Sermon 1071. The Ministry Of Gratitude
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 15, 1872,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE NEWINGTON.
"And immediately she arose and ministered unto them." Luke 4:39.
PETER'S wife's mother had been sick of a great fever and had been restored by the touch of the Savior's hands and by the powerof the Savior's word. The Grace of God does not secure us from trial. The house of Peter and of Andrew, (for it was commonto them both), was a highly favored one. The Grace of God had passed by many other houses and had selected this for its dwellingplace and yet in that abode there was great sickness-the wife's mother lay sick of a fever and was near death. This was nosmall grief to the household-but that grief was for their lasting benefit.
God loves His chosen too well to let them always live without the rod. If He loved us less He might allow us unalloyed pleasure,but the love of our wise Father is too great to deprive us of the saved benefits of affliction. Sickness came to that housenot as an enemy but as a friend, for it was the means whereby Christ's great power was made manifest to that family and throughHis power His love. The wife's mother could never have been so distinguished a subject of the Redeemer's power if she hadnot been prostrated with fever. The malaria from the marshes around the city occasioned her being made a trophy of our Lord'sDivine energy.
The worst of ills are often the black horses upon which the very best of blessings ride to us. It was no small honor to Peterthat his house became the headquarters of the Savior. The sick thronged the door as the sun went down and the Sabbath wasover. The multitude brought persons afflicted with all manner of diseases and panted to reach that favored dwelling to laythem before the Lord. The healing power which had displayed itself within poured forth from the house like a mighty floodand all who drank of it were restored. That house contained the springhead and was beyond measure honored by it. Surely formany a year that house would be one of the most notable in the city-surely it would be called the House of the Great Physician.
Not like that ancient house in Antwerp, detestable because it was the den of the Inquisition, but dear to many of the healedones and their sons as the Hospital of Mercy, the Palace of Blessing. Peter among the Apostles is singularly honored, foreverything about him was in some way or other connected with a miracle. His person-it was by a miracle that he had walkedthe waters. It was by a miracle that he had been saved from drowning when the Savior stretched out His hand and bade him standfast upon the liquid wave. There was a miracle in connection with his boat, for it was from that boat that the miraculousdraught of fishes had been taken and it was filled so full that it began to sink and Simon knelt down and adored the Savior.
There was a miracle in connection with Peter's rusty sword-he cut off with it the ear of the high priest's servant, but theMaster healed the wound that his rash defender made. And here, in this case, there was a miracle performed upon his relative-hiswife's mother was restored from a great fever by the almighty power of the Lord Jesus Christ. Every Christian man should beambitious to have the hand of God connected with everything that he has, so that when he looks upon his house he may see God'sProvidence in giving it to him. When he looks upon the garments that he wears he may see them to be the livery of love andmay view the food upon his table as the daily gift of Divine charity.
In looking back upon his whole biography, the Believer may see bright spots where the Presence of God flames forth and makesthe humblest circumstances to be illustrious-but, above all, it ought to be his prayer that God's hand should be very conspicuousin connection with his relatives-that of every one of them it might be said, "The Lord restored her," or, "The Lord gave himspiritual life in answer to my prayer." May husband, wife, children, servants-all received healing from "the beloved Physician."May our whole household be, "holiness unto the Lord," and may all sing for joy because the Lord has done great things forthem whereof we are glad!
The occurrence about which we are to speak this morning happened on a Sabbath. Sabbaths were generally Christ's great chosenfield days to break down the superstitiously rigid observance of the Sabbath among the Pharisees and because it seemed asa holy day to be peculiarly adapted for the display of the greatest works of the holy Savior. It was a Sabbath and the poorpatient was probably lying there complaining in her soul that she could not go to the synagogue, or mingle with the peoplewhere prayer was sure to be made. Perhaps her fever had reduced her to such a state that she was quite unable to rememberChrist the Healer, and unable to breathe a prayer to Him.
