Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 25th, 1858, by
"And a vision appeared to Paul in the night. There stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come over into Macedonia, and help us."Acts 16:9.
HIS WAS NO DOUBT a special vision sent of God for the direction of the apostle. For we are told in the next verse, that they assuredly gathered from this vision, that the Lord had called them to preach the gospel in Macedonia. And yet the vision may be very readily accounted for by natural causes. Men usually dream of that which is most upon their minds. Who would marvel that the miser should, in his restless sleep, be pictured to his own sight as counting over his gold? Who wonders that the mother's dream is often concerning her fair infant? Who marvels that the wife frequently dreams of shipwrecks, when, in the stormy night, she lies upon her bed, her last thoughts having been exercised concerning her husband at sea? You wonder not that the soldier in the trenches dreams of battle. And hence we cannot marvel that the apostle Paul, whose whole soul was full of his Master's cause, should have a vision in the night concerning a new field of labor, which God had intended to open up to him. You will remember that the apostle was, on this occasion, in a peculiar condition. He at first endeavored to preach the gospel in Phrygia and Galatia, but he was forbidden of the Holy Ghost to preach the Word in Asia. And "after they had come to Mysia, they assayed to go into Bithynia, but the Spirit suffered them not." The apostle was like Abraham of old; he went forth, not knowing whither he went. There was a certain path which he must take, and when he strove to turn either to the right hand or to the left, the Spirit directly forbade him, and he was compelled to go on till he came to the sea-port of Troas. There, wearied with his journey, he cast himself upon his couch, and in the midst of the night a vision appeared unto him. A man who by his brogue and his dress was discovered to be a Macedonian, said to him, "Come over and help us." God sometimes tells men in their sleep the secret they could not discover when they were awake. We have heard of the preacher who, tired late on Saturday evening, has been unable to think of a discourse, in the middle of the night has dreamed it through, and on the morrow he ascended his pulpit and preached it. What wonder then, that the apostle Paul, specially directed by the Spirit of God, after an day long wearily exercising his mind an to the journey God intended him to take, should, after all, when in his sleep, have a vision from on high, teaching him where he should go.
And study war no more."
Let us spread it, then, to earth's utmost bounds; for, to repeat the text I quoted just now, it hath blessings in both its hands, wherever it goes temporarily as well as eternally, it blesses the human race. And when it shall have spread to its utmost limits, when all the habitable earth shall be covered with it then the mist that swathes our planet shall be rolled away, and bright, like a new-born morning star, this earth shall shine out with her sister stars in all her glory, and the angels shall once more sing, and God himself shall repeat his verdict"all things are very good."
But still, beloved, the greatest help that the gospel brings is help to the soul. Ah, Christian men, ye know what this means: your brothers and sisters are this day wandering blindfold, they know not whither. Ye know, for the Bible tells you that they are wending their weary way down to the gulf of black despair! Oh does not your heart desire that the blind eye should be opened, that the misguided should be directed on the path to heaven: would not your pity desire to snatch the fire brand from the flame? Do you not anxiously seek to know how you can lead the vicious to virtue, and the virtuous to the righteousness that is in Jesus Christ? Have you no desire to see God's elect ingathered, to see them washed, and sanctified, and perfected? Remember this is to be, and since it is to be it is certain that ye must send the gospel far and wide, for by no other means can God's elect be gathered home. How can they believe without a preacher? How can they preach except they be sent? The gospel must go throughout all lands, that the elect may be gathered home, and the Messiah's kingdom come. Oh! ye who love the souls of men, it is to you an awful thought that hell's caverns are filling; it is a dreary thing to you to see the broad road so crowded with its many travelers? You are longing and wishing that the narrow way might have more pilgrims, I beseech you, then, look to it, that by every mean. and by all means ye aid the preaching of the gospel of Jesus; for it is the help for which the earth calls, and the help which you must render to it. Come over and help us by preaching Christ's holy gospel. Thus have I done with the first head, may the Lord help us in the second.
