A Sermon Delivered On Thursday Evening, December 19, 1872, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *10/27/2011
Pilate therefore said to him, “Are you a king then?” Jesus
answered, “You say that I am a king. For this purpose I was born, and
for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness to
the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” (Joh
For other sermons on this text:
(See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Joh 18:37")
1. The season is almost arrived when by the custom of our fellow citizens we are led to remember the birth of the holy child Jesus, who was born “king of the Jews.” I shall not, however, conduct you to Bethlehem, but to the foot of Calvary; there we shall learn, from the Lord’s own lips, something concerning the kingdom over which he rules, and so we shall be led to prize more highly the joyous event of his nativity.
2. We are told, by the apostle Paul, that our Lord Jesus Christ before Pontius Pilate witnessed a good confession. It was a good confession concerning its manner, for our Lord was truthful, gentle, prudent, patient, meek, and yet, as well, uncompromising, and courageous. His spirit was not cowed by Pilate’s power, nor exasperated by his sneers. In his patience he possessed his soul, and remained the model witness for the truth — both in his silence and in his speech. He witnessed a good confession also, concerning its matter; for, although he said very little, that little was all that was necessary. He claimed his crown rights, and, at the same time, declared that his kingdom was not from this world, nor to be sustained by force. He vindicated both the spirituality and the essential truthfulness of his sovereignty. If we should ever be placed in similar circumstances, may we be able to witness a good confession too! We may never, like Paul, be made to plead before Nero; but, if we should, may the Lord stand by us, and help us to play the man before the lion! In our families, or among our business acquaintances, we may have to meet someone like a little Nero, and answer to some petty Pilate; may we then also be true witnesses. Oh that we may have grace to be prudently silent or meekly outspoken, as the matter may require, in either case being faithful to our conscience and our God! May the sorrowful visage of Jesus, the faithful and true witness, the Prince of the kings of the earth, be often before our eye, to check the first sign of flinching, and to inspire us with dauntless courage!
3. We have before us, in the words of the text, a part of our Saviour’s good confession touching his kingdom.
4. I. Notice, first of all, that OUR LORD CLAIMED TO BE A KING. Pilate said, “Are you a king, then?” asking the question with a sneering surprise that so poor a being should express a claim to royalty. Do you wonder that he should have marvelled greatly to find kingly claims associated with such a sorrowful condition? The Saviour answered, in effect, “It is even as you say, I am a king.” The question was only half earnest; the answer was altogether solemn: “I am a king.” Nothing was ever uttered by our Lord with greater certainty and earnestness.
5. Now, notice, that our Lord’s claim to be a king was made without the slightest ostentation or desire to be advantaged by it. There were other times when, if he had said “I am a king,” he might have been carried upon the shoulders of the people, and crowned amid general acclamations. His fanatical fellow countrymen would gladly have made him their leader at one time; and we read that they would have “taken him by force and made him a king.” At such times he said very little about his kingdom, and what he did say was uttered in parables, and explained only to his disciples when they were alone. He said little enough in his preaching concerning his birthright as the Son of David and a descendant of the royal house of Judah; for he shrank from worldly honours, and disdained the vain glories of a temporal diadem. He who came in love to redeem men, had no ambition for the gewgaws of human sovereignty. But now, when he is betrayed by his disciple, accused by his countrymen, and in the hands of an unjust ruler; when no good can come of it to himself; when it will bring him derision rather than honour; he speaks out plainly and replies to his interrogator, “You say that I am a king.”
6. Notice well the clearness of our Lord’s affirmation; there was no mistaking his words: “I am a king.” When the time has come for the truth to be spoken, our Lord is not backward in declaring it. Truth has her times most suitable for speech, and her seasons for silence. We are not to cast our pearls before swine, but when the hour has come for speech we must not hesitate, but speak as with the voice of a trumpet, speaking with certainty so that no man may misunderstand us. So, though a prisoner given up to die, the Lord boldly declares his royalty, though Pilate would pour derision upon him in consequence. Oh, for the Master’s prudence to speak the truth at the right time, and for the Master’s courage to speak it when the right time has come. Soldiers of the cross, learn from your Captain.