But Peter and Andrew went to Him and told the case and besought Him to come and heal her. It is a blessing for you, my Friend,even though you are sick in soul, to have saints for your relatives-to have some in the household who will remember you inprayer and speak into the ear of Christ on your behalf. If through despair or depression of spirit you cannot pray for yourself,happy are you that there are compassionate friends who will speak unto the King on your behalf! One Christian in a familymay bring a great blessing to it, but here were two, for Simon and his brother Andrew were both here. And if two of you areagreed as touching anything concerning the Master's kingdom, it shall be done unto you.
The two prevailed with the Savior and, that Sabbath, when the patient little dreamed it, the Savior came to her lowly roomand standing over her in infinite pity, He first spoke a royal word of rebuke to the disease, and then, lifting her up gentlyin His own kind familiar manner she found herself perfectly restored to health! What love she must have felt to her graciousBenefactor! Little wonder is it that thankfulness glowed in her heart and being healed, she rose at once and began to serveher Healer. Her ministering commenced from the very minute of her recovery. Of that ministering we are about to speak. "Immediatelyshe arose and ministered unto them."
I. Now, the fact that this restored woman began at once to minister to Christ and to His disciples proves, first, THE CERTAINTYOF HER CURE, and there are no better ways of proving the thoroughness of our conversion than by conduct similar to hers. Supposenow, in order to prove that this woman was really restored, we were critically to examine the modes operandi of Christ? Supposethe Master had been accustomed, as He was not, to use one set of ceremonies over everybody whom He healed, and we were tosay, "Well, He has done this, that and the other, as He is accustomed to do. Therefore the woman is healed."
It would not be at all conclusive reasoning, yet this is the reasoning of a great many today. This child was baptized. Thisyoung person was confirmed and afterwards took the sacrament and consequently this individual is regenerated in Baptism andestablished in Grace, and so on! The ceremonies are correct and therefore the work is done! Some may believe such reasoningbut I marvel that they do-to us it seems that there is a far better way of testing whether persons have Grace or not! If theseaforesaid baptismally-regenerated people and sacramentally-confirmed people live in sin like other people, it appears to usthat they have none of the Grace of God in them, let them pretend to have received it however they may! If the woman had stillbeen hot with fever and had all the symptoms of her disease continued in her, it would have availed nothing to have said,"This has been done and the other"-the woman would not have been healed. And if men live like unregenerate sinners, dependupon it, the work of the Holy Spirit is not in them!
Suppose the patient had lain there and had begun to talk about how she felt, how much better she was, what a strange sensationpassed through her when the Savior rebuked the disease, and how strangely well she felt? Yet if she had not risen up, buthad lain there, still, there would have been no evidence of her restoration-at any rate none that you or I could judge of.So when persons tell us that they have felt great changes of heart, that they know they are renewed because they enjoy thisand love that and hate the other, we are very hopeful and desire to believe what they say. But, after all, trees are knownby their fruit-and converted people, while they will, themselves, know their inward experience-cannot convince us by it! Wemust see their outward ministering for Christ. If their actions are holy, if their lives are purified, then shall we know,but not till then, that their nature is renewed!
Suppose this good woman, still lying upon her bed, had begun to say, "Well, I hope I am healed," and had begun to expresssome feeble expectation that one day she would be able to exercise the functions of health? We would not have known that shewas restored. Something more was needed than mere hopes and expectations. Or suppose she had leaped out of her bed in wildexcitement, rushed down the street and performed strange antics-it would have been no proof that she was recovered-but itwould have made us feel sure that she was delirious and the fever still strong upon her!
So when we see persons inactive as to holiness, we cannot believe that they are saved. Or when we see them full of empty excitementabout religion but not serving God in the common acts of life, we think them to be in the delirium of a sinful presumption,but cannot regard them as healed by the cooling, calming hand of the Great Physician, who, when He puts out the fever, restoresthe soul to quiet and peace.
