A Plea for the Gospel

1916 175 One often hears the complaint, 'Oh, we seldom have a conversion.' If asked the reason the answer is often, 'Well, we have a preacher every Lord's day, and the testimony seems faithful enough but, as far as we know, souls are not led to confess and own the Lord Jesus as their Saviour through the preaching.' And the blame is tacitly thrown on the preacher, as if he were the only one responsible in the matter.

But is this so? Are we not all responsible in measure? Will this shirking of individual responsibility do for God? I trow not. Surely He will call to account each one who is indifferent to the well-being of precious souls. And can we close our eyes to the fact that there is a manifest neglect of gospel services, and a condition of supineness, respecting the prosperity of the word, creeping into the assemblies of the saints in many places? This is a state of things which is evidently productive of sad results. Thus some Christians are not seen at the gospel service so often, by far, as the new moon appears. The weekly prayer meeting is not attended so regularly as might be. Business matters, which might often be postponed, some prefer attending to on that evening, glad in their hearts of any excuse for absenting themselves. Yet this is only what one might expect. For neglect of perishing sinners' souls goes along with carelessness and sterility in one's own.

Oh! that our hearts could rise up more fully to the contemplation of God's own love towards the ungodly in giving His own Son to die for them (Rom. 5:8). Methinks we should thus be stirred up to increased diligence in seeking to help on the work of soul-winning.

But some one will say, probably, 'What can I do? I cannot preach. I do not feel qualified for the work.' Perhaps not. Still there is much work to be done besides preaching the gospel. We can seek to bring our friends and neighbours to the gospel services, for instance, so that they may hear the words of life. It would be well also if we cultivated a more implicit faith in the power of the word alone to reach the hearts of sinners. Again, a tract may be given by the way, or a word spoken to some weary heart, which may result in eternal blessing for the soul, and bring glory to the name of the Lord Jesus. Thus every Christian may be used in some way, if not in the same way, in proclaiming the message of salvation to all, through Christ.

Then, further, if Christians are desirous of witnessing blessing at the gospel preaching (and who are not?) there should be an understanding amongst them as to what they need, and perfect agreement too. For it is absolutely necessary that there should be unity of purpose and desire as well as united effort. Thus having a definite object before them they could come together for presenting their requests (Matt. 18:19).

Now in Acts 1:14 we have an example of this unanimity as to a definite want seen in practice. We read, "These all continued with one accord in prayer and supplication, with the women, and Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brethren." Again, "They were all with one accord in one place" (Acts 2:1). Thus were they, brethren and sisters as well, united in prayer for blessing, and together in waiting for, and expecting, the fulfilment of the Father's promise — the gift of the Holy Ghost (Acts 1:4). See also Acts 4:31-32.

Let us seek then to imitate this example, showing by our reiterated supplications our felt need and dependence upon God; and by our continued waiting, our trust in our Father, and faith in His infallible word of promise.

But if we desire to see souls saved through the preaching we must avoid the pernicious spirit of hyper-criticism which is so apt to creep into our midst, working untold mischief in many ways. Instead of watching the preacher's words, like a cat does a mouse, ready to pounce upon him at the first slip in word or sense, would it not be better to have our hearts occupied with God in prayer that He would give the speaker the right word, and by His Spirit prepare the hearts of sinners present to receive it? To see this would delight the heart of our Father, and, I am sure, He would not fail to bestow the blessing so manifestly desired by His children.

And those who preach the gospel should realise fully the solemn fact that nothing but Christ and Him crucified will meet the need of the sinner. Let us see to it, therefore, that we present Him, and the way of salvation through Him, clearly and distinctly to those who listen, so that they may not mistake the road that leads to life, and strive to enter in some other way. But in holding up Christ the Saviour to the gaze of others, let us hide behind Him that nothing of self be seen.

To this end we should seek to be natural in manner, and plain of speech, preferring rather to use short words, if giving the sense, than long ones, which may be sometimes misplaced and not always understood by the whole of the audience. Hearing preachers sometimes trying to imitate the style and language of their superiors in education, one is painfully reminded of the fact that when David put on Saul's coat of mail it did not fit him. May we be careful, then, to avoid bringing ridicule upon the glorious gospel by such untoward sin. And let us strive rather, by an earnest and unpretentious manner, to convince souls that we have their welfare at heart, and not our own aggrandisement. Faithfulness in this way and continued waiting upon God cannot fail to be owned by Himself in blessing on souls. W.T.H.