“It is accounted of a steward that he be found faithful.”
“The soul that sinneth it must die.”
“He that winneth souls is wise.
“For they watch for your souls as they that must give account.”
“What will a man give in exchange for his soul?”
Rev. Maltbie D. Babcock, D. D., in a meeting of ministers, told of the day when Harry Morehouse, the celebrated evangelist, was a guest in his father’s house. He was staying one night in his room, waiting for time of the service, when he heard the door open, and looking about, saw it close quickly again. He turned to his Bible, and heard the same thing repeated; and then without turning, he said, “Come in,” and there entered one of the children of the household, who had seen so much of Christ in the face of the preacher, that she desired to know him, and she said: “Mr. Morehouse, I should like to be a Christian.”
“Well,” said he, in his quiet, gentle way, “you may;” and he said: “Will you please turn to the fifty-third chapter of Isaiah and read it, making it personal to yourself? Wherever the pronouns are general make them personal.”
She began: “He hath no form nor comeliness; and when I shall see Him there is no beauty that I should desire Him. He is despised and rejected of men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and I hid as it were, my face from Him; He was despised, and I esteemed Him not. Surely He hath borne my griefs, and carried my sorrows; yet I did esteem Him stricken, smitten of God, and afflicted.”
When she had read thus far, she stopped, and Harry Morehouse said: “Go on and read it.”
“But He was wounded for my transgressions. He was bruised for my iniquities; the chastisement of my peace was upon Him; and with His stripes I am healed.”
She could not read any farther for her tears, but she had caught a glimpse of her Savior in this reading, and Harry Morehouse said to her: “This is all we need to do to be saved, to lay hold upon Him by faith, of whom Isaiah speaks.”
Mr. Smith possessed much of the evangelistic spirit, always seeking the lost, always about His Master’s business. In October, 1821, fifty persons had received the blessing of pardon in Windsor, and scores of souls in Hammersmith. “There prevailed a spirit of earnest piety everywhere, acquiring from Mr. Smith’s example a deeply interesting and useful character.” Such is the statement of the friend from whom I have already quoted so much at length, as to the spiritual prosperity which presented itself, almost immediately after the re-appointment of Mr. Smith to this circuit. Writing to a person about this time, he thus exhorts him: “If I do not see you, present yourself as a Hell-deserving sinner before God; acknowledge the goodness of God in the gift of His Son, whether you feel it or not. Rest your soul with your sin on the atonement and mediation of Christ, and wait for the Holy Ghost. Claim the Spirit. The promise is to you. Everything must yield to His working. Do have the Spirit, in spite of Hell and yourself. God is for you: wait, O wait, my dear brother; God will come. He will make you unspeakably happy.”
The following is an extract from a letter to Mr. Calder, dated October 22: “I was much pleased with your letter. God is teaching you by His Spirit some important lessons. The same lessons are taught in His Word, and have been taught by wise and good men; but we want the Spirit: we must have the teaching of the Spirit, or after all we shall be foolish. I thank God for what He is doing in you and by you. Be in the will of God: know that you are in it fully, — constantly. Perhaps you will have to spend hours on your knees, or upon your face, before the throne. Never mind; wait. God will do great things for you, if you will yield to Him, and cooperate with Him. Oh, play the man! Dwell in the clear light. I am hoping that God will make you a great blessing; but you must be a burning and shining light. The first must come from Heaven:– you have free access. Nelson says to me, ‘Remember, men must be saved first.” Be determined not to rest, unless souls get into clear liberty. We have a deal to say to them, but they must be saved. Oh, what numbers among us are not clear in pardon! Let us agonize to get them into liberty. Maintain simplicity. If you spend several hours in prayer daily, you will see great things. I long for you. I do not cease to pray for you. You and your family are closely connected with my mercies; when I think of them, I think of you; so that, as long as I have piety, I shall not forget you. I am resting on the atonement and intercession of Jesus … God gives Himself to me. His Spirit is in me. Oh, what rest is connected with an indwelling God. The abominations of the people around me fill me with grief. I can only find relief in the power of God and in the merits of Christ. Many of our people are very ignorant of the way of faith. When the power of God is mightily upon them they do not lay hold of what they want. Until there be a taking hold of God we cannot expect much signal work.”
