I am glad this has been recorded for our instruction. How it ought to encourage us all to believe that we may each have a part in building up the walls of the heavenly Zion. In all ages God has delighted to use the weak things. In his letter to the Corinthians Paul speaks of five things that God uses: "God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty; and base things of the world, and things which are despised, hath God chosen, yea, and things which are not, to bring to nought things that are, that no flesh should glory in His presence."
You notice there are five things mentioned that God uses -- foolish things, weak things, base things, despised things, and things which are not. What for? "That no flesh should glory in His presence." When we are weak then we are strong. People often think they have not strength enough; the fact is we have too much strength. It is when we feel that we have no strength of our own, that we are willing God should use us, and work through us. If we are leaning on God's strength, we have more than all the strength of the world.
This world is not going to be reached by mere human intellectual power. When we realize that we have no strength, then all the fulness of God will flow in upon us. Then we shall have power with God and with man.
In Revelation we read that John on one occasion wept much at a sight he beheld in heaven. He saw a sealed book; and no one was found that could break the seal and open the book. Abel, that holy man of God, was not worthy to open it. Enoch, who had been translated to heaven without tasting death; Elijah, who had gone up in a chariot of fire; even Moses, that great law-giver; or Isaiah, or any of the prophets -- none was found worthy to open the book. As he saw this John wept much. As he wept one touched him, and said: "Weep not; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the root of David, hath prevailed to open the Book, and to loose the seven seals thereof." When he looked to see who was the Lion of the tribe of Judah, whom did he see! Lo, the Lion was a Lamb! God's Lion is a Lamb! When we are like lambs God can use us, and we are strong in His service. We can all be weak can we not? Then let us lean on the mighty power of God.
Notice that all the men whom Christ called around Him were weak men in a worldly sense. They were all men without rank, without title, without position, without wealth or culture. Nearly all of them were fishermen and unlettered men; yet Christ chose them to build up His kingdom. When God wanted to bring the children of Israel out of bondage, He did not send an army; He sent one solitary man. So in all ages God has used the weak things of the world to accomplish His purposes.
I read an incident some time ago that illustrates the power of a simple tract. A society was some years ago established to distribute tracts by mail in the higher circles. One of these tracts, entitled, "Prepare to meet thy God," was enclosed in an envelope, and sent by post to a gentleman well known for his ungodly life and his reckless impiety. He was in his study when he read this letter among others. "What's that," said he. "'Prepare to meet thy God.' Who has had the impudence to send me this cant?" And, with an imprecation on his unknown correspondent, he arose to put the paper in the fire.
"No; I won't do that." he said to himself; "On second thoughts, I know what I will do. I'll send it to my friend B -- ; it will be a good joke to hear what he'll say about it." So saying, he enclosed the tract in a fresh envelope, and, in a feigned hand, directed it to his boon companion.
Mr. B -- was a man of his own stamp, and received the tract, as his friend had done, with an oath at the Methodistical humbug, which his first impulse was to tear in pieces. "I'll not tear it either," said he to himself. "Prepare to meet thy God" at once arrested his attention, and smote his conscience. The arrow of conviction entered his heart as he read, and he was converted. Almost his first thought was for his ungodly associates. "Have I received such blessed light and truth, and shall I not strive to communicate it to others?" He again folded the tract, and enclosed and directed it to one of his companions in sin. Wonderful to say, the little arrow hit the mark. His friend read. He also was converted; and both are now walking as the Lord's redeemed ones.
In Matthew we read: "For the kingdom of heaven is as a man travelling into a far country, who called his own servants, and delivered unto them his goods. And unto one he gave five talents, to another two, and to another one; to every man according to his several ability; and straightway took his journey."
