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The Best War Cry

by Charles H. Spurgeon

NO. 1709

“The Lord his God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” —
Numbers 23:21.

IT was a singular spectacle to see the king of Moab and his lords climbing
to the tops of the craggy rocks, accompanied by that strange being, the
Eastern prophet Balaam. They are seeking to look upon Israel with the evil
eye, and flash down curses upon her tents in the plain beneath. You see
them gazing down from the mountains upon the encampment in the
wilderness below, even as vultures from aloft spy out their prey. They
watch with keen and cruel eyes. Cunning and malice are in their
countenances. How Balak longs to crush the nation which he fears! They
are secretly endeavoring by spell and enchantment to bring evil upon the
people whom Jehovah has chosen and led into the wilderness. You see
them offering their seven bullocks and their seven rams upon the seven
altars which they have set up upon Pisgah’s rocks; and Balaam retires to
wait until the afflatus shall come upon him, and he shall be able to
prophesy. In all probability Moses knew nothing about this at the time; and
certainly the people below knew nothing of the foul conspiracy. There lay
the tribes in the valley, unaware that mischief was brewing, and quite
unable to meet the dark design even if they had been aware of
it. What a mercy it was for them that they were guarded by a Watcher, and
a holy one, whose eyes can never slumber. How true it is- “I the Lord do
keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night
and day.” The Lord’s eyes are fixed upon Balaam the hireling, and Balak
the son of Zippor: in vain do they weave the enchantment and work the
divination; they shall be utterly ashamed and confounded. They were
baffled in their machinations, and utterly defeated in their schemes, and that
for one single reason: it is written, “JEHOVAH SHAMMAH — the Lord is
there. God’s presence in the midst of his people is as a wall of fire round
about them, and a glory in their midst. The Lord is their light and their
salvation, whom shall they fear?

At this present time God has a people, a remnant according to the election
of grace, who still dwell like sheep in the midst of wolves. When, as a part
of the Lord’s church, we look at our surroundings, we see much that might
cause us alarm; for never, either day or night, is Satan quiet. Like a roaring
lion he goeth about, seeking whom he may devour: he plots in secret his
crafty devices; if it were possible he would deceive even the very elect.
This prince of darkness has on earth many most diligent servants,
compassing sea and land to make proselytes, laying out all their strength,
and using all their craft and cunning if by any means they may destroy the
kingdom of God, and blot out the truth from under heaven. It is saddest of
all to see certain men who know the truth in some degree, as Balaam did,
entering into league with the adversary against the true Israel. These
combine their arts, and use all possible means that the gospel of the grace
of God, and the church that holds it, may utterly he destroyed. If the
church be not destroyed it will be no thanks to her enemies, for they would
swallow her up quick. When we look upon the signs of the times our heart
grows heavy; for iniquity abounds, the love of many waxes cold, many
false spirits have gone abroad into the earth, and some whom we looked
upon as helpers are proving themselves to be of another order. What then?
Are we dismayed? By no means, for that same God who was in the midst
of the church in the wilderness is in the church of these last days. Again
shall her adversaries be defeated. Still will he defend her, for the Lord has
built his church upon a rock, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against
her. The reason of her safety is this

“God in the midst of her doth dwell;
Nothing shall her remove;
The Lord to her a helper shall,
And that right early, prove.”

Our text declares the grand safeguard of the church of God, ensuring her
against every peril known and unknown, earthly or Satanic:- “Jehovah his
God is with him, and the shout of a king is among them.” 
May the Holy Spirit help me while I try to speak first upon God’s presence
with his people; secondly, upon the results of that presence; and. thirdly,
upon how, by the grace of God, that presence may be preserved
continually amongst us.

