Sermon 1044. Loosening The Sandal Strap
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, MARCH 31, 1872,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"One mightier than I comes, whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." Luke 3:16.
IT was not John's business to attract followers to himself but to point them to Jesus, and he very faithfully discharged hiscommission. His opinion of his Master, of whom he was the herald, was a very high one. He reverenced Him as the Anointed ofthe Lord, the King of Israel, and, consequently, he was not tempted into elevating himself into a rival. He rejoiced to declare,"He must increase but I must decrease." In the course of his self-depreciation he uses the expression of our text which isrecorded by each one of the Evangelists with some little variation. Matthew words it, "whose shoes I am not worthy to bear."He was not fit to fetch his Lord His shoes.
Mark writes it, "whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose." And John has it very much as in Luke. This puttingon and taking off and putting away of sandals was an office usually left to menial servants. It was not a work of any reputeor honor, yet the Baptist felt that it would be a great honor to be even a menial servant of the Lord Jesus. He felt thatthe Son of God was so infinitely superior to himself that he was honored if only permitted to be the meanest slave in Hisemploy. He would not allow men to attempt comparisons between himself and Jesus-he felt that none could, for a moment, beallowed.
Now this honest estimate of himself as less than nothing in comparison with his Master is greatly to be imitated by us. Johnis to be commended and admired for this, but better still he is to be carefully copied. Remember that John was by no meansan inferior man. Among all that had been born of women before his time there had not been a greater than he. He was the subjectof many prophecies and his office was a peculiarly noble one. He was the friend of the great Bridegroom and introduced Himto His chosen bride. He was the morning star of the Gospel day, but he counted himself no light in the Presence of the Sunof Righteousness whom he heralded. The temperament of John was not that which bowed or cringed-he was no reed shaken by thewind-no man of courtly habits fitted for a king's palace.
No. We see in him an Elijah, a man of iron, a son of thunder. He roared like a young lion on his prey and feared the faceof none. Some men are so naturally meek-spirited, not to say weak-minded, that they naturally become subservient and set upothers as their leaders. Such men are apt to err in depreciating themselves. But John was every inch a man- his great soulbowed only before that which was worthy of homage. He was, in God's strength, as an iron pillar and a bronze wall. He wasa hero for the cause of the Lord, and yet he sat down in the Presence of Jesus as a little child sits on a stool at his master'sfeet, and he cried, "whose sandal strap I am not worthy to stoop down and to loose."
Remember, moreover, that John was a man endowed with great abilities and these are very apt to make a man proud. He was aProphet, yes, and more than a Prophet. When he stood in the wilderness to preach, his burning eloquence soon attracted thepeople from Jerusalem and from all the cities round about! The banks of Jordan saw a vast multitude of eager hearers crowdingaround the man clothed with a garment of camel's hair. Thousands gathered together to listen to the teaching of one who hadnot been brought up at the feet of the rabbis, neither had been taught eloquence after the fashion of the schools!
John was a man of bold, plain, telling, commanding speech! He was no second-rate teacher, but a master in Israel. Yet he assumedno airs of self-conceit, but accounted the lowest place in the Lord's service as too high for him. Note, too, that he wasnot only a great preacher, but he had been very successful-not only in attracting the crowds-but in baptizing them. The wholenation felt the effects of John's ministry and knew that he was a Prophet! They were swayed to and fro by his zealous words,as the corn of autumn is moved in the breath of the wind. A man is very apt, when he feels that he has power over masses ofhis fellow creatures, to be lifted up and exalted above measure, but not so John! It was
safe for the Lord to trust him with a great popularity and a great success, for though he had all those honors he laid themmeekly down at Jesus' feet, and said, "I am not worthy to be even the lowest slave in Messiah's household."
