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Lovest Thou Me?
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 7th, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
"Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my lambs. He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee. He saith unto him, Feed my sheep. He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, Lovest thou me? Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me? And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee. Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep." John 21:15-17 .
How very much like to Christ before his crucifixion was Christ after his resurrection! Although he had lain in the grave, and descended into the regions of the dead, and had retraced his steps to the land of the living, yet how marvellously similar he was in his manners and how unchanged in his disposition. His passion, his death, and his resurrection, could not alter his character as a man any more than they could affect his attributes as God. He is Jesus for ever the same. And when he appeared again to his disciples, he had cast aside none of his kind manners; he had not lost a particle of interest in their welfare; he addressed them just as tenderly as before, and called them his children and his friends. Concerning their temporal condition he was mindful, for he said, "Children, have ye any meat?" And he was certainly quite as watchful over their spiritual state, for after he had supplied their bodies by a rich draught from the sea, with fish, (which possibly he had created for the occasion), he enquires after their souls' health and prosperity, beginning with the one who might be supposed to have been in the most sickly condition, the one who had denied his Master thrice, and wept bitterly even Simon Peter. "Simon, son of Jonas," said Jesus, "lovest thou me?"
Without preface, for we shall have but little time this morning may God help us to make good use of it! we shall mention three things: first a solemn question "Lovest thou me?" secondly, a discreet answer, "Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee;" and thirdly, a required demonstration of the fact, "He saith unto him, Feed my lambs;" or, again, "Feed my sheep."
I. First, then, here was A SOLEMN QUESTION, which our Saviour put to Peter, not for his own information, for, as Peter said, "Thou knowest that I love thee," but for Peter's examination. It is well, especially after a foul sin, that the Christian should well probe the wound. It is right that he should examine himself; for sin gives grave cause for suspicion, and it would be wrong for a Christian to live an hour with a suspicion concerning his spiritual estate, unless he occupy that hour in examination of himself. Self-examination should more especially follow sin, though it ought to be the daily habit of every Christian, and should be practised by him perpetually. Our Saviour, I say, asked this question of Peter, that he might ask it of himself; so we may suppose it asked of us this morning that we may put it to our own hearts. Let each one ask himself then, in his Saviour's name, for his own profit, "Lovest thou the Lord? Lovest thou the Saviour? Lovest thou the ever-blessed Redeemer?"
Note what this question was. It was a question concerning Peter's love. He did not say, "Simon, son of Jonas, fearest thou me." He did not say, "Dost thou admire me? Dost thou adore me?" Nor was it even a question concerning his faith. He did not say, "Simon, son of Jonas, believest thou in me?" but he asked him another question, "Lovest thou me?" I take it, that is because love is the very best evidence of piety. Love is the brightest of all the graces; and hence it becomes the best evidence. I do not believe love to be superior to faith; I believe faith to be the groundwork of our salvation; I think faith to be the mother grace, and love springs from it; faith I believe to be the root grace, and love grows from it. But, then, faith is not an evidence for brightness equal to love. Faith, if we have it, is a sure and certain sign that we are God's children; and so is every other grace a sure and certain one, but many of them cannot be seen by others. Love is a more sparkling one than any other. If I have a true fear of God in my heart, then am I God's child; but since fear is a grace that is more dim and hath not that halo of glory over it that love has, love becomes one of the very best evidences and one of the easiest signs of discerning whether we are alive to the Saviour. He that lacketh love, must lack also every other grace in the proportion in which he lacketh love. If love be little, I believe it is a sign that faith is little; for he that believeth much loveth much. If love be little, fear will be little, and courage for God will be little; and whatsoever graces there be, though faith lieth at the root of them all, yet do they so sweetly hang on love, that if love be weak, all the rest of the graces most assuredly will be so. Our Lord asked Peter, then, that question, "Lovest thou me?"
And note, again, that he did not ask Peter anything about his doings. He did not say, "Simon Peter, how much hast thou wept? How often hast thou done penance on account of thy great sin? How often hast thou on thy knees sought mercy at my hand for the slight thou hast done to me, and for that terrible cursing and swearing wherewith thou didst disown thy Lord, whom thou hadst declared thou wouldst follow even to prison and to death?" No; it was not in reference to his works, but in reference to the state of his heart that Jesus said, "Lovest thou me?" To teach us this; that though works do follow after a sincere love, yet love excelleth the works, and works without love are not evidences worth having. We may have some tears; but they are not the tears that God shall accept, if there be no love to him. We may have some works; but they are not acceptable works, if they are not done out of love to his person. We may perform very many of the outward, ritual observances of religion; but unless love lieth at the bottom, all these things are vain and useless. The question, then, "Lovest thou me?" is a very vital question; far more so than one that merely concerns the outward conduct. It is a question that goes into the very heart, and in such a way that it brings the whole heart to one question; for if love be wrong, everything else is wrong. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
Ah! dear beloved, we have very much cause for asking ourselves this question. If our Saviour were no more than a man like ourselves, he might often doubt whether we love him at all. Let me just remind you of sundry things which give us very great cause to ask this question: "Lovest thou me?" I will deal only with the last week. Come, my Christian brother, look at thine own conduct. Do not thy sins make thee doubt whether thou dost love thy Master? Come, look over the sins of this week: when thou wast speaking with an angry word and with a sullen look, might not thy Lord have touched thee, and said, "Lovest thou me?" When thou wast doing such-and-such a thing, which thou right well knewest in thy conscience was not according to his precept, might he not have said, "Lovest thou me?" Canst thou not remember the murmuring word because something had gone wrong with thee in business this week, and thou wast speaking ill of the God of providence for it? Oh, might not the loving Saviour, with pity in his languid eye, have said to thee, "What, speak thus? Lovest thou me?" I need not stop to mention the various sins of which ye have been guilty. Ye have sinned, I am sure, enough to give good ground for self-suspicion, if ye did not still hang on this; that his love to you, not your love to him, is the seal of your discipleship. Oh, do you not think within yourselves, "If I had loved him more, should I have sinned so much? And oh, can I love him when I have broken so many of his commandments! Have I reflected his glorious image to the world as I should have done? Have I not wasted many hours within this week that I might have spent in winning souls to him? Have I not thrown away many precious moments in light and frivolous conversation which I might have spent in earnest prayer? Oh! how many words have I uttered, which if they have not been filthy, (as I trust they have not) yet have not been such as have ministered grace to the hearers? Oh, how many follies have I indulged in? How many sins have I winked at? How many crimes have I covered over? How have I made my Saviour's heart to bleed? How have I done dishonor to his cause? How have I in some degree disgraced my heart's profession of love to him?" Oh, ask these questions of thyself, beloved, and say, "Is this thy kindness to thy Friend?"
But I hope this week has been one wherein thou hast sinned little openly as to the world, or even in thine own estimation, as to open acts of crime. But now let me put another question to thee, Does not thy worldliness make thee doubt? How hast thou been occupied with the world, from Monday morning to the last hour of Saturday night? Thou hast scarce had time to think of him. What corners hast thou pushed thy Jesus into, to make room for thy bales of goods? How hast thou stowed him away into one short five minutes, to make room for thy ledger or thy day-book? How little time hast thou given to him! Thou hast been occupied with the shop, with the exchange, and the farmyard; and thou hast had little time to commune with him! Come, just think! remember any one day this week; canst thou say that thy goal always flew upward with passionate desires to him? Didst thou pant like a hart for thy Saviour during the week. Nay, perhaps there was a whole day went by, and thou scarcely thoughtest of him till the winding up of it; and then thou couldst only upbraid thyself, "How have I forgotten Christ to-day? I have not beheld his person; I have not walked with him; I have not done as Enoch did! I knew he would come into the shop with me; I knew he is such a blessed Christ that he would stand behind the counter with me; I knew he was such a joyous Lord Jesus that he would walk through the market with me! but I left him at home, and forgot him all the day long." Surely, surely, beloved, when thou rememberest thy worldliness, thou must say of thyself, "O Lord, thou mightest well ask, 'Lovest thou me?'"
