Sermon 1776. Unbinding Lazarus
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, APRIL 20, 1884,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And when He had thus spoken, He cried with a loud voice, Lazarus, come forth! And he that was dead came forth, bound handand foot with grave clothes: and his face was bound about with a napkin. Jesus said unto them, Loose him, and let him go."John 11:43,44.
In many things our Lord Jesus stands alone as a worker. No other can unite His voice with the fiat which says, "Lazarus, comeforth!" Yet, in certain points of gracious operation, the Master associates His servants with Him, so that when Lazarus hascome forth He says to them, "loose him, and let him go." In the raising of the dead, He is alone, and therein majestic andDivine-in the loosing of the bound He is associated with them and still remains majestic-but His more prominent feature iscondescension. How exceedingly kind it is of our Lord Jesus to permit His disciples to do some little thing in connectionwith His great deeds, so that they may be, "workers together with Him." Our Lord, as frequently as possible, associated Hisdisciples with Himself. Of course, they could not aid Him in presenting an atoning Sacrifice, yet it was their honor thatthey had said, "Let us go, that we may die with Him," and that in their love they resolved to go with Him to prison and todeath.
Our Lord understood the fickleness of their character, yet He knew that they were sincere in their desire to be associatedwith Him in all His life story, whatever it might be. Therefore, when He, afterwards, rode into Jerusalem in triumph, He,alone, was saluted with Hosannas-but He sent two of His disciples to bring the donkey on which He rode and they cast theirgarments upon the colt. And they set Jesus on it and, as He went, they spread their clothes on the way. Thus they contributedto His lowly pomp and shared in the exultation of the royal day. Further on, when He would keep the feast, He expressly dwellsupon it that He would keep it with them, for He said, "With desire I have desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer."
He sent Peter and John to prepare that Passover. He directed them to the large furnished upper room and there He bade themmake ready. Anything that they could do, they were allowed to do. Their Lord was willing to have led them further, still,but through weakness they stopped short. In the garden He bade them watch with Him on that dreadful night and He sought sympathyfrom them-
"Backward and forward, thrice He ran, As if He sought some help from man." He cried in sorrowful disappointment, "Could younot watch with Me one hour?" Ah, no! They could go to the brink of the abyss with Him, but they could not descend into itsdeeps! He must tread the winepress alone and of the people there must be none with Him. Yet, as far as they could go, He disdainednot their dear society. He allowed them, according to their capacity, to drink of His cup and to be baptized with His baptism.And if their fellowship with Him in His sufferings went no farther, it was not because He warned them back, but because theyhad not the strength to follow.
According to His own judgment they were intimately associated with Him, for He said to them, "You are they which have continuedwith Me in My temptations." Beloved, our Jesus Christ still delights to associate us with Him as far as our feebleness andfolly will permit! In His present work of bringing sinners to Himself, He counts it a part of His reward that we should belaborers together with Him. In His working people He beholds the travail of His soul as well as in the sinners whom they bringto Him. Thus He has a double reward and is as much glorified in the love, pity and zeal of His servants as in the harvestwhich they reap. As a father smiles to see his little children imitating him and endeavoring to assist him in his work, sois Jesus pleased to see our lowly efforts for His honor.
It is His joy to see the eyes which He has opened weeping with Him over the impenitent and to hear the tongue which He hasloosed speaking in prayer and in the preaching of the Gospel-yes, to see any of the members which He has restored and healedoccupied as members of righteousness in His service! Jesus is glad to save sinners at all, but most of all glad to save themby the means of those already saved. Thus He blesses the prodigal sons and the servants of the household at the same moment!He gives to the lost, salvation and upon His own called and chosen ones, He puts the honor of being used for the most grandpurposes under Heaven! It is more honorable to save a soul from death than to rule an empire! Such honor all the saints mayhave.
