A SERMON FROM A SICK PREACHER.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
MY brethren, I am quite out of order for addressing you tonight. I feel extremely unwell, excessively heavy and exceedingly depressed, and yet I could not deny myself the pleasure of trying to say a few words to you. I have taken a text upon which I think I could preach in my sleep, and I believe that, if I were dying and were graciously led into the old track, I could, with my last expiring breath pour out a heart-full of utterance upon the delightful verse which I have selected. It happens to be the passage from which I first essayed to speak in public when I was but a boy of fifteen years of age; and I am sure it contains the marrow of what I have always taught in the pulpit from that day until now. The words are in the second chapter of the first epistle of Peter, and the seventh verse; “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious .”
We might find “ample room and verge enough” if we were to enlarge upon the preciousness of Christ; in his person as God and perfect man; his preciousness to his Father, Ms preciousness to the Holy Spirit, his preciousness to angels and glorified men. We might next speak of him in the preciousness of his work; showing his preciousness as the Mediator of the new covenant, and as the incarnate messenger of that covenant on earth; his preciousness as working out a perfect righteousness, and as rendering a complete expiation. We might dwell upon his preciousness in all his offices, whether as Prophet, Priest, or King, and in all his relationships as friend, brother, or bridegroom. Indeed, we have before us a subject as inexhaustible as the river of God, and as bright as the sapphire, throne. If we should endeavor to show how precious the Well beloved is in all respects, we should need eternity in which to complete the task. “Precious, Lord, beyond expression, Are thy beauties all divine; Glory, honor, praise, and blessing, Be henceforth for ever thine.” The wording of the text binds our thoughts to one point. “Unto you that believe he is precious,” it is not so much how precious he is, as how precious he is to you. If you be a believer, the text affirms that Jesus Christ will, without any adverb to limit the extent of the descriptive word, be precious to you.
We shall, first, talk awhile upon the truth that Jesus Christ is now precious to believers.
Notice attentively how personally precious Jesus is. There are two persons in the text: “Unto you that believe he is precious.” “You” and “he.” You — you are a real person, and you feel that you are such. To yourself you must ever be the most real of existences. You do not think of yourself as a person of whom you have read in history, or heard of in discourse, or seen from a window years ago. You have (to use an ugly word, since I do not know any substitute for it), you have realized yourself; you are quite clear about your own existence; now in the same way I pray you strive to realize the other Person. “Unto you that believe he is precious” Jesus just as really exists as you do, and you must not regard him as a personage who was here one thousand eight hundred and sixty-nine years; ago, or one of whom you have heard, and whom you like to think of as a poetical conception; but there is a real Christ now existing; in spirit existing here; in real flesh and blood now standing at the right hand of the Father; and between him and you, if you be a believer, there exists a bond of unity which, though invisible, is nevertheless most matter-of-fact and positive. You believe in him, he loves you; you love him in return, and he she is abroad in your heart a sense of his love. You twain are bound together fastly and firmly; there is neither myth, nor dream either in him or in your union to him. He is and you are, and he is in very deed most precious to you.
Notice, too, that while the, text gleams with this vividness of personality, to which the most of professors are blind, it is weighted with a most solid positiveness: “Unto you that believe he is precious.” It does not speak as though he might be or might not be; but “he is precious.” There are some things about myself as a Christian which are frequently matters of question.
I may gravely question whether I am growing in grace; and under such a doubt I may search my heart to see whether I love my Lord better, or whether I have more fully conquered my sins; but one thing I do not question, namely, that being a believer in him, Jesus Christ is unutterably precious to my soul. If thou doubtest thy faith, thou mayst doubt whether Christ is precious to thee, but if thy faith be, certain, the preciousness of Christ to thy heart is quite as certain. “He is precious.” If the new life be in thee, thou art as sure to love the Savior as fish love the stream, or the birds the air, or as brave men love liberty, or as all men love their lives. Tolerate no peradventures here; allow no debate upon this vital point of thy religion!
Jesus must be precious to thee. Cleanse thine eye if any dust hath dimmed thy sight of Jesus’ preciousness, and be not satisfied till, in the language of the spouse, thou canst say, “He is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely.”
Mark, further, the absoluteness of the text;, “Unto you that believe he is precious.”’ It is not written how precious. The, text does not attempt by any form of computation to measure the price which the regenerate soul sets upon her bosom’s Lord. There is no hint that he is moderately precious; it does not even say positively or comparatively precious. I infer therefore that I may if I choose insert the word “superlatively,” and certainly if I did so there would be no exaggeration. for more dear than light to the eyes, or life to the body, is Jesus to the sanctified beam Each saint can truthfully sing, “Yes, thou art precious to my soul, My transport and my trust:
Jewels to thee are gaudy toys, And gold is sordid dust.” Since no sparkling gems or precious metals, regalia, or caskets of rare jewels can ever equal the value of Jesus, the comparison is vain. We therefore place him by himself alone, and say that he is absolutely precious to believers. Gold is precious; but the diamond is more so, and in. comparison with the diamond the gold is of small account. The diamond is precious; but give a man a bag full of diamonds of the first water, and put him down in a desert, or let him be out on the wild waste of ocean, he would give all his diamonds for a draught of pure water to drink, or a crust of bread to eat; so that in certain cases even the excellent crystal wealth lose its value. In fact, mineral substances are merely arbitrary signs of value, they have but little, worth in themselves; gold in itself is less useful than iron, and a diamond of little more account than a. piece of glass. They have no absolutely intrinsic value which would remain the same under all contingencies. But Christ is absolutely precious; that is to say, nothing can ever match him, much less excel him; and he is precious under all circumstances. There he, yet can arrive a time when we shall be compelled to confess his want of value, of lower our estimate of him. He is infinitely precious. O my soul, dost thou esteem him so? My heart, art thou sure of this, that; unto thee he is precious beyond compare; precious positively, precious comparatively, though heaven itself were compared, precious superlatively, beyond all things that can be dreamed of; or imagined? is he to thee essential preciousness, the very standard of all value? Thus it should be, for the text means no less: “Unto you that believe he is precious.”
