Sermon 1392. A Catechism for the Proud
DELIVERED ON LORD'S-DAY MORNING, JANUARY 6, 1878,
BY C. H. SPURGEON,
AT THE METROPOLITAN TABERNACLE, NEWINGTON.
"For who makes you to differ from another? And what have you that you did not receive? Now if you did receive it, why do youglory, as if you had not received it?" 1 Corinthians 4:7.
THE Corinthian Church was exceedingly gifted. Perhaps no other Church of the period had in it so many persons of educationand talent. The Apostle says of them, "In everything you are enriched, in all utterance and in all knowledge, so that youcome behind in no gift." Alas, its Divine Grace was not in proportion to its gifts and, consequently, a proud spirit was developedin the Church which manifested itself in divisions and contentions. Parties were formed. One said, "I am of Paul," and probablyprided himself on the depth of his thought. "I am of Apollos," said another, and probably gloried in the brilliant eloquenceof his language. "I am of Cephas," cried a third, and boasted in the plain, unvarnished practicality of Peter's teaching.
"You are all wrong," exclaimed a fourth, "and I will have nothing to do with you. I am of no sect and no system, for I amof Christ and exclude you all because I wish to promote love and unity." Party leaders are sure to be found where there isa party spirit-and party spirit is a fungus which grows upon the dunghill of conceit! The Apostle grieved greatly to see thatthe brethren had no discipline, could not keep rank and were not content to work under anybody or with one another. He lamentedthat each man wanted to be foremost and he was so ashamed of them that he thanked God that he had baptized none of them!
Probably the adherents of the various parties had only used their leaders' names to make a sect in order that they, themselves,might be made the more prominent. They gloried in men that other men might glory in them. From all this may we, as a Church,be preserved! May God grant that whatever gifts and talents we may have, we may always be filled by His good Spirit so abundantlythat we may walk in all lowliness of spirit and abide in hearty, loving union with each other. Our Apostle displayed greatwisdom in his rebuke of the Corinthians. He did not cry down their talents. He did not say that it was altogether a thingof no value to be able to argue, to be able to preach, to be able to discern spirits, or to be able to speak with tongues.
This is a mode of procedure which suggests itself very readily, but it is not a good one. You very seldom lower a man's opinionof himself by undervaluing his gifts. He knows that you are treating him unfairly and he, naturally, resents the injusticeand becomes more proud than ever. He remembers the fable of the fox and the sour grapes and is fully persuaded that you onlydecry his abilities because you do not possess them yourself! Pride is not to be cured by injustice! One devil will not driveout another! Pride often finds fuel for itself in that which was intended to dampen its flame. The man who is undervaluedfeels that if his gifts are despised by others. He knows their value, if nobody else does, and so he has another reason forconsidering himself to be a person of superior abilities.
The Apostle follows a far more sensible course-he does not deny the talent, but asks where it comes from! He does not irritate,but cuts deep while he asks one or two questions which strike at the very root of self-esteem. In effect these questions wereas follows, "If you are a superior person and a man fit to be a teacher of others, from where did you obtain this superiority?If you are different from the common people, who makes you to differ? If you are a person of remarkable gifts, how did youcome to possess them? If all your distinguishing abilities are gifts from God, why do you boast? Why do you exalt yourself?What have you which you have not received? If you received everything as the gift of Divine charity, why do you glory as ifyou had not received it?"
These questions may well hide pride from man and I pray that such may be the result upon our minds while at this time we pursuethe train of thought suggested by the text. To this end we shall need the assistance of the Holy Spirit, for nothing is moredifficult than to overcome our self-conceit. Pride takes a thousand forms and hides itself under number-
less disguises. Many talk of lowliness, but humility still remains among the rarest of jewels! Many take pride in what theycall having no pride about them-it is very easy to be proud of not being proud-and perhaps some Brothers and Sisters hereare in that condition. Perhaps we, ourselves, have said, "No, we are not such fools as to boast." That is not boasting, Isuppose?
"I could not be vainglorious," says one. "I know too much of my unworthiness to give myself airs and ride the high horse,"says another. Quite so, my Friends, and yet at the bottom of such a speech there may lie a world of self-confidence! In fact,your humble confessions may be only another form of blowing your own trumpets. It is easy to be proud while sneering at prideand to glorify self while denouncing all self-exultation. There was great truth in Plato's observation when Diogenes trampledon his valuable carpets and said, "I trample upon the pride of Plato?" "Yes," said Plato, "and with greater pride."
