ACTA NON VERBA BY C. H. SPURGEON PART II.
THOSE words which have the excuse for their utterance are generally the least acceptable. Speak to the point with practical aim, and either somebody’s toes will be trodden upon, or a hubbub will be raised by theorizers as to possible toes which may have been inconvenienced. For instance, in the Preface to the last volume of The Sword and the Trowel , we recorded our fear that the Nonconforming Churches had not enjoyed a prosperous year, and that the lean kine were eating up the fat kine. We believe that we stated facts; at any rate, we had consulted and had followed statistics which are usually relied upon. We did not pour forth the unfounded imaginings of a morbid mind, or speak as if the end had come, and our churches must cease to be: on the contrary, we bade our brethren be of good courage, and hope for brighter days, and work in expectation of them. We little knew that in even mentioning a gloomy fact, we were sinning grievously. The Christian World , in a leading article, came down upon us heavily, because we had written what the enemies of Dissent could quote, and had already quoted, to show the decline of our cause. What was that to us? What do we care what use our adversaries may make of a truthful statement? David might have refused to write psalms, because the devil would quote them for the worst of purposes, if the possible uses to which writings may be turned are to be taken into consideration. Are we to represent everything which concerns Nonconformity with the coleur de rose ? So it would seem, not only from this little incident, but from the general manner and attitude of certain Nonconformist advocates.
Everything that has to do with Dissent is to them necessarily good, and to be gloried in, and the faults of our systems are either to be defended or denied. They have probably borrowed this evil habit from their opponents, for the rabid Episcopalian is equally resolved to fight for every whim and crotchet of mother church. This seems to us to be an unwise and unworthy course of action; it is childish, and even wicked. We sincerely wish that all our Dissenting churches were sound in the faith, earnest in Christian labor, and increasing with the increase of God — but we shall never try to prove our zeal for the grand old cause by asserting that these things are so when we fear they are not? We wish that all Nonconformist ministers were paragons, all their plans perfection, their spirit angelic, and their success unbounded, but in order that our loyalty to Dissent should be placed beyond all suspicion are we to declare that these desiderata are already possessed? If so, we rebel. We shall no more think of lying or suppressing truth to aid Dissent, than dream of glorifying God by blasphemy. When we observe an evil we shall point it out; when we see a failure we shall speak of it as such, and if perchance this injures the cause, let it be injured. If truth hurts an interest or party, let it be hurt. It is the height of madness to pretend that we, the Nonconformist churches, make no mistakes, are always prospering, never quarrel, are quite able to do everything, and are far beyond the need of improvement. Such crowing may be practiced so successfully that we may even rival the noble chanticleers of the Establishment, whose voices are peculiarly loud, and clear, but what is the good of it? Suppose they brag of the blessing of a national church, is it really the best way to answer them to cry up our working of the voluntary principle, as if we had done all we could or should? The principle is perfect but we sometimes fail to carry it on to its full triumphs, and when we come short, the manliest plan is to admit the fault. The bepraising of our noble selves is not a beneficial exercise, it tends to foment party pride and prevent real progress.
Still, says one, it is a pity to mention anything which our enemies can use against us. So think the timorous, whose faith in the invincibility of truth is hampered by their greater belief in caution and policy. We feel too sure of the ultimate victory of our principles to care much for the screams and yells of our adversaries when they hear us heave a sigh, or utter a lament.
Suppose The Church Times did rejoice over the witness of a well-known dissenter to the want of success among his own sect — what of that? Did that make us any the weaker, or the Ritualists any the stronger? Who winces at such things save cowards who cannot bear a sneer? For the life of us we cannot see how we “furnished our foes with an argument.” What was the argument? How did it run? The Dissenting Churches did not increase last year, therefore — therefore what? Therefore they never will — is that the idiotic inference? Therefore they are in the wrong — is that the insane conclusion? To all the legitimate comfort which Anglicans can draw from such facts we make them heartily welcome. For our part, we feel that with truthful principles, and an honest heart on his side, a man may give his opponents leave to make the most they possibly can of all his personal confessions of imperfection, and admissions of occasional failure; and it will never enter his head to look around before he dares to speak, lest haply a listening chiel should take notes and print what he may say.
We beg permission to say if the Voluntaries will do more, they may without injuring their cause, say less about their doings, and if Dissenters will evangelize the country more thoroughly, they may spare some of those modest eulogiums which their worthy advocates are so prone to utter.
Having said thus much, we shall proceed to the practical matter which made us take up our pen, and at the risk of further transgressing we shall point out a fault in most of our religious systems.
It is a singular fact that our churches have suffered the chief agency for carrying the gospel into new regions to fall into almost total disuse. The settled ministry among us, especially when it brings out and wisely directs the gifts of the church, is eminently adapted for conservative purposes, for edifying the saints, training young converts, and cultivating the soil which has been already fenced in by religious agencies; but only to a very small degree is the ministry aggressive or can it be. If it does its homework well it has enough to do, and its further efforts will never be very extensive as a rule. To carry the gospel into the regions beyond, and form new churches — whose business is this? Among the heathen we have our missionaries, but what agency are we employing in our own country? In a small way in connection with regular organizations the work is attempted, and irregular agencies perform it on a larger scale, but for all that, most of the Christian churches, as such, are negligent in the service, and have no specific agents set part to attend to it as a matter of church work . To extend the Redeemer’s kingdom and win the world for Jesus is the great purpose for which the church exists, and yet, to a very large extent, she leaves this, her supreme vocation, to hap-hazard.
Our Lord, when he would arouse Palestine, sent forth seventy evangelists.
Not one of these was bidden to settle in any place, or to become a pastor, but to go and preach the gospel from town to town. They were itinerant gospellers. After Pentecost, the disciples being scattered abroad, went everywhere preaching the Word, they broke up new ground, and made the truth known among those who had never heard it before; so far they did the work of evangelists, and the kingdom of Christ came with power. The apostles and others traveled into regions where the name of Jesus had not been known, and everywhere told forth the glad tidings of salvation: whatever else they were, they certainly fulfilled to the full the office of evangelists. We have a few who exercise that office now, but, they are rather tolerated than appointed, and certainly their work is not regarded as a part, and a necessary part, of our ecclesiastical action. It would be easy to prove that in all times of her spiritual health and growth, the church has owed much to her holy pioneers who have led the way to sacred conquests. Without burdening the reader with church history we may cite the Methodist revival as an eminent case in point, for it was mainly due to those who left regular pulpits and gospel-hardened congregations to preach Jesus among colliers and street crowds. It would be equally easy to prove that by ministries exercised in churches and chapels we can never reach those who shun all religions edifices, neither can we hope to found new churches in neglected counties unless we send forth men whose direct object it is to labor to that end.
In many districts of England there are no Baptist churches, and we will make these districts the example for our present object. Now, as far as the Baptist churches are concerned, have we any men, appointed by the church, whose business it is to spread the gospel, as we believe it, in these places? We know of very few. But our conviction is that if we were doing our duty after the apostolic fashion we should soon find in our midst, thrust forth by the Holy Ghost, evangelists who would till these fields of labor. Suppose a man of power, full of the Holy Ghost, and gifted for the work were maintained in a county — say Cumberland or Westmoreland, with the view of preaching all through the region, and forming churches wherever the Lord might bless his word; might we not expect to see the churches increased in those parts. He ought not to be a mere common man, much less an inferior preacher for whom an office is made because no regular congregation will hear him. We should like to see the experiment tried with one of our best men, we would have him liberally supported, and supplied with ample means for traveling, and hiring rooms and halls. We should almost envy him the opportunity for toil, self-denial, and success. If the Lord anointed such a man he would be the pioneer for scores of pastors who would take up the young Christian communities as fast as they were formed, while the evangelist would move on and dig out new foundations for other churches. A dull commonplace official would make a miserable mess of such work, and disappoint those who support him, but we think we know at this moment two or three men who, by God’s blessing, would make full proof of their calling.
Our belief is that scriptually there should be at least as much work done evangelistically as pastorally. Now we provide for pastors, and rightly so, but; few, if any, churches provide for evangelists. We have the right men, but no organization for their support. We serve out their rations (often scanty enough) to the militia who defend the country, but for our brave Uhlans who are in the van of our conquering hosts we make little or no provision. Some few churches have their evangelistic missionaries, but, alas, how few! And these are usually in connection with their own immediate neighborhood, so that still the neglected large towns, and immense agricultural regions are left, as far as we are concerned, without the gospel.
We rejoice in the zeal of Methodists and Independents in spreading themselves in every direction throughout England; if we were a Free Churchman we should like to see a Free Kirk in every village in Scotland; and being a Baptist we desire to see a Baptist church in every town in England. This, of course, is judged to be a very wrong desire by those who think that we should interfere with their monopolies, but the desire to us seems natural and laudable. How then can it be accomplished? How can any Christian community cover the land with its adherents? We see no means at all comparable to the support of good, efficient, well-sustained evangelists .
Thus much we can give in evidence to support our opinion. From our College we have in a considerable number of instances sent forth men to preach where there was no church to support them, finding thrum maintenance for a season, and promising aid for the needful expenses of worship at the commencement. The brethren at home have mentioned these pioneers continually in their prayers, and the Lord has heard their requests. From the efforts of these brethren churches have sprung up in quarters where no Baptists were known to exist, and such churches have been a clear gain to the denomination. There is, under God, no limit to this work so far as we are concerned, if we had the pecuniary means. We are content to wait the Lord's mind as to further effort; he will indicate it by furnishing supplies. The experiment, however, has succeeded beyond our hopes.
