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No Room for Christ in the Inn
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD:
"She gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn." Luke 2:7
It was necessary that Our Lord Jesus Christ would be born in Bethlehem Ephrathah, which is located in the land of Judah, for this was in accordance to the Word of the Lord which was spoken by His servant Micah, "But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are small among the clans of Judah, out of you will come for Me One who will be ruler over Israel, whose origins are from of old, from ancient times" (Micah 5:2 ). But how could one bring about public recognition of the ancestry of an obscure carpenter and an unknown maiden? How would the local innkeepers know anything about these two humble persons?
The second fact is that Mary lived in Nazareth, which is in Galilee, and there seemed to be every probability that the birth would take place there; indeed, the time of her delivery was so near that, unless absolutely compelled, she would not likely undertake such a long and tedious journey to the southern province of Judea. How are these two realities to be harmonized? How do you get this obscure couple living in Nazareth to make the hard journey to Bethlehem when Mary is about to give birth? How do you get the official stamp of the Roman empire to be affixed to the pedigree of the coming Son of David, and to make Bethlehem the place of the nativity?
A little tyrant, Herod, in a show of independent spirit, offends the greater tyrant, Augustus. Augustus informs him that he will no longer treat him as a friend, but as a slave; and although Herod makes the most humiliating submission, and his friends at the Roman court intercede for him, yet Augustus, to show his displeasure, orders a census to be taken of all the Jewish people, in order to make preparations for a contemplated taxation, which was not carried out till some ten years later. Even the winds and the waves are not more fickled than a tyrant's will; but the Ruler of the wind and the waves knows how to rule the perverse spirits of princes. The Lord our God has a bridle for the wildest war horse, and a hook for the most terrible sea monster.
Dictatorial Caesars are but puppets moved with invisible strings, mere slaves to the King of kings. Augustus must become offended with Herod; he is compelled to tax the people; it is imperative that a census be taken; no, it is necessary that inconvenient, harsh, and tyrannical regulations would be published, and every person must return to the town to which he was reputed to belong; thus Mary is brought to Bethlehem, Jesus Christ is born as prophesied, and, moreover, He is recognized officially as being descended from David by the fact that his mother came to Bethlehem as being of that lineage, remained there, and returned to Galilee without having her claims questioned, although the jealousy of all the women of the clan would have been aroused had an intruder ventured to claim a place among the few females to whom the birth of the Messiah had been prophesied to occur. Note the wisdom by the God of providence in the way everything here was so well orchestrated.
When all the people of the house of David were thus compelled to go to Bethlehem, the sparse accommodations of the little town was soon exhausted. Doubtless friends and relatives took in their out-of-town guests until their houses were full, but Joseph had no such willing relatives in the town. There was the "caravansary," which was provided in every village, where free accommodations were given to travelers; this too was full, for coming from a distance, and compelled to travel slowly because of Mary's condition, the humble couple arrived late in the day. The rooms within the great brick square (caravansary) were already occupied with families; there remained no better lodging, even for a woman experiencing birth pains, than one of the crude and rough places appropriate for animals. The stall of the donkey was the only place where the child could be born. By hanging a curtain at its front, and perhaps tying up the animal on the outside to block the passage, the needed seclusion could be obtained, and here, in the stable, was the King of Glory born, and He was laid in the manger.
My business this morning is to lead your meditations to the stable at Bethlehem, that you may see this great sight--the Savior in the manger, and think over the reason for this lowly place of birth--"because there was no room for them in the inn."
I. I will begin by remarking that "There were other reasons why Christ should be laid in a manger."
1. I think it was intended "to clearly show His humiliation."
He came, according to prophecy, to be "despised and rejected by men, a man of sorrows, and familiar with suffering." He was to be without "beauty or majesty," "like a root out of dry ground." Would it had been fitting that a man who was to die naked on the cross should be robed in purple, as a King, at his birth? Wouldn't it have be inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb would be born anywhere but in the humblest shed, and housed anywhere but in the most lowly manner? The manger and the cross standing at the two extremes of the Savior's earthly life seem most fit and appropriate to each other. He is to wear through life the clothes of a peasant; He is to associate with fishermen; the meek are to be His disciples; the cold mountains are often to be His only bed; He is to say, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has no place to lay his head;" nothing, therefore, could be more fitting than that in His time of humiliation, when He laid aside His glory, and took upon Himself the form of a servant, that He should be laid in a manger.
2. By being in a manger "He was declared to be the king of the poor."
Without a doubt, the poor were immediately able to recognize His relationship to them, from the position in which they found Him. I believe it excited feelings of the tenderest brotherly kindness in the minds of the shepherds, when the angel said, "This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger." In the eyes of the poor, royal robes do not excite affection, but a man in their own garb attracts their confidence. Workingmen will, with strong resolution cleave to a leader of their own class in life, believing in Him because He knows their labors, sympathizes with their sorrows, and feels an interest in all their concerns. Great commanders have easily won the hearts of their soldiers by sharing their hardships and roughing it as if they belonged to the ranks.
The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem, was not exempted in His infancy from the common calamities of the poor, no, His circumstance was even worse than theirs. I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, "Ah!" said one to his fellow, "then He will not be like Herod the tyrant; He will remember the manger and feel for the poor; poor helpless infant, I feel a love for Him even now, what miserable accommodation this cold world yields to its Savior. It is not a Caesar that is born today; He will never trample down our fields with his armies, or slaughter our flocks for his countries, He will be the poor man's friend, the people's monarch; according to the words of our shepherd-king [David], 'He will defend the afflicted among the people and save the children of the needy.'" Surely the shepherds, the poor of the earth, perceived at once that here was the common king; noble in descent, but still as the Word has referred to Him, "a young man from among the people" (Psalms 89:19 ).
Great Prince of Peace! The manger was Your royal cradle! There you were presented to all nations as prince of our race, before whose presence there is neither Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, savage, slave or free; but You are Lord of all. Kings, your gold and silver would have been lavished on Him if you would had known that He was the Lord of Glory.
3. Further, being laid in a manger, He did, "give an invitation to the most humble to come to Him."
We might tremble to approach a throne, be we cannot fear to approach a manger. Had we first seen the Master riding in a stately manner through the streets of Jerusalem with garments laid in His path, and the palm- branches strewed, and people crying "Hosanna!" we might have thought, though even the thought would have been wrong, that He was unapproachable. Even there, riding on a donkey, He was so meek and lowly, that the young children clustered around Him with their boyish "Hosanna!" Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ. No rough guards pushed poor people away; no array of arrogant friends were allowed to keep away the persistent widow of the man who came shouting and begging that his son might be made well; the hem of His garment was always trailing where sick folk could reach it, and he Himself had a hand always ready to touch the disease, an ear to catch the faintest sounds of misery, a soul going out everywhere in rays of mercy, even as the light of the sun streams out everywhere beyond itself.
By being laid in a manger He proved Himself a priest taken from among men, one who has suffered like His brethren, and therefore can understand our weaknesses. It was said of Him, "He eats with tax collectors and 'sinners'" Even as an infant, by being laid in a manger, He was shown as the sinner's friend. Come to Him, all you who are weary and burdened! Come to Him all you who are broken in spirit, you who are humble in soul! Come to Him, all you who despise yourselves and are hated by others! Come to Him, traitor and prostitute! Come to Him, thief and drunkard! In the manger there He lies, unguarded from your touch and unshielded from your gaze. Bow the knee, kiss the Son of God; accept Him as your Savior, for He puts Himself into that manger that you may approach Him. The throne of Solomon might awe you, but the manger of the Son of David invites you to come.
4. I think there is yet another mystery. Remember, brethren, that this place was "free to everyone;" it was an inn, and please remember the inn in this case was not like our hotels, where accommodation and provision must be paid for. In the early and simple ages of the world every man considered it an honor to entertain a stranger; later, as traveling became more common, many desired to share the honor and pleasure with their neighbors; wherefore they could continue the dignity of hospitality? As time moved on, one person was appointed in each town and village, and was expected to entertain strangers in the name of the rest of the town. But as the ages grew less simple, and the pure glow of brotherly love cooled down, the only provision made was the erection of a huge square block, in the town (caravansary), arranged into rooms for the travelers, the guests were on the second floor and the bottom floor was reserved for the animals, and here, with a certain provision of water and in some cases chopped straw for the animals, the traveler would make himself as comfortable as he could. He did not have to purchase admittance to the caravansary, for it was free to all, and the stable especially so. Now, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the stable of the inn to show how free He is to all who come to Him. The Gospel is preached to every creature and no one is shut out. We may say of the of the invitations of Holy Scripture,
"None are excluded but those Who exclude themselves; Welcome to the educated and polite, The ignorant and the rude. Though Jesus' grace can save the prince, The poor may take their share; No mortal has a excuse To perish in despair."
Exclusions of certain classes are unknown here, and the prerogatives of social class are not acknowledged. No forms of etiquette are required in entering a stable; it cannot be an offense to enter the stable of a public caravansary. So, if you desire to come to Christ you may come to Him just as you are; you may come "now." Whoever among you has the desire in his heart to trust Christ is free to do it. Jesus is free to you; He will receive you; He will welcome you with gladness, and to show this, I think the young child was cradled in a manger. We know that sinners often imagine that they are shut out. Oftentimes the convicted conscience will write bitter things against itself and deny its part and allotment in the mercy that is available. Brother, if "God" has not shut you out, do not shut yourself out. Until you can find it written in the Bible that you may not trust Christ; till you can quote a passage in which it is written that He is not able to save you, I pray you listen to the passages where it is written, "He is able to save completely those who come to God through Him." Presume on that promise: come to Christ in the strength and faith of it, and you will find Him free to all who come.
5. We have not yet exhausted the reasons why the Son of Man was laid in a manger. It was at the manger that "the animals were fed."
Is there a mystery here in that the Savior is laid where weary animals receive their food? Yes, there are some men who have become so brutal through sin, so utterly depraved by their lusts, that to their own consciences everything human like has departed, but even to such the remedies of Jesus, the Great Physician, will apply. We are constantly reading in our papers of men who are called hardened and hopeless, and it is fashionable now to demand that these men should be treated with the utmost severity. Some few years ago all the world went crazy with a counterfeit compassion, crying out that gentleness would reform the brutal thief; now the tide has shifted, and everybody is demanding the abandonment of the present system of compassion. I am no advocate for treating criminals lightly; let their sin bring them a fair share of pain; but if by any means they can be reformed, I pray that we will try. Beware, fellow- citizens, beware of restoring the old idea that men can sin beyond hope of reformation, or you will generate criminals worse than those which now trouble us.
I believe our Lord was laid in the manger where the beasts were fed, to show "that even beast-like men may come to him and live." No creature can be so degraded that Christ cannot lift it up. It may fall, and seem to most certainly fall to hell, but the long and strong arm of Christ can reach it even in its most desperate degradation; He can bring it up from apparently hopeless ruin. If there is one who has strolled in here this morning whom society abhors, and who abhors himself, my Master in the stable with the beasts presents Himself as able to save the vilest of the vile, and to accept the worst of the worst even now. Believe in Him and He will make you a new creature.
6. But as Christ was laid where animals were fed, you will remember that after He was gone "animals fed there again." It was only His presence which could glorify the manger, and here we learn that if Christ were taken away "the world would go back to its former heathen darkness."
Civilization itself would die out, at least that part of it which really civilizes man, if the religion of Jesus could be extinguished. If Christ were taken away from the human heart, the most holy person would become debased again, and those who claim kinship with angels would soon prove that they have relationships to devils. The manger would still be a manger for animals, if the Lord of Glory were withdrawn, and we should go back to our sins and our lusts if Christ should once take away His grace and leave us to ourselves. For these reasons which I have mentioned, I think, Christ was laid in a manger.
II. But still the text says that He was laid in a manger because there was no room for Him in the inn, and this leads us to the second point, "That there were other places besides the inn which had no room for Christ."
"The palaces of emperors and the halls of Kings afforded the royal stranger no refuge?" Yes! My brethren, seldom is there room for Christ in palaces! How could the kings of the earth receive the Lord? He is the Prince of Peace, and they delight in war! He breaks their bows and cuts their spears in half; He burns their war-chariots in the fire. How could kings accept the humble Savior? They love grandeur and pomp, and He is all simplicity and meekness. He is a carpenter's son, and the fisherman's companion. How can princes find room for the newborn monarch? Why He teaches us to do to others as we would have them do to us, and this is a thing which kings would find very hard to reconcile with the dishonest tricks of politics and the greedy plans of ambition. O great ones of the earth, I am a little astonished that amid your glories, and pleasures, and wars, and councils, you forget the Anointed, and throw out the Lord of All. There is no room for Christ with the kings. Look throughout the kingdoms of the earth now, and with only a few exceptions it is still true, "The kings of the earth take their stand and the rulers gather together against the LORD and against His Anointed One." In heaven we will see here and there a redeemed king from the earth; but oh, how few, for it is written to Christians, "Not many of you were wise by human standards; not many were influential; not many were of noble birth." State-rooms, cabinets, throne-rooms, and royal palaces, are frequented by Christ about as often as the deadly jungles and swamps by the cautious traveler. He frequents humble homes far more often than regal residences, for there is no room for Jesus Christ in regal halls.
"When the Eternal leaves the skies To visit earthly things, With divine scorn He turns His eyes From towers of arrogant kings.
He bids His awful chariot roll Far downward from the skies, To visit every humble soul With pleasure in His eyes."
But there were "senators, there were forums of political discussion, there were the places where the representatives of the people make the laws," was there no room for Christ there? Yes! My brethren, none, and to this day there is very little room for Christ in government. How seldom is Christianity recognized by politicians! Of course a State-religion, if it will consent to be a weak, submissive, powerless thing, a lion with its teeth all pulled, its mane shaven completely off, and its claws all removed--yes, that may be recognized; but the true Christ and they that follow Him and dare to obey His laws in an evil generation, what room is there for such a people? Christ and His gospel--is not given a second glance. Who pleads for Jesus in the Senate? Who quotes His golden rule as a direction for government leaders, or preaches Christ-like forgiveness as a rule for national policy? One or two will give Him a good word, but if it be put to the vote whether the Lord Jesus should be obeyed or not, it will surely be defeated. Parties, politics, status-seekers, and pleasure- seekers exclude the Representative of Heaven from a place among representatives of Earth.
Might there be found some room for Christ "in what is called high society?" Wasn't there any in Bethlehem that were very respectable, who kept themselves from the common multitude; persons of reputation and standing--couldn't they find room for Christ? Dear friends, almost without exception there is no room for Him in what is called high society. There is room for all the silly little forms by which men and women choose to distinguish themselves as "upper class;" room for the vain niceties of etiquette; room for frivolous conversation; room for the adoration of the body; there is room for the setting up of this and that as the idol of the hour, but there is too little room for Christ, and it is far from fashionable to follow the Lord fully. The Coming of Christ would be the last thing which high society would desire; the very mention of His name in a loving manner would cause a strange sensation. Should you begin to talk about the things of Christ in many a circle, you would be tabooed at once. "I will never ask that man to my house again," so-and-so would say, "if he must bring his religion with him." Folly, and finery, rank and honor, jewels and glitter, frivolity and fashion, all report that there is no room for Jesus.
But is there room for Him "in the business world?" Can't He be taken to the places of commerce? Here are the store owners of a nation of stores--isn't there room for Christ here? Dear friends, how little of the spirit, and life, and doctrine of Christ can be found here! The trader finds it inconvenient to be too scrupulous; the merchant often discovers that if he is to make a fortune he must violate his conscience. How many are there--well, I will not say that they tell lies directly, but still, still--I had better say it plainly--they do lie indirectly with a vengeance. Who doesn't know as he shops in the city that there are many liars around? For almost everywhere products are advertised as "The cheapest anywhere," which can hardly be; for surely they cannot all be the cheapest! What deceptive practices some indulge in! What false advertising! What cunning and sleight of hand! What woes would my Master pronounce on some of you if He looked into your store-windows, or stood behind your counters. Bankruptcies, swindlings, frauds are so abundant that in many cases there is no room for Jesus in the mart or the shop.
Then there are "the colleges and the universities," surely they will receive Him. The wise men will find in Him incarnate wisdom; He, who as a youth is to become the teacher of scholars, who will sit down and ask them questions and receive their answers, surely He will find room at once among such educated men--men of sense and intellect will surely honor Him. "Room for Him, along with Socrates and Plato!" No, dear friends, it is not so; there is very little room for Christ in colleges and universities, very little room for Him in the seats of learning. How often learning helps men to raise objections to Christ! Too often learning is the forge where the nails are made for Christ's crucifixion; too often human intelligence has become the craftsman who has made the spear and shaft with which His heart would be pierced. We must say it, that philosophy, has done much harm to Christ, and seldom has ever served His cause. A few with splendid talents, a few of the erudite and profound have bowed like children at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem, and have been honored in bowing there, but too many, conscious of their knowledge, stiff and stern in their conceit of wisdom, have said, "Who is Christ that we should acknowledge Him?" They found no room for Him in the schools.
But there was surely one place where He could go--it was "the Sanhedrin," where the religious elders sit. Or could He not find a place of welcome in the priestly chamber where the priests assemble with the Levites? Wasn't there room for Him in the temple or the synagogue? No, He found no shelter there; it was there, His whole life long, that He found His most ferocious enemies. Not the common multitude, but the priests were the instigators of His death; the priests moved the people to say, "Not this man, but Barabbas." The priests paid out their shekels to bribe the popular voice, and then Christ was hounded to His death. Surely there ought to have been room for Him in the Church of His own people; but there was not.
Too often in the priestly church, when once it becomes recognized and achieves dignity, there is no room for Christ. I don't allude to any one denomination, but take the whole sweep of Christendom, and it is strange that when the Lord comes to His own--they will not receive Him. The most accursed enemies of true Christianity have been the men who pretend to be it advocates. It is often the bishops who undermine faith in God's Word. Who burned the martyrs, and made fields of blood, a burning fiery furnace, a great altar for the Most High God? Why, those who professed to be anointed of the Lord, who had received Episcopal blessing. Who put John Bunyan in prison? Who chased such men as Owen and the Puritans from their pulpits? Who, but the professed messengers of heaven and the priests of God? Who have hunted the baptized saints in every land, and hunt them still today in many countries? The priests, the priests, there is no room for Christ with the prophets of Baal, the servants of Babylon. The false laborers that are not Christ's shepherds, and do not love His sheep, have always been the most ferocious enemies of our God and of His Christ. There is no room for Him where His name is chanted in solemn hymns and His image lifted up amid smoke of incense. Go wherever you will, and there is no space for the Prince of Peace but with the humble and repentant spirits which by grace He prepares to yield Him shelter.
III. But now for our third point, "The inn itself had no room for him;" and this was the main reason why He must be laid in a manger.
What can we find in modern times which stands in the place of the inn? Well, there is "public sentiment free to all" In this free land, men speak what they like, and there is a public opinion on every subject; and you know there is free toleration in this country to everything--permit me to say, toleration to everything but Christ. You will discover that the persecuting-spirit is alive and well. There are still men at whom it is most fashionable to scoff at. We never scoff at Christians nowadays; we do not sneer at that respectable title, lest we would lose our own honor; we don't nowadays talk against the followers of Jesus under that name. No; but we have found out a way of doing it more safely. There is a pretty word of modern invention--a very pretty word--the word "Sectarian." Do you know what it means?
A sectarian means a true Christian; a man who can afford to keep a conscience, and does not mind suffering for it; a man who, whatever he finds to be in the Bible, believes it, and acts upon it, and is zealous for it. I believe that the men aimed at under the term, "sectarian," are the true followers of Christ, and that the sneers and jeers, and all the nonsense that you are always reading and hearing about, is really aimed at the Christian, the true Christian, only he is disguised and nick-named by the word sectarian. I wouldn't give you a penny for your Christianity, no, not even a rusty nail, unless you will sometimes win that title. If God's Word be true, every bit of it, then we should act on it; and whatever the Lord commands, we should diligently keep and obey, remembering that our Master tells us if we break one of the least of His commandments, and teach men to do so, then we will be least in His kingdom. We ought to be very watchful, very anxious, that we obey even in the minute details of our Savior's laws, having our eyes focused on Him. But if you do this, you will find you are not tolerated, and you will get the cold shoulder in society. A zealous Christian will find a real cross to carry nowadays, as in the days of Simon of Cyrene.
If you will hold your tongue, if you will let sinners perish, if you will never endeavor to spread your faith, if you will silence all witnessing for truth, if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, "Ah! That's right; this is the religion we like." But if you will believe, believe firmly, and if you let your belief actuate your life, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then you will surely find that there is no room for Christ even in the inn of public sentiment, where everything else is received. Be an atheist, a skeptic, or an agnostic and no one will treat you with contempt; but be a Christian, and many will despise you. There was no room for Him in the inn.
How little room there is for Christ, "in general conversation," which is also like an inn. We talk about many things; a man may nowadays talk of any subject he pleases; no one can stop him and say, "There is a spy listening to your words; he will report you to some central authority." Speech is very free in this land; but, oh, how little room there is for Christ in our conversations! Even on Sunday afternoon how little room there is for Christ in some professing Christian homes. They will talk about ministers, tell stories about them--perhaps even invent a few, or, at least, garnish the old ones, and add to them. They will talk about the Sunday school, or the various agencies in connection with the Church, but how little they say about Christ! And if some one should, in conversation, make this remark, "Could we talk about the Trinity, or the finished work and righteousness of Christ, or the ascension of our Lord, or the Second Coming of our Lord Jesus Christ," why we would see many, who even profess to be followers of Christ, who would hold up their heads and say, "Why, that man is quite a fanatic, or else he would not think of introducing such a subject as that into general conversation." No there is no room for Him at the inn.
I address many who are working-men. You are employed among a great many different companies day after day; do you not find, brethren--I know you do--that there is very little room for Christ "in the workplace?" There is room for talk of sports; there is room for lewd conversation, there is room for politics, slanders, or lying talk; but there is no room for Christ. Too many of our working men think Christianity would be an encumbrance, a chain, a prison to them. They can frequent the theater, or listen to some conference speaker, but the Church is too dreary for them. I wish I were not compelled to say so, but truly in our factories, workshops, and other businesses, there is no room for Christ. The world is elbowing and pushing for more room, until there is scarce a corner left where the babe of Bethlehem can be laid.
As "for the inns of modern times"--who would think of finding Christ there? Our inns today have as part of their establishment the attached taverns. What wider gates of hell can be built? Who would ever resort to going to our inns today and ever expect to find Christ there? We might as well to find Him in the bottomless pit! We should be just as likely to look for angels in hell, as seek to look for Christ in a whisky palace! He who is separate from sinners, finds no fit society in the reeking temple of Bacchus. There is no room for Jesus in the inn. I think I would rather rot or feed the crows, than earn my daily bread by the wages of fools, the hard earned money of the poor man, stolen from his ragged children, and his haggard wife. What do many tavern owners fatten themselves on the flesh, and bones, and blood, and souls of men. He who grows rich on the fruits of vice is a beast preparing itself for the slaughter. Truly, there is no room for Christ, among those who are drunk. Those who have anything to do with Christ can hear Him say, "Come out from them and be separate. Touch no unclean thing, and I will receive you. I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters." There is no room for Christ nowadays even in the places of public lodging.
IV. This brings me to my fourth point, which is the most pertinent and the most essential one to dwell on for a moment. "Have you room for Christ?" "Have you any room for Christ?"
As the palace and the inn have no room for Christ, and as the places of public resort have none, have "you" room for Christ? "Well," one says, "I have room for Him, but I am not worthy that He should come to me." Ah! I did not ask about worthiness; have you room for Him? "Oh," one says, "I have an empty void the world can never fill!" Ah! I see you have room for Him. "Oh! But the room I have in my heart is so wretched! So was the manger. "But it is so despicable!" The manger was also a thing to be despised. "Ah! But my heart is so foul!" So, perhaps, the manger may also have been. "Oh! But I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!' Nor was the manger a place fit for Him, and yet there He was laid. "Oh! But I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart has been a den of beasts and devils!" Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed. Have you room for Him? Never mind what the past has been; He can forgive and forget. It does not matter what even the present state may be if you mourn over it. If you have room for Christ He will come and be your guest. Don't say, "I hope I 'will have' room for Him;" the time is come that He will be born; Mary cannot wait months and years.