7. Our Lord’s claim to royalty must have sounded very unusual in Pilate’s ear. Jesus was, doubtless, very much careworn, sad, and emaciated in appearance. He had spent the first part of the night in the garden in an agony; in the midnight hours he had been dragged from Annas to Caiaphas, and from Caiaphas to Herod; neither at daybreak had he been permitted to rest, so that, from sheer weariness, he must have looked very unlike a king. If you had taken some poor ragged creature in the street, and said to him, “Are you a king, then?” the question could scarcely have been more sarcastic. Pilate, in his heart, despised the Jews as such, but here was a poor Jew, persecuted by his own people, helpless and friendless; it sounded like mockery to speak of a kingdom in connection with him. Yet never had earth seen a truer king! No one from the line of Pharaoh, the family of Nimrod, or the clan of the Caesars, was so intrinsically imperial in himself as he, or so deservedly considered a king among men by virtue of his descent, his achievements, or his superior character. The carnal eye could not see this, but to the spiritual eye it is clear as noonday. To this day, pure Christianity, in its outward appearance, is an equally unattractive object, and wears upon its surface few royal tokens. It is without form or comeliness, and when men see it, there is no beauty that they should desire it. True, there is a nominal Christianity which is accepted and approved by men, but the pure gospel is still despised and rejected. The real Christ of today, among men, is unknown and unrecognised as much as he was among his own nation almost two millennia ago. Evangelical doctrine is at a discount, holy living is censured, and spiritual mindedness is derided. “What,” they say, “This evangelical doctrine, do you call it the royal truth? Who believes it nowadays? Science has exploded it. There is nothing great about it; it may afford comfort to old women, and to those who do not have the capacity enough for free thought, but its reign is over, never to return.” As for living in separation from the world, it is called Puritanism, or worse. Christ in doctrine, Christ in spirit, Christ in life — the world cannot endure as king. Christ chanted in cathedrals, Christ personified in lordly prelates, Christ surrounded by those who are in king’s houses, he is well enough; but Christ honestly obeyed, followed, and worshipped in simplicity, without pomp or form, they will not allow to reign over them. Few nowadays will side with the truth their fathers bled for. The day for covenanting to follow Jesus through evil report and shame appears to have gone by. Yet, although men reproach us, and say, “Do you call your gospel divine? Are you so preposterous as to believe that your religion comes from God and is to subdue the world?” — we boldly answer; “Yes!” Even as beneath the peasant’s garb and the pale visage of the Son of Mary we can discern the Wonderful, the Counsellor, the Mighty God, the Everlasting Father! so beneath the simple form of a despised gospel we perceive the royal lineaments of divine truth. We care nothing about the outward apparel or the external housing of truth; we love it for its own sake. To us, the marble halls and the alabaster columns are nothing, we see more in the manger and the cross. We are satisfied that Christ is still the king where he was accustomed to be king, and that is not among the great ones of the earth, nor among the mighty and the learned, but among the base things of the world and the things which are not, which shall bring to nothing the things that are, for from the beginning God has chosen these things to be his own.
8. Let us add, that our Lord’s claim to be a king shall be acknowledged one day by all mankind. When Christ said to Pilate, according to our version, “You say that I am a king,” he virtually prophesied the future confession of all men. Some, taught by his grace, shall in this life rejoice in him as their altogether lovely King. Blessed be God, the Lord Jesus might look into the eyes of many of us, and say, “You say that I am a king,” and we would reply, “We do say it joyfully.” But the day shall come when he shall sit upon his great white throne, and then, when the multitudes shall tremble in the presence of his awful majesty, even such as Pontius Pilate, and Herod, and the chief priests, shall acknowledge that he is a king! Then to each of his astounded and overwhelmingly convinced enemies he might say, “Now, oh despiser, you say that I am a king,” for to him every knee shall bow, and every tongue shall confess that he is Lord!