There are some who are never more ostentatious than when they cry down all display and never more insolent than when opposinginsolence. Pride is a subtle serpent-like vice-it will insinuate itself into the most secret chamber and hide in the mostunlikely places! It will speak like an angel of light and cringe and fawn and display a mock modesty which might almost deceivethe very elect! It will blush and be diffident and hesitating, while all the while Lucifer himself is not more puffed up!To deal blows at this vice of vanity we shall meditate upon our text and pray God to bless it to us.
First, we shall note that the verse contains a great and comprehensive Truth of God. And secondly we shall observe, as Godshall help us, the teaching which may be derived from it.
I. Our text contains within itself A GREAT AND COMPREHENSIVE TRUTH OF GOD-namely, that whatever advantages any of us possessover our fellow men we have received from God. "Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above and comes down from theFather of Lights." "The living God gives us richly all things to enjoy." "He gives to all life, breath and all things." Everythingthat we are which is not sinful and everything that we have which is worth having, we owe to the bounty of our God.
And this is true, first, as to all sorts of temporal advantages. Begin at the very lowest-we owe our physical strength andpersonal comeliness to the Lord. Some persons are born with a fine frame, well knit, healthy, vigorous, strong, fitly proportioned.And others exhibit a beauty of person and countenance which gives them great influence and wins much admiration. One of themost common vices in the world and one of the most silly, is the propensity to boast in mere animal force or physical beauty,whereas the man had no hand in making one single bone or muscle or sinew of his frame! Nor has the fairest daughter of Evebeen the creator of her own loveliness! No credit is due to the strong man for his strength nor to the beautiful for theirbeauty. Strength and beauty are gifts, not virtues.
There are some who consider the strongest man to be the best and measure themselves by their capacity to lift weights, orto inflict blows-forgetting that horses and elephants can bear greater loads-and lions and tigers can be fiercer in battle.Mere force belongs to beasts and to steam engines even more than to men! And a man of gigantic strength is outdone at everystep by the most common machinery. As for beauty, one of its most potent charms lies in its modest unconsciousness-it is greatlymarred when accompanied by vanity. It may seem natural that a peacock should expand its tail in self-admiration, for the birdknows no better. But for a man or woman possessed of reason to gaze in the glass and admire their own bright eyes, glossyhair and delicate features is contemptible vanity!
Lovely is the modesty which does not even think of itself, but like the sweetly perfumed violet hides itself among the leavesto be sought out by those who have pleasure in lowly worth. O fine lady, why so haughty? Did you make yourself? Then be proudof yourself! O strong athletic man, why so arrogant? Are you your own creator? Did you, O man, or woman, give yourself strengthor comeliness? Those legs of a man so swift for running-has the runner fashioned them himself? Those eyes of woman, so brightfor fascination-did she kindle their wondrous light herself? No, these personal advantages are evidently gifts distributedat the Divine pleasure.
The Lord has made one athletic while another is born a cripple-one is uncomely and another fair as beauty's self. We meetwith persons who are born blind, or deaf and dumb, or deformed in limb, or weak in spine and, therefore, we see that our vigorof physical frame is the gift of Providence. To each favored one we may say, "What have you that you did not receive? Nowif you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?" Position, too, in this world is a thing very commonlyboasted of. This man is born with a silver spoon in his mouth-another man comes into the
world with nothing silvery about him. The first man boasts because he is a gentleman and has come from a wealthy fam-ily-butwhat had he to do with it?
What determined the place of his birth? What but a Providential arrangement altogether apart from himself? And after all,in the matter of birth we are all pretty much upon a level if we trace our pedigrees to their common meeting-place in thefather of all living. Among the numerous kinds of pride this is one of the most ridiculous-the boast of blood and vauntingof ancestry! What can there be of all inherited position and rank for which we can claim merit? However great the privilege,no credit is due to those who have it, for we may say to each one, "What have you which you have not received?"
