A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, May 26, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *9/23/2011
Jesus said, “Take away the stone.” (Joh 11:39)
Jesus says to them, “Release him, and let him go.” (Joh 11:44)
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1. There lay Lazarus in the grave, dead. His restoration to life was utterly hopeless upon any ordinary principles. Certainly Lazarus could not raise himself; his affectionate sisters could not, with all their weeping, give him a resurrection, nor could the disciples call back the departed spirit, and reanimate the decaying corpse. If was a hopeless case, for who could revive a dead man who had lain in the grave so long that he had begun to stink. Now, this is a parallel case with that of every unconverted sinner in the world. He is dead in trespasses and sins — not a little sick or somewhat wounded, or in a swooning fit — but spiritual death reigns over him. The sinner never gives life to himself. The thing is inconceivable. There are people who imagine that the natural will of man sometimes inclines towards good, but, alas, this flattering supposition is far from the fact. Jesus said, “You will not come to me, so that you might have life”; neither will they come now any more than they did then. Until we see dead men raising themselves, we do not expect to meet sinners who have spontaneously and without divine assistance turned themselves towards righteousness. Neither can relatives or friends regenerate the soul in which they take an interest, nor can the most earnest ministers bestow the quickening spirit. Those whom God has blessed in other instances are still quite powerless in any new case, unless the same power shall be exerted through them anew. Death is a terrible picture of our natural state, but it is by no means an exaggerated one. The whole world lies before us as a valley of dry bones, according to Ezekiel’s vision, and if ever the dry bones are to live, it will not be through an energy innate within themselves, nor through a power resident in the most zealous of men, nor through any might which even a prophet could exert apart from God. Education cannot develop life out of death, persuasion cannot excite it there, reasoning cannot infuse it — the divine arm must be revealed, or the case is beyond hope.
Jesus must come to the tomb of Lazarus, and his voice must cry,
“Lazarus, come out,” or else the corpse shall remain inanimate, and
increase in putrefaction. All that can be done by mortal man may be
done, but nothing will be accomplished, unless Jesus, who is the
resurrection and the life, shall speak the quickening word. In his
omnipotent voice lies the power, but only there. Now, let this be
taken as a plain statement of our belief concerning the Lord’s work
in salvation, and taken without any mitigation or dilution. We
believe that in every case salvation is by the Lord alone and
altogether. Regeneration is a supernatural work. Man must be born
again from above — any power short of that from heaven will be
ineffective. The new creation is as much and entirely the work of God
as the old creation.
Can aught beneath a power divine
The stubborn will subdue?
’Tis thine, Eternal Spirit, thine
To form the heart anew.
To chase the shades of death away,
And bid the sinner live!
A beam of heaven, a vital ray,
’Tis thine alone to give.
3. But, having said this, we proceed to bear witness that what can be done by us ought to be done, since what can be done by man will not be done by Christ. It is a rule with our Lord never to work needless miracles. Indeed, he only begins the miraculous when the ordinary means can go no further. He follows the ordinary up to its verge, and then the extraordinary comes in. If a multitude are to be fed, as long as there are barley loaves and fishes to be had, Jesus will use them; he will multiply them and make them go further than they naturally could, but he will use them as far as they will go. Had there been neither loaf nor fish I do not doubt he would have begun with an act of creation, but as it was, since there were a few loaves and fishes he does not ignore them, but makes them the basis of a work of multiplication. What a man can do for himself God will not do for him, and what Christian people can do for sinners they must not expect the Lord to do, they must work themselves according to the ability God has given them up to the point of possibility, and then they may look for divine interposition. Observe, in this case, that there was a stone before the mouth of the cave in which Lazarus was interred. Could our Lord not have removed that stone with a word? could he not have said, “Be moved from here, oh stone,” and it would have been done? Indeed, he could have consumed the stone with a glance if he had so intended; but he did not choose to do so, because the bystanders were quite competent to take away the stone, therefore he said to them, “Take away the stone.” And when Lazarus was raised, when he had come out from the grave in which his friends had laid him, he was enshrouded with the grave clothes of the tomb; rolls of linen were around his body, and a napkin wrapped around his head, and Jesus did not by divine power remove the vestments of the grave. It would have been, if miracles may be compared, a smaller miracle to release the living with a word than it was to quicken the dead, but since it could be done without a miracle, it must be done without a miracle; and Jesus said to those who stood by, “Release him, and let him go.” The analogy teaches us that there are some things which we can do for the unconverted, and we are bound to do them; and there are certain other things in which we can aid those who are newly converted, and these we should hurry to perform. While we look alone to the life giving Lord to quicken the soul, we do not fold our arms in indifference, or excuse ourselves from all effort upon the basis of inability, but we are on the watch to see where instrumentality is applicable, and ready at all times to be made useful wherever we can be. We cannot turn the dry bones into living men, but we can prophesy upon them, and, blessed be God, we can also prophesy to the four winds, and so by our means the dead may live. The sphere of human action in connection with regeneration is my subject this morning. Help us, oh Divine Spirit.
