May 1, 1848. Whether we are called as missionaries or another trade or profession, we should carry on our business as stewards of the Lord. The child of God has been bought with the precious blood of the Lord Jesus. All that he possesses-his bodily strength, his mental strength, his ability of every kind, his trade or business, and his property-all belong to God. It is written, "Ye are not your own. For ye are bought with a price" (1 Cor. 6:19-20).
The proceeds of our calling are not our own in the sense of having freedom to spend them on the gratification of our pride or our love of pleasure. We have to stand before our Lord and Master as His stewards to seek His will concerning how He will have us use the proceeds of our calling. In 1 Cor. 16:2, it is written, "Upon the first day of the week let every one of you lay by him in store, as God has prospered him." A contribution for the poor saints in Judea was to be made, and the brethren at Corinth were exhorted to give every Lord's day according to the measure of success which the Lord had blessed them during the week. Now, shouldn't the saints today also act according to this word? It is altogether in accordance with our pilgrim character to see how much we can afford to give to the poor or to the work of God every week.
We should also keep in mind the scriptural principle, "He which soweth sparingly shall reap also sparingly; and he that soweth bountifully shall reap also bountifully" (2 Cor. 9:6). We are abundantly blessed in Jesus, and we need no stimulus to do good works. The forgiveness of our sins, having been made forever the children of God, having before us the Father's house as our home-these blessings should constrain us to serve God in love and gratitude all the days of our lives.
The verse is true, both in this life and in the life to come. If we have been sparingly using our property for Him, little treasure will be laid up in heaven. But if the love of Christ constrains a brother to sow bountifully, he will, even in this life, reap bountifully, both in blessings for his soul and in temporal things. "There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth; and there is that withholdeth more than is meet, but it tendeth to poverty. The liberal soul shall be made fat: and he that watereth shall be watered also himself' (Prov. 11:24- 25).
"Give, and it shall be given unto you; good measure, pressed down, and shaken together, and running over, shall men give into your bosom. For with the same measure that ye mete withal it shall be measured to you again" (Luke 6:38). This evidently refers to this life and temporal things.
Let us walk as stewards and not act as owners, keeping for ourselves the means with which the Lord has entrusted us. He has not blessed us that we may gratify our own carnal mind but for the sake of using our money in His service and to His praise.
A brother with small earnings may ask, "Should I also give? My earnings are already so small that my family can barely make ends meet."
My reply is, "Have you ever considered that the very reason your earnings remain so small may be because you spend everything on yourself? If God gave you more, you would only use it to increase your own comfort instead of looking to see who is sick or who has no work at all that you might help them."
A brother whose earnings are small may be greatly tempted to refuse the responsibility of assisting the needy and sick saints or helping the work of God. He thinks it should be the work of a few rich believers in the fellowship. Thus he robs his own soul!
How much should you give of your income? God lays down no rule concerning this point. We should give cheerfully and not because it is required. But if even Jacob, with the first dawning of spiritual light promised to God the tenth of all, how much should we believers in the Lord Jesus do for Him? (See Gen. 28:22). If the love of Christ causes us to give, we will have this verse fulfilled in our experience. The Lord will abundantly repay us, and in the end we will find that we are not losers even in temporal things. But the moment someone begins to give for the sake of receiving more back from the Lord, or he stops sowing bountifully in order to increase his own possessions, the river of God's bounty will no longer continue to flow.
The child of God must be willing to be a channel through which God's abundant blessings flow. This channel is narrow and shallow at first, yet some of the waters of God's bounty can pass through. If we cheerfully yield ourselves to this purpose, the channel becomes wider and deeper, allowing more of the bounty of God to pass through. We cannot limit the extent to which God may use us as instruments in communicating blessing if we are willing to yield ourselves to Him and are careful to give Him all the glory.
May 3. The work is now large, and the expenses are great. During the month we spent about five hundred pounds for the various supplies for the institution. I cannot expect the expenses to decrease-but I have no desire that they should! I have as much joy in writing checks for large amounts as I have in depositing the money which I receive from God through donors. The money is of no value to me unless I can use it for -God. The more I pay out for the work of God, the more prospect I have of being further supplied by Him. The larger the sum I obtain from Him, in answer to prayer, the greater is the proof of the blessedness and the reality of dealing directly with God alone for what I need. Therefore, I have as much joy in giving as in receiving.
With all my might I have devoted myself to have the Orphan House filled with children. As large sums are needed and expended, I will have a greater reason than ever to draw upon the inexhaustible treasures of God. Obviously, money obtained by prayer may not be wasted. If anyone would obtain means from God by prayer and then waste it, he would soon find that he was not able to pray in faith for further supplies.
January 17,1849. Further steps are to be taken to furnish the new Orphan House. More than two-thirds of the rooms are almost ready. I have prayed earnestly every day that the Lord would give me the money we still need. This evening I received six hundred pounds which will take care of the heavy expenses connected with furnishing the new Orphan House.
February 12. The new Orphan House is now almost entirely finished. In six weeks, with the help of God, all will be completed. I have been very busy during the last two weeks making the necessary arrangements for furnishing it. I began to pray still more earnestly that the Lord would give me the means which may yet be needed for the completion of the house.
A brother in the Lord came to me this morning and, after a few minutes of conversation, gave me two thousand pounds for furnishing the new Orphan House or for anything else needed in connection with the orphans. I have placed all of this sum, at least for the present, in the building fund.
Now I am able to meet all the expenses. In all probability I will even have several hundred pounds more than I need. The Lord not only gives as much as is absolutely necessary for His work, but He gives abundantly. This blessing filled me with inexpressible delight. He had given me the full answer to my thousands of prayers during these eleven hundred and ninety-five days.
February 26. After all the expenses had been met for the purchase of the land, the building, and furnishing of the new Orphan House, a balance remained of seven hundred and seventy-six pounds. This proved that the Lord can not only supply us with all we need in His service simply in answer to prayer, but He can also give us even more than we need.
June 18. Today, as the fruit of the prayers of three years and seven months, the children began to be moved from the four Orphan Houses in Wilson Street to the new Orphan House.
June 23. This has been a week of great blessing. All the orphans with their teachers and overseers have been moved into the new Orphan House.
About one hundred and forty people now live under one roof. The Lord has greatly helped us.
For more than three years, I have sought the help of God concerning everything connected with the new Orphan House. I expected His help, but He has done beyond my expectations. Although the last children were moved in only the day before yesterday, great order has already been established in the house, and everything is running smoothly. Praise the Lord for this! My soul magnifies Him for His goodness! Also, the Lord has met all the extraordinary expenses connected with moving the orphans from Wilson Street into the new Orphan House. I have more than five hundred pounds available to begin housekeeping in, the new Orphan House. How true that those who trust in the Lord will not be disappointed! After many great trials of faith during the thirteen years and two months the orphans were at Wilson Street, the Lord brought us from out from there in comparative abundance. May His holy name be praised!
August 30. I received a fifty-pound note with these words: "I send you a fifty-pound note, half for the missions, and half for the orphans, unless you are in any personal need. If so, take five pounds for yourself. This will be the last large sum I will be able to send you. Almost all the rest is already out at interest."
I took half of this fifty pounds for the orphans and half for missionaries. When the writer said, "the rest is already out at interest," he meant that he had given it away for the Lord. Indeed that is the best way of using the money the Lord entrusts to us.
[Since that time I have received other large donations from the same man. He used his money for God, and God soon trusted him with another large sum, which he again used for the Lord. This did not surprise me at all. In whatever way God makes us His stewards, whether in temporal or spiritual things, if we act as stewards and not as owners, He will make us stewards over more.]
January 25, 1847. The season is approaching when the building may begin. I have prayed with increased earnestness that the Lord would speedily send the remainder of the required amount. I believe the time is drawing near when the Lord will give me all I need to begin to build. I rose from my knees this morning in full confidence not only that God could but also would send the money soon.
About an hour after I had prayed, the sum of two thousand pounds was given to me for the building fund. I cannot describe the joy I had in God when I received this donation. I have waited four hundred and forty-seven days upon God for the amount we needed. How great is the blessing the soul obtains by trusting in God and by waiting patiently. From December 10, 1845 to January 25, 1847, I have received, solely in answer to prayer, nine thousand two hundred and eighty-five pounds. The Lord is willing to give what will be needed once the new Orphan House is built, although the expenses will be about two thousand five hundred pounds a year more than they were before.
From the opening of this institution it had been my desire to use part of the funds to aid missionaries who are not supported by regular salary. During the last two years, the Lord has allowed me to do so in a far greater degree than before. I know that many who preach the Word do not have any salary to live on and are in need.
Some may say that these people should trust in God. If they preach Jesus as the only hope for the salvation of sinners, they should set a good example by trusting God for the supply of their temporal necessities. This would encourage unconverted people to trust in the Lord Jesus for the salvation of their souls. But I also felt that I, as their brother, should try to help them as much as I could. My own money would go only a little way, so I began to pray more earnestly than ever for missionaries. The Lord answered my daily supplications, and I was honored to send nearly three times my usual amount of support to them.
I have asked God to direct me especially to send support to those who might be in particular need. I also tried to share with them an encouraging word to strengthen their hearts in God. These dear brethren have been helped not only by the money in a temporal way but also in the help that has refreshed and strengthened their hearts to trust in God even more.
March 9. How good is the Lord in helping me week after week through the heavy expenses, especially in this time of deep economic distress and scarcity of provisions! To His praise I can say we have lacked nothing all winter.
When sight ceases, it is the time for faith to work. The greater the difficulties, the easier it is for faith. As long as human possibilities for success remain, faith does not accomplish things as easily as when all natural prospects fail. During the time of poverty, our expenses were considerably greater than usual. Many people who otherwise might have supported us were unable to do so or had their surplus directed into other channels. But the gold and silver are the Lord's. To Him we made our prayer, and in Him we put our trust. He did not forsake us. We went as easily through that winter as through any other. God used this time as a special opportunity of showing the blessedness of trusting in Him.
May 11. I have been able to meet all the expenses connected with housekeeping during the coming week. The children have lacked nothing. Never were provisions as expensive as they are now. The bread and rice cost almost twice as much as eighteen months ago, and the oatmeal is nearly three times as expensive. No potatoes can be purchased because of the high prices.
In these days of financial struggles, the question naturally arises, "If you only have to care for one hundred and thirty orphans, and you are so poor, what will you do when there are three hundred?" Such thoughts do not trouble me. The Lord can supply all the financial means that the work will require when the new Orphan House is opened, as easily as He does now.
July 7. Work on the building was begun today. Finally, after I sought the help of God for six hundred and seven days, He has given me the desire of my heart.
February 3, 1848. Someone may say, "You are continually in need. No sooner is the one demand met than another comes. Doesn't it seem like a trying life? Aren't you tired of it?"
I am more or less continually in need in connection with this work. God has supplied me with money to continue, and I enjoy telling people how He has answered my requests. But money is by no means the chief thing that I stand in need of from day to day.
Sickness among the children is always a difficult trial. Prayer is required for money, medicine, and guidance and wisdom from God.
Sometimes children are hired out as household help or apprentices. Finding a suitable place for them is important; however, it is more difficult than obtaining money. Sometimes I have waited upon God for many weeks to have this need supplied, but He has always helped.
Sometimes my need of wisdom and guidance is great in order to know how certain children should be treated under particular circumstances. A need in this respect is no small thing, although I have been helped when I waited patiently on God.
When one of the laborers must leave the work on account of health or other reasons, I am in far greater need than when I require money for the institution. Such a need can only be supplied by waiting on God.
One of the greatest difficulties connected with this work is to find suitable godly persons for it. Many things are to be considered-suitable age, health, ability, experience, love for children, true godliness, preparation to bear with the many trials and difficulties connected with it, and a strong desire to labor, not for the sake of the money but to serve God.
To find godly persons with these qualifications is not an easy matter. I am not looking for perfect fellow-laborers, nor do I suppose that my fellow-laborers are without weaknesses, deficiencies, and failings. I myself am far from perfect. But I try to find suitable individuals in whom, as much as possible, the above qualifications are united.
The laborers should work happily among themselves, and then I can work easily with them. I must be their servant; and yet, I must maintain the place of authority God has given me over this work. This need is far greater than any that is connected with money. These matters lead a person to call upon God! Truly, I am in continual need.
Many years have passed since I made my boast in God by publishing reports of this ministry. Satan unquestionably is waiting for me to fall. If I was left to myself, I would fall prey to him at once. Pride, unbelief, or other sins would be my ruin and lead me to bring disgrace upon the name of Jesus. No one should admire me, be astonished at my faith, or think of me as if I were an amazing person. No, I am as weak as ever. I need to be upheld in faith and every other grace.
Nevertheless, I do not find that this work leads to a trying life but a very happy one. It is impossible to describe the abundance of peace and heavenly joy that often flows into my soul because of the answers I obtain from God after waiting on Him for help and blessing. The longer I have had to wait on Him, or the greater my need is, the greater the enjoyment when at last the answer came. I am not in the least tired of this way of life because I expected difficulties from the very beginning. For the glory of God and the encouragement of His dear children, I desired to pass through them, if only the saints might be benefited by the dealings of God with me.
The longer I go on in this service, the greater the trials of one kind or another become. But at the same time, I grow happier in my service and more assured that I am employed as the Lord would have me to be. How then could I be tired of carrying on the work of God? God has proved many times that He is faithful to His Word: "Seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you" (Matt. 6:33).
The great business which the disciple of the Lord Jesus has to be concerned about is to seek the Kingdom of God. I believe this means to seek the external and internal prosperity of the Church. If we seek to win souls for the Lord Jesus, we are seeking the external prosperity of the Kingdom of God. If we help our fellow-members in the Body grow in grace and truth or care for them in any way, we are seeking the internal prosperity of God.
In connection with this, we also have to seek His righteousness. This means to seek to be more and more like God-to seek to be inwardly conformed to the mind of God. If these two things are attended to diligently, we come to that precious promise: "And all these things [that is, food, clothing, or anything else you need for this present life] shall be added unto you."
Do you make it your primary business and your first great concern to seek the Kingdom of God and His righteousness? Are the things of God, the honor of His name, the welfare of His Church, the conversion of sinners, and the profit of your own soul, your chief aim? Or does your business, your family, or your own temporal concerns primarily occupy your attention? Remember that the world will pass away, but the things of God will endure forever. I never knew a child of God who acted according to the above passage for whom the Lord did not fulfill His promise, "All these things shall be added unto you."
April 29. The total amount that I have received for the building fund is more than eleven thousand pounds. This sum enables me to meet all the expenses connected with the purchase of the land and the building of the house. Praise the Lord!
For nearly ten years I never had any desire to build an Orphan House. On the contrary, I preferred spending the funds which came in for present needs, enlarging the work according to the means the Lord gave.
But at the end of October, 1845, I was led to consider this matter in a way I had never done before. I received a letter from a gentleman who lived on the street where the, four Orphan Houses were. He courteously informed me that the residents in the nearby houses were inconvenienced by the Orphan Houses on Wilson Street. He asked me to do what seemed best to me about the matter.
I was very busy that week, and I had scarcely any time to consider it further. On Monday morning, however, I set apart- some hours for prayerful consideration of the subject. I wrote down the reasons which appeared desirable that the Orphan Houses should be moved from Wilson Street, and the reasons against moving.
Reasons For Moving From Wilson Street The neighbors feel inconvenienced by the noise of the children during playtime. This complaint is neither without foundation nor unjust, although one could not find fault with the dear children on account of it. It would probably give me a headache if I lived next door to the Orphan Houses. I therefore should do to others as I want them to do for me. This point had never before appeared to me in so serious a light.
The greatness of the number of the residents in the houses has prevented the drains from working properly, and it has often affected the water in one or two of the neighbor's houses. These words, "Let not then your good be evil spoken of (Rom. 14:16), and "Let your moderation [willingness to yield] be known unto all men" (Philippians 4:5), seemed to be two important portions of the Word of God to be acted upon in this matter.
We have no proper playgrounds on Wilson Street. Our playground is only large enough for the children of one house at a time, but children in four houses should have the benefit of it. We cannot arrange for all the children to use the playground because meals, school hours, weather, and other hindrances interfere.
No ground is available for a garden near the Orphan Houses. By moving from Wilson Street and obtaining premises surrounded by farmland, we would be able to benefit the children. They would have a better opportunity for practical labor, and it would give the boys an occupation more suitable for them than knitting.
The country air would be much better for the health of the orphans than the polluted air in the City.
In times of sickness we are too confined in the houses on Wilson Street. We do not have a single spare room in any of the houses. Although the Lord has mercifully helped us through such times in the past, yet it has not been without inconvenience. We sometimes have more children in one room than is desirable for good health. Even when there is no sickness, it would be desirable to have more room.
The more I have considered the matter, the more I am persuaded that no ordinary large house, built only to accommodate ten people at most, will be suitable for a charitable institution of any considerable size. There seemed to me, therefore, no other choice but to build.
Reasons For Remaining On Wilson Street 1. God has plainly given us this location. As we have grown in size, God has opened up other houses on this street to be available for our use.
Until now God has pointed out Wilson Street as being the spot where this work should be carried on. Could the time have come for moving?
Perhaps we should rent more houses on Wilson Street. We could use two houses for Orphan Houses and one of them for an infirmary in case of sickness. (But then the objection of the neighbors would remain on account of the noise of the children. The drains would be more unsuitable since they are not constructed for so many residents. To alter them would be a heavy expense. The playground would be even less sufficient. Lastly, there is no reason to think that we could rent any additional houses.)
Three great objections exist against building. A considerable sum is required which could be spent for the orphans' present needs. The pilgrim character of the Christian seems to be lost in building a permanent structure. Finally, it will take a great deal of time to make the necessary arrangements for it.
But all these objections only hold good if I needlessly set about building. If I could rent premises which are in every way suitable for the work, and I still preferred to build, then those objections would apply to this case. But we could not be accused of needlessly spending money in building instead of renting. Neither would time be wasted. Therefore, these three objections just mentioned were removed once I saw plainly that no other choice remained but to build.
After I had spent a few hours in prayer and consideration over the subject, I began to see that the Lord was leading me to build. His intentions were to benefit the orphans and better order of the whole work. Furthermore, He wanted to show that He could and would provide large sums for those who need them and trust in Him for them. During no period had the number of the applications for the admission of orphans been greater than just before I was led to think about building.
That same afternoon, I laid the matter before my fellow-laborers in the church to get their opinion. They were all in agreement that they saw no reason not to build. The next day, my dear wife and I began to meet for prayer about this matter and planned to do so every morning. We asked God for clearer light concerning the details of the project. Being assured that it was His will that I should build, I began asking the Lord for money.
