Sermon 1053. Testimony And Experience
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JUNE 2, 1872,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"And many of the Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the saying of the woman, who testified, 'He told me allthat I ever did.'So when the Samaritans had come to Him, they urged Him to stay with them; and He stayed there two days. Andmany more believed because of His own word. Then they said to the woman, 'Now we believe, not because of what you said, forwe have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is, indeed, the Christ, the Savior of the world." John 4:39-42.
THE most important question concerning any man living is this-is he a saved soul or not? It is of comparatively little consequencewhether he is rich or poor, educated or uneducated, compared with this-is he among the living before God-or is he dead insins? Is he pardoned or unpardoned? Is he a child of God or an heir of wrath? Is he walking in the darkness or has he passedinto light? Therefore of all the days of a man's history the most important is the day in which he is born-again.
If the man is, indeed, saved, and a new man in Christ Jesus, he will look back upon the day of his regeneration as his chiefbirthday. His new birth is second in order of time, but he will always put it first in importance. His birth gave him hisbeing, but his new birth secured his well-being. Being born first we might have descended into Hell, but, being born a secondtime we are assured of Heaven! If we were to observe those days with the greatest festivity which deserved best to be commemorated,we should certainly make high days and holidays of the days in which we looked to Jesus, and "found in Him our star, our sun."
For this reason the circumstances which surround our new birth are to us among the most deeply interesting incidents of ourown or any other human history. The details may be very simple. They may not suffice to make a biography, but still, to us,they are most important. We delight to think of the place where Jesus met with us, the Providence which brought us to thespot where we first heard the words which convicted us of sin. We feel pleasure in remembering every detail of our sorrowswhen we were seeking rest and finding none-and we are charmed as we read in our diary the story of how it was that we foundthe way of salvation-how it was that we looked to Jesus and lost our burden in a moment!
Our memory lingers and our heart loves to remember where it was, and by whose lips it was, that the life-giving message cameand we looked to the Crucified One and were lightened. This is the reason why this chapter is so interesting, because it isthe story of a conversion-the registry of a new birth-the record of salvation. It is the story of the conversion of a remarkablewoman, great in sin and afterwards great in zeal! It tells us how the work was effected, what was said to her by the Lord,how she replied, what she felt, and how she was brought out into light. This fourth chapter of the Gospel of John has in itnot only that touch of nature which makes the whole world kin, but that touch of Divine Grace which creates sympathy in allregenerate hearts. And, consequently, it will always remain one of the most interesting portions of Holy Writ.
But it is not for itself alone that I shall conduct your minds to this suggestive history. While I shall be talking of thiswoman, my earnest desire is to feel in my own soul whatever of the Truth of God is uttered, and that each one here may beputting every Truth to himself in the form of searching questions-saying concerning each thought now uttered- "Do I understandthat Truth? Am I partaker of that Grace?" Thus, our hearing will be profitable, by the blessing of the Holy Spirit, and thewoman of Samaria will become a prophetess to us, also.
First, then, our text most naturally suggests the remark that testimony is frequently the means of creating faith. "Many ofthe Samaritans of that city believed in Him because of the saying of the woman, who testified, "He told me all that I everdid." But, secondly, where personal testimony fails, faith may yet arise, apart from human witness, for "many more believedbecause of His own word." Then, thirdly, even where faith has been begotten through testimony, personal experience very sooneclipses all human witness. "Now we believe," they said, "not because of what you said, for we have heard Him ourselves, andwe know that this is, indeed, the Christ, the Savior of the world."
I. The first doctrine, this morning, is that HUMAN TESTIMONY IS FREQUENTLY MADE THE MEANS OF PRODUCING FAITH IN MEN'S HEARTS.That is evident to all. Hundreds of instances in proof thereof are present here this morning. A very large number of us oweour conversion to God to the personal testimony of others who told us what the Lord had done for them-told us in words, butalso showed us in their actions-for we perceived the change that was in them. We saw their calm mind under trouble. We noticedtheir general happiness. We noticed and we admired their holiness. And we were led, both by their verbal and practical testimony,to seek a Savior.
This is the usual mode of Divine operation, that the testimony of one renewed soul should be blessed to another, and so thekingdom of Christ should be propagated in men's hearts. To encourage all here who know the Lord to bear testimony for Him,let us notice the case before us. It was that of a woman. Paul's preaching is very plain upon the subject of female preaching.He does not allow a woman to preach, but this by no means bars her from bearing testimony in her own way-and she can so bearit as to do God's work quite as effectually as if she occupied the pulpit!
