Sermon 1148. The Parent's and Pastor's Joy
A SERMON DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, DECEMBER 21 1873,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth." 3 John 1:4.
JOHN speaks of himself as though he were a father and, therefore, we concede to parents the right to use the language of thetext. Sure am I that many of you here present, both mothers and fathers, can truly say, "We have no greater joy than to hearthat our children walk in truth" [the Truth of God.] But John was not after the flesh, the father of those of whom he waswriting-he was their spiritual father. It was through his ministry that they had been brought into the new life. His relationshipto them was that he had been the instrument of their conversion and had afterwards displayed a father's care in supplyingthem with heavenly food and gracious teaching.
Therefore, this morning, after we have used the words as the expression of parents, we must take them back again and use themas the truthful utterance of all real pastors, "We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in the Truth ofGod."
I. First, then, one of THE PARENT'S highest joys is his children's walking in the Truth of God. He has no greater joy. Andhere we must begin with the remark that it is a joy peculiar to Christian fathers and mothers. No parents can say from theirhearts, "We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in the Truth of God, or even truth" unless they are, themselves,walking in truth. No wolf prays for its offspring to become a sheep. The ungodly man sets small store by the godliness ofhis children since he thinks nothing of it for himself.
He who does not value his own soul is not likely to value the souls of his descendants. He who rejects Christ on his own accountis not likely to be enamored of Him on his children's behalf. Abraham prayed for Ishmael, but I never read that Ishmael prayedfor his son Nebajoth. I fear that many, even among professors of religion, could not truthfully repeat my text-they look forother joy in their children and care little whether they are walking in the Truth of God or not. They joy in them if theyare healthy in body, but they are not saddened if the leprosy of sin remains upon them. They joy in their comely looks butdo not inquire whether they have found favor in the sight of the Lord.
Put the girl's feet in silver slippers and many heads of families would never raise the question as to whether she walkedthe broad or the narrow road. It is very grievous to see how some professedly Christian parents are satisfied so long as theirchildren display cleverness in learning, or sharpness in business, although they show no signs of a renewed Nature. If theypass their examinations with credit and promise to be well-fitted for the world's battle, their parents forget that thereis a superior calling, involving a higher crown, for which the child will need to be fitted by Divine Grace and armed withthe whole armor of God.
Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be but a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literatureor art! Many who ought to know better think themselves superlatively blessed in their children if they become rich, if theymarry wealth, if they strike out into profitable enterprises in trade, or if they attain eminence in the profession whichthey have espoused. Their parents will go to their beds rejoicing and awake perfectly satisfied, though their boys are hasteningdown to Hell, if they are also making money by the bushel. They have no greater joy than that their children are having theirportion in this life and laying up treasure where rust corrupts it. Though neither their sons nor daughters show any signsof the new birth, give no evidence of being rich towards God, manifest no traces of electing love or redeeming Grace or theregenerating power of the Holy Spirit, yet there are parents who are content with their condition.
Now I can only say of such professing parents that they have need to question whether they are Christians, and if they willnot question it themselves, they must give some of us leave to hold it in serious debate. When a man's heart is really rightwith God and he, himself, has been saved from the wrath to come and is living in the light of his heavenly Father's
countenance, it is certain that he is anxious about his children's souls, prizes their immortal natures and feels that nothingcould give him greater joy than to hear that his children walk in the Truth of God. Judge yourselves, then, Beloved, thismorning, by the gentle but searching test of the text.
If you are professing Christians, but cannot say that you have no greater joy than the conversion of your children, you havereason to question whether you ought to have made such a profession at all! Let us then remark, in the next place, that thejoy which is mentioned in the text is special in its object. The expression is a thoughtful one. John did not write thosewords in a hurry, but he compressed a great deal into them. He says, "I have no greater joy than to hear that my childrenwalk in truth." Now, beloved parents, it is a very great joy to us if our children learn the Truth of God. I hope you willnot suffer one of them to grow up and leave your roof without knowing the doctrines of the Gospel- without knowing the lifeof Christ and the great precepts of Scripture-without having as clear an understanding as it is possible for you to give themof the great principles and plan of salvation.
