Early Piety—Eminent Piety
A Sermon By C. H. Spurgeon, delivered on October 19, 1884, at the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington, #1804
"I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth." 1 Kings 18:12
I suspect that Elijah did not think very much of Obadiah. He does not treat him with any great consideration—but addresses him more sharply than one would expect from a fellow-believer. Elijah was the man of action—bold, always to the front, with nothing to conceal. Obadiah was a quiet believer, true and steadfast—but in a very difficult position, and therefore driven to perform his duty in a less open manner. His faith in the Lord swayed his life—but did not drive him out of Ahab's court. I notice that even after Elijah had learned more of him at this interview, he speaks concerning God's people as if he did not reckon much upon Obadiah, and others like him. He says, "They have thrown down Your altars, and slain Your prophets with the sword; and I, even I only, am left; and they seek my life, to take it away!" He knew very well that Obadiah was left, who, though not exactly a prophet, was a man of God; but he seems to ignore him as if he were of small account in the great struggle. I suppose it was because this man of iron, this prophet of fire and thunder, this mighty servant of the Most High God, set small store by anybody who did not come to the front and fight like himself.
I know it is the tendency of brave and zealous minds, somewhat to undervalue quiet, retired piety. True and accepted servants of God may be doing their best under great disadvantages, against fierce opposition—but they may scarcely be known, and may even shun the least recognition; therefore men who live in the fierce light of public life are apt to under-estimate them. These minor stars are lost in the brilliance of the man whom God lights up like a new sun to flame through the darkness.
Elijah flashed over the sky of Israel like a thunderbolt from the hand of the Eternal God, and naturally he would be somewhat impatient of those whose movements were slower and less conspicuous. It is Martha and Mary over again—in some respects. The Lord does not love that His servants, however great they are, should think lightly of their lesser comrades, and it occurs to me that He so arranged matters that Obadiah became important to Elijah when he had to face the wrathful king of Israel. The prophet is bidden to go and show himself to Ahab, and he does so; but he judges it better to begin by showing himself to Obadiah, who was in charge of Ahab's palace, that Obadiah may break the news to his master, and prepare him for the interview. Ahab was exasperated by the terrible results of the long drought, and might in his sudden fury attempt to kill the prophet; and so he is to have time for consideration, that he may cool down a little.
Elijah has an interview with Obadiah, and bids him go and say to Ahab, "Behold, Elijah is here." It may sometimes be the nearest way to our object—to go a little round about. But it is remarkable that Obadiah should thus be made useful to a man so much his superior, He who never feared the face of kings nevertheless found himself using as his helper a far more timid individual.
The Lord may put you, my dear brother, who are so eminent, so useful, so brave and, perhaps, so severe, into a position in which the humbler and more retiring believer, who has not half the grace, nor half the courage that you have, may, nevertheless, become important to your mission! And when He does this, He would have you learn the lesson, and learn it well—that the Lord has a place for all His servants, and that He would not have us despise the least of them, but value them and cherish the good that is in them.
"The head must not say to the foot—I have no need of you!" Those members of the mystical body which are weakest—are yet necessary to the whole fabric. The Lord does not despise the day of small things, neither will He have His people do so. Elijah must not deal harshly with Obadiah. I wish that Obadiah had had more courage—I wish that he had testified for the Lord, His God, as openly as Elijah did—but still, every man in his own order—to his own master every servant must stand or fall. All lights are not suns! Some are only stars and even one star differs from another star in glory. God has His praise out of the least known of His holy people—even as the night has its light out of those glimmering bodies which cannot be discerned as separate stars, but are portions of nebulous masses in which myriads of far off lights are melted into one.