The thought which I desire to bring out into fullest, relief is this, that Jesus Christ is today continually precious to his people. The moment a soul believes in Jesus, his sins are forgiven. Well, then, the precious blood that washes all sin away, is not that clone with? Oh, no! Unto you that believe, though yea have believed to the saving of your seal. He is still precious; for your guilt will return upon your conscience, and you will yet sin, being still in the body, but; there’ is a fountain still filled with blood, and thus unto you experimentally the cleansing atonement is as precious as when you first relied upon its expiating power. Nay, Jesus is more precious to you now than when first you were washed in his blood and were made white as snow; for you know your own needs more fully, have proved more often the adaptation of his saving grace, and have received a thousand more gifts at his blessed hands. I do fear me that some Christians imagine that after believing, all is done; but my Lord Jesus Christ is no old almanac, used up and of no further service. he is not; like the physic which I took months ago, which then healed me of my disease, so that now I can afford to put it on the shelf and laugh at it; oh, no! he is still my divine medicine. Still I want him, still I have him. If I believe in him, I feel I want him more than ever I did, and he is dearer to me than ever he was. If I needed him aforetime as a poor guilty sinner, I want him just as much as a poor needy saint, hanging, upon his daily bounty, deriving life perpetually from his life, peace from the virtue of his precious blood, and joy from. the outflowings of his love to me. Instead of Christ’s losing value to the believer, the pith of the text is this — that you, believer, when you get Christ, and get what Christ bringeth to you, instead of esteeming him as though he were an empty vessel, out of which you had drained the last drop, you prize him more highly than ever you did before. He is not a gold mine worked out and exhausted, a field reaped of its harvest, or a vineyard where the grape gleaning is done: he has still the dew of his youth, the fullness of his strength, the infinity of his wealth, the perfection of his power.
Now, beloved, just for a minute or two, let us think how Christ is today precious to you.
He is today precious to you because his blood even now this day is the only thing which keeps you from being a condemned sinner, exposed to the wrath of God. There has been enough sin upon your soul, my brother, my sister, this very day, to cast you into hell, if your Surety had not stood between you and God’s justice. You have been into no sinful company today; you have been in your Sunday-school class, and I have been in the pulpit; but, ah! my pulpit sins would have damned me today, if it had not been for that precious blood, and thy Sunday-school sins had shut thee up in hell, if that dear Mediator had not stood between thee, and God. So you see it is not the first day in which you believe in which he is precious to you:, but right on still, as long as you are a sinner, the Intercessor stands and pleads for you, evermore putting your sin away; being yesterday, today, and for ever, your Savior, your shield, and your defense, and therefore evermore supremely precious.
Remember, too, he is precious, because the only righteousness you have is, still. his perfect righteousness. That; which pleads with God. for you is not what you are, but what he is. You are accepted at this moment, but you are only accepted in the Beloved. You are not justified because you feel in a sweet frame of mind, or because your heart rejoices in, the name of God.
Oh, no! your acceptance is all in your great Surety, and if it could be possible that he and the entire system of his grace could be withdrawn, and covenant engagements abrogated, you would be as unacceptable as even lost spirits are, and would be like them for ever driven from the face and favor of God. Is he not, then, as your accepted Substitute, at this hour most precious to you?
Moreover, beloved, Jesus Christ is precious to you at this moment, as much as ever lie was, because from henceforth it is his example which you strive to imitate. So far as he is an example to his people, his character has always been most admirable in your esteem, and this day you delight to know that in his life God’s law appears drawn cut in bring characters. You aspire to be like him now; you expect to be perfectly like him in the day of his appearing. Now, because, he sinews you what you shall be, and because in him lies the power to make you what you shall be, is he not therefore daily precious to you? In proportion as you fight with sin, in proportion as you seek for holiness with inward longings and sublime pantings, in that proportion will Jesus Christ, the paragon of all perfection, be precious in your esteem. Beloved, you are to be crucified with him; your flesh, with its corruptions and lusts, must die upon his cross as lie died. Is lie not precious when you believe that it will be by virtue of his death that sin will die in you? You are to rise in him; nay, I trust you have already risen in him, in newness of life; I hope you are panting more and more after the resurrection life, that you may no longer regard the dead things of this world, but live for eternal things, as those whose life is hid with Christ in God. If so, I know you will prize a risen Savior, and your appreciation of him will increase as you drink deeper into the fellowship of the risen life.
Forget not, beloved, that, our Redeemer has ascended and in that ascension every saint has; his share. I do not say that you all enjoy your share yet, bat in proportion as you do so, you will reckon Christ to be precious; for he hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places; our conversation is in heaven, from whence also we look for the Lord Jesus, whose Second Advent is to be the perfection of our spiritual life, the unveiling of the hidden beauties and manifestations of the sons of God. Just in proportion as you enter into your royal heritage, and live in it, and believe in it, in this proportion Jesus Christ will be precious to you.
Beloved, let me tell you a secret. To many of you, there is as much in Christ undiscovered, as you have already enjoyed. Your faith has only yet grasped Christ as saving you from going down to the pit — Christ is precious to you so far; but if your faith could even now comprehend the fact that you are one with Christ, are members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones, that you are heirs of God, and joint heirs with Christ, ah, then, how doubly precious would Jesus be! As. surely as your faith grasps more, and becomes more capacious, and appropriating, Christ will grow in preciousness to you. I am persuaded that there is a meaning in these words which the whole of God’s saints have not yet been able to discover, a deep mysterious preciousness of Jesus, only to be known by a close and intimate acquaintance with him such as falls to the lot of few. “Unto you that believe,” just in proportion as you believe, the larger, the stronger, the deeper, the purer, the sublimer, the more full-grown your faith, the more unto you Jesus Christ is precious. Ask, then, for more faith, that Jesus may be more precious to you, and God grant it to you, for his name’s sake!