Oh! Sinner, if you have room for Him let Him be born in your soul today. "Today, if you hear His voice, do not harden your hearts as you did in the rebellion." "Now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation." Room for Jesus! Room for Jesus now! "Oh!" one says, "I have room for Him, but will He come?" Will He come--most certainly! Just open the door of your heart, and say, "Jesus, Master, all unworthy and unclean I look to you; come, lodge within my heart," and He will come to you, and He will cleanse the manger of your heart; He will transform it into a golden throne, and there He will sit and reign forever and forever. Oh! I have such a free Christ to preach this morning! I wish I could preach Him better. I have such a precious loving Jesus to preach, He is willing to find a home in humble hearts. What! Are there no hearts here this morning that will take Him in?
Must my eye glance around these galleries and look at many of you who are still without Him, and are there none who will say, "Come in, come in?" Oh! It will be a happy day for you if you will be enabled to take Him in your arms and receive Him as the your Savior and Lord! You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say with Simeon--"Sovereign Lord, as you have promised, you now dismiss your servant in peace. For my eyes have seen your salvation." My master wants room! Room for Him! Room for Him! I, His herald, cry aloud, Room for the Savior! Room! Here is my royal Master--have you room for Him? Here is the Son of God made flesh--have you room for Him? Here is He who can lift you up out of the slimy pit and out of the miry clay--have you room for Him? Here He is who when He comes in will never go out again, but abide with you forever to make your heart a heaven of joy and bliss for you--have you room for Him? This is all I ask. Your emptiness, your nothingness, your lack of feeling, your lack of goodness, your lack of grace--all these will be but room for Him. Have you room for Him? Oh! Spirit of God, lead many to say, "Yes, my heart is ready." Ah! Then He will come and dwell with you.
"Joy to the world the Savior comes, the Savior promised long; Let every heart prepare a throne And every voice a song."
V. I conclude with this point, that if you "have room" for Christ, then from this day forward remember, "The world has no room for you;" for the text says not only that there was no room for Him, but look--"There was no room 'for them,'"--no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe. Who are His mother, brother, and sister, but those who do the will of His Father in heaven. So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember from this time on there is no room is this world for any true follower of Christ.
There is no room for you to take it "easy," no, you are to be a soldier of the cross. There is no room for you to sit down "content with all your achievements," for you are a traveler, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is ahead; no room for you "to hide your treasure" in, for here the moth and rust destroys; no room for you "to put your confidence," for "Cursed is the one who trusts in man, who depends on flesh for his strength." From this day there will be no room for you in "the good opinion of the world." They will count you to be rubbish; no room for you in the world's "polite society"--you must go on without the sophisticated, bearing His reproach. From this time forward, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room for "tolerance" of you; you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool's cap in men's esteem. The song that you must sing will be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage:
"Jesus, I Your cross have taken, All to leave and follow You; Naked, poor, despised, forsaken, You from now on my all will be."
There is no room for you in the world's love. If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will be quite mistaken. The world has no room for the man who has room for Christ. "If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." "Woe to you when all men speak well of you." You are not of the world, even as Christ is not of it. Thank God, you need not ask for the world's hospitality. If it will give you a stage for action, and lend you for a short time a grave to sleep in, it is all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which has foundations; whose builder and maker is God. You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.
What do you say, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these? Will you give room for Christ when there is to be from this time on no room for you--when you are to be separated forever, cut off from among the world's relatives--cut off from fleshly confidence forever? Are you willing, nevertheless to receive the Babe of Bethlehem in? The Lord help you to do so, and to Him will be glory forever and ever. Amen.
God Incarnate, the End of Fear December 23, 1866
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.
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD:
“The angel said to them, `Do not be afraid.'“ Luke 2:10
As soon as the angel of the Lord appeared to the shepherds, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, they were terrified. It had come to this, that man was afraid of his God, and when God sent down His loving messengers with tidings of great joy, men were filled with as much fear as though the angel of death had appeared with an uplifted sword. The silence of the night and its dreary gloom caused no fear in the shepherds' hearts, but the joyful herald of the skies, robed in the glories of grace, terrified them. We must not condemn the shepherds on this account as though they were timid or uneducated, for they were only acting as every other person in that age would have done under the same circumstances.
It was not because they were simple shepherds that they were overcome with fear, but it is probable that if they had been well-instructed prophets they would have displayed the same feeling; for there are many instances recorded in Scripture, in which the leading men of their time trembled and felt the horror of great darkness when special manifestations of God were given to them. In fact, a cringing fear of God was so common, that a tradition had grown out of it, which was all but universally received as absolute truth. It was generally believed that every supernatural manifestation was to be regarded as a token of speedy death, “We are doomed to die! We have seen God!” was not only Manoah's conclusion, but that of most men of his period. Indeed there were only a few who had contented minds like Manoah's wife, who could reason in a more encouraging style, she said, “If the LORD had meant to kill us, He would not have accepted a burnt offering and grain offering from our hands, nor shown us all these things or now told us this.”
It became “the settled conviction” of all men, whether wise or uneducated, whether good or bad, that a manifestation of God was not so much to be rejoiced in as to be dreaded; even as Jacob said, “How awesome [how frightening] is this place! This is none other than the house of God; this is the gate of heaven.” Without a doubt the spirit which originated this tradition was fostered by the “legal dispensation,” which is better fitted for trembling servants than for rejoicing sons. The solemn night in which its greatest institution was ordained was a night of trembling, death was there in the slaughter of the lamb; blood was then sprinkled on a conspicuous part of the house: fire was there to roast the lamb, all the emblems of judgment were there to strike the mind with dread. It was at the dreaded hour of midnight when the solemn family conclave was assembled; the door was shut; the guests themselves standing in an uneasy attitude, and stricken with fright, for their hearts and minds could hear the wings of the destroying angel as he passed by the house.
Afterwards, when Israel came into the wilderness, and the law was proclaimed, we read that the people stood afar off and that boundaries were established around the mountain, and even if an animal touched the mountain, then it must be stoned, or killed with a sword? It was a day of fear and trembling when God spoke to them out of the fire. God's law did not come to His people's ears with the soft notes of harps; there were no soft wings of angels bringing the message, and no sunny smiles of heaven sweetened it to the mind, but it came with sounds of loud trumpets and thunder, out of the midst of blazing lightnings, with Mount Sinai smoking, the law was given. The law's voice was, “Do not go near it!” The spirit of Sinai is fear and trembling.
The legal ceremonies were designed to inspire fear rather than to generate trust. The worshiper at the temple saw bloodshed from the first of the year to the end of the year; the morning was ushered in with the shedding of the blood of the lamb, and the evening could not pass without blood again being spilled on the altar. God was in the midst of the camp, but the pillar of cloud and fire was His unapproachable retreat. The emblem of His glory was concealed behind the curtain of blue and scarlet and fine linen, behind which only one person was allowed to pass, and that only once a year. Men spoke of the God of Israel with bated breath, and with hushed and solemn voices. They had not learned to say, “Our Father in heaven.” They had not received the spirit of adoption, and were not able to say “Abba”; they smarted under the spirit of bondage, which made them terrified when the glory of the Lord's presence was displayed among them.
At the bottom of all this cringing dread lay “sin.” We never find Adam afraid of God, nor of any manifestation of Deity while he was in Paradise as an obedient creature, but no sooner had he touched the forbidden fruit than he found out that he was naked, and hid himself when he heard the voice of the Lord God walking in the garden in the cool of the day, Adam was afraid and hid himself from the presence of the Lord God among the trees of the garden. Sin makes miserable cowards of us all. See the man who once could hold delightful conversation with his Maker, now dreading to hear his Maker's voice and sneaking around in the garden like a felon, who knows his guilt, and is afraid to meet the officers of justice.
Beloved, in order to remove this dreaded nightmare of slavish fear from the heart of humanity, where its horrible influence represses all the noblest aspirations of the soul, our Lord Jesus Christ came in the flesh. This is one of the works of the devil which Jesus had come to destroy. Angels came to proclaim the good news of the coming of the incarnate God, and the very first note of their song was a foretaste of the sweet result of His coming to all those who will receive him. The angel said, “Do not be afraid!” as though the times of fear were over, and the days of hope and joy had arrived. “Do not be afraid!” These words were not meant for those trembling shepherds only, but were intended for you and for me, yes, to all nations to whom the glad tidings would come. “Do not be afraid!” Let God no longer be the object of your slavish dread! Do not stand at a distance from Him any more. The Word is made flesh. God has descended to live among men, that there may be no wall of restraining fire, no gulf between God and man.
I wish to dwell on this subject this morning as God would help me. I am aware of the value of the theme, and am very conscious that I cannot do it justice. I earnestly ask God the Holy Spirit to make you drink of the golden cup of the incarnation of Christ, which I have enjoyed in my quiet meditations. I desire this delight for my dearest friends. There is no better cure for fear than the subject of that midnight song, the first and best of Christmas choruses, which from its first word to its last note chimes out the sweet message, which begins with, “Do not be afraid!”
It is my sweetest comfort, Lord, And will forever be, To ponder on the gracious truth Of Your humanity.
Oh joy! there dwells in our flesh, On a throne of light One of a human mother, born, In perfect Godhead bright!
“Though earth's foundations should be moved, Down to their lowest deep; Though all the trembling universe Into destruction sweep;
Forever God, forever man, My Jesus will endure; And fixed on Him, my hope remains Eternally secure.”
Dear friends, I will first call your attention to the subject of “the fear” which I have already spoken; then, secondly, we shall invite your earnest attention to “the remedy” which the angels came to proclaim; and then, thirdly, we will endeavor to make an application of this remedy to various cases.
I. First let us turn to THE FEAR of the text.
There is a kind of fear towards God from which we must not wish to be freed from.
There is that lawful, necessary, admirable, excellent fear which is always due from the creature to the Creator, from the subject to the king, yes, and from the child toward the parent. That holy, respectful fear of God, which makes us dread sin, and constrains us to be obedient to His command, is to be cultivated; “We have all had human fathers who disciplined us and we respected them for it. How much more should we submit to the Father of our spirits and live!” This is the “The fear of the LORD [which] is the beginning of wisdom.” To have a holy fear of our most holy, just, righteous, and tender God is a privilege, not a bondage. Godly fear is not the “fear [which] has to do with punishment;” perfect love does not cast aside fear, but dwells with it in joyful harmony. The angels perfectly love God, and yet with holy fear they veil their faces with their wings as they approach Him; and when we, in heaven, behold the face of God, and will be filled with all His fullness, we will not cease humbly and reverently to adore the Infinite Majesty. Holy fear is a work of the Holy Spirit, and woe be to the man or woman who does not possess it; let them boast as they may, his “eating with you without the slightest qualm [or fear]” is a mark of his hypocrisy.
The fear which is to be avoided is “cringing fear;” the fear which perfect love casts out, as Sarah cast out the slave woman and her son.
That trembling which keeps us at a distance from God, which makes us think of Him as a Spirit with whom we can have no communion; as a person who does not care for us except to punish us, and for whom consequently we have no care except to escape if possible from His terrible presence.
This fear sometimes arises in men's hearts from their “thoughts that dwell exclusively on the divine greatness.”
Is it possible to stare into the vast abyss of Infinity and not to be afraid? Can the mind yield itself up to the thought of the Eternal, Self-existent, Infinite One without being filled, first with awe and then with dread? What am I? An insect creeping on a rosebud is a more considerable creature in relation to the word of humans than I can be in comparison with God. What am I? A grain of dust that does not register on the most sensitive scale is a greater thing to man than a man is to the Lord God. At best we are less than nothing and vanity.
But there is more to abase us than this. We have had the audacity to be disobedient to the will of this great One; and now the goodness and greatness of His nature are like a rushing current against which sinful humanity struggles in vain, for the irresistible torrent must run its course, and overwhelm every opponent. What does the great God seem to those without Christ but a stupendous rock, threatening to crush them, or a bottomless sea, rushing to swallow them up? The contemplation of the divine greatness may in itself fill man with horror, and cast him into unspeakable misery! Dwell a long time on such themes, and like Job you will tremble before the Living God, who shakes the earth.
“Each one of the severe attributes of God” will cause the fear.
Think of His power by which He rolls the stars along, and put your hand over your mouth. Think of His wisdom by which He numbers the clouds, and settles the physical laws of the universe. Meditate on any one of these attributes, but especially on His justice, and on that devouring fire which burns continuously against sin, and it is no wonder that the soul becomes full of fear. Meanwhile let “a sense of sin” with its great whip of wire, scourge the conscience, and man will dread the thought of God. For this is the concern of the voice of man's guilty conscience, “If you were a righteous man, this God would still be frightful to you, for if even the moon is not bright and the stars are not pure in His eyes, if God charges his angels with error. How can a mortal be righteous before God, or have any claims on Him, for you have offended, you have lifted your hand of rebellion against the infinite majesty of omnipotence--what can become of you? What can be your end but to be set up forever as a monument of his righteous wrath?”
Now such a fear as that is easily created in the thoughtful mind, and is the natural heritage of man, since the result of sin is most wretched and harmful.
For wherever there is a cringing dread of the Divine Person, it alienates man completely from his God. We are by our evil nature enemies to God, and the assumption that God is cruel, harsh, and horrifying, adds fuel to the fire of our hatred. We can't love those whom we dread. You could not make your child show love to you if its little heart was full of fear; if it dreaded to hear your footstep, and was alarmed at the sound of your voice, it could not love you. You might obey some huge monster because you were afraid of him, but it would be impossible to love him. It is one of the masterpieces of Satan to deceive man by presenting to his mind a hateful picture of God. He knows that man cannot love that which terrifies him, and therefore he paints the God of grace as a hard, unforgiving person who will not receive the repentant sinner and have pity on the sorrowful person. God is love! Surely if men only had the grace enough to see the beauty of that portrait of God that was sketched with a single line, “God is love!” then they would willingly serve such a God. When the Holy Spirit enables the mind to perceive the character of God, the heart cannot refuse to love Him. Evil, fallen, depraved as men and women are, when they are illuminated by the Holy Spirit then they will have the right judgment of God, their hearts melt under the pleasant beams of divine love, and they love God because He has first loved them. But here is the masterpiece of Satan, that he will not let the understanding perceive the excellence of God's character, and then the heart cannot love that which the understanding does not perceive to be lovable. In addition to alienating the heart from God, this fear “creates a prejudice against God's gospel of grace.”
There are persons in this church this morning who believe that if they were to become a Christian that they would be miserable. It is the settled conviction of some, that to trust in Jesus and to be obedient to God, which is the essence of true Christianity, would be miserable. “Oh,” says the worldly man, “I would have to give up my pleasure if I were to become a Christian.” Now, this is one of the biggest lies ever invented, and yet millions of people believe it. It is popular theology that to be an enemy of God is happiness, but to be the friend of God is misery. What a warped opinion men must have of God, when they believe that to love Him is to be wretched! Oh, I wish that they could truly understand Him. I wish that they could know how good God is instead of imagining that to be His servant would be slavery. I pray that they could only understand that to be His friends is to occupy the highest and happiest position which created beings can occupy.
This fear in some men “causes them to believe that can never be saved.”
They think God is a selfish Person, they keep at a distance from Him, and if they hear now and then, in a sermon, that God is Love and will save everyone that comes to Him, the right desire for Him never matures into the practical resolve to do something. They don’t say, “I will get up and go to my Father,” because they don’t know Him as a Father, they only know Him as a consuming fire. A man does not say, “I will get up and go into a consuming fire.” No, but, like Jonah, he would pay his money, regardless of the expense, and go to Tarshish to flee from the presence of the Lord. This is what makes man so miserable the fact that they cannot get away from God, since they think that if they could only escape from His presence they would then wander into absolute happiness; but being doomed to be where God is, then they conceive that for them there remains only anguish and misery. The soft warnings of mercy and the thunderings of justice are powerless on men so long as their hearts are seared and rendered hardened by an unholy dread of God. This depraved fear of God frequently drives men and women to the extremities of sin.
The man says, “There is no hope for me; I have made one fatal mistake by becoming God's enemy, and I am permanently ruined. There is no hope that I will ever be restored to happiness or peace. Then what will I do? I will unleash all my passions, I will defy fate and take my chance. I will get all the happiness that can be found in sin. If I cannot be reconciled to heaven I will become a servant of hell.” Consequently men and women have been known to rush from one crime to another with a spiteful rebellion against God, as if they could never be satisfied nor contented until they had heaped up more and more sins against the majesty of God whom in their hearts they dreaded with a burning Satanic dread mingled with hate. If they could only comprehend that He is still willing to receive the rebellious sinner, that His heart yearns to save sinners; if they could only believe that He is love and is not willing that any sinner should ever be lost forever, but would rather that the sinner would repent and submit to Him and live eternally in heaven, surely the course of their lives would be changed; but the god of this world blinds them, and slanders the Lord until the unbeliever considers it foolishness to repent and submit to Christ.
Dear friends, this evil of Satan operates in countless ways. It dishonors God.
Oh, it is notorious, it is evil to make out our God, who is light and in whom there is no darkness at all, to be an object of horrible fear. It is hellish; it is devilish to the highest degree to paint Him as a demon, who is the Holy God, the God of Love. Oh, the disrespect of the prince of darkness, and the madness of man to consent to the suggestion, that God should be depicted as being unwilling to forgive, unkind, harsh, hard, cruel, when in fact He is love; supremely and above all things, love. He is just, but all the more truly loving because He is just. He is true, and therefore sure to punish sin, yet even punishing sin because it is not being righteous to let sin go unpunished. This is vile ingratitude on the part of a creature who has received so much that he should slander God the giver of all things. The evil which is therefore done to God recoils upon man, for this “fear brings torment.”
Nothing is more tormenting in the world than to think of God as being our unappeasable foe. You Christians who have lost for awhile the joy of your salvation [not your salvation, just the joy of it], you who have wandered a distance away from God, nothing can be more tormenting to you than the fear that the Lord has cast you away and will not receive you again. You backsliders, nothing can hold you back from your heavenly Father like a dread of Him. If you really knew that He is not to be dreaded with a cringing fear, you will come to him as your child does to you, and you would say, “My Father, I have offended You have pity on me! My Father, I am irritated and grieved over my sin--forgive me, receive me again into Your arms, and help me, by Your mighty grace, that from this moment on I may walk in Your commandments, and be obedient to Your will.” My dear friends, you who know anything about spiritual life, don't you feel that when you have sweet thoughts of God breathed into you from above, and have your heart filled with His special love, that it is then that you are the holiest! Haven’t you perceived that the only way in which you can grow in that which is morally and spiritually lovely, is by highly esteeming your gracious God, and feeling His precious love filling your hearts?
The very thing which God desires for His elect ones is that they may become like little children. It is this which His Spirit works in His chosen ones; it is to this that we must come if we are to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints. Cringing fear is so opposed to the childlike spirit that it is just like the poison of a cobra to it. Dread and fear brings out everything in us that is of the “man” rather than of the “child,” for it stirs us up to resist the object of our fear. An assured confidence in the goodness of God casts out fear and brings forth everything that is childlike in us. A child easily and naturally trusts in a good and generous father, and if I, a poor, weak, feeble child, conscious that I am such, knowing that I am all foolishness and weakness, can just believe in my good, great God, through Jesus Christ and come and trust myself with Him, and leave Him to do as He likes with me, believing that He will not be unkind, and cannot be unwise; If I can wholly rest in His love and be obedient to His will, only then will I have reached the highest point that the creature can reach; the Holy Spirit will then have brought about His finished work in me, and I will be fit for heaven. Beloved, it is because fear opposes this, and prevents this, that I would say with the angel, “Do not be afraid”
II. I am afraid that I will tire you while I speak on this somewhat sorrowful theme, and therefore with as much brevity as the abundance of the matter may permit, let us note in the second place, THE CURE FOR THIS FEAR, which the angel came to proclaim. It lies in this: “Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord.”
Till God in human flesh I see, My thoughts no comfort find; The holy, just and sacred Three, Are terrors to my mind.
But if Immanuel's face appear, My hope, my joy begins; His name forbids my slavish fear, His grace removes my sins.”
That is the remedy God with us God made flesh. Let us try and show this from the angel's song.
According to the text they were not to be afraid, first of all, because “the angel had come to bring them good news.” What does it say? It says, “I bring you good news of great joy.” But what was this gospel? Further on we are told that the gospel was the fact that Christ was born. So, then, it is good news to men that Christ is born, that God has come down and taken manhood into union with Himself. Truly this is good news. He who made the heavens sleeps in a manger. What does that mean? Why it means that God is not necessarily an enemy to man, because here is God actually taking manhood into union with Deity.
There cannot be permanent, entrenched, immovable hatred between the two natures, or otherwise the divine nature could not have taken the human into hypostatical union with itself. Isn't there comfort in that? You are a destitute, wicked, feeble person, and that which makes you afraid of the Lord is this fear that there is hatred between God and man; but there need not be such animosity, for your Creator has actually taken manhood into union with Himself.
Don't you see another thought? The Eternal seems to be so far away from us. He is infinite, and we are such little creatures. There appears to be a great gulf fixed between man and God He is the Creator and we are the creature. But observe, He who is God has also become man. We never heard that God took the nature of angels into union with Himself, we may therefore say that between the Godhead and angels there must still be an infinite distance; but here the Lord has actually taken manhood into union with Himself, there is therefore no longer a great gulf fixed, on the contrary, here is a marvelous union; The Godhead has entered into marriage bonds with manhood. O my soul, you do not stand like a poor lonely orphan wailing across the deep sea after your Father who has gone far away and cannot hear you; you don’t sob and sigh like an infant left naked and helpless, its Creator having gone too far away to regard its needs or listen to its cries. No, your Creator has become like yourself. Is that too strong a word to use? He who created all things, and in Whom all things are held together, is that same Word who lived for a while among us and was made flesh, and made flesh in such a way that He was tempted in every way, just as we are yet was without sin. O mankind, was there ever such good news as this for you! Inferior mankind, you weak worm of the dust, far lower than the angels, lift up your head, and don't be afraid! Inferior mankind, born in weakness, living a life of work and stress, covered with sweat, and then dying only to be eaten by the worms, don't you be ashamed even in the presence of Heaven's highest ranking angels, for next to God is man, and not even an archangel stands in position between God and man; no, not next to God, there is an absolute complete union between God and man, for Jesus who is God is also man; Jesus Christ, eternally God, was born, and lived and died as we also do. That is the first word of comfort to expel our fear.
The second point that takes away fear is that this Man Jesus who was also God was actually born. Observe the angel's word, “A Savior has been born to you.”
Our Lord Jesus Christ is in some senses more man than Adam. Adam was not born; Adam never had to struggle through the risks and weaknesses of infancy; he did not know what it was like to be a toddler or a little child he was created full grown. Our earthly father Adam could not sympathize with me as a baby and a child. But how manlike is Jesus! He is cradled with us in the manger; He does not begin with us in mid-life, as Adam, but he accompanies us in the pains and feebleness and weaknesses of infancy, and He continues with us even to the grave. Beloved, this is such sweet comfort. He that is God today was once an infant: so that if my cares are little and even trivial and comparatively infantile, I may go to Him, for He once was a child. Though the great ones of the earth may sneer at the children living in poverty, and say, “You are too unimportant, and your trouble is too insignificant for pity;” I remember with humble joy, that the King of heaven nursed on a woman's breast, and was wrapped in rags, and therefore I can tell Him all my sorrows. How wonderful that He was an infant, and also was the Living God, blessed forever! I am not afraid of God anymore; this blessed link between me and God, the holy child Jesus, has taken all the fear away.
Observe, the angel told them something of His position, as well as His birth. “Today in the town of David a `Savior' has been born to you.” The very purpose for which He was born and came into this world was that He might deliver us from sin. What, then, was it that made us afraid? Weren't we afraid of God because we felt that we were lost through sin? Well then, here is joy upon joy. Here not only has the Lord come among us as a man, but He was made man in order to save man from that which separated him from God. I feel as if I could burst into weeping for some here who have been racing through their lives unrestrained and are a great distance from God their Creator because of their evil ways. I know they are afraid to come to Him. They think that the Lord will not receive them, that there is no mercy for such sinners as they have been. Oh, but think of this Jesus Christ has come to seek and to save that which was lost. He was born to save. If He does not save then He was born in vain, for the object of His birth was salvation. If He will not be a Savior, then the mission of God to earth has missed its objective, for its design was that lost sinners might be saved. Lost one, lost one, if there were news that an angel had come to save you there might be some cheer in it; but there are even better tidings. God has come; the Infinite, the Almighty, has stooped from the highest heaven that He may pick you up, a poor cursed and worthless worm. Isn't there comfort here? Doesn't the incarnate Savior take away the horrible dread which hangs over men like a gloomy darkness?
