Sermon 1512. Loyal to the Core
C. H. SPURGEON,
At the Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington
'And Ittai answered the king, and said, As the Lord liveth, and as my lord the king liveth, surely in what place my lord theking shall be, whether in death or life, even there also will thy servant be.'2 Samuel 15:21.
Although the courage of David appears to have failed him when he fled from his son Absalom, yet certain other noble characteristicscame out in brilliant relief, and among the rest, his large-heartedness and his thoughtfulness for others. A man in such adesperate condition as he was must have earnestly coveted many friends and have been anxious to retain them all, but yet hewould not exact their services if they were too costly to themselves, and so he said to Ittai, whoappears to have been a Philistine'a proselyte to Israel, who had lately come to join himself to David'Wherefore I goestthou also with its? Thou hast newly come to me, and should I make thee wander with me in my sorrows? Return to thy place andabide with the new king, for thou art a stranger and an exile. May every blessing be upon thee. May mercy and truth be withthee.' He did not send him away because he doubted him, but because he felt that he had no claim to the great sacrifices whichIttai might have to make in attending his checkered fortunes. 'I do not know what may become of me,' he seems to say,'but I do not want to drag you down with myself. Should my cause become desperate, I have no wish to involve you in it, andtherefore with the best of motives I wish you farewell.' I admire this generosity of spirit. Some men have great expectations:they live upon their friends, and yet complain that charity is cold. These people expect more from their friends than theyoughtto give. A man's best friends on earth ought to be his own strong arms. Loafers are parasitical plants, they have no rootof their own, but like the mistletoe they strike root into some other tree, and suck the very soul out of it for their ownnourishment. Sad that men should ever degrade themselves to such despicable meanness! While you can help yourselves, do soand while you have a right to expect help in times of dire necessity, do not be everlastingly expecting everybody else tobewaiting upon you. Feel as David did towards Ittai'that you would by no means wish for services to which you have no claim.Independence of spirit used to be characteristic of Englishmen. I hope it will always continue to be so; and especially amongchildren of God.
On the other hand, look at Ittai, perfectly free to go, but in order to end the controversy once for all, and to make Davidknow that he does not mean to leave him, he takes a solemn oath before Jehovah his God, and he doubles it by swearing by thelife of David that he will never leave him; in life, in death, he will be with him. He has cast in his lot with him for betterand for worse, and he means to be faithful to the end. Old Master Trapp says, 'All faithful friendswent on a pilgrimage years ago, and none of them have ever come back.' I scarcely credit that, but I am afraid that friendsquite so faithful as Ittai are as scarce as two moons in the sky at once, and you might travel over the edge of the worldbefore you found them. I think, however, that one reason why faithful Ittai have become so scarce may be because large-heartedDavids are so rare. When you tell a man that you expect a good deal of him, he does not see it. Why should you look for somuch? He is not your debtor. You have closed at once the valves of his generosity. But when you tell him honestly thatyou do not expect more than is right, and that you do not wish to be a tax upon him, when he sees that you consult his welfaremore than your own, that is the very reason why he feels attached to you, and counts it a pleasure to serve such a generous-heartedman. You will generally find that when two people fall out there are faults on both sides: if generous spirits be few, itmay be because faithful friends are rare, and if faithful friends are scarce it may be because generous spirits are scarcetoo. Be it ours as Christians to live to serve rather than to be served, remembering that we are the followers of a Masterwho said, 'The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister.' We are not to expect others to serve us, but ourlife is to be spent in endeavoring to serve them.
I am going to use Ittai's language for a further purpose. If Ittai, charmed with David's person and character, though a foreignerand a stranger, felt that he could enlist beneath his banner for life'yea, and declared that he would do so there and then'howmuch more may you and 1, if we know what Christ has done for us, and who He is and what He deserves at our hands, at thisgood hour plight our troth to Him and vow, 'As the Lord liveth, surely in whatsoever place my Lordand Saviour shall be, whether in death or life, even there also shall His servant be.'
And so, I shall begin by noticing first in what form this declaration was made, that we may learn from it how to make the same declaration.
