Come to the living waters, come!
Sinners, obey your Maker’s call;
Return, ye weary wanderers, home,
And find his grace is free for all.
Nothing ye in exchange shall give;
Leave all you have and are behind;
Frankly the gift of God receive;
Pardon and peace in Jesus find. — John Wesley
Sent by my Lord, on you I call;
The invitation is to all:
Come all the world! come, sinner, thou!
All things in Christ are ready now.
My message as from God receive;
Ye all may come to Christ and live:
O let his love your hearts constrain,
Nor suffer him to die in vain. — Charles Wesley.
I am not come to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance. — Matthew 9:13
What man of you, having a hundred sheep, if he lose one of them, doth not leave the ninety and nine in the wilderness, and go after that which is lost, until he find it? — Luke 15:4
Let him know, that he which converteth the sinner from the error of his way shall save a soul from death, and shall hide a multitude of sins — James 5:20
And they that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament; and they that turn many to righteousness, as the stars forever and ever. — Daniel 12:3
One great object of effort on the part of every preacher ought to be the conversion of sinners. In every community, unconverted people are found. Some attend religious services, but the vast majority seldom or never darken the doors of the House of God. There are three ways in which sinners may be reached. If they attend religious services, they place themselves under the direct influence of the Gospel, so they are within reach of God’s people. One way to reach those who are not churchgoers is for the Christians of any given community to search them out from house to house, personally labor with them, and persuade them to turn from sin and accept Christ. Another way is for the pastor to follow the example of the good shepherd who left the ninety and nine sheep gathered within the fold and went out to seek the lone wandering member of the flock. And it will be remembered that when the lost was found it was not driven home, but it was tenderly taken up in the arms of the shepherd and borne gently to a place of rest and safety.
In this great work of securing converts, the pastor must have the active cooperation of his people. Indeed, he ought to have the loving, loyal collaboration of all, from the youngest to the oldest. Especially should all unite with the pastor earnestly, praying for the outpouring of the Holy Spirit and the conversion of the unsaved.
It will be found in eternity that earnest, faithful, effectual prayer is one of the most significant spiritual influences ever wrought by a human agency for the salvation of the souls of men. But this prayer for the unconverted and unsaved can only be offered by those with a deeply personal experience of the divine life. The men and women who have been most successful in their supplications have been those who have lived nearest to the cross and most in conformity to the will of God. If we would have access to the throne, we must approach it with pure hearts and clean hands. Then we must be sure that we ask in conformity with the will of God and in harmony with the divine order. We know that it is the will of God that all should come unto him and be saved. It is contrary to his will that any soul should go down to death. But with the power of choice and the exercise of free will, the sinner can frustrate the grace of God. Despite divine love, persuasion, and redemption, he can choose death for himself and successfully resist all holy influences used for his salvation. God will never break down and destroy the will, so unmake the man to save his soul from death. Hence we should never pray and never expect that a soul may be saved except in harmony with the attributes with which God has so regally endowed humanity. If Christians will come to God in his own appointed way; if they come, themselves saved with the great salvation, then, if the word of Jesus is true, they may ask what they will, and it shall be done unto them. They may also ask on behalf of others. Prayer will be heard and answered as real as when the man in the Gospel went to his neighbor’s to ask for bread for a friend who had come to him on a journey. A similar insistent prayer will bring supplies of heavenly bread for hungry souls.
Genuine revivals of religion take place only as the result of the work of the Holy Ghost in human hearts. But the Lord Jesus Christ, in the most wonderful sermons recorded in John’s Gospel, tells us that when he is gone away, he will send the Comforter, who shall convince the world of sin, righteousness, and of judgment. This means the Spirit will be given to the unsaved to enlighten, convince, and persuade them. The Spirit operates on such hearts in answer to prayer. Special gifts and graces of the Spirit only come in answer to special prayer. It is the duty of all God’s people to call upon him in the name of Jesus to give his Spirit in gracious power to visit the hearts of the unsaved. The word of the Master is, “Hitherto have ye asked nothing in my name: ask, and ye shall receive, that your joy may be full.” If all members of the Epworth League could enter into the rich experience of salvation which waits upon their entire consecration and appropriating faith, and if they would make united supplication as first indicated, there would be such revelations of the Holy Ghost made in the hearts of the unconverted as would lead multitudes of them to seek and find the Saviour.