Remember, also, that John was a religious leader and he had the opportunity, if he had pleased, of becoming the leader ofa powerful sect. The people were evidently willing to follow him. There were some, no doubt, who would not have gone overto Christ, Himself, if John had not bid them go, and testified, "Behold the Lamb of God," and confessed over and over again,saying, "I am not the Christ." We read of some, who years after the Baptist was dead, still remained his disciples so thathe had the opportunity of leading away a multitude who would have become his followers, and so of setting up his own nameamong men. But he scorned it!
His elevated view of his Master prevented his entertaining any desire for personal leadership. Putting himself down not inthe place of a captain of the lord's hosts, but as one of the least soldiers in the army, he says, "His sandal straps I amnot worthy to loose." What was the reason, do you think, of John's always retaining his proper position? Was it not becausehe had a high idea of his Master and a deep reverence for Him? Ah, Brothers and Sisters, because of our little estimate ofChrist it is often unsafe for the Lord to trust us in any but the very lowest positions. I believe many of us might have been10 times as useful-only it would not have been safe for God to have allowed us to be so-we would have been puffed up and,like Nebuchadnezzar, we would have boasted, "Behold this great Babylon that I have built."
Many a man has had to fight in the back ranks and serve his Master but little-and enjoy but little success in that servicebecause he did not reverence Christ enough-did not love his Lord enough, and, consequently self would soon have crept in tohis own overturning-to the grief of the Church, and to the dishonor of his Lord. Oh, for high thoughts of Christ, and lowthoughts of ourselves! Oh, to see Jesus as All in All, and to see ourselves as less than nothing before
Having thus introduced the subject, our object this morning is to draw instruction from the expression which John here andelsewhere used with regard to himself and his Lord-"Whose sandal strap I am not worthy to loose." I gather from this, first,that no form of holy service is to be lightly esteemed. Secondly, that our unworthiness is apparent in the presence of anysort of holy work. And that, thirdly, this unworthiness of ours, when most felt, should rather stimulate us to action thandiscourage us-for so it doubtless operated in the case of John the Baptist.
I. First, then, note THAT NO FORM OF HOLY SERVICE IS TO BE LIGHTLY ESTEEMED. To unloose the straps of Christ's sandals mightseem very trivial. It might even seem as if it involved the loss of self-respect for a man of position and influence to stoopto offices which a servant might quite as well perform. Why should I bring myself down to that? I will learn of Christ-I willdistribute bread among the multitude for Christ-I will have my boat by the sea shore ready for Christ to preach in, or I willgo and fetch the donkey upon which He shall ride in triumph into Jerusalem. But what need can there be for the disciple tobecome a mere menial?
Such a question as that is here forever silenced and the spirit which dictates it is practically rebuked. Nothing is dishonorableby which Jesus may be honored! Nothing lowers a man, if, thereby, he honors his Lord! It is not possible for any godly workto be beneath our dignity-rather ought we to know that the lowest grade of service bestows dignity upon the man who heartilyperforms it. Even the least and most obscure form of serving Christ is more high and lofty than we are worthy to undertake.
Now, note that little works for Christ-little sandal bearings and strap loosening often have more of the child's spirit inthem than greater works. Outside, in the streets, a man's companion will do him a kindness and the action performed is friendly.But for filial acts you must look inside the house. There the child does not lend money to its father, or negotiate business-yetin his little acts there is more than sonship. Who is it that comes to meet Father when the day is over? And what is the actionwhich often indicates childhood's love? Look, the little child comes tottering forward with father's slippers and runs offwith his boots as he takes them off! The service is little, but it is loving and filial-and has more of filial affection init than the servant's bringing in the meal, preparing the bed, or any other more essential service. It gives the little onegreat pleasure and expresses his love.
No one who is not my child, or who does not love me in something like the same way, would ever dream of making such a servicehis specialty. The littleness of the act fits it to the child's capacity, and there is also something in it which makes ita suitable expression of a child's affection. So, also, in little acts for Jesus! Oftentimes men of the world will give theirmoney to the cause of Christ, putting down large sums for charity or for missions. But they will not weep in secret
over other men's sins, or speak a word of comfort to an afflicted saint. To visit a poor sick woman, teach a little child,reclaim a street Arab, breathe a prayer for enemies or whisper a promise in the ear of a desponding saint may show more ofsonship than building a row of almshouses or endowing a Church! In little acts for Christ it is always to be remembered thatthe little things are as necessary to be done as the greater acts.