Note that the angel did not forget to describe “the person” of this Savior-- “He is Christ the Lord.” There is His manhood. As man He was anointed. “The Lord.” There is His Godhead. Yes, this is the solid truth upon which we plant our foot. Jesus of Nazareth is God; He who was conceived in the womb of the virgin and born in Bethlehem's manger is now, and always was, God over all, blessed forever. There is no gospel if He is not God. It is not good news to me to tell me that a great prophet is born. There have been great prophets before; but the world has never been redeemed from evil by mere testimony to the truth, and never will be. Tell me that God is born, that God Himself has taken up our nature, and taken it into union with Himself, then the bells of my heart ring with joy, for now I may come to God since God has come to me.
You will observe, dear friends, however, that the essence of what the angel said lay in this, “has been born to you.” You will never get true comfort from the incarnate Savior until you perceive your personal interest in Him.
Christ as man was a representative man. There were only two thoroughly representative men; the first is Adam: Adam was disobedient and the whole race fell. “In Adam all die.” Now, the man Jesus is the second great representative man. He does not represent the whole human race, He represents as many as His Father gave him; He represents a chosen company. Now, whatever Christ did, if you belong to those who are in Him He did for you. So that Christ circumcised or Christ crucified, Christ dead or Christ living, Christ buried or Christ risen, you are a partaker of all that He did and all that He is, for you are considered to be one with Him. See then, the joy and comfort of the incarnation of Christ. Does Jesus, as man, take manhood up to heaven? He has taken me up there. Our earthly father Adam fell, and I fell too, for I was in him. The Lord Jesus Christ rises, and I rise if I am in Him. See, beloved, when Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross all His elect children were nailed there too, and they suffered and died in Him. When He was put into the grave the whole of His people lay slumbering there in Him, for they were in the loins of Jesus as Levi was in the loins of Abraham; and when He rose they rose and received the foretaste of their own future resurrection, because He lives they will also live; and now that He has gone up to heaven to claim the throne, He has claimed the throne for every soul that is in Him. Oh, this is joy indeed! Then how can I be afraid of God, for this day, by faith, I, a poor undeserving sinner, having put my trust in Jesus, can be bold and say that I sit upon the very throne of God. Don’t think that we have said too much, for in the person of Christ every believer is raised up together, and made to sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus. Because as Jesus is there, representatively, each one of us is there in Him.
I wish that I had power to bring out this precious doctrine of the incarnation as I desire too, but the more one ponders it, the happier one becomes. Let us view it as an all-important truth, that Jesus, the Son of God, has really come in the flesh. It is such an important truth, that we have three witnesses appointed to keep it before us on earth. We have been insisting many times in this church on the spirituality of Christian worship. We have shown that the outward acts and deeds in Christianity, by itself, accomplishes nothing, it is the inward spirit that really means anything. I must confess that I have sometimes said to myself, and I hope not rebelliously, “What is Baptism for, and What is the Lord's Supper for?” These two outward ordinances, whatever may be their perfect purposes, have been the two things around which more errors have clustered than around anything else; and I have heard it said, by friends inclined to follow more fully the teachings of the Quakers, “Why not put aside the outward and visible altogether? Let it be the Spirit Baptism and not the water, let there be no bread and wine, but let there be fellowship with Christ without the outward sign. “I must confess, though I would never do it, because I am faithful to the plain testimony of Scripture, yet my heart has been somewhat tempted, and I have said to myself, “Men will always pervert these two ordinances, wouldn't it be better to just do away with them?”
While I have struggled over this issue, I have always be conscious that the ordinances are right, and must be practiced faithfully, because I have rested on the text, “There are three that testify: the Spirit, the water and the blood; and the three are in agreement.” And what do they bear witness to? They bear witness to the mission of Jesus as the Christ, in other words to the real incarnation of God. They bear witness to the material nature of Christ. Have you ever noticed that when people have given up the two outward ordinances, they have usually betrayed a tendency to give up the literal fact that “God was made flesh!” The literal fact that Christ was really a man has generally been doubted or thrown into the background when the two outward ordinances have been given up, and I believe that these two symbolical ordinances, which are a link between the spiritual and the material, are set up on purpose to show that Christ Jesus, though most gloriously a spirit, was also a man clothed in a body of real flesh and blood like our own; so that He could be touched and handled even as He said, “Touch me and see; a ghost does not have flesh and bones, as you see I have.” When I think of the Holy Spirit who bears witness that Christ was really a man, I thank Him for that witness; then I turn to the water, and when I read that Christ was publicly baptized in Jordan, I perceive that He could not have been a phantom; He could not have been a mere supernatural appearance, for He was immersed in water, He must have been a solid substantial man. The preservation of the ordinance of baptism is a witness to the reality of the incarnate God. Then comes the blood, He could not have shed blood on Calvary if He had been only a vision. There could have been no blood streaming down from His side when the spear pierced Him if He had been only a ghostly appearance; He must have been solid flesh and blood like ourselves; and as often as we come to His table, and we take the cup and hear it said, “This cup is the New Covenant in my blood,” there is a third witness on earth to the fact that Jesus did appear in very flesh and blood among men. So that the Spirit, the water, and the blood, are the three standing testimonies in the church of God, that Christ was God, and that He was also really, solidly, and substantially man. I will delight in the ordinances all the more because of this. Those two ordinances serve to make us remember that Christ was really flesh and blood, and that Christianity has something to do with this flesh and blood of ours. This very body is to rise again from the tomb; Jesus came to deliver this weak flesh from corruption; and so, while we must always keep the spiritual uppermost, we are prevented from casting away the material body as though that were from the devil. Christ purified as well the realm of matter as the realm of spirit; and in both He reigns triumphant. There is great comfort here.
III. Lastly, we can only take a few moments in APPLYING THE CURE TO VARIOUS CASES.
Child of God, You say, “I dare not come to God today, I feel so weak.” Do not fear, for He that is born in Bethlehem said, “A bruised reed I will not break, and a smoldering wick I will not snuff out.” “I will never get to heaven,” says another; “I will never see acceptance on God's face; I am so tempted.” “Do not fear, For you do not have a high priest who is unable to sympathize with your weaknesses, but you have one who has been tempted in every way, just as you are yet was without sin.” “But I am so lonely in the world,” says another, “No man cares about me.” Regardless, there is one man who does care; a true man like yourself. Furthermore, He is your fellow man, and does not forget the lonely spirit.
But I hear a sinner say, “I am afraid to go to God this morning and confess that I am a sinner.” Well, don’t go to God alone, but go to the member of the Trinity who is truly God and who also is a man the God/man Christ Jesus. Surely you cannot be afraid of Him. If you only knew Jesus you would go to Him at once; you would not be afraid to tell Him your sins, for you would know that He would say, “Go now and leave your life of sin.”
“I can't pray,” one says, “I feel afraid to pray.” What, afraid to pray, when it is a man who listens to you! You might dread the face of God, but when it is God in human flesh why should you be alarmed? Go, weak sinner, go to Jesus.
“I feel,” ones says, “unfit to come.” You may be unfit to come to God, but you cannot be unfit to come to Jesus. There is a fitness necessary to stand in the presence of the Holy God, but there is no fitness needed in coming to the Lord Jesus. Come as you are, guilty, and lost, and ruined. Come just as you are, and He will receive you.
“Oh,” says another, “I cannot trust.” I can understand your not being able to trust the great invisible God, but can't you trust that dying, bleeding Son of Man who is also the Son of God?
“But I cannot hope,” says another, “that He would even look on me:” and yet He used to look on such as you are. He received sinners and ate with them, and even prostitutes were not driven from His presence. Oh, do not be afraid, since God has taken man into union with Himself! If I speak to one who by reason of sin has wandered so far away from God that he is even afraid to think of God's name, yet inasmuch as Jesus Christ is called “the sinner's Friend,” I pray that you think of Him, poor soul, as your friend. And, oh! may the Spirit of God open your blind eyes to see that there is no reason for your keeping away from God, except your own mistaken thoughts of Him! May you believe that He is able and willing to save to the uttermost! May you understand His good and gracious character, His readiness to forgive offenses, wickedness, and sin! And may the sweet influences of grace compel you to come to Him this very morning! God grant that Jesus Christ may come to live in you, the hope of glory; and then you will sing, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.” Amen.
Joy Born at Bethlehem
December 24th, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord. And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger." Luke 2:10-12 .
We have no superstitious regard for times and seasons. Certainly we do not believe in the present ecclesiastical arrangement called Christmas: first, because we do not believe in the mass at all, but abhor it, whether it be said or sung in Latin or in English; and, secondly, because we find no Scriptural warrant whatever for observing any day as the birthday of the Savior; and, consequently, its observance is a superstition, because not of divine authority. Superstition has fixed most positively the day of our Savior's birth, although there is no possibility of discovering when it occurred. Fabricius gives a catalogue of 136 different learned opinions upon the matter; and various divines invent weighty arguments for advocating a date in every month in the year. It was not till the middle of the third century that any part of the church celebrated the nativity of our Lord; and it was not till very long after the Western church had set the example, that the Eastern adopted it. Because the day is not known, therefore superstition has fixed it; while, since the day of the death of our Savior might be determined with much certainty, therefore superstition shifts the date of its observance every year. Where is the method in the madness of the superstitious? Probably the fact is that the holy days were arranged to fit in with heathen festivals. We venture to assert, that if there be any day in the year, of which we may be pretty sure that it was not the day on which the Savior was born, it is the twenty-fifth of December. Nevertheless since, the current of men's thoughts is led this way just now, and I see no evil in the current itself, I shall launch the bark of our discourse upon that stream, and make use of the fact, which I shall neither justify nor condemn, by endeavoring to lead your thoughts in the same direction. Since it is lawful, and even laudable, to meditate upon the incarnation of the Lord upon any day in the year, it cannot be in the power of other men's superstitions to render such a meditation improper for to-day. Regarding not the day, let us, nevertheless, give God thanks for the gift of his dear son. In our text we have before us the sermon of the first evangelist under the gospel dispensation. The preacher was an angel, and it was meet it should be so, for the grandest and last of all evangels will be proclaimed by an angel when he shall sound the trumpet of the resurrection, and the children of the regeneration shall rise into the fullness of their joy. The key-note of this angelic gospel is joy "I bring unto you good tidings of great joy." Nature fears in the presence of God the shepherds were sore afraid. The law itself served to deepen this natural feeling of dismay; seeing men were sinful, and the law came into the world to reveal sin, its tendency was to make men fear and tremble under any and every divine revelation. The Jews unanimously believed that if any man beheld supernatural appearances, he would be sure to die, so that what nature dictated, the law and the general beliefs of those under it also abetted. But the first word of the gospel ended all this, for the angelic evangelist said, "Fear not, behold I bring you good tidings." Henceforth, it is to be no dreadful thing for man to approach his Maker; redeemed man is not to fear when God unveils the splendor of his majesty, since he appears no more a judge upon his throne of terror, but a Father unbending in sacred familiarity before his own beloved children. The joy which this first gospel preacher spoke of was no mean one, for he said, "I bring you good tidings" that alone were joy: and not good tidings of joy only, but "good tidings of great joy." Every word is emphatic, as if to show that the gospel is above all things intended to promote, and will most abundantly create the greatest possible joy in the human heart wherever it is received. Man is like a harp unstrung, and the music of his soul's living strings is discordant, his whole nature wails with sorrow; but the son of David, that mighty harper, has come to restore the harmony of humanity, and where his gracious fingers move among the strings, the touch of the fingers of an incarnate God brings forth music sweet as that of the spheres, and melody rich as a seraph's canticle. Would God that all men felt that divine hand. In trying to open up this angelic discourse this morning, we shall note three things: the joy which is spoken of; next, the persons to whom this joy comes; and then, thirdly, the sign, which is to us a sign as well as to these shepherds a sign of the birth and source of joy. I. First, then, THE JOY, which is mentioned in our text whence comes it, and what is it? We have already said it is a "great joy" "good tidings of great joy." Earth's joy is small, her mirth is trivial, but heaven has sent us joy immeasurable, fit for immortal minds. Inasmuch as no note of time is appended, and no intimation is given that the message will ever be reversed, we may say that it is a lasting joy, a joy which will ring all down the ages, the echoes of which shall be heard until the trumpet brings the resurrection; aye, and onward for ever and for ever. For when God sent forth the angel in his brightness to say, "I bring you good tidings of great joy, which be to all people," he did as much as say, "From this time forth it shall be joy to the sons of men; there shall be peace to the human race, and goodwill towards men for ever and for ever, as long as there is glory to God in the highest." O blessed thought! the Star of Bethlehem shall never set. Jesus, the fairest among ten thousand, the most lovely among the beautiful, is a joy for ever. Since this joy is expressly associated with the glory of God, by the Words, "Glory to God in the highest," we may be quite clear that it is a pure and holy joy. No other would an angel have proclaimed, and, indeed, no other joy is joy. The wine pressed from the grapes of Sodom may sparkle and foam, but it is bitterness in the end, and the dregs thereof are death; only that which comes from the clusters of Eschol is the true wine of the kingdom, making glad the heart of God and man. Holy joy is the joy of heaven, and that, be ye sure, is the very cream of joy. The joy of sin is a fire-fountain, having its source in the burning soil of hell, maddening and consuming those who drink its fire-water; of such delights we desire not to drink. It were to be worse than damned to be happy in sin, since it is the beginning of grace to be wretched in sin, and the consummation of grace to be wholly escaped from sin, and to shudder even at the thought of it. It is hell to live in sin and misery, it is a deep lower still when men could fashion a joy in sin. God save us from unholy peace and from unholy joy! The joy announced by the angel of the nativity is as pure as it is lasting, as holy as it is great. Let us then always believe concerning the Christian religion that it has its joy within itself, and holds its feasts within its own pure precincts, a feast whose viands all grow on holy ground. There are those who, to-morrow, will pretend to exhibit joy in the remembrance of our Savior's birth, but they will not seek their pleasure in the Savior: they will need many additions to the feast before they can be satisfied. Joy in Immanuel would be a poor sort of mirth to them. In this country, too often, if one were unaware of the name, one might believe the Christmas festival to be a feast of Bacchus, or of Ceres, certainly not a commemoration of the Divine birth. Yet is there cause enough for holy joy in the Lord himself, and reasons for ecstasy in his birth among men. It is to be feared that most men imagine that in Christ there is only seriousness and solemnity, and to them consequently weariness, gloom, and discontent; therefore, they look out of and beyond what Christ allows, to snatch from the tables of Satan the delicacies with which to adorn the banquet held in honor of a Savior. Let it not be so among you. The joy which the gospel brings is not borrowed but blooms in its own garden. We may truly say in the language of one of our sweetest hymns
"I need not go abroad for joy, I have a feast at home, My sighs are turned into songs, My heart has ceased to roam.
Down from above the Blessed Dove Has come into my breast, To witness his eternal love, And give my spirit rest."
Let our joy be living water from those sacred wells which the Lord himself has digged; may his joy abide in us, that our joy may be full. Of Christ's joy we cannot have too much; no fear of running to excess when his love is the wine we drink. Oh to be plunged in this pure stream of spiritual delights! But why is it that the coming of Christ into the world is the occasion of joy? The answer is as follows: First, because it is evermore a joyous fact that God should be in alliance with man, especially when the alliance is so near that God should in very deed take our manhood into union with his godhead; so that God and man should constitute one divine, mysterious person. Sin had separated between God and man; but the incarnation bridges the separation: it is a prelude to the atoning sacrifice, but it is a prelude full of the richest hope. From henceforth, when God looks upon man, he will remember that his own Son is a man. From this day forth, when he beholds the sinner, if his wrath should burn, he will remember that his own Son, as man, stood in the sinner's place, and bore the sinner's doom. As in the case of war, the feud is ended when the opposing parties intermarry, so there is no more war between God and man, because God has taken man into intimate union with himself. Herein, then, there was cause for joy. But there was more than that, for the shepherds were aware that there had been promises made of old which had been the hope and comfort of believers in all ages, and these were now to be fulfilled. There was that ancient promise made on the threshold of Eden to the first sinners of our race, that the seed of the woman should bruise the serpent's head; another promise made to the Father of the faithful that in his seed should all the nations of the earth be blessed, and promises uttered by the mouths of prophets and of saints since the world began. Now, the announcement of the angel of the Lord to the shepherds was a declaration that the covenant was fulfilled, that now in the fullness oftime God would redeem his word, and the Messiah, who was to be Israel's glory and the world's hope; was now really come. Be glad ye heavens, and be joyful O earth, for the Lord hath done it, and in mercy hath he visited his people. The Lord hath not suffered his word to fail, but hath fulfilled unto his people his promises. The time to favor Zion, yea the set time, is come. Now that the scepter is departed from Judah, behold the Shiloh comes, the Messenger of the covenant suddenly appears in his temple! But the angel's song had in it yet fuller reason for joy; for our Lord who was born in Bethlehem came as a Savior. "Unto you is born this day a Savior." God had come to earth before, but not as a Savior. Remember that terrible coming when there went three angels into Sodom at night-fall, for the Lord said, "I will go now and see whether it be altogether according to the cry thereof." He had come as a spy to witness human sin, and as an avenger to lift his hand to heaven, and bid the red fire descend and burn up the accursed cities of the plain. Horror to the world when God thus descends. If Sinai smokes when the law is proclaimed, the earth itself shall melt when the breaches of the law are punished. But now not as an angel of vengeance, but as a man in mercy God has come; not to spy out our sin, but to remove it; not to punish guilt, but to forgive it. The Lord might have come with thunderbolts in both his hands he might have come like Elias to call fire from heaven; but no, his hands are full of gifts of love, and his presence is the guarantee of grace. The babe born in the manger might have been another prophet of tears, or another son of thunder, but he was not so: he came in gentleness, his glory and his thunder alike laid aside.
"'Twas mercy filled the throne, And wrath stood silent by, When Christ on the kind errand came To sinners doomed to die."