The chief subject of this morning's discourse is our association with Christ in gracious labor, but we must on the road considerother themes which lead up to it. First, I would call your attention to a memorable miracle which was worked by our Lord inthe burying place at Bethany. Secondly, I would set before you a singular spectacle, for in Lazarus we see a living man wearingthe wrappings of the dead. Thirdly, we will learn something from a timely assistance which the friends around lent to therisen man after the Lord had said, "Loose him, and let him go." And then, by way of conclusion, we will note a practical hintwhich this whole subject gives to those who are willing to hear what Christ, their Lord, will speak to them. Oh, that theSpirit of God may make us quick of understanding to perceive the mind of the Lord-and then diligent of heart to carry outHis will! Come, O blessed Spirit, help Your servant at this hour!
I. First, then, this chapter records A MEMORABLE MIRACLE. Perhaps that writer is correct who speaks of the raising of Lazarusas the most remarkable of all our Lord's mighty works. There is no measuring miracles, for they are all displays of the Infinite,but, in some respects, the raising of Lazarus stands at the head of the wonderful series of miracles with which our Lord astonishedand instructed the people. Yet I am not in error when I assert that it is a type of what the Lord Jesus is constantly doingat this hour in the realm of mind and spirit. Did He raise the naturally dead? So does He still raise the spiritually dead!Did He bring back a body from corruption? So does He still deliver men from loathsome sins! The life-giving miracle of Graceis as truly astounding as the quickening miracle of power.
As this was, in some respects, a more remarkable resurrection than the raising of Jairus' daughter, or of the young man atthe gate of Nain, so there are certain conversions and regenerations which are, to the observing mind, more astonishing thanothers. I notice the magnificence of this miracle in the subject of it because the man had been dead four days. To give lifeto one of whom his own sister said, "Lord, by this time he stinks," was a deed fragrant with Divine Power! Corruption hadset in, but He who is the Resurrection and the Life stayed and reversed the process! Probably the sisters had perceived thetraces of decay upon the body of their beloved brother before they buried him, for it is more than likely that they delayedthe funeral as long as possible under an undefined hope that, perhaps, their Lord would appear upon the scene.
In that warm climate the ravages of decay are extremely rapid and, before many hours, the loving sisters were compelled toadmit, as Abraham had done before them, that they must bury their dead out of their sight. It was their full conviction thatthe terrible devouring of corruption had commenced. What, then, can be done? When a man has newly fallen asleep in death andevery vein and artery is in its place-and every separate organ is still perfect-it might seem possible for the life-flood,again, to flow. It somewhat resembles an engine which was but lately in full action and, though it is now motionless, thevalves, wheel and bands are still there-only kindle anew the fire and reapply the motive force-and the machinery will speedilybegin to work. But when corruption comes, every valve is displaced, every wheel is broken, every band is severed and the verymetal, itself, is eaten away. What can be done then?
Surely it were an easier task to make a new man, altogether, out of the earth than to take this poor corrupted corpse whichhas turned to worms' meat and make it live again! This was the stupendous miracle of Divine Power which our glorious Lordperformed upon His friend, Lazarus. Now, there are some men who are symbolized by this case-they are not only devoid of allspiritual life, but corruption has set in-their character has become abominable, their language is putrid, their spirit isloathsome. The pure mind desires to have them put out of sight! They cannot be endured in any decent society. They are sofar gone from original righteousness as to be an offense to all and it does not seem possible that they should ever be restoredto purity, honesty, or hope.
When the Lord, in infinite compassion, comes to deal with them and makes them to live, then the most skeptical are obligedto confess, "This is the finger of God!" What else can it be? Such a profane wretch become a Believer? Such a blasphemer aman of prayer? Such a proud, conceited talker, receive the kingdom as a little child? Surely God Himself
must have worked this marvel! Now is fulfilled the Word of the Lord by Ezekiel-"And you shall know that I am the Lord, whenI have opened your graves, O My people, and brought you up out of your graves." We bless our God that He does thus quickenthe dry bones whose hope was lost! However far gone a man may be, he cannot be beyond the reach of the Lord's right arm ofmighty mercy! The Lord can change the vilest of the vile into the most holy of the holy! Blessed be His name, we have seenHim do this and, therefore, we have cheering hope for the worst of men!