If Christ's feet are not washed. If His sandals are not loosed He may suffer and His feet may be lamed so that a journey maybe shortened, and many villages may miss the blessing of His Presence. So with other minor things. There is as much need forthe quiet intercessions of saints as for the public delivery of God's Truth before the assembled thousands. It is as necessarythat babes be taught their little hymns as that monarchs be rebuked for sin. We remember the old story of the losing of thebattle through the missing of a single nail in a horseshoe, and perhaps up to this moment the Church may have lost her battlefor Christ because some minor work which ought to have been done for Jesus has been neglected.
I should not wonder if it should turn out that many Churches have been without prosperity because, while they have lookedto the public ministry and the visible ordinances, they have been negligent of smaller service to their Master. Many a cartcomes to grief through inattention to the linchpin. A very small matter turns an arrow aside from the target. To teach a childto sing, "Gentle Jesus," and to point its young heart to the Redeemer may seem a trifle, but yet it may be a most essentialpart of the process of that gracious work of religious education by which that child shall afterwards become a Believer, aminister and a winner of souls! Omit that first lesson and it may be you have turned aside a life.
Take another instance. A preacher once found himself obligated to preach in an obscure village. The storm was terrible, and,therefore, though he kept his appointment, he found only one person present in the place of meeting. He preached a sermonto that one hearer with as much earnestness as if the house had been crowded. Years later he found Churches all over the district,and he discovered that his audience of one had been converted on that day and had become the Evangelist of the whole region!Had he declined to preach to one, what blessings might have been withheld! Brethren, never neglect the loosing of the sandalstrap for Christ since you do not know what may hang upon it.
Human destiny often turns upon a hinge so small as to be invisible. Never say within yourself, "This is trivial"- nothingis trivial for the Lord! Never say, "But this surely might be omitted without much loss." How do you know? If it is your duty,He who allotted you your task knew what He did. Do not you, in any measure, neglect any portion of His orders, for in allHis commands there is consummate wisdom-and on your part it will be wisdom to obey them, even to the jots and tittles. Littlethings for Christ, again, are often the best tests of the truth of our religion. Obedience in little things has much to dowith the character of a servant. You engage a servant in your own house and you know very well whether she is a good or badservant if the main duties of the day are pretty sure to be attended to. The meals will be cooked, the beds will be prepared,the house will be swept, the door will be answered-but the difference between a servant who makes the house happy and anotherwho is its plague lies in a number of small matters, which, perhaps, you could not put down on paper-but which make up a verygreat deal of domestic comfort or discomfort, and so determine the value of a servant.
So I believe it is in Christian life. I do not suppose that the most of us here would ever omit the weightier matters of theLaw. As Christian men we endeavor to maintain integrity and uprightness in our actions, and we try to order our householdsin the fear of God in great matters. But it is in the looking to the Lord upon minor details that the spirit of obedienceis most displayed. It is seen in our keeping our eyes up to the Lord, as the eyes of the handmaidens are to their mistressesfor daily orders about this step and that transaction. The really obedient spirit wishes to know the Lord's will about everything,and if there is any point which to the world seems trifling, for that very reason the obedient spirit says, "I will attendto it to prove to my Lord that even in the minutiae I desire to submit my soul to His good pleasure."
In small things lie the crucibles and the touchstones. Any hypocrite will come to Lord's-Day worship, but it is not everyhypocrite that will attend Prayer Meetings, or read the Bible in secret, or speak privately of the things of God to the saints.These are less things, so they judge, and therefore they neglect them and so condemn themselves! Where there is deep religion,prayer is loved-where religion is shallow only public acts of worship are cared for. You shall find the same true in otherthings. A man who is no Christian will very likely not tell you a downright lie by saying that black is white, but he willnot hesitate to declare that whitey-brown is white-he will go that length.
