"Praying always with all prayer and supplication in the Spirit, and watching thereunto with all perseverance and supplication for all saints; And for me, that utterance may be given unto me, that I may open my mouth boldly, to make known the mystery of the gospel, For which I am an ambassador in bonds" (Eph. vi. 18-2D).
My soul was stirred within me the other morning by Paul's appeal for the prayers of the Church, in which he declares himself to be "an ambassador in bonds," or, as the margin reads, "in a chain."
You know what an ambassador is -- a man who represents one government to another. The person of such a man is considered sacred. His word is with power. The dignity and authority of his country and government are behind him. Any injury or indignity to him is an injury and indignity to the country he represents.
Now Paul was an ambassador of Heaven, representing the Lord Jesus Christ to the people of this world. But instead of being respected and honored, he was thrust into prison and chained between two ignorant, and probably brutal, Roman soldiers.
What stirred me were the quenchless zeal of the man and the work he did in the circumstances. Most Christians would have considered their work done, or, at least, broken off till they were free again. But not so with Paul. From his prison and chains, he sent forth a few letters that have blessed the world, and will bless it to the end of time; and he also taught us that there is a ministry of prayer, as well as of more active work. We live in an age of restless work and rush and excitement, and we need to learn this lesson.
Paul was the most active of all the Apostles -- "in labours more abundant" -- and it seemed as if he could ill be spared from the oversight of the converts and the new corps which he had so recently opened, and which were in such desperate circumstances and surrounded by implacable enemies. But as he was set to be the chief exponent of the doctrines of the Gospel of Christ, so he was set to be the chief exponent of its saving and sanctifying power under the most trying conditions.
It is difficult -- if not quite impossible -- to conceive of a trial to which Paul was not subjected, from being worshipped as a god to being whipped and stoned as the vilest slave. But he declared that none of these things moved him. He had learned in whatsoever state he was to be content (Phil. iv. 11), and he triumphantly wrote at the end of his life: "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith" (2 Tim. iv. 7). He did not backslide. He did not even murmur, but kept on his way, trusting in the love of Jesus, and, through faith in Him, coming off more than conqueror.
Many Salvationists have fairly well learned the lessons of activity taught us by Paul; but it will be well for us to be prepared to learn the lessons taught us by his imprisonment. Doubly important is it for sick and resting officers to learn these lessons. They get impatient of waiting, are tempted to murmur and repine, and imagine that they can do nothing. But the fact is, God may possibly use them more widely in prayer and praise, if they will believe and rejoice and watch and pray in the Holy Ghost, than He used them at the head of a battalion of soldiers. They should watch unto prayer for those who are at work and for those in need of the salvation of God. I write from experience.
For eighteen months I was laid aside with a broken head. God put His chain on me, and I had to learn the lessons of a passive ministry of prayer and praise and patience, or backslide altogether. It seemed as if I should never be able to work any more. But I did not backslide. He helped me to nestle down into His will, and, like David, to behave and quiet myself, as a child weaned of his mother, until my soul was even as a weaned child (Ps. cxxxi. 2). Yet my heart longed for the glory of God and the salvation of nations, and I prayed, and watched reports of the salvation war, and studied the needs of some parts of the world, and prayed on until I knew God heard and answered me, and my heart was made as glad as though I had been in the thick of the fight.
During that time I read of a great country, and my heart ached and burned and longed for God to send salvation there. In secret and in family prayer I poured out my heart to God, and I knew He heard and would yet do great things for that dark, sad country. Shortly after this, I learned of dreadful persecutions and the banishment of many simple, earnest Christians to this country; and while I was greatly grieved at their sufferings, yet I thanked God that He was taking this way to get the light of His glorious salvation into that loveless, needy land.
The fact is, sick and resting officers and saints of God can move Him to bless the Army and the world, if they have faith and will storm Heaven with continuous prayers.
There are more ways to chain God's ambassadors than between Roman soldiers in Roman dungeons. If you are hopelessly sick, you are chained. If you are shut in by family cares and claims, you are chained. But remember Paul's chain, and take courage.
I sometimes hear ex-officers, who have deserted their posts and become so entangled that it is impossible for them to get back into Salvation Army work, lamenting their sad fate, and declaring they can do nothing. Let them bow beneath the judgment of God, kiss the hand that smites them, no longer chafe under the chain that binds them, but cheerfully, patiently begin to exercise themselves in the ministry of prayer. If they are faithful, God may yet unloose their chain, and let them out into the happier ministry of work. Esau sold his birthright for a mess of pottage, and missed the mighty blessing he should have had; still he got a blessing (Gen. xxvii. 38-40).
