The Way to Succeed!
James Smith, 1864
"The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other: Be strong!" Isaiah 41:6
If the object had been good — the conduct would have been excellent. As it is, it reads us a lesson, and presents us with an example. Let us endeavor to learn the one, and copy the other. Here is a sinking cause — but a courageous people. They were not to be frightened. They would not easily give it up. They would not resign without a struggle, and a desperate struggle too. All went to work — and kept at work. They united their efforts, and concentrated their energies. They watched over each other to assist and encourage. None were overtaxed, because all were ready to help. None were allowed to give up, because each encouraged the other. Thus idolatry spread, and thus idolatry was sustained. Idolaters are generally linked together; and their determined efforts to support a bad cause — is a pointed and powerful reproof to us.
Let Christians but do as they did, and our little churches would increase, our sinking churches would rise, and the gospel would spread and be successful. God prospers the industrious. He blesses the loving, united, well-directed efforts of his people. He ever honors those who thus honor him.
Here is a church in a low condition; its members are few, its resources small, its hopes feeble, and its friends are discouraged. What is to be done?
Give up? Never!
Are there differences? Settle them!
Are there strifes? End them!
Are there jealousies? Bury them!
Is there any bad feeling? Let each one act upon Matthew 5:23, 24. Let brother go to brother, and seek instantaneous reconciliation. Let no one fear he shall stoop too low. Let no one refuse to bend.
Let every one endeavor to carry out the Savior's own
command, "Love one another — as I have loved you." The love of Jesus was a
strong affection; it was free from prejudice. It was a love . . .
that pitied the weak and erring;
that could bear with the ignorant and uncultivated;
that could forgive the unkind and guilty;
and that breathed pure benevolence toward all.
He loved the most imperfect of his people — and loved them back from all their erring ways. Let us strive to imitate this love.
It is our duty — for Jesus commands us.
It is our happiness — for the very essence of holiness is in it.
It is our honor — for hereby we resemble our Lord, and prove ourselves his disciples.
Is all peaceful? Let all be really united. Daily meet around the cross. Often meet together for prayer and praise. Let each one set his heart upon raising the cause. Pursue this object as a prize. Keep it constantly before the eye. Let every one work — and every one help his neighbor.
Give time to the business. Do not say, I have no time to spare. Your time is the Lord's. It is to be consecrated to him. It is to be used for eternity. Time, judiciously given to God's cause, and spent in God's work — can never be lost. Nor will anyone on a sick bed, on a dying pillow, or before the judgment-seat of Christ, regret that he has spent so much in God's service. If a neighbor's house was on fire, we would find time to help to extinguish it. If a friend's child had fallen into the river, we would find time to endeavor to rescue it from a watery grave. If we saw a herd of cattle destroying a relative's corn, we would find time to drive them out and close the gate. And shall we say, when souls are perishing for lack of knowledge, when the cause of God is declining for lack of energetic action and hearty cooperation among its members, "You must excuse me, for I have no time!" Oh, no! let us be honest, let us speak the truth, and say, "I am selfish — and have no heart for the Lord's service!" For if the heart was right, if the heart was in the work — the time would be found.
Give money to the cause, and give in the proportion that is required. God claims all your property. He says, "The silver and gold are mine." He has made you stewards. You are to give of the Lord's money, to the Lord's cause, just in proportion to what you are entrusted with, and what is required. The Lord does not require you to hoard for him. Some have saved in life — to endow the Lord's cause at death; but the Lord has very seldom let his blessing rest upon such endowments. They are more frequently a curse than a blessing, a hindrance than a help. You are to spend for God, what you receive from God.
Lay your property beside your coffin, and ask: When I lie in that narrow house, what part of my property will impact upon my best interests — that which I have spent for the furtherance of God's cause, or that which I have hoarded for myself and family? Never let God's cause lack, or God's poor starve — while you have any of God's property in your hands. Too many professors say, "It is not in my power to give!" when they should say, "I have not the heart to give!" They say, "I cannot;" but if they were honest, they would say, "I will not!"
Give your influence to the work. Influence, rightly employed, is more than time, it is more than money; but he who gives his influence to further the interests of the church, will never withhold either time or money. By influence we may bring people under the gospel, and so fill the house of prayer. By influence we may bring children to the Sunday school, and so find employment for all who are willing to teach. If every one helped his neighbor with his influence, we would have few empty pews, and no small classes. People may be induced to come and hear the word — if we only rightly use the means; and children will go to the school, if the members of the church try to induce them.
