(Additions to the Church)
Building the Church
C. H. SPURGEON
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted ã2000
by Tony Capoccia.
We are just coming to the most beautiful season of the year-the spring, when everything around us is shaking off the cold grave clothes of winter, and putting on the beautiful array of a new life. The church of Living God was in that condition at Pentecost, her winter was over, and the flowers appeared on the earth. She enjoyed the spring breezes, for the breath of the Holy Spirit refreshed her garden: there was spring music; the time of the singing of birds had come, for her preachers testified faithfully of Jesus, and so many and varied were the sweet notes which welcomed the new season, that many nations of men heard in their own tongue the wonderful works of God. There was, also, the spring blossoming, the fig tree put forth her green figs, and the vines with the tender grapes perfumed the air, for all around multitudes inquired, “Brothers, what will we do?” and many also professed their faith in Jesus. There were the spring showers of repentance, the spring sunbeams of joy in the Holy Spirit and the spring flowers of newly-given hope and faith. May we see such a springtime in every church of Jesus Christ throughout the world, and arouse ourselves to enjoy so wonderful a season. Let us rise up and our precious lover, and in concert with him let us sow in hope, and look for a rapid budding. The Sun of Righteousness is coming forth as a bridegroom out of his dwelling, and the weary night is melting into the welcome day; let us listen to our lover's voice as he cries to us, “Arise, my darling, my beautiful one, and come with me.”
It seems from the text that the additions to the church which were made in the early spring of Pentecost did not always occur in one form, sometimes they came in crowds, and at other times by gradual increase. On one day there were three thousand added-that is an instance of mass conversions, when a nation is born all at once. In such a work we are bound to believe; I mean not merely in the possibility of it, but in the probability of it, for it stands to reason that what would convince one man in a particular condition of heart would as readily convince three thousand or thirty thousand if they were in the same state. Given the same soil, the same seed, the same season, and the same wonder-working God, and I cannot imagine any reason why there would be a limit set to the results. The Holy Spirit is divine, and consequently he knows how to influence all kinds of men and women, and he can by the instrumentalities now in use reach just as many as he pleases.
I remember when I first preached in London a remark made by a friend, which greatly encouraged me at the time, and has proved true in my experience. When he heard that my little country chapel had been filled by the inhabitants of the village in which I had preached, he gave me hope of filling a far larger place in London: “For,” he said, “what will draw two hundred will draw two thousand, and what was useful to a few may be made just as useful to a multitude.” I immediately saw that this was true. When we are dealing with spiritual forces we do not have to calculate by pounds and ounces, or by so much horsepower. We do not have to think of quantity. As an illustration: give me fire, I will not bargain for a furnace, just give me a single candle, and a city or a forest may soon be ablaze. A spark is quite sufficient to begin with, for fire multiplies itself: So give us the truth, a single voice, and the Holy Spirit with it, and no one can say where the sacred blaze will end. One Jonah sufficed to subdue all Nineveh by continually repeating one monotonous sentence of the coming judgment of God, and despite the weakness of our present ministry, if God blesses the gospel, there is no reason why it shouldn't quickly be felt by all of London. The sermon preached by Peter at Pentecost was the arrow of the Lord's deliverance to three thousand people, and there is no reason why the Lord wouldn't cause one of ours to be the same. Three thousand cannot be converted if only a hundred are present to hear; but with this great assembly of ours today, and thousands of smaller ones, within gunshot, why wouldn't their be many brought to faith in Christ? Assuredly the divine Comforter can just as easily bless three million with salvation as he could three individuals.
But it would appear from our text that the additions to the new church, founded on the day of Pentecost, were not always accomplished in mass. The Spirit of God was still with them, but their increase was more gradual. “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” You have seen a heavy shower of rain in the spring: in a moment a big drop has fallen upon the pavement, and before you were ready to escape from it a deluge followed, so plentiful that you half suspected a cloud had burst open right over your head: such a sudden and impetuous shower may serve as an example of the conversion of three thousand souls at once. But at other times rain has fallen gently, and has continued to descend hour by hour, a soft, warm, spring watering, which in its own way and fashion has done its work of blessing quite as surely as the heavier downpour. We must still be very thankful if we don't see three thousand converted in one day; if we see three hundred every day for ten days, or if we see thirty every day for a hundred days; we must always be grateful for all success so long as sinners really come to Jesus. Whether they come in hordes, or one by one, we will welcome them. The woman who lost her money was glad to find one coin, although she would have been even happier to have found a whole purse full if they had been lost.
