STUDY carefully the story of the enthusiastic Christian woman who poured the alabaster box of very precious ointment upon the head of our blessed Lord and Savior.
Her first and last thoughts were for the Lord Jesus Himself.
Seek to do something for Jesus which shall even be above all a secret sacrifice of pure love to Jesus. Do special and private work towards your Lord. Between you and your Lord let there be secret love tokens. You will say to me, “What shall I do?” I decline to answer I am not to be a judge for you; especially as to a private deed of love. The good woman did not say to Peter, “What shall I give?” nor to John, “What shall I do?” but her heart was inventive. I will only say, that we might offer more private prayer for the Lord Jesus. “Prayer also shall be made for Him continually.” Intercede for your neighbors; pray for yourselves; but could you not set apart a little time each day in which prayer should be all for Jesus? Could you not at such seasons cry with secret pleadings, “Hallowed be thy name! Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven”? Would it not be a sweet tiring to feel at such a time — I shall now go up to my chamber, and give my Lord a few minutes of my heart’s warmest prayer, that He may see of the travail of His soul?
That is one thing which all saints can attend to. Another holy offering is adoration — the adoring of Jesus Do we not too often forget this adoration in our assemblies, or thrust it into a corner? The best part of all our public engagements is the worship — the direct worship; and in this the first place should be given to the worship of the Lord Jesus. We sing at times to edify one another with psalms and hymns, but we should also sing simply and only to glorify Jesus. We are to do this in company; but should we not do it alone also? Ought we not all, if we can, to find a season in which we shall spend the time, not in seeking the good of our fellow-men, not in seeking our own good, but in adoring Jesus, blessing Him, magnifying Him, praising Him. pouring forth our heart’s love towards Him and presenting our soul’s reverence and penitence. I suggest this to you. I cannot teach you how to do it. God’s Holy Spirit must show your hearts the way.
I offer you a counsel or two about doing good works for Jesus. Take care that self never creeps in. It is to be all for Jesus: let not the foul fingers of self-seeking stain your work. Never do anything for Jesus out of love for popularity. Be always glad if your right hand does not know what your left hand does. Hide your works as much as possible from the praise of the most judicious friend. At the same time, let me also add, never have any fear of censure from those who know not your love to Jesus. This good woman did her work publicly, because it was the best way to honor her Lord; and if you can honor Him by doing a good work in the market-place before all men, do not be afraid. To some, the temptation may be to court the public eye; to others, the temptation may be to dread it. Serve your Lord as if no eye beheld you; but do not blush though all the eyes in the universe should gaze upon you. Let not self, in either case, come in to defile the service.
Never congratulate yourself after you have wrought a work for Jesus. If you say unto yourself, “Well done!” you have sacrificed unto yourself.
Always feel that if you had done all as it should be done, it would still be but your reasonable service.
Remember that deeds of self-sacrifice are most acceptable to Jesus. He loves His people’s gifts when they give, and feel that they have given.
Oftentimes we are to measure what we do for Him, not by what we have given, but by what we have left; and if we have much left we have not given as much as that widow who gave two mites — nay, for certain we have not, for she gave “all her living.”
Let us, above all, keep out of our heart the thought which is so common in this general life, that nothing is worth doing unless something practical comes out of it — meaning by “practical” some manifest result upon the morals or temporals of others. It is almost universal to ask the question, Cui bono? __ ”What is the good of it? What good will it do to me? What good will it do to my neighbor? To what purpose is this waste?” Nay, but if it will glorify Christ, do it; and accept that motive as the highest and most conclusive of reasons.
If a deed done for Christ should bring you into disesteem, and threaten to deprive you of usefulness, do it none the less. I count my own character popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus. It is the devil’s logic which says, “You see I cannot come out and avow the truth, because I have a sphere of usefulness Which I hold by temporizing with what I fear may be false.” What have we to do with consequences? Be just, and fear not! The consequences are with God, and not with thee. If thou hast done a good work unto Christ, though it should seem to thy poor bleared eyes as if great evil has come of it, yet hast thou done it, Christ has accepted it, and He will note it down, and in thy conscience He will smile thee His approval.
