Sermon 1742. Spiritual Knowledge and Its Practical Results
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, SEPTEMBER 30 1883,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For this cause we, also, since the day we heard it, do not cease to pray for you, and to desire that you might be filledwith the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you might walk worthy of the Lord unto allpleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and increasing in the knowledge of God." Colossians 1:9,10.
FOR the Church that was at Colosse, Paul gave hearty thanks to God for many most important blessings, especially for theirfaith, their love and their hope. It would be a very useful exercise to our hearts if we would often give thanks to God forthe gifts and Graces which we discover in our Christian Brothers and Sisters. I am afraid we are more inclined to spy outtheir faults and to suppose that we deplore them, than we are to discern the work of the Holy Spirit in them and, from thebottom of our hearts, give thanks to God for them. Paul felt encouraged by what he saw in the Colossian Believers to prayto God to enrich them yet farther. It should be our desire that our best Brethren should be better and that those who aremost like Jesus should be still more completely conformed to His image.
We cannot more wisely show our love to our friends than by, first, acknowledging the Grace which is in them-and then by prayingthat God may give them more! Paul, as with an eagle eye, surveyed the Church at Colosse, which he loved so well, and he notedthat it was somewhat lacking in knowledge. The Colossian brotherhood differed considerably from the Church at Corinth whichabounded in talent and was enriched with all knowledge. The Colossians had fewer gifted Brethren among them who could actas teachers and, though this was no fault of theirs, it impoverished them in the matter of knowledge-and as Paul would nothave them be behind in any desirable attainment-he, therefore, prayed for them that they might be filled with knowledge inall wisdom and spiritual understanding.
If you read this Epistle through, you will observe that Paul frequently alludes to knowledge and wisdom. To the point in whichhe judged the Church to be deficient, he turned his prayerful attention. He would not have them ignorant. He knew that spiritualignorance is the constant source of error, instability and sorrow-and, therefore, he desired that they might be soundly taughtin the things of God. Not that they were destitute of saving knowledge, for he says in the 6th verse that they "knew the Graceof God in truth," and that they had brought forth fruits meet for salvation. But saving knowledge, though it is the most essentialattainment, is not the only knowledge which a Christian should seek after. He should long to be useful as well as to be safe.
Being himself delivered out of darkness, Paul strives to bring others into the marvelous light of Grace. Paul would have hisBrethren thoroughly furnished for sacred service, knowing the will of the Lord, themselves, and able to teach others. He desiredfor them that they might possess comforting knowledge, strengthening knowledge, edifying knowledge, sanctifying knowledge,directing knowledge-so that they might be ready for all the trials, duties and labors of life. Upon this subject I am ledto make four observations and to enlarge upon each of them. May the Holy Spirit, by this discourse, build us up in the knowledgeof God.
I. My first subject is THE GREAT VALUE OF INTERCESSORY PRAYER, for as soon as Paul felt his heart burning with love to thesaints at Colosse and had heard of the work of the Spirit among them, he began to show His love by lifting up His heart inprayer for them. He did that for them which He knew would bless them. Notice that intercessory prayer is a very importantpart of the work of Christians for one another. We are not sent into the world to live unto ourselves, but we are membersof one body-and each member is expected to contribute to the health and the comfort of the whole. It is true we cannot allpreach, but we can all pray! We cannot all distribute alms from our substance, but we can all offer prayer from our hearts!
In temporal things we may not be able to enrich the Church for lack of substance, but if we fail to bless the Church by ourprayers, it will be for lack of Divine Grace. Whatever you fail in, dearly Beloved-and I pray that you may in nothing fallbehind-yet do not fail in prayer for all the saints, that every blessing may abound towards them! Intercessory prayer is tobe esteemed as an invaluable proof of love and as the creator of more love. The man who will truly pray for me will certainlyreadily forgive me if I offend him. He will relieve me if I am in need and He will be prepared to assist me if I am engagedin a service too hard for me. Give us your earnest prayers and we know that we live in your hearts! How sweet it is to bepermitted thus to manifest our love to one another!
