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Revival in the Ministry
by Robert Murray McCheyne

"For I will pour water upon him that is thirsty, and floods upon the dry ground: I will pour My Spirit upon thy seed, and My blessing upon thine offspring: and they shall spring up as among the grass, as willows by the water courses." Isaiah 44:3-4

These words describe a time of refreshing. There are no words in the whole Bible that have been more frequent in my heart and more frequent on my tongue than these since I began my ministry among you.

And yet, though God has never, from the very first day, left us without some expressions of His presence, He has never fulfilled this promise. I have taken it up today, in order that we may consider it more fully, and plead it more anxiously with God.

As [Samuel] Rutherford said, "My record is on high, that your heaven would be like two heavens to me; and the salvation of you all, like two salvations to me."


It is God: "I will pour..."

1. It is God who begins a work of concern [for sin] in dead souls.

So it is in Zechariah 12:10: "I will pour out the Spirit of grace and supplications, and they shall look upon Me whom they have pierced, and mourn."

And so the promise is in John 16:8-9: "When He is come, He will convince the world of sin, because they believe not on Me."

And so is the passage of Ezekiel 37:9: "Come from the four winds, O breath, and breathe upon these slain, that they may live."

If any of you have been awakened, and made to beat upon the breast, it is God, and God alone, that has done it. If ever we are to see a time of wide spread concern among your families, children asking their parents, parents asking their children, people asking their ministers, "What must I do to be saved?", if ever we are to see such a time as Edwards speaks of, when there was scarcely a single person in the whole town left unconcerned about the great things of the eternal world, God must pour out the Spirit "I will pour."

2. It is God who carries on the work.

He leads awakened persons to Christ. "I will pour out My Spirit upon all flesh ... and whosoever shall call upon the name of the Lord shall be delivered" [Joel 2:28, 32].

And again, in John: "He shall convince the world of righteousness."

If ever we are to see souls flying like a cloud, and like doves, to Jesus Christ, if ever we are to see multitudes of you fleeing to that city of refuge, if ever we are to see parents rejoicing over their children as new-born, husbands rejoicing over their wives, and wives over their husbands, God must pour out the Spirit. He is the author and finisher of a work of grace: "I will pour."

3. It is God who enlarges His people.

You remember, in Zechariah 4, how the olive trees supplied the golden candlesticks with oil, they emptied the golden oil out of themselves. If there is little oil, the lamps burn dim. If much oil, the lamps begin to blaze.

Ah! if ever we are to see you who are children of God greatly enlarged, your hearts filled with joy, your lips filled with praises, if ever we are to see you growing like willows beside the water-courses, filled with all the fulness of God, God must pour down His Spirit. He must fulfill His word, for He is the Alpha and Omega, the author and finisher of a work of grace: "I will pour."

Lesson One: Learn to Look Beyond Ministers for a Work of Grace

God has given much honor to His ministers, but not the privilege of pouring out the Spirit. He keeps that in His own hand: "I will pour." "It is not by might, nor by power, but by My Spirit, saith the Lord of hosts." Alas! we would have little hope, if it depended upon ministers, for where are our men of might now?

God is as able to do it today as He was at the day of Pentecost; but men are taken up with ministers, and not with God. As long as you look to a minister, God cannot pour, for you would say it came from man. Ah! cease from man, whose breath is in his nostrils.

One would think we would be humbled in the dust by this time. In how many parishes of Scotland has God raised up faithful men, who cease not day and night to warn every one with tears! And yet still the heavens are like brass, and the earth like iron. Why? Just because your eye is on man, and not on God. Oh! look off man to Him, and He will pour and His shall be all the glory.

Lesson Two: Learn That We Must Pray for Revival in Our Day

We are often preaching to awaken others; but we should be more upon praying for it. Prayer is more powerful than preaching. It is prayer that gives preaching all its power. I observe that some Christians are very ready to censure ministers and to complain of their preaching, of their coldness, their unfaithfulness.

God forbid that I should ever defend unfaithful preaching, or coldness, or deadness, in the ambassador of Christ! May my right hand sooner forget its cunning! But I do say, where lies the blame of unfaithfulness? Where, but in the lack of faithful praying?

Why, the very hands of Moses would have fallen down, had they not been held up by his faithful people. Come, then, ye wrestlers with God, you that climb Jacob's ladder, ye that wrestle Jacob's wrestling, strive with God, that He may fulfill His word: "I will pour."


