Sermon 2650. Characteristics of Christ's Disciples
A SERMON INTENDED FOR READING ON LORD'S DAY, NOVEMBER 26, 1899.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JULY 16, 1882.
"If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, yes, and his ownlife, also, he cannot be My disciple." Luke 14:26.
"Then said Jesus to those Jews who believed Him, If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed."
"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will be My disciples."
This morning, [Sermon #1669, Volume 28-Teaching for the Outer andInner Circles] I preached upon one of the privileges of thedisciples of Christ-"When they were alone, He expounded all things to His disciples." They formed the inner circle and theyhad the privilege of hearing the expositions and explanations which our Lord gave only to His disciples. As I was speaking,I think the question must have arisen in the hearts of many of my hearers, "What is a disciple of Chris?" and also the furtherenquiry, "Am I one of His disciples?" It is very important for us who are preachers to know what a disciple is, for we arebidden to go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the HolySpirit. What is involved in the making of a disciple? We cannot fully answer that question until we know what a disciple is!
In order to help you, dear Friends, to ascertain whether you are truly disciples of Christ, I am going to call your attentionto four texts in which the Lord Jesus mentions some of the things which are essential to true discipleship-and without whicha man cannot be His disciple. I pray the Holy Spirit to make those who are disciples to rejoice in their discipleship andto count it the highest honor of their lives to have the Son of God for their Teacher and Leader. And I also pray that thosewho fear that they are not His disciples may be brought to Him even while I am speaking. May they, by His Grace, resolve thatthey, also, will be His disciples, and may the Divine Spirit conduct them into the School of Christ, that they may sit atHis feet and receive His Word from this time forth!
I. The first mark of discipleship to which I am going to call your attention is mentioned in the Gospel according to Luke,the 14th Chapter, and the 26th verse. "If anyone comes to Me and does not hate his father and mother, wife and children, brothersand sisters, yes, and his own life, also, he cannot be My disciple" These words prove that the first requisite of a discipleof Christ is WHOLEHEARTEDNESS.
The meaning of this passage is that Christ's disciple must so love his Lord that, in comparison with the love he bears toChrist, all other love shall burn but dimly and be scarcely worthy of even being named! This verse has puzzled a great manypeople because they have supposed that Christ really wished them to hate their father, mother, wife and so on. The slightestpossible thought ought to have convinced them that He could never have wished them to do anything of the kind! If you takeChrist's Words without seeking to find their meaning, you can make mischief out of them, for, sometimes, He speaks very boldly-Imight almost have said, with the utmost reverence, very baldly-in order to make His point clear. He speaks in a manner which,in others, would be foolishness. He goes beyond what He means us to understand literally, because He knows that this is theonly way in which He can bring His teaching home to some minds. There was really no reason why anybody should have made sucha mistake and understood these words just as they stand in our version. It is not possible for a man to be a disciple of Christif he hates anybody, for the religion of Christ is a religion of love-and hatred must be expelled from the bosom of thosewho receive it. It is utterly inconceivable that anybody who hated his father could be a disciple of Christ-that would bea violation of the First Commandment with promise, which bids us honor our father and mother. Certainly Jesus never taughtanything contrary to the Commandments of His Father! He who hated his own mother would be a monster-not a disciple of themeek and lowly Jesus who cared for His mother amid His agony on the Cross. Does not nature, itself, teach us that our loveshould certainly flow out to those who were the authors of our being and who so kindly cared for us when we were unable totake care of ourselves? I am not afraid that any of you, dear Friends, will err in that respect and then fancy that you havethe warrant of Christ for hating your father and mother!
