A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 8, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *10/11/2011
For my name’s sake you have laboured and have not fainted. (Re 2:3)
1. The Lord Jesus Christ never removes his eyes from his Church. He notes everything that concerns her, observing not merely the life of her members but their soul’s health, and not merely their health, but the way in which they spend their spiritual strength. He knows their works, he observes their love, their patience, their zeal, for his name’s sake. Seven times in his words to the churches, he says, “I know your works.” This should make us live with great care, for albeit the whole world is under the eye of God, yet concerning his Church it is true, “upon one stone there shall be seven eyes.” The full perfection of omniscience exerts itself upon the Lord’s chosen people. The husbandman has an eye to all his estate, but his chief care is his own family; and, even so, while the Great Husbandman of all creation observes all his works, he primarily looks upon his own household. “The eye of the Lord is upon those who fear him, upon those who hope in his mercy.”
2. Our Lord Jesus, it appears from the text and its connection, notices what it is that his church cannot bear, and he is very glad when she cannot endure false doctrine, or unholy living; he would have her never to endure these, but to purge herself from them with all strictness. But he notes also with joy what she can bear, — toilsome labour, abundant self-denial, reproach for his sake, and persecution, and suffering, even to blood. In this he sees her love revealed, and his delight is in her. It appears that our Lord especially fixes his eye upon the labours of the church. What is the church allowed to be on earth for, except that she should labour for her Lord? If there were nothing to be done in this world, there would be no reason for her lingering here below. She would be transported to the better land, if there were not great purposes to be accomplished by her remaining here. She is put here because the world needs her, and because God’s glory is to be revealed through her. She is to be salt to a society which would otherwise be putrid, light to a people who would otherwise sit in darkness. Consequently a church which does not labour misses the primary reason for its existence; it is a plant that bears no flower, a vine branch that yields no cluster.
3. Christ observes the labour of his church, and he has special delight in it when it is continuous, so that he can give to her the double commendation of our text, “You have laboured and have not fainted.” Oh! that we might receive this commendation from our Master’s lips at the last. May he, whose blood and righteousness are our only hope of salvation, see in us abounding evidences of the grateful love which he so well deserves from our hands. We shall this morning make persevering service our theme.
4. I. First I would call your attention to the text itself, noticing THE POSITIVE AND NEGATIVE GOOD combined here. “You have laboured” — there is something positive. “You have not fainted” — there is a negative which helps to make the positive more positively excellent.
5. “You have laboured.” We will not consider the original, but we will take the word of our version. “You have laboured.” Now, to labour means working with the exerting of much strength: it is work with an emphasis. It means hard work, intense exertion, vigorous action. Men may work, but still not labour, and I fear there are many who claim to be working men who do not often trouble themselves with anything approaching to “labour.” There are also working Christians who do not approach to labouring; yet a lifetime of such work as theirs would not exhaust a butterfly. Now, when a man works for Christ he should work with all his might. Surely we should not offer less love under the gospel, than was required under the law, and you know the law speaks like this, — “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.” Surely Jesus Christ deserves all that, and when we labour for him it should not be with the careless indifference of slaves, but with the ardour of lovers, the devotion of enthusiasts. If any master is to be served badly, do not let it be our Master who is in heaven: we owe him too much to wish to be eye-servants towards him. If anywhere a dilatory servant may be excused, certainly it cannot be in the service of him who redeemed us with his most precious blood. A church ought, therefore, not merely to be a working church, but a great deal more; it should be a church working to its highest pitch, a labouring church. If I may use the metaphor, we ought to employ every ounce of our steam power; we should drive the engine at high pressure; we have no force that can be allowed to escape in waste. We should be not simply walking to heaven, but running the heavenly race, and running it with diligence and eagerness.
When a man truly labours it takes a good deal out of him, labouring
therefore implies self-denial. In labour the man’s strength is
exerted and expended. See how the hot sweat stands upon his brow, how
it pours from him as he continues to exert himself. He has to deny
himself, for he would like to be at rest. He sees his comrade,
perhaps, lounging against that pillar, or stretching himself at ease
upon the green pasture; he cannot do that and labour, — he knows he
cannot; he lays aside his ease and comfort for the sake of what he
has to do. So would the church if she were what she should be, she
would deny herself and take up the cross of high pressure service.