The woman gave a much better proof than any of these could be. This leads us to remark that the only irresistible proof withonlookers of a person being spiritually healed by Christ must be found in the change in his conduct, and especially in hisfrom that moment on living to serve Christ and to be obedient to Him. This is the test and nothing short of it. When we seeholy living in the man who was once a gross offender, we are quite sure that Christ has healed him because the man beginsto do what he could not have done before.
Perhaps this poor fevered woman might have made some shift to have done something for the Savior, but the unconverted manis dead in trespasses and sin-he may go through forms of religion, but real holiness is far above and out of his sight-hecannot obey the Law of God. His nature is set against it-he is unable to walk in the way of God's commandments. Therefore,when we see him doing so, we exclaim, "This is the finger of God! God has healed that man or else he would not be able tolive as he is now living." Besides, the unconverted man, before conversion, hates holiness. He is disinclined to it so thatin his case, when his life becomes pure and upright, when he spends and is spent in the service of Jesus Christ, you knowthat this must be the work of the Holy Spirit in his soul for nothing else could have changed his nature but the same Omnipotencewhich first of all created him! God's hand is in that conversion which is proved by the holiness of the man's outward character.
Beside this, while the sinner is disinclined to everything that is holy, we know that he especially despises the Savior andthinks little of His people. Consequently, when a man is brought to serve the Savior and is willing to do good to the childrenof God for Christ's sake, there is a sure mark that a miracle has been worked in him which has touched the secret springsof his being and altogether transformed him. The woman's rising up to minister to our Lord was a sure sign of returned healthand the change of outward character which leads a man to devote himself to the service of Christ is even more infallibly aproof of true salvation!
I need you to note, however, dear Friends, for a moment, the nature of the acts which this restored woman performed, becausethey are symbolic of the best form of actions by which to judge of a person's being renewed. Her duties were humble ones.She was probably the head of the household and she began at once to discharge the duties of a housewife-duties unostentatiousand commonplace. Many persons who profess to be converted aspire at once to preaching-a pulpit for them is the main thingand a large congregation is their ambition! They must do some great thing and occupy the chief seat in the synagogue!
But this good woman did not think of preaching-women are always best when they don't. She thought of washing Christ's feetand preparing Him necessary food which was her proper business. To these kind but simple actions she devoted herself. Attentionto humble duties is a better sign of Grace than an ambition for lofty and elevated works. There is probably far more Gracein the loving service of a mother towards Christ in bringing up her children in the fear of God than there might be if shewere well known as taking a leading part in great public movements. There may be more service for Christ done by a workmanin discharging his duties, as such, and trying to do good to his fellow workmen than if he aspired to become a great leaderof the minds and thoughts of others.
Of course there are exceptions, for glorious was Deborah and great shall be her name in Israel! And those who are sent ofGod to lead His Church shall not be without their reward, but even then, when they have to look for personal evidences ofGrace they never dare say, "We know that we are passed from death unto life because we preach the Gospel," for they rememberthat Judas did the same! They never say, "We are confident of salvation because God has worked wonders by us," for they rememberthat the son of perdition had the same distinction! No, Brothers and Sisters, they fall back upon the same evidences whichprove the truth of the religion of humbler people-they rejoice in testimonies common to all the elect-"We know that we havepassed from death unto life because we love the Brethren."
The humbler graces and duties are the best tests. Hypocrites mimic all public duties but the private and concealed life oftrue godliness they cannot counterfeit! And because they cannot "do so with their enchantments" we feel like the men of Egypt,that, "this is the finger of God." Remember, too, that this good woman attended to home duties. She did not go down the streeta 100 yards off to glorify Christ. She, I dare say, did that afterwards, but she began at home. Charity
begins there and so should piety. That is the best religion which is most at home at home. Grace which smiles around the familyhearth is Grace, indeed.