When our hands are palsied, we can still pray! When our eyes grow dim, we can still see to pray! When, by sickness, we arealtogether laid aside, we can still pray! And when we meet with cases in which we are unable to help, and yet are moved withsympathy for a Brother or Sister, our sympathy can always find one open channel, for we can pray-and by prayer call in theaid of One whose help is effectual. Therefore, by your love to your Lord and to all those who are in Him, I beseech you aboundin intercessory prayer as the Apostle did.
Intercessory prayer, again, is most valuable because it is an infallible means of obtaining the blessings which we desirefor our friends. It is not in vain that we ask, for it is written, "Everyone that asks receives." It is not in vain that weintercede for others, for the Lord delights to answer such petitions. The unselfish devotion which pleads as eagerly for othersas for itself is so pleasing to the Lord that He puts great honor upon it. If we desire any blessing for our friends, ourbest course is to pray-even if we would have them to be filled with knowledge in all wisdom, our safest course is to praythat it may be so.
Of course, we must not forget to instruct them and to aid them in their studies as far as lies in our power, for every honestprayer supposes the use of all proper means. But the instruction which we offer will be of no service unless we first bringdown the blessing of God upon it, that thereby our friends may be made willing to learn and may receive the Truth of God notas the word of man, but as from the Lord, Himself. None but spiritual teaching will nourish spiritual life. The Holy Spiritmust teach Divine Truth to the heart, or it will never be truly known. Whatever you wisely desire for your friend, striveto get it for him, but hasten, first, to the Throne of Grace. If you would have your friend converted; if you would have himstrengthened; if you would have him taught of God; if you would have him quickened to a nobler life and elevated to a higherconsecration, do him this great service-take his case before the Lord in prayer-and in so doing you have gone the wisest wayto work to enrich him.
Note, Brothers and Sisters, for I am keeping to my text closely, that such intercessory prayer will be all the more valuableif it is our immediate resort. The Apostle says, "Since the day we heard it, we do not cease to pray for you." He began topray at once! Whenever you perceive the work of the Spirit in any heart, pray at once that the holy change may proceed withpower. Whenever you discover any need in a Brother, begin on the day you hear of it to pray that his need may be supplied.There should be no delaying of prayer! "He gives twice who gives quickly" is a human proverb, but I believe that when we prayspeedily we shall often find that God, in answering quickly, gives us a double blessing. Usually he who is the most diligentin the pursuit of them shall win worldly riches-and assuredly he shall be richest towards God who is most diligent in supplication.Linger not a minute! Speed on to the Mercy Seat. Now is the accepted time; the Lord waits to be gracious to you! The Lordindicates to you what your prayer shall be by the news, which you have just heard of your friend. Therefore, bring his caseat once before the Throne of Grace. Divine Providence has brought the necessary subject for prayer under your notice; thereforebegin to pray about it at once!
Our prayers will be all the more valuable if they are incessant as well as immediate. "We cease not," said Paul, "to prayfor you since the day we heard it." "Oh," says one, "was Paul always praying for the Colossians from the day he heard of theirwelfare? It may have been months and years! Did he never cease to pray?" I answer, he was always praying for them in the sensewhich he explains-he adds, "and to desire." Now, desire is the essence of prayer. In fact, desire is the kernel of prayer.The vocal expressions which we call by the name of prayer are often but its shell-inward desire is the life, the heart, thereality of prayer! Though you cannot always be speaking in prayer, you can always be desiring in prayer. The miser is alwaysdesiring riches, though he is not always talking about his gold and silver. And the man who loves his fellow men and desirestheir profit is really always praying for their benefit, though he is not always lifting up his voice in supplication. "Sincethe day we heard it," says Paul, "we do not cease to pray for you."
The act of prayer is blessed, but the habit of prayer is more blessed-and the spirit of prayer is the most blessed of all-andit is this that we can continue for months and years. The act of prayer must, from force of circumstances, be sometimes stopped,but the habit of prayer should be fixed and unvarying. And the spirit of prayer, which is fervent desire, should be perpetualand abiding. We can hardly realize the value to the Church and to the world of that intercessory prayer which ceases not,day or night, but without fail ascends before the Lord from the whole company of the faithful, as the incense ascended fromthe altar!
