“You have magnified the nation, and increased the joy: they joy before You according to the joy in harvest, and as men rejoice when they divide the spoil.”
NOTICE that I make a correction in the version from which I am reading. The Authorized Version has it, “You have multiplied the nation, and not increased the joy.” This is not consistent with the connection. The Revised Version has very properly put it, “You have multiplied the nation, You have increased their joy.” I have not any learning to display, but I think I could show it to you, if this were the proper time, how the passage came to be read with a, “not,” and I could also prove to you that, in this instance, the Revisers were right in making their alteration.
Tonight, there are about 82 persons who have confessed Christ before the Church, have been baptized and who are to be received into our fellowship. We feel very grateful for this large addition to our members and, all the more so, because it is no strange thing, but month by month, all the year round, they continue to come, though not in such large numbers as at this time. God be thanked for thus blessing us! We cannot allow these occasions to pass over without joying before the Lord as men rejoice when they gather in their sheaves of corn!
To bring out your joy, think of how we would feel if we did not have an increase in the Church, or very few were ever added. The good old people seem quite content to be very few. Their notion is that the way to Heaven is very narrow, as, indeed, it is, and that, therefore, they must not expect many to find their way. I remember a Church where the good old deacons used to say of the converts, “Summer them and winter them. Keep them out till we have tried them for a very long time.” It came to pass, after the process of, “summering and wintering,” that a great many of them never came forward at all! Though they were very excellent people, they never summoned courage enough to join such a Church. Did you ever hear a farmer say of his wheat, “Summer it and winter it, and then take it into the barn”? No, farmers are not such fools! But these good men were so very wise that they became otherwise, so they said, “Keep the corn out in the field; else you will bring in some poppies, or some cornflowers, and we do not want them. Keep the converts out of the Church till you are sure that there are no hypocrites among them.”
Well, dear Friends, we are not at all of this mind! We try to use every caution and great prudence–and our friends do not come into this Church without experiencing an examination–some of them even think it to be an ordeal–yet I find that the more difficult it is to get into a Church, the more people want to come into it! And whenever the barriers are lowered and you tell people that they may come without any test as to the state of their souls, nobody cares to come! Well, we have taken pains and care, and have sought only to welcome the worthy, that is, those who are trusting in Jesus–and yet we have had a great number come, by His Grace! But suppose that we had none? Well, I hope every Christian man and woman here would be troubled about it. I should not wonder if the question arose, “Had we not better put somebody else on the platform?” That somebody who is now here would be the first to say, “If I am doing no good, let somebody else come and try, for it would be sad and sickening business to be fishing for souls and never catching anything.”
Last winter, at Mentone, I went out in a boat where I was assured that there were shoals of fish. And I had a line, I should think it was 150 feet long–and after waiting hour after hour and never feeling the fish bite–I gave up the useless occupation. I think every minister is bound to give up the spiritual fishery in any particular place if, after many days' toil, he has caught nothing for Christ. Rachel says, “Give me children, or I die!” Christ’s servant says, “Give me converts, or I die!” Indeed, we are dead as far as our ministry is concerned unless God blesses it.
We also feel that we ought to be glad when others are joined to the Church because we look back, with exquisite pleasure, upon our own joining of it. I remember the trouble it cost me to join the Church. I think I went to see the pastor some four or five days running–he was always too busy to see me–till, at last, I told him it did not matter, for I would go to the Church Meeting and propose myself as a member. And then he, all of a sudden, found time to see me–and so I managed to get into the Church and confess my faith in Christ! Oh, dear Friends, that was one of the best days' work I ever did, when I openly declared my faith in Christ and united myself with His people! I think many here could say the same–they remember when they united with the people of God, and publicly avowed their faith. You do not regret it Brothers and Sisters, do you? I am sure you feel that it was a happy day when you could say–
“‘Tis done! The great transaction’s done–
I am my Lord’s, and He is mine!”
By the peace of mind which has come to us from joining with the people of God after believing in Christ, we feel glad to see other young soldiers stooping to take up the Cross of Christ and following Him, “outside the camp, bearing His reproach.”
- Looking at our text, I notice in it, first, A WORD OF DISCRIMINATION. If you look carefully at the passage, you will soon see it–
“You have multiplied the nation, and increased the joy.”
