Sermon 3056. The Guilt and the Cleansing
A SERMON PUBLISHED ON THURSDAY, SEPTEMBER 5, 1907.
DELIVERED BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON, ON LORD'S-DAY EVENING, JANUARY 8, 1865.
"Purge me with hyssop, and/shall be clean: wash me, and/shall be whiter than snow." Psalm 51:7.
[Another Sermon by Mr. Spurgeon on the same text is #1937, Volume 32-A MINGLED STRAIN.]
You know how David had sinned. To the sin of adultery he had added that of murder. David felt like one who was shut out fromGod and was unworthy to approach Him. He could not be content to remain in such a condition. He longed to be reconciled toGod and he remembered that he had sometimes seen a man who had the leprosy put out of the city as an unclean person, or hehad seen one who had defiled himself by touching a corpse shut out for a time from all communion with those who drew nearto worship God. "Ah," he thought, "that is just as I am-I am unworthy to appear before God, for I am spiritually unclean."
But David had also seen the priest take a basin full of blood and dip hyssop in it-and when the bunch of hyssop had soakedup the blood, he had seen the priest sprinkle the unclean person therewith and then say to him, "You are clean. You have admittancenow to the worship of God. You can mingle with the great congregation-I pronounce you clean through the sprinkled blood."And David's faith, acting upon the telescopic principle, looked far down the ages and he saw the great atoning Sacrifice offeredupon Calvary. And as he saw the Son of God bleeding for sins which were not His own, he desired that the blood of Christ mightbe applied to his conscience, feeling that it would take away his defilement and admit him into the courts of God's Houseand into the love of God's heart. And so he prayed this prayer, "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."
He felt, too, that sin was a very great defilement-that he was black and filthy-but he knew how he had often, when huntedlike a wild goat among the mountains, stooped down to a cooling brook and washed away the dust and stain of travel in therunning water and his face and hands had been clean again. And so, bowing down before God he sees, in the Sacrifice of Christ,a cleansing flood and his desire is expressed in these words, "Wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow." The words do notrequire any exposition-they require application. They do not need to be explained-they need to be offered up to God in prayerby broken-hearted suppliants!
There are two things I shall try to talk about, as God shall help me. The one is that sin is a very foul thing-David says,"Purge me." "Wash me." The other is that the cleansing must be very great-this process of sprinkling hyssop and of washingmust be very potent, for he says, "I shall be clean." "I shall be whiter than snow."
I. First, then, a little about THE DEFILEMENT.
Sometimes it has been asked by unconverted men, "Why do you talk so much about Atonement? Why could not God be generous andforgive sin outright? Why should He require the shedding of blood and the endurance of great suffering?" Sinner, if you hada right sense of sin you would never ask such a question! In asking that question you speak upon the supposition that Godis such an One as yourself. But He hates sin. He sees in sin such loathsomeness as you have never dreamed of! There is, toHim, such horrible abomination, such a heinousness, such a detestableness and uncleanness about sin that He could not passit by. If He did, He would bring upon His own Character the suspicion that He was not holy. Had God passed by human sin withouta substitutionary Sacrifice, the seraphim would have Suspended their song, "Holy, holy, holy, is the Lord of Hosts." The judgewho winks at sin is the abettor of sin. If the supreme Ruler does not punish sin, He becomes Himself the patron of all guiltand sin may take its rest beneath the shadow of His wings! But it is
not so and, Sinner, God would have you know, and have angels know-and have devils know that however lightly any of His creaturesmay think of sin-and however foolishly simple man may toy with it-He knows what a vile thing it is and He will have no patiencewith it! "He will by no means spare the guilty."
I have heard it said by persons looking at the subject from another point of view, that the preaching of full forgivenessthrough the Savior's blood, to the very chief of sinners, is apt to make men think lightly of sin-that, when we tell them-
"There is life for a look at the Crucified One, There is life at this moment"-
for every soul that looks at Christ, we do, in effect, find a plaster for men's wounded consciences which, when thus healed,will only aid and abet them in going to sin again. How untrue this is! A moment's reflection will show you. We tell the sinnerthat God never does gratuitously pass by a single sin and that pardon never could have come to one man of Adam's race hadit not been procured by the tremendous griefs of the Savior who stood in men's place. Our own belief is that all the proclamationsof the Law of God and all the threats of judgment that were ever thundered forth by the most Boanerges-like of ministers,never did show man so much the vileness of sin as the preaching of this one great Truth of God-"The Lord has caused to meeton Him the iniquity of us all. Surely He has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we did esteem Him stricken, smittenof God and afflicted. But He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities: the chastisement of ourpeace was upon Him; and with His stripes we are healed." That is the great condemnation of sin-the Savior's death! Never isGod dressed in such resplendent robes of glorious holiness as when He is smiting sin as it is laid upon His only-begottenSon! Having lifted it from sinners and laid it upon Christ, He does not spare it because of the worthiness of the Person towhom it is imputed. He smites and crushes it with His full force and fury till the oppressed Victim cries out, "Behold, andsee if there is any sorrow like unto My sorrow which is done unto Me when Jehovah has afflicted Me in the day of His fierceanger."
