Editor’s note: The following is the second half of a conference address delivered by Charles Spurgeon, published in 1892.
Now we must review OUR ARMY. What can individual men do in a great crusade? We are associated with all the people of the Lord. We need for comrades the members of our churches; these must go out and win souls for Christ. We need the cooperation of the entire brotherhood and sisterhood. What is to be accomplished unless the saved ones go forth, all of them, for the salvation of others? But the question now is mooted, Is there to be a church at all? Is there to be a distinct army of saints, or are we to include atheists? You have heard of “the church of the future” which we are to have instead of the church of Jesus Christ. All narrowness will cease unless the theatre and the public-house should prove too much for the church. As its extreme lines will take in atheists, we may hope, in our charity, that it will include evil spirits also. What a wonderful church it will be, certainly, when we see it! It will be anything else you like, but not a church. When the soldiers of Christ shall have included in their ranks all the banditti of the adversary, will there be any army for Christ at all? Is it not distinctly a capitulation at the very beginning of the war? So I take it to be.
We must not only believe in the church of God, but recognize it very distinctly. Some denominations recognize anything and everything more than the church. Such a thing as a meeting of the church is unknown. In some “the church ” signifies the ministers or clergy; but in truth it should signify the whole body of the faithful, and there should be an opportunity for these to meet together to act as a church. It is, I judge, for the church of God to carry on the work of God in the land. The final power and direction is with our Lord Jesus, and under him it should lie, not with some few who are chosen by delegation or by patronage, but with the whole body of believers. We must more and more acknowledge the church which God has committed to our charge; and in so doing, we shall evoke a strength which else lies dormant. If the church is recognized by Christ Jesus, it is worthy to be recognized by us; for we are the servants of the church.
Yes, we believe that there ought to be a church. But churches are very disappointing things. Every pastor of a large church will own this in his own soul. I do not know that the churches of to-day are any worse than they used to be in Paul’s time, or any better. The churches at Corinth and Laodicea and other cities exhibited grave faults; and if there are faults in ours, let us not be amazed; but yet let us grieve over such things, and labour after a higher standard. Albeit that the members of our church are not all they ought to be, neither are we ourselves. Yet, if I went anywhere for choice company, I should certainly resort to the members of my church.
“These are the company I keep:
These are the choicest friends I know.”
O Jerusalem, with all thy faults, I love thee stilll The people of God are still the aristocracy of the race: God bless them ! Yes, we mean to have a church.
Now, is that church to be real or statistical? That depends very much upon you, dear brethren. I would urge upon you the resolve to have no church unless it be a real one. The fact is, that too frequently religious statistics are shockingly false. Cooking of such accounts is not an unknown art in certain quarters, as we know. I heard of one case the other day where an increase of four was reported; but had the roll been amended in the least, there must have been a decrease of twenty-five. Is it not falsehood when numbers are manipulated? There is a way of making figures figure as they should not figure. Never do this. Let us not keep names on our books when they are only names. Certain of the good old people like to keep them there, and cannot bear to have them removed; but when you do not know where individuals are, nor what they are, how can you count them? They are gone to America, or Australia, or to heaven, but as far as your roll is concerned they are with you still. Is this a right thing? It may not be possible to be absolutely accurate, but let us aim at it. We ought to look upon this in a very serious light, and purge ourselves of the vice of false reporting; for God himself will not bless mere names. It is not his way to work with those who play a false part. If there is not a real person for each name, amend your list. Keep your church real and effective, or make no report. A merely nominal church is a lie. Let it be what it professes to be. We may not glory in statistics; but we ought to know the facts.
But is this church to increase, or is it to die out? It will do either the one or the other. We shall see our friends going to heaven, and, if there are no young men and young women converted and brought in and added to us, the church on earth will have emigrated to the church triumphant above; and what is to be done for the cause and the kingdom of the Master here below? We should be crying, praying, and pleading that the church may continually grow. We must preach; visit, pray, and labour for this end. May the Lord add unto us daily such as are saved! If there be no harvest, can the seed be the true seed? Are we preaching apostolic doctrine if we never see apostolic results? Oh, my brethren, our hearts should be ready to break if there be no increase in the flocks we tend. O Lord, we beseech thee, send now prosperity!
