Sermon 1598. The Substance Of True Religion
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MAY 15, 1881,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"But you should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?" Job 19:28.
You will always understand a passage of Scripture better if you carefully attend to its connection. The habit of picking outportions from the Bible and separating them from their context may be carried a great deal too far and in the process thereader may miss the mind of the Spirit and force upon the words a meaning of his own. If we were to treat men's books as wedo God's Book we would, probably, be judged to be insane! It is, indeed, a wonderful Book to bear such mangling! Every sensibleperson will see that it must always be wise to study the context, for it is likely enough to cast a light upon the passagein hand.
Job, in the verse before us, is answering Bildad the Shuhite. Now, this Bildad on two occasions had described Job as a hypocriteand accounted for his dire distress by the fact that, though hypocrites may flourish for a time, they will ultimately be destroyed.In the two bitter speeches which he made, he described the hypocrite under the figure of a tree which is torn up by the roots,or dim even down to the root. In his first address, in the 8th chapter and the 16th verse, he says of the hypocrite, "He isgreen before the sun and his branch shoots forth in his garden. His roots are wrapped about the heap and sees the place ofstones. If he destroys him from his place, then it shall deny him, saying, I have not seen you." Even the very root of thehypocrite was to be pulled up, so that the garden in which he once flourished should not remember that he had ever been there!
Being much pleased with his metaphor, Bildad, in the 18th chapter, uses it again. He says, in the 14th verse of the chapter,"His confidence shall be rooted out of his tabernacle, and it shall bring him to the king of terrors. His roots shall be driedup beneath, and above shall his branch be cut off." This, then, was his mode of attacking Job-he set forth, by the emblemof a tree, the state and fate of the false-hearted-they might flourish for a time, but they would wither at last, even downto the very root, dried up and blasted by the justice of God. The inference he meant to draw was this-"You, Job, are utterlydried up, for all your prosperity is gone and, therefore, you must be a hypocrite." The assault was very cruel, but the sufferersuccessfully parried it.
"No," says Job, "I am no hypocrite. I will prove it by your own words, for the root of the matter is still in me and, therefore,I am no hypocrite. Though I admit that I have lost branches, leaves, fruit and flowers, yet I have not lost the root of thematter, for I hold the essential faith as firmly as ever and, therefore, by your own argument, I am no hypocrite. You shouldsay, 'Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?'" There is, then, dear Friends, a something in truereligion which is its essential root. It has fundamental matters which cannot be dispensed with under any circumstances. Somethings pertain to godliness, are useful as ornaments, pleasant and desirable, yet these may be absent and still there maybe the truth of religion in the soul!
But there is a something which cannot be absent in any case without its being certain that the man is not a true child ofGod. There is a something which is vital, without which there is no spiritual life. Of this essential thing we are going tospeak, this morning, as we are enabled by the Holy Spirit. Job derived comfort from the fact that the root of the matter wasin him, whatever his accusers might say, and I trust that others will be encouraged as they, too, shall find that the rootof the matter is in them. It will be pleasant to my heart to cheer the fainting and equally so if I can lead my stronger Brethrento deal tenderly with such.
I. Our first thought will be that THIS ROOT OF THE MATTER MAY BE CLEARLY DEFINED. We are not left in the dark as to what theessential point of true religion is-it can be laid down with absolute certainty. True, there has been considerable disputingover the phrase before us and questions have been raised as to what Job meant by, "the root
of the matter," but I conceive that if we read the verse in its own connection, apart from any extraneous suggestion, therewill be no doubt about its meaning. Commence at the 25th verse and read on as Job spoke-he tells us plainly what is "the rootof the matter." Here it is-"I know that my Redeemer lives and He shall stand at the latter day upon the earth: and thoughafter my skin, worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God: whom I shall see for myself and my eyes shall behold,and not another; though my reins are consumed within me."