Observe, he gave to every man "according to his several ability." He gave to each servant just the number of talents that he could take care of and use. Some people complain that they have not more talents; but we have each the number of talents that we can properly employ. If we take good care of what we have, God will give us more. There were eight talents to be distributed among three persons; the master gave to one five; to a second, two; and to another, one. The man went away; and the servants fully understood that he expected them to improve their talents and trade with them. God is not unreasonable; He does not ask us to do what we cannot do; but He gives us according to our several ability, and He expects us to use the talents we have.
We read: "He that had received the five talents went and traded with the same, and made them other five talents. And likewise he that had received two, he also gained other two. But he that had received one went and digged in the earth, and hid his lord's money." Notice that the man who had the two talents got exactly the same commendation as the man who had the five. The one who got five doubled them, and his lord said to him: "Well done, good and faithful servant." The one who had two also doubled them, and so had four talents; to him also the lord said: "Well done, good and faithful servant, enter thou into the joy of thy lord."
If the man who had the one talent had traded with it, he would have received exactly the same approval as the others. But what did he do? He put it into a napkin and buried it. He thought he would take care of it in that way.
After the lord of these servants had been gone a long while he returned to reckon with them. What does he find in the case of the third servant? He has the one talent; but that is all.
I read of a man who had a thousand dollars. He hid it away, thinking he would in that way take care of it, and that when he was an old man he would have something to fall back upon. After keeping the money for twenty years he took it to a bank and got just one thousand dollars for it. If he had put it at interest, in the usual way, he might have had three times the amount. He made the mistake that a great many people are making to-day throughout Christendom, of not trading with his talents. My experience has been as I have gone about in the world and mingled with professing Christians, that those who find most fault with others are those who themselves have nothing to do. If a person is busy improving the talents that God has given him he will have too much to do to find fault and complain about others.
God has given us many opportunities of serving Him, and He expects that we should use them. People think that their time and property are their own. What saying is more frequent than this? "I have a right to do what I will with my own."
On one occasion a friend was beside the dying bed of a military man who had held an important command in successful Indian wars. He asked if he were afraid to die. He at once said: "I am not."
"Why?" He said: "I have never done any harm."
The other replied: "If you were going to be tried by a court-martial as an officer and a gentleman, I suppose you would expect an honorable acquittal?" The dying old man lifted himself up, and with an energy which his illness seemed to render impossible, exclaimed, "That I should!"
"But you are not going to a court-martial; you are going to Christ; and when Christ asks you, 'What have you done for me?' what will you say?" His countenance changed, and earnestly gazing on his friend, with agonized feelings he answered: "Nothing! -- I have never done anything for Christ!"
His friend pointed out the awful mistake of habitually living in the sense of our relations one with another, and forgetting our relation to Christ and to God; therefore the error of supposing that doing no harm, or even doing good to those around, will serve as a substitute for living to God. What have you done for Christ? is the great question.
After some days, he called again on the old man, who said: "Well, sir, what do you think now?" He replied: "Ah! I am a poor sinner." He pointed him to the Savior of sinners; and not long afterward he departed this life as a repentant sinner, resting in Christ. What an awful end would have come to the false peace in which he was found! And yet it is the peace of the multitudes, only to be undeceived at the judgment seat of Christ.
If this world is going to be reached, I am convinced it must be done by men and women of average talent. After all there are comparatively few people in the world who have great talents. Here is a man with one talent; there is another with three; perhaps I may have only half a talent. But if we all go to work and trade with the gifts we have the Lord will prosper us; and we may double or treble our talents. What we need is to be up and about our Master's work, every man building against his own house. The more we use the means and opportunities we have, the more will our ability and our opportunities be increased.
An Eastern allegory runs thus: A merchant, going abroad for a time, gave respectively to two of his friends two sacks of wheat each, to take care of against his return. Years passed; he came back, and applied for them again. The first took him into a storehouse, and showed them his sacks; but they were mildewed and worthless. The other led him out into the open country, and pointed to field after field of waving corn, the produce of the two sacks given him. Said the merchant: "You have been a faithful friend. Give me two sacks of that wheat; the rest shall be thine."