If a church is to be what it ought to be for the purposes of God, we must train it in the holy art of prayer. Churches without prayer-meetings are grievously common. Even if there were only one such, it would be one to weep over. In many churches the prayer-meeting is only the skeleton of a gathering: the form is kept up, but the people do not come. There is no interest, no power, in connection with the meeting. Oh, my brothers, let it not be so with you! Do train the people to continually meet together for prayer. Rouse them to incessant supplication. There is a holy art in it. Study to show yourselves approved by the prayerfulness of your people. If you pray yourself, you will want them to pray with you; and when they begin to pray with you, and for you, and for the work of the Lord, they will want more prayer themselves, and the appetite will grow. Believe me, if a church does not pray, it is dead. Instead of putting united prayer last, put it first. Everything will hinge upon the power of prayer in the church.
We ought to have our churches all busy for God. What is the use of a church that simply assembles to hear sermons, even as a family gathers to eat its meals? What, I say, is the proﬁt, if it does no work? Are not many professors sadly indolent in the Lord’s work, though diligent enough in their own? Because of Christian idleness we hear of the necessity for amusements, and all sorts of nonsense. If they were at work for the Lord Jesus we should not hear of this. A good woman said to a housewife, “Mrs. So-and-so, how do you manage to amuse yourself?” “Why”, she replied, “my dear, you see there are so many children that there is much work to be done in my house.” “Yes”, said the other, “I see it. I see that there is much work to be done in your house; but as it never is done, I was wondering how you amused yourself.” Much needs to be done by a Christian church within its own bounds, and for the neighbourhood, and for the poor and the fallen, and for the heathen world, and so forth; and if it is well attended to, minds, and hearts, and hands, and tongues will be occupied, and diversions will not be asked for. Let idleness come in, and that spirit which rules lazy people, and there will arise a desire to be amused. What amusements they are, too! If religion is not a farce with some congregations, at any rate they turn out better to see a farce than to unite in prayer. I cannot understand it. The man who is all aglow with love to Jesus ﬁnds little need for amusement. He has no time for trifling. He is in dead earnest to save souls, and establish the truth, and enlarge the kingdom of his Lord. There has always been some pressing claim for the cause of God upon me; and, that settled, there has been another, and another, and another, and the scramble has been to find opportunity to do the work that must be done, and hence I have not had the time for gadding abroad after frivolities. Oh, to get a working church! The German churches, when our dear friend, Mr. Oncken, was alive, always carried out the rule of asking every-member, “What are you going to do for Christ?” and they put the answer down in a book. The one thing that was required of every member was that he should continue doing something for the Saviour. If he ceased to do anything it was a matter for church discipline, for he was an idle professor, and could not be allowed to remain in the church like a drone in a hive of working bees. He must do or go. Oh, for a vineyard without a barren fig-tree to cumber the ground! At present the most of our sacred warfare is carried on by a small body of intensely living, earnest people, and the rest are either in hospital, or are mere camp followers. We are thankful for that consecrated few; but we pine to see the altar fire consuming all that is professedly laid upon the altar.
Brethren, we want churches also that produce saints; men of mighty faith and prevalent prayer; men of holy living, and of consecrated giving; men filled with the Holy Spirit. We must have these saints as rich clusters, or surely we are not branches of the true vine. I would desire to see in every church a Mary sitting at Jesus’ feet, a Martha serving Jesus, a Peter and a John; but the best name for a church is “All Saints.” All believers should be saints, and all may be saints. We have no connection with “the latter-day saints”, but we love everyday saints. Oh, for more of them! If God shall so help us that the whole company of the faithful shall, each one of them individually, come to the fulness of the stature of a man in Christ Jesus, then we shall see greater things than these. Glorious times will come when believers have glorious characters.
We want also churches that know the truth, and are well taught in the things of God. What do some Christian people know? They come and hear, and, in the plenitude of your wisdom, you instruct them; but how little they receive to lay by in store for edification! Brethren, the fault lies partly with us, and partly with themselves. If we taught better they would learn better. See how little many professors know; not enough to give them discernment between living truth and deadly error. Old-fashioned believers could give you chapter and verse for what they believed; but how few of such remain! Our venerable grandsires were at home when conversing upon “the covenants.” I love men who love the covenant of grace, and base their divinity upon it: the doctrine of the covenants is the key of theology. They that feared the Lord spake often one to another. They used to speak of everlasting life, and all that comes of it. They had a good argument for this belief, and an excellent reason for that other doctrine; and to try to shake them was by no means a hopeful task: you might as well have hoped to shake the pillars of the universe; for they were steadfast, and could not be carried about with every wind of doctrine. They knew what they knew, and they held fast that which they had learned. What is to become of our country, with the present deluge of Romanism pouring upon us through the ritualistic party, unless our churches abound in firm believers who can discern between the regeneration of the Holy Spirit and its ceremonial substitute? What is to become of our churches in this day of scepticism, when every fixed truth is pointed at with the finger of doubt, unless our people have the truths of the gospel written in their hearts? Oh, for a church of out-and-out believers, impervious to the soul-destroying doubt which pours upon us in showers!