When we perceive that our children, when we question them, thoroughly understand the Gospel and are well rooted and groundedin its doctrines, it is a great joy to us, and well it may be! It is, however, far more a joy when those same children feelthe Truth of God for, alas, we may know it and perish unless we have felt its power within! Parent, was not your heart gladwhen you first saw the tears of repentance in your daughter's eyes? Did you not rejoice when your son could say, "Father,I trust I have believed and am saved by the Grace of God"?
Yes, it is a greater joy that they should feel the power of the Truth of God than that they should know the letter of it.Such a joy, I hope, none of you are content to forego. It should be the holy ambition of every parent that all his house shouldbe renewed by the Holy Spirit. It is a great joy when our children avow their sense of the Truth of God, when, knowing itand feeling it, they at last have the courage to say, "We would join with the people of God, for we trust we belong to them."Oh, happy as a marriage day is that day in which the parent sees his child surrendered to the people of God, having firstgiven his heart to the Christ of God!
The Baptism of our believing children is always a joyous occasion to us and so it ought to be. Our parents before us magnifiedthe Lord when they heard us say, "We are on the Lord's side," and we cannot but give thanks abundantly when the same privilegefalls to us in the persons of our children. But, Beloved, there is anxiety about all this. When you teach your children, thereis the fear that perhaps they will not learn to profit. When they feel, there is still the fear lest it should be mere feelingand should be the work of Nature and not the work of the Spirit of God. And even when they profess to be the Lord's, thereyet remains the grave question, Will this profession last? Will they be able to stand to it and be true to the faith untillife's last hour?
But the joy of the text is higher than these three, though these have to come before it, and it grows out of them. "I haveno greater joy than this, to hear that my children walk in truth." That is the point-their practical religion-their actualexemplification of the power of the Gospel upon their lives. This proves that the teaching was well received, that the feelingwas not mere excitement, that the profession was not a falsehood or a mistake, but was done in the Truth of God. What blissit would be to us to see our sons grow up, and with integrity, prudence, uprightness and Grace, walk in the Truth of God!What a joy to behold our daughters springing up in all their beauty, lovely with the adornment of a meek and quiet spirit,becoming in their homes while with us, or in the new homes which speedily grow up around them, patterns of everything thatis tender, gracious, kind and true!
"I have no greater joy than this," says John. And all of you to whom such joy as this has been allotted can say, "Amen. Amen.It is even so." The joy before us has, therefore, a special possessor and a special object. It is a healthful joy, Beloved,in which we may indulge to the fullest without the slightest fear, for it is superior in its character to all earthly joys."Not too much," is a good rule for everything which has to do with time. But this joy in our children's walking in the Truthof God we may indulge in as much as we will, for, first, it is a spiritual joy and therefore of a superior order. We do notjoy to the fullest in the things which are seen of the eyes and heard of the ears, for these are things of the flesh whichwill decay-such as the garment which is eaten by the moth and the metal which is devoured by rust.
We rejoice in the work of the Spirit of God-a work which will abide when this world shall have passed away. Hannah had somejoy in the new coat which she made for young Samuel, but a far higher delight in the new heart which early showed itself inhis actions. Our son promoted to be a king might cause us some delight, but to see our children made "princes in all the earth,"according to that ancient promise, would be a greater delight by far. Rejoice in it, then,
without trembling, for spiritual joy will never intoxicate. Such joy arises from love to God, and is therefore commendable.
We love to see our children converted because we love God. Out of love to Him, by His Grace, we gave ourselves to Him andnow, in later years, the same love prompts us to present our children. As Barzillai in his old age prayed David to acceptthe personal service of his son, Chimham, so would we, when our own strength declines, present our offspring to the Lord thatthey may supply our lack of service. We have said-
"Had I ten thousand thousand tongues,
Not one should silent be.
Had I ten thousand thousand hearts,
I'd give them all to Thee."
Now as we have only one tongue of our own, we are intensely earnest that our children's tongues should sound forth the praisesof the Savior. We have not another life on earth to call our own, but here are lives which the Lord has given us- and we aredelighted that He should have them for Himself.
We cry, "Lord, take this child's life and let it all be spent to Your service, from his earliest days till gray hairs shalladorn his brow." It is like the old soldier coming up to his king and saying, "I am worn out in your service, but you areso good a monarch that I have brought my son that he may serve you from his youth up. Let him take his father's place, andmay he excel him in valor and in capacity to serve his king and country."
