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2 sermons: Loyal to Core and Following Christ
Loyal to the Core
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be." 2 Samuel 15:21 .
Although the courage of David appears to have failed him when he fled from his son Absalom, yet certain other noble characteristics came out in brilliant relief, and among the rest, his large-heartedness and his thoughtfulness for others. A man in such a desperate condition as he was must have earnestly coveted many friends and have been anxious to retain them all, but yet he would not exact their services if they were too costly to themselves, and so he said to Ittai, who appears to have been a Philistine a proselyte to Israel, who had lately come to join himself to David "Wherefore I goest thou also with its? Thou hast newly come to me, and should I make thee wander with me in my sorrows? Return to thy place and abide with the new king, for thou art a stranger and an exile. May every blessing be upon thee. May mercy and truth be with thee." He did not send him away because he doubted him, but because he felt that he had no claim to the great sacrifices which Ittai might have to make in attending his checkered fortunes. "I do not know what may become of me," he seems to say, "but I do not want to drag you down with myself. Should my cause become desperate, I have no wish to involve you in it, and therefore with the best of motives I wish you farewell." I admire this generosity of spirit. Some men have great expectations: they live upon their friends, and yet complain that charity is cold. These people expect more from their friends than they ought to give. A man's best friends on earth ought to be his own strong arms. Loafers are parasitical plants, they have no root of their own, but like the mistletoe they strike root into some other tree, and suck the very soul out of it for their own nourishment. Sad that men should ever degrade themselves to such despicable meanness! While you can help yourselves, do so and while you have a right to expect help in times of dire necessity, do not be everlastingly expecting everybody else to be waiting upon you. Feel as David did towards Ittai that you would by no means wish for services to which you have no claim. Independence of spirit used to be characteristic of Englishmen. I hope it will always continue to be so; and especially among children of God. On the other hand, look at Ittai, perfectly free to go, but in order to end the controversy once for all, and to make David know that he does not mean to leave him, he takes a solemn oath before Jehovah his God, and he doubles it by swearing by the life of David that he will never leave him; in life, in death, he will be with him. He has cast in his lot with him for better and for worse, and he means to be faithful to the end. Old Master Trapp says, "All faithful friends went on a pilgrimage years ago, and none of them have ever come back." I scarcely credit that, but I am afraid that friends quite so faithful as Ittai are as scarce as two moons in the sky at once, and you might travel over the edge of the world before you found them. I think, however, that one reason why faithful Ittai have become so scarce may be because large-hearted Davids are so rare. When you tell a man that you expect a good deal of him, he does not see it. Why should you look for so much? He is not your debtor. You have closed at once the valves of his generosity. But when you tell him honestly that you do not expect more than is right, and that you do not wish to be a tax upon him, when he sees that you consult his welfare more than your own, that is the very reason why he feels attached to you, and counts it a pleasure to serve such a generous-hearted man. You will generally find that when two people fall out there are faults on both sides: if generous spirits be few, it may be because faithful friends are rare, and if faithful friends are scarce it may be because generous spirits are scarce too. Be it ours as Christians to live to serve rather than to be served, remembering that we are the followers of a Master who said, "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister." We are not to expect others to serve us, but our life is to be spent in endeavoring to serve them. I am going to use Ittai's language for a further purpose. If Ittai, charmed with David's person and character, though a foreigner and a stranger, felt that he could enlist beneath his banner for life yea, and declared that he would do so there and then how much more may you and 1, if we know what Christ has done for us, and who He is and what He deserves at our hands, at this good hour plight our troth to Him and vow, "As the Lord liveth, surely in whatsoever place my Lord and Savior shall be, whether in death or life, even there also shall His servant be." And so, I shall begin by noticing first in what form this declaration was made, that we may learn from it how to make the same declaration. I. IN WHAT FORM AND MANNER WAS THIS DECLARATION MADE? It was made, first, at a time when David's fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and consequently it was made unselfishly, without the slightest idea of gain from it. David was now forsaken of everybody. His faithful bodyguard was all that he had on earth to depend upon, and then it was that Ittai cast in his lot with David. Now beloved, it is very easy to follow religion when she goes abroad in her silver slippers, but the true man follows her when she is in rags, and goes through the mire and the slough. To take up with Christ when everybody cries up his name is what a hypocrite would do, but to take up with Christ when they are shouting, "Away with him! away with him!" is another matter. There are times in which the simple faith of Christ is at a great discount. At one time imposing ceremonies are all the rage, and everybody loves decorated worship, and the pure simplicity of the gospel is overloaded and encumbered with meretricious ornaments; it is such a