I heard a person once say that she wanted assurance. I asked how long she had been a Christian; and she replied she had been one for a number of years. I said: "What are you doing for Christ?" "I do not know that I have the opportunity of doing anything," she replied. I pity the person who professes to be a Christian in this day, and who says he can find no opportunities of doing any work for Christ. I cannot imagine where his lot must be cast. The idea of any one knowing the Lord Jesus Christ in this nineteenth century, and saying he has no opportunities of testifying for Him. Surely no one need look far to find plenty of opportunities for speaking and working for the Master, if he only has the desire to do it. "Lift up your eyes, and look on the fields; for they are white already to harvest." If you cannot do some great thing, you can do some little thing.
A man sent me a tract a little while ago, entitled, "WHAT IS THAT IN THINE HAND?" and I am very thankful he sent it. These words were spoken by God to Moses when He called him to go down to Egypt, and bring the children of Israel out of the house of bondage. You remember how Moses tried to excuse himself. He said he was not eloquent; he was not this and that; and he could not go. Like Isaiah he wanted the Lord to send some one else. At last the Lord said to Moses, "What is that in thine hand?" He had a rod in his hand. It may be that a few days before he wanted something to drive the sheep with, and he may have cut this wand for that purpose. He could probably have got a hundred better rods any day. Yet with that he was to deliver the children of Israel. God was to link His almighty power with that rod; and that was enough.
I can imagine that as Moses was on his way down to Egypt he may have met one of the philosophers or free-thinkers of his day, who might have asked him where he was going. "Down to Egypt." "Indeed! are you going down there again to live?" "No, I am going to bring my people out of the house of bondage." "What! you are going to deliver them from the hand of Pharaoh, the mightiest monarch now living? You think you are going to free three millions of slaves from the power of the Egyptians?" "Yes."
"How are you going to do it?" "With this rod."
What a contemptible thing the rod must have been in the eyes of that Egyptian freethinker; the idea of delivering three millions of slaves with a rod! We had three millions of slaves in this country, and before they could be set free half a million of men had to lay down their lives. The flower of the nation marched to its grave before our slaves gained their deliverance.
Here was a weak and solitary man going down to Egypt, to meet a monarch who had the power of life and death. And all he had with which to deliver the people from bondage was this rod! Yet see how famous that rod became. When Moses wanted to bring up the plagues on the people he had only to stretch out his rod, and they covered the land. He had but to stretch it out, and the water of the country was turned into blood. Then when the people came to the Red Sea and they wanted to go across, he had only to lift up the rod and the waters separated, so that the people could pass through dry-shod. When they were in the desert and wanted water to drink, again he lifted this rod and struck the flinty rock, when the water burst forth, and they drank and were refreshed. That contemptible rod became mighty indeed. But it was not the rod; it was the God of Moses, who condescended to use it.
Let us learn a lesson from this history. We are required to use what we have, not what we have not. Whatever gifts or talents you have, take and lay them at the Master's feet. Moses took what he had; and we see how much he accomplished. If we are ready to say: "Here am I, ready and willing to be used," the Lord will use us; He will link His mighty power with our weakness, and we shall be able to do great things for Him.
Look again, and see Joshua as he goes up to the walls of Jericho. If you had asked what they had with which to bring down the walls of that city, all you would have seen would have been a few rams' horns. They must have looked very mean and contemptible in the eyes of the men of Jericho. Perhaps the city contained some men who were giants; as they looked over the walls and saw the Israelites marching around the city blowing these horns, they must have appeared very insignificant. But God can use the base things, the despised things. However contemptible an instrument a ram's horn may have appeared in the sight of man, the people went on blowing them as they were commanded; and at the appointed time down came the walls, and the city was taken. The Israelites had no battering rams; no great armor or mighty weapons of any kind. They simply took what they had, and God used it to do the work.