Yet all this would not reach our ideal. We want a church of a missionary character, which will go forth to gather out a people unto God from all parts of the world. A church is a soul-saving company, or it is nothing. If the salt exercises no preserving inﬂuence on that which surrounds it, what is the use of it? Yet some shrink from effort in their immediate neighbourhood because of the poverty and vice of the people. I remember a minister who is now deceased, a very good man he was, too, in many respects; but he utterly amazed me by a reply which he made to a question of mine. I remarked that he had an awful neighbourhood round his chapel, and, I said, “Are you able to do much for them?” He answered, “No. I feel almost glad that we keep clear of them; for, you see, if any of them were converted, it would be a fearful burden upon us.” I knew him to be the soul of caution and prudence, but this took me aback, and I sought an explanation. “Well”, he said, “we should have to keep them: they are mostly thieves and harlots, and if converted they would have no means of livelihood, and we are a poor people, and could not support them”! He was a devout man, and one with whom it was to one’s profit to converse; and yet that was how he had gradually come to look at the case. His people with difficulty sustained the expenses of worship, and thus chill penury repressed a gracious zeal, and froze the genial current of his soul. There was a great deal of common sense in what he said, but yet it was an awful thing to be able to say it. We want a people who will not for ever sing,—
“We are a garden walled around,
Chosen and made peculiar ground;
A little spot enclosed by grace,
Out of the world’s wild wilderness.”
It is a good verse for occasional singing, but not when it comes to mean, “We are very few, and we wish to be.” No, no, brethren! we are a little detachment of the King’s soldiers detained in a foreign country upon garrison duty; yet we mean not only to hold the fort, but to add territory to our Lord’s dominion. We are not to be driven out; but, on the contrary, we are going to drive out the Canaanites; for this land belongs to us, it is given to us of the Lord, and we will subdue it. May we be fired with the spirit of discoverers and conquerors, and never rest while there yet remains a class to be rescued, a region to be evangelized!
We are rowing like life-boat men upon a stormy sea, and we are hurrying to yonder wreck, where men are perishing. If we may not draw that old wreck to shore, we will at least, by the power of God, rescue the perishing, save life, and bear the redeemed to the shores of salvation. Our mission, like our Lord’s, is to gather out the chosen of God from among men, that they may live to the glory of God. Every saved man should be, under God, a saviour; and the church is not in a right state until she has reached that conception of herself. The elect church is saved that she may save, cleansed that she may cleanse, blessed that she may bless. All the world is the field, and all the members of the church should work therein for the great Husbandman. Waste lands are to be reclaimed, and forests broken up by the plough, till the solitary place begins to blossom as the rose. We must not be content with holding our own: we must invade the territories of the prince of darkness.
My brethren, what is our relation to this church? What is our position in it? We are servants. May we always know our place, and keep it! The highest place in the church will always come to the man who willingly chooses the lowest; while he that aspires to be great among his brethren will sink to be least of all. Certain men might have been something if they had not thought themselves so. A consciously great man is an evidently little one. A lord over God’s heritage is a base usurper. He that in his heart and soul is always ready to serve the very least of the family; who expects to be put upon; and willingly sacrifices reputation and friendship for Christ’s sake, he shall fulfil a heaven sent ministry. We are not sent to be ministered unto, but to minister. Let us sing unto our Well-Beloved:—
“There’s not a lamb in all thy ﬂock,
I would disdain to feed;
There’s not a foe before whose face
I’d fear thy cause to plead.”
We must also be examples to the flock. He that cannot be safely imitated ought not to be tolerated in a pulpit.