The Colportage Society also is a fine instrumentality for ploughing up new ground. The Colporteur takes a full survey of the country while selling his books, and his calls bring him into personal conversation with each inhabitant — he is therefore one of the best of pioneers. In the course of time by holding cottage meetings, and preaching out of doors he collects the nucleus of a congregation, perhaps he is able to do so in each of the larger villages of his district, and thus he prepares the way for the settled ministry. He is the cheapest and most efficient agent for clearing the backwoods, and preparing for future tillage.
Now, work like this, it seems to us, should be carried on widely, and be made the specialite of the churches. Not alone should colporteurs and young students be employed in it, but some of our very best men should be set apart to it. Think of an apostolic man in the neglected county of Surrey; or better still, in those parts of the crowded regions of Lancashire and Yorkshire where our community is scarcely represented, — what might he not achieve, with God's blessing? Let him be a man fit to lead others, a genial spirit who will co-operate with those who are already on or near the spot, a man full of faith and mighty in the Scriptures, and, by the power of the Holy Ghost, his work would soon prove the sacred value of his office.
One or two wealthy men may, perhaps, be led to find the silver and the gold for such a man's support, and we believe they will never spend money in a manner more profitable for the cause of God and truth: but the churches also, as such, should undertake the work, which beyond all others is their own. WE MUST GROW. WeMUST make the pure gospel to be known in every corner of the land. Public meetings, in which we glory in our-principles, are well enough if they do not lead to glorying in the flesh; but we must put forth vehement efforts to spread those principles. He knows not the truth who does not desire others to know it. The religion which is not worth propagating is not worth believing. Prayer to God for the advance of the Redeemer kingdom is most commendable, but the prayer which does not lead to effort is hypocrisy. Effort, then, there must be; let it be wise, let it follow the New Testament model, let it be most hearty and sustained. With all our heart we beg the churches to consider the question which we have now raised. Ought we not to pray for evangelists, and prepare to support them when the Lord sends them, even as at this time we support the pastors of the churches ?
CHRIST AND HIS TABLE COMPANIONS A MEDTATION AT THE COMMUION TABLE.
BY C. H, SPURGEON.
“And when the hour was come, he sat down, and the twelve apostles with him.” — Luke 22:14.
THE outward ordinances of the Christian religion are but two, and those two are exceedingly simple, yet neither of them has escaped human alteration; and, alas! much mischief has been wrought, and much of precious teaching has been sacrificed, by these miserable perversions. For instance, the ordinance of baptism as it was administered by the apostles betokened the burial of the believer with Christ, and his rising with his Lord into newness of life. Men must needs exchange immersion for sprinkling, and the intelligent believer for an unconscious child, and so the ordinance is slain. The other sacred institution, the Lord’s Supper, like believers’ baptism, is simplicity itself. It consists of breaed broken, and wine poured out, these viands being eaten and drunk at a festival; — a delightful picture of the sufferings of Christ for us, and of the fellowship which the saints have with one another and with him. But this ordinance, also, has been tampered with by men. By some the wine has been taken away altogether, or reserved only for a priestly caste; and the simple bread has been changed into a consecrated host. As for the table, the very emblem of fellowship in all nations — for what expresses fellowship better than surrounding a table and eating and drinking together? — this, forsooth, must be put away, and an altar must be erected, and the bread and wine which were to help us to remember the Lord Jesus are changed into an “unbloody sacrifice”, and so the whole thing becomes an unscriptural celebration instead of a holy institution for fellowship. Let us be warned by these mistakes of others never either to add to or take from the word of God so much as a single jot or tittle. Keep upon the foundation of the Scriptures and you stand safely, and have an answer for those who question you; yea, and an answer which you may tender at the bar of God; but once allow your own whim, or fancy, or taste, or your notion of what is proper and right, to rule you instead of the word of God, and you have entered upon a dangerous course, and unless the grace of God prevent, boundless mischief may ensue. The Bible is our standard authority; none may turn from it. The wise man in the Proverbs said “I counsel thee to keep the King’s commandment;” we would repeat his advice, and add to it the sage precept of the mother of our Lord, at Cana, when she said, “Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it.”
We shall now ask you in contemplation to gaze upon the first celebration of the Lord’s Supper. You perceive at once that there was no altar in that large upper room. There was a table, a table with bread and wine upon it, but no altar. And Jesus did not kneel — there is no sign of that — but he sat down, I doubt not after the Oriental mode of sitting, that is to say, by a partial reclining — he sat down with his apostles. Now, he who ordained this Supper knew how it ought to be observed, and as the first celebration of it was the model for all others, we may be assured that the right way of coming to this communion is to assemble around a table and to sit or recline while we eat and drink together of bread and wine in remembrance of our Lord.
While we see the Savior sitting down with his twelve disciples, let us inquire what did this make them? then, secondly, what did this imply? and, thirdly, what further may we legitimately infer from it?
I. First, then, we see the Great Master, the Lord, the king in Zion, sitting down at the table to eat and drink with his twelve apostles —WHAT DID THIS MAKE THEM?
Note what they were at first. By his first calling of them they became his followers , for he said unto them, “Follow me.” That is to say, they were convinced, by sundry marks and signs, that he was the Messias, and they, therefore, became his followers. Followers may be at a great distance from their leader, and enjoy little or no intercourse with him, for the leader may be too great to be approached by the common members of his band. In the case of the disciples their following was unusually close, for their Master was very condescending, but still their intercourse was not always of the most intimate kind at the first, and therefore it was not at first that he called them to such a festival as this supper. They began with following, and this is where we must begin. If we cannot enter as yet into closer association with our Lord we may, at least, know his voice by his Spirit, and follow him as the sheep follow the shepherd. The most important way of following him is to trust him, and then diligently to imitate his example.
This is a good beginning, and it will end well, for those who walk with him to-day shall rest with him hereafter; those who tread in his footsteps shall sit on his throne.
Being his followers, they came next to be his disciples . A man may have been a follower for a while, and yet may not have reached discipleship. A follower may follow blindly and hear a great deal which he does not understand; but, when he becomes a disciple, his Master instructs him and leads him into truth. To explain, to expound, to solve difficulties, to clear away doubts, and to make truth intelligible is the office of a teacher amongst his disciples. Now, it was a very blessed thing for the followers to become disciples, but still disciples are not necessarily so intimate with their Master as to sit and eat with him. Socrates and Plato knew many in the Academy whom they did not invite to their homes. My brethren, if Jesus had but called us to be his disciples and no more, we should have had cause for great thankfulness; if we had been allowed to sit at his feet and had never shared in such an entertainment as that before us, we ought to have been profoundly grateful; but now that he has favored us with a yet higher place let us never be unfaithful to our discipleship. Let us daily learn of Jesus, let us search the Bible to see what it was that he taught us, and then by the aid of his Holy Spirit; let, us scrupulously obey. Yet is there a something beyond.
Being the Lord’s disciples, the chosen ones next rose to become his servants , which is a step in advance, since the disciple may be but a child, but the servant has some strength, has received some measure of training, and renders somewhat in return. Their Master gave them power to preach the gospel, and to execute commissions of grace, and happy were they to be called to wait upon such a Master, and aid in setting up his kingdom.
My dear brethren and sisters, are you all Christ’s servants consciously? If so, though the service may at times seem heavy because your faith is weak, yet be very thankful that you are servants at all, for it is better to serve God than to reign over all the kingdoms of this world. It is better to be the lowest servant of Christ than to be the greatest of men, and remain slaves to your own lusts, or mere men-pleasers. His yoke is easy and his burden is light. The servant of such a Master should rejoice in his calling, yet is there something beyond.
Towards the close of his life our Master revealed the yet nearer relation of his disciples, and uttered words like these “Henceforth I call you not servants, for the servant knoweth not what his lord doeth, but I have called you friends , for all things that I have heard of my Father I have made known unto you.” This is a great step in advance. The friend, however humble, enjoys much familiarity with his friend. The friend is told what the servant need not know. The friend enjoys a communion to which the mere servant, disciple, or follower has not attained. May we know this higher association, this dearer bond of relationship. May we not be content without the enjoyment of our Master’s friendship. “He that hath friends must show himself friendly;” and if we would have Christ’s friendship we must befriend his cause, his truth, and his people. He is a friend that loveth at all times; if you would enjoy his friendship, take care to abide in him.
Now, note that on the night before his passion, our Lord led his friends a step beyond ordinary friendship. The mere follower does not sit at table with his leader; the disciple does not claim to be a fellow-commoner with his master; the servant is seldom entertained at the same table with his lord; the befriended one is not always invited to be a guest; but here the Lord Jesus made his chosen ones to be his table companions ; he lifted them up to sit with him at the same table, to eat of the same bread, and drink of the same cup with himself. From that position he has never degraded them; they were representative men, and where the Lord placed them he has placed all his saints permanently. All the Lord’s believing people are sitting, by sacred privilege and calling, at the same table with Jesus, for truly, our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. He has come into our hearts, and he sups with us and we with him; we are his table companions, and shall eat bread with him in the kingdom of God.
Table companions, then, that is the answer to the question, “what this festival made the apostles?” This is what this festival shows all the members of the church of Christ to be, through divine grace, table companions with one another, and with Christ Jesus our Lord.