There is a good defense for any kind of work which you may do unto Jesus, and unto Jesus only. However large the cost, nothing is wasted which is expended upon the Lord, for Jesus deserves it. What if it did no service to any other; did it please Him? he has a right to it. Is nothing to be done for the Master of the feast? Are we to be so looking after the sheep as never to do honor to the Shepherd? Are the servants to be cared for, and may we do nothing for the Well-beloved Lord Himself? I have sometimes felt in my soul the wish that I had none to serve but my Lord.
When I have tried to do my best to serve God, and a cool-blooded critic has pulled my work to pieces, I have thought, “I did not do it for you! I would not have done it for you! I did it for my Lord. Your judgment is a small matter. You condemn my zeal for truth You condemn what He commands.” Thus may you go about your service, and feel “I do it for Christ, and I believe that Christ accepts my service, and I am well content.”
Jesus deserves that there should be much done altogether for Him. Do you doubt it? There is brought into the house, on his birthday, a present for father. That present is of no use to mother, or to the children; it cannot be eaten, it cannot be worn; father could not give it away to anybody, it is of no value to anybody but himself. Does anybody say, “What a pity it was to select such a gift, even though father is pleased”? No, everybody says, “That is just the thing we like to give to father, since he must keep it for himself. We meant it to be for him; we had no thought of any second; and we are glad that he must use our gift for his own pleasure.” So with regard to Jesus. Find out what will please Him; and do it for Him. Think of no one else in the matter. He deserves all you can do, and infinitely more.
Besides, you may depend upon it that any action which appears to you useless, if you do it prompted by love, has a place in Christ’s plan, and will be turned to high account. This anointing of our Lord’s head was said to be useless. “No,” said Jesus, “it falls in just in its proper place — she has done it for My burial.” There have been men who have done an heroic deed for Christ, and at the time they did it they might have asked, “How will this subserve my Lord’s purpose?” But somehow it was the very thing that was wanted. When Whitefield and Wesley turned out into the fields to preach, it was thought to be a fanatical innovation, and perhaps they, themselves, would not have ventured upon it if there had not been an absolute necessity; but by what seemed to that age a daring deed they set the example to all England, and open-air preaching has become an accepted agency of large value. If you, for Christ’s sake, become Quixotic, never mind; your folly may be the wisdom of ages to come.
The woman’s loving act was not wasted; for it has helped us all down to this very moment. There has it stood in the Book; and all who have read it, and are right in heart, have been fired by it to sacred consecration out of love to Jesus. That woman has been a preacher to nineteen centuries; the influence of that alabaster box is not exhausted to-day, and never will be.
Whenever you meet a friend in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, who has done anything unto our Lord Jesus, you still smelt the perfume of the sacred spikenard. Her consecrated act is doing all of us good at this hour: it is filling this house with fragrance. If you are serving Christ in your own secret way in which you do not seek to benefit others as to honor Him, it may be you will be an instructive example to saints in ages to come. Oh, that I could stir some hearts to a personal consecration to Jesus, my Lord!
Young men, we want missionaries to go abroad; are none of you ready to go? Young women, we want those who will look after the sick in the lowest haunts of London; will none of you consecrate yourselves to Jesus, the Savior?
I shook hands with a good missionary of Christ from Western Africa, He had been there sixteen years. I believe that they reckon four years to be the average of a missionary’s life in that malarious region. He had buried twelve of his companions in the time. For twelve years he had scarcely seen the face of a white man. He was going to Africa to live a little while longer, perhaps, but he expected soon to die; and then he added, as I shook his hand, “Well, many of us may die perhaps hundreds of us will do so; but Christ will win at the last! Africa will know and will fear our Lord Jesus; and what does it matter what becomes of us — our name, our reputation, our health, our life — if Jesus wins at the last?” What heroic words! What a missionary spirit!