Sufficiently large premises to accommodate three hundred children would be needed, together with a large piece of ground near Bristol for the building and a small farm. This would cost at least ten thousand pounds. I was not discouraged by this but trusted in God.
We continued meeting for prayer every morning for fifteen days, but not a single donation came in. But my heart was not discouraged. The more I prayed, the more assured I was that the Lord would provide. It is as if I had already seen the new premises actually before me. Since the beginning of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution, God has led me forward and enlarged the work without my seeking after it. My only motives are the honor and glory of God, the welfare of the Church, the physical and spiritual welfare of destitute orphans, and the welfare of all those who would take care of them. After praying again and again about the matter, I still remained in perfect peace. I therefore decided it was assuredly God's will that I should go forward.
On November 15 a brother arrived to work for a little while in Bristol. I told him about having to move the orphans from Wilson Street. He felt that it was God's will that I build. This dear brother's judgment greatly encouraged me. He also suggested that I seek God's direction for the design of the building. He said, "You must ask help from God to show you the plan, so that all you do may be according to the mind of God."
I waited daily upon God for finances for this work, and not a single penny had been given to me. Nevertheless, this did not discourage me. My assurance increased more and more that God, in His own time and in His own way, would give the means.
More than at any period in my life, I was struck by these verses: "My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations; Knowing this, that the trying of your faith worketh patience. But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing"
Games 1:2-4). These words spoke to my heart about building the Orphan House. I asked the Lord to increase my faith and sustain my patience. I knew that I needed patience as well as faith.
On the thirty-sixth day after I began to pray, I received one thousand pounds for building the Orphan House. It was the largest single donation I had ever received. But I was as calm and quiet as if I had only received one shilling because I was expecting to receive an answer to my prayers. Even if five thousand pounds or ten thousand pounds had been given to me, it would not have surprised me.
December 13. My sister-in-law told me that she met a gentleman in London who read the story of the Lord's dealings with me. She told him that I planned to build an Orphan House, and. he, an architect, offered to make the plan and supervise the building gratuitously. He is also a Christian. The fact that this offer comes unsolicited and from a Christian architect especially shows the hand of God.
December 23. This is now the fiftieth day since I have come to the conclusion to build. Not even one penny has come in since December 10. This morning I have been particularly encouraged because the Lord sent me the one thousand pounds and the promise from that Christian architect whose name I don't even know yet.
I have begun to be more specific in my prayers. We should have a large piece of ground, at least six or seven acres, in the vicinity of Bristol. This will, of course, be very expensive, but my hope is in God. I have not sought after this thing, nor has it begun with me. God has unexpectedly led me to it. The day before I received my neighbor's letter making me aware of the inconveniences caused by the orphans, I had no thought about building a house for the orphans. My prayer is that God will continue to give me faith and patience. If He helps me to wait on Him, help will surely come.
December 24. No further donations have come in, but my hope in God is unshaken. He most assuredly will help. I have purposely not printed any information in connection with this matter, in order that the hand of God may be clearly seen. I spoke to a few people about my intention of building, when the conversation led to it. Through this, the Lord can make it known to others and thus send money for the building fund. Or He can send in such an abundance for the work which is already in existence that there might be a rich surplus for the building fund. No doubt, we will face many trials connected with this enlargement of the field of labor. Therefore, I desire to see clearly that God Himself is leading me onward.
December 29. This evening I received fifty pounds. This donation is exceedingly precious to me not only because it was cheerfully given; nor even because of its size, but because it is another precious proof that God will provide for the building. My assurance has been increasing that God will build for Himself a large Orphan House in this city to show what a blessed thing it is to trust in Him. I can only say, "Lord, here is Your servant, if You want to use me."
December 30. This morning I came, in the course of my reading, to the book of Ezra 1 was particularly refreshed by the two following points in the first chapter, and I applied them to the building of the Orphan House.
Cyrus, an idolatrous king, was used by God to provide the means for building the temple at Jerusalem. How easy it would be for God to provide ten thousand pounds for the Orphan House or even twenty or thirty thousand pounds if needed.
The people were stirred up by God to help those who went up to Jerusalem. It is a small matter for Him to put it into the hearts of His children to help me.
January 3, 1846. One of the orphans gave sixpence for the building fund. This morning I asked the Lord to go before me, and I went out to look for a piece of ground. The armory had been mentioned to me several times as a suitable place. I did not think so, yet I thought I should at least look at it. After I saw it, my judgment about its unsuitableness was confirmed. On my way back to the city, I saw some fields near the armory. This evening I have been led to write to the owner, asking whether he wants to sell them. I am now quietly waiting for the Lord's further direction. If His time has come to answer our requests for a suitable piece of land, I will be glad. If not, I desire that patience may have her perfect work.
January 8. I received a reply to my letter. The owner of the fields writes that the land is too expensive for me to afford.
January 9. I went to see those fields again, and they seem very suitable. I met a land agent there who told me that they would be nearly a thousand pounds per acre and therefore, too expensive. I asked the agent to inform me if he heard of any suitable land for sale.
January 31. It is now eighty-nine days since I have been daily waiting upon God about the building of an Orphan House. The Lord will soon give us a piece of ground, and I told the brothers and sisters so this evening.
February 2. Today I heard of suitable and inexpensive land on Ashley Down.
February 3. The land on Ashley Down is the best of all I have seen.
February 4. This evening I called on the owner of the land on Ashley Down, but he was not at home. I was told that I could find him at his business. I went there, but he had left a few minutes earlier. I could have gone back to his house, but I did not do so, judging that it was God's will that I did not find him at either place. I decided not to force the matter but to "let patience have her perfect work."
February 5. This morning I saw the owner of the land. He told me that he awoke at three o'clock this morning and could not sleep again until five. While he was lying awake, he kept thinking about the piece of land he had heard I wanted for the Orphan House. He decided that if I want to buy it, he would let me have it for one hundred and twenty pounds per acre, instead of two hundred pounds, the price which he had previously asked. How good the Lord is! The agreement was made this morning, and I purchased a field of nearly seven acres.
February 8. I wrote to the architect who has offered his help.
February 11. I received a reply to my letter to the architect. He was happy to offer his abilities as an architect and surveyor, free of charge, to help us build the new Orphan House.
The total amount given for the building fund, as of June 4, 1846, is a little over two thousand seven hundred pounds. This is only a small part of what will be needed; but God, in His own time, will send the whole sum. Two hundred and twelve days have passed since I first began to pray about this work. I am more than ever assured that God will condescend to use me to build' this house. If I had made this decision based on mere enthusiasm, I would have been overwhelmed by the difficulties. But God has led me to this work. He has helped me in the past and will continue to help me until the end.
July 4. My faith and patience have been exceedingly tried. Great difficulties arose about my possessing the land after all. But, by God's grace, my heart was kept in peace, being fully assured that if the Lord took this piece of land from me, it would only be for the purpose of giving me a still better one. Our heavenly Father never takes anything from His children unless He means to give them something better.
In the midst of this great trial of faith, I could not help thinking that the difficulties were only allowed for the trial of my faith and patience. Last evening I received a letter stating that all the difficulties were removed. In a few days, the deed will be transferred.
July 6. The reason why so little came in for the building fund during the last several months seems to be that we did not need the money at that time. When it was needed, and when my faith and patience had been sufficiently tried, the Lord sent more. Today two thousand and fifty pounds were given to me-two thousand pounds for the building fund and fifty pounds for present expenses.
It is impossible to describe my joy in God when I received this donation. I expect answers to my prayers, and I believe that God hears me. Yet my heart was so full of joy that I could only sit before God and praise Him. At last I fell on my knees and burst forth in thanksgiving to God. I surrendered my heart afresh to Him for His blessed service.
November 19. This morning between five and six o'clock I prayed, among other things, about the building fund. I then had a long time for reading the Word of God. I came to Mark 11:24: "What things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." I have often spoken about the importance of the truth contained in this verse. Applying it to the new Orphan House, I said to the Lord, "Lord, I believe that You will give me all I need for this work. I am sure that I will have all, because I believe that I receive in answer to my prayer."
This evening a registered letter came for me containing a check for three hundred pounds. Two hundred and eighty pounds are for the building fund, ten pounds for my own personal expenses, and ten pounds for brother Craik. The Lord's holy name be praised for this precious encouragement! The building fund is now increased to more than six thousand pounds.
December 9. It is now four hundred days since I have been waiting upon God for help to build the Orphan House. But as yet He keeps me in the trial of faith and patience. He seems to be saying, "My hour is not yet come." Yet He does sustain me in continuing to wait upon Him. By His grace my faith is not in the least shaken. I am quite sure that He, in His own time, will give me everything I need concerning this work. How and when I will be supplied, I do not know. But I am sure that God will help me in His own time and way.
In the meantime I have abundant reason to praise God that I am not waiting on Him in vain. During this past year He has given me, in answer to prayer, a suitable piece of ground, and six thousand three hundred and four pounds for the building fund. Surely, I am not waiting upon the lord in vain! By His help, then, I am resolved to continue this course to the end.
December 1, 1842. For the last several months, money and supplies have continued to flow in without interruption as they were needed. There was no excess or lack. But nothing came in today except five shillings for needlework. We only had enough to supply our absolute need-milk. We were unable to purchase the usual quantity of bread.
Someone may ask, "Why don't you buy the bread on credit? What does it matter whether you pay immediately for it or at the end of the month? Since the Orphan Houses are the work of the Lord, can't you trust Him to supply you with money to pay the bills from the butcher, baker, and grocer? After all, the things you purchase are needed so that the work may continue."
My reply is this: If this work is the work of God, then He is surely able and willing to provide for it. He will not necessarily provide at the time we think that there is need. But when there is real need, He will not fail us. We may and should trust in the Lord to supply us with what we require at present, so that there may be no reason to go into debt.
I could buy a considerable amount of goods on credit, but the next time we were in need, I would turn to further credit instead of turning to the Lord. Faith, which is maintained and strengthened only by exercise, would become weaker and weaker. At last, I would probably find myself deeply in debt with no prospect of getting out of it.
Faith rests on the written Word of God, but there is no promise that He will pay our debts. The Word says, "Owe no man anything" (Rom. 13:8). The promise is given to His children, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee" (Heb. 13:5). "He that believeth on him shall not be confounded" (1 Peter 2:6). We have no scriptural grounds to go into debt.
Our goal is to show the world and the Church that even in these last evil days, God is ready to help, comfort, and answer the prayers of those who trust in Him. We need not go to our fellowmen or to the ways of the world. God is both able and willing to supply us with all we need in His service.
Through the printed accounts of this ministry, many have been converted. We consider it our precious privilege to continue to wait upon the Lord only instead of buying goods on credit or borrowing money from kind friends. As God gives us grace we will look to Him only, although from meal to meal we have to depend on Him. God is now in the tenth year of feeding these orphans, and He has never allowed them to go hungry. He will care for them in the future also.
I am deeply aware of my own helplessness and dependence on the Lord. Through the grace of God my soul is in peace, although day after day we have to wait on the Lord for our daily bread.
December 16. Nothing has come in. At six o'clock this evening, our need was very great in the Orphan Houses and the day schools. I prayed with two of the laborers. We needed some money to come in before eight o'clock tomorrow morning, so that we could buy milk for breakfast. Our hearts were at peace, and we felt assured that our Father would supply our need.
We had scarcely risen from our knees when I received a letter containing a sovereign for the orphans. About five minutes later, a brother promised to give me fifty pounds next week. A quarter of an hour after that, a brother gave me a sovereign, which a sister in the Lord had left for the orphans. How sweet and precious it is to see the willingness of the Lord to answer the prayers of. His needy children!
February 11, 1843. We had one pound fourteen shillings available to meet the expenses of this day. But since this was not enough, I asked the Lord for help; and this morning's mail brought me two pounds from Stafford. We now have enough for this day.
God's timing is always perfect. Why did this money not come a few days sooner or later? Because the Lord wanted to help us by it, and He influenced the donor just then, not sooner or later, to send it. Surely, all who know the Lord must see His hand in this work. I do not mean to say that it would be acting against the precepts of the Lord to seek for help in His work by personal and individual requests to believers. But I operate the ministry this way for the benefit of the Church at large. I cheerfully bear the trials and the precious joys of this life of faith if at least some of my fellow-believers might see that a child of God does have power with Him by prayer and faith. That the Lord should use for so glorious a service one as unfaithful and unworthy as I am, can only be ascribed to the riches of His grace. He uses the most unlikely instruments so that the honor may be His alone.
March 8. On October 25, 1842, I had a long conversation with a sister in the Lord who seemed to be in a time of great financial need. I told her that my house and my money were hers. I had every reason to believe that she did not even have five pounds of her own. She assured me that she possessed five hundred pounds, and that it never seemed right to give away this money. She believed that God put this sum into her hands without her seeking, and she thought it was a provision which the Lord had made for her. I made no reply to this. She asked me to pray for her about how she should use this money.
After she left, I asked the Lord to cause her to realize the true riches and inheritance in the Lord Jesus and the reality of her heavenly calling. I asked that she would cheerfully lay down this five hundred pounds at His feet. I prayed about the matter daily for twenty-two days without mentioning it to anyone else. It would be far better that she kept this money than give it up and later regret the step she had taken and thereby dishonor the name of the Lord.
One day she was waiting to see me when I came home. She said she had sought the Lord's will concerning the five hundred pounds. She examined the Scriptures, prayed about it, and was now assured that it was His will for her to give up this money. I exhorted her to count the cost and insisted she wait at least two weeks longer before she carried out her intention.
She agreed. Eighteen days later, I received a letter from her. She was ready to give the money to our work in Bristol, but there would be several month's delay before it would be available to me. Naturally, I could have been very disappointed because I already had many ways in mind to use the money. But the Lord continued to meet our needs while I waited confidently on Him.
Day after day passed, and the money did not come. At last, on the one hundred and thirty-fourth day since I had daily sought the Lord about this matter, I received a letter from the sister. She informed me that five hundred pounds had been paid into the hands of my bankers. She wrote in her letter, "I am thankful to say that I have never for one moment had the slightest feeling of regret, but it is wholly of the Lord's abounding grace. I speak it to His praise."
Several weeks later when I visited the. Orphan Houses, one of the sisters mentioned that a young woman who lived with her father on Wilson Street wanted to move to a smaller house. She thought I may be interested in renting their house for the orphans. The sister had replied that she was sure that I had no thought of opening another Orphan House.
The more I pondered the matter, the more it appeared to me that this was the hand of God moving me onward in this service. The following remarkable combination of circumstances struck me in particular: More applications have been made for the admission of orphans, especially during the last few months, than we are able to meet. The houses are filled as much as the health of the children and of the laborers will permit.
If I did rent another house for orphans, it would be most desirable and convenient to be in the same street where the other three are. But since the third Orphan House was opened, none of the larger houses in the street have been available.
Fifteen of the children in the Infant Orphan House should be moved to the house for the older girls, but there is no room. When a vacancy happens to occur in that house, several children are waiting to fill it. My original intention was to move the children older than seven years to the houses for older boys and girls. Another Orphan House would solve the problem.
I know two sisters who would be suitable laborers for this fourth Orphan House, and they have a desire to be part of the work.
Three hundred pounds remain of the five hundred pounds I recently received. This money may be used to furnish a new Orphan House. I have never had this much money on hand at any one time during the last five years-a remarkable thing, in connection with the four other circumstances.
A fourth Orphan House would increase our expenses several hundred pounds a year. We have experienced almost continuous trials of faith for five years. This new Orphan House would prove that I have not regretted this service, and that I am not tired of depending on the Lord from day to day. The faith of other children of God might be strengthened and encouraged.
But as conclusive as these points were, they did not convince me that I should go forward in this service if the Spirit's leading did not accompany them. I therefore prayed day after day, without saying anything to any other person. I prayed twenty-two days without even mentioning it to my dear wife. Finally, I came to the conclusion that God wanted me to establish another Orphan House. That same day I received fifty pounds. What a striking confirmation that the Lord will help although the needs increase!
At last I went to inquire whether the woman still wanted to move to another house. But here I found an apparent hindrance. Since I had not expressed any interest in the house, she and her father changed their plans and decided to remain But they asked me to come back in a week, and they would give me an answer.
I was not upset in the least by this obstacle. "Lord, if You have no need of another Orphan House, I have none," was my prayer. I was willing to do God's will and to delight myself in Him. I knew I was not seeking my own honor but the Lord's. I was not serving myself but Him. Through my times of prayer and waiting on the Lord, I had come to the conclusion that it was His will that I should go forward in this service. For these reasons I felt sure that I would have the house. I faced the obstacle in complete peace-a plain proof that I was being led by the Holy Spirit. If I had sought to enlarge the work by my own efforts, I would have been upset and uncomfortable.
After a week I called again on the woman. That same day her father had gone out and found a suitable house for them. He was willing to let me have the one on Wilson Street. I was accepted as a tenant, and all the difficulties were removed. After - the first of June, we began getting the house ready; and in July, the orphans were received.
When a believer is doing the work that God has called him to do, he may be confident of success in spite of obstacles. The first thing he has to ask himself is: Am I in a calling in which I can abide with God? If you cannot ask God's blessing upon your occupation, or if you would be ashamed to be found in it when the Lord Jesus returns, or if it hinders your spiritual progress, then you must give it up and be engaged in something else. But this is only necessary in a few cases. Most occupations are not of such a nature that a believer would need to give them up in order to maintain a good conscience before God, although certain alterations may need to be made in the manner of conducting the business. The Lord will direct us in this if we wait upon Him and expect to hear His voice.
The next point to be settled is this: Why do I carry on this business, or why am I engaged in this trade or profession? In most instances the answer would be, "I am engaged in my earthly calling so that I may support myself and my family." Here is the chief error that causes almost all the other errors by children of God concerning their calling. To be engaged in a business merely to obtain the necessities of life for ourselves and family is not scriptural. We should work because it is the Lord's will concerning us. "Let him labor, working with his hands the thing which is good, that he may have to give to him that needeth" (Eph. 4:28).
The Lord generally meets our needs through our jobs. But that is not the reason why we should work. If providing the necessities of life depended on our, ability to work, we could never have freedom from anxiety. We would always have to say to ourselves, "What will I do when I am too old to work, or if I am sick?" But if we are engaged in our earthly calling because it is the will of the Lord for us, He is sure to provide for us because we labor in obedience to Him.
Why do I carry on this business? Why am I engaged in this trade or profession? These questions should first be settled In the fear of God and according to His revealed will. We will then answer honestly, "I carry on my business as a servant of Jesus Christ. He has commanded me to work, 'and therefore, I work." Whether a believer chooses to become a missionary, a teacher, a carpenter, or a businessman, he will be blessed and find satisfaction in his career-as long as he works in joyful obedience to the Lord.
