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Exposition: 1 John 3:1-10
"Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God: therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God, and it doth not yet appear what we shall be: but we know that, when he shall appear, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is."
As dear Dr. Hawker said concerning this, there is a chapter in every word and a sermon in every letter. How it opens with a "Behold!" because it is such a striking portion of sacred Scripture, that the Holy Ghost would have us pay particular attention to it. "Behold!" says he, "read other Scriptures if you like, with a glance, but stop here. I have put up a way-mark to tell you there is something eminently worthy of attention buried beneath these words." "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed on us." Consider who we were, and who we are now; ay, and what we feel ourselves to be even when divine grace is powerful in us. And yet, beloved, we are called "the sons of God." It is said that when one of the learned heathens was translating this, he stopped and said, "No; it cannot be; let it be written 'Subjects,' not 'Sons,' for it is impossible we should be called 'the sons of God.' " What a high relationship is that of a son to his father! What privileges a son has from his father! What liberties a son may take with his father! and oh! what obedience the son owes to his father, and what love the father feels towards the son! But all that, and more than that, we now have through Christ. "Behold!" ye angels! stop, ye seraphs! here is a thing more wonderful than heaven with its walls of jasper. Behold, universe! open thine eyes, O world. "Behold, what manner of love the Father hath bestowed upon us, that we should be called the sons of God; therefore the world knoweth us not, because it knew him not." Well, we are content to go with him in his humiliation, for we are to be exalted with him.
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." That is easy to read; but it is not so easy to feel. "Now are we the sons of God." How is it with your heart this morning? Are you in the lowest depths of sorrow and suffering? "Now are you a son of God." Does corruption rise within your spirit, and grace seem like a poor spark trampled under foot? "Beloved, now are you a son of God." Does your faith almost fail you? and are your graces like a candle well nigh blown out by the wind! Fear not, beloved; it is not your graces, it is not your frames, it is not your feelings, on which you are to live: you must live simply by naked faith on Christ. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." With all these things against us, with the foot of the devil on our neck, and the sword in his hand ready to slay us beloved now in the very depths of our sorrow, wherever we may be now, as much in the valley as on the mountain, as much in the dungeon as in the palace, as much when broken on the wheel of suffering as when exalted on the wings of triumph "beloved, now are we the sons of God." "Ah!" but you say, "see how I am arrayed! my graces are not bright; my righteousness does not shine with apparent glory." But read the next: "It doth not yet appear what we shall be; but we know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him." We are not so much like him now, but we have some more refining process to undergo, and death itself, that best of all friends, is yet to wash us clean. "We know that when he shall appear, we shall be like him; for we shall see him as he is."
"And every man that hath this hope in him, purifieth himself, even as he is pure.
"Whosoever committeth sin transgresseth also the law for sin is the transgression of the law.
"And ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins; and in him is no sin."
Believer, read these words in two senses. He was manifested to take away thy sins that thou hast committed; and that he accomplished, when "the just for the unjust," he sustained the penalties of them. And he was manifested to take away the power of thy sins; that is to say, to conquer thy reigning lusts, to take away thine evil imaginations, to purify thee, and make thee like himself. Well, beloved, what a mercy it is that some one was manifested to take away our sins from us! for some of us have been striving a long, long while, to conquer our sins, and we cannot do it. We thought we had driven them out, but they had "chariots of iron," and we could not overcome them; they lived "in the hill country," and we could not get near them. As often as we worsted them in one battle, they came upon us thick and strong, like an army of locusts; when heaps and heaps had been destroyed they seemed as thick as ever. Ah! but there is a thought they shall all be taken away. "Ye know that he was manifested to take away our sins;" and so he will. The time will come when you and I shall stand without spot or blemish before the throne of God: for they are "without fault before the throne of God" at this moment, and so shall we be ere long.
"Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not: whosoever sinneth hath not seen him, neither known him."
This plain, simple verse, has been twisted by some who believe in the doctrine of perfection, and they have made it declare that it is possible for some to abide in Christ, and therefore not to sin. But you will remark that it does not say, that some that abide in Christ do not sin; but it says that none who abide in Christ sin. "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not." Therefore this passage is not to be applied to a few who attain to what is called by our Arminian friends the fourth degree perfection; but it appertains to all believers; and of every soul in Christ it may be said, that he sinneth not. In reading the Bible, we read it simply as we would read another book. We ought not to read it as a preacher his text, with the intention of making something out of every word; but we should read it as we find it written: "Whosoever abideth in Christ sinneth not." Now we are sure that cannot mean that he does not sin at all, but it means that sins not habitually, he sins not designedly, he sins not finally, so as to perish. The Bible often calls a man righteous; but that does not mean that he is perfectly righteous. It calls a man a sinner, but it does not imply that he may not have done some good deeds in his life; it means that that is the man's general character. So with the man who abides in Christ: his general character is not that he is a sinner, but that he is a saint he sinneth not openly wilfully before men. In his own heart, he has much to confess, but his life before his fellow creatures is such a one that it can be said of him: "Whosoever abideth in him sinneth not; but whosoever sinneth [the sins of this world. in which the multitude indulge] hath not seen him, neither known him."
"Little children, let no man deceive you: he that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous."
That is the sign of it. Works are the fruits of grace. "He is righteous," not in himself; for mark how graces come in here "He is righteous, even as HE is righteous." It will not allow our righteousness to be our own, but it brings us to Christ again. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous," not according to his own works, but "even as HE is righteous." Good works prove that I have perfect righteousness in Christ; they do not help the righteousness of Christ, nor yet in any way make me righteous. Good works are of no use whatever in the matter of justification: they only use they are, is, that they are for our comfort, for the benefit of others, and for the glory of God. "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil."
"He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil.
"Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.
"In this the children of God are manifest, and the children of the devil; whosoever doeth not righteousness is not of God, neither he that loveth not his brother."
