A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, April 29, 1860, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At Exeter Hall, Strand.
Though your beginning was small, yet your latter end should greatly increase. (Job 8:7)
1. This was the reasoning of Bildad the Shuhite. He wished to prove that Job could not possibly be an upright man, for if he was so, he here affirms that his prosperity would increase continually, or that if he fell into any trouble, God would help him, and make the habitation of his righteousness prosperous; and though his family was now all destroyed, and his wealth scattered to the winds, yet if he was an upright man, God would surely appear for him, and his latter end would greatly increase.
2. Now, the utterances of Bildad, and of the other two men who came to comfort Job, but who made his wounds tingle, are not to be accepted as being inspired. They spoke as men—as mere men. They reasoned no doubt in their own esteem logically enough; but the Spirit of God was not with them in their speech, therefore with regard to any sentiment which we find uttered by these men, we must use our own judgment; and if it is not in accord with the rest of Holy Scripture, it will be our bound duty to reject it as being only the word of man—of a wise and ancient man it is true, but still of a man only.
3. With regard to the passage which I have selected as a text, it is true—altogether apart from its being said by Bildad, or being found in the Bible at all; it is true, as indeed the facts of the book of Job prove: for Job did greatly increase in his latter end. His beginning was small: he was brought down to poverty! to the potsherd and to the dunghill; he had many graves, but no children; he had had many losses, he had now nothing left to lose; and yet God help him; his righteousness came out from the darkness which had eclipsed it; he shone in sevenfold prosperity; so that the words of Bildad were prophetic, though he did not know it; God put into his mouth language which did come true, after all. Indeed, we have here a great principle—a principle against which no one can ever contend. The beginning of the godly and the upright man may be only very small, but his latter end shall greatly increase.
4. Evil things may seem to begin well, but they end badly; there is the flash and the glare, but afterwards the darkness and the black ash. They promise fairly: their sun rises in the zenith, and then speedily sets, never to rise again. Evil things begin as mountains; they end as molehills. You sail upon their ocean at first, and as you sail onward it grows into a river, and afterwards into a dry bed, if not into burning sands. Behold Satan in the garden of Eden. Sin begins with the promise, “You shall be as gods!” How grand is its beginning! Where does it end? Shivering beneath the trees of the garden, complaining of nakedness, sin comes to its end. Or see it in Satan himself. He stretches out his right hand to snatch the diadem of heaven; he wished to be Lord paramount. He cannot bear to serve; he longs to reign. Oh! glittering vision, that enchants the eye of an arch-angelic spirit! But where does it end? The vision is all gone, and is succeeded by “the blackness of darkness for ever;” and the chains reserved in fire for those who did not keep their first estate. So it will be with you, too, my friend, if you have chosen the path of evil. Today your mirth is as the crackling of thorns under a pot; it blazes, it crackles with excess of joy; tomorrow you shall find nothing there except a handful of ashes, and darkness and cold. Indeed, the path of evil is downhill, from its sunny summits, to its dark ravines—from the pretended loftiness, which it assumes when it professes to be a cherub, to that lowliness in which it finds itself to be a fiend. Evil goes downward; it has its great things first, and then its terrible things last. Not so, however, with good. With good the beginning is even small; but its latter end does greatly increase. “The path of the just is as the shining light,” which sheds a few flickering rays at first, which exercises a combat with the darkness, but it “shines more and more to the perfect day.” As the coming forth of stars in the evening, when first one, and then another, and yet another struggles through the darkness, until at last the whole starry host are marshalled on the heavenly plains—so it is with good—it begins with grains of sand, it goes on to hills, and immediately it swells up to mountains; it begins with the rippling rill—the little cascade that leaps from its secret birthplace, and down the mountain it dashes, it swells to a joyous stream, where the fish do leap; immediately it becomes a river, which bears upon its surface the ships of nations, and then it at last rolls into an ocean that girdles the globe. Good things progress. They are like Jacob’s ladder—they ascend rung by rung. We begin as men, we end as angels; we climb until the promise of Satan is fulfilled in a sense in which he never understood it; we become as gods, and are made partakers of the Divine, being reconciled to God, and then having God’s grace infused into us.