The Wise Sayings Of George Müller
FEW who have not carefully read the Narrative of Mr. Müller and the subsequent Reports issued year by year, have any idea of the large amount of wisdom which there finds expression. We give here a few examples of the sagacious and spiritual counsels and utterances with which these pages abound.
CARE OF THE BODY.
I find it a difficult thing, whilst caring for the body, not to neglect the soul. It seems to me much easier to go on altogether regardless of the body, in the service of the Lord, than to take care of the body, in the time of sickness, and not to neglect the soul, especially in an affliction like my present one, when the head allows but little reading or thinking.-- What a blessed prospect to be delivered from this wretched evil!
HABITS OF SLEEP.
My own experience has been, almost invariably, that if I have not the needful sleep, my spiritual enjoyment and strength is greatly affected by it. I judge it of great moment that the believer, in travelling, should seek as much as possible to refrain from travelling by night, or from travelling in such a way as that he is deprived of the needful night's rest; for if he does not, he will be unable with renewed bodily and mental strength to give himself to prayer and meditation, and the reading of the Holy Scriptures, and he will surely feel the pernicious effects of this all the day long. There may occur cases when travelling by night cannot be avoided; but, if it can, though we should seem to lose time by it, and though it should cost more money, I would most affectionately and solemnly recommend refraining from night-travelling; for, in addition to drawing beyond measure upon our bodily strength, must be losers spiritually. The next thing I would advise with reference to travelling is, with all one's might seek morning by morning, before setting out, to take time for meditation and prayer, and reading the word of God; for although we are always exposed to temptation, yet are so especially in travelling. Travelling is one of devil's especial opportunities for tempting us. Think of that, dear fellow believers. Seek always to ascertain carefully the mind of God, before you begin anything; but so in particular before you go on a journey, so that you may be quite sure that it is the will of God that you should undertake that journey, lest you should needlessly expose yourself to one of the special opportunities of the devil ensnare you. So far from envying those who have a carriage and horses at their command, or an abundance of means, so that they are not hindered from travelling for want of means, let us who are not thus situated rather thank God that in this particular we are not exposed to the temptation of needing to be less careful in ascertaining the will of God before we set out on a journey.
CONVERSION OF CHILDREN.
As far as my experience goes, it appears to me that believers generally have expected far too little of present fruit upon their labours among children. There has been a hoping that the Lord some day or other would own the instruction which they give to children, and would answer at some time or other, though after many years only, the prayers which they offer up on their behalf. Now, while such passages as Proverbs xxii.6, Ecclesiastes xi.1, Galatians vi.9, 1 Cor. xv.58, give unto us assurance not merely respecting everything which we do for the Lord, in general, but also respecting bringing up children in the fear of the Lord, in particular, that our labour is not in vain in the Lord; yet we have to guard against abusing such passages, by thinking it a matter of little moment whether we see present fruit or not; but, on the contrary, we should give the Lord no rest till we see present fruit, and therefore, in persevering, yet submissive, prayer, we should make known our requests unto God. I add, as an encouragement to believers who labour among children, that during the last two years seventeen other young persons or children, have been received into fellowship, among us, and that I am looking out now for many more to be converted, and that not merely of the orphans, but of the Sunday and day-school children.
NEGLECT OF CHILDREN.
The power for good or evil that resides in a little child is great beyond all human calculation. A child rightly trained may be a world-wide blessing, with an influence reaching onward to eternal years. But a neglected or misdirected child may live to blight and blast mankind, and leave influences of evil which shall roll on in increasing volume till they plunge into the gulf of eternal perdition.
"A remarkable instance was related by Dr. Harris, of New York, at a recent meeting of the State Charities Aid Association. In a small village in a county on the upper Hudson, some seventy years ago, a young girl named 'Margaret' was sent adrift on the casual charity of the inhabitants. She became the mother of a long race of criminals and paupers, and her progeny has cursed the county ever since. The county records show two hundred of her descendants who have been criminals. In one single generation of her unhappy line there were twenty children; of these, three died in infancy, and seventeen survived maturity. Of the seventeen, nine served in the State prison for high crimes an aggregate term of fifty years, while others were frequent inmates of jails and penitentiaries and almshouses. Of the nine hundred descendants, through six generations, from this unhappy girl who was left on the village streets and abandoned in her childhood, a great number have been idiots, imbeciles, drunk lunatics, paupers, and prostitutes: but two hundred of the more vigorous are on record as criminals. This neglected little child has thus cost the county authorities, in the effects she has transmitted, hundreds of thousands of dollars, in the expense and care of criminals and paupers, besides the untold damage she has inflicted on property and public morals."
TRAINING OF CHILDREN.
Seek to cherish in your children early the habit of being interested about the work of God, and about cases of need and distress, and use them too at suitable times, and under suitable circumstances, as your almoners, and you will reap fruit from doing so.
BEGINNING OF LIFE, ETC.
God alone can give spiritual life at the first, and keep it up in the soul afterwards.
The Christian, like the bee, might suck honey out of every flower. I saw upon a snuffer-stand in bas-relief,
"A heart, a cross under it, and roses under both."
The meaning obviously is this, that the heart which bears the cross for a time meets with roses afterwards.
It has been often mentioned to me, in various places, that brethren in business do not sufficiently attend to the keeping of promises, and I cannot therefore but entreat all who love our Lord Jesus, and who are engaged in a trade or business, to seek for His sake not to make any promises, except they have every reason to believe they shall be able to fulfil them, and therefore carefully to weigh all the circumstances, before making any engagement, lest they should fail in its accomplishment. It is even in these little ordinary affairs of life that may either bring much honour or dishonour to the Lord; and these are the things which every unbeliever can take notice of. Why should it be so often said, and sometimes with a measure of ground, or even much ground:
"Believers are bad servants, bad tradesmen, bad masters."
Surely it ought not to be true that we, who have power with God to obtain by prayer and faith all needful grace, wisdom, and skill, should be bad servants, bad tradesmen. bad masters.
THE LOT AND THE LOTTERY.
It is altogether wrong that I, a child of God, should have anything to do with so worldly a system as that of the lottery. But it was also unscriptural to go to the lot at all for the sake of ascertaining the Lord's mind, and this I ground on the following reasons. We have neither a commandment of God for it, nor the example of Lord, nor that of the apostles, after the Holy Spirit had been given on the day of Pentecost.
1. We have many exhortations in the word of God to seek to know His mind by prayer and searching the Holy Scriptures, but no passage which exhorts us to use the lot.
2. The example of the apostles (Acts i.) in using the lot, in the choice of an apostle in the room of Judas Iscariot, is the only passage which can be brought in favour of the lot from the New Testament (and to the Old we have not to go, under dispensation, for the sake of ascertaining how we ought to live as disciples of Christ). Now concerning this circumstance we have to remember that the Spirit was not yet given (John vii.39; ch. xiv.16,17; ch. xvi.7,13) by whose teaching especially it is that we may know the mind of the Lord; and hence we find that, after the day of Pentecost, the lot was no more used, but the apostles gave themselves to prayer and fasting to ascertain how they ought to act.
What a difference grace makes! There were few people perhaps, more passionately fond of travelling, and seeing fresh places, and new scenes, than myself; but now, since, by the grace of God, I have seen beauty in the Lord Jesus, I have lost my taste for these things... What a different thing, also, to travel in the service of the Lord Jesus, from what it is to travel in the service of the flesh!
Every instance of obedience, from right motives, strengthens us spiritually, whilst every act of disobedience weakens us.
SEPARATION UNTO GOD.
May the Lord grant that the eyes of many of His children may be opened, so that they may seek, in all spiritual things, to be separated from unbelievers (2 Cor. vi.14-18), and to do God's work according to God's mind!
SERVICE TO ONE'S GENERATION.
My business is, with all my might to serve my own generation; in doing so I shall best serve the next generation, should the Lord Jesus tarry... The longer I live, the more I am enabled to realize that I have but one life to live on earth, and that this one life is but a brief life, for sowing, in comparison with eternity, for reaping.
SURETY FOR DEBT.
How precious it is, even for this life, to act according to the word of God! This perfect revelation of His mind gives us directions for everything, even the most minute affairs of this life. It commands us,
"Be thou not one of them that strike hands, or of them that are sureties for debts."
The way in which Satan ensnares persons, to bring them into the net, and to bring trouble upon them by becoming sureties, is, that he seeks to represent the matter as if there were no danger connected with that particular case, and that one might be sure one should never be called upon to pay the money; but the Lord, the faithful Friend, tells us in His own word that the only way in such a matter "to be sure" is "to hate suretyship." (Prov. xi.15.) The following points seem to me of solemn moment for consideration, if I were called upon to become surety for another:
1. What obliges the person, who wishes me to become surety for him, to need a surety? Is it really a good cause in which I am called upon to become surety? I do not remember ever to have net with a case in which in a plain, and godly, and in all respects scriptural matter such a thing occurred. There was generally some sin or other connected with it.
2. If I become surety, notwithstanding what the Lord has said to me in His word, am I in such a position that no one will be injured by my being called upon to fulfil the engagements of the person for whom I am going to be surety? In most instances this alone ought to keep one from it.
3. If still I become surety, the amount of money for which I become responsible must be so in my power that I am able to produce it whenever it is called for in order that the name of the Lord may not be dishonoured.
4. But if there be the possibility of having to fulfil the engagements of the person in whose stead I have to stand, is it the will of the Lord that I should spend my means in that way? Is it not rather His will that my means should be spent in another way?
5. How can I get over the plain word of the Lord, which is to the contrary, if the first four points could be satisfactorily settled?
ASSEMBLY OF BELIEVERS.
It has been my own happy lot, during the last thirty-seven years, to become acquainted with hundreds of individuals, who were not inferior to apostolic Christians.
That the disciples of Jesus should meet together on the first day of the week for the breaking of bread, and that that should be their principal meeting, and that those, whether one or several, who are truly gifted by the Holy Spirit for service, be it for exhortation, or teaching, or rule, etc., are responsible to the Lord for the exercise of their gifts-- these are to me no matters of uncertainty, but points on which my soul, by grace, is established, through the revealed will of God.
I have often remarked the injurious effects of doing things because others did them, or because it was the custom, or because they were persuaded into acts of outward self-denial, or giving up things whilst the heart did not go along with it, and whilst the outward act was NOT the result of the inward powerful working of the Holy Ghost, and the happy entering into our fellowship with the Father and with the Son.
Everything that is a mere form, a mere habit and custom in divine things, is to be dreaded exceedingly: life, power, reality, this is what we have to aim after. Things should not result from without, but from within. The sort of clothes I wear, the kind of house I live in, the quality of the furniture I use, all such like things should not result from other persons doing so and so, or because it is customary among those brethren with whom I associate to live in such and such a simple, inexpensive self-denying way; but whatever be done in these things, in the way of giving up, or self-denial, or deadness to the world, should result from the joy we have in God, from the knowledge of our being the children of God, from the entering into the preciousness of our future inheritance, etc. Far better that for the time being we stand still, and do not take the steps which we see others take, than that it is merely the force of example that leads us to do a thing, and afterwards it be regretted. Not that I mean in the least this to imply we should continue to live in luxury, self-indulgence, and the like, whilst others are in great need; but we should begin the thing in a right way, i.e., aim after the right state of heart; begin inwardly instead of outwardly. If otherwise, it will not last. We shall look back, or even get into a worse state than we were before. But oh, how different if joy in God leads us to any little act of self-denial. How gladly do we do it then! How great an honour then do we esteem it to be! How much does the heart then long to be able to do more for Him who has done so much for us! We are far then from looking down in proud self-complacency upon those who do not go as far as we do, but rather pray to the Lord that He would be pleased to help our dear brethren and sisters forward who may seem to us weak in any particular point; and we also are conscious to ourselves that if we have a little more light or strength with reference to one point, other brethren may have more light or grace in other respects.
HELPING ONE ANOTHER.
As to the importance of the children of God opening their hearts to each other, especially when they are getting in a cold state, or are under the power of a certain sin, or are in especial difficulty; I know from my own experience how often the snare of the devil has been broken when under the power of sin; how often the heart has been comforted when nigh to be overwhelmed; how often advice, and great perplexity, has been obtained,-- by opening my heart to a brother in whom I had confidence. We are children of the same family, and ought therefore to be helpers one of another.
1. Many persons, on account of timidity, would prefer coming at an appointed time to the vestry to converse with us, to calling on us in our own house.
2. The very fact of appointing a time for seeing people, to converse with them in private concerning the things of eternity, has brought some who, humanly speaking, never would have called on us under other circumstances; yea, it has brought even those who, though they thought they were concerned about the things of God, yet were completely ignorant; and thus we have had an opportunity of speaking to them.
3. These meetings have also been a great encouragement to ourselves in the work; for often, when we thought that such and such expositions of the Word had done no good at all, it was, through these meetings, found to be the reverse; and likewise, when our hands were hanging down, we have been afresh encouraged to go forward in the work of the Lord, and to continue sowing the seed in hope, by seeing at these meetings fresh cases in which the Lord had condescended to use us as instruments, particularly as in this way instances have sometimes occurred in which individuals have spoken to us about the benefit which they derived from our ministry, not only a few months before, but even as long as two, three, and four years before.
For the above reasons I would particularly recommend to other servants of Christ, especially to those who live in large towns, if they have not already introduced a similar plan, to consider whether it may not be well for them also to set apart such times for seeing inquirers. Those meetings, however, require much prayer, to be enabled to speak aright, to all those who come, according to their different need; and one is led continually to feel that one is not sufficient of one's self for these things, but that our sufficiency can be alone of God. These meetings also have been by far the most wearing-out part of all our work, though at the same time the most refreshing.
An unvisited church will sooner or later become an unhealthy church.
1. Pew-rents are, according to James ii.1-6, against the mind of the Lord, as, in general, the poor brother cannot have so good a seat as the rich.
2. A brother may gladly do something towards my support if left to his own time; but when the quarter is up, he has perhaps other expenses, and I do not know whether he pays his money grudgingly, and of necessity, or cheerfully; but God loveth a cheerful giver. Nay, I knew it to be a fact that sometimes it had not been convenient to individuals to pay the money, when it had been asked for by the brethren who collected it.
3. Though the Lord had been pleased to give me grace to be faithful, so that I had been enabled not to keep back the truth, when He had shown it to me; still I felt that the pew-rents were a snare to the servant of Christ. It was a temptation to me, at least for a few minutes, at the time when the Lord had stirred me up to pray and search the Word respecting the ordinance of baptism, because £30 of my salary was at stake if I should be baptized.
All establishments, even because they are establishments, i.e., the world and the church mixed up together, not only contain in them the principles which necessarily must lead to departure from the word of God; but also, as long as they remain establishments, entirely preclude the acting throughout according to the Holy Scriptures.
Where Faith begins, anxiety ends;
Where anxiety begins, Faith ends.
Ponder these words of the Lord Jesus,
As long as we are able to trust in God, holding fast in heart, that he is able and willing to help those who rest on the Lord Jesus for salvation, in all matters which are for His glory and their good, the heart remains calm and peaceful. It is only when we practically let go faith in His power or His love, that we lose our peace and become troubled. This very day I am in great trial in connection with the work in which I am engaged; yet my soul was calmed and quieted by the remembrance of God's power and love; and I said to myself this morning:
"As David encouraged himself in Jehovah his God, when he returned to Ziklag, so will I encourage myself in God;"
and the result was peace of soul... It is the very time for faith to work, when sight ceases. The greater the difficulties, the easier for faith. As long as there remain certain natural prospects, faith does not get on even as easily (if I may say so), as when all natural prospects fail.
DEPENDENCE ON GOD.
Observe two things! We acted for God in delaying the public meetings and the publishing of the Report; but God's way leads always into trial, so far as sight and sense are concerned. Nature always will be tried in God's ways. The Lord was saying by this poverty,
"I will now see whether you truly lean upon me, and whether you truly look to me."
Of all the seasons that I had ever passed through since I had been living in this way, up to that time, I never knew any period in which my faith was tried so sharply, as during the four months from Dec. 12, 1841, to April 1, 1842. But observe further:
We might even now have altered our minds with respect to the public meetings and publishing the Report; for no one knew our determination, at this time, concerning the point. Nay, on the contrary, we knew with what delight very many children of God were looking forward to receive further accounts. But the Lord kept us steadfast to the conclusion, at which we had arrived under His guidance.
GIFT AND GRACE OF FAITH.
It pleased the Lord, I think, to give me in some cases something like the gift (not grace) of faith, so that unconditionally I could ask and look for an answer. The difference between the gift and the grace of faith seems to me this. According to the gift of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, the not doing of which, or the not believing of which would not be sin; according to the grace of faith I am able to do a thing, or believe that a thing will come to pass, respecting which I have the word of God as the ground to rest upon, and, therefore, the not doing it, or the not believing it would be sin. For instance, the gift of faith would be needed, to believe that a sick person should be restored again, though there is no human probability: for there is no promise to that effect; the grace of faith is needed to believe that the Lord will give me the necessaries of life, if I first seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness: for there is a promise to that effect. (Matt. vi.33.)
The natural mind is ever prone to reason, when we ought to believe; to be at work, when we ought to be quiet; to go our own way, when we ought steadily to walk on in God's ways, however trying to nature.
TRIALS OF FAITH.
The Lord gives faith, for the very purpose of trying it for the glory of His own name, and for the good of him who has it; and, by the very trial of our faith, we not only obtain blessing to our own souls, by becoming the better acquainted with God, if we hold fast our confidence in Him, but our faith is also, by the exercise, strengthened: and so it comes, that, if we walk with God in any measure of uprightness of heart, the trials of faith will be greater and greater.
It is for the church's benefit that we are put in these straits; and if, therefore, in the hour of need, we were to take goods on credit, the first and primary object of the work would be completely frustrated, and no heart would be further strengthened to trust in God, nor would there be any longer that manifestation of the special and particular providence of God, which has hitherto been so abundantly shown through this work, even in the eyes of unbelievers, whereby they have been led to see that there is, after all, reality in the things of God, and many, through these printed accounts, have been truly converted.
For these reasons, then, we consider it our precious privilege, as heretofore, to continue to wait upon the Lord only, instead of taking goods on credit, or borrowing money from some kind friends, when we are in need. Nay, we purpose, as God shall give grace, to look to Him only, though morning after morning we should have nothing in hand for the work-- yea, though from meal to meal we should have to look to Him; being fully assured that He who is now (1845) in the tenth year feeding these many orphans, and who has never suffered them to want, and that He who is now (1845) in the twelfth year carrying on the other parts of the work, without any branch of it having had to be stopped for want of means, will do so for the future also.
And here I do desire in the deep consciousness of my natural helplessness and dependence upon the Lord to confess that through the grace of God my soul has been in peace, though day after day we have had to wait for our daily provisions upon the Lord; yea, though even from meal to meal we have been required to do this.