Thus much on that point. Now a few words on another. Because Jesus is precious to believers, he efficaciously operates upon them. The preciousness of Christ is, as it were, the leverage of Christ in lifting up his saints to holiness and righteousness.
Let me show you this. The man who trusts Christ values Christ; that which I value I hold fast; hence our valuing Christ helps us to abide steadfast in times of temptation. The world saith to a Christian, “Follow me, and I will enrich thee.” “Nay,” saith the Christian, “Thou canst not enrich me; I have Christ, and I am rich enough.” “follow me,” saith the world, “and I will bless thee; I will give thee the delights of the flesh.” “Nay,” saith the heart, “thou canst not bless me, for these things are accursed and would bring me sorrow and not pleasure; Jesus Christ is my pleasure, and to love him and to do his will is my joy.” Do you not see,. the greater your value of Christ, the greater your strength against temptation? Although the devil may tempt you with this and that, yet Jesus Christ being more precious than all things, you say, “Get thee behind me, Satan; thou canst not tempt me while Christ is dear to my spirit.” O may you have a very high ‘value of Christ, that thus you may be kept firm in the day of temptation.
Notice further: this valuing of Christ helps the believer to make sacrifices.
Sacrifice-making constitutes a large part of any high character. He who never makes a sacrifice in his religion, may shrewdly suspect that it is not worth more than his own practical valuation of it. When a man hath a very important document about him, on which depends his title to his estates, if a thief should try to take it from him, he will suffer the thief to tear away his garments, to rob trim of anything he has except his treasure, that he takes care to hold fast as long as he can. Indian messengers when entrusted with jewels, have been known to swallow them to preserve them from robbers, and to allow themselves to be stripped naked of every rag they wore, but they would not lose the jewel with which their prince had entrusted them. So the Christian will say to the world, “Take away my fortune, take away my livelihood; take away my good name if thou wilt, O lying world, but despite all I will retain my Savior, for he is precious!” Skin for skin; yea, all that a man hath will he give for Christ, and he never wil1 or can give Christ up if Christ be precious to him. See, then, that believing in Jesus makes him precious, and his being precious helps us to make sacrifices most cheerfully for his dear sake.
Moreover, brethren, this valuing of Christ makes us jealous against sin.
What, say we, does Jesus Christ deign to live under my roof? Then, while he lives in my heart, I will give no roosting-place to any foul bird of sin that might begin hooting in his ear. No! ye enemies of Christ, begone, begone, begone! My Beloved shall have the best chamber of my spirit, undefiled by your filthy feet. We are afraid lest we should do anything to grieve the heavenly Lover of our souls; this makes us keep our garments white, and pick our steps through this miry world Hence, a right valuing of Christ promotes directly the highest degree of sanctification. he who loves the Redeemer best purifies himself most, even as his Lord is pure.
Beloved high valuing of Christ helps the Christian in the selection of his associates in life. If I hold my divine Lord to be precious, how can I have fellowship with those who do not esteem him? You will not find a man of refined habits and cultured spirits, happy amongst the lowest and most illiterate. Birds of a feather flock together. Workers and traders unite in companies according to their occupations. Lovers of Christ rejoice in lovers of Christ, and they delight to meet together; for they can talk to each other of things in which they are agreed. I would recommend you to choose the church of which you would be a member, and the pastor whom you would hear, by this one thing; by how much of Christ there is in that church, and how much of the savor of Christ there is in that ministry. Oh! it is ill of a child of God to be enchanted by mere rhetoric. As well might you choose a, table to feast at merely on account of the knives and forks, or the polish of its mahogany. You require food for the soul, and there is nothing that will long feed a true heart but Jesus Christ, who is the meat and the drink of his people. Love to Christ soon makes a Christian discontented with mere oratory. He cannot be satisfied even with the best doctrine apart from Jesus. “They have taken away my Lord,” saith he, “and I know not where they have laid him.” I must hear about Jesus; and if that silver bell does not ring, then all the rest may Chime as they may, but my ear is at unrest until I hear that celestial sound. Thus a lofty estimate, of Christ will be seen, if I had time to track it, to operate through the entire history of a Christian.
Little need is there more fully to particularize, but we must not fail to remark that a sense of the Redeemer’s preciousness makes the Christian useful, for that which is much on the heart will soon creep up, to the tongue, and the testimony of the heart is a notable method for spreading the gospel. If thou lovest Christ much, thou wilt speak about him. Thy restrained speech will almost choke thee, thy soul will be hot within thee whilst thou art silent, till a last, like a fire in thy bones which cannot longer be concealed, it will break out, and thou wilt say to others, “My Beloved is the fairest and noblest of all beloveds; O that you. all knew him and loved him as I do! If you see him, his face is brighter than the sun in its strength; if you hear him, his voice is sweeter that the chorus of heaven; if you draw near to him, his garments smell of myrrh, and aloes, and cassia; and if you trust him, you will find him to be faithfulness and truth itself. Broken the words may be, the sentences may not flow with rhythmical harmony, but he that loves Christ must out with it, somehow or other. Thus telling out the things which he has made touching the King with a burning heart, others will hear the good news, and they will ask, “Who is this Precious One?” and they will, by God’s good Spirit, be led to seek him and find him too.
So the Christian valuing Christ will come to be useful to the souls of men; indeed, as I have said before, it will exercise an operating power on the entire Christian manhood, and render it holiness unto the Lord.
Christ being thus precious, his preciousness becomes the test of our Christianity.
