Sermon 1411. Under Constraint
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 28, 1878,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then were all dead." 2 Corinthians 5:14.
THE Apostle and his brethren were unselfish in all that they did. He could say of himself and of his brethren that when theyvaried their modes of action they always had the same objective in view-they lived only to promote the cause of Christ andto bless the souls of men. He says, "Whether we are beside ourselves, it is to God: or whether we are sober, it is for yourcause." Some may have said that Paul was too excitable and expressed himself too strongly. "Well," he said, "if it is so,it is to God." Others may have noticed the reasoning faculty to be exceedingly strong in Paul and may, perhaps, have thoughthim to be too coolly argumentative. "But," said Paul, "if we are sober, it is for your cause." Viewed from some points theApostle and his co-laborers must have appeared to be raving fanatics, engaged upon a Quixotic enterprise and almost, if notquite, out of their minds.
One who had heard the Apostle tell the story of his conversion exclaimed, "Paul, you are beside yourself; much learning doesmake you mad," and no doubt many who saw the singular change in his conduct and knew what he had given up and what he enduredfor his new faith had come to the same conclusion. Paul would not be at all offended by this judgment, for he would rememberthat his Lord and Master had been charged with madness and that even our Lord's relatives had said, "He is beside Himself."To Festus he had replied, "I am not mad, most noble Festus; but speak forth the words of truth and soberness."
And to Corinthian objectors he gave a still fuller reply. Blessed are they who are charged with being out of their mind throughzeal for the cause of Jesus! They have a more than sufficient answer when they can say, "If we are beside ourselves, it isto God." It is no unusual thing for madmen to think others mad and no strange thing for a mad world to accuse the only morallysane among men of being fools and lunatics! But Wisdom is justified of her children. If others assailed the Apostle with anothercharge and insinuated that there was a method in his madness-that his being all things to all men showed an excess of prudence-andwas no doubt a means to an end, which end it is possible they hinted at was a desire for power, he could reply most conclusively,"If we are sober, it is for your cause."
Paul had acted so unselfishly that he could appeal to the Corinthian Church and ask them to bear him witness that he soughtnot theirs but them. And that if he had judged their disorders with great sobriety it was for their cause. Whatever he did,or felt, or suffered, or spoke, he had but one design in it-the Glory of God in the perfecting of Believers and the salvationof sinners. Every Christian minister ought to be able to use the Apostle's words without the slightest reserve. Yes, and everyChristian should be able to say the same-"If I am excited, it is in defense of the Truth of God. If I am sober, it is forthe maintenance of holiness. If I seem extravagant, it is because the name of Jesus stirs my inmost soul- and if I am moderatein spirit and thoughtful in mood-it is that I may in the wisest manner subserve the interests of my Redeemer's kingdom."
God grant that weeping or singing, anxious or hopeful, victorious or defeated, increasing or decreasing, elevated or depressedwe may still follow our one design and devote ourselves to the holy cause! May we live to see Churches made up of people whoare all set on one thing and may those Churches have ministers who are fit to lead such a people because they, also, are masteredby the same sacred purpose. May the fire which fell of old on Carmel fall on our altar, whereon lies the sacrifice, wetteda second and a third time from the salt sea of the world, until it shall consume the burnt sacrifice and the wood, the stonesand the dust-and lick up the water that is in the trench. Then will all the people see it and fall upon their faces, and cry,"The Lord! He is God! The Lord, He is God!"
The Apostle now goes on to tell us why it was that the whole conduct of himself and his co-laborers tended to one end andobjective. He says, "The love of Christ constrains us, because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then the all died."I give you here as exact a translation as I can. Two things I shall note in the text-first, under constraint. Secondly, underconstraint which his understanding justified.
I. Our main point will come under the head, "UNDER CONSTRAINT. Here is the Apostle, a man who was born free, a man who beyondall others enjoyed the greatest spiritual liberty-glorying that he is under constraint! He was under constraint because agreat force held him under its power. "The love of Christ constrains us." I suppose, "constrains us," is about the best renderingof the passage that could be given, but it might be translated, "restrains." The love of Christ restrains true Believers fromself-seeking and forbids them to pursue any objective but the highest. Whether they were beside themselves or sober, the earlysaints yielded to Divine restraint, even as a good ship answers to her helm or as a horse obeys the rein.