II. The second point is, that although not in visions of the night, yet EVERY DAY AND EVERY HOUR, THE NATIONS OF THE EARTH ARE SAYING, "COME OVER AND HELP US." Do you not know, that the loudest eloquence is silence? To move the heart of the right-minded, ye need not the declamation of the orator. The sight of silent, dumb misery is the highest eloquence to a tender heart. It is true, I must confess it the nations of the earth do not vocally ask for your help; nay, worse than that, if you send them the help of the gospel they will many of them reject it. Your missionaries have been slain,the altars of false gods have been stained with their blood; but still I solemnly repeat it the nations of the earth are silently crying, "Come over and help us." If I say; a person in the street sick, faint, and dying, although he spoke not to me, though he asked me not to befriend him, I should think the weakness of his silence more potent than all the power of words. Ay, and if I saw him like a maniac, rejecting my help and pushing me from him, if I was convinced that he was really a maniac, for that very reason that he needed my help, I would thrust my alms upon him, I would willingly give him my help and assistance, and so must you do. The nations of the earth are dead in sin; how can they cry to you? But it is yours to see their misery; and let the poor, poor dumb wounds of this bleeding earth speak to you. It is true, earth is a maniac, and it puts away the only cure. But what care we for that? It is ours to thrust our kindness upon unwilling men, because we believe that their unwillingness arises from the madness of their disease. Let us take the poor man that has fallen among thieves. Let us pour in the oil and the wine, and if he doth not receive it gratefully, because he is faint, if he putteth his hand upon the wound, and rends away the liniment, and unbinds the plaster, nevertheless. let us bind him up again, and set him upon our own beast, and carry him to the inn. Let us pay for the lodging even though as yet he cannot speak to thank us; and the day shall come, when the wound is healed, and the burning fever is removed, when his brain is cool, and his reason restored, that he shall fall at our feet and kiss the hand that once he spurned. Unborn generations shall bless the men that sent the gospel, which at first their fathers did reject.
And now, brethren and sisters, let me plead the cause of the dumb. No man of Macedonia is here to-day to say "Come over and help us," but let me be the heathen's spokesman, and very earnestly ask you to come and help him. Methinks, I will stand here as a heathen this morning, and I say to you as if I had not heard the gospel. "Ye Christians of Britain! ye highly favored ones, who know the name of Jesus and prove the power of the Spirit, preach the gospel to us, for we are men like yourselves. What though our skin be of a color less fair than your own? Yet he fashioneth our hearts alike. Oh tell us not, because we feed on the locust, and eat the serpent, that therefore we are not of your kith and kind! 'Not that which goeth into a man defileth a man.' It is true, our kings and princes are only fit to rank with your beggars; but oh! God hath made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth; and from our huts and cabins we come forth to-day, and we say to you, 'We are menwe are your brothersyounger brothers, it is truewe have not had a double portion of the inheritance, brothers, too, whose fathers spent their part in riotous living, but why should the children's teeth be set on edge because the fathers have eaten sour grapes? Why must the son of man for ever bear the curse of Canaan? O preach the gospel to us! We are men, mother Eve is our mother, as well as yours; Adam, too, is the father from whose loins we sprang; and because we are men, the common sympathy of humanity bids you listen to us, when we say, 'Come over and help us.' Besides, we have another argument. We are told that 'unto you is the Word of this salvation sent,' not for yourselves, but for us, brothers, who have not heard the gospel and who know it not. And you have the treasure in your own land; and we believe you have the treasure given to you, that you may lavish handfuls of it out to us. We know that old Judea had the covenant and the oracles, and the gospel to keep for coming generations; and we believe that you men of Britain have the gospel, not for yourselves, but for us. We have heard what your Master said, 'Ye are the lights of the world;' not lights of Britain, not lights for yourselves, the lights of the world. Oh! bear your burning torches into the glades of our dark forests. come and shed your light through the dark mists of our idolatrous temples; let the bats of our superstition, and the owls of our ignorance, fly away before the sunlight of your gospel. It is not for yourselves you have received it, but for us. Oh! give it to us. Preach the gospel to us, for it is designed for us. But we have another argument, brethren; look at our miseries!"
As the spokesman for my poor brethren to-day, I stand before you, and I remind you of the tortures to which the poor Hindoo devotee puts himself; I remind you of the cruelties enacted in the Chinese empirethe horrors of a government that is based upon idolatry. I tell you of the distress, the destitution, the poverty, the nakedness, the misery, of the Bechuanas and the Bushmen, and I speak for these, and I say, "Christians, you have the means of alleviating their woes by sending them the gospel; will you not do it?" Look at the dwellers in the land of the jungle and the lion. There they are; the serpent has grasped them in his folds, and like the boa-constrictor of their own forests, he is crushing their nations, until the ribs of the strong man snap, and the hearts of the women melt like wax. And you have the sword in your hands that can cut the serpent's head! Your Master bruised that head beneath his heel, and you must do the same. Oh! come, come, ye missionaries of the cross, ye ministers of Jesus, come and deliver us from this deadly hydra! Save us from our fearful doom! Our miseries invoke your aid. It is true, we cannot speak to you in gentle language, but there was a time when poets walked amongst us, and some of the light that shone in Paradise, yet gilded our darkness. and we treasured up a few of those faint rays, and we are hoping that the sun of righteousness will yet dawn upon us. Oh! come, roll away those mists; come, chase our night. and let us see that sacred, high, eternal noon, which is the daughter of the gospel following the Sun of Righteousness.