Rejoice, ye who feel that ye are lost; your Savior comes to seek and save you. Be of good cheer ye who are in prison, for be comes to set you free. Ye who are famished and ready to die, rejoice that he has consecrated for you a Bethlehem, a house of bread, and he has come to be the bread of life to your souls. Rejoice, O sinners, everywhere for the restorer of the castaways, the Savior of the fallen is born. Join in the joy, ye saints, for he is the preserver of the saved ones, delivering them from innumerable perils, and he is the sure prefecter of such as he preserves. Jesus is no partial Savior, beginning a work and not concluding it; but, restoring and upholding, he also prefects and presents the saved ones without spot or wrinkle, or any such thing before his Father's throne. Rejoice aloud all ye people, let your hills and valleys ring with joy, for a Savior who is mighty to save is born among you. Nor was this all the holy mirth, for the next word has also in it a fullness of joy: "a Savior, who is Christ," or the Anointed. Our Lord was not an amateur Savior who came down from heaven upon an unauthorized mission; but he was chosen, ordained, and anointed of God; he could truly say, "the Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because the Lord hath anointed me." Here is great comfort for all such as need a Savior; it is to them no mean consolation that God has himself authorized Christ to save. There can be no fear of a jar between the mediator and the judge, no peril of a nonacceptance of our Savior's work; because God has commissioned Christ to do what he has done, and in saving sinners he is only executing his Fathers own will. Christ is here called "the anointed." All his people are anointed, and there were priests after the order of Aaron who were anointed, but he is the anointed, "anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows;" so plenteously anointed that, like the unction upon Aaron's head, the sacred anointing of the Head of the church distils in copious streams, till we who are like the skirts of his garments are made sweet with the rich perfume. He is "the anointed" in a threefold sense: as prophet to preach the gospel with power; as priest to offer sacrifice; as king to rule and reign. In each of these he is preeminent; he is such a teacher, priest, and ruler as was never seen before. In him was a rare conjunction of glorious offices, for never did prophet, priest, and king meet in one person before among the sons of men, nor shall it ever be so again. Triple is the anointing of him who is a priest after the order of Melchisedec, a prophet like unto Moses, and a king of whose dominion there is no end. In the name of Christ, the Holy Ghost is glorified, by being seen as anointing the incarnate God. Truly, dear brethren, if we did but understand all this, and receive it into our hearts, our souls would leap for joy on this Sabbath day, to think that there is born unto us a Savior who is anointed of the Lord. One more note, and this the loudest, let us sound it well and hear it well "which is Christ the Lord." Now the word Lord, or Kurios, here used is tantamount to Jehovah. We cannot doubt that, because it is the same word used twice in the ninth verse, and in the ninth verse none can question that it means Jehovah. Hear it, "And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them." And if this be not enough, read the 23rd verse, "As it is written in the law of the Lord, every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord." Now the word Lord here assuredly refers to Jehovah, the one God, and so it must do here. Our Savior is Christ, God, Jehovah. No testimony to his divinity could be plainer; it is indisputable. And what joy there is in this; for suppose an angel had been our Savior, he would not have been able to bear the load of my sin or yours; or if anything less than God had been set up as the ground of our salvation, it might have been found too frail a foundation. But if he who undertakes to save is none other than the Infinite and the Almighty, then the load of our guilt can be carried upon such shoulders, the stupendous labor of our salvation can be achieved by such a worker, and that with ease: for all things are possible with God, and he is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by him. Ye sons of men perceive ye here the subject of your joy. The God who made you, and against whom you have offended, has come down from heaven and taken upon himself your nature that he might save you. He has come in the fullness of his glory and the infinity of his mercy that he might redeem you. Do you not welcome this news? What! will not your hearts be thankful for this? Does this matchless love awaken no gratitude? Were it not for this divine Savior, your life here would have been wretchedness, and your future existence would have been endless woe. Oh, I pray you adore the incarnate God, and trust in him. Then will you bless the Lord for delivering you from the wrath to come, and as you lay hold of Jesus and find salvation in his name, you will tune your songs to his praise, and exult with sacred joy. So much concerning this joy. II. Follow me while I briefly speak of THE PEOPLE to whom this joy comes. Observe how the angel begins, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, for unto you is born this day." So, then, the joy began with the first who heard it, the shepherds. "To you," saith he; "for unto you is born." Beloved hearer, shall the joy begin with you to-day? for it little avails you that Christ was born, or that Christ died, unless unto you a child is born, and for you Jesus bled. A personal interest is the main point. "But I am poor," saith one. So were the shepherds. O ye poor, to you this mysterious child is born. "The poor have the gospel preached unto them." "He shall judge the poor and needy, and break in pieces the oppressor." But I am obscure and unknown," saith one. So were the watchers on the midnight plain. Who knew the men who endured hard toil, and kept their flocks by night? But you, unknown of men, are known to God: shall it not be said, that "unto you a child is born?" The Lord regardeth not the greatness of men, but hath respect unto the lowly. But you are illiterate you say, you cannot understand much. Be it so, but unto the shepherds Christ was born, and their simplicity did not hinder their receiving him, but even helped them to it. Be it so with yourself: receive gladly the simple truth as it is in Jesus. The Lord hath exalted one chosen out of the people. No aristocratic Christ have I to preach to you, but the Savior of the people, the friend of publicans and sinners. Jesus is the true "poor men's friend;" he is "a covenant for the people," given to be "a leader and commander to the people." To you is Jesus given. O that each heart might truly say, to me is Jesus born; for it I truly believe in Jesus, unto me Christ is born, and I may be as sure of it as if an angel announced it, since the Scripture tells me that if I believe in Jesus He is mine. After the angel had said "to you," he went on to say, "it shall be to all people." But our translation is not accurate, the Greek is, "it shall be to all the people." This refers most assuredly to the Jewish nation; there can be no question about that; if any one looks at the original, he will not find so large and wide an expression as that given by our translators. It should be rendered "to all the people." And here let us speak a word for the Jews. How long and how sinfully has the Christian church despised the most honorable amongst the nations! How barbarously has Israel been handled by the so-called church! I felt my spirit burn indignantly within me in Rome when I stood in the Jew's quarter, and heard of the cruel indignities which Popery has heaped upon the Jews, even until recently. At this hour there stands in the Jew's quarter a church built right in front of the entrance to it, and into this the unhappy Jews were driven forcibly on certain occasions. To this church they were compelled to subscribe subscribe, mark you, as worshippers of the one invisible God, to the support of a system which is as leprous with idolatry as were the Canaanites whom the Lord abhorred. Paganism is not more degrading than Romanism. Over the door of this church is placed, in their own tongue in the Hebrew, these words: "All day long have I stretched out my hands to a disobedient and gainsaying generation;" how, by such an insult as that, could they hope to convert the Jew. The Jew saw everywhere idols which his soul abhorred, and he loathed the name of Christ, because he associated it with idol worship, and I do not wonder that he did. I praise the Jew that he could not give up his own simple theism, and the worship of the true God, for such a base, degrading superstition as that which Rome presented to him. Instead of thinking it a wonder of unbelief that the Jew is not a Christian, I honor him for his faith and his courageous resistance of a fascinating heathenism. If Romanism be Christianity I am not, neither could I be, a Christian. It were a more manly thing to be a simple believer in one God, or even an honest doubter upon all religion, than worship such crowds of gods and goddesses as Popery has set up, and to bow, as she does, before rotten bones and dead men's winding sheets. Let the true Christian church think lovingly of the Jew, and with respectful earnestness tell him the true gospel; let her sweep away superstition, and set before him the one gracious God in the Trinity of his divine Unity; and the day shall yet come when the Jews, who were the first apostles to the Gentiles, the first missionaries to us who were afar off; shall be gathered in again. Until that shall be, the fullness of the church's glory can never come. Matchless benefits to the world are bound up with the restoration of Israel; their gathering in shall be as life from the dead. Jesus the Savior is the joy of all nations, but let not the chosen race be denied their peculiar share of whatever promise holy writ has recorded with a special view to them. The woes which their sins brought upon them have fallen thick and heavily; and even so let the richest blessings distil upon them. Although our translation is not literally correct, it, nevertheless, expresses a great truth, taught plainly in the context; and, therefore, we will advance another step. The coming of Christ is a joy to all people. It is so, for the fourteenth verse says: "On earth peace," which is a wide and even unlimited expression. It adds, "Good will towards" not Jews, but "men" all men. The word is the generic name of the entire race, and there is no doubt that the coming of Christ does bring joy to all sorts of people. It brings a measure of joy even to those who are not Christians. Christ does not bless them in the highest and truest sense, but the influence of his teaching imparts benefits of an inferior sort, such as they are capable of receiving; for wherever the gospel is proclaimed, it is no small blessing to all the population. Note this fact: there is no land beneath the sun where there is an open Bible and a preached gospel, where a tyrant long can hold his place. It matters not who he be, whether pope or king; let the pulpit be used properly for the preaching of Christ crucified, let the Bible be opened to be read by all men, and no tyrant can long rule in peace. England owes her freedom to the Bible; and France will never possess liberty, lasting and well-established, till she comes to reverence the gospel, which too long she has rejected. There is joy to all mankind where Christ comes. The religion of Jesus makes men think, and to make men think is always dangerous to a despot's power. The religion of Jesus Christ sets a man free from superstition; when he believes in Jesus, what cares he for Papal excommunications, or whether priests give or withhold their absolution? The man no longer cringes and bows down; he is no more willing, like a beast, to be led by the nose; but, learning to think for himself and becoming a man, he disdains the childish fears which once held him in slavery. Hence, where Jesus comes, even if men do not receive him as the Savior, and so miss the fullest joy, yet they get a measure of benefit; and I pray God that everywhere his gospel may be so proclaimed, and that so many may be actuated by the spirit of it, that it may be better for all mankind. If men receive Christ, there will be no more oppression: the true Christian does to others as he would that they should do to him, and there is no more contention of classes, nor grinding of the faces of the poor. Slavery must go down where Christianity rules, and mark you, if Romanism be once destroyed, and pure Christianity shall govern all nations, war itself must come to an end; for if there be anything which this book denounces and counts the hugest of all crimes, it is the crime of war. Put up thy sword into thy sheath, for hath not he said, "Thou shalt not kill," and he meant not that it was a sin to kill one but a glory to kill a million, but he meant that bloodshed on the smallest or largest scale was sinful. Let Christ govern, and men shall break the bow and cut the spear in sunder, and burn the chariot in the fire. It is joy to all nations that Christ is born, the Prince of Peace, the King who rules in righteousness. But, beloved, the greatest joy is to those who know Christ as a Savior. Here the song rises to a higher and sublimer note. Unto us indeed a child is born, if we can say that he is our "Savior who is Christ the Lord." Let me ask each of you a few personal questions. Are your sins forgiven you for his name's sake? Is the head of the serpent bruised in your soul? Does the seed of the woman reign in sanctifying power over your nature? Oh then, you have the joy that is to all the people in the truest form of it; and, dear brother, dear sister, the further you submit yourself to Christ the Lord, the more completely you know him, and are like him, the fuller will your happiness become. Surface joy is to those who live where the Savior is preached; but the great deeps, the great fathomless deeps of solemn joy which glisten and sparkle with delight, are for such as know the Savior, obey the anointed one, and have communion with the Lord himself. He is the most joyful man who is the most Christly man. I wish that some Christians were more truly Christians: they are Christians and something else; it were much better if they were altogether Christians. Perhaps you know the legend, or perhaps true history of the awakening of St. Augustine. He dreamed that he died, and went to the gates of heaven, and the keeper of the gates said to him, "Who are you?" And he answered, "Christianus sum," I am a Christian. But the porter replied, "No, you are not a Christian, you are a Ciceronian, for your thoughts and studies were most of all directed to the works of Cicero and the classics, and you neglected the teaching of Jesus. We judge men here by that which most engrossed their thoughts, and you are judged not to be a Christian but a Ciceronian." When Augustine awoke, he put aside the classics which he had studied, and the eloquence at which he had aimed, and he said, "I will be a Christian and a theologian;" and from that time he devoted his thoughts to the word of God, and his pen and his tongue to the instruction of others in the truth. Oh I would not have it said of any of you, "Well, he may be somewhat Christian, but he is far more a keen money-getting tradesman." I would not have it said, "Well, he may be a believer in Christ, but he is a good deal more a politician." Perhaps he is a Christian, but he is most at home when he is talking about science, farming, engineering, horses, mining, navigation, or pleasure-taking. No, no, you will never know the fullness of the joy which Jesus brings to the soul, unless under the power of the Holy Spirit you take the Lord your Master to be your All in all, and make him the fountain of your intensest delight. "He is my Savior, my Christ, my Lord," be this your loudest boast. Then will you know the joy which the angel's song predicts for men. III. But I must pass on. The last thing in the text is The SIGN. The shepherds did not ask for a sign, but one was graciously given. Sometimes it is sinful for us to require as an evidence what God's tenderness may nevertheless see fit to give as an aid to faith. Wilful unbelief shall have no sign, but weak faith shall have compassionate aid. The sign that the joy of the world had come was this, they were to go to the manger to find the Christ in it, and he was to be the sign. Every circumstance is therefore instructive. The babe was found "wrapped in swaddling clothes." Now, observe, as you look at this infant, that there is not the remotest appearance of temporal power here. Mark the two little puny arms of a little babe that must be carried if it go. Alas, the nations of the earth look for joy in military power. By what means can we make a nation of soldiers? The Prussian method is admirable; we must have thousands upon thousands of armed men and big cannon and ironclad vessels to kill and destroy by wholesale. Is it not a nation's pride to be gigantic in arms? What pride flushes the patriot's cheek when he remembers that his nation can murder faster than any other people. Ah, foolish generation, ye are groping in the flames of hell to find your heaven, raking amid blood and bones for the foul thing which ye call glory. A nation's joy can never lie in the misery of others. Killing is not the path to prosperity; huge armaments are a curse to the nation itself as well as to its neighbors. The joy of a nation is a golden sand over which no stream of blood has ever rippled. It is only found in that river, the streams whereof make glad the city of God. The weakness of submissive gentleness is true power. Jesus founds his eternal empire not on force but on love. Here, O ye people, see your hope; the mild pacific prince, whose glory is his self-sacrifice, is our true benefactor. But look again, and you shall observe no pomp to dazzle you. Is the child wrapped in purple and fine linen? Ah, no. Sleeps he in a cradle of gold? The manger alone is his shelter. No crown is upon the babe's head, neither does a coronet surround the mother's brow. A simple maiden of Galilee, and a little child in ordinary swaddling bands, it is all you see.
"Bask not in courtly bower, Or sunbright hall of power, Pass Babel quick, and seek the holy land. From robes of Tyrian dye, Turn with undazzled eye To Bethlehem's glade, and by the manger stand."
Alas, the nations are dazzled with a vain show. The pomp of empires, the pageants of kings are their delight. How can they admire those gaudy courts, in which too often glorious apparel, decorations, and rank stand in the stead of virtue, chastity, and truth. When will the people cease to be children? Must they for ever crave for martial music which stimulates to violence, and delight in a lavish expenditure which burdens them with taxation? These make not a nation great or joyous. Bah! how has the bubble burst across yon narrow sea. A bubble empire has collapsed. Ten thousand bayonets and millions of gold proved but a sandy foundation for a Babel throne. Vain are the men who look for joy in pomp; it lies in truth and righteousness, in peace and salvation, of which yonder new-born prince in the garments of a peasant child is the true symbol. Neither was there wealth to be seen at Bethlehem. Here in this quiet island, the bulk of men are comfortably seeking to acquire their thousands by commerce and manufactures. We are the sensible people who follow the main chance, and are not to be deluded by ideas of glory; we are making all the money we can, and wondering that other nations waste so much in fight. The main prop and pillar of England's joy is to be found, as some tell us, in the Three per Cents., in the possession of colonies, in the progress of machinery, in steadily increasing our capital. Is not Mammon a smiling deity? But, here, in the cradle of the world's hope at Bethlehem, I see far more of poverty than wealth; I perceive no glitter of gold, or spangle of silver. I perceive only a poor babe, so poor, so very poor, that he is in a manger laid; and his mother is a mechanic's wife, a woman who wears neither silk nor gem. Not in your gold, O Britons, will ever lie your joy, but in the gospel enjoyed by all classes, the gospel freely preached and joyfully received. Jesus, by raising us to spiritual wealth, redeems us from the chains of Mammon, and in that liberty gives us joy. And here, too, I see no superstition. I know the artist paints angels in the skies, and surrounds the scene with a mysterious light, of which tradition's tongue of falsehood has said that it made midnight as bright as noon. This is fiction merely; there was nothing more there than the stable, the straw the oxen ate, and perhaps the beasts themselves, and the child in the plainest, simplest manner, wrapped as other children are; the cherubs were invisible and of haloes there were none. Around this birth of joy was no sign of superstition: that demon dared not intrude its tricks and posturings into the sublime spectacle: it would have been there as much out of place as a harlequin in the holy of holies. A simple gospel, a plain gospel, as plain as that babe wrapped in the commonest garments, is this day the only hope for men. Be ye wise and believe in Jesus, and abhor all the lies of Rome, and inventions of those who ape her detestable abominations. Nor does the joy of the world lie in philosophy. You could not have made a schoolmen's puzzle of Bethlehem if you had tried to do so; it was just a child in the manger and a Jewish woman looking on and nursing it, and a carpenter standing by. There was no metaphysical difficulty there, of which men could say, "A doctor of divinity is needed to explain it, and an assembly of divines must expound it." It is true the wise men came there, but it was only to adore and offer gifts; would that all the wise had been as wise as they. Alas, human subtlety has disputed over the manger, and logic has darkened counsel with its words. But this is one of man's many inventions; God's work was sublimely simple. Here was "The Word made flesh" to dwell among us, a mystery for faith, but not a football for argument. Mysterious, yet the greatest simplicity that was ever spoken to human ears, and seen by mortal eyes. And such is the gospel, in the preaching of which our apostle said, "we use great plainness of speech." Away, away, away with your learned sermons, and your fine talk, and your pretentious philosophies; these never created a jot of happiness in this world. Fine-spun theories are fair to gaze on, and to bewilder fools, but they are of no use to practical men, they comfort not the sons of toil, nor cheer the daughters of sorrow. The man of common sense, who feels the daily rub and tear of this poor world, needs richer consolation than your novel theologies, or neologies, can give him. In a simple Christ, and in a simple faith in that Christ, there is a peace deep and lasting; in a plain, poor man's gospel there is a joy and a bliss unspeakable, of which thousands can speak, and speak with confidence, too, for they declare what they do know, and testify what they have seen. I say, then, to you who would know the only true peace and lasting joy, come ye to the babe of Bethlehem, in after days the Man of Sorrows, the substitutionary sacrifice for sinners. Come, ye little children, ye boys and girls, come ye; for he also was a boy. "The holy child Jesus" is the children's Savior, and saith still, "Suffer the little children to come unto me, and forbid them not. Come hither, ye maidens, ye who are still in the morning of your beauty, and, like Mary, rejoice in God your Savior. The virgin bore him on her bosom, so come ye and bear him in your hearts, saying, "Unto us a child is born, onto us a son is given." And you, ye men in the plenitude of your strength, remember how Joseph cared for him, and watched with reverent solicitude his tender years; be you to his cause as a Father and a helper; sanctify your strength to his service. And ye women advanced in years, ye matrons and widows, come like Anna and bless the Lord that you have seen the salvation of Israel, and ye hoar heads, who like Simeon are ready to depart, come ye and take the Savior in your arms, adoring him as your Savior and your all. Ye shepherds, ye simple hearted, ye who toil for your daily bread, come and adore the Savior; and stand not back ye wise men, ye who know by experience and who by meditation peer into deep truth, come ye, and like the sages of the East bow low before his presence, and make it your honor to pay honor to Christ the Lord. For my own part, the incarnate God is all my hope and trust. I have seen the world's religion at the fountain head, and my heart has sickened within me; I come back to preach, by God's help, yet more earnestly the gospel, the simple gospel of the Son of Man. Jesus, Master, I take thee to be mine for ever! May all in this house, through the rich grace of God, be led to do the same, and may they all be thine, great Son of God, in the day of thine appearing, for thy love's sake. Amen.
The First Christmas Carol
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
This sermon, preached by Tony Capoccia, is now available on Audio Cassette or CD:
"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." Luke 2:14 (KJV)
It is wrong to worship angels; but it is appropriate to love them. Although it would be a great sin, and a crime against the Sovereign Court of Heaven to pay the slightest adoration to the mightiest angel, yet it would be unkind and inappropriate, if we did not give holy angels a place in our heart's warmest love. In fact, he that studies the character of angels, and notes their many deeds of compassion with men, and kindness towards them, cannot resist the impulse of his nature--the impulse of love towards them.
The one incident in angelic history, to which our text refers, is enough to bond our hearts to them forever. How free from envy the angels were! Christ did not come from heaven to save angels when they fell. When Satan, the mighty angel, dragged with him a third part of the stars of heaven [angels], Christ did not stoop from His throne to die for them; but He left them to be reserved in chains and darkness until the last great day of judgment. Yet angels did not envy men. Though they remembered that He did not save angels, yet they did not murmur when He decided to redeem the seed of Abraham; and though the blessed Master had never condescended to take the angel's form, they did not think it beneath them to express their joy when they found Him arrayed in the body of an infant.
How free, too, they were from pride! They were not ashamed to come and tell the news to humble shepherds. I think, they had as much joy in pouring out their songs that night before the shepherds, who were watching with their flocks, as they would have had if they had been commanded by their Master to sing their hymn in the halls of Caesar. Mere men--men possessed with pride, think it a fine thing to preach before kings and princes; and think it great condescension now and then to have to minister to the humble crowd. Not so the angels. They stretched their willing wings, and gladly sped from their bright seats above, to tell the shepherds on the hillside at night, the marvelous story of an Incarnate God. And note how well they told the story, and surely you will love them! Not with the stammering tongue of him that tells a story in which he has no interest; nor even with the feigned interest of a man that would move the passions of others, when he feels no emotion himself; but with joy and gladness, such as angels only can know. They "sang" the story out, for they could not stay to tell it in ordinary language. They sang, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will to men." I think, they sang it with gladness in their eyes; with their hearts burning with love and joy as if the good news to man had been good to themselves. And, truly, it was good news to them, for the heart of compassion makes the good news of others, good news to itself.
Don't you love the angels? You will not bow before them, and that is right; but won't you love them? Doesn't it make up one part of your anticipation of heaven, that in heaven you will live with the holy angels, as well as with the redeemed believers of all the ages? Oh how sweet to think that these holy and lovely beings guard us every hour! They keep watch and deflect evil away from us, both during the brightest noonday sun, and also in the darkness of the night. They watch over us no matter what we are doing, they lift us up in their hands, lest at any time we should strike our feet against harmful stones. Unceasingly they minister to us who are the heirs of salvation, watching over us night and day as our guardians, for don't you know that, "The angel of the LORD encamps around those who fear him" (Psalms 34:7 ).
Let us turn aside, having just thought of angels for a moment, to think of this song, rather than the angels themselves. Their song was brief, but as one has remarked, it was, "well worthy of angels expressing the greatest and most blessed truths, in so few words."--"Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men." We will, hoping to be assisted by the Holy Spirit, look at these words of the angels in four ways:
1. Instructive thoughts.
2. Emotional thoughts.
3. Prophetical thoughts.
4. Preceptive thoughts.
I. First then, in the words of our text. There are many INSTRUCTIVE THOUGHTS.
The angels sang something which men could understand--something which men ought to understand--something which will make men much better if they will understand it. The angels were singing about Jesus who was born in the manger. We must look upon their song as being built on this foundation. They sang of Christ, and the salvation which He came into this world to work out. And what they said of this salvation was this: they said, first, that it gave glory to God; secondly, that it gave peace to man; and thirdly, that it was a token of God's good will towards the human race.
1. First, they said that this salvation gave glory to God.
They had been present on many glorious occasions before, and they had joined in many a solemn chorus to the praise of their Almighty Creator. They were present at the creation: "The morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy?" (Job 38:7 ) They had seen many planets formed between the palms of the LORD, and spun by His eternal hands through the infinite space. They had sung solemn songs over the many worlds which the Great One had created. We don't doubt that they had often sang, "Blessing and honor, and glory, and majesty, and power, and dominion, and might, be to Him that sits on the throne," manifesting Himself in the work of creation.
I also don't doubt that their songs had gathered force through the ages. When the angels were first created their very first breath was a song, so when they saw God create new worlds then their songs received another note; they rose a little higher in the scale of adoration. But this time, when they saw God stoop from His throne, and become a baby, nursing on a woman's breast, they lifted their notes still higher; and reaching to the uttermost stretch of angelic music, they gained the highest notes of the divine scale of praise, and they sung, "Glory to God in the highest" for they felt that God's goodness could not go any higher. Thus they gave to Him their highest praise for the highest act of His divinity.
If it is true that there is a hierarchy of angels, rising tier upon tier in magnificence and dignity--if the apostle teaches us that there are "angels, and authorities, and powers, and thrones, and rulers," among these blessed inhabitants of the heavenly world--I can suppose that when the news was first communicated to those angels that are to be found in the outskirts of the heavenly realms, when they looked down from heaven and saw the newborn baby, they sent the news backward to the place where the miracle first proceeded, singing
"Angels, from the realms of glory, Wing your downward flight to earth,
You who sing creation's story, Now proclaim Messiah's birth;
Come and worship, Worship Christ, the newborn King."
And as the message ran from rank to rank, at last the angels in God's presence, those four cherubim that perpetually watch around the throne of God--those wheels with eyes--took up the chorus, and gathering up the song of all the lessor ranks of angels, surmounted the divine pinnacle of harmony with their own solemn chorus of adoration, upon which the entire host of angels shouted, "The highest angels praise You"--"Glory to God in the Highest." Yes, there is no mortal that can ever dream how magnificent that song was. Then, note, if angels shouted with joy before and when the world was made, their hallelujahs were now more full, more strong, more magnificent, if not more hearty, when they saw Jesus Christ born of the Virgin Mary to be man's redeemer--"Glory to God in the highest."
What is the lesson to be learned from this first part of the angel's song? It is that salvation is God's highest glory. He is glorified in every dew drop that twinkles in the morning sun. He is magnified in every flower that blooms in the deep forest, although no one sees it's beauty, and its sweetness is wasted in the forest air. God is glorified in every bird that chirps on the branch; in every lamb that skips in the meadow. Don't the fishes in the sea praise Him? From the tiny minnow to the huge sea mammal, don't all creatures that swim the water bless and praise His name? Don't all created things extol Him? Is there any beneath the sky, except man, that does not glorify God? Don't the stars exalt him, when they write His name upon the blue sky of heaven in their golden letters? Don't the lightnings adore Him when they flash His brightness in arrows of light piercing the midnight darkness? Don't thunders extol Him when they roll like drums in the march of the God of armies? Don't all things extol Him, from the least to the greatest? But sing, sing, oh universe, till you have exhausted yourself and still you cannot produce a song so sweet as the song of Incarnation. Though creation may be a majestic organ of praise, it cannot reach the range of the golden hymn--Incarnation! There is more in that than in creation, more melody in Jesus in the manger, than there is in words on worlds spinning their grandeur around the throne of the Most High.
Stop Christian, and consider this a minute. See how every attribute is here magnified. Look! what wisdom is here. God becomes man that God may be just, and the justifier of the ungodly. Look! what power, for where is power so great as when it conceals power? What power, that a member of the Godhead--God Himself, should unrobe Himself and become a man! Look, what love is revealed to us when Jesus becomes a man. See what faithfulness! How many promises are kept on this glorious day? How many solemn commitments are fulfilled at this very moment? Tell me one attribute of God that is not manifest in Jesus; and your ignorance will be the reason why you have not seen it. The whole of God is glorified in Christ; and though some part of the name of God is written throughout the universe, it is here best read--in Him who was the Son of Man, and yet, the Son of God.
But, let me say one word here before I leave this point. We must learn from this, that if salvation glorifies God, glorifies Him in the highest degree, and makes the highest creatures praise Him, this one reflection must be added--then, that any doctrine, which glorifies man in salvation cannot be the gospel. For salvation glorifies God. The angels were not Arminians [believing that "man" decides whether he will accept the Gospel or not with "his own free will"], they sang, "Glory to God in the highest." They believe in no doctrine which uncrowns Christ, and puts the crown upon the heads of mortals. They believe in no system of faith which makes salvation dependent upon the creature, and, which really gives the creature the praise, for if the whole dependence of salvation rests upon his own free will, then a man really saves himself! No, my brothers; there may be some preachers, that delight to preach a doctrine that magnifies man; but in their gospel the angels take no delight. The only glad tidings that make angels sing, are those that put God first, God last, God middle, and God without end, in the salvation of His creatures, and put the crown wholly and alone upon the head of Him that saves without a helper. "Glory to God in the highest," is the angels' song.
2. When they had sung this, they sang what they had never sung before.
"Glory to God in the highest," was an old, old song: they had sung that from before the foundations of the world. But now, they sang as it were a new song before the throne of God: for they added this stanza--"on earth, peace." They did not sing that in the garden. There was peace there, but it seemed a natural thing and not something worth singing about. There was more than peace there; for there was glory to God there. But, now, man had fallen, and since the day when cherubim with fiery swords drove out the man, there had been no peace on earth, except in the hearts of some believers, who had obtained peace from the living fountain of this incarnation of Christ.
Wars had raged from the ends of the world; men had slaughtered one another, heaps and heaps of dead humans. There had been wars within man as well as wars around him. Conscience had fought with man; Satan had tormented man with thoughts of sin. There had been no peace on earth since Adam fell. But, now, when the newborn King made His appearance, the cloth that wrapped up the baby was the white flag of peace. That manger was the place where the treaty was signed, whereby warfare should cease between man's conscience and himself, man's conscience and his God. It was then, that day, the trumpet blew--"Put away the sword, oh man, put away the sword, oh conscience, for God is now at peace with man, and man is at peace with God."
Don't you feel my brethren, that the gospel of God is peace to man? Where else can peace be found, but in the message of Jesus? Go legalist, work for peace with toil and pain, and you will never find it. Go, you who trusts in the law: go to Sinai; look to the flames that Moses saw, and shrink, and tremble, and despair; for peace is nowhere to be found, but to Him, of whom it is said, "This man will be peace." And what a peace it is, beloved! It is peace like a river, and righteousness like the waves of the sea. It is the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, which will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. This sacred peace between the pardoned soul and God the One who pardons; this marvelous atonement made between the sinner and the judge, this was it that the angels sung when they said, "peace on earth."