Consider again, I beseech thee, how cold thou hast been this week at the mercy-seat. Thou hast been there, for thou canst not live without it; thou hast lifted up thy heart in prayer, for thou art a Christian, and prayer is as necessary to thee as thy breath. But oh! with what a poor asthmatic breath hast thou lived this week! How little hast thou breathed? Dost not remember how hurried was thy prayer on Monday morning, how driven thou wast on Tuesday night? Canst thou not recollect how languid was thy heart, when on another occasion thou wast on thy knees? Thou hast had little wrestling, mayhap, this week; little agonising; thou hast had little of the prayer which prevaileth; thou hast scarcely laid hold of the horns of the altar; thou hast stood in the distance, and seen the smoke at the altar, but thou hast not laid hold of the horns of it. Come, ask thyself, do not thy prayers make thee doubt? I say, honestly before you all, my own prayers often make me doubt; and I know nothing that gives me more grave cause of disquietude. When I labour to pray oh! that rascally devil! fifty thousand thoughts he tries to inject, to take me off from prayer; and when I will and must pray, oh, what an absence there is of that burning fervent desire; and when I would come right close to God, when I would weep my very eyes out in penitence, and would believe and take the blessing, oh, what little faith and what little penitence there is! Verily, I have thought that prayer has made me more unbelieving than anything else. I could believe over the tops of my sins, but sometimes I can scarcely believe over the tops of my prayers for oh! how cold is prayer when it is cold! Of all things that are bad when cold, I think prayer is the worst, for it becomes like a very mockery, and instead of warming the heart, it makes it colder than it was before, and seems even to damp its life and spirit, and fills it full of doubts whether it is really a heir of heaven and accepted of Christ. Oh! look at thy cold prayers, Christian, and say is not thy Saviour right to ask this question very solemnly, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
But stop, again; just one more word for thee to reflect upon. Perhaps thou hast had much prayer. and this has been a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. But yet, mayhap, thou knowest, thou hast not gone so far this week as thou mightest have done, in another exercise of godliness that is even better than prayer, I mean communion and fellowship. Oh! beloved, thou hast this week had but little sitting under the apple tree, and finding its shadow great delight to thee. Thou hast not gone much this week to the banqueting house, and had its banner of love over thee. Come, bethink thyself, how little hast thou seen thy Lord this week! Perhaps he has been absent the greater part of the time; and hast thou not groaned? hast thou not wept? hast thou not sighed after him? Sure, then, thou canst not have loved him as thou shouldst, else thou couldst not have borne his absence; thou couldst not have endured it calmly, if thou hadst the affection for him a sanctified spirit has for its Lord. Thou didst have one sweet visit from him in the week, and why didst thou let him go? Why didst thou not constrain him to abide with thee? Why didst thou not lay hold of the skirts of his garment, and say, "Why shouldst thou be like a wayfaring man, and as one that turneth aside, and tarrieth for a night? Oh! my lord, thou shalt dwell with me; I will keep thee; I will detain thee in my company; I cannot let thee go; I love thee, and I will constrain thee to dwell with me this night and the next day; long as I can keep thee, will I keep thee." But no; thou wast foolish; thou didst let him go. Oh! soul, why didst thou not lay hold of his arm, and say, "I will not let thee go." But thou didst lay hold on him so feebly, thou didst suffer him to depart so quickly, he might have turned round, and said to thee, as he said to Simon, "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?"
Now, I have asked you all these questions, because I have been asking them of myself. I feel that I must answer to nearly every one of them, "Lord, there is great cause for me to ask myself that question;" and I think that most of you, if you are honest to yourselves, will say the same. I do not approve of the man that says, "I know I love Christ, and I never have a doubt about it;" because we often have reason to doubt ourselves; a believer's strong faith is not a strong faith in his own love to Christ it is a strong faith in Christ's love to him. There is no faith which always believes that it loves Christ. Strong faith has its conflicts; and a true believer will often wrestle in the very teeth of his own feelings. Lord, if I never did love thee, nevertheless, if I am not a saint, I am a sinner. Lord, I still believe; help thou mine unbelief. The disciple can believe, when he feels no love; for he can believe that Christ loveth the soul; and when he hath no evidence he can come to Christ without evidence, and lay, hold of him, just as he is, with naked faith, and still hold fast by him. Though he see not his signs, though he walk in darkness and there be no light, still may he trust in the Lord, and stay upon his God; but to be certain at all times that we love the Lord is quite another matter; about this we have need continually to question ourselves, and most scrupulously to examine both the nature and the extent of our evidences.
II. And now I come to the second thing, which is A DISCREET ANSWER. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?" Simon gave a very good answer. Jesus asked him, in the first place, whether he loved him better than others. Simon would not say that: he had once been a little proud more than a little and thought he was better than the other disciples. But this time he evaded that question; he would not say that he loved better than others. And I am sure there is no loving heart that will think it loves even better than the least of God's children. I believe the higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem; and he will be the last person to claim any supremacy over others in the divine grace of love to Jesus. But mark how Simon Peter did answer: he did not answer as to the quantity but as to the quality of his love. He would aver that he loved Christ, but not that he loved Christ better than others. "Lord, I cannot say how much I love thee; but thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I do love thee. So far I can aver: as to the quantity of my love, I cannot say much about it."
But just notice, again, the discreet manner in which Peter answered. Some of us, if we had been asked that question, would have answered foolishly. We should have said, "Lord, I have preached for thee so many times this week; Lord, I have distributed of my substance to the poor this week. Blessed be thy name, thou hast given me grace to walk humbly, faithfully, and honestly and therefore, Lord, I think I can say, 'I love thee.'" We should have brought forward our good works before our Master, as being the evidences of our love; we should have said, "Lord, thou hast seen me during this week; as Nehemiah did of old, "Forget not my good works. O Lord, I thank thee; I know they are thy gifts, but I think they are proofs of my love." That would have been a very good answer if we had been questioned by our fellow man, and he had said, "You do not always love your Saviour;" but it would be foolish for us to tell the Master that. Peter's answer was wise; "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee." You know the Master might have said to Peter, had he appealed to his works, "Yes, thou mayest preach, and yet not love me; thou mayest pray, after a fashion, and yet not love me; thou mayest do all these works, and yet have no love to me. I did not ask thee what are the evidences of thy love, I asked thee the fact of it." Very likely all my dear friends here would not have answered in the fashion I have supposed; but they would have said, "Love thee Lord? Why, my heart is all on fire towards thee; I feel as if I could go to prison and to death for thee! Sometimes, when I think of thee, my heart is ravished with bliss; and when thou art absent, O Lord, I moan and cry like a dove that has lost its mate. Yes, I feel I love thee, O my Christ." But that would have been very foolish, because although we may often rejoice in our own feelings they are joyful things it would not do to plead them with our Lord, for he might answer, "Ah! thou feelest joyful at the mention of my name. So, no doubt, has many a deluded one, because he had a fictitious faith, and a fancied hope in Christ; therefore the name of Christ seemed to gladden him. Thou sayest, 'I have felt dull when thou hast been absent.' That might have been accounted for from natural circumstances; you had a headache, perhaps, or some other ailment. 'But,' sayest thou, 'I felt so happy when he was present that I thought I could die.' Ah! in such manner Peter had spoken many a time before; but a sorry mess he made of it when he trusted his feelings; for he would have sunk into the sea but for Christ; and eternally damned his soul, if it had not been for his grace, when, with cursing and swearing he thrice denied his Lord. But no, Peter was wise; he did not bring forward his frames and feelings, nor did he bring his evidences: though they are good in themselves, he did not bring them before Christ. But, as though he shall say, "Lord, I appeal to thine omnipotence. I am not going to tell thee that the volume of my heart must contain such-and-such matter, because there is such-and-such a mark on its cover; for, Lord, thou canst read inside of it; and, therefore, I need not tell thee what the title is, nor read over to thee the index of the contents. Lord, thou knowest that I love thee."
