The GOSPEL TRUTH
HOW TO PROMOTE A REVIVAL
by Charles G. Finney
[edited by William Allen]
HOW TO PROMOTE A REVIVAL
Break up your fallow ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, till He come and rain righteousness upon you. Hosea 10:12
The Jews were a nation of farmers, and it is therefore a common thing in the Scriptures to refer for illustrations to their occupation, and to the scenes with which farmers and shepherds are familiar. The prophet Hosea addresses them as a nation of backsliders, and reproves them for their idolatry, and threatens them with the judgments of God.
Fallow ground is ground which has once been tilled, but which now lies waste, and needs to be broken up and mellowed, before it is suited to receive grain.
I. WHAT IT IS TO BREAK UP THE FALLOW GROUND.
To break up the fallow ground, is to break up your hearts, to prepare your minds to bring forth fruit unto God. The mind of man is often compared in the Bible to ground, and the Word of God to seed sown in it, and the fruit represents the actions and affections of those who receive it.
Sometimes your hearts get matted down, hard and dry, and all run to waste, until there is no such thing as getting fruit from them until they are all broken up, and mellowed and fitted to receive the Word of God. It is this softening of the heart, so as to make it feel the truth, which the prophet calls breaking up your fallow ground.
II. HOW THE FALLOW GROUND IS TO BE BROKEN UP.
It is just as easy to make your minds feel on the subject of religion as it is on any other. God has put these states of mind just as absolutely under your control, as the motions of your limbs. If you mean to break up the fallow ground of your hearts examine thoroughly the state of your hearts, and see where you are: whether you are walking with God every day, or with the devil; whether you are serving God or serving the devil most; whether you are under the dominion of the prince of darkness, or of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Self-examination consists in looking at your lives, in considering your actions, in calling up the past, and learning its true character. Look back over your past history, since you professed conversion. Take up your individual sins one by one, and look at them. I do not mean that you should just cast a glance at your past life, and see that it has been full of sins, and then go to God and make a sort of general confession, and ask for pardon. That is not the way.
You must take them up one by one. It will be a good thing to take a pen and paper, as you go over them, and write them down as they occur to you. Go over them as carefully as a merchant goes over his books; and as often as a sin comes before your memory, add it to the list. General confessions of sin will never do. Your sins were committed one by one; and as far as you can come to them, they ought to be reviewed and repented of one by one.
III. SINS OF OMISSION.
1. Ingratitude. Take this sin, for instance, and write down under it all the instances you can remember, wherein you have received favours from God for which you have never exercised gratitude. Go over them three or four times and see what an astonishing amount of mercies there are for which God has never been praised.
2. Want of love to God. Think how grieved and alarmed you would be, if you discovered any flagging of affection for you in your wife, husband, or children; if you saw another engrossing their hearts, and thoughts, and time. Perhaps in such a case you would well nigh die with a just and virtuous jealousy. Now, God calls himself a jealous God; and have you not given your heart to other loves, acted the harlot, and offended Him?
3. Neglect of the Bible. Put down the cases when for perhaps weeks, or longer, God's word was not a pleasure.
4. Unbelief. Instances in which you have virtually charged the God of truth with lying, by your unbelief of His express promises and declarations.
5. Neglect of Prayer. Times when you omitted secret prayer, family prayer, and prayer meetings; or have prayed in such a way as more grievously to offend God than to have neglected it altogether.
6. Neglect of the Means of Grace. When you have suffered trifling excuses to prevent your attending meetings, have neglected and poured contempt upon the means of salvation, merely from disrelish of spiritual duties.
7. Your want of Love for the Souls of your Fellow-men. Look round upon your friends and relations, and remember how little compassion you have felt for them. You have stood by and seen them going right to hell, and it seems as though you did not care if they did. How many days have there been, in which you did not make their condition the subject of a single fervent prayer, or even an ardent desire for their salvation?
8. Your want of Care for the Heathen. Measure your desire for their salvation by the self-denial you practice, in giving of your substance to send them the Gospel. Do you retrench your style of living, and scruple not to subject yourself to any inconvenience to save them? Do you daily pray for them in your room? Do you statedly attend the monthly prayer-meeting? Are you from month to month laying by something to put into the treasury of the Lord, when you go up to pray? If you are not doing these things, and if your soul is not agonized for the poor benighted heathen, why are you such a hypocrite as to pretend to be a Christian? Why, your profession is an insult to Jesus Christ!
9. Your Neglect of Family Duties. How you have lived before them, how you have prayed, what an example you have set before them. What direct efforts do you habitually make for their spiritual good? What duty have you not neglected?
10. Neglect of Watchfulness over your own Life. Instances where you have entirely neglected to watch your conduct, and have been off your guard, and have sinned before the world, and before the Church, and before God.
11. Neglect to Watch over your Brethren. How often have you broken your covenant, that you would watch over them in the Lord! Would you see your wife or child going into disgrace, or into the fire, and hold your peace? No, you would not. What do you think of yourself, then, to pretend to love Christians, while you can see them going into disgrace and say nothing to them?
12. Neglect of Self-denial. There are many professors who are willing to do almost anything in religion that does not require self-denial. They only give of their surplus wealth; and perhaps that poor woman, who puts in twelve and a half cents at the monthly prayer-meeting, has exercised more self-denial than they have in giving thousands.
IV. SINS OF COMMISSION.
1. Worldly Mindedness. What has been the state of your heart in regard to your worldly possessions? Have you looked at them as really yours--as if you had a right to dispose of them as your own, according to your own will? If you have, write that down. If you have loved property, and sought it for its own sake or to gratify lust or ambition, or a worldly spirit, or to lay it up for your families, you have sinned, and must repent.
2. Pride. Vanity is a particular form of pride. How many times have you thought more, and taken more pains, and spent more time, about decorating your body to go to church, than you have about preparing your mind for the worship of God? You have gone to the house of God caring more how you appear outwardly in the sight of mortal men, than how your soul appears in the sight of the heart-searching God. You came to divide the worship of God's house, to draw off the attention of God's people to look at your pretty appearance.
3. Envy. Look at the cases in which you were envious of those whom you thought were above you in any respect. Be honest with yourself; and if you have harboured this spirit of hell, repent deeply before God, or He will never forgive you.
4. Censoriousness. Instances in which you have had a bitter spirit, and have spoken of Christians in a manner entirely devoid of charity and love; charity, requires you always to hope the best the case will admit, and to put the best construction upon any ambiguous conduct.
5. Slander. The times you have spoken behind people's back of the faults, real or supposed, of members of the church or others, unnecessarily, or without good reason. This is slander. You need not lie to be guilty of slander: to tell the truth with the design to injure, is slander.
6. Levity. How often have you trifled before God, as you would not have dared to trifle in the presence of an earthly sovereign?
7. Lying. Understand now what lying is. Any species of designed deception. If you design to make an impression contrary to the naked truth, you lie. How innumerable are the falsehoods perpetrated every day in business, and in social intercourse, by words, and looks, and actions, designed to make an impression on others contrary to the truth!
8. Robbing God. Instances in which you have misspent your time, and squandered hours, which God gave you to serve Him and save souls, in vain amusements or foolish conversation, reading novels or doing nothing.
9. Bad Temper. Perhaps you have abused your wife, or your children, or your family, or servants, or neighbours. Write it all down.
10. Hindering others from being useful. Perhaps you have weakened their influence by insinuations against them. You have not only robbed God of your own talents, but tied the hands of somebody else.
If you find you have committed a fault against an individual, and that individual is within your reach, go and confess it immediately, and get that out of the way. If the individual you have injured is too far off for you to go and see him, sit down and write him a letter, and confess the injury, and put it into the mail immediately. If you have defrauded anybody, send the money, the full amount and the interest.
Go thoroughly to work in all this. Go now. Do not put it off; that will only make the matter worse. Confess to God those sins that have been committed against God, and to man those sins that have been committed against man. Do not think of getting off by going round the stumbling-blocks. Take them up out of the way. In breaking up your fallow ground, you must remove every obstruction. Things may be left that you think are little things, and you may wonder why you do not feel as you wish to feel in religion, when the reason is that your proud and carnal mind has covered up something which God required you to confess and remove. Break up all the ground and turn it over. Do not "balk" it, as the farmers say; do not turn it aside for little difficulties; drive the plough right through them, beam deep, and turn the ground all up, so that it may all be mellow and soft, and fit to receive the seed and bear fruit a hundred fold.
