Sermon 1751. Fathers In Christ
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, NOVEMBER 18, 1883,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I write unto you, fathers, because you have known Him that is from the beginning. Ihave written unto you, fathers, becauseyou ha ve kno wn Him that is from the beginning." 1 John 2:13,14.
OBSERVE the difference in the two verses-John first says, "I write," and then, "I have written." When in two former discoursesI preached upon the beloved Apostle's address to the young men and the children, [Sermon #1711-A Sermon to the Lord's LittleChildrei and Sermon #1715-A Description of Young Men in Christ] I gave you as full an interpretation of this difference asI could command-and I need not, now, repeat it. Certain additional thoughts occur to me, which I will give you, that the mattermay be still clearer. The Apostle John says, "I write," and, by-and-by, "I have written." This shows, I think, the importanceof his subject. If he has already written upon it, he must think it to be a very necessary and valuable Truth of God if hewrites upon it yet again.
A man does not discourse repeatedly upon the same subject if he is a man full of matter, as this Inspired writer was, unlesshe feels that it is necessary that he returns, again and again, to his subject until he has impressed it upon the minds ofhis audience. Hence the Apostle is not ashamed to say, in effect-"I write this, though you need not remind me that I havewritten it before, for I feel it to be wise, so long as I am in this tabernacle, to put you in remembrance of what I havesaid unto you." Nails which are important to a structure must be driven in with diligence. Foundation stones should be laidwith scrupulous care and Truths of God which are fundamental, should be repeated by the teacher till the disciple has learnedit beyond all fear of ever forgetting it.
This form of speech also reveals the unchanging conviction of the writer, who, having written once, is glad to write the samethings again. This shows a mind made up and decided, from which proceeds consistent testimony. In these fickle times, certainof our public teachers must feel unable to say of any one subject, "I write," and, "I have written," for before the ink isdry they have need to blot out what they have put on paper and to write an amended version of their religious ideas! Scarcelyfor a month at a stretch do these loose thinkers abide in one place-they are such wandering stars that no chart could evermark their position for three weeks together!
They might say, "I write, but bless you, dear people, I do not know what I wrote six months ago. Very probably my former opinionis not, now, true, for all things are flowing on and my head is swimming with the rest. I am a man of progress-forever learningand never coming to the knowledge of the Truth of God! Blot out what I wrote a year ago and read with care what I write today."To which we reply-"Dear Sir, we cannot take much notice of what you write now, because, in all probability, in another weekor two you will retract it all, or improve it from off the face of the earth! Neither shall we pay much attention to you,then, for you will probably be on the move as soon as ever you have said your say. We decline to learn what we shall haveto unlearn! We will wait in our present knowledge until you have reached something certain for yourself. Perhaps in 20 years'time, when you have pitched your gypsy tent, it may be worth our while to hear where it is, but we do not commit ourselveseven to that promise-for as the progress you are now making is into deeper darkness, you will probably end in sevenfold night."
I rejoice, dear Friends, in the solidness of the Christian's faith! I know nothing of improvements and growths in the Gospelof the Lord Jesus, which is summed up in these words, "Jesus Christ the same yesterday, and today, and forever." I believethat God the Holy Spirit has given us, in the Scriptures, a perfect and entire Revelation which is to be received by all Christianswithout addition or diminution. I do not believe that Apostles, martyrs, confessors and teachers have been living for these1,900 years upon lies-I prefer the faith of saints in Glory to the daydreams of those whippersnap-pers who nowadays claimto lead us by their "thought." Our mind is that of David when he said, "I hate vain thoughts."
Well says the Scripture, "The Lord knows the thoughts of man, that they are vanity." If it is a question of thinking, we canthink as well as they can-then our thoughts about the modern theology are full of sorrowful contempt.
