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After long observation, I perceive that it is not the sword of the Word which offends congregations, for preachers are commended and promoted for declaring the whole truth, so long as it is judiciously put, and with "much discretion," so as not to wound the prejudices of the people. The majority of congregations rather like to see the sword drawn out to its full length and flashed with dexterity, and they do not always object to being hit with it, and even hit hard, so long as it is done with the flat of the sword; but they very quickly resent a touch with its edge, and more a thrust with its point. They admire sheet lightning, which is beautiful, as it is harmless; but forked lightning is something to be dreaded and avoided. For instance, a man may preach most eloquently and acceptably on the three "R's," if he does not apply the subject too pointedly, by telling the people, both in the pulpit and out of it, that they are now ruined and lost; and that, having been redeemed, they are responsible before God; and that, if they will not be regenerated by the Spirit, they will be damned. They do not object to your saying, "You hath He quickened," but to turn these same words into a personal question is too often considered impertinent; though, indeed, it is the sincerest kindness and truest Christian love.
"This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners" (1 Tim. i. 15). He came, and is spiritually present now, everywhere, for this purpose. His real presence with power is particularly promised to the preacher of the Gospel (Matt. xxviii. 20). The Lord Jesus is ever present to take especial interest in the result of preaching. How disappointing then must it be to Him, to find His servants so often spending their time and energies upon other objects, however great or good they may be! When they do preach the Gospel, it must grieve Him to see that their object is too often not
"PREACH THE WORD!"
the same as His; and when He does apply the Word by the power of the Spirit, it must also grieve Him to see that they are afraid of the result.
Gospel preaching should not be to entertain people, nor even to instruct them; but first to awaken them to see their danger, and to bring them from death into life, which is manifestly the Lord's chief desire.
This was the definite object of my work; I preached for and aimed at it; and nothing short of this could or would satisfy my longings. In the church, in the schoolroom, or in the cottages, we prayed that the Holy Spirit would bring conviction upon sinners, and then we sought to lead them to conversion with the clear ringing testimony, "You must be born again, or die to all eternity."
The First Christmas.
HE first Christmas-day, during the revival, was a wonderful time. The people had never realized before what this festival was, beyond regarding it as a season for domestic rejoicing. It surprised many to see that their past Christmases were a true representation of their past lives-that they had cheered and tried to make themselves happy without Christ, leaving Him out of their consideration in His own world, as they had on His own birthday. What a Christless and hopeless life it had been! What a Christless religion! Now we praised the Lord together for His marvellous goodness to us, and desired that we might henceforth live unto Him, singing in heart and life, " Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good-will towards men."
When New Year's eve arrived we had a midnight gathering, and dedicated ourselves afresh to God's service. It was a blessed season, and several hundreds were there, who, together with myself, were the fruits of the revival during the previous two months.
The new year opened upon us with fresh manifestations
of divine power and larger blessings. I endeavoured to show the people that the Lord was called Jesus, not that He might save us from hell or death, but from our sins; and this while we lived on earth-that our heart and all our members being mortified from all carnal lusts, we might live to His glory; that Christ's religion was not intended for a death-bed, but for a happy and effectual Christian life -a life showing forth the power of His grace.
After the Christmas holidays, our schoolmaster and his wife returned. They came back full of disdain and prejudice against the work, and even put themselves out of the way to go from house to house, in order to set the people against me and my preaching. They said that they could bring a hundred clergymen to prove that I was wrong; but their efforts had just the contrary effect to what they expected. It stirred the people to come more frequently to hear, and contend more zealously for what they knew to be right. The master was particularly set against "excitement" and noise. He said, "It was so very much more reverent to be still in prayer, and orderly in praise; it was not necessary to make such an unseemly uproar!" I had, however, discovered, long before this time, that the people. who most objected to noise had nothing yet to make a noise about; and that when they had, they generally made as much or more noise than others.
If a house is seen to be on fire, people cannot help making an outcry; which they do not, when they only read about it. Witnessing a danger stirs the heart; and when people's eyes are open to see souls in eternal danger, they cannot help being stirred up, and crying out. I am sometimes asked, "Is there not such a thing as a feeling which is too deep for expression ?" It may be that at times people are so surprised and astonished at some sudden announcement of good or bad news, that they are stunned, and for a
time unable to give vent to their joy or grief; but soon there is a reaction, and then expression is given, Generally speaking, these so-called "deep feelings" are only deep in the way of being low down in the vessel—that is to say, very shallow, and by no means sufficient to overflow.
We read, that "the whole multitude of the disciples began to rejoice, and praise God with a loud voice, for all the mighty works that they had seen" (Luke xix. 37). And we are told, over and over again, in the Psalms, to "praise God with a loud voice," and to "shout." When we lift up our voice, the Lord can stir our hearts; and surely the things of the Lord have more right, and ought to have more power, to stir and arouse the soul of man, than a boat-race, or a horse-race, or a fictitious scene on the stage. I think people would be all the better for letting out their hearts in praise to God. It may be it is trying and exciting to some, but perhaps they are the very ones who need such a stimulus, and this may be the best way of bringing it out.
Notwithstanding the schoolmaster's opposition, he still came to church, and was very attentive to the sermons, taking copious notes. One Sunday, when I had been preaching on the text, "Cut it down; why cumbereth it the ground?" he was heard to say, "Thank God, I am not cut down yet;" and then he proceeded for the first time to the after-meeting in the school-room.
When I entered I saw him low down on his knees, and said how happy I was to see him there. "Oh," he cried, "I fear there is no mercy-the sentence is surely gone forth against me, 'Cut him down! cut him down!"" And then the poor man howled aloud in his distress. The people prayed for him with shouts of thanksgiving, while he threw himself about in agony of mind, and made a great noise, which only drew still louder acclamations from the people. In the midst of this tremendous din he found