egypt when He brought His people out of the house of bondage.
Among the early Christians we know that it was the custom of parents to recount to their children everything concerning the life of Christ, the acts of the apostles and the like interesting narratives. And among our puritan ancestors such were the stories that regaled their childhood. Sitting down by the fireside, before those old Dutch tiles with the quaint eccentric drawings upon them of the history of Christ, mothers would teach their children about Jesus walking on the water, or of His multiplying the loaves of bread, or of His marvellous transfiguration, or of the crucifixion of Jesus.
Oh, how I would that these were the tales of the present age, that the stories of our childhood would be again the stories of Christ, and that we would each of us believe that, after all, there can be nothing so interesting as that which is true, and nothing more striking than those stories which are written in sacred writ; nothing that can more truly move the heart of a child than the marvellous works of God which He did in the olden times. It seems that the psalmist who wrote this most musical ode had heard from his father, handed to him by tradition, the stories of the wondrous things which God had done in his day; and afterwards, this sweet singer in Israel taught it to his children, and so was one generation after another led to call God blessed, remembering His mighty acts.
Now, I intend to recall to your minds some of the wondrous things which God has done in the olden time. My aim and object will be to excite your minds to seek after the like; that looking back upon what God has done, you may be induced to look forward with the eye of expectation, hoping that He will again stretch forth His potent hand and His holy arm, and repeat those mighty acts He performed in ancient days.
I. THE WONDERFUL STORIES WE HAVE HEARD OF THE LORD’S ANCIENT DOINGS.
We have heard that God has at times done very mighty acts. The plain everyday course of the world has been disturbed with wonders at which men have been exceedingly amazed. God has not always permitted His church to go on climbing by slow degrees to victory, but He has been pleased at times to smite one terrible blow, and lay His enemies down upon the earth, and bid His children march over their prostrate bodies. Turn back then, to ancient records, and remember what God has done. Will you not remember what He did at the Red Sea, how He smote Egypt and all its chivalry, and covered Pharaoh’s chariot and horse in the Red Sea? Have you not heard tell how God smote Og, king of Bashan, and Sihon, king of the Amorites, because they withstood the progress of His people? Have you not learned how He proved that His mercy endures for ever, when He slew those great kings and cast the mighty ones down from their thrones? Have you not read, too, how God smote the children of Canaan, and drove out the inhabitants thereof, and gave the land to His people, to be their possession for ever? Have you not heard how when the hosts of Jabin came against them, the stars in their courses fought against Sisera? The river of Kishon swept them away, “that ancient river, the river Kishon”, and there was none of them left. Has it not been told you too, how, by the hand of David, God smote the Philistines, and how by His right hand He smote the children of Ammon? Have you not heard how Midian was put to confusion, and the myriads of Arabia were scattered by Asa in the day of his faith? And have you not heard, too, how the Lord sent a blast upon the hosts of Sennacherib, so that in the morning they were all dead men? Tell–tell ye these, His wonders!
Speak of them in your streets! Teach them to your children! Let them not be forgotten, for the right hand of the Lord has done marvellous things, His name is known in all the earth.
The wonders however which most concern us are those of the Christian era; and surely these are not second to those under the Old Testament. Have you never read how God won to Himself great renown on the day of Pentecost? Turn to this book of the record of the wonders of the Lord and read. Peter the fisherman stood up and preached in the name of the Lord his God. A multitude assembled and the Spirit of God fell upon them; and it came to pass that three thousand in one day were pricked in their heart by the hand of God, and believed on the Lord Jesus Christ. And know you not how the twelve apostles with the disciples went everywhere preaching the Word, and the idols fell from their thrones? The cities opened wide their gates, and the messengers of Christ walked through the streets and preached. It is true that at first they were driven hither and thither, and hunted like partridges upon the mountains; but do you not remember how the Lord did get unto Himself a victory, so that in a hundred years after the nailing of Christ to the cross, the gospel had been preached in every nation, and the isles of the sea had heard the sound thereof?
And have you forgotten how the heathen were baptised, thousands at a time, in every river? What stream is there in Europe that cannot testify to the majesty of the gospel? What city is there in the land that cannot tell how God’s truth has triumphed, and how the heathen has forsaken his false gods, and bowed his knee to Jesus the crucified? The first spread of the gospel is a miracle never to be eclipsed. Whatever God may have done at the Red Sea, He has done still more within a hundred years after the time when Christ first came into the world. It seemed as if a fire from heaven ran along the ground. Nothing could resist its force. The lightning shaft of truth shivered every pinnacle of the idol temple, and Jesus was worshipped from the rising of the sun to the going down of the same. This is one of the things we have heard of the olden times.
And have you never heard of the mighty things which God did by preachers some hundreds of years from that date? Has it not been told you concerning Chrysostom, the golden-mouthed, how, whenever he preached, the church was thronged with attentive hearers; and there, standing and lifting up holy hands, he spake with a majesty unparalleled, the word of God in truth and righteousness; the people listening, hanging forward to catch every word, and then breaking the silence with the clapping of their hands and the stamping of their feet; then silent again for a while, spell-bound by the mighty orator; and again carried away with enthusiasm, springing to their feet, clapping their hands, and shouting for joy? Numberless were the conversions in his day. God was exceedingly magnified, for sinners were abundantly saved.
And have your fathers never told you of the wondrous things that were done afterwards when the black darkness of superstition covered the earth, when Popery sat upon her throne and stretched her iron rod across the nations and shut the windows of heaven, and quenched the very stars of God and made thick darkness cover the people? Have you never heard how Martin Luther arose and preached the gospel of the grace of God, and how the nations trembled, and the world heard the voice of God and lived? Have you not heard of Zwingle among the Swiss, and of Calvin in the city of Geneva, and of the mighty works that God did by them? As Britons have you forgotten the mighty preachers of the truth — have your ears ceased to tingle with the wondrous tale of the preachers that Wycliffe sent forth into every market town and every hamlet of England, preaching the gospel of God?
Oh, does not history tell us that these men were like firebrands in the midst of the dry stubble; that their voice was as the roaring of a lion, and their going forth like the springing of a young lion. They did push the nation before them, and as for the enemies, they said, “Destroy them”. None could stand before them, for the Lord their God had girded them with might.
To come down a little nearer to our own times, truly our fathers have told us the wondrous things which God did in the days of Wesley and of Whitefield. The churches were all asleep. Irreligion was the rule of the day. The very streets seemed to run with iniquity, and the gutters were filled full with the iniquity of sin. Up rose Whitefield and Wesley, men whose hearts the Lord had touched, and they dared to preach the gospel of the grace of God. Suddenly, as in a moment, there was heard the rush as of wings, and the church said: “Who are these that fly as a cloud, and as the doves to their windows?” They come! they come! numberless as the birds of heaven, with a rushing like mighty winds that are not to be withstood. Within a few years, from the preaching of these two men, England was permeated with evangelical truth.