They were not without a restraining force to prevent the slightest subjection to impure motives. The love of Christ controlledthem and held them under its power. But the word, "restrained," only expresses a part of the sense, for it means that he was,"coerced or pressed," and so impelled forward as one carried along by pressure. All around him the love of Christ pressedupon him as the water in a river presses upon a swimmer and bears him onward with its stream. Bengel, who is a great authority,reads it, "Keeps us employed," for we are led to diligence, urged to zeal, maintained in perseverance and carried forwardand onward by the love of Jesus Christ. The Apostles labored much, but all their labor sprang from the impulse of the loveof Jesus Christ.
Just as Jacob toiled for Rachel solely out of love to her, so do true saints serve the Lord Jesus under the Omnipotent constraintof love. One eminent expositor reads the word, "constrains us," as though it signified that the Lord's servants were kepttogether and held as a band under a banner or standard. And he very appropriately refers to the words of the Church in theSong of Songs, "His banner over me was love." As soldiers are held together by rallying to the standard, so are the saintskept to the work and service of their Lord by the love of Christ which constrains them to endure all things for the elect'ssake and for the Glory of God-and like an ensign-is lifted high as the center and loadstone of all their energies. In ourLord's love we have the best motive for loyalty, the best reason for energy and the best argument for perseverance!
The word may also signify, "compressed," and then it would mean that all their energies were pressed into one channel andmade to move by the love of Christ. Can I put restraint and constraint, and all the rest, into one by grouping them in a figure?I think I can. When a flood is spread over an expanse of meadow land and stands in shallow pools, men restrain it by dammingit up-and they constrain it to keep to one channel by banking it in! Thus compressed it becomes a stream and moves with forcein one direction. See how it quickens its pace! See what strength it gathers! It turns yonder wheel of the mill, makes a sheepwash, leaps as a waterfall, runs laughing through a village as a brook where the cattle stand in the summer's sun. Growingall the while, it develops into a river, bearing boats and little ships! And this done, it still increases and stays not tillit flows with mighty flood into the great sea.
The love of Christ had pressed Paul's energies into one force, turned them into one channel and then driven them forward witha wonderful force till he and his fellows had become a mighty power for good-always active and energetic. "The love of Christ,"he says, "constrains us." All great lives have been under the constraint of some mastering principle. A man who is everythingby turns and nothing long, is a nobody! A man who wastes life on whims and fancies, leisure and pleasures, never achievesanything! He flits over the surface of life and leaves no more trace upon his age than a bird upon the sky. But a man, evenfor mischief, becomes great when he becomes concentrated.
What made the young prince of Macedon, Alexander the Great, but the absorption of his whole mind in the desire for conquest?The man was never happy when he was at ease and in peace. His best days were spent on the battlefield or on the march. Lethim rush to the front of the battle and make the common soldier grow into a hero by observing the desperate valor of his king-andthen you see the greatness of the man! He could never have been the conqueror of the world if the insatiable greed of conquesthad not constrained him. From this come your Caesars and your Napoleons- they are whole men in their ambition, subject tothe lust of dominion.
When you carry this thought into a better and holier sphere, the same fact is clear. Howard could never have been the greatphilanthropist if he had not been strangely under the witchery of love to prisoners. He was more happy in a
hospital or in a prison than he would have been at Court or on the sofa of the drawing room. The man could not help visitingjails-he was a captive to his sympathy for men in bondage-and so he spent his life in seeking their good. Look at such a manas Whitfield or his associate, Wesley. Those men had but one thought and that was to win souls for Christ-their whole beingran into the one riverbed of zeal for God and made them full and strong as the rushing Rhone. It was their rest to labor forChrist! It was their honor to be pelted while preaching and to be maligned for the name of Jesus! A bishopric and a seat inthe House of Lords would have been the death of them! Even a throne would have been a rack if they must have ceased huntingfor souls.
