The Centurion's Faith and Humility
“Then Jesus went with them. And when he was now not far from the house, the centurion sent friends to him, saying unto him, Lord, trouble not thyself: for I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof. Wherefore neither thought I myself worthy to come unto thee: but say in a word, and my servant shall be healed. For I also am a man set under authority, having under me soldiers, and I say unto one, Go, and he goeth; and to another, Come, and he cometh ; and to my servant, Do this, and he doeth it.” — Luke vii. 6 — 8.
THE greatest light may enter into the darkest places. We may find the choicest flowers blooming where we least expected them. Here was a Gentile, a Roman, a soldier — a soldier clothed with absolute power — and yet a tender master, a considerate citizen, a lover of God! Let no man, therefore, be despised because of his calling, and let not the proverb, “Can any good come out of Nazareth?” be ever heard from the wise man’s lips. The best of pearls have been found in the darkest caves of ocean. Why should it not be so still, that God should have even in Sardis a few that have not defiled their garments, who shall walk with Christ in white, for they are worthy? Let no man think that because of his position in society he cannot excel in virtue. It is not the place which is to blame, but the man. If thy heart be right, the situation may be difficult, but the difficulty is to be overcome; ay, and out of that difficulty shall arise an excellence which thou hadst not otherwise known. Say not in thy heart, “I am a soldier, and the barrack-room cannot minister to piety; therefore I may live as I list because I cannot live as I should.” Say not, “I am a working man in the midst of those who blaspheme, and therefore it were vain for me to talk of holiness and piety.” Nay, rather remember that in such a case it is thy duty specially not to talk of these precious things, but to wear them about thee as thy daily ornament. Where should the lamp be placed but in the room which else were dark? Rest assured thy calling and thy position shall be no excuse for thy sin if thou continuest therein, neither shall thy condition be any apology for the absence of integrity and virtue, if these be not found in thee.
Concerning the centurion, we may remark that perhaps we had never heard of him, though he loved his servant; perhaps we had never read his name, though he tenderly nursed his slave; peradventure, he had found no place in the record of inspiration, though he loved the Jewish nation and built them a synagogue ; nor had we read the story of his life, though he had become a proselyte to the Jewish faith — the one thing which gives him a place in these sacred pages is this, that he was a believer in the Messias, that he was such a believer in the Son of God that Jesus said concerning him, “I have not found so great faith, no, not in Israel.” There is the vital point. There, my hearer, is the notable matter which shall enrol thee among the blessed. If thou believest in Jesus Christ, the Son of God, thy name is in the Lamb’s book of life, but if thou believe not in him, thine outward excellences, however admirable, shall avail thee little.
The faith of the centurion is described both in the eighth chapter of Matthew and in the chapter before us, as being of the highest kind, and the remarkable point in it is that it was coupled with the very deepest humility. The same man who said, “Say in a word, and my servant shall be healed,” also said, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.” In bringing before you this noble soldier’s example, these are two pivots upon which the discourse shall turn. I shall direct you to this double star, shining with so mild a radiance in the sky of Scripture: This man's deep humility was not injurious to the strength of his faith, and his gigantic faith teas by no means hostile to his deep humiliation.
I. To begin then, THE HUMILITY OF THE CENTURION WAS NOT AT ALL INJURIOUS TO THE STRENGTH OF HIS FAITH.
Observe his humble expressions — he avowed that he was not worthy to come to Jesus. “Neither,” said he, “thought I myself worthy to come unto thee;” and then he further felt that he was not worthy that Jesus should come to him. “I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.” Was this self-abasement occasioned by the remembrance that he was a Gentile? That may have contributed to it. Was it because he was penitent on account of sundry rough and boisterous deeds which had stained his soldier life? It may be so. Was it not far rather because he had had a deep insight into his own heart, and had learned to see sin in its true colours; and therefore he, who was worthy, according to the statement of the Jews, was most unworthy in his own apprehension?