4. First, there are some things which we can do for the unconverted before they are quickened. He said, “Take away the stone”; secondly, there are some things which we can do for them after they have been quickened. He said, “Release him, and let him go.”
5. I. First, then, dear brethren, THERE ARE SOME THINGS WHICH WE CAN DO FOR THE UNCONVERTED BEFORE THEIR QUICKENING.
6. I am sure, if our hearts are right, all that can be done we are most anxious to do. Jesus Christ is our model, and observe how he laboured in the work of blessing the sons of men. In this case he took a long journey, he wept, he groaned, he was troubled in spirit, he prayed, and then he spoke with a loud voice. That is a true picture of what every Christian should be, and especially every Christian minister. We should go after souls; we should weep over their ruined estate; we should groan for them, and be troubled at heart on their account; we should be incessant in our prayers; and when God speaks through us to the awakening of the dead, it should not be with insincere tones, but with a voice tender with love, and vehement with zeal. We are to be imitators of Christ in this; we ought to throw our whole heart into the blessed work which he honours us to do in his name.
7. Brethren, all of us can do for the ungodly what the sisters did for their brother. Mary and Martha called in the Master to minister to their sorrow. Being well assured when their brother was ill that they had no more sympathising or able friend in all the world than the Master whom they loved, they sent a message to Jesus; and, though they did not send a second afterwards, yet I do not doubt they felt that the former one sufficed. So you and I ought, in the case of all the unconverted over whom our spirit yearns, to call the Saviour to the rescue. Let us send a message to him about them. You may word it in some such terms as these: “Oh Lord, I grieve to tell you that my dear child is still unsaved”; or like this, “Lord, you know your servant’s heart breaks because my wife, or my husband, is still unconverted”; or, you may put it this way: “Oh Saviour, you know that in my Sunday School class, the children are not yet brought to you”; or, I may send it as my message, “My God, you know I have preached to many of these people for many years, and yet they still remain unmoved and strangers to their God.” We must earnestly intercede with the Lord for souls. Jesus is the Wonder Worker. He is the resurrection and the life, and our wisdom is to lay hold upon his strength, and beseech him to reveal his saving might.
8. In addition to this we must then express our confident faith in Jesus, that even now whatever he will ask from God, God will give it to him. We must believe that he is able to raise the spiritually dead. We must never allow ourselves to despair of any person, since the matter is in the hands of an Almighty Saviour. Although the sinner by this time stinks and has become immoral, as well as unholy, yet it is not too late to ask the Lord Jesus to work. We ought never to say of any person, “It would be vain for us to labour for his conversion, he is so vicious as to be incapable of grace.” We are not thus to anticipate man’s condemnation, but rather to obey the Master’s message and go into all the world with good news for every creature, for the gospel is without limitation when it declares, “He who believes and is baptised shall be saved.” Beloved, have faith in the Lord Jesus: tell him how desperate the case is for you, but say to him, “Lord, it is not impossible for you.” Assure him that while you feel yourself to have no power, you are sure that one single word from him will accomplish all that your soul desires.
9. Now every believer can do this, God helping us we can go by faith to the Lord Jesus. But, our first text indicates even more clearly the line of our capacity. Jesus employed others in the rolling away of the stone. You cannot make the dead live, but you can take the stone away from the mouth of their sepulchre. Let us speak of certain stones which we should with all diligence remove.
