Results tagged “C. H. Spurgeon” from Reformation21 Blog

Praying in four directions

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[The introductory paragraph was originally posted in an unfinished form. Mea culpa. I have not changed the sentiment and substance, but have adapted and I hope improved the tone and the direction. I do not have the original piece, but what follows is close to the original intention. Other clarifications are here.]

At this time of year, we may see provided a variety of what I shall call scripted prayers. Some of them are entirely personal productions and some are woven together from other sources. Some are occasional pieces and some are habitual constructions. Such offerings and collections may have some value, when used and not abused. I stand pretty much with Bunyan on the matter of formally scripted and read prayers. I consider them close to an abomination. I appreciate the personal reading of thoughtful and careful prayers that were offered extemporaneously and recorded as they came (such as Spurgeon's pulpit prayers [e.g. Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Westminster] or those which conclude many of Calvin's sermons [e.g. Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Westminster]). I value prayers that were written as part of a longer project and were not intended to be recited as some kind of intercessory ritual, but into the spirit of which we might enter as a means of priming the pump of the soul (e.g. The Valley of Vision [Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk / Westminster]). But such reading does not and cannot replace our own praying. The idea of taking those words, reciting the script, and calling it heart prayer is not something I can countenance. I do not doubt the sincerity of some who pursue such a course, but the thing is so dangerous in its practice (inviting us to a mere performance) and deadly in its tendency (replacing the form for the substance) that I would advise anyone to steer well clear (and I am fully aware that more extemporaneous prayer can fall into the same traps, but I do not think it has the same measure of inherent weakness at this point). Do not misunderstand me, it is a rare privilege to listen - either really or at a distance - to a true man of God pleading with his heavenly Father, and there is much to learn from so doing. But the mere recitation or repetition of such words - even if they are our own - is not, in itself, prayer. Carefully used, such examples can be, in measure, spiritual springboards. Carelessly abused, they become spiritual shackles and militate against a true spirit of prayer.

So, by all means use some of these examples, but do not abuse them. Employ them, if need be, to prime the pump. And then, pray! The new year provides one of those natural turning points that gives us an opportunity to pause and reflect. The instinct to pray is entirely right and proper, but we must ourselves bow the knee and engage the heart, however carefully we ponder and prepare beforehand. With that in mind, let me suggest that we should pray in four directions.

Pray back. As you ponder where you have come from, remember who has brought you to where you are. Every child of God, whatever the gloom that seems presently to surround us, has the gospel light shining in our soul. Whatever your heavenly Father has seen fit to give you, it is as your Father in heaven that he gave it. Wherever the good Shepherd has led you, it is as the Shepherd that he led you there and through there. If you are Christ's, and Christ is yours, then all things are yours. Every step of the past year, let alone every day of every year of your life, have been governed by divine love and gracious compassion. All has been intended to bring you to God and keep you with God, and to develop likeness to Christ in you, in accordance with God's design. So look back, and lift up your Ebenezer, for till now, the Lord has helped us (1Sam 7:12).

Pray around. Remember your present circumstances and blessings, frailties and responsibilities. On the one hand, the Christian is the most privileged and the richest person on earth:
"All things are ours;" the gift of God,
And purchas'd with our Saviour's blood;
While the good Spirit shows us how
To use and to improve them too.
Like the Kingswood colliers of whom Wesley wrote, on all the kings of earth, with pity we look down, and claim - in virtue of our birth - a never-fading crown. We are heirs of God and joint-heirs with Christ, and for that we should sing with joy and gladness. We stand in grace, and yet the world moves on around us. Week by week I prepare a sheet for the church where I serve, each one numbered as the year turns. It is often very unsettling to see the speed at which the weeks pass by, those days swifter than a weaver's shuttle. It is not morbid or maudlin to consider that we do not know how many more of those days we shall be granted, to remember that you may not see another new year, that you are a creature of the dust, and to assess how we shall live in the days allotted to us. So we look around, and pray, asking the Lord to "teach us to number our days, that we may gain a heart of wisdom" (Ps 90:12). It is what we need for every moment as we wrestle with the demands of this day, and then the next, each day having enough trouble of its own, and supplies of grace to meet every trouble that comes.