You may have noticed in the biography of some eminent men how badly they speak of themselves. Southey, in his “Life of Bunyan,” seems at a difficulty to understand how Bunyan could have used such depreciating language concerning his own character. For it is true, according to all we know of his biography, that he was not, except in the case of profane swearing, at all so bad as the most of the villagers. Indeed, there were some virtues in the man which were worthy of all commendation. Southey attributes it to a morbid state of mind, but we rather ascribe it to a return of spiritual health. Had the excellent poet seen himself in the same heavenly light as that in which Bunyan saw himself, he would have discovered that Bunyan did not exaggerate, but was simply stating as far as he could a truth which utterly surpassed his powers of utterance. The great light which shone around Saul of Tarsus was the outward type of that inner light above the brightness of the sun which flashes into a regenerate soul, and reveals the horrible character of the sin which dwells within. Believe me, when you hear Christians making abject confessions, it is not that they are worse than others, but that they see themselves in a clearer light than others; and this centurion’s unworthiness was not because he had been more vicious than other men — on the contrary, he had evidently been much more virtuous than the common run of mankind — but because he saw what others did not see, and felt what others had not felt.
Deep as was this man’s contrition, overwhelming as was his sense of utter worthlessness, he did not doubt for a moment either the power or the willingness of Christ. As for the question of willingness, it does not come under remark at all. The leper aforetime had said, “If thou wilt,” but the centurion was so clear about Christ’s willingness to relieve suffering humanity, that it does not occur to him to mention it. He has long ago settled that matter, and now takes it for granted as a very axiom in the knowledge of Jesus, for such a one as he must be willing to do all the good which is asked of him.
Nor is he at all dubious about our Lord’s power. The palsy which afflicted the servant was a remarkably grievous one, but it did not at all stagger the centurion. He felt not only that Jesus could heal it, could heal it at once, could heal it completely, but that he could heal it without moving a step from the place whereon he stood. Let but the word be uttered, and in an instant his servant shall be healed. O glorious humiliation, how low thou stoopest! O noble faith, how high thou soarest! Brethren, if we can imitate this noble character in both respects, in the depth of his foundation, in the height of his pinnacle, how near to the model of the temple of God shall we be built up! Empty indeed he was, having nothing of his own ; not worthy to receive, much less indulging a thought of giving anything to Christ, and yet confident that all things are possible with the Master, and that he both can and will do according to our faith, and that in a manner gloriously unveiling his kingly power.
My dear friends, especially you who are under concern of soul, you feel unworthy — that is not a mistaken feeling, you are so; you are much distressed by reason of this unworthiness, but if you knew more of it, you might be more distressed still, for the apprehension which you already have of your sinfulness, although it be very painful, does not at all reach to the full extent of it: you are much more sinful than you think you are, much more unworthy than you yet know yourself to be. Instead of attempting a foolish and wicked soothing of your dark thoughts, and saying “ you have morbid ideas of yourself, you ought not so to speak,” I rather pray you to believe that yours is an utterly hopeless case apart from Christ, that in your spiritual nature the whole head is sick and the whole heart faint. I want you not to film the horrible ulcer of your depravity with specious hopes and professions. I desire you not to look upon this disease as though it were but skin deep; it lies in the source and fountain of your life, and poisons your heart. The flames of hell must wrap themselves about you assuredly unless Christ interpose to save you. You have no merit of any kind or sort, nor will you ever have any; and more, you have no power to escape from your lost condition unaided by the Saviour’s hand. Without Christ you can do nothing, for you are abjectly poor, bankrupt hopelessly, and you cannot by the utmost diligence make yourself any other than you are. No words that I can utter can exaggerate your deplorable condition, and no feelings which you can ever experience can represent your real state in colours too alarming. You are not worthy that Christ should come to you; you are not worthy to draw near to Christ. But, and here is a glorious contrast, never let this for a single moment interfere with your full belief that he who is God, but who took our nature, that he who suffered in our stead upon the cross, that he who now rules in the highest heavens, is able to do for you, and willing to do for you, exceeding abundantly above what you ask or even think. Your inability does not prevent the working of his power; your unworthiness cannot put fetters to his bounty or limits to his grace. You may be an ill-deserving sinner, but that is no reason why he should not pardon you. You may be in your own apprehension, and truthfully so, the most unworthy that he ever stooped to bless, yet this is no reason why he should not condescend to press you to his bosom, to accept and to save you. I wish that as the first truth has impressed itself deeply upon you, the second truth may with equal force take up the possession of your heart, that Jesus Christ is “ able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him,” and is as willing as he is able, and that your emptiness does not affect his fulness , your weakness does not alter his power, your inability does not diminish his omnipotence, your undesert does not restrain the bowels of his love, which freely move towards the very vilest of the vile.