Now, when our children walk in Truth and love to God, it makes us rejoice that another heart is consecrated to His service.We may well rejoice in the salvation and in the sanctification of our sons and daughters because this is the way in whichthe kingdom of Christ is to be extended in the world. The hand which has held the standard aloft in the midst of the furyof war is at last palsied in death-happy is that standard-bearer who, with expiring eyes, can see his own son springing forwardto grasp that staff and keep the banner still floating above the host. Happy Abraham to be followed by an Isaac! Happy Davidto be succeeded by a Solomon! Happy Lois, to have Eunice for a daughter, and happy Eunice to have Timothy for a son!
This is the Apostolic succession in which we believe and for which we pray. How, in years to come, are we to see a seed ofpiety flourishing in the land and the world conquered to Christ? How, indeed, but by means of the young men of Israel? Weshall be sleeping beneath the green ward of the cemetery in peace-other voices will be heard in the midst of the assembliesof the saints-and other shoulders will bear the ark of the Lord through the wilderness. Where are our successors? From whereshall come these succeeding voices, and from where those nestled shoulders of strength? We believe they will come from amongour children! And if God grants it shall be so, we shall need no greater joy.
I will tell you why this is peculiarly the great joy of some Christian parents-it is because they have made it a subject ofimportunate prayer. That which comes to us by the gate of prayer comes into the house with music and rallying. If you haveasked for it with tears, you will receive it with smiles! The joy of an answer to prayer is very much in proportion to thewrestling which went with the prayer. If you have felt, sometimes, as though your heart could break for your offspring unlessthey were soon converted to God, then, I will tell you, when they are converted you will feel as though your heart would breakthe other way out of joy to think that they have been saved! Your eyes, which have been red with weeping over their youthfulfollies, will one day become bright with rejoicing over holy actions which will mark the work of the Grace of God in theirhearts!
No wonder that Hannah sang so sweetly, for she had prayed so earnestly! The Lord had heard her and the joy of the answer wasincreased by the former anguish of her prayer. We have no greater joy then this-that our children walk in the Truth of God-andit is a right and allowable joy. It springs from good sources and we need not be afraid to indulge it. This joy is quickeningin its effect. All who have ever felt it know what an energy it puts into them. Those of you who have never yet received it,but are desiring it, will, I trust, be quickened by the desire.
This is what it means. Is one son in the family converted to God? In that fact we rejoice. But we cannot linger over joy forone-we are compelled to think of the others. If God has been pleased to call half a household to salvation, there is a hungerand thirst in the parent's heart after this luscious delight, and that parent cries, "Lord, let them ALL be brought in, letnot one be left behind!"
Are some of you, this morning, so happy as to see all your children converted? I know some of you are. Oh how holy and howheavenly ought your families to be when God has so favored you above many of His own people! Be very
grateful and while you are joyous, lay the crown of your joy at your Savior's feet. And if you have now a church in your house,maintain the ordinance of family worship with the greater zeal and holiness-and pray for others that the Lord, in like manner,may also visit them.
Beloved, have you some of your children converted while others remain unsaved? Then I charge you, let what the Lord has donefor some encourage you concerning the rest. When you are on your knees in prayer, say to your heavenly Father, "Lord, Youhave heard me for a part of my house, I beseech You, therefore, to look in favor upon it all, for I cannot bear that any ofmy dear children should choose to remain Your enemies and pursue the road which leads to Hell. You have made me very gladwith the full belief that a portion of my dear ones walk in Your Truth, but I am sad because I can see from the conduct ofothers that they have not yet been changed in heart, and therefore do not keep Your statutes. Lord, let my whole householdeat of the Paschal Lamb, and with me come out of Egypt, through Your Grace."
I am sure, Beloved, this is how you feel, for every true Christian longs to see all his children the called of the Lord. Supposeit could be put to us that one child of our family must be lost and that we should be bound to make the dreadful choice ofthe one to be cast away? We should never bring ourselves to it, it would be too terrible a task! God will never appoint ussuch a misery. We have heard of a poor Irish family on shipboard, very numerous and very needy. A kind friend proposed tothe father to give up entirely one of the little ones to be adopted and provided for. It was to be entirely given up, neverto be seen again, or in any way claimed as their own-and the parents were to make the selection.
