THE SABBATH-SCHOOL -- CONDITIONS OF SUCCESS
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY, SEPTEMBER 4, 1850,
BY THE REV. PROFESSOR FINNEY
OF OBERLIN COLLEGE, U. S.
To the Members of the Sunday-School Union,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS.
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; to continue in them; for in doing this thou shall save both thyself and them that hear thee." --1 Timothy iv.16.
Such were the instructions given to Timothy. But what was true of Timothy in these respects, is true of all ministers and persons who give themselves to Sabbath-school teaching, and religious instruction generally. If the conditions above set forth be complied with, in a proper spirit and from proper motives, success is certainly to be relied on.
In speaking to the words before me, I shall notice what is implied-- I. In a religious teacher's "taking heed to himself;" II. By "taking heed to the doctrine;" III. By "continuing in them;" and, IV. By the subjoined declaration and promise.
I. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THE INJUNCTION, "TAKE HEED TO THYSELF."
I am addressing myself more particularly this evening to teachers of religion, who sustain a most important relation to all classes of the community. What, then, is implied in a religious teacher's "taking heed to himself?"
First, let him see to it that his motive is right in undertaking the great work--that the state of his heart is such that he is really in sympathy with Christ. If he embarks in this business without "taking heed to himself" in these respects, he involves himself in deep condemnation, and must inevitably fail in saving either himself or those that hear him.
But let me say again: Not only must religious teachers take care that their motive of action, but that their spirit and temper, is of a proper character, lest, by either of these being bad, they counteract their own efforts, and the efforts of their fellow-workers. They must take heed lest, by their frivolous and worldly lives, they counteract their own teaching. This is the case, in comparative proportions, both with the teachers of the churches, and the teachers of the Sunday-schools--with the latter, of course, the injury is smaller, his influence being confined to a more limited circle. If the teacher, however, manifests a worldly spirit before the children of his class, he is equally culpable with the pastor whose example is so deleterious to his flock, and for the same reason.
But again: You must take heed to your qualifications. See that you are really qualified--spiritually and intellectually suited to the work, at least in such a measure as to warrant a rational hope of your giving correct instruction to the children.
Again: Take heed that you yourself believe what you attempt to teach. If you don't believe it yourself, it is of no use to attempt to persuade them. They will find you out. You will betray your unbelief in your very manner, and the discovery of it will be their principal stumbling-block. Show them that you personally realize the importance of what you are teaching--that you believe it with all your soul. If you do not attend to this, you do not "take heed to yourself" in any such sense as will warrant expectation of success in your mission.
Take heed, also, that you personally know Christ, so as not to be obliged to teach by hearsay, like the sons of Sceva, who attempted to cast out devils through Christ whom Paul taught, not through anything with which they themselves were connected. Satan, of course, has little difficulty in overcoming those who are preaching a hearsay gospel. They are but poorly prepared to urge it upon others, and they are themselves without any firm expectation of its being accepted. Without any personal communion with Christ, on their part, how can they expect to persuade others? Be careful, then, that you know yourself the true way of salvation--how to come at the gospel--how to avail yourself of it--and how to teach others the manner in which they may avail themselves of it. There is a vast mistake among teachers on this subject; instead of teaching others how to avail themselves of the way of life, the exact opposite of what they ought to teach them.
Take heed that you are taught of God. You must have the spirit of the gospel to explain it to you. You need to be ministers of the spirit, as well as ministers of the letter--instructed by the Holy Spirit himself. Take heed to this, for you certainly may be thus instructed, seeing that God never sets men to make bricks without straw; and if, therefore, he has really called you to instruct others, he will instruct you, if you will allow him to do so. But he will only instruct you on certain conditions,--(1.) that you believe, and (2.) that you renounce your selfishness and have a single eye to his glory in seeking your instruction, and not any selfish motive. In the prayer you will recollect I mentioned two passages in Scripture. "If a man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth liberally and upbraideth not;" and again, that "except a man forsake all that he hath, and follow me, he cannot be my disciple." To be a disciple is to be a pupil. You cannot have him for a teacher unless you forsake all that you have. This means that you must renounce selfishness, not seeking to be taught from any selfish motive, but for the same reason that he would impart instruction. Do this and you may be sure you will be taught of God. Only seek to be instructed for God's glory, pray in faith, and you will certainly receive instruction according to your need.