ASKING GIFTS, ETC.
It is not enough to obtain means for the work of God, but that these means should be obtained in God's way. To ask unbelievers for means is not God's way; to press even believers to give, is not God's way; but the duty and the privilege of being allowed to contribute to the work of God should be pointed out, and this should be followed up with earnest prayer, believing prayer, and will result in the desired end.
CLAIMS OF GOD.
It is true, the Gospel demands our All; but I fear that, in the general claim on All, we have shortened the claim on everything. We are not under law. True; but that is not to make our obedience less complete, or our giving less bountiful: rather, is it not, that after all claims of law are settled, the new nature finds its joy in doing more than the law requires? Let us abound in the work of the Lord more and more.
GIVING IN ADVERSITY.
At the end of the last century a very godly and liberal merchant in London was one day called on by a gentleman, to ask him for some money for a charitable object. The gentleman expected very little, having just heard that the merchant had sustained heavy loss from the wreck of some of his ships. Contrary, however, to expectation, he received about ten times as much as he had expected for his object. He was unable to refrain from expressing his surprise to the merchant, told him what he had heard, how he feared he should scarcely have received anything, and asked whether after all there was not a mistake about the shipwreck of the vessels. The merchant replied,
"It is quite true, I have sustained heavy loss, by these vessels being wrecked, but that is the very reason, why I give you so much; for I must make better use than ever of my stewardship, lest it should be entirely taken from me."
How have we to act if prosperity in our business, our trade, our profession, etc., should suddenly cease, notwithstanding our having given a considerable proportion of our means for the Lord's work? My reply is this:
"In the day of adversity consider."
It is the will of God that we should ponder our ways; that we should see whether there is any particular reason, why God has allowed this to befall us. In doing so, we may find, that we have too much looked on our prosperity as a matter of course, and have not sufficiently owned and recognized practically the hand of God in our success. Or it may be, while the Lord has been pleased to prosper us, we have spent too much on ourselves, and may have thus, though unintentionally, abused the blessing of God. I do not mean by this remark to bring any children of God into bondage, so that, with a scrupulous conscience, they should look at every penny, which they spend on themselves; this is not the will of God concerning us; and yet, on the other hand, there is verily such a thing as propriety or impropriety in our dress, our furniture, our table, our house, our establishment, and in the yearly amount we spend on ourselves and family.
GIVING AND HOARDING.
I have every reason to believe, that, had I begun to lay up, the Lord would have stopped the supplies, and thus, the ability of doing so was only apparent. Let no one profess to trust in God, and yet lay up for future wants, otherwise the Lord will first send him to the hoard he has amassed, before He can answer the prayer for more.
"There is that scattereth, and yet increaseth;
and there is that withholdeth more than is meet,
but it tendeth to poverty."
Notice here the word "more than is meet;" it is not said, withholdeth all; but "more than is meet," viz.., while he gives, it is so little, in comparison with what it might be, and ought to be, that it tendeth to poverty.
MOTIVES TO GIVING.
Believers should seek more and more to enter into the grace and love of God, in giving His only-begotten Son, and into the grace and love of the Lord Jesus, in giving Himself in our room, in order that, constrained by love and gratitude, they may be increasingly led, to surrender their bodily and mental strength, their time, gifts, talents, property, position in life, rank, and all they have and are to the Lord.
By this I do not mean, that they should give up their business, trade, or profession, and become preachers to the Lord; nor do I mean that they should take all their money and give it to the first beggar who asks for it; but that they should hold all they have and are, for the Lord, not as owners, but as stewards, and be willing, at His bidding, to use for Him, part or all, they have. However short the believer may fall, nothing less than this should be his aim.
It is the Lord's order, that, in whatever way He is pleased to make us His stewards, whether as to temporal or spiritual things, if we are indeed acting as stewards and not as owners, He will make us stewards over more.
Even in this life, and as to temporal things, the Lord is pleased to repay those, who act for Him as stewards, and who contribute to His work or to the poor, as He may be pleased to prosper them. But how much greater is the spiritual blessing we receive, both in this life and in the world to come, if constrained by the love of Christ, we act as God's stewards, respecting that, with which He is pleased to intrust us!
Only fix even the smallest amount you purpose to give of your income, and give this regularly; and as God is pleased to increase your light and grace, and is pleased to prosper you more, so give more. If you neglect an habitual giving, a regular giving, a giving from principle and upon scriptural ground, and leave it only to feeling and impulse, or particular arousing circumstances, you will certainly be a loser.
"A merchant in the United States said in answer to inquiries relative to his mode of giving,
'In consecrating my life anew to God, aware of the ensnaring influence of riches and the necessity of deciding on a plan of charity, before wealth should bias my judgment, I adopted the following system:
I decided to balance my accounts as nearly as I could every month, reserving such portion of profits as might appear adequate to cover probable losses, and to lay aside, by entry on a benevolent account, one tenth of the remaining profits, great or small, as a fund for benevolent expenditure, supporting myself and family on the remaining nine tenths. I further determined, that, if at any time my net profits, that is profits from which clerk-hire and store expenses had been deducted, should exceed five hundred dollars in a month, I would give 12 1/2 per cent.; if over seven hundred dollars, 15 per cent.; if over nine hundred dollars, 17 1/2 per cent.; if over thirteen hundred dollars, 22 1/2 per cent,-- thus increasing the proportion of the whole as God should prosper me, until at fifteen hundred dollars I should give 25 per cent, or 375 dollars a month. As capital was of the utmost importance to my success in business, I decided not to increase the foregoing scale until I had acquired a certain capital, after which I would give one quarter of all net profits, great or small, and, on the acquisition of another certain amount of capital, I decided to give half, and, on acquiring what I determined would be a full sufficiency of capital, then to give the whole of my net profits.
It is now several years since I adopted this plan, and under it I have acquired a handsome capital, and have been prospered beyond my most sanguine expectations. Although constantly giving, I have never yet touched the bottom of my fund, and have repeatedly been surprised to find what large drafts it would bear. True, during some months, I have encountered a salutary trial of faith, when this rule has led me to lay by the tenth while the remainder proved inadequate to my support; but the tide has soon turned, and with gratitude I have recognized a heavenly hand more than making good all past deficiencies.'"
The following deeply interesting particulars are recorded in the memoir of Mr. Cobb, a Boston merchant. At the age of twenty-three, Mr. Cobb drew up and subscribed the following remarkable document:
"By the grace of God I will never be worth more than 50,000 dollars. By the grace of God I will give one fourth of the net profits of my business to charitable and religious uses. If I am ever worth 20,000 dollars I will give one half of my net profits; and if ever I am worth 30,000 dollars, I will give three fourths; and the whole after 50,000 dollars. So help me God, or give to a more faithful steward, and set me aside."
"To this covenant," says his memoir, "he adhered with conscientious fidelity."
He distributed the profits of his business with an increasing ratio, from year to year, till he reached the point which he had fixed as a limit to his property, and then gave to the cause of God all the money which he earned. At one time, finding that his property had increased beyond 50,000 dollars, he at once devoted the surplus 7,500 dollars.
"On his death-bed he said,
'by the grace of God-- nothing else-- by the grace of God I have been enabled, under the influence of these resolutions to give away more than 40,000 dollars. How good the Lord has been to me!'"
Mr. Cobb was also an active, humble, and devoted Christian, seeking the prosperity of feeble churches; labouring to promote the benevolent institutions of the day; punctual in his attendance at prayer meetings, and anxious to aid the inquiring sinner; watchful for the eternal interests of those under his charge; mild and amiable in his deportment; and, in the general tenor of his life and character an example of consistent piety.
His last sickness and death were peaceful, yea triumphant.
"It is a glorious thing," said he, "to die. I have been active and busy in the world-- I have enjoyed life as much as anyone-- God has prospered me-- I have everything to bind me here-- I am happy in my family-- I have property enough-- but how small and mean does this world appear on a sick-bed! Nothing can equal my enjoyment in the near view of heaven. My hope in Christ is worth infinitely more than all other things. The blood of Christ-- the blood of Christ-- none but Christ! Oh! how thankful I feel that God has provided a way that I may look forward with joy to another world, through His dear Son."
APPROVAL OF GOD.
In the whole work we desire to stand with God, and not to depend upon the favourable or unfavourable judgment of the multitude.
CHASTISEMENTS OF GOD.
Our Heavenly Father never takes any earthly thing from His children except He means to give them something better instead.
The Lord, in His very love and faithfulness, will not, and cannot, let us go on in backsliding but He will visit us with stripes, to bring us back to Himself!
The Lord never lays more on us, in the way of chastisement, than our state of heart makes needful; so that whilst He smites with the one hand, He supports with the other.
If, as believers in the Lord. Jesus, we see that our Heavenly Father, on account of wrong steps, or a wrong state of heart, is dealing with us in the way of discipline or correction, we have to be grateful for it; for He is acting thus towards us according to that selfsame love, which led Him not to spare His only begotten Son, but to deliver Him up for us; and our gratitude to Him is to be expressed in words, and even by deeds. We have to guard against practically despising the chastening of the Lord, though we may not do so in word, and against fainting under chastisement: since all is intended for blessing to us.
FAITHFULNESS OF GOD.
Perhaps you have said in your heart:
"How would it be; suppose the funds of the orphans were reduced to nothing, and those who are engaged in the work had nothing of their own to give, and a meal-time were to come, and you had no food for the children."
Thus indeed it may be, for our hearts are desperately wicked. If ever we should be so left to ourselves, as that either we depend no more upon the living God, or that "we regard iniquity in our hearts,"
then such a state of things, we have reason to believe, would occur. But so long as we shall be enabled to trust in the Living God, and so long as, though falling short in every way of what we might be, and ought to be, we are at least kept from living in sin, such a state of things cannot occur.
The Lord, to show His continued care over us, raises up new helpers. They that trust in the Lord shall never be confounded! Some who helped for a while may fall asleep in Jesus; others may grow cold in the service of the Lord; others may be as desirous as ever to help, but have no longer the means; others may have both a willing heart to help, and have also the means, but may see it the Lord's will to lay them out in another way;-- and thus, from one cause or another, were we to lean upon man, we should surely be confounded; but, in leaning upon the living God alone, we are BEYOND disappointment, and BEYOND being forsaken because of death, or want of means, orwant of love, or because of the claims of other work. How precious to have learned in any measure to stand with God alone in the world, and yet to be happy, and to know that surely no good thing shall be withheld from us whilst we walk uprightly!
PARTNERSHIP WITH GOD.
A brother, who is in about the same state in which he was eight years ago, has very little enjoyment, and makes no progress in the things of God. The reason is, that, against his conscience, he remains in a calling, which is opposed to the profession of a believer. We are exhorted in Scripture to abide in our calling; but only if we can abide in it "with God." (1 Cor. vii.24.)
POWER OF GOD.
There is a worldly proverb, dear Christian reader, with which we are all familiar, it is this,
"Where there is a will there is a way."
If this is the proverb of those who know not God, how much more should believers in the Lord Jesus, who have power with God, say:
"Where there is a will there is a way."
TRUST IN GOD
Only let it be trust in God, not in man, not in circumstances, not in any of your own exertions, but real trust in God, and you will be helped in your various necessities... Not in circumstances, not in natural prospects, not in former donors, but solely in God. This is just that which brings the blessing. If we say we trust in Him, but in reality do not, then God, taking us at our word, lets us see that we do not really confide in Him; and hence failure arises. On the other hand, if our trust in the Lord is real, help will surely come.
"According unto thy faith be it unto thee."
It is a source of deep sorrow to me, that, notwithstanding my having so many times before referred to this point, thereby to encourage believers in the Lord Jesus, to roll all their cares upon God, and to trust in Him at all times, it is yet, by so many, put down to mere natural causes, that I am helped; as if the Living God were no more the Living God, and as if in former ages answers to prayer might have been expected, but that in the nineteenth century they must not be looked for.
THE WILL OF GOD.
How important it is to ascertain the will of God, before we undertake anything, because we are then not only blessed in our own souls, but also the work of our hands will prosper.
Just in as many points as we are acting according to the mind of God, in so many are we blessed and made a blessing. Our manner of living is according to the mind of the Lord, for He delights in seeing His children thus come to Him (Matt. vi); and therefore, though I am weak and erring in many points, yet He blesses me in this particular.
First of all, to see well to it, that the work in which he desires to be engaged is God's work;
secondly, that he is the person to be engaged in this work;
thirdly, that God's time is come, when he should do this work;
and then to be assured, that, if he seeks God's help in His own appointed way, He will not fail him.
We have ever found it thus, and expect to find it thus, on the ground of the promises of God, to the end of our course.
1. Be slow to take new steps in the Lord's service, or in your business, or in your families. Weigh everything well; weigh all in the light of the Holy Scriptures, and in the fear of God.
2. Seek to have no will of your own, in order to ascertain the mind of God, regarding any steps you propose to take, so that you can honestly say, you are willing to do the will of God, if He will only please to instruct you.
3. But when you have found out what the will of God is, seek for His help, and seek it earnestly, perseveringly, patiently, believingly, and expectingly: and you will surely, in His own time and way, obtain it.
We have not to rush forward in self-will and say, I will do the work, and I will trust the Lord for means, this cannot be real trust, it is the counterfeit of faith, it is presumption; and though God, in great pity and mercy, may even help us finally out of debt; yet does this, on no account, prove that we were right in going forward before His time was come. We ought, rather, under such circumstances to say to ourselves:
"Am I indeed doing the work of God?"
And if so, I may not be the person to do it; or if I am the person, His time may not yet be come for me to go forward; it may be His good pleasure to exercise my faith and patience. I ought, therefore, quietly to wait His time; for when it is come, God will help. Acting on this principle brings blessing.
To ascertain the Lord's will we ought to use scriptural means. Prayer, the word of God, and His Spirit should be united together. We should go to the Lord repeatedly in prayer, and ask Him to teach us by His Spirit through His word. I say by His Spirit through His word. For if we should think that His Spirit led us to do so and so, because certain facts are so and so, and yet His word is opposed to the step which we are going to take, we should be deceiving ourselves. No situation, no business will be given to me by God, in which I have not time enough to care about my soul. Therefore, however outward circumstances may appear, it can only be considered as permitted of God, to prove the genuineness of my love, faith, and obedience, but by no means as the leading of His providence to induce me to act contrary to His revealed will.
To enter upon the marriage union is one of the most deeply important events of life. It cannot be too prayerfully treated. Our happiness, our usefulness, our living for God or for ourselves afterwards, are often most intimately connected with our choice. Therefore, in the most prayerful manner, this choice should be made. Neither beauty, nor age, nor money, nor mental powers, should be that which prompts the decision; but
1st, Much waiting upon God for guidance should be used;
2nd, A hearty purpose to be willing to be guided by Him should be aimed after;
3rd, True godliness without a shadow of doubt, should be the first and absolutely needful qualification, to a Christian, with regard to a companion for life.
In addition to this, however, it ought to be, at the same time, calmly and patiently weighed, whether, in other respects, there is a suitableness. For instance, for an educated man to choose an entirely uneducated woman, is unwise; for however much on his part love might be willing to cover the defect, it will work very unhappily with regard to the children.
ANSWERS TO PRAYER.
I myself have for twenty-nine years been waiting for an answer to prayer concerning a certain spiritual blessing. Day by day have I been enabled to continue in prayer for this blessing. At home and abroad, in this country and in foreign lands, in health and in sickness, however much occupied, I have been enabled, day by day, by God's help, to bring this matter before Him; and still I have not the full answer yet. Nevertheless, I look for it. I expect it confidently. The very fact that day after day, and year after year, for twenty-nine years, the Lord has enabled me to continue, patiently, believingly, to wait on Him for the blessing, still further encourages me to wait on; and so fully am I assured that God hears me about this matter, that I have often been enabled to praise Him beforehand for the full answer, which I shall ultimately receive to my prayers on this subject. Thus, you see, dear reader, that while I have hundreds, yes, thousands of answers, year by year, I have also, like yourself and other believers, the trial of faith concerning certain matters.
ANXIETY AVOIDED BY PRAYER.
Though all believers in the Lord Jesus are not called upon to establish orphan houses, schools for poor children, etc., and trust in God for means; yet all believers, according to the will of God concerning them in Christ Jesus, may cast, and ought to cast, all their care upon Him who careth for them, and need not be anxiously concerned about anything, as is plainly to be seen from 1 Peter v.7; Philippians iv.6; Matthew vi.25-34.
My Lord is not limited; He can again supply; He knows that this present case has been sent to me; and thus, this way of living, so far from leading to anxiety, as it regards possible future want, is rather the means of keeping from it... This way of living has often been the means of reviving the work of grace in my heart, when I have been getting cold; and it also has been the means of bringing me back again to the Lord, after I have been backsliding. For it will not do,-- it is not possible, to live in sin, and at the same time, by communion with God, to draw down from heaven everything one needs for the life that now is... Answer to prayer, obtained in this way, has been the means of quickening my soul, and filling me with much joy.
I met at a brother's house with several believers, when a sister said that she had often thought about the care and burden I must have on my mind, as it regards obtaining the necessary supplies for so many persons. As this may not be a solitary instance, I would state that, by the grace of God, this is no cause of anxiety to me. The children I have years ago cast upon the Lord. The whole work is His, and it becomes me to be without carefulness. In whatever points I am lacking, in this point I am able by the grace of God, to roll the burden upon my heavenly Father. Though now (July 1845) for about seven years our funds have been so exhausted, that it has been comparatively a rare case that there have been means in hand to meet the necessities of the orphans for three days together; yet have I been only once tried in spirit, and that was on Sept. 18, 1838, when for the first time the Lord seemed not to regard our prayer. But when He did send help at that time, and I saw that it was only for the trial of our faith, and not because He had forsaken the work that we were brought so low, my soul was so strengthened and encouraged, that I have not only not been allowed to distrust the Lord since that time, but I have not even been cast down when in the deepest poverty. Nevertheless, in this respect also am I now, as much as ever, dependent on the Lord; and I earnestly beseech for myself and my fellow-labourers the prayers of all those, to whom the glory of God is dear. How great would be the dishonour to the name of God, if we, who have so publicly made our boast in Him, should so fall as to act in these very points as the world does! Help us, then, brethren, with your prayers, that we may trust in God to the end. We can expect nothing but that our faith will yet be tried, and it may be more than ever; and we shall fall, if the Lord does not uphold us.
BORROWING AND PRAYING.
As regards borrowing money, I have considered that there is no ground to go away from the door of the Lord to that of a believer, so long as He is willing to supply our need.
COMMUNION WITH GOD IN PRAYER.