The men were under the dominion of a passion which they could not withstand and did not wish to weaken. They could sing-
"The lo ve of Christ does me constrain To seek the wandering souls of men! With cries, entreaties, tears, to save, To snatchthem from the fiery wave." Their whole life, being, thought, faculty, spirit, soul and body became one and indivisible inpurpose. And their sanctified manhood was driven forward irresistibly so that they might be likened to thunderbolts flungfrom the eternal hand which must go forward till their end is reached. They could no more cease to preach than the sun couldcease shining or reverse his course in the heavens!
This kind of constraint implies no compulsion and involves no bondage. It is the highest order of freedom, for when a mandoes exactly what he likes to do, if he wants to express the enthusiastic joy and delight with which he follows his pursuit,he generally uses language similar to that of my text. "Why," he says, "I am engrossed by my favorite study. It quite enthrallsme. I cannot resist its charms, it holds me beneath its spell." Is the man any the less free? If a man gives himself up toa science, or to some other pursuit, though he is perfectly free to leave it whenever he likes, he will commonly declare thathe cannot leave it-it has such a hold upon him that he addicts himself to it!
You must not think, therefore, that when we speak of being under constraint from the love of Christ we mean, by it, that wehave ceased to exercise our wills, or to be voluntary agents in our service. Far from it! In fact, we acknowledge that weare never so free as when we are under bonds to Christ! No, our God does not constrain us by physical force. His cords arethose of love and His bands are those of a man. The constraint is that which we are glad to feel-we give a full assent toits pressure-and therein lies its power. We rejoice to admit that, "The love of Christ constrains us!" We only wish the constraintwould increase every day.
We have seen that Paul had a great force holding him-we advance a step further and note that the constraining force was thelove of Christ. He does not speak of his love to Christ-that was a great power, too, though secondary to the first. But heis content to mention the greater, for it includes the less-"The love of Christ constrains us," that is, Christ's love tous is the master force! And O, Brothers and Sisters, this is a power to which it is joy to submit! This is a force worthyto command the greatest minds! "The love of Christ." Who shall measure this Omnipotent force? That love, according to ourtext, is strongest when seen in His dying for men. Mark the context, "because we thus judge, that if One died for all." Thepeculiar display of the love of Christ which had supreme sway over Paul was the love revealed in His substitutionary death!
Think of it a moment. Christ the Ever-Blessed, to whom no pain, nor suffering, nor shame could come, loved men! O singularityof love! He loves guilty men, yes, loves His enemies! Loving poor fallen men, He took their nature and became a Man. Marvelouscondescension! The Son of God is also Son of Mary and, being found in fashion as a Man, He humbles Himself and is made ofno reputation. See Him taken before human judges and unjustly condemned! Seized by Roman lictors and lashed with the scourge!Gazing a little longer, you see Him nailed to a cross, hung up for a felon, left amid jeer and jibe and cruel glance and maliciousspeech to bleed away His life till He is actually dead and laid in the grave!
At the back of all this there is the mystery that He was not only dying, but dying in the place of others, bearing almightywrath, enduring that dread sentence of death which is attached to human sin. Herein is love, indeed, that the infinitely Pureshould suffer for the sinful, the Just for the unjust, to bring us to God! Love did never climb to so sublime a height aswhen it brought Jesus to the bloody tree to bear the dread sentence of inexorable Law! Think of this love, Beloved, till youfeel its constraining influence!
It was love eternal, for long before the earth was fashioned, the eternal Word had set His eyes upon His people and theirnames were engraved on His heart. It was love unselfish, for He had nothing to gain from His redeemed-there were harps enoughin Heaven and songs enough in the celestial city without their music! It was love most free and spontaneous, for no man soughtit or so much as dreamed of it! It was love most persevering, for when man was born into the world and sinned and rejectedChrist-and He came to His own and His own received Him not-He loved them still, loved them even to the end. It was love-whatshall I say of it? If I were to multiply words I might rather sink your thoughts than raise them!
