SHOES FOR PILGRIMS AND WARRIORS.
A THURSDAY EVENING HOMILY, BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“And your feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.” — Ephesians 6:15.
THE Christian was evidently intended to be in motion, for here are shoes for his feet. His head is provided with a helmet, for he is to be thoughtful; his heart is covered with a breastplate, for he is to be a man of feeling; his whole nature is protected by a shield, for he is called to endurance and caution; but that he is to be active is certain, for a sword is provided for his hand to use, and sandals with which his feet are to be shod. To suppose that a Christian is to be motionless as a post, and inanimate as a stone, or merely pensive as a weeping willow, and passive as a reed shaken by the wind, is altogether a mistake. God worketh in us, and his grace is the great motive power which secures our salvation; but he does not so work in us as to chloroform us into unconscious submission, or engineer us into mechanical motion, but he arouses all our activities by working in us “to will and to do of his good pleasure. Grace imparts healthy life, and life rejoices in activity. The Lord never intended his people to be automatons worked by clockwork, or statues cold and dead, but he meant them to have life, to have it more abundantly, and in the power of that life to be full of energy. It is true he makes us lie down in green pastures, but equally certain is it that he leads us onward beside the still waters. A true believer is an active person, he has feet, and uses them.
Now, he who marches meets with stones, or if as a warrior he dashes into the thick of the conflict he is assailed with weapons, and therefore he needs to be shod suitably, to meet his perils. The active and energetic Christian meets with temptations which do not happen to others. Idle persons can scarcely be said to be in danger, they are a stage beyond that, and are already overcome; Satan scarcely needs to tempt them, they rather tempt him, and are a fermenting mass, in which sin multiplies exceedingly, a decaying body around which the vultures of vice are sure to gather: but earnest laborious believers are sure to be assailed, even as fruit-bearing trees are certain to be visited by the birds. Satan cannot bear a man who serves God earnestly, he does damage to the arch-enemy’s dominions, and therefore he must be incessantly assailed. The prince of darkness will try, if he can, to injure the good man’s character, to break his communion with God, to spoil the simplicity of his faith, to make him proud of what he is doing, or to make him despair of success. In some way or other he will, if possible, bruise the worker’s heel, or trip him up, or lame him altogether.
Because of all these dangers infinite mercy has provided gospel shoes for the believer’s feet, shoes of the best kind, such as only those warriors wear who serve the Lord of Hosts.
We shall at this time first examine the shoes, and then try them on. I. Our first duty is to EXAMINE THE SHOES, which are provided for us by our Captain, and in doing so we are delighted to find that they come from a blessed Maker, for the feet of the believer are to be shod with a divine preparation. Many preparations and inventions are used for protecting feet, but this is a preparation in which infinite skill has been displayed, and the same wisdom put forth as in the gospel, which is the master-piece of God. Every p6rtion of the gospel is from God, and all the influence which makes it a gospel of peace is his, and we are therefore thankful to find that we are to wear “the preparation of the gospel of peace. It were not meet that he who is helmeted with divine salvation should be shod with a mere human production; having begun in the Spirit, it would be strange to be made perfect in the flesh. We would not be like the image of the monarch’s dream whose head was gold and whose feet were clay. We rejoice that all the pieces of armor which compose our panoply come forth from the celestial Armorer, whose productions are without a flaw.
We are glad to find that’ the shoes are made of excellent material, for they are composed of the “preparation of the gospel of peace”; and what better material can there be than the gospel — the gospel of peace, and that peace which grows out of the gospel? This is what is meant. We believe in a gospel which was formed in the purpose of God from all eternity, designed with infinite wisdom, wrought out at an enormous expense, costing nothing less than the blood of Jesus, brought home by infinite power, even by the might of the Holy Spirit; a gospel full of blessings, any one of which would outweigh a world in price; a gospel as free as it is full, a gospel everlasting and immutable, a gospel of which we can never think too much, whose praises we can never exaggerate! It is from this choice gospel that its choicest essence is taken, namely, its peace; and from this peace those sandals are prepared with which a man may tread on the lion and the adder, yea, and on the fierce burning coals of malice, slander, and persecution.
What better shoes can our souls require? What matchless material for girding the pilgrim’s foot is that which is here mentioned, namely, the peace which comes from the gospel, the preparation of heart and life, which springs of a full knowledge, reception, and experience of the gospel in our souls! What does it mean? It means, first, that a sense of perfect peace with God is the grandest thing in all the world to travel through life with. Let a man know that his sins are forgiven him for Christ’s hume’s sake, that he is reconciled to God by the death of his Son, and that between him and God there is no ground of difference, — what a joyful pilgrim he becomes! When we know that as the Lord looks on us his glance is full of infinite, undivided affection, that he sees us in Jesus Christ as cleansed from every speck of sin, and as “accepted in the beloved,” that by virtue of a complete atonement we are for ever reconciled to God, then do we march through life without fear, booted and buskined for all the exigencies of the way, yea, ready to plunge through fire and water, thorn and thistle, brake and briar, without fear. A man at peace with God dreads neither the ills of life nor the terrors of death; poverty, sickness, persecution, pain have lost their sting when sin is pardoned. What is there that a man needs to fear when he knows that in no affliction will there be any trace of the judicial anger of God, but all will come from a Father’s hand, and work his lasting good? Goliah had greaves of brass upon his legs, but he is better armed who wears a full assurance of peace with God through the gospel; he shall tread down his enemies, and crush them as grapes in the winepress. His stores shall be iron and brass, and shod with them he shall stand upon the high places of the earth, and his feet shall not slip. Achilles received a deadly wound in the heel, but no arrow can pierce the heel of the man whose foot is sandalled with reconciliation by stoning blood. Many a warrior has fainted on the march and dropped from the ranks exhausted, but no weariness of the way can happen to the man who is upheld by the eternal God, for his strength shall daily be renewed.