This knowledge of the Redeemer is evidently the root of the matter. Come, then, let us look more closely into this choiceconfession of faith! I shall not attempt to expound this golden utterance, but I shall glance at it with the one objectiveof showing what Job considered to be the essence of true religion. And, first, it is clear that "the root of the matter" isfirm faith in the Redeemer! It is to be able to say from the inmost heart, "I know that my Redeemer lives." Not, "I thinkso," but, "I know"-for saving faith is certain and the true Believer is a positive. Faith abhors conjectures! It will notput its foot down upon fictions, but rests upon matters offact! Faith never deals in the fancy goods of opinion, theory, speculationor probability-she searches for the priceless pearl of certainty-she must know!
Such was the faith of Job and he expresses it in firm, decided, clear language, saying-"I know that my Redeemer lives." Thisfaith was an appropriating one, so that Job took to himself the Redeemer. "I know that my Redeemer lives," laying hold uponthe lord to be unto him all that He was meant to be, namely, a Redeemer who would set him at liberty from his misery! He embracedthe Redeemer as his own and believed that he would be raised by Him from the pit of corruption. Come, Brothers and Sisters,have we such a faith as this? Have we a faith which knows that there is a Savior able to redeem and sure to accomplish thework?
And do we take Him for our own, saying-"my Redeemer"? This is the point-Do we accept Him in His ordained office and cast oursoul entirely upon Him? Are we content to sink or swim with God's appointed Savior? If saved, it shall be by Him! And at thefoot of the Cross are we content to lie and wait the issue? Whatever other redeemers there may be, is the Lord Jesus our Redeemerin whom we trust as able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him? This is the "root of the matter"-a recognitionof the redeeming Lord and a simple dependence upon Him for sure salvation! Look steadily at the passage and especially gazeinto its original meaning and you will see that in this "root of the matter" there is a recognition of the blessed Christof God in the peculiar relationship which He has taken up to man.
It is, "I know that my goel, or kinsman, lives." You know what the next of kin was among the Jews-it was he who must redeemthe inheritance if it had been alienated from the family. He was the guardian of those to whom he was next of kin. If therehad been manslaughter committed, it was the goel, the near kinsman, who must take vengeance on behalf of the murdered man.The goel was the patron of the weak ones of the family and the defender of the whole clan. Boaz was the redeemer of Ruth'spatrimony because he was her next of kin after one other had refused to fulfill the office. Beloved, this is a cardinal pointof saving faith, that Jesus Christ, the eternal Son of God, is next of kin to us poor, guilty men!
His name is Emmanuel, God With Us-not only God from before all worlds, but God with us in our nature! The Word was made flesh!Jesus was born at Bethlehem and there He was nursed at the breast of a woman. He lived among our race, bearing our infirmitiesand tempted in all points like as we are, though without sin. It is most sweet for faith to say He is nearest of kin to me-myGoel, my Redeemer; bone of my bone and flesh of my flesh-
"In ties of blood with sinners one." He is the Head, the Second Adam of our race, a Brother born for adversity, yes, and morethan a Brother! Because He has deigned to enter into the closest of all relationships with us by taking upon Himself our nature,the Lord Jesus has now become our Redeemer, bound to restore to those who are in Him the inheritance which was forfeited bythe Fall. Glory be to His name! He has restored that which He took not away! He has redeemed from the hand of the enemy thatwhich sin and Satan snatched from us by our first parents' fault!
Nor is this all. The goel was bound, also, to avenge the quarrel of his client. Our Lord is now our Advocate with the Father,pleading our cause both by the words of His mouth and by the power of His arm. "You have pleaded the causes of my soul," OJesus! You are my Defender, my Patron, my Shield and my exceeding great Reward! Brethren, this is the root of the matter,to believe in the Incarnate God, to accept His headship, to claim His kinship and to rely upon His Redemption! This is theroot of the matter, to call Jesus ours, our Kinsman and Redeemer and then to leave everything in His hands-to commit to Himour cause, our hopes, our fears, our past, our present and our future-and now and
throughout life to fix our entire confidence upon Him because it is His office and prerogative to be the Redeemer of all thatare akin to Him. This is plain enough and there is no mist about it! Say, is the Son of God all this to you?