Dear Friends, our intercessory prayer will be all the more precious if it is an intense expression unto God. I suppose thatby the use of the word, "desire," here, the Apostle not only explains how he continued to pray, but in what manner he prayed-with"desire." Remember how our Lord puts it-"with desire have I desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer." I wishwe could always say, "with desire have I desired in prayer. I did not repeat a merely complimentary benediction upon my friends,but I pleaded for them as for my life. I importuned with God; I offered an effectual inwrought prayer which rose from thedepths of my heart to the heights of Heaven and obtained an audience with God." Fervency is a great essential for victoriousprayer. God grant us to be importunate, for then we shall be invincible!
One more observation and I have done with this point. Intercessory prayer is increased in value when it is not from one person,alone, but is offered in intimate union with other saints. Paul says, "We, also," not, "I, only," but, "we, also, since theday we heard it, cease not." If two of you agree as touching anything concerning the Kingdom of God, you have the blessingsecured to you by a special promise of God. Remember how Abraham prayed for the cities of the plain, but succeeded not untilLot also added his supplication for Zoar? Then the little city was spared. I compare Abraham's intercession to a ton weightof prayer, and poor Lot's I can hardly reckon to have been more than half an ounce, but still that half-ounce turned the scale!
So here is Paul-and with him is youthful Timothy, who, compared with Paul, is meaningless! Yet Paul's prayer is all the moreeffectual because Timothy's prayer is joined with it. Our Lord sent out His servants by two and two, and it is well when theycome back to Him in prayer two and two. I commend to you, Brothers and Sisters, the habit of frequent prayer together. Whena Christian friend drops in, his visit will, perhaps, end in mere talk unless you secure its spiritual profit by at leasta few minutes spent in united prayer. I frequently, during the day, when a friend comes in upon the Master's business, say,"Let us pray before you go," and I always find the request is welcomed. Such prayers do not occupy much time, but if theydid, it might be well spent-such united supplications oil the wheels of life's heavy wagon and cause it to move with lessof that creaking which we too often hear. "I, alone" is certainly a good word in prayer, but, "we, also" is a better one!Let us link hands and intercede for our Brethren and the whole Church of God.
Thus have I expatiated upon the excellencies which increase the value of intercessory prayer. Use much this heavenly art.It is effectual for 10,000 ends. It turns every way to bless the Church. Brothers and Sisters, pray for us, pray for all saints,pray for all sinners and, by doing so you will be the benefactors of your age.
II. Our second observation from the text is this-we learn, here, THE PRECIOUSNESS OF SPIRITUAL KNOWL-EDGE-for all this earnest,ceaseless prayer is offered for this end, "That you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritualunderstanding." Here let us speak of the usefulness and blessedness of that spiritual knowledge for which the Apostle andhis friend cried incessantly unto the Lord. First, consider the men for whom this knowledge is desired. They are saints andfaithful Brethren, of whom we read that they "knew the Grace of God in truth," and were, "bringing forth fruit" unto God.For those who already know the Lord we must not cease to pray. They are not beyond the need of our prayers while they arein this life.
We may pray for those who know nothing of the Lord, that He would open their blind eyes-but even those who have already beentaught of God are in need of our supplications that they may learn yet more. We have great encouragement to pray that theymay be filled with all knowledge, since the Lord has already done so much for them. We dare not say in this case that a littleknowledge is a dangerous thing, for a little knowledge of the things of God may suffice to save the soul, but more knowledgeis a most desirable thing for those who have that little knowledge! Pray, therefore, for them. Let not your prayers pleadonly and altogether for the unconverted, but entreat for our young converts, that they may be further edified. It will bean ill day when we are so engaged in seeking lost sheep that we forget the lambs! It would be very mischievous for us to neglectour work at home in order to carry on warfare with the adversary abroad.