The preparation of the gospel of peace here mentioned must be understood to comprehend more than the legal peace of justification by faith: if we would enjoy the fullest comfort of the well-shod pilgrim we must have the’ exceeding peace which springs from intimate, undisturbed communion with God. We should pray not only to feel that we have been brought out of our natural enmity into peace with God, so as to be no more culprits but children, but also to dwell in the full joy Of our new relationship. It is a sweet thing for a child of God to feel that he is so acting that his heavenly Father has no reason for walking contrary to him. You know right well that as a child of God you will not be condemned and cast away as an alien, but you also know that as a child you may greatly displease your Father, and render it needful for him to frown upon you and visit you with stripes; now this you should with the utmost diligence and prayerfulness labor to prevent. There are times when the Lord of pilgrims hides his face from them in sore displeasure, and then it is very hard traveling. Life is “a great and terrible wilderness” when the Lord’s presence is withdrawn. The more a man loves the Lord the more does he suffer when there is a temporary suspension of happy communion between his soul and heaven, and he cannot be happy again till he knows that he is fully restored to the paternal favor. Oh, child of God, you will very soon have your feet torn with the briars of the way if you do not abide in fellowship with God. When Adam had lost his oneness with God he found out that he was naked, and so will you if you lose your communion with Jesus. Where before you dashed onward as with a charmed life, treading the world and all its cares beneath your feet, you will find yourself pierced with many sorrows, bleeding with acute griefs, scratched, torn, lacerated with trials, losses, crosses and annoyances endless. If we continue in the love of Jesus, pleasing him in all things, jealously watching and carefully observing his will, our mind will be kept by the peace of God, which passeth all understanding, and our road to heaven will be a pleasant one: it may indeed be very rough in itself and in the judgment of others, but it will be so smoothed to us by the peace which reigns within that we shall glory in infirmity, exult in suffering, and triumph in distress, knowing that the Lord is with us, and no harm can come unto us. Thus you see that the peace which comes of justification, and the fuller peace which arises from enjoying the love of God, are a grand preparation for our life’s journey, a shoe for the foot unrivaled in excellence.
It is also a grand sandal for a pilgrim’s foot when the gospel of peace has fully conformed his mind to the Lord’s will. Some children of God are not at peace with God because they do not fully acquiesce in the divine purposes; to them the pilgrim path must be a painful one, for nothing can please them, their unmortified self-will creates swarms of vexations for them; but to hearts which have crucified self, and yielded all to the will of God, the most thorny paths are pleasant. He who can say concerning all things, “Even so, Father, for so it seemed good in thy sight,” is shod for all ways and’ weathers, and may .march on undismayed. Fully conformed to the divine will, saints are invulnerable and invincible, “none shall be weary nor stumble among them, neither shall the latchet of their shoes be broken.” “They hold by nothing here below.
Appoint their journey and they go; Through joy or grief they march the same, Triumphant still in Jesu’s name.” Surely it is when the heart is completely at one with God that the true beauty of the Christian character is seen. Then it is that the heavenly Bridegroom cries out, “How beautiful are thy feet with shocks, O prince’s daughter.” Then, too, the church in her tribulation becomes bright and glorious, like her Lord, of whom we read, “His feet are like unto fine brass, as if they burned in a furnace.” Shod with perfect delight in the will of the Lord, we are able to surmount all the difficulties and trials of the way, for it becomes sweet to suffer when we see that it is the will of God. Resignation is good, but perfect acquiescence is better, and happy, thrice happy is the man who feels it. :No silver sandals were ever so precious, no buskins of golden mail adorned with precious stones were so glorious to look upon as a mind moulded to the divine will, perfectly in tune with the mind of the Lord most High.
The preparation of the gospel of peace, you thus see, is, in many aspects, the fittest help for our journey to the promised land, and he who has his feet shod with it need not fear the flinty ways, the craggy rocks, or the thorny defiles.
But the gospel of peace has another side to it, for it not only brings us peace with God, but it inspires us with peace towards ourselves. Civil war is the worst of war, and for a man to be at discord with himself is the worst of strife; the worst peril of Christian pilgrimage is that which arises from the pilgrim’s own self, and if he be ill at ease within himself, his course cannot be a happy one. The prayer of the evening hymn is very suggestive, “That with the world, myself, and thee, I, e’er I sleep, at peace may be.” It is a most needful matter to have peace at home. It is a cruel case for a man when his own heart condemns him; to whom shall he look for a defense when his own conscience indicts him, and all his faculties turn king’s evidence against him? It is to be feared that many believers habitually do that which they would not like to be questioned upon by the rule of the word of God; they have to close their eyes to many passages of Scripture, or else they would be uneasy in their consciences. Brethren, this makes wretched traveling; it is like walking through a wood with naked feet. If you cannot satisfy your own heart that you are right, you are in a sad case indeed, and the sooner matters are altered the better. But if a man can say, before the living God, “I know that what I am about to do is right; and whatever comes of it, I have a pure motive, and the Lord’s sanction to sustain me in it,” then he proceeds to action with a nimble tread. Such a pilgrim is girt for roughest ways, and will hold on his way joyfully to the end. Rest of conscience shoes us right well, but a question as to the rightness of our procedure makes us barefooted. Come what may, if we order our ways with reverent regard to the Lord’s commands, we shall be able to confront the future with serenity, for we shall not have to accuse ourselves of bringing ourselves into trouble by sin, or losing our joys by indulging in forbidden things. When the believer falls into any trouble through having been zealous for God, then may he spread his complaint before God, with the full expectation that he will bring him out of all his difficulties, for is it not written, “The steps of a good man are ordered of the Lord, not one of his steps shall slide”? Oh, to walk in such a way that your conscience is void of offense both towards God and towards man; then integrity and uprightness will preserve you, and your goings will be established. :’ He keepeth the feet of his saints.” “He shall give his angels charge over thee to keep thee in all thy ways. They shall bear thee up in their hands, lest thou dash thy foot against a stone.”