Pray forwards. There are before each one of God's children countless opportunities and responsibilities, many of which we have not yet seen. They may come with minutes or it may take months. For the days to come we need wisdom, and it is wisdom which the Lord himself has undertaken to provide, and commanded us to seek: "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask of God, who gives to all liberally and without reproach, and it will be given to him" (Jas 1:5). This, and every other good thing, is promised to those who ask, seek and knock. It is the Father's delight to provide those needful things for kingdom life that his beloved children request. We never need to be ashamed of our asking, if we are asking in accordance with his will and our character as trusting children. We do not need to twist his arm, bargain with him, or fear a harsh response. He is ready to provide every needful blessing, through his Spirit, that we need to secure his certain glory and enjoy his promised good.

And so, pray upwards. Every prayer must be directed to heaven. The greatest abominations in prayer are those self-referential or performed prayers that have more regard for the approval of men than concern to be heard by God. Far too many prayers are like damp fireworks; they may splutter a little with a few sparks, but they barely get off the ground. True prayer is, in essence, an expression of dependence upon God. If we do not pray, it is a practical atheism. But the saints pray to the Lord for what we can only receive from the Lord. We look to him, and - anxious for nothing - in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, we let our requests be made known to God. Thus the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard our hearts and minds through Christ Jesus (Phil 3.6-7). May the new year, in its beginning, continuing and ending, prove that so.

"Through the Eyes of Spurgeon"

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Stephen McCaskell's fine biographical film, Through the Eyes of Spurgeon, surveying the life and ministry of 'the Prince of Preachers,' will drop this Thursday (18 Dec) at 12:00am CST, when it will be streamed live here. If you head over to that website, you will find all the information you need for viewing, ordering DVDs, and the like. Enjoy!

Around and about (with Lloyd-Jones and Spurgeon)

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I managed to sneak in a few hours at the Banner of Truth Ministers Conference in Leicester last week. I was unable to stay for more than a day, but heard a sweet sermon from Andrew Davies, what was for me a somewhat ungrounded disquisition on sin by the very engaging David Meredith, and a thought-provoking meditation from Garry Williams on the reforming church and what he labelled "false conservatism." I should point out that the latter two were probably not asked to deliver sermons, but the Banner could do with more preaching at these conferences. As usual, it was a particular pleasure to meet several old friends, and some newer ones.

One distinctive feature of my time away was the pleasure of meeting the film crew who are working on a documentary about the life and legacy of Lloyd-Jones, Logic on Fire. Matthew Robinson and Jon Yerby, two of the brothers working on the film, dropped by the church which I serve on the previous Lord's day and spend the day with us, which was a delight. A number of the great and the good (and one or two others!) had the opportunity to speak about the impact of Lloyd-Jones' on their own lives and labours. I look forward to seeing the finished product, and will pass on details when it is available.

Another pleasure was meeting Stephen McCaskell, a Patheos blogger and collator of the quotes in the book Through the Eyes of C. H. Spurgeon (Amazon.com / Amazon.co.uk). He is working hard on a film that will take us on a guided tour of the life of this servant of God: Through the Eyes of Spurgeon. I am eager to see what Stephen will produce, and it looks as if I may have some involvement, which will be fun. I hope to let you know how the project progresses. In the meantime, anyone eager to help out can make a donation.

Review: "Lectures to my Students"

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Lectures to my Students
C. H. Spurgeon
Various publishers and editions

Every Friday afternoon Charles Spurgeon would head down to the Pastors' College - of all the institutions in which he was involved, the one that was perhaps dearest to his great heart - and attempt to put an edge and a point on the blades that had been tempered in the fires of the college forges all the week long. This is not the place to discuss the peculiar features and particular excellences of Spurgeon's plan for pastoral training, but it shows Spurgeon's sensitivity to the needs of his students that those Friday afternoons found him at his most deliberately engaging and his most transparently personal as he sought to put a little fire in their bellies before the Lord's day.

It is at this point that many current scholars will, perhaps, huff about a Baptist pietist, even a mere activist or enthusiast, given to taking gross liberties with the text - a genius, we grudgingly admit, but a fairly vulgar and far from polished tool in the Master's hands, and not quite the thing as far as exposition is concerned. Others will give you Spurgeon re-made in the image of Stout's Whitefield, a great advertiser and a pulpit actor of the first water, perhaps even a man who ought to be appreciated as an early model for the megachurch pastor. Please ignore such flawed assertions and myopic perspectives; pick up this book and read it for itself.