Let us now turn this subject over a little-the guiltof sin. We think that the Atonement sets forth that guilt most thoroughly-letthis Truth of God reach the ears of every unpardoned man and woman here. It appears that there is nothing but blood that willever wash your sin away-the blood of Christ, the blood of God's dear Son-this cleanses us from all sin, but nothing ease can.The blackness of your sin will appear, then, if you recollect that all the creatures in the universe could not have takenone of your sins away If all the holy angels in Heaven had performed the best service that they could render, they could nothave taken away even one of your sins! If the great archangel had left his station near the Throne of God's Glory and hadbeen led into a deep abyss of suffering, all that he could have done would not have been a drop in the bucket compared withwhat would be required to take away one single sin, for sin is such an enormous evil that no created being could remove it!And even if all the saints on earth could have ceased to sin and could unceasingly have praised God day and night, yet thereis not merit enough in all their songs to blot out one single offense of one single sinner! No, let me go further. Could yourtears and the tears of all created intelligences, "no respite know." Could the briny drops-
"Forever flow- All for sin could not atone."
No, I will go a step lower. The pains of the damned in Hell are no atonement for sin! They suffer in consequenceof sin, butno atonement has been made by them, for all they have suffered has not lessened what they have to suffer. And when ten thousandtimes ten thousand years shall have rolled over their poor accursed heads, they will be just as far off having satisfied DivineJustice as they are now, for sin is such a dreadful thing that even Tophet cannot burn it up, though "the pile thereof isfire and much wood," and though "the breath of the Lord, like a stream of brimstone, does kindle it." Sin is cast into itsflames and men suffer there-but all the burnings of Gehenna never did consume a single sin-and never could! Think of that!Earth, Heaven and Hell could never take away a single sin from a single soul!
None but Christ could do it and even Christ Himself could not do it unless He became a Man. I t was absolutely necessary thatthe Substitute for human sin should be of the same nature as the offender. Christ must therefore be born of Mary that He mightbecome Man. Man must suffer, for man had sinned. As in Adam all died, so in another Adam must all be made alive if they wereever to be made alive at all. They fell by one man, so they must rise by another Man, or else never rise. But even the ManChrist Jesus, in association with the Godhead, could not have taken away your sins unless He had died. I never read in Scripturethat all that He did in His life could take away sin. The Savior's life is the robe of
righteousness with which His people are covered, but that is not the bath in which they are washed. The whole life of Christ-allHis preaching upon the mountains, all His fasting in the wilderness, all His travail in birth for souls, yes, all His bloodysweat, all His scourging, all the shame and the spitting that He endured could not have saved your soul, or take away onesin, for it is written, "Without shedding of blood is no remission" of sin. Think of this, Sinner! To take out that one sinof yours, if you had only one sin, the Infinite must become an Infant and the Immortal must yoke Himself with mortality! Andthen, in that position, and in that condition, He must become "obedient unto death," or else not one sin on your part couldever be removed from your soul!
But I want you to go with me further than this. Christ Himself, in His death, could not have taken away one sin if it hadnot been for the peculiar form of death which He endured. He had to be crucified and then Paul could write, "Christ has redeemedus from the curse of the Law, being made a curse for us, for it is written, Cursed is everyone that hangs on a tree. Christmust, therefore, hang upon a tree that He might be cursed-and there is no man who ever lived who can tell what is meant bythat expression-that Christ was cursed. If all the mighty orators who have moved the Christian Church at once to tears andto joy, could stand here, I would defy them to weigh this burden of the Lord, or estimate its tremendous meaning, "Christwas made a curse for us." Christ a curse! Jehovah-Tsidkenu a curse! Jesus, the darling of the Father, made a curse! He, who"counted it not robbery to be equal with God," a curse! O angels, you may well marvel at this mystery, for its astoundingdepths you cannot fathom! Yet so it is. "He has made Him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousnessof God in Him."
And this leads me to mention what I think is surely the climax here, that although Christ died the death of the Cross, eventhen He could not have taken any sin away unless it had been expressly ordained and settled that He therein did Himself takeour sin as well as our curse-and did therein stand before God, though in Himself personally innocent-as if He had been a sinnerand there suffer, "the Just for the unjust, that He might bring us to God." There is that black, that hideous, that damning,that everlasting soul-destroying thing called sin! Jehovah-Jesus sees it on His people. He knows that they can never be withHim where He is while that sin rests on them and He also knows that there is no way by which they can be freed from it exceptby His taking it. Can you picture the scene? He takes that terrible, that cursed, that Hell-kindling, that Hell-feeding thing-thatfuel of the eternal Pit, that object of eternal Wrath-He takes that sin upon Himself and now what does sin seem to say? Itis imputed to Christ and it seems to hide itself behind Christ-and it says to God, "O God, You hate me, but You cannot reachme here. Here I am! I am Your enemy, but there is between us an impassable barrier." Now, what will become of sin? Hear this,you sinners who still have your sins resting upon you! What will become of sin? God says, "Awake, O sword, against My Shepherd,and against the Man that is My Fellow, says the Lord of Hosts: smite the Shepherd." And the sword did smite Him, so that Christcried out, "All Your waves and Your billows are gone over Me." And He uttered that dreadful shriek, "My God, My God, why haveYou forsaken Me?" in unutterable depths of anguish because God had turned away His face and smitten Him in His fierce anger,pounded Him as in a mortar, trampled on Him as in the wine-press, crushed Him as in the olive-press, broke Him between theupper and the nether millstones of His awful wrath made Him to drink the whole cup dry and caused Him to suffer-
"All that Incarnate God could bear, With strength enough, but none to spare."
So you see that before even one sin can be pardoned, Christ must suffer what that sin deserves, or something tantamount thereuntoby which Divine Holiness shall be cleared of all stain. Then what an awfully evil thing sin must be! Yet you will see herstanding at the corner of the street, with a smiling face, trying to allure you. But shake your head at her and say, "No,no! The Savior bled because of you!" And you will see sin sparkling in the wine-cup, but look not on it when it is red, andmoves itself aright, but say unto it, "O Sin, I loathe you, for you did open my Savior's veins and cause His precious bloodto flow!" It is easy to get black by sin, but remember that it is so hard to get clean that only God's Omnipotence, in thePerson of Christ, could provide a Cleanser for your sins!