A woman was the founder of the Church in Samaria, which was afterwards multiplied by Christ's teaching, which continued tillthe time of Philip-and was then in a state of gracious revival. The first person baptized in Europe was a woman, thereforelet none of our Sisters in Christ exempt themselves from bearing witness for Jesus Christ! Neither let them think that theirwitness is unimportant. God will put high honor upon it if it is rendered in simple faith in Him and, perhaps, where publicministry may have failed, their private testimony may yet succeed!
Again, the testimony was not only that of a woman, but of a sinful woman-one who would usually be condemned to silence bythe customs of society. She had lost her character. It was fit for her to be quiet. How could she be expected to be a witnessfor holiness, whose life had been unholiness? How should she bear witness to the pure Savior who had been, herself, impure?It is best for the unchaste to be little seen and never heard. The objection would have been unanswerable had not the womanbeen changed in character. She was washed, she was sanctified and renewed-and now the very life which had otherwise been sojust a cause for silence, became an impelling motive for witness-bearing since she loved much because much had been forgiven!
In her own person she was a notable proof of the Savior's power to pardon and reclaim. She had become a saint who formerlyhad been one of the chief of sinners and her witness for Christ was all the weightier. If any of you shall have been, up tillnow, great offenders against God, this is no reason why you should not come to Jesus at once and seek and find mercy! Andafter you have come to Him, your past transgressions shall be no bar to your future usefulness-on the contrary, you shallthe more zealously and powerfully declare the power of His Grace! The more mischief we have done in the past the more goodwe should try to do in the future-that by any means we may undo the evil we have done. How often has it turned out that thechief of sinners, like Paul, have become not a whit behind the very chief of the Apostles, and the very force of characterwhich made them ringleaders in evil has aided in bringing them to the front as captains of the Lord's host! We ought to bethankful, therefore, that we are allowed to bear testimony, and that our testimony may be useful even though much of our pastlife has been such that we would wish to blot it out forever.
Observe that this woman's testimony was personal, and there was the secret of its power. She said, "Come, see a Man that toldme all things that I ever did: is not this the Christ?" Now, suppose that she had said, "Come, see a man who has opened upthe prophecies to me"? Why they would have said, "Prophecies? What have you to do with prophecies? Go and fetch your waterpot, attend to your business, mend your character, and do not talk to us about prophecies." Or, if she had said, "I find,by reference to the words of Rabbi Simeon, that the Messiah is to be very much like a person in whom I have just now seensitting on the well." They would have cared very little for the Rabbi, or for her inference from his words.
It was not because of any learning in what she said that they were convinced, but the personality of her declaration puzzledthem. Now, we make a mistake, I believe, when we assail men's consciences with quotations from the fathers and
passages from the reformed Divines. Human hearts will not be conquered by such poor artillery! And if we think that explaininga doctrine will suffice to win most men to Christ, we labor under a mistake. This woman did far better than that. She didas good as say, "You know what I have been, all of you! It is of no use for me to attempt concealing it. But I went to drawwater at the well and there sat a stranger, a Jew. And though He could not have known anything about me by report, yet Hedirected a question to me which led me to discourse upon my character, and then He told me in detail all that I had ever been,and mentioned some facts which you do not know, and which I had forgotten myself. Surely, He must be the Messiah."
They were very startled as they heard the woman's tale. She was startled herself! How surprised she appeared! They listenedto her eagerly, wondering why she should talk of holy things. And, let me say, Beloved, if we wish to win souls to Christ,there is nothing like telling to others what the Lord has done for our souls. It is of small use to tell them what we havelearned in books-we must declare what God has written on our hearts! It is not describing what was said by the preacher, butwhat has been felt in our souls. Many a husband has been won to God by his wife's witness to the power of religion in herown soul-and many a child has been brought to the Savior's feet by the father's speaking to him of what Divine Grace had donefor him. Proclaim, then, your personal testimony, each of you, for this is the most effectual weapon for overcoming humanunbelief and bringing men to Christ!