By some means Satan almost always manages it this way, that when we get a little hope it is generally a self-grounded hope, a vain idea that we are getting better in ourselves — a mischievous conceit: proud flesh, which hinders the cure, and which the Surgeon must cut out; it is no sign of healing, it prevents healing. On the other hand, if we obtain a deep sense of sin, the evil one manages to put his hoof in there, and to insinuate that Jesus is not able to save such as we are. A great falsehood, for who shall say what the limit of Christ’s power is? But if these two things could but meet together, a thorough sense of sin and an immovable belief in the power of Christ to grapple with sin and to overcome it, surely the kingdom of heaven would then have come nigh unto us in power and in truth; and it would be again said, “I have not found such great faith, no, not in Israel.”
Now, you troubled hearts, I have this word for you, and then I shall pass on to another point. Your sense of your unworthiness, if it be properly used, should drive you to Christ. You are unworthy, but Jesus died for the unworthy. Jesus did not die for those who profess to be by nature good and deserving, for the whole have no need of a physician; but it is written, “In due time Christ died for the ungodly,” “who gave himself for our ” — what? “Excellences and virtues?” No; “who gave himself for our sins, according to the Scriptures.” We read that he “suffered the just for the” — for the “just?” By no means, “the just for the unjust, to bring us to God.” Gospel pharmacy is for the sick; gospel bread is for the hungry; gospel fountains are open to the unclean; gospel water is given to the thirsty. Ye who need not shall not have; but ye who want it may freely come. Let your huge and painful wants impel you to fly to Jesus. Let the vast cravings of your insatiable spirit compel you to come to him in whom all fulness dwells. Your unworthiness should act as a wing to bear you to Christ, the sinner’s Saviour. It should also have this effect upon you: it should prevent your raising those scruples, and making those demands which are such a hindrance to some persons finding peace. The proud spirit saith, “I must have signs and wonders, or I will not believe. I must feel deep convictions, and horrible tremors, or I must quake because of dreams or threatening texts applied to me with awful power.” Ah! but, unworthy one, if thou be truly humbled, thou wilt not dare to ask for these ; thou wilt have done with demands and stipulations, and thou wilt cry, “Lord, give me but a word, speak but a word of promise, and it shall be enough for me. Do but say to me, ‘Thy sins are forgiven thee: ' give me but half a text, give me one kind assuring word to sink my fears again, and I will believe it and rest upon it.” Thus your sense of unworthiness should lead you to a simple faith in Jesus, and prevent your demanding those manifestations which the foolish so eagerly and impudently require. Beloved, it has come to this: you are so unworthy that you are shut out of every hope but Christ: all other doors are fast nailed against you. If there be anything to be done for salvation, you cannot do it. If there be any fitness wanted, you have it not. Christ comes to you and tells you that there is no fitness wanted for coming to him, but that if you will but trust him he will save you. Methinks I hear you say, “Then, my Lord, since it has come to this —
‘I can but perish if I go;
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away,
I know I must for ever die.
And so, sink or swim, upon thy precious atonement I cast my guilty soul, persuaded that thou art able to save even such a one as I am; and I am so thoroughly persuaded of the goodness of thy heart, that I know thou wilt not cast away a poor trembler who comes to thee, and takes thee to be his only ground of trust.”
