||delphia > REVIVAL LECTURES by Charles G. Finney (page 2 of 5)
Charles G. Finney
A Voice from the Philadelphian Church Age
by Charles Grandison Finney
"REVIVAL LECTURES" in 5 html pages-
LECTURES 1-5 of page 1
LECTURES 6-10 of page 2 (this page)
LECTURES 11-14 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 15-18 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 19-22 of page 5 ---New Window
To avoid broken links, due to file length, please wait for the page to
before selecting ANY link below.
The links above can be used immediately.
Table of Contents
- LECTURE VI. - THE SPIRIT OF
What Spirit is spoken of in the passage: "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities"
- What that Spirit does for us - Why He does what the text declares Him to do - How
He accomplishes it - The degrees of His influences - How His influences are to be
distinguished from the influences of evil spirits - Who have a right to expect His
LECTURE VII. - ON BEING
FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
Individuals may have the Spirit of God - It is their duty to be filled with the Spirit
- Why the Spirit is not obtained - The guilt of those who have not the Spirit of
God - The consequences of having the Spirit. - The consequences that will follow
not having the Spirit.
LECTURE VIII. - MEETINGS
The design of prayer meetings - The manner of conducting them - Several things that
will defeat the design of holding them.
LECTURE IX. - MEANS TO BE
USED WITH SINNERS.
On what particular points Christians are to testify for God - The manner in which
they are to testify.
LECTURE X. - TO WIN SOULS
Are you still there? We still have never received a check from you. Is this a mistake
or is it sin? How Christians should deal with careless sinners - How they should
deal with awakened sinners, and with convicted sinners.
THE SPIRIT OF PRAYER
Likewise the Spirit also helpeth our infirmities: for
we know not what we should pray for as we ought: but the Spirit itself maketh intercession
for us with groanings which cannot be uttered. And He that searcheth the hearts knoweth
what is the mind of the Spirit, because He maketh intercession for the saints according
to the will of God. - Romans 8:26, 27.
My last Lecture but one was on the subject of Effectual Prayer; in which I observed
that one of the most important attributes of effectual or prevailing prayer is FAITH.
This was so extensive a subject that I reserved it for a separate discussion. And
accordingly my last Lecture was on the subject of Faith in Prayer, or, as it is termed,
the Prayer of Faith. It was my intention to discuss the subject in a single Lecture.
But as I was under the necessity of condensing so much on some points, it occurred
to me, and was mentioned by others, that there might be some questions which people
would ask, that ought to be answered more fully, especially as the subject is one
on which there is so much darkness. One grand design in preaching is to exhibit the
truth in such a way as to answer the questions which would naturally arise in the
minds of those who read the Bible with attention, and who want to know what it means,
so that they can put it in practice. In explaining the text, I propose to show:
I. What Spirit is here spoken of: "The Spirit also helpeth our infirmities."
II. What that Spirit does for us.
III. Why He does what the text declares Him to do.
IV. How He accomplishes it.
V. The degree in which He influences the minds of those who are under His influence.
VI. How His influences are to be distinguished from the influences of evil spirits.
or from the suggestions of our own minds.
VII. How we are to obtain this agency of the Holy Spirit.
VIII. Who have a right to expect to enjoy His influences in this matter - or for
whom the Spirit does the things spoken of in the text.
I. WHAT SPIRIT IS SPOKEN OF.
Some have supposed that the Spirit spoken of in the text means our own spirit - our
own mind. But a little attention to the text will show plainly that this is not the
meaning. "The Spirit helpeth our infirmities" would then read, "Our
own spirit helpeth the infirmities of our own spirit" - and "Our own spirit
maketh intercession for our own spirit." You can make no sense of it on that
supposition. It is evident from the manner in which the text is introduced that the
Spirit referred to is the Holy Ghost.
"For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit
do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live. For as many as are led by the Spirit
of God, they are the sons of God. For ye have not received the spirit of bondage
again to fear; but ye have received the spirit of adoption, whereby we cry, Abba,
Father. The Spirit itself beareth witness with our spirit, that we are the children
of God" (Romans 8:13-16). And the text is plainly speaking of the same Spirit.
II. WHAT THE SPIRIT DOES.
He intercedes for the saints. "He maketh intercession for us," and "helpeth
our infirmities," when "we know not what to pray for as we ought."
He helps Christians to pray "according to the will of God," or for the
things that God desires them to pray for.
III. WHY IS THE HOLY SPIRIT THUS EMPLOYED?
Because of our ignorance. Because we know not what we should pray for as we ought.
We are so ignorant both of the will of God, revealed in the Bible, and of His unrevealed
will, as we ought to learn it from His providence.
Mankind are vastly ignorant both of the promises and prophecies of the Bible, and
blind to the providence of God. And they are still more in the dark about those points
of which God has said nothing but through the leadings of His Spirit. I have named
these four sources of evidence on which to ground faith in prayer - promises, prophecies,
providences, and the Holy Spirit. When all other means fail of leading us to the
knowledge of what we ought to pray for, the Spirit does it.
IV. HOW DOES HE MAKE INTERCESSION?
In what mode does He operate, so as to help our infirmities?
- 1. Not by superseding the use of our faculties. It is not
by praying for us, while we do nothing. He prays for us by exciting our faculties.
Not that He immediately suggests to us words, or guides our language. But He enlightens
our minds, and makes the truth take hold of our souls. He leads us to consider the
state of the Church, and the condition of sinners around us. The manner in which
He brings the truth before the mind, and keeps it there till it produces its effect,
we cannot tell. But we can know as much as this - that He leads us to a deep consideration
of the state of things; and the result of this, the natural and philosophical result,
is, deep feeling.
- When the Spirit brings the truth before a man's mind there
is only one way in which he can keep from deep feeling. That is, by turning away
his thoughts, and leading his mind to think of other things. Sinners, when the Spirit
of God brings the truth before them, must feel. They feel wrong, as long as they
remain impenitent. So, if a man is a Christian, and the Holy Spirit brings the subject
into warm contact with his heart, it is just as impossible he should not feel as
it is that your hand should not feel if you put it into the fire. If the Spirit of
God leads a man to dwell on things calculated to excite overpowering feelings regarding
the salvation of souls, and he is not excited thereby, it proves that he has no love
for souls, nothing of the Spirit of Christ, and knows nothing about Christian experience.
- 2. The Spirit makes the Christian feel the value of souls
and the guilt and danger of sinners in their present condition. It is amazing how
dark and stupid Christian often are about this. Even Christian parents let their
children go right down to hell before their eyes, and scarcely seem to exercise a
single feeling, or put forth an effort to save them. And why?
- Because they are so blind to what hell is, so unbelieving
about the Bible, so ignorant of the precious promises which God has made to faithful
parents. They grieve the Spirit of God away - and it is in vain to make them pray
for their children, while the Spirit of God is away from them.
- 3. He leads Christians to understand and apply the promises
- It is wonderful that in no age have Christians been able
fully to apply the promises of Scripture to the events of life, as they go along.
This is not because the promises themselves are obscure. But there has always been
a wonderful disposition to overlook the Scriptures, as a source of light respecting
the passing events of life. How astonished the apostles were at Christ's application
of so many prophecies to Himself! They seemed to be continually ready to exclaim:
"Astonishing! Can it be so? We never understood it before!" Who, that has
witnessed the manner in which the apostles, influenced and inspired by the Holy Ghost,
applied passages of the Old Testament to Gospel times, has not been amazed at the
richness of meaning which they found in the Scriptures? So it has been with many
a Christian; while deeply engaged in prayer he has seen that passages of Scripture
are appropriate which he never thought of before as having any such application.
I once knew an individual who was in great spiritual darkness. He had retired for
prayer, resolved that he would not desist till he had found the Lord. He kneeled
down and tried to pray. All was dark, and he could not pray. He rose from his knees,
and stood awhile; but he could not give it up, for he had promised that he would
not let the sun go down before he had given himself to God. He knelt again; but was
all dark, and his heart was as hard as before. He was nearly in despair, and said
in agony: "I have grieved the Spirit of God away, and there is no promise for
me. I am shut out from the presence of God." But his resolution was formed not
to give over, and again he knelt down. He had said but a few words when this passage
came into his mind, as fresh as if he had just read it: "Ye shall seek Me, and
find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart" (Jeremiah 29:13).
He saw that though this promise was in the Old Testament, and addressed to the Jews,
it was still as applicable to him as to them. And it broke his heart, like the hammer
of the Lord, in a moment.
And he prayed, and rose up happy in God.
Thus it often happens when professors of religion are praying for their children.
Sometimes they pray, and are in darkness and doubt, feeling as if there were no foundation
for faith, and no special promises for the children of believers. But while they
have been pleading, God has shown them the full meaning of some promise, and their
soul has rested on it as on His mighty arm. I once heard of a widow who was greatly
exercised about her children, till this passage was brought powerful to her mind:
"Thy fatherless children, I will preserve them alive; and let Thy widows trust
in Me" (Jeremiah 49:11). She saw it had an extended meaning, and she was enabled
to lay hold of it, as it were, with her hands. She prevailed in prayer, and her children
were converted. The Holy Spirit was sent into the world by the Savior to guide His
people, and instruct them and bring things to their remembrance, as well as to convince
the world of sin.
- 4. The Spirit leads Christians to desire and pray for things
of which nothing is specifically said in the Word of God. Take the case of an individual.
That God is willing to save is a general truth. So it is a general truth that He
is willing to answer prayer. But how shall I know the will of God respecting that
individual - whether I can pray in faith according to the will of God for the conversion
and salvation of that individual, or not?
- Here the agency of the Spirit comes in to lead the minds
of God's people to pray for those individuals, and at those times, when God is prepared
to bless them. When we know not what to pray for, the Holy Spirit leads the mind
to dwell on some object, to consider its situation, to realize its value, and to
feel for it, and pray, and "travail in birth," till the person is converted.
This sort of experience, I know, is less common in cities than it is in some parts
of the country, because of the infinite number of things which in cities divert the
attention and grieve the Spirit.
I have had much opportunity to know how it has been in some districts. I was acquainted
with an individual who used to keep a list of persons for whom he was especially
concerned; and I have had the opportunity to know a multitude of persons, for whom
he became thus interested, who were immediately converted. I have seen him pray for
persons on his list when he was literally in an agony for them; and have sometimes
known him call on some other person to help him pray for such a one. I have known
his mind to fasten thus on an individual of hardened, abandoned character, and who
could not be reached in any ordinary way. In a town in a north part of this State,
where there was a revival, there was a certain individual who was a most violent
and outrageous opposer. He kept a tavern, and used to delight in swearing at a desperate
rate, whenever there were Christians within hearing, on purpose to hurt their feelings.
He was so bad that one man said he believed he should have to sell his place, or
give it away, and move out of town, for he could not live near a man who swore so.
This good man of whom I was speaking passed through the town, and, hearing of the
case, was very much grieved and distressed for the individual. He took him on his
praying list. The case weighed on his mind when he was asleep and when he was awake.
He kept thinking about the ungodly man, and praying for him for days. And, the first
we knew of it, the tavern keeper came into a meeting, got up and confessed his sins,
and poured out his soul. His barroom immediately became the place where they held
prayer meetings. In this manner the Spirit of God leads individual Christians to
pray for things which they would not pray for, unless they were led by the Spirit;
and thus they pray for things "according to the will of God."
Great evil has been done by saying that this kind of influence amounts to a new revelation.
Many people will be so afraid of it, if they hear it called a new revelation, that
they will not stop to inquire what it means, or whether the Scriptures teach it or
not. The plain truth of the matter is, that the Spirit leads a man to pray; and if
God leads a man to pray for an individual, the inference from the Bible is, that
God designs to save that individual. If we find, by comparing our state of mind with
the Bible, that we are led by the Spirit to pray for an individual, we have good
evidence to believe that God is prepared to bless him.
- 5. By giving to Christians a spiritual discernment respecting
the movements and developments of Providence. Devoted, praying Christians often see
these things so clearly, and look so far ahead, as greatly to stumble others. They
sometimes almost seem to prophesy. No doubt persons may be deluded, and sometimes
are, by leaning to their own understanding when they think they are led by the Spirit.
But there is no doubt that a Christian may be made to discern clearly the signs of
the times, so as to understand, by Providence, what to expect, and thus to pray for
it in faith. Thus they are often led to expect a revival, and to pray for it in faith,
when nobody else can see the least signs of it.
- There was a woman in New Jersey, in a place where there
had been a revival. She was very positive there was going to be another. She wanted
to have "conference meetings" appointed. But the minister and elders saw
nothing to encourage it, and would do nothing. She saw they were blind, and so she
went forward, and got a carpenter to make seats for her, for she said she would have
meetings in her own house; there was certainly going to be a revival. She had scarcely
opened her doors for meetings, before the Spirit of God came down with great power,
and these sleepy Church members found themselves surrounded all at once with convicted
They could only say: "Surely the Lord is in this place; and we knew it not"
(Genesis 28:16). The reason why such persons as this praying woman understand the
indication of God's will is not because of the superior wisdom that is in them, but
because the Spirit of God leads them to see the signs of the times. And this, not
by revelation; but they are led to see that converging of providences to a single
point which produces in them a confident expectation of a certain result.
V. THE DEGREE OF INFLUENCE.
In what degree are we to expect the Spirit of God to affect the minds of believers?
The text says: "The Spirit maketh intercession with groanings that cannot be
uttered." The meaning of this I understand to be, that the Spirit excites desires
too great to be uttered except by groans - making the soul too full to utter its
feelings by words, so that the person can only groan them out to God, who understands
the language of the heart.
VI. DISTINGUISHING THE INFLUENCES.
How are we to know whether it is the Spirit of God that influences our minds, or
- 1. Not by feeling that some external influence or agency
is applied to us.
- We are not to expect to feel our minds in direct physical
contact with God.
If such a thing can be, we know of no way in which it can be made sensible. We know
that we exercise our minds freely, and that our thoughts are exercised on something
that excites our feelings. But we are not to expect a miracle to be wrought, as if
we were led by the hand, sensibly, or like something whispered in the ear, or any
miraculous manifestation of the will of God.
Individuals often grieve the Spirit away, because they do not harbor Him and cherish
His influences. Sinners often do this ignorantly. They suppose that if they were
under conviction by the Spirit, they should have such-and-such mysterious feelings
- a shock would come upon them which they could not mistake. Many Christians are
so ignorant of the Spirit's influences, and have thought so little about having His
assistance in prayer, that when they have such influences they do not know it, and
so do not yield to them, and cherish them. We are sensible of nothing in the case,
only the movement of our own minds. There is nothing else that can be felt. We are
merely sensible that our thoughts are intensely employed on a certain subject.
Christians are often unnecessarily misled and distressed on this point, for fear
they have not the Spirit of God. They feel intensely, but they know not what makes
them feel. They are distressed about sinners; but should they not be distressed,
when they think of their condition? They keep thinking about them all the time, and
why should they not be distressed?
Now the truth is, that the very fact that you are thinking upon them is evidence
that the Spirit of God is leading you. Do you not know that the greater part of the
time these things do not affect you so? The greater part of the time you do not think
much about the case of sinners. You know their salvation is always equally important.
But at other times, even when you are quite at leisure, your mind is entirely dark,
and vacant of any feeling for them. But now, although you may be busy about other
things, you think, you pray, and feel intensely for them, even while you are about
business that at other times would occupy all your thoughts. Now, almost every thought
you have is: "God have mercy upon them!" Why is this?
Why, their case is placed in a strong light before your mind. Do you ask what it
is that leads your mind to exercise benevolent feelings for sinners, and to agonize
in prayer for them? What can it be but the Spirit of God?
There are no devils that would lead you so. If your feelings are truly benevolent,
you are to consider it as the Holy Spirit leading you to pray for things according
to the will of God.
- 2. "Try the spirits" by the Bible. People are
sometimes led away by strange fantasies and crazy impulses. If you compare them faithfully
with the Bible, you never need be led astray. You can always know whether your feelings
are produced by the Spirit's influences, by comparing your desires with the spirit
and temper of religion, as described in the Bible.
- The Bible commands you to "try the spirits."
"Beloved, believe not every spirit, but try the spirits whether they are of
God" (1 John 4-1).
VII. HOW SHALL WE GET THIS INFLUENCE OF THE SPIRIT?
- 1. It must be sought by fervent, believing prayer. Christ
says: "If ye then, being evil, know how to give good gifts unto your children;
how much more shall your heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?"
(Luke 11:13). Does any one say, I have prayed for it, and it does not come? It is
because you do not pray aright. "Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss,
that ye may consume it upon your lusts" (James 4:3). You do not pray from right
motives. A professor of religion, and a principal member in a Church, once asked
a minister what he thought of his case; he had been praying week after week for the
Spirit, and had not found any benefit. The minister asked: what was his motive in
- He replied that "he wanted to be happy." He knew
those who had the Spirit were happy, and he wanted to enjoy his mind as they did.
Why, the devil himself might pray so! That is mere selfishness. The man, when this
was shown him, at first turned away in anger. He saw that he had never known what
it was to pray. He was convinced he was a hypocrite, and that his prayers were all
selfish, dictated only by a desire for his own happiness. David prayed that God would
uphold him by His free Spirit, that he might teach transgressors and turn sinners
to God. A Christian should pray for the Spirit that he may be the more useful and
glorify God more; not that he himself may be more happy. This man saw clearly where
he had been in error, and he was converted. Perhaps many here have been making just
the same mistake. You ought to examine and see if your prayers are not tinctured
- 2. Use the means adapted to stir up your minds on the subject,
and to keep your attention fixed there. If a man prays for the Spirit, and then diverts
his mind to other objects; if he uses no other means, but goes away to worldly objects,
he tempts God, he swings loose from his object, and it would be a miracle if he should
get what he prays for. How is a sinner to get conviction? Why, by thinking of his
sins. That is the way for a Christian to obtain deep feeling - by thinking upon the
object. God is not going to pour these things on you without any effort of your own.
You must cherish the slightest impressions. Take the Bible, and go over the passages
that show the condition and prospects of the world. Look at the world, look at your
children, and your neighbors, and see their condition while they remain in sin; then,
persevere in prayer and effort till you obtain the blessing of the Spirit of God
to dwell in you. This was the way, doubtless, that Dr. Watts came to have the feelings
which he has described in his hymn:
- My thoughts on awful subjects dwell, Damnation and the
dead; What horrors seize the guilty soul Upon a dying bed!
Look, as it were, through a telescope that will bring it up near to you; look into
hell, and hear them groan; then turn the glass upwards and look into heaven, and
see the saints there, in their white robes, with their harps in their hands, and
hear them sing the song of redeeming love; and ask yourself: "Is it possible
that I should prevail with God to elevate the sinner there?" Do this, and if
you are not a wicked man, and a stranger to God, you will soon have as much of the
spirit of prayer as your body can sustain.