Then, should not a man love his wife? Yes, that he should, for the Apostle says, "Husbands, love your wives, even as Christalso loved the church." I have heard of one who was said to love his wife too much, but I did not believe it, because themodel for a husband's love is, "even as Christ also loved the church," and who could go beyond that A man may be excessivelysubmissive or devoted which, in some cases, may have been carried to such excess as to become folly and idolatry, but fromthis evil I hope that we have escaped. But a man could not be a disciple of Christ if he literally hated his wife. He wouldbe unworthy of the society even of the moral, much more of the society of the gracious, if he so acted. Neither can we imagineChrist bidding anybody hate his own children. Nature itself dictates that we should love them and we do-we cannot help it,nor do we wish to help it. We should be traitors to Christ if we tried to expel an affection which He, Himself, has implantedwithin us. No man can hate his children and yet be a Christian! It would be a clear proof that he had nothing of Christianityabout him, just as the Apostle says, of another matter, "if any provide not for his own, and specially for those of his ownhouse, he has denied the faith and is worse than an infidel." So, we are not to hate our children-nor are we to hate our brothersand sisters. It is only in a comparative sense and not literally, that the term can possibly be used. And to make this veryclear, Christ said that we are to hate our own life. The next step to that would be suicide and the Savior could never havemeant any of His followers to commit that terrible sin! What He did mean was that He is to have the first place in our heartsand all who are dear to us are to be second. Yes, and we ourselves are to be second, too, and are to be prepared to breakevery earthly tie rather than the tie which binds us to Christ Jesus our Lord.
The teaching of the text is that Christ is to be loved more than all our relations. It may be that we shall never have toendure the test of choosing between Christ and our loved ones, but some have had to do that. You have, perhaps, heard thestory of the martyr who was going out to be burned for Christ. And as his enemies had failed to move him from his steadfastness,they made one more attempt to do so as the good man was on his way to the stake. They brought out his wife and his 11 childrento meet him and they were all weeping and kneeling down before him, begging him to recant. His wife pleaded, "My Husband,be not so willful! Do not go to the stake," and each of the children had been taught to lay hold of the father and to sayto him, "Father, live for my sake," "and for mine, Father." This was a trial which the good man had not expected and as hestood there, surrounded by his loved ones, he said, "God knows how dearly I love you all, and how gladly, for your sakes,I would do anything that I may do, with a clear conscience, to make you happy. But, compared with Christ and His Gospel, whichI love with all my heart and soul, I must give you all up and treat you as if I had no love for you. I must go and yield upmy body to be burned for the Truth of Christ. Therefore, do not weep and break my heart." It was grandly done on his partand you can probably get a better idea of the meaning of my text from that incident than I could possibly convey to you byany words that I might use.
Well, dear Friends, though your faith may never be subjected to that supreme test, a matter of life or death, yet you mayhave to be tested to see whether you love Christ more than you love your relatives. There was a certain godly bishop who hada brother who came and asked him to ordain him and to give him a living, for his trade did not prosper as he wished. The goodbishop loved his brother and he would have done anything that was right to help him. But he said, "My dear Brother, you arenot called of God to undertake such work, so I cannot ordain you, or give you a living. I will gladly give you money to helpyou in your business, but I cannot make use of my position in the church to put you into a place for which you are not qualified.Had you been a fit and proper person for this holy service, I would have been delighted to carry out your wish. But as youare not, I cannot use my influence on your behalf in this way." I wish that every bishop would act in the same way-they havenot always done so. Yet there was the crucial point in which the good man felt that he must rather regard the welfare of thechurch than the benefit of his relative and he must treat him just as though he had been a stranger. That is how we shoulddeal with anyone who comes to us for a similar purpose-if he is a suitable person, let him be encouraged to enter upon thework for which he is qualified. But if he is not, let him go back to his forge, or to his plow, or to his awl, or to his plane,or let him engage in some business in which he will be earning a livelihood and doing no mischief to his fellow men, as hewould do if he were put to work for which he is not fitted.
Have not some of you, dear Friends, met with cases in which the same difficulty has arisen? You must either do a wrong toChrist and to His people, or else you must appear to be hard and unkind towards some relative or friend. Well, you cannotbe Christ's disciple if you hesitate a minute about what course you shall adopt! Brothers, sisters, wife, children, father,mother must never be allowed for a moment to be put in competition with Christ! I remember one who, when quite a youth, feltthat he must be baptized on profession of his faith in Christ, but those who were nearest and dearest to him did not agreewith him upon that matter. He had not one relative who thought as he did concerning it. He laid his case before them and,being so young, he asked that he might have permission to carry out his conscientious convictions, but, at the same time,he said, "If the permission does not come, I shall obey My Lord's command, for, in this case, I acknowledge no father or mother,but simply do as my Savior bids me." In matters of religion, Christ alone is our Leader-and our conscience can never obeyany supremacy but that of our Lord Jesus Christ. This decision is to be announced very gently, without any bitterness of spirit,with much humility-and prayer for wisdom and guidance-but there must be no question about your action! You are to put yourfoot down, and say, "In everything which concerns Christ and my soul, I call no man, 'father,' upon earth, but, at all costs,I must follow my Lord wherever He leads me." I think you can now see the drift of the Savior's Words. The rule for you whoare His disciples must be-Christ first and everybody else as far down as you like. Everybody treated with kindness and dueconsideration, but nobodypermitted to usurp the Throne of the great King. So, in the first place, we must love Christ morethan all our relatives.
