Thursday, July 31, 2008
from MEMOIRS OF MCCHEYNE
Edinburgh, March 13, 1839.
TO all of you who are my brethren, and my companions in tribulation, and in the kingdom and patience of our Lord Jesus Christ, your pastor wishes grace, mercy, and peace.
It gives me great joy to address you once more; and if I could only grave on your heart some of those words which make wise unto salvation, my time and labor would be amply repaid. The providences of every day convince me that I have followed not my own will, but God’s, in leaving you for a time. If the Lord permit, I shall come to you again, and I trust more fully taught by the Spirit—a holier, happier, and a more useful minister. I did not know when I last preached to you that I was to be so long parted from you; and though I felt a solemn tenderness stealing over my soul which I could not well account for, and eternity seemed very near, and your souls seemed very precious, yet the Lord was “leading the blind by a way which we knew not.” I have been searching God’s Word to find examples of this, and I find them very many
You remember Abraham, how he was living quietly in his father’s house, in Ur of the Chaldees, when the Lord appeared to him, and said, “Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land that I will show thee” (Gen. 12:1). And he went out, not knowing whither he went. You remember Jacob: his mother said unto him, “Arise, flee thou to Laban, my brother, to Haran, and tarry with him a few days.” But the Lord meant it otherwise; and it was twenty years before Jacob came back again (Gen. 27:43, 44). You remember Joseph his father sent him a message to his brethren: “Go, I pray thee, see whether it be well with thy brethren, and well with the flocks, and bring me word again” (Gen. 37:14). He expected to see him return in a few days; but God had another purpose with him. It was more than twenty years before he saw the face of Joseph again; till he said, “It is enough; Joseph my son is yet alive: and I will go and see him before I die.”
You will find the same method of dealing in the New Testament. How little Peter knew that morning when he went up to the housetop to pray, that he was that very day to be sent away to open the door of faith to the Gentiles (Acts 10:9); and yet God said to him, “Arise, get thee down, and go with them, nothing doubting” (v. 20). Again, you remember Barnabas and Saul, how happily they were engaged with the brethren at Antioch, ministering to the Lord and fasting. Little did they think that the next day they would be sailing away to carry the gospel to other lands. As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Ghost said, “Separate me Barnabas and Saul for the work whereunto I have called them. And when they had fasted and prayed, and said their hands on them, they sent them away” (Acts 13:2, 13).
Once more, when Paul had preached the gospel in all the cities of Asia, and was come to Troas, on the seacoast, how little did he think that night when he laid his head upon his pillow, that by the next morning the swift ship would be carrying him across the seas, to bear the message of salvation to another continent! “A vision appeared to Paul in the night: there stood a man of Macedonia, and prayed him, saying, Come ever into Macedonia and help us. And after he had seen the vision, immediately we endeavoured to go into Macedonia, assuredly gathering that the Lord had called us for to preach the gospel unto them” (Acts 16:9, 10).
Now, has not God dealt with us in a similar manner? Although we are nothing in ourselves but evil and hell–deserving creatures, yet, when accepted in the Beloved, God cares for us. Oh! we err, not knowing the Scriptures, nor the power of God, when we think that God is indifferent to the least of all that are in Christ. We are fastened on the Redeemer’s shoulder. We are graven on His breastplate, and that is on the Redeemer’s heart. Surely He has directed our steps. “O the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and the knowledge of God!” In other circumstances, I suppose, I would not have listened to this proposal. I could not have torn myself away had I been in strength and usefulness among you, and indeed the expedition probably would never have been thought of.
But God, who chose Israel to be His peculiar treasure, can easily open up ways when His set time is come. I parted from you only for a few days; but God meant otherwise, and He will make it His own fixed time. And now, behold, I know that there are some of you among whom I have gone preaching the kingdom of God, who “shall see my face no more.” “He that keepeth Israel” may preserve your pastor under His almighty feathers. I know you will pray for me, as you have done in secret, and in your families, and in your meetings for prayer, “that the sun may not smite me by day, nor the moon by night;” but if I should come back again, will I find you all where I left you? Alas! I know it cannot be so. “For what is your life? It is even a vapor;” and God is still crying, “Return, return, ye children of men.”
For some among you, I give thanks unto the Father that He hath made you meet to be partakers of the inheritance of the saints in light (Col. 1:12). There are some among you from whom I have learned more than I taught you, “who have been succorers of many, and of myself also” (Rom. 16:2), and who have often reminded me of corn, when it was fully ripe. Shall we be surprised if the Son of Man puts in the sickle? (Rev. 14:13, 16). Dear advanced believers, we may never meet again. I feel it almost wrong to pray that ye may be kept to comfort us on our return. It is wrong to grudge you “an entrance into perfect day,” where you shall lay aside that body of death and sin which is your greatest grief; yet may the Lord spare you, and bless you, and make you a blessing, that ye may bear fruit in old age. Oh, fill up the little inch of time that remains to His glory; walk with God; live for God. Oh, that every thought, and word, and action might be in His favor, and to His praise! The Lord grant that we may meet again here, and with you be refreshed; but if not, may we meet where we shall walk with Christ in white. God, who knows my heart, knows it would be a hell to me to spend an eternity with unconverted, Christless souls; but to be with Christ and His people is heaven to me, wherever it is.
There are many young believers among you, whom I may never meet again. It is hard to think of parting with you; the mother feels it hard to part with the sucking child. It was my highest delight in this world to see you growing day by day—to see your sense of the plague in your own heart deepening—to see you cleaving to Christ with full purpose of heart— to see your “peace widening like a river,” and to see your love burning higher and higher toward the throne of God. You are in my heart to live and to die with me. Still He who at any time fed you by me, can as easily feed you by another. I commend you to the Lord, on whom you believe. Read 2 Peter 3:17; meditate over it, pray over it; beware lest ye also, being led away with the error of the wicked, fall from your own steadfastness; but grow in grace.
The only way to be kept from falling is to grow. If you stand still, you will fall. Read Proverbs 11:28, “The righteous shall flourish as a branch.” Remember you are not a tree, that can stand alone; you are only “a branch,” and it is only while you abide in Him, as a branch, that you will flourish. Keep clear your sense of justification; remember it is not your own natural goodness, nor your tears, nor your sanctification, that will justify you before God. It is Christ’s sufferings and obedience alone. Seek to be made holier every day; pray, strive, wrestle for the Spirit, to make you like God. Be as much as you can with God. I declare to you that I had rather be one hour with God, than a thousand with the sweetest society on earth or in heaven. All other joys are but streams; God is the fountain: “all my springs are in Thee.”
Now may the blessings that are on the head of the just be on your head. Be faithful unto death, and Christ will give you a crown of life; and if I never meet you again in this world, may I meet you as pillars in the house of my God, where you “shall go no more out.” Pray for me when you have access to the throne, when you have a heart for it. I will try to pray for you, that ye may endure to the end. I have a word more for those of you that are still unconverted, whom I may never see again in the flesh. My heart bleeds to think of parting with you; but I must defer this to my next letter, for I expect to write you again before I go. Farewell for the present, and may the grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Wednesday, July 30, 2008
“And when he thought thereon, he wept.”
It has been thought by some that as long as Peter lived, the fountain of his tears began to flow whenever he remembered his denying his Lord. It is not unlikely that it was so, (for his sin was very great, and grace in him had afterwards a perfect work. This same experience is common to all the redeemed family according to the degree in which the Spirit of God has removed the natural heart of stone. We, like Peter, remember our boastful promise: “Though all men shall forsake thee, yet will not I.” We eat our own words with the bitter herbs of repentance. When we think of what we vowed we would be, and of what we have been, we may weep whole showers of grief. He thought on his denying his Lord. The place in which he did it, the little cause which led him into such heinous sin, the oaths and blasphemies with which he sought to confirm his falsehood, and the dreadful hardness of heart which drove him to do so again and yet again. Can we, when we are reminded of our sins, and their exceeding sinfulness, remain stolid and stubborn? Will we not make our house a Bochim, and cry unto the Lord for renewed assurances of pardoning love? May we never take a dry-eyed look at sin, lest ere long we have a tongue parched in the flames of hell. Peter also thought upon his Master’s look of love. The Lord followed up the cock’s warning voice with an admonitory look of sorrow, pity, and love. That glance was never out of Peter’s mind so long as he lived. It was far more effectual than ten thousand sermons would have been without the Spirit. The penitent apostle would be sure to weep when he recollected the Saviour’s full forgiveness, which restored him to his former place. To think that we have offended so kind and good a Lord is more than sufficient reason for being constant weepers. Lord, smite our rocky hearts, and make the waters flow.