No, let us daily cry to God in prayer that the stones lately quarried may be built up upon the one Foundation and embeddedin the walls of the Church of God unto eternal glory! We desire life for the dead, health for the living and maturity forthe healthy. For the deeper instruction of our younger Brothers and Sisters let us pray. Of this desirable knowledge, whatis the measure? We desire for them, "that they may be filled with the knowledge of His will." Filled- this is grand scholarship,to have the mind, heart and the whole of our manhood filled with knowledge! Paul would not have a Believer ignorant upon anypoint-he would have him filled with knowledge, for when a measure is full of wheat there is no room for chaff. True knowledgeexcludes error.
The men that go after false doctrine are usually those who know little of the Word of God. Being untaught, they are unstable,ready to be blown about with every wind of doctrine. It you leave empty spots in your minds unsaturated with holy teaching,they will be an invitation to the devil to enter in and dwell there. Fill up the soul and so shut out the enemy! Paul desiredthe Colossian saints to be filled-filled up to the brim with the knowledge of God's will! Brethren, we would have you knowall that you can know of God's Truth! Rome flourishes by man's ignorance, but the New Jerusalem rejoices in the Light of God!No knowledge of the revealed will of God can ever do you any harm if it is sanctified. Do not be afraid of what they call,"high doctrines," or the, "deep things of God." They tell us that those things are secrets and, therefore, we ought not topry into them.
If they are secrets, there is no fear that anybody can pry into them! But the Truths of God revealed in the Word of God areno longer secrets, seeing that they are revealed to us by the Spirit of God-and as far as they are revealed, it should beour desire to understand them-so as to be filled with the knowledge of them. Let us try to know the Divine Truths of God moreand more intimately. You know a man, for you pass him in the streets with a nod. You know another man far better, for youlodge in the same house with him. You know him best of all when you have shared his trouble, partaken in his joy and have,in fact, had fellowship with him by blending your two lives in one common stream of friendship. When you learn a spiritualTruth, endeavor to know it inside out-to know its foundation and building-to know it by the application of the Spirit to yourown soul so that you are filled with it.
You may have knowledge in the brain, but it may not run into your spirit, so as to penetrate, permeate and saturate your spirit,till you are filled with it. Oh, to get the Gospel into one's entire nature and to be like the water pots of Cana, filledup to the brim! Lord, fill Your poor children with the knowledge of Your will! This makes me notice what the matter of thisknowledge is-"filled with the knowledge of His will." What is that? It means the revealed will of God! Paul would have theColossians know what the Lord has revealed, as far as human mind could grasp it, whether it were doctrine, precept, experience,or prophecy. How well it is to know the perceptive will of God! Our prayer should daily be, "Lord, what will You have me do?"Lord, teach me what is sin and what is righteousness, that I may discern things which are excellent. Whereas there are questionsin the Church of God, itself, upon what the will of the Lord is, Lord help me not to care to know what is the will of thislearned doctor, or what is the will of a certain assembly, but what is YOUR will!
"To the law and to the testimony"-this is our touchstone. Our desire is to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord's willso as to do it without fail. Especially would we know the will of God as it constitutes the Gospel, for Jesus says, "Thisis the will of Him that sent me, that everyone which sees the Son, and believes on Him, may have everlasting life." Oh, toknow His will in that respect most clearly, so as to go and tell it out on all sides, that men may know the way of life andmay be led into it by our word! Once more we read in 1 Thessalonians 4:3-"This is the will of God, even your sanctification." Oh, to be filled with the knowledge of the Lord's will till you knowwhat sanctification means and exhibit it in your daily life! It is yours to teach men what God means by holiness! Your missionis not fulfilled and the will of God is not accomplished unless you are sanctified! This it is with which we need to be filled!Know anything, know everything that is worth knowing! "That the soul is without knowledge is not good."