How truly precious it is that every one who rests alone upon the Lord Jesus for salvation, has in the living God a father, to whom he may fully unbosom himself concerning the most minute affairs of his life, and concerning everything that lies upon his heart! Dear reader, do you know the living God? Is He, in Jesus, your Father? Be assured that Christianity is something more than forms and creeds and ceremonies: there is life, and power, and reality, in our holy faith. If you never yet have known this, then come and taste for yourself. I beseech you affectionately to meditate and pray over the following verses: John iii.16; Rom. x.9,10; acts x.43; 1 John v.1.
CONDITIONS OF PRAYER.
Go for yourself, with all your temporal and spiritual wants, to the Lord. Bring also the necessities of your friends and relatives to the Lord. Only make the trial, and you will perceive how able and willing He is to help you. Should you, however, not at once obtain answers to your prayers, be not discouraged; but continue patiently, believingly, perseveringly to wait upon God: and as assuredly as that which you ask would be for your real good, and therefore for the honour of the Lord; and as assuredly as you ask it solely on the ground of the worthiness of our Lord Jesus, so assuredly you will at last obtain the blessing. I myself have had to wait upon God concerning certain matters for years, before I obtained answers to my prayers; but at last they came. At this very time, I have still to renew my requests daily before God, respecting a certain blessing for which I have besought Him for eleven years and a half, and which I have as yet obtained only in part, but concerning which I have no doubt that the full blessing will be granted in the end...
The great point is, that we ask only for that which it would be for the glory of God to give to us; for that, and that alone, can be for our real good. But it is not enough that the thing for which we ask God be for His honour and glory, but we must
secondly ask it in the name of the Lord Jesus, viz., expect it only on the ground of His merits and worthiness.
Thirdly, we should believe that God is able and willing to give us what we ask Him for.
Fourthly, we should continue in prayer till the blessing is granted; without fixing to God a time when, or the circumstances under which, He should give the answer. Patience should be in exercise, in connection with our prayer.
Fifthly, we should, at the same time, look out for and expect an answer till it comes. If we pray in this way, we shall not only have answers, thousands of answers to our prayers; but our own souls will be greatly refreshed and invigorated in connection with these answers.
If the obtaining of your requests were not for your real good, or were not tending to the honour of God, you might pray for a long time, without obtaining what you desire. The glory of God should be always before the children of Gold, in what they desire at His hands; and their own spiritual profit, being so intimately connected with the honour of God, should never be lost sight of, in their petitions.
But now, suppose we are believers in the Lord Jesus, and make our requests unto God, depending alone on the Lord Jesus as the ground of having them granted; suppose, also, that, so far as we are able honestly and uprightly to judge, the obtaining of our requests would be for our real spiritual good and for the honour of God; we yet need, lastly, to continue in prayer, until the blessing is granted unto us. It is not enough to begin to pray, nor to pray aright; nor is it enough to continue for a time to pray; but we must patiently, believingly continue in prayer, until we obtain an answer; and further, we have not only to continue in prayer unto the end, but we have also to believe that God does hear us, and will answer our prayers. Most frequently we fail in not continuing in prayer until the blessing is obtained and in not expecting the blessing.
FAITH, PRAYER, AND THE WORD OF GOD.
Prayer and faith, the universal remedies against every want and every difficulty; and the nourishment of prayer and faith, God's holy word, helped me over all the difficulties.--
I never remember, in all my Christian course, a period now (in March 1895) of sixty-nine years and four months, that I ever SINCERELY and PATIENTLY sought to know the will of God by the teaching of the Holy Ghost, through the instrumentality of the word of God, but I have been ALWAYS directed rightly. But if honesty of heart anduprightness before God were lacking, or if I did not patiently wait upon God for instruction, or if I preferred the counsel of my fellow men to the declarations of the word of the living God, I made great mistakes.
Let none expect to have the mastery over his inward corruption in any degree, without going in his weakness again and again to the Lord for strength. Nor will prayer with others, or conversing with the brethren, make up for secret prayer.
SNARES OF SATAN AS TO PRAYER.
It is a common temptation of Satan to make us give up the reading of the Word and prayer when our enjoyment is gone; as if it were of no use to read the Scriptures when we do not enjoy them, and as if it were of no use to pray when we have no spirit of prayer; whilst the truth is, in order to enjoy the Word, we ought to continue to read it, and the way to obtain a spirit of prayer is to continue praying; for the less we read the word of God, the less we desire to read it, and the less we pray, the less we desire to pray.
WORK AND PRAYER.
Often the work of the Lord itself may be a temptation to keep us from that communion with Him which is so essential to the benefit of our own souls... Let none think that public prayer will make up for close communion.
Here is the great secret of success. Work with all your might; but trust not in the least in your work. Pray with all your might for the blessing of God; but work, at the same time, with all diligence, with all patience, with all perseverance. Pray then, and work. Work and pray. And still again pray, and then work. And so on all the days of your life. The result will surely be, abundant blessing. Whether you see much fruit or little fruit, such kind of service will be blessed... Speak also for the Lord, as if everything depended on your exertions; yet trust not the least in your exertions, but in the Lord, who alone can cause your efforts to be made effectual, to the benefit of your fellow men or fellow believers. Remember, also, that God delights to bestow blessing, but, generally, as the result of earnest, believing prayer.
It came immediately to my mind that such sort of preaching might do for illiterate country people, but that it would never do before a well-educated assembly in town. I thought, the truth ought to be preached at all hazards, but it ought to be given in a different form, suited to the hearers. Thus I remained unsettled in my mind as it regards the mode of preaching; and it is not surprising that I did not then see the truth concerning this matter, for I did not understand the work of the Spirit, and therefore saw not the powerlessness of human eloquence. Further, I did not keep in mind that if the most illiterate persons in the congregation can comprehend the discourse, the most educated will understand it too; but that the reverse does not hold true.
Restitution is the revealed will of God. If it is omitted, while we have it in our power to make it, guilt remains the conscience, and spiritual progress is hinderer. Even though it should be connected with difficulty, self-denial, and great loss, it is to be attended to. Should the persons who have been defrauded be dead, their heirs are to be found out, if this can be done, and restitution is to be made to them. But there may be cases when this cannot be done, and then only the money should be given to the Lord for His work or His poor. One word more. About fifty years ago, I knew a man under concern about his soul, who had defrauded his master of two sacks of flour, and who was urged by me to confess this sin to his late employer, and to make restitution. He would not do it, however, and the result was that for twenty years he never obtained real peace of soul till the thing was done.
Christians do not practically remember that while we are saved by grace, altogether by grace, so that in the matter of salvation works are altogether excluded; yet that so far as the rewards of grace are concerned, in the world to come, there is an intimate connection between the life of the Christian here and the enjoyment and the glory in the day of Christ's appearing.
SIN AND SALVATION.
Humblings last our whole life. Jesus came not to save painted but real sinners; but He has saved us, and will surely make it manifest.
SPIRIT OF GOD.
At Stuttgart, the dear brethren had been entirely uninstructed about the truths relating to the power and presence of the Holy Ghost in the church of God, and to our ministering one to another as fellow members in the body of Christ; and I had known enough of painful consequences when brethren began to meet professedly in dependence upon the Holy Spirit without knowing what was meant by it, and thus meetings had become opportunities for unprofitable talking rather than for godly edifying... All these matters ought to be left to the ordering of the Holy Ghost, and that if it had been truly good for them, the Lord would have not only led me to speak at that time, but also on the very subject on which they desired that I should speak to them.
TRUTH-- PROPORTION OF FAITH.
Whatever parts of truth are made too much of, though they were even the most precious truths connected with our being risen in Christ, or our heavenly calling, or prophecy, sooner or later those who lay an undue stress upon these parts of truth, and thus make them too prominent, will be losers in their own souls, and, if they be teachers, they will injure those whom they teach.
In reference to universal salvation, I found that they had been led into this error because
(1) They did not see the difference between the earthly calling of the Jews and the heavenly calling of the believers in the Lord Jesus in the present dispensation, and therefore they said that, because the words "everlasting," etc., are applied to "the the possession of the land of Canaan" and the "priesthood of Aaron," therefore, the punishment of the wicked cannot be without end, seeing that the possession of Canaan and the priesthood of Aaron are not without end. My endeavour, therefore, was to show the brethren the difference between the earthly calling of Israel and our heavenly one, and to prove from Scripture that, whenever the word "everlasting" is used with reference to things purely not of the earth, but beyond time, it denotes a period without end.
(2) They had laid exceeding great stress upon a few passages where, in Luther's translation of the German Bible, the word hell occurs, and where it ought to have been translated either "hades" in some passages, or "grave" in others, and where they saw a deliverance out of hell, and a being brought up out of hell,instead of "out of the grave."
WORD OF GOD.
The word of God is our only standard, and the Holy Spirit our only teacher.
Besides the Holy Scriptures, which should be always THE book, THE CHIEF book to us, not merely in theory, but also in practice, such like books seem to me the most useful for the growth of the inner man. Yet one has to be cautious in the choice, and to guard against reading too much.
SACRIFICE FOR SIN.
When He orders something to be done for the glory of His name, He is both able and willing to find the needed individuals for the work and the means required. Thus, when the Tabernacle in the Wilderness was to be erected, He not only fitted men for the work, but He also touched the hearts of the Israelites to bring the necessary materials and gold, silver, and precious stones; and all these things were not only brought, but in such abundance that a proclamation had to be made in the camp, that no more articles should be brought, because there were more than enough. And again, when God for the praise of His name would have the Temple to be built by Solomon, He provided such an amount of gold, silver, precious stones, brass, iron, etc., for it, that all the palaces or temples which have been built since, have been most insignificant in comparison.
Naaman and Gehazi.
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, May 2nd, 1897·
2 Kings v.
A GREAT man was Naaman, a very great man, and not only so, but a very rich man, as we shall presently see by the illustration we have here. "But he was a leper." O, how frequently does the Lord act in this way, that with all the glory and honour in connection with great standing in the world, amid the admiration of the world; there is some trial, some affliction, some special trial, or some special affliction associated. Thus it was here. This man was the chief captain of the mighty host of the King of Syria. God had greatly blessed him in that position, for through his instrumentality victory, great victory, had been gained. Personally, also he was "a mighty man in valour." "But he was a leper."
Now, naturally, the desire under such circumstances was that there might be found a remedy for the disease; but it was not to be had. Yea, notwithstanding all that medical skill has been able to accomplish in these hundreds of years, and thousands of years, there never yet has been found a remedy for leprosy. It has been sought after, continually sought after, but without avail. Now, as I stated, Naaman would say, "O, I wish I could get rid of this leprosy;" and at last he did get rid of it. But this very leprosy was the means of his conversion; he would never have got into contact with the prophet in Samaria had it not been for the leprosy. And thus God in our own case, again and again, allows a trial, a great trial, a very heavy trial, in order to bestow on us great blessing. But for the leprosy, speaking after the manner of men, the salvation of his soul never would have come! God, however, overruled all this to the blessing of his soul, and thus God overrules again and again in our own case, so that the greatest trials turn out the greatest blessings.
Here I set my own case, and refer to my own experience, in a long Christian life. I have never passed through a single trial (and I have had hundreds of them), but invariably it has turned out a blessing to me; and I have found that my greatest trials and my greatest difficulties have become my greatest blessings in the end! I mention this particularly for the comfort and encouragement of young believers: to let God work as He wills. A little maid, a young girl, is here used by the Lord to bring about a great work. God is a wonder-working God! He has ten times ten thousand different ways of working, but He always does His work and always manages things to turn out to the glory of His Name!
Who would have thought that this poor little maid, who was taken captive by the Syrians, would be the instrument in bringing about the restoration of the chief captain of the host of Syria, and, more than this, to bring about the salvation of his soul? The prophet could not do it of himself; but the prophet was to be a further instrument in bringing about the restoration, by the power of God Almighty! "And she (the maid) said unto her mistress, 'Would God my lord were with the prophet that is in Samaria, for he would recover him of his leprosy'''. Now this might have been said, and no notice taken of it, or, if there had been one willing to take notice, yet he might not have been in the right quarter to hear; but to bring about real blessing, we read, "One went in, and told his lord." That is, her master, the chief captain of the host, was informed. "Thus and thus said the maid that is of the land of Israel. And the King of Syria said, 'Go to, go, and I will send a letter unto the King of Israel;' and he departed, and took with him ten talents of silver, and six thousand pieces of gold, and ten changes of raiment."
He considered that as the blessing sought after was so great, he must take an immense present to give to the prophet. It was a matter of such exceeding great importance to be restored to health, to have the leprosy removed. Now here we see, what I stated before, that Naaman was not only a great leader, a great soldier, a mighty captain, and personally of great valour, but he was, in addition to this, an exceedingly rich man. In the first place, as a fee for restoration, he took ten talents of silver. That means, of our money, £3,422, for the Jewish talent was equal to £ 342 3s. 9d. Then he was not merely content with ten talents of silver, but took also six thousand pieces of gold. In the Hebrew what is called here a piece of gold represents considerably more than a pound sterling; therefore, these six thousand pieces of gold made about £10,000 more. In all about £ 13,422 was the amount he took as a fee to the prophet for recovering him from his leprosy. This shows how immensely rich he was! Ten changes of raiment also, of the value no doubt of not a few pounds, were included in the gift.
"And he brought the letter to the King of Israel, saying, 'Now when this letter is come unto thee, behold, I have therewith sent Naaman, my servant, to thee, that thou mayest recover him of his leprosy.' And it came to pass, when the King of Israel had read the letter, that he rent his clothes and said, 'Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man doth send unto me to recover a man of his leprosy? Wherefore consider, I pray you, and see how he seeketh a quarrel against me.'" The King of Syria, of course, understanding nothing of the miraculous manner in which the prophet might restore the leper of his leprosy, thought it was simply a matter of power that was to be exercised, and all he had to do was to give a letter of commendation to his chief captain Naaman, and that then the matter would be settled by the King of Israel. But when the King of Israel read the letter he was altogether astonished to receive such a communication, and considered that as it was quite out of his power to do the thing asked, the letter had been written to seek an occasion against him to begin a war.
"And it was so, when Elisha the man of God had heard that the King of Israel had rent his clothes, that he sent to the King, saying, ‘Wherefore hast thou rent thy clothes? Let him come now to me, and he shall know that there is a prophet in Israel.''' It was to Elisha that the little Jewish maid had referred. "So Naaman came with his horses, and with his chariot, and stood at the door of the house of Elisha." He did not go in. It was beyond him, in his pride and high-mindedness, such a great man as he was. He remained quiet in his chariot, and expected that the prophet would come out to him and cure him there. "And Elisha sent a messenger unto him, saying, 'Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and thy flesh shall come again to thee, and thou shalt be clean.' But Naaman was wroth, and went away, and said, 'Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the Name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place and recover the leper. Are not Abana and Pharpar, rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage.'"
This passage is exceedingly instructive to everyone of us. "I thought he would do so and so." He laid down a rule how the prophet should act. And thus are we continually in danger, when we read statements in the Word of God which do not agree with our preconceived notions, saying, "How can this be?" "How is this possible?" "I think so and so about it." "I think it ought to have been thus stated." Just acting like this Naaman, when he said, "Behold, I thought, he will surely come out to me, and stand and call on the Name of the Lord his God, and strike his hand over the place" (move his hand up and down over the place, that is the idea), "and recover the leper." O, let us ask God to keep us from such a spirit as Naaman manifested in this case.
But then he goes further, "Are not Abana and Pharpar rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? May I not wash in them, and be clean? So he turned and went away in a rage." Now, in the next verse, we see how much wiser his servants were than their master. "And his servants came near, and spake unto him, and said, ‘My father.'" He was not literally their father, but this was an honourable way of addressing him. '" My father, if the prophet had bid thee do some great thing, wouldest thou not have done it?'" If, for instance, he had said, "Run a thousand miles time after time," he would not have considered it anything too much. Or if he had said, "Beat thyself a thousand times for five minutes each time, very severely," he would not have considered it too great a thing. But because it was such a very little thing, he despised it. Here we find the wisdom of the servant above the wisdom of the master. "How much rather then, when he saith to thee, 'Wash and be clean?'" Such a very little thing.
Well, this speech of the servants had an effect on him. "Then went he down and dipped himself seven times in Jordan, according to the saying of the man of God; and his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean." Now, it is a very remarkable thing that in the oldest translation of the Old Testament, called as many of you know already, the Septuagint, which is written in Greek, the passage is, "Be baptized himself seven times in Jordan," bringing before us the meaning of baptizing. "And his flesh came again like unto the flesh of a little child, and he was clean."
Now, see, how the man instantaneously is completely altered. "And he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and came and stood before him." Not now remaining seated in his chariot, in his pride and high-mindedness, as the chief captain of the host of the King of Syria; but, as a humble servant, standing before the prophet. "And he said, 'Behold, now I know that there is no God, in all the earth, but in Israel; now, therefore, I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant.''' He had now come to the knowledge of the true and living God. He had been an idolator before, nothing but an idolator, and an idolator all his life. But now, through the instrumentality of the miracle which had been wrought on him, in restoring him of his leprosy, curing him completely, he is an altered man altogether.
"Take a blessing of thy servant." That means, "Now, take all this silver and gold which I have brought to thee, and these ten changes of raiment; take all this." That is what he meant when he said, "I pray thee, take a blessing of thy servant," for he had brought this enormous sum of money as a reward for curing him of his leprosy. Now, see how the prophet acts. But he said, " As the Lord liveth before Whom I stand'" ("As Jehovah liveth, Whose servant I am," that is the meaning of the words, "Before Whom I stand "), "I will receive none." This prophet sought the glory of God. If he had taken the vast sum of money offered, it would have been considered that he wrought miracles for the purpose of obtaining money. But that was altogether far from this holy man's purpose. All was done to the glory of God. "And he urged him to take it; but he refused." He would not take one small silver coin as a recompense. Not one single change of raiment. He took nothing whatever! The glory of God was dearer to his heart than all the immense sum of gold and silver which Naaman brought to give him.
"And Naaman said, 'Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth? For thy servant will thenceforth offer neither burnt offering nor sacrifice unto other gods, but unto the Lord.''' See how complete the change was! Without a word being said by the prophet to him, he had obtained from God enough light at once to see that he could not remain any longer an idolator. As to his worship, there must be a complete alteration in his whole life. He saw that the worship in which he had been engaged up to that time was altogether contrary to the mind of God, that it was idolatry, and hateful to Him; that he had been worshipping devils, instead of the true and living God.