Perhaps the doctrine is new, though even this we doubt! But if it is new, it is not true, for the Truth of God must necessarilybe as old as the everlasting hills! We observe that the word, "meditation," is now seldom used and, "thought," is the modernidol. Just so. We meditate on revealed Truths of God-this notion of "thought" sets aside the Truths of God and sets up merefancy. We refuse to be of this vagrant party of thinkers! We are of the settled race of Believers. We can say what we havewritten, we still write. What we have preached, we still preach, for inasmuch as we have preached that which is revealed inHoly Scripture, to that Truth we stand and shall stand, God helping us. If we live a thousand years, at the close of lifewe shall have nothing more nor less to say than the fixed, Immutable, eternal Truth of God. We hope to understand the Truthbetter, but we shall never discover better Truth!
"I write," and, "I have written," also indicate the abiding need of men-they require the same teaching from time to time.I suppose that John alludes to his Gospel when he says, "I have written," and now, a little later, he writes his Epistle andsays, "I write"-giving, in each case, the same teaching. Men's natures are still the same; men's spiritual conflicts and dangersare still the same and, therefore, the same Truth of God is suitable, not only from day to day, but from century to century!There is but one food for soul hunger and but one help in spiritual danger. The true teacher always comes to men with thesame Truths because men continue to have the same dangers, necessities, sorrows and hopes.
The fathers who needed that John should previously write to them, still needed that he should write to them the same thing.Though they may have grown more fatherly, they have not outgrown Apostolic teaching. The former Truth is good for our latterdays. Many years ago, when some of us were mere boys, we listened to the Gospel of Jesus and our heart leaped as we embracedit. It was the life and joy of our spirit and now, today, after having advanced far in the Divine Life, if we hear one ofthose simple sermons that first brought us to Christ concerning the precious blood of Jesus and child-like faith in Him, itsuits us quite as well as in those early days!
I have noticed with regard to well-grown Christian people, that when I have given a purely evangelical discourse, meant onlyfor sinners and not at all designed for the edifying and comforting of full-aged saints, they have sucked it in with as muchdelight as if they were, themselves, newly converted! After all, though you and I are not now fed upon milk, yet a drink ofmilk is still most refreshing! Though we can now digest the solid meat of the Kingdom of God, yet the children's bread haslost none of its relish in our esteem. The Truths of God are still sweet to our hearts, yes, sweeter than they ever were!Though we have advanced to the higher courses of the edifice of holy knowledge, yet we never cease to look with intense delightupon those foundation Truths of God which concern our Lord Jesus. We cleave with full purpose of heart to Him of whom theLord God has said, "Behold, I lay in Zion for a foundation a stone, a tried stone, a precious cornerstone, a sure foundation."Jesus remains to us, "elect, precious," and we know it will be so with us till life's last hour.
From this text I am to preach principally to the fathers, but as the Church has not many fathers, I may be supposed to havea slender audience! But this is hardly so, since I hope and trust that the area of the sermon's influence will include youngmen, for you, my Brothers, aspire to reach the front rank and to be numbered among the fathers. Even to you who are littlechildren, the text has its word of instruction, for you will be glad to hear what the fathers know, since you hope, beforelong, to know the same. The life of God is so much the same in all stages that the Word which is profitable to fathers hasa use for babies-and that which is spoken to little children has a voice in it for young men. May God the Holy Spirit blessthis Word of God to the hearts of all His people!
Concerning the fathers, I am going to inquire three things this morning. First, who are they?-"You fathers." Secondly, whatis their peculiar characteristic?-"You have known Him that is from the beginning." And, thirdly, what is the message to them?-"Ihave written unto you, fathers." What is it that John has written to fathers in the Church of
I. First, WHO ARE THE FATHERS? We usually associate that idea somewhat with age, but we must take care that we do not makea mistake here, because age, in Grace, albeit that it may run parallel with age in nature in many cases, does not always doso. In the Church of God there are children who are 70 years old. Yes, little children displaying all the infirmities of decliningyears! It is not a pleasant sight to see gray-headed babies, yet I must confess I have seen such and I have even been gladthat I could dare to go the length of hoping that they were babies in Christ! One would not like
to say of a man of 80 that he had scarcely cut his wisdom teeth-and yet there are such-scarcely out of the nurse's arms at60 years of age, needing just as much care and comfort as sucklings at the breast!