3. And, then, they wisely ended their song with a third note.
They said, "Good will to man." Philosophers have said that God has a good will toward man; but I never knew any man who derived much comfort from their philosophical assertion. Wise men have thought from what we have seen in creation that God had considerable good will toward man, or else His works would never have been so constructed for their comfort; but I never heard of any man who would risk his soul's peace on such a faint hope as that.
But I have not only heard of thousands, but I know them, who are quite sure God has good will towards men; and if you ask their reason, they will give a full and perfect answer. They say, He has good will towards man because He gave His Son. No greater proof of kindness between the Creator and His subjects can possibly be afforded than when the Creator gives His one and only and beloved Son to die.
Though the first part of the carol is God-like ["Glory to God in the highest"], and though the second part is peaceful ["and on earth peace"], this third part ["good will towards men"] melts my heart the most. Some think of God as if He were a ill-natured being who hated all of mankind. Some picture Him as if He were some abstract essence taking no interest in our affairs. Listen, God has "good will toward men."
You know what "good will" means. Well, all that it means, and more, God has towards you, you sons and daughters of Adam. You who swear, you who have cursed God; yet He has not executed His curse on you; He has good will towards you, though you have no good will towards Him. Unbeliever, you have sinned greatly and your sin has been unrelenting against the Most High; He has said no unmerciful things against you, for He has good will towards men. Poor sinner, you have broken His laws; you are half afraid to come to the throne of His mercy for fear that He would reject you; hear this, and be comforted--God has good will towards men, so "good" a will that He has said, and said it with an oath too, "As surely as I live, declares the Sovereign LORD, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live. Turn! Turn from your evil ways! Why will you die?" (Ezekiel 33:11 ). Moreover, so "good" a will that He has even condescended to say, "Come now, let us reason together. Though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red as crimson, they shall be like wool" (Isaiah 1:18 ). And if you say, "Lord, how will I know that You have this good will towards me," He points to the distant manger, and says, "Sinner, if I did not have a good will towards you, would I have parted with my Son? If I did not have a good will towards the human race, would I have given up my Son to become one of that race that He might by so doing redeem them from death?" You that doubt the Master's love, you look to that circle of angels; see their blaze of glory; hear their song, and let your doubts die away in that sweet music and be buried in a veil of harmony. He has good will towards men; He is willing to pardon; He passes by evil, misbehavior, and sin.
And mark this, if Satan will then add, "But though God has good will, yet He cannot violate His justice, therefore His mercy will be ineffective, and you will die;" then listen to that first note of the song, "Glory to God in the highest," and reply to Satan and all his temptations, that when God shows good will to a repentant sinner, there is not only peace in the sinner's heart, but it brings glory to every attribute of God, and so He can be just, and yet justify the sinner, and glorify Himself.
I do not pretend to say that I have uncovered all the teachings contained in these three sentences, but may I perhaps direct you into a train of thought that may serve you for a week. I hope that through the week you will have a truly merry Christmas by feeling the power of these words, and knowing the comfort of them. "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men."
II. Next, I have to present to you some EMOTIONAL THOUGHTS.
Friends, doesn't this verse, this song of angels, stir your hearts with happiness? When I read that, and found the angels singing it, I thought to myself, "Then if the angels ushered in the gospel's great Savior with singing, shouldn't I preach with singing? And shouldn't my hearers live their lives with singing? Shouldn't their hearts be glad and their spirits rejoice?" Well, I thought, there are some gloomy "religious" people who were born on a dark night in December, that think a smile on the face is wicked, and believe that for a Christian to be glad and rejoice is to be inconsistent. I wish these gentlemen had seen the angels when they sang about Christ; for if the angels sang about His birth, though it was no concern of theirs, certainly men ought to sing about it as long as they live, sing about it when they die, and sing about it when they live in heaven forever. I long to see in our churches more of a singing Christianity. The last few years have been breeding in our midst a groaning and unbelieving Christianity. Now, I don't doubt its sincerity, but I do doubt its healthy character. I say it may be true and real enough; God forbid I should say a word against the sincerity of those who practice it; but it is a sickly religion. It has been well said,
"Religion never was designed To make our pleasures less."
It is designed to do away with some of our pleasures, but it gives us many more, to make up for what it takes away; so it does not make them less. O you that see in Christ nothing but a subject to stimulate your doubts and make the tears run down your cheeks; O you that always say,
"Lord, what a wretched land this is, That yields us no supplies,"
Come here and see the angels. Do they tell their story with groans, and sobs, and sighs? No; they shout out loud, "Glory to God in the highest." Now, imitate them my dear brethren. If you are professors of Christianity, always try to have a cheerful manner. Let others mourn; but
"Why should the children of a king Go mourning all their days?"
Fix your hair and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to men that you are fasting. Rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice. Especially this week do not be ashamed to be glad. You need not think it a wicked thing to be happy. Doing penance and whipping oneself, and other terrible things those in false religions do, are not virtuous things. The damned are miserable; let the saved be happy. Why should you hold fellowship with the lost by feelings of perpetual mourning? Rather, why not anticipate the joys of heaven, and begin to sing on earth that song which you will never need to end? The first emotion then that we ought to cherish in our hearts is the emotion of "joy and gladness."
Well, what next? Another emotion is that of "confidence." I am not sure that I am right in calling that an emotion, but in me, it is so much like it, that I will venture to be wrong if I am. Now, if when Christ came on this earth God had sent some black creature down from heaven (if there be such creatures there) to tell us, "Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men," and if with a frowning brow and a stammering tongue he delivered his message, if I had been there and heard it, I would have been reluctant to believe him, for I would have said, "You don't look like a messenger that God would send--stammering fellow as you are--with such glad news as this."
But when the angels came there was no doubting the truth of what they said, because it was quite certain that the angels believed it; they told it as if they did, for they told it with singing, with joy and gladness. If some friend, having heard that a inheritance was left to you, came to you with a serious face, as if he just returned from a funeral, saying, "Do you know so-and-so has left you $1,000,000?" Why, you would say, "Yes, I dare say," and laugh in his face. But if your brother should suddenly burst into your room, and exclaim, "I have the most unbelievable good news! You are a rich man; So-and-so has left you $1,000,000!" Why you would say, "I think it is very likely true, for he is so happy about it."
Well, when these angels came from heaven they told the news just as if they believed it; and though I have often wickedly doubted my Lord's good will, I think I never could have doubted it when I heard those angels singing. No, I would say, "The messengers themselves are proof of the truth, for it seems they have heard it from God's lips; they have no doubt about it, for see how joyously they tell the news." Now, poor soul, you that are afraid that God would destroy you, and you that think that God will never have mercy on you, look at the singing angels and doubt if you dare. Do not go to the church of long-faced hypocrites to hear the minister who preaches with a nasal twang, with misery in his face, while he tells you that God has goodwill towards men; I know you won't believe what he says, for he does not preach with joy in his face; he is telling you good news with a grunt, and you are not likely to receive it. But make a beeline to the plain where Bethlehem shepherds sat by night, and when you hear the angels singing out the gospel, by the grace of God on you, you cannot help believing that they feel the preciousness of telling the Good News. Blessed Christmas, that brings such creatures as angels to confirm our faith in God's goodwill to men!
III. I must bring before you the third point. There are some PROPHETIC UTTERANCES contained in these words.
The angels sang "Glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men." But I look around, and what do I see in the wide, wide world? I do not see God honored. I see the heathen bowing down before their idols; I note the Roman Catholic bowing before the rotten rags of his relics, and the ugly figures of his images. I look all about me and I see tyranny lording it over the bodies and souls of men; I see God forgotten; I see a worldly race of mankind pursuing money; I see a bloody race pursuing false gods; I see ambition riding like Nimrod over the land, God forgotten, His name dishonored. And was this what the angels sang about? Is this all that made them sing "Glory to God in the highest?" No! There are brighter days approaching. They sang, "Peace on earth." But I still hear the clear trumpet sound of war; and the cannon's horrid roar: they have not yet turned the sword into a plow, and the spear into a pruning-hook! War still reigns. Is this all that the angels sang about? And while I see wars to the ends of the earth, am I still to believe that this was all the angels expected? No, brethren; the angel's song is loaded with prophecy; it labors in birth with glories. A few more years, and he that lives them out will see why angels sang; a few more years, and He that will come, shall come, and will not delay.
Christ the Lord will come again, and when He comes He will throw the idols from their thrones; He will strike down every kind of heresy and every form of idolatry; He will reign over the whole earth with unlimited authority: He will reign, when the blue heavens have been rolled away. No strife will disturb Messiah's reign, no blood will be shed; they'll destroy the useless weapons of war, and study war no more. The hour is approaching when the temples of the false gods will be shut forever and all the false religions utterly destroyed. The day is coming when the wolf and the lamb will feed together, and the lion will eat straw like the ox, and the leopard will lie down with the goat, the calf and the lion and the yearling together; the infant will play near the hole of the cobra, and the young child will put his hand into the viper's nest. The hour approaches; the first streaks of the sunlight have brought hope and some joy into the age in which we live. Look! He comes, with trumpets and with clouds of glory; He will come for those who are waiting for Him with joyous expectation, whose coming will be glory to His redeemed, and confusion to his enemies. Yes! brethren, when the angels sang this there was an echo through the long aisles of a glorious future. The echo was--
"Hallelujah! Christ the Lord God Omnipotent will reign."
Yes, and doubtless the angels heard by faith the fullness of the song,
"Hark! the song of jubilee Loud as mighty thunders' roar,
Or the fullness of the sea, When it breaks upon the shore."
"Christ the Lord Omnipotent reigns."
IV. Now, I have one more lesson for you, and I will be done. That lesson is PERCEPTIVE.
I wish everybody that celebrates Christmas this year, would keep it as the angels kept it. There are many persons who, when they talk about celebrating Christmas, mean by that, that they would never forget to go to church on Christmas Eve or Christmas morning, yet their way of celebrating the rest of the day is very remarkable; for it would be with gluttony and drunkenness. Their are many who think Christmas cannot be celebrated, except with a lot of merriment and festivity in the house, and added to that the noisiness of sin. Now, my brethren, we being true followers of Christ, will not keep the day in any "religious" sense whatever, attaching nothing more to it than to any other day: believing that every day is a Christmas day in the sense that true believers continually celebrate the Incarnation of Christ; yet we must try to set an example for others, showing them how to behave on that day; and especially since the angels give glory to God: let us do the same.
Once more the angels said, "Peace to men," therefore, let us strive if we can to make peace this coming Christmas day. Now, you parents who may have wayward children--you may not have welcomed them into your homes because they have offended you. Go after them this Christmas. "Peace on earth;" you know: that is a Christmas Carol. Make peace in your family. Now, brother, you have made a vow that you will never speak to your brother again. Go after him and say, "Oh, my dear friend, let us not let the sun go down on our anger." Go after him and give him your hand of fellowship. Now, Mr. Tradesman, you have a rival in your trade, and you have said some very harsh words about him lately. If you don't make the matter right today, or tomorrow, or as soon as you can, then do it for sure on Christmas day. That is the way to truly celebrate Christmas, peace on earth and glory to God. And oh, if you have anything on your conscience, anything that prevents you having peace of mind, then celebrate your Christmas in your closet, praying to God to give you peace; peace on earth, peace in yourself, peace with your fellow men, and peace with your God. And don't think you have properly celebrated that day until you can say,
"O God, With the world, myself, and You I dare not sleep till peace is made through and through."
And when the Lord Jesus has become your peace, remember, there is another thing, "good will" towards men. Do not try to celebrate Christmas without keeping good will towards men. You are a gentleman, and may even have servants. Well, try and warm their homes and hearts with a large portion of festive food just for them, and if you are men of wealth, remember you have poor people in your neighborhood--clothe the naked, and feed the hungry, and make glad those who mourn. Remember, it is good will towards men. Try if you can, to show them goodwill at this special season; and if you will do that, the poor will say with me, that indeed they wish there were six Christmases in the year.
Let each one of us go from this place determined, that if we have been angry all year long, this Christmas week will be an exception; that if we have complained at everybody last year, this Christmas time we will strive to be kind and affectionate to others; and if we have lived all this year at enmity with God, I pray that by His Spirit He may this Christmas give us peace with Him; and then, indeed, my brother, it will be the merriest Christmas we ever had in all of our lives. Young people, you who are going home to your father and mother; others of you who are going from your workplaces to your homes--remember what I preached last Christmas season. Go home to your friends, and tell them what the Lord has done for your soul, and that will make a blessed round of stories at the Christmas fire.
If each one of you will tell your parents how the Lord met with you in the quietness of prayer; how, when you left home, you were a lighthearted, wild spirit, but now have come back to love your mother's God, and read your father's Bible. Oh, what a happy Christmas that will make! What more shall I say? May God give you peace with yourselves; may He give you good will towards all your friends, your enemies, and your neighbors; and may he give you grace to give glory to God in the highest. I will say no more, except at the close of this sermon to wish every one of you, the happiest Christmas you ever had in your lives.
"Now with angels around the throne, Cherubim and seraphim,
And the church, which is one, Let us expand the solemn hymn;
Glory to the great I AM! Glory to the Sacrificial Lamb.
Blessing, honor, glory, might, And dominion infinite,
To the Father of our Lord, To the Spirit and the Word;
As it was from time before, Is, and will be evermore."
Holy Work for Christmas
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." (Luke 2:17-20 )
Every season has its own proper fruit: apples for autumn, holly berries for Christmas. The earth brings forth according to the period of the year, and with man there is a time for every purpose under heaven. At this season, the world is engaged in congratulating itself and in expressing its complimentary wishes for the good of its citizens; let me suggest extra and more solid work for Christians. As we think today of the birth of the Savior, let us aspire after a fresh birth of the Savior in our hearts; that as He is already created in us, "the hope of glory," we may be "made new in the attitude of our minds;" that we may go again to the Bethlehem of our spiritual nativity and do our first works, enjoy our first loves, and feast with Jesus as we did in the holy, happy, heavenly days of our initial walk with Jesus. Let us go to Jesus with something of that youthful freshness and excessive delight which was so manifest in us when we looked to Him at the first; let Him be crowned anew by us, for He is still adorned with the dew of His youth, and remains "the same yesterday, today and forever."
The citizens of Durham, though they dwell not far from the Scotch border, and consequently in the olden days were frequently liable to be attacked, were exempted from the agony of war because there was a cathedral within their walls, and they were set aside to the Church's service, being called in the olden times by the name of "holy work-folk." Now, we citizens of the New Jerusalem, having the Lord Jesus in our midst, may well excuse ourselves from the ordinary ways of celebrating this season; and consider ourselves to be "holy work-folk," we may keep it in a different way than other men, in holy contemplation and in blessed service of that gracious God whose unspeakable gift the newborn King is to us.
I selected this text this morning because it seemed to indicate to me four ways of serving God, four methods of executing holy work and exercising Christian thought. Each of these verses sets before us a different way of sacred service:
1. Spreading the word widely by telling others what we have seen and heard.
2. Holy amazement and astonishment.
3. Treasuring and pondering.
4. Glorifying and giving God praise.
I do not know which of these four responses accomplishes the best service for Christ, but I think that if we could combine all these mental emotions and outward exercises, then we would be sure to praise God in a most godly and acceptable fashion.
I. To begin then, in the first place, we find that some celebrated the Savior's birth by "Spreading the word" by telling others what they heard and seen; and truly we may say of them that; "they had something" to say in men's ears that was well worth the hearing.
That for which prophets and kings had waited long, had at last arrived to them. They had found out the answer to the perpetual question. They could have run through the streets with the ancient philosopher, crying, "Eureka! Eureka!" for their discovery was far superior to his. They hadn't discovered a solution to a mechanical problem or a metaphysical dilemma, but their discovery was second to none ever made by men of real value, since it has been like the Tree of Life to heal the nations, and a River of Water of Life to make the City of God glad.
They had seen more than angels--they had beheld the angel's King, the Angel of the Covenant whom we delight in. They had heard the music of heaven, and when they came near the manger, the ear of their faith had heard the music of earth's hope, a mystic harmony which would ring through all the ages--the grave sweet melody of hearts attuned to praise the Lord, and the glorious swell of the holy joy of God and man rejoicing in glad accord. They had seen God incarnate--such a sight that he who gazed on it must of been speechless in absolute astonishment. But could they remain silent when their eyes had seen such a vision? Impossible! To the first person they met outside that lowly stable door they began to share their matchless account, crying, "Come and worship! Come and worship Christ, the newborn King!"
As for us, beloved, don't we have also have something to relate that demands proclamation? If we talk of Jesus, who can blame us? This, indeed, will make the tongue declare the mystery of God incarnate for our sake, bleeding and dying that we might neither bleed nor die, descending to the earth that we might ascend to heaven, and wrapped in human cloths that we might have the grave-clothes of corruption unwrapped from our bodies. Here is such a story, so profitable to everyone that he who spreads it the most often does best, and he who speaks the least has the most reason to accuse himself for sinful silence.
They had something to tell, and "that something had in it the perfect blending which is the secret sign and royal mark of Divine authorship; a unique joining of majesty and simplicity;" angels singing--singing to shepherds! Heaven bright with glory! Bright at midnight! God! A Baby!! The Infinite! An Infant from eternity past!! The Ancient of Days! Born of a woman!! What could be more simple than the inn, the manger, a carpenter, a carpenter's wife, and a child? What could be more majestic than a "great company of the heavenly host" singing at midnight with their joyous chorus, and God Himself in human flesh being revealed. A child is an ordinary sight, but what a marvel to see "The Word" which was "with God in the beginning, make His dwelling among us so we could see His glory--the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth." Brethren, we have a story to tell--simple and majestic. What could be simpler? "Believe and live." What could be more majestic? "God was reconciling the world to Himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them!" A system of salvation so wonderful that angelic minds cannot help but adore Him as they meditate on it; and yet so simple that the children on earth can rightly sing its virtues as they sing, "Hosanna! Blessed is He that comes in the name of the Lord." What a splendid combining of the majestic and the simple have we in the great atonement offered by the incarnate Savior! Oh, make known to all men this saving truth!
The shepherds needed no excuse for making the announcement everywhere of the Savior's birth, "for what they shared, they had first received from heaven." Their news was not muttered in their ears by well known philosophers, nor brought to light by profound study, not conceived in poetry, nor found as a treasure trove among the volumes of the ancient; but it was revealed to them by an angel who led the angelic host, and testified, "Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; He is Christ the Lord." When heaven entrusts a man with a merciful revelation, he is bound to deliver the good tidings to others. What, keep an eternal proclamation of mercy a secret? Why were the angels sent, if not to spread the message to all the world? According to the teaching of our own beloved Lord we must not be silent, for He commands us, "What I tell you in the dark, speak in the daylight; what is whispered in your ear, proclaim from the roofs." Beloved, you have heard a voice from heaven--you are born again, given an eternal hope of heaven, you have heard the Spirit of God bearing witness of God's truth in you, and teaching you heavenly things. You then must celebrate this Christmas by telling your fellowmen what God the Holy Spirit has seen fit to reveal to you.
But though the shepherds told what they heard from heaven, remember that, "they spoke of what they had seen below." They had, by observation, believed deep in their hearts those truths which they heard spoken by the angels and what they saw with their eyes. No one can speak of the things of God with any success until the doctrine which he finds in the Bible he also believes in his heart. We must bring down the mystery and make it clear, by knowing, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit, its practical power on the heart and conscience. My brethren, the gospel which we preach is most surely revealed to us by the Lord; but, moreover, our hearts have tried and proved, have grasped, have felt, have realized its truth and power. We may not have been able to understand its heights and depths, yet we have felt its mystic power upon our heart and spirit. It has revealed sin to us better; it has revealed to us our acquittal. It has killed the reigning power of sin, it has given us Christ to reign over us, the Holy Spirit to dwell within our bodies as in a temple. Now "we must" speak. I do not urge any of you to speak of Jesus who merely know the Word as you find it in the Bible, your teaching will have little power; but I do earnestly speak to you who know its mighty influence on the heart, who have not only heard of the babe but have seen Him in the manger, taken Him up in your own arms and received Him as being born to you, a Savior to you, Christ, the anointed for you, Jesus the Savior from sin for you. Beloved, can you do otherwise than speak of the things which you have seen and heard. God has made you taste and handle this precious Word of Life, and you must not, you dare not hold your peace, but you "must" tell it to friends and neighbors--what you have felt within.
These were shepherds, "uneducated men." I will guarantee you that they couldn't read a book; there is every probability that they didn't even know a single letter of the alphabet. They were shepherds, but they preached good; and, my brethren, whatever some may think, preaching is not to be confined to those educated gentlemen who have degrees from a college or university. It is true that education is not an impediment to grace, and may be a fitting weapon in a gracious hand, but often the grace of God has glorified itself by the plain clear way in which uneducated men have understood the gospel and have proclaimed it. I would not mind asking the whole world to find a person with a Master's Degree who is now living that has brought more souls to Christ Jesus than Richard Weaver. If twenty educated religious leaders have done a tenth as much in the way of soul-winning as that one man, then I would be surprised. Let us give to our God all the glory, but still let us not deny the fact that Richard Weaver, a sinner saved, who speaks with a poor man's English, fresh from the coal pit, tells the story of the cross by God's grace in such a way that the most Reverend Preachers might humbly sit at his feet to learn the way to reach the heart and melt the stubborn soul. It is true an uneducated brother is not suited for every work--he has his own sphere--but he is quite able to tell of what he has seen and heard.
If you have seen Jesus and heard His saving voice, if you have received truth from the Lord, felt its tremendous power coming from God to you, and if you have experienced its mighty effect upon your own spirit, why you can surely speak out what God has written within you. If you cannot get beyond that into the deeper mysteries, into the more knotty points, well, well, there are some who can, and so you need not be uneasy; but you can at least reveal the first and foundational truths, and they are by far the most important. If you cannot speak in the pulpit, if you would blush, and your tongue would refuse to function in the presence of many, there are your children, you are not ashamed to speak before them; there is the little cluster around the fireplace on Christmas eve, there are your fellow workers at your place of employment, there is a little audience somewhere to whom you could speak to about Jesus' love to lost ones. Do not go beyond what you know; do not plunge into what you have not experienced, for if you do you will be out of your depth, and then very soon you will be floundering and causing a lot of confusion. Go as far as you know; and since you do know yourself as a redeemed sinner and Jesus as a Savior, and a great one too, talk about those two matters, and good will come of it. Beloved, each one in his own position, tell what you have heard and seen; share that among the sons of men.
But "were they authorized?" It is a great thing to be authorized! Unauthorized ministers are shameful intruders! Unordained men entering the pulpit, who are not called by God to speak--very horrible! Very horrible indeed! The unsaved mind utterly fails to fathom the depth of horror which is contained in the idea of an unauthorized man preaching and daring to teach the way of salvation. To me this horror seems very much like a schoolboy's fright at a monster which his fears had conjured up. I think if I saw a man slip through the ice into a cold watery grave, and I could rescue him from drowning, it would not wrong for me to be the means of saving him, though I may not be one who has been certified as a Life Saver. I imagine if I saw a fire, and heard a poor woman scream at an upper window, and likely to be burned alive, if I should put a ladder up to the window, and preserve her life, it would not be wrong though I were not a member of the local Fire Department. If a company of brave volunteers should chase an enemy out of their own county, I do not know that it would be anything so shocking, although they were not members of the country's regular armed forces. But mark you, the ministers and others like them are called by God, and thus are authorized by divine ordinance, for every man who hears the gospel is authorized to tell it to others. Do you want authority? Here it is--confirmation from the Word of God, "Let him who hears say, 'Come!'--that is, let every man who truly hears the gospel invite others to come and drink of the water of life." This is all the warrant you require for preaching the gospel according to your ability.