Some men are vainglorious because they claim to have made their own position-we have even heard them say that they made themselves!I observe that persons who boast of being self-made usually worship their supposed maker with great fervency and endeavorto lead others to pay the same homage. But I would ask such, "Who gave you the opportunity to become what you have become?From where did you get that natural talent and force of character which have brought you to the front?" The "self-made man"can only be so called in a very restricted sense, or else the speech is false and blasphemous.
If a man has prospered, his prosperity has come of God's kind permission-"The Lord makes poor and makes rich." And if he hasfought his way up from penury and obscurity to dignity and position among the sons of men, he owes it to the gentleness ofGod, who "raises up the poor out of the dust." Education, the gift of prudent parents, opportunity, the gift of Providence-thesehave all united to make the man prosperous-what has he that he has not received? Some glory in their talent and knowledge.But here again, if a man commits himself to the nobler pursuits of science and learning and renounces the more groveling ambitionsof mere wealth and station. If he endeavors to search out the secrets of Nature so as to become useful to his fellow men-ifhe should succeed and rise to be numbered with great master minds-has he not received it all?
From the beginning, were there not natural predilections and propensities and talents and capacities bestowed upon him whichhave been denied to others who have been equally industrious, but could not, in the nature of things, become equally eminent?From where, also, has come the health which has enabled the student to persevere in laborious research? Many have been slainby their devotion to their books. The brain is very sensitive and many, in burning the midnight oil, have consumed the oilof life at the same time! To whom, then, does the successful student owe his continued mental vigor? The greatest philosophermay wisely thank God that he is not a lunatic! It may be many a time, in the pursuit of knowledge, he has, in the strainingof his faculties, come very near to the overstraining of them. "Great wits to madness often are allied" and frequently onlythe merciful interposition of Heaven has spared the deep student from the madman's fate. What has he that he has not received?
As to wealth, where some are apt to indulge a vulgar vanity, what is there in it, after all? Certainly it is to a man's creditthat he did not, in the commencement of his life, squander his money in wanton waste and self-indulgence. It is to a man'scredit that he put his shoulder to the wheel and toiled on and did not consume his days in idleness, or fall into habits ofdrunkenness and dissipation which are the roots of nine-tenths of the poverty in the land. It is to his credit that he hasbeen economical and so has kept the wolf from the door and risen to a competence. But still, what has he that he did not receive?These very habits and discretions may be traced to training, or to force of mind, or to happy example and they are, therefore,things received.
As for the man's success-it is not only due to his industry, for sickness or accident might have made him unable to earn hisbread, or lack of employment might have hampered him. An ill turn in trade would have swept away his little capital, or, trustingin others, he might have found himself robbed of all. Are there not many who are industrious and prudent and all that, andyet nothing seems to prosper with them, or if they do have a little season of prosperity it is soon over? They have not, perhaps,all the wit of some and, therefore, become the prey of hucksters-nor have they all the vigor of mind which is necessary inthese days of competition. Alas, some have grown rich by wickedness and have heaped up curses for themselves-but as far aswealth is a blessing-no man possesses it apart from God's goodness.
What do the Scriptures say? "You shall remember the Lord your God; for it is He that gives you power to get wealth." If anyman will sit down and trace his progress in life, he will say of each of his mercies, "This, also, comes to me from the goodnessof the Lord. It is He who has prospered me. I might have exerted myself as I have done, but unless the
Lord had built the house, they who built it would have labored in vain. Unless the Lord had kept the city, the watchmen hadwakened in vain. Even if I have labored as in the very fire and risen early and sat up late, yet all would have come to nothingunless His good hand had been with me."
Let us remember this and never indulge the pride which robs God of His praise. It would be a sad thing if we were to becomeas besotted as ungrateful Israel, of whom the Lord said, "She did not know that I gave her corn and wine and oil, and multipliedher silver and gold." Nor is it only for the power to get that we are indebted to the Lord, for the retaining of our substanceis equally of His favor. Riches take to themselves wings and fly away-and the rich man may be, all of a sudden, stripped ofall his treasure. Houses are soon plucked down unless the Lord keeps them. For the continued supplies of our needs let usthank the Lord who daily loads us with benefits! O man of learning, it is the Lord that gives you power to acquire knowledge-otherwiseall your efforts would be fruitless and your mind would prove to be a barren waste!