The full version of this volume (which is heartily recommended) is divided into four sections, the last of which (though the second in the original publishing sequence) is Spurgeon's infamous Commenting & Commentaries (which is where most of the reprinted commentaries with Spurgeon's endorsement find their - often, it must be said, selective - phrases of commendation). Our primary interest is in the first three sections of the full collection.

Of these, the first two seem to be constructed without the intention of progress that is apparent in many others of the older pastoral theologies. So, for example, Spurgeon plunges into his material with four chapters on 'The Minister's Self-Watch,' 'The Call to the Ministry,' 'The Preacher's Private Prayer' and 'Our Public Prayer.' And yet, as we begin to jump from topic to topic, we find each one not so much following on from the last as setting out another anchor point. In this way, as we proceed we find our souls both stretched in various directions and, at the same time, firmly held within a developing web of healthy principles and practices that give us a measure of establishment with the aim of stable development and genuine ministerial usefulness.

Most of the time, each element is essentially self-contained, although some topics do break over two or more chapters (the main exception is the third section, of which more below). Each chapter is fairly brief, and marked by typically Spurgeonic arrangements of the material, with thoughtful and engaging headings guiding us progressively through the matter at hand. The style is homely, full of quotations broadly drawn from various authors, marked by humour and practical insight. These 'lectures' very quickly turn into sermons - you can almost feel the momentum building in some of them - and so illustrate the very craft they are intended to illuminate. Each is generally marked by holy wit and sanctified common sense.

There are several specific blessings and some particular challenges from reading Spurgeon on pastoral ministry. One blessing is that these chapters are never mere 'how to' guides. To be sure, they are always practical, but they are never merely a set of mechanical rules for this and for that - for sermon construction, for prayer, and so on. Such technical discussions have their value, but Spurgeon does not so much give you a classroom discourse on the nature and excellence of the instrument as get the machine going and take you into the field to use it.

Again, our author covers topics not always covered elsewhere, and rarely with the kind of knockabout pungency found here. He speaks to us about getting the attention of our congregation, about the minister's fainting fits (if you have never had one, read this before you do - it will save you much grief), on choosing a text, on open-air preaching, on the voice, on posture and gesture. Such material digs up the heart and prompts careful reflection about the ways and the means in which we invest our pastoral energies and the manner in which we employ the tools and opportunities we have been given. Spurgeon will nudge you into rooms of experience you might never have visited and open windows for you to look out on views you might never have contemplated.

Furthermore, Spurgeon is always stimulating, even when provocative or plain misguided. For example, his chapter 'On Spiritualizing' is perhaps the one which is invariably singled out as worthy of being dismissed. I honestly wonder if some who speak so quickly have read perhaps a couple of his more extravagant sermons (remembering that, even if you cannot follow him in everything, he usually takes pains to demonstrate a proper understanding of almost every text he treats, albeit sometimes followed by a phrase like, "However, this morning we are going to take our text as . . .") and presumed that they know what is coming. However, the first third of the chapter is on abuses of the principle. Only then does he turn to the types, metaphors, allegories of Scripture, with further thoughts on generalizing universal principles, preaching on parables and miracles, before some further cautions on the kind of men who can employ such an approach wisely, and those who cannot, the whole illustrated with some judicious quotations and thoughtful comments. I am not saying that I can follow everywhere Spurgeon leads here, but he will make you ask yourself whether or not you have made the Scriptures too much of a dry stick and wrung out a little more sap than you might have intended.

The material on illustration - the entire third section - is worth a mention in its own right. Are you weary of those sermons and commentaries which open each chapter with some strained connection to some situation or event in the real world, or which offer the example of "Algernon (not his real name), a basket-weaver from Clapham, raised by wolves and incapable of eating vegetables," only to have Algy's case fully resolved by the close of the chapter by the penetrating insights and applications of our preacher/author? Spurgeon will help you think through the purpose, value, collections, selection and employment of illustrations, helping us to really enliven our sermons and put hooks in the ears of those who hear us.

