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Consolation in Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, December 2nd, 1860, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At Exeter Hall, Strand.
"If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies." Philippians 2:1 .
THE language of man has received a new coinage of words since the time of his perfection in Eden. Adam could scarce have understood the word consolation, for the simple reason that he did not understand in Eden the meaning of the word sorrow. O how has our language been swollen through the floods of our griefs and tribulations! It was not sufficiently wide and wild for man when he was driven out of the garden into the wide, wide world. After he had once eaten of the tree of knowledge of good and evil, as his knowledge was extended so must the language be by which he could express his thoughts and feelings. But, my hearers, when Adam first needed the word consolation, there was a time when he could not find the fair jewel itself. Until that hour when the first promise was uttered, when the seed of the woman was declared as being the coming man who should bruise the serpent's head, Adam might masticate and digest the word sorrow, but he could never season and flavour it with the hope or thought of consolation, or if the hope and thought might sometimes flit across his mind like a lightning flash in the midst of the tempest's dire darkness, yet it must have been too transient, too unsubstantial, to have made glad his heart, or to soothe his sorrows. Consolation is the dropping of a gentle dew from heaven on desert hearts beneath. True consolation, such as can reach the heart, must be one of the choicest gifts of divine mercy; and surely we are not erring from sacred Scripture when we avow that in its full meaning, consolation can be found nowhere save in Christ, who has come down from heaven, and who has again ascended to heaven, to provide strong and everlasting consolation for those whom he has bought with his blood.
You will remember, my dear friends, that the Holy Spirit, during the present dispensation, is revealed to us as the Comforter. It is the Spirit's business to console and cheer the hearts of God's people. He does convince of sin; he does illuminate and instruct; but still the main part of his business lies in making glad the hearts of the renewed, in confirming the weak, and lifting up all those that be bowed down. Whatever the Holy Ghost may not be, he is evermore the Comforter to the Church; and this age is peculiarly the dispensation of the Holy Spirit, in which Christ cheers us not by his personal presence, as he shall do by-and-bye, but by te indwelling and constant abiding of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. Now, mark you, as the Holy Spirit is the Comforter, Christ is the comfort. The Holy Spirit consoles, but Christ is the consolation. If I may use the figure, the Holy Spirit is the Physician, but Christ is the medicine. He heals the wound, but it is by applying the holy ointment of Christ's name and grace. He takes not of his own things, but of the things of Christ. We are not consoled to-day by new revelations, but by the old revelation explained, enforced, and lit up with new splendour by the presence and power of the Holy Ghost the Comforter. If we give to the Holy Spirit the greek name of Paraclete, as we sometimes do, then our heart confers on our blessed Lord Jesus the title of the Paraclesis. If the one be the Comforter, the other is the comfort.
I shall try this morning, first, to show how Christ in his varied positions is the consolation of the children of God in their varied trials; then we shall pass on, secondly, to observe that Christ in his unchanging nature is a consolation to the children of God in their continual sorrows; and lastly, I shall close by dwelling awhile upon the question as to whether Christ is a consolation to us putting it personally, "Is Christ a present and available consolation for me."
I. First, CHRIST IN HIS VARIED POSITIONS IS A CONSOLATION FOR THE DIVERS ILLS OF THE CHILDREN OF GOD.
Our Master's history is a long and eventful one; but every step of it may yield abundant comfort to the children of God. If we track him from the highest throne of glory to the cross of deepest woe, and then through the grave up again the shining steeps of heaven, and onward through his meditorial kingdom, on to the day when he shall deliver up the throne to God even our Father, throughout every part of that wondrous pathway there may be found the flowers of consolation growing plenteously, and the children of God have but to stoop and gather them. "All his paths drop fatness, all his garments which he wears in his different offices, smell of myrrh, and aloes and cassia, out of the ivory palaces, whereby he makes his people glad."
To begin at the beginning, there are times when we look upon the past with the deepest grief. The withering of Eden's flowers has often caused a fading in the garden of our souls. We have mourned exceedingly that we have been driven out to till the ground with the sweat of our brow that the curse should have glanced on us through the sin of our first parent, and we have been ready to cry, "Woe worth the day in which our parent stretched forth his hand to touch the forbidden fruit." Would to God that he had rested in unsullied purity, that we his sons and daughters might have lived beneath an unclouded sky, might never have mourned the ills of bodily pain or of spiritual distress. To meet this very natural source of grief, I bid you consider Christ in old eternity. Open now the eye of thy faith, believer, and see Christ as thine Eternal Covenant-head stipulating to redeem thee even before thou hadst become a bond-slave, bound to deliver even before thou hadst worn the chain. Think, I pray thee, of the eternal council in which thy restoration was planned and declared even before thy fall, and in which thou wast established in an eternal salvation even before the necessity of that salvation had begun. O, my brethren, how it cheers our hearts to think of the anticipating mercies of God! He anticipated our fall, foreknew the ills which it would bring upon us, and provided in his eternal decree of predestinating love an effectual remedy for all our diseases, a certain deliverance from all our sorrows. I see thee, thou fellow of the Eternal, thou equal of the Almighty God! Thy goings forth were of old. I see thee lift thy right hand and engage thyself to fulfil thy Father's will "In the volume of the book it is written of me, 'I delight to do thy will, O God.'" I see thee forming, signing, and sealing that eternal covenant by which the souls of all the redeemed were there and then delivered from the curse, and made sure and certain inheritors of thy kingdom and of thy glory. In this respect Christ shines out as the consolation of his people.
Again, if ever your minds dwell with sadness upon the fact that we are at this day absent from the Lord, because we are present in the body, think of the great truth that Jesus Christ of old had delights with the sons of men, and he delights to commune and have fellowship with his people now. Remember that your Lord and Master appeared to Abraham in the plains of Mamre under the disguise of a pilgrim. Abraham was a pilgrim, and Christ to show his sympathy with his servant, became a pilgrim too. Did he not appear also to Jacob at the brook Jabbok? Jacob was a wrestler, and Jesus appears there as a wrestler too. Did he not stand before Moses under the guise and figure of a flame in the midst of a bush? Was not Moses at the very time the representative of a people who were like a bush burning with fire and yet not consumed? Did he not stand before Joshua Joshua the leader of Israel's troops, and did he not appear to him as the captain of the Lord's host? And do you not well remember that when the three holy children walked in the midst of the fiery furnace, he was in the midst of the fire too, not as a king, but as one in the fire with them? Cheer then thy heart with this consoling inference. If Christ appeared to his servants in the olden time, and manifested himself to them as bone of their bone, and flesh of their flesh, in all their trials and their troubles, he will do no less to thee to-day; he will be with thee in passing through the fire; he will be thy rock, thy shield, and thy high tower; he will be thy song, thy banner, and thy crown of rejoicing. Fear not, he who visited the saints of old will surely not be long absent from his children to-day; his delights are still with his people, and still will he walk with us through this weary wilderness. Surely this makes Christ a most blessed consolation for his Israel.
And now to pursue the Master's footsteps, as he comes out of the invisible glories of Deity, and wears the visible garment of humanity. Let us view the babe of Bethlehem, the child of Nazareth, the Son of Man. See him, he is in every respect a man. "Of the substance of his mother" is he made; in the substance of our flesh he suffers; in the trials of our flesh he bows his head; under the weakness of our flesh he prays, and in the temptation of our flesh he is kept and maintained by the grace within. You to-day are tried and troubled, and you ask for consolation. What better can be afforded you than what is presented to you in the fact that Jesus Christ is one with you in your nature that he has suffered all that you are now suffering that your pathway has been aforetime trodden by his sacred foot that the cup of which you drink is a cup which he has drained to the very bottom that the river through which you pass is one through which he swam, and every wave and billow which rolls over your head did in old time roll over him. Come! art thou ashamed to suffer what thy Master suffered? Shall the disciple be above his Master, and the servant above his Lord? Shall he die upon a cross, and wilt not thou bear the cross? Must he be crowned with thorns, and shalt thou be crowned with laurel? Is he to be pierced in hands and feet, and are thy members to feel no pain? O cast away the fond delusion I pray thee, and look to him who "endured the cross, despising the shame," and be ready to endure and to suffer even as he did.
And now behold our Master's humanity clothed even as ours has been since the fall. He comes not before us in the purple of a king, in the garb of the rich and the respectable, but he wears a dress in keeping with his apparent origin; he is a carpenter's son, and he wears a dress which becomes his station. View him, ye sons of poverty, as he stands before you in his seamless garment, the common dress of the peasant; and if you have felt this week the load of want if you have suffered and are suffering this very day the ills connected with poverty, pluck up courage, and find a consolation in the fact that Christ was poorer than you are that he knew more of the bitterness of want than you ever yet can guess. You cannot say, "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but I have not where to lay my head;" or if you could go as far as that, yet have you never known a forty-day's fast. You have some comforts left to you; you do know at least the sweet taste of bread to the hungry man, and of rest to the weary; but these things were often denied to him. Look at him, then, and see if there be not to you comfort in Christ.
We pass now, O Jesus, from thy robe of poverty to that scene of shame in which thy garments were rent from thee, and thou didst hang naked before the sun. Children of God, if there be one place more than another where Christ becomes the joy and comfort of his people, it is where he plunged deepest into the depths of woe. Come, see him, I pray you, in the garden of Gethsemane; behold him, as his heart is so full of love that he cannot hold it in so full of sorrow that it must find a vent. Behold the bloody sweat as it distils from every pore of his body, and falls in gouts of gore upon the frozen ground. See him as all red with his own blood, wrapped in a bloody mantle of his own gore, he is brought before Herod and Pilate, and the Sanhedrim. See him now as they scourge him with their knotted whips, and afresh encrimson him, as though it were not ehough for him to be dyed once in scarlet, but he must again be enwrapped in purple. See him, I say, now that they have stripped him naked. Behold him as they drive the nails into his hand and into his feet. Look up and see the sorrowful image of your dolorous Lord. O mark him, as the ruby drops stand on the thorn-crown, and make it the blood-red diadem of the King of misery. O see him as his bones are out of joint, and he is poured out like water and brought into the dust of death. "Behold and see, was there ever sorrow like unto his sorrow that is done unto him?" All ye that pass by, draw near and look upon this spectacle of grief. Behold the Emperor of woe who never had an equal or a rival in his agonies! Come and see him; and if I read not the words of consolation written in lines of blood all down his side, then these eyes have never read a word in any book; for if there be not consolation in a murdered Christ, there is no joy, no peace to any heart. If in that finished ransom price, if in that efficacious blood, if in that all-accepted sacrifice, there be not joy, ye harpers of heaven, there is no joy in you, and the right hand of God shall know no pleasures for evermore. I am persuaded, men and brethren, that we have only to sit more at the Cross to be less troubled with our doubts, and our fears, and our woes. We have but to see his sorrows, and lose our sorrows; we have to see his wounds, and heal our own. If we would live, it must be by contemplation of his death; if we would rise to dignity it must be by considering his humiliation and his sorrow.