Did I hear of a minister who was always disputing for preeminence? Or of another who was mean and covetous? Or of a third whose conversation was not always chaste? Or of a fourth who did not rise, as a rule, till eleven o’clock in the morning? I would hope that this last rumour was altogether false. An idle minister—what will become of him? A pastor who neglects his office? Does he expect to go to heaven? I was about to say, “If he does go there at all, may it be soon.” A lazy minister is a creature despised of men, and abhorred of God. “You give your minister only £50 a year!” I said, to a farmer. “Why, the poor man cannot live on it.” The answer was, “Look here, sir! I tell you what: we give him a good deal more than he earns.” It is a sad pity when that can be said; it is an injury to all those who follow our sacred calling. We are to be examples to our ﬂock in all things. In all diligence, in all gentleness, in all humility, and in all holiness we are to excel. When Caesar went on his wars, one thing always helped his soldiers to bear hardships: they knew that Caesar fared as they fared. He marched if they marched, he thirsted if they thirsted, and he was always in the heat of the battle if they were fighting. We must do more than others if we are officers in Christ’s army. We must not cry, “Go on”, but, “Come on.” Our people may justly expect of us, at the very least, that we should be among the most self-denying, the most laborious, and the most earnest in the church, and somewhat more. We cannot expect to see holy churches if we who are bound to be their examples are unsanctified. If there be, in any of our brethren, consecration and sanctification, evident to all men, God has blessed them, and God will bless them more and more. If these be lacking in us, we need not search far to ﬁnd the cause of our non-success.
I have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now, because the time is long and you are weary. I desire, however, if you can gather up your patience and your strength, to dwell for a little upon the most important part of my triple theme. Here suffer me to pray for his help, whose name and person I would magnify. Come, Holy Spirit, heavenly Dove, and rest upon us now!
Granted that we preach the Word alone; granted that we are surrounded by a model church, which, alas, is not always the case; but, granted that it is so, OUR STRENGTH is the next consideration. This must come from THE SPIRIT OF GOD. We believe in the Holy Ghost, and in our absolute dependence upon him. We believe; but do we believe practically? Brethren, as to ourselves and our own work, do we believe in the Holy Ghost? Do we believe because we habitually prove the truth of the doctrine?
We must depend upon the Spirit in our preparations. Is this the fact with us all? Are you in the habit of working your way into the meaning of texts by the guidance of the Holy Spirit? Every man that goes to the land of heavenly knowledge must work his passage thither; but he must work out his passage in the strength of the Holy Spirit, or he, will arrive at some island in the sea of fancy, and never set his foot upon the sacred shores of the truth. You do not know the truth, my brother, because you have read “Hodge’s Outlines”, or “Fuller’s Gospel worthy of all Acceptation” ; or “Owen on the Spirit”, or any other classic of our faith. You do not know the truth, my brother, merely because you accept the Westminster Assembly’s Confession, and have studied it perfectly. No, we know nothing till we are taught of the Holy Ghost, who speaks to the heart rather than to the ear. It is a wonderful fact that we do not even hear the voice of Jesus till the Spirit rests upon us. John says, “I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s day, and I heard a voice behind me.” He heard not that voice till he was in the Spirit. How many heavenly words we miss because we abide not in the Spirit!
We cannot succeed in supplication except the Holy Ghost helpeth our infirmities, for true prayer is “praying in the Holy Ghost.” The Spirit makes an atmosphere around every living prayer, and within that circle prayer lives and prevails; outside of it prayer is a dead formality. As to ourselves, then, in our study, in prayer, in thought, in word, and in deed, we must depend upon the Holy Ghost.
In the pulpit do we really and truly rest upon the aid of the Spirit? I do not censure any brother for his mode of preaching, but I must confess that it seems very odd to me when a brother prays that the Holy Ghost may help him in preaching, and then I see him put his hand behind him and draw a manuscript out of his pocket, so fashioned that he can place it in the middle of his Bible, and read from it without being suspected of doing so. These precautions for ensuring secrecy look as though the man was a little ashamed of his paper; but I think he should be far more ashamed of his precautions. Does he expect the Spirit of God to bless him while he is practising a trick? And how can He help him when he reads out of a paper from which anyone else might read without the Spirit’s aid? What has the Holy Ghost to do with the business? Truly, he may have had something to do with the manuscript in the composing of it, but in the pulpit his aid is superfluous. The truer thing would be to thank the Holy Spirit for assistance rendered, and ask that what he has enabled us to get into our pockets may now enter the people’s hearts. Still, if the Holy Ghost should have anything to say to the people that is not in the paper, how can he say it by us? He seems to me to be very effectually blocked as to freshness of utterance by that method of ministry. Still, it is not for me to censure, although I may quietly plead for liberty in prophesying, and room for the Lord to give us in the same hour what we shall speak.