Look at the text, farther, and you perceive that the root of the matter is to believe that this Kinsman, this Redeemer lives!We could never find comfort or salvation in one who had ceased to be! We have no lively hope unless we believe that our LordJesus Christ was raised from the dead! Job knew that the Redeemer lived in that capacity before He died and we know that Healways lives, though He once died and was buried. If it were possible for us to believe in the merit of Christ's death andto deny His Resurrection, our faith would have a fatal flaw in it. "He was delivered for our offenses, but He was raised,again, for our justification," and, therefore, we must believe in the Resurrection or we are not justified! It is becauseHe always lives to make intercession for us that He is able to save to the uttermost them that come unto God by Him!
In the Romish Church her images are the image of her faith. What Christ is that which we see portrayed in places of worshipof the papal order? We see there, times without number, Jesus as a child in His mother's arms-feeble, dependent, insignificant-wellsetting forth how the worship of Christ is overshadowed by that of the Virgin and how His blood and righteousness are forgottenamid the imaginary glories of Mary! How else do you see the Savior in papal churches? Why, everywhere He is represented asdead, as nailed to a cross, or wrapped in winding-sheets. So far, so good, for we, also, believe in Christ who died, thoughwe set not up His image or picture! But Jesus is not now dead, neither is He here among the tombs, for He has risen! It istestified of Jesus that He lives! But in the Church of Rome it is the priest that lives and sets and does all things, whilethe Christ of God is virtually excluded and made of no use apart from sacraments and ceremonies.
Our Savior is still living and active in the midst of His people and this is one of the vital points of our holy faith. Weaddress ourselves at once to the living Redeemer and His present power to save is the groundwork of our expectation of eternallife and resurrection! Oh, if it were not for this, we might all despair! We would be the ministers of a dead Christ and youwould be Believers in a lifeless Savior! The Cross would be a powerless doctrine and the Gospel a lifeless mes-sage-and underit men would still lie dead in their trespasses and sins! Our Redeemer lives in fullness of power to bless us by His everlastingPriesthood! Say, then, dear Souls, do you believe in Jesus Christ, your Kinsman? Do you believe that He has redeemed bothyour persons and your inheritance? And do you believe that He lives, having gone up into Glory to prepare a place for you?This is the "root of the matter"-a living faith in a living Redeemer who, by His death, has ransomed His people!
There was still more than this. Job believed in this next of kin of his who still lived, that He would surely save him, seeinghe trusted in Him. He expected that He would right all things, however wrong they might be, and clear the character of Hisservant. Job felt that though his accusers might condemn him and his appeal to God might not win him a vindication so thathe might go down to his grave under a cloud of reproach and lie there and rot with a dishonored memory, yet he would, be oneday, cleared. Though the worms might devour his body till no rag or relic of him remained, yet his living Kinsman would neverrest till He had cleared him and enabled Job to see God without fear!
This is the grandeur of faith, to feel that whatever God may do with me, if I am in Christ and behave myself as His faithfulservant, He will preserve me from all harm! My cause may seem so utterly dead that it is only fit for worms' meat, but theChrist of God will bring forth judgment unto victory! This is the work of faith, to cast my soul on Christ, my next of kinwhose business it is to redeem me-and though I cannot see the way by which I am to be saved-yet to be sure that I shall be!If my hopes perish and my soul sinks down into the dust of death, yet to the uttermost, Christ can save me and He will-andI am sure of it!
