A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ: Sermons on 1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (Spurgeon Through the Scriptures)
We have no sympathy with. Now with that caution, whatever I shall seem to say will not sound as though I loved or excused ordinary warfare, for nothing can be more abhorrent to the Christian man than wholesale slaughter; nothing can be more desired by us than the promised era, when men shall beat their swords into ploughshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Now let us come to the work of this morning. First, we shall describe a good soldier of Jesus Christ, and when we have done so, we shall exhort you to be such.
A soldier of Jesus Christ owns the divine Redeemer as his King, and confesses his sole and undivided sovereignty in the spiritual kingdom. He abhors Antichrist in all its forms, and every principle that opposes itself to the reign of the beloved Prince of Peace. Jesus is to him both Lord and God. Till he sheathes his sword in the last victory, the Crucified is sole monarch of his soul; for him he lives, for him he would even dare to die.
He has entered into solemn league and covenant, to maintain against all comers that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. Moreover, the Christian soldier not only acknowledges Jesus to be his King, but his heart is full of loving devotion to him as such. Nothing can make his heart leap like the mention of that august, that more than royal name. He remembers Christ in heaven, enthroned at the right hand of the Father, he loves him there, and it ravishes his heart to think that God hath highly exalted the once-despised and rejected One, and given him a name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee shall bow, of things in heaven, and things in earth, and things under the earth.
He pants for the time when the Crucified shall come in his glory, and rule the nations as their liege Lord. He loves Jesus so that he feels he belongs to him altogether, bought with his blood, redeemed by his power, and comforted by his presence; he delights to know that he is not his own, for he is bought with a price. Above all, he loves the crown of his King, and the cause of his Master. Oh, could he set the Captain of his salvation higher among men, he would be content to die in the ditch of neglect and scorn; could he but see the King come to his own, and the heir of all things loyally acknowledged by his revolted provinces, he would be satisfied whatever might become of himself.
His heart is more than loyal, it is full of personal affection for the chief among ten thousand. I ask you, brethren, whether it is so with you? Believing, yea, knowing that it is so with many, I would to God it were thus with all. Brethren, I know you love Jesus well, no music sounds to your ears so sweetly as his charming name; no song of choicest minstrel is half so sweet. The very thought of him with rapture fills your breasts.
Assuredly you have one of the first marks of good soldiers; go on, I pray you, to that which lies beyond. He would be no soldier at all who would not take his marching orders from his leader, but must needs act after his own mind; he would soon be dismissed the service, if not shot, by order of a court martial, for crimes which military rule cannot tolerate. I should not like that any part of the Scripture should be distasteful to me. It is terrible when men are obliged to pass over certain texts, or else to cut and square them to make them agree with their beliefs.
A Sermon to Ministers and Other Tried Believers
We should not practice an ordinance merely because our church teaches it, or our parents believed in it; we must read the scriptures, and search the question for ourselves, or we are not respectful to our Lord. The soldier who did not take the trouble to read the orders of his superior, might justly be suspected of mutinous intentions. Be courageous enough always to look Scripture in the face, it is after all nothing more than your bare duty. Better for us that we changed our sentiments every day in order to be right, than that we held to them obstinately while we had some fear that perhaps we were wrong.
To live a life of obedience is a greater matter than some suppose. May you thus, then, being loyal to the King be in the second place obedient to his commands. I must plant our conquering standard on the castle of the foe, or I must die. Accursed be the sun if he go down this day and see me turn my back upon the enemy.
A truly good soldier of Jesus Christ knows nothing about difficulties except as things to be surmounted. If his Master bids him perform exploits too hard for him, he draws upon the resources of omnipotence, and achieves impossibilities. The passion for victory with the soldier often makes him forget everything else.
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Before the battle of Waterloo, Picton had had two of his ribs smashed in at Quartre Bras, but he concealed this serious injury, and, though suffering intensest agony, he rode at the head of his troop, and led one of the great charges which decided the fortunes of the day. He never left his post, but rode on till a ball crushed in his skull and penetrated to the brains.
Then in the hot fight the hero fell. How few among us could thus endure hardness for Jesus. O that we felt we could suffer anything sooner than be turned aside from accomplishing our lifework for him we love. In that same battle one of our lieutenants, in the early part of the day, had his left fore-arm broken by a shot; he could not, therefore, hold the reins in his hand, but he seized them with his mouth, and fought on till another shot broke the upper part of the arm to splinters, and it had to be amputated; but within two days there he was, with his arm still bleeding, and the wound all raw, riding at the head of his division.