II. So now we shall pass on, in the second place, to notice,WHAT DID THIS TABLE-COMPANIONSHIP IMPLY?
It implied, first of all, mutual fidelity . This solemn eating and drinking together was a pledge of faithfulness to one another. It must have been so understood, or otherwise there would have been no force in the complaint; “He that eateth bread with me hath lifted up his heel against me.” Did not this mean that because Judas had eaten bread with his lord he was bound not to betray him, and so to lift up his heel against him? This was the seal of an implied covenant, having eaten together they were under bond to be faithful to one another. Now, as many of you as are really the servants and friends of Christ must know, that the Lord Jesus in eating with you at his table, pledges himself to be faithful to you. The Master never plays the Judas — the Judas is among the disciples. There is nothing traitorous in the Lord; he is not only able to keep that which we have committed to him, but he is faithful, and will do it. He will be faithful, not only as to the great and main matter, but also to every promise he has made. Know ye then assuredly, that your Master would not have asked you to his table to eat bread with him if he intended to desert you. He has received you as his honored guests, and fed you upon his choicest meat, and thereby he does as good as say to you, “I will never leave you, come what may, and in all times of trial, and depression, and temptation, I will be at your right hand, and you shall not be moved, and to the very last you shall prove my faithfulness and truth.”
But, beloved, you do not understand this Supper unless you are also reminded of the faithfulness that is due from you to your Lord, for the feast is common and the pledge mutual. In eating with him you plight your troth to the Crucified. Beloved, how have you kept your pledge during the past year? You have eaten bread with him, and I trust that your hearts you have never gone so far aside as to lift up your heel against him; but have you always honored him as you should? Have you acted as guests should have done? Can you remember his love to you, and put your love to him side by side with it, without being ashamed? From this time forth may the Holy Ghost work in our souls a jealous fidelity to The Well-beloved which shall not permit our hearts to wander from him, or suffer our zeal tot his glory to decline.
Again, remember that there is in this solemn eating and drinking together a pledge of confidence between the disciples themselves, as well as between the disciples and the Lord. Judas would have been a traitor if he had betrayed Peter, or John, or James so, when ye come to the one table, my brethren, ye must henceforth be true to one another. All bickerings and jealousies must cease, and a generous and affectionate spirit must rule in every bosom. If you hear any speak against those you have communed with, reckon that as you have eaten bread with them, you are bound to defend their reputations. If any railing accusation be raised against any brother in Christ, reckon that his character is as dear to you as your own.
Let a sacred Freemasonry be maintained among us, if I may liken a far higher and more spiritual union to anything which belongs to common life.
Ye are members one of another, see that ye love each other with a pure heart fervently. Drinking of the same cup, eating of the same bread, you set forth before the world a token which I trust is not meant to be a lie. As it truly shows Christ’s faithfulness to you, so let it as really typify your faithfulness to Christ, and to one another.
In the next place, eating and drinking together was a token of mutual confidence . They, in sitting there together, voluntarily avowed their confidence in each other. Those disciples trusted their Master, they knew the would not mislead or deceive them. They trusted each other also, for when they were told that one of them would betray their Lord, they did not suspect each other, but each one said — “Lord, is it I?” They had much confidence in one another, and the Lord Jesus, as we have seen, had placed great confidence in them by treating them as his friends. He had even trusted them with the great secret of his coming sufferings, and death.
They were a trustful company who sat at that supper-table. Now, beloved, when you gather around this table, come in the spirit of implicit trustfulness in the Lord Jesus. If you are suffering do not doubt his love, but believe that he works all things for your good. If you are vexed with cares, prove your confidence by leaving them entirely in your Redeemer’s hands. It will not be a festival of communion to you if you come here with suspicions about our Master. No, show your confidence as you eat of the bread with him. Let there also be a brotherly confidence in each other. Grievous would it be to see a spirit of suspicion and distrust among you. Suspicion is the death of fellowship. The moment one Christian imagines that another thinks hardly of him, though there may not be the slightest truth in that thought, yet straightway the root of bitterness is planted. Let us believe in one another’s sincerity, for we may rest assured that each of our brethren deserves to be trusted more than we do. Turn your suspicions within, and if you must suspect, suspect your own heart; but when you meet with those who have communed with you at this table, say within yourself — “If such can deceive me, and alas! they may, then will I be content to be imposed upon rather than entertain perpetual mistrust of my fellow-Christians.”
A third meaning of the assembling around the table is this hearty fraternity .
Our Lord, in sitting down at the table with his disciples, showed himself to be one with them, a brother indeed. We do not read that there was any order of priority by which their seats were arranged. Of course if the Grand Chamberlain at Rome had arranged the table, he would have placed Peter at the right hand of Christ and the other apostles according to the dignity of their future bishoprics in graduated positions, but all that we know about their order is this, that John sat next to the Savior and leaned upon his bosom, and that Peter sat a good way off — we feel sure he did, because it is said that he “beckoned” unto John; if he had sat next to him he would have whispered to him, but he beckoned to him, and so he must have been some way down the table, if, indeed, there was any “down ” or “up ” in the arrangement of the guests. We believe the fact was that they sat there on a sacred equality, the Lord Jesus, the Elder Brother, among them, and all else arranged according to those words “One is your Master, even Christ, and all ye are brethren.” Let us feel then, in coming to the table again at this time, that we are linked in ties of sacred relationship with Jesus Christ, who is exalted in heaven, and that through him our relationship with our fellow-Christians is very near and intimate. O that Christian brotherhood were more real. The very word “brother” has come to be ridiculed as a piece of hypocrisy, and well it may, for it is mostly used as a cant, phrase, and means very little in many cases But it ought to mean something. You have no right to come to that table unless you really feel that those who are washed in Jesu’s blood have a claim upon the love of your heart, and the activity of your benevolence. What, will ye live together for ever in heaven, and will ye shew no affection for one another here below? It is your Master’s new command that ye love one another — will ye disregard it? He has given this as the badge of Christians, — “Hereby shall ye know that ye are my disciples” — not if ye wear a gold cross, but — “if ye have love one to another.” That is the Christian’s badge of his being, in very truth, a disciple of Jesus Christ. Here, at this table, we find fraternity. Whosoever eateth this sacred supper declares himself to be one of a brotherhood in Christ, a brotherhood striving for the same cause, having sincere sympathy, being members of each other, and all of them members of the body of Christ. God make this to be a fact throughout Christendom even now, and how will the world marvel as it cries, “See how these Christians love one another!”
But the Table means more yet: it signifies common enjoyment. He eats, and they eat, the same bread. He drinks, and they drink, of the same cup.
There is no distinction in the viands. What meaneth this? Doth it not say to us that the joy of Christ is the joy of his people. Hath he not said — “That my joy may be fulfilled in them that their joy may be full?” The very joy that delights Christ is that which he prepares for his people. You, if you be a true believer, have sympathy in Christ’s joy, you delight to see his kingdom come, the truth advanced, sinners saved, grace glorified, holiness promoted, God exalted; this also is his delight. Oh! but my dear brethren and fellow-professors, are you sure that your chief joy is the same as Christ’s? Are you certain that the main-stay of your life is the same as that which was his meat and his drink, namely, to do the will of the heavenly Father? If not, I am afraid you have no business at this table; but if it be so, and you come to the table, then I pray that you may share the joy of Christ.
May you joy in him as he joys in you, and so may your fellowship be sweet.
Lastly on this point. The feast at the one table indicated familiar affection .
It is the child’s place to sit at the table with its parents, for there affection rules. It is the place of honor to sit at the table — “Martha served, but Lazarus was one of them that sat at the table,” but the honor is such as love suggests and not fear. Men at the table often reveal their minds more fully than elsewhere. If you want to understand a man you do not go to see him at the Stock Exchange, or follow him into the market; for there he keeps himself to himself; but you go to his table, and there he unbosoms himself. Now, the Lord Jesus Christ sat at the table with his disciples! ‘Twas a meal; ‘twas a meal of a homely kind; intimate intercourse ruled the hour. Oh! brethren and sisters, I am afraid we have come to this table sometimes and gone away again without having had intercourse with Christ, and then it has been an empty formality and nothing more. I thank God that coming to this table every Sabbath-day, as some of us do, and have done for many years, we have yet for the most part enjoyed the nearest communion with Christ here that we have ever known, and have a thousand times blessed his name for this ordinance. Still, there is such a thing as only seeing and eating the bread and the wine, and losing all the sacred meaning thereof. Do pray the Lord to reveal himself to you. Ask that it may not be a dead form to you, but that now in very deed you may tell to Christ your heart, while he shall show to you his hands and his side, and make known to you his agonies and death, wherewith he redeemed you from the wrath to come. All this, and vastly more, is the teaching of the table at which Jesus sat with the twelve. I have often wondered why the Church of Rome does not buy up all those pictures by one of its most renowned painters, Leonardo da Vinci, in which our Lord is represented as sitting at the table with his disciples, for these are a contradiction of the Popish doctrine on this subject. As long as that picture remains on the wall, and as long as copies of it are spread everywhere, the Church of Rome stands convicted of going against the teaching of the earlier church by setting up an altar when she confesses herself that aforetime it was not considered to be an altar of sacrifice but a table of fellowship, at which the Lord did not kneel, nor stand as an officiating priest, but at which he and his disciples sat. We, a least, have no rebukes to fear from antiquity, for we follow and mean to follow the primitive method. Our Lord has given us commandment to do this until he comes — not to alter it and change it, but just to “do this,” and nothing else, in the same manner until he shall come.