And when at last the death frost strikes cold at my heart and I can help myself no more and human helpers fail me, I willcommit my spirit into the dear hands of Him who is nearest and dearest-and I shall feel, in that last fainting hour, thatHis presence is my stay. Yes, and I shall see my God, again, and even my poor failing body, full of aches and pains and weakness,after resting in the grave a little while, shall rise again in beauty and power! The grave is a refining pot where the bodiesof the saints are purified and made fit to dwell with the pure and holy God forever! Faith has no question about the Resurrection-shehas not a mere hope, but a firmly assured belief so that she cries-"I know that in my flesh, through Christ my Redeemer, Ishall see my God without fear."
Every man, in a certain sense, will see God, for every eye shall behold the King upon the Throne of Judgment. But that expectationcould not be a ground of comfort and, therefore, more is here meant by seeing God. Job evidently expected to see God withacceptance and with delight! And this he felt quite sure about, though the corruption of his body looked like an effectualbarrier to the realization of such a hope. All his friends may condemn him and treat him as an alien and a stranger, but heso trusts himself with his Redeemer that he is quite sure of justification before God and men! Those who have a Divine Advocatemust be cleared on the Judgment Day.
Now, Soul, answer this question-Do you commit yourself wholly and entirely to the Mediator, the Incarnate God, the Kinsmanof humanity? Say, do you look only to your living Advocate in life, in death and in eternity? Is Christ your All in All, youronly and solid hope? Oh, then, rest assured that "the root of the matter" is found in you! It is clear that the essence oftrue religion can be clearly defined-Job has defined it and there it is! Judge yourselves as to whether you possess it ornot.
II. Secondly, let us spend a few minutes in remarking that in our text THIS FUNDAMENTAL MATTER IS MOST
INSTRUCTIVELY DESCRIBED by the words which I have so constantly repeated-"the root of the matter." What does this mean? First,does it not mean that which is essential? "The root of the matter." To a tree, a root is absolutely essential-it is a merepole or piece of timber if there is no root. It can be a tree of a certain sort without branches and, at certain seasons,without leaves, but not without a root. Look at the trees in the winter. Their substance is in them when they lose their leaves.The foliage has all fallen, but the bare branches and trunk still make a tree because a root is there.
You may call it a tree even though only the trunk remains rooted to the soil. But it is not a tree if you have taken the rootaway and set it up in the hedge-it is mere dead timber for the scaffold or the fire. So, if a man has faith in the Redeemer,though he may be destitute of a thousand other most necessary things, yet the essential point is settled-he that believesin Christ Jesus has everlasting life! If he has faith, he has the substance of things hoped for and hope will turn to experienceas he grows in Divine Grace. But if he has no faith in the Redeemer, he may make a towering profession; he may possess vastknowledge; he may speak with the tongues of men and of angels and he may outstrip all his companions in zeal, but he is nota plant of the Lord's right hand planting, for he has no root in himself and will, before long, wither away.
The root, again, is not only that which is vital to the tree, it is from the root that the life-force proceeds by which thetrunk and the branches are nourished and sustained. There is hope for a tree, after it is cut down, that it shall sprout againat the scent of water. As long as there is a root, there is more or less of vitality and power to grow and so faith in Christis the vital point of religion-he that believes lives. If you do not know the living Redeemer, you do not know life. Withouttrust in the work of Jesus, a man may attempt to follow the moral teachings of Jesus, but he will miss salvation since nomorals which do not begin with faith in God can be acceptable to the Most High. The practical teaching of our holy religionis admirable and we must obey it or be lost-and the root of holy living is faith in Christ-and it cannot be produced otherwise.
I would not say a word against the right exercise of the emotions, or the education of the understanding, or the regulationof the passions-for all these are good as branches of the tree. But the root, the living part of godliness, is our union toChrist by faith, our laying hold upon the Incarnate Son of God as dying and rising, again, on our behalf. Again, it is calledthe, "root of the matter," because it comprehends all the rest, for everything is in the root. You walked your garden in thewinter and many plants were entirely invisible-there was not the slightest token of their presence in the soil. Now they areabove ground, they are flowering, they are proceeding to fruit. Where was the plant? It was all in the root. Leaf, branch,fruit, seed-all were there.