I shalt not prolong this humble talk, but shall, in. conclusion, put a question to you. Beloved brother or sister, you know very well that I would be the last person in the world to speak lightly of the value of sound doctrine. I wish we were all acquainted with the Scriptures far more, and that the doctrines of grace were more clear to our understandings, and more imprinted upon our hearts; but there are some people who love a certain set of doctrines so much, that if you diverge a hair’s breadth they will denounce you as rotten at the core. They will not associate with any who do not say, “Shibboleth,” and sound the “sh” very harshly, too. They wilt cut off and condemn all God’s people who do not precisely agree with them. Now, mark you, it is not written, “ Unto you that believe a code of doctrines will be precious.” That is true, but it is not, written so in the text.
The text is, “Unto you that believe Christ is precious.” It is better to count Christ precious than it is to count orthodoxy precious. Oh, it is not loving a creed, but it is loving Jesus that proves you a Christian. You may become such a bigot that it may be only the laws of the land which keep you from burning those who differ from you, and yet you may have none of the grace of God in your heart. I love Protestantism, but if there is anything in this world that I have a horror of, it is that political Protestantism which does nothing but sneer and snarl at its fellow citizens, but which is as ignorant as a cow about what Protestantism truly is. The great truths of Protestantism — not mere Protestant, ascendancy — and the great secret power of those truths, far more than the mere letter of them, is the thing to be prized. You may get it into your head that you are a member of the one only true church; you may wrap yourself about with any quantity of selfconceit, but that does not at all prove you to be a possessor of grace. It is love to Christ that is the root of the matter. I am very sorry, my dear brother, if you should hold unsound views on some points; but I love you with all. my heart if Jesus is precious to you. I cannot give up believers’ baptism; it is none of mine, and, therefore, I cannot give up my Master’s word. I am sure that it is Scriptural. I cannot give up the doctrine of election, it seems to me so plainly in the word; but over the head of all doctrines and ordinances, and over everything, my brother, I embrace thee in my heart if thou believest in Jesus, and if he be precious to thee, for that is the vital point. These are the matters of heart work that, mark a Christian — nothing else is so true a test. If you cannot say, “Jesus is precious to me,” I do not care to what church you belong, or what creed you are ready to die for, you do not know the truth of God unless the person of Christ, is dear to you.
This may serve as a test for each one here. My brother, my sister, dost. thou believe in him who is the Son of God, and yet was born of the Virgin here on earth? Dost thou rely alone on him who on the cross poured Out his heart’s blood to redeem sinners? Dost thou depend on him who now standeth with his priestly garments on before the throne of the infinite majesty, pleading for the unjust, that they may live through him? If thou dost, then answer this question: Dost thou love Jesus now? Dost thou love him with thy heart and soul? Wouldst thou serve him? Dost thou serve him? Wilt thou serve him? Wilt; thou subscribe thy hand to be his servant from this day forth? Dost thou declare now, if not with lip, yet honestly with thy soul, “He is precious to me, and I would give up all else sooner than give up him”? Then it is well with thee! Be thou happy and rejoice.
Come thou to his table and feast with him at. the banquet of love. If not, thou has; not built on the rock. If thou art; not loving Christ, I pray thee examine thyself, and see where thou art, for there is but a step between thee and hell. Repent thee! May God convert, thee, and give thee now to put thy confidence in Jesus, and now to be saved, that he may be glorified in thee, for hitherto he has had no glory from thee. Unto you that do not believe, Christ is not precious, and you will go your way and despise him.
O that you were made wise by the Holy. Ghost, and taught to consider things aright, and he would be precious indeed to you! He is the only way for your escape from the wrath to come! He is the only hope for you of ever entering the gates of heaven. He must be your only shelter when the world will be on a blaze, as soon it shall; when the stars shall, fall like withered leaves from the trees; when all creation shall rock and. reel, and his voice shall resound in earth, and heaven, and hell, “Awake, ye dead, and come to judgement!” The only hope of a Savior in that last tremendous day must be found in Jesus. O seek him now while he may be found, call upon him while he is near! Turn not your heel away from him now, lest you turn once for all to perdition. Come to him now; believe in him now; and he shall have the glory. Amen.
THE FACE OF THE BELOVED.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
THERE hangs in my sick room a print from Caracci’s famous picture of the four Iarys lamenting over the dead body of our crucified Lord. I fix my eyes upon the face of the well-beloved corpse, and my thoughts, running as they will, leave as their residuum that which follows.
A couutenance is the especial throne-room and pavilion of intelligence, the parade-ground of thought, the material mirror of mind, the papyrus whereon the soul writes out her mystic lore, the pillar on which she hangeth up her writing for the world to read. There is something regal in the face of every man: the aweless lion blenches before that imperial eye, the pitiless wolf. skulks from that commanding look. If we would picture angels’ faces, could we select a higher model than the image of a man?
Mysterious blending of matter and mind! The human visage is a sea of mystery. As Sir Thomas Wyatt says, it “Speaks without word such words as none can tell.”
The face before us is not that of the first Adam. What a study might that have been! Natural innocence and free-will subdued in easy conflict by subtlety and sin. Beautiful as the Apollo Beh’idere, but probably more hirsute and patriarchal, the dead face of the great sire of men, was the model of manhood at its best receiving the wages of sin. Dear face of martyred Abel! what footmarks of sweetness, tenderness, faith, and joy, did thy noble spirit leave behind, when, first of all human intelligences, it entered within the gates of pearl. One half wishes to see how Abraham slept; how Isaac closed his eyes; how Jacob composed his features; how Joshua reposed; how Samuel “fell on sleep.” Into the face of Goliath, with his brow all cavernous, where went the stone of David, we peer with triumph; brute strength is never so great but that mere earth force can overthrow it. “The Egyptians are men and not God; and their horses flesh and not spirit.” The head of that other great decapitated — great in a far nobler sense — teaches widely different lessons. Those thin crimson lips once cut like scimitars into the hearts of sinners; that emaciated visage was a living rebuke to the luxury of the godless: lying in the charger of Herodias, set in a ruby collar of its own gore, the head of the Baptist summoned both Herod and his paramour to the judgment-seat where every secret thing shall be revealed; a token of the victory of the faithful soul over all a tyrant’s arts and terrors.
