Spiritual Revival, the Need of the Church
“O Lord, revive your work.” [Habakkuk 3:2]
2000 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted
All true religion is preeminently the work of God. If he should select out of his works that which he esteems most of all, he would select true religion. He regards the works of grace as being even more glorious than the works of nature; and he is therefore especially careful that this fact will always be known, so that, if anyone dares to deny it, they will do so in the face of repeated testimonies that God is indeed the Author of salvation in the world and in the hearts of men and women, and that religion is the effect of grace, and is the work of God.
I believe the Eternal might sooner forgive the sin of ascribing the creation of the heavens and the earth to an idol, than that of ascribing the works of grace to the efforts of the flesh, or to anyone but himself. It is a sin of the greatest magnitude to suppose that there is something in the heart which can be acceptable to God, except that which he himself has first created there. When I deny God’s work in creating the sun, I deny one truth; but when I deny that he works grace in the heart, I deny a hundred truths at one time; for, in the denial of that one truth, that God is the Author of good in the souls of men, I have denied all the doctrines which make up the great articles of faith, and I have run in direct opposition to the whole testimony of Sacred Scripture.
I trust, beloved, that many of us have been taught, taught that, if there is anything in our souls which can carry us to heaven, it is God’s work, and, moreover, that if there is anything that is good and excellent found in his Church, it is entirely God’s work from first to last. We firmly believe that it is God who revives the soul which was dead, positively “dead in trespasses and sins;” that it is God, and God alone who maintains the life of that soul, and God who consummates and perfects that life in the home of the blessed, in heaven above. We ascribe nothing to man, but everything to God. We dare not for a moment think that the conversion of the soul is effected either by its own efforts or by the efforts of others; we know that there are means and agencies employed by God, but we also believe most firmly that the work is, from its beginning to its end, entirely the Lord’s. We believe, therefore, that we are right in applying our text to the work of divine grace, both in the heart of man and in the Church at large; and we think that we can have no subject more appropriate for our consideration than the prayer of the text: “O Lord, revive your work.”
Trusting that the Spirit of God will help me, I will endeavor to apply the text, first, to our own souls personally, and, then, to the state of the Church at large, for it greatly needs that the Lord would revive his work in its midst.
I. First, then, I will apply the text TO OUR OWN SOULS PERSONALLY.
In this matter, we should begin at home. All too often we flog the Church, when the whip should be laid on our own shoulders. We drag the Church, like a gigantic culprit, to the altar; we tie her hands together, and try to immediately execute her; or, at least, we find fault with her where there is none, and magnify her little errors, while we too often forget our own imperfections. Let us, therefore, begin with ourselves, remembering that we are a part of the Church, and that our own need of revival is in some measure the cause of that need in the Church at large. I directly blame the great majority of professing Christians in these days-and I also accept the blame myself-acknowledging the need of a revival of holiness. I will clearly and boldly lay the blame, because I think I have abundant grounds to prove it. I believe that the majority of so-called Christians in this age need a revival; and my reasons are these.
In the first place, look at the conduct of many who profess to be the children of God.
It is unbecoming to any man who occupies the pulpit to flatter his listeners, and I will not attempt to do so. The evil lies with those who unite themselves with Christian churches, and then virtually protest against their own profession. It has become very common, nowadays, to join a church; go where you may, you find professing Christians who sit down at the Lord’s table; but are there fewer cheats than there used to be? Are there less frauds committed? Do we find morality more prevalent? Do we find vice entirely wiped out? No, we do not. The age is as immoral as any that preceded it; there is still as much sin, although it is more masked and hidden. The outside of the grave may be whiter; but within, the bones are just as rotten as before, society is not one bit improved. Those men who, in our popular magazines, give us a true picture of the state of London life, are to be believed and credited, for they do not stretch the truth-they have no motive for doing so and the picture which they give of the immorality of this great city is positively appalling. It is a huge criminal, full of sin; and I fearlessly assert that, if all the profession of Christianity in London were true profession, it would not be nearly such a wicked place as it is; it couldn’t be, by any manner of means.