It were well if we always remembered that practical godliness is the soul of godliness; that it is not talking religion, but walking religion which proves a man to be sincere; it is not having a religious tongue, but a religious heart; it is not a religious mouth, but a religious foot. The best evidence is the salvation of the soul. Avaunt! talkative; go thy way, thou mere professing formalist! Your ways lead down to hell, and your end shall be destruction; for "He that doeth righteousness is righteous, even as he is righteous. He that committeth sin is of the devil; for the devil sinneth from the beginning. For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he mighty destroy the works of the devil."
A Present Religion and The Beatific Vision
A Present Religion A Sermon
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, May 30, 1858, by the REV. C. H. Spurgeon at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens
"Beloved, now are we the sons of God." 1 John 3:2 .
I SHALL not pretend to preach from the whole of my text this morning, short though it be. The word "now" is to me the most prominent word in the text, and I shall make it so this morning. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." The religion, then, of the present, is not the worldling's religion. He tolerates that which speaks of eternity; that which deals with dying beds; that which leads him to look back with a specious repentance upon a life spent in sin, but not that which will enable him to look forward to a life spent in holiness. Very differently, however, do we act with affairs of the present life, for things that are sweet to us, become the more sweet by their nearness. Was there ever a child who longed for his father's house who did not feel that the holidays grew more sweet in his estimation the shorter the time was that he had to tarry? This morning, in God's name, I shall endeavor to plead with men, and show them the importance of having a present religion. I am quite certain that this is a habit which is too much kept in the back-ground. I am sure from mixing with mankind, that the current belief is, that religion is a future thing, perhaps the wish is father to the thought. I am certain the ground of it is, men love not religion, and therefore they desire to thrust it far from them. But again, this life is always said in Scripture to be a preparation for the life to come, "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel." "They that were ready went in with him to the supper, and the door was shut." There is in this world a getting ready for another world; to use a Biblical figure, we must here put on the wedding dress, which we are to wear for ever. This life is as the vestibule of the king's court, we must put our shoes from off our feet; we must wash our garments and make ourselves ready to enter into the marriage supper of the Lamb. Somehow, in Scripture, the thought comes out as plain as if written with a sunbeam, this world is the beginning of the end, it is the preparing-place for the future. Supposing you have no religion now, how will you stand when now is turned into eternity? When days and years are gone, how will it fare with you, if all your days have been spent without God and without Christ? Do you hope to hurry on the white garment after death? Alas! you shall be girt with your shroud, but not be able to put on the wedding raiment. Do you trust that you shall wash you and make you clean in the river Jordan? Alas! ye shall breed corruption in your tomb, but ye shall not find holiness there. Do ye trust to be pardoned after you have departed?
"There are no acts of pardon pass'd In the cold grave to which we haste; But darkness, death, and fell despair, Reign in eternal silence there."
Or, do ye think that when ye near the borders of the grave, then will be the time to prepare? Be not deceived. We read in Scripture one instance of a man saved at the eleventh hour. Remember, there is but one; and we have no reason to believe that there ever was, or ever will be another. There may have been persons saved on their dying beds, but we are not sure there ever were. Such things may have happened, but none of us can tell. Alas! facts are sadly against it; for we have been assured by those who have had the best means of judging those who have long walked the hospital of humanity that such as thought they were dying and made vows of repentance, have almost invariably turned back, like "the dog to his own vomit and the sow that was washed to her wallowing in the mire." Oh no; "To-day if ye will hear his voice, harden not your hearts;" for to-day is the preparing time for the dread to-morrow to-day is the making ready for the eternal future. In the second place, as I have briefly shown the connection between the present and the future, let me use another illustration to show the importance of a present salvation. Salvation is a thing which brings present blessings. When you read Scripture, and alas there are few who care to read it as they ought in these times, they read anything rather than their Bibles when you read Scripture, you will be struck with the fact that every blessing is spoken of in the present tense. You remember how the apostle in one of his epistles says, "Unto them which are saved, Christ power of God and the wisdom of God." He does not say to them who shall be saved, but to them which are saved. We know too that justification is a present blessing "there is therefore now no condemnation." Adoption is a present blessing, for it says, "Now are we the sons of God," and we know also that sanctification is a present blessing, for the apostle addresses himself to "the saints who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, and called." All the blessings of the new covenant are spoken of in the present tense, because with the exception of eternal glory in heaven, they are all to be enjoyed here. I know this, that I shall be one day, if I am a believer in Christ, more sanctified than I am to-day if not in the sense of consecration, yet still in the sense of purification but at the same time I know this of a surety, that when I stand at God's right hand, midst the lamps of eternal brightness, and when these fingers move with vigor across the golden strings, and when this voice is filled with the immortal songs, I shall not be one whit more a child of God than I am now. And when the white robe is upon me, and the crown upon my head, I shall not be more justified than I am at the present moment, for it is the doctrine of Holy Scripture, that
"The moment a sinner believes, And trusts in his crucified God, His pardon at once he receives Salvation in full through his blood."