- 3. You must watch unto prayer. You must keep a look-out,
and see if God grants the blessing when you ask Him. People sometimes pray, and never
look to see if the prayer is granted. Be careful also, not to grieve the Spirit of
God. Confess and forsake your sins. God will never lead you as one of His hidden
ones, and let you into His secrets, unless you confess and forsake your sins. Be
not always confessing and never forsaking, but confess and forsake too. Make redress
wherever you have committed an injury. You cannot expect to get the spirit of prayer
first, and repentance afterwards. You cannot fight it through so. Professors of religion,
who are proud and unyielding, and justify themselves, never will force God to dwell
- 4. Aim to obey perfectly the written law. In other words,
have no fellowship with sin. Aim at being entirely above the world; "Be ye therefore
perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect" (Matthew 5:48).
If you sin at all, let it be your daily grief. The man who does not aim at this,
means to live in sin. Such a man need not expect God's blessing, for he is not sincere
in desiring to keep all His commandments.
VIII. FOR WHOM DOES THE SPIRIT INTERCEDE.
The answer is that "He maketh intercession for the saints," for all saints,
for any who are saints.
- 1. Why do you suppose it is that so little stress is laid
on the influences of the Spirit in prayer, when so much is said about His influences
in conversion? Many people are amazingly afraid the Spirit's influences will be left
out. They lay great stress on the Spirit's influences in converting sinners. But
how little is said, how little is printed, about His influence in prayer! How little
complaining there is that people do not make enough of the Spirit's influence in
leading Christians to pray according to the will of God! Let it never be forgotten
that no Christian ever prays aright, unless led by the Spirit. He has natural power
to pray, and so far as the will of God is revealed, is able to do it; but he never
does, unless the Spirit of God influences him; just as sinners are able to repent,
but never do, unless influenced by the Spirit.
- 2. This subject lays open the foundation of the difficulty
felt by many persons on the subject of the Prayer of Faith. They object to the idea
that faith in prayer is a belief that we shall receive the very things for which
we ask, and insist that there can be no foundation or evidence upon which to rest
such a belief.
- In a sermon upon this subject a writer brings toward this
difficulty, and presents it in its full strength. "I have," says he, "no
evidence that the thing prayed for will be granted, until I have prayed in faith;
because, praying in faith is the condition upon which it is promised. And, of course,
I cannot claim the promise, until I have fulfilled the condition.
Now, if the condition is that I am to believe I shall receive the very blessing for
which I ask, it is evident that the promise is given upon the performance of an impossible
condition, and is, of course, a mere nullity.
The promise would amount to just this: You shall have whatsoever you ask, upon the
condition that you first believe that you shall receive it.
Now I must fulfill the condition before I can claim the promise. But I can have no
evidence that I shall receive it until I have believed that I shall receive it. This
reduces me to the necessity of believing that I shall receive it, before I have any
evidence that I shall receive it - which is impossible."
The whole force of this objection arises out of the fact that the Spirit's influences
are entirely overlooked, which He exerts in leading an individual to the exercise
of faith. It has been supposed that the passage in Mark 11:22-24, with other kindred
promises on the subject of the Prayer of Faith, relate exclusively to miracles. But
suppose this were true. I would ask: "What were the apostles to believe, when
they prayed for a miracle?
Were they to believe that the precise miracle would be performed for which they prayed?"
It is evident that they were. In the verses just alluded to, Christ says: "For
verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, Be thou removed,
and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe
that those things which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he
saith. Therefore I say unto you, What things soever ye desire when ye pray, believe
that ye receive them, and ye shall have them." Here it is evident, that the
thing to be believed, and which they were not to doubt in their heart, was that they
should have the very blessing for which they prayed. Now the objection above stated,
lies in all its force against this kind of faith, when praying for the performance
of a miracle. If it be impossible to believe this in praying for any other blessing,
it was equally so in praying for a miracle. I might ask: "Could an apostle believe
that the miracle would be wrought, before he had fulfilled the condition, inasmuch
as the condition was, that he should believe that he should receive that for which
he prayed?" Either the promise is a nullity and a deception, or there is a possibility
of performing the condition.
Now, as I have said, the whole difficulty lies in the fact that the Spirit's influences
are entirely overlooked, and that faith which is of the operation of God, is left
out of the question. If the objection is goods against praying for any object, it
is as good against praying in faith for the performance of a miracle. The fact is,
that the Spirit of God could give evidence, on which to believe that any particular
miracle would be granted; could lead the mind to a firm reliance upon God, and trust
that the blessing sought would be obtained. And so at the present day He can give
the same assurance, in praying for any blessing that we need.
Praying is the same thing, whether you pray for the conversion of a soul, or for
a miracle. Faith is the same thing in the one case as in the other; it only terminates
on a different object; in the one case on the conversion of a soul, and in the other
on the performance of a miracle. Nor is faith exercised in the one more than in the
other without reference to a promise; and a general promise may with the same propriety
be applied to the conversion of a soul as to the performance of a miracle. And it
is equally true in the one case as the other, that no man ever prays in faith without
being influenced by the Spirit of God. And if the Spirit could lead the mind of an
apostle to exercise faith in regard to a miracle, He can lead the mind of another
Christian to exercise faith in regard to receiving any other blessing, by a reference
to the same general promise.
Should any one ask: "When are we under an obligation to believe that we shall
receive the blessing for which we ask?" I answer -
(a) When there is a particular promise, specifying the particular blessing:
as where we pray for the Holy Spirit. This blessing is particularly named in the
promise, and here we have evidence, and we are bound to believe, whether we have
any Divine influence or not: just as sinners are bound to repent whether the Spirit
strives with them or not, their obligation resting not upon the Spirit's influences,
but upon the powers of moral agency which they possess; upon their ability to do
their duty. And while it is true that not one of them ever will repent without the
influences of the Spirit, still they have power to do so, and are under obligation
to do so whether the Spirit strives with them or not. So with the Christian. He is
bound to believe where he has evidence. And although he never does believe, even
where he has an express promise, without the Spirit of God, yet his obligation to
do so rests upon his ability, and not upon the Divine influence.
(b) Where God makes a revelation by His providence, we are bound to believe
in proportion to the clearness of the providential indication.
(c) So where there is a prophecy, we are bound also to believe. But in neither
of these cases do we, in fact, believe, without the Spirit of God.
But where there is neither promise, providence, nor prophecy, on which we are to
repose our faith, we are under no obligation to believe, unless, as I have shown
in this discourse, the Spirit gives us evidence, by creating desires, and by leading
us to pray for a particular object. In the case of those promises of a general nature,
where we are honestly at a loss to know in what particular cases to apply them, it
may be considered rather as our privilege than as our duty, in many instances, to
apply them to particular cases; but whenever the Spirit of God leads us to apply
them to a particular object, then it becomes our duty so to apply them. In this case,
God explains His own promise, and shows how He designed it should be applied. Our
obligation, then, to make this application, and to believe in reference to this particular
object, remains in full force.
- 3. Some have supposed that Paul prayed in faith for the
removal of the thorn in the flesh, and that it was not granted. But they cannot prove
that Paul prayed in faith. The presumption is all on the other side, as I have shown
in a former Lecture. He had neither promise, nor prophecy, nor providence, nor the
Spirit of God, to lead him to believe. The whole objection goes on the ground that
the apostle might pray in faith without being led by the Spirit. This is truly a
short method of disposing of the Spirit's influences in prayer. Certainly, to assume
that he prayed in faith, is to assume, either that he prayed in faith without being
led by the Spirit, or that the Spirit of God led him to pray for that which was not
according to the will of God.
- I have dwelt the more on this subject, because I want to
have it made so plain that you will be careful not to grieve the Spirit. I want you
to have high ideas of the Holy Ghost, and to feel that nothing good will be done
without His influences. No praying or preaching will be of any avail without Him.
If Jesus Christ were to come down here and preach to sinners, not one would be converted
without the Spirit. Be careful, then, not to grieve Him away, by slighting or neglecting
His heavenly influences when He invites you to pray.
- 4. In praying for an object, it is necessary to persevere
till you obtain it.
- Oh, with what eagerness Christians sometimes pursue a sinner
in their prayers, when the Spirit of God has fixed their desires on him! No miser
pursues gold with so fixed a determination.
- 5. The fear of being led by impulses has done great injury,
by not being duly considered. A person's mind may be led by an ignis fatuus. But
we do wrong if we let the fear of impulses lead us to resist the good impulses of
the Holy Ghost. No wonder Christians have not the spirit of prayer, if they are unwilling
to take the trouble to distinguish; but will reject or resist all impulses, and all
leadings of invisible agents. A great deal has been said on the subject of fanaticism,
that is very unguarded, and that causes many minds to reject the leadings of the
Spirit of God. "As many as are led by the Spirit or God, they are the sons of
God" (Romans 8:14). And it is our duty to "try the spirits whether they
are of God" (1 John 4:1). We should insist on a close scrutiny, and an accurate
discrimination. There must be such a thing as being led by the Spirit. And when we
are convinced it is of God, we should be sure to follow - follow on, with full confidence
that He will not lead us wrong.
- 6. We see from this subject the absurdity of using set
forms of prayer. The very idea of using a form rejects, of course, the leadings of
- Nothing is more calculated to destroy the spirit of prayer,
and entirely to darken and confuse the mind, as to what constitutes prayer, than
to use forms. Forms of prayer are not only absurd in themselves, but they are the
very device of the devil to destroy the spirit and break the power of prayer. It
is of no use to say the form is a good one. Prayer does not consist in words. And
it matters not what the words are if the heart is not led by the Spirit of God. If
the desire is not enkindled, the thoughts directed, and the whole current of feeling
produced and led by the Spirit of God, it is not prayer. And set forms are, of all
things, best calculated to keep an individual from praying as he ought.
- 7. The subject furnishes a test of character. "The
Spirit maketh intercession" - for whom? For the saints. Those who are saints
are thus exercised. If you are saints you know by experience what it is to be thus
exercised; or, if you do not, it is because you have grieved the Spirit of God so
that He will not lead you. You live in such a manner that this Holy Comforter will
not dwell with you, nor give you the spirit of prayer. If this is so, you must repent.
Do not stop to settle whether you are a Christian or not, but repent, as if you never
had repented. Do your first works. I do not take it for granted that you are a Christian,
but go, like a humble sinner, and pour out your heart unto the Lord. You never can
have the spirit of prayer in any other way.
- 8. It is important to understand this subject:-
- (a) In order to be useful. Without this spirit there
can be no such sympathy between God and you, that you can either walk with God or
work with God. You need to have a strong beating of your heart with His, or you need
not expect to be greatly useful.
(b) As being important to your sanctification. Without such a spirit you will
not be sanctified, nor will you understand the Bible, and therefore you will not
know how to apply it to your case. I want you to feel the importance of having God
with you all the time. If you live as you ought, He says He will come unto you, and
make His abode with you, and sup with you, and you with Him.
- 9. If people know not the spirit of prayer, they are very
apt to be unbelieving in regard to the results of prayer. They do not see what takes
place, or do not see the connection, or do not see the evidence. They are not expecting
spiritual blessings. When sinners are convicted, they conclude that such are merely
frightened by terrible preaching. And when people are converted, they feel no confidence,
saying: "We will see how they turn out."
- 10. Those who have the spirit of prayer know when the blessing
comes. It was just so when Jesus Christ appeared. Those ungodly doctors did not know
Him. Why? Because they were not praying for the redemption of Israel. But Simeon
and Anna knew Him. How was that? Mark what they said, how they prayed, and how they
lived. They were praying in faith, and so they were not surprised when He came (Luke
2:25-38). So it is with the Christians of whom I speak. If sinners are convicted
or converted, they are not surprised at it. They are expecting just such things.
They know God when He comes, because they are looking out for His visits.
- 11. There are three classes of persons in the Church who
are liable to error, or have left the truth out of view, on this subject.
- (a) Those who place great reliance on prayer, and
use no other means.
They are alarmed at any special means, and talk about your "getting up a revival."
(b) Over against these are those who use means, and pray, but never think
about the influences of the Spirit in prayer. They talk about prayer for the Spirit,
and feel the importance of the Spirit in the conversion to sinners, but do not realize
the importance of the Spirit in prayer. And their prayers are all cold talk, nothing
that anybody can feel, or that can take hold of God.
(c) Those who have certain strange notions about the Sovereignty of God, and
are waiting for God to convert the world without prayer or means.
There must be in the Church a deeper sense of the need of the spirit of prayer. The
fact is, that, generally, those who use means most assiduously, and make the most
strenuous efforts for the salvation of men, and who have the most correct notions
of the manner in which means should be used for converting sinners, also pray most
for the Spirit of God, and wrestle most with God for His blessing. And what is the
Let facts speak, and say whether these persons do or do not pray, and whether the
Spirit of God does not testify to their prayers, and follow their labors with His
- 12. Nothing will produce an excitement and opposition so
quickly as the spirit of prayer. If any person should feel burdened with the case
of sinners, so as to groan in his prayer, some become nervous, and he is visited
at once with rebuke and opposition! From my soul I abhor all affectation of feeling
where none exists, and all attempts to work one's self up into feeling, by groans.
But I feel bound to defend the position, that there is such a thing as being in a
state of mind in which there is but one way to keep from groaning; and that is, by
resisting the Holy Ghost. I was once present where this subject was discussed. It
was said that "groaning ought to be discountenanced." The question was
asked, in reply: Whether God cannot produce such a state of feeling, that to abstain
from groaning is impossible? The answer was: "Yes, but He never does."
Then the apostle Paul was egregiously deceived when he wrote about groanings that
cannot be uttered. Edwards was deceived when he wrote his book upon revivals.
- Revivals are all in the dark. Now, no man who reviews the
history of the Church will adopt such a sentiment. I do not like this attempt to
shut out, or stifle, or keep down, or limit, the spirit of prayer. I would sooner
cut off my right hand than rebuke the spirit of prayer, as I have heard of its being
done by saying: "Do not let me hear any more groaning!"
I hardly know where to end this subject. I should like to discuss it a month, indeed,
till the whole Church could understand it, so as to pray the prayer of faith. Beloved,
I want to ask you: Do you believe all this? Or do you wonder that I should talk so?
Perhaps some of you have had some glimpses of these things. Now, will you give yourselves
up to prayer, and live so as to have the spirit of prayer, and have the Spirit with
you all the time? Oh, for a praying Church! I once knew a minister who had a revival
fourteen winters in succession. I did not know how to account for it, till I saw
one of his members get up in a prayer meeting and make a confession.
"Brethren," said he, "I have been long in the habit of praying every
Saturday night till after midnight, for the descent of the Holy Ghost among us. And
now, brethren," and he began to weep, "I confess that I have neglected
it for two or three weeks." The secret was out. That minister had a praying
Church. Brethren, in my present state of health, I find it impossible to pray as
much as I have been in the habit of doing, and yet continue to preach. It overcomes
my strength. Now, shall I give myself up to prayer, and stop preaching? That will
not do. Now, will not you, who are in health, throw yourselves into this work, and
bear this burden, and give yourselves to prayer, till God shall pour out His blessing
ON BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
Be filled with the Spirit.
- Ephesians 5:18.
Several of my Lectures have been on the subject of Prayer, and the importance of
having the spirit of prayer - of the intercession of the Holy Ghost. Whenever the
necessity and importance of the Spirit's influences are held forth, there can be
no doubt that persons are in danger of abusing the doctrine, and perverting it to
their own injury. For instance: when you tell sinners that without the Holy Spirit
they never will repent, they are very liable to pervert the truth, and understand
by it that they cannot repent, and therefore are under no obligation to do it until
they feel the Spirit. It is often difficult to make them see that all the "cannot"
consists in their unwillingness, and not in their inability. So again, when we tell
Christians that they need the Spirit's aid in prayer, they are very apt to think
they are under no obligation to pray the prayer of faith until they feel the influences
of the Spirit. They overlook their obligation to be filled with the Spirit, and wait
for the spirit of prayer to come upon them without asking, and thus they tempt God.
Before we come to consider the other department of means for promoting a revival
- that is, the means to be used with sinners - I wish to show that, if you live without
the Spirit, you are without excuse. Obligation to perform duty never rests on the
condition that we shall have the influence of the Spirit, but on the powers of moral
agency. We, as moral agents, have the power to obey God, and are perfectly bound
to obey; and the reason that we do not is, that we are unwilling. The influences
of the Spirit are wholly a matter of grace. If they were indispensable to enable
us to perform duty, the bestowment of them would not be a gracious act, but a mere
matter of common justice. Sinners are not bound to repent because they have the Spirit's
influence, or because they can obtain it, but because they are moral agents, and
have the powers which God requires them to exercise. So in the case of Christians.
They are not bound to pray in faith because they have the Spirit (except in those
cases where His influences in begetting the desire constitute the evidence that it
is God's will to grant the object of desire), but because they have evidence. They
are not bound to pray in faith at all, except when they have evidence as the foundation
of their faith. They must have evidence from promises, or principles, or prophecy,
or providence. And where they have evidence independent of His influences, they are
bound to exercise faith, whether they have the Spirit's influence or not. They are
bound to see the evidence, and to believe. The Spirit is given, not to enable them
to see or believe, but because without the Spirit they will not look, or feel, or
act, as they ought.
I purpose to show, from the text:
I. That Christians may be filled with the Spirit of God
II. That it is their duty to be filled with the Spirit.
III. Why they are not filled with the Spirit.
IV. The guilt of those who have not the Spirit of God, to lead their minds in duty
V. The consequence that will follow if they are filled with the Spirit.
VI. The consequences if they are not.
I. YOU MAY HAVE THE SPIRIT.
Not because it is a matter of justice for God to give you His Spirit, but because
He has promised to give His Spirit to those that ask. "If ye then, being evil,
know how to give good gifts unto your children: how much more shall your heavenly
Father give the Holy Spirit to them that ask Him?" (Luke 11:13) If you ask for
the Holy Spirit, God has promised to answer.
But again, God has commanded you to have the Spirit. He says in the text: "Be
filled with the Spirit." When God commands us to do a thing, it is the highest
possible evidence that we can do it. For God to command is equivalent to an oath
that we can do it. He has no right to command, unless we have power to obey. There
is no stopping short of the conclusion that God is tyrannical, if He commands that
which is impracticable.
II. IT IS YOUR DUTY TO BE FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
- 1. It is your duty because you have a promise of it.
- 2. Because God has commanded it.
- 3. It is essential to your own growth in grace that you
should be filled with the Spirit.
- 4. It is as important as it is that you should be sanctified.
- 5. It is as necessary as it is that you should be useful
and do good in the world.
- 6. If you do not have the Spirit of God in you, you will
dishonor God, disgrace the Church, and be lost.
III. WHY MANY DO NOT HAVE THE SPIRIT.
There are some, even professors of religion, who will say: "I do not know anything
about all this, I never had any such experience; either it is not true, or I am all
wrong." No doubt you are all wrong, if you know nothing about the influence
of the Spirit. I want to present you with a few of the reasons that may prevent you
from being filled with the Spirit.
- 1. It may be that you live a hypocritical life. Your prayers
are not earnest and sincere. Not only is your religion a mere outside show, without
any heart, but you are insincere in your intercourse with others. Thus you do many
things to grieve the Spirit, so that He cannot dwell with you.
