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SERVICE AND HONOR and The Rule and Reward of Serving Christ
SERVICE AND HONOR
Charles Haddon Spurgeon (1834-1892)
"Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will
be. My Father will honor the one who serves Me" (John 12:26 ).
You cannot claim to have Christ as your Lord if you will not serve Him.
If you take Christ as your Lord and Savior, you must take Him for all
that He is, not only as a Friend, but also as Master; and if you are to
become His disciple, you must also become His servant. I hope that no
one fights against that truth. Surely it is one of our highest
privileges on earth to serve our Lord, and this also will be our joyous
occupation even in heaven itself: "His servants will serve Him. They
will see His face" (Revelation 22:3-4 ).
This thought also enters into our idea of salvation; to be saved, means
that we are rescued from the slavery of sin, and brought into the
glorious liberty of the servants of God. O Master, You are such a
glorious Lord that serving You is perfect freedom, and the sweetest rest
to my soul! You have told us that it would be so, and we have found it
so. "Take my yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble
in heart, and you will find rest for your souls" (Matthew 11:29 ). We do
find it so; and it is not as though rest were a separate thing from
service, the very service itself becomes rest to our souls. I don't know
how some of us would have any rest on earth if we could not employ our
daily lives in the service of Christ; and the rest to be enjoyed in
heaven is never to be pictured as inactivity, but as constantly being
permitted the high privilege of serving the Lord.
Learn then, all of you who would have Christ as your Savior, that you
must be willing to serve Him. We are not saved "by" service, but we are
saved "to" service. After we are saved we live in service to our Lord.
If we refuse to be His servants we are not saved, for we still remain
evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan. Holiness is
another name for salvation; to be delivered from the power of self-will
and the domination of evil lusts, and the tyranny of Satan--this is
salvation. Those who want to be saved must know that they will have to
serve Christ, and those who are saved rejoice that they are serving Him,
and their service is evidence of a change of heart and renewal of the
So you are proposing to yourself that you will serve Christ, are you?
You are a young man, as yet you have plenty of vigor and strength, and
you say to yourself, "I will serve Christ in some remarkable way; I will
seek to make myself a scholar, I will try to learn the art of speech, and
I will in some way or other glorify my Lord's name by the splendor of my
language." Will you, dear friend? Is it not better, if you are going to
serve Christ, to ask Him what He would like you to do? If you wished to
do a kindness for a friend, you certainly would desire to know what would
best please that friend, or else your kindness might be mistaken and you
might be doing that which would grieve rather than gratify. Now listen.
Your Lord and Master does not require you to become either a scholar or
an orator to serve Him. Both of those things may happen in your path of
duty which he would have you to take; but first of all He says, "If any
man serve Me, let Him follow Me."
This is what Christ prefers beyond anything else, that His servants
should follow Him. If we do that, we shall serve Him in the way which is
according to His own choice. I notice that many good friends desire to
serve Christ by standing in the most noticeable place. You cannot get
there in one step, young man; your better way will be to serve Christ by
following Him, by "doing the next thing," the thing you can do, that
little simple duty which lies within your capacity which will bring you
no special honor, but which, nevertheless, is what the Lord desires of
you. In effect, you can hear Him say to you, "Whoever serves Me must
follow Me, not by aiming at great things, but by doing just what I give
them to do at that time." "Should you then seek great things for
yourself?" said the prophet Jeremiah to Baruch, "Do not seek them." So I
say the same to you.
One friend, perhaps, blessed with great riches, is saying, "I will save
my money until I have a considerable amount, and then build some homes
for the poor; I will give large amounts of money to the some new foreign
missionary work, or I will build a church building in which Christ's name
will be preached." May God stop me if I try to discourage any good works
that you want to do! Still, if you want to be absolutely certain that
you are pleasing Christ, then I would not recommend any particular thing
for you to do with your money, but I would advise you just to do this--
follow Him, remembering that He said, "Whoever serves Me must follow Me."
You will, by simply going behind your Master, following His footsteps,
and truly being His disciple, do that which would please Him more than if
you could lavish His cause with a mountain of riches. This is what He
prefers as the best proof of your love, the highest confirmation of your
devotion: "Whoever serves Me must follow Me."
He requires that you should become like a little child, so that you may
be taught by Him. His own words are, "Unless you change and become like
little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven" (Matthew 1:1 ).
If you want to be a servant of Christ, come to Him like a little
child; sit in His lap to be taught by Him the gospel A B C's. "Whoever
serves Me must follow Me--follow Me as My disciple, regarding Me as your
Teacher, to whom you will yield your understanding and entire mind, that
I may fashion it according to My own will." This is the language of our
Lord, and I would deeply impress it upon all of you, and especially on
any who are beginning the Christian life. If you are to serve Christ,
put your mind like a piece of paper under His pen, that He may write on
you whatever He pleases. Be His sheet of paper, on which He may write
His living letters of love. You can serve Him in this way, in the best
"Do whatever he tells you" (John 2:5 ). If you truly want to serve
Christ, do not do what you feel like doing, but do what He commands you
to do. Remember what Samuel said to Saul, "To obey is better than
sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams" (1 Samuel 15:22 ).
I believe that the profession of being totally devoted to God, when it is
accompanied by action that I suggest to myself, may be nothing but self-
worship, an abomination in the sight of God; but when anyone says to the
Lord, "What do You want me to do? Show me, my Master, what You want me
to do,"--when there is a real desire to obey every command of Christ,
then there is the true spirit of service, and the true spirit of sonship.
"Whoever serves Me must follow Me; running at My call, following at My
heels, waiting at My feet to do whatsoever I desire him to do." This
makes life a lot more simpler than some dream it to be. You are not to
go and carve a statue out of the marble by the exercise of your own
genius; if that were the task set before us, most of us would never
accomplish it. But you are to just go and write according to Christ's
own example, to copy His letters, the up-strokes and the down-strokes,
and to write exactly as He has written.
The other day I was asked to sign my name to an important document, and
when it was handed to me, I noticed that I had already signed it before,
so I said, "Why, I have already signed it!" "Yes," said the one who
brought it, "you have the very easy task of signing it all over again."
In that case I followed my own writing; and in the same way, you have the
easy task of writing after Christ, directly writing over again the
letters that He Himself has made, and you cannot do Him better service
than this. "Whoever serves Me must follow Me," that is, "let him do just
what I command him to do; follow Me by imitating My example."
It is always safe to do what Christ would have done under the same
circumstances in which you are placed. Of course, you cannot imitate
Christ in His miraculous work, and you are not asked to imitate Him in
some of those sorrowful respects in which He suffered that we might not
suffer; but the ordinary life of Christ is in every respect an example to
us. Never do what you could not imagine Christ would have done. If it
strikes you that the course of action that is suggested to you would be
un-Christlike, then it is unchristian, for the Christian is to be like
Christ. The Christian is to be the flower growing out of the seed,
Christ; and there is always a unity between the flower and the seed out
of which it grows. Keep your eyes fixed on your heavenly model and
pattern, and seek in all things ever to imitate Christ. If you want to
serve Christ, duplicate His life as nearly as possible in your own life.
"Whoever serves Me must follow Me, let him follow Me by copying My
You do not need to run away from your father and mother, and leave your
home and friends, and go away to the lost people in Africa, in order to
serve Christ. It is not dreaming up some idea in your own mind and
working that out according to your own whims and fancies, that
constitutes service for Christ; it is simply this--Whoever serves Christ
must follow Christ. Let him put his foot down as nearly as he can where
Christ put his foot down; let him walk in Christ's steps and be moved by
His spirit, actuated by His motives, live with His aim, and copy His
actions. This is the noblest way in which to serve the Lord.
"Whoever serves Me must follow Me; and where I am, my servant also will
be." I don't know of any other master but Christ who ever said that.
There are some places where an earthly master does not want his servant
to be; he must have some room to himself, and some engagements which he
cannot explain to his servant, and into which his servant must not pry.
But the Lord Jesus Christ makes this the glorious privilege of everyone
who enters His service that, where He is, His servant also will be.
But where is Christ? He is and always was in the place of communion with
God. He was always near to His father. He often spoke with God. He
ever had the joy of God filling His spirit. And you, perhaps, are saying
to yourself, "I wish that I had communion with God." Well, through Jesus
Christ, it is to be had by serving Him in that particular kind of service
which consists in following Him. If you want to walk with God, why, of
course, you must walk! If you sit down in idleness, you cannot walk with
Him; and if you do not keep up a good brisk pace, He will walk on in
front of you, and leave you behind, for the Lord is no dawdler in His
walking. Therefore, you see, there must be diligent progress, and
activity in service, in order that we may keep pace with Him and have
communion with Him; and if we closely follow Him, He has promised that we
will be in the place of communion with our blessed Master.
Our Lord Jesus Christ was in the place of confidence. Whenever Christ
went to work, He worked with assurance. He never had a doubt as to His
ultimate success. No haphazard work ever came from Christ's hands. He
spoke with certainty, and He worked with the full assurance that His
labor would not be in vain. If you want to have confidence in your work
for Christ, so as to perform it without any doubts and fears, you will
have to obtain it by serving Him, and to serve Him by following Him; and
then, into that sacred place of confidence where your Master always
stood, there you will also come.
It is very sweet to notice how the Lord Jesus brings His Father into His
speech; it is as if He said, "When a man joins himself to Me, then he
joins himself to My Father also. It is not only I who will love him and
do My best to honor him, but My Father, the great and ever-blessed Lord
over all, keeps an eye on that man." On whom does he look with his gaze
of approval? Not on those who have some grand plan of serving
themselves, but on those who serve Christ, and who do it by following
It is delightful to have a sense of the approval of God, such as you
never had when you had the approval of men. Sometimes, when even
Christian people cry, "Well done, well done," the Lord says, "That is
quite enough praise for him; I will not give him My `Well done.'" But
when you get no "Well done" from men, but, on the contrary, are
misunderstood and misrepresented, then the Lord comes and puts His hand
on you, and says, "Be strong, do not fear, I have accepted your service.
I know your motive, and I approve of your action. Do not be afraid of
them, but go on your way." Such approval as that is the highest honor we
can have here. "If any man serves Me," says Christ, "him will My Father
honor," with a sense of sonship, and with a sense of approval.
If a man will serve Christ by following Him, the Father will give him
honor in the eyes of the blood-bought family. There are certain ones of
the Lord's people who do not carry yardsticks with them, but they carry
scales and weights, and if they do not measure by quantity, they measure
by quality; their approval is worth having. They are often the poorest
and most afflicted members of the church; but being the most instructed,
and living the nearest to God, to have them minister to us is a thing
worth having. I believe that, if any man will lead the life of a
Christian, however few his talents, and if his service lies in close
obedience and imitation of Christ, the real saints, not the mere
professors, especially not the shining worldly ones among them, but real
saints will say, "That is the man for us, that is the woman with whom we
would like to converse." Thus it comes to pass that those who really do
serve the Lord by following Him have honor in the estimation of those who
sit and eat with them at their Lord's table.