Yet I am inclined to think, that the worldly man most of all objects to present religion, because he does not like its duties. Most men would be very religious if religion did not entail obligations. Many a free liver would be a very pious man, if he were not curtailed of a few of his bottles of wine. Many a loose character would have no objection to go up to the temple and pray, and subscribe his name to the God of Jacob, if the gospel did not forbid all uncleanness, and everything that is lascivious. Many a tradesman would put on the Lord Jesus Christ, if there were no necessity to put off the old man, if he could keep his sins and have Christ too oh, how willing would he be. Indeed, there are a great many who are so fond of it, that they have tried it. We know people who are like the Roman Emperor, who believed that Jesus Christ was God, but thought that all the other strange gods were likewise to be worshipped; so these people think religion a very good thing, but think sin a very good thing too, so they set up the two together, and their whole life is like Janus, two-faced. They look most comely Christians in the synagogue, but they look most unmistakable hypocrites if you see them in the market. Men will not direct a single eye to religion because it curtails license and entails duties. And this, I think, proves that religion is a present thing, because the duties of religion cannot be practiced in another world, they must be practiced here. But besides these, there are other duties devolving upon the Christian. Though it is every man's duty to be honest and sober, the Christian has another code of law. It is the Christian's duty to love his enemies, to be at peace with all men, to forgive as he hopes to be forgiven; and it is his duty not to resist evil, when smitten on the one cheek to turn the other also; it is his duty to give to him that asketh of him and from him that would borrow of him not to turn away he is to be a liberal soul devising liberal things. It is the Christian's duty to visit his Master's children when they are sick, so that it may be said to him at last, "I was sick, and naked, and in prison, and ye visited me, and ministered to my necessities." Now, if religion be not a thing for this world, I ask you how is it possible to perform its duties at all? There are no poor in heaven whom we can comfort and visit, there are no enemies in heaven whom we can graciously forgive; and there are no injuries inflicted, or wrongs endured, which we can bear with patience. Religion must have been intended in the very first place for this world, it must have been meant that now we should be the sons of God. For again I repeat it, that the major part of the duties of religion cannot be practiced in heaven, and therefore religion must be a present thing. Ah! beloved, there are present enjoyments in religion. Speak, ye that know them, for ye can tell; yet ye cannot recount them all. Oh! would ye give up your religion for all the joys that earth calls good or great? Say, if your immortal life could be extinguished, would you give it up, even for all the kingdoms of this world? Oh: ye sons of poverty, has not this been a candle to you in the darkness? Has not this lightened you through the dark shades of your tribulation? Oh! ye horny handed sons of toil, has not this been your rest, your sweet reposer; Have not the testimonies of God been your song in the house of your pilgrimage? Oh! ye daughters of sorrow, ye who spend the most of your time upon your beds and your couch to you is a rack of pain has not religion been to you a sweet quietus? When your bones were sore vexed, could ye not even then praise him on your beds? Speak from your couches to-day, ye consumptives, blanched though your cheeks; speak this day from your beds of agony, ye that are troubled with inumerable diseases, and are drawing near your last home? Is not religion worth having in the sick chamber, on the bed of pain and anguish? "Ah!" they heartily say," we can praise him on our beds; we can sing his high praises in the fires." And ye men of business, speak for yourselves! You have hard struggles to pass through life. Sometimes you have been driven to a great extremity, and whether you would succeed or not seemed to hang upon a thread. Has not your religion been a joy to you in your difficulties? Has it not calmed your minds? When you have been fretted and troubled about worldly things, have you not found it a pleasant thing to enter your closet, and shut-to the door, and tell your Father in secret all your cares? And O ye that are rich, cannot you bear the same testimony, if you have loved the Master? What had all your riches been to you without a Saviour? Can you not say, that your religion did gild your gold, and make your silver shine more brightly? for all things that you have are sweetened by this thought, that you have all these and Christ too! Was there ever a child of God who could deny this? We have heard of many infidels who grieved over their infidelity when they came to die. Did you ever hear of a Christian acting the counterpart? Did you ever hear of any one on his death-bed looking back on a life of holiness with sorrow? We have seen the rake, with a wasted constitution shrivel into a corpse through his iniquities, and we have heard him bemoan the day in which he went astray. We have seen the poor debauched child of sin rotting with disease, and listened to her shriek, and heard her miserably curse herself that she ever turned aside, to what was called the path of gaiety, but what was really the path to hell. We have seen the miser too, who has gripped his bags of gold, and on his dying bed we have found him curse himself, that when he came to die, his gold, though laid upon his heart, could not still its achings and give him joy. Never, never did we know a Christian who repented of his Christianity. We have seen Christians so sick, that we wondered that they lived so poor, that we pondered at their misery; we have seen them so full of doubts, that we pitied their unbelief; but we never heard them say, even then, "I regret that I gave myself to Christ." No; with the dying clasp, when heart and flesh were failing, we have seen them hug this treasure to their breast and press it to their heart, still feeling that this was their life, their joy, their all. Oh! if ye would be happy, if ye would be saved, if ye would strew your path with sunshine, and dig out the nettles and blunt the thorns, "seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you." Seek not happiness first; seek Christ first, and happiness shall come after. Seek ye first the Lord, and then he will provide for you everything that is profitable for you in this life and he will crown it with everything that is glorious in the life to come. "Beloved, now are we the sons of God." I know where this morning's sermon will be found profitable. It will be in the case of those who are seeking Christ. Old Flockhart, who used to preach till within the last few months in the streets of Edinburgh, a much despised, but a very godly man, used to say, "When I begin my sermon, I begin by preaching the law, and then I bring the gospel afterwards; for," he said, "it is like a woman who is sewing she cannot sew with thread alone; she first sticks a sharp needle through, and then draws the thread afterwards. so," he says, "does the Lord with us; he sends the sharp needle of conviction, the needle of the law, into our hearts. and pricks us in the heart, and he draws through the long silken thread of consolation afterwards." Oh! I would that some of you were pricked in the heart to-day. Remember, there are thunders in this book; though they are sleeping now, they will wake by-and-bye. There are in this Bible curses too horrible for heart to know their full extent of meaning; they are slumbering now, but they shall waken and when they leap from between the folded leaves, and the seven seals are broken, where will you flee, and where shall you hide yourselves, in that last great day of anger? If, then, ye are pricked to the heart, I preach to you the gospel now. "Today, if ye will hear his voice. harden not your hearts, as in the provocation." This day look to him that hung upon the cross. This day believe and live. And now will not this incident fitly represent the manner of God with sinners, when according to the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ, he brings terms of peace and reconciliation to us who are in revolt against him? He says, "Ground arms, give up your sins, take off your self-righteousness." He disarms us, dishonors us, and strips on all our comely array, and then says, "Now I will forgive you." If there be any one here who has thrown down his weapons of rebellion, and whose fine ornaments of beauty are stained with shame, let him believe that God will now forgive him; he forgives those who cannot forgive themselves. The great Captain of our salvation will pardon those whom he has humbled. He will have you submit to his will, and though that will may at first seem imperious to drive you from your quarters, and visit you with punishment, you shall presently find that his sovereign will is gracious, and he delighteth in mercy. "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved," for thus saith the Word, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved, but he that believeth not shall be damned."
