Gideon’s Three Hundred.
An Address at the Evangelistic Mission Conference in Eccleston Hall,
[in Whiston, St. Helens] on Whit-Monday, May 21, 1888.
This is the first time I have ever been at your Bank Holiday gatherings, and I confess that as I looked at the bill of invitation, the words that arrested me and interested me, specially as I had heard that they were large gatherings, were these words----Christian workers; and, as I have heard of hundreds being gathered together, the question arises, how far that title is applicable to all of us here. Some of our fellow Christians are banded together as a company of those who desire to escape from the wrath to come. That is the charter of a large religious body. Very well, they are those who desire to know salvation; but I suppose we should all feel that a Christian worker is one who has learned salvation for himself. That “young man of Egypt” (1 Sam. xxx. 15) who was brought to King David, gives us a capital example. He is asked by David, “Canst thou bring me down to this company?” He had been found, at the point of death, in the field, and, without a word, his need had been met-—-not merely met, but met in the abundance of the blessing of David and David’s servants; not merely bread and water, but “a piece of a cake of figs, and two clusters of raisins.” When he is asked, as it were, “Will you be my servant—our guide?” He made terms before consenting; and I hold that everyone is justified in emulating that young man. He said, “Swear to me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master, and I will bring thee down to this company.” He owned that he deserved judgment at the hand of David. He had been amongst those that had carried fire into David’s home and stronghold. He was an enemy. “Swear unto me by God, that thou wilt neither kill me, nor deliver me into the hands of my master.” I say, before we go down to serve the Lord, before we are Christian workers, we are quite justified in having the
DIVINE ASSURANCE OF SALVATION.
We know that we deserve the judgment of God, but we must have the certainty in our souls, which He delights to give us, that we shall never come into judgment, and that all the power of hell can never touch the saved one, the servant of the Lord Jesus Christ. This is very important; and therefore, I assume that we are all resting upon the Word of Him Who cannot lie, that He Himself will never bring us into judgment, and that He will never allow the old master to touch us. Do not go down to serve the Lord with a halter round your neck; that is no good. God gives absolute assurance; and let none of us seek to serve Him in order to merit His favour, but because we have His salvation, because we know the power of His Word, “He that heareth My Word, and believeth on Him that sent Me, hath everlasting life, and shall never come into judgment, but is passed from death unto life.” If there is one soul here who does not know that, in the sanctuary of God’s presence, DROP your work, and take your true place as a guilty sinner before God, that you may receive the fulness of His salvation. Oh, never (shall I say) prostitute Christian service to the hope of gaining everlasting life thereby. But, if we are saved, the very
FIRST INSTINCT OF DIVINE LIFE
is surely to serve our Lord and Master; and I was thinking of that beautiful word we had this afternoon----“Wilt Thou not, revive us again?” (Ps. lxxxv. 6)—and my thoughts turned to that book of revival, as it has been correctly called, the Book of Judges. I thought of one of God’s most blessed revivals there, under one who took the very lowest place; that was Gideon. I have not time to read the story, but I want you, just for a moment, to think about that wondrous story of God’s revival long ago—God’s grace coming in just when Israel was at the lowest ebb. The history is given in Judges vi. and vii., but I must not even attempt the briefest outline of the full subject. I do not want to speak to you about Gideon to-night. There may be a Gideon here. I think God is raising up Gideons on every hand.
I entered your building this afternoon just in time to see a lady come to the front of the platform and give the story of her work in Geneva; and I have watched the work of God certainly for nearly thirty years—since 1858, 1859, and 1860—and I see this in the present day, that God is raising up Instruments to do His work. It may be, as in the case of this lady, railway men. I remember, years ago, when I used to speak to the railway boys, in the kitchen of a dear young lad, now, I believe, one of the most active workers in the great Railway Men’s Mission. I remember very well going over to his mother's house, when he had the boys gathered together in the kitchen. It was my joy to see the beginning there; and I believe that God is taking up in that way various classes, whether railway men, soldiers, sailors, fishermen, cabmen, &c., &c. It is not that God is using Episcopalians, Wesleyans, Congregationalists, or any particular section of Christians; but that God is raising up a man here, or a woman there—a Gideon to do His work; and that is how the work is being done to-day. Tell now, it may not be that God has called you and me to be Gideons; but I do believe it is a grand thing to
HAVE A HIGH AMBITION.
