The Younger Generation
A Word to Christian Young Men
“And Israel served the Lord all the days of Joshua, and all the days of the elders that overlived Joshua, and which had known all the works of the Lord, that he had done for Israel” (Joshua 24:31).
Times of stress, circumstances of peril, go to make spiritual brawn and muscle. Joshua and the elders with him were so developed. It was a hard school, but it had its ample compensations. Soul-history cannot be jumped into. A good general is not discovered on the parade ground or sham fight, but in the strenuous campaign, when the fate of empires hangs on a single battle.
As long as Joshua and the elders associated with him lived things were held together for God, and Israel served the Lord. But the danger came with the younger generation.
They did not know God as their fathers did. They had not seen the mighty works of the Lord as they had done. Forty years in the wilderness left its mark upon the souls of those who had thus experienced God’s power, compassion, and long-suffering. And thus soul-history proved to be the bulwark against soul declension.
But Joshua passed away, and one by one his contemporaries passed away. Links with the past became attenuated. Moral power, the fruit of the real knowledge of Jehovah, ceased to be to the front.
Then declension set in, and we read of idolatry and backsliding on every hand.
“For I know this, that after my departing shall grievous wolves enter in among you, not sparing the flock. Also of your own selves shall men arise, speaking perverse things to draw away disciples after them” (Acts 20:29-30).
History repeats itself. The death of Joshua’s peers paved the way for general declension in Israel, and that no later than when they first took possession of the land. Paul’s departure seems to have been the herald of something similar. He above all others was the instrument of God in bringing forth the truth of the mystery; that characteristic truth which is the battleground of Satan, for its acceptance puts the Christian in a distinctly heavenly position, connecting him with God’s purpose, and putting him into right relationship with Christ as Head in heaven and his fellow-members of the body here on earth, and this challenges Satan and rouses his chiefest enmity.
And here, on the very threshold of Christianity, the keen eye of the Apostle observed with grief signs of the impending ruin. He had to write sternly to the Corinthians about the divisions that were already bearing their bitter fruit. He had to write still more vehemently as he combated the error which, if maintained, would have reduced the assemblies of the whole province of Galatia to being a mere appanage of Judaism. He wrote telling those whose faces he had never seen what anguish in prayer was his on their behalf, as he longed with an unspeakable longing that they might have the full assurance of understanding to the full knowledge of the mystery of God. This was to Colosse and Laodicea, yet Laodicea stands in Revelation 3:14-22 as the warning beacon of awful departure.
With these warnings before us I would seek to exercise the younger generation. They might well send us to our knees and our Bibles.
Some 70 or 80 years ago there was a very blessed movement of God’s Holy Spirit. Not only were numberless souls blessed in the gospel, but truth long buried and forgotten was recovered and acted upon.
Our fathers in the main took up this position in faith and at great personal cost to themselves. Like the chief captain they could say, “With a great price obtained I this freedom.” They had suffered for it, and prized it accordingly.
What of the younger generation? Like Paul they can say, “But I was free born.” That is to say, their conversion was prayed for and waited for, and when it came was rejoiced over, and it was an easy thing to follow in their father’s footsteps and find themselves in a place of liberty and light and privilege. But whilst this had its advantages, it had its disadvantages.
Our fathers were more like the plants that struggled for bare existence in the frost and cold rains and gusty winds, whilst their children were in the position of hot-house plants.
But the testing assuredly comes. Many fall under the test, go back into the world, or maintain a mere nominal hold on things, while some answer to the test, and become more established and rooted in truth.
If these lines should reach the eye of any of the younger generation may they cause deep exercise.
Aged servants of Christ have passed away. Where are the young ones coming on? It was devotedness that brought many, whose time of service is now over, to the front. We plead for devotedness in our younger brethren.
I can recall many a godly father, who stood as a bulwark against evil, and stood for God in the neighbourhood in which he lived. Some of their sons have more or less followed in their steps, but alas! many have not.
May this exercise us. Never was there a day of greater need. Everything speaks of declension. Let us each be exercised before the Lord. Evil doctrine abounds. Divisions increase. So do amalgamations, as witness the union of two great Scots bodies and three Wesleyan bodies. I fear Satan is behind both. If he can divide those who hold the truth, and unite those who will stand for politics, worldliness, and substitute the religion of humanity for the gospel of Christ, he is well pleased, and the way for the final onslaught helped on.
What am I doing for the Lord? What are you? Are we prayerful? Are we students of the Word? Are we proclaimers of the gospel by our lives? Are we holding the truth of the Church? Are we given to hospitality? Are we open-air preachers? Are we tract distributors, as our fathers were?
The need never was greater. Devotedness will give self-denial, initiative, unworldliness, prayerfulness, knowledge. “My son, give me thy heart.” “Keep thy heart with all diligence, for out of it are the issues of life.”
Words of Grace and Encouragement 1910