A Lesson from Nelson
James Smith, 1859
I have read that when Nelson was about to engage in one of his great sea battles, he required Collingwood and Rotherham, who were at variance, to shake hands like Englishmen. Combined and united effort was required. It was no time for disagreeing or for fostering old animosities. Spirit, courage, and determined action were necessary. Therefore, said the great warrior, "Look on the enemies' lines, shake hands, and be friends."
What a lesson for us! With the world, the flesh, and the devil combined against us; it is no time for us to argue about trifles, to encourage any bad feelings against one another, or to keep aloof from each other. Rather, we ought to look upon our enemies' lines and shake hands like Christians. Let us, overlooking our personal conflicts with the flesh and Satan, confine our thoughts to the world which is to be subdued for Jesus.
Here we see error, superstition, and enmity against God — embodied in a thousand forms. Here we see a fixed determination, founded in ignorance, that the Lord Jesus Christ shall not reign. At our own doors, yes, often in our own houses, as well as in our villages, towns, and cities — we see a deadly opposition shown to the Son of God. There is salvation in none other — and yet to no other is such deadly hatred felt, such reckless opposition shown. In every part of the world, in all its countries, continents, and islands, as well as in our own beloved land, we see the same spirit manifested, the same course pursued, and the same fearful consequences apparent.
Hell is filling!
Earth is ripening for the sorest judgments!
Men are perishing by thousands — by millions!
The only means of saving souls, is by spreading the truth, and preaching Jesus. The only parties who have the truth to spread, and who are qualified or commissioned to preach Jesus, are Christians; and Christians at most are but a very small minority. Is it not lamentable then, to see Christians contending with each other, spending their time and wasting their energies in contention about forms, modes of worship, or mere trifles — while the world lies in the wicked One, and millions perish in their sins? Is it not enough to make every true-hearted servant of Christ cry out: "Look on the enemies' lines, and shake hands like Christians!"
Yes, if you have any love to Jesus — if you have any zeal for God — if you have any pity for perishing souls — if you would not allow Satan still to lead the majority of mankind captive at his will — stop your contentions, make up your differences, and go forth to the help of the Lord, to the help of the Lord against the mighty.
If souls are to be saved, they must be saved by individuals. If souls are to be saved, they must be saved by individual effort. And if souls are to be saved by individual effort, then every Christian should look upon it as the grand end of his life to save souls from death. Not a day should be lost! Not an opportunity should be allowed to pass by unimproved! Not a soul within the reach of our influence should be allowed to perish without an effort — an effort made by us — an effort made on purpose to rescue the soul from Hell!
Brethren, we have been utterly in the wrong. Our contentions are the source of our weakness; our contentions are our disgrace. The army of God's elect should be united — united against Satan, sin, and the ruin of souls — and, as united, go forth to conquer the street, the village, the town, the city, the country, in which we live, for Jesus. Every soldier of the cross should act the part of a recruiting sergeant, and enlist others. Every minister of Christ should teach, stimulate, and urge on every one of his people to endeavor to take possession of the world for Christ. Oh, what might not be done — if only the Lord's people knew their duty, loved their duty, and did their duty! If each separate Christian saw — and felt — that it was both his duty and his privilege to turn souls to Jesus! If from this moment, the Lord's people would arise as one man, and each one alone, and all united in spirit, object, and view — seek to save souls!
Brethren in Jesus, sisters in the Lord, we cry aloud to you, we beseech you "Look on the enemies' lines, lay aside your contentions, agree to differ in some points, give each other the hand, and the heart, like Christians — and go forth conquering, and to conquer." Hate nothing but sin. Do not keep aloof from professing Christians, for anything but sin. Put on the whole armor of God; display your banner, and let the inscription on it be, "The world for Christ! The world for Christ!" And, with this banner floating in the breeze, aim to make a convert of every soul you come near; make a direct effort for this purpose; and persevere in doing so, until you succeed, or are obliged to turn to another.