9. Let us remember, here, that when our Lord said to Pilate, “You say that I am king” he was not referring to his divine dominion. Pilate was not thinking of that at all, nor did our Lord, I think, refer to it: yet, do not forget that, as divine, he is the King of kings and Lord of lords. We must never forget that, although he died in weakness as man, yet he lives and rules as God for ever. Nor do I think he referred to his mediatorial sovereignty, which he possesses over the earth for his people’s sake; for the Lord has all power committed to him in heaven and in earth, and the Father has given him power over all flesh, so that he may give eternal life to as many as are given to him. Pilate was not alluding to that, nor our Lord either, in the first place; but he was speaking of that rule which he personally exercises over the minds of the faithful, by means of the truth. You remember Napoleon’s saying, “I have founded an empire by force, and it has melted away; Jesus Christ established his kingdom by love, and it stands to this day, and will stand.” That is the kingdom to which our Lord’s word refers, the kingdom of spiritual truth in which Jesus reigns as Lord over those who are of the truth. He claimed to be a king and the truth which he revealed, and of which he was the personification, is, therefore, the sceptre of his empire. He rules by the force of truth over those hearts which feel the power of right and truth, and therefore willingly yield themselves to his guidance, believe his word, and are governed by his will. It is as a spiritual Lord that Christ claims sovereignty among men; he is king over minds that love him, trust him, and obey him, because they see in him the truth which their souls pine for. Other kings rule our bodies, but Christ our souls, they govern by force, but he by the attractions of righteousness; theirs is, to a great extent, a fictitious royally, but his is true, and finds its force in truth.
10. So much, then, upon Christ’s claims to be a king.
11. II. Now, observe, secondly, that OUR LORD DECLARED THIS KINGDOM TO BE HIS MAIN OBJECT IN LIFE. “For this purpose I was born, and for this cause I came into the world.”
12. To set up his kingdom was the reason why he was born to the virgin. To be king of men, it was necessary for him to be born. He was always the Lord of all; he did not need to be born to be a king in that sense, but to be king through the power of truth, it was essential that he should be born in our nature. Why so? I answer, first, because it seems unnatural that a ruler should be alien in nature to the people over whom he rules. An angelic king of men would be unsuitable; there could not exist the sympathy which is the cement of a spiritual empire. Jesus, that he might govern by force of love and truth alone, became of one nature with mankind; he was a man among men, a real man — but a very noble and kingly man, and so a King of men.
13. But, again, the Lord was born so that he might be able to save his people. Subjects are essential for a kingdom; a king cannot be a king if there is no one to govern. But all men must have perished through sin, if Christ had not come into the world and been born to save. His birth was a necessary step for his redeeming death; his incarnation was necessary for the atonement.
14. Moreover, truth never exerts such power as when it is embodied. Truth spoken may be defeated, but truth acted out in the life of a man is omnipotent, through the Spirit of God. Now, Christ did not merely speak the truth, but he was truth. If he had been truth embodied in an angelic form, he would have possessed very little power over our hearts and lives; but perfect truth in a human form has royal power over renewed humanity. Truth embodied in flesh and blood has power over flesh and blood. Hence, for this purpose he was born. So when you hear the bells ringing out at Christmas, think of the reason why Jesus was born; do not dream that he came to load your tables and fill your cups; but in your mirth look higher than all earthborn things. When you hear that in certain churches there are pompous celebrations and ecclesiastical displays, do not think Jesus was born for this purpose. No; but look within your hearts, and say, for this purpose he was born: that he might be a King, that he might rule through the truth in the souls of a people who are by grace made to love the truth of God.