And, next, we must love Christ more than life. You know that there have been many who have not loved their lives as much asthey have loved their Lord, for they have freely yielded them up for the sake of Him who laid down His life for them. Christians,in past ages, have known what was involved in being faithful to Christ. You may have read that letter which Pliny wrote, concerningthe early Christians, in which he said that he knew not what to do with them, for they were men of good character, but theyhad this one peculiarity that they must in everything follow Christ. They actually came with calm confidence, even to theRoman judgment seat, well knowing that if they were convicted of being Christians, they would be put to death-and they seemedas if they were eager to die-so anxious were they to put their love to Christ before any thought of freedom from pain or escapefrom death! What the torments were, to which they were put, under their many persecutors, I scarcely dare to tell you. Thinkof one of them forced to sit in a red-hot iron chair. And of others dragged at the heels of wild horses, or tossed to andfro by bulls, or torn in pieces by savage beasts. Everything that could add ignominy and pain to death was invented in thosetimes-but did the martyrs flinch or turn back? No. They stood fast for Christ's sake and threw their lives away as if theywere worth nothing at all, rather than be found traitors to Jesus Christ their Lord and Savior!
We are to be prepared to do the same as they did, if necessary. Only, in our case, probably it will never come to that pointin this country where, thank God, we have so much civil and religious liberty. Yet, often, a similar test may be applied tous in a modified way. There may be, for instance, some loss of business through doing what we know to be right! There aresome persons who have been in the habit of carrying on their trade on the Sabbath-but when they have become Christ's disciples,they have shut up their shop on that day, and people have said to them, "You will be ruined, you will never earn a living.You know, we must live." I have often heard that last little sentence, but I do not believe it. I do not see any necessityfor us to live. There isa necessity for us to be true to Christ, but not for us to continue to live! It is a great deal betterthat we should die than that we should do a wrong thing. And we should be prepared at any time to say, "If necessary, we willlet our trade go and we will be poor. But we will keep a clear conscience." And he who has that little bird in his bosom willnever lack for music! And though he has scarcely a penny in his pocket, yet if he wears the flower called heart-sense in hisbuttonhole, he need never envy the richest man in the world!
It may happen to you, in your business, that there will be an opportunity of getting money by being thieves in a respectablekind of way-there are plenty of such thieves about. But if you are a Christian, you will say, "No, money gained by dishonestywill carry a curse with it. I cannot touch it any more than I would handle blood-money. If it comes by any wrong method, Imust leave it alone, for pelf and wealth shall not come to me if they cannot come honestly. I must and will serve the LordJesus Christ first and foremost."
Sometimes you know that for Christ's sake, our Brothers and Sisters go as missionaries to India or China, and some go to theCongo or to other stations in Africa where it is almost certain that, in a short time, they will be cut down by the fever.But how brave it is on their part! How truly a disciple of Christ is such a man or such a woman, who, knowing all that maybe expected, nevertheless says, "My Lord calls me to serve Him in Africa. And if He sends me to a mangrove swamp and to afever, I will as readily go there for Him as if He summoned me to sit upon a throne."
To sum up the teaching of this first text, it means that Christ is to be loved more than anything. If this were the choiceset before us-the whole world, or Christ-thank God there are many of us who would not wait a minute for the decision! Andif this were the choice-shame in the eyes of men, or else the far greater shame of deserting the Savior, oh, I hope we wouldnot hesitate even for an instant! "No," says the Christian, "Christ is my All-in-All. If I have all things, I will try tofind Him in them and if I have nothing, I will find all things in Him." So the meaning of this text is that Christ must havewholehearted servants and if you come to Him to be His disciples, you must bring your whole being with you. Christ will neverbe King over a divided manhood. There was a time when this island was a heptarch and seven little kings ruled over it. Butnow we have but one sovereign and in this united realm we never shall have but one supreme ruler. So should it be in man'sheart. The devil is quite willing to share the kingdom with Christ. "Oh," he says, "let Christ reign and let mereign, too!We shall make an excellent pair to rule over men." But Christ will not have it so. If we are to be His subjects, He will ruleover us from the crown of our head to the soles of our feet, and He will not permit Satan to have a single stronghold withinus that he can call his own. Out you must go, you vile usurper, for He has come who is King of Kings and Lord of Lords! Thecrown sits upon His brow, nor will He allow a rival even for an hour! Come, then, Beloved, what do you say? Are you wholeheartedfor Christ? If not, you are not His disciples. Listen while I read our first text again, and as I do, you read into it thetrue and full meaning of the words and feel their force. "If anyone comes to Me, and does not hate his father and mother,wife and children, and brothers and sisters, yes, and his own life, also, he cannot be My disciple."