The first is the stone of ignorance. This heavy weight lies at
the mouth of many a spiritual grave today. I think we take for
granted too high an attainment of knowledge among the people at this
present time. I am sure that many sermons are preached to people as
though they perfectly understood the plan of salvation; whereas, if
the preacher only knew his hearers better, he would discover that
even upon the elements of the gospel of Christ many of them are
deplorably ignorant. In fact, I fear, that often the elementary
truths of Christianity are not preached sufficiently because too much
is taken for granted. It is to be feared that the alphabet of the
gospel is unknown to thousands whose teachers are trying to instruct
them in the classics of theology, — a waste of effort and a dangerous
experiment. Why, in this City of London, you shall find people who
frequent Protestant places of worship who still believe in salvation
by their own works, and are horrified at justification by faith. You
shall discover, if you go among the masses, an indifference to
salvation so great as to be appalling, and this originates largely
from ignorance. Salvation! why thousands do not know what you mean by
the term, and here, in this century of light and advancement as we
boastfully call it, gross darkness covers the minds of a large
proportion of our countrymen. Brethren, the time has not come for you
to cease distributing the very plainest of tracts; the time has not
arrived for you to be silent at the street corners even upon the
first principles of the faith; you must still proclaim atonement by
the sacrifice of Christ, and the simple doctrine of justification by
faith. Possibly there may come an age when it will be wise to speak
mainly upon the deep things of God; but, for this present distress,
we may wisely give our whole strength to proclaiming the foundational
fact, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners. Our
sermons must repeat times beyond number the story of the cross. The
hymns most commonly sung should be of the same order as — “Rock of
ages, cleft for me”; “Jesus, lover of my soul”; “Come, you sinners,
poor and wretched”; and, “Just as I am, without one plea.” We have
even need of such simple ditties as — “I do believe, I will believe,
that Jesus died for me.” For upon that point ignorance and unbelief
still cloud the majority of the people among whom we live. Do not let
the people be destroyed for lack of knowledge. Let no one go down to
hell because they do not know of a Saviour. Let me say here that,
even with those who have heard the gospel well preached, this
ignorance may still remain, as it did in my own case. I believe if I
had known that all I had to do was to look to Christ and I should
live; if I had really understood that there was nothing for me to be,
nor feel, nor do, but that I had only to rest in a finished work and
take from God’s mercy what Christ had completed, I think if I had
known that truth I should have found peace with God before; but, I
did not understand the gospel, and therefore remained in distress of
mind. Do, then, tell everyone about Jesus, tell them about the Son of
God made flesh; tell them about substitution, speak out the word
plainly; tell them —
He bore that we might never bear
His Father’s righteous ire.
11. Assure them that whoever believes in him is not condemned, and that to believe is to trust. Open up that word, for even plain and simple words get to be technical, and men imagine that there is some other meaning in them than what they ordinarily mean. You cannot express the gospel too plainly, but anyway, put it before them, and thus roll away this stone from the mouth of the sepulchre.
Alas, a second stone is often there, namely that of absolute
error. That the mind is without knowledge is not good, for if we
do not sow wheat, weeds will assuredly spring up. Men ignorant of
God’s righteousness always go about to establish their own
righteousness in some way or other. Thousands think that if they
are sober, honest, upright, and so on, they have done all that is
required of them, at least a little spice of attendance at church or
chapel, and just a little addition of religious ceremonies, may
compensate for any deficiencies of their practice; and, certainly, to
call in a clergyman or minister when they shall lie dying, and to
have prayers said or read to them, will complete the structure which
they have themselves begun. Brethren, this great stone covers many
an Englishman’s grave, seek to roll it away. Bear your own personal
protest against the idea that the law of God will ever be satisfied
by an imperfect obedience. Teach men that God’s commandment is
exceedingly broad, that it deals with the thoughts and intents of the
heart as well as with men’s outward actions; and, when they see this,
maybe they will perceive the impossibility of ever keeping the law of
God, and they will quit attempting to work out salvation by an
obedience of their own. Show them plainly, lovingly, tenderly, but
yet honestly, that by the works of the law no flesh shall be
justified, for by the law is the knowledge of sin. You know well, my
brethren, that there are attempts made continually to place a huge
stone of error over men’s minds in the form of sacramentarianism.
Regeneration, what do they degrade it to? They make it a ceremony
in which drops of water accomplish marvels. Feeding upon Christ, what
is that with these men? It is nothing except the eating of bread and
drinking of wine. They put ceremonial inanities into the place of
spiritual verities; they steal the substance, and, as a substitute,
they do not even give us so fair a shadow as that of the days of
Moses, but a mere smoke, a shadow of a shadow, rather blinding to the
eyes than suggestive to the mind, and yet myriads of our fellow men
are quite content with such vanities. They suppose that there is some
mystic efficacy in outward rites. Tell them, oh, tell them, that
Not all the outward forms of earth,
Nor rites that God has given,
Nor will of man, nor blood, nor birth,
Can raise a soul to heaven.
