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The Secret Power in Prayer January 8, 1888 by
C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
© Copyright 2002 by Tony Capoccia. This updated file may be freely copied, printed out, and distributed as long as copyright and source statements remain intact, and that it is not sold. All rights reserved.
Verses quoted, unless otherwise noted, are taken from the HOLY BIBLE: NEW INTERNATIONAL VERSION © 1978 by the New York Bible Society, used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers.
“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”--John 15:7
Beloved, the gifts of grace are not immediately enjoyed by new believers. Coming to Christ, we are saved by a true union with him; but it is by remaining in that union that we further receive the purity, the joy, the power, and the blessedness, which are stored up in him for his people. Notice how our Lord states this when he speaks to the believing Jews in the eighth chapter of this gospel, at the thirty-first and thirty-second verses, “To the Jews who had believed him, Jesus said, ‘If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples. Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free." We do not know all the truth at once: we learn it by remaining in Jesus. Perseverance in grace is an educational process by which we fully learn the truth. The emancipating power of that truth is also gradually perceived and enjoyed. “The truth will set you free.” One chain after another breaks, and we are truly set free. You that are new to the Christian life may be encouraged to know that there is still something better for you: you have not yet received the full reward for your faith. You will have joyful views of heavenly things as you climb the hill of spiritual experience. As you remain in Christ you will have firmer confidence, richer joy, greater stability, more communion with Jesus, and greater delight in the Lord your God. Infancy is troubled with many evils and problems from which manhood is exempt: it is the same in the spiritual as in the natural world.
There are these degrees of attainment among believers, and the Savior here motivates us to reach a high position by mentioning a certain privilege which is not for everyone who says that they are in Christ, but for only those who remain in him. Every believer must remain in Christ, but many have hardly earned the name yet. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” You have to live with Christ to know him, and the longer you live with him the more will you admire and adore him; yes, and the more will you receive from him, grace for grace. Truly, for the person who is only a month old in grace, Christ is most blessed; but these babes can hardly tell what a precious Jesus he is to those who have known him for nearly half a century! To them Jesus grows sweeter and dearer, fairer and lovelier, day by day. Not that he improves in himself, for he is perfect; but that as we increase in our knowledge of him, we appreciate more thoroughly his unparalleled majesty and excellence. How vividly do his old acquaintances exclaim, “He is altogether lovely!” Oh, that we may continue to grow in knowledge of him in all things who is our master, so that we may treasure him more and more!
I ask for your serious attention to our text, begging you to consider with me three questions.
1. First, what is this special blessing? “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
2. Secondly, how is this special blessing obtained? “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.”
3. Then, thirdly, why is it obtained in this way? Why is it that by remaining in Christ, and having his words remain in us, that we get this liberty and power in prayer?
Oh, that the anointing of the Holy Spirit which remains on us may now make this subject very profitable to us!
I. WHAT IS THIS SPECIAL BLESSING?
Let us read the verse again. Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Observe that our Lord has been warning us that, without him, we can do nothing, and, therefore, we might naturally have expected that he would now show us how we can do all spiritual acts. But the text does not run as we would have expected it to run. The Lord Jesus does not say, “Without me you can do nothing, but, if you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do all spiritual and gracious things.” He doesn’t speak of what they themselves would be enabled to do, but of what would be given to them: “it will be given you.” He does not say, “Sufficient strength will be given to you for all those holy deeds of which you are incapable of apart from me.” That would have been true, and it is the truth which we expected here; but our most wise Lord goes well beyond what our hearts might have expected and says something even better. He does not say, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, you will do spiritual things”; but rather, “ask whatever you wish.” By prayer you will be enabled to do spiritual acts; but before all attempts to do them, “ask whatever you wish.” The choice privilege given here is a promise of powerful and successful prayers. Power in prayer is very much the gauge of our spiritual condition; and when that is highly evident in our lives, then we are blessed in every area of our lives.
One of the first results, then, of our remaining in Christ will be that we will pray to Him, “asking him whatever we wish.”
If others neither seek, nor knock, nor ask, yet we will. Those who stay away from Jesus do not pray. Those who neglect to have communion with Christ feel as if they are unable to pray; but Jesus says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” Prayer is spontaneous to those who remain in Jesus. Prayer is the natural outflow of a soul in communion with Jesus. Just as the leaf and the fruit will come out of the branch, without any conscious effort on the part of the branch, but simply because of its living union with the stem, so prayer buds, and blossoms, and fruits come out of souls remaining in Jesus. Just like stars shine, so do those who remain in Christ pray. It is their purpose and their second nature. They do not say to themselves, “Now it is the time for us to do our duty and pray.” No, they pray just like men eat, namely, when the desire comes upon them. They don’t cry out like those in bondage, saying, “I should be in prayer right now, but I do not feel like it. What a burden it is!” Rather they are happy and rejoice to go to the mercy-seat. Hearts that remain in Christ send forth supplications just like fires send out flames and sparks. Souls that remain in Jesus begin the day with prayer; prayer surrounds them like an atmosphere all day long; at night they fall asleep praying. I have known them to even dream a prayer, and, at any rate, they are joyfully able to say, “When I awake, I am still with you.” Habitual asking comes from remaining in Christ. You will not need to be urged to prayer when you remain in Jesus: he says, “Ask whatever you wish;” and depend on it, you will.
Another result of our remaining in Christ will be that we will most powerfully feel the necessity of prayer. Our great need of prayer will be clearly seen.
Do I hear you say, “I thought we have attained everything when we remain in Christ and his words remain in us?” Far from being satisfied with ourselves; it is then that we feel more than ever that we must ask for more grace. He that knows Christ best, knows his own needs best. He that is most conscious of life in Christ, is also most convinced of his own death apart from Christ. He who most clearly discerns the perfect character of Jesus, will be most urgent in prayer for grace to grow like him. The more I seek to remain in my Lord, the more I desire to obtain from him, since I know that all that is in him is put there for the purpose that I may receive it. The Bible says, “From the fullness of his grace we have all received one blessing after another” [John 1:16 ]. It is in direct proportion as we are linked to Christ’s fullness that we feel the necessity of drawing from it by constant prayer.
Nobody needs to prove the doctrine of prayer to someone who remains in Christ, for we enjoy the personal experience of prayer itself. Prayer is now as much a necessity to our spiritual life as breath is to our natural life: we cannot live without asking favors from the Lord. “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish”: and you will not want to stop asking. He has said, “Seek my face,” and your heart will answer, “Lord, I will seek your face.”
We note next, that the fruit of our remaining in Christ is not only the exercise of prayer, and a sense of the necessity of prayer, but it also includes liberty in prayer: “ask whatever you wish.”
Haven’t you been on your knees at times without any power to pray? Haven’t you felt that you could not plead with God as you desired? You wanted to pray, but the waters were frozen, and would not flow. Sadly, you said, “I can’t pray.” The will was present, but not the freedom to present that will in prayer.
Dear friends, do you desire freedom in prayer, so that you may speak with God as a man speaks with his friend? Then here is the way to do it: “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish.” I don’t mean that you will gain freedom as to mere eloquence of speech, for that is a very inferior gift. Eloquence in prayer is a questionable endowment, especially when it does not include the weight of thought and depth of feeling. Some Christians pray long prayers; but true prayer is measured by weight, and not by length. A single groan before God may have more fullness of prayer in it than a fine discourse of great length. Whoever dwells with God in Christ Jesus, they are the ones most active in prayer. They come boldly because they remain at the throne. They see the golden scepter stretched out, and hears the King saying, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is the person who remains in conscious union with their Lord who has the greatest freedom in prayer. It is easy for them to often come to Christ, for they are in Christ, and remain in him. Don’t attempt to exercise this holy freedom by excitement, or presumption: there is only one way of really obtaining it, and here it is--“If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish” Only by this way will you be enabled to open your mouth wide, so that God may fill it. Thus you will have power with God.
This is not all: those that remain in Christ have the privilege of successful prayer. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
You can’t get it on your own, but it will be given to you. You long to bear fruit: ask, and it will be given you. Look at the vine branch. It simply remains in the vine, and by remaining in the vine the fruit comes from it; it is given to it. Brothers and Sisters in Christ, the purpose of your life, its one object and aim, is to bear fruit to the glory of the Father: to gain this end you must remain in Christ, as the branch remains in the vine. This is the method by which your prayer for fruitfulness will become successful, “it will be given you.” You will have wonderful power with God in prayer, insomuch that before you pray he will answer, and while you are still speaking he will hear. “The desire of the righteous will be granted.” “Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart” [Psalms 37:4 ]. There is great latitude in our text, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The Lord gives carte blanche to those who remain in him. He puts into their hand a signed check, and permits them to fill in any amount they wish.
Does the text mean what it says? I never knew my Lord to say anything he did not mean. I am sure that he may sometimes mean more than we understand him to say, but he never means less. Mind you, he does not say to all men and women, “I will give you whatever you ask.” Oh no, that would be a cruel kindness: but he speaks to his disciples, and says, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” It is to a certain class of men and women who have already received abundant grace at his hands--it is to them that he gives this marvelous power of prayer. O my dear friends, if I may earnestly desire one thing above every other, it is this; that I may be able to ask what I wish of the Lord, and have it given to me. The minister who is diligent in prayer is the man that will find success in his preaching, for he should be able to prevail with man for God when he has already prevailed with God for men. This is also true for the man facing difficulties in any line of business; for what can baffle him when he can take everything to God in prayer? This kind of man or woman in a church, is worth ten thousand of us common people. In these we find the nobility of the skies. In these are the men and women in whom is fulfilled God’s purpose concerning mankind, whom he made to have dominion over his creation. The stamp of sovereignty is on the foreheads of these men and women: they shape the history of the nations, they guide the current of events through their power in prayer with the Almighty God. We see Jesus with all things put under him by the divine purpose, and as we rise into that image, we too are clothed with dominion, and are made kings and priests unto God. See Elijah, with the keys of the rain swinging at his side: he shuts or opens the windows of heaven! There are such men and women still alive today. Aspire to be such men and women, I beg you, that in you, the text may be fulfilled. “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Additionally, the text seems to imply that, if we reach this point of freedom in prayer, this gift will be continual: “Ask,” you will always ask; you will never stop asking, but you will ask successfully, for “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Here we have the gift of continual prayer.
This prevailing power in prayer is not just for a week of prayer, nor for a month of prayer, nor just for a few special occasions; but you will possess this power with God as long as you remain in Christ, and his words remain in you--read the Bible, memorize Scripture, love the Word, love Christ with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength! God will put his omnipotence at your disposal: The entire Trinity will be available to fulfill the desires which the Holy Spirit has planted in you. I wish I could make this jewel glitter before the eyes of all the saints till they cried out, “Oh that we had such power in prayer!” This power in prayer is like the sword of Goliath: may every David say, “There is none like it; give it me.”
This weapon of prevailing prayer defeats the enemy, and, at the same time, enriches its possessor with all the wealth of God. How can anyone lack anything to whom the Lord has said, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”? Oh, come, let us seek this blessing. Listen, and learn the way. Follow me, while by the light of the text I point out the path. May the Lord lead us in it by his Holy Spirit!
II. How does one obtain the privilege of having powerful prayers? The answer is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Here are the two feet by which we climb to power with God in prayer.
Beloved, the first part of our text tells us that we are to remain in Christ Jesus our Lord. It is taken for granted that we are already in him. Can it be taken for granted in your case too, dear listener? If so, you are to remain where you are. As believers we are to remain tenaciously clinging to Jesus, lovingly knit to Jesus.
We are to remain in him, by always trusting him, and him only, with the same simple faith which joined us to him in the beginning.
We must never admit any other thing or person into our heart’s confidence as our hope of salvation, but rest alone in Jesus as we received him at the first. His divinity, his manhood, his life, his death, his resurrection, his glory at the right hand of the Father--in a word, Jesus himself must be our heart’s sole reliance. This is absolutely essential. A temporary faith will not save: a continuing faith is needed.
But remaining in the Lord Jesus does not only mean trusting in him; it includes our yielding ourselves up to him to receive his life, and to let that life work out its results in us.
We remain in him when we live by him, for him, and to him. We feel that all our separate life has gone: for “we have died, and our life is now hidden with Christ in God.” [Colossians 3:3 ] We are nothing if we do not remain in Jesus; we would be withered branches, and fit only to be thrown into the fire. We have no reason for existence except that which we find in Christ; and what a marvelous reason that is! The vine needs the branch as truly as the branch needs the vine. No vine ever bore any fruit except on its branches. Truly it produces all the branches, and so produces all the fruit; but yet it is by the branch that the vine displays its fruitfulness. Thus believers that remain in Christ are necessary to the fulfillment of their Lord’s design. What a wonderful statement, that the saints are also essential to their Savior! The church is his body; His fullness fills everyone. I want you to recognize this, so that you may see your blessed responsibility, your practical obligation to produce fruit, that the Lord Jesus may be glorified in you. Remain in him. Never cease from being dedicated to his honor and glory. Never dream of being your own master. Don’t be the servant of men, but remain in Christ. Let Jesus be the object, as well as the source, of your existence. Oh, if you can so dedicate and consecrate yourselves that you achieve perpetual communion with your Lord, then you will soon realize a joy, a delight, a power in prayer, such as you never knew before.
There are times when we are conscious that we are in Christ, and we know and sense our fellowship with him; and oh, the joy and the peace which we drink from this cup! Let us remain there. “Remain in me,” says Jesus. You are not to come and go, but to remain. Let that blessed sinking of yourself into his life, the spending of all your powers for Jesus, and the firm faith of your union with him continually remain in you. Oh, that we might attain to this by the Holy Spirit!