Even so, all the elements of a perfect character lie hidden in faith in Christ. The holiness of Heaven is packed away in thefaith of a penitent sinner. Look at the crocus bulb. It is a poor, mean, unpromising sort of thing and yet wrapped up withinthat brown package lies a golden cup which, in the early Spring, will be filled with sunshine! You cannot see that wondrouschalice within the bulb, but He who put it there knows where He has concealed His treasure! The showers and the sun shallunwrap the folds and that dainty cup shall come forth to be set upon God's great table of Nature as an intimation that thefeast of summer is soon to come!
The highest saintship on earth is hidden within the simplicity of a sinner's faith like a flower within a seed. Yes, the perfectcharacter of those that are without fault before the Throne of God is all in embryo within that first look of faith
which links the soul with the atoning merits of the great Redeemer! My Brothers and Sisters, a young Heaven sleeps withinyour childlike confidence in Christ! It will only need the culture of the Holy Spirit to develop your new life into the perfectimage of Christ Jesus your Lord. Faith is the essence, the vitality, the sum of true godliness and, therefore, it is called,"the root of the matter."
III. So I come, thirdly, to dwell upon a further remark-THIS ROOT OF THE MATTER MAY BE PERSONALLY DISCERNED AS BEING IN AMAN'S OWN POSSESSION. Job says to his teasing friends, "You should say, Why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matteris found in me?" Notice the curious change of pronouns! "You should say, why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matteris found in him?" That is how the words would naturally run. But Job is so earnest to clear himself from Bildad's insinuationthat he is a hypocrite that he will not speak of himself in the third person, but plainly declares, "The root of the matteris found in me."
Job seems to say, "The vital part of the matter may or may not be in you, but I know it is in me. You may not believe me,but I know it is so and I tell you, to your faces, that no argument of yours can rob me of this confidence; for as I knowthat my Redeemer lives, I know that the root of the matter is found in me." Many Christian people are afraid to speak in thatfashion. They say, "I humbly hope it is so and I trust it is so." That sounds pretty, but is it right? Is that the way inwhich men speak about their houses and lands? Do you possess a little freehold? Did I hear you answer, "I humbly hope thatmy house and garden are my own"?
What? Then are your title-deeds so questionable that you do not know? Is this the way in which you speak of your wages atthe end of the week? "I sometimes have a hope that these shillings are mine." Is that the way you talk about your wife? Isthat the manner in which you speak of your own life? Are you afraid, even, to call your soul your own? No, no! We demand certaintiesin reference to things of value and so it ought to be with regard to Christ and eternity! We cannot put up with mere hopesand surmises in reference to them. Believers should aim at certainty about eternal things and learn to say, like Job, "I knowthat my Redeemer lives," and, "The root of the matter is found in me." Note well that sometimes this root needs to be searchedfor.
Job says "the root of the matter is found in me," as if he had looked for it and made a discovery of what else had been hidden.Roots generally lie underground and out of sight and so may our faith in the Redeemer. His interest in the Redeemer may havebeen a question for self-examination with Job when first his griefs came thick and heavy. It may be a matter of search withus, too-
"He that never doubted of his state, He may-perhaps he may, too late." I can understand a Christian doubting whether he issaved or not, but I cannot understand his being happy while he continues to doubt about it, nor happy at all till he is sureof it! Job had made his personal condition the subject of investigation. He had dug beneath the surface and had seen withinhis heart. You cannot always find roots in winter time unless you use a spade and turn over the soil-there are winter timeswith us when we cannot tell whether we have real faith in Christ or not till we examine whether we are in the faith.
