Sermon 1539. "The Disciple Whom Jesus Loved"
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MAY 23, 1880,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"The disciple whom Jesus loved; who also leaned on His breast at supper." John 21:20.
Our Lord loved all His disciples-"having loved His own which were in the world, He loved them unto the end." He said to allthe Apostles, "I call you not servants; for the servant knows not what his Lord does: but I have called you Friends; for allthings that I have heard of My Father I have made known unto you." And yet within that circle of love there was an innermostplace in which the beloved John was favored to dwell. Upon the mountain of the Savior's love there was a knoll a little higherthan the rest of the mountain and there John was made to stand, nearest to his Lord. Let us not, because John was speciallyloved, think less, even in the slightest degree, of the love which Jesus Christ gave forth to the rest of His chosen. I takeit, Brothers and Sisters, that those who display an extraordinary love to one are all the more capable of great affectionto many and, therefore, because Jesus loved John most, I have an enhanced estimate of His love to the other disciples.
It is not for a moment to be supposed that any one suffered from His supreme friendship for John. John was raised and theywere not lowered, but raised with him. All Believers are the dear objects of the Savior's choice, the purchase of His blood,His portion and inheritance, the jewels of His crown. If, in John's case, one is greater in love than another, yet all areeminently great and, therefore, if it should so happen that you dare not hope to reach the height of John and cannot lookto be distinguished above others as "the disciple whom Jesus loved," yet be very thankful to be among the brotherhood whocan each say, "He loved me, and gave Himself for me." If you have not attained unto the first three, be happy to belong tothe host of those who follow the Son of David.
It is a matchless privilege and an unspeakable honor to enjoy the love of Jesus, even if you march among the rank and fileof the armies of love. Our Lord's love to each of us has in it heights immeasurable and depths unfathomable. It passes knowledge.Yet would I not utter this word of good cheer to make you remain at ease in a low state of Grace-far rather would I exciteyou to rise to the highest point of love-for if already the Lord has loved you with an everlasting love, if already He haschosen you and called you and kept you and instructed you and forgiven you and manifested Himself to you, why should you nothope that another step or two may yet be taken and that you may climb to the very highest eminence? Why should you not, beforelong, be styled like Daniel, a "man greatly beloved"? Or like John, "that disciple whom Jesus loved"?
To be loved as John was, with a special love, is an innermost form of that same Grace with which all Believers have been favored.You must not imagine, when I try to exhibit some of the lovable traits of John's character, that I would have you infer thatthe love of Christ went forth towards John in any other way than according to the Law of Grace, for whatever there was thatwas lovable in John it was worked in him by the Grace of God. Under the Law of Works John would have been as surely condemnedas any of us and there was nothing legally deserving in John. Grace made him to differ, just as truly as Grace separates thevilest sinner from among the ungodly. Though it is granted that there were certain natural characteristics which made himamiable, yet God is the creator of all that is estimable in man and it was not till the natural had been, by Grace, transformedand transfigured into the spiritual that these things became the subject of the complacency of Christ Jesus.
Brethren, we do not speak of John today as if he were loved because of his works, or stood higher in the heart of Christ onthe ground of personal merit, of which John might glory. He, like all the rest of his brethren, was loved of Jesus becauseJesus is all love and chose to set His heart upon him. Our Lord exercised a sovereignty of love and chose John for His ownname's sake. And yet, at the same time, there was created in John much that was a fit object for the love of
Christ. The love of Jesus was shed abroad in John's heart and thus John himself was made fragrant with delightful odors. Itwas all of Grace-the supposition of anything else is out of place! I look upon this special form of our Lord's love as oneof those "best gifts" which we are bid earnestly to covet-but most emphatically a gift and not a wage or a purchasable commodity.