As if to help us to understand this, our gracious Lord has given us a delightful parable. Let us look through this discourse of the vine and its branches. Jesus says, “…every branch in me that bears…fruit [I will] prune so that it will be even more fruitful” [John 15:2 ]. Be careful that you remain in Christ when you are being pruned. “Oh,” someone says, “I thought I was a Christian; but, sadly! I now have more troubles than ever before: men ridicule me, the devil tempts me, and my business affairs go wrong.” Brother, if you are to have power in prayer you must be careful that you remain in Christ when the sharp pruning knife is cutting everything away. Endure the trial, and never dream of giving up your faith because of it. Say, “Though he slay me, yet will I hope in him” [Job 13:15 ] Your Lord warned you when you first came into the vine that you would have to be pruned and cut closely; and if you are now feeling the pruning process, you must not think that some strange thing has happened to you. Don’t rebel because of anything you may have to suffer from the dear hand of your heavenly Father, who is the cultivator of the vineyard. No, but cling to Jesus all the more closely. Say to him, “Cut, Lord, cut to the quick if you wish; for I will still cling to you. To whom shall I go? You have the words of eternal life.” Yes, cling to Jesus when the pruning knife is in his hand, and then “ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
Also be careful that when the pruning operation has been carried out, that you still cleave to your Lord.
Notice the third and fourth verse: “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you” [John 15:3 ]. “Remain in me, and I will remain in you” [John 15:4 ]. Remain after the cleansing where you were before the cleansing. When you are sanctified, remain where you were when you were first justified. When you see the work of the Spirit increasing in you, don’t let the devil tempt you to boast that now you are somebody, and don’t need to come to Jesus as a poor sinner, and rest alone in his precious blood for salvation. Still remain in Jesus. As you stayed in him when the knife cut you, stay in him now that the tender grapes begin to form. Don’t say to yourself, “What a fruitful branch I am! How greatly I adorn the vine! Now I am full of energy and vitality!” My friend, you are nothing and nobody. Only as you remain in Christ are you one bit better than the scrap wood which is burned in the fire. “But don’t we make progress?” Yes, we grow, but we remain: we never go an inch further, we remain in him; or, if not, we will be cut off and will become withered. Our only hope lies in Jesus during our best times as well as during our worst. Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word I have spoken to you. Remain in me, as I have remained in you” [John 15:3-4 ].
We must remain in Christ in order to bear fruit.
“No branch can bear fruit by itself; it must remain in the vine.” We cannot bear fruit unless we remain in Christ. Someone cries out, “Great! Then, I have something to do.” Certainly you have, but not apart from Jesus. The branch has to bear fruit; but if the branch thinks that it is going to produce a cluster, or even a single grape, all by itself, it is utterly mistaken. The fruit of the branch must come out of the stem. Your work for Christ must be Christ’s work in you, or else it will be good for nothing. I pray that you see to this. Your Sunday-school teaching, your preaching, or whatever you do, must be done in Christ Jesus. You can not win souls by your natural talent, nor can you save men and women by your own plans. Beware of homemade schemes. Do for Jesus what Jesus commands you to do. Remember that our work for Christ, as we call it, must be Christ’s work first, if it is to be accepted by him. Remain in him if you ever wish to bear fruit.
Yes, remain in him as to your very life.
Don’t say, “I have been a Christian man now for twenty or thirty years, I can do without continued dependence upon Christ.” No, you cannot do anything without him, even if you were as old as Methuselah. Your very being as a Christian depends on your still clinging, still trusting, still depending; and this he must give you, for it all comes from him, and him alone.
To sum it all up, if you want that splendid power in prayer of which I just now spoke, you must remain in a loving, living, lasting, conscious, practical, remaining union with the Lord Jesus Christ; and if you attain that by divine grace, then you may ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
But there is a second qualification mentioned in the text, and you must not forget it-- “…and my words remain in you...”
How important, then, are Christ’s words! He said in the fourth verse, “Remain in me, and I will remain in you,” and now as a parallel to this it is, “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” What? Are Christ’s words and his person identical--one and the same? Yes, practically speaking. Some people talk about Christ being their Master, but they don’t care what his word declares about doctrines. So long as their hearts are right towards his person they claim freedom of thought. Yes, but this is a mere ploy. We cannot separate Christ from the Word; for, in the first place, he is the Word; and, in the next place, how dare we call him Master and Lord and do not obey his commands, and reject the truth which he teaches? We must obey his commands or he will not accept us as disciples. Especially that command of love which is the essence of all his words. We must love God and our brothers and sisters; yes, we must take pleasure in loving everyone, and seek their good. Anger and hatred must not be a part of us. We must walk even as he walked. If Christ’s words don’t remain in you, both as to belief and practice, then you are not in Christ. Christ and his gospel and his commands are one. If you will not have Christ and his words, neither will he have you nor your words; and you will ask in vain, you will in time give up asking, you will become like a withered branch. Beloved, I am persuaded of better things in your case, and things that accompany salvation, that is why I speak as I do.
Oh for grace to pass through these two gates, these two golden doors! “If you remain in me and my words remain in you.” Push through the two doors, and enter into this spacious room--“Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.”
III. Lastly this morning, a question, WHY IS IT THAT BY REMAINING IN CHRIST, AND HAVING HIS WORDS REMAIN IN US, THAT WE GET THIS LIBERTY AND POWER IN PRAYER?
Why is this extraordinary power of prayer given to those who remain in Christ? I pray that what I have to say may encourage you to make the glorious attempt to win this pearl of great price!
1. I answer, first, we get this liberty and power in prayer because of the fullness of Christ.
You can ask whatever you wish, when you remain in Christ, because whatever you may require already resides in him. Do you desire the grace of the Spirit? Go to your Lord’s anointing by the Holy Spirit at his baptism. Do you seek holiness? Go to his example. Do you desire pardon of sin? Look to his blood. Do you need mortification of sin? Look to his crucifixion. Do you need to be buried to the world? Go to his tomb. Do you want to feel the fullness of a heavenly life? Behold his resurrection. Would you rise above the world? Note his ascension. Would you contemplate heavenly things? Remember he sits at the right hand of God, and know that God has “raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms.”
It is clear why the branch gets all that it wishes while it abides in the stem, since all it could ever wish is already in the stem, and is placed there for the sake of the branch. What does the branch want more than the stem can give it? If it did want more it could not get it; for it has no other means of living but by sucking its life out of the stem. O my precious Lord, if I want anything which is not in you, then I will always desire to be without it. I desire to be denied a wish which wanders outside of you. But if everything I need and wish for is already in you, waiting to be given to me, why should I go elsewhere? You are my everything; where else should I look? Beloved, “God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in Christ” [Colossians 1:19 ], and the good pleasure of the Father is our good pleasure also: we are glad to draw everything from Jesus. We feel sure that we can ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us, because he has it ready for us.
2. The next reason why we get this liberty and power in prayer is because of the richness of the Word of God.
Catch this thought, “If my words remain in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” The best praying Christian is the one who knows and believes in the promises of God. After all, prayer is nothing but taking God’s promises to him, and saying to him, “My Lord, do as you have said that you would do.” Prayer is the promise utilized. A prayer which is not based on a promise has no true foundation. You that have Christ’s words remaining in you are equipped with those things which the Lord pays close attention too. If the Word of God remains in you, you are the person that can pray, because you commune with the great God of the universe using his own words, and thus overcome omnipotence with omnipotence. You put your finger down on the very lines, and say, “Father, do as you have said you would.” This is the best praying in all the world. O beloved, be filled with God’s Word. Study what Jesus has said, what the Holy Spirit has had recorded in this divinely inspired Book, and in proportion as you feed on the Word, and are filled with the Word, and retain the Word in your faith, and obey the Word in your life--in that same proportion you will be a master in the art of prayer. You have acquired skill as a wrestler with the covenant angel in proportion as you can plead the promises of your faithful God. Be well instructed in the doctrines of grace, and let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, that you may know how to prevail at the throne of grace. Remaining in Christ, and his words remaining in you, are like the right hand and the left hand of Moses, which were held up in prayer, so that the Amalekites were destroyed, Israel was delivered, and God was glorified.
But, let us go a little further: you still may say you do not quite see why a person who remains in Christ, and in whom Christ’s words remain, should be allowed to ask whatever they wish, and have it given to them.
3. I answer you again: we get this liberty and power in prayer, because in such a man as that there is a abundance of grace which causes him to have a renewed will, which is according to the will of God.
Suppose a man of God is in prayer, and he desires a certain thing, yet he remembers that he is nothing but a babe in the presence of his all-wise Father, and so he submits his will, and asks the Father what he should ask for. Even though God commands him to ask whatever he wishes, he shrinks back and cries out, “My Lord, here is a request which I am not quite sure about. As far as I can tell, it is a desirable thing, and I wish to have it; but, Lord, I am not fit to judge for myself, and therefore I pray that you do not give me what I wish, but what you will.”
Dear friends, don’t you see that, when we are in such a condition as this, our will is God’s will? Deep down in our hearts we wish for only that which the Lord himself wills; and what is this, that all we have to do is to ask whatever we wish, and it will be given to us? It is safe for God to say to the holy Christian, “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you.” The heavenly instincts of that man leads him in the right direction; the grace that is within his soul suppresses all greedy lusts and evil desires, and his will is the actual shadow of God’s will. The spiritual life is the master within him, and so his aspirations are holy, heavenly, and Godlike. He has been made a partaker of the divine nature; and as a son is like his father, so now in desire and will he is one with his God. As the echo answers to the voice, so does the renewed heart echo the mind of the Lord. Our desires are reflections of the divine will: ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
We can clearly see that the holy God cannot say to an unbeliever, “I will give you whatever you wish for.” What would he ask for? He would ask for another drink, or permission to enjoy himself in evil lust. It would be very unsafe to trust the wishes of most unsaved men and women. But when the Lord has taken a person, and has made them a new creation, and has formed them in the image of his dear Son, then he can trust them! Behold, our Father in heaven treats us as he treats his Firstborn. Jesus could say, “I know that you always hear me” and the Lord is teaching us the very same assurance. We can say with confidence, “My God will hear me.”
Don’t your mouths water for this privilege of prevailing prayer? Don’t your hearts long to get at this? It is through holiness, it is through union with Christ, it is by permanently remaining in him, and obediently holding firm to his truth, that you are to come to this privilege. It is the only safe and true way. Once we truly walk in that way, we will then find that it is a most sure and effectual way of gaining substantial power in prayer.
4. I am not quite done yet. A man or woman we get this liberty and power in prayer when their faith is strong; and this is the case with those who remain in Jesus.
It is faith that prevails in prayer. The real eloquence of prayer is a believing desire. “Everything is possible for him who believes” [Mark 9:23 ]. A man remaining in Christ with Christ’s words remaining in him, is eminently a believer, and consequently eminently successful in prayer. He surely has strong faith, for his faith has brought him into vital contact with Christ, and he is therefore at the source of every blessing, and may drink as much as he wants at the well itself.
5. Such a person, once more, will also possess the indwelling of the Spirit of God.
If we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, then the Holy Spirit has come and taken up his residence in us; and what better help in prayer can we have? Isn’t it a wonderful thing that the Holy Spirit himself makes intercession for the saints in accordance with the will of God? He “himself intercedes for us with groans that words cannot express” [Romans 8:26 ]. “Who among men knows the thoughts of a man except the man's spirit within him? In the same way no one knows the thoughts of God except the Spirit of God” [1 Corinthians 2:11 ]. The Spirit of God knows the mind of God, and he works in us to will what God wills, so that a believing man’s prayer is God’s purpose reflected in the soul just like in a mirror. The eternal decrees of God project their shadows over the hearts of godly men and women in the form of prayer. What God intends to do he tells to his servants by inclining them to ask him to do what he himself is resolved to do. God says, “I the LORD have spoken, and I will do it,” but then he adds, “I will yield to the plea of the house of Israel and do this for them” [Ezekiel 36:37 ].” Beloved, how clear it is, that if we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, we may ask whatever we wish! For we will only ask what the Spirit of God moves us to ask; and it would be impossible that God the Holy Spirit and God the Father would ever be in opposition to one another. What the one prompts us to ask, the other has assuredly determined to bestow.
I just said something just now to which I must return for a single moment. Beloved, don’t you know that when we remain in Christ, and his words remain in us, the Father looks upon us with the same eye with which he looks upon his dear Son? Christ is the vine, and the vine includes the branches. The branches are a part of the vine. God, therefore, looks on us as part of Christ--members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones. Such is the Father’s love to Jesus that he denies him nothing. He was obedient to death, even the death of the cross; therefore his Father loves him as the God-man Mediator, and he will grant him all his petitions. And is it true, that when you and I are in real union with Christ, the Lord God looks on us in the same way as he looks on Jesus, and says to us, “I will deny you nothing; you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given to you”? This is how I understand our text.
I call your attention to the fact that in that fifteenth chapter, the ninth verse, which I did not read this morning, it says: “As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you.” The same love which God gives to his Son, the Son gives to us; and therefore we dwell in the love of the Father and of the Son. How can our prayers be rejected? Will not infinite love have respect for our petitions?
O dear brothers and sisters in Christ, if your prayers are not quickly answered at the throne, suspect that there is some sin that hinders them: your Father’s love sees a necessity for disciplining you in this way. If you don’t remain in Christ, how can you hope to pray successfully? If you pick and choose his words to believe, and doubt this or that verse, how can you hope to be successful at the throne? If you are willfully disobedient to any one of his words, won’t this account for failure in prayer? But remain in Christ and hold on firmly to his words, and be a totally committed disciple, then he will hear your prayers. Sitting at Jesus’ feet, hearing his words, you may lift up your eyes to his dear face, and say, “My Lord, hear me now”; and he will graciously answer you: he will say to you, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” “Ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.” Oh for power at the mercy-seat of God!
Beloved friends, don’t listen to this sermon, and then go away and forget it. Try to reach this place of unlimited influence with God. What a church we would be, if you were all mighty in prayer! Dear children of God, do you want to be half starved? Beloved brothers and sisters, do you desire to be poor, little, puny, babbling children, who will never grow up into men and women? I pray that you aspire to be strong in the Lord, and to enjoy this exceptional privilege. What an army we would be if we all had this power with God in prayer! It is within your reach, you children of God! Only remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and then this special privilege will be yours. These are not tiresome duties, but they are in themselves a joy. Do them with your whole heart, and then you will get this added to you, that you will ask whatever you wish, and it will be given you.