Take heed not to be sceptical with regard to your work. Do not allow yourself to get into a sceptical state of mind in teaching religious truth. This very scepticism will defeat the end in view, and actually tend to confirm itself. For example: suppose you go and teach children without expecting their conversion, and they are not converted,--why, they are only confirming you in your scepticism. "Then," you say, "I did not expect it, I had no reason to expect it." Indeed, you had no reason, as we shall presently see.
Take heed that you are not indolent--careless in your preparation for the labours of the class--take care you are not wanting in diligence, because this, too, will defeat the work. God loves to see you diligent; and unless you really are so, you need not expect to succeed.
Take heed, also, that you are not discouraged, and by that means defeat the work. Nothing is more important than that you should confidently expect to secure the object which he has set you to secure.
Take heed that your life and manner do not contradict your teaching, so as to make a bad impression, rather than a good one. But I must pass very rapidly over this department of the subject, and come to the second consideration.
II. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN "TAKING HEED TO THE DOCTRINE."
There are a vast number of points about which persons will dispute and disagrees; setting all these aside, however, there are many so plainly revealed as to be wholly beyond the dispute of any reasonable man: yet, without being at all aware of it, multitudes of persons teach things entirely inconsistent with them, while, if you should put the proposition plainly and ask them if they believed it, they could not deny it. They would assent to the doctrine in the form of a proposition, while--unconsciously perhaps--they are continually making an impression diametrically opposed to it. I will give a few examples of doctrines which are thus treated, and to which it is important, therefore, that teachers should take heed.
First: that the blame of sin belongs to the sinner. Now, you Sunday-school teachers, and other religious instructors, must not only understand this, and believe it yourselves; but you must be sure to lodge it in the mind of the sinner. Impress on the little minds of the Sabbath-school children that they have no excuse for their antagonistic position towards God; and that they must, therefore, take at once the full blame of their sins--that they stand before God as rebels against his government, without the least excuse to plead in mitigation of their offence. If you do not believe this, you deny one of the first, and fundamental principles of the gospel; you are wholly unfit to be teachers, but need yourselves to be taught the first principles of the oracles of God. Take heed then, that, although not actually denying it with your lips, the impression made is not opposed to it.
Take heed, again, that you don't convey the impression that the awful position of the sinner is not a crime, but a misfortune. It is a situation calling for pity, it is true, but it is not pity for his misfortune, but because he has been so infinitely to blame. There is no way in which he can make excuse for himself and his sinful courses.
These things are unqualifiedly and universally true, of every sinner, under heaven, and you must not fail to lodge them in the minds of those whom you instruct. Be sure that nothing drops from your lips which a child could construe into any sort of apology for his antagonism to the Almighty. I have known scholars to say such things, even to their teachers themselves, as would make you all feel the great importance of this point, had I but time to relate them. Some have declared that the influence of the tuition in those places had well nigh made them infidels. A child when once allowed to think he is not to blame, will draw an inference at once natural and irresistible--a logical little mind will never fail to do this, and entrench itself in the results of such a conclusion.
Again: Be sure to know and feel that the carnal mind is at enmity against God; that, therefore, children as well as adults, as soon as they are moral agents, are enemies of God; and that this is, moreover, a voluntary state of mind. It is a minding of the flesh and fleshly appetites. They should understand this, and not be left under a mistake. Their carnal minds are at enmity against God,--a voluntary state of enmity--the committal of themselves to a search after their own particular gratifications instead of serving God. Take heed, also, to teach them that the will of every impenitent sinner is entirely opposed to God's will, and that in this lies his moral depravity. None of you will deny this. You should tell the sinner that the voluntary opposition of his will to God's, is his sin.