While traveling through the mazes of life, another form of the preparation of the gospel of peace will be of essential service to us, namely, peace with our fellow men. The gospel of peace leads us into the closest bonds of amity with our fellow believers, although, alas, it is not always possible to prevent offenses arising, even with the best of them. If we cannot make all our brethren amiable we are at least to be at peace on our side, and, if we succeed in this, no great disagreement can arise, for it always needs two to make a quarrel. It is well to go to bed every night, feeling I have no difference in my soul with any one of the members of Christ’s body, I wish well to every one, and love them all in my heart. This would enable us to travel in right royal style over fields which now are often stony with controversy, and thorny with prejudice. Theological conflicts, and ecclesiastical squabbles would utterly disappear if we were shod with the true spirit of the gospel of peace. An unwillingness to think hardly of any Christian brother is a sandal most easy to the foot, protecting it from many a thorn. Wear it in the church, wear it in all holy service, wear it in all intercourse with Christian men, and you will find your way amongst the brethren greatly smoothed; you will win their love and esteem ere long, and avoid a world of jealousy and opposition which would otherwise have impeded your course.
It is well to travel girt with this shoe of peace with all mankind. “If it be possible, as much as lieth in you, live peaceably with all men.” It is barely possible, but aim at it, and if you do not perfectly succeed try again.
Unconverted men will not love your religion, for they are carnal; that you cannot help, but you must love them, carnal an they are, and by degrees you may win them to love both you and your Lord. ]f they will not live peaceably with you, yet give them your love, and live peaceably with them.
Be not easily provoked, bear and forbear, forgive and love on, return good for evil, seek to benefit even the most unthankful, and you will travel to heaven in the pleasantest possible manner. Hatred, and envy, and persecution may come, but a loving spirit materially blunts their edge, and oftentimes inherits the promise, “When a man’s ways please the Lord, he maketh even his enemies to be at peace with him.” If you have to feel, “Now I am going this part of the journey with the view of avenging a wrong,” you will not journey pleasantly or safely; but if from the depth of your soul you can say, “When Christ made peace with God for me, he made peace between me and my bitterest foe,” you will march on like a hero. Travel through the world an a sincere philanthropist, with your feet shod with love to all of woman born, and your course will be happy and honorable. God grant us that loving spirit which comes of free grace, and is the work of the Holy Spirit, for that is a mystic sandal which gives wings to the feet, and lightens a weary road.
Having thus described these gospel shoes, I should like to say that the feet of our Lord and Master were sandalled in this manner. He was the king of pilgrims, and to him the way was even rougher than it can be to us; but these were the shoes he wore, and having worn them he counsels us to put on the like. “Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you,” saith he.
Evermore while he dwelt in this world he was in fellowship with God; he could truly say, “I came not to do my own will, but the will of him that sent me. He that sent me is with me. I am not alone, because the Father is with me.” Ever did he seek the good of his chosen, “having loved his own which were in the world, he loved them to the end.” And as for his enemies, he had only prayers and tears for them; he was at peace with all above, around, and within him. That peaceableness of his, that wonderful serenity, was one of the marvelous points in his character. You never find him worried, disturbed, flustered. No, that is our infirmity, because we put our shoes off and are taken by surprise, but his feet were always shod: he dwelt in perfect peace, and therefore he was the grandest pilgrim and the noblest worker. We cannot need to be better shod than our Lord was; let us sandal our hearts with his peace, and we shall be royally prepared for our journey.
I may add that these shoes are such as will last all our journey through. We feel most comfortable in our old shoes, for they fit the foot so well, but they will wear out at last: these shoes of my text are old, yet ever new, and are like those which Israel wore in the wilderness, of which it is said, “Thy foot did not swell, neither did thy shoes wax old upon thee.” The everlasting gospel yields us everlasting peace. The good news from heaven never grows stale, neither will the peace which it brings ever become like the Gibeonites “old shoes and clouted.” The man who wears the preparation of the gospel of peace was comforted by it when he was young, and it still cheers him in his later days; it made him a good traveler when he first set out, and it will protect his last footsteps when he crosses the river Jordan, and climbs the celestial hills.
Friends, are ye all thus booted for your life-journey? See ye well to it.
II. We come now to our second business:LET US TRY ON THESESHOES.
Here our joy is great to find that they fit perfectly, and need no tugging and straining to draw them on. By a miracle more strange than magic the preparation of the gospel of peace suits every foot, whether it be that of a babe in grace, or a strong man in Christ Jesus. No man can travel well, much less engage in battle successfully, unless his dress is comfortable, especially that part of it which relates to the feet, and here we have the grand advantage that no foot was ever uneasy when once it had put on this shoe. Mephibosheths who have been lame in both feet even from their birth have found this shoe work miracles, and cause them to leap as harts upon the mountains. The gospel of peace helps all our infirmities, heals all the wounds of our old sins, and suits itself to all our tender places. Whatever the weakness may be, the gospel provides for it; whatever the distress, its peace relieves it. Other shoes have their pinching places, but he that wears the preparation of the gospel of peace shall know no strait-ness of spirit, for the gospel gives rest to our minds. Real gospel, really believed, means real peace. That which disturbs us is something alien to the spirit of the gospel, but the spirit of Christ is the spirit of peace. Who would not wear such a shoe?