II. I shall want you for a moment to attend while we shift the text to the other quarter. THE CENTURION S GREAT FAITH WAS NOT AT ALL HOSTILE TO HIS HUMILITY.
His faith was extraordinary. It ought not to be extraordinary. We ought all of us to believe as well in Christ as this soldier did. Observe the form it took; he said to himself, “I am a subaltern officer, under authority. I am not the Commander-in-chief, I am merely the commander of a troop of a hundred men, and yet over those hundred men I exert unlimited control. I say to this one, ‘Go,’ and he goeth, I say to the other ‘Come,’ and he cometh, and my servant, my poor sick servant (his tender heart comes back to him, and he puts him into the illustration), I say to him, ‘Do this,’ and he doeth it at once. I am simply a petty officer, under authority myself; but yet such is the influence of discipline that there are no questions raised, no deliberations tolerated. No soldier turns round and tells me that I have set him too difficult a task; no one out of all the troop ever dares to say to me ‘I shall not do it.’” The power of discipline amongst the legions of Rome was exceedingly great. The commander had but to say “Do it,” and it was done, though thousands bled and died. “Now,” argued the centurion, “This glorious man is the Son of God; he is not a subaltern; he is the Commander-in-chief. If he gives the word, his will most surely must be done. Fevers and paralysis, good influences and bad, they must be all under his control, he can therefore heal my servant in a moment. Who can resist the great Caesar of heaven and earth?” That was, I believe, the centurion’s idea. Jesus has therefore but to will it, and to the utmost bounds of the earth those influences which are under his control will at once set to work to perform his will. The centurion pictured himself as sitting down in the house and effecting his desires without rising, by merely issuing an order; and his faith placed the Lord Jesus in the same position. “Thou needest not come to my dwelling; thou canst stand here, and if thou wilt but say it, the cure will be wrought at once.” He did in his heart enthrone the Lord Jesus as a Captain over all the forces of the world, as the generalissimo of heaven and earth; as, in fact, the Caesar, the imperial Governor of all the forces of the universe. ’Twas graciously thought, 'twas poetically embodied,’twas nobly spoken,’twas gloriously believed; but it was the truth and nothing more than the truth, for universal dominion is really in the power of Jesus to-day. If he were a true Caesar before he died, while he was despised and rejected of men, much more now that he has trodden through the wine-press and stained his vesture with the blood of his vanquished enemies; much more now that he has led captivity captive, and sits enthroned by filial right at the right hand of God, even the Father; much more now that God hath sworn that he will put all things under his feet, and that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things that are under the earth ; much more I say can he now work according to his good pleasure. He has to-day but to speak, and it is done, to command, and it shall stand fast.
Beloved, see whether this truth bears us as on eagle’s wings. Cassar has but to say, “Absolvo te,” and his guilty subject is acquitted; Caesar has but to speak, and a province is conquered, an army routed. Stormy seas are navigated at Caesar’s bidding, mountains are tunnelled, the whole world shall be girded with military roads; Caesar is absolute, and his will is law. So on earth, but so much more in heaven. Let the imperial Caesar of heaven but say, “I forgive,” and the devils of hell cannot accuse you. Let him say, “I will help thee,” and who shall oppose? If Emmanuel be for you, who shall be against you? Let him speak, and the bonds of sinful habit must fall off, and the darkness in which your soul has long been immured must give place to instantaneous light. He reigns as King, Lord over all; let his name be blessed for ever; let each one of us, by our faith, give him the honour that is due unto his name. All hail! great Emperor, once slain, but now for ever Lord of heaven and earth!
Here is one point to which I recall you; this man’s faith did not for a moment interfere with his thorough personal humiliation. Interfere with it! My brethren, it was the source of it; it was the very foundation on which it rested. See ye not, the higher his thoughts of Christ, the more unworthy he felt himself to be of the kind attentions of so good and great a personage? If he had thought less of Jesus, he would not have said, “I am not worthy that thou shouldest enter under my roof.” There was, of course, a sight of himself to humble him, but the far more wondrous vision of the glory of the Lord Jesus was the true root and parent of his self-abasement. Because Christ was so great, he felt himself to be unworthy either to meet him or entertain him.