It was love infinite, immeasurable, inconceivable! It surpasses the love of women, though the love of mothers is strong asdeath and jealousy is cruel as the grave. It passes the love of martyrs, though that love has triumphed over the fury of theflame. All other lights of love pale in their ineffectual brightness before this blazing sun of love, whose warmth a man mayfeel but upon whose utmost light no eye can gaze! He loved us like a God! It was nothing less than God's own love which burnedwithin that breast which was bared to the spear that it might redeem us from going down into the Pit! It is this force, then,which has taken possession of the Christian's mind and, as Paul says, "constrains us."
Now we may advance another step and say that the love of Christ operates upon us by begetting in us love to Him. Brothersand Sisters, I know you love our Lord Jesus Christ, for all His people love Him. "We love Him because He first loved us."But what shall I say? There are scarcely any themes upon which I feel less able to speak than these two-the love of Christto us and our love to Him-because somehow love needs a tongue elsewhere than this which dwells in the mouth. This tongue isin the head and it can therefore tell out our thoughts-but we need a tongue in the heart to tell out our emotions which havenow to borrow utterance from the brain's defective orator.
There is a long space between the cool brain and the blazing heart-and matters cool on the road to the tongue, so that theburning heart grows weary of chill words. But oh, we love Jesus! Brothers and Sisters, we truly love Him! His name is sweetas the honeycomb and His Word is precious as the gold of Ophir. His Person is very dear to us-from His head to His feet Heis altogether lovely. When we get near Him and see Him at the last, I think we shall swoon away with excess of joy at thesight of Him and I, for one, ask no Heaven beyond a sight of Him and a sense of His love! I do not doubt that we shall enjoyall the harmonies, all the honors and all the fellowships of Heaven, but if they were all blotted out, I do not know thatthey would make any considerable difference to us if we may but see our Lord upon His throne, and have His own prayer fulfilled,"Father, I will that they, also, whom You have given Me be with Me where I am, that they may behold My Glory." He is happinessto us, yes, He is All in All!
Do you not feel that the sweetest sermons you ever hear are those which are fullest of Him? When I can sometimes hear a sermon,it sickens me to listen to fine attempts to philosophize away the Gospel, or to pretty essays which are best described asa jingle of elegant words. But I can hear with rapture the most illiterate and blundering Brother if his heart burns withinhim and he heartily speaks of my Lord, the Well-Beloved of my soul! We are glad to be in the place of assembly when Jesusis within, for whether on Tabor with two or three, or in the congregation of the faithful-when Jesus is present it is goodto be there.
This joyful feeling, when you hear about Jesus, shows that you love Him and your endeavors to spread the Gospel show thatyou love His cause. The love of Christ to you has moved you to desire the coming of His kingdom and you feel that you couldgive your life to extend the borders of His dominions! He is a glorious King and all the world should know it! Oh that wecould see all the nations bowing before His scepter of peace! We love Him so much that till the whole earth smiles in thelight of His throne, we can never rest. As to His Truth, a very great part of our love to Christ will show itself by attachmentto the pure Gospel. I have not much patience with a certain class of Christians, nowadays, who will hear anybody preach solong as they can say, "He is very clever, a fine preacher, a man of genius, a born orator."
Is cleverness to make false doctrine palatable? Why, Sirs, to me the ability of a man who preaches error is my sorrow ratherthan my admiration! I cannot endure false doctrine, however neatly it may be put before me. Would you have me eat poisonedmeat because the dish is of the choicest ware? It makes me indignant when I hear another gospel put before the people withenticing words by men who would gladly make merchandise of souls! And I marvel at those who have soft words for such deceivers.