Look at Samson going out to meet a thousand Philistines. What has he with him? Only the jawbone of an ass! If God could use that, surely He can use us, can he not? Do you tell me He cannot use this woman, that little boy? There is not one whom He cannot use, if we are willing to be used.
I remember hearing a Scotchman say, when I was in Great Britain ten years ago, that there was probably not a man in all Saul's army but believed that God could use him to go out and slay the giant of Gath. But there was only one solitary man who believed that God would use him. David went out to meet Goliath and we know the result. We all believe that God can use us; we want to take a step further and believe that He will use us. If we are willing to be used, He is willing to use us in His service. How contemptible these smooth stones that David took out of the brook would have appeared to Goliath! Even Saul wanted David to take his armor, and put it on. He was on the point of yielding; but he took his sling and the five smooth stones and went out. The giant of Gath fell before him. Let us go forth in the name of the God of hosts, using what we have, and He will give us the victory.
When I was in Glasgow a few years ago, a friend was telling me about an open-air preacher who died there some years before. This man was preaching one Sabbath morning on Shamgar. He said: "I can imagine that when he was ploughing in the field a man came running over the hill all out of breath, and shouted: 'Shamgar! Shamgar! There are six hundred Philistines coming toward you.' Shamgar quietly said: 'You pass on; I can take care of them, they are four hundred short.' So he took an ox goad and slew the whole of them. He routed them hip and high. And the Israelites had again fulfilled before their eyes the words: 'One shall chase a thousand and two shall put ten thousand to flight.'" Now-a-days it takes about a thousand to chase one, because we do not realize that we are weak in ourselves and that our strength is in God.
We want to remember that it is true to-day as ever it was that "One shall chase a thousand." What we need is Holy Ghost power that can take up the weakest child here and make him mighty in God's hand. There is a mountain to be threshed; there lies a bar of iron, and a little weak worm. God puts aside the iron, and takes up the worm to thresh the mountain. That is God's way. His thoughts are not our thoughts; His plans are not ours.
We say: "If such and such a man were only converted -- that rich man or that wealthy lady -- how much good would be done!" Very true; but it may be that God will pass them by and take up some poor tramp, and make him the greatest instrument for good in all the land. John Bunyan, the poor Bedford tinker, was worth more than all the nobility of his day. God took him in hand, and he became mighty. He wrote that wonderful book that has gone marching through the nations, lifting up many a weary heart, cheering many a discouraged and disheartened one. Let us remember that if we are willing to be used, God is willing and waiting to use us.
I once heard an Englishman speak about Christ feeding the five thousand with the five barley loaves and the two small fishes. He said that Christ may have taken one of the loaves and broken off a piece and given it to one of the disciples to divide. When the disciple began to pass it round he only gave a very small piece to the first, because he was afraid it would not hold out. But after he had given the first piece it did not seem to grow any the less; so the next time he gave a larger piece, and still the bread was not exhausted. The more he gave, the more the bread increased, until all had plenty.
At the first all could be carried in one basket; but when the whole multitude had been satisfied the disciples gathered up twelve baskets full of fragments. They had a good deal more when they stopped than when they began. Let us bring our little barley loaves to the Master that He may multiply them.
You say you have not got much; well, you can use what you have. The longer I work in Christ's vineyard the more convinced I am that a good many are kept out of the service of Christ, deprived of the luxury of working for God, because they are trying to do some great thing. Let us be willing to do little things. And let us remember that nothing is small in which God is. Elijah's servant came to him and told him he saw a cloud not larger than a man's hand. That was enough for Elijah. He said to his servant, "Go, tell Ahab to make haste; there is the sound of abundance of rain." Elijah knew that the small cloud would bring rain. Nothing that we do for God is small.
I remember holding meetings some years ago at a certain place, and I met a young lady at the house where I was staying. She told me she had a Sunday afternoon class in a mission-school. At one of our afternoon meetings I saw this lady sitting right in front; she must have been there early to get a good seat. After the service I met her, and I said: "I saw you at the meeting to-day; I thought you had a class." "So I have."