The preparation of the gospel of peace is a wonderful shoe for giving its wearer a firm foothold. Surely it was of this shoe that Habakkuk sung when he said, “The Lord God is my strength, and he will make my feet like hinds’ feet, and he will make me to walk upon mine high places.” When persons are on slippery rocks, or dangerous eminences, where a fall would be fatal, it is well to be so shod that the feet can get grip and hold. Nothing aids a man to stand fast in the Lord like the peace of the gospel. Many professors are very soon thrown over; they are attacked with doctrinal error, and they yield readily; they are assailed by temptation, and their feet go from under them; but the man who has perfect peace with God, and who relies upon the Most High, shall never be moved, for the Lord upholdeth him. His shoes have driven themselves into eternal verities, and hold like anchors. Tell him the atonement is not true, preach up to him the bloodless neology of modern thought, and he ridicules the ineffectual attempt, because he knows whom he has believed, and feels a heavenly peace within flowing from the substitutionary sacrifice. Tell him that the doctrines of grace are a mistake, that salvation is all of free will and man’s merit; and he says, “Nay, but I know better. I know the doctrines of sovereign grace to be true by experience; I know I am God’s chosen; I know that I am called, I know that I am justified, for I know that I have peace with God, as the result of all these.” You cannot move him an inch, his creed is interwoven with his personal consciousness, and there is no arguing him out of it. In these days of skepticism, when no man seems to have any resting place, it is well to be so shod that you can and do stand on the truth, and cannot be blown about like thistledown in the breeze.
The shoe of our text is equally famous for its suitability for marching in the ways of daily duty. Soldiers have little time for contemplating the comfort of their shoes, or their fitness for mere standing, for they have daily marchings to perform. We, too, have our march-lugs, and as far as some of us are concerned they are no mere parades, but heavy marches, involving stern toil and protracted effort. A soul at perfect peace with God is in a fit state for the severest movements. A sense of pardoned sin, and reconciliation with God, fits us for anything and everything. When the burden of sin is gone all other burdens are light. Since we are no longer on the road to hell the roughest places of our pilgrimage do not distress us. In every sphere a heart at perfect peace with God is the soundest preparation for progress, and the surest support under trials, Try on these shoes, my brethren, and see if they do not enable you to run without weariness, and walk without fainting. All earth cannot find their like, they are unrivaled, they make men like the angels, to whom duty is delight.
These gospel shoes are also an effectual preservative from all the ordinary roughnesses of the road of life, although to most of us it is far from smooth. He who expects to find a grassy walk all the way to heaven well mown and rolled, or looks for a highway levelled by a steam-roller, will be sorrowfully mistaken. The way is rugged, like the goat tracks of Engedi, and oftentimes so narrow and so far on high that the eagle’s eye cannot discern it, the blood of former pilgrims stains the way to glory; yet from all perils to our feet the preparation of the gospel of peace will guard us, from fears within and rightings without gospel peace will surely deliver us.
Perhaps we are more vexed with little trials than with great ones, certainly we bear them with far less equanimity; but a peaceful heart protects alike from tiny thorns and terrible rocks. Everyday vexations as well as extraordinary tribulations we shall bear cheerfully when the peace of God keeps our heart and mind.
Beloved, this shoe is also good for climbing. Do you ever practice the holy art of spiritual climbing, God’s blessed Spirit leading the way? Do you ever climb Mount Tabor to be transfigured with your Master? Have you watched with him one hour, and seen his conflict and his victory? Have you ever looked from Pisgah’s glorious heights upon the goodly land and Lebanon, anticipating the glory to be revealed? Has your spirit ever been away there alone in mysterious communings with God upon the Hermons?
I trust you know what climbing work means, and that you have enjoyed rapt ecstatic fellowship with Jesus Christ; but of this I am sure, you can never mount on high if your feet are not shod with the peace of God.
Unshod with these sacred sandals, there is no climbing. Only those who delight themselves in the Lord God shall ascend the hill of the Lord and stand in his holy place.
The heart prepared by peace with God is shod suitably for rushing as well as climbing. There are periods when all our energies must be put forth, and we must rush forward at the heroic pace, for at certain passages in life’s campaign things must be carried by storm, and every faculty must dash forward at its swiftest speed. We cannot at all times keep up the swiftness which, nevertheless, is occasionally required of us, but the man for a push and a dash is he whose soul abides in peace. Troubled in heart our foot is blistered, our knee is weak, and our movements are painfully slow, but the joy of the Lord is our strength, and in the power of it we become like Asahel, fleet of foot as a young roe. Try on these shoes, my limping brother! What say you?
Lastly, this shoe is good for fighting; and that I gather from Paul having put it among the armor. In the old style, fighting meant hand to hand and foot to foot, and then it was needful for the feet to be well protected, and indeed so well covered over as to be useful in assault, for the warriors spurned with their feet as well as smote with their hands, and many a foe was placed hots de combat with a heavy kick. Christian men are expected to fight with their feet in the battle against sin and Satan, indeed they must fight with all their powers and faculties. That grand promise has been given us, “The God of peace shall bruise Satan under your feet shortly.” What a tread we will give him when we once have the opportunity! We shall need to have our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace to break that old dragon’s head, and grind his snares to powder, and, God helping us, we shall do it. Our covenant head has trampled on the old serpent, and so shall all his members.
Let this suffice concerning these shoes; but a serious question suggests itself to me. Are there not some of you who have to travel to eternity, and yet have no shoes for the journey? How can the unconverted man hope to reach heaven when he has no shoe to his foot? How will he bear the troubles of life, the temptations of the flesh, and the trials of death? I pray you unconverted ones look at yourselves, and at the way, and see how impossible it is for you to accomplish the journey unless you go to Jesus and obtain from him the grace which will make you pilgrims to glory. Go, I pray you, and find peace in him, and then your life-journey shall be happy and safe, and the end eternal joy, for your feet will be shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.
A BIT FOR THE BOYS.
BY C, H. SPURGEON.