I want you to think about additions to the church as they used to occur among the early Christians. Certain people today are always talking about the “early church,” and they seem to have some very “strange ideas” about this early church. Their early church was very different from anything we meet with in the Acts of the Apostles, for it was very particular in its architecture, music, and dress.
This “early church” that they perceive could not worship at all unless it had a visible altar, at which gentlemen in gorgeous attire of blue and scarlet and fine linen stood in various poses and bowed and genuflected many times. The “early church,” it seems, believed in baptismal regeneration, transubstantiation, the requirement for the activities and intercessions of an earthly priest, and the receipt of saving grace through sacraments. Well, that may be or may not be, but there was an earlier church which had no such notions, and it is for us to turn away from such false “early churches” and to focus on the earlier church or the earliest church, and there, I promise you, you will find no man-made and church ordained priest, nor any nonsense of saving grace coming through sacraments; but simplicity, and truth, and the power of the Holy Spirit. The early church that is so much admired by Anglicans today was a degenerate vine, a field of wheat and tares, a mass leavened with antichristian error, in a word a baptized heathenism. In its own way, it reestablished the many deities of the heathen, only this time they called them saints instead of gods, putting the Virgin Mary into the place of Venus, and setting up Peter or Paul in the niches formerly occupied by Saturn or Mars. Our present “revived early church” is only Paganism with a trimming of crosses around the edges. We are resolved to return to the primitive church of which we read, “Those who accepted his message were baptized, and devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching.” This true “early church” will be our subject this morning, trusting that the Holy Spirit will be with us as with them.
I. First, then, ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH, WHAT ABOUT THEM? “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.”
It seems to have been the custom in the earliest times for persons who had
been converted to Christ to join themselves with the church of Jesus Christ.
From that fact, I feel persuaded that they did not conceal their convictions. It is a strong temptation with many to say, “I have believed in Jesus, but that is a matter between God and my own soul, there is no need that I should tell this to others. Can't I quietly go to heaven and be a Nicodemus, or a Joseph of Arimathea?” To which I reply, Yes, you can quietly go to heaven, and we hope you will do so, but that is a different thing from being cowardly and ashamed of Christ. We will not object to your being a Nicodemus if you will go with him when he carries spices to the grave of Jesus; and you may be a Joseph of Arimathea if you will attend him when he goes boldly to Pilate and begs for the body of Jesus. Neither of these two brethren were cowards after the cross had been set up before their eyes, neither were they ashamed to identify themselves with the crucified Christ. Follow them, not in the infancy of their love, but in its more mature days. Remember, dear friends, the promise of the gospel runs like this, “He that believes in his heart, and confesses Christ with his mouth, will be saved.” Do not, I charge you, neglect half of the command! The gospel commission which we have received is this: “Go into all the world and preach the good news to all creation. Whoever believes and is baptized will be saved.” That is the message as we find it, we did not insert the clause concerning baptism, neither do we dare to leave it out, or advise you to neglect it. I give you the very words of the Savior. Do not, therefore, divide the gospel command in order to throw half of it away, but believe it all and affirm your belief, and be added to the church.
It is quite clear, too, that believers in those days did not try to go to heaven alone. However, there has been a great deal said in these days about simply being a Christian and not joining any particular church, this is clearly a piece of hypocrisy, and in all cases a mistake.