As you go over the catalogue of your sins, be sure to resolve upon present and entire reformation. Wherever you find anything wrong, resolve at once, in the strength of God, to sin no more in that way. It will be of no benefit to examine yourself, unless you determine to amend, in every particular, what you find wrong in heart, temper, or conduct.
If you find, as you go on with this duty, that your mind is still all dark, cast about you, and you will find there is some reason for the Spirit of God to depart from you. You have not been faithful and thorough. In the progress of such a work you have got to do violence to yourself, and bring yourself as a rational being up to this work, with the Bible before you, and try your heart until you do feel.
You need not expect that God will work a miracle for you to break up your fallow ground. It is to be done by means. Fasten your attention to the subject of your sins. You cannot look at your sins long and thoroughly, and see how bad they are, without feeling, and feeling deeply. Experience fully proves the benefit of going over our history in this way. Set yourself to the work now; resolve that you will never stop until you find you can pray. You never will have the Spirit of God dwelling in you until you have unraveled this whole mystery of iniquity, and spread out your sins before God.
Let there be this deep work of repentance and full confession, this breaking down before God, and you will have as much of the spirit of prayer as your body can bear up under. The reason why so few Christians know anything about the spirit of prayer is, because they never would take the pains to examine themselves properly, and so never knew what it was to have their hearts all broken up in this way.
It will do no good to preach to you while your hearts are in this hardened, and waste, and fallow state. The farmer might just as well sow his grain on the rock. It will bring forth no fruit. A preacher may wear out his life and do very little good, while there are so many stony-ground hearers who have never had their fallow ground broken up.
If your fallow ground is broken up, then the way to get more feeling is to go out and see sinners on the road to hell, and talk to them, and guide inquiring souls, and you will get more feeling.
WHEN A REVIVAL IS TO BE EXPECTED.
Wilt thou not revive us again, that Thy people may rejoice in Thee? Psalm 86:6
This Psalm seems to have been written soon after the return of the people of Israel from the Babylonish captivity. Since God in His providence had re-established the ordinances of His house among them, the Psalmist prays that there may be a revival of religion to crown the work.
I. WHEN A REVIVAL OF RELIGION IS NEEDED.
1. When there is a want of brotherly love and Christian confidence among professors of religion, then a revival is needed. When Christians have sunk down into a low and backslidden state, they neither have nor ought to have, nor is there reason to have, the same love and confidence toward each other, as then they are all alive, and active, and living holy lives.
2. When there are dissensions, jealousies, and evil speakings among professors of religion, then there is a great need of a revival. These things show that Christians have got far from God, and it is time to think earnestly of a revival. Religion cannot prosper with such things in the Church, and nothing can put an end to them like a revival.
3. When there is a worldly spirit in the Church. It is manifest that the Church is sunk down into a low and backslidden state, when you see Christians conform to the world in dress, equipage, parties, seeking worldly amusements, reading novels, and other books such as the world read. It shows that they are far from God, and that there is great need of a revival of religion.
4. When the Church finds its members falling into gross and scandalous sins, then it is time for the Church to awake and cry to God for a revival of religion.
5. When Sinners are careless and stupid, and sinking into hell unconcerned, it is time the Church should bestir themselves. It is as much the duty of the Church to awake as it is for the firemen to awake when a fire breaks out in the night in a great city. And yet their guilt would not compare with the guilt of Christians who sleep while sinners around them are sinking stupid into the fires of hell.
II. THE IMPORTANCE OF A REVIVAL OF RELIGION IN SUCH CIRCUMSTANCES
1. A revival of religion is the only possible thing that can wipe away the reproach which covers the Church, and restore religion to the place it ought to have in the estimation of the public. Without a revival, this reproach will cover the Church more and more, until it is overwhelmed with universal contempt.
2. Nothing but a revival of religion can prevent the means of grace from doing a great injury to the ungodly. Without a revival, they will grow harder and harder under preaching, and will experience a more horrible damnation than they would if they had never heard the Gospel. Your children and your friends will go down to a much more horrible fate in hell, in consequence of the means of grace, if there are no revivals to convert them to God.
III. WHEN A REVIVAL OF RELIGION MAY BE EXPECTED
1. When the providence of God indicates that a revival is at hand. The indications of God's providence are sometimes so plain as to amount to a revelation of His will. Cases have occurred in this country, where the providential manifestations were so plain, that those who were careful observers, felt no hesitation in saying, that God was coming to pour out His Spirit, and grant a revival of religion. There are various ways for God to indicate His will to a people; sometimes by giving them peculiar means, sometimes by peculiar and alarming events, sometimes by remarkably favouring the employment of means, by the weather, health, etc.
2. When the wickedness of the wicked grieves, and humbles, and distresses Christians. Sometimes Christians do not seem to mind anything about the wickedness around them. Or if they talk about it, it is in a cold, and callous, and unfeeling way, as if they despaired of a reformation: they are disposed to scold at sinners--not to feel the compassion of the Son of God for them.
But sometimes the conduct of the wicked drives Christians to prayer, and breaks them down, and makes them sorrowful and tender-hearted, so that they can weep day and night, and instead of scolding and reproaching them, they pray earnestly for them. Then you may expect a revival.
Sometimes the wicked will get up an opposition to religion. And when this drives Christians to their knees in prayer to God, with strong crying and tears, you may be certain there is going to be a revival. The prevalence of wickedness is no evidence at all that there is not going to be a revival. That is often God's time to work. When the enemy cometh in like a flood, the Spirit of the Lord lifts up a standard against him.
Often the first indication of a revival, is the devil's getting up something new in opposition. It will invariably have one of two effects. It will either drive Christians to God, or it will drive them farther away from God, to some carnal policy or other that will only make things worse.
Let hell boil over if it will, and spew out as many devils as there are stones in the pavement, if it will only drive Christians to God in prayer--they cannot hinder a revival. I have known instances where a revival has broken in upon the ranks of the enemy, almost as sudden as a clap of thunder, and scattered them, taken the ring-leaders as trophies, and broken up their party in an instant.
3. A revival may be expected when Christians have a spirit of prayer for a revival. That is when they pray as if their hearts were set upon a revival. Sometimes Christians are not engaged in prayer for a revival, not even when they are warm in prayer. Their minds are upon something else; they are praying for something else--the salvation of the heathen and the like--and not for a revival among themselves. But when they feel the want of a revival, they pray for it; they feel for their own families and neighbourhoods; they pray for them as if they could not be denied.
What constitutes a spirit of prayer? Is it many prayers and warm words? No! Prayer is the state of the heart. The spirit of prayer is a state of continual desire and anxiety of mind for the salvation of sinners. It is something that weighs Christians down. It is the same, so far as the laws of mind are concerned, as when a man is anxious for some worldly interest. A Christian who has this spirit of prayer feels anxious for souls. It is the subject of his thought all the time, and makes him look and act as if he had a load on his mind. He thinks of it by day, and dreams of it by night. This is properly, "praying without ceasing." His prayers seem to flow from his heart liquid as water; "O Lord, revive Thy work."
Sometimes this feeling is very deep; persons have been bowed down, so that they could neither stand nor sit. I can name men in this State, of firm nerves, who stand high in character, who have been absolutely crushed with grief for the state of sinners, until they were as helpless as children.
The feeling is not always so great as this, but such things are much more common than is supposed. In the great revivals in 1826, they were common. This is by no means enthusiasm. It is just what Paul felt when he said: "My little children, of whom I travail in birth." I heard of a person in this State, who prayed for sinners, and finally got into such a state of mind, that she could not live without prayer. She could not rest day nor night, unless there was somebody praying. Then she would be at ease; but if they ceased, she would shriek in agony until there was praying again. And this continued for two days, until she prevailed in prayer, and her soul was relieved.
This travail of soul is that deep agony which persons feel when they lay hold on God for such a blessing, and will not let Him go till they receive it. I do not mean to be understood that it is essential to a spirit of prayer, that the distress should be so great as this. But this deep, continual, earnest desire for the salvation of sinners, is what constitutes the spirit of prayer for a revival.
