WHY LONDON IS NOT CONVERTED
Delivered on Wednesday Evening, June 5th, 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, baptising 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 xxviii. 19, 20.
I commenced last week the discussion of the subject which is not to engage our attention. As you know, then intimated, in the first place, that this command, in its spirit, was given to the Church of Christ in all ages, and to each individual member of that Church; secondly, that its true meaning is, that Christians are to go forth and make disciples, or Christians, of all nations; thirdly, I endeavored to show what was implied by this command; and fourthly, dwelt upon some of the conditions of obeying this injunction; and reserved till this evening because I had not then time to enter upon it, the fifth proposition, WHY THE WORK IS NOT DONE. What are some of the things which stand in the way, that have hindered, and are hindering, the accomplishment of this work.
1. I must pass very rapidly over the thoughts that I have to present to you; and begin first by saying that the Churches for a long time have practically forgotten that the conversion of the world is the great business assigned them--the great and only business they have in the world; they have practically forgotten that, and have come to suppose that they have very much the same business in the world as other men. They have ceased to regard the conversion of men as their peculiar, great, and only business in the world; for they are, evidently, living for other ends, and for the promotion of other objects. I do not mean by this that every Christian is to sustain professionally the office of a minister; but I say that the whole Church are required to become missionaries--each man and each woman is to become a missionary.
Now, at our foreign missionary stations, and in our home missions, there are various kinds of work to be done; but we expect those whom we send out to foreign lands, or those engaged at home, that they shall give themselves up to the work and labor for that end to which they are appointed. We don't expect our missionaries to go abroad to enrich themselves by engaging in trade and commerce, or to concern themselves about these matters at all, only so far as it is necessary for the promotion of their great object--the salvation of men and the glory of God.
Now, do you suppose that the impression made upon the world by the Church is, that they are a company of missionaries whose great and only business is to convert the world to Christ? Is this the impression that the world has with reference to the Church? Do you suppose that the world has got this impression--that the entire Church are missionaries, living for nothing else but to convert the world? Or does the world no longer understand that all the Church are missionaries? Do you believe that the people of London are under the impression that the Christians in London are a band of missionaries whose great and only object is to convert men? Or is the impression on the opposite side, that they are not living for this end, but are seeking to enrich themselves and their families by every means that they can adopt, just as other people are? Which impression is the Church making upon London?
Now, it is easy to see, if the Church have forgotten their mission, if they have ceased to make the world understand that they are living for them and God--if they live so much like other people that the world can see, and cannot mistake, that they are living for selfish ends, there is no cause for wonder at the Church's want of success. If the Church is to be successful, the world must understand that every Christian is a missionary--every man and woman professing Christianity is a missionary, and that their business is to convert men to God, that this is the great and only end for which they live. When the world understand this, the work of conversion will go forward and not before.
How was it in the primitive Church? Did the primitive Church make this impression upon the world? Yes, they did! And if the Church will now do the same, she shall succeed even as that Church did. The primitive Church understood that they were a band of missionaries, that their business in the world was to convert the world. But how long is it since the impression has ceased to be made that this is the real great, and only business of the Church? It is now come to be regarded as a professional employment to teach religion and convert men: ministers themselves think so, and speak as if it were so; and hardly anybody now thinks differently.
The Church does not dream that it is their work to convert men; and the ministers do not think that it belongs to anybody but themselves; they regard themselves as set apart for this end--to teach religion professionally. But let me say, that while this state of things exists, and the Church continues to forget its mission, the Church is the great stumbling-block in the way of the conversion of the world. This is the great difficulty--this is the great hindrance to the conversion of men. I shall have occasion to advert to this again.
2. Another reason why the work has not been done long ago, and is not now going rapidly forward, is, the Church is seeking to be COMFORTABLE rather than USEFUL. The great mass of professors are making their own comfort, temporal and spiritual, the great end for which they live. And ministers, very generally, do not lay themselves out to be useful, but are seeking chiefly to be comfortable. The prevailing disposition of the minds of both the Church and the ministry is to be comfortable rather than useful. Now, does this conduct harmonize with the conduct of Jesus Christ? His whole life, from beginning to end, testifies to the contrary; he lived not to please himself, but labored, and toiled, and suffered for the glory of God and the good of man. Everybody could see what his great object was.