But, then, you will note that the woman's personal testimony was delivered very earnestly. In the first place she had lefther water pot, which was not only left for Christ to use, but much more likely because she was absorbed in the purpose totell others what she had learned and she was so full of her message that she left the water pot behind! The men would noticethat it was so-they would observe the hurried way in which she came back from the well, and, above all, they would see theway in which her eyes shone-the manner in which every muscle of her body bespoke the excitement under which she labored.
She said, "Come, come, see, see, a man that told me all things I ever did." How much depends in bearing testimony upon theway in which it is done! If our sermons were to hang like icicles around our lips they would not be very likely to melt theice in your minds. And if, in speaking to your Sunday school class, your words fall like snow, they are not very likely tomake children's hearts burn within them. If, in speaking privately to an individual, you treat your own conversion as thoughit were a commonplace affair, or aim at his conversion whom you address as though it were a matter that was not very significant,you might as well be silent! O Brothers and Sisters, you waste your breath! You waste your time! No good will come of it!
Your testimony must be earnest or it will be fruitless! There must be passion and there must be pathos. The soul must runover at the mouth, and the speech must be the lava flowing out of a heart that swells and heaves with inward fires. I wouldhave you notice the judiciousness of the woman's testimony. It is very striking. She did not say, "Come, see a Man that toldme all things that I ever did: I am sure He is the Christ." She was too wise to be peremptory. If you positively assert athing it is very likely that somebody will deny it. There is a propensity in many minds to question inferences drawn by others,though they would draw those very inferences themselves if let alone. So, though she did not doubt that it was the Christ,yet she did not say it is, but she deferred to the self-assumed wisdom of the men!
And she said to them, "Is not this the Christ? Don't you think it is?" as though she would have her belief confirmed by theirjudgment and humbly requested them to come and see. This is a kind of Pauline taking them by guile-a method which is commendable-becausethere is no sinful guile in it. It is all plain, innocent guile. She knew something about human nature from herself, and,judging the men by herself, she did not dogmatize, but she put it in such a way that she knew what answer they must give toher question, "Is not this the Christ?" In fishing for the souls of men you need as much judgment as you do in angling-formen are curious fish and they will often be frightened at a shadow! And, in the very way of throwing the line and managingthe fly, there is an art not very readily learned.
Some never learn the way and are never able to attract souls, while others are endowed with sacred instincts by which theyknow how to handle men's hearts and win power over them. We must be wise to win souls! Souls are not won by fools. We musthave a sympathy with men, even reaching to their infirmities-and we must woo them as men, dealing with them not as they oughtto be, but as they are-and putting the Truth of God in the shape in which it is likely to be acceptable to them. David choseout a smooth stone from the brook-he knew what sort of stone he could sling best,
what sort of a stone was suited to his sling, what stone was best adapted to Goliath's forehead-and he sent the right stonein the right way.
And so must you. If you bear witness for Christ, ask the Spirit of Wisdom to guide you. Pray to be directed lest your earnestnessshould lead you into an injudicious mode of speech. Let prudence be mingled with your zeal. He is the Christ, but if you needmen to believe that He is, you will sometimes do better to ask men if He is than actually to assert His claims. The womanbore her testimony, and bore it well.
Now, observe the result. There were many that believed on Christ at once, because of the woman's speech. Happy woman, thusto become a mother in Israel! Blessed testimony, which was thus fruitful on the spot a hundred-fold! I guarantee you thatmany a bishop and doctor of divinity, and many a mighty orator has spoken hundreds of times with less result than this pooruntrained, un-ordained, female Apostle of Jesus Christ! Her simple talk did more than eloquence could accomplish, though itshould be as mighty as that of Cicero or Demosthenes! Her heart was in the words she spoke! Her speech was simple-there wasnothing to recommend it of beauty of verbiage, or gaudiness of oratory. She said what she knew and testified what she hadseen with an earnest desire that others would know and see what she had learned. Therefore God blessed her. Oh, may God blessmany of us, whether men or women, to the same end-the bringing of many to Jesus!
Those who were not converted under her were awakened and stirred up so that they went to see the Lord Jesus and brought Himinto their city, and asked Him to stay with them. Many of these were afterwards converted, so that she became, in some sense,the instrument of their salvation. Would to God that each one of us aimed at the same thing! But, I have more practical workto do than this. I have a question to put to many here who have not believed in Jesus. Your not believing in Jesus, many ofyou, does not arise from need of testimony about Him. The Samaritans only heard the testimony of a woman of very doubtfulcharacter-but they believed in Jesus Christ through it! I need to speak very pointedly to some here. You have heard the testimonyof the best people who have ever lived, and yet you have not believed! Had you not the testimony of a mother who loved theSavior and loved you, and above all things in this world coveted that you should love her Savior, too?