Furthermore, we must depend upon the Spirit of God as to our results. No man among us really thinks that he could regenerate a soul. We are not so foolish as to claim power to change a heart of stone. We may not dare to presume quite so far as this, and yet we may come to think that, by our experience, we can help people over spiritual difficulties. Can we? We may be hopeful that our enthusiasm will drive the living church before us, and drag the dead world after us. Will it be so? Perhaps we imagine that if we could only get up a revival, we should easily secure large additions to the church? Is it worth while to get up a revival? Are not all true revivals to be got down? We may persuade ourselves that drums and trumpets and shouting will do a great deal. But, my brethren, “the Lord is not in the wind.” Results worth having come from that silent but omnipotent Worker whose name is the Spirit of God: in him, and in him only, must we trust for the conversion of a single Sunday-school child, and for every genuine revival, For the keeping of our people together, and for the building of them up into a holy temple, we must look to him. The Spirit might say, even as our Lord did, “Without me ye can do nothing.”
What is the Church of God without the Holy Ghost? Ask what would Hermon be without its dew, or Egypt without its Nile? Behold the land of Canaan when the curse of Elias fell upon it, and for three years it felt neither dew nor rain: such would Christendom become without the Spirit. What the valleys would be without their brooks, or the cities without their wells; what the corn-fields would be without the sun, or the vintage without the summer—that would our churches be without the Spirit. As well think of day without light, or life without breath, or heaven without God, as of Christian service without the Holy Spirit. Nothing can supply his place if he be absent: the pastures are a desert, the fruitful ﬁelds are a wilderness, Sharon languishes, and Carmel is burned with fire. Blessed Spirit of the Lord, forgive us that we have done thee such despite, by our forgetfulness of thee, by our proud self-sufficiency, by resisting thine influences, and quenching thy fire! Henceforth work in us according to thine own excellence. Make our hearts tenderly impressible, and then turn us as wax to the seal, and stamp upon us the image of the Son of God. With some such prayer and confession of faith as this, let us pursue our subject in the power of the good Spirit of whom we speak.
What does the Holy Ghost do? Beloved, what is there of good work that he does not do? It is his to quicken, to convince, to illuminate, to cleanse, to guide, to preserve, to console, to confirm, to perfect, and to use. How much might be said under each one of these heads! It is he that worketh in us to will and to do. He that hath wrought all things is God. Glory be unto the Holy Ghost for all that he has accomplished in such poor, imperfect natures as ours! We can do nothing apart from the life-sap which ﬂows to us from Jesus the Vine. That which is our own is fit only to cause us shame and confusion of face. We never go a step towards heaven without the Holy Ghost. We never lead another on the heavenward road without the Holy Ghost. We have no acceptable thought, or word, or deed, apart from the Holy Spirit. Even the uplifting of the eye of hope, or the ejaculatory prayer of the heart’s desire, must be his work. All good things are of him and through him, from beginning to end. There is no fear of exaggerating here. Do we, however, translate this conviction into our actual procedure?
Instead of dilating upon what the Spirit of God does, let me refer to your experience, and ask you a question or two. Do you remember times when the Spirit of God has been graciously present in fulness of power with you and with your people? What seasons those have been! That Sabbath was a high day. Those services were like the worship or Jacob when he said, “Surely God was in this place!” What mutual telegraphing goes on between the preacher in the Spirit and the people in the Spirit! Their eyes seem to talk to us as much as our tongues talk to them. They are then a very different people from what they are on common occasions: there is even a beauty upon their faces while we are glorifying the Lord Jesus, and they are enjoying and drinking in our testimony. Have you ever seen a gentleman of the modern school enjoying his own preaching? Our evangelical preachers are very happy in delivering what our liberal friends are pleased to call their “platitudes”; but the moderns in their wisdom feel no such joy. Can you imagine a Downgrader in the glow which our Welsh friends call the “Hwyl”? How grimly they descant upon the Post Exilic Theory! They remind me of Ruskin’s expression—“ Turner had no joy of his mill.” I grant you, there is nothing to enjoy, and they are evidently glad to get through their task of piling up meatless bones. They stand at an empty manger, amusing themselves by biting their crib. They get through their preaching, and they are dull enough till Monday comes with a football match, or an entertainment in the school-room, or a political meeting. To them preaching is “work”, though they don’t put much work into it. The old preachers, and some of those who now live, but are said to be “obsolete”, think the pulpit a throne, or a triumphal chariot, and are near heaven when helped to preach with power. Poor fools that we are, preaching our “antiquated” gospel! We do enjoy the task. Our gloomy doctrines make us very happy. Strange, is it not? The gospel is evidently marrow and fatness to us, and our beliefs—albeit, of course, they are very absurd and unphilosophical—do content us, and make us very confident and happy. I may say of some of my brethren, that their very eyes seem to sparkle, and their souls to glow, while enlarging upon free grace and dying love. It is so, brethren, that when we have the presence of God, then we and our hearers are carried away with heavenly delight. Nor is this all. When the Spirit of God is present every saint loves his fellow saint, and there is no strife among us unless it be who shall be the most loving. Then prayer is wrestling and prevailing, and ministry is sowing good seed and reaping large sheaves. Then conversions are plentiful, restorations are abundant, and advances in grace are seen on every side. Hallelujah! With the Spirit of God all goes well.