Brave things have been done amongst the soldiers of our country — O that such brave things were common among the armed men of the church militant! Would to God, that in the teeth of suffering we could all persevere in living the holy life he bids us live, and in zealously spreading abroad that glorious gospel which has saved our souls and which will save the souls of others. Great Master, by thine own example inspire us with this valor. I long to witness more of that dogged perseverance amongst Christians which would make them work on and on, even without success, and persevere under every discouragement, until at last their Master shall give them their reward on earth, or else take them away to their reward in heaven.
To be a good soldier of Jesus Christ, there must be a passion for victory, an insatiable greed for setting up the throne of Jesus in the souls of men. So is it with the genuine Christian when his heart is right with God.
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If he be bidden to advance, let the danger be what it may, he feels he is honored by having such a service allotted to him. But are we all such? I fear not. How many of us are silent about Jesus Christ in private conversation, how little do we show forth our light before men. If we were good soldiers, such as we ought to be, we should select every favorable opportunity in private as well as in public intercourse with our fellow men, and prudently but yet zealously press the claims of Jesus Christ and his gospel upon them.
Oh, do you this, beloved, and good will come of it.
Paulhis Cloak and His Books
We should each one be seeking to have his own special work for Jesus, and if no one else were attempting the task we should, like the brave men who rush in to the storming of a battery, carry the flag first and plant it, knowing that there are hundreds of others who will follow the first brave man, who might not be able perhaps to lead the way themselves. My beloved, may you and I be ready for anything, and bold to bear witness for Christ before a scoffing world. In the pulpits where we preach, in the workshops where we labor, in the markets where we trade, in every company amidst which we are called to move; wherever we may be, may we be brave enough to own our Lord and to uphold his cause.
But this is not all that goes to make a good soldier. We want this kind of fixed, resolved, persevering Godliness in our churches, and we shall have it if we are good soldiers of Jesus Christ. How many young people will join the church, and for awhile seem very zealous and then grow cold! Has Christ given you leave to retire into inglorious ease? Does he exempt you from service? Take heed lest you are also exempt from reward. No, we must through life still maintain our integrity, still resist temptation, still tread the separated path, and, withal, still seek the souls of men with undying ardor, with indefatigable earnestness, still wrestling with God for men and with men for God.
Oh, for more of this stern determination to stand, and having done all to stand! This has been true even of some common soldiers, for religious men when they have sought strength from God have been all the braver in the day of conflict. He is the best Christian who is the best intercessor, he shall do the most who shall pray the best. Her power did never lie in her wealth, nor in the eloquence of her preachers, nor in aught that comes of man; the strength of the church is divine, and if she fails to draw strength from the everlasting hills, she becomes weak as water.
Thus I have in a very poor way described a good soldier of Jesus Christ. Paul was wont to commend the churches when he could, and I feel I may honestly and from my heart commend many of you, for you have served your Lord and Master well. I know you have nothing whereof to glory, for when you have done all, you are unprofitable servants; but still I do rejoice, and will rejoice when I see the work of the Holy Spirit in you; and I will venture to say that I have seen here instances of apostolic ardor and self-sacrifice such as I have read of in ancient records, but hardly ever expected to see.
There are those in this house this day who will shine as stars for ever and ever, for they have turned many to righteousness. Dishonor not your past, I beseech you, fall not from your high standing. Be good soldiers still, and depart not from your first love. I am sure there is greater need of good soldiering now than ever. Ten years ago or sixteen years ago, when first I addressed you, the power of popery in this land was nothing to what it is now. I grieve to know that the evangelical clergy of England, by their continued union with the Church of England are acting as a shield to the ritualistic or popish party, and giving them every opportunity to work out their schemes for leading the nation back to popery en masse.
Around this very spot a battle will have to be fought between the sacramentarians and the lovers of the gospel. At your very doors the battle is come at last; it was not so till but lately, but here it is, and ye that are men must show your colors, and serve your Master against innumerable and constantly active foes.
Ye have never failed me, ye have always been bold and steadfast, and laborious, and so let it be, for the time requires it. I can see on all hands that many of your young men are being attracted by the worldly amusements which surround us, for our dangers are not only those of popery, but those of the world, the flesh, and the devil. There must be greater earnestness and a deeper-toned piety among you, or the next generation will become unworthy of yourselves, your grief and not your joy. I pray you see to this.
Your country will be blest in proportion as you are earnest. Nonconformity in England will lose all its power if it loses its godliness. I do not care much for our political strength — I was about to say I am almost indifferent to our political rights — I care for them, but only so much as to occupy a very minor place in my consideration; but our spirituality is the main matter, it is this alone that can make us a blessing to our country. Sons of the Puritans, ye must walk with God, or your day is past, ye will be swept away as Esther would have been, who came to the kingdom for the salvation of her nation, if she had not fulfilled the office for which God had exalted her.