And now, Sinner, I say this word to you, yet some will go and mock it. I cannot make you see the filthiness of sin. You thinkit a mere trifling thing. God Almighty, you say, is very merciful, forgetting how tremendously just He is. But though I cannotmake you see sin, yet I can leave this Truth with you-you will one day feel what sin means unless you repent of it, for Hethat spared not His own Son will not spare you! If the Judge upon the Throne of God smote Christ, who had no sin of His own-smoteHim so sternly for other men's sins-what will He do with you? If He spared not His Beloved Son, what will He do with His enemies?If the fire burned up Christ, how will it burn up you? O you who are out of Christ-without God and without hope-what willyou do? What will you do when God shall put on His robe of thunder and come forth to deal with you in His wrath? Beware, beware,you that forget God, lest He tear you in pieces, and there be none to deliver you! "Kiss the Son, lest He be angry, and youperish from the way, when His wrath is
kindled but a little."
I want you to take this prayer now. I have tried to bring out the meaning of it. You are thus black, so pray to God, "Purgeme with blood: apply it by Your Holy Spirit, as the priest applied to the leper the blood upon the bunch of hyssop. 'Purgeme with hyssop, and I shall be clean: wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.'"
II. And now we shall have a few words upon THE POWER OF THE CLEANSING.
Whom can it cleanse?That is the first question. David answers it, for he says, "It can cleanse me" He meant himself. I wouldnot exaggerate David's sin, but it was a very frightful one. What could be more dreadful than for a man so highly-favored,who had so much of the Light of God, so much communion with God and who stood so high as a light in the midst of the nationto commit two crimes so accursed as those which we must lay at his door-adultery and murder? While my blood runs chill atthe very thought of his having committed them, yet in my soul I am glad that the Holy Spirit ever permitted such a black caseto stand on record! What an encouragement to seek pardon it has been to many who have sinned as foully as David did! If youcan bend your knees and pray David's prayer, you shall get David's answer! "Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean." Whatif you have even defiled your neighbor's wife? What if you have even struck your neighbor to his heart and left him dead uponthe earth? These two crimes will damn you to all eternity unless you shall find pardon for them through the blood of Jesus-andthere is pardon for them there! If you look up to where that blood is streaming from the hands and feet and side of Jesus.If you trust your broken spirit in His hands, there is pardon for your crimson sins to be had right now! Is there a harlothere? O poor fallen woman, I pray that Christ may so forgive you that you will wash His feet with your tears and wipe themwith the hairs of your head! Is there a thief here? Men say that you will never be reclaimed, but I pray the same EternalMercy which saved the dying thief to save the living thief! Have I any here who have cursed God to His face a thousand times?Return unto your God, for He comes to meet you! Say to Him, "Father, I have sinned." Bury your head in His bosom! ReceiveHis kiss of forgiveness, for God delights to pardon and to blot out transgression. Now that He has smitten Christ, He willnot smite any sinner who comes to Him through Christ. His wrath is gone and He can now say, "Fury is not in Me." Here, then,is a great wonder-that Christ's precious blood can cleanse the vilest of the vile and you may now pray the prayer of the text,"Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean."
From what can it cleanse? I dare not mention every kind of sin, but there is no sin from which it cannot cleanse. What a preciousTruth of God that is, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." During this last week I have been withBrother Offord conducting Prayer Meetings. And he told, one evening, a tale which I made him tell every evening afterwards,for I thought it so good. He said there was a poor man living in Dartmoor who had been employed during the summer in lookingafter horses, cows and so on, that were turned out on the moor. He was a perfect heathen and never went to a place of worship,perhaps, since he was a child. For him there was no Sabbath. After a time, he grew very ill. He was over 60 years of age and,having nothing to live upon, he went into the workhouse. While he was there, it pleased the mysterious Spirit to make himuneasy as to his soul. He felt that he must die and the old man had just enough Light of God to let him see that if he diddie, all was wrong with regard to a future state. He had a little grandchild who lived in a neighboring town-Plymouth, I thinkit was-and he asked leave for his grandchild to come in to see him every day. As he was very ill and near death, that wasallowed. She came in and he said to her, "Read the Bible to me, Dear." She complied and the more she read, the more wretchedthe old man grew. "Read again," he said. The more she read, the more dark his mind seemed to be with a sense of guilt.
At last, one day, she came to that passage in the first Epistle of John-you know it-"The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleansesus from all sin." "Is that there?" he asked. "Yes, Grandfather," replied the little girl, "that is there." "Is that there?""Oh, yes, Grandfather, it is there." "Then read it again! Read it again!" She again read, "The blood of Jesus Christ, HisSon, cleanses us from all sin." "My Dear, are you sure it is just like that?" "Yes, Grandfather." "Then read it again, Dear.""The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." "Then," he said, "take my finger and put it on that verse.Is it on that text, Child?-is my finger on that blessed text?" "Yes, Grandfather." "Then," he said, "tell
them," (alluding to his friends) "that I die in the faith of that!"-and he closed his eyes and doubtless entered into eternalrest. And I will die in the faith of that Truth of God, by the Grace of God-and so will you, I trust, Brothers and Sisters,die with your finger on that text, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us from all sin." Oh, it is sweet livingand it is sweet dying if you can rest there! Now we see, then, that whatever your sins may have been, they are all includedin those little words, "all sin"-therefore be of good comfort, poor Sinner-if you believe in Jesus Christ, you are born ofGod and His blood cleanses you from all sin!