"Lord, thy death and passion give
Strength and comfort in my need,
Every hour while here I live,
On thy love my soul shall feed."
But come now, troubled heart, and follow the dead body of thy Master, for though dead, it is as full of consolation as when alive. It is now no more naked; the loving hands of Joseph of Arimathea, and Nicodemus, and the Magdalene and the other Mary, have wrapped it in cerements, and have laid it in the new tomb. Come, saints, not to weep, but to dry your tears. You have been all your lifetime subject to fear of death: come, break your bonds asunder; be free from this fear. Where your Master sleeps, you may surely find an easy couch. What more could you desire than to lie upon the bed of your royal Solomon? The grave is now no more a charnel-house or a dark prison; his having entered it makes it a blessed retiring-room, a sacred bath in which the King's Esthers purify their bodies, to make them fit for the embraces of their Lord. It becomes now not the gate of annihilation, but the portal of eternal bliss, a joy to be anticipated, a privilege to be desired. "Fearless we lay us in the tomb, and sleep the night away, for thou art here to break the gloom, and call us back to day."
I am certain, brethren, that all the consolations which wise men can ever afford in a dying hour will never be equal to that which is afforded by the record, that Jesus Christ ascended from the tomb. The maxims of philosophy, the endearments of affection, and the music of hope, will be a very poor compensation for the light of Jesus' grave. Death is the only mourner at Jesus' tomb, and while the whole earth rejoices at the sorrow of its last enemy, I would be all too glad to die, that I might know him, and the power of his resurrection. Heir of heaven! if thou wouldst be rid once for all of every doubting thought about the hour of thy dissolution, look, I pray thee, to Christ risen from the dead. Put thy finger into the print of the nails, and thrust thy hand into his side, and be not faithless but believing. He is risen; he saw no corruption; the worms could not devour him; and as Jesus Christ has risen from the dead, he has become the first fruits of them that slept. Inasmuch as he has risen, thou shalt rise. He has rolled the stone away, not for himself alone, but for thee also. He has unwrapped the grave-clothes, not for his own sake, but for thy sake too, and thou shalt surely stand in the latter day upon the earth, when he shall be here, and in thy flesh thou shalt see God.
Time would fail us, if we should attempt to track the Master in his glorious pathway after his resurrection. Let it suffice us briefly to observe that, having led his disciples out unto a mountain, where he has delighted often to commune with them, he was suddenly taken up from them, and a cloud received him out of their sight. We think we may conjecture, by the help of Scripture, what transpired after that cloud had covered him. Did not the angels
"Bring his chariot from on high
To bear him to his throne,
Clap their triumphant wings and cry,
His glorious work is done?"
Do you not see him, as he mounts his triumphal chariot,
"And angels chant the solemn lay,
Lift up your heads, ye golden gates,
Ye everlasting doors give away?"
Behold angels gazing from the battlements of heaven, replying to their comrades who escort the ascending Son of Man. "Who is the King of Glory?" And this time those who accompany the Master sing more sweetly and more loudly than before, while they cry, "The Lord strong and mighty, the Lord mighty in battle! Lift up your heads, O ye gates, and be ye lifted up, ye everlasting doors, that the King of Glory may come in." And now the doors
"Loose all their bars of massy light,
And wide unfold the radiant scene,"
and he enters. "He claims those mansions as his right," and all the angels rise to "receive the King of Glory in." Behold him, as he rides in triumph through heaven's streets; see Death and Hell bound at his chariot wheels. Hark to the "Hosannas" of the spirits of the just made perfect! Hear how cherubim and seraphim roll out in thunders their everlasting song "Glory be unto thee; glory be unto thee, thou Son of God, for thou wast slain and thou hast redeemed the world by thy blood." See him as he mounts his throne and near his Father sits. Behold the benignant complacency of the paternal Deity. Hear him as he accepts him and gives him a name which is above every name. And I say, my brethren, in the midst of your tremblings, and doubtings, and fearings, anticipate the joy which you shall have, when you shall share in this triumph, for know you not that you ascended up on high in him? He went not up to heaven alone, but as the representative of all the blood-bought throng. You rode in that triumphal chariot with him; you were exalted on high, and made to sit far above principalities and powers in him; for we are risen in him, we are exalted in Christ. Even at this very day in Christ that Psalm is true "Thou hast put all things under his feet; thou madest him to have dominion over all the works of thy hands." Come, poor trembler, thou art little in thine own esteem, and but a worm and no man! Rise, I say, to the height of thy nobility; for thou art in Christ greater than angels be, more magnified and glorified by far. God gives you grace, ye who have faith, that ye may now, in the fact of Jesus Christ's exaltation, find consolation for yourself!
But now to-day methinks I see the Master, as he stands before his Father's throne, dressed in the garments of a priest; upon his breast I see the Urim and Thummim glittering with the bejewelled remembrances of his people. In his hand I see still the remembrance of his sacrifice, the nail mark; and there I see still upon his feet the impress of the laver of blood in which he washed himself not as the priest of old with water but with his own gore. I hear him plead with authority before his Father's face, "I will that they also whom thou hast given me be with me where I am." O my poor prayers, ye shall be heard! O my faint groans, ye shall be answered! Oh, my poor troubled soul, thou art safe, for
"Jesus pleads and must prevail,
His cause can never, never fail."
Come, my poor heart, lift up thyself now from the dunghill; shake thyself from the dust; ungird thy sackcloth and put on thy beautiful garments. He is our advocate to-day, our eloquent and earnest pleader, and he prevails with God. The Father smiles he smiles on Christ; he smiles on us in answer to Jesus Christ's intercession. Is he not here also the consolation of Israel?
I only remark once more that he who has gone up into heaven shall so come in like manner as he was seen to go up into heaven. He ascended in clouds, "Behold he cometh with clouds." He went up on high with sound of trumpet and with shout of angels. Behold he cometh! The silver trumpet shall soon sound. 'Tis midnight: the hours are rolling wearily along; the virgins wise and foolish are all asleep. But the cry shall soon be heard "Behold the bridegroom cometh, go ye forth to meet him." That same Jesus who was crucified shall come in glory. The hand that was pierced shall grasp the sceptre. Beneath his arm he shall gather up all the sceptres of all kings; monarchies shall be the sheaves, and he shall be the kingly reaper. On his head there shall be the many crowns of universal undisputed dominion. "He shall stand in the latter day upon the earth." His feet shall tread on the mount of Olivet, and his people shall be gathered in the valley of Jehoshaphat. Lo, the world's great battle is almost begun; the trumpet sounds the beginning of the battle of Armageddon. To the fight, ye warriors of Christ, to the fight; for it is your last conflict, and over the bodies of your foes ye shall rush to meet your Lord he fighting on the one side by his coming, you on the other side by drawing near to him. You shall meet him in the solemn hour of victory. The dead in Christ shall rise first, and you that are alive and remain shall be changed in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last triumphant sounding of the dread tremendous trump. Then shall you know to the full how Christ can console you for all your sorrows, all your shame, and all your neglect which you have received from the hand of men. Ay, to-day bethink you, there awaits the recompense of an earthly splendour for your earthly poverty; there awaits you earthly dignity for your earthly shame. You shall not only have spiritual, but you shall have temporal blessings. He who takes away the curse will take it away not only from your soul, but from the very ground on which you tread. He who redeems you shall redeem not only your spirit, but your body. Your eyes shall see your Redeemer; your hands shall be lifted up in acclamation, and your feet shall bear your leaping joys in the procession of his glory, in your very body in which you have suffered for him you shall sit with him upon the throne and judge the nations of the earth. These things, I say, are all full of the purest and highest consolation to the children of God.
II. Having taken nearly all my time upon the first point, I can only say a word or two upon the second and on the third. The second point was to be this CHRIST IN HIS UNCHANGING NATURE; a consolation for our continual sorrows.
Christ is to his people a surpassing consolation. Talk of the consolations of philosophy? We have all the philosopher can pretend to; but we have it in a higher degree. Speak of the charms of music which can lull our sorrows to a blessed sleep?
"Sweeter sounds than music knows,
Charm us in our Saviour's name."
"Jesus, the very thought of thee,
With rapture fills my breast."
Speak we of the joys of frienship? and sweet they are indeed; but "there is a friend that sticketh closer than a brother" "a brother born for adversity." There is one who is better than all friends, more able to cheer than those who are darest and nearest to our hearts. Or, speak we of the joys of hope? and certainly hope can console us when nothing else can do it. He is our hope. We cast the anchor of our hope into that which is within the veil, whither the forerunner hath for us entered. The consolations of Christ are unrivalled by any which can be offered by wit, by wisdom, by mirth, by hope itself; they are incomparable, and can never be surpassed.
Again, the consolations of Christ, from the fact of his unchanging nature, are unfailing.
"When every earthly prop gives way,
He still is all our strength and stay."
Look you at Job, and see the picture of how Christ can console. The messenger rushes in "The Sabeans have taken away the oxen and the asses!" "Well, well," Job might console himself and say, "but the sheep are left." "But the fire of God hath fallen on the sheep! and the Chaldeans have carried away the camels and slain the servants!" "Alas!" the good man might say, "but my children are left, and if they be spared, then I can still have joy." "The wind has come from the wilderness, and smitten the four corners of the house, and all thy sons and daughters are dead!" Ah! well-a-day, penniless and childless, the patriarch might weep; but, looking on his wife, he would say, "There still remaineth one sweet comforter, my well-beloved spouse." She bids him "curse God and die;" "speaking as one of the foolish women speaketh." Yet might Job say, "Though my wife hath failed me, there remaineth at least three friends; there they sit with me on the dunghill, and they will console me." But they speak bitterness, till he cries, "Miserable comforters are ye all." Well, but at least he has his own body in health, has he not? No, he sits down upon a dunghill, and scrapes himself with a potsherd, for his sores become intolerable. Well, well, "skin for skin, yea, all that a man hath will he give for his life." He may at least cheer himself with the fact, that he lives. "Why should a living man complain?" Yes, but he fears he is about to die. And now comes out the grandeur of his hope: "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and though the worms devour this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." All the other windows are darkened; but the sun shines in at the oriel window of redemption. All the other doors are shut; but this great door of hope and joy still stands wide open. All other wells are dry; but this flows with an unceasing stream. Brothers and sisters, when all things else depart, an unchanging Christ shall be your unchanging joy.
Furthermore, the consolations of Christ are all powerful consolations. When a poor soul is so deep in the mire that you cannot lift it with the lever of eloquence, nor draw it up with the hands of sympathy, nor raise it with wings of hope, he can touch it with his finger and it can spring up from the mire, and put his feet upon a rock, and feel the new song in its mouth and its goings well established. There is no form of melancholy which will not yield before the grace of God; there is no shape of distress which will not give way before the divine energy of the Holy Ghost the Comforter, when he uses Christ as the consolation.