Sadly, for some in this congregation my text says nothing at all; for some of you are not even in Christ, and therefore you cannot remain in him. O people, what will I say to you? You seem to me to be missing the very opportunity for heaven. Even if there were no hell to come after this life, it is hell enough not to know Christ now, not to know what it is to prevail with God in prayer, not to know the choice privilege of remaining in him, and his words remaining in you.
Your first priority right now is that you believe in Jesus Christ in order to save your souls, yielding your souls to his cleansing, your lives to his commands and authority, God has sent him into the world as a Savior, accept him. Receive him as your Teacher; yield yourself up to him as your Master. May his gracious Spirit come and do this work upon you now; and then, after this, but not before, you may aspire to this honor. First of all--“You must be born again.” I cannot say to you as you are now, “Grow,” because you will only grow into a bigger sinner.
No matter how much you may grow and develop, you will only grow and develop what is in you: and that is, you will become more a child of the devil and thereby receive more and more the wrath of God. You must become a new creation in Christ: there must be an absolute change, a reversal of all that you are, thus making you a new creature in Christ Jesus; and then you may aspire to remain in Christ, and let his words remain in you, and the resulting power with God in prayer will be yours.
Gracious Lord, help us this morning. Poor creatures that we are, we can only lie at your feet. Please come, and lift us up to yourself, for your mercy’s sake! Amen.
Love at Its Utmost
September 11, 1887 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." John 15:9 .
In the love of Christ we find our best joy. The pastures of the Great Shepherd are wide, but the sweetest grasses grow close to his pierced feet. The love of Jesus is the center of salvation; it is as the sun in the midst of the heavens of grace. I trust that while I lead your meditations this morning towards this golden theme you will be able to enter in spirit into the heart and soul of it. Paul said, when he spake of marriage, "Behold, I show you a mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the church." There is always much that is mysterious here, but it is ever the mystery of love. You believe in this love; you know it; you have tasted it; and, therefore, I speak to an audience that will appreciate the subject, however faulty may be my handling of it. Oh, for a higher experience! May the Lord at this hour conduct us into his banqueting-house, and rejoice us with his love, which is better than wine! Many of us will bring to the feast a keen appetite: this is all we can contribute, and even that is a gift of love. Oh, that we may have a quick eye to see the beauties of the Lord, and a discerning heart to perceive how his love to us enhances all his charms! The love of Christ to his people is the sweetest, fullest, and most profitable theme that a preacher can bring before his people, and it is always a suitable and seasonable subject, whatever the condition of the congregation may be. But we greatly need the aid of the Holy Spirit to prepare our minds for the enjoyment of this truth. It is one thing to hear the outward sound of love, it is another thing to feel an inward sense of it. It is pleasant to hear the rippling of the brook; but if you are dying of thirst that silver music will not refresh you if you are unable to drink of the stream. Come, Holy Spirit, come! We beseech thee, take of the things of Christ, and glorify him by revealing them to our inmost souls! I. We will plunge into the subject at once. Here is our first exhortation: LET US UNQUESTIONINGLY BELIEVE THAT JESUS LOVES US.
That is to say, if we are indeed in him, he loves us infinitely. Our Lord is speaking here, not of his general love of benevolence, but of that peculiar and special affection which he bears to his own, of whom he says, "I have chosen you out of the world." If we are in him, as the branches are in the vine, and if we prove the reality of that union by bringing forth the fruits of grace to his glory, then we are the objects of the Savior's peculiar love. He speaks to us as a church, and to each one personally, and says, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." O my hearer, does he speak thus to thee? Hast thou taken hold of Christ by faith? Has he saved thee? Is thy life derived from him? Is he thy hope, thy joy, thine all? If this be so, then doubt not that he speaks to thee with his own lips as well as out of this book of record. As truly as if he stood at thy side and grasped thy hand, and spoke, with his eyes looking into thine eyes with tenderness of love, he saith to thee, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you: continue ye in my love." That he truly loves us, we may confidently believe; for he himself is at pains to assure us of it in so many words. He does not leave it to an inference, although the inference might be safely drawn from the ten thousand love-deeds of his life and death; but he deliberately declares his love: "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." Do you doubt his words? words spoken in the solemn night of his agony, and registered in the volume of inspiration? Does not your heart respond to him, as he says, "I have loved you"? Do you not answer, "Ay, Lord, it is true indeed! There is little need for thee to tell me this with thy lips, for thou hast assured me of it by thy wounds. I know that thou lovest me. Oh, that I loved thee better in return!" As if to confirm us in our belief beyond all wavering, and to lead out our hearts to behold the largeness of his affection, he quotes a parallel to his love of the most extraordinary kind. He looks not to the loves of earth, but to the greatest love of heaven, and says, "As the Father hath loved me, so have I loved you." Beloved, you do not, dare not, could not, doubt the love of the Father to his Son. It is one of those unquestionable truths about which you never dreamed of holding an argument. Our Lord would have us place his love to us in the same category with the Father's love to himself. We are to be as confident of the one as of the other. What a wonderful certainty is conveyed to us by this token! The Father regards with boundless love the Son, with whom he is in essential union, since they are one God; and as surely as this is the case, so surely does Jesus love the people whom he has taken into marriage union with himself for ever. Doubt not: it will be a sort of blasphemy to doubt after such a pledge as this. Think of it, and let your assurance become doubly sure. Behold the course and proof of our Redeemer's love! He chose us in love. The reason of his choice was love. Remember how he puts it in the seventh chapter of Deuteronomy. God there speaks of his choice of Israel: "Thou art an holy people unto the Lord thy God: the Lord thy God hath chosen thee to be a special people unto himself, above all people that are upon the face of the earth. The Lord did not set his love upon you, nor choose you, because ye were more in number than any people; for ye were the fewest of all people: but because the Lord loved you." He loved you because he loved you. Election is based upon affection, and that affection is its own fountain. The whole system of divine love springs from the love of God, and from nothing else. Jesus loves us because he is love. If I must add anything to that statement, it will suffice me to quote the Well-beloved's own words: when he thanked the Father that he had hid these things from the wise and prudent, and revealed them unto babes, he said, "Even so, Father: for so it seemed good in thy sight." O believer, Jesus loved thee before the world began, and all because he would love thee. He loved thee in order that he might manifest his love to thee. He loved thee in order that thou mightest be conformed unto his image, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren, and that thus we might share his nature and his character and his Father's love, and so draw nearer and nearer to him in ever-growing fellowship of affection. See the love which is its own cause spending its own self, and by its own efficacy working out its gracious purposes, every one of which is as full of love as the love which designed it. Having thus chosen us for love, so great was the love of our Lord that he became man for love of us. He "counted it not robbery to be equal with God," but became man that he might carry out his purposes of love to us. It is written, "For this cause shall a man leave his father and shall cleave to his wife, and they twain shall be one flesh," and this has its highest exemplification in Christ, who quitted his Father that he might become one flesh with his church. He took our nature, that so he might be able to do for us, and suffer for us, what else he could not have done and suffered. By thus talking upon himself our nature he established a nearer union and a sweeter fellowship with his beloved church than could otherwise have existed. If he had never become the babe of Bethlehem, and the man of Nazareth, how could he have been made in all points like unto his brethren? Think what that love must have been which brought the Lord of glory from the highest heaven to become the Man of sorrows for our sakes! become a man for us, we remember that Jesus died because of love. "Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends." That laying down of life in our Lord's case was specially a proof of love, for he died voluntarily; there was no necessity upon him, as upon us, to die. Other men, if they died for us, would but pay the debt of nature a little before its time; but Jesus died who needed not to die, so far as he himself was concerned. He died also amid circumstances of pain, and shame, and desertion, which made that death peculiarly bitter. The death of the cross is to us the highest proof of our Savior's infinite love to us. He must die the death of a felon, between two thieves, utterly friendless, the object of general ridicule; and this he must do as bearing our sins in his own body. All this makes us sag, "Behold how he loved us!" O beloved! can we doubt Christ's love, since he laid down his life, "the just for the unjust, to bring us to God"? It was because of this love, remember, dear child of God, that the Lord made thee live. I cannot quote at full length that memorable passage in the sixteenth chapter of Ezekiel; but there you have our condition represented as that of a deserted infant cast out to die, unwashed, unswaddled, bleeding itself to death in filth and misery; and it is written that when the Lord passed by, he said unto that infant, "Live." Even thus did he speak to us, and we lived, and rose out of our misery. He declares that the time when he thus passed by was "a time of love." Shall I not touch your hearts when I remind you of the Lord's time of love to you? Remember your cast-out condition, your helpless distress, your hopeless ruin. You lay between the very jaws of death, and no one eye pitied you; you did not even pity yourself. Jesus looked on you long before you looked to him. He spoke to you before you spoke to him. He said, "Live!" and you did live, but before that you were dead in trespasses and sins. Then he washed, clothed, beautified, and adopted you. He made a wretched foundling to be joint-heir with himself. O love! matchless love! We owe our spiritual life to love, and therefore as long as we live we will praise the Lover of our souls! Inasmuch as we are by nature at a distance from God, we needed to be brought nigh. We have been brought near to him by love. Jeremiah hath a famous passage "The Lord hath appeared of old unto me, saying, Yea, I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee." Do you remember when the bands of a man were fastened around you, and you felt the cords of love drawing more and more forcibly? You could not tell why you were so singularly inclined to better things, but it was so. In yourself you were at first lifeless as a log; but soon you began to feel a yielding, yes, and an inclination, and at last that stubborn will relented, and new desires took the place of former aversions. Then you ran in the way in which you were drawn: your will had at last been made truly free, so that you delighted in the will of God. Love did all this. Love was more than conqueror; for it did not vanquish the enemy by force, but turned him into a grateful friend. By the recollection of those drawings which have not ceased even now, let us believe in the love of Jesus. Do you not feel him drawing you even as you sit in this house of prayer? Then under a present sense of his love, cry out "The love of Christ constraineth us." I charge you, have no doubt about the love of your divine Lord which even now is working within you. Time would fail me if I were to go into all the fruits of the love of Christ to you. For love he has forgiven you! Have you ever forgotten the blotting out of your iniquities by that hand of love? For love he has fed you day by day with the best of spiritual meat. "Ye are complete in him." All your wants his love has supplied: there are shoes for your pilgrimage, armor for your warfare, strength for your labor, rest for your weariness, comfort for your sorrow. No good thing does his love withhold. You have an inward satisfaction in Christ which all the world could not produce. Moreover, he has led you through this wilderness life in safety to this day. In dark and devious roads he has been near you; his rod and his staff have comforted you. You have not gone astray, and that not because there was not the spirit of straying in you, but because the great Shepherd has kept you in his paths. How often has he succoured you, and delivered you! How graciously has he helped your weakness, enlightened your darkness, allayed your fears, renewed your hope, and, above all, preserved you from sin! As I look back upon my own life, I am filled with adoring thankfulness. I know that the retrospect which each one of you is looking upon is very much the same. Surely, goodness and mercy have brightened all the days of our lives. Each day has been so wonderful, that if we had only lived that one day, we should have had cause to praise the Lord for ever and ever. When all the days are "threaded on time's string," what a bracelet of mercies they make! What shall I say of my Lord's love? If I liken it for height to the mountains, I see Alps piled on Alps. "Thy mercy, O God, is in the heavens." If I liken it for depth to the sea, I am again lost in the comparison; I can only cry, "O the depths!" As to counting the gifts of his love, if we think of them, they are more in number than the sands of the sea. Let us not doubt his love, for that would be wanton cruelty; but sitting down in stillness of mind let our hearts quietly beat time to this one sentence: He loveth me He loveth me. More surely than parent or child, or husband or wife, or the best tried friend, Jesus loves his blood-bought ones! O my soul, he loves thee! Be thou always ravished with his love. Yet must I not quite close the list till I remind you that you are now this very day in union with him. You are laid on him and cemented to him as a stone is built upon the foundation. You are also joined to him vitally as the branch is to the stem, and as the member to the body. You are, moreover, joined to him by living, loving, lasting union, as the bride is united to the bridegroom. You are identical with your covenant Head to-day in the purposes of God. God hath dealt with him as though he had sinned your sin, and now he deals with you as though you had brought his righteousness. In the purposes of God you are wrapped up with the Lord Jesus Christ. Herein is love! The future of Jesus is to be your future; you are to be with him where he is. When Luther was in his worst troubles a friend came in to see him, and he noticed that he had written upon the wall in big letters the word, "Vivit!" He enquired of Luther what he meant by "vivit"? Luther answered, "Jesus lives; and if he did not live I would not care to live an hour." Yes, our life is bound up with that of Jesus. We are not called upon to live of ourselves, that would be death; but we have life and all things in union with him. This is love indeed, which rests not till it is one with its object. O you unconverted ones, how can you live apart from Christ? To live one hour apart from Christ is to live in infinite peril, since in that hour you may die, and pass beyond the realms of hope. O beloved, you that love him are one with him by an infinite and indestructible union! "Who shall separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord?" This eternal oneness is the security both of grace and glory to us. Certain of our dear brethren and sisters have lately gone up the shining road. We might envy them if we did not know that even here we have the Lord's love to cheer us. Let us love Jesus for his love to our brethren; for now they share his throne, lie in his bosom, and are indulged with a vision of his glory. We also are on our way to the wedding-feast; let us keep our lamps burning. Comfort yourselves with the divine hope of everlasting joy. His love which came to us from heaven to earth will bear us up from earth to heaven. Heart cannot conceive what love has laid up for those whom it has chosen. II. But I cannot proceed further after this fashion; I must now exhibit my theme in another light. LET US MEDITATE CONTINUALLY UPON THE LOVE OF CHRIST.