"Did you get some one to take it for you?" "No."
"Did you tell the Superintendent you were not to be there?" "No."
"Do you know who had the class?" "No."
"Do you know if any one was there to take it?" "I am afraid there was nobody; for I saw a good many of the teachers of the school at your meeting."
"Is that the way you do the Lord's work?" "Well, you know, I have only five little boys. I thought it would not make any difference."
Only five little boys! Why, there might have been a John Knox, or a Wesley, or a Whitefield, or a Bunyan there. You cannot tell what these boys might become. One of them might become another Martin Luther; there might be a second Reformation slumbering in one of these five little boys. It is a great thing for any one to take "five little boys" and train them for God and for eternity. You may set a stream in motion that will flow on after you are dead and gone.
Little did the mothers of the Wesleys know what would be the result, when she trained her boys for God and for His kingdom. See what mighty results have flowed from that one source. It is estimated that there are to-day 25,000,000 adherents of the Methodist faith, and over 5,000,000 communicants. It is estimated there are 110,000 regular and local preachers in the United States alone. Two new churches are being built every day in the year; and the work of the Methodist Church is spreading over this great Republic. And all this has been done in about a hundred and fifty years. Let not mothers think that their work of training children for God is a small one. In the sight of God it is very great; many may rise up in eternity to call them blessed.
I have now in my mind a mother who has had twelve boys. They have all grown up to be active Christians. A number of them are preachers of the Gospel; and all of them are true to the Son of God. There are very few women in our country who have done more for the nation than that mother. It is a great thing to be permitted to touch God's work, and to be a co-worker with Him.
There is a bridge over the Niagara River. It is one of the great highways of the nation; trains pass over it every few minutes of the day. When they began to make the bridge, the first thing they did was to take a boy's kite and send a little thread across the stream. It seemed a very small thing, but it was the beginning of a great work. So if we only lead one soul to Christ, eternity alone may tell what the result will be. You may be the means of saving some one who may become one of the most eminent men in the service of God that the world has ever seen.
We may not be able to do any great thing; but if each of us will do something, however small it may be, a goof deal will be accomplished for God. For a good many years I have made it a rule not to let any day pass without speaking to some one about eternal things. I commenced it away back years ago, and if I live the life allotted to man, there will be 18,250 persons who will have been spoken to personally by me. That of course does not take into account those to whom I speak publicly. How often we as Christians meet with people, when we might turn the conversation into a channel that will lead them up to Christ.
There are many burdened hearts all around us; can we not help to remove these burdens? Some one has represented this world as two great mountains -- a mountain of sorrow and a mountain of joy. If we can each day take something from the mountain of sorrow and add it to the mountain of joy, a good deal will be accomplished in the course of a year.
I remember Mr. Spurgeon making this remark a few days ago: When Moses went to tell the king of Egypt that he would call up the plague of frogs upon the land, the king may have said: "Your God is the God of frogs, is He? I am not afraid of them; bring them on, I do not care for the frogs!" Says Moses: "But there are a good many of them, O king." And he found that out.
So we may be weak and contemptible individually, but there a good many Christians scattered all over the land, and we can accomplish a great deal between us. Supposing each one who loves the Lord Jesus were to resolve to-day, by God's help, to try and lead one soul to Christ this week. Is there a professing Christian who cannot lead some soul into the kingdom of God? If you cannot I want to tell you that there is something wrong in your life; you had better have it straightened out at once. If you have not an influence for good over some one of your friends or neighbors, there is something in your life that needs to be put right. May God show it to you to-day!