I. First, let me speak a little upon GOD’S PRESENCE AMONG HIS PEOPLE. It
is an extraordinary presence, for God’s ordinary and usual presence is
everywhere. Whither shall we flee from his presence? He is in the highest
heaven and in the lowest hell; the hand of the Lord is upon the high hills,
and his power is in all deep places. This knowledge is too high and
wonderful for us: yet everywhere is God, for in him we live and move and
have our being. Still there is a peculiar presence; for God was among his
people in the wilderness as he was not among the Moabites and the
Edomites their foes, and God is in his church as he is not in the world. It is
a peculiar promise of the covenant that God will dwell with his people and
walk among them. By the gift of the Holy Spirit the Lord is with us and in
us at this hour. He saith of his church, “Here will I dwell, for I have desired
it.” This is much more than God’s being about us; it includes the favor of
God towards us, his consideration of us, his working with us. An active
nearness to bless is the presence of which we speak.

Here we may say with great reverence that God is with his people in the
entireness of his nature. The Father is with us, for the Father himself loveth
us. Like as a father pitieth his children, so the Lord pitieth them that fear
him. He is near to us, supplying our needs, guiding our steps, helping us in
time, and tutoring us for eternity. God is where his children are, hearing
every groan of their sorrow, marking every tear of their distress. The
Father is in the midst of his family, acting a father’s part towards them.
“Lord, thou hast been our dwelling-place in all generations.” He is never
far from any into whose breasts he has put the spirit of adoption whereby
we cry, “Abba, Father!” Come, ye children of God, rejoice in this: your
heavenly Father has come unto you, and abides with you. We have also the
presence of the divine Son of God. Said he not to his apostles, “La, I am
with you alway, even unto the end of the world”? Have we not this for our
joy whenever we come together, that we meet in his name, cud that he still
says, “Peace be unto you,” and manifests himself unto us as he doth not
unto the world. Many of you know most delightfully what it is to have
fellowship with God, for “truly our fellowship is with the Father, and with
his Son Jesus Christ”; and this fellowship were not ours if we were not
made nigh by his precious blood. Very near are we to the heart of Christ:
he dwells with us; yea, he is one with us. Peculiarly this presence relates to
the Holy Ghost. It is he who represents the Lord Jesus who has gone from
us. We have a double portion of Christ’s spirit, because we see him now
that he is taken up even as Elisha had a double portion of Elijah’s spirit,
according to the prophet’s saying, “If thou see me when I am taken from
thee, it shall be so unto thee”; that is, a double portion of my spirit shall
rest upon thee. It was expedient that our Lord and Master should go, that
the Spirit might be given. That Spirit once outpoured at Pentecost has
never been withdrawn. He is still in the midst of this dispensation, working,
guiding, quickening, comforting, exercising all the blessed office of the
Paraclete, and being for us and in us God’s advocate, pleading for the
truth, and for us. Yes, dear friends, the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit
are in the midst of the true church of God when that church is in a right
and healthy state; and if the triune God be gone away from the church, then
her banners must trail in the dust, for her warriors have lost their strength.
This is the glory of the church of God-to have the grace of the Lord Jesus
Christ, and the love of God the Father, and the communion of the Holy
Ghost to be her never-failing benediction. What a glory to have Father,
Son, and Holy Spirit manifesting the Godhead in the midst of our
assemblies, and blessing each one of us.

For God to dwell with us: what a condescending presence this is! And will
God in very truth dwell among men? If the heaven of heavens cannot
contain him, will he abide among his people? He will! He will! Glory be to
his name! “Know ye not that your bodies are the temples of the Holy
Ghost?” God dwelleth in us. Wonderful word! Who can fathom the depth
of this grace? The mystery of the incarnation is equalled by the mystery of
the indwelling. That God the Holy Ghost should dwell in our bodies is as
extraordinary as that God the Son should inhabit that body which was born
of the blessed virgin. Strange, strange is this, that the Creator should dwell
in his creatures, that the Infinite should tabernacle in finite beings. Yet so it
is; for he has said, “Certainly I will be with thee.”