I would help your meditations by giving a few hints. Do not think that I am preaching, but consider that you are alone in your chamber, and that I am speaking through a telephone to you. Let me vanish, and let Jesus stand before you. Meditate upon the love of Christ to you. It is a love ancient and venerable, tried and proved. He loved you when you were not; he loved you when you were, but were not what you should be. He has loved you into spiritual being; he has loved you so as to keep you in that being. He loved you so as to suffer and to die, and he loves you so as to permit you to suffer for his sake. He has loved you so well as to bear with your ill manners, your shortcomings, and your transgressions, your coldness, your backsliding, your lack of prayer, your hardness of heart your little love to your brethren, and all the other sins of which I will not now accuse you, for it is a time of love. He has loved you right on without pausing or slackening. Some of you have known his love these twenty, thirty, forty, fifty years; yes, some of you even more than that. It is no new thing with us to sing, "Jesus loves me." All this while he has never failed us once, nor done us an ill turn. The kindest husband that ever lived may sometimes be faulty, but this husband of our souls overfloweth with divine affection every day, and all the day. We could not find fault or flaw in his love, if we were to try. Doubtless, in the future we shall have to make continued trial of his love, but we are sure it will endure every test. We may have rough ways to traverse, but he will tread them with us, and we shall lean upon our Beloved. We may be very sick and faint, but he hath borne our sicknesses, and will sympathize with us. He hath said, and we believe it, "I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee." His promise is "Certainly I will be with thee. Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you." The longer we live the more abundant evidence shall we receive of that love of Christ, which at this moment is assuredly ours. At this moment we believe in this love as implicitly as yonder babe believes in its mother's love, and stretches out its little hands to be embraced in those dear arms. Is it not so, dear friends? Do you not lean on the bosom of your Lord, without a shadow of mistrust, and do you not there find your fears all laid asleep? What love is this! Remember also in your meditation, that his love to you has been most free. It was unbought, and even unsought. In Hosea it is written, "I will love them freely". and surely, if ever there was a case in which that verse was transparently true, it is in my case. Was it not so in yours? What was there in you that could have won his love? If he could see any beauty in me, it must have been first in his own eyes. They say that love is blind; and certainly, though our heavenly bridegroom is not blind, yet he was somewhat kinder still; for he saw our deformities of sin and folly, and yet he loved us notwithstanding, all. He saw our iniquities, and then he cast them into the depths of the sea. Jesus, lover of my soul, thou lovest me, and that love is free indeed! How couldst thou be enamoured of such an one as I am? It could only be because thou lovest those who most need thy love, and can least repay it. Inasmuch as it is even so, what shall I do but admire and adore? Brethren, let us muse and meditate, and pray, and praise, and wonder, and worship him whom, having not seen, we love. Let us love him because he first loved us. Beholding the generous upbringing of a love which we could not deserve and would not seek, let us freely love in return. This love of our Lord's, so free, so full, so forceful, was and is most amazing. We shall never bear better or more surprising news than this, that Jesus loves us. Nothing more surprising ever came to me than to Iearn "he loved me, and gave himself for me." Others may, perhaps, see what is wrought by the Lord's grace in us, and this may make them the less astonished at the Lord's love towards us; but we know ourselves, and see our blemishes as well as our beauties, and hence we know that there is nothing lovable in us by nature. When we see our Lord's beauty we see nothing but deformity in ourselves. The more we perceive his love the more do we abhor ourselves because of our own want of love to him, and because of the defilements into which we have fallen. We are amazed at our sin, and more amazed at his love. We shall go on reading in the golden Book of Christ's love throughout all eternity, and the longer we study it the more we shall be astonished that ever the Holy and the Glorious and the Ever-blessed should have espoused in love such insignificant, polluted, and fickle-hearted creatures as we are. The love of Jesus is love most practical. Christ loves not in word only, but in deed and in truth. There is a greater force to my mind in Christ's deeds of love than in all the words which even he could have uttered. His deeds emphasize his words. Words cannot to the full express the mind of love: language filters from the lips, while feeling gushes from the heart. Jesus has written out his love in living characters. O Master! never man spake like thee, and yet that was thy most eloquent discourse when thou didst say but little, but didst stretch thy hands to the cross, that they might be nailed there. Then didst thou pour out thy heart, not in oratory, but in blood and water. Jesus has given to us his crown, his garments, his body, his soul, his life, himself. Said I not well that his is practical love? It is love full of tenderness, rich in bounty, lavish in thoughtfulness, firm in constancy, strong as death, mightier than the grave. Think, again, that it was personal love. The Lord Jesus Christ loves each one of his people as much as if he had not one more. All the heart of Christ goes out to each one of us. The great sun shines today on this round earth, and while it pours its limitless flood of light on all, that one tiny daisy, as it bathes in the brightness, is able to say, "The sun is all mine." Though there be myriads of flowers in the meadows and the gardens, yet this one flower may freely possess all that the sun can give, or rather all that the little flower can receive, as much as if it were the only flower that blooms. So Jesus is to me, to you, to each one of us, all our own; neither lose we anything by the fact that he is all the own of so many millions. Nay, we gain by his being thus possessed by so many brethren, for we find our bliss repeated in the happiness of all whom Jesus loves as he loves us. In the text we read, "so have I loved you." Mark how the two personal pronouns "I" and "you" stand with nothing but "love" between. The Lord Jesus, his own self, delighted in us, even in us who are not worthy to be named in the same day with him. Glory be to his holy name for ever! The pith of our text lies in this, that to make us know a little of how much he loves us, our Lord has paralleled his love to us with the Father's love to him. What kind of love was that? Here we get into deep waters. Each thought is an abyss. We know that the Father loved the Son without beginning, even from eternity. It is not conceivable that there ever was a period when the Father did not love his Son: neither is it conceivable by those who read this Book of the Lord aright that there ever could have been a time when Jesus did not love his people. This love constrained him in the council chamber of eternity to become the surety of the covenant for those his Father gave him. In that time before time began, the Lord's love went forth; for his goings forth were of old, from everlasting. Not when we began to love him, nor even when we began to be, did the love of our redeeming Lord commence its divine history; but from of old, or ever the earth was. Some of you dote upon antiquities; but this to me is the most precious of all ancient things the everlasting love of Jesus. We also feel sure that the Father loves the Son without end. There cannot come an hour when the Father will banish the Son from his heart. Till then Jesus will never cast off his people. The unchanging Christ of God will never cease to love his redeemed; for the Father will never cease to love him. Hath he not said, "I have graven thee upon the palms of my hands. The mountains shall depart, and the hills be removed; but my kindness shall not depart from thee, neither shall the covenant of my peace be removed, saith the Lord that hath mercy on thee"? Beloved, we must not fail to note the intimacy of this love, for Jesus said, "I and my Father are one." Even such is his love to us; it is intimate in character; for Jesus saith, "I in them, and thou in me, that they may be made perfect in one." Jesus has made himself one with his people. He loves them with a marvellous intimacy, so that in loving them he loves himself, for he has made them to be "members of his body, of his flesh, and of his bones." I go further: our Lord loved us better than he loved himself, for they truly said of him, "He saved others; himself he could not save." His mighty love made him to be a sacrifice for his people, that he might redeem them from under the curse of the law. It is a love, in fact, immeasurable; there is no bound to it. The Father must love the Son inconceivably. As God himself is incomprehensible, so is the love of the Divine Persons to each other. Jesus also loves his chosen without limit. He loves unto the end with a love which has no end. We can only become conscious of a limited portion of that love, but it is not limited in itself. To this ocean there is neither shore nor bottom. Jesus loves omnipotently, everlastingly, and infinitely. His love is also immutable, like that of his Father to him. Change is unknown to the heart of Jesus. He cannot love us more, and he will not love us less. I spoke of the ocean just now, but it was a faulty emblem, for it ebbs and flows, while our Lord's love is ever at the full. Now the point I want to bring you to is this remember that the Father's intimate and infinite and unchanging love to his Son did not prevent his Son from being "a Man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief"; did not prevent his having to say, "I have not where to lay my head"; did not prevent his bloody sweat in Gethsemane. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." Even he had to cry, "If it be possible, let this cup pass from me," and to add, "nevertheless not as I will, but as thou wilt." Think you that you will be excused the bitter cup? You in your prayers have said, "My Father, if thou lovest me let me not be poor, let me not be bereaved, let me not be laid aside, let me not be evil spoken of." You know not what you ask. You pray against promotion when you pray against affliction. It was needful for the greater glory of the Mediator, in his complex person as God and Man, that he should greatly suffer and give himself a ransom for many, and therefore the love of the Father did not withhold the wormwood and the gall. And now for other purposes known to the wise heart of Jesus it is needful that you, his disciple, should be made to drink of his cup, and to be baptized with his baptism, and he will not deny you the privilege. You must be made a partaker of Christ's sufferings, that you may the better have fellowship with him in the highest form of his glory. Wherefore, believe that Christ loves thee when he afflicts thee, that he loves thee when he declines to remove the cup of trembling from thy lips. Thou wouldst decline the high honors he intends thee, but his love forbids the heavy loss. If we are to reign with him we must first suffer with him, and so his love urges us on to the suffering out of a high regard for our eternal welfare. O thou that art shrinking from the cross, art thou willing to forego the crown? Surely thou art not so foolish. Wherefore, be sure that these griefs are needful for thee, that thy soul may be enlarged and enabled to contain more of delight and of bliss in Christ Jesus thy Lord throughout eternity. To spare thee that pin's prick to-day would be to make thee a loser throughout the endless ages; wherefore, lift up thy finger to the needle and be ready to endure the sharp point for an instant, seeing it is the trifling penalty of thy rank as a follower of the Crucified. "These light afflictions, which are but for a moment, work for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory"; why, then, do we draw back from them? God grant us grace to meditate much upon this love of Jesus Christ to us paralleled only by the Father's love to him; and meditating, may we become content to have fellowship with Christ in his sufferings, that we may partake in his glory! III. Bear with me while I come, in the third place, to say, LET US EXPERIENCE AND ADMIRE THE POWER WHICH THIS LOVE HAS OVER us.
I asked you to forget me just now, and to regard me as a mere telephone; but now I desire to retire altogether, that Jesus only may rule in your mind and heart in the fullness of his power. What can be more powerful than this love? What can be operative in so many ways and in such varied methods? Happy is the man who is evermore under the spell of its power! The love of Christ received into the heart acts as a catholicon. The old doctors searched for many a day to find a universal remedy. They sought in vain; yet here we have it. Christ is all medicine for all ailments; but he is vastly more than that. He heals and he fills; he fills and he beautifies; he beautifies and he confirms; he confirms and he perfects. So wondrously does his love work on men. Let the love of Christ be believed in and felt in your hearts, and it will humble you. Proud self goes out when sweet love comes in: the flesh dies through the power of that love on which the spirit lives. Can I be proud when my Beloved unveils to me his love which passeth knowledge? Impossible! Nay, I feel ready to sink into the ground when I see his glories: "My soul melted while my Beloved spake." Brethren the love of Christ is such a torrent that when it floods the soul it carries self before it. Love has also a melting influence. The hammer of the law breaks, but the heart, when thus broken, is like a broken flint, every bit of which is still flint. When the love of Jesus performs its office, it dissolves us, turning the flint into flesh. An old divine says that when the law creates repentance the tears are hard as hailstones in the sinner's eyes, and I believe it is so; but when the gospel makes us repent, our weeping is as the dew of the morning. What a blessed softness grace produces! How tender is the heart which Jesus touches with his pierced hand! This love of Christ, how consoling it is to mourning hearts! This is the best candle for one who is lying in bed in the dark. Oh, ye Much-afraids and Despondencies, who are hardly able to enjoy my subject this morning, I would fain uplift and cheer you by this sweet love; for indeed it is a balm for you. Do not turn away from this heavenly cordial. Do not try to doubt: you can scarcely do so when you think of our Redeemer's love? What! Desponding? when thy Beloved gives thee the kisses of his lips, and says, "I have loved thee with an everlasting love"? If his presence doth not cheer thee, surely heaven itself would not make thee glad; for what is heaven but the full enjoyment of his love? The love of Jesus has a cleansing and sanctifying power. To kill the love of sin live in the love of Christ. He whom Christ loves hates sin. We begin to say within ourselves What shall I quit for Christ? What shall I do for Christ? The love of Jesus shed abroad in the soul hath a sanctifying savor: it perfumes the heart with holiness. His love is as a fire of odoriferous woods; it consumes sin, and gives forth a fragrance of virtue. No furnace ever purifies our heart like the love of Jesus, which burns like coals of juniper. The way of love is the road to perfectness. Jonathan will not offend the David whom he loves. A heart enamored of the holy Jesus will be very jealous lest it grieve him by sin. A sweet sense of Christ's love also strengthens us. Love is strong as death, and it makes us strong for the duties of life. Those holy women in Scotland tied to stakes to be drowned by the incoming tide, what made them so brave in their confession of loyalty to Jesus? What but a sense of his love to them? Feeble men and women were cast to the lions in the Roman amphitheatre; did you ever hear that they cowered before the-wild beasts, or asked mercy of the cruel crowd that sat around, and gazed on their agonies? Ah, no! Christ's soldiers never quail; and if you ask the secret of their courage, it is that he loves them, and they cannot but be bold for his dear sake. This it is, too, that makes us tender to others and compassionate for this poor, ruined world. If any of you want to love the souls of men, learn how Christ loved you. You will love the vilest for his sake. If you would have eyes wherewith to weep over this sinful city, see how Jesus wept for you. If you would be prompt at all times to help the needy and succor the afflicted, keep close to the side of your gentle, tender, compassionate Lord, and as you feel his love to you, you will feel pity for others. It is this that inflames men with a true zeal for God and for the good of men. Some hardly know what it is to be zealous; but there are a few saints yet remaining who are like pillars of flame from morning till night. We have some among us; my fear is lest they consume themselves and are gone before others have caught the flame. Would you know the secret of that holy flame which sits upon some apostolic men? The love of Jesus is that heavenly fire: they burn with love as they think of him whose love made him a whole-burnt offering for them. This love fills believers with delight. If you would be always happy, sustain your mirth upon the spiced wine of his pomegranate. He loveth me; he loveth me, O joyous thought! Such an assurance creates a Paradise in a prison, and a heaven in heaviness. Now I invite you, in conclusion, dear friends, to enter into this love of Christ by personal enjoyment. Wade into this river of the water of life. Do I hear you cry, "It is up to the ankles"? Go deeper, brother! "It is up to the knees." Go deeper, brother! Think more of divine love; value it more; live upon it more; trust it more! "Sir, it is up to my loins." Go deeper, brother! Thank God when it begins to lift you from your feet and bear you up above all earthly things. When you cannot touch the bottom rejoice. When you must needs swim, be happy to cast yourself upon the blessed flood. Drown you it cannot: these are not waters to sink in, but "waters to swim in." Be you as a bird in the air, a fish in the stream, an angel in heaven; let the love of Christ be your element: to you let love and live be the same word. You cannot think too much of Christ's love. The wise man saith, "Eat not too much honey"; but you cannot enjoy too much of the love of Christ. Get absorbed into it; be swallowed up in it till it is "no more I but Christ that liveth in me." And when thou art once immersed in this love, continue in it. Christ does not love you to-day and cast you away to-morrow. Shall your faith be inconstant when his faithfulness is so abiding? How is it that you to-day are so happy in the Lord, and to-morrow will be so dreary? Are you up on Sunday and down on Monday? Is your God only the God of the Sabbath, and not of the whole week? What! is Christ a Sunday Christ, and not a Monday Christ? and is his love a Sabbath theme, and not an inspiration for Tuesdays and Wednesdays? Beloved, this must not be. Why, it is a childish thing I retract the word as dishonoring to dear children it is a foolish thing to be warm with this love to-day, and then to be cold to-morrow. Surely near such a fire we ought to be always warm. Abide in his love. Jesus Christ would have his people remain in a high, happy, holy, heavenly condition. Do you say you think it is impossible? I do not agree with you. Enoch walked with God for many a year, till at last he walked away with God. Try after continued communion. Too often we get up to the top of the hill, and slide down again like boys at play. Come, come: this will never do. Let us keep up to the height which we reach. If I climb to the top of a hill I am by no means able to boast, for at once I see another hill beyond, which I had not before perceived. I aspire to climb that new summit, and I doubt not that if I attain it, I shall there spy another; and so on till the end. It is never ours to write the word "finality." Higher and holier is still our watch word. But why must we come down into the marshes again? What can be the good of rushing out of the sunshine of Christ's love into the fogs of distrust? Whereunto we have attained, let us abide in it, and seek grace to go on to something more. Does not our Lord intend this when he says, "Continue ye in my love"? "Oh," saith one, "you set us a hard task." No, brother, I have set before you a pleasant privilege, but I admit that you will not reach it by your own power, and as you are in yourself. But I am not talking to you as you are in yourself. I am talking to you as you are in Christ; and as you are in Christ all power is given unto you. Exercise that power. Henceforth instead of singing a song which breaks up into verses with groans between, let us chant a Psalm that goes right straight on, and has in every verse the joyous stanza, "His mercy endureth for ever." My Beloved is mine and I am his, and till the day break and the shadows flee away my soul shall feast upon his love, and joy and rejoice in him. God help you to do this for his name's sake! Oh, unconverted hearers, do you not wish to taste our joys? Come as you are, and trust in Jesus, and they shall be yours. Amen.
