Yes, Jesus Christ is the great Destroyer. Now this is the age of the fan. In all times of history there has never been a time like this, when God puts things to the test, and proves them; and everything in this world to-day is on its trial, and if it is not sixteen ounces to the pound it will go. I do not care whether it is a king's crown, a bishop's mitre, or a parson's white tie, it will have to go if it is not right. "Whose fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly purge His floor."
Where is Babylon? The greatest heap of dirt in the world is Babylon! Where is Spain -- Spain, that used to make Englishmen tremble? It is nothing; it does not count; it is not put as a cypher in the world's sum. What is Napoleon? Eh! what is Napoleon? The last of the Napoleons died under the hand of a savage when he was where he had no business to be, burning his lips with other folks' broth. The grandest bit of human nature in this world, a few years ago, was the Emperor who has just gone to heaven. The grandest man I ever saw. I never saw what God Almighty could make of flesh and blood until I saw him. And he has left behind him a man with one arm; the other arm is a sword-arm. The Emperor Frederick said that he wanted to live for peace. I wish our princes were more like him. I have been told that I must not say anything about the Prince of Wales. I say "God save the Queen"; she is the best monarch that ever sat on the throne. God bless her, and may she live longer than any of them ever have done. And I say, "God save the Prince of Wales," for racehorses will not save him; gambling will not save him. The man that is to come to the throne owns racehorses; he has a horse called "Mischief," and it is well called. Why must I keep silent when I see the first man in the realm encouraging that which is ruining our young men, and sometimes sending them to a felon's prison? I believe a limited monarchy is the best form of government that can be found for England, but the English crown is on its trial, and if it is not wheat, there are dark days in store for England. I want to see the present style of government, and I want a man on the throne that is a man, and not one that is trying as hard as he can to set such an example as will send the country to hell. I would like the chance of saying it to his face. You can tell people what I have said. Let us thank God that the fan is in the hand of Jesus Christ.
You cannot keep Methodism from the action of the fan. It has got to be tried, and everything in Methodism that is not wheat will go into the fire, and serve it right. Everything must be sown, and must grow and bear its fruit, and be gathered, and then winnowed; and the chaff must go into the fire. The Methodist pulpit is not an exception to it. If I cannot interest people I have no right to be paid for it. If I cannot get the people to come and hear me, and if I do not go and look after them in their homes, I have no right to draw the money for doing it. And no preacher has the right to think that people should come and hear him if he cannot preach -- he has no right. I am tired out when I think of the things that put themselves where they have no right.
The whole Christian Church to-day has got to come under the fan; and there will be some wonderful changes before all your heads are grey. The grandest thing is that Jesus Christ holds the fan.
The class-meeting is on its trial.
I do not believe in a class-leader that does not lead, that is not first. I do not believe in a man's right to be counted a leader because his name is at the top of the book. I know classes, and you know classes, where, if you have a revival, and get twenty new members in the class, they will attend it about once or twice, and after that, if you rub the cypher out, that will stand for the increase. That "leader" is guaranteed to lose everybody that is in his class, except two or three dear people, and they can keep the meeting on for an hour; and be as dreary as -- well, I will not say all that is in my mind. You see, some people would say it is no business of mine. But no man has a right to be a leader if he cannot keep a meeting all alive. If a man can get a class of 150 to 200 people to listen to him when he speaks, that is the man to lead. You must not sacrifice the new-born babes. I do not know what the Committee that has been sitting on "the class meeting" thought about it, but depend upon it, it will have to come under the fan. I know places where a man's name is kept on the class-book because he condescends to pay the minister for his ticket whenever he calls, and where another man is taken off that cannot afford it. Why, John Bunyan would have called that damnable!
The chaff is no good. You may plant chaff in the best land that ever was, and you will not get anything. That which is of no use must go into the fire.
The Sunday-school is on its trial. Yes! even in Lancashire. The biggest Sunday-school system is here in this county. What is the result? What has it to show, compared with the amount of patient, faithful work that has been done? Do you not think that in some places the result is all chaff? The Sunday-school is fast becoming the grandest entertainment agency in existence, and places that were built for the teaching of God's Word are now places for entertainment, better than any theatre, because they cost nothing. I saw in Leeds, the other Sunday, that in a certain Sunday-school "there will be a sacred drama rendered." It was not a Methodist School. But I know schools where they have "niggers," with blackened faces and banjos. The "nigger troupe of such-and-such a school!" What do you think John Wesley would say if he came to life again? He would drive them out, as Christ drove out those men from the Temple, "with a whip of" -- well! I do not think they would be such "small cords" either.
Now the Sunday-school, "the greatest thing of this age," the grandest thing that the Church has seen in the last hundred years, is on its trial: and if we do not mind it will go with the chaff into the unquenchable fire. We cannot play into the devil's hands without getting what he will get some day. Now I am talking here to you to-day for the last time. There will be no services here until after the Conference. There may be some poor, unsaved man here. God can make wheat out of chaff. He can! He will if you will come to Him. He will change your life, and you that are nothing worth, He can make you fit for heavenly thrones.
Listen to this letter. The man that wrote it was a football player. He was in the Bolton Wanderers, in its day a crack club. He was also a singer in the choir. And he came to a chapel where I was conducting a mission; and this little word got hold of him. It was not any great thing that was said; for it is sometimes "on boards and broken pieces of the ship that they come to land." This poor lad heard me say this: -- "You singers!" -- I did not know he was there -- "You singers! If you die out of Christ, when you get into the bottomless pit, some of the wicked spirits will come to torment you: 'Sing us a solo!'" It got him on his knees. He became penitent, and through giving his heart to God he is an evangelist in that town now. He was only chaff, though a wonderful player in the field; and he that used to say, "Play up, Jim!" has grown into a man, and the devil hates him now! He writes: -- "I feel drawn out to write to you. Many souls are being saved nearly every day. A man got saved some weeks back; and we went to see how he was going on. He first came to the mission, and although convinced of his wicked life, he refused the offer of mercy. Not being able to rest, he again found his way to the mission- hall, and there he found the Saviour. A few weeks passed, and I went to find him out. When we got there, they asked us in. I did not see a picture on the wall, only a few almanacks; but they had some bonny children, and the floor was very clean, and the fireplace bright. They had not many friends coming to see them. The father, having changed his pit clothes, came downstairs. He said, 'My wife used to pray when I married her, but I broke her up.' And then, pointing to the five children, he said, 'Thank God! Instead of being cursed to-night, they will all kneel down! The eldest girl is thirteen, and next Saturday I have got money to buy her a new frock, and on the Sunday she shall go to the Sunday school for the first time. Sometimes I pick up one of the children, and say, 'God bless thee, my child; thou wilt not have to fetch me from the ale-house any more!' After he had told us of his changed life, we all knelt down and thanked God. Last night his wife went home rejoicing in the Gospel. -- Your son in the Gospel, JAMES ATHERTON."
That poor man was chaff. And you, wherever you are, you may be just about to be carried away. Cry to God! This is my last word -- Poor chaff, cry to God! And He will make thee wheat that shall command a rare price.
WE CAN WORK ONLY WHILE IT