II. The second requisite for being a disciple of Christ is found in the 8th Chapter of the Gospel according to John, at the31st verse-"Then Jesus said to those Jews who believed Him, If you continue in My word, you are My disciples indeed." So CONTINUANCEis the next trait in the character of a true disciple of Christ.
There are a great many persons who, like those Jews, profess to believe in Jesus Christ for a time. When opposition and persecutioncame, they deserted Him and so proved that they were not really His disciples. I do not know much about the merits of thequestion, which is often discussed in the papers, with regard to enlistment for a short or a long term of service in the Queen'sarmy, but I know that my Lord and Master will not accept any of you unless you enter His army for life-no, more-for all eternity!In Christ's true Church there is no profession of faith merely for a time. Once you have made it, you have made it forever.The very way of confessing Christ, which is by Baptism, signifies this, for the man who is rightly immersed into the nameof the Sacred Trinity is first buried and then he rises again-and that burial, having once taken place, can never be cancelled-whateverhappens, it is an accomplished fact. Then, again, the act of immersion can never cease to be a fact. Marks made in the fleshmay be removed, but when the watermark has been put upon the whole body, it can never be removed. He who has been buried withChrist may have been a hypocrite and a deceiver, but, notwithstanding his hypocrisy and deception, he has passed through theoutward form of the ordinance and he can never clear himself from the responsibility of it. It will be to his everlastingdisgrace if he is a baptized reprobate! At the Day of Judgment it shall be conclusive evidence of his guilt that he eithertried to deceive himself, or deceived God's people and made a mockery of the ordinances of Christ. But in the case of a truebeliever in Christ, continuance in the right road proves him to be a Christian.
First, we are to continue believing Christ's words. Whatever new doctrinal errors may spring up, we are to take no noticeof them, but just continue in the faith of Christ. Then shall we be His disciples indeed! In these evil days, some new heresyappears nearly every week. There are some people who seem to spend all their time in inventing lies and these, joined to theold errors that are continually being vamped up, puzzle those who are not well established in the faith so that they scarcelyknow what is orthodox doctrine and what is heterodox. But he who keeps close to his Master, sits at His feet and learns ofHim-when he is taught of the Spirit-and holds fast what he has received. Mr. Whitefield used to say that in his day therewere some persons for whom it was impossible to make a creed. He said, "You might as well try to make a suit of clothes forthe moon, for they change as frequently as she does." And we have many people of the same sort in our day! They are "everythingby starts, and nothing long." But that is not a characteristic of Christian discipleship! A man is not Christ's disciple ifhe is "tossed to and fro, and carried about with every wind of doctrine," allowing anybody to put an oar into his boat andturn and twist him wherever the intruder pleases. No, the Master's message to His followers is, "If you continue in My word,you are My disciples indeed."
But we must also continue in obedience. It is the part of a true disciple of Christ to do his Lord's will in the teeth ofevery temptation that may assail him. You will not be obedient to Him very long without being pulled by the coat, first thisway, and then that. But the true disciple of Christ says, "If all the kingdoms of this world were to be given me on conditionthat I would fall down and worship the god of this world, I would not, for an instant, thinkof doing so, for I am enlistedin the army of the Cross. I serve the Lord Christ and Him alone."
And we are also to continue in Christ's word when we are in affliction. There are, alas, some who, if God seems to treat themroughly, grow mightily offended with Him. A dear child is taken away from their family circle and they say that they willnever forgive God. They have trouble upon trouble and straightway they complain that God behaves evilly to them-and they areready to turn back at the first crossroad that they come to in their pilgrimage. But this will not do for those who wouldbe "disciples indeed." We must hold on, come fair or come foul, and this must be our motto, one that I have often quoted toyou and one that I love to think of myself-"Though He slay me, yet will I trust in Him." We have committed ourselves to Himas unto a faithful Creator. We have lifted our hand in token of our allegiance to Him, and we cannot go back!