BLESS their hearts, I had forgotten the boys till one of their number wrote to tell me that he always liked to read the magazine, but sometimes wished I would say a word to him and those of his own age. I am right glad that the boys do read The Sword and the Trowel; indeed, I take it as one of the highest compliments which could be passed upon my editorial labors. Do you know, boys, some great swell who did not like my plain way of speaking once took the trouble to write and tell me he had met with some poor negroes who were reading my sermons with great delight, and for his part he did not wonder at it, he said, for in his wise opinion, my discourses were just such as ignorant black people would be sure to relish. No doubt he thought I should have a terrible fit of the blues after that slap in the face, but instead thereof I was as jubilant as I knew how to be, and praised God with my whole heart, because even an enemy admitted that the Lord had taught me how to reach the hearts of the poor. It is very clear that what ignorant blacks can understand the intelligent whites may understand if they like; and so I gathered that my sermons were clear enough to be understood by anybody who was not so conceited as to darken his own mind with pride. Now, if boys read The Sword and the Trowel it cannot be said to shoot over people’s heads, nor can it be said to be very dull and dreary.
But, boys, what shall I say to you? You are growing up, and will soon be men, and therefore I will not write to amuse you, for you are getting out of that, but will ask you to put on your considering caps and be sober for a few minutes. I hear that you think yourselves too old to go to Sundayschool, now that you are getting on to fifteen or more. Well, there’s something in that! Of course you do not want to learn the same elementary things as when you were quite children; you almost feel your whiskers coming through, and therefore you are conscious of becoming young men, and therefore do not want to be treated like babies! I say again, there is something in that! But I do not think there is very much. I think many boys make great donkeys of themselves by trying to be men before they are so. I have smiled at them myself, and wondered how they could be so absurd.
Their little stick-up collars, and other silly mimicries of older folks, make them look like mannequins, and not at all like men: they might have made first-class boys, but as men they are very third-rate indeed. Caesar thought he would rather be first man in a village than second in Rome; and I think I would rather be first among boys than be the last joint in the tail of the hobbledehoys, who are neither men nor boys. A word to the wise will be sufficient here.
So you feel too old to be with your teacher any longer? Well, what do you mean to do? Will it not be well to ask admission into a senior class? With a superior teacher such a class will be of great service to you, even for years to come, and you need never feel that you are beyond it, till you become a teacher yourself, or engage in some other work. It is well to be either taught or teaching, and it is best of all to be both a scholar and a teacher throughout the whole of life. We have classes at the Tabernacle in which there are men of thirty and forty, and I remember one dear old boy of eighty who was the pet of one of the classes, and one of the happiest scholars of the whole bunch. If you can get into such a class you will never feel that you are too old for it. A man who is too old to learn is a great stupid; he may think himself a knowing one, but he knows nothing aright, or he would have a teachable spirit. Don’t get notions into your head that you are a somebody, or else I shall be sure you are a nobody. Stick to the old class as long as you can, and when in all soberness you feel that you have outgrown it, then find a better; ask the superintendent about it, or consult your pastor, and something will soon be done for you, at least I hope so.
I earnestly trust that you are not trying in a side way to leave the school altogether. If you mean that, say so, and look the matter in the face, but do not begin finding fault with the teacher and the school, merely because you want to make an excuse for taking yourself off. I have heard of lads who have gone out walking on Sabbath afternoons, because they were too big for Sunday-school, and I very sincerely hope that you are not bent on the same folly. Perhaps you say to me, “What’s the harm of walking out on Sunday?” Well, I will tell you. I have seen some of the best lads I ever knew, whom I really hoped were converted, who have taken to this walking business, and not one of them is now worth a button, for any good purpose whatever. My hope was that by this time they would have been among my best workers, flourishing in business and happy in the service of God, but it is not so. The day they left the house of God for “pleasant strolls” was the day of their doom; they became by degrees careless, idle, boastful, loose in talk and loose in life, and made Satan more and more their lord. Whether a thing is bad or not may be seen by its fruit, and there’s the fruit of being “too old for Sunday schools and classes.” Now, I am sure you do not mean this. You would be sorry to grow up to be despisers of God, and holy things, and therefore I charge you do not take the step which in almost every case leads to such an end.
You have now come to a sort of turning point in the road of life, and it will be well to pause and take matters into account before you go one way or another. Perhaps some very doubtful companion is in a hurry for your answer, — let him wait. He would not stand it any longer, he says, but what is that to you, do not be led by the nose by him. Satan tells you that the way of the world and sin is the road to happiness, and to hear idle boys and girls laugh you might almost think so; but looking on a little closer it does not turn out to be so. Did you never notice how hollow the laughing of ungodly young men always sounds? An old friend of mine used to make jokes in which nobody could see the fun but himself, and I have heard friends whisper to one another, “Why don’t you laugh? Try and laugh and please the good old soul.” But you know it was very awkward to have to laugh to order, and that is just what most of the gay people in the world do, they mimic mirth, and have hardly a taste of real joy. All is not gold that glitters, and there is a kind of glitter which says as plainly as it can, “This is not gold, but I want you to think it is.” It is a silly fish that jumps at every bait; do you wait a while, and look before you leap. If on the whole it would be best to give up all good things and live a wicked life, and die a wretched death, and be lost for ever, you can do all that without being in such a dreadful hurry. Do look about you, and use all the wits you have, so that when your choice is made it may be done with your eyes open, and you may not be quite like the pigs which the farmer carries to any market he likes.
When I was just fifteen, I believed in the Lord Jesus, was baptized, and joined the church of Christ, and nothing upon earth would please me more than to hear that those! am writing to had been led to do the same. It is twenty-five years ago now, and I have never been sorry for what I then did; no, not even once. I have had plenty of time to think it over, and many temptations to try some other course, and if I had found out that I had been deceived or had made a gross blunder I would have made a change before now, and would do my best to prevent others from falling into the same delusion. I tell you, boys, the day I gave myself up to the Lord Jesus to be his servant was the very best day of my life; then I began to be safe and to be happy; then I found out the secret of living, and had a worthy object for my life’s exertions, and an unfailing comfort for life’s troubles.