Sometimes ministers have had this distress about their congregations, so that they felt as if they could not live unless they could see a revival. Sometimes elders and deacons, or private members, of the Church, men and woman, have the spirit of prayer for a revival of religion, so that they will hold on and prevail with God, until He pours out His Spirit.
The first ray of light that broke in upon the midnight which rested on the churches in Oneida county, in the fall of 1825, was from a woman in feeble health, who, I believe, had never been in a powerful revival. Her soul was exercised about sinners. She was in an agony for the land. She did not know what ailed her, but she kept praying more and more, until it seemed as if her agony would destroy her body. At length she became full of joy, and exclaimed: "God has come! God as come! There is no mistake about it, the work is begun, and is going all over the region." And sure enough, the work began, and her family were almost all converted, and the work spread all over that part of the country.
Generally, there are but few professors of religion that know anything about this spirit of prayer which prevails with God. I have been amazed to see such accounts as are often published about revivals, as if the revival had come without any cause--nobody knew why or wherefore. I have sometimes inquired into such cases, when it had been given out that nobody knew anything about it, until one Sabbath they saw in the face of the congregation that God was there; or they saw it in their conference room or prayer meeting, and were astonished at the mysterious sovereignty of God in bringing in a revival without any apparent connection with means.
Now mark me! Go and inquire among the obscure members of the church, and you will always find that somebody had been praying for a revival, and was expecting it--some man or woman had been agonizing in prayer for the salvation of sinners until the blessing was gained. Generally, a revival is more or less extensive, as there are more or less persons who have the spirit of prayer.
4. Another sign that a revival may be expected is when the attention of ministers is especially directed to this particular object, and when their preaching and other efforts are aimed particularly for the conversion.
There never will be a revival until somebody makes particular efforts for this end. But when the attention of a minister is directed to the state of the families in his congregation and his heart is full of feeling of the necessity of a revival, and when he puts forth the proper efforts for this end, then you may be prepared to expect a revival.
The connection between the right use of means for a revival, and a revival, is as naturally sure as between the right use of means to raise grain, and a crop of wheat.
I have seldom seen an individual fail, when he used the means of promoting a revival in earnest, in the manner pointed out in the Work of God. I believe a man may enter on the work of promoting a revival with as reasonable an expectation of success, as he can enter on any work with an expectation of success--with the same expectation as the farmer has of a crop when he sows his grain. I have sometimes seen this tried and succeed, under circumstances the most forbidding that can be conceived.
The great revival in Rochester began under the most disadvantageous circumstances that could well be imagined. But there were a few remarkable cases of the spirit of prayer, which assured us that God was there, and we went on; and the more Satan opposed, the Spirit of the Lord lifted up the standard higher and higher until finally a wave of salvation rolled over the place.
5. A revival of religion may be expected when Christians begin to confess their sins to one another. When there is an ingenuous breaking down, and a pouring out of the heart in making confession of their sins, the flood-gates will soon burst open, and salvation will flow over the place.
6. A revival may be expected whenever Christians are found willing to make the sacrifice necessary to carry it on. They must be willing to sacrifice their feeling, their business, their time, to help forward the work. Ministers must be willing to lay out their strength, and to jeopardy their health and life. They must be willing to offend the impenitent by plain and faithful dealing and perhaps offend many members of the church who will not come up to the work. They must take a decided stand with the revival, be the consequences what they may.
7. A revival may be expected when ministers and professors of religion are willing to have God promote it by what instruments He pleases. Sometimes ministers are not willing to have a revival unless they can have the management of it, or unless their agency can be conspicuous in promoting it. Such men will sleep on until they are awakened by the judgment trumpet, without a revival, unless they are willing that God should come in His own way--unless they are willing to have anything or anybody employed, that will do good.
Do you wish for a revival? Will you have one? If God should ask you this moment, by an audible voice from heaven: "Do you want a revival?" would you dare to say: "Yes"? "Are you willing to make the sacrifices?" would you answer: "Yes"? "When shall it begin?" would you answer: "Let it begin tonight--let it begin here--let it begin in my heart NOW"? Would you dare to say so to God, if you should hear His voice tonight?
THE NECESSITY AND EFFECT OF UNION.
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree on earth, as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven. Matthew 17:19
The design of our Lord, in this text, was to teach the importance and influence of union in prayer and effort to promote religion. He states the strongest possible case, by taking the number "two" as the least number between whom there can be an agreement. It is the fact of their agreement upon which He lays the stress.
I. IN ORDER TO COME WITHIN THIS PROMISE, WE ARE TO BE AGREED IN PRAYER.
1. That is we should agree in our desires for the object. It is necessary to have desires for the object, and to be agreed in those desires. Very often individuals pray in words for the same thing, when they are by no means agreed in desiring that thing.
2. We must agree in the motive from which we desire the object. It is not enough that our desires for an object should be the same, but the reason why must be the same. An individual may desire a revival, for the glory of God, and the salvation of sinners. Another member of the church may also desire a revival, but from very different motives. Some, perhaps, desire a revival for the sake of having the church increased so as to be more numberous and more respectable. Sometimes people desire a revival from mere natural affection, so as to have their friends converted and saved.
3. We must be agreed in desiring it for good reasons. These desires must not only be united, and from the same motives, but they must be from good motives. The supreme motive must be to honor and glorify God. People may even desire a revival, and agree in desiring it, and agree in the motives, and yet if these motives be not good, God will not grant their desires.
I have had a multitude of letters and requests that I should visit such and such places, and endeavour to promote a revival, and many reasons have been urged why I should go; but when I came to weigh their reasons, I have sometimes found every one of them selfish. And God would look upon every one with abhorrence.
There are a great many things often said in favour of the cause of missions, which are of this character, appealing to wrong motives. How often are we told of six hundred millions of heathens, who are in danger of going to hell, and how little is said of the guilt of six hundred millions engaged and banded together as rebels against God, or of the dishonour and contempt poured upon God our Maker by such a world of outlaws.
Until the Church will look at the dishonour done to God, little will be done. It is this which must be made to stand out before the world, it is this which must be deeply felt by the Church, it is this which must be fully exhibited to sinners, before the world can ever be converted.
Parents never agree in praying for the conversion of their children in such a way as to have their prayers answered, until they feel that their children are rebels. If they would have their prayers prevail, they must come to take God's part against their children, even though for their perverseness and incorrigible wickedness he should be obliged to send them to hell.
4. If we would be so united as to prevail in prayer, we must agree in faith. That is, we must concur in expecting the blessing prayed for. We must understand the reason why it is to be expected, we must see the evidence on which faith ought to rest, and must absolutely believe that the blessing will come, or we do not bring ourselves within the promise.
5. So, again, we must be agreed as to the time when we desire the blessing to come. Suppose a church should undertake to pray for a revival, and should all be agreed in desiring a revival, but not as to the time when it shall be. Suppose some wish to have the revival come now, and are all prepared, and have their hearts waiting for the Spirit of God to come down, and are willing to give time and attention and labour to it NOW; but others are not quite ready, they have something else to attend to just at present, some worldly object which they want to accomplish, some piece of business in hand, and want to finish this thing, and then. But they cannot possibly find time to attend to it now.
II. WE ARE TO AGREE IN EVERYTHING THAT IS ESSENTIAL TO OBTAINING THE BLESSING THAT WE SEEK.
You see that the language of the text: "If two of you shall agree as touching anything that they shall ask." That is, the agreement or union must comprise everything that is essential to the bestowment and reception of the blessing.
1. They must be agreed in understanding that revivals are not miracles, but that they are brought about by the use of means, like other events.
2. They must be agreed in understanding that human agency is just as indispensable to a revival as divine agency. God has put the Gospel treasure in earthen vessels. He has seen fit to employ men in preaching the Word; that is, He has seen that human agency is that which He can best employ in saving sinners. And there is not one in a thousand, if one in a million, converted in any other way than through the truth, made known and urged by human instrumentality.
3. It is important that there should be union in regard to the measures essential to the promotion of a revival. Let individuals agree to do anything whatever, and if they are not agreed in their measures, they will run into confusion, and counteract one another.