Love is not bought. It never talks of price or claim. Its atmosphere is free favor. "If a man would give all the substanceof his house for love, it would be utterly despised." The most supreme love is to be sought for, then, after the analogy ofGrace, as gracious men seek greater Grace and not as legalists chaffer and bargain for reward and desert. If ever we reachthe upper chambers of Love's palace, Love, herself must lead us up the stairs! Yes, and be to our willing feet the staircaseitself. O for the help of the Holy Spirit while we speak upon such a theme!
I. And now, to come nearer to the text, first, dear Friends, LET US CONSIDER THE NAME ITSELF-"The disciple whom Jesus loved."Our first observation upon it is-it is a name which John gives to himself. I think he repeats it five times. No other writercalls John, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." John has thus surnamed himself and all the early writers recognize him underthat title. Do not suspect him, however, of egotism. It is one of the instances in which egotism is quite out of the question.Naturally, you and I would be rather slow to take such a title, even if we felt it belonged to us because we would be jealousfor our reputation and be afraid of being thought presumptuous. But with a sweet naivete which makes him quite forget himself,John took the name which he knew most accurately described him, whether others quibbled at it or not.
So far from there being any pride in it, it just shows the simplicity of his spirit, the openness, the transparency of hischaracter and his complete self-forgetfulness. Knowing it to be the truth, he does not hesitate to say it. He was sure thatJesus loved him better than others and, though he marveled at it more than anyone else, yet he so rejoiced in the fact thathe could not help publishing it, whatever the consequences might be. Often there is a deal more pride in not witnessing towhat God has done for us than in speaking of it. Everything depends upon the spirit which moves us. I have heard a Brotherwith the deepest humility speak with full assurance of the Divine love and while some have thought that he was presumptuous,I have felt within myself that his positive testimony was perfectly consistent with the deepest humility and that it was hissimple modesty which made the man so utterly forget himself as to run the risk of being thought forward and egotistical.
He was thinking of how he should glorify God and the appearance of glorifying himself did not alarm him, for he had forgottenhimself in his Master. I wish we could bear to be laughed at as proud for our Lord's sake. We shall never have John's nametill, like John, we dare wear it without a blush. It is a name in which John hides himself. He is very wary of mentioningJohn. He speaks of "another disciple," and, "that other disciple," and then, of "that disciple whom Jesus loved." These arethe names by which he would travel through his own Gospel, "incognito." We find him out, however, for the disguise is toothin! But still, he intends to conceal himself behind his Savior. He wears his Master's love as a veil, though it turns outto be a veil of light.
He might have called himself, if he had chosen, "that disciple who beheld visions of God," but he prefers to speak of loverather than of prophecy. In the early Church we find writings concerning him in which he is named, "that disciple who leanedon Jesus' bosom," and this he mentions in our text. He might have been called, "that disciple who wrote one of the gospels,"or, "that disciple who knew more of the very heart of Christ than any other," but he gives the preference to love. He is notthat disciple who did anything, but who received love from Jesus-and he is not that disciple who loved Jesus, but "whom Jesusloved." John is the man in the silver mask, but we know the man and his communications and we hear him say, "We have knownand believed the love that God has to us. God is love and he that dwells in love dwells in God and God in Him."
The name before us is a name in which John felt himself most at home. No other title would so well describe him. His own name,"John," means the "gift of God" and he was a precious gift from God the Father to His suffering Son and a great comfort tothe Savior during the years of His abode among men. Jesus doubtless counted him to be His Jonathan, His John, His God-giftand He treasured him as such. But John does not so much think of his being of any service to his Lord as of that which HisLord had been to him. He calls himself, "that disciple whom Jesus loved" because he recognized the delightful obligation whichsprings out of great love and wished to always be under its royal influence. He looked on Jesus' love as the source and rootof everything about himself which was gracious and commendable. If he had
any courage, if he had any faithfulness, if he had any depth of knowledge it was because Jesus had loved these things intohim.