Observe, first, that conversion must be the Lord’s work. The only multiplication of the Church of God that is to be desired is that which God sends–“You have multiplied the nation.” If we add to our Churches by becoming worldly, by taking in persons who have never been born again. If we add to our Churches by accommodating the life of the Christian to the life of the worldling–our increase is worth nothing at all–it is a loss rather than a gain! If we add to our Churches by excitement, by making appeals to the passions rather than by explaining the Truth of God to the understanding. If we add to our Churches otherwise than by the power of the Spirit of God making men new creatures in Christ Jesus, the increase is of no worth whatever!
A man picked himself up from the gutter and rolled up against Mr. Rowland Hill one night as he went home, and he said, “Mr. Hill, I am pleased to see you, Sir. I am one of your converts.” Rowland said, “I thought it was very likely you were. You are not one of God’s converts, or else you would not be drunk.” There is a great lesson in that answer. My converts are no good. Rowland Hill’s converts could get drunk–but the converts of the Spirit of God–those are really renewed in the spirit of their mind by a supernatural operation! And these are a real increase to the Church of God. “You have multiplied the nation.” Pray hard that the Lord may continue to send us converts! He never sends the wrong people. However poor they may be, however illiterate–if they are converted, as they will be if the Lord sends them–they will be the very people that we want. May God send us thousands more!
The text also teaches us, with a word of discrimination, that conversion must be such as the Lord describes in this chapter–“The peoples that walked in darkness have seen a great light: they that dwell in the land of the shadow of death, upon them has the light shined.” When God brings men to the Church, they are the people who have undergone a very remarkable change. They have come out of darkness, palpable, horrible–into light, marvelous and delightful! God sends no other than these. If you are not changed characters. If you are not new creatures in Christ Jesus. If you cannot say, “One thing I know, whereas I was blind, now I see,” the Church cannot receive you as you are and God has not sent you! Now, who can turn us from darkness unto light but God? Who can work this great miracle within the heart? Darkness of heart is very hard to move. Who but God can make the eternal Light of God burst through the natural darkness and turn us from the power of Satan unto God?
Next, conversion must have a distinct relation to Christ. Look down the chapter, just a little way, and you come to this wonderful passage–“For unto us a Child is born, unto us a Son is given: and the government shall be on His shoulder: and His name shall be called Wonderful, Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, the Prince of Peace.” We need converts who know this Christ–men and women to whom He is “Wonderful,” to whom He has become the “Counselor.” We need no additions to the Church of those who cannot call Him, “The Mighty God. The Everlasting Father.” We need men and women to whom Christ has become, “The Prince of Peace.” If these are added to us, the Church grows exceedingly! If others are added, they do but increase our burden. They become our weakness. In many cases they become our disgrace. Dear Hearers, you know whether you are trusting Christ or not. If you are, come and confess Him! If you are not, weep in secret places, and cry to God the Holy Spirit to reveal Christ to you as the Wonderful, Counselor, and The Mighty God, and then, when you know Him as your Lord and Savior, come and join yourself to His people, and God will, in your case, have multiplied the nation!
Once more, about this discrimination, the joy must be such as God gives. The text says, “You have multiplied the nation, and increased the joy.” The joy that we ought to have tonight–the joy of any growing Church–will be joy such as God gives! That is the kind of joy we desire to have. If anybody wishes to see the Church grow that we may excel other Churches, that is not the joy that God gives. If we like to see converts because we are glad that our opinions should be spread, God does not give that joy. If we crave converts that we may steal them from other people, God does not give that joy, if it is a joy. I do not think God is the lover of sheep stealers–and there are plenty such about. We do not desire to increase our numbers by taking Christian people away from other Christian communities. No, the joy which God gives us is clear, unselfish delight in Christ being glorified, in souls being saved, in the Truth of God being spread and in error being baffled! God give us a joy over those who are added to us which shall be pure, Christlike and heavenly! Oh, that He might increase such joy! I think that He has increased it.
Did you ever worship in a place where there were more pews than people? Did you ever go to a Church or Chapel where the preacher could preach upon anything except the Gospel of Christ? Where you might hear about anything except the precious blood of Christ? The minister would be sure not to mention that. Then I think I see you go grumbling down the aisle after every service, or you sit there and look up at the pulpit and long for what you never hear till the Sabbath becomes more wearisome than any day of the week. Oh, dear! Few people; little to be learned; very little to be given; a terrible “starvation camp” where every man looks at his fellow and wonders who is going to die next! Well, now, we ought to thank God that it is not so with us. Look on this company gathered here tonight. Think of the congregation we had this morning–remember the deep attention and think in how many cases God has blessed the Word to the hearers. I never, personally, felt so weak, or felt as great a burden in preaching–yet I never had so large a blessing–there are more converts than ever! Glory be to God, this is the kind of joy that comes from Him–in His Word, in His power–that out of weakness makes His servant strong!