You will not deny, also, that no impenitent sinner is willing to obey God. In short, the very words are a contradiction--the proposition that an impenitent sinner is willing to obey God involves a direct contradiction in terms. What is impenitence but resistance? How, then, can an impenitent mind be willing, in any sense, to obey God? Every man, woman, and child who is impenitent, is unwilling to obey God, and this is their only difficulty. Let there be no mistake about this. Let it be so amplified, enlarged, and dwelt upon, in every direction, that every sinner shall understand that he is stubborn, and will not obey God.
Now, I suppose, as I have said, that these are truths you will all admit; but are you sure that you teach nothing inconsistent with them?
Again: Be sure to teach that sin can never be forgiven without repentance. You will admit that no sinner has a right to be forgiven while he remains impenitent. I suppose--you will admit, that while impenitent, God has no right to forgive them, and that he has informed them that he will not do so. I suppose you also admit that they have no right to expect any such thing under such circumstances. But do not people sometimes teach things inconsistent with this admission?
Again: Take heed to the doctrine in this respect--that repentance consists in the heart's forsaking sin, and turning to God. It is not a mere involuntary state of turning, while the heart cleaves to sin in opposition to God, but consists in the heart and will rejecting sin and turning to God.
Now, in the next place, take heed to this--without faith it is impossible to please God; and that whatever is not faith, is sin. No one, I should think, would pretend to dispute this. It is a plain proposition--without faith it is impossible to please God, and what is not faith is sin. But take heed that you do not teach something inconsistent with this, after all; for if individuals pray in unbelief and impenitence, they not only mock God, but commit sin, and that as really as they have done at any other period of their lives,--they only pray hypocritically--it is but sin. This cannot be denied, unless the Bible and all common sense be denied.
Take heed and teach that all men should pray--that they are bound to pray, and to pray invariably--to pray in penitence and in faith. Even children are bound to pray; and they must be taught to pray--taught always, that unless they do pray, and pray with a penitent heart, that they mock God; and that they never are sincere when they pray, unless they do in faith,--without this, they cannot possibly be sincere. Every will that is opposed to God, does not want to be converted, does not want the things it asks for, if it knew what they really were. Take heed to press their present obligation to repent and believe, and the disastrous consequences of refusing or neglecting to attend to these matters. Be sure to make them clearly comprehend that there is no escape from this responsibility. God requires all men, everywhere, to repent, and regards every moment's delay as wickedness--it's neglect is wickedness so great as to be considered by him as deserving a complete damnation. These things you teachers must believe yourselves--if you don't, you are wholly unfit to teach, for in so doing, you tell lies in the name of the Lord. Press upon them, then, as I have said, their present obligation. Now is the accepted time--it is God's accepted time; now is the day of salvation, God himself being judge--therefore none need wait, either for God to be ready, or for anything else to be done. God calls upon all men everywhere to repent, and to repent now. He tells them that now is the "accepted time," in the sense that it is the "day of salvation."
Again: Teach sinners that they are impenitent--that they do invariably and universally resist the Holy Ghost whenever he approaches them, or has anything to do with them. As long as they reject the truth, and do not unqualifiedly receive it as the truth of God, they resist the Holy Ghost.
Again: It is remarkable to what an extent teachers fail to make themselves understood. When you explain anything to a person, so that he fully comprehends you, how often does he exclaim, "Why, how strange! Shouldn't have thought it. Never heard such a thing before." Never heard such a thing before, do you say? Why, there is little doubt but that you have heard the very same thing announced, in other words hundreds and even thousands of times. Pains have not been taken to amplify the subject for the public, and, consequently, they are in great ignorance. Persons brought up in the gospel, are used to hearing the phrases of Scripture repeated, but not expounded as they ought to be, and turned over and over, analyzed, and displayed in their various aspects, so that even children may understand them. This should be the great object of religious teaching. The religious teacher falls far short of his duty by merely talking to the sinner in orthodox phrase without clearly expounding its meaning. A man may be perfectly orthodox in his teaching, as far as words are concerned, but the people may, nevertheless, be as ignorant of his real meaning as if he had spoken in Greek, or in Hebrew, or any other language; for they fail to understand the one he uses.