season that we must stand out for God's more simple plan, and reject the symbolism which verges on idolatry and hides the simplicity of the gospel. At another time the gospel is assailed by learned criticisms and by insinuations against the authenticity and inspiration of the books of Scripture, while fundamental doctrines are undermined one by one, and he who keeps to the old faith is said to be behind the age, and so on. But happy is that man who takes up with Christ, and with the gospel, and with the truth when it is in its worst estate, crying, "If this be foolery, I am a fool, for where Christ is there will I be; I love Him better at His worst than others at their best, and even if He be dead and buried in a sepulchre I will go with Mary and with Magdalene and sit over against the sepulchre and watch until He rise again, for rise again He will; but whether He live or die, where He is there shall his servant be." Ho, then, brave spirits, will ye enlist for Christ when His banner is tattered? Will you enlist under Him when His armor is stained with blood? Will you rally to Him even when they report Him slain? Happy shall ye be! Your loyalty shall be proven to your own eternal glory. Ye are soldiers such as He loves to honor. Ittai gave himself up wholly to David when he was but newly come to him, David says, "Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? But Ittai does not care whether he came yesterday or twenty years ago, but he declares, "Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be." It is best to begin the Christian life with thorough consecration. Have any of you professed to be Christians, and have you never given yourselves entirely to Christ? It is time that you began again. This should be one of the earliest forms of our worship of our Master this total resignation of ourselves to Him. According to His Word, the first announcement of our faith should be by baptism, and the meaning of baptism, or immersion in water, is death, burial, and resurrection. As far as this point is concerned, the avowal is just this. "I am henceforth dead to all but Christ, whose servant I now am. Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. The watermark is on me from head to foot. I have been buried with Him in baptism unto death to show that henceforth I belong to Him." Now, whether you have been baptized or not I leave to yourselves, but in any case this must be true that henceforth you are dead, and your life is hid with Christ in God. As soon as ever Christ is yours you ought to be Christ's. "I am my Beloved's" should be linked with "My Beloved is mine," in the dawn of the day in which you yield to the Lord. Again, Ittai surrendered himself to David in the most voluntary manner. No one persuaded Ittai to do this; in fact, David seems to have persuaded him the other way. David tested and tried him, but he voluntarily out of the fullness of his heart said, "Where, my lord, the king, is, there, also shall his servant be." Now, dear young people, if you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is yours, give yourselves up to Him by a distinct act and deed. Feel that one grand impulse without needing pressure or argument "The love of Christ constraineth me"; but do not wait to have your duty urged upon you, for the more free the dedication the more acceptable it will be. I am told that there is no wine so delicious as that which flows from the grape at the first gentle pressure. The longer you squeeze the harsher is the juice. We do not like that service which is pressed out of a man: and certainly the Lord of love will not accept forced labor. No; let your willinghood show itself. Say
Take myself, and I will be Ever, only, ALL for thee.
My heart pants after the service after of her Lord. With the same spontaneity which Ittai displayed make a solemn consecration of yourselves to David's Lord. I used a word then which suggests another point, namely, that Ittai did this very solemnly. He took an oath which we Christians may not do, and may not wish to do, but still we should make the surrender with quite as much solemnity. In Dr. Doddridge's "Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul" there is a very solemn form of consecration, which he recommends voting men to sign when they give themselves to Christ. I cannot say that I can recommend it, though I practiced it, for I fear that there is something of legality about it, and that it may bring the soul into bondage. I have known some write out a deed of dedication to Christ and sign it with their blood. I will neither commend nor censure, but I will say that a complete dedication must be made in some manner, and that it should be done deliberately and with grave thought. You have been bought with a price, and you should, therefore, in a distinct manner own your Lord's property in you, and transfer to Him the title-deeds of your body, spirit, and soul. And this, I think, Ittai did publicly. At any rate, he so acted that everybody saw him when David said, "Go over," and march in front the first man to pass the brook, Oh yes, dear friend, you must publicly own yourself a Christian. If you are a Christian you must not try to sneak to heaven round the back alleys, but march up the narrow way like a man and like your Master. He was never ashamed of you, though He might have been: how can you be ashamed of Him when there is nothing in Him to be ashamed of? Some Christians seem to think that they shall lead an easier life if they never make a profession. Like a rat behind the wainscot they come out after candlelight and get a crumb, and then slip back again. I would not lead such a life. Surely, there is nothing to be ashamed of. A Christian let us glory in the name! A believer in the Lord Jesus Christ let them write it on our door plates, if they will. Why should we blush at that? "But," says one, "I would rather be a very quiet one." I will now place a torpedo under this cowardly quietness. What saith the Lord Jesus? Whosoever shall deny me before