All the sweet flowers which bloomed in the garden of his heart were planted there by the hand of Christ's love, so when hecalled himself, "that disciple whom Jesus loved," he felt that he had gone to the root and bottom of the matter and explainedthe main reason of his being what he was. This endearing name was very precious to him because it evoked the sunniest memoriesof all his life. Those short years in which he had been with Jesus must have been looked upon by him in his old age with greattransport, as the crown and glory of his earthly existence. I do not wonder that he saw Christ, again, in Patmos, after havingseen Him once in Palestine as he did see Him-for such sights are very apt to repeat themselves. Such sights, I say, for John'sview of his Lord was no ordinary one.
There is at times an echo to sights as well as to sounds and he who saw the Lord with John's eagle eyes-with his deep-seatedinner eyes-was the likeliest man in all the world to see Him over again in vision as he did see Him amid the rocks of theAegean Sea. All the memories of the best part of his life were awakened by the name which he wore and, by its power, he oftenrenewed that intimate communion with the living Christ which had lived on during the horrors of the Crucifixion and lastedto the end of his days. That charming name set all the bells of his soul a-ringing-does it not sound right musical? "The disciplewhom Jesus loved."
That name was a powerful spring of action to him as long as he lived. How could he be false to Him who had loved him so? Howcould he refuse to bear witness to the Gospel of the Savior who had loved him so? What leagues of journeying could be toolong for the feet of that disciple whom Jesus loved? What mobs of cruel men could cow the heart of the disciple whom Jesusloved? What form of banishment or death could dismay him whom Jesus loved? No, in the power of that name John becomes boldand faithful and he serves his loving Friend with all his heart. I say, then, that this title must have been very dear toJohn because he felt himself most at home in it. The secret springs of his nature were touched by it. He felt his whole self,heart, soul, mind, memory all comprehended within the compass of the words, "The disciple whom Jesus loved."
It was a name which was never disputed. You do not find anyone complaining of John for thus describing himself. General consentawarded him the title. His brethren did quarrel with him a little when his fond mother, Salome, wanted thrones for her twosons on the right and the left hand of the Messiah, but the love of Jesus to John never caused any ill will among the Brethren,nor did John take any undue advantage of it. I believe that the Apostles tacitly acknowledged that their Lord was perfectlyright in His choice. There was something about John which made his brethren love him and, therefore, they did not marvel thattheir Lord should make him His most intimate friend. The truly loved one of God generally receives the love of his brethren.Yes, and even the love of the ungodly, after a sort, for when a man's ways please the Lord, He makes even his enemies to beat peace with him.
While David walked with God all Israel loved him and even Saul was forced to cry, "You are more righteous than I." John wasso loving that he gained love everywhere. We may well be eager after this choice blessing since it, alone, of all known treasures,excites no envy among the brethren, but rather makes all the godly rejoice. Inasmuch as saints wish to be greatly loved, themselves,they are glad when they meet with those who have obtained that blessing. If we would smell of myrrh and aloes and cassia,we are glad to meet with those whose garments are already fragrant. You never find John lecturing his brethren, or actingas a lord over God's heritage-but in all gentleness and lowliness he justified the affection which our Lord manifested towardhim.
II. Thus much, then, with regard to the name. Secondly, LET US LOOK AT THE CHARACTER WHICH LAY
BELOW IT. I can only give a miniature of John. It is quite impossible, in the few moments of a sermon, to draw a full-lengthportrait and, indeed, I am not artist enough to accomplish it if I should attempt the task! In the character of John we seemuch that is admirable. First, let us look at his personality as an individual. His was a large and warm heart. Perhaps hismain force lies in the intensity of his nature. He is not vehement, but deep and strong. Whatever he did, he did right heartily.He was simple-minded-a man in whom there was no guile. There was no division in his nature. He was one and indivisible inall that he felt or did.
He did not entertain questions. He was not critical. He was not apt to spy out faults in others and, as to difficulties, mentalor otherwise, he seems to have been happily without them. Having pondered and come to a conclusion, his whole nature movedin solid phalanx with forceful march. Whichever way he went, he went altogether and right resolutely.
