THE SPIRITUAL CLAIMS OF LONDON
DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, MAY 20, 1850.
BY THE REV. C. G. FINNEY,
OF THE OBERLIN COLLEGIATE INSTITUTE, UNITED STATES,
TO THE MEMBERS AND VISITORS OF THE CHRISTIAN INSTRUCTION SOCIETY,
AT THE TABERNACLE, MOORFIELDS.
"Go ye, therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost; teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you. And lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen."--MATTHEW 28: 19-20.
In speaking from these words, I propose to show. --
I. TO WHOM THESE WORDS WERE ADDRESSED;
II. WHAT THEY MEAN;
III. WHAT IS IMPLIED IN THEM;
IV. THE CONDITIONS OF OBEYING THIS INJUNCTION;
V. WHY THE WORK IS NOT DONE.
I. To whom these words were addressed.
Undoubtedly these words were first addressed to Christ's immediate disciples; but I suppose no one will imagine that the spirit of these words was confined to them. It cannot be supposed that Christ expected the Apostles themselves to do all this work alone. No doubt this commission was given to the Church of Christ as such. The spirit of these words, then, from the very nature of the case, was addressed to the Church of Christ of every age; and not only to the Church as a body, but to particular individuals of the Church.
II. What these words mean.
If you will read the margin of your Bibles, you will see that the translation is, Make disciples, or Christians, of all nations. This is no doubt the true meaning. Not merely teach all nations, but disciple them; make them disciples, or Christians. The injunction is this, Go and convert all the nations of the earth; make Christians of them; "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you; and lo! I am with alway, even unto the end of the world." I pass over these thoughts very rapidly, because I suppose all my hearers will at once admit that the spirit of this injunction is addressed to the Church of Christ as such; and if to the Church collectively, of course to each minister and member of the Church in particular: and that the Spirit of this injunction is binding upon every Christian in the world to whom this language may come.
III. What is implied in this injunction.
1. The injunction itself implies the ability of the Church to do what Christ requires. Every command of God implies this,--that those to whom the command is given have ability to obey it. This every individual must, I think, admit, --that when God enjoins anything, the very injunction itself implies the ability to perform in those to whom the command is given. Understand me; I do not mean by this that we have ability to fulfil this command of God without Christ; but observe the promise, "Lo! I am with you ALWAY;" not sometimes and in some places, but always and everywhere. Of course, this is implied, that if Christ is with us always, he is with us everywhere. It is implied, then, that with Christ's strength, and with his presence, the Church is able to all that he requires her to do.
2. Another thing implied is this, that it is the mission of the Church to effect the conversion of the world. Now, let me say, if the Church is required to convert the world, you are required to convert London--that part of the world where you reside. In other words, you are to take your part in the work; God requires nothing more than that you should do just what you are able to do, through the presence and agency of Christ. But let me repeat what I have just said. We are to understand that Christ, by this injunction, has made it the business of the Church to convert the world; consequently, it is the great mission of Christians in every locality to secure the conversion of those in their immediate neighbourhoods, and as many others as they can, but by no means to forget their own families, connexions, and localities; their business is to convert and lead these to Christ.
3. This injunction implies that this is their first, great, and only business in the world. I do not mean that preaching the Gospel is the only business of the Church, for books and tracts must be prepared and printed, and many other things done which are included in this requirement and essential to its fulfillment; but remember, all things are to be done to this end. Christians are to eat and drink, labour and rest, for the glory of God. They are to do all with the view of fulfilling this command of God--make it their whole business to secure this great object. It implies, then, that the Church are to be a band of missionaries; that every individual of the Church is a missionary; that the spirit of Christ is essentially a missionary spirit; that every individual in every locality is to regard himself as a missionary of Christ, placed there for the purpose of securing the salvation of those around him. It is said in the Bible that you are "the light of the world,"--set there that you may exhibit the light of truth, and be an example to those around you. You are "the salt of the earth,"--scattered broad-cast among the people, to preserve them from putrefaction.
