The World's Wants
James Smith, 1859
A benevolent mind cannot confine its attention to itself, nor to its own family, or immediate connections. It wishes well to all. It desires to see all happy. Nor does it only desire—but, if sanctified by grace, it pours out prayers to God, and makes use of all the means at its command. When one plan is finished, it thinks of another, and is always proposing, planning, and doing something to make God's world, a happy world. It breathes peace, and glows with good-will to men.
I am deeply conscious of my imperfections, and am humbled whenever I review my poor efforts for the good of others; and yet I believe I have written these few lines out of my own heart. Yes, I do desire to see all men happy. I would gladly do something to add to the happiness of my fellow-men; and whenever I hear that, by my pen or otherwise, I have been the means of making a fellow-sinner happy, I rejoice.
This morning, I have been taking a look at the world—at its divisions, disorders, dissensions, miseries, and woes,—and I have been asking what does the world need—what would be a remedy for its maladies; and after some consideration, I conclude that three things are necessary, and as I can take part in procuring and conferring them, I intend to do so: and in order that others may co-operate and assist, I shall briefly state what I conceive to be needful.
First, The TRUTH of God.Darkness has covered the earth, and gross darkness the people. The world is ignorant of its Creator, for the world by wisdom knew not God. Ignorance of God and His rights, of His nature and disposition, of His grace and mercy, of His provision and promises, almost universally prevails. False views of God have been received, and misconceptions of God are general.
Besides this, man knows not himself, his depravity and destiny, his danger and duty, the way to obtain deliverance from sin, escape the wrath of God, and enjoy the happiness of heaven. Ignorant of the nature of true holiness and how to acquire it—men cannot be happy. Of millions of my fellow-immortals it may be said, "It is a people of no understanding!" "They are all gone out of the way!" "Madness is in their hearts!" "There is none that seeks after God!" Lamentable state! Melancholy condition this!
God's remedy for the wants and woes of humanity, is to be
found in His truth—His gospel. Nor can we do a better thing for the world,
than carry out our Lord's command, and "preach the gospel to every
creature." Go teach all nations—the pure, spiritual, and simple truth of
God. The truth of God . . .
enlightens the understanding,
sanctifies the heart,
and reforms the life.
It gives correct views, produces holy feelings, and leads
every one that is influenced by it, to live righteously, soberly, and godly
in the present world. The truth is the instrument by which God works, it is
the weapon by which the Church conquers, and it is the rule by which every
sincere convert walks. It must be published among all nations for the
obedience of faith. Wonders have been wrought by it in times past, and
wonders will be wrought by it yet; for it is mighty, through God, to the
pulling down of strongholds, the casting down of imaginations, and every
high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, and brings into
captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ. This leads me to notice
that the world needs,
Secondly, The SPIRIT of God.The Spirit seldom, if ever, works without the truth; and the truth never works effectually without the Spirit. The Spirit, therefore, and the truth must go together: the one is put into our hands, and the other is promised to accompany and crown our efforts. It is the Spirit who quickens, and without Him there is no spiritual life. It is the Spirit who teaches, and without Him the natural man does not understand the things of the Spirit of God. It is the Spirit who helps our infirmities, and without Him we are weak and powerless. Paul may plant, and Apollos water—but it is the Spirit who gives the increase. The new birth is of the Spirit, by the truth; and sanctification is of the Spirit, by the truth.
While, therefore, we should be most anxious to spread the
truth, we should, if possible, be more anxious that the Spirit should
accompany the truth, filling it with life and power. Like the bones
in Ezekiel's vision, man—poor, powerless, lifeless man—is to be seen all
around us: we may, we should preach to the dry bones, because God has
commanded us, and by our preaching a reformation may be effected; but there
will be no spiritual life, no standing up before God, no acting for Christ,
until the Spirit of God is communicated. The religion of the heart is
produced immediately by the Holy Spirit; and, when produced, it is
nourished, strengthened, and perfected by the Spirit. Our poor world deeply
needs the powerful preaching of the truth of God, and that that truth be
attended by the Spirit of God. Hence we observe, that the world needs,
Thirdly, The PRAYERS of the people of God.They only can pray aright, for they only have faith; and without faith it is impossible to please God. They are a royal priesthood, they can enter into the holiest by the blood of Jesus, and they are commanded to pray and intercede for all men. They are in office for the world. They are its lights, and should diffuse the light of divine truth all around them. They are its priests, and should plead and intercede for it.
The state of this poor world should deeply affect us; the doom of this guilty world should stir us up, as the doom of Sodom did Abraham, to intercede fervently for it. Alone in the closet, prayer should be offered for the world. At the family altar, we should never forget the world. When met specially to plead with God, we should deeply sympathize with the world. The world needs the prayers of God's people, for their prayers have power with God. It was in answer to prayer, that the Holy Spirit was at first given. It was the fervent, energetic, importunate prayers of the primitive believers, that brought down such a blessing on the labors of the apostles and early ministers of the gospel.
Prayer is the means appointed by God to bring down blessings on our souls, our families, the church and the world. The world does not, and cannot pray for itself. As, therefore, pure benevolence would prompt us to speak for the dumb, lend a hand to the blind, or provide a crutch for the lame; just so, the benevolence of the gospel should prompt us to pray earnestly, heartily, daily, for a poor dumb world, for poor blind sinners, for poor crippled human nature. The truth must be spread abroad, the Spirit must descend, before the glory of the Lord can be revealed, and all flesh see it together; and as these privileges will never be enjoyed but as the effect of the Lord's blessing, in answer to the powerful pleadings of His church, all the people of God should pray much for the world.
Brethren, is it so? Does the world need the truth of God, and are we entrusted with that truth for the world? It is even so. Can we then refuse or neglect to spread abroad that truth in every direction, until it reaches to earth's remotest bounds, without being cruel and dishonest? Cruel, to see souls perishing, while we have the remedy they need, and refuse or neglect to make it known! Dishonest, seeing we are put in trust with the gospel, and are commanded to preach it to every creature, and to teach it to all the nations!
Does the world need the Spirit of God, and is the gift of the Spirit suspended on the prayers of the church? It is; for Jesus has said, that our heavenly Father is much more willing to give the Spirit, than an earthly father is to give a good gift to his child: and our heavenly Father has said, that though He has promised, He will yet be inquired of to grant the blessing promised.
Can we then see the world lie dead in trespasses and in sins, and know that nothing but the Spirit accompanying the truth, can raise them from a death in sin—to a life of righteousness; and know, too, that the Spirit is only to be expected in answer to our united, earnest, and persevering prayers—and can we withhold those prayers, without being guilty of our brother's blood? If sinners destroy themselves, and we do not try to prevent it—are we not accessory to their ruin? Can we be guiltless of their blood? Can we, living as we do, acting as we do, honestly say with the apostle, "I am clear from the blood of all men!" Ought we not rather to pray with David, "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, you God of my salvation: and my tongue shall sing aloud of your righteousness. Restore unto me the joy of your salvation; and uphold me with your free Spirit. Then will I teach transgressors your ways; and sinners shall be converted unto you."
O that the Lord would so lay the subject on our hearts, that we may feel that we cannot rest, cannot enjoy our temporal comforts, or religious privileges—if the truth of God is not sent to all nations—if the Spirit of God is not poured upon us from on high—and if in every place, and by every believer, prayer is not offered for the world, that the earth may be filled with the knowledge of the Lord as the waters cover the sea! Let us rise up as one man, and remind the Lord of His oath, of His promise, "As I live, says the Lord, the whole earth shall be filled with my glory!" and plead with Him until it is made good—or we are wafted on the wings of such prayers to glory!