I am reading again some essays by one of my favorite authors, Frank Boreham. Boreham was something of the Billy Graham of his day, a prolific and well-respected minister, first in England and then in Australia and New Zealand. In his time he wrote dozens of volumes of essays and sermons and was popular world-wide. He only died in, I think, the 1950s so I don’t know why one hears so little of him today (though perhaps in other countries he is still better known?). I find his works unfailingly comforting and insightful. This is not deep theology, no long technical discussions, but it never fails to convict one.
In one of my favorite of this favorite author’s books, A Handful of Stars: Texts that have moved great minds, Boreham discusses the biblical texts that have shaped the lives of individuals, both real and fictional. James Chalmers, a missionary to the South Pacific who was violently martyred, had as his text, Boreham tells us, Revelation 22:17: “The Spirit and the Bride say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come.’ And let the one who is thirsty come; let the one who desires take the water of life without price” (ESV). Boreham speaks of the call on Chalmers’ life — how he felt compelled to go to far distant lands, to be the voice who, having heard, calls others to “come” as well.
I was struck as I read this by the role of the two who call — the Spirit and the Bride. The Bride, we know from Scripture, is the Church; the Spirit, of course, is God the Holy Spirit, the comforter whom Christ left with us on His ascension. Both proclaim the same message: “Come.” Both call to sinners. Perhaps only the work of the Holy Spirit is truly necessary, but God calls those who have themselves heard to work with Him and to proclaim the message as well. The call of the Church is audible; that of the Spirit is internal. At times one may be saved only through the latter (Boreham tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi’s conversion in another essay, “The House that Jack Built”; this seems to have been such a conversion) but the norm, as God has ordained it, is for the preaching of His Word, the call of the Bride, to play a part as well (this is how Spurgeon was saved, as Boreham tells us also).
The practical application of all this for us is this: as we have heard, so we must declare to others. The call of the Church falls on many ears; we do not know which hearts the Spirit will also call to and which will come to faith, but it is our obligation to call nonetheless. And the message we give must be that which we have received. The Bride calls the same thing that the Spirit does: “Come.” We are not at liberty to make up a new one, neither do we need to embellish it, to make it more attractive. Acceptance happens when the Spirit also calls, not when we dress it up and make it more compelling. The results do not rest with us. Lastly, though some, like Chalmers, are called to far-distant lands and may work for a time singly or in small groups, the charge is for the Church. Not that we leave all the work to our ministers but that we must work within the body of God’s people. It is not an individual mission but a corporate one.