Not every man has the ability to preach the Word, and we would not want to hear every man preach in the great congregation, for if we all were mouths, what a great vacuum would exist in the Church; yet every Christian in some way should deliver the Good News. Our wise God is careful that the preaching of the Word will not be disorderly, for He does not give the pastoral and teaching gifts to very many; yet every man according to his gifts, let him minister. Every one of you though not in the pulpit, yet in the pew, in the shop, somewhere, anywhere, everywhere, make known Jesus Christ the Savior. Let this be your authority: "Let him who hears say, 'Come!'" I never thought of asking any authority for crying "Fire," when I saw a house burning; I never dreamed of seeking any authority for doing my best to rescue a poor perishing fellow-man, nor do I mean to seek it now! All the authority you need, any of you, is not the authority which can stream from popes decorated with elaborate religious clothing and trinkets, but the authority which comes direct from the great Head of the Church, who gives authority to every one who hears the gospel, to teach his neighbor, saying, "Know the Lord."
Here, dear brethren, is one way for you to keep a holy, and in some sense a merry Christmas. Imitate these humble men, of whom it is said, "When they had seen Him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child."
II. We set before you, now, another way of celebrating Christmas, by HOLY WONDER, ADMIRATION, AND ADORATION.
"All who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them." We will have little to say of those persons who merely wondered, and did nothing more. Many are amazed by the Gospel. They are content to hear it, pleased to hear it; if not in itself something new, yet there are new ways of putting it, and they are glad to be refreshed with the variety. The preacher's voice is to them as the sound of one that makes pleasant music with an instrument. They are glad to listen. They are not skeptics, they do not criticize, they raise no objections; they just say to themselves, "It is an admirable gospel, it is a wonderful plan of salvation. Here is the most astonishing love, most extraordinary condescension." Sometimes they marvel that these things should be told to them by shepherds; they can hardly understand how uneducated and ignorant men could speak of these things and how the shepherds could ever have learned such things. How is it that they seem so enthusiastic about them, what has happened to them that they are able to speak as they do. But after holding up their hands and opening their mouths for about nine days, the wonder subsides, and they go their way and think no more about it.
There are many of you who are amazed whenever you see God working in your neighborhood or workplace. You hear of somebody being converted who was a very wicked sinner and you say, "It is very amazing!" There is a revival; and you happen to be present at one of the meetings when the Spirit of God is working gloriously: you say, "Well, this is a very astonishing thing!" Even the newspapers can afford a corner at times for very great and extraordinary works of God the Holy Spirit, but there all the emotion ends; it is all amazement, and nothing more.
Now, I trust it is different with us; that we will not think of the Savior and of the doctrines of the gospel which He came to preach simply with amazement and astonishment, for this will do us no good. On the other hand, there is another form of amazement which is very much like adoration. I think it would be very difficult to draw a line between holy wonder and real worship, for when the soul is overwhelmed with the majesty of God's glory, though it may not express itself in song or even utter its voice with bowed head in humble prayer, yet it silently adores. I am inclined to think that the astonishment which sometimes seizes the human intellect at the remembrance of God's greatness and goodness is, perhaps, the purest form of adoration which ever rises from mortal men to the throne of the Most High. This kind of amazement I recommend to those of you who from the quietness and solitude of your lives are scarcely able to mimic the shepherds in telling the account to others: you can at least be like the circle of the worshipers before the throne by being amazed at what God has done.
Let me suggest to you that holy amazement at what God has done should be very natural to you. That God should reflect on His fallen creature man, and instead of sweeping him away with the broom of destruction would devise a wonderful plan for his redemption, and that He would Himself undertake to be man's Redeemer, and to pay his ransom price, is, indeed, marvelous! Probably it is most marvelous to you in its relation to yourself, that you should be redeemed by blood; that God would forsake the thrones and royalties above to suffer disgrace on the earth for you. You know yourself that you can never see an adequate motive or reason in your own flesh for such a deed as this, you will say, "Why was such love given to me?" If David sitting in his house could only say, "Who am I, O Sovereign LORD, and what is my family, that you have brought me this far?" What should you and I say? Had we been the most meritorious of individuals, and had unceasingly kept the Lord's commands, we could not have deserved such a priceless blessing as incarnation; but sinners, offenders, who revolted and turned away from God, further and further, what would we say of this incarnate God dying for us, but "This is love: not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins." Let your soul lose itself in amazement, for amazement, dear friends, is in this way a very practical emotion. Holy amazement will lead you to grateful worship; being astonished at what God has done you will pour out your soul with astonishment at the foot of the golden throne with the song, "To him who sits on the throne and to the Lamb be praise and honor and glory and power, for ever and ever!"
Filled with this amazement will cause you a godly watchfulness; you will be afraid to sin against such love as this. Feeling the presence of the mighty God in the gift of His dear Son, you will take off your shoes, because the place where you are standing is holy ground. You will be moved at the same time to a glorious hope. If Jesus has given Himself to you, if He has done this marvelous thing on your behalf, you will feel that heaven itself is not too great for your expectation, and that the rivers of pleasure at God's right hand are not too sweet or too deep for you to drink of. Who can be astonished at anything when he has once been astonished at the manger and the cross? What amazement is there left after one has seen the Savior. The seven wonders of the world! Why, you may put them all into a nutshell--technology and fine art can exceed them all; but this one wonder is not the wonder of earth only, but of heaven and earth, and even hell itself. It is not the wonder of the past, but the wonder of all time and the wonder of eternity. They who have seen human wonders a few times, at last cease to be astonished; the noblest structure that an architect ever raised, at last fails to impress the onlooker; but not so this marvelous temple of incarnate Deity; the more we look the more we are astonished, the more we become accustomed to it, the more have we a sense of its surpassing splendor of love and grace. There is more of God, let us say, to be seen in the manger and the cross, than in the sparkling stars above, the rolling deep below, the towering mountain, the teeming valleys, the abodes of life, or the abyss of death. Let us then spend some choice hours of this festive season in holy amazement, such as will produce gratitude, worship, love, and confidence.
III. A third manner of holy work, namely, HER HEART TREASURING AND PONDERING, you will find in the next verse.
One at least, and let us hope there were others, or at any rate let us ourselves be others--one treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. She wondered: she did more--she pondered. You will observe there was an exercise on the part of this blessed woman of the three great parts of her being; her memory--she treasured all these things; her affections--she treasured them in her heart; her intellect--she pondered them, considered them, weighed them, turned them over; so that memory, affection, and understanding were all exercised about these things. We delight to see this in Mary, but we are not at all surprised when we remember that she was in some sense the most concerned of all on earth, for it was from her that Jesus Christ had been born. Those who come nearest to Jesus and enter most closely into fellowship with Him, will be sure to be the most engrossed with Him. Certain persons are best esteemed at a distance but not the Savior; when you have known Him completely, then you will love Him with the love which passes all understanding; you will comprehend the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of His love; and when you will do so, then your own love will swell beyond all length and breadth, all height and depth. The birth most concerned Mary, and therefore she was the most impressed with it. Note the way in which her concern was shown; she was a woman, and the grace which shines best in the female is not boldness--that belongs to the masculine mind; but affectionate modesty is a feminine beauty, and hence we do not read so much of her sharing the Good News to others as pondering within. No doubt she had her circle of friends, and she shared the joy of her heart; but for the most part she, like another Mary, sat still in the house. She worked, but her work was most directly for Him, her heart's joy and delight. Like other children, the holy child needed care, which only a mother's hand and heart could exercise; she was therefore engrossed with Him. O blessed preoccupation! Sweet encounter! Do not count that to be unacceptable service which occupies itself rather with Jesus than with His disciples or His wandering sheep. That woman who broke the alabaster jar and poured the ointment upon our Jesus Himself was accused by Judas, and even the rest of the disciples thought that the poor had lost a benefit, but "She has done a beautiful thing to me," was the Savior's answer.
I desire to bring you to this thought, that if during this season you shy quiet ones cannot speak to others, or have no desirable opportunity or suitable gift for that work, you may sit still with Jesus and honor Him in peace. Mary took the Lord in her arms; oh that you may bear Him in yours! She performed works for His person directly; you can imitate her. You can love Him, bless Him, praise Him, study Him, treasure Him, ponder Him, comprehend His character, and imitate His life; and in this way; though your worship will not blaze forth among the sons of men, and scarcely benefit them as some other forms of work, yet it will both benefit you and be acceptable to your Lord. Beloved, remember what you have heard about Christ, and what He has done for you; make your heart the golden cup to hold the rich recollections of His past loving-kindness; make it a pot of manna to preserve the heavenly bread whereon saints have fed in days gone by. Let your memory treasure up everything about Christ which you have either heard, or felt, or known, and then let your fond affections hold Him close forevermore. Love him! Pour out that alabaster jar of your heart, and let all the precious ointment of your affection come streaming on His feet. If you cannot do it with joy do it sorrowfully, wash His feet with tears, wipe them with the hairs of your head; but love Him, love the blessed Son of God, your ever tender Friend. Let your intellect be exercised concerning the Lord Jesus. Turn over and over by meditation what you read. Do not be those who only read the words--don't stop at the surface; dive into the depths. Don't be like the swallow which touches the brook with her wing, but be like the fish which penetrates to the deepest part. Drink deep portions of His love; do not sip, but dwell at the well as Isaac did at the well Lahai-roi. Stay with your Lord: let Him not be to you as a traveler that stays only for a night, but constrain Him, saying, "Stay with us, for it is nearly evening; the day is almost over." Hold Him, and do not let Him go. The word "ponder," as you know, means to weigh. The scales of judgment are ready. Oh, but where are the scales that can weigh the Lord Christ? "Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket; they are regarded as dust on the scales; He weighs the islands as though they were fine dust." Who will lift Him up? "He weighed the mountains on the scales." On what scales will we weigh Him? Be it so, if your understanding cannot comprehend, let your affections apprehend; and if your spirit cannot surround the Lord Jesus in the arms of its understanding, let it embrace Him in the arms of your affection. Oh, beloved, here is blessed Christmas work for you, if, like Mary, you treasure up all these things in your heart and ponder them.
IV. The last piece of holy Christmas work is to come. "The shepherds returned," we read in the twentieth verse, "GLORIFYING AND PRAISING GOD for all the things that they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told." Returned to what? "Returned to the business" of looking after the lambs and sheep. Then if we desire to glorify God we need not give up our business.
Some people get the notion into their heads that the only way in which they can live for God is by becoming ministers, missionaries, or Bible teachers. How many of us would be shut out from any opportunity of magnifying the Most High if this were the case. The shepherds went back to the sheep-pens glorifying and praising God. Beloved, it is not occupation, it is earnestness; it is not position, it is grace which will enable us to glorify God. God is most surely glorified in that factory corner where the godly worker, as he assembles the parts sings of the Savior's love, yes, glorified far more than in many a church pulpit where the minister performs his duties. The name of Jesus is glorified by the cab driver as he drives his vehicle and blesses his God, or speaks to his fellow cabby by the roadside as much as by the evangelist who, throughout the country, is thundering out the gospel. God is glorified by our remaining in our vocation. Take care you do not leave your calling, and take care you do not dishonor your profession while in it. Do not think much of yourselves, and do not think too little of your callings. There is no honest, moral, business which is not sanctified by the gospel. If you turn to the Bible, you will find the most menial forms of labor have been in some way or other connected either with the most daring deeds of faith, or else with persons whose lives have been otherwise illustrious; keep to your calling, brother, keep to your calling! Whatever God has made you, when He calls you for salvation, then remain in that position in life, unless you are quite sure, mind that, unless you are quite sure that He is calling you to something else. The shepherds glorified God though they went back to their trade.
They glorified God "though they were shepherds." As we have already said, they were not educated men. So far from having an extensive library full of books, it is probable they could not read a word; yet they glorified God. This takes away all excuse for you good people who say, "I am not a scholar; I never had any education, I never even attended Sunday-school." Ah, but if your heart is right, you can glorify God. Never mind, don't be discouraged because you know so little. Learn more if you can, but make good use of what you do know. It is indeed a pity that you had to start work at an early age, therefore you couldn't even acquired even the rudiments of knowledge, but don't think that you can't glorify God. If you want to praise God, then live a holy life, you can do that by His grace, without a degree. If you want to do good to others, then be good in yourself, and that is a way which is as open to the most illiterate as it is to the best educated. Be of good courage! Shepherds glorified God, and so may you. Remember there is one thing in which they had as an advantage over the wise men. The wise men needed a star to lead them; the shepherds did not. The wise men went the wrong way even with a star, they stumbled into Jerusalem, the shepherds went straight to Bethlehem. Simple minds sometimes find a glorified Christ where educated people miss Him because of their confusion over their educated approach. A good doctor used to say, "Look, these simple uneducated persons have entered into the kingdom, while we learned men have been fumbling for the latch." It is often so; therefore you simple minds, be comforted and glad.
The way in which these shepherds honored God is worth noticing. They did it by praising Him. Let us regard the singing of sacred songs more than we sometimes do. When the song is bursting in full chorus from the thousands in this church, it is nothing but noise in the ear of some men; but if those who are singing the songs have true hearts that are touched with the love of Jesus, then it is not a mere noise in God's estimation, there is a sweet music in it that delights His ear.
What is the great purpose of all Christian effort? When I stood here the other morning preaching the gospel, my mind was fully focused on the winning of souls, but while preaching I seemed to go beyond that. I thought, Well, that is not the chief end after all--the chief end is to glorify God. Then it struck me all of a sudden, "If when singing a Psalm or a hymn, we really do glorify God, then we are doing more than by preaching; because preaching is only a means by which we win the lost, whereas, singing hymns is a direct way to glorify God." If we praise God with our hearts and tongues then we are glorifying Him in the surest possible way, we are really glorifying Him then. Sing then, my brethren! Sing not only when you are together but sing alone. Lighten your work with psalms, and hymns, and spiritual songs. Make your family happy with sacred music. We sing too little, I am sure, yet the revival of religion has always been attended with the revival of worshipful Christian songs. Luther's translations of the psalms into songs were as much a blessing as Luther's discussions and controversies; and the hymns of Charles Wesley, and Cennick, and Toplady, and Newton, and Cowper, aided as much in the quickening of spiritual life in England as the preaching of John Wesley and George Whitefield. We need more singing. Sing more and murmur less, sing more and slander less, sing more and criticize less, sing more and complain less. God grant us today, as these shepherds did, to glorify God by praising Him.
I am not quite done with the shepherds yet. What was the subject of their praise? It appears that they praised God for what they had heard. If you think about it, there is good reason for blessing God every time we hear a gospel sermon. What would the souls in hell give if they could hear the gospel once more, and be allowed to respond to the pure and free salvation grace? What would dying men on their deathbeds give if they could once more hear the preaching of the gospel, and have another warning and an opportunity to yield to Christ. Brethren, what would you give sometimes when you are immobilized by sickness and cannot come and fellowship with the God's children, when your heart and your flesh cry out for the Living God? Well, praise God for what you have heard. You have heard the faults of the preacher, let him agonize over them. You have heard his message from God, do you bless God for that? Nearly all sermons can make you sing if you are in the right mind. Praise God that you have heard that there is a Savior! Praise God that you have heard that the plan of salvation is very simple! Praise God that you have a Savior for your own soul! Praise God that you are forgiven, that you are saved! Praise Him for what you have heard, but observe, they also praised God for what they had seen.
Look at the twentieth verse--"heard and seen." There is the sweetest music--it is what we have experienced, it is what we have felt within, it is what we have made our own--the things that we have received by yielding to the King. Mere hearing may make some music, but the soul of song must come from seeing with the eye of faith. And, dear friends, you who have seen with that God-given eyesight, I pray you, do not let your tongues be tied in sinful silence, rather let them speak loudly to the praise of sovereign grace, wake up your glory and awake songs of praise and your musical instruments. One point for which they praised God was "for all the things they had heard and seen. Observe the last sentence, "which were just as they had been told." Haven't you found the gospel within you just what the Bible said it would be? Jesus said He would give you grace--haven't you received it? He promised you rest--haven't you received it? He said that you would have joy, and comfort, and life through believing in Him--haven't you received all these? Aren't His ways, ways of pleasantness, and His paths, paths of peace? Surely you can say with the queen of Sheba, "Indeed, not even half was told me, I have found Christ more sweet than His servants could ever have told us. I looked upon the likeness as they painted it, but it was a mere dab as compared with Himself--the King in His beauty. I have heard of the promised land, but oh! it flows with milk and honey more richly and sweetly than men were ever able to tell me with their most vivid words. Surely, what we have seen keeps pace with what we have heard. Let us then glorify and praise God for what He has done.
I want to say something to those who are not yet converted, and I then will be done. I do not think you can begin at the seventeenth verse, but I wish you would begin at the eighteenth. You cannot begin at the seventeenth--you cannot tell others what you have not felt; do not try it. Neither teach Sunday-school, nor attempt to preach if you are not converted, for to the wicked, God says: "What right have you to recite my laws or take my covenant on your lips?"
But I pray to God, that you would begin with the eighteenth verse--"amazed!" Amazed that you are still alive, being spared from death that would have brought immediate judgment into the fires of hell--amazed that His precious Holy Spirit still strives to convert you despite your many wicked sins. Amazed that this morning the gospel message of eternal life is still being offered to you after all your rejections of it in the past.
I want you to begin there, because then I would have the hope that you would go on to the next verse, and so go from amazement to pondering. Oh sinner, I wish you would ponder the doctrines of the cross. Think of your sin, God's wrath, judgment, hell, the Savior's blood, God's love, forgiveness, acceptance, heaven--think on these things. Go from amazement to pondering. And then I would pray to God that you would then go on to the next verse, from pondering to glorifying. Take Christ, look to Him, trust Him. Then sing "I am forgiven," and go your way a believing sinner, and therefore a sinner saved, washed in the blood, and cleansed. Then go back after that to the seventeenth verse, and spread the Word to others.
But as for you Christians who are saved, I want you to begin this very afternoon at the seventeenth verse.
"Then will I tell sinners all around What a dear Savior I have found: I'll point to His redeeming blood, And say--'Look! the way to God!'"
Then when the day is over, go into to your bedroom and wonder, admire and adore; spend half an hour or so, like Mary, in pondering and treasuring up the day's work and the day's message from the Word in your hearts, and then close it all with that which never must close--go on tonight, tomorrow, and all the days of your life, glorifying and praising God for all the things that you have seen and heard. May the Master bless you for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
"Nunc Dimittis" (to Send Away)
October 8th, 1871 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word: for mine eyes have seen thy salvation." Luke 2:29-30 .
Blessed wert you, O Simeon, for flesh and blood had not revealed this unto thee; neither had it enabled thee so cheerfully to bid the world farewell. The flesh clings to the earth it is dust, and owns affluity to the ground out of which it was taken; it loathes to part from mother earth. Even old age, with its infirmities, does not make men really willing to depart out of this world. By nature we hold to life with a terrible tenacity; and even when we sigh over the evils of life, and repine concerning its ills, and fancy that we wish ourselves away, it is probable that our readiness to depart lies only upon the surface, but down deep in our hearts we have no will to go. Flesh and blood had not revealed unto Simeon that he saw God's salvation in that babe which he took out of the arms of Mary, and embraced with eager joy. God's grace had taught him that this was the Savior, and God's grace at the same time loosened the cords which bound him to earth, and made him feel the attractions of the better land. Blessed is that man who has received thy grace a meekness for heaven, and a willingness to depart to that better land: let him magnify the Lord who has wrought so great a work in him. As Paul says, "Thanks be unto the Father who hath made us meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light." Certainly none of us were meet by nature not even Simeon; the fitness of the venerable man was all the handiwork of God, and so, also, was his anxiety to obtain the inheritance for which God had prepared him. I trust, brethren, while we consider this morning the preparedness of the saints for heaven, and turn over in our mind those reflections which will make us ready to depart, God's Holy Spirit, sent forth from the Father, may make us also willing to leave these mortal shores, and launch upon the eternal sea at the bidding of our Father, God. We shall note, this morning, first, that every believer may be assured of departing in peace; but that, secondly, some believers feel a special readiness to depart now: "Now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace;" and, thirdly, that there are words of encouragement to produce in us the like readiness: "according to thy word." There are words of Holy Writ which afford richest consolation in prospect of departure. I. First, then, let us start with the great general principle, which is full of comfort; namely, this, that EVERY BELIEVER MAY BE ASSURED OF ULTIMATELY DEPARTING IN PEACE. This is no privilege peculiar to Simeon, it is common to all the saints, since the grounds upon which this privilege rests are not monopolized by Simeon, but belong to us all. Observe, first, that all the saints have seen God's salvation, therefore, should they all depart in peace. It is true, we cannot take up the infant Christ into our arms, but he is "formed in us, the hope of glory." It is true, we cannot look upon him with these mortal eyes, but we have seen him with those eyes immortal which death cannot dim the eyes of our own spirit which have been opened by God's Holy Spirit. A sight of Christ with the natural eye is not saving, for thousands saw him and then cried, "Crucify him, crucify him." After all, it was in Simeon's case the spiritual eye that saw, the eye of faith that truly beheld the Christ of God; for there were others in the temple who saw the babe; there was the priest who performed the act of circumcision, and the other officials who gathered round the group; but I do not know that any of them saw God's salvation. They saw the little innocent child that was brought there by its parents, but they saw nothing remarkable in him; perhaps, Simeon and Anna, alone of all those who were in the temple, saw with the inward eye the real Anointed of God revealed as a feeble infant. So, though you and I miss the outward sight of Christ, we need not regret it, it is but secondary as a privilege; if with the inner sight we have seen the Incarnate God, and accepted him as our salvation, we are blessed with holy Simeon. Abraham saw Christ's day before it dawned, and even thus, after it has passed, we see it, and with faithful Abraham we are glad. We have looked unto him, and we are lightened. We have beheld the Lamb of God which taketh away the sins of the world. In the "despised and rejected of men" we have seen the anointed Savior; in the crucified and buried One, who afterwards rose again, and ascended into glory, we have seen salvation, full, free, finished. Why, therefore, should we think ourselves less favored than Simeon? From like causes like results shall spring: we shall depart in peace, for we have seen God's salvation. Moreover, believers already enjoy peace as much as ever Simeon did. No man can depart in peace who has not lived in peace; but he who has attained peace in life shall possess peace in death, and an eternity of peace after death. "Being justified by faith we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ." Jesus has bequeathed us peace, saying, "Peace I leave with you, my peace I give unto you." "For he is our peace," and "the fruit of the Spirit is peace." We are reconciled unto God by the death of his Son. Whatever peace flowed in the heart of Simeon, I am sure it was not of a diviner nature than that which dwells in the bosom of every true believer. If sin be pardoned, the quarrel is ended; if the atonement is made, then is peace established, a peace covenanted to endure for ever. We are now led in the paths of peace; we walk the King's highway, of which it is written, "no lion shall be there;" we are led beside the still waters, and made to lie down in green pastures. We feel no slavish fear of God, though he be "a consuming fire" even to us; we tremble no longer to approach into his presence, who deigns to be our Father. The precious blood upon the mercy-seat has made it a safe place for us to resort at all times; boldness has taken the place of trembling. The throne of God is our rejoicing, though once it was our terror.
"Once 'twas a seat of dreadful wrath, And shot devouring flame; Our God appear'd 'consuming fire,' And vengeance was his name."
