Sermon 1479. The Work of Grace the Warrant for Obedience
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 15, 1879,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed and walk." John 5:11.
(On behalf of the Mansion House Fund for the Hospitals of London).
JUST a few observations upon the narrative itself. It was a feast day and Jesus Christ came up to Jerusalem to find opportunitiesfor doing good among the crowds of His countrymen. I see all the city glad; I hear the voice of rejoicing in every house asthey hold high festival and eat the fat and drink the sweet. But where does Jesus keep the feast? How does He spend His holiday?He walks among the poor, whom He loves so well. Behold Him in the hospital! There was one notable Bethesda or house of mercyin Jerusalem-it was a poor provision for the city's abounding sickness, but such as it was, it was greatly prized. There wasa pool which every now and then was stirred by an angel's wing and worked an occasional cure. Around it charitable personshad built five porches and there, on the cold stone steps, a number of blind and crippled and withered folk were lying, eachone upon his own wretched pallet, waiting for the moving of the waters.
There were the weary children of pain, fainting, while others were feasting. They were racked with pain amid general rejoicing.They were sighing amid universal singing! Our Lord was at home amid this mercy, for here was room for His tender heart andpowerful hands. He feasted His soul by doing good. Let us learn this lesson, dear Friends, that in the times of our brightestjoys we should remember the sorrowful and find a still higher joy in doing them good. It well becomes us in proportion asa day is gladsome to ourselves, to make it so to the sick and poor around us. Let us keep the feast by sending portions tothose for whom nothing is prepared, for, otherwise, the famishing may bring a curse upon our feasting.
When we are prospered in business, let us set aside a portion for the poor. When we are full of health and strength, let usremember those to whom these privileges are denied and aid those who minister to them. Blessed shall they be who, like theLord Jesus, visit the sick and care for them. Coming into the hospital, our Lord noticed a certain man whose case was a verysad one. There were many painful cases there, but He singled out this man and it would seem that the reason for His choicewas that the poor creature was in the worst plight of all. If misery has a claim on pity, then the greater the sufferer themore is mercy attracted towards him. This poor victim of rheumatism or paralysis had been bound 38 years by his infirmity!
Let us hope there was no worse case on all Bethesda's porches! Thirty-eight years is more than half the appointed period ofhuman life! One year of pain or paralysis has a weary length of torture about it, but think of thirty-eight! We may well pitythe man who endures the pangs of rheumatism even for an hour-but how shall we sufficiently pity him who has not been freefrom it for hard on 40 years? Even if the case were not one of pain, but of paralysis, the inability to work and the consequentpoverty of so many years were, by no means, a small evil. Our Lord, then, selects the worst case to be dealt with by His curinghands as a type of what He often does in the kingdom of Grace-and as a lesson of prudence to us-instructing us to give ourfirst aid to those who are first in point of need.
The man whom Jesus healed was by no means an attractive character. Our Savior said to him, when he was healed, "Sin no more,lest a worse thing come unto you," from which it is not an improbable inference that his first infirmity had come upon himby deed of vice or course if excess. In some way or other he had been guilty of that which brought upon his body the sufferingwhich he was enduring. Now, it is considered generally to be a point beyond all dispute that we should help the worthy butshould refuse the worthless-that when a man brings a calamity upon himself by wrong doing-we are justified in letting himsuffer that he may reap what he has sown.
This cold Pharisaic idea is very congenial to minds which are bent upon saving their coins! It springs up in many hearts,or rather in places where hearts ought to be, and it is generally regarded as if it were a rule of prudence which it wouldbe sinful to dispute-an infallible and universal axiom. Now, I venture to say that our Savior never taught us to confine ouralms to the deserving! He would never have bestowed the grand alms of Grace on any one of us if He had carried out that rule!And if you and I had received no more at the hands of God than we deserved, we should not have been in this house of prayer!We cannot afford to cramp our charity into a sort of petty justice and sour our almsgiving into a miniature law court. Whena man is suffering let us pity him, however the suffering has come.