net,, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven; but he that shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven." Take up your cross and follow Him, for "with the heart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." When our Master ascended up on high He told us to preach the gospel to every creature; and how did He put it? "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." There must be, therefore, the believing and the acknowledgment of believing. "But cannot I be saved as a believer if I do not openly confess Christ?" Dear friend, you have no business to tamper with your Master's command, and then say, "Will He not graciously forgive this omission?" Do not neglect one of the two commands, but obey all His will. If you have the spirit of Ittai you will say, "Wheresoever my lord the king is, there also shall thy servant be." I leave the matter with the consciences of those who may be like Nicodemus, coming to Jesus by night, or may be like Joseph of Arimathea, who was a disciple, but secretly, for fear of the Jews. May they come out and own their Master, believing that then He will own them. II.Secondly, WHAT DID THIS DECLARATION INVOLVE? As to Ittai, what did it involve? First, that he was henceforth to be David's servant. Of course, as his soldier, he was to fight for him, and to do his bidding. What sayest thou, man? Canst thou lift thy hand to Christ, and say, "Henceforth I will live as thy servant, not doing my own will, but thy will. Thy command is henceforth my rule?" Canst thou say that? If not, do not mock Him, but stand back. May the Holy Ghost give thee grace thus to begin, thus to perservre, and thus to end. It involved, next, for Ittai that he was to do his utmost for David's cause, not to be his servant in name, but his soldier, ready for scars and wounds and death, if need be, on the king's behalf. That is what Ittai meant as, in tough soldier-tones, he took the solemn oath that it should be so. Now, if thou wouldst be Christ's disciple, determine henceforth by His grace that thou wilt defend His cause; that if there be rough fighting thou wilt be in it; and if there be a forlorn hope needed thou wilt lead it, and go through floods and flames if thy Master's cause shall call thee. Blessed is the man who will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, giving himself wholly up to his Lord to serve Him with all His heart. But Ittai in his promise declared that he would give a personal attendance upon the person of his master. That was, indeed, the pith of it, "In what place my lord, the king, shall be, even there also will thy servant be." Brethren, let us make the same resolve in our hearts, that wherever Christ is, there we will be. Where is Christ? In heaven. We will be there by-and-by. Where is He here, spiritually? Answer: in His church. The church is a body of faithful men; and where these are met together, there is Jesus in the midst of them. Very well, then, we will join the church, for wherever our Lord, the King, is, there also shall His servants be. When the list of the redeemed is read we will be found in the register, for our Lord's name is there. Where else did Jesus go? In the commencement of His ministry He descended into the waters of baptism. Let us follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth. At the close of His ministry He brake bread, and said, "This do ye in remembrance of me." Be often at His table, for if there is a place on the earth where He manifests Himself to His children it is where bread is broken in His name. Let me now tell a secret. Some of you may have heard it before, but you have forgotten it. Here it is my Lord it generally here at prayer-meetings on Monday nights, and, indeed, whenever His people come together for prayer, there He is. So I will read you my text, and see ether you will come up to it "Surely in what place my Lord the King shall be, whether it be in a prayer-meeting or at a sermon, even there also will thy servant be. "If you love your Lord, you know where His haunts are; take care that you follow hard after Him there. Where is the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, brethren, He is wherever the truth is, and I pray God that He may raise up a race of men and women in England who are determined to be wherever the truth of God is. We have a host of molluscous creatures about who will always be where the congregation is the most respectable: respectability being measured by clothes and cash. Time was in the church of God when they most esteemed the most pious men; has it come to this that gold takes precedence of grace? Our fathers considered whether a ministry was sound, but now the question is Is the man clever? Words ire preferred to truth, and oratory takes the lead of the gospel. Shame on such an age. O you who have, not altogether sold your birthrights, I charge you keep out of this wretched declension. The man who loves Christ thoroughly will say, "Wheresoever the Lord the King is, there also shall His servant be, if it be with half a dozen poor Baptists or Methodists, or among the most despised people in the town." I charge you, beloved, in whatever town or country your lot is cast, be true to your colors, and never forsake your principles. Wherever the truth is, there go, and where there is anything contrary to truth, do not go, for there your Master is not to be found. What next? Well, our Master is to be found wherever there is anything to be done for the good of our fellow-men. The Lord Jesus Christ is to be found wherever there is work to be done in seeking after His lost sheep. Some people say that they have very little communion with Christ, and when I look at them, I do not wonder. Two persons cannot walk together if they will not walk at the same pace. Now, my Lord walks an earnest pace whenever He goes through the world, for the King's business requires haste; and if His disciples crawl after a snail's fashion they will lose His company. If some of our groaning brethren would go to the Sunday-school, and there