Another question is, When will it cleanse? It will cleanse now. It will cleanse at this moment! You remember that it is inthe present tense, "The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses"-that is to say, just at this particular moment, some threeor four minutes to eight o'clock-there is efficacy in the precious blood of Jesus to cleanse now. You need not stop till youget home to pray. He who trusts Christ is saved the moment that he trusts! His sin is blotted out the instant that he acceptsChrist as his Substitute and justifies God in smiting sin in the Person of the Savior. There is efficacy in the blood now!Perhaps there has strayed in here one who says, "It is too late." Who told you that? Sir, it was the devil- and he was a liarfrom the beginning! "Ah," says another, "but you do not know that I have sinned against the Light of God and knowledge." Mydear Friend, I do not know how much you have sinned, but I do know that it is written, "He is able also to save them to theuttermost that come unto God by Him." And I know that you have not gone beyond the uttermost, so I conclude that He is ableto save you-right now, just as you are, standing in yonder crowd, or sitting here in these pews!
Once more-In what way is Christ able thus to cleanse? I answer-In a perfect and complete way! David says, "Wash me, and Ishall be whiter than snow." We do not see snow very often, now, but when we did see it last time, what a dazzling whitenessthere was upon it! You took a sheet of paper and laid it upon the snow and you were perfectly surprised to see the clean,white paper turned yellow or brown in comparison with the snow's dazzling whiteness! But David says, "I shall be whiter thansnow." You see, snow is only earthly whiteness, only created whiteness, but the whiteness which Christ gives us when He washesus in His blood, is Divine whiteness! The whiteness is the righteousness of God Himself! Besides, snow soon melts and thenwhere is the whiteness? The snow and the whiteness run away together, but there is no power in temptation, no power in sinwhich is able to stain the whiteness which God gives to a pardoned sinner! And then snow, especially here in this, our smokycity, soon gets brown or black-but this righteousness never will-
"No age can change its glorious hue- The robe of Christ is always new!"
"And is this perfect whiteness for me?" asks one. Yes, for you, if you believe in Jesus! If you were as black as the devilhimself, if you did but believe in Jesus, you should be as white as an angel in a moment because, by believing, you acceptGod's way of saving souls-and to do this is the greatest thing that can be done! The Pharisees came to Christ and they said,making a great fuss about their zeal, "Here is our money. Here is our talent. Here is our time-'what shall we do, that wemight work the works of God?'" They opened their ears for His answer and they thought He would say, "Give tithing of mint,anise and cummin. Be careful to wash your hands every time you eat. Give your money to the poor. Endow a row of almshouses.Become monks. Lacerate your backs. Tear your flesh," and so on. But Jesus said nothing of the kind! They wondered, I haveno doubt, what He was going to say and they seemed to be all on tiptoes. "Now He is going to tell us the greatest work thata creature can do." "What shall we do that we might work the works of God." He answers them thus-"This is the work of God,that you believe on Him whom He has sent." Ah, then they went away, directly, for no such simple thing, no such humbling thingas this would they do! Perhaps there are some of you who say, "Why don't you preach morality?" "Talk of morality!" Says Cowper-
"O You bleeding Lamb, The best morality is love of You"- and so, indeed, it is! If I were to tell you that I was commissionedby God to say that if you walked from here to John o'Groat's House in the cold and wet, bare-footed and ate nothing on theway but dry bread and drank nothing but water, you would inherit eternal life, you would all be on the road tomorrow morning,if not tonight! But when I say just this, "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved," what do you do, then?Are you such a fool as to be damned because the way to be saved is too simple? My anger waxes hot against you, that you shouldplay the fool with
your own soul and be damned because it is too easy! Think of a man who has a disease that is killing him and he will not takethe medicine because it is too simple. He will not apply to the physician because his terms are too cheap. He will not applysuch-and-such a remedy because it is too simple! Then when that man dies, who can pity him? Did he not reject the remedy fromthe worst and emptiest of all motives?
"Oh!" says one, "but, simple as it is, it seems too hard for me-I cannot believe!" Sinner, what can you not believe? Can younot believe that if Jesus Christ took human sin and was punished for it, God can be just in forgiving it? Why, you can surelybelieve that! You say that you cannot believe, that is, you cannot trustChrist! Why, poor Soul, I should find it the hardestwork in the world if I were to try notto trust Him, for He is such a precious Savior, such a mighty Savior that I can saywith John Hyatt that I would not only trust Him with my one soul, but with a million souls if I had them! Yet it may be thatyou do not understand what believing is. It is not doinganything! It is leaving off doing. It is just believing that Christdid it all-
"Nothing, either great or small,
Nothing, Sinner, no-
Jesus did it, did it all
Long, long ago!"
Christ is worthy of being trusted. Rely upon Him! God give you the Grace to do so and you are saved! Remember what we saidthe other night-there is all the difference in the world between the religion that is made up of, "Do, do," and that otherreligion that is spelt "D-o-n-e, done." He who has the religion of, "It is all done," loves God out of gratitude and servesHim because he is saved. But he who has the religion of "Do" is always a slave, never gets salvation, but perishes in hisdoings-as they deserve to do who will look to themselves instead of looking to Christ! May the Lord now command His own blessingfor Jesus' sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: PSALM51.
May God graciously grant to all of us the Grace which shall enable us to enter into the penitential spirit which is so remarkablein this Psalm!
Verse 1. Have mercy upon me, O God. David breaks the silence at last and he does so by crying to God for mercy! Before hesays anything else, he appeals to this attribute of mercy which is so glorious a trait in the Character of Jehovah. And hecasts himself, all guilty as he is, upon the absolute mercy of God. "Have mercy upon me, O God."