3. But, let me say, that the Church not having secured this end, it has come to pass, as might have been supposed, that Christians have failed to be either useful or comfortable. The highest comfort of a Christian lies in doing his duty; and if Christians have neglected this, there is no wonder that they have failed to be either comfortable or useful. The Church should understand that their great and only concern is to do the work which God has required of them; and that the doing of this is indispensable to their real comfort. But the Church has forgotten this, and has been selfishly seeking her own comfort rather than her usefulness, and no wonder that she has failed to be either happy or useful. In her hands, the Gospel has failed to be consoling to herself or powerful in the conversion of men. A great mistake has been committed; Christians have been drawn aside from their proper work, and are living so much to themselves that they have libelled Christianity, and have not exhibited it in its living power, either as a peace-giving religion or a religion that has power with God and man.
4. This leads me to say again: in thus doing, the Church has failed to develop a full and true idea of what religion is. Professors generally are not possessed of a true idea of religion. In hundreds, and I may say thousands, of instances I have been told by professing Christians, who have been many years in Christian society, "I never before got a true idea of religion; I see now that I have made a mistake in supposing that religion consists in merely doing my duty lest I should be damned. I used to do my duty, or what I conceived to be my duty, in order that I might be saved; but I never got the idea that religion consisted in living for the salvation of souls and the glory of God."
Now, if Christians live without a true idea of what real religion is, what impression can the world get of the religion of Jesus Christ? The impression made upon the world will be, that the religion of Jesus is, in itself, essentially the same as it is manifested by his professed followers. What other idea can the world get? Now, do you suppose that, if Jesus had lived to promote his own personal comfort and to please himself, anybody would have got the impression that he was living for the salvation of men--that his great aim was to bring them to God? Would this have been the impression made upon his immediate disciples, and would the effect of this have been developed in their minds and manifested in their actions. But, the fact is, the great idea that stood boldly and prominently out in the minds of his disciples and apostles was, that he did not live to himself, but solely and entirely for the promotion of the object which he came on earth to accomplish. He laid himself upon the altar most unreservedly, and his immediate disciples did the same, and the spirit of self-sacrifice was communicated to all around them; and the work of conversion went forward gloriously; wave after wave of salvation flowed over every land; and, in consequence, in a comparatively few years, they had accomplished wonderful things; and if they had possessed our facilities--our Printing Press, our Electric Wires, our Steam Power, and a thousand things that we possess--with their faith, with their energy, and with their devotion, they would in a few years have converted the world to God. But the Church has failed to do this; the Church has not even made the people understand what the religion of Christ is. If the apostles had had our facilities, do you suppose that they would have failed to make the people understand in what the religion of their Lord and Master consisted? Do you suppose that they would not have possessed the land long ago? But somehow or the other, the Church has really failed to secure this object. What is the cause of this? Why has the Church failed to accomplish her great and only mission upon earth? Has the promise run out which says, "Lo! I am with you alway even unto the end of the world?" Has the Church lost her hold upon Christ, or has the promise of Christ expired? Brethren, which is it?
5. Let me say again: the Church have relinquished their own personal, individual efforts. They have sadly neglected to come into personal contact with sinners in order that they might bring them to the Savior. Men are dying, and being eternally lost, on every side; but they put forth no personal efforts to save them. The mass of professors, as you know, make no direct personal efforts at all. Perhaps many of you who have attended these services in this chapel have not spent a single hour in seeking to get people to come and hear me; you have never spoken a word about these meetings, or by your personal effort induced any one to come. Perhaps ninety-nine out of every hundred of professing Christians have relinquished all personal efforts--do nothing for anybody by personal effort--never try to convert a soul by this means; they do not go to their friends and neighbors and say, "Won't you come with me to the meeting" and inquire about their souls, and how they get on. And these persons not only do nothing, but they stand right in the way of others; and they do a great deal of harm by giving those around them a false impression concerning religion.
Suppose a Christian lives in an impenitent family, and says nothing about his religion; what is the impression upon the minds of the family? They will, of course, suppose that he thinks his religion of no particular consequence--not very valuable, or he would certainly speak of it and recommend it to them.