And now, Christian men, let me speak to you as one of yourselves. Brethren, you and I are soldiers, soldiers of the cross, and at this hour worlds are rushing to the shock. The fight is thickening, and we are warriors! Shame upon the craven who stays from the battle. The trump is sounding to-day. Mohammed has waked from his sleep; the Moslem, with bloody hands, has sought to slay our race; the Hindoo, too, the meek-eyed Hindoo, his eyes have glared like the eyes of his tiger, and his lips have smacked with gore. The battle is raging. Not there alone. Popery hath aroused itself, with mighty effort it is endeavoring to win back this gem of the sea, this first isle of the ocean. Infidelity, too, is on the stir; her myrmidons are flying here and there. Everything is awake, except the church of God. Oh! rouse ye, men and brethren; rouse, now that the fight is at its fullest fury. Now is the time for our most desperate velour, our most earnest zeal. Recollect, every time you bow your knees, and say, "Our Father," you tell a lie at the end of that prayer, if you are not seeking to make his kingdom come, and his will be done in earth, as it is heaven. You are praying for what you do not try to get; you are insulting God by saying, "Thy kingdom come," with as foul a mockery, as if I should say, "Be warmed and be filled," to some poor dying beggar, and then refused to give to his needs, that he might remove his distresses.
Recollect, too, that you cannot be Christians at all, not in the right sense of the word, unless you everyone of you would compass sea and land to make one proselyte. You must have in you the spirit of propagathm, desirous to will others to Christ, or else the genuine blood of Christianity is not in your veins. Of all things in the world Christianity is the most prolific, if it be true. Mohammedism of old had mighty power to spread itself, but not such power as Christianity had. The religion of Jesus began like a mustard seed, with those few men in an upper-room; but ere a half century had rolled away, the gospel was preached to every nation under heaven, and if we had Christianity in our hearts of the right sorthot, burning stuff, not the lukewarm shams of this degenerate age, our religion ere another half a century will have won the day. If the Spirit of God should give us true diligence, in the course of another half century there would not be one district that would not have been trodden by the foot of the minister, nor one town or city which would not have been evangelized. I know I am not speaking without book now I am absolutely certain that what I am saying is a sober matter of fact. If you will just calculate the proportion between the four hundred, and the progress made in one half a century, and then begin with the three or four millionsI should hope there are as many as thatof true Christians in the world, I say, it is a little thing to believe that if they were true to their profession, they might, under Divine blessing, carry the gospel into every known part of the habitable world before half a century has rolled away. However, we need not be afraid we shall do it. There is no fear that we shall run into any fanaticism. That is the last sin this age will commit. We shall go on, and be as orthodox and cold as we always were. No enthusiasm will ever fall upon us. We shall not see any very great and strange developments of an enormous fanaticism at the present day. Do not be alarmed, brothers and sisters. All I preach that looks like fanaticism will not hurt this age. Ye may do what ye will; preach ye never so wisely, ye will never make this deaf adder hear. The church of this day is a great deal too deaf to do anything extravagant. We do a little, and think it a wonderful deal. We each give fourpence to send Testaments to China; we will talk of it for the next fifty years! We sent out one or two missionaries to India (and are they not one or two, compared with their needs?) it is a great thing. It is a fine thing for the whole Baptist denomination to raise twenty thousand pounds a year, when there are some men in the denomination who make as much money as that in the time. It is a marvellous thing that out of the whole lot of us we should not be able to get more than that. But you know I am an imprudent young man, of course,I always shall be I dare sayto dare to hint that some people have a great deal too much money to go to heaven with. Of course it will be very wicked if I dare to say this morning, that to die rich is a very frightful thing; that there are some people who have got too much riches to allow us to have any sure and certain hope that they have the love of God at all; for if they had more of the love of God, they would not grip their money so tightly. They would say, "While men are damning, what is my money? While men are dying, what is my gold? There it goes! As much as I need, I have, God allows it me; as much as I shall require in my old age, as much as my family can demand of me, that will I have, but as for more, a blast and a curse would be on it if I had it. My gold and my silver would be cankered, for I should be guilty of the blood of men's souls, and then condemnation would be at my door, because I had the money wherewithal to send the minister to preach to them, and I would not give it."