5. The principle, then, upon which I have to speak this morning, is this,—that though the beginnings of good things are small, yet their latter end shall greatly increase. Instead, however, of dealing with this as a mere doctrine, I propose to use it practically; assume the fact, and then make a practical use of it. I shall hope to accomplish three purposes—first, to quiet the fears of those who are only beginners in grace; secondly, to confirm their faith; and, thirdly, to stir up their diligence. May I ask the prayers of God’s people here that I may be strengthened in this preaching? I cannot tell how it is,—the cold clammy sweat comes over me now I am about to address you, and I feel almost quivering with weakness; nevertheless, this is a subject which may strengthen me as well as you, and therefore let us go to it at once.
6. I. First, then, for THE QUIETING OF YOUR FEARS. You say, my hearer, “I am only a beginner in grace, and therefore I am vexed with anxiety, and full of fear.” Yes, and it shall be my business, if God the Holy Spirit, the Comforter, shall enable me, to give you some few sweet words which, like wafers made with honey, you may roll under your tongue, and find them satisfactory and pleasant, even as that manna which came down from heaven, and fed the Israelites in the wilderness.
7. Perhaps your first fear, if I put it into words, is this:—“My beginning is so small that I cannot tell when it did begin, and therefore, I think I cannot have been converted, but am still in the gall of bitterness.” Oh beloved! how many thousands like yourself have been exercised with doubts upon this point! They were not converted in an instant; they were not stricken down as in the Revivals; they were not nerved with terrible alarms, such as John Bunyan describes in his “Grace Abounding;” but they were called by God, as was Lydia, by a still small voice. Their hearts were gradually and happily opened to receive the truth; it was not as if a tornado or a hurricane rushed through their spirits; but a soft zephyr blew, and they lived and came to God. And you doubt, do you, because from this very reason you cannot tell when you were first converted? Be encouraged; it is not needful for you to know when you were regenerated; it is only necessary for you to know that you are so. If you can set no date to the beginning of your faith, yet if you do believe now, you are saved. If in your diary there stands no red letter day in which your sins were pardoned, and your soul accepted, yet if your trust is in Jesus only, this very day you are pardoned, and you are accepted, despite your ignorance of the time. God’s promises bear no date; our notes are dated because there is a time when they run due, and we are apt to forget them; God’s promises bear none, and his gifts sometimes do not bear any. If you are saved—though the date is erased—yet do rejoice and triumph for evermore in the Lord your God. True, there are some of us who can remember the precise place where we first found the Saviour. The day will never be forgotten when these eyes looked to the cross of Christ and found their tears all wiped away. But thousands in the fold of Jesus do not know when they were brought in; it is enough for them to know they are there. Let them feed upon the pasture, let them lie down beside the still waters, for whether they came by night or by day they did not come at a forbidden hour. Whether they came in youth or in old age, it does not matter; all times are acceptable with God, “and whoever comes,” come when he may, “he will in nowise cast out.”
8. Does it not strike you as being very foolish reasoning if you should say in your heart, “I am not converted because I do not know when it happened?” Indeed, with such reasoning as that, I could prove that old Rome was never built, because the precise date of her building is unknown; indeed, we might declare that the world was never made, for even the geologist cannot tell us its exact age. We might prove that Jesus Christ himself never died, for the precise date on which he expired on the tree is lost beyond recovery; nor does it mean much to us. We know the world was made, we know that Christ did die, and so you—if you are now reconciled to God, if now your trembling arms are cast around that cross, you too are saved—though the beginning was so small that you cannot tell when it was. Indeed, in living things, it is hard to put your finger upon the beginning. Here is a fruit—will you tell me when it began to be? Was it at the time when first the tree sent forth its fruit bud? Did this fruit begin when first the flower shed its fragrance upon the air? Indeed, you could not have seen it if you had looked. When was it? Was it when the fully ripe flower was blown away, and its leaves were scattered to the wind, and a little embryo of fruit was left? It would be hard to say it did not begin before that, and equally hard to say at what precise instant that fruit began to be formed. Indeed, and so it is with divine grace, the desires are so faint at the beginning, the convictions are only the etchings upon the plate, which afterwards must be engraved with a harder instrument; and they are such flimsy things, such transient impressions of divine truth, that it would be difficult to say what is transient and what is permanent, what really is from the Spirit of God, and what is not; what has saved the soul, or what only brought it to the verge of salvation; what made it really live, or what was really the calling together of the dry bones before the breath came, and the bones began to live. Stop your fears, my hearers, about this point, for if you are saved, no matter when, you never shall be unsaved.