The next notable point about this miracle is the manifest human weariness of its worker. He who had to deal with this deadman was, Himself, a Man. I do not know of any passage of Scripture wherein the Manhood of Christ is more frequently manifestedthan in this narrative. The Godhead is, of course, eminently conspicuous in the resurrection of Lazarus, but the Lord seemedas if He designedly, at the same time, set His Manhood to the front. The Pharisees said, according to the 47th verse, "Whatdo we? For this Man does many miracles." They are to be blamed for denying His Godhead, but not for dwelling upon His Manhood-forevery part of the singular scene before us made it conspicuous! When our Lord had seen Mary's tears, we read that He groanedin spirit and was troubled. Thus He showed the sorrows and the sympathies of a man. We cannot forget those memorable words,"Jesus wept." Who but a man should weep? Weeping is a human specialty. Jesus never seems to be more completely bone of ourbone and flesh of our flesh than when He weeps!
Next, our Lord made an enquiry-"Where have you laid him?" He veils His Omniscience-as a Man, He seeks in-formation-where isthe body of His dear departed friend? Even as Mary, in later days said about Him, "Tell me where you have laid Him," so doesthe Lord Jesus ask for information as a man who knows not. As if to show His Manhood even more fully, when they tell Him whereLazarus is entombed, He goes that way. He needed not to go! He might have spoken a word where He was and the dead would haverisen! Could He not as easily have worked at a distance as near at hand? Being Man, "Jesus therefore, again groaning in Himself,comes to the grave."
When He has reached the spot, He sees a cave whose mouth is closed by a huge stone. And now He seeks human assistance. Hecries, "Take away the stone." Why surely, He who could raise the dead could have rolled away the stone with the same word!Yet, as if needing help from those about Him, the Man, Christ Jesus, reminds us, again, of Mary at His own sepulcher, saying,"Who shall roll away the stone for us?" That done, our Lord lifts up His eyes to Heaven and addresses the Father in mingledprayer and thanksgiving. How like a man is all this! He takes the suppliant's place! He speaks with God as a man speaks withhis friend, but still as a Man! Did not this condescending revelation of the Manhood make the miracle all the more remarkable?
The time came when the flame of the Godhead flashed forth from the unconsumed bush of the Manhood! The voice of Him who weptwas heard in the chambers of death and forth came the soul of Lazarus to live again in the body! "The weakness of God" proveditself to be stronger than death and mightier than the grave! It is a parable of our own case as workers. Sometimes we seethe human side of the Gospel and wonder whether it can do many mighty works. When we tell the story, we fear that it willappear to the people as a thrice-told tale. We wonder how it can be that Truth so simple, so homely, so common, should haveany special power about it. Yet it is so. Out of the foolishness of preaching the wisdom of God shines forth! The Glory ofthe eternal God is seen in that Gospel which we preach in much trembling and infirmity. Let us, therefore, glory in our infirmity,because the power of God does all the more evidently rest upon us! Let us not despise our day of small things, nor be dismayedbecause we are manifestly so feeble. This work is not for our honor, but for the Glory of God-and any circumstance which tendsto make that Glory more evident is to be rejoiced in!
Let us consider, for a few moments, the instrumental cause of this resurrection. Nothing was used by our Lord but His ownword of power. Jesus cried with a loud voice, "Lazarus, come forth!" He simply repeated the dead man's name and added twocommanding words. This was a simple business enough. Dear Friends, a miracle seems all the greater when the means used areapparently feeble and little adapted to the working of so great a result. It is so in the salvation of men! It is marvelousthat such poor preaching should convert such great sinners. Many are turned unto the Lord by the simplest, plain, most unadornedpreaching of the Gospel. They hear little, but that little is from the lips of Jesus! Many converts find Christ by a singleshort sentence. The Divine Life is borne into their hearts upon the wings of a brief text.
