Geriatric Giants: Old Preachers Graced With the Spirit of Caleb

Joshua 14:6-12
       Then the children of Judah came unto Joshua in Gilgal.
       And Caleb the son of Jephunneh the Kenezite said unto him, Thou knowest the thing that the LORD said unto Moses the man of God concerning me and thee in Kadesh-barnea. Forty years old was I when Moses the servant of the LORD sent me from Kadesh-barnea to espy out the land; and I brought him word again as it was in mine heart. Nevertheless my brethren that went up with me made the heart of the people melt: but I wholly followed the LORD my God. And Moses sware on that day, saying, Surely the land whereon thy feet have trodden shall be thine inheritance, and thy children’s for ever, because thou hast wholly followed the LORD my God.
       And now, behold, the LORD hath kept me alive, as he said, these forty and five years, even since the LORD spake this word unto Moses, while the children of Israel wandered in the wilderness: and now, lo, I am this day fourscore and five years old. As yet I am as strong this day as I was in the day that Moses sent me: as my strength was then, even so is my strength now, for war, both to go out, and to come in.
       Now therefore give me this mountain, whereof the LORD spake in that day; for thou heardest in that day how the Anakims were there, and that the cities were great and fenced: if so be the LORD will be with me, then I shall be able to drive them out, as the LORD said.

JAMES DURHAM (1622-1658): God has given every man a task, and a time to perform it in…Think not that men have power to take lives, or pull men off the stage before their work is done. This will hold true of all men, especially of these that have any special work from God; their days and tasks are determined with Him, Revelation 2—the two witnesses could not be prevailed over till their testimony was finished.

MATTHEW HENRY (1662-1714): Moses had said in his prayer, Psalm 90:10, that at eighty years old even their “strength is labour and sorrow,” and so it is most commonly. But Caleb was an exception to the rule; his strength at eighty-five was ease and joy: this he got by following the Lord fully.

JOSIAH PRATT (1768-1844): After John Newton was turned eighty, some of his friends, fearing that he might continue his ministrations too long, recommended through his friend Richard Cecil that he should “consider his work done, and that he should stop before he should evidently discover that he could speak no more.” “I cannot stop,” said Newton, raising his voice. “What! shall the old African blasphemer stop while he can speak?”

ROWLAND HILL (1744-1833): If all the physicians in the world were to tell me I must renounce my ministry on account of my increasing debility, and that such debility would increase till a speedy death would be the result, I would keep his fee in my pocket, and labour till I died…Should a physician tell me that my life is in danger if I continue to preach, I will answer him—“Neither count I my life dear unto myself, so that I may finish my course with joy, and the ministry which I have received of the Lord Jesus, to testify the gospel of the grace of God.” So said Paul, Acts 20:24, and so says poor old Rowland Hill—I would rather be shut up in my coffin than shut out of the pulpit.

PHILIP HENRY (1631-1696): If I die in the pulpit, I desire to die preaching repentance and faith; and if I die out of the pulpit, I desire to die practising repentance and faith.

JOHN WESLEY (1703-1791): As long as God gives me strength to labour I am to use it. I am still a wonder to myself. My voice and strength are the same as at nine-and-twenty. This also God hath wrought—my sight is considerably better now, and my nerves firmer than 30 years ago. I have none of the infirmities of old age, and have lost several I had in my youth. The grand cause is the good pleasure of God, who doeth whatsoever pleaseth Him. The chief means are—
        1. My constant rising at four in the morning for about 50 years.
       2. My generally preaching at five in the morning, one of the most healthy exercises in the world.
       3. My never travelling less, by sea or land, than 4500 miles a year.

MARTYN LLOYD-JONES (1899-1981): The effect of preaching on one’s own health is quite remarkable. Those who have read the Journals of Geroge Whitefield will have noticed that he often referred to that. He had not been feeling well—probably it was his heart troubling him, or his excessive corpulence in his later years—and you find in his Journal, or in a letter to somebody a statement like this, “I shall not be right again until I have had a good pulpit sweat.” I have often said that the only Turkish baths I have had have been in pulpits. This is something that literally happens, one is completely reinvigorated and restored to health and strength by preaching, and you scarcely know yourself. I know of nothing else that does this.

WILLIAM JAY (1769-1853): We are to fill our days, and live as long as we breathe. When John Calvin was requested to leave off writing and correcting, “What,” said he, “shall the Master come and find me doing nothing?” And Philip Henry’s remark is well known, who, when desired to spare himself, said, “What are candles for but to burn out?”

C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892): I hope to keep on until I die…My own model, if I may have such a thing in due subordination to my Lord, is George Whitefield; but with unequal footsteps must I follow in his glorious track.

FRANCES BEVAN (1827-1909): George Whitefield’s last sermon was two hours long. He preached in the open air. We are told it was wonderful beyond measure. He went on that evening to a place called Newburyport, where he was to preach the next day—Sunday; but on the Saturday evening, as he sat at supper, a crowd came together around the house, and pressed into the hall and passages to hear more. Whitefield was very tired. He said to a friend, “Brother, you must speak to these dear people, I cannot say a word.” He took his candle to go up to bed; but he stopped on the stairs. He felt as though he could not send these hungry souls away empty. He began to speak over the banisters—he could not cease—the candle burned down in its socket, and went out before he had said his last word.
      At six the next morning, as the sun was rising over the sea, Whitefield lay dead. He had been taken ill at two o’clock. He could not speak afterwards, except to say “I am dying.” He had said not long before, “God will give me nothing to say when I am dying. He will have given me all the messages He has for me to give during my life.” And so it was.

GEORGE WHITEFIELD (1714-1770): We are immortal till our work is done.


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