An incident may serve to illustrate this. Many might be given, but one must suffice. Years ago, I was privileged to read the manuscript diary of one of the saints. I knew the writer well in her old age, when, weak and feeble, and past threescore years and ten, she lingered on earth to bless all who knew her. In early life, she gave her heart to God, and for many years she kept a diary, and after her death, I had the opportunity of reading it.
This good woman lived in a retired though thriving town in New England, where there was only one Church at the time of her early life. While glancing along the pages of the diary, I noticed mention made of the fact that she and two or three other women had been conversing together concerning the spiritual dearth and low state of religion that prevailed in the Church and community. Looking along, I saw that these same good women had covenanted together to pray for a revival and were to meet weekly at each other’s homes to hold a prayer meeting for the same purpose. Within three weeks, the entry was made that the preacher had been unusually earnest, tender, and impressive, and the sermon had carried great spiritual influence. Manifestly, God’s Spirit, in answer to prayer, had reached the pastor’s heart. The revival had commenced right there, and surely it could begin in no better place. Then, as I glanced along the pages, I saw that special meetings were appointed and followed the record of awakenings, conversions, baptisms, and additions to the Church. God’s work had been revived, and I could not escape the conviction that it had been brought about mainly through the instrumentality of these few devoted and faithful women. And so I looked on through the diary until I had found the records of five distinct and separate seasons of revivals in this one Church. Each of them had been preceded by this combination of effort and prayer by these same women.
It does not take the action of the entire membership of any given Church to secure revival. Let every sincere follower of Jesus note and remember this. The enemy of all righteousness has often hindered the faith of God’s humble and shy children and has as often crippled or defeated their efforts by making them believe that all the members of the Church must be living near to God and filled with his Spirit before a revival can be hoped for. No greater delusion was ever entertained, and no worse snare was ever spread in the path of God’s children. It is the smoking flax and the bruised reed that God remembers and cares for. So, if in any church there is a soul, however weak, that yet has one single spark of grace. In response to sincere desire and prayer, the divine breath shall come to that soul, where is hidden the slumbering spark. Even then and there, the revival has commenced. If the heavenly flame thus kindled shall be cherished and tended, soon a responsive heart will begin to blaze, and so the work will go on until many will sing:
“See how great a flame aspires,
Kindled by a spark of grace!”
Then faith cries out:
“To bring fire on earth he came;
indeed in some hearts it is:
O that all might catch the flame,
All partake the glorious bliss!”
Then, joyful, trusting, toiling, waiting for souls will exclaim:
“Saw ye not the cloud arise,
Little as a human hand?
Now it spreads along the skies,
Hangs o’er all the thirsty land;
“Lo! the promise of a shower
Drops already from above;
But the Lord will shortly pour
All the Spirit of his love.”
But work must be conjoined with prayer and faith. When all gifts and graces have been received, and when prayer has been offered on behalf of the unconverted, there remains as the duty of every Christian direct and personal labor for the salvation of the unconverted. The real enjoyment of religion, the witness of the Spirit, and the baptism of the Holy Ghost, all imply that there is contemporary with these and concomitant with these, a holy and unblamable life. There must be this holy life, or the unconverted will have no real confidence in the genuineness of the profession of religion made with the lips. If any Christian, young or old, leads a pure, upright, and holy life, such life is a convincing and unanswerable argument for the reality and excellence of the Christian religion, and at the same time, it exerts a powerful influence upon all who are its subjects. All this involves the idea that worldliness, frivolity, pleasure-seeking, and, in fact, everything that is out of harmony with the best type of religious experience must be laid aside. But this must be done by everyone who wishes for the most decadent experience of divine blessing, the most significant spiritual influence, and the highest success in winning souls to Christ.