Some men go two ways, or they tack about, or they go towards their objective in an indirect manner. But John steams straightforward with the fires blazing and the engine working at full speed. His whole soul was engaged in his Lord's cause, for hewas a deep thinker, a silent student and then a forceful actor. He was not impetuous with the haste of Peter, but yet he wasdetermined and thorough-going and all on fire with zeal.
He was exceedingly livid in his beliefs and believed to the utmost what he had learned of his Lord. Read his Epistle throughand see how many times he says "we know," "we know," "we know." There are no, "ifs," about him. He is a deep and strong Believer.His heart gives an unfeigned assent and consent. There was an intense warmth about John. He loved his Lord, he loved his Brethren.He loved with a large heart, for he had a grand nature. He loved constantly and he loved in such a way as to be practicallycourageous for his Master, for he was a bold man, a true son of thunder. He was ready to go to the front if he was bound todo so, but in a quiet way and not with a rush and a noise-his is not the dash of a waterfall, but the still flow of a deepriver.
Putting all together that we know about his personality, we look upon him as a man who was the reverse of your cold, calculating,slow-moving son of diffidence. You know the sort of persons I mean-very good people in their way, but by no means fascinatingor much to be imitated. He was quite the reverse of those dried, juiceless Brethren who have no human nature in them-men whoare somewhere about perfect-for they have not life enough to sin. They do no wrong, or rather they do nothing at all. I knowa few of those delightful people, sharp critics of others and faultless themselves with this one exception-they are heartless.John was a hearty man-a man of brain, but of soul, too-a soul which went out to the tips of his fingers. He was a man whowas permeated with intense but quiet life-in a word, a man to be loved. His life was not that of an ice-plant, but of thered rose. He carried summer in his countenance, energy in his manner, steady force in all his movements. He was like thatother John of whom he was once a disciple, "a burning and a shining light." There was warmth as well as light in him. He wasintense, sincere and unselfish by nature and a fullness of Divine Grace came upon him and sanctified these virtues.
Let us now view him in his relation to his Lord. The name he takes to himself is, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." Jesus lovedhim as a disciple. What sort of disciples do masters love? You that have ever been teachers of youth know that if teachershad their choice, certain persons would be selected before others. If we teach, we love teachable people! Such was John. Hewas a man quick to learn. He was not like Thomas who was slow, argumentative, cautious. But having once assured himself thathe had a true Teacher, he gave himself right up to Jesus and was willing to receive what He had to reveal. He was a discipleof a very keen eye, seeing into the soul of his Instructor's teaching. His emblem in the early church was the eagle-the eaglewhich soars, but also the eagle which sees from afar.
John saw the spiritual meaning of types and emblems. He did not stop at the outward symbols, as some of the disciples did,but his penetrating soul read into the depths of the Truth of God. You can see this both in his Gospel and in his Epistles.He is a spiritually-minded man. He stays not in the letter, but he dives beneath the surface. He pierces through the shelland reaches the inner teaching. His first master was John the Baptist and he was so good a disciple that he was the firstto leave his teacher! You hint that this did not show that he was a good disciple? Indeed it did, for it was the Baptist'saim to send his followers to Jesus! The Baptist said, "Behold the Lamb of God, which takes away the sin of the world" andJohn was so good a follower of the forerunner that he immediately followed the Lord, Himself, to whom the forerunner introducedhim.
This he did without a violent jerk-his progress was natural and even. Paul came to Jesus with a great start and twist, whenhe was put upon the lines on the road to Damascus. But John glided gently to the Baptist and then from the Baptist to Jesus.He was not obstinate, neither was he weak, but he was teachable and so he made steady progress in his learning. Such a discipleis one that a teacher is sure to love and John was, therefore, "the disciple whom Jesus loved." He was full of faith to acceptwhat he was taught. He believed it and he believed it really and thoroughly. He did not believe, as some people do, with thefingertips of their understanding, but he gripped the Truth of God with both hands, laid it up in his heart and allowed itto flow from that center and saturate his whole being.
