26. The Steam-Roller And The Stone-Roller

Only A Prayer Meeting by C. H. Spurgeon

Dear Friends–Each saved one must try to serve his God according to his calling, position, and ability. Our powers vary greatly, and our modes of action must vary also; but each one ought to do his very best, and he should try to raise that best to something better. The largest capacities are none too large for our holy service. If we could each gain ten talents, our Lord would deserve ten times as many. The Lord Jesus is such a good Master, that He deserves to have good servants, and to receive perfect service. Oh, that I could honour Him with a thousand voices, and continue to extol Him through a thousand lives! It may be that some of us will never be able to gain any remarkable degree of mind or influence; well, then, we must use what capacity we have. Whatever our work may be, we must throw our whole energy into it, and let it stand as a pattern of how work can be thoroughly done; and then, whether large or small, it will be acceptable.

It is astonishing how much zeal and perseverance can accomplish with very little ability; and even if there be not much in quantity, the little may be so fine in quality as to be very precious. He who carves ivory does not expect to fill so large a space as if his tools were used upon wood. As I came to this service, I met an old acquaintance, for whom I have a respect almost amounting to dread; for my horse is too much impressed by him; I mean the steam-roller. He is the friend of all who travel upon wheels, and deserves first place among public benefactors. Rough roads, which make your ride like a voyage upon a stormy sea, are transformed into smoothness by this giant’s power. When a long stretch of road has been broken up with picks, it is then covered with bits of granite which are all sharp edge and pointed corner, and every step becomes painful both to horse and rider. With the help of the water-cart, our weighty friend comes in, and makes the rough places smooth. It is wonderful how every unruly stone subsides into order as soon as the roller appears. It does its work grandly; with a steady, immovable determination which mortal men might envy. If ever I were, or could be, a steam-roller upon the road to Heaven, crushing down those stones, which now hinder travellers, I am afraid I might become proud of my own prowess, and therefore I will not covet so hazardous an office; but yet I would earnestly desire and eagerly seek after all the force and ability that may be within my reach, that I may employ them for my Lord and His people. We may all ask that the power of Christ may rest upon us, that out of weakness we may be made strong, – strong in the Lord, and in the power of His might. Of such power, the steam-roller may be a type; for all the impediments which lie in its way are most effectually overcome, and used to make its road better. The very things which look like difficulties are treated as instruments for the accomplishment of its design: granite stones are the material which the steam-roller subdues to its purpose. If a man receives great grace from on high, and the Lord endues him with much of His Holy Spirit, what work he can do for Christ!

But there may be much mental and moral force, and it may remain unused. If God has made you capable of being a steam-roller, I hope you will set the fire alight, and keep the steam up, and be ready for constant work. But it is not so in every case; those who could do much, and should even do most, often do the least. Many men have ability, but there is no “go” in them; there is plenty of roller, but no steam; plenty of weight, but no driving power. Many a preacher is heavy; oh, that we could put force into him, and set him to work! What is learning if a man will not teach? What is the profoundest knowledge of theology if there be no love to souls? What is the use of that young man’s Biblical information if he merely reads and studies for himself? Grace to make us zealous in the Lord’s cause must abound in us, or else our weight will create responsibility for ourselves, but it will have no salutary influence upon other minds and hearts. It is a small matter for a pitcher to be full, if nothing can be poured from it to slake the thirst of the fainting. It is well to have the talents, but it is better to trade with them for the Master.

To my big brothers, comparable to the steam-roller, I offer earnest entreaties that they will consecrate every ounce of their power, and use it diligently. Oh how much we need the help of all men of light and leading! Forcible characters are not so plentiful among us that we can afford to let one of them waste his energies. Indeed, my brothers, we are surrounded by so many feeble folk who need assistance, but can render little efficient aid in return, that our work is rendered hard from the want of capable and sagacious workers. May God send us a legion of strong men; but may He fill them to the full with His grace! My district would be all the better for a few more steamrollers: I find plenty of stones in my road, and I have need of all the force I can enlist in preparing a highway for our God.