You have grown in numbers, grown in strength, O that you may grow in grace, love the gospel better, and love Christ better, for your country needs it, your children need it, yourselves need it. The times are perilous, and yet they are hopeful; by their peril, and by their hopefulness, I beseech you be good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Good soldiers we ought to be, for it is a grand old cause that is at stake. It is the kingdom of God, it is the church of Christ, it is the word, the truth, the doctrine of the gospel, the crown of Jesus, that are all at stake.
But we now speak according to the manner of men. God has been pleased to leave this matter to his church, which is the pillar and ground of the truth. Oh then, stand up manfully, and fight earnestly when so much rests upon it! God grant that you may not be as the children of Ephraim, who being armed and carrying bows turned their backs in the day of battle. A soldier when he receives his colors finds certain words embroidered on them, to remind him of the former victories of the regiment in which he serves.
Look at the eleventh chapter of Hebrews, and see the long list of the triumphs of the faithful. Remember how prophets and apostles served God; recollect how martyrs joyfully laid down their lives; look at the long line of the reformers and the confessors; remember your martyred sires and covenanting fathers, and by the grace of God I beseech you walk not unworthy of your noble lineage. Redeemed from going down to the pit, what can you do sufficiently to show your gratitude? Assured of eternal glory by-and-by, bow can you sufficiently prove that you feel your indebtedness? Up, I pray you now.
The Lord grant that there may be many such in this church-good soldiers of Jesus Christ. At this present time I contemplate exhorting you to engage in fresh efforts for Christ. I do not know that you are relaxing, neither have I complaints to make of any, but I would wish that we would commence with renewed vigor this day, if God so wills it.
As I myself commence a new year of Sabbaths as to my own age, I desire to see a new era of greater exertion in the cause of Jesus Christ; and, in order that it may be successful, let not a single man or woman on the church-roll be missing from his or her post in the spiritual conflict. You that are in the Sabbath school, you that distribute your tracts, you that preach in the street, every man to his post; and if you have no post as yet, find one — let there not be one idler, not one single loiterer, for a single sluggard may mar the work.
Then if we are to be successful let nothing divide us. We are but mortals, and, therefore, little jealousies may spring up, and among us there may be little causes of personal pique, but brave warriors in the olden times who had fallen out have been known to come together on the eve of battle and say, Come, let us be reconciled, we may die to-morrow; besides, we join in common hatred of the foe and love to the king.
To help us to succeed now, let us lay down this one rule, let no low standard of work, or virtue, or spiritual attainment, content any one of us; let us resolve to be as good Christians as can be beneath the stars, as fond of Christ as human hearts can be, doing and giving as much for Christ as we can do or give, consistently with other duties. Let us spare nothing, and keep back no part of the price; let there be no Ananias and Sapphira among us, but all be as John, who loved his Lord; and Paul, who counted all things but loss for the excellency of Christ Jesus his Lord.
Next, let me say, let the present moment be seized. I should like to saturate this district with a mass of tracts simply teaching the gospel and protesting against the bastard popery around us. Heaven and earth are being raised around us just now; our poor are being bribed, the houses of our members are being systematically visited with the view of decoying them from our worship. We are told that a certain small building used by the Episcopal body is the parish church, and we ought to attend it.
I might far more truthfully assert this to be the church of the parish by the choice of a far more numerous body, but I care not to make pretensions which prove nothing. The true question is — do we follow Christ, and uphold the teachings of Scripture, and if so, our standing is unassailable. Doubtless the word has gone forth that Dissent must be crushed, but if we live near to God, and maintain our zeal, Dissent will rise invincible from every attack.
Foreseeing the gathering storm, it is our consolation that we know where he dwells who is Master of the tempest, and can walk the waters for our help, and calm the sea around the weather-beaten bark. There is no fear of defeat. Lo, these many years the Lord of Hosts has been with us as a church, and he will be still our helper. We have seen the rise and fall of many who blazed for awhile, but are now quenched in darkness, while we have increased from a handful to this mass; and God who has been our trust, and is still our stay, will not forsake us now.
He has not drawn you together, and held you in one body by cords of love, that after all you may prove to be a powerless unwieldly mass of associated Christians; he intends to direct and strengthen you for nobler ends and purposes God, even our own God, will bless us. Immanuel, God with us, leads the van. The truth, like the virgin daughter of Zion, shakes her head at boastful error, and laughs it to scorn. Let falsehood put on her tawdry garments, and think herself a queen, and say that she shall sit alone, and see no sorrow; let error come forth in her panoply and wave her flaunting banner before the sun.