Because I would wish every boy who reads these lines to have a bright eye, a light tread, a joyful heart and overflowing spirits, I therefore plead with him to consider whether he will not follow my example, for I speak from experience, and know what I say. Once as I stood musing at a window I saw a fly upon it, and made a brush with my hand to catch it. When I opened my hand the fly was not inside, but still in the same place on the glass. Scarcely thinking what I did, I made another rush with my hand, and thought I had captured the insect, but with the same result ; — there was the victim, quietly retaining his place in spite of me. It was on the other side of the glass, and when I saw that it was so, I smiled at my own folly.
Those who attempt to find pleasure out of Christ will experience a like failure, for they are seeking on the wrong side of the glass. When we are on the side of Jesus, and, having believed in him, are cleansed and forgiven, then our pursuit of joy will be successful, but till then we shall labor in vain, and spend our strength for nought It is of no use digging for coal where the geological strata show that there cannot be any, and equally useless is it to try after happiness where God’s word and the experience of those who have gone before us assure us that happiness cannot be found.
But then it is all the more needful that we should seek it where it can be had, and give ourselves at once to the search. He who believes in the Lord Jesus is blessed in the deed. What hinders you from so believing? Boys, why should you not, while yet you are boys, believe in the Lord Jesus unto salvation? May the Spirit of God lead you to do so.
We are looking to you, boys, for our future teachers, deacons, elders, and ministers. As a general rule, I find that the best working Christians were converted when they were young. A tree which has been long planted is the more likely to bring forth much fruit. Our great Captain has found some of his bravest marshals among those soldiers who began as drummerboys in the army. It is not possible to begin serving the Lord too soon; if we would be eminently useful, the earliest moment is upon all accounts the best. To whom are we to look for successors to ourselves and your fathers but to the uprising race of our sons? The grand old banner of the gospel has been carried by your sires unto this day, will you not uphold it as they have done? Soon must we pass away, for our hair is turning white; it will be our greatest joy if we shall know that our sons will take care that the Lord’s work goes on. It Will make our hearts leap within us if we see you enlisted in the army of the bleeding Savior; but if you prove false to your fathers’ God, it were better for you and for us that you had never been born. Do not imagine that you cannot now be Christians; the gifts of our heavenly Father’s love are not reserved for a certain age: boys may be saved, boys may be workers for Jesus, boys may bring great glory to God.
Hence it is that just now, at this particular turning point in your lives, we are anxious to see you resolute for the right way. May the Holy Spirit incline you to resolve to be the Lord’s. Others may despise your conscientious choice and make mirth of your holy carefulness, but what matters it? Some of us have been laughed at for these twenty years, and are none the worse for it; we have had all manner of evil spoken falsely of us for Christ’s name’s sake, but we are all the happier for it. Oh, boys, if you are renewed in heart, and become for life and death the Redeemer’s, none can really harm you; all must be right with him who is right with God.
Hold on, then, to the school, and when you cease to be taught, become teachers. Hold on by the Sabbath-services, and all the ordinances of the house of the Lord, and say like Ruth to Naomi, “Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”
Since I wrote the above paragraphs I met with a capital book, entitled “The Children’s Hour,” by Mr. Charles Bruce, and it occurred to me that one of its very telling chapters would just piece in with mine, and might do you good. I have put it in small type, for my space is precious and your eyes are good. “In a green and fruitful valley, formed by two high hills, stood a cottage, covered with ivy and honey-suckle, and with the monthly rose growing near the door. Its roof was a thatch of yellow straw; its walls were brick and cement, whitewashed over, and the door of good stout oak. The front windows of the cottage looked into a small flower garden, and from thence down the village street; the door and windows at the back opened into an orchard of fruit trees, and beyond them into green meadows. “When the morning sun peeped over one of the two hills it flooded the cottage and all around it with bright light; and when it sunk to rest behind the other, the evening sky was flushed with rosy splendor, and its last beams lingered on some of its windows. In the quiet hush of evening, or the still deeper solemn hush of night, could be faintly heard the everlasting moan of the restless sea as its waters beat upon the shore miles and miles away. “The rooms of this cottage were plainly but tastefully furnished; carpets were spread upon the floor, curtains arranged at the windows, books scattered over the tables, and a few choice paintings and water-colored drawings hung on the walls, representing incidents of heroic adventure and achievement. On a table in the best room stood a curiously made lamp, but not burning; either there was no oil or some one had neglected to trim and light it. “In this cottage dwelt a handsome youth, with blue eyes, golden hair, and delicate skin; he had attained to that age when the boy was merging, or rather growing into the young man, and began to feel all the restless impulses and ambitions which mark that period of life. He had lived all his life in the cottage, but until very recently had never thoroughly realized that the cottage and all it contained was his own. Now, however, he was very proud to be able to call it his, and took great pleasure in adorning and making it beautiful; since the fact of ownership had dawned clearly upon his mind, he it was who had hung the pictures on the wall and scattered the books upon the tables. He was never weary of walking from room to room, saying to himself, ‘ This is all mine!’ He would gaze upon the pictures and long to do deeds as brave as were there depicted, deeds that should live in song and story; and he would dream and dream of what he would achieve when he went out into the world to do his life’s work, until the walls of the cottage seemed to fall away, and the whole world was spread out before him, and ha saw himself doing some heroic action among the tumultuous shouts of throngs of innumerable people. “But always, in the interval between each dream, he heard a knocking at the front door of the cottage, and always, as he inclined his ear and listened, he would think of his untrimmed lamp, and perhaps take it from the table, while be murmured, ‘ I ought to open the door.’ But straightway he would push the lamp on one side, saying, ‘ Time enough yet! I will dream one more dream!’ Then the knocking would cease. “One day, when he had grown tired and dissatisfied with his dreaming — for, however pleasant, there is little satisfaction to be derived from mere dreams — the knocking sounded louder than ever at the door, so loud, indeed, that it quite disturbed him, so much so that he determined to open it and let the applicant in, but before doing so thought it would be as well to trim his lamp. Now when he took the lamp into his hand, and began to examine it, be found it had grown quite dim, and in one or two places even a speak of rust appeared; not liking his visitor to see it in that condition, he took a piece of leather and set to work to clean it. “While rubbing away at this self-imposed task, the youth fancied he saw a group of gaily-dressed young men pass the window, while their shouts of merry laughter seemed to float musically on his ear; discarding his lamp, he rushed to the window to make sure his eyes and ears has not played him false; but by the time he reached it the group had vanished, and all he saw was a travel-stained man, standing patiently knocking at the door.