We learn further from the narrative before us, that God will never leave Himself without witnesses in this world. Yes, and He will not leave Himself without witnesses in the worst places of the world. What a horrible abode for a true believer, Ahab's court must have been! If there had been no sinner there but that woman Jezebel, she was enough to make the place a sink of iniquity. That strong-minded, proud, Sidonian Queen twisted poor Ahab round her fingers just as she pleased. He might never have been the persecutor he was—if his wife had not stirred him up; but she hated the worship of Jehovah intensely, and despised the plainness of Israel in comparison with the more pompous style of Sidon. Ahab must yield to her imperious demands, for she would brook no contradiction, and when her proud spirit was roused, she defied all opposition. Yet in that very court where Jezebel was mistress, Obadiah was a man who feared God greatly. Never be surprised to meet with a believer anywhere! Grace can live where you would never expect to see it survive for an hour!
Joseph feared God in the court of Pharaoh, Daniel was a trusted counselor of Nebuchadnezzar, Mordecai waited at the gate of Ahasuerus, Pilate's wife pleaded for the life of Jesus, and there were saints in Caesar's household. These are examples of finding diamonds on dunghills. Those who feared God in Rome were not only Christians—but they were examples to all other Christians for their brotherly love and generosity. Surely there is no place in this land where there is not some gospel light—the darkest cavern of iniquity has its gospel torch. Be not afraid; you may find followers of Jesus in the precincts of Pandemonium! In the palace of Ahab you meet an Obadiah who rejoices to hold fellowship with despised saints, and supplies the needs of persecuted Christians. "While Jezebel was killing off the Lord's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water!" 1 Kings 18:4
I notice that these witnesses for God are very often people converted in their youth. God seems to take a delight to make these His special standard-bearers in the day of battle. Look at Samuel! When all Israel became disgusted with the wickedness of Eli's sons the child Samuel ministered before the Lord. Look at David! When he is but a shepherd boy he wakes the echoes of the lone hills with his psalms and the accompanying music of his harp. See Josiah! When Israel had revolted—it was a child, Josiah by name, who broke down the altars of Baal and burned the bones of his priests. Daniel was but a youth when he took his stand for purity and God.
The Lord has today—I know not where—some little Luther on his mother's knee, some young Calvin learning in our Sunday-school, some youthful Zwingli singing a hymn to Jesus. This age may grow worse and worse; I sometimes think it will, for many signs look that way; but the Lord is preparing for it. The days are dark and ominous; and may darken down into a blacker night than has been known before; but God's cause is safe in God's hands! His work will not tarry for lack of men. Do not put forth the hand of Uzzah to steady the ark of the Lord—it shall go safely on in God's predestined way! Christ will not fail nor be discouraged. God buries His workmen—but His work lives on!
If there is not in the palace, a king who honors God—there shall yet be found there, one like Obadiah, who fears the Lord from his youth, who shall take care of the Lord's prophets, and hide them away until better days shall come.
Therefore be of good courage, and look for happier hours. Nothing of real value is in jeopardy—while Jehovah is on the throne. The Lord's young reserves are coming up, and their drums beat victory!
I wish to speak with you, this morning, concerning Obadiah. His piety is the subject of discourse and we wish to use it for stimulating the zeal of those who teach the young.
1. OBADIAH'S EARLY PIETY
"I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth." 1 Kings 18:12
Obadiah possessed early piety. Oh, that all our youth who may grow up to manhood and womanhood may be able to say the same! Happy are the people who are in such a case! How Obadiah came to fear the Lord in youth—we cannot tell. The instructor by whom he was led to faith in Jehovah, is not mentioned. Yet we may reasonably conclude that he had believing parents. As slender as this may seem to be, I think it is pretty firm, when I remind you of his name.
This would very naturally be given him by his father or his mother, and as it signifies "the servant of Jehovah," I would think it indicated his parent's piety. In the days when there was persecution everywhere against the faithful servants of Jehovah, and the name of Jehovah was in contempt: because the calves of Bethel and the images of Baal were set up everywhere, I do not think that unbelieving parents would have given to their child the name of "the servant of Jehovah," if they themselves had not felt a reverence for the Lord. They would not idly have courted the remarks of their idolatrous neighbors, and the enmity of Ahab and Jezebel. In a time when names meant something, they would have called him "the child of Baal," or "the servant of Chemosh," or some other name expressive of reverence to the popular gods—if the fear of God had not been before their eyes.