This idea of not joining any one particular church, and instead simply belonging to the “church at large” is often advocated in the name of unity, and yet it is clear to everyone that it is just the opposite of unity, and is intended to put an end to all visible church fellowship. The good people mentioned in our text immediately join the church of the Living God in Jerusalem. I dare say that even in those days, had they criticized the church, they would have found faults in her, certainly within a few weeks there were great faults that had to be remedied; but these converts felt that the group of Christians at Jerusalem was indeed the true church of Jesus Christ, and, therefore, they joined it. All of you can find true churches of Jesus Christ if you choose to look for them. If you wait for a perfect church, you must wait until you get to heaven; and even if you could find a perfect church on earth, I am sure they would not admit you to their fellowship, for you yourself are not perfect. Find those people who are nearest to the Scriptures, who hold the truth in doctrine and in practice, and are most like the apostolic church, and then join them, and you will be blessed for it. Consider the matter, and reflect that if it would be right for you to remain out of church fellowship, it must be right for every other believer to remain in the same condition, and then there would be no visible church on earth at all, and no body of people banded together to maintain and teach Christian commands and practices. Christian fellowship, especially the celebration of the Lord’s Supper, and the maintenance of an evangelistic ministry, would become an impossibility, if no one openly declared the Savior's cause. Act then according to your duty, and if you are a Christian, join with Christians; if you love the Master, love the servants; if you love the Captain, unite with the army, and join that regiment of it which you think adheres the closest to the Master's word.
Observe next, that the persons who were reached at Pentecost were added to the church by the Lord.
Does anybody else ever add to the church? Oh, yes, the devil also often shoves in his servants. Who was it that added Judas, and Ananias and Sapphire, and Simon Magus, and Demas to the church? Who was it that snuck in at night and planted weeds among the wheat? That evil spirit is not dead, he is still plenty busy in this department, and continually adds to the church those who are “not” being saved. Satan’s servants are the mixed multitude which infest the camp of Israel, and are the first to fall into lusting; his servants are the Achans who bring a curse on the tribes: his are those of whom Jude wrote about saying, “certain men whose condemnation was written about long ago have secretly slipped in among you.” These false believers adulterate the church, and by so doing, they weaken and defile it, and bring on it much grief and dishonor. When the Lord adds to the church, that is quite another matter.
Moreover, the church itself cannot avoid adding some who should not be received. With the greatest possible care and prudence we will still make mistakes, therefore some are added whom the Lord never added to the church. You have heard Rowland Hill's story of meeting a drunken man in the street one night, who hiccupped and said to him, “How do you do, Mr. Hill? I am one of your converts.” “Yes,” said Rowland, “I would say that you are, but you are not one of God's, or else you would not be drunk.” Converts of that sort are far too numerous, converts of the Preacher, converts of friends, or converts of a watered-down gospel, but not true born again children of the Lord.
Dear friends, I invite all of you who are thinking about joining the church, to search and see whether you are the type that the Lord would add to a church. If you are, you have been converted by the Lord, you have been wounded by the Lord, and you have been healed by the Lord, and in the Lord is your righteousness and trust. It has not been man's doing; whoever may have been the instrument, the Holy Spirit has produced all your works in you. You must have been the subject of a divine intervention; something more than you could do for yourself or any man could do for you must have been formed in you by the Lord. He who made you has made you new. Oh, dear friends, who love the Lord, join in earnest prayer that the Lord would add to the church daily those who are being saved, for we long for such.
Then, the right kind of additions to the church are described in the text by the words, “those who were being saved.” The words of the verse in the King James Bible are not quite a correct translation of the original. I suppose they were borrowed from the vulgar Latin, they are not in the Greek. The translation should be either “The Lord added to the church daily the saved,” or “The Lord added to the church daily those who were being saved.” Saved persons were added to the church, and only the saved were fit to be added. We are not authorized to receive into our number those who desire to be saved, as certain churches do: I commend their plan in doing so, but I am sure they have no Scriptural warrant for it. Those who are being saved, in whom the work of salvation has truly begun, are the only proper candidates, and these are spoken of in the forty-fourth verse as “believers.” The proper persons to be added to the visible church of Jesus Christ are those who believe to the salvation of their souls, who are daily experiencing the saving power of the name of Jesus by being delivered from sin, by being saved from the pattern of the world, by being saved in the sense of sanctified from the various corruptions and lusts which rule among the sons of men. These are the sort of persons who should be added to the church. So let the question be asked, “Am I saved? Have I believed in Jesus?” If I have, the process of salvation is going on within me, I am being delivered from the reigning, ruling power of sin each day; I am being kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, and I will be kept and presented in the end spotless before the presence of God with great joy. We set the door wide open to all who are saved, however little their faith may be. The church has no right to exclude any of the saved because their knowledge or experience is not that of advanced believers. If they believe in Jesus and are saved, then the babes belong to the family and ought to be received, the lambs belong to the flock and ought not to be kept outside the fold.