13. Declare the need of grace and the uselessness of outward show; the spirituality of acceptable worship, and the childishness of ritualism. You will have done good service if you roll away this huge obstruction.
14. Very frequently the sepulchre of men’s souls is closed up by the stone of prejudice. Men cannot really find anything faulty in Christ Jesus, or in his gospel, but still they will persist in stumbling at this stumblingstone. They invent reasons for declining the gospel invitation. They prejudge the revelation of God, and make up their minds that it is unworthy of their acceptance. They shut their eyes, and then are obstinate in their assertion that there is no light. For example, how common is the notion that religion is associated with melancholy. In every sphere of life, you will find a number of people who come just shy of understanding religion, because they believe it to be the mother of mental miseries. They quote someone who went insane, and took to biblical speculations, and another who is morose, and yet is a great stickler for devotion. They infer that religion is the science of making long faces, the art of being gloomy. Hence, men refuse to be soured by “crabbed divinity,” and decline to imitate the morose and melancholy Puritans. A wonderful mistake is that about the Puritans, for there is evidence enough, and more than enough, to show that they were among the most happy of men, with a robust joy to which the Cavaliers’ noisy mirth was mere froth. At this present moment, if you desired to find a happy people, I would advise you to search in the church of God for them. It would be a strange thing if to have one’s sins forgiven would make one unhappy: it would be a very odd thing if being at peace with God caused a man to be wretched: it would be a very turning of the world upside down, if the possession of a good hope of heaven should be the source of gloom in the soul. But, it is not so. Brethren, by your continual happiness and obvious cheerfulness roll away this stone, and especially remove it from the minds of young people. Make them see, in the brightness of your countenance, the practical answer to the common calumny. Convince them that you have an inward joy which they do not understand. Tempt them as it were to Christ, by telling them about the sweetness which you experience in him.
15. Many have the notion, too, that true religion makes a man unmanly and effeminate. Perhaps certain professors have given credence to this charge by affectation of manners and absence of common sense. Certain religionists are always dwelling upon the “must nots” of religion, as if godliness was a set of negatives, a garden enclosed with thorns. The manufacture of new commandments is a very fascinating occupation for some people. You must not do this, and that, and the other, until one feels like a baby in a walker. I find ten commandments are more than I can keep without a great deal of grace, and I do not mean to pay the slightest regard to any beyond. Liberty is the genius of our faith, nor do we mean to barter it away for the esteem of modern Pharisees. They say to us, “You shall not laugh on a Sunday. You shall never create a smile in the House of God. You shall walk to public service as though you were going to the whipping post, and you shall take care when you preach that you do always make your discourse as dull as it can possibly be.” We do not reverence these precepts. Anything which is of God we honour, but not the sickening decrees of mere pious platitudes. We are men, and not slaves. Our manhood is not annihilated by grace. We think, and speak, and act for ourselves, and are not the serfs of custom and fashion. We speak out our minds even when propriety is shocked and respectability is enraged. I would always give to young men this piece of advice: “Behave yourselves like men, let no one have to say that your religion is mamby-pamby, and your conversation affected. Do not always be sugaring every person you speak of as ‘Dear this,’ and ‘Dear that,’ for this savours of nauseous hypocrisy. Do not whine or turn up your eyes, or affect to be very devout. Be holy, but not showy; true, but not obtrusive. Be men, be manly, be Christians, be like Christ.” He was the very highest type of man; you never see anything stilted, or unnatural in him, he is always himself, transparent, outspoken, brave, honest, true, and manly. Redeem religion from the reproach of stiltedness; and so roll away one of the stones from the sepulchre.