1. According to Your loving kindness: according unto the multitude of Your tender mercies blot out my transgressions. Davidtalks as if the Lord had said to him, "What is the measure of the mercy that you need?" And he knows of nothing by which hecan measure it except the boundless and infinite loving kindness of the Lord. "O God!" he seems to say, "deal out mercy tome according to the measure of Your own boundless Nature. Let Your mercy be the only judge of the mercy that I need."
2. Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity. The forgiveness of sin is not enough for the true penitent. He needs the defilementwhich he has incurred through sin to also be removed. If washing will not suffice, he asks the Lord to try any other methodthat will accomplish the desired end.
And, mark you, for each one of us there is a special vocation in which we can follow Christ. I do not believe that all ofyou would be following Christ if you were to attempt to preach. Even Christ never attempted to do what His Father did notintend Him to do. A man once asked Him to officiate as a lawyer or a judge, but He replied, "Who made Me a judge or a dividerover you?" One beauty of Christ's life was that He kept to His calling and did not go beyond His commission. And you willbe wise if you do the same. If you are a servant, you can follow Christ by ministering to the comfort of all who are in thehouse. If you are a mother, you can follow Christ by training up your children for Him. Every man has his own particular callingand every Christian's calling should be especially for God. One is called to the foreign mission field-let him go, in God'sname, to the regions beyond-let him not stay at home. Another is called to go from house to house to visit the sick, to carefor the poor and so on-Bible-woman, City Missionary, I greet you in Christ's name and bid you keep to your own work and neverrun away from it! One is called to teach an infant class and another to care for the lads or the lasses-and all are fittedfor the work to which they are called by God. And to each one the Master says, "Follow Me and keep to the work which My Fatherhas given you to do, even as I pleased not Myself by selecting My own work, but did that which My Father had appointed forMe."
II. Now secondly, IN ORDER TO FOLLOW CHRIST IT WILL BE A WISE THING TO LET A GREAT MANY
OTHER THINGS ALONE.
Peter wanted to know about John-"What shall this man do?" But Jesus said, "What is that to you? You follow Me." From thisanswer of Christ, we learn that we are not to be curious as to what God is going to do with other people. I will tell youwhat thoughts have been passing through the minds of some of us. One has said, "I am a poor humble believer in Jesus. I haveto struggle with poverty and need, yet God graciously helps me and I can tell of many instances of His delivering mercy."Well, dear Friend, God is greatly glorified by this testimony! But when you go on to ask about those rich people who haveeverything that heart can wish, "What is God going to do with them?" I can only reply, "What is that to you? Follow you Christand be not curious about others." It is equally wrong if a rich man says, "There are those poor people who are converted,but who cannot give much to the cause of God and who need education to enable them to teach others-what will the Lord do withthem?" That is nothing to do with you, my Brother. You have to follow the Lord, yourself, and to mind your own business! Someoneelse says, "There's such-and-such a man-really, I can't see any ability in him! He tried to preach the other day and I wasglad when he stopped, for it was very poor talk." I must confess that I have sometimes felt like that when I have listenedto a friend, but I have said to myself, "What is that to me? God knows His own servants better than we do and He knows whereto place them, and how to use them to the best advantage." Possibly, someone says, concerning a fine orator, "A man who blazesaway at that rate thinks too much of himself for God to bless him." But Christ says, "What is that to you? You follow Me."God has all sorts of stones in His Temple and some of them are of such a strange shape that I am glad the placing of themis not left to me, for I could not do it! I am thankful that God never sent me into the world to make people perfect, butto use them as I find them. And I believe that He also uses them as He finds them and gradually prepares them for higher usesand for the place which He means them to occupy in His Temple above. So do not say, "I am wondering what this man will doand what that man will do, and what others around me will do"-but do what you can for Christ and, as for others-leave themto the Master!
Further, this rule also applies to the character of others. How much some people are concerned because a certain man is sopurse proud! It seems to be a sort of consolation to them to think how much better they are than he is. Another is very frivolousand they frequently bring his character into their conversation, apparently as a means of showing how superior in sobrietythey are. To everyone of that stamp, Christ seems to me to say, "'What is that to you? You follow Me,' and then the imperfectionsof your neighbor will not lie so near to your heart." I have heard of a minister who, wishing to bring the Truth of God hometo the hearts and consciences of his people, said that he should like to pass a Reform Act-that everybody should reform oneperson and then all would be reformed. He meant that they should all reform themselves, but one man said, "The minister isquite right! Everybody is to reform one and I am going home to reform our Mary." That is often our idea-that we must reformsomebody else-but if we could bring ourselves to feel that weeding our own garden, watering our own plants and fulfillingour own vocation is what God requires of us, how much better it would be for the entire Church of Christ!
I think the same rule applies, to a large extent, to remarks concerning the general condition of Christian Churches. Thereare some of my Brothers who assure me that these are the most terrible times through which the world has ever passed. Theycannot discover any ground for congratulation-everything seems to wear to them a most gloomy aspect. It may be so, yet I thinkI can see much reason for thankfulness as well as much cause for sorrow and regret. We are constantly told that this is acrisis, but I recollect that when I first came to London, 20 years ago,  I was told that it was a crisis and it seemsto have been a crisis every few weeks since! Some people appear to imagine that the future of the universe depends upon ameeting which they propose to hold in a month or so-yet so far God has managed the affairs of the universe without any helpfrom them and He still reigns as universal King and Lord notwithstanding all the efforts of the Pope, the Devil and Essaysand Reviews! I have come to the conclusion that instead of trying to set all my Master's servants right at once, my firstand most important work is to follow my Lord-and I think, my Brothers, that it will be wise for you to come to the same conclusion!