Therefore, brethren, having peace with God, we may be sure that we shall "depart in peace." We need not fear that the God of all consolation, who has already enriched us in communion with himself, and peace in Christ Jesus, will desert us at the last. He will help us to sing a sweet swan-song, and our tabernacle shall be gently taken down, to be rebuilt more enduringly in the fair country beyond Jordan. Furthermore, we may rest assured of the same peace as that which Simeon possessed, since we are, if true believers, equally God's servants. The text says, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." But, in this case, one servant cannot claim a privilege above the rest of the household. The same position towards God, the same reward from God. Simeon, a servant; you also, my brother, a servant; he who saith to Simeon, "depart in peace," will say also the same to you. The Lord is always very considerate towards his old servants, and takes care of them when their strength faileth. The Amalekite of old had a servant who was an Egyptian, and when he fell sick he left him, and he would have perished if David had not had compassion on him; but our God is no Amalekite slave-owner, neither doth he cast off his wornout servants. "Even to your old age I am he; and even to hoar hairs will I carry you: I have made, and I will bear; even I will carry, and will deliver you." David felt this, for he prayed to God, and said, "Now, also, when I am old and gray-headed, O God, forsake me not." If thou hast been clothed in thy Lord's livery of grace, and taught to obey his will, he will never leave thee, nor forsake thee; he will not sell thee into the hands of thine adversary, nor suffer thy soul to perish. A true master counts it a part of his duty to protect his servants, and our great Lord and Prince will show himself strong on the behalf of the very least of all his followers, and will bring them every one into the rest which remaineth for his people. Do you really serve God? Remember, "his servants ye are to whom ye obey." Are ye taught of the Spirit to obey the commandments of love? Do you strive to walk in holiness? If so, fear not death; it shall have no terrors to you. All the servants of God shall depart in peace. There is also another reflection which strengthens our conviction that all believers shall depart in peace, namely, this: that up till now all things in their experience have been according to God's word. Simeon's basis of hope for a peaceful departure was "according to thy word;" and, surely, no Scripture is of private interpretation, or to be reserved for one believer to the exclusion of the rest? The promises of God, which are "Yea and amen in Christ Jesus," are sure to all the seed: not to some of the children is the promise made, but all the grace-born are heirs. There are not special promises hedged round and set apart for Simeon and a few saints of old time, but with all who are in Christ, their federal head, the covenant is made, and stands "ordered in all things and sure." If, then, Simeon, as a believer in the Lord, had a promise that he should depart in peace, I have also a like promise if I am in Christ. What God hath said in his word Simeon lays hold of, and none can say him nay; but if, with the same grace-given faith, I also grasp it for myself, who shall challenge my right? God will not violate his promise to one of his people any more than to another, and, consequently, when our turn shall come to gather up our feet in the bed and to resign our spirit, some precious passage in sacred writ shall be as a rod and a staff to us that we may fear no evil. These four considerations, gathered out of the text itself, may give fourfold certainty to the assurance that every believer, at the hour of his departure, shall possess peace. For a moment, review attentively the words of the aged saint: they have much instruction in them. Every believer shall in death depart in the same sense as Simeon did. The word here used is suggestive and encouraging: it may be applied either to escape from confinement, or to deliverance from toil. The Christian man in the present state is like a bird in a cage: his body imprisons his soul. His spirit, it is true, ranges heaven and earth, and laughs at the limits of matter, space, and time; but for all that, the flesh is a poor scabbard unworthy of the glittering soul, a mean cottage unfit for a princely spirit, a clog, a burden, and a fetter. When we would watch and pray, we find full often that the spirit is willing but the flesh is weak. "We that are in this body do groan." The fact is, we are caged birds; but the day cometh when the great Master shall open the cage door, and release his prisoners. We need not dread the act of unfastening the door, for it will give to our soul the liberty for which it only pines, and then, with the wings of a dove, covered with silver, and its feathers with yellow gold, though aforetime it had lien among the pots, it will soar into its native air, singing all the way with a rapture beyond imagination. Simeon looked upon dying as a mode of being let loose a deliverance out of durance vile, an escape from captivity, a release from bondage. The like redemption shall be dealt unto us. How often does my soul feel like an unhatched chick, shut up within a narrow shell, in darkness and discomfort! The life within labors hard to chip and break the shell, to know a little more of the great universe of truth, and see in clearer light the infinite of divine love. Oh, happy day, when the shell shall be broken, and the soul, complete in the image of Christ, shall enter into the freedom for which she is preparing! We look for that, and we shall have it. God, who gave us to aspire to holiness and spirituality and to likeness to himself, never implanted those aspirations in us out of mockery. He meant to gratify these holy longings, or, else, he would not have excited them. Ere long we, like Simeon, shall depart that is, we shall be set free to go in peace. I said that the word meant also a release from toil. It is as though Simeon had been standing at the table of his Master like a servant waiting on his Lord. You know the parable in which Christ says that the master does not first bid his servant sit down and eat bread, but commands him thus, "Gird thyself and serve me." See then, Simeon stands yonder, girt and serving his Master; but by-and-by, when the Master sees fit, he turns round and says to Simeon, "Now thou mayest depart, and take thine own meat, thy work is done." Or, we may use another simile, and picture Simeon sitting at the King's gate, like Mordecai, ready for any errand which may be appointed him, but at length his time of attendance expires, and the great monarch bids him depart in peace. Or, yet again, we may view him as a reaper toiling amid the harvest beneath a burning sun, parched with thirst and wearied with labor, and lo! the great Boaz came into the field, and, having saluted his servant, says to him, "Thou hast fulfilled like an hireling thy day: take thou thy wage, and depart in peace." The like shall happen to all true servants of Christ; they shall rest from their labors where no weariness shall vex them, "neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat." They shall enter into the joy of their Lord, and enjoy the rest which remaineth for them. There is much of comfortable thought if we meditate upon this. But, note the words again. You perceive that the departure of the child of God is appointed of the Lord. "Now lettest thou thy servant depart." The servant must not depart from his labor without his Masters permission, else would he be a runaway, dishonest to his position. The good servant dares not stir till his Master says, "Depart in peace." Simeon was content to wait till he received permission to depart, and it becomes us all to acquiesce cheerfully in the Lord's appointment, whether he lengthens or shortens, our life. It is certain that without the Lord's will no power can remove us. No wind from the wilderness shall drive our souls into the land of darkness, no fiends with horrid clamor can drag us down to the abyss beneath, no destruction that wasting at noonday, or pestilence waiting in darkness can cut short our mortal career. We shall not die till God shall say to us, "My child, depart from the field of service, and the straitness of this thy tabernacle, and enter into rest." Till God commands us we cannot die, and when he bids us go it shall be sweet for us to leave this world. Note, further, that the words before us clearly show that the believer's departure is attended with a renewal of this divine benediction. "Depart in peace," saith God. It is a farewell, such as we give to a friend: it is a benediction, such as Aaron, the priest of God, might pronounce over a suppliant whose sacrifice was accepted. Eli said unto Hannah, "Go in peace, and the God of Israel grant thee thy petition that thou hast asked of him." Around the sinner's death-bed the tempest thickens, and he hears the rumblings of the eternal storm: his soul is driven away, either amid the thunderings of curses loud and deep, or else in the dread calm which evermore forebodes the hurricane. "Depart, ye cursed," is the horrible sound which is in his ears. But, not so the righteous. He feels the Father's hand of benediction on his head, and underneath him are the everlasting arms. The best wine with him is kept to the last. At eventide it is light; and, as his sun is going down, it grows more glorious, and lights up all the surroundings with a celestial glow, whereat bystanders wonder, and exclaim "Let me die the death of the righteous, and let my last end be like his." That pilgrim sets out upon a happy journey to whom Jehovah saith, "Depart in peace." This is a sole finger laid upon the closing eyelid by a tender father, and it ensures a happy waking, where eyes are never wet with tears. I cannot detain you longer over these words: suffice it to add, that whatever belonged to Simeon in this benediction must not be regarded as peculiar to him alone, but as, in their measure, the possession of all believers. "This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and their righteousness is of me, saith the Lord." II. But now, secondly, we remind you, that SOME BELIEVERS ARE CONSCIOUS OF A SPECIAL READINESS TO DEPART IN PEACE. When do they feel this? Answer: first, when their graces are vigorous. All the graces are in all Christians, but they are not all there in the same proportion, nor are they at all times in the same degree of strength. In certain believers faith is strong and active. Now, when faith becomes "the evidence of things not seen," and "the substance of things hoped for," then the soul is sure to say, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." Faith brings the clusters of Eschol into the desert, and makes the tribes long for the land that floweth with milk and honey. When the old Gauls had drunk of the wines of Italy, they said, "Let us cross the Alps, and take possession of the vineyards, which yield such generous draughts." So, when faith makes us realize the joy's of heaven, then it is that our soul stands waiting on the wing, watching for the signal from the glory-land. The same is true of the grace of hope, for hope peers into the things invisible. She brings near to us the golden gates of the Eternal City. Like Moses, our hope climbs to the top of Pisgah, and beholds the Canean of the true Israel. Moses had a delightful vision of the promised land when he gazed from Nebo's brow, and saw it all from Dan to Beersheba: so also hope drinks in the charming prospect of the goodly fund and Lebanon, and then she exclaims exultingly, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." Heaven realised and anticipated by hope renders the thought of departure most precious to the heart. And the like, also, is the effect of the grace of love upon us. Love puts the heart, like a sacrifice, on the altar, and then she fetches heavenly fire, and kindles it; and, as soon as ever the heart begins to burn and glow like a sacrifice, what is the consequence? Why, it ascends like pillars of smoke up to the throne of God. It is the very instinct of love to draw us nearer to the person whom we love; and, when love towards God pervades the soul, then the spirit cries, "Make haste, my beloved, be thou like a roe or a young hart upon the mountains of separation." Perfect love, casting out all fear, cries, "Up, and away."
"Let me be with thee, where thou art, My Savior my eternal rest! Then only will this longing heart Be fully and for ever blest."
I might thus mention all the graces, but suffer one of them to suffice! one which is often overlooked, but is priceless as the gold of Ophir it is the grace of humility. Is it strange that the lower a man sinks in his own esteem the higher does he rise before his God? Is it not written, "Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven?" Simeon had no conceit of his own importance in the world, else he would have said, "Lord, let me stay, and be an apostle. Surely I shall be needed at this juncture to lend my aid in the auspicious era which has just commenced?" But no, he felt himself so little so inconsiderable, that now that he had attained his heart's wish and seen God's salvation, he was willing to depart in peace. Humility by making us lie low helps us to think highly of God, and, consequently, to desire much to be with God. O to have our graces always flourishing, for then shall we always be ready to depart, and willing to be offered up. Lack of grace entangles us, but to abound in grace is to live in the suburbs of the New Jerusalem. Another time, when believers are thus ready to go, is when their assurance is clear. It is not always so with even the most mature Christians, and some true saints have not yet attained to assurance; they are truly saved, and possess a genuine faith, but as assurance is the cream of faith, the milk has not stood long enough to produce the cream; they have not yet come to the flower of assurance, for their faith is but a tender plant. Give a man assurance of heaven and he will be eager to enjoy it. While he doubts his own security, he wants to linger here. He is like the Psalmist when he asked that God would permit him to recover his strength before he went hence, and was no more. Some things were not yet in order with David, and he would stay awhile till they were. But, when the ship is all loaded, the crew on board, and the anchor heaved, the favoring breeze is desired that the barque may speed on its voyage. When a man is prepared for his journey, ready to depart, he does not care to linger long in these misty valleys, but pants for the sunny summits of the mount of God, whereon standeth the palace of the Great King. Let a man know that he is resting upon the precious blood of Christ, let him by diligent self-examination perceive in himself the marks of regeneration, and by the witness of his own spirit and by the infallible witness of the Holy Ghost bearing witness with his own spirit, let him be certified that he is born of God, and the natural consequence will be that he will say, "Now let me loose from all things here below and let me enter into the rest which is assuredly my own." O you that have lost your assurance by negligent living, by falling into sin, or by some other form of backsliding, I do not wonder that you hug the world, for you are afraid you have no other portion; but with those who read their titles clear to mansions in the skies it will be otherwise. They will not ask to linger in this place of banishment, but will sing in their hearts, as we did just now:
"Jerusalem my happy home, Name ever dear to me; when shall my labors have an end, In joy and peace and thee?"
Beloved, furthermore, saints feel most their readiness to go when their communion with Christ is near and sweet; when Christ hides himself we are afraid to talk of dying, or of heaven; but, when he only shows himself through the lattices, and we can see those eyes which are "as the eyes of doves by the rivers of water, washed with milk and fitly set;" when our own soul melteth even at that hazy sight of him, as through a glass darkly. Oh then we fain would be at home, and our soul crieth out for the day when her eyes shall see the King in his beauty, in the land that is very far off. Have you never felt the heavenly homesickness? Have you never pined for the home-bringing? Surely, when your heart has been full of the bridegroom's beauty, and your soul has been ravished with his dear and ever precious love, you have said: "When shall the day break, and the shadows flee away? Why are his chariots so long in coming?" You have swooned, as it were, with love-sickness for your precious Savior, thirsting to see him as he is, and to be like him. The world is black when Christ is fair; it is a poor heap of ashes when he is altogether lovely to us. When a precious Christ is manifested to our spirits, we feel that we could see Jesus and die. Put out these eyes, there is nothing more for them to see when they have seen him. "Black sun," said Rutherford, "black moon, black stars, but inconceivably bright and glorious Lord Jesus." How often did that devout man write words of this sort: "Oh if I had to swim through seven hells to reach him, if he would but say to me, like Peter, 'Come unto me,' I would go unto him not only on the sea, but on the boiling floods of hell, if I might but reach him, and come to him." I will pause here and give you his own words: "I profess to you I have no rest, I have no ease, till I be over head and ears in love's ocean. If Christ's love (that fountain of delight) were laid as open to me as I would wish, Oh, how I would drink, and drink abundantly.! I half call his absence cruel; and the mask and veil on Christ's face a cruel covering that hideth such a fair, fair face from a sick soul. I dare not upbraid him, but his absence is a mountain of iron upon my heavy heart. Oh, when shall we meet? Oh, how long is it to the dawning of the marriage day? O sweet Lord Jesus, take wide steps; O my Lord, come over the mountains at one stride! O my Beloved, be like a roe, or a young hart, on the mountains of separation. Oh, if he would fold the heavens together like an old cloak, and shovel time and days out of the way, and make ready in haste the Lamb's wife for her Husband! Since he looked upon me my heart is not mine; he hath run away to heaven with it." When these strong throes, these ardent pangs of insatiable desire come upon a soul that is fully saturated with Christ's love, through having been made to lean its head upon his bosom, and to receive the kisses of his mouth, then is the time when the soul saith, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." So again, beloved, saints have drawn their anchor up and spread their sails, when they have been made to hold loose by all there is in this world; and that is generally when they hold fastest by the world to come. To many this world is very sweet, very fair, but God puts bitters into the cup of his children; when their nest is soft, he fills it with thorns to make them long to fly. Alas, that it should be so, but some of God's servants seem as if they had made up their minds to find a rest beneath the moon. They are moon-struck who hope to do so. All the houses in this plague-stricken land are worm-eaten and let in the rain and wind: my soul longeth to find a rest among the ivory palaces of thy land, O Immanuel. Brethren, it often happens that the loss of dear friends, or the treachery of those we trusted, or bodily sickness, or depression of spirit, may help to unloose the holdfasts which enchain us to this life; and then we are enabled to say with David in one of the most precious little Psalms in the whole Book, the 131st, "I have behaved and quieted myself as a child that is weaned of his mother, my soul is even as a weaned child." I have often thought that if David had said, "my soul is even as a wean ing child," it would have been far more like most of God's people. But to be weaned, quite weaned from the world, to turn away from her consolations altogether, this it is which makes us cry, "Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." Even as the psalmist when he said, "And now, Lord, what wait I for? my hope is in thee." Again, saints are willing to depart when their work is almost done. This will not be the case with many here present, perhaps, but it was so with Simeon. Good old man! He had been very constant in his devotions, but on this occasion he came into the temple, and there, it is said, he took the child in his arms, and blessed God. Once more he delivered his soul of its adoration once more he blended his praise with the songs of angels. When he had done that, he openly confessed his faith: another important work of every believer for he said, "Mine eyes have seen thy salvation." He bore public testimony to the child Jesus, and declared that he should be "a light to lighten the Gentiles." Having done that, he bestowed his fatherly benediction upon the child's parents, Joseph and his mother; he blessed them, and said unto Mary "Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel." Now, we read that David, after he had served his generation, fell on sleep; it is time for man to sleep when his life's work is finished. Simeon felt he had done all: he had blessed God; he had declared his faith; he had borne testimony to Christ; he had bestowed his benediction upon godly people; and so he said, "Now, Lord, lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." Ah, Christian people, you will never be willing to go if you are idle. You lazy lie-a-beds, who do little or nothing for Christ, you sluggish servants, whose garden is overgrown with weeds, no wonder that you do not want to see your master! Your sluggishness accuses you, and makes you cowards. Only he who has put out his talents to good interest will be willing to render an account of his stewardship. But when a man feels, without claiming any merit, that he has fought a good fight, finished his course, and kept the faith, then will he rejoice in the crown which is laid up for him in heaven, and he will long to wear it. Throw your strength into the Lord's work, dear brethren all your strength; spare none of your powers: let body, soul, and spirit be entirely consecrated to God, and used at their utmost stretch. Get through your day's work, for the sooner you complete it, and have fulfilled like an hireling your day, the more near and sweet shall be the time when the shadows lengthen, and God shall say to you, as a faithful servant, "Depart in peace!" One other matter, I think, helps to make saints willing to go, and that is when they see or foresee the prosperity of the church of God. Good old Simeon saw that Christ was to be a light to lighten the Gentiles, and to be the glory of his people Israel; and, therefore, he said, "Lord, lettest now thy servant depart in peace." I have known many a godly deacon who has seen a church wither and decay, its ministry become unprofitable, and its membership become divided; the dear old man has poured out his soul in agony before God, and when at last the Lord has sent a man to seek the good of Israel, and the church has been built up, he has been overjoyed, and he has said, "now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." It must have reconciled John Knox to die when he had seen the reformation safely planted throughout all Scotland. It made dear old Latimer, as he stood on the fagot, feel happy when he could say, "Courage, brother, we shall this day light such a candle in England as shall never be blown out." "Pray for the peace of Jerusalem," Ay, that we do, and we vehemently desire her prosperity, and if we can see Christ glorified, error defeated, truth established, sinners saved, and saints sanctified our spirit feels she has all she wishes. Like dying, David, when we have said, "Let the whole earth be filled with his glory," we can fall back upon the pillows and die, for our prayers like those of David the son of Jesse are ended. Let us pray for this peace and this prosperity, and when we see it come, it shall bring calm and rest to our spirits, so that we shall be willing to depart in peace. III. I shall call your attention now, for a little while, to the third point, that THERE ARE WORDS TO ENCOURAGE US TO THE LIKE READINESS TO DEPART. "According to thy word." Now let us go to the Bible, and take from it seven choice words all calculated to cheer our hearts in the prospect of departure, and the first is Psalms 33:4 ; "Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." "We walk" the Christian does not quicken his pace when he dies; he walked before, and he is not afraid of death, so he calmly walks on. It is a walk through a "shadow." There is no substance in death, it is only a shade. Who needs fear a shadow? It is not a lonely walk "Thou art with me." Neither is it a walk that need cause us terror; "I will fear no evil:" not only is there no evil, but no fear shall cloud my dying hours. It shall be a departure full of comfort: "Thy rod and thy staff" a duplicate means shall give us a fullness of consolation. "Thy rod and thy staff they comfort me." Take another text, and so follow the direction, "According to thy word." Psalms 37:37 : "Mark the perfect man, and behold the upright: for the end of that man is peace." If we are perfect, that is sincere; if we are upright, that is honest in heart; our end then assuredly be peace. Take another word, Psalms 116:15 : "Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of his saints." It is no ordinary thing for a saint to die; it is a spectacle which the eyes of God are delighted with. As king's delight in their pearls and diamonds, and count them precious, so the death-beds of the saints are God's precious things. Take another, Isaiah 57:2 : "He shall enter into peace: they shall rest in their beds, each one walking in his uprightness." Here is an entrance into peace for the saint, rest on his dying, bed, rest for his body in the grave, rest for his spirit in the bosom of his Lord, and a walking in his uprightness in the immortality above. "According to thy word." Oh, what force there is in these few syllables! When you can preach the word of God you must prevail. Nothing has such marrow and fatness in it as a text of Scripture. It has a force of comfort all its own. Consider also 1 Corinthians 3:22 : "For all things are your's: whether Paul, or Apollos, or Cephas, or the world, or life, or death, or things present, or things to come; all are your's." Now, if death is yours, there can be no sort of reason why you should be afraid of that which is made over to you as a part of your inheritance. Take the fifteenth chapter and fifty-fourth verse of the same epistle: "So when this corruptible shall have put on incorruption, and this mortal shall have put on immortality, then shall be brought to pass the saying that is written, Death is swallowed up in victory. O death, where is thy sting? O grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin; and the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God, which giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ." With such a text we need not fear to depart. And so that other word, the seventh we shall quote, and in that number seven dwelleth perfection of testimony. Revelation 14:13 : "And I heard a voice from heaven saying unto me, Write, Blessed are the dead which die in the Lord from henceforth: yea, saith the Spirit, that they may rest from their labors; and their works do follow them." Now, I dare say, many of you have said, "I wish I had a word from God, just like Simeon had, to cheer me in my dying moments." You have it before you; here are seven that I have read to you, most sure words of testimony, unto which you do well to take heed, as unto a light shining in a dark place. These promises belong to all believers in our precious Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Fear not, then, be not afraid, but rather say, "How lettest thou thy servant depart in peace." I have done the sermon, but we must put a rider to it. Just a word or two to those of you who cannot die in peace because you are not believers in Christ: you have never seen God's salvation, neither are you God's servants. I must deal with you as I have dealt with the saints. I have given them texts of Scripture, for the text saith, "according to thy word;" and I will give you also two passages of Scripture, which will show you those who may not hope to depart in peace. The first one is negative: it shows who cannot enter heaven, and, consequently, who cannot depart in peace. 1 Corinthians 6:9 : "Know ye not that the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God?" the unjust, the oppressive, cheats, rogues, "the unrighteous shall not inherit the kingdom of God." I will read these words. I need not explain them, but let every one here who comes under their lash submit to God's word. "Be not deceived: neither fornicators," plenty of them in London "nor idolaters," and ye need not worship a God of wood and stone to be idolaters, worship anything but God, you are an idolater "nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor abusers of themselves with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards," alas, some of these come to this house regularly, "nor revilers," that is, backbiters!, cavillers, tale-bearers, swearers, and such like, "nor extortioners," you fine twenty percent gentlemen! You who grind poor borrowers with usurious interest. None of you shall inherit the kingdom of God, not one of you. If you come within this list, except God renew your hearts and change you, the holy gates of heaven are shut in your face. Now, take another text, of a positive character, from Revelation 21:7 : "He that overcometh shall inherit all things; and I will be his God, and he shall be my son. But the fearful," that means the cowardly, those that are ashamed of Christ, those that dare not suffer for Christ's sake, those who believe everything, and nothing, and so deny the truth, because they cannot endure to be persecuted; "the fearful and unbelieving," that is, those who do not trust a Savior "and the abominable," and they are not scarce, some among the poor are abominable, and there are Right Honourables who ought to be called Right Abominables; ay, and greater than that, too, whose vices make them abominable to the nation: and "murderers," "he that hateth his brother is a murderer;" and "whoremongers and sorcerers;" "those who have or pretend to have dealings with devils and spirits, your spirit rappers, the whole batch of them; "and idolaters, and all liars," and these swarm everywhere, they lie in print, and they lie with the voice; "all liars shall have their part in the lake which burneth with fire and brimstone, which is the second death." Now, these are no words of mine, but the words of God; and if they condemn you, you are condemned; but, if you be condemned, fly to Jesus. Repent and be converted, as saith the gospel, and forgiveness shall be yours, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
Christ About His Father's Business
March 15, 1857 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Luke 2:49 .
