A Sermon and a Reminiscence
A Short Sermon by C. H. SPURGEON.
From the March 1873 Sword and Trowel
"Unto you therefore which believe He is precious."1 Peter 2. 7.
When one has a cold in the head it is a very effectual hindrance to thought; you may do what you will, and select what subject you may, but somehow or other the mind has lost its elasticity. I frankly confess that for this reason I selected this text for my discourse. I thought that perhaps if the head would not work, the heart might; and, that, if the thoughts came not, yet the emotions might. Emotions may well be stirred in the preacher if not in the hearer by the memories awakened by this passage. For I remember well that more than twenty-two years ago, the first attempted sermon that I ever made was from this text. I had been asked to walk out to the little village of Teversham, some little distance from the town of Cambridge, in which I lived, to accompany a young man whom I supposed to be the preacher for the evening, and on the way I said to him that I trusted God would bless him in his labors. "Oh dear," said he, "I never preached in my life. I never thought of doing such a thing; I was asked to walk with you, and I sincerely hope that God will bless you in your preaching." "Nay," said I, "but I never preached, and I don't know that I could do anything of the sort." We walked together till we came to the place, my inmost soul being all in a tremble as to what would happen. When we found the congregation assembled, and no one else there to speak of Jesus, though I was only sixteen years of age, as I found that I was expected to preach, I did preach, and this was the text. If a raw recruit could speak upon anything, surely this theme would, suit him. If one were dying this would be the text, if one were distracted with a thousand cares this would be the text, because its teaching is experimentalits meaning wells up from the inner consciousness, and needs neither a clear brain nor an eloquent tongue. To the believer it is not a thing which somebody else has taught him; it is a matter of fact, which he knows within his own soul, that Christ is precious to him, and he can bear testimony concerning it although not always such bold testimony as he could wish. I intend to let my heart run over like a full cup, just as the thought comes to my heart it shall be poured out. Let us go then at once to our text, and speak a little, first, about believers; then, about their appreciation of Christ; and then about how they show it.
I. ABOUT BELIEVERS. "Unto you which believe." Believers are getting to be rather scarce things now-a-days: the doubters have it: they are the men who claim all the wisdom of the period. There is scarcely a singly historical fact but what is doubted now. I fancy the existence of the human race must be a matter of question with some persons. I believe some imagine that not even themselves are actually existent; certain ideas of themselves exist, but not themselves! We know not how far the human mind will go in this direction: but surely there must be a limit to doubting. Wonderful is the capacity of faith, but a hundred times more wonderful is the capacity of unbelief. The most credulous persons in the world are unbelievers. He who refuses to swallow the gnat of scriptural difficulty, usually swallows camels in large quantities of other difficulties of all sorts. The text speaks of believers, and for my part I am happy to know that a man is reckoned among believers of any sort rather than with doubters.
But the believers mentioned here are not mere believers, they are spiritual believers, Christian believers, they believe in Christ Jesus. It is only to such that Christ is precious. In the word of God there are many expressions with regard to believing in Christ. We read of believing in him, believing upon him, and believing him. Now, if I understand aright, believing in him means this: believing that he is what he claims to be; as, for instance, that he is the sent One of God, the
Messiah, that he is King in Israel, that he is the Son of God, that he is the Word that was God and was in the beginning with God, that he is the Priest making atonement for our sins, that he is the Head of the Church, and so on. That is to believe in him, to accept him as being what God's Word says he is, to believe God's testimony concerning his Son. But believing upon him goes further, for when a man believes upon Jesus, or, on Jesus, he trusts him, he rests himself upon him; for the pardon of his sin he relies upon the Savior's atoning sacrifice; for eternal life he rests upon the Savior's immortality; for his resurrection he looks to the Savior's power; for everything he looks to his Redeemer; he leans upon him, he believes on him. And this, mark you, is essential to salvation, for we may believe Christ to be God, and yet perish; we may believe Christ to be the priest putting away sin by his atoning sacrifice, and yet perish. The faith that saves is a trusting faith, a reliant faith, a sacred recumbency, confidence, and leaning upon the Lord Jesus Christ. Dear hearer, do you possess it? Has the Holy Spirit given to you to cast yourself once for all upon him whom God has set forth to be a propitiation for sin? If you have, sure you will through grace proceed to the third form of faith, you will believe himhis person as well as his words. You will believe him whatever he may say, you will believe him whatever he may do; you will be persuaded that he is himself the essential truth, according to his word"I am the way, the truth, and the life;" and then you will know what Paul meant when he said, "I know whom I have, believed,"not "in whom," but "whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him." If you asked a true believer in Christ's day "What is your creed?" he would have pointed to his Master; he would not have repeated certain articles, but he would have said, "I believe that glorious man; my trust is in him; I believe him." We have seen many books
labeled upon their backs, "Body of Divinity," but of a truth Jesus is the only real "body of divinity." If you want theology, he is the true Theologos, the essential word of God. It is a grand thing when a man believes Jesus to be what Jesus isa Savior from sin; and then believes the Christ, to be what Christ isthe anointed of the Lord; and so makes him to be his Alpha and Omegaall his salvation and all his desire.