After searching, Job found the treasure and said, "the root of the matter is found in me." And note again, the root of thematter in Job was an inward thing. "The root of the matter is found in me." He did not say, "I wear the outward garb of areligious man." No, but, "the root of the matter is found in me." If you, my Hearers, are in the possession of the essenceof true Christianity, it does not lie in your outward profession, your baptism, your Church membership, or your receptionof the Lord's Supper! It lies within your heart and mind. Faith, which is the evidence of the inner life, is altogether spiritualand inward. Its abode is within the vitals of the spiritual being-in the very core of the renewed heart. True godliness isnot separable from the godly man-it is woven into him just as a thread enters into the essence and substance of the fabric.
When Grace is found in us and we really believe in our Redeemer, we ought to proclaim it, for Job says, "The root of the matteris found in me. I know that my Redeemer lives." Are there not some among you who have never said as much as that? Some ofyou who are Believers have never yet acknowledged our Lord! What did I call some of you the other day? I think I comparedcowardly Believers to rats behind the wainscot that come out at night to eat a crumb or two and then run in again. The ratis a poor creature to be compared with-it is a domestic animal, I suppose, for it lives in the
house-but it is not a beautiful object to be likened to and so I will not compare you to it, although there might be moreuntruthful comparisons.
I pray you try and change before I am driven to the simile. Never be ashamed of Christ, but if you ever are, be more ashamedof yourselves! There ought to be an open declaration of our faith whenever it is necessary, for it is written, "Be you alwaysready to give a reason for the hope that is in you with meekness and fear." The fact of our having the root of the matterin us will be a great comfort to us. "Alas," says Job, "my servant will not come when I call him. My wife is strange to me,my kinsfolk fail me-but I know that my Redeemer lives! Bildad and Zophar and others of them all condemn me, but my conscienceacquits me, for I know that the root of the matter is in me."
It is a blessed thing to be able to hear the harsh speeches of men as though we heard them not. What does it matter how othersjudge me if I know what I know and am sure in my own soul that I am right with God? What if men find fault with our eyes-doesit matter, if we can say, "One thing I know, whereas I was once blind now I see"? Critics may find fault with our experienceand they may call our earnest utterances, cant, but this will not affect the truth of our conversion or the acceptablenessof our testimony for Jesus! If the little bird within our bosom sings sweetly, it is of small consequence if all the owlsin the world hoot at us!
There is more real comfort in the possession of simple faith than in the fond persuasion that you are in a high state of DivineGrace. When we proudly think, "Oh, I need not look at the root of the matter, for my flowers and fruits are more than sufficientevidence," we are getting dangerously elevated. That man is in a perilous plight who glories in himself, saying, "How usefulI am! How gifted! How influential! How highly my brethren think of me!" All this will turn out to be unsubstantial comfortin the hour of trial. But the root of the matter yields the sweetest and surest consolation at all times. If your Redeemerlives, you shall have a candle lighted for you in the darkest night! This fact will also be your defense against opposers.Thus may you answer them in Job's fashion, "You ought not to condemn me, for, though I am not what I ought to be, or whatI want to be, or what I shall be, yet still the root of the matter is found in me. Be kind to me, therefore."
Carefully observe this, my dear young Friends. You have been lately converted and if you fall in with those who are very sternand censorious, you must not be surprised. Some venerable professors have not so much grown ripe as sour and they show theirsourness by censuring their younger Brothers and Sisters. It does not occur to them to say, "Why do we persecute him, seeingthe root of the matter is in him?" But you may defend yourself against their hard speeches by declaring that you believe inthe Savior even as they do! Say to them, "I do not know as much about the Lord Jesus as you do, but I most heartily trustHim. He is as much my Redeemer as He is yours. Do not, therefore, drive me from your company, but deal gently with me, aswith a lamb of the flock."
I hope that you who are now young and timid will become strong in the Lord before long and be no longer in danger from severejudgments. And when that comes about I hope that you will, by experience, be very gentle with those who are weak in the faith.If our friends are sincere in their attachment to the Redeemer, let us treat them as our Brothers and Sisters in Christ. Thusmuch on our third point.