It is a long story, but you know how the discussion between the parents would proceed. Of course they could not give up theeldest, for the simple reason that he was the first-born. The second was so like the mother. The third was too weak and sicklyto be without a mother's care. So the excuses went on throughout the whole family, till they came to the last-but no one daredeven to hint that the mother should be deprived of her darling. No child could be parted with- they would sooner starve togetherthan renounce one.
Now, I am sure if the bare giving up a child to be adopted by a kind friend would be a painful thing, and we could not cometo a decision as to which to hand over, we could far less be able to surrender one beloved child to eternal destruction! Godforbid we should dream of such a thing! We would cry day and night, "No, Lord, we cannot see them die. Spare them, we prayYou!" We could almost rival the spirit of Moses-"Blot my name out of the Book of Life sooner than my children should be castaways.Save them, Lord! Save every one of them without exception, for Your mercy's sake!" We should make no differences in our prayersbetween one child and another.
Now, I am sure that we should be quite right in such desires and emotions, and very wrong if we were able to sit down andcontemplate the eternal ruin of our own offspring with calm indifference. God has made you parents and He does not expectyou to act otherwise than as a parent's relations require you to act. That which would be unnatural cannot be right. As aFather, Himself, the Lord yearns over His erring children and He can never be grieved with us if we do the same. Nowhere doyou meet with rebukes of natural parental love unless it unwisely winks at sin.
Even David's bitter lamentation, "O Absalom, my son, my son, would God I had died for you! O Absalom, my son, my son!" isnot censured by the Lord. Neither do we find Him rebuking Abraham for saying, "O that Ishmael might live before You!" Thesedesires are so consistent with the natural instincts which He has, Himself, implanted, that, even if they are not always granted,they are never reprehended. Even if our child should turn out to be an Esau, or an Ishmael, or an Absalom, yet the prayersof the father for him are not forbidden. How could they be?
Do not be afraid at any time when pleading for the souls of your children! Be importunate, be eager, be earnest not for thechild's life-that you must leave with God. Not for the child's health-that, also, you may make a secondary matter-but forthe child's soul. Stint not yourself in this, but wrestle as hard as you will, and say, "I will not let go except You blessmy children, every one of them! Their unregenerate state is my deepest sorrow! O Lord, be pleased to recover them from it."Once more, this high joy of which we have spoken is very solemn in its surroundings, for it involves this alternative-"Whatif my children should not walk in the Truth of God?"
Well, that means for us, during this life, many sorrows, nights of sleeplessness and days of anxiety. I have seen good menand great men crushed beneath the daily trouble caused by their children. "Children," said one, "are doubtful blessings,"and he was near the truth. Blessings they are, and they can be made by God the choicest of blessings-but if they shall growup to be dissolute, impure, ungodly-they will make our hearts ache-
"How sharper than a serpent's tooth it is
To have a thankless child."
No cross is so heavy to carry as a living cross. Next to a woman who is bound to an ungodly husband, or a man who is unequallyyoked with a graceless wife, I pity the father whose children are not walking in the Truth of God, who is yet, himself, anearnest Christian. Must it always be so, that the father shall go to the House of God and his son to the alehouse? Shall thefather sing the songs of Zion, and the son and daughter pour forth the ballads of Belial?
Must we come to the Communion Table alone, and our children be separated from us? Must we go on the road to holiness and theway of peace, and behold our dearest ones traveling with the multitude the broad way, despising what we prize, rebelling againstHim whom we adore? God grant it may not be so, but it is a very solemn reflection. More solemn, still, is the vision beforeus if we cast our eyes across the river of death into the eternity beyond! What if our children should not walk in the Truthof God and should die unsaved? There cannot be tears in Heaven, but if there might, the celestials would look over the bulwarksof the new Jerusalem and weep their fill at the sight of their children in the flames of Hell, forever condemned, forevershut out from hope!
What if those to whom we gave being should be weeping and gnashing their teeth in torment while we are beholding the faceof our Father in Heaven? Remember the separation time must come. O you thoughtless youths! Between you and your parents theremust come an eternal parting! Can you endure the thought of it? Perhaps your parents will first leave this world-oh, thattheir departure might touch your consciences and lead you to follow them to Heaven! But if you go first, unforgiven, impenitentsinners-your parents will have a double woe in their hour!