Observe, my brethren, his faith acted upon his humility by making him content with a word from Christ. His faith said, “A word is enough: it will work the cure;” and then his humility said, “Ah, how unworthy I am even of so little a thing as a word. If a word will work a miracle, it is so great and powerful a thing that it is more than I deserve; therefore,” said he, “I will not ask for more; I will not ask for footsteps when a sound will suffice; I will not clamour for his presence when his wish can restore my servant to health. His believing that a word was enough, made him humbly decline to pray for more, so that his confidence in Christ instead of interfering with his sense of unworthiness, aided its manifestation. Brethren and sisters, never think for a moment, as many foolish persons do, that strong faith in the Lord is necessarily pride— it is the reverse. It is one of the worst forms of pride to question the promise of God. When a man says, “Christ has promised to save those who trust him: I have trusted him , therefore I am saved; I know I am; I am sure of it, because God says so, and I do not want any better evidence, that assurance is humility in action. But if a man saith, “God has said that those who trust him shall be saved; I do trust him, but still I do not know that I am saved,” why, you do as much as say you do not know whether God is a liar or not ; and what more impertinent, what more proudly insulting than that? I know it is a most common thing to say, “It seems so presumptuous to say I know I am saved.” I think it far more presumptuous to doubt when God speaks positively, and to mistrust where the promise is plain. God saith, “He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved.” If thou believest and art baptised, if God be true, thou shalt be saved — thou art saved. There is no hoping about it — it must be so. Let God be true and every man a liar; and far off from these lips be the insinuation of a doubt that perhaps God can be false to his promise and may break his word. If thou questionest anything, question whether thou dost trust Christ; but that settled, the question is ended. If thou believest that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God; if thou restest alone on him, thy sins, which are many, are all forgiven thee. Take God at his word as thy child takes thee at thy word. It is not too much for God to ask: thou askestit of thy child. Though thou be a poor fallible creature, thou wouldst not have thy child mistrust thee. Shalt thou be believed, and not thy God? Shall thy little one be expected to confide in thee, though thou art evil, and wilt not thou believe the voice of thy heavenly parent to be the very truth, and rest upon it? Ah! Do so, I beseech you, and the more thou doest it, the more thou wilt feel thine unworthiness to do so. For it astounds me to think that I shall be saved; it amazes me to think I shall be washed from my every sin in the precious blood of Christ, that I shall be set upon a rock, and a new song shall be put into my mouth. It astounds me, and as I think of it, I say, “How unworthy I am of such favours l I am less than the least of all the benefits which thou hast bestowed upon me.” Your faith will not murder your humility, your humility will not stab at your faith; but the two will go hand in hand to heaven like a brave brother and a fair sister, the one bold as a lion the other meek as a dove, the one rejoicing in Jesus the other blushing at self. Blessed pair, fain would I entertain you in my heart all the days of my pilgrimage on earth.
I have thus, as best I could, brought before you the example of the centurion with a few incidental lessons. Now for the APPLICATION, with as much earnestness and brevity as we can summon.