Again: this consolation is everlasting consolation. It consoled you, O aged sire, when as a youth you gave your heart to Christ; it was your joy in the mid-winter of your manhood; it has become your strength and your song in the days of your old age; when tottering on your staff you shall go down to Jordan's brink, he will be your consolation then. In the prospect of your coming dissolution, yea, when you walk through the valley of the shadow of death, you shall fear no evil, for he is with you; his rod and his staff shall comfort you. All other things shall pass away as a dream when you awaketh; but this substantial support shall abide with you in the midst of the swellings of Jordan, in the hour of the departure of your spirit from your body.
And then remember that this is a consolation which is always within the believer's reach. He is "a very present help in time of trouble." Ye may always cheer your heart with Christ when other things are far away. When a friend visits you not, and your chamber becomes lonely when spouse has forgotten to speak the kind word to you, and children have become ungrateful, he will make your bed in your sickness, he will be your never-failing friend and abide with you in every dark and gloomy hour, till he brings you into his dear arms, where you will be emparadised for ever and ever.
III. I close now with my last point the grave and serious question, IS CHRIST AN AVAILABLE CONSOLATION FOR ME?
Who art thou, friend? Art thou one who needs no consolation? Hast thou a righteousness of thine own? Let me put it in thine own words. You are a good man, kind to the poor, charitable, upright, generous, holy. You believe there may be some faults in yourself, but they must be very few, and you trust that what with your own merits and with God's mercy you may enter heaven. In the name of God, I do solemnly assure you, that Christ is not an available consolation for you. Christ will have nothing to do with you, so long as you have anything to do with yourself. If you are trusting in any measure whatever upon aught that you have ever done or hope to do, you are trusting in a lie, and Christ will never be friends with a lie. He will never help you to do what he came to do himself. If you will take his work as it is, as a finished work, well and good; but if you must needs add to it your own, God shall add unto you the plagues which are written in this Book, but he shall by no means give to you any of the promises and the comforts which Christ can afford.
But instead thereof, I will suppose that I address myself this morning to a man who says, "I was once, I think, a believer in Christ; I made a profession of religion, but I fell from it, and I have lost for years all the hope and joy I ever had; I think I was a presumptuous man, that I pretended to have what I never had, and yet at the time I really thought I had it. May I think that there is consolation in Christ for a backslider and a traitor like me? Often, sir, do I feel as if the doom of Judas must be mine as if I must perish miserably, like Demas, who loved this present world." Ah! backslider, backslider, God speaks to thee this morning, and he says, "Return ye backsliding children of men, for I am married to you;" and if married, there has never been a divorce between Christ and you. Has he put you away? Unto which of his creditors has he sold you? Where do you read in his Word, that he has divided from the affection of his heart one whose name was ever written in his Book? Come, come, backslider, come again to the cross. He who received you once will receive you again. Come where the flood is flowing; the blood that washed you once, can wash you yet once more. Come, come, thou art naked, and poor, and miserable; the raiment which was given to thee once, shall array thee again with beauty. The unsearchable riches which were opened up to thee aforetime, shall be thine again.
"To thy Father's bossom press'd,
Once again a child confess'd,
From his hand no more to roam,
Come, backsliding sinner, come."
But I hear another say, "I am not a backslider, but simply one who desires to be saved. I can say honestly, I would give my right arm from its socket if I might but be saved. Why, sir, if I had ten thousand worlds I would freely cast them away as pebble stones, and worthless, if I might but find Christ." Poor soul, and does the devil tell thee thou shalt never have Christ? Why, thou hast a warrant to lay hold on Christ to-day. "No," sayest thou, "I have no right whatever." The fact that thou sayest thou hast no right should at least comfort the minister in addressing himself freely to thee. The right of a sinner to come to Christ does not lie in the sinner, nor in any feelings which the sinner may have had; it lies in the fact that Christ commands him to come. If one of you should receive as you went out of younder door a command to go at once to Windsor, and have an interview with the Queen, as soon as you had received the order and were sure it came from her, you might say, "Well, but if I had known this, I should have put on other clothes;" but the order is peremptory, "Come now; come just as you are;" you would, I think, without any very great doubt, though greatly wondering, take your place and ride there at once. When you came to the gate, some tall grenadier might ask you what you were at. "Why," he might say, "you are not fit to come and see Her Majesty; you are not a gentleman; you have not so many hundreds a year; how can you expect to be admitted?" You show the command, and he lets you pass on. You come to another door, and there is an usher there. "You are not in a court dress," says he; "you are not properly robed for the occasion." You show the command, and he lets you pass on. But suppose when at last you should come into the ante-room you should say, "Now I dare not go in; I am not fit; I feel I shall not know how to behave myself." Suppose you are silly enough not to go, you would be disobedient and ten times more foolish in disobeying than you could have been by any blunders in behaviour if you had obeyed. Now it is just so with you to-day. Christ says, "Come unto me." He does not merely invite you, because he knows you would think you did not deserve the invitation; but he gives the command, and he bids me say to you, "Repent, and be baptized every one of you;" he bids me command you in his name, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shalt be saved." Of his grace and mercy he puts it as a command. "But," you say. Ah! what right have you to say "but" to the Lord's commands? Again,I say, away with your "buts." What right have you to be "butting" at his laws and his commands. "But," you say, "do hear me for a moment." I will hear you then. "Sir, I cannot imagine that if such a hard-hearted sinner as I am were really to trust Christ I should be saved." The English of that is, that you give God the lie. He says you shall be, and do you think he speaks an untruth? "Ah!" says another, "but it is too good to be true. I cannot believe that just as I am, if I trust in Christ, my sin shall be forgiven." Again, I say, the simple English of that is, that you think you know better than God; and so you do in fact stand up and say to his promise, "Thou art false." He says, "Him that cometh unto me I will in no wise cast out." "Ah!" you say, "but that does not mean me?" Can any language speak more plainly? "Him. What him? Why, any "him" in the world.
"Yes," says one, "but the invitations are made to character 'Come unto me all ye that labour and are heavy laden;' I am afraid I am not heavy laden enough?" Yes, but you will mark, while the invitation is given to character, yet the promise is not given to the character; it is given to those who come "Come unto me, and I will give you rest;" and while that one invitation may be confined to the weary and heavy laden, yet there are scores of others that stand as wide and free as the very air we breathe. If you have that qualification, do not come even with it, because you are unqualified when you think you are qualified; you are unfit when you think you are fit; and if you have a sense of need, which you think makes you fit to come to Christ, it shows you are not fit and do not know your need; for no man knows his need till he thinks he does not know his need, and no man is in a right state to come to Christ till he thinks he is not in a right state to come to Christ. But he who feels that he has not one good thought or one good feeling to recommend him, he is the man who may come. He who says, "But I may not come," is the very man that is bidden to come. Besides, my friends, it is not what you think, or what I think; it is what Christ says; and is it not written by the hand of the Apostle John, "This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ whom he hath sent?" Men who say it is not the duty of sinners to believe, I cannot think what they make out of such a text as that "This is the commandment, that ye believe on Jesus Christ, whom he hath sent;" and that one where God expressely says, "He that believeth not is condemned already, because he believeth not." Why, I should think I was addressing heathens, if I addressed a company of men who thought that God did not command men to repent; for Scripture is so plain upon the point, and I say, if God commands thee to do it, thou mayest do it. Let the devil say "Nay," but God says "Yes." Let him stand and push you back; but say to him, "Nay, Satan, nay, I come here in God's name;" and as devils fear and fly before the name of Christ, so will Satan and thy fears all fly before his command. He commands thee to believe that is, to trust him. Trust him, soul, trust him; right or wrong, trust him.
But some of you want a great temptation, and a great deal of despair, before you will trust him. Well, the Lord will send it to you, if you will not trust him without it. I remember John Bunyan says he had a black temptation, and it did him a great deal of good; for, said he, "Before I had the temptation I used always to be questioning a promise, and saying, 'May I come, or may I not come?'" But at last he said, "Yea, often when I have been making to the promise, I have seen as if the Lord would refuse my soul for ever: I was often as if I had run upon the pike, and as if the Lord had thrust at me, to keep me from him as with a flaming sword." Ah! and perhaps you may be driven to that. I pray you may; but I would infinitely rather that the sweet love and grace of God would entice you now to trust Jesus Christ just as you are. He will not deceive you, sinner; he will not fail you. Trusting him, you shall build on a sure foundation, and find him who is the consolation of Israel and the joy of all his saints.
The Exaltation of Christ
Delivered on Sabbath Morning, November 2, 1856, by the
REV. C. H. Spurgeon
At New Park Street Chapel, Southwark.
NOTE: This sermon was Spurgeon's first message following the disaster at the Music Hall, Royal Surrey Gardens in which seven people lost their lives when some miscreants purposely started a panic while Mr. Spurgeon was preaching.
"Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11 .
I ALMOST regret this morning that I have ventured to occupy this pulpit, because I feel utterly unable to preach to you for your profit. I had thought that the quiet and repose of the last fortnight had removed the effects of that terrible catastrophe; but on coming back to the same spot again, and more especially, standing here to address you, I feel somewhat of those same painful emotions which well-nigh prostrated me before. You will therefore excuse me this morning, if I make no allusion to that solemn event, or scarcely any. I could not preach to you upon a subject that should be in the least allied to it. I should be obliged to be silent if I should bring to my remembrance that terrific scene in the midst of which it was my solemn lot to stand. God shall overrule it doubtless. It may not have been so much by the malice of men, as some have asserted; it was perhaps simple wickedness an intention to disturb a congregation; but certainly with no thought of committing so terrible a crime as that of the murder of those unhappy creatures. God forgive those who were the instigators of that horrid act! They have my forgiveness from the depths of my soul. It shall not stop us, however; we are not in the least degree daunted by it. I shall preach there again yet; ay, and God shall give us souls there, and Satan's empire shall tremble more than ever. "God is with us; who is he that shall be against us?" The text I have selected is one that has comforted me, and in a great measure, enabled me to come here to-day the single reflection upon it had such a power of comfort on my depressed spirit. It is this: "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, of things in heaven, and things on earth, and things under the earth; And that every tongue should confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." Philippians 2:9-11 .
I shall not attempt to preach upon this text; I shall only make a few remarks that have occurred to my own mind; for I could not preach to-day; I have been utterly unable to study, but I thought that even a few words might be acceptable to you this morning, and I trust to your loving hearts to excuse them. Oh, Spirit of God, magnify thy strength in thy servant's weakness, and enable him to honour his Lord, even when his soul is cast down within him.