When a man had been in misery so long as 38 years, it was time that his infirmity should be more considered than his iniquityand that his present sorrow should be thought upon more than his former folly. So Jesus thought and, therefore, He came tothe sinner, not with reproach, but with restoration! He saw his disease rather than his depravity and gave him pity insteadof punishment. Our God is kind to the unthankful and to the evil-be you, therefore, merciful as your Father, also, is merciful.Remember how our Lord said, "Pray for them that despitefully use you, that you may be the children of your Father which isin Heaven; for He makes His sun to rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust."
Let us imitate Him in this and wherever there is pain and sorrow let it be our joy to relieve it. In addition to the suppositionthat this man had, at some time, been grossly guilty, it seems pretty clear from the text that he was a poor, shiftless, discouraged,inanimate, stupid sort of person. He had never managed to get into the pool, though others had done so who were as infirmas himself. He had never been able to win a friend or secure a helper, though from the extreme length of his infirmity onewould have thought that at some period or another he might have found a man to place him in the pool when the angel gave itthe mystic stir.
The Savior's asking him, "Do you want to be made whole?" leads us to think that he had fallen into such a listless, despairing,heart-sick condition that though he was daily at the edge of the pool as a matter of habit, he had not only ceased to hope,but had almost ceased to wish! Our Lord touched the chord which was most likely to respond, namely, his will and desire tobe made whole-but the response was a very feeble one. His answer shows what a poor creature he was, for there is not a beamof hope in it, or even of desire-it is a wail, a hopeless dirge, a grievous complaint-"I have no man, when the water is troubled,to put me into the pool and while I am coming, another steps down before me."
But the utter imbecility and lack of brains of the poor creature is most seen in the fact that like a simpleton he went toChrist's enemies and told them that it was Jesus that had made him whole! I am sure there was no malice in his thus informingour Lord's enemies, for if there had been, he would have said, "It was Jesus who bade me take up my bed," whereas he wordedit thus, "It was Jesus which had made him whole." I hardly dare, however, to hope, as some do, that there was much gratitudeabout this testimony, though, doubtless, the poor soul was grateful. I conceive that his long endurance of pain, acting upona weak mind, had brought him to an almost imbecile state of mind, so that he spoke without thought.
Our Lord did not, therefore, require much of him. He did not even ask for a distinct acknowledgement of faith from him, butonly for that small measure of it which might be implied in his answering the question, "Do you want to be made whole?" Thispoor man evinced none of the shrewdness of the man born blind who answered the Pharisees so keenly-he was of quite anothertype and could do no more than state his own case to Jesus. Thank God, even that was enough for our Lord to work with! TheLord Jesus saves people of all sorts. He has among His disciples men of quick and ready wit who can baffle their opponents,but quite as often-
"He takes the fool and makes him know
The wonders of His dying love:
To bring aspiring wisdom low,
And all its pride reprove."
So here He chose this poor simpleton of a creature and worked a great marvel upon him, to the exceeding praise of His condescendingGrace. Note well that this man's mind, though there was not much of it, was all engrossed and filled up with the fact thathe had been made whole. Jesus, to him, was, "He that made me whole." Of the person of Jesus he knew next to nothing, for hehad only seen Him for an instant and then he didn't know that it was Jesus. His one idea of Jesus was, "He that made me whole."
Now, beloved Brothers and Sisters, this was natural in his case and it will be equally natural in our own. Even when the savedones are more intelligent and of larger mind than this poor paralytic, they must still chiefly think of the Son of God astheir Savior-as He that made them whole. If I do not know much about the Lord, yet I do know that He has saved me! I was burdenedwith guilt and full of woes and could not rest day nor night until He gave me peace. If I cannot tell anything much concerningthe glory of His Person, His attributes, His relationships, His offices, or His work, yet I can say, "one thing I know, whereasI was blinded by error, now I see! Whereas I was paralyzed by sin, I am now able to stand upright and walk in His ways."