I would not wish to ignore the spirit of consecration that pervades the whole. There is nothing here that is dry or dull, but it is all carried along by a man who demonstrates the very earnestness he encourages, characterised by a burning desire to see God glorified in salvation, in the fullest sense of the word. You are never allowed the sense that these are treasures for mere display; each is a tool for use in the great business of seeking and saving the lost in the declaration of the gospel. Overall, the volume is marked by a concern for character as well as capacity, for substance rather than style, for spirit as well as form in service to aim.

But there are a few notes of caution which ought to be sounded. Perhaps first and foremost is the fact that Spurgeon often forgets that you are not Spurgeon. This can be the case even when he is making allowances for us. For example, in the chapter on choosing your text he acknowledges that his strength comes from variety rather than profundity, and that he could not announce a series on a topic or sustain one on a book if you paid him to do so. However, there are few others who would feel well able to wait until Saturday evening before thinking of their morning sermon, or Sunday afternoon before sitting down to prepare for the evening, which was effectively what Spurgeon ended up doing, and pretty much where he sends you.

This then bleeds into a tendency to absolutism at certain times (a tendency by no means confined to Spurgeon's pastoral theology) and to make a general principle from a personal preference or habit. For example, Spurgeon says here that unless you already have conversions to show for your labours, you are not called to the ministry. Had he lived at another time, or in another place, he might have been a little more wary or balanced, or spoken more generally of fruitfulness. The same applies to some of the comments about text selection and the like.

The volume is, as it must be, of its time. Some of the comments, asides and applications will need to be adapted (for example, the kind of pulpit cant against which Spurgeon rails is just as current, although it finds slightly different forms and environments today). However, we do this with anything else from another time and place, and it should prove no great difficulty for the wise.

Finally, in this regard, we have mentioned already that there are some topics which you will have to wrestle with. You are not obliged to agree with everything that even a Spurgeon says, but you will need good and sound reasons to disagree, and may even find your own perspective improved and enriched even if not fundamentally altered by the process.

So, let me urge you, if you have not already done so (and even if you have), to get to grips (perhaps, again) with Spurgeon's Lectures to my Students. To open the pages is to walk into a family gathering, and to listen to a spiritual father among his labouring sons, an older pastor among his younger brothers. It will not be long, I hope, before you are made to feel thoroughly at home, and - listening in to that rich voice from a warm and full heart - start to obtain a blessing.

Through Spurgeon's eyes

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Stephen McCaskell's collection of quotations from the great Victorian, Through the Eyes of C. H. Spurgeon: Quotes from a Reformed Baptist Preacher, is available on Kindle at a great price, only $3.11 at Amazon.com and £1.92 at Amazon.co.uk ($14 or £15 in print).

With references to their sources, and arranged along easily traceable lines, this collection of aphoristic gems will stand preachers in good stead, and will no doubt provide those of us who tweet with good measure, pressed down, shaken together, and running over.

The importance of character

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According to Spurgeon, ministerial character matters:
When we say to you, my dear brethren, take care of your life, we mean be careful of even the minutiae of your character. Avoid little debts, unpunctuality, gossipping, nicknaming, petty quarrels, and all other of those little vices which fill the ointment with flies. The self-indulgences which have lowered the repute of many must not be tolerated by us. The familiarities which have laid others under suspicion, we must chastely avoid. The roughnesses which have rendered some obnoxious, and the fopperies which have made others contemptible, we must put away. We cannot afford to run great risks through little things. Our care must be to act on the rule, 'giving no offence in anything, that the ministry be not blamed.'

By this is not intended that we are to hold ourselves bound by every whim or fashion of the society in which we move. As a general rule, I hate the fashions of society, and detest conventionalities, and if I conceived it best to put my foot through a law of etiquette, I should feel gratified in having it to do. No, we are men, not slaves; and are not to relinquish our manly freedom, to be the lackeys of those who affect gentility or boast refinement. Yet, brethren, anything that verges upon the coarseness which is akin to sin, we must shun as we would a viper. The rules of Chesterfield are ridiculous to us, but not the example of Christ; and he was never coarse, low, discourteous, or indelicate.