If your own household cannot see that you are godly, depend upon it, nobody else can! And if your parents or children havegrave doubts about the sincerity of your religion, I am afraid you ought to have grave doubts about it yourself. Peter's mother-in-lawministered to Christ at home and that was clear evidence of her being restored to health. And in your case it will be thebest witness to your conversion if you serve Jesus in the bosom of your family and make your house the dwelling place of allthat is kind and good and holy. She attended to suitable duties, duties consistent with her sex and condition. She did nottry to be what God had not made her, but did what she could. She attended to natural duties, duties which suggested themselvesin a moment and were not far-fetched and fanciful.
She set about doing present duties required then and there, and did not wait to serve the Lord in a year's time. In a quietnatural manner she pursued her calling as if it never occurred to her to do otherwise. If somebody had thought it wonderfulthat she ministered to Christ, she would have been surprised at them! It seemed to her the most natural thing for her to do.Dear Soul, I dare say while lying in bed sick there were 50 things she would have liked to have done-what housewife wouldnot in such a case see many grievous arrears of work all around her? But Jesus being there, no sooner did she feel her healthreturned than she at once arose to discharge the offices of grateful hospitality as a matter of course. How could she do otherwisebut wait upon Jesus and His friends?
Now, observe that those good works which prove a man to be a Christian are not such as he could boast of. He does them asa matter of course. He feels he could not do otherwise and wonders that anybody else can. Is he born of God? He yearns toteach others about the Savior-he cannot help it-his tongue needs to be talking about Jesus! Then he begins to give of hissubstance to the poor. It does not strike him as being at all a remarkable or extraordinary thing-he wonders if anyone canhelp being generous to real need! Now he begins to enquire about the little children in the neighborhood-can he get them intothe Sunday school? Or he occupies himself with some other form of Christian work and he does it because he feels it to beinevitable for him to do so-it is one of the instincts of the new Nature which God the Holy Spirit has implanted in him.
Those natural, commonplace duties which grow out of holy instincts within are the best evidence of a work of Grace! The moregenuinely natural and unstrained the better. Vain is the religion which aims at unnatural conditions and makes much of distinctionsof a needless kind. What is there in a peculiar garb, or affectation of speech, or separation of residence? These ministerto our own vainglory! True godliness aims not at her own honor, but is content to labor among the many, to be a man amongmen, yet differing in nothing but character. Ours it is, as the true salt, to mingle with the masses-not to seek a proud isolation.We are men, not monks! And our Sisters are women, not nuns! All that interests men interests us-we only differ from our raceby being conformed to the image of Jesus, while they wear the image of the fallen Adam.
May God grant us Grace to exhibit the Christianity of common life-the real and practical Christianity of every day. Christianityis not with hermits in their cells, nor nuns in their convents, nor priests in their cloisters-those are all cowardly soldierswho shun the battle of life! The true faith is the joy and strength of all who love the Lord and fight His battles on thebroad plains of life. True religion must be manifested in your workshops, in your houses, in the streets, in the fields, inthe nursery and in the parlor. This celestial flower reveals its richest perfume, not in the conservatories of unnatural seclusion,but under the clear sky of human life, for "as a flower of the field so it flourishes," where God has planted it.
One other point before leaving this-these things become a conclusive proof of Divine Grace in the heart when they are voluntarilyrendered as this good woman's ministry was. I do not read that she was asked to do anything for Christ, but it suggested itselfto her at once without command or request. Her work was done promptly, for, "immediately she arose" and did it. She no soonerhad power to work than occasion was seized without delay. Promptness is the soul of obedience-"I made haste and delayed notto keep Your commandments." I doubt not she did her ministering cheerfully. There is all the air of cheerfulness about thewords, "She arose." It reads as if with alacrity, vigor, sprightliness and eagerness she entered into the service.
That is the best service for God that is done promptly, without delay; voluntarily, without pressing; generously, withoutgrudging; heartily, without complaining. With us it is not, "This you should do, and this you must do," but we serve Jesusbecause we love to do so and because labor for Him is to us a joy and a delight!