The Word of God was known in every town, and there was scarcely a hamlet into which the Methodists had not penetrated. In those days of the slow-coach, when Christianity seemed to have bought up the old waggons in which our fathers once travelled–where business runs with steam, there oftentimes religion creeps along with its belly on the earth–we are astonished at these tales, and we think them wonders. Yet let us believe them; they come to us as substantial matters of history. And the wondrous things which God did in the olden times, by His grace He will yet do again. “He that is mighty hath done great things and holy is his name.”
There is a special feature to which I would call your attention with regard to the works of God in the olden time; they derive increasing interest and wonder from the fact that they were all sudden things. The old-stagers in our churches believe that things must grow, gently, by degrees; we must go step by step onward. Concentrated action and continued labour, they say, will ultimately bring success. But the marvel is, all God’s works have been sudden. When Peter stood up to preach, it did not take six weeks to convert the three thousand. They were converted at once and baptised that very day; they were that hour turned to God, and became as truly disciples of Christ as they could have been if their conversions had taken seventy years.
So was it in the day of Martin Luther: it did not take Luther centuries to break through the thick darkness of Rome. God lit the candle and the candle burned, and there was the light in an instant — God works suddenly. If anyone could have stood in Wurtemburg, and have said: “Can Popery be made to quail, can the Vatican be made to shake?” the answer would have been: “No; it will take at least a thousand years to do it. Popery, the great serpent, has so twisted itself about the nations, and bound them so fast in its coil, that they cannot be delivered except by a long process”. “Not so,” however, did God say. He smote the dragon sorely, and the nations went free; He cut the gates of brass, and broke in sunder the bars of iron, and the people were delivered in an hour. Freedom came not in the course of years, but in an instant. The people that walked in darkness saw a great light, and upon them that dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, did the light shine.
So was it in Whitefield’s day. The rebuking of a slumbering church was not the work of ages; it was done at once. Have you never heard of the great revival under Whitefield?
Take as an instance that at Cambuslang. He was preaching in the churchyard to a great congregation, that could not get into any edifice; and while preaching, the power of God came upon the people, and one after another fell down as if they were smitten; and it was estimated that not less than three thousand persons were crying Out at one time under the conviction of sin. He preached on, now thundering like Boanerges, and then comforting like Barnabas, and the work spread, and no tongue can tell the great things that God did under that one sermon of Whitefield.
So has it been in all revivals; God’s work has been done suddenly. As with a clap of thunder has God descended from on high; not slowly, but on cherubim right royally does He ride; on the wings of the mighty wind does He fly. Sudden has been the work; men could scarce believe it true, it was done in so short a space of time. Witness the great revival which is going on in and around Belfast. After carefully looking at the matter, and after seeing a trusty and well-beloved brother who lived in that neighbourhood, I am convinced, notwithstanding what enemies may say, that it is a genuine work of grace, and that God is doing wonders there.
A friend who called to see me yesterday, tells me that the lowest and vilest men, the most depraved females in Belfast, have been visited with this extraordinary epilepsy, as the world calls it; but with this strange rushing of the Spirit, as we have it. Men who have been drunkards have suddenly felt an impulse compelling them to pray. They have resisted; they have sought to their drink in order to put it out; but when they have been swearing, seeking to quench the Spirit by their blasphemy, God has at last brought them on their knees, and they have been compelled to cry for mercy with piercing shrieks, and to agonise in prayer. Then after a time, the evil one seems to have been cast out of them, and in a quiet, holy, happy frame of mind, they have made a profession of their faith in Christ, and have walked in His fear and love.
Roman Catholics have been converted. I thought that an extraordinary thing; but they have been converted very frequently indeed in Ballymena and in Belfast.
In fact, I am told the priests are now selling small bottles of holy water for people to take, in order that they may be preserved from this desperate contagion of the Holy Spirit. This holy water is said to have such efficacy, that those who do not attend any of the meetings are not likely to be meddled with by the Holy Spirit–so the priests tell them. But if they go to the meetings, even this holy water cannot preserve them — they are as liable to fall a prey to the Divine influence. I think they are just as likely to do so without as with it.
All this has been brought about suddenly, and although we may expect to find some portion of natural excitement, yet I am persuaded it is in the main a real, spiritual, and abiding work.
There is a little froth on the surface, but there is a deep running current that is not to be resisted, sweeping underneath, and carrying everything before it. At least there is something to awaken our interest, when we understand that in the small town of Ballymena on market day, the publicans have always taken one hundred pounds for whisky, and now they cannot take a sovereign all day Icing in all the public houses. Men who were once drunkards now meet for prayer, and people after hearing one sermon will not go until the minister has preached another, and sometimes a third; and at last he is obliged to say: “You must go, I am exhausted.” Then they will break up into groups in their streets and in their houses, crying out to God to let this mighty work spread, that sinners may be converted unto Him. “Well,” says one, “we cannot believe it.” Very likely you cannot, but some of us can, for we have heard it with our ears, and our fathers have told us the mighty works that God did in their days, and we are prepared to believe that God can do the same works now.
I must here remark that, in all these old stories, there is one very plain feature. Whenever God has done a mighty work it has been by some very insignificant instrument. When He slew Goliath it was by little David, who was but a ruddy youth. Lay not up the sword of Goliath — I always thought that a mistake of David — lay up, not Goliath’s sword, but lay up the stone, and treasure up the sling in God’s armoury for ever.
When God would slay Sisera, it was a woman that must do it with a hammer and a nail. God has done His mightiest works by the meanest instruments: that is a fact most true of all God’s works — Peter the fisherman at Pentecost, Luther the humble monk at the Reformation. Whitefield the potboy of the Old Bell Inn at Gloucester in the time of the last century’s revival–and so it must be to the end. God works not by Pharaoh’s horses or chariot, but He works by Moses’ rod; His wonders are not done with the whirlwind and the storm; He does them by the still small voice, that the glory may be His and the honour all His own. Does not this open a field of encouragement to you and to me? Why may not we be employed in doing some mighty work for God here?
Moreover, we have noticed in all these stories of God’s mighty works in the olden time, that wherever He has done any great thing it has been by someone who has had very great faith. I do verily believe at this moment that, if God willed it, every soul in this hall would be converted now. If God chose to put forth the operations of His own mighty Spirit, not the most obdurate heart would be able to stand against it. “He will have mercy upon whom He will have mercy.” He will do as He pleases; none can stay His hand. “Well,” says one, “but I do not expect to see any great things.” Then, my dear friend, you will not be disappointed, for you will not see them; but those that expect them shall see them.
Men of great faith do great things. It was Elijah’s faith that slew the priests of Baal. If he had had the little heart that some of you have, Baal’s priests had still ruled over the people, and would never have been smitten with the sword. It was Elijah’s faith that bade him say: “If the Lord be God, follow Him, but if Baal, then follow him.” And again: “Choose one bullock for yourselves, cut it in pieces, lay it on wood and put no fire under, call ye on the name of your gods, and I will call on the name of Jehovah.” It was his noble faith that bade him say: “Take the prophets of Baal; let not one of them escape”; and he brought them down to the brook Kishon, and slew them there–a holocaust to God. The reason why God’s name was so magnified, was because Elijah’s faith in God was so mighty and heroic.
