Sermon 455. The Love Of Jesus-What It Is-None But His Loved Ones Know
A SERMON DELIVERED ON WEDNESDAY EVENING, JUNE 18, 1862, BY REV. C. H. SPURGEON, AT SURREY CHAPEL, BLACKFRIARS ROAD.
"And to know the love of Christ which passes knowledge." Ephesians 3:19. IT is the distinguishing mark of God's people that they know the love of Christ. Without exception all those who have passedfrom death unto life, whatever they may not know, have learned this. Without exception, all those who are not saved, whateverthey may know besides, know nothing of this. An ungodly man may know something about Christ's love. He may believe in thefact of it. He may perceive something of the theory of it. He may even be able to follow Believers in certain' expressionsof its enjoyments. But to know the love itself, to taste its sweets, to realize personally, experimentally, and vitally, the love of Christas shed abroad in our hearts by the Holy Spirit, is the privilege of the child of God, and of the child of God, alone. Thisis the secure enclosure into which the stranger cannot enter. This is the garden of the Lord, so well protected by walls andhedges that no wild boar of the woods can enter. Only the redeemed of the Lord shall walk here. They, and only they, may pluckthe fruits and content themselves with the delights thereof. We may begin the exercises of this evening with a question of self-examination, and we may continue them throughout thewhole service, trying to press that question home to your consciences-Do I know the love of Christ? Have I felt it? Do I understandit? Do I feel it now? Is it now shed abroad in my heart? Do I know that Jesus now loves me? Is my heart quickened, and animated,and warmed, and attracted towards Him through the great Truth of God that it recognizes and rejoices in-that Christ reallyloves me, and has chosen me, and set His heart upon me? We have started the first point. Every child of God knows the love of Christ. We advance another step. All the childrenof God do not know this love to the same extent. There are in Christ's family babes, young men, strong men, and a few whoare fathers. Now, as they grow and progress in all other matters, so they most certainly make advances here. Indeed, an increaseof love, a more perfect apprehension of Christ's love, is one of the best and most infallible gauges whereby we may test ourselveswhether we have grown in Divine Grace or not. If we have grown in Grace, it is absolutely certain that we shall have advanced in our knowledge and reciprocation of thelove of Christ. Many here present have believed in Jesus and they know the love of Jesus. But oh, they know it not as someothers here do who have gone into the inner chamber and have been made to drink of the spiced wine of Christ's pomegranate!Some of you have begun to climb the mountain, and the view which lies at your feet is lovely and passing fair. But the landscapeis not such as would greet your eyes if you could but stand where advanced saints are standing now-and could look to the eastand to the west, to the north and to the south-and see all the lengths and breadths and depths and heights of the love ofChrist which passes knowledge. To change the figure-the love of Christ is comparable to Jacob's ladder. Some of us are standing on the lower rungs, andthere are others who are ascending and who rest half way. Others, still, are getting up so high that we can scarcely see themby reason of the dimness of our sight. And there are some, perhaps at this hour, who have just reached the topmost rung ofthis knowledge and are now stepping, as it were, into the arms of Christ who awaits them at the top! They have attained untotheir perfection. Here they shall find repose. They shall rest in His love and with the eternal songs of Heaven they shallrejoice forever and forever. I want, tonight, to bring you, who are the people of God, to the bottom of the ladder. I want to encourage you to put yourfeet upon the first rung of it. And then go step by step with you, till, I hope, before we have done, if God the Holy Spiritis with us here, we shall have gotten very high up that ladder. And then we shall go away hoping never to come down again,only wishing, with Peter, that we may tarry on the mount and build for us tabernacles that we may sit on the summit of themountain with our Lord forever. I. Well then, to come first of all to the bottom of the ladder. One of the lowest ways of knowing the love of Christ maybe described as the doctrinal method-very useful one-but nothing to be compared to those that we shall have to mention afterwards.If a man would know the love of Christ, he should endeavor to study the Word of God with care, attention, constancy, and withdependence upon the Spirit's illumination that he may be enabled to understand aright. It is well for a Christian man to be thoroughly established in the faith once delivered to the saints. It is an ill dayfor a man when he ceases to hold fast to the form of sound words which was delivered to us by Christ Himself and His holyApostles. Depend upon it, doctrinal ignorance will always make Churches weak. But where saints are fed upon the finest ofthe wheat, and are made to suck of the honey out of the rock, and to eat of the manna and fatness of Gospel doctrine, theywill, all other things being equal, become the strongest and most valiant Believers on the face of the earth. There is a tendency in these times to depreciate the value of Gospel doctrines. Oh, I beseech you, be not led astray bythis error. There are in the Word of God certain things really taught. Do not believe that the Bible is a lump of wax to beshaped just as you please. Do not imagine that, "Yes," is right, and that "No," which contradicts it, is right, too. The Lordhas written this Book intending to teach us something, and a moderate understanding, sanctified by the teaching of the HolySpirit, will enable you to know what the Lord does mean to teach you, especially upon such a vital point as this. Do not,I beseech you, say, "Oh, it does not much matter what doctrines I hold."