Now, could we, this morning, dear friends, give such an answer as that to the question? If Christ should come here, if he were now to walk down these aisles, and along the pews, could we appeal to his own divine Omniscience, his infallible knowledge of our hearts, that we all love him? There is a test-point between a hypocrite and a real Christian. If thou art a hypocrite, thou mightest say, "Lord, my minister knows that I love thee; Lord, the deacons know that I love thee; they think I do, for they have given me a ticket; the members think I love thee; for they see me sitting at thy table; my friends think I love thee, for they often hear me talk about thee." But thou couldst not say, "Lord, thou knowest that I love thee;" thine own heart is witness that thy secret works belie thy confession, for thou art without prayer in secret; and thou canst preach a twenty minutes' prayer in public. Thou art niggardly and parsimonious in giving to the cause of Christ; but thou canst sport thy name to be seen. Thou art an angry, petulant creature; but when thou comest to the house of God, thou hast a pious whine, and talkest like a canting hypocrite, as if thou wert a very gentlemanly man, and never seemed angry. Thou canst take thy Maker's name in vain; but if thou hear another do it thou wouldst be mighty severe upon him. Thou affectest to be very pious, and yet if men knew of that widow's house that is sticking in thy throat, and of that orphan's patrimony which thou hast taken from him, thou wouldst leave off trumpeting thy good deeds. Thine own heart tells thee thou art a liar before God. But thou, O sincere Christian, thou canst welcome thy Lord's question, and answer it with holy fear and gracious confidence. Yes, thou mayest welcome the question. Such a question was never put to Judas. The Lord loved Peter so much that he was jealous over him, or he never would have thus challenged his attachment. And in this kind doth he often appeal to the affections of those whom he dearly loves. The response likewise is recorded for thee, "Lord, thou knowest all things." Canst thou not look up, though scorned by men, though even rejected by thy minister, though kept back by the deacons, and looked upon with disesteem by some canst thou not look up, and say, "Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee?" Do it not in brag and bravado; but if you can do it sincerely, be happy, bless God that he has given you a sincere love to the Saviour, and ask him to increase it from a spark to a flame, and from a grain to a mountain. "Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me? Yea, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee."
III. And now here is A DEMONSTRATION REQUIRED "Feed my lambs: feed my sheep." That was Peter's demonstration. It is not necessary that it should be our way of showing our love. There are different ways for different disciples. There are some who are not qualified to feed lambs, for they are only little lambs themselves. There are some that could not feed sheep, for they cannot at present see afar off; they are weak in the faith, and not qualified to teach at all. They have other means, however, of showing their love to the Saviour. Let us offer a few words upon this matter.
"Lovest thou me?" Then one of the best evidences thou canst give is to feed my lambs. Have I two or three little children that love and fear my name? If thou wantest to do a deed, which shall show that thou art a true lover, and not a proud pretender; go and feed them. Are there a few little ones whom I have purchased with my blood in an infant class? Dost thou want to do something which shall evidence that thou art indeed mine? Then sit not down with the elders, dispute not in the temple; I did that myself; but go thou, and sit down with the young orphans, and teach them the way to the kingdom. "Feed my lambs."
Dearly beloved, I have been of late perplexing myself with one thought: that our church-government is not scriptural. It is scriptural as far as it goes; but it is not according to the whole of Scripture; neither do we practise many excellent things that ought to be practised in our churches. We have received into our midst a large number of young persons; in the ancient churches there was what was called the catechism class I believe there ought to be such a class now. The Sabbath-school, I believe, is in the Scripture; and I think there ought to be on the Sabbath afternoon, a class of the young people of this church, who are members already, to be taught by some of the elder members. Now-a-days, when we get the lambs, we just turn them adrift in the meadow, and there we leave them. There are more than a hundred young people in this church who positively, though they are members, ought not to be left alone; but some of our elders, if we have elders, and some who ought to be ordained elders, should make it their business to teach them further, to instruct them in the faith, and so keep them hard and fast by the truth of Jesus Christ. If we had elders, as they had in all the apostolic churches, this might in some degree be attended to. But now the hands of our deacons are full, they do much of the work of the eldership, but they cannot do any more than they are doing, for they are toiling hard already. I would that some here whom God has gifted, and who have time, would spend their afternoons in taking a class of those who live around them, of their younger brethren, asking them to their houses for prayer and pious instruction, that so the lambs of the flock may be fed. By God's help I will take care of the sheep; I will endeavour under God to feed them, as well as I can, and preach the gospel to them. You that are older in the faith and stronger in it, need not that careful cautious feeding which is required by the lambs. But there are many in our midst, good pious souls who love the Saviour as much as the sheep do; but one of their complaints which I have often heard is, "Oh I sir, I joined your church, I thought they would be all brothers and sisters to me, and that I could speak to them, and they would teach me and be kind to me. Oh ! sir, I came, and nobody spoke to me." I say, "Why did not you speak to them first?" "Oh !" they reply, "I did not like." Well, they should have liked, I am well aware; but if we had some means of feeding the lambs, it would be a good way of proving to our Saviour and to the world, that we really do endeavour to follow him. I hope some of my friends will take that hint; and if, in concert with me, my brethren in office will endeavour to do something in that way, I think it will be no mean proof of their love to Christ. "Feed my lambs," is a great duty; let us try to practise it as we are able.
But, beloved, we cannot all do that; the lambs cannot feed the lambs; the sheep cannot feed the sheep exactly. There must be some appointed to these offices. And therefore, in the Saviour's name, allow me to say to some of you, that there are different kinds of proof you must give. "Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me? He saith unto him, Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee." Then preserve that prayer-meeting attend to it; see that it is kept going on, and that it does not fall to the ground. "Simon son of Jonas lovest thou me?" See to thy servants; see that they go to the house of God, and instruct them in the faith. There is a sister: Lovest thou Christ? "Yea, Lord." Perhaps it is as much as you can do perhaps it is as much as you ought to do to train up your children in the fear of the Lord. It is of no use to trouble yourselves about duties that God never meant you to do, and leave your own vineyard at home to itself. Just take care of your own children; perhaps that is as good a proof as Christ wants of you that you are feeding his lambs. You have your own office, to which Christ has appointed you: seek not to run away from it, but endeavour to do what you can to serve your Master therein. But, I beseech you, do something to prove your love; do not be sitting down doing nothing. Do not be folding your hands and arms, for such people perplex a minister most, and bring the most ruin on a church such as do nothing. You are always the readiest to find fault. I have marked it here, that the very people who are quarrelling with everything are the people that are doing nothing, or are good for nothing. They are sure to quarrel with everything else, because they are doing nothing themselves; and therefore they have time to find fault with other people. Do not O Christian, say that thou lovest Christ, and yet do nothing for him. Doing is a good sign of living; and he can scarce be alive unto God that does nothing for God. We must let our works evidence the sincerity of our love to our Master. "Oh!" say you, "but we are doing a little." Can you do any more? If you can, then do it. If you cannot do more, then God requires no more of you; doing to the utmost of your ability is your best proof; but if you can do more, inasmuch as ye keep back any part of what ye can do, in that degree ye give cause to yourselves to distrust your love to Christ. Do all you can to your very utmost; serve him abundantly; ay, and superabundantly: seek to magnify his name; and if ever you do too much for Christ, come and tell me of it; if you ever do too much for Christ, tell the angels of it but you will never do that. He gave himself for you; give yourselves to him.