The selection of such a name, manifests to me their earnest desire that their boy might grow up to serve Jehovah, and never bow his knee before the abhorred idols of the Sidonian queen. Whether this is so or not, it is quite certain that thousands of the most intelligent believers owe their first bent towards godliness—to the sweet associations of home. How many of us might well have borne some such a name as that of Obadiah; for no sooner did we see the light—than our parents tried to enlighten us with the truth. We were consecrated to the service of God—before we knew that there was a God! Many a tear of earnest prayer fell on our infant brow; we were nursed in the atmosphere of devotion. There was scarcely a day in which we were not urged to be faithful servants of God, and entreated while we were yet young—to seek Jesus and give our hearts to Him. Oh, what we owe, many of us, to the Providence which gave us such a happy parentage! Blessed be God for His great mercy to the children of His chosen!
If he had no gracious parents, I cannot tell how Obadiah came to be a believer in the Lord in those sad days, unless he fell in with some kind teacher, tender nurse, or perhaps godly servant in his father's house, or pious neighbor—who dared to gather little children round about him and tell of the Lord God of Israel. Some holy woman may have instilled the Law of the Lord into his young mind before the priests of Baal could poison him with their falsehoods.
No mention is made of anybody in connection with this man's conversion in his youth—and it does not matter, does it? You and I do not want to be mentioned if we are humble-hearted servants of God. Not unto us be the glory! If souls are saved, God has the honor of it! He knows what instrument He has used—and as He knows it, that is enough. The favor of God is fame enough for a believer. All the blasts of fame's bronze trumpet are but so much wasted wind, compared with that one sentence from the mouth of God, "Well done, good and faithful servant!"
Go on, dear Teachers—since you are called to the sacred ministry of instructing the young, do not grow weary of it! Go on, though you may be unknown, for the seed you sow in the darkness, shall be reaped in the light! You may be teaching an Obadiah, whose name shall be heard in future years—you may be providing a father for the Church and a benefactor for the world! Though your name is forgotten, your work shall not be. When that illustrious day shall dawn, compared with which all other days are dim—when the unknown shall be made known to the assembled universe—what you have spoken in darkness shall be declared in the light!
If it were not in this way that Obadiah was brought to fear the Lord in his youth, we may think of methods such as the Lord devises for the bringing in of His banished. I have been very pleased, lately, when I have been seeing enquirers, to talk with several young people who have come out from utterly worldly families. I put to them the question, "Is your father a member of a Christian Church?" The answer has been a shake of the head. "Does he attend a place of worship?" "No, Sir, I never knew him to go to one." "What about your mother?" "Mother does not care about religion." "Have you any brother or sister like-minded with yourself?" "No, Sir." "Have you any single relative who knows the Lord?" "No, Sir." "Were you brought up by anyone who led you to attend the means of Grace and urged you to believe on the Lord Jesus?" "No, Sir, and yet from my childhood I have always had a desire to know the Lord."
Is it not remarkable that it should be so? What a wonderful proof of the Election of Grace! Here is one taken out of a family—while all the rest are left! What do you say to this? Here is one called in early childhood and prompted by the secret whispers of the Spirit of God to seek after the Lord—while all the rest of the family slumber in midnight darkness! If that is your case, dear friend, magnify the Sovereignty of God and adore Him as long as you live, for, "He will have mercy on whom He will have mercy."
Still, I take it, the major part of those who come to know the Lord in their youth, are people who have had the advantage of godly parents and holy training. Let us persevere in the use of those means which the Lord ordinarily uses, for this is the way of wisdom and duty.
This early piety of Obadiah's had special marks of genuineness about it. The way in which he described it is very instructive, "I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth." I hardly remember in all my life, to have heard the piety of children described in ordinary conversation by this term, though it is the common word of the Scriptures. We say, "The dear child loved God." We talk of their "being made so happy," and so forth, and I do not question the rightness of the language. Still, the Holy Spirit speaks of "the fear of the Lord" as "the beginning of wisdom;" and David says, "Come, you children, hearken unto me—I will teach you the fear of the Lord." Children will get great joy through faith in the Lord Jesus; but that joy, if true, is full of humble reverence and awe of the Lord.