She draws near her end. Her armor — what is it? It is but pasteboard, and the lance of truth shall pierce it through and through. Her banner, what is it but a foul rag of the Roman harlot? It shall be laid in the dust. Nay, let error bring forth all her hosts, and let them stand in their serried ranks, and through them the faithful soldiers of Jesus will ride and bow the columns like reeds in the wind. In these days, the doctrines and traditions of men compass us about, yea, like bees they compass us about, but in the name of the Lord will we destroy them.
Only let us have confidence in God, and the victory is sure.
As for the thought of turning back, that can never be endured. Let the preacher first of all be carried to his grave, let him never live to see the shame of this Israel. Be more in prayer, for this is the great matter. I have not preached to sinners, but you will do that if you catch the spirit of this sermon; there will be many thousands of words to sinners spoken as the result of this exhortation, if God, the Holy Spirit, make it answer my design. Only this word to those who are not soldiers of Jesus Christ; trust him now, come now and kiss his silver scepter of grace; he will forgive the rebel, and take him to be his servant.
God bless you. THE text is wholly taken up with three things; namely, with knowing, with believing, and with the person who is known and believed; and upon both the knowing and the believing Paul is very decided. Let us imitate the apostle, or ask for grace to be able to imitate him, that we may shake off the dubious phraseology which is so common among Christians nowadays, and may be able to speak with apostolic confidence upon, a matter upon which we ought to be confident if anywhere at all, namely, our own salvation.
As the text is thus taken up with knowing and believing, these two matters will be the subject of our meditation at this time. Observe, then, that all other knowledge may be useful enough in itself, but if it doth not concern Christ, it cannot be called saving knowledge. Same person know a great deal about doctrine. Perhaps they have taken up with the Calvinistic theology, or even with the hyper-Calvinistic, and they really understand the system thoroughly well; and they certainly hold it with quite enough tenacity, if not too much.
We know some, who we believe, would very cheerfully go to the stake in defence of some points of doctrine so convinced are they of the orthodoxy of what they have received. Others take up another theory, and go upon, the Arminian principle, and they, too, know their set of doctrines, and know then well. But, dear friends, I may know all the doctrines in the Bible, but unless I know Christ, there, is not one of them that can save me. I may know election, but if I cannot see myself as chosen in Christ Jesus, election will do me no good. I may know the doctrine of the final perseverance of the saints, but if I am not in Christ, I should only persevere in my sins, and such a final perseverance will be dreadful indeed.
It is one thing to know the doctrine of justification by faith, but it is quite another thing to be justified by faith, and to have peace with God. You may stand up for imputed righteousness, and fight for it, and yet the righteousness of Christ may never to imputed unto you.
It is not knowing the creed, though that is well, that can save the soul; the knowledge that is wanted is to know him whom Paul believed. And, again, a man may know something more than doctrine. He may know a great deal about experience. There is a class of persons who sneer at doctrine. They have a consciousness of having a corrupt heart. They have discovered that they have evil tempers by the way, other people, too, have discovered it! They have discovered that they have defiled natures, and everybody can see that they are not sinlessly perfect.
But, strange delusion, because they know the disease, they fancy they have been healed. Because they have perception enough to see they are spiritually bankrupt, they therefore imagine that their debts are paid. Because they feel themselves to be in the Slough of Despond, they dream they are on the rock. But there is a vast difference between the two things. A man may think he has an experience of his own emptiness; nay, he may truly possess it, but if it does not drive him to Christ, if he does non come and rest on the Lord Jesus, all his experiences are of no saving value.
There are some, too, who not only know experience and doctrine, but, who also know how to talk of them. They use these expressions, and then when they get in among the people of God they are received with open arms, and they fancy that because they can talk as Christians talk it is all well with them. So, too, you may take up the language of a Christian but may never have within you the Spirit of God, and therefore be none of his. You must know him. You may know about a medicine, but still die of the disease which the medicine might have cured.
Many a sailor knows about the port, but his ship drifts upon the rock, and all hands go down. It is not enough to know about Christ, it is knowing Christ himself that alone saves the soul. And, over and above, and in addition to all this, you may know the Scriptures from youth up.
I suppose I have some — perhaps many — before me, who are well acquainted with almost every chapter in the. You could not be questioned upon any part of it so as to be really nonplussed. You have read the book, and you continue to read it still, and I approve of your wise choice in so doing, and beg you ever to continue in so excellent a practice, but remember, if you have not the Word of God in your heart it is of small use to have it merely in your head. Oh, to know Christ is our supreme and tragic want!