In the city of Philadelphia, some years since, a young man served his time as a clerk to an elder of a Presbyterian church. In the course of time, this young man married and set up in business, and was very prosperous in all his undertakings. His wife attended some religious services which were held in the city, and became deeply anxious about her soul. Her husband observed that there was something the matter with her, and he very kindly inquired what it was that troubled her mind. Said she, "My dear husband, I am in my sins, and so are you; and both of us are on the way to hell." "Why, my dear," said he, "what have you done to talk in this manner,--'on the way to hell! ' What have you done, pray? I don't think there is any cause for you to be alarmed, or to talk in this manner." "Well," said she, "my dear I did not think you were an infidel; I thought you did believe in religion." "So I do, in some sense," he replied; "but you remember I lived with Mr. So-and-So, and elder of the Presbyterian church, and he was always very kind to me, and gave me very good advice about my business; and I cannot believe that, if he thought I had been on the way to hell, he would not have told me so; but I assure you he never told me any such thing. If he believed I was going to such an awful place as hell, I am sure he would have warned and counseled me; but he never did think of the kind, and therefore it is impossible that it can be true."
Now, how reasonable was such an inference? This professedly Christian man never said anything to the young man, and he might well doubt that he was in such imminent danger. Such professors say by their conduct, which is more powerful than words, that they do not believe the Bible to be true. Before I proceed further, I would ask the professors in this congregation, What sort of an impression do you make on those around you who are in their sins? Is it such as to make them believe that they are in danger of losing their souls? What is the impression that your servants get? What is the impression your clerks get? What is the impression your workmen get? What is the impression those around you get? Is it such an impression as will lead them to believe in the truth and excellency of the religion you profess?
Let me ask you, Do you believe that the conduct of the Christian people of London is such as to leave the conviction on the minds of those by whom they are surrounded that their souls are in danger? I don't know. I ask. What do you think? Do you individually manifest concern for the souls of the impenitent among you? If you do not, then you give a virtual and strong testimony against religion. You virtually say, "We have tried it, and don't believe it; we don't believe that your souls are in danger, for we feel no concern about you."
Just take the following cases as an illustration, which occurred in one of the cities of America. Some individuals were in the habit of attending what are called Conference Meetings, where Christians met together to pray and exhort each other. An unconverted man, but who was anxious about his soul, frequently attended these religious meetings. One evening he was outside, and heard them talking of the danger in which souls were placed, and saying that unless there was more prayer and more devotion on the part of Christians, these sinners would die in their sins and would go to Hell; and when he could bear it no longer, he burst into the room where these christians were sitting, and, with tears streaming from his eyes, said, "Christians, what do you mean? You tell us that our souls are in danger of being lost for ever, that you have power to prevail with God, and that unless you wake up and do your duty, you have no reason to believe that there will ever be a revival of religion, or that these souls, now in a perishing condition, will be saved. Now, what can you mean? You have met here time after time, and yet things remain as before. Now, either you don't believe what you say, or you don't care if we go to Hell." And with tears he implored them, if they believed what they said, to wake up and do their duty, and save the souls of the perishing.
6. But let me say again: There is a strong disposition on the part of both ministers and laymen to consider the work of the conversion of souls to be the peculiar office of the ministry. It seems to be thought that ministers have been chosen and delegated by the Church to perform the work which Christ has assigned to the Church. Ministers are to have a place in this work, and a prominent place, but they are not to take the work out of the hands of the Church. They are the officers of Christ's great army; they are to lead on the sacramental hosts of God's elect to the great battle against sin. But what is the case now? Why, the army have turned aside, and sent the officers to do all the fighting. The soldiers have grounded their arms, and paid the officers to go up single handed against the enemy, and do all the fighting alone. But, let me tell you that in this way the work will never be accomplished.
Now, so far as my own experience has gone, especially in my own country, in many parts of which I have labored very extensively, the ministers take this work upon themselves, and manifest a jealousy of lay effort. I can remember the time when ministers objected to a layman being asked to pray in the presence of a minister. They took all the work of converting souls, and did not like anybody else to do it; they manifested a jealousy of all lay effort.
Now, instead of this, their duty is to train up the entire laity to work for God and souls--the whole Church should be engaged in efforts to promote religion. Ministers much teach their people to work as well as feed them. If the people do not work, the food will do them no good, but it will greatly injure them. They may eat well; but if they do not work it well not digest. Feed them with highly seasoned food, and give them nothing to do, and it will cause surfeit and dyspepsia. If they have nothing to do, they will become stumbling-blocks. If they eat and have no exercise, they will become monsters. The people, then, must have something to do in this work; if it is ever to be done. The entire Church must be marshalled into one great army: every man and every woman must each have a part. The women have been too much overlooked, as if they could do nothing; but this is a mistake; and forming, as they do, so large a part of the Church members--in most places they form the majority--their services should be fully employed. They can do much, at least, for their own sex.