4. They must be agreed in the manner of dealing with impenitent sinners. It is a point immensely important that the church should be agreed in their treatment of sinners. Suppose that they are not agreed, and one will tell a sinner one thing and another, another. What confusion! Every Christian ought to have a clear understand of this subject, and all speak the same thing and give the same directions; and then the sinner will find no one to take his part, and get no relief or comfort until he repents.
5. They must be agreed in removing the impediments to a revival. If a church expects a revival, they must take up the stumbling-blocks out of the way. If there be rotten members in the church, they should be removed, and the church should all agree to cut them off.
6. In mutual confessions. Whenever wrong has been done to any, there should be a full confession. Let the members of the church be truly agreed, in breaking down, and confessing their own faults, and in cherishing a tender, merciful, forgiving, Christ-like spirit, towards those who they think have done them wrong, and then the Spirit will come down upon them without measure.
In a word, if Christians expect to unite in prayer and effort, so as to prevail with God, they must be agreed in speaking and doing the same things, in walking by the same rule, and maintaining the same principles, and in persevering until they obtain the blessing, so as not to hinder or thwart each other's efforts. All this is evidently implied in being agreed "as touching" the things for which they are praying.
III. HOW CHURCHES CAN HELP MINISTERS.
1. By all means keep clear of the idea, both in theory and practice, that a minister is to promote revivals alone. I will mention one case. A minister, some years since, was labouring where there was a revival; and was visited by an elder of a church at some distance, who wanted him to go and preach there. There was no revival there, and never had been; and the elder complained about their state, and said they had had two excellent ministers, one had worn himself completely out, and died; and the other had exhausted himself, and got discouraged, and left them; and they were a poor and feeble church, and their prospects very dark, unless they could have a revival, and so he begged this minister to go and help them.
He seemed to be very sorrowful, and the minister heard his whining, and at last replied by asking, "Why did you never have a revival?" "I do not know," said the elder: "Our minister laboured very hard, but the church did not seem to wake up, and somehow there seemed to be no revival." "Well, now," said the minister: "I see what you want; you have killed one of God's ministers, and broke down another, so that he had to leave you; and now you want to get another there and kill him, and the devil has sent you here to get me to go and rock your cradle for you. God forbid that you should ever have a minister until the church will wake up to duty."
The elder was affected, for he was a good man. The tears came in his eyes, and he said it was no more than they deserved: "And now," said the minister, "will you be faithful, and go home and tell the church what I say? If you will, and they will be faithful and wake up to duty, they shall have a minister, I will warrant them that." The elder said he would, and he was true to his word; he went home and told the church how cruel it was for them to ask another minister to come among them, unless they would wake up. They felt it, and confessed their sins, and waked up to duty, and a minister was sent to them, and a precious and powerful revival followed.
2. Pray for your minister. Ministers do not ask people to pray for them simply as men, nor that they may be filled with an abundance of the Spirit's influences, merely to promote their personal enjoyment. But they know, that unless the church greatly desire a blessing upon the labour of a minister, it is tempting God for him to expect it.
I have known a church bear their minister on their arms in prayer from day to day, and watch with anxiety unutterable, to see that he has the Holy Ghost with him in his labours! When they feel and pray thus, O what feelings and what looks are manifest in the congregation! They have felt anxiety unutterable to have the Word come with power and take effect; and when they see their prayer answered, and they hear a word or a sentence, come WARM from the heart, and taking effect among the people, you can see their whole souls look out of their eyes!
3. A minister should be provided for by the church, and his support guaranteed irrespective of the ungodly.
4. See that everything is so arranged that people can sit comfortably in meeting. If people do not sit easy, it is difficult, to get or keep their attention. And if they be not attentive, they cannot be converted.
5. See that the house of God is kept clean. The house of God should be kept as clean as you want your own house to be kept.
6. It is important that the house should be just warm enough and not too warm. The house should be well ventilated. Of all houses, a church should be the most perfectly ventilated.
7. The church should watch for the effect of preaching. I do not mean that they should be just stretching their necks and staring about the house; but they should observe, as they may, and if they find any person affected by the preaching, throw themselves in his way, and guide him to the Saviour.
8. Church members ought to study and inquire what they can do, and then do it. Christians should be trained like a band of soldiers. It is the duty and office of a minister to train them for usefulness, to teach and direct them, and lead them on, in such a way as to produce the greatest amount of moral influence; and then they should stand their ground and do their duty, otherwise they will be right in the way.
IV. HINDRANCES TO REVIVALS.
1. A revival will cease when Christians consent that it should cease. Sometimes Christians see that the revival is in danger of ceasing, and that if something effectual be not done, it will come to a stand. If this fact distress them, and drive them to prayer, and to fresh efforts, the work will not cease.
2. A revival will cease whenever Christians become mechanical in their attempts to promote it. When their faith is strong, and their hearts are warm and mellow, and their prayers full of holy emotion, and their words with power, then the work goes on. But when their prayers begin to be cold and without emotion, and their deep-toned feeling is gone, and they begin to labour mechanically, and to use words without feeling, then the revival will cease.
3. When Christians get proud of their great revival, it will cease. I mean those Christians who have before been instrumental in promoting it. When the part of the Church, who work, begin to think what a great revival they have had, and how they have laboured and prayed, and how bold and how zealous they have been, and how much good they have done, then the Spirit withdraws from them, and the revival ceases.
4. The revival will stop when the Church get exhausted by labour. Multitudes of Christians commit a great mistake here in time of revival. They are so thoughtless, and have so little judgment, that they will break up all their habits of living, neglect to eat and sleep at the proper hours, and let the excitement run away with them, so that they overdo their bodies, and are so imprudent that they soon become exhausted, and it is impossible for them to continue in the work. Revivals often cease, and declension follow, from negligence and imprudence, in this respect, on the part of those engaged in carrying them on.
5. The Spirit may be grieved by a spirit of boasting of the revival. Sometimes, as soon as a revival commences, you will see it blazed out in the newspapers. And most commonly this will kill the revival.
So the Spirit is grieved by saying or publishing things that are calculated to undervalue the work of God. When a blessed work of God is spoken lightly of, not rendering to God the glory due to His name.
6. A revival will decline and cease, unless Christians are frequently re-converted. By this I mean, that Christians, in order to keep in the spirit of a revival, commonly need to be frequently convicted, and humbled and broken down before God.
I have never laboured in revivals in company with any one who would keep in the work and be fit to manage a revival continually, who did not pass through this process of breaking down as often as once in two or three weeks.
Revivals decline, commonly, because it is found impossible to make the Church feel their guilt and their dependence, so as to break down before God. It is important that ministers should understand this, and learn how to break down the Church, and break down themselves when they need it, or else Christians will soon become mechanical in their work, and lose their fervour and their power with God.
We see what glorious things may be expected for Zion, whenever the churches generally shall be agreed on these subjects. Only let them feel as the heart of one man, and be agreed as to what ought to be done for the salvation of the world, and the Millennium will come at once.
There is a vast ignorance in the churches on the subject of revivals. After all the revivals that have been enjoyed, and all that has been said and written and printed concerning revivals, there are very few who have any real, consistent knowledge on the subject. And when there is a revival, how few there are who can take hold to labour and promote it as if they understood what they were about. How few persons are to be found, who have ever taken up revivals of religion as a subject to be studied and understood.
How important it is that the Church should be trained and instructed, so as to know what to do in a revival. They should be trained and disciplined like an army; each one having a place to fill, and something to do, and knowing where he belongs, and what he has to do, and how to do it. We see why revivals are often so short, and why they so often produce a reaction. It is because the Church do not understand the subject.
We see the guilt of ministers, in not informing themselves, and rightly and speedily instructing the churches upon this momentous subject. No minister has yet begun to understand or do his duty, if he has neglected to teach his church to work for God in the promotion of revivals.
HOW TO PREACH THE GOSPEL.
He that winneth souls is wise. Proverbs 1:30
I. THE BIBLE ASCRIBES CONVERSION TO MEN.
There are many passages which present the conversion of sinners to the work of men. Daniel 12:3 "They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars for ever and ever." 1 Cor. 4:15 " For though ye have ten thousand instructors in Christ, yet have ye not many fathers: for in Christ Jesus I have begotten you through the Gospel."