When the Pope sent his bull to Luther, Luther burned it. Standing up in the midst of the crowd with the blazing paper in his hand he said: “See here, this is the Pope’s bull.” What cared he for all the Popes that were ever in or out of hell?
And when he went to Worms to meet the grand Diet, his followers said: “You are in danger, stand back.” “No,” said Luther, “if there were as many devils in Worms as there are tiles on the roofs of the houses, I would not fear; I will go”–and into Worms he went, confident in the Lord his God. It was the same with Whitefield; he believed and he expected that God would do great things. When he went into his pulpit he believed that God would bless the people, and God did do so. Little faith may do little things, but great faith shall be greatly honoured. O God! our fathers have told us this, that whenever they had great faith Thou hast always honoured it by doing mighty works.
I will detain you no longer on this point, except to make one observation. All the mighty works of God have been attended with great prayer, as well as with great faith.
Have you ever heard of the commencement of the great American revival? A man unknown and obscure, laid it up in his heart to pray that God would bless his country. After praying and wrestling and making the soul-stirring enquiry: “Lord, what wilt thou have me to do? Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?” he hired a room, and put up an announcement that there would be a prayer-meeting held there at such-and-such an hour of the day. He went at the proper hour, and there was not a single person there; he began to pray, and prayed for half an hour alone. One came in at the end of the half-hour, and then two more, and I think he closed with six. The next week came round, and there might have been fifty dropped in at different times; at last the prayer-meeting grew to a hundred, then others began to start prayer-meetings; at last there was scarcely a street in New York that was without a prayer-meeting. Merchants found time to run in, in the middle of the day, to pray. The prayer-meetings became daily ones, lasting for about an hour; petitions and requests were sent up, these were simply asked and offered before God, and the answers came; and many were the happy hearts that stood up and testified that the prayer offered last week had been already fulfilled. Then it was when they were all earnest in prayer, suddenly the Spirit of God fell upon the people, and it was rumoured that in a certain village a preacher had been preaching in thorough earnest, and there had been hundreds converted in a week.
The matter spread into and through the Northern States — these revivals of religion became universal, and it has been sometimes said that a quarter of a million people were converted to God through the short space of two or three months.
The same effect was produced in Ballymena and Belfast by the same means. The brother thought that it lay at his heart to pray, and he did pray; then he held a regular prayer-meeting; day after day they met together to entreat the blessing, and the fire descended and the work was done. Sinners were converted, not by ones or twos, but by hundreds and thousands, and the Lord’s name was greatly magnified by the progress of His gospel. Beloved, I am only telling you facts. Make each of you your own estimate of them.
2. DISADVANTAGES UNDER WHICH THESE OLD STORIES FREQUENTLY LABOUR.
When people hear about what God used to do, one of the things they say is: “Oh, that was a very long while ago.” They imagine that times have altered since then. Says one: “I can believe anything about the Reformation–the largest accounts that can possibly be given, I can take in.” “And so could I concerning Whitefield and Wesley,” says another, “all that is quite true, they did labour vigorously and successfully, but that was many years ago. Things were in a different state then from what they are now.” Granted; but I want to know what the things have to do with it. I thought it was God that did it. Has God changed? Is He not an immutable God, the same yesterday, to-day and for ever? Does not that furnish an argument to prove that what God has done at one time He can do at another? I think I may push it a little further, and say what He has done once, is a prophecy of what He intends to do again–that the mighty works which have been accomplished in the olden time shall all be repeated, and the Lord’s song shall be sung again in Zion, and He shall again be greatly glorified.
Others among you say, “Oh, well I look upon these things as great wonders and miracles. We are not to expect them every day.” That is the very reason why we do not get them. If we had learnt to expect them, we should no doubt obtain them, but we put them up on the shelf, as being out of the common order of our moderate religion, as being mere curiosities of Scripture history. We imagine such things, however true, to be wonders of providence; we cannot imagine them to be according to the ordinary working of His mighty power. I beseech you, my friends, abjure that idea, put it out of your mind. Whatever God has done in the way of converting sinners is to be looked upon as a precedent, for “His arm is not shortened that He cannot save, nor is His ear heavy that He cannot hear.” If we are straitened at all, we are not straitened in Him, we are straitened in ourselves. Let us take the blame of it upon ourselves, and with earnestness seek that God would restore to us the faith of the men of old, that we may richly enjoy His grace as in the days of old.
There is yet another disadvantage under which these old stories labour. The fact is, we have not seen them. Why, I may talk to you ever so long about revivals, but you won’t believe them half so much, nor half so truly, as if one were to occur in your very midst. If you saw it with your own eyes, then you would see the power of it. If you had lived in Whitefield’s day, or had heard Grimshaw preach, you would believe anything. Grimshaw would preach twenty-four times a week: he would preach many times in the course of a sultry day, going from place to place on horseback. That man did preach. It seemed as if heaven would come down to earth to listen to him. He spoke with a real earnestness, with all the fire of zeal that ever burned in mortal breast, and the people trembled while they listened to him, and said, “Certainly this is the voice of God.” It was the same with Whitefield.
The people would seem to move to and fro while he spoke, even as the harvest field is moved with the wind. So mighty was the energy of God that after hearing such a sermon the hardest-hearted men would go away and say: “There must be something in it, I never heard the like.”
Can you not realise these are literal facts? Do they stand up in all their brightness before your eyes? Then I think the stories you have heard with your ears should have a true and proper effect upon your own lives.
PROPER INFERENCES THAT ARE TO BE DRAWN FROM THE OLD STORIES OF GOD’S MIGHTY DEEDS.
I would that I could speak with the fire of some of those men whose names I have mentioned. Pray for me, that the Spirit of God may rest upon me, that I may plead with you for a little time with all my might, seeking to exhort and stir you up, that you may get a like revival in your midst.
My dear friends, the first effect which the reading of the history of God’s mighty works should have upon us, is that of gratitude and praise. Have we nothing to sing about to-day?—then let us sing concerning days of yore. If we cannot sing to our well-beloved a song concerning what He is doing in our midst, let us, nevertheless, take down our harps from the willows, and sing an old song, and bless and praise His holy name for the things which He did to His ancient church, for the wonders which He wrought in Egypt, and in all the lands wherein He led His people, and from which He brought them out with a high hand and with an outstretched arm.
When we have thus begun to praise God for what He has done, I think I may venture to impress upon you one other great duty. Let what God has done suggest to you the prayer that He would repeat the like signs and wonders among us.
Oh! men and brethren, what would this heart feel if I could but believe that there were some among you who would go home and pray for a revival of religion–men whose faith is large enough, and their love fiery enough to lead them from this moment to exercise unceasing intercessions that God would appear among us and do wondrous things here, as in the times of former generations.
Why, here in this present assembly what objects there are for our compassion. Glancing round, I observe one and another whose history I may happen to know, but how many are there still unconverted–men who have trembled and who know they have, but have shaken off their fears, and once more are daring their destiny, determined to be suicides to their own souls and to put away from them that grace which once seemed as if it were striving in their hearts. They are turning away from the gates of heaven, and running post-haste to the doors of hell; and will not you stretch out your hands to God to stop them in this desperate resolve?