You know how earnestly she has spoken to you with as many tears as words, and how often she has backed her testimony withher prayers-but you have not believed. She told you that Jesus could pardon sin, could give rest to your conscience and couldpreserve you unto His eternal kingdom and glory. And she besought you to come to Him, but you did not come. In her case therewas a good character to back her testimony. You saw, year after year, her quiet, patient, godly life, and what is more, itmay be I speak to some who saw the triumphant death of that same mother-and yet you have not believed!
I have seen death beds which I have thought would have been enough to have convinced the most hardened, for there has beenabout the dying saint evidence conclusive of the power of Divine Grace. The body has been pained but the soul has been placid.Storms have swept through every nerve, and yet perfect peace has ruled the spirit-yes, and more than peace-for the soul hasrejoiced with unspeakable joy and full of glory! That is an unbelieving heart, indeed, which will not be convinced by thetestimony of a near and dear one-a testimony supported throughout a holy life and crowned by a glorious death!
There are husbands here, probably, whose wives always bear good witness for Christ. Your wife is not dead and you know verywell, in the bottom of your heart, that religion has done great things for her. If she were to die you would feel deep regretsfor the ridicule you sometimes pour upon her. Why, if I were not this day a Believer in Christ, I think I should be of allmen the most incorrigible, for I have seen the fruits of Grace in a beloved mother and in a gracious father! I could not beso base as to doubt their truthfulness, and yet I must do so or else accept their witness for the Lord Jesus. Did I not believein the depravity of the human heart, I should wonder how so many can reject the pious testimonies which everywhere surroundthem-testimonies of persons of the most honorable character, who, on any other matter would be at once believed!
Perhaps there may be some here who will say, "I do not know that I have ever had any testimony of the sort borne to me." Now,if you will allow me, you shall not be able to say that any longer. I will bear my testimony for Jesus Christ at once. WhenI preach Christ and His salvation to you I do not preach what I learned in a college or was taught by men! I preach to youwhat I would die for! I preach to you what is the chief joy of my soul! I preach to you what I know and
believe and have experienced! Years ago I was under the greatest conceivable darkness of spirit. I was but a lad, but my sinhaunted me. I had such an idea of the guilt of my past life that my heart was heavy within me, and at intervals I was crusheddown with fear. I would get away into corners, where no one could see me, and cry and pray. And I labored under the beliefthat everybody else might be saved, but that I should perish.
Now I heard of Jesus Christ, that He was able to put away sin at once from anyone who simply looked to Him and trusted Him.I heard that, and I was enabled by Divine Grace, as soon as I heard it, to trust the Savior. I did then and there rest thewhole weight of my soul for time and eternity upon the Person and work of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. And my witnessis that, in one single moment, a load was rolled from off my spirit and as swiftly as a flash of lightning I passed from darknessinto light-from misery into joy! From that hour I bless God that, being not exempt from trouble, and especially not free froma tendency to despondency which is always with me, I yet rejoice and will rejoice, and am happy, unspeakably happy in restingupon Jesus Christ!
Moreover, I have found that those points of my character which were most weak have been strengthened, while strong passionshave been subdued, propensities have been kept under, and new principles have been implanted. I am changed! I am as differentfrom what I was as a man could be who had been annihilated and had then been made again. Nor do I claim any credit for this-farfrom it! God has done great things for me, but He has done the same for others, and is willing to do it for any soul thatseeks His face! He is willing to do it for every seeker here! There is such a thing as a new heart and a right spirit-I knowthere is. There is such a thing as perfect happiness in death, yes, and even a longing to depart! I know that peace with Godis to be had, for I have felt it and bear witness to it!
Do you reject my witness? Perhaps you doubt my truthfulness. Then I must endure your injustice, for I know that I do not lie.But, if my character is right, and if you think I speak the truth, then I ask you to receive the witness I bear! I wish Icould bear it more judiciously and more earnestly, but I do bear it in all sincerity with this desire in my soul-I would thatnot only some of you, but all that hear me this day knew the preciousness of Christ Jesus my Lord, and understood that beneathGod's Heaven there is nothing so blessed as to be resting upon the blood and merits of the once crucified but now exaltedSavior!