Dear Friends who have just lately been converted to Christ, let me exhort you to be steadfast and immovable! You cannot beChrist's disciples unless you are firm and decided. A Christian soldier who had to sleep in a tent with some ungodly comrades,knelt down at night to pray and every time he did so, he was assailed by all sorts of missiles. He consulted the chaplainas to what he had better do and that time-serving individual said he thought, perhaps, it was not necessary for the soldierto kneel down publicly before he retired to rest. The soldier tried the cowardly plan for one night, but he was very unhappyand his conscience was troubled about it. He had failed to bear testimony for Christ, so, the next night, he knelt down ashe had done before and it pleased God that, by degrees, the opposition ceased and, more than that, the influence of his braveexample and the words he spoke at different times, brought all the other men in the tentto kneel down, too, before they wentto rest! Whether they were all converted or not, I cannot tell, but, at any rate, there was at least the form of prayer inthat way. When the soldier saw the chaplain, again, and told him what had happened, the chaplain commended him, and then thesoldier asked him, "Don't you think it is better for us always to keep our colors flying?"
That is a good watchword for you, Beloved-Always keep your colors flying! There are some professors who say, "We can carryour flag wrapped up in a waterproof case and when there is a favorable opportunity, we can let it fly in the breeze." No,no! It is best to keep your colors always flying. There may be danger and difficulty through flying the flag, but a hundredtimes worse danger comes from rolling it up and putting it away out of sight. Never be ashamed of what there is no reasonto be ashamed of! If any man is ashamed of being a Christian, surely Christ has cause to be ashamed of him! Let it not beso with you, dear Friend, but rather let each one say-
"Ashamed of Jesus? That dear Friend
On whom my hopes of Heaven depend?
No! When I blush, be this my shame-
That I no more revere His name." But, as to blushing when I acknowledge that I am His servant, may never such a crimson tokenof shame come onto my cheek! So stand fast in the faith, Beloved, for thus shall you prove that you are, indeed, Christ'sdisciples.
III. I must now pass on to a third mark of a genuine disciple of Christ, that is, BROTHERLY LOVE. Kindly look at the 13thChapter of John's Gospel, and the 35th verse-"By this all will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another."
This is to be a mark of discipleship which all men can see. Whenever there is genuine love among Christian people, everybodyknows at once that they are Christ's disciples. Good men and bad men-the most ignorant and the most foolish men cannot helpseeing that love is, as it were, a sign hung out as a mark of the business done within. That disciple whom Jesus loved, wrote,"Beloved, let us love one another; for love is of God; and everyone that loves is born of God, and knows God. He that lovesnot knows not God, for God is love."
Now, Brothers and Sisters, how are we to love our brethren so as to let all men know that we are Christ's disciples? One readyway is by considering their needs and doing the best that we can to help them out of their difficulties. If we say to thecold and the hungry, "Be you warmed and be you filled," and yet do nothing practically to help them, how dwells the love ofGod in us? What kind of Christianity is that which is liberal only in words Dear Friends, there are many poor people amongus who are struggling to get a livelihood and, alas, there are many others who cannot find any employment at all. And it isincumbent upon any who are being prospered by God to help their poor brothers as far as they can. Very often a man can trulyhelp his fellow, even though he has no money to spare. I read a pretty story of a Cornish miner who was getting rather oldand the captain of the mine said, "John, I think that I can put you into an easier berth than the one you now hold. You willget more money and you will have to be an overseer of others rather than to do much yourself. I know that I can confide inyou, so I will put you into that place next month." The miner said, in reply, "Captain, do you know our brother Tregony?""Yes," answered the captain. "You know that he is older than I am," said the miner. "He cannot do a day's work, now, and Iam afraid that he will have to give up altogether. I wish you would let him have that berth because, though I am getting old,I think that I can keep on for another year or two. So let old Tregony have the overseer's position."