May 16, 1858 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." - John 15:22 .
The peculiar sin of the Jews, the sin which aggravated above everything their former iniquities, was their rejection of Jesus Christ as the Messiah. He had been very plainly described in the books of the prophets, and they who waited for him, such as Simeon and Anna, no sooner beheld him even in his infant state, than they rejoiced to see him, and understood that God had sent forth his salvation. But because Jesus Christ did not answer the expectation of that evil generation because he did not come arrayed in pomp and clothed with power, because he had not the outward garnishing of a prince and the honors of a king, they shut their eyes against him, he was "a root out of a dry ground," he was "despised and they esteemed him not." Nor did their sin stop there. Not content with denying his Messiahship, they were exceeding hot against him in their anger; they hunted him all his life, seeking his blood; nor were they content till their fiendish malice had been fully glutted by sitting down at the foot of the cross, and watching the dying throes and the expiring agonies of their crucified Messiah. Though over the cross itself the words were written, "Jesus of Nazareth, the King of the Jews," yet they knew not their king, God's everlasting Son; and knowing him not, they crucified him, "for had they known him, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory." Now, the sin of the Jews is every day repeated by the Gentiles; that which they did once, many have done every day. Are there not many of you now present this day, listening to my voice, who forget the Messiah? You do not trouble yourself to deny him; you would not degrade yourselves, in what is called a Christian country, by standing up to blaspheme his name. Perhaps you hold the right doctrine concerning him, and believe him to be the Son of God as well as the Son of Mary; but still you neglect his claims, and give him no honor, and do not accept him as worthy of your trust. He is not your Redeemer; you are not looking for his second advent, nor are you expecting to be saved through his blood; nay, even worse; ye are this day crucifying him; for know ye not, that as many as put away from them the gospel of Christ, do crucify the Lord afresh and open wide his wounds? As often as ye hear the Word preached and reject it, as often as ye are warned, and stifle the voice of your conscience, as often as ye are made to tremble, and yet say, "Go thy way for this time, when I have a more convenient season, I will send for thee," so often do you in effect grasp the hammer and the nail, and once more pierce the hand, and make the blood issue from the side. And their are other ways by which you wound him through his members. As often as ye despise his ministers, or cast stumbling blocks in the way of his servants, or impede his gospel by your evil example, or by your hard words seek to pervert the seeker from the way of truth, so often do you commit that great iniquity which brought the curse upon the Jew, and which hath doomed him to wander through the earth, until the day of the second advent when he shall come who shall even by the Jew be acknowledged the King of the Jews, for whom both Jew and Gentile are now looking with anxious expectation, even Messiah, the Prince who came once to suffer, but who comes again to reign. And now I shall endeavor this morning to show the parallel between your case and that of the Jew; not doing so in set phrase, but yet incidentally, as God shall help me; appealing to your conscience, and making you feel that in rejecting Christ, you commit the same sin and incur the same doom. We shall note, first of all, the excellence of the ministry, since Christ comes in it, and speaks to men: "If I had not spoken to them." We shall notice, secondly, the aggravation of sin caused by the rejection of Christ's message: "If I had not spoken to them they had not had sin." Thirdly, the death of all excuses, caused by the preaching of the Word: "Now they have no cloak for their sin." And then, in the last place, we shall briefly, but very solemnly announce the fearfully aggravated doom of those who thus reject the Saviour, and increase their guilt by despising him. I. In the first place, then, this morning it is ours to say, and to say truly too, that in THE PREACHING OF THIS GOSPEL, THERE IS TO MAN'S CONSCIENCE THE COMING OF OUR LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND THE SPEAKING OF THE SAVIOUR THROUGH US.
When Israel of old despised Moses and murmured against him, Moses meekly said, "Ye have not murmured against us, but ye have murmured against the Lord God of Israel." And truly the minister may, with Scripture warrant, say the same: he that despiseth us, despiseth not us, but him that sent us. he who rejecteth the message rejecteth not what we say, but rejecteth the message of the everlasting God. The minister is but a man; he has no priestly power, but he is a man called out of the rest of mankind, and endowed with the Holy Spirit, to speak to his fellow-men; and when he preacheth the truth as with power sent down from heaven, God owns him by calling him his ambassador. and puts him in the high and responsible position of a watchman on the walls of Zion, and he bids all men take heed that a faithful message, faithfully delivered, when despised and trampled on, amounts to rebellion against God, and to sin and iniquity against the Most High. As for what I may say, as a man, it is but little that I should say it, but if I speak as the Lord's ambassador, take heed that ye slight not the message. It is the Word of God sent down from heaven which we preach with the power of the Holy Spirit, earnestly beseeching you to believe it, and remember, it is at the peril of your own souls that you put it from you, for it is not we that speak, but the Spirit of the Lord our God who speaketh in us. With what a solemnity does this invest the gospel ministry! O ye sons of men, the ministry is not the speaking of men, but the speaking of God through men. As many as are the real called and sent servants of God, are not the authors of their message; but they first hear it from the Master, and they speak it to the people, and they see ever before their eyes these solemn words - "Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both save thyself and them that hear thee," and they hear behind them this awful threatening - "If thou warn them not they shall perish, but their blood will I require at thine hand." Oh! that ye might see written in letters of fire before you this day the words of the prophet - "O earth, earth, earth, hear the Word of the Lord;" for as far as our ministry is true and untainted by error, it is God's Word, and it hath the same right and claim to your belief as if God himself should speak it from the top of Sinai, instead of speaking it through the humble ministry of the Word of God. And now let us pause over this doctrine, and let us ask ourselves this solemn question. Have we not all of us grossly sinned against God, in the neglect that we have often put upon the means of grace? How often have you stayed away from the house of God, when God himself was speaking there? What would have been the doom of Israel if, when summoned on that sacred day to hear the Word of God from the top of the mountain, they had perversely rambled into the wilderness, rather than attend to hear it? And yet so have you done. You have sought your own pleasure, and listened to the syren song of temptation; but ye have shut your ear against the voice of the Most High; and when he has himself been speaking in his own house, ye have turned aside unto crooked ways, and have not regarded the voice of the Lord your God. And when ye have come up to the house of God, how often has there been the careless eye, the inattentive ear! Ye have heard as though ye heard not. Your ear has been penetrated, but the hidden man of the heart has been deaf, and you have been like the deaf adder; charm we never so wisely, you would not listen nor regard us. God himself has spoken, too, at times in your conscience, so that you have heard it. You have stood in the aisle, and your knees have knocked together, you have sat in your pew, and while some mighty Boanerges has thundered out the word, you have heard it said, as with an angel's voice, "Prepare to meet thy God - consider thy way - set thine house in order, for thou shalt die, and not live." And yet you have gone out of God's house, and have forgotten what manner of men you were. You have quenched the Spirit, you have done despite to the Spirit of grace; you have put far from you the struggles of your conscience; you have throttled those infant prayers that were beginning to cry in your heart; you have drowned those new-born desires that were just springing up; you have put away from you everything that was good and sacred; you have turned again to your own ways, and have once more wandered on the mountains of sin, and in the valley of iniquity. Ah! my friends, just think, then, for a moment, that in all this you have despised God. I am certain, if the Holy Spirit would but apply this one solemn truth to your consciences this morning, this Hall of Music would be turned into a house of mourning, and this place would become a Bochim, a place of weeping and lamentation. Oh to have despised God, to have trampled under foot the Son of Man, to have passed by his cross, to have rejected the wooings of his love and the warnings of his grace! How solemn! Did you ever think of this before? You have thought it was but despising man, will ye now think of it as despising Christ? For Christ has spoken to you. Ah! God is my witness, that oftentimes Christ hath wept with these eyes, and spoken to you with these lips. I have sought nothing but the winning of your souls. Sometimes with rough words have I endeavored to drive you to the cross, and at other times with weeping accents have I sought to weep you to my Redeemer; and sure I am, I did not speak myself then, but Jesus spoke through me, and inasmuch as ye did hear and weep, and then went away and did forget, remember that Christ spoke to you. 'Twas he who said, "Look unto me and be ye saved, all the ends of the earth;" 'twas he who said, "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden;" 'twas he who warned you, that if you neglected this great salvation you must perish; and in having put away the warning and rejected the invitation, you have not despised us, but you have despised our Master; and woe unto you, except ye repent, for 'tis a fearful thing to have despised the voice of him that speaketh from heaven. II. And now we must notice the second point, namely, that THE REJECTION OF THE GOSPEL, AGGRAVATES MEN'S SIN.
Now, do not let me be misunderstood. I have heard of persons who, having gone to the house of God, have been filled with a sense of sin, and at last they have been driven almost to despair, for Satan has tempted them to forsake the house of God; for says he, "The more you go, the more you increase your condemnation." Now I believe that this is an error; we do not increase our condemnation by going to the house of God; we are far more likely to increase it by stopping away; for in stopping away from the house of God there is a double rejection of Christ; you reject him even with the outward mind, as well as with the inward spirit; you neglect even the lying at the pool of Bethesda, you are worse than the man who lay at the pool, but could not get in. You will not lie there, and therefore, neglecting the hearing of the Word of God, you do indeed incur a fearful doom; but if you go up to the house of God, sincerely seeking a blessing, if you do not get comfort - if you do not find grace in the means, still, if you go there devoutly seeking it, your condemnation is not increased thereby. Your sin is not aggravated merely by the hearing of the gospel, but by the wilful and wicked rejection of it when it is heard. The man who listens to the sound of the gospel, and after having heard it, turns upon his heel with a laugh, or who, after hearing time after time, and being visibly affected, allows the cares and the pleasures of this wicked life, to come in and choke the seed - such a man does in a fearful measure increase his guilt. And now we will just notice why, in a two-fold measure, he does this. Because, in the first place he gets a new sin altogether, that he never had before and beside that, he aggravates all his other sins.
