The Depression of Zion, and the Means of its Revival
by William Nicholson, 1862
"By whom shall Jacob arise, for he is small?" Amos 7:2
Sin is the source of all sorrow. The history of the people of Israel confirms the statement. Hence when punished, God thus addresses them: "Have you not procured this unto yourself, in that you have forsaken the Lord your God?" Jeremiah 2:17. In this chapter, famine, dearth, and misery are denounced against that rebellious nation, verse 1, 2; though some understand the language figuratively of a wasting, destroying army brought upon them; other calamities also are threatened, verse 4-9. Illustrated also by 2 Kings 7:25.
Various are the causes which depress Zion. It is principally sin — the lack of spirituality — of zeal, prayer, faith.
Let us apply the text to the present state of the Church.
The members of Christ's Church are called the "Israel of God," "Israelites indeed," "Jews inwardly." Like the ancient Hebrews, they are God's chosen and peculiar people. He preserves and provides for those who are really his. He writes his law in their hearts, and they love him and serve him with a pure heart fervently.
I. The Depression of Zion."Jacob is small." The word "small" in Scriptures, means few in number, Exodus 12:4; weak in strength, Luke 12:28; Rev. 3:8,2.
1. Zion is small in number. Called a "little flock." It is small as compared with the vast mass of false religionists, as the Muslims, the Pagans, the adherents of the Man of Sin. It is small as compared with vast numbers of the ungodly. Though Zion's converts are yet to resemble the drops of the morning dew — yet at the present time the number of Christ's real disciples is but small.
2. Zion is small or low in personal religion. This comprises:
(1.) Knowledge, as imparted . . .
by reading the Scriptures,
by hearing the word, and
by the Spirit's teaching.
Without knowledge, there can be no vital and elevating religion existing in the soul of man. For this leads to a perception of spiritual destitution — and this leads to Christ the great Savior, through whom salvation is secured. Such knowledge is the foundation of personal happiness, and of Zion's prosperity.
The lack of knowledge is the cause of so many professors being weak, and sickly, and ready to faint. The cause of the exclamation, "Jacob is small," is a defectiveness in this knowledge. See Hebrews 5:12; 1 Corinthians 15:34.
(2.) Assurance of Salvation. A sensible evidence that we have a saving interest in Christ — a conviction that we are pardoned and delivered from condemnation, etc. in short, to enjoy salvation. Those who enjoy salvation, will love and serve Christ vigorously, 2 Corinthians 5:14.
Yet, how few have this assurance! Defective piety is a great cause of Jacob being small.
3. Zion is low in spirituality and heavenly-mindedness. "You are not of the world, even as I am not of the world." Christians should act as those who are born from above — as those who expect soon to be in Heaven. But what worldly conformity do we see in the churches! How little different do some professors appear from the men of the world! To how many might an apostle say, "Are you not yet carnal?"
4. Zion is small or low in a devotional spirit. Look at Christ! Prayer was his element. Look at the Apostles and at the primitive saints. They loved prayer, and the hand of the Lord was with them.
Private prayer, ejaculatory prayer, and public devotions, are eminently promotive of personal piety, and the prosperity of the Church.
Look at your prayer-meetings; how few attend them — how few love there to pray! To a convivial party, to the place of mere gossip — to the sounds of music, and to the voice of choristers, to the rendezvous of news and politics — thousands will readily, cheerfully, and instantly go. But how difficult for the "two or three who gather together in Christ's name," to prevail with perhaps one-half, or one-third of any church to join in communion with their God! Alas! "Jacob is small."
5. Zion is small in Christian unity and brotherly love. Christians are . . .
to love as brethren,
to highly esteem each other irrespective of worldly station,
to sympathize with each other,
to assist one another when subject to trials,
to pray for one another.
Hence these scriptural enforcements: Romans 12:10, 13, 15; 1 Corinthians 1:10, 11; 2 Corinthians 13:11; Ephesians 4:31, 32. Such an exhibition as here recommended, would make Zion glorious in the earth. But in this, the Church is very deficient. Christians too often fall out by the way. What bitter manifestations sometimes among sects and denominations!
6. Zion is deficient in zeal and evangelism. Zeal to spread the truth — to save souls from death — to glorify the Redeemer. Look at the men of the world — how they plan, labor, and succeed. "The children of this world are wiser," etc.
7. Zion is deficient in fidelity to the truth and ordinances of Christ.
Some have corrupted his doctrines; others have changed the ordinances — others have introduced ridiculous ceremonies, etc. Even some ministers pretend to be Apostles — to a divine right to govern the Church as their judgment may suggest. Thus man, instead of sitting at the feet of Christ, has insulted his authority, and trespassed upon his prerogative as the only Lawgiver of the Church.
II. The Elevation of Zion."By whom shall Jacob arise?" To arise means to recover life, honor, power, happiness.
Consider the subject NEGATIVELY:
1. Not by mere external pomp and grandeur. Vain is . . .
the cathedral pomp,
the solemn chant,
the voices of choristers,
the organ's wailing peal,
the gorgeous vestments of the priesthood.
And yet men substitute these, for the simple worship of God. They may suit the carnal taste, and attract multitudes; but they are founded on mere vanity!
2. Not by mere human instrumentality. Some are for Paul — or Apollos — or Cephas — placing all their dependence upon a mere creature of literary attainments, eloquent tongue, and commanding figure. It is all in vain! Jacob will not really rise if this is all.
3. Not by coercion as effected by the civil power. Was the Church ever elevated by penal enactments imposed upon those refusing to bow at the shrine of national religious establishments? What has been their influence? A most evil one — to render "Jacob small." Coercion is an insult to the free-born mind.
4. Not by the miraculous intervention. This is desired, expected, and attempted by some at the present day. But on what ground do they expect this? The very idea is absurd and a delusion.
5. Not by mere enthusiasm and temporary excitement, working upon the passions of men to produce temporary alarm, etc. Vociferation, frenzy, alarming cries for mercy, may take place without the impartation of saving knowledge.
Consider the subject POSITIVELY:"By whom shall Jacob arise?"
1. By Jehovah himself. He has all power. He is willing. It is his own cause, on which his heart is fixed, and which he has purposed to make glorious in the earth. In all efforts to elevate Zion, there must be a special recognition of Divine power, or all will fail.
He can elevate Zion by the operations of his Providence, removing national impediments, casting down opposing monarchs and princes, and hurling despotic thrones to the dust.
He can do it by the agency of his Spirit. "Is the Spirit of the Lord straitened?" Micah 2:7. No, he has the same power, and the same freeness of communication, John 16:7, 18. And when that spirit is poured out from on high, tokens of revival will soon appear. See Isaiah 44:3-5.
2. By human instrumentality. Including,
1. Individual regeneration, or personal revival. To attain this there must be deep affection for the low state of Zion.
Self-examination: have I caused Jacob to be so small by defalcation in duty, prayer, attendance on worship, by withholding financial support?
Repentance. Prayer for forgiveness and Divine influence to dispose the heart to seek Zion's prosperity.
2. The consecration of all gifts and talents to promote the elevation of Zion. Consecrate time — talents — preaching abilities, etc. etc.
Ministers must preach faithfully, unselfishly, sincerely, watching for souls, etc.
3. By a strict adherence to the doctrines, ordinances, and precepts, as they are simply and purely revealed in the Scriptures. God will prosper his own truth.
4. By punctual and devout attendance on the means of grace.
5. Fervent and importunate prayer. Act agreeably to your prayers. Expect answers to your prayers.