15. And then he added, “For this cause I came into the world”; that is, he came out of the bosom of the Father so that he might set up his kingdom, by unveiling the mysteries which were hidden from the foundation of the world. No man can reveal the counsel of God, except one who has been with God; and the Son who has left the ivory palaces of gladness, announces to us tidings of great joy! For this cause also he came into the world, from the obscure retirement of Joseph’s workshop, where, for many years he was hidden like a pearl in its shell. It was necessary that he should be made known, and that the truth to which he witnessed should be sounded in the ears of the crowd. Since he was to be a King, he must leave seclusion, and come out to do battle for his throne; he must address the multitudes on the hillside; he must speak by the seashore; he must gather disciples, and send them out two by two to proclaim on the housetops the secrets of mighty truth! He did not come out because he loved to be seen by men, or courted popularity; but for this purpose — that, the truth being published, he might set up his kingdom. It was necessary that he should come into the world and teach, or truth would not be known, and consequently could not operate. The sun must come out, like a bridegroom from its room, or the kingdom of light will never be established; the breath must come out from the hiding place of the winds, or life will never reign in the valley of dry bones. During three years, our Lord lived conspicuously, and emphatically “came into the world.” He was seen by men so closely as to be beheld, looked upon, touched, and handled. He was intended to be a pattern, and therefore, it was necessary that he should be seen. The life of a man who lives in absolute retirement may be admirable for himself and acceptable with God, but it cannot be exemplary to men: for this cause the Lord came into the world, so that all he did might influence mankind. His enemies were permitted to watch his every action, and to endeavour to entrap him in his speech, by way of test; his friends saw him in privacy and knew what he did in solitude, so his whole life was reported — he was observed on the cold mountain side at midnight, as well as in the midst of the great congregation. This was permitted to make the truth known, for every action of his life was truth, and tended to set up the kingdom of truth in the world.
16. Let us pause here. Christ is a king, a king by force of truth in a spiritual kingdom; for this purpose he was born for this cause he came into the world. My soul, ask yourself this question: — “Has this purpose of Christ’s birth and life been accomplished in you?” If not, what value is Christmas for you? The choristers will sing, “To us a child is born; To us a Son is given.” Is that true for you? How can it be unless Jesus reigns in you, and is your Saviour and your Lord? Those who can in truth rejoice in his birth are those who know him as their heart’s Lord, ruling their understanding by the truth of his doctrine; their admiration by the truth of his life; their affections by the truth of his person. To such he is not a personage to be portrayed with a crown of gold and a robe of purple, like the common theatrical kings of men; but one brighter and more heavenly, whose crown is real, whose dominion is unquestionable, who rules by truth and love! Do we know this King?
17. This question may well come home to us, for, beloved, there are many who say, “Christ is my King,” who do not know what they are saying, for they do not obey him. He is the servant of Christ who trusts in Christ, who walks according to Christ’s mind, and loves the truth which Jesus has revealed: all others are mere pretenders.
18. III. But now I must pass on. Our Lord, in the third place, REVEALED THE NATURE OF HIS ROYAL POWER. I have already spoken on that, but I must do so again.
19. We should have thought the text would have run like this: “You say that I am a king; for this purpose I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should establish my kingdom.” It is not so in words, but so it must mean, for Jesus was not incoherent in his speech. We conclude that the words employed have the same meaning as what the context suggests, only it is expressed differently. If our Lord had said, “That I might establish a kingdom,” he might have misled Pilate; but when he availed himself of the spiritual explanation, and said that his kingdom was truth, and that the establishment of his kingdom was by bearing witness to the truth, then, though Pilate did not understand him — for it was far above his comprehension — yet, at any rate, he was not misled.