The preacher had no eloquence. He made no attempt at it, but the Holy Spirit spoke through him with a power which eloquencecould not rival! Thus said the Lord, "You dry bones, live," and they did! I delight to preach my Master's Gospel in the plainestterms. I would speak still more simply if I could. I would borrow the language of Daniel concerning Belshazzar's robe of scarletand his chain of gold-and I would say to Rhetoric-"Let your gifts be to yourself
and give your rewards to another." The power to quicken the dead lies not in the wisdom of words but in the Spirit of theliving God! The voice is Christ's voice and the Word is the Word of Him who is the Resurrection and the Life and, therefore,men live by it! Let us rejoice that it is not necessary that you and I should become orators in order that the Lord Jesusshould speak by us-let the Spirit of God rest upon us and we shall be endowed with power from on high so that even the spirituallydead shall, through us, hear the voice of the Son of God-and they that hear shall live!
The result of the Lord's working must not be passed over, for it is a main element of wonder in this miracle. Lazarus didcome forth and that immediately. The thunder of Christ's voice was attended by the lightning of His Divine Power and, forthwith,life flashed into Lazarus and he came forth. Bound as he was, the power which had enabled him to live, enabled him to shuffleforth from the ledge of rock where he lay-and there he stood with nothing of death about him but his grave clothes! He leftthe close air of the sepulcher and returned to know, once more, the things which are done under the sun-and that at once.To me it is one of the great glories of the Gospel that it does not require weeks and months to quicken men and make new creaturesof them! Salvation can come to them at once!
The man who stepped into this Tabernacle this morning, steeped in rebellion against his God and, apparently impervious toDivine Truth, may, nevertheless, go down those steps with his sins forgiven and with a new spirit imparted to him-in the strengthof which he shall begin to live unto God as he never lived before! Do you speak of a nation being born, at once, as if itwere impossible? It is possible with God! The Divine Power can send a flash of life all round the world at any instant toquicken myriads of His chosen! We are dealing, now, with God-not with men! Man must have time to prepare his machinery andget it into working order, but it is not so with the Lord. We, on our part, must seek after a preacher and find, for him,a place where the people may be gathered. But when the Lord Jesus works, straightway the deed is done-with or without thepreacher-and inside or outside the place of assembly!
If you and I had to feed 5,000, we would need to grind the corn at the mill, bake the bread in the oven-and then we wouldbe a long time in bringing the loaves in baskets! But the Master takes the barley cakes and breaks-and as He breaks-the foodis multiplied! Likewise He handles the fish and lo, it seems as if a shoal had been in His hands instead of "a few small fishes."Behold, the vast multitude receives refreshment from the little stock which has been so abundantly increased! Trust in God,my Brothers! In all your work of love, trust in the unseen Power which lay at the back of the manhood of Christ-and stilllies at the back of the simple Gospel which we preach! The everlasting Word of God may seem to be weak and feeble. It maygroan and weep and seem as if it could do no more. But it can raise the dead and raise them at once! You can be sure of this.
The effect which this miracle produced upon those who looked on was very remarkable, for many believed in the Lord Jesus.Besides this, the miracle of raising Lazarus was so unquestioned and unquestionable a fact, that it brought the Phariseesto a point-they would now make an end of Christ. They had huffed and puffed at His former miracles, but this one had strucksuch a blow that in their wrath they determined that He should die! No doubt this miracle was the immediate cause of the Crucifixionof Jesus-it marked a point of decision when men must either believe in Christ or become His deadly foes. Oh, Brothers, ifthe Lord is with us, we shall see multitudes believing through Jesus! And if the rage of the enemy becomes, thereby, the moreintense, let us not fear it-there will come a last decisive struggle and perhaps it shall be brought on by some amazing displayof the Divine Power in the conversion of the chief of sinners! Let us hope so! Let us not be afraid that Armageddon shouldbe fought, for it will end in victory! We shall see greater things than these!