The Beatific Vision
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, January 20, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"We shall see him as he is." 1 John 3:2 .
IT IS one of the most natural desires in all the world, that when we hear of a great and a good man, we should wish to see his person. When we read the works of any eminent author, we are accustomed to turn to the frontispiece to look for his portrait. When we hear of any wondrous deed of daring, we will crowd our windows to see the warrior ride through the streets. When we know of any man who is holy, and who is eminently devoted to his work, we will not mind tarrying anywhere, if we may but have a glimpse of him whom God has so highly blessed. This feeling becomes doubly powerful when we have any connection with the man; when we feel, not only that he is good to us; not only that he is benevolent, but that he has been a benefactor to us as individuals. Then the wish to see him rises to a craving desire, and the desire is insatiable until it can satisfy itself in seeing that unknown, and hitherto unseen donor, who has done such wondrously good deeds for us. I am sure, my brethren, you will all confess that this strong desire has arisen in your minds concerning the Lord Jesus Christ. We owe to none so much; we talk of none so much, we hope, and we think of none so much: at any rate, no one so constantly thinks of us. We have I believe, all of us who love his name, a most insatiable wish to behold his person. The thing for which I would pray above all others, would be for ever to behold his face, for ever to lay my head upon his breast, for ever to know that I am his, for ever to dwell with him. Ay, one short glimpse, one transitory vision of his glory, one brief glance at his marred, but now exalted and beaming countenance, would repay almost a world of trouble. We have a strong desire to see him. Nor do I think that that desire is wrong. Moses himself asked that he might see God. Had it been a wrong wish arising out of vain curiosity, it would not have been granted, but God granted Moses his desire: he put him in the cleft of the rock, shaded him with his hands, bade him look at the skirts of his garments, because his face could not be seen. Yea, more; the earnest desire of the very best of men has been in the same direction. Job said, "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God:" that was his desire. The holy Psalmist said, "I shall be satisfied when I awake in thy likeness;" "I shall behold thy face in righteousness." And most saints on their death-beds have expressed their fondest, dearest, and most blessed wish for heaven, in the expression of longing "to be with Christ, which is far better." And not ill did our sweet singer of Israel put the words together, when he humbly said, and sweetly too:
"Millions of years my wondering eyes Shall o'er thy beauties rove; And endless ages I'll adore The glories of thy love."
We are rejoiced to find such a verse as this, for it tells us that our curiosity shall be satisfied, our desire consummated, our bliss perfected. "WE SHALL SEE HIM AS HE IS." Heaven shall be ours, and all we ever dreamed of him shall be more than in our possession. I. First then, THE GLORIOUS POSITION. Our minds often revert to Christ as he was, and as such we have desired to see him. Ah! how often have we wished to see the babe that slept in Bethlehem! How earnestly have we desired to see the man who talked with the woman at the well! How frequently have we wished that we might see the blessed Physician walking amongst the sick and dying, giving life with his touch, and healing with his breath! How frequently too have our thoughts retired to Gethsemane, and we have wished our eyes were strong enough to pierce through eighteen hundred and fifty years which part us from that wondrous spectacle, that we might see him as he was! We shall never see him thus; Bethlehem's glories are gone for ever; Calvary's glooms are swept away; Gethsemane's scene is dissolved; and even Tabor's splendours are quenched in the past. They are as things that were; sponge, the nails these are not. The manger and the rocky tomb are gone. The places are there, unsanctified by Christian feet, unblessed, unhallowed by the presence of their Lord. We shall never see him as he was. In vain our fancy tries to paint it, or our imagination to fashion it. We cannot, must not, see him as he was; nor do we wish, for we have a larger promise, "We shall see him as he is ." Come, just look at that a few moments by way of contrast, and then I am sure you will prefer to see Christ as he is , rather than behold him as he was. We shall see the hand, and the nail-prints too, but not the nail; it has been once drawn out, and for ever. We shall see his side, and its pierced wound too, but the blood shall not issue from it. We shall see him not with a peasant's garb around him, but with the empire of the universe upon his shoulders. We shall see him, not with a reed in his hand, but grasping a golden sceptre. We shall see him, not as mocked and spit upon and insulted, not bone of our bone, in all our agonies, afflictions, and distresses; but we shall see him exalted; no longer Christ the man of sorrows, the acquaintance of grief, but Christ the Man-God, radiant with splendour, effulgent with light, clothed with rainbows, girded with clouds, wrapped in lightnings, crowned with stars, the sun beneath his feet. Oh! glorious vision! How can we guess what he is ? What words can tell us? or how can we speak thereof? Yet whate'er he is, with all his splendour unveiled, all his glories unclouded, and himself unclothed we shall see him as he is . Mark again. We shall not see the Christ wrestling with pain , but Christ as a conqueror . We shall never see him tread the winepress alone, but we shall see him when we shall cry, "Who is this that cometh from Edom, with dyed garments from Bozrah? this that is glorious in his apparel, travelling in the greatness of his strength?" We shall never see him as when he stood foot to foot with his enemy: but we shall see him when his enemy is beneath his feet. We shall never see him as the bloody sweat streams from his whole body; but we shall see him as he hath put all things under him, and hath conquered hell itself. We shall never see him as the wrestler; but we shall see him grasp the prize. We shall never see him sealing the rampart; but we shall see him wave the sword of victory on the top thereof. We shall not see him fight; but we shall see him return from the fight victorious, and shall cry, "Crown him! Crown him! Crowns become the victor's brow." " We shall see him as he is ." Perhaps I have not shown clearly enough the difference between the two visions the sight of what he was and what he is. Allow me then, a moment more, and I will try and make it clearer still. When we see Christ as he was how astonished we are! One of the first feelings we should have, if we could have gone to the Mount of Olives and seen our Saviour sweating there, would have been, astonishment. When we were told that it was the Son of God in agonies, we should have lifted up our hands, and there would have been no speech in us at the thought. But then, beloved, here is the difference. The believer will be as much astonished when he sees Jesus' glories as he sits on his throne, as he would have been to have seen him in his earthly sufferings. The one would have been astonishment, and horror would have succeeded it; but when we see Jesus as he is, it will be astonishment without horror . We shall not for one moment feel terrified at the sight, but rather
"Our joys shall run eternal rounds, Beyond the limits of the skies. And earth's remotest bounds."