How sadly have I marked the difference when I have gone to the funeral of different young people. I have been met by the motherwho told me some sweet story about the girl and what she did in life and what she said in death, and we have talked togetherbefore we have gone to the grave with a subdued sorrow which was near akin to joy! I have not known whether to console orto congratulate! But in other cases, when I have entered the house, my mouth has been closed. I have asked few questions andvery little has been communicated to me.
I have scarcely dared to touch upon the matter. By-and-by the father has whispered to me, "The worst of all is, Sir, we hadno evidence of conversion. We would have gladly parted with the dear one might we have had some token for good. It breaksmy wife's heart, Sir. Comfort her if you can." I have felt that I was a poor comforter-for to sorrow without hope is to sorrow,indeed. I pray it may never be the lot of any one of us to weep over our grown-up sons and daughters dead and twice dead.Better were it that they had never been born! Better that they had perished like untimely fruit, than that they should liveto dishonor their father's God and their mother's Savior-and then should die to receive, "Depart, you cursed," from thosevery lips which to their parents will say-"Come, you blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you."
Proportionate to the greatness of the joy before us is the terror of the contrast. I pray devoutly that such an overwhelmingcalamity may never happen to anyone connected with any of our families. So far I have conceded the text to parents. Now Iam going to take it for myself and my Brothers.
II. You may view, dear Friends, the text as specifying the PASTOR'S greatest reward. "I have no greater joy than to hear thatmy children walk in the Truth of God." The minister who is sent of God has spiritual children. They are as much his childrenas if they had literally been born in his house, for to their immortal Nature he stands under God in the relationship of father.It would seem we shall have but faint memories in Heaven of earthly relationships, seeing they are there neither married norgiven in marriage, but are as the angels of God.
Therefore, the relationship of son and father will not exist in Heaven, though I cannot but think that spirits which weregrouped on earth will be associated in Glory. But the duties and bonds of relationship will be ended. Relationships whichrelate to soul and spirit will last on. I may not look upon my sons in Heaven as my children, but I shall recognize many ofyou as such, for it is through your soul, or rather your new-born spirit, I am related to you. No minister ought to be atrest unless he sees that his ministry brings forth fruit, and men and women are born unto God by the preaching of the Word.
To this end we are sent to you, not to help you to spend your Sundays respectably, nor to quiet your conscience by conductingworship on your behalf. No, Sirs, ministers are sent into the world for a higher purpose! And if your souls are not saved,we have labored in vain as far as you are concerned. If in the hands of God we are not made the means of your new birth, oursermons and instructions have been a mere waste of effort and your hearing has been a mere waste of
time to you, if not something worse. To see children born unto God-that is the grand thing! Therefore every preacher longsto be able to talk about his spiritual sons and daughters.
John did so. Those who are the preacher's children are often known to him. They were to John, else he could not have spokenof them as, "my children," and could not have had joy in them as his children. From this I draw the inference that it is theduty of everyone who receives spiritual benefit, and especially conversion, from any of God's servants, to let them know ofit. John speaks about his children, but supposing there had been persons converted and John had never heard of it? Supposethey had never made any profession, never joined the Church? John might have lived and died without the comfort of knowingthem-and without the joy of hearing that they walked in the Truth of God.
Therefore, permit me to remind some of you who, I trust, know the Lord, but have never confessed His name, that you do usgrievous wrong! We have sought your good and God has blessed us to you. But you deny us the fruit of our labor, which is thatwe should hear that God has owned our ministry in your consciences! Do not continue to defraud the laborer of his hire! Youknow how refreshing to the preacher is information that he has won a soul for Jesus. As cold water to a thirsty soul in aparching desert is such good news to us! I have had many such cups of water, but I am growing thirsty for more. I am gratefulwhen the Lord works as He did only the other day, and I hear of it.
I preached to you, one morning, a sermon to despairing souls [#1146 Consolation for the Despairing.] I said there might befew, then, present to whom it would apply. It was very grateful to me to find, a day or so after, that a friend from a considerabledistance had been moved to come here that morning, and, after many years of despair, was brought into light and liberty throughthe sermon. Oh, how glad I felt! You cannot help preaching when you know that saving results follow! If God's Holy Spirithas blessed our word to you, do not refrain from acknowledging the blessing! Put on Christ publicly in Baptism, accordingto His command-unite yourself with His Church and commune with the people among whom you have been born unto God.