He desired instantaneously to become altogether different; and without a single word having been spoken to him on the subject, he considered that now he had to alter all this. He must bring his offering to God, and he conceived that there was no better altar to be obtained than one made of the earth of the country of Israel. For this reason, he desired "two mules' burden of earth." See in what a brief time God can work real, true conversion in the hearts of persons! And to make this practical we are to look upon our unconverted parents, or unconverted children, or unconverted wives or husbands, however far from God they may be now, and remember how it is in the power of God very, very quickly, in a brief moment, to change their hearts completely. Such a portion as this tells us how readily God can alter things. There is Paul's conversion before us. The voice from heaven, "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou Me?" instantly brought about a complete change in the heart of this persecutor of the disciples of the Lord Jesus Christ.
And there is Manasseh's case; a most fearfully wicked one. We have not an instance, in Holy Scripture, of one more abominable and more wicked than this Manasseh was. But the Almighty imposed a terrible judgment on him, with the result that he was brought to the knowledge of the true living God, and became an entirely altered person. This abominable wretch, this most awful sinner of sinners! See what God can do. The man is completely altered. He who had made Jerusalem almost to swim in blood, on account of the numberless innocent persons whom he had murdered. An exceeding encouragement this is, and it brings before us the exhortation under no circumstances to give up prayer, but continually to look at the power of God, in His love, to listen to our supplications.
"And Naaman said, 'Shall there not then, I pray thee, be given to thy servant two mules' burden of earth. In this thing the Lord pardon thy servant, that when my master goeth unto the house of Rimmon to worship there, and he leaneth on my hand, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow down myself in the house of Rimmon, the Lord pardon thy servant in this thing.''' A remark that which shows us the enlightenment given to Naaman. He reasoned, "I am going back to Damascus, and when there, I, as the chief captain of the host of the King of Syria, shall have to accompany my master when he worships in the house of the idol Rimmon. My master will expect that when he bows before Rimmon, I bow too; and what will become of me if I bow not down, as my master the king does?" Therefore, he brings this before the prophet.
Now, naturally, one might have expected that the prophet would say, "O, Naaman, this would be very wicked of you; thou must rather give up thy position as chief captain than bow down before this idol. Thou wilt dishonour God, the true and living God, in doing so!" But what does the prophet say? "And he said unto him, 'Go in peace.'" That means, before Naaman could get to his master's, the Lord would enlighten him more and more; for he had shown already how in these few hours after his conversion, he had obtained such an exceeding great amount of knowledge that he could no longer carryon his idol worship as before, and, therefore, wanted another altar altogether, and would on this account take some of the earth away out of the land of Israel, in order to carryon a completely different worship from what he had been engaged in before. Therefore, the prophet considered, "Let him alone; the Holy Spirit will instruct him further and further, for he has given proof already how greatly He has advanced him since he dipped himself and washed himself in Jordan."
It was on this account that the prophet said, "Go in peace." Not that he would countenance idolatry, but that at present he was too weak to be fully enlightened about everything. Just such a case as we find in the Gospels. The Lord Jesus Christ had many things more to say to his disciples, but they could not bear them; and, therefore, He did not speak, further and further to them. For this very reason, the prophet said nothing; but left it to the power of the Spirit of God, not merely to enlighten, but to strengthen him, for what he had to do. And we have the fullest reason to believe that Naaman, on whom the king had leaned in going to the house of Rimmon, no longer proceeded as he had before.
But Gehazi, the servant of Elisha, the man of God, said, 'Behold, my master has spared Naaman this Syrian, in not receiving at his hands that which he brought; but as the Lord liveth, I will run after him and take somewhat of him.' So Gehazi followed after Naaman; and when Naaman saw him running after him, he lighted down from the chariot to meet him, and said, 'Is all well?'; and he said, 'All is well; my master hath sent me, saying, "Behold, even now, there be come to me from Mount Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets; give them, I pray thee, a talent of silver, and two changes of garments." A complete falsehood, a fabrication of the whole, in order that he might get money for himself. And he did get the money for himself; but the lies he had uttered brought a most horrible judgment.
" And Naaman said, ‘Be content; take two talents;' and he urged him, and bound two talents of silver in two bags, with two changes of garments, and laid them upon two of his servants; and they bare them before him." Naaman was ready at once to do what he was asked by giving two talents-which, of our money, is £684 8s.-besides two changes of garments; and it was a heavy load for two servants to carry. "And they bare them before him. And when he came to the tower"-rather to the elevation of the hill, Samaria being built on a hill, which he had come down in order to get to Naaman-"he took them from their hand, and bestowed them in the house; and he let the men go, and they departed." Having got the money, he put it away in some secret place in the house to hide it. "But he went in, and stood before his master. And Elisha said unto him, 'Whence cometh thou, Gehazi?' And he said, 'Thy servant went no whither.''' Ready to utter lie after lie. "And he said unto him, 'Went not mine heart with thee, when the man turned again from his chariot to meet thee? Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants?' "
"O, Gehazi, thou hast not cared in the least about the honour of Jehovah!" We imagine the prophet saying, "I refused what was offered to me, and would take nothing whatever, in order that God might be glorified by my declining to accept a recompense for restoring him of his leprosy; and thou hast uttered lies, thou hast taken this money contrary to the mind of God. This is no time to receive money under such circumstances; it is no time to receive a profit, to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants, as thou art looking after, and craving to obtain, by the money which thou, through lies, hast now obtained."
"The leprosy, therefore, of Naaman, shall cleave unto thee, and unto thy seed for ever. And he went out from his presence a leper as white as snow." The ordinary way in which God acts is that He does not, under like ,circumstances, bestow such terrible affliction, in the way of chastisement, on those who have been guilty as this Gehazi was; but this judgment is to bring before us how painful sin is to God, and how in the end He will visit wickedness upon those who offend Him. And this particularly reminds us of the fact, since all of us more or less are sinners, though we may not have been guilty of such sins as Gehazi was, that we need the atonement of the Lord Jesus Christ, in order to make us clean from our sins.
Therefore, the solemn question occurs in reference to everyone of us, "Have we obtained this atonement for ourselves? Have we individually been really and truly cleansed from our sins, through faith in the Lord Jesus, so that the blood of Christ becomes our atonement, to make us clean from all our numberless transgressions?" How do we stand before God regarding our sins? O, what will become of us if for one single sin of which we have been guilty, we have to suffer! For everyone of our numberless transgressions we need the blood of Christ to make us clean; and if we are standing before God on the ground of our own goodness, merits, and worthiness, it would be certain to be our ruin for ever. E very one of us, the very best among us, needs a Saviour. And trusting in Him, depending on Him, the greatest sinner need not despair, for there is power in the blood of Christ to make all clean from their sins.
Now, then, let us remember how in Naaman's case, an exceeding great trial led to an exceeding great blessing, even the salvation of his soul. And though we may be saved already by having come to Christ, and therefore, though in this sense the blessing may not be so great as in the case of Naaman, this is certain: that God intends by every trial with which He visits us to bring a blessing in the end. Thus invariably I have found it.
Then let us remember how much a little maid may accomplish; how even a little maid may witness for God, and be His instrument in bringing about great blessing. Then let us further remember, in regard to the Holy Scriptures, that we have never to reason as Naaman did, "I thought," "I thought." It is not what we think, but what God thinks. God declares the truth, and our business is to accept it as He declares it. We have not to say, "O, I thought He would do so and so!" Let us not reason about the Word of God as if we knew better than God. He knows; and we have to learn. God is infinitely wise, and we are extremely ignorant. We have, therefore, to submit to what He says at all times, and under all circumstances.
Then, lastly, let the example of Gehazi be a warning to us. Though God does not in every case visit sin as He did here in the case of Gehazi; at the last He will have the account settled regarding our sins, and woe, woe, woe, unto us, if we are found standing on the ground of our own merit and worthiness, instead of hiding ourselves in Christ. The work must be His. Depending entirely upon His atoning work, knowing nothing in the matter of salvation but Christ, and from first to last, all, all, will be well throughout eternity.
I desire that all the children of God who read this account of God's work in Bristol be led to trust Him for everything they need under any circumstances. I pray that the many answers to prayer we have seen may encourage them to pray, particularly for the conversion of their friends and relatives, their own growth in grace and knowledge, the saints whom they know personally, the state of the Church, and the success of the preaching of the gospel. Especially, I affectionately warn them against being led away by the deception of Satan to think that these things are peculiar to me and cannot be enjoyed by all the children of God.
All believers are called upon, in the simple confidence of faith, to cast all their burdens on God and to trust Him for everything. They should not only make everything a subject of prayer, but expect answers to their petitions which they have asked according to His will and in the name of the Lord Jesus. I do not have the gift of faith mentioned in 1 Cor. 12:9 along with the gifts of healing, the working of miracles, and prophecy. It is true that the faith which I am able to exercise is God's own gift. He alone supports it, and He alone can increase it. Moment by moment, I depend on Him. If I were left to myself, my faith would utterly fail.
My faith is the same faith which is found in every believer. It has been increasing little by little for the last twenty-six years. Many times when I could have gone insane from worry, I was in peace because my soul believed the truth of that promise-"We know that all things work together for good to them that love God" (Rom. 8:28).
When my brother and my dear father died, I had no evidence that they were saved. But I dare not say that they are lost, for I do not know. My soul was perfectly at peace under this trial, which is one of the greatest a believer can experience. I laid hold of that promise, "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" (Gen. 18:25). This word, together with the whole character of God, as He has revealed Himself in His holy Word, settled all questionings. I believed what He has said concerning Himself and have been at peace ever since concerning this matter.
When sometimes all has appeared to be dark in my ministry, I could have been overwhelmed in grief and despair. At such times I was encouraged in God by faith on His almighty power, His unchangeable love, and His infinite wisdom. I said to myself, "God is able and willing to deliver me." It is written, "He that spared not his own Son, but delivered him up for us all, how shall he not with him also freely give us all things?" (Rom. 8:32). This promise kept my soul in peace.
When trials have come against me which were far heavier than the financial needs; when lying reports were spread that the orphans did not have enough to eat or were cruelly treated; or when greater trials came in connection with this work, and I was nearly a thousand miles away from Bristol week after week; at such times my soul was stayed upon God. I believed His promises, and I poured out my soul before Him. I could rise from my knees in peace because the trouble was cast upon God.
By the grace of God, I do not boast in speaking this way. I give the glory to God alone that He has enabled me to trust in Him, and He has not permitted my confidence in Him to fail. No one should think that my depending on God is an unusual gift given to me, which other saints have no right to expect.
Trusting in God means more than obtaining money by prayer and faith. By the grace of God, I desire that my faith extend toward everything-the smallest of my own temporal and spiritual concerns, my family, the saints among whom I labor, the Church at large, and everything that has to do with the temporal and spiritual prosperity of the Scriptural Knowledge Institution.
I thank God for the faith He has given me, and I ask Him to uphold and increase it Do not let Satan deceive you into thinking that you could not have the same faith. When I lose something like a key, I ask the Lord to direct me to it; and I look for an answer to my prayer. When a person with whom I have made an appointment is late, and I am inconvenienced, I ask the Lord to hasten him to me. When I do not understand a passage of the Word of God, I lift up my heart to the Lord that He would, by His Holy Spirit, instruct me. I expect to be taught, although I do not fix the time and the manner it should be. When I am going to minister the Word, I seek help from the Lord. While I am conscious of my natural inability as well as utter unworthiness, I am confident and cheerful because I look for His assistance and believe that He will help me.
You may do the same, dear believing reader! Do not think that I am extraordinary or that I have privileges above God's other dear children. I encourage you to try it! Stand firm in the hour of trial, and you will see the help of God, if you trust in Him. When we forsake the ways of the Lord in the hour of trial, the food for faith is lost.
This leads me to the following important point. You ask, "How may I have my faith strengthened?" The answer is this: "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning" (James 1:17). The increase of faith is a good gift, and it must come from God. Therefore, we should ask Him for this blessing.
The following guidelines will help a believer build his faith:. Carefully read the Word and meditate on it. Through reading the Word of God, and especially through meditation on it, the believer becomes acquainted with the nature and character of God. Besides God's holiness and justice, he realizes what a kind, loving, gracious, merciful, mighty, wise, and faithful Father He is. Therefore, in poverty, affliction, death of loved ones, difficulty in service, or financial need, he will rest on the ability of God to help him. He has learned from the Word that God is almighty in power, infinite in wisdom, and ready to help and deliver His people. Reading the Word of God, together with meditation on it, is an excellent way to strengthen faith.
2. We must maintain an upright heart and a good conscience and not knowingly and habitually indulge in things which are contrary to the mind of God. How can I possibly continue to act in faith if I grieve the Lord and detract from His glory and honor? All my confidence in God and all my leaning on Him in the hour of trial will be gone if I have a guilty conscience and yet continue in sin. If I cannot trust in God because of a guilty conscience, my faith is weakened.
With every fresh trial, faith either increases by trusting God and getting help, or it decreases by not trusting Him. A habit of self-dependence is either defeated or encouraged. If we trust in God, we do not trust in ourselves, our fellowmen, circumstances, or in anything else. If we do trust in one or more of these, we do not trust in God.
If we desire our faith to be strengthened, we should not shrink from opportunities where our faith may be tried. The more I am in a position to be tried in faith, the more I will have the opportunity of seeing God's help and deliverance. Every fresh instance in which He helps and delivers me will increase my faith. The believer should not shrink from situations, positions, or circumstances in which his faith may be tried, but he should cheerfully embrace them as opportunities to see the hand of God stretched out in help and deliverance. Thus his faith will be strengthened.
The last important point for the strengthening of our faith is that we let God work for us and do not work a deliverance of our own. When a trial of faith comes, we are naturally inclined to distrust God and to trust in ourselves, in our friends, or in circumstances. We would rather work a deliverance of our own than simply look to God and wait for His help. But if we do not patiently wait for God's help or if we work a deliverance of our own, then at the next trial of our faith we will have the same problem. We will again be inclined to try and deliver ourselves. With every fresh trial, our faith will decrease. On the contrary, if we stand firm in order to see the salvation of God, trusting in Him alone, our faith will be increased. Every time we see the hand of God stretched out on our behalf in the hour of trial, our faith would be increased even more. God will prove His willingness to help and deliver at the perfect time.
Scriptural principles may be used to overcome the difficulties in business or any earthly calling. The children of God, who are strangers and pilgrims on earth, should expect to have difficulty in the world, for they are not at home here. But the Lord has provided us with promises in His Word to cause us to triumph over circumstances. All difficulties may be overcome by acting according to the Word of God.
The Beloved of the Lamb.
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street Bristol, on Whit-Sunday Evening, June 6th, 1897·
Revelation vii., 9-17.
" AFTER this I beheld, and, lo, a great multitude, which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people and tongues, stood before the throne, and before the Lamb, clothed with white robes, and palms in their hands." At present, to all outward appearance, the number of the believers in the Lord Jesus Christ is small, in comparison with the vast number of those who do not believe in Him. But it will not always be thus; the day is coming when innumerable multitudes will be found to belong to Christ. O how precious to remember this! How deeply important to dwell on it, to seek more and more to apprehend it, to comfort ourselves by it, and to be stimulated through it to labour that we individually may be God's instruments of adding to this vast multitude! What an encouragement this for missionary labours! What an encouragement this to speak to souls about their salvation! What an encouragement, also, to seek to win the young, the middle-aged, and all classes of persons for the Lord, by Sunday schools, ragged schools, and in any way that will tend to it!
But in an especial manner it should lead us, individually to stand before God, and to offer ourselves for missionary service, if we have not done it yet. If the Lord accept us, He will use us for the praise of His Name; if the Lord does not accept us, we have done our part, in ourselves. Still further, if we do not go out individually to heathen countries, we may yet be instrumental in glorifying God in connection with missionary labours. We can help the missionaries with the means with which God will entrust us, and we can help them by our prayers, by writing to them a word of comfort, and a word of encouragement, and in a variety of ways besides we may be instrumental in helping missionary operations. A deeply important verse is this, full of comfort, full of encouragement, full of exhortation to do what we can that we may be instruments to increase this great multitude won for the Lord.
"I beheld, and lo, a great multitude, which no man could number." It is out of the power of any human being to count the vast number of the saved ones. "Which no man could number, of all nations, and kindreds, and people, and tongues stood before the throne." Notice the word "stood;" that shows the attitude of a servant. All these elect holy angels stood before the throne; all these saved ones, this innumerable multitude of all nations and tribes and peoples and languages were in the attitude of servants before Jehovah. "Stood before the throne and before the Lamb." The Lamb, as you all know, whenever the expression is used, has reference to our Lord Jesus Christ, by reason of the atonement that He made. "They were clothed with white robes." White robes! This has reference to the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Naturally, we stand before God in filthy garments, spiritually; and these filthy garments we cannot ourselves wash and make white, so that God can be satisfied with us. We cannot give righteousness to ourselves. We have none. All our own righteousness in Scripture is compared to filthy rags. Whether we see it or not; whether we readily allow it or not, this is the statement of God: our own goodness, merit, worthiness, and righteousness are as "filthy rags."
Now these filthy rags can never enter into heaven! God cannot bear spiritual filth in heaven! All of this character must be taken away: the spiritual filth must be removed, and the only way to remove it is by the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, a great practical question, therefore, regarding everyone is this, "How is it with me?" We should ask ourselves, "How is it with my spiritual robes; are they white and clean?" "Am I brought into such a state as that God can receive me into heaven?" If I have not yet seen that I am a sinner; if I have not yet confessed before God that I am a sinner; if I have not yet put my trust solely in the merits of the Lord Jesus Christ, and in His atoning blood, then I am not prepared for heaven! But I am come to this. This is not a salvation for a few chosen ones, or a few hundreds, nor even a salvation of a few thousands; but of an innumerable multitude saved by the power of the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. And as they were saved, and deserved nothing but punishment, so I (we should say to ourselves individually), even I, may be saved, if I seek salvation in God's appointed way-seeking not to obtain it by my own goodness, merit, and worthiness, but through Jesus Christ. This innumerable company, everyone of them obtained salvation through Jesus Christ, and thus may I obtain it. But in no other way.
Many persons say to themselves, "Well, it is true that it has not yet been all right with me, as it might have been and as it ought to have been; but I have tried now to turn over another leaf; I would seek now to live differently from what I have been doing, and thus I shall make up for past shortcomings, and failures, and sins." This is a soul-destroying error! We never, never, never can make up for one single sin of which we have been guilty, for if we failed in one particular only, if it were possible that we should be in such a state that we had fallen short but by one sin, that would be enough for our perdition, for we should then have broken the whole law; and as long as we trusted in ourselves for salvation, this broken law would bring destruction upon us. Therefore, we must look away from ourselves to Christ, and Him alone. God sent Him into the world in order that He not only might fulfil all the commandments which we have broken times without number, and thus work out a righteousness in which we can be accepted by God, but He also bore the punishment in our room and stead for our disobedience. We must, therefore, hide ourselves in Christ; that is, look away entirely from our own goodness, merit, and worthiness -of which we have none, none, none-and put our entire trust in the Lord Jesus.