He was a Believer in his inmost soul, both when he saw the blood and water at the Cross and the folded grave clothes at thesepulcher-he saw and believed. His faith worked in him a strong and enduring love, for faith works by love. He believed inhis Master in a sweetly familiar way, "for there is no fear in love; but perfect love casts out fear." Such a trustful, confidingdisciple is sure to be loved of his teacher. John had great receptiveness. He drank in what he was taught. He
was like Gideon's fleece, ready to be saturated with the dew of Heaven. His whole nature absorbed the Truth as it is in Jesus.He was not a great talker-I think he was almost a silent disciple. So little did he say that we have only one saying of hisrecorded in the Gospels. "Why," says one, "I remember two or three." Do you remind me that he asked that he might sit on theright hand of Christ? I have not forgotten that request, but I answer that his mother, Salome, spoke on that occasion.
Again, you tell me that at the supper he asked, "Lord, who is it?" Yes, but it was Peter who put that question into his mouth.The only utterance that I remember in the Gospel which was altogether John's is that at the sea of Tiberius, when he saidto Peter, "It is the Lord." This was a very significant little speech-a recognition of his Lord such as the quick eyes oflove are sure to make. He who lived nearest to Jesus could best discern Him as He stood upon the shore. "It is the Lord,"is the gladsome cry of love, overjoyed at the sight of its Beloved! It might have served John as his motto- "It is the Lord."O that we were able amid darkness and tossing to discern the Savior and rejoice in His Presence! "Blessed are the pure inheart, for they shall see God"-and such was the beloved disciple!
One great trait in John's character as a disciple was his intense love for his Teacher. He not only received the Truth ofGod, but he received the Master Himself. I take it that the leaning of a man's faults often betrays his heart more than hisvirtues. It may seem a strange observation to make, but it is true. A true heart may as well be seen in its weakness as inits excellence. What were the weak points about John, as some would say? On one occasion he was intolerant. Certain personswere casting out devils and he forbade them because they followed not with the disciples. Now, that intolerance, mistakenas it was, grew out of love to his Lord! He was afraid that these interlopers might set up as rivals to his Lord and he wantedthem to come under the rule of his beloved Jesus.
At another time the Samaritans would not receive them and he asked his Master if he might call down fire from Heaven on them.One does not commend him, but still it was love to Jesus which made him indignant at their ungenerous conduct to their bestFriend. He felt so indignant that men should not entertain the Savior who had come into the world to bless them, that he wouldeven call fire from Heaven-it showed his burning love for Jesus. Even when his mother asked that he and the brother mightsit upon thrones at the right hand and the left hand of Christ, it was a deep and thoughtful faith in Jesus which suggestedit. His idea of honor and glory was bound up with Jesus! If he gives way to ambition it is an ambition to reign with the despisedGalilean. He does not want a throne unless it is at his Lord's side.
Moreover, what faith there was in that request! I am not going to justify it, but I am going to say something to moderateyour condemnation. Our Lord was going up to Jerusalem to be spit upon and to be put to death and yet John so thoroughly threwhimself into his Lord's career that he would gladly share in the fortune of his great Caesar, assured that it must end inHis enthronement. He is content, he says, to be baptized with His baptism and to drink of His cup- he only asks to share withJesus in all things. As a good writer says, it reminds one of the courage of the Roman who, when Rome was in the hands ofthe enemy, purchased a house within the walls. John heroically asks for a throne at the side of One who was about to die onthe Cross, for he feels sure that He will triumph!