I. IN WHAT FORM AND MANNER WAS THIS DECLARATION MADE?
It was made, first, at a time when David's fortunes were at their lowest ebb, and consequently it was made unselfishly, without the slightest idea of gain from it. David was now forsaken of everybody.His faithful bodyguard was all that he had on earth to depend upon, and then it was that Ittai cast in his lot with David.Now beloved, it is very easy to follow religion when she goes abroad in her silver slippers, but the true man follows herwhen she is in rags, andgoes through the mire and the slough. To take up with Christ when everybody cries up his name is what a hypocrite woulddo, but to take up with Christ when they are shouting, 'Away with him! away with him!' is another matter. There are timesin which the simple faith of Christ is at a great discount. At one time imposing ceremonies are all the rage, and everybodyloves decorated worship, and the pure simplicity of the gospel is overloaded and encumbered with meretricious ornaments; itis such aseason that we must stand out for God's more simple plan, and reject the symbolism which verges on idolatry and hidesthe simplicity of the gospel.
At another time the gospel is assailed by learned criticisms and by insinuations against the authenticity and inspirationof the books of Scripture, while fundamental doctrines are undermined one by one, and he who keeps to the old faith is saidto be behind the age, and so on. But happy is that man who takes up with Christ, and with the gospel, and with the truth whenit is in its worst estate, crying, 'If this be foolery, I am a fool, for where Christ is there will I be;I love Him better at His worst than others at their best, and even if He be dead and buried in a sepulchre I will go withMary and with Magdalene and sit over against the sepulchre and watch until He rise again, for rise again He will; but whetherHe live or die, where He is there shall his servant be.' Ho, then, brave spirits, will ye enlist for Christ when His banneris tattered? Will you enlist under Him when His armor is stained with blood? Will you rally to Him even when they report Himslain? Happy shall ye be! Your loyalty shall be proven to your own eternal glory. Ye are soldiers such as He loves tohonor.
Ittai gave himself up wholly to David when he was but newly come to him, David says, 'Whereas thou camest but yesterday, should I this day make thee go up and down with us? But Ittai does not carewhether he came yesterday or twenty years ago, but he declares, 'Surely in what place my lord the king shall be, whether indeath or life, even there also will thy servant be.' It is best to begin the Christian life with thorough consecration. Haveany of you professed tobe Christians, and have you never given yourselves entirely to Christ? It is time that you began again. This should beone of the earliest forms of our worship of our Master'this total resignation of ourselves to Him. According to His Word,the first announcement of our faith should be by baptism, and the meaning of baptism, or immersion in water, is death, burial,and resurrection. As far as this point is concerned, the avowal is just this. 'I am henceforth dead to all but Christ, whoseservant I now am. Henceforth let no man trouble me, for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus. The watermark ison me from head to foot. I have been buried with Him in baptism unto death to show that henceforth I belong to Him.' Now,whether you have been baptized or not I leave to yourselves, but in any case this must be true'that henceforth you are dead,and your life is hid with Christ in God. As soon as ever Christ is yours you ought to be Christ's. 'I am my Beloved's' shouldbelinked with 'My Beloved is mine,' in the dawn of the day in which you yield to the Lord.
Again, Ittai surrendered himself to David in the most voluntary manner. No one persuaded Ittai to do this; in fact, David seems to have persuaded him the other way. David tested and tried him,but he voluntarily out of the fullness of his heart said, 'Where, my lord, the king, is, there, also shall his servant be.'Now, dear young people, if you believe that the Lord Jesus Christ is yours, give yourselves up to Him by a distinct act anddeed. Feel that one grandimpulse without needing pressure or argument'The love of Christ constraineth me'; but do not wait to have your duty urgedupon you, for the more free the dedication the more acceptable it will be. I am told that there is no wine so delicious asthat which flows from the grape at the first gentle pressure. The longer you squeeze the harsher is the juice. We do not likethat service which is pressed out of a man: and certainly the Lord of love will not accept forced labor. No; let yourwillinghood show itself. Say'
Take myself, and I will be
Ever, only, ALL for thee.
My heart pants after the service after of her Lord. With the same spontaneity which Ittai displayed make a solemn consecrationof yourselves to David's Lord.