Bring me here a Hottentot, or a man from Kamschatka, a wild savage who has never listened to the Word. That man may have every sin in the catalogue of guilt except one; but that one I am sure he has not. He has not the sin of rejecting the gospel when it is preached to him. But you, when you hear the gospel, have an opportunity for committing a fresh sin; and if you have rejected it, you have added a fresh iniquity to all those others that hang about your neck. I have often been rebuked by certain men who have erred from the truth, for preaching the doctrine that it is a sin in men, if they reject the gospel of Christ. I care for every opprobrious title: I am certain that I have the warrant of God's Word in so preaching, and I do not believe that any man can be faithful to men's souls and clear of their blood, unless he bears his frequent and Solemn testimony upon this vital subject. "When he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will reprove the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me." "And this is the condemnation, that light is come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light." "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." "If I had not done among them the works which none other man did, they had not had sin: but now have they both seen and hated both me and my Father." "Woe unto thee, Chorazin! woe unto thee, Bethsaida! for if the mighty works had been done in Tyre and Sidon, which have been done in you, they had a great while ago repented, sitting in sack-cloth and ashes. But I say unto you, it shall be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon at the judgment, than for you." "If I had not come and spoken unto them, they had not had sin: but now they have no cloak for their sin." "Therefore we ought to give the more earnest heed to the things which we have heard, lest at any time we should let them slip. For if the word spoken by angels was stedfast, and every transgression and disobedience received a just recompence of reward. how shall we escape if we neglect so great salvation?" "He that despised Moses law died without mercy under two or three witnesses; of how much sorer punishment, suppose ye, shall he be thought worthy, who hath trodden under foot the Son of God, and hath counted the blood of the covenant, wherewith he was sanctified, an unholy thing, and hath done despite unto the Spirit of grace? For we know him that hath said, Vengeance belongeth unto me, I will recompence, saith the Lord. And again, the Lord shall judge his people. It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God." I have been quoting, you see, some scripture passages, and if they do not mean that unbelief is a sin, and the sin, which, above all others, damns men's souls, they do not mean anything at all, but they are just a dead letter in the Word of God. Now, adultery and murder and theft, and lying - all these are damning, and deadly sins; but repentance can cleanse all these, through the blood of Christ. But to reject Christ, destroys a man hopelessly. The murderer, the thief, the drunkard, may yet enter the kingdom of heaven, if, repenting of his sins, he will lay hold on the cross of Christ, but with these sins, a man is inevitably lost, if he believeth not on the Lord Jesus Christ. And now, my hearers, will you consider for one moment what an awful sin this is, which you add to all your other sins. Everything lies in the bowels of this sin - the rejecting of Christ. There is murder in this; for if the man on the scaffold rejects a pardon, does he not murder himself? There is pride in this; for you reject Christ, because your proud hearts have turned you aside. There is rebellion in this; for we rebel against God when we reject Christ. There is high treason in this; for you reject a king; you put far from you, him, who is crowned king of the earth, and you incur therefore the weightiest of all guilt. Oh! to think that the Lord Jesus should come from heaven - to think for a moment that he should hang upon the tree - that there he should die in agonies extreme, and that from that cross he should this day look down upon you, and should say, "Come unto me, ye weary and ye heavy laden;" that you should still turn away from him, - it is the unkindest stab of all. What more brutish, what more devilish, than to turn away from him who gave his life for you? Oh that ye were wise, that ye understood this, that ye would consider your latter end! But again, we do not only add a new sin to the catalogs of guilt but we aggravate all the rest.
You cannot sin so cheap as other people, you, who have had the gospel. When the unenlightened and ignorant sin, their conscience does not prick them; and there is not that guilt in the sin of the ignorant, that there is in the sin of the enlightened. Did you steal before? that was bad enough; but hear the gospel and continue a thief, and you are a thief indeed. Did you lie before you heard the gospel? The liar shall have his portion in the lake; but he after hearing it: and it seems as if the fire of Tophet should be fanned up to a seven-fold fury. He who sins ignorantly, hath some little excuse; but he who sins against light and knowledge, sins presumptuously; and under the law there was no atonement for this, for presumptuous sins were out of the pole of legal atonement, although blessed be God, Christ hath atoned for even these, and he that believeth shall be saved, despite even his guilt. Oh! I beseech you, recollect that the sin of unbelief blackens every other sin. It is like Jeroboam. It is said of him, he sinned and made Israel to sin. So unbelief sins itself and leads to every other sin. Unbelief is the file by which you sharpen the axe; and the coulter, and the sword, which you use in rebellion against the Most High. Your sins become more exceeding sinful, the more you disbelieve in Christ, the more you know of him, and the longer you reject him. This is God's truth; but a truth that is to be spoken with reluctance, and with many groanings in our spirits. Oh to have such a message to deliver to you, to you I say, for if there be a people under heaven to whom my text applies, it is you. If there is one race of men in the world, who have more to account for than others, it is yourselves. There are doubtless others, who are on an equality with you, who sit under a faithful and earnest ministry; but as God shall judge betwixt you and me at the great day, to the utmost of my power I have been faithful to your souls. I have never in this pulpit sought by hard words, by technical language, to magnify my own wisdom. I have spoken to you plainly; and not a word, to the best of my knowledge, has escaped these lips, which every one of you could not understand. You have had a simple gospel. I have not stood here and preached coldly to you. I could say as I came up yon stairs, "The burden of the Lord was upon me;" for my heart has come here heavy, and my soul has been hot within me, and when I have preached feebly, my words may have been uncouth, and the language far from proper, but heart never has been wanting. This whole soul has spoken to you; and if I could have ransacked heaven and earth to find language that might have won you to the Saviour, I would have done so. I have not shunned to reprove you, I have never minced matters. I have spoken to this age of its iniquities, and to you of your sins I have not softened down the Bible to suit the carnal tastes of men. I have said damn, where God said damn - I have not sweetened it into "condemn." I have not minced matters, nor endeavored to veil or conceal the truth, but as to every man's conscience in the sight of God, have I endeavored to commend the gospel, earnestly and with power, and with a plain, outspoken, earnest, and honest ministry. I have not kept back the glorious doctrines of grace, although by preaching them the enemies of the cross have called me an Antinomian; nor have I been afraid to preach man's solemn responsibility, although another tribe have slandered me as an Arminian. And in saying this, I say it not in a way of glorying, but I say it for your rebuke, if you have rejected the gospel, for you shall have sinned far above that of any other men; in casting away Christ, a double measure of the fury of the wrath of God shall fall on you. Sin, then, is aggravated by the rejection of Christ. III. And now, in the third place, THE PREACHING OF THE GOSPEL OF CHRIST TAKES AWAY ALL EXCUSE FROM THOSE WHO HEAR IT AND REJECT IT.
"Now have they no cloak for their sin." A cloak is a very poor covering for sin, when there is an all-seeing eye to look through it. In the great day of the tempest of God's wrath a cloak will be a very poor shelter; but still man is always fond of a cloak. In the day of cold and rain we see men gathering their cloaks about them, and if they have no shelter and no refuge, still they feel a little comforted by their garment. And so it is with you; you will gather together, if you can, an excuse for your sin, and when conscience pricks you, you seek to heal the wound with an excuse. And even in the day of judgment although a cloak will be a sorry covering, yet it will be better than nothing at all. "But now ye have no cloak for your sin." The traveler is left in the rain without his covering, exposed to the tempest without that garment which once did shelter him. "Now ye have no cloak for your sin," - discovered, detected, and unmasked, ye are left inexcusible, without a cloak for your iniquity. And now let me just notice how the preaching of the gospel, when it is faithfully performed, takes away all cloaks for sin. In the first place, one man might get up and say, "I did not know I was doing wrong when I committed such and such an iniquity." Now, that you cannot say. God has by his law told you solemnly what is wrong. There stand the ten commandments; and there stands the comment of our Master where he has enlarged upon the commandment, and told us that the old law "thou shalt not commit adultery," forbad also all sins of the lascivious look and the evil eye. If the Sepoy commits iniquity, there is a cloak for it. I doubt not that his conscience tells him that he does wrong, but his sacred books teach that he is doing right, and therefore he has that cloak. If the Mahommedan commits lust, I doubt not his conscience doth prick him, but his sacred books give him liberty. But you profess to believe your Bibles, and have them in your houses, and have the preachers of them in all your streets; and therefore when you sin, you sin with the proclamation of the law upon the very wall, before your eyes - you do wilfully violate a well-known law which has come from heaven, and come to you. Again, you might say, "When I sinned, I did not know how great would be the punishment." Of this also, by the gospel, you are left without excuse; for did not Jesus Christ tell you, and does he not tell you every day, that those who will not have him shall be cast into outer darkness, where shall be weeping and gnashing of teeth? Hath he not said, "These shall go away into everlasting punishment, but the righteous into life eternal?" Does he not himself declare that the wicked shall be burned up with unquenchable fire? Has he not told you of a place where their worm dieth not and where their fire is not quenched? And the ministers of the gospel have not shunned to tell you this too. You have sinned, though you knew you would be lost by it. You have taken the poisonous draught, not thinking that it was harmless you knew that every drop in the cup was scalding with damnation, and yet you have taken the cup and drained it to its dregs. You have destroyed your own souls with your eyes open; you have gone like a fool to the stocks, like an ox to the slaughter, and like a lamb you have licked the knife of the butcher. In this, then, you are left without excuse. But some of you may say, "Ah, I heard the gospel, it is true, and I knew that I was doing wrong, but I did not know what I must do to be saved." Is there one among you who can urge such an excuse as this? Methinks you will not have the impudence to do so. "Believe and live," is preached every day in your hearing. Many of you these ten, twenty, thirty, forty, or fifty years have been hearing the gospel, and you dare not say, "I did not know what the gospel was." From your earliest childhood many of you have listened to it. The name of Jesus was mingled with the hush of lullaby. You drank in a holy gospel with your mother's milk and yet despite all that, you have never sought Christ. "Knowledge is power," men say. Alas! Knowledge, when not used, is wrath, WRATH, WRATH to the uttermost, against the man who knows, and yet doth that which he knoweth to be wrong. Methinks I can hear another say, "Well, I heard the gospel preached, but I never had a good example set me." Some of you may say that, and it would be partially true; but there are others of you, concerning whom I may say that this would be a lying excuse. Ah! man; you have been very fond of speaking of the inconsistencies of Christians. You have said, "They do not live as they ought;" and alas, there is too much truth in what you have said. But there was one Christian whom you knew, and whose character you were compelled to admire; do not you remember her? It was the mother who brought you forth. That has always been the one difficulty with you up to this day. You could have rejected the gospel very easily, but your mother's example stood before you, and you could not overcome that. Do you not remember amongst the first early darklings of your recollection, how you opened your little eyes in the morning and you saw a mother's loving face looking down upon you, and you caught her with a tear in her eye, and you heard her say, "God bless the child, may he call the Redeemer blessed!" You remember how your father did often chide you; she did seldom chide, but she often spoke in tones of love. Recollect that little upper room where she took you aside, and putting her arms round your neck, dedicated you to God, and prayed that the Lord would save you in your childhood. Remember the letter she gave you, and your book in which she wrote your name when you left the parental roof to go abroad, and the sorrow with which she wrote to you when she heard you had begun to plunge in gaiety and mix with the ungodly: recollect that sorrowful look with which she did wring your hand the last time you left her. Remember how she said to you, "You will bring my hairs with sorrow to the grave, if you walk in the ways of iniquity." Well, you knew that what she said was not cant; there was reality in that. You could laugh at the minister, you could say it was his business, but at her you could not scoff; she was a Christian, there was no mistake about it. How often did she put up with your angry temper, and bear with your rough manners, for she was a sweet spirit, almost too good for earth - and you recollect that. You were not there when she was dying, you could not arrive in time; but she said to her friend as she was dying, "There is only one thing that I want, then I could die happy - oh, that I could see my children walking in the truth." Now, I apprehend such an example leaves you without a cloak for your wickedness, and if you commit iniquity after that, how fearful! must be the weight of your woe. But others of you can say that you had no such mother; your first school was the street, and the first example you ever had was that of a swearing father. Recollect, my friend, there is one perfect example - Christ, and that you have read of, though you have not seen him. Jesus Christ, the man of Nazareth, was a perfect man; in him was there no sin, neither was there guile in his mouth. And if you have never seen anything like Christian worth any where else, yet you can see it in Christ; and in venturing such an excuse as this, remember you have ventured upon a lie, for the example of Christ, the works of Christ, as well as the words of Christ, leave you without excuse for your sin. Ah, and I think I hear one more excuse offered, and that is this: "Well, I certainly had many advantages, but they were never sent home to my conscience so that I felt them." Now, there are very few of you here who can say that. Some of you will say, "Yes, I heard the minister, but he never made an impression upon me." Ah, young men and young women, and all of you this morning, I must be a witness against you in the day of judgment that this is untrue. For, but now, your consciences were touched; did I not see some soft tears of repentance - I trust they were such - flowing but just now. No, you have not always been unmoved by the gospel you have grown old now, and it takes a deal to stir you, but it was not always so There was a time in your youth, when you were very susceptible of impressing. Remember, the sins of your youth will cause your bones to rot, if you have still persevered in rejecting the gospel. Your old heart has grown hard, still you are with out excuse; you did feel once, ay, and even now you cannot help feeling. I know there are some of you that can scarcely keep your seats at the thought of your iniquities; and you have almost vowed, some of you, that this day you will seek God, and the first thing you will do, will be to climb to your chamber, and shut the door, and seek the Lord. Ah, but I remember a story of one, who remarked to a minister, what a wonderful thing it was to see so many people weeping. "Nay," said he, "I will tell you something more wonderful still, that so many will forget all they wept about when they get outside the door." And you will do this. Still, when you have done it, you will recollect that you have not been without the strivings of God's Spirit. You will remember that God has, this morning, as it were, put a hurdle across your road, digged a ditch in your way, and put up a hand-post, and said, "Take warning! beware, beware, beware! you are rushing madly into the ways of iniquity!" And I have come before you this morning, and in God s name I have said, " Stop, stop, stop, thus saith the Lord, consider your ways, why will ye die? Turn ye, turn ye, why will ye die O house of Israel?" And, now, if ye will put this from you, it must be even so; if you will put out these sparks, if ye will quench this first burning torch, it must be so! On your own head be your blood; at your own door lay your iniquities. IV. But now I have one thing more to do. And it is awful work; for I have as it were to PUT ON THE BLACK CAP AND PRONOUNCE THE SENTENCE OF CONDEMNATION.