It would be exceedingly profitable for all members of the Epworth League if they could select from among their most intimate unconverted friends a few, say five or ten, more or less, and write down their names, and then mention each one of these names daily in prayer, and plead with God for Jesus’ sake to send the Spirit with convincing power to each one of these precious souls. It would help if two or three of our young Leaguers combined their lists and covenant to make special supplication for the unsaved loved ones. They might well remember the promise of the Saviour, “that if two of you should agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of my Father which is in heaven.” But after all, has been done, and all prayers have been offered, there will remain the duty of going to the unsaved and pleading earnestly and perseveringly, and yet very tenderly, with them to give themselves to Christ. This work must have care and wisdom, or it will be all in vain. The time and place are all-important. In almost every case it is better to take the unconverted separately and alone rather than in company, seek a quiet hour free from all distractions, study the moods and the temperament, never unduly urge, never lose faith or patience, never be discouraged, ask the guidance and help of the Holy Spirit. Of course, Epworth Leaguers ought to be very faithful in their attendance upon all the means of grace. They should bear the cross in giving in their testimony and vocal prayer in the social meetings, but above and beyond all this. They must live holy lives. They must engage in this direct personal effort. Let them always remember that “he that reapeth receiveth wages and gathereth fruit unto life eternal;” and that “he that goeth forth and weepeth, bearing precious seed, shall doubtless come again with rejoicing, bringing his sheaves with him.”
If our young people of the Epworth League entirely give themselves up to the Lord and his work, revivals will become perennial, and the harvest time will last all the year. “They that be wise shall shine as the brightness of the firmament, and they that turn many to righteousness as the stars forever and ever.”
If preacher and people will search out the unsaved, whether in the congregation or by the wayside, whether in the byways and hedges, or the Sabbath schools, or wherever they may be found, and then tell them personally of the peril of sin, the need of repentance and faith, the love of Christ, the willingness of God to bless and save, and especially tell them of the joy, the love, the peace, the comfort, and the blessed hopes of the Christian life, converts will be secured.
We need more than that we secure converts. We must care for them. The first thing to be done is to have them unite with the church. This is said on the assumption that they are converted and have found Christ in the pardon of their sins. It is not wise to urge awakened souls to join the church, much less is it wise to encourage those to do so who, in a moment of excitement, have felt that they ought to turn from sin. So many probationers fail to become full members of the church because many join on probation who have not been converted. An awakened soul ought to be watched over and aided until a clear and definite experience is attained. Then wise and careful effort should be made to secure the names of all such for membership on probation. In this work, the pastor must take an active part. He should know all converts. He should make himself their friend and adviser. But in all this, he should be assisted by class leaders, other church officials, and in fact, by all the church members. The newborn soul ought to be received with a warm welcome and made to feel that in coming into the church, it has come to a glad company of the great family of God’s people. The average church member can scarcely realize how much encouragement can be given to any young convert by a warm grasp of the hand and a cheerful word.
Lord of the living harvest
That whitens o’er the plain,
Where angels soon shall gather
Their sheaves of golden grain;
Accept these hands to labor,
These hearts to trust and love,
And design with them to hasten
Thy kingdom from above.
As laborers in thy vineyard, Send us,
O Christ, to be Content to bear the burdens
Of weary days for thee;
We ask no other wages,
When thou shalt call us home,
But to have shared the travail
Which makes thy kingdom come.
Come down, thou Holy Spirit!
And fill our souls with light,
Clothe us in spotless raiment,
In linen clean and white;
Beside thy sacred altar
Be with us, where we stand,
To sanctify thy people
Through all this happy land. — J. S. B. Monsell.
Now unto him, that is able to keep you from falling and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, to the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen. — Jude 1:24-25
By Bishop W. F. Mallalieu
Updated 2023 Nathan Zipfel