My brothers and sisters, it is well known-and who dares to deny that is not true? It is well known that in these days, being a member of a church does not provide a sufficient guarantee of a man’s honesty. It is a hard thing for a Christian minister to say, but I must say it; someone must say it, and if friends do not say it, enemies will; and it is better that the truth should be spoken in our own midst, that men may see that we are ashamed of it, than that they should hear us boldly deny what we must know to be true. O my friends, the lives of too many members of Christian churches give us grave reason to suspect that there is none of the life of godliness in them at all! Why all that seeking after money, why all that materialism, why all that following after the fashions and trends of a wicked world, why all that clutching here and grabbing there, that grinding of the faces of the poor, that treading down of the workman, and other things like that, if men are truly what they profess to be? God in heaven knows that what I speak is true, and too many here know it themselves. If they are Christians, at least they need revival; if there is any spiritual life in them, it is only a spark that is covered up with heaps of ashes; it needs to be fanned, no, it needs to be stirred also, that hopefully some of the ashes may be removed, and the spark may have place to live.
The Church as a whole needs a revival of its members.
The members of Christian churches are not what they once were. It is fashionable to be religious now; persecution is taken away; and, ah! I had almost said that the doors of the Church were also taken away with it. The Church has, with few exceptions, no doors now; persons come in and go when they please, instead of regarding it as a special and sacred place, for the gathering of the holy of the Lord, and the excellent of the earth, in whom is God’s delight. If this is not true, you know how to treat it; you need not confess to sin you have not committed; but if it is true, and true in your case, oh! humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God; ask him to search and test you, that if you are not his child, you may be helped to admit your false profession, lest it should be to you nothing but the ornate pageantry of death leading you directly to hell. If you are his, ask that he may give you more grace, that you may abandon these faults and follies, and turn to him with a fully committed heart, as the result of a revived godliness in your soul.
Let me ask the question, doesn’t the conversation of many a professing Christian lead us either to doubt the genuineness of his profession, or else to pray that his holiness may be revived?
Have you noticed the conversation of many who think themselves Christians? You might live with them from the first of January to the end of December, and you would notice that they scarcely mention the name of Jesus Christ at all. On Sunday afternoon, all the ministers are talked about; faults are found with this one and the other, and conversation takes place, which they call religious, because it is concerning religious places and Christian people; but do they ever talk of all that Christ did, and said, and suffered for us here below; the path he marked for us to walk, And what Jesus is doing for us now?
Does your Christian brother or sister ever say to you, “Friend, how is your soul today?” When we visit each other’s houses, do we begin to talk about God’s purposes and the truth of his word? Do you think that God would now stoop from heaven to listen to the conversation of his Church, as once he did, when it was said, “the LORD listened and heard. A scroll of remembrance was written in his presence concerning those who feared the LORD and honored his name?” I solemnly declare, as the result of what I consider to be an impartial observation, that the conversation of Christians, while it cannot be condemned on the basis of morality, must often be condemned on the basis of Christianity. We talk far too little about our Lord and Master.
That ugly word “sectarianism” has crept into our midst, and we must say nothing about Christ now, because we are afraid of being called sectarians or narrow-minded. Well, brethren, I am a sectarian, I am narrow-minded, and hope to be so until I die, and to glory in it; for I cannot see, nowadays, that a man can be a serious and committed Christian without winning for himself the title. Many tell us that we must not talk about a certain doctrine, because, perhaps, someone doesn’t believe it; we must not mention such-and-such a truth in Scripture because such-and-such a friend doubts or denies it; and so we drop all the great and grand topics which used to be the main subjects of godly conversation, and we begin to speak of anything else because we feel that we can agree better on worldly things than we can on spiritual. Isn’t that the truth? And isn’t it a common sin with some of us, that we have a need to pray to God, “O Lord, revive your work in my soul, that my conversation may be more Christ-like, more seasoned with salt, and more pleasing to the Holy Spirit?”