Church membership is not a certificate of advanced Christianity, it is simply
the recognition of the profession of saving faith in Jesus Christ. May the Lord
add to this church many of the saved, and may we sit at the Lord's table
together and sing of redeeming grace and dying love, as those who love the
Savior. Come here, you who are the Lord's little ones, but stay far away, you
unbelievers and unregenerate ones.
Again the text says, “The Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” They were really “added” to the church. I am afraid certain persons' names are added to the church, but they themselves are not.
They increase our numbers, they are added like figures on a piece of paper, but they do not add to our strength. The church is a vital body, and to add to a vitalized body requires a divine operation. The church is like a tree; if you want to add to a tree you cannot take a dead branch and tie it on, that is not adding to it, but hindering it. To add to a tree there must be some grafting done, which requires skill, and the branch, itself alive, must be knit to the living trunk by a living bond, so that the vital sap of the tree will flow into the grafted branch. A true church is a living entity, and only living men and women made alive by the Spirit of God are fit to be grafted into it, and the grafting must be done by the Lord himself, otherwise it is no true addition to the church of the Living God. Some members are only tied on to the church, and they are neither useful nor an enhancement, just as a dead branch fastened to a tree would add no beauty to it, and would certainly bear no fruit. There must be a living union, so that the life which is in the church will join with the life that is in the man or the woman, and the one life of the one living Spirit will flow through the whole of the body.
When I hear those who profess to be Christians criticizing the churches to
which they belong, when I see division and hostility among church members, I can
clearly understand that the Lord never added them, and it would be a great mercy
to the church if the Lord would take them away. When the Lord adds them, then
they are added for time and for eternity, and they can say to the church, “Where
you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God.”
One more point in the text is this, that “the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved.” There were additions to the church every day.
Some churches, if they have an addition once in twelve months make as much
noise over that one as a hen does when she has laid an egg. Now, in the early
church they would not have been contented with so small an increase; they would
have gone weeping and mourning all over Jerusalem if there had been additions
only once in the year. But, one cries, “If we have an addition every month,
isn’t that enough? “Well, it is enough for some people, but when hearts are
warm and full of love to Christ, then we want him to be praised from the rising
of the sun to the setting of the same, and we long to have added to the church
daily those who are being saved; and why not? But, you reply, we are not
preaching daily. That may be, but we ought to be; if not daily in the pulpit,
there should be the daily preaching of the life, and if all the members of the
church were daily teaching of Jesus Christ from house to house, a daily sowing
would bring a daily reaping; if we were daily praying with earnestness, and
daily using every effort we could by the power of the Holy Spirit, and if daily
the church lived in fellowship with her master, we would soon see added to it
daily those who were being saved. “Why don’t we see it,” says one, “in
many churches?” Why, because many churches do not believe in it. If there were
many converts added to them, they would say, “Yes, we hear of a great many
additions, but what are they? We hope they will hold on,” or some such unkind
remark. If to some churches there would come a large increase, there are
brethren who would not believe it to be genuine, and would despise the little
ones. God will not cause his children to be born where there is no one to nurse
them; he will be sure not to send converts to churches which do not want them.
He will not have his lambs snarled over and kept out in the cold for months
together to see whether they will howl as wolves or bleat as sheep. He loves to
see his people watchful for new converts, and watchful over them. The Good
Shepherd would have us feed his lambs, gather them in from the cold field of the
world, and carry them to some warm sheltered place, and nurture them for him.
When he sees a church ready to do that, then will he send them his lambs, but
not till then.
II. That brings me to the second point, which is this: UNDER WHAT CONDITIONS MAY WE EXPECT ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH ON A LARGE SCALE?
Turn to the chapter again and we will have our answer. We may expect additions to every church of the Living God on a large scale when she has first of all a Holy Spirit ministry.