On the other hand, there are fathers in the Church of God-wise, stable, instructed-who are comparatively young men. The Lordcan cause His people to grow rapidly and far outstrip their years. David, as a lad, was more of a father in God than Eli inhis old age. Growth in Grace is not a time growth. In eternal matters, years count for little. The Lord gives subtlety tothe simple and to the young men knowledge and discretion. Solomon was wise while yet young-in some respects wiser than whenhe was old. Some youths have been like Joseph-men with God before they were men among men. Joseph, we are told in our translation,was more loved by Jacob than any of his brothers, "because he was the son of his old age." This can hardly be a correct rendering,for Benjamin, who was born 16 years later, was far more entitled to be called so.
Another interpretation, which seems to me more correct, signifies that he was a son of the elders and implies that while hewas a child, he was an associate of elderly persons and was, himself, so thoughtful, serious and well-instructed as to bean elderly child, a child-man, full of unusual wisdom and prudence. Josephs are still sent into the Church, now and then,and the Lord greatly blesses His people by their means. Oh, for more of them! From their early youth they have a discernmentof God's Word and a quickness of apprehension wonderful to notice. More than that, I have even observed a depth of experiencewithin a very short time granted to certain young Believers, so that though they were but youths in age, they were fathersin piety.
Nevertheless, as a usual thing, it is to be expected that advancement in Grace should be accompanied with advancement in years.And it is so often so that we are known to call those who are fit to look after the souls of others ,"the elders of the Church,"not necessarily because they are old men, but because they are instructed in the things of God. These are the fathers, then-menwho have aged in Grace, have come to the full development of their spiritual manhood-and have been confirmed in that developmentby the test of time and trials. Believers, when they have, in the course of years, shown themselves able both to labor andto suffer, are fitly ranked among fathers.
Why do we call the early writers the fathers of the Church? Not, I think, because we owe more to their teaching than to thoseof a later period, but because they were the first men, the pioneers, the vanguard-and so the fathers of the Church. The firstand earliest members of a Church will become fathers, in due time, if they continue in the faith, grounded and settled. Theiryears of persevering holiness entitle them to respect. Paul mentions with honor, certain persons, saying, "Who also were inChrist before me." There is an honor in having been a soldier of Christ for a long time. It was no small praise of His discipleswhen Jesus said of them, "You have been with Me from the beginning."
With the idea of fathers, we so far associate that of age that we hope and expect that Believers who have been in Christ,long, have well learned their lesson and have come to a fullness of growth in the things of God. Judge, Christian Brothers,whether you can rank yourselves among the fathers. And if you are not able to do so, yet press onward towards it. I boldlysay that in this Church there is a larger proportion of this class of Christians than I have ever seen elsewhere, and forthis I thank God with all my heart, for they are of the utmost service to our host.
"Fathers," again, are persons of maturity, men who are not raw and green-not fresh recruits, unaccustomed to march or fight-butold legionaries who have used their swords on others and are, themselves, scarred with wounds received in conflict. Thesemen know what they know, for they have thought over the Gospel, studied it, considered it and, having so considered it, haveembraced it with full intensity of conviction! Usually we mean by, "fathers," men who have become developed in Grace, maturein character, decided in conviction, clear in statement and accurate in judgment. These can discern between things that differand are not deceived by the philosophies which allure the ignorant. They know the voice of the Shepherd-and a stranger theywill not follow.