If a man really longs to see God's glory and souls saved rather than to have a good time himself, why should he not content himself to lie on a sick-bed, or stand by a loom and pray, as well as to stand on a platform and preach, if God will bless one as much as the other?
The platform man can see much of his work and its fruit. The praying man can only feel his. But the certainty that he is in touch with God and being used by Him may be as great or greater than that of the man who sees with his eyes. Many a revival has had its secret source in the closet of some poor washerwoman or blacksmith who prayed in the Holy Ghost, but who was chained to a life of desperate daily toil. The platform man gets his glory on earth, but the neglected, unknown or despised chained ambassador who prayed will share largely in the general triumph, and, it may be, will march by the King's side, while the platform man comes on behind.
God sees not as man sees. He looks at the heart, and regards His children's cry, and marks for future glory and renown and boundless reward all those who cry and sigh for His honor and the salvation of men.
God could have loosed Paul, but He did not choose to do so. But Paul did not grumble, or get sulky, or fall into despair, or lose his joy and peace and faith and power. He prayed and rejoiced and believed and thought about the poor little struggling corps and the weak converts he had left behind him, and he wrote to them, and bore them on his heart, and wept over them, and prayed for them night and day, and in so doing he saved his own soul, and moved God to bless ten thousand times ten thousand folks whom he never saw and of whom he never even dreamed.
But let no one called of God to the work imagine that this lesson of the chained ambassador is for those who are free to go. It is not. It is only for those who are in chains.
The Cost Of Saving Souls
Some years ago a young woman-Officer wrote the Colonel in command of a Continental Territory telling him she meant to resign if she could not get souls saved. But she did not resign.
A pastor, famous for the revivals which swept his churches and moved the communities where he labored, was sent to a big church in New York city. As he walked into a gathering of ministers, he heard them whispering among themselves 'He will find New York different. It is the graveyard of revival reputations.' And right there he resolved and publicly declared that there should be a revival in his church or there would be a funeral in his parsonage.
Little faith sees the difficulties and often accepts defeat without a fight. Great faith sees God and fights manfully against all odds, and though the enemy apparently triumphs, wins moral and spiritual victory, as did Christ on Calvary, and as did the martyrs who perished in flame. What could be more complete to doubting hearts and the eyes of unbelief than the defeat of Christ on the cross, or of Cranmer and Ridley in the fire! And yet it as then that their victory over the enemy was supreme. The spirit of Jesus is the spirit of conquest.
When Paul, filled with passionate love for Christ, whom he had persecuted, and burning with eager desire to save men with the great Salvation that had reached him, went forth to evangelize the Roman Empire, the Jews everywhere confronted and hunted him with the same deadly hate and murderous opposition that he had once shown to the Jerusalem Christians; while every city he entered reeked with unmentionable vices and reveled in licentious idolatries. He had no completed Bible, no religious Press, no missionary organization behind him to ensure his support, and the very name of Christ was unknown, while Caesar was honored as a god.
The wealth, the learning, the philosophy, the political power, the religions, the vested interests of the world and the age-long habits, passions, and inflamed appetites of men were all opposed to him. Don Quixote's valorous attack on windmills did not appear more absurd than Paul's assault on the sin, the corruption, the entrenched evils of the world of his day with no other weapon than his personal testimony and the story of a crucified, resurrected Jewish peasant Carpenter, whom he heralded as the Son of God and the Saviour and Judge of the world, before whom all men, from the Emperor to the lowest slave, must some day appear to be judged for his deeds and be rewarded with eternal bliss or doomed to endless shame and woe. Paul died, but he won souls.
Immeasurable difficulties faced the Wesleys when they and Whitefield began their career that quickened Christendom. The clergy were, as a class, utterly unspiritual, given over to drinking, horse-racing, and fox-hunting with the gentry; the educated classes were, in large measure, skeptical and licentious, while the lower classes, in the cities, were only too often debased and drunken, and found their pleasures in cock-fighting and racing dogs on Sundays. But in the midst of these desolate and desperate conditions the Wesleys started the greatest revival that had been known since the Apostolic Age, and snatched souls by the myriads from the very jaws of Hell.
And amid conditions almost, if not equally, as dark and forbidding, the Founder of The Salvation Army began and carried on his work that has directly touched and won millions of souls and an even larger number indirectly, quickening the faith and lifting the spiritual level of the whole Christian world, and touching with soul-saving power and life-giving hope great heathen populations in many lands.