You are as much responsible for using your judgment as you are for using your hands and your feet. God never did free a consciencefrom His jurisdiction. Conscience is free, but not before God. You have a right to your convictions as far as I am concerned.But if your convictions are wrong, youhave no right to them before God. There are certain things that are Truths of God, and there are others that are contradictions-seethat you get fast hold of Wisdom-and that you do not let her go.
There is a tendency, however, on the other hand in certain quarters, to make doctrinal knowledge everything. I have seen,to my inexpressible grief, the Doctrines of Grace made a huge stone to be rolled at the mouth of the sepulcher of a dead Christ.And I have seen sound doctrine, so called, madeas a very seal to seal in the dead Christ, lest by any means the energy of His Grace should come out for the salvation ofsinners. Oh, what is doctrine, after all, but a throne whereon Christ sits? And when that throne is vacant, what is the throneto us? It is the Monarch and notthe throne that we reverence and esteem.
Doctrines are but as the shovel and the tongs of the altar, while Christ is the smoking sacrifice. Doctrines are Christ'sgarments-verily they all smell of myrrh and cassia and aloes out of ivory palaces, whereby they make us glad-but it is notthe garments we care for so much as forthe Person, the very Person of our Lord Jesus Christ. And therefore, while I entreat you, (and I hope not to be misunderstoodhere), while I entreat you to be very jealous and earnest in attaining unto a clear doctrinal knowledge of the love of Christto His people, yet when youhave got it, do not say-"I am the man! I have attained to eminence. I may now sit still and be content."
Sirs, this is but the threshold. This is but one of the first arches of a long vista of glorious Truths of God. This is butthe lowest step of the ascent. You have but sat down on the lowest form in the school. You have much to learn yet! Oh, benot wise in your own conceits, lest you lose theblessed things which as yet have not been discovered by you. Verily it is a sweet thing to know Christ's love in the doctrine,and to understand that it is without beginning. That it existed when as yet this world had not been made. When sun and moonand stars slept in the mind ofGod, like unborn forests in an acorn cup. When as yet the solemnity of silence had never been startled by the songs of seraphs,and the wings of cherubs had never stirred the unnavigated ether! It is delightful to believe that-
"Before the day star knew its place, Or planets went their round, The saints in bonds of So vereign Grace, Were one with Jesusfound."
Equally precious is it to know the doctrine that this love is without end. When all we see around us shall have passed away,as the foam dissolves into the waves that bear it, the love of Christ to His people shall be the same. And on and on and onthroughout eternity He shall never cast them fromHis heart. Sweet, too, is it, passing sweet, to know that He loves them without change and without limit. That He lovesthem because He will love them. That He loves them not for anything in them, but simply because He has so much love in Hisheart that He must let it out-andthat He ordains to let it flow forth to them that they may rejoice in it.
All this is precious but, O Brothers and Sisters, if you only know these things as they stand in the creed book-if you onlyunderstand them as you find them in the catechism-I tell you that you know nothing yet as you ought to know. If this is allyour knowledge, you have just begun tolearn. May God help you to go further, and to mount to higher and clearer regions than these. It is a blessed privilegeto know Christ doctrinally, but it is only the beginning, the stepping-stone to something better, even as love longs for intimacy.
II. And what next? Let us lift our feet and take another step. True saints know Christ's love gratefully and thankfully, havingexperienced it. O dear Friends! Let me refresh your memories and tell you what you do know, rather than attempt to say anythingwhich might be new to you. Do you rememberthe place, the spot of ground where Jesus met with you? Some of us do. Oh, that day of days! That first day of our spirituallife! Other days have lost their freshness in our recollection, but this one is like a coin newly minted from time, thoughit is years ago with some of us.Oh, that day! That marriage day! That feast day! That day of Heaven on earth! Our soul was burdened and bowed down to thevery dust, and we thought we should soon descend into the pit where despair would be our portion forever. But as we went mourningon our way, we heard a voicesaying to us-
"Come here soul, I am the way."
We turned our eyes to see what way this could be, when lo, we saw One nailed to a Cross. We marked the blood as it flowedfrom His hands and feet and side. We saw His eyes as they looked on us with inexpressible compassion. And we heard Him asHe opened His lips and said, "Come unto Me, you wearyone, and I will give you rest." Oh, do you remember when you looked unto Him and when you came to trust Him-just as youwere-with your soul? You had been learning about Christ, perhaps, for years. You had been taught about Him. You had got someknowledge of Him and somedesire towards Him. But did you not learn more of Christ in one five minutes then, than you could have learned in a wholecourse of college education in theology, in years before?