"That is your bigotry," says one. Call it so if you like, but it is the bigotry of the loving John who wrote-"If there comeany unto you and bring not this doctrine, receive him not into your house, neither bid him God speed: for he that
bids him God speed is partaker of his evil deeds." I would to God we had all more of such decision, for the lack of it isdepriving our religious life of its backbone and substituting for honest manliness a mass of the tremulous jelly of mutualflattery. He who does not hate the false does not love the true! And he to whom it is all the same whether it is God's Wordor man's, is himself unrenewed at heart! Oh, if some of you were like your fathers, you would not have tolerated in this agethe wagon loads of trash under which the Gospel has been of late buried by ministers of your own choosing! You would havehurled out of your pulpits the men who are enemies to the fundamental doctrines of your Churches and yet are crafty enoughto become your pastors and undermine the faith of a fickle and superficial generation! These men steal the pulpits of onceorthodox Churches because otherwise they would have none at all!
Their powerless theology cannot, of itself, arouse sufficient enthusiasm to enable them to build a mousetrap at the expenseof their admirers and, therefore, they profane the houses which your fathers have built for the preaching of the Gospel andturn aside the organizations of once orthodox communities to help their infidelity! I call it by that name in plain English,for "modern thought" is not one whit better-and of the two evils I give infidelity the palm, for it is less deceptive. I begthe Lord to give back to the Churches such a love to His Truth that they may discern the spirits and cast out those whichare not of God.
I feel sometimes like John, of whom it is said that though the most loving of all spirits, yet he was the most decided ofall men for the Truth of God. Once when he went to the bath and found that the heretic, Cerinthus, was there, he hurried outof the building and would not tarry in the same place with him! There are some with whom we should have no fellowship! No,not so much as to eat bread! And though this conduct looks stern and hard, it is after the mind of Christ, for the Apostlespoke by Inspiration when he said, "If we, or an angel from Heaven preach to you any other Gospel than that which you havereceived, let him be accursed." According to modern efficiency he ought to have said, "Let him be kindly spoken with in private,but pray make no stir! No doubt the thought was original and we must not question his liberty. Doubtless, he believes thesame as we do, only there is some little difference as to terms."
This is treason to Christ, treachery to the Truth of God and cruelty to souls! If we love our Lord we shall keep His Wordsand stand fast in the faith, coming out from among the false teachers! Nor is this inconsistent with charity, for the truestlove to those who err is not to fraternize with them in their error, but to be faithful to Jesus in all things! The love ofJesus Christ creates in men a deep attachment to the Gospel, especially to the doctrines which cluster around the Person ofour Lord. And I think more especially to that doctrine which is the cornerstone of all, namely, that Christ died in the placeof men. He who touches the doctrine of Substitution, touches the apple of our eye! He who denies it, robs our soul of heronly hope, for there we gather all our consolation for the present and our expectation for days to come. A great force, then,held the Apostle-that force was the love of Christ-and it worked in Him love to Christ in return!
Now, this force acts proportionately in Believers. It acts in every Christian more or less, but it differs in degree. We areall of us, alive, but the vigor of life differs greatly in the consumptive and the athletic-and so the love of Jesus actsupon all regenerate men, but not to the same extent. When a man is perfectly swayed by the love of Christ, he will be a perfectChristian. When a man is growingly under its influence, he is a growing Christian. When a man is sincerely affected by thelove of Christ, he is a sincere Christian. But he in whom the love of Christ has no power whatever is not a Christian at all."I thought," says one, "that believing was the main point." True, but faith works by love and if your faith does not workby love it is not the faith which will save the soul.
Love never fails to bloom where faith has taken root. Beloved, you will feel the power of the love of Christ in your soulin proportion to the following points. In proportion as you know it. Study, then, the love of Christ-search deep and learnits secrets. Angels desire to look into it. Observe its eternity-without beginning. Its immutability-without change. Its infinity-withoutmeasure. Its eternity-without end. Think much of the love of Christ, till you comprehend with all saints what are its breadthsand lengths. And as you know it, you will begin to feel its power. Its power will also be in proportion to your sense of it.Do you feel the love of God shed abroad in your heart by the Holy Spirit? Knowing is well, but enjoyment as the result ofbelieving is better! Does it not sometimes force the tears from your eyes to think that Jesus loved you and gave Himself foryou?