IV. Notice some of the conditions by which the true spirit of this injunction may be complied with.
1. Confidence in the presence, and in the ready and effectual co-operation of Christ. What do you suppose Christ intended by saying, "Lo! I am with you always, even to the end of the world?" For what purpose did Christ make this promise if he did not mean, Lo! I am with you for the effectual helping of you to do what I have commanded you? Now, I suppose when Christ said these words, "Lo, I am with you always even to the end of the world," he would have us to understand this, which is the spirit of the promise: do this work, and mind, you shall not be straitened in me; you shall receive all the help you need from me. I will be with you in this thing; my heart is with you, my power is with you, my presence is with you, and my sympathies are all with you, always and everywhere. Is not this the meaning? What else can be meant by these words? Now, I suppose no Christian will deny that this is the meaning of the words, and the very meaning that Christ intended to convey to us. Now, if so, we must believe it. Everything that Christ has said is to be received in faith; in order that it may be effectual, it must be received in faith; therefore, I observe as the first condition upon which the Church can ever secure the conversion of the world, or individuals can convert those around them, we must believe that Christ is with us. Now, it is generally admitted, that Christ is in some sense with his Church; but he is only with his Church so far as he is there personally with the individuals who compose that Church, in their efforts to secure, and do what he requires of them. We are to believe this, have confidence in the fact that he is present to help us by his spirit, always present with us, and ready to sympathise, and co-operate with us for the securing of the great end which we are commanded to accomplish.
2. Once more: I regard this as a fundamental condition of success; a realising reliance on, and appropriation of this truth by the Church of Christ. Where this is not realised and appropriated, I believe there is little power to convert men from their sins.
3. Again: Another condition of success is that we thoroughly believe that in Christ's strength we are able to go up and take possession of the land. There must be the conviction and the realisation of the fact, by the Church, that she is able to do what Christ has commanded her to do: that Christians are able to accomplish the end at which he has told them to aim. This truth stands out blazing on the pages of inspiration that the Church is able to convert the world, and that she shall ultimately possess the land.
4. Another condition of success in this great enterprise, is the devotion of the whole Church to this work. This enterprise cannot be accomplished by a few of the members of the Church, while the rest of them stand right in the way. Every indolent member is a hindrance in the way of good being done. That individual who is not engaged in the work stands right in the way, and will often undo as much as the others can effect; therefore the body of the Church, the whole membership of the Church, must come up to this work. If, now, the entire body of the Church of this City of London were to come up to this work, and engage in it with ardour, take hold of it in faith, believing that in Christ's strength they are able to possess the land, what a vast revival of religion would you witness in this city.
5. Once more, a thorough realisation of individual responsibility in this work is indispensable to success. A vast multitude of professors of religion feel but little personal responsibility. But if the masses of the people are ever to be converted, the entire membership of the Church must become alive to this fact, that they are individually accountable for the conversion of their fellow-creatures. Every one will see, if he reflects upon it, that this must be a condition of success on a large scale. Now, if you ask me what I suppose to be the greatest difficulty in the way of success, in the extension of religion, in any locality, I would reply, the unbelief and want of right spirit and agency on the part of professors in that locality. They are not in a state in which they can realise their own responsibility; and they have not confidence in the Gospel. Now, while this is the case with them, they are hindering, instead of advancing, the Gospel in their midst.