"I will pour waters upon him that is thirsty."

1. Awakened Persons

There are often souls that have been a long time under the awakening hand of God. God has led them into trouble, but not into peace. He has taken them down into the wilderness, and there they wander about in search of refreshing waters, but they find none.

They wander from mountain to hill seeking rest, and finding none. They go from well to well, seeking a drop of water to cool their tongue. They go from minister to minister, from sacrament to sacrament, opening their mouth, and panting earnestly, yet they find no peace. These are thirsty souls.

Now, it is a sweet thought that God begins with such: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty." The whole Bible shows that God has a peculiar tenderness for such as are thirsty. Christ, who is the express image of God, had a peculiar tenderness for them.

"The Lord God hath given Me the tongue of the learned, that I should know how to speak a word in season to him that is weary."

"Come unto Me, all ye that are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest."

"If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink."

Many of His cures were intended to win the hearts of these burdened souls. The woman that had spent all upon other physicians, and was nothing better, but rather worse, no sooner touched the hem of His garment than she was made whole.

Another cried after Him: "Lord, help me," yet He answered not a word; but at last said: "O woman, great is thy faith; be it unto thee even as thou wilt." Another was bowed down eighteen years; but Jesus laid His hands on her, and immediately she was made straight.

Weary sinner, listen! First, this is Jesus; this is what He wants to do for you: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty." Only believe that He is willing and able, and it shall be done.

Second, learn that it must come from His hand. In vain you go to other physicians; you will be nothing better, but rather worse. Wait on Him, kneel and worship Him, saying; "Lord, help me."

Third, long for a time of refreshing, that weary souls may be brought into peace. If we go on this every-day way, these burdened souls may perish, may sink uncomforted into the grave. Arise, and plead with God that He may arise and fulfill His word: "I will pour water upon him that is thirsty."

2. Thirsty Believers

All believers should be thirsty, but few are. Here are signs of the thirsty believer:

First, he has much thirst after the Word of God. When two travelers are going through the wilderness, you may know which of them is thirsty, by his always looking out for wells. How gladly Israel came to Elim, where were twelve wells of water, and seventy palm trees! So it is with thirsty believers. They love the Word, read and preached. They thirst for it more and more.

Is it so with you, dear believing brethren? In Scotland, long ago, it used to be so. Often, after the blessing was pronounced, the people would not go away till they heard more. Ah! children of God, it is a fearful sign to see little thirst in you. It is no wonder when the world stays away from our meetings for the Word and prayer. But when you do, I am dumb, my soul will weep in secret places for your pride. I say, God grant that we may not have famine of the Word very long.

Second, he spends much time in prayer. When a little child is thirsty for its mother's breast, it will not keep silent. This is the way it is for a child of God who is thirsty. Thirst will lead you to the secret well, where you may draw unseen the living water. It will lead you to united prayer.

If the town were lacking water, and thirst was staring every man in the face, would you not call a meting with one another, take counsel, and help to dig new wells? Now, the town is in need of grace, souls are perishing for lack of it, and you yourselves are languishing. By all means, meet to pray! "If two of you shall agree on earth as touching anything that they shall ask, it shall be done for them of My Father which is in heaven" [Matthew 18:19].

Third, they desire to grow in grace. Some persons are contented when they come to Christ. They sink back, as it were, into an easy chair; they ask no more, wish no more. This must not be! If you are thirsty believers, you will seek salvation as much after conversion as before it. "Forgetting those things which are behind, and reaching forth unto those things which are before, I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus."

Here is a word to thirsty souls: Dear children, I look for the first drops of grace among you, in answer to your prayers, to fill your panting mouths. Oh, yes, He will pour.

"A vineyard of red wine, I the Lord do keep it; I will water it every moment: lest any hurt it, I will keep it night and day" [Isaiah 27:3].

"With joy shall ye draw water out of the wells of salvation" [Isaiah 12:3].


The dry ground represents those who are dead in trespasses and sins. It is just like you have seen the ground in a dry summer, all parched and dry, cracking and open. But it does not speak, it does not ask the clouds to fall. That is just the way it is in most in our churches. They are all dead and dry, parched and withered, without a prayer for grace, without even a desire for it. Yet what says God? "I will pour floods upon them."