She would toil without cessation, and give without stint. An energy
far beyond anything usual in Christendom would be common in the
church if she were in a right state of heart. Alas! I fear the
majority of professors are not earnest enough to preserve their
professions from ridicule. I noticed, the other day, a remark which
struck me. Speaking of a certain congregation, the writer said he
believed there were a hundred people in it who were worth not less
than five thousand pounds a year each, and then he mentioned the sum
that was given for the maintenance of the work of God, and he added,
“If any ordinary person who was not a Christian, went in there and
heard them sing —
And if I might make some reserve,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great,
That I would give him all, —
he would say to himself, ‘I was at the theatre on Saturday night, and saw a farce, but if I want an absolutely hilarious one I must come here on a Sunday.’ ” Indeed, I thought the remark to be sadly true. When I see how much there is of available strength both in worldly substance, in mental vigour, and in other forms in the church, which is never used, I hardly dare say that any church now upon earth really labours for Christ. A little of your spare strength is given to Jesus, and then you think you have done well. He is put off with odds and ends, the cheese parings and the potatoe peelings of the church. I ask you, does he get much more? What are the gifts of most? Do they give as much as would keep the lowest menial servant in their kitchens? It was not so in early times. Then men were Christians all over and altogether, and served Christ first, Christ last, Christ midst, and Christ without end; but now it is enough if we gloss over life with a little varnish of holy talk and pious profession. Oh that these eyes might live to see a church that really laboured, exerting all its strength with all its might, using all the force in its possession for the propagation of the gospel of the Lord and the extension of the Redeemer’s kingdom.
7. But labour implies not merely the strong effort I have tried to depict, but a continuance of it, for a man might take up a workman’s tool and for a few minutes make a mighty show of effort, and yet be no labourer, unless he kept on working until his task was done. If a few minutes sufficed him, and he said “I have had practical experience of what labour is, and I rather think it does not agree with me”; and if, therefore, he should lay down his tool and go back to his gentlemanly ease, he would be no labourer. He merely plays at labour, that is all. So we have known too many whose service for God has been occasional; they have fits and starts of effort but they are soon over; their spasmodic zeal is today so hot as to be almost fanatical, and tomorrow it will be succeeded by an indifference far more astounding. If the church is said to labour, it means that she exerts all her strength as a regular thing. Like the sun and moon she continues in her orbit of duty. She does not flash and foam for a brief interval like a torrent, but she flows on steadily and continually like a river. She keeps doing her lifework; with all her might she continues in well doing, and is not weary. There is the positive good.
8. The negative, as I have said, crowns the positive, — “And have not fainted.” Now, there are different degrees of fainting. Some may be said to faint comparatively when they weaken in exertion. They drop from running to walking, from diligence to indolence. They once ran well; what hindered them? They weaken. Many continue to do as much as they ever did outwardly, yet their heart is not in it, and so they faint. Their service is the same to the eye of man, but not the same to the eye of God. They act as mere officials; their work is done mechanically; they go through the routine, but they expend no energy, no life power; there is no anointing of the Holy Spirit in them. There is fruit, but it resembles the berries of a sunless summer; it is tasteless, insipid, and all but worthless.
9. Some flag by growing weak in all they do. They do exert such force as they have, but they are essentially feeble. They preach their best, but their best is wine mixed with water. They teach in the Sunday School, and what they teach is the truth, and they deliver it with some degree of earnestness; but they have lost the power with which to influence the heart; they can weary ears but they cannot stir consciences. They are vigorously feeble, vehemently weak. They have gotten away from God, the source of all spiritual strength, and therefore their locks are shorn, and although like Samson they shake themselves, they shake themselves in vain. The power of God has departed from them, and, though they may not know it, Ichabod is written upon their works.
10. Too many go further than this; they renounce all or a large part of the Christian work they were accustomed to do. Content with the efforts of other days they surrender to the sluggard’s vice. They faint, that is, they give up the work altogether; the soldier lays down his arms, the workman sets aside his tools; they consider their day’s work to be done before the day is done, and cry for their wages before payday has arrived. It is sad that there should be so many in the church of this kind.