And then, when we come to die, or when we stand at the judgment seat of
Christ, or when we enter the eternal state, what a glorious thing it will
be to find the Father ready to honor us forever because we served the
Son! Our reward will not be because God owes us anything, but because of
His grace; it is grace that gave us the service and grace that will
reward us for our service; but no man and no woman will serve the Lord
Jesus Christ here on earth by following Him, without finding that the
Father has some special honor, some rich and rare reward, to give to such
soldiers in due time.
This is the day of the fight, expect nothing but bullets, bruises,
wounds, and scars; but the battle will soon be over, and when the war is
ended, the King will come, and ride up and down the ranks, and in that
day you who have been most battered and most wounded in the battle will
find Him pause when He reaches you, and He will attach on you chest a
star that will be more of an honor to you than all the Medals that have
decorated brave men here on earth. Stars and ribbons may be given to
those who want them, but blessed are they who will shine as the stars in
the kingdom of our Father! And this honor is to be had by that believer
who will faithfully serve his Lord; not by any who merely talk about it,
or dream of it, or propose to do it, but to those who serve Him by
following Him--this honor will be given.
The Rule and Reward of Serving Christ
June 27, 1889 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"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."-John 12:26 .
This verse is all about serving, and service; three times over you get the word "serve" or "servant." Each clause of our text has in it a part of the verb "to serve." You cannot have Christ if you will not serve him. If you take Christ, you must take him in all his characters, not only as Friend, but also as Master; and if you are to become his disciple, you must also become his servant. I hope that no one here kicks against that truth Surely it is one of our highest delights on earth to serve our Lord, and this is to be our blessed employment even in heaven itself: "His servants shall serve him: and they shall see his face." This thought also enters into our idea of salvation; to be saved, means that we are rescued from the slavery of sin, and brought into the delightful liberty of the servants of God. O Master, thou art such a glorious Lord that serving thee is perfect freedom, and sweetest rest! Thou hast told us that it should be so, and we have found it so. "Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart: and ye shall find rest unto your souls." We do find it so; and it is not as though rest were a separate thing from service, the very service itself becomes rest to our souls. I know not how some of us would have any rest on earth if we could not employ our daily lives in the service of Christ; and the rest of heaven is never to be pictured as idleness, but as constantly being permitted the high privilege of serving the Lord. Learn hence, then, all of you who would have Christ as your Savior, that you must be willing to serve him. We are not saved by service, but we are saved to service. When we are once saved, thenceforward we live in the service of our Lord. If we refuse to be his servants, we are not saved, for we still remain evidently the servants of self, and the servants of Satan. Holiness is another name for salvation; to be delivered from the power of self-will, and the domination of evil lusts, and the tyranny of Satan, this is salvation. Those who would be saved must know that they will have to serve Christ, and those who are saved rejoice that they are serving him, and that thus they are giving evidence of a change of heart and renewal of mind. Come, beloved, and when the text says, "If any man serve me," let each of us read his own name there, and let us say, "Yes, I would serve the Lord Jesus Christ." If we cannot read our own name there as yet, let us pray God that we may first believe in Jesus unto eternal life, and then, receiving that eternal life, may spend the full force and strength of it in his service. I hope that I am addressing a large number of those who are working together with God, who have said concerning their great King as Ittai said to David, "Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be." You have taken up Christ's cross, it has become a delightful burden to you, and you wish to bear it after Jesus as long as you live. May you be helped in that desire by the consideration of the passage before us! First, here is the rule of service: "If any man serve me, let him follow me." Secondly, here is the fellowship of service: "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." And thirdly, here is the reward of service: "If any man serve me, him will my Father honor." I. First, dear friends, here is THE RULE OF SERVICE: "If any man serve me, let him follow me." So you are proposing to yourself that you will serve Christ, are you? You are a young man, as yet you have plenty of vigor and strength, and you say to yourself, "I will serve Christ in some remarkable way; I will seek to make myself a scholar, I will try to learn the art of oratory, and I will in some way or other glorify my Lord's name by the splendor of my language." Will you, dear friend? Is it not better, if you are going to serve Christ, to ask him what he would like you to do? If you wished to do a kindness for a friend, you certainly would desire to know what would best please that friend, or else your kindness might be mistaken, and you might be doing that which would grieve rather than gratify. Now listen. Your Lord and Master does not bid you become either a scholar or an orator in order to serve him. Both of those things may happen to fall to your lot in that path of duty which he would have you to take; but first of all he says, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." This is what Christ prefers beyond anything else, that his servants should follow him. If we do that, we shall serve him in the way which is according to his own choice. I notice that many good friends desire to serve Christ by standing on the top round of the ladder. You cannot get there at one step, young man; your better way will be to serve Christ by following him, by "doing the next thing," the thing you can do, that little simple business which lies within your capacity, which will bring you no special honor, but which, nevertheless, is what your Lord desires of you. In effect, you can hear him say to you, "If any man serve me, let him follow me, not by aiming at great things, but by doing just that piece of work that I put before him at the time." "Seekest thou great things for thyself?" said the prophet Jeremiah to Baruch, "seek them not." So say I to you. One friend here, perhaps, blessed with great riches, is saying to himself or herself, "I will lay by in store until I acquire a considerable amount, and then build a row of almshouses for the poor; I will give very largely to some new foreign missionary effort, or I will build a house of prayer in which Christ's name shall be preached." God forbid that I should stop you in any right design whatever! Still, if you would do what is absolutely certain to please Christ, I would not recommend the selection of any one particular object, but I would advise you just to do this, follow him, remembering that he said, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." You will, by simply going behind your Master, following his footsteps, and being truly his disciple, do that which would please him more than if you could endow his cause with a whole mint of riches. This is what he selects as the choicest proof of your love, the highest testimonial of your regard: "If any man serve me, let him follow me." What, then, does the Savior mean by bidding us render to him our best service by following him? I should say, first, I understand by these words that we are to follow Christ by believing his doctrine. Our Lord says, practically, "If any man serve me, let him follow me as Teacher; let him sit at my feet, let him learn of me." Some seem to fancy that they can serve Christ by striking out a new line of thought. My dear sir, if you do that, you will serve yourself, but you will not serve Christ. He has come to be the Teacher of the glorious gospel of the blessed God, and it is only by teaching the truths which he has made known, and by publishing the message which he has revealed, that you can really be his servant. Suppose you have a man to be your servant at home, say, your gardener. He is a very industrious man indeed, and works very hard; but when you walk round your garden, you do not see him, and for a very good reason, for he is not there. Where is he? He is at work in your neighbor's garden! Of course, you love your neighbor as yourself, so you are pleased to think that your servant is working on behalf of your neighbor. You mile, do you? I think you say to yourself, "That is a kind of servant that I should not care to keep; if he worked for somebody else all day long, in the time for which I paid him, I should not want him as my servant." Well now, if I, as a Christian minister, becomes a teacher of philosophy, instead of a preacher of the truths of the gospel, if I receive into my mind some of the novel views that abound in the present day, which are not the views that are revealed in the Scriptures, then Christ is not my Master, and I am not his disciple, I am a follower of somebody else. If you act thus, you are pretending to be Christ's reformer, you are attempting to make his teaching better. Impious fool! I dare not use a milder expression. You are acting as Christ's critic; you are finding fault with the Faultless, you are trying to correct the Infallible; you had better give up such a task as that, for it is not consistent with being his disciple. He requires of you that you should become as a little child, that you may be taught by him. His own words are, "Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven." If you would be a servant of Christ, come to him as a little child; sit on the infants' form, to be taught by him the gospel A B C. "If any man serve me, let him follow me, follow me as my disciple, regarding me as his Teacher, to whom he bows his understanding and his entire mind, that I may fashion it according to my own will." This is the language of our Lord, and I would impress it very earnestly upon you all, and especially upon any who are beginning the Christian life. If you are to serve Christ, put your mind like a tablet of wax under his stylus, that he may write on you whatsoever he pleases. Be you Christ's slate, that he may make his mark on you. Be his sheet of paper on which he may write his living letters of love. You can serve him in this way in the best possible manner. But next, I think that the text means, "If any man serve me, let him follow me by obeying my commands." A fortnight ago, we considered that most instructive text, "Whatsoever he saith unto you, do it." I would bring that text to your notice again, and ring it like a bell: "Whatsoever HE saith unto you, do it." If you want truly to serve Christ, do not do what you suggest to yourself, but do what he commands you. Remember what Samuel said to Saul, "To obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams." I believe that the profession of consecration to God, when it is accompanied by action that I suggest to myself, may be nothing but will-worship, an abomination in the sight of God; but when anyone says to the Lord, "What wilt thou have me to do? Show me, my Master, what thou wouldst have me to do,"-when there is a real desire to obey every command of Christ, then is there the true spirit of service, and the true spirit of sonship. "If any man serve me, let him follow me, running at my call, following at my heels, waiting at my feet to do whatsoever I desire him to do." Dear friends, this makes life a very much simpler thing than some dream it to be. You are not to go and carve a statue out of the marble by the exercise of your own genius; if that were the task set before us, the most of us would never accomplish it. But you have just to go and write according to Christ's own example, to copy his letters, the up-strokes and the down-strokes, and to write exactly as he has written. The other day, I was asked to sign my name to a deed, and when it was handed to me, I said, "Why, I have signed my name!" "Yes," said the one who brought it, "you have the very easy task of marking it all over again." Just so, in that case I followed my own writing; and you have the easy task of writing after Christ, blacking over again the letters that he himself has made, and you cannot do him better service than this. "If any man serve me, let him follow me; that is, let him do just what I bid him to do." Now, thirdly, I think that by these words our Lord means and this is the same thing in another shape, "If any man serve me, let him follow me by imitating my example." It is always safe, dear friends, to do what Christ would have done under the same circumstances in which you are placed. Of course, you cannot imitate Christ in his miraculous work, and you are not asked to imitate him in some of those sorrowful respects in which he suffered that we might not suffer; but the ordinary life of Christ is in every respect an example to us. Never do what you could not suppose Christ would have done. If it strikes you that the course of action that is suggested to you would be un-Christly, then it is un-Christian, for the Christian is to be like Christ. The Christian is to be the flower growing out of the seed, Christ; and there is always a congruity between the flower and the seed out of which it grows. Keep your eyes fixed on your heavenly model, and pattern, and seek in all things ever to imitate Christ. If you want to serve Christ, repeat his life as nearly as possible in your own life. "If any man serve me, let him follow me by copying my example." Once more, I think the Savior means this: "If any man serve me, let him follow me by clinging to my cause." Cling to the cause of Christ, dear friend, give yourself to that kingdom for which you are taught to pray, and be ready to make any sacrifice whatever that you may advance and extend it. Yea, throw your whole self into the holy service of your Lord; make the name of Christ to be more widely known, and the cause of Christ to be further extended among the sons of men. Cling to the cause of Christ, and so carry out his own words, "If any man serve me, let him follow me." Beloved, I believe that every Christian person should follow Christ in the waters of baptism, and, having done that, should join the Church of Christ, not so much to follow the Church, as to follow Christ. We are not to follow men, even the best of men, any farther than they follow Christ; but we must take care that we do boldly stand up as adherents of his cause, so that, if it be asked, "Who is on the Lord's side?" we may put in an