I bear my testimony as the woman from the well did. If you reject it, so must it be. But I pray you do not, but come and seeJesus for yourselves, for He is, indeed, the Christ, the Savior of the world!
II. FAITH MAY ARISE APART FROM THE TESTIMONY OF MEN. I shall speak of this second head for this reason. When you, who areearnest soul-winners, have borne testimony to any man about Christ, and he does not yield to it, do not despair of him. Whenyou have preached to a man and he is not converted, do not think that there is no other hope for him. The Lord has other waysof work besides the witness of His servants. Some of those Samaritans who had not received the woman's testimony believedbecause of His own word. Have we God's own Word among us now? Yes, thank God, we have.
We have it in the Scriptures! There are some who will not listen to the witness of men, though it is loving and personal,who will yet bow before the majesty and power of the infallible Word of God. Let us hope that those who refuse our persuasionswill yield homage to the Word of God. Let us trust that some, in quietly reading their Bibles, may yet be convicted and converted.If all our arrows shall miss them, let us hope that God's Word will yet dart an arrow between the joints of their harness.Remember, the Spirit of God can work on men's hearts through Truths of God which they heard a long time ago. He will not revealnew truths to anybody-the complete Revelation is in the Scriptures-but He will often freshen up old Truths in the mind.
I have hopes of many men in London who never go to a place of worship, that they will be converted, because when they werechildren they were at a Sunday school and there they obtained knowledge which the devil will never be able to make them forget.The seed is hidden, but not dead! I have seen in the country men digging a ditch, throwing up the earth from 10 or 12 feetdeep, and yet in that earth there were strange seeds, long covered with earth, which only wanted unearthing and exposure torain and sun to develop them to the amazement of the neighborhood. And so there may die seeds of Truth deep down in the memory,and God the Holy Spirit may quicken them! We have known persons at their work not thinking of Divine things at all, but yeta sudden thoughtfulness has come over them, and they have considered their ways.
The Spirit of God, in fact, moved upon them! They began to meditate, and meditating they confessed their sins and turned toGod. Besides, remember that God has many preachers that are not in human flesh. For instance, fever is a terrible Elijah.When the cholera came to London it was a Jonah in our streets! Many, then, began to think who would have gone blindfold downto perdition! When poverty visits some men's houses and they can no longer indulge in drunkenness and gluttony, then theythink of their Father's house and the hired servants who have bread enough and more to spare. Omnipotence has servants everywhere!God can make use of even the ills of life to work eternal good.
I have even known cases in which sin has been overruled by God to the awakening of souls. I remember a young man whose lifehad been strictly moral and upright but who had disregarded all religion. He was a working man, and on one occasion he upseta can of varnish at his work. He was afraid of his master's anger and, when asked who did it, he denied the fact. He had neverlied before-at least not in such a manner-and he felt himself so mean, so degraded in having told a lie that he felt himselfto be no longer righteous before God. He bowed his knee and confessed his sin, and with a burdened conscience he went to hearthe Gospel and found peace and pardon through the precious blood of Jesus!
Disease within a man may be as dangerous as when it breaks out and throws its pustules through the skin. When the man seessin in eruption, he only sees what was in him before-it could never come out if it were not first in him! The wrong act couldnever come forth if it was not in the man and, sometimes, the wrong act has convinced the man that his nature was impure,and so sin, though evil in itself, has been the means of bringing conviction to the soul. God has many ways of bringing mento Himself and we should pray that where we fail, the Word of God, accompanied by the power and energy of the Divine Spiritmay convert them that they may be saved!
There are persons in the world of a singular disposition, and of a peculiarly independent mind who do not care to be shownanything, but prefer to find it out for themselves. And the probability is that if you wish them to see they will shut theireyes. The very thing they would find out and rejoice in, they will not learn from you. They keep themselves to themselvesand will never be brought in by testimony. But they will be converted, let us hope, by the effectual working of the Spirit.I have known some, too, who are of such a skeptical turn of mind so that testimony is not received by them. They have seenso much of persons being led by the nose by priests that they will not believe anybody! And, whereas some will swallow a lie,these will only, with difficulty, accept the Truth of God itself from fear of being credulous.