7. The unbelief of professors stands greatly in the way of the conversion of London. Now, this unbelief comes out in various forms. First, it manifests itself in the little concern evinced for the salvation of sinners. Now, how wonderful and shocking it is, that so little apparent concern is felt by professors of religion for the impenitent around them. They manifest much more concern about their temporal interests; they are quiveringly, tremblingly alive to cases of sickness or temporal distress; but for the souls of men they manifest no such anxiety. They say that sinners are dying in great numbers and going to hell; but they can eat, and sleep, and enjoy themselves, without apparently one pulsation of agony respecting them. Now how is this? Why, it is the result of their shocking unbelief. I have said to myself thousands of times, "What little hold has the Gospel upon the great mass of the members of the Christian Church; they talk about the awful condition of men, and that they are constantly losing their souls, but their conduct belies their words."
Secondly, This unbelief manifests itself in the slight interest that is felt in the conversion of sinners. How shocked have I been many times, when sinners have been converted, to see the great indifference that has been manifested by professors of religion; they seemed to have no interest in it; they seemed to regard it as of little moment, not of much importance. Now, just think how shocking this is, and of the effect which such conduct must have upon the impenitent. Now, just suppose that the son of some very humble person should be adopted into the royal family, and thus become the heir-apparent to the throne and crown of the kingdom; why, how excited the family would be! What a wonderful thing! How much they would talk about it! The fact that a poor child had been adopted by the king, and that in due course he was to have the crown, would get talked about everywhere, and what an excitement the people would be in about it! "Is it possible?" they would exclaim; and they would try and get a sight of the young man who was to be king; and those who knew him would point him out, and say, "That is the young man who is adopted into the royal family, and is to be king."
Now, a sinner who has been converted from the error of his ways, is adopted into God's family; and it is said of him that he shall be a king and a priest forever. Now, who cares for that? Who cares to ascertain whether it is true? Who cares to hear about it? Who cares to tell of it? Suppose the child of professing parents is converted, do they care to tell their neighbors of it, and give glory to God on account of it? Now, how shocking is this! And, let me ask, would this be so if professors of religion looked upon the conversion of a sinner as a wonderful thing? And is it not so? A sinner, born of God! plucked as a brand from burning! made an heir of God, and a joint heir with Jesus Christ! Is there nothing wonderful and glorious in all this? Now, if this was believed by the Church, they would should for joy when a sinner was converted; and only conceive what effect such conduct would have upon the wicked and impenitent around them!
Thirdly, Another manifestation of unbelief is that there is but little confidence in the power of prayer. As there is so little faith in the efficacy of prayer, there is but little practice of prayer; no wonder, then, that the Church does not succeed.
Fourthly, There is but little confidence in the promise of this text, "Lo! I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world." As a matter of fact, the Church does not expect the world to be converted. Ministers preach without expecting their sermons to take effect; and when sinners are converted, they can hardly believe it. Many professors of religion, and ministers, too, have got into such a state of unbelief, that if God should strike a sinner right down before their eyes, they would not believe it. I have sometimes been afraid to preach in the presence of a number of unbelieving, cold-hearted professors, lest they should commit the unpardonable sin. I remember well, at one place where I was preaching, an elder of a Presbyterian Church stood close by the pulpit; and as I was preaching, the Word took hold with great power on many persons in the congregation, and the Spirit of God struck one sinner right down at the feet of this elder. And what did he do? Why he said to the penitent sinner, "Get thee behind me, Satan!" He thought the work of the Spirit had been the work of the devil. Now, Mark; I have kept my eye upon that man for years; and ever since that solemn occasion, he has been just like a withered stock; and this was his condition when I last saw him. It seems as if the fires of Heaven had singed and burnt him; and there he stands, a withered stock as black as charcoal. As thus it must ever be: if professors have no confidence in prayer, a blight will come upon them, and they will not believe when they see a sinner converted by the mighty power of God. These persons have very little confidence in the power of the Gospel. When persons are converted they will not believe that it is conversion at all: they will ascribe the effect to anything but the power of God. I have often seen fearful illustrations of unbelief in professors of religion. When sinners are converted they will doubt whether they are really converted, and try to account for the effect produced, and ascribe it to any cause rather than to the great power of God.