III. We wilt draw to a close by asking WHAT FURTHER MAY BE INFERRED FROM THIS SITTING OF CHRIST WIT HIS DISCIPLES AT THE TABLE Answer — First, there may be inferred from it the equality of all the saints . There were here twelve apostles. Their apostleship, however, is not concerned in the matter. When the Lord’s Supper was celebrated after all the apostles had gone to heaven, was there to be any alteration because the apostles had gone? Not at all. Believers are to do this in remembrance of their Lord until he shall come . There was no command for a change when the first apostles were all gone from the church. No, it was to be the same still — bread and wine and the surrounding of the table, until the Lord came. I gather, then, the equality of all saints. There is a difference in office, there was a difference in miraculous gift, and there are great differences in growth in grace; but still, in the household of God, all saints — whether apostles, pastors, teachers, deacons, elders, or private member being all equal, eat at one table. There is but one bread, there is but one juice of the vine here. It is only in the church of God that those words so wild politically can ever be any more than a dream, “Liberty, Equality, and Fraternity.” There you have them — where Jesus is; not in a republic, but in the kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, where all rule and dominion are vested in him, and all of us willingly acknowledge him as our glorious Head, and all we are brethren. Never fall into the idea that olden believers were of a superior nature to ourselves. Do not talk of Saint Paul, and Saint Matthew, and Saint Mark, unless you are prepared to speak of Saint William and Saint Jane sitting over yonder, for if they be in Christ they are as truly saints as those first saints were, and I ween there may be some who have attained even to higher saintship than many whom tradition has canonized. The heights of saintship are by grace open to us all, and the Lord invites us to ascend. Do not think that what the Lord wrought in the early saints cannot be wrought in you. It is because you think so that you do not pray for it, and because you do not pray for it you do not attain it.
The grace of God sustained the apostles, that grace is not less to-day than it was then. The Lord’s arm is not shortened; his power is not straitened. If we can but believe, and be as earnest as those first saints were, we shall subdue kingdoms yet, and the day shall come when the gods of Hindooism, and the falsehoods of Mohammed, and the lies of Rome, shall as certainly be over-thrown as were the ancient philosophies and the classic idolatries of Greece and Rome by the teaching of the first ministers of Christ. There is the same table for you, and the same food is there in emblem, and grace can make you like those holy men, for you are bought with the same blood, and quickened by the same Spirit. Believe only, for all things are possible to him that believeth.
Another inference, only to be hinted at, is this — that the wants of the Church in all ages will be the same, and the supplies for the Church’s wants will never vary. There will be the table still, and the table with the same viands upon it — bread still, nothing more than bread for food; wine still, nothing less than wine for drink. The church will always want the same food, the same Christ, the same gospel. Out on ye, traitors, who tell us that we are to shape our gospel to suit this enlightened nineteenth century Out on ye, false-hearts, who would have us tone down the everlasting truth that shall outlive the sun, and moon, and stars, to suit your boasted culture, which is but varnished ignorance! No, that truth which of old was mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds, is mighty still, and we will maintain it to the death! The church wants the doctrines of grace to-day as much as when Paul, or Augustine, or Calvin preached them; the church wants justification by faith, the substitutionary atonement, and regeneration, and divine sovereignty to be preached from her pulpits as much as in days of yore, and by God’s grace she shall have them too.
Lastly, there is in this truth, that Christ has brought all his disciples into the position of table-companions, a prophecy that this shall be the portion of all his people for ever. In heaven there cannot be less of privilege than on earth. It cannot be that in the celestial state believers will be degraded from what they have been below. What were they, then, below? Tablecompanions.
What shall they be in heaven above? Table-companions still, and blessed is he that shall eat bread in the kingdom of God. “Many shall come from the east and from the west, and shall sit down with Abraham, and Isaac, and Jacob in the kingdom of God,” and the Lord Jesus shall be at the head of the table. Now, what will his table of joy be? Set your imagination to work, and think what will be his festival of soul when his reward shall be all before him and his triumph all achieved. Have ye imagined it? Can ye conceive it? Whatever it is, you shall share in it. I repeat those words — whatever it is, the least believer shall share in it.
You, poor working-woman. oh! what a change for you, to sit among princes, near to your Lord Jesus, all your toil and want for ever ended!
And you, sad child of suffering, scarcely able to come up to the assembly of God’s people, and going back, perhaps, to that bed of languishing again — you shall have no pains there, but you shall be for ever with the Lord, and the joy of Christ shall be your joy for ever and ever! Oh! can you not realize those words of Dr. Watts: — “Yes, and before we rise To that immortal slate, The thought of such amazing bliss Should constant joy create?” In the anticipation of the joy that shall be yours, forget your present troubles, rise superior to the difficulties of the hour, and if you cannot rejoice in the present, yet rejoice in the future, which shall so soon be your own.
We finish with this word of deep regret regret — that many here cannot understand what we have been talking about, and have no part in it. There are some of you who must not come to the table of communion because you do not love Christ. You have not trusted him; you have no part in him.
There is no salvation in sacraments. Believe me, they are but delusions to those who do not come to Christ with their heart. You must not come to the outward sign if you have not the thing signified. Here is the way of salvation — believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved. To believe in him is to trust him; to use an old word it is recumbency; it is leaning on him; resting on him. Here I lean, I rest my whole weight on this support before me; do so with Christ in a spiritual sense: lean on him. You have a load of sin, lean on him, sin and all. You are all unworthy, and weak, and perhaps miserable, then cast on him the weakness, the unworthiness, the misery and all. Take him to be all in all to you, and when you have thus trusted him, you will have become his follower; go on by humiliy to be his disciple, by obedience to be his servant, by love to be his friend, and by communion to be his table companion.
The Lord so lead you, for Jesus’ sake.
RARA- AVIS — A BOOK A REVIEW, BY C. H.SPURGEON. Preachers abound but divines are few. The printing press pours forth a mass of matter but a real book is a phenomenon. We count ourselves happy, for we have met with a divine in D. James Culross, late of Stirling, and now of Highbury Hill, London, and in his new work entitled “John, whom Jesus loved,” we have found a book . It is a part of our appointed suffering in this present life, to be compelled to winnow heaps of literature with great results in chaff and dust, and small gain in bread-corn; and therefore our rejoicing is the greater when grain comes to our garner as clean provender, in good weight and measure. It is essential that great truths should be popularized, and those who exercise themselves in so doing answer a most useful purpose, therefore we have not a word to say against certain teeming bookmakers, except that we wish they diluted their material a little less, and were not so given to hammering out a thought to the extremity of thinness. To the student, the productions of these vendors of evangelical milk and water are less profitable than wearisome, and he turns with eagerness to those who will give him condensed thought, and truth in solid form. In reading certain of the Puritan authors, one feels that he has come into a land wherein a man may eat bread without scarceness — a laud whose very dust is gold. The art of writing books like theirs is not wholly lost, for now and then we are gladdened by a volume of the dame solidity: the work before us is a case in point. It is a great book for matter though very modest in size. It is perhaps compressed a little too much for the general reader, which is a virtuous fault for students. We can conceive of many readers suffering from indigestion after reading one of the chapters, for in our own case, a few pages sufficed us for a day’s nutriment, and we were compelled to pause, and meditate.
The opening paragraphs are a fair specimen of the whole, and therefore we submit them to the reader’s own judgment. The chapter deals with John — the Man, and our extract treats of his relation to his Lord: — “The central point of history is the manifestation of the Son of God in the flesh. Even those who deny his higher nature must admit that his appearing is the new beginning of the ages. His brief sojourn on earth exhibits a perfect love, combined with perfect truth and righteousness, which men had not even imaged to themselves as possible. In his presence sin becomes exceeding sinful, and holiness exceeding lovely. He is the faultless Type of humanity; the ‘Express Image,’ in our nature, of the Invisible God; the Revealer of heavenly things; the Redeemer from evil; the Founder and King of a new creation; the Dispenser of the Holy Spirit; the Life from whom all life flows. The Secret of nature, providence, and grace is unlocked in him, ‘for whom are all things.’ It is a mighty step taken when I exchange my barren abstraction of ‘Deity’ for the IAM of the Old Testament; a still mightier when I see the IAM livingly in Jesus Christ. During his brief and lowly transit through mortal life, glorifying the Father and bearing the burden of our salvation, comparatively few eyes were drawn to him; and even of these few, many ‘seeing, saw not ;’ the place he occupied was that of a Stranger whom the world did not know. That all the ends of the earth, and all ages, might have tidings of him, he chose certain followers, and received them into the inner circle of communion, who should hear his words, see his works, witness the disclosures of his glory, become penetrated with his light, receive the impress of his personality; and who in turn should declare, with human lips, what they had seen and heard, and show, in human life, the Eternal Life which was with the Father, and was manifested unto them: an infinitely more gracious thing for us, more suited to the needs both of our intellect and heart, than if he had left behind him some stereotyped book setting forth in naked abstractness what we must believe and do.
Because he himself was so truly and deeply the Wonderful, it was necessary that his witnesses, who were also to be the future organs of his Spirit, should be men of broadly varied nature — not copies one of another, like images of clay cast in kindred mould, but differing in mental constitution, experience, spiritual affinities, and faculty of vision. No single man could take in his full image, or apprehend, in its completeness and unity and infinite reaches of application, the truth revealed in him; and therefore the ‘chosen witnesses’ were many and many-natured. And farther, as no single flower can show forth all that is in the sun — as it takes the whole bloom of the year to do so, from the first snowdrop that pierces the dark earth to the latest flower of autumn — so he needed them all for the adequate forthtelling of his holy personality.”
Many writers are mere echoes of other men’s voices, and are mainly of use in stirring up pure minds by way of remembrance; they imitate the good steward in bringing forth things old, but things new are quite out of their way. Dried fruits are their merchandise; such a thing as a freshly-gathered peach is never seen in their basket. One of the excellencies of Dr. Culross is the freshness of his thought. The dew is on his branch; he is no withered bough of the autumn forest. His mind allows young flowers to break through its soil after their own fashion, and to blossom in their own sweet way; take this as a specimen:. — “So far from being unpractical, there is nothing more practical — for all kinds of true work — than this letting the love of Christ get in and about the roots of our being. In a window, this summer, there was a flower-pot containing a plant whose use it was to be odorous and beautiful. The leaves were just beginning to curl up. I poured a cupful of water into the saucer in which the flower-pot stood; and a child, looking on, asked, What good will that do? Why did you not rather pour water on the leaves ? It was a child that asked — and I answered the best way I could, that when God would bring beauty and fragrance and healthfulness into our lives, he waters us at the root. And his rain does good by going down there. ” Here is another equally instructive parable: — “Once, I remember, in looking through a painter’s portfolio, which contained a number of unfinished sketches, — just as they flashed up before his inner eye, — one little sketch attracted and interested me specially. It was the sketch of a martyr’s face. Noticing the interest which his sketch excited, he took me into another room, and showed me the picture finished and almost living to the eye; and in the finished picture I saw at once the earlier sketch. Even so — if one may reverently use the parable — Christian men and women are the unfinished sketch; but God sees the perfect Christ in each of them — the Christ to whose glorious image they shall one day be perfectly conformed; and each of them he sees in the perfect Christ.”