The younger folk may be bewitched so that they do not obey the Truth of God, but these are not fascinated by error. New converts,in their difficulties, resort to these fathers, for doubts which bewilder the beginner are simplicity itself to those whoare taught of the Lord. These are the watchmen on the walls who detect where insidious doubt is creeping in, where deadlyerror under the guise of the Truth of God is undermining the faith of the Church-to that end the Lord has instructed themand given them to have their senses exercised to discern between good and evil. Among them are men who have understandingof the times, to know what Israel ought to do. If you are such fathers, dear Brothers, I rejoice in
you! If you are not such as yet, aspire to this eminence and pray the Lord that you may not be long before you arrive at theripeness and sweetness which belong to mellow Christians who are prepared for the great ingathering!
"Fathers," again, are men of stability and strength. If burglars are planning to attack a house, they care little about thechildren and make small account of the boys. But if fatherly men are about, the thieves are not eager for an encounter. Eventhus, the arch-deceiver has hope of injuring the Church by deceiving the little children and the young men, but the stalwartmen of God, who walk in the midst of the household, looked up to by everybody, are not so readily blown to and fro. As theSpartans pointed to their citizens as the real walls of Sparta, so do we point to these substantial men as, under God, thebronze walls and bulwarks of the Church!
Men who are well taught, confirmed, experienced and trained by the Spirit of God are pillars in the house of our God. It maybe said of each of them, "He keeps himself so that the Evil One touches him not." These are men who know how to wear the armorwhich God has provided and to use the sword of the Spirit, which is the Word of God. These are men of strong faith and convictions;men of decision and courage; men of prudent action, in no hurry through fear and under no excitement through false hope. Theseare not men that retract, or shuffle, or evade-but witnesses who are faithful and true-imparting confidence to the feeblersort by their calm defiance of the foe. Oh, that all Christians would grow into such solid saints!
Many light, frothy, chaffy minds come into the Church and give us untold trouble to keep them right-and infinitely more troublebecause they will not be kept right! Oh, for more men of such a sort that if the whole world went wrong they would still abideby the right! Men who cannot be carried away by superstition let it adorn itself with all the beauties of art! Men who cannotbe borne down by skepticism-let it flaunt all the pomp of its pretended culture and wisdom! These fathers know and are sure.They have learned to be, on their own accounts, determined and unyielding, for they will not stir beyond, "It is written,"nor tempt eternal ruin by building upon the shifting quicksand of the hour!
At this moment there is large need for an army of invincibles. Be you steadfast, unmovable, always abounding in the work ofthe Lord. But there is something more than this in Christian fatherhood. The fathers of the Church are men of heart who naturallycare for the souls of others. It is upon the father that the weight of the household falls-he goes forth in the morning tohis daily labor and he returns at night with the fruit of his toil for the support of the household. It is not for himselfthat he lives, but for that dear family which is gathered about him. He is not wholly comprised within his own personal self,for he lives in all the house-he lives especially in his children. Their suffering or their need would be his suffering andhis need.
His heart has grown larger than when he was a child or a young man, for now his heart beats in all that household of whichhe is the life. It is a grand thing when Christian men and Christian women come to this, that they are not perpetually thinkingof their own salvation and of their own souls being fed under the ministry, but they care most of all for those who are weakand feeble in the Church! During a service, their thoughts go out for those assembled. They are anxious as to how that strangermay be impressed by the sermon; how yonder anxious spirit may be comforted; how a backsliding Brother may be restored; howone who is growing somewhat cold may be revived. This paternal care betokens a true father in the Church! May the Lord multiplyamong us those who feel it to be their lifework to feed the flock of Christ.
Having this care upon him, the father comes to be tender. He partakes somewhat of the tenderness of a mother and thus is calleda nursing father. A true father, such as fathers should be, has a tender love for all the little ones. He would not hurt them.Nothing would be more painful to him than to grieve them-on the contrary, he studies to give them pleasure and lays himselfout for their good. It is a great blessing to the Church, when the leading spirits are loving-not rough and uncouth, domineeringor hectoring, but gentle and Christ-like! Oh, my Brothers who take the lead, let us bear and forbear, and put up with a thousandtrying things from our Master's children whom He has committed to our care! Let us make ourselves the servants of all! Isnot the father the laborer for the children? Does he not lay up for them? Is not his superiority best seen by his doing morefor the family than anybody else?
