A DISCOURSE UPON ONE OF THE MASTER’S CHOICE SAYINGS BY C. H. SPURGEON.
“But Jesus said unto them, They need not depart.” Matthew 14:16.
Of course the Master was right, but he appeared to speak unreasonably. It seemed self-evident that the people very much needed to depart. They had been all day long hearing the preacher, the most of them had not broken their fast, and they were ready to faint for hunger. The only chance of their being fed was to let them break up into parties and forage for themselves among the surrounding villages. But our Lord declared that there was no necessity for them to go away from him, even though they were hungry, and famished, and in a desert place. Now, if there was no necessity for hungry hearers to go away, much less will it ever be needful for loving disciples to depart from him. If those who were hearers only — and the bulk of them were nothing more, a congregation collected by curiosity and held together by the charm of his eloquence and by the renown of his miracles — if these needed not depart, much less need they depart who are his own friends and companions, his chosen and beloved. If the crowds needed not through hunger to depart bodily, much less need any of the saints depart spiritually from their Lord. There is no necessity that our communion with Christ should ever be suspended. To walk with Christ from morn till eve, In him to breathe, in him to live, is no mere wish, no visionary’s prayer; it may be realized; we need not decline from Jesus. There is no need that the spouse of Jesus should wander from beneath the banner of his love. Mary may always sit at Jesus’ feet. There is no law which says to holy fellowship, “Hitherto shalt thou go, but no farther, here shalt thou cease!” There is no set hour when the gate of communion with Christ must inevitably be closed. We may continue to come up from the wilderness, leaning on the Beloved. We need not depart. Yet is it so commonly thought to be a matter of course that we should wander from our Lord, that I shall ask for strength from heaven to combat the injurious opinion.
I. Brethren, THERE IS NOT AT THIS HOUR, to you who love the Lord, ANY PRESENT NECESSITY FOR YOUR DEPARTING FROMCHRIST. At this moment we may truthfully say of all the saints of God, “They need not de, part.” There is nothing in your circumstances which compels you to cease from following hard after your Lord. You are very poor, you say, but you need not depart from Christ because of penury, for in the depths of distress the saints have enjoyed the richest presence of their once houseless Lord. Being poor, your poverty at this moment may be pinching you: to be relieved from that pinch you need not break away from Jesus, for fellowship with him may be maintained under the direst extremity of want; indeed, your want increases your necessity to walk closely with your Lord, so that patience may have its perfect work, and your soul may be sustained by the mighty consolations which flow out of nearness to Jesus.
Want shall not separate the soul from communion with him who hungered in the wilderness and thirsted on the cross. You tell me that in order to relieve your necessities you are compelled to exercise great care and anxiety; but all the cares which are useful and allowable are such as will allow of a continuance of fellowship with Christ. You may care as much as you ought to care — and I need not say how little that is — and yet you need not depart from him who careth for you. But you tell me that in addition to deep thought you have to spend much labor to provide things honest in the sight of all men. Yes, but you need not depart for that reason.
The carpenter’s Son is not ashamed of the sons of toil; he who wore the garment without seam does not despise the smock or the apron. Labor is no enemy to communion; idleness is a far more likely separator of the soul from Christ. Not to the idlers in Herod’s court did Jesus reveal himself, but to hard-working fishermen by the lake of Galilee. If Satan is never far away from the idle, it is pretty plain that it is no disadvantage to be busy. A toil amounting to slavery may weaken the body, and prostrate the spirit; but even when heart and flesh fail, the heart may call the Lord its portion.
There is no service beneath the sun so arduous that you need depart from Christ in it: but the rather while the limbs are weary the spirit should find its rest in drawing nearer to him who can strengthen the weak and give rest to the laboring.
Do you tell me that you are rich? Ah, indeed, how often has this made men depart! “Gold and the gospel seldom do agree; Religion always sides with poverty.” So said John Bunyan, and his saying is true. Too often the glitter of wealth has dazzled men’s eyes so that they could not see the beauty of Christ Jesus but, O ye few wealthy saints, ye need not depart. The camel can go through the needle’s eye, for with God all things are possible. Men have worn coronets on earth and inherited crowns in heaven, he who was the man after God’s own heart swayed a scepter. To grow rich in substance does not make it inevitable that you should become poor in grace. Do riches bring you many responsibilities and burdens, and are you so much occupied by them that your fellowship with the Lord grows slack? It should not be so; you need not depart. You can bring those responsibilities and the wealth itself to Jesus, and communion with him will prevent the gold from cankering, and the responsibility from involving you in sin. Very often the servant of God, who ministers for the church of Christ, finds so much to do in watching for the souls of others, and in caring for the various wants of the flock, that he is in danger of losing his own personal enjoyment of his Lord’s presence; but it need not be so. We can make all our many works subservient to our personal communism with our Lord, and as the bee flies to many flowers and gathers honey from each one, so may we out of many forms of service extract a sweet conformity to him who was ever about his Father’s business. We need not be cumbered with much serving or much suffering. Our surroundings are not to be our victors, but our subjects. We are in all these things to be more than conquerors through him who hath loved us.