What an awe this imparts to every true church of God! You may go in and
out of certain assemblies, and you may say, “Here we have beauty! here we
have adornment, musical, ecclesiastical, architectural, oratorical, and the
like!” but to my mind there is no worship like that which proceeds from a
man when he feels-the Lord is here. What a hush comes over the soul!
Here is the place for the bated breath, the unsandalled foot, and the
prostrate spirit. Now are we on holy ground. When the Lord descends in
the majesty of his infinite love to deal with the hearts of men, then it is with
us as it was in Solomon’s temple when the priests could not stand to
minister by reason of the glory that filled the place. Man is set aside, for
God is there. In such a case the most fluent think it better to be silent; for
there is at times more expressiveness in absolute silence than in the fittest
words. “How dreadful is. this place! this is none other but the house of
God, and this is the gate of heaven.” For why? Because Jacob had said,
“Surely the. Lord is in this place.” We regard the lowliest assemblies of the
most illiterate people with solemn reverence if God be there: we regard the
largest assemblies of the wealthiest and most renowned with utter
indifference if God be not there.

This is the one necessary of the church: the Lord God must be in the midst
of her, or she is nothing. If God be there, peace will be within her walls,
and prosperity within her palaces; but if the Lord be not there w’oe unto
the men that speak in his name, for they shall cry in bitterness, “Who hath
believed our report?” Woe unto the waiting people, for they shall go away
empty! Woe unto the sinners in a forsaken Zion, for them comes no
salvation! The presence of God makes the Church to be a joyful, happy,
solemn place: this brings glory to his name and peace to his people; but
without it all faces are pale,. all hearts are heavy.

Brethren, this presence of God is clearly discerned by the gracious, though
others may not know it. Yet methinks even the ungracious in a measure
perceive it,-coming into the assembly they are struck with a secret
something, they know not what; and if they do not immediately join in the
worship of the present God, yet a deep impression is made upon them
beyond any that could be caused by the sound of human speech, or by the
grandeur of outward show. They feel awed, and retire abashed. Certainly
the devil knows where God is,-none better than he. He hates the camp of
which Jehovah is the leader against it he doubles his enmity, multiplies his
plots, and exercises all his power. He knows where his kingdom finds its
bravest assailants, and he therefore attacks their head-quarters, even as did
Balaam and Balak of old.

Let us look at Balaam for a moment. May we never run in the way of
Balaam for a reward; but let us stand in his way for a moment that he may
be our beacon. This man had sold himself for gold, and though he knew
God and spoke under inspiration, yet he knew him not in his. heart, but
was willing to curse God’s people for hire. He was thwarted. in his design
because God was there. It is worth our while to see what kind of a God
Jehovah is in Balaam’s estimation. He describes our God in verse
nineteen,- “ God is not a man, that he should lie; neither the son of man,
that he should repent: hath he said, and shall he not do it? or bath he
spoken. and shall he not make it good?” Balaam perceived that the God
who was in the midst of his people is not a changeable God, not a false
God, not one who promises and forgets, or promises and eats his words, or
promises what he cannot and will not perform. The God of Israel is faithful
and true, immutable, unchanging: every one of his promises shall be
fulfilled: none of his words shall fall to the ground. “Hath he said, and shall
he not do it?-hath he spoken and shall it not come to pass?” What a joy it is
to have such a God as this among us,-a promise-making and a promise-keeping
God; a God at work for his people, as he has declared he would
be; a God comforting and cheering his people, and fulfilling in their
experience that which his word had led them to expect. This God is our
God for ever and ever: he shall be our guide even unto death.