They are something like Thomas. Mary Magdalene said she had seen the Savior. "Ah, no doubt you are an excellent woman, butyou have certainly been deceived. You are so imaginative." Then Peter said, "I have seen the Lord." "I am sure you think so,but you must be in error." Then John said, "But, indeed, I have seen the Lord." "That is good evidence for yourself. But itdoes not convince me." Then Bartholomew and others would say, "We have seen the Lord. And five or six others have told youso. Do you think we have conspired to tell a lie?" "To, my Brethren, far from it! Yet I have known such things in the worldas for five or six persons to be mistaken. I feel that your witness deals with such improbabilities that I cannot receiveit."
At last Thomas declared downright, "Except I shall see in His hands the print of the nails, and put my finger into the printof the nails, and thrust my hand into His side, I will not believe." Now this was not right, but at the same time it was so-andour Lord was graciously pleased to yield to the infirmity of Thomas, and He said, "Reach here your finger, and behold My hands,and reach here your hand and put it into My side, and be not faithless but believing." Persons of this character make eminentsaints when once convinced-and our Lord has, in some cases, dealt with them in a special way. And, where the word of man hasfailed, His own Word, attended with special power of the Holy Spirit, has brought them to believe.
We must tarry no longer. I only introduce the point by way of encouragement to you who work for Jesus, not by way of sedativeto you who will not believe! You have no right to expect you will ever have any other testimony than you have already received.You have Moses and the Prophets-if you will not hear them, neither would you be converted though one rose from the dead! Youare not to expect miracles to convert you! Christ may go out of His way, but He is not bound to do so, and you have no rightto look for it. You may say, "Except I see signs and wonders I will not believe," but the probabilities are that you willnot see signs and wonders, and will perish in your unbelief! Beware, I pray you!
III. PERSONAL EXPERIENCE ECLIPSES HUMAN TESTIMONY. The very people who believed through the woman, afterwards said, "Now webelieve, not because of what you said, for we have heard Him ourselves, and we know that this is, indeed, the Christ, theSavior of the world." Personal experience is far more convincing than any testimony
can be! You may believe a thing because you are credibly informed of it, but you believe it a great deal more deeply and thoroughlywhen you have seen it for yourself! In the times of famine Jacob was told there was corn in Egypt, and the Patriarch believedthe word. But when they had gone to Egypt and had their sacks full, there was a deeper conviction in their minds about Egypt'scorn than ever before.
A missionary, speaking to the inhabitants of a tropical region, informed them that water in our country, through cold, sometimesbecame solid. The generality of the natives would not believe him! It was too absurd a thing to be true! One, however, whoknew the missionary's character, did believe that water could become solid so that persons could walk upon it. And when hecame to England and saw a river frozen over, his faith was very different from what it had been before! It was the same inessence, but of a deeper degree. So when we heard that Jesus Christ is precious and that He is a Savior, we believed it. Butwhen we were saved by Him, and found peace through Him, we received a far deeper faith! The faith that is based upon personalexperience is more essential than any other, for until we have this faith we cannot know that we are saved.
Those doctors who advertise their medicines know that the public depends very much upon testimony and therefore they generallygive us a list of cures with the names of persons who have been healed. They expect that the readers of such testimonialswill look with favor upon their medicine-and I suppose it is so. But if ever you have taken any medicine and you have yourselfbeen perfectly restored from some very painful and dangerous ailment, your faith in that medicine is quite another thing!Before, you said, "I do not know that all those people live at the addresses which are given, and perhaps they never livedanywhere." Or, if you really believed that the thing was correct enough, you did not take any interest in it, but, after yourown disease has been removed by it, you are certain to talk about it to other people and say to them, "You know such-and-sucha medicine? It is wonderful how it acts-perfectly marvelous the restoration I have received through it!" Now, it is just sowhen we come to Jesus. We are so fully convinced that we begin to tell others.
But my point is that it is essential we come. If I believe in the man's medicine, and yet do not take it, it is of no useto me. If I believe in Christ's saving sinners, but do not go to Him to save me, He is nothing to me. If I am in danger atsea and there is a lifeboat, and I believe in her, such faith will not save me-I must get into her! If I am hungry and believein bread-it will not take away my hunger-I must eat it! If I am dying of thirst and see the crystal spring by my side-it willnot save me merely to believe in the water-I must stoop down and drink it for myself! Personal experience is the essentialproof and we must have it.