Suppose a man is set by his master to plow a field? His main business is to go up and down that field until he has plowedit all. But suppose that, instead of doing so, he gets into a comfortable corner under the hedge and tells his fellow plowmanthat the whole system of farming adopted by his master is a mistake, that this field is being sown with the wrong sort ofseed, that his master does not understand the best manure to use and that if he were make me his manager, the whole farm wouldpay much better that it now does? If his master comes while he is talking like this and asks, "John, what have you been doing?"and he replies, "I have been expounding to William a better plan of farming than you have adopted," his master would probablysay to him, "I shall have to discharge you unless you give up these speculations. Get on with your plowing at once and leavethe management of the farm to me." And I would say that to many Christians- Get on with your plowing! Get to your own properwork! Teach that class in the Sunday school. Speak to sinners about Christ whenever you can and try to win them for Him-butleave those greater and deeper things to your Master. Go on following Him with all your heart and serving Him with all yourmight. He has His special servants whom He calls to great works of reform, those whom He uses as His speaking trumpets toproclaim the Truth upon the solemn matters with which the most of us have not so much to do.
The same rule applies to many theological questions. For instance, the puzzling problem concerning the origin of evil. I amnot so much troubled about how evil came into the world as about helping to get it out! Practical common-sense seems to say,"If there is a thief in the house, let us catch him, or else get him out. And after that we will try to find out how he gotin." Our Lord Jesus Christ did not come into the world to tell us how sin was brought here, but He came to show us the onlyway in which sin can be taken out of the world-and that is by the door which He opened in His own side. It is by His deaththat sin is to be expelled from the earth!
Then there is that great and weighty question concerning the relation between Divine Sovereignty and human responsibility.You may go to one place of worship and you will hear about very little except Divine Sovereignty. And you may go to anotherplace and you will hear about little except human responsibility. Or you may have heard me
preach about both Truths of God [See Sermon #77, Volume 2-DIVINE SOVEREIGNTY; #194, Volume 4-HUMAN RESPONSIBILITY and #207,Volume 4-SOVEREIGN GRACE AND MAN'S RESPONSIBILITY.] without any
attempt to "reconcile" them, as I believe that they have never been at enmity against one another and, therefore, there isno need for any reconciliation! It has been a great temptation to many good men to get to fighting about these Truths whenthey would have been better employed in preaching the Atoning Sacrifice of Christ. I believe that before the foundation ofthe world, God chose in Christ all those whom He will eternally save. And I equally believe that whoever believes in the LordJesus Christ shall be eternally saved, that salvation is all of Grace and damnation is all of man's sin-that God will havethe glory of every soul that is saved-and that every lost soul will be responsible for its own ruin.
I think my text also applies to those prophetical studies in which so many seem to lose their way. I am not much encouragedto follow their example when I see how the students of prophecy denounce each other and disprove each other's theories. Thereare some prophetic Truths that ought to be constantly preached, as for instance that the Lord will surely come again and thatthere will be a Final Judgment when the righteous shall have the full glories of Heaven, and
the wicked shall know the woes of Hell. But as to the dates of the various events foretold in the prophecies that are stillunfulfilled, I think I have something better to do than to puzzle my brains over them. "Oh!" say some, "but we now have theright theory." So others thought 20 years ago! But it did not prove to be right, nor did the theory that was held a hundredyears ago, or 200 years ago, or even more! Yet men go on building up their card house of speculation and Time comes and pushesit all over with his finger! I advise you to study Matthew, Mark, Luke and John-and to preach the crucified Savior of whichthe Gospels and Epistles will tell you! And when you get to the Revelation, keep it in its proper place and ask the Holy Spiritto teach you the meaning of its mysteries. May God save this generation from the follies of some of the generations that havepreceded it-and may we be most of all concerned about being born-again, about faith in Jesus, about preaching His Gospel andfollowing Him all the days of our life!
III. Now, lastly, THERE ARE MANY REASONS WHY WE SHOULD CONFINE OUR LIFE-WORK TO THE FOLLOWING OF CHRIST. And those reasonsare these.
First, our powers are limited. Mine are, I know, and I should like to use what powers I have in the work of following Christin preaching the Gospel and seeking to bring others to follow Him.
Next, our time is limited. We may all of us live but a very short time. And at the longest it will be but a brief life. Ihave heard of a minister who used to say that he would be thankful, in his last hours, that he had been enabled, by God'sGrace, to spend the greater part of his time in inviting sinners to the Savior. And I should like to live-and I should likeyou, dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ, to live in such a way that when we come to die, we may be able to say, "There, thatis the kind of life I would like to have lived, now that I am at the end of it." Suppose anyone should live to fight for theBaptist denomination? When he dies, men would say, "Well, he was a thorough Baptist and he fought well for his denomination."But that would be a poor wreath to lay on his coffin! Would you care to have a long Latin inscription on your tombstone recordingthe fact that you were always hammering away at some important Doctrine? Or would you wish to have it said, "There lies aman who charmed a few Christian people with the deep spirituality of his teaching, but
that was all he did"?
I covet and I think I am right in doing so, the honor of having it said of me, "That man lived to snatch sinners like brandsfrom the burning." I hope some of you will have it said when you are gone, "That woman lived to bring her children to Christ.That girl lived to talk to those she met with about the dear Savior who had been so precious to her that she wished all othersto enjoy the same blessing." Oh, that each one of us might live to glorify God! To be like an arrow shot from Christ's bowby His own pierced hand! To feel an impetus given to us to bear us right on to the center of the target of the Glory of God,nothing turning us aside, either to be thought good, or to be thought great, or to be thought learned, or to desire to gainhonor or esteem among our fellow men-but just to glorify God by the conversion of sinners through the Holy Spirit's blessingresting upon our labors!