This poor soul knew the Lord experimentally and that is the best way of knowing Him. Actual contact with Him yields a surerknowledge and a truer knowledge than all the reading in the world. In the kingdom of Christ wonderful facts transpire, suchas conversion and finding peace with God-and happy are they to whom these facts are personal experiences! When men are turnedfrom the error of their ways and when their heart finds rest and peace in Christ, great deeds are done by the Lord Jesus.And if you are acquainted with these two things, even though you should be ignorant of a great deal else, be not afraid ofexaggerating their importance, but set your mind on them and call Jesus by that name-"He that made me whole."
Think of Him under that aspect and you will have a very valuable and influential idea of Him. You shall see greater thingsthan these, but for the present let these happy and sure facts be much upon your mind, even as his being made whole was uponthis man's mind. As for the quibbling Pharisees, you observe that they took no notice of the glorious fact of the man's cure-theywillfully ignored what Christ had done and they fell full swoop upon that little insignificant circumstance that it had beendone on the Sabbath! And then they spent all their thoughts and emotions upon that side issue. They say nothing of the man'sbeing restored, but they rage because he carried his bed on the Sabbath!
It is much the same with the men of the world in this day. They habitually ignore the fact of conversion. If they do not denyit, they look upon it as being a trifle-a matter not worth caring about. Though they see the harlot made chaste, the thiefmade honest, the profane made devout, the despairing made joyful and other moral and spiritual changes of the utmost practicalvalue, they forget all this and they attack some peculiar point of doctrine, or mode of speech, or diversity of manner andraise a storm concerning these!
Is it because the facts, themselves, if fairly looked at, would establish what they do not care to believe? The fact thatChristianity is doing marvels in the world, such as nothing else ever did, they persistently forget. But that fact is justwhat you and I must as persistently remember! We must dwell upon what Christ has, by His Holy Spirit, worked within our natureby renewing us in the spirit of our minds. And we must make this work of Grace a fountain of argument which shall establishour faith and justify our conduct. This poor man did so! He did not know much else, but that he had been made whole he didknow-and from that fact he justified himself in what he had done.
"He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed and walk." This is the Truth of God which I want to enlargeupon this morning-first, by saying that the work of Christ furnishes us with a justification for our obedience to His commands-"Hethat made me whole, the same said unto me"-that is our complete justification for what we do! In the second place, the workof Jesus Christ throws upon us an obligation to do what He bids us-if He that made me whole says to me, "Take up your bedand walk," I am bound to do it and I ought to feel the obligation of His goodness pressing upon me. And, in the third place,it is not only a justification and an obligation, but the deed of Grace becomes a constraint to obedience-He that said untome, "rise," and so made me whole, by that same word of power made me take up my bed and walk!
The power which saves us also moves us to obey our Savior. Not with our own might do we fulfill the will of our Lord, butwith power which the Healer gives us in the same hour. You see the drift, therefore, of our discourse. May the Holy Spiritlead us into the power of this Truth, for I am persuaded that a sense of the Lord's work within us is a great force and shouldbe excited and applied to the highest ends.
I. First, then, this is our JUSTIFICATION for what we do when we obey Christ. This poor man could not defend the action oftaking up his bed and walking, for his enemies were learned in the Law and he was not. You and I could defend it very easily,for it seems to us a very proper thing to do under the circumstances. The weight of his bed was not much more than that ofan ordinary great coat, it was a simple rug or mat upon which he was lying-there really was no violation of God's Law of theSabbath and, therefore, there was nothing to excuse.
But the Rabbis laid down rules of which I will give you but one specimen-"It is unlawful to carry a handkerchief loose inthe pocket"-but if you pin it to your pocket or tie it round your waist as a belt, you may carry it anywhere because it becomesa part of your dress. To my unsophisticated mind it would have seemed that the pin increased the ponderous burden and so therewas the weight of the pin more than was necessary! This was quite a weighty business according to Rabbinical estimates. Themost of the Rabbinical regulations with regard to the Sabbath were absolutely ludicrous, but this poor man was not in a positionto say so or even to think so, for, like the rest of his countrymen, he stood in awe of the scribes and doctors.