Brethren, you need not depart because of anything in Christ Jesus. Those whom we love would not desire us to be always with them, and never out of their sight. A guest is very welcome, but the proverb says that after three days he is stale. A mother does not always want her child in her arms; its face is the epitome of beauty, but at eventide she is glad that those dear blue eyes no longer shine upon her; she is happy to lay her treasure in its cradle casket. We do not always wish for the company of those whom we compassionate; if they will condense their request and do their errand rapidly, we are best content. But Jesus Christ says to each one of us, his poor dependants, his crying children, “Ye need not depart.” When we are weeping he will lay us in his bosom and give us rest; when we are famishing, he will entertain us at his royal table, till we forget our misery.
He is a friend who sticketh closer than a brother in this respect, for we need not in his instance heed the wise man’s caution, “Go not into thy brother’s house in the day of thy calamity,” for we may at all times and seasons resort to him. We may ask, “Where dwellest thou?” and when we receive an answer, we may go forth and dwell with him, and make his house our home. Do you not remember his words, “Abide in me;” not merely “with me,” but “abide in me.” The closest contact may be maintained with the utmost constancy. Ye need not depart, ye may tarry for aye, Unchanged is his heart, he invites you to stay; He does not despise nor grow weary of you, You’re fair in his eyes, and most comely to view Then wish not to roam, but abide with your Lord, Since he is your home, go no longer abroad; Lie down on his breast in unbroken repose, For there you may rest, though surrounded with foes
Secondly, NO FUTURE NECESSITY EVER WILL ARISE TO COMPEL YOU TO DEPART FROM JESUS. It will always be true, “Ye need not depart.”
You do not know what your wants will be, yet though you be no prophet, your words will be true if you affirm that no want shall ever necessarily divide you from Jesus, because your wants will rather bind you to him. “It pleased the Father that in him should all fullness dwell.” “And of his fullness have all we received, and grace for grace.” We will draw nearer to him in time of need to obtain the grace we want. We shall never be forced to go elsewhere to find supplies for our spiritual wants. There stands another trader over the way, who fain would have you deal with him — his Infallible Holiness, as he styles himself — but, ah! if you want infallibility, you need not wander from him who is “the Truth;” and if you desire holiness, you need not withdraw from him who is the Holy Child Jesus. To gain all that the superstitious profess to find in Babylon, you need not depart from the Son of David who reigns in Zion. They tell us that we must confess our sins to a priest; we will stay at home, and lay bare our hearts to the High Priest, who sprang out of Judah, who is touched with a feeling of our infirmities. They teach that we must receive absolution from one chosen from among men to forgive sins; we go at once to him who is exalted on high to give repentance and remission. They tell us that we should continue in morning and evening prayers; we do so, and offer our matins and our vespers where no bells call us save the bells upon our High Priest’s garments. Our daily office may not be according to the use of Sarum, but it is according to the use of those who worship God in spirit and in truth. They cry up their daily sacrifice of the Mass, but in him who offered one sacrifice for sins for ever we find our all in all. His flesh is meat indeed, and his blood is drink indeed. You need not depart to pope, priest, church, or altar, for you may rest assured that there dwells in the man Christ Jesus, the Mediator of the new covenant, all that your spiritual wants shall need for their supply, and on no occasion, for any wants that shall by possibility arise, need you go down into Egypt, or stay yourself on Assyria.
You will experience great trials as well as great wants. That young man fresh from the country has come to town to live in a godless family, and last night he was laughed at when he knelt down to pray. My young friend, you need not forsake the faith, for other saints have endured severer ordeals than yours and have still rejoiced in the Lord. Yours are only the trials of cruel mockings; they were stoned and sawn asunder, yet neither persecution, nakedness, nor sword, divided them from the love of God in Christ Jesus their Lord. Many also are those with whom providence deals severely; all God’s waves and billows go over them, through much tribulation they inherit the kingdom, and everything in the future forebodes multiplied adversities, but yet they need not depart from Jesus their friend.