I used a word then which suggests another point, namely, that Ittai did this very solemnly. He took an oath which we Christians may not do, and may not wish to do, but still we should make the surrender with quiteas much solemnity. In Dr. Doddridge's 'Rise and Progress of Religion in the Soul' there is a very solemn form of consecration,which he recommends voting men to sign when they give themselves to Christ. I cannot say that I can recommend it, though Ipracticed it, for I fear that there is something of legality about it, and that it may bring the soul into bondage. Ihave known some write out a deed of dedication to Christ and sign it with their blood. I will neither commend nor censure,but I will say that a complete dedication must be made in some manner, and that it should be done deliberately and with gravethought. You have been bought with a price, and you should, therefore, in a distinct manner own your Lord's property in you,andtransfer to Him the title-deeds of your body, spirit, and soul.
And this, I think, Ittai did publicly. At any rate, he so acted that everybody saw him when David said, 'Go over,' and march in front'the first man to pass thebrook, Oh yes, dear friend, you must publicly own yourself a Christian. If you are a Christian you must not try to sneak toheaven round the back alleys, but march up the narrow way like a man and like your Master. He was never ashamed of you, thoughHe might have been: how can you be ashamed of Him whenthere is nothing in Him to be ashamed of? Some Christians seem to think that they shall lead an easier life if they nevermake a profession. Like a rat behind the wainscot they come out after candlelight and get a crumb, and then slip back again.I would not lead such a life. Surely, there is nothing to be ashamed of. A Christian'let us glory in the name! A believerin the Lord Jesus Christ'let them write it on our door plates, if they will. Why should we blush at that? 'But,' says one,'Iwould rather be a very quiet one.' I will now place a torpedo under this cowardly quietness. What saith the Lord Jesus?Whosoever shall deny me before net,, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven; but he that shall confess mebefore men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.' Take up your cross and follow Him, for 'with theheart man believeth unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation.' When our Master ascended upon highHe told us to preach the gospel to every creature; and how did He put it? 'He that believeth and is baptized shall besaved.' There must be, therefore, the believing and the acknowledgment of believing. 'But cannot I be saved as a believerif I do not openly confess Christ?' Dear friend, you have no business to tamper with your Master's command, and then say,'Will He not graciously forgive this omission?' Do not neglect one of the two commands, but obey all His will. If you havethe spirit ofIttai you will say, 'Wheresoever my lord the king is, there also shall thy servant be.'
I leave the matter with the consciences of those who may be like Nicodemus, coming to Jesus by night, or may be like Josephof Arimathea, who was a disciple, but secretly, for fear of the Jews. May they come out and own their Master, believing thatthen He will own them.
II.Secondly, WHAT DID THIS DECLARATION INVOLVE? As to Ittai, what did it involve?
First, that he was henceforth to be David's servant. Of course, as his soldier, he was to fight for him, and to do his bidding. What sayest thou, man? Canst thou lift thy handto Christ, and say, 'Henceforth I will live as thy servant, not doing my own will, but thy will. Thy command is henceforthmy rule?' Canst thou say that? If not, do not mock Him, but stand back. May the Holy Ghost give thee grace thus to begin,thus to perservre, and thus to end.
It involved, next, for Ittai that he was to do his utmost for David's cause, not to be his servant in name, but his soldier, ready for scars and wounds and death, if need be, on the king's behalf. Thatis what Ittai meant as, in tough soldier-tones, he took the solemn oath that it should be so. Now, if thou wouldst be Christ'sdisciple, determine henceforth by His grace that thou wilt defend His cause; that if there be rough fighting thou wilt bein it; and if therebe a forlorn hope needed thou wilt lead it, and go through floods and flames if thy Master's cause shall call thee. Blessedis the man who will follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, giving himself wholly up to his Lord to serve Him with all Hisheart.
But Ittai in his promise declared that he would give a personal attendance upon the person of his master. That was, indeed, the pith of it, 'In what place my lord, the king, shall be, even there also will thy servant be.' Brethren,let us make the same resolve in our hearts, that wherever Christ is, there we will be. Where is Christ? In heaven. We willbe there by-and-by. Where is He here, spiritually? Answer: in His church. The church is a body of faithful men; andwhere these are met together, there is Jesus in the midst of them. Very well, then, we will join the church, for whereverour Lord, the King, is, there also shall His servants be. When the list of the redeemed is read we will be found in the register,for our Lord's name is there.