20. Our Lord, in effect, tells us that truth is the preeminent characteristic of his kingdom, and that his royal power over men’s hearts is through the truth. Now, the witness of our Lord among men was emphatically about real and vital matters. He did not deal with fiction, but with facts; not with trifles, but with infinite realities. He does not speak of opinions, views, or speculations, but of infallible verities. How many preachers waste time over what may be or may not be! Our Lord’s testimony was preeminently practical and matter of fact, full of verities and certainties. I have sometimes, when hearing sermons, wished the preacher would come to the point, and would deal with something that really concerned our soul’s welfare. What concern have dying men with the thousand trivial questions which are flitting around us? We have heaven or hell before us, and death within a stone’s throw; for God’s sake do not trifle with us, but tell us the truth at once! Jesus is king in his people’s souls, because his preaching has blessed us in the grandest and most real manner, and set us at rest upon points of boundless importance. He has not given us well chiselled stones, but real bread. There are a thousand things which you may not know, and you shall be very little the worse for not knowing them; but oh, if you do not know what Jesus has taught, it shall go badly with you. If you are taught about the Lord Jesus, you shall have rest for your cares, balm for your sorrows, and satisfaction for your desires. Jesus gives sinners who believe in him the truth which they need to know; the assurance of sin forgiven through his blood, favour ensured by his righteousness, and heaven secured by his eternal life.
21. Moreover, Jesus has power over his people because he does not testify to symbols, but to the very substance of truth. The Scribes and Pharisees were very fluent upon sacrifices, offerings, oblations, tithes, fastings, and the like; but what influence could all that exert over aching hearts? Jesus has imperial power over contrite spirits, because he tells them about his one real sacrifice and about the perfection which he has secured for all believers. The priests lost their power over the people because they went no further than the shadow, and sooner or later all will do so who rest in the symbol. The Lord Jesus retains his power over his saints because he reveals the substance, for grace and truth are by Jesus Christ. What a loss of time it is to debate upon the fashion of a cope, (a) or the manner of celebrating communion, or the colour suitable for the clergyman’s robes in Advent, or the precise date of Easter. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity! Such trifles will never aid in setting up an everlasting kingdom in men’s hearts. Let us take care lest we also place great values on externals, and miss the essential spiritual life of our holy faith. Christ’s kingdom is not food and drink, but righteousness and peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit!
22. The power of King Jesus in the hearts of his people lies much in the fact that he brings out unalloyed truth, without mixture of error. He has delivered to us pure light and no darkness; his teaching is no combination of God’s word and man’s inventions; no mixture of inspiration and philosophy; silver without dross is the wealth which he gives his servants. Men taught by his Holy Spirit to love the truth, recognise this fact and surrender their souls to the royal sway of the Lord’s truth, and it makes them free, and sanctifies them; nor can anything make them disown such a sovereign, for just as the truth lives and abides in their hearts, so Jesus, who is the truth, abides also. If you know what truth is, you will as naturally submit yourselves to the teachings of Christ as children always yield to a father’s rule.
23. The Lord Jesus taught that worship must be true, spiritual, and from the heart, or else it would be worth nothing. He would not take sides with the temple at Gerizim or the one on Zion, but he declared that the time was coming when those who worshipped God would worship him in spirit and in truth. Now, regenerate hearts feel the power of this, and rejoice that it emancipates them from the beggarly elements of carnal ritualism. They gladly accept the truth that pious words of prayer or praise are vanity, unless the heart has living worship within it. In the great truth of spiritual worship, believers possess a Magna Charta, dear as life itself. We refuse to be subject again to the yoke of bondage, and cleave to our emancipating King.
24. Our Lord taught, also, that all false living was base and loathsome. He poured contempt on the phylacteries of the hypocrites and the broad borders of the garments of the oppressors of the poor. With him, ostentatious alms, long prayers, frequent fasts, and the tithe of mint and cummin, were all nothing when practised by those who devoured widows’ houses. He cared nothing for white washed sepulchres and platters with outsides made clean, he judged the thoughts and intents of the heart. What woes were those which he pronounced upon the formalists of his day! It must have been a grand sight to have seen the lowly Jesus aroused to indignation, thundering out peal after peal his denunciations of hypocrisy. Elijah never called fire from heaven one half so grandly. “Woe to you Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites,” is the loudest roll of heaven’s artillery! See how, like another Samson, Jesus slays the shams of his age, and piles them heaps upon heaps to rot for ever. Shall not he who teaches us true living be king of all the sons of truth? Let us even now greet him as Lord and King.