But do you know the opposite condition? I hope you do not. It is death in life. I trust you have never, in your scientific experiments, been cruel enough to put a mouse under an air pump, and gradually to exhaust the receiver. I have read of the fatal experiment. Alas, poor mouse! As the air gets thinner and thinner, how great his sufferings, and when it is all gone, there he lies—dead. Have you never yourself been under an exhausted receiver, spiritually? You have only been there long enough to perceive that the sooner you escaped, the better for you. Said one to me the other day, “Well, as to the sermon which I heard from the modern-thought divine, there was no great harm in it; for on this occasion he kept clear of false doctrine; but the whole affair was so intensely cold. I felt like a man who has fallen down a crevasse in a glacier: and I felt shut up as if I could not breathe the air of heaven.” You know that arctic cold; and it may occasionally be felt even where the doctrine is sound. When the Spirit of God is gone, even truth itself becomes an iceberg. How wretched is religion frozen and lifeless! The Holy Ghost has gone, and all energy and enthusiasm have gone with him. The scene becomes like that described in the Ancient Mariner, when the ship was becalmed:—
“The very deep did rot,
Alas, that ever this should be!
Yea, slimy things did crawl with legs
Upon the slimy sea.”
Within the ship all was death. And we have seen it so within a church. I am tempted to apply Coleridge’s lines to much that is to be seen in those churches which deserve the name of “congregations of the dead.” He describes how the bodies of the dead were inspired and the ship moved on, each dead man fulfilling his office in a dead and formal fashion:—
“The helmsman steered, the ship moved on;
Yet never a breeze up blew;
The mariners all ’gan work the ropes,
Where they were wont to do;
They raised their limbs like lifeless tools—
We were a ghastly crew.”
All living fellowship was lacking, for the Ancient Mariner says:—
“The body of my brother’s son
Stood by me, knee to knee:
The body and I pulled at one rope,
But he said nought to me.”
It is much the same in those “respectable” congregations where no man knows his fellow, and a dignified isolation supplants all saintly communion. To the preacher, if he be the only living man in the company, the church affords very dreary society. His sermons fall on ears that hear them not aright.
“Twas night, calm night, the moon was high;
The dead men stood together.
All stood together on the deck
For a charnel-dungeon fitter:
All fixed on me their stony eyes,
That in the moon did glitter.”
Yes, the preacher’s moonlight, cold and cheerless, falls on faces which are like it. The discourse impresses their stolid intellects, and fixes their stony eyes; but hearts! Well, hearts are not in fashion in those regions. Hearts are for the realm of life; but without the Holy Spirit what do congregations know of true life? If the Holy Ghost has gone, death reigns, and the church is a sepulchre. Therefore we must entreat him to abide with us, and we must never rest till he does so. O brothers, let it not be that I talk to you about this, and that then we permit the matter to drop; but let us each one with heart and soul seek to have the power of the Holy Spirit abiding upon him.
Have we received the Holy Ghost? Is he with us now? If so it be, how can we secure his future presence? How can we constrain him to abide with us?
I would say, first, treat him as he should be treated. Worship him as the adorable Lord God. Never call the Holy Spirit “it ”; nor speak of him as if he were a doctrine, or an inﬂuence, or an orthodox myth. Reverence him, love him, and trust him with familiar yet reverent confidence. He is God, let him be God to you.
See to it that you act in conformity with his working. The mariner to the East cannot create the winds at his pleasure, but he knows when the trade winds blow, and he takes advantage of the season to speed his vessel. Put out to sea in holy enterprise when the heavenly wind is with you. Take the sacred tide at its flood. Increase your meetings when you feel that the Spirit of God is blessing them. Press home the truth more earnestly than ever when the Lord is opening ears and hearts to accept it. You will soon know when there is dew about, prize the gracious visitation. The farmer says, “Make hay while the sun shines.” You cannot make the sun shine; that is quite out of your power; but you can use the sun while he shines. “When thou hearest the sound of a going in the tops of the mulberry trees, then thou shalt bestir thyself.” Be diligent in season and out of season; but in a lively season he doubly laborious.