Never attempt to run side by side with the agnostic whose glory it is that he knows nothing. But let it be your delight toknow all that can be learned out of the Book of the Lord, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit. Concentrate your faculties uponthe will of God. Here dive into the deeps and climb up to the heights and be afraid of nothing! Ask the Holy Spirit to saturateyou with His Truth, as Gideon's fleece was wet with the dew of Heaven, as the golden pot was filled with manna, or as Jordanis filled in the time of harvest when it overflows all its banks!
Still we have not done, for we must now notice the manner as well as the matter of this knowledge-"in all wisdom and spiritualunderstanding." Wisdom is better than knowledge, for wisdom is knowledge rightly used. Knowledge may find room for folly,but wisdom casts it out. Knowledge may be the horse, but wisdom is the driver. When a man has knowledge, it is like the cornwhich is laid in the barn. But wisdom is the fine flour prepared for food. We need Christian people not only to know, butto use what they know! Happy is he who knows what to do at the right time! Many people are very knowing half an hour afterit is too late-but to be filled with wisdom is to be able, at once, to apply knowledge rightly in difficult cases. Wisdomenables you to bring your knowledge practically to bear upon life, to separate between the precious and the vile, to dealwith your fellow Christians in their different conditions-and to deal with sinners and those that are in need.
You need wisdom so to conduct your affairs that nothing therein shall scandalize the weak, or bring dishonor upon the nameof Christ-mere knowledge will not suffice for this. Knowledge is the blade, wisdom is the full corn in the ear. Knowledgeis the cloth, but wisdom is the garment. Knowledge is the timber, but wisdom has built her house. May all our knowledge besanctified by Grace and attended with the guidance of the Spirit that we may become wise to know what the will of the Lordis. "All wisdom," says the Apostle-many-handed wisdom, wisdom of all sorts, wisdom that will serve you in the shop, wisdomthat will be useful in the counting-house, wisdom that will aid the Church of God and wisdom that will guide you if you arecast among the vilest of mankind. May you "be filled with knowledge in all wisdom."
But that wisdom which operates on the outside must be attended by a spiritual understanding which is powerful within. I hardlyknow how to explain this-it is an inward knowledge of truth-the knowledge of the inward parts of things. It is a spiritualdiscernment, taste, experience and reception of the Truths of God, whereby the soul feeds upon them and takes them into herself.We know many men who know much but understand nothing. They accept implicitly what they are taught, but they have never consideredit, weighed it, estimated it, found out the roots of it, or seen the heart of it. Oh, to have in the Church men full of spiritualunderstanding! These can say that they have tasted and handled the good Word of Life and have proved and tested the Truthas it is in Jesus! You know how it was with the sacrifices of old-a man who was poor brought turtle-doves or pigeons-and ofthese we read of each bird, "The priest shall cleave it with the wings thereof, but shall not divide it asunder."
But a man who was rich in Israel brought a bullock or a sheep-and this offering was not only cleft down the middle, but furtherdivided-the fat and the "inwards" are mentioned in detail. The poorer sacrifice represents the offering of the uninstructed-theyhave never rightly divided the Word of God and know not its fullness of meaning. But the man who is rich in Grace is comparableto him who brought his bullock, for he can enter into detail and see the secret meanings of the Word. There is a deep, whichlies under, and he that is taught of the Lord shall find it. "The secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He willshow them His Covenant." And blessed are they that are taught of the Lord so as to read the mystery of His Grace! Here, then,is a grand petition for us.
To go back to our first head, let our intercessory prayers go up for all our Brothers and Sisters. Lord, teach them Your Word!Let them know Your Book from cover to cover, and let Your Truths revealed therein enter into them until they are filled tothe brim! Then Lord, grant them the skill to use in daily life the knowledge which Your Spirit has imparted and may they moreand more, in their inmost souls, be guided into all Your Truth, that they may comprehend with all saints what are the heights,and depths, and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge.