Behold then, how great an interest God the Father takes in the work of salvation. It is called "his business;" and though Jesus Christ came to accomplish our redemption, came to set us a perfect example, and to establish a way of salvation, yet he came not upon his own business, but upon his Father's business his Father taking as much interest in the salvation of men as even he himself did the great heart of the Father being as full of love as the bleeding heart of the Son, and the mind of the first person of the Trinity being as tenderly affected towards his chosen as even the mind of Christ Jesus, our substitute, our surety, and our all. It is his "Father's business" Behold, also, the condescension of the Son, that he should become the servant of the Father, to do not his own business, but the Father's business. See how he stoops to become a child, subject to his mother; and mark how he stoops to become a man, subject to God his Father. He took upon himself the nature of man, and though he was the Son, equal in power with God, who "counted it not robbery to be equal with God," yet he "took upon himself the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Learn, then, O believer, to love all the persons of the Divine Trinity alike. Remember that salvation is no more the work of one than of the other. They all three agree in one, and as in the creation they all said, "Let us make man;" so in salvation they all say, "Let us save man;" and each of them does so much of it that it is truly the work of each and undividedly the work of all. Remember that notable passage of Isaiah the prophet "I will divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong." God divides, and Christ divides. The triumph is God's; the Father "divides for him a portion with the great;" it is equally Christ's, he "divides the spoil with the strong." Set not one person before the other; reverently adore them alike, for they are one one in design, one in character, and one in essence; and whilst they be truly three, we may in adoration exclaim, "Unto the one God of heaven and earth the glory, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen." But now I shall invite your attention, first, to the spirit of the Savior, as breathed in these words, "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" and then, secondly, I shall exhort the children of God, with all the earnestness which I can command, with all the intensity of power which I can summon to the point, to labour after the same spirit, that they too may unfeignedly say, "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business? " I. First, then note THE SPIRIT OF CHRIST. It was a spirit of undivided consecration to the will of God his Father. It was a spirit urged onward by an absolute necessity to serve God. Note the word "must." "Did ye not that I must?" There is a something in me which prevents me from doing other work. I feel an all-controlling, overwhelming influence which constrains me at all times and in every place to be about my Father's business; the spirit of high, holy, entire, sincere, determined consecration in heart to God. "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" First, what was the impelling power which (as it were) forced Christ to be about his Father's business? and then, secondly, how did he do his Father's business, and what was it? 1. What was the impelling power which made Christ say, "I must be about my Father's business? " In the first place, it was the spirit of obedience which thoroughly possessed itself of his bosum. When he took upon him the form of a servant he received the spirit of an obedient servant too, and became as perfect in the capacity of a servant as he had ever been in that of a ruler, though in that he had perfectly executed all his of life. Beloved believer! Do you not remember when you were first converted to God, when the young life of your new-born spirit was strong and active how impetuously you desired to obey God, and how intense was your eagerness to serve him in some way or other? I can remember well how I could scarcely abide myself five minutes without doing something for Christ. If I walked the street I must have a tract with me; if I went into a railway carriage I must drop a tract out of the window; if I had a moment's leisure I must be upon my knees or at my Bible if I were in company I must turn the subject of conversation to Christ, that I might serve my Master. Alas, I must confess, much of that strength of purpose has departed from me, as I doubt not it has from many of you who, with a greater prominence, have also received diminished zeal. It may be that in the young dawn of life we did imprudent things in order to serve the cause of Christ; but I say, give me back the time again, with all its imprudence and with all its hastiness, if I might but have the same love to my Master, the same overwhelming influence in my spirit making me obey because it was a pleasure to me to obey God. Now, Christ felt just in the same way. He must do it. He must serve God; he must be obedient; he could not help it. The spirit was in him, and would work, just as the spirit of disobedience in the wicked impels them to sin. Lust, sometimes, drags the sinner on to sin with a power so strong and mighty that poor man can no more resist it than the sere leaf can resist the tempest. We had lusts so omnipotent, that they had but to suggest, and we were their willing slaves; we had habits so tyrannical that we could not break their chains; we were impelled to evil, like the straw in the whirlwind, or the chip in the whirlpool. We were hurried whithersoever our lusts would bear us "drawn away and enticed." Now, in the new heart it is just the same, only in another direction. The spirit of obedience worketh in us, impelling us to serve our God, so that when that spirit is unclogged and free we may truly say, "We must be about our Father's business." We cannot help it. 2. But Christ had what some men only have. He had another motive for this, another impelling cause. He had a sacred call to the work which he had undertaken, and that secret call forced him on. You think, perhaps it is fanatical to talk of sacred calls; but call it fanatical or no, this one thing I will own the belief in a special call to do a special work is like the arm of omnipotence to a man. Let a man believe that God has set him to do a particular work, and you may sneer at him: what cares he? He would give as much for your sneer as he would for your smile, and that is nothing at all. He believes God intends him to do the work. You say nay: but he never asked you for your vote upon the question; he has received God's message, as he thinks, and he goes on, and you cannot resist him. If he sits still for a little while, a spirit haunts him he knows not what it is, but he is unhappy unless he engages in a business which he feels is the commission of his life. If he hold his tongue when God has commanded him to speak, the word is like fire in his bones it burns its way out, until at last he says, with Elihu, "I am bled with matter; I am like a vessel that wanteth vent;" I must speak, or burst; I cannot help it. Depend upon it, the men that have done the greatest work for our holy religion have been the men who had the special call to it. I no more doubt the call of Luther than I doubt the call of the apostles, and he did not doubt it either. One of the reasons why Luther did a thing was because other people did not like it. When he was about to smite a blow at the Papacy by marrying a nun all his friends said it was a fearful thing. Luther consulted them, and did the deed, perhaps, all the sooner because they disapproved of it. A strange reason it may seem, that a man should do a thing because he was dissuaded from it; but he felt that it was his work to strike the Papacy right and left, and for that he would give up everything, even the friendship of friends. His business, by night and by day, was to pray down the pope, to preach down the pope, to write down the pope, and do it he must, though often in the roughest, coarsest manner, with iron gauntlets on his hands. It was his work; do it he must. You might have done what you pleased with Luther, even to the rending out his tongue: he would have taken his pen, dipped it in fire, and written in burning words the doom of Papacy. He could not help it, heaven had forced him to the work, he had a special commission given him from on high, and no man could stay him any more than he could stay the wind in its careering, or the tide in its motions. Christ had a special work. "The spirit of the Lord is upon me, the Lord hath anointed me to preach glad tidings to the poor." And he felt the effects of this anointing the power of this impelling. And stay he must not, he could not, he dare not. "I must," said he, "be about my Father's business." 3. But once more, Christ had something which few of us can fully know. He had a vow upon him the vow to do the work from all eternity. He had become the surety of the covenant, he had sworn that he would execute his Father's business. He had taken a solemn oath that he would become man; that he would pay the ransom price of all his beloved ones; that he would come and do his Father's business, whatever that might be. "Lo, I come," said he. "In the volume of the book, it is written of me, I delight to do thy will, O God." Therefore, being faithful and true, the covenant, the engagement, the suretyship, the sworn promise and the oath made him say, "I must be about my Father's business." Whenever you make a vow, my dear friends and do that very seldom take care that you keep it. Few should be the vows that men make, but they should always be sincerely kept. God asketh no vow of us, but when his Spirit moveth us to make a vow and we may do so honestly if we make a vow in his strength we are bound to keep it. And he that feels that he has made a vow, must then feel himself impelled to do the work which he hath vowed to do. Let the difficulty be never so great, if you have vowed to overcome it, do it. Let tire mountain be never so high, if you have made a vow to God that you will attempt it scale its summit, and never give it up. If the vow be a right one, God will help you to accomplish it. O ye upon whom are the vows of the Lord! (and some of you have taken solemn vows upon you, by making a profession of religion) I beseech you, by the sacrament in which you dedicated yourself to your Lord, and by that other sacrament in which you found communion with Jesus, now to fulfill your vows, and pay them daily, nightly, hourly, constantly, perpetually; and lot these compel you to say, "I must be about my Father's business." These, I think, were the impelling motives which forced Christ on in his heavenly labor. Secondly. But now, what was his Father's business? I think it lay in three things example, establishment, expiation. 1. One part of his Father's business was, to send into the world a perfect example for our imitation. God had written divers books of example in the lives of the saints. One man was noted for one virtue, and another for another. At last, God determined that he would gather all his works into one volume, and give a condensation of all virtues in the person of our Lord Jesus Christ. Now he determined to unite all the parts into one, to string all the pearls on one necklace, and to make them all apparent around the neck of one single person. The sculptor finds here a leg from some eminent master, and there a hand from another mighty sculptor. Here he finds an eye, and there a head full of majesty. He saith, within himself, "I will compound those glories, I will put them all together; then it shall be the model man. I will make the statue par excellence, which shall stand first in beauty, and shall be noted ever afterwards as the model of manhood." So said God, "There is Job he hath patience; there is Moses he hath meekness, there are those mighty ones who all have eminent virtues. I will take these, I will put them into one; and the man Christ Jesus shall be the perfect model of future imitation." Now, I say, that all Christ's life he was endeavoring to do his Father's business in this matter. You never find Christ doing a thing which you may not imitate. You would scarcely think it necessary that he should be baptized; but lo, he goes to Jordan's stream and dives beneath the wave, that he may be buried in baptism unto death, and may rise again though he needed not to rise into newness of life. You see him healing the sick, to teach us benevolence; rebuking hypocrisy to teach us boldness; enduring temptation to teach us hardness, wherewith, as good soldiers of Christ, we ought to war a good warfare. You see him forgiving his enemies to teach us the grace of meekness and of forbearance; you behold him giving up his very life to teach us how we should surrender ourselves to God, and give up ourselves for the good of others. Put Christ at the wedding; you may imitate him. Ay, sirs, and you might imitate him, if you could, in turning water into wine, without a sin. Put Christ at a funeral; you may imitate him "Jesus wept." Put him on the mountain-top; he shall be there in prayer alone, and you may imitate him. Put him in the crowd; he shall speak so, that if you could speak like him you should speak well. Put him with enemies; he shall so confound them, that he shall be a model for you to copy. Put him with friends, and he shall be a "friend that sticketh closer than a brother," worthy of your imitation. Exalt him, cry hosanna, and you shall see him riding upon a "colt, the foal of an ass," meek and lowly. Despise and spit upon him, you shall see him bearing contumely and contempt with the same evenness of spirit which characterised him when he was exalted in the eye of the world Everywhere you may imitate Christ. Ay, sirs, and you may even imitate him in that "the Son of Man came eating and drinking" and therein fulfllled what he determined to do to pull down the vain pharisaism of man, which saith that religion standeth in meats and drinks, whereas, "Not that which goeth into a man defileth a man but that which goeth out of a man, that defileth the man." And that is wherein we should take heed to ourselves, lest the inner man be defiled. Never once did he swerve from that bright, true mirror of perfection. He was in everything as an exemplar, always doing his Father's business. 2. And so in the matter that I have called establishment, that is the establishment of a new dispensation; that was his Father's business, and therein, Christ was always doing it. He went into the wilderness to be tempted of the devil. Was he doing it then? Ah, sirs, he was; for it was necessary that he should be "a faithful high-priest in things pertaining to God, to make reconciliation for the sins of the people. For in that he himself hath suffered being tempted, he is able to succor them that are tempted." When he speaks, you can see him establishing his Word, and when he puts the finger of silence to his lips, he is doing it as much; for then was fulfilled the prophecy, "he was brought as a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is dumb." Does he work a miracle? Do the obedient winds hush their tumult at his voice? It is to establish the gospel, by teaching us that he is divine. Does he weep? It is to establish the gospel, by teaching us that he is human. Does he gather the apostles? It is that they may go abroad in every land, preaching the Word of God. Does he sit upon a well? It is that he may teach a woman, and that she may teach the whole city of Samaria the way of salvation. He was always engaged in this work of example, and this work of establishment. 3. And ah, beloved, when he came to the climax of his labor, when he came to the greatest toil of all, that which a thousand men could never have done; when he came to do the great work of expiation, how thoroughly he did it
"View him prostrate in the garden; On the ground your Maker lies. On the bloody tree behold him: Hear him cry before he dies 'IT IS FINISHED!'"
And there you have a proof that he was about his Father's business. It was his Father's business made him sweat great drops of blood; his Father's business ploughed his back with many gory furrows; his Father's business pricked his temple with the thorn crown; his Father's business made him mocked and spit upon; his Father's business made him go about bearing his cross; his Father's business made him despise the shame when, naked, he hung upon the tree; his Father's business made him yield himself to death, though he needed not to die if so he had not pleased; his Father's business made him tread the gloomy shades of Gehenna, and descend into the abodes of death; his Father's business made him preach to the spirits in prison; and his Father's business took him up to heaven, where he sitteth on the right hand of God, doing his Father's business still! His Father's business makes him plead day and night for Sion; the same business shall make him come as the Judge of quick and dead, to divide the sheep from the goats; the same business shall make him gather together in one, all people who dwell on the face of the earth! Oh, glory to thee, Jesus; thou hast done it! Thou hast done thy Father's business well. II. Thus, I have given you the example. Now, let me exhort you to IMITATE IT. Tell me, if you can why the religion of Christ is so very slow in spreading. Mohomet, an imposter stood up in the streets to preach. He was hooted, stones were thrown at him. Within a month after, he had disciples. A few more years, and he had a host behind him. Not a century had rolled away before a thousand scimitars flashed from their scabbards at the bidding of the caliphs. His religion overran nations like wildfire, and devoured kingdoms. But why? The followers of the prophet were entirely devoted to his cause. When that Moslem of old spurred his horse into the sea, to ride across the straits of Gibraltar, and then reined him up, and said, "I would cross if God willed it! "there was something in it that told us why his religion was so strong. Ah! those warriors of that time were ready to die for their religion, and therefore it spread. Can you tell me why Christianity spread so much in primitive times? It was because holy men "counted not their lives dear unto them," but were willing to "suffer the loss of all things" for Christ's sake. Paul traverses many countries, Peter ranges through many nations, Philip and the other evangelists go through various countries, testifying the word of God. Sirs, I will tell you why our faith in these days spreads so little. Pardon me it is because the professors of it do not believe it! Believe it! Yes; they believe it in the head, not in the heart. We have not enough of true devotedness to the cause, or else God would bless Sion with a far greater increase, I am fully persuaded. How few there are that have given themselves fully up to their religion! They take their religion, like my friend over there has taken that little farm of his. He has a farm of a thousand acres, but he thinks he could increase his means, perhaps, by taking a little farm of a hundred acres or so a little way off; and he gives that to a bailiff and does not take much trouble about it himself. It is not very likely he will have very fine farming there, because he leaves it to somebody else. Just so with religion. Your great farm is your shop, your great aim is your worldly business. You like to keep religion as a snug investment at very small interest indeed, which you intend to draw out when you get near death; but you do not want to live on it just now. You have enough profit from your own daily business, and you do not want religion for every day life. Sirs, the reason why your religion does not spread is because it has not got root enough in your hearts. How few there are of us who are ready to devote ourselves wholly, bodily, and spiritually to the cause of the gospel of Christ! And if you should attempt to do so, how many opponents you would meet with! Go into the church meeting, and be a little earnest; what will they say? Why, they will serve you just as David's brother did, when David spoke about fighting Goliath. "Oh," he said, "because of the pride and the naughtiness of thine heart, to see the battle thou art come." "Now, stand aside, do not think you can do anything; away with you!" And if you are in earnest, especially in the ministry, it is just the same. Your brethren pray every Sabbath "Lord, send more laborers into the vineyard!" And if God should send them, they wish them safe out of their corner of it, at any rate. They may go anywhere else, but they must not come anywhere near them, for it might affect their congregation, it might stir them up a little; and people might think they did not labor quite earnestly enough. "Stand aside! "they say. But brethren, do not mind about that. If you cannot bear to be huffed and snuffed, there is little good in you. If you cannot bear snuffing, depend upon it you cannot be well lit yet. Dare to go on against all the prudence of men, and you will find them pat you on the shoulder by-and-by and call you "dear brother." Every man is helped to get up, when he is as high as he can be. If you are down, "keep him down," is the cry; but if you are getting up, you will never get help till you have done it yourself; and then men will give you their help when you do not require it. However, your war-cry must be, "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" Again, even the best of your friends, if you are truly zealous of God, will come to you and say and very kindly too "Now, you must take a little more care of your constitution. Now, don't be doing so much; don't, I beseech you! "Or if you are giving money away "Now you must be a little more prudent; take more care of your family. Really, you must not do so." Or if you are earnest in prayer, they will say "There is no need of such enthusiasm as this: you know you can be religious, and not too religious; you can be moderately so." And so you find both friends and enemies striving to hinder your consecration to Christ. Now, I like what old Rowland Hill said, when some one told him that he was "moderately religious." "Well then, you are irreligious, for a man that is moderately honest is a rogue for certain; and so the man that is moderately religious is irreligious." If religion be worth anything it is worth everything; if it be anything it is everything. Religion cannot go halves with anything else, it must be all. We must, if we be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Christ, imitate Christ in this the giving up of all to God; so that we can sincerely say,
"And if I might make some reserve, And duty did not call, I love my God with zeal so great, That I could give him all."
I shall never forget the circumstance, when after I thought I had made a full consecration to Christ, a slanderous report against my character came to my ears, and my heart was broken in agony because I should have to lose that, in preaching Christ's gospel I fell on my knees, and said, "Master, I will not keep back even my character for thee. If I must lose that too, then let it go, it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil and am mad; or, like him I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber. It is gone, if I may but say "I have suffered the loss of all things; and I do count them but dross that I may win Christ!" And you, Christian, will never get on well in serving God, till you have given all to him. That which you keep back will canker, If you reserve the least portion of your time, your property, or your talents, and do not give all to Christ, you will find there will be a sore, a gangrene in it; for Christ will bless you in all when you give all to him; but what you keep from him, he will curse, and blight, and ruin. He will have all of us, the whole of us, all we possess, or else he never will be satisfied. And now let me answer one or two objections, and I shall still stir you up, who make a profession of religion, to give up all you have to Christ. You say, "Sir, I cannot do it; I am not in the right profession." Well, sir, you spoke truly when you said that; for if there be a profession that will not allow us to give all to Christ, it is not a right profession, and we ought not to follow it at all." "But," you say "how can I do it?" Well what are you? I do not care what you are; I assert it is possible for you to do all things in the name of God, and so to give glory to Christ. Do not think you need be a minister to dedicate yourself to Christ. Many a man has disgraced the pulpit, and many a man has sanctified an anvil; many a man has dishonored the cushion upon which he preached, and many a man has conscerated the plough with which he has turned the soil. We ought in all our business, as well as in our sacred acts, to do all for Christ. Let me illustrate this. A merchant in America had devoted a large part of his money for the maintenance of the cause of Christ; and one said to him, "What a sacrifice you make every year." Said he "Not so. I have a clerk: suppose I give that clerk fifty pounds to pay a schoolmaster, and when he goes to the schoolmaster, he should say, "Here is your salary; what a sacrifice it is to me to give you that! 'Why,' the schoolmaster would say, 'Sir, it is not yours, it is no sacrifice at all to you.'" So said this good man, "I gave up all when I came to God, I became his steward, and no longer head of the firm. I made God the head of the firm, and I became the steward. And now when I distribute of my wealth, I only distribute it as his allmoner; and it is no sacrifice at all." If we talk of sacrifices we make a mistake. Ought not that to be the spirit of our religion? It should be made a sacrifice at first, ant then afterwards there should be a voluntary offering of all. "I keep my shop open," said one, "and earn money for God. I and my family live out of it God allows us to do it; for as a minister lives by the gospel, he allows me to live by my business, and he permits me to provide a competence for old age, but that is not my object." "I sell these goods," said another one, but the profit I get, God has; that which I require for my own food and raiment, and for my household, that God giveth back to me, for he has said, bread shall be given me, and water shall be sure; but the rest is God's not mine; I do it all for God." Now you do not understand that theory, do you? It is not business. No, sirs, but if your hearts were right you would understand it, for it is God's gospel the giving up all to Christ; the giving up of everything to his cause. When we do that, then shall we understand this passage "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" For your business, though it is carried on in your name, will, unknown to men, be carried on in God's name too. Let me beg of you, however, not to tell everybody, if you do it I have known some that hang the gospel in the window, more attractively, sometimes, than ribbons. I do hate the cant of a man, who, when you go to buy ribbons or pay a bill, asks you to have a tract, or invites you into the beck parlour to pray; you will see at once what he is after. He wants to sanctify his counter, so that as people catch flies with honey, he may catch you with religion. Put your religion where it will come out, but do not cant about it. If a stranger should call upon you, and in a moment exclaim "Let us pray;" your best policy is to let him have the street to do it in, and you should say, "Thank you, I do my praying alone mostly. I see what it is. If I thought you had the spirit of prayer, and it had been the proper season, I would have joined with you with all my heart." But the religion of a man who will just step into your house, to let you see what an extraordinary pious man he is, is either very sick, or else it is a galvanized thing that has got no life in it at all. I regard prayer as a very sacred thing. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou givest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." For verily if you do it to be seen of men you have your reward: and a poor one it is, a little praise for a minute, and it is all gone. But, nevertheless, do not run into one extreme by running from another. Conscerate your business by your religion. Do not paint your religion on your side-board; but keep it ready whenever you want it, and I am sure you will want it always. Says one, "How can I do God's business? I have no talent, I have no money; all I earn in the week I have to spend, and I have scarce money enough to pay my rent. I have no talent; I could not teach in a Sunday-school." Brother, have you a child? Well, there is one door of usefulness for you. Sister, you are very poor; no one knows you, you have a husband, and however drunken he may be, there is a door of usefulness for you. Bear up under all his insults, be patient under all his taunts and jeers, and you can serve God, and do God's business so." "But, sir I am sick, it is only to-day I am able to get out at all; I am always on my bed." You can do your Master's business, by Iying on a bed of suffering, for him, if you do it patiently. The soldier who is ordered to lie in the trenches, is just as obedient as the man who is ordered to storm the breach. In everything you do you can serve your God. Oh, when the heart is rightly tuned in this matter we shall never make excuses, and say, "I cannot be about my Father's business." We shall always find some business of his to do. In the heroic wars of the Swiss, we read that the mothers would bring cannon-balls for the fathers to fire upon the enemy, and the children would run about and gather up the shot that sometimes fell, when ammunition ran short. So that all did something. We hate war, but we will use the figure in the war of Christ. There is something for you all to do. Oh I let us who love our Master, let us who are bound to serve him by the ties of gratitude let us say, "Did ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" And now I close up by addressing all the Lord's people here, and urging them to serve God with all their hearts, by giving them two or three very brief and very earnest reasons. Be about your Father's business with all earnestness, because that is the way of usefulness. You cannot do your own business and God's too. You cannot serve God and self any more than you can serve God and mammon. If you make your own business God's business, you will do your business well; and you will be useful in your day and generation. Never shall we see any great revival in the church, or any great triumphs of religion until the Christian world is more touched with the spirit of entire consecration to Christ. When the world shall see as in earnest then God will bring men in; not before. We go to our pulpits in half heartedness: we go to our place of worship mere shells without the kernel. We give the outward ceremony and take away the heart. We shall never see Christ's cause triumphant so. Would you be useful? Would you extend your Master's empire? Then be about your Father's business. Again, would you be happy? Be about your Father's business. Oh! it is sweet employment to serve your Father. You need not turn aside from the way of business to do that. If your heart be right, you can serve God in weighing a pound of tea as much as in preaching a sermon. You can serve God as much in driving a horse and cart as in singing a hymn serve God in standing behind your counter. At the right time and the right season, as much as sitting in your pews. And oh, how sweet to think, "I am doing this for God. My shop is opened on God's behalf; I am seeking to win profit for God; I am seeking to get business for God 's cause, that I may be able to devote more to it, and prosper it more by what I am able voluntarily to consecrate to him." You will have a happiness when you rise, such as you never knew before, if you can think, "I am going to serve God to-day;" and when you end at night, instead of saying, "I have lost so much," you will be able to say, "Not I, my God has lost it. But the silver and the gold are his and if he does not care to have either of them very well; let them go; he shall have it one way or another. I do not want it; if he chooses to take it from me in bad debts, well and good. Let me give to him in another way, it will be the same; I will revere him continually, even in my daily avocations." And this dear friends, will be the way and I trust you can be moved by this this will be the way to have eternal glory at the last, not for the sake of what you do, but as the gracious reward of God for what you have done. "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." Would you like to go to heaven alone? I do not think you would. My happiest thought is this, that when I die, if it shall be my privilege to enter into rest in the bosom of Christ I know I shall not enter heaven alone. Thousands have been there, whose hearts have been pricked and have been drawn to Christ under the labors of my ministry. Oh! what a pleasant thing to flap one's wings to heaven and have a multitude behind, and when you enter heaven to say, "Here am I and the children thou hast given me! "You cannot preach, perhaps, but you can travail in birth with children for God, in a spiritual sense, in another way; for if you help the cause you shall share the honour too. You do that, perhaps, which is not known among men yet you are the instrument, and God shall crown your head with glory amongst those that "shine as the stars for ever and ever." I think, dear Christian friends, I need say no more, except to bid you remember that you owe so much to Christ for having saved you from hell; you owe so much to that blood which redeemed you that you are in duty bound to say
"Here, Lord, I give myself away; 'Tis all that I can do."
Go out now, and if you are tempted by the world, may the Spirit enable you to reply, "I must be about my Father's business." Go out, and if they call you fanatical, let them laugh at you as much as you like, tell them you must be about your Father's business. Go on, and conquer. God be with you. And now farewell, with this last word, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be damned." Faith in Christ is the only way of salvation. Ye who know your guilt cast yourselves on Christ, and then dedicate yourselves to him. So shall you have joy here, and glory everlasting in the kind of the blessed, where bliss is without alloy, and joy without end.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Luke 2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 12 / Ordinary 17