If we could see Jesus as he was, we should see him with great awe . If we had seen him walking on the water, what awe should we have felt! If we had seen him raising the dead, we should have thought him a most majestic Being. So we shall feel awe when we see Christ on his throne; but the first kind of awe is awe compounded with fear, for when they saw Jesus walking on the water they cried out and were afraid; but when we shall see Christ as he is, we shall say,
"Majestic sweetness sits enthroned Upon his awful brow."
There will be no fear with the awe but it will be awe without fear . We shall not bow before him with trembling, but it will be with joy; we shall not shake at his presence, but rejoice with joy unspeakable. Furthermore, if we had seen Christ as he was, we should have had great love for him; but that love would have been compounded with pity . We should stand over him, and say,
"Alas! and did my Saviour bleed, And did my Sovereign die? Would he devote that sacred head For such a worm as I?"
We shall love him quite as much when we see him in heaven, and more too, but it will be love without pity ; we shall not say "Alas!" but we shall shout
"All-hail, the power of Jesu's name; Let angels prostrate fall: Bring forth the royal diadem, And crown him Lord of all."
Yet more. If we had seen our Saviour as he was, it would have been a triumph to see how he conquered, but still there would have been suspense about it. We should have feared lest he might not overcome. But when we see him up there it will be triumph without suspense . Sheathe the sword; the battle's won. 'Tis over now. "Tis finished," has been said. The grave has been past; the gates have been opened; and now, henceforth, and for ever, he sitteth down at his Father's right hand, from whence also he shall come to judge the quick and the dead. II. Now secondly, we have PERSONAL IDENTITY. Perhaps while I have been speaking, some have said, "Ah! but I want to see the Saviour, the Saviour of Calvary, the Saviour of Judea, the very one that died for me. I do not so much pant to see the glorious Saviour you have spoken of; I want to see that very Saviour who did the works of love, the suffering Saviour; for him I love." Beloved, you shall see him. It is the same one. There is personal identity. "We shall see him." "Our eyes shall see him and not another." "We shall see HIM as he is." It is a charming thought that we shall see the very, very Christ; and the poet sung well, who said
"Oh! how the thought that I shall know The man that suffered here below, To manifest his favour, For me, and those whom most I love, Or here, or with himself above, Does my delighted passion move, At that sweet word "for ever." For ever to behold him shine, For evermore to call him mine, And see him still before me. For ever on his face to gaze, And meet his full assembled rays, While all the Father he displays, To all the saints for ever."
That is what we want to see the same Saviour. Ay, it will be the same Lord we shall see in heaven. Our eyes shall see him and not another. We shall be sure it is he; for when we enter heaven we shall know him by his manhood and Godhead . We shall find him a man, even as much as he was on earth. We shall find him man and God too, and we shall be quite sure there never was another Man-God; we never read or dreamed of another. Don't suppose that when you get to heaven you will have to ask "Where is the man Christ Jesus?" You will see him straight before you on his throne, a man like yourselves.
"Bright like a man the Saviour sits; The God, how bright he shines."
But then, beloved, Christ and we are not strangers; for we have often seen him in this glass of the Word. When by the Holy Spirit our poor eyes have been anointed with eye-salve, we have sometimes caught a sufficient glimpse of Christ to know him by it. We have never seen him except reflectedly. When we have looked on the Bible, he has been above us and looked down upon it; and we have looked there as into a looking glass, and have seen him "as in a glass darkly." But we have seen enough of him to know him. And oh, methinks when I see him, I shall say, "That is the bridegroom I read of in Solomon's Song; I am sure it is the same Lord that David used to sing of. I know that is Jesus, for he looks even now like that Jesus who said to the poor woman, 'Neither do I condemn thee,' like that blessed Jesus who said " Talitha Cumi ,' 'Maid, I say unto thee, arise.'" We shall know him, because he will be so much like the Bible Jesus, that we shall recognise him at once. III. This brings us to the third point THE POSITIVE NATURE OF THE VISION "We shall see him as he is." This is not the land of sight; it is too dark a country to see him , and our eyes are not good enough. We walk here by faith, and not by sight. It is pleasant to believe his grace, but we had rather see it. Well, "We shall see him." But perhaps you think, when it says, "We shall see him," that it means, we shall know more about him; we shall think more of him; we shall get better views of him by faith. Oh, no, it does not at all. It means what it says positive sight. Just as plainly as I can see my brother there, just as plainly as I can see any one of you, shall I see Christ with these very eyes too. With these very eyes that look on you shall I look on the Saviour. It is not a fancy that we shall see him. Do not begin cutting these words to pieces. Do you see that gas lamp? You will see the Saviour in the same fashion naturally, positively, really, actually? You will not see him dreamily, you will not see him in the poetical sense of the word see, you will not see him in the metaphorical meaning of the word; but positively, you shall "see him as he is." "See him:" mark that. Not think about him, and dream about him; but we shall positively "see him as he is." How different that sight of him will be from that which we have here. For here we see him by reflection . Now, I have told you before, we see Christ "through a glass darkly:" and he says that means, "Here we look through a telescope, and we see Christ only darkly through it." But the good man had forgotten that telescopes were not invented till hundreds of years after Paul wrote; so that Paul could not have intended telescopes. Others have tried to give other meanings to the word. The fact is, glass was never used to see through at that time. They used glass to see by , but not to see through . The only glass they had for seeing was a glass mirror. They had some glass which was no brighter than our black common bottle-glass. "Here we see through a glass darkly." That means, by means of a mirror. As I have told you, Jesus is represented in the Bible; there is his portrait; we look on the Bible, and we see it. We see him "through a glass darkly." Just as sometimes, when you are looking in your looking glass, you see somebody going along in the street. You do not see the person; you only see him reflected. Now, we see Christ reflected; but then we shall not see him in the looking-glass; we shall positively see