6. Another indispensable condition of success is this, there must be sympathy with Christ in love to souls. Those who would undertake this work must enter into Christ's sympathies, feel as he felt and feels for sinners, pity them as he pities them, blame them as he blames them; take God's part against them as he does, and yet stand in such a relation as to sympathise both with God and man; addressing themselves to the work as Christ and the Apostles addressed themselves to the work. It is a very remarkable fact that those Christians in every age of the Church who have entered into sympathy both with God and man, have been those whose efforts have told most upon the world. The Lord Jesus Christ is a beautiful, perfect, specimen of this; he sympathised most intensely with the holiness of God, and yet he felt most tenderly for the distressed and guilty condition of fallen man. He was full of zeal for the purity of the Divine government; he was always ready to sacrifice his life, as he did sacrifice it, to honour the law; still he was full of compassion, kindness, and love, to all classes and conditions of men, whatever might be their forlorn and suffering condition. He stood between God and man, and sympathised, not with the sins of men, but with the infirmities and sufferings of their nature--all that in an any way affected their well-being. He stood in such a relation as to be an example to us; he sympathised both with God and man. The primitive Church caught the same spirit, for although his personal intercourse with them had ceased, he continued to be with them through the agency of his Spirit; and thus they possessed the same idea, and practised the same course of conduct. They came into habits of deep sympathy with God in their love for souls. They counted not their lives dear unto them, if by any means they might save souls; and the spoiling of their goods in this enterprise, they took joyfully, counting themselves honoured in having to suffer for his name and cause. They laid themselves without reserve on the altar, and this was the secret of their success. Now, beloved brethren, the conditions of success are the same now as then. If there is to be many converted, there must be a spirit of fervent prayer, and a large development of this sympathy of which I have been speaking, in the souls of Christ's ministers, the same as in the days of the Apostles. If you ask me, What is the reason of the want of success now? I say, the great reason is, because the spirit with which Christ and the Apostles began this work is not developed in the Church, and in individual members of the Church, to such an extent as to move the world--this is the reason of the difficulty. It is not that the Gospel is different. The Gospel is just the same now as it was in the days when the Apostles preached it; it will have just the same power in our hands that it had in the hands of the Apostles. Some persons speak as if they supposed that in the mouths of uninspired men the Gospel could not be expected to produce such great effects as when the Apostles preached it. But why, pray? What has inspiration to do with it? Inspiration revealed the Gospel; taught men to write what they have recorded; which record we have, and the same spirit which indited it, to explain it. Wherein, then, are we deficient? Depend upon it, friends, if we have the same spirit of love and confidence, with the same sympathy which they had both with God and man, the Gospel will be as powerful in our hands as it was in the hands of the Apostles. Since I have been a Christian myself, I have seen many hundreds of instances in which wonderful success in winning souls to Christ has attended those who have had the qualifications of which I have been speaking--sympathy with God and man. But I cannot now enter into these details or even mention these instances, in one lecture. I should like to deliver a course of lectures to this Society, instead of one, that I might direct your attention to these things.
7. Again: another condition of the success of the Churches in any given locality, is this--they must enter into sympathy with Christ, in respect to his spirit of self-sacrifice for the promotion of this work. The spirit of the Gospel is essentially a spirit of self-denial; and rely upon it, when this spirit is developed in the Church she will succeed in making great progress in this work. In order to great success there must be the same willingness to lay everything upon the altar, that was manifested by Christ, his Apostles, and the Primitive Church. Jesus laid everything upon the altar, in order to save men; and we must count nothing dear to us that can be given up for the promotion of this great object.
8. Another indispensable condition to success is the entire consecration of the ministry to this work. The ministers of Christ bear a very important relation to this work, but they are not required to accomplish it all themselves. They are like the officers in an army; instead of attempting to do all the fighting themselves, they direct the energies of others. Ministers are the officers in Christ's great army, who are fighting against sin, and seeking to win dominion for their Master: they take an important and leading part in the work, but by no means are they to be expected to do all the fighting themselves, any more than officers are in any army in the world.
9. I said there must be entire consecration to this work; and let me add further, that unless they manifest a true spirit of consecration, they will be stumbling-blocks to the rest of the Church. It is indispensable that they should show themselves to be men given up to this work, absolutely,--men possessing the true spirit of self-sacrifice, sympathizing with God and man; and that they are on the altar in this matter. Without this, the masses in any locality will never be moved, and the minister will be a hindrance in the way of good being done. I do not know what may be the condition of the ministry here in London, and therefore I speak not personally, but I speak a general truth when I say, that if Christians do not see that their ministers are heart and soul in this work, that they are ready to sacrifice anything to promote it, they are, and must be, stumbling-blocks in the way of good being done. In order to be greatly useful, those men, whom God has placed in such a position, must let everybody see that they are heart and soul in this work, that they have laid their all upon the altar, that they count not their comfort, their reputation, their salary, nor even their lives dear unto themselves in comparison to moving the masses of mankind and bringing them to God.
