INCIDENTS OF GOSPEL WORK
Help from a life’s experience.
Study of the Epistle to the Romans.
Love alone not enough.
What God is and what He has done.
Dependence on the Holy Spirit.
Searching the scriptures as to the Second Coming of Christ.
I will now seek to give a little help from a life’s experience, to those who desire to be the servants of Christ; and more as to how God has opened to my own soul the scriptures of truth.
I have already stated how I was led to study the epistle of Romans. This was not the work of a few months, but of a life—ever finding how little I knew of that wonderful epistle of foundation truth. The result of those meditations has lately been published, at the request of a fellow labourer. Nothing short of the revelation of the righteousness of God in justifying the sinner can sustain the soul, either in passing through the storms of temptation, of the world, the flesh, and the devil; or in faithfully preaching the gospel to others. I would then strongly press the prayerful study of the Romans on all young preachers of the gospel, as to the basis, and revelation, of the righteousness of God.
It is no doubt very blessed to preach the love of God, but this alone you will find will neither sustain your own soul in peace, nor prove lasting good news to your converts. A mother’s love is very precious; but if a daughter has fallen into sin, and in disgrace had had to flee her country, when walking the streets of some far off city in the wretchedness of sin, will the remembrance of that mother’s tears and undying love make her happy? Far from it. But go and tell that fallen one that her mother’s love has found a way of restoring her to her home and a mother’s heart, with all her sin and shame gone for ever, to be remembered no more—this will be glad tidings to that broken heart. Oh tell first how the Shepherd had died for the sheep; then tell how the Holy Ghost had come to seek and to find the lost; then tell how the Father has His own joy in receiving that lost prodigal. Yes, if God has so loved this world, it was to give His Son to be lifted up.
Ever keep God revealed in Christ before you. It was not man reconciling himself to God, but God reconciling the world to Himself. The gospel is what God is, and what He has done, in sending His Son to die for us and to rise again. Like the daughter far off from her mother in the wretchedness of sin; so we were far, oh how far from God, in the untold wretchedness of sin. And what has God done to redeem us to Himself! Yes! sing, oh ye heavens, for the Lord hath done it!
Another thing I would press, unfeigned dependence on the Holy Ghost, whether as to a holy life or preaching the gospel. As to the former, we must learn that “in me, that is my flesh, there dwelleth no good thing.” Oh how distressing this lesson is to most of us! To find every hope of improvement in the flesh end in failure. To long to do the will of God, and yet in an unexpected moment to fail. To discover the desperate wickedness of the human heart. Yes, self must be utterly set aside, and Christ be all. To cry out, with Hezekiah, “O Lord, I am oppressed, undertake for me.” And then with deep untold joy of heart, to be able to say, “What shall I say? He hath both spoken unto me, and Himself hath done it.” (Isaiah xxxviii. 14, 15) Or with one under law, “O wretched man that I am! Who shall deliver me from the body of this death? I thank God, through our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Rom. Vii. 24, 25) It may be years from now before we really learn the riches of His grace, and the depths of His mercy. When He first called us, we did not know, but He did know all that we were, and all that we should do; and He did undertake for us, and He hath done it! All our iniquities were laid on Him. God has done it in sending “His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh , that the righteousness of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit.” The way of deliverance is made clear in this way: We learn that the old “I,” my old self, has been utterly judged and condemned in the holy Person of my Substitute. All that I am is judged and put out of the sight of God, not reckoned now to or as me. The Holy Ghost makes this truly known in the soul. I am now of the same mind and judgment with God as to the flesh, that is, as to myself, as a child of Adam. I therefore give up all hope of walking in the flesh. I give up my old self as utterly bad.
What then! Is this that I a may walk in sin, or in the flesh? No! But walk in the Spirit. Thus it is the “law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus, hath made me free from the law of sin and death.” If walking in the flesh, and seeking as in that condition to keep the commandments, I am just liable to fall into the deepest wickedness in breaking them; for I should find the law of sin in my members too much for me. But if all is given up as bad and lost, and without strength to be better, the new law of the Spirit of life takes the entire place of self. Then, oh how blessed, to enjoy the delivering liberty of the Spirit of life.
Now sometimes this deliverance may be learnt at conversion; but this is rarely the case when God calls us in childhood. In times of weakness and temptation we learn “to esteem others better that ourselves.” And, oh, how we learn the riches of His grace! Bur it will be when we know as we are known, that we shall fully have learned to say, “Worthy alone art thou, O Lamb of God.” It is here also we learn our need of the all-sufficient priesthood of Christ to help us in every time of need, and His advocacy to restore us when we fail. Sad it will be in our experience if we neglect the reading of the word. We need the constant washing, not again of the blood of Jesus, but the washing of the word. The mark of a soul not in darkness, but a walking in the light, is “that the blood of Jesus Christ His Son, cleanseth us from all sin.” Without this light to the soul, there is no power for a holy walk.
For a holy walk, then, there must be entire dependence on the Holy Spirit: not less so in preaching the word to others. Having been actively engaged in business, I have often had to go from a hard day’s work of commercial traveling, or manufacturing cares and difficulties, with only time just to look to the Lord in prayer, sometimes not knowing, up to the last moment, what portion of scripture to take. Yet I can say, for the encouragement of others, those have often been my happiest times of freshness of soul, and sense of His presence, without which all preaching is utterly in vain. I can say, with one now gone to his rest, “It is far the happiest way never to allow the thought that you are going to preach from such a passage of scripture. Study the scripture for your own soul’s need and profit, but in no bondage of preparation for preaching. Then either speak from that or any other portion, as the Spirit may direct you.
It is also most important that the servant of Christ should search the scriptures as to the second coming of the Lord Jesus. The apostle Paul had this blessed hope always before him; indeed, without it the gospel is incomplete. The effect of his preaching was to turn men to God to wait for the Son from heaven. There is no doubt this blessed hope gives a new turn, and a fresh colour, to every thought in your heart. Like many more, after discovering the teaching of the Millerites to be very carnal and earthly, I was let to search the scriptures apart form all human books or opinions; and was greatly struck with the fact, that the truth as revealed to me in word, was exactly the same as made known to so many others in different parts of the world, unknown to one another at the time. For it is remarkable in how many places, and by what a variety of means, Christians were led to the same blessed expectation of the Lord Jesus, to take His church before the tribulations coming on this earth.
In one place I visited, a little boy, eight years of age, had read a verse of scripture which spoke of the dead in Christ, that they should rise first when Jesus came. The child could not find it again, and begged his parents to seek for it. They knew nothing of such a thought; but they searched the scriptures until they not only found 1 Thessalonians iv. 14-18, but also they became first interested, and then well informed, on the subject of the second coming of Christ. And many others came to hear, and hold fast the blessed hope. I believe thousands were thus taught by the Spirit in the word; and then, when they came to know each other, they found their views exactly the same. And, above all, these were not wild speculations, but the Person and coming of the Lord Himself, as the object of immediate hope. Where truth of the Lord’s coming was received direct from the scriptures, it invariably had a separating effect. It was, as many said, like a second conversion.
Further, it is all the more needful now to search the scriptures, and not merely read books, and many are little more than the wandering of the human mind. I could easily mane such, but I prefer saying, Search the scriptures. The tracts I wrote on that blessed subject are just as I wrote them long years ago—just the result of reading the word. If any reader would like to have simply a reference to the scriptures on the subject of the coming of the Lord, he would find the halfpenny little book, called the Diagram Tract, helpful for that purpose; but I beg of him to search those scriptures in the fear of the Lord.