We cannot expect all of you to be steam-rollers; perhaps it is not needful that you should be. If all ships were ironclads, or huge frigates, how would shallow rivers be navigated? If all were learned and cultured, simple folk might never hear a plain sermon. At Mentone, I have seen another kind of roller used on the road. The remembrance of it amuses me much. Often as I have seen it, it has never failed to make me smile. In the mending of roads in the South of France, things are done in a special manner; it wears the appearance of an endeavour to employ the largest number of men, and to give each one as little fatigue as possible. It is a fine country for going about work in a deliberate fashion. There is a bit of road to be mended, and it is done in detail, patch by patch; those who undertake too much at once may fail in their endeavours. A man picks the road over just a little, but he does not wear himself out with rash haste; he thinks between each stroke, and thus he performs his important office with wisdom and judgment. Having disturbed that little bit of road, of about the size of a door-mat, or possibly of a small Turkey carpet, another man comes along with a little water-cart, which he draws himself by the help of a hard-working comrade who pushes behind. Inasmuch as it would be a pity for one man to do the work that might be done by two, or which might do itself, the water is not allowed to flow out from the cart, through an arrangement of a pipe with holes in it; but a tap is turned, and a wateringpot is filled, and a rose is put upon it, and the section of road is thus moistened with tender discretion, as if it were a bed of tulips. Another hard-working person now appears on the scene with a barrow-load of stones, a discreet load, such as may be pushed along without breaking one’s back. You imagine that these stones will be shot down; but you are in too much of a hurry; they do things so much better in France. A small basket is provided, and a large shovel; the stones are shovelled into the basket, and then carefully deposited upon the prepared ground. A barrow of earth is also fetched; measured into the basket, and daintily used to mix with and cover the stones, even as a cook puts a crust over her gooseberries, and makes a pie.

It is quite beautiful to observe these children of toil when occupied with their sore travail; they may well be a terror to British workmen, and make them dread competition with them! We should all mend our ways; but should we not do it with care, and thought, and deliberation? So our French brethren rightly judge. Now comes in our roller, after a little discreet touching-up of the stones and earth with a rake. The beauty of the whole concern to me lies in this stone-roller. It is a roller similar to that which any one gardener would cheerfully drag over our gravel paths; but this roller has a horse to move it to and fro. I confess it is a very old horse, and that you may tell all his bones; but still it is a horse, and a big horse for so little a roller. An excellent man led the horse with care over the difficulties of the selected portion of road. He fastened the traces to the roller, and gently led the horse to the end of the little bit of road; then he took off the ropes, and hooked them on to the other side of the roller, and walked the steed back again, and so on, with persevering continuance. It is a beautiful instance of how the thing should be done in order to utilize a large quantity of unexhausting labour for which the payers of taxes may give a bountiful reward.

Here, however, is the point of the whole affair; when I rode over roads which had been dealt with in this fashion, I invariably found that they were effectually mended. The oldfashioned method produced first-rate results. It took a good while to do; but when the work was done, it was well done; and complaint turned into good-humoured criticism. It struck me that I knew certain friends who do their work for God very calmly and deliberately, and with as little of push as the old man and the old horse and the stoneroller at Mentone get through their labours, and yet what they perform will bear inspection, is of a lasting character, and wears well. It is therefore no business of mine to find fault; but, on the contrary, to commend; and if I smile, it shall be in all good fellowship. So far from disturbing our quiet, steady workers, I wish we had thousands more of them. Brother, let not the rush and worry of this boastful age disturb you. Move more quickly, if you can; but if not, be not distressed by the criticisms of the flippant. If you cannot be a steam-roller, and should happen to be more like a common stone-roller, keep on steadily at your work, and roll well the little bit of road that you travel. It may be, you could do nothing if you quitted your own ways and methods; don’t quit them, but stick to ways by which you have done good work. Don’t try to wear Saul’s armour, nor even Solomon’s robes. Only do your work conscientiously, prayerfully, and with faith in God, and somebody will yet say, “Well, it was a slow business; but it was a sure one.” Have we not often seen workers do a great deal which has all ended in nothing? What a noise and fuss they have made! The papers have been ablaze with their mighty deeds; and yet we have passed that way, and the spreading bay-tree has vanished, not a leaf has remained. The bulk of us may never be more than humble plodders; but let it be our resolve that we will do good sound work by the help of God’s Holy Spirit. Better that one soul should be savingly converted, than that hundreds should crowd the enquiry-rooms, and turn out to be only excitable persons, temporarily wrought upon, but not brought to Jesus in spirit and in truth. Better one yard of wall built with gold, silver, and precious stones, than a mile of wood, hay, and stubble.

While speaking to those who are saved, I remember sadly that some of my hearers cannot do anything for the Saviour. Who are they? Those who are bedridden? Ah! they can speak of Christ upon their beds. Those that have but one talent? They can use that one talent for the Lord. A little candle may give great light. But who are the useless ones? They are such as are not yet alive from the dead, those who have not yet come to Jesus. How can they do anything for Jesus, or even attempt it? Your first business, my friend, is to find the Lord yourself, and yield yourself to Him, that He may give you a new heart and a right spirit. Then may you go forth, and serve Him. In one of the letters brought to me this evening, asking for our prayers, the writer says, “If God will but hear me, I will tell everybody of His goodness.” Is not that the resolve of each one who has tasted that the Lord is gracious? Do not all believers cry, “Taste and see that the Lord is good”?

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