HEN the mind is intensely set upon one object, however much it may by divers calamities be tossed to and fro, it invariably returns to the place which it had chosen to be its dwelling place. Ye have noticed in the case of David. When the battle had been won by his warriors, they returned flushed with victory. David's mind had doubtless suffered much perturbation in the mean time; he had dreaded alike the effects of victory and defeat; but have you not noticed how his mind in one moment returned to the darling object of his affections? "Is the young man Absalom safe?" said he, as if it mattered not what else had occurred, it his beloved son were but secure! So, beloved, it is with the Christian. In the midst of calamities, whether they be the wreck of nations, the crash of empires, the heaving of revolutions, or the scourge of war, the great question which he asks himself, and asks of others too, is this Is Christ's kingdom safe? In his own personal afflictions his chief anxiety is, Will God be glorified, and will his honour be increased by it? If it be so, says he, although I be but as smoking flax, yet if the sun is not dimmed I will rejoice; and though I be a bruised reed, if the pillars of the temple are unbroken, what matters it that my reed is bruised? He finds it sufficient consolation, in the midst of all the breaking in pieces which he endures, to think that Christ's throne stands fast and firm, and that though the earth hath rocked beneath his feet, yet Christ standeth on a rock which never can be moved. Some of these feelings, I think, have crossed our minds. Amidst much tumult and divers rushings to and fro of troublous thoughts our souls have returned to the darling object of our desires, and we have found it no small consolation after all to say, "It matters not what shall become of us: God hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name: That at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."
This text has afforded sweet consolation to every heir of heaven. Allow me, very briefly, to give you the consolations of it. To the true Christian there is much comfort in the very fact of Christ's exaltation. In the second place, there is no small degree of consolation in the reason of it. "Wherefore, also, God hath highly exalted him;" that is because of his previous humiliation. And thirdly, there is no small amount of really divine solace in the thought of the person who has exalted Christ. Wherefore God also" although men despise him and cast him down "God also hath highly exalted him."
I. First, then, IN THE VERY FACT OF CHRIST'S EXALTATION THERE IS TO EVERY TRUE CHRISTIAN A VERY LARGE DEGREE OF COMFORT. Many of you who have no part nor lot in spiritual things, not having love to Christ, nor any desire for his glory, will but laugh when I say that this is a very bottle of cordial to the lip of the weary Christian, that Christ, after all, is glorified. To you it is no consolation, because you lack that condition of heart which makes this text sweet to the soul. To you there is nothing of joy in it; it does not stir your bosom; it gives no sweetness to your life; for this very reason, that you are not joined to Christ's cause, nor do you devoutly seek to honour him. But the true Christian's heart leapeth for joy, even when cast down by divers sorrows and temptations, at the remembrance that Christ is exalted, for in that he finds enough to cheer his own heart. Note here, beloved, that the Christian has certain features in his character which make the exaltation of Christ a matter of great joy to him. First, he has in his own opinion, and not in his own opinion only, but in reality, a relationship to Christ, and therefore he feels an interest in the success of his kinsman. Ye have watched the father's joy, when step by step his boy has climbed to opulence or fame; ye have marked the mother's eye, as it sparkled with delight when her daughter grew up to womanhood, and burst forth in all the grandeur of beauty. Ye have asked why they should feel such interest; and ye have been told, because the boy was his, or the girl was hers. They delighted in the advancement of their little ones, because of their relationship. Had there been no relationship, they might have been advanced to kings, emperors, or queens, and they would have felt but little delight. But from the fact of kindred, each step was invested with a deep and stirring interest. Now, it is so with this Christian. He feels that Jesus Christ, the glorified "Prince of the kings of the earth." is his brother. While he reverences him as God, he admires him as the man-Christ, bone of his bone, and flesh of his flesh, and he delights, in his calm and placid moments of communion with Jesus, to say to him, "O Lord, thou art my brother." His song is, "My beloved is mine, and I am his." It is his joy to sing
"In the blood with sinners one,"
Christ Jesus is; for he is a man, even as we are: and he is no less and no more man than we are, save only sin. Surely, when we feel we are related to Christ, his exaltation is the source of the greatest joy to our spirits; we take a delight in it, seeing it is one of our family that is exalted. It is the Elder Brother of the great one family of God in heaven and earth; it is the Brother to whom all of us are related.
There is also in the Christian not only the feeling of relationship merely, but there is a feeling of unity in the cause. He feels that when Christ is exalted, it is himself exalted in some degree, seeing he has sympathy with his desire of promoting the great cause and honour of God in the world. I have no doubt that every common soldier who stood by the side of the Duke of Wellington felt honoured when the commander was applauded for the victory; for, said he, "I helped him, I assisted him; it was but a mean part that I played; I did but maintain my rank; I did but sustain the enemy's fire; but now the victory is gained. I feel an honour in it, for I helped, in some degree, to gain it." So the Christian, when he sees his Lord exalted, says, "It is the Captain that is exalted, and in his exaltation all his soldiers share. Have I not stood by his side? Little was the work I did, and poor the strength which I possessed to serve him; but still I aided in the labour;" and the commonest soldier in the spiritual ranks feels that he himself is in some degree exalted when he reads this "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name:" a renown above every name "that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow."
Moreover, the Christian knows not only that there is this unity in design, but that there is a real union between Christ and all his people. It is a doctrine of revelation seldom descanted upon, but never too much thought of the doctrine that Christ and his members are all one. Know ye not, beloved, that every member of Christ's church is a member of Christ himself? We are "of his flesh and of his bones," parts of his great mystical body; and when we read that our head is crowned, O rejoice, ye members of his, his feet or his hands, though the crown is not on you, yet being on your Head, you share the glory, for you are one with him. See Christ yonder, sitting at his Father's right hand! Believer! he is the pledge of thy glorification; he is the surety of thine acceptance; and, moreover, he is thy representative. The seat which Christ possesses in heaven he has not only by his own right, as a person of the Deity, but he has it also as the representative of the whole church, for he is their forerunner, and he sits in glory as the representative of every one of them. O rejoice, believer, when thou seest thy Master exalted from the tomb, when thou beholdest him exalted up to heaven. Then, when thou seest him climb the steps of light, and sit upon his lofty throne, where angels' ken can scarcely reach him when thou hearest the acclamations of a thousand seraphs when thou dost note the loud pealing choral symphony of millions of the redeemed; think, when thou seest him crowned with light think that thou art exalted too in him, seeing that thou art a part of himself. Happy art thou if thou knowest this, not only in doctrine, but in sweet experience too. Knit to Christ, wedded to him, grown into him, parts and portions of his very self, we throb with the heart of the body; when the head itself is glorified we share in the praise; we felt that his glorification bestows an honour upon us. Ah! beloved, have you ever felt that unity to Christ? Have you ever felt a unity of desire with him? If so, you will find this rich with comfort; but if not if you know not Christ it will be a source of grief rather than a pleasure to you that he is exalted, for you will have to reflect that he is exalted to crush you, exalted to judge you and condemn you, exalted to sweep this earth of its sins, and cut the curse up by the roots, and you with it, unless you repent and turn unto God with full purpose of heart.
There is yet another feeling, which I think is extremely necessary to any very great enjoyment of this truth, that Christ is exalted. It is a feeling of entire surrender of one's whole being to the great work of seeking to honour him. Oh! I have striven for that: would to God I might attain unto it! I have now concentrated all my prayers into one, and that one prayer is this, that I may die to self, and live wholly to him. It seems to me to be the highest stage of man to have no wish, no thought, no desire but Christ to feel that to die were bliss, if it were for Christ that to live in penury and woe, and scorn, and contempt, and misery, were sweet for Christ to feel that it did not matter what became of one's self, so that one's Master was but exalted to feel that though, like a sear leaf, you are blown in the blast, you are quite careless whither you are going, so long as you feel that the Master's hand is guiding you according to his will. Or rather to feel that though like the diamond you must be cut, that you care not how sharply you may be cut, so that you may be made fit to be a brilliant in his crown; that you care little what may be done to you, if you may but honour him. If any of you have attained to that sweet feeling of self-annihilation, you will look up to Christ as if he were the sun, and you will say of yourself, "O Lord, I see thy beams; I feel myself to be not a beam from thee but darkness, swallowed up in thy light. The most I ask is, that thou wouldst live in me, that the life I live in the flesh may not be my life, but thy life in me, that I may say with emphasis, as Paul did, 'For me to live is Christ.'" A man that has attained to this, never need care what is the opinion of this world. He may say, "Do you praise me? Do you flatter me? Take back your flatteries: I ask them not at your hands; I sought to praise my Master; ye have laid the praises at my door; go, lay them at his, and not at mine. Do ye scorn me? Do ye despise me? Thrice happy am I to bear it. If ye will not scorn and despise him!" And if ye will, yet know this, that he is beyond your scorn; and, therefore, smite the soldier for his Captain's sake; ay, strike, strike; but the King ye cannot touch he is highly exalted and thou ye think ye have gotten the victory, ye may have routed one soldier of the army, but the main body is triumphant. One soldier seems to be smitten to the dust, but the Captain is coming on with his victorious cohorts, and shall trample you, flushed with your false victory, beneath his conquering feet. As long as there is a particle of selfishness remaining in us, it will mar our sweet rejoicing in Christ; till we get rid of it, we shall never feel constant joy. I do think that the root of sorrow is self. If we once got rid of that, sorrow would be sweet, sickness would be health, sadness would be joy, penury would be wealth, so far as our feelings with regard to them are concerned. They might not be changed, but our feelings under them would be vastly different. If you would seek happiness, seek it at the roots of your selfishness; cut up your selfishness, and you will be happy. I have found that whenever I have yielded to the least joy when I have been prepared to feel acutely the arrows of the enemy; but when I have said of the praises of men, "Yes, what are ye? worthless things!" then I could also say of their contempt "Come on! come on! I'll send you all where I sent the praises; you may go together, and fight your battles with one another; but as for me, let your arrows rattle on my mail they must not, and they shall not, reach my flesh." But if you give way to one you will to another. You must seek and learn to live wholly in Christ to sorrow when you see Christ maligned and dishonoured, to rejoice when you see him exalted, and then you will have constant cause for joy. Sit down now, O reviled one, poor, despised, and tempted one; sit down, lift up thine eyes, see him on his throne, and say within thyself, "Little though I be, I know I am united to him; he is my love, my life, my joy; I care not what happens so long as it is written, 'The Lord reigneth.'"
II. Now, briefly upon the second point. Here also is the very fountain and well-spring of joy, in THE REASON OF CHRIST'S EXALTATION. "Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." Why? Because, "he being in the form of God, thought it not robbery to be equal with God: But made himself of no reputation, and took upon him the form of a servant, and was made in the likeness of men: And being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and because obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him." This of course relates to the manhood of our Lord Jesus Christ. As God, Christ needed no exaltation; he was higher than the highest, "God over all, blessed for ever." But the symbols of his glory having been for a while obscured, having wrapped his Godhead in mortal flesh, his flesh with his Godhead ascended up on high, and the man-God, Christ Jesus, who had stooped to shame, and sorrow, and degradation, was highly exalted, "far above all principalities and powers," that he might reign Prince-regent over all worlds, yea, over heaven itself. Let us consider, for a moment, that depth of degradation to which Christ descended; and then, my beloved, it will give you joy to think, that for that very reason his manhood was highly exalted. Do you see that man
"The humble Man before his foes,
The weary Man and full of woes?"