- A minister was once boarding in a certain family, and the
lady of the house was constantly complaining that she did not "enjoy" religion,
and nothing seemed to help her. One day some ladies called to see her, and, protesting
that she was very much offended because they had not called before, she pressed them
to stay and spend the day, and declared she could not consent to let them go. They
excused themselves, and left the house; and as soon as they were gone she told her
servant that she wondered these people had so little sense as to be always troubling
her and taking up her time! The minister heard it, and immediately rebuked her, and
told her she ought to see why she did not "enjoy" religion. It was because
she was in the daily habit of insincerity that amounted to downright lying. And the
Spirit of Truth could not dwell in such a heart.
- 2. Others have so much levity that the Spirit will not
dwell with them.
- The Spirit of God is solemn, and serious, and will not
dwell with those who give way to thoughtless levity.
- 3. Others are so proud that they cannot have the Spirit.
They are so fond of dress, high life, equipage, fashion, etc., that it is no wonder
they are not filled with the Spirit. And yet such persons will pretend to be at a
loss to know why it is that they do not "enjoy" religion!
- 4. Some are so worldly minded, love property so well, and
are trying so hard to get rich, that they cannot have the Spirit. How can He dwell
with them when all their thoughts are on things of the world, and all their powers
absorbed in procuring wealth? And when they get money they are pained if pressed
by conscience to do something with it for the conversion of the world. They show
how much they love the world in all their intercourse with others. Little things
show it. They will screw down a poor man, who is doing a little piece of work for
them, to the lowest penny. If they are dealing on a large scale, very likely they
will be liberal and fair, because it is for their advantage. But if it is a person
they care not about a laborer, or a mechanic, or a servant - they will grind him
down to the last fraction, no matter what the work is really worth; and they actually
pretend to make it a matter of conscience, that they cannot possibly give any more.
Now, they would be ashamed to deal so with people of their own rank, because it would
be known and injure their reputation; but God knows it, and has it all written down,
that they are covetous and unfair in their dealings, and will not do right, only
when it is for their interest. Now, how can such professors have the Spirit of God?
It is impossible.
- There are multitudes of such things, by which the Spirit
of God is grieved. People call them "little" sins, but God will not call
them little. I was struck with this thought, when I saw a little notice in The Evangelist.
The publishers stated that they had many thousands of dollars in the hands of subscribers,
which sums were justly due, but that it would cost them as much as it was worth to
send an agent to collect the money. I suppose it is so with other religious papers,
that subscribers either put the publisher to the trouble and expense of sending an
agent to collect his due, or else they cheat him out of it. There is, doubtless,
a large amount of money held back in this way by professors of religion, just because
it is in such small sums, or because they are so far off that they cannot be sued.
And yet these people will pray, and appear very pious, and wonder why they do not
"enjoy" religion, and have the Spirit of God! It is this looseness of moral
principle, this want of conscience about little matters, that grieves away the Holy
- 5. Others do not fully confess and forsake their sins,
and so cannot enjoy the Spirit's presence. They will confess their sins in general
terms, perhaps, and are ready always to acknowledge that they are sinners. Or they
will confess partially some particular sins. But they do it reservedly, proudly,
guardedly, as if they were afraid they should say a little more than is necessary;
that is, when they confess to men. They do it in a way which shows that, instead
of bursting forth from an ingenuous heart, the confession is wrung from them, by
conscience gripping them. If they have injured any one, they will make a partial
recantation, which is hard-hearted, cruel, and hypocritical, and then they will ask:
"Now, brother, are you satisfied?" We know that it is very difficult for
a person who has been wronged to say, in such a case, that he is not satisfied even
if the confession is cold and heartless. But I tell you, God is not satisfied.
- He knows whether you have gone to the full length of honest
confession, and taken all the blame that belongs to you. If your confessions have
been constrained and wrung from you, do you suppose you can cheat God?
"He that covereth his sins shall not prosper: but who so confesseth and forsaketh
them shall have mercy" (Proverbs 28:13). "He that humbleth himself shall
be exalted" (Luke 14:11). Unless you come quite down, and confess your sins
honestly, and remunerate where you have done injury, you have no right to expect
the spirit of prayer.
- 6. Others are neglecting some known duty, and that is the
reason why they have not the Spirit. One does not pray in his family, though he knows
he ought to do so, and yet he is trying to get the spirit of prayer!
- There is many a young man who feels in his heart he ought
to prepare for the ministry, but who has not the spirit of prayer because he has
some worldly object in view which prevents his devoting himself to the work.
He has known his duty, refuses to do it, and yet is praying for direction from the
Spirit of God! He cannot have it.
Another has neglected to make a profession of religion. He knows his duty, but he
refuses to join the Church. He once had the spirit of prayer, but, neglecting his
duty, he grieved the Spirit away. And now he thinks, if he could once more enjoy
the light of God's countenance, and have his evidences renewed, he would do his duty,
and join the Church. And so he is trying to bring God over to his terms, to grant
him His presence. He need not expect it. You will live and die in darkness, unless
you are willing first to do your duty, before God manifests Himself as reconciled
It is in vain to say, you will come forward if God will first show you the light
of His countenance. He never will do it as long as you live; He will let you die
without it, if you refuse to do your duty.
I have known women who felt that they ought to talk to their unconverted husbands,
and pray with them; but they neglected it, and so they got into the dark. They knew
their duty and refused to do it; they "went round it," and there they lost
the spirit of prayer.
If you have neglected any known duty, and thus lost the spirit of prayer, you must
yield first. God has a controversy with you; you have refused obedience to God, and
you must retract. You may have forgotten it, but God has not, and you must set yourself
to recall it to mind and repent.
God never will yield or grant you His Spirit, till you repent. Had I an omniscient
eye now, I could call the names of the individuals in this congregation, who have
neglected some known duty, or committed some sin, that they have not repented of,
and now they are praying for the spirit of prayer, but they cannot succeed in obtaining
To illustrate this I will relate a case. A good man - an elder in the western part
of this State, had been a long time an earnest Christian, and he used to talk to
the sleepy Church with which he was connected. Presently the Church grew offended
and got out of patience, so that many told him they wished he would let them alone,
and that they did not think he could do them any good. He took them at their word,
and they all "went to sleep" together, remaining so two or three years.
Then a minister came among them, and a revival commenced; but this elder seemed to
have lost his spirituality. He who used to be forward in a good work now held back.
Everybody thought it unaccountable. Finally, as he was going home one night, the
truth of his situation flashed upon his mind, and, for a few minutes, he went into
absolute despair. At length his thoughts were directed back to that sinful resolution
to let the Church alone in her sins.
He felt that no language could describe the blackness of that sin. He realized at
that moment what it was to be lost, and to find that God had a controversy with him.
He saw that it was a bad spirit which had led him to that weak resolution; the same
that caused Moses to say: "Ye rebels" (Numbers 20:10). He humbled himself
on the spot, and God poured out His Spirit on him. Perhaps some of you are just in
this situation. You have said something provoking or unkind to some person. Perhaps
it was peevishness to a servant who was a Christian. Or perhaps it was speaking censoriously
of a minister or some other person. Perhaps you have been angry because your opinions
have not been taken, or your dignity has been encroached upon. Search thoroughly,
and see if you cannot find out the sin. Perhaps you have forgotten it. But God has
not forgotten it, and never will forgive your unchristian conduct until you repent.
God cannot overlook it. What good would it do to forgive while the sin is rankling
in your heart?
- 7. Perhaps you have resisted the Spirit of God. Perhaps
you are in the habit of resisting the Spirit. You resist conviction. In preaching,
when something has been said that reached your case, your heart has risen up against
it. Many are willing to hear plain and searching preaching, so long as they can apply
it all to other people; a misanthropic spirit makes them take a satisfaction in hearing
others searched and rebuked; but, if the truth touches them, they directly cry out
that the preaching is "personal" and "abusive." Is this your
- 8. The fact is that you do not, on the whole, desire the
Spirit. This is true in every case in which you do not have the Spirit. Let me not
be mistaken here. I want that you should carefully discriminate. Nothing is more
common than for people to desire a thing on some accounts, which they do not choose
on the whole. A person may see, in a shop window, an article which he desires to
purchase; accordingly he goes in and asks the price, and thinks of it a little, yet
on the whole concludes not to purchase it. He desires the article, but does not like
the price, or does not like to be at the expense, so that, upon the whole, he prefers
not to purchase it. So, persons may on some accounts desire the Spirit of God; from
a regard to the comfort and joy of heart which He brings. If you know what it is
by former experience to commune with God, and how sweet it is to dissolve in penitence
and to be filled with the Spirit, you cannot but desire a return of those joys. And
you may set yourself to pray earnestly for it, and to pray for a revival of religion.
But, on the whole, you are unwilling it should come. You have so much to do that
you cannot attend to it. Or it will require so many sacrifices that you cannot bear
to have it. There are some things you are not willing to give up. You find that if
you wish to have the Spirit of God dwell with you, you must lead a different life;
you must give up the world; you must make sacrifices; you must break off from your
worldly associates, and make confession of your sins. And so, on the whole, you do
not wish to have the Spirit come, unless He will consent to dwell with you and let
you live as you please. But that He will never do.
- 9. Perhaps you do not pray for the Spirit; or you pray
and use no other means, or pray and do not act consistently with your prayers. Or
you use means calculated to resist them. Or you ask, and as soon as He comes and
begins to affect your mind, you grieve Him right away, and will not walk with Him.
IV. THE GREAT GUILT OF NOT HAVING THE SPIRIT.
- 1. Your guilt is just as great as the authority of God
is great, which commands you: "Be filled with the Spirit. God commands it, and
it is just as much a disobedience of God's commands, as it would be to swear profanely,
or steal, or commit adultery, or break the Sabbath. Think of that. And yet there
are many people who do not blame themselves at all for not having the Spirit. They
even think themselves quite pious Christians, because they go to prayer meetings,
and partake of the sacrament, and all that, though they live year after year without
the Spirit of God. Now you see that the same God who says: "Do not get drunk,"
says also: "Be filled with the Spirit."
- You all say, if a man is a habitual murderer, or a thief,
he is no Christian.
Why? Because he lives in habitual disobedience to God. So, if he swears, you have
no charity for him. You will not allow him to plead that his heart is right, and
that words are nothing; that God does not care anything about words. You would think
it outrageous to have such a man in the Church, or to have a company of such people
pretend to call themselves a Christian Church. And yet they are not a whit more absolutely
living in disobedience to God than you are, who live without the spirit of prayer
and without the presence of God.
- 2. Your guilt is equal to all the good you might do if
you were possessed by the Spirit of God in as great a measure as it is your duty
to be, and as you might be. You, elders of this Church, how much good might you do
if you had the Spirit! And you, Sunday school teachers, how much good you might do;
and you, Church members, too, if you were filled with the Spirit you might do vast
good, infinite good. Well, your guilt is just as great.
- Here is a blessing promised, and you can have it by doing
your duty. You are entirely responsible to the Church and to God for all this good
that you might do. A man is responsible for all the good he can do.
- 3. Your guilt is further measured by all the evil which
you do in consequence of not having the Spirit. You are a dishonor to religion. You
are a stumbling block to the Church, and to the world; and your guilt is enhanced
by all the various influences you exert. And it will prove so in the Day of Judgment.
V. THE CONSEQUENCES OF HAVING THE SPIRIT.
- 1. You will be called eccentric; and probably you will
deserve it. Probably you will really be eccentric. I never knew a person who was
filled with the Spirit that was not called eccentric. And the reason is that such
people are unlike other folk. There is therefore the best of reasons why such persons
should appear eccentric. They act under different influences, take different views,
are moved by different motives, led by a different spirit. You are to expect such
remarks. How often I have heard the remark respecting such-and-such persons: "He
is a good man - but he is rather eccentric." I have sometimes asked for the
particulars; in what does his eccentricity consist? I hear the catalogue, and it
amounts to this, that he is spiritual.
- Make up your mind for this, to be "eccentric."
There is such a thing as affected eccentricity. Horrible! But there is such a thing
as being so deeply imbued with the Spirit of God that you must and will act so as
to appear strange and eccentric, to those who cannot understand the reasons of your
- 2. If you have much of the Spirit of God, it is not unlikely
you will be thought deranged, by many. We judge men to be deranged when they act
differently from what we think to be according to prudence and common sense, and
when they come to conclusions for which we can see no good reasons. Paul was accused
of being deranged by those who did not understand the views of things under which
he acted. No doubt Festus thought the man was crazy, that "much learning had
made him mad." But Paul said: "I am not mad, most noble Festus" (Acts
26:24, 25). His conduct was so strange, so novel, that Festus thought it must be
- But the truth simply was, he saw the subject so clearly
that he threw his whole soul into it. Festus and the rest were entirely in the dark
in respect to the motive by which he was actuated. This is by no means uncommon.
Multitudes have appeared, to those who had no spirituality, as if they were deranged.
Yet they saw good reasons for doing as they did. God was leading their minds to act
in such a way that those who were not spiritual could not see the reasons. You must
make up your mind to this, and so much the more, as you live the more above the world
and walk with God.
- 3. If you have the Spirit of God, you must expect to feel
great distress in view of the condition of the Church and of the world. Some spiritual
epicures ask for the Spirit because they think He will make them so perfectly happy.
Some people think that spiritual Christians are always free from sorrow. There never
was a greater mistake. Read your Bibles, and see how the prophets and apostles were
always groaning and distressed, in view of the state of the Church and of the world.
The apostle Paul says he was "always bearing about in the body the dying of
the Lord Jesus" (2 Corinthians 4:10). "I protest," says he, "I
die daily" (1 Corinthians 15:31). You will know what it is to sympathize with
the Lord Jesus Christ, and be baptized with the baptism that He was baptized with.
Oh, how He agonized in view of the state of sinners! How He travailed in soul for
their salvation! The more you have of His spirit, the more clearly will you see the
state of sinners, and the more deeply you will be distressed about them. Many times
you will feel as if you could not live in view of their situation; your distress
will be unutterable.
- 4. You will be often grieved with the state of the ministry.
Some years since I met a woman belonging to one of the Churches in this city. I inquired
of her the state of religion here. She seemed unwilling to say much about it, made
some general remarks, and then choked, and her eyes filled, and she said: "Oh,
our minister's mind seems to be very dark!" Spiritual Christians often feel
like this, and often weep over it. I have seen much of it, having often found Christians
who wept and groaned in secret, to see the darkness in the minds of ministers in
regard to religion, the earthliness, and fear of man; but they dared not speak of
it lest they should be denounced and threatened, and perhaps turned out of the Church.
I do not say these things censoriously, to reproach my brethren, but because they
are true. And ministers ought to know that nothing is more common than for spiritual
Christians to feel burdened and distressed at the state of the ministry. I would
not wake up any wrong feelings towards ministers, but it is time it should be known
that Christians do often get spiritual views of things, and their souls are kindled
up, and then they find that their minister does not enter into their feelings, that
he is far below the Standard of what he ought to be, and in spirituality is far below
some of the members of his Church.
- This is one of the most prominent and deeply-to-be-deplored
evils of the present day. The piety of the ministry, though real, is so superficial,
in many instances, that the spiritual people of the Church feel that ministers do
not, cannot, sympathize with them, The preaching does not meet their wants; it does
not feed them. The ministers have not depth enough of religious experience to know
how to search and wake up the Church; how to help those under temptation, to support
the weak, to direct the strong.
When a minister has gone with a Church as far as his experience in spiritual exercises
goes, there he stops; and until he has a renewed experience, until he is reconverted,
his heart broken up afresh, and he set forward in the Divine life and Christian experience,
he will help them no more. He may preach sound doctrine, and so may an unconverted
minister; but, after all, his preaching will want that searching pungency, that practical
bearing, that unction which alone will reach the case of a spiritually minded Christian.
It is a fact over which the Church is groaning, that the piety of young men suffers
so much in the course of their education, that when they enter the ministry, however
much intellectual furniture they may possess, they are in a state of spiritual babyhood.
They want nursing; they need rather to be fed, than to undertake to feed the Church
- 5. If you have much of the Spirit of God, you must make
up your mind to have much opposition, both in the Church and the world. Very likely
the leading men in the Church will oppose you. There has always been opposition in
the Church. So it was when Christ was on earth. If you are far above their state
of feeling, Church members will oppose you. If any man will live godly in Christ
Jesus, he must expect persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). Often the elders and even the
minister will oppose you, if you are filled with the Spirit of God.
- 6. You must expect very frequent and agonizing conflicts
with Satan. Satan has very little trouble with those Christians who are not spiritual,
but lukewarm, and slothful, and worldly-minded. And such do not understand what is
said about spiritual conflicts. Perhaps they will smile when such things are mentioned.
And so the devil lets them alone. They do not disturb him, nor he them. But spiritual
Christians, he understands very well, are doing him a vast injury, and therefore
he sets himself against them. Such Christians often have terrible conflicts. They
have temptations that they never thought of before: blasphemous thoughts, atheism,
suggestions to do deeds of wickedness, to destroy their own lives, and the like.
And if you are spiritual you may expect these terrible conflicts.
- 7. You will have greater conflicts with yourself than you
ever thought of.
- You will sometimes find your own corruptions making strange
headway against the Spirit. "The flesh lusteth against the Spirit, and the Spirit
against the flesh" (Galatians 5:17). Such a Christian is often thrown into consternation
at the power of his own corruptions. One of the Commodores in the United States Navy
was, as I have been told, a spiritual man; his pastor told me he had known that man
lie on the floor and groan a great part of the night, in conflict with his own corruptions,
and to cry to God, in agony, that He would break the power of the temptation. It
seemed as if the devil was determined to ruin him, and his own heart, for the time
being, was almost in league with the devil.
- 8. But, you will have peace with God. If the Church, and
sinners, and the devil, oppose you, there will be One with whom you will have peace.
Let you who are called to these trials. and conflicts. and temptations, and who groan,
and pray, and weep, and break your hearts, remember this consideration: your peace,
so far as your feelings towards God are concerned, will flow like a river.
- 9. You will likewise have peace of conscience, if you are
led by the Spirit.
- You will not be constantly goaded and kept on the rack
by a guilty conscience. Your conscience will be calm and quiet, unruffled as the
- 10. If filled with the Spirit, you will be useful. You
cannot help being useful. Even if you were sick and unable to go out of your room,
or to converse, and saw nobody, you would be ten times more useful than a hundred
of those common sort of Christians who have no spirituality. To give you an idea
of this, I will relate an anecdote. A pious man in the western part of this State,
was suffering from consumption. He was a poor man, and was ill for years. An unconverted
merchant in the place, who had a kind heart, used to send him now and then some things
for his comfort, or for his family. He felt grateful for the kindness, but could
make no return, as he wanted to do. At length he determined that the best return
he could make would be to pray for the man's salvation. So he began to pray, and
his soul kindled, and he got hold of God. No revival was taking place there, but,
by and by, to the astonishment of everybody, this merchant came right out on the
Lord's side. The fire kindled all over the place; a powerful revival followed, and
multitudes were converted.
- This poor man lingered in this way for several years, and
died. After his death, I visited the place, and his widow put into my hands his diary.
Among other entries was this: "I am acquainted with about thirty ministers and
Churches." He then went on to set apart certain hours in the day and week to
pray for each of these ministers and Churches, and also certain seasons for praying
for different missionary stations. Then followed, under different dates, such facts
as these: "Today I have been enabled to offer what I call the prayer of faith
for the outpouring of the Spirit on - Church, and I trust in God there will soon
be a revival there."