But the Christian will not go halfway to falsehood, no, he scorns to go an inch on that road! He will no more cheat you outof two pence farthing, than he would out of 2,000 pounds. He will not rob you of an inch any more than of an yard! It is inthe little that the genuineness of the Christian is made to appear. The Goldsmiths' hallmark is a small affair, but you knowtrue silver by it. There is a vast deal of difference between the man who gladly bears Christ's sandals and another who willnot stoop to anything which he thinks beneath him. Even a Pharisee will ask Christ to his house to sit at meat with him-heis willing to entertain a great religious leader at his table. But it is not everyone who will stoop down and loose His sandalstraps, for that very Pharisee who made the feast neither brought Him water to wash His feet, nor gave Him the kiss of welcome.He proved the insincerity of his hospitality by forgetting the little things.
I will be bound to say Martha and Mary never forgot to loose His sandal straps and that Lazarus never failed to see that Hisfeet were washed. Look then, I pray you, as Christians, to the service of Christ in the obscure things, in the things thatare not recognized by men-in the matters which have no honor attached to them-for by this shall your love be tried. Mark,with regard to little works, that very often there is about them a degree of personal fellowship with Christ which is notseen in greater work. For instance, in the one before us, to unloose the straps of His sandals brings me into contact withHimself, though it is only His feet I touch.
And I think if I might have the preference between going forth to cast out devils and to preach the Gospel and to heal thesick, or to stay with Him and always loose His sandal straps, I should prefer this last, because the first act Judas did-he went with the 12 and saw Satan, like lightning, fall from Heaven-but he perished because he failed in the acts that cameinto contact with Christ. In keeping Christ's purse he was a thief, and in giving Christ the kiss he was a traitor. He whodoes not fail in things relating personally to Christ is the sound man-he has the evidence of righteousness of heart. Therewas never a grander action done beneath the stars than when the woman broke her alabaster box of precious ointment and pouredit upon Him! Though the poor did not get anything out of it. Though no sick man was the better for it-the act was done distinctlyunto Him-and therefore there was a peculiar sweetness in it.
Oftentimes similar actions, because they do not encourage other people, for they do not know of them-but because they maynot be of any very great value to our fellow men-are lightly esteemed. Yet seeing they are done for Christ, they have aboutthem a peculiar charm as terminating upon His blessed Person. True, it is but the loosening of sandal straps, but then theyare His sandals and that ennobles the deed! Dear fellow Christians, you know what I mean, though I cannot put it into verygood language this morning.
I mean just this-that if there is some little thing I can do for Christ-though my minister will not know about it, thoughthe deacons and elders will not know and nobody will know. And if I leave it undone nobody will suffer any calamity becauseof it, but, if I do it, it will please my Lord and I shall enjoy the sense of having done it for Him, therefore will I attendto it, for it is no slight work if it is for Him. Mark, also, once more, concerning those gracious actions which are but littleesteemed by the most of mankind, that we know God accepts our worship in little things! He allowed His people to bring theirbullocks, others of them to bring their rams, and offer them to Him. And these were persons of sufficient wealth to be ableto afford a tribute from their herds and flocks.
But He also permitted the poor to offer a pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons, and I have never found in God's Wordthat He cared less for the turtledove offering than He did for the sacrifice of the bullock. I do know, too, that our everblessed Lord, Himself, when He was here, loved the praise of little children. They brought neither gold nor silver like thewise men from the East, but they cried, "Hosanna," and the Lord was not angry with their Hosannas-He accepted their boyishpraise. And we remember that a widow woman cast into the treasury two mites, which only made a farthing, but, because it wasall her living, He did not reject the gift, but rather recorded it to her honor.