These learned Pharisees and priests were too much reverenced for this poor creature to answer them in their own manner, sohe did what you and I must always do when we are at all puzzled-he hid behind the Lord Jesus and pleaded, "He that made mewhole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed." That was quite enough for him and he quoted it as if he felt that it oughtto be enough for those who questioned him. Truly it ought to have been so! I may not be able to find in my own knowledge andability an authority equal to the authority of learned unbelievers, but my personal experience of the power of Grace willstand me in as good a stead as this man's cure was to him. He argued that there must be in the man who made him whole enoughauthority to match the greatest possible rabbi that ever lived!
Even his poor feeble mind could grasp that and, surely, you and I may do the same-we can defend ourselves behind the breastworkof our Savior's gracious work-and the consequent authority which belongs to Him. There are certain ordinances to which a Christianman is bound to attend, about which the world raises a storm of questions. The world does not take notice that this man wasonce a drunk and has, through Divine Grace, become sober and so has become a good father, a good husband and a good citizen.It lets that miracle pass by unheeded-but if he is going to be baptized, they at once object to the ordinance!
Or if he is going to join a Christian Church they straightway jeer at him as a Presbyterian, or a Methodist-as if it matterswhat sort of name they give him-so long as he is a better man than themselves, is redeemed from sin, taught to be upright,chaste and pure in the sight of God. The work of Grace counts for nothing with them, but just the peculiarity of sect, orthe peculiarity of religious rite is made a world of. Blind creatures to despise the medicine which heals because of the bottlewhich contains it, or the label by which it is named! However, our answer is, "He that made us whole," the same gave us acommand and by that command we will abide. We seek no justification but this-that He who worked a miracle of Grace upon usbade us do it.
What if I am about to be baptized as a Believer? The same that said, "Believe," said, "Be baptized." He who gave me salvation,the same said, "He that believes and is baptized, shall be saved." Over against all objections we set the Divine authorityof Jesus Christ! He by whose blood we are cleansed and by whose Spirit we are renewed is Lord and Lawgiver to us! His preceptis our sufficient guarantee. If we go to the Communion Table and revilers say, "What is the use of eating a piece of breadand drinking a drop of wine? Why think so solemnly of so small a matter?" We reply, He that made us whole, the same said,"Do this in remembrance of Me." We renounce what He has not ordained, but we cling to His statutes.
If He had commanded a rite still more trivial, or a ceremony still more open to objection in the eyes of carnal man, we wouldmake no further apology than this-He who has created us anew, given us a hope of Heaven and led us to seek after perfect holiness-Hehas bid us do it. This is our final reply and although we could find other justifications, they would be superfluous. Thisstands for our defense-the Savior commands it! The same apology applies to all the doctrines of the Gospel. I say again, ungodlymen will not admit, or if they admit it they ignore it, that the Gospel works a marvelous change in men's hearts. If theyneed proof, we can find them instances by the hundreds and by the thousands of the reclaiming, elevating and purifying powerof the Gospel of Jesus Christ!
The Gospel is daily working spiritual miracles, but this they forget-and they go on to find fault with its peculiar doctrines.Justification by faith they frequently quarrel with. "Well now," they say, "that is a shocking doctrine! If you teach menthat they are to be saved by faith, alone, and not by their works, of course they will lead loose lives! If you continuallydeclare that salvation is of Grace, alone, and not of merit, the inevitable result will be that men will sin that Grace mayabound." We find a complete answer to this calumny in the fact that Believers in justification by faith and in the Doctrinesof Grace are among the best and purest of men-and in fact these Truths work holiness!
But we do not care to argue thus. We prefer to remind our adversaries that He who has caused us to be regenerate men, Himselftaught us that whoever believes in Him shall be saved and expressly declared that he that believes in Him has everlastinglife. By the mouth of His servant, Paul, He has said that by Grace are men saved through faith and that not of themselves,it is the gift of God! He has also told us that by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified and He has bid us declarethat "the just shall live by faith." He who is daily, by His Gospel, turning men from sin to holiness has given this for thesum total of the Gospel we are to preach-"Look unto Me and be you saved, all the ends of the earth."