My third remark is, that there are some whose conduct is all that we could hope for, whose conversation is for the most part very becoming to the gospel of Christ, and full of truth; but even they will confess to a third charge, which I must now sorrowfully bring against them and against myself, namely, that there is too little real communion with Jesus Christ.
If, thanks to divine grace, we are enabled to keep our conduct tolerably
consistent, and our lives unblemished, yet how much we need to cry out against
ourselves because of our lack of that holy fellowship with Jesus which is the
mark of the true child of God! Brothers and sisters, let me ask you how long has
it been since you have had a love-visit from Jesus Christ. How long since you
could say, “My lover is mine and I am his.”? How long has it been since he
has taken you into his banquet hall, and his banner over you was love? Perhaps
some of you will be able to say, “It was just this morning that I saw him; I
looked at his face with joy, and was ravished with his beauty.” But I fear
that most of you will have to say, “Ah, sir; it has been months since I have
seen the sweet glow of his face!” What have you been doing, then, and what has
been your way of life? Have you been groaning every day? Have you been weeping
every minute? “No.” Then you ought to have been. I cannot understand how
your holiness can be pure and bright, if you can live without the sunlight of
Christ, and yet be happy.
Christians will sometimes lose the realization of Jesus; the connection between themselves and Christ will at times be severed, as to their own conscious enjoyment of it; but they will always groan and cry when they lose that presence. What! is Christ your Brother, and does he live in your house, and yet you have not spoken to him for a month? I fear there is little love between you and your Brother, if you have had no conversation with him for so long. What! is Christ the Husband of his Church, and has she had no fellowship with him for all this time? Brethren, let me not condemn you, let me not even judge you, but let your own conscience speak. Mine will, and so will yours. Haven’t we too often forgotten Christ? Haven’t we lived too much without him? Haven’t we been contented with the world, instead of desiring Christ? Have we all been like that little ewe lamb that drank out of its master’s cup, and ate from his table, and lay in his lap? Or have we rather been content to stray on the mountains, feeding anywhere but at home? I fear that many of the troubles of our heart spring from the lack of communion with Jesus. Not many of us are the kind of men and women who, living with Jesus, learn his secrets. Oh, no! we live too much without the light of his presence, and are too contented when he is gone from us. Let us, then, each one of us-for I am sure that each of us need, in some measure, to pray, “O Lord, revive your work.” Everyone! I think I hear one Christian saying, “Sir, I do not need a revival in my heart; I am everything I wish to be.” Down on your knees, my brothers and sisters, down on your knees, and plead for him! He is the man who most needs to be prayed for. He says that he needs no revival in his soul; but he needs a revival of humility, at any rate. If he supposes that he is all that he ought to be, and if he knows that he is all he wishes to be, then he has a very poor understanding of what a Christian is, or of what a Christian should be, and very wrong ideas concerning himself. Those who are in the most hopeful condition are those, who, while they know they need reviving, yet groan under their present sad state, and pray to the Lord to revive them. Now I think I have in some degree substantiated my charge-with too strong arguments.
Now let us notice that the text has something in it which I believe that each of us has. There is not only a need implied in these words, “O Lord, revive your work;” but there is a need evidently felt.
You see, Habakkuk knew how to groan about it. “O Lord,” he said, “revive your work.” Many of us need reviving, but few of us feel that we need it. It is a blessed sign of life within us when we know how to groan over our departure from the living God. It is easy to find hundreds of those who have departed from the Lord, but you can count by ones and twos those who know how to groan over their departure. The true believer, however, when he discovers that he needs revival, will not be happy; he will immediately begin that incessant and continuous strain of cries and groans which will finally prevail with God, and bring the blessing of revival down. He will, days and nights in succession, cry out, “O Lord, revive your work.”
Let me mention some times of groaning, which will always occur to the Christian who needs revival.