This is how Christians grow great, by making themselves greatly useful to others! If you are the slave of all, willing todo anything so that you can but help them and make them happy and holy-this is to be a father in the Church of God! Sympatheticcare and hearty tenderness are gifts of the Holy Spirit and will bring you a happiness which will richly compensate you foryour pains. Not yet have I quite reached the full meaning of a father, for the father is the author, un-
der God, of the being of his children-and happy is a Church that has many in it who are spiritual parents in Zion, throughhaving brought sinners to Christ! Happy are the men by whose words, acts, spirit, prayers and tears, some have been begottenunto God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
What an honor it is to be such a father! Some of us have been filled with this joy till it has well-near broken our heartseven to think of it, for the Lord has fulfilled to us the promise which He made to Abraham when He bade him lift up his eyesto the stars and said, "So shall your seed be." This cannot fall to the lot of all, but in the Church of God every man andwoman should pray that he may not be barren or unfruitful. May we all be soul-winners! Not the minister alone-not the Sundayschool teachers alone-but each one without exception! Why should not each saint bring someone to the Lord Jesus? At least,by our united prayers and godly living, by our united testimony and fidelity, let us labor for the increase of Messiah's kingdom!I hardly think we can put anyone among the fathers until he has won some heart for Jesus.
Thus have I described the fathers. They are never very numerous-they are never so numerous as they ought to be. Paul says,"Yet have you not many fathers." But wherever they are, they are the strength of the Church. I have seen in the army a numberof veterans marching in front-an ornament and an honor to the whole company. Your short-service men come and go, but thesetried men stick to the colors and are the backbone of the regiment. If a tough bit of fighting has to be done, you must relyupon such as these. Like Napoleon's Old Guard, they cannot be shaken or driven back- the smell of gunpowder does not alarmthem, nor the whistling of the shot, nor the roar of the artillery-they have seen such things before. They can also bide theirtime and wait, which is a great thing in a soldier. And when at last they are bid to charge, they leap like lions on theirprey and the enemy is driven before them.
Such men we have in the Church of God and such we need-men that are not flattered by opposition, nor made to lose their headsby excitement. They believe in God and if others doubt, they are not infected by their folly. They know! They are certain!They have put their feet down and will not move from their persuasion. When the time comes for action, they are ready forit and throw their whole weight so heartily into the war that every charge advances! God send us more regiments of these inthis evil day and preserve to us such as we have!
II. Secondly. WHAT IS THE PROMINENT CHARACTERISTIC OF A FATHER IN CHRIST? Read the text. "I
write unto you, fathers, because you have known Him that is from the beginning." He repeats the expression without alteration.Observe, here, the concentration of their knowledge. Twice he says "You have known Him that is from the beginning." Now, ababe in Grace knows 20 things-a young man in Christ knows 10 things-but a father in Christ knows one thing and that one thinghe knows thoroughly! It is very natural for us, at first, to divide our little stream into many rivulets, but as we grow grayin Grace, we pour it all into one channel-and then it runs with a force efficient for our lifework. I trust I know many doctrines,many precepts and many teachings-but more and more my knowledge gathers about my Lord even as the bees swarm around theirqueen!
May it come to this with us all-"I determined not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." May allour knowledge be focused as with a burning glass upon this one point! May the adorable Person of Him that was from the beginningfill the entire horizon of our thought! Oh, to have one heart, one eye, for our one Lord and for Him alone! Note, next, thepeculiarity of their knowledge as to its objective-they know "Him that was from the beginning." Do not the babes in Christknow the Lord Jesus? Yes, they do, but they do not know Him in His full Character. They know Him as having forgiven theirsins, and that is much, but it is not all. Yonder is the blessed Christ and I, a poor sinner, look to Him just as He comesto me-and I am lightened and become one of His little children.