appearance directly, and avow ourselves as his followers. Are you living in a village where there is no congregation of the faithful? Then, let it be known that you are on the Lord's side, and do your best to open a place where Christ can be preached. Do you live down some dark part of this city where nobody goes to a place of worship? Such places are, alas! very common in this dreadful London. Then, be sure that you go to the house of God, and your very going there will be a form of serving Christ, for others will see that you at least take a decided step, and join in public worship with the avowed followers of Christ. If you would really serve Christ, come right out from the world, and say, "Let others do as they wilt as for me and my house we belong to Christ, and we will never hide our colors. We will bind the scarlet thread in the window, and we will let all who come by this way understand that here live those who have been redeemed with precious blood, and who therefore cannot, dare not, and will not conceal the gracious fact." "If any man serve me, let him follow me by taking up my cause, and working for it with all his heart." I hope that I do not need to dwell any longer on this point. You all see that the way in which to serve Christ is not a visionary one. You do not need to run away from your father and mother, and leave your home and friends, and go away to the blacks in Africa, in order to serve Christ. It is not the getting of some idle speculation in your own brain, and working that out according to your own whims and fancies, that constitutes service of Christ; it is just simply this, if any man will serve Christ, let him follow Christ. Let him put his foot down as nearly as he can where Christ put his foot down; let him tread in Christ's steps, and be moved by his spirit, actuated by his motives, live with his aim, and copy his actions. This is the noblest way in which to serve the Lord. II. Now secondly, and briefly, let us notice THE FELLOWSHIP OF SERVICE: "If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall also my servant be." I do not know any other master but Christ who ever said that. There are some places where an earthly master does not want his servant to be; he must have some room to himself, and some engagements which he cannot explain to his servant, and into which his servant must not pry. But the Lord Jesus Christ makes this the glorious privilege of every one who enters his service that, where he is, there shall his servant be. And where is he, I pray? He is in heaven, and we cannot go to him there until he calls us home. But where is he? Where was he when he spoke these words? He was, first, in the place of consecration. The Lord Jesus Christ stood before the Father a consecrated man. All that there was in him was dedicated to the glory of God. Now, go and serve him by following him, and he will put you into the place of dedication, consecration, sanctification. You desire to be holy; well, you will never attain to holiness simply by lying in bed; get up and work for Jesus if you are able to do so. And you cannot get holiness merely by studying books; serve your Lord, and serve him especially by following him. It is in the sacred process of active obedience, or of passive obedience, that we get the consecration which is not to be found, as some think, by merely willing it, and talking of it, but which grows out of holy service. As rivers, when they take up sewage, are said to drop it as they flow, and purify themselves as they run, so, assuredly, it is with a believer as he flows on in his Christian course. God blessing him, he drops much of the earthiness which he has taken up in his progress through life, and by the very motion he seems to purify himself, refining as he runs. I notice that people who have nothing to do but to sit down and stare into the black hole of their own nature, are generally very sad, and not often very virtuous; but they who, knowing how dark and sinful their nature is, trust Jesus for salvation, and then spend their lives in doing the will of the Lord, these are they who are both holy and happy. But where is Christ? for he says, "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." He is and always was in the place of communion with God. He was always near to his Father. He often spoke with God. He ever had the joy of God filling his spirit. And you, perhaps are saying to yourself, "I wish that I had communion with God." Well, through Jesus Christ, it is to be had by serving him in that particular kind of service which consists in following him. If you want to walk with God, why, of course, you must walk! If you sit down in idleness, you cannot walk with him; and if you do not keep up a good brisk pace, he will walk on in front of you, and leave you behind, for the Lord is no laggard in his walking. Therefore, you see, there must be diligent progress, and activity in service, in order that we may keep pace with him, and have communion with him; and if we act thus here, he has promised that we shall be in the place of communion with our blessed Master. Further than this, our Lord Jesus Christ was in the place of confidence. Whenever Christ went to work, he worked with assurance. He never had a doubt as to his ultimate success. No haphazard work ever came from Christ's hands. He spoke with certainty, and he worked with the full assurance that his labor would not be in vain. If you want to have confidence in your work for Christ, so as to perform it without any doubts and fears, you will have to obtain it by serving him, and to serve him by following him; and then, into that hallowed place of confidence where your Master always stood, there shall you also come. Our Lord stood, too, in the place of holy calm. How unruffled he was at all times! His was a life of storms, yet a life of peace; all around him moved, but he was the Rock of Ages, and never moved. Would you not like to be calm as Christ was, to dwell with him on the serene heights while the tempests roll and thunder far below your feet? Well, then, serve him by following him; and, as you do so, the promise of the text shall be fulfilled to you, "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." And oh, blessed be his name! he has actually gone into the place of conquest and victory in the eternal world, and you and I shall be there with him in his own good time. "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." Count it no dishonor to be servants when this high favor is promised you, that where your Master is, there you shall be also. I have sometimes thought that, if I could get into heaven somewhere behind the door, and just sit there, I should be perfectly satisfied; but far more than that is promised to us. Wherever Christ is, there shall we be. If he is on a throne, we shall be enthroned, too; and, if he is at the Father's right hand, we shall be at the Father's right hand, for he has promised, "Where I am, there shall also my servant be." You need not want to know much about heaven; it is where Christ is, and that is heaven enough for us. If we could once go into the courts above, and ask, "Is my Lord Jesus here?" and they should answer, "No, he is not here," it would be no heaven to us, would it? We should want to go outside the city walls, and cry, "Show me where he is." But suppose it possible for us to be in the very lowest room of heaven, where the glories were veiled, as it were, if such a place could be; and if we could hear one truly say, "There he is," its glories would not be any longer veiled, and we should need no higher heaven than that. As soon as ever we saw him, we should say, as our friend did in prayer, "He is all the heaven we want to know." Remember that blessed verse we had in our reading, "Father, I will that they also, whom thou hast given me, be with me where I am, that they may behold my glory." This, then, is the great fellowship of holy service; who would not be a servant of Christ? III. Now, as our time is nearly spent, I must speak but briefly upon THE REWARD OF SERVICE, upon which I have entrenched already: "If any man serve me, him will my Father honor." It is very sweet to notice how the Lord Jesus brings his Father into his speech; it is as if he said, "When a man joins himself to me, then he joins himself to my Father also. It is not only I who will love him, and do my best to honor him, but my Father, the great and ever-blessed Lord over all, keeps an eye on that man." On whom does he look with this gaze of approval? Not on those who have some grand project of serving themselves, but on those who serve Christ, and who do it by following him Come, dear people of God, you are many of you very poor, yet I know that many of you are seeking to serve Christ by following him. Some of God's dear servants here are no great speakers; they are very quiet, humble Christians, but they are trying to do what Christ would do if he were in their position. If this is your case, dear friends, you are honoring your Lord, and the Father himself looks approvingly upon you. "If any man serve me," says our Lord, "him will my Father honor." How will he do it? Well, he will honor him by letting him know his sonship. Because Jesus always pleased the Father, the Father bare witness to him, saying, "This is my beloved Son." And if you serve Christ by following him, the Father will often bear witness in your heart, and says, "This also is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased." He will often cause the Spirit of adoption to renew the witness in your heart, so that you will cry, "Abba, Father," and he will the kindred own. Surely, there is no greater honor than for God to own you as his son. Next, he will honor you by giving you a sense of approval. You know what that means; I will tell you when it is very sweet. You have been doing something for Christ, you have done it with all your heart; and some friend picks holes in it, and someone not quite so much a friend, and who therefore cannot so sorely wound you, begins to impute wrong motives, and to judge you for having come down to the battle because of the pride and the naughtiness of your heart. Well, you lose a friend, and you get a double number of enemies round about you; yet in your heart you feel that you did it only for Christ. Well, then, at such a time, it is delightful to have a sense of the approbation of God, such as you never had when you had the approbation of men. Sometimes when even Christian people cry, "Well done, well done," the Lord says, "That is quite enough praise for him; I shall not give him my 'Well done.'" But when you get no "Well done" from men, but, on the contrary, are misunderstood and misrepresented, then the Lord comes and puts his hand upon you, and says, "Be strong, fear not, I have accepted your service. I know your motive, and I approve your action. Be not afraid of them, but go on your way." Ah, beloved! such approval as that is the highest honor we can have here. "If any man serve me," says Christ, "him will my Father honor," with a sense of sonship, and with a sense of approbation. If any man serve Christ, there is another kind of honor that often comes to him, and it is not to be despised. If a man will serve Christ by following him, the Father will give him honor in the eyes of the blood-bought family. There are certain of the Lord's people who do not carry yard measures with them, but they carry scales and weights, and if they do not measure by quantity, they measure by quality; their approval is worth having. They are often the poorest and most afflicted members of the church; but being the most instructed, and riving the nearest to God, to be had in honor of them is a thing worth having. I believe that, if any man will live the life of a Christian, however few his talents, and if his service lies in close obedience and imitation of Christ, the real saints, not the mere professors, especially not the shining worldly ones among them, but real saints will say, "That is the man for us; that is the woman with whom we like to converse." Thus it comes to pass that those who really do serve the Lord by following him have honor in the estimation of those who sit at meat with them at their Lord's table. And then, at last, when we come to die, or when we stand at the judgment seat of Christ, or when we enter upon the eternal state, what a glorious thing it will be, to find the Father ready to honor us for ever because we served the Son! Our reward will not be of debt, but of grace; it is grace that gave us the service, and grace that will reward us for our service; but no man and no woman shall serve the Lord Jesus Christ here on earth by following him, without finding that the Father has some special honor, some rich and rare reward, to give to such soldiers in due time. This is the fighting day, expect nothing now but bullets, bruises, wounds, scars; but the battle will soon be over, and when the war is ended, the King will come, and ride up and down the ranks, and in that day you who have been most battered and most wounded in the battle shall find him pause when he reaches you, and he will fasten on your breast a star that shall be more honor to you than all the Victoria Crosses that have decorated brave men here below. Stars and garters they may have who want them, but blessed are they who shall shine as the stars in the kingdom of our Father! And this honor is to be had by that believer who will faithfully serve his Lord; not by any who merely talk about it, or dream of it, or propose to do it, but to those who serve him by following him this honor shall be given. I have preached all this to God's people, but I have not said anything to you who are not his people. I cannot invite you to his service as you are; how can you serve him while you are his enemies? I do not invite you unconverted people to work for God. Oh, no! he wants no such servants as you are, he will not have rebels in his host. First bow your knee in submission, lay down the weapons of your rebellion; then fly to Christ for mercy, trust in him for forgiveness; and then, but not till then, you may come, and serve him, and follow him, and expect that his Father will honor you as he has promised. God bless you, for Jesu's sake! Amen.
Christ Lifted Up
July 5, 1857
C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
Revised Text copyright © Tony Capoccia, 1999
"I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."- John 12:32
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio CD or MP3:
It was on an extraordinary occasion when the Savior uttered these words. It was the crisis of the world. We very often speak of the "present crisis of the world," and it is very common for persons of every period to believe their own age to be the crisis and turning point of the whole world's history. They correctly imagine that very much of the future depends upon their present exertions; but they wrongly stretch the thought, and imagine that the period of their existence is the very hinge of the history of the world: that it is the crisis.