On the other hand, does it not at times make you feel as if, like David, you could dance before the ark of the Lord, to thinkthat the love of God should ever have been set on you-that Christ should die for you? Ah, think and think again-for you thebloody sweat, for you the crown of thorns, for you the nails, the spear, the wounds, the broken
heart-all, all for love of you who were His enemy! In proportion as your heart is tender and is sensitive to this love, itwill become a constraining influence in your whole life. The force of this influence will also depend very much upon the DivineGrace which dwells within you. You may measure your Grace by the power which the love of Christ has over you. Those who dwellnear their Lord are so conscious of His power over them that the very glances of His eyes fill them with holy ardor. If youhave much Grace you will be greatly moved by the love which gave you that Grace and made you wondrously sensitive to it. Buthe who has little Grace, as is the case with not a few, can read the story of the Cross without emotion, and can contemplateJesus' death without feeling. God deliver us from a cold and hard marble heart!
Character also has much to do with the measure in which we feel the constraint of Jesus' love. The more Christ-like the moreChrist-constrained. You must become, dear Brothers and Sisters, by prayer through the Holy Spirit, to be like Jesus Christ.And when you do, His love will take fuller possession of you than it does at this moment and you will be more manifestly underits constraining power. Our last point upon this head is that wherever its energy is felt it will operate after its kind.Forces work according to their nature-the force of love creates love-and the love of Christ begets a kindred love. He whofeels Christ's love acts as Christ acted. If you really feel the love of Christ in making a sacrifice of Himself you willmake a sacrifice of yourself. "Hereby perceive we the love of God, because He laid down His life for us: and we ought to laydown our lives for the brethren."
We shall, for our Lord's sake, count all things but dross for the excellency of His knowledge. O Soul, you will have no choiceleft after you have once known and chosen your Lord! If that road leads to wealth, but if it does not glorify Christ, youwill at once say, "Farewell wealth." That road leads to honor-you will be famous if you will take that path. But if it willbring no glory to Christ, if you feel the power of His love in your soul, you will say, "Farewell honor! I will embrace shamefor Christ, for my one thought is to sacrifice myself for Him who sacrificed Himself for me." If the love of Christ constrainsyou, it will make you love others, for His was love to others, love to those who could do Him no service, who deserved nothingat His hands. If the love of Christ constrains you, you will specially love those who have no apparent claim upon you andcannot justly expect anything from you, but on the contrary deserve your censure. You will say, "I love them because the loveof Christ constrains me."
Dirty little creatures in the gutter. Filthy women polluting the streets. Base men who come out of jail merely to repeat theircrimes-these are the fallen humanities whom we learn to love when the love of Christ constrains us! I do not know how elsewe could care for some poor creatures, if it were not that Jesus teaches us to despise none and despair of none. Those ungratefulcreatures, those malicious creatures, those abominably blasphemous and profane creatures whom you sometimes meet with andshrink from-you are to love them because Christ loved the very chief of sinners! His love to you must be reflected in yourlove to the lowest and vilest. He is your Sun-be you as the moon to the world's night.
The love of Jesus Christ was a practical love. He did not love in thought, only, and in word, but in deed and in truth-andif the love of Christ constrains us-we shall throw our souls into the work and service of love. We shall be really at workfor men, giving alms of our substance, enduring our measure of suffering and making it clear that our Christianity is notmere talk, but downright work! We shall be like the bullock of the burnt offering, laid upon the altar to be wholly consumed.We shall consider nothing but how we can most completely be eaten up with the zeal of God's House, how without the reserveof one single faculty we may be entirely consumed in the service of our Lord and Master. May the Lord bring us to this!
II. THE CONSTRAINT OF WHICH WE HAVE SPOKEN WAS JUSTIFIED BY THE APOSTLE'S
UNDERSTANDING. "The love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge." Love is blind. A man may say that in the affairsof love he exercises a calm discretion, but I take leave to doubt it. In love to Christ, however, you may be carried rightaway and be as blind as you like and yet you shall act according to the most sound judgment. The Apostle says warmly, "Thelove of Christ constrains us," and yet he adds with all coolness, "because we thus judge." When understanding is the basisof affection, then a man's heart is fixed and his conduct becomes in a high degree exemplary. So it is here.