Yes, and as I grow and become a young man, I approach nearer to Jesus and get another view of Him, for I overcome the WickedOne even as He did! And thus I stand side by side with Him in the conflict. But if I come to be a father, I enter into fellowshipwith the great Father, Himself, for it is union with God the Father that makes a man a father in God! Then do we, as it were,not only look toward Jesus as coming to save, but we look on Christ from the Father's point of view. The sinner sees Jesuscoming to him, but the Father sees Jesus as sent from Him. When we grow in Grace we, in our measure, see Jesus from God'spoint of view-that is to say, we see Him as "Him that was from the beginning," and in due time was manifested to take awaysin.
"These are ancient things," says one. Just so, but fathers are also ancient men-and the deep things of God are suitable tothem. Believers see Christ in a fashion similar to their own. I scarcely need allude to that which I have often men-
tioned to you, that every man in the Old Testament who saw the Lord saw Him in a character like his own. Abraham, the pilgrim,saw Christ as a pilgrim. Jacob, the struggler, saw the Covenant Angel wrestling with him through the night. Moses, the representativeof a people tried as by fire and yet continuing, saw the Lord as a burning bush. Joshua, the valiant warrior, saw the Captainof the Lord's host as a man with a sword drawn in His hand. The three holy children saw the Son of God in the fiery furnace,even as they were, themselves. When you become a father in Christ, you see Christ from the Father's point of view-not as newlycome to save-but as, "from the beginning" the Savior of men!
The father in Grace rejoices to behold the Lord Jesus as God. He beholds the glory of His adorable Person as forever withthe Father before the earth was. He knows that without Him was not anything made that was made and, therefore, beholds Himas fashioning everything upon the anvil of His power. He knows that "His goings forth were of old, from everlasting," andhe delights to see Him planning the salvation of His chosen in the beginning. A glorious sight it is! The grown Believer meditatesupon the Covenant-the settlements of Grace in the old eternity. Poor babes in Christ are frequently stumbled by the mysteriousTruths of God-high doctrine they call it. But when a man grows to be a father, he loves Covenant Truth and feeds on it.
It is one mark of advanced Grace that the sublime Truths which concern eternity are increasingly valued. In gracious maturitythe Christian sees the blessed Persons of the Divine Trinity entering into a compact for the salvation of men. And he seesthe Son of God, Himself, from the beginning acting as the Representative of His elect and taking upon Himself to answer ontheir behalf to the Father. He sees the Eternal Son then and there becoming the Sponsor and the Surety for His chosen, engagingto pay their debt and make recompense to the injured Justice of God on account of their sins. He sees that Covenant even fromof old ordered in all things and sure in the hands of Him that was from the beginning!
There is one point that the father in Christ delights to think upon, namely, that the coming of Christ into the world wasnot an expedient adopted after an unavoidable and unforeseen disaster in order to retrieve the honor of God! He understandsthat the whole scheme of events was planned in the purpose of Divine Wisdom for the glorifying of Christ, so that from thebeginning it was part of Jehovah's plan that Jesus should take upon Himself human nature and should manifest, in that Nature,all the attributes of the Father! It was the original plan that the Incarnate God should reveal infinite Grace and boundlesslove by laying down His life for sinners, "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to
The Only-begotten Son is not introduced into the Divine economy as an afterthought-the whole arrangement is shaped with aneye to Him who was before all things and for whom all things were created. It pleased the Father that He should lift up creationby uniting the creature and the Creator in one Person and that He should ennoble our nature, which is a combination of thespiritual and the material, by assuming a body and bearing that body to the Throne of God. O matchless plan, by which theredeemed are ennobled and God, Himself, is glorified! Oh, fathers, if you have ever seen this, I know that you will say, "Thepreacher does not describe the half of it!" No, I do not-I wish that I could- but neither time nor ability are present withme. Still, I delight in the everlasting glories of the Lord Jesus who was from the beginning.
