|Awake thou that sleepest, and arise from the dead, and Christ shall give thee light.| I want to apply these words to the children of God. If the lost are to be reached by the Gospel of the Son of God, Christianity must be more aggressive than it has been in the past. We have been on the defensive long enough; the time has come for us to enter on a war of aggression. When we as children of God wake up and go to work in the vineyard, then those who are living in wickedness all about us will be reached; but not in any other way. You may go to mass meetings and discuss the question of |How to reach the masses,| but when you have done with discussion you have to go back to personal effort. Every man and woman who loves the Lord Jesus Christ must wake up to the fact that he or she has a mission in the world, in this work of reaching the lost.
A man may talk in his sleep, and it seems to me that there is a good deal of that kind of thing now in the Lord's work. A man may even preach in his sleep. A friend of mine sat up in his bed one night and preached a sermon right through. He was sound asleep all the time. Next morning his wife told him all about it. He preached the same sermon in his church the next Sabbath morning; I have it in print, and a good sermon it is. So a man may not only talk but actually preach in his sleep. There are many preachers in these days who are fast asleep.
There is one thing, however, that we must remember; a man cannot work in his sleep. There is no better way to wake up a Church than to set it to work. One man will wake up another in waking himself up. Of course the moment we begin a work of aggression, and declare war with the world, the flesh, and the devil, some wise head will begin to shake, and there will be the cry, |Zeal without knowledge!| I think I have heard that objection ever since I commenced the Christian life. I heard of some one who was speaking the other day of something that was to be done, and who said he hoped zeal would be tempered with moderation. Another friend very wisely replied that he hoped moderation would be tempered with zeal. If that were always the case, Christianity would be like a red hot ball rolling over the face of the earth. There is no power on earth that can stand before the onward march of God's people when they are in dead earnest.
In all ages God has used those who were in earnest. Satan always calls idle men into his service. God calls active and earnest -- not indolent men. When we are thoroughly aroused and ready for His work, then He will take us up and use us. You remember where Elijah found Elisha; he was ploughing in the field -- he was at work. Gideon was at the threshing floor. Moses was away in Horeb looking after the sheep. None of these eminent servants of God were indolent men; what they did, they did with all their might. We want such men and women nowadays. If we cannot do God's work with all the knowledge we would like, let us at any rate do it with all the zeal that God has given us.
Mr. Taylor says: |The zeal of the Apostles was seen in this -- they preached publicly and privately; they prayed for all men; they wept to God for the hardness of men's hearts; they became all things to all men, that they might gain some; they traveled through deeps and deserts; they endured the heat of the Syrian sun and the violence of Euroclydon, winds and tempests, seas and prisons, mockings and scourgings, fastings and poverty, labor and watching; they endured of every man and wronged no man; they would do any good, and suffer any evil, if they could but hope to prevail upon a soul; they persuaded men meekly, they entreated them humbly, they convinced them powerfully; they watched for their good, but meddled not with their interest; and this is the Christian zeal -- the zeal of meekness, the zeal of charity, the zeal of patience.|
A good many people are afraid of the word ENTHUSIASM. Do you know what the word means? It means |In God.| The person who is |in God|, will surely be fired with enthusiasm. When a man goes into business filled with fire and zeal, he will generally carry all before him. In the army a general who is full of enthusiasm will fire up his men, and will accomplish a great deal more than one who is not stirred with the same spirit. People say that if we go on in that way many mistakes will be made. Probably there will. You never saw any boy learning a trade who did not make a good many mistakes. If you do not go to work because you are afraid of making mistakes, you will probably make one great mistake -- the greatest mistake of your life -- that of doing nothing. If we all do what we can, then a good deal will be accomplished.
How often do we find Sabbath-school teachers going into their work without any enthusiasm. I had just as soon have a lot of wooden teachers as some that I have known. If I were a carpenter I could manufacture any quantity of them. Take one of those teachers who has no heart, no fire, and no enthusiasm. He comes into the school-room perhaps a few minutes after the appointed time. He sits down, without speaking a word to any of the scholars, until the time comes for the lessons to begin. When the Superintendent says it is time to begin the teacher brings out a Question Book. He has not been at the trouble to look up the subject himself, so he gets what some one else has written about it. He takes care not only to get a Question Book, but an Answer Book.