16. Some, we know, have a notion that religion is a mere sentiment; that it lies in being affected about your dead children and your parents in heaven, in weeping over deathbed scenes; in fact, is best seen in excited meetings and their consequent emotions. By worldlings religion is judged to consist in womanly feeling, but to have no truth, no facts, no philosophy as its basis. Oh, but it is not so; we can give as good a reason for the hope that is in us as though our religion never brought a tear to our eye, and never stirred the emotion of joy within our souls. I venture to say it, that our religion is as much based on facts as astronomy or geology, I mean indisputable historical facts; and I assert that the doctrines of revelation are verities as certain as the proofs of mathematics. The gospel reveals certainties, and they are worthy of the contemplation of men of the most enlarged minds. Our gospel is not mere platitude and baby talk; there is a depth in it which no intellect can fathom. Titanic intellects have found their match in the things of God. The genius of Newton and Locke did not complain of lack of room in the wondrous truths of God; to them they were waters to swim in. There is room for all the high culture, and all the thought, and all the training that this world shall ever see; room for it, indeed, and at its utmost, it shall only stand upon the shore of the main ocean of divine truth and cry, “Oh the depths of the wisdom of the Lord.” By intelligently explaining the great matters of the gospel, let us roll this stone away; for to some it has been a crushing obstruction.
17. Very commonly among our working classes another stone lies over their grave, namely, the opinion that the gospel is not for the likes of them. I have frequently heard it expressed by them that it is very proper indeed for ladies and gentlemen, people of money and leisure, to be religious, but it is quite out of the question for a man who has to earn his living, and roll up his shirt sleeves for hard work. “Why,” they say, “what have dockyard labourers, cab drivers, and street vendors to do with religion?” Now, of all the strange prejudices in existence, this is one of the strangest, because from time immemorial it has been the boast of the gospel that “the poor have the gospel preached to them”; and, if there is one class of the population to whom the gospel is more glad tidings than to any other, it is to those who labour and are heavy laden. Why, dear friends, if you have little in this life, there is all the more reason why you should seek the boundless treasures of the life to come, and if you have much trouble and sorrow here, all the more reason why you should seek Christ to be the balm for all your wounds, and the cordial for your cares. Christianity drew its apostles from the working classes, and from the same source it has gathered numberless martyrs. Although the Lord has had a remnant in the upper ranks, yet, it has still been true, that “not many great men after the flesh, not many mighty are chosen.” The great majority of Christian disciples has been taken from among the poor and the working men. Besides, Christ is the people’s Christ. What a grand sentence is that of the Psalm, “I have exalted one chosen out of the people.” Jesus is the people’s man by birth, by education, and by sympathy. He was ordained by God to be a leader and commander for the people. Jesus Christ is just such a friend as the people need. Tell the people so; especially you who belong to them and know it. Make your houses preaching places to your fellow workmen, and make your conduct a constant sermon upon the adaptation of the gospel of Jesus Christ to their needs. So much for the stone of prejudice; but, I must pass on.
18. Frequently, over the graves of spiritually dead people, there lies a stone of solitariness. They feel as if no man cared for their soul. I have known that to happen in this Tabernacle. People have come in for months and no one has spoken to them because they were strangers: and, therefore, the gospel did not enter into their hearts because they said, “The church of God does not care for us, we are unknown and unvalued.” Half a word from some kind Christian sitting near them has been the means of melting them down, and the very next sermon they have heard has been in God’s hands the means of bringing them to Christ. In this city a man may lose himself more effectively than he could in the desert of Sahara. You may get away into one of our streets, indeed, and work in one of our factories, and no one will concern himself about you. While happily few pry into their neighbour’s affairs, unhappily few have any sympathy for their neighbour’s griefs. Hearts may be breaking around us, and we may be as merry as May. Children of God, I charge you in the name of the quickening Saviour, never let this stone lie two Sundays together over the grave of a single attendant of this house, but prove to those who sit with you here that you have a loving care for their souls.
19. Another stone that can be rolled away is that of degradation. Some bring themselves into the ditch by their sins. They break the rules of society, they become dangerous, and, at length are treated as outcasts. When a person feels himself outlawed how little hope there is of raising him. Many sink themselves to poverty by their vices and extravagances, and thousands degrade themselves by abominable drunkenness. The Christian church does well when it uses its utmost power to deliver the drunkard from his besetting sin. Temperance will not suffice instead of godliness, but it may put men in the way of gospel influences. God forbid we should stop short in any reforms, for these will only roll away the stone from the grave, but yet, let no stone remain. Many a man has first been delivered from the habit of intoxication, and then his ear has been opened to listen to the truth as it is in Jesus. The poor prostitute too, when Christian love has followed her and spoken to her of our Father who is in heaven who invites the wandering one to return to him, how often have her feelings of degradation been overcome, and she has fled to Christ for mercy? Brethren, none are outcasts to us. If the world says to the fallen, “Go away, you are not good enough for us,” let the church of God open her door and invite the outcasts in. The church is the true Hospital for Incurables, among whom Jesus delights to work. Those whom the world calls lepers and drives away into contempt, it is our glory to restore. Come here, you chief of sinners, for Jesus waits to receive you. Make no delay for he came to save such as you are. The Pharisees repel you, but this man receives sinners and eats with them.