II. THIS IS NOT INCONSISTENT WITH THOSE PASSAGES IN WHICH CONVERSION IS ASCRIBED TO GOD.
The Scriptures ascribe conversion to four different agencies: to men, to God, to the truth, and to the sinner himself. In the conversion of a sinner, it is true that God gives the truth efficiency to turn the sinner to God. Not only does the minister cry: "Stop," but through the living voice of the preacher, the Spirit cries: "Stop." The preacher cries: "Turn ye, why will ye die?" The Spirit pours the expostulation home with such power, that the sinner turns. Now, in speaking of this change, it is perfectly proper to say, that the Spirit turned him; just as you would say of a man who had persuaded another to change his mind on the subject of politics, that he had converted him and brought him over. It is also proper to say that the truth converted him; as, in a case when the political sentiments of a man were changed by a certain argument, we should say that argument brought him over. So, also with perfect propriety may we ascribe the change to the preacher, or to him who had presented the motives; just as we should say of a lawyer who had prevailed in his argument with a jury, he has got his case, he has converted the jury. It is also with the same propriety ascribed to the individual himself, whose heart is changed; we should say that he has changed his mind, he has come over, he has repented. Now it is strictly true, and true in the most absolute and highest sense, the act is his own act, the turning is his own turning, while God by the truth has induced him to turn; still it is strictly true that he has turned, and has done it himself.
Thus you see the sense in which it is the work of God; and also the sense in which it is the sinner's own work. The Spirit of God, by the truth, influences the sinner to change and in this sense He is the efficient cause of the change. But the sinner actually changes, and is therefore himself, in the most proper sense, the author of the change.
III. SEVERAL IMPORTANT PARTICULARS CONNECTED WITH PREACHING THE GOSPEL.
1. All preaching should be practical. The proper end of all doctrine is practice. Anything brought forward as doctrine, which cannot be made use of as practical, is not preaching the Gospel. There is none of that sort of preaching in the Bible.
I have known a minister in the midst of a revival, while surrounded with anxious sinners, leave off labouring to convert souls for the purpose of "indoctrinating" the young converts, for fear somebody else should indoctrinate them before him. And there the revival stops! Either his doctrine was not true, or it was not preached in the right way.
All preaching should be doctrinal, and all preaching should be practical. The very design of doctrine is to regulate practice. Any preaching that has not this tendency is not the Gospel. A loose, exhortatory style of preaching may affect the passions, and may produce excitement, but will never sufficiently instruct the people so as to secure sound conversions. On the other hand, preaching doctrine in an abstract manner may fill the head with notions, but will never sanctify the heart or life.
2. Preaching should be direct. The Gospel should be preached to men, and not about them. The minister must address his hearers. He must preach to them about themselves, and not leave the impression that he is preaching to them about others. He will never do them any good, further than he succeeds in convincing each individual that he means him.
Many preachers seem very much afraid of making the impression that they mean anybody in particular. Now this is anything but preaching the Gospel. Thus did not the prophets, nor Christ, nor the apostles. Nor do those ministers do this who are successful in winning souls to Christ.
3. Another very important thing to be regarded in preaching, is, that the minister should hunt after sinners and Christians, wherever they may have entrenched themselves in inaction. It is not the design of preaching to make men easy and quiet, but to make them ACT.
A minister ought to know the religious opinions of every sinner in his congregation. Indeed, a minister in the country is inexcusable if he does not. Every sinner has some hiding-place, some entrenchment, where he lingers. He is in possession of some darling LIE, with which he is quieting himself. Let the minister find it out, and get it away, either in the pulpit or in private, or the man will go to hell in his sins, and his blood will be found in the minister's skirt.
4. Another important thing to observe is, that a minister should dwell most on those particular points which are most needed. I have been in many places in times of revivals, and I have never been able to employ precisely the same course of preaching in one as in another. Some are entrenched behind one refuge, and some behind another. In one place, the church will need to be instructed; in another, sinners. In one place, one set of truths; in another, another set. A minister must find out where they are, and preach accordingly. I believe this is the experience of all preachers who are called to labour from field to field.
5. If a minister means to promote a revival, he should be very careful not to introduce controversy. He will grieve away the Spirit of God. In this way, probably, more revivals are put down, than in any other.
6. The Gospel should be preached in those proportions that the whole Gospel may be brought before the minds of the people, and produce its proper influence. If too much stress is laid on one class of truths, the Christian character will not have its due proportion. Its symmetry will not be perfect.
7. It is of great importance that the sinner should be made to feel his guilt, and not be left to the impression that he is unfortunate. Until you can do this, the Gospel will never take effect.
8. A prime object with the preacher must be to make PRESENT OBLIGATION felt. I have talked, I suppose, with many thousands of anxious sinners; and I have found that they had never before felt the pressure of present obligation. The impression is not commonly made by ministers in their preaching, that sinners are expected to repent NOW.
Until the sinner's conscience is reached on this subject, you preach to him in vain. And until ministers learn how to preach so as to make the right impression the world never can be converted. Oh, to what an alarming extent does the impression now prevail among the impenitent, that they are not expected to repent now.
9. Sinners should be made to feel that if they now grieve away the Spirit of God, it is very probably that they will be lost forever. There is infinite danger of this. They should be made to understand why they are dependent on the Spirit, and that it is not because they cannot do what God commands, but because they are unwilling. They are so opposed and so unwilling, that they never will repent in this world, unless God sends His Holy Spirit upon them.
Show them, too, that a sinner under the Gospel, who hears the truth preached, if converted at all, is generally converted young; and if not converted while young, he is commonly given up of God. Where the truth is preached, sinners are either hardened or converted. I know some old sinners are converted, but they are rather exceptions, and by no means common.
IV. THE MANNER OF PREACHING.
1. It should be conversational. Preaching, to be understood, should be colloquial in its style. A minister must preach just as he would talk, if he wishes fully to be understood. Nothing is more calculated to make a sinner feel that religion is some mysterious thing that he cannot understand, than this mouthing, formal, lofty style of speaking, so generally employed in the pulpit. The Gospel will never produce any great effect until ministers talk to their hearers in the pulpit, as they talk in private conversation.
2. It must be in the language of common life. Not only should it be colloquial in its style, but the words should be such as are in common use. Otherwise they will not be understood. In the New Testament you will observe that Jesus invariably uses words of the most common kind. You scarcely find a word of His instructions that any child cannot understand. The language of the Gospels is the plainest, simplest, and most easily understood of any language in the world. For a minister to neglect this principle, is wicked.
3. Preaching should be parabolical. That is, illustrations should be constantly used, drawn from incidents, real or supposed. Jesus constantly illustrated His instructions in this way. He would either advance a principle and then illustrate it by a parable, that is, a short story of some event, real or imaginary, or else he would bring out the principle in the parable. Truths not illustrated, are generally just as well calculated to convert sinners as a mathematical demonstrations.
The illustration should, if possible, be a matter of common occurrence, and the more common the occurrence the more sure it will be not to fix attention upon itself, but serve as a medium through which the truth is conveyed.
4. Preaching should be repetitious. If a minister wishes to preach with effect, he must not be afraid of repeating whatever he may see is not perfectly understood by his hearers. If a minister had his eyes on the people he is preaching to, he can commonly tell by their looks whether they understand him. And if he sees they do not understand any particular point, let him stop and illustrate it. If they do not understand one illustration, let him give another, and make it all clear to their minds before he goes on. Men are commonly so occupied with the affairs of this world, that they do not think much on the subject of religion, and they therefore need the plainest preaching, and they will like it.
5. A minister should always feel deeply his subject, and then he will suit the action to the word, and the word to the action, so as to make the full impression which the truth is calculated to make. It requires the utmost stretch of art, on the stage for the actors to make their hearers feel. The design of elocution is to teach this skill. But if a man feels his subject fully, he will naturally do it.