10. Another indispensable condition of success is this: Lay men and women must cease to lay down one rule for their minister and another for themselves. They must conduct themselves by the same rule, and be upon the altar, too, in their respective spheres of labour. Instead of criticizing their ministers, and finding fault with them, they must work under his direction and assistance. If the membership of the Church just suppose that they can put their responsibility upon the ministers, they are entirely mistaken. Suppose that the ministers come into the pulpits Sunday after Sunday, and labour, and toil, and weep, and pray, and the sinners sit and listen to the solemn and awful truths which come from the preacher's lips, and feel that they are solemn and awful realities; but suppose in the same place there is a multitude of careless professors of religion who show by their conduct that they don't believe what has been preached, what stumbling-blocks are they in the way of the conversion of these sinners, who would otherwise, in all probability, be converted! By their conduct they seem to say, "We don't believe in the truth of what our minister says in the pulpit--it is all very well for Sunday, and he is paid to believe and teach these things, but we don't concern ourselves about them." How many times, when ministers have poured out all their heart before a congregation, have sinners been roused, and felt their hearts start up in fear, and their hair to stand on end, in consequence of what they have heard; they are deeply impressed. The congregation begins to move out, the professors of religion laugh and shake hands with each other, and going home they converse upon indifferent subjects, just as if they had not been hearing of those great and eternal realities; and seem to say by all their words, actions, and looks, "Don't you be alarmed, you see we are not at all alarmed, and we have heard more about these things than ever you did; these things may be very well for the Sabbath, and fit for the pulpit, but there is no truth in them." No wonder that sinners are unconverted! The membership of the Churches must be made to feel their individual responsibility, they must come into sympathy with Christ, and with the minister so far as he sympathises with Christ, and labour with him for the conversion of souls. Let them understand that they must cease to apply one rule to the minister, another to themselves; let them feel their individual responsibility, and come right out and consecrate themselves for the work, and lay their all upon God; and then we shall see a great revival of true religion in our midst.
11. Another indispensable condition of success is, that our religion must begin at home, with our children and those immediately under our influence; and then we must seek the conversion of those whom, next to these, we can most readily reach and influence. When individuals are themselves converted, let them next secure the conversion of their children and those around them; and if they did this, they would create around them a little green and refreshing spot like that around the Siloam well, and its delightful soul -cheering and holy influence would soon be felt on every side. Let it be understood that persons must begin at home, and with those immediately around them, and then the influence must necessarily extend further. This must not only be felt to be true of ministers, but of everybody professing godliness. Let them each lay hold on their next friend, and bring him to Christ.
12. Another condition of success is this. The Church, and every individual member of the Church, must realise the guilt and danger of sinners. Let them look at it, and dwell upon it as they ought, and not turn their minds away from it. I have often thought that the reason why there is so little distress in the Church with respect to the state of sinners is, that Christians do not like to consider their real guilt and danger. They do not stir up their minds to a consideration of the real state of their children and their neighbours around them. Now, let me say, if persons are ever to be stirred up to take hold upon this subject, they must think upon it; and if they are ever to come into sympathy with God and man, they must attend to this subject; the mind must dwell upon it.
13. Once more: another condition of success is this--the members of the Church must cease to operate so much by proxy as they now do. The fact is, there is a very great and fatal tendency in Christians to do this, the great business of their lives, by proxy. They hire a minister, and pay a pound or two towards the support of a missionary, or a colporteur, and fancy that they have done the whole of their duty. Now, it is true that much good is to be done by ministers, missionaries, colporteurs, district visitors, and others in their several departments, but the Church membership must be wholly engaged if there is to be a large measure of success. The personal exertion of every Christian is needful and imperative; personal influence, personal conversation, prayer, and intelligent warning must be a condition of success in this great enterprise. I have never known this species of effort to be employed in any locality without an immediate and glorious result. I do not believe, in the history of the world, that the membership of any Church, in any part of the world, have engaged in this work in a right spirit, and from proper motives, without the success being such as to astonish themselves, it has been so far above all that they had expected. I say that every individual should be personally engaged in making known the Gospel, but I do not mean that they can give up their entire time to this work, but I do mean to say that very much more time might be employed by professors in this work than is at present, and immense good might result from it.