Such a teacher will take up the first book and he says: |John, who was the first man?| (looking at the book) -- |Yes, that is the right question.| John replies, |Adam.| Looking at the Answer Book the teacher says: |Yes, that is right.| He looks again at the Question Book and he says: |Charles, who was Lot?| |Abraham's nephew.| |Yes, my boy, that is right.| And so he goes on. You may say that this is an exaggerated description, and of course I do not mean to say it is literally true; but the picture is not so much overdrawn as you would suppose. Do you think a class of little boys full of life and fire is going to be reached in that way?
I like to see a teacher come into the class and shake hands with the scholars all round. |Johnnie, how do you do? Charlie, I am glad to see you! How's the baby? How's your mother? How are all the folks at home?| That is the kind of a teacher I like to see. When he begins to open up the lesson all the scholars are interested in what he is going to say. He will be able to gain the attention of the whole class, and to train them for God and for eternity. You cannot find me a person in the world who has been greatly used of God, who has not been full of enthusiasm. When we enter on the work in this spirit it will begin to prosper, and God will give us success.
As I was leaving New York to go to England in 1867, a friend said to me: |I hope you will go to Edinburgh and be at the General Assembly this year. When I was there a year ago I heard such a speech as I shall never forget. Dr. Duff made a speech that set me all on fire. I shall never forget the hour I spent in that meeting.| Shortly after reaching England I went to Edinburgh and spent a week there, in hopes that I might hear that one man speak. I went to work to find the report of the speech that my friend had referred to, and it stirred me wonderfully. Dr. Duff had been out in India as a missionary. He had spent twenty-five years there preaching the Gospel and establishing schools. He came back with a broken-down constitution. He was permitted to address the General Assembly, in order to make an appeal for men to go into the mission field. After he had spoken for a considerable time, he became exhausted and fainted away. They carried him out of the hall into another room. The doctors worked over him for some time, and at last he began to recover. When he realized where he was, he roused himself and said: |I did not finish my speech; carry me back and let me finish it.| They told him he could only do it at the peril of his life. Said he: |I will do it if I die.| So they took him back to the hall. My friend said it was one of the most solemn scenes he ever witnessed in his life.
They brought the white-haired man into the Assembly Hall, and as he appeared at the door every person sprang to his feet; the tears flowed freely as they looked upon the grand old veteran. With a trembling voice, he said: |Fathers and mothers of Scotland, is it true that you have no more sons to send to India to work for the Lord Jesus Christ? The call for help is growing louder and louder, but there are few coming forward to answer it. You have the money put away in the bank, but where are the laborers who shall go into the field? When Queen Victoria wants men to volunteer for her army in India, you freely give your sons. You do not talk about their losing their health, and about the trying climate. But when the Lord Jesus is calling for laborers, Scotland is saying: 'We have no more sons to give.'|
Turning to the President of the Assembly, he said: |Mr. Moderator, if it is true that Scotland has no more sons to give to the service of the Lord Jesus Christ in India; although I have lost my health in that land, if there are none who will go and tell those heathen of Christ, then I will be off to-morrow, to let them know that there is one old Scotchman who is ready to die for them. I will go back to the shores of the Ganges, and there lay down my life as a witness for the Son of God.|
Thank God for such a man as that! We want men to-day who are willing, if need be, to lay down their lives for the Son of God. Then we shall be able to make an impression upon the world. When they see that we are in earnest, their hearts will be touched, and we shall be able to lead them to the Lord Jesus Christ.
I did not agree with Garibaldi's judgement in all things, but I must confess I did admire his enthusiasm. I never saw his name in the papers, or in a book, but I read all I could find about him. There was something about him that fired me up. I remember reading of the time when he was on the way to Rome in 1867, and when he was cast into prison. I read the letter he sent to his comrades: |If fifty Garibaldis are thrown into prison, let Rome be free!| He did not care for his own comfort, so long as the cause of freedom in Italy was advanced. If we have such a love for our Master and His cause that we are ready to go out and do His work whatever it may cost us personally, depend upon it the Lord will use us in building up His kingdom.