It seems from our text that John was in the habit of hearing about his spiritual children-"I have no greater joy than to hear"-markthat-"than to hear that my children walk in the truth." That implies that if you make a profession of your faith, people willtalk about you. John could not have heard if others had not spoken. The man who makes a profession of religion, especiallyin a Church like this, will be watched by all the world's eyes, and not by very friendly critics, either. There are thoseat home, who know not the Savior, who, if they can find any fault in your character, will throw it at you, and say, "Thatis your religion, is it?"
You will be men much spoken of, and reports of you will come to us-bad or good, we shall be sure to hear of them. We practiceno spy system among the members of our Church and yet somehow or other in this large Church of 4,500 members, it very rarelyhappens that a gross act of inconsistency is long concealed. Birds of the air tell the matter. The eagle-eyed world acts aspoliceman for the Church, and with no good intent becomes a watchdog over the sheep, barking furiously as soon as one goesastray. I assure you, I have no greater joy than when I hear that the members of the Church are walking in the Truth of God.
When, for instance, a young Christian man dies, and his master writes to me, saying, "Have you got another member in yourChurch like So-and-So? I never had such a servant before. I deplore his loss, and only wish I might find another of equallyexcellent character." Very different is our feeling when we hear it said, as we do sometimes, "I would sooner live with anungodly man than with a professor of religion, for these professing Christians are a great deal worse tempered and more cantankerousthan mere worldly people." Shame, shame on anybody who makes the world justly bring up so evil a report! Our joy is that thereare others against whom no accusation can justly be brought.
You notice that he speaks of their "walk." The world could not report their private prayers and inward emotions. The worldcan only speak of what it sees and understands. So John heard of their "walk," their public character and deportment. Be careful,be careful of your private lives, my Brothers and Sisters, and I believe your public lives will be sure to be right. Rememberthat it is upon your public life that the verdict of the world will very much depend- therefore watch every step, action,and word lest you err in any measure from the Truth of God.
What is it to "walk in the Truth of God"? It is not merely resting in the Truth of God, or else some would suppose it meantthat John was overjoyed because they were sound in doctrine and cared little for anything else. His joyous survey did includetheir orthodoxy in creed-it reached far beyond. We will begin at that point and grant that it is a great joy
to see our converts standing fast in the Truth of God, and, Brothers and Sisters, I am glad, indeed, when I hear that youhold fast the essential, fundamental, cardinal Truths of our holy faith.
I rejoice that the nonsense of the so-called "modern thought" has no charms for you! You have not turned aside to doubt theDeity of Christ, or the fall of man, or the substitutionary Sacrifice, or the authenticity and Inspiration of Scripture, orthe prevalence of prayer. I am thankful that you hold fast the grand old Doctrines of Grace and refuse to exchange them forthe intellectual moonshine so much in vogue just now. It is a great thing to hear of our people that they are abiding in theTruth as they have been taught. But to walk in the Truth of God means something more-it signifies action in consistency withTruth.
If you believe that you are fallen, walk in consistency with that Truth of God by watching your fallen nature and walkinghumbly with God. Do you believe that there is one God? Walk in the Truth of God and reverence Him and none beside. Do youbelieve in Election? Prove that you are elect-walk in the Truth of God as the chosen, peculiar people of God, zealous forgood works. Do you believe in Redemption? Is that a fundamental Truth of God with you? Walk in it, for "you are not your own,you are bought with a price." Do you believe in Effectual Calling and Regeneration as the work of the Spirit of God? Thenwalk in the power of God and let your holy lives prove that you have, indeed, been renewed by the supernatural work of God'sGrace. Walk in consistency with what you believe!
But walking in Truth means yet more, it signifies "be real." Much of the walking to be seen in the world is a vain show, themasquerade of religion, the mimicry of godliness. In too many instances the man wears two faces under one hat and possessesa duplicate manhood. He is not real in anything good-he is a clever actor and no more. Alas, that one should have to say it,very much of the religiousness of this present age is nothing more than playing at religion! Why, look at the Christian yearof the Ritualistic party in our national Church, look at it, and tell me, what is it? It is a kind of practical charade, ofwhich a sort of Passion Play is one act!