11. And some go even further than that, for after retiring from labour themselves, they cease to have any care about the Lord’s work. They grow indifferent; they even become critical and censorious towards those who are zealously occupied; and whether Christ’s kingdom grows or declines appears to be little or nothing to them. They still wear the Christian name, but they have fainted. They are like people in a swoon who have become unconscious of everything around them. They need assistance from others, and can give no help in return. They are a drain on the church’s resources, instead of an addition to her strength. For all their usefulness they might as well be dead; only as a tax upon the energy of the church can they be said to be alive.
12. Happy are those who are preserved from fainting in anyone of these degrees. God grant especially that we may never come to that at last, lest it should be said of us that we had a name to live, and were dead. But, brothers and sisters, members of Christ’s church, may this be said of us through a long course of years: “They laboured and did not faint.” When our hair is white with the snows of many winters, may it be truly said by the dear lips of him who intercedes for us in heaven, “You have laboured and have not fainted.” When we lie in our last narrow bed, may this be the accolade which our spirit shall hear before the throne of God, “You have laboured and have not fainted.” May this be such a sentence as an honest affection may dare to write upon our tombs. Have we begun to faint already? If we are still in our youth let us scorn to faint so soon. If we are still in the prime of our days, let us call shame upon ourselves for fainting before the sun even shines. Or, are we beginning to faint now that we are growing grey? Why should we faint now when the day is almost over, and the shadows are drawn out? Brother, call shame upon yourself, if you would faint in your last evening hours when glory is at your door and the crown of immortality is all but upon your brow. Let us be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, so that this text may be our own at the last: “You have laboured for my name’s sake, and have not fainted.”
13. II. Now we pass on to a second part of our discourse, and that is, to dwell upon EXCUSES FOR FAINTING. Fainting has become so common in the Church of God that various apologies have been made for it, and they are constantly being repeated; for when a sin is frequent, excuses for it are multiplied until men cease to blush, and think that they have done nothing bad whatever.
There are some who faint in the work of God because the work itself
has proven to be very tedious to them. When they first undertook it
and it a was a novelty they did not tire, but now the freshness is
gone, and they have come into the real wear and tear of it, they do
not enjoy it quite so much as they thought they should. They hoped
for a position in which the chief labour should be to gather lilies,
or lie upon beds of roses. The service of the Crucified is far less
romantic, and far more laborious. Dear friends, if any of you think
that the road of Christian service is all paved and straight with no
hills, you have made a very great mistake. There is no royal road to
eminence in anything, it is always uphill work and rough climbing;
and certainly there is no such road in the service of God. Never was
there a truer sentence than that we sung just now.
True, ’tis a straight and thorny road,
And mortal spirits tire and faint.
Friends were debating the other day concerning the work of the ministry, the ease or the labour of it, and I reminded one of them about that saying of Baxter, “God have mercy upon the man who finds the ministry of the gospel to be easy work, for he will have need of all Gods mercy indeed when he renders up his account at the last great day.” I cannot conceive of a more atrocious offender against humanity and against God than the man who, having souls committed to his trust, finds it an easy thing to take care of them and watch for their salvation. Sirs, the ministry is a matter which wears out the brain and strains the heart, and drains out the life of a man if he attends to it as he should. If God were served by any of us as he should be, I question whether we should not grow old before our time through labour and anguish, even as did that great lover of souls, Jesus, the great Shepherd of the sheep. Soul winning is a work that might fill an angel’s heart, — did fill a Saviour’s hands. Any service for God, if it is done at all, should be hard work. If you want to be featherbed soldiers go and enlist somewhere else, but Christ’s soldiers must fight, and they will find the battle rough and stern. We, of the church militant, are engaged in no mimic manoeuvres and grand parades; our life is real and earnest; our battle, though not with flesh and blood, is with spiritual wickedness in high places, and it involves hard blows and keen anguish. You must look for real fighting if you become a soldier of Christ, and oh, sir, if the excuse for fainting is that the work is toilsome, that it is too much of a drag upon you, why did you begin it? You ought to have known this at the beginning. You should have counted the cost. But, ah, let me add, the work was not toilsome when your heart was loving, neither would it now be so hard if your soul were right with God. This is only an unworthy excuse. Ardent spirits love difficulties; fervent love delights in making sacrifices; they would not wish to swim for ever in smooth seas of pleasure; they know that manhood’s truest glory lies in contending with and overcoming what is hard. Give to the child the easy task, but let the man have something worth the doing to perform. Instead of shrinking because the work is tedious, we ought to gird up our loins and push on the enterprise with all the greater force.