My dear friends, we sometimes hear men talk of the failure of the church.
We are afraid that some churches do fail. Wherever failure occurs, the
bottom of it is the absence of the Lord of hosts, for he cannot fail. I heard
one, speaking of the district in which he lives, say, “We are a religions
people; almost all the people attend a place of worship, but,” he added, “I
am bound to add that of spiritual life we have few traces. One church has
given up its prayer-meetings; another feels that its entertainments are more
important than its worship, and another is notorious for worldliness.” This
is a testimony as terrible as it is common. The worst thing that can be said
of any Christian community is this: “Thou hast a name to live and art
dead.” “Thou art neither cold nor hot.” Our Lord Jesus says, “I would thou
wert cold or hot. So then because thou art lukewarm, and neither cold nor
hot, I will spue thee out of my mouth.” A church without life and zeal
makes Christ sick; he cannot bear it. He can put up with downright
godlessness sooner than with a profession of religion out of which the life
and the power arc gone, since it has cooled down into lukewarmness. This,
then we should pray for continually-the presence of God in the midst of his

“Great Shepherd of thine Israel
Who didst between the cherubs dwell,
And ledd’st the tribes, thy chosen sheep,
Safe through the desert and the deep

Thy church is in the desert now
Shine from on high, and guide us through;
Turn us to thee, thy love restore
We shall be saved, and sigh no more.”

II. To whet your desire for this let me pass on to the second head of my
subject, which is briefly to describe THE RESULTS OF THIS DIVINE
PRESENCE. Some of these results are mentioned in the context. One of the
first is leading- “ God brought them out of Egypt” (verse 22). The best
critics give us another rendering: “God is bringing them out of Egypt.”
When God is in the midst of his people he is leading them, so that we may
cheerfully sing that song, “He leadeth me; he leadeth me,” and go on with
David to word it, “He leadeth me beside the still waters.” We want no
other leader in the church when we have God; for his eye and arm will
guide his people. I am always afraid of having human rules in a church, and
equally fearful of being governed by human precedents. I am afraid of
power being vested in one, or two, or twenty men; the power must be in
the Lord himself. That church which has God in the midst of it rules itself,
and goes right without any other guidance but that which comes of the
Holy Spirit’s working. Such a church keeps together without aiming at
uniformity, and goes on to victory even though it makes no noise. That
movement is right which is led by God, and that is sure to be all wrong
which is led in the best possible way if God be absent. Organization is all
very well, but I some times feel inclined to join with Zwingle in the battle
when he said, “In the name of the holy Trinity let all loose;” for when
everybody is free, if God be present everybody is bound to do the right.
When each man moves according to the divine instinct in him there will be
little need of regulations: all is order where God rules. Just as the atoms of
matter obey the present power of God, so do separate believers obey the
one great impelling influence. Oh, for God to be in the church to lead it:
and it shall be rightly guided. Do not fall in love with this particular system
or that, my brother: do not cry up this scheme of working or that! Get the
Spirit of God, and almost any shape that spiritual life takes will be a formn
of energy suitable for the particular emergency. God never leads his people
wrongly. It is for them to follow the fiery, cloudy pillar; though it lead
them through the sea, they shall traverse it dry-shod’; though it lead them
through a desert, they shall be fed; though it bring them into a thirsty land,
they shall drink to the full of water from the rock. We must have the Lord
with us to guide us into our promised rest.

The next blessing is strength. “He hath as it were the strength of an
unicorn” (ver. 22). It is generally agreed that the creature here meant is an
extinct species of urns or ox, most nearly represented by the buffalo of the
present period. This gives us the sentence,- “ He hath as it were the
strength of a buffalo.” When God is in a church, what rugged strength,
what massive force, what irresistible energy is sure to be there! And how
untamable is the living force! You cannot yoke this buffalo to everybody’s
plough: it has its own free way of living, and it acts after its own style.
When the Lord is with a church her power is not in numbers, though very
speedily she will increase; her power is not wealth, though God will take
care that the money comes when it is needed: her power lies in God, and
that power becomes irresistible, untamable, unconquerable. Force and
energy are with the Lord. I do fear me that what many bodies of Christian
people need is this force. Examine yonder religious body: it is huge, but it
lacks muscle: it is a fine-looking organization, but soul, sinew, backbone
are wanting. Where God is there is sure to be life-force. When the Spirit of
God descended upon the first saints they began to speak with wondrous
power; and though they were persecuted, they were not subdued. No bit
could be put into their mouths to hold them in, for they went everywhere
preaching the word. Of the true Israel it shall be said-his strength is as the
strength of the buffalo: it cannot be controlled or conquered.