Having but little strength, it is best for us to use it all in one direction. Some men know too much to be powerful for anything.They are like water that is spread over the meadows and not like the stream that runs along in a narrow channel and, therefore,concentrates its energy and renders real service to mankind. "This one thing I do," is a good motto for any man, if he doesthat one thing well. And the one thing that I will seek to do shall be to glorify God by following Jesus and doing the workHe has given me to do! For, my Brothers and Sisters, suppose that you and I should make out the mystery of predestination?Suppose we should become adepts at prophecy? Suppose we should become exceedingly learned in a thousand subjects and yet shouldgo down to our graves without having ever glorified God? We should find no apology for our neglect in all that we had done!Nobody will be lost, as far as I know, through my getting a wrong theory of prophecy, but thousands may be saved if I knowthe Truth concerning Christ and Him Crucified and preach Him with all my might! I do not know that I shall love the Saviorany the less if I make a mistake about some of the great mysteries of the Kingdom, but I do know that if I give myself upwholly to His service and am the means of bringing others to do the same, I shall have no regrets compared with those I shouldhave felt if I had neglected this all-important matter. I charge all of you, men and women, in these evil days to keep closeto Jesus! Follow Him with the utmost care, reverence and love. Follow Him with intense ardor and with all your heart, souland strength-and make that the one thing for which you live! Do not let anything divert you from the straight path of obedienceto your Lord, for to that you are called above everything else! If men come to you talking about mental culture and modernthought, stand firm to this-that you will follow Christ wherever He leads you!
I wonder what God would have each of us here do? You may think I am falling into Peter's error if I press this point uponyou. I wonder what there is for us to do as a Church? Do you think, dear Friends, that we are doing all that we ought to dofor this neighborhood? We have heard about what our missionaries have been doing in foreign lands and most of us have somethingto do with that. But I think the principal point for us is-What is to be done in Newington? What is to be done for Christall around this region? You tract-distributors, are you earnestly attending to your work? You Sunday school teachers, areyou faithfully doing your work for God? I will not bid you forget the foreign field, but still, our first concern must beour own class, our own immediate neighborhood. Many of you have come from different parts of London-what are you doing forthe district where you live? Every Christian should first seek the good of those nearest to his own door. Some of you havecome from the country-what are you doing in your own village? You say that you have been hearing a man of God preach the Truth.That is quite right, but is that working for God? There is a young man over there who professes to be a follower of Christand who often speaks at the debating club. Do you, My Friend, ever preach in the street, or teach in the Sunday school? ThenI am ashamed of you! Or rather, are you not ashamed of yourself? There is a man over there who is making money. I do not saythat he is doing wrong, but My Friend, have you ever consecrated to God the part which belongs to Him? If you keep it foryourself, it will canker all the rest!
I might say to someone here, "You ought to be taking a Bible class for young women." I might say to others, "You ought tobe teaching in the Sunday school. You come here twice on the Lord's day, but you have no business to come here twice-you ought,once at least, to go to work for Christ." I am pleased with some whose consciences prick them so that they say, "Dear Pastor,do not imagine that we are forsaking you! We would be glad to be here, but we have been down at the lodging-houses, or downin Golden Lane, or over at Bethnal Green." That is right and I am glad when I see somebody else in their seats! With fouror five thousand members in the Church, if they all come here at each service, where are our converts to come from? Am I tocast the Gospel net into the midst of the fish that are already caught? If you stay away to let a sinner come here in yourplace and if you are, yourself, seeking to bring sinners to Christ, you are doing two good things! I want everyone of youto be living to do good to your fellow men and seeking to save souls for the Glory of God! The enemies of the faith are verybusy and very earnest-and they seem to use up all their material. The moment a man gets into the Church of Rome, there issure to be something found for him to do and I want to see all of you used to the utmost of your power. You are free men andwomen and, therefore, not to be controlled by me. I do not prescribe what you are to do, but cannot you, as independent menand women, obey the sacred dictates of the Spirit of God and each of you drop into your proper place?
Give up all speculating, I beseech you-give up reading books merely for the sake of curiosity, and, in God's name, get towork for Him! The graves are filling, our cemeteries are filling, and Hell is filling too! Meanwhile, the dupes of Satan arecompassing sea and land to do all the mischief that they can. If you really are what you say you are, the servant of Him whowept over Jerusalem-if you are bought with the blood He shed on Calvary's Cross-I charge you to consecrate yourself, thisvery hour, to that form of Christian work to which your Master calls you and follow Him through evil report and good report!Follow Him in the path of duty and let nothing turn you aside from your life-work of glorifying God! May God bless you all,for Jesus' sake! Amen.
EXPOSITION BY C. H. SPURGEON: JOHN21.
Verse 1. After these things Jesus showed Himself again to the disciples at the sea of Tiberias; and on this wise showed HeHimself.Jesus loved to show Himself to His people. Of old, His delights were with the sons of men. So now that He had risenfrom the dead, He was not ashamed to visit His brethren and He did not disdain to make Himself known to them-and He will stillshow Himself to us after a spiritual fashion, if we sincerely desire to see Him.
2. There were together Simon Peter, and Thomas called Didymus, and Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, and the sons of Zebedee,and two other of His disciples. As John was the writer of this record, he did not put his own name there, but merely mentioned"the sons of Zebedee."