Make note of these points describing the "dry ground:"

First, they do not pray. I believe there are many in our churches who do not make a habit of secret prayer, who ever pour out their heart to God, neither in their closet nor in a private place outdoors. I believe there are many who are dropping into hell who never so much as said:

"God, be merciful to me a sinner." Ah! these are the dry ground. It is sad to think that the souls that are nearest to hell are the souls that pray least to be delivered from it.

Second, they do not want a work of grace in their souls. I believe many of you came to the house of God today who would rather lose house, and home, and friends, than have a work of grace done in your heart. Nothing would terrify you so much as the idea that God might make you a praying Christian. Ah! you are the dry ground, you love death.

Third, they do not attend to the preached Word. I have heard persons concerned for their souls declare that they never heard a sermon in all their life until they were awakened. They say they regularly thought about something else all the time. I believe this is the way with many of you. You are the dry ground.

What will God pour out on you? Floods -floods of wrath? No; floods of grace, floods of the Spirit, floods of blessing. Oh, the mercy of God, it passes all understanding! You deserve the flood that came on the world of the ungodly, but He offers floods of blessing. You deserve the rain of Sodom, but, behold, He offers flood of His Spirit.

Lesson One: Learn how much it is in your interests that there should be a work of grace in our day. You are the very persons who do not care about lively preaching, who ridicule prayer meetings, and put a mock on secret prayer; and yet you are the very persons that are most concerned.

Ah! poor dry ground souls, you should be the first to cry out for a dynamic ministry. You, more than all the rest, should wait for the fulfillment of this word. If it does not come, what will become of you? Poor dead, dead souls, you cannot pray for yourselves! One by one, you will drop into a sad eternity.

Lesson Two: Learn, Christians, to pray for floods. It is God's word, He puts it into your mouth. Do not ask for drops, when God offers floods. "Open thy mouth and I will fill it" [Psalm 81:10].


Saved Souls Will Be like Grass.

They shall spring up as grass. So, in Psalm 72:16, "They of the city be awakened, many saved." At present, Christ's people are like a single lily among many thorns, but in a time of grace they shall be like grass. Count the blades of grass that spring in the dear shining after rain; so many shall Christ's people be.

Count the drops of dew that come from the womb of the morning, shining like diamonds in the morning sun. That is how Christ's people will be in a day of His power. Count the stars that sparkle in night's black mantle. That is how Abraham's seed will be. Count the dust of the earth. That is how Israel will be in the day of an outpoured Spirit. Pray for an outpoured Spirit, you men of prayer, that there may be many raised up in our day to call Him blessed!

Believers Will Grow like Willows.

There is nothing more distressing in our day than the lack of growth among the children of God. They do not seem to press forward. They do not seem to be running a race. When I compare this year with last year, what is the difference? The same weakness, and the same coldness. Actually, I fear, greater laziness in spiritual things.

How different in the New Testament when the Spirit is poured out! They shall be like willows. You have seen the willow, how it grows, ceases not day or night, ever growing, ever shooting out new branches. Cut it down, it springs again. So you would you be, dear Christians, if there were a flood time of the Spirit, a day of Pentecost.

What would change you if this flood time came?

- There would be less care about your business and your workshop, more prayer and praises.

- There would be more change in your heart, victory over the world, the devil, and the flesh. You would come out, and be separate.

- In hardship, you would grow in sweet submission, humility, meekness.

There was a time in Scotland when Sabbath days were growing days. Hungry souls came to the Word, and went away filled with good things. They came like Martha, and went away like Mary. They came like Samson, when his locks were shorn, and went away like Samson when his locks were grown.

There Will Be Self Dedication of Believers

"One shall say, I am the Lord's." There is no greater joy than for a believing soul to give himself all to God. This has always been the way in times of refreshing. It was so at Pentecost. First they gave their own selves unto the Lord. It was so with Thomas Boston, and Phillip Doddridge, Jonathan Edwards, and all the holy men of old.

"I have this day been before God," says Edwards, "and have given myself, all that I am and have, to God; so that I am in no respect my own. I can claim no right to myself, in this understanding, this will, these affections. Neither have I right to this body, or any of its members, no right to this tongue, these hands, these feet, these eyes, these ears. I have given myself clean away."

Oh! would that you knew the joy of giving yourself away. You cannot keep yourself. This day try and give all to Him. Lie in His hand, little children! I wish that you would become like him who said: "I am God's boy altogether, mother!" Write on your hand: "I am the Lord's."

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