And since that time, dear Friends, have we not learned Christ's love thankfully to a very high degree? Day after day He comesto us. Night after night He draws the curtains of our bed. He is ever with us and all that He has is ours. He talks sweetlyto us by the way, and He sits down by us in ourafflictions and comforts us, and makes our hearts to burn within us. And as we think of all that He has done for us, wefeel we do know something of Him, for gratitude has been our schoolmaster.
I know some Christians say they do not feel the love of Christ so much now as they did at first. Oh, shame on you, Brethren,shame on you, if this is true! What? When you owed Him for one mercy, did you love Him? And now when you owe Him for fiftythousand, do you love Him less? Why, if it is truethat saints grow necessarily colder and colder, then it does not say much for their estimation of Christ. It would makeHim out to be like some people we know, who are very agreeable to see once in a while, but we should not like to live withthem long.
Let me share my witness that my Lord and Master improves upon acquaintance. The more I know of Him, the more I wish to know.And I think I do but speak the mind of all the Lord's people when I declare that instead of having less love to Him, the moreI experience of His favor, the more warm is myheart towards Him. "Alas," says one, "but I do not feel as I once did." Well, dear Friend, it may be that you make somemistake in reference to your own experience. When the passion of love was first lighted in your breast, there was, as it were,a blaze of the match, the paper andthe wood, although the coals had not yet ignited.
Yours was then the flush of joy, but not the vehement heat. Now your heart is all on fire like a solid ruby. There is muchmore heat, though there is less blaze. So it is with some young converts. The first love they have is wildfire, and to tellyou the truth, I would rather have wildfire than nofire at all. But as men grow older in Divine Grace, the fire will not diminish in intensity, if God has kindled it. Butperhaps the flash and the flame, the glitter and the noise, may not be quite so palpable.
Yet I fear that if you do not love Christ better than you did. If you do not feel that there are new tendrils which bind youto Him. If you do not feel that it would be harder now than ever to give up your hold on the Savior, you have not begun tolearn the love of Christ. When we know that love,when we feel gratitude for mercies received, then we see every mercy, both temporal and spiritual, coming from that love.Ungrateful souls cannot learn this love. They have the book of mercy but they are blind and cannot read it. Grateful souls,in every letter from Jesus, theirabsent Friend, whom having not seen, they love, and in every book of daily fellowship, and of daily mercy, read again thatglittering sentence- "He loved me and gave Himself for me."
III. Let us pass on to the third step, we have not got far yet. We are only as schoolboys at our first school, and we havenow to go on to something higher. The true children of God know Christ's love in a way which I can only describe by the wordpractically. If any man would know His doctrine,let him keep His commandments. You know if a man is to be taught to swim, you could not teach him in Surrey Chapel. Youmight get the most skillful master in the world who should come and explain the way in which he should spread his hands andmove his feet, but he never can betaught to swim on dry land.
And we cannot make Christians know Christ except by imitating Christ and by obeying Christ. When soldiers are wanted, thebest place to make them is, doubtless, the battlefield. If we would have veterans, there must be the smoke and the smell ofpowder, for great commanders are not to bemanufactured in Hyde Park. And we cannot expect to have men who shall win victories, drawn out from mere loungers at theclubs. They must attend the drills, and by practice become qualified for their duties. A young man cannot learn farming bythe study of books. To read books maybe useful, if he takes them as companions to the great book of nature.
He must be made apprentice to some farmer who sends him out into the fields to see how they plow, how they sow, how they mow,how they reap, and how they house their corn. By entering practically into the various toils and duties, he becomes skilledin them. Just so, if we would learn Christ, wemust be practically engaged in His service. We must learn His love by keeping His Commandments. You may sit in these pewsand be preached to every Sunday. You may hear God's Truth plainly and simply unfolded. But if you want to learn, and learnin such a way that you never willforget, it is the back streets that must teach you, the lodging houses, the haunts of poverty, and the dens of vice.
If any man would know the love of Christ, let him go where Christ went and to the place where a Savior is needed. Let himcarry Christ's light to give light to others, and it shall enlighten himself. Let him go forth to water other men's vineyards,and his own soul shall be watered, also. Whateverhis Master bids him do, let him do it, and he shall learn his Master's will while he is doing his Master's will. But whenmen, at the very outset, make a profession of religion and then disobey Christ-when they refuse to keep His Commandments-whenthey say of this one,"It is non-essential." And of the next, "It is unnecessary."
And when they say of some duty, "Well, I can leave that to others." And of some sphere of action for which they are especiallyadapted, "I need not attend to that. Others can do that quite as well"-when men, I say, enlist into Christ's army and beginat once to refuse to march as they aretold, and decline to go out to battle when the Captain gives them the command-it is a sure sign that they never will learnmuch of their Master, their Captain and their Lord. If you had asked Whitfield in his day, how he came to know so much aboutChrist's love, I think hewould have said that he learned more of it when he stood in Moorfields, or on Kennington Common, when the dead cats andfilth were thrown at him as he preached Christ, than he ever learned in his bedchamber, or even in his closet.