Now, however it may be correct, in a modified sense, that every period of time is in some sense a crisis, yet there never was a time which could be truly called a crisis, in comparison with the time when our Savior spoke. In the 31st verse, immediately preceding my text, we find in the English translation, "Now is the time for judgment on this world" but we find in the Greek, "Now is the crisis of this world." The world had come to a solemn crisis: now was the great turning point of all the world's history. Should Christ die, or should he not? If he would refuse the bitter cup of agony, the world is doomed, if he would continue onward, do battle with the powers of death and hell! and come off a victor, then the world is blessed, and her future will be glorious. Will he succumb? Then is the world crushed and ruined beneath the trail of the old serpent. Will he conquer? Will he "lead captives in his train and give gifts to men?" Then this world will yet see times when there will be "a new heaven and a new earth, where righteousness will dwell." "Now is the crisis of this world!" "The crisis," Jesus says, "is two-fold. Dealing with Satan and men. I will tell you the result of it. 'The prince of this world be driven out.' Do not fear that hell will conquer. I will cast him out; and, on the other hand do not doubt that I will be victorious over the hearts of men. 'I, when I am lifted up, will draw all men to myself.'" Remembering the occasion upon which these words were uttered, we will now proceed to a discussion of them.
We have three things to notice:
1. Christ crucified, Christ's glory. He calls it a lifting him up.
2. Christ crucified, the minister's theme. It is the minister's business to lift Christ up in the gospel. 3. Christ crucified, the heart's attraction. "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
His own glory-the minister's theme-the heart's attraction.
I. I begin then: CHRIST'S CRUCIFIXION IS CHRIST'S GLORY.
He uses the word "lifted up" to express the manner of his death. "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself. He said this to show the kind of death he was going to die." But notice the choice of the word to express his death. He does not say, I, when I am crucified, I, when I am hung on the tree; no, but "I, when I am lifted up:" and in the Greek there is the meaning of exaltation. "I, when I am exalted-I , when I am lifted up on high." He took the outward and visible fashion of the cross, it being a lifting of him up, to be the type and symbol of the glory with which the cross would give to him. "I, when I am lifted up."
Now, the cross of Christ is Christ's glory.
We will show you how. Man seeks to win his glory by the slaughter of others-Christ by the slaughter of himself: men seek to get crowns of gold-he sought a crown of thorns: men think that glory lies in being exalted over others-Christ thought that his glory lies in becoming "a worm, and not a man; a reproach of men, and despised of the people." He stooped when he conquered; and he counted that the glory lay as much in the stooping as in the conquest.
Christ was first glorified on the cross, because love is always glorious.
If I might prefer any glory, I should ask to be beloved by men. Surely, the greatest glory that a man can have among his fellows is not that of mere admiration, when the throngs stare at him as he passes through the street, riding in his triumph; no the greatest fame, the greatest glory of a patriot is the love of his country-to feel that men and women, young and old, are prepared to fall at his feet in love, to give up all they have to serve him who has served them. Now, Christ won more love by the cross than he ever won elsewhere. O Lord Jesus, you never would have been so much loved, if you had sat in heaven forever, as you are loved now since you have stooped to death. No cherubim, or seraphim, or angels dressed in light, could ever have loved with hearts so warm as your redeemed above, or even your redeemed below. You won more abundant love by the nail than by your scepter. Your open side brought you the fullness of love, for your people love you with all their hearts. Christ won glory by his cross. He was never so lifted up as when he was cast down; and the Christian will bear witness, that though he loves his Master for all that He has done, yet nothing moves his heart to rapture and passion of love, like the story of the crucifixion and the agonies of Calvary.
Again: Christ at the cross won a great deal of glory by fortitude.
The cross was a trial of Christ's fortitude and strength, and it was a garden in which his glory was planted. The laurels of his crown were sown in a soil that was saturated with his own blood. Sometimes the ambitious soldier pants for battle, because in days of peace he cannot distinguish himself. "Here I sit," he says, "and my sword rusts in my scabbard, and I win no glory; let me rush to the cannon's mouth; though some call honor a faded trinket, it may be so, yet I am a soldier, and I want it" and he pants for the encounter that he may win glory. Now, in an infinitely higher sense than that poor glory which the soldier gets, Christ looked upon the cross as being his way to honor. "Oh!" he said, "now will be the time of my endurance: I have suffered much, but I will suffer more, and then will the world see what a strong heart of love I have; how patient is the Lamb, how mighty to endure." Christ would have had such joyous songs of praise and such songs of honor, if he would have avoided the conflict, and the battle, and the agony. We might have blessed him for what he is and for what he wished to do; we might have loved him for the very longings of his heart but we could never have praised him for his strong endurance, for his intrepid spirit, for his unconquerable love, if we had not seen him put to the severe test of crucifixion and the agonies of that awful day. Christ did win the glory by his being crucified.
Again: Christ looked upon his crucifixion as the completion of all his work, and therefore he looked upon it as an exaltation.
The completion of an enterprise is the harvest of its honor. Though thousands have perished in the arctic regions, and have obtained fame for their intrepid conduct, yet, my friends, the man who finally discovers the passage is the one honored most of all; and though we will forever remember those bold men who pushed their way through winter in all its might, and dared the perils of the deep, yet the man who accomplishes the deed wins more than his share of the glory. Surely the accomplishment of an enterprise is just the point where the honor hangs. And, my listeners, Christ longed for the cross, because he looked for it as the goal of all his exertions. It was to be the place upon which he could say, "It is finished." He could never say "It is finished" on his throne: but on his cross he cried it out. He preferred the sufferings of Calvary to the honors of the multitude who crowded around him; for, preach as he might, and bless them as he might, and heal them as he might, still his work was not finished. He was restricted; he had a baptism to be baptized with, and he was restricted until it was accomplished. "But," he said, "now I pant for my cross, for it is the crowning achievement of my labor. I long for my sufferings, because they will be the completion of my great work of grace." Brethren, it is the end that brings the honor; it is the victory that crowns the warrior rather than the battle. And so Christ longed for this, his death, that he might see the completion of his labor. "Yes," he said, "I am crucified, I am exalted, and I am lifted up."
And, once again, Christ looked upon his crucifixion with the eye of firm faith as the hour of triumph.
His disciples thought that the cross would be a degradation; Christ looked through the outward and visible, and beheld the spiritual. "The cross," Jesus said, "the gallows of my doom may seem to be cursed with shame, and the world will stand around and hiss at the crucified; my name will be forever dishonored, by the world, as one who died upon the cross of shame; and critics and scoffers may forever throw this in the teeth of my friends that I died with criminals; but I do not look not at the cross as they do. I know its disgrace, but I do not despise the shame-I am prepared to endure it all. I look upon the cross as the gate of triumph, as the portal of victory. Oh, let me tell you what I will see upon the cross?-just when my eyes are swimming with the last tear, and when my heart is throbbing with its last beat; just when my body is torn with its last pain of anguish, then my eyes will see the head of the dragon broken, it will see hell's towers dismantled and its castle fallen. My eyes will see my elect ones eternally saved, I will see the prisoners of sin and death ransomed and coming from their prisons. In that last moment of my doom, when my mouth is just preparing for its last cry of 'It is finished;' I will see the year of my redeemed come, I will shout my triumph of the delivery of all my beloved! Yes, and I will see then, the world, my own earth conquered, and usurpers all dethroned, and I will see in a vision the glories of the last days, when I will sit upon the throne of my father David and judge the earth, attended with the pomp of angels and the shouts of my beloved!"
Yes, my brothers and sisters, Christ saw in his cross the victories of it, and therefore he panted and longed for it as being the place of victory and the means of conquest. "I," said Jesus, "if I am lifted up, if I am exalted," he puts his crucifixion as being his glory. This is the first point of our text.
II. But, now, secondly, CHRIST HAS ANOTHER LIFTING UP, not disgraceful, but truly honorable; there is a lifting of him upon the pole of the gospel, in the preaching of the Word.
Christ Jesus is to be lifted up every day; for that purpose he came into the world: "Just as Moses lifted up the snake in the desert," even so Jesus might by the preaching of the truth be lifted up, "that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life."
Christ is THE MINISTER'S GREAT THEME, in opposition to a thousand other things which most men choose. I would prefer that the most prominent feature in my ministry should be the preaching of Christ Jesus.
Christ should be most prominent, not hell and damnation.
God's ministers must preach God's terrors as well as God's mercies; we are to preach the thunder of God's law. If men will sin, we are to tell them that they must be punished for it. If they will transgress, woe to the preacher who is ashamed to say, "The Lord will come and punish." We would be unfaithful to the solemn charge which God has given us if we were to wickedly stifle all the threats of God's word. Does God say, "The wicked will be thrown into hell, with all the nations that forget God?" It is our business to say so. Did the loving Savior talk of the pit that burns, of the worm that never dies, and of the fire that can never be extinguished? It is ours responsibility to speak as he spoke, and not to minimize the threat. You do not show mercy to men by hiding their doom.
But, my brethren, terrors never ought to be the prominent feature of a minister's preaching. Many great old preachers thought they would do a great deal of good by preaching like this. I do not believe it. Some souls are awakened and terrified by such preaching; they however, are but few. Sometimes, the solemn and sacred mysteries of eternal wrath must be preached, but more often let us preach the wondrous love of God. There are more souls won by wooing than by threatening. It is not hell, but Christ, we desire to preach. O sinners, we are not afraid to tell you of your doom, but we do not choose to be forever dwelling on that mournful theme. We would rather love to tell you of Christ, and him crucified. We want to have our preaching full of the frankincense of the merits of Christ than of the smoke, and fire, and terrors of Mount Sinai, we have not come to Mount Sinai, but to Mount Zion-where milder words declare the will of God, and rivers of salvation are abundantly flowing.
Again, the theme of a minister should be Christ Jesus in opposition to mere doctrine.
Some of my good brethren are always preaching doctrine. Well, they are right in doing so, but I would not care myself to have as the characteristic of my preaching, doctrine only. I would rather have it said, "He preached mostly upon the person of Christ, and seemed most pleased when he began to tell about the atonement and the sacrifice. He was not ashamed of the doctrines, he was not afraid to declare the coming wrath, but he seemed as if he preached the wrath with tears in his eyes, and the doctrine solemnly as God's own word; but when he preached of Jesus his tongue was set free, and his heart was at liberty."
Brethren, there are some men who preach only doctrine, and they end up damaging God's church rather than bringing it a blessing. I know of men who have set themselves up as umpires over all spirits. They are the men. Wisdom will die with them. If they were taken away the great standard of truth would be removed. We do not wonder that they hate the Pope, two of a trade never agree, for they are far more of a Pope than he, they consider themselves infallible. I am afraid that very much of the soundness of this age, is but a mere sound, and is not real; it does not enter into the center of the heart, nor affect the person. Brethren, we would rather preach Christ than election. We love election, we love predestination, we love the great doctrines of God's word, but we would rather preach Christ than preach these. We desire to put Christ over the head of the doctrine, we make the doctrine the throne for Christ to sit on, but we dare not put Christ at the bottom, and then press him down, and overload him with the doctrines of his own word.