I have little sympathy with the idea that a Christian man or woman has to live for years before they can have the privilege of leading anyone out of the darkness of this world into the kingdom of God. I do not believe, either, that all God's work is going to be done by ministers, and other officers in the Churches. This lost world will never be reached and brought back to loyalty to God, until the children of God wake up to the fact that they have a mission in the world. If we are true Christians we should all be missionaries. Christ came down from heaven on a mission, and if we have His Spirit in us we will be missionaries too. If we have no desire to see the world discipled, to see man brought back to God, there is something very far wrong in our religion.
If you cannot work among the elder people you can go to work among the children. Let Christians speak kindly to these boys and girls about their souls; they will remember it all their lives. They may forget the sermon, but if some one speaks to them personally, they will say: "That man or woman must be greatly interested in me or they would not have been at the trouble to speak to me." They may wake up to the fact that they have immortal souls, and even if the preaching goes right over their heads, a little personal effort may be a means of blessing to them.
This personal and individual dealing is perfectly Scriptural. Philip was called away from a great work in Samaria to go and speak to one man in the desert. Christ's great sermon on Regeneration was addressed to one man; and that wonderful discourse by our Lord on the Water of Life was spoken to one poor sinful woman. I pity those Christians who are not willing to speak to one soul; they are not fit for God's service. We shall not accomplish much for God in the world, if we are not willing to speak to the ones and twos.
Another thing: Do not let Satan make you believe that the children are too young to be saved. Of course you cannot put old heads on young shoulders. You cannot make them into deacons and elders all at once. But they can give their young hearts to Christ.
A good many years ago I had a mission school in Chicago. The children were mostly those of ungodly parents. I only had them about an hour out of the week, and it seemed as if any good they got was wiped out during the week. I used to think that if ever I became a public speaker I would go up and down the world and beseech parents to consider the importance of training their children for God and eternity. On one of the first Sabbaths I went out of Chicago I impressed this on the congregation.
When I had finished my address an old white-haired man got up. I was all in a tremble, thinking he was going to criticise what I had said. Instead of that he said: "I want to indorse all that this young man has spoken. Sixteen years ago I was in a heathen country. My wife died and left me with three motherless children. The first Sabbath after her death my eldest girl, ten years old, said: 'Papa, may I take the children into the bedroom and pray with them as mother used to do on the Sabbath?' I said she might.
When they came out of the room after a time I saw that my eldest daughter had been weeping. I called her to me, and said: 'Nellie, what is the trouble?' 'Oh, father,' she said, 'after we went into the room I made the prayer that mother taught me to make.' Then, naming her little brother, He made the prayer that mother taught him. Little Susie didn't use to pray when mother took us in there because mother thought she was too young. But when we got through she made a prayer of her own. I could not but weep when I heard her pray. She put her little hands together and closed her eyes and said: 'O God, you have taken away my dear mamma, and I have no mamma now to pray for me. Won't you bless me and make me good just as mamma was, for Jesus Christ's sake, Amen.'" "Little Susie gave evidence of having given her young heart to God before she was four years old. For sixteen years she has been at work as a missionary among the heathen."
Let us remember that God can use these little children. Dr. Milnor was brought up a Quaker, became a distinguished lawyer in Philadelphia, and was a member of Congress for three successive terms. Returning to his home on a visit during his last Congressional session, his little daughter rushed upon him exclaiming. "Papa! papa! do you know I can read?" "No?" he said, "let me hear you!" She opened her little Bible and read, "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart." It was an arrow in her father's heart, It came to him as a solemn admonition. "Out of the mouth of babes," God's Spirit moved within him. He was driven to his closet, and a friend calling upon him found he had been weeping over the Dairyman's Daughter. Although only forty years of age, he abandoned politics and law for the ministry of the Gospel. For thirty years he was the beloved rector of St. George's Church, in Philadelphia, the predecessor of the venerated Dr. Tyng.
Dear mothers and fathers, let us in simple faith bring our children to Christ. He is the same to-day as when He took them in His arms and said: "Suffer the little children to come unto Me and forbid them not; for of such is the kingdom of heaven."
I may not do much with all my care,
I may speak His name to the sorrowful,