You see, my friends, how I have been directing you to search your own hearts, and I am almost afraid that some of you will mistake my intention. Have I a poor soul here who really deplores the langour of her affections? Perhaps you have determined to ask yourself as many questions as you can with a view of reviving the languid sparks of love. Let me tell you then that the pure flame of love must be always nourished where it was first kindled. When I admonished you to look to yourself it was only to detect the evil; would you find the remedy, you must direct your eyes, not to your own heart, but to the blessed heart of Jesus to the Beloved one to my gracious Lord and Master. And wouldst thou be ever conscious of the sweet swellings up of thy heart towards him; thou canst only prove this by a constant sense of his tender love to thee. I rejoice to know that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of love, and the ministry of the Spirit is endeared to me in nothing so much as this, that he takes of the things of Jesus, and shows them to me, spreading abroad the Saviour's love in my heart, until it constrains all my passions, awakens the tenderest of all tender emotions, reveals my union to him, and occasions my strong desire to serve him. Let not love appear to thee as a stern duty, or an arduous effort; rather look to Jesus, yield thyself up to his gracious charms till thou art ravished with his beauty and preciousness. But ah! if thou art slack in the proofs thou givest, I shall know thou art not walking with him in holy communion.
And allow me to suggest one profitable way of improving the ordinance of the Lord's Supper. That is: while you are partaking of it, my friends, renew your dedication to Christ. Seek this morning to give yourselves over afresh to your Master. Say with your hearts, what I shall now say with my lips: "Oh I my precious Lord Jesus, I do love thee; thou knowest I have in some degree given myself to thee up to this time, thanks to thy grace! Blessed be thy name, that thou hast accepted the deeds of so unworthy a servant. O Lord, I am conscious that I have not devoted myself to thee as I ought; I know that in many things I have come short. I will make no resolution to live better to thine honor, but I will offer the prayer that thou wouldst help me so to do. Oh! Lord, I give to thee my health, my life, my talents, my power, and all I have! Thou hast bought me, and bought me wholly: then, Lord, take me this morning, baptize me in the Spirit; let me now feel an entire affection to thy blessed person. May I have that love which conquers sin and purifies the soul that love which can dare danger and encounter difficulties for thy sake. May I henceforth and for ever be a consecrated vessel of mercy, having been chosen of thee from before the foundation of the world! Help me to hold fast that solemn choice of thy service which I desire this morning, by thy grace to renew." And when you drink the blood of Christ, and eat his flesh spiritually in the type and in the emblem, then I beseech you, let the solemn recollection of his agony and suffering for you inspire you with a greater love, that you may be more devoted to his service than ever. If that be done, I shall have the best of churches; if that be done by us, the Holy Spirit helping us to carry it out, we shall all be good men and true, holding fast by him, and we shall not need to be ashamed in the awful day.
As for you that have never given yourselves to Christ, I dare not tell you to renew a vow which you have never made, nor dare I ask you to make a vow, which you would never keep. I can only pray for you, that God the Saviour would be pleased to reveal himself unto your heart, that "a sense of blood-bought pardon" may "dissolve your hearts of stone;" that you may be brought to give yourselves to him, knowing that if you have done that, you have the best proof that he has given himself for you. May God Almighty bless you: those of you who depart, may he dismiss with his blessing: and those who remain, may you receive his favour, for Christ's sake! Amen.
Love to Jesus
Charles H. Spurgeon (1834-1892)
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted ã 1999 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.
‘Lord, you know all things; you know that I love you.’ John 21:17
Christ rightly known is most surely Christ beloved. No sooner do we discern his excel-lencies, behold his glories, and partake of his bounties, than our heart is at once moved with love towards him. Let him but speak pardon to our guilty souls, then we shall not delay for long to speak words of love to his most adorable person. It is utterly impossible for a man to know himself to be complete in Christ, and to be destitute of love towards Christ Jesus. A believer may be in Christ, and yet, from a holy jealousy, he may doubt his own affection to his Lord; but love is most assuredly in his bosom, for that breast which has never heaved with love to Jesus, is yet a stranger to the blood of sprinkling. He that does not love, has not seen Christ, neither has he known him. As the seed ex-pands in the moisture and the heat, and sends forth its green blade so also when the soul becomes affected with the mercy of the Saviour, it puts forth its shoots of love to him and desire after him.
This love is no mere heat of excitement, nor does it end in a flow of rapturous words; but it causes the soul to bring forth the fruits of righteousness, to its own joy and the Lord's glory. It is a principle, active and strong, which exercises itself unto godliness, and pro-duces abundantly things which are lovely and of good repute. Some of these we intend to mention, earnestly desiring that all of us may exhibit them in our lives. Dr. Owen very con-cisely sums up the effects of true love in the two words, adherence and assimilation: the one knitting the heart to Jesus, and the other con-forming us to his image. This is an excellent summary; but as our design is to be more explicit, we shall in detail review the more usual and pleasing of the displays of the power of grace, afforded by the soul which is under the influence of love to Christ.
1. One of the earliest and most important signs of love to Jesus is the deed of solemn dedication of ourselves, with all we have and are, most unreservedly to the Lord's service.
Dr. Doddridge has recommended a solemn covenant between the soul and God, to be signed and sealed with due deliberation and most fervent prayer. Many of the most emi-nent of the saints have adopted this excellent method of devoting themselves in very deed unto the Lord, and have reaped great benefits from the review of that solemn document when they have freshly renewed the act of dedication. The writer of the present volume conceives that burial with Christ in Baptism is a far more scriptural and expressive sign of dedication; but he is not inclined to deny his brethren the liberty of confirming that act by the other, if it seem good to them. The remarks of John Newton upon this subject are therefore cautious and terse [See ‘Life of Grimshaw,’ p.13], that we cannot refrain from quoting them at length: ‘Many judicious persons have differed in their sentiments with respect to the propriety or utility of such written en-gagements. They are usually entered into, if at all, in an early stage of profession, when, though the heart is warm, there has been little actual experience of its deceitfulness. In the day when the Lord turns our mourning into joy, and speaks peace, by the blood of his cross, to the conscience burdened by guilt and fear, resolutions are formed which, though honest and sincere, prove, like Peter's promise to our lord, too weak to withstand the force of subsequent unforeseen temptation. Such vows, made in too much dependence upon our own strength, not only occasion a farther discovery of our weakness, but frequently give the enemy advan-tage to terrify and distress the mind. There-fore, some persons, of more mature experience, discount the practice as legal and im-proper. But, as a scaffold, though no part of an edifice, and designed to be taken down when the building is finished, is yet useful for a time in carrying on the work so many young con-verts have been helped by expedients which, when their judgments are more ripened, and their faith more confirmed, are no longer neces-sary. Every true believer, of course, ought to devote himself to the service of the Redeemer; yea, he must and will, for he is constrained by love. He will do it not once only, but daily. And many who have done it in writing can look back upon the transaction with thankfulness to the end of life, recollecting it as a season of peculiar solemnity and impression, accompanied with emotions of heart neither to be forgotten nor recalled. And the Lord, who does not despise the day of small things, nor break the bruised reed, nor quench the smoking flax accepts and ratifies the desire; and mercifully pardons the mistakes which they discover, as they attain to more knowledge of him and of themselves. And they are encouraged, if not warranted, to make their surrender in this manner, by the words of the prophet Isaiah: “One shall say, I am the Lord's, and another shall call himself by the name of Jacob, and another shall subscribe with his hand to the Lord, and surname himself by the name of Israel”’ (Isaiah 44:5 ).