Under another date he had written: "I have today been able to offer what I call
the prayer of faith for - Church, and trust there will soon be a revival there."
Thus he had gone over a great number of Churches, recording the fact that he had
prayed for them in faith that a revival might soon prevail among them.
Of the missionary stations, if I recollect right, he mentioned in particular one
at Ceylon. I believe the last place mentioned in his diary, for which he offered
the prayer of faith, was the place in which he lived. Not long after, the revival
commenced, and went over the region of country, nearly, I believe, if not quite,
in the order in which the places had been mentioned in his diary; and in due time
news came from Ceylon that there was a revival of religion there. The revival in
his own town did not commence till after his death. Its commencement was at the time
when his widow put into my hands the document to which I have referred. She told
me that he was so exercised in prayer during his sickness, that she often feared
he would "pray himself to death." The revival was exceedingly great and
powerful in all the region, and the fact that it was about to prevail had not been
hidden from this servant of the Lord. According to His Word, "the secret of
the Lord is with them that fear Him" (Psalm 25:14). Thus, this man, too feeble
in body to go out of his house, was yet more useful to the world and the Church of
God than all the heartless professors in the country. Standing between God and the
desolations of Zion, and pouring out his heart in believing prayer, "as a prince
he had power with God and with men, and prevailed" (Genesis 32:28).
- 11. If you are filled with the Spirit, you will not find
yourselves distressed, and galled, and worried, when people speak against you. When
I find people irritated and fretting at any little thing that touches them, I am
sure they have not the Spirit of Christ. Jesus Christ could have everything said
against Him that malice could invent, and yet not be in the least disturbed by it.
If you mean to be meek under persecution, and exemplify the temper of the Savior,
and honor religion in this way, you need to be filled with the Spirit.
- 12. You will be wise in using means for the conversion
of sinners. If the Spirit of God is in you, He will lead you to use means wisely,
in a way adapted to the end, and to avoid doing hurt. No man who is not filled with
the Spirit of God is fit to be employed in directing the measures adopted in a revival.
His hands will be "all thumbs," unable to take hold, and he will act as
if he had not common sense. But a man who is led by the Spirit of God will know how
to time his measures aright, and how to apportion Divine truth so as to make it tell
to the best advantage.
- 13. You will be calm under affliction; not thrown into
confusion or consternation when you see the storm coming over you. People around
will be astonished at your calmness and cheerfulness under heavy trials, not knowing
the inward supports of those who are filled with the Spirit.
- 14. You will be resigned in death; you will always feel
prepared to die, and not afraid to die; and after death you will be proportionately
more happy for ever in heaven.
VI. THE CONSEQUENCES OF NOT BEING FILLED WITH THE SPIRIT.
- 1. You will often doubt, in such a case, and reasonably
so whether you are a Christian. You will have doubts, and you ought to have them,
for the sons of God are led by the Spirit of God, and if you are not led by the Spirit,
what reason have you to think that you are a son? You will try to make a little evidence
go a great way to bolster up your hopes; but you cannot do it, unless your conscience
is seared as with a hot iron. You cannot help being plunged often into painful doubt
about your state (Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5).
- 2. You will always be unsettled in your views about the
prayer of faith.
- The prayer of faith is something so spiritual, so much
a matter of experience and not of speculation, that unless you are spiritual yourselves
you will not understand it fully. You may talk a great deal about the prayer of faith,
and for the time get thoroughly convinced regarding it. But you will never feel so
settled on it as to retain the same position of mind concerning it, and in a little
while you will be all uncertainty again. I knew a curious instance in a brother minister.
He told me: "When I have the Spirit of God and enjoy His presence, I believe
firmly in the prayer of faith; but when I have Him not, I find myself doubting whether
there is any such thing, and my mind is full of objections." I know, from my
own experience, what this is, and when I hear persons raising objections to that
view of prayer which I have presented in these Lectures, I understand very well what
their difficulty is, and have often found it impossible to satisfy their minds, while
they are so far from God; when, at the same time, they would understand it themselves
without argument, whenever they experienced it.
- 3. If you have not the Spirit, you will be very apt to
stumble at those who have. You will doubt the propriety of their conduct. If they
seem to feel a good deal more than yourself, you will be likely to call it "animal
- You will perhaps doubt their sincerity when they say they
have such feelings You will say: "I don't know what to make of Brother Such-a-one;
he seems to be very pious, but I do not understand him, I think he has a great deal
of animal feeling." Thus you will be trying to censure them, for the purpose
of justifying yourself.
- 4. You will be had in reputation with the impenitent, and
with carnal professors. They will praise you, as "a rational, orthodox, consistent
Christian." You will be just in the frame of mind to walk with them, because
you are agreed.
- 5. You will be much troubled with fears about fanaticism.
Whenever there are revivals, you will see in them "a strong tendency to fanaticism,"
and will be full of fears and anxiety.
- 6. You will be much disturbed by the measures that are
used in revivals. If any measures are adopted, that are decided and direct, you will
think they are all "new," and will stumble at them just in proportion to
your want of spirituality. You do not see their appropriateness. You will stand and
cavil at the measures, because you are so blind that you cannot see their adaptedness,
while all heaven is rejoicing in them as the means of saving souls.
- 7. You will be a reproach to religion. The impenitent will
sometimes praise you because you are so much like themselves, and sometimes laugh
about you because you are such a hypocrite.
- 8. You will know but little about the Bible.
- 9. If you die without the Spirit, you will fall into hell.
There can be no doubt about this. Without the Spirit you will never be prepared for
- 1. Christians are as guilty for not having the Spirit,
as sinners are for not repenting.
- 2. They are even more so. As they have more light, they
are so much the more guilty.
- 3. All beings have a right to complain of Christians who
have not the Spirit. You are not doing work for God, and He has a right to complain.
He has placed His Spirit at your disposal, and if you have not the Spirit, God has
a right to look to you and to hold you responsible for all the good you might otherwise
do. You are sinning against all heaven, for you ought to be adding to the happy ranks
of the redeemed. Sinners, the Church, and ministers, all have a right to complain.
- 4. You are an obstacle in the way of the work of the Lord.
It is in vain for a minister to try to work over your head. Ministers often groan
and struggle, and wear themselves out in vain, trying to do good where there is a
people who live so that they do not have the Spirit of God. If the Spirit is poured
out at any time, the Church will grieve Him right away. Thus, you may tie the hands
and break the heart of your minister, and break him down, and perhaps kill him, because
you will not be filled with the Spirit.
- 5. You see the reason why Christians need the Spirit, and
the degree of their dependence upon Him.
- 6. Do not tempt God by "waiting" for His Spirit,
while using no means to procure His presence.
- 7. If you mean to have the Spirit, you must be childlike,
and yield to His influences - just as yielding as air. If He is drawing you to prayer,
you must quit everything to yield to His gentle strivings. No doubt you have sometimes
felt a desire to pray for some object, and you have put it off and resisted, until
God left you. If you wish Him to remain, you must yield to His softest leadings,
watch to learn what He would have you do and yield yourself up to His guidance.
- 8. Christians ought to be willing to make any sacrifice
to enjoy the presence of the Spirit. Said a woman in high life (a professor of religion):
"I must either give up hearing such-and-such a minister [naming him] preach,
or I must give up my gay company." She gave up the preaching and stayed away.
How different from another case - that of a woman in the same rank of life - who
heard the same minister preach, and went home resolved to abandon her gay and worldly
manner of life. She changed her whole mode of dress, of equipage, of living, and
of conversation; so that her gay and worldly friends were soon willing to leave her
to the enjoyment of communion with God, and free to spend her time in doing good.
- 9. You see from this, that it must be very difficult for
those in fashionable life to go to heaven. What a calamity to be in such circles!
Who can enjoy the presence of God in them?
- 10. See how crazy those are who are scrambling to get up
to these circles, enlarging their houses, changing their style of living, their dress,
and their furniture. It is like climbing up to the mast-head to be thrown off into
the ocean. To enjoy God, you must come down, not go up there. God is not there, among
all the starch and flattery of high life.
- 11. Many professors of religion are as ignorant of spirituality
as Nicodemus was of the New Birth. They are ignorant, and I fear unconverted. If
anybody talks to them about the spirit of prayer, it is all algebra to them. The
case of such professors is awful. How different was the character of the apostles!
Read the history of their lives, read their letters, and you will see that they were
always spiritual, and walked daily with God. But now how little is there of such
religion! "When the Son of Man cometh, shall He find faith on the earth?"
(Luke 18:8.) Set some of these professors to work in a revival, and they do not know
what to do, for they have no energy, no skills and make no impression. When will
professors of religion set themselves to work, filled with the Spirit? If I could
see this Church filled with the Spirit, I would ask nothing more to move this whole
mighty mass of minds around us. Not two weeks would pass before the revival would
spread all over this city.
MEETINGS FOR PRAYER
Again I say unto you, That if two of you shall agree
on earth as touching anything that these shall ask, it shall be done for them of
My Father which is in heaven. - Matthew 18:19.
HITHERTO , in treating of the subject of PRAYER, I have confined my remarks to secret
prayer. I am now to speak of social prayer, or prayer offered in company, where two
or more are united in praying. Such meetings have been common from the time of Christ,
and it is probable that God's people have always been in the habit of making united
supplication, whenever they had the privilege. The propriety of the practice will
not be questioned here. I need not dwell now on the duty of social prayer. Nor is
it my design to discuss the question, whether any two Christians agreeing to ask
any blessing, will be sure to obtain it. My object is to make some remarks on Meetings
for Prayer, noting:
I. The design of prayer meetings.
II. The manner of conducting them.
III. Several things that will defeat the design of holding them.
I. THE DESIGNS OF PRAYER MEETINGS.
- 1. One design of assembling several persons together for
united prayer, is to promote union among Christians. Nothing tends more to cement
the hearts of Christians than praying together. Never do they love one another so
well as when they witness the outpouring of each other's hearts in prayer. Their
spirituality begets a feeling of union and confidence, highly important to the prosperity
of the Church. It is doubtful whether Christians can ever be otherwise than united,
if they are in the habit of really praying together. And where they have had hard
feelings and differences among themselves, these are all done away by uniting in
prayer. The great object is gained, if you can bring them really to unite in prayer;
if this can be done, the difficulties vanish.
- 2. To extend the spirit of prayer. God has so constituted
us, and such is the economy of His grace, that we are sympathetic beings, and communicate
our feelings to one another. A minister, for instance, will often, as it were, breathe
his own feelings into his congregation. The Spirit of God that inspires his soul,
makes use of his feelings to influence his hearers, just as much as He makes use
of the words he preaches. So He makes use of the feelings of Christians. Nothing
is more calculated to beget a spirit of prayer than to unite in social prayer with
one who has the spirit himself; unless this one should be so far ahead that his prayer
will repel the rest. His prayer will awaken them, if they are not so far behind as
to revolt at it and resist it. If they are anywhere near the standard of his feelings,
his spirit will kindle, and burn, and spread all around. One individual who obtains
the spirit of prayer will often arouse a whole Church, and extend the same spirit
through the whole, so that a general revival follows.
- 3. Another grand design of social prayer, is to move God.
Not that it changes the mind and feelings of God. When we speak of "moving"
God, as I have said in a former Lecture, we do not mean that prayer alters the will
of God. But when the right kind of prayer is offered by Christians, they are in such
a state of mind that it becomes proper for God to bestow a blessing. They are then
prepared to receive it, and He gives because He is always the same, and always ready
and happy to show mercy. When Christians are united, and praying as they ought, God
opens the windows of heaven, and pours out His blessing till there is not room to
receive it (Malachi 3:10).
- 4. Another important design of prayer meetings is the conviction
and conversion of sinners. When properly conducted, they are eminently calculated
to produce this effect. Sinners are apt to be solemn when they hear Christians pray.
Where there is a spirit of prayer, sinners must feel.
- An ungodly man (a universalist) once said respecting a
certain minister: "I can bear his preaching very well; but when he prays, I
feel awfully - as if God were coming down upon me." Sinners are often convicted
by hearing prayer. A young man of distinguished talents said, concerning a certain
minister to whom, before his conversion, he had been very much opposed:
"As soon as he began to pray, I began to be convicted; and if he had continued
to pray much longer, I should not have been able to hold myself back from Christ."
Just as soon as Christians begin to pray as they ought, sinners then know that they
pray, and begin to feel awfully. They do not understand what spirituality is, because
they have no experience of it. But when such prayer is offered, they know there is
something in it; they know God is in it, and it brings them near to God; it makes
them feel awfully solemn, and they cannot bear it. And not only is it calculated
to impress the minds of sinners, but when Christians pray in faith, the Spirit of
God is poured out, and sinners are melted down and converted on the spot.
II. THE MANNER OF CONDUCTING PRAYER MEETINGS.
- 1. It is often well to open a prayer meeting by reading
a short portion of the Word of God, especially if the person who takes the lead of
the meeting, can call to mind any portion that will be applicable to the object or
occasion, and that is impressive, and to the point. If he has no passage that is
applicable, he had better not read any at all. Do not drag in the Word of God to
make up part of the meeting as a mere matter of form.
- This is an insult to God. It is not well to read any more
than is applicable to the subject before the meeting or the occasion. Some people
think it always necessary to read a whole chapter, though it may be ever so long,
and have a variety of subjects. It is just as impressive and judicious to read a
whole chapter as it would be for a minister to take a whole chapter for his text,
when his object was to make some particular truth bear on the minds of his audience.
The design of a prayer meeting should be to bring Christians to the point, to pray
for a definite object. Wandering over a large field hinders and destroys this design.
- 2. It is proper that the person who leads should make some
short and appropriate remarks, calculated to explain the nature of prayer, and the
encouragements we have to pray, and to bring the object to be prayed for directly
before the minds of the people.
- A man can no more pray without having his thoughts concentrated
than he can do anything else. The person leading should therefore see to this, by
bringing up before their minds the object for which they came to pray. If they came
to pray for any object, he can do this. And if they did not, they had better go home.
It is of no use to stay there and mock God by pretending to pray when they have nothing
on earth to pray for.
After stating the object, he should bring up some promise or some principle, as the
ground of encouragement to expect an answer to their prayers. If there is any indication
of Providence, or any promise, or any principle in the Divine government, that affords
a ground of faith, let him call it to mind, and not let them be talking out of their
own hearts at random, without knowing any solid reason for expecting an answer. One
reason why prayer meetings mostly accomplish so little, is because there is so little
common sense exercised about them. Instead of looking round for some solid footing
on which to repose their faith, people come together and pour forth words, and neither
know nor care whether they have any reason to expect an answer. If they are going
to pray about anything concerning which there can be any doubt or any mistake, in
regard to the ground of faith, they should be shown the reason there is for believing
that their prayers will be heard and answered. It is easy to see that, unless something
like this is done, three-fourths of them will have no idea of what they are doing,
or of the ground on which they should expect to receive what they pray for.
- 3. In calling on persons to pray it is always desirable
to let things take their own course, wherever it is safe. If it can be left so with
safety, let those pray who are most inclined to pray. It sometimes happens that even
those who are ordinarily the most spiritual, and most proper to be called on, are
not, at the time, in a suitable frame; they may be cold and worldly, and only freeze
the meeting. But if you let those pray who desire to pray, you avoid this. But often
this cannot be done with safety, especially in large cities, where a prayer meeting
might be liable to be interrupted by those who have no business to pray; some fanatic
or crazy person, some hypocrite or enemy, who would only make a noise. In most places,
however, the course may be taken with perfect safety. Give up the meeting to the
Spirit of God. Those who desire to pray, let them pray. If the leader sees anything
that needs to be set right, let him remark, freely and kindly, and put it right,
and then go on again. Only he should be careful to time his remarks, so as not to
interrupt the flow of feeling, or to chill the meeting, or to turn the thoughts of
the people from the proper subject.
- 4. If it is necessary to name the individuals who are to
pray, it is best to call first on those who are most spiritual; and, if you do not
know who they are, then choose those whom you would naturally suppose to be most
"alive." If they pray at the outset, they will be likely to spread the
spirit of prayer through the meeting, and elevate the tone of the whole.
- Otherwise, if you call on those who are cold and lifeless,
they will be likely to diffuse a chill. The only hope of having an efficient prayer
meeting is when at least a part of the Church is spiritual, and infuses its spirit
into the rest. This is the very reason why it is often best to let things take their
course, for then those who have the most feeling are apt to pray first, and give
character to the meeting.
- 5. The prayers should always be very short. When individuals
suffer themselves to pray long they forget that they are only the mouth of the congregation,
and that the congregation cannot be expected to sympathize with them, so as to feel
united in prayer, if they are long and tedious, and go all around the world, and
pray for everything they can think of.
- Commonly, those who pray long in a meeting do so, not because
they have the spirit of prayer, but because they have not. Some men will spin out
a long prayer in telling God who and what He is, or they pray out a whole system
of divinity. Some preach; others exhort the people - till everybody wishes they would
stop, and God wishes so, too, most undoubtedly. They should keep to the point, and
pray for what they came to pray for, and not follow the imagination of their own
foolish hearts all over the universe.
- 6. Each one should pray for some one object. It is well
for every individual to have one object for prayer; two or more may pray for the
same thing, or each for a separate object. If the meeting is convened to pray for
some specific thing, let them all pray for that. If its object is more general, let
them select their subjects, according as they feel interested. If one feels particularly
disposed to pray for the Church, let him do it. If the next feels disposed to pray
for the Church, he may do so, too. Perhaps the next will feel inclined to pray for
sinners; let him do it, and as soon as he has got through let him stop. Whenever
a man has deep feeling, he always feels on some particular point, and if he prays
about that, he will speak out of the abundance of his heart, and then he will naturally
stop when he is done.
- 7. If, in the progress of the meeting, it becomes necessary
to change the object of prayer, let the leader state the fact, and explain it in
a few words.
- If the object is to pray for the Church, or for backsliders,
or sinners, or the heathen, let him state it plainly, and then turn it over and hold
it up before them, till he brings them to think and feel deeply before they pray.
Then he should state to them the grounds on which they may repose their faith in
regard to obtaining the blessings for which they pray, if any such statement is needed,
and so lead them right up to the Throne, and let them take hold of the hand of God.
This is according to the philosophy of the mind. People always do it for themselves
when they pray in secret, if they really mean to pray to any purpose. And so it should
be in prayer meetings.
- 8. It is important that the time should be fully occupied,
so as not to leave long seasons of silence, which make a bad impression, and chill
the meeting. I know that sometimes Churches have seasons of silent prayer.
- But in those cases they should be specially requested to
pray in silence, so that all may know why they are silent. This often has a most
powerful effect, where a few moments are spent by a whole congregation in silence,
while all lift up their thoughts to God. This is very different from having long
intervals of silence because there is nobody to pray. Every one feels that such a
silence is like the cold damp of death over the meeting.