The application shall be to three sorts of people. First, we speak to distressed minds deeply conscious of their unworthiness. Jesus Christ is able and willing to save you this very morning. What is the form of your distress? Is it that your sins are great? Believe thou, I charge thee, and may God the Holy Spirit help thee, believe thou that all thy sins Christ can pardon now. Seest thou him upon yonder cross? He is divine, but how he bleeds! He is divine, but how he groans! He smarts! He dies! Dost thou believe that any sin is too great for those sufferings to put away? Dost thou think the Son of God offered an inadequate atonement? An atonement of which thou canst say there is a limit to its efficacy beyond which it cannot operate for the salvation of believers, so that after all, sin is greater than the sacrifice, and the filth is more full of defilement than the blood is of purification? O crucify not Christ afresh by doubting the power of the eternal God! My brethren, when in the stillness of the starry night we look up to the orbs of heaven, and remember the marvellous truths which astronomy has revealed to us, of the magnificence, the inconceivable majesty of creation, if we then reflect that the infinite God who made all these became man for ns, and that as man he was fastened to the transverse wood, and bled to death for us, why it will appear to us that if all the stars were crowded with inhabitants, and all those inhabitants had everyone been rebellious against God, and had steeped themselves up to the very throat in scarlet crimes, there must be efficacy enough in the blood of such a one as God himself incarnate to take all their sins away. For this great miracle of miracles, God himself paying honour to his own justice by suffering a substitutionary death, is an exhibition of infinite severity and love, which far down eternity must appear so glorious as utterly to swallow up the remembrance of creature sin, and to put it altogether out of sight. Yes, sinner, believe thou that this moment the sins of fifty years can drop from off thee, ay, of seventy or eighty years — that in an instant, thou who art as black as hell can be pure as heaven if Jesus say the word. If thou believest in him it is done, for to trust him is to be clean. Perhaps, however, your difficulty is to get rid of a hardness of heart. You feel that you cannot repent, but cannot Jesus make thee repent by his Spirit? Do you hesitate about that question? See the world a few months ago hard bound with frost, but how daffodil, and crocus, and snowdrop, have come up above that once frozen soil, how snow and ice have gone, and the genial sun shines out! God does it readily, with the soft breath of the south wind and the kind sunbeams, and he can do the same in the spiritual world for thee. Believe he can, and ask him now to do it, and thou shalt find that the rock of ice shalt thaw, that huge horrible devilish iceberg of a heart of thine shall begin to drip with showers of crystal penitence, which God shall accept through his dear Son. But, perhaps, it is some bad habit which gives you trouble. You have been long in it, and can the Ethiopian change his skin, or the leopard his spots? You cannot get rid of it. I know you cannot. It is a desperate evil, it drags you downward like the hands of demons pulling you from the surface of life’s stream down into its black and horrid depths of death and defilement. Ah! I know your dreads and despairs, but man, I ask thee, cannot Jesus deliver? He hath the key of thine heart, and he can turn it so that all its wheels shall revolve otherwise than now. He who shakes the earth with earthquake, sweeps the sea with tornado, can send a heartquake and a storm of strong repentance, and tear up thine old habits by the roots. He whose every act is wonderful, can surely do what he will within this the little world of thy soul, since in the great world outside he rules as he pleases. Believe in his power, and ask him to prove it. He has but to say in a word, and this matter of present distress shall be taken away. Still I hear you say, “I cannot;” a horrible inability hangs over you. But it is not what you can do or cannot do, these have nothing to do with it, it is what Jesus can do. Can there be anything too hard for the Lord? Can the eternal Spirit ever be defeated when he wills to conquer in a man? Can he who “bears the earth’s huge pillars up, and spreads the heavens abroad,” who once was crucified, but who now ever liveth, can he fail ? Put thy care into his hand, poor unable wretch, and ask him to do for thee what thou canst not do for thyself, and according to thy faith so shall it be unto thee.