Some friends, knowing Mr. Smith was laboring far beyond his strength, resolved to admonish him kindly, and while on a visit to the home of a mutual friend, they implored him to be more careful. Mr. Smith, laying down his knife and fork, listened with the most patient and respectful attention. As soon as the former had ceased, he burst into a flood of tears, and, literally sobbing with grief, at length replied, “What you say is all correct. I ought to put restraint on myself; but, Oh, how can I? God has given me such a sight of the state of perishing souls, that I am broken-hearted, and can only vent my feelings in the way I do, entreating them to come to God, and pleading with Him to act upon and save them.” Still weeping as in an agony, he continued, “Look round you, my brother; do you not see sinners going to Hell? and when I thus see and feel it, I am compelled to act.” To this pathetic statement there was no reply; all the company were melted into tears; and Mr. Methley was so deeply affected, that, unable to restrain his emotions, he abruptly arose from the table and left the house.
During this visit, Mr. Smith was, as usual, made the instrument of the conversion of a considerable number of persons, and among others, of a young lady, the daughter of a friendly person in a neighboring town. Mr. Calder states that this was the most interesting result of all Mr. Smith’s labors in private which he ever witnessed. It appears she was very much afraid of meeting Mr. Smith, lest he should address her on the subject of personal religion. She was finally prevailed upon to call, and, as she expected, he immediately began to converse with her about her soul and the necessity of a personal salvation, until she was melted to tears, and yielded to God. For three hours the friends prayed with her, and her soul was filled with peace and joy. She returned home a new creature and walked from that time worthy of her vocation.
This was only an earnest of the blessing which attended his labors during the next few days. Previously to this God had begun a good work in London West through the instrumentality of some pious soldiers, who, while stationed at Windsor, had obtained the blessing of entire sanctification and had imbibed the spirit of Mr. Smith and been taught his plans. He had visited them a few weeks before, and had seen the arm of the Lord gloriously revealed. He now witnessed, to use his own words, “the greatest work he had ever seen. In the course of a very short time, there were, including the fruits of his former visit, nearly seventy individuals pardoned, and about sixty made profession of having attained purity of heart. In the same week he also received a letter, giving an account of a revival in the London east circuit, of which, under God, he had been the first mover. In his own circuit, too, several interesting conversions occurred about the same time. “So mightily grew the word of the Lord and prevailed.”
Mr. Smith’s house was frequently resorted to by persons under the awakenings of the Holy Spirit, and scarcely a week elapsed in which it was not the scene of devout exultation, on account of the liberation of some captive soul. One afternoon a stranger called, in deep distress. Mr. Smith invited him to take tea, and inquired into the means by which he had come under religious concern. He stated that his name was D____, that he was a publican at Hampstead, and that for many years he had given himself up to the love and practice of vice. He never attended any place of worship, was a gambler, a hard drinker, and, in short, a sinner in every conceivable way. One of his companions in riot, having left his house in a state of intoxication, fell into the river, and was drowned. This incident aroused his fears, which were increased by the discovery that through his intemperance his mind was so weakened he could not keep his accounts. He thought he was about to lose his reason, and while under this distressing apprehension his sins of the past rose mountain high before him. He was led by a friend to Mr. Smith to be prayed for, but his distress was so great that before tea was concluded he was down upon the floor, a large muscular man, prostrated by extreme anguish of soul, while he groaned and prayed in unspeakable disquietude. It happened to be the night on which Mr. Smith met a class, which he had formed, to the members of which, after the ordinary conversation had concluded, he introduced the case of this penitent, requesting their intercession on his behalf; at the same time urging him to the exertion of faith in Christ, and the expectation of a present salvation. The struggle was continued for a considerable time. At length Mr. Smith perceived that the man was relaxing in his efforts. “What, will you give it up?” said he. Mr. D. complained of exhaustion. “You have danced for whole nights together,” was the reply. “That’s true,” said the other, and with renewed energy he began again to cry to God; nor did he rest till about eleven o’clock, when his guilt was removed, and he rejoiced in the assurance of the Divine favor. The following morning, as he and Mr. Smith were walking out, he suddenly stopped, and cried, “Oh, my load is all returned!” In vain did Mr. Smith tell him that this was only an effort of the tempter; in vain did he remind him of the peace which he had before enjoyed. He remained almost on the verge of despair the whole day. The religious services of the next day, which was Sunday, seemed to produce no beneficial effect on his mind. In the evening prayer-meeting he was again the subject of special prayer. One of the friends employed to him an argument similar to that of Naaman’s servant: “If thou wert bidden to do some great thing, wouldst thou not have done it?” “Yes,” said he, “I would stand and be shot.” The meeting was continued until a late hour, his strength was exhausted, but his soul refused comfort, and the next day he returned, promising that he would try to believe all the way home. He immediately sold his inn and retired to a private house. For some weeks his despondency continued, but at length the Comforter returned and he wrote to Mr. Smith, giving an account of his deliverance. A short time afterward he took cold, fell into a rapid consumption and died in peace.
