Christ and the City Church

1 Thessalonians

Christ and the City Church

March 25th, 1964 @ 12:00 PM

1 Thessalonians 5:17

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CHRIST AND THE CITY CHURCH 

Dr. W. A. Criswell 

Revelation 2:1-5 

3-25-64    12:00 p.m. 

 

 

The theme for this forty-fifth year, in which we have conducted services in a downtown theater; ever since the Palace Theatre has been built the services have been conducted here.  The theme this year is "Christ and the City": tomorrow the subject is Christ and the City of God, a sermon on heaven; Friday, Christ Dying in the City, a sermon on the cross; Monday it was the theme sermon Christ and the City;  yesterday, Christ and the City Citizen; and today, Christ and the City Church.  

In the second chapter of the Revelation:

These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in His right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;  

I know thy works, and thy labor . . .  

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.  

[Revelation 2:1-2, 4-5] 

 

"I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4].  The zeal, the fervor, the ecstasy, the gladness, the glory you once knew is now lost in dead, cold, indifferent formality.  "Thou hast left thy first love." 

And as the Holy Spirit said to the church at Thessalonica, "Quench not the Spirit" [1 Thessalonians 5:19].  Out of the city churches of the New Testament, the seven of Asia, in Macedonia, in Achaia, in Syria, in Palestine, in Egypt, I have chosen as typical the city church of Thessalonica, and the Word of our Lord addressed to the congregation, "Quench not the Spirit."  

Why would the city church in Thessalonica choose to quench the Spirit?  First, we can find the reason in the city itself.  It was one of the most illustrious, one of the most ancient of all history.  It appears in the story of mankind, in the history of Herodotus and Thucydides, by the name of Therma, the warm springs located there.  When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his four generals carved up the Greco Empire into these quadrants: General Ptolemy took Egypt, General Seleucus took Syria, General Lysimachus took Asia Minor, and General Cassander took Achaia and Macedonia.  He was married to Alexander’s sister named Thessalonica.  He built his capital in the city of Therma, and in honor of his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great, he called it Thessalonica.  

In 146 BC, when the Romans conquered that part of the eastern Mediterranean, they created the Roman province of Macedonia and set the provincial capital at Thessalonica.  In 42 BC, in the war between Octavius and Antony against Brutus and Cassius, the city of Thessalonica chose the right side.  They were loyal to Augustus Octavius Caesar, and to Mark Antony.  And for that loyalty they were rewarded with the status of a free city.  They had their own government and paid no Roman taxes.  In 58 BC, when Cicero was exiled, he spent that exile in the beautiful city of Thessalonica,  and from it wrote some of his most of his famous letters.  Strabo, the great historian who flourished under Augustus Caesar, spoke highly and at length of Thessalonica.  Their native poet Antipater sang of the praises of the mother of all Macedonia.  It was a flourishing mercantile city with a marvelous harbor.  It was the head on the Hellespont of the Via Ignatia that went to the Adriatic and across the sea toward Rome.  It is a great city today.  Its name has been shortened to Salonika, the largest city in Macedonia. 

There is a reason in the city itself why the Spirit was quenched in Thessalonica [1 Thessalonians 5:19]; for after all, religion must be observed in keeping with its venerable and ancient traditions.  There is a reason in the church itself.  It is easy to describe the kind of a church at Thessalonica.  In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts, we have the description of part of Paul’s second missionary journey.  He was a great missionary strategist, passing up Amphipoles and Apollonia, he set his face to the capital city of Thessalonica [Acts 17:1], and there God wondrously blessed him as he preached the gospel of the Son of God [Acts 17:2-3].  And the description in the Book of Acts says, "And they who heard believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few" [Acts 17:4]. 