There is a firm basis of judgment-the man has weighed and judged the matter as much as if the heart were out of the question-butthe logical conclusion is one of all-absorbing emotion and mastering affection as much as if the understanding had been leftout of the question. His judgment was as the bronze altar, cold and hard, but on it he laid the coals of burning affection,vehement enough in their flame to consume everything. So it ought to be with us. Religion
should be with a man a matter of intellect as well as of affection-and his understanding should always be able to justifythe strongest possible passion of his soul, as the Apostle says it did in the case of himself and his brethren.
They had reasons for all that they did. For, first, he recognized Substitution-"We thus judge, that if One died for all."O Brothers and Sisters, this is the very sinew of Christian effort-Christ died in the sinner's place! Christ is the Surety,the Sacrifice, the Substitute for men! If you take the doctrine of vicarious Sacrifice out of the Christian religion I protestthat nothing is left worth calling a revelation! It is the heart, the head, the soul, the essence of our holy faith- thatthe Lord has laid on Him the iniquity of us all and with His stripes we are healed! The Apostle firmly believed this to bea matter of fact and then, out of his belief, there grew an intense love to Jesus, as well there might. Did Jesus stand inmy place? Oh, how I love Him! Did He die for me? Then His love has mastered me and will always hold me as its willing captive!O sacred Substitute, I am Yours and all that I have!
In the next place, he recognized union to Christ, for, he said, "If One died for all, then the all died," for so it runs,that is to say, the all for whom Christ died, died in His death. His dying in their place was their dying! He dies for them,they die in Him. He rises, they rise in Him. He lives, they live in Him. Now if it is really so, that you and I who have believedin Christ are one with Christ and members of His body, that Truth of God may be stated coolly, but like the flint, it concealsa fire within it! For if we died in Jesus, we are dead to the world, to self-to everything but our Lord! O Holy Spirit, workin us this death even to the fullest! The Apostle recognizes the natural consequence of union with the dying Lord and resolvesto carry it out.
Brothers and Sisters, when Adam sinned, we sinned. And we have felt the result of that fact-we were constituted sinners bythe act of our first representative and every day we see it to be so. Every little child that is carried to the grave bearswitness that death passes upon all men, for that all have sinned in Adam, even though they have not personally sinned afterthe similitude of his transgression. Now, just as our sin in Adam effectively operates upon us for evil, so must our deathwith Christ effectively operate upon our lives for good. It ought to do so. How can I live for myself? I died more than 18centuries ago! I died and was buried! How can I live to the world? Eighteen hundred years ago and more the world hung me upas a malefactor-yes, and in my heart of hearts I have also crucified the world-and regard it as a dead malefactor. How shallI fall in love with a crucified world, or follow after its delights? We thus died with Christ.
"Now," says the Apostle, "the love of Christ constrains us; because we thus judge, that if One died for all, then the alldied." All who were in Christ, for whom He died, died when He died. And what follows from it but that they should not liveunto themselves, but unto Him that died for them and rose again? We are one with Christ and what He did for us we did in Himand, therefore, we are dead because He died! Therefore we ought no longer to live in the old selfish way, but should liveonly to the Lord. This is the basis upon which the intellect rests and then the affections yield themselves to the sacredforce of Jesus' dying love.
I close with the following reflections, putting them very briefly. The first reflection is-how different is the inferenceof the Apostle from that of many professors. They say, "If Christ died once for all and so finished the work of my salvation,then I am saved and may sit down in comfort and enjoy myself, for there is no need for effort or thought." Ah, what a mercyto feel that you are saved and then to go to sleep in the corner of your pew! A converted man and, therefore, curled up uponthe bed of sloth! A pretty sight, surely, but a very common one! Such people have but little or no feeling for others whoremain unconverted. "The Lord will save His own," they say and they little care whether He does so or not. They appear tobe dreadfully afraid of doing God's work, though there is not the slightest need for such a fear, since they will not evendo their own work!