begin to look after the little children, they would meet with their Lord who used to say, "Suffer the little children to come unto me." If others were to get together a little meeting, and teach the ignorant, they would there find Him who had compassion on the ignorant on those that are out of the way. Our Master is where there are fetters to be broken, burdens to be removed, and hearts to be comforted, and if you wish to keep with Him you must aid in such service. Where is our Master? Well, He is always on the side of truth and right. And, O, you Christian people, mind that in everything, politics, business, and everything you keep to that which is right, ]lot to that which is popular. Do not bow the knee to that which for a little day may be cried up, but stand fast in that which is consistent with rectitude, with humanity, with the cause and honor of God, and with the freedom and progress of men. It can never be wise to do wrong. It can never be foolish to be right. It can never be according to the mind of Christ to tyrannize and to oppress. Keep you ever to whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of good report, and you will so far keep with Christ. 'Temperance, purity, justice-these are favorites with Him; do your best to advance them for His sake. Above all, remember how Jesus loved secret prayer, and if you resolve to keep with Him you must be much at the throne of grace. I will not detain you over each of these points, but simply say that Ittai's declaration meant also this that he intended to share David's condition. If David was great, Ittai would rejoice. If David was exiled, Ittai would attend his wanderings. Our point must be to resolve in God's strength to keep to Christ in all weathers and in all companies, and that whether in life or death. Ah that word "death" makes it sweet, because then we reap the blessed result of having lived with Christ. We shall go upstairs for the last time and bid good-bye to all, and then we shall feel that in death He is still with us as in life we have been with Him. Though our good works can never be a ground of confidence when we are dying, yet if the Lord enables us to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, and so to lead a decided, positive, downright, upright Christian life, our death pillow will not be stuffed with thorns of regret, but we shall have to bless God that we bore a faithful witness as far as were able to do so. In such a case we shall not when the dying wish to go back again to rectify the mistakes and insincerities of our lives. No, beloved, it will be very, very sweet to be alone with Jesus in death. He will make all our bed in our sickness; He will make our dying pillow soft, and our soul shall vanish, kissed away by His dear lips, and we shall be with Him forever and forever. Of those that are nearest to Him it is said, "These are they that follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. They shall walk with him in white, for they are worthy." I conclude with this observation. Will our Lord Jesus Christ accept at our hands tonight such a consecrating word? If we are trusting in Him for salvation will He permit us to say that we will keep with Him as long as we live? We reply, He will not permit us to say it in our own strength. There was a young man who said, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest," but Christ gave him a cool reception: and there was an older man who said, "Though all men shall forsake thee yet will not I," and in reply his Master prayed for Him that his faith should not fail. Now, you must not promise as Peter did, or you will make a greater failure. But, beloved, this self-devotion is what Christ expects of us if we are His disciples. He will not have us love father or mother more than Him; we must be ready to give up all for His sake. This is not only what our Master expects from us, but what He deserves from us.
Love so amazing, so divine, Demands my soul, my life, my all.
This, also, is what the Lord will help us to do, for He will give us grace if we will but seek it at His hands: and this it is which He will graciously reward, and has already rewarded, in that choice word of His in the twelfth of John, where He says of His disciples in the twenty-sixth verse, "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor." Oh, to be honored of God in eternity when He shall say, "Stand back, angels; make way, seraphim and cherubim; here comes a man that suffered for the sake, of my dear Son. Here comes one that was not ashamed of my Only-begotten when his face was smeared with the spittle. Here comes one that stood in the pillory with Jesus, and was called ill names for His sake. Stand back, ye angels, these have greater honor than you." Surely the angels of heaven as they traverse the streets of gold and meet the martyrs will ask them about their sufferings, and say, "You are more favored than we, for you have had the privilege of suffering and dying for the Lord." O brothers and sisters, snatch at the privilege of living for Jesus; consecrate yourselves this day unto Him; live from this hour forward, not to enrich yourselves, nor to gain honor and esteem, but for Jesus, for Jesus alone. Oh, if I could set Him before you here; if I could cause Him to stand on this platform just as He came from Gethsemane with His bloody sweat about Him, or as He came down from the cross with wounds so bright with glory and so fresh with bleeding out our redemption, I think I should hear you say, each one of you, "Lord Jesus, we are thine, and in what place Thou shalt be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servants be." So may the Lord help us by His most gracious Spirit who hath wrought all our works in us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Published on Thursday, March 23rd, 1916.
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
On Lord's-day Evening, August 22nd, 1889.
"And Ittai answered the king, and said, as the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be." 2 Samuel 15:21 .