And, let me add, that personal experience is always a more complete witness than testimony can ever be. Testimony can tellyou something about Christ, but not much compared with what you will learn by going to Him yourself! The Queen of Sheba wastold of Solomon that he was wise, that his court was richly furnished and that his dominion was magnificent. But, when shehad herself entered the royal presence, her heart failed her, and she said, "The half has not been told me." Witnesses aboutother things exaggerate, but witnesses concerning, Jesus Christ always fall short! Painters have frequently won repute bymaking portraits fairer than the originals, but none can ever paint Jesus with a pencil that shall give too much of lusterto His noble face. He is so glorious that even angels, who have seen Him all their lives, and bowed before Him where His splendoris best revealed, could not tell man nor one another the thousandth part of His excellences!
If you need to know Him you must see Him for yourself. You must make Him your personal acquaintance. You must press by faithinto the inner circle and cry with the spouse, "Let Him kiss me with the kisses of His mouth, for His love is better thanwine." This kind of evidence is the most enduring. What you receive from another man you might, perhaps, give up. In daysof persecution those who believed the Bible on second-hand have denied the faith, but those who have had it worked into thewarp and woof of their being-who have had their souls dyed and tinctured through and through with it, because they have livedupon Christ, and Christ has lived in them-those were the people who stood on the firewood to burn, and learned to sing thehigh praises of God while their flesh and bones were being consumed! If we need to become stalwart men who cannot be turnedaside by every wind of doctrine-whom neither Rationalism nor Sacramentarianism can shake from the Gospel-we must be thosewho have been with Jesus! In that way we learn experimentally from Him-and such experimental Christians can never give upthe Truth of God.
Now, to close, I would observe this-only those who know the Savior experimentally can bear testimony to others, for this woman,through whose secondary testimony many were converted, had, first of all, a personal experience herself.
She said, "He told me all things that I ever did." If she had not personally learned of Him, she could not have gone out andspoken to others. So you who would be useful must get the Truth into your own souls by personally feasting upon it. Only thatwhich is in yourself can you communicate to others. Out of an empty bottle nothing comes. The Lord says to you as to Ezekiel,"eat this roll." Digest in your own soul the doctrine you would preach! Have within yourself a well of living water, and thenout of you shall flow rivers for others!
Let me add that while it is a serious thing to reject the personal witness of others, it is a fatal thing to reject this othertest of Truth, namely, the trying for yourself whether Jesus is what He professes to be. When the offer is made to a man concerningany article of commerce, "This is an excellent production and here are recommendations given by persons able to judge. But,moreover, you can take it home with you. You can try it for a month and if it does not answer your purpose it can be takenback"-that is always considered to be an honest system of trade.
Now, we say concerning the things of God-if you do not care to take our testimony, do not take it. But, do another thing,try the Lord Jesus for yourself! God hears prayer-go and see if He does. God accepts penitent hearts and He has regard tocontrite spirits-come and see, come and see for yourself-
"There is life in a look at the Crucified One." Go and try it, go and try it! If you can prove Jesus Christ to be false. If,after having tried Him, He rejects you, very well-then it must be so-but there has never been anything of the kind yet! "Himthat comes unto Me, I will in nowise cast out." Did He ever cast out one of you? If so, He has broken His Word, and that shallnever be! Heaven and earth shall pass away, but none of His Words shall ever fail! He declares that He is able to save tothe uttermost them that come unto God by Him. Go to God by Him and see!
If He does not save you. If it turns out that you are beyond His power-that He cannot save to the uttermost-then proclaimit! Preach the devil's gospel all the world over, and say the truth, however horrible it may be! We challenge you to the test!If God is God, serve Him! If the Gospel is true, believe it! If it is a lie, don't come here worshipping, or anywhere elsepretending to worship a God you know to be false! Be not as double-faced persons who say, "We are Christians," and yet donot worship the Savior. One thing or the other! If the Gospel is true, it ought to be accepted. If it is not true, bear yourwitness honestly like men and let the world be undeceived! We challenge the trial!
In the name of Him that died and rose from the dead. In the name of ten thousands times ten thousands arrayed in white robeswho have washed them in His precious blood! In the name of the Church militant, which is on its way to Heaven, we challengeyou to the test this day whether Jesus is a Savior or not! And we pray God to lead you to try it, for we know that your conclusionwill be-"We have heard Him ourselves, and we know that He is the Christ, the Savior of the world." May God's Spirit rest onthese words, and may we meet in Heaven, for Jesus' sake. Amen.