IT is needful, whenever any holy enterprise-is commenced, that it should be early watered by the helpful Spirit of God. Nothing begins well unless it begins in God. It cannot take root, it cannot spring up in hopefulness, except the Holy Spirit shall descend upon it; it will wither like the grass upon the housetops if the celestial dew of the morning fall not early upon it. The like grace is equally needful after years of growth; there is urgent need of the latter rain, the shower of revival, in which the old work shall be freshened, and the first verdure shall be restored; for without this latter rain, the period of harvest, which is the end aimed at, will be disappointing.
The same is true in connection with any sphere of labour in which any individual may happen to be engaged. I will trust that every believer has found something to do for his Lord and Master. In commencing any Christian work, novelty greatly assists enthusiasm, and it is very natural that under first impulses the beginner should achieve an easy success. The difficulty of the Christian is very seldom the commencement of the work; the true labour lies in the perseverance which alone can win the victory. Christians who have now been for years occupied with a service which the Holy Spirit laid upon them, I would remind of the early rain of their youthful labours, the moisture of which still lingers on their memories, although it has been succeeded by long years of drought. Be encouraged; a latter rain is yet possible. Seek it. That ye need it so much is a cause for sorrow, but if you really feel your need of it, be glad that the Lord works in you such sacred desires. If you did not feel a need for more grace, it would be a reason for alarm; but to be conscious that all that God did by you in the past has not qualified you to do anything without Him now, to feel that you lean entirely upon His strength now as much as ever, is to be in a
condition in which it shall be right and proper for God to bless you abundantly. Wait upon Him, then, for the latter rain; ask that if He has given you a little of blessing in past years, He would return and give you ten times as much now, even now; so that, at the last, if you have sown in tears, you may come again rejoicing, bringing your sheaves with you. Alas; the danger of every Christian worker is that of falling into routine and self-sufficiency. We are most apt to do what we have been accustomed to do, and to do it half asleep. One of the hardest tasks in all the world is to keep the Christian awake on the Enchanted Ground. The tendencies of this present time, and of all times, are soporific. The life, the power of our public services and private devotion speedily evaporates; we pray as in a dream, and praise and preach like somnambulists. May God be pleased to stir us up to awaken and quicken us, by sending us the latter rain to refresh his weary heritage.
We have in this age but few giants in grace who rise head and shoulders above the common height, men to lead us on in deeds of heroism and efforts of unstaggering faith. After all, the work of the Christian Church, though it must be done by all, often owes its being done to single individuals of remarkable grace. In this degenerate time we are very much as Israel was in the days of the Judges, for there are raised up among us leaders who judge Israel, and are the terror of her foes. Oh, if the Church had in her midst a race of heroes; if our missionary operations could be attended with the holy chivalry which marked the Church in the early days; if we could have back apostles and martyrs, or even such as Carey and Judson, what wonders would be wrought! We have fallen upon a race of dwarfs, and are content, to a great extent, to have it so.
There was once in London a club of small men, whose qualification for membership lay in their not exceeding five feet in height; these dwarfs held, or pretended to hold, the opinion that they were nearer the perfection of manhood than others, for they argued that primeval men had been far more gigantic than the present race, and consequently the way of progress was to grow less and less, and that the human race as it perfected itself would become as diminutive as themselves. Such a club of Christians might be established in London, and without any difficulty might attain to an enormously numerous membership; for the notion is common that our dwarfish Christianity is after all the standard, and many even imagine that nobler Christians are enthusiasts, fanatical, and hot-blooded; while we are cool because we are wise, and indifferent, because intelligent. We must get rid of all this nonsense. The fact is, the most of us are vastly inferior to the early Christians, who, as I take it, were persecuted because they were thoroughly Christians, and we are not persecuted because we hardly are Christians at all. They were so earnest in the propagation of the Redeemer’s kingdom, that they became the nuisance of the age in which they lived. They would not let errors alone. They had not conceived the opinion that they were to hold the truth, and leave other people to hold error without trying to intrude their opinions upon them, but they preached Christ Jesus right and left, and delivered their testimony against every sin.
They denounced the idols, and cried out against superstition, until the world, fearful of being turned upside down, demanded of them, “Is that what you mean? Then we will burn you, lock you up in prison, and exterminate you.” To which the Church replied, “We will accept the challenge, and will not depart from our resolve to conquer the world for Christ.” At last the fire in the Christian Church burned out the persecution of an ungodly world. But we are so gentle and quiet, we do not use strong language about other people’s opinions; but let men go to hell out of charity to them. We are not at all fanatical, and for all we do to disturb him, the old manslayer has a very comfortable time of it. We would not wish to save any sinner who does not particularly wish to be saved. We shall be pleased to say a word to them in a mild way, but we do not speak with tears streaming down our cheeks, groaning and agonizing with God for them; neither would we thrust our opinions upon them, though we know they are being lost for want of the knowledge of Christ crucified. May God send the latter rain to His Church, to me, and to you, and may we begin to bestir ourselves, and seek after the highest form of earnestness for the kingdom of King Jesus. May the days come in which we shall no longer have to complain that we sow much and reap little, but may we receive a hundredfold reward, through the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ.
Very feebly, but still with the most earnest intentions, I have endeavoured to excite in you an ambition after a higher lifts, and the setting up of a higher standard. Seek to love your Master more; pray to be filled with His Spirit. Do not be mere tradespeople who are Christianised, but be Christians everywhere; not plated goods, but solid metal. Be servants of Jesus Christ, whether you eat or drink, or whatsoever you do. Serve Him with both your hands, and all your heart. Get your manhood strung to the utmost tension, and throw its whole force into your Redeemer’s service. Live while you live. Drivel not away your existence upon baser ends, but count the glory of Christ to be the only object worthy of your manhood’s strength, the spread of the truth the only pursuit worthy of your mental powers. Spend and be spent in your Master’s service.