Peter was no doubt a man of considerable natural abilities, he was also a
warmhearted, fervent man, the kind of person that would have power over his
fellowmen, because of the enthusiasm within him; but for all this Peter had
never seen three thousand persons converted until he had been baptized with the
Holy Spirit. After the tongue of fire had sat on Peter's head, he became another
man from what he had ever been before. If, dear brethren, we are to see large
multitudes converted, the power of the preacher must lie in his being filled
with the Holy Spirit. I fear that many churches would not be content with a
ministry whose power would lie solely in the Holy Spirit. What I mean is this,
that they judge a minister by his elaboration of style, or beauty of imagery, or
degree of culture; and if he is a man of such refined speech that only a select
few can understand him, then he is a favorite with what is considered to be “a
respectable church.” Some despise a preacher whom the common people hear
gladly, who uses great plainness of speech, and discards the words which man's
wisdom teaches. They complain that he is only fit to address the most common
among people, and for this they turn their backs on him. They don’t want the
fire of the Spirit, but rather the flash of rhetoric; not the rushing wind of
the Holy Spirit, but the perfumed wind of “high culture.” The jingle of
rhetoric has more attraction for them than the clear sound of the trumpets of
the sanctuary. May God have mercy on the church that has got into such a
miserable state, and is so lacking in true education, for where a church is
educated by the Lord she understands that salvation is not by might nor by
power, but by the Spirit of God. Plainness of speech is the perfection of gospel
utterance, for that is how the Master himself spoke. Men of studied elocution,
who can build up a climax, and cap it with a dainty piece of poetry, are not the
men whom God the Holy Spirit honors to be soul-winners. Haven’t you heard fine
sermons, which have perfectly charmed you by their beauty, and yet after you
have heard them you have felt that if the Lord did bless such sermons to the
conversion of anybody it would be a novelty on the face of the earth, for there
was such little of Christ in them, and none of the power of the Holy Spirit?
Great sermons are often great sins, and “intellectual treats” are frequently
a mess of savory mush made from unclean meats.
A Holy Spirit ministry, if Peter is the model, is one which is bold, clear,
telling, and persuasive. One which tells men that Jesus is the Christ, and that
they have crucified him, and calls on them to repent and turn to the Lord. The
truly sent preacher speaks out straight and plain, and home to the conscience,
whether men will hear or whether they will refrain. The Holy Spirit minister
chooses Jesus for his main theme, as Peter did. He did not speak to them about
modern science and the ways of twisting Scripture into agreement with it. He
cared nothing for the ramblings of the Rabbis or the philosophies of the Greeks;
but he went right on preaching Christ crucified and Christ risen from the dead.
When he had preached Christ, he made a pointed personal appeal to them and said,
“Repent and be baptized, every one of you.” He was not afraid to give such
an exhortation; he was not like some who say, “We must warn sinners and then
leave them; we may preach Christ to them, but may not request them to repent;”
but he boldly preached the gospel and left it to his Master to send it home by
the power of the Holy Spirit. That was the sort of sermon which God blesses. The
man was full of God, and God shone through the man, and worked with him, and
forgiveness of sins was sought for and was found through repentance and faith in
the Lord Jesus Christ by a vast number of souls. May God send to all his
churches a Holy Spirit ministry!
But if there are to be many additions to the church it must next be a Holy
Note that. What is a Holy Spirit church? Well, it is a church baptized into his power, and this will be known first by its being devoted.
Read the 42nd verse: “They devoted themselves.” He will not bless a church which is excited and then relapses, is carried away by every novelty, and does not know what it believes, but a church which lives in Jesus and in his truth.
They were devoted in four points. “They devoted themselves to the apostles' teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.”
In the apostle's teaching. They were a doctrinal church, they believed in being devoted to the unmovable truth; they did not belong to the shifty generation of men who plead that their views are progressive, and that they cannot hold themselves bound by a ordinary creed. Dear brothers and sisters, never give up the grand old truths of the gospel. Let no excitement, even though it is the whirlwind of a revival, ever sweep you off your feet concerning the great doctrines of the cross. If God does not save men by truth he certainly will not save them by lies, and if the old gospel is not competent to work a revival, then we will do without the revival; we will keep to the old truth, anyhow, come what may! Our flag is nailed to the pole.
Next they were devoted in fellowship. They loved each other, and they continued doing so. They conversed with one another about the things of God, and they did not give up the conversation. They helped each other when they were in need, and they continued in such kindness. They were true brethren, and their fellowship was not broken.
Next they continued in the breaking of bread, which is a delightful ordinance, and never to be despised or underestimated. As often as they could they celebrated the death of Christ, until he would come again. They delighted the dear memorials of his sacred passion, both in the church and from house to house.
