“It seems to me that we come infinitely short of any right and rational idea of the aggressive spirit of the New Testament saints. Satan has got Christians to accept what I may call a namby-pamby, kidglove kind of system of presenting the Gospel to people. ‘Will they be so kind as to read this tract or book, or would they not like to hear this popular and eloquent preacher. They will be pleased with him quite apart from religion.’ That is the sort of half-frightened, timid way of putting the truth before unconverted people, and of talking to them about the Salvation of their souls. It seems to me this is utterly antagonistic and repugnant to the spirit of the early saints: ‘Go ye, and preach the Gospel to EVERY CREATURE’; and again the same idea–‘Unto whom now I send thee.’ Look what is implied in these commissions. It seems to me that no people have ever yet fathomed the meaning of these two Divine commissions.
I believe we of The Salvation Army have come nearer to it than any people that have ever preceded us. Look at them. Would it ever occur to you that the language meant, ‘Go and build chapels and churches and invite the people to come in, and if they will not, let them alone’? ‘GO YE.’ If you sent your servant to do something for you, and said, ‘Go and accomplish that piece of business for me,’ you know what it would involve. You know that he must see certain persons; and run about the city to certain offices and banks and agents, involving a deal of trouble and sacrifice; but you have nothing to do with that. He is your servant. He is employed by you to do that business, and you simply commission him to ‘Go and do it.’ What would you think if he went and took an office and sent out a number of circulars inviting your customers or clients to come and wait on his pleasure, and when they chose to come just to put your business before them? No, you would say, ‘Ridiculous.’ Divesting our minds of all conventionalities and traditionalisms, what would the language mean? ‘Go ye!’ ‘To whom? ‘To every creature.’ Where am I to get at them? WHERE THEY ARE. ‘Every creature.’ There is the extent of your commission. Seek them out; run after them, wherever you can get at them. ‘Every creature’–wherever you find a creature that has a soul–there go and preach My Gospel to him. If I understand it, that is the meaning and the spirit of the commission.
And then again, to Paul He says, ‘Unto whom now I send thee, to open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ They are asleep–go and wake them up. They do not see their danger. If they did, there would be no necessity for you to run after them. They are preoccupied. Open their eyes, and turn them round by your desperate earnestness and moral suasion and moral force; Oh! it makes me tremble to think what a great deal one man can do for another! ‘Turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.’ How did Paul understand it? He says, ‘We persuade men.’ Do not rest content with just putting it before them, giving them gentle invitations, and then leaving them alone. He ran after them, poor things, and pulled them out of the fire. Take the bandage off their eyes which Satan has bound round them; knock and hammer and burn in, with the fire of the Holy Ghost, your words into their poor, hardened, darkened hearts, until they begin to realize that they are IN DANGER; that there is something amiss. Go after them. If I understand it, that is the spirit of the Apostles and of the early Christians; for we read that when they were scattered by persecution, they ‘went everywhere, preaching the Word.’ The laity, the new converts, the young babes in Christ. It does not mean always in set discourses, and public assemblies, but they went after men and women, like ancient Israel–‘Every man after his man,’ to try and win him for Christ.
Some people seem to think that the Apostles laid the foundations of all the churches. They are quite mistaken. Churches sprang up where the Apostles had never been. The Apostles went to visit and organize them after they had sprung up, as the result of the work of the early laymen and women going everywhere and preaching the Word. Oh! may the Lord shower upon us in this day the same spirit! We should build churches and chapels; we should invite the people to them; but do you think it is consistent with these two commissions, and with many others, that we should rest in this, when three parts of the population utterly ignore our invitations and take no notice whatever of our buildings and of our services? They will not come to us. That is an established fact. What is to be done? They have souls. You profess to believe that as much as I do, and that they must live forever. Where are they going? What is to be done?
Jesus Christ says, ‘Go after them.’ When all the civil methods have failed; when the genteel invitations have failed; when one man says that he has married a wife, and another that he has bought a yoke of oxen, and another that he has bought a piece of land–then does the Master of the feast say, ‘The ungrateful wretches, let them alone’? No. He says, ‘Go out into the highways and hedges, and compel them to come in, that my house may be filled.’ ‘I will have guests, and if you can’t get them in by civil measures, use military measures. Go and COMPEL them to come in.’ It seems to me that we want more of this determined aggressive spirit. Those of you who are right with God this afternoon–you want more of this spirit to thrust the truth upon the attention of your fellow-men.
Oh! people say, you must be very careful, very judicious. You must not thrust religion down people’s throats. Then, I say, you will never get it down. What! Am I to wait till an unconverted, godless man wants to be saved before I try to save him? He will never want to be saved till the death rattle is in his throat. What! Am I to let my unconverted friends and acquaintances drift down quietly to damnation, and never tell them about their souls, until they say, ‘If you please, I want you to preach to me’? Is this anything like the spirit of early Christianity? No. Verily we must make them look–tear the bandages off, open their eyes, make them bear it, and if they run away from you in one place, meet them in another, and let them have no peace until they submit to God and get their souls saved. This is what Christianity ought to be doing in this land, and there are plenty of Christians to do it. Why, we might give the world such a time of it that they would get saved in very self-defense, if we were only up and doing, and determined that they should have no peace in their sins. Where is our zeal for the Lord? We talk of Old Testament saints, but I would we were all like David. Rivers of water ran down his eyes because men kept not the Law of his God. But you say, ‘We cannot all hold services.’ Perhaps not. Go as you like. Go as quietly and softly as the morning dew. Have meetings like the Friends if you like. ONLY DO IT. Don’t let your relatives, and friends, and acquaintances die, and their blood be found on your skirts!!!”