The only saving knowledge, then, is knowing Christ. Well, now, so is it with the exercise of faith. You may know a great deal about faith, but the only saving faith is belief concerning Christ. You may hold all the creed, and be orthodox, and then be no better than the devil; for I suppose that the devil is a very sound theologian. He surely knows that truth. He believes and trembles; but you may know it and not tremble, and so you may fall short of one virtue which even the devil possesses.
A firm belief in what is preached to you is well enough in its way, but to believe a doctrine as such cannot save you. Some have a belief in their minister, and I suppose that is so flattering to us, that you will hardly expect us to speak against it; but of all vices it is one most surely to be dreaded because it is so very dangerous. We charge you in the sight of God, always weigh what we have to say to you, and if it be not according to Scripture, cast it away as you cast away refuse.
They are too lazy to think: they are too idle to use whatever brains they have, and then they get some mere simpleton who thinks that God is pleased with his putting on a white gown or a blue dress, or a black gown or green dress, a scarlet gown or mauve dress, is pleased with burning candles in the daylight, and pleased with making a pungent odour in the church — they get such a creature as this to do their religion for them, and then they lie down at night to rest, feeling perfectly satisfied that God is satisfied and they are all right.
Oh, I charge you believe not this delusion! It is not believing in a priest that will save you. Believing in the priest may be your ruin, but believing in Christ is the really vital point, the one thing that truly matters. He that believeth in Christ is saved, but he that believeth even the Pope of Rome shall find that he believeth to his own eternal ruin. Then again, it is not believing in ourselves.
Many persons believe thoroughly in themselves. The doctrine of self-reliance is preached in many quarters now-a-days. Self-reliance in this matter always ruins those who practise it. Rely an self! Let night rely on her darkness to find a light; let emptiness rely on its insufficiency to find its fulness; let death rely on the worms to give it immortality; let hell rely upon its fire to make it into heaven — such trusts as these would be equally strong with those of the sinner who relies upon himself for salvation.
Thy belief must not be that thou canst force thy way to heaven, but thou must believe him for aught else is an unsaving faith. You see, then, that the knowledge which saves, and the belief which saves, both hang upon the cross; they both look to the wounds of that dear man, that blessed God, who was there the propitiation for our sins, and who suffered in our room and stead. My hearer, are you trusting Christ? Are you hanging upon him as the vessel hangs upon the nail?
Do you know him as a man knoweth his friend? Do you seek to know more of him? Is he all your salvation and all your desire? If not, take home the warning solemnly; whatever else you know, you are ignorant still; and whatever else you believe, you are an unbeliever still, except you know and believe in him, who is the Saviour of men. This is to try to balance with but one scale: to run a chariot on one wheel. You have the double, matter here. Knowledge is useful in the bud; mere reading, preaching, too, are well as an exercise, but believing is the fruit which must grow upon the tree of knowledge or else the knowledge will be of little use to us.
Now, my dear friends, I know that I am addressing many of your class, many who know Christ in a certain sense; know much about him. You know his life. You have often read it. You often like to dwell upon the incidents of it. It is a genuine and great pleasure to sing of Bethlehem and its manger, of Cana and its marriage. You have turned over the pages of that life of lives, and felt enraptured with this matchless masterpiece of biography.
You are well acquainted, too, with his death; it has often drawn tears to your eyes when you have thought of the shame, and the spitting and the crown of thorns. You know something concerning his expiring cries. Your imagination has often pictured to you the wounded body of that dread Sufferer. You have thought that if you had been there, you would have wet his feet with your tears so did you sympathise with him. You know of his burial and of is resurrection, too, and you have sweetly joined with us when we have been singing —. You eyes have flushed with fire when you have heard the words —.
You know that he reigns in heaven. You know that he has prepared mansions for his people. You know that he intercedes for sinners. You expect that he will come. I do — I do — believe it. Why, I have no doubt there have been hundreds who knew this, but who have given their bodies and souls to the devil, and have lived in open sin, day by day. If you could go to the condemned cell to-night, I should not wonder if the wretch confined there knows all this. If you were to go into the flaunting gin-palaces, which are scattered to our shame and curse all over London; where men and women are drinking liquid fire at this very moment, you would find that half of them know all this, but they do not drink any the less for it.
If you were to go into the lairs of vice, you would find that the most abandoned know all this, but it does them no service. And I will add also this: that the lost spirits in hell went there knowing all this, and the devil himself knows it all, but he remains a devil still. Dost thou believe? What is the good of thy knowing except thou believest?