You do not need that I should speak to you at large, upon the advantages of early piety. I will, therefore, only SUM them up in a few sentences. To be a believer in God early in life—is to be saved from a thousand regrets! Such a man shall never have to say that he carries in his bones—the sins of his youth. The Christian young man will not fall into the common sins of other young men, and injure his bodily health by excesses.
He will be likely to be married to a Christian woman, and so to have a holy companion in his march towards Heaven.
Early piety helps us to form friendships for the rest of life which will prove helpful—and it saves us from those which are harmful. He will select as his associates, those who will be his friends in the church—and not in the tavern. They will be his helpers in virtue—and not his tempters to vice. Depend upon it—a great deal depends upon whom we choose for our companions in early life. If we start in bad company—it is very hard to break away from it.
The man brought to Christ early in life has this further advantage—that he is helped to form holy habits—and he is saved from being the slave of their opposites. Habits soon become a second nature; to form new ones is hard work; but those formed in youth—remain in old age.
Moreover, I notice that, very frequently, those who are brought to Christ while young, grow in grace more rapidly and readily than others do. They have not so much to unlearn, and they have not such a heavy weight of old sinful memories to carry. The scars and bleeding sores which come from having spent years in the service of the devil—are missed by those whom the Lord brings into His church, before they have wandered far into the sinful pleasures of this evil world.
Early piety also has its bearing upon others—and I cannot too highly commend it. How attractive it is! Grace looks loveliest in youth. That which would not be noticed in the grown-up man, strikes at once the most careless observer when seen in a child. Grace in a child has a convincing force—the infidel drops his weapon and admires. A word spoken by a child abides in the memory, and its artless accents touch the heart. Where the minister's sermon fails—the child's prayer may gain the victory.
Moreover, piety in children suggests encouragement to those of riper years; for others seeing the little one saved say to themselves, "Why should not I also be saved?" By a certain secret power it opens closed doors—and turns the key in the lock of unbelief. Where nothing else could win a way for truth—a child's love has done it. It is still true, "From the lips of babes and infants, you have ordained praise because of your enemies, to silence the foe and the avenger." Psalm 8:2
Go on, go on, dear teachers, to promote this most precious of all things beneath the sky—true religion in the heart—especially in the heart of the young! I have taken up, perhaps, too much time upon this early piety and, therefore, I will only give you hints, in the next place, as to its results.
II. Youthful piety leads on to PERSEVERING PIETY.
"Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace. (Obadiah was a devout believer in the LORD. While Jezebel was killing off the LORD's prophets, Obadiah had taken a hundred prophets and hidden them in two caves, fifty in each, and had supplied them with food and water.) 1 Kings 18:3-4
Obadiah could say, "I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth." Time had not changed him; whatever his age may have been, his piety had not decayed. We are all fond of novelty, and I have known some men go wrong, as it were, for a desire for something new. It is not burning quickly to the death in martyrdom that is the hard work; the slow roasting over hot coals is a far more dreadful test of firmness. To continue gracious during a long life of temptation—is to be gracious indeed.
For the grace of God to convert a man like Paul, who is full of threatenings against the saints, is a great marvel. But for the grace of God to preserve a believer for ten, twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years—is quite as great a miracle and deserves more of our praise than it usually commands. Obadiah was not affected by the lapse of many years; he was found to be when old—exactly what he was when young!
Nor was he carried away by the fashion of those evil times. To be a servant of Jehovah was thought to be a base thing, old-fashioned, ignorant, a thing of the past. But the worship of Baal was the fashion and idol of the day. All the court worshiped the god of Sidon, and all the courtiers went in the same way. My lord worshiped Baal, and my lady worshiped Baal—for the Queen worshiped Baal. But Obadiah said, "I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth." Blessed is the man who cares nothing for the FASHION, for it passes away. If for a while it rages towards evil—what has the believing man to do but to abide steadfastly by the right?