II. I have thus brought before you the first point of our discourse, now notice the second one which is most interesting.This woman's ministry for Christ and His disciples showed, secondly, THE PERFECTION OF HER CURE. It may not strike you fora moment, but just think about it. She was sick with a fever. Supposing a Prophet should visit your house and restore yourfriend from a great fever. Yet the person healed would not be able to rise from the bed for some time-fever leaves extremeweakness behind and when the fever itself is entirely gone, it needs some two or three weeks, and sometimes more-before theperson who has been prostrated by it will be able to go about his daily work.
This was healing from God, indeed, a Divine work emphatically because the woman was so healed that all her weakness vanishedand she was able to proceed to her work without difficulty! And, Beloved, it is our mark of a work of Grace in the soul whenthe converted man becomes at once a servant of Christ. The human theory of moral reformations makes time a great element inits operations. If you are to reclaim a great offender you must win him first from one vice and then from another. You mustput him through a process of education by which he gradually perceives that what he has been accustomed to do is bad for himselfand wakes up to the conviction that honesty and sobriety will be the best for his own profit.
Time is required by the moral reformer or he cannot develop his plans. He ridicules the idea of effecting anything in an houror two. Man, the creature of time, must have time for the accomplishment of his very imperfect works-but to the eternal Godtime is nothing! His miracles annihilate time. A man who is converted is cured at once of his sins-the tap root of his sinsis cut away then and there and though some of his sins linger, yet every one has received the stroke which will prove itsdeathblow. Once and for all, in a moment-when a man believes and is born-again-the axe is laid at the root of all the eviltrees within him! Sin is then and there condemned to die and what is more, all Divine Graces are in a moment implanted inthe soul, not in perfection-they will have to grow. But they are all sown in the man in a moment in embryo so that the renewedsinner, though he has only been born-again five minutes, has within him the embryo of the perfect saint who shall stand beforethe Throne of God-this is one of the marvels which certify the work to be Divine.
For note, Beloved, those who have just been converted to God can worship God, can praise God, can pray to God, can love Godthough they were strangers to these things up to then. And some of the sweetest worship that God Himself ever hears comesfrom the hearts of the newly regenerate. Of all the prayers that strike the Christian's ear like music, surely among the sweetestare the broken pleadings of those who have just found the Savior! I delight in the expressions of faith of elderly and full-grownChristians-they are exceedingly instructive and precious. But, oh, that first grip of the hand, that first flash of the eye,that first tear of joy when a soul has seen Christ for the first time and stands astonished at the matchless vision of incarnatelove! Why, there is no worship sweeter beneath the sun!
The woman arises at once and ministers to Christ and the sinner arises at once and begins to adore Christ. Did not I say thatthe newly-converted sinner can love and does love his Lord as soon as ever he is born to God? I must correct myself. He notonly can and does love, but he loves beyond most others, for very seldom do men's after-love exceed in fervency the love oftheir espousals, which is also called their first love! This standard love is implanted in us at once, all blooming and fullof perfume. Hating Christ one minute, hearts have been brought to be ravished with His love the next! The men were enemiesto God an hour ago, and now they could die to defend His Gospel, so changed are their natures!
This must be a Divine work! If that which was water flood, quenching every spark of fire, should suddenly blaze and glow likeNebuchadnezzar's furnace, God alone could have worked the change! Say, who has turned the waters of raging hatred into theflame of holy love? Who has done it but the mighty God Himself? If the iceberg suddenly becomes a flaming beacon, who canhave worked this marvel but the Miracle Worker who alone does great wonders? Glory be to God, we often see it and He shallhave the praise of it!
How pure some men's lives become at conversion-pure at once, though before they were polluted with every vice! Certain sinswe may have to fight with all our lives, but a renewed man usually has no difficulty whatever with the grosser sins. For instance,I have known a man habituated to blasphemy who probably never did, since he was a boy, speak a dozen sentences without anoath, and yet, after he had been converted the profane habit has never molested him.