14. Another condition of success is: the Church must cease to neglect her duty, and then charge the failure upon the sovereignty of God. Some people talk as if want of success was to be ascribed to some mysterious sovereignty of God. It will do for us to talk of the sovereignty of God when we have done our duty, but not before. Why, what would you think of a man who should neglect to sow his field, and then, because at the time of harvest he had no crop, should ascribe it to the sovereignty of God? Or what would you think of a man who so shamefully neglected his business as to become a bankrupt, and then charge it to the sovereignty of God? Why, you would see the absurdity and wickedness of it at once. If the farmer tills and sows his land properly and wisely, and then God should send a blight upon it, so be it; but until he has done his duty in the spirit of dependence upon God, let him cease to talk, as if the want of a crop was the result of some mysterious sovereignty of God. So with Christians, they must cease to neglect their duty before they talk of the sovereignty of God hindering the conversion of sinners.
15. Again: professors of religion must cease to suppose that they do their duty, when they do not live in the true spirit of the Gospel. For example, suppose a minister should go into the pulpit from ambitious motives, that his chief desire should be to secure a great name for himself; and suppose this minister should say when he got home, "Well, I have preached so many times to-day, and I have done my duty." He preaches with a cold and unbelieving heart, and with little or no sympathy with Christ, little of no faith in the efficacy of the Gospel; and then can go home and say, "Well, whatever the result, I have done my duty;" and thus the want of success which is sure to follow such preaching, is thrown carelessly and wickedly upon God. "I have done my duty." No! You have not done your duty, even if you have preached the Gospel in all its fulness, unless you have done it from a right motive, and in the spirit of the Gospel. If there are ministers present, let me say, that I am not affirming that you do any of these things, and preach the Gospel from wrong and impure motives, for I know you not; but I would call your attention to this, my brethren, for neither you nor I preach the Gospel in the spirit in which we ought to preach it, although we may preach the truth, and nothing but the truth, if we do not preach it in the spirit, and with the faith that Christ requires. Suppose our hearers should come to meeting and hear the Gospel, but not obey it, not believe it, and should then go home and say, "Well, we have been to meeting, and so we have done our duty." Nay! they have tempted God, instead of doing their duty. Let us, then cease to talk about religion or duty, unless we come to our duty with right motives, and perform it in a right spirit. When we have done this, we may cast the results upon God, assured that Christ will complete the work which we have thus begun--for he says, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world."
16. Another condition of success is this: the Church must come out from the world and show herself, and let it be known that God has a people in the world. Let there be a visible and plain distinction, that people may see that they are actuated by a different spirit, and living for a different end: they must appear to be what God says they are, "a holy nation, a royal priesthood, a peculiar people, zealous of good works." This is to be plainly seen as an indispensable condition of eminent success.
17. The stumbling-blocks, which have been produced by a worldly spirit, must be taken out of the way. If we have manifested an unkind, or unjust, or unchristian spirit, in our families, in our neighbourhoods, or in our business relations; anything that caused men to stumble; led them to doubt our Christianity, or gave them reason to doubt whether there was any truth in religion at all,--I say we must take these stumbling-blocks up, we must take them out of the way; we must confess our sins and forsake them, and show, by our constant anxiety for the souls of our children and our neighbours, that we have faith in our religion, and desire them to participate in its blessings. As an illustration, let me mention a fact which occurred in America. An elder of a Presbyterian Church, one of the most respectable men of the town where he lived, and was thought by his neighbours to be a very religious man, as he attended to the forms of religion very regularly; but still there was a deal of formality about him, and but little of the powerful life-giving energy of religion. This man had a large family of sons and daughters at the time of which I am speaking, men and women grown, and yet none of them were converted. One day he was walking alone, a little way from his house, when he became very seriously impressed with the thought that his family were not converted, and questioned himself as to the reason; and he was forcibly struck with the conviction that he had never entered into the subject with them in such a manner as that they should be able to realise their guilt and danger; and as he continued to reflect upon this, such was his agony that he trembled fearfully, and the perspiration rolled down his face. He started off for his house, and before he could get there he fairly ran. When he reached the house he inquired in a very excited voice for one and another of his children; hearing the tones and manner in which their father was speaking, the family were soon assembled to learn what could be the matter. When they were all come together, the father fell upon his knees, and made confession to them and to God, and prayed for their souls. It so affected the whole family that in a very short time they were all converted. Now, I could tell you of multitudes of cases similar to this, where individuals have come to see that they have not done their duty, but have resolved to do it, and obtained a blessed result.