All faculty, capacity, attainment and influence come from Him. It is He that gives you power, if you are a member of the ChristianChurch, to take a high position in it and to become a leader of others. If you have any experience by which you can comfortthe afflicted. If you have any knowledge of His Word by which you can instruct the ignorant. If you have the Spirit of Godresting upon your utterance to convince and awaken, to confirm and to edify-if in anything you are favored to bless the Churchor the world-you owe this to the great Giver of all good. Bless Him, therefore, and boast not! If any man is prepared to denyour doctrine, we may leave him to his own ungrateful pride-but let him tremble lest, like Nebuchadnezzar, he should be strippedof all power and made, in his fall, to acknowledge the hand of the Lord.
You shall always find that men upon their knees, if they are sincere, bless God for all they have. And the better a man growsand, I will venture to add, the more common sense he gains, the more ready is he to trace all that he has and is to the goodhand of his God! Certainly the more Grace he has and the more he becomes like his God, the more earnestly does he refuse anycredit for himself! And the more sweetly does he sing the Psalm, "Non nobis domine"-"Not unto us, not unto us, O Lord, butunto Your name give glory." Like Paul, he cries, "By the Grace of God I am what I am."
We have thus set forth the great general Truth of God which holds good as to all temporal advantages. I believe it to be anequally sure Truth as to all gracious privileges. The Apostle says, "Who makes you to differ?" Now, my Brothers and Sisters,those of us who have been saved by Divine Grace do differ from others. We differ greatly from what we used to be! We differsensibly from ourselves in our former state and we also differ greatly from others who are still unregener-ate, for if theGrace of God did not make our character to be different from that of the ungodly, where would its value be? The Lord has taughtus what others do not know! He has quickened us with a life which others do not feel! He has given us a sorrow which the worldhas never felt and, blessed be His name, He has endowed us with a joy with which worldlings cannot intermeddle.
There is a very great difference between him that fears God and him that fears Him not. "Now, who makes you to differ?" isthe question to be thought of, this morning, by every saved one. I believe that the Doctrines of Grace would never be doubtedif men would follow this question to its legitimate conclusions. Why am I different from other men if I am so? It has beenby the hearing of the Gospel as the means, but I must ascribe it to Divine Grace and not to chance, that I was born wherethe Gospel was preached and not left under the influence of Popery or heathenism. There is distinguishing Sovereignty in thebirth of one man in London and the birth of another in Timbuktu. Neither individual had anything to do with that most importantitem in his life.
You might have been born in a kraal of the Hottentot instead of in the midst of a family of believers in Christ. The veryprivilege of hearing the Word of God, you must thankfully acknowledge to be a gift from the hand of God! Others even in yourown country may not have been equally favored, for they may not have had such earnest parents, nor have heard so earnest aminister. You were placed where many have been converted-it may be in the country or in London you were early carried to listento a man whose way of putting the Gospel was warm-hearted, affectionate and likely to be used of God. There, again, is theSovereignty of God to be seen-that one should be found under a cold, dead ministry and another should hear a soul-saving preacher.
Yet further, there were some who heard the same sermons as you did and were not converted and you were. How come? Will youtake the glory for it? Were you better disposed? Was there something in your nature superior to that of others? It is trueyou paid more earnest attention, but why? What led you to do so? Was there some natural betterness
about you? No, dear Friend, you will not dare to say so! At any rate, if you said so in the heat of controversy, you wouldnot repeat it on your knees! No Christian will say, " Lord, I was better than other people and, therefore, I am saved andthey are not." No, in prayer we are all Calvinists! In prayer we all agree to ascribe the whole of the praise to the Graceof God! "Who makes you to differ?" has but one answer from Christian people-it is the Grace of God that has done it.
The Apostle next acknowledges that we possess many blessings, but declares that we have received all of them from God. Isthat true? Let us enlarge upon the question. I speak only to professed Believers in Christ. You had, at first, convictionof sin-did that arise spontaneously or did the Spirit convict you of sin? Repentance towards God-was that worked in you bythe Holy Spirit, or was it the outgrowth of your own free will? You have faith-I venture to ask you if that faith is the giftof God? If it is not, I advise you to get rid of it, for it will never save you! The faith which saves the soul is alwaysspoken of in Scripture as the gift of God! Since your conversion you have exhibited some measure of holiness, but was thatworked in you by the Spirit or is it the fruit of your natural excellence? Who is to have the praise for it? You have grownin knowledge-have you been taught of God, or did you teach yourself? If you were your own teacher, I know what kind of scholaryou are! They say that when a man is his own lawyer, he has a fool for his client and it is very much the same when a manis his own teacher in Divine things.