III. Now, thirdly, let us see in the text a lesson concerning THE PRACTICAL RESULT OF SPIRITUAL KNOWLEDGE. Paul prays forhis friends "that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will in all wisdom and spiritual understanding; that you mightwalk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing." See, see the drift of his prayer?-"That you may walk." Not that you might talk;not that you might sit down and meditate and enjoy yourselves, but, "that you might walk." He aims at practical results! Hedesires that the saints may be instructed so that they may walk according to the best model. By walking worthy of the LordJesus, we do not understand in any sense that he expected them to possess such worthiness as to deserve to walk with the Lord-buthe would have them live in a manner that should be in accordance with their communion with Christ.
You would not have a man walk with Christ through the streets, today, clothed in motley garments, or loathsome with filth-wouldyou? No, if a man is a leper, Christ will heal him before He will walk with him! Let not a disciple walk
so as to bring disgrace upon his Lord! When you walk with a king, you should be, yourself, royal in gait. When you communewith a prince, you should not act the clown. Dear Friends, may you know so much of Jesus that your lives shall become Christ-like,fit to be put side by side with the Character of Jesus, worthy of your perfect Lord! This is a high standard, is it not? Itis always better to have a high standard than a low one, for you will never go beyond that which you set up as your model.If you set a low standard, you will fall below even that! It is an old proverb, "He that aims at the moon will shoot higherthan he that aims at a bush." It is well to have no lower standard than the desire to live, over again, the life of the LordJesus-a life of tenderness, a life of self-sacrifice, a life of generosity, a life of love, a life of honesty, a life of holyservice-a life of close communion with God. Mix all virtues in due proportion and that is the life of Jesus towards whichyou must press forward with all your heart.
Next, the Apostle would have us get knowledge in order that we may so live as to be pleasing to our best Friend- "worthy ofthe Lord unto all pleasing." Is not that beautiful? To live so as to please God in all respects! Some live to please themselves,while others to please their neighbors. Some live to please their wives; some to please their children, and some live as ifthey wished to please the devil! But our business is to please Him in all things whose servants we are. Without faith it isimpossible to please Him-so away with unbelief! Without holiness no man shall see Him, much less please Him-therefore letus follow after holiness and may the Lord work it in us! "Unto all pleasing"-so that we may please God from the moment werise in the morning to the time when we lie down! Yes, and please Him even when we are asleep! That we may eat and drink soas to please Him; that we may speak and think so as to please Him; that we may go or stay so as to please Him; that we mayrejoice or suffer so as to please Him-"walking worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing."
Oh, blessed is the man whose life is pleasing to God in all respects! The Apostle Paul desires that we may be filled withknowledge to this very end. If I do not know the will of God, how can I do the will of God? At least, how can there be anythingpleasing to God which is ignorantly done without an intent to do His will? I fear that many children of God grieve their heavenlyFather through sins of ignorance-an ignorance in which they ought not to remain a single day! Be it clearly understood thatsins of ignorance are truly sins. They have not about them the venom and the aggravation which are found in sins against theLight and knowledge of God, but they are still sins, for the measure of our duty is not our light, but the Law of God itself.If a man pleads that he follows his conscience, yet this will not excuse his wrongdoing if his conscience is an unenlightenedconscience and he is content to keep it in the dark. You are to obey the will of the Lord-that will is the standard of thesanctuary.
Our conscience is often like a deficient weight and deceives us. It is ours to gather a clear knowledge of the Word of God,that we may prove what is that perfect and acceptable will of God. The law makes no allowance for errors committed throughfalse weights. When a man says, "I thought my weights and measures were all right," he is not, therefore, excused. The lawdeals with facts, not with men's imaginations! The weights must actually be correct, or the penalty is exacted. So is it withconscience-it ought to be instructed in the knowledge of the Divine will-and if it is not, its faultiness affords no justificationfor evil. Hence the absolute necessity of knowledge in order to true holiness. God grant us Grace to know His will and thento obey it "unto all pleasing."