These are presumptuous persons, strangers to the Grace of God, who know not that the main part of salvation lies in our beingsaved from selfishness and hardness of heart! It is the devil's inference that because Christ did so much for me I am nowto do nothing for Him! I must even beg the devil's pardon, for I scarcely think that even he is base enough to draw such aninference from the Grace of God. Assuredly he has never been in a position to attempt so detestable a crime. It is to thelast degree unutterably contemptible that a man who is indebted to the Lord Jesus Christ for so much should then make theonly consequence of his indebtedness to be a selfish indolence! Never will a true child of God say, "Soul, take your ease.You are all right-nothing else matters!"
Oh no! "The love of Christ constrains us." How much more ennobling, again, is such conduct as that of the Apostle than thatof many professed Christians? I am not about to judge anyone, but I would beg you to judge yourselves. There
are some and I would try to hope that they may be Christians-the Lord knows them that are His-who give to the cause of God,who serve God, after a fashion. But still, the main thought of their life is not Christ nor His service, but the gaining ofwealth! That is their chief objective and towards it all their faculties are bent. There are other Church members-God forbidwe should judge them-whose great thought is success in their profession. I am not condemning their having such a thought,but the chief ambition of the Apostle and of those like he was not this, but something higher! The chief aim of all of usshould be nothing of self, but serving Christ! We are to be dead to everything but our Lord's Glory, living with this markbefore us-this prize to be strained after-that Christ shall be glorified in our mortal bodies!
In our business, in our studies, in everything, our slogan must be, Christ, Christ, Christ! Is it not a far more noble thingfor a man to have lived wholly unto Christ than for mammon, or honor, or for himself in any shape or form? I speak as to wisemen-judge what I say! Do you not think, also, that such a pursuit as this is much more peace-giving to the spirit? Peoplewill judge our conduct and they are sure to judge as severely as they can. If they see us zealous and self-denying they willsay of us, "Why, the man is beside himself." This will not matter much to us if we can reply, "It is for God." Or if theysay, "Oh, you old sober sides, how grave you are," we shall not be offended if we can reply, "Ah, but it is for the good ofothers that I am sober."
You will be very little distressed by sharp criticisms if you know that your motive is wholly unselfish. If you live for Christand for Christ, alone, all the carping of men or devils will never cast you down. Do you not think that a life spent for Jesusonly is far more worth looking back upon at the last than any other? If you call yourselves Christians, how will you judgea life spent in making money? It cannot be very much longer before you must gather up your feet in the bed and resign yoursoul to God. Now, suppose yourself sitting in your chamber all alone, making out the final balance-sheet of your stewardship-howwill it look if you have to confess, "I have been a Christian professor. My conduct has been outwardly decent and respectable,but my chief purpose was not my Master's Glory. I have lived with the view of scraping together so many thousands and I havedone it."
Would you like to fall asleep and die with that as the consummation of your life? Or shall it be, "I have lived to hold upmy head in society and pay my way and leave a little for my family"? Will that satisfy you as your last reflection? Brothersand Sisters, we are not saved by our works, but I am speaking, now, upon the consolation which a man can derive from lookingback upon his life. Suppose he shall have felt the power of my text and shall be able to say, "I have been enabled, by theGrace of God, to which I give all the glory, to consecrate my entire being to the entire glorification of my Lord and Master.And whatever my mistakes, and they are many-and my wanderings and failures, and they are countless-yet the love of Christhas constrained me, for I judged myself to have died in Him, and I have lived to Him. I have fought a good fight. I have keptthe faith"?
Why, I think it were worth while so to die! To be constrained by the love of Christ creates an heroic life, exalted, illustrious-no,I must come down from such lofty words-it is such a life as every Christian ought to live! It is such a life as every Christianmust live if he is really constrained by the love of Christ, for the text does not say the love of Christ ought to constrainus-it declares that it does constrain us. Brothers and Sisters, if it does not constrain you, judge yourselves that you benot judged and found wanting at the last! God grant we may feel the love of God shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit.Amen.