But the face before us now in contemplation, is of one nobler than all these — the face of him whose “countenance is as the sun shining in his strength.” Believer, behold the head of your Head, the face of him through whom you see the face of God. Start not aside because death is ghastly, for in this case the wondrous warmth of lingering love may make you forget the chili which gathers round the corpse. There was never such a dead countenance before, for there is not one linc of decay in it. At the veiy instant of death, the worm puts in its writ of habeas upon this mortal body, and, however little visible, corruption exercises instantly a defiling influence over the faces of all the departed; but our Lord’s case was not of this order. His holy body could not see corruption; sorrow and death might mar it, but decay could not pollute it. The imperishable gopher wood might he hewn and carved, but it could not rot; the axe might fell the cedar, but the worm could not devour it.
In every other human face, evil tempers and rebellious desires have left, after death, memorials of their power; but in the countenance of our Lord Jesus there was no sign or trace of personal sin. The noblest beauties of the material visage spring from the light of goodness within the nature, and the worst deformities of phisiognomy are those which are the result of ruling vices; in the Redeemer’s case, every exquisite touch of the fair hand of virtue must have been there, and not one solitary trace of the jagged tool and maniac iuand of passion. The material which formed the groundwork of the dear dead face, over which our love now sheds her reverent tears, was perfect; no original sin was mingled with the conception or birth of the Son of God; and “that holy thing” remained after thirty years of trial as perfect as when first produced. No evil was generated from within, and no evil was insinuated from without. In all those furrows of pain, and scars of anguish, there is not even a hair-line of transgression, so much as in thought. Here is a face indeed; dead, but alike free from presence of corruption and vestigia of sin.
That face must have been originally the most lovely ever gazed upon by a mother’s eye. A perfect soul could only fitly dwell within a comely body. “A body hast thou prepared me “ — a body, then, suitable for such a one to assume. Yet no face was ever more marred by pain than our blessed Lord’s; so that the natural comeliness was overshadowed with a cloud of grief. His sorrows were so many that they must have worn his visage as constant dropping frets the stone. See we not the grayings of that neverceasing woe? Plagued all the day long, and chastened every morning, the products of such incessant workmanship are rich and rare. Some of his sorrows were peculiar to himself — great waves of misery unknown to lesser souls; abysmal depressions, hells of anguish. Against him were aimed spiritual and heart-penetrating arrows from the black quiyer, such as were never shot at human heart before. All those griefs, too, were unmixed with sin. The result of pure, unmingled sorrow on a mortal countenance is nowhere else to be discerned; the result must have b.een as singular as the cause was unique. The griefs of Jesus were none of them his own: “Surely he hath born our griefs and carried our sorrows.” Benevolence, then, left its line side by side with every pang, and the two great artists of love and grief combined to produce that matchless countenmlce. Gazing into that face, one remembers that in the wilderness those eyes beheld the tempter; at Jordan they saw heaven opened; at Golgotha they looked on death, and shot their glances into hell; yet now incapable of one glance of love at his mother or at Magdalene; unable to after one consoling word, the hero sleeps. Never such a history condensed into a face before. “Thou noble countenance!
All earthly lights are pale Before the brightness of that glance At which a world shall quail; How is it quenched and gone!
Those gracious eyes how dim!
Whence grew that cheek so pale and wan?
Who dared to scoff at him?
All lovely hues of life, That glow’d on lip and cheek, Have vanished in that awful strife; The Mighty one is weak.
Pale Death has won the day, He triumphs in this hour, When strength and beauty fade away, And yield them to his power.” Never had the grave such a captive, never death such a victim. Well might earth oan until her rocks were rent, for her Lord, her King, her glory was dead. Sit down, O soul, and bewail the dead Christ, and add thy tears to the spices brought to embalm him. But hush, the promise speaks and bids thee refrain from weeping. The battle is ended but not the victory. Is the life of Jesus closed? No! Glory be to God for ever — No!
The ghastly pallor which surrounds every feature of the mostnoble countenance in death cannot preveht our perceiving in the present case the peace and joy, deep and profound, which ruled our Lord’s departing moments. The joy of the cross must have been as high as its agony was deep. “Lama sabachthani” is equalled, measure for measure, by “It is finished.” An exultation lingers in that eye, a glow of delight gleams still in you cheek, the lip is wreathed even now with a smile divinely exultant, and the brow is beetling with a majesty of conscious victory. That dead face is no relic of defeat, it is t]ae epitome of the battle and victory by which men’s souls were won. A spiritual Marathon, a mental Salamis, are in that countenance. Love makes each feature to be as a bed of spices; she reads over with delight the volume of his lovely face and studies every lineament; she lingers around the mouth which is most sweet; and in her heart she cries with the spouse in the Cantroles, His countenance is as Lebanon, excellent as the cedars: yea, he is altogether lovely.”
Never let us forget, as we perceive the Savior actually dead, that it was by yielding himself so completely that he achieved a perfect triumph. Carnal eyes beholding the dead visage of the Son of Man would have pronounced his cause hopeless, and his kingdom a chimera. Yet at that moment the Redeemer’s throne was established never to he moved. He conquered when he fell. His death, like that of Samson, was the ruin of all his foes.
Never let this lesson depart from us, for all truth must be conformed to the experience of him who is THE TRUTH.