The following is a remarkable description of John: — “A traveler, giving an account of an ancient volcano which he visited, tells of a verdurous cuplike hollow on the mountain summit, and, where the fierce heat had once burned, a still, clear pool of water, looking up like an eye to the beautiful heavens above. It is an apt parable of this man. Naturally and originally volcanic, capable of profoundest passion and daring, he is new-made by grace, till in his old age he stands out in calm grandeur of character, and depth and largeness or soul, with all the gentleness and graces of Christ adorning him — a man, as I image him to myself, with a face so noble that kings, might do him homage, and so sweet that children would run to him for his blessing.”
A still more vivid instance of the freshness of our author’s thought will be found in his explanation of what is usually thought to be the ambitious request of the mother of Zebedee’s children for her two sons; in this he runs counter so generally received notions, and not without much reason.
There is room for discussion upon the point, but there can be no two opinions as to the thoughtfulness of the suggested explanations. “With heartless and blind pertinacity, commentators ground accusations which they fail to prove, upon this request, and oftener reveal their own evil thoughts than enter into the spirit of the two disciples. As the story is told in the Gospels, I do not read ‘selfish ambition’ in it, nor ‘immense egotism,’ nor a ‘proud contempt of Others,’ nor ‘a proof of the weakness and wickedness of human nature,’ nor a violation by ‘that woman’ and her sons of the primary conditions of brotherhood. On the contrary, I read John’s faith in Jesus as the ‘King most wonderful,’ his love to him, his high-hearted fortitude, and desire for the glory that he alone gives. We wrong the man by detaching his request from its historical connection, and inventing a connection of our own for it. It is like the buying of land in Rome, when the city was in the power of an enemy. The Lord had just foretold, in vivid and awful terms, his approaching sufferings — how he should be condemned, mocked, scourged, spit upon, crucified, and the third day should rise again. No words could have been plainer. It is at this moment, in connection with this announcement, and not knowing what the ‘rising’ on the third day might mean, that the brothers ask places at his right hand and his left, in his glory. What if they remember his large and varied teaching about exaltation in the kingdom of heaven? What if they understand, however dimly, that the greatest greatness is that which can bear to be despised and rejected of men — that the chiefest power is that of suffering love? What if they understand, however dimly, that all greatness under him is held in like manner — that all power under him is like-conditioned? What if their desire on this occasion has been quickened into energy by his very prediction of the cross, and is kin to that of Paul, ‘that I may know . . . the fellowship of his sufferings, being made conformable unto his death, if by any means I may attain unto the resurrection of the dead’? When it is put to them, they hold themselves prepared to suffer with him — to drink of his cup and to be baptised with his baptism, sharing his sufferings of both kinds, inward and outward. It is true, they knew not what was involved in their request, and the means of its accomplishment, and the Lord tells them so: — who knows all that lies in his own prayers? — but the Lord reads their sincerity of heart, and accepts them, and they shall learn afterwards, in good time, how deep and serious their word was. It is noticeable that while Jesus explains that places in glory are given by the Father to those for whom they are ‘prepared,’ he does not blame the ambition of the brothers, but (if at all) their ignorance. I do not say that unworthier thoughts were not present in their minds; but I cannot join in the sweeping assertions which ascribe to them a mere selfish and vulgar ambition, as if they were trying to drag down others from their seats and to mount in their stead. (“It may be that an action displeases us, which would please us if we knew its true aim and whole extent.” — Letter of Meta Klopstock.) I do not think they could have brought that (as they did) under the eye of the meek and lowly One. Ambition there is; but I would venture to call it noble, though as yet untaught in the highest truth; not that soiled and unholy thing, the selfish lust of power or of human admiration — the thirst of fame, which is well-nigh as base as the thirst of gold, but that greatness of mind which the Lord himself creates, and to which he makes appeal, as when he promises his apostles to sit on thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel — when he tells that the faithful servant shall have dominion over many things — or when he says, ‘If any man serve me, him will my Father honor.’ We shall not know the Apostle John till we recognize his ‘high humility,’ his noble ambition to be great, seated by the side of the suffering King in His glory. Were we more Christlike, we should be able to enter more sympathetically into this aspect of his Christianhood. The spirit of simple contentment with lowly things is of Christ’s giving (and is one of his most precious gifts) — as in the shepherdboy in the Valley of Humiliation, who sang — ‘He that is down needs fear no fall, He that is low no pride; He that is humble ever shall Have God to be his Guide,’ but so too is the princely spirit. The one evil thing in high or low is selfishness.”
The excellent author deals with John — the man, the companion of Jesus, the apostle after the ascension, the writer, and the theologian; giving us also a chapter upon his influence, and an appendix of legends and traditions concerning him, thus furnishing us with a full length portrait of “that disciple whom Jesus loved.” He has evidently chosen a congenial subject, and has such sympathy with the man before him, that he is able to see far into his mind and heart. It is a small matter to recapitulate the mere facts of a great life, but to unveil their secret springs requires a mind in harmony with the person described. One could hardly imagine Luther writing upon John with any great unction, nor would the judgment of Knox be peculiarly appreciative: they could either of them have represented him grandly as the son of thunder, but the tenderer side of his character would have baffled them. Even to comment upon John’s writings is far from easy, he is so simple, and yet so fathomlessly deep, he uses so many of those pregnant monosyllables, so much more expressive than long words. Dr. Culross is a Christian of the Johannean stamp, and hence he is at home with the beloved disciple. He has not fallen into the common mistake of depicting John as a molluscous character, a sickly sentimentalist, whose sweetness of disposition was due to the effeminacy of his nature; he has more justly depicted the brave apostle. Upon this point we quote the following: — “Like all men of true, powerful, and loving nature — yea, like the Lamb himself — he is capable of vehement and burning anger. This characteristic shows itself — very mistakenly indeed, and so as to need rebuke — in his proposal to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritan village that would not receive Jesus. It shows itself also — so as not to need rebuke — very largely throughout his writings. Nowhere else, save from the lips of Incarnate Mercy, do we find such awful words launched against sin: all the more terrible that they are so very calm, and so evidently proceed from a tender and loving heart. (“Anger is one of the sinews of the soul. He that wants it hath a maimed mind, and, with Jacob, sinew-shrunk in the hollow of his thigh, must needs halt.’ — Thomas Fuller.) Because he speaks so much of love, he has frequently been pictured as one of those shrinking and yielding natures, deficient in nerve and stamina, unfit for the battle-strife, that are left at home to comfort the women and children; whereas, in reality, though gentle as a child, he carries in his bosom the germ of all strength and heroism; and the volume and force of his being are as remarkable as its quality. He is not in the least sentimental. Nowhere does he exhibit trace or taint of that false liberality which bids truth and lie shake hands and be friends, or judicially binds them over to keep the peace; far less of that ‘philosophic breadth’ which places Jesus Christ, Zoroaster, Sakya-Mouni, Mahomet (and why not by-and-by-Joseph Smith?) in the same Pantheon. He is full of the grand intolerance of love; incapable of compromise or truce with falsehood, however mighty or loftily throned. If a man come and bring not the doctrine of Christ, whosoever biddeth him God-speed is partaker of his evil deeds. He never puts himself forward in the sight of others, challenging observation, but yet is ever found by his Master’s side in the hour of danger, quietly, and as of course; one of those who willingly offered themselves, and did not turn back in the day of battle.
Thus, on the night of the betrayal, he closely follows Jesus from the garden, goes in along with him to the place of trial and judgment, and never for a moment falls away from him. Peter, too, follows, but afar off, and takes his place with the officers and servants, as if he belonged to their company; and there lay his weakness and danger. John goes in with Jesus, quietly, and as a simple matter of course; and in this very cleaving to the Lord lay his safety. Again, at the crucifixion, he held his station near the cross of his Master all day, a witness of his dreadful sufferings; exhibiting that rarest form of courage, which so few even of strong men are capable of — the courage to stand still and look upon the sufferings of a beloved friend, protracted and intensifying from hour to hour, which we can do nothing whatever to relieve. Ah, it takes courage of the loftiest order for that!” That our author is himself by no means undecided in his views, or wishful to gain the cheap honors which are awarded to modern “liberality” is clear enough from many passages of this work. Some of the notes are so especially happy on this point, and so accurately hit the nail on the head, that we cannot do better than reproduce them: even when they are quotations they will reveal the man, for the set of an author’s thought may be seen as clearly in his quotations as in his original matter. Here are two notes from page 23: — “There is a legitimate place for compromise, but it is not the realm of truth. Take an illustration which keeps clear of all theological complication. One man says, -Five times six are thirty. Another says, -Five times six are twenty-eight. Our liberal friend steps forward and says, Come now, don’t fight about it; you must love one another; split the difference, and say, Five times six are twenty- nine. Even in arithmetical discussions, men should show a right spirit, and not be overbearing or selfish or bitter; they are all the likelier to arrive at truth in this way; but compromise is no step toward truth — does not even lie on the road to it at all.” “The vague cloudy men are always talking against intolerance.