- 9. It is exceedingly important that he who leads the meeting
should press sinners who may be present to immediate repentance. He should earnestly
urge the Christians who are present, to pray in such a way as to make sinners feel
that they are expected to repent immediately. This tends to inspire Christians with
compassion and love for souls. The remarks made to sinners are often like pouring
fire upon the hearts of Christians, to awaken them to prayer and effort for the conversion
of the unsaved. Let them see and feel the guilt and danger of sinners right among
them, and then they will pray.
III. THINGS WHICH MAY DEFEAT THE PRAYER MEETING.
- 1. When there is an unhappy want of confidence in the leader,
there is no hope of any good. Whatever may be the cause, whether he is to blame or
not, the very fact that he leads the meeting will cast a damp over it, and prevent
all good. I have witnessed it in Churches, where there was some offensive elder or
deacon (perhaps justly deemed offensive; perhaps not) set to lead, and the meeting
would die under his influence. If there is a want of confidence in regard to his
piety, or in his ability, or in his judgment, or in anything connected with the meeting,
everything he says or does will fall to the ground. The same thing often takes place
where the Church has lost confidence in the minister.
- 2. Where the leader lacks spirituality, there will be a
dryness and coldness in his remarks and prayers; everything will indicate his want
of unction, and his whole influence will be the very reverse of what it ought to
be. I have known Churches where a prayer meeting could not be sustained, and the
reason was not obvious, but those who understood the state of things knew that the
leader was so notorious for his want of spirituality that he would inevitably freeze
a prayer meeting to death. In many Churches the elders are so far from being spiritual
men that they always freeze a prayer meeting. And at the same time they are often
amazingly jealous for their dignity, and cannot bear to have anybody else lead the
meeting. If any member that is spiritual takes the lead, they will take him to task
for it, saying: "Why, you are not an elder; you ought not to lead a prayer meeting
in the presence of an elder!" And thus they stand in the way, while the whole
Church is suffering under their blighting influence.
- A man who knows he is not in a spiritual frame of mind
has no business to conduct a prayer meeting - he will kill it. There are two reasons.
First, he will have no spiritual discernment, and will know neither what to do, nor
when to do it. A person who is spiritual can see the movements of Providence, and
can feel the Spirit of God, and understand what He is leading them to pray for, so
as to time his subjects, and take advantage of the state of feeling among Christians.
He will not overthrow all the feeling in a meeting by introducing things that are
incongruous or ill-timed. He has spiritual discernment to understand the leadings
of the Spirit, and His workings on those who pray; and to follow on as the Spirit
leads. Suppose an individual leads who is not spiritual, that there are two or three
prayers, and the spirit of prayer arises, but the leader, having no spiritual discernment
to see it, makes some remarks on another point, or reads a piece out of some book
that is as far from the feeling of the meeting as the North Pole! What they are called
to pray for may be just as evident to the praying people present as if the Son of
God Himself had come into the meeting and named the subject; but the leader will
overthrow it all, because he is so stupid that he does not know the indications of
And then, if the leader is not spiritual, he will very likely be dull and dry in
his remarks, and in all his exercises. He will give out a long hymn in a dreamy manner,
and then read a long passage of Scripture, in a tone so cold that he will spread
a wintry pall over the meeting, and it will be dull, as long as his cold heart is
placed in front of the whole thing.
- 3. A want of suitable talents in the leader. If he is wanting
in the talents which are fitted to make a meeting useful, if he can say nothing,
or if his remarks are so out of the way as to produce levity or contempt, or if they
have nothing in them that will impress the mind, or are not guided by good sense,
or are not appropriate, he will injure the meeting. A man may be pious, but so weak
that his prayers do not edify, but rather disgust. When this is so, he had better
- 4. Sometimes the benefit of a prayer meeting is defeated
by a bad Spirit in the leader. For instance, where there is a revival, and great
opposition, if a leader gets up in a prayer meeting and speaks of instances of opposition,
and comments upon them, and thus diverts the meeting away from the object, he knows
not what spirit he is of. Its effect is always ruinous to a prayer meeting. Let a
minister in a revival come out and preach against the opposition, and he will infallibly
destroy the revival, and turn the hearts of Christians away from their proper object.
Let the man who is set to lead the Church be careful to guard his own spirit, lest
he should mislead the Church, and diffuse a wrong temper. The same will be true,
if any one who is called upon to speak or pray, introduces in his remarks or prayers
anything controversial, impertinent, unreasonable, unscriptural, ridiculous, or irrelevant.
Any of these things will quench the tender breathings of the spirit of prayer, and
destroy the meeting.
- 5. Persons coming late to the meeting. This is a very great
hindrance. When people have begun to pray, and their attention is fixed, and they
have shut their eyes and closed their ears, to keep out everything from their minds,
in the midst of a prayer somebody will come bolting in and walk through the room.
Some will look up, and all have their minds interrupted for the moment. Then they
all get fixed again, and another comes in, and so on. I suppose the devil would not
care how many Christians went to a prayer meeting, if they would only go after the
meeting had begun. He would be glad to have ever so many go "scattering along"
in such a way, dodging in very piously and distractingly.
- 6. When persons make cold prayers and cold confessions
of sin, they are sure to quench the spirit of prayer. When the influences of the
Spirit are enjoyed, in the midst of the warm expressions that are flowing forth,
let an individual come in who is cold, and pour out his cold breath like the damp
of death, and it will make every Christian who has any feeling want to get out of
- 7. In some places it is common to begin a prayer meeting
by reading a tong portion of Scripture. Then the deacon or elder gives out a long
hymn. Next, they sing it. Then he prays a long prayer, praying for the Jews, and
the fullness of the Gentiles, and many other objects that have nothing to do with
the occasion of the meeting. After that perhaps he reads a long extract from some
book or magazine. Then they have another long hymn and another long prayer, and then
they go home.
- I once heard an elder say that a Church had kept up a prayer
meeting so many years, and yet had experienced no revival. The truth was, that the
officers of the Church had been accustomed to carry on the meetings in just such
a dignified way, and their dignity would not allow anything to be altered. No wonder
there was no revival! Such prayer meetings are enough to hinder a revival. And if
ever so many revivals should commence, the prayer meeting would destroy them. There
was a prayer meeting once in this city, as I have been told, where there appeared
to be some feeling, and some one every reasonably proposed that they should have
two or three prayers in succession, without rising from their knees. One dignified
man present opposed it, and said that they never had done so, and he hoped there
would be no innovations! He did not approve of innovations. That was the last of
the revival! Such persons have their prayer meetings stereotyped, and are determined
not to turn out of their track, whether they receive blessing or not. To allow any
such thing would be "a new measure," and they never like "new measures"!
- 8. A great deal of singing often injures a prayer meeting.
The agonizing spirit of prayer does not lead people to sing. There is a time for
everything; a time to sing, and a time to pray. But if I know what it is to travail
in birth for souls, Christians never feel less like singing than when they have the
spirit of prayer for sinners.
- When singing is introduced in a prayer meeting, the hymns
should be short, and so selected as to bring out something solemn; some striking
words, such as the Judgment Hymn, and others calculated to produce an effect on sinners;
or something that will produce a deep impression on the minds of Christians; but
not that joyful kind of singing that makes everybody feel comfortable, and turns
off the mind from the object of the prayer meeting.
I once heard a celebrated organist produce a remarkable effect in a protracted meeting.
The organ was a powerful one, and the double bass pipes were like unto thunder. The
hymn was given out that had these lines:
See the storm of vengeance gathering over the path you dare to tread; Hear the awful
thunder rolling, Loud and louder over your head.
When he came to these words, we first heard the distant roar of thunder; then it
grew nearer and louder, till at the word "louder," there was a crash that
seemed almost to overpower the congregation. Such things in their proper place do
good. But common singing dissipates feeling. It should always be such as will not
take away feeling, but deepen it.
Often a prayer meeting is injured by calling on the young converts to sing joyful
hymns. This is highly improper in a prayer meeting. It is no time for them to let
feeling flow away in joyful singing, while so many sinners around them, and their
own former companions, are going down to hell. A revival is often put down by the
Church and the minister giving themselves up to singing with young converts. Thus,
by stopping to rejoice when they ought to feel more and more deeply for sinners,
they grieve away the Spirit of God, and they soon find that their agony and travail
of soul are gone.
- 9. Introducing subjects of controversy into prayer will
defeat a prayer meeting. Nothing of a controversial nature should be introduced into
prayer, unless it is the object of the meeting to settle that thing.
- Otherwise, let Christians come together in their prayer
meetings, on the broad ground of offering united prayer for a common object. And
let controversies be settled somewhere else.
- 10. Great pains should be taken, both by the leader and
others, to watch narrowly the leadings of the Spirit of God. Let them not quench
the Spirit for the sake of praying according to the regular custom. Avoid everything
calculated to divert attention away from the object. All affectation of feeling should
be particularly guarded against. If there is an affectation of feeling, most commonly
others see and feel that it is affectation, not reality. At any rate, the Spirit
of God knows it, and will be grieved. On the other hand, all resistance to the Spirit
will equally destroy the meeting.
- Not infrequently it happens that there are some so cold
that if any one should break out in the spirit of prayer, they would call it fanaticism,
and perhaps display opposition.
- 11. If individuals refuse to pray when they are called
upon, it injures a prayer meeting. There are some people who always pretend they
have no gift. Women sometimes refuse to take their turn in prayer, and pretend they
have not ability to pray. But if any one else should say so, they would be offended!
Suppose they should learn that any other person had made such a remark as this: "Do
not ask her to pray, she cannot pray, she has not talent enough": would they
like it? So with a man who pretends he has no gift; let any one else report that
"he has not talent enough to make a decent prayer," and see if he will
like it. The pretense is not sincere; it is all a sham.
- Some say they cannot pray in their families; they have
no gift. But a person could not offend one of them more than to say: "He cannot
pray a decent prayer before his own family." The retort would be: "Why,
So-and-so talks as if he thought nobody else had any gifts but himself."
People are not apt to have such a low opinion of themselves. I have often seen the
curse of God follow such professors. They have no excuse. God will take none. The
man has got a tongue to talk to his neighbors, and he can talk to God if he has any
heart for it. You will see their children unconverted: their son has a curse; their
daughter - tongue cannot tell.
God says He will pour out His fury on the families that call not on His name. I could
mention a host of facts to show that God MARKS with His disapprobation and curse
those who refuse to pray when they ought.
Until professors of religion will repent of this sin, and take up this cross (if
they choose to call praying "a cross"), they need not expect a blessing.
- 12. Prayer meetings are often too long. They should always
be dismissed while Christians have feeling, and not be spun out until all feeling
is exhausted, and the spirit of prayer is gone.
- 13. Heartless confessions injure a meeting. People confess
their sins but do not forsake them. Every week they will make the same confession.
Why, they have no intention to forsake their sins! It shows plainly that they do
not mean to reform. All their religion consists in these confessions. Instead of
getting a blessing from God thereby they will get only a curse.
- 14. Injury is also done when Christians spend all the time
in praying for themselves. They should have done this in their own homes. When they
come to a prayer meeting, they should be prepared to offer effectual intercessions
for others. If Christians pray at home as they ought, they will feel like praying
for sinners. If, however, their private prayers are exclusively for themselves, they
will not get the spirit of prayer. I have known men shut themselves up for days to
pray for themselves, and never get any life, because their prayers were all selfish.
But if such people will just forget themselves, and throw their hearts abroad, and
pray for others, it will wake up such a feeling, that they will be able to pour forth
their hearts in prayer. And then they can go to work for souls. I knew an individual
in a revival, who shut himself up seventeen days, and prayed as if he would have
God come to his terms; but it would not do, and therefore he went out to work, and
immediately he had the Spirit of God in his soul.
- It is well for Christians to pray for themselves, and confess
their sins, and then throw their hearts abroad, till they feel as they ought.
- 15. Prayer meetings are often defeated by the want of appropriate
remarks. The things are not said which are calculated to lead them to pray.
- Perhaps the leader has not prepared himself; or perhaps
he has not the requisite talents to lead the Church out in prayer, or he does not
lead their minds to dwell on the appropriate topics of prayer.
- 16. It is a hindrance, when individuals who are justly
obnoxious are forward in speaking and praying. Such persons are sometimes very much
set upon taking part. They say it is their duty to get up and testify for God on
all occasions. They will say, they know they are not able to edify the Church, but
nobody else can do their duty, and they wish to testify.
- Perhaps the only place they ever did testify for God was
in a prayer meeting; their lives, out of the meeting, testify against God. They had
better keep still.
- 17. When persons take part whose illiteracy is so pronounced
as to cause disgust among people of taste and intelligence, attention is diverted.
I do not mean to imply that it is necessary that a person should have a liberal education,
in order to lead in prayer. All persons of common education, especially if they are
in the habit of praying, can lead in prayer, if they have the spirit of prayer. But
there are some persons who use expressions so absurd and illiterate as to disgust
every intelligent mind. The feeling of disgust is an involuntary thing, and when
a disgusting object is before the mind, the feeling is irresistible. Piety will not
keep a person from feeling it. The only way is to take away the object. Such persons
may feel grieved at not being called upon to take part, but it is better that they
should be kindly told the reason, than that the prayer meeting should be regularly
injured, and rendered ridiculous.
- 18. A want of union in prayer mars the meeting; that is,
when one leads, but the others do not follow, for they are thinking of something
else. Their hearts do not unite, do not say: "Amen." It is as bad as if
one person should make a petition and another remonstrate against it. It is as though
one asks God to do a thing, and the others ask Him not to do it, or to do something
- 19. Neglect of secret prayer is yet another hindrance.
Christians who do not pray in secret cannot unite with power in a prayer meeting,
and cannot have the spirit of prayer.
- 1. A badly conducted prayer meeting often does more hurt
than good. In many Churches, the general manner of conducting prayer meetings is
such that Christians have not the least idea of the design or the power of such meetings.
It is such as tends to keep down rather than to promote pious feeling and the spirit
- 2. A prayer meeting is an index to the state of religion
in a Church. If the prayer meeting is neglected, or the spirit of prayer is not manifested,
you know of course that religion is in a low condition. Let me go into the prayer
meeting, and I can always see the state of religion which prevails in the Church.
- 3. Every minister ought to know that if the prayer meetings
are neglected, all his labors are in vain. unless he can get Christians to attend
the prayer meetings, all else that he can do will not improve the state of religion.
- 4. A great responsibility rests on him who leads a prayer
meeting. If the meeting be not what it ought to be, if it does not elevate the state
of religion, he should go seriously to work and see what is the matter, and get the
spirit of prayer, and prepare himself to make such remarks as are calculated to do
good and set things right. A leader has no business to lead prayer meetings, if he
is not prepared, both in head and heart, to do this.
- 5. Prayer meetings are the most difficult meetings to sustain
- as, indeed, they ought to be. They are so spiritual that unless the leader be peculiarly
prepared, both in heart and mind, they will dwindle. It is in vain for the leader
to complain that members of the Church do not attend. In nine cases out of ten it
is the leader's fault that they do not attend. If he felt as he ought, they would
find the meeting so interesting that they would attend as a matter of course. If
he is so cold, and dull, and lacking in spirituality, as to freeze everything, no
wonder people do not come to the meeting.
- Church officers often complain and scold because people
do not come to the prayer meeting, when the truth is, they themselves are so cold
that they freeze to death everybody who does come.
- 6. Prayer meetings are most important meetings for the
Church. It is highly important for Christians to sustain the prayer meetings, in
- (a) promote union, (b) increase brotherly love, (c) cultivate
Christian confidence, (d) promote their own growth in grace, and (e) cherish and
- 7. Prayer meetings should be so numerous in the Church,
and be so arranged, as to exercise the gifts of every member - man or woman. Every
one should have the opportunity to pray, and to express the feelings of his heart.
The sectional prayer meetings are designed to do this. And if they are too large
to allow of it, let them be divided, so as to bring the entire mass into the work,
to exercise all gifts, and diffuse union, confidence, and brotherly love, through
- 8. It is important that impenitent sinners should attend
prayer meetings. If none come of their own accord, go out and invite them. Christians
ought to take great pains to induce their impenitent friends and neighbors to come
to prayer meetings. They can pray better for impenitent sinners when they have them
right before their eyes. I have known women's prayer meetings exclude sinners from
the meetings. And the reason was, they were so proud that they were ashamed to pray
before sinners. What a spirit! Such prayers will do no good. They insult God. You
have not done enough, by any means, when you have gone to the prayer meeting yourself.
You cannot pray if you have invited no sinner to go. If all the members have neglected
their duty so, and have gone to the prayer meeting, and taken no sinners along with
them, no subjects of prayer - what have they come for?
- 9. The great object of all the means of grace is to aim
directly at the conversion of sinners. You should pray that they may be converted
- Do not pray that they may be merely awakened and convicted,
but that they may be converted on the spot. No one should either pray or make any
remarks, as if he expected a single sinner would go away without giving his heart
to God. You should all make the impression on his mind, that NOW he must submit.
And if you do this, while you are yet speaking God will hear.
If Christians made it manifest that they had really set their hearts on the conversion
of sinners, and were bent upon it, and prayed as they ought, there would rarely be
a prayer meeting held without souls being converted; and sometimes every sinner in
the room. That is the very time, if ever, that sinners should be converted in answer
to those prayers. I do not doubt but that you may have sinners converted in every
sectional prayer meeting, if you do your duty. Take them there, take your families,
your friends, or your neighbors there with that design; give them the proper instruction,
if they need instruction, and pray for them as you ought, and you will save their
souls. Rely upon it, if you do your duty, in a right manner, God will not keep back
His blessing, but the work will be done.
MEANS TO BE USED WITH SINNERS
Ye are My witnesses, saith the Lord, and My servant
whom I have chosen . - Isaiah. 43:10.
I the text it is affirmed of the children of God, that they are His witnesses. In
several preceding Lectures I have been dwelling on the subject of prayer, or on that
department of means for the promotion of a revival, which is intended to move God
to pour out His Spirit. I am now to commence the other department, dealing with the
means to be used for the conviction and conversion of sinners.
It is true, in general, that persons are affected by the subject of religion in proportion
to their conviction of its truth. Inattention to religion is the great reason why
so little is felt concerning it. No being can look at the great truths of religion,
as truths, and not feel deeply concerning them. The devil cannot. He believes and
trembles. Angels in heaven feel, in view of these things. God feels! An intellectual
conviction of truth is always accompanied with feeling of some kind.
One grand design of God in leaving Christians in the world after their conversion
is that they may be witnesses for God. It is that they may call the attention of
the thoughtless multitude to the subject, and make them see the difference in the
character and destiny of those who believe the Gospel and those who reject it. This
inattention is the grand difficulty in the way of promoting religion. And what the
Spirit of God does is to awaken the attention of men to the subject of their sin
and the plan of salvation. Miracles have sometimes been employed to arrest the attention
of sinners, and in this way miracles may become instrumental in conversion - although
conversion is not itself a miracle, nor do miracles themselves ever convert anybody.
They may be the means of awakening.
Miracles are not always effectual even in that. And if continued or made common,
they would soon lose their power. What is wanted in the world is something that can
be a sort of omnipresent miracle, able not only to arrest attention but to fix it,
and keep the mind in warm contact with the truth, till it yields.