If you had asked Rowland Hill how it was that he had learned so much of the love of Christ, I think he would have told youthat he learned it while he was speaking to the poor, and to the needy, and while he was condescending to men of low estate,that by any means he might win some. Why, if a manshould want to know about slavery, he might go and hear a lecture by an escaped slave and it would be very well for himto do so. But if he could go to the place where the whip is cracking, and the back is bleeding, and see the thing for himself-thenhe would understand thecruelty of slavery, indeed.
So, if a man would know the love of Christ, he must lay himself out to discover the deformity of sin, and the awful degradationinto which crime casts mankind. And then he will know that love which stoops from the highest Heaven, reaches down to thegates of the deepest Hell, thrusts its arms up tothe very elbows in the mire to pull these accursed ones out of the pit of distraction and make them blessed forever amongthe shining ones before the Truth of God. Strict and practical obedience to the Master's commands gives an amount of knowledgewhich is not to be attained bysentiments of gratitude, much less by systems of doctrine.
This is a higher stage of Divine Grace, though not much higher. Yet, I would to God that more of us had even got here, forI fear there are many who have a name to live but who do not obey Christ. Many, perhaps, to whom the minis- ter's commandwould be more potent than Christ's command, and uponwhom the law of the land would have far more influence than the Law of Christ. A Believer ought to be such a one that amere word from Christ is enough for him. Or, as a Quaker was likely to express it, his heart should be like a cork upon thewaters, which every undulation of thewaves would affect. Thus should his heart float, as it were, in the Spirit's influences, till every motion of the Holy Spirit,every Law and wish of Christ should affect him instantly.
I would be passively active-if you can comprehend such a contradiction-I would be passive, so as never to have will or wishof my own. And active, so as to have the will and wish of Christ impelling me always to keep His commands. When a man comeshere, he begins to show real progressin knowing "the love of Christ which passes knowledge."
IV. There is a fourth and higher stage, by far, than these. There is a way, not known to many moderns, but much practicedby the ancients, of knowing the love of Christ by contemplation. Do you know that in the early ages of the Church they spokemore of Christ and of His Person, and thought moreof Him than we do? When I have sometimes read the fathers, and some of the devotional books of Believers who are not muchknown, I have frequently had to say, "Well, I do not see much here about justification by faith, but I see a great deal aboutthe efficacy of the preciousblood."
I do not read, perhaps, about the pardon of sin, but I read about the blood-shedding, and about being washed therein. Theearly preachers preached not so much of the Atonement-though they preached it-it was the five wounds, the bloody sweat, theCross, and the passion. We talk of thefruits and the effects. They seem to speak of the first great cause-the Man, the Christ, the Cross, the vinegar, the nails,the spear, the cry of, "It is finished," the "Lama Sabac-thani," the burial and the Resurrection. And in those times, whetheror not it was that men hadnot so much to do as they have now, I cannot tell, but they found time to have long seasons of contemplation. And they wouldsit alone and worship and draw near to Christ and steadily fix their gaze upon His Person.
To them He was a real Person, whom the eye of their faith could see as clearly as the eye of sense can see outward objects.They looked, and looked, and looked again, till the love of Christ grew brighter to them than the sun at his meridian, andfor very dimness of mortal sight they veiled theirfaces and paused their speech-while their souls were bathed in inward joy and peace unspeakable. There have been some suchin these later times but not many. There was Isaac Ambrose, author of that book, "Looking Unto Jesus." He was pastor of aChurch at Preston, inLancashire, and, "it was his usual custom once a year," says Dr. Calumy, "for the space of a month to retire into a littlehut in a wood. And avoiding all human converse, to devote himself to contemplation."
It was true he then only had eleven months in the year to preach, but those eleven were a great deal better than the twelvewould otherwise have been. For there, alone with his Master, he received such riches from Him, that when he came back, hethrew about jewels with both his hands and scatteredglorious thoughts and words broadcast in his ministry. That book, "Looking Unto Jesus," is a blessed memorial of his quiethours and his secret communion with Jesus.
Then there was Rutherford, the man who has expounded the whole of Solomon's Song without knowing it, in his celebrated letters.When he was in the dungeon at Aberdeen, he exclaimed, first of all, "I had only one eye and they put that out." It was thepreaching of the Gospel, and before long he hasgot both his eyes back again. Hear him writing in his letters, "My foes thought to punish me by casting me into a prisonbut lo! they have blessed me by taking me into Christ's withdrawing room, where I sit with Him and am with Him both nightand day without disturbance."
The expressions he sometimes uses are so rapturous that I would not quote them here. Love letters are not to be read in thestreets, and the words which souls inflamed with heavenly fire sometimes use towards Christ are not fit for public repetition.For there are passages of love, there are streetembraces of affection which we must not tell, for this were to commit a treason such as Paul might have done if he had toldon earth those words which he had heard in Heaven, and which it would not be lawful for a man to utter here.