When the cause and kingdom of Christ seemed ready to expire, yet so whole-hearted was John in his faith in God and his loveto his beloved Lord that his highest ambition was still to be with Jesus and take shares with Him in all that He would doand be. So, you see, all through John loved his Lord with all his heart and, therefore, Jesus Christ loved him. Or let meturn it the other way-the Lord loved John and, therefore, John loved the Lord Jesus. It is John's own explanation of it-"Welove Him because He first loved us." I must ask you to look at John, once more, as an instructed person. He was a beloveddisciple and remained a disciple, but he grew to know more and more and, in that capacity I would say of him that doubtlessour Lord Jesus loved him because of the tenderness which was produced by Grace out of his natural warmth.
How tender he was to Peter, after that Apostle's grievous fall, for early in the morning John goes with him to the sepulcher.He is the man who restored the backslider. He was so tender that our Lord did not say to John, "Feed My lambs," for He knewhe would be sure to do it. And He did not even say to him, "Feed My sheep," as He did to Peter- He knew that John would doso from the instincts of his loving nature. He was a man who, under the tutorship of Christ, grew, moreover, to be very spiritualand very deep. The words he uses in his Epistles are mostly monosyllables, but what mighty meanings they contain! If we maycompare one Inspired writer with another, I should say that no other Evangelist is at all comparable to John in depth.
The other evangelists give us Christ's miracles and certain of His sermons, but His profound discourses and His matchlessprayer are reserved for that disciple whom Jesus loved. Where the deep things of God are concerned, there is John, with sublimesimplicity of utterance, declaring unto us the things which he has tasted and handled. Of all the disciples John was mostChrist-like. Like will gravitate to like. Jesus loved John for what He saw of Himself in him-created by His Grace. Thus Ithink you will see that, without supposing John to have possessed any merit, there were points in his personal character,in his character as a disciple and in his character as an educated, spiritual man which justified our Savior in making himthe object of His most intimate affection.
III. Very briefly, in the third place, LET US REVIEW THE LIFE WHICH GREW OUT OF THIS EXTRAORDINARY LOVE OF CHRIST. What wasthe life of John? First, it was a life of intimate communion. John was wherever Christ was. Other disciples are away, butPeter and James and John are present. When all the disciples sit at the table, even Peter is not nearest to the Lord Jesus,but John leans his head upon His bosom. Their communion was very near and dear. Jesus and John were David and Jonathan overagain. If you are a man greatly beloved you will live in Jesus, your fellowship will be with Him from day to day.
John's was a life of special instruction. He was taught things which no others knew, for they could not bear them. At thelatter end of his life he was favored with visions such as even Paul, himself, though not a whit behind the chief of the Apostles,had never seen. Because of the greatness of his Lord's love to him, He showed him future things and lifted up the veil sothat he might see the Kingdom and the Glory. They shall see most who love most. They shall be taught most who most completelygive up their hearts to the doctrine. John, therefore, became a man in whose life there was amazing depth. If he did not saymuch as a rule while his Lord was with him, he was taking it all in for future use. He lived an inner life. He was a son ofthunder and could boldly thunder out the Truth of God because, as a thundercloud is charged with electricity, so had he gatheredup the mysterious force of his Lord's life, love and truth.
When he did break out, there was a voice like the voice of God in him-a deep, mysterious, overwhelming power of God was abouthim. What a flash of lightning is the Apocalypse! What awful thunders sleep within the vials and the trumpets! His was a lifeof Divine power because of the great fire which burned within. His was not the flash of crackling thorns beneath a pot, butthe glow of coals in a furnace when the whole mass is molten into a white heat. John is the ruby among the twelve-he shineswith a warm brilliance reflecting the love which Jesus lavished on him. And his life was one of special usefulness. He wasentrusted with choice commissions involving high honor. The Lord gave him to do a work of the most tender and delicate kindwhich, I am afraid, He could not commit to some of us.
As the Redeemer hung upon the tree dying, He saw His mother standing in the throng and He did not commit her to Peter, butto John. Peter would have been glad of the commission, I am sure, and so would Thomas and so would James-but the Lord saidto John, "Behold your mother!" And to His mother, "Woman, behold your son!" And from that hour that disciple took her to hisown home. So modest, so retiring-I was going to say, so gentlemanly-was John that he was the man to take charge of a broken-heartedmother. Said I wrong that he was a true gentleman? Divide the word and surely he was the gentlest of men. John has a delicateair and considerate manner, necessary to the care of an honored woman. Peter is good, but he is rough. Thomas is kind, butcold. John is tender and affectionate.