Greatly dear to my own heart are the "chief things of the ancient mountains, and for the precious things of the lasting hills."I believe in my Lord Jesus Christ as second to none, but as the King and Lord from the beginning, who, though He was despisedand rejected of men, yet still is God over all, blessed forever, and will be so forever and ever! Though "the heathen rageand the people imagine a vain thing," Jehovah has set His Son as King upon His holy hill of Zion-and God's decree shall stand!He that is Alpha shall be Omega-He that is from the beginning shall be to the end, King of kings and Lord of lords! My heartcries, "Hallelujah!" Oh, you fathers, cry "Hallelujah" with me!
Yes, but I need to notice, again, that this knowledge is, in itself, special. The knowledge, itself, is remarkable as wellas the Object of the knowledge. "You have known Him." A dear servant of Christ on this platform, the other evening, sat besideme. He belonged to quite another part of the Church of Christ, but he said to me, of such-and-such a person, "You know, dearBrother, he is one that knows the Lord. He is not merely a Christian, but he knows our Lord-you and I know what that means,do we not?" I could only look at him with a deep look of loving appreciation. Yes, we do know the Lord as a living, brightreality! A daily Friend, Counselor and Companion.
True fathers in Grace meditate upon Christ. They feed upon Scripture, press the juice of it and inwardly enjoy the flavorof it. People say they have a sweet tooth. It is a good thing to have a sweet tooth for the Lord Jesus Christ! They
not only know the Lord by much meditation upon Him, but they know Him by actual communion-they walk with Him, they talk withHim! Such saints are more with Christ than with anyone else-to no one do they tell so much as they have told Him-and no onehas ever told them as much as Jesus tells them, for "the secret of the Lord is with them that fear Him; and He will show themHis Covenant." Ask them, "Who is your dearest friend?" and they will reply, "The Well-Beloved is my next of kin, my dearestcompanion."
They know the Lord by communion and they have come to know Him, now, by having an intense sympathy with Him. They feel asJesus does about matters and so they know Him. His tender pity for sinners stirs their hearts, not in the same degree, butyet in like manner according to their measure. They often feel as if they could die for sinners. One of these fathers said,"I could wish myself accursed from Christ, for my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh." They look upon matters notfrom man's standpoint, but from Christ's point of view and, therefore, they understand much of the Lord's ways which, before,were dark to them. He who very deeply sympathizes with a man knows him well.
Learning by faith to sit still and believingly wait on the event, these fathers calmly expect that all things will work togetherfor good to them and, therefore, they understand the unbroken serenity of the heart of Jesus and know Him in His joys as wellas in His sorrows. Such saints know what it is to weep over the city with Jesus and to rejoice over returning sinners withthe Good Shepherd! Yes, they know what it is to sit down with Him on His Throne, waiting till His enemies are made His footstool.They are calm with Jesus, for they have drunk in the meaning of the text, "He must reign." Yes, He must reign! He must reigntill all His enemies shall be under His feet! This knowing Him that is from the beginning is the chief characteristic of thefather in Christ.
III. Thirdly, dear Friends, WHAT IS THE MESSAGE TO THE FATHERS? I would indicate that message very
briefly by referring you to the context. John has been saying to you, dear fathers, and indeed to all of us who are in Christ,that we should love one another. If you are truly fathers, you cannot help loving all the family-the fatherly instinct islove-and fathers in Christ should be full to the brim with it. Little ones should be induced, by our loving spirit, to comearound us, feeling that if nobody else loves them, we do; if nobody else cares for them, we do. I have known a father in Christto whom a convert would speak much more readily than he would to his own earthly father or mother. I suppose they see an invitationin the faces of these fathers. I do not quite know how they discover it, but somehow converts feel that such an one is a manwhom they could address, or a woman whom they could talk with.