Do you mark him as he speaks? Note the marvellous eloquence which pours from his lips, and see how the crowds attend him? But do you hear, in the distance, the growling of the thunders of calumny and scorn? Listen to the words of his accusers. They say he is "a gluttonous man and a wine-bibber, a friend of publicans and sinners;" "he has a devil, and is mad." All the whole vocabulary of abuse is exhausted by vituperation upon him. He is slandered, abused, persecuted! Stop! Do you think that he is by this cast down, by this degraded? No, for this very reason: "God hath highly exalted him." Mark the shame and spitting that have come upon the cheek of yonder man of sorrows! See his hair plucked with cruel hands; mark ye how they torture him and how they mock him. Do you think that this is all dishonourable to Christ? It is apparently so; but list to this: "He became obedient," and therefore "God hath highly exalted him." Ah! there is a marvellous connection between that shame, and spitting, and the bending of the knee of seraphs; there is a strange yet mystic link which unites the calumny and the slander with the choral sympathies of adoring angels. The one was, as it were, the seed of the other. Strange that it should be, but the black, the bitter seed brought forth a sweet and glorious flower which blooms for ever. He suffered and he reigned; he stopped to conquer, and he conquered for he stooped, and was exalted for he conquered.
Consider him further still. Do you mark him in your imagination nailed to yonder cross! O eyes! ye are full of pity, with tears standing thick! Oh! how I mark the floods gushing down his checks! Do you see his hands bleeding, and his feet too, gushing gore? Behold him! The bulls of Bashan gird him round, and the dogs are hounding him to death! Hear him! "Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?" The earth startles with affright. A God is groaning on a cross! What! Does not this dishonour Christ? No; it honours him! Each of the thorns becomes a brilliant in his diadem of glory; the nails are forged into his sceptre, and his wounds do clothe him with the purple of empire. The treading of the wine-press hath stained his garments, but not with stains of scorn and dishonour. The stains are embroideries upon his royal robes for ever. The treading of that wine-press hath made his garments purple with the empire of a world; and he is the Master of a universe for ever. O Christian! sit down and consider that thy Master did not mount from earth's mountains into heaven, but from her valleys. It was not from heights of bliss on earth that he strode to bliss eternal, but from depths of woe he mounted up to glory. Oh! what a stride was that, when, at one mighty step from the grave to the throne of The Highest, the man Christ, the God, did gloriously ascend. And yet reflect! He in some way, mysterious yet true, was exalted because he suffered. "Being found in fashion as a man, he humbled himself, and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross. Wherefore God also hath highly exalted him, and given him a name which is above every name." Believer, there is comfort for thee here, if thou wilt take it. If Christ was exalted through his degradation, so shalt thou be. Count not thy steps to triumph by thy steps upward, but by those which are seemingly downward. The way to heaven is down-hill. he who would be honoured for ever must sink in his own esteem, and often in that of his fellow-men. Oh! think not of yon fool who is mounting to heaven by his own light opinions of himself and by the flatteries of his fellows, that he shall safely reach Paradise; nay, that shall burst on which he rests, and he shall fall and be broken in pieces. But he who descends into the mines of suffering, shall find unbounded riches there; and he who dives into the depths of grief, shall find the pearl of everlasting life within tis caverns. Recollect, Christian, that thou art exalted when thou art disgraced; read the slanders of thine enemies as the plaudits of the just; count that the scoff and jeer of wicked men are equal to the praise and honour of the godly; their blame is censure, and their censure praise. Reckon too, if thy body should ever be exposed to persecution, that it is no shame to thee, but the reverse; and if thou shouldst be privileged, (and thou mayest) to wear the blood-red crown of martyrdom, count it no disgrace to die. Remember, the most honourable in the church are "the noble army of martyrs." Reckon that the greater the sufferings they endured, so much the greater is their "eternal weight of glory;" and so do thou, if thou standest in the brunt and thick of the fight, remember that thou shalt stand in the midst of glory. If thou hast the hardest to bear, thou shalt have the sweetest to enjoy. On with thee, then through floods, through fire, through death, through hell, if it should lie in thy path. Fear not. He who glorified Christ because he stooped shall glorify thee; for after he has caused thee to endure awhile, he will give thee "a crown of life which fadeth now away."
III. And now, in the last place, beloved, here is yet another comfort for you. THE PERSON who exalted Christ is to be noticed. "GOD also hath highly exalted him." The emperor of all the Russians crowns himself: he is an autocrat, and puts the crown upon his own head: but Christ hath no such foolish pride. Christ did not crown himself. "GOD also hath highly exalted him." The crown was put upon the head of Christ by God; and there is to me a very sweet reflection in this, that the hand that put the crown on Christ's head, will one day put the crown on ours; that the same Mighty One who crowned Christ, "King of kings, and Lord of lords," will crown us, when he shall make us "Kings and priests unto him for ever." "I know," said Paul, "there is laid up for me a crown of glory which fadeth not away, which God, the righteous judge, shall give me in that day."
Now, just pause over this thought that Christ did not crown himself, but that his Father crowned him; that he did not elevate himself to the throne of majesty, but that his Father lifted him there, and placed him on his throne. Why, reflect thus: Man never highly exalted Christ. Put this then in opposition to it "God also hath highly exalted him." Man hissed him, mocked him, hooted him. Words were not hard enough they would use stones. "They took up stones again to stone him." And stones failed; nails must be used, and he must be crucified. And then there comes the taunt, the jeer, the mockery, whilst he hangs languishing on the death-cross. Man did not exalt him. Set the black picture there. Now put this, with this glorious, this bright scene, side by side with it, and one shall be a foil to the other. Man dishonoured him; "God also exalted him." Believer, if all men speak ill of thee, lift up thy head, and say, "Man exalted not my Master; I thank him that he exalts not me. The servant should not be above his master, nor the servant above his lord, nor he that is sent greater than he that sent him."
"If on my face for his dear name,
Shame and reproach shall be;
I'll hail reproach and welcome shame,
For he'll remember me."
God will remember me, and highly exalt me after all, though man casts me down.
Put it, again, in opposition to the fact, that Christ did not exalt himself. Poor Christian! you feel that you cannot exalt yourself. Sometimes you cannot raise your poor depressed spirits. Some say to you, "Oh! you should not feel like this." They tell you, "Oh! you should not speak such words, nor think such thoughts." Ah! "the heart knoweth its own bitterness, and a stranger intermeddleth not therewith," ay, and I will improve upon it, "nor a friend either." It is not easy to tell how another ought to feel and how another ought to act. Our minds are differently made, each in its own mould, which mould is broken afterwards, and there shall never be another like it. We are all different, each one of us; but I am sure there is one thing in which we are all brought to unite in times of deep sorrow, namely, in a sense of helplessness. We feel that we cannot exalt ourselves. Now remember, our Master felt just like it. In the 22nd Psalm, which, if I read it rightly, is a beautiful soliloquy of Christ upon the cross, he says to himself, "I am a worm, and no man." As if he felt himself so broken, so cast down, that instead of being more than a man, as he was, he felt for awhile less than man. And yet, when he could not lift finger to crown himself, when he could scarce heave a thought of victory, when his eye could not flash with even a distant glimpse of triumph, then his God was crowning him. Art thou so broken in pieces, Christian? Think not that thou art cast away for ever; for "God also hath highly exalted him" who did not exalt himself; and this is a picture and prophecy of what he will do for thee.
And now, beloved, I can say little more upon this text, save that I bid you now for a minutes meditate and think upon it. Oh! let your eyes be lifted up; bid heaven's blue veil divide; ask power of God I mean spiritual power from on high, to look within the veil. I bid you not look to the streets of gold, nor to the walls of jasper, nor to the pearly-gated city. I do not ask you to turn your eyes to the white-robed hosts, who for ever sing loud hallelujahs; but yonder, my friends, turn your eyes,
"There, like a man, the Saviour sits;
The God, how bright he shines;
And scatters infinite delight
On all the happy minds."
Do you see him?
"The head that once was crowned with thorns,
Is crowned with glory now;
A royal diadem adorns
That mighty Victor's brow.
No more the bloody crown,
The cross and nails no more:
For hell itself shakes at his frown,
And all the heavens adore."
Look at him! Can your imagination picture him? Behold his transcendent glory! The majesty of kings is swallowed up; the pomp of empires dissolves like the white mist of the morning before the sun; the brightness of assembled armies is eclipsed. He in himself is brighter than the sun, more terrible than armies with banners. See him! See him! O! hide your heads, ye monarchs; put away your gaudy pageantry, ye lords of this poor narrow earth! His kingdom knows no bounds; without a limit his vast empire stretches out itself. Above him all is his; beneath him many a step are angels, and they are his; and they cast their crowns before his feet. With them stand his elect and ransomed, and their crowns too are his. And here upon this lower earth stand his saints, and they are his, and they adore him; and under the earth, among the infernals, where devils growl their malice, even there is trembling and adoration; and where lost spirits, with wailing and gnashing of teeth for ever lament their being, even there, there is the acknowledgment of his Godhead, even though the confession helps to make the fire of their torments. In heaven, in earth, in hell, all knees bend before him, and every tongue confesses that he is God. If not now, yet in the time that is to come this shall be carried out, that ever creature of God's making shall acknowledge his Son to be "God over all, blessed for ever. Amen." Oh! my soul anticipates that blessed day, when this whole earth shall bend its knee before its God willingly! I do believe there is a happy era coming, when there shall not be one knee unbent before my Lord and Master. I look for that time, that latter-day glory, when kings shall bring presents, when queens shall be the nursing mothers of the church, when the gold of Sheba and the ships of Tarshish, and the dromedaries of Arabia shall alike be his, when nations and tribes of every tongue shall
"Dwell on his name with sweetest song,
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on his name."
Sometimes I hope to live to see that all-auspicious era that halcyon age of this world, so much oppressed with grief and sorrow by the tyranny of its own habitants. I hope to see the time, when it shall be said, "Shout, for the great Shepherd reigns, and his unsuffering kingdom now is come" when earth shall be one great orchestra of praise, and every man shall sing the glorious hallelujah anthem of the King of kings. But even now, while waiting for that era, my soul rejoices in the fact, that every knee does virtually bow, though not willingly, yet really. Does the scoffer, when he mouths high heaven, think that he insults God? He thinks so, but his insult dies long ere it reaches half-way to the stars. Does he conceive, when in his malice he forges a sword against Christ, that his weapon shall prosper? If he does, I can well conceive the derision of God, when he sees the wildest rebel, the most abandoned despiser, still working out his great decrees, still doing that which God hath eternally ordained, and in the midst of his wild rebellion still running in the very track which in some mysterious way before all eternity had been marked as the track in which that being should certainly move. "The wild steeds of earth have broken their bridles, the reins are out of the hands of the charioteer" so some say; but they are not, or if they are, the steeds run the same round as they would have done had the Almighty grasped the reins still. The world has not gone to confusion; chance is not God; God is still Master, and let men do what they will, and hate the truth we now prize, they shall after all do what God wills, and their direst rebellion shall prove but a species of obedience, though they know it not.