Immediately after a loud knocking was heard at the back of the cottage, and loud voices demanding admittance. Neglecting the weary traveler at the front, he hurried from the room, and throwing wide open the back door, bade were there to enter, and they should receive a most hearty welcome. In answer to this invitation a troupe of gaily-dressed, brighteyed, frolicsome youths stepped in, bearing in their hands, and on their heads, flagons of wine and baskets of grapes, these were followed by young damsels playing tambourines and rattling castanets, laughing and dancing as they came. “Soon the whole cottage resounded with boisterous mirth. The first thing the merry youths did on entering was to seize upon the half cleaned lamp, and throwing it from one to another, ridicule its shape, its make, its color, the purpose for which it was made, and the folly of retaining so useless an article, until its owner grew quite red with shame, and snatching it from one of the group threw it into a disused cupboard, whereat the laugh grew louder, the lest broader, and the merriment more uproarious. Wine was drunk, songs were sung, and dances were danced. “The owner of the cottage tripped it gaily with the rest, drank as deeply and laughed as loudly, while in his heart he said, ‘ This is just what I wanted; I got tired of dreaming; I wanted excitement; I wanted merriment; I wanted to enjoy life: this is life!’ “And the drinking, and the song, and the dance went on; they became intoxicated, they grew mad with merriment. The knocking at the door was unheeded, indeed, never heard; or perhaps the weary applicant had gone away. The hours sped swiftly on, and it was far into the night ere the merry group took their departure, leaving their host fast asleep in bed. “At midnight, when the young man had slept off some of the fumes of the wine which had mounted to his brain, he suddenly awoke. The room was in total darkness, and all seemed as silent as the grave; indeed, he could only hear the roaring of the distant sea, but that served only to make the silence seem deeper, while it sent a thrill of fear through his heart, for there was a rumor which had floated to his ears to the effect that one day that sea would burst upon the village and wash it away. Suddenly he was startled by hearing a knock at the door! He sat up in bed to listen. Yes, his ears had not deceived him; there it was again! clear and distinct it fell upon his ear, one long continuous knocking. Surely it must be the traveler he saw there in the morning. Should he get up to let him in? No, he was ashamed; he knew he had been unkind and neglectful in not opening the door before. So he buried his face in the pillow, and threw the bedclothes over his head, that he might not hear. “Morning light usually brings reflection, and as the light of the sun poured into his room the young man thought how foolish he had been to waste a whole day in boisterous mirth when the time might have been turned to a far better purpose. And as he thought thus, there came the traveler’s knock at the front door, but ere he could move to open it he heard the merry shouts and the loud summons of his yesterday’s companions. For a moment he hesitated which of the applicants he should let in, he felt that both could not, or would not, enter at the same time; if the traveler entered, his merry friends would depart; and if they entered the traveler would cease his knocking. Mean- while both were growing importunate. “‘ I think,’ murmured the young man, slowly pacing backward and forward, now to one door and now to another; ‘ I think I will just speak to my merry friends, and tell them I can no more entertain them; yes, that will be best. Afterwards I can let in the traveler.’ “He opened the back door, but before he could utter a word, in trooped the gay throng with laughter, and song, and dance, and yesterday’s scenes were enacted over again. Day after day, day after day, the same gay troupe paid their visit, to the young man, who never hesitated now to. open the door to them and bid them welcome: he ceased to pay any attention to the other knock, and, indeed, he but seldom heard it. Sometimes at night, when he awoke from a fevered sleep, it would fall upon his ear, but at those times he would bury himself in bed that he might not hear. “At last he grew weary of his gay friends, he became sad in the midst of all their fun and jollity; their wine, and song, and dance lost their charm and freshness, they grew stale and unexciting, so much so that, one morning when the troupe pard their accustomed visit, he disregarded their knocking, and, instead, said to himself, ‘I said of laughter, It is mad; and of mirth, What doeth it? ‘ And as the words fell from his lips he heard a knock at the front door. “‘ Is it the traveler again? ‘ he exclaimed, starting up; ‘no, no, I cannot let him in, I have other things to do;! must live down this folly, and realize some of my early dreams.’ “Now as he looked up at the pictures on the wall, to recall those youthful dreams to his mind, he found them half defaced by wine stains, and some even torn. ‘ See what my folly has done!’ he exclaimed; ‘ my pictures are spoiled, their freshness is gone, I can scarcely make out their subjects.