They also remained devoted in prayer. Mark that! God cannot bless a
church which does not pray, and churches must increase in supplication if they
would increase in strength. Sacred insistent requests must surround the throne
of God, and then the blessing will be given. Oh, children of the heavenly King,
you hamper the Spirit and hinder the blessing if you restrain prayer.
Here were four points, then, in which the church was devoted, and God blessed it.
Note next that it was a united church.
We read of them that they were so united that they had all things in common,
and they daily continued with one accord in the church. There were no parties
among them, no petty strifes and divisions, they loved the Lord too well for
that. The Sacred Dove takes his flight when strife comes in. If you divide the
church within itself, you also divide it from the mighty operations of the
Spirit of God. Be full of love to one another, and then you may expect that God
the Holy Spirit will fill you with blessing.
They were a generous church as well as a united church.
They were so generous that they threw in their property into a common reserve lest any should be in need. They were not communists, they were Christians; and the difference between a communist and a Christian is this-a communist says, “All that is yours is mine;” while a Christian says, “All that is mine is yours;” and that is a very different thing. The one is for getting, and the other is for giving. These believers acted in such a generous spirit one to another, that it seemed as if nobody considered that what he had belonged to himself, but generously gave of it to the necessities of others. I do not believe the Lord will ever bless a stingy church. There are churches whose minister has fearfully questioned how he will even provide food and clothing for his household, and yet these churches are not very poor. There are churches where more is spent per year for cleaning than they spend on the cause of Christ; and where this is the case no great good will be done. The Lord will never bless a synagogue of misers; if they are misers they may keep their worship to themselves, for God is as a generous God, and he loves to have a generous people.
Again, these people were in such a condition that their homes were holy places.
I want you to notice this, that they were breaking bread from house to house, and ate their food with gladness and singleness of heart. They did not think that religion was meant only for Sundays, and for what men now-a-days call the House of God. Their own houses were houses of God, and their own meals were so mixed and mingled with the Lord's Supper that to this day the most cautious student of the Bible cannot tell when they stopped eating their common meals, and when they began eating the Supper of the Lord. They elevated their meals into diets for worship: they so consecrated everything with prayer and praise that all around them was holiness to the Lord. I wish our houses were, in this way, dedicated to the Lord, so that we worshipped God all day long, and made our homes temples for the living God. A great dignitary not long ago informed us that there is great value in daily prayer in the parish church; he even asserted that, however few might attend, it was more acceptable than any other worship. I suppose that prayer in the parish church with nobody to join in it except the priest and the usher is far more effectual than the largest family gathering in the house at home. This was evidently this gentleman's idea, and I suppose the literature which he was best acquainted with was of such an order as, to have led him to draw that inference. Had he been acquainted with the Bible and such old fashioned books, he would have learned rather differently, and if some one should make him a present of a New Testament, it might perhaps suggest a few new thoughts to him. Does God need a house? He who made the heavens and the earth, does he dwell in temples made with hands? What crass ignorance this is! No house beneath the sky is more holy than the place where a Christian lives, and eats, and drinks, and sleeps, and praises the Lord in all that he does, and there is no worship more heavenly than that which is presented by holy families, devoted to the fear of the Lord.
To sacrifice home worship to public worship is a most evil course of action. Morning and evening devotion in a little home is infinitely more pleasing in the sight of God than all the cathedral pomp which delights the carnal eye and ear. Every truly Christian household is a church, and as such it is competent for the discharge of any function of divine worship, whatever it may be. Are we not all priests? Why do we need to call in others to make devotion a performance? Let every man be a priest in his own house. Are you not all kings if you love the Lord? Then make your houses palaces of joy and temples of holiness. One reason why the early church had such a blessing was because her members had such homes. When we are like them we will have “added to the church those who were being saved.”
I have already mentioned that they were a praying church, and that accounted
greatly for the increase. They were a devout church, a church which did not
forget any part of the Lord's will. They were a baptized church, and they were a
church that continually celebrated the Lord’s Supper, so we can see that they
were obedient to Christ in both ordinances. They were also a joyful church. We
find that they ate their food with gladness. Their religion was not of the
somber type which comes from doubts and fears. They were believers in a risen
Redeemer, and though they knew that they would soon be persecuted, they rejoiced
so much that everybody could see heaven shining on their faces, and might have
known that they believed in the blessed gospel, for they were a blessed people.