I have read of a man in the ninth century who came up against a king. The king had a force of thirty thousand men, and when he heard that this general had only five hundred men, he sent him a message that if he would surrender he would treat him and his followers mercifully. Turning to one of his followers, the man said: |Take that dagger and drive it to your heart.| The man at once pressed the weapon to his bosom, and fell dead at the feet of his commander. Turning to another, he said: |Leap into yonder chasm.| Into the jaws of death the man went; they saw him dashed to pieces at the bottom. Then turning to the king's messenger, the man said: |Go back to your king, and tell him that I have five hundred such men. Tell him that we may die but we never surrender. Tell him that I will have him chained with my dogs within forty-eight hours.| When the king heard that he had such men arrayed against him, it struck terror to his heart. His forces were so demoralized that they were scattered like chaff before the wind. Within forty-eight hours the king was taken captive and chained with the dogs of his conqueror. When the people see that we are in earnest in all that we undertake for God, they will begin to tremble; men and women will be enquiring the way to Zion.
A fearful storm was raging, when the cry was heard, |Man overboard!| A human form was seen manfully breasting the furious elements in the direction of the shore; but the raging waves bore the struggler rapidly outward, and, ere the boats could be lowered, a fearful space separated the victim from help. Above the shriek of the storm and roar of the waters rose his rending cry. It was an agonizing moment. With bated breath and blanched cheek, every eye was strained to the struggling man. Manfully did the brave rowers strain every nerve in that race of mercy; but all their efforts were in vain. One wild shriek of despair, and the victim went down. A piercing cry, |Save him, save him!| rang through the hushed crowd; and into their midst darted an agitated man, throwing his arms wildly in the air, shouting, |A thousand pounds for the man who saves his life!| but his starting eye rested only on the spot where the waves rolled remorselessly over the perished. He whose strong cry broke the stillness of the crowd was Captain of the ship from whence the drowned man fell, and was his brother. This is the feeling we want to have in the various ranks of those bearing commission under the great Captain of our salvation. |Save him! he is my brother.|
The fact is, men do not believe in Christianity because they think we are not in earnest about it. In this same Epistle to the Ephesians the Apostle says we are to be |living epistles of Christ, known and read of all men.| I never knew a time when Christian people were ready to go forth and put in the sickle, but there was a great harvest. Wherever you put in the sickle you will find the fields white. The trouble is there are so few to reap.
God wants men and women; that is something far better than institutions. If a man or a woman be really in earnest, they will not wait to be put on some committee. If I saw a man fall into the river, and he was in danger of drowning, I would not wait until I was placed on some committee before I tried to save him. Many people say they cannot work because they have not been formally appointed. They say: |It is not my parish.| I asked a person one day, during our last visit to London, if he would go and work in the inquiry room. The reply was: |I do not belong to this part of London.| Let us look on the whole world as our parish, as a great harvest field. If God puts any one within our influence, let us tell them of Christ and heaven. The world may rise up and say that we are mad. In my opinion no one is fit for God's service until he is willing to be considered mad by the world. They said Paul was mad. I wish we had many more who were bitten with the same kind of madness. As some one has said: |If we are mad, we have a good Keeper on the way and a good Asylum at the end of the road.|
One great trouble is that people come to special revival meetings, and for two or three weeks, perhaps, they will keep up the fire, but by and by it dies out. They are like a bundle of shavings with kerosene on the top -- they blaze away for a little, but soon there is nothing left. We want to keep it all the time, morning, noon and night. I heard of a well once that was said to be very good, except that it had two faults. It would freeze up in the winter, and it would dry up in the summer. A most extraordinary well, but I am afraid there are many wells like it. There are many people who are good at certain times; as some one has expressed it, they seem to be good |in spots.| What we want is to be red hot all the time. Do not wait till some one hunts you up. People talk about striking while the iron is hot. I believe it was Cromwell who said that he would rather strike the iron and make it hot. So let us keep at our post, and we will soon grow warm in the Lord's work.
Let me say a few words specially to Sabbath-school teachers. Let me urge upon you not to be satisfied with merely pointing the children away to the Lord Jesus Christ. There are so many teachers who go on sowing the seed, and who think they will reap the harvest by and by; but they do not look for the harvest now. I began to work in that way, and it was years before I saw any conversions. I believe God's method is that we should sow with one hand and reap with the other. The two should go on side by side. The idea that children must grow into manhood and womanhood before they can be brought to Jesus Christ is a false one. They can be led to Christ now in the days of their youth, and they can be kept, so that they may become useful members of society, and be a blessing to their parents, to the Church of God, and to the world. If they are allowed to grow up to manhood and womanhood before they are led to Christ, many of them will be dragged into the dens of vice; and instead of being a blessing they will be a curse to society.