We have known some who have been troubled with a ferocious temper which made them like demons, but from the moment of conversionthey have been remarkable for their singular gentleness and meekness. We have known misers instantly display the freest generosityand thieves become scrupulously honest.
Though the temptation to old sin may return, yet for the most part those who have been saved from gross vices have been thegreatest loathers of the very mention or name of their former abominations. Such is the work of God in the soul, that theseevils are driven out at once and sent right away-and then the man who before had been an adept in all manner of evil workbecomes as much an expert in all manner of holy labor! He may not at once have picked up the technicalities of religion-perhapsit would be as well he never did-but he gets to the bottom of it, the secret of it and goes to work for Jesus Christ in hisown fashion and way, with wonderful wisdom and extraordinary skill from the very
Some of the best evangelists we have ever seen have been those who learned at once to evangelize-who seemed to have knownit from the first hour in which they were converted to God-taking to it from inward love as the young swans take to the stream.Some of the best persons who speak to others about their souls, privately, began to do so as soon as they have found the Savior!They have attained to the sacred art-and a blessed art it is-as though they were in a moment touched by the hand of God andinspired for the service He meant them to render.
Now, what is the practical drift of this second remark but this? As it proved the real divinity of this woman's cure thatshe was able, immediately, to go to work for Christ, so you young converts should hold the honor of Christ in great esteemand prove the reality of His Grace in your souls by bringing forth immediate fruit to His honor. See if you cannot at oncerise and minister to Him! Be as zealous as the dying thief-he had no sooner known Christ than he confessed Him and he didthe only thing he could do for his dying Lord-he rebuked the other malefactor who had reviled the Savior. Oh, if you loveJesus, do not wait till you have been 10 years a Christian! Serve Him now!
If you are healed from sin, do not wait for experience-with your inexperience of everything except the new birth, go and seekthe good of others! Do not suppose you must be trained for this war through a long process of spiritual drill, but march forwardat once with all your heart and soul in the freshness of your newly-given life. It may be you will achieve greater triumphsthan some of the older ones, for alas, some of them are dry and sapless and have long forgotten their early days of enthusiasm.In too many Christians the peach has lost its bloom, the flower has withered from the stem-they are not now loving and earnest-theyhave declined into the sere and yellow leaf of religion. Go with the dew of the morning still upon your spirit and I knownot what great and gracious works the Lord may do by you!
III. Now we pass on to a third head briefly. Peter's wife's mother in ministering to Christ proved HER OWN GRATITUDE. Heracts of hospitality were an exhibition of her thankfulness. Brethren, if we need to evidence our gratitude to Christ we hadbetter do it in the same way as she did. There is no record of her having fallen at Jesus' feet and saying, "Blessed be Yourname." She may have done so-the Bible has not room for many holy expressions, though it finds space for gracious acts.
I do not know that she sat down and sang a hymn, perhaps she did-good women before her have done so and I hope they will afterher-but the hymn is not recorded. Holy Scripture has not room for all the hymns which good people sing, but it finds a cornerfor the actions which they perform. We have the Acts of the Apostles, through we have not the devotional emotions, the hymns,or the pious resolutions of the Apostles. This good woman proved her gratitude by tangible deeds. Did she not say to herself,"The Lord has served me; I will serve Him"? It never strikes an awakened person that mere words are a fit return for the Graceof God. Can you give for the Lord's healing fruit a handful of mere leaves from the tree of talk? It looks like mockery! GiveHim the leaves, but wrap the fruit up within them! Let Him have true action and consecrated service-for this is the fittestfruit of a grateful heart.