Whatever view we may take of the form of consecration, we must all agree that the deed itself is absolutely necessary as a firstfruit of the Spirit, and that where it is absent there is none of the love of which we are treating. We are also, all of us, in union on the point that the surrender must be sincere, entire, uncon-ditional, and deliberate; and that it must be accompanied by deep humility, from a sense of our unworthiness, simple faith in the blood of Jesus as the only medium of acceptance, and constant reliance upon the Holy Spirit for the fulfilment of our vows. We must give ourselves to Jesus, to be his, to honour and to obey, if necessary, even unto death. We must be ready with Mary to break the alabaster box, with Abraham to offer up our Isaac, with the apos-tles to renounce our worldly wealth at the bid-ding of Christ, with Moses to despise the riches of Egypt, with Daniel to enter the lion's den, and with the three holy children to step into the furnace. We cannot retain a portion of the price, like Ananias, nor love this present world with Demas, if we are the genuine followers of the Lamb. We consecrate our all when we receive Christ as all.
The professing Church has many in its midst who, if they have ever given themselves to Christ, appear to be very oblivious of their solemn obligation. They can scarcely afford a fragment of their wealth for the Master's cause; their time is wasted, or employed in any service but that of Jesus; their talents are absorbed in worldly pursuits; and the absolute waste of their influence is thought to be an abundant satis-faction of all the claims of heaven. Can such men be honest in their professions of attach-ment to the Lamb? Was their dedication a sincere one? Do they not afford us grave sus-picion of hypocrisy? Could they live in such a fashion if their hearts were right with God? Can they have any right idea of what the Saviour deserves? Are their hearts really renewed? We leave them to answer for themselves; but re must entreat them also to ponder the following questions, as they shall one day have to render an account to their Judge. Does not God abhor the lying lip? And is it not lying against God to profess that which are do not carry out? Doe not the Saviour loathe those who are neither cold nor hot? And are not those most truly in that case who serve God with half a heart? What must be the doom of those who have insulted Heaven with empty vows? Will not a false profession entail a fearful punishment upon the soul forever? And is he not false who does not serve the Lord with all his might? Is it a little thing to be branded as a robber of God? Is it a trifle to break our vows with the Almighty? Shall a man mock his Maker, and go unpunished? And how shall he abide the day of the wrath of God ?
May God make us ever careful that, by his Holy Spirit's aid, we may be able to live unto him as those that are alive from the dead; and since in many things we fall short of his perfect will, let us humble ourselves, and devoutly seek the moulding of his hand to renew us day by day. We ought always desire a perfect life as the result of full consecration, even though we shall often groan that ‘it is not yet attained.’ Our prayer should be
‘Take my soul and body’s powers;
Take my memory, mind, and will;
All my goods, and all my hours;
All I know, and all I feel;
All I think, or speak, or do;
Take my heart but make it new.’ [C. Wesley]
2. Love to Christ will make us ‘timid and tender to offend.’ We shall be most careful lest the Saviour should be grieved by our ill manners. When some much loved friend is visiting our house, we are ever fearful lest he should be ill at ease; we therefore watch every movement in the family, that nothing may disturb the quiet we desire him to enjoy. How frequently do we apologise for the homeliness of our provisions, our own apparent inattention, the forgetfulness of our servants, or the rudeness of our children. If we suppose him to be uncomfortable, how readily will we disarrange our household to give him pleasure, and how disturbed are we at the least symptom that he is not satisfied with our hospitality. We are grieved if our words appear cold towards him, or our acts unkind. We would sooner that he should grieve us than that we should displease him. Surely we should not treat our heavenly Friend worse than our earthly acquaintance; but we should constantly endeavour to please Him in all things who did not please himself. Such is the influence of real devotion to our precious Redeemer, that the more the mind is saturated with affection to him, the more watchful shall we be to give no offense in anything, and the more sorrow shall we suffer because our nature is yet so imperfect that in many things we come short of his glory. A believer, in a healthy state of mind, will be extremely sensitive; he will avoid the appearance of evil, and guard against the beginnings of sin. He will often be afraid to put one foot before another, lest he should tread upon forbidden ground; he will tremble to speak, lest his words should not be ordered aright; he will be timid in the world, lest he should be surprised into transgression; and even in his holy deeds he will be watchful over his heart, lest he should mock his Lord. This feeling of fear lest we should ‘slip with our feet,’ is a precious feature of true spiritual life. It is to be greatly regretted that it is so lightly prized by many, in comparison with the more martial virtues; for, despite its apparent insignificance, it is one of the choicest fruits of the Spirit, and its absence is one of the most de-plorable evidences of spiritual decay. A heedless spirit is a curse to the soul; a rash, presumptuous conversation will eat like a cancer does. ‘Too bold’ was never Too-wise nor Too‑loving. Careful walking is one of the best securities of safe and happy standing. It is solemn cause for doubting when we are indifferent in our be-haviour to our best Friend. When the new creature is active, it will be indignant at the very name of sin; it will condemn it as the murderer of the Redeemer, and wage as fierce a war against it as the Lord did with Amalek. Christ's foes are our foes when we are Christ's friends. Love of Christ and love of sin are elements too hostile to reign in the same heart. We shall hate iniquity simply because Jesus hates it. A good divine [John Brine] writes: ‘If any pretend unto an assurance of forgiveness through the merits of Jesus, without any experience of shame, sorrow, and hatred of sin, on account of its vile nature, I dare boldly pronounce such a pretension to be no other than a vain presumption, that is likely to be followed by an eternal loss of their immortal souls.’
He that is not afraid of sinning has good reason to be afraid of damning. Truth hates error, holiness abhors guilt, and grace cannot but detest sin. If we do not desire to be cau-tious to avoid offending our Lord, we may rest confident that we have no part in him, for true love to Christ will rather die than wound him. Hence love to Christ is ‘the best antidote to idolatry;’ [James Hamilton] for it prevent any object from occu-pying the rightful throne of the Saviour. The believer dares not admit a rival into his heart, knowing that this would grievously offend the King. The simplest way of preventing an ex-cessive love of the creature is to set all our affection upon the Creator. Give your whole heart to your Lord, and you cannot idolize the things of earth, for thou will have nothing left with which to worship them.