The next result is safety. “Surely there is no enchantment against Jacob,
neither is there any divination against Israel.” The presence of God quietly
baffles all the attempts of the evil one. I have noticed, dear brethren, in this
church, where we have had God’s presence in a great measure, that all
around us people have gone off to this opinion and to the other fancy, yet
our members as a rule have stood firm. Persons say to me, “Do you not
sometimes answer the scepticisms of the day?” I answer, No. They do not
come in my way. “Do not modern opinions trouble your church?” They
have not done so. Why? because God is there, and spiritual life in vigorous
exercise does not fall a victim to disease. A gracious atmosphere does not
agree with modern doubt. When people fall into that evil they go where the
thing is indulged, or at least where it is combated; where in some way or
other they can develop their love of novelty and foster the notion of their
own wisdom. Infidelity, socinianism, and modern thought can make no
headway where the Spirit is at work. Enchantment does not lie against
Israel, and divination does not touch Jacob. If a Church will keep to truth,
keep to God, and do its own work, it can live like a lamb in the midst of
wolves without being torn in pieces. Have God with you, and not only the
evil of doctrinal error but every other shall be kept far from you. There was
even when Christ was in the Church a Judas in the midst of it; and even in
the apostles’ days there were some that went out from them because they
were not of them, for if they had been of them doubtless they would have
continued with them; hence we may not expect to be without false
brethren. But the true safety of the Church is not a creed, not an enactment
for expelling those who violate the creed; the presence of God alone can
protect his people against the cunning assaults of their foes.

Upon these words” there is no enchantment against Jacob, no divination
against Israel,” suffer a few sentences. There are still a few foolish people
in the world who believe in witchcraft and spells, but ye, beloved, if you
love the Lord, throw such nonsense to the winds. Do you not hear people
talk about this being lucky and that unlucky? This notion is heathenish and
unchristian. Never utter such nonsense. But even if there were such things
as witchcraft and divination, if this house were full of devils and the air
swarmed with invisible sprites of an evil sort, yet if we be the people of
God, surely there is no enchantment against us. Divination cannot touch a
child of God: the evil one is chained. Wherefore be of good courage: if
God be for us, who can be against us?

Further than that, God gives to his people the next blessing, that is, of his
so working among them as to make them a wonder, and cause outsiders to
raise enquiries about them. “According to this time it shall be said of Jacob
and of Israel, What hath God wrought?” Is not that a singular thing? Here
is Balaam with his seven altars, and seven bullocks, and seven rams, and
here is Balak, and they are all going to compass some dreadful evil against
Israel. The prophet is a man of great skill in the occult arts: and what does
God say? In effect he says,-From this hoar in which you try to curse them I
will bless them more than ever, until I will make them say, and their
enemies say, “What bath God wrought?” Brethren, there is another
question, “What bath Israel wrought?” I am glad that Israel’s work is not
my subject just now, because I should make a very wretched sermon out of
it; we have better music in the words, “What bath God wrought?” Let me
tell, not what I have done, hut what God has done; not what human nature
is, but what God’s nature is, and what the grace of God will work in the
midst of his people. If God be within us we shall be signs and wonders,
until those about us shall say, “What is this that God is doing?” Yes, in
you, poor Jacob, wrestling, halting on your thigh, men shall see marvels
and cry, “What bath God wrought?” Much more shall it be so with you, my
brother Israel, you who have prevailed and won the blessing; you are as a
prince with God, and you shall make men enquire, “What bath God