What is the trouble throughout Christendom to-day, in connection with the Sabbath-school? It is that so many when they grow up to the age of sixteen or so, drop through the Sabbath-school net, and that is the last we see of them. There are many young men now in our prisons who have been Sabbath scholars. The cause of that is that so few teachers believe the children can be converted when they are young. They do not labor to bring them to a knowledge of Christ, but are content to go on sowing the seed. Let a teacher resolve that, God helping him, he will not rest until he sees his whole class brought into the kingdom of God; if he thus resolves he will see signs and wonders inside of thirty days.
I well remember how I got waked up on this point. I had a large Sunday-school with a thousand children. I was very much pleased with the numbers. If they only kept up or exceeded that number I was delighted; if the attendance fell below a thousand I was very much troubled. I was all the time aiming simply at numbers. There was one class held in a corner of the large hall. It was made up of young women, and it was more trouble than any other in the school. There was but one man who could ever manage it and keep it in order. If he could manage to keep the class quiet I thought it was about as much as we could hope for. The idea of any of them being converted never entered my mind.
One Sabbath this teacher was missing, and it was with difficulty that his substitute could keep order in the class. During the week the teacher came to my place of business. I noticed that he looked very pale, and I asked what was the trouble. |I have been bleeding at the lungs,| he said, |and the doctor tells me I cannot live. I must give up my class and go back to my widowed mother in New York State.| He fully believed he was going home to die. As he spoke to me his chin quivered, and the tears began to flow. I noticed this and said: |You are not afraid of death, are you?| |Oh, no, I am not afraid to die, but I will meet God, and not one of my Sabbath-school scholars is converted. What shall I say?| Ah, how different things looked when he felt he was going to render an account of his stewardship.
I was speechless. It was something new to me to hear any one speak in that way. I said: |Suppose we go and see the scholars and tell them about Christ.| |I am very weak,| he said, |too weak to walk.| I said I would take him in a carriage. We took a carriage and went round to the residence of every scholar. He would just be able to stagger across the sidewalk, sometimes leaning on my arm. Calling the young lady by name, he would pray with her and plead with her to come to Christ. It was a new experience for me. I got a new view of things. After he had used up all his strength I would take him home. Next day he would start again and visit others in the class. Sometimes he would go alone, and sometimes I would go with him. At the end of ten days he came to my place of business, his face beaming with joy, and said: |The last one has yielded her heart to Christ. I am going home now; I have done all I can do; my work is done.|
I asked when he was going, and he said: |To-morrow night.| I said: |Suppose I ask these young friends to have a little gathering, to meet you once more before you go.| He said he would be very glad. I sent out the invitations and they all came together. I had never spent such a night up to that time. I had never met such a large number of young converts, led to Christ by his influence and mine. We prayed for each member of the class, for the Superintendent, and for the teacher. Every one of them prayed; what a change had come over them in a short space of time. We tried to sing -- but we did not get on very well --
|Blest be the tie that binds
Our hearts in Christian love.|
We all bade him good-bye; but I felt as if I must go and see him once more. Next night, before the train started, I went to the station, and found that, without any concert of action, one and another of the class had come to bid him good-bye. They were all there on the platform. A few gathered around us -- the fireman, engineer, brakesman, and conductor of the train, with the passengers. It was a beautiful summer night, and the sun was just going down behind the western prairies as we sang together --
|Here we meet to part again,
But when we meet on Canaan's shore,
There'll be no parting there.|
As the train moved out of the station, he stood on the outside platform, and, with his finger pointing heavenward, he said: |I will meet you yonder;| then he disappeared from our view.
What a work was accomplished in those ten days! Some of the members of that class were among the most active Christians we had in the school for years after. Some of them are active workers to-day. I met one of them at work away out on the Pacific Coast, a few years ago. We had a blessed work of grace in the school that summer; it took me out of my business and sent me into the Lord's work. If it had not been for the work of those ten days, probably I should not have been an evangelist to-day.
Let me again urge on Sunday-school teachers to seek the salvation of your scholars. Make up your mind that within the next ten days you will do all you can to lead your class to Christ. Fathers, mothers, let there be no rest till you see all your family brought into the kingdom of God. Do you say that He will not bless such consecrated effort? What we want to-day is the spirit of consecration and concentration. May God pour out His Spirit upon us, and fill us with a holy enthusiasm.