The Word of Command
James Smith, 1865
"Go forward!" Exodus 14:15
This supposes that you are in the right way, for if you are not, the command would be, "Stop, turn around!" We do not say to the careless sinner, "go forward," for he is in the road to Hell, and every step brings him nearer to that awful place! To urge him forward would be a cruelty, and prove that we were hardened in sin. But if you have entered in at the strait gate — if you are in the narrow way — if you have professed faith in Jesus — if you are united to the Lord's people — if you are engaged in the Lord's work — if you are going to the land of promise which flows with milk and honey, then "Go Forward!"
Let us notice —
1. Some of the INDUCEMENTS to go forward.
Your Head, your beloved Savior, is before you. He has traveled the path; and, if you notice as you go on, you may observe his foot-prints. He ran the race. He marked out the road. He conquered the foe. He went first as the Captain of salvation, and he now says to every soldier in his army, "Follow me! Do as I have done." Would you be like him? Would you win his approbation? Would you see him as he is? Would you hear him say, "Well done!" Then "Go Forward!"
Your work is before you. The foe is to be conquered. The land is to be possessed. The witness is to be borne. The enemies are to be reconciled. The truth is to be circulated. The command is to be obeyed. The predictions are to be fulfilled. And to you the voice cries, as to Lot when he came out of Sodom, "Run for your lives! And don't look back or stop anywhere in the valley!"
Before you are your brethren at labor; before you is the spot you are to cultivate; before you are the souls you are to win; therefore if you love your work — if you would please your Master — if you would serve your generation, "Go Forward!"
Your examples are before you. In the distance you may see patriarchs and prophets, apostles and martyrs, reformers, and the great cloud of witnesses. They have borne their testimony — they have spread God's truth, they conquered the combined host of enemies — they performed the will of God from their hearts — they suffered in his righteous cause — they have left you an example — that you should follow in his steps. "Be you also followers of those who, through faith and patience, now inherit the promises." If you would arrive safely where they are now — if you would leave behind you a good name, as they have done — if you would not have their example lost upon you, then "Go Forward."
Your eternal home and reward are before
you. This poor world is not your rest: it is not your father's home. Your
brethren are hastening through this desert, they are fast arriving at
the better country, they are passing into the city which has foundations,
whose builder and maker is God. And, if you would not be left in this
howling wilderness — if you would not be overtaken by the "floods of great
waters," if you would not be the laughing-stock of your enemies — if you
would not belie your profession, "Go Forward!"
2. You are under SOLEMN OBLIGATIONS to "go forward."
Your God commands you to go forward; and his command is law. But not only is there authority — there is love. He is not only your Sovereign — but your Father. And as he bids you "go forward," he will go with you. He does not send you alone, or under the convoy of angels — but he says, "I will go with you." He is just before you, and he says, "Follow me!" He sees some professors loiter and linger, and he says, "Whoever does not bear his cross, and come after me — cannot be my disciple" (Luke 14:27).
The times demand that you go forward. Everything around you is in motion — all is going forward. Commerce, politics, useful inventions, the arts and sciences — all things are moving onward. And shall the Christian, or the Christian church — alone stand still or go backward? The Lord forbid it. Forward, beloved friends, or your heels will be trodden upon by those behind you, and those will pass you who have not half so much to animate them and stimulate them as you have.
The TIMES in which we live are peculiar; they are stirring times; everything is awake, and most things appear to be more wide awake than the church of Christ. Brethren, let us not sleep as do others; but let us wake up, watch, work, and "go forward" with courage and determination.
The state of the WORLD requires it. Popery is going forward. Other erroneous systems are going forward. Infidelity marches on. The world is still in darkness — error reigns in it — Satan possesses it — and the dark places of it are still the habitations of cruelty! Hundreds of millions have never heard the gospel. Millions who have heard it — have not believed it. Thousands are falling into Hell every day, and thousands are coming into life to take their places, imitate their folly, and meet their doom. By the ignorance that prevails — by the cruelties that are practiced — by the crimes that are committed — by the millions that are perishing — by the myriads that fall into Hell — we beseech you, "Go Forward!"
The condition of the CHURCH calls for it. What shall we
say of the church's condition? She is weak and feeble. She is carnal and
selfish. She is poor and miserable. Her converts are few. Her
soldiers are cowards. Her divisions are many. Her Lord is
dishonored. Her enemies triumph. Her rivals make headway against her.
If you would see the church arise and put on her beautiful garments; if you
would see her united and happy; if you would see her troops disciplined, her
officers at their posts, her banners floating in the four winds of Heaven,
her enemies retreating, her triumphs increasing, her borders enlarging, and
her converts fleeing to her as a cloud, or as doves to their windows, then
3. The CONSEQUENCES of not doing so, will be fearful.If you do not go forward — you will go back, for there is no standing still. But to go back is both dangerous and disgraceful. You have no armor for the back. You will give your foes an advantage — who have been watching for your halting, and predicting your fall. You will falsify your profession, for you have said, "I will be yours alone, yours in life, yours in death, and yours forever!"
You will lose your reputation, and be covered with contempt and shame. Go forward, therefore, though difficulties, dangers, and obstructions are in your way!
Go forward — for time is flying!
Go forward — for death is coming!
Go forward — for eternity is at hand!
Go forward — and God will bless you!
Go forward — and Satan will flee from you!
Go forward — and angels will commend you!
Go forward — and usefulness will crown you!
Go forward — and eternal glory awaits you!
Unsaved sinner — go forward to the hope set before you in the gospel! Do not rest until you enter into the refuge, until you obtain your pardon, until reconciled to God, until your bosom is the abode of divine peace.
Anxious soul — go forward to the cross! There it is, just before you — look to it, plead it with God, expect salvation through it, renounce everything besides it as the ground of your acceptance with God. Go, as anxious as you are, as agitated as you are, as vile and sinful as you are — Jesus will receive you, and will save you with an everlasting salvation!
Young believer — go forward to the church! Publicly profess your faith in Jesus by being buried with him by baptism into death! Join the ranks of his army, take your seat at his table, and join his people in every holy exercise, in every praiseworthy enterprise.
Brethren, fellow-heirs of the grace of life! Brethren, fellow-combatants in the field of conflict — go forward to the crown! Wrestle in your Savior's strength! Conquer by his blood, and the word of your testimony! Fail not, faint not, slacken not your pace — until you sit down with Abraham, Isaac, Jacob, and Jesus, in the kingdom of God! Let this be our motto, always and everywhere, "Go Forward!"