When you love Jesus much, He will trust His mother to you-I mean His Church-and the poorest people in it, such as widows andorphans and poor ministers. He will trust them to you because He loves you much. He will not put everybody into that office.Some of His people are very hard and stony of heart and more fit to be tax-collectors than distributors of alms. They wouldmake capital officers in an army, but not nurses in a hospital. If you love Jesus much, you shall have many delicate officesto perform which shall be to you proofs of your Lord's trust in you and renewed tokens of His love. John's life was, moreover,one of extraordinary heavenliness. They call him John the Divine and he was so. His eagle wings bore him aloft into the heavenlyplaces and there he beheld the Glory of the Lord.
Whether in Jerusalem or in Antioch, in Ephesus or in Patmos, his conversation was in Heaven! The Lord's Day found him in thespirit, waiting for Him that comes with clouds-so waiting that He who is the Alpha and Omega hastened to reveal Himself tohim. It was the love of his Lord which had thus prepared him for visions of the Glory. Had not that love so enkindled hisown love as to hold him faithfully at the Cross all through the agony, he might never have been able to gaze upon the Truthof God. He had lovingly followed Him who had been pointed out to Him as the "Lamb of God" and, therefore, he was made meetto see Him as the Lamb in the midst of the Throne-adored of angels and re-
deemed saints, whose harps and viols are engrossed with His praise! O that we, too, could be freed from the grossness of earthand borne aloft into the purer atmosphere of spiritual and heavenly things!
IV. We close by saying, very briefly, LET US LEARN LESSONS FOR OURSELVES from that disciple whom Jesus loved. May the HolySpirit speak them to our inmost hearts. First, I speak to those of you who are still young. If you wish to be "the disciplewhom Jesus loved" begin soon. I suppose that John was between 20 and 25 when he was converted. At any rate, he was quite ayoung man. All the representations of him which have been handed down to us, though I attach no great value to them, yet unitein the fact of his youth. Youthful piety has the most profitable opportunity of becoming eminent piety.
If you begin, soon, to walk with Christ, you will improve your pace and the habit will grow upon you. He who is only madea Christian in the last few years of his life will scarcely reach to the first and highest degree for lack of time and fromthe hampering influence of old habits. But you who begin soon are planted in good soil with a sunny aspect and should cometo maturity. Soldiers who enlist early under the banner of our David have hope of becoming veterans and attaining to the firstthree.
Next, if we would be like John in being loved by Christ, let us give our heart's best thoughts to spiritual things. Brothersand Sisters, do not stop in the outward ordinances but plunge into their inner sense. Never allow your soul, on the Lord'sDay for instance, to be thankful and happy merely because you have been to the place of worship. Ask yourself, "Did I worship?Did my soul commune with God?" In the use of the two ordinances of Baptism and the Lord's Supper, content not yourself withthe shell, but seek to get at the kernel of their inner meaning. Rest not unless the Spirit of God, Himself, dwells withinyou. Remember that the letter kills-it is the spirit that gives life. The Lord Jesus Christ takes no delight in those whoare fond of broad phylacteries and multiplied sacraments and holy performances and superstitious observances. The Father seeksthose to worship Him who worship Him in spirit and in truth. Be spiritual and you are among those who are likely to be mengreatly beloved.
Next to that, cherish a holy warmth. Do not repress your emotions and freeze your souls. You know the class of people whoare gifted with refrigerating power. When you shake hands with them, you would think that you had hold of a fish-a chill goesto your very soul! Listen to them sing. No, you cannot hear them! Sit in the next pew and you will never hear the gentle hissor mutter which they call singing. Out in their shops they could be heard a quarter of a mile off, but if they pray in thePrayer Meeting, you must strain your ears. They do all Christian service as if they were working by the day for a bad masterand at scanty wages. But when they get into the world they work by the piece as if for dear life. Such people cannot be affectionate.