When I was a lad in my teens, I knew very well a dear Christian man—Thomas Smith----who has been many years with the Lord; and one word he used to say to me—I am speaking to the young people here to-night—was, “My brother, covet earnestly the best gifts.” Now I believe that is a grand thing. Even the world says, “Aim high, and end well;” and I say it is a grand thing for everyone to seek to serve the Lord to the very best of his ability. I do not say to serve men. No one that has ever read this chapter (Judges vi.) will fail to see that two things characterized this great revivalist, this man whom God so greatly used, viz.—a sense of what was worthy of God, and a very low estimate of Gideon. Then he looked round upon the people, his heart burned within him, his soul rose in indignation that the enemy of God’s people should dare to oppress them. “Why then, is all this befallen us—we whom God led out of the accursed land of bondage? is God with us?” The thought that God would use him, raise HIM up to “save Israel,” led him to say, “My family is poor in Manasseh, and I am the least in my father’s house.” Moreover, he was far from a perfect man. The men that God are raising up to-day have many faults; it is the easiest thing in the world to find fault with them. I never knew a man or woman whom God specially raised up and I was heartily rejoicing in their work, but I got letter after letter to tell me of their faults. Thank God, He does not require perfect servants, or there would be no chance for any of us. We have yet to meet the man or woman who would suit Him, if that were His requirement; but you never see a man or woman used by God that has not profound faith in God, and intense love for the honour and glory of His name. I believe that where these are found, God will greatly use the humblest person in this building.
But we must not linger any longer on Gideon’s personal history. It is a study I intensely love. Read Gideon on your knees; spell out the story of his power; and may God give us earnestly to long to know that power, each one of us, in our daily lives, for Him. But, passing on, it says in Judges vi. 34, “The Spirit of the Lord came upon Gideon,” or, as the margin says, “clothed Gideon”—that is the garment----“the Spirit of the Lord clothed Gideon, and he blew a trumpet; and Abiezer was gathered after him. And he sent messengers throughout all Manasseh; who also were gathered after him, and he sent messengers unto Asher, and unto Zebulun, and unto Naphtali; and they came up to meet them.” Now you find that there were 32,000 gathered together. 32,000 Christian workers—that is thirty-two thousand that have listened to the trumpet sound, and they are Christian workers. God forbid I should say they are not; but I want you to be found in a smaller company than that. I want you to see the winnowing process, and I pray God that you may be able to stand it----I mean the dear choir, those in the Evangelistic Mission, I mean everyone here to-night as a Christian worker. 32,000! that is a grand response; but what does God say? “There are too many here.” Ah! God says, “I must thin that company.” Beloved friends, I believe that is what is going on every day. I do not, as it were, ask you to be a Gideon; I leave that for the moment, though I believe that holy ambition is the secret of success. They say in France, that every conscript carries in his knapsack the field-marshal’s baton. There is nothing to hinder the raw country boy, enlisted in a village in France, rising to be the field-marshal of the armies of France—that is his ambition. Now I say, “Covet earnestly the best gifts.” Our warfare is not carnal, but spiritual; but people often need to feel that “every conscript carries in his knapsack the field-marshal’s baton,” that he may rise to be, by God’s grace, the leader of God’s people. You say that I am wrong in putting that before you? God’s Word warrants it: we are told in 1 Corinthians xii. 31, to covet, or desire, spiritual gifts----the best gifts.
Thirty-two thousand, God says, are too many. I want you to see
THE DOUBLE WINNOWING PROCESS.
First, “Go to, proclaim in the ears of the people, saying, “Whosoever is fearful and afraid.” Look at Deuteronomy xx. 8. You will find that is the regulation proclamation. God will not have a coward in His army. It is not a question of numbers. What man is there that is fearful and faint-hearted? God tells the officers of His host to say, “Let him go and return unto his house.” Why? Because he will discourage his brethren. “Lest his brethren’s heart melt as well as his heart.” It is a grand thing to have faith in God. “And there returned of the people”—oh, dear, dear, dear, dear! 32,000 started, and two out of three go back! My beloved friends, I do say every one of us knows that is true in the year 1888. Ah! now look at it. How many of you are sticking earnestly to the work God has given you to do? I was saying the other day to someone who is not at preacher, not gifted in public speaking at all, “I believe a grand service is done by any man who will be at the meeting every time the door is open.” That is what we miss. I do not know much about church organization; but where God’s people are gathered together in any locality, what is most lacking is those who know every sheep by the head-mark. I used to work amongst a lot of young people near King’s Cross. Unless I was out of town, or some special hindrance, I think I was there every time the door opened. I used to say to the young people often, “I can tell how you are going on by the way you shake hands with me.” I could tell in a moment. Now, my brethren and sisters, there are those whom God has put down in Blank Street, or wherever it is—that is your job, your work, stick to it; be there every time the door is open; watch over the young people; and though you may never be called to service, in the sense of preaching, you will do a work that will----I was going to say—pay. I like work to pay in result; I like to see result. If men preach the Gospel, I like to see conversions. If they shepherd the sheep, I like to see them feeding happily and healthily. Whatever God gives you to do, never miss it. It may be the prayer meeting, and it is wet, and you are tired. I remember a dear fellow who used to work at a blacking factory, and if he could only get in a little before the finish, there he would come in, black as [coal]. But he was right, was not that a refreshment at the end of the day? Go, in faith and love, to precious souls, and you will find that God will bless you. But do not be afraid; oh, do not be afraid. Be afraid of yourself, as much as ever you like; but afraid of God, or afraid of God’s people, never! The love that hopeth all things, believeth all things, is a grand thing; it is the oil that makes the machine go easily. 22,000 are gone. Dear me! do you mean to say two out of three have gone home? They were not fit for God’s service. God, send us on our knees with that thought before us—O Lord, do not send me home. Even if we are timid by nature, faith nerves the feeble arm to fight. Why is it such a crime to be afraid? Because God is with us, because Jehovah is with us, because we are fighting the battles of Jehovah; and, like the little shepherd boy David, when he met the uncircumcised Philistines, our enemies have defied the armies of the Lord. That is the great point. If I think of that, how can I be afraid?