We are now quite familiar with the incident, but for all that it is very wonderful. Two mites that make a farthing given tothe infinite God! A farthing accepted by the King of kings! A farthing acknowledged by Him who made the heavens and the earth,who says, "If I were hungry I would not tell you, for the cattle on a thousand hills are Mine." Two mites received with pleasureby the Lord of All! It was scarcely so much as a drop thrown into the sea, and yet He thought much of it! Measure not littleactions by human scales and measures, but estimate them as God does-for the Lord has respect unto the hearts of His people.He regards not so much their deeds in themselves as the motives by which they are actuated. Therefore, value the loosing ofthe Savior's sandal straps, and despise not the day of small things.
II. Now, Brothers and Sisters, I wish to conduct you, in the second place, to the consideration of OUR OWN UNWORTHINESS, whichis sure to be felt by us whenever we come practically into contact with any real Christian service. I believe, as a generalrule, that a man who does nothing at all thinks himself a fine fellow. You shall usually find that the sharpest critics arethose who never write, and the best judges of battles are those who keep at a prudent distance from the guns.
Christians of the kid-gloved order, who never make an attempt to save souls, are marvelously quick to tell us when we aretoo rough or too light in our speech-and they readily detect us if our modes of action are irregular or too enthusiastic.They have a very keen sense for anything like fanaticism or disorder. For my part, I feel pretty safe when I have the censuresof these gentlemen-we are not far wrong when they condemn us! Let a man begin earnestly to work for the Lord Jesus and hewill soon find out that he is unworthy of the meanest place in the employ of One so glorious! Let us turn over that fact aminute.
Dear Brothers and Sisters, when we remember what we used to be I am sure we must feel unworthy to do the very least thingfor Christ. You know how Paul describes the wickedness of certain offenders, and he adds, "But such were some of you"? Whathardness of heart some of us exhibited towards God! What rebellion! What obstinacy! What quenching of His Spirit! What loveof sin! Why, if I might stoop down to loose the sandal strap of that foot which was crucified for me, I must bedew the nailprint with my tears, and say, "My Savior, can it be that I am allowed to touch Your feet?" Surely, the prodigal, if he everunloosed his father's shoes, could say to himself, "Why, these hands fed swine! These hands were often polluted by harlots!I lived in uncleanness, and was first a reveler, and then a swineherd, and it is amazing love which permits me, now, to serveso good a father." Angels in Heaven might envy the man who is permitted to do the least thing for Christ, and yet they neversinned! Oh, what a favor that we who are defiled with sin should be called to serve the sinless Savior!
But, then, another reflection comes at the back of it-we recollect what we are as well as what we were-I say what we are,for though washed in Jesus' blood and endowed with a new heart and a right spirit, yet we start aside like a deceitful bow,for corruption dwells in us! It is sometimes hard work to maintain even a little faith. We are so double-minded, so unstable,so hot, so cold, so earnest, and then so negligent. We are so everything except what we ought to be, that we may well wonderthat Christ allows us to do the least thing for Him! If he were to shut us in prison and keep us there, so long as He didnot actually execute us He would be dealing with us according to mercy and not giving us our full deserts! Yet He calls usout of prison and puts us in His service, and therefore we feel that we are unworthy to perform the least action in His House.
Besides, Beloved, even small services, we feel, require a better state of heart than we often have. I am sure the serviceof preaching the Gospel here often brings to my sight my unworthiness far more than I should otherwise see it. If it is agracious thing to see one's sinfulness, I may thank God I preach the Gospel, for it makes me see it. Sometimes we come topreach about Jesus Christ and glorify Him and yet our heart is not warm towards Him and we do not value Him aright. Whilethe text we are preaching from seats Him on a high throne, our heart is not setting Him there. And oh, then we think we couldtear our heart out of our very body if we could get rid of the black drops of its depravity which prevent our feeling in unisonwith the glorious Truth before us!