They never encourage a young convert, for they are afraid that their weighty commendation might exalt him above measure. Alittle encouragement would help the struggling youth mightily, but they have none to offer. They calculate and reckon andmove prudently and anything like a brave trust in God they set down as rashness and folly. God grant us plenty of rashness,I say, for what men think imprudence is about the grandest thing under Heaven! Enthusiasm is a feeling which these refrigeratorsdo not indulge. Their chant is, "As it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, world without end. Amen!" Anythinglike a dash for Christ and a rush for souls they do not understand. Mark this, if you follow such people home, you will findthat they have little joy, themselves, and make very little joy for others. They are never quite certain that they are savedand if they are not sure of it we may readily guess that other people are not.
They spend, in anxious thought, the strength which ought to have gone in hearty love. They were born at the north pole andlive amid perpetual frost-all the furs of Hudson's Bay could not warm them. About them you see none of the rich tropical flowerswhich bedeck the heart upon which the Sun of Righteousness shines with perpendicular beams. These chilly mortals have nevertraversed the sunny regions of heavenly love where the spices of holy delight load all the air and apples of gold are everywherewithin the reach of glowing hearts. The Lord bring us there! Jesus Christ loves warm people! He never shines on an icebergexcept to melt it. His own life is so full of love that its holy fire kindles the same flame in others and thus He has fellowshipwith those whose hearts burn within them.
The fitness for love is love. To enjoy the love of Jesus we must overflow with love. Pray for earnest, eager, intense affection.Lay your hearts among the coals of juniper till they melt and glow. Dear Brothers and Sisters, if you want to be the man orwoman that Jesus loves, cultivate strong affection and let your nature be tender and kind. One who is habitually cross andfrequently angry cannot walk with God. A person of a quick, hot temper who never tries to check it, or
in whom there is a malicious remembrance of injuries, like a fire smoldering amidst the embers, cannot be the companion andfriend of Jesus whose spirit is of an opposite character! A pitiful, compassionate, unselfish, generous heart is that whichour Lord approves. Forgive your fellow as if you never had anything to forgive. When Brethren injure you, hope that they havemade a mistake, or else feel that if they knew you better they would treat you worse! Be of such a mind towards them thatyou will neither give nor take offense. Be willing to lay down, not only your comfort, but even your life for the Brethren!Live in the joy of others, even as saints do in Heaven. Love others so as to forget your own sorrows. So shall you becomea man greatly beloved.
Last of all, may the Spirit of God help you to rise to heavenliness. Do not be miserable money-grubbers, or sordid earthworms.Do not be pleasure hunters and novelty seekers. Do not set your affection upon these children's toys which will be so soonbroken. Be you no more children, but men of God! Oh to find your joy in Christ, your wealth in Christ, your honor in Christ,your everything in Christ-this is peace. To be in the world but not to be of it. To linger here as if you were an angel sentfrom Heaven to dwell, for a while, among the sons of men, to tell them of Heaven and point them the way-this is to abide inChrist's love.
To be always ready to fly, to stand on tiptoe waiting for the heavenward call, to expect to hear the trumpet ring out itsclarion note, the trumpet of the coming of your Lord-this is to have fellowship with Christ! Sit loose, I pray you, by thisworld, but get a tighter grip of the world to come-so shall Jesus' love be shed abroad within you. Throw your anchor upwardinto the placid sea of Divine Love and not like the seamen, downward, into a troubled ocean. Anchor yourselves to the eternalThrone and never be divided, even in thought, from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord. May it be my privilegeand yours, Brothers and Sisters, to lean these heads of ours on Jesus' bosom till the day breaks and the shadows flee away.Amen and Amen.