3. Simon Peter said unto them, I am going fishing. They said unto him, We will also go with you. Men who are in a right stateof heart cannot willingly be idle. So, if these Apostles cannot preach for a time, they will go back to their old employmentand seek to catch fish.
3. They went forth and immediately entered into a boat and that night they caught nothing. Brothers and Sisters, without Christ'sPresence, that is what always happens-"they caught nothing." But notice what the next verse says.
4. But when the morning was now come, Jesus stood on the shore: but the disciples knew not that it was Jesus. We must rememberthat a great change had taken place in Him and that the disciples were at some distance from the shore. They saw a personstanding there, but they were not sure who it was.
5. Then Jesus said unto them, Children, have you any food?This is not an exact translation of our Savior's words. He mighttoo readily have revealed His identity if He had spoken like that. His question was more like a common fisherman's salutation,"Lads, have you any food?"
5. They answered Him, No. Jesus likes us to admit that we do not possess anything of our own before He gives us the blessingHe is waiting to bestow. He lets us see that the table is bare before He loads it with His bounty so that He may have allthe praise and glory for what He gives us.
6. And He said unto them, Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you shall find some. They cast therefore, and nowthey were not able to draw it for the multitude of fishes. This is another proof of the difference between Christ's Presenceand Christ's absence.
7. Therefore that disciple whom Jesus loved (again John does not mention his own name) said to Peter, It is the Lord."It isonly He who could spy out the fish and only He who could fill the net with them. It is just His way of acting. 'It is theLord.'" The eyes of true love are very quick. Peter was not the first to recognize Jesus-John was-for He loved Him most.
7. Now when Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment (for he had taken it off) and did cast himselfinto the sea.He had such reverence for his Master that he would not appear before Him without a sufficient covering, yet hewas in a hurry to get to Him. Peter always was in a hurry-yet he was grandly impetuous as a rule. I wish that some "slowpokes"had a little of his pace!
8, 9. And the other disciples came in the little boat, (for they were not far from land, but as it were two hundred cubits)dragging the net with fishes. As soon as they were come to land, they saw a fire of coals there and fish laid thereon, andbread.How that fire must have reminded Peter of his denial of his Lord! He saw his Master by the light of the charcoal fire-andthat is how he saw Him on the night when he denied Him.
10, 11. Jesus said unto them, Bring of the fish which you have now caught. Simon Peter went up and drew the net to land fullof great fishes, an hundred and fifty-three: and for all there were so many, yet was not the net broken. On the previous occasionwhen Peter's net was miraculously filled by Christ, we read that the net broke. That was Peter's own net, but this time Isuppose it was not Peter's, but one that he had borrowed and probably he had no time to mend it, so the Master took care thatit should not break. He always has His own ways of working-and they always fit the circumstances of the case and show Histhoughtful care of His people.
12. Jesus said unto them, Come and dine. The Revised Version is more correct-"Come and break your fast"-
"Come and have your breakfast." [See Sermon #2072, Volume 35-BREAKFAST WITH JESUS.]
12-15. And none of the disciples dared ask Him, Who are You? knowing that it was the Lord. Jesus then came and took the breadand gave it to them, and likewise the fish. This is now the third time that Jesus showed Himself to His disciples, after thatHe was risen from the dead. So when they had dined. When they had broken their fast-but not until then, for Christ does nottalk to men when their hunger might make them inattentive.
15. Jesus said to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, Do you love Me more than these?He had talked as if he did- "Although allshall be offended, yet will not I."
15. He said unto Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You.He was wise in not measuring his love in comparison with that ofhis fellow disciples, or in speaking of the quantity of it, but he affirmed that even Christ knew that he did really loveHim.
15-17. He said unto hiim, Feed My lambs. He said to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, Do you love Me? He saidunto Him, Yes, Lord; You know that I love You. He said unto Him, Feed My sheep. He said unto Him the third time, Simon, sonof Jonas, Do you love Me?Here is a lesson for all who would be pastors of Christ's flock. The first necessity of a true pastoris love to Christ. The second necessity of a true pastor is love to Christ. And the third necessity of a true pastor is loveto Christ. A man who does not love the Great Shepherd cannot properly feed either His sheep or lambs. If his own heart isnot right towards the Divine Owner of the sheep, he cannot be a true under-shepherd to Christ's flock.
17-19. Peter was grieved because He said unto him the third time, Do you love Me? And he said unto Him, Lord, You know allthings; You know that I love You. Jesus said unto him, Feed My sheep. Verily, verily, I say unto you, When you were young,you gird yourself, and walked where you would: but when you shall be old, you shall stretch forth your hands, and anothershall gird you, and carry you where you would not. This spoke He, signifying by what death he should glorify God. Peter wasto stretch out his hands and be nailed to a cross as his Lord was.
19. And when He had spoken this, He said unto him, Follow Me. "That is to be your rule, whether you feed My sheep or lambs,or whether you stretch out your hands upon a cross and die as a martyr-'Follow Me.'" That is also the rule for all of us wholove the Lord. O Lord, help us to obey it!
20-25. Then Peter, turning about, saw the disciple whom Jesus loved following; which also leaned on His breast at supper,and said, Lord, which is he that betrays You? Peter seeing him, said to Jesus, Lord, and what shall this man do? Jesus saidunto him, Ifl will that he tarry till Icome, what is that to you? You follow Me. Then went this saying abroad among the brethren,that that disciple should not die: yet Jesus said not unto him, he shall not die; but, If I will that he tarry till I come,what is that to you? This is the disciple which testifies of these things, and wrote these things. And we know that His testimonyis true. And there are also many other things which Jesus did, the which, if they should be written every one, I suppose thateven the world itself could not contain the books that should be written. Amen