But none of these world-embracing, epoch-making revivals began in a large way. Paul usually made an address and gave his testimony in a synagogue -- a small meeting-place of the Jews -- until he was excluded, and then he went up some home or room that was opened to him. This was followed by house-to-house visitation, often after a day's work at tentmaking. The Wesleys began in the same humble way, and so did the Founder.
Great revivals among God's people and awakenings among the ungodly never begin in a great way. They begin as oak trees begin. There is nothing startling and spectacular about the beginning of an oak tree. In darkness, in loneliness, an acorn gives up its life, and the oak, at first only a tiny root and a tiny stem of green, is born out of the dissolution and death of the acorn. So revivals are born, so souls are won, so the Kingdom of God comes. Some one, no longer trying to save himself or to advance his own interests, dies -- dies to self, to the world, to the praise of men, to the ambition for promotion, for place, for power, and lives unto Christ, lives to save men, and the awakening of sinners comes; souls are born into the kingdom of God, they rally round their leader and in turn become soul-winners. 'Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone : but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit,' said Jesus. And so He 'endured the cross, despising the shame,' and died that He might win souls, save men, and 'bring many sons unto glory.'
'If any man serve Me, let him follow Me,' said Jesus. Let him lose his old life, his old ambitions, his old estimate of values for My sake, My cause, and the souls he would win and for whom I died. He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.'
That is the way to become a soul-winner; that is the price that must be paid. The Master could find no easier way, and He can show no easier way to us. It is costly. But shall we wish to win eternal and infinite values cheaply? 'For the joy that was set before Him, He endured the cross.' What joy? The joy of having the Father's approval and of saving souls from eternal death and of 'bringing many sons unto glory.' And shall we hope to share that joy by some cheap service that calls for no uttermost devotion, no whole burnt-offering, no final and complete sacrifice? Not otherwise has any man ever become a soul-winner. We may move upon the surface of men's lives, we may touch their emotions, we may lead them to easy, nonsacrificial religious exercises and activities, and think we are saving souls, but we do not really win them until we constrain them to follow us, as we follow Christ, through death -- death to sin, death to the flesh and the world, into newness of life unto Holiness.
This was Paul's way. 'I go bound in the Spirit not knowing what shall befall me save that the Holy Ghost witnesseth in every city, saying that bonds and afflictions abide me. But none of these things move me, neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I might finish my course with joy, and the ministry, which I have received of the Lord Jesus' (Acts xx. 22-24). It was not easy for Paul. He counted the cost. He paid the price. He turned neither to the right hand nor the left. He marched straight forward.
He was commissioned 'to open men's eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God, that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith ' in Christ. And he adds: 'I was not disobedient unto the heavenly vision.' 'What things were gain to me, those I counted loss for Christ, yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dung, that I may win Christ.'
It is as we thus count all things but loss and so win Christ that we are empowered to win souls. This is the standard we must set for ourselves, and to which we must woo and draw by the compulsion of love and faithful teaching and example our younger comrades.
The Psalmist, in his penitential prayer, cried to God for a clean heart and a right spirit, for the joy of Salvation, and the enabling of the Holy Spirit. 'Then,' said he, 'will I teach transgressors Thy ways: and sinners shall be converted unto Thee.' David felt that if he would effectively teach and convert sinners his heart must be pure, his spirit must be right. So then the cost of winning souls includes the price that must be paid for a pure heart. I must be clean, my spirit must be right, I must hold back no part of the price, I must bring all the tithes into God's storehouse, if I would be a soul winner.
'He that winneth souls is wise,' wrote Solomon. Then, if I would be a soul-winner, I must pay the price of wisdom. Wisdom cannot be bought with silver and gold. It cannot be passed on like an inheritance from father to son. It cannot be learned, as we learn mathematics or the sciences, in schools and colleges. It comes only through experience in following Christ.
Knowledge comes, but wisdom lingers, and he bears a laden breast, Full of sad experience, moving toward the stillness of his rest.
He who wants wisdom must not shrink from suffering. 'Being reviled, we bless; being persecuted, we suffer it; being defamed, we intreat,' wrote Paul. Suffering did not daunt him. Abuse and neglect did not embitter him. When his converts were turned against him, he wrote: 'I will not be burdensome to you: for I seek not yours, but you. . . And I will very gladly spend and be spent for you; though the more abundantly I love you, the less I be loved. . . . We do all things, dearly beloved, for your edifying.' A man with that spirit is full of wisdom, the wisdom of God, the wisdom that is from above, which is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, and easy to be entreated, full of mercy and good fruits, without partiality, and without hypocrisy,' and he wins souls. His life, his example, his spirit, his speech are compelling, and he wins and knits men to Christ.