SOME men have a very remarkable power of creating and sustaining friendship in others. David was a man brimming over with affection a man, notwithstanding all his rough soldier-life, of an exceedingly tender heart a man, I was about to say the word was on my tongue a man of vast humanity. I mean, there was a great deal of manhood about him. He was all that other men are, had suffered their sorrows, and had tasted their joys, and, there fore, I suppose it was that he had a large power of attraction about him, and brought others to himself.
But there is one Man more than man, whose attracting influence is greater than that of all men put together. In the person of the Lord Jesus Christ we see gentleness, meekness, and tenderest affection, and we see the most hearty sympathy with everything that belongs to manhood. Such a vast heart has the Master, such boundless, disinterested affection, such human sympathy; so near is he to every one of us in his life, and in his experiences, that he attracts the sons of men to himself, and when he is lifted up he draws men unto him, and afterwards, by the cords of his love, he draws them unto himself. It is in the hope that some here may feel the sweet attractions of Christ that I have selected this text, anxiously praying that some here may so give themselves to Christ s never to leave him: and that others who have already done may be confirmed in their solemn resolution that, in whatsoever place their Master, the Son of David, the King, shall be, there also will they be as his servants, whether in life or in death.
Now this resolution, if any here have formed it, and I know many have this resolution that surely in what place the Lord Jesus shall be, whether in death or in life, even there will we, his servants, be, in the first place, is:
I. A GOOD RESOLUTION one which can be supported by abundant reasons.
Let me say, in opening out this assertion, that Jesus deserves of all who have really tasted of his grace such faithful service, such unswerving following in all cases and under all circumstances. Who else has ever done for us what Jesus has? Our mother brought us forth, but he has given to us a second birth. Our mother candled us upon her knee, but he has borne us all the days of old, and even to hoar hairs will he carry his people. We have had many kindnesses from friends, but never such love as Jesus showed when, we being his enemies, he yet redeemed us with his most precious blood. Think of these three words, and try to measure what they mean Gethsemane Gabbatha Golgotha. Let those three words awaken your adoring memories. Gethsemane with its garden and bloody sweat for you. Gabbatha with its scourging, its mocking, its shame and spitting for you. Golgotha with its cross and the five flowing wounds, and all the bitterness of the divine wrath, and the torment of death itself, for you. Men have been known to give away their lives cheerfully for some great military leader whose genius has commanded their admiration, but they were fools to throw their lives away, after all, for these men had done but little or nothing for them to make them their servants and slaves. But this Man, my brethren, if we had a thousand lives, and were to give them all, yet would deserve more of us, for he hath redeemed us from going down into the pit, saved us from flames that never shall be quenched, and from a pit that is darkness itself. By the eternal woe from which the blood of Christ hath uplifted us, let us, who believe that we have been redeemed from hell, consecrate ourselves for ever to follow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. His cross is despised; let us be despised with it, for he bore shame for us. His truth is counted a lie; let us be willing to be regarded as liars, for he had reproach cast on him. Sometimes to defend his cause has required the loss of all things; be it ours. if needs be, to lose all things for him who gave up all and what an all that was! the bliss of heaven, and a life itself for us, that he might redeem our souls. The deserts of Jesus are such that it would need an angel's tongue to tell them out, even though it were but in brief catalogue. Look at him in what he is himself as his Father's darling. Look at his character; was there ever such another? Survey the beauties of his person were there ever such charms commingled before? Think of his life, and of his death, and of what he is doing still before the throne, and surely you will feel that it is but right and just that, with Jesus, You should enter into the ship and, with him, sail the ocean over, be it rough or be it smooth.
Moreover, brethren, to keep close to Jesus Christ is right. It is in itself to keep close to integrity, for the Lord Jesus never stepped out of the right path. He never asks any of his followers to do anything which be a breach of the right, or which will make them turn aside from uprightness. If we could put our feet down exactly where his feet went down, even though we had to walk up to Calvary itself, it would be our duty so to do, for his path was perfect rectitude, and in him was no sin. We challenge heaven, with its omniscience, to detect a flaw in him. We challenge hell, with its malice, to discover in him an aught that is amiss. Lovers of the right and of the true, ask grace that you may be as he was. You cannot be more eminent for virtue than he. You cannot serve your God better. You cannot do better than keep close to every step that he has taken, and, whether in life or in death, to follow him. It is right, then, because he deserves it; it is right, again because in itself it is according to the eternal rules of equity.