Obadiah was not even affected by the absence of the means of grace. The priests and Levites had fled into Judah—and the prophets had been killed or hidden away—and there was no public worship of Jehovah in Israel. The temple was far away at Jerusalem; therefore Obadiah had no opportunity of hearing anything that could strengthen him or encourage him; yet he held on his way, fearing the Lord. I wonder how long some professors would keep up their profession—if there were no places of worship, no Christian associations, no ministrations of the Word? But this man's fear of the Lord was so deep—that the absence of that which is usually needed for the sustenance of piety, did not cause him to decline.
May you and I personally feed upon the Lord Jesus in the secret of our souls, so that we may flourish even though we should be far removed from a profitable ministry! May the Holy Spirit make us steadfast and unmovable forever!
Added to this, there were the difficulties of his position, "Ahab had summoned Obadiah, who was in charge of his palace." 1 Kings 18:3. If he had pleased Jezebel and worshiped Baal—he might have been much easier in his situation, for he would have enjoyed her royal patronage; but there he was, governor in Ahab's house, and yet fearing Jehovah! He must have had to walk very delicately, and watch his words most carefully. I do not wonder that he became a very cautious person, and was a little afraid even of Elijah—lest Elijah should give him a commission which would lead to his destruction. He came to be extremely prudent, and looked on things round about—so as neither to compromise his conscience nor jeopardize his position.
It needs an uncommonly wise man to do that—and he who can accomplish it is to be commended. He did not run away from his position, nor retreat from his religion. If he had been forced to do wrong, I am sure he would have imitated the priests and Levites and have tied into Judah, where the worship of Jehovah continued. But he felt that without yielding to idolatry, he could do something for God in his advantageous position, and therefore he determined to stop and fight it out. When there is no hope of victory—you may as well retire; but he is the brave man who when the bugle sounds retreat—does not hear it; who puts his blind eye to the telescope—and cannot see the signal to cease firing—but just holds his position against all odds, and does all the damage he can to the enemy.
Obadiah was a man who did in truth "hold the fort," for he felt that when all the prophets were doomed by Jezebel, it was his part to stay near the tigress—and save the lives of at least a hundred servants of God from her cruel power. If he could not do more—he would not have lived in vain if he accomplished so much. I admire the man whose decision was equal to his prudence, though I should greatly fear to occupy so perilous a place. His course was something like walking on the tight rope over Niagra Falls. I would not like to try it myself, nor would I recommend any of you to attempt a feat so difficult.
The part of Elijah is much safer and grander. The prophet's course was plain enough; he had not to please—but to reprove Ahab; he had not to be wary—but to act in a bold outspoken manner for the God of Israel. How much the greater man he seems to be—when the two stand together in the scene before us. Obadiah falls on his face and calls him "My lord Elijah;" and well he might, for he was far Elijah's inferior. Yet it was a greater thing for Obadiah, that he could manage Ahab's household with Jezebel in it, and yet, for all that—win this commendation from the Spirit of God, that he feared the Lord greatly! He persevered, too, notwithstanding his success in life; and that I hold to be much to his credit.
There is nothing more perilous to a man—than to prosper in this world and become rich and respectable. Of course we desire it, wish for it, strive for it; but how many in winning it have lost all, as to spiritual wealth! The man used to love the people of God, and now he says, "They are a vulgar class of people." So long as he could hear the Gospel, he did not mind the architecture of the house. Now he has grown aesthetic and must have a spire, gothic architecture, a marble pulpit, priestly millinery, a conservatory in the Church and all sorts of pretty things! As he has filled his pockets—he has emptied his brains and especially emptied his heart! He has got away from truth and principle, in proportion as he has made an advance in his estate. This is a mean business, which, at one time, he would have been the first to condemn. There is no chivalry in such conduct—it is dastardly to the last degree! God save us from it!