Hence we see why God has scattered His children everywhere, in families and among
the nations. He never would suffer them to be altogether in one place, however agreeable
it might be to their feelings. He wishes them scattered. When the Church at Jerusalem
herded together, neglecting to go forth as Christ had commanded, to spread the Gospel
all over the world, God let loose a persecution upon them and scattered them abroad,
and then they "went everywhere preaching the Word" (Acts 8:4).
In examining the text, I purpose to inquire:
I. On what particular points Christians are to testify for God.
II. The manner in which they are to testify.
I. ON WHAT POINTS ARE CHRISTIANS TO TESTIFY?
Generally, they are to testify to the truth of the Bible. They are competent witnesses
to this, for they have experience of its truth. The experimental Christian has no
more need of external evidence to prove the truth of the Bible to his mind, than
he has to prove his own existence. The whole plan of salvation is so fully spread
out and settled in his conviction, that to undertake to reason him out of his belief
in the Bible would be a thing as impracticable as to reason him out of the belief
in his own existence. Men have tried to awaken a doubt of the existence of the material
world, but they cannot succeed. No man can doubt the existence of the material world.
To doubt it is against his own consciousness. You may use arguments that he cannot
answer, and may puzzle and perplex him, and shut his mouth; he may be no logician
or philosopher, and may not be able to detect your fallacies. But, what he knows,
So it is in religion. The Christian is conscious that the Bible is true. The veriest
child in religion knows by his experience the truth of the Bible. He may hear objections
from infidels, that he never thought of, and that he cannot answer, and he may be
confounded; but he cannot be driven from his ground. He will say: "I cannot
answer you, but I know the Bible is true." It is as if a man should look in
a mirror, and say: "That is my face."
The question is put to him: "How do you know it is your face?" "Why,"
he replies, "by its looks." So when a Christian sees himself drawn and
pictured forth in the Bible, he sees the likeness to be so exact, that he knows it
More particularly, Christians are to testify to:
- 1. The immortality of the soul. This is clearly revealed
in the Bible.
- 2. The vanity and unsatisfying nature of all earthly good.
- 3. The satisfying nature and glorious sufficiency of religion.
- 4. The guilt and danger of sinners. On this point they
can speak from experience as well as from the Word of God. They have seen their own
sins, and they understand more of the nature of sin, and the guilt and danger of
- 5. The reality of hell, as a place of eternal punishment
for the wicked.
- 6. The love of Christ for sinners.
- 7. The necessity of a holy life, if we think of ever getting
- 8. The necessity of self denial, and of living above the
- 9. The necessity of meekness, heavenly mindedness, humility,
- 10. The necessity of an entire renovation of character
and life, for all who would enter heaven.
These are the subjects on which they are to be witnesses
for God. And they are bound to testify in such a way as to constrain men to believe
II. HOW ARE THEY TO TESTIFY?
By precept and example. On every proper occasion by their lips, but mainly by their
lives. Christians have no right to be silent with their lips; they should "reprove,
rebuke, exhort with all long-suffering and doctrine"
(2 Timothy 4:2). But their main influence as witnesses is by their example.
They are required to be witnesses in this way, because example teaches with so much
greater force than precept. This is universally known.
"Actions speak louder than words." But where both precept and example are
brought to bear, the greatest amount of influence is brought to bear upon the mind.
As to the manner in which they are to testify; the way in which they should bear
witness to the truth of the points specified; in general - they should live in their
daily walk and conversation, as if they believed the Bible.
- 1. As if they believed the soul to be immortal, and as
if they believed that death was not the termination of their existence, but the entrance
into an unchanging state. They ought to live so as to make this impression upon all
around them. It is easy to see that precept without example will do no good. All
the arguments in the world will not convince mankind that you really believe this,
unless you live as if you believe it. Your reasoning may be unanswerable, but if
you do not live accordingly, your practice will defeat your arguments. They will
say you are an ingenious sophist, or an acute reasoner, and perhaps admit that they
cannot answer you; but then they will say: it is evident that your reasoning is all
false, and that you know it is all false, because your life contradicts your theory.
Or they will say that, if it is true, you do not believe it, at any rate. And so
all the influence of your testimony goes to the other side.
- 2. Against the vanity and unsatisfying nature of the things
of this world.
- The failure to testify in this is the great stumbling block
in the way of mankind. Here the testimony of God's children is needed more than anywhere
else. Men are so struck with the objects of sense, and so constantly occupied with
them, that they are very apt to shut out eternity from their minds. A small object
that is held close to the eye, may shut out the distant ocean. So the things of the
world, that are near, appear so magnified in their minds, that they overlook everything
else. One important design in keeping Christians in the world is, to teach people
on this point, practically. But suppose professors of religion teach the vanity of
earthly things by precept, and contradict it in practice? Suppose the women are just
as fond of dress, and just as particular in observing all the fashions, and the men
as eager to have fine houses and equipages, as the people of the world; who does
not see that it would be quite ridiculous for them to testify with their lips, that
this world is all vanity, and its joys unsatisfying and empty? People feel the absurdity,
and this shuts up the lips of Christians. They are ashamed to speak to their neighbors,
while they cumber themselves with these gewgaws, because their daily conduct testifies,
to everybody, the very reverse. How it would look for certain Church members, men
or women, to go about among the common people, and talk to them about the vanity
of the world! Who would believe what they said?
- 3. To the satisfying nature of religion. Christians are
bound to show, by their conduct, that they are actually satisfied with the enjoyments
of religion, without the pomps and vanities of the world; that the joys of religion
and communion with God keep them above the world. They are to manifest that this
world is not their home. Their profession is, that heaven is a reality and that they
expect to dwell there for ever. But suppose they contradict this by their conduct,
and live in such a way as to prove that they cannot be happy unless they have a full
share of the fashion and show of the world; and that as for going to heaven, they
would much rather remain on earth than die and go there! What does the world think,
when it sees a professor of religion just as much afraid to die as an infidel?
- Such Christians perjure themselves - they swear to a lie,
since their testimony amounts to this, that there is nothing in religion for which
a person can afford to live above the world.
- 4. Regarding the guilt and danger of sinners. Christians
are bound to warn sinners of their awful condition, and exhort them to flee from
the wrath to come, and lay hold on everlasting life. But who does not know that the
manner of doing this is everything? Sinners are often struck under conviction by
the very manner of doing a thing. There was a man once very much opposed to a certain
preacher. On being asked to specify some reason, he replied: "I cannot bear
to hear him, for he says the word 'HELL' in such a way that it rings in my ears for
a long time afterwards."
- He was displeased with the very thing that constituted
the power of speaking that word. The manner may be such as to convey an idea directly
opposite to the meaning of the words. A man may tell you that your house is on fire
in such a way as to make directly the opposite impression, and you will take it for
granted that it is not your house that is on fire. The watchman might cry out: "Fire!
fire!" in such a way that everybody would think he was either drunk or talking
in his sleep.
Go to a sinner, and talk with him about his guilt and danger; and if in your manner
you make an impression that does not correspond, you in effect bear testimony the
other way, and tell him he is in no danger. If the sinner believes at all that he
is in danger of hell, it is wholly on other grounds than your saying so. If you live
in such a way as to show that you do not feel compassion for sinners around you;
if you show no tenderness, by your eyes, your features, your voice; if your manner
is not solemn and earnest, how can they believe you are sincere?
Woman, suppose you tell your unconverted husband, in an easy, laughing way: "My
dear, I believe you are going to hell"; will he believe you? If your life is
gay and trifling, you show that you either do not believe there is a hell, or that
you wish to have him go there, and are trying to keep off every serious impression
from his mind. Have you children that are unconverted? Suppose you never say anything
to them about religion, or when you talk to them it is in a cold, hard, dry way,
conveying the impression that you have no feeling in the matter; do you suppose they
believe you? They do not see the same coldness in you in regard to other things.
They are in the habit of seeing all the mother in your eye, and in the tones of your
voice, your emphasis, and the like, and feeling the warmth of a mother's heart as
it flows out from your lips on all that concerns them. If, then, when you talk to
them on the subject of religion, you are cold and trifling, can they suppose that
you believe it? If your deportment holds up before your child this careless, heartless,
prayer less spirit, and then you talk to him about the importance of religion, the
child will go away and laugh, to think you should try to persuade him there is a
- 5. To the love of Christ. You are to bear witness to the
reality of the love of Christ, by the regard you show for His precepts, His honor,
His kingdom. You should act as if you believed that He died for the sins of the whole
world, and as if you blamed sinners for rejecting His great salvation.
- This is the only legitimate way in which you can impress
sinners with the love of Christ. Christians, instead of this, often live so as to
make the impression on sinners that Christ is so compassionate that they have very
little to fear from Him. I have been amazed to see how a certain class of professors
want ministers to be always preaching about the love of Christ.
If a minister urges Christians to be holy, and to labor for Christ, they call it
"legal" preaching. They say they want to hear the Gospel. Well, suppose
you present the love of Christ. How will they bear testimony in their lives? How
will they show that they believe it? Why, by conformity to the world they will testify,
point-blank, that they do not believe a word of it, and that they care nothing at
all for the love of Christ, only to have it for a cloak, that they can talk about
it, and so cover up their sins. They have no sympathy with His compassion, and no
belief in it as a reality, and no concern for the feelings of Christ, which fill
His mind when He sees the condition of sinners.
- 6. To the necessity of holiness in order to enter heaven.
It will not do to depend on talking about this. They must live holy. The idea has
so long prevailed that we "cannot be perfect here," that many professors
do not so much as seriously aim at a sinless life. They cannot honestly say that
they even so much as really meant to live without sin. They drift along before the
tide, in a loose, sinful, unhappy, and abominable manner, at which, doubtless, the
devil laughs, because it is, of all others, the surest way to hell.
- 7. To the necessity of self-denial, humility, and heavenly-mindedness.
- Christians ought to show, by their own example, what the
religious walk is which is expected of men. That is the most powerful preaching,
after all, and the most likely to have influence on the impenitent, which shows them
the great difference between themselves and Christians. Many people seem to think
they can make men fall in with religion best by bringing religion down to their standard.
As if the nearer you bring religion to the world, the more likely the world will
be to embrace it. Now all this is as wide as the poles are asunder from the true
philosophy about making Christians. But it is always the policy of carnal professors.
And they think they are displaying wonderful sagacity, and prudence, by taking so
much pains not to scare people at the mighty strictness and holiness of the Gospel.
They argue that if you exhibit religion to mankind as requiring such a great change
in their manner of life, such innovations upon their habits, such a separation from
their old associates, why, you will drive them all away. This seems plausible at
first sight. But it is not true. Let professors live in this lax and easy way, and
sinners say: "Why, I do not see but I am about right, or at least so near right
that it is impossible God should send me to hell only for the difference between
me and these professors. It is true, they do a little more than I do; they go to
the Communion table, and pray in their families, and a few suchlike little things,
but these details cannot make any such great difference as between heaven and hell."
No, the true way is, to exhibit religion and the world in strong contrast, or you
can never make sinners feel the necessity of a change. Until the necessity of this
fundamental change is embodied and held forth in strong light, by example, how can
you make men believe they are going to be sent to hell if they are not wholly transformed
in heart and life?
This is not only true in philosophy, but it has been proved by the history of the
world. Now, I was reading a letter from a missionary in the East, who writes to this
effect: that "a missionary must be able to rank with the English nobility, and
so recommend his religion to the respect of the natives." He must get away up
above them, so as to show a superiority, and thus impress them with respect! Is this
the way to convert the world?
You can no more convert the world in this way than by blowing a ram's horn. What
did the Jesuits do? They went about among the people in the daily practice of self-denial,
teaching, and preaching, and praying, and laboring; mingling with every caste and
grade, and bringing down their instructions to the capacity of every individual.
In that way their religion spread over the vast empire of Japan. I am not saying
anything in regard to the religion they taught. I speak only of their following the
true policy of missions, by showing, by their lives, a wide contrast with a worldly
If Christians attempt to accommodate religion to the worldliness of men, they render
the salvation of the world impossible. How can you make people believe that self-denial
and separation from the world are necessary, unless you practice them?
- 8. Again, they are to testify by meekness, humility, and
heavenly-mindedness. The people of God should always show a temper like the Son of
God, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. If a professor of religion is irritable,
ready to resent an injury, to fly in a passion, and to take the same measures as
the world does to get redress, by going to law and the like - how is he to make people
believe there is any reality in a change of heart! He cannot recommend religion while
he has such a spirit.
- If you are in the habit of resenting injurious conduct;
if you do not bear it meekly, and put the best construction upon it, you contradict
Some people always show a bad spirit, ever ready to put the worst construction upon
what is done, and to take fire at any little thing. This shows a great want of that
charity which "beareth all things, believeth all things, hopeth all things,
endureth all things" (1 Corinthians 13:7). But if a man always shows meekness
under injuries, it will confound gainsaying.
Nothing makes so solemn an impression upon sinners, and bears down with such tremendous
weight on their consciences, as to see a Christian, truly Christ-like, bearing affronts
and injuries with the meekness of a lamb.
It cuts like a two-edged sword.
I will mention a case to illustrate this. A young man abused a minister to his face,
and reviled him in an unprecedented manner. The minister possessed his soul in patience,
and spoke mildly in reply, telling him the truth pointedly, but yet in a very kind
manner. This only made him the more angry, and at length he went away in a rage,
declaring that he was "not going to stay and bear this vituperation," as
if it were the minister, instead of himself, that had been scolding. The sinner went
away, but with the arrows of the Almighty in his heart; and in less than half an
hour he followed the minister to his lodgings in intolerable agony, wept, begged
forgiveness, and broke down before God, and yielded up his heart to Christ. This
calm and mild manner was more overwhelming to him than a thousand arguments. Now,
if that minister had been thrown off his guard, and answered harshly, no doubt he
would have ruined the soul of that young man. How many of you have defeated every
future effort you may make with your impenitent friends or neighbors, in some such
way as this? On some occasion you have shown yourself so irascible that you have
sealed up your own lips, and laid a stumbling block over which that sinner will stumble
into hell. If you have done it in any instance, do not sleep till you have done all
you can to retrieve the mischief.
- 9. Finally, they are to testify to the necessity for entire
honesty in a Christian. Oh, what a field opens here for remark! It extends to all
the departments of life. Christians need to show the strictest regard to integrity
in every department of business, and in all their intercourse with their fellow men.
If every Christian would pay a scrupulous regard to honesty, and always be conscientious
to do exactly right, it would make a powerful impression, on the minds of people,
of the reality of religious principle.
- A lady was once buying some eggs in a store, and the clerk
made a miscount and gave her one more than the number. She saw it at the time, but
said nothing, and after she got home it troubled her. Feeling that she had acted
wrongly, she went back to the young man and confessed it, and paid the difference.
The impression of her conscientious integrity went to his heart like a sword. It
was a great sin in her in concealing the miscount, because the temptation was so
small; for if she would cheat him out of an egg, it showed that she would cheat him
out of his whole store, if she could do it without being found out. But her prompt
and humble confession showed an honest conscience.
I am happy to say, there are some men who conduct their business on this principle
of integrity. The wicked hate them for it, railing against them, and vociferating
in barrooms that they will never buy goods of such-and-such individuals; that such
a hypocrite shall never touch a dollar of their money, and all that; and then they
will go right away and buy of them, because they know they will be honestly dealt
with. Suppose that all Christians could be equally trusted: what would be the consequence?
Christians would run away with the business of the city. The Christians would soon
do the business of the world. The great argument which some professed Christians
urge, that if they do not do business upon the common principle, of stating one price
and taking another, they cannot compete with men of the world, is all false - false
in philosophy, false in history. Only make it your invariable rule to do right, and
do business upon principle, and you control the market. The ungodly will be obliged
to conform to your standard. It is perfectly in the power of Christians to regulate
the commerce of the world, if they will only themselves maintain perfect integrity.
Again, if Christians will do the same in politics they will sway the destinies of
nations, without involving themselves at all in the base and corrupting strife of
parties. Only let Christians generally determine to vote for no man who is not an
honest man, and a man of pure morals; only let it be known that Christians are united
in this, whatever may be their difference in political sentiments, and no man would
be put up for election who was not such a character. In three years it would be talked
about in taverns, and published in newspapers, when any man set up as a candidate
for office: "What a good man he is - how moral - how pious!" and the like.
And any political party would no more set up a known Sabbath-breaker, or a gambler,
or a profane swearer, or a rum-seller, as their candidate for office, than they would
set up the devil himself for President of the United States. The carnal policy of
many professors, who undertake to correct politics by such means as wicked men employ,
and who are determined to vote with a party, let the candidate be ever so profligate,
is all wrong - wrong in principle, contrary to philosophy and common sense, and ruinous
to the best interests of mankind. The dishonesty of the Church is cursing the world.
I am not going to preach a political sermon; but I want to show you that if you mean
to impress men favorably to your religion by your lives, you must be honest, strictly
honest, in business, politics, and everything you do. What do you suppose those ungodly
politicians, who know themselves to be playing a dishonest game in carrying an election,
think of your religion, when they see you uniting with them? They know you are a
- 1. It is unreasonable for professors of religion to wonder
at the thoughtlessness of sinners. Everything considered, the carelessness of sinners
is not wonderful. We are affected by testimony, and only by that testimony which
is received by our minds. Sinners are so taken up with business, pleasure, and the
things of the world, that they will not examine the Bible to find what religion is.
Their feelings are excited only on worldly subjects, because these only are brought
into warm contact with their minds. The things of the world make, therefore, a strong
impression. But there is so little to make an impression on their minds in respect
to eternity, and to bring religion home to them, that they do not feel on the subject.
If they examined the subject, they would feel. But they do not examine it, nor think
upon it, nor care for it. And they never will, unless God's witnesses rise up and
testify. But inasmuch as the great body of Christians so live, as, by their conduct,
to testify on the other side, how can we expect that sinners will feel rightly upon
the subject? Nearly all the testimony and all the influence that comes to their minds
tends to make them feel the other way. God has left His cause here before the human
race, and left His witnesses to testify in His behalf; and, behold, they turn round
and testify the other way! Is it any wonder that sinners are careless?
- 2. We see why it is that preaching does so little good;
and how it is that so many sinners get Gospel-hardened. Sinners that live under the
Gospel are often supposed to be Gospel-hardened; but only let the Church wake up
and act consistently, and they will feel. If the Church were to live one week as
if they believed the Bible, sinners would melt down before them.
- Suppose I were a lawyer, and should go into court and spread
out my client's case. The issue is joined; I make my statements, tell what I expect
to prove, and then call my witnesses. The first witness takes his oath, and then
rises up and contradicts me to my face. What good will all my pleading do? I might
address the jury for a month, and be as eloquent as Cicero; but so long as my witnesses
contradict me, all my pleading will do no good. Just so it is with a minister who
is preaching in the midst of a cold, stupid, and God-dishonoring Church. In vain
does he hold up to view the great truths of religion, when every member of the Church
is ready to witness that he lies. Why, in such a Church, the very manner of the people
in going out of the aisles contradicts the sermon. They press out as cheerful and
as easy, bowing to one another, and whispering together, as if nothing were the matter.
If the devil should come in and see the state of things, he would think he could
not better the business for his interest.