Do you know anything about this, dear Friends? Oh, I pray you do not think I dream! These things are realities. I pray youthink not that I am enthusiastic or fanatical. There are many Believers who could tell you that it is their daily delightto be much with Christ. Oh, perhaps some of you knowwhat it is to have Christ with you in your shop. Your hands are busy weighing your goods or measuring out your wares, butChrist is with you, and your hearts are content. Or, as I remember hearing an old saint say one Sunday, when he was preachingfrom that text he pronounced sostrangely, "When I saw Him I fell at His feet as dead."
"Ah," he said, "you do not know where I live. You think I live at so-and-so, in such-and-such a street, but I do not, forI am dead, and my life is hid with Christ in God." Now there are some saints who, though they are in the world, are dead toit. It has no attractions for them. It cannot gettheir hearts. Their hearts are with Jesus. They are not here. And they have sent their souls onward to that place wheretheir bodies are one day to go, to the Throne where Jesus sits and reigns.
I remember hearing these expressions once used at a Prayer Meeting. They struck my mind and they still abide in my memory.A Brother had been praying and had asked a very great benefit. "O Lord," he said, "give me Mary's place-
'Oh, that I might forever sit With Mary at the Master's feet, Be this my happy choice.'
Lord, I would sit at Your feet and hear what You have to say and receive it as a willing scholar receives his master's words."I thought he would stop there but he said, "No, Lord, I have not asked enough. I have not asked according to the royalty ofYour nature. Lift me higher! Lift me higher! Notat Your feet would I sit, but I would lean upon Your breast. Oh, put me where John was, so I may lean my head upon Yourbosom. Let me not merely learn the Truth You teach, but may I feel Your heart beat and know Your love to me-
'Oh that I might with holy John Forever lean my head upon The bosom of my Lord.' "
Well now, I thought that second prayer was a noble one. But he had yet a third one to offer and he said, "No, Lord, no. Thatis not enough. I have not asked yet according to the tenor of Your promise. You have lifted me from Your feet to your breast,now lift me higher, to your lips." And then hequoted the words of the song-"Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for His love is better than wine." And he verybeautifully paraphrased it like this-"Lord, let me give to You the tokens of my love, and receive from You the present tokensof Your love to me.And not only know it, and feel Your heart beat, but receive the token of it as my lips of prayer meet Your lips of blessing,and my lips of thanksgiving touch Your lips of benediction."
Oh, there are heights and depths in this blessed contemplative life which I must not tell you here! And I thank God that thereare some men who, though they go very far wrong in doctrine, are very right on this point. And if they are right here, verily,they are right in the essentials. When a mancan come right up to Christ and throw his arms around Him. When he can say, "That blood is mine. That Christ is my joy.His love is my love. His Presence is my Heaven, His Character is my great example. I trust in Him, and I love Him"-that manmay say fifty things that are notright, but he has said the things that are essentially right-and his soul is safe.
"Well," says one, "I shall never get to know Christ's love by contemplation. I have no time." Ah, you had better have an hour'sless sleep than lose this blessed contemplation of Christ. "Oh but I have so much to do." Dear Friends, we can sometimes domore in one half an hour than we can do atother times in hours, according to the tenor of our minds. Now, I think that contemplating Christ winds up the soul andputs it into a right frame, so that when we come back we can do more for the Master than we ever did before.
Perhaps you have seen them driving piles in the marshes. There is a large piece of timber that has to be driven deep intothe ground, and you have seen those pile-driving machines. There is an immense weight and they pull it up, and up and up,before they let it fall. Now, if they only pull it up alittle way and then let it drop-well it comes down with some force-but not a great deal. But when they lift it as high asever they can draw it up and then let it come down at once, why what a drive it gives the pile! It is the going up that givesit such force in comingdown.
And I believe that those are the best sermons for driving the Truth of God into the sinner's heart that come from ministerswho have been wound up very high before they come down in the sermon. And I think your usefulness will be sure to be powerfuland mighty, if in private you are wound up to thevery summit of contemplative delight by thinking of the work, the sufferings, and the triumphs of Christ. Certainly thesweetness of it alone is reward, and then the benefit which follows will be a sevenfold recompense for a most pleasant exercise.
V. Well now, we have taken you up some height but we must prepare for a flight which is higher, still. To know the love ofChrist which passes knowledge by contemplation is very high-but there is a higher stage than this. There are times when Ialmost fear to speak of these things, but thereare some here, surely, who will understand me, some here who have passed through the same state, and will not think thatI am dreaming. There are times when the soul has long contemplated Christ, and there are some who know not only to contemplatebut to enjoy. Even on earth, faithsometimes gives place to a present and conscious enjoyment.
There are times with the Believer when whether he is in the body, or out of the body, he can scarcely tell. God knows, andthough not caught up to the third Heaven, he is brought to the very gates, and if not permitted to see Christ on His Throne,he does so see Him on His Cross, that if an infidelshould say to him, "There is no Christ," he could say, "I have seen Him. My eyes have looked upon Him, and my hands havetouched Him after a spiritual sort." There are many such rapturous seasons as this on record in the biographies of good men.I shall quote but one or two, and Ihope there are some here who have known them in their own experience.