In the King James Version, "devout Greeks" seems to us just an adjective modifying this substantive, devout Greeks.  But actually in the Greek it is a technical word for a Jewish proselyte of the gate, hoi sebomenoi, the hoi sebomenoi.  The Greek word is "the devout, the reverent," but it was a technical word for the Greek who had in his life found it impossible any longer to bow at Jupiter or Juno, and had embraced the moral law of Judaism.  They were learned men.  They were intellectual men.  They were great men.  And of those hoi sebomenoi, those proselytes of the gate, they had not become Jews, they were as we are, they were Gentile; they were Greeks.  But they had refused the mythology and the pagan licentious gods of Greek worship, and had embraced the high, ethical morality of the Mosaic legislation. 

Now of that group there "was a multitude," it said, and then and of the chief women not a few" [Acts 17:4].  Proton gunaikai, actually the first women, the first women, translated in the King James Version, "chief," of the chief women, of the protos women, "not a few," some of the finest women of the city, some of the most affluent and the richest, and in all of the ancient world there were no women so free as the Macedonian women.  Of those chief women, a great number of them turned in obedience to the faith [Acts 17:4]. 

So as time went on, you can easily imagine what had happened.  The chief woman influenced her husband also to attend church and in many instances become a convert to the Christian faith.  So the church at Thessalonica was composed of the finest citizens in the capital city.  And in that itself is a reason why Thessalonica would have quenched the Spirit [1 Thessalonians 5:19]: religion in an affluent and a fashionable church.  

There is also a reason to be found in the Holy Spirit Himself.  For where the Holy Spirit lives and moves and directs, and is at liberty to speak and to call and to act and to guide and to direct, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit always results in holy boldness and zeal in godly witnessing.  Where the Holy Spirit is, there is conviction and men cry out, "What must I do to be saved?"  And where the Holy Spirit is, there is joy and gladness and the praise of the glory of God.  And the Holy Spirit Himself is a reason why Thessalonica chose to quench the presence of God. "For," said they, "not in this church nor in this congregation will we have such as the glory of God."  

And the modern church, our churches, have pretty well followed along in the way of Thessalonica.  The power and the movement and the energy and the zeal of the Holy Spirit is largely discounted.  Suppression and repression is the order of our day.  For a man to be moved by the Holy Spirit of God, or for a church to be given over to the leadership of the presence of the third Person of the Trinity, and for us to have services guided by the Holy Spirit of God would be to be guilty of intellectual weakness or emotional instability.  We quench the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the spirit dies.  

That is not all that dies.  When a man seizes the sun out of our universe and casts it to the ground, not only is the sun destroyed, but the earth is destroyed.  For in the sun is light, and life, and warmth, and burning, and fire.  And when the Spirit dies in the church in the hearts of God’s people, He is not the only one who perishes; the fire dies, the flame dies, the fury dies, holy energy and zeal die.  The layman goes to church, and he listens to the mouthings of worn-out platitudes, and he yawns, and he goes out and plays golf.  Why not?  Why not?  

One of the great illustrious theologians of this generation was named Edgar Young Mullins, and he told a story one time that stayed in my mind.  A little monkey got loose from the organ grinder in the cold wintertime.  And the little thing, freezing to death, sought warmth, jumped up on the sill of a house, looked through the windowpane and there was a roaring fire.  The little thing went around the house, found a way inside, into the room and sat there with his little paws raised before the fire and froze to death, because, said Dr. Mullins, it was a painted fire on a painted screen.  How many of us in our churches have a church like Sardis, of whom Christ said, "You have a name to live but you are dead" [Revelation 3:1]. 

The church in the village was burning down, and all of the villagers were there watching the thing go up in flames.  And the preacher, the pastor, watching the thing burn, happened to turn and saw the town infidel standing by his side.  And the preacher said to him, "Well, sir, this is the first time I have ever seen you at church."  And the town infidel replied, "Parson, this is the first time I have ever seen the thing on fire." 