Perhaps there are members in some of our churches who never brought a person under the word, and some who never induced a child to go to the Sunday School. If so, is it any wonder that our chapels are thinly attended, or that some of our Sunday Schools are small? Let no one say, "I have no influence!" for every one has; and not only so — but every one is constantly exerting it for good or evil, to help or to hinder God's cause. Reader, which are you doing? Which? The Lord knows, notes, and will remember which. Oh, that all our church members had the heart to use their influence for God and the advancement of his cause.
Give yourself to prayer for the prosperity of Zion. Time, property, and influence will be inefficient without prayer; but to pray and not give our time, property, and influence, proves a lack of sincerity! If those who only do the former are legal — then those who only do the latter are hypocritical. Every good gift, and every perfect gift, is from above, and comes down from the Father of lights; but it comes down in answer to prayer, and is received in the way of obedience, or when engaged in the work of the Lord.
The man who can give no time to God, must not expect to receive the sanction of God.
The man who withholds his money from God, must not expect to be enriched with the blessing of God.
The man who will not use his influence for the good of others, must not expect the Holy Spirit to exert his influence in him.
Such people are selfish! They live for self, they labor for self, they lay up for self, they only seek to gratify and aggrandize self — and the Lord cannot sanction, selfishness. They profess to live for God's glory — but they make it evident that self is their object and end. Many of them would go miles to make money — who would not go as many yards to endeavor to bring a soul to Christ. They can rise early to be in time for market — but they cannot rise to plead with God to pour out his blessing on his church. They can make time to gratify the senses — but they have no time to evangelize souls. The fact is, the spread of the gospel, the salvation of sinners, and the glory of God — is not their grand object; for if it was, the generality of professors could never act as they do!
Has prayer power with God? Sincere, hearty, believing prayer always has. Let us then give ourselves unto prayer, and determine to give the Lord no rest until he pour out his blessing on his churches.
Beloved, the cause of God generally is low; some few honored individuals are striving to sustain it, to raise it — and they need your sympathy and assistance. The ancient heathen idolaters have set you an example. Shall it be lost upon you? "The idol makers encourage one another, saying to each other: Be strong!" Did they act thus in the cause of Satan — and shall we be indifferent in the cause of God? Shall it be said that heathen idolatry furnishes stronger motives to activity and self-consecration, than Christianity? Is fear more powerful than love? Are heathens wiser than the disciples of Jesus? Shall the idolaters rise up in the judgment and witness against us, because they employed and united all their energies in support of foolish superstitions — while we allowed ourselves to be indifferent, and neglected to cooperate to spread the truth and extend the kingdom of Christ?
Brethren, you have heard of the great sacrifices the heathens give to support their idol worship; you have heard the tortures they inflict upon themselves to please their cruel deities; you have heard of the journeys they take, and the influence they exert, to obtain pardon and a prospect of rest beyond the grave. So allow me to ask you, affectionately and faithfully: Have you ever given, or suffered, or done anything like this for the cause of Christ? If you say it is not required — have you shown anything like the same zeal to do what is unquestionable required of you? Surely, the blinded Papist, and the degraded heathen, will rise up in judgment against many, and will condemn them; for they, misled by error, and influenced only by superstition, have done more to support and extend their miserable systems, than these have, with the Bible in their hands, and the Gospel sounding in their ears, to support and extend the cause of truth, holiness, and God.
Brethren, awake! arise! and come forth to the help of the Lord. What enchants you? By the honor of Jesus, by the sighs of the saints, by the dejection of God's ministers, by the thousands that are sinking to Hell, by the hopeless groans of the lost, I beseech you to awake, arise, and let every man help extend the gospel! There is work for all. And let every one say to his brother, "Be strong!" for many are discouraged and fearful.
If you have any faith in Christ;
if you have any zeal for God;
if you have any love for souls;
if you have any sympathy with God's ministers;
if you have any attachment to the truth;
if you have any wish that Jesus may be honored, and that God may be glorified, in our world, and in our day — awake, arise, and let every man help extend the gospel! For it is by individual effort, and loving cooperation, that the church of Christ must rise!