Again, the minister ought to preach Christ in opposition to mere morality.
How many ministers in London could preach as well out of Shakespeare as out the Bible, for all they want is a moral saying. These ministers never thinks of mentioning regeneration. They sometimes talks of moral renovation. They do not think of talking about perseverance by grace. No, continuance in doing good is his perpetual cry. They do not think of preaching "believe and be saved." No; their continual exhortation is, "Good Christian people, say your prayers, and behave well, and by these means you will enter the kingdom of heaven." The sum and substance of their gospel is that we can do very well without Christ, that although certainly there is a little wrong in us, yet if we just mend our ways in some little degree, that old text, "except a man be born again," need not trouble us.
If you want to be become drunkards, if you want to be become dishonest, if you want to be taught every vice in the world, go and hear a moral preacher. These gentlemen, in their attempts to reform and make people moral, are the very men that lead the people away from morality. Listen to the testimony of that holy minister Lavington, "We have long been attempting to reform the nation by moral preaching. With what effect! None. On the contrary, we have skillfully preached the people into downright infidelity. We must change our voice; we must preach Christ and him crucified; nothing but the gospel is the power of God unto salvation."
And yet one more remark. The minister ought to preach Christ in opposition to some who think they ought to preach knowledge.
God forbid we should ever preach against knowledge. The more of it a man can get, the better for him; and the better for his listeners if he has grace enough to use it well, but there are some who have so much of knowledge, that if in the course of their readings they find a very hard word, out comes the pencil: they jot it down, to be glorified in the next Sunday morning's sermon. Do they find some outlandish German expression, which, if pulled to pieces, would mean nothing, but which looks as if it must be something wonderful, that must always come out, even at the expense of the gospel. You ought to pray to God that they may never be allowed to read anything but their Bibles all week long, because then you might hear something you could understand: but this would not suit him, if he could be understood, he would not be a great preacher, for a great preacher, according to the opinion of some, is a man who is called intellectual-that is to say, a man who knows more about the Bible than the Bible knows about itself, a man who can explain all mysteries by mere intellect, who laughs at zeal or passion, or the influence of God's Spirit as being nothing but mere fanaticism. Intellect with him is everything. You sit and hear him, you go out, "Dear me, what a remarkable man he is. I suppose he made something out of the text, but I did not know what it was. He seemed to me to be in a fog himself, although I admit it was an extremely luminous haze." Then people will go again to hear him, because they say he is such a clever man. The only reason is because they cannot understand him.
The other day I was reading a book that was giving advice to ministers, I found it stated, and very seriously too, by some good old tutor of a college, "Always have one part of your sermon which the common people cannot comprehend, because in that way you will have a name for knowledge, and what you say that they can understand, will impress them even more, for by putting in a sentence or two which is incomprehensible, you at once strike their minds as being a superior man, and they believe in the weight and the authority of your knowledge, and therefore, give credence to the rest which they can comprehend."
Now, I contend that is all wrong. Christ does not want us to preach knowledge, but to preach the Word of God in the simplest possible manner. Why, if I could only get the highly refined and educated to listen to me, by preaching to them so that they alone could understand me, well I wouldn't do it. I desire to preach so that the maidservant can understand, that the common laborer can understand, that the poor and illiterate may eagerly listen and gladly receive the word. And note this, there never will be much good come to the ministry until it is simplified, until our brethren learn one language, which they do not seem to know. Latin, Greek, French, Hebrew, and twenty other languages they know. There is one I would recommend to their very serious study-it is called Anglo-Saxon. If they would just try and learn that, it is astonishing what a mighty language they would find it to move the hearts of men. Saxon before every language in the world. When every other has died out for lack of power, Saxon will live, and triumph with its iron tongue, and its voice of steel. We must have the common, plain language in which to address the people. And note this, we must have Christ lifted up, Christ crucified, without the trinkets and trivialities of knowledge, without the trappings of attempted eloquence or rhetoric. If Christ Jesus is seriously preached he will draw all men to himself.
III. NOW WE GO TO THE THIRD POINT, WHICH IS, INDEED, THE ESSENCE OF THE TEXT, THE ATTRACTIVE POWER OF THE CROSS OF CHRIST.
If Christ is preached, fully held up, simply proclaimed to the people, the effect will be, he will draw all men to himself. Now, I will show the attracting power of Christ in various ways. Christ draws like a trumpet attracting men to hear the proclamation. Christ draws like a net bringing men out of the sea of sin. Christ draws, also, with bonds of love. And in the next place, Christ attracts like a banner, bringing all the soldiers around him, and, in the last place, Christ draws like a chariot. "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
First, I said that Christ draws as a trumpet.
Men have often sounded a trumpet to attract an audience to the reading of a proclamation. The people come from their houses at the well-known sound, to listen to what they are to know. Now, my brethren, part of the attractive power of the gospel lies in attracting people to hear it. You cannot expect people to be blessed by the preaching of the gospel if they do not hear it. One part of the battle is to get them to listen to its sound. Now, the question is asked in these times, "How are we to get the working-classes to listen to the word?" The answer is, Christ is his own attraction, Christ is the only trumpet that you need to trumpet Christ. Preach the gospel, and the congregation will come by themselves. The only infallible way of getting a good congregation, is to do this. "Oh!" said a liberal and false preacher once, to a good Christian minister, "I cannot figure it out; my church is always empty, and yours is always crammed full. And yet I am sure that my sermon are more rational in doctrine than yours, and you are not by any means so talented a preacher as I am" "Well," said the other "I will tell you the reason why your church is empty, and mine is full. The people have a conscience, and that conscience tells them that what I preach is true and that what you preach is false, so they will not listen to you."
Brethren, you can look through the history of Christianity ever since the beginning of the days of Protestantism, and I will dare to say, without fear of contradiction, that you will almost in every case find that the men who have attracted the greatest mass of people to hear them, have been men who were the most evangelical-who preached the most about Christ and him crucified. What was there in Whitfield to attract an audience, except the simple gospel preached with a fervent passion. Oh, It was not his ability to preach, but the gospel that drew the people.
There is a something about the truth that always makes it popular. For if you tell me that if a man preaches the truth, that his church will be empty, well, Sir, I defy you to prove that. Christ preached his own truth, and the common people gladly listened to him, and the multitude flocked to listen to him. My good fellow minister, have you got an empty church? Do you want to fill it? I will give you a good receipe, and if you will follow it, you will, in all probability, have your church full to the doors. Burn all your manuscripts, that is No. 1. Give up your notes, that is No. 2. Read your Bible and preach it as you find it in the simplicity of its language. And give up all your hard to understand English phrases. Begin to tell the people what you have felt in your own heart, and beg the Holy Spirit to make your heart as hot as a furnace for zeal. Then go out and talk to the people. Speak to them like their brother. Be a man among men. Tell them what you have felt and what you know, and tell it energetically with a good, bold face; and, my dear friend, I do not care who you are, you will get a congregation. But if you say, "Now, to get a congregation, I must first buy an organ." That will not serve you a bit. "But we must have a good choir." I would not care to have a congregation that comes through a good choir. "No," says another, "but I really must alter my style of preaching a little." My dear friend, it is not the style of preaching, it is the style of feeling. People sometimes begin to mimic other preachers, because they are successful. Why, the worst preachers are those who mimic others, whom they look upon as standards preach naturally. Preach out of your hearts just what you feel to be true, and the old soul-stirring words of the gospel will soon draw a congregation. "Where the body is, there the eagles will be gathered together."
But if it ended there, what good was it? If the congregation came and listened to the sound, and then went away unsaved, what was the use it? But in the next place,
Christ acts as a net to draw men to himself.
The gospel ministry is, in God's Word, compared to the fishing industry; God's ministers are the fishermen, they go to catch souls, as fishermen go to catch fish. How will souls be caught? They will be caught by preaching Christ. Just preach a sermon that is full of Christ, and throw it to your congregation, as you throw a net into the sea-you needn't look where they are, nor try to fit your sermon to different cases; but, throw it in, and as sure as God's Word is what it is, "it will not return to him empty, but will accomplish what he desires and achieve the purpose for which he sent it."
The gospel has never been unsuccessful, when it was preached with the demonstration of the Spirit and of power. It is not fine speeches made at the death of princes, or the movements of politics which will save souls. If we wish to have sinners saved and to have our churches increased in number; if we desire the spread God's kingdom, the only thing which we can hope to accomplish the end, is the lifting up of Christ; for, "I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself."
In the next place, Christ Jesus draws just like the ropes of love.
After men are saved, they are still apt to go astray; they need a rope to reach all the way from the sinner to heaven; and it needs to have a hand pulling at him all the way. Now, Christ Jesus is the hand of love that draws the saint to heaven. O child of God, you would go astray again if Jesus did not hold you tightly; it he did not draw you to himself you would still, still wander. Christian people are like our earth. Our world has two forces, it has one tendency to run off at a tangent from its orbit; but the sun draws it by a centripetal power and attracts it to itself, and so between the two forces it is kept in a perpetual circle. Oh! Christian, you will never walk rightly, and keep in the orbit of truth, if it were not for the influence of Christ perpetually attracting you to the center. You feel it, and if you do not always feel it, it is still there-you feel an attraction between your heart and Christ, and Christ is perpetually drawing you to himself, to his likeness, to his character, to his love, to his bosom, and in that way you are kept from your natural tendency to fly off and to be lost in the wide fields of sin. Bless God, that Christ lifted up draws all his people to him in that fashion.
And now, in the next place Christ Jesus is the center of attraction; even as a banner is the center of gathering.
We want unity in these days; we are now crying out, "away with sectarianism." O for unity! there are some of us who truly pant after it. We do not talk about an evangelical alliance; alliances are made between men of different countries. We believe that the phrase "Evangelical Alliance" is a faulty one-it should be "Evangelical Union"-knit together in Union. Why! I am not in alliance with a brother of the Church of England; I would not be in alliance with him if he was truly a good man! I would be in union with him, I would love him with all my heart, but I would not make a mere alliance with him. He never was my enemy, he never will be; and, therefore, it is not an alliance I want with him-it is a union. And so it is with all God's people, they do not care about alliances; they love real union and communion with one another. Now, what is the right way to bring all the churches to union? "We must revise the prayer book," says one. You may revise it, and revise it as long as ever you like, you will never bring some of us to agree to it, for we hate Prayer Books as such, however near perfection. "Well then, we must revise the doctrines, so that they may satisfy everyone." You cannot; that is impossible. "Well then, we must revise the disciplines." Yes, do that. And then after that, the mass of us will stand as distant as ever. "No," says another, "The answer lies in each of us making mutual concessions." No, that won't do, for if we have to make mutual concessions, who can guarantee that I won't have to concede a part of what I believe to be true? And that I cannot do, nor can my brother on the opposite side.