Every good and great cause must be betrayed into the hands of sinners, mocked, and despitefully used, and what if it be crucified and put to death? in that moment it shall consummate its victory. Comfort one another with these words, ye lonely champions of despised truth, your hour shall come, and resurrection shall follow on the heels of crucifixion.
Among those precious things in reserve, which are this day the cxpectation of our hope, is the sight of the King in his beauty. That very face which was veiled in the gloom of the sepulcher shall be seen ill the glory of his appearing, and seen by me. Oh, blissful anticipation, mine eyes shall see him for myself, and not another! O for the enjoy-merit of that manifestation!
When will the day dawn, and the shadows flee away? Surely ,amid the royalties of our exalted Lord, when every sign ‘of humiliation shall be exchanged for honor and dominion, there will still remain in that beloved face the memorials of his passion! Not to diminish, but to enhance his glory! Not to obscure a ray of beauty, but to reveal every unparalleled perfection. Let it be as it may, it shall be joy enough to me to behold the King’s face in the day of the gladness of his heart. Adieu, yc lips, which once with sweetest words did overflow, Fresh from sharp vinegar, and bitterness of gall Adieu, ye cheeks, so often turned to bear the smitcr’s blow, And spat upon in Pilate’s judgment-hall.
Farewell, O mouth, so sweet and free from guile, And yet, alas! by traitorous kiss betrayed; Farewell, dear face, still bearing for my heart a smile; I leave thee — thou art in the Garden laid.
But, O thou matchless face of God in human clay, I wait to see thee, flaming like the sun, in glory bright; Nor shall I wait in vain, for thou art on the way, And all thy saints are pining for the sight.
THE CHURCH OF ENGLAND
“DEGRADED TO THE LABEL OF THE SECTS” BY C. H.SPURGEON. IN Episcopal journals of all shades of opinion, we frequently meet with I a fear lest “our beloved church of England should be deluded to the level of a mere sect.” This catastrophe appears to be the climax of ecclesiastical evil. It is dreaded alike by the courageous and straightforward Evangelical, the intelligent and highly enlightened Ritualist, and the truly devout and scrupulously orthodox member of the Broad school.
The fear lest the church of England should become divided against herself, and so should come to nought, is scarcely expressed once for every hundred times in which the bugbear of “degradation to a mere sect” finds utterance. Alarm lest its ecclesiastical system should prove out of harmony with the age, or lest heresy should contaminate its faith, or spiritual life forsake its fabric, we have heard; but the sound thereof has been as feeble as the chirping of a grasshopper compared with the voice of trembling heard upon her high places, lest she should sink to the level of the sects. To the church mind there appears to be an innermost depth of inconceivable disaster and unutterable mischief in this contingency, and therefore against it ten thousand of the elect and faithful bow the knee, crying day and night, “from all fraternal association and Christian equality with other Protestant churches, good Lord deliver us.” Each Episcopal party has its own pet aversion; but all the aversions put together are not equal to this one object of dread. One churchman grows feverish at the name of the Pope, another is delirious if the famous Zulu is referred to, Dr. Temple is the horror of one, and Dr. Pusey of another; but these little family feuds are peace itself when compared with the inward violence aroused by the approach of that religious equality which is destined to make Episcopacy abate her arrogance.
Being always governed by the most generous sentiments towards the weak, and the tenderest sympathies towards the sorrowing, we are moved to offer to afflicted Episcopalians, whose hearts are overwhelmed within them by the hideous fear which we have mentioned, a few comfortable considerations.
In the first place, timorous friends, if that which you dread should come upon you to the utlermost, what would it involve? Your church would stand upon the same footing as other highly honorable and useful churches of Christ. They are sects or parts of that great spiritual church for which the Lord Jesus Christ shed his blood; for your community to be regarded in the same light, is an affliction which you might survive. Your church must either be a section of the one church of Christ, or the whole of it, or have no relation to it. The last it would be uncharitable to insinuate, and we do not raise the question. The second alternative we trust you have not the arrogance to suggest. It remains, therefore, that your church is already a sect, or section, or part, of the church of Christ. Peace to your fears! Behold how small a mouse the mountain hath brought forth! Like the man who discovered that he had been writing prose for several years without knowing it, so, O timorous Episcopalian, you have long been a member of a sect without being aware of it.
A second comfortable consideration may be drawn from the fact that the elevation above the level of a mere sect, which the church of England is supposed at present to enjoy, is not of the most remarkably clear or valuable character. Some measure of glory is supposed to flash from the church’s corona, on account of the preponderating multitude of her adherents. When the Pan-Anglican Synod was sitting in all the pomp and circumstance of hierarchical dignity; English, Scotch, Welsh, Irish Episcopal, and the never-to- be-forgotten Bishop of Sodor and Man, side by side with Right Rev. Fathers in God from the Susquehanha River and the Big Mud Creek, and all the Presidents of all the Missionary Dioceses from Hong Kong to Natal; Protestant Episcopacy arose before the worshipful mind of the British churchman like a vision of the beatific glory, with rustling as of lawn sleeves and crumpling of black silk aprons, exceeding apostolic. To bring down such a church to the level of a mere sect, must have seemed to any mind, rendered ecstatic by the heavenly vision, a sin scarcely to be paralleled in atrocity by that which is called unpardonable.:Now that the delirium caused by that transfiguration of prelacy may have abated, and minds may have become somewhat more able calmly to judge, the question may be put, “What is the actual size of the Episcopalian church compared with other Protestant denominations? Is she so vast as to exceed all the rest of Protestantism together? Walks she as the moon among the stars? Is she greater than any, or all other bodies of Christians? Or is she not rather beyond measure so grand in her proportions as to render it utterly ridiculous to institute comparisons, even as men no longer measure Himalayas by molehills?” To assist us at arriving at some conclusion, we would venture to enquire whether those Protestant churches holding the Presbyterian form of church government do not very considerably, and even by a distinct multiple, outnumber the Episcopalians? Prussia, Holland, France, Switzerland, America, Scotland — all these countries pour forth hordes of Presbyterians, compared with whom Episcopalians are as a little flock.