So much by way of discrimination.
II. Now, secondly, notice a WORD OF DESCRIPTION, which is the main part of the text. The joy of the Church in receiving converts may be compared to the joy in harvest. In all nations, the time of reaping the corn and gathering it into the garner has been regarded as a festival. What is the joy of harvest?
Well, it is a joy which we ought to expect. The farmer expects a harvest. He says, “It is so many weeks to harvest.” He sows his seed with a view to harvest. He hires men to clear out the weeds with a view to a harvest. Well, now, every Church should be looking for a spiritual harvest. One said to me, once, “I have preached for several years and I believe God has blessed the Word, but nobody ever comes forward to tell me so.” I said to him, “Next Lord’s-Day say to the people, ‘I shall be in the vestry when the sermon is finished, to see friends who have been converted.” To his surprise, 10 or 12 came in–and he was quite taken aback–but, of course, quite delighted. He had not looked for a harvest, so of course he did not get one!
You know the story I tell of my first student, Mr. Medhurst. He went out to preach on Tower Hill, Sunday after Sunday. He was not, then, my student, but one of the young men in the Church. He came to me and said, “I have been out preaching now for several months on Tower Hill and I have not seen one conversion.” I said to him, rather sharply, “Do you expect God is going to bless you every time you choose to open your mouth?” He answered, “Oh! No, Sir! I do not expect Him to do that.” “Then,” I replied, “that is why you do not get a blessing.” We ought to expect a blessing! God has said, “My Word shall not return to Me void”–and it will not! We ought to look for a harvest! He who preaches the Gospel with his whole heart ought to be surprised if he does not hear of conversions–and he ought to begin to say in his heart, “I will know the reason why,” and never stop till he has found it out. The joy of the harvest is what we have a right to expect.
The joy of harvest, next, is a joy which has respect for former toil. He is bound to rejoice in a harvest who has sorrowed in plowing, in the sowing of the seed, in watching his crop when it was in the ear–and when frost, blight and mildew threatened to destroy it. Brothers and Sisters, many of us here can rejoice with the joy of harvest, because, in those converted to Christ, we see the fruit of our soul’s travail! I thank God, first, and I thank many of you, next, that when I sit to see enquirers, I find that I am very generally the spiritual grandfather of those who come, rather than their father in the faith, for I find that you, whom God gave me in years past are, many of you, diligent in seeking the souls of others. In the case of many of you who join the Church, your conversion is due to this Sister and to that, to this Brother and to that, rather than distinctly to my ministry. I am very glad to have it so!
During the last two days I have spoken to two friends, both of whom said to me, “I am your spiritual grandchild.” One from America said so this morning. I asked, “How is that?” The answer was, “Mr. So-and-So, whom you brought to Christ, came out to America and he brought me to Christ.” You who have had any part in the conversion of these 82 who are to be received tonight will rejoice in proportion as you have sighed, prayed, been beaten, foiled and disappointed–in that very proportion you will rejoice with the joy of harvest!
But, next, it is a joy which has solid ground to go upon. I do not know of a more joyful occasion than when young men and women, and, for that matter, old men and women, too, are brought to confess Christ and to unite with His people. It is a very joyful thing to attend a wedding, but it is always a speculation as to how it will turn out–but when you come to see a soul yield itself to Christ, there is no speculation about that–you have a blessed certainty! Oh, I think the angels sing more sweetly than ever as they hear a man, or woman, or child say, “I trust in Jesus. I confess His name.” When we know and believe that true faith in Christ means present salvation, there is a great joy about that!
I heard, the other day, of some preachers who say that there is no such thing as present salvation. And though they constantly preach, they tell the people, every now and then, that they must be saved when they come to die. They say there is no such thing as being saved now. I should like to present those brethren with a little “Catechism for the Young and Ignorant” which Mr. Cruden was known to give away, for, if they are not “young,” they certainly must be “ignorant” of the first principles of the faith! You are saved, dear Hearer, if you have believed in Christ Jesus! You are saved even now! If you were not, I do not see any reason why we should rejoice over you with the joy of harvest.