If in this congregation there were but one unconverted man and I could point him out and say: “There he sits, one soul that has never felt the love of God, and never has been moved to repentance,” with what anxious curiosity would every eye regard him? I think out of thousands of Christians here, there is not one who would refuse to go home and pray for that solitary, unconverted individual. But, oh! my brethren, it is not one that is in danger of hell fire; here are hundreds and thousands of our fellow-creatures.
Shall I give you yet another reason why you should pray? Hitherto all other means have been used without effect. God is my witness how often I have striven in this pulpit to be the means of the conversion of men. I have preached my very heart out. I could say no more than I have said, and I hope that my private room is a witness to the fact that I do not cease to feel when I cease to speak; but I have a heart to pray for those of you who are never affected, or who, if affected, still quench the Spirit of God. I have done my utmost. Will not you come to the help of the Lord against the mighty? Will not your prayers accomplish that which my preaching fails to do?
Here they are; I commend them to you: men and women whose hearts refuse to melt, whose stubborn knees will not bend; I give them up to you and ask you to pray for them. Carry their cases on your knees before God. Wife! never cease to pray for your unconverted husband. Husband! never stop your supplication till you see your wife converted. Fathers and mothers! have you no unconverted children? Have you not brought them here many and many a Sunday, and they remain just as they have been? You have sent them first to one chapel and then to another, and they are just what they were. The wrath of God abides on them. Die they must; and should they die now, to a certainty you are aware that the flames of hell must engulf them. And do you refuse to pray for them? Hard hearts, brutish souls, if knowing Christ yourself ye will not pray for those who come of your own loins — your children according to the flesh.
We do not know what God may do for us if we do but pray for a blessing.
Look at the movement we have already seen; we have witnessed Exeter Hall, St. Paul’s Cathedral and Westminster Abbey crammed to the doors, but we have seen no effect as yet of all these mighty gatherings. Have we not tried to preach without trying to pray? Is it not likely that the church has been putting forth its preaching hand but not its praying hand? O dear friends! let us agonise in prayer, and it shall come to pass that this Music Hall shall witness the sighs and groans of the penitent and the songs of the converted. It shall yet happen that this vast host shall not come and go as now it does, but little the better; but men shall go out of this hall, praising God and saying: “It was good to be there; it was none other than the house of God, and the very gate of heaven.” Thus much to stir you up to prayer.
Another inference we should draw is that all the stories we have heard should correct any self-dependence which may have crept into our treacherous hearts.
Perhaps we as a congregation have begun to depend upon our numbers and so forth. We may have thought: “Surely God must bless us through the ministry.” Now let the stories which our fathers have told us remind you, and remind me, that God saves not by many nor by few; that it is not in us to do this but God must do it all; it may be that some hidden preacher, whose name has never been known, will yet start up in this city of London and preach the Lord with greater power than bishops or ministers have ever know before. I will welcome him; God be with him, let him come from where he may, only let God speed him, and let the work be done. Maybe, however, God intends to bless the agency used in this place for your good and for your conversion. If so, I am thrice happy to think such should be the case. But place no dependence upon the instrument.
No, when men laughed at us and mocked us most, God blessed us most; and now it is not a disreputable thing to attend the Music HaIl. We are not so much despised as we once were, but I question whether we have so great a blessing as once we had. We would be willing to endure another pelting in the pillory, to go through another ordeal with every newspaper against us, and with every man hissing and abusing us, if God so pleases, if He will but give us a blessing. But let Him cast out of us any idea that our own bow and our own sword will get us the victory. We shall never get a revival here unless we believe that it is the Lord, and the Lord alone, that can do it.
Having made this statement, I will endeavour to stir you up with confidence that the result that I have pictured may be obtained, and that the stories we have heard of the olden times may become true in our day. Why should not every one of my hearers be converted? Is there any limitation in the Spirit of God? Why should not the feeblest minister become the means of salvation to thousands? Is God’s arm shortened?
When I bid you pray that God would make the ministry quick and powerful, like a two-edged sword, for the salvation of sinners, I am not setting you a hard, much less an impossible, task. We have but to ask and to get. Before we call. God will answer; and while we are yet speaking He will hear. God alone can know what may come of this sermon, if He chooses to bless it. From this moment you may pray more; from this moment God may bless the ministry more. From this hour other pulpits may become more full of life and vigour than before. From this same moment the Word of God may flow, and run, and rush, and get to itself an amazing and boundless victory.
Only wrestle in prayer, meet together in your houses, go to your private room, be instant, be earnest in season and out of season, agonise for souls, and all that you have heard shall be forgotten in what you shall see; and all that others have told you shall be as nothing compared with what you shall hear with your ears and behold with your eyes in your own midst. This sermon was preached on Sunday, July 17th, 1859, in the Surrey Gardens Music Hall. The use of this building was necessary in order to accommodate the regular congregations of between 5,000 and 9,000 people. References are made in the sermon to the revivals then being experienced in the United States and Northern Ireland.
The following extract from the Narrative of George Müller outlines the beginnings of the awakening in Ireland.
THE BEGINNING OF THE IRISH AWAKENING
IN November, 1856, a young Irishman, Mr. James McQuilkin, was brought to the knowledge of the Lord. Soon after his conversion he saw my Narrative advertised, viz, the first two volumes of this book. He had a great desire to read it, and procured it accordingly, about January, 1857. God blessed it greatly to his soul, especially in showing to him, what could be obtained by prayer. He said to himself something like this: “See what Mr. Müller obtains simply by prayer. Thus I may obtain blessing by prayer.” He now set himself to pray, that the Lord would give him a spiritual companion, one who knew the Lord. Soon after he became acquainted with a young man who was a believer. These two began a prayer-meeting in one of the Sunday Schools in the parish of Connor. Having his prayer answered in obtaining a spiritual companion, Mr. James McQuilkin asked the Lord to lead him to become acquainted with some more of His hidden ones. Soon after the Lord gave him two more young men, who were believers previously, as far as he could judge.
In autumn, 1857, Mr James McQuilkin stated to these three young men, given him in answer to believing prayer, what blessing he had derived from my Narrative, how it had led him to see the power of believing prayer; and he proposed that they should meet for prayer to seek the Lord’s blessing upon their various labours in the Sunday Schools, prayer meetings, and preaching of the gospel. Accordingly, in autumn, 1857, these four young men met together for prayer in a small school-house near the village of Kells, in the parish of Connor, every Friday evening.
By this time the great and mighty working of the Spirit, in 1857, in the United States, had become known, and Mr James McQuiIkin said to himself, “Why may not we have such a blessed work here, seeing that God did such great things for Mr Müller, simply in answer to prayer.”
On January 1, 1858, the Lord gave them the first remarkable answer to prayer in the conversion of a farm servant. He was taken into the number, and thus there were five who gave themselves to prayer. Shortly after, another young man, about 20 years old, was converted; there were now six. This greatly encouraged the other three who first had met with Mr. James McQuilkin. Others now were converted, who were also taken into the number; but only believers were admitted to these fellowship meetings, in which they read, prayed, and offered to each other a few thoughts from the Scriptures.