Then, let us remember we must have "white robes," else we cannot enter into the presence of God. Our own sins, which are compared to filthy garments, must be removed, and we must solely and simply trust in the merits and sufferings of the Lord Jesus Christ, and thus, by the power of His atonement, be made clean from all our sins. O how precious! Now this is my comfort, having been guilty of numberless transgressions as a young man, having also failed and come short in a variety of ways since my conversion, though not living in gross sin: yet failing in action, in word, in thought, though hating sin and loving holiness-this is my comfort, I am standing before God in white robes, clean, and spotless, as if I had never in my whole life been guilty of one single sin. And into this state I have been brought through faith in the Lord Jesus; and into this state not merely I have been brought, but all who believe in Jesus, who trust in Him alone for salvation! O how comforting is this! The dread of God, the fear of death, the fear of eternity stops completely when entering into the work of the Lord Jesus, and appropriating it to ourselves! Now see to it, beloved Christian friends, that you individually do, if you have not yet done so, derive all the comfort which God intends us to derive from this expression, "White robes."
"And palms in their hands." The palm was in ancient times the sign of victory. And this innumerable multitude, everyone of them having a palm in his or her hand, declares that victory has been obtained. Victory through the blood of the Lamb. Victory through the power of Jesus Christ, Who gave it to them. Victory obtained for us individually, because He loves us with an eternal, unchangeable love, "He Who has begun a good work in us will carry it on by the power of His Spirit," and so at the last receive us to glory. O how precious this is! At present we are in spiritual conflict. Satan is not conquered yet. Satan still is our great enemy and fights against us, and often and often obtains, in some way or another, an advantage over us--if it be not in the way of leading us to an open fall, there are some words escaping us which ought not to; there are some thoughts found in us which ought not to be; and even, now and then, an action which is not altogether according to the Christ-like state in which we ought to be found. But all this will come to an end. The blessed Jesus, Who has begun a good work in us, will finish it, and we shall have individually (weak and feeble and worthless though we are in ourselves), the victory, through Jesus Christ.
Now this innumerable multitude "Cried with a loud voice, saying, ' Salvation to our God, which sitteth upon the throne, and unto the Lamb.''' Notice this particularly! They ascribe salvation to God and to the Lamb; to the Father and to the Son; to Jehovah and to our Lord Jesus Christ. They do not say, "I was very prayerful; I was very conscientious; I never gave way to anything contrary to the mind of God." Nothing of the kind! The very reverse! Salvation is ascribed by everyone of the saved ones to God the Father, and to God the Son, the Lord Jesus, Who is found here under the figure of the Lamb. "They cried with a loud voice." It is especially also to be noticed that they did not merely whisper it now and then, a few times; but with a loud voice they declared it, that people might hear it, because it was the joy of their hearts to ascribe salvation to God, and to the Lord Jesus Christ, and take not the least credit to themselves. This will be the case with everyone of the saved ones. Fellow-believers, we shall all, from our inmost souls, ascribe entirely our salvation to God and to the Lord Jesus, and that we did nothing whatever, but simply, like beggars, accepted what was given to us!
"And all the angels stood round about the throne, and about the elders, and the four beasts"-that means the four living creatures, in contradistinction to the four great worldly powers that will brood over Gentile sinners-"and fell before the throne on their faces, and worshipped God." Notice this again, the holy, unfallen angels stood round about the throne;" stood, indicating the position of servants before the Master "stood round about the throne and about the elders," representing the Church, and the four living creatures, and fell before the throne on their faces," in deep humility of soul, ascribing salvation to God the Father and to the Lord Jesus, "and worshipped God," praising and adoring Him for what He had done for them, "Saying, Amen"-that is, "Even so is it. "Blessing"--that is, praise in the highest degree-"and glory, and wisdom, and thanksgiving, and honour, and power, and might, be unto our God for ever and ever, Amen." This expresses the deep gratitude felt on the part of the redeemed ones; and thus it will be with us. If there is a little praise and a little thanksgiving now found in our hearts, in the highest degree we shall adore, and praise, and magnify, and worship the Lord for what He has done for us in Christ Jesus. And then again, to this they set their "Amen," that is, ascribing all from their heart to God.
"And one of the elders answered, saying unto me, ‘What are these which are arrayed in white robes, and whence came they?' And I said unto him, ‘Sir, thou knowest!'" The question was asked the apostle John as to whence these individuals came; and he confesses his ignorance. "Sir, thou knowest"-that means, in other words, "I do not know, but thou dost know it, and thou art able to tell me;" and through this confession of his ignorance he obtains the information. And this is just what we have to do before God, not to make our boast that we know everything, that we are already instructed to the very highest degree, that we cannot be instructed; but, on the contrary, to own again and again, when we read the Scriptures and find something that we do not understand, that we are ignorant of the meaning of the passage, and ask God that He would graciously be pleased to teach us. We shall find that He is ready to do it. And this instance of how even an apostle confessed his ignorance should be a particular encouragement to us to be ready on our part also to confess our ignorance; for we know that he was not only greatly honoured, but he was a believer who had been for a long time in service, in great service, who for a very long time had been an Apostle, and who was now at the close of his earthly pilgrimage, for he was about ninety years of age, but he was not ashamed to confess his ignorance. And so we should never be ashamed before God to confess our ignorance, for that is the very way to increase our knowledge. If we humble ourselves before God, He will further and further instruct us.
"'Sir, thou knowest.' And he said unto me, ‘These are they which came out of great tribulation'"-more exactly, "'which came out of the great tribulation,'" having especial reference to what they had had to pass through, and bringing before us also that through which we may have yet to pass-"and have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb." Here we have on no account to suppose that the great tribulation had made their robes white, but the blood of the Lamb; and we must never lose sight of the fact that no trials, no afflictions, make us white. They may be helpful to us, they may do us good spiritually, they ought to do us good spiritually; for on this very account, trials, sufferings, pains, sickness, afflictions, are sent to us, to be a blessing to us-but they never can make our robes white. The blood of Jesus Christ alone can accomplish this. "And have washed their robes, and made them white in the blood of the Lamb; therefore are they before the throne." Not on account of the great tribulation are they there, but because their robes were made white by the blood of the Lamb; that is, by the atoning work of the Lord Jesus Christ. "Therefore are they before the throne of God."
Now comes something else. "And serve Him day and night in His temple." "Serve Him day and night." Some persons have an idea that heaven consists in singing away our time, so that one hundred years after the other we shall be singing, and that the joys of heaven consist in doing nothing. This is a great mistake. If we work and serve the Lord a little, it is held out as a great honour, a great privilege of serving the Lord in eternity. There is one verse, particularly, pointing out this in the last chapter of the Book of Revelation, the third verse, where it is stated, "There shall be no more curse, but the throne of God and of the Lamb shall be in it, and His servants shall serve Him." Notice, this is held out as the greatest honour, privilege, enjoyment, and blessing-that the servants of the Living God shall serve Him; that is, have the great honour, the great privilege, bestowed upon them of serving the Lord, and just in the degree in which they have now the mind of Christ, in which they look at being allowed to serve the Lord as an honour, as a privilege, and not as a burden, not as an irksome task.
l myself, have now for many a long year, again and again and again, asked the Lord that He would yet allow me to have the great honour, the great privilege, the great enjoyment to serve Him, to labour for Him. So far from considering it a burden, an irksome task, the very reverse of this; and just in the degree in which we are happy in the Lord, so we shall look upon serving Him as a great privilege, as a particular honour, a particular enjoyment bestowed upon us.
"And they shall see His Face, and His Name shall be in their foreheads." Now, that we find in the last chapter. Here is a reference also in the 15th verse of the 7th chapter, "Therefore"-because they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb- "therefore are they before the throne of God, and serve Him day and night."
And when you and I, as believers, shall be found at the last in this place, and in this state, and actually do serve the Lord night and day, and we shall adore and praise Him for bestowing this honour upon us to do any little thing for Him. "And He that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them." God completely near, in our midst; we shall look at Him without the least particle of dread or fear, because the guilt is completely gone from the conscience, through the power of the atoning blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. O the blessedness of all this; and these are not merely simple phrases, but these statements are brought before us as realities, which hereafter will be found true in our own happy experience.
Then in the last two verses we have before us the exceedingly blessed state in which we shall be found, when the curse has been completely removed. "They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more." That is not literally hunger, nor literally thirst; but spiritually no longer hungering nor thirsting, having obtained to the full everything which even the renewed heart can desire. O think of the blessedness, the wondrous blessedness of all this! And yet with all these statements in Holy Writ, it is again and again found that when persons are converted, they are pitied as being very silly and foolish persons, because it is thought they have to be wretched, as if it were a miserable thing to be regenerated, to be born again. Why, the truth is there is no real happiness, and can be none, till we are brought to know Jesus, and all of us who are believers in Christ know it from our own experience. We sought happiness in the beggarly pleasures of the world, and we sometimes even thought we had obtained it; but a little while longer and we found we had been deceiving ourselves-that no real, true happiness could be found anywhere else but in the Lord Jesus. And we know, from experience, that what we did obtain was through faith in Christ.
"They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat"-that is, the sun shall not strike them in a painful way, in an unpleasant way, as in tropical countries. While I was once on my missionary tours, going through India, I had again and again to hear from beloved missionary brethren what a trial to them was the excessive heat, this being struck by the sun. And at last, I myself knew this, from my own experience, for after I had laboured for forty weeks in Calcutta, with the heat at 110 degrees, it came to this, that I could only lie on my couch, without being able to do anything at all; and when I sought medical advice regarding it, the physician told me, "At the risk of your life you stay one day longer here; you must at once go to the hills." And only when I was in an atmosphere of three or four thousand feet above the sea, life returned again, as it were, and I got into a different state. All this explains what is meant here, "neither shall the sun light on them," that is, strike on them, "nor any heat." The curse being gone, this, too, will completely go, and so in our glorified bodies we shall not have the least inconvenience regarding any of these things.
"For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." Completely near God! Completely near the Lord Jesus, in His happy presence habitually, day after day, year after year, one hundred years after the other, one thousand years after the other, one million years after the other; and unspeakably happy continually, everything that would try us removed completely, because the curse is gone. "God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes." This is the blessed privilege not merely of one, or of the other, such as Paul, or Peter, or James, or John, but the great privilege of the weakest, feeblest child of God now on earth. O how blessed! How unspeakably blessed is the lot of everyone who is a disciple of Jesus! Therefore, instead of allowing these persons to pity us, because we are awake spiritually, and made to come to Christ, we have rather to tell them how exceedingly happy we are, through believing in Jesus. Now are there any present who are not yet believers in the Lord? You may be looking forward to especial enjoyment at Whitsuntide, and be saying to yourselves, "O when Whitsuntide comes, how happy I shall be." That was just the case with me when I was a boy. Whitsuntide was particularly a pleasant time, and in the little town where I was brought up there was much going on at that time. But Whitsuntide lasted only a few days! At last, however, when I was twenty years of age, I found Jesus, of Whom I had never heard as an unconverted young man, for though I had thirty tutors in the high classical school in which I was for nine years to be prepared for the University, it being the wish of my father that I should become a clergyman, yet not one of them ever spoke to me about my soul. One day, when in deep trial, infidel books were put into my hand, which I shuddered to look at and returned, but never did anyone speak to me about Jesus until I was just past twenty. Then being led into a little religious meeting, through the advice of a friend, I found Jesus. I entered this meeting as completely dead in sin as any young man could be. I left the house as a happy young disciple of the Lord Jesus, and have been a happy man ever since, now seventy-one years and seven months. Therefore, instead of our being to be pitied when brought to Jesus, if people understood what is meant by coming to Him, and trusting in Him they, themselves would be in earnest to care about their souls. But because they are ignorant as to what it means to believe on Christ, so they look on us with pity and compassion.
It is an unspeakably blessed thing, even for this life, to be a believer in Christ; but what will it be when at last we actually enter upon the glory, and become perfect in His likeness, perfectly free from sin, in every way ready, moment by moment, to glorify God, so that His Will will only have to be presented to us, and instantly we shall be ready to carry it out! That day is coming, be sure of it. It will come, and therefore should there be any present who have not as yet surrendered their heart to the Lord, O, my dear young friends, O, my dear fellow-sinners of middle age, O, my fellow-sinners greatly advanced in life, if you have not yet given your heart to the Lord, hasten to do It without a moment's longer delay.
Be in earnest! Own before God that you are a sinner, that you deserve nothing but punishment, and ask Him in pity and compassion to look upon you, and to help you to put your trust in Jesus. Thus the blessing will come, as assuredly as you really desire to obtain it. God grant that it may be so, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
January 3, 1842. This evening we had a precious prayer meeting. When the usual time for closing the meeting came, some of us wanted to continue to wait upon the Lord. I suggested that those who had bodily strength, time, and a desire to wait longer upon the Lord, do so. At least thirty remained, and we continued in prayer until after ten. I never knew deeper prayer in the Spirit. I experienced an unusual nearness to the Lord and was able to pray in faith, without doubting.
January 4. The Lord has answered all our requests concerning the daily needs of the orphans. We have had an abundance these last several days, but the expenses have been great also.
February 5, We have only received as much as needed to provide for the orphans each day, and there is again great need. Now, at twelve o'clock, no means exist, as yet, to meet the expenses of today. The words in the prayer of Jehoshaphat in 2 Chron. 20:12, "Neither know we what to do: but our eyes are upon thee," are at this moment the language of my heart. I likewise do not know what to do, but my eyes are on the Lord. I am sure that He will help us this day also.
Evening: In the morning one pound ten shillings came in through the sale of some articles. We were able to supply all that was needed for today.
February 8. Enough food is in all the houses for the meals of today. But we have not been able to buy any bread, and there is not enough money to buy milk tomorrow morning. Coal is also needed in two houses. Indeed, as far as I know, we were never in greater poverty. But I am fully assured that the Lord will not leave us.
Evening. The Lord has not yet sent us what is needed for tomorrow, but He has given us fresh proof that He is mindful of us. This afternoon nine plum cakes were sent by a sister as a treat for the orphans. These cakes were an encouragement to me to continue to look out for further supplies. The little donations that came in today are precious, but they are not enough to meet the need of tomorrow. Before nine o'clock tomorrow morning we need more money to be able to buy milk. Truly, we are poorer than ever. Through grace my eyes do not look at the meager supplies and the empty purse, but to the riches of the Lord only.
February 9. I went to the Orphan Houses to see whether the Lord had sent in anything. When I arrived, I found that He had Just sent help two or three minutes earlier. A brother was on his way to work this morning when the Lord put the orphans on his heart. The brother said to himself, "I cannot go there now. I will take something to them this evening." Nevertheless, he could not go on any further, but felt constrained to return and bring three sovereigns to the Orphan House. The Lord in His faithfulness helped us. Help was never more truly needed, nor did the help of the Lord ever come more obviously from Himself-His timing could not have been better.
Praise the Lord for His goodness! Praise Him that He helped us trust in Him in this trying hour.
February 12. Saturday. Today we were only able to supply the absolute necessities. When the mealtimes came, the Lord provided the food. Considering the great financial distress in our country, our dear orphans are very well provided for.
Of all the weeks during the last three years and seven months, this has been one of the most trying. Thanks to the Lord who has helped us this day also! Thanks to Him for enabling us to praise Him for the deliverance this morning. We were sure He would provide, and He did not disappoint us.
February 16. We had enough for breakfast, but nothing more came in during the morning. In the afternoon I again asked the Lord to send us help. I then sat down to meditate over the Word. I did not know whether there was a morsel of bread for tea in any of the houses, but I felt assured that the Lord would provide.
Through grace, my mind is fully assured of the faithfulness of the Lord. In the midst of the greatest need, I am enabled to go about my other work in peace. Indeed, if the Lord did not give me this trust in Him, I would scarcely be able to work at all.
Soon after I sat down to meditate, a note was sent to me from the master of the orphan boys. He wrote, "When I visited the sisters in the Infant and Girls' Orphan Houses, I found them in the greatest need. There was no bread in one of the houses for tea this evening, and the six shillings sixpence was scarcely enough to supply what was needed for the dinner. I opened the offering box in the Boys' Orphan House and unexpectedly found one pound. Thus, through the kindness of the Lord, we were again abundantly supplied."
In the evening the Lord, in His love and faithfulness, blessed us again. I had preached at the meeting from the gospel of John. The last words on which I spoke were, "Said I not unto thee that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God?" (John 11:40). When the meeting was over, as a fresh proof of the truth of this Word, a note was given to me with five pounds for the orphans.
February 19. Saturday. Our money was again completely spent. Our provision stores were even more exhausted than on any previous Saturday. Not the least human likelihood remained for obtaining sufficient provisions for this one day, much less for two days.
When I went to the Orphan Houses before breakfast, I found a letter from Nottingham containing one shilling. This was not only a sweet proof that our Father remembered our need, but a promise that He would supply us with all we required this day. In the morning money came in, and we were provided with those things which were absolutely needed for this day.
February 25. This week was full of trials of faith, but also full of deliverances. Our need has never been greater than now. Most of the laborers felt considerably tried today, but the Lord has not allowed us to be discouraged. Through a remarkable circumstance, one of the laborers obtained some money this morning so that all the need of today could be amply met.
March 17. This morning our poverty, which now has lasted for several months, became exceedingly great. I left my house a few minutes after seven to go to the Orphan Houses to see whether there was enough money to buy milk. I prayed that the Lord would have mercy on us, even as a father has mercy on his children. I reminded Him of the consequences that would result, both in the lives of believers and unbelievers, if we had to give up the work because of lack of money, and that He therefore would not permit It to fail.
While I was walking and praying, I met a brother who was on his way to work. I greeted him and walked on, but he ran after me and gave me one pound for the orphans. Thus the Lord speedily answered my prayer.
Truly, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith for the sake of having such precious, daily proof of the loving interest which our kind Father takes in everything that concerns us. How could our Father do otherwise? He gave us the greatest possible proof of His love when He gave us His own Son. Surely He will also freely give us all things. (See Rom. 8:32.)
If the hearts of the children of God are comforted and their faith strengthened, it is worth being poor and greatly tried in faith. Those who do not know God may read or hear of His dealings with us and see that faith in God is more than a mere notion. There is indeed reality in Christianity.
April 12. We were never in greater need than today, when I received one hundred pounds from the East Indies. It is impossible to describe the joy in God it gave me. My prayer this morning had been that our Father would now at last send larger sums of money. I was not in the least surprised or excited when this donation came, for I took it as the answer to prayer we had been expecting.