During one of these services, Mr. Smith noticed a woman standing near the door, and looking at what was going forward with much apparent curiosity and surprise. Her garb indicated much poverty, and it afterwards appeared that she gained a miserable subsistence, partly by gathering and selling water-cresses. She had attended the chapel a few times before, but her ignorance was extreme. Mr. Smith went up to her, and said, “Woman, get down on your knees, and begin to pray.” She immediately knelt down, and asked, “What shall I say, sir?” “Ask God to give you true repentance,” was the reply. The poor woman for the first time opened her mouth in prayer: “Lord, give me true repentance.” She had not long uttered this petition, before it was in a measure answered, and she came under the gracious influence which was in the meeting. She began to tremble, and with great anxiety inquired, “What shall I do now? what shall I pray for?” “Ask God to have mercy upon you,” said Mr. Smith. “Lord, have mercy upon me, a poor sinner,” cried she, “a guilty sinner!” Who need be told the sequel? She was that night clearly converted, and filled with the love of God. When Mr. Smith was about to leave Windsor, she, with others, came to look upon him who had proved to be her best friend. And so deep was her emotion that when he extended his hand to her, she fell down on her knees, filled with a gratitude which she could not express. Mr. Smith was deeply affected, and, no doubt, that moment amply repaid him for all his labors in that circuit.
About the midsummer of 1822, he went into the High-Wycombe circuit to preach occasional sermons. On the Sunday morning, when the congregation was assembled, he had not arrived at the chapel, and several persons were dispatched in different directions to seek him. After the lapse of a considerable time, he was found in a solitary place out of doors, forgetful of all time, wrestling with God in mighty prayer for His blessing on the services in which he was about to engage. The result may be readily anticipated. Throughout the day his mind appeared to be peculiarly impressed with the Divine benevolence; and in one of his sermons he repeatedly, and with extraordinary vehemence, cried out; “He is willing! He is willing!” Many, on that occasion, had a blessed experience of God’s willingness to save, and numbers of others were powerfully awakened and sought and found salvation. .
Speaking at one time of urgency in prayer, he said: “There is no impediment on God’s part. He has given us His Son.” By thus firmly asserting the willingness of God to save, against all the temptations of unbelief, he urged and encouraged himself to plead with God for sinners. “It is by justifying God,” said he, “that I sting and stimulate myself to contend.” And again, “The necessity of wresting arises not from the unwillingness of God, but from ourselves or Satan: God is the same.” And thus his resolute purpose to justify God, and to believe, at all events, that there is no hindrance on His part, since He has given His Son, was to him like cutting off retreat: it left him no alternative but to wrestle and prevail. This was the principle which he would never suffer himself or others to call in question. But in following it out, in still tenaciously hanging upon it, and pleading it, in spite of every impediment, of all that Satan could oppose, or unbelief suggest; this was the conflict which was seen in him; this was the agony to believe which he was heard to describe as so severe that it had been as if soul and body were ready to part asunder.
Mr. Smith sought his converts everywhere in the ranks of the army, in the wayside inn, on the ferryboat; and why not, when we consider from what strange places God calls men?
Wilberforce, when a young man, was gay, worldly, and dissipated. He ran the whole career of the young men of the age. Gaming, that sweeps into the vortex of ruin so many youth, seized him. Night after night, he was found deeply immersed in play. His conscience often troubled him, but he rushed wildly on. One night, he was induced to keep the bank. Then his eyes were opened for the first time to the great horrors of play. He saw how men lost their thousands at a sitting; how young men, with prospects far brighter than his, went out of the room to suicide or dishonor. Amid the rattle of the dice, the call of the card table, the glare of the room, the shout of despair, he vowed never to gamble again. With him, to make a resolution was to keep it. From that moment to the day of his death, Wilberforce kept the vow he made under such strange surroundings.
Changing his pastimes, he changed his associates. A new life opened to him; and not long after that night at the far-bank, Wilberforce gave his heart to Jesus, and devoted his life to the service of the Lord.
How strangely God calls people to His service! The woman of Samaria, at the well-curb; Matthew, from the custom-house; Zacchaeus, from the sycamore; Bartimaeus, from the wayside; Whitfield, from an ale-house, and Wilberforce, from a faro-bank; “that he might have known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory.” “He that glorieth, let him glory in the Lord.”