Another time, perhaps, we have to invite sinners and seek to bring them to Christ, and that needs so much sympathy that ifChrist were preaching our sermon He would bedew it with His tears-but we deliver it with dry eyes, almost without emotion-andthen we flog our hard heart that it will not stir and cannot be made to feel. It is just the same in other duties. Have younot felt, "I have to go and teach my class this afternoon, but I am not fit, I have been worried all the week with cares andmy mind is not up to the mark now. I hope I love my Lord, but I hardly know whether I do or not. I ought to be earnest aboutthese boys and girls-but it is very likely I shall not be earnest-I shall sit down and go through my teaching as a parrotwould go through it, without life, without love"? Yes, then you painfully feel that you are not worthy to loose the strapsof your Lord's sandals.
Possibly you are going, this afternoon to visit a dying man and you will try and talk to him about the way to Heaven. He isunconverted. Now, you need a tongue of fire to speak with, and instead of that you have a tongue of ice! You feel, "O God,how can it be that I shall sit by that bedside and think of that poor man who will be in the flames of Hell, perhaps, withina week, unless he receives Christ, and yet I shall treat his tremendously perilous condition as
though it were a matter of the very slightest consequence?" Yes, yes, yes we have had hundreds of times to feel that we arein and of ourselves not fit for anything! If the Lord wanted dishwashers in His kitchen, He could get better than we are!And if He needed someone to shovel out the refuse of His house, He could find better men than we are for that. To such a Masterwe are unworthy to be servants.
The same feeling arises in another way. Have we not to confess, Brothers and Sisters, in looking upon what we have done forChrist, that we have far too much eye to self in our conduct? We pick and choose our work, and the picking and choosing isguided by the instinct of self-respect. If we are asked to do that which is pleasant to ourselves we do it. If we are requestedto attend a meeting where we shall be received with acclamation. If we are asked to perform a service which will lift us upin the social scale, or that will commend us to our fellow Christians, we jump at it like a fish at a fly! But, suppose thework would bring us shame? Suppose it would reveal to the public our inefficiency rather than our ability? We excuse ourselves!
The spirit which Moses felt a little of when the Lord called him, is upon many of us. "If I were to speak for Christ," saysone, "I should stutter and stammer." As if God did not make stuttering mouths as well as intent mouths, and as if, when Hechose a Moses, He did not know what He was doing! Moses must go and stammer for God and glorify God by stammering! But Mosesdoes not like that-and many in similar cases have not had Grace enough to go to the work at all. Why, if I cannot honor theLord with 10 talents, shall I refuse to serve Him with one? If I cannot fly like a strong-winged angel through the midst ofHeaven and sound the shrill-mouthed trumpet so as to wake the dead, shall I refuse to be a little bee and gather honey atGod's bidding? Because I cannot be a leviathan, shall I refuse to be an ant? What folly and what rebellion if we are so perverse!
And, if you have performed any holy work, have you not noticed that pride is ready to rise? God can hardly let us succeedin any work but what we become big-headed. "Oh, how well we have done it!" We do not need anybody to say, "Now, that was verycleverly, and nicely, and carefully, and earnestly done," for we say all that to ourselves, and we add, "yes, you were zealousabout that work, and you have been doing what a great many would not have done, and you have not boasted of it either! Youdo not call in any neighbor to see it. You have been doing it simply out of love to God, and, therefore, you are an uncommonlyhumble fellow and none can say you are vain."
Alas, what flattery, but truly, "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked." We are not worthy to loosethe straps of Jesus' sandals because, if we do, we begin to say to ourselves, "What great folks we are. We have been allowedto loose the Lord's sandal straps." If we do not tell somebody else about it with many an exultation, we at least tell ourselvesabout it and feel that we are something, after all, and ought to be held in no small repute! My Brothers and Sisters, we oughtto feel that we are not worthy to do the lowest thing we can do for Christ because, when we have gone to the lowest, Jesusalways goes lower down than we have gone!
Is it a little thing to bear His shoes? What, then, was His condescension when He washed His disciples' feet? To put up witha cross-tempered brother, to be gentle with him, and feel, "I will give way to him in everything because I am a Christian"-thatis going very low-but then our Lord has borne far more from us! He was patient with His people's infirmities and forgave evento 70 times seven. And suppose we are willing to take the lowest place in the Church, yet Jesus took a lower place than wecan, for He took the place of the curse-He was made sin for us, even He that knew no sin-that we might be made the righteousnessof God in Him.