II. Secondly, I beg you to observe A SINGULAR SPECTACLE. A notable miracle was unquestionably worked, but it required a finishingtouch. The man was wholly raised, but not wholly freed! Look, here is a living man in the garments of death! That napkin andother grave clothes were altogether congruous with death, but they were much out of place when Lazarus began to live again!It is a wretched sight to see a living man wearing his shroud. Yet we have seen, in this Tabernacle, hundreds of times, peoplequickened by Divine Grace with their grave clothes still on them! Such was their condition that unless you observed carefully,you would think them still dead. And yet within them the lamp of heavenly Life was burning. Some said, "He is dead, look athis garments." But the more spiritual cried, "He is not dead, but these bands must be loosed." It is a singular spectacle-aliving man hampered with the garments of death!
Moreover, he was a moving man bound hand and foot. How he moved, I do not know. Some of the old writers thought that he glided,as it were, through the air, and that this was part of the miracle. I think he may have been so bound that though he couldnot freely walk, yet he could shuffle along like a man in a sack. I know that I have seen souls
bound and yet moving-moving intensely in one direction-and yet not capable of stirring an inch in another. Have you not seena man so truly alive that he wept, he mourned, he groaned over sin-but yet he could not believe in Christ-but seemed boundhand and foot as to faith? I have seen him determinedly give up his sin and crush a bad habit under his foot-and yet he couldnot lay hold on a promise or receive a hope! Lazarus was free enough in one way, for he came out of the tomb, but the blindingnapkin was about his head and, even so, it is with many a quickened sinner, for when you try to show him some cheering Truthof God, he cannot see it.
Moreover, here was a repulsive object, but yet attractive. Mary and Martha must have been charmed to see their brother, eventhough wrapped in grave clothes. He startled all the assembly and yet they were drawn to him. A man fresh from the sepulcherrobed in a winding-sheet is a sight one would go a long way not to see, but such was Lazarus! But a man restored from death-itwere worthwhile to travel round the world to look upon-and such was Lazarus! Mary and Martha felt their hearts dancing withinthem since their dear brother was alive! Notwithstanding the repulsiveness of the spectacle, it must have charmed them beyondanything they had seen except the Lord Himself! So have we come near to a poor sinner-it was enough to frighten anybody tohear his groans and to see his weeping-yet he was so dear to every true heart that we loved to be with him! I have sometimesspoken with broken-hearted sinners and they have pretty nearly broken my heart. And yet, when they have gone out of the room,I have wished to see a thousand more like them! Poor creatures, they fill us with sorrow, and yet flood us with joy!
Moreover, here was a man strong and yet helpless. He was strong enough to come forth from his grave and yet he could not takethe napkin from off his head, for his hands were bound and he could not go to his house, for his feet were swathed. Unlesssome kind hand unbound him, he would remain a living mummy! He had sufficient strength to quit the grave, but he could notloosen his grave clothes. So have we seen strong men, for the Spirit of God has been in them, and has moved them mightily!They have been passionately in earnest-even to agony in one direction-yet the newborn life has been so feeble in other waysthat they seemed to be mere babes in swaddling clothes. They have not been able to enjoy the liberty of Christ, nor enterinto communion with Christ, nor work for Christ. They have been bound hand and foot so that work and progress have, alike,been beyond them.
This seems a strange sequel to a miracle. The bands of death loosed, but not the bands of linen! Motion given, but no movementof hands or fee! Strength bestowed, but not the power to undress himself! Such anomalies are common in the world of DivineGrace.