15. Another apology is pretty frequently heard. “But I have been doing it for so long now. I have been a tract distributor, I have been a city missionary, I have been an evangelist, or I have been a Bible woman, or I have been a Sunday School teacher now twenty or thirty years, and I think it is time to retire.” Do you say so, my comrades? The sun has been shining now for a great many thousand years, but I have not heard that it intends retiring from the business yet. God has given to us fruitful seasons, and I have not heard that he intends to cease to bless our husbandry; every day we drink from the river of his mercy, and we have had no intimation yet that that river has ceased to flow, and that God intends to cut off the supplies. Why, then should anyone of us dream of restraining his hand? What is a lifetime at its utmost length for the service of God? Suppose a man could spend seventy clear years in unflagging exertion in the service of his Master, what would it be after all? But now half our time must go in sleep, and in the necessary refreshment of the body; next, a very large proportion must be deducted for the business of the world, and then what is left? Why most of us can only give our Master a few hours in the week, and yet you talk about having served him so long. Dear Master, put your hand upon our lips the next time we would use such words, and never permit us to insult the sovereignty of your dear love by making such an excuse for our sluggishness.
16. Other excuses, however, will be sure to come, and among them is this, that we have been disappointed up until now in the success of what we have attempted. We have sown, but most of the seed has fallen upon the wayside, or upon the rocks; and where it did spring up, we have not gained anything like a hundredfold increase. We thought that in our class we would have had all the girls or all the boys converted almost immediately; and when we went into the village to preach, we concluded everyone would come to hear us, and that hearing us, they would be converted, and a church would be formed speedily. We dreamed that when we visited a district in the crowded city, we should be able, very soon, so to reform the people, that the public houses would grow fewer, and the Sabbath would be better kept, and I do not know what else besides: very little of this fair vision has been realised; we have not succeeded as we hoped. And what is very perplexing to us is the fact that we know about someone who has succeeded where we have failed; a person who does not appear to have all the gifts we have, and all the capacities we have, whose sphere was evidently just as difficult as ours, and yet he has prospered and we have not, and therefore we conclude that we would do well to stop working. If we were in our right minds, and did not need an excuse for being sluggards, we should not reason like this, but would argue to a conclusion of a diametrically opposite nature. He who has succeeded so well might, perhaps, have an excuse for going home and saying, “Master, my work is done,” but he who has done so very little should continue at his work until he can show some kind of result for his efforts. He should say, “I will stick to this until I do succeed, or until I can say, ‘If I have not succeeded it was no fault of mine: I did what my Master asked of me, I called upon him for help in it, and I went to work in his way with faith in him, and if I have not prospered, I have done what I could.’ ” I remember hearing a certain young preacher exclaim after he had heard an older divine, who had preached with some power, “There now, I shall never be able to preach again after this, I shall feel quite ashamed to go into the pulpit with my poor sermons!” I could not help remarking that the effect ought to be just the opposite. If this man had done so well, it only shows what God can enable me to do, and I will go to God and ask him to help me; if this brother is so useful in the church, I will bless God that he is a better man than I am, and if God pleases to give me a gleam of success occasionally, I will thank him even if I am not able to bear so much success as my fellow servant. We must not give up the war because we have not conquered yet, but fight on until we can seize the victory. Let us not be weary in well doing, for in due season we shall reap if we do not faint.
17. I must mention another set of excuses. They are little, pettish, pitiful, proud excuses, but they are very common. Here is one. “I shall leave the work for I am sure I am not appreciated as I ought to be.” You do not exactly use these words, but that is your feeling. I am only revealing your thoughts. You began to serve God very enthusiastically, and you thought the minister ought to have said, “I am thankful that God has sent such a very zealous young man into our church”: but he has not made any such remark. You have gone on for some time working among the poor, but the good people around you have not been heard to say, “Have you heard of so and so? she is such a remarkably useful woman, quite a godsend among us, an example to us all.” You feel hurt that you are not admired, vexed that you are not highly esteemed. Now, I will not waste words in exposing this feeling, but I will at once ask you to look at it, and say if you do not think it is the most mean and miserable thing you have ever set your eyes upon. Do you mean to give way to such pettishness and silliness? If so, I am finished with you, for you will never do any good in this world. The slave of such a base feeling is incapable of being free.