The next thing is that God says,
“THERE ARE TOO MANY YET.”
I speak now for a moment to those who are shepherds of the sheep. There are two things here: God says in effect, “Gideon, do your part, and I will do mine.” What does He say? “Gideon, bring them down to the water,” then “I will try them for thee there.” To those who are leaders amongst God’s people, I say, Have you brought them to the water? What is that? I believe we shall find in John vi. what that means. Look at it on your knees. When our blessed Lord tells them, “Except ye eat the flesh of the Son of Man, and drink His blood, ye have no life in you,” “from that time many of His disciples went back, and walked no more with Him.” May God give us so to minister His Word that it shall have a sifting, testing power on all who hear it.
“The time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears.” If ever there was a moment when the pure water of God’s Word was needed, it is now. We want to study it more, my brethren; to feel we do not know anything yet as we ought to know; we want to ask God what sin means, what justification by the blood of Christ means, what the righteousness of God means; we want to ask Him to burn into our souls the Gospel expressions that are as familiar to us as A, B, C. I say to every teacher and preacher, May God help us to bring the people to the water. “I will try them for thee there.” Thank God, I have not to try them. Thank God, I have not to root up the tares; I have not to say who is God’s servant and who is not, who are the wheat and who are not; but God will test them. God will test every one of us; we must all be manifest at the Judgment-Seat of Christ. What does He say? It is very beautiful and simple. The test was: the one that just laps the water and runs, is to go; the one that goes down on all fours and has a good drink is to stay behind. “Use this world as not abusing it, for the fashion of this world passeth away.” Ah! my dear young friends, depend upon it; it is the love of the world that spoils and mars Christian workers.
“LOVE NOT THE WORLD,
neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” It does not say he is not saved; it does not say he is not washed in the blood of Christ; but how can the love of the Father be found in the heart of one who loves the world that crucified His beloved Son? We pass through it as pilgrims and strangers. We use it—there is no unreality about this—what God gives us, we gladly use, but we take it with a light hand, and----ON! I could easily enlarge, but may God try you here. I will not say more, but I want to put before every young man here to-night the field-marshal’s baton in the knapsack. I want you to have in your hearts this earnest desire—By God’s grace, I will be one of the 300. I want that to be a real, simple, practical, earnest desire in your hearts tonight.
That does not mean, I belong to the Evangelistic Mission----I am comparing that to the 32,000. I do honestly mean that I want you to go down on your knees to-night, and I want you, by God’s grace, to have that ambition. I know we are waiting for our blessed Lord and Master. God forgive me if I even appear to put anything before your souls to hide that blessed hope; but if the Lord leaves us here, it is not that we may just get to Heaven ourselves, and pass muster as workers in the Evangelistic Mission, but that in that Mission, in the army of Christian workers, we may not simply belong to the 32,000, or be content with a place in the 10,000, but that our ambition, by God’s grace, may be to belong to Gideon’s 300. I must not say more, but I do want you to put that home to your hearts to-night. If you do not understand, remember the words; if you do not know what the words mean, turn to the Book, and, certainly, you will see what they mean. I do not want you to think of it in connection with any on the platform, or any whose names you may know, but think of it for thyself. May God give us that holy, blessed ambition as the spring of the life of every dear saved young man and woman in this company.
“Footsteps of Truth” 1888.