But a great many people are not saved from it! Their religion is not a matter of Scriptural principle—but a matter of selfish interest; it is not the pursuit of the Truth of God—but a hankering after society, whatever that may mean! It is not their objective to glorify God—but to get rich husbands for their girls! It is not conscience that guides them—but the hope of being able to invite Sir John to dinner with them and of dining at the Country Club in return. Do not think I am being sarcastic—I speak in sober sadness of things which make one feel ashamed. I hear of them daily, though they do not personally affect me, or this Church. God send us men of the stuff of John Knox, or, if you prefer it, of the adamantine metal of Elijah! And if these should prove too stiff and stern, we could even be content with such men as Obadiah! Possibly these last might be harder to produce than Elijahs—but with God all things are possible!
III. Obadiah, with his early grace and persevering decision, became a man of EMINENT PIETY.This is the more remarkable considering what he was and where he was. Eminent piety in King Ahab's court! This is, indeed, a wonder of grace! This man's religion was intense within him. If he did not make the open use of it that Elijah did—he was not called to such a career. But it dwelt deep within his soul and others knew it. Jezebel knew it, I have no doubt whatever. She did not like him—but she had to endure him. She looked askance at him—but she could not dislodge him. Ahab had learned to trust him and could not do without him, for he probably furnished him with a little strength of mind.
Possibly Ahab liked to retain him just to show Jezebel that he could be obstinate if he liked and was still a man! I have noticed that the most yielding husbands like to indulge in some notion that they are not quite governed by their spouses—and it is possible that for this reason Ahab retained Obadiah in his position. At any rate, there he was, and he never yielded to Ahab's sin, nor countenanced his idolatry. Account for it how you may—it is an amazing circumstance that in the center of rebellion against God, there was one whose devotion to God was intense and distinguished! As it is horrible to find a Judas among the Apostles—so it is astonishing to discover an Obadiah among Ahab's courtiers. What grace must have been at work to maintain such a fire in the midst of the sea, such godliness in the midst of the vilest iniquity!
And his eminent piety was very practical, for when Jezebel was slaying the Prophets, he hid them away from her—100 of them. I do not know how many servants of the Lord any of you support—but I have not the privilege of knowing any gentleman who sustains 100 ministers! This man's hospitality was on a grand scale. He fed them with the best he could find for them and risked his life for them from the search of the queen, by hiding them away in caves. He not only used his purse—but risked his life when a price was set upon these men's heads. How many among us would place our lives in jeopardy for one of the Lord's servants? At any rate, Obadiah's fear of the Lord brought forth precious fruit and proved itself to be a powerful principle of action.
His godliness was such, too, that it was recognized by the believers of the day. I feel sure of that, because Obadiah said to Elijah, "Haven't you heard, my lord, what I did while Jezebel was killing the prophets of the LORD? I hid a hundred of the LORD's prophets in two caves, fifty in each, and supplied them with food and water?" Now, Elijah was the well-known head and leader of the followers of Jehovah throughout that whole nation, and Obadiah was a little astonished that somebody had not told the great Prophet about his deed. Though his generous act may have been concealed from Jezebel and the Baalites, it was well known among the servants of the living God. He was well reported of among those whose good report is worth having. It was whispered about among them that they had a friend at court, that Obadiah, the governor of Ahab's palace, was on their side. If anybody could rescue a Prophet, he could and, therefore, the Prophets of God felt secure in giving themselves up to his care. They knew that he would not betray them to the bloodthirsty Jezebel. Their coming to him and confiding in him shows that his faithfulness was well known and highly esteemed. Thus he was strong enough in Divine Grace to be a leader recognized by the godly party.
Early piety—is likely to become eminent piety; the man who is likely to greatly fear God—is the man who serves God early! You know the old proverb, "He who would thrive—must rise at five." It is as applicable to piety as to anything else! He who would thrive with God—must be with God early in his days. He who would make great progress in the heavenward race—must not lose a moment! Let me urge young people to think of this and give their hearts to God even now!