If this Gospel does not make men better and change their evil natures, you may question it if you like, and we do not wonderthat you should-but while it continues its purifying work we shall not blush or stammer when we declare the doctrines whichare its essence and life! Our regeneration proves to us our Lord's authority and upon that we are prepared to base our creed.To us the best of evidence is His work within us and in that evidence we place implicit faith. The same applies to all theprecepts which the Christian is called upon to obey. For instance, if he is true to his colors, he keeps himself aloof fromall the sinful pleasures, practices and policies of the world in which others take delight and, consequently, the ungodlyworld says that he is peculiar, precise and self-opinionated.
This is the answer for all Christians-"He that made us whole, the same said to us. 'You are not of the world, even as I amnot of the world. Come you out from among them and be you separate, touch not the unclean thing and I will receive you.'"If you follow the precepts of the Lord Jesus Christ you may meet all charges of peculiarity by urging the supremacy of theSavior whose power has made you a new creature! Where His Word is, there is a power to which we bow at once! It is not oursto question our Savior, but to obey Him! We are cleansed by His blood! We are redeemed by His death! We live by His life and,therefore, are not ashamed to take up His Cross and follow Him. This apology ought to suffice even those who oppose us, forif they felt as grateful as we do, they would also obey. They ought, at any rate, to say, "We cannot blame these men for doingas Jesus bids them because He has done so much for them."
Surely the poor man who had been paralyzed 38 years could not be blamed for obeying the command of One who, in a moment, restoredhim to health and strength! If he became His servant for life, who would censure him? Who would say that he too tamely submitted?Should not such a Benefactor exert a boundless influence over him? What could be more natural and proper?
Now, you unconverted people must excuse us, if we, in obedience to our Lord Jesus, do many things which, to you, seem verypeculiar, for though we would not needlessly offend, we cannot please you at the risk of displeasing our Lord. We do not oweso much to you as we owe to Him! We do not owe so much to the whole world as we owe to the Lord Jesus! In fact, truth to tell,we do not feel that we owe anything to the world! The time past suffices us to have worked the will of the Gentiles, for whenwe are asked the question, "What fruit had you, then, in those things whereof you are now ashamed?" We have to confess thatwe had no fruit, except the sour grapes which set our teeth on edge. Like the shipmen who put out to sea against Paul's advice,our only gain has been loss and damage!
In serving the world, we found the labor wearisome and the wages death. But as for our Lord Jesus, we owe Him everything andso you must excuse us if we try to follow Him in everything. It seems to us that this is an excuse which you ought to acceptfrom us as covering the whole ground-but if you refuse it we are not at all dismayed, for it quite suffices us, yes, morethan suffices us-it makes us glory in what we do! Does Jesus command? Then it is ours to obey! Objectors may say, concerningone of His ordinances, it is unsuitable to the climate, it is indecent, it is needless, it is I do not know what-all thisis no concern of ours-if Jesus bade us do it, His command stands for us in the place of reasoning! He who made us whole, givesus sufficient excuse for obedience in that very fact.
"Oh, but it is contrary to what the fathers teach and to what the Church teaches." We care not the snap of our finger forall the fathers and all the churches under Heaven if they go contrary to what our Lord teaches-for they did not make us wholeand we are not under obligation to them as we are to Him! The authority of Jesus is supreme because it is from His lips thatwe received the Word which healed the sickness of our sin. This satisfies our conscience, now, and it will do so amid thesolemnities of death! How can we make a mistake if we follow the Words of Jesus in all things? My Brethren, we can plead Hisprecepts as our guarantee at the Last Great Day before the Judge of the quick and the dead! What better plea can we have thanthis, "You did make us whole and You did bid us do this"?
Such a justification of our conduct will make our death pillow soft and our resurrection bright with joy! Instead of admittingthat this is not an ample justification, let us go further, still, in the strength of it! If the world has accounted us
vile for obeying our Lord, let us be still viler! And, inasmuch as He that made us whole said, "Go you into all the worldand preach the Gospel to every creature," let us endeavor to spread abroad everywhere the savor of His name, consecratingourselves body, soul and spirit to the extension of His Kingdom! He who made us whole will yet make the world whole by Hisown wondrous power! Have we not abundantly shown that our Lord's command is a solid justification of our conduct?