9. Another doubt also arises from this point. “Ah! sir,” says a timid Christian, “it is not merely the ignorance about the date of my conversion, but the extreme weakness of the grace I have.” “Ah,” one says, “I sometimes think I have a little faith, but it is so mingled with unbelief, distrust, and incredulity, that I can hardly think it is God’s gift, the faith of God’s elect. I hope sometimes I have a little love, but it is such a beginning, such a mere spark, that I cannot think it is the love which God the Holy Spirit breathes into the soul; my beginning is so exceedingly small, that I have to look, and look, and look again, at times, before I can discern it for myself. If I have faith, it is only as a grain of mustard seed, and I fear it will never be that goodly tree, in the midst of whose branches the birds of the air might rest.” Courage, my brother, courage; however small the beginnings of grace are, they are such beginnings that they shall have a glorious end. When God begins to build, if he lays only one single stone he will finish the structure; when Christ sits down to weave, though he casts the shuttle only once, and that time the thread was so fine as scarcely to be discernible, he will nevertheless continue until the piece is finished, and all of it is complete. If your faith is ever so little, yet it is immortal, and that immortality may well compensate for its minuteness. A spark of grace is a spark of Deity—as soon may Deity be quenched as to quench grace—that grace within your soul given to you by the Spirit shall continue to burn, and he who gave it shall fan it with his own soft breath, for “he will not quench the smoking flax;” he will bring it to a fire, and afterwards to a furnace, until your faith shall attain the full assurance of understanding. Oh! do not let the minuteness of God’s beginnings stagger you. Who would think, if he stood at the source of the Thames, that it would ever be such a river as it is—making this city rich? So little is it that a child might stop it with his hand, and only a handful of miry clay might dam its course, but there it rolls a mighty river that man cannot stop. And so it shall be with you; your faith is so little that it seems not to exist at all and your love is so faint that it can scarcely be called love, but your latter end shall greatly increase, until you shall become strong and do exploits; the babe shall become a giant; and he who stumbled over every straw shall move mountains, and make the very hills to shake.
10. Having thus spoken upon two fears, which are the result of these small beginnings, let me now try to address another. “Ah!” says the heir of heaven, “I do hope that in me grace has commenced its work, but my fear is, that such frail faith as mine will never stand the test of years. I am,” he says, “so weak, that one temptation would be too much for me; how then can I hope to pass through that forest of spears held in the hands of valiant enemies? A drop makes me tremble, how shall I stem the roaring flood of life and death? Let only one arrow fly from hell it penetrates my tender flesh; what then if Satan shall empty his quiver? I shall surely fall by the hand of the enemy. My beginnings are so small that I am certain they will soon come to their end, and that end must be black despair.” Be of good courage, brother, away with that fear once and for all; it is true, as you say, the temptation will be too much for you, but what have you to do with it? Heaven is not to be won by your might, but by the might of him who has promised heaven to you; your crown of life is to be obtained, not by your arm, but by that arm which now holds it out, and bids you run towards it. If your perseverance rested upon yourself you could not persevere an hour; if spiritual life depended on itself it would be like the shooting star, which makes a shining trail for a moment and then is gone; but thanks be to God, it is written—“Because I live, you shall live also.” “For you are dead, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.”