Sunday school teachers! You may be training today—the men who will keep the truth of God alive in this land in years to come—the men who will take care of God's servants and be their best allies—the men and women who will win souls to Christ! Go on with your holy work! You do not know whom you have around you. You might well imitate the tutor who took his hat off to the boys in his school, because he did not know what they would turn out to be. Think very highly of your class—you cannot tell who may be there—but assuredly, you may have among them some who shall be, in years to come, pillars in the house of God!
IV. Obadiah's early religion became COMFORTABLE PIETY to him afterwards.When he thought Elijah was about to expose him to great danger, he pleaded his long service to God, saying, "I, your servant, have feared the Lord from my youth," just as David, when he grew old, said, "O God, You have taught me from my youth: and up to now have I declared Your wondrous works; now, also, when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not."
It will be a great comfort to you young people, when you grow old, to look back upon a life spent in the service of God. You will not trust in it. You will not think that there is any merit in it—but you will bless God for it! A servant who has been with his master from his youth ought not to be turned adrift when he grows gray. A right-minded master respects the person who has served him long and well. Suppose you had, living in the family, an old nurse who had nursed you when you were a child and had lived to bring up your children—would you turn her into the street when she was past her work age? No! You will do your best for her. If it is in your power, you will keep her out of the workhouse.
Now, the Lord is much more kind and gracious than we are, and He will never turn away His old servants. I anticipate the time when I shall not be able to do all that I now do. You and I may look forward, a little, to the nearing period when we shall pass from middle life to declining years—and we may be assured that our Lord will take care of us to the last. Let us do our diligence to serve Him while we have health and strength, and we may be sure that He is not unrighteous to forget our work of faith and labor of love. It is not His way! "Having loved His own which were in the world—He loved them to the end."
Oh, believe me, there is no better crutch on which an old man can lean—than the fact of God's love to him when he was young! You cannot have a better outlook to your window when your eyes begin to fail—than to remember how you went after the Lord in the days of your youth and devoted your vigor to His service!
Dear young people, if any of you are living in sin, I beg you to remember that if you are seeking the pleasures of this world, today—you will have to pay for it, by-and-by! "Rejoice, young man, while you are young, and let your heart be glad in the days of your youth. And walk in the ways of your heart and in the sights of your eyes; but know that for all of these things God will bring you to judgment!" If your childhood is vanity and your youth is wickedness, your later days will be sorrow. Oh, that you would be wise and offer to Christ your flower in its bud with all its beauty upon it! You can not be too soon holy, for you can not be too soon happy! A truly merry life must begin in the great Father's house.
And you, teachers, go on teaching the young the ways of God! In these days the State is giving them secular instruction all day long—six days in the week. Pious teaching is greatly needed to balance it—or we shall soon become a nation of infidels! Secular teaching is all very well and good—we never stand in the way of any sort of light—but teaching that does not have piety blended with it—will simply help men to be bigger rascals than they would be without it! A rogue with a short crowbar is bad enough—but a rogue with a pen and a set of account books, robs a hundred for the other's one! Under our present regimen of state education, children will grow up with greater capacity for mischief—unless the fear of the Lord is set before them and they are taught in the Scriptures and the Gospel of our Lord Jesus. Instead of relaxing Sunday-school efforts, we shall be wise to greatly increase them!
As to you that have grown old in sin, I cannot talk to you about early piety—but there is a passage of Scripture which ought to give you great hope. Remember how the landowner went out at the 3rd, the 6th, the 9th and, at last, at the 11th hour and found some still standing in the marketplace idle? It was late, was it not? Very late. But, blessed be God, it was not too late! They had but one hour left—but the master said, "Go, work in my vineyard, and whatever is right I will give you."
Now you 11th-hour people, you people of sixty, sixty-five, seventy, seventy-five, eighty—you may still come and enlist in the service of the gracious Lord! He will give you your "full day's wage" at the close of the day even as He will give to the rest of the laborers! May the Lord bring you to His feet by faith in Christ. Amen.