II. And now, secondly, the cure brought forth AN OBLIGATION-"He that made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed,and walk." The argument takes this form-first, if He made me whole, He is Divine, or He could not do this miracle. Or, tosay the least, He must be divinely authorized-and if He is Divine, or divinely authorized, I am bound to obey the orders whichHe issues. Is not that a plain argument which even the poor, simple mind of the paralytic man was able to grasp and wield?
Let us try and feel the force of that argument ourselves. Jesus who has saved us is our God-shall we not obey Him? Since Heis clothed with Divine power and majesty, shall we not scrupulously endeavor to know His will and zealously endeavor to carryit out in every point as His Spirit shall enable us? In addition to the Divine Character which the miracle proved and displayed,there was the goodness which shone in the deed of power and touched the poor man's heart. His argument was-"I must do whatmy great Deliverer bids me. How can you think otherwise? Did He not make me whole? Would you have me, whom He has thus graciouslyrestored, refuse to fulfill His desire? Must I not take up my bed the moment He gives me strength to do it?
"How can I do otherwise? Is this to be the recompense I pay to my good Physician-to refuse to do what He asks of me? Do younot see that I am under an obligation which it would be shameful to deny? He restored these limbs and I am bound to do withthem what He orders me do with them. He says, 'walk,' and since these once withered feet have been restored, shall I not walk?He bids me roll up my bed and since I could not have used my hands till just now, His Word gave them life-shall I not usethem to roll up my bed at His bidding? These poor shoulders of mine were bent with weakness, but He has made me stand upright!And since He now bids me carry my bed, shall I not throw the rug on my shoulders and bear the easy load which He lays uponme?"
There was no answering such reasoning. Whatever might have been the claim of Jesus upon others, He clearly had an indisputableright to the loyal obedience of one whom He had made perfectly whole! Follow me briefly in this, Brothers and Sisters. Ifyou have been saved by the Grace of God, your salvation has put you under obligation to do what Jesus bids you. Are you redeemed?Then you are not your own-you are bought with a price! Have you been, in consequence of what the Lord has done for you, rescuedfrom Satanic slavery and adopted into the Divine family? Then it clearly follows that because you are sons and daughters,you should be obedient to the Law of the household-for is not this a first element of sonship-that you should reverence thegreat Father of the family?
The Lord has been pleased to put away your sin. You are forgiven-but does not pardon demand amendment? Shall we go back tothe old sins from which we have been cleansed? Shall we live in the iniquities from which we have been washed by the bloodof our Lord Jesus? That were horrible to think of! It would be nothing less than devilish for a man to say, "I have been forgivenand, therefore, I will sin again." There is no remission where there is no repentance! The guilt of sin remains on that manin whom the love of sin still remains. Let us practically feel the force of this and follow after purity and righteousness!
Brothers and Sisters upon whom Christ has worked His great work, you have experienced the love of God and, therefore, if Godhas so loved you, you are bound to love Him in return! If God has so loved you, you must also love your brother. Do not loveof God and love of man spring up as a sure consequence of the love of God shed abroad in the heart? Does not everyone seethe necessity which calls for the one love to follow the other? And love is the mother of obedience-thus everything connectedwith our Lord lays us under obligation to obey Him! There is not a single blessing of the Covenant but what necessarily entailsits corresponding duty-and here I scarcely like to say duty-for these blessings of the Covenant make duty to be our privilegeand holiness to be our delight!
Therefore, redeemed from sin, we would live no longer in sin! Therefore, made heirs of Heaven, we endeavor to lead the heavenlylife so that even while we are below, our conversation may be in Heaven from where we look for the Savior, the Lord JesusChrist. Brethren, He that made you whole has commanded this and that to be done by you! I counsel you to keep the King's Commandments.As Mary said to the waiters at the wedding at Cana, so I say to you-"Whatever He
says unto you, do it." Does He bid you pray, then pray without ceasing! Does He bid you watch as well as pray? Then guardevery act, thought and word!