The only standard of union that can ever be lifted up in England, is the cross of Christ. As soon as we will begin to preach Christ and him crucified, we will be all one. We can fight anywhere except at the foot of the cross-for it is there that the order goes out, "put away your swords;" and those that were bitter combatants before, come and prostrate themselves there, and say, "You dear Redeemer, you have melted us into one." Oh! my brethren, let us all preach the mighty gospel, and there will be union. The only means of unity we will ever get will be all of us preaching Christ crucified; when that is done, when every minister's heart is in the right place, full of anxiety for souls-when every minister feels that, no matter what he is called-all he wants to do is to glorify God and win souls to Jesus, then, my dear friends, we can maintain our denominational distinctions, but the bigotry and division will have ceased and schism will no longer be known. I anxiously pray for that day, may God send it in his own time. As far as I am concerned there is my hand for every minister of God in creation, and my heart with it, I love all them that love the Lord Jesus Christ. And I feel persuaded that the nearer that all of us come to the one point of putting Christ first, Christ last, Christ middle, and Christ without end-the nearer we will come to the unity of the one Church of the Living Christ in the bond of holy permanence.
And now I close by noticing the last sweet thought-"I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to myself." Then Christ Jesus will draw all his people to heaven; he says he will draw them to himself. He is in heaven;
Then Christ is the chariot in which souls are drawn to heaven.
The people of the Lord are on their way to heaven, they are carried in everlasting arms; and those arms are the arms of Christ. Christ is carrying them up to his own house, to his own throne; and in time his prayer-"Father, I want those you have given me to be with me where I am," will be completely fulfilled. And it is being fulfill even now, for he is drawing his children in the chariot of the covenant of grace unto himself. Oh! blessed be God, the cross is the plank on which we swim to heaven; the cross is the great covenant transport which will weather out the storms, and reach its desired haven. This is the chariot, its pillars are made of pure gold, and the bottom of it of silver, it is lined with the purple of the atonement of our Lord Jesus Christ.
And now, poor sinner, I pray to God that God Christ would pardon you. Sinner, remember his death on Calvary, remember his agonies and bloody sweat-all this he did for you; if you feel yourself to be a sinner. Doesn't this draw you to him?
"Though you are guilty he is good,
He'll wash your soul in Jesus' blood."
You have rebelled against him, and revolted, but he says, "Return, faithless people; I will cure you of backsliding." Won't his love draw you? I pray that both his blood and his love may have their power and influence, that you may be drawn to Christ now, and in the end be drawn to heaven. May God give a blessing for Jesus' sake. Amen.
Israel And Britain. A Note of Warning
June 7, 1885
C. H. SPURGEON
"But though he had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not
on him: that the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he
spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the
Lord been revealed? Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias
said again, He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they
should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be
converted, and I should heal them. These things said Esaias, when he saw his
glory, and spake of him."-John 12:37-41 .
The blindness of Israel concerning our Lord was sadly remarkable. It was a
blindness of the eyes, for they saw his many miracles, and yet believed not:
their ears also seemed to be stopped, for they heard his words and did not
understand them; and their hearts also were heavy, for they did not relent
under the plaintive admonitions of a Saviour's love. Their hearts were cruel
towards the Messiah; they hated him without a cause. No door was open to the
heart of Israel; they had hardened their heart, they had shut their eyes,
they had stopped their ears, and even he that spake as never man spake gained
no access to their souls. They went so far as to crucify him, and cried as
they did so, "His blood be on us, and our children,"-words so sadly verified
when Jerusalem was destroyed, and her children slaughtered, sold as slaves,
or scattered to the four corners of the earth. It was indeed, a terrible
blindness which happened unto Israel.
Her rejection of the Lord Jesus is the more amazing because Isaiah gave so
clear an account of the Messiah, and so clearly pictured Jesus of Nazareth.
Descriptions of him could not have been more explicit than were the
prophecies of Isaiah. It would be very easy to construct an entire life of
Christ out of the book of Isaiah, beginning with "a virgin shall conceive and
bear a son, and shall call his name Immanuel," and ending with "he made his
grave with the wicked and with the rich in his death." Isaiah spake of John
the Baptist as the "voice crying in the wilderness, prepare ye the way of the
Lord, make straight in the desert a highway for our God," and he foretold our
Lord's ministry by the way of the sea beyond Jordan in Galilee of the
Gentiles, where the people who sat in darkness saw great light. The prophecy
portrayed his Lord as "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief." Clearest of all is he upon his vicarious sufferings,
concerning which he uses a variety of most definite expressions, such as,-
"The chastisement of our peace was upon him; and with his stripes we are
healed." Isaiah saw so clearly the day of our Lord Jesus that he spake rather
as an evangelist than as a prophet; as an eyewitness, rather than as one
foretelling a far-off event. Yet all this clearness was lost upon the men of
his generation, and upon those who followed after. The nation had so long
been fickle towards God, and had trifled so long with God's truth, that it
was at length given up to a judicial hardness of heart, so that it could not
understand or perceive. They refused the plainest messages of grace, and were
so confirmed in unbelief that all their prophets cried with one plaintive
voice, "Who hath believed our report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord
Nor was it alone grievous that Israel sinned against the light which shone in
Isaiah's testimony; but, alas, she closed her eyes against the meridian
splendour of our Lord's own life. Jesus bore his own witness in his person,
teachings, works, and gifts. A sad wonder lies in the fact, that they did not
know the Lord of glory although they saw his miracles, which were sure
witnesses to his claims. He wrought among them works which none other man
did. There is about our Lord a likeness to God: in all that he does the
Godhead shines forth. He is so pure that he can say, "Which of you convinceth
me of sin?" How like to him who is saluted as "Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of
Hosts!" His teaching is so full of tenderness and gentleness that since God
is love, we conclude that Christ is God. His many miracles touch upon every
point in the great circle of omnipotence. What is there that God can do which
the Christ did not do? Was he not multiform and multitudinous in his works of
power and grace? Herein lay the wonder, that though he did so many miracles
before them, not in secret but actually before their eyes; though he fed them
with bread which they could see, and handle, and eat; though he healed the
sick and raised the dead, they yet believed not on him. How sadly far can men
go in unbelief, prejudice, and hardness of heart! How dim can human eyes
become when men refuse to see! How darkened the understanding when men are
unwilling to comprehend! Let us tremble at this, lest ourselves by imitating
the chosen people in their unbelief should fall into like bondage to
prejudice and ignorance, lest we by tampering with truth should come at last
to be incapable of perceiving it, lest we also by rejecting the testimony of
God should be given up to our own willfulness, to believe a lie and refuse
the truth. Such, then, as Isaiah had foreseen, was the state of Israel in our
Lord's day: never clearer evidence, and never more obstinate refusal to see
it; never truth more plain, and never rejection so determined. Woe to those
who close their ears; for the day cometh when they shall no longer hear! Woe
to those who shut their eyes to the light, for they shall ere long be made
blind! Isaiah was informed that such would be the outcome of his ministry:
the Lord bade him say to the people, "Hear ye indeed, but underststand not;
and see ye indeed, but perceive not." This must have been a very sad business
for so generous and tender-hearted a man of God. It was painful to him to be
so clear and yet to be so little understood. He was the Paul of the Old
Testament; to him belonged fulness of knowledge, clearness of vision,
plainness of speech, and faithfulness of spirit, and yet none of these things
could make the people understand his message and receive it into their
hearts. He was sublime in thought, attractive in word, and affectionate in
spirit, and yet they did not believe his testimony; so that he must often
have been astonished and heart-broken as he spake in vain to a people who
were determined that they would not hear.
This morning I shall draw certain lessons for ourselves from the great
evangelical prophet, his ministry, and the people to whom he ministered so
vainly. Our first meditation shall be concerning Isaiah and his ministry: and
our second shall be concerning the people to whom he spake. Alas! I fear that
we who speak in the name of the Lord in these last days have also to deal
with hearts that are gross, ears that are heavy, and eyes that are dimmed.
Upon this generation also there is falling a measure of judicial withdrawal
of light and discernment; and we also have to cry, "Who hath believed our
report? and to whom is the arm of the Lord revealed?"
I. First, then, let me speak with you CONCERNING ISAIAH AND HIS MINISTRY. Oh,
that the Spirit of God may speak with power through me. Our text says two
things of Isaiah: first, that "he saw his glory," and secondly, that "he
spake of him."
The first statement is that Isaiah saw. Isaiah was a great seer: his prophesy
begins thus,-"The vision of Isaiah the son of Amoz, which he saw concerning
Judah and Jerusalem." All prophets were more or less seers, and saw what they
foretold; but Isaiah above others was endowed with the seeing and foreseeing
faculty. He had the clearest sight, and for that reason he had the clearest
speech. When a man speaks so that you cannot understand him, the usual reason
is that he does not understand himself; and when a man speaks so as to be
readily comprehended, it is because the thought in his own mind is well
defined. He that would speak well must see well. Mark the two things in the
text-"When Isaiah saw his glory, and spake of him."
In what sense is Isaiah said to have seen that which he spake? Does it not
mean that he realized his thoughts? that they stood out vividly, so as to
make a deep impression upon his own mind? Things to come were already come in
his apprehension: he beheld what he believed, he felt what he foretold. He
was not a dreamy person, maundering about half-fashioned, undeveloped
thoughts; but he was a person who knew, and perceived, and felt what he
preached. He saw with his soul what he set forth with his lips.
But what did he see? It is a most important thing that in these days you and
I should see the same, for the same work lies before us among a people who
are a repetition of that disobedient and gainsaying nation. Read, then, with
care the sixth chapter of Isaiah. Open your Bibles and refer to the passage
verse by verse.
First, what Isaiah saw was the Lord sitting upon a throne, high and lifted
up. When the prophet went abroad among the people he heard them speaking
against the Lord God; some contending for our deity and some for another;
some leaning upon an arm of flesh, and others despising the promise of
Jehovah the God of Israel. All this, I say, he saw out of doors, and he was
troubled. But when he went into the sanctuary of God he saw the Lord sitting
upon a throne : still reigning, still glorious, undisturbed by opposition. He
must then have felt like David when he said, "Why do the heathen rage, and
the people imagine a vain thing? The kings of the earth set themselves, and
the rulers take counsel together against the Lord, and against his anointed.
He that sitteth in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in
derision. Yet have I set my king upon my holy hill of Zion." As David saw
Christ upon the throne amid the strirvings of the people, so did Isaiah see
the Lord Jesus, not only upon the lowly mercy-seat, but upon a throne high
and lifted up. I pray you, brethren, settle this in your hearts: our Lord is
highly exalted as Lord of all. When you see evil occurrent, do not imagine
that it defeats the eternal purposes of Jehovah: when you hear blasphemy and
your blood runs cold, do not think that Christ has lost his glory: when men
riot in sin, do not dream that the reins of affairs are out of Jesus' hands;
for still he is "God over all, blessed for ever." My heart exalts this day,
as, by undoubting faith, I am assured that he who died on Calvary is now
exalted on high, far above all principalities and powers. "Thou art the King
of glory, O Christ!" To thee our spirits ascribe infinite honour, world
without end. Though the earth be removed, and the mountains be carried into
the midst of the sea, yet the Lord reigneth. He that died upon the tree is
crowned with majesty, and all the angels of God worship him. "He must reign
till he hath put all enemies under his feet." Let us have no question about
this; for if we have, we shall not be prepared to speak in the Lord's name
with this evil generation. Amid the anarchy of the ages we see the glorious
high throne of our redeeming Lord unmoved, unmovable: this is the rock of our
refuge when the unsettled times rage about us like the waters of the troubled
sea. We cannot be afraid, for Christ is on the throne.