25. Besides, beloved, our Lord did not come only to teach us the truth, but a mysterious power goes out from him, through that Spirit who rests on him without measure — who subdues chosen hearts to truthfulness, and then guides truthful hearts into fulness of peace and joy. Have you never felt when you have been with Jesus, that a sense of his purity has made you yearn to be purged from all hypocrisy and every false way? Have you not been ashamed of yourself when you have come from hearing his word, from watching his life, and, above all, from enjoying his fellowship — quite ashamed that you have not been more real, more sincere, more true, more upright, and so a more loyal subject of the truthful King? I know you have. Nothing about Jesus is false or even dubious; he is transparent — from head to foot he is truth in public, truth in private, truth in word, and truth in deed. Hence it is that he has a kingdom over the pure in heart, and is vehemently extolled by all those whose hearts are set upon righteousness.
26. IV. And now, in the fourth place, our Lord DISCLOSED THE METHOD OF HIS CONQUEST. “For this purpose I was born, and for this cause I came into the world, that I should bear witness for the truth.”
27. Christ never yet set up his kingdom by force of arms. Mohammed drew the sword, and converted men by giving them the choice of death or conversion; but Christ said to Peter, “Put up your sword into its sheath.” No compulsion ought to be used with any man to lead him to accept any opinion, much less to induce him to espouse the truth. Falsehood requires the rack of the Inquisition, but truth does not need such unworthy aid; her own beauty, and the Spirit of God, are her strength. Moreover, Jesus used no arts of priestcraft, or tricks of superstition. The foolish are persuaded of a dogma, by the fact that it is promulgated by a learned doctor of high degree, but our Rabboni wears no high sounding titles of honour; the common people imagine that a statement must be correct if it emanates from a person who wears lawn sleeves, (b) or from a place where the banners are of costly workmanship, and the music of the sweetest kind: these things are arguments with those who are amenable to no other; but Jesus owes nothing to his apparel, and influences no one by artistic arrangements. No one can say that he reigns over men by the glitter of pomp, or the fascination of sensuous ceremonies. His battle axe is the truth; truth is both his arrow and his bow, his sword and his buckler. Believe me, no kingdom is worthy of the Lord Jesus except what has its foundations laid in indisputable verities; Jesus would scorn to reign by the help of a lie.
28. True Christianity was never promoted by policy or guile, by doing a wrong thing, or saying a false thing. Even to exaggerate truth is to foster error, and so to pull down the truth we would set up. There are some who say, “Bring out one line of teaching, and nothing else, lest you should seem inconsistent.” What have I to do with that? If it is God’s truth, I am bound to deliver it all, and to keep back none of it. Policy, like a sailing vessel, dependent on the wind, tacks about here and there; but the true man, like a vessel having its motive power within, goes straight onward in the very teeth of the hurricane. When God puts truth into men’s souls, he teaches them never to tack or trim, but to hold to truth at all costs. This is what Jesus always did. He bore witness to the truth, and left the matter there; being as guileless as a lamb.