The feeblest saint shall win the day,
Though death and hell obstruct the way,
because that feeble saint is girded with Jehovah’s strength. If I had to fight with another man’s strength, and I knew that he had gigantic force, I should not estimate the power by my own limbs and muscles, but by his limbs and muscles; and so if I have to fight in the strength of God, I am not to think what I can do, but what he can do; not what I am able to do, but what he is able to accomplish. I am not to go out bound and limited, and cramped, and bandaged by my own infirmity, but made free, and valorous, and unconquerable through that Divine omnipotence, which first spoke all things into existence, and now maintains all things by the word of his power. Stand up, poor brother, full of fears though you are, and for once glory in your infirmities, and boast in your Master. I say it on your behalf, and on my own—you principalities and powers of darkness, you many hosts of hell, you enemies in human form, or in demonic form, I challenge you all; I am more than a match for every one of you if God is with me; I would be less than nothing if left alone; but if I was weaker than I am I would defy you all, for God is my strength; Jehovah is become my strength and my song; he also has become my salvation, therefore we will tread down our enemies, and Moab shall become as straw that is trodden down for the dunghill; in God we will rejoice, yes in God we will greatly rejoice, and in him we will rejoice all day long.
11. Thus I have dealt with a third fear. Let me seek to quiet and pacify one other fear. “No, but,” you say, “I never can be saved; for when I look at other people, at God’s own true children,—I am ashamed to say it,—I am only a miserable imitation of them. So far from attaining to the image of my Master, I fear I am not even like my Master’s servants. Look at such a one, how he preaches the truth with power, what fluency he has in prayer, what service he undertakes! but I—I am such a beginner in grace, that
Hosannas languish on my tongue,
And my devotion dies.
I live at a poor dying rate. I sometimes run, but more often creep, and seldom—if ever—fly. Where others are shaking mountains, I am stumbling over molehills. The saints seem to bestride this narrow world like some great colossus, but I walk under their huge legs, and peep around, to find myself a poor dishonoured slave. I have no power, no strength, no might.” Pause, brother, pause; stop your murmuring for a moment. If some little star in the sky should declare it was not a star, because it did not shine as brightly as Sirius or Arcturus, how foolish would its argument be! If the moon should insist that she was never made by God, because she could not shine as brightly as the sun, fie on her pale face, that she cannot be content to be what her Lord has made her! If the nettle would not bloom, because it was not a pine, and if the hyssop on the wall refused to grow, because it was not a cedar, oh! what dislocation would there be in the noble frame of this universe! If these murmurings that vex us vexed all of God’s creatures, then this earth would be a howling wildness indeed. Now, let me speak to you a moment, to calm your fears. Have you, my brother, ever learned to distinguish between grace and gifts? For know this—that they are quite different. A man may be saved who has not a grain of gifts; but no man can be saved who has no grace. That brother who prayed, that friend who preaches, that sister who spoke—all these perhaps had done so well, because God had given them excellent gifts. It might not be that it was because of grace. When you are in the prayer meeting, and hear a brother extremely fluent, remember that there are men quite as fluent about their daily business, and that fluency is not fervency, and that even the appearance of fervency is not absolutely an evidence that there is fervency in the soul. If you are so lowly a thing that you cannot spell a word in any book, or put six words together grammatically, if you can offer no prayer in public, if you are so poor a scholar that every fool is wiser than you are, yet if you have grace in your heart, you are saved, and that is the matter in question just now, whether you are saved or not. “Covet earnestly the best gifts;” but still, do not sit down and murmur because you do not have them, for one grain of grace outweighs a pound of gifts; one particle of grace is far more precious than all the gifts that a Byron ever had, or that Shakespeare ever possessed within his soul, vast and almost infinite though the gifts of those men certainly were.
12. And yet I wish to ask you another question. My dear brother, have you ever learned to distinguish between grace that saves, and the grace which develops itself afterwards? Remember, there are some graces that are absolutely necessary for the saving of the soul; there are others that are only necessary for its comfort. Faith, for instance, is absolutely necessary for salvation; but assurance is not. Love is indispensable, but that high decree of love which induces the martyr’s spirit, does not reign in the heart of everyone, even of those who are saved. The possession of grace in some degree is needful for salvation; but the possession of grace in the highest degree, though it is extremely desirable, is not absolutely necessary for an entrance into heaven. Then remember this, if I am the lowliest lamb in Jesus’ fold, I would be happy to think that I am in the flock; if I am the smallest babe in Jesus’ family, I will bless his name to think that I have a portion among the sanctified. If I am the smallest jewel in the Saviour’s crown, I will glisten and shine as best I can, to the praise of him who bought me with his blood. If I cannot make such swelling music in the orchestra of heaven as the pealing organ may, then I will be only as a bruised reed, which may emit some faint melody. If I cannot be the beacon fire that stirs a continent, and throws its light across the deep, I will seek to be the glowworm that may at least let the weary traveller know something of his whereabouts. Oh Christians! you who have very little beginnings, quiet your fears; for these little beginnings, if they are of God, will save your soul, and you may rejoice in this, yes, rejoice exceedingly.