I once heard a remark made, respecting a young minister's preaching, which was instructive. He was uneducated, in the common sense of the term, but well educated to win souls. It was said of him: "The manner in which he comes in, and sits in the pulpit, and rises to speak, is a sermon of itself. It shows that he has something to say that is important and solemn." That man's manner of saying some things I have known to move the feelings of a whole congregation, when the same things said in a prosing way would have produced no effect at all.
6. A minister must anticipate the objections of sinners, and answer them. But ministers often leave one difficulty and another, untouched. Sinners who hear them feel the difficulty, and it is never got over in their minds, and they never know how to remove it, and perhaps the minister never takes the trouble to know that such difficulties exist, and yet he wonders why his congregation is not converted, and why there is no revival. How can he wonder at it, when he has never hunted up the difficulties and objections that sinners feel, and removed them?
7. If a minister means to preach the Gospel with effect, he must be sure not to be monotonous. And a minister cannot be monotonous in preaching, if he feels what he says.
8. A minister should address the feelings enough to secure attention, and then deal with the conscience and probe to the quick. If attention flags at any time, appeal to the feelings again, and rouse them up; but do your work with conscience.
9. If he can, it is desirable that a minister should learn the effect of one sermon, before he preaches another.
Before the Gospel takes general effect, we must have a class of extempore preachers, for the following reasons:
(a) No set of men can stand the labour of writing sermons and doing all the preaching which will be requisite.
(b) Written preaching is not calculated to produce the requisite effect. Such preaching does not present the truth in right shape.
(c) It is impossible for a man who writes his sermons to arrange his matter, and turn and choose his thoughts, so as to gain such an effect as when he addresses the people directly, and makes them feel that he means them.
We shall never have a set of men in our halls of legislation in our courts of justice, and in our pulpits, that are powerful and overwhelming speakers, and can carry the world before them, until our system of education teaches them to think, closely, rapidly, consecutively, and until all their habits of speaking in the schools are extemporaneous.
In delivering a sermon in this essay style of writing, it is impossible that nearly all the fire of meaning, and power of gesture, and looks, and attitude, and emphasis, should not be lost. We can never have the full meaning of the Gospel until we throw away our notes.
A minister's course of study and training for his work should be exclusively theological. But you will ask, should not a minister understand science? I would answer, Yes, the more the better. I would that ministers might understand all science. But it should all be in connection with theology. Studying science is studying the works of God. And studying theology is studying God.
The student spends four years in college at classical studies, and no God in them; and then three years in the seminary, at theological studies; and what then? Poor young man. Set him to work, and you will find that he is not educated for the ministry at all. The Church groans under his preaching, because he does not preach with unction, nor with power. He has been spoiled in training.
It is in vain for the schools to try to force down the throats of the churches a race of ministers who are learned in everything but what they most need to know. The churches have pronounced them not made right, and they will not sustain that which is notoriously so inadequate as the present system of theological education.
Pray for ministers, that God would give them this wisdom to win souls; and pray that God would bestow upon the Church the wisdom and the means to educate a generation of ministers who will go forward and convert the world.
The Church must travail in prayer, and groan and agonize for this. This is now the pearl of great price to the Church--to have a supply of the right sort of ministers. The coming of the Millennium depends on having a different sort of ministers, who are more thoroughly educated for their work. And this we shall have so sure as the promise of the Lord holds good. Such a ministry as is now in the Church will never convert the world; but the world is to be converted; and therefore God intends to have ministers who will do it: "Pray ye, therefore, the Lord of the harvest that He would send forth labourers into His harvest."
HOW TO WIN SOULS.
"Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself, and them that hear thee." 1 Tim. 4:16
I beg leave in this article to suggest to my younger brethren in the ministry some thoughts on the manner of so preaching the Gospel as to secure the salvation of souls. They are the result of much study, much prayer for divine teaching, and a practical experience of many years.
I understand the admonition at the head of this article to relate to the matter, order, and manner of preaching.
1. They are free moral agents, of course--rational, accountable. They are in rebellion against God, wholly alienated, intensely prejudiced, and committed against Him. They are committed to self-gratification as the end of their being.
2. This committed state is moral depravity, the fountain of sin within them, from which flow by a natural law all their sinful ways. This committed voluntary state is their "wicked heart." This it is that needs a radical change.
3. God is infinitely benevolent, and unconverted sinners are supremely selfish, so that they are radically opposed to God. Their committal to the gratification of their appetites and propensities is known in Bible language as the "carnal mind"; or, as in the margin, "the minding of the flesh," which is enmity against God.
4. This enmity is voluntary, and must be overcome, if at all, by the Word of God, made effectual by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The Gospel is adapted to this end, and when wisely presented we may confidently expect the effectual co-operation of the Holy Spirit. This is implied in our commission, "Go and disciple all nations, and lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world."
5. If we are unwise, illogical and out of all natural order in presenting the Gospel, we have no warrant for expecting divine co-operation. In winning souls, as in everything else, God works through and in accordance with natural laws. Hence, if we would win souls we must wisely adapt means to this end. We must present those truths and in that order adapted to the natural laws of mind, of thought and mental action. A false mental philosophy will greatly misled us, and we shall often be found ignorantly working against the agency of the Holy Spirit.
6. Sinners must be convicted of their enmity. They do not know God, and consequently are often ignorant of the opposition of their hearts to Him. "By the law is the knowledge of sin," because by the law the sinner gets his first true idea of God. By the law he first learns that God is perfectly benevolent, and infinitely opposed to all selfishness. This law, then, should be arrayed in all its majesty against the selfishness and enmity of the sinner.
7. This law carries irresistible conviction of its righteousness, and no moral agent can doubt it. All men know that they have sinned, but all are not convicted of the guilt and ill desert of sin. The many are careless and do not feel the burden of sin, the horrors and terrors of remorse, and have not a sense of condemnation and of being lost.
8. But without this they cannot understand or appreciate the Gospel method of salvation. One cannot intelligently and heartily ask or accept a pardon until he sees and feels the fact and justice of his condemnation.
9. It is absurd to suppose that a careless, unconvicted sinner can intelligently and thankfully accept the Gospel offer of pardon until he accepts the righteousness of God in his condemnation. Conversion to Christ is an intelligent change. Hence the conviction of ill desert must precede the acceptance of mercy; for without this conviction the soul does not understand its need of mercy. Of course, the offer is rejected. The Gospel is no glad tidings to the careless, unconvicted sinner.
10. The spirituality of the law should be unsparingly applied to the conscience until the sinner's self-righteousness is annihilated, and he stands speechless and self-condemned before a holy God.
11. In some men this conviction is already ripe, and the preacher may at once present Christ, with the hope of His being accepted; but at ordinary times such cases are exceptional. The great mass of sinners are careless, unconvicted, and to assume their conviction and preparedness to receive Christ, and, hence, to urge sinners immediately to accept Him, is to begin at the wrong end of our work--to render our teaching unintelligible. And such a course will be found to have been a mistaken one, whatever present appearances and professions may indicate. The sinner may obtain a hope under such teaching; but, unless the Holy Spirit supplies something which the preacher has failed to do, it will be found to be a false one. All the essential links of truth must be supplied.
12. When the law has done its work, annihilated self-righteousness, and shut the sinner up to the acceptance of mercy, he should be made to understand the delicacy and danger of dispensing with the execution of the penalty when the precept of law has been violated.
13. Right here the sinner should be made to understand that from the benevolence of God he cannot justly infer that God can consistently forgive him. For unless public justice can be satisfied, the law of universal benevolence forbids the forgiveness of sin. If public justice is not regarded in the exercise of mercy, the good of the public is sacrificed to that of the individual. God will never do this. This teaching will shut the sinner up to look for some offering to public justice.
14. Now give him the atonement as a revealed fact, and shut him up to Christ as his own sin offering. Press the revealed fact that God has accepted the death of Christ as a substitute for the sinner's death, and that this is to be received upon the testimony of God.
15. Being already crushed into contrition by the convicting power of the law, the revelation of the love of God manifested in the death of Christ will naturally beget great self-loathing, and that godly sorrow that needeth not to be repented of. Under this showing the sinner can never forgive himself. God is holy and glorious; and he is a sinner, saved by sovereign grace. This teaching may be more or less formal as the souls you address are more or less thoughtful, intelligent, and careful to understand.