Some of the most common words, for instance, which are used by religious men, have no sort of meaning attached to them by worldly men. Some time ago the question of sanctification came up for discussion in the United States, and not one out of forty of the ministers could give any clear definition of what it really was. Some of the strangest and most absurd things were said about it by the press. We had, consequently, as many definitions of it almost as there were men to write upon it. The same may be said of numerous other words, such as regeneration, repentance, faith, and many of the words most commonly used. Many persons have failed to form a definite idea of the state of mind expressed by these words; few, comparatively speaking, have an accurate idea of what that state of mind really is. A child has a mind and consciousness, and is just as really able to understand these words as any person in the world.
If you were going to tell a child anything requiring great logic and penetration, you might find some difficulty to show him what you mean; but matters involving consciousness--such as the terms love and faith--these you can explain to a child just as well as you can to an adult. You can teach a child what it is to believe. If his father, yielding to his worrying, should promise to purchase him a knife--such promise would satisfy the child--he would rest on it, believing that his father really would get him one. Well, what is this but faith? Now, if you ask a child, "do you know what faith is?" he would most probably say, "No; I cannot say." Well, then, just tell him--"Suppose you wanted a knife--that you were much distressed for one--that your little playfellow had one--that you teaze your father to get you one till he promises he will,--you leap for joy. What ails you--you have not got it? No; but your father has promised you, and you believe him." I mention this simply as an illustration of what may be done in this way. Be sure to take pains that you yourself really analyze these questions, and sift them to the bottom, making yourself so familiar with them, that you can illustrate them in such a manner as invariably to secure the attention of the children, and enable them to comprehend your meaning.
Again: Beware of leaving a false impression. For instance, do not let them think that they are not expected to believe just yet. By no means let them think they need not do it now. Do not let them think this--do not leave this impression, either directly or indirectly, by anything in your teaching, either in matter or manner. If you do so, as we shall see presently, you have done them the greatest evil it was in your power to inflict upon them. Beware of this, as you would beware of ruining their souls. Be sure [to] lodge the impression in their minds, and keep it before them, that they are expected to do it now. By all means encourage the idea, should they manifest a disposition to obey now.
Again: Be careful not to let them run away with the idea that they are unable to obey the truth; for, if you do, by a law natural and irresistible, they will come to the very natural conclusion that they are under no obligation to do it. If they are impressed with their inability, it is impossible they can feel any sense of moral obligation. There never was, nor can there ever be such a thing as a human mind believing or affirming it's moral obligation to perform an impossibility. If, therefore, you leave an impression on a child's mind that he is unable to do what he is required to do, you have done him the greatest possible injury. Why? Because, by an irresistible law in his heart, he will throw off the responsibility, and you cannot help it. He will not only do that, but he will charge God with being a tyrant. He will do this in his heart, if he dare not with his lips. If you tell him God will send him to hell, because he did not perform that which he is naturally unable to perform--why, a child cannot believe this! They have minds, and their minds have laws; they will make such inferences, and you cannot prevent it.
Again: Do not leave the impression on their minds that they are willing to be Christians. In conversing with parents with regard to young persons, I have often found them saying, "Oh, he wants to be a Christian, he is friendly towards religion, he is trying to be a Christian"--not one word of which is true! I have had to tell such persons, in hundreds of instances, "What! Do you teach your children that? Do they want to be Christians? Does God say so? No, indeed. You say they are friendly to God--he says they are at enmity against him; you teach their willingness--he their unwillingness." Now, what can parents do worse than this?--what can they do worse than this? Nothing! They teach the direct opposite of the truth, and what every orthodox Christian knows and allows to be truth. It is not uncommon for Sabbath-school teachers to teach this, and to leave such impressions.