A second application of our subject shall be made to the patient workers who are ready to faint. I know that in this house there are many who incessantly plead with God for their unconverted relatives and neighbours that they may be saved. You have pleaded long for your husband, or your son, or your daughter, but they have gone yet further into sin. Instead of answers to prayer, it seemeth as though heaven laughed at your importunity. Take heed of one thing, -do not thou suffer unbelief to make thee think that the object of thy care cannot be saved. While there is life there is hope. Yes, though they add drunkenness to lust, and blasphemy to drunkenness, and hardness of heart and impenitence to blasphemy, Jesus has but to say the word, and they shall be turned every one from his evil way. Under the use of the means of grace it may be done, or even without the means it may be done. There have been men at work, or at their amusements, all in their wickedness, who have had impressions which have made them new men when it was least expected such a thing would occur; and those who have been the ringleaders in Satan’s rebellious crew, have frequently become the boldest captains in the army of Christ. There is no room for doubt as to the possibility of the salvation of anybody when Jesus gives the word of command. You are unchristian when you shut out the harlot from hope, when you exclude the thief from repentance, when you even despair of the murderer; for the big heart of God is greater than all your hearts put together, and the great thoughts of the loving Father are not as your thoughts when they climb the highest, neither are his ways your ways when they are at their utmost liberality. Oh, if thy friend, thy child, thy wife, thy husband, be a very devil incarnate, or if there be seven devils, or a legion of devils within him, while Christ liveth never mutter the word “despair;” for he can cast out the legion of evil spirits and impart his holy spirit instead thereof. Therefore have faith; thou art unworthy to receive the blessing, but have faith in him who is so able to bestow it. Many of you are going to your classes this afternoon, others of you will be engaged this evening in preaching the gospel, and you are getting very faint hearted because you do not see the success you so much desire. Well, perhaps it is good for you to feel how little you can do apart from the divine ministrations. May this humiliation of soul continue, but do not let it degenerate into a distrust of him. If Christ were dead and buried, and had never risen, it were a horrible case for us poor preachers, but whilst Christ lives endowed with the residue of the eternal Spirit, which he freely gives, we ought not so much as fear, much less despair. May the church of God pluck up heart, and feel that with a living Christ in the midst of her armies, victory shall ere long wait upon her banners.
The last application I shall make is the same as the second, only on a wider scale. There are many who are like watchers who have grown weary. We have heard that Christ cometh — the great coming man — and the Lord knows right well that there is pressing need for some one to come, for this poor old machine of a world creaks dreadfully, and seems as though it were so laden with the sheaves of human sin that its axles would snap. God’s infinite longsuffering has kept a crazy world from utter dissolution by a thousand helps and stays, but it is poor work, and seems to get worse and worse. Our state is rotten at the very core, both in business and politics. No man seems to succeed so well as he who has dispensed with his conscience, and laughs at principles; all things are come to that point that there is need for some deliverer to come, or else I do not know where we shall all go to. But he will come, so the promise stands, and to these who wait for him his coming shall be as the beams of the day-star proclaiming the dawn. He is coming, and at his coming there shall be a glorious time, a millennium, a period of light, and truth, and joy, and holiness, and peace. We are watching and waiting for it. But we say “Ah, it is hopeless to think of converting the world! How is the truth to be preached? Where are the tongues to speak it? How few proclaim it boldly? Where are the men to carry Christ’s cross to the utmost bounds of the globe, and conquer nations for him?” Ah, say not in thine heart, “the former days were better than now.” Write not a book of lamentation and say, “The prophets, where are they? and the apostles have gone and all the mighty confessors who lived and died for Christ have disappeared.” At the lifting of his finger the Lord can raise up a thousand Jonahs for every city throughout the land, a thousand bold Isaiahs to declare his glory. He has but to bid it and companies of apostles and armies of martyrs shall start up from the quiet nooks of old England’s villages, or shall pour forth from the workshops of her cities. He can do wonders when he wills it. The worst plight of the church is but the time when her flood has ebbed in order that it may return in the fulness of its strength. Have confidence, for even should the instruments fail and the ministry become a dead and effete thing, yet his coming shall accomplish his purposes, and when he appeareth the kingdoms of this world shall become the kingdoms of our Lord and of his Christ. Jesus is not under authority, but he hath soldiers under him, and he hath but to say to this spirit or to that, “Go,” or “Come,” and his will shall be done: he hath but to quicken his church by his Holy Spirit, and say, “Do this,” and the impossible task shall be accomplished; what seemed beyond all human skill or mortal hope shall be wrought, and wrought at once. When he saith, “Do” it shall be done, and his name shall be praised. O for more faith and more self-abasement. Twin angels abide in this assembly evermore. Go forth with us to battle and return with us from the victory. O Lord, the lover of humility, and the author of faith, give us to be steeped in both for Jesus’ sake. Amen.