Does He bid you love your Brethren? Then love them with a pure heart! Does He bid you serve them and humble yourself for Hissake? Then do so and become the servant of all! Has He said, "Be you holy, for I am holy"? Then aim at this by His Holy Spirit!Has He said, "Be you perfect, even as your Father which is in Heaven is perfect"? Then strive after perfection, for He thatmade you whole has a right to direct your ways and it will be both your safety and your happiness to submit yourselves toHis commands!
III. Enough, however, upon that. We now call your attention, in the third place, to the text under the sense of CONSTRAINT-"Hethat made me whole, the same said unto me, Take up your bed and walk." He made him whole by saying, "Rise, take up your bed."The carrying of the bed was part and parcel of the cure. The first part of the healing word was "rise," but the second was,"take up your bed." Now, it was not an ordinary word which Jesus spoke to that man-a mere word of advice, warning, or command-itwas a word full of power like that which created light out of darkness. When the Lord said to the poor man, "Rise," he rose.
A thrill went through him-those stagnant blood vessels felt the life-blood stir and flow-those dormant nerves were awakenedto sensations of health! Those withered sinews and muscles braced themselves for energetic action, for Omnipotence had visitedthe impotent man and restored him. Oh it must have been a wondrous joy to the long enervated, nerveless, powerless frame,to be capable of healthy motion-to be equal to bearing a happy burden! The joyful man rolled up his bed, threw it on his backand marched abroad with the best of them! The bed-carrying was part of the cure and proof of the cure.
The paralytic had not been called upon to deliberate as to whether he should rise or not, but Jesus said, "Rise," and he stoodupright! The same word said, "Take up your bed." The bed was up at once and, according, to the last word, "walk," the manwalked with delight! It was all done by the power of the one thrilling sentence which tarried not to be questioned, but accomplishedthe end for which the Lord had sent it. Not unwillingly did the restored man carry his bed, yet he did it of constraint, forthe same power which made him whole made him obedient. Before the Divine energy had touched him, he seemed scarcely to haveany will at all. The Lord had to hunt to find a will in him, saying, "Do you want to be made whole?"
But now he cheerfully wills obedience to his Benefactor and in the force of the command, he carried out the Lord's behest.I say that his taking up his bed and walking was done by Christ's enabling and done by Christ's constraining- and I pray thatyou may know by experience what this means. What I want you to feel is this-"I cannot help obeying Christ, for by His HolySpirit He has spoken me into a life which will never die and never be vanquished! He has spoken a Word in me which has a continuousforce over me and thrills me through and through constantly. I can no more help seeking to obey Christ than this man couldhelp carrying his bed when the Lord, by a Word of power, had bid him do
Brothers and Sisters, look at this and be instructed and warned. Do you feel reluctant, this morning, to enter upon your Lord'sservice because of conscious weakness? Has the devil tempted you to draw back from obedience because of your unfitness? Doyou hesitate? Do you tremble? Surely you need to draw near to the Lord, again, and hear His voice anew! Take your Bibles andlet Him speak to you, again, out of the Word and may the same thrill which awoke you out of your death-sleep wake you outof your present lethargy! There is need that the Living Word of God should come home to your inmost soul with that same miraculouspower which dwelt in it at first. "Lord, quicken me," is David's prayer, but it suits me every day and I think most of God'speople would do well to use it daily.
"Lord, speak life unto me now as You did at first. Speak power, speak spiritual force into me." "The love of Christ constrainsus," says the Apostle. This constraint is what we need to feel more and more. We need Divine Life perpetually to bear us forwardto acts of obedience! We do not need to destroy willinghood, but we would have it quickened into entire subservience to thewill of the Lord! Like Noah's ark on dry land, the will keeps its place by its own dead weight- O for a flood of Grace tomove, to lift, to bear it up-to carry it away by a mighty current! We would be borne before the love of Christ as a tiny pieceof wood is drifted by the Gulf stream, or as one of the specks which dance in the sunbeam would be carried by a rushing wind.
