An Exhortation to Zeal!
“… who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all lawlessness, and purify to himself a peculiar people, zealous for good works” (Tit 2:14).
Let me say something to arouse those who make a profession of being decided Christians, and are yet lukewarm in their practice. There are only too many, I regret to say, in this state of soul. Reader, if you are one, let me speak to your conscience. I desire to put the question in all brotherly affection, Where is your zeal?—Where is your zeal for the glory of God, and for extending the Gospel throughout the world? You know well it is very low. You know well that your zeal is a little feeble glimmering spark that just lives, and no more; —it is like a thing ready to die. Surely there is a fault somewhere if this is the case. This state of things ought not to be. You, the child of God,—you, redeemed at so glorious a price —you, ransomed with such precious blood, —you, who are an heir of glory such as no tongue ever yet told, or eye saw;—surely you ought to be a man of another kind. Surely your zeal ought not to be so small.
I deeply feel that this is a painful subject to touch upon. I do with reluctance, and with a constant remembrance of my own unprofitableness. Nevertheless truth ought to be spoken. The plain truth is that many believers in the present day seem so dreadfully afraid of doing harm that they hardly ever dare do good. There are many who- are fruitful in objections, but barren in actions; rich in wet blankets, but poor in anything like Christian fire. They are like the Dutch Deputies who would never allow Marlborough to venture anything, and by their excessive caution prevented many a victory being won. Truly, in looking round the Church of Christ, a man might sometimes think that God’s kingdom had come, and God’s will was being done upon earth, so small is the zeal that some believers show. It is vain to deny it.
I need not go far for evidence. I point to societies for doing good to the heathen, the colonies, and the dark places of our own land, languishing and standing still for want of active support. I ask is this zeal? I point to thousands of miserable guinea subscriptions which are never missed by the givers and yet make up the sum of their Christian liberality. I ask is this zeal? I point to false doctrine allowed to grow up in our midst without an effort being made to check it, while so-called believers look on and content themselves with wishing it was not so. I ask is this zeal? Would the Apostles have been satisfied with such a state of things? We know they would not.
Never were there such doors of usefulness opened,—never were there so many opportunities for doing good. I loathe that squeamishness which refuses to help religious works if there is a blemish about the instrument by which the work is carried on. At this rate we might never do any-thing at all. Resist the feeling, reader, if you are tempted by it. It is one of Satan’s devices. It is better to work with feeble instruments than not to work at all . . . If you have only one talent, do not bury it in the ground. Try to live so as to be missed. There is far more to be done in twelve hours than most of us have ever yet done on any day in our lives.
Think of precious souls which are perishing, while you are sleeping. Be taken up with your inward conflicts if you will. Go on anatomizing your own feelings, and poring over your own corruptions, if you are so determined. But remember all this time souls are going to hell, and you might do something to save them by working, by giving, by writing, by begging, and by prayer. Oh, awake, be zealous, and repent.
Think of the shortness of time. You will soon be gone. You will have no opportunity for works of mercy in another world. In heaven there will be no ignorant people to instruct and no unconverted to reclaim. Whatever you do must be done now. Oh, when are you going to begin? Awake, be zealous, and repent.
Think of the devil, and his zeal to do harm. It was a solemn saying of old Bernard when he said that “Satan would rise up in judgment against some people at the last day, because he had shown more zeal to ruin souls than they had to save them.” Awake! be zealous, and repent.
Think of your Saviour, and all His zeal for you. Think of Him in Gethsemane and on Calvary, shedding His blood for sinners. Think of His life and death,— His sufferings and His doings. This He has done for you. What are you doing for Him? Oh, resolve that for the time to come you will spend and be spent for Him. Awake, be zealous, and repent.
Now let me say something to encourage all readers of these pages who are truly zealous Christians.
I have but one request to make, and that is that you will persevere. I do beseech you never to go back from your first works, never to leave your first love, never to let it be said of you that your first things were better than your last. Beware of cooling down. You have only to be lazy and sit still, and you will soon lose all your warmth. You will soon become another man from what you are now. Oh, reader do not think this a needless exhortation.
It may be very true that wise young believers are very rare. But it is no less true that zealous old believers are very rare also. Never allow yourself to think that you can do too much,—that you can spend and be spent too much for Christ’s cause. For one man that does too much I will show you a thousand who do not do enough. Rather think that the night cometh, when no man can work .... Lay to heart the words of that noble-minded Jansenist, who said when told that he ought to rest a little, “What should we rest for? have we not all eternity to rest in?”
Fear not the reproach of men. Faint not because you are sometimes abused. Heed it not if you are sometimes called bigot, enthusiast, fanatic, mad man, and fool. There is nothing disgraceful in these titles. They have often been given to the best and wisest of men. If you are only to be zealous when you are praised for it,— if the wheels of your zeal must be oiled by the world’s commendation, your zeal will be but short-lived. Care not for the praise or frown of man. There is but one thing worth caring for, and that is the praise of God. There is but one question worth asking about our actions: “How will they look in the day of judgment?”
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