III. This brings us to consider A TIMELY ASSISTANCE which you and I are called upon to render. O for wisdom to learn our dutyand Grace to do it at once! Let us consider what are these bands which often bind newly regenerated sinners. Some of themare blindfolded by the napkin about their head-they are very ignorant-sadly devoid of spiritual perception and, thereforethe eye of faith is darkened. Yet the eye is there and Christ has opened it. And it is the business of the servant of Godto remove the napkin which bandages it, by teaching the Truth of God, explaining it, and clearing up difficulties. This isa simple thing to do, but exceedingly necessary.
Now that they have life, we shall teach them to purpose. Besides that, they are bound hand and foot, so that they are compelledto inaction-we must show them how to work for Jesus! Sometimes these bands are those of sorrow, for they are in an awful terrorabout the past-we have to unbind them by showing that the past is blotted out. They are wrapped about by many a yard of doubt,mistrust, anguish and remorse. "Loose them, and let them go." Another hindrance is the band offear. "Oh," says the poor soul,"I am such a sinner that God must punish me for my sin." Tell him the grand Doctrine of Substitution! Unwrap this cerementby the assurance that Jesus took our sin and that, "by His stripes we are healed." It is wonderful what liberty comes by thatprecious Truth of God when it is well understood!
The penitent soul fears that Jesus will refuse its prayer-assure it that He will in nowise cast out any that come to Him.Let fear be taken from the soul by the promises of Scripture, by our testimony to their truth and by the Spirit bearing witnessto the doctrine which we endeavor to impart. Souls are very often bound with the grave clothes of prejudice. They used tothink such-and-such before conversion and they are very apt to carry their dead thoughts into their new life. Go and tellthem that things are not what they seem-that old things have passed away-and behold, all things have become new! The daysof their ignorance God winked at, but now they must change their minds about everything and no more judge according to thesight of the eyes and the hearing of the ears.
Some of them are bound with the grave clothes of evil habit. It is a noble work to aid a drunk to unwind the accursed bandswhich prevent his making the slightest progress towards better things. Let us tear off every band from ourselves, that wemay the more readily help them to be free! The bonds of evil habits may still remain upon men that have received the DivineLife until those habits are pointed out to them and the evil of them is shown. And so they are helped by precept, prayer andexample, to free themselves. Who among us would wish Lazarus to continue wearing his shroud? Who would wish to see a regenerateman falling into evil habits? When the Lord quickens men, the main point of the business is secured-then you and I can comein to loose every bond which would hamper and hinder the free action of the Divine
But why are those bandages left? Why did not the miracle which raised Lazarus, also loosen his grave clothes? I answer becauseour Lord Jesus is always economical of miracles. False wonders are plentiful! True miracles are few and far between. In theChurch of Rome, such miracles as they claim, are usually a lavish waste of power. When St. Swithin made it rain for 40 days,that his corpse might not be carried into the Church-it was much ado about very little. When St Denis walked a thousand mileswith his head in his hands, one is apt to ask why he could not have journeyed quite as well if he had set it on his neck!And when another saint crossed the sea on a tablecloth, it would appear to have been an improvement if he had borrowed a boat.Rome can afford to be free with her counterfeit coins! The Lord Jesus never works a miracle unless there is an object to begained which could not be obtained in any other way. When the enemy said, "Command that these stones be made bread," our Lordrefused, for it was not a fit occasion for a miracle. Lazarus cannot be raised out of the grave except by a miracle-but hecan be unstripped without a miracle and, therefore, human hands must do it.
If there is anything in the Kingdom of God which we can do, ourselves, it is folly to say, "May the Lord do it," for He willdo nothing of the sort! If you can do it, you shall do it-or if you refuse, the neglect shall be visited upon you. I supposethat those bands were left that those who came to unwind him would be sure that he was the same man who died. Some of themmay have said, "This is Lazarus, for these are the grave clothes which we wrapped about him. There is no trickery here. Thisis the same man that was laid out and prepared by us for burial." "I recollect putting in that stitch," cries one. "I rememberthat stain in the linen," cries another! From coming so near to Lazarus, they would be equally well assured that he was reallyalive! They perceived his living flesh rising as each ligature was removed-they marked his breathing and the flush which reddenedhis cheeks.