As the impulse which began with Jesus found the poor man passive because utterly unable to be otherwise and then impelledhim on to active movements as with a rush of power, so may it always be with us throughout life. May we forever yield to theDivine impulse! To be passive in the Lord's hands is a good desire, but to be what I would call actively passive, to be cheerfullysubmissive, willing to give up our will-this is a higher spiritual mood! We must live and yet not we, but Christ in us! Wemust act and yet we must say, He that made me whole bade me do this holy deed and I do it because His power moves me to doit! If I have done well, I lay the honor at His feet. If I hope to do well in the future, it is because I hope for strengthfrom Him to do well, believing that He will work in me by that same power which converted me at the first! Beloved, endeavorto abide under this influence. May the Holy Spirit bring you there!
My last word is a practical lesson. The Church of God on earth at this present time anxiously desires to spread her influenceover the world. For Christ's sake we wish to have the Truths of God we preach acknowledged and the precepts which we deliverobeyed. But mark, no Church will ever have power over the masses of this or any other land except in proportion as she doesthem good. The day has long since passed in which any Church may hope to prevail on the plea of history. "Look at what wewere," is a vain appeal-men only care for what we are.
The sect which glorifies itself with the faded laurels of past centuries and is content to be inactive today is very nearto its inglorious end. In the race of usefulness, men nowadays care less about the pedigree of the horse and more about therate at which it can run. The history of a congregation or a sect is of small account compared with the practical good whichit is doing. Now, if any Church under Heaven can show that it is making men honest, temperate, pure, moral, holy-that it isseeking out the ignorant and instructing them, that it is seeking out the fallen and reclaiming them, that, in fact, it isturning moral wastes into gardens and taking the weeds and briars of the wilderness and transforming them into precious fruit-bearingtrees-then the world will be ready to hear its claims and consider them.
If a Church cannot prove its usefulness, the source of its moral strength will have gone and, indeed, something worse thanthis will have happened, for its spiritual strength will have gone, too! A barren church is manifestly without the fruitfulSpirit of God. Brothers and Sisters, you may, if you will, dignify your minister by the name of bishop. You may give to yourdeacons and elders grand official titles. You may call your place of worship a cathedral. You may worship, if you will, withall the grandeur of pompous ceremonies and the adornments of music and incense and the like-but you shall have only the semblanceof power over human minds unless you have something more than these!
If you have a Church, no matter by what name it is called, that is devout, that is holy, that is living unto God, that doesgood in its neighborhood, that, by the lives of its members, spreads holiness and righteousness-in a word, if you have a Churchthat is really making the world whole in the name of Jesus-you shall, in the long run, find that even the most carnal andthoughtless will say, "The Church which is doing this good is worthy of respect. Therefore let us hear what it has to say."Living usefulness will not screen us from persecution, but it will save us from contempt! A holy Church goes with authorityto the world in the name of Jesus Christ, its Lord, and this force, the Holy Spirit uses to bring human hearts into subjectionto the Truth of God!
Oh, that the Church of God would believe in Jesus' power to heal sick souls! Remember that this man who was sick for 38 years,had been ill longer than Christ had lived on earth! He had been afflicted seven years before Christ was born! And even sothis poor world has been long afflicted. Years before the Pentecost, or the birth of the present visible Church, the poorsinful world lay at the pool and could not move. We must not be hopeless about it, for the Lord will yet cast sin out of it.Let us go, in Jesus Christ's name, and proclaim the everlasting Gospel and say, "Rise, take up your bed and walk," and itshall be done and God shall be glorified and we shall be blessed!
PORTION OFSCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-John 5:1-23. HYMNS FROM "OUR OWN HYMN BOOK"-909, 331, 787.
SPURGEON'S TESTIMONIAL-The Sermons and Speeches delivered in commemoration of the 25th year of his Pastorate. Passmore andAlabaster. At our express desire the publishers have issued this handsome volume for a shilling. It is a choice memorial ofa rare event and every one of our friends should preserve a copy. It will soon be out of print and unobtainable. [And so itis!-EOD]