Where is, then, the superior elevation of the Episcopal sect beyond the Presbyterian sect? It would scarcely be a calamity to lose such elevation, seeing it has gone already, or rather at no time in history ever had an existence.
One matter too lightly regarded is the mode in which the strength of a church can properly be estimated. There are ways of manufacturing statistics seas-to make them say what you will; and there are methods of swelling the census of a church, by which rather its ideal than its actual strength is represented to the public eye. To count all the inhabitants of England as churchmen, would be as inaccurate as to consider them all Dutchmen. To reckon all but avowed Dissenters as being Episcopalians, would be as correct as to put all men down as having red hair who had not taken out certificates as being adorned with raven locks. Each church may claim its own adherents rightfully enough; but no one of the churches has any right to assert that all unacknowledged by other denominations belong, as a matter of course, to itself. It were, indeed, easy to swell the apparent numbers of a church by enrolling in it all who have no religion at all, but the process is as rational as if it were a law of the census to put down all persons of no trade at all as clergymen; the numbers of that class would then be increased, but its dignity would suffer in proportion by being united with all the vagabondage of the country. Of course, if any community chooses to found its claim for superiority to all others on the fact that the scum, and draft, the non-worshipping, the profane, the debauched, the imprisoned, are her peculiar heritage and glory, and constitute her preponderating spiritual strength, she will find no rival for the honor among those decent and holy churches of Christ which are called sects. We are assured that churchmen will not Wish to have their church’s relative position calculated in such a manner that her numbers will rise or fall in precise ratio to the irreligion and villany of the country; such an elevation above the sects they would no more covet than the gallows of Haman. It has always seemed to us that the fairest and most practical estimate of a church’s relative strength could only be made by counting the number of her communicants. Those who love not a religion well enough to attend to her most sacred and central rite, may well be omitted from her muster-roll.
Outward profession does not ensure genuine discipleship, but it would be folly to reckon those as disciples who do not even profess to be such. Let us try, then, this, test of membership. The Baptist churches do not claim any preeminence in numbers, but are content to rank with the smaller branches of the church of Christ, yet, in America and this country, the Baptist churches number about cue million and a-quarter of members. We ask the question for information, and enquire had all the ecclesiastics of the Pan-Anglican Synod anything like this number of constant, regular communicants under their care? We gravely doubt it. Be it remembered, also, that in Baptist churches watchful and stringent discipline is maintained; the door to the Lord’s-supper is jealously guarded, and any known immorality at once excludes a man kern membership. No such discipline exists in the Episcopal church in. England; the merest mockery of such a thing may survive, but for all practical purposes, discipline in Episcopal membership is dead and buried. Yet it is a matter open to fair question, whether the entire body of such lax and necessarily corrupt membership would be found to equal the membership of the Baptist community. The next time the Episcopalian feels inclined to look down with contempt upon the mere sect or’ Baptists, let him seek some retired spot where he may give his judgment a reason for the pride that is in him.
The statement could be defended, if it were boldly asserted, that, three or four other Protestant communities are each of them equal in numbers to the Episcopal body, if not superior to it. The Methodist, family, in all its tribes, might hold a “Pan-Methodist Synod,” which would represent, we conceive, fully twice as many believers in Christ as the famous prelatical conclave. After all, numbers never did and never can, in themselves, give strength; the indwelling Spirit of God constitutes the true power of a church, and this, thank God, is not confined to Episcopacy, nor to any of us. If to know that it is not by might, nor by power, but by the Spirit of the living God, is the level of the sects, as we honestly believe it to be, the sooner Episcopal believers come down to this level the better. The swollen greatness of a suppo-sititious preponderance of numbers is a form of falsehood and boastful-ness in which truly noble minds will scorn to indulge. The connection of Episcopacy with the State has been supposed to lend her some peculiar charms, but even while we write, the error is vanishing into thin air. There is the less room for us to denounce the unhallowed alliance, since Time’s iron tongue appears to be at once proclaiming its shame and its end. Even churchmen are becoming disgusted with the unscriptural association which is rendering their church a victim to ten thousand ills, and denying her all rights of guarding herself against them. Denison and Pusey are at one with Miall and Binney. On all hands it is admitted to be a questionable dignity for a church to be established; and were it not that disendow-ment follows at its heels, disestablishment would be the universal prayer of all the church’s thoughtful sons. It will be no calamity to be bereft of that faded chaplet which at this moment stigmatises rat her than adorns its wearer.
The forebodings of Episcopalians may receive some mitigation if they remember that it might even involve an ascent, if their church should reach the level of the sects. If the position of a community is fixed by its history, a church which has degraded itself by persecuting its rivals, by surrendering the headship of Christ to a human potentate, and by other sins of the same order, must take a lower room than another church which has been faithful under oppression, and has never resorted to an arm of flesh for succor.
When the votaries of the prelatical church remember Scotland and the name of Claverhouse, they may bash* fully accept equality with Presbyterians, and wonder at the grace which overlooks the hateful past.
How grievously must reminiscences of the Test and Corporation Acts, the Five Mile Act, and other infamous statutes, disturb the godly prelatist?