Now, when the Church have any faith in the power of the Gospel, and have any confidence in prayer, they will always be expecting conversions, and be prepared for them at any moment. They will not doubt the power of God, nor, when it is manifested in the cutting down of sinners, begin to cavil and seek to ascribe the effect to some other cause. I have known unbelief, both in ministers and Churches, to be so great that they had no confidence in sudden conversions. In theory they would believe, or rather profess to believe, that a sinner might be converted at any moment; but when it actually took place, they would not believe it. They could have no confidence in the conversion of an individual who gave full evidence of it, if his conversion had been sudden and recent.
I have known such apply for Church membership, and they have been turned away; they have gone to the minister, with tears of joy and gratitude on account of their conversion--the gladness of their hearts would be beaming in their faces, as they told of the great things which God had done for their souls. "Why how long have you been under this impression?" says the minister. Perhaps the reply would be a week, or only a few days. "Oh," says the minister, "I have no confidence in it, then!" Why no confidence, pray? I ask again, WHY NO CONFIDENCE? I recollect once being present with a minister when an individual called to see him about her soul. "How long have you been in this state? When were you first impressed?" "Last Sunday, under the sermon you preached." "Oh," said he, "I have no confidence in it!" Now, mark, this man professed to believe in sudden conversion, that it was an instantaneous work, and he preached that doctrine, and yet he had " no confidence in it?" Brethren, there is a wonderful sight of infidelity in the Church with respect to the truth of God taking immediate effect; and if it comes, they are not prepared for it. They do not expect that God will do what he says He will, neither will they acknowledge His hand when He does do it--they insult God, and grieve the Holy Spirit. Now, this fearful state of things must cease to be, before the world will be converted.
8. Again: Another difficulty in the way of sinners being converted, is the low standard of piety which is insisted upon in professing Christians. I do not mean to say that ministers do not occasionally come out and urge a holy life, and even a perfect life; but do they preach it so uniformly and so earnestly, as to leave the impression upon the Church that they are really expected to abandon the world, to separate themselves from worldly society and worldly amusements, and devote themselves wholly to God? Is this the impression the ministers of London make upon their congregations? I do not know; but I am afraid they do not. But if they do, there is still something wanting. I suppose every minister believes that he makes some impression, but I believe that in order to do this he must preach a high standard of piety, and by his own living manifestation of what he preaches, it must be felt that this standard is insisted upon--that all must come right up to it.
Some ministers preach the whole Gospel, but in such unequal proportions that they fail to produce a proper effect upon their people. The fact is, they are afraid of appearing to be uncharitable, and so individuals are allowed to maintain a hope and standing in the Church, who in their lives do not differ from any decently moral man. Now, while such persons are allowed to have a hope of eternal life, and to maintain a creditable standing in the Church; while ministers allow them to believe that they are Christians, they will always remain stumbling blocks; their own standard of piety will never be elevated, and they will prevent others being converted. The fact is, it is no charity to let men believe themselves to be Christians, when after all you cannot tell whether they are Christians or not. You do business with them, you have familiar intercourse with them, you live with them; but you cannot see their Christianity , or in what they differ from other men; yet how many of this class of persons become members of Churches, and thus deceive themselves and scandalize the religion they profess. The effect of this is to make both the Church and the world confound things which differ, and to prevent either knowing what true religion really is. A higher standard of piety must be pressed home upon the Church, from the pulpit, the press, and by everyone who is engaged in any department of Christian labor. Professors must not be allowed to count themselves christians unless they separate themselves from all iniquity, and come out and show themselves; and live in such a way as to be easily and unmistakable distinguished from the world.
9. Again: Another difficulty in the way of success is to be attributed to the wrong views which many professors have, in relation to the DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY. It is too much the custom for ministers to insist upon one particular truth, or to look at a truth in some of its aspects only, and thus, upon the whole, the true idea of the Gospel is lost sight of, and a false impression is made.