his person. Not the reflected Christ, not Christ in the sanctuary, not the mere Christ shining out of the Bible, not Christ reflected from the sacred pulpit; but "we shall see him as he is." Here, too, how dimly we see Christ! It is through many shadows that we now behold our Master. Dim enough is the vision here; but there "we shall see him as he is." Have you never stood upon the hill-tops, when the mist has played on the valley? You have looked down to see the city and the streamlet below; you could just ken yonder steeple, and mark that pinnacle; you could see that dome in the distance; but they were all so swathed in the mist that you could scarcely discern them. Suddenly the wind has blown away from the mist from under you, and you have seen the fair, fair valley. Ah! it is so when the believer enters heaven. Here he stands and looks upon Christ veiled in a mist upon a Jesus who is shrouded; but when he gets up there, on Pisgah's brow, higher still, with his Jesus, then he shall not see him dimly, but he shall see him brightly. We shall see Jesus then "without a veil between" not dimly, but face to face. And oh! how transitory is our view of Jesus! It is only a little while we get a glimpse of Christ, and then he seems to depart from us. Our chariots have sometimes been like Amminadib's; but in a little while the wheels are all gone, and we have lost the blessed Lord. Have you not some hours in your life felt so to be in the presence of Christ, that you scarcely knew where you were? Talk of Elijah's chariots and horses of fire; you were on fire yourself; you could have made yourself into a horse and chariot of fire, and gone to heaven easily enough. But then, all of a sudden, did you never feel as if a lump of ice had fallen on your heart, and put the fire out, and you have cried, "Where is my beloved gone! Why hath he hidden his face? Oh! how dark how dim!" But, Christians, there will be no hidings of faces in heaven! Blessed Lord Jesus! there will be no coverings of thine eyes in glory; Is not thine heart a sea of love, where all my passions roll? And there is no ebb-tide of thy sea, sweet Jesus, there. Art thou not everything? There will be no losing thee there no putting thy hand before thine eyes up there; but without a single alteration, without change or diminution, our unwearied, unclouded eyes, shall throughout eternity perpetually behold thee. "We shall see him as he is!" Blest sight! Oh! that it were come! IV. Lastly, here are THE ACTUAL PERSONS: " We shall see him as he is." Come, now, beloved! I do not like diving you; it seems hard work that you and I should be split asunder, when I am sure we love each other with all our hearts. Ten thousand deeds of kindness received from you, ten thousand acts of heart-felt love and sympathy, knit my heart to my people. But oh! beloved, is it not obvious, that when we say, " we shall see him," the word "we" does not signify all of us does not include everybody here! " We shall see him as he is!" Come, let us divide that "we" into "I's." How many "I's" are there here, that will "see him as he is?" And thou, dear brother, and thou, dear sister, who hast come to middle age, struggling with the toils of life, mixed up with all its battles, enduring its ills, thou art asking, it may be, shalt thou see him! The text says, " We shall;" and can you and I put our hands on our hearts and know our union with Jesus? If so, " We shall see him as he is." Brother! fight on! Up at the devil! Strike hard at him! Fear not! that sight of Christ will pay thee. Soldier of the cross, whet thy sword again, and let it cut deep. Labourer! toil again; delve deeper; life the axe higher, with a brawnier and stouter arm; for the sight of thy Master at last will please thee well. Up, warrior! Up the rampart, for victory sits smiling on the top, and thou shalt meet thy Captain there! When thy sword is reeking with the blood of thy sins, it will be a glory indeed to meet thy master, when thou art clothed with triumph, and then to "see him as he is." What a pleasant thought it is, that we can assemble to-day, some of us, and can put our hands round those we love, and stand, an unbroken family father, mother, sister, brother, and all else who are dear, and can say by humble faith, " We shall see him as he is" all of us, not one left out! Oh! my friends, we feel like a family at Park Street. I do feel myself, when I am away from you, that there is nothing like this place, that there is nothing on earth which can recompense the pain of absence from this hallowed spot. Somehow or other, we feel knit together by such ties of love! Last Sabbath I went into a place where the minister gave us the vilest stuff that ever was brewed. I am sure I wished I was back here, that I might preach a little godliness, or else hear it. Poor Wesleyan thing! He preached works from beginning to end, from that very beautiful text "They that sow in tears shall reap in joy!" telling us that whatever we sowed, that we should reap, without ever mentioning salvation for sinners, and pardon required even by saints. It was something like this: "Be good men and women, and you shall have heaven for it. Whatsoever you sow you are sure to reap; and if you are very good people, and do the best you can, you will all go to heaven, but if you are very bad and wicked then you will have to go to hell; I am sorry to tell you so, but whatever you sow that shall you reap." Not a morsel about Jesus Christ, from beginning to end; not a scrap. "Well," I thought, "they say I'm rather hard upon these Arminian fellows; but if I do not drive my old sword into them worse than ever, now I have heard them myself again, then I am not a living man!" I thought they might have altered a little, and not preach works so much; but I am sure there never was a sermon more full of salvation by works preached by the Pope himself, than that was. They do believe in salvation by works, whatever they may say, and however they may deny it when you come to close quarters with them; for they are so everlastingly telling you to be good, and upright, and godly, and never directing you first to look to the bleeding wounds of a dying Saviour; never telling you about God's free grace, which has brought you out of enormous sins; but always talking about that goodness, goodness, goodness, which never will be found in the creature. My dear friends, it is a sweet thought to close with now; that with a very large part of you I can say, " We shall see him as he is." For you know when we sit down at the Lord's table, we occupy the whole ground floor of this chapel, and I believe that half of us are people of God here, for I know that many members cannot get to the Lord's table in the evening. Brethren, we have one heart, one soul "One Lord, one faith, one baptism." We may be sundered here below a little while; some may die before us, as our dear brother Mitchell has died; some may cross the stream before the time comes for us; but we shall meet again on the other side of the river. "We shall see him as he is."