Again: Do not teach them that they can do their duty in any case, or under any circumstances, before they have given their hearts unqualifiedly to God; therefore, instead of setting them to do something to get a new heart, teach them at once to give their hearts to God. A new heart--what is it? A mind devoted to God by a voluntary act, repenting, believing--in short, submitting its whole being to God. I would just as soon tell a man to go right straight along a road when I knew that, in fifteen minutes, he would precipitate himself from the top of a cliff into the abyss beneath. What! Does God require the sinner to do something by way of persuading God to make in him a new heart? No, indeed; he is all the time entreating the sinner to yield himself up to him. Now, this is just what he is unwilling to do. Why do you not yield, when God is entreating you, "My son give me thy heart?" "Why will you die?" This is what God says; and do you throw it upon God? Instead of teaching him to do his duty, accepting Christ and giving himself up to God, you send him away with the idea that he already does his duty. Now, he will never be converted till he finds such teaching is false. It must be, not because of the teaching, but in spite of it. Until he loses sight of the idea that he is going, in some way, to persuade God to do something for him in the way he thinks, he will never be converted.
Take the history of such a soul: He has been praying and praying, struggling and struggling, pretending to wait for God, and all this; by and by he suddenly sees that he ought at once to believe; he does believe--that he ought at once to submit; he does submit--and now the thing is done. Thus, in multitudes of cases, I have known individuals struggling for a long time under false teaching; and finally, in a moment, the Spirit has turned their thoughts away from their false teaching, and they beheld what they ought to do. Now, you can easily see that if you teach anything inconsistent with these certain and universally admitted truths, you are going right against the Spirit of God--you are putting weapons into the little sinner's hand to fight against his God, to stand and cavil with him!
But again: Be sure to make children understand the nature of their dependence on God. Now, if you talk to them much, as you naturally will, and as the Bible does, about the Spirit of God converting them, and about his agency, and do not explain to them the nature and necessity of this agency, you will commit two mistakes which, if not fatal, no thanks to you. The Bible does not overlook this question; it is stated clearly and repeatedly as much so as anything else that is in the Bible. If you teach them that the Spirit of God has something to do with them, and that there is a necessity for his agency, and do not teach them what it is, they think it is some electric shock, or something of that kind, which they have to wait for. But teach them that while they thus wait for this electric shock, they are resisting the Spirit of God--it is very obstinate wickedness--this is the very reason why they do not at once turn to God. Ask them--"Don't you know you ought to turn to God?" "Yes." "That it is wicked for you to live in sin?" "Yes."
Now, then, why do you grieve the Spirit of God by refusing? Why, just for the same reason as if you had made up your mind to resist your father. He tells you not to go down to the river; never to play near the water. You are determined to go off with the boys, and do so. It happened that you have made up your mind so strongly that unless some person comes in and presses the matter home till he prevails with you, you will certainly go. Now, in what sense do you need such a person's agency? You will certainly go, and he knows it, unless he can influence you. You can easily show this to the child--that his dependence on this agency is his crime. It is only owing to his obstinate wickedness; and in proportion to the certainty of his not being without this influence is the greatness of his wickedness. The thing needed is to make him willing. It is, therefore, quite clear that he cannot justify himself because of his dependence, which, on the contrary, is an evidence of his guilt. The influence of the Spirit must be acknowledged as a matter of course; if any of you should think of denying it--mark the consequences; if you deny the necessity of the Spirit's agency, because of the sinner's obstinacy, and that his dependence upon the Spirit suits his wickedness, you deny that the Spirit's agency is a gracious one. If you think the sinner is, unfortunately, rather unable than unwilling, then the Spirit's agency is not grace but justice.