Moreover, we believe that if you have trusted Christ, you will be saved eternally. Angels do not rejoice prematurely over repentant sinners! They never have to say to one another, “Gabriel, Michael, you made a very terrible mistake the other day. You rejoiced in the Presence of God over that man who, after all, has gone down to Hell. You rang the bells too soon.” Angels do not do that! Jesus gives to His sheep ETERNAL life and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of His hand. Therefore, we feel that the confession of Christ is, in itself, a thing to rejoice over, and the immediate and eternal salvation that goes with it, warrant us in rejoicing with the joy of the harvest!
Moreover, this is a joy which looks to the future. Men rejoice in the harvest because they remember that all through the winter they will feed upon the food which they are now gathering. The poorest man in London has reason to be thankful for a good harvest, for it will help to make food cheaper. We are to enjoy, in days to come, what we gather in the harvest time. There are 16 girls coming from the Orphanage to join the Church and I am rejoicing in my heart over 16 women who will, I trust, during a long life, glorify Christ! Sixteen matrons in the Church who shall be Deborahs, Dorcasses and Phoebes, or whoever else you may like to think of among holy women! The boys, also, who come, however young they may be, and however little they may appear in some men’s eyes–we cannot tell to what they will grow. I may be receiving, tonight, a Livingstone, or a Moffat, or a Williams, or a Whitefield, or a Wesley, or some other servant of God, who, in some sphere or other, will serve Him right nobly!
Beloved, some of us will soon be gone. There are some here who are older than I am, who, in the natural course of things, will soon sleep in the cemetery. Are you not glad to see others coming forward? They will “hold the fort” when you can no longer stand upon its walls and, on account of this hope of the future, I rejoice with the joy of harvest!
This is a joy which we may join, for, in the harvest, anybody who likes may rejoice! There is the proprietor of the field–he rejoices. How greatly Christ rejoices! There are laborers–they may shout as they bring home the loads. They know what that field of wheat has cost. Let us, who are working for Jesus here, have the joy of harvest. The on-lookers, too, as they go by, see the harvest gathered in, will stop and even give a shout over the hedge. If you are not, yourself, saved, you might be glad that other people are! Even if you are not, yourself, going to Heaven, rejoice that others are choosing the blessed road. I invite even you to come and share with us the joy of harvest. The gleaner, Ruth, over yonder says, “I have stooped many times. I have almost broken my back over the work and I have only picked up this little handful.” I know you, Sister, and I am pleased that you should bring even one to Christ! I know you, my Brother; and I rejoice with you that you should bring even one child to the Savior! Though you are but a gleaner, join heartily with us, tonight, in the joy of the harvest!
Then something happens in our harvest that cannot happen in the common harvest, for the harvested ones rejoice! Sheaves cannot sing, ears of wheat cannot lift up their voices, but in our harvest the happiest of all are those who are called by Divine Grace! And, while they are happy, we are happy and all are happy! The angels hovering over the assembly tonight will mark this, the first Sabbath in July, and it shall be a red-letter day even to them, so many shall, tonight, for the first time, come to the Table of their Lord and here confess His name!
I have a great deal more to say, but our time is nearly gone. I can only say that this is a joy which has its moderating tone. “Why,” you ask, “what is that?” The farmer says, “I have got that load in very well, but I wonder how it will thresh out.” I often think of you who are added to the Church–and I think that you are first-rate people, and that I never saw better–but I wonder how you will turn out when you get inside the Church. There are members of the Church whom I never hear of as doing anything for Christ. They may be working away quietly, but I am afraid that some are not. I know that there are some in this Church who are no better than they should be! Indeed, that is true of us all, but there are some who are not what they ought to be, as to practical service for Christ. We get many passengers to ride in the coach, but not so many to pull it! We get plenty of people to eat the fruit, but not so many to plant fresh trees. Yet I say not even this very heavily, or with any great emphasis, for the bulk of the members of this Church are earnestly engaged in the service of God, for which I bless His name! Still, there is the question concerning the harvest, “How will it thresh out?”
There is another question–How much of it will be found to be real wheat in the Last Great Day? Ah, we may judge our very best and examine very carefully, but there will always be the goats in the sheep–and the tares with the wheat. And that is the dash of bitterness in our cup of rejoicing. God grant that we may not have many added to us who will deteriorate instead of growing better! How will they stand at the Last Great Day? “Well,” says one, “I am glad that you make that remark. I have always been opposed to revivals, because they bring in so many–and many of the converts fall away.” Dear Friends, do you remember Mr. Fullerton’s answer to that? I thought it was as good and as complete as it was humorous. He said that when persons say that they do not like revivals because certain of the converts afterwards turn back, they are like his countryman who picked up a sovereign, but when he went with it to the bank, it turned out to be a light sovereign and he only got 18 shillings for it. Mark you, he found it, so the 18 shillings were clear gain!