The life of Christ is supposed to be acted over again, and we are asked to sing carols as if Jesus were just born, eat saltfish because He is fasting, carry palms because He is riding through Jerusalem, and actually to hear a bell toll His funeralknell as if He were dying! One day He is born and another day He is circumcised, so that the year is spent in a solemn make-believe,for none of these things are happening! The Lord Jesus sits in Heaven, indignant to be made a play of! Have nothing do withsuch things! Leave the shadows and pursue the Substance. Worship Christ as He is and then you will regard Him as "the sameyesterday, today, and forever."
When men see you, let them see that what you believe you believe in downright earnest, and that there is no sham about you.Then they might call you a bigot-for which be thankful! Take the word home, keep it as an honorable title, far too good tobe flung back upon your foe. They may call you a wild enthusiast-in return pray God to make them enthusiastic, too-for insuch a cause one cannot be too much in earnest. Do not go through the world like respectable shades, haunting the tomb ofa dead Christ, but be alive with the life of God-alive from head to foot to Divine realities! So will you walk in the Truthof God!
See how truly the Apostles bore themselves. They were ready to die for the Truth of God they held, and all their lives theywere making sacrifices for it. Let your truthfulness be so powerful a force that others can see that you are carried awayby its force and governed by its impulses. "I have no greater joy than this." Why, when a preacher sees men thus walk in theTruth of God, does he make it his great joy? Because this is the purpose of our ministry! It is this we aim at. We do notlive to convert people to this sect or that, but to holy living before God and honest dealing with men. This is the grandthing and when we see this achieved, we have no greater joy. This is the designs of the Gospel, itself! Christ loved His Churchand gave Himself for it, that He may present it to Himself, a perfect Church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing.
A holy people are the reward of the Redeemer's passion! Well may they be the joy of those friends of the Bridegroom who standand rejoice greatly because the Bridegroom's joy is fulfilled. The holiness of Christians is the great means of spreadingthe Gospel. Beyond all other missions I commend the mission of holiness. They preach best for Christ who preach at the fireside,who preach in the shop, whose lives are sermons, who are themselves priests unto God, whose garments are vestments and whoseordinary meals are sacraments. Give us a holy, consecrated people, and we will win, for these are the Omnipotent legions withwhich the world shall be conquered to Christ!
We joy in a holy people because they bring glory to God. Mere professors do not do so. Inconsistent professors dishonor God,of whom I tell you, even weeping, that they are the enemies of the Cross of Christ! A people walking in the Truth of God crownthe head of Jesus. They compel even blasphemers to hold their tongues, for when they see these holy men and women they cannotsay anything against the Gospel which has produced such characters. Beloved, if you love your pastor, if you love the Bible,if you love the Gospel, if you love Christ, if you love God-be a holy people!
You who profess to be saved, be true, be watchful. If you would not grieve us, if you would not dishonor the Gospel, if youwould not crucify Christ afresh and put Him to an open shame, walk as Christ would have you walk-abhor that which is evil,cleave to that which is good. Be in your speech and in your temper, in your business transactions with your fellow men andin your communications in the family circle-men approved of God-such as you will wish to have been when your Lord shall come,for He is at the door and blessed are those servants who are ready for His coming. If you are not what you ought to be, Ibeseech you do not make a profession! And if you have made a profession, and have dishonored it, humble yourselves in thesight of God and go once more to the fountain filled with blood, for there is still forgiveness and mercy for you.
Jesus will willingly receive you, even though you have done Him such despite. Return as a prodigal son to the Father's houseand you shall find the fatlings killed for you, and the best robe put upon you. As we are getting near the close of the year,earnestly pray that if anything in the time past has been evil, it may suffice us to have worked the will of the flesh. Andnow, from now on, in the new year may we live in newness of life and enjoy together the sweet privilege of hearing that ourchildren walk in the Truth of God, while we ourselves, through Grace, are walking in it, too, and the Church is built up andmultiplied by the Spirit of Truth. May the Lord bless you all, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.
PORTIONS OF SCRIPTURE READ BEFORE SERMON-John's Second and Third Epistles.