I am sure he will always groan when he looks back on what the Lord did for him in the past. When he remembers those places where the Lord appeared to him, saying, “I have loved you with an everlasting love,” I know he will never look back to them without tears. If he is what he should be as a Christian, or if he thinks he is not in a right condition, he will always weep when he remembers God’s sweet love in the past. Whenever the soul has lost fellowship with Jesus, it cannot bear to think of “the royal chariots of God’s people;” it cannot endure to remember the King’s banquet hall, for it hasn’t been there for so long; or when it does think of them, it says,
“Where is the Blessedness I knew
When I first saw the Lord?
Where is the soul-refreshing view
Of Jesus and his Word?”
“What peaceful hours I then enjoyed!
How sweet their memory still!
But now I find an aching void
The world can never fill.”
When one who is in this state hears a sermon which relates the glorious experience of the believer who is in a healthy condition, he puts his hand to his heart, and says, “Ah! such was my experience once; but those happy days are gone. My sun has set, and those stars which once lit up my darkness are all quenched; oh, that I might again look upon my Lord! Oh, that I might once more see his face! Oh, for those sweet visits from on high! If this is your condition, my friend, you will sit down and weep by the rivers of Babylon, you will mourn when you remember what it was like to go up to Zion when the Lord was precious to you, when he opened his heart, and was also pleased to fill your heart with the fullness of his love. Such times will be groaning times, when you “remember the years of closeness at the right hand of the Most High.”
Again, to a Christian who needs revival, attending the Lord’s Supper and watching Christians being baptized, will also be times of groaning.
He will go to church, but he will say to himself when he leaves, “Ah! how
it has all changed! When I used to go with the multitude on Sundays, every word
was precious. When the songs were sung, my soul had wings, and up it flew to its
nest above the stars; when the prayer was offered, I could sincerely say, “Amen.”
The preacher now preaches as he did before, and my brothers and sisters are as
blessed as they used to be, but the sermon is dry and dull to me. I find no
fault with the preacher; I know the fault is with myself. The song is just the
same-and the melody is sweet, and the harmony is pure; but oh! my heart is so
heavy; my harp strings are broken, and I cannot sing. So the Christian will
return from those blessed means of grace, sighing and sobbing, because he knows
he needs revival. More especially at the Lord’s supper, he will think, when he
sits at the table, “Oh! what seasons of communion I once had here! In breaking
the bread and drinking the wine, my Master was most blessedly present.” He
will think to himself how his soul was lifted even to the seventh heaven, and
the building became to him “the house of God, and the gate of heaven.” “But
now,” he says, “It is only bread, and dry bread, to me; it is simply wine,
and tasteless wine, with none of the sweetness of paradise in it; I drink, but
it is all in vain, for I have no precious thoughts of Christ. My heart is so
heavy that it will not rise; my soul cannot heave a thought even halfway to him!”
And then the Christian will begin to groan again, “O Lord, revive your work.”
Those of you who know that you are in Christ, but who feel that you are not in a healthy spiritual condition, because you do not love him enough, and do not have that faith in him which you desire to have, I would just ask you this-Do you groan over it? Are you groaning over it now? When you feel that your heart is empty, is it “an aching void”? When you see that your clothing is stained, are you ready to wash them with tears if that would do any good? When you realize that your Lord is gone, do you hang out the black flag of sorrow, and cry, “O my Jesus, my precious Jesus, are you gone forever?” If you can, then I ask you do it; and may God be pleased to give you grace to continue to do it until a happier time will dawn in the reviving of your soul!
I observe, in the last place, on this point, that the soul, when it is really brought to feel its own sad condition, because of its backsliding and departure from God, is never content without turning its groanings into prayer, and without addressing the prayer to the right person: “O Lord, revive your work.”