In the life of Mr. Flavel, who was one of the most temperate of the Puritans, and one not at all given to anything like fanaticism,there is an event mentioned which once occurred to him. He said that being once on a journey alone on horseback, the thoughtof the love of Christ came upon him withgreat power. And as he rode gently along the road, the thought seemed to increase in force and strength, till at last heforgot all about earth, and even where he was. Somehow or other his horse stood still but he did not notice it. And when hecame to himself, through some passerbyobserving him, he found that he had bled very copiously during the time. Getting off his horse he washed his face at thebrook and he said, "I did verily think as I stood there, that if I was not in Heaven, I could hardly hope to be more blessedin Heaven than I was then."
He mounted his horse and rode on to a place of lodging where he was to pass the night. Supper was brought in but left untastedon the table. He sat all night long without sleep, enjoying the presence of Christ, and he says, "I was more rested that nightthan with any sleep I ever had, and I heardand saw in my soul, by faith, such things as I had never known before." The like occurred to Mr. Tennant, who was a manwho spent many hours in private, and sometimes, when it was time to preach, he was quite unable to stand unless first carriedinto his pulpit. Then he would puthis hands out and lean there and say such glorious things of Christ, that those who looked upon him verily thought thatthey looked upon the face of an angel.
Rutherford, too, is another specimen. When he preached about Christ, he preached so wonderfully, that on any other subjecthe was not at all like himself. And the Duke of Argyle was once so warmed when Rutherford got upon that subject, that he criedout in Church-"Now, Man, you are on theright strain! Keep to it." And he did keep to it, and the little man's thin voice seemed to swell with supernatural grandeurwhen he began to talk of his precious, precious Lord Jesus, and to extol and exalt Him who was the Bridegroom of his soul,his Brother and his blessedCompanion.
"Oh, these are flights of the imagination," you say. Yes, they may be, indeed, Beloved. But if you could get them some times,you would come back to the world's cares and troubles like giants refreshed with new wine, caring nothing for anything thatmight happen. Christ would be so sweetly andblessedly within you, that you could bear the burden and think nothing of it. And though the grasshopper was a burden before,you could now carry it right readily.
Well, I have taken you up to where not many go in these times, but I hope there are some who will yet ascend there till theyshall even embrace Christ, and who will sit down at His table till they shall know Ralph Erskine's blessed sickness of loveand, in the conscious enjoyment of a preciousSavior, shall say in the words of the spouse, "Stay me with flagons, comfort me with apples, for I am sick of love. Hisleft hand is under my head and His right hand does embrace me."
VI. But I want to take you higher than this. Not higher in some senses, but higher, really, for these raptures are, of course,only like angels' visits, few and far between. But here is something which may be more lasting and which, certainly, is ahigher state of mind as to the knowledge ofChrist. To know Christ sympathetically, is a yet higher stage than any to which we have attained before. What do I meanby this? I will show you, first of all, what I do not mean. We will suppose ourselves standing on the brow of the hill withJerusalem in the alley below. Jerusalemis to be destroyed by the Romans. The decree has gone forth that its sin must be punished.
Now, here is a Brother who holds very high doctrines in his head, but who has not much sympathy in his heart. Come up here,Brother. Do you see that city there? That is all to be destroyed! Do you see its streets? They are all to be crimsoned withblood! Do you see its temple? Not one stone of itis to be left upon another! What do you think of it? "Well," he says, "if they are to be saved, they will be saved. If itis in the purpose and the decree it will be so. I am sure I am very sorry if they should not be, but I do not see that itis any particular business of mine. TheLord will have His own and it will all be well."
Get down, Sir! What do you know about the love of Christ? Nothing! Give such a man as you that text, "He beheld the city andwept over it," and you would not know how to preach from it, for you do not know the Savior's heart, and have not known Hislove.
But bring here another man. He holds the same doctrinal truths, but he looks down on the city and what does he say?-
"Oh, gladly my pity would reclaim And snatch the firebrands from the flame."
"Lord, what must I do? Give me anything to do for them! My heart's desire and prayer for them is that they may be saved."And the tears begin to flow, and when he turns to the Book and reads that Jesus beheld the city and wept over it and said,"If you at least in this, your day, had known thethings which belong unto your peace," he says, "Well, I do not know how to explain that to my doctrinal friend. I do notknow how to make these feelings quite square and tally with the doctrine. But somehow or other I know there is no disagreement,for I feel the one is true, and Ialso feel the sympathy in my heart. I know that God will have His own, but I hope He will have them through my instrumentality.I believe that His chosen will be brought in, but, O that it may be my happy lot to bring in some of them to the praise andthe glory of
"Why," some professors say, "I am not my Brother's keeper." No, but if you are not, I tell you what you are-you are your Brother'skiller! You are one of the two. If you say are not your Brother's keeper, rest assured that you are a Cain, and that you willbe your Brother's murderer-forwe either do good or hate. It is impossible for us to be devoid of influence. If the rill runs through the marshes it makesthem fertile. If you dam it up and make it stagnant, you have not destroyed its influence. Ah, no, you have only changed itinto a fetid pool and its influenceshall curse the valley with disease.