Furthermore: Another error, is, failing to let the sinner understand the nature of this agency. If you fail to do this, he will resist the Spirit, and all the while think he is doing no such thing. He says, How can I, who am a man, resist Omnipotence? He does not know that resisting truth, when clearly presented to the mind, is resisting the Spirit. He will not admit that he is resisting it. If you do not teach him the nature of the agency, he will not see that, while he is praying for this agency, all the while he is resisting it. Seeing these points are so momentous, warn the little sinners against delay, and against throwing the blame on God, because they have not the Spirit--do this in a proper spirit and suitable manner, and you will make their little consciences quiver. You will feel sorry for them. So does Christ, and that is the reason he wants you to press them to come up. Take the little fellow up, appeal to his little conscience, draw him kindly to you, cut him off from his refuges of lies, shut him up to Jesus alone--that is the way to do with him to save him.
Be sure to make him feel the justice of his condemnation; for in proportion as you fail in this you throw a veil over the gospel--it must be understood by the sinner that his "condemnation is just." Just in proportion as this is understood, the necessity and glory of the gospel is understood. Fail in this, and you may talk to the sinner to the day of his death. How can he understand God's love without understanding his own guilt? How can he understand the necessity for Jesus dying unless he knows that he deserved to die himself--and that Jesus died for him. Pinch the little sinner's conscience on this point, for upon it hangs the whole question. It will not be denied that the child deserves to be condemned, for if it were not so what need was there for a Saviour or an atonement? If he did not deserve to die himself, Jesus would not have died for him. This should be always taught and insisted upon; in fact, it should never be kept out of sight.
Once more: Be sure to expect to secure the early conversion of children. Aim at it; and be wise in the selection of means. And again, let me say take head to yourself, and the doctrine, and persevere in presenting it.
IV. WHAT IS MEANT BY THE PROMISE?
What is meant by the promise? Simply this,--that if you do what is commanded in the right spirit, the promised results shall follow; from which it may be plainly inferred that the connexion between conversion and the use of means, on the part of the church, and of those who instruct the people, is invariable. What else can it mean? Now, whatever people may say about God's sovereignty, one thing is certain--that if religious teachers take heed to themselves and to the doctrine, and continue in them in so doing, they shall both save themselves and those who hear them. This is the law of God's government; it is revealed as a truth, and is as true as God is true.
A few remarks must conclude what I have to say. What a tremendous responsibility devolves upon the religious teacher! But there is something better than this--there is a glorious encouragement held out to him. When I preach to parents about their responsibility in relation to the conversion of their children, I endeavour to impress them with the fact, that God has made them responsible for the conversion of their children. On one occasion, after a sermon on this subject, in which I had been showing the responsibility of parents, a man came to me in the vestry, and told me he did not like my view of the matter. But he was soon reminded of the fact, that God had laid this responsibility upon them, and that it was a most glorious encouragement, for God had connected their salvation with the persevering use of means within their reach. If this subject were regarded in its proper aspect, instead of mourning, parents would leap for joy, and say, "Well, in the name of the Lord, my children shall not be lost!" "By the grace of God," the teacher might say, "my class shall not be lost!" Here is your privilege--will you shrink from your responsibility? No indeed!
Suppose a mother with a sick child shall be told, "Your child is sick unto death, unless you comply with certain conditions." Would she say, "Oh, that's such a responsibility!" Oh! no; you know what she would say. You tell her the conditions, how she would catch at them, exclaiming, "if there is anything I can do, how gladly will I do it!" All the mother is awake in her to secure the end.
I remark again: Unbelief in teachers of religion is the greatest of all their stumbling-blocks. Sinners would be very much better off without any teachers at all, than an unbelieving one. I would rather trust them with the Bible alone, a thousand times. Suppose, for example, a minister should always leave the impression that he did not expect the conversion of his hearers--that it would be unreasonable to expect it. Suppose he were to preach and pray as if he did not expect it--that he had no rational reason to do so. Why, such a man is the greatest curse a congregation can have! Just so it is with the Sunday-school teacher, who does not believe that his children will be converted. I would never send my children to such a school as that. No! I would as soon send them to no place whatever to be taught.