When God is with his people ho will give them power of a destructive
kind. Do not be frightened. Here is the text for it: “Behold, the people shall
rise up as a great lion, and lift up himself as a young lion”-that is, as a lion
in time fullness of his vigor,- “ he shall not lie down until he eat of the prey,
and drink the blood of the slain.” God has put into his church, when he is in
it, a most wonderful, destructive power as against spiritual wickedness. A
healthy church kills error, and tears in pineces evil. Not so very long ago
our nation tolerated slavery in our colonies. Philanthropists endeavored to
destroy slavery; bat when was it utterly abolished? It was when
Wilberforce roused the church of God, and when the church of God
addressed herself to the conflict, then she tore the evil thing to pieces. I
have been amused with what Wilberforce said the day after they passed the
Act of Emancipation. He merrily said to a friend when it was all done, “Is
there not something else we can abolish?” That was said playfully, but it
shows the spirit of the church of God. She lives in conflict and victory; her
mission is to destroy everything that is bad in the land. See the fierce devil
of intemperance how it devours men! Earnest friends have been laboring
against it, and they have done something for which we are grateful, but if
ever intemperance is put down, it will be when the entire church of God
shall arouse herself to protest against it. When the strong lion rises up the
giant of drunkenness shall fall before him. “He shall not lie down until he
eat of the prey, and drink the blood of the slain.” I augur for the world the
best results from a fully aroused church. If God be in her there is no evil
which she cannot overcome. This crowded London of ours sometimes
appals me,-the iniquity which reigns and rages in the lower districts, the
general indifference and the growing atheism of the people,-these are
something terrible; but let not the people of God be dismayed. If the Lord
be in the midst of us we shall do with this as our sires have done with other
evils: we shall rise up in strength, and not lie down till the evil is destroyed.
For the destructions, mark you, of God’s people, are not the destructions
of men and women; they consist in the overthrow of sin, the tearing in
pieces of systems of iniquity. This it is which God shall help his church to
do, he being in the midst of her.

Once more: the results of God’s presence are to be seen, not only in the
context, but in other matters which we have personally experienced and
hope to experience more fully still. Note them. When God is in a church
there is a holy awe upon the hearts of his people; there is also a childlike
trustfulness and hopefulness, and consequent courage and joy. When the
Lord is in the midst of his people the ordinances of his house are exceeding
sweet; baptism and the Lord’s Supper become divinely painted pictures of
our burial in Christ, and of our life through him; the preaching of the word
drops as dew and distils as the rain; the meetings for prayer are fresh and
fervent; we want to stay in them hour after linour, we feel it such a happy
thing to be there. The very house wherein we meet grows beautiful to us;
we love the place where our Lord is wont to meet with us. Then work for
Christ is easy, nay, delightful; God’s people never want urging on, they are
eager for the fray, when the Lord is with them. Then, too, suffering for
Christ becomes pleasant, yea, any kind of suffering is easily borne.

“I can do all things, or can bear
All sufferings, if my Lord be there
Sweet pleasures mingle with the pains,
While his left hand my head sustains.”

Then prayer grows abundant all over the church, both in private and in
public. Then life is made vigorous; the feeblest becomes as David, and
David like the angel of the Lord. Then love is fervent; unity is unbroken;
truth is esteemed, and the living of truth in the life is sought after by all the
people of God. Then effort is successful; the church enlarges the bounds of
her tent, for she breaks forth on the right hand and on the left. Then her
seed inherits the Gentiles, and the desolate places are inhabited. Then God
gives unto her the holy energy with which she vanquishes nations. When
God is with her she becomes like a sheaf of fire in the midst of the stubble,
and consumes her adversaries round about. “Fair as the moon, clear as the
sun, and terrible as an. army with banners,” is a church which has God in
her midst.