So with a good man. If he serves his Master, he is scattering mercy abroad. But let him, if it were possible for him to doso, let him cease to serve the Lord, and become idle, and then he scatters plague and death. Oh, do we know the love of Christby feeling it in our own hearts? There are someof us who can say that we have felt that we could do anything for souls. When we have heard it said of the Master, "He savedothers, Himself He cannot save," we have felt that we would not spare ourselves if God would only spare them. And when Paulsaid he could wish himselfaccursed from Christ for his Brethren, while commentators have been thinking that over, and cannot make it out, we havehad sympathy with it and have been able to say, "We have felt the same."
We have felt that we could even be lost to save others and we have said, "Let my name perish. Let me be forgotten if my congregationmay only be saved. If my children may be blessed. If my hearers may be converted to God." Men in this state know Christ'slove after a wonderful and marvelous sort.May God teach you each this way. May He help you to weep like Christ, to work like Christ-yes, and to be ready to die likeChrist-if it were necessary by such means to bring sinners to their Savior and their Lord. O that we could get here!
I know my dear Brother, the pastor of this Church, would desire nothing more for you than that you might know Christ's loveby feeling it in your hearts. O that Christ would come and look out of these eyes and weep down these cheeks! O that He wouldspeak through these lips, till it should not bethe old self, man, that thought, and spoke, and acted-but the new-born Spirit of the Lord Jesus that had come into us andpossessed us with a higher and a nobler life-that we might spend and be spent for Him!
I think I shall have but one step further to take you, though there are some which are higher still. Before I do so I musttell you one anecdote to guard you against a possible mistake. There is a tendency, in the contemplative knowledge of Christ'slove, to self-indulgence. I know at the presentmoment a dear servant of Christ. I shall always regard him as such. He may be known to some of you, though I would not liketo mention his name. He was once a notable minister in this city and was exceedingly useful. He began the contemplative life.
He lived very near to Christ and his preaching was exceedingly sweet to his hearers. There were many converts. He had a largeChurch and it exceedingly prospered. But so sweet were his private enjoyments that he began to relax in his public duties.He did preach, but he seldom allowed himself tosee his hearers, and at last arrived at such a pitch of re- tirement, that he could walk into his pulpit without even speakingto his deacons, and then deliver himself. But the man's usefulness ceased. Though still a gracious soul, yet he has missedhis way, and ceased to be one ofthe honored leaders of Christ's Church.
Now, there is a tendency, a wrong tendency, mark you, of getting so high and not wanting to get any higher. Even the contemplativelife, itself, ought only to be considered as a steppingstone to something beyond. And when we get to the very highest point,we are still to say with Paul, as we sitdown upon the milestone, "Not as though I had already attained, either were already perfect: but this one thing I do, forgettingthe things which are behind, press forward to those which are before."
It is related of a certain monk, who, having been long in his cell alone, thought while in his devotions that he saw the LordJesus. Of course the tale is a fable, but I relate it for the sake of its moral. He thought he saw the Lord before him ascrucified, and he heard His voice speaking sweetand comfortable words to him. Just at that moment, when his soul was in a very flood of delight, he heard the convent bellring, and he remembered it was his turn to go out to the gate and give away bread to the beggars who stood there.
Oh, he had never heard that bell ring so dolefully before! It seemed to him like the knell of all his joys. The impulse ofduty, however, was stronger than that of delight, and he went his way with a heavy heart to distribute the bread. As he cameback to his cell, he thought, "Ah, I shall neversee that again! Christ is gone from me, and I shall never know these enjoyments again!" When, to his surprise, there wasthe vision still. As he bowed before it with delight, he heard a voice which said, "If you had stayed I would have gone. Butsince you did My work I tarried togive you your reward."
Now, there is a tendency, when we have been alone and in private, and have had sweet fellowship with Christ, for us to feel-"Ido not want to go out from this. I do not want to be disturbed just now. I would rather not do anything just now." I do notsuppose there are very many of you who getinto this state, but there may be some who think at such times, "I do not want to preach today. I would rather not do anything.It is best that I should be alone."
Ah, it is a strong temptation, and you must strive against it and say, "No, I have enjoyments in my religion, but I did notseek my religion for the enjoyment it would give me. I must look higher than that, to the God I serve, and to the Lord andMaster whose I am. I love the jewels He gives me towear upon my fingers, but I love His Person better. I am not to look upon these rings and forget to look into His eyes.I love the sweet couch that He makes for me at night, but I am not to lie there and forget the fields that are to be plowedand the battles that are to be fought.I must be up and doing. The contemplative life must lead me to duty and then shall I know Christ even as I am known.