Why, our very calling is to be very intolerant; intolerant of proved error and known sin. The evil is, that we are not intolerant enough; though, at the same time, we are not benevolent enough. A man, however, must have a clear eye and a large heart, before he has a right to be intolerant, either towards concrete error or concrete sin.” — Colloquia Peripatetica: Dr. John Duncan . — ‘Thou knowest the serpent cunning of this liberal spirit It is killing our children; it hath already slain its tens of thousands; this city is sick unto death, and dying of the mortal wounds which she hath received from it.” — Edward Irving.
Another note deals a well-aimed blow at the modern doctrine of the universal fatherhood of God, a dogma which has deluded thousands, and is as deadly an error as ever reeked from the bottomless pit. If all men are sons of God already, there is no need of the new birth, and conversion is a superfluity. One of the theories which have been invented to justify infant baptism required this flattering falsehood to bolster it, and therefore it has been received pretty extensively among Congregationalists, to whom we wish grace enough to renounce both the theory and its buttress. Dr. Culross says: — “There is a theology — I hope not growing — which gives the ‘relationship’ in the unqualified New Testament sense, without the ‘birth.’ Milton makes the devil say: ‘The son of God I also am, or was; And if I was, I am; relation stands; All men are sons of God,’ I think I have met this very reasoning in prose, — only not put in the devil’s mouth. If believers are but as Adam was — if creaturehood is all that lies in John’s expression, ‘sons of God,’ (then to say the least) the expression is poorer than it looks. As to the doctrines that ‘humanity was born again, in the incarnation of the Son of God, I do not find it anywhere in John’s writings, nor do I see proof of it in the world’s actual condition. ‘As many as receive him’ are ‘ sons,’ — however scorn, fully such a doctrine may be talked out of ‘enlightened’ and ‘intellectual’ circles.”
It is altogether without reserve that we commend the work before us. It is not a bottle of milk for babes, but a portion of meat for men. A half-adozen readings will only make it more interesting to those who meditate upon what they read.
We have heard of a gentleman who entered an hotel and ordered a dinner of chops. One chop was brought him with due state, this being considered to be sufficient for a meal. The hungry diner inserted his fork into the lonely portion of flesh, and as he put it upon his plate, he said, “Yes, this is the sort of thing, bring me a dish of them.” So have we risen from the perusal of many a modern book, feeling that the one or two thoughts which we had obtained were good, but we wanted more of them: no such tantalizing have we undergone while reading this work, but on the contrary, we have had a feast of fat things full of marrow.
A POLITICAL DISSENTER BY C. H. SPURGEON.
DURING the last month it has been our lot to be abused both in public and by letter as few men have been, for having in a few sentences expressed our belief that Caesar had better mind his own things, and let the things of God alone. Many of the letters we have received are of such a character that they would disgrace the cause of Beelzebub himself. Certainly, the alliance of Church and State, will never come to an end from want of bullies to defend it. A few communications have been courteous, and even rational, but by far the larger proportion have been simply an amalgam of abusive epithets and foolish bombast. We are by no means fond of such things, and yet so far from being depressed by them they have even caused us a little extra mirth. Our experience as to the effect of furious attacks has been somewhat similar to that of Luther, of whom Michelet has the following note: “Being one day in very high spirits at table, ‘Be not scandalized,’ he said, ‘to see me so merry. I have just read a letter violently abusing me. Our affairs must be going on well, since the devil is storming so.’” From the remarks which follow we most emphatically exempt certain honorable clergymen who love a man none the less for being outspoken, and do not require silence as the price of their friendship. Some such we know and honor. They are men of a noble stamp; fair antagonists when they must oppose, and brethren in Christ even then. Would God there were more such, and then the exasperations which now embitter discussion would give place to mutual concessions, or at worst to courteous arguments.
Among the charges hurled at us is one which our accusers evidently regard as a very serious one. They call us “a Political Dissenter,” and seem as if they had delivered themselves of a terrible epithet, whose very sound would annihilate us. It is a curious that that neither the sound nor the sense of those awful words has impressed us with fear, or moved us to repentance. Politics, if they are honest, are by no means sinful, or the office of a legislator would be fatal to the soul, and Dissenters, if they dissent from error, are commendable individuals: as, therefore, neither the “political” nor the “dissenter” is necessarily bad, the mixture of two good or indifferent things can scarcely be intolerably evil. One would imagine from the mouthing which our opponents give to the words, that a political Dissenter must be a peculiarly ferocious kind of tiger, a specially venomous viper, or perhaps a griffin, dragon, or “monster dire, of shape most horrible;” but as far as we can make out the meaning of the words, he is only a Dissenter who demands his natural civil rights, a Nonconformist who longs for that religious equality before the law which impartial justice should award to every citizen. A Dissenter who is godly and humble, and knows his duty to his betters, and walks in a lowly and reverential manner to them, is never political; he is styled pious, and held up to admiration at meetings of the Church Defense Association, though at other places, seeing that with all his piety he is still a Dissenter, be is duly snubbed by the same parish priests who so much admire him. If a Dissenter would have a good report of those within the Established pale he must toady to all rectors, vicars, and curates — he must “bless God for raising up such a bulwark for our Protestant liberties as the Church of England as by law established,” or at least; he must be contentedly silent under his wrongs, and never open his mouth to obtain his rights. Cease to be a man, and you will be a pious Dissenter; but speak out and show the slightest independence of mind, and you will be an odious political Dissenter. Be thankful for the toleration which you enjoy, and eat your humble pie in a corner, and the rector will condescend to meet you at the Bible Society’s meetings; but dare to call your soul your own and you shall be put into the black books, among those dreadful emissaries of Mr. Miall. Piety in the clerical mind is pretty generally synonymous with subservience to their reverences, but we hope that without being utterly impious we may question the correctness of their judgment. Some of the most prayerful, spiritual, and Christ-like men we have ever met with, were as fully convinced of the evils of the present establishment, and as earnest for separation between Church and State, as ever we can be. They were saints, and yet political Dissenters: they lived near to God, and enjoyed daily fellowship with heaven, and yet, like the apostle Paul, they valued their civil rights, and spoke out when they saw them invaded. As names and forms of departed worthies rise before us, men of whom the world was not worthy, who were the political Dissenters of their day, we feel reassured, and are by no means disposed to change our company. The men who judged the piety of our predecessors, as they now judge ours, must be little acquainted with what piety means if they separate it from courage and independence. Their endorsement of our piety we never asked, and if they gave it we should begin to suspect our own position before God. Far from us be the cringing, cowardly sycophancy which makes the poor dissenting minister the patronized minion of the aristocratic rector; equally far from us be the obsequious silence which gains custom for the Nonconformist tradesman who sells his conscience as well as his wares. If these be pious, may we be clear of such piety. To us let it happen to speak the truth and bow the knee to no man, if this be what is meant by being political.
It is easy to throw stones at others, but glass houses should whisper caution. If it be so terrible an evil for a Dissenter to be political, what must be the condition of a political Churchman? Yet every clergyman is just that, since he is the employee of a political church, or rather he is commissioned by the political authorities to attend to the national religion; he is therefore a political Churchman ex officio. Moreover, if it be a serious injury to the piety of a Dissenting minister to attend a meeting of the Liberation Society once in a year, is there no loss of grace in attending a Church Defense Association? Mr. Spurgeon speaks about a score sentences in a sermon upon Caesar and his proper sphere, and this is so detrimental to his soul’s prosperity that he receives letters by the score from excessively gracious Churchmen who are in agonies over his spiritual declension. This is very kind, and motherly, but is the like care taken with that excellent man, Mr. Ryle, who has not only delivered a great many political speeches, but has written pamphlets on the subject of Church and State? We trust our worthy brother has been nursed with much watchfulness, for he has the political disease very heavily upon him it we may judge from certain of his tracts. He is a fearful instance of a Political Churchman. We believe the High Church party consider him to be a Dissenter, and we rejoice to believe that they are pretty near the mark, judging the good man doctrinally; and if they are right in their views Mr. Ryle is a political Dissenter himself, only he is out of his proper place. Will some of his friends remind him of his danger? And will they at the same time take note, that for every word upon politics spoken by us, pious churchmen can be found who have uttered ten or a hundred. In them it seems to be commendable, and in us censurable: how is this?
To the spiritual Churchman we would say : — Take the eighteen volumes of the Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, and see if you can find eighteen pages of matter which even look towards politics; nay, more, see if there be one solitary sentence concerning politics, which did not, to the preacher’s mind, appear to arise out of his text, or to flow from the natural run of his subject. The abstinence of the preacher from such themes would be eminently praiseworthy, if it were not possibly censurable; for he may have neglected a distasteful duty.
The truth is that many of us are loath to touch politics at all, and would never do so if we were not driven to it. Our life-theme is the gospel, and to deal with the sins of the State is our “strange work,” which we only enter upon under the solemn constraints of duty. To see Popery made the national religion has aroused the gentlest among us. An evangelical church, imposed upon us by the State, was a grievance and a wrong, but to force a shamelessly Ritualistic Establishment upon us as the national religion is a tyranny which no Englishman ought to bear. Is an Anglican priest to swing his censer in our faces in the name of the nation? Are the idols and breaden deities of Ritualism to be held up before us, with this exclamation, “These be thy gods, O England!” The case is so, and we protest for we are Protestants — we will not tamely endure it for we worship the living God.
We will go on with our spiritual duties quietly enough if those in power will deal out equal measure to all religions. We shall be delighted to have no more grounds of appeal to public justice, and no more reasons for difference with our fellow Christians. If we are political, give us our rights and we shall be so no more. If our spirituality be precious to our antagonists, let them deliver us from the temptation which puts it in peril.