16. It was not by accident that the dispensation of law preceded the dispensation of grace; but it is in the natural order of things, in accordance with established mental laws, and evermore the law must prepare the way for the Gospel. To overlook this in instructing souls is almost certain to result in false hope, the introduction of a false standard of Christian experience, and to fill the Church with spurious converts. Time will make this plain.
17. The truth should be preached to the persons present, and so personally applied as to compel everyone to feel that you mean him or her. As has been often said of a certain preacher: "He does not preach, but explains what other people preach, and seems to be talking directly to me."
This course will rivet attention, and cause your hearers to lose sight of the length of your sermon. They will tire if they feel no personal interest in what you say. To secure their individual interest in what you are saying is an indispensable condition of their being converted. And, while their individual interest is thus awakened, and held fast to your subject, they will seldom complain of the length of your sermon. In nearly all cases, if the people complain of the length of our sermons, it is because we fail to interest them personally in what we say.
If we fail to interest them personally, it is either because we do not address them personally, or because we lack unction and earnestness, or because we lack clearness and force, or certainly because we lack something that we ought to possess. To make them feel that we and that God mean them, is indispensable.
18. Do not think that earnest piety alone can make you successful in winning souls. This is only one condition of success. There must be common sense, there must be spiritual wisdom in adapting means to the end. Matter and manner and order and time and place all need to be wisely adjusted to the end we have in view.
God may sometimes convert souls by men who are not spiritually minded, when they possess that natural sagacity which enables them to adapt means to that end; the Bible warrants us in affirming that these are exceptional cases. But without this sagacity and adaptation of means to this end a spiritual mind will fail to win souls to Christ.
19. Souls need instruction in accordance with the measure of their intelligence. A few simple truths, when wisely applied and illuminated by the Holy Ghost, will convert children to Christ. I say wisely applied, for they too are sinners, and need the application of the law, as a schoolmaster, to bring them to Christ, that they maybe justified by faith. It will sooner or later appear that supposed conversions to Christ are spurious where the preparatory law work has been omitted, and Christ has not been embraced as a Savior from sin and condemnation.
Sinners of education and culture, who are, after all unconvicted and skeptical in their hearts, need a vastly more extended and thorough application of truth. Professional men need the Gospel net to be thrown quite around them, with no break through which they can escape; and, when thus dealt with, they are all the more sure to be converted in proportion to their real intelligence. I have found that a course of lectures addressed to lawyers, and adapted to their habits of thought and reasoning, is most sure to convert them.
20. To be successful in winning souls, we need to be observing--to study individual character, to press the facts of experience, observation, and revelation upon the consciences of all classes.
21. Be sure to explain the terms you use. Before I was converted, I failed to hear the terms repentance, faith, regeneration, and conversion intelligibly explained. Repentance was described as a feeling. Faith was represented as an intellectual act or state, and not as a voluntary act of trust. Regeneration was represented as some physical change in the nature, produced by the direct power of the Holy Ghost, instead of a voluntary change of the ultimate preference of the soul, produced by the spiritual illumination of the Holy Ghost. Even conversion was represented as being the work of the Holy Ghost in such a sense as to cover up the fact that it is the sinner's own act, under the persuasions of the Holy Ghost.
22. Urge the fact that repentance involves the voluntary and actual renunciation of all sin; that it is a radical change of mind toward God. Also the fact that saving faith is heart trust in Christ; that it works by love, it purifies the heart, and overcomes the world; that no faith is saving that has not these attributes.
The sinner is required to put forth certain mental acts. What these are he needs to understand. Error in mental philosophy but embarrasses, and may fatally deceive the inquiring soul. Sinners are often put upon a wrong track. They are put upon a strain to feel instead of putting forth the required acts of will. Before my conversion I never received from man any intelligible idea of the mental acts that God required of me.
The deceitfulness of sin renders the inquiring soul exceedingly exposed to delusion; therefore it behooves teachers to beat about every bush, and to search out every nook and corner where a soul can find a false refuge. Be so thorough and discriminating as to render it as nearly impossible as the nature of the case will admit that the inquirer should entertain a false hope.
23. Do not fear to be thorough. Do not through false pity put on a plaster where the probe is needed. Do not fear that you shall discourage the convicted sinner, and turn him back, by searching him out to the bottom. If the Holy Spirit is dealing with him, the more you search and probe the more impossible it will be for the soul to turn back or rest in sin.
If you would save the soul, do not spare a right hand, or right eye, or any darling idol; but see to it that every form of sin is given up. Insist upon full confession of wrong to all that have a right to confession. Insist upon full restitution, so far as is possible, to all injured parties. Do not fall short of the express teachings of Christ on this subject. Whoever the sinner may be, let him distinctly understand that unless he forsakes all that he has he cannot be the disciple of Christ. Insist upon entire and universal consecration of all powers of body and mind, and of all the property, possessions, character, and influence to God. Insist upon the total abandonment to God of all ownership of self, or anything else, as a condition of being accepted.
Understand yourself, and, if possible, make the sinner understand, that nothing short of this is involved in true faith, or true repentance, and that true consecration involves them all.
24. Keep constantly before the sinner's mind that it is the personal Christ with whom he is dealing, that God in Christ is seeking his reconciliation to Himself, and that the condition of his reconciliation is that he gives up his will and his whole being to God--that he "leaves not a hoof behind."
Assure him that "God has given to him eternal life, and this life is in His Son"; that "Christ is made unto him wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption"; and that from first to last he is to find his whole salvation in Christ.
When satisfied that the soul intelligently receives all this doctrine, and that Christ herein revealed, then remember that he must persevere unto the end, as the further condition of his salvation. Here you have before you the great work of preventing the soul from backsliding, of securing its permanent sanctification and sealing for eternal glory.
25. Does not the very common backsliding in heart of converts indicate some grace defect in the teachings of the pulpit on this subject? What does it mean that so many hopeful converts, within a few months of their apparent conversion, lose their first love, lose all their fervency in religion, neglect their duty, and live on in the name Christians, but in spirit and life worldlings?
26. A truly successful preacher must not only win souls to Christ, but must keep them won. He must not only secure their conversion, but their permanent sanctification. Nothing in the Bible is more expressly promised in this life than permanent sanctification. 1 Thess. V. 23, 24: "The very God of peace sanctify you wholly; and I pray God your whole spirit, soul, and body be preserved blameless unto the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. Faithful is He that calleth you, who also will do it." This is unquestionably a prayer of the apostle for permanent sanctification in this life, with an express promise that He who has called us will do it.
27. We learn from the Scriptures that "after we believe" we are, or may be, sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, and that this sealing is the earnest of our salvation. Eph. 1:13, 14: "In whom ye also trusted after that ye heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation; in whom also after that ye believed, ye were sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, which is the earnest of our inheritance until the redemption of the purchased possession, unto the praise of His glory." This sealing, this earnest of our inheritance, is that which renders our salvation sure. Hence, in Eph. 4:30, the apostle says: "Grieve not the Holy Spirit of God, whereby ye are sealed unto the day of redemption." And in 2 Cor. 1:21 and 22, the apostle says: "Now He which establisheth us with you in Christ, and hath anointed us, is God, who hath also sealed us and given the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts." Thus we are established in Christ and anointed by the Spirit, and also sealed by the earnest of the Spirit in our hearts. And this, remember, is a blessing that we receive after that we believe, as Paul has informed us in his Epistle to the Ephesians, above quoted. Now, it is of the first importance that converts should be taught not to rest short of this permanent sanctification, this sealing, this being established in Christ by the special anointing of the Holy Ghost.
Now, brethren, unless we know what this means by our own experience, and lead converts to this experience, we fail most lamentably and essentially in our teaching. We leave out the very cream and fullness of the Gospel.
It should be understood that while this experience is rare amongst ministers, it will be discredited by the churches, and it will be next to impossible for an isolated preacher of this doctrine to overcome the unbelief of his church.
28. Sin consists in carnal-mindedness, in "obeying the desires of the flesh and of the mind." Permanent sanctification consists in entire and permanent consecration to God. It implies the refusal to obey the desires of the flesh or of the mind. The baptism or sealing of the Holy Spirit subdues the power of the desires, and strengthens and confirms the will in resisting the impulse of desire, and in abiding permanently in a state of making the whole being an offering to God.