But now notice one thing in my text, and with that I close this description.
Where God is, we are told, “ The shout of a king is among them.” What is
the shout of a king? When great commanders are known to have come into
a camp what a thrill of joy it causes among their trusty warriors. When the
soldiers have been much dejected it has been whispered in their tents-

“The king has come to marshal us,
All in his armor dressed,”

and from that moment every man has cheered up. At the sight of the king
as he comes riding into the camp the host raises a great shout. What means
it? It is a shout of loyal love-they are glad to welcome their leader. So is it
with us when we sing- “The King himself comes near,” we are all as glad as glad can be. Those who cannot come out to see their prince, because they are lying on their sick beds in hospital, clap their hands, while even the little children in their mothers’ arms join in the general joy. “The king is come,” say they, and his presence kindles their enthusiasm till they make the hills ring again. You know how the stern Ironsides felt when Cromwell came along; every man was a hero when he led the way. They were ready for any adventure, no matter how difficult, as long as their great chief was there. That enthusiasm which was inspired by Alexander, and by Napoleon, and by other great commanders, is the earthly image of the spiritual fervor felt by the church when the Lord Jesus is in
her midst.

What next? When the King comes and they have received him with
enthusiasm, he cries, “Now is the hour of battle;” and at once a shout goes
up from his warriors who are eager for the fight. When a clan of
Highlanders was led to the battle by their chief he had only to show them
the enemy and with one tremendous shout they leaped upon them like
lions. It is so with the people of God. When God is with us then are we
strong, resolute, determined. The charge of the servants of God is as the
rush of a hurricane against a bowing wall and a tottering fence. In God is
our confidence of victory. With God present no man’s heart fails him; no
doubt enters the host. “Be strong, and quit yourselves like men.” is the
word that is passed round, for their king’s eye makes them brave and the
presence of his majesty secures them triumph. My brethren, let us cry to
God, entreating him to be among us. This it is that you want in your
Sunday-schools, in your mission halls, in your street preaching, in your
tract distributing; it is this that I want beyond everything when I have to
speak to you in this vast house. If I could hear the sound of my Master’s
feet behind me I would speak though I were lying upon the borders of the
grave; but if God be gone I am bereft of power. What is the use of words
without the Spirit? We might as well mutter to the whistling winds as
preach to men without the Lord. O God, if thou be with us then the shout
of a King is among us, but without thee we pine away.

III. Thirdly, let us look at a very important point, and a very practical one
too: What can be done for THE SECURING AND PRESERVING OF THE
PRESENCE OF GOD WITH THE CHURCH? This is a matter that would require
several sermons to discuss it fully; but I notice that there is something even
in the conformation of a church to secure this. God is very tolerant, and he
bears with many mistakes in his servants and yet blesses them; but depend
upon it, unless a church is formed at the very outset upon scriptural
principles and in God’s own way, sooner or later all the mistakes of her
constitution will turn out to be sources of weakness. Christ loves to dwell
in a house which is built according to his own plans, and not according to
the whims and fancies of men. The church ought not to set up as her
authority the decrees of men, either living or dead: her ruler is Christ.
Associations formed otherwise than according to Scripture must fail in the
long run. I wish Christians would believe this. Chillingworth said, “The
Bible, and time Bible alone, is the religion of Protestants.” That ms not
true. Certain Protestants have tacked many other things to the Bible; and
they are suffering as the result of their folly, for they cannot keep their
church from becoming Popish. Of course they cannot: they have admitted a
little leaven of Popery, and it will leaven time whole lump. The dry rot in
one part of the house will spread throughout the whole fabric sooner or
later. Let us be careful to build on the foundation of Christ, and then let
every man take heed how he build thereon; for even if the foundation is
good, yet if he build with hay and stubble the fire will cause him grievous

But next, God will only dwell with a church which is full of life. The living
God will not inhabit a dead church. Hence the necessity of having really
regenerated people as members of the church. We cannot secure this in
every case with all our watching: tares will grow among the wheat. But if
the admission of unregenerate men is usual, and there are no restrictions,
then the Lord will be grieved and leave us. God dwelleth not in temples
made with hands: he has nothing to do with bricks and mortar; he dwells in
living souls. Remember that text: “God is not the God of the dead, but of
the living,” and it bears this sense among others, that he is not the God of a
church made up of unconverted people. Oh that we may all live unto God,
and may that life be past all question.