I do not think that the most of you who go to places of worship want so much instruction in divine truth as you want ant earnest appeal to your hearts not to stop short at instruction. You do know, and that, indeed, shall be, indeed, part of your damnation, that you had the light but you would not see, that Jesus came into your street, and came nigh unto you, but you would not have him. The medicine was there, but you died because you would not take it. The food was on the table, but you would sooner perish with hunger than, receive it as the free gift of heaven.
Ah, my hearer, thy knowing should not benefit thee, but shall be a plague to thee. The million a month who die in China, for a million do every month die in China, the million who die every month in China die with this one solace, at any rate, that they never sinned against the light of Christianity, nor rejected the truth as it is in Jesus. This is more than you could say. This is a clout which will never be held to your armhole. This will never help to make, a dainty couch for you, when you make your bed in hell.
The responsibility of having known shall add remorse to the whips of accusing conscience, and make perdition more terrible still. Oh, may God grant that we may not stop short with knowledge alone, but may know Christ as him whom we have believed! But still we have in the next place —. The old faith of the fuller is coming back in some places to-day. Just be sincere, you know, and then, hit or miss, whatever your mother or father happened to be in religious character, go at it with all your might and it will be all right.
No doubt there have been persons who have taken prussic acid, sincerely believing that it would benefit them, but I suppose it has killed them, notwithstanding their sincerity. If a man should travel due south in order to get to the Orkney Islands, however sincere he might be, he would probably discover himself in the Bay of Biscay before long. The fact is, it is not sincerity alone; it is the studious endeavour to find out what the right is, and what the truth is, that is the only safe, way for us.
We do not, therefore, ask you to believe without knowing what you are to believe. It is impossible. There is, I fear, a great deal of vagueness and crudeness about this matter. I have heard it often asserted that, if you believe that Jesus Christ died for you you will be saved. My dear hearer, do not be deluded by such an idea. You may believe that Jesus Christ died for you, and may believe what is not true; you may believe that which will bring you no sort of good whatever.
That is not saving faith. The man who, has saving faith afterwards attains to the conviction that Christ died for him, but it is not of the essence of saving faith. Do not get that into your head, or it will ruin you. I pray you to remember that the genuine faith that saves the soul has for its main element — trust — absolute rest of the whole soul — on the Lord Jesus Christ to save me, whether he died in particular or in special to save meet or not, and relying, as I am, wholly and alone on him, I am saved.
The matter, then, which saves is this — a man trusts Christ, but he trusts Christ because he knows him. He knows Christ, and therefore he trusts him. How does he come to know him? Well, he has heard of him, he has read of him, he seeks him in prayer, and when he has learned his character, he trusts him. The Saviour is such a character as that. Let me tell thee, sinner, God was made flesh, and dwelt amongst us: dost thou believe that? Now, thou canst trust him surely. Is he not able? He is divine, therefore you cannot raise the question.
Is he not willing? He died: that argues willingness surely to do a less; thing, since he has done the greater. Thou canst not doubt that surely! The life of the Lord Jesus Christ is an answer to every form of doubt. Do you know, I feel with regard to Christ myself, that instead of its being any difficulty to trust him, I find it very difficult not to trust him, if I cannot find any reason why I should distrust him. I was turning over the other day same odds and ends of my own brain to see if I could find any reason why Christ should not receive my soul.
Well, I could not find half a one, but I could think of twenty thousand reasons why I should believe in him to save me, even if I had a million souls. I feel as if his way of saving is so magnificent, and the working of it out so divinely generous, that his offerings were so great, his person is so glorious, that I could not only cast my one soul on him, but fifty thousand souls if I had them.
Every acre of humanity must be furrowed with this plough. There may be a sea without a wave, but never a man without sorrow. He who was God as well as man, had his full measure pressed down and running over; let us be assured that if the sinless one was not spared the rod, the sinful will not go free. If, then, a man hath sorrow, it doth not necessarily follow that he shall be rewarded for it, since it is the common lot brought upon all by sin.
You may smart under the lashes of sorrow in this life, but this shall not deliver you from the wrath to come. To suffer is not peculiar to the Christian, neither doth suffering necessarily bring with it any recompense of reward. The text implies most clearly that we must suffer with Christ in order to reign with him. The structure of the preceding verse plainly requires such a reading. The suffering which brings the reigning with Jesus, must be a suffering with Jesus. There is a very current error among those poor people who are ignorant of true religion, that all poor and afflicted people will be rewarded for it in the next state.