Observe that it is not said that she waited upon Christ before she was healed. The fevered patient is first restored and thenshe begins to minister. I am far from exhorting any of you to serve Christ in your lives if your inner life is not first ofall renewed by Him. There must be a regenerated heart through His blessed touch, or else a renewed life may be imitated butcannot be truly possessed. First the healing, then the serving! The healing is first, but note well that the serving followsclose at its heels. If you are saved, arise and work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God that worksin you to will and to do of His own good pleasure. Since the light is now kindled, let it shine forth from
you-since Christ has opened in your soul a well of living waters-let it flow out of the midst of you as a river of water forHis service and the benefit of your fellow men.
This good soul knew to what end she had been raised up. She knew from Whom she had received the healing-it was from the Lordalone. She knew from what she was restored, namely, from the very jaws of death. She knew to what she was restored, for shefelt that health and strength had returned to her, and therefore she guessed rightly for what she was restored, namely, thatshe might wait upon the Lord. You, my Brother, are saved from Hell. You are lifted up into spiritual life and acceptance.You are ennobled and made an heir of Heaven. Why was this done but that you might minister to your Lord here and glorify Himhereafter? Our gratitude ought to teach us the Divine object of Grace and we ought to take care that it is attained.
The Lord cannot have saved us at such an expense as the death of His own Son for any reason less than that we should liveunto Him! What is the reckoning of all our grateful hearts about this? Is it not this, that if we are bought with a price,we are not our own? That if the Holy Spirit has given us a new Nature it must be that we should lead a new life, and thatour new life must be consecrated to Him who is the Author of it? Beloved, true gratitude always leads us to serve and it distinctlymakes our healing Lord the object of our service-it puts Him in the forefront. "She arose and ministered unto them." To Himfirst, and to His disciples next-to the Head and for the Head's sake to all the members. To the Redeemer and because of Himto all the redeemed.
I put to each one here present who has been healed from sin and saved from spiritual death by Christ, this question- Whatare you rendering unto your Lord? What are you doing for Him? Begin with Him. Do it as unto Him. Do what you do in His Presenceand present it at His dear feet-then I know you will be doing something for His people, too! His poor you will befriend. Hisbacksliding ones you will seek to gather in. His sick ones you will visit. His comfortless ones you will console. His wanderingones-as yet uncalled-you will seek after them. His lost sheep, your anxieties will go out for them. You will minister to Himand to His chosen-to all the members of His body.
What are you doing, Brother? What are you doing, Sister? I do not ask you now in my own name, for I am no master of yours-neitherare you accountable to me-but I ask it in the name of Him whose hands were pierced for you and whose heart was opened by thesoldier's spear for your redemption! Oh, what are you doing for Him? Do you love Him? If you love Him feed His lambs and Hissheep. If you love, serve! And if you serve, serve Him first and serve His children and His people next, and you will proveyour gratitude.
IV. But now, lastly, this woman's ministering to Christ proved in the fourth place, THE CONDESCENSION OF THE PHYSICIAN. Hewho healed her of the fever did not need her to minister to Him! He who had power to heal diseases had certainly power tosubsist without human ministry. If Christ could raise her up He must be Omnipotent and Divine-what need, then had He of awomanly service? Might He not have used the grand style of the Old Testament, and said, "If I were hungry I would not tellyou, for the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine"? But instead of this the mighty Master of all angels condescended to bewaited upon by a poor female.
It was great condescension on Christ's part that He needed ministry and great gentleness that He so often chose woman's ministry.He came to earth and the first garments of His Infancy were wrapped about Him by a woman's hands, and here He dwelt till atlast He died and holy women bound Him up in the cerements of the tomb and laid Him in the sepulcher. Matchless marvel wasthis of condescension, that He who is Almighty and ever-blessed should stoop from Heaven to need the ministry of human beings!He has ministered to us by humbling Himself to accept mortal ministry! Peter's wife's mother was one of the despised poor,but Jesus honored her. What was she but a fisherman's wife-at any rate the mother of a fisherman's wife, a poor, obscure,illiterate woman, yet Christ allowed her to wait upon Him-an honor which Herodias the royal princess never had!