That being supposed, we next notice that to have God among us we must
be full of faith. Unbelief gives forth such a noxious vapor that Jesus himself
could not stop where it was. His strength was paralyzed:- “ He could not
do many mighty works there because of their unbelief.” Faith creates an
atmosphere in which the Spirit of God can work; meanwhile the Spirit of
God himself creates that faith, so that it is all of his own working from first
to last. Brothers, sisters, do you believe your God? Do you believe up to
the hilt? Alas, too many only believe a little! But do you believe his every
word? Do you believe his grandest promises? Is he a real God to you,
making his words into facts every day of your lives? If so, then the Lord is
among us as in the holy place. Faith builds a pavilion in which her king
delights to sit enthroned.

With that must come prayer. Prayer is the breath of faith. I do not believe
God will ever be long with a church that does not pray: and I feel certain
that when meetings for prayer, when family prayer, when private prayer,
when any form of prayer comes to be at a discount, the Lord will leave the
people to learn their weakness. Want of prayer cuts the sinews of the
church for practical working; she is lame, feeble, impotent, if prayer be
gone. If anything be the matter with the lungs we fear consumption:
prayer-meetings are the lungs of the church, and anything the matter there
means consumption to the church, or at best a gradual decline, attended
with general debility. Oh, my brothers, if we want to have God with us,
pass the watchword round, “Let us pray.” Let us pray after the fashion of
the widow who was importunate and would not be repulsed; remember, it
is written, “Men ought always to pray, and not to faint.” Where prayer is
fervent God is present.

Supposing there is this faith and prayer, we shall also need holiness of life.
You know what Balaum did when he found he could not curse the people.
Satanic was his advice. He bade the king of Moab seduce the men of Israel
by the women of Moab that were fair to look upon; these were to fascinate
them by their beauty, and then to invite them to their idolatrous rites,
which rites were orgies of lust: he hoped that the lewdness of the people
would grieve the Lord and cause him to leave them and then Moab could
smite them. He sadly succeeded. If it had not been for Phincas who in holy
wrath drove his javelin right. through a man and woman in the very act of
sin, sparing none in the vehemence of his zeal, Israel had been quite
undone. So in a church. The devil will work hard to lead one into
licentiousness, another into drunkenness, a third into dishonesty, and others
into worldliness. If he can only get the goodly Babylonish garment and the
wedge of gold buried in an Aehan’s tent, then Israel will be chased before
her adversaries. God cannot dwell in an unclean church. A holy God
abhors the very garments spotted by the flesh. Be ye holy as Christ is holy.
Do not take up with this German-silver electrotype holiness, which is so
much boasted of nowadays. Do not be deluded into self-righteousness, but
seek after real holiness; and if you do find it you will never boast about it:
your life will speak, but your lips will never dare to say, “Sec how holy I
am.” Real holiness dwells with humility, and makes men aspire after that
which yet lies beyond them. Be holy, upright, just, straight, true, pure,
chaste, devout. God send us this behavior, and then we shall keep him
among us as long as we live.

Lastly, when we have reached to that, let us have practical consecration.
God will not dwell in a house which does not belong to him. No, the first
thing with anyone of us is to answer this question:-Dost thou give thyself
up to Christ, body, soul, and spirit, to live for him and to die for him? Wilt
thou give him all that thou hast of talent and ability, and substance, and
time, and life itself? Where there is a church made up of consecrated
people, there God will remain, and there he will make a heaven below, and
there the shout of a king shall be heard, and there his strength shall be
revealed, and there his glory shall be seen even as it is beheld on high. The
Lord send us this, for Jesus’ sake. Amen and Amen.

Archived by Robert L. Cobb
-Administrator, News For Christians Dot Com
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