Fool, fool, that I am!’ “ The knock at the front door sounded louder and louder. “‘ I will put an end to all this folly, I will win me a name ;’ and so saying the young man rushed from the room, and opening the back door, darted right through his gay friends, unheeding their cries, and sped like the wind down the valley. “The cottage remained empty for years. The traveler still occasionally returned to the door and knocked, but only the hollow echo of his own knocking replied to him. Every now and again news of the .young man found its way to the village. He had become a soldier, and was winning renown on the distant battle-field, his deeds of prowess and valor were recited at many a fireside, his bravery became the theme of story and song, and the Queen conferred high honors upon him; and people looked upon him with admiration, and sometimes even with envy, because of his fame. “One evening, in the still twilight, he returned to his cottage. ‘ How many years have passed since I last entered here!’ he said to himself as he paused upon the threshold, and peered into the rooms. ‘ How narrow and contracted the rooms appear, how dull and uninteresting! I declare,’ he continued, entering,’ all the pictures are faded, and the furniture faded and covered with mildew. I have had no time to see to things, they have all gone to rack and ruin. And what have I gained since I was last in this room? I have done great deeds, men have bestowed fame and honor upon my name. I have become a power in the ].and. Yet I am not satisfied, I want something else.’ “And as he thus communed with himself, he was startled by a low, but clear and distinct, knock at the door. “‘ Ah!’ he exclaimed, starting and looking round, “it must be that traveler come again, — I know his knock.’ “The knock was followed by a sweet voice of entreaty, requesting admittance and rest for the night, promising to repay a hundredfold all labor and expense. “‘ I wonder,’ said the inmate, ‘ where my lamp is! I feel half inclined to open the door!’ “While he stood hesitating, with one hand half extended towards the door, a stranger entered the room from the back of the cottage, the door having been left unlatched. This stranger wore robes of embroidered gold, with buttons of gold, and with diamond studs in his shirt front, and diamond rings on his fingers; and as he walked, he rustled crisp bank notes in his pocket, and jingled his gold and silver coins. The face of this stranger was the worst feature about him, it was hard and seamed with wrinkles, and yellowish in hue, while his eyes had a cold metallic glitter in them. “He touched the owner of the cottage upon the shoulder, saying, ‘So you are tired of winning fame, of seeking ‘“ bubble reputation at the cannon’s mouth;” come with me and you shall win riches, wealth, untold gold; the race of wealth never tires, it always brings satisfaction.’ “‘ But I must open this door,” ‘ said the owner,’ hark at the knocking.’ “‘ Time enough to open that when you return replied the stranger; ‘ besides, you will be able to entertain him better when you are rich. Come! ‘ “And the man arose and went; and very speedily became thoroughly absorbed in his search after wealth, it became quite a fever, a passion with him; and it was very instructive to observe that the more money he gained the more he wanted, the more he grasped at. He heaped it up in piles in his cottage, every room contained money, gold; but some of it was wet with tears, and some even red with blood, for it had been wrung from the widow and the orphan, and it had caused the death of more than one; still it was gold, gold, gold! and it was gold the man craved for, gold his eyes gloated over, gold that his fingers so eagerly clutched. He grew old and feeble in this pursuit of wealth, his flesh wasted, his skin wrinkled, his joints became stiff. And when he became too old to gather more, he retired to his cottage, to feast his eyes upon what he had already heaped together. “But one night, while, as usual, he sat counting his money, he felt a strange sensation steal over him, he scarcely knew what it was; it was a kind of want, an inward craving, which his gold could not meet and satisfy; neither could those sheets of newspaper, and stars and crosses which he had hung up about the room, and which told of his deeds of valor and the fame that had been heaped upon his name; neither could the recollection of those days of mirth and mad revelry, though they stood out clear before him, serve to satisfy this craving want which increased more and more. “In the midst of his despair he heard once again the knock at the front door Had the traveler returned who had promised him rest and peace? He started from his chair, and, with head bent forward, listened to hear it once more! How solemn the silence! He heard the ‘click clack, click clack, click clack’ of the clock, and glancing involuntarily up at it he saw it was nearly twelve o’clock He heard the hoarse roaring of the distant sea ] Distant?
Why, it seemed almost at his very doors, and sounded as though it was coming nearer and nearer every moment. What could it mean? Then, too, a wind began to rise, at first like a moan, and then like a shrill wail, then it increased in volume, and tone, and violence; it beat furiously on the walls of the cottage, it rattled at the windows — oh, it was a fearful wind! “But through all the noise and turmoil came the clear, low knock to the listener’s ear. ‘ My lamp, my lamp, where is my lamp?’ cried the man, ‘ I must open the door! ‘ He routed everywhere for his long discarded lamp, but could not find it. The storm outside was increasing; in despair he rushed to the door, to throw it open and admit the supplicant. Fancy the man’s agony of terror when he found he could not open the door! He was too feeble, and the door had remained too long closed; it resisted his utmost efforts. “For the key was stiffly rusty, And the bolt was clogged and dusty; Many-fingered ivy-vine Sealed it fast with twist and twine; Weeds of years and years before Choke the passage of that door!
How the man tugged and pulled, how he cried, ‘ O angels, sweep the drifts away — unbar my door.’ How despair lent him energy and strength; how he shouted again and yet again, ‘Push, traveler, push, the door only sticks.’ But there was no voice to answer, and the knocking had ceased, the applicant had gone away never to return. Too long. had the door remained unbarred, it was never to open now. “While the man was still vainly trying to pull it open, and just as the clock struck twelve, a mighty gust of wind, and a huge, fierce wave from the encroaching sea, together dashed against the cottage and swept it, man and all; away into the storm, and darkness, and night. “And there was heard a noise as of weeping and wailing.”
NUTS TO CRACK THE Christian is one who is to be plainly seen, and yet his life is hidden; he is a man in the world, but not a man of the world; he converses with other men, and yet his conversation is in heaven.
He is one who lives to die, and dies to live; yet he is dead while he lives, and lives when he dies.
He is one who lives in another, and for another; he seeks not himself when he aims most at his own good; God is his all, and his all is God; he aims at no end but the glory of God, of which there is no end.