For those who live and die rejecting Christ there is a most fearful doom. They shall perish with an utter destruction. There are degrees of punishment; but the highest degree is given to the man who rejects Christ. You have noticed that passage, I dare say, that the liar and the whoremonger, and drunkards shall have their portion - whom do you suppose with? - with unbelievers; as if hell was made first of all for unbelievers - as if the pit was digged not for whoremongers, and swearers, and drunkards, but for men who despise Christ, because that is the A 1 sin, the cardinal vice, and men are condemned for that. Other iniquities come following after them, but this one goes before them to judgment. Imagine for a moment that time has passed, and that the day of judgment is come. We are all gathered together, both quick and dead. The trumpet-blast waxes exceeding loud and long. We are all attentive, expecting something marvellous. The exchange stands still in its business; the shop is deserted by the tradesman; the crowded streets are filled. All men stand still; they feel that the last great business-day is come, and that now they must settle their accounts for ever. A solemn stillness fills the air: no sound is heard. All, all is noiseless. Presently a great white cloud with solemn state sails through the sky, and then - hark! the twofold clamor of the startled earth. On that cloud there sits one like unto the Son of Man. Every eye looks, and at last there is heard a unanimous shout - "It is he! It is he!" and after that you hear on the one hand, shouts of "Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Welcome, Welcome, Welcome Son of God." But mixed with that there is a deep bass, composed of the weeping and the wailing of the men who have persecuted him, and who have rejected him. Listen! I think I can dissect the sonnet, I think I can hear the words as they come separately, each one of them, tolling like a death knell What say they? They say, "Rocks hide us, mountains fall upon us, hide us from the face of Him that sits upon the throne." And shall you be among the number of those who say to the rocks "Hide us?" My impenitent hearer, I suppose for a moment that you have gone out of this world, and that you have died impenitent, and that you are among those who are weeping, and wailing, and gnashing their teeth. Oh! what will then be your terror! Blanched cheeks, and knocking knees are nothing, compared to thy horror of heart, when thou shalt be drunken, but not with wine and when thou shalt reel to and fro, with the intoxication of amazement, and shall fall down, and roll in the dust for horror and dismay. For there he comes, and there he is, with fierce, fire-darting eye; and now the time is come for the great division. The voice is heard, "Gather my people from the four winds of heaven, mine elect in whom my soul delighteth." They are gathered at the right hand, and there they are. And now saith he, "Gather up the tares, and bind them in bundles to burn." And you are gathered, and on the left hand there you are, gathered into the bundle. All that is wanted is the lighting of the pile. Where shall be the torch that shall kindle them? The tares are to be burned: where is the flame? The flame comes out of his mouth, and it is composed of words like these - "Depart, ye cursed into everlasting fire, in hell, prepared for the devil and his angels." Do you linger? "Depart!" Do you seek a blessing? "Ye are cursed." I curse you with a curse. Do ye seek to escape? It is everlasting fire. Do ye stop and plead? No, "I called, and ye refused; I stretched out my hands, and ye regarded me not, therefore I will mock at your calamity, I will laugh when your fear cometh. "Depart, again, I say; depart for ever!" And you are gone. And what is your reflection? Why, it is this: "Oh! would to God that I never had been born! Oh! that I had never heard the gospel preached, that I might never have had the sin of rejecting it!" This will be the gnawing of the worm in your conscience - "I knew better but I did not do better." - As I sowed the wind, it is right I should reap the whirlwind; I was checked, but I would not be stopped; I was wooed, but I would not be invited. Now I see that I have murdered myself Oh! thought above all thoughts most deadly. I am lost, lost, lost! And this is the horror of horrors: I have caused myself to be lost; I have put from me the gospel of Christ; I have destroyed myself. Shall this be so with thee, my hearer? Shall this be so with thee? I pray it may not! O may the Holy Spirit now constrain thee to come to Jesus, for I know that thou art too vile to yield, unless he compels thee. But I hope for thee. Methinks I hear thee say, "What must I do to be saved?" Let me tell you the way of salvation, and then farewell. If thou wouldest be saved, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved;" for the Scripture says, "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; he that believeth not shall be damned!" There he hangs, dying on his cross! look to him and live.
"Venture on him, venture wholly, Let no other trust intrude; None but Jesus Can do helpless sinners good."
Be you wicked, filthy, depraved degraded, you are still invited to Christ. The devil's castaways Christ takes in - the offscouring, the dross, the scum, the draff, the sewerage of this world, is now invited to Christ. Come to him now, and obtain mercy. But if ye harden your hearts,
"The Lord in anger dress'd Shall lift his hand and swear, 'You that despis'd my promis'd rest, Shall have no portion there.'"
Hatred Without Cause
June 29, 1856
C. H. SPURGEON
"They hated me without a cause."- John 15:25 .
It is usually understood, that the quotation our Saviour here refers to is to
be found in the 35th Psalm, at the 19th verse, where David says, speaking of
himself immediately and of the Saviour prophetically, "Let not them who are
mine enemies rejoice over me, neither let them wink with the eye that hate me
without a cause." Our Saviour refers to that as being applicable to himself,
and thus he really tells us, in effect, that many of the Psalms are
Messianic, or refer to the Messiah; and, therefore, Dr. Hawker did not err,
when he said he believed the Psalms referred to the Saviour, though he may
have carried the truth too far. But it will be a good plan, in reading the
Psalms, if we continually look at them as alluding not so much to David, as
to the man of whom Dave was the type, Jesus Christ, David's Lord.
No being was ever more lovely than the Saviour; it would seem almost
impossible not to have affection for him. Certainly at first sight it would
seem far more difficult to hate him than to love him. And yet, loveable as he
was, yea, "altogether lovely," no being so early met with hatred, and no
creature ever endured such a continual persecution as he had to suffer. He is
no sooner ushered into the world, than the sword of Herod is ready to cut him
off, and the innocents of Bethlehem, by their dreadful massacre, gave a sad
foretaste of the sufferings which Christ would endure, and of the hatred that
men would pour upon his devoted head. From his first moment to the cross,
save the temporary lull while he was a child, it seemed as if all the world
were in league against him, and all men sought to destroy him. In different
ways that hatred displayed itself, sometimes in overt deed, as when they took
him to the brow of the hill, and would have cast him down headlong, or when
they took up stones again to stone him, because he said that Abraham desired
to see his day, and saw it, and was glad. At other times that hatred showed
itself in words of slander, such as these,-"He is a drunken man and a wine-
bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" or in looks of contempt, as when
they looked suspiciously at him, because he did eat with publicans and
sinners, and sat down to table with unwashed hands. At other times that
hatred dwelt entirely in their thoughts, and they thought within themselves,
"This man blasphemeth," because he said, "Thy sins be forgiven thee." But at
almost every time there was a hatred towards Christ; and when they took him,
and would have made him king, and a shallow fleeting flood of popular
applause would have watted him on to an unsteady throne, even then there was
a latent hatred towards him, only kept under by loaves and fishes, which only
wanted an equal quantity of loaves and fishes offered by the priests, to
develop it itself in the cry of "Crucify him, crucify him," instead of the
shout of "Hosannah! blessed is he that cometh in the name of the Lord." All
grades of men hated him. Most men have to meet with some opposition; but then
it is frequently a class opposition, and there are other classes who look at
them with respect. The demagogue, who is admired by the poor, must expect to
be despised by the rich; and he who labours for the aristocracy, of course
meets with the contempt of the many. But here was a man who walked among the
people, who loved them, who spoke to rich and poor as though they were (as
indeed they are) on one level in his blessed sight: and yet all classes
conspired to hate him; the priests cried him down because he spoiled their
dogmas; the nobles would put him to death because he spoke of being a king;
while the poor, for some reasons best known to themselves, though they
admired his eloquence, and frequently would have fallen prostrate in worship
before him, on account of the wondrous deeds he did, even these, led by men
who ought to have guided them better, conspired to put him to death, and to
consummate their guilt by nailing him to the tree, and then wagging their
heads, bade him, if he could build a temple in three days, to save himself
and come down from the cross. Christ was the hated one, the slandered and
scorned; he was "despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and
acquainted with grief."
Now, we shall try this morning, first, to justify the Saviour's remarks, that
he was hated without a cause; and secondly, to dwell upon the sin of men-that
men hated him without a cause; in the third place, to give a lesson or two to
Christ's own people, which they may well learn from the fact, that their
Saviour was hated without a cause.
I. First, then, beloved, let us JUSTIFY WHAT THE SAVIOUR SAID,-"They hated me
without a cause." And we remark, that, apart from the consideration of man's
sinfulness, and Christ's purity, there certainly is not cause, whatever to be
discovered why the world should have hated him.
First let us regard Christ in his person. Was there anything in Christ's
person as a man, when he lived in this world, which had a natural tendency to
make any person hate him? Let us remark, that there was an absence of almost
everything which excites hatred between man and man. In the first place there
was no great rank in Christ to excite envy. It is a well known fact that let
a man be ever so good, if he be at all lifted above his fellow-creatures by
riches, or by title, though one by one men will respect him, yet the many
often speak against him, not so much for what he is, as for his rank and his
title. It seems to be natural to men in the mass to despise nobles; each man,
individually, thinks it a wonderful fine thing to know a lord; but put men
together, and they will despise lords and bishops, and speak very lightly of
principalities and powers. Now Christ had none of the outward circumstances
of rank, he had no chariot, no long sleeves, no elevation above his fellows;
when he walked abroad there were no heralds to attend him, there was no pomp
to do him honor. In fact, one would think that Christ's appearance would
naturally have engendered pity. Instead of being lifted above men, he did, in
some sense, seem to be below them, for foxes had holes, and the birds of the
air had nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay his head. Many a
democrat has railed against the archbishop when he has gone by Lambeth
palace; but would he curse or despise him if he were told, the archbishop had
not where to lay his head, but simply toiled for the truth's sake, and had no
reward? The envy naturally excited by rank, station, and such-like, could not
have operated in Christ's case; there was nothing in his garb to attract
attention; it was the garb of the peasant of Galilee-"of one piece, woven
from the top throughout." Nor was there anything in his rank. He might have
been the son of an ancient royal family, but its royalty was apparently
extinct, and he was only known as the Son of the carpenter. The hated him,
then, in that sense, "without a cause."
Many persons seem to have envy excited in them against those who exercise
rule or government over them. The very fact of a man having authority over me
stirs up my evil passions, and I begin to look at him with suspicion, because
he is invested with that authority. Some men naturally fall into the groove,
and obey simply because the ruled is made; principalities and powers are
established, and they submit themselves for the Lord's sake; but the many,
especially in these republican times, seem to have a natural tendency to kick
against authority, simply because it is authority. But if authorities and
governments were changed every month, I believe that in some countries, in
France for instance, there would be revolutions as much under one government
as under another; in fact, they hate all government there, and wish to be
without law, that each man may do what is right in his own eyes. But this did
not operate in Christ's case, he was not a king; he did not assume sway over
the multitude. It is true he was Lord over tempests and seas; it is true he
could command demons, and, if he pleased, men must have been his obedient
servants; but he did not assume power over them. He marshalled no armies, he
promulgated no laws, he made himself no great one in the land; the people did
just as they liked, for all the authority he exercised over them. In fact,
instead of binding laws upon them which were severe, he seemed to have
loosened the rigidity of their system; for when the adulterous woman, who,
otherwise, would have been put to death, was brought before him, he said,
"Neither do I condemn thee." And he relaxed, to a certain extent, the
rigidity of the Sabbatical ordinance, which was in some respects too
burthensome, saying, "The Sabbath was made for man." Surely, then, they hated
him "without a cause."
Some men make others dislike them because they are proud. I know some men
that I should have liked very well if the starch had been left out of them; I
should really sympathize with them and admire them if they had the least
degree of condescension, but they seem to walk about the world with such a
style of pride! They may not be proud-very likely they are not; but, as an
old divine said, "When we see a fox's tail sticking out of a hole, we
naturally expect the fox is there." And, somehow or other, the human mind
cannot bear pride; we always kick against it. But there was nothing of that
in our Saviour. How humble he was! Why he stooped to anything. He would wash
his disciples' feet; and when he walked about among men, there was no parade
about him, as if he would say to them, "See my talent, see my power, see my
rank, see my dignity, stand by, I am greater than you." No, he takes his seat
there. There is Matthew, the publican, sitting beside him, and he does not
think he is hurt by the publican, although he is the worst of sinners; and
there is a harlot, he speaks to her; there is another with seven devils, and
he casts the devils out of her, and another, who has the leprosy, and he even
touches the leper, to show how humble he was, and that there was nothing of
pride about him. Oh! could you have seen the Saviour; he was the very paragon
of humility! There were none of your forms of etiquette and politeness about
him; he had that true politeness which makes itself affable to all men,
because it is kind and loving to all. There was no pride in the Saviour, and
consequently there was nothing to excite men's anger on that account.
Therefore, they hated him "without a cause."
There are others that you cannot help disliking, because they are so
snappish, and waspish, and angry; they look as if they were born on some
terribly dark stormy day, and as if, in the mixture of their body, no small
quantity of vinegar was employed. You could not sit long with them, without
feeling that you have to keep your tongue in pretty tight chain; you must not
talk freely, or there would be a quarrel, for they would make you an offender
for a word. You may say, "Such an one is, no doubt a good man; but really,
that temper of his I cannot bear it. And when a man stands prominently before
the public, with a nasty sour disposition, one feels inclined to dislike him.
But there was nothing of this about our Saviour. "When he was reviled, he
reviled not again;" if men spat in his face he said nothing to them; and when
they smote him, he did not curse them; he sat still and bore their scorn. He
walked through the world, with contempt and infamy constantly poured upon
him; but "he answered not a word;" he was never angry. You cannot find, in
reading the Saviour's life, that he spake one angry word, save those words of
holy wrath which he poured, like scalding oil, upon the head of Pharisaic
pride; then, indeed, his wrath did boil, but it was holy wrath. With such a
loving, kind, gentle spirit, one would have thought that he would have gone
through the world as easily as possible. But, notwithstanding all that, they
hated him. Truly, we can say, "they hated him without a cause."
There is another set of people you can scarcely help disliking; they are
selfish people. Now, we know some persons who are very excellent in temper,
who are extremely honest and upright, but they are so selfish! When you are
with them, you feel that they are just friends to you for what they can get
out of you; and when you have served their turn, they will just lay you
aside, and endeavour to find another. In trying to do good, their good deed
has an ulterior object, but, somehow or other, they are always found out; and
no man in the world gets a greater share of public odium than the man who
lives a selfish life. Among the most miserable men in the universe, kicked
about the world like a football, is the selfish miser. But in Christ there
was nothing selfish; whatever he did, he did for others. He had a marvellous
power of working miracles, but he would not even change a stone into bread
for himself; he reserved his miraculous power for others; he did not seem to
have a particle of self in his whole nature. In fact, the description of his
life might be written very briefly: "he saved others, himself he did not
save." He walked about; he touched the poorest, the meanest, and those who
were the most sick; he cared not what men might say of him; he seemed to have
no regard for fame, or dignity, or ease, or honor. Neither his bodily nor his
mental comforts were in the least regarded by him. Self-sacrifice was the
life of Christ; but he did it with such an ease that it seemed no sacrifice.