I have sometimes felt willing to go to the gates of Hell to save a soul, but the Redeemer went further, for He suffered thewrath of God for souls. If there should be any Christian here who is so humble that he has no lofty thoughts about himself,but prefers to be least among his brethren and so proves his graciousness, yet, my dear Brother, you are not so lowly as Christmade Himself, for He "made Himself of no reputation," and you have some reputation left. And He took upon Himself the formof a servant, and He became obedient to death-you have not come to that yet-even the death of the Cross. The felon's deathupon the gallows-you will never be brought to that.
Oh, the condescending of the Redeemer's amazing love! Let us, from this hour on, contend how low we can go side by side withHim. But remember when we have gone to the lowest, He descends lower still-so that we can truly feel that the very lowestplace is too high for us because He has gone lower. Beloved Friends, to put these things in a practical shape it may seemto be a very small duty for any of you to do-to speak to one person alone about his soul. If you were asked to preach to ahundred you would try it. I ask you solemnly, in God's name, not to let the sun go down today till
you have spoken to one man or woman, alone, about his or her soul. Will you do that? Is it too little for you? Then I mustbe honest with you and say you are not worthy to do it.
Speak today to some little child about his soul. Do not say, "Oh, we cannot talk to children, we cannot stoop to them." Letno such feeling occupy any of our minds, for if this work is as the loosing of the Master's sandal straps, let us do it. HolyBrainerd, when he was dying and could no longer preach to the Indians, had a little Indian boy at his bedside, and taughthim his letters. And he remarked to one who came in, "I asked God that I might not live any longer than I could be of use,and so, as I cannot preach any more, I am teaching this poor little child to read the Bible." Let us never think that we arestooping when we teach children! But if it is stooping let us stoop!
There are some of you, perhaps, who have the opportunity to do good to fallen women. Do you shrink from such work? Many do.They feel as if they could do anything rather than speak to such. Is it the loosening of the straps of your Master's sandals?It is, then, an honorable business! Try it, Brother. It is not beneath you if you do it for Jesus. It is even above the bestof you-you are not worthy to do it. Possibly there is near your house a district of very poor people. You do not like goingin among them. They are dirty and perhaps infected with disease. Well, it is a pity that poor people should so often be dirty,but pride is dirty, too.
Do you say, "I cannot go there"? Why not? Are you such a mighty fine gentleman that you are afraid of soiling your hands?You will not unloose your Master's sandal strap, then, is that it? The Lord lived among the poor, and was poorer even thanthey, for He had nowhere to lay His head. Oh, shame on you, you wicked and proud servant of a condescending, loving Lord!Go about your business and unloose the straps of His sandals! Instead of imagining that you would be lowered by such workfor Jesus, I tell you it would honor you! Indeed, you are not fit for it-the honor is too great for you-and it will fall tothe lot of better men. It comes to this, Beloved-anything that can be done for Christ is too good for us to do!
Somebody wanted to keep the door! Somebody wanted to rout out the back lanes! Somebody wanted to teach ragged roughs! Somebodywanted to ask people to come to the place of worship and to lend them their seats, and stand in the aisle while they sit.Well, be it what it may, I had rather be a door keeper in the House of the Lord, or the doormat, even, than I would be accountedamong the noblest in the tents of wickedness. Anything for Jesus, the lower the better! Anything for Jesus, the humbler thebetter! Anything for Jesus! The more going down into the deeps! The more thrusting the arms up to the elbows in the mud tofind precious jewels! The more of that the better!
This is the true spirit of the Christian religion. Not the soaring up there to sit among the choristers and sing in grandstyle! Not the putting on of apparel and preaching in lawn sleeves! Not the going through gaudy and imposing ceremonies-allthat is of Babylon-but to strip yourself to the shirt sleeves to fight the battle for Christ! To go out among men as a humbleworker, resolved by any means to save some-this is what your Lord would have you to do, for this is the unloosing the strapsof His sandals.