“Him that cometh to me I will in no wise cast out.”
No limit is set to the duration of this promise. It does not merely say, “I will not cast out a sinner at his first coming,” but, “I will in no wise cast out.” The original reads, “I will not, not cast out,” or “I will never, never cast out.” The text means, that Christ will not at first reject a believer; and that as he will not do it at first, so he will not to the last.
But suppose the believer sins after coming? “If any man sin we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous.” But suppose that believers backslide? “I will heal their backsliding, I will love them freely: for mine anger is turned away from him.” But believers may fall under temptation! “God is faithful, who will not suffer you to be tempted above that ye are able; but will with the temptation also make a way to escape, that ye may be able to bear it.” But the believer may fall into sin as David did! Yes, but he will “Purge them with hyssop, and they shall be clean; he will wash them and they shall be whiter than snow”; “From all their iniquities will I cleanse them.”
“Once in Christ, in Christ for ever,
Nothing from his love can sever.”
“I give unto my sheep,” saith he, “eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of my hand.” What sayest thou to this, O trembling feeble mind? Is not this a precious mercy, that coming to Christ, thou dost not come to One who will treat thee well for a little while, and then send thee about thy business, but he will receive thee and make thee his bride, and thou shalt be his for ever? Receive no longer the spirit of bondage again to fear, but the spirit of adoption whereby thou shalt cry, Abba, Father! Oh! the grace of these words: “I will in no wise cast out.”
Tuesday, July 29, 2008
Monday, July 28, 2008
“Ye were without Christ” (Eph. 2:12).
The text which heads this message describes the state of the Ephesians before they became Christians. But that is not all. It describes the state of every man and woman in England who is not yet converted to God. A more miserable state cannot be conceived! It is bad enough to be without money or without health or without home or without friends. But it is far worse to be “without Christ.”
Let us examine the text this day, and see what it contains. Who can tell but it may prove a message from God to some reader of this message?
1. Let us consider when it can be said of a man that he is “without Christ.”
The expression “without Christ,” is not one of my own invention. The words were not first coined by me, but were written under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. They were used by St. Paul when he was reminding the Ephesian Christians what their former condition was, before they heard the gospel and believed. Ignorant and dark no doubt they had been, buried in idolatry and heathenism, worshippers of the false goddess Diana. But all this he passes over completely. He seems to think that this would only partially describe their state. So he draws a picture, of which the very first feature is the expression before us: “At that time ye were without Christ” (Eph. 2:12). Now what does the expression mean?
a. A man is “without Christ” when be has no head–knowledge of Him. Millions, no doubt, are in this condition. They neither know who Christ is, nor what He has done, nor what He taught, nor why He was crucified, nor where He is now, nor what He is to mankind. In short, they are entirely ignorant of Him. The heathen, of course, who never yet heard the gospel, come first under this description. But unhappily they do not stand alone. There are thousands of people living in England at this very day, who have hardly any clearer ideas about Christ than the very heathen. Ask them what they know about Jesus Christ, and you will be astounded at the gross darkness which covers their minds. Visit them on their deathbeds, and you will find that they can tell you no more about Christ than about Mohammed. Thousands are in this state in country parishes, and thousands in towns. And about all such persons but one account can be given. They are “without Christ.”
I am aware that some modern divines do not take the view which I have just stated. They tell us that all mankind have a part and interest in Christ, whether they know Him or not. They say that all men and women, however ignorant while they live, shall be taken by Christ’s mercy to heaven when they die! Such views, I firmly believe, cannot be reconciled with God’s Word. It is written “This is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent” (John 17:3). It is one of the marks of the wicked, on whom God shall take vengeance at the last day, that they “know not God” (2 Thess. 1:8). An unknown Christ is no Saviour. What shall be the state of the heathen after death; how the savage who never heard the gospel shall be judged; in what manner God will deal with the helplessly ignorant and uneducated—all these are questions which we may safely let alone. We may rest assured that “the Judge of all the earth will do right” (Gen. 18:25). But we must not fly in the face of Scripture. If Bible words mean anything, to be ignorant of Christ is to be “without Christ.”
b. But this is not all. A man is “without Christ” when he has no heart–faith in Him as his Saviour. It is quite possible to know all about Christ, and yet not to put our trust in Him. There are multitudes who know every article of the belief, and can tell you glibly that Christ was “born of the Virgin Mary, suffered under Pontius Pilate, was crucified, dead and buried.” They learned it at school. They have it sticking fast in their memories. But they make no practical use of their knowledge. They put their trust in something which is not Christ. They hope to go to heaven because they are moral and well–conducted, because they say their prayers and go to church, because they have been baptized and go to the Lord’s table. But as to a lively faith in God’s mercy through Christ—a real, intelligent confidence in Christ’s blood and righteousness and intercession—they are things of which they know nothing at all. And of all such persons I can see but one true account. They are “without Christ.”
I am aware that many do not admit the truth of what I have just said. Some tell us that all baptized people are members of Christ by virtue of their baptism. Others tell us that where there is a head knowledge we have no right to question a person’s interest in Christ. To these views I have only one plain answer. The Bible forbids us to say that any man is joined to Christ until he believes. Baptism is no proof that we are joined to Christ. Simon Magus was baptized, and yet was distinctly told that he had “no part or lot in this matter” (Acts 8:21). Head–knowledge is no proof that we are joined to Christ. The devils know Christ well enough, but have no portion in Him. God knows, no doubt, who are His from all eternity. But man knows nothing of anyone’s justification until he believes. The grand question is: “Do we believe?” It is written, “He that believeth not the Son shall not see life; but the wrath of God abideth on him.” “He that believeth not shall be damned” (John 3:36; Mark 16:16). If Bible words mean anything, to be without faith is to be “without Christ.”
c. But I have yet one thing more to say. A man is “without Christ” when the Holy Spirit’s work cannot be seen in his life. Who can avoid seeing, if he uses his eyes, that myriads of professing Christians know nothing of inward conversion of heart? They will tell you that they believe the Christian religion; they go to their places of worship with tolerable regularity; they think it a proper thing to be married and buried with all the ceremonies of the church; they would be much offended if their Christianity were doubted. But where is the Holy Spirit to be seen in their lives? What are their hearts and affections set upon? Whose is the image and superscription that stands out in their tastes and habits and ways? Alas, there can only be one reply! They know nothing experimentally of the renewing, sanctifying work of the Holy Spirit. They are yet dead to God. And of all such only one account can be given. They are “without Christ.”
I am well aware that few will admit this. The vast majority will tell you that it is extreme and wild and extravagant to require so much in Christians, and to press on everyone conversion. They will say that it is impossible to keep up the high standard which I have just referred to, without going out of the world, and that we may surely go to heaven without being such very great saints. To all this, I can only reply, “What saith the Scripture? What saith the Lord?” It is written, “Except a man be born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God.” “Except ye be converted, and become as little children, ye shall not enter into the kingdom of heaven.” “He that saith he abideth in Christ, ought himself also so to walk, even as He walked.” “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His” (John 3:3; Matt 18:3;1 John 2:6; Rom. 8:9). The Scripture cannot be broken. If Bible words mean anything, to be without the Spirit is to be “without Christ.”
I commend the three propositions I have just laid down to your serious and prayerful consideration. Mark well what they come to. Examine them carefully on every side. In order to have a saving interest in Christ, knowledge, faith and the grace of the Holy Spirit are absolutely necessary. He that is without them is “without Christ.”
How painfully ignorant are many! They know literally nothing about religion. Christ and the Holy Spirit and faith and grace and conversion and sanctification are mere “words and names” to them. They could not explain what they mean, if it were to save their lives. And can such ignorance as this take anyone to heaven? Impossible! Without knowledge, “without Christ!”
How painfully self–righteous are many! They can talk complacently about having “done their duty,” and being “kind to everybody,” and having always “kept to their church,” and having “never been so very bad” as some, and therefore they seem to think they must go to heaven! And as to deep sense of sin and simple faith in Christ’s blood and sacrifice, it seems to have no place in their religion. Their talk is all of doing and never of believing. And will such self–righteousness as this land anyone in heaven? Never! Without faith, “without Christ!”
How painfully ungodly are many! They live in the habitual neglect of God’s Sabbath, God’s Bible, God’s ordinances and God’s sacraments. They think nothing of doing things which God has flatly forbidden. They are constantly living in ways which are directly contrary to God’s commandments. And can such ungodliness end in salvation? Impossible! Without the Holy Spirit, “without Christ!”