Yet there are ministers who will go on in this way for years, preaching to a people
who, by their lives, contradict every word that is said. And these ministers think
it their duty to do so. Duty! For a minister to preach to a Church that is undoing
all his work, contradicting all his testimony, and that will not alter! No. Let him
shake off the dust from his feet for a testimony, and go to the heathen, or to new
settlements. The man is wasting his energies, and wearing out his life, and just
rocking the cradle for a sleepy Church, which is testifying to sinners that there
is no danger.
Their whole lives are a practical assertion that the Bible is not true. Shall ministers
continue to wear themselves out so? Probably not less than ninety-nine-hundredths
of the preaching in this country is lost, because it is contradicted by the Church.
Not one truth in a hundred, that is preached, takes effect, because the lives of
the professors declare that it is not so.
- 3. It is evident that the standard of Christian living
must be raised, or the world will never be converted. If we had, scattered all over
the world, a minister to every five hundred souls, and every child in a Sabbath school,
and every young person in a Bible class, you might have all the machinery you want;
but, if the Church members should contradict the truth by their lives, no revival
would be produced.
- They never will have a revival in any place while the whole
Church in effect testifies against the minister. Often it is the case that where
there is the most preaching, there is the least religion, because the Church contradicts
the preaching. I never knew means fail of a revival where Christians live consistently.
One of the first things is to raise the standard of religion, so as to embody the
truth of the Gospel in the sight of all men.
Unless ministers can get their people to wake up, and act as if religion were true,
and back their testimony by their lives, in vain will be the attempt to promote a
Many Churches are depending on their minister to do everything. When he preaches,
they will say: "What a great sermon that was! He is an excellent minister. Such
preaching must do good. We shall have a revival soon, no doubt." And all the
while they are contradicting the preaching by their lives. I tell you, if they are
depending on preaching alone to carry on the work, they must fail. Let an apostle
rise from the dead, or an angel come down from heaven and preach, without the Church
to witness for God, and it would have no effect. The novelty might produce a certain
kind of interest for a time, but as soon as the novelty was gone, the preaching would
have no saving effect, while contradicted by the witnesses.
- 4. Every Christian makes an impression by his conduct,
and witnesses either for one side or the other. His looks, dress, whole demeanor,
make a constant impression on one side or the other. He cannot help testifying for
or against religion. He is either gathering with Christ, or scattering abroad.
- At every step you tread on chords that will vibrate to
all eternity. Every time you move, you touch keys whose sound will reecho all over
the hills and dales of heaven, and through all the dark caverns and vaults of hell.
Every movement of your lives, you are exerting a tremendous influence that will tell
on the immortal interests of souls all around you. Are you asleep, while all your
conduct is exerting such an influence?
Are you going to walk in the street? Take care how you dress. What is that on your
head? What does that gaudy ribbon, and those ornaments upon your dress, say to every
one who meets you? They make the impression that you wish to be thought pretty. Take
care! You might just as well write on your clothes; "No truth in religion!"
They say: "Give me dress; Give me fashion; Give me flattery, and I am happy!"
The world understands this testimony as you walk the streets. You are living "epistles,
known and read of all men" (2 Corinthians 3:2). If you show pride, levity, bad
temper, it is like tearing open the wounds of the Savior.
How Christ might weep to see professors of religion going about hanging up His cause
to contempt at the corners of streets. Only let the "women adorn themselves
in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broidered hair, or
gold, or pearls, or costly array; but (which becometh women professing godliness)
with good works" (1 Timothy 2:9, 10); only let them act consistently, and their
conduct will tell on the world - heaven will rejoice and hell groan at their influence.
But oh! let them display vanity; try to be pretty; bow down to the goddess of fashion;
fill their ears with ornaments, and their fingers with rings: let them put feathers
in their hats and clasps upon their arms; lace themselves up till they can hardly
breathe; let them put on their "round tires like the moon," "walking
and mincing as they go" (Isaiah 3:18, 16), and their influence is reversed:
heaven puts on the robes of mourning, and hell may hold a jubilee!
- 5. It is easy to see why revivals do not prevail in a great
city. How can they? Just look at God's witnesses, and see what they are testifying
- They seem to be agreed together to tempt the Spirit of
the Lord, and to lie to the Holy Ghost! They make their vows to God, to consecrate
themselves wholly to Him, then they go bowing down at the shrine of fashion - and
next they wonder why there are no revivals! It would be more than a miracle to have
a revival under such circumstances. How can a revival prevail here? Do you suppose
I have such a vain imagination of my own ability, as to think I can promote a revival
by my preaching, merely, while you live on as you do? Do you not know that so far
as your influence goes, many of you are right in the way of a revival? Your spirit
and deportment produce an influence on the world against religion. How shall the
world believe religion, when the witnesses are not agreed among themselves? You contradict
yourselves; you contradict one another; you contradict your minister; and the sum
of the whole testimony is, there is no need of being pious.
Do you believe the things I have been preaching are true, or are they the ravings
of a disturbed mind? If they are true, do you recognize the fact that they have reference
to you? You say, perhaps: "I wish some of the rich Churches could hear it!"
But I am not preaching to them; I am preaching to you. My responsibility is to you,
and my fruits must come from you.
Now, are you contradicting it? What is the testimony on the leaf of the record that
is now sealed for the Judgment, concerning this day? Have you manifested a sympathy
with the Son of God, when His heart is bleeding in view of the desolations of Zion?
Have your children, your clerks, your servants seen it to be so? Have they seen a
solemnity on your countenance, and tears in your eyes, in view of perishing souls?
Finally, I remark that God and all moral beings have great reason to complain of
this false testimony. There is ground to complain that God's witnesses turn and testify
point-blank against Him. They declare by their conduct that there is no truth in
the Gospel. Heaven might weep and hell rejoice to see this. Oh, how guilty! Here
you are, going to the Judgment, red all over with blood. Sinners are to meet you
there; those who have seen how you live, many of them already dead, and many others
whom you will never see again upon earth. What an influence you have exerted!
Perhaps hundreds of souls will meet you in the Judgment Day and curse you (if they
are allowed to speak) for leading them to hell, by practically denying the truth
of the Gospel. What will become of this city, and of the world, when the Church is
united in practically testifying that God is a liar? They testify by their lives,
that if they make a profession and live a moral life, that is religion enough. Oh,
what a doctrine of devils is that! It is enough to ruin the whole human race!
TO WIN SOULS REQUIRES WISDOM
He that winneth souls is wise.
- Proverbs 11:30.
T HE most common definition of wisdom is, that it is the choice of the best end and
the selection of the most appropriate means for the accomplishment of that end. "He
that winneth souls," God says, "is wise." The object of this Lecture
is to direct Christians in the use of means for accomplishing their infinitely desirable
end, the salvation of souls. I shall confine my attention to the private efforts
of individuals for the conversion and salvation of men. On another occasion, perhaps,
I shall use the same text in speaking of what is wise in the public preaching of
the Gospel, and the labors of ministers. In giving some directions to aid private
Christians in this work, I propose to show Christians:
I. How they should deal with careless sinners.
II. How they should deal with awakened sinners.
III. How they should deal with convicted sinners.
I. DEALING WITH CARELESS SINNERS.
- 1. In regard to the time. It is important that you should
select a proper time to try to make a serious impression on the mind of a careless
- For if you fail of selecting the most proper time, very
probably you will be defeated. True, you may say that it is your duty at all times
to warn sinners, and try to awaken them to think of their souls. And so it is; yet
if you do not pay due regard to the time and opportunity, your hope of success may
be very doubtful.
(a) It is desirable, if possible, to address a person who is careless, when
he is disengaged from other employments. In proportion as his attention is taken
up with something else, it will be difficult to awaken him to religion.
People who are careless and indifferent to religion are often offended, rather than
benefitted by being called off from important and lawful business. For instance,
a minister perhaps goes to visit the family of a merchant, or mechanic, or farmer,
and finds the man absorbed in his business; perhaps he calls him off from his work
when it is urgent, and the man is uneasy and irritable, and feels as if it were an
intrusion. In such a case, there is little room to expect any good. Notwithstanding
it is true that religion is infinitely more important than all his worldly business,
and he ought to postpone everything to the salvation of his soul, yet he does not
feel it; for if he did, he would no longer be a careless sinner; and therefore he
regards it as unjustifiable, and gets offended. You must take him as you find him,
a careless, impenitent sinner, and deal with him accordingly. He is absorbed in other
things, and very apt to be offended, if you select such a time to call his attention
(b) It is important to take a person, if possible, at a time when he is not
strongly excited with any other subject. Otherwise he will be in an unfit frame to
be addressed on the subject of religion. In proportion to the strength of that excitement
would be the probability that you would do no good. You may possibly reach him. Persons
have had their minds arrested and turned to religion in the midst of a powerful excitement
on other subjects. But it is not likely.
(c) Be sure that the person is perfectly sober. It used to be more common
than it is now for people to drink spirits every day, and become more or less intoxicated.
Precisely in proportion as they are so, they are rendered unfit to be approached
on the subject of religion. If they have been drinking beer, or cider, or wine, so
that you can smell their breath, you may know there is but little chance of producing
any lasting effect on them. I have had professors of religion bring to me persons
whom they supposed were under conviction (people in liquor are very fond of talking
upon religion); but as soon as I came near enough to smell the breath of such persons,
I have asked: "Why do you bring this drunken man to me?"
"Why," they have replied, "He is not drunk, he has only been drinking
a little." Well, that little has made him a little drunk! The cases are exceedingly
rare where a person has been truly convicted, who had any intoxicating liquor in
(d) If possible, where you wish to converse with a man on the subject of salvation,
take him when he is in a good temper. If you find him out of humor, very probably
he will get angry and abuse you. Better let him alone for that time, or you will
be likely to quench the Spirit. It is possible you may be able to talk in such a
way as to cool his temper, but it is not likely. The truth is, men hate God; and
though their hatred be dormant, it is easily excited; and if you bring God fully
before their minds when they are already excited with anger, it will be so much the
easier to arouse their enmity to open violence.
(e) If possible, always take an opportunity to converse with careless sinners
when they are alone. Most men are too proud to be conversed with freely respecting
themselves in the presence of others, even their own family. A man in such circumstances
will brace up all his powers to defend himself, while, if he were alone, he would
melt down under the truth. He will resist the truth, or try to laugh it off, for
fear that, if he should manifest any feeling, somebody will go and report that he
is thinking seriously about religion.
In visiting families, instead of calling all the family together at the same time
to be talked to, the better way is to see them all, one at a time. There was a case
of this kind. Several young ladies, of a proud, gay, and fashionable character, lived
together in a fashionable family. Two men were strongly desirous to get the subject
of religion before them, but were at a loss how to accomplish it, for fear the ladies
would combine to resist every serious impression. At length they took this course:
they called and sent up their card to one of the young ladies by name. She came down,
and they conversed with her on the subject of her salvation, and, as she was alone,
she not only treated them politely, but seemed to receive the truth with seriousness.
A day or two after they called, in like manner, on another; and then on another;
and so on, till they had conversed with every one separately. In a little time the
ladies were all, I believe, hopefully converted. The impression made on one was followed
up with the others; so that one was not left to exert a bad influence over the rest.
There was a pious woman who kept a boardinghouse for young gentlemen; she had twenty-one
or two of them in her house, and at length she became
very anxious for their salvation. She made it a subject of prayer, but saw no seriousness
among them. At length she saw that there must be something done besides praying,
and yet she did not know what to do.
One morning, after breakfast, as the rest were retiring, she asked one of them to
stop a few minutes. She took him aside, and conversed with him tenderly on the subject
of religion, and prayed with him. She followed up the impression made, and pretty
soon he was hopefully converted. Then she spoke to another, and so on, taking one
at a time, and letting none of the rest know what was going on, so as not to alarm
them, till all these young men were converted to God. Now, if she had brought the
subject before the whole of them together, very likely they would have turned it
all into ridicule; or perhaps they would have been offended and left the house, and
then she could have had no further influence over them. But taking one alone, and
treating him respectfully and kindly, he had no such motive for resistance as arises
out of the presence of others.
(f) Try to seize an opportunity to converse with a careless sinner, when the
events of Providence seem to favor your design. If any particular event should occur,
calculated to make a serious impression, be sure to improve the occasion faithfully.
(g) Seize the earliest opportunity to converse with those around you who are
careless. Do not put it off from day to day, thinking a better opportunity will come.
You must seek an opportunity, and if none offers, make one. Appoint a time or place,
and get an interview with your friend or neighbor, where you can speak to him freely.
Send him a note; go to him on purpose; make it look like a matter of business - as
if you were in earnest in endeavoring to promote his soul's salvation. Then he will
feel that it is a matter of importance, at least in your eyes. Follow it up till
you succeed, or become convinced that, for the time, nothing more can be done.
(h) If you have any feeling for a particular individual, take an opportunity
to converse with that individual while this feeling continues. If it is a truly benevolent
feeling, you have reason to believe the Spirit of God is moving you to desire the
salvation of his soul, and that God is ready to bless your efforts for his conversion.
In such a case, make it the subject of special and importunate prayer, and seek an
early opportunity to pour out all your heart to him, and bring him to Christ.
- 2. In regard to the manner of doing all this:
- (a) When you approach a careless individual, be
sure to treat him kindly.
Let him see that you address him, not because you seek a quarrel with him, but because
you love his soul, and desire his best good in time and eternity. If you are harsh
and overbearing in your manner, you will probably offend him, and drive him farther
off from the way of life.
(b) Be solemn. Avoid all lightness of manner or language. Levity will produce
anything but a right impression. You ought to feel that you are engaged in a very
solemn work, which is going to affect the character of your friend or neighbor, and
probably determine his destiny for eternity.
Who could trifle and use levity in such circumstances, if his heart were sincere?
(c) Be respectful. Some seem to suppose it necessary to be abrupt, and rude,
and coarse, in their intercourse with the careless and impenitent. No mistake can
be greater. The apostle Peter has given us a better rule on the subject, where he
says: "Be pitiful, be courteous: not rendering evil for evil, or railing for
railing: but contrariwise blessing" (1 Peter 3:8, 9). A rude and coarse style
of address is only calculated to create an unfavorable opinion both of yourself and
of your religion.
(d) Be sure to be very plain. Do not suffer yourself to cover up any circumstance
of the person's character, and his relations to God. Lay it all open, not for the
purpose of offending or wounding him, but because it is necessary. Before you can
cure a wound, you must probe it to the bottom.
Keep back none of the truth, but let it come out plainly before him.
(e) Be sure to address his conscience. Unless you address the conscience pointedly,
you get no hold of the mind at all.
(f) Bring the great and fundamental truths to bear upon the person's mind.
Sinners are very apt to run off upon some pretext, or some subordinate point, especially
one of sectarianism. For instance, if the man is a Presbyterian, he will try to turn
the conversation on the points of difference between Presbyterians and Methodists.
Or he will fall foul of "old school" divinity. Do not talk with him on
any such point. Tell him the present business is to save his soul, and not to settle
controverted questions in theology. Hold him to the great fundamental points, by
which he must be saved or lost.
(g) Be very patient. If he has a real difficulty in his mind, be very patient
till you find out what it is, and then clear it up. If what he alleges is a mere
cavil, make him see that it is a cavil. Do not try to answer it by argument, but
show him that he is not sincere in advancing it. It is not worth while to spend your
time in arguing against a cavil; make him feel that he is committing sin to plead
it, and thus enlist his conscience on your side.
(h) Be careful to guard your own spirit. There are many people who have not
good temper enough to converse with those who are much opposed to religion. And such
a person wants no better triumph than to see you angry. He will go away exulting
because he has "made one of these saints mad."
(i) If the sinner is inclined to entrench himself against God, be careful
not to take his part in anything. If he says he cannot do his duty, do not take sides
with him, or say anything to countenance his falsehood; do not tell him he cannot,
or help him to maintain himself in the controversy against his Maker. Sometimes a
careless sinner will commence finding fault with Christians; do not take his part,
do not side with him against Christians.
Just tell him he has not their sins to answer for: he had better see to his own concerns.
If you agree with him, he feels that he has you on his side.
Show him that it is a wicked and censorious spirit that prompts him to make these
remarks, and not a regard for the honor of the religion or the laws of Jesus Christ.
(j) Bring up the individual's particular sins. Talking in general terms against
sin will produce no results. You must make a man feel that you mean him. A minister
who cannot make his hearers feel that he means them, cannot expect to accomplish
much. Some people are very careful to avoid mentioning the particular sins of which
they know the individual to be guilty, for fear of hurting his feelings. This is
wrong. If you know his history, bring up his particular sins; kindly, but plainly;
not to give offense, but to awaken conscience, and give full force to the truth.
(k) It is generally best to be short, and not spin out what we have to say.
Get the attention as soon as you can to the very point; say a few things and press
them home, and bring the matter to an issue. If possible, get them to repent and
give themselves to Christ at the time. This is the proper issue. Carefully avoid
making an impression that you do not wish them to repent NOW.
(l) If possible, when you converse with sinners, be sure to pray with them.
If you converse with them, and leave them without praying, you leave your work undone.
II. THE MANNER OF DEALING WITH AWAKENED SINNERS.
Be careful to distinguish between an awakened sinner, and one who is under conviction.
When you find a person who feels a little on the subject of religion, do not take
it for granted that he is convicted of sin, and thus omit to use means to show him
his sin. Persons are often awakened by some providential circumstance; as sickness,
thunderstorm, pestilence, death in the family, disappointment, or the like; or directly
by the Spirit of God; so that their ears are open, and they are ready to hear on
the subject of religion with attention and seriousness, and some feeling. If you
find a person awakened, no matter by what means, lose no time to pour in light upon
his mind. Do not be afraid, but show him the breadth of the Divine law, and the exceeding
strictness of its precepts. Make him see how it condemns his thoughts and life. Search
out his heart, find what is there, and bring it up before his mind, as far as you
can. If possible, melt him down on the spot. When once you have got a sinner's attention,
very often his conviction and conversion are the work of a few moments. You can sometimes
do more in five minutes, than in years - or a whole lifetime - while he is careless
I have been amazed at the conduct of those cruel parents, and other heads of families,
who will let an awakened sinner be in their families for days and weeks, and not
say a word to him on the subject. They say: "If the Spirit of God has begun
a work in him, He will certainly carry it on!"
Perhaps the person is anxious to converse, and puts himself in the way of Christians,
as often as possible, expecting they will converse with him, and they do not say
a word. Amazing! Such a person ought to be looked out immediately, as soon as he
is awakened, and a blaze of light be poured into his mind without delay. Wherever
you have reason to believe that a person within your reach is awakened, do not sleep
till you have poured in the light upon his mind, and have tried to bring him to immediate
repentance. Then is the time to press the subject with effect.
In revivals, I have often seen Christians who were constantly on the look-out to
see if any persons appeared to be awakened; as soon as they saw any one begin to
manifest feeling under preaching they would mark him, and (as soon as the meeting
was over) invite him to a room, and converse and pray with him - if possible not
leaving him till he was converted.