And the flame dies.  And the fury dies.  And the fire dies.  And zeal dies.  And commitment dies when the Holy Spirit dies.  And emotion dies.  And feeling dies, for in the church we are supposed to be rigid and untouched and unresponsive.  You know, I have often thought one of the reasons for the popularity of the theater is this, that one can go to the theater and cry without the observation of those who contumaciously disdain the expression of a heartache or a loneliness in tears. 

Emotion, feeling is a crown of God’s highest gift to the man that He made.  What is patriotism but a man’s love for his country?  And filial reverence but a child’s love for his parents?  And what is worship but a man’s love for his God?  Yet, in the church for a man to be moved, or to respond, or to give fit to tears, or the feeling of soul would be to be coarse and vulgar and unacceptable.  The attendant sits there with a heart that doesn’t dare to feel, with an emotion that doesn’t dare to respond, with eyes that dare not see and ears that dare not hear.  For in the church we are to be dull and dead and lifeless like the wooden pews in which we sit.  How different everything else in life that appeals to us.  Go out to the Cotton Bowl on any great New Year’s Day.  First of all there is the singing of the national anthem.  Then there is a prayer that they may mutually annihilate one another in bloody conflict and may the right man win.  Then there is the singing of the alma mater, and then there is a touchdown, and that old Cotton Bowl rocks from side to side, and we say, "Man, ain’t it great, ain’t it great!  That’s living."  Or we go to the ballpark and the fellow knocks a homerun!  Gracious, standing and cheering as he goes around those bases.  "Take me out to the ballpark.  If we don’t win it’s a shame.  One, two, three and you are out in the old ball game."  Man is it great, ain’t that living?  But you go to church.  We are to stay jammed down in our skins like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones [Ezekiel 37:1-14], and nothing imaginable is better.  

I one time heard of a fellow who wondered inadvertently into a high church, never had seen a thing like that before, but he sat down, and the minister ascended the pulpit, and he said something good about Jesus. 

And that old fellow said, "Amen," and the preacher forgot his sermon.  

When he recovered himself, he started out again, and that old fellow said, "Praise the Lord," and the preacher got off the beam. 

The usher went over and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Shut up, don’t you see you are bothering our preacher?"  

And the fellow replied, "But I was just praising the Lord." 

And the usher said, "Well, you can’t praise the Lord in this church."  

And the fellow said, "But I’ve got religion."  

And the usher said, "But you didn’t get it here. Shut up!" 

Feeling dies.  Emotion dies.  Response dies when we quench the Spirit.  Not only that, gladness dies, happiness dies, joy dies, the bliss and ecstasy of heaven dies, and church becomes monotonous and humdrum, a matter of duty and respectability.  And to go there one time on a Sunday is enough for me and for us.  For it is sort of like taking a pill or a bitter dose of medicine to go to church.  It is a matter of decency and duty.  But there is no exhilaration, there is no ecstasy, there is no glory, there is no happiness, there is not heavenly bliss and blessing in it. 

In one of the great Christian nations of this world, there are not two percent who go to church.  In one of the great cities rivaling the city of Dallas, a count was actually made of the people who attended and there were not as many as eight hundred.  I went to one of the world famed Baptist churches one time and counted the communicants, they numbered eleven, eleven, eleven.  In one of the great, great cities of the east, I wanted to visit, first time I was ever in the city, I wanted to visit a far famed Baptist church whose preacher was one of the great orators of all human story.  When I went to the church; locked.  I shook all of the doors, finally aroused an old white-headed janitor. I said to him, "I am a Baptist preacher.  I have come a long way and I want to see this church, and I want to stand in that famed pulpit."  Why, the old janitor seemed to be delighted and he opened the doors and he carried me through all of the building.  And in one of the great vestibules, there was the picture of that far-famed orator, an incomparable preacher, in heaven these years.  And when we passed by the picture, the old colored janitor stopped and bowed his head as though he were in the presence of a sacred person.  And he lifted his eyes and looked on the portrait, and as though he were speaking to himself, he said, "He was a mighty preacher, a great man of God," then added, "but there ain’t none like him anymore. And it is a sad, sad, sad thing." 