VII. And now, the last and highest step of all, upon which we can only say a few words, is that which is called by deep writersand experienced Believers on this point, the absorbing love of Christ. How shall I tell you what this is? I cannot, exceptI quote Wesley's words-
"Oh, love Divine, how sweet you are! When shall I find my willing heart All taken up with you?"
"I thirst"-can you get as far as that? "I faint"-that is a high state, indeed! "/die"-that is the top-
"I thirst, I faint, I die to prove The fullness of redeeming love, The love of Christ to me."
"I live. Yet not I, but Christ lives in me," said the Apostle Paul, and that is where we must get-when the man ceases to feelhimself, the "I"-and only recognizes himself as part of Christ. It is our individuality that we really have to get rid ofin this matter. It is our selfishseparateness, I mean. We need to feel that we are a part of Christ, a member of His body, flesh of His flesh and bone ofHis bone.
We have to get to where we have no more desire to act, or think, or feel according to anything that is here-but to send ourhearts up to the great heart of Christ in Heaven-only tarrying here while our souls are walking the golden streets with Christ.I do not know if I might be boldenough to say, "Blessed is the man who shall be able to attain to the state when that which thinks is the head of Christ,and that which feels is the heart of Christ-when the great seat of all the sensations, spiritually, is in Christ, and notin himself and he himselfis-
"Plunged into the Godhead's sea And lost in its immensity."
"The Brahmins believe that the highest perfection is to be absorbed into God, and there is a certain truth in it, though notas they mean it. When we are lost in God we are highest. When it is not we, but Christ-and we have come to be with Him andHis heart is ours, and His love and soul, andwish are ours-then it is that we comprehend the height and depth and length and breadth and know the love of Christ whichpasses knowledge.
Now, I have not said much tonight to the ungodly. But if I could make any of you feel your mouths a-watering after Christby what I have said, I should be pleased, indeed. Oh, if you did but know the sweetness of the love of Christ, you would notbe careless about it-
"His worth, if all the nations knew, Surely the whole world would love Him, too." Blind bat's eyes are those that cannot seebeauty in Christ! Hard, stony hearts, that cannot feel any love to Him! What do you say, Sinner? Do you say, "O that I knewChrist's love! O that I knew His love to me!"Sinner, He has sent me to you tonight to preach His Gospel. And it is His Gospel, though not the Gospel which some preach,for I have heard some finish their sermons thus-"Go home and pray. Go home and do your best to find Christ."
All this is good enough advice but it is not the Gospel. The Gospel is-"Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and you shall besaved." Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ. To believe in Christ is to trust in Him. That is all it is-to trust in Him. "ButI must repent," one says. Repentance is achange of mind, and is a blessed fruit of faith and comes with faith. That repentance which comes before faith is not truerepentance, for it is a repentance that needs to be repented of. Where there is no faith, it is impossible to please God.
That repentance which has no faith in it must be displeasing to God, and needs to be repented of. The first business you have,Sinner, is not to feel anything, but to put your trust in Christ. Your business is not to try to make yourselves fit to cometo Christ, but to come to Him just as you are.You are to trust Christ and to trust Him now. "Oh but I am a black with sin!" Come and be washed. "Oh but I am a naked sinner."Come and be clothed. "But I am lost." Oh, Sirs, the Master has come to seek and to save that which is lost. You are not tofind yourselves first, and thenthink He will come and find you. He is come to seek you.
Hark! While the trumpet sounds in the street without meaning, I would sound the Gospel trumpet here. Come and welcome! Comejust as you are! To come is to trust and simply to fall flat at the foot of the Cross and say, "Jesus, I trust You to saveme." That done, you are saved, and your sin is gone.He took it and was punished for it. You are righteous in God's sight, for His righteousness is yours, and you are saved.Christ, the Head, is your Representative. You are delivered. Christ has broken the neck of your foe, and you are emancipatedthe very moment when you believe.
Some persons dislike instantaneous conversions. Let them read the Bible and see what sorts of conversion are there. Thereis Saul of Tarsus, there is the Philippian jailer. There are the three thousand on the day of Pentecost-these are all instantaneousconversions. There is a man over there,near the door, who came in here. Perhaps he did not know what for, or to listen to some strange, out-of-the-way matter.That man, if Christ shall meet with him tonight, and lead him in the way of His Grace, may go out of this Chapel as much savedas if it were seven years ago whenhe first believed on Jesus, for-
"The moment a sinner believes And trusts in a crucified God," he is saved, it is all done! The work is finished and thereis no need that anything else should be done. The robe of righteousness has been completed. There is not a stitch to be addedto it.
Sinner, this is the glory of the Gospel. Trust Jesus and you are saved and saved forever, beyond the reach of destruction.May God meet with some soul here tonight, and especially may He now stir up you, His people, to grow in Divine Grace and inthe knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.Amen and Amen.