These meetings and others for the preaching of the gospel were held in the parish of Connor, Antrim, N. Ireland. Up to this time, all was going on most quietly, though many souls were converted. There were no physical prostrations, as afterwards.
About Christmas, 1858, a young man from Ahoghill, who had come to live at Connor, and who had been converted to this little company of believers, went to see his friends at Ahoghill and spoke to them about their own souls, and the work of God at Connor. His friends desired to see some of these converts.
Accordingly Mr. James McQuilkin, with two of the first who met for prayer, went on February 2, 1859, and held a meeting at Ahoghill in one of the Presbyterian churches. Some believed, some mocked, and others thought there was a great deal of presumption in these young converts; yet many wished to have another meeting. This was held by the same three young men on February 16, 1859; and now the Spirit of God began to work, and to work mightily. Souls were converted, and from that time conversions multiplied rapidly. Some of these converts went to other places, and carried the spiritual fire, so to speak, with them.
The blessed work of the Spirit of God spread in many places.
Such was the beginning of that mighty work of the Holy Spirit, which has led to the conversion of hundreds of thousands. Some of my readers will remember how in 1859 this fire was kindled in England, Wales and Scotland; how it spread through Ireland, England, Wales and Scotland; how the continent of Europe was more or less partaking of this mighty working of the Holy Spirit; how it led thousands to give themselves to the work of evangelists; and how up to the year 1874 not only the effects of this work, first begun in Ireland, are felt, but that still more or less this blessed work is going on in Europe generally. It is almost needless to add, that in no degree is the honour due to the instruments, but to the Holy Spirit alone; yet these facts are recorded in order that it may be seen what delights God has in answering abundantly the believing prayer of His children.
Spiritual Revival : The Want of the Church
“O Lord, revive thy work.”Hab., iii. 2
ALL true religion is the work of God: it is pre-eminently so. If he should select out of his works that which he esteems most of all, he would select true religion. He regards the work of grace as being even more glorious than the works of nature; and he is, therefore, especially careful that it shall always be known, so that if any one dare to deny it, they shall do so in the teeth of repeated testimonies to the contrary, that God is indeed the author of salvation in the world and in the hearts of men, and that religion is the effect of grace, and is the work of God. I believe the Eternal might sooner forgive the sin of ascribing the creation of the heavens and of the earth to an idol, than that of ascribing the works of grace to the efforts of the flesh, or to any thing else but God. It is a sin of the greatest magnitude to suppose that there is aught in the heart which can be acceptable unto God, save that which God himself has first created there.
When I deny God’s work in creating the sun, I deny one truth; but when I deny that he works grace in the heart, I deny a hundred truths in one; for in the denial of that one great truth, that God is the author of good in the souls of men, I have denied all the doctrines which make up the great articles of faith, and have run in the very teeth of the whole testimony of sacred Scripture I trust, beloved, that many of us have been taught, that if there be any thing in our souls which can carry us to heaven ’tis God’s work, and, moreover, that if there be might that is good and excellent found in his church, it is entirely God’s work, from first to last. We firmly believe that it is God who quickens the soul which was dead, positively “dead in trespasses and sins;” that it is God who maintains the life of that soul, and God who consummates and perfects that life in the borne of the blessed, in the land of the hereafter. We ascribe nothing to man, but all to God. We dare not for a moment think that the conversion of the soul is effected either by its own effort or by the efforts of others; we conceive that there are means and agencies employed, but that the work is, both alpha and omega, wholly the Lord’s. We think, therefore, that we are right in applying the text to the work of divine grace, both in the heart and in the church at large; and we think we can have no subject more appropriate for our consideration than the text. ” O Lord, revive thy work!”
First, beloved, trusting that the Spirit of God will help me I shall endeavor to apply the text to our own soul personally, and then to the state of the church at large, for it well needs that the Lord should revive his work in its midst.
I. First, then, to OURSELVES. We should begin at home. We too often flog the church, when the whip should be laid on our own shoulders. We drag the church, like a colossal culprit, to the altar; we bind her, and try to execute her at once; we bind her hands fast, and tear off thongfull after thongfull of her quivering flesh-finding fault with her where there is none, and magnifying her little errors; while we too often forget ourselves. Let us, therefore, commence with ourselves, remembering that we are part of the church, and that our own want of revival is in some measure the cause of that want in the church at large.
Now, I directly charge the great majority of professing Christians-and I take the charge to myself also-with a need of a revival of piety in these days. I shall lay the charge before you very peremptorily, because I think I have abundant grounds to prove it. I believe that the mass of Christian men in this age need a revival, and my reasons are these:
In the first place, look at the conduct and conversation of too many who profess to be the children of God. It ill becomes any man who occupies the sacred place of a pulpit to flatter his hearers, and I shall not attempt to do so. The evidence lies with too many of you who unite yourselves with Christian churches, and in practically protesting against your profession.
It has become very common now-a-days to join a church; go where you may you find professing Christians who sit down at some Lord’s table or another; but are there fewer cheats than there used to be? Are there less frauds committed? Do we find morality more extensive? Do we find vice entirely at an end? No, we do not. The age is as immoral as any that preceded it; there is still as much sin, although it is more cloaked and hidden. The outside of the sepulchre may be whiter; but within, the bones are just as rotten as before. Society is not one whit improved. Those men who, in our popular magazines, give us a true picture of the state of London life, are to be believed and credited, for they do not stretch the truth-they have no motive for so doing; and the picture which they give of the morality of this great city is certainly appalling. It is a huge criminal, full of sin; and I say this, that if all the profession in London were true profession, it would not be nearly such a wicked place as it is; it could not be, by any manner of means.
My brethren, it is well known and who dares deny it that is not too partial, and who will not speak wilful falsehood? It is well known that it is not these days a sufficient guaranty even of a man’s honesty, that he is a member of a church. It is a hard thing for Christian ministers to say, but we must say it, and if friends say it not, enemies will; and better that the truth should be spoken in our midst, that men may see that we are ashamed of it, than that they should hear us impudently deny what we must confess to be true! O sirs, the lives of too many members of Christian churches give us grave cause to suspect that there is none of the life of godliness in them all! Why that reaching after money, why that covetousness, why that following of the crafts and devices of a wicked world, why that clutching here and clutching there, that grinding of the faces of the poor, that stamping down of the workman, and such like things, if men are truly what they profess to be? God in heaven knows that what I speak is true, and too many here know it themselves. If they be Christians, at least they want revival; if there be life in them, it is but a spark that is covered up with heaps of ashes; it needs to be fanned, ay, and it needs to be stirred also, that, haply, some of the ashes may be removed and the spark may have place to live. The church wants revival in the persons of its members. The members of Christian churches are not what once they were. It is fashionable to be religious now; persecution is taken away; and ah! I had almost said, the gates of the church were taken away with it.
The church has, with few exceptions, no gates now; her sons come in, and go out of it, just as they would march through St. Paul’s cathedral, and make it a very place of traffic, instead of regarding it as a select and sacred spot, to be apportioned to the holy of the Lord, and to the excellent of the earth, in whom is God’s delight. If this be not true, you know how to treat it; you need not confess to sin you have not committed; but if it be true, and true in your case, O humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; ask him to search and try you, that if you be not his child you may be helped to renounce your profession, lest it should be to you but the gaudy pageantry of death, and mere tinsel and gew-gaw in which to go to hell. If you be his, ask that he may give you more grace, that you may renounce these faults and follies, and turn unto him with full purpose of heart, as the effect of a revived godliness in your soul.