B. If we love the Lord Jesus we shall be obe-dient to his commands. False, vain, and boasting pretenders to friendship with Christ think it enough to talk fluently of him; but humble, sincere, and faithful lovers of the Lord are not content with words they must be doing the will of their Master. As the affectionate wife obeys because she loves her husband, so does the redeemed soul delight in keeping the com-mands of Jesus, although compelled by no force but that of love. This divine principle will render every duty pleasant; yes, when the labour is in itself irksome, this heavenly grace will quicken us in its performance by reminding us that it is honourable to suffer for our Lord. It will induce an universal obedience to all known commands, and overcome that critical spirit of rebellion which takes exception to many precepts, and obeys only as far as it chooses to do so. It infuses not the mere act, but the very spirit of obedience, inclining the inmost heart to feel that its new born nature cannot but obey. True, old corruption is still there; but this only proves the hearty wil-lingness of the soul to be faithful to the laws of its King, seeing that it is the cause of a per-petual and violent contest the flesh lusting against the spirit, and the spirit striving against the flesh. We are willing to serve God when we love his Son: there may be obstacles, but no unwillingness. We would be holy even as God is holy, and perfect even as our Father which is in heaven is perfect. And to proceed yet further, love not only removes all unwillingness, but inspires the soul with a delight in the service of God, by making the lowest act of service to appear honourable. A heathen [Seneca] once exclaimed, Deo servire est regnare ‘to serve God is to reign:’ so does the renewed heart joyfully acknowledge the high honour which it receives by obedience to its Lord. He counts it not only his reasonable, but his de-lightful service, to be a humble and submissive disciple of his gracious Friend. He would be unhappy if he had no opportunity of obedience his love requires channels for its fullness: he would pray for work if there were none, for he includes his duties among his privileges. In the young dawn of true religion this is very observable would that it were equally so ever after! Oh! how jealous we were lest one divine ordinance should be neglected, or one rule violated. Nothing pained us more than our own too frequent wanderings, and nothing gra-tified us more than to be allowed to cut wood or draw water at his bidding. Why is it not so now with all of us? Why are those wings, once outstretched for speedy flight, now folded in sloth? Is our Redeemer less deserving? Or could it be that we are less loving? Let us seek by greater meditation on the work and love of our Saviour, by the help of the Holy Spirit, to renew our love to him: otherwise our lamentation will soon be ‘How the gold has become dim! How the glory has departed!’ (Lamentations 4:1 ).
4. Love to Christ will impel us to defend him against his foes.
‘If any touch my friend, or his good name,
It is my honour and my love to free his blasted fame
From the least spot or thought of blame.’ [Herbert].
Good men are more tender over the reputation of Christ than over their own good name; for they are willing to lose the world's favourable opinion rather than that Christ should be dis-honoured. This is no more than Jesus has a right to expect. Would he not be a sorry brother who should hear me insulted and slan-dered, and yet be silent? Would he not be destitute of affection who would allow the character of his nearest relative to be trampled in the dust, without a struggle on his behalf? And is he not a poor style of Christian who would calmly submit to hear his Lord abused? We could bear to be trampled in the very mire that He might be exalted; but to see our glorious Head dishonoured, is a sight we cannot tamely behold. We would not, like Peter, strike his enemies with the sword of man; but we would use the sword of the Spirit as well as we are enabled. Oh! how has our blood boiled when the name of Jesus has been the theme of scornful jest! How we have been ready to invoke the fire of Elijah on the guilty blasphemers! Or when our more carnal heat has subsided, how have we wept, even to the sobbing of a child, at the reproach cast upon his most hallowed name! Many a time we have been ready to burst with anguish when we have been speechless before the scoffer, because the Lord had shut us up, that we could not come forth; but at other seasons, with courage more than we had considered to be within the range of our capability, we have boldly reproved the wicked, and sent them back abashed.
It is a lovely spectacle to behold the timid and feeble defending the citadel of truth: not with hard blows of logic, or bombardments of rhetoric but with that tearful earnestness, and implicit confidence, against which the attacks of revilers are utterly powerless. Over-thrown in argument, they overcome by faith; covered with contempt, they think it all joy if they can only avert a solitary stain from the escutcheon [shield-shaped emblem bearing a coat of arms] of their Lord. ‘Call me what you will,’ says the believer, ‘but do not speak ill of my Beloved. Here, plough these shoulders with your lashes, but spare yourselves the sin of cursing him! Yes, let me die: I am all too happy to be slain, if my Lord's most glorious cause shall live!’
Ask every regenerate child of God whether he does not count it his privilege to maintain the honour of his Master's name; and though his answer may be worded with holy caution, you will not fail to discover in it enough of that determined resolution which, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, will enable him to stand fast in the evil day. He may be careful to reply to such a question, lest he should be presumptuous; but should he stand like the three holy children before an enraged tyrant, in the very mouth of a burning fiery furnace, his answer, like theirs, would be, ‘We have no need to answer you in this matter. If that is the case, our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and he will deliver us from your hand, O king. But if not, let it be known to you, O king, that we do not serve your gods, nor will we worship the gold image which you have set up’ (Daniel 3:16-18 ).
In some circles it is believed that in the event of another reign of persecution, there are very few in our churches who would endure the fiery trial: nothing, we think, is more unfounded. It is our firm opinion that the feeblest saint in our midst would receive grace for the struggle, and come off more than a conqueror. God's children are the same now as ever. Real piety will as well endure the fire in one century as another. There is the same love to impel the martyrdom, the same grace to sustain the sufferer, the same promises to cheer his heart, and the same crown to adorn his head. We believe that those followers of Jesus who may perhaps one day be called to the stake, will die as readily as any who have gone before. Love is still as strong as death, and grace is still made perfect in weakness.
‘Sweet is the cross, above all sweets,
To souls enamoured with His smiles;
The keenest woe life ever meets,
Love strips of all its terrors, and beguiles.’ [Madame Guion]
This is as true today, as it was a thousand years ago. We may be weak in grace, but grace is not weak: it is still omnipotent, and able to endure the trying day.
There is one form of this jealousy for the honour of the cross, which will always distinguish the devout Christian: he win tremble lest he himself, by word or deed, by omis-sion of duty or commission of sin, should dishonour the holy religion which he has professed. He will hold perpetual controversy with ‘sinful self’ on this account, and will loathe himself when he has inadvertently given occasion to the enemy to blaspheme. The King's favourite will be sad if, by mistake or carelessness, he has been the accomplice of traitors: he desires to be beyond reproach, that his Monarch may suffer no disgrace from his courtier. Nothing has injured the cause of Christ more than the inconsistencies of his avowed friends. Jealousy for the honour of Christ is an admirable mark of grace.
5. A firm attachment to the person of Christ will create a constant anxiety to promote his cause.
With some it has produced that burning zeal which enabled them to endure banishment, to brave dangers, and to forsake comforts, in order to evangelise an ungrateful people, among whom they were not unwilling to suffer perse-cution, or even death, so that they might but enlarge the borders of Immanuel's land. This has inspired the evangelist with inex-haustible strength to proclaim the word of his Lord from place to place, amid the slander of foes and the coldness of friends; this has moved the generous heart to devise liberal things, that the cause might not fade for lack of temporal supplies; and this, in a thousand ways, has stirred up the host of God, with various weapons and in several fields, to fight the battles of their Lord. There is little or no love to Jesus in that man who is indifferent concerning the progress of the truth. The man whose soul is saturated with grateful affection to his crucified Lord will weep when the enemy seems to get an advantage; he will water his couch with tears when he sees a declining church; he will lift up his voice like a trumpet to arouse the slumbering, and with his own hand will labour day and night to build up the breaches of Zion; and should his efforts be successful, with what joyous gratitude will he lift up his heart unto the King of Israel, extolling him as much yes, more for mercies given to the Church than for bounties conferred upon himself. How diligently and tirelessly will he labour for his Lord, humbly conceiving that he cannot do too much, or even enough, for one who gave his heart's blood as the price of our peace.