Even in your recreations, remember that you are ministers. When you are off the parade you are still officers in the army of Christ, and as such demean yourselves. But if the lesser things must be looked after, how careful should you be in the great matters of morality, honesty, and integrity! Here the minister must not fail. His private life must ever keep good tune with his ministry, or his day will soon set with him, and the sooner he retires the better, for his continuance in his office will only dishonour the cause of God and ruin himself.

From "The Minister's Self-Watch" in Lectures to my Students

Rekindling the flame

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It may be that you often hear of people praying for revival or are encouraged to do so yourself. It may also be that you are frustrated by what this usually means. In my experience, people praying for revival are often sitting with smug confidence in their own healthiness and wholeness, persuaded that they are doing everything right and well, and that there is nothing wrong with them. On the other hand, there are a lot of problems with the big, bad world out there, so would the Lord please kindly get on and do something about other people. Revival, then, is perceived to be something that happens to unconverted people, the means by which they realise that the church is actually a wonderful place where they need to attend in great numbers, confirming the deeply-embedded notion of lackadaisical Christians that we were right all along.

This, of course, is an utter nonsense, substantially divorced from Biblical notions of heart religion and the progress of the gospel in the earth. One of the men well-qualified to provide insights into the nature of revival is the great Victorian preacher, Charles Haddon Spurgeon. In the article that follows, taken from an 1866 edition of The Sword and The Trowel, he gives a helpfully sane definition of what we are speaking of, identifying the need of it, the place of it, the means of it, and the effects of it. It may be a little longer than usual, but I hope it will prove a rewarding read.

Any saint who has ever cried - and many who should so cry - with grief and longing, "My soul clings to the dust; revive me according to your word" (Ps 119.25), will find much here to instruct, rebuke, direct and console. Such a confession and prayer seeks nothing essentially unusual in the nature of religion, but pursues something different in degree: a restored and increasing experience and enjoyment of ordinary blessings (if the blessings we receive from God in Christ can ever be described as ordinary). Spurgeon's description of where most of us are as Christians and churches, contrasted with his portrait of vital faith and vigorous life, ought to make us long for those immediate operations of the Spirit of Christ which are the very life-breath of his church. Here, then, is Mr Spurgeon:
The word "revival" is as familiar in our mouths as a household word. We are constantly speaking about and praying for a "revival;" would it not be as well to know what we mean by it? Of the Samaritans our Lord said, "Ye worship ye know not what," let him not have to say to us, "Ye know not what ye ask."  The word "revive" wears its meaning upon its forehead; it is from the Latin, and may be interpreted thus - to live again, to receive again a life which has almost expired; to rekindle into a flame the vital spark which was nearly extinguished.

When a person has been dragged out of a pond nearly drowned, the bystanders are afraid that he is dead, and are anxious to ascertain if life still lingers. The proper means are used to restore animation; the body is rubbed, stimulants are administered, and if by God's providence life still tarries in the poor clay, the rescued man opens his eyes, sits up, and speaks, and those around him rejoice that he has revived. A young girl is in a fainting fit, but after a while she returns to consciousness, and we say, "she revives."  The flickering lamp of life in dying men suddenly flames up with unusual brightness at intervals, and those who are watching around the sick bed say of the patient, "he revives."

In these days, when the dead are not miraculously restored, we do not expect to see the revival of a person who is totally dead, and we could not speak of the re-vival of a thing which never lived before. It is clear that the term "revival" can only be applied to a living soul, or to that which once lived. To be revived is a blessing which can only be enjoyed by those who have some degree of life. Those who have no spiritual life are not, and cannot be, in the strictest sense of the term, the subjects of a revival. Many blessings may come to the unconverted in consequence of a revival among Christians, but the revival itself has to do only with those who already possess spiritual life. There must be vitality in some degree before there can be a quickening of vitality, or, in other words, a revival.

A true revival is to be looked for in the church of God. Only in the river of gracious life can the pearl of revival be found. It has been said that a revival must begin with God's people; this is very true, but it is not all the truth, for the revival itself must end as well as begin there. The results of the revival will extend to the outside world, but the revival, strictly speaking, must be within the circle of life, and must therefore essentially be enjoyed by the possessors of vital godliness, and by them only. Is not this quite a different view of revival from that which is common in society; but is it not manifestly the correct one?