For a Christian minister to be an active partisan of Whigs or Tories, busy in canvassing, and eloquent at public meetings for rival factions, would be of ill repute. For the Christian to forget his heavenly citizenship, and occupy himself about the objects of place-hunters, would be degrading to his high calling: but there are points of inevitable contact between the higher and the lower spheres, points where politics persist in coming into collision with our faith, and there we shall be traitors both to heaven and earth if we consult our comfort by slinking into the rear. Till religion in England is entirely free from State patronage and control, till the Anglican Papacy ceases to be called the national religion, till every man of every Faith shall be equal before the eye of the law as to his relgious rights, we cannot, and dare not cease to be political. Because we fear God, and desire his glory, we must be political — it is a part of our piety to be so. When nearest to God in prayer, we pray that his church may neither oppress nor be oppressed; when walking in holiest fellowship with Jesus, we long that he alone may be head of the church, and that she may no more defile herself with the kings of the earth. Let not our opponents mistake us: we dare carry our cause before the throne of God, and habitually do so. Our protests before man are repeated in our prayers to God. Our deepest religious emotions are aroused by the struggle forced upon us. We will not say that Nonconformists who are not abused as political Dissenters are not pious, but we will say that, if we shirked the work which makes us political, we should prove ourselves traitors to the Lord our God. The curse of Meroz would fall upon us if we came not up to the help of the Lord in this the day of battle. The history of the nation, and the destiny of millions, may depend upon the faithfulness of Nonconformists at this hour, and our persuasion is that the day will come when it shall be fame rather than dishonor to have been reckoned — APOLITICALDISSENTER.A SERMON AND A REMINISCENCE.
BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“Unto you therefore which believe He is precious.” — 1 Peter 2. 7.
WHEN one has a cold in the head it is a very effectual hindrance to thought; you may do what you will, and select what subject you may, but somehow or other the mind has lost its elasticity. I frankly confess that for this reason I selected this text for my discourse. I thought that perhaps if the head would not work, the heart might; and, that if the thoughts came not, yet the emotions might. Emotions may well be stirred in the preacher if not in the hearer by the memories awakened by this passage. For I remember well that more than twenty-two years ago, the first attempted sermon that I ever made was from this text. I had been asked to walk out to the little village of Teversham, some little distance from the town of Cambridge, in which I lived, to accompany a young man whom I supposed to be the preacher for the evening, and on the way I said to him that I trusted God would bless him in his labors. “Oh dear,” said he, “I never preached in my life. I never thought of doing such a thing; I was asked to walk with you, and I sincerely hope that God will bless you in your preaching.” “Nay,” said I, “but I never preached, and I don’t know that I could do anything of the sort.” We walked together till we came to the place, my inmost soul being all in a tremble as to what would happen. When we found the congregation assembled, and no one else there to speak of Jesus, though I was only sixteen years of age, as I found that I was expected to preach, I did preach, and this was the text. If a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would suit him. If one were dying this would be the text, if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text, because its teaching is experimental — its meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue. To the believer it is not a thing which somebody else has taught him; it is a matter of fact, which he knows within his own soul, that Christ is precious to him , and he can bear testimony concerning it, although not always such bold testimony as he could wish. I intend to let my heart run over like a full cup, just as the thought comes to my heart it shall be poured out. Let us go then at once to our text, and speak a little, first, about believers; then, about their appreciation of Christ; and then about how they show it.
I. ABOUT BELIEVERS.
“Unto you which believe.” Believers are getting to be rather scarce things now-a-days: the doubters have it: they are the men who claim all the wisdom of the period. There is scarcely a singly historical fact but what, is doubted now. I fancy the existence of the human race must be a matter of question with some persons. I believe some imagine that not even themselves are actually existent; certain ideas of themselves exist, but not themselves! We know not how far the human mind will go in this direction: but surely there must be a limit to doubting. Wonderful is the capacity of faith, but a hundred times more wonderful is the capacity of unbelief. The most credulous persons in the world are unbelievers. He who refuses to swallow the gnat of scriptural difficulty, usually swallows camels in large quantities of other difficulties of all sorts. The text speaks of believers, and for my part I am happy to know that a man is reckoned among believers of any sort rather than with doubters.
But the believers mentioned here are not mere believers, they are spiritual believers, Christian believers, they believe in Christ Jesus. It is only to such that Christ is precious. In the word of God there are many expressions with regard to believing in Christ. We read of believing in him, believing upon him, and believing him. Now, if I understand aright, believing in him means this: believing that he is what he claims to be; as, for instance, that he is the sent One of God, the Messias, that he is King in Israel, that he is the Son of God, that he is the Word that was God and was in the beginning with God, that he is the Priest making atonement for our sins, that he is the Head of the Church. and so on. That is to believe in him, to accept him as being what God’s Word says he is, to believe God’s testimony concerning his Son. But believing upon him goes further, for when a man believes upon Jesus, or, on Jesus, he trusts him, he rests himself upon him; for the pardon of his sin he relies upon the Savior’s atoning sacrifice; for eternal life he rests upon the Savior’s immortality; for his resurrection he looks to the Savior’s power; for everything he looks to his Redeemer; he leans upon him, he believes on him. And this, mark you, is essential to salvation, for we may believe Christ to be God, and yet perish; we may believe Christ to be the priest putting away sin by his atoning sacrifice, and yet perish. The faith that saves is a trusting faith, a reliant faith, a sacred recumbency, confidence, and leaning upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear hearer, do you possess it? Has the Holy Spirit given to you to cast yourself once for all upon him whom God has set forth to be a propitiation for sin? If you have, sure you will through grace proceed to the third form of faith, you will believe him — his person as well as his words. You will believe him whatever he may say, you will believe him whatever he may do; you will be persuaded that he is himself the essential truth, according to his word — “I am the way, the truth, and the life;” and then you will know what Paul meant when he said, “I know whom I have believed,” — not “in whom,” but “whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him.” If you asked a true believer in Christ’s day “What is your creed?” he would have pointed to his Master; he would not have repeated certain articles, but he would have said, “I believe that glorious man; my trust is in him; I believe him.” We have seen many books labeled upon their backs, “Body of Divinity,” but of a truth Jesus is the only real “body of divinity.” If you want theology, he is the true Theologos, the essential word of God. It is a grand thing when a man believes Jesus to be what Jesus is — a Savior from sin; and then believes the Christ to be what Christ is — the anointed of the Lord; and so makes him to be his Alpha and Omega — all his salvation and all his desire.
Divide yourselves upon this question as to how far you are believers, for we cannot assert that Christ is precious to you if you are not believers. We know he will not be your heart’s monarch if you have no faith, He will be the very reverse. But if you be believers in and upon him, he will be precious to you beyond all comparison, II.
Let us, then, consider the BELIEVER’ S APPRECIATION OF HIS MASTER; and observe, first, that every believer appreciates Christ himself — his very person: “Unto you therefore which believe he is precious.” He. Some think the ordinances, which they call the sacraments, very precious: so they are; but only for his sake. Others reckon the doctrines to be very precious, and always thrust doctrine into the forefront. We will not deny that every doctrine is precious, but it owes its value to the fact that Christ is in it. Dry doctrine is nothing better than a sepulcher for a dead Christ to be buried in; but the doctrine preached in relation to his person becomes a throne on which he is exalted. It is a great pity when any of you Christians forget that you have a Savior who is alive, and overlook the personality of Christ.
Remember that he is a real man, and as a real man on Calvary he died for you, and as a real man he is gone into heaven. He is no ideal personage, but an actual personage; and the very marrow of Christian experience lies in the realization of the personality of the Savior. “Unto you that believe, he is precious.” If you make doctrine the main thing, you are very likely to grow narrow-minded; if you make your own experience the main thing, you will become gloomy and censorious of others; if you make ordinance the main thing, you will be apt enough to grow merely formal; but you can never make too much of the living Christ Jesus. Remember that all things else are for his sake. Doctrines and ordinances are the planets, but Christ is the Sun; the stars of doctrine revolve around him as their great primal light.
Get to love him best of all. Yea, I know you do, if ye are believing in him.
You love the doctrines, and would not like to give one of them up, but still the incarnate God is the sum and substance of your confidence; Christ Jesus himself is precious to you.
Now, as this appreciation concerns Christ, it may here be remembered that it is in the case of every believer a personal appreciation. As we appreciate Christ’s person, so we each in person appreciate him. We do not pretend to appreciate Christ because others say so; nor do we run with the multitude, but we judge for ourselves. Unto those that believe in him, Christ is precious on his own account, from their own personal knowledge of him.
They have not borrowed it. They do not cry, “Yes, he is precious,” because their dear mother, who is gone to heaven, used to say so; her memory helps them, but they have a better reason than that. He is precious to them.
Beloved, there is nothing like personal religion. The religion which you inherit, if at the same time it is not yours personally, is not worth one single farthing. You will not be saved by hereditary godliness. If any man should say: “My ancestors believed so and so, and therefore I do,” that would be a reason why we should have been Druids, for our ancestors were such. If our religion has come to us as an heirloom like the family pew, and we have merely taken it at second-hand, it is of poor account. You must value Christ because you have tried him, and know him for yourself; for nothing short of a personal appreciation, and a personal appropriation, of the Lord Jesus, by faith, to your own case, and in your own heart, will ever bring you to heaven. Everything short of personal godliness falls short of eternal life. Remember that nobody can be born again for you. Ye yourselves must be regenerated. Nobody can renounce “the pomps and vanities of the world” for you. Sponsorship in religion is the most transparent of frauds.
Nobody can love Christ for you; your own heart must beat high with affection towards his dear name. It must be a personal religion.