What other church was ever girt around with an iniquitous rampart comparable to the Act of Uniformity? Have Methodists ever fined, and imprisoned, and cut off the ears or’ dissenters from John Wesley? Have Baptists seized Episcopal furniture, and horses, and cows, for tithes and church-rates? To ravine like a wolf, and to plunder like a freebooter, has been the peculiar prerogative of the church of England. Meanwhile, where else upon earth has simony reigned so supreme? At this very hour, livings are bought and sold as publicly as pigs and bullocks. It has never been so much as insinuated that such infamy is practiced among “the sects.” In fact, in this respect the most despised of the sects is as much above the church in character as an honest woman is superior to a common harlot. If, then, reputable churches of Jesus Christ, with unsullied histories are placed upon a certain level, let it be the hourly prayer of all good Episcopalians that by deep repentance, mortification, and amendment, their hitherto grievously erring and foully offending Alma Mater, may yet be elevated to the same godly and honorable platform. It is true this prodigal church might well confess that it is not worthy to be called a son, and might count it a favor to be as one of the hired servants; but the past shall be forgiven, it shall yet be put among the children, and its brethren will receive it joyfully, when it shall lay aside its loftiness and confess that all we are brethren.
Once more, let the Episcopalian reflect that to be red,wed to the level of the sects will be an incalculable gain to his church. The sects are free to obey the laws of Christ without the intervention of the civil power, they choose their own bishops and deacons, and govern their own affairs; but the Episcopal bony is bound, hand and foot, and enjoys barely as much liberty as a mastiff chained and muzzled. No one congregation of Episcopalians can do other than receive for its pastor any stranger who may be thrust upon them; the people are usually no more consulted than if they were a flock of sheep to be sold to a butcher. As to the election of bishop% was there ever a more delectable farce? The Prime Minister calleth whom he wills, and saith to him, Sit there upon the episcopal throne, and rule in the midst of thy brethren. The Episcopal church in her fullest convocation can do nothing.
The state has disarmed her of every weapon, even as mothers put edged tools ut of the reach of naughty children. All the deans, and prebends, and rectors, and vicars, and proctors, and surrogates, and canons, and archdeacons, and bishops put together, could not change one hair of the church white or black, though a.single Act of Parliament could dye it green or ultramarine, if the Commons of England chose to do so. No church ever ate dirt more abundantly than “our beloved church of England;” her capacity for humiliation is infinite; there is no point at which she will become rebellious to her lords and masters. Among her matrons you shall never find a hand to wield the curry-stool of Janet Geddes, no, not even at this day, when mass is said to their faces at their own altars. If we were desired to draw the picture of a church enslaved to the uttermost, pliant to the last degree, degraded beyond comparison, we should point to the actual current history of the church of England, and cry, “Behold that which you seek!” The bishop of the smallest congregational church would resent with indignation the slightest approach to interference from any power beyond his church, and he would have the sympathy of all his brethren with him in maintaining his church’s independence; and yet here is a community crushed, overridden and manacled, which sneers at the flee, and dreads to be elevated to the level of the manly and independent. Must it be always one of the worst results of slavery, that it prevents the mind from appreciating the privileges of feedom? If some such influence had not fascinated the church of England, her pious sons would long ago have cursed her golden fetters, and in a paroxysm of holy indignation have dashed them to the ground.
Possibly after all we have mistaken the meaning of the alarm which excites so many Episcopalians; it may be that their fear is lest their church should become as sectarian in spirit and bitter in temper as the other sects. It is fashionable to decry sectarianism, and commendable to desire to be delivered from it. If the church of England has been distinguished for her catholicity and Christian charity far above any of the sects, we devoutly pray that she may never fall from her high estate, but may remain in this an ensample to the whole Protestant community. But is it so? It is notoriously the reverse. There is no sect so schismatical, so unbrotherly, so insultingly unfraternal as the Episcopalian. Her canons remain to this hour the very quintessence of bigotry, their spirit is, to put it plainly, infernal; they are a standing disgrace to the nineteenth century. Have any of the sects similar specimens of religious spleen? No other body of Christians would tolerate for an hour the existence of such horrible canons, and if they did, they would be hooted out of civilised society. This sect denies permission to bury their dead within her graveyards, to two at least of its sister churches; nor will she even bury them herself — an inhospitality worthier of cannibals than Christians. Among the sects there is a frequent interchange of pulpits among their ministers, and a preacher of ability and grace is welcomed alike by all; but against every servant of God, who follows not with them, Episcopalians close the door. Nor must the Episcopal divine degrade himself by preaching in the pulpit of the most holy and eloquent pastor of another church. The separation is as complete as if the two parties were Buddhists and Mahometans, but it is solely maintained from one side; the sects are not so sectarian as to shut out the Establishment, but she, in her affected superiority, cries aloud, “Stand by, I am holier than thou.” the churches among the sects commend their members to each other’s care; a fraternal correspondence is always going on between the pastors, concerning disciples who are removing. A commendatory letter, for instance, from the church at the Tabernacle would not only admit the bearer to the loving regard of any Baptist church, but there is no Presbyterian, Independent, or Methodist church, which would not accept the credentials. The habits of the seats are, as a rule, as fraternal,as if they were parts of one organisation; but whoever dreams that this fraternal intercourse would be endorsed by the Episcopalian clergy? As far as such mutual recognition is concerned, the Church of England has a great gulf fixed between her and all our Protestant churches. She does not regard the other churches any more favonrably than Rome regards all Protestants. We are not sister churches, but dissenting bodies; to differ from the Episcopal persuasion being to dissent, as though site also did not dissent from us. To meet us at the Bible Society, or the Evangelical Alliance, is a condescension only achieved by the more godly, and then wondered at as a prodigy of liberality. It is a marvel that men do not see how absurd, how un-Christlike all this isolation and affectation makes them. An Episcopalian is not necessarily one whir better or worse than a member of another church; why will he give himself airs? why will he talk so exceeding proudly? Let him think of his fellow Christians as his equals; let him profit from their ministers; let him co-operate with them in efforts for the common weal; in fine, let him hold his own faith, and pay due deference to that of others, and then he will have nothing to fear, even should his church, in brotherly love and Christian charity, rise to “the level of the sects.”