18. “Ah,” cries another, “my complaint is more reasonable, for I am discouraged because no one helps me in my work. I should not mind their not appreciating me, but they have not assisted me, though I have needed much help. I have kept on under great pressure, and where I thought I should surely find sympathisers and helpers, I have only found the cold shoulder and unkind remarks.” Oh, my brother, my brother, does your life after all depend upon the breath of other men’s nostrils? Has it come to this, that you cannot live upon the approbation of your Master unless you gain also the smile of your fellow servants? Does it mean this, that you will not do your duty because other people are negligent of theirs? It seems to me if others will not help me I must put my shoulder to the wheel and do the work myself by the help of God. If the toil is unshared the honour will be undivided. To tread the winepress alone makes us more like our Lord. Therefore, let us labour on in the name of the Lord, whose support is far better than the help of kings or princes.
19. Another one says, “I have no patience with these frivolous excuses, but mine is a solid one. I must leave my work, for I am so much opposed in it.” Granted that you are opposed, why should you run away? Overcome the opposition, dear brother; the more of it to be overcome, the more grace you need, and the more honour you may gain. Suppose a troop should come against you, is it not said of Gad, “A troop shall overcome him, but he shall overcome at the last?” Would you be crowned without a conflict, and made a victor without fighting? Of one of old it is said, that he broke through a troop and leaped over a wall through his God. Why should you not do the same? “But my wall is so high,” you say, “I cannot leap over it.” Is it an iron wall or a granite wall? Then, if God tells you to leap, leap right at it. He will either bear you over it, or else its solid substance will dissolve into impalpable vapour and vanish away completely. You only need courage. Go in this your might, for you shall thresh the mountains, and the wind shall winnow them and carry them away.
20. “But I am so incompetent and feel so weak,” one says, “in fact, the further I go the weaker I get!” You are progressing admirably, dear brother, and when you become even weaker you will succeed. Gideon could not win the battle because he had too many soldiers; the fainthearted had to be sent away, but still there were too many troops remaining, and when the whole army was reduced to three hundred, and they had no weapons but earthen vessels and trumpets, then it was that the Midianites were defeated. When we are weak then we are strong. Oh, brother, renounce this excuse and labour on, do not faint. May God keep you from fainting.
21. III. Now, for a moment or two, I am going to mention the REAL CAUSES OF FAINTING.
22. The first is an actual decline in spiritual strength. When a working believer suddenly becomes a loitering professor, you may gather from it that his spiritual constitution has grey hairs upon it here and there, though he does not know it. It is not, dear brother, merely that you do not do so much, it is that you are not so much; you do not have the amount of life in you which you once had. And is this not a sad thing? Ought not this to be an indicator to you of spiritual sickness, and drive you at once to the Good Physician to seek healing at his hands? There is, if you wish to look a little into your spirit, I am quite sure of it, a decline in your love for Jesus. Holy work is no harder, but you do not love Christ so well. You have, in truth, no more enemies than you had, but you have forgotten your best friend. Oh, if you had been in the banqueting house with him, and his banner of love had waved over you, and you had been made to drink the spiced wine of his pomegranate in sweet communion with his blessed person, you would not have fainted, for he who is on fire with love will burn his way through difficulties. I am afraid too there is coming over your spirit a great deal of deadness to spiritual and eternal things. You are now more moved and motivated by the things that are seen, and less by the things that are unseen. It is a very easy thing for us to get to enjoy the world, and to give our hearts up to its troubles and cares, but it needs the Spirit of God to make us sensitive to the divine touch, so that we feel eternity, so that we know the value of other men’s souls, so that we put before us the great day in which actions shall be revealed, so that we estimate life properly as it will weigh in the balances of infinite justice. Oh, to be dead to these spiritual realities in any degree is a dreadful death, and to be callous to holy things is a terrible hardness. May God keep us from spiritual insensitivity, and may we be tender and sensitive towards the faintest motion of the Holy Spirit.