As there must be an appreciation of the person of the Lord Jesus by our own selves, so, let me add, our experience must be the basis of that estimate. Christ is precious to us this day, because we have proved him to be precious. What has he done for us? He has delivered us, first, from all the guilt of our past sins. You have not forgotten the day when — “Laden with guilt and full of fears,” you crept to the cross foot, and looked up and saw him suffering for you: and while you believed in him the burden fell from off your shoulders, and you received a liberty unknown before. Christ is very precious to the man who has once felt the work of the law on his conscience. I wish that some people who slight him, had been cast where some of us once lay, in spiritual wretchedness and deep depression of spirit. Oh, the misery of a tortured conscience! We trembled in anticipation of the flames of hell, while our sins stared us in the face; but in an instant, by virtue of the application of the precious blood, fear was gone, guilt disappeared, and we were reconciled to God by Christ Jesus. Is he not precious if this has been the case?
Beside this, he has emancipated us from the chains of sin. Afore-time passions mastered us; the flesh stood at the helm and steered the vessel which way it would. Sometimes a fierce self-will, at another time the baser passions of the flesh ruled us. We could not overcome ourselves; Satan and the flesh were tyrants over us; but now the vices once so dear have become detestable, the chains of sin are broken, and we are the Lord’s free men; and though sin strives to get the mastery over us, and we have much to mourn over, yet that same sword which has slain some sins is close at the throat of others, and by grace divine we know that we shall slay them all ere long. There is such a change in the character of some in this place, to my knowledge, that Christ, the great transformer, must be precious to them. Once at the alehouse where sinners congregate; once frequenting nameless haunts of vice; once a swearer, once passionate, once dishonest, once a liar, once everything that is evil; but now washed and sanctified you cannot but prize your Deliverer. Oh, when I meet the reformed drunkard, and when I gaze into the face of the Magdalene, who now rejoices to wash the Savior’s feet with her tears, I know that to such he is precious. A renewed character going with pardoned sin, as it always does, endears the Savior to the soul.
And, O beloved, beside that, he is precious to us because he has changed the whole bent and current of our thoughts. We were selfish once, and cared for nothing else; but since the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us we serve not self but Christ; we do not live now to hoard money, or to get ourselves honor, or even to save our own souls; for that is completed; we now rise above the groveling love of self, and our whole being is devoted to Jesus. He is precious beyond all price, for he has taught us to live for God’s glory, and for the welfare of our fellow men.
He is precious to us by experience, because he has helped us in many a dark hour of trial. I shall not tell you to-night how often he has cheered me.
If any spirit here is more than ordinarily inclined to despondency, perhaps it is mine; but, ah, the sustaining influences of the presence of Christ! I can rise even to the seventh heaven of ecstasy when I do but fully come back to a simple faith in his precious name. Some of us could not live without Jesus Christ. It has come to this — it is hell here if we do not have Christ with us. I remember slipping the cable of my belief once, and being driven out to sea before a furious wind of doubt. At first I reveled in that speedy sailing across a sea of fierce unbelief; but, ah, when I began to see whither I was going, and when I stood at the prow of the vessel and marked the dreary cloud-land that lay before me, and knew not what rocks might be ahead, I felt a horror of great darkness, and cried for deliverance right loudly, and was glad when the anchor held fast again and my dreadful cruise was over.
On Christ my soul has a hold as tight as the drowning man’s death-grip, and I cling with all my might to his everlasting love, his personal love to my poor soul, and to the merit of his substitutionary sacrifice on my behalf.
Believe me, he is precious to all whose whole mental thought has come to an anchorage in him, whose faculties feel that their utmost reach and stretch cannot go beyond him, for he is all in all. Yes, the text says, “Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious.”’ Perhaps you imagine that speak only of the past, as though Jesus had been precious. I meant that; but he is precious now: “Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious.” When one of the saintly martyrs had been tormented by persecutors they said to him, “What can Christ do for you now?” and he replied, “He can help me to bear with patience that which you inflict upon me.” When the murdered Covenanter’s head was carried by the dragoon to the poor bereaved wife, and he asked her what she thought of her husband’s face now, she said that he never looked bonnier when he lived then he did now that he had given up his life for Christ.
Verily, we can say to-day, that Christ never looked bonnier than he does to-night, when we think of him as slain for us. We could gladly sing that hymn — “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now.” Some people grow less lovely upon close acquaintance, but all lovers of Christ testify that his beauties bear the closest inspection; those who lie in his bosom longest love him best, and those who have served him seventy years are the most fluent, and also the most sincere, in singing his praises.
O, he is a most precious Savior now! Young man, do you trust; Christ tonight?
If you do, he is precious to you, and if he is not precious to you, then you have not believed in him. May you be led to do so by the power of his Spirit, and then Christ will be precious to you indeed!
But I must add, although Christ is precious to us now on account of past experience and present enjoyment, he is precious to us with a dash of expectation. We expect soon to enter the cold shades of death, and it will be precious to have the Savior with us then. The question will sometimes come over every thoughtful mind, — “Shall we, after all, die when we die?
Are we like so many mites in a cheese, and shall we soon be crushed out of being and cease to be?” Oh, dark and dreary thought! But, then, we remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead, — if any historical fact is certain, that is. There may be doubts about whether Caesar was slain by Brutus, or whether Alfred was ever king in England, for there are not evidences one half so positive on those points as those which prove the resurrection of the Savior. I know not that anybody died as a witness for Caesar’s death, but many shed their blood joyfully rather than deny that the Christ who was bandied upon the cross actually rose again from the tomb.
In that fact lies our hope of resurrection. A man, a real man, who died on a tree, has risen from the dead, and we are one with that glorious man, who was also God, and because he lives, we shall live also! He is precious to us when we think of dying, and that should not be seldom. We shall soon come to it. Those who are strongest and most hale are nearing their last hour, and those who are sickly are nearer still, it may be. Oh, it is sweet to have Christ to live with, for then — let death come when it may, it will be a joyful thing for us, and once reconciled to our Maker through his Son, what have we to fear?
III. Some Christians seldom acknowledge that THEY ARE SUCH. It is a beggarly business to love Christ in a corner and to be ashamed to own him.
He was never ashamed to confess himself the sinner’s friend, yet, there are sinners who profess to be saved by him who are ashamed to be known as his followers. “O,” says one, “If I were to say I am a follower of the Crucified, and join with his church and people, I should expect to be laughed at.” And are you afraid of a fool’s laughter? Was Christ ashamed to be laughed at for you? O, coward, to be ashamed to be ridiculed for him! “O, but my friends would make a hubbub at home.” And did not his friends, who should have helped him, cast him out, and reject him? Yet he bore it for your sake. O, craven spirits that will not take sides with Jesus; take heed when he cometh, for those who deny him before men, shall be themselves denied before God and the holy angels. This day the standard floats in the breeze; let all who are on Christ’s side rally to it, for the hosts on the other side are many and bold. The foes of Jesus insult him to his face — some deny his deity and others thrust a human priest into his place. “Ye that are men now serve him Against unnumbered foes; Your courage rise with danger, And strength to strength oppose.” If he is precious to you, you will never blush to be called a fool for his sake.
Those who really judge Jesus to be precious rejoice in possessing him. One cannot understand those Christians who say, “Christ is mine,” and yet go fretting and worrying through life. Dear brother, if Christ is yours, you have no cause for fretting. “What, none?” saith one. “I am very poor.” You are not poor. He who can call Christ his own cannot be poor. “But I am comfortless.” How can that be, when the Lord Jesus has given you a comforter? “But I am bereaved.” Truly so, but you have not lost your Lord. Come, dear brother, if a man were to go through the streets of London with twenty thousand pounds in his pocket, and, when he reached the bank, found that a thief had stolen his cotton pocket handkerchief, I think the reflection that would rise in his mind would be, “Thank God I have not lost my money,” and the very loss of his handkerchief would only make him the more grateful that he had not lost his treasures. Look on all things you have here as nothing compared with Jesus, and say, — “How can I bereaved be Since I cannot part with thee?” If you esteem Christ as you should, you will refuse to give him up at any cost, and under any circumstances you will hold to what you believe. You will have to suffer loss, it may be, in social position or in business. Very well, do it gladly, and only wish you could suffer more for his dear sake.
One might almost envy the martyrs, that they could earn that ruby crown which is not now within our reach. Let us at any rate be willing to take such little rebukes and rebuffs as may be given us for Christ’s sake. If you love Jesus Christ, my brothers and sisters, you will be willing to make sacrifices for his cause. I wish this spirit were abroad throughout all the church, that Christ was really precious to saints, so that they consecrated themselves and their substance to him. We want personal consecration. I have heard that word pronounced “purse-and-all consecration,” a most excellent pronunciation certainly. He who loves Jesus consecrates to him all that he has, and feels it a delight that he may lay anything at the feet of him who laid down his life for us.
Once more, he who really has this high estimate of Jesus will think much of him, and as the thoughts are sure to run over at the mouth, he will talk much of him. Do we so? If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself; you will be whispering it into your child’s ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of his sweet love. Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It, cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him. Of course I do not mean by that, that those who use the pen are silent: they are not. And those who help others to use the tongue, or spread that which others have written, are doing their part well: but that man who says, “I believe in Jesus,” but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor. You are either doing good, or you are not good yourself. If thou knowest Christ, thou art as one that has found honey; thou wilt call others to taste of it; thou art like the lepers who found the flood which the Syrians had cast away: thou wilt go to Samaria and tell the hungry crowd that thou hast found Jesus, and art anxious that they should find him too. Be wise in your generation, and speak of him in fitting ways and at fitting times, and so in every place proclaim the fact that Jesus is most precious to your soul.