Perhaps, some of you will say, “Sir, I feel my need of revival; I intend to set to work this very afternoon, as soon as I leave this place, to revive my soul.” Don’t say this; and above all things, don’t try to do it, for you will never do it. Make no resolutions as to what you will do; your resolutions will certainly be broken as soon as they are made, and your broken resolutions will only increase the number of your sins. I exhort you, instead of trying to revive yourself, to offer prayer to God. Do not say, “I will revive myself,” but cry out, “O Lord, revive your, work.” And let me solemnly tell you, you have not yet felt what it is to truly backslide, you don’t yet know how sad your condition is, otherwise you would not talk of reviving yourself. If you did know your own condition, you would just as soon expect to see the wounded soldier on the battlefield heal himself without medicine, or carry himself to the hospital when his limbs are shot off, as you would expect to revive yourself without the help of God. I ask you not to do anything, nor seek to do anything until first of all you have spoken to Jehovah himself by mighty prayer, and have cried out, “O Lord, revive your work.” Remember, he that made you a new creation must keep you alive; and only he that has kept you alive can impart more life to you. And only he that has preserved you from going down to the pit, when your feet have been sliding, can set you back on the rock again, and reestablish your paths. Begin, then, by humbling yourself, giving up all hope of reviving yourself as a Christian, but also begin immediately with earnest supplication to God, saying, “O Lord, what I cannot do, you do! O Lord, revive your work!”
My Christian brothers and sisters I leave these matters with you. Give them the attention they deserve. If I have erred, and in something have judged you too harshly, God will forgive me, for I have meant it honestly; but if I have spoken truth, then take it into your hearts, and weep to the Lord. Weep as in the days past, men apart, and women apart, husbands apart, and wives apart. Weep, weep, my brethren, for it is a sad thing to depart from the living God. Weep, and may he bring you back to Zion, that you may one day return like Israel, not with weeping, but with songs of everlasting joy!
II. And now I come to the second part of the subject, on which I must be more
brief. In THE CHURCH ITSELF, taken as a body, this prayer ought to be one
incessant and solemn prayer: “O Lord, revive your work.”
Today, there is a sad decline of the vitality of godliness. This age has become too much the age of formality, instead of the age of life.
I date the beginning of the hour of life from this day one hundred years ago, when the first stone of this building was laid, this building in which we now worship God. It was the day of divine life, and of power sent down from on high. God had clothed Whitefield with power; he was preaching with a majesty and a power of which one could scarcely think any mortal could ever be capable of; not because he was anything in himself, but because his Master wrapped him with strength. After Whitefield, there was a succession of great and holy men; but now, my friends, we have fallen on the dregs of time.
Men are the rarest things in all this world; we hardly have any men in the government to conduct our politics, and we scarcely have any men in religion. We have the things that perform their duties, as they are called; we have the good, and, perhaps, the honest things, who in the regular routine go on like pack horses; but there are not many men who dare to be singular today, because to be singular is to be upright in a wicked world. Compared even with the times of the Puritans, where are our godly men? Could we marshal together men like those holy ones of the past, men like Howe and Charnock? Could we gather together men like the godly men of the past, which I could mention about fifty at a time? I think not. Nor could we bring together such a galaxy of grace and talent as that which immediately followed Whitefield. Think of Rowland Hill, Newton, Toplady, and numbers of others which time does not permit to mention. They are gone; their venerated dust rests in the grave; where are their successors? Ask where, and an echo will reply, “Where?” God has not raised them up yet, or, if he has, we have not yet found out where they are.
There is, nowadays, much preaching; but how is it often done? The preacher says, “O Lord, help your servant to preach, and teach him by your Spirit what to say!” Then out comes the manuscript, and he reads it! We have other preaching like this too; it is speaking very beautifully and very superbly, possibly eloquently, in a sense; but where is there now such preaching as Whitefield’s? Have you ever read one of his sermons? You will not think him very eloquent; you cannot think so. His expressions were rough, frequently unconnected; he spoke using strong words and a lot of emotion nearly throughout his whole sermon; but where was his eloquence? Not in the words he uttered, but in the tones in which he delivered them, in the earnestness with which he spoke them, in the tears which ran down his cheeks, and in the pouring out of his very soul The reason why he was eloquent was just what the word means, he was eloquent because he spoke right out from his heart; he caused truth to flow out of the innermost depths of his soul. When he spoke, you could see that he meant what he said; he did not speak like a mere machine, but he preached what he felt to be the truth, and what he felt compelled to preach. If you had heard him preach, you could not but feel that he was a man who would die if he could not preach, and that with all his might he called to men and women, “Come to Jesus Christ, and believe on him.”