18. Again: if the Church will succeed in this matter, she must be willing to be searched and reproved; and the language of every member must be, "Search me, O search me, and try my heart, and see what evil there be in me; and lead me in the way that is everlasting." They must be intensely desirous to know what is essential to this great work, and be made fit for its accomplishment. There must be deep self-examination, and a determination to do whatever is necessary to be done.
19. The Church must cease to grieve the Holy Spirit by her selfishness and self indulgence. The fact is, persons are often complaining that they want the Spirit, while they are grieving the Spirit by their self-indulgent practices. While in this state it is naturally impossible for them to have the Spirit dwelling in their hearts. Many individuals grieve the Holy Spirit, and yet they are not conscious of it. They live in a great many forms of self-indulgence, and complain of the absence of the Spirit, and yet do not know wherein they are in fault. Are not ministers often very guilty in this respect? My design is not to reprove ministers where reproof is not needed; but I must be faithful. Oh, brethren, take care not to grieve the Holy Spirit! Watch your thoughts, and be careful of all your actions, and separate yourselves from worldly men and worldly influences as much as you can, in order that you may the more effectually help forward the work of God.
20. The spirit of caste must be got rid of. By the spirit of caste I mean the spirit that seems to overlook the fact that men are brethren. From the very nature of things, I know there will be different stations in society, and which probably will always exist to a greater or less extent; and those which are proper I do not condemn; but there is an improper feeling and spirit too much prevalent among many in the higher walks of life, which prevents their doing good to those below them in station. I have been astonished sometimes to see the aversion of many good professors of religion to descend to the lower class of society to do them good. Now, you know that this was not the case with Jesus Christ, whose constant aim it was to benefit and bless the poor; and he even went to this class for the men whom he chose for his apostles, to carry the Gospel to the world. I cannot enlarge upon this now; but you all know that in every locality there is a spirit of caste that misrepresents the Christian religion, and does an immense injury to the great mass of the lower class in consequence. Christians, while they should faithfully rebuke their vices and reprove them for their sins, should also deeply sympathise with them in their poverty, and pity their distresses; and this is the way to win their hearts and lead them to the Saviour. The most flimsy infidelity takes possession of their minds, just in proportion to the seeming sympathy of the infidel teachers with their wants and necessities. They know how to appreciate such kindness; and the fact is, there is a great want of deep and intense sympathy on the part of the Christian Church with the masses of the poorer classes. Let this state of things be altered; let them get the impression, let it be once understood, that Christians are living to do them good in every way, and they will prefer Christianity to infidelity. It is not meant that Christians, in showing their sympathy should take such a part as to connive at their intemperance or sin in any form; but let the Christian seek to win them from vice, and persuade them to give up their intemperance in every form and degree; seek their welfare, temporal and spiritual, and a blessed result will follow. I have been astonished many times to see what a want of this spirit is to be found in different localities; and, in consequence, the mass of mankind are carried away with the most flimsy and absurd infidelity, because Christians fail to take any deep sympathy and interest in them. Now, if you are parents, let your families see that you earnestly desire their conversion to God. If you are a master, and have many persons under your influence, let them see that you have an earnest desire for their good, that you are vastly more desirous of securing their soul's salvation than their services in your business. The power of such conduct will be very great; it will move them--there is no mistake about it. But I must pass rapidly over these thoughts.