And in the auditorium, great auditorium where the Baptist World Alliance one time met, in the great auditorium, all the vast balconies roped off, and all the lower floor roped off except a few dozen seats down at the front.  O God!  O Lord!  What does Christ have to say to His city church?  And they multiply and they grow and they vastly augmented in citizenship, in population, and the city church remains aloof and removed, and untouched, and unmoved.  

A last and brief avowal, "Quench not the Spirit" [1 Thessalonians 5:19].  Not only does the flame die, the fire dies; not only does feeling die, emotion dies; not only does happiness die, gladness dies; but God’s work dies.  There is nobody to listen, and to respond, and to yield, for the Holy Spirit uses the preacher and the Book, the Word of God, and the hymns and the songs, and the invitation and the appeal, to do His work in the earth.  But we quench it, and we frustrate the will of God.  And when He speaks our ears are leaden; and when He would direct and move and call, our hearts are callous and hard.  For we have lost our soul in a dead, cold, and indifferent formality.  And God’s earth that ought to bloom and bless with the presence of Jesus becomes dry and desolate and destitute like a desert.  

 

O God, for the floods on the thirsty land!  

O God, for a mighty revival!  

O God, for a sanctified, fearless band,

Ready to hail its arrival.  

[from "Abundant Life," William Leslie, 1904]

 

Set us afire, Lord, stir us we pray!  

While the world perishes, we go our way.  

Purposeless, passionless day after day!  

Set us afire, Lord, stir us, we pray!  

[Bishop Ralph Spaulding Cushman]  

 

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love" [Revelation 2:4].

O God, for a turning, for a repenting; that God might speak, and we have ears to hear; that God might call, and we have a yielded heart to respond; that we might find in the service and worship of Jesus the highest ecstasy and glory of our lives.  Not duty, not decency, but an overflowing, abounding love.  In His precious name, amen.  

 

CHRIST AND THE CITY CHURCH 

Dr. W. A. Criswell 

Revelation 2:1-5 

3-25-64    Pre-Easter 

 

 

The theme for this forty-fifth year, in which we have conducted services in a downtown theater, and ever since the Palace Theatre has been built the services have been conducted here; the theme this year is Christ and the City, tomorrow the subject is Christ and the City of God, a sermon on heaven, Friday, Christ Dying in the City, a sermon on the cross.  Monday it was the theme sermon Christ and the City, yesterday, Christ and the City Citizen, and today, Christ and the City Church.  

In the second chapter of the Revelation:

These things saith He that holdeth the seven stars in his right hand, who walketh in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks;  

I know thy works, and thy labour,  

Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee, because thou hast left thy first love.  

Remember therefore from whence thou art fallen, and repent, and do the first works; or else I will come unto thee quickly, and will remove thy candlestick out of his place, except thou repent.  

[Revelation 2:1-2, 4-5] 

 

"I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love."  The zeal, the fervor, the ecstasy, the gladness, the glory you once knew is now lost in dead, cold, indifferent formality.  "Thou hast left thy first love." 

And as the Holy Spirit said to the church at Thessalonica, "Quench not the Spirit" [1 Thessalonians 5:19].  Out of the city churches of the New Testament, the seven of Asia, in Macedonia, in Achaia, in Syria, in Palestine, in Egypt, I have chosen as typical the city church of Thessalonica, and the Word of our Lord addressed to the congregation, "Quench not the Spirit".  

Why would the city church in Thessalonica choose to quench the Spirit?  First, we can find the reason in the city itself.  It was one of the most illustrious, one of the most ancient of all history.  It appears in the story of mankind, in the history of Herodotus and Thucydides, by the name of Therma, the warm springs located there.  When Alexander the Great died in 323 BC, his four generals carved up the Greaco Empire into these quadrants, General Ptolemy took Egypt, General Seleucus took Syria, General Lysimachus took Asia Minor, and General Cassander took Achaia and Macedonia.  He was married to Alexander’s sister named Thessalonica.  He built his capital in the city of Therma and in honor of his wife, the sister of Alexander the Great, he called it Thessalonica.  