Again: where the conduct of professing Christians is consistent, let me ask the question, Does not the conversation of many a professor lead us either to doubt the truthfulness of his piety, or else to pray that his piety may be revived? Have you noticed the conversation of too many who think themselves Christians? You might live with them from the first of January to the end of December, and you would never be tired of their religion for what you would hear of it. They scarcely mention the name of Jesus Christ at all. On Sabbath afternoon all the ministers are talked over, faults are found with this one and the other, and all kinds of conversation take place, which they call religious, because it is concerning religious places. But do they ever talk of what be said and did, and what he suffered for us here below? Do you often hear the salutation addressed to you by your brother Christian, “Friend, how doth thy soul prosper?” When we step into each other’s houses, do we begin to talk concerning the cause and truth of God? Do you think that God would now stoop from heaven to listen to the conversation of his church, as once he did, when it was said, “The Lord hearkened and heard, and a book of remembrance was written for them that feared the Lord and that thought upon his name?”
I solemnly declare, as the result of thorough, and, I trust, impartial observation, that the conversation of Christians, while it cannot be condemned on the score of morality, must almost invariably be condemned on the score of Christianity. We talk too little about our Lord and Master. That word sectarianism has crept into our midst, and we must say nothing about Christ, because we are afraid of being called sectarians. I am a sectarian, and hope to be so until I die, and to glory in it; for I can not see, now-a-days, that a man can be a Christian, thoroughly in earnest, without winning for himself the title. Why, we must not talk of this doctrine, because perhaps such a one disbelieves it; we must not notice such and such a truth in Scripture, because such and such a friend doubts or denies it; and so we drop all the great and grand topics which used to be the staple commodities of godly talk, and begin to speak of any thing else, because we feel that we can agree better on worldly things than we can on spiritual. Is not that the truth? and is it not a sad sin with some of us, that we have need to pray unto God, “O Lord, revive thy work in my soul, that my conversation may be more Christ-like, seasoned with salt, and kept by the Holy Spirit?”
And yet a third remark here. There are some whose conduct is all that we could wish, whose conversation is for the most part unctuous with the gospel, mid savory of truth ; but even they will confess to a third charge, which I must now sorrowfully bring against them and against myself; namely, that there is too little real communion with Jesus Christ. If thanks to divine grace, we are enabled to keep our conduct tolerably consistent, and our lives unblemished, yet how much have we to cry out against ourselves, from a lack of that holy fellowship with Jesus which is the high mark of the true child of God Brethren, let me ask some of you how long it is since you have had a love-visit from Jesus Christ-how long since you could say, “My beloved is mine, and I am his: he feedeth among the lilies?” How long is it since “he brought you into his banqueting house, and his banner over you was love?” Perhaps some of you will be able to say, “It was but this morning that I saw him; I beheld his face with joy, and was ravished with his countenance.” But I fear the greatest part of you will have to say, “Ah, sir, for months I have been without the shinings of his countenance.” What have you been doing, then, and what has been your way of life? Have you been groaning every day? Have you been weeping every minute? “No!” Then you ought to have been.
I can not understand how your piety can be of any very brilliant order, if you can live without the sunlight of Christ, and yet be happy. Christians will lose sometimes the society of Jesus; the connection between themselves and Christ will be at times severed, as to their own feeling of it; but they will always groan and cry when they lose their Jesus. What! is Christ thy Brother, and does he live in thine house, and yet thou hast not spoken to him for a month? I fear there is little love between thee and thy Brother, for thou hast had no conversation with him for so long. What! is Christ the Husband of his church, and has she had no fellowship with him for all this time? Brethren, let me not condemn you, let me not even judge you, but let your conscience speak. Mine shall, and so shall yours. Have we not too much forgotten Christ? Have we not lived too much without him? Have we not been contented with the world, instead of desiring Christ? Have we been, all of us, like that little ewe lamb that did drink out of the master’s cup, and feed from his table? Have we not rather been content to stray upon the mountains, feeding anywhere but at home?
I fear many of the troubles of our heart spring from want of communion with Jesus. Not many of us are the kind of men who, living with Jesus, his secrets must know. O! no; we live too much without the light of his countenance; and are too happy when he is gone from us. Let us, each of us, then, for I am sure we have each of us need, in some measure, put up the prayer, “O Lord, revive thy work!” Ah! methinks I hear one professor saying, “Sir, I need no revival in my heart; I am everything I wish to be.” Down on your knees, my brethren! down on your knees for him! He is the man that most needs to be prayed for. He says that he needs no revival in his soul; but he needs a revival of his humility, at any rate. If he supposes that he is all that he ought to be, and if he knows that he is all he wishes to be, he has very mean notions of what a Christian is, or of what a Christian should be, and very unjust ideas of himself. Those are in the best condition who, while they know they want reviving, yet feel their condition and groan under it.
Now, I think I have in some degree substantiated my charge, I fear with too strong arguments; and now let me notice, that the text has something in it which I trust that each of us has. Here is not only an evil implied in these word-“O Lord, revive thy work;” but there is an evil evidently felt. You see Habakkuk knew how to groan about it. O Lord,” said he, “revive thy work!” Ah! we many of us want revival, but few of us feel that we want it. It is a blessed sign of life within, when we know how to groan over our departures from the living God. It is easy to find by hundreds those that have departed, but you must count those by ones who know how to groan over their departure. The true believer, however, when he discovers that he needs revival, will not be happy; he will begin at once that incessant and continuous strain of cries and groans which will at last prevail with God, and bring the blessing of revival down. He will, days and nights in succession, cry, “O Lord, revive thy work!”
Let me mention some groaning times, which will always occur to the Christian who needs revival. I am sure he will always groan, when he looks upon what the Lord did for him of old. When he recollects the Mizars and the Hermons, and those places where the Lord appeared of old to him, saying, “I have loved thee with an everlasting love,” I know he will never look back to them without tears. If he is what he should be as a Christian, or if he thinks he is not in a right condition, he will always weep when he remembers God’s lovingkindness of old. O! whenever the soul has lost fellowship with Jesus, it can not bear to think of the “chariots of Aminadab;” it can not endure to think of “the banqueting house,” for it hath not been there so long; and when it does think of it, it says,
“The peaceful hours I then enjoyed,
How sweet their memory still.
But they have left an aching void
The world can never fill.”
When he hears a sermon which relates the glorious experience of the believer who is in a healthy state, he will put his hand upon his heart, and say, “Ah! such was my experience once; but those happy days are gone. My sun is set; those stars which once lit up my darkness are all quenched;
O! that I might again behold him; O! that I might once more see his face;
O! for those sweet visits from on high; O! for the grapes of Eschol once more.” And by the rivers of Babylon you will sit down and weep. You will weep, when you remember your goings up to Zion-when the Lord was precious to you, when he laid bare his heart, and was pleased also to fill your heart with the fullness of his love. Such times will be groaning times, when you remember “the years of the right hand of the Most High.”