You have also gained experience. You have felt love to Christ. You have burned with zeal-were these good things the giftsof God to you-or do you claim credit for them as having sprung up in your heart as weeds grow in a garden without sowing orwatering? Ah, dear Brothers and Sisters, I know there is no exception to this rule among the children of God-they all confessthat their Divine Graces have been received of the Lord. Whatever their doctrinal views and sentiments, let them but speakwith God in prayer or praise and they will all say, "It was all Your work as far as it was good! And unto You be all the honorof it from the first to the last. You have worked all our works in us."
Friend, if your Grace did not come from God, it is worthless! But if it did come from the Lord, let Him have the glory forit and do not boast as though you had not received it! I need to call your attention to the way in which the text is worded.It is not said, "Who made you to differ?" but, "Who makes you to differ?" Who distinguishes you now? It was God who made youto differ at the first-that we all admit. Who makes you to differ now? Suppose you were left to yourself-could you continuein your state of Divine Grace? Suppose the Grace of God were gone-what would become of you? Is there one man among us whocould keep his own soul alive as long as it takes for the eye to blink if God's upholding Spirit were withdrawn?
Is there any folly, is there any fault, is there any crime into which the best saint here would not soon plunge if it werenot for the restraining Grace of God? Who dares trust himself? What is it that makes us continue to differ from the very worstbut the Grace of God? And who shall make us to differ in days to come? To whom do you look for your future preservation? Areyou your own keepers? Do you hope that you yourselves, unaided, shall persevere in the road to Heaven? You are not, I trust,so presumptuous! Between this spot and yonder golden gates there will be battles in which we shall surely be slain unlessJehovah shall cover our heads! There are wilderness places into which we shall be sure to wander and lose ourselves foreverunless the Shepherd of Israel shall lead us like a flock.
We know that it is so from past experience and present consciousness. The longer I live-and I think it is so with most Christians-themore I feel that everything must be of Grace from first to the last if I am to be saved. Grace chose us and Grace redeemedus! Grace calls us! Grace renews us! Grace preserves us and Grace must perfect us, or else nothing will come of all our hopesand desires! Our religion will all be a flash in the pan, a disappointment at the last and a failure forever. Today I standhere to say that if I have served the Lord from my youth up, He led me into His ways. If I have preached His Gospel faithfullyto the utmost of my knowledge, it has been because His grace has urged me to. If any souls have been won to Christ. If a Churchhas been built up. If young preachers have been encouraged. If the savor of the Gospel has been spread abroad-for these thingsand all else that has been done I disclaim even the shadow of credit!
I loathe the thought! Unto God, alone, be the honor! He has worked in me to will and to do of His own good pleasure. WhenI bear this personal testimony I feel quite sure that every Brother and Sister here, according to his position and condition,will agree with me in his own case. If there is any virtue. If there is any praise. If there is anything that is honest orof good repute-unto the Lord and unto the Lord, alone, be the praise! If we are without these things the fault is our own-ifwe have no Grace, if we have not obtained mercy, if we are still unbelievers and disobedient-on our own heads must rest theresponsibility and the sin!
But this by no means contradicts the present Truth of God that if there is any goodness in us it is the workmanship of Himwho began to save us and will not cease from His work till He has finished it. Thus I have spoken of the great general
II. Now we come to ITS TEACHINGS. The first teaching of this great Truth of God is that which we have already enlarged upon.It is useful as a rebuke to pride. If any Brother is filled with vanity, let him answer the question, "Who makes you to differ?"True, you are no more a drunkard, but why should you boast of your sobriety? Is it not your duty? True, you are no more thecompanion of evildoers, but who was it that took you out of their company and gave you a new heart and a right spirit? Whatis it that keeps you out of the ways of the wicked at this moment?