It is a sorrowful fact that many who are spiritually alive greatly need reviving. It is sorrowful because it is a proof of the existence of much spiritual evil. A man in sound health with every part of his body in a vigorous condition does not need reviving. He requires daily sustenance, but reviving would be quite out of place. If he has not yet attained maturity growth will be most desirable, but a hale hearty young man wants no reviving, it would be thrown away upon him. Who thinks of reviving the noonday sun, the ocean at its flood, or the year at its prime? The tree planted by the rivers of water loaded with fruit needs not excite our anxiety for its revival, for its fruitfulness and beauty charm every one. Such should be the constant condition of the sons of God. Feeding and lying down in green pastures and led by the still waters they ought not always to be crying, "my leanness, my leanness, woe unto me."  Sustained by gracious promises and enriched out of the fullness which God has treasured up in his dear Son, their souls should prosper and be in health, and their piety ought to need no reviving. They should aspire to a higher blessing, a richer mercy, than a mere revival. They have the nether springs already; they should earnestly cover the upper springs. They should be asking for growth in grace, for increase of strength, for greater success; they should have out-climbed and out-soared the period in which they need to be constantly crying, "Wilt thou not revive us again?" For a church to be constantly needing revival is the indication of much sin, for if it were sound before the Lord it would remain in the condition into which a revival would uplift its members. A church should be a camp of soldiers, not an hospital of invalids. But there is exceedingly much difference between what ought to be and what is, and consequently many of God's people are in so sad a state that the very fittest prayer for them is for revival. Some Christians are, spiritually, but barely alive. When a man has been let down into a vat or into a well full of bad air, yea do not wonder when he is drawn up again that he is half-dead, and urgently requires to be revived. Some Christians - to their shame be it spoken! - descend into such worldly company, not upon such unhallowed principles, and become so carnal, that when they are drawn up by God's grace from their backsliding position they want reviving, and even need that their spiritual breath should as it were be breathed into their nostrils afresh by God's Spirit.

When a man starves himself, continuing for a long time without food, when he is day after day without a morsel of bread between his lips, we do not marvel that the surgeon, finding him in extremities, says, "This man has weakened his system, he is too low, and wants reviving." Of course he does, for he has brought himself by low diet into a state of weakness. Are there not hundreds of Christians - shame that it should be so! - who live day after day without feeding upon Bible truth? Shall it be added without real spiritual communion with God? They do not even attend the week-night services, and they are indifferent hearers on the Lord's day. Is it remarkable that they want reviving? Is not the fact that they do so greatly need it most dishonourable to themselves and distressing to their truly spiritual brethren?

There is a condition of mind which is even more sad than either of the two above mentioned; it is a thorough, gradual, but certain decline of all the spiritual powers. Look at that consumptive man whose lungs are decaying, and in whom the vital energy is ebbing; it is painful to see the faintness which suffuses him after exertion, and the general languor which overspreads his weakened frame. Far more sad to the spiritual eye is the spectacle presented by spiritual consumptives who in some quarters meet us on all hands. The eye of faith is dim and overcast, and seldom flashes with holy joy; the spiritual countenance is hollow and sunken with doubts and fears; the tongue of praise is partially paralyzed, and has little to say for Jesus; the spiritual frame is lethargic, and its movements are far from vigorous; the man is not anxious to be doing anything for Christ; a horrible numbness, a dreadful insensibility has come over him; he is in soul like a sluggard in the dog-days, who finds it hard labour to lie in bed and brush away the flies from his face. If these spiritual consumptives hate sin they do it so weakly that one might fear that they loved it still. If they love Jesus, it is so coldly that it is a point of question whether they love at all. If they sing Jehovah's praises it is very sadly, as if hallelujahs were dirges. If they mourn for sin it is only with half-broken hearts, and their grief is shallow and unpractical. If they hear the Word of God they are never stirred by it; enthusiasm is an unknown luxury. If they come across a precious truth they perceive nothing particular in it, any more than the cock in the fable, in the jewel which he found in the farmyard. They throw themselves back upon the enchanted couch of sloth, and while they are covered with rags they dream of riches and great increase of goods. It is a sad, sad thing when Christians fall into this state; then indeed they need reviving, and they must have it, for "the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint." Every lover of souls should intercede for declining professors that the visitations of God may restore them; that the Sun of righteousness may arise upon them with healing beneath his wings.