May 10. Our trials of faith during these seventeen months lasted longer and were sharper than during any previous period. Yet, the orphans had everything they needed in the way of nourishing food and clothing. We look back at the trials of our faith with perfect joy and peace, knowing that our God did not fail us even once. In our dependence on Him for every need, we have come to know in a fuller way that we are truly partners with Him in this work. "And truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with his Son Jesus Christ" (1 John 1:3).
The words fellowship, communion, and partnership mean the same. The believer in the Lord Jesus does not only obtain forgiveness of all his sins through the shed blood of Jesus, by faith in His name; he does not only become righteous before God, through the righteousness of the Lord Jesus; he is not only born of God, a partaker of the divine nature, and therefore a child of God and an heir of God; but he is also in fellowship or partnership with God. Just as God's love to His children is unalterably the same, so it is also with our fellowship or partnership with Him-it remains unalterably the same so far as God is concerned.
All that we possess in God as His partners may be brought down into our daily life and be enjoyed, experienced, and used. We may make unlimited use of our partnership with the Father and with the Son and draw out, by prayer and faith, the inexhaustible fullness in God.
If I were a businessman and found myself daily making the wrong decisions, what could I do? In myself there is no solution to the problem. I can expect nothing but further mistakes. And yet, I. need not despair because the living God is my partner. I do not have sufficient wisdom to meet these difficulties, but He is able to direct me. I can pour out my heart to God and ask Him to guide and direct me and to supply me with wisdom. Then I have to believe that He will do so. I can go with good courage to my business and expect help from Him in the next difficulty that may come before me. As I do, I find that I am truly in partnership with the Father and with the Son.
If I desire more power over temptations, more wisdom, grace, or anything else that I may need in my service for God, what else should I do but make use of my fellowship with the Father and with the Son? By prayer and faith we may obtain all necessary temporal and spiritual help and blessings. In all simplicity, we can pour out our heart before God. Then we have to believe that He will give to us according to our need.
Do not let the consciousness of your unworthiness keep you from believing what God has said concerning you. If you are a believer in the Lord Jesus, then this precious privilege of being in partnership with the Father and the Son is yours.
The Lord's Prayer.
A Sermon preached at Bethesda Chapel, Great George Street, Bristol, on Sunday Evening, March 21st, 1897.
And when thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are: for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily I say unto you, They have their reward.
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do; for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Be not ye therefore like unto them: for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him.
After this manner therefore pray ye: Our Father which art in heaven, Hallowed be Thy name.
Thy kingdom done. Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven.
Give us this day our daily bread.
And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors.
And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil:
For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen.
For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you:
But if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses.--Matthew vi., 5-15.
WE will meditate on part of Matthew vi., commencing at verse 5 : "When thou prayest, thou shalt not be as the hypocrites are, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues, and in the corners of the streets, that they may be seen of men. Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward." In reference to not a few of the Pharisees of old this was actually the case. They would stand for a long time in the synagogues praying; but what was far worse than this, when the ordinary prayer time came for the Israelites-about three o'clock in the afternoon by our time-they would so manage it that just at that very time they could be found at the corners of the streets, where they might be observed in the act of prayer by as many as possible coming from various directions. All this was hypocrisy. They professed thus to be very holy men, but in reality it was the reverse. "Verily, I say unto you, they have their reward." Their reward was the applause of their fellow-men. A poor, miserable recompense.
"But when thou prayest, enter into thy closet." The great point here is the secrecy in reference to prayer. Not all persons are in such a position as that they have a little chamber to which they can retire and lock the door. But if it can be done, it should be done. If impossible, God will accept according to our position and circumstances. I remember a case which I would relate to show how persons may be situated. About 50 years ago I went to Germany to find missionaries for the East Indies. On this journey I came to Magdeburg, one of the strongest and largest fortresses of the kingdom of Prussia. Here I found in the house of a godly man in the Army a comrade of his, and, as he lived in barracks, I said, My dear brother, how do you manage with regard to prayer, as you are continually surrounded by hundreds of soldiers?" His reply was, "When I want to pray in secret, I go down into a large sand-cellar, which is perfectly dark, and there I kneel down on the sand. No one is able to see I am there, though often some of my comrades come close to my heels; but never am I found there. I am alone, perfectly alone; no one sees me; and that is my closet." So in whatever variety of ways the children of God may be situated, they have to do the best they can. But the great point is that as much as possible we should seek to deal with our Heavenly Father in the way of prayer in secret; and under no circumstances aim to be noticed by our fellow-men in order to get their applause.
"When thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door" (thus further stating the exceeding great importance of secrecy). "Pray to thy Father which is in secret, and thy Father, which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." Where there is this, a secret waiting on God, He, in His Own time and way, will give the open recompense. He will show that He is noticing; He will show that He has recorded it in the book of remembrance; He will show that it has not escaped His observation. "Thy Father which seeth in secret, shall reward thee openly." The secret waiting on God will be manifested by blessing. As assuredly as we thus give ourselves to prayer, God will notice us, and give blessing, that anyone can see.
"But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do." That is, sentence by sentence, repeating the same request, just as Baal's worshippers did, and as the heathen nations do up to the present time, thinking that the more their words, the more the repetition of what they ask for, the more certain is it that they will get it. "Use not vain repetitions as the heathen do, for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking; be not ye, therefore, like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him." Prayer is not necessary for the sake of informing God; but prayer is necessary simply because it is the appointment of God. He will have us go to Him for our own good and profit and blessing, asking Him for the things we require, because the blessing bestowed on us in answer to prayer is so much the more precious than if the blessing were given without prayer. Often and often God allows us greatly to be tried, in order that at last, when the blessing does come and prayer is answered, it may be all the more precious to us "Be not ye, therefore, like unto them, for your Father knoweth what things ye have need of, before ye ask Him."
Now comes what is commonly called, "The Lord's Prayer." After this manner, therefore, pray ye." This shows us it is not God's appointment that these words of the Lord Jesus Christ should only be used, nor that we should continually use them. But in the spirit, in this manner we should ask blessing. That is the lesson we have to learn. "After this manner pray ye, 'Our Father, which art in Heaven.''' The very first word is full of meaning. The petitions which are recorded here are suitable, and only suitable, for the children of God-for they are the prayer of the heavenly family, those who are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ. We have to keep this before us, that as long as we are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is not our Father. God is God to us. He is our Creator. He is our Preserver. He is the One Who supplies us with everything that we can need. He lets His sun shine for us; He lets the rain fall also, so that we are benefited by it. But until we are believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, God is not our Father. Now this word "Our," shows that we are part of a family, part of the heavenly family; and thus it is that all who put their trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the salvation of their souls, after having been convinced that they are sinners, deserving nothing but punishment-all such as are believers-have in God Almighty a Father. "Who art in Heaven." His place is everywhere; but especially is it in Heaven, not on earth, though His power may be seen everywhere, and the manifestations of His presence be found throughout the universe.
"Hallowed by Thy Name." That is, Thy Name be honoured; Thy Name be glorified. And here I remind my beloved Christian friends of the meaning of the word "Name." It does not mean the several letters which form the name of "God," but what we learn in the 34th chapter of Exodus, when Jehovah proclaimed His Name before Moses. It is His Character, His Attributes, what He is Himself, which are to be glorified. Jehovah, the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all those who believe in Jesus is to be glorified. That is the meaning of "Hallowed be Thy Name;" and just in the proportion in which we enter into what God is, we find out what a lovely, lovely Being He is, how infinitely lovely He is, "Hallowed be Thy Name." In other words, "I pray that Thou mayest be more and more honoured and glorified."
Now comes another petition. "Thy kingdom come." That is, "Hasten the time, bring it about speedily, when Thou shalt universally be honoured, when Thou shalt universally be glorified, when all the works of the wicked one shall be destroyed." This will be after the return of the Lord Jesus Christ. See how entirely impossible it is for the ungodly, the unconverted, to ask this petition from the heart. The lips of such may utter it times without number, but the true meaning is nothing short of this: "Let the time speedily come when I, a wicked creature, shall be cast into the bottomless pit." That is just the meaning of the prayer when so uttered; and of course this plainly shows that only in ignorance the ungodly could ask the petition, "Thy kingdom come." The words can only properly be used by those who are believers in the Lord Jesus, for they beseech Him soon to return, that God universally may be glorified and honoured by everyone on earth. That this is the meaning we see immediately from what follows.
"Thy will be done in earth, as it is in Heaven." Since the fall of Adam and Eve, the will of God is not done on earth. It was done before the fall of Adam and Eve in Paradise, but from the moment they ate of the forbidden fruit, and sin was introduced by the devil on earth, from that moment the will of God was not done to the full on earth, as it should be, and as it will he hereafter when the Lord Jesus Christ has returned. Let us clearly keep this before us. One of the first things which was done after the fall was that the first child of Adam and Eve, Cain, murdered his own brother, Abel. There we see the fruit of sin entering into the world, and ever since then the will of God has not been "done in earth, as it is in Heaven." There have been those godly in spirit, at various times, who have sought in their feeble measure to glorify God, and to walk to the praise and glory and honour of His Name. But the great mass of human beings on earth have not been doing the will of God, as the will of God is done in Heaven.
"Give us this day our daily bread." Here the daily bread does not mean simply bread and nothing else; but it means the necessaries of life generally. What we require we ask God for, and are allowed to ask God to give to us. Notice, particularly, that it is not stated here, "Give us our daily bread," but "Give us this day our daily bread." That means we are not warranted to expect a great abundance, in the way of supply of earthly things. God may be going to fill our hearts with cause for gratitude; God may most abundantly give to us the necessaries of life beforehand, and a long time beforehand; but if He does not do it, we are not to blame Him, far less to consider He is not faithful to His promise, for He has not promised that He will give us years beforehand, neither months beforehand, neither weeks beforehand, neither many days beforehand, the necessaries of life; but He has only promised that day by day we shall be supplied, and this also only under the condition that we seek first the Kingdom of God, and His Righteousness. In other words, if we walk in the fear of God, making it our business to win souls for Him, and to set a good example of godly walk and behaviour before our fellow-men, we shall then as assuredly as we trust in Him be supplied with the necessaries of life. For so did David say, "I have been young and now am old, yet have I not seen the righteous forsaken, nor his seed "-i.e., his children, his descendants-" begging bread." "Give us this day our daily bread." On this petition we may write clothes, house rent, taxes, supplies for all that which our family requires. All this is implied in the petition for daily bread. And how precious to have to go to a Loving Father, Whose very joy and delight it is to answer the petitions of His children. He is not a hard Master, an austere Being, but an infinitely loving Father. Oh, that increasingly it might come to everyone of the children of God to look at Him as an infinitely loving Being; for when we are brought to this state we are perfectly satisfied at all times, and under all circumstances with His dealings with us. Whether painful or otherwise, we are satisfied that He doeth all things well.
"And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors." This implies the owning that we are sinners. It is a matter of exceeding great importance that we give ourselves to God as we are, not seeking to make out that we are very good people, very excellent people, that we walk habitually in His ways and act according to His Mind-for the very reverse is the case, more or less, with everyone of us even the best among us. Therefore, we should increasingly own before God that we are sinners, that we have not acted at every time and under every circumstance according to His Mind, and have accordingly contracted debts, spiritual debts, because we are transgressors. We should own that we are debtors before God, and ask His forgiveness, for Christ's sake, seeking it in God's appointed way through Jesus. Not on any account seeking forgiveness by pretending henceforth we will live a better life, that we will make up for our misconduct; that can never be done. We can never make up for past transgressions, for moment by moment we are expected to love God, with all our heart, with all our strength, with all our might, and to walk in His ways to the praise of His Name. Therefore we can never by our own doings make up for past misconduct. But, through faith in Jesus, if we put our trust in Him for salvation, the Righteousness of Christ is imputed to us. In other words, the holy work and life of the Lord Jesus is put to our account, as if we had been blameless, as if we had been without sin, as if we had walked as consistently all our days as the precious Jesus did. His righteousness is imputed to us, and by that alone forgiveness is to be obtained-putting our trust in Him, seeing Him hanging on the cross, shedding His blood as the Sinbearer, Who made an atonement for our sins, and through Whom alone we can obtain reconciliation.
"As we forgive our debtors." This is particularly to be noticed. If anyone has offended us, transgressed against us, behaved improperly towards us, are we ready to forgive? Are we habitually forgiving? Even if it should occur many times, yet if the individual who offends us, and behaves improperly towards us, makes confession, we are to be ready to forgive, and, supposing this to be done, it is stated, "As we forgive our debtors." Here I would particularly mention that we are not warranted to expect answers to our prayers if we are not acting according to this. I judge that this often and often is a hindrance to obtaining answers to our prayers, because we cultivate an unforgiving spirit, we are not ready to forgive those who have offended us and behaved improperly toward us. "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors," that should be true of us.
"And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil." Our weakness, our helplessness, our nothingness remain, as long as we are in the body, and we shall be liable to temptation, and exposed to temptation. The Lord Jesus Christ found this. It may be in our case, as it was with Him, that for a season the tempter leaves us. For a season he may not specially seek to overpower us, but it will be only for a season, he will come again. That, however, is only one side of the truth; and the other side of the truth is this, that God is ready to succour and help His children. All through their pilgrimage, if they only own their weakness and come to Him and seek His assistance, He is ready to help. Our prayer, therefore, is to be this; that God, in the riches of His grace, would allow us no more to be tempted than is absolutely needful for the glory of His Name, and to become more and more acquainted with His power, with His love, and His readiness to appear on our behalf.
Then it is added, "But deliver us from evil." That more especially means the devil himself; "from the evil one, the wicked one, deliver us." For it is he who is the source of evil, and the greatest evil, since it is he who has such craftiness, and is continually ready to get an advantage over us. Therefore, above all, our prayer should be this: "Deliver us from the wicked one, the evil one, the devil; allow him not to get an advantage over us;" and this prayer is to be uttered from the heart, to the very last moment of our earthly pilgrimage.
We never get into that state that we are so perfectly holy, so perfectly sinless, so perfectly Christ-like, as that the devil can never get an advantage over us. Oh, let us seek to enter into it! I tell you my own experience in this very thing is this: I distrust myself more than ever, I own before God more than ever my own weakness and helplessness, and I have continually cried to God to keep me from the craftiness and the deceit of the wicked one, for were I left to myself, aged as I am, and long as I have walked in the ways of God, and in some little degree also in the fear of God, to His honour and glory, in love and holiness-yet with all this, were I left to myself my life would end just as Asa's did. For thirty years he had glorified God greatly; but in the last two years of his life he dishonoured God deeply. So, on account of my own weakness, my prayer continually is, "Lord, grant that I may finish my course with joy, and not to the shame and dishonour of Thy Holy Name."
"For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever. Amen." These words bring before us "the Why" to expect answers to our prayers. The Kingdom is the Lord's, He, therefore, is able to do it. He is the Mighty One, the Powerful One. "Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever." Thou, O God, art not changing, there is no variation found in Thee. Thou art able to succour us. This is still further confirmed by the word "Amen." Yes! So it shall be. In this evil world we shall greatly cheer ourselves and comfort ourselves by this very statement here, "Thine is the Kingdom, and the power, and the glory, for ever, Amen." Oh, how precious the prospect, that we do not speak into the air, but that we speak to the loving heart of God Almighty, Who can do everything and Who is willing on behalf of His children to do everything that is for their real blessing in Christ.
Now, in the next and last two verses, we have that which I have already referred to. "For if ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you; but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." Here we see that not only are we not warranted in expecting answers to our prayers if we do not forgive our fellow-men, when they have offended against us, and have done things which are improper; but also we shall lose the knowledge and the enjoyment which springs from the consciousness of the forgiveness of our own sins. It is plainly stated, "If ye forgive men their trespasses, your Heavenly Father will also forgive you, but if ye forgive not men their trespasses, neither will your Father forgive your trespasses." And I believe that in this we have the secret why in our day there are found so many true children of God whose life and deportment indicate that they are believers in Christ, but who yet do not enjoy the forgiveness of their sins. In the case of not a few we have reason to believe it originates from there being something in their mind which they seem to be unable to pass over regarding offences they have suffered from others, and that they have not forgive. If this is the case they cannot wonder why they do not themselves enjoy the knowledge of the forgiveness of their own sins.
Now, this little portion on which we have been meditating says to us afresh, "What an unspeakably blessed thing it is to be a child of God." Thus I have found it during the past seventy-one years and five months that I have been a believer in the Lord Jesus! Oh, I cannot express to any who are not believers in the Lord Jesus Christ what they lost by staying away from Him! There are so many who suppose that to become a Christian is a wretched and miserable thing, that to become a believer in Christ and to give the heart to the Lord Jesus shuts us out from life, from everything, and from every particle of enjoyment. A false notion altogether. The very reverse, the very reverse is the case! I repeat what I have said more than once, that with all my might, as a young man under twenty, I sought happiness in the things of this world, and I had the opportunity of finding it if it could be found in this way at all. I was passionately fond of the theatre; I was fond of the ballroom; at the card table, at the billiard table, and in all kinds of worldly societies I was found, and at the head of them very frequently as a leader; but instead of finding real, true happiness it was nothing but disappointment that I met with continually. At last I thought, "Oh, if only I could travel a great deal, how happy that would make me!" God allowed me to taste this. I travelled forty-three days in succession, day by day, day by day. I saw the most beautiful scenery to be seen under heaven; but after six weeks I became so sick of travelling that I could pass the most beautiful scenery without even looking at it. Five weeks after I found Jesus, I found my Heavenly Friend, and the very first evening I was lying peacefully on my bed as a forgiven sinner, in peace with God. I blessed and praised Him for it. And without having to say to me, "Now it must be out with the theatre, it must be out with the card table, it must be out with the ballroom"-without anyone speaking to me a word, for I had not seen a single Christian to converse with, that was a settled matter.
I was regenerated now, born again, having obtained spiritual life after I had been twenty years and five weeks dead in trespasses and sins. Therefore, I say, without anyone saying a single word to me, it was a settled matter that my whole life must be changed and altered. And thus it was; and what has been the result? I became instantly a very happy young man, and I have been a happy man in middle-aged years, and I am a happy man, yes, an exceedingly happy man, greatly advanced as I am now in years. O,
"If all the world my Jesus knew,
All the world would love Him too."
But it is because the unconverted think it is a miserable thing to come to Christ that they stay away from Him. The truth is this: That only, only, only through faith in the Lord Jesus can real, true happiness be obtained. Therefore, any who have put this to themselves and stayed away from Christ, let them do so no longer, let them own that they are sinners, deserving nothing but punishment, and put their trust alone in Jesus for the salvation of their souls, and the result will be that they will obtain peace and joy in God, even as I found it when I was brought to Christ. May God grant that this may speak to the hearts of those who as yet have been going on thoughtlessly and carelessly and unconcerned about the things of Heaven.