And, my brethren, there is another argument why we should cleave to Jesus, and it is this wherefore should we leave him? Can anybody suggest a reason why the lover of Christ should turn from him? Polyearp was asked that he should curse Christ, and he replied, "Wherefore should I curse him? "The, assembly in the amphitheatre could give no answer to that; all hell could never give a reply to that. What hath he done, what hath he done that we should leave him? What can he have done, and what is there that the world can offer that would ever repay us for leaving him? Could we so false, so traitorous prove as to turn away from Christ, what should we gain? A little pleasure, gone in a moment, like thorns that crackle beneath the pot. What should we lose, my brethren? We should lose the joy of life; we should lose our support in tribulation; we should lose our hope in death; we should lose heaven, to inherit nothing but the blackness of darkness for ever. I cannot conceive a bribe heavy enough to weigh against him; I cannot imagine an honour bright enough to compare with him. I cannot conceive a disgrace that can be black enough to compare with the disgrace of deserting him. The silver mine of Demas is a poor reward for selling his Master. All the wealth of India, could it be poured into one's lap, were but a mockery of a soul that damned itself by casting away its confidence in Christ. To whom should we go, Master; to whom should we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life. To leave Christ would be the meanest thing of which any could be capable. I suppose the devil himself, with all that ho has ever done, has never been able to compass a wickedness that would equal the wickedness, if it were possible, of a truly gracious soul deliberately deserting Jesus for the world, for such a soul knows the hollowness of this world's joys; such a soul knows something of the sweetness of Jesus; such a spirit has been with him, and has learned of him, has had the enlightenments of his grace, has learned the faithfulness of his promise and the love of his heart. Oh! could such a thing be, could the Lord's grace so utterly leave a believer that he should turn out an apostate after all, there is need to dig another hell, as much lower than hell as hell is lower than the earth; there is need to kindle yet more furious flames; seven times hotter might the furnace be heated for such an apostate. Glory be to God, it shall not be.
"Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows and from sins
The work which wisdom undertakes,
Eternal mercy never forsakes."
But I speak thus to let you see how reasonable how abundantly necessary it is that we should cling close to Christ in life and death, and that where he is there we should be. There is no need to reason further, as the time is brief, and so let us notice now, in the second place, that:
II. THIS RESOLUTION, THOUGH GOOD IN ITSELF, SHOULD BE MADE WITH GREAT DELIBERATION, SINCE IT WILL MOST CERTAINLY BE TRIED.
Ah! young brother, you to day can sing, as others did:
"'Tis done, the great transactions done";
and you sang and felt a joy in singing that last verse:
"High heaven that heard the solemn vow,
That vow renewed shall daily hear
Till in life's latest hour I bow,
And bless in death a bond so dear"
but do you know your weakness? If there were no temptation from without, you are fickle enough in yourself. Ah! we might sooner trust the wind or rely upon the glassy waves of the ocean than trust our own frail resolutions. We are changeable, we are false; our hearts are deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked. Let him that putteth on his harness take care not to boast as him that putteth it off. There are dangers ahead and many trials. All is not gold that glitters. Firm resolutions are not always kept; yea, let me add they are never kept if they are made, in your own strength; they will go most surely, and you that promised to stand fast will soon turn aside.
But, in addition to our own fickleness, we must expect many things to try this resolution. There will be, with some of you, the jeers and sneers of those you work with. They will call you ill names. Perhaps they have began it already. Well, but you do not know what they can invent. The Christian soldier has a gauntlet to run. The Christian worker in many a large factory has to endure a lifelong martyrdom. Men will invent all sorts of gibes and jeers against a believer in Christ, and it is fine sport to pelt a Christian. Can ye cleave to your Lord, then? Oh! if you cannot, you do not know him, for he is worth ten thousand times ten thousand sneers, and you should count it a joy to be permitted to bear a scoff for him. Now are you in your measure partakers with the noble host of martyrs. You cannot in these softer days earn the ruby crown of martyrdom, but you have, at least, the trial of cruel mockings. Bear up manfully, and meet their mockery with your holy bravery and patient endurance.
And you will have, probably, a worse trial than that, and that is to see those who professed to go with you, as you thought, turn aside. Oh! to young Christians, this is very staggering. Those of us who are older feel this to be a very peculiar cross in church life, to be associated with those who are cold-hearted and dead while they profess to be Christians, who, after all, ere long betray their hypocrisy; but to young people it seems often almost staggering. If such a man is not a good man, who can be? Is there anything at all in religion if such a man, after all, should turn out to be a deceiver? Oh! but, dear brethren, if you love Christ, you will not turn aside because some of his friends have forsaken him, for a true friend sticks closer then. Like this good man Ittai, that we are speaking of, you will say, "I never thrust myself on David before; I kept in the background, but now that this rascally Ahithopel has left him, I will go now and offer him my kind and affectionate greetings." It ought always to make you who love Christ become bolder when these villains turn aside, for now you should say that it behaves every honest man to play the man and come to his friend. If these turn tail, then should the true-hearted lead the van for Christ and for his truth, and if it should even come to pass that a standard-bearer should desert his flag, spring forward, young man, and grasp it in the stead of him, but never because of that turn aside from your Lord.