Divide yourselves upon this question as to how far you are believers, for we cannot assert that Christ is precious to you if you are not believers. We know he will not be your heart's monarch if you have no faith, He will be the very reverse. But if you be believers in and upon him, he will be precious to you beyond all comparison,
II. Let us, then, consider the BELIEVER'S APPRECIATION OF HIS MASTER; and observe, first, that every believer appreciates Christ himselfhis very person: "Unto you therefore which believe he is precious." He. Some think the ordinances, which they call the sacraments, very precious: so they are; but only for his sake. Others reckon the doctrines to be very precious, and always thrust doctrine into the forefront. We will not deny that every doctrine is precious, but it owes its value to the fact that Christ is in it. Dry doctrine is nothing better than a sepulcher for a dead Christ to be buried in; but the doctrine preached in relation to his person becomes a throne on which he is exalted. It is a great pity when any of you Christians forget that you have a Savior who is alive, and overlook the personality of Christ. Remember that he is a real man, and as a real man on Calvary he died for you, and as a real man he is gone into heaven. He is no ideal personage, but an actual personage; and the very marrow of Christian experience lies in the realization of the personality of the Savior. "Unto you that believe, he is precious." If you make doctrine the main thing, you are very likely to grow narrow-minded; if you make your own experience the main thing, you will become gloomy and censorious of others; if you make ordinance the main thing, you will be apt enough to grow merely formal; but you can never make too much of the living Christ Jesus. Remember that all things else are for his sake. Doctrines and ordinances are the planets, but Christ is the Sun; the stars of doctrine revolve around him as their great primal light. Get to love him best of all. Yea, I know you do, if ye are believing in him. You love the doctrines, and would not like to give one of them up, but still the incarnate God is the sum and substance of your confidence; Christ Jesus himself is precious to you.
Now, as this appreciation concerns Christ, it may here be remembered that it is in the case of every believer a personal appreciation. As we appreciate Christ's person, so we each in person appreciate him. We do not pretend to appreciate Christ because others say so; nor do we run with the multitude, but we judge for ourselves. Unto those that believe in him, Christ is precious on his own account, from their own personal knowledge of him. They have not borrowed it. They do not cry, "Yes, he is precious," because their dear mother, who is gone to heaven, used to say so; her memory helps them, but they have a better reason than that. He is precious to them. Beloved, there is nothing like personal religion. The religion which you inherit, if at the same time it is not yours personally, is not worth one single farthing. You will not be saved by hereditary godliness. If any man should say, "My ancestors believed so and so, and therefore I do," that would be a reason why we should have been Druids, for our ancestors were such. If our religion has come to us as an heirloom like the family pew, and we have merely taken it at second-hand, it is of poor account. You must value Christ because you have tried him, and know him for yourself; for nothing short of a personal appreciation, and a personal appropriation, of the Lord Jesus, by faith, to your own case, and in your own heart, will ever bring you to heaven. Everything short of personal godliness falls short of eternal life. Remember that nobody can be born again for you. Ye yourselves must be regenerated. Nobody can renounce "the pomps and vanities of the world" for you. Sponsorship in religion is the most transparent of frauds. Nobody can love Christ for you; your own heart must beat high with affection towards his dear name. It must be a personal religion.
As there must be an appreciation of the person of the Lord Jesus by our own selves, so, let me add, our experience must be the basis of that estimate. Christ is precious to us this day, because we have proved him to be precious. What has he done for us? He has delivered us, first, from all the guilt of our past sins. You have not forgotten the day when
"Laden with guilt and full of fears,"
you crept to the cross foot, and looked up and saw him suffering for you: and while you believed in him the burden fell from off your shoulders, and you received a liberty unknown before. Christ is very precious to the man who has once felt the work of the law on his conscience. I wish that some people who slight him, had been cast where some of us once lay, in spiritual wretchedness and deep depression of spirit. Oh, the misery of a tortured conscience! We trembled in anticipation of the flames of hell, while our sins stared us in the face; but in an instant, by virtue of the application of the precious blood, fear was gone, guilt, disappeared, and we were reconciled to God by Christ Jesus. Is he not precious if this has been the case?
