The Work of the Gospel

The fear has been expressed that there is a danger of our becoming, as Christians, too evangelistic. This is a strange fear and those who feel it must have imbibed a strange gospel, or sadly backslidden from the true one, if ever they knew it. Is it possible for us to become more evangelistic than the Apostle Paul, who, with a persistent zeal and indomitable faith, carried the glorious gospel to Jew and Greek, Barbarian, Scythian, bond and free? Is it possible for us to be more compassionate of heart and untiring in activity than the One who said, "The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He has anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor?" If not, then we need not fear; there is no danger of our becoming too evangelistic.

The tendency, alas! is all in the opposite direction, nay, it is not a tendency merely that we have to deplore, but the sad fact that the evangelistic spirit, which is the true spirit of Christianity, seems ready to die. The indifference to the eternal welfare of the souls of men on the part of the vast majority of Christians is appalling, and should cause great exercise of conscience and searchings of heart. This indifference, and the fact that some should fear that we may become "too evangelistic," is but sad evidence that the love of many has waxen cold.

It has been said by one who was a true minister of Christ: "I believe the Christian who is not cultivating an evangelistic spirit is in a truly deplorable condition. I believe, too, that the assembly which is not cultivating and manifesting an evangelistic spirit is in a dead state. One of the truest marks of spiritual growth and prosperity is earnest anxiety after the conversion of souls. It is hard to believe that "the word of Christ" is "dwelling richly" in any one who is not making some effort to impart that Word to his fellow-sinners. It matters not what may be the amount of the effort; it may be to drop a few words in the ear of a friend, to give a tract, to pen a note, to breathe a prayer. But one thing is certain, namely, that a healthy, vigorous Christian will be an evangelistic Christian — a teller of good news — one whose sympathies, desires, and energies are ever going forth toward 'the regions beyond'" (C. H. Mackintosh).

But we must understand what evangelistic work is, lest we are deceived by what is spurious and not of God. That is not evangelistic work which, adopting sensational methods, works upon the feelings of the hysterical, and produces converts which last a day or a week or until the special excitement is over; that is the work of the devil, whatever else it pretends to be, and the results of it are often disgust with, or suspicion of, gospel work in general on the part of thoughtful men, or a callous indifference henceforward, or despair, on the part of those who have come under its influence. In any case the work of God is brought into disrepute, and He alone can calculate the harm of it. Nor is evangelistic work the merely holding of gospel services because the regular time for such has come round, and so, perforce, must be held; about such services there is often a frigid formality, a formality that hardens with a terrible hardness those who attend them regularly. This is often seen in the young who are children of Christian parents. "Gospel-hardened" has become a current phrase, but may not the sad condition that it describes be largely due to these dead and powerless services? We thankfully admit that the regular Sunday evening services are often means of great blessing to many, but this is where those who hold them do so in dependence upon God and communion with the Master, and the evangelistic spirit is in evidence in the gathering in of the unconverted.

Evangelistic activity of the genuine sort springs from the divine love that God implants in the heart of a man who is himself saved, and this love makes him desire the blessing of others. It is true that the most fervent desire that ever flamed in the heart of a Christian for the souls of men is as nothing to the boundless desires of the heart of God; nevertheless these desires are the same in nature and character, for divine love cannot act differently in the Christian from the way it acts in the Christian's God.

This love is lighted in the heart by contact with Christ, and is kept brightly burning as His company is kept. It must find its outlet in gracious activity, which, to be effective in blessing, must be directed by Himself. "Come ye after Me, and ye shall catch men."

He is not an evangelist who is satisfied with the public platform, no matter how eloquently he may discourse, but he is one who, it may be with stammering tongue and broken utterance, goes after men because he loves their souls, who carries to them the glad news because it thrills his own soul like a trumpet call, who will win them for Christ at any cost to himself because Christ has become unspeakably precious to himself. We need to pray that God will raise up such in these dead, cold days, men whose love shall make them "ache for souls," and be in season and out of season in their determination to win them, and may we covet to be such.

But our activities must be IN HIS NAME, for so runs the commission that our Lord has given. We may do it by His authority and count upon the "all power" which is given to Him, but the work must be done as He would do it were He here, for we are in His stead to proclaim the life-giving Word — as His representatives, His ambassadors, this is the import of "IN MY NAME." Solemn consideration! Demanding the refusal of every method and motive in the prosecution of the work that is not consistent with that name; demanding, too, the refusal of popularity in the world and the acceptance of the path that He trod.

"Yet it is well, and Thou but said in season,
  'As is the Master shall the servant be;'
Let me not subtly slide into the treason,
  Seeking an honour which they gave not Thee."

"In My name" defines also the character that the servant should bear, for it declares the character of the Master, and how shall we describe that? Meekness, lowliness, long-suffering, patience, forgiveness, tender compassion, and quenchless love, all these and more shone forth in Him with a wonderful shining, and it is ours to reproduce that character in our service amongst men. Oh, the dignity of it! The distinction! The incalculable privilege! Shall we not embrace it, and in lowly dependence upon God make our lives one ceaseless psalm of thanksgiving to Him for His grace in permitting such as we are to have a part in this work of God?