But thou wilt say, "Why dost thou yet find fault; for who hath resisted such a will as that?" "Nay, but O man, who art thou that repliest against God? Shall the thing formed say to him that formed it, why hast thou made me thus? Hath not the potter power over the clay, of the same lump to make one vessel unto honour, and another unto dishonour? What if God, willing to show his wrath, and to make his power known, endured with much longsuffering the vessels of wrath fitted to destruction: and that he might make known the riches of his glory on the vessels of mercy, which he had afore prepared unto glory." Who is he that shall blame him? Woe unto him that striveth with his Maker! He is God know that, ye inhabitants of the land; and all things, after all, shall serve his will. I like what Luther says in his bold hymn, where, notwithstanding all that those who are haters of predestination choose to affirm, he knew and boldly declared, "He everywhere hath sway, and all things serve his might." Notwithstanding all they do, there is God's sway, after all. Go on, reviler! God knoweth how to make all thy revilings into songs! Go on, thou warrior against God, if thou wilt; know this, thy sword shall help to magnify God, and carve out glory for Christ, when thou thoughtest the slaughter of his church. It shall come to pass that all thou dost shall be frustrated; for God maketh the diviners mad, and saith, "Where is the wisdom of the scribe? Where is the wisdom of the wise?" Surely, "Him hath God exalted, and given him a name which is above every name."
And now, lastly, beloved, if it be true, as it is, that Christ is so exalted that he is to have a name above every name, and every knee is to bow to him, will we not bow our knees this morning before his Majesty? You must, whether you will or no, one day bow your knee. O iron-sinewed sinner, bow thy knee now! Thou wilt have to bow it, man, in that day when the lightnings shall be loosed, and the thunders shall roll in wild fury: thou wilt have to bow thy knee then. Oh! bow it now! "Kiss the Son, lest he be angry, and ye perish from the way, when his wrath is kindled but a little." O Lord of hosts! bend the knees of men! Make us all the willing subjects of thy grace, lest afterward, we should be the unwilling slaves of thy terror; dragged with chains of vengeance down to hell. O that now those that are on earth might willingly bend their knees lest in hell it should be fulfilled, "Things under the earth shall bow the knee before him."
God bless you, my friends, I can say no more but that. God
Your Own Salvation
Delivered on Lord's-day Morning, July 30th, 1871, by
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
"Your own salvation." Philippians 2:12 .
WE SELECT THE WORDS, "your own salvation," as our text this morning, not out of any singularity, or from the slightest wish that the brevity of the text should surprise you; but because our subject will be the more clearly before you if only these three words are announced. If I had nominally taken the whole verse I could not have attempted to expound it without distracting your attention from the topic which now weighs upon my heart. O that the divine Spirit may bring home to each one of your minds the unspeakable importance of "your own salvation"!
We have heard it said by hearers that they come to listen to us, and we talk to them upon subjects in which they have no interest. You will not be able to make this complaint to-day, for we shall speak only of "your own salvation;" and nothing can more concern you. It has sometimes been said that preachers frequently select very unpractical themes. No such objection can be raised to-day, for nothing can be more practical than this; nothing more needful than to urge you to see to "your own salvation." We have even heard it said that ministers delight in abstruse subjects, paradoxical dogmas, and mysterious surpassing comprehension; but, assuredly, we will keep to plain sailing this morning. No sublime doctrines, no profound questions shall perplex you; you shall only be called on to consider "your own salvation:" a very homely theme, and a very simple one, but for all that, the most weighty that can be brought before you. I shall seek after simple words also, and plain sentences, to suit the simplicity and plainness of the subject, that there may be no thought whatever about the speaker's language, but only concerning this one, sole, only topic, "your own salvation." I ask you all, as reasonable men who would not injure or neglect yourselves, to lend me your most serious attention. Chase away the swarming vanities which buzz around you, and let each man think for himself upon his "own salvation." O may the Spirit of God set each one of you apart in a mental solitude, and constrain you each one, singly, to face the truth concerning his own state! Each man apart, each woman apart; the father apart, and the child apart: may you now come before the Lord in solemn thought, and may nothing occupy your attention but this: "your own salvation."
I. We will begin this morning's meditation by noting THE MATTER UNDER CONSIDERATION Salvation!
Salvation! a great word, not always understood, often narrowed down, and its very marrow overlooked. Salvation! This concerns every one here present. We all fell in our first parent; we have all sinned personally; we shall all perish unless we find salvation. The word salvation contains within it deliverance from the guilt of our past sins. We have broken God's law each one of us, more or less flagrantly; we have all wandered the downward road, though each has chosen a different way. Salvation brings to us the blotting out of the transgressions of the past, acquital from criminality, purging from all guiltiness, that we may stand accepted before the great Judge. What man in his sober senses will deny that forgiveness is an unspeakably desirable blessing!
But salvation means more than that: it includes deliverance from the power of sin. Naturally we are all fond of evil, and we run after it greedily; we are the bondslaves of iniquity, and we love the bondage. This last is the worst feature of the case. But when salvation comes it delivers the man from the power of sin. He learns that it is evil, and he regards it as such, loathes it, repents that he has ever been in love with it, turns his back upon it, becomes, through God's Spirit, the master of his lusts, puts the flesh beneath his feet, and rises into the liberty of the children of God. Alas! there are many who do not care for this: if this be salvation they would not give a farthing for it. They love their sins; they rejoice to follow the devices and imaginations of their own corrupt hearts. Yet be assured, this emancipation from bad habits, unclean desires, and carnal passions is the main point in salvation, and if it be not ours, salvation in its other branches is not and cannot be enjoyed by us. Dear hearer, dost thou possess salvation from sin? hast thou escaped the corruption which is in the world through lust? If not, what hast thou to do with salvation? To any right-minded man deliverance from unholy principles is regarded as the greatest of all blessings. What thinkest thou of it?
Salvation includes deliverance from the present wrath of God which abides upon the unsaved man every moment of his life. Every person who is unforgiven is the object of divine wrath. "God is angry with the wicked every day. If he turn not, he will whet his sword." "Be that believeth not is condemned already, because he hath not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God." I frequently hear the statement that this is a state of probation. This is a great mistake, for our probation has long since passed. Sinners have been proved, and found to be unworthy; they have been "weighed in the balances," and "found wanting." If you have not believed in Jesus, condemnation already rests upon you: you are reprieved awhile, but your condemnation is recorded. Salvation takes a man from under the cloud of divine wrath, and reveals to him the divine love. Be can then say, "O God, I will praise thee, though thou wast angry with me, thine anger is turned away, and thou comfortest me." Oh, it is not hell hereafter which is the only thing a sinner has to fear, it is the wrath of God which rests upon him now. To be unreconciled to God now is an awful thing: to have God's arrow pointed at you as it is at this moment, even though it fly not from the string as yet, is a terrible thing. It is enough to make you tremble from head to foot when you learn that you are the target of Jehovah's wrath: "he hath bent his bow, and made it ready." Every soul that is unreconciled to God by the blood of his Son is in the gall of bitterness. Salvation at once sets us free from this state of danger and alienation. We are no longer the "children of wrath, even as others," but are made children of God and joint heirs with a Christ Jesus. What can be conceived more precious than this?
And then, we lastly receive that part of salvation which ignorant persons put first, and make to be the whole of salvation. In consequence of our being delivered from the guilt of sin, and from the power of sin, and from the present wrath of God, we are delivered from the future wrath of God. Unto the uttermost will that wrath descend upon the souls of men when they leave the body and stand before their Maker's bar, if they depart this life unsaved. To die without salvation is to enter into damnation. Where death leaves us there judgment finds us; and where judgment finds us eternity will hold Us forever and ever. "He which is filthy, let him be filthy still," and he that is wretched as a punishment for being filthy, shall be hopelessly wretched still. Salvation delivers the soul from going down into the pit of hell. We, being justified, are no longer liable to punishment, because we are no longer chargeable with guilt. Christ Jesus bore the wrath of God that we might never bear it. He has made a full atonement to the justice of God for the sins of all believers. Against him that believeth there remaineth no record of guilt; his transgressions are blotted out, for a Christ Jesus hath finished transgression, made an end of sin, and brought in everlasting righteousness. What a comprehensive word then is this "salvation"! It is a triumphant deliverance from the guilt of sin, from the dominion of it, from the curse of it, from the punishment of it, and ultimately from the very existence of it. Salvation is the death of sin, its burial, its annihilation, yea, and the very obliteration of its memory; for thus saith the Lord: "their sins and their iniquities will I remember no more."
Beloved hearers, I am sure that this is the weightiest theme I can bring before you and therefore I cannot be content unless I see that it grasps you and holds you fast. I pray you give earnest heed to this most pressing of all subjects. If my voice and words cannot command your fullest attention, I could wish to be dumb, that some other pleader might with wiser speech draw you to a close consideration of this matter. Salvation appears to me to be of the first importance, when I think of what it is in itself, and for this reason I have at the outset set it forth before your eyes; but you may be helped to remember its value if you consider that God the Father thinks highly of salvation. It was on his mind or ever the earth was. He thinks salvation a lofty business, for he gave his Son that he might save rebellious sinners. Jesus Christ, the only Begotten, thinks salvation most important, for he bled, he died to accomplish it. Shall I bide with that which cost him his life? If he came from heaven to earth, shall I be slow to look from earth to heaven? Shall that which cost the Savior a life of zeal, and a death of agony, be of small account with me? By the bloody sweat of Gethsemane, by the wounds of Calvary, I beseech you, be assured that salvation must be worthy of your highest and most anxious thoughts. It could not be that God the Father, and God the Son, should thus make a common sacrifice: the one giving his Son and the other giving himself for salvation, and yet salvation should be a light and trivial thing. The Holy Ghost thinks it no trifle, for he condescends to work continually in the new creation that he may bring about salvation. He is often vexed and grieved, yet he continues still his abiding labors that he may bring many sons unto glory. Despise not what the Holy Ghost esteems, lest thou despise the Holy Ghost himself. The sacred Trinity think much of salvation; let us not neglect it. I beseech you who have gone on trifling with salvation, to remember that we who have to preach to you dare not trifle with it. The longer I live the more I feel that if God do not make me faithful as a minister, it had been better for me never to have been bow. What a thought that I am set as a watchman to warn your souls, and if I warn you not aright, your blood will be laid at my door! My own damnation will be terrible enough, but to have your blood upon my skirts as well ! God save any one of his ministers from being found guilty of the souls of men. Every preacher of the gospel may cry with David, "Deliver me from bloodguiltiness, O God, thou God of my salvation."