These fathers and mothers in Israel are full of love and their speech betrays the fact. I know some men who are like greatharbors for ships-a soul tossed with tempest makes for them as for a harbor! Breaking hearts say, "Oh, that I could tell himmy troubles and get his prayers." May you and I be just such persons and may the Holy Spirit use us for the good of our fellows.The next message immediately succeeds the text-"Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world." Oh, dear fathers,you must not love the world, for it passes away-and this is specially true of you! If any Christian man might love the world-andI hope none will do so-certainly the fathers may not! You know so much of Christ that you may well despise the world-and youare so soon going Home so that you ought to set little store by these fleeting things.
You have all the marks of what they call declining years-I call them ascending years-you will soon be gone from the worldand its changing vanities, therefore do not set your love on earthly treasures. Hold wealth with a loose hand! Be ready todepart, for depart you soon will. Before the morning watch, you may be gone to your Father's House on high! "Love not theworld." Another duty of fathers is also mentioned here. While they are not to love the world, they must take care that theydo not fall victims to any of the lusts of this present evil world, such as the lust of the flesh. Can fathers ever fall thatway? Ah me, we have to speak very solemnly and admit that the most advanced saint still needs to be warned against the lustof the flesh, the indulgence of appetites which so readily lead men to sin.
Then there is the lust of the eyes. David fell into that when he repined because of the prosperity of the wicked. He was obligedto confess, "So foolish was I, and ignorant." He looked at the prosperous wicked till he began to fret about them. That lustof the eyes, in desiring more for yourself and envying those that have more-never let it happen to a father! And the prideof life-that thirsting to be thought respectable, that emulation of others, that struggling after honor and such like-thismust not be in a father! You are men and must put away childish things. My dear and honored Brothers, fall not prey to vanities-thesetoys are for the children of the world-not for you who are so near to the
Glory of the Lord! You are grown ripe in Grace and will soon enter Heaven-live accordingly. Let all earthly things be likebabies' baubles beneath your feet while you rise to the manhood of your soul.
The next exhortation to the fathers is that they should watch, for, says the Apostle, "You have heard that antichrist shallcome, even now are there many antichrists." Oh, valiant fathers, keep watch and ward! I marvel that members of Churches agreeto the choice of ministers who are not sound in the faith, no, who do not seem to have any faith at all! Why is this? We usedto have, in our Baptist Churches, substantial men who would as soon have entertained Satan at their own table as an unsoundpreacher in the pulpit! There used to be a company in the north of Scotland called, "The Men." Why, if heresy had been preachedbefore them, they would have been as provoked as Janet Geddes when she threw her milking stool at the head of the preacher!They would not have endured these modern heresies as the present effeminate generation is enduring them! Let the new theologianshave liberty to preach what they like on their own ground, but not in our pulpits!
Alas, the leading members in many Churches are Christians without backbones! I would call them slimy, spongy snails-only theyhave not the consistency of a snail's shell! They are ready to swallow any mortal thing if the preacher seems clever and eloquent.Cleverness and eloquence-away with them forever! If it is not the Truth of God, the more cleverly and eloquently it is preachedthe more damnable it is! We must have the Truth of God and nothing but the Truth of God and I charge the fathers in Christall over England and America to see to this! Get to your watchtower and guard the flock, lest the sheep be destroyed whilethey are asleep!
Lastly, it is the duty of the fathers to prepare for the coming of the Lord. How beautifully it is put in the 28th verse-"Abide in Him; that when He shall appear, we may have confidence, and not be ashamed before Him at His coming." It is addressedto you all, for you are all little children, but it is specially incumbent upon those of you who are fathers. Awaken all yourfaculties! Watch for the coming of the Lord and keep your loins well girded! Jesus may come today- this Lord's Day may bethe last Sabbath of this dispensation! Yet He may not come for 10,000 years for all we know!
Therefore weary not if you wait through a long night. Say not that He delays His coming, for He will return at the day appointed.Only let us hold fast that which we have received and stand waiting for the midnight cry. He will come! He will not tarry-thereforego forth to meet Him-
"Hold the fort, for I am coming, Jesus signals still! Wave the answer back to Hea ven, By Your Grace we will."