Where else did Jesus go? In the commencement of His ministry He descended into the waters of baptism. Let us follow the Lambwhithersoever He goeth. At the close of His ministry He brake bread, and said, 'This do ye in remembrance of me.' Be oftenat His table, for if there is a place on the earth where He manifests Himself to His children it is where bread is brokenin His name. Let me now tell a secret. Some of you may have heard it before, but you have forgotten it.Here it is'my Lord it generally here at prayer-meetings on Monday nights, and, indeed, whenever His people come togetherfor prayer, there He is. So I will read you my text, and see ether you will come up to it'Surely in what place my Lord theKing shall be, whether it be in a prayer-meeting or at a sermon, even there also will thy servant be. 'If you love your Lord,you know where His haunts are; take care that you follow hard after Him there.
Where is the Lord Jesus Christ? Well, brethren, He is wherever the truth is, and I pray God that He may raise up a race ofmen and women in England who are determined to be wherever the truth of God is. We have a host of molluscous creatures aboutwho will always be where the congregation is the most respectable: respectability being measured by clothes and cash. Timewas in the church of God when they most esteemed the most pious men; has it come to this that gold takesprecedence of grace? Our fathers considered whether a ministry was sound, but now the question is'Is the man clever? Wordsire preferred to truth, and oratory takes the lead of the gospel. Shame on such an age. O you who have, not altogether soldyour birthrights, I charge you keep out of this wretched declension.
The man who loves Christ thoroughly will say, 'Wheresoever the Lord the King is, there also shall His servant be, if it bewith half a dozen poor Baptists or Methodists, or among the most despised people in the town.' I charge you, beloved, in whatevertown or country your lot is cast, be true to your colors, and never forsake your principles. Wherever the truth is, therego, and where there is anything contrary to truth, do not go, for there your Master is not to befound.
What next? Well, our Master is to be found wherever there is anything to be done for the good of our fellow-men. The LordJesus Christ is to be found wherever there is work to be done in seeking after His lost sheep. Some people say that they havevery little communion with Christ, and when I look at them, I do not wonder. Two persons cannot walk together if they willnot walk at the same pace. Now, my Lord walks an earnest pace whenever He goes through the world, for theKing's business requires haste; and if His disciples crawl after a snail's fashion they will lose His company. If someof our groaning brethren would go to the Sunday-school, and there begin to look after the little children, they would meetwith their Lord who used to say, 'Suffer the little children to come unto me.' If others were to get together a little meeting,and teach the ignorant, they would there find Him who had compassion on the ignorant on those that are out of the way. OurMasteris where there are fetters to be broken, burdens to be removed, and hearts to be comforted, and if you wish to keep withHim you must aid in such service.
Where is our Master? Well, He is always on the side of truth and right. And, O, you Christian people, mind that in everything@politics,business, and everything you keep to that which is right, ]lot to that which is popular. Do not bow the knee to that whichfor a little day may be cried up, but stand fast in that which is consistent with rectitude, with humanity, with the causeand honor of God, and with the freedom and progress of men. It can never be wise to do wrong.It can never be foolish to be right. It can never be according to the mind of Christ to tyrannize and to oppress. Keepyou ever to whatsoever things are pure and lovely and of good report, and you will so far keep with Christ. 'Temperance, purity,justice-these are favorites with Him; do your best to advance them for His sake.
Above all, remember how Jesus loved secret prayer, and if you resolve to keep with Him you must be much at the throne of grace.