That kind of preaching is just what is missing in these times; where is the
It is neither in the pulpit nor even in the pew, in the measure that we desire; and it is a sad, sad age when intensity is scoffed at, and when that very zeal which ought to be the prominent characteristic of the pulpit is regarded as fanaticism. I pray to God that he would make all of us fanatics that most men would laugh at and that many would despise. To my mind, it is the greatest fanaticism in the world to go to hell, and the worst folly on earth is to love sin better than righteousness; and I think that they are anything but fanatics who seek to obey God rather than man, and to follow Christ in all his ways. To me, one sad proof that the Church needs revival is the absence of that solemn earnestness and intensity which was once seen in Christian pulpits.
The lack of sound doctrine is another proof of our need of revival.
We can turn back to the records of our Puritan forefathers, to the Articles of the Church of England, and to the preaching of Whitefield, and we can say of their doctrine, it is the very thing we love; and the doctrines which were then uttered are-and we dare to say it boldly-they are the very same doctrines that we proclaim today. But because we proclaim them, we are thought to be odd and strange; and the reason is, because sound doctrine has to a great degree been abandoned. It began in this way.
First of all, the truths were fully believed, but the corners of them were taken off a little. The minister believed in election, but he did not use the word for fear it would in some degree disturb the composure of the deacon in the corner pew. He believed that everyone was by nature depraved, but he did not positively say so, because, if he did, there was a lady who had donated so much money to the church who would not come back again; so that, while he did believe it, and did preach it in some sense, he rounded it off a little.
Afterwards, it came to this, ministers said, “We believe these doctrines, but we do not think them profitable to preach to the people. They are quite true; free grace is true; the great doctrines of grace that were preached by Christ, by Paul, by Augustine, by Calvin, and down to this age by their successors, are true; but they need to be kept back-they must be very cautiously dealt with; they are strong and dreadful doctrines, and they must not be preached; we believe them, but we dare not speak of them publicly.”
After that, it came to something worse; they said within themselves, “Well, if it is not a good idea to preach these doctrines to the people, perhaps they are not true doctrines at all;” and going one step further, they did not actually say so, perhaps, but they began just to hint that they were not true; then they went on to preach something which they said was the truth; and now, because we still preach those hated doctrines, then if they could, they would throw us out of the synagogue, as if they were the rightful owners of it, and we were the intruders.
So they have gone from bad to worse; and if you read the accepted doctrines of this age, and the preached and accepted doctrines of Whitefield’s day, you will find that the two cannot by any possibility be made to agree together. We have, nowadays, what is called a “new theology.” New theology? Why, it is anything but a Theology; it is an “ology” which has thrown out God and enthroned man; it is the doctrine of man, and not the doctrine of the everlasting God. Therefore, we need a revival of sound doctrine once more in our churches.
And the Church at large also needs a revival of downright earnestness and intensity in its members.
You are not the men to fight the Lord’s battles yet; you do not have the seriousness, the zeal, which the children of God once had. Your forefathers were strong men; but you are weak men. Our people, what are they, many of them? Strong in doctrine when they are with strong doctrine men; but they waver when they get with others, and they alter as often as they change their company; they are sometimes one thing, and sometimes another. They are not men who are willing to go to the stake, and die for the truth; they are not the men who know how to die daily, and so are ready for death whenever it comes.