(See also the accompanying Expositin of 1 John 3:1-10 .)
The Death of Christ for His People
A Sermon Intended for Reading on Lord's-Day, January 7th, 1900, Delivered by C. H. SPURGEON, At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark. On a Lord's-day Evening in the winter of 1857.
"He laid down his life for us." 1 John 3:16 .
SOME, believer and contemplate this sublime truth, thus proclaimed to thee in simple monosyllables: "He laid down his life for us." There is not one long word in the sentence; it is all as simple as it can be; and it is simple because it is sublime. Sublimity in thought always needs simplicity in words to express itself. Little thoughts require great words to explain them; little preachers need Latin words to convey their feeble ideas, but great thoughts and great expressers of those thoughts are content with little words. It will be well for me, in commencing my discourse, to remind you that there is no understanding the death of Christ unless we understand the person of Christ. If I were to tell you that God died for us, although I might be telling you a truth, and you might possibly not misunderstand what I meant, yet I should be at the same time uttering an error. God cannot die; it is, of course, impossible, from his very nature, that he could even for a moment cease to exist. God is incapable of suffering. It is true that we sometimes use words to express emotions On the part of God; but, then, we speak after the manner of men. He is impassive; he cannot suffer; it is not possible for him to endure aught; much less, then, is it possible for him to suffer death. Yet we are told, in the verse from which our text is taken, "Hereby perceive we the love of God." You notice that the words "of God" are inserted by the translators. They are in italics because they are not in the original. A better translation would be, "Hereby perceive we love." But when we read "of God," it might lead the ignorant to fancy that God could die; whereas, God could not. We must always understand, and constantly remember, that our Lord Jesus Christ was "very God of very God," and that, as God, he had all the attributes of the Most High, and could not, therefore, be capable either of suffering or death. But then he was also man, "man of the substance of his mother," man, just like ourselves, sin alone excepted. And the Lord Jesus died not as God; it was as man that he gave up the ghost; as man, he was nailed to the cross. As God, he was in heaven, even when his body was in the tomb; as God, he was swaying the sceptre of all worlds even when the mock sceptre of reed was in his hand, and the imperial robe of universal monarchy was on the eternal shoulders of his Godhead when the soldier's old purple cloak was wrapped about his manhood. He did not cease to be God, he did not lose his Omnipotence, and his eternal dominion, when he became man; nor did he, as God, die or suffer; it was as man that he "laid down his life for us." I. Come, then, let me believingly meditate on the first sad fact. Did Christ lay down his life for me? Then, HOW GREAT MUST HAVE BEEN MY SINS! I beheld another sight one day; I saw my sins by the light of heaven. I looked up, and I considered the heavens, the work of God's fingers; I perceived the purity of God's character written on the sunbeams, I saw his holiness engraved upon the wide world, as well as revealed in Scripture; and as I compared myself with him, I thought I saw how black I was. O God! I never knew the heinousness of my own guilt, until I saw the glory of thy character; but now I see the brightness of thy holiness, my whole soul is cast down at the thought of my sinfulness, and my great departure from the living God. I thought that, then, I had seen enough. Ah! I had seen enough to make me worship for a moment; but my gladness was as the early cloud and as the morning dew, and I went my way, and forgot what manner of man I was. When I had lost the sense of the majesty of God, I lost also the consciousness of my own guilt. I thought, then, surely I had seen the worst of sin, when I had laid it side by side, first with the character of God, and afterwards wit his bounties. I cursed sin from my inmost heart, and thought I had seen enough of it. But, ah! my brethren, I had not. That sense of gratitude passed away, and I found myself still prone to sin, and still loving it. O heir of heaven, lift now thine eye, and behold the scenes of suffering through which thy Lord passed for thy sake! Come in the moonlight, and stand between those olives; see him sweat great drops of blood. Go from that garden, and follow him to Pilate's bar. See your Matter subjected to the grossest and filthiest insult; gaze upon the face of spotless beauty defiled with the spittle of soldiers; see his head pierced with thorns; mark his back, all rent, and torn, and scarred, and bruised, and bleeding beneath the terrible lash. And O Christian, see him die! Go and stand where his mother stood, and hear him say to thee, "Man, behold thy Saviour!" Come thou to-night, and stand where John stood; hear him cry, "I thirst," and find thyself unable either to assuage his griefs or to comprehend their bitterness. Then, when thou hast wept there, lift thine hand, and cry, "Revenge!" Bring out the traitors; where are they? And when your sins are brought forth as the murderers of Christ, let no death be too painful for them; though it should involve the cutting off of right arms, or the quenching of right eyes, and putting out their light for ever; do it! For if these murderers murdered Christ, then let them die. Die terribly they may, but die they must. Oh! that God the Holy Ghost would teach you that first lesson, my brethren, the boundless wickedness of sin, for Christ had to lay down his life before your sin could be wiped away. Ah, Lord Jesus! I never knew thy love till I understood the meaning of thy death. Beloved, we shall try again, if we can, to tell the story of our own experience, to let you see how God's love is to be learned. Come, saint, sit down, and meditate on thy creation, note how marvellously thou hast been formed, and all thy bones fitted to one another, and see love there. Mark, next, that predestination which placed thee where thou art; for the lines have fallen unto thee in pleasant places, and, notwithstanding all thy troubles, thou hast, compared with many a poor soul, "a goodly heritage." Mark, then, the love of God displayed in the predestination that has made thee what thou art, and placed thee where thou art. Then look thou back, and see the