In 146 BC, when the Roman’s conquered that part of the eastern Mediterranean, they created the Roman province of Macedonia and set the provincial capital at Thessalonica.  In 42 BC, in the war between Octavius and Antony against Brutus and Cassias, the city of Thessalonica chose the right side.  They were loyal to Augustus, Octavius Caesar and to Marc Antony.  And for that loyalty they were rewarded with the status of a free city.  They had their own government and paid no Roman taxes.  In 58 BC, when Cicero was exiled he spent that exile in the beautiful city of Thessalonica.  And from it wrote some of his most of his famous letters.  Strabo, the great historian who flourished under Augustus Caesar, spoke highly and at length of Thessalonica.  Their native poet Antipater sang of the praises of the mother of all Macedonia.  

It was a flourishing mercantile city with a marvelous harbor.  It was the head on the Hellespont of the Via Egnatia that went to the Adriatic and across the sea toward Rome.  It is a great city today.  Its name has been shortened to Salonika, the largest city in Macedonia. 

There is a reason in the city itself why the Spirit was quenched in Thessalonica, for after all, religion must be observed in keeping with its venerable and ancient traditions.  

There is a reason in the church itself.  It is easy to describe the kind of a church at Thessalonica.  In the seventeenth chapter of the Book of Acts we have the description of part of Paul’s second missionary journey.  He was a great missionary strategist, passing up Amphiboles and Apollonia.  He sat his face to the capital city of Thessalonica, and there God wondrously blessed him as he preached the gospel of the Son of God.  And the description in the Book of Acts says, "And they who heard believed believed, and consorted with Paul and Silas; of the devout Greeks a great multitude, and of the chief women not a few." [Acts 17:4] 

In the King James Version devout Greeks seems to us just an adjective modifying this substantive, devout Greeks.  But actually in the Greek it is a technical word for a Jewish proselyte of the gate,  hoi sebomenoi the hoi sebomenoi,  The Greek word is "the devout, the reverent."  But it was a technical word for the Greeks who had in his life found it impossible any longer to bow at Jupiter or Juno and had embraced the moral law of Judaism.  

They were learned men.  They were intellectual men.  They were great men.  And of those hoi sebomenoi those proselytes of the gate, they had not become Jews, they were as we are, they were Gentile; they were Greeks.  But they had refused the mythology and the pagan’s licentious of gods of Greek worship and had embraced the high, ethical, morality of the Mosaic legislation. 

Now of that group there was a multitude, it said, "And then and of the chief women.  Not a few."  Proton gunaikai, actually the first women, of the first women translated in the King James Version, "chief," of chief women, of the protos women, "not a few," some of the finest women of the city, some of the most affluent and the richest, and in all of the ancient world there were no women so free as the Macedonian women.  Of those chief women a great number of them turned in obedience to the faith. 

So, as time went on you can easily imagine what had happened.  The chief woman influenced her husband also to attend church and in many instances become a convert to the Christian faith.  So the church at Thessalonica was composed of the finest citizens in the capital city.  And in that itself is a reason why Thessalonica would have quenched the Spirit, religion in an affluent and a fashionable church.  

There is also a reason to be found in the Holy Spirit Himself.  For where the Holy Spirit lives and moves and directs and is at liberty to speak and to call and to act and to guide and to direct, the presence and power of the Holy Spirit always results in holy boldness and zeal in godly witnessing.  Where the Holy Spirit is there is conviction and men cry out, "What must I do to be saved?"  And where the Holy Spirit is there is joy and gladness and the praise of the glory of God.  And the Holy Spirit Himself is a reason why Thessalonica chose to quench the presence of God, "For", said they, "not in this church nor in this congregation will we have such as the glory of God."  