For some such cause our Lord permits the quickened sinner to remain in a measure of bondage, that we may know that the manis the same person who was really dead in trespasses and sins. He was no sham sinner, for the traces of his sins are stillupon him. You can see by what he says that his training was none of the best-the relics of the old nature show what mannerof man he used to be. Every now and then the smell of the sepulcher meets your nostrils-the mold of the grave has stainedhis grave clothes-his was true death and no imitation! So, too, we know that he is alive, for we hear his sighs and cries.And we perceive that his experience is that of a living child of God. Those desires, that searching of heart and that longingto be soundly right with God-we know what these mean. It is a great help to us in discerning spirits and in being assuredof the work of God upon any person, to come into living contact with those imperfections which it is to be our privilege toremove under the guidance of the Holy Spirit.
Moreover, I still think that the main object was that these disciples might enter into rare fellowship with Christ. They couldeach say, not proudly, but still joyfully, "Our Lord raised Lazarus and I was there and helped to unloose him from his graveclothes." Perhaps Martha could say in later life, "I took the napkin from my brother's dear face." And Mary could add, "Ihelped to unbind a hand." It is most sweet to hope that we have done anything to cheer, or to teach, or sanctify a soul! Notunto us can be any praise, but unto us there is much comfort concerning this thing. Brothers and Sisters, will you not earna share in this dear delight? Will you not seek the lost sheep? Will you not sweep the house for the lost money? Will younot, at the very least, help to feast the long-lost son?
This, you see, gives you an interest in a saved person. Those who are very observant tell us that those whom we serve mayforget us, but those who do us a service are fast bound to us! Many kindnesses you may do for people and they will be altogetherungrateful, but those who have bestowed the benefit do not forget. When the Lord Jesus sets us to help others, it is partlythat they may love us for what we have done-but still more that we may love them because we have rendered them a benefit!Is there any love like the love of a mother to her child? Is it not the strongest affection on earth? Why does
a mother love her child? Did the little child ever render a pennyworth of service to the mother? Certainly not! It is themother that does everything for the child. So then, the Lord binds us to the new converts in love by permitting us to helpthem. Thus is the Church made all of one piece and woven together from the top throughout by the workmanship of love. O youwho are devoid of love, it is evident that you do not labor with pure desire to benefit others, for if you did, you wouldbe filled with affection for them!
Before we leave this point of seasonable assistance, let us ask-why should we remove these grave clothes? It is enough replythat the Lord has bid us do so! He commands us to "loose him, and let him go." He bids us comfort the feebleminded and supportthe weak. If He commands it, we need no other reason! I hope, my dear Friends, you will set to work at once, for the King'sbusiness requires haste and we are traitors if we delay. We should do this because it is very possible that we helped to bindthose grave clothes upon our friend. Some of the people who were at Bethany that day had assisted in the burial of Lazarusand, surely, they should loose Lazarus who helped to bind him. Many a Christian man, before his conversion, has helped tomake sinners worse by his example. And possibly, after his conversion, he may, by his indifference and lack of zeal, haveaided in binding new converts in the bonds of doubt and sorrow. At any rate, you have said of many a person, "He will neverbe saved!" Thus you have wrapped him in grave clothes-the Lord never told you to do that-you did it of your own accord andnow that He bids you remove those grave clothes, will you not be quick to do
I remember when somebody lent a hand to take the grave clothes off me and, therefore, I desire to loose the grave clothesof others. If we cannot repay what we owe to the precise individual who worked us good, we can at least repay it by workingfor the general benefit of seekers. "There," said a benevolent man, as he gave help to a poor man, "take that money and whenyou can pay it back, give it to the next man whom you meet who is in the same plight as yourself. And tell him he is to payit to another destitute person as soon as he can afford it-and so my money will go traveling on for many a day." That is howour Lord does it-He sends a Brother to loose my bonds. Then I am helped to set another free and, he releases a third, andso on to the world's end! God grant that you and I may not be negligent in this heavenly service!