I know well that at first sight these statements seem hard and sharp and rough and severe. But after all, are they not God’s truth as revealed to us in Scripture? If truth, ought they not to be made known? If necessary to be known, ought they not to be plainly laid down? If I know anything of my own heart, I desire above all things to magnify the riches of God’s love to sinners. I long to tell all mankind what a wealth of mercy and lovingkindness there is laid up in God’s heart for all who will seek it. But I cannot find anywhere that ignorant and unbelieving and unconverted people have any part in Christ! If I am wrong, I shall be thankful to anyone who will show me a more excellent way. But till I am shown it, I must stand fast on the positions I have already laid down. I dare not forsake them, lest I be found guilty of handling God’s Word deceitfully. I dare not be silent about them, lest the blood of souls be required at my hands. The man without knowledge, without faith, and without the Holy Spirit, is a man without Christ!
2. What is the actual condition of a man without Christ? This is a branch of our present subject that demands very special attention. Thankful indeed should I be if I could exhibit it in its true colors. I can easily imagine some reader saying to himself, “Well, suppose I am without Christ, where is the mighty harm? I hope God will be merciful. I am no worse than many others. I trust all will be right at last.” Listen to me and, by God’s help, I will try to show that you are sadly deceived. “Without Christ,” all will not be right, but all desperately wrong.
a. For one thing, to be “without Christ” is to be without God. The Apostle St. Paul told the Ephesians as much as this in plain words. He ends the famous sentence which begins, “Ye were without Christ,” by saying, “Ye were without God in the world.” And who that thinks can wonder? That man can have very low ideas of God who does not conceive Him a most pure and holy and glorious and spiritual Being. That man must be very blind who does not see that human nature is corrupt and sinful and defiled. How then can such a worm as man draw near to God with comfort? How can he look up to Him with confidence and not feel afraid? How can he speak to Him, have dealings with Him, look forward to dwelling with Him, without dread and alarm? There must be a mediator between God and man, and there is but one that can fill the office. That One is Christ.
Who are you to talk of God’s mercy and God’s love separate from and independent of Christ? There is no such love and mercy recorded in Scripture. Know this day that God out of Christ is “a consuming fire” (Heb. 12:29). Merciful He is, beyond all question rich in mercy, plenteous in mercy. But His mercy is inseparably connected with the mediation of His beloved Son Jesus Christ. It must flow through Him as the appointed channel, or it cannot flow at all. It is written “He that honoureth not the Son, honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.” “I am the way, the truth and the life no man cometh unto the Father, but by Me” (John 5:23; 14:6). “Without Christ” we are without God.
b. Moreover, to be “without Christ” is to be without peace. Every man has a conscience within him, which must be satisfied before he can be truly happy. So long as this conscience is asleep or half dead, so long, no doubt, he gets along pretty well. But as soon as a man’s conscience wakes up, and he begins to think of past sins and present failings and future judgment, at once he finds out that he needs something to give him inward rest. But what can do it? Repenting and praying and Bible reading, and church going, and sacrament receiving, and self–mortification may be tried, and tried in vain. They never yet took off the burden from anyone’s conscience. And yet peace must be had!
There is only one thing can give peace to the conscience, and that is the blood of Jesus Christ sprinkled on it. A clear understanding that Christ’s death was an actual payment of our debt to God, and that the merit of that death is made over to man when he believes, is the grand secret of inward peace. It meets every craving of conscience. It answers every accusation. It calms every fear. It is written “These things I have spoken unto you, that in Me ye might have peace.” “He is our peace.” “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ” (John 16:33; Eph. 2:14; Rom. 5:1). We have peace through the blood of His cross: peace like a deep mine—peace like an ever–flowing stream. But “without Christ” we are without peace.
c. To be “without Christ” is to be without hope. Hope of some sort or other almost everyone thinks he possesses. Rarely indeed will you find a man who will boldly tell you that he has no hope at all about his soul. But how few there are that can give “a reason of the hope that is in them”! (1 Pet. 3:15). How few can explain it, describe it and show its foundations! How many a hope is nothing better than a vague empty feeling, which the day of sickness and the hour of death will prove to be utterly useless, impotent alike to comfort or to save.
There is but one hope that has roots, life, strength and solidity, and that is the hope which is built on the great rock of Christ’s work and office as man’s Redeemer. “Other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ” (1 Cor. 3:11). He that buildeth on this corner–stone “shall not be confounded.” About this hope there is reality. It will bear looking at and handling. It will meet every enquiry. Search it through and through, and you will find no flaw whatever in it. All other hopes beside this are worthless. Like summer–dried fountains, they fail man just when his need is the sorest. They are like unsound ships, which look well so long as they lie quiet in harbor, but when the winds and the waves of ocean begin to try them, their rotten condition is discovered and they sink beneath the waters. There is no such thing as a good hope without Christ, and “without Christ” is to have “no hope” (Eph. 2:12).
d. To be “without Christ” is to be without heaven. In saying this I do not merely mean that there is no entrance into heaven, but that “without Christ” there could be no happiness in being there. A man without a Saviour and Redeemer could never feel at home in heaven. He would feel that he had no lawful right or title to be there; boldness and confidence and ease of heart would be impossible. Amid pure and holy angels, under the eyes of a pure and holy God, he could not hold up his head; he would feel confounded and ashamed. It is the very essence of all true views of heaven that Christ is there.
Who art thou that dreamest of a heaven in which Christ has no place? Awake to know thy folly. Know that in every description of heaven which the Bible contains, the presence of Christ is one essential feature. “In the midst of the throne,” says St. John, “stood a Lamb as it had been slain.” The very throne of heaven is called the “throne of God and of the Lamb.” “The Lamb is the light of heaven, and the temple of it.” The saints who dwell in heaven are to be “fed by the Lamb,” and “led to living fountains of waters.” The meeting of the saints in heaven is called “the marriage supper of the Lamb” (Rev. 5:6; 22:3; 21:22, 23; 7:17; 19:9). A heaven “without Christ” would not be the heaven of the Bible. To be “without Christ” is to be without heaven.
I might easily add to these things. I might tell you that to be “without Christ” is to be without life, without strength, without safety, without foundation, without a friend in heaven, without righteousness. None so badly off as those that are without Christ!
What the ark was to Noah, what the Passover lamb was to Israel in Egypt, what the manna, the smitten rock, the brazen serpent, the pillar of cloud and fire, the scapegoat, were to the tribes in the wilderness—all this the Lord Jesus is meant to be to man’s soul. None so destitute as those that are without Christ!
What the root is to the branches, what the air is to our lungs, what food and water are to our bodies, what the sun is to creation—all this and much more Christ is intended to be to us. None so helpless, none so pitiable as those that are without Christ!
I grant that if there were no such things as sickness and death, if men and women never grew old and lived on this earth for ever, the subject of this message would be of no importance. But you must know that sickness, death and the grave are sad realities.
If this life were all—if there were no judgment, no heaven, no hell, no eternity—it would be mere waste of time to trouble yourself with such inquiries as this tract suggests. But you have got a conscience. You know well that there is a reckoning day beyond the grave. There is a judgment yet to come.
Surely the subject of this message is no light matter. It is not a small thing, and one that does not signify. It demands the attention of every sensible person. It lies at the very root of that all–important question, the salvation of our souls. To be “without Christ” is to be most miserable.
1. And now I ask every one who has read this message through to examine himself and find out his own precise condition. Are you without Christ?
Do not allow life to pass away without some serious thoughts and self–inquiry. You cannot always go on as you do now. A day must come when eating and drinking and sleeping and dressing and making merry and spending money will have an end. There will be a day when your place will be empty, and you will be only spoken of as one dead and gone. And where will you be then, if you have lived and died without thought about your soul, without God, and without Christ? Oh, remember, it is better a thousand times to be without money and health and friends and company and good cheer than to be without Christ!
2. If you have lived without Christ hitherto, I invite you in all affection to change your course without delay. Seek the Lord Jesus while He can be found. Call upon Him while He is near. He is sitting at God’s right hand, able to save to the uttermost everyone who comes to Him, however sinful and careless he may have been. He is sitting at God’s right hand, willing to hear the prayer of everyone who feels that his past life has been all wrong, and wants to be set right. Seek Christ, seek Christ without delay. Acquaint yourself with Him Do not be ashamed to apply to Him. Only become one of Christ’s friends this year, and you will say one day, it was the happiest year that you ever had.
3. If you have become one of Christ’s friends already, I exhort you to be a thankful man. Awake to a deeper sense of the infinite mercy of having an almighty Saviour, a title to heaven, a home that is eternal, a Friend that never dies! A few more years and all our family gatherings will be over. What a comfort to think that we have in Christ something that we can never lose!