Again, to a Christian who wants revival, ordinances will be also groaning times. He will go up to the house of God; but he will say of himself when he comes away, “Ah! how changed! When I once went with the multitude that kept holy day every word was precious. When the song ascended my soul had wings, and up it flew to its nest among the stars; when the prayer was offered, I could devoutly say, ‘Amen;’ but now the preacher preaches as he did before; my brethren are as profited as once they were; but the sermon is dry to me, and dull. I find no fault with the preacher; I know the fault is in myself. The song is just the same-as sweet the melody, as pure the harmony; but ah! my heart is heavy; my harp strings are broken, and I can not sing;” and the Christian will return from those blessed means of grace, sighing and sobbing, because he knows he wants revival. More especially at the Lord’s Supper he will think, when he sits at the table, “O! what seasons I once had here! In breaking the bread and drinking the wine my Master was present.” He will bethink himself how his soul was even carried to the seventh heaven, and the house was made “the very house of God and the gate of heaven.” “But now,” he says, “it is bread, dry bread to me; it is wine, tasteless wine, with none of the sweetness of paradise in it; I drink, but all in vain. No thoughts of Christ. My heart will not rise; my soul can not heave a thought half way to him!” And then the Christian will begin to groan again – “O Lord revive thy work!”
But I shall not detain you upon that subject. Those of you who know that you are in Christ, but feel that you are not in a desirable condition, because you do not love him enough, and have not that faith in him which you desire to have, I would just ask you this: Do you groan over it? Can you groan now? When you feel your heart is empty, is it “an aching void?” When you feel that your garments are stained, can you wash those garments with tears? When you think your Lord is gone, can you hang out the black flag of sorrow, and cry, “O my Jesus! O my Jesus! art thou gone?” If thou canst, then I bid thee do it. Do it, do it; and may God be pleased to give thee grace to continue to do it, until a happier era shall dawn in the reviving of thy soul!
And remark, in the last place, upon this point, that the soul, when it is really brought to feel its own sad estate, because of its declension and departure from God, is never content without turning its groanings into prayer, and without addressing the prayer to the right quarter: “O Lord, revive thy work!” Some of you, perhaps, will say, “Sir, I feel my need of revival; I intend to set to work this very afternoon, as soon as I shall retire from this place, to revive my soul.” Do not say it; and, above all things, do not try to do it, for you never will do it. Make no resolutions as to what you will do; your resolutions will as certainly be broken as they are made, and your broken resolutions will but increase the number of your sins. I exhort you, instead of trying to revive yourself, to offer prayers. Say not, “I will revive myself,” but cry, “O Lord, revive thy work!”
And let me solemnly tell thee, thou hast not yet felt what it is to decline, thou dost not yet know how sad is thine estate, otherwise thou wouldest not talk of reviving thyself. If thou didst know thy own position, thou wouldest as soon expect to see the wounded soldier on the battle-field heal himself without medicine, or convey himself to the hospital when his limbs are shot away, as thou wouldest expect to revive thyself without the help of God. I bid thee not do anything, nor seek to do any thing, until first of all thou hast addressed Jehovah himself by mighty prayer-until thou hast cried out, “O Lord, revive thy work!” Remember, he that first made you must keep you alive; and he that has kept you alive must restore more life to you. He that has preserved you from going down to the pit, when your feet have been sliding, can alone set you again upon a rock, and establish your goings. Begin, then, by humbling yourself-giving up all hope of reviving yourself as a Christian, but beginning at once with firm prayer and earnest supplication to God: “O Lord, what I cannot do, do thou! O Lord, revive thy work!”
Christian brethren, I leave these matters with you. Give them the attention they deserve. If I have erred, and in aught judged you too harshly, God shall forgive me, for I have meant it honestly. But if I have spoken truly, lay it to your hearts, and turn your houses into a “Bochim.” Weep men apart, and women apart, husbands apart, and wives apart. Weep, weep, my brethren: “It is a sad thing to depart from the living God.” Weep, and may he bring you back to Zion, that you may one day return like Israel, not with weeping, but with songs of everlasting joy!
II. And now I come to the second part of the subject, upon which I must be more brief. In THE CHURCH ITSELF, taken as a body, this prayer ought to be one incessant and solemn litany: “O Lord, revive thy work!”
In the present era there is a sad decline of the vitality of godliness. This age has become too much the age of form, instead of the age of life. I date the hour of life from this day one hundred years ago when the first stone was laid of this building in which we now worship God. Then was the day of life divine, and of power, sent down from on high. God had clothed Whitefield with power: he was preaching with a majesty and a might of which one could scarcely think mortals could ever be capable; not because he was anything in himself, but because his Master girded him with might. After Whitefield there was a succession of great and holy men. But now, sirs, we have fallen upon the dregs of time. Men are the rarest things in all this world; we have not many left now. We have no men in government, to conduct our politics, and scarcely any men in religion. We have the things that perform their duties, as they are called; we have the good, and, perhaps, the honest things, who in the regular routine go on like pack-horses with their bells, for ever in the old style; but men who dare to be singular, because to be singular is generally to be right in a wicked world, are not very many in this age. Compared with the puritanic times even, where are our divines! Could we marshal together our Howes and our Charnocks? Could we gather together such names as I could mention about fifty at a time? I trow not. Nor could we bring together such a galaxy of grace and talent as that which immediately followed Whitefield. Think of Rowland Hill, Newton, Toplady, Doddridge, and numbers of others whom time would fail me to mention. They are gone, they are gone; their venerated dust sleeps in the earth, and where are their successors? Ask where, and echo will reply, “Where?” There are none. Successors of them, where are they? God hath not yet raised them up, or, if he have, you have not yet found out where they are.
There is preaching, and what is it? “O Lord, help thy servant to preach, and teach him by thy Spirit what to say.” Then out comes the manuscript, and they read it. A pure insult to Almighty God! We have preaching, but it is of this order. It is not preaching at all. It is speaking very beautifully and very finely, possibly eloquently, in some sense of the word but where is the right down preaching, such as Whitefield’s? Have you ever read one of his sermons? You will not think him eloquent; you cannot think him so. His expressions were rough, frequently very coarse and unconnected; there was very much declamation about him; it was a great part, indeed, of his speech. But where lay his eloquence? Not in the words you read, but in the tone in which he delivered them, and in the earnestness with which he felt them, and in the tears which ran down his cheeks, and in the pouring out of his soul. The reason why he was eloquent was just what the word means. He was eloquent, because he spoke right out from his heart-from the innermost depths of the man. You could see when he spoke that he meant what he said. He did not speak as a trade, or as a mere machine, but he preached what he felt to be the truth, and what he could not help preaching. When you heard him preach, you could not help feeling that he was a man who would die if he could not preach, and with all his might call to men and say, “Come! come! come to Jesus Christ, and believe on him!”