lovingkindness of thy Lord, as displayed to thee in all thy journey up till now. Thou art getting old, and thy hair is whitening above thy brow; but he hath carried thee all the days of old; not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord thy God hath promised. Recall thy life-story. Go back now, and look at the tapestry of thy life, which God has been working every day with the golden filament of his love, and see what pictures of grace there are upon it. Canst thou not say that Jesus has loved thee? Turn thine eye back, and read the ancient rolls of the everlasting covenant, and see thy name amongst the firstborn, the elect, the Church of the living God. Say, did he not love thee when he wrote thy name there? Go and remember how the eternal settlements were made, and how God decreed and arranged all things so that thy salvation should come to pass. Say, was there not love there? Just think of that for a moment. He had a crown in heaven; but he laid that aside, that you and I might wear one for ever. He had a girdle of brightness brighter than the stars, about his loins; but he took it off, and laid it by, that you and I might eternally wear a girdle of righteousness. He had listened to the holy songs of the cherubim and seraphim; but he left them all that we might for ever dwell where angels sing; and then he came to earth, and he had many things, even in his poverty, which might have tended to his comfort; he laid down, first one glory, and then another, at love's demand; at last, it came to this, he had nothing left but one poor garment, woven from the top throughout, and that was clinging to his back with blood, and he laid down that also. Then there was nothing left, he had not kept back one single thing. "There," he might have said, "take an inventory of all I have, to the last farthing; I have given it all up for my people's ransom." And there was nought left now but his own life. O love insatiable! couldst thou not stay there? Though he had given up one hand to cancel sin, and the other hand to reconcile us unto God; and had given up one foot that we might have our sinful feet for ever transfixed, and nailed, and fastened, never to wander, and the other foot to be fastened to the tree that we might have our feet at liberty to run the heavenly race; and there was nothing left but his poor heart, and he gave his heart up too, and they set it abroach with the spear, and forthwith there came out thence blood and water. III. Now, beloved, we will change the theme, and go one note higher. We have run up the gamut a long way, and now we have just reached the height of the octave. But we have something else to get out of the text: "He laid down his life for us." Did my Saviour lay down his life for me? Then, HOW SAFE I AM! This much I know, ye may hear men stammer when they say it, but what I preach is the old Lutheran, Calvinistic, Augustinian, Pauline, Christian truth, there is not one sin in the Book of God against anyone that believeth. Our sins were numbered on the Scapegoat's head, and there is not one sin, that ever a believer did commit, that hath any power to damn him, for Christ hath taken the damning power out of sin, by allowing it, to speak by a bold metaphor, to damn himself, for sin did condemn him; and, inasmuch as sin condemned him, sin cannot condemn us. O believer, this is thy security, that all thy sin and guilt, all thy transgressions and thine iniquities, have been atoned for, and were atoned for before they were committed; so that thou mayest come with boldness, though red with all crimes, and black with every lust, and lay thine hand on that Scapegoat's head, and when thou hast put thine hand there, and seen that Scapegoat driven into the wilderness, thou mayest clap thine hands for joy, and say, "It is finished, sin is pardoned."
"Here's pardon for transgressions pest, It matters not how black their cast; And oh, my soul, with wonder view, For sin's to come, here's pardon too!"
This is all I want to know; did the Saviour die for me? Then I will not continue in sin that grace may abound; but nothing shall stop me of thus glorying, in all the churches of the Lord Jesus, that my sins are entirely removed from me; and, in God's sight, I may sing, as Hart did sing,
"With Christ's spotless vesture on, Holy as the Holy One."
O marvellous death of Christ, how securely dost, thou set the feet of God's people on the rocks of eternal love; and how securely dost thou keep them there! Come, dear brethren, let us suck a little honey out of this honeycomb. Was there ever anything so luscious and so sweet to the believer's taste as this all-glorious truth that we are complete in him; that in and through his death and merits we are accepted in the Beloved? Oh, was there ever anything mare sublime than this thought, that he hath already raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus, far above all principalities and powers; just where he sits? Surely there is nothing more sublime than that, except it be that a master-thought stamps all these things with more than their own value, that master-thought that, though the mountains may depart and the hills be removed, the covenant of his love shall never depart from us. "For," saith Jehovah, "I will never forget thee, O Zion;" "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands; thy walls are continually before me." O Christian, that is a firm foundation, cemented with blood, on which thou mayest build for eternity! Ah, my soul! thou needest no other hope but this. Jesus, thy mercy never dies; I will plead this truth when cast down with anguish, Thy mercy never dies. I will plead this when Satan hurls temptations at me, and when conscience casts the remembrance of my sin in my teeth; I will plead this ever, and I will plead it now,
"Jesus, thy blood and righteousness My beauty are, my glorious dress."
Yea, and after I die, and even when I stand before thine eyes, thou dread Supreme,
"When from the dust of death I rise, To take my mansion in the skies, E'en then shall this be all my plea, 'Jesus hath lived and died for me.'
"Bold shall I stand in that great day, For who aught to my charge shall lay? While through Christ's blood absolved I am From sin's tremendous curse and shame."
Ah, brethren, if this is your experience you may come to the table of communion now right happily; it will not be coming to a funeral, but to a feast of gladness. "He laid down his life for us."
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 1 John 3". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 25 / Ordinary 30