Now, I find nothing more frequent than wrong views of election and Divine sovereignty. Many persons have this idea, that election and Divine sovereignty have a peculiar relation to religion; and in respect to religion they take an entirely different attitude. God is a sovereign, and "if we are elected we shall be saved," says one; Why not say so when your child is sick, and not go for the doctor? Is it not as true that God is a sovereign in the one case as well as in the other? Don't you believe that the day of your child's death is appointed? and don't you believe that it cannot die before the time appointed, and that it will not live a moment beyond it? Why make yourself uneasy or unhappy about it, then? I ask again, why not apply the sovereignty of God to everything else as well as to religion and the soul? Suppose I am passing through the country, and I notice a farm where there is no spring crops; the hedges are broken down, and the ground is in just the same state as it was left last fall: and presently I see the farmer, and I say to him, "Why, friend how is this: no spring crop? How do you expect a harvest?" And suppose he should reply, "Why don't you believe in the sovereignty of God? Don't you believe in God's Divine purposes? Don't you believe that it is already settled in the Divine mind whether I shall have a crop? Do you suppose that I could alter any of these things? Do you imagine that I could make one hair black or white?"
Now, this surely would be to apply the doctrine, which is true, in a perfectly false manner. And is it not applied equally falsely very frequently in reference to religion? Now, who does not believe that everything in relation to mankind and the world is just as much decreed, as the salvation or damnation of men? Why, then, apply the sovereignty of God to the one and not to the other! Let me tell you that our responsibilities are just as great, and we are just as free to do our duty, as if the sovereignty of God had nothing whatever to do with our salvation. This is my view, and I make no compromise in stating it--I never do--I dare not; for I dare not throw the blame upon God that sinners are not converted. Antinomianism has been substituted for the Gospel in many instances. The fact is, many persons have lost sight of the fact that the Gospel was designed to save men from sin and not in it. This is the Gospel of salvation; but I shall not now enlarge upon it, as I have to speak upon this subject on Friday evening.
10. This leads me to say, in the next place, that the selfish efforts of sects and congregations has done much, and is doing much, to hinder this work. I mean this--the spirit which leads men to seek the interests of a particular sect or congregation in preference to the salvation of men. Men of this spirit seek the interests of a certain sect, aim chiefly to fill a certain house, and support a certain minister: they have very little interest in hearing of a revival in a neighboring congregation, or of any kind of success at any place but their own. With such a spirit as this, how can there be any large success? It is not love to God and souls which calls forth their efforts, but love of self. I will relate a fact in illustration. In the city of Philadelphia, a lady was invited to attend a prayer-meeting for a revival of religion in the city, but she refused to go, saying, "I shall not go to pray for the city; but if you will pray for our congregation, I will. Now, there are many persons who have this feeling in their hearts, but who do not dare speak out, and say what they mean.
11. Again: Another great hindrance in the way of success is this--the unbelief of the Church has been such that professors have become discouraged by their own experience. They have prayed in such a spirit of distrust in God, or from wrong motives, that their prayers, as a natural and necessary consequence, have not been answered, and they have come at least to doubt the reality of religion, because their own experience has been such a series of disappointments. If these individuals should speak right out, they would say, "O Lord, thou hast promised to give the Holy Spirit to them that ask thee; and that thou art more ready to do it, than we are to give good gifts to our children; but I don't believe it! I have asked for the Holy Spirit a thousand times, but I never received it, and therefore I cannot believe to be true that thou art willing to give it to those who ask. I am always ready to give good gifts to my children if they ask for them; and I am sure that I should not allow them to continue asking anything of me so long as I have asked for the Holy Spirit, without satisfying their requests: therefore I don't believe thy promise." Now, if they should dare to speak right out, this would be their language, for it is their inward feeling. They have pleaded the promises, perhaps for a long time, until they come to doubt their truth. The language of their hearts is, "God has given these promises, but I don't believe them, for I never had them realized in my own experience." Now, I ask the reason of this. Why, they have failed to fulfil the conditions of the promises, and this is the reason they have not been fulfilled in their experience. If you have a spirit of unbelief in your hearts, it would be much better to tell the Lord so at once.--Tell him you don't believe the promises, or that prayer is of any avail. I knew a man once who did this. He said--"O Lord Jesus, thou hast promised such and such things to them that ask thee; but I cannot believe it; it is contrary to my experience. I am a father; and when my children ask of me that which they need, I am always ready to supply their wants: but, O Lord, thou knowest that I have asked scores of times for the Holy Spirit, but have never got it.