Beside this, he has emancipated us from the chains of sin. Aforetime passions mastered us; the flesh stood at the helm and steered the vessel which way it would. Sometimes a fierce self-will, at another time the baser passions of the flesh ruled us. We could not overcome ourselves; Satan and the flesh were tyrants over us; but now the vices once so dear have become detestable, the chains of sin are broken, and we are the Lord's free men; and though sin strives to get the mastery over us, and we have much to mourn over, yet that same sword which has slain some sins is close at the throat of others, and by grace divine we know that we shall slay them all ere long. There is such a change in the character of some in this place, to my knowledge, that Christ, the great transformer, must be precious to them. Once at the alehouse where sinners congregate; once frequenting nameless haunts of vice; once a swearer, once passionate, once dishonest, once a liar, once everything that is evil; but now washed and sanctified you cannot but prize your Deliverer. Oh, when I meet the reformed drunkard, and when I gaze into the face of the Magdalene, who now rejoices to wash the Savior's feet with her tears, I know that to such he is precious. A renewed character going with pardoned sin, as it always does, endears the Savior to the soul.
And, O beloved, beside that, he is precious to us because he has changed the whole bent and current of our thoughts. We were selfish once, and cared for nothing else; but since the Lord Jesus Christ has saved us we serve not self but Christ; we do not live now to hoard money, or to get ourselves honor, or even to save our own souls; for that is completed; we now rise above the
groveling love of self, and our whole being is devoted to Jesus. He is precious beyond all price, for he has taught us to live for God's glory, and for the welfare of our fellow men.
He is precious to us by experience, because he has helped us in many a dark hour of trial. I shall not tell you to-night how often he has cheered me. If any spirit here is more than ordinarily inclined to despondency, perhaps it is mine; but, ah, the sustaining influences of the presence of Christ! I can rise even to the seventh heaven of ecstasy when I do but fully come back to a simple faith in his precious name. Some of us could not live without Jesus Christ. It has come to thisit is hell here if we do not have Christ with us. I remember slipping the cable of my belief once, and being driven out to sea before, a furious wind of doubt. At first I
reveled in that speedy sailing across a sea of fierce unbelief; but, ah, when I began to see whither I was going, and when I stood at the prow of the vessel and marked the dreary cloud-land that lay before me, and knew not what rocks might be ahead, I felt a horror of great darkness, and cried for deliverance right loudly, and was glad when the anchor held fast again and my dreadful cruise was over. On Christ my soul has a hold as tight as the drowning man's death-grip, and I cling with all my might to his everlasting love, his personal love to my poor soul, and to the merit of his substitutionary sacrifice on my behalf. Believe me, he is precious to all whose whole mental thought has come to an anchorage in him, whose faculties feel that their utmost reach and stretch cannot go beyond him, for he is all in all. Yes, the text says, "Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious."'
Perhaps you imagine that I speak only of the past, as though Jesus had been precious. I meant that; but he is precious now: "Unto you therefore which believe, he is precious." When one of the saintly martyrs had been tormented by persecutors they said to him, "What can Christ do for you now?" and he replied, "He can help me to bear with patience that which you inflict upon me." When the murdered Covenanter's head was carried by the dragoon to the poor bereaved wife, and he asked her what she thought of her husband's face now, she said that he never looked bonnier when he lived then he did now that he had given up his life for Christ. Verily, we can say to-day, that Christ never looked bonnier than he does to-night, when we think of him as slain for us. We could gladly sing that hymn
"If ever I loved thee, my Jesus, 'tis now."
Some people grow less lovely upon close acquaintance, but all lovers of Christ testify that his beauties bear the closest inspection; those who lie in his bosom longest love him best, and those who have served him seventy years, are the most fluent, and also the most sincere, in singing his praises. O, he is a most precious Savior now! Young man, do you trust Christ tonight? If you do, he is precious to you, and if he is not precious to you, then you have not believed in him. May you be led to do so by the power of his Spirit, and then Christ will be precious to you indeed!
But I must add, although Christ is precious to us now on account of past experience and present enjoyment, he is precious to us with a dash of expectation. We expect soon to enter the cold shades of death, and it will be precious to have the Savior with us then. The question will sometimes come over every thoughtful mind,"Shall we, after all, die when we die? Are we like so many mites in a cheese, and shall we soon be crushed out of being and cease to be?" Oh, dark and dreary thought! But, then, we remember that Jesus Christ rose from the dead,if any historical fact is certain, that is. There may be doubts about whether Caesar was slain by Brutus, or whether Alfred was ever king in England, for there are not evidences one half so positive on those points as those which prove the resurrection of the Savior. I know not that anybody died as a witness for Caesar's death, but many shed their blood joyfully rather than deny that the Christ who was bandied upon the cross actually rose again from the tomb. In that fact lies our hope of resurrection. A man, a real man, who died on a tree, has risen from the dead, and we are one with that glorious man, who was also God, and because he lives, we shall live also! He is precious to us when we think of dying, and that should not be seldom. We shall soon come to it. Those who are strongest and most hale are nearing their last hour, and those who are sickly are nearer still, it may be. Oh, it is sweet to have Christ to live with, for thenlet death come when it may, it will be a joyful thing for us, and once reconciled to our Maker through his Son, what have we to fear?