29. Here it will be fitting to answer the question, “What truth did he witness to?” Ah, my brethren what truth did he not witness to? Did he not mirror all truth in his life? See how clearly he proclaimed the truth that God is love. How melodious, how like a peal of Christmas bells, was his witness to the truth that “God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whoever believes in him might not perish but have everlasting life.” He also bore witness that God is just. How solemnly he proclaimed that fact! His flowing wounds, his dying agonies rang out that solemn truth, as with a knell which even the dead might hear. He bore witness to God’s demand for truth in the inward parts; for he often dissected men and laid them bare, and opened up their secret thoughts and revealed them to themselves, and made them see that only sincerity could bear the eye of God. Did he not bear witness to the truth that God had resolved to make for himself a new people and a true people? Was he not always telling about his sheep who heard his voice, about the wheat which would be gathered into the garner, and about the precious things which would be treasured up when the bad would be thrown away? By this he was bearing witness that the false must die, that the unreal must be consumed, that the lie must rust and rot; but that the true, the sincere, the gracious, the vital, shall stand every test, and outlast the sun. In an age of shams, he was always sweeping away pretences and establishing truth and right by his witness. And now, beloved, this is the way in which Christ’s kingdom is to be set up in the world. For this cause was the church born, and for this purpose she came into the world, so that she might set up Christ’s kingdom by bearing witness to the truth. I long, my beloved, to see you all witness bearers. If you love the Lord, bear witness to the truth. You must do it personally; you must also do it collectively. Never join any church whose creed you do not entirely and sincerely believe, for if you do you act a lie, and are, moreover, a partaker in the error of other men’s testimonies. I would not for a moment say anything to retard Christian unity, but there is something before unity, and that is, “truth in the inward parts” and honesty before God. I dare not be a member of a church whose teaching I knew to be false in vital points. I would sooner go to heaven alone than misrepresent my conscience for the sake of company. You may say, “But I protest against the error of my church.” Dear friends, how can you consistently protest against it when you profess to agree with it, by being a member of the church which affirms it? If you are a minister of a church, you in effect say before the world, “I believe and teach the doctrines of this church”; and if you go into the pulpit and say you do not believe them, what will people conclude? I leave you to judge that. I saw a church tower the other day, with a clock upon it, which startled me by pointing to half past ten when I thought it was only nine; I was, however, quite relieved when I saw that another face of the clock indicated a quarter past eight. “Well,” I thought, “whatever time it may be, that clock is wrong, for it contradicts itself.” So if I hear a man say one thing by his church membership and another by his private protest, why, whatever may be right, he certainly is not consistent with himself.
30. Let us bear witness to the truth, since there is great need of doing so just now, for witnessing is in ill repute. The age extols no virtue so much as “liberality,” and condemns no vice so fiercely as bigotry, alias honesty. If you believe anything and hold it firmly, all the dogs will bark at you. Let them bark: they will stop when they get tired! You are responsible to God, and not to mortal men. Christ came into the world to bear witness to the truth, and he has sent you to do the same; take care that you do it, offend or please; for it is only by this process that the kingdom of Christ is to be set up in the world.
31. V. Now, the last thing is this, our Saviour, having spoken of his kingdom and the way of establishing it, DESCRIBED HIS SUBJECTS: “Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice.” That is to say, wherever the Holy Spirit has made a man a lover of truth, he always recognises Christ’s voice and yields himself to it.
32. Where are the people who love the truth? Well, we need not enquire for long. We do not need Diogenes’ (c) lantern to find them, they will come to the light; and where is light but in Jesus? Where are those who would not seem to be what they are not? Where are the men who desire to be true in secret and before the Lord? They may be discovered where Christ’s people are discovered; they will be found listening to those who bear witness to the truth. Those who love pure truth, and know what Christ is, will be sure to fall in love with him and hear his voice. Judge, then, today, brothers and sisters, whether you are of the truth or not; for if you love the truth, you know and obey the voice which calls you away from your old sins, from false refuges, from evil habits, from everything which is not after the Lord’s mind. You have heard him in your conscience rebuking you for the false which remains in you; encouraging in you the true which is struggling there. I am finished, when I have urged on you one or two reflections.