13. I must ask your patience now while I cover the second point, and I shall dwell upon that very briefly indeed.
14. II. Upon this point I wish to say a word or two for THE CONFIRMATION OF YOUR FAITH. I am sure you will give me your prayerful attention while I speak for the confirmation of my own faith as well as yours.
15. Well, brothers and sisters, the first confirmation I would offer you is this:—Our beginnings are very, very small, but we have a joyous prospect in our text. Our latter end shall greatly increase; we shall not always be so distrustful as we are now. Thank God, we look for the days when our faith shall be unshaken, and firm as mountains are. I shall not for ever have to mourn before my God that I cannot love him as I wish. I trust that he in my latter end will give me more of his Spirit, so that I shall love him with all my heart, and soul, and strength. We have entered into the gospel school; we are ignorant now, but we shall one day understand with all saints what are the heights and depths, and lengths, and breadths, and know the love of Christ which surpasses knowledge. We have hope that, as these hairs grow grey, we shall “grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” Time, that ploughs its furrow in the brow, we hope will sow the seeds of wisdom there. Experience, which shall furrow our back with many a sorrow and a wound, shall nevertheless, we trust, work patience, and hope that does not make ashamed, and holy fellowship with Christ and his sufferings, and nearer and sweeter fellowship than as yet we have come to know. Do not think, Mr. Ready-to-halt, that you shall always need your crutches; there may come days of leaping and of dancing even for you. Oh, Mistress Despondency, the dungeons of Giant Despair’s castle are not to be your perpetual abode; you too, shall stand upon the top of Mount Clear, and you shall see the Celestial City, and the land that is very far off. We are growing things. I think I hear the green blade say this morning, “I shall not for ever be trodden underfoot as if I were only grass; I shall grow; I shall blossom; I shall grow ripe and mellow; and many a man shall sharpen his sickle for me.” I hear the little sapling say, “I shall not for ever be shaken to and fro by winds; I shall grow into an old stalwart oak; gnarled though the roots may be, and twisted though my branches are, I shall one day stand and laugh at the tempest, while all its waves of wind break harmlessly over me.” I shall be strong through him who strengthens me, for I feel a growth within me that can never stop until I have grown to be next to a God—a son of God, a partaker of the Divine nature. Courage then, courage, I say, brothers and sisters! these weak days are not going to last for ever; we are not always to be shorn lambs, not always the weaklings of his cattle. We shall one day be as the firstlings of his young bulls, and we shall push our enemies to the ends of the earth, and tread upon them and destroy them.
16. But, further, this cheering prospect upon earth is quite eclipsed by a more cheering prospect beyond the river Death. “Our latter end shall greatly increase.” Faith shall give place to fruition; hope shall be occupied with enjoyment; love itself shall be swallowed up in ecstasy. My eyes, you shall not for ever weep; there are sights of transport for you. Tongue, you shall not for ever have to mourn, and be the instrument of confession; there are songs and hallelujahs for you. Feet, you shall not always be weary with this rough road; there are celestial leapings for you. Oh my poor heart, often cowed and broken, often disappointed and trodden down, there waits for you the palm branch and the robe of victory, and the immortal crown.
My spirit leaps across the flood,
And antedates the hour,
when I shall come into possession of these joys which could not belong to my childhood here, but which await me in my manhood up there, when the spirit shall be perfected, and made fit to be a partaker of the inheritance of the saints in light. Courage, Christian!
The way may be rough,
But it cannot be long;
and the end will make amends for all the toil that you can endure when on the road. Oh! quicken your footsteps, do not sit down in despair. Your latter end shall greatly increase, though your beginnings are only small.