If, like Paul, you should come to a place where two seas meet; if you should experience a double trouble, and if neither sun nor moon should give you cheer, yet you need not suspend, but may rather deepen your fellowship with the Man of Sorrows. Christ is with you in the tempesttossed vessel, and you and those who sail with you, shall yet come to the desired haven; therefore be of good courage, and let not your hearts be troubled The Son of God will be with you in the seven-times heated furnace. “When thou passest through the rivers I will be with thee.” This proves to a demonstration that you need not depart.
You will encounter many difficulties between here and heaven. Those who paint the road to glory in rose-color have never trodden it. Many are the hills and dales between this Jericho and the city of the Great King. Let who will be without trials, Christians will have their fall share of them; but there shall come no difficulty of any kind between here and paradise which shall necessitate the soul’s going anywhere, but to her gracious Lord, for guidance, for consolation, for strength, or for aught besides. Little know we of the walls to be leaped or the troops to be overcome, but we know full well that never need we part from the Captain of our salvation, or call in other helpers. Death will probably befall us, at we need not depart from Jesus in the hour of our departure out of this world. On the contrary, when the death-dew lies cold on our brow we will sing, “If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, ‘tis now:” “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Straight on into eternity, and on, and on for ever, that word “Depart” never need cross our path. As never in eternity will the great Judge pronounce the sentence, “Depart, ye cursed,” upon his saints, so never in his providence, nor in the severest trial, will he render it necessary that the saints should in any sense depart from him. Never, O time, in thy darkest hour Shall I need depart from him, Though round me thy blackest tempests lower And both sun and moon grow dim.
Faster and faster each grief shall bind My soul to her Lord above; And all the woes that assail my mind Shall drive me to rest in his love.
There is no necessity, then, in the present, and there will be none in the future, for departing from communion with the Lord.
III. Thirdly, “They need not depart;” that is to say, NO FORCE CAN COMPEL THE CHRISTIAN TO DEPART FROMJESUS.
The world can tempt us to depart, and alas! too successfully does it seduce with its fascinating blandishments. Its frowns alarm the cowardly, and its smiles delude the unwary, but none need depart. If we have grace enough to play the man, Madam Bubble cannot lead us astray. “Surely in vain is the net spread in the sight of any bird.” We need not be taken in the world’s traps, there is one who can deliver us from the snare of the fowler.
We are not ignorant of the devices of Satan and the temptations of the world; we are not compelled to fall from our steadfastness; and if we do so, it is our willful fault. There is no necessity for it. Many live above the world — many in as difficult circumstances as ours. There are those in heaven who have found as hard hand-to-hand fighting in the spiritual life as we do; yet they were not vanquished, nor need we be; for the same strength which was given to them is reserved for us also. But saith one, “You do not know where I live.” Perhaps no. “You do not know what I have to endure.” cries another. Most true; but, I know where my Lord. lived, and I have heard that he endured much contradiction of sinners against himself, but he did not depart from holiness, nor from love to you.
You have not yet resisted unto blood, striving against sin. Perseverance to the end is possible to every believer; nay, it is promised him, and he may have it for the seeking. You need not depart, young friend, the world cannot drag you from Jesus, though it may entice you. Yield not, and you shall stand; for there has no temptation happened to you but such as is common to men. Satan is a very cunning tempter of the souls of men, but though he would fain constrain you to depart front your Lord, you need not follow his bidding. Satan is strong, but Christ is stronger. His temptations are insinuating, but you are no longer in darkness that you should be deceived by him. You need not depart. Even though surprising temptation should assault you at unawares, it ought no to find you sleeping. Has not Christ said, “What I say unto you, I say unto all, Watch”? You will not be surprised, if holy anxiety stands sentinel to your soul. Prayer and watchfulness will warn you of the enemy’s approach, and therefore you need not be driven to forsake your Lord.
Ay, but, perhaps, it may be that in addition to the world and to Satan, you are very conscious of the terrible depravity of your own heart , and, indeed, that is the chief ground of fear. The heart is deceitful, prone to wander, and ready enough to depart from the living God. But you need not depart from the Master because of that. The new-born nature takes up arms against the body of sin and death, the Holy Spirit also dwells within to conquer indwelling sin. Shall not the life which is from above subdue the natural death? Shall not the Spirit purge out the old leaven? You need not depart from Jesus. It is true you have a fiery temper, but it must not prevail; there is a cure for that plague. Perhaps we are inclined to levity, but we need not let our frivolous nature reign; grace can overcome it, and will. Where sin abounded, grace doth yet more abound. There is no unconquerable sin; there is no Dagon that shall not be broken in the presence of the ark of God, there is no temple of the Philistines which shall not fall beneath the might of our greater Samson. We need not, as the result of temperament, or because of any sin that doth so easily beset us, depart from Jesus, for grace is equal to all emergencies.