The captain did so and that is true Christian love when a man is willing to make a sacrifice because he feels that he is notquite as much in need as another. I remember saying to a poor widow who came one morning to the Orphanage with her child,"There is another woman outside. You have been talking to her, have you not, while you were waiting to come in?" "Yes, Sir,"she answered. I said, "She has nine children and we can only take one. How many have you?" "Three," replied the woman. "Well,now," I asked, "which of those three shall we take?" "Oh, Sir!" she said, "there is not a minute needed to deliberate aboutit! You take one of that other poor woman's children. I will try to do the best I can, though it is a hard pinch for me, butthat woman has a heavier burden to carry than I have, poor thing." I was pleased to see such a spirit of self-sacrifice andI am always glad when Christian people feel that kind of sympathy and love for one another. How often might rough roads bemade more smooth if all acted like that! This is just what we must be constantly doing, for we cannot be Christ's disciplesunless we have love for one another.
Beside that, we can show our love to our brethren by bearing their faults. It is a grand thing to be able to put up with agood deal. There are some people who seem to think that they have come into the world that other people may put up with them-andthey certainly do play their part, for they give other people plenty to put up with! And if anybody should in the least resentit, they say, "So-and-So is out of temper with me." I was going to say that an angel might be out of temper with some people,but I do not suppose that he would. Still, I wish that these people would remember the provocations they often give as wellas the sharp retorts they sometimes get. "Oh," says one, "I do not believe that there is any love among Christians." Brother,you are measuring our corn with yourbushel! You see that you have not any love in your heart, for, if you had, there wouldbe some love in your eyes and you would perceive some, also, in others. But when it is clean gone out of your own soul, yousuppose it must also have departed from others.
Of course, you do not admit that it has gone out of you and you imagine that you see outside of you what is really inside,so, when you say that there is no love anywhere, it is because you are looking at yourself in the mirror, that is all. Butwe who love the Lord can, I trust, bear with one another. I sometimes try to think which is the greater wonder- that you,dear Friends, have put up with me so long, or that I have put up with you! There are some of you who are the best people inthe whole world and there are others of you who are not the best, but rather the reverse, and some of you do cause us troublesometimes. Well, may God give all of us great patience and may we believe in one another! That is half the battle in all thedifficulties that arise among Christians-that we should not impute wrong motives to our fellows, and not be ready to bringaccusations against one another-but just believe that each of our fellow members is a child of God and if there is somethingwhich he has done, and which looks wrong, say, "It must have been misrepresented or misreported. I am sure it must-he cannothave done such a thing. I will stand up for him. He is my Brother-in-Christ, so I will defend him."
There is one other point in which some of you may exercise love for one another and that is, in rejoicing in each other'shappiness. This is a point which is far too often forgotten. You know the tendency among men-here is a man who is rising inthe world, so there are many who say, "Ah, humph!" They do not say anything more, but they shrug their shoulders and theylook full of unutterable things. Or there is a Brother who has done well in the Church and he is referred to in terms of approbation.Then at once somebody begins to try to pull him down and says, "Ah, yes! I could have done what he has done." Then why didyou not do it? "Oh, but he had such great advantages!" Yes, perhaps he had, and you also have had opportunities of doing somethingor other, but you have not made the best use of them. Now, instead of being jealous of our Brother's success, ought we notrather to be rejoicing in one another? If a man is poor, let him rejoice that everybody is not as poor as he is! If he istroubled about his worldly circumstances and he meets with a Brother who has no cause for such sorrow, let him say, "I amglad he is better off than I am. I do not want him to have anything to worry him as my troubles perplex me. I praise God forhis prosperity, I bless the Lord for his happiness." Then when we see an especially gracious and gifted man coming into theChurch and serving God, let us welcome him heartily and say to one another, "Here is a true comrade for us and we are gladthat God has sent us such a man to help us in His work."
I wish that we were all of the mind of that noble Spartan who wished to be a magistrate, but another man opposed him and receivedtwice as many votes as he did. What did the Spartan say? "I am grateful that the country has better men than myself and Iam glad to see that it knows where to find them when it needs them." So, dear Friends, be glad when God provides better menthan you are to do His work. Let the preacher rejoice when another preacher excels him. That is the point to which we mustall bring ourselves. Let the Sunday school teacher praise the Lord when she finds another teacher who altogether eclipsesher. What a blessed thing it is for the Bible class teacher who has a large company around him, to find another Brother raisedup who gets a better class than his has ever been! Bless God when it is so, dear Friends. This is one of those points thatis often difficult, but it ought to be easy-and it would be easyif we had love for one another! And if we have not such love,we are not Christ's disciples.