III. And, now, our last remark shall be that ALL THIS OUGHT TO STIMULATE US AND NOT DISCOURAGE
US. Though we are not worthy to do it, that is the reason why we should avail ourselves of the condescending Grace which honorsus with such employ. Do not say, "I am not worthy to loose the straps of His sandals, and therefore, I shall give up preaching."Oh no! But preach away with all the greater vigor! John did so, and to his preaching he added warning. Warn people as wellas preach to them! Tell them of the judgment to come and separate between the precious and the vile.
We should perform our work in all ways, not omitting the more painful part of it, but going through with whatever God hasappointed to us. John was called to testify of Christ. He felt unworthy to do it, but he did not shirk the work. It was hislife-long business to cry, "Behold, behold, behold the Lamb of God!" and he did it earnestly. He never paused in that cry.He was busy in baptizing, too. It was the initiatory rite of the new dispensation, and there he stood continually immersingthose who believed! Never a more indefatigable worker than John the Baptist-he threw his whole soul into it because he felthe was not worthy to do the work!
Brothers and Sisters, your sense of unworthiness will, if you are idle, sadly hamper you! But if the love of God is in yoursoul, you will feel, "Since I do so badly when I do my best, I will always do my utmost. Since it comes to so little whenthe most is done, I will at least do the most." Could I give all my substance to Him, and give my life, and then give my bodyto be burned it would be a small return for love so amazing, so Divine, as that which I have tasted! Therefore, if
I cannot do all that, at any rate I will give the Lord Jesus all I can. I will love Him all I can. I will pray to Him allI can. I will talk about Him all I can, and I will spread His Gospel all I can. And no little thing will I count beneath meif His cause requires it.
Brethren, John lived hard, for his meat was locusts and wild honey. His dress was not the soft raiment of men who live inpalaces. He wrapped about him the rough camel's skin, and as he lived hard he died hard, too-his boldness brought him intoa dungeon. His courageous fidelity earned him a martyr's death. Here was a man who lived in self-denial and died witnessingfor the Truth of God and righteousness-and all this because he had a high esteem of his Master. May our esteem of Christ sogrow and increase that we may be willing to put up with anything in life for Christ, and even to lay down our lives for Hisname's sake!
Certain Moravian missionaries, in the old times of slavery, went to one of the West Indian Islands to preach and they foundthey could not be permitted to teach there unless they, themselves, became slaves. And they did so-they sold themselves intobondage, never to return-that they might save slaves' souls. We have heard of another pair of holy men who actually submittedto be confined in a leper house that they might save the souls of lepers, knowing as they did that they would never be permittedto come out again. They went there to take the leprosy and to die, if by so doing they might save souls.
I have read of one, Thome de Jesu, who went to Barbary among the Christian captives, and there lived and died in banishmentand bondage that he might cheer his Brothers and Sisters and preach Jesus to them. Brethren, we have never reached to suchdevotion! We fall far short of what Jesus deserves. We give Him little-we give Him what we are ashamed not to give Him. Oftenwe give Him our zeal for a day or two and then grow cool. We wake up all of a sudden and then sleep all the more soundly.We seem, today, as if we would set the world on fire, and tomorrow we scarcely keep our own lamp trimmed. We vow at one timethat we will push the Church before us and drag the world after us, but by-and-by we, ourselves, are like Pharaoh's chariotswith the wheels taken off-and drag along right heavily.
Oh, for a spark of the love of Christ in the soul! Oh, for a living flame from off Calvary's altar to set our whole natureblazing with Divine enthusiasm for the Christ who gave Himself for us that we might live! From this hour on take upon yourselvesin the solemn intent of your soul this deep resolve-"I will loose the sandal straps. I will seek out the little things, themean things, the humble things. And I will do them as unto the Lord and not unto men-and may He accept me even as He has savedme through His precious blood." Amen.