This Day in Presbyterian History:
Come Before Winter
Have you ever had the experience of having your pastor preach the same sermon to your congregation of which you are a member, every fall of the year, for 37 years? And here’s the second part of the equation—was this request to the pastor eagerly given by your fellow members to do this very thing? Or Pastors, have you ever had your congregation vote to have you preach the same sermon every fall for as long as you were in the church? It must have been a dynamite sermon in every case.
And yet, that was exactly the case with Dr Clarence Edward McCartney, senior pastor of a Presbyterian Church in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. On October 18, 1915, he preached a famous sermon entitled “Come Before Winter” from the text in 2 Timothy 4:21. It reads in the King James Version, “Do thy diligence to come before winter.”
Paul was in prison. He was on the eve of his life and ministry. The great apostle was giving his last report to the church through his disciple Timothy. He urges Timothy to capture the moment and take the opportunity presented, to come to him. Listen to his words:
“Before winter or never. There are some things which will never be done unless they are done ‘before winter.’ The winter will come and the winter will pass. The flowers of the springtime will deck the heart of the earth and the graves of some of our poor families, perhaps the grave of a dearest friend. There are golden opportunities on this autumn day and next October, they will be forever shut.”
The emphasis of the celebrated Presbyterian pastor was to make haste when you consider the work of the Lord. The word “diligence” speaks of being especially conscientious in discharging an obligation. It is to be zealous, eager, take pains, make every effort, and doing your best. In short, do what you need to do without delay.
Perhaps now we can see why the congregation asked him to preach this every fall. They saw that their spirits needed to be reminded to not be procrastinators in the things of life, to say nothing of the work of the Lord. And so, the pastor had the urging by the congregation to preach the same message every year.
Words to live by: There are some things which we can put off without a great deal of problems. But procrastination has painful effects for God’s kingdom. Satan and his host are going full speed to tear down God’s kingdom and hinder His work. There is no delay in his evil designs. But some of God’s people believe that they have all the time in the world to put off the doing of God’s work. They are wrong. Don’t be one of them. Many of the commands in the Bible are set in a tense which speaks of doing something and doing it now. We are not to put off to tomorrow what must be done today. One day we will give an account of our times to the Lord. Let us be busy in the work of the Lord.
Through the Scriptures: Matthew 12 – 15
Through the Standards: Benefits and Duties of Saints by Profession
“Saints by profession are bound to maintain an holy fellowship and communion in the worship of God, and in performing such other spiritual services as tend to their mutual edification; as also in relieving each other in outward things, according to the several abilities and necessities. Which communion, as God offers opportunity, is to be extended unto all those who, in every place, call upon the name of the Lord Jesus.”