IV. Lastly, A PRACTICAL HINT. If the Lord Jesus Christ employed the disciples in relieving Lazarus of his grave clothes, doyou not think He would employ us if we were ready for such work? Yonder is Paul. The Lord Jesus has struck him down, but thelowly Ananias must visit him and baptize him, that he may receive his sight. There is Cornelius. He has been seeking the Lordand the Lord is gracious to him, but he must, first, hear Peter. There is a wealthy Ethiopian riding in his chariot. He isreading the Book of the Prophet Isaiah, but he cannot understand it till Philip comes. Lydia has an opened heart, but onlyPaul can lead her to the Lord Jesus. Innumerable are the instances of souls blessed by human instrumentality!
But I shall conclude by calling attention to one passage upon which I wish to dwell for a second or two. When the prodigalcame home, the father did not say to one of his servants, "Go and meet him." No, we read, "when he was yet a great way off,his father saw him and had compassion and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him." He did all this himself! The father personallyforgave him and restored him. But we read further on, "the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe and putit on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring here the fatted calf, and kill it, and let us eat,and be merry." The loving father might have done all this himself, might he not? Oh yes, but then he desired that all theservants in the house should be of one accord with him in the joyful reception of his son.
The great Lord could do everything for a sinner, Himself, but He does not do so because He wishes all of us to be in fellowshipwith him! Come, fellow servants, bring forth the best robe! I am never happier then when I preach the righteousness of Christand try to put it upon the sinner. "What?" cries one! "You cannot put it on!" So the parable says- "Bring forth the best robeand put it on him."
I not only bring it out and show it, but by the Holy Spirit's help, I try to put it on the sinner! I hold it up before him,just as you hold up a friend's great-coat to help him to put it on. You have to guide the poor sinner's hand into the sleeveand lift it up upon his shoulders or he might never get it on. You are to teach him, comfort him, cheer him and, in fact,help him to be dressed like one of the family! Then the ring, can we not bring it forth? Surely the father should have putthe ring upon his son's hand. No, he bids his servants do that. He cries to them, "Put a ring on his hand"-introduce him intofellowship, gladden him with the communion of saints! You and I must conduct the new convert into the joys of
Christian society and let him know what it is to be married to Christ and joined to His people! We must put honor upon thesereclaimed ones and decorate those who once were degraded.
Nor must we fail to put shoes on his feet! He has a long journey to go-he is to be a pilgrim and we must help to shoe himwith the preparation of the Gospel of Peace. His feet are new in the Lord's ways-we must show him how to run on the Master'serrands. As for the fatted calf, it is ours to feed the restored ones. And as for the music and the dancing, it is ours tomake the hearts of penitents glad by rejoicing over them. There is plenty to be done! O my Brothers and Sisters, try and dosome of it this morning! Certain among us will be looking after an enquirer as soon as the service is over-and they will tryto put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet. I wish that more of you did this, but if you cannot do so within these Tabernaclewalls, do it when you get home!
Commence a holy ministry for the converted who are not yet brought into liberty. There are children of God who have not yeta shoe on their feet-there are plenty of shoes in the house, but no servant has put them on! When I come to look, I see someBrethren who have not the ring on their hand. Oh, that I might have the privilege of putting it on! I charge you, Brothersand Sisters, by the blood that bought you, and by the love that holds you, and by the supreme bounty which supplies your need-goforth and do what your Master graciously permits and commands you to do- loose Lazarus! Bring forth the best robe and putit on him! Put a ring on his hand and shoes on his feet! And let us all eat and be merry with our Father! Amen.