Bethink you, O careless hearers, that God's church does not consider salvation to be a little matter? Earnest men and women, by thousands, are praying day and night for the salvation of others, and are laboring too, and making great sacrifices, and are willing to make many more, if they may by any means bring some to Jesus and his salvation. Surely, if gracious men, and wise men, think salvation to be so important, you who have hitherto neglected it ought to change your minds upon the matter, and act with greater care for your own interests.
The angels think it a weighty business. Bowing from their thrones, they watch for repenting sinners; and when they hear that a sinner has returned to his God, they waken anew their golden harps and pour forth fresh music before the throne, for "there is joy in the presence of the angels of God over one sinner that repenteth." It is certain also that devils think salvation to be a great matter, for their arch-leader goeth about seeking whom he may devour. They never tire in seeking men's destruction. They know how much salvation glorifies God, and how terrible the ruin of souls is; and therefore they compass sea and land, if they may destroy the sons of men. Oh, I pray you, careless hearer, be wise enough to dread that fate which your cruel enemy, the devil, would fain secure for you! Remember, too, that lost souls think salvation important. The rich man, when he was in this world, thought highly of nothing but his barns, and the housing of his produce; but when he came into the place of torment, then he said: "Father Abraham, send Lazarus to my father's house: for I have five brethren; that he may testify unto them, lest they also they come into this place of torment." Lost souls see things in another light than that which dazzled them here below; they value things at a different rate from what we do here, where sinful pleasures and earthly treasures dim the mental eye. I pray you then, by the blessed Trinity, by the tears and prayers of holy men, by the joy of angels and glorified spirits, by the malice of devils and the despair of the lost, arouse yourselves from slumber, and neglect not this great salvation!
I shall not depreciate anything that concerns your welfare, but I shall steadfastly assert that nothing so much concerns any one of you as salvation. Your health by all means. Let the physician be fetched if you be sick; care well for diet and exercise, and all sanitary laws. Look wisely to your constitution and its peculiarities; but what matters it, after all, to have possessed a healthy body, if you have a perishing soul? Wealth, yes, if you must have it, though you shall find it an empty thing if you set your heart upon it. Prosperity in this world, earn it if you can do so fairly, but "what shall it profit a man, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?" A golden coffin will be a poor compensation for a damned soul. To be cast away from God's presence, can that misery be assuaged by mountains of treasure? Can the bitterness of the second death be sweetened by the thought that the wretch was once a millionaire, and that his wealth could affect the polities of nations? No, there is nothing in health or wealth comparable to salvation. Nor can honor and reputation bear a comparison therewith. Truly they are but baubles, and yet for all that they have a strange fascination for the soul of men. Oh, sirs, if every harpstring in the world should resound your glories, and every trumpet should proclaim your fame, what would it matter if a louder voice should say, "Depart from me, ye cursed, into everlasting fire, prepared for the devil and his angels"? Salvation! salvation! SALVATION! Nothing on earth can match it, for the merchandise of it is better than silver, and the gain thereof than fine gold. The possession of the whole universe would be no equivalent to a lost soul for the awful damage it has sustained and must sustain for ever. Pile up the worlds, and let them fill the balance: ay, bring as many worlds as there are stars, and heap up the scale on the one side; then in this other scale place a single soul endowed with immortality, and it outweighs the whole. Salvation! nothing can be likened unto it. May we feel its unutterable value, and therefore seek it till we possess it in its fullness!
II. But now we must advance to a second point of consideration, and I pray God the Holy Spirit to press it upon us, and that is, WHOSE MATTER IS IT? We have seen what the matter is salvation; now, consider whose is it. "Your own salvation." At this hour nothing else is to occupy your thoughts but this intensely personal matter, and I beseech the Holy Spirit to hold your minds fast to this one point.
If you are saved it will be "your own salvation," and you yourself will enjoy it. If you are not saved, the sin you now commit is your own sin, the guilt your own guilt. The condemnation under which you fire, with all its disquietude and fear, or with all its callousnees and neglect is your own all your own you may share in other men's sins, and other men may become participators in yours, but a burden lies on your own back which no one besides can touch with one of his fingers. There; is a page in God's Book where your sins are recorded unmingled with the transgressions of your fellows. Now, beloved, you must obtain for all this sin a personal pardon, or you are undone for ever. No other can be washed in Christ's blood for you; no one can believe and let his faith stand instead of your faith. The very supposition of human sponsorship in religion is monstrous. You must yourself repent, yourself believe, yourself be washed in the blood, or else for you there is no forgiveness, no acceptance, no adoption, no regeneration. It is all a personal matter through and through: "your own salvation" it must be, or it will be your own eternal ruin.
Reflect anxiously that you must personally die. No one imagines that another can die for him. No man can redeem his brother or give to God a ransom. Through that iron gate I must pass alone, and so must you. Dying will have to be our own personal business; and in that dying we shall have either personal comfort or personal dismay. When death is past, salvation is still our "own salvation;" for if I am saved, mine "eyes shall see the king in his beauty: they shall behold the land that is very far off." Mine eyes shall see him, and not another on my behalf. No brother's head is to wear your crown; no stranger's hand to wave your palm; no sister's eye to gaze for you upon the beatific vision, and no sponsor's heart to be filled as your proxy with the ecstatic bliss. There is a personal heaven for the personal believer in the Lord Jesus Christ. It must be if you possess it, "your own salvation." But if you have it not, reflect again, that it will be your own damnation. No one will be condemned for you; no other can bear the hot thunder bolts of Jehovah's wrath on your behalf. When you shall say, "Hide me, ye rocks! Conceal me, O mountains!" No one will spring forward, and say, "You can cease to be accursed, and I will become a curse for you." A substitute there is to-day for every one that believeth God's appointed substitute, the Christ of God; but if that substitution be not accepted by you, there can never be another; but there remains only for you a personal casting away to suffer personal pangs in your own soul and in your own body for ever. This, then, makes it a most solemn business. O be wise, and look well to "your own salvation."
You may be tempted to-day, and very likely you are to forget your own salvation by thoughts of other people. We are all so apt to look abroad in this matter, and not to look at home. Let me pray you to reverse the process, and let everything which has made you neglect your own vineyard be turned to the opposite account, and lead you to begin at home, and see to "your own salvation." Perhaps you dwell among the saints of God, and you have been rather apt to find fault with them, though for my part, I can say these are the people I desire to live with and desire to die with: "thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God." But, O if you live among the saints ought it not to be your business to see to "Your own salvation"? See that you are truly one of them, not written in their church-book merely, but really graven upon the palms of Christ's hands; not a false professor, but a real possessor; not a mere wearer of the name of Christ, but a bearer of the nature of Christ. If you live in a gracious family be afraid lest thou should be divided from them for ever. How could you endure to go from a Christian household to the place of torment! Let the anxieties of saints lead you to be anxious. Let their prayers drive you to prayer. Let their example rebuke your sin, and their joys entice you to their Savior. O see to this! But perhaps you live most among ungodly men, and the tendency of your converse with the ungodly is to make you think as they do of the trifles and vanities, and wickednesses of this life. Do not let it be so; but, on the contrary, say, "O God, though I am placed among these people, yet gather not my soul with sinners, nor my life with bloody men. Let me avoid the sins into which they fall, and the impenitence of which they are guilty. Save me, I pray thee, O my God, save me from the transgressions which they commit."
Perhaps to-day some of your minds are occupied with thoughts of the dead who have lately fallen asleep. There is a little one unburied at home, or there is a father not get laid in the grave. Oh, when you weep for those who have gone to heaven, think of "your own salvation," and weep for yourselves, for you have parted with them for ever unless you are saved. You have said, "Farewell" to those beloved ones, eternally farewell, unless you yourselves believe in Jesus. And if any of you have heard of persons who have lived in sin and died in blasphemy, and are lost, I pray you think not of them carelessly lest you also suffer the same doom: for what saith the Savior: "Suppose ye that these were sinners above all the sinners?" "I tell you, Nay: but, except ye repent, ye shall all likewise perish." It seems to me as if everything on earth and everything in heaven, and everything in hell, yea, and God himself, calls upon you to seek "your own salvation," first, and foremost, and above all other things.
It may be profitable to mention some persons upon whom this theme needs much pressing. I will begin at home. There is great need to urge this matter upon official Christians, such as I am, such as my brethren, the deacons and elders, are. If there are any persons who are likely to be deceived, it is those who are called by their office to act as shepherds to the souls of others. Oh, my brethren I it is so easy for me to imagine because I am a minister, and have to deal with holy things, that therefore I am safe. I pray I may never fall into that delusion, but may always cling to the cross, as a poor, needy sinner resting in the blood of Jesus. Brother ministers, co-workers, and officials of the church, do not imagine that office can save you. The son of perdition was an apostle, greater than we are in office, and yet at this hour he is greater in destruction. See to it, ye that are numbered amongst the leaders of Israel, that you yourselves be saved.
Unpractical doctrinalists are another class of persons who need to be warned to see to their own salvation. When they hear a sermon, they sit with their mouths open, ready to snap at half a mistake. They make a man an offender for a word, for they conclude themselves to be the standards of orthodoxy, and they weigh up the preacher as he speaks, with as much coolness as if they had been appointed deputy judges for the Great King himself. Oh, sir, weigh yourself! It may be a great thing to be sound in the head, in the faith, but it is a greater thing to be sound in the heart. I may be able to split a hair between orthodoxy and heterodoxy, and yet may have no part nor lot in the matter. You may be a very sound Calvinist, or you may happen to think soundness lies in another direction; but, oh, it is nought, it is less than nought, except your souls feel the power of the truth, and ye yourselves are born again. See to "your own salvation," O ye wise men in the letter, who have not the Spirit.
So, too, certain persons who are always given to curious speculations need warning. When they read the Bible it is not to find whether they are saved or no, but to know whether we are under the third or fourth vial, when the millenium is going to be, or what is the battle of Armageddon. Ah, sir, search out all these things if thou hast time and skill, but look to thine own salvation first. The book of Revelation, blessed is he that understands it, but not unless, first of all, he understands this, "He that believeth and is baptised shall be saved." The greatest doctor in the symbols and mysteries of the Apocalypse shall be as certainly cast away as the most ignorant, unless he has come to Christ, and rested his soul in the atoning work of our great substitute.
I know some who greatly need to look to their own salvation. I refer to those who are always criticising others. They can hardly go to a place of worship but what they are observing their neighbour's dress or conduct. Nobody is safe from their remarks, they are such keen judges, and make such shrewd observations. Ye faultfinders and talebearers, look to "your own salvation." You condemned a minister the other day for a supposed fault, and yet he is a dear servant of God, who lives near his Master; who are you, sir, to use your tongue against such a one as he? The other day a poor humble Christian was the object of your gossip and your slander, to the wounding of her heart. Oh, see to yourself, see to yourself. If those eyes which look outward so piercingly would sometimes look inward they might see a sight which would blind them with horror. Blessed horror if it led them to turn to the Savior who would open those eyes afresh, and grant them to see his salvation.