20. We will mention one more stone, and that is despair. Some men are not only spiritually dead, but they are buried fathoms deep in despair. They have signed their own death warrants, though the Lord has not yet written them off. You people of God, look out for those who think themselves beyond all hope, and when you find them argue the point with them; tell them that you were once in the same plight as they are; and show them what grace did for you. Point them to the promises of God, which are so suited to their condition; above all, tell them about the precious Saviour, who does not quench the smoking flax, and who is able to save to the uttermost those who come to God by him. You will have done good service if in any case you roll away the stone of despair. I exhort you, dear fellow labourers in Christ, yourselves saved, to do all that lies in you to take away every one of these hinderances from sinners’ souls, and then pray the Lord to speak the quickening word.
21. II. But, my time goes too swiftly, and therefore I must come to my second point with brevity. AFTER A MAN IS CONVERTED he labours under many disabilities, and Christian love should help him.
22. When lambs are born the shepherd takes care of them: Christ’s word is, “Feed my lambs.” When plants are put into the ground they must be watered. It is not enough that the child is born; it needs a mother’s care. “Take this child and nurse him for me, and I will give you your wages” is God’s word to his people whenever a new convert is born into the church. Lazarus is alive, but he is encumbered with grave clothes, and it is the business of those who are his friends to release him and let him go.
23. New converts need to be released for the sake of their own comfort. It was a very uncomfortable thing for Lazarus to be tied up in his winding sheets: for his own ease they must be taken off. When a man is saved, perhaps he does not grasp all that is involved in salvation. He thinks “I am a Christian, but I may fall from grace.” Unwrap that band at once, and let him know that the Lord does not cast away his people whom he foreknew. He thinks that he is pardoned, but that some sin may still remain upon him. Unwind that cerement; let him know that “the blood of Jesus Christ his Son cleanses us from all sin.” Perhaps he imagines, when he feels a strife within him, that he cannot be a child of God. Tear off that bandage, and tell him that all the children of God experience an inward strife, and feel a battle raging between life and death within their souls. You will find young converts apt to be the victims of doubts and fears, perplexing themselves about this, and fretting themselves about that; and you who are instructed in the faith must commit yourselves to release them, and let them go.
24. They need, also, to be released for their own freedom. Lazarus might as well be in the cave as be in bonds. Men may be converted, and yet be far from enjoying the full liberty of the children of God. Perhaps the saved one is fettered by bad habits, and he does not know that they are bad; tell him gently, but let him know that these things are not consistent with Christian life. I know at this time some real Christians who are going around with vestiges of their grave clothes upon them, and they appear very unseemly. Those grave clothes stick to all of us more or less; and I suppose, until we enter heaven, the releasing operation will need to be continued; but let us help our brethren in this by example and by precept; let us take away from them what hinders them from the liberty of holiness.
25. Moreover, Lazarus needed to be released for the sake of fellowship. He could not talk with Mary and Martha yet, for he had a napkin wrapped around his head: he could scarcely move or speak. So many of our dear converts do not like to join the church yet. They say they are not perfect. Poor souls, if they were we would not want them in our churches; being all imperfect ourselves, they would be out of place if they joined with us. They plead that they are not fit to come, imagining that something of fitness is needed beyond believing in Christ; as if what Jesus laid down as the gospel of salvation was not also a sufficient basis for fellowship with saints on earth. Still, the timid hold back and do not like to share with others what the Lord has done for them. Encourage them, compel them to come in; do not let them wander in solitude, but introduce them to the fellowship of the saints.
26. We have known cases in which the liberty was needed to enable them to bear testimony. Lazarus could not even say, “I live and blessed be the name of God,” for the napkin was wrapped around his head. He must be released so that he may tell what God had done. Oh, what comforting testimonies the church might have if saints were only encouraged to deliver them, but there are some who carry wet blankets around with them, and the moment a young Christian talks about Christ, because he does not speak exactly according to orthodoxy, they try to silence him. Let it never be so among us. Let us encourage the babes to cry so that eventually they may learn to speak. Let us encourage them to prattle, for perhaps before long they shall correctly speak the language of the kingdom.