III. Some Christians seldom acknowledge that THEY ARE SUCH. It is a beggarly business to love Christ in a corner and to be ashamed to own him. He was never ashamed to confess himself the sinner's friend, yet, there are sinners who profess to be saved by him who are ashamed to be known as his followers. "O," says one, "If I were to say I am a follower of the Crucified, and join with his church and people, I should expect to be laughed at." And are you afraid of a fool's laughter? Was Christ ashamed to be laughed at for you? O, coward, to be ashamed to be ridiculed for him! "O, but my friends would make a hubbub at home." And did not his friends, who should have helped him, cast him out, and reject him? Yet he bore it for your sake. O, craven spirits that will not take sides with Jesus; take heed when he cometh, for those who deny him before men, shall be themselves denied before God and the holy angels. This day the standard floats in the breeze; let all who are on Christ's side rally to it, for the hosts on the other side are many and bold. The foes of Jesus insult him to his facesome deny his deity and others thrust a human priest into his place.
"Ye that are men new serve him
Against unnumbered foes;
Your courage rise with danger,
And strength to strength oppose."
If he is precious to you, you will never blush to be called a fool for his sake.
Those who really judge Jesus to be precious rejoice in possessing him. One cannot understand those Christians who say, "Christ is mine," and yet go fretting and worrying through life. Dear brother, if Christ is yours, you have no cause for fretting. "What, none?" saith one. "I am very poor." You are not poor. He who can call Christ his own cannot be poor. "But I am comfortless." How can that be, when the Lord Jesus has given you a comforter? "But I am bereaved." Truly so, but you have not lost your Lord. Come, dear brother, if a man were to go through the streets of London with twenty thousand pounds in his pocket, and, when he reached the bank, found that a thief had stolen his cotton pocket handkerchief, I think the reflection that would rise in his mind would be, "Thank God I have not lost my money," and the very loss of his handkerchief would only make him the more grateful that he had not lost his treasures. Look on all things you have here as nothing compared with Jesus, and say,
"How can I bereaved be
Since I cannot part with thee?"
If you esteem Christ as you should, you will refuse to give him up at any cost, and under any circumstances you will hold to what you believe. You will have to suffer loss, it may be, in social position or in business. Very well, do it gladly, and only wish you could suffer more for his dear sake. One might almost envy the martyrs, that they could earn that ruby crown which is not now within our reach. Let us at any rate be willing to take such little rebukes and rebuffs as may be given us for Christ's sake. If you love Jesus Christ, my brothers and sisters, you will be willing to make sacrifices for his cause. I wish this spirit were abroad throughout all the church, that Christ was really precious to saints, so that they consecrated themselves and their substance to him. We want personal consecration. I have heard that word pronounced "purse-and-all consecration," a most excellent pronunciation certainly. He who loves Jesus consecrates to him all that he has, and feels it a delight that he may lay anything at the feet of him who laid down his life for us.
Once more, he who really has this high estimate of Jesus will think much of him, and as the thoughts are sure to run over at the mouth, he will talk much of him. Do we so? If Jesus is precious to you, you will not be able to keep your good news to yourself; you will be whispering it into your child's ear; you will be telling it to your husband; you will be earnestly imparting it to your friend; without the charms of eloquence you will be more than eloquent; your heart will speak, and your eyes will flash as you talk of his sweet love. Every Christian here is either a missionary or an impostor. Recollect that. You either try to spread abroad the kingdom of Christ, or else you do not love him at all. It cannot be that there is a high appreciation of Jesus and a totally silent tongue about him. Of course I do not mean by that, that those who use the pen are silent: they are not. And those who help others to use the tongue, or spread that which others have written, are doing their part well: but that man who says, "I believe in Jesus," but does not think enough of Jesus ever to tell another about him, by mouth, or pen, or tract, is an impostor. You are either doing good, or you are not good yourself. If thou knowest Christ, thou art as one that has found honey; thou wilt call others to taste of it; thou art like the lepers who found the food which the Syrians had cast away: thou wilt go to Samaria and tell the hungry crowd that thou hast found Jesus, and art anxious that they should find him too. Be wise in your generation, and speak of him in fitting ways and at fitting times, and so in every place proclaim the fact that Jesus is most precious to your soul.
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