Do you call to mind that there may be another force employed beside that of the world, or of Satan, or the corruption within, namely, the lamentable coldness of the Christian church ? Truly it is to be feared that more have departed from close walking with Christ through the chilliness of professors than from almost any other cause. Newborn children of God too often feel the atmosphere of the church to be as freezing as that of an icewell; their holy warmth of zeal is frozen, and their limbs are stiffened into a rigor of inactivity, so that it is a marvel that they do not die — die they would were not the spiritual life immortal and eternal. But, brethren, even in the midst of the coldest church we need not depart from a near and elevated fellowship with the Lord. The church of Rome is a church defiled with error trod debased with superstition, but was there ever a nobler Christian woman in this world than Madame de la Mothe Guyon? She did not depart from Christ, though in the midst of a pestilent atmosphere.
Remember, too, the names of Jansenius, and Arnold, and Pascal, and Fenelon, which are an honor to the universal church of Christ; who walked in closer communion with Jesus than those holy men? In the midst of the darkest ages there have shone forth fairest stars. There are a few names even in Sardis which have not defiled their garments. Often am I told by some brother in a country village, where the minister seems to have gone to sleep twenty years ago and has never awakened since, that he finds it very hard to rejoice in the Lord, for his Sabbaths are a burden instead of a joy. My dear brother, you want more grace, if this is your ease. You must have more vitality within if you see so much death without. You need not depart; on the contrary, by becoming an example of living near to Christ yourself, you may quicken others; for, thank God, grace is contagious as well as sin. At any rate, it is certain that though many influences may seduce us, no force can compel us to depart from Jesus. No power in earth or hell Can force me to depart; Christ is my strength unconquerable He fortifies my heart. Fixed in his love I stand, And none shall drive me thence; Enclosed I am within the hand Of Love’s omnipotence.
IV. Regarded from another point, our text may teach us that THERE IS NO IMPOSSIBILITY IN KEEPING CLOSE TO THEBELOVED.
Many believers think that if they have fellowship every now and then with Jesus, with long intervals between, they are quite as much advanced as need be, and have probably reached as far as human nature is ever likely to go. An affectation of superfine godliness is suspicious, but, at the same time, a higher standard of religion can be maintained, and ought to be maintained than is commonly seen among professors at this time. We ought to attain to such a walk with God, to so calm, and serene a frame, that the light which shines upon our pathway shall be constant and clear. Enoch walked with God for hundreds of years, and cannot a man walk with God for twenty years? Enoch lived in the dark age of the world comparatively; cannot we who live under the gospel continuously walk with God? Enoch begat sons and daughters, and so had all the cares of a household, and yet he walked with God; cannot we, who have the like cares, yet still, by divine grace, be enabled to maintain unbroken communion? I know the place is high where they stand who consciously abide with Christ, but will you not strive to climb there and bathe your foreheads in the everlasting sunlight of Jehovah’s face? I know it would require most jealous walking, but you serve a jealous God, and he demands holy jealousy from you. Oh, the joy of living in the embrace of Jesus, and never departing from it! Oh, the bliss of sitting always at his feet, abiding with the Bridegroom, and listening to his voice! Surely the gain is worth the exertion, and the prize is worthy of the struggle. Let us not, since the attainment is not impossible, murmur at the difficulty, but rather by faith let us ask that we may begin to-night to achieve the result and continue to achieve it, till we come to see the face of Christ in heaven. Others have done so; why should not we?
Brethren, the way to maintain fellowship with Christ is simple. If you desire to retain in your mouth all day the flavor of the wines on the lees well refined, take care that you drink deep by morning devotion. Do not waste those few moments which you allot to morning prayer. Lay a text on your tongue, and like a wafer made with honey, it shall sweeten your soul till nightfall. During the day, when you can do so, think about your Redeemer, his person, his work. Seek to him, pray to him, ask him to speak to you. All the day long, lean on the Beloved. During the day serve him, say, “Lord, how can I serve thee in my calling?” Consecrate the kitchen, consecrate the market-room; make every place holy, by glorifying the Lord there. Converse much with him, and it will not be impossible for you to abide in him from the year’s beginning to its close. You need not depart. There is no mental or spiritual impossibility in the maintenance of unbroken communion, if the Holy Spirit be your helper. ‘Tis not too high for grace, Though nature fail to climb; Rise till you always view his face In fellowship sublime. ‘Tis not too much for grace To hold a life-long stay; You need not leave the sacred place, But rest therein for aye.