Awake to a deeper sense of the sorrowful state of those who are “without Christ.” We are often reminded of the many who are without food or clothing or school or church. Let us pity them, and help them, as far as we can. But let us never forget that there are people whose state is far more pitiable. Who are they? The people “without Christ!”
Have we relatives without Christ? Let us feel for them, pray for them, speak to the King about them, strive to recommend the gospel to them. Let us leave no stone unturned in our efforts to bring them to Christ.
Have we neighbors without Christ? Let us labor in every way for their soul’s salvation. The night cometh when none can work. Happy is he who lives under the abiding conviction that to be in Christ is peace, safety, and happiness; and that to be “without Christ” is to be on the brink of destruction.
Sunday, July 27, 2008
Saturday, July 26, 2008
(Read by Max McLean. Provided by The Listener's Audio Bible.)
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Friday, July 25, 2008
Thursday, July 24, 2008
Wednesday, July 23, 2008
(1) Naaman, commander of the army of the king of Syria, was a great man with his master and in high favor, because by him the LORD had given victory to Syria. He was a mighty man of valor, but he was a leper.
(2) Now the Syrians on one of their raids had carried off a little girl from the land of Israel, and she worked in the service of Naaman's wife.
(3) She said to her mistress, "Would that my lord were with the prophet who is in Samaria! He would cure him of his leprosy."
(4) So Naaman went in and told his lord, "Thus and so spoke the girl from the land of Israel."
(5) And the king of Syria said, "Go now, and I will send a letter to the king of Israel." So he went, taking with him ten talents of silver, six thousand shekels of gold, and ten changes of clothes.
(6) And he brought the letter to the king of Israel, which read, "When this letter reaches you, know that I have sent to you Naaman my servant, that you may cure him of his leprosy."
(7) And when the king of Israel read the letter, he tore his clothes and said, "Am I God, to kill and to make alive, that this man sends word to me to cure a man of his leprosy? Only consider, and see how he is seeking a quarrel with me."
(8) But when Elisha the man of God heard that the king of Israel had torn his clothes, he sent to the king, saying, "Why have you torn your clothes? Let him come now to me, that he may know that there is a prophet in Israel."
(9) So Naaman came with his horses and chariots and stood at the door of Elisha's house.
(10) And Elisha sent a messenger to him, saying, "Go and wash in the Jordan seven times, and your flesh shall be restored, and you shall be clean."
(11) But Naaman was angry and went away, saying, "Behold, I thought that he would surely come out to me and stand and call upon the name of the LORD his God, and wave his hand over the place and cure the leper.
(12) Are not Abana and Pharpar, the rivers of Damascus, better than all the waters of Israel? Could I not wash in them and be clean?" So he turned and went away in a rage.
(13) But his servants came near and said to him, "My father, it is a great word the prophet has spoken to you; will you not do it? Has he actually said to you, 'Wash, and be clean'?"
(14) So he went down and dipped himself seven times in the Jordan, according to the word of the man of God, and his flesh was restored like the flesh of a little child, and he was clean.
(15) Then he returned to the man of God, he and all his company, and he came and stood before him. And he said, "Behold, I know that there is no God in all the earth but in Israel; so accept now a present from your servant."
(16) But he said, "As the LORD lives, before whom I stand, I will receive none." And he urged him to take it, but he refused.
(17) Then Naaman said, "If not, please let there be given to your servant two mules' load of earth, for from now on your servant will not offer burnt offering or sacrifice to any god but the LORD.
(18) In this matter may the LORD pardon your servant: when my master goes into the house of Rimmon to worship there, leaning on my arm, and I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, when I bow myself in the house of Rimmon, the LORD pardon your servant in this matter."
(19) He said to him, "Go in peace." But when Naaman had gone from him a short distance,
(20) Gehazi, the servant of Elisha the man of God, said, "See, my master has spared this Naaman the Syrian, in not accepting from his hand what he brought. As the LORD lives, I will run after him and get something from him."
(21) So Gehazi followed Naaman. And when Naaman saw someone running after him, he got down from the chariot to meet him and said, "Is all well?"
(22) And he said, "All is well. My master has sent me to say, 'There have just now come to me from the hill country of Ephraim two young men of the sons of the prophets. Please give them a talent of silver and two festal garments.'"
(23) And Naaman said, "Be pleased to accept two talents." And he urged him and tied up two talents of silver in two bags, with two festal garments, and laid them on two of his servants. And they carried them before Gehazi.
(24) And when he came to the hill, he took them from their hand and put them in the house, and he sent the men away, and they departed.
(25) He went in and stood before his master, and Elisha said to him, "Where have you been, Gehazi?" And he said, "Your servant went nowhere."
(26) But he said to him, "Did not my heart go when the man turned from his chariot to meet you? Was it a time to accept money and garments, olive orchards and vineyards, sheep and oxen, male servants and female servants?
(27) Therefore the leprosy of Naaman shall cling to you and to your descendants forever." So he went out from his presence a leper, like snow.
2Ki 5:1-8 -
Though the Syrians were idolaters, and oppressed God's people, yet the deliverance of which Naaman had been the means, is here ascribed to the Lord. Such is the correct language of Scripture, while those who write common history, plainly show that God is not in all their thoughts. No man's greatness, or honour, can place him our of the reach of the sorest calamities of human life: there is many a sickly, crazy body under rich and gay clothing. Every man has some but or other, something that blemishes and diminishes him, some allay to his grandeur, some damp to his joy. This little maid, though only a girl, could give an account of the famous prophet the Israelites had among them. Children should be early told of the wondrous works of God, that, wherever they go, they may talk of them. As became a good servant, she desired the health and welfare of her master, though she was a captive, a servant by force; much more should servants by choice, seek their masters' good. Servants may be blessings to the families where they are, by telling what they know of the glory of God, and the honour of his prophets. Naaman did not despise what she told, because of her meanness. It would be well if men were as sensible of the burden of sin as they are of bodily disease. And when they seek the blessings which the Lord sends in answer to the prayers of his faithful people, they will find nothing can be had, except they come as beggars for a free gift, not as lords to demand or purchase.
2Ki 5:9-14 -
Elisha knew Naaman to be a proud man, and he would let him know, that before the great God all men stand upon the same level. All God's commands make trial of men's spirits, especially those which direct a sinner how to apply for the blessings of salvation. See in Naaman the folly of pride; a cure will not content him, unless he be cured with pomp and parade. He scorns to be healed, unless he be humoured. The way by which a sinner is received and made holy, through the blood, and by the Spirit of Christ, through faith alone in his name, does not sufficiently humour or employ self, to please the sinner's heart. Human wisdom thinks it can supply wiser and better methods of cleansing. Observe, masters should be willing to hear reason. As we should be deaf to the counsel of the ungodly, though given by great and respected names, so we are to have our ears open to good advice, though brought by those below us. Wouldst thou not do any thing? When diseased sinners are content to do any thing, to submit to any thing, to part with any thing, for a cure, then, and not till then, is there any hope of them. The methods for the healing of the leprosy of sin, are so plain, that we are without excuse if we do not observe them. It is but, Believe, and be saved; Repent, and be pardoned; Wash, and be clean. The believer applies for salvation, not neglecting, altering, or adding to the Saviour's directions; he is thus made clean from guilt, while others, who neglect them, live and die in the leprosy of sin.
2Ki 5:15-19 -
The mercy of the cure affected Naaman more than the miracle. Those are best able to speak of the power of Divine grace, who themselves experience it. He also shows himself grateful to Elisha the prophet. Elijah refused any recompence, not because he thought it unlawful, for he received presents from others, but to show this new convert that the servants of the God of Israel looked upon worldly wealth with a holy contempt. The whole work was from God, in such a manner, that the prophet would not give counsel when he had no directions from the Lord. It is not well violently to oppose the lesser mistakes which unite with men's first convictions; we cannot bring men forward any faster than the Lord prepares them to receive instruction. Yet as to us, if, in covenanting with God, we desire to reserve any known sin, to continue to indulge ourselves in it, that is a breach of his covenant. Those who truly hate evil, will make conscience of abstaining from all appearances of evil.