17. Perhaps someone may say, “How is it that we are so sure that our latter end will increase?” I give you just these reasons:—we are quite sure of it because there is a vitality in our piety. The sculptor may have oftentimes cut in marble some exquisite statue of a babe. That has come to its full size; it will never grow any greater. When I see a wise man in the world, I look at him as being just such an infant. He will never grow any greater. He has come to his full maturity. He is only chiselled out by human power; there is no vitality in him. The Christian here on earth is a babe, but not a babe in stone; a babe instilled with life. It is a happy thought sometimes to have of one’s self as sitting down here, compressed, small, insignificant; and one day Death shall come and say, “Rise to your proper position,” and we shall begin to grow and expand; and bursting all our cerements and every limit of humanity, we shall become greater than the angels are. I think it is Milton who pictures the spirits in Pandemonium as condensing themselves, so that multitudes of them could sit in a little space, and then at their own volition mounting up until they attained a prodigious height. So it is now. We are little spirits, but we shall grow and increase, and we know this because there is life in us—eternal life. Now, the life of twenty years develops itself into something vastly superior to what it was in childhood; and what will the eternal life be when that vitality within us shall make the minuteness of our beginning seem as nothing at all, when our latter end shall have greatly increased?
18. Besides this, we feel that we must come to something better, because God is with us. We are quite certain that what we are, cannot be the end of God’s design. When I see a block of marble half chiselled, with just perhaps a hand peeping out from the rock, no man can make me believe that that is what the artist meant it should be. And I know I am not what God would have me to be, because I feel yearnings and longings within myself to be infinitely better, infinitely holier and purer than I am now. And so it is with you; you are not what God means you to be; you have only just begun to be what he wants you to be. He will go on with his chisel of affliction, using wisdom and the engraving tool together, until by and by it shall appear what you shall be, for you shall be like him, and you shall see him as he is. Oh! what comfort this is for our faith, that from the fact of our vitality and the fact that God is at work with us, it is clear, and true, and certain, that our latter end shall be increased. I do not think that any man yet has ever grasped the idea of what a man is to be. We are only the chalk crayon, rough drawings of men, yet when we come to be filled up in eternity, we shall be marvellous pictures, and our latter end indeed shall be greatly increased.
19. And now, one other thought and I will turn to the last point. Christian! remember, for the encouragement of your poor soul, that what you are now is not the measure of your safety; your safety does not depend upon what you are, but on what Christ is. If the Rock of our salvation were within us, indeed the house would soon be overturned; but we live by what Christ is.
What Adam had,
And forfeited for all,
That Jesus is,
Who cannot fail or fall.
Until he can falter, my spirit does not need to tremble; until Jesus sins, until Jesus dies, until Jesus is overcome, until he is powerless with his God, until he ceases to be Divine, the soul that trusts him must be secure. Do not look within yourself for consolation, but look above, where Jesus pleads before the throne the efficacy of his once offered blood, and if you will look at your own state, and then judge your eternal standing by your own feelings, or willings, or doings, you will be an undone and miserable wretch. Measure yourself by Jesus’ doings, by Jesus’ standing, by Jesus’ acceptance, by the love of his heart, by the power of his arm, by the Divinity of his nature, by the constancy of his faithfulness, by the acceptance of his blood, by the prevalence of his plea; and so measuring, your faith need never, never fear—
For should the earth’s old pillars shake,
And all the walls of nature break,
Our steadfast souls need fear no more
Than solid rocks when billows roar.
20. III. Now for our last point, namely, FOR THE STIRRING UP OF OUR DILIGENCE.
21. It was never intended that the promises of God should make men idle; and when we tell them that their small beginnings shall doubtless come to glorious endings, we tell them this for their encouragement—not that they may sit still and do nothing, but that they may gird up the loins of their mind, confident of their success, to do all that lies in them, God helping them. Men and brethren, there are many of you here, who, like myself, have to mourn over little beginnings. Let me say to you, be very diligent in the use of those means which God has appointed for your spiritual growth.
