An Evidence of Grace
James Smith, 1859
I love to hear a good man speak, when he is in a good mood; especially to hear a useful man tell of the origin of his usefulness. I had this treat last night. A good man, and a very useful man, rose to address a large body of Sunday School Teachers, and in opening his address he said, "From the moment God called me by his grace, I felt an earnest desire to bring others to Jesus." That desire has ruled and reigned in his heart, and has appeared in his life for more than thirty years, and is likely to do so until he dies. I scarcely know a more satisfactory evidence of conversion — than a deep-seated, abiding desire to do good to others, both spiritually and temporally. From mere benevolence — we may desire to benefit the body, elevate the character, and improve the morals. From mere sentimentality — we may desire to bring people to think as we think, believe as we believe, and profess as we profess. But an influential and abiding desire to save the souls, and benefit the bodies, of our fellow men — proves the presence, power, and grace of the Holy Spirit in the heart.
Wherever this desire is begotten, it will he tried, perhaps severely tried — by disappointments, discouragements, and God's delaying to bless; but it will ultimately be crowned with success. I never knew, I never heard of a person, who thus desired to bring souls to Jesus, and was willing to work, wait, and pray — who did not succeed. All difficulties, however great they may be, will be overcome; all impediments will be removed out of the way — and success will crown persevering effort.
Mere impulse, or excitement, may make a great noise, and attract great attention for a time; but will ultimately dry up, perhaps injuring rather than leaving a blessing behind it. But this deep-seated desire, welling up out of the heart renewed by grace, like the stream supplied by the living spring — will widen and deepen as it flows, and down to life's last hour, will benefit many; and at death leave a blessing behind it. The Christian, with this desire in the heart, cannot sit down in self-enjoyment; will not be afraid of the cry, "There is a lion in the way, there is a lion in the streets;" will not seek the gratification of the flesh, as the principal end of life; but will often mortify the flesh, with its passions and lusts, that it may be useful to others, and bring glory to God.
How great the honor, to be employed for Jesus! To be engaged in bringing souls to him! To spend one's time, and one's talents in his service! And, what a pleasure in the decline of life, to look hack upon a life of usefulness, to think of sinners saved, believers comforted, children instructed, orphans provided for, broken-hearted widows cheered, and others set forward in life — by our instrumentality. How these things will appear, when we stand at the bar of God, or when we look back upon them in eternity, we cannot exactly say — but we are sure of this, that if we think of them at all, it will be with more pleasure, than we shall think of having amassed money, or dressed in silk and fine linen, or of having acquired a name and fame among our fellow men. If souls saved, are jewels in the crown of the glorified — then some will have few jewels. If we are rewarded according to our works, some can expect a very small reward. If the good and the faithful alone, hear the plaudit, Well Done! many will listen in vain for it.
Reader, how is it with you? Are you a decided Christian? Are you a useful Christian? Have you this evidence of true faith, that from the moment you believed yourself called by grace — you felt an earnest desire to bring others to Jesus? To be saved ourselves — and not wish others to enjoy the same blessing; to draw water with joy out of the wells of salvation — and not wish others to drink of it; to be filled with joy and peace in believing — and not wish others to realize the same happiness — is what we cannot understand. Jesus loved others, lived for others, died for others; and if we have the Spirit of Christ, we shall also love, and desire to see others saved. "If any man has not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of his."
Oh, if every professor's heart glowed with love to souls, if every one who names the name of Christ, felt an earnest desire to bring souls to Jesus — in what a different state would our churches and congregations be? But, alas! too many are satisfied with believing they are saved themselves — without seeking to save others. Too many seek comfort for themselves only — instead of seeking to bring others to Jesus, and honoring the Savior thereby.
O Holy Spirit, convince us all of our selfishness, of the sinfulness of the love of ease, of indulging the flesh, of worldly conformity, and especially of consenting to the eternal death of sinners around us! Deliver us from blood-guiltiness, let not our garments be spotted with the blood of souls — but give us grace so to feel, and so to act, as to be able honestly to say, "I am free from the blood of all men!"