They were also a praising church, for it is said they “praised God, and they
had favor with all the people.” Oh, may the Lord make this church and all the
churches around us to be as holy and joyful as that apostolic community.
III. I must conclude with a word on that which I wanted most of all to say:
WHAT RESPONSIBILITIES DO THESE ADDITIONS TO THE CHURCH BRING TO US?
To you who are to be added to the church tonight, and I thank God that there are so many of you, it involves this responsibility: Do not come in among us unless you are saved.
Judge yourselves with honesty, examine yourselves with care, and although you have gone as far as you have, yet tonight, before I give you the right hand of fellowship, if you are conscious that you are not what you profess to be, I do beg you to still stand back. However, if you are the weakest of the weak, and the feeblest of the feeble, yet, if you are sincere, come and be welcomed; but if you are not sincere, do not add to your sin by taking upon you a profession which you cannot keep up, and by declaring a lie before the Lord; for if you do so, remember you will not have lied to man, but to God himself, in daring to affirm yourselves Christians, while you are unbelievers. Come, yes come if you are believers, and when you come, remember that the responsibility which you undertake in God's strength, is that you live to prove that you have really given yourself up to the church, that you intend to serve Christ with all your heart, that you will seek to promote the holiness and unity of the church which you join, and will strive to do nothing to dishonor her good name or to grieve the Spirit of God. In joining the church, pray to continue to be devoted in doctrine and fellowship. Pray for more grace, that you may be filled with the Spirit of God. Do not come in to weaken us, we are weak enough already. Do not come in to adulterate our purity, we have enough impurity even now. Pray that God may make you a real increase to our prayerfulness, to our holiness, to our earnestness, to our higher life, and then come and welcome, and the Lord be with you!
As for us who will receive the converts, what is our responsibility?
First, to welcome them wholeheartedly. Let us open wide the door of our hearts and say, “Come and welcome,” for Jesus Christ's sake. After welcoming them we must watch over them, and when so many are added, double care is needed. Of course, no two pastors can possibly watch over this vast assembly of four thousand five hundred professed believers. Let the watching be done by all the members: by the officers of the church first, and then by every individual. I am very thankful that out of the cheering number to be brought in tonight the larger proportion belong to the families of the church. My brothers and sisters already in Christ, it is fortunate for these young people that they have you to watch over them. Never let it be said that any parent discourages his child, that any guardian discourages the young after they have come forward and avowed their faith. If you notice faults, remember you have faults yourselves: do not mockingly throw their failing in their teeth as some have unkindly done. Guide them and cheer them on. Help their weakness, bear with their ignorance and impulsiveness, and correct their mistakes. I charge you, my beloved sisters, be nursing mothers in the church, and you, my brothers, be fathers to these young people, that they may be enabled by your help through God's Spirit to stay on the path. It is an evil thing to receive members, and never care for them afterwards. Among so many some must escape our supervision, but if all the members of the church were watchful this could be avoided; each would have some one to care for him, each one would have a friend to whom to tell his troubles and his cares. Watch, I pray, watch over the church.
And you older ones, myself included, let our example be such that they can
safely follow. Do not let them come into the church and find us cold. Let us
try, as we see these young ones coming among us, to grow young again in heart
and sympathy. In receiving these new members we ought to have, dear brethren, an
access of new strength, and a more vigorous life. The church ought to be giving
out more light, for here are fresh lamps. She should be doing more for Christ,
here are new workers; she should become stronger, more daring, more useful, for
here are newly enlisted bold soldiers. I think, as I see new converts brought
in, I see the Lord lighting up new stars to gladden this world's night; I see
him swearing in new soldiers to fight Christ's battles; I see him sending out
new sowers to sow the fields of the world for the ever-glorious harvest, and I
bless and praise and magnify his name with gladness of soul.
Heavenly Father, keep them, yes, keep us all, lest any of us, though added to the church on earth, should not be added to the church in heaven. Keep us so that when the muster roll is read for the last time, we who have had our names inscribed among the saints on earth may find them written among the blessed in heaven. May God grant it, and he will have all the glory. Amen.
English Updated and Added to Bible Bulletin Board's "Spurgeon Collection" by:
Bible Bulletin Board
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