V. Once more. We need not depart; that is to say, THERE IS NO REASON THAT CAN BE IMAGINED WHICH WOULD RENDER IT A WISE, AND PROPER, AN GOOD THING FOR A CHRISTIAN TO DEPART FROMCHRIST.
Suppose that the search after happiness be the great drift of our life, as the old philosophers assert, then we need not depart from Jesus to win it, for he is heaven below. You desire pleasure, forget not that the pleasures of God which are in Christ, his joy, the joy that fills his great heart, these are more than enough to fill your heart. I sometimes hear people say, as an excuse for professors going to doubtful places of amusement, “You know they must have some recreation.” Yes, I know, but the re-creation which the Christian experienced when he was born again, has so completely made all things new to him, that the vile rubbish called recreation by the world is so vapid to him, that he might as well try to fill himself with fog as to satisfy his soul with such utter vanity. No; the Christian finds happiness in Christ Jesus, and when he wants pleasure, he does not depart from Jesus.
Perhaps it is said that we require a little excitement now and then, for excitement gives a little fillip to life, and is as useful to it as stirring is to a fire. I know it, and I trust you may have excitement, for the medicinal power of a measure of exhilaration and excitement is great, but you need not depart from Christ to get it, for there is such a thing as the soul’s dancing at the sound of his name, while all the sanctified passions are lifted up in the ways of the Lord. Holy mirth will sometimes so bubble up, and overflow in the soul, that the man will say, “Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell, God knoweth.” Joy in Christ; can rise to ecstasy and soar aloft, to bliss. If you desire to wear the highest crown of joy, you need not depart from Christ.
But it is said, “We require food for our intellect; a man needs to develop his intellectual faculties, he must needs learn that which will enlarge and expand his mind.” Certainly, by all manner of means. But, O beloved brother, you need not depart from Christ to get this, for the science of Christ crucified is the most excellent, comprehensive and sublime of all the sciences. It is the only infallible science in the circle of knowledge.
Moreover, by all true science you will find Christ honored, and not dishonored, and your learning, if it be true learning, will not make you depart from Christ, but lead you to see more of his creating and ruling wisdom. The profoundest astronomer admires the Sun of Righteousness; the best-taught geologist has no quarrel with the Rock of Ages; the greatest adept in mathematics marvels at him who is the sum total of the universe; he who knows the most of the physical, if he knows aright, loves the spiritual and reverences God in Christ Jesus. To imagine that to be wise one needs forsake the Incarnate Wisdom, is insanity. No, to reach the highest degree of attainment in true learning, there is no reason for departing from Christ. “We must have friends and acquaintances,” says one. You need not depart from Christ, to get them. We admit that a young woman does well to enter the marriage state; a young man is safer and better for having a wife; but my dear young friends, you need not break Christ’s law, and depart from him in order to find a good husband or a good wife. His rule is that you should not be unequally yoked together with unbelievers; it is a wise and kind rule, and is an assistance rather than a hindrance to a fit marriage. “But,” says one, “I do not intend to depart from Christ, though I am about to marry an unconverted person.” Rest assured that you are departing front Jesus by that act. I have never yet met with a single case in which marriages of this kind have been blessed of God. I know that young women say, “Do not be too severe, sir, I shall bring him round.” You will certainly fail. You are sinning in marrying under that idea. If you break Christ’s law, you cannot expect Christ’s blessing. To be happy in future life with a suitable partner you need not depart from Jesus. There is nothing in life you can want that is truly desirable, nothing that can promote your welfare, nothing that is really good or you, that can ever make it necessary for you to depart from the Lord Jesus Christ.
Now, if this be true, do not some of us feel very guilty? I could weep to think that I have so often departed from close fellowship with my Lord and Master, when I need not have done it. I am cast down and weary and cumbered with much serving occasionally. I know my faith is in Christ; but I have not the calm, unstaggering, faith I desire to have. But I know that with a thousand cares and I have ten thousand, I need not for a moment lose serenity and peace of mind, if I can reach the place which by God’s grace I will reach yet. Do you not feel ashamed that your family troubles, and perhaps your family joys, have taken you off from your Savior? Some of you have a great deal of leisure, and yet you slide away from Christ. Let us be ashamed together; but let us remember that if we have departed from Christ and the enjoyment of his fellowship, we can offer no excuse by saying we could not help it while this verse stands true. We do it willfully, we do it sinfully. It is not to be thrust on the back of circumstances; it cannot be laid on the devil, nor blamed to this, nor blamed to that, it is our own fault. We need not depart; there never was any need for it, and there never will be. May God’s grace descend mightily upon us, so that we may henceforth abide in our Lord. May those who know him not be led to seek him by faith even now and find him, and then even they shalt not need to depart from him at the last.