I will not detain you over each of these points, but simply say that Ittai's declaration meant also this'that he intended to share David's condition. If David was great, Ittai would rejoice. If David was exiled, Ittai would attend his wanderings. Our point must be to resolvein God's strength to keep to Christ in all weathers and in all companies, and that whether in life or death. Ah that word'death' makes it sweet, because then we reap the blessed result ofhaving lived with Christ. We shall go upstairs for the last time and bid good-bye to all, and then we shall feel thatin death He is still with us as in life we have been with Him. Though our good works can never be a ground of confidence whenwe are dying, yet if the Lord enables us to follow the Lamb whithersoever He goeth, and so to lead a decided, positive, downright,upright Christian life, our death pillow will not be stuffed with thorns of regret, but we shall have to bless God that webore a faithful witness as far as were able to do so. In such a case we shall not when the dying wish to go back againto rectify the mistakes and insincerities of our lives. No, beloved, it will be very, very sweet to be alone with Jesus indeath. He will make all our bed in our sickness; He will make our dying pillow soft, and our soul shall vanish, kissed awayby His dear lips, and we shall be with Him forever and forever. Of those that are nearest to Him it is said, 'These are theythatfollow the Lamb whithersoever he goeth. They shall walk with him in white, for they are worthy.'
I conclude with this observation. Will our Lord Jesus Christ accept at our hands tonight such a consecrating word? If we aretrusting in Him for salvation will He permit us to say that we will keep with Him as long as we live?
We reply, He will not permit us to say it in our own strength. There was a young man who said, 'Lord, I will follow thee whithersoeverthou goest,' but Christ gave him a cool reception: and there was an older man who said, 'Though all men shall forsake theeyet will not I,' and in reply his Master prayed for Him that his faith should not fail. Now, you must not promise as Peterdid, or you will make a greater failure. But, beloved, this self-devotion is what Christ expectsof us if we are His disciples. He will not have us love father or mother more than Him; we must be ready to give up allfor His sake. This is not only what our Master expects from us, but what He deserves from us.
Love so amazing, so divine,
Demands my soul, my life, my all.
This, also, is what the Lord will help us to do, for He will give us grace if we will but seek it at His hands: and this itis which He will graciously reward, and has already rewarded, in that choice word of His in the twelfth of John, where Hesays of His disciples in the twenty-sixth verse, 'If any man serve me, let him follow me; and where I am, there shall alsomy servant be: if any man serve me, him will my Father honor.' Oh, to be honored of God in eternity when Heshall say, 'Stand back, angels; make way, seraphim and cherubim; here comes a man that suffered for the sake, of my dearSon. Here comes one that was not ashamed of my Only-begotten when his face was smeared with the spittle. Here comes one thatstood in the pillory with Jesus, and was called ill names for His sake. Stand back, ye angels, these have greater honor thanyou.' Surely the angels of heaven as they traverse the streets of gold and meet the martyrs will ask them about theirsufferings, and say, 'You are more favored than we, for you have had the privilege of suffering and dying for the Lord.'O brothers and sisters, snatch at the privilege of living for Jesus; consecrate yourselves this day unto Him; live from thishour forward, not to enrich yourselves, nor to gain honor and esteem, but for Jesus, for Jesus alone. Oh, if I could set Himbefore you here; if I could cause Him to stand on this platform just as He came from Gethsemane with His bloody sweat aboutHim,or as He came down from the cross with wounds so bright with glory and so fresh with bleeding out our redemption, I thinkI should hear you say, each one of you, 'Lord Jesus, we are thine, and in what place Thou shalt be, whether in death or life,even there also will thy servants be.' So may the Lord help us by His most gracious Spirit who hath wrought all our worksin us, for Jesus' sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON'2 SAMUEL 15:13-23; Matthew 10:24-33.
HYMNS FROM 'Our Own Hymn Book'670, 658, 666.
LETTER FROM MR. SPURGEON.
BELOVED FRIENDS,'The Lord has been graciously pleased to release his prisoner. I am weak, but the pain is gone, and in thisland of bright sun and warm air I expect soon to recover strength. If my hopes are fulfilled, I shall have escaped this timewith a lighter measure of chastening than for several previous years, and for this I feel doubly grateful. To all those bywhose prayers I have been comforted and blessed I return hearty thanks.
Special services are commencing at the Tabernacle, and I entreat friends at home to throw their whole souls into them. I alsobeg my readers to pray that my beloved work at home may not suffer through my absence, but that it may please God throughthese special services to revive nd increase the spiritual life of the church committed to my care. Then will all the agenciesbe quickened also, and great blessing will come to the people of God.
Unto the Lord our God belong the issues from death, and he restoreth our soul. To Him be glory for ever.
With love to all the saints, yours,
Menton, Dec. 26, 1879.