The soul-winner must not despise the day of small things. It is better to speak to a small company and win a half-dozen of them to the Saviour, than to speak to a thousand and have no one saved or sanctified, though they all go away lauding the leader and exclaiming, Wasn't the Meeting grand!' Some years ago I went to a large city, where we owned a Hall seating nearly a thousand people, and where I thought we had a flourishing Corps. The Officer and his wife had unusual ability, but had become stale and spiritually lifeless. Where hundreds should have greeted me, fifty tired, listless people were present, twenty of whom were unkempt children. When I rose to give out the first song, there were three Song-Books among us, one of which was mine. The Officer ran off downstairs to pick up a few more books, and while we waited I was fiercely tempted to walk off the platform and leave the place, telling him I would not spend my strength helping a man with no more spirit and interest than he manifested. Then I looked at the people before me -- tired miners, poor and wearied wives, and little, unshepherded children -- peering at me with dull, quizzical eyes as though wondering whether I would club them or feed them, give them stones or bread for their hunger. And my heart was swept with a great wave of pity for them -- 'sheep without a shepherd.' And I set myself with full purpose of heart to bless and feed them, to save them, and in the next six days the big Hall was crowded and we rejoiced over ninety souls seeking the Saviour. The true soul-winner counts not his life dear unto himself. He gives himself desperately to his task, and there are times when, as Knox prayed, 'Give me Scotland, or I die,' so he sobs and cries, 'Give me souls, or I die.'
That New York pastor had a revival in the church. There was no funeral in the parsonage. Day and night he cried to God for souls. Every afternoon he was out visiting the people in their homes, their offices, their shops. He climbed so many stairways that he said if they had been piled one on the other they would have taken him well up toward the moon. For a month or more he devoted his mornings to study of the Bible, to reading the biographies of soul-winners, books on revivals, revival lectures and sermons, revival songs, and revival stories and anecdotes. He saturated his mind and heart with the very spirit of revivals. He looked into the grave, into Hell, into Heaven. He studied Calvary. He meditated on eternity. He stirred up his pity and compassion for the people. He cried to God for the Holy Ghost, for power, for faith, for wisdom, for fervor and joy and love. He waked up in the night and prayed and planned his campaign. He enlisted such members of his church as were spiritual to help him. When he won a man for Christ he enlisted him as a helper in the fight, and God swept the church with revival fire, and hundreds were won to Christ. Hallelujah! Oh, how unfailing is God. How ever present and ready to help is the Holy Ghost! How surely is Jesus present where men gather in His name!
That woman-Officer to whom I have referred did not resign. One night, as she closed the Meeting, she asked the Soldiers to remain with her for a short while. Then she opened her heart to them. She told them of her letter to the Colonel. She said she could not continue in the work unless she could see souls saved. Many drunkards were in the city. The streets were infested by them. Their homes were being ruined, their wives neglected, and they were hastening to Hell because of the drink. Would not the comrades remain and spend an hour in prayer with her and for her, and for the Salvation of souls, and especially of the drunkards of the city? They stayed, and for an hour they prayed, and God heard and drew nigh, and Jesus was in the midst.
After the next public Meeting she again requested the Soldiers to remain, and again they prayed for an hour or more, and Jesus was there. And after every public Meeting for a week or ten days, or more, the Soldiers stayed with the Officer and prayed, and Jesus was in the midst. And then one night, somewhat to their surprise -- strange that we should be surprised at answered prayer -- the worst drunkard in the city, with several of his pals, came to the Meeting and was converted; then his whole family was won, and they all became Soldiers. In a brief time twelve drunkards were converted, and lo! that woman had a blessed revival on her hands, and not only were sinners converted, but an Officer was saved to The Army.
We may be sweet singers, eloquent and moving preachers, skillful organizers, masters of men and assemblies, wizards of finance, popular and commanding leaders, but if we are not soul-winners, if we do not make men and women see the meaning and winsomeness of Jesus, and hunger for His righteousness and purity, and bow to Him in full loyalty, then one thing, the chief thing for an Army Officer, we lack. And yet that one thing is within the reach of us all if we live for it, if we put it first, if we shrink not from the cost. We may be, we should be, Oh, we shall be at all cost, winners of souls!