IV. Now we come to the fourth subject of discourse, which is a practical lesson from the text for those Believers in Christwho have passed beyond the root stage into a further development. Notice, then, that THIS ROOT OF THE MATTER IS TO BE TENDERLYRESPECTED BY ALL WHO SEE IT. "You should say, why persecute we him, seeing the root of the matter is found in me?" What arebuke this is to the persecutions which have been carried on by nominal Christians against each other, sect against sect!Romanists have fiercely persecuted Protestants and Protestants have persecuted one another. If they had but listened to theirgracious Lord and Savior, they would have heard Him whisper, "You should say, why persecute we him, seeing the root of thematter is found in Me?"
How can those who trust in the same Savior rend and devour each other? In many of the islands of the South Seas our missionarieshave been the means of converting the people to the faith. In one of these the shaven crowns of Rome began to put in theirappearance with the view of turning away the people from the faith to the errors of Rome. Among their cunning instrumentsof conversion was a picture representing the tree of the Church. Certain twigs were represented as rotten-they were out offand were falling into the fire-these were such persons as Luther, Calvin and other famous teachers of the Gospel of JesusChrist.
The Protestant missionaries, too, were dead twigs and were all to be removed from the tree. The natives were not quite sureabout this and made more enquiries. Certain other branches were green and vigorous-these were the priests of the CatholicChurch and the larger branches were bishops and cardinals of the same community. The natives were not quite clear about thatand passed on to examine the trunk. This, of course, consisted of an array of popes, of whom the islanders had never heard.They passed on, hoping to come to something they knew and so they did, for at the bottom was the name of our Lord Jesus. Theenquiring islanders said, "And what is this at the bottom, marked with the name of Jesus?" "That is the root," said the priest."Well, then," shouted the natives, "we have the root! The new teachers say we have the root and so we are all right-our missionarieshave told us the truth."
There was philosophy in that. Let us see to it that "we have the root." Friend, do you believe in Jesus Christ, the Son ofGod? If so, you have the root! I shall be very sorry if you belong to the Church of Rome, for she teaches much error. Butif you rest only in Christ Jesus you will be saved. Do you believe in the once crucified but now living Christ? Well, my Brother,I am sorry you should be a high-churchman, or anything else which is not according to Scripture, but your faith has savedyou! I pray you think the same of me, if I, too, am a Believer in the one Redeemer. If I believe and rest my soul on the onesalvation which God has provided in Christ Jesus, have charity towards me, for this Rock will bear both you and me. This shouldend all religious persecutions.
But next it ought to be the end of all ungenerous denunciations. If I know that a man is really believing in Jesus Christ,I may not treat him as an enemy. If I perceive that he holds a great many wrong notions, I am to be grieved at his mistakesand to labor for his instruction, but I ought not to feel hatred towards him. It is my duty, especially if I am a public instructor,to expose and refute his errors, but as for the man, himself, if he trusts in the atoning blood, I am not to treat him asa reprobate. Does he believe in only Jesus Christ? Does he hold to the vital, fundamental Truths of God? Then I am not tomake him an offender for a word and twist his language into a meaning what he never intended by it. I am too near akin toevery Believer in Jesus to take down bell, book and candle and excommunicate him for not being so well-instructed as he mightbe!
If the Redeemer is next of kin to me and next of kin to him, why, then, we are near of kin to one another and it is unseemlyfor us to strive together being Brothers in Christ! For the faith and against all errors we are bound to contend, but anythinglike personal animosity must be far from us. O for more Christian love! If the root of the matter is in any man, do not letus persecute him, but encourage him. "Well, but I could not enter into any Christian work with him, nor enjoy fellowship withhim, for he does not agree with me." Is it, indeed, so? The Lord have pity upon you! I should not wonder but what you arethe worse man of the two-he may be wrong in head, but you are certainly wrong in heart.