27. As for testimony so for service help is needed. Paul was converted on the road to Damascus, but he did not know what God meant to do with him, and he was not fit for God to use until Ananias had instructed him. So with Apollos, he was a true Christian, but he needed further teaching, he needed releasing and being let go, and therefore Aquila and Priscilla became the instruments of it. There was the eunuch on his way to Ethiopia, he needed to learn more about the Scriptures, to have the meaning of the prophet Isaiah explained to him, and to be baptized on the profession of his faith in Christ. Do not allow any of God’s dear living ones to be waiting bound up and captive, because we are so devoid of brotherly love that we will not do for them the required offices of heavenly charity. May the Lord help us, brethren, to be earnest about this.
28. Once more, after Lazarus was unbound, we read that he sat at the table with Jesus. So that he needed to be released for the enjoyment of communion with Christ. The trembling convert thinks himself as still unwarranted to lay hold upon the nearer, dearer, and sweeter joys which surround the person of Christ: he dreams that these are reserved for old saints, that these wines on the lees well refined are for men who have fought the good fight and almost finished their course; but, indeed, he errs and deprives himself of joy. The songs of Zion are for the early morning as well as for the shadows of evening. Go and tell young Christians so, encourage them to commune with Jesus, tell them he loves all his people with an equal love, and is ready to reveal himself to them as he does not do to the world. In this respect you will release them, and let them go.
29. I will not prolong my talk, but finish with two enquiries, which I desire to put very plainly. The first is this: Dear brethren, I have told you what can be done for sinners before conversion. I have told you what can be done for them afterwards. I urge to enquire how many of you are doing either the one or the other? I will not take the writer’s inkhorn and make a list of the diligent among you, but I will ask each man’s conscience to officiate as a scribe, and to write down his name if he is really serving Christ. For notice, beloved, it is idle to talk about our duty, the thing is to be daily and constantly doing it. Time is flying away, men are dying, hell is filling, Christ’s name is being dishonoured. There are only twelve hours in the day, are we walking while we have the light, and working for God while we have the opportunity?
30. If everyone of us will give an honest answer to that question it will do us good, even if we have to confess that we have been sluggards. It may lead to shame, and that to confession, and that to prayer, and that to a renovation of life, for if we are indeed the Lord’s, let us live while we live. Much of professing life nowadays is a thing to be ashamed of — it is cold, weak, narrow, and timid. I see everywhere enthusiasm, except in the church; I see stir and push and vigour in business; I see the world girdled, so that men may send the messages of commerce with lightning speed, while the message of the gospel lags; I see the mountains bored, I do not know but next the sea’s deep bed may be tunnelled. Earth for earth can do anything, but for heaven how little will earth perform! May God quicken us so that we may be a living, earnest people.
31. The other enquiry is this, how far is the Lord Jesus working in our families, and among our connections, in the matter of raising the spiritually dead? Are your children saved yet? Are your servants regenerated yet? Brothers and sisters, are they saved yet? Husbands and wives, has God quickened them yet? Come, let us pass the question around. The angel said to Lot, “Have you any here besides?” a very weighty question. Oh! that God may grant that you and I may be like Noah, who had all his sons, and his sons’ wives, and his own wife in the ark with him. May we never quit praying until it is so. If there is only one unconverted one in any way linked with us, let us pray day and night until that soul is saved, and then let us take up the neighbourhood in which we live, and the streets where we reside. This great city, this perishing city, may God help it, and in mercy visit it. I believe he will, if he finds us willing to do the work of rolling away the stone, and equally willing to release the bands. God will not send children to us if we cannot nurse them; he will not send lambs to us if we will not shepherd them. God is not so unkind to newly born souls as to send them among a people who do not care for them. He will make us travail in birth before children shall be born to God here, because soul travail is the means by which love is accomplished in us towards them, and so we are taught to handle them affectionately, cherish them carefully, and bring them up for the Lord. Oh church beloved, over whom Christ rejoices, I charge you to serve the Lord Jesus with diligence in this divine service of doing good for the sons of men.
May God bless you, beloved, for Christ’s sake. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 11:1-46]
Mr. Spurgeon wishes to inform his friends that Messrs. Passmore and Alabaster has just published Vol. III of the Treasury of David containing Psalms 53 to 78. Price 8s. This completes one half of this laborious work.