23. It is to be feared, also, that those who faint have lost their reliance upon divine power, at least to a degree. The man who labours for God properly never works in his own strength. He who works properly acts because he believes that God works through him; and can a man faint when he feels that? When we fight for God’s truth it is not our arm but the arm of the Eternal who deals the blow. When we bear testimony to his word it is not we who speak, but God’s Spirit speaks through us. Let the man of God go out to any enterprise and hear the sound of his Master’s feet behind him, and he will march to the tune of Miriam’s tambourine; but let him go alone and he will moan, and murmur, and pine, and fail, and die. Confidence in God makes us strong, but by turning away from our great unseen helper, we immediately begin to faint.
24. Moreover, I am afraid that we forget that the Lord requires of us an unselfish dedication to his service, and that we do not serve him at all unless his glory is our chief object. When I hear of a fainting Sunday School teacher, who gives as a reason for fainting that he does not think the other Sunday School teachers are as kind to him as they ought to be, I ask him whether his main object was that he should be loved by men, for if he loved his God what would it be to him how his fellow men regarded him? When I hear a man saying, “I shall give up that post, or that service” — (of course I am not mentioning those who have justifiable reasons, and there are such cases), but when I hear about a man’s retiring because he is fainthearted, I would say to him, “You encounter difficulties; — did you not know you would encounter difficulties? You have gained no honour; — did you not serve for another motive, namely, God’s glory? If you looked for ease, and contentment, and pleasure, and have not gained them, why do you wonder? You ought not to have looked for them. Oh, brother, you have made a mistake. You must get into a better state of heart before God can use you; you must feel that you would have the Lord use you just as in his infinite wisdom he sees fit to do. You should be a piece of iron on the Almighty’s anvil: to be welded into a sceptre, if he chooses with you to break the potter’s vessels; to be beaten into a ploughshare and plunged into the earth, if by you he means to turn up the furrows of the fallow ground; or fashioned into a spear point, if by you he intends to strike his enemies.” Whatever he wishes to make of us, that we should desire to be. We do not know what it is to serve God fully, until we come to perfect submission to his will.
25. IV. I have A LITTLE MEDICAL BUSINESS to do in closing this sermon. Four kinds of people are very common among us. There are, first, those who neither labour nor faint; next, those who faint but never labour; then, those who did labour once, but have fainted; and, fourthly, those who still labour, but are ready to faint. To each of these four I desire to administer a little medicine.
26. Let the first come here. There are some who neither labour nor faint. I do not mean outsiders now; those God shall judge. I mean members of the church. Labour? No. The greatest labour they ever do is to walk from home to the meeting house to hear a sermon, and some of them are hardly able to keep awake during the time of hearing the discourse. They are slumbering hearers like Eutychus, and it is a great mercy that God does not make an example of them as he did of that sleepy brother. We have church members who never labour, and, therefore, never faint. Why should they faint? They have never done enough to come anywhere near an approach to that state of exhaustion. They never draw the gospel coach, but they are delighted to ride on its top; they especially prize the box seat if they can get it. They never go into the Lord’s vineyard to trim the vines, but they are very fond of eating the clusters, though, indeed, even these they will at times call sour and destitute of the flavour of the older vintages. They do nothing, nothing whatever, and, therefore, they find fault with those who do. I am very thankful that very few of this class are among us, yet there are too many. Now, I would prescribe for them a taste of the gall of bitterness. It might be beneficial for them if they had its flavour in their mouths, for I am very much afraid that unless they repent it will be their eternal portion. A church member who produces no fruit, what did the Lord say about him? He said, “Every tree that does not produce fruit is cut down and cast into the fire.” How would you like that, you idle church members? He takes away every branch in the true vine that does not bear fruit. What do you say to this? How do you like the look of that threat, you fruitless members? Not you who are sick and whose fruit is patience: may God bless you; you are good fruit bearing branches. Not you who are feeble in health, poor, obscure, and with little gifts, who nevertheless do what you can; the Lord accepts and blesses you; he considers your mite a greater gift than the rich man’s larger portion; he calls your little word that you are able to speak for Jesus truer service than many an eloquent discourse. But I mean you who could and do not, who should and do not, who eat the fat and drink the sweet in Zion, and yet let men die and be damned while you take no care for their souls, and do not even give them a tract, or write them a letter to tell them the way to heaven, give them a warning. Believing that you are saved yourselves, you button yourselves up and are perfectly contented to sneak into heaven alone. A sad heaven it would be if it were full of selfish spirits like yourselves. Oh, that we may be stirred up to escape from such an unholy spirit. I loathe the very thought of living here merely to get into heaven myself; going to Christ to be washed from my own sins, and for daily mercy, and then never lifting a finger towards the building of his temple, but just sitting down and caring for no one else besides. You idlers need to have a taste of salutary bitterness. May it be kept in your mouths until it is rinsed out with a glass of repentance, and may it lead you to Jesus to ask him to save you from all indolence and selfishness.