2Ki 5:20-27 -
Naaman, a Syrian, a courtier, a soldier, had many servants, and we read how wise and good they were. Elisha, a holy prophet, a man of God, has but one servant, and he proves a base liar. The love of money, that root of all evil, was at the bottom of Gehazi's sin. He thought to impose upon the prophet, but soon found that the Spirit of prophecy could not be deceived, and that it was in vain to lie to the Holy Ghost. It is folly to presume upon sin, in hopes of secrecy. When thou goest aside into any by-path, does not thy own conscience go with thee? Does not the eye of God go with thee? He that covers his sin, shall not prosper; particularly, a lying tongue is but for a moment. All the foolish hopes and contrivances of carnal worldlings are open before God. It is not a time to increase our wealth, when we can only do it in such ways as are dishonourable to God and religion, or injurious to others. Gehazi was punished. If he will have Naaman's money, he shall have his disease with it. What was Gehazi profited, though he gained two talents, when thereby he lost his health, his honour, his peace, his service, and, if repentance prevented not, his soul for ever? Let us beware of hypocrisy and covetousness, and dread the curse of spiritual leprosy remaining on our souls. (MHCC)
Monday, July 21, 2008
Joyful, joyful, we adore Thee, God of glory, Lord of love;
Hearts unfold like flowers before Thee, opening to the sun above.
Melt the clouds of sin and sadness; drive the dark of doubt away;
Giver of immortal gladness, fill us with the light of day!
All Thy works with joy surround Thee, earth and heaven reflect Thy rays,
Stars and angels sing around Thee, center of unbroken praise.
Field and forest, vale and mountain, flowery meadow, flashing sea,
Singing bird and flowing fountain call us to rejoice in Thee.
Thou art giving and forgiving, ever blessing, ever blessed,
Wellspring of the joy of living, ocean depth of happy rest!
Thou our Father, Christ our Brother, all who live in love are Thine;
Teach us how to love each other, lift us to the joy divine.
Mortals, join the happy chorus, which the morning stars began;
Father love is reigning o’er us, brother love binds man to man.
Ever singing, march we onward, victors in the midst of strife,
Joyful music leads us Sunward in the triumph song of life.
Words: Henry J. van Dyke, 1907. Van Dyke wrote this hymn while staying at the home of Harry A. Garfield at Williams College, Massachusetts. It was first published in the Presbyterian Hymnal in 1911. It also appeared in the Poems of Henry van Dyke, 1911. Van Dyke wrote:
These verses are simple expressions of common Christian feelings and desires in this present time—hymns of today that may be sung together by people who know the thought of the age, and are not afraid that any truth of science will destroy religion, or any revolution on earth overthrow the kingdom of heaven. Therefore this is a hymn of trust and joy and hope.
Music: Hymn to Joy, from the 9th Symphony of Ludwig van Beethoven; adapted by Edward Hodges, 1824
Sunday, July 20, 2008
“The earnest of our inheritance.”
Oh! what enlightenment, what joys, what consolation, what delight of heart is experienced by that man who has learned to feed on Jesus, and on Jesus alone. Yet the realization which we have of Christ’s preciousness is, in this life, imperfect at the best. As an old writer says, “‘Tis but a taste!” We have tasted “that the Lord is gracious,” but we do not yet know how good and gracious he is, although what we know of his sweetness makes us long for more. We have enjoyed the firstfruits of the Spirit, and they have set us hungering and thirsting for the fulness of the heavenly vintage. We groan within ourselves, waiting for the adoption. Here we are like Israel in the wilderness, who had but one cluster from Eshcol, there we shall be in the vineyard. Here we see the manna falling small, like coriander seed, but there shall we eat the bread of heaven and the old corn of the kingdom. We are but beginners now in spiritual education; for although we have learned the first letters of the alphabet, we cannot read words yet, much less can we put sentences together; but as one says, “He that has been in heaven but five minutes, knows more than the general assembly of divines on earth.” We have many ungratified desires at present, but soon every wish shall be satisfied; and all our powers shall find the sweetest employment in that eternal world of joy. O Christian, antedate heaven for a few years. Within a very little time thou shalt be rid of all thy trials and thy troubles. Thine eyes now suffused with tears shall weep no longer. Thou shalt gaze in ineffable rapture upon the splendour of him who sits upon the throne. Nay, more, upon his throne shalt thou sit. The triumph of his glory shall be shared by thee; his crown, his joy, his paradise, these shall be thine, and thou shalt be co-heir with him who is the heir of all things.
“And now what hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of Sihor?”
By sundry miracles, by divers mercies, by strange deliverances Jehovah had proved himself to be worthy of Israel’s trust. Yet they broke down the hedges with which God had enclosed them as a sacred garden; they forsook their own true and living God, and followed after false gods. Constantly did the Lord reprove them for this infatuation, and our text contains one instance of God’s expostulating with them, “What hast thou to do in the way of Egypt, to drink the waters of the muddy river?”-for so it may be translated. “Why dost thou wander afar and leave thine own cool stream from Lebanon? Why dost thou forsake Jerusalem to turn aside to Noph and to Tahapanes? Why art thou so strangely set on mischief, that thou canst not be content with the good and healthful, but wouldst follow after that which is evil and deceitful?” Is there not here a word of expostulation and warning to the Christian? O true believer, called by grace and washed in the precious blood of Jesus, thou hast tasted of better drink than the muddy river of this world’s pleasure can give thee; thou hast had fellowship with Christ; thou hast obtained the joy of seeing Jesus, and leaning thine head upon his bosom. Do the trifles, the songs, the honours, the merriment of this earth content thee after that? Hast thou eaten the bread of angels, and canst thou live on husks? Good Rutherford once said, “I have tasted of Christ’s own manna, and it hath put my mouth out of taste for the brown bread of this world’s joys.” Methinks it should be so with thee. If thou art wandering after the waters of Egypt, O return quickly to the one living fountain: the waters of Sihor may be sweet to the Egyptians, but they will prove only bitterness to thee. What hast thou to do with them? Jesus asks thee this question this evening-what wilt thou answer him?
Friday, July 18, 2008
Thursday, July 17, 2008
Wednesday, July 16, 2008
Peter Siemens lay on the grimy floor of a Russian prison after being unconscious for three days. He had been arrested for sharing the gospel with children. His fellow prisoners had horribly beaten him in return for being promised parole by the guards. As they attacked him, Peter remained silent. Seeing that he was conscious, one of the prisoners asked, “Why didn’t you scream as we beat you?”
“I wondered if you were beating me just for your own sport, without the approval of the guards,” Peter answered through bleeding lips. “If so, and I had yelled, you would have been punished for prison misconduct. I did not want you to suffer, because Jesus loves you, and I do, too.” Peter’s elegant declaration won the hearts of the hardened criminals in his cell. They sent word through the prison grapevine that no one should touch him, regardless of where he was transferred or what incentives the guards offered.
Millions of Christians living in the Middle East have been forced out of the region, and those who remain behind face daily persecution. A new film describing the plight of Christians in the region has recently been completed. It is imperative for the rest of the world to become educated about this prevalent but neglected persecution.
On June 24, Pastor Murugan was beaten by Hindu militants who ambushed him and two other believers while returning home from a prayer meeting in Moodalpalya, Karnataka, India. According to The Voice of the Martyrs contacts, "The other two managed to flee and escape any harm. The militants accused the pastor of forcibly converting people and 'spoiling the minds of the children' and took him to the local police station where he was detained." In an unrelated incident on June 26, Hindu militants barged into the home of a local believer in Hubli, Karnataka; shouted curses at the Christians gathered for a prayer meeting and beat Pastor Vinod Talakere.
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
I truly hope I am out of the cage-stage, as some call the initial period in a life of a new Calvinist. I don't jump on people with the whip of predestination and election as I used to, and I recognize God's Sovereignty in humbling me more and more, even in the way I pour my tea or cook the meals.
What in the beginning was a huge UNKNOWN TERRITORY, has slowly begun to open and make itself known, bit by bit.
This doesn't mean I can see the other side. It is more like the pilgrimage, with a firm goal, without knowing the length of the journey. After all, the Israelites had to spend 40 years on foot pursuing the Promised Land. Why shoul we opt for less?
I have learned to live day by day, hour by hour, and to indeed trust my burdens on Jesus... Fighting on my own is pointless, fighting with Him is all that matters.
It is an exciting experience to observe the world through the lense of the Christian faith. What once was my love and pleasure, is now filth and repulsion, what once was my way to self affirmation, is now trash of human philosophy. Very often it puts me in conflict with my surroundings, but every time I stand firm by the Word, I overcome the problem in front of me. These times I give in, the consequences haunt me for a long time afterwards.
I praise God for these two years. My life is so rich now, and so wonderful, since I gave it to His Son - nothing can surpass it in any measure.
(33) Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are his judgments and how inscrutable his ways!
(34) "For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?"
(35) "Or who has given a gift to him that he might be repaid?"
(36) For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.
Monday, July 14, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Thursday, July 10, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Who has believed what they heard from us? And to whom has the arm of the LORD been revealed? For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him. He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was wounded for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his stripes we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned every one to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. He was oppressed, and he was afflicted, yet he opened not his mouth; like a lamb that is led to the slaughter, and like a sheep that before its shearers is silent, so he opened not his mouth. By oppression and judgment he was taken away; and as for his generation, who considered that he was cut off out of the land of the living, stricken for the transgression of my people? And they made his grave with the wicked and with a rich man in his death, although he had done no violence, and there was no deceit in his mouth. Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for sin, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors.