When revival comes to a people who are in the state thus briefly described, it simply brings them to the condition in which they ought always to have been; it quickens them, gives them new life, stirs the coals of the expiring fire, and puts heavenly breath into the languid lungs. The sickly soul which before was insensible, weak, and sorrowful, grows earnest, vigorous, and happy in the Lord. This is the immediate fruit of revival, and it becomes all of us who are believers to seek this blessing for backsliders, and for ourselves if we are declining in grace.

If revival is confined to living men we may further notice that it must result from the proclamation and the receiving of living truth. We speak of "vital godliness," and vital godliness must subsist upon vital truth. Vital godliness is not revived in Christians by mere excitement, by crowded meetings, by the stamping of the foot, or the knocking of the pulpit cushion, or the delirious bawlings of ignorant zeal; these are the stock in trade of revivals among dead souls, but to revive living saints other means are needed. Intense excitement may produce a revival of the animal, but how can it operate upon the spiritual, for the spiritual demands other food than that which stews in the fleshpots of mere carnal enthusiasm. The Holy Ghost must come into the living heart through living truth, and so bring nutriment and stimulant to the pining spirit, for so only can it be revived. This, then, leads us to the conclusion that if we are to obtain a revival we must go directly to the Holy Ghost for it, and not resort to the machinery of the professional revival-maker. The true vital spark of heavenly flame comes from the Holy Ghost, and the priests of the Lord must beware of strange fire. There is no spiritual vitality in anything except as the Holy Spirit is all in all in the work; and if our vitality has fallen near to zero, we can only have it renewed by him who first kindled it in us. We must go to the cross and look up to the dying Saviour, and expect that the Holy Spirit will renew our faith and quicken all our graces. We must feed anew by faith upon the flesh and blood of the Lord Jesus, and so the Holy Ghost will recruit our strength and give us a revival. When men in India sicken in the plains, they climb the hills and breathe the more bracing air of the upper regions; we need to get nearer to God, and to bathe ourselves in heaven, and revived piety will be the sure result.

When a minister obtains this revival he preaches very differently from his former manner. It is very hard work to preach when the head aches and when the body is languid, but it is a much harder task when the soul is unfeeling and lifeless. It is sad, sad work - painfully, dolorously, horribly sad, but saddest of all if we do not feel it to be sad, if we can go on preaching and remain careless concerning the truths we preach, indifferent as to whether men are saved or lost! May God deliver every minister from abiding in such a state! Can there be a more wretched object than a man who preaches in God's name truths which he does not feel, and which he is conscious have never impressed his own heart? To be a mere sign-post, pointing out the road but never moving in it, is a lot against which every tame heart may plead night and day.

Should this revival be granted to deacons and elders what different men it would make of them! Lifeless, lukewarm church officers are of no more value to a church, than a crew of sailors would be to a vessel if they were all fainting and if in their berths when they were wanted to hoist the sails or lower the boats. Church officers who need reviving must be fearful dead weights upon a Christian community. It is incumbent upon all Christians to be thoroughly awake to the interests of Zion, but upon the leaders most of all. Special supplication should be made for beloved brethren in office that they may be full of the Holy Ghost.