Now, that is just the lack of these times. Where, where is earnestness now? It is neither in pulpit nor yet in pew, in such a measure as we desire it; and it is a sad, sad age, when earnestness is scoffed at, and when that very zeal which ought to be the prominent characteristic of the pulpit is regarded as enthusiasm and fanaticism. I ask God to make us all such fanatics as most men laugh at-to make us all just such enthusiasts as many despise. We reckon it the greatest fanaticism in the world to go to hell, the greatest enthusiasm upon earth to love sin better than righteousness; and we think those neither fanatics nor enthusiasts who seek to obey God rather than man, and follow Christ in all his ways. We repeat, that one sad proof that the church wants revival is the absence of that death-like, solemn earnestness which was once seen in Christian pulpits.
The absence of sound doctrine is another proof of our want of revival. Do you know who are called Antinomians now, who are called “hypers,” who are laughed at, who are rejected as being unsound in the faith? Why, the men that once were the orthodox are now the heretics. We can turn back to the records of our Puritan fathers, to the articles of the Church of England, to the preaching of Whitefield, and we can say of that preaching, it is the very thing we love; and the doctrines which were then uttered are and we dare to say it everywhere the very self-same doctrines that he proclaimed. But because we choose to proclaim them, we are thought singular and strange; and the reason is, because sound doctrine hath to a great degree ceased. It began in this way.
First of all the truths were fully believed, but the angles were a little taken off. The minister believed election, but he did not use the word, for fear it should in some degree disturb the equanimity of the deacon in the green pew in the corner. He believed that all men were depraved, but he did not say it positively because if he did, there was a lady who had subscribed so much to the chapel-she would not come again; so that while he did believe it, and did say it in some sense, he rounded it a little. Afterward it came to this. Ministers said, “We believe these doctrines, but we do not think them profitable to preach to the people. They are quite true: free grace is true; the great doctrines of grace that were preached by Christ, by Paul, by Augustine, by Calvin, and down to this age by their successors, are true; but they had better be kept back-they must be very cautiously dealt with; they are very high and dreadful doctrines, and they must not be preached; we believe them, but we dare not speak them out.” After that it came to something worse. They said within themselves, “Well, if these doctrines will not do for us to preach, perhaps they are not true at all;” and going one step further, they said they dare not preach them. They did not actually say it, perhaps, but they began just to hint that they were not true; then they went one step further, giving us something which they said was the truth; and then they would cast us out of the synagogue, as if they were the rightful owners of it, and we were the intruders. So they have passed on from bad to worse; and if you read the standard divinity of this age, and the standard divinity of Whitefleld’s day, you will find that the two cannot by any possibility stand together. We have got a “new theology.” New theology? Why, it is anything but a Theology; it is a theology which hath cast out God utterly and entirely, and enthroned man, as it is the doctrine of man, and not the doctrine of the everlasting God. We want a revival of sound doctrine once more in the midst of the land.
And the church at large, may be, wants a revival of downright earnestness in its members. Ye are not the men to fight the Lord’s battles yet. Ye have not the earnestness, the zeal, which once the children of God had. Your forefathers were oaken men; ye are willow men. Our people, what are they many of them? Strong in doctrine when they are with strong doctrine men ; but they waver when they get with others, and they change as often as they change their company; they say sometimes one thing, and sometimes another. They are not the men to go to the stake and die; they are not the men that know how to die daily, and so are ready for death when it comes. Look at our prayer-meetings, with here and there a bright exception. Go in. There are six women; scarcely ever enough members come to pray four times. Look at them. Prayer-meetings they are called ; spare meetings they ought to be called, for sparely enough they are attended. And very few there be that go to our fellowship-meetings, or to any other meetings that we have to help one another in the fear of the Lord. Are they attended at all?
I would like to see a newspaper printed somewhere, containing a list of all the persons that went to those meetings during the week in any of our chapels. Ah! my friends, if they should comprise all the Christians in London, you might find that a chapel or two would hold them all. There are few enough that go. We have not earnestness, we have not life, as we once had; if we had, we should be called worse names than we are; we should have viler epithets thrown at us, if we were more true to our Master; we should not have all things quite so comfortable, if we served God better. We are getting the church to be an institution of our land-an honorable institution. Ah! some think it a grand thing when the church becomes an honorable institution! Methinks it shows the church has swerved, when she begins to be very honorable in the eyes of the world. She must still be cast out, she must still be called evil, and still be despised, until that day shall come, when her Lord shall honor her because she has honored him-shall honor her, even in this world, in the day of his appearing.
Beloved, do you think it is true that the church wants reviving? Yes, or no? “No,” you say, “not to the extent that you suppose. We think the church is in a good condition. We are not among those who cry, ‘The former days were better than these.'” Perhaps you are not: you may be wiser than we are, and therefore you are able to see those various signs of goodness which are to us so small that we are not able to discover them. You may suppose that the church is in a good condition; if so, of course you can not sympathize with me in preaching from such a text, and urging you to use such a prayer. But there are others of you who are frequently prone to cry, “The church wants reviving.” Let me bid you, instead of grumbling at your minister, instead of finding fault with the different parts of the church, to cry, “O Lord revive thy work!” “O!” says one, “if we had another minister. O! if we had another kind of worship. O! if we had a different sort of preaching.” Just as if that were all! It is, “O! if the Lord would come into the hearts of the men you have got. O! if he would make the forms you do use full of power.” You do not want fresh ways or fresh machinery; you want the life in what you have.
There is an engine on a railway; a train has to be moved. “Bring another engine,” says one, “and another, and another.” The engines are brought, but the train does not move at all. Light the fire, and get the steam up, that is what you want; not fresh engines. We do not want fresh ministers, or fresh plans, or fresh ways, though many might be invented, to make the church better; we only want life in what we have got. Given, the very man who has emptied your chapel; given, the selfsame person that brought your prayer-meeting low; God can make the chapel crowded, open the doors yet, and give thousands of souls to that very man. It is not a new man that is wanted; it is the life of God in him. Do not be crying out for something new; it will no more succeed, of itself than what you have. Cry, “O Lord, revive thy work!” I have noticed in different churches, that the minister has thought first of this contrivance, then of that. He tried one plan, and thought that would succeed; then he tried another; that was not it. Keep to the old plan, but get life in it. We do not want anything new; “the old is better”-let us keep to it. But we want the life in the old. “O!” men cry, “we have nothing but the shell; they are going to give us a new shell.” No, sirs, we will keep the old one, but we will have the life in the shell too; we will have the old thing; but we must, or else we will throw the old away, have the life in the old. O! that God would give us life.
The church wants fresh revivals O! for the days of Cambuslang again, when Whitefield preached with power. O! for the days when in this place hundreds were converted sometimes under Whitefield’s sermons. It has been known that two thousand credible cases of conversion have happened under one solitary discourse. O! for the age when eyes should be strained, and ears should be ready to receive the word of God, and when men should drink in the word of life, as it is indeed, the very water of life, which God gives to dying souls! O! for the age of deep feeling-the age of deep, thorough-going earnestness! Let us ask God for it; let us plead with him for it. Perhaps he has the man, or the men, somewhere, who will shake the world yet; perhaps even now he is about to pour forth a mighty influence upon men, which shall make the church as wonderful in this age, as it ever was in any age that has passed.