A more fearful mistake could not be made. Very much of the beggary we see abroad is the result of vice, extravagance, or folly— are these things so meritorious as to be passports to glory? Let no man deceive himself so grossly. On the other hand, the rich man was not cast into hell because he was rich and fared sumptuously; had he been rich in faith, holy in life, and renewed in heart, his purple and fine linen would have done him no hurt. Lazarus was carried above by the angels, because his heart was in heaven; and the rich man lifted up his eyes in hell, because he had never lifted them up towards God and heavenly things.
It is a work of grace in the heart and character, which shall decide the future, not poverty or wealth. Let intelligent persons combat this notion whenever they meet with it. Suffering here does not imply happiness hereafter. It is only a certain order of suffering to which a reward is promised, the suffering which comes to us from fellowship with the Lord Jesus, and conformity to his image. A few words here, by way of aiding you in making the distinction.
We must not imagine that we are suffering for Christ, and with Christ, if we are not in Christ. If a man be not a branch of the living vine, you may prune and cut until the sap flows, and the branch bleeds, but he will never bring forth heavenly fruit. Prune the bramble as long as ever you like, use the knife until the edge is worn away, the brier will be as sharp and fruitless as ever; you cannot by any process of pruning translate it into one of the vines of Eshcol. If a man remain in a state of nature, he is a member of the earthly Adam, he will not therefore escape suffering, but ensure it; he must not, however, dream that because he suffers he is suffering with Christ; he is plagued with the old Adam; he is receiving with all the other heirs of wrath the sure heritage of sin.
Let him consider these sufferings of his to be only the first drops of the awful shower which will fall upon him for ever, the first tingling cuts of that terrible whip which will lacerate his soul for ever. If a man be in Christ, he may then claim fellowship with the second Man, who is the Lord from heaven, and he may expect to bear the image of the heavenly in the glory to be revealed.
O my hearers, are you in Christ by a living faith? Are you trusting to Jesus only? If not, whatever you may have to mourn over on earth, you have no hope of reigning with Jesus in heaven. Supposing a man to be in Christ, yet it does not even then follow that all his sufferings are sufferings with Christ, for it is essential that he be called by God to suffer. Who called men to such austerities?
Certainly not the God of love. If, therefore, they torture themselves at the command of their own fancies, fancy must reward them, for God will not. If I am rash and imprudent, and run into positions for which neither providence nor grace has fitted me, I ought to question whether I am not rather sinning than communing with Christ.
Peter drew his sword, and cut off the ear of Malchus. If somebody had cut his ear off, what would you say? On several occasions, excited Protestants have rushed into Romish cathedrals, have knocked down the priest, and dashed the wafer upon the ground, trod upon it, and in other ways exhibited their hatred of idolatry; now when the law has interposed to punish such outrages, the offenders are hardly to be considered as suffering with Christ. This I give as one instance of a class of actions to which overheated brains sometimes lead men, under the supposition that they will join the noble army of martyrs.
Again, in troubles which come upon us as the result of sin, we must not think we are suffering with Christ. When Miriam spoke evil of Moses, and the leprosy polluted her, she was not suffering for God. If you will put your hand into the fire and it gets burned, why it is the nature of fire to burn you or anybody else; but be not so silly as to boast as though you were a martyr. If you do wrong and suffer for it, what thanks have ye?
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Go behind the door and weep for your sin, but come not forth in public to claim a reward. I am persecuted. Who feels any esteem for a cold-blooded murderer? Does not every man reprobate the offender? Is he, therefore, a Christian because he is spoken against, and his name cast out as evil? Assuredly not: he is a heartless villain and nothing more. Brethren, truthfulness and honesty should stop us from using expressions which involve a false claim; we must not talk as if we suffered nobly for Jesus when we are only troubled as the result of sin.
O, to be kept from transgression! If I suffer that, I may earn a name, or win applause among men; if I venture into trial merely that I may be respected for it, I shall get my reward; but it will be the reward of the Pharisee, and not the crown of the sincere servant of the Lord Jesus. I must not forget also that I must manifest the Spirit of Christ, or else I do not suffer with him.
If I have, in the way of virtue, brought down upon myself shame and rebuke; if I am hot to defend myself and punish the slanderer; if I am irritated, unforgiving, and proud, I have lost a noble opportunity of fellowship with Jesus. These remarks may seem very cutting, and may take away much false but highly-prized comfort from some of you. Truth only will be desired by true men. I shall now very briefly show what are the forms of real suffering for Jesus in these days.
We have not now to rot in prisons, to wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, to be stoned, or to be sawn in sunder, though we ought to be ready to bear all this, if God wills it. Some suffer in their estates. I believe that to many Christians it is rather a gain than a loss, so far as pecuniary matters go, to be believers in Christ; but I meet with many cases— cases which I know to be genuine, where persons have had to suffer severely for conscience sake. I know other persons who were employed as servants in lucrative positions involving sin, but upon their becoming Christians, they were obliged to resign their former post, and are not at the present moment in anything like such apparent prosperity as they were.