21. The Churches must be willing to be searched, and must help to search each other. Several years since, the students of one of my theological classes came to me for advice, as to the best plan they could adopt to assist each other in the best possible way to prepare for the ministry. I advised them to have a weekly meeting to search each other, to open their hearts to each other; and, furthermore, to privately tell each other their faults, and in the most fraternal manner try to reform everything that was wrong in their hearts, spirit, habits, and manners; in all and everything to make the most holy self-denial; and to unite in prayer for each other. They did this in several classes, and just in proportion as they have been faithful to each other, have I had the satisfaction of seeing them become prosperous and godly men, scattered about over our great country, with hearts full of love and faith, prosecuting the great work to which Christ has called them. Those classes that did most for each other in the way which I have named, have succeeded best, since they entered the ministry, in winning souls to Christ. Thus, I say, the Churches of Christ must be willing to be searched, they must search each other by all possible fidelity, kindness, and brotherly love.
22. Once more, all parties must realise their true responsibility. Every individual must remember that he is a missionary. We speak of missionaries as if they were men only who were sent to preach the Gospel to the heathen, or were connected with some Society for spreading the Gospel at home, forgetting often that every Christian is a missionary, or ought to be.
23. A high standard of piety is an indispensable condition to success in this work: there will never be any very great success in this city, or in any other locality, if the standard of piety be not greatly elevated in the Churches. In those localities that I have known, where great revivals of religion have taken place, the standard of piety has been raised higher and higher from time to time. Some person speak of revivals as if they were mere temporary excitements; that after revivals there has been declension, which has left the standard of religion lower than it was before the revival took place. Now, so far as my experience goes, I never knew such a state of things as that; if it was really a revival of religion, and Christians have got the standard of piety elevated in their own hearts, they will get a new development of spiritual life, from the brightness of which they may afterwards decline; but they will never go back so far as they were before. I have known persons pass through another and another revival; but at every succeeding revival they have had a higher development of spiritual life within them. Now, I stand not here to charge you with being hypocrites or backsliders, but I say, if you are to move the masses, and be the means of numerous conversions, you must have a higher standard of piety, a higher development of spiritual life. This must be! I will take your present standard at any given point, and say, from that point, whatever it may be, your piety must be greatly elevated; and just in that proportion will you be able to reach and influence those around you. If there are any ministers who sustain such a position before their people as not move their hearts, let me tell them that they never will move them, until they themselves have a higher development of spiritual life. Visitors, tract distributors, and all other labourers in this work, let me tell you--and you will, of course, not be offended with me when I tell you--that there must be a more thorough development of Christ in you; it must manifest itself in your looks, manners, and voice, that every man with whom you meet may be satisfied that you are sincere. A man by only looking at you can tell whether you are in earnest. The tone of your voice will often reveal the state of your heart. A man might go through the streets of the city calling, Fire! fire! in such tones that nobody would believe him. Now, you must speak about religion in such tones that people will believe you, or you will fail to make any impression. If you speak about religion in such a way as to lead men to suppose that you don't yourself believe what you are saying, it is impossible for you to get persons to believe what you say. You must be so much in earnest that your earnestness cannot be concealed. Whitfield used to stand in this pulpit, and let me ask what was the secret of his power? His earnestness. Everybody knew that he was in earnest. All men felt, they could not but feel, that he was in solemn earnest, and so they listened and were saved. Let the Church awake up from sleep, and show herself to be in earnest, and when she has done this, if she fails, then talk of the sovereignty of God, and not before.
Leaving the answer to the question, Why the work is not done? till next Wednesday evening. I close with asking--
1. Are you, my dear brethren, prepared to comply with these conditions? What do you say, brethren? What do I say? Are you willing to lay your life on the altar? Am I willing? I think I can say, as honestly as I can say anything, Yes, I am.
2. Now, beloved, let us come to this work asking, Why am I not more useful, why cannot I do more for God? There is a great mistake somewhere? Where is it?