And the modern church, our churches, have pretty well followed along in the way of Thessalonica.  The power and the movement and the energy and the zeal of the Holy Spirit is largely discounted.  Suppression and repression is the order of our day.  For a man to be moved by the Holy Spirit of God, offer a church to be given over to the leadership of the presence of the Third Person of the Trinity and for us to have services guided by the Holy Spirit of God would be to be guilty of intellectual weakness or emotional instability.  We quench the leadership of the Holy Spirit and the Spirit dies.  

That is not all that dies.  When a man seizes the sun out of our universe and casts it to the ground not only is the sun destroyed but the earth is destroyed, for in the sun is light and life and warmth and burning and fire.  And when the Spirit dies in the church and in the hearts of God’s people, He is not the only one who perishes, the fire dies, the flame dies, the fury dies, holy energy and zeal die.  The layman goes to church and he listens to the mouthings of worn out platitudes and he yawns and he goes out and plays golf.  Why not?  Why not?  

One of the great illustrious theologians of this generation was named Edgar Young Mullins, and he told a story one time that stayed in my mind.  "A little monkey got loose from the organ grinder in the cold wintertime.  And the little thing, freezing to death, sought warmth, jumped up on the sill of a house, looked through the windowpane and there was a roaring fire.  The little thing went around the house, found a way inside, into the room and sat there with his little paws raised before the fire and froze to death, because," said Dr. Mullins, "it was a painted fire on a painted screen."  How many of us in our churches have a church to like Sardis of whom Christ said, "You have a name to live but you are dead." 

The church in the village was burning down and all of the villagers were there watching the thing go up in flames.  And the preacher, the pastor, watching the thing burn, happened to turn and saw the town infidel standing by his side.  And the preacher said to him, "Well, sir, this is the first time I have ever seen you at church."  And the town infidel replied at the parson, "This is the first time I have ever seen the thing on fire." 

And the flame dies.  And the fury dies.  And the fire dies.  And zeal dies.  And commitment dies when the Holy Spirit dies.  And emotion dies.  And feeling dies, for in the church we are supposed to be rigid and untouched and unresponsive.  You know, I have often thought one of the reasons for the popularity of the theater is this, that one can go to the theater and cry without the observation of those who contumaciously disdain the expression of a heartache or a loneliness in tears. 

Emotion, feeling is the crown of God’s highest gift to the man that He made.  What is patriotism but a man’s love for his country?  And what is filial reverence but a child’s love for his parents?  And what is worship but a man’s love for his God?  Yet, in the church for a man to be moved or to respond or to give fit to tears or the feeling of soul would be to be coarse and vulgar and unacceptable.  The attendant sits there with a heart that does not dare to feel, with an emotion that does not dare to respond, with eyes that dare not see and ears that dare not hear.  

For in the church we are to be dull and dead and lifeless like the wooden pews in which we sit.  How different everything else in life that appeals to us.  Go out to the Cotton Bowl on any great New Year’s Day.  First of all there is the singing of the National Anthem.  Then there is a prayer that they mutually annihilate one another in bloody conflict and may the right men win.  Then there is the singing of the alma mater, and then there is a touchdown and that old Cotton Bowl rocks from side to side and we say, "Man, ain’t it great, ain’t it great!  That’s living."  Or we go to the ballpark and the fellow knocks a homerun!  Gracious, standing and cheering as he goes around those bases.  "Take me out to the ballpark.  If we don’t win it’s a shame.  One, two, three and you are out in the old ball game."  Man is it great, ain’t that living?  But you go to church.  We are to stay jammed down in our skins like Ezekiel’s valley of dry bones and nothing imaginable is better.  

I one time heard of a fellow who wondered inadvertently into a high church.  He never had seen a thing like that before, but he sat there and the minister ascended the pulpit and he said something good about Jesus. 