Workers in the Sunday-schools, tract distributors, and other labourers for Christ, what different people they become when grace is vigorous from what they are when their life flickers in the socket! Like sickly vegetation in a cellar, all blanched and unhealthy, are workers who have little grace; like willows by the water-courses, like grass with reeds and rushes in well-watered valleys, are the servants of God who live in his presence. It is no wonder that our Lord said, "Because thou art neither cold nor hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth," for when the earnest Christian's heart is full of fire it is sickening to talk with lukewarm people. Have not warm-hearted lovers of Jesus felt when they have been discouraged by doubtful sluggish people, who could see a lion in the way, as if they could put on express speed and run over them? Every earnest minister has known times when he has felt cold hearts to be as intolerable as the drones in the hive are to the working bees. Careless professors are as much out of place as snow in harvest among truly living Christians. As vinegar to the teeth and smoke to the eyes are these sluggards. As well be bound to a dead body as forced into union with lifeless professors; they are a burden, a plague, and an abomination. You turn to one of these cold brethren after a graciously earnest prayer-meeting, and say with holy joy, "What a delightful meeting we have had!" "Yes," he says carelessly and deliberately, as if it were an effort to say so much, "there was a good number of people." How his frostbitten words grate on one's ear! You ask yourself, "Where has the man been? Is he not conscious that the Holy Ghost has been with us?" Does not our Lord speak of these people as being cast out of his mouth, just because he himself is altogether in earnest, and consequently, when he meets with lukewarm people he will not endure them? He says, "I would thou wert cold or hot," either utterly averse to good or in earnest concerning it. It is easy to see his meaning. If you heard an ungodly man blaspheme after an earnest meeting, you would lament it, but you would feel that from such a man it was not a thing to make you vexed, for he has only spoken after his kind, but when you meet with a child of God who is lukewarm, how can you stand that? It is sickening, and makes the inmost spirit feel the horrors of mental nausea.

While a true revival in its essence belongs only to God's people, it always brings with it a blessing for the other sheep who are not yet of the fold. If you drop a stone into a lake the ring widens continually, till the farthest corner of the lake feels the influence. Let the Lord revive a believer and very soon his family, his friends, his neighbours, receive a share of the benefit; for when a Christian is revived, he prays more fervently for sinners. Longing, loving prayer for sinners, is one of the marks of a revival in the renewed heart. Since the blessing is asked for sinners, the blessing comes from him who hears the prayers of his people; and thus the world gains by revival. Soon the revived Christian speaks concerning Jesus and the gospel; he sows good seed, and God's good seed is never lost, for he has said, "It shall not return unto me void." The good seed is sown in the furrows, and in some sinners' hearts God prepares the soil, so that the seed springs up in a glorious harvest. Thus by the zealous conversation of believers another door of mercy opens to men.

When Christians are revived they live more consistently, they make their homes more holy and more happy, and this leads the ungodly to envy them, and to enquire after their secret. Sinners by God's grace long to be like such cheerful happy saints; their mouths water to feast with them upon their hidden manna, and this is another blessing, for it leads men to seek the Saviour. If an ungodly man steps into a congregation where all the saints are revived he does not go to sleep under the sermon. The minister will not let him do that, for the hearer perceives that the preacher feels what he is preaching, and has a right to be heard. This is a clear gain, for now the man listens with deep emotion; and above all, the Holy Spirit's power, which the preacher has received in answer to prayer comes upon the hearer's mind; he is convinced of sin, of righteousness, and of judgment to come, and Christians who are on the watch around him hasten to tell him of the Saviour, and point him to the redeeming blood, so that though the revival, strictly speaking, is with the people of God, yet the result of it no man can limit. Brethren, let us seek a revival during the present month, that the year may close with showers of blessing, and that the new year may open with abundant benediction. Let us pledge ourselves to form a prayer-union, a sacred band of suppliants, and may God do unto us according to our faith.

Father, for thy promised blessing,
Still we plead before thy throne;
For the time of sweet refreshing
Which can come from thee alone.

Blessed earnests thou hast given,
But in these we would not rest,
Blessings still with thee are hidden,
Pour them forth, and make us blest.

Wake thy slumbering children, wake them,
Bid them to thy harvest go;
Blessings, O our Father, make them;
Round their steps let blessing flow.

Let no hamlet be forgotten,
Let thy showers on all descend;
That in one loud blessed anthem,
Myriads may in triumph blend.

New from Spurgeon...

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Just when you thought that everything written and preached by C.H. Spurgeon had been published, along comes this volume from Day One PUblications, publishing 45 sermons for the first time in a gathered volume. C.H. Spurgeon's Sermons Beyond Volume 63 is subtitled 'An authentic supplement to the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit', and is - as with all of Spurgeon's material - rich in theological matter. What Spurgeon sometimes lacks in exegetical precision he makes up for in warmth of application and devotional study of the text. This is preaching to feed the soul and thrill the mind. Available at  Day One's USA site (with further links to the UK site).