Hindering the Gospel
James Smith, 1860
The gospel is a glorious revelation of grace. It is a message from a gracious God to a world of sinners, by which God informs them of a Savior, invites them to be saved by him, and promises salvation to every one who trusts in him. By the gospel, God informs us that he is merciful, that his nature is love, that he does not wish to punish us--but wishes to be friends with us, and therefore beseeches us to be reconciled unto him. By the gospel, God works in the conversion of sinners, in the comfort of sufferers, and in the sanctification of believers. We have the gospel for the world. We are to preserve it spread it, illustrate it, and adorn it. In every way we are to make it known, and every one of us should be inspired with the beneficial fear that influenced the Apostles mind, when he surrendered his unquestionable right, and assigned as his reason, "Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." 1 Corinthians 9:12.
Here is a Solemn Fact:the gospel may he hindered. We may hinder the spread of it, by withholding the means, by discouraging the preachers, or by grieving the Spirit. The gospel is the Savior's triumphal car, in which he rides forth conquering and to conquer; and it is our duty to prepare the way for it, and by all means to help it forward. Hence Paul wrote to the Thessalonians, "Brethren, pray for us, that the Word of the Lord may have free course, and be glorified." It is for us to prepare a good, smooth, straight, firm road for the gospel chariot to roll along; if we do not, we hinder it.
We may hinder the effect of it, prejudicing people against it, and preventing people from coming to hear it. Many professors, who should be a proof of the truth of the gospel, and a powerful argument why others should embrace it--hinder by their spirit, temper, and conduct--certain parties from calmly examining it, cordially embracing it, publicly professing it, and assisting to circulate it. Like the Lawyers of old, only in another way, they take away the key of knowledge, not entering in themselves, and those who would enter in they hinder. Luke 12:51.
This is often done by professors--they are so cold and indifferent, so careless, unsociable, covetous, proud and haughty, light and frivolous, sour and crabbed! They are anything, and everything--but what they should be. For everyone that professes Christ, should be zealous in his cause, hearty in his service, friendly and kind, humble and courteous, pleasant and obliging.
In a word, they should resemble him who was meek and lowly of heart, who was holy, harmless, undefiled, and who went about doing good: and if this is not in some good measure the case--we hinder the gospel of Christ! For we all exert an influence for good or evil; it may be secret, silent, or unconscious--but it is powerful, either to help or hinder the gospel.
Mark the Apostle's Concern."Lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ." He feared doing it, he loved the Savior so much, he prized the gospel so highly, and he was so intently set upon saving souls from death--that he dreaded few things more than hindering the gospel. He therefore endeavored to avoid hindering the gospel, in order to which he adapted himself to his circumstances, consulted the prejudices of his hearers, accommodated himself to their peculiarities--if by any means he might save some. Yes, he sought to please all men, in all things not sinful--that he might gain the more. Consequently, he denied himself, brought his body into subjection, gave up his right to financial support, wrought with his own hands for his own support, and for the support of his friends too, lest he should hinder the gospel of Christ. He strove by all means to commend the gospel, to proclaim the gospel, and to induce men to embrace the gospel. His conduct was noble, and is worthy of our admiration and closest imitation.
Brethren, let us also fear to walk on the margin of our liberty, to punctiliously contend for all our rights, or to yield to a self-indulgent spirit, lest we should hinder the gospel. We have perhaps hindered it; if so, let us be sorry for it, grieve over it, and seek grace that we may in future recommend it, and induce others to admire and accept it.
The gospel is entrusted to us. It was originally delivered to the saints, and by them it has been handed down to us, that we may believe it, enjoy it, publish it, and in every possible way recommend it. We are identified with its success or failure; if it succeeds through us--we share in the honor; if it fails through us--we are involved in the consequences. Succeed or fail it must, and perhaps it depends very much more on us, than we have been given to think--we may have hindered it.
The reason why many ministers of the gospel cannot prosper, why many of the Churches do not flourish, is that the members hinder. Instead of every one putting his shoulder to the wheel to help the chariot along--they put stumbling blocks in the way, and by a censorious spirit, or a cold heart, or a haughty manner--they hinder the gospel.
This is also the reason why there are so many prejudiced against the gospel: they judge of religion by us--and not by the Bible; they look at us as its standard--not at the Lord Jesus. Thus the inconsistent tradesman prejudices his customers; and the customer by his slack and slow payments prejudices the tradesman; the servant by pertness, lack of cleanliness, or purloining, prejudices the mistress; and the mistress, by her fretfulness, lack of sympathy, and severity, prejudices the servant; the master by the hard bargains that he drives, and the low wages that he gives, prejudices those he employs; and the employed by idleness, lack of interest in his master's business, and general dissatisfaction, prejudices the master.
Some by their gloom--others by their giddiness;
some by their love of luxury--and others by indulgence in dress;
some by being found at carnal amusements--others by profaning the Lord's day for pleasure, or self-indulgence;
some by one means--and some by another,
produce a prejudice against religion, and cause worldlings to say, "If that is religion--I am better without it!"
The kitchen often hinders religion in the parlor--and the parlor hinders religion in the kitchen. The warehouse, the mill, or the workshop--hinders religion in the counting-house; and the counting-house hinders religion in the mill, or the warehouse, or the workshop. The pulpit sometimes hinders religion in the pew--and the pew hinders the success of the pulpit. Beloved, a great amount of responsibility rests upon us; let us beware, lest the blood of souls be charged on us; lest by anything in our temper, conversation, or conduct--we should hinder the gospel of Christ, for every one of us must give account of himself to God.
We are every day of our life, in every place, by every publication--either helping or hindering the gospel. We cannot be neutral, especially if we are professors of religion. When therefore the cause of God does not prosper, when souls are not converted, when the gospel does not spread or succeed in our neighborhood--let us solemnly ask ourselves the question, "Have I hindered the gospel of Christ? If there is a Jonah in that vessel--am I that Jonah?"
Sunday School teacher, has the gospel free course in your school? Is it glorified in the conversion of your children? If not, put the question to your conscience, "Have I by any means, or in any way, hindered the gospel of Christ?"
Church member, is the Church to which you belong prosperous, does the Lord add the saved unto it daily? Does it grow in grace, and do its members abound in good works? If not, ask, seriously ask, "What hinders? Who hinders? Do I hinder the gospel of Christ?"
Minister of Christ, is your ministry successful? Are souls saved? Do inquirers fly as a cloud, or as doves unto their windows? Is the Church at peace, and do the people walk in the comforts of the Holy Spirit? Is the hand of the Lord with you, and do many believe and turn to the Lord? If not, ask, and ask with deep seriousness, "What hinders? Who hinders? Lord, Is it I?"
God of grace, pardon, pardon us--for we have often, and in many, many ways hindered your gospel! Henceforth plant in our hearts the beneficial fear that shall prompt us to suffer wrong, make sacrifices, accommodate ourselves to all circumstances; yes, to do anything, or suffer anything, "lest we should hinder the gospel of Christ."