So the Lord today should be beloved of us for His humility in allowing us to wait upon Him-in allowing me, in allowing you-todo anything for His dear name's sake. I do not wonder that Christ allowed Paul and Peter and John to serve Him, but that Heshould suffer me to do it? I am overwhelmed with astonishment at it! Do you not marvel, also? It seems easy enough to believethat the blessed Virgin and Mary Magdalene and other holy women were honored of God. But that you, dear Sister, should beallowed to take a part in His service, is not this marvelous? Will you not bless Him and minister with the utmost cheerfulnessbecause you feel it to be so great a Grace? Is it not gracious on our Lord's part to leave room in His Church for ministry?
Suppose, now, the Lord had made all His people rich? Then there would be no room for the generosity of His people to helpHis poor saints and you would not have the opportunity of proving your love to Him as you now can. Suppose He had convertedall His elect by the secret working of His Spirit without any teaching? Then He would not have needed you in the Sunday school,nor you with your tracts, nor me with my sermons-and we should have had nothing to do for Christ-we should have been sighingand crying, "The good Master has not permitted us to give Him anything! Why, on our birthdays our little children love togive their father something, if it is only a bunch of flowers out of the garden, or a four-penny piece with a hole in it!"
They like to do it to show their love and wise parents will be sure to let their children do such things for them. So is itwith our great Father in Heaven. What are our Sunday school teaching and our preaching and all that, but these cracked four-pennypieces? Just nothing at all! But the Lord allows us to do His work for His own love's sake. His love to us finds a sweetnessin our love to Him. I am most thankful that in the Church there is room for such a variety of ministries. Some Brethren areso strangely constituted that I cannot tell what they were made for-but I believe if they are God's people there is a placefor them in His spiritual temple!
A man who was accustomed to buy timber and work it up, on one occasion found a very crooked stick of wood in his bargain andsaid to his son as he put it aside, "I cannot tell, John, whatever I shall do with it. It is the ugliest shaped piece I everbought in my life." But it so happened, while building a barn, that he needed a timber exactly of that shape and it fittedin so thoroughly well that he said, "It really seems as if that tree grew on purpose for that corner." So our gracious Lordhas arranged His Church so that every crooked stick will fit in somewhere or other, if it is only a tree of His own righthand planting-He has made it with a purpose and knows when it will answer that purpose.
How this ought to rebuke any who say, "I do not see what I can do." Dear Friend, there is a peculiar work for you. Find itout-and I think it will not be far off-the exercise of a little rejection will soon enable you to discover it. Be gratefulthat this is a certain fact, without exception, that every child of God who has been healed has some ministry which he canrender to Christ and which he ought to render at once! May the Lord allow every one of you to show your gratitude in thisway, and while you do it, let it always be in an adoring spirit, saying, "Lord, I thank You I am allowed to go to my Sundayschool class."
Do not look at your work as a burden! Say, "Lord, I thank You I am permitted to do it." "O God, I bless You that I am allowedto go round that little district and call at the houses." You Bible Women, bless God that He has let you be Bible Women! Andyou city missionaries, thank God that you are allowed to be city missionaries. "Oh," says one, "I can hardly do that becauseI suffer so much abuse and so much ill-treatment." Bless God, dear Brother, that He counts you worthy to suffer for His name'ssake! You know the old story of Sir Walter Raleigh. When Queen Elizabeth, one day, came to a miry place in the road, he tookoff his cloak for her to walk upon.
Did he regret it? No, he was delighted at it, and half the court wished for another muddy place that they might be able todo the same! Oh, you that love your Lord, be willing to lie down for Christ's sake and pave the miry parts of the way by beingdespised for His name's sake! This honor you should covet and should not shun! Arise, and minister, you healed ones! And asfor you who are not healed, may you believe in Him who is able to restore you with His touch. He is mighty to save. Believein Him and you shall live forever! Amen.