Observe that in Isaiah's vision he not only saw the Lord "upon a throne high
and lifted up," but he saw that "his train filled the temple." so that in
that temple there was room for no one else. The robes of this great King
filled all the holy place; and neither priests nor offerers could there find
standing room. It is a great thing to see how Jesus fills the heavenly
places; in him dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead. Let it be
acknowledged to be so in heaven, for the glory of our Redeemer fills every
street of the upper city, every mansion of the Father's house. In the church
below, which is also his temple, among his spiritual people, the glory of the
Lord Jesus engages and occupies every heart. They feel that there is none
other in whom they can trust, none other whose words they will receive, none
other in whom they glory; the Lord Christ is all in all to us, and we know no
other Master or Saviour. His train fills the temple. I trust it is so among
us. From Sabbath to Sabbath the one glory of this Tabernacle is the person
and work of Jesus. What a glory hath God put upon the Only Begotten Son, whom
he hath raised from the dead that he should be head over all things to his
church, which he fills with his life, light, and love. Nor may we forget that
all the things that exist are in a sense his temple, and the whole universe
is filled with his train; for "he hath ascended up far above all heavens that
he might fill all things." Glory be unto our ascended and reigning Lord.
In this vision Isaiah saw the flaming spirits that wait upon Christ of God.
He calls them "seraphims." The best interpretation we can give is "burning
ones:" they burn in the sense of consuming. They burn up that which ought to
be consumed, namely, all kinds of evil. There are powers around our Lord
which will destroy evil. You ask me to tell you something about these
seraphim; how can I? They have covered their faces, and covered their feet.
Since nothing is to be seen, what can I tell you? Neither would it be right
for us to speak concerning them, for manifestly it is their desire to be
hidden. Who will violate their wish to be concealed? They covered their
faces, they covered their feet, and therein they did as good as they say,
"Look not on us, but look on him who sits upon the throne, whose attendants
we are." This much is all we know,-exalted intelligences are in waiting upon
our Lord, and are able to fly swiftly at his bidding. Tremble not concerning
this error, or that, it shall be burnt up by those agencies which are at the
command of our exalted Lord. Spirits from God shall run to and fro, and
smite, as with the fire of God, those powers of darkness which now oppress
our race. God himself is a consuming fire: who can dwell with him but those
that are like him? He maketh his ministers a flame of fire. Around our Lord
are the chariots of God, which are twenty thousand, even thousands of angels.
His power knows no limit. His word runneth very swiftly; he speaks, and it is
done; he commands, and it stands fast. Glory be unto thee, O Christ! We will
not fear nor be discouraged, since these thy servants are ready to flame
forth at thy bidding. Truly thou art Jehovah of hosts.
This vision of the body-guard of the Prince of peace was enough to strengthen
Isaiah: thus comforted, he would calmly confront that rebellious generation.
If the prophet, when he opened the young man's eyes strengthened his heart by
making him see horses and chariots of fire round about Elisha, shall not we
be comforted as we behold legions of burning ones surrounding our King, and
standing ready to fulfil his decrees?
Further, we find that Isaiah saw in that vision the perpetual adoration which
is rendered unto Christ concerning his holiness. Those bright spirits had
never tasted of his mercy, for they had never sinned: they understood nothing
of his grace, for they had not been guilty; but being pure in heart they
gazed on the Lord with opened eye and adored his holiness. Their whole souls
were filled with the contemplation of that one all-embracing attribute; and
in responsive song they said each one to his fellow, "Holy, holy, holy, is
the Lord of hosts." They emphasized their words by repeating them three
times; and perhaps they alluded also to the Trinity in Unity as they cried,
"Holy, holy, holy." This is the supreme glory of Christ, that in him is seen
the holiness of God. Oh my friends, let us be like these seraphim, ravished
with the holiness of the atonement, awe-struck with the justice of God in the
great sacrifice. Reflect with reverence that God when he willed to save his
elect would not commit a breach upon his laws; though he would redeem them
from going down into the pit, yet he would not violate his word, nor change
that most righteous penalty of death, which is the due desert of sin. Rather
than stain his holiness he spared not his own Son, but freely delivered him
up for us all. Consider the great love of holiness which must have been in
the heart of the Father, that he would give up his Son to bleed sooner than
his law should be dishonoured; and think of the great holiness of Christ,
that he would rather give his back to the smiters and his cheeks to them that
pluck off the hair, yea, rather stretch out his hands to the nails and expire
forsaken of his God, than suffer sin to go unpunished. God would not even for
mercy's sake issue an unjust pardon to the souls he loved.
As I stand here this morning I also have visions of God, and the cross seems
to me transformed into a burning throne, whereon justice is high and lifted
up to the uttermost, as I see God himself in Christ Jesus bowing his head to
death, that he might be just, and yet the Justifier of him that believeth.
Around that cross I see troops of angels gathering, and I hear one crying
unto another and saying, "Holy, holy, holy, is Jehovah Jesus, the great
sacrifice for sin." Do you not unite in their reverent homage? If you do you
will go forth and tell of pardon bought with blood, and of the atonement
finished once for all. With hallowed confidence you will tell it out among
the people that the holy Lord reigneth from the tree, until all creatures
fall down and worship him that was slain, because his holiness was thereby
revealed in noonday splendour.
This was not all that was revealed to the prophet; for he heard the seraphim
say, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts; the whole earth is full of his
glory." Even when men rejected Christ, even when hearts were fat, and eyes
were dim, and ears were heavy, even then the whole earth was full of the
glory of Christ. When scientists tell us that they cannot see God, I am
amazed. To me it is impossible not to see him. Though I cannot pry with the
scalpel into the anatomy of the human frame, yet when I look upon the mere
skin of the human countenance I see the handiwork of God. Though I cannot dig
into the lower strata of the earth and disentomb the fossil and decipher its
stone preserved memorial, yet to me rock, and clay, and sand, and relic of
the past, bear the sure hieroglyph of God. Though I cannot inform you of all
the interesting details of insect life, or descant upon the secrets of
botany, yet to me bees bring honeyed thoughts of God, and flowers breathe the
perfume of his love. Where is God? Say rather, Where is he not? Not with
these grosser senses, but by higher faculties I see and hear my God; yea, he
doth surround me, and my faith embraceth him. I am no fool for this; the best
authority declares that he is the fool who saith in his heart "There is no
God." Yes, the whole earth is full of the glory of Christ, and above the
earth in every cloud it is seen, and above the cloud every star shines out
concerning him. Alas, for the blind-eyes that cannot see that which is
evidently set forth in every place. Alas for the ears which cannot hear when
earth, and sea, and heaven, and hell, are all echoing to the tread of the
Omnipotent Christ of God. Oh brethren, have you ever seen this vision, have
you ever seen God's glory filling the whole earth? If so, you are prepared
for the times that are and are to be times of gloom, and darkness, and sin,
and blasphemy-and yet your heart does not tremble for the ark of the Lord.
When all this was seen of the prophet, he noted that the posts of the doors
moved. If I am rightly informed, there were two huge columns before the
temple called Jachin and Boaz. These were made with singular skill, and were
the wonder of the age. They were of brass, cast by Solomon; but in the course
of ages they had no doubt mellowed into bronze, and there they stood, two
tremendous erections, upbearing massive doors. We are told, I know not
whether it be correct, that the gates that swung upon these columns required
at least twenty men either to open or to shut them; but as the prophet saw
that vision he noticed that these massive columns trembled, and thus did
obeisance to the God who was within their gates. Our Revised Version reads
it, "The foundations of the thresholds were moved." Even to its foundations
the house trembled with solemn awe of the divine presence. Brethren, heaven,
and earth, and hell, and all created things reflect the glory of the Lord,
and thus adore him. Oh Lord Jesus, thou art worthy of all honour. "All the
earth doth worship thee." If it was so with posts and doors, shall not our
hearts rejoice with trembling? shall not our souls be moved in the presence
of the Most High? and will we not fall down before the glorified Christ, as
John did, who wrote, "When I saw him I fell at his feet as dead?" Everything
is filled with awe in his majestic presence, save only man, the impious rebel
who dares defy his God.
Then came the best part of the vision for Isaiah. At the glorious sight, he
felt, "Woe is me, for I am undone, I am stricken dumb. I can never speak
again, for my lips are unclean, and I dwell among an unclean people." Then,
swift as lightning flew a seraph, bringing a coal more burning than himself
from off the altar of sacrifice, wherewith he touched the prophet's lip.
Beloved, this is what we need. We need to feel the atonement laid home to us,
to feel the power of the great sacrifice of Christ, to hear a voice saying
within our spirit, "Thine iniquity is put away, and thy sin is purged."
Though that live coal must have blistered the lip which it covered, yet it
made it eloquent. Common fire would destroy the organs of speech, but the
fire of sacrifice does not so, but it unlooses a grateful tongue, and helps a
grateful heart to tell the love immense, unsearchable, which offered itself
upon the altar of sacrifice, that holiness and love might save the sinner.
Our peace comes from the Holy, Holy, Holy One, who is just, and yet forgives
his people's sin. Brother, if you are to proclaim the glory of your Lord, you
must feel the sacrificial coal applied to the place where your impurity is
most seen, even to your lips; you must know that you are forgiven; for your
conviction that you are clean before God will give you confidence in telling
out to others the story of the cross. This is what Isaiah saw.
Listen for a minute to that further word that follows:-Isaiah when he saw his
glory "spake of him." He that hath seen this sight must speak.
He spake in deep humility. Never braver man than Isaiah, but never one who
walked in lowlier reverence before his God. He never forgot to his dying day
that "woe is me! for I have seen the King, the Lord of hosts."
Yet, observe that he spake with very willing obedience. "Here am I," he said,
"send me." He offers himself to be God's mouth to the people, whatever the
message may be. He seems to say, "Here am I in the entirety of my being,
purchased to thee by thy great pardoning love; use me as thou wilt, and send
me where thou wilt." He continued to report his Lord's message under constant
rebuffs, and despite the ceaseless obduracy of Israel. Though he cried, "Who
hath believed our report?" yet he continued that report. That chapter which
begins with his complaint, has in it not only a continuation of the report,
but a fuller version of it than he had ever given before. He was sad but
resolute, grieved yet persevering, broken in heart, but not broken down in
constancy. Brethren, it needs great grace to go upon a fruitless errand. One
had need see the glory of the Lord to be enabled to fight a losing battle. I
am sometimes afraid that I have to do this myself; but if it be so, it is not
ours to bargain for success, but to yield implicit obedience. It is ours to
abide faithful to our commission, whether men will hear or whether they will
forbear. Brethren, be it ours to serve the Lord gladly, and testify to what
we have seen, even though no man should receive our witness.