Monday, July 07, 2008
Sunday, July 06, 2008
A disposition to love somebody is one of the commonest feelings which God has implanted in human nature. Too often, unhappily, people set their affection on unworthy objects. I want this day to claim a place for Him who alone is worthy of all our hearts’ best feelings. I want men to give some of their love to that divine Person who loved us, and gave Himself for us. In all their loving I would have them not forget to Love Christ.
The question which heads this message was addressed by Christ to the apostle Peter. A more important question could not be asked. Eighteen hundred years have passed away since the words were spoken. But to this very day the inquiry is most searching and useful.
Suffer me to press this mighty subject upon the attention of every reader of this message. This is no matter for mere enthusiasts and fanatics. It deserves the consideration of every reasonable Christian who believes the Bible. Our very salvation is bound up with it. Life or death, heaven or hell, depend on our ability to answer the simple question “Do you love Christ?”
There are two points which I wish to bring forward in opening up this subject.
1. Let me show the peculiar feeling of a true Christian towards Christ—he loves Him. A true Christian is not a mere baptized man or woman. He is something more. He is not a person who only goes, as a matter of form, to a church or chapel on Sundays, and lives all the rest of the week as if there was no God. Formality is not Christianity. Ignorant lip worship is not true religion. The Scripture speaks expressly: “They are not all Israel which are of Israel” (Rom. 9:6). The practical lesson of those words is clear and plain. All are not true Christians who are members of the visible church of Christ.
The true Christian is one whose religion is in his heart and life. It is felt by himself in his heart. It is seen by others in his conduct and life. He feels his sinfulness, guilt and badness, and repents. He sees Jesus Christ to be that divine Saviour whom his soul needs, and commits himself to Him. He puts off the old man with his corrupt and carnal habits, and puts on the new man. He lives a new and holy life, fighting habitually against the world, the flesh and the devil. Christ Himself is the cornerstone of his Christianity. Ask him in what he trusts for the forgiveness of his many sins, and he will tell you, in the death of Christ. Ask him in what righteousness he hopes to stand innocent at the judgment day, and he will tell you it is the righteousness of Christ. Ask him by what pattern he tries to frame his life, and he will tell you that it is the example of Christ.
But, beside all this, there is one thing in a true Christian which is eminently peculiar to him. That thing is love to Christ. Knowledge, faith, hope, reverence, obedience are all marked features in a true Christian’s character. But his picture would be very imperfect if you omitted his “love” to his divine Master. He not only knows, trusts and obeys. He goes further than this—he loves.
This peculiar mark of a true Christian is one which we find mentioned several times in the Bible. “Faith towards our Lord Jesus Christ” is an expression which many Christians are familiar with. Let it never be forgotten that love is mentioned by the Holy Spirit in almost as strong terms as faith. Great as the danger is of him “that believeth not,” the danger of him that “loveth not” is equally great. Not believing and not loving are both steps to everlasting ruin.
Hear what St. Paul says to the Corinthians “If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maran–atha” (1 Cor. 16:22). St. Paul allows no way of escape to the man who does not love Christ. He leaves him no loophole or excuse. A man may lack clear head–knowledge, and yet be saved. He may fail in courage, and be overcome by the fear of man, like Peter. He may fall tremendously, like David, and yet rise again. But if a man does not love Christ, he is not in the way of life. The curse is yet upon him. He is on the broad road that leadeth to destruction.
Hear what St. Paul says to the Ephesians: “Grace be with all them that love our Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph. 6:24). The apostle is here sending his good wishes, and declaring his good will to all true Christians. Many of them, no doubt, he had never seen. Many of them in the early churches, we may be very sure, were weak in faith and knowledge and self–denial. How, then, shall he describe them in sending his message? What words can he use which will not discourage the weaker brethren? He chooses a sweeping expression which exactly describes all true Christians under one common name. All had not attained to the same degree, whether in doctrine or practice. But all loved Christ in sincerity.
Hear what our Lord Jesus Christ Himself says to the Jews: “If God were your Father, ye would love Me” (John 8:42). He saw His misguided enemies satisfied with their spiritual condition, on the one single ground that they were children of Abraham. He saw them, like many ignorant Christians of our own day, claiming to be God’s children, for no better reasons than this: that they were circumcised and belonged to the Jewish church. He lays down the broad principle that no man is a child of God, who does not love God’s only begotten Son. No man has a right to call God “Father” who does not love Christ. Well would it be for many Christians if they were to remember that this mighty principle applies to them as well as to the Jews. No love to Christ—then no sonship to God!
Hear once more what our Lord Jesus Christ said to the Apostle Peter, after He rose from the dead. Three times He asked him the question, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou Me?” (John). The occasion was remarkable. He meant gently to remind His erring disciple of his thrice–repeated fall. He desired to call forth from him a new confession of faith, before publicly restoring to him his commission to feed the church. And what was the question that He asked him? He might have said, “Believest thou?” “Art thou converted?” “Art thou ready to confess Me?” “Wilt thou obey Me?” He uses none of these expressions. He simply says, “Lovest thou Me?” This is the point, He would have us know, on which a man’s Christianity hinges. Simple as the question sounded, it was most searching. Plain and easy to be understood by the most unlearned poor man, it contains matter which tests the reality of the most advanced apostle. If a man truly loves Christ, all is right; if not, all is wrong. 21:15–17
Would you know the secret of this peculiar feeling towards Christ which distinguishes the true Christian? You have it in the words of St. John: “We love Him, because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19). That text no doubt applies specially to God the Father. But it is no less true of God the Son.
A true Christian loves Christ for all He has done for him. He has suffered in his stead, and died for him on the cross. He has redeemed him from the guilt, the power and the consequences of sin by His blood. He has called him by His Spirit to self–knowledge, repentance, faith, hope and holiness. He has forgiven all his many sins and blotted them out. He has freed him from the captivity of the world, the flesh and the devil. He has taken him from the brink of hell, placed him in the narrow way, and set his face towards heaven. He has given him light instead of darkness, peace of conscience instead of uneasiness, hope instead of uncertainty, life instead of death. Can you wonder that the true Christian loves Christ?
And he loves Him besides, for all that He is still doing. He feels that He is daily washing away his many shortcomings and infirmities, and pleading his soul’s cause before God. He is daily supplying all the needs of his soul, and providing him with an hourly provision of mercy and grace. He is daily leading him by His Spirit to a city of habitation, bearing with him when he is weak and ignorant, raising him up when he stumbles and falls, protecting him against his many enemies, preparing an eternal home for him in heaven. Can you wonder that the true Christian loves Christ?
Does the debtor in Jail love the friend who unexpectedly and undeservedly pays all his debts, supplies him with fresh capital, and takes him into partnership with himself? Does the prisoner in war love the man who, at the risk of his own life, breaks through the enemies’ lines, rescues him and sets him free? Does the drowning sailor love the man who plunges into the sea, dives after him, catches him by the hair of his head and by a mighty effort saves him from a watery grave? A very child can answer such questions as these. Just in the same way, and upon the same principles, a true Christian loves Jesus Christ.
a. This love to Christ is the inseparable companion of saving faith. A faith of devils, a mere intellectual faith, a man may have without love, but not that faith which saves. Love cannot usurp the office of faith. It cannot justify. It does not join the soul to Christ. It cannot bring peace to the conscience. But where there is real justifying faith in Christ, there will always be heart love to Christ. He that is really forgiven is the man who will really love (Luke 7:47). If a man has no love to Christ, you may be sure he has no faith.
b. Love to Christ is the mainspring of work for Christ. There is little done for His cause on earth from sense of duty, or from knowledge of what is right and proper. The heart must be interested before the hands will move and continue moving. Excitement may galvanize the Christian’s hands into a fitful and spasmodic activity. But there will be no patient continuance in well–doing, no unwearied labor in missionary work at home or abroad, without love. The nurse in a hospital may do her duty properly and well, may give the sick man his medicine at the right time, may feed him, minister to him and attend to all his wants. But there is a vast difference between that nurse and a wife tending the sick–bed of a beloved husband, or a mother watching over a dying child. The one acts from a sense of duty; the other from affection and love. The one does her duty because she is paid for it; the other is what she is because of her heart. It is just the same in the matter of the service of Christ. The great workers of the church, the men who have led forlorn hopes in the mission–field, and turned the world upside down, have all been eminently lovers of Christ.
