‘Thou shouldest have smitten five or six times; then hadst thou smitten Syria till thou hadst consumed it: whereas now thou shalt smite Syria but thrice.’ 2 Kings 13:19
Suggested Further Reading: Matthew 9:35–10:7
Point me to a single period in the history of the church where God has worked without instrumentality, and I will tell you that I suspect whether God has worked at all if I do not see the instruments he has employed. Take the Reformation, can you think of it without thinking of God? At the same time, can you mention it without the names of Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, and Melanchthon? Then in the later revival in England, when our slumbering churches were suddenly started from their sleep, who did it? The Holy Spirit himself: but you cannot talk of the revival without mentioning the names of Whitefield and Wesley, for God worked by means then, and he works by means still. I need to notice a remark which was made concerning the revival in the north of Ireland, that there seemed to be no prominent instrumentality. The moment I saw that, I mistrusted it. Had it been God’s work more fully developed through instrumentality, I believe it would not have so speedily come to a close. We grant you that God can work without means, and even when he uses means he still takes the glory to himself, for it is all his own; yet it has been the rule, and will be the rule till the day of means shall come to an end; that just as God saved man by taking upon himself man’s flesh, so everywhere in the world he calls men by speaking to them through men of their own flesh and blood. God incarnates himself—in his Spirit, incarnates himself in the chosen men, especially in his church, in which he dwells as in a temple; and then through that church he is pleased to bless the world.
For meditation: We have Scriptural precedents for praying for revival (Psalm 85:6; Habakkuk 3:2); there is a danger of that becoming too vague and general—a ‘Lord, bless us’ prayer, so we have a more specific instruction from our Saviour himself—we are to pray for workers (Luke 10:2).
Sermon no. 569
13 March (Preached 22 March 1864)