But then it is said of Isaiah that he "spake of him," that is, of our Lord
Jesus Christ. In all that Isaiah said he had an eye to Christ. It was all his
business among men to speak of the glories of the coming Son of God. May the
Lord give us such a sight of Christ in his glory that from this day forth we
shall be absorbed in glorifying him. May our life be a perpetual ministry
concerning Christ. Remember that word concerning John the Baptist, "John did
no miracle, but all things that John spake of this man were true." If we can
do no miracle and achieve no success, let us at least cry without ceasing.
"Behold the Lamb of God." Though we decrease, it matters not so long as he
doth increase; we are glad to disappear, as the morning star is lost at the
rising of the sun. It is our delight to imitate the seraphim, and with veiled
face and covered feet to attend about the throne of Jehovah Jesus our Lord.
II. I now ask your kind attention to the second part of my subject, which is
a very painful one, CONCERNING THE NATION TO WHICH ISAIAH SPAKE. Their
terrible sin lay in this, that they were willingly blinded by the light which
ought to have been to them a help to see Christ, and they were hardened by
those very truths which ought to have melted them. They became more and more
adverse to Christ through beholding in him such a character as ought to have
won their hearts. To the prophet's teaching they were entirely dead. A
specimen of this we find in the succeeding chapters of Isaiah. Israel and
Syria attacked Ahaz, whose reign followed those of Uzziah and Jotham. The
prophet came and said to Ahaz, "Take heed, and be quiet; fear not, neither
fainthearted for the two tails of these smoking firebrands." Ahaz was assured
that God would help him if he would but trust in him; but instead of doing
so, the king determined to petition for the help of the great king of
Assyria, with the result in the long run that "the king of Assyria came unto
him and distressed him, but helped him not." Isaiah, to confirm his message,
bade the king choose any sign either in the depth or in the height above; but
the infidel king replied, "I will not ask, neither will I test Jehovah." He
had so defiantly cast off allegiance to the true God that he would not even
accept a sign, though it was left to his own choice. Thus Isaiah's message
was rejected though put in the most winning form, for the hearts of the
people were blinded and hardened so as to choose the way of destruction.
Ultimately, as you know, the Assyrians carried the whole people away; for
they had rejected God's message willfully, and wrath came upon them. What a
grievous task to be called to preach to such a people!
They went on from bad to worse as a nation; they turned aside grievously, but
not in heart, so that when Christ came they were unable to discern him, for
had they known him they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. This
blindness was in part a punishment for their long rebellion. If men willfully
shut their eyes, do you wonder that they become blind? If men will not hear,
do you wonder that they grow deaf? He that perverts truth shall soon be
incapable of knowing the true from the false. If you persist in wearing
glasses that distort, everything will be distorted to you.
"Hear the just law, the judgment of the skies!
He that hates truth shall be the dupe of lies."
But although this blindness was a punishment for former sin, it was itself a
sin. They willfully rejected the testimony of God against themselves; they
refused the self-evident Christ who would so greatly have blessed them. This
wilful rejection was carried out so effectually that it became impossible to
convert and heal them; they could not be instructed, or reformed, and
therefore they were given over to destruction. Nothing remained but to allow
the Romans to burn the temple and plough the site of the city. It was a
dreadful thing that they should deliberately choose destruction, and
obstinately involve themselves in the most tremendous of woes. Poor Israel,
we pity thee! It was sad indeed to fall from so great a height! Yet we are
bound to admit that God dealt with thee justly, for thou didst choose thine
own delusions. The Lord cries, "Oh that my people had harkened unto me." Our
Saviour weeps and cries, "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have
gathered thy children together, even as a hen gathereth her chickens under
her wings, but ye would not! Behold, your house is left unto you desolate."
What I have to say this morning is this-that I am growingly fearful lest our
own country should furnish a parallel to all this. Read the story of England,
beginning where you will, and see how gracious God has been to us. Note well
our great deliverances, from the destruction of the Spanish Armada to the
overthrow of Napoleon. Do not forget how often this little country has been
made victorious in wars against great peoples, who thought to swallow her up.
Then reflect how God sent the light to us; how the gospel spread all over
England, and how it has in many ways been rejected. How often since the days
of Cromwell Rome has been allowed to dim the light of our Protestantism, and
how it labours to do so still! See how this people have received the truth of
heaven, but again and again have proved false to it, turning at one time to
superstition and at another time to infidelity. At this moment we are rich,
and despite depression in business, we are less tried by it than any other
nation. And what comes of all this mercy but increased sin? Why, at this
moment we have sin rampant among us almost beyond precedent. Think how the
poor are oppressed and ground down with awful poverty in many parts of this
great city. Shall not God avenge the cry of starving women? Worse still, if
worse can be: those who dare walk our streets after sundown tell us that
Sodom, in its most putrid days, could scarce exceed this metropolis for open
vice. To our infinite disgust and horror, the names of certain of the
greatest in the land are at this hour openly mentioned in connection with the
filthiest debauchery. This is not the place for details, nor can I mention
the matter, or even think of it without feeling my very soul on fire.
Faithfulness requires plain speech; but it is a hideous evil that the dregs
of vice should be the chosen luxury of certain of our hereditary legislators
and rulers. Woe unto thee, Oh land, when thy great ones love the harlot's
house! Deep is our shame when we know that our judges are not clear in this
matter, but social purity has been put to the blush by magistrates of no mean
degree; yea, it is said that the courts of justice have lent themselves to
the covering and hushing up of the iniquities of the great. Shall not God be
grieved by such a nation as this? He who has read a certain story, which is
but too-well known, must have felt his ears tingle and his heart tremble.
What is coming over us? What horrible clouds are darkening our skies? There
were judges once who would not have suffered the laws to be trampled on by
the great, but would have dealt out equal justice to rich and poor: I cannot
persuade myself that it will be otherwise now, and yet I fear the worst. O
God, have mercy upon the land whose judgment-seats and palaces are defiled
This is not all: a general indifference to all religion is creeping over the
country; at least over this vast metropolis. Ask those who visit from door to
door among our crowded populations, and they will tell you that never before
in their life-time were there so few persons attendant upon the means of
grace. Street after street of this city scarcely possesses more than one
regular attendant upon the preaching of the word. The Sabbath is no longer a
day of worship with millions. What continual efforts are made to rob us of
the Sabbath-day; to degrade it into a common work-day, and to make a slave of
the working-man. To-day the revelation of God is treated with indifference,
or talked of as if it deserved no reverence or credit. Unbelief has sapped
the foundations of the social fabric. Worst of all,-I must not hold back the
charge, many of the avowed ministers of Christ are no ministers of faith at
all, but promoters of unbelief. The modern pulpit has taught men to be
infidels. What truth is there which has not been doubted by divines,
questioned by doctors of divinity, and at length been denounced by the
priests of "modern thought?" Nothing remains upon which a certain school of
preachers have not spit their scepticism. The experience of the unbelief of
Germany is being repeated here. Among those who are ordained to be the
preachers of the gospel of Christ, there are many who preach not faith but
doubt, and hence they are servants of the devil rather than of the Lord.
Think not that I am aiming at the Church of England. With all my objection to
a state-church, I am not so unjust as to conceal my belief, that I see in the
Episcopal Church at this time less of unbelief than among certain Dissenters:
in fact, Nonconformity in certain quarters is eaten through and through with
a covert Unitarianism, less tolerable than Unitarianism itself. So frequently
are the fundamental doctrines of the gospel assailed, that it becomes
needful, before you cross the threshold of many a chapel, to ask the
question, "Shall I hear the gospel here to-day, or shall I come out hardly
knowing whether the Bible is inspired or not? Shall I not be made to doubt
the atonement, the work of the Holy Ghost, the immortality of the soul, the
punishment of the wicked, or the deity of Christ?"
I know I shall stir a hornet's nest by these honest rebukes but I cannot help
it. I am burdened and distressed with the state of religion; a pest is in the
air; no truth is safe from its withering infection. No signs can be more
alarming than the growing infidelity and worldliness which I see among those
who call themselves Christians. Does this nation really intend to cast off
the fear of God and the doctrines of Holy Scripture to follow the vain
imaginings of the sophists and the fashionable follies of the great? Are we
to see again unbelief and luxurious sin walking hand in hand? If so, there be
some of us who mean to take up our sorrowful parable, and speak as plainly as
we can for truth and holiness, whether we offend or please. Be it ours still
to thunder out the law of God, and proclaim with trumpet clearness the gospel
of Jesus, not bating one jot of firm belief in the revelation of God, nor
winking at sin, nor toning down truth, even though we fear that the only
result will be to make this people's hearts gross, and their ears heavy, and
their eyes blind. If it must be so, my soul shall weep in secret; but still,
Oh Lord, here am I, send me. Be of good courage, Oh my heart, for the
faithful have not ceased from among men; other voices will cry aloud and
spare not, if haply our land may be purged of its present defilement.
Hearken yet again while I press this subject personally home to you. Has not
this word a personal bearing upon some of you? Certain of you have heard the
gospel preached plainly and honestly, and yet you have never received it: is
there not creeping over you a fatal indifference? Are not your hearts turning
to stone? Possibly you are professors of religion, and yet you do not feel
the power of it; what does this mean? If you are not a praying people, nor a
holy people, and yet you are a professing people, what an awful doom awaits
you! Shall my ministry be a savour of death unto you? It may be that my voice
grows stale to you, and what I say seems common-place: but is this to be the
reason for your refusing Christ and his salvation, refusing the power of his
word, refusing holiness which we would work in you? Oh, shall it be so? Will
you die? Dear hearers, I should not like to meet one of you at that day of
judgment and have to feel that I preached you into a greater blindness than
you might have known. Oh, be converted! Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die?
May God in infinite mercy speak to you that you may believe in Jesus now,
lest that should come upon you which is spoken of by the prophet, "Behold, ye
despisers, and wonder, and perish!"
Ere I have done, hear the sweet whisper which closes the sixth of Isaiah.
Notwithstanding all the terrible work that Isaiah had to do he was not left
without comfort; the Lord said to him, "In it there shall be a tenth." You
know how the prophet cried, "Except the Lord of hosts had left us a seed we
had been as Sodoma, and been made like unto Gomorrah." The Lord has his
sacred tithe and these he will not lose. The tree has lost its leaves, for it
is winter time; but still it is alive, and the sap will flow again, for its
substance is in it! The tree is leveled by the axe; but weep not despairing
tears, for it shall sprout again, for life is still in it. Even so the Church
must live; truth must be victorious; purity must conquer, the Christ must
reign. Behold, he cometh with clouds, and every eye shall see him. Reject
Christ if you will to-day, Oh ye who think yourselves so exceeding wise, but
there is a people who love him, a secret people who cling to him; and when he
comes, as come he must ere long, they will welcome him and partake in his
glory. As for you that refuse him this day, how will you stand when he
appeareth? Whither will you flee? You shall ask the hills to cover you, but
they will refuse. You shall bid the mountains hide you, but they will not
yield a cavern for your shelter. Be wise now, therefore, and no more resist
your Lord. "Kiss the Son lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way while
his wrath is kindled but a little. Blessed are all they that put their trust
in him!" May you and I and all of us be of that blessed number. Amen and
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 12". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17