33. The first is, beloved,“ Dare we affirm ourselves to be on the side of truth at this hour of its humiliation? Do we acknowledge the royalty of Christ’s truth when we see it dishonoured every day?” If gospel truth were honoured everywhere, it would be an easy thing to say “I believe it”; but now, in these days, when it has no honour among men, dare we cleave to it at all costs? Are you willing to walk with the truth through the mire and through the slough? Do you have the courage to profess unpopular truth? Are you willing to believe the truth against which science, falsely so called, has vented her spleen? Are you willing to accept the truth although it is said that only the poor and uneducated will receive it? Are you willing to be the disciple of the Galilean, whose apostles were fishermen? Truly, truly, I say to you, in that day in which the truth in the person of Christ shall be revealed in all its glory, it shall go badly with those who were ashamed to acknowledge it and its Master.
34. In the next place, if we have heard Christ’s voice, do we recognise our life object? Do we feel, “For this purpose we were born, and for this cause we came into the world, that we might bear witness to the truth?” I do not believe that you, my dear brother, came into the world to be a linen draper, or an auctioneer, and nothing else. I do not believe that God created you, my sister, to be merely and only a seamstress, a nurse, or a housekeeper. Immortal souls were not created for merely mortal purposes. For this purpose I was born, that, with my voice in this place, and everywhere else, I might bear witness to the truth. You acknowledge that: then I urge you, each one, to acknowledge that you have a similar mission. “I could not occupy the pulpit,” one says. Never mind that: bear witness for the truth where you are, and in your own sphere. Oh waste no time or energy, but at once testify for Jesus.
35. And now, last of all, do you acknowledge Christ’s superlative dignity, beloved? Do you see what a King, Christ is? Is he such a King to you as no one else could be? It was only yesterday a prince entered one of our great towns, and they crowded all their streets to welcome him — yet he was only a mortal man. And then at night they illuminated their city, and made the heavens glow as though the sun had risen before its appointed hour. Yet what had this prince done for them? They were loyal subjects, and that was the reason for their joy. But oh, beloved, we do not need to ask, “What has Christ done for us?” — we will ask, “What has he not done for us?” Emmanuel, we owe all to you! You are our new creator, our Redeemer from the lowest pit of hell! In yourself resplendent and altogether lovely, your beauties command our adoration! You have lived for us, you have bled for us, you have died for us; and you are preparing a kingdom for us, and you are coming again to take us to be with you where you are! All this commands our love. All hail! all hail! You are our King, and we worship you with all our soul!
36. Beloved, I beseech you to love Christ, and live for him while you can. Work while opportunity serves. While I have been laid aside, and able to do nothing, the great sorrow of my heart has been my inability to do service for him. I heard my brethren shouting in the battlefield, and I saw my comrades marching to the fight, and I lay like a wounded soldier in the ditch, and could not stir, except that I breathed a prayer that you might all be strong in the Lord and in the power of his might. This was my thought: “Oh, that I had preached better while I could preach, and lived more for the Master while I could serve him!” Do not incur such regrets in the future by present sluggishness, but live now for him who died for you!
If any present in this assembly have never obeyed our King, may they
come to trust in him tonight; for he is a tender Saviour, and is
willing to receive the biggest and blackest sinner who will come to
him. Whoever trusts in him, will never find him to fail; for he will
save to the uttermost those who come to God by him. May he bring you
to his feet, and reign over you in love. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Ps 85]
(a) Cope: Eccl. A vestment of silk or other material resembling a long cloak made of a semicircular piece of cloth, worn by ecclesiastics in processions, also at Vespers, and on some other occasions. OED.
(b) Lawn Sleeves: Sleeves of lawn, considered as forming part of the episcopal dress. Hence, the dignity or office of a bishop; also, a bishop or bishops. OED.
(c) Diogenes: The name of a celebrated Greek Cynic philosopher, who according to tradition showed his contempt for the amenities of life by living in a tub. OED. He used to stroll about in full daylight with a lamp; when asked what he was doing, he would answer, “I am just looking for an honest man.” Diogenes looked for a human being but reputedly found nothing but rascals and scoundrels. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Diogenes_of_Sinope"