Evermore, in beginning, in continuing, and in ending any and every good work, consciously and in very truth depend upon the Holy Ghost. Even a sense of your need of him he must give you; and the prayers with which you entreat him to come must come from him. You are engaged in a work so spiritual, so far above all human power, that to forget the Spirit is to ensure defeat. Make the Holy Ghost to be the sine qua non of your efforts, and go so far as to say to him, “If thy presence go not with us, carry us not up hence.” Rest only in him and then reserve for him all the glory. Be specially mindful of this, for this is a tender point with him: he will not give his glory to another. Take care to praise the Spirit of God from your inmost heart, and gratefully wonder that he should condescend to work by you.
Please him by glorifying Christ. Render him homage by yielding yourself to his impulses, and by hating everything that grieves him. The consecration of your whole being will be the best psalm in his praise.
There are a few things which I would have you remember, and then I have done. Remember that the Holy Spirit has his ways and methods, and there are some things which he will not do. Bethink you that he makes no promise to bless compromises. If we make a treaty with error or sin, we do it at our own risk. If we do anything that we are not clear about, if we tamper with truth or holiness, if we are friends of the world, if we make provision for the flesh, if we preach half-heartedly and are in league with errorists, we have no promise that the Holy Spirit will go with us. The great promise runs in quite another strain: “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, and will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord God Almighty.” In the New Testament only in that one place, with the exception of the Book of Revelation, is God called by the name of “the Lord God Almighty.” If you want to know what great things the Lord can do, as the Lord God Almighty, be separate from the world, and from those who apostatize from the truth. The title, “Lord God Almighty” is evidently quoted from the Old Testament. “El-Shaddai”, God all sufficient, the many-breasted God. We shall never know the utmost power of God for supplying all our needs till we have cut connection once for all with everything which is not according to His mind. That was grand of Abraham when he said to the king of Sodom, “I will not take of thee,” —-a Babylonish garment, or a wedge of gold? No, no. He said, “ I will not take from a thread even to a shoe latchet.” That was “the cut direct.” The man of God will have nothing to do with Sodom, or with false doctrine. If you see anything that is evil, give it the cut direct. Have done with those who have done with truth. Then you will be prepared to receive the promise, and not till then.
Dear brethren, remember that wherever there is great love, there is sure to be great jealousy. “Love is strong as death.” What next? “ Jealousy is cruel as the grave.” “God is love”; and for that very reason “The Lord thy God is a jealous God.” Keep clear of everything that deﬁles, or that would grieve the Holy Spirit; for if he be vexed with us, we shall soon be put to shame before the enemy. ,
Note, next, that he makes no promise to cowardice. If you allow the fear of man to rule you, and wish to save self from suffering or ridicule, you will find small comfort in the promise of God. “He that saveth his life shall lose it.” The promises of the Holy Spirit to us in our warfare are to those who quit themselves like men, and by faith are made brave in the hour of conﬂict. I wish that we were come to this pass, that we utterly despised ridicule and calumny. Oh, to have the self-oblivion of that Italian martyr of whom Foxe speaks! They condemned him to be burned alive, and he heard the sentence calmly. But, you know, burning martyrs, however delightful, is also expensive; and the mayor of the town did not care to pay for the fagots, and the priests who had accused him also wished to do the work without personal expense. So they had an angry squabble, and there stood the poor man for whose benefit these fagots were to be contributed, quietly hearing their mutual recriminations. Finding that they could not settle it, he said: “Gentlemen, I will end your dispute. It is a pity that you should, either of you, be at so much expense to ﬁnd fagots for my burning, and, for my Lord’s sake, I will even pay for the wood that burns me, if you please.” There is a fine touch of scorn as well as meekness there. I do not know that I would have paid that bill; but I have even felt inclined to go a little out of the way to help the enemies of the truth to ﬁnd fuel for their criticisms of me. Yes, yes ; I will yet be more vile, and give them more to complain of. I will go through with the controversy for Christ’s sake, and do nothing whatever to quiet their wrath. Brethren, if you trim a little, if you try to save a little of your repute with the men of the apostasy, it will go ill with you. He that is ashamed of Christ and his Word in this evil generation shall find that Christ is ashamed of him at the last.
I will be very brief on these points. Remember, next, that the Holy Ghost will never set his seal to falsehood. Never! If what you preach is not the truth, God will not own it. See ye well to this.