29. If we are silent upon this subject, the natural inference will be that we do not believe in it, and, of course, that we know nothing about it in experience. This will inevitably be a stumbling-block to the Church. Since this is undeniably an important doctrine, and plainly taught in the Gospel, and is, indeed, the marrow and fatness of the Gospel, to fail in teaching this is to rob the Church of its richest inheritance.
30. The testimony of the Church, as to a great extent of the ministry, on the subject has been lamentably defective. This legacy has been withheld from the Church, and is it any wonder that she so disgracefully backslides? The testimony of the comparatively few, here and there, that insist upon this doctrine is almost nullified by the counter-testimony or culpable silence of the great mass of Christ's witnesses.
31. No man, saint or sinner, should be left by us to rest or be quiet in the indulgence of any sin. No one should be allowed to entertain the hope of heaven, if we can prevent it, who lives in the indulgence of known sin in any form. Our constant demand and persuasion should be, "Be ye holy, for God is holy." "Be ye perfect, even as your Father in heaven is perfect." Let us remember the manner in which Christ concludes His memorable Sermon on the Mount. After spreading out those awfully searching truths before His hearers, and demanding that they should be perfect, as their Father in heaven was perfect, He concludes by assuring them that no one could be saved who did not receive and obey His teachings. Instead of attempting to please our people in their sins, we should continually endeavour to hunt and persuade them out of their sins. Brethren, let us do it, as we would not have our skirts defiled with their blood. If we pursue this course and constantly preach with unction and power, and abide in the fullness of the doctrine of Christ, we may joyfully expect to save ourselves and them that hear us.
PREACHER SAVE THYSELF.
1. See that you are constrained by love to preach the Gospel, as Christ was to provide a gospel. See that you have the special enduement of power from on high, by the baptism of the Holy Ghost.
2. See that you have a heart, and not merely a head call to undertake the preaching of the Gospel. By this I mean, be heartily and most intensely inclined to seek the salvation of souls as the great work of life, and do not undertake what you have no heart to.
3. Constantly maintain a close walk with God. Make the Bible your books of books. Study it much, upon your knees, waiting for divine light. Beware of leaning on commentaries. Consult them when convenient; but judge for yourself, in the light of the Holy Ghost.
4. Keep yourself pure--in will, in thought, in feeling, in word and action. Contemplate much the guilt and danger of sinners, that your zeal for their salvation may be intensified. Also deeply ponder and dwell much upon the boundless love and compassion of Christ for them. So love them yourself as to be willing to die for them.
5. Give your most intense thought to the study of ways and means by which you may save them. Make this the great and intense study of your life. Refuse to be diverted from this work. Guard against every temptation that would abate your interest in it. Believe the assertion of Christ that He is with you in this work always and everywhere, to give you all the help you need.
6. "He that winneth souls is wise"; and "If any man lack wisdom, let him ask of God, who giveth to all men liberally and upbraideth not, and he shall receive." "But let him ask in faith." Remember, therefore, that you are bound to have the wisdom that shall win souls to Christ. Being called of God to the work, make your calling your constant argument with God for all that you need for the accomplishment of the work.
7. Be diligent and laborious, "in season and out of season." Converse much with all classes of your hearers on the question of their salvation, that you may understand their opinions, errors, and wants. Ascertain their prejudices, ignorance, temper, habits, and whatever you need to know to adapt your instruction to their necessities.
8. See that your own habits are in all respects correct; that you are temperate in all things--free from the stain or smell of tobacco, alcohol, drugs, or anything of which you have reason to be ashamed, and which may stumble others.
9. Be not "light-minded," but "set the Lord always before you." Bridle your tongue, and be not given to idle and unprofitable conversation. Always let your people see that you are in solemn earnest with them, both in the pulpit and out of it; and let not your daily intercourse with them nullify your serious teaching on the Sabbath.
10. Resolve to "know nothing" among your people "save Jesus Christ and Him crucified"; and let them understand that, as an ambassador of Christ, your business with them relates wholly to the salvation of their souls. Be sure to teach them as well by example as by precept. Practice yourself what you preach.
11. Be especially guarded in your conversation with women, to raise no thought or suspicion of the least impurity in yourself.
12. Guard your weak points. If naturally tending to gaiety and trifling, watch against occasions of failure in this direction. If naturally somber and unsocial, guard against moroseness and unsociability. Avoid all affection and sham in all things. Be what you profess to be, and you will have no temptation to "make believe." Let simplicity, sincerity, and Christian propriety stamp your whole life.
13. Spend much time every day and night in prayer and direct communication with God. This will make you a power for salvation. No amount of learning and study can compensate for the loss of this communion. If you fail to maintain communion with God, you are "weak as another man."
14. Beware of the error that there are no means of regeneration, and, consequently, no connection of means and end in the regeneration of souls. Understand that regeneration is a moral, and therefore a voluntary change. Understand that the Gospel is adapted to change the hearts of men, and in a wise presentation of it you may expect the efficient co-operation of the Holy Spirit.
15. In the selection and treatment of your texts, always secure the direct teaching of the Holy Spirit. Let all your sermons be heart and not merely head sermons. Preach from experience, and not from hearsay, or mere reading and study.
16. Always present the subject which the Holy Spirit lays upon your heart for the occasion. Seize the points presented by the Holy Spirit to your own mind, and present them with the greatest possible directness to your congregation.
17. Be full of prayer whenever you attempt to preach, and go from your closet to your pulpit with the inward groanings of the Spirit pressing for utterance at your lips.
18. Get your mind fully imbued with your subject, so that it will press for utterance; then open your mouth, and let it forth like a torrent.
19. See that "the fear of man that bringeth a snare" is not upon you. Let your people understand that you fear God too much to be afraid of them. Never let the question of your popularity with your people influence your preaching. Never let the question of salary deter you from "declaring the whole counsel of God, whether men will hear or forbear."
20. Do not temporize, lest you lose the confidence of your people, and thus fail to save them. They cannot thoroughly respect you, as an ambassador of Christ, if they see that you dare not do your duty.
21. Be sure to "commend yourself to every man's conscience in the sight of God." Be "not a lover of filthy lucre." Avoid every appearance of vanity. Compel your people to respect your sincerity and your spiritual wisdom.
22. Do not make the impression that you are fond of good dinners, and like to be invited out to dine; for this will be a snare to you, and a stumbling-block to them. Keep your body under, lest after having preached to others, yourself should be a castaway.
23. "Watch for souls as one who must give an account to God." Be a diligent student, and thoroughly instruct your people in all that is essential to their salvation.
24. Never flatter the rich. Be especially attentive to the wants and instruction of the poor.
25. Suffer not yourself to be bribed into a compromise with sin by donation parties. Suffer not yourself to be publicly treated as a mendicant, or you will come to be despised by a large class of your hearers. Repel every attempt to close your mouth against whatever is extravagant, wrong, or injurious amongst your people.
26. Maintain your pastoral integrity and independence, lest you sear your conscience, quench the Holy Spirit, forfeit the confidence of your people, and lose the favour of God. Be an example to the flock, and let your life illustrate your teaching. Remember that your actions and spirit will teach even more impressively than your sermons.
27. If you preach that men should offer to God and their neighbour a love service, see that you do this yourself, and avoid all that tends to the belief that you are working for pay. Give to your people a love service, and encourage them to render to you, not a money equivalent for your labour, but a love reward that will refresh both you and them.
28. Repel every proposal to get money for you or for church purposes that will naturally disgust and excite the contempt of worldly but thoughtful men.
29. Resist the introduction of tea-parties, amusing lectures, and dissipating sociables, especially at those seasons most favourable for united efforts to convert souls to Christ. Be sure the devil will try to head you off in this direction. When you are praying and planning for a revival of God's work, some of your worldly church members will invite you to a party. Go not, or you are in for a circle of them and that will defeat your prayers.
Do not be deceived. Your spiritual power with your people will never be increased by accepting such invitations at such times. If it is a good time to have parties, because the people have leisure, it is also a good time for religious meetings, and your influence should be used to draw the people to the house of God.
30. See that you personally know and daily live upon Christ.
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