27. The next kind of people to be dealt with are those who faint but do not labour. “Who are they?” you ask. I remember one in the days of Solomon who had to go down a street upon an errand, but did not go. Dear man, he would not venture out, for there was a lion in the way. Now, if the truth be told, there was no lion that any man could see, but his imagination had invented the bloodthirsty animal. We know people from the same family who would say, “Oh, do not attempt to do anything that has not been done before, it would be too risky. Our forefathers were content to have sermons preached down back streets, where no one could find the meeting houses; let us remain in our obscurity.” Yet men of bolder hearts have pushed to the front, and intend to stay there. But hear how these cowards talk. “Do not go down that court; there are Catholics there. Do not think of going to that lodging house; they are sure to mock at you. Do not introduce religion to such a man, it will be of no use; he will only turn again and castigate you; do not cast pearls before such swine.” These are excellent wet blankets, and the supply is large. We have some of them in all congregations. What advice shall I give to them except this: — My dear brethren, just stand aside please, get out of the way, and let others come forward and serve God if you do not intend to do it yourselves. If you do not like to be so ignominiously grouped with this class, I would suggest to you the following medicine. Every morning take a few drops of the essential oil of “try,” and you do not know what an effect it would have upon you: powers now dormant would be awakened, and impossible things would be achieved. Add to this a strong draught of the wine of “must”; necessity is laid upon me; yes, woe is me unless I serve my Master; and I think you might be brought back into a tolerably healthy condition, and yet after all labour and not faint.
28. Our third patient is one who laboured once, but has fainted. If he has fainted because he thinks he has done enough let me prescribe for him a strong potion of the salts of fear. They may be useful to him. He who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is not worthy of the kingdom. “Remember Lot’s wife.” Shall I repeat that prescription, for it is a very useful one to those who quit working for Christ? “Remember Lot’s wife.” If her fate is remembered perhaps your heart will be stirred up to renewed diligence.
29. But there are some who labour and are ready to faint. To them I would prescribe the “wines on the lees well refined,” the rich promises of God’s word, the sweet prospect of an eternal reward. I would recommend them to take the spirit of confidence in large quantities, yes, to be filled with it. Confide in God: he will not allow you to labour in vain, or spend your strength for nothing.
To you, my fellow soldiers in this Church, I have these words to say:
These are not times for fainting, these are not times for being idle.
All the world is active; the wheels of commerce are revolving at a
greater rate than ever; everywhere events march with a giant stride;
we have seen what our fathers never dreamed of. Now, if ever, the
Church of God ought to be awake. The demands of souls require our
utmost diligence. The enemy is active in deceiving; we must be active
in instructing and saving. Now, by the precious blood of Christ who
bought you, oh, you believers in Christ, bestir yourselves. If indeed
you are legitimately born from above, if the imperial blood is in
your veins, and if you are soldiers of that great Captain who strove
against sin to death; and if you expect to wear the white robe and
wave the palm branch of victory, in the name of the eternal and
everliving One, seek his Spirit and the divine energy, so that you
may labour even more abundantly and not faint. I am longing to have
this church all in working order for the campaign on which we are
about to enter. The long evenings are our time of hope. Oh, brothers
and sisters, help us so that, by the power of the Holy Spirit,
between now and next spring, we may have many conversions and a large
increase in our numbers. If the whole church should be awakened
throughout we might expect far greater blessings than we have ever
received before. Oh, Spirit of the living God come upon us, upon
pastors, and officers, and members, and upon the whole congregation,
and all the glory shall be to your name for ever and ever. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Re 2]