Now, how can I believe it is in thy heart to give it?" Now, when this man spoke out thus honestly what was in his heart God gave him to see in five minutes the reason his prayers had so failed. He had neither believed that his prayers would be answered nor had right motives in asking for the Holy Spirit. He was fundamentally faulty. He had asked much, but it was in order that he might consume it upon his lusts. He had prayed without faith and from sinful motives. But when he came before the Lord in sincerity, and opened fully the state of his heart, the Lord immediately poured out such a spirit upon him that he rose from his knees a new man. If, when you preach the Gospel, you do not expect it to take effect, or, when you pray, that your prayers will be answered, you become a stumbling-block to yourself and others.
Now, unless this great evil is put away from you, the world will go on as it has been, and is going on; and it will get worse rather than better. The spirituality of the Church is too low to make any impression upon the world sufficient for it to realize the true value of religion. God says of the Church, "Ye are my witnesses;" this is what they ought to be, but they are become false witnesses. Like the spies who brought an evil report of the land, they make a false impression upon the world; and see the result! God had brought Israel through the wilderness up to the borders of the promised land, and he said, "Go up and possess it." And Moses sent men to spy out the Land, who brought back an evil report of the land, saying that the people were giants, and that the cities were walled cities, reaching even unto heaven; therefore it was in vain to think of possessing the land: and the people rebelled against God, because they believed the testimony of the false witnesses; and the Lord aware that they should not enter the land, because of their unbelief; but Caleb and Joshua, because they were of another spirit, were permitted to enjoy that good land which the Lord had promised them.
Now, brethren, is it not the case, that at the present moment ministers are testifying on one side, and the Church on the other--500 to 1. Are not the Churches saying that they do not believe religion is what they expected it was. They have tried it, they say, and it will not answer. This, I say, is the testimony of their lives; they virtually tell the people that they have tried religion, and find that it is hardly worth having. You see a minister preaching with energy, faithfulness, and earnest longing for the souls of men; but the members of his Church are so cold and worldly-minded, that they effectually neutralize his efforts; and he has frequently to groan within himself at their indifference. By their conduct, they are saying to sinners, in reference to the solemn truths which have been uttered, and which perhaps have impressed their consciences--"Don't you be concerned; don't you be afraid; you have no cause to believe what the minister has been saying. It is his profession to say these things, and they are all very well in the pulpit, but they are of no particular consequence." And thus they hinder the work of conversion! Who can wonder that London and the world is not converted? Unless the whole Church is awake and in earnest, very little good will be done; but if Christians will become alive to their responsibilities, and go among the masses of the people, and use every possible means to bring them to public worship, a great spiritual awakening must be the result. Manifest great concern for their souls, and take no excuse as a justification for their neglect of religion.
If they say they have not a seat, tell them that they shall have yours, and you will stand up; just be thoroughly in earnest; and see how you can tell upon the minds of the people. If all who are now here would adopt this plan, this house might be crowded every time that I preach; and why should it not be so?
The Church of which I was for some time pastor in New York, used to move out in a mass, and invite the people to come, and hear the preaching, and by this means they filled the house right up, every night; and when the preaching was over, they distributed themselves about, and those who had been affected by the sermon were kindly taken by the button and conversed with, and it was no uncommon thing for me, when I went from the pulpit, to find the vestry full of anxious inquirers. At one period I preached twenty evenings in succession in New York, and 500 persons were converted, which amounted to twenty-five every night; and I never had to discipline a single one of them, although our terms of membership were so stringent and severe, that they would have excluded one-half of the members of other Churches.
Let the Churches in London, as a body, pray in faith, and labor devotedly, and this city will be moved. It is impossible that it should be otherwise. And let me tell you, that the mass of mankind will never be moved, and there will never be a revival in any Church, till religion is a living power in the hearts of those who profess to be Christ's disciples. The Church needs a fresh anointing. Only let the ministry be anointed afresh--let the Church be anointed afresh--let them pray in the Spirit, labor in the Spirit, preach in the Spirit, walk in the Spirit, live in the Spirit, and every day they will shed a mighty, holy, and hallowed influence on the world around, and its power will be such as to compel men to believe that there is a reality in religion, and the world will soon be converted to God. Amen.