Look at our prayer-meetings, with only an exception here and there, there are, possibly, six old women present; scarcely ever do enough male members come to pray even four times a year. Prayer-meetings they are called; they ought to be called “bare-meetings”, for they are barely attended. In addition, very few ever go to our fellowship-meetings, or to any other meetings that we have to help one another in the fear of the Lord. Are they attended at all as they should be? I would like to see a newspaper printed somewhere, containing a list of all the persons who went to those meetings during the week in any of our churches in London. Ah! my friends, if you would add together all those who attended those meetings in one week, well, you might find that any one of our churches could hold all of them at one time! We don’t have earnestness, seriousness, and intensity, we don’t have life, as we once had; if we had, we would be called worse names than we are now; we would have more contemptible labels thrown at us, if we were more true to our Master; we would not be quite so comfortable, if we served God better. We are making the Church of our land to be an honorable institution; some think it a grand thing when the Church becomes an honorable institution, but it shows that the Church has swerved from the right course when she begins to be very honorable in the eyes of the world. She must still be rejected, she must still be called evil, and still be despised, until that day when her Lord will honor her because she has honored him-then he will honor her, even in this world, in the day of his appearing.
Beloved, do you think it is true that the Church needs reviving? Yes, or no? “No,” you say; “at least, not to the extent that Charles Spurgeon believes.”
You think the Church is in good shape. You are not among those who cry out, “The former days were better than these.” You may be far wiser than we are, and therefore you are able to see those various signs of goodness which are to us so small that we are not able to discover them. You may suppose that the Church is in good shape; if so; of course you cannot sympathize with me in preaching from such a text and urging you to use such a prayer as this: “O Lord, revive your work.”
But there are others of you who frequently cry out, “The Church needs reviving.”
Let me ask you, instead of grumbling at your minister, instead of finding fault with the different parts of the Church, let me ask you to cry out, “O Lord, revive your work.” “Oh!” one says, “Oh, that we had another minister! Oh, that we had another kind of worship! Oh, that we had a different sort of preaching!” Just as if that were the simple solution; but my prayer is, “Oh, that the Lord would come into the hearts of the men you have! Oh, that he would make the forms you use to be full of power!” You don’t need fresh ways or new structures; you need life in those that you have. There is an locomotive on the railroad tracks; but the train will not move. “Bring another locomotive,” one says, “and another, and another.” The locomotives are brought, but the train still does not move. Light the fire and get up more steam, that is what you need; not new engines. We do not need new ministers, or new plans, or new ways, though many might be invented, to make the Church better; we only need life and fire in those that we have. With the very man who has emptied your church, the very same person that weakened your prayer-meetings, God can yet make the church to be crowded to the doors, and give thousands of souls to that very man. It is not a new man that is needed; it is the life of God in him. Don’t be crying out for something new; it will no more solve your problem than what you now have. Cry out, “O Lord, revive your work.”
I have noticed, in different churches, that the minister has thought first of this plan, then of that one. He tried one plan, and thought that it would succeed; then he tried another, but that was no good. Keep to the old plan, my friend, but seek to get life into it! We don’t need anything new; “the old is better,” let us keep it; but we need life in the old plan. “Oh!” men cry, “we have nothing but the shell;” and they are going to give us a new shell. No, we will keep the old one, but we will put new life in the old shell; we will keep the old plans, but we must, or else we will throw the old away, we must have the life in the old. Oh, that God would give us life! The Church needs new revivals. Oh, for the days of Scotland's 18th-century revival, when in March 1742, a spark of grace set the kingdom on fire when the Word of God was preached with power! Oh, for the days when, in this place, hundreds were converted under Whitefield’s sermons! It has been known that two thousand credible cases of conversion happened under the preaching of one single sermon. Oh! for the age when eyes would be opened wide, and ears would be ready to receive the truth of God, and when men and women would drink in the Word of life, as it is indeed the very water of life which God gives to dying souls! Oh, for the age of deep feeling-the age of deep earnestness and sincerity! Let us ask God for it; let us plead with him for it. Perhaps he has the man or the men somewhere who will yet shake the world; perhaps even now he is about to pour forth a mighty influence on man, which will make the Church as wonderful in this age as it ever was in any age that has passed. God grant it, for Christ’s sake! Amen.
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