I could point to several cases of persons who have really suffered to a very high degree in pecuniary matters for the cross of Christ. Brethren, ye may possess your souls in patience, and expect as a reward of grace that you shall reign with Jesus your beloved. Those feather-bed soldiers who are broken-hearted if fools laugh at them, should blush when they think of those who endure real hardness as good soldiers of Jesus Christ. Who can waste his pity over the small griefs of faint hearts, when cold, and hunger, and poverty are cheerfully endured by the true and brave.
Cases of persecution are by no means rare. In many a country village squires and priests rule with a high hand, and smite the godly villagers with a rod of iron. You cannot live in my cottage if you have a prayer-meeting in it. I will have no religious people on my farm. True Christians of all denominations love each other and hate persecution, but nominal Christians and ungodly men would make our land as hot as in the days of Mary, if they dared. More usually, however, the suffering takes the form of personal contempt.
It is not pleasant to be pointed at in the streets, and have opprobrious names shouted after you by vulgar tongues; nor is it a small trial to be saluted in the workshop by opprobrious epithets, or to be looked upon as an idiot or a madman; and yet this is the lot of many of the people of God every day of the week.
Many of those who are of the humbler classes have to endure constant and open reproach, and those who are richer have to put up with the cold shoulder, and neglect, and sneers, as soon as they become true disciples of Jesus Christ. There is more sting in this than some dream; and we have known strong men who could have borne the lash, brought down by jeers and sarcasms, even just as the wasp may more thoroughly irritate and vex the lion than if the noblest beast of prey should attack him. Believers have also to suffer slander and falsehood. It is not expedient for me, doubtless, to glory, but I know a man who scarcely ever speaks a word which is not misrepresented, and hardly performs an action which is not misconstrued.
The press at certain seasons, like a pack of hounds, will get upon his track, and worry him with the basest and most undeserved abuse. Publicly and privately he is accustomed to be sneered at. But I forbear; such is the portion of every servant of God who has to bear public testimony for the truth.
Every motive but the right one will be imputed to him; his good will be evil spoken of; his zeal will be called imprudence— his courage, impertinence— his modesty, cowardice— his earnestness, rashness. It is impossible for the true believer in Christ, who is called to any eminent service, to do anything right. Then again, if in your service for Christ, you are enabled so to sacrifice yourself, that you bring upon yourself inconvenience and pain, labour and loss, then I think you are suffering with Christ. The missionary who tempts the stormy deep— the herald of the cross who penetrates into unknown regions among savage men— the colporteur toiling up the mountain-side— the teacher going wearily to the class— the village preacher walking many toilsome miles— the minister starving on a miserable pittance— the evangelist content to break down in health— all these and their like, suffer with Christ.
We are all too much occupied with taking care of ourselves; we shun the difficulties of excessive labour. And frequently behind the entrenchments of taking care of our constitution, we do not half as much as we ought. A minister of God is bound to spurn the suggestions of ignoble ease, it is his calling to labour; and if he destroys his constitution, I for one, only thank God that he permits us the high privilege of so making ourselves living sacrifices.
If earnest ministers should bring themselves to the grave, not by imprudence, for that we would not advocate, but by honest labour, such as their ministry and their consciences require of them, they will be better in their graves than out of their graves, if they come there for the cause of Christ.
What, are we never to suffer? Are we to be carpet-knights?
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Nay, verily, unless they would lose the reward of true saints! Let us not forget that contention with inbred lusts, denials of proud self, resistance of sin, and agony against Satan, are all forms of suffering with Christ. We may, in the holy war within us, earn as bright a crown as in the wider battle-field beyond us.
O for grace to be ever dressed in full armour, fighting with principalities and powers, and spiritual wickedness of every sort. There is one more class of suffering which I shall mention, and that is, when friends forsake, or become foes. Father and mother forsake sometimes. The husband persecutes the wife. We have known even the children turn against the parents. Brethren, if you are thus called to suffer for Christ, will you quarrel with me if I say, in adding all up, what a very little it is compared with reigning with Jesus! We shall reign with Christ. There is no comparison between the service and the reward.
Therefore it is all of grace. All that the pomp imperial of his kingship means; all that the treasure of his wide dominions can yield; all that the majesty of his everlasting power can bestow — all this is to belong to you, given to you of his rich, free grace, as the sweet reward of having suffered for a little time with him. Who would draw back then?