We lament that too many among us are like Issachar, who was described as ‘a strong donkey, lying down between two burdens,’ too lazy to perform the works of piety so urgently demanded at our hands: but the reason of this sad condition is not that fervent love is unable to produce activity, but that such are deplorably destitute of that intense affection which grace begets in the soul.
Love to Christ smoothes the path of duty, and dispatches the feet to travel it: it is the bow which impels the arrow of obedience; it is the mainspring moving the wheels of duty; it is the strong arm tugging the oar of diligence. Love is the marrow of the bones of fidelity, the blood in the veins of piety, the sinew of spiritual strength yes, the life of sincere devotion. He that has love can no more be mo-tionless than the aspen tree in the gale, the withered leaf in the hurricane, or the spray in the tempest. Likewise, as hearts must beat, so also love must labour. Love is instinct with activity, it cannot be idle; it is full of energy, it cannot content itself with little things: it is the well spring of heroism, and great deeds are the gushings of its fountain; it is a giant it heaps mountains upon moun-tains, and thinks it a little pile; it is a mighty mystery, for it changes bitter into sweet; it calls death life, and life death, and it makes pain less painful than enjoyment. Love has a clear eye, but it can see only one thing it is blind to every interest but that of its Lord; it sees things in the light of his glory, and weighs actions in the scales of his honour; it counts royalty but drudgery if it cannot reign for Christ, but it delights in servitude as much as in honour, if it can thereby advance the Master's kingdom; its end sweetens all its means; its object lightens its toil, and removes its weariness. Love, with refreshing influence, girds up the loins of the pilgrim, so that he forgets fatigue; it casts a shadow for the traveling man, so that he does not feel the burning heat; and it puts the bottle to the lip of thirst. Have we not found it so? And, under the influence of love, are we not prepared by the Spirit's sacred aid to do or suffer all that thought can suggest, as being likely to promote his honour?
He who does not desire the good of the kingdom is no friend to the king; so he who forgets the interests of Zion can scarcely be a favourite with her Prince. We wish prosperity in estate and household to all those in whom we delight; and if we take pleasure in Jesus, we shall pray for the peace of Jerusalem, and labour for her increase.
May ‘the Father of lights’ give unto his Church more love to her Head, then she will be zealous, valiant, and persevering, and then shall her Lord be glorified.
6. It is a notable fact that fervent love to Jesus will enable us to endure anything he is pleased to lay upon us.
Love is the mother of resignation: we gladly receive buffeting and blows from Jesus when our heart is fully occupied with his love. Even as a dearly cherished friend does but delight us when he uses freedoms with us, or when he takes a good deal of liberty in our house so Jesus, when we love him heartily, will never offend us by anything that he may do. Should he take our gold, we would think his hand to be a noble treasury for our wealth; should he remove our joys, we reckon it a greater bliss to lose than gain, when his will runs in such a channel. Yes, should he smite us very deeply, we shall turn to his hand and kiss the rod. To believe that Christ has done it, is to extract the sting of an affliction. We remember hearing a preacher at a funeral most beautifully setting forth this truth in parable. He said: ‘A certain nobleman had a spacious garden, which he left to the care of a faithful servant, whose delight it was to train the climbing plants along the trellis, to water the seeds in the time of drought, to support the stalks of the tender plants, and to do every work which could render the garden a Paradise of flowers. One morning he rose with joy, expecting to tend his beloved flowers, and hoping to find his favourites increased in beauty. To his surprise, he found one of his choicest beauties torn from its stem, and, looking around him, he missed from every bed the pride of his garden, the most precious of his blooming flowers. Full of grief and anger, he hurried to his fellow servants, and demanded who had thus robbed him of his treasures. They had not done it and he did not charge them with it; but he found no solace for his grief till one of them remarked: “My lord was walking in the garden this morning, and I saw him pluck the flowers and carry them away.” Then truly he found he had no cause for his trouble. He felt it was well that his master had been pleased to take his own, and he went away, smiling at his loss, because his lord had taken them. So,’ said the preacher, turning to the mourners, ‘you have lost one whom you regarded with much tender affection. The bonds of endearment have not availed for her retention upon earth. I know your wounded feelings when, instead of the lovely form which was the embo-diment of all that is excellent and amiable, you behold nothing but ashes and corruption. But remember, my beloved, THE LORD has done it; He has removed the tender mother, the affectionate wife, the inestimable friend. I say again, remember your own Lord has done it; therefore do not murmur, or yield yourselves to an excess of grief’ There was as much force as well as beauty in the simple allegory: it would be good if all the Lord’s family had grace to prac-tice its heavenly lesson, in all times of bereave-ment and affliction.
Our favourite master of quaint conceits [Herbert] has singularly said in his poem entitled ‘Unkind-ness’
‘My friend may spit upon my curious floor.’
True, most true, our Beloved may do as he pleases in our house, even if he would break its ornaments and stain its glories. Come in, you heavenly guest, even though each footstep on our floor should crush a thousand of our earthly joys. You are yourself more than sufficient recompense for all that you can take away. Come in, you brother of our souls, even though your rod comes with you. We would rather have you, and trials with you, than lament your absence even though surrounded with all the wealth the universe can bestow.
The Lord’s prisoner in the dungeon of Aberdeen thus penned his belief in the love of his ‘sweet Lord Jesus,’ and his acquiescence in his Master’s will:
‘Oh, what owe I to the file, to the hammer, to the furnace, of my Lord Jesus! who hath now let me see how good the wheat of Christ is, which goeth through his mill, to be made bread for his own table. Grace tried is better than grace, and more than grace it is glory in its infancy. When Christ blesses his own crosses with a tongue, they breathe out Christ's love, wisdom, kindness, and care of us. Why should I start at the plough of my Lord, that maketh deep furrows upon my soul? 1 know that He is no idle husbandman; He purposeth a crop. Oh, that this white, withered lea‑ground [pasture] were made fertile to bear a crop for him, by whom it is so painfully dressed, and that this fallow‑ground were broken up! Why was I (a fool!) grieved that He put his gar-land and his rose upon my head the glory and honour of his faithful witnesses? I desire now to make no more pleas with Christ. Verily, He hath not put me to a loss by what I suffered; he oweth me nothing; for in my bonds how sweet and comfortable have the thoughts of Him been to me, wherein I find a sufficient recompense of reward!’
7. To avoid tiring the reader with a longer list of ‘the precious fruits put forth by the Sun’ of love, we will sum up everything in the last re-mark that the gracious soul will labour after an entire annihilation of selfishness, and a com-plete absorption into Christ of its aims, joys, desires, and hope. The highest conceivable state of spirituality is produced by a concentration of all the powers and passions of the soul upon the person of Christ. We have asked a great thing when we have begged to be wholly surrendered to be crucified. It is the highest stage of manhood to have no wish, no thought, no desire, but Christ to feel that to die would be bliss, if it were for Christ that to live in poverty, and woe, and scorn, and contempt, and misery, would be sweet, if it were for Christ to feel that it matters nothing what becomes of one's self, as long as our Master is exalted to feel that though we are like a withered leaf, we are blown in the blast, we are quite careless where we are going, so long as we feel that the Master’s hand is guiding us according to his will; or, rather, to feel that though like the diamond, we must be cut with sharp tools, yet we do not care how sharply we may be cut, as long as we are made fit jewels to adorn his crown. If any of us have attained to this sweet feeling of self-anni-hilation, then we shall look up to Christ as if He were the sun, and we shall say within ourselves, ‘O Lord, I see your beams; I feel myself to be not a beam from you but darkness, swallowed up in your light. The most I ask is, that you would live in me that the life I live in the flesh may not be my life, but your life in me; that I may say with emphasis, as Paul did, ‘For me to live is Christ.’