Very frequently it happens that the man who has most of the spirit of love is also the man who is nearest to the Truth ofGod and I generally assume that he who is the least sour is the most sound. The party who most needs to be questioned as towhether the root of the matter is in him is the Brother who has no love. He whose spirit is perfumed with love to others notonly has the root, but something of the branch, too, for love is the fair outgrowth of faith. Death to error, death to sin,but salvation to the sinner and life to the Believer, notwithstanding all his mistakes! Let denunciations and exclusivenessbe ended forever and let us admit our kinship with all who are in Christ!
Further than this, the question is, "Why persecute we him?" We can do that by a cold mistrust. I have seen chill suspicionexercised by good solid substantial Christians who have had a chronic fear and trembling lest new converts should not be trueconverts. The young man seems to be very earnest. He is evidently much impressed. He forsakes his sin and there is a greatchange in him. He boldly declares his faith in Jesus Christ, but the jealous guardian of the purity of the Church objects,for the young man was converted in an irregular way-he did not go among the Presbyterians or Baptists, or Congregationalists,or Evangelical Church people and get saved in a respectable manner! No, he went out in the street and he heard a mere ranter,or a Salvation Army captain and, therefore, it is feared that it cannot be a genuine work of Grace!
The cautious Brother does not say much, but he draws himself into himself and retires from the person whom he suspects, justas a snail draws in his horns and hides himself in his shell. The elder Brother is angry and will not go in and in that wayhe persecutes the returning prodigal! Why, some of these icy critics will cause the very marrow of a poor fellow's bones tofreeze while he looks at him! Do not let us stand off in holy isolation from any who have the root of the matter in them!Why should we persecute such? Let us encourage them and give them information upon the points in
which they are deficient. Some people appear to think that every convert ought to be born a fully developed man in ChristJesus, even as, according to mythology, Minerva sprang from the brain of Jove a full length woman, fully armed, shield andspear and all!
I do not see people born again in this fashion. I believe that some of God's men who are to be leaders are born with beardsand very early exhibit a knowledge far beyond their years which sets them in the front from the first-but for the most part,God's children are little when they are born, even as ours are. When my sons first came to my house they were by no meansthe young men they are now. I should think it likely that the same may be said of your children! What wonder, then, that itis so in God's house! Little children cannot run alone and cannot even speak plainly. Besides, they make strange noises andby their cries they become a nuisance to those who have no sympathy with babies. And so it is with new-born Christians-theycannot run as we wish them to and they cannot spit out the Doctrines of Grace as we desire, or pray as we should like themto pray. Well, but they are little children. And they are alive! Let us not bury them, but let us nurse them!
It is one of the duties of mature Christians to take these children and nurse them for God, for He will give us our wages.Dear Brothers and Sisters, I beg you to be on the lookout in this congregation for those who have just received the root ofthe matter-those that have just had the Seed of God dropped into their soul! It has hardly begun to sprout, but you can seeit is there. They can just say-
"We are poor sinners, and nothing at all, But Jesus Christ is our All in All." Do not frighten them, do not distress them,do not chill them like a sharp frost! Cheer and encourage them and say, "I, too, was once as you are-Yes, and I, too, oftenam as you are. Yes, and I, too, sometimes wish I were still as you are, for I would still be on my knees, keeping humbly dependentupon Christ. Come, if elder Brothers and Sisters will not receive you, I will and I will cheer you and encourage you for Jesus'sake."
Well, try and do that this morning, if you can, before you leave the Tabernacle. There may be somebody sitting next to youwho just needs a word. Try it. I know some will be quite frightened at your venturing to speak to them. Very well, frightenthem a little, it will not hurt them! Try the power of courteous personal appeal. It may be if you frighten one or two youwill be the means of blessing so many more that if those who are frightened do not forgive you, they will not break your heart.God Himself will not, because there will be nothing to forgive. He will commend you for what you have done and I pray you,therefore, do it for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.