Examine the characters of Owen and Baxter, of Rutherford and George Herbert, of Leighton and Hervey, of Whitefield and Wesley, of Henry Martyn and Judson, of Bickersteth and Simeon, of Hewitson and M’Cheyne, of Stowell and M’Neile. These men have left a mark on the world. And what was the common feature of their characters? They all loved Christ. They not only held a creed. They loved a Person, even the Lord Jesus Christ.
c. Love to Christ is the point which we ought specially to dwell upon, in teaching religion to children. Election, imputed righteousness, original sin, justification, sanctification and even faith itself are matters which sometimes puzzle a child of tender years. But love to Jesus seems far more within reach of their understanding. That He loved them even to His death, and that they ought to love Him in return, is a creed which meets the span of their minds. How true it is that “out of the mouths of babes and sucklings Thou has perfected praise”! (Matt. 21:16). There are myriads of Christians who know every article of the Athanasian, Nicene and Apostolic Creeds, and yet know less of real Christianity than a little child who only knows that he loves Christ.
d. Love to Christ is the common meeting point of believers of every branch of Christ’s church on earth. Whether Episcopalian or Presbyterian, Baptist or Independent, Calvinist or Arminian, Methodist or Moravian, Lutheran or Reformed, Established or Free—here at least they are agreed. About forms and ceremonies, about church government and modes of worship, they often differ widely. But on one point, at any rate, they are united. They have all one common feeling towards Him on whom they build their hope of salvation. They “love the Lord Jesus Christ in sincerity” (Eph 6:24). Many of them, perhaps, are ignorant of systematic divinity, and could argue but feebly in defense of their creed. But they all know what they feel towards Him who died for their sins. “I cannot speak much for Christ, sir,” said an old uneducated Christian woman to Dr. Chalmers, “but if I cannot speak for Him, I could die for Him!”
e. Love to Christ will be the distinguishing mark of all saved souls in heaven. The multitude which no man can number will all be of one mind. Old differences will be merged in one common feeling. Old doctrinal peculiarities, fiercely wrangled for upon earth, will be covered over by one common sense of debt to Christ. Luther and Zwingli will no longer dispute. Wesley and Toplady will no longer waste time in controversy. Churchmen and Dissenters will no longer bite and devour one another. All will find themselves joining with one heart and voice in that hymn of praise: “Unto Him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in His own blood, and hath made us kings and priests unto God and his Father; to Him be glory and dominion for ever and ever. Amen” (Rev. 1:5–6).
The words which John Bunyan puts in the mouth of Mr. Standfast, as he stood in the river of death, are very beautiful. He said, “This river has been a terror to many; yea, the thoughts of it also have often frightened me. But now methinks I stand easy: my foot is fixed upon that on which the feet of the priests that bear the ark stood while Israel went over Jordan. The waters indeed are to the palate bitter, and to the stomach cold; yet the thoughts of what I am going to, and of the convoy that waits for me on the other side, lie as a glowing coal at my heart. I see myself now at the end of my journey; my toilsome days are ended. I am going to see that head which was crowned with thorns, and that face which was spit upon for me. I have formerly lived by hearing and faith, but now I go where I shall live by sight, and be with Him in whose company I delight myself. I have loved to hear my Lord spoken of; and wherever I have seen the print of His shoe in the earth, there I have coveted to set my foot, too. His name has been to me a civet–box; yea, sweeter than all perfumes! His voice to me has been most sweet; and His countenance I have more desired than they that have desired the light of the sun!” Happy are they that know something of this experience! He that would be in tune for heaven must know something of love to Christ. He that dies ignorant of that love had better never have been born.
2. Let me show, in the second place, the peculiar marks by which love to Christ makes itself known.
The point is one of vast importance. If there is no salvation without love to Christ, if he that does not love Christ is in peril of eternal condemnation, it becomes us all to find out very distinctly what we know about this matter. Christ is in heaven, and we are upon earth. In what way shall the man be discerned that loves Him?
Happily the point is one which it is not very hard to settle. How do we know whether we love any person here upon earth? In what way and manner does love show itself between people in this world, between husband and wife, between parent and child, between brother and sister, between friend and friend? Let these questions be answered by common sense and observation, and I ask no more. Let these questions be honestly answered, and the knot before us is untied. How does affection show itself among ourselves?
a. If we love a person, we like to think about him. We do not need to be reminded of him. We do not forget his name or his appearance or his character or his opinions or his tastes or his position or his occupation. He comes up before our mind’s eye many a time in the day. Though perhaps far distant, he is often present in our thoughts. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! Christ “dwells in his heart,” and is thought of more or less every day (Eph. 3:17). The true Christian does not need to be reminded that he has a crucified Master. He often thinks of Him. He never forgets that He has a day, a cause and a people, and that of His people he is one. Affection is the real secret of a good memory in religion. No worldly man can think much about Christ, unless Christ is pressed upon his notice, because he has no affection for Him. The true Christian has thoughts about Christ every day that he lives, for this one simple reason that he loves Him.
b. If we love a person, we like to hear about him. We find a pleasure in listening to those who speak of him. We feel an interest in any report which others make of him. We are all attention when others talk about him, and describe his ways, his sayings, his doings and his plans. Some may hear him mentioned with utter indifference, but our own hearts bound within us at the very sound of his name. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ. The true Christian delights to hear something about his Master. He likes those sermons best which are full of Christ. He enjoys that society most in which people talk of the things which are Christ’s. I have read of an old Welsh believer, who used to walk several miles every Sunday to hear an English clergyman preach, though she did not understand a word of English. She was asked why she did so. She replied, that this clergyman named the name of Christ so often in his sermons, that it did her good. She loved even the name of her Saviour.
c. If we love a person, we like to read about him. What intense pleasure a letter from an absent husband gives to a wife, or a letter from an absent son to his mother. Others may see little worth notice in the letter. They can scarcely take the trouble to read it through. But those who love the writer see something in the letter which no one else can. They carry it about with them as a treasure. They read it over and over again. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The true Christian delights to read the Scriptures, because they tell him about his beloved Saviour. It is no wearisome task with him to read them. He rarely needs reminding to take his Bible with him when he goes a journey. He cannot be happy without it. And why is all this? It is because the Scriptures testify of Him whom his soul loves, even Christ.
d. If we love a person, we like to please him. We are glad to consult his tastes and opinions, to act upon his advice and do the things which he approves. We even deny ourselves to meet his wishes, abstain from things which we know he dislikes and learn things to which we are not naturally inclined, because we think it will give him pleasure. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The true Christian studies to please Him, by being holy both in body and spirit. Show him anything in his daily practice that Christ hates, and he will give it up. Show him anything that Christ delights in, and he will follow after it. He does not murmur at Christ’s requirements as being too strict and severe, as the children of the world do. To him Christ’s commandments are not grievous, and Christ’s burden is light. And why is all this? Simply because he loves Him.
e. If we love a person, we like his friends. We are favorably inclined to them, even before we know them. We are drawn to them by the common tie of common love to one and the same person. When we meet them we do not feel that we are altogether strangers. There is a bond of union between us. They love the person that we love, and that alone is an introduction. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The true Christian regards all Christ’s friends as his friends, members of the same body, children of the same family, soldiers in the same army, travelers to the same home. When he meets them, he feels as if he had long known them. He is more at home with them in a few minutes, than he is with many worldly people after an acquaintance of several years. And what is the secret of all this? It is simply affection to the same Saviour and love to the same Lord.
f. If we love a person, we are jealous about his name and honor. We do not like to hear him spoken against, without speaking up for him and defending him. We feel bound to maintain his interests and his reputation. We regard the person who treats him ill with almost as much disfavor as if he had ill–treated us. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The true Christian regards with a godly jealousy all efforts to disparage his Master’s word, or name, or church, or day. He will confess Him before princes, if need be, and be sensitive of the least dishonor put upon Him. He will not hold his peace, and suffer his Master’s cause to be put to shame, without testifying against it. And why is all this? Simply because he loves Him.
g. If we love a person, we like to talk to him. We tell him all our thoughts, and pour out all our heart to him. We find no difficulty in discovering subjects of conversation. However silent and reserved we may be to others, we find it easy to talk to a much–loved friend. However often we may meet, we are never at a loss for matter to talk about. We have always much to say, much to ask about, much to describe, much to communicate. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The true Christian finds no difficulty in speaking to his Saviour. Every day he has something to tell Him, and he is not happy unless he tells it. He speaks to Him in prayer every morning and night. He tells Him his wants and desires, his feelings and his fears. He asks counsel of Him in difficulty. He asks comfort of Him in trouble. He cannot help it. He must converse with his Saviour continually, or he would faint by the way. And why is this? Simply because he loves Him.
h. Finally, if we love a person, we like to be always with him. Thinking and hearing and reading and occasionally talking are all well in their way. But when we really love people we want something more. We long to be always in their company. We wish to be continually in their society, and to hold communion with them without interruption or farewell. Well, it is just so between the true Christian and Christ! The heart of a true Christian longs for that blessed day when he will see his Master face to face, and go out no more. He longs to have done with sinning and repenting and believing and to begin that endless life when he shall see as he has been seen, and sin no more. He has found it sweet to live by faith, and he feels it will be sweeter still to live by sight. He has found it pleasant to hear of Christ and talk of Christ and read of Christ. How much more pleasant will it be to see Christ with his own eyes, and never to leave him any more! “Better,” he feels, “is the sight of the eyes than the wandering of the desire” (Eccl. 6:9). And why is all this? Simply because he loves Him.