What is more, the Holy Ghost never sets his signature to a blank. That would be unwise on the part of man, and the holy Lord will not perpetrate such a folly. If we do not speak clear doctrine with plainness of speech, the Holy Ghost will not put his signature to our empty prating. If we do not come out distinctly with Christ and him crucified, we may say farewell to true success.
Next, remember that the Holy Ghost will never sanction sin; and to bless the ministry of some men would be to sanction their evil ways. “Be ye clean, that bear the vessels of the Lord.” Let your character correspond with your teaching, and let your churches be purged from open transgressors, lest the Holy Ghost disown your teaching, not for its own sake, but because of the ill savour of unholy living which dishonours it.
Remember, again, that he will never encourage idleness. The Holy Ghost will not come in to rescue us from the consequences of wilful neglect of the Word of God and study. If we allow ourselves to go up and down all the week doing nothing, we may not climb the pulpit stairs and dream that the Lord will there and then tell us what to speak. If help were promised to such, then the lazier the man the better the sermon. If the Holy Spirit worked only by impromptu speakers, the less we read our Bibles and the less we meditated on them the better. If it be wrong to quote from books, “attention to reading” should not have been commanded. All this is obviously absurd, and not one of you will fall into such a delusion. We are bound to be much in meditation, and give ourselves wholly to the Word of God and prayer, and when we have minded these things we may look for the Spirit’s approbation and co-operation. We ought to prepare the sermon as if all depended upon us, and then we, are to trust the Spirit of God knowing that all depends upon Him. The Holy Ghost sends no one into the harvest to sleep among the sheaves, but to bear the burden and heat of the day. We may well pray God to send more “labourers” into the vineyard; for the Spirit will be with the strength of labourers, but he he will not be the friend of loiterers.
Recollect, again, that the Holy Ghost will not bless us in order to sustain our pride. Is it not possible that we may be wishing for a great blessing that we may be thought great men? This will hinder our success: the string of the bow is out of order and the arrow will turn aside. What does God do with men that are proud? Does he exalt them? I trow not. Herod made an eloquent oration, and he put on a dazzling silver robe which glistened in the sun, and when the people saw his vestments and listened to his charming voice, they cried, “It is the voice of a god, and not of a man”; but the Lord smote him, and he was eaten of worms. Worms have a prescriptive right to proud flesh; and when we get very mighty and very big, the worms expect to make a meal of us. “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Keep humble if you would have the Spirit of God with you. The Holy Ghost takes no pleasure in the inﬂated oratory of the proud; how can he? Would you have him sanction bombast? “Walk humbly with thy God”, 0 preacher! for thou canst not walk with him in any other fashion; and if thou walk not with him, thy walking will be vain.
Consider, again, that the Holy Ghost will not dwell where there is strife. Let us follow peace with all men, and specially let us keep peace in our churches. Some of you are not yet favoured with this boon; and possibly it is not your fault. You have inherited old feuds. In many a small community, all the members of the congregation are cousins to one another, and relations usually agree to disagree. When cousins cozen their cousins, the seeds of ill will are sown, and these intrude even into church life. Your predecessor’s high-handedness in past time may breed a good deal of quarrelling for many years to come. He was a man of war from his youth, and even when he is gone the spirits which he called from the vasty deep remain to haunt the spot. I fear you cannot expect much blessing, for the Holy Dove does not dwell by troubled waters: he chooses to come where brotherly love continues. For great principles, and matters of holy discipline, we may risk peace itself; but for self or party may such conduct be far from us.
Lastly, remember the Holy Ghost will only bless in conformity with his own set purpose. Our Lord explains what that purpose is: “He shall glorify me.” He has come forth for this grand end, and he will not put up with anything short of it. If, then, we do not preach Christ, what is the Holy Ghost to do with our preaching? If we do not make the Lord Jesus glorious; if we do not lift him high in the esteem of men, if we do not labour to make him King of kings, and Lord of lords; we shall not have the Holy Spirit with us. Vain will be rhetoric, music, architecture, energy, and social status: if our one design be not to magnify the Lord Jesus, we shall work alone and work in vain.
This is all that I have to say to you at this time; but, my dear brethren, it is a great all if first considered, and then carried out. May it have practical effect upon us! It will, if the great Worker uses it, and not else. Go forth, O soldiers of Jesus, with “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God.” Go forth with the companies of the godly whom you lead, and let every man be strong in the Lord, and in the power of his might. As men alive from the dead, go forth in the quickening power of the Holy Ghost: you have no other strength. May the blessing of the Triune God rest upon you, one and all, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.