Now, I say again, there is no fear of any one becoming improvidently liberal. You need not be frightened that anyone here will give a thousand pounds this morning. We provide ample accommodation for those who feel inclined to do so. If anyone should be overtaken with such an enormous fit of generosity, we will register and remember it. But I fear there are no people like Barnabas now. Barnabas brought all he had, and put it into the treasury. "My dear friend, do not do that, do not be so rash." Ah! he will not do that; there is no necessity for you to advise him. But I do say again, if Christianity were truly in our hearts; if we were what we professed to be; the men of generosity whom we meet with now and hold up as very paragons and patterns would cease to be wonders, for they would be as plentiful as leaves upon the trees. We demand of no man that he should beggar himself; but we do demand of every man who makes a profession that he is a Christian, that he should give his fair proportion, and not be content with giving as much to the cause of God as his own servant. We must have it that the man who is rich must give richly. We know the widow's mite is precious, but the widow's mite has been an enormously great loss to us. O, that widow's mite has lost Jesus Christ many a thousand pounds. It is a very good thing in itself; but people with thousands a-year talk of giving a widow's mite. What a wicked application of what never can apply to them. No; in our proportion we must serve our God.
III. Now, I come in conclusion to ask you very pointedly and plainly, WHAT DO YOU MEAN TO DO IN ANSWER TO THE HEATHEN'S CRY, "COME OVER AND HELP US?" Have I in all this congregation one man who loves sound doctrine, who has ability to preach, and who has a mind to go and preach the gospel in other lands? Because if I have, and if I have ten others who have a mind to give him ten pounds a year, I have an opening for sending him out at once. In Port Natal there are twenty Baptists, and those twenty Baptists are desirous of having a minister who should not only preach to them, but to the wild tribes around. They will raise him one hundred pounds, if we can manage to get the rest and send them out a missionary. Who can tell; he might be another Livingstone, perhaps a Moffat? Oh, that I had the honor of sending such an one from such a congregation as this! Have we no young men here this morning, who are ready to volunteer to go and preach the gospel in heathen lands? I confess, when I think of myself, I know I cannot go away. My calling is here. And yet I sometimes think what a lazy, feather-bed life it is for one to lead, to be preaching here when there are all these continents without the gospel. Some people think it wonderfully hard to preach two or three sermons a week. but I think preaching thirteen or fourteen is a fearfully little thing. And I think sometimes, "Oh, if I were somewhere rise, where there are some toils, some hardships to undergo! There is nothing to be done here. We cannot suffer, we cannot work, we cannot will crowns of martyrdom, we cannot will great battles here, as we could wish." Yes, young man, I say again, if you are ambitiousif you are ambitious to serve Christ, the height of your ambition should lead you to say, "I desire to preach the gospel among the heathen." I hope there may be come heresome one at leastwhose heart God hath touched. What! can it be possible that I should this morning address some eight thousand people, and yet out of the whole eight thousand there is not one who can say, "Here am I, send me?" Is it not strange? Very probably there is not. But yet I would fain hope that somewhere there is one, who will write on the tablet of his heart, "I will go home to pray, I will go home to study, and if God has given me power to preach, if there be any door open in his providence, here am I; I will be a preacher of the gospel in foreign lands."
And now, what are you resolved to do who cannot preach? Why, there are some of you, if you were to get up and preach, you had a great deal better sit down. It would not do for you to go and preach in foreign lands, because nobody would listen to you. I have often marvelled that some people should think themselves called to preach when they have no ability. As I tell them, "f God calls anybody to fly, he will give them wings, and if he calls them to preach, he will give them ability to preach." but if a man has not the ability to preach, I am sure he has not the call. Well, what will you do Says one, "I will pray earnestly in support of missions; I will cry to God, that great results may follow." Do so; and you shall have our best thanks for your prayers. But in doing that, you have not done very much. for recollect, that is what the Roman priest did for the beggar. The priest said he would not give him a sovereign, he would not give him a half-crown, nor would he give him a penny. "Holy father," said the beggar, "will you give me your prayers?" "Yes," said the priest, "kneel down." "No, not so," said the beggar; "for if your prayers had been worth a penny, you would not have given them to me." And when you say you will pray, but will not help the cause with something more substantial; though we love your prayers, we night say, "You would not give them if they were worth a penny." If you have nought else to give to Christ, ye need not be ashamed of saying, "Jesus, I give thee my prayers;" but if you are blessed in your substance, you will be lying before him, if you ask him to bless his cause, and do not give of your means in its support.
Now, let each, as he is able, help this great cause; and above all let us all in our spheres be preachers of the gospel,
What a dear Saviour we have found."
Let me say, before the collection is made, just this word. Alas! there are some of you here, that are as much heathen as if you were in Africa. To you I proclaim the gospel, and I have done"He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, he that believeth not shall be damned. Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, find thou shalt be saved."