Look at the text again-"That you might walk worthy of the Lord unto all pleasing, being fruitful." Paul would have us producingthe best fruit. Without knowledge, we cannot be fruitful-at least in the points where we are ignorant we must fail to bringforth fruit. Therefore he would have us to be taught well, that we may abundantly produce fruit unto God's Glory. He says,"fruitful in every good work," and this means much. He desires us to be as full of good works as we can be. Some are hinderedin this because they do not know how to set about holy service. How can a man be fruitful as a preacher if he does not knowwhat to preach? True, he may preach the elementary doctrine of the Cross, but even that he will be apt to set forth in a blunderingmanner. For certain, a man cannot teach what he does not know. The zealous, but untaught man, would be much more fruitfulif he had a clearer understanding of Divine things.
In daily life, if in knowledge you are ignorant as to the things of God, you will be ready to become the prey of any falseteacher who may chance to pick you up. In hundreds of ways, ignorance will make you run risks, lose opportunities of usefulnessand fall into dangerous mistakes. Knowledge is food to the true heart and strengthens it for the Lord's work. Oh, to haveknowledge placed like good soil around the roots of the soul, to fertilize the mind that thus the clus-
ters of usefulness may be as large as those of Eschol-beautiful, plentiful, sweet and full. May our Lord, the King of Israel,to whom the vineyard belongs, receive an abundant reward for all His labor for the vines which He has planted!
There is another note in this verse, which I beg you to notice. Paul would have them cultivate a comprehensive variety ofthe best things. He says-"Fruitful in every good work." Here is room and range enough-"in every good work." Have you the abilityto preach the Gospel? Preach it! Does a little child need comforting? Comfort it! Can you stand up and vindicate a gloriousTruth of God before thousands? Do it! Does a poor saint need a bit of dinner from your table? Send it to her! Let works ofobedience, testimony, zeal, charity, piety and philanthropy all be found in your life. Do not select only big things as yourspecialty, but also glorify the Lord in the littles-"fruitful in every good work." You never saw in nature a tree which yieldedall sorts of fruit and you never will.
I have seen a tree so grafted that it produced four kinds of fruit at one time, but I remarked that it was a poor businessin reference to two of the varieties, for one of the grafts, more natural than the others to the parent stem, drew off mostof the sap and flourished well, but robbed the other branches! The second sort of fruit managed to live pretty fairly, butnot so well as it would have done on its own stem. As for the third and fourth, they were mere attempts at fruit of the smallestsize. This tree was shown to me as a great curiosity-it is not likely that practical gardeners will be encouraged by the experiment!But what would you think of a tree upon which you saw grapes, figs, olives, apples and all other good fruits growing at onetime? This is the type of what instructed Believers will become-they will produce all sorts of goodness and graciousness tothe honor of their heavenly Father!
I have no doubt that you will naturally abound most in certain good works for which you have the largest capacity, but still,nothing ought to come amiss to you. In the great house of the Church we need servants who will not be simply cooks or housemaids,but general servants, maids of all work, prepared to do anything and everything! I have known persons in household employmentin England who would not do a turn beyond their special work to save their masters' lives! These are a sort of servants ofwhom the fewer the better! In India this is carried out to a ridiculous extreme. The Hindu water-bearer will not sweep thehouse, nor light a fire, nor brush your clothes-he will fetch water and nothing else! You must, therefore, have a servantfor each separate thing, and then each man will do his own little bit-he will not go an inch beyond!
When we enter into Christ's Church, we should come prepared to wash the saints' feet, or bear their burdens, or bind up theirwounds, or fight their foes, or act as steward, or shepherd, or nurse. It has been well said that if two angels in Heavenwere summoned to serve the Lord and there were two works to be done, an empire to be ruled, or a crossing to be swept, neitherangel would have a choice as to which should be appointed to him, but would gladly abide the will of the Lord. Let us be equallyprepared for anything, for everything by which fruit can be produced for the Well-Beloved. Why is it that some are not fruitfulin this comprehensive way? Because they are not filled with knowledge in all wisdom! When a man says, "You asked me to dothe lowest work! Don't you know that I am a man of remarkable ability who should have higher work to do?" I venture to assertthat he is an ignorant man! Self-assertion is ignorance on horseback!