Ah! beloved, in that sense certainly they hated Christ without a cause; for
there was nothing in Christ to excite their hatred-in fact, there was
everything, on the other hand, to bind the whole world to love and reverence
a character so eminently unselfish.
Another sort of people there are that I do not like, viz., the hypocritical;
nay, I think I could even live with the selfish man, if I knew him to be
selfish; but the hypocrite, do not let him come anywhere near where I am. Let
a public man be a hypocrite once, and the world will scarcely trust him
again; they will hate him. But Christ was, in this particular, free from any
blame; and if they hated him, they hated him not for that, for there never
was a more unvarnished man than Christ. He was called, you know, the child
Jesus; because as a child speaks itself out, and has no reserve, and no
craftiness, even so was it with Jesus; he had no affectation, no deceit.
There was no change about him; he was "without variableness or shadow of
turning." Whatever the world may say of Christ, they never said they believed
he was a hypocrite; and among all the slanders they brought against him, they
never disputed his sincerity. Had they been able to show that he really had
been imposing upon them, they might have had some grounds for hating him; but
he lived in the sunlight of sincerity and walked on the very mountain-top of
continual observation. He could not be a hypocrite, and men knew he could
not; and yet men hated him. Verily, my friends, if you survey the character
of Christ, in all its loveliness, in all its benevolence, in all its
sincerity, in all its self-devotion, in all intense eagerness to benefit man,
you must say, indeed, "They hated him without a cause." there was nothing in
Christ's person to lead men to hate him.
In the next place, was there anything in Christ's errand which could make
people hate him? If they had asked him, for what reason have you come from
heaven? would there have been anything in his answer likely to excite their
indignation and hatred? I trow not. For what purpose did he come? He came,
first of all, to explain mysteries-to tell them what was meant by the
sacrificial lamb, what was the significance of the scape-goat, what was
intended by the ark, the brazen serpent, and the pot of manna; he came to
rend the veil of the holy of holies, and to show men secrets they had never
seen before. Should they have hated one who lifted the veil of mystery, and
made dark things light, and expounded riddles? Should they have hated him who
taught them what Abraham desired to see, and what prophets and kings had
longed to know, but died without a knowledge of? Was there anything in that
to make them hate him? What else did he come for? He came on earth to reclaim
the wanderer; and is there anything in that that should make men hate Christ?
If he came to reform the drunkard, to reclaim the harlot, and gather in the
publicans and sinners, and bring prodigals to their father's house again,
sure that is an object with which every philanthropist should agree; it is
that for which our governments are formed and fashioned, to bring men to a
better state; and if Christ came for that purpose, was there anything in that
to make men hate him? For what else did he come? He came to heal the diseases
of the body; is that a legitimate object of hatred? Shall I hate the
physician who goes about gratuitously healing all manner of diseases? Are
deaf ears unstopped, are mouths opened, are the dead raised, are the blind
made to see, and widows blest with their sons? Are these causes why a man
should be obnoxious? Surely, he might well say, "For which of these works do
ye stone me? If I have done good works wherefore speak ye against me?" But
none of these works were the cause of men's hatred; they hated him without a
cause. And he came on earth to die, that sinners might not die? Was that a
cause of hatred? Ought I to hate the Saviour, because he came to quench the
flames of hell for me? Should I despise him who allowed his father's flaming
sword to be quenched in his own vital blood? Shall I look with indignation
upon the substitute who takes my sin and griefs upon him, and carries my
sorrows? Shall I hate and despise the man who loved me better than he loved
himself-who loved me so much that he visited the gloomy grave for my
salvation? Are these the causes of hatred? Surely his errand was one that
ought to have made us sing his praise for ever, and join the harps of angels
in their rapturous songs. "They hated me without a cause."
But once more: was there anything in Christ's doctrine that should have made
us hate him? No, we answer; there was nothing in his doctrine that should
have excited men's hatred. Take his preceptive doctrines. Did he not teach us
to do to others as we would they should to us? Was he not also the exponent
of everything lovely and honorable, and of good report? And was not his
teaching the very essence of virtue, so that if virtue's self had written it,
it could not have written such a perfect code of lovely morals, and excellent
virtues. Was it the ethical part of his doctrines that men hated? He taught
that rich and poor must stand on one level; he taught that his gospel was not
to be confined to one particular nation, but was to be gloriously expansive,
so as to cover the world? This perhaps, was one principal reason of their
hating him; but surely there was no justifiable cause for their indignation
in this. There was nothing in Christ to lead men to hate him. "They hated him
without a cause."
II. And now, in the second place, I come to dwell on MAN'S SIN, that he
should have hated the Saviour without a cause. Ah! beloved, I will not tell
you of man's adulteries, and fornications, and murders, and poisonings, and
sodomies. I will not tell you of man's wars, and bloodsheds, and cruelties,
and rebellions; If I want to tell you man's sin, I must tell you that man is
a decide-that he put to death his God, and slew his Saviour; and when I have
told you that, I have given you the essence of all sin, the master-piece of
crime, the very pinnacle and climax of the terrific pyramid of mortal guilt.
Man outdid himself when he put his Saviour to death, and sin did out-Herod
Herod when it slew the Lord of the universe, the lover of the race of man,
who came on earth to die. Never does sin appear so exceedingly sinful as when
we see it pointed at the person of Christ, whom it hated without a cause. In
every other case, when man has hated goodness, there have always been some
extenuating circumstances. We never do see goodness in this world without
alloy; however great may be any man's goodness, there is always some peg
whereon we may hang a censure; however excellent a man may be, there is
always some fault which may diminish our admiration of our love. But in the
Saviour there was nothing of this. There was nothing that could blot the
picture; holiness stood out to the very life; there was holiness-only
holiness. Let a man hate Whitfield, one of the holiest men that ever lived,
he would tell you, he did not hate his goodness, but he hated his ranting
preaching, and the extraordinary anecdotes he told; or he would pull out
something that dropped from his lips, and hold it up to derision. But in
Christ's case men could not do that; for though they sought for false
witnesses, yet their witnesses agreed not together. There was nothing in him
but holiness: and any person with half an eye can see, that the thing men
hated was simply that Christ was perfect; they could not have hated him for
anything else. And thus you see the abominable, detestable evil of the human
heart-that man hates goodness simply because it is such. It is not true that
we Christian people are hated because of our infirmities; men make our
infirmities a nail whereon to hang their laughter; but if we were not
Christians they would not hate our infirmities. They hold our inconsistencies
up to ridicule; but I do not believe our inconsistencies are what they care
about; we might be as inconsistent as all the rest of the world if we did not
profess religion, of if they did not think we had any. But because the
Saviour had no inconsistencies or infirmities, men were stripped of all their
excuses for hating him, and it came out that man naturally hates goodness,
because he is so evil that he cannot but detest it.
And now let me appeal to every sinner present, and ask him whether he ever
had any cause for hating Christ. But some one says, "I do not hate him; if he
were to come to my house I would love him very much." But it is very
remarkable that Christ lives next door to you, in the person of poor Betty
there. She goes to such-and-such a chapel, and you say she is nothing but a
poor canting Methodist. Why don't you like Betty? She is one of Christ's
members, and "Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these, ye
have done it unto me." You say you do not hate Christ. Now, look across the
chapel. Don't you know a man, a member of this place, a very holy man, but
somehow or other you cannot bear him, because he told you of your faults
once. Ah! sir, if you loved Christ you would love his members. What! tell me
you love my head, but you do not love my hands? My dear fellow, you cannot
cut my head off and let me be the same person. If you love Christ the head,
you must love his members. But you say, "I do love his people." Very well,
then you have passed from death unto life, if you love the brethren. But you
say, "I am not sure that I am a changed character, still, I am not aware that
there is any opposition in my heart to Christ and his gospel." You may not be
aware of it, but it is your not being aware of it that makes you case all the
more sad. Perhaps if you knew it, and wept over it, you would come to Christ;
but since you do not know it and do not feel it, that is a proof of your
hostility. Now come! I must suppose you to be hostile to Christ, unless you
love him; for I know there are only two opinions of him. You must either hate
him or love him. As for indifference with regard to Christ, it is just a
clear impossibility. A man might as well say, "I am indifferent towards
honesty." Why, then he is dishonest, is he not? You are indifferent to
Christ? Then you hate him. And why is it that you hate him? Many a time you
have been wooed by the gospel; you have resisted appeals, many of them; come,
now, for which of Christ's works do you hate him? Have I a persecutor here?
Sinner! for what dost thou hate Christ? Dost thou curse him? Tell me what he
has done, that thou shouldst be angry with him. Point to a single fault of
his in his carriage towards thee. has Christ ever hurt thee? "Oh!" says one,
"he has taken my wife and made her one of his children, and she has been
baptized and comes to chapel, and I cannot bear that." Ah! sinner, is that
why thou hatest Christ? Wouldst thou have hated Christ if he had snatched thy
wife from the flames, if he had saved her from going down to death. No, thou
wouldst love him. And he has saved thy wife's soul. Ah! if he never saves
thee; if thou lovest thy wife, thou wilt have enough cause to love him, to
think he has been so good to thee. I tell thee, if thou hatest Christ, thou
not only hatest him without a cause, but thou hatest him when thou hast
simple cause to love him. Come, poor sinner, what hast thou got by hating
Christ? Thou hast stings of conscience. Many a sinner, by hating Christ, has
been locked up in jail, has a ragged coat, a diseased body, a nasty filthy
house, with broken windows, a poor wife, nearly beaten to death, and children
that scamper out of the way as soon as father comes home. What hast thou got
by hating Christ? Oh! if thou wert to estimate thy gains, thou wouldst find
that getting Christ would be a gain, but that hating him is a dead loss to
thee. Now, if you hate Christ and Christ's religion, I tell you that you hate
Christ without a cause; and let me give you one solemn warning, which is
this, that if you keep on hating Christ till you die, you will not hurt
Christ by it, but you will hurt yourself most awfully. Oh! may God deliver
you from being haters of Christ! There is nothing to get by it, but
everything to lose by it. For what cause do you hate Christ, sinner? For what
cause do you hate Christ, persecutor? For what cause do you hate Christ, ye
carnal, ungodly men? What do you hate Christ's gospel for? His ministers-what
hurt have they done you? What hurt can they do you, when they long to do you
all the good in the world? Why is it you hate Christ? AH! it is only because
you are so desperately set on mischief-because the poison of asps is under
your lips, and your throat is an open sepulchre. Otherwise, ye would love
Christ. They hated him "without a cause."
And now, Christian men, I must preach at you for just a moment. Sure ye have
great reason to love Christ now, for ye once hated him without a cause. Did
ye ever treat a friend ill, and did not know it? It has been the misfortune
of most of us to do it sometimes. We had some suspicion that a friend had
done us an injury; we quarrelled with him for weeks, and he had not done it
at all. What he had done was only to warn us. AH! there are never tears like
those we shed when we have injured a friend. And should we not weep when we
have injured the Saviour? Did he not come to my door one cold damp night, and
I shut my door against him? Oh! I have done what I cannot undo; I have
slighted my Lord, I have insulted my friend, I have thrown dishonors upon him
whom I admire. Shall I not weep for him? Oh! shall I not spend my very life
for him? for my sins, my own treachery spilled his blood. Monuments, ah!
monuments I will build; where'er I live, where'er I go. I'll pile up
monuments of praise, that his name may be spread; and where'er I wander, I'll
tell what he did, with many a tear, that I so long have ill-treated him and
so fearfully misunderstood him. We hated him without a cause; therefore, let
us love him.
III. TWO LESSONS TO THE SAINTS.
In the first place, if your Master was hated without a cause, do not you
expect to get off very easily in this world. If your Master was subject to
all this contempt and all this pain, do you suppose you will always ride
through this world in a chariot? If you do, you will be marvellously
mistaken. As your Master was persecuted, you must expect to be the same. Some
of you pity us when we are persecuted and despised. Ah! save your pity, keep
it for those of whom the world speaks well; keep it for those against whom
the woe is pronounced. "Woe unto you when all men shall speak well of you."
Save your pity for earth's favorites; save your pity for this world's lords,
that are applauded by all men. We ask not for your pity; nay, sirs, in all
these things we rejoice, and "glory in tribulations also, knowing that the
things which happen unto us, happen for the furtherance of the gospel;" and
we count it all joy when we fall into manifold temptations, for we rejoice
that the name of Christ is known and his kingdom extended.
The other lesson is, take care, if the world does hate you, that it hates you
without a cause. If the world is to oppose you, it is of no use making the
world oppose you. This world is bitter enough, without my putting vinegar in
it. Some people seem to fancy the world will persecute them; therefore, they
put themselves into a fighting posture, as if they invited persecutions. Now,
I do not see any good in doing that. Do not try and make other people dislike
you. Really, the opposition some people meet with is not for righteousness'
sake, but for their own sin's sake, or their own nasty temper's sake. Many a
Christian lives in a house-a Christian servant girl perhaps; she says she is
persecuted for righteousness' sake. But she is of a bad disposition; she
sometimes speaks sharp, and then her mistress reproves her. That is not being
persecuted for righteousness' sake. There is another, a merchant in the city,
perhaps; he is not looked upon with much esteem. He says he is persecuted for
righteousness' sake; whereas, it is because he did not keep a bargain
sometime ago. Another man says he is persecuted for righteousness' sake; but
he goes about assuming authority over everybody, and now and then persons
turn round and upbraid him. Look to it, Christian people, that if you are
persecuted, it is for righteousness' sake; for if you get any persecution
yourself you must keep it yourself. The persecutions you bring on yourself
for your own sins, Christ has nothing to do with them; they are chastisements
on you. They hated Christ without a cause; then fear not to be hated. They
hated Christ without a cause; then court not to be hated, and give the world
no cause for it.
And now may you who hate Christ love him; Oh! that he would bring himself to
you now! Oh! that he would show himself to you! And then sure you must love
him at once. He that believeth on the Lord Jesus will be sure to love him and
he that loveth him shall be saved. Oh! that God would give you faith, and
give you love, for Christ Jesus' sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 15". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 21 / Ordinary 26