A man who has attained this high position has indeed ‘entered into rest.’ To him the praise or the censure of men are both contemptible, for he has learned to look upon the one as unworthy of his pursuit, and the other as beneath his regard. He is no longer vulnerable, since he has in himself no separate sensitiveness, but has united his whole being with the cause and person of the Redeemer. As long as there is a particle of selfishness remaining in us, it will mar our sweet enjoyment of Christ; and until we get a complete riddance of it, our joy will never be unmixed with grief. We must dig at the roots of our selfishness to find the worm which eats away at our happiness. The soul of the believer will always pant for this serene condition of passive surrender, and will not be con-tent until it has thoroughly plunged itself into the sea of divine love. Its normal con-dition is that of complete dedication, and it regards every deviation from such a state as a
mark of the plague and a breaking forth of disease. Here, in the lowest valley of self-renunciation, the believer walks upon a very pinnacle of exaltation; bowing himself, he knows that he rising immeasurably high when he is sinking into nothing, and, falling flat upon his face, he feels that he is thus mounting to the highest elevation of mental grandeur.
It is the ambition of most men to absorb others into their own life, that they may shine all the more brightly by the stolen rays of other lights; but it is the Christian's highest aspira-tion to be absorbed into another, and lose himself in the glories of his sovereign and Saviour. Proud men hope that the names of others shall only be remembered as single words in their own long titles of honour; but loving children of God long for nothing more than to see their own names used as letters in the bright records of the accomplishments of the Wonderful, and the Councillor.
Heaven is a state of entire acquiescence in the will of God, and perfect sympathy with his purposes; it is, therefore, easy to discern that the desires we have just been describing are true promises of the inheritance? and sure signs of preparation for it.
And now, how is it with the reader? Is he a lover of Jesus in verity and truth? or does he confess that these signs are not seen in him? If he is indeed without love to Jesus, then he has good reason to humble himself and turn unto the Lord, for his soul is in as evil a condition as it can be this side of hell; and, alas! will soon be, unless grace prevents it, in a plight so pitiable, that eternity will scarcely be long enough for its regrets.
It is more than probable that some of our readers are troubled with doubts concerning the truth of their affection for Jesus, although they are indeed his faithful friends. Permit us to address such with a word of consolation.
You have some of the marks of true piety about you at least, you can join in some of the feelings to which we have been ex-pressing but still you fear that you are not right in your heart towards Christ. What then is your reason for such a suspicion? You reply that your excess of attachment towards your friends and relatives is proof that you are not sincere, for if you truly loved Jesus, you would love him more than these. Your complaint is: ‘I fear I love the creature more than Christ, and if so my love is hypocritical. I frequently feel more vehement and more devoted longings of my heart to my beloved relatives than I do towards heavenly objects, and I therefore believe that I am still carnal, and the love of God does not inhabit my heart.’
Far be it from us to plead the cause of sin, or extenuate the certain fault which you thus commit; but at the same time it would be even further from our design to blot out at once all the names of the living family of God. For if our love is to be measured by its temporary violence, then we fear there is not one among the saints who has not at some time or other had an excessive love to the creature, and; who has not, therefore, upon such reasoning, proved himself to be a hypocrite. Let it be remembered, therefore, that the strength of affection is rather to be measured by the hold it has upon the heart, than by the heat it displays at careless times and seasons. Flavel very wisely observes, ‘As rooted malice argues a stronger hatred than a sudden though more violent passion, so we must measure our love, not by a violent motion of it, now and then, but by the depth of the root and the constancy of its actings. Be-cause David was so passionately moved for Absalom, Joab concludes that if he had lived, and all the people died, it would have pleased him well; but that was argued more like a soldier than a logician.’
If your love is constant in its steadfastness, faithful in its actions, and honest in its character, then you do not need to distrust it on account of certain more burning passions, which temporarily and wickedly inflame the mind. Avoid these as sinful, but do not therefore doubt the truthful-ness of your attachment to your Master. True grace may be in the soul without being apparent, for, as Baxter truly observes, ‘grace is never apparent and sensible to the soul but while it is in action.’ Fire may be in the flint, and yet be unseen except when circumstances shall bring it out. As Dr. Sibbs observes in his Soul's Conflict, ‘There is sometimes grief for sin in us, when we think there is none;’ so may it be with love which may be there, but not discoverable till some circumstance shall lead to its discovery. The eminent Puritan pertinently remarks:
‘You may go seeking for the hare or partridge many hours, and never find them while they lie close and stir not; but when once the hare betakes himself to his legs, and the bird to her wings, then you see them presently. So long as a Christian hath his graces in lively action, so long, for the most part, he is assured of them. How can you doubt whether you love God in the act of loving? Or whether you believe in the very act of believing. If, there, you would be assured whether this sacred fire be kindled in your hearts, blow it up, get it into a flame, and then you will know; believe till you feel that you do believe; and love till you feel that you love.’
Seek to keep your graces in action by living near to the author of them. Live very near to Jesus, and think much of his love to you: thus will your love to him become more deep and fervent.
We pause here, and pray to the most gracious Father of all good, that he would accept our love, as he has already accepted us, in the Beloved; and we humbly crave the kind influence of his Holy Spirit, that we may be made perfect in love, and may glorify him to whom we now present ourselves as living sacrifices, holy, acceptable unto God, which is our reasonable service.
‘Jesu, thy boundless love to me
No thought can reach, no tongue declare;
O knit my thankful heart to thee,
And reign without a rival there:
Thine wholly, thine alone, I am;
Be thou alone my constant flame!
O grant that nothing in my soul
May dwell, but thy pure love alone:
O may thy love possess me whole,
My joy, my treasure, and my crown;
Strange flames far from my heart remove;
My every act, word, thought be love!’
TO THE UNCONVERTED READER
Again we turn to you; and are you still where we left you? Still without hope, still unforgiven? Surely, then, you have been con-demning yourself while reading these signs of grace in others. Such experience is too high for you, you can no more attain unto it than a stone to sensibility; but, remember, it is not too high for the Lord. He can renew you, and make you know the highest enjoyment of the saints. He alone can do it, therefore de-spair of your own strength; but He can accom-plish it, therefore hope in omnipotent grace. You are in a wrong state, and you know it: how fearful it will be if you should remain the same until death! Yet most assuredly you will unless Divine love shall change you. See, then, how absolutely you are in the hands of God. Labour to feel this. Seek to know the power of this dreaded but certain fact that you lie entirely at his pleasure; and there is no-thing more likely to humble and subdue you than the thoughts which it will beget within you.
Know and tremble, hear and be afraid. Bow yourself before the Most High, and confess his justice should He destroy you, and admire his grace which proclaims pardon to you. Do not think that the works of believers are their salvation; but seek first the root of their graces, which lies in Christ, not in themselves. This you can get nowhere but at the footstool of mercy from the hand of Jesus. You are shut up to one [standing at the?] door of life, and that door is Christ crucified. Receive him as God's free gift and your undeserved blessing. Renounce every other refuge, and embrace the Lord Jesus as your only hope. Put your soul in his hands. Sink or swim, let Him be your only support, and he will never fail you.
BELIEVE 0N THE LORD JESUS CHRIST, AND YOU WILL BE SAVED.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on John 21". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/