IV. I must close now with just a few remarks about the last characteristic of a disciple of Christ. It is mentioned in the15th Chapter of John's Gospel, at the 8th verse-"By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit; so you will beMy disciples." So the last mark of a disciple is that of FRUIT-BEARING.
What is bearing fruit in this sense? Well, first, it is doing service for Christ He said to His disciples, "He that abidesin Me, and I in him, the same brings forth much fruit: for without Me you can do nothing," plainly implying that the fruitwhich is to come from abiding in Him will be seen by our doing something for Him. Christian men and women, the Lord JesusChrist does not want to have any followers who never foil or fight for Him! He does not wish to have with Him shepherds whonever feed His flock-merely nominal Christians who never do anything for Him. Does this touch any of you? Some of you comein here, Sunday after Sunday, and you sit and enjoy my ministry, but you do not help in the Sunday school, you do not distributetracts, you do not preach, you do not do anything! How can you be Christ's disciples? I suppose you are like some officersof whom I have read, who draw large salaries because they are such distinguished ornaments to the service. It is a great honorto have these people in the army, though they never saw a sword drawn except on review days. So, no doubt, it is a very finething to have a number of Church members who are simply ornamental persons-they swell our numbers when they are counted withus and people say, "They are so very respectable that they help to make us all respectable."
Well, now, to tell you the truth, we do not care an atom about your respectability! We think that the most respectable personin the world-that is, the person who most deserves to be respected-is the one who is doing something! He who does nothingdeserves to be starved, even as the Apostle Paul said, "This we commanded you, that if any will not work, neither shall heeat," which is much the same thing as letting him starve. Let us try to be fruit-bearing disciples by doing all that we canfor Christ, because, if we do not bear fruit, we cannot be His disciples.
Next, fruit-bearing will be proved by our prayers. Notice the words of our Lord-"If you abide in Me, and My words abide inyou, you shall ask what you will and it shall be done unto you. By this My Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit."Prayer, then, is a blessed fruit of Divine Grace-prayer for others, prayer for Christ's Church, the prayer that brings downunnumbered blessings from above. Many a sick, bed-ridden saint who cannot speak and who can scarcely lift her hands, can liethere and do great things in prayer! Joan of Arc was not half so mighty as that poor invalid! She is the King's true warrior!While she lies there apparently helpless, she is commanding the legions of Heaven by her invincible petitions! See, then,dear Friends, that you bear much fruit in earnest, prevailing prayer!
Another method of fruit-bearing is by a holy character. O Beloved, I implore you to be holy men and women! Seek after closeconformity to the likeness of Christ. Nothing does more good for a Church than for its members to live the Gospel in all theirconcerns at home and abroad.
But I think that we shall not bear fruit as we should unless we endeavor to bring converts to Jesus. Dear mistress, seek towin the soul of your little maid! Good master, employing so many hands, get them together, sometimes, and talk to them aboutyour Savior-and pray that He may be theirSavior, too. Can you do it? There ought not to be one barren member of this Church.Everyone ought to be able to feel that when he comes before God at the last, he shall be able to say, "Here am I and the childrenYou have given me." For this let us live! For this let us labor! If we do not, we cannot be Christ's disciples.
I remember one who never did anything for Christ and when somebody spoke to him about his lack of fruit-bearing, he said thathe bore insidefruit. I never heard that idea before, so I turned it over in my mind and, the next time I met him, I said tohim, "Are you still bearing inside fruit?" He answered, "Yes." "Well," I said, "we shall never get at it till you are cutdown." Fruit is evidently intended to be an outside thing that is borne for the benefit of others! So, in this respect, Brothersand Sisters, see to it that you are fruitful by rendering all possible service to our Lord and Master.
The real application of my four texts is this-Are you, dear Friends, Christ's disciples? Let that question be passed aroundand let these four marks help us to judge ourselves-are we distinguished from those who are not Christ's disciples by ourwholeheartedness, continuance, brotherly love and fruit-bearing? May all these things be in us and abound. And if we havenone of them, may we apply to Christ for them! Lie at His feet. Confess your sin and then look up, believe in Him and liveforevermore! The Lord bless you, dear Friends, for Jesus' sake! Amen.