It is true you know something of the things of God, whereas others are blinded and the world lies in the Wicked One. But whoopened your eyes? What do you say? You were born blind as they were-who opened your eyes? Did you bring light to your ownsoul? Think of what you used to be. Let any of us look back to our first estate and we shall surely be compelled to lay ourfinger on our mouth and silence every boast forever! Think of what we would be if Divine Grace were to leave us-how a hastytemper would soon ruin some of us, how natural levity would carry others of us off our feet-how depression of spirit wouldlead some to despair and carelessness would draw others to presume. Think of how in many ways our besetting sin would overthrowus if it were not for the preserving Grace of God!
Brothers and Sisters, if we say, concerning anything in us that is good, "This is mine and I congratulate myself upon havingproduced it," we are robbers and liars! Acknowledge that what you have is received from God! Admit that it belongs to thegreat Giver and that you, yourself, belong to Christ, and you may take the comfort of every good gift you have-but once say,"This is no gift, it is my own"-and you are uttering a lie and you are acting a knavish part in defrauding the great Kingof His lawful revenue of praise! Yes, and you are also acting the part of an idolater, making yourself into an idol and lavishingincense to please your own foolish vanity. God grant that from a sense of being beggars and nothing but beggars, daily receivingalms at the gate of Mercy, we may be led to behave ourselves in His Presence and among our fellow men with all lowliness ofspirit. "Now if you did receive it, why do you glory, as if you had not received it?"
Secondly, this great Truth becomes an excitement to gratitude. If all I possess I have received and if all I am is due tothe distinguishing Grace of God, then let me bless the Lord in the depths of my soul! Silence is often the noblest form ofworship. I delight to sit before the Lord and feel that unspeakable mercy can only be acknowledged by unspeakable thankfulness.O God, if You had left me where I was. If You had left me to go on in sin, what might I have been by now? What a servant ofthe devil! What a well-tutored tempter of others should I have grown to be! Into what shame and disgrace might I have fallen!By what frightful habits might I have been enthralled! Some of you, my dear Hearers, would have been dead long ago if it hadnot been for the Grace of God-for you were killing yourselves in sin!
Some of you would have been damned long ago if Divine Grace had not stopped you, for you were riding headlong into Hell anddid not go at a common prudent pace, as many do, along the broad road. Oh, I say again, what might not some of us have beenby now if the Lord had not stepped in with His preventing and converting mercy! Let us, therefore, while we bless Him quietlyin the deeps of our own soul, yet oftentimes overflow with praise, such as men may hear. Let our hearts flow over, for surelythey are full! It is a good thing to spill a bowl of gratitude on an ungrateful man's floor-to make him feel that if he doesnot bless God, others will do so and will not be ashamed to do it to his face!
This gratitude should take the shape of continual obedience. Nothing which Jesus bids us do should be too hard for us andnothing that He has bid should be forgotten. When we were in bondage under sin we thought if the Lord did but forgive us weshould become the most warmhearted and loving servants in His employ. When I had the irons on my wrists and when I sat insackcloth and ashes in the thick darkness of despair, if anyone had said to me, "The Lord will have mercy upon you and makea minister of you," I would have replied, "Then I will preach with all my heart and soul." I should have hoped to preach ahundred times better than I have ever done!
If it had been put to any one of you, do you not think you would have said, "I will serve Him with my whole being. Redeemedby His blood, pressed to His bosom as a dear, returning child-clothed in the best robe, with a ring on my finger and shoeson my feet-I will live to my Father's praise, yes, live with such intensity that even Apostles and martyrs shall not excelme." You have not done so, my Friend, but the text calls you and me to do it and suggests to us a gratitude which shall manifestitself in effort and glow in every action of our daily life.
Again, my text has another lesson. It is a reminder of responsibilities. God has made a great difference between you and othersin many respects. He has given you a great many blessings-remember that where much is given, much will be required. If youhave 10 talents, have you brought in the proportionate interest? If you possess five talents, have you brought in a five-foldreturn? It is to be deeply regretted that some of those who have the most ability to do good are doing the least. There aremen with large wealth who do not give half as much as many with meager means. I know persons of great attainments in spiritualknowledge who do not teach one half as much as newly converted lads and girls who occupy their posts in the school right earnestlyand teach what little they know.