Alas! brethren, you may expect, perhaps, to have sterner trials than these. If you resolve to cling to Jesus Christ with constancy, you must expect to have many trials. God loves to try his people that he may get glory out of their trials, and I am sorry to say I have known some who in the depths of poverty, when it has suddenly come upon them like an armed man, have felt as if religion itself could not support them, and they have actually given up their profession. It is poor Christianity that cannot bear the loss of all things. Now you may be poor yet, and you may be sore sick, but may you have such faith as that you may be able to say, "Though he slay me, yet will I trust in him." It is no gold if it will not stand the fire, and it is no grace if it will not bear affliction.
You may expect to have great depression of spirit within. Some of us know what this is very, very frequently. There are times when the joy of religion is gone, and our soul is in the dark, and yet is feeling after God, blessed be his name; but this is the pinch, to believe in an angry Christ, to hold to his hand and never let him go, though that hand should seem to pull itself away; to lodge with Christ when he gives you no supper; to go and sleep in Christ's bed when he has not made it, but left it hard for you; to say, "With my desire have I desired thee in the night, and with my spirit will I seek thee early." May you have faith like that faith, that will not, under any difficulties, turn aside from Christ.
Thus you see, then, that this resolution will be a tried one, and between here and heaven God knows what trials will befall us. But again:
III. THIS RESOLUTION MAY BE CARRIED OUT.
What I have said might tempt you to declare that you would not try it, but it may be carried out. There are thousands, tens of thousands upon earth who have been with Jesus wherever he has been throughout the whole of their lives, and will be with him in death, and after death; and there are millions there they stand wearing their white robes and waving their palms. Listen; you may almost hear their song. These are they that overcame; they endured unto the end; they came through great tribulation, and washed their robes in the Lamb's blood, and, therefore, are they before the throne of God. What was done, in them may be done in you.
But how was it, then, that they held on and kept close to their Lord? Answer it was not in their own strength; it was the Holy Spirit, who day by day preserved them, led them in knowledge and true holiness, purged them from sin, and at last made them to enter upon the heritage of the perfect. There was not a single moment in which they persevered apart from the Spirit's strength. Poor human nature at its best must start aside like a broken bow. 'Tis only grace that holds a single Christian, and well and truly do we sing in that hymn:
"'Tis grace that's kept me till this day,
And will not let me go."
Now, subject to the power of the Holy Spirit, the way to accomplish our resolve to be with Christ as his servants for ever, is, first of all, to be much in prayer. If you cannot persevere with God, you are not likely to persevere in contest with man. More prayer, beloved, many of you want. As your temptations grow, let your prayers become more intense and full of fire, and conquer hell by assaulting heaven. You shall prevail against all temptations if you can prevail with God.
Remember, too, that joined to that prayer there must be much holy fear. "Happy is the man," says Solomon, "that feareth always" not the fear that is distrustful and suspicious of God, but the fear that is distrustful and more than suspicious of self; the fear that is conscious of inward weakness and depravity, that dares not into temptation go, but asks to have its eyes turned aside from beholding vanity, lest the look should lead to the desire, and the desire should engender the act.
With holy fear there must be much careful walking. He that would persevere to heaven must not hope to go there pell-mell helter-skelter, heedless, careless, thoughtless as to his daily life. There must be self-examination, self-inspection, watchfulness incessantly. An arrow may pierce thee between any joint of thy armour unless thou hold the shield of faith to catch its barbed shaft, and quench its barbarous flame. God grant thee grace to walk carefully and humbly with thy God.
To persevere in grace we must seek to use all the means of grace that can assist us not forsaking the assembling of ourselves together, as the manner of some is; not neglecting either private or public prayer; using what grace we have if we expect to get more; doing what we can for God, as we expect him to do all for us; in fine, working out our own salvation with fear and trembling, because it is God that worketh in us to will and to do of his own good pleasure. If these things be in you and abound, they shall be the means of preserving you, and you shall be among. the happy number that shall sing, " Now unto him that is able to keep us from falling, and to present us faultless before his presence with exceeding joys unto him be glory for ever and ever. Amen." And now, fourthly and lastly:
IV. THIS RESOLUTION MAY BE ACCOMPLISHED IN AN EMPHATIC SENSE.
Understand me, for here it is that I wish to appeal to believers in Christ. This man Ittai said, " Surely in what place that my lord the king shall be, whether in death or in life, even there also will thy servant be." You can follow Christ in a general way in the. activities of Christian life, and so on, but there is a peculiar way of following him. You can get, by God's grace, very near your Master, and by still greater grace you can keep near to him, and keep near to him all your lives. I have never been able to hope for perfection in the flesh, but I believe that even Christian ought to strain after even perfection itself. I am afraid we have fixed. the standard of what a Christian may be a deal too low; of what a. Christian should be it would not be possible to fix the standard too high. It is not needful for a Christian to be sometimes with Christ, and sometimes to lose fellowship. It is not necessary for a Christian to be full of doubts and fears. I met an elderly Christian some years ago who is now in heaven, whose word certainly I could never dare to have doubted, who told me that by the space of forty years he had never had a doubt of his own acceptance in the Beloved, and though he had had many troubles and trials, he did not know that his communion with Christ had once been interrupted. I marvelled at him, but I marvelled a great deal more at myself that I had not tried to get into the same place. Why not? If you are straitened, it certainly is not in your God; you are straitened in your own bowels. He never gave you legitimate cause to doubt him, nor did he ever give you a reasonable excuse for forsaking fellowship with him. Let us, oh! let us aim at keeping as near to Jesus as John did, and not, like Peter, follow afar off. Let it be the great prayer of our lives:
"Abide with me from morn till eve,
For without thee I cannot live."
Let us ask that our communion may be kept up in business hours as well as in the private closet, that we may walk with Christ on the Exchange and in the street, as well as in the Tabernacle, or in the public engagements of worship. Why need we leave him, Certainly he will not leave us. Oh! that we may cling to him closely, cling to him and hold him fast. I like the saying of a dying negro boy, who was asked why he felt so happy in the thought of going to heaven. and he said, "I want to go to heaven principally because Jesus is there." "Well," said they, "but do you always want to be with Jesus, then, and with nobody else?" "Yes," said he, "I only care to be where Jesus is. "But suppose Jesus were to leave heaven?" Said he, "I would go with him." "But suppose Jesus went to hell, what then?" "Ah!" said the boy, "but there could not be any hell where Jesus was; I would go with Jesus wherever he might go." Oh! that we had that kind of spirit, and that desire ever more, not to be self-seeking, nor world-seeking, nor getting our joy out of common pleasures, nor hunting after comfort where it cannot be found in these low-land joys; but let us seek to be on the wing with our Master, up aloft, dwelling in the land of communion. where Jesus lets out his very heart to his people, and reveals himself to them as he cloth not unto the world. The Lord give to this church many of those favoured men and women, whose communion shall be with the Father, and with his Son, Jesus Christ. Oh! it is the happiest, holiest, safest, richest. most useful kind of life. God grant it to you.
But oh! dear friends, there are some here to whom all this talk is nothing for they have never taken up the cross of King Jesus at all. Do you know it is very seldom I come into this pulpit, very seldom indeed, without my seeing here and there that mournful colour which indicates that another person has departed this life? We are so numerous that there are two or three deaths every week, and sometimes five or six, and as I happen to know when each one is taken away I am continually reminded of the mortality of my congregation never twice alike never under any circumstances always some here that will never be here again or were not here before; always some here who are just on the brink of the grave. Now I speak to you to-night who may, though you know it not, be on the brink of the grave, and I shall ask you to put to yourselves this question, How will it fare with you when you pass into the spirit-world, and stand before your God, when you are not reckoned as a friend of Christ, but have to take your stand among his enemies? You would not wish to take that place even to-night. You are halting between two opinions; but, my dear friend, that halting of yours must come to an end very soon, or otherwise death will decide it, and where death finds you judgment will leave you, and hell will continue you. Oh! I pray you lay hold on eternal life, and this night cast in your lot with Christ. Oh! he is the brightest leader ever soldier had. He is the fairest Prince under whom anyone could serve. His cause is such as will ennoble you. To fight under his banner makes each private soldier into a prince, ennobles each one into a king. Before thou canst serve him, remember thou must be washed by him. There is a fountain filled with blood; if thou cost trust him, that blood will make thee white as snow. If thou cost trust him now, his Holy Spirit will give thee grace to enlist in his army, and to continue a faithful soldier until thou shalt lay down thy battle with thy life, and cease at once to fight and live, and enter into the victory for ever and ever. By the horror of Christ's defeated foes. among whom I would not have you numbered; by the glory of Christ's victorious friends, among whom I would fain see you muster, look unto Christ and live to-night, and may he help you to do so. Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on 2 Samuel 15". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17