Some time after, he saw another sovereign lying in the road and he would not pick it up, “for,” he said, “I lost two shillings by the one I picked up the other day. I shall not pick you up for very likely I should only get 18 shillings for you.” So he passed on, and left it where it was. I cannot imagine an Irishman being so unwise! Certainly, no Scotchman would have been! And I think no Englishman, either. However, that is the style of unwisdom of a man who says that at a revival so many come in, and then so many turn out to be bad. Well, but those who remain are a clear gain! And you ought to desire to have a like gain, again and again! You will get rich through such losses if God will continue to give them to you!
However, I hope that I shall not have any light sovereigns tonight. Yet, if these converts do not turn out to be 20 shillings in the pound, but only 18 shillings, I will be greatly rejoiced to have the 18 shillings and God shall have all the glory!
I think that I will pause here, though there is another division of my discourse and, in closing, I will ask four questions.
First, What do we say of those who never sow? Well, they will never reap. They will never have the joy of harvest. Am I addressing, in this great assembly, any professing Christians who never sow, never speak a word for Christ, never call at a house and try to introduce the Savior’s name, never seek to bring children to the Savior, take no part in the Sunday school or any other service for Christ? Do I address some lazy man here, spiritually alive only for himself? Oh, poor Soul, I would not like to be you, because I doubt whether you can be spiritually alive at all! Surely, he who lives for himself is dead while he lives! And you will never know the joy of bringing souls to Christ! And when you get to Heaven, if you ever do get there, you will never be able to say, “Here am I, Father, and the children You have given me.” You will have to abide eternally alone, having brought no fruit unto God in the form of converts from sin. Shake yourselves up, Brothers and Sisters, from sinful sloth!
“Oh!” says one, “I am not my brother’s keeper.” No, I will tell you your name–it is Cain. You are your brother’s murderer, for every professing Christian who is not his brother’s keeper, is his brother’s killer! And you can be sure that it is so, for you may kill by neglect quite as surely as you may kill by the bow or by the dagger!
Next, What do we say to those who have never reaped? Well, that depends. Perhaps you have only just begun to sow. Do not expect to reap before God’s time. “In due season you shall reap if you faint not.” There is a set season for reaping. But, if you have been a very long time sowing and you have never reaped, may I ask the question, Where do you buy your seed? If I were to sow my garden, year by year, and nothing ever came up, I should change my seeds man! Perhaps you have bad seed, my dear Friend, and have not sown the pure and undiluted Gospel. You have not brought it out in all its fullness. Go to the Word of God and get “seed for the sower” of a kind that will feed your own soul, for it is “bread for the eater.” When you sow that kind of Seed, it will come up!
Next, What shall I say to those who know the Lord but have never confessed Him. What shall I say to you? Well, I do not think that I will say what I think, but I think very seriously about persons who have been converted and yet never tell the man who was the means of saving them that it has happened. “Well,” says one, “I do not think that I shall confess Christ. The dying thief did not confess Him, did he? He was not baptized.” No, but he was a dying thief, remember, and if you are not baptized, I think that you will be a living thief, for you will rob God of His Glory and you will rob His servant, also, of the comfort which he ought to receive. Our wages are to hear that souls are saved and, if we do not hear of it, we are robbed of our wages! You muzzle the ox that treads out the corn if you allow a man to toil and labor–and you get good from his services–but you give him no return by way of encouragement! Come out, you who have been hidden away like cowards! Men or women, if you love Christ and have never confessed Him, come out straight away and be not ashamed to say, “I am a soldier of the Cross, a follower of the Lamb.” May the great Captain of our salvation force you to do this right speedily!
Once more, What do we say to those who do confess Christ and who are going to confess Him tonight? Well, we say this–“Come in, you blessed of the Lord! Why do you stand outside?” Beloved, when you do come in, keep your garments unspotted from the world. Come in with a true heart and a reverent spirit with this prayer upon your lips, “Hold You me up, and I shall be safe.” May none of you who are, tonight, gathered into the barn, turn out to be mere weeds dried in the sun! The Lord save you and keep you! And may you remember that the vows of the Lord are upon you and may you never, in any way, dishonor that great name by which you are henceforth to be named!
God bless every one of this great mass of people! “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved,” for “he that believes and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believes not shall be damned.” God save all of us from that fearful doom, for Christ’s sake! Amen.