I regret to say that those who could fight best are often the last to go to battle-and those who could plow best most oftenleave the plow rust-while feebler hands are worn to the bone. Brother, I will not deny that you have much knowledge, nor questionthat you have much experience, nor debate with you your right to be our superior if you are so! But will you kindly be sogood as to exceed us in consecration, in self-denial, in earnestness and in holiness? In estimating our personal character,let us not so much calculate what we could be, as what we are. Let us not so much consider what we might be if we could, butwhat we really are doing for the Lord, for that is the matter of most importance! You may be a well of water, but you willget no credit for it at the last-the reward comes for the cup of cold water that was given to a disciple in the name of adisciple!
You may be a great bale of cloth, but you will get no honorable mention for it at the Last Great Day-the commendation willbe to those of whom the Lord shall say, "I was naked, and you clothed Me." You may have a fat larder and a fine buttery, butthe honor shall only come to you at the last if it can be said, "I was hungry and you gave Me meat. I was thirsty and yougave Me drink, sick and in prison and you visited Me." God grant we may all think of our responsibilities so that you whocould take long strides may not be satisfied to walk like little children-and that you who could do a giant's work may notbe satisfied with attempting that which might be credit enough to a dwarf-but is not at all worthy of your greater powers.
Learn another lesson. The Truth of God before us is a suggestion of great tenderness in dealing with others! Allow me, fora minute, to press that consideration upon you. "Who makes you to differ?" Who but a gracious God has renewed your heart?Yet you met, the other day, with a man fast bound with bad habits and you said, "Nothing can be done with such a wreck ofa man. I will not waste words upon him." Another day you heard of an effort made in the back slums, among the lowest of thelow, and you said, "I do not think much can come of it." Now, my dear Friend, "Who makes you to differ? What have you thatyou did not receive?"
It would be better to drink into the spirit of holy John Bradford, whose window looked upon the road to the gallows at Tyburn.As from day to day he saw poor condemned prisoners carried in the cart to die, he was known to say, "There goes John Bradfordbut for the Grace of God." If you feel so, let me ask you why cannot the Grace of God cause others to fear God as well asyourself? Cannot the Grace of God make other sinners to believe in Jesus as you do? I have never despaired of the salvationof any man since the Lord saved me. I know no heart that God cannot win if He could conquer mine! If you believe in your heartthe precious Doctrines of Grace, you cannot be hopeless of any, but you must be ready to hope for those in whom there is nothingto encourage expectation! We ought never to look for desert in others, since the Lord did not look for desert in us. If Jesusloved us when there was no reason in us for that love, we ought just as freely to love our fellow men!
The last lesson is not for the Christian. It is for any of you here who wish you were saved. The text is an encouragementfor seekers. You have begun another year and you are yet unsaved? But still you desire, if it is possible, to become childrenof God. Now, do you know an eminent Christian? "Yes," you say, "I do." Perhaps it is your grandmother, or it may be some earnestChristian minister. You greatly admire those people, do you not? Now remember that there is nothing good in them but whatthey have received from God! The Lord can give the same Grace to you-and you can receive even as they have received. Do youbelieve that? It is true whether you believe it or not!
The Lord, in His abundant mercy can give to you what He has given to the best of His saints, whoever you may be. "Then whathave I to do?" one asks. What you have to do is, according to the text, to be a receiver. That is all-and that is the easiestthing in the world! Anybody here can be a receiver! When you go past the offering box for the College, perhaps some of youcannot be givers, however much you may wish to be. But if I were to put a man at the door with a shilling or a guinea foreach one-anybody could receive it if he chose! Reception is a faculty which belongs to us however
low we may sink. When a person is covered with rags, covered with filth, covered with disease, he can still become a receiver!And even if he cannot stretch out his hand, he can find ways and means for receiving.
Receiving implies neither strength, nor merit, nor wisdom. It requires no power, no faculty, no virtue, no anything! The powerto be a receiver dwells with the weakest of the weak and the worst of the worst. The emptier you are, the more room thereis for reception! The blacker you are, the more room to receive washing! The more foul you are, the more reason to receivecleansing! The more sick and near to death, the more room to receive healing! Will you have the blessing which God in ChristJesus is ready to give? If you will be saved, listen to the voice of God and live! If you are willing to accept His Son JesusChrist as your Savior and, from this time forth put your whole trust in Him, you shall be saved! May He by His Grace leadyou, now, to become a receiver, for it is written-"As many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God;even to them that believe on His name." Amen.