22. First, take heed to yourself that you obey the commandments which relate to the ordinances of Christ. Do not neglect baptism. It is true that there is nothing saving in it, nothing meritorious; but baptism is a means of grace. There have been many, who have found, like the eunuch, that when they have been baptized they have gone on their way rejoicing—rejoicing as the result of grace given when they have obeyed their Master.
23. Be careful, too, not to neglect that most blessed Supper of our Lord Jesus Christ. Do not forsake the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is, but let him be known to you in the breaking of bread, and in pouring forth of wine. Do this often in remembrance of him. Ah! I am speaking to some here today who love Jesus, but who have neglected his last dying injunction, “This do in remembrance of me;” and you have not grown in grace, and are still little in Israel, as you used to be. Do you wonder about it? You have neglected God’s appointed means. “Oh,” one says, “but I am a spiritual man; I do not need these carnal ordinances.” There is no man so carnal as he who calls God’s ordinances carnal, and no man more spiritual than he who finds spiritual things best brought home to him by what others have dared to call “beggarly elements.” We do not know ourselves if we think we can dispense with these divine signs. Christ knew what was best for us. He has said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized.” He would not have appended the last command if it were not important. He has bidden us also, as often as we drink the cup, to do it in remembrance of him. He would not have commanded us to do that, if it were not for our benefit and for his glory.
24. But further, if you wish to get past the minuteness of your beginnings, wait much upon the means of grace. Read much the Word of God alone. Seek out one who understands it well—a man whom God has taught in it—and listen with reverence to the Word as it is preached. Frequent sermons, but prayers most. Praying is the end of preaching. Make use of every means that lies before you. Do not be like the fool, who calls the books of the old fathers “dead men’s brains.” What God spoke to seers of old, what he spoke to mighty men who preached, is not to be thus despised. Read as you can, and learn as you can. Take care, too, that you are not content with skimming over a page of Scripture; but seek to get the very marrow out of it. Do not be as the butterfly, which flits from flower to flower, but rests nowhere; be as the bee, which enters the flower bell, and sucks the honey and bears it off upon its heavily laden thigh. Do not rest until you have fed on the Word; and thus shall your little beginnings come to great endings.
25. Be much also in prayer. God’s plants grow fastest in the warm atmosphere of the closet. The closet is a forcing place for spiritual vegetation. He who wishes to be well fed and grow strong, must exercise himself upon his knees. Of all training practice for spiritual battles, knee practice is the most healthy and strengthening. Note that, if you forget everything else.
26. And, lastly, if your beginning is only small, make the best use of the beginning that you have. Have you only one talent? Put it out at interest, and make two of it. Do you have two? Seek to have them multiplied into four. Are you a babe? If you cannot walk, nor lift, nor carry, you can cry. Take care to cry right lustily. Are you a child? You cannot climb; you cannot as yet teach; but you can run. Take care to run in the ways of heavenly obedience. Are you a young man? You cannot as yet give the reverend advice of hoary age; but be strong, and overcome the wicked one. Are you an old man? You cannot now fight the battles of your youth, nor lead the vanguard in heroic deeds, but you can abide with the baggage, and guard those old doctrines which, like the heavy baggage of the army, must not be lost, lest the battle itself should go from us. Every man to his place and to his post. And so by using what we have, we shall gain more. Rivers increase by their onward flow, flames by burning, sunlight increases by the sun’s shining, lights by kindling other lights. And so do you. You grow rich by enriching others—rich by spending. Lengthen out yourself by cutting off the ends that you can spare from all you have, for it is the way to grow; by giving up that which was in excess you shall receive real growth. Oh! use yourself, and God shall make use of you; come out, and God shall lead you forth. Be a man, and God shall make you more than an angel; be an angel, and God shall make you something more. He will make you better, holier, happier, greater. Oh! do this, and so your latter end shall be joyous, your peace shall be like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea.
27. Thus, I have spoken this for the comfort of God’s people—oh that I could hope that all I have said belonged to all of you! but, ah! if it does not, may God convert you, may the new life be given to you! Oh! remember, if you are longing for it, the way of salvation is freely opened to you. “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall be saved.”
28. God bless us now and for ever, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.