I remark, again: It is common for people to teach children that they ought to be converted now, while it is very evident, from their way of proceeding, that they do not expect them to be converted now. They expect it "by and bye." Is this right? If the child is old enough to be taught, why is it not old enough to be converted? If he is old enough to sin, why is he not old enough to repent? It is more natural to expect persons to be converted early, when they first get the doctrines of the gospel into their minds, because then they are naturally more impressed with the subject. They afterwards lose their hold of it. If I believed my child could not be converted young, I would not teach him religion while young. If they must be men or women first, I won't teach them a word of religion till then. Why? Why, I should state these truths merely to harden their hearts, and increase their guilt!--Why should I do this before I expect them to obey the truth? How absurd!
What a great evil it is that little children should die if they are old enough to sin, and not old enough to repent--if they can be taught now, and yet not be converted till by and by! Bring up a child from its very infancy to the use of alcohol. Be sure let the mother, while nursing it, take enough to keep the child drunk. Give it a little after a while--let it sip a little out of its cup, and thus bring it up to the use of it. Do not teach it temperance till it becomes older, when fairly hardened in its course, bewildered, and stupified by drink. Then try to reform it! Is this the way? Yet this is just as true of other forms of sin, as of this. When first a sense of sin afflicts their little consciences, teach them to come to Christ at once for forgiveness.--then, if ever, is the time you may expect it. Every moment's delay only makes sin a habit, hardening the heart, and stupifying the conscience. Oh! what a mistake it is to let children grow up in sin, expecting them to be converted when they become more hardened!
I had intended to have enlarged here on the method of promoting revivals of religion among children--how it may be done, how it has been done, and what the results have been. I wish I had time to state my views of the importance of getting masses of them to think and act together--to move in one direction. There is nothing on which the great law of sympathy has so powerful, direct, and glorious a bearing, as in bringing masses of men to inquire with regard to religious truth--in bringing them to rise up and act together. Especially is this true with regard to children; it is the most elevating, fascinating, and glorious thing conceivable, to see masses of children turning to God.
Another great difficulty in the way is, the unbelief of the Church with regard to the willingness of God, and the certainty there is that he will immediately put his hand in the work. One day, in conversing with a brother minister, he said, "I bless God for the idea of the truth of which I have now no doubt, that when I do just what he has told me to do, I can depend upon his immediately seconding my efforts, and co-operating with me." While thinking thus, it occurred to me, that to doubt this, or to leave the question open to debate, were to doubt God's own word, and to throw a stumbling-block before my own feet. Now, the truth is, that Christ has said he will be with us in all places, at all times--and for what? Why, to secure the very end he has sent us to accomplish--the salvation of men.
Now, dearly beloved, we ought to expect this co-operation, as really as we believe in the natural laws which govern the universe. It is as certain as the operation of the law of gravitation--as certain, and may be depended upon just as much as any natural law may be depended upon, when all the conditions of its fulfilment are strictly and fully complied with. Whenever this is tried and tested--whenever we can truly say we have in all respects done our duty--God has never failed. If he has, let cases be brought forward! It cannot be done. How long, then, shall this unbelief stand in the way of the work?
I had much more to say on this and kindred branches of my subject, but time will not permit; but let me remark that if you take heed unto yourself, and to the doctrine, and continue in them, your classes must be saved! Does not God distinctly tell you so? I ask for no more than this one thing--in regard to my ministry, I want no higher assurance than this. To be sure I know very well that I am dependent upon Divine grace, but I know that I am dependent upon it in such a sense as that I shall be sure to have it. God has not sent me to preach the gospel as the Israelites in Egypt had to make bricks without straw. God said to Paul--and it is true of every preacher--"My grace is sufficient for thee;" he has said again, "As thy day is, so shall thy strength be." Beloved, then, hold on-- hold on--oh! hold on to this! Amen.
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