And that old fellow said, "Amen" and the preacher forgot his sermon.  

When he recovered himself he started out again and that old fellow said, "Praise the Lord" and the preacher got off the beam. 

The usher went over and tapped him on the shoulder and said, "Shut up, don’t you see you are bothering our preacher?"  

And the fellow replied, "But I was just praising the Lord". 

And the usher said, "You can’t praise the Lord in this church".  

And he replied, "But I’ve got religion."  

And the usher said, "But you didn’t get it here. Shut up!" 

Feeling dies.  Emotion dies.  Response dies when we quench the Spirit.  Not only that, gladness dies, happiness dies, joy dies, the bliss and ecstasy of heaven dies and church becomes monotonous and humdrum, a matter of duty and respectability.  And to go there one time on a Sunday is enough for me and for us.  For it is sort of like taking a pill or a bitter dose of medicine to go to church.  It is a matter of decency and duty.  But there is no acceleration, there is no ecstasy, there is no glory, there is no happiness, there is not heavenly bliss and blessing in it. 

In one of the great Christian nations of this world there are not two percent who go to church.  In one of the great cities rivaling the cities of Dallas a count was actually made of people who attended and there were not as many as eight hundred.  I went to one of the world famed Baptist churches one time and counted the communicants.  They numbered eleven, eleven, eleven.  In one of the great, great cities of the east I wanted to visit, first time I was ever in the city, I wanted to visit a far famed Baptist church whose preacher was one of the great orators of all human story.  When I went to the church; locked.  I shook all of the doors, finally aroused an old white-headed janitor. I said to him, "I am a Baptist preacher.  I have come a long way and I want to see this church, and I want to stand in that famed pulpit."  Well, the old janitor seemed to be delighted and he opened the doors and he carried me through all of the building.  And in one of the great vestibules there was the picture of that far famed orator, an incomparable preacher in heaven these years.  And when we passed by the picture the old colored janitor stopped and bowed his head as though he were in the presence of a sacred person.  And he lifted his eyes and looked on the portrait, and as though he were speaking to himself he said, "He was a mighty preacher, a great man of God," then added, "But there ain’t none like him anymore. And it is a sad, sad, sad thing." 

And in the auditorium, great auditorium where the Baptist World Alliance one time met, in the great auditorium, all the vast balconies roped off and all the lower floor roped off except a few dozen seats down at the front.  O God.  O Lord.  What does Christ have to say to His city church?  And they multiply and they grow and they vastly augmented in citizenship, in population, and the city church remains aloof and removed and untouched and unmoved.  

A last and brief avowal, "Quench not the Spirit.  Not only does the flame die, the fire dies.  Not only does feeling die, emotion dies.  Not only does happiness die, gladness dies.  But God’s work dies.  There is nobody to listen and to respond and to yield, for the Holy Spirit uses the preacher and the Book, the Word of God and the hymns and the songs and the invitation and the appeal to do His work in the earth.  But we quench it, and we frustrate the will of God.  And when He speaks our ears are leaden.  And when He would direct and move and call, our hearts are callous and hard for we have lost our soul in a dead, cold and indifferent formality.  And God’s earth that ought to bloom and bless with the presence of Jesus becomes dry and desolate and destitute like a desert.  

 

O God, for the floods on the thirsty land.  

O God for a mighty revival.  

O God for a sanctified fearless band

Ready to feel its arrival.  

 

Set us afire, Lord, stir us we pray,  

While the world perishes, we go our way,  

Purposeless, passionless, day after day,  

Set us afire, Lord, stir us we pray.  

[Author Unknown]  

 

"Nevertheless I have somewhat against thee because thou hast left thy first love."

O God, for a turning, for a repenting, that God might speak and we have ears to hear.  That God might call and we have a yielded heart to respond. That we might find in the service and worship of Jesus the highest ecstasy and glory of our lives.  Not duty, not decency, but an overflowing, abounding love.  In His precious name, Amen.