You have probably rand of a certain renowned corporal in the American service a century ago. A general, as he rode along,saw a body of men endeavoring to lift timber. They were shorthanded and the work lagged, but their famous corporal stood byordering them about at a magnificent rate. The general passed and said, "Why don't you lend them help and put your shoulderto it? "Why, Sir," said the great little officer, "how can you think of such a thing? Do you know who I am? I am a corporal!"The general got off his horse, took off his coat, and helped move the timber-and by his judicious help the soldiers achievedtheir task. Then he turned to the high and mighty gentleman and said, "Mr. Corporal, next time you need a man to do such workas this, you can send for me-I am General Washington."
Just so the Lord Jesus Christ, if He were here, would gladly do a thousand things which His poor little servants are too greatto touch! I know you, dear Brother-you are too experienced, too old, too learned to help in the Sunday school! I know youare too respectable to give away a tract! Pray get out of such ignorant ways of thinking and ask to be useful in all possibleways! If you have done a little, do much! If you have done much, do more! And when you have done more, ask for Grace to proceedto the highest possible degree of usefulness for your Lord.
IV. And now, fourthly, notice THE REFLEX ACTION OF HOLINESS UPON KNOWLEDGE. We have only a few moments left-let my few wordssink into your hearts. "Fruitful in every good work"-what then? "Increasing in the knowledge of God." Look at that! It seems,then, that holiness is the road to knowledge! God has made it so. If any man
will do His will, he shall know of His doctrine. If you read and study, and cannot make out the meaning of Scripture, getup and do something-and it may be, in the doing of it, you shall discover the secret. Holiness of heart shall increase theillumination of your mind!
Will you kindly observe that this knowledge rises in tone? Paul first prayed that they "might be filled with the knowledgeof God's will." But now he implores for them an increase in the knowledge of God, Himself! Oh, blessed growth! First to knowthe Law and then to know the Lawgiver! First to know the precept, and then to know the mouth from which it comes! This isthe height of knowledge-to see Christ and know the Father, and learn how to say from the heart-"Truly our fellowship is withthe Father and with His Son, Jesus Christ." I would call your willing attention to another thought. The Apostle, if he isto be judged according to his outward language, often utters impossible things, and yet his every sentence is not only fullof deep meaning, but is strictly correct!
Notice his language here-in the 9th verse he says, "that you might be filled with the knowledge of His will." Can anythinggo beyond this? The vessel is filled right up to the brim! What more can it have? Yet the Apostle says, "increasing in theknowledge of God." What can that mean? If the mind is full to the brim, how can it receive more? If the man is full of knowledge,how can his knowledge increase? Can there be any increase after that? I propose to you the riddle. Here is the answer-makethe vessel larger-and then there can be an increase. This solution of the difficulty requires no great wit to discover. SoPaul plainly teaches us here, that if we have so increased in knowledge as to be full, he would have us increased in capacityto know yet more!
He would have our manhood enlarged and our powers of reception increased so that we might grow from being children to be youngmen-and from young men to be fathers, and so may be filled-filled always! Filled with all the fullness of God! The Lord grantunto us to perceive with humility that if we are already full of knowledge, we can still advance, for we "have not yet attained."Let no man think that he can go no further! "There is," says Augustine, "a certain perfection according to the measure ofthis life. And it belongs to that perfection that such a perfect man should know that he is not yet perfect." To that I heartilysubscribe! There is a certain fullness to be found in this life according to the measure of a man. And it belongs to thatfullness that the man should know that he can yet increase in knowledge!
Holy Bernard says, "He is not good at all who does not desire to be better." I also subscribe to that saying! Some might becomegood if they were not puffed up with the fancy of their own perfection. Others are somewhat commendable, but will never growbecause they judge themselves to be already full-grown. I would have you filled and yet have room for more-filled with allknowledge, filled with all holiness, filled with the indwelling Spirit, filled with God- and yet increasing in knowledge,in holiness, in likeness to God and in all good things forevermore to His Glory! The Lord add His blessing for Jesus' sake.Amen.