Such are the marks by which true love may be discovered. They are all plain, simple and easy to be understood. There is nothing dark, abstruse and mysterious about them. Use them honestly, and handle them fairly, and you cannot fail to get some light on the subject of this message.
Perhaps you had a beloved son in the during a time of war. Perhaps he was actively engaged in that war, and in the very midst of the struggle. Cannot you remember how strong and deep and anxious your feelings were about that son? That was love!
Perhaps you have known what it is to have a beloved husband in the navy, often called from home by duty, often separated from you for many months and even years. Cannot you recollect your sorrowful feelings at that time of separation? That was love!
Perhaps you have at this moment a beloved brother who has moved to a large community, launched for the first time amid the temptations of a great city, in order to make his way in education or business. How will he turn out? How will he get on? Will you ever see him again? Do you not know that you often think about that brother? That is affection!
Perhaps you are engaged to be married to a person every way suited to you. But prudence makes it necessary to defer the marriage to a distant period, and duty makes it necessary to be at a distance from the one you have promised to make your wife. Must you not confess that she is often in your thoughts? Must you not confess that you like to hear of her, and hear from her, and that you long to see her? That is affection!
All of this is familiar to everyone, and I need not elaborate. There is hardly a branch of Adam’s family that is ignorant of what it means to love. Then let it never be said that we cannot know if a Christian loves Christ. It may be discovered, it can be known, the proofs are all ready to your hand. Love to the Lord Jesus Christ is no hidden, secret, impalpable thing. It is like light and sound and heat; it is seen and heard and felt. Where there is no evidence for love, love does not exist.
It is time for me to draw this message to a conclusion. But I cannot end without an effort to press its subject home to the individual conscience of each into whose hands it has fallen. I do it in all love and affection. My heart’s desire and prayer to God, in writing this message, is to do good to souls.
1. Let me ask you to look the question in the face which Christ asked of Peter, and try to answer it for yourself. Look at it seriously. Examine it carefully. Weigh it well. After reading all that I have said about it, can you honestly say that you love Christ?
It is no answer to tell me that you believe the truth of Christianity, and hold the articles of the Christian faith. Such religion as this will never save your soul. The devils believe in a certain way, and tremble (James 2:19). True saving Christianity is not the mere believing a certain set of opinions, and holding a certain set of notions. Its essence is knowing, trusting and loving a certain living Person who died for us, even Christ the Lord. The early Christians, like Phoebe and Persis and Tryphena and Tryphosa and Gaius and Philemon, knew little probably of dogmatic theology. But they all had this grand leading feature in their religion: they loved Christ.
It is no answer to tell me that you disapprove of a religion of feelings. If you mean by that that you dislike a religion consisting of nothing but feelings, I agree with you entirely. But if you mean to shut out feelings altogether, you can know little of Christianity. The Bible teaches us plainly that a man may have good feelings without any true religion. But it teaches us no less plainly that there can be no true religion without some feeling towards Christ.
It is vain to conceal that, if you do not love Christ, your soul is in great danger. You can have no saving faith now while you live. You are unfit for heaven if you die. He that lives without love to Christ can be sensible of no obligation to Him. He that dies without love to Christ could never be happy in that heaven where Christ is all, and in all. Awake to know the peril of your position. Open your eyes. Consider your ways, and be wise. I can only warn you as a friend. But I do it with all my heart and soul. May God grant that this warning may not be in vain!
2. If you do not love Christ, let me tell you plainly what is the reason. You have no sense of debt to Him. You have no feeling of obligation to Him. You have no abiding recollection of having got anything from Him. This being the case, it is not likely, it is not probable, it is not reasonable that you should love Him.
There is but one remedy for this state of things. That remedy is self–knowledge and the teaching of the Holy Spirit. The eyes of your understanding must be opened. You must find out what you are by nature. You must discover that grand secret, your guilt and emptiness in God’s sight.
Perhaps you never read your Bible at all, or only read an occasional chapter as a mere matter of form, without interest, understanding, or self–application. Take my advice this day, and change your plan. Begin to read the Bible like a man in earnest, and never rest till you become familiar with it. Read what the law of God requires, as expounded by the Lord Jesus in the fifth of St. Matthew. Read how St. Paul describes human nature in the first two chapters of his Epistle to the Romans. Study such passages as these with prayer for the Spirit’s teaching, and then say whether you are not a debtor to God, and a debtor in mighty need of a friend like Christ.
Perhaps you are one who has never known anything of real, hearty, business–like prayer. You have been used to regard religion as an affair of churches, chapels, forms, services and Sundays, but not as a thing requiring the serious heartfelt attention of the inward man. Take my advice this day, and change your plan. Begin the habit of real earnest pleading with God about your soul. Ask Him for light, teaching and self–knowledge. Beseech Him to show you anything you need to know for the saving of your soul. Do this with all your heart and mind, and I have no doubt before long you will feel your need of Christ.
The advice I offer may seem simple and old–fashioned. Do not despise it on that account. It is the good old way in which millions have walked already, and found peace to their souls. Not to love Christ is to be in imminent danger of eternal ruin. To see your need of Christ and your amazing debt to Christ is the first step towards loving Him. To know yourself and find out your real condition before God is the only way to see your need. To search God’s book and ask God for light in prayer is the right course by which to attain saving knowledge. Do not be above taking the advice I offer. Take it and be saved.
3. Lastly, if you really know anything of love towards Christ, accept two parting words of comfort and counsel. The Lord grant they may do you good.
First, if you love Christ in deed and truth, rejoice in the thought that you have good evidence about the state of your soul. Love, I tell you this day, is an evidence of grace.
What though you are sometimes perplexed with doubts and fears? What though you find it hard to say whether your faith is genuine and your grace real? What though your eyes are often so dimmed with tears that you cannot clearly see your calling and election of God? Still there is ground for hope and strong consolation, if your heart can testify that you love Christ. Where there is true love there is faith and grace. You would not love Him if He had not done something for you. Your very love is a token for good.
Secondly, if you love Christ, never be ashamed to let others see it and know it. Speak for Him. Witness for Him. Live for Him. Work for Him. If He has loved you and washed you from your sins in His own blood, you never need shrink from letting others know that you feel it, and love Him in return.
“Man,” said a thoughtless, ungodly English traveler, to a North American Indian convert, “Man, what is the reason that you make so much of Christ, and talk so much about Him? What has this Christ done for you, that you should make so much ado about Him?”
The converted Indian did not answer him in words. He gathered together some dry leaves and moss and made a ring with them on the ground. He picked up a live worm and put it in the middle of the ring. He struck a light and set the moss and leaves on fire. The flame soon rose, and the heat scorched the worm. It writhed in agony, and after trying in vain to escape on every side, curled itself up in the middle, as if about to die in despair. At that moment the Indian reached forth his hand, took up the worm gently and placed it on his bosom. “Stranger,” he said to the Englishman, “do you see that worm? I was that perishing creature. I was dying in my sins, hopeless, helpless and on the brink of eternal fire. It was Jesus Christ who put forth the arm of His power. It was Jesus Christ who delivered me with the hand of His grace, and plucked me from everlasting burnings. It was Jesus Christ who placed me, a poor sinful worm, near the heart of His love. Stranger, that is the reason why I talk of Jesus Christ, and make much of Him. I am not ashamed of it, because I love Him.”
If we know anything of love to Christ, may we have the mind of this North American Indian! May we never think that we can love Christ too well, live to Him too thoroughly, confess Him too boldly, lay ourselves out for Him too heartily! Of all the things that will surprise us in the resurrection morning, this I believe will surprise us most: that we did not love Christ more before we died.
HOLINESS: IT’S NATURE, HINDRANCES, DIFFICULTIES, AND ROOTS
By J.C. RYLE