I might also say that in this matter of looking to personal salvation, it is necessary to speak to some who have espoused certain great public designs. I trust I am as ardent a Protestant as any man living, but I know too many red-hot Protestants who are but little better than Romanists, for though the Romanists of old might have burnt them, they would certainly withhold toleration from Romanists to-day, if they could; and therein I see not a pin to choose between the two bigots. Zealous Protestants, I agree with you, but yet I warn you that your zeal in this matter will not save you, or stand in the stead of personal godliness. Many an orthodox Protestant will be found at the left hand of the Great Judge. And you, too, who are for ever agitating this and that public question, I would say to you, "Let politics alone till your own inward politics are settled on a good foundation." You are a Radical Reformer, you could show us a system of political economy which would right all our wrongs and give to every man his due; then I pray you right you own wrongs, reform yourself, yield yourself to the love of Jesus Christ, or what will it signify to you, though you knew how to balance the affairs of nations, and to regulate the arrangement of all classes of society, if you yourself shall be blown away like chaff before the winnowing fan of the Lord. God grant us grace, then, whatever else we take up with, to keep it in its proper place, and make our calling and election sure.
III. And now, thirdly, and O for grace to speak aright, I shall try to ANSWER CERTAIN OBJECTIONS. I think I hear somebody say, "Well, but don't you believe in predestination? What have we to do with looking to our own salvation? Is it not all fixed?" Thou fool, for I can scarce answer thee till I have given thee thy right title; was it not fixed whether thou shouldst get wet or not in coming to this place? Why then did you bring your umbrella? Is it not fixed whether you shall be nourished with food to-day or shall go hungry? Why then will you go home and eat your dinner? Is it not fixed whether you shall live or not to-morrow; will you therefore, cut your throat? No, you do not reason so wickedly, so foolishly from destiny in reference to anything but "your own salvation," and you know it is not reasoning, it just mere talk. Here is all the answer I will give you, and all you deserve.
Another says, "I have a difficulty about this looking to our own salvation. Do you not believe in full assurance? Are there not some who know that they are saved beyond all doubt? Yes, blessed be God, I hope there are many such now present. But let me tell you who these are not. These are not persons who are afraid to examine themselves. If I meet with any man who says, "I have no need to examine my self any more, I know I am saved, and therefore have no need to take any further care," I would venture to say to him, "Sir, you are lost already. This strong delusion of yours has led you to believe a lie." There are none so cautious as those who possess full assurance, and there are none who have so much holy fear of sinning against God, nor who walk so tenderly and carefully as those who possess the full assurance of faith. Presumption is not assurance, though, alas! many think so. No fully assured believer will ever object to being reminded of the importance of his own salvation.
But a third objection arises. "This is very selfish," says one. "You have been exhorting us to look to ourselves, and that is sheer selfishness." Yes, so you say; but let me tell you it is a kind of selfishness that is absolutely needful before you can be unselfish. A part of salvation is to be delivered from selfishness, and I am selfish enough to desire to be delivered from selfishness. How can you be of any service to others if you are not saved yourself? A man is drowning. I am on London Bridge. If I spring from the parapet and can swim, I can save him; but suppose I cannot swim, can I render any service by leaping into sudden and certain death with the sinking man? I am disqualified from helping him till I have the ability to do so. There is a school over yonder. Well, the first enquiry of him who is to be the master must he, "Do I know myself that which I profess to teach?" Do you call that enquiry selfish? Surely it a most unselfish selfishness, grounded upon common sense. Indeed, the man who is not so selfish as to ask himself, "Am I qualified to act as a teacher?" would be guilty of gross selfishness in putting himself into an office which he was not qualified to fill. I will suppose an illiterate person going into the school, and saying, "I will be master here, and take the pay," and yet he cannot teach the children to read or write. Would he not be very selfish in not seeing to his own fitness? But surely it it is not selfishness that would make a man stand back and say, "No, I must first go to school myself, otherwise it is but a mockery of the children for me to attempt to teach them anything." This is no selfishness, then, when looked at aright, which makes us see to our own salvation, for it is the basis from which we operate for the good of others.
IV. Having answered these objections, I shall for a minute attempt to RENDER SOME ASSISTANCE to those who would fain be right in the best things.
Has the Holy Spirit been pleased to make any one here earnest about his own salvation? Friend, I will help you to answer two questions. Ask yourself, first, "Am I saved?" I would help thee to reply to that very quickly. If you are saved this morning, you are the subject of a work within you, as saith the text, "Work out your own salvation; for it is God which worketh in you." you cannot work it in, but when God works it in you work it out. Have you a work of the Holy Ghost in your soul? Do you feel something more than unaided human nature can attain unto? Have you a change wrought in you from above? If so, you are saved. Again, does your salvation rest wholly upon Christ? He who hangs anywhere but upon the cross, hangs upon that which will deceive him. If thou standest upon Christ, thou art on a rock; but if thou trustest in the merits of Christ in part, and thy own merits in part, then thou hast one foot on a rock but another on the quicksand; and thou mightest as well have both feet on the quicksand, for the result will be the same.
"None but Jesus, none but Jesus
Can do helpless sinners good."
Thou art not saved unless Christ be all in all in thy soul, Alpha and Omega, beginning and ending, first and last. Judge by this, again: if you are saved, you have turned your back on sin. You have not left off sinning would to God we could do so but you have left off loving sin; you sin not wilfully, but from infirmity; and you are earnestly seeking after God and holiness. You have respect to God, you desire to be like him, you are longing to be with him. Your face is towards heaven. You are as a man who journeys to the Equator. You are feeling more and more the warm influence of the heavenly heat and light. Now, if such be your course of life, that you walk not after the flesh, but after the Spirit, and bring forth the fruits of holiness, then you are saved. May your answer to that question he given in great honesty and candour to your own soul. Be not too partial a Judge. Conclude not that all is right because outward appearances are fair. Deliberate before you return a favorable verdict. Judge yourselves that ye be not judged. It were better to condemn yourself and be accepted of God, than to acquit yourself and find your mistake at the last.
But suppose that question should have to be answered by any here in the negative (and I am afraid it must be), then let those who confess that they are not saved, hear the answer to another enquiry: "How can I be saved?" Ah, dear hearer, I have not to bring a huge volume nor a whole armful of folios to you, and to say, "It will take you months and Years to understand the plan of salvation." No, the way is plain, the method simple. Thou shalt be saved within the next moment if thou believest. God's work of salvation is, as far as its commencement and essence is concerned, instantaneous. If thou believes "that Jesus is the Christ, thou art born of God now. If thou dost now stand in spirit at the foot of the cross, and view the incarnate God suffering, bleeding, and dying there, and if as thou dost look at him, thy soul consents to have him for her Savior, and casts herself wholly on him, thou art saved. How vividly there comes before my memory this morning the moment when I first believed in Jesus! It was the simplest act my mind every performed, and yet the most wonderful, for the Holy Spirit wrought it in me. Simply to have done with reliance upon myself, and have done with confidence in all but Jesus, and to rest alone, my undivided confidence in him, and in what he had done. My sin was in that moment forgiven me, and I was saved, and may it all be so with you, my friend, even with you if you also, trust the Lord Jesus. "Your own salvation" shall be secured by that one simple act of faith; and henceforward, kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation, you shall tread the way of holiness, till you come to be where Jesus is in everlasting bliss. God grant that not a soul may go out of this place unsaved. Even you, little children, who are here, you youngsters, you young boys and girls, I pray that you may in early life attend to "your own salvation." Faith is not a grace for old people only, nor for your fathers and mothers only; if your little hearts shall look to him who was the holy child Jesus, if you know but little yet, if you trust him salvation shall be yours. I pray that to you who are young, "your own salvation" may become, while you are yet in your youth, a matter of joy, because you have trusted it in the hands of your Redeemer.
Now I must close: but one or two thoughts press me. I must utter them ere I sit down. I would anxiously urge each person here to see to this matter of his own salvation. Do it, I pray you, and in earnest, for no one can do it for you. I have asked God for your soul, my hearer, and I pray I may have an answer of peace concerning you. But unless you also pray, vain are my prayers. You remember your mother's tears. Ah! you have crossed the ocean since those days, and you have gone into the deeps of sin, but you recollect when you used to say your prayers at her knee, and when she would lovingly say "Amen," and kiss her boy and bless him, and pray that he might know his mother's God. Those prayers are ringing in the ears of God for you, but it is impossible that you can ever be saved unless it is said of you, "Behold, he prayeth." Your mother's holiness can only rise up in judgment to condemn your wilful wickedness unless you imitate it. Your father's earnest exhortations shall but confirm the just sentence of the Judge unless you hearken to them, and yourselves consider and put your trust in Jesus. Oh I bethink you each one of you, there is but one hope, and that one hope lost, it is gone for ever. Defeated in one battle, a commander attempts another, and hopes that he may yet win the campaign. Your life is your one fight, and if it be lost it is lost for aye. The man who was bankrupt yesterday commences again in business with good heart, and hopes that he may yet succeed; but in the business of this mortal life, if you are found bankrupt, you are bankrupt for ever and ever. I do therefore charge you by the living God, before whom I stand, and before whom I may have to give an account of this day's preaching ere another day's sun shall shine, I charge you see to your own salvation. God help you, that you may never cease to seek unto God till you know by the witness of the Spirit that you have indeed passed from death unto life. See to it now, now, NOW, NOW. This very day the voice of warning comes to certain of you from God, with special emphasis, because you greatly need it, for your time is short. How many have passed into eternity during this week! You may yourself be gone from the land of the living before next Sabbath-day. I suppose, according to the calculation of probabilities, out of this audience there are several who will die within a month. I am not conjecturing now, but according to all probabilities these thousands cannot all meet again, it all have a mind to do so. Who then among us will be summoned to the unknown land? Will it be you, young woman, who have been laughing at the things of God? Shall it be yonder merchant, who has not time enough for religion? Shall it be you, my foreign friend, who have crossed the ocean to take a holiday? Will you be carried back a corpse? I do conjure you bethink yourselves, all of you. You who dwell in London will remember years ago when the cholera swept through our streets, some of us were in the midst of it, and saw many drop around us, as though smitten with an invisible but deadly arrow. That disease is said to be on its way hither again; it is said to be rapidly sweeping from Poland across the Continent, and if it come and seize some of you, are you ready to depart? Even if that form of death do not afflict our city, as I pray it may not, yet is death ever within our gates, and the pestilence walketh in darkness every night, therefore consider your ways. Thus saith the Lord, and with his word I conclude this discourse: "Prepare to meet thy God, O Israel."
PORTION OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON Hebrews 10:23-39 .
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Philippians 2". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://www.studylight.org/
the Week of Proper 24 / Ordinary 29