A remarkable case of this kind occurred in a town at the West. A merchant came to
the place from a distance, to buy goods. It was a time of powerful revival, but he
was determined to keep out of its influence; and so he would not go to any meeting
at all. At length he found everybody so much engaged in religion that it met him
at every turn; and he got vexed, and vowed that he would go home. There was so much
religion there, he said, that he could do no business, and would not stay. Accordingly
he booked his seat for the coach, which was to leave at four o'clock the next morning.
As he spoke of going away, a gentleman belonging to the house, who was one of the
young-converts, asked him if he would not go to a meeting once before he left town.
He finally consented, and went to the meeting. The sermon took hold of his mind,
but not with sufficient power to bring him into the Kingdom. He returned to his lodgings,
and called the landlord to bring his bill. The landlord, who had himself recently
experienced religion, saw that he was agitated. He accordingly spoke to him on the
subject of religion, and the man burst into tears. The landlord immediately called
in three or four young converts, and they prayed, and exhorted him; and at four o'clock
in the morning, when the coach called, he went on his way rejoicing in God! When
he got home he called his family together, confessed to them his past sins, avowed
his determination to live differently, and prayed with them for the first time. It
was so unexpected that it was soon noised abroad; people began to inquire, and a
revival broke out in the place. Now, suppose these Christians had done as some do,
been careless, and let the man go off, slightly impressed? It is not probable he
ever could have been saved. Such opportunities are often lost for ever, when once
the favorable moment is passed.
III. THE MANNER OF DEALING WITH CONVICTED SINNERS.
By a convicted sinner, I mean one who feels himself condemned by the law of God,
as a guilty sinner. He has so much instruction as to understand something of the
extent of God's law, and he sees and feels his guilty state, and knows what his remedy
is. To deal with these often requires great wisdom.
- 1. When a person is convicted, but not converted, and remains
in an anxious state, there is generally some specific reason for it. In such cases
it does no good to exhort him to repent, or to explain the law to him. He knows all
that; he understands these general points; but still he does not repent. There must
be some particular difficulty to overcome. You may preach, and pray, and exhort,
till doomsday, and not gain anything.
- You must, then, set yourself to inquire what is that particular
difficulty. A physician, when he is called to a patient, and finds him sick with
a particular disease, first administers the general remedies that are applicable
to that disease. If they produce no effect, and the disease still continues, he must
examine the case, and learn the constitution of the individual, and his habits, diet,
manner of living, etc., and see what the matter is that the medicine does not take
effect. So it is with the case of a sinner convicted but not converted. If your ordinary
instructions and exhortations fail, there must be a difficulty. The particular difficulty
is often known to the individual himself, though he keeps it concealed. Sometimes,
however, it is something that has escaped even his own observation.
(a) Sometimes the individual has some idol, something which he loves more
than God, which prevents him from giving himself up. You must search out and see
what it is that he will not give up. Perhaps it is wealth; perhaps some earthly friend;
perhaps gay dress or gay company, or some favorite amusement. At any rate, there
is something on which his heart is so set that he will not yield to God.
(b) Perhaps he has done an injury to some individual that calls for redress,
and he is unwilling to confess it, or to make a just recompense. Now, until he will
confess and forsake this sin, he can find no mercy. If he has injured the person
in property or character, or has abused him, he must make it up. Tell him frankly
that there is no hope for him till he is willing to confess it, and to do what is
(c) Sometimes there is some particular sin which he will not forsake. He pretends
it is only a small one; or tries to persuade himself it is no sin at all. No matter
how small it is, he can never get into the Kingdom of God till he gives it up. Sometimes
an individual has seen it to be a sin to use tobacco, and he can never find true
peace till he gives it up. Perhaps he is looking upon it as a small sin. But God
knows nothing about small sins in such a case. What is the sin? It is injuring your
health, and setting a bad example; and you are taking God's money (which you are
bound to employ in His service) and spending it for tobacco. What would a merchant
say if he found one of his clerks in the habit of going to the money drawer, and
taking money enough to keep him in cigars? Would he call it a small offense? No;
he would say the clerk deserved to be sent to the State prison. I mention this particular
sin, because I have found it to be one of the things to which men who are convicted
will hold on, although they know it to be wrong, and then wonder why they do not
(d) See if there is some work of restitution which he is bound to do.
Perhaps he has defrauded somebody in trade, or taken some unfair advantage, contrary
to the golden rule of doing as you would be done by, and is unwilling to make satisfaction.
This is a very common sin among merchants and men of business. I have known many
melancholy instances, where men have grieved away the Spirit of God, or else have
been driven well-nigh to absolute despair, because they were unwilling to give satisfaction
where they have done such things. Now it is plain that such persons never can have
forgiveness until they make restitution.
(e) They may have entrenched themselves somewhere, and fortified their minds
in regard to some particular point, which they are determined not to yield. For instance,
they may have taken strong ground that they will not do a particular thing. I knew
a man who was determined not to go into a certain grove to pray. Several other persons
during the revival had gone into the grove, and there, by prayer and meditation,
given themselves to God. His own clerk had been converted there. The lawyer himself
was awakened, but he was determined that he would not go into that grove. He had
powerful convictions, and went on for weeks in this way, with no relief. He tried
to make God believe that it was not pride that kept him from Christ; and so, when
he was going home from meeting he would kneel down in the street and pray. And not
only that, but he would look round for a mud-puddle in the street, in which he might
kneel, to show that he was not proud. He once prayed all night in his parlor - but
he would not go into the grove. His distress was so great, and he was so wroth with
God, that he was strongly tempted to make away with himself, and actually threw away
his knife for fear he should cut his throat. At length he concluded he would go into
the grove and pray; and as soon as he got there he was converted, and poured out
his full heart to God.
So, individuals are sometimes entrenched in a determination that they will not go
to a particular meeting (perhaps the inquiry meeting, or some prayer-meeting); or
they will not have a certain person to pray with them; or they will not take a particular
seat, such as the "anxious seat." They say they can be converted just as
well without yielding this point, for religion does not consist in going to a particular
meeting, or taking a particular attitude in prayer, or a particular seat. This is
true; but by taking this ground they make it the material point. And so long as they
are entrenched there, and determined to bring God to their terms, they never can
be converted. Sinners will often yield anything else, and do anything else, and do
anything in the world, but yield the point upon which they have taken a stand against
God. They cannot be humbled, until they yield this point, whatever it is. And if,
without yielding, they get a hope, it will be a false hope.
(f) Perhaps he has a prejudice against some one (a member of the Church, perhaps),
on account of some faithful dealing with his soul; and he hangs on this, and will
never be converted till he gives it up. Whatever it be, you should search it out,
and tell him the truth, plainly and faithfully.
(g) He may feel ill-will towards some one, or be angry, and cherish strong
feelings of resentment, which prevent him from obtaining mercy from God. "And
when ye stand praying, forgive, if ye have ought against any: that your Father also
which is in heaven may forgive you your trespasses.
But if ye do not forgive, neither will your Father which is in heaven forgive your
trespasses" (Mark 11:25, 26).
(h) Perhaps he entertains some errors in doctrine, or some wrong notions respecting
the thing to be done, or the way of doing it, which may be keeping him out of the
Kingdom. Perhaps he is waiting for God to do something to him before he submits -
in fact, is waiting for God to do for him what God has required the sinner to do
He may be waiting for more conviction. People often do not know what conviction is,
and think they are not under conviction when in fact they are under powerful conviction.
They often think nothing is conviction unless they have great fears of hell. But
the fact is, individuals often have strong convictions, who have very little fear
of hell. Show them what is the truth, and let them see that they have no need to
Perhaps he may be waiting for certain feelings, which he has heard somebody else
had before obtaining mercy. This is very common in revivals where some one of the
first converts has told of remarkable experiences. Others who are awakened are very
apt to think they must wait for just such feelings. I knew a young man thus awakened;
his companion had been converted in a remarkable way, and this one was waiting for
just such feelings. He said he was "using the means, and praying for them,"
but he finally found that he was a Christian, although he had not been through the
course of feeling which he expected.
Sinners often lay out a plan of what they expect to feel, and how they expect to
be converted, and in fact lay out the work for God, determined that they will go
in that path or not at all. Tell them this is all wrong; they must not lay out any
such path beforehand, but let God lead them as He sees to be the best. God always
leads the blind by a way they know not.
There never was a sinner brought into the Kingdom through such a course of feeling
as he expected. Very often they are amazed to find that they are in, and have had
no such exercises as they expected.
It is very common for persons to be waiting to be made subjects of prayer, or for
some other particular means to be used, or to see if they cannot make themselves
better. They are so wicked, they say, that they cannot come to Christ. They want
to try, by humiliation, and suffering, and prayer, to fit themselves to come. You
will have to hunt them out of all these refuges. It is astonishing into how many
corners they will often run before they will go to Christ. I have known persons almost
deranged for the want of a little correct instruction.
Sometimes such people think their sins are too great to be forgiven, or that they
have grieved the Spirit of God away, when that Spirit is all the while convicting
them. They pretend that their sins are greater than Christ's mercy, thus actually
insulting the Lord Jesus.
Sometimes sinners get the idea that they are given up of God, and that now they cannot
be saved. It is often very difficult to beat persons off from this ground. Many of
the most distressing cases I have met with have been of this character.
In a place where I was laboring in a revival, one day before the meeting commenced,
I heard a low, moaning, distressing, unearthly noise. I looked and saw several women
gathered round the person who made it. They said she was a woman in despair. She
had been a long time in that state. Her husband was a drunkard. He had brought her
to the meeting-place, and had gone himself to the tavern. I conversed with her, saw
her state, and realized that it was very difficult to reach her case. As I was going
to commence the meeting she said she must go out, for she could not bear to hear
praying or singing. I told her she must not go, and asked the ladies to detain her,
if necessary, by force. I felt that, if the devil had hold of her, God was stronger
than the devil, and could deliver her. The meeting began, and she made some noise
at first. But presently she looked up. The subject was chosen with special reference
to her case, and as it proceeded her attention was gained, her eyes were fixed -
I never shall forget how she looked - her eyes and mouth open, her head up - and
how she almost rose from her seat as the truth poured in upon her mind. Finally,
as the truth knocked away every foundation on which her despair had rested, she shrieked
out, put her head down, and sat perfectly still till the meeting was over. I went
to her, and found her perfectly calm and happy in God. I saw her long afterwards,
and she still remained in that state of rest. Thus Providence led her where she never
expected to be, and compelled her to hear instruction adapted to her case. You may
often do incalculable good by finding out precisely where the difficulty lies, and
then bringing the truth to bear on that point.
Sometimes persons will strenuously maintain that they have committed the unpardonable
sin. When they get that idea into their minds, they will turn everything you say
against themselves. In some such cases, it is a good way to take them on their own
ground, and reason with them in this way: "Suppose you have committed the unpardonable
sin, what then? It is reasonable that you should submit to God, and be sorry for
your sins, and break off from them, and do all the good you can, even if God will
not forgive you. Even if you go to hell, you ought to do this." Press this thought
until you find they understand and consent to it.
It is common for persons in such cases to keep their eyes on themselves; they will
shut themselves up, and keep looking at their own darkness, instead of looking away
to Christ. Now, if you can take their minds off from themselves, and get them to
think of Christ, you may draw them away from brooding over their own present feelings,
and get them to lay hold on the hope set before them in the Gospel.
- 2. Be careful, in conversing with convicted sinners, not
to make any compromise with them on any point where they have a difficulty. If you
do, they will be sure to take advantage of it, and thus get a false hope.
- Convicted sinners often get into a difficulty, in regard
to giving up some darling sin, or yielding some point where conscience and the Holy
Ghost are at war with them. And if they come across an individual who will yield
the point, they feel better, and are happy, and think they are converted.
The young man who came to Christ was of this character. He had one difficulty, and
Jesus Christ knew just what it was. He knew he loved his money; and instead of compromising
the matter and thus trying to comfort him, he just put His finger on the very place
and told him: "Go and sell that thou hast, and give to the poor, and come and
follow Me" (Matthew 19:21). What was the effect? Why, the young man "went
away sorrowful." Very likely, if Christ had told him to do anything else, he
would have felt relieved, and would have got a hope; would have professed himself
a disciple, joined the Church, and gone to hell.
People are often amazingly anxious to make a compromise. They will ask such questions
as this: Whether you do not think a person may be a Christian, and yet do such-and-such
things? Or: If he may be a Christian and not do such-and-such things? Now, do not
yield an inch to any such questions. The questions themselves may often show you
the very point that is laboring in their minds. They will show you that it is pride,
or love of the world, or something of the kind, which is preventing them from becoming
Be careful to make thorough work on this point - the love of the world. I believe
there have been more false hopes built on wrong instructions here, than in any other
way. I once heard a Doctor of Divinity trying to persuade his hearers to give up
the world; but he told them: "If you will only give it up, God will give it
right back to you. He is willing that you should enjoy the world." Miserable!
God never gives back the world to a Christian, in the same sense that He requires
a convicted sinner to give it up. He requires us to give up the ownership of everything
to Him, so that we shall never again for a moment consider it as our own. A man must
not think he has a right to judge for himself how much of his property he shall lay
out for God. One man thinks he may spend seven thousand dollars a year to support
his family; he has a right to do it, because he has the means of his own. Another
thinks he may lay up fifty or a hundred thousand dollars. One man said, the other
day, that he had promised he never would give any of his property to educate young
men for the ministry; so, when he is applied to, he just answers: "I have said
I never will give to any such object, and I never will." Man! did Jesus Christ
ever tell you to act so with His money? Has he laid down any such rule?
Remember, it is His money you are talking about, and if He wants it to educate ministers,
you withhold it at your peril. Such a man has yet to learn the first principle of
religion, that he is not his own, and that the money which he "possesses"
is Jesus Christ's.
Here is the great reason why the Church is so full of false hopes. Men have been
left to suppose they could be Christians while holding on to their money. And this
has served as a clog to every enterprise. It is an undoubted fact, that the Church
has funds enough to supply the world with Bibles, and tracts, and missionaries, immediately.
But the truth is, that professors of religion do not believe that "the earth
is the Lord's, and the fulness thereof." Every man supposes he has a right to
decide what appropriation he shall make of his own money. And they have no idea that
Jesus Christ shall dictate to them on the subject.
Be sure to deal thoroughly on this point. The Church is now filled up with hypocrites,
because people were never made to see that unless they made an entire consecration
of all to Christ - all their time, all their talents, all their influence - they
would never get to heaven. Many think they can be Christians, and yet dream along
through life, and use all their time and property for themselves, only giving a little
now and then, just to save appearances, and when they can do it with perfect convenience.
But it is a sad mistake, and they will find it so, if they do not employ their energies
for God. And when they die, instead of finding heaven at the end of the path they
are pursuing, they will find hell there.
In dealing with a convicted sinner, be sure to drive him away from every refuge,
and not leave him an inch of ground to stand on so long as he resists God. This need
not take a long time to do. When the Spirit of God is at work striving with a sinner,
it is easy to drive him from his refuges.
You will find the truth will be like a hammer, crushing wherever it strikes.
Make clean work with it, so that he shall give up all for God.
Make the sinner see clearly the nature and extent of the Divine law, and press the
main question of entire submission to God. Bear down on that point as soon as you
have made him clearly understand what you aim at, and do not turn off upon anything
Be careful, in illustrating the subject, not to mislead the mind so as to leave the
impression that a selfish submission will answer, or a selfish acceptance of the
Atonement, or a selfish giving up to Christ and receiving Him, as if a man were making
a good bargain, giving up his sins, and receiving salvation in exchange. This is
mere barter, and not submission to God. Leave no ground in your explanations or illustrations,
for such a view of the matter. Man's selfish heart will eagerly seize such a view
of religion, if it be presented, and very likely close in with it, and thus get a
- 1. Make it an object of constant study, and of daily reflection
and prayer, to learn how to deal with sinners so as to promote their conversion.
It is the great business on earth of every Christian, to save souls. People often
complain that they do not know how to take hold of this matter. Why, the reason is
plain enough; they have never studied it. They have never taken the proper pains
to qualify themselves for the work. If people made it no more a matter of attention
and thought to qualify themselves for their worldly business, than they do to save
souls, how do you think they would succeed? Now, if you are thus neglecting the main
business of life, what are you living for? If you do not make it a matter of study,
how you may most successfully act in building up the Kingdom of Christ, you are acting
a very wicked and absurd part as a Christian.
- 2. Many professors of religion do more harm than good,
when they attempt to talk to impenitent sinners. They have so little knowledge and
skill, that their remarks rather divert attention than increase it.
- 3. Be careful to find the point where the Spirit of God
is pressing a sinner, and press the same point in all your remarks. If you divert
his attention from that, you will be in great danger of destroying his convictions.
Take pains to learn the state of his mind, what he is thinking of, how he feels,
and what he feels most deeply upon, and then press that chief point thoroughly. Do
not divert his mind by talking about anything else. Do not fear to press that point
for fear of driving him to distraction. Some people fear to press a point to which
the mind is tremblingly alive, lest they should injure the mind, notwithstanding
that the Spirit of God is evidently debating that very point with the sinner. This
is an attempt to be wiser than God. You should clear up the point, throw the light
of truth all around it, and bring the soul to yield, and then the mind will be at
- 4. Great evils have arisen, and many false hopes have been
created, by not discriminating between an awakened, and a convicted, sinner. For
the want of this, persons who are only awakened are immediately pressed to submit
- "you must repent," "submit to God" - when they are in fact
neither convinced of their guilt, nor instructed so far as even to know what submission
means. This is one way in which revivals have been greatly injured - by indiscriminate
exhortations to repent, unaccompanied by proper instruction.
- 5. Anxious sinners are to be regarded as being in a very
solemn and critical state. They have, in fact, come to a turning-point. It is a time
when their destiny is likely to be settled for ever. Christians ought to feel deeply
for them. In many respects their circumstances are more solemn than those of the
Judgment. Here their destiny is settled. The Judgment Day reveals it.
- And the particular time when It is done is when the Spirit
is striving with them. Christians should remember their awful responsibility at such
The physician, if he knows anything of his duty, sometimes feels himself under a
very solemn responsibility. His patient is in a critical state, where a little error
will destroy life, and hangs quivering between life and death. If such responsibility
should be felt in relation to the body, what awful responsibility should be felt
in relation to the soul, when it is seen to hang trembling on a point, and its destiny
is now to be decided. One false impression, one indiscreet remark, one sentence misunderstood,
a slight diversion of mind, may wear him the wrong way, and his soul be lost.
Never was an angel employed in a more solemn work, than that of dealing with sinners
who are under conviction. How solemnly and carefully then should Christians walk,
how wisely and skillfully work, if they do not wish to be the means of the loss of
Finally, if there is a sinner in this house, let me say to him: "Abandon all
your excuses. You have been told tonight that they are all in vain. This very hour
may seal your eternal destiny. Will you submit to God tonight - NOW?"
LECTURES 1-5 of page 1
LECTURES 6-10 of page 2 (this page)
LECTURES 11-14 of page 3 ---New Window
LECTURES 15-18 of page 4 ---New Window
LECTURES 19-22 of page 5 ---New Window
"Sermons from the Penny Pulpit"
by C. G. Finney
Main Page ---New Window
Section Sub-Index for Finney: Voices