A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, August 24, 1873, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *12/8/2011
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for
his friends. [Joh 15:13]
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1. I have recently in my ministry very much detained you in the balmy region of divine lovingkindness. Our subjects have frequently been full of love. I have, perhaps, repeated myself, and gone over the same ground again and again, but I could not help it; my own soul was in a grateful condition, and therefore out of the abundance of the heart the mouth has spoken. Truly I have little reason to excuse myself, for the region of love for Christ is the native place of the Christian; we were first brought to know Christ and to rest in him through his love, and there, in the warmth of his tenderness, we were born to God. Not by the terrors of justice, nor the threats of vengeance, were we reconciled, but grace drew us with cords of love. Now, we have sometimes heard of sickly people, that the physician has recommended to them to try their native air, in hopes of restoration; so we also recommend every backsliding Christian to try the native air of Christ’s love, and we charge every healthy believer to remain in it. Let the believer with declining grace go back to the cross again; there he found his hope, there he must find it again: there his love for Jesus began, — we “love him because he first loved us,” — and there must his love be again inflamed. The atmosphere around the cross of Christ is bracing to the soul; think much of his love and you will grow strong and vigorous in grace. As the dwellers in the low lying Alpine valleys become weak and full of disease in the close, damp atmosphere, but soon recover health and strength if they climb the hillside and stay there, so in this world of selfishness, where every man is fighting for his own, and the mean spirit of caring only for one’s own self reigns predominant, the saints become weak and diseased, even as worldlings are; but up on the hillsides, where we learn Christ’s self-denying, selfless affection for the sons of men, we are braced to nobler and better lives. If men are ever to be truly great they must be nurtured beneath the wing of free grace and dying love. The grandeur of the Redeemer’s example suggests to his disciples to make their own lives sublime, and both furnishes them with motives for so doing and with forces to constrain them to it.
2. Moreover, we may well remain for many a day in the region of the love of Christ, because not only is it our native region and full of bracing influences, but it has an outlook towards the better shore. As shipwrecked mariners upon a desert island have been known to linger most of the day upon that headland which pushes farthest out into the main ocean, in the hope that, perhaps, if they cannot catch a glimpse of their own country across the waves, they may possibly discern a sail which had left one of the ports of the well beloved land; so it is that while we are sitting on the headlands of divine love we look across to heaven, and become familiar with the spirits of the just. If we are ever to see heaven while still we are living here, it must surely be from Cape Cross or Mount Fellowship; from that jutting piece of holy experience of divine love which runs away from the ordinary thoughts of men, and approaches the heart of Christ. I long to sit there at any rate for many an hour, until the eternal day shall break, and the shadows flee away, and I shall dwell with all the chosen in the land where there is no more sin; for if there can be found a heaven below, it is in the place where heaven came down from heaven to die for sinful men, so that sinful men might go up to heaven to live eternally.
3. Our subject this morning, then, is divine love, and we have chosen the highest hill in all the goodly land for you to climb; we shall take you today to love’s most sacred shrine, to the Jerusalem of the holy land of love, to the Tabor of love, where it was transfigured, and put on its most beautiful garments, where it became indeed too bright for mortal eye fully to gaze upon it, too lustrous for this dim vision of ours. Let us come to Calvary where we find love stronger than death, conquering the grave for our sakes.
4. We shall speak, first, upon love’s crowning act: “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends”; but, then, since the text, grand as it is, and high, so that we cannot attain to it, still seems to fall short of the great argument, although it is one of the Master’s own sayings, we shall speak upon the sevenfold crown of Jesus’ love; and when we have done so, we shall have some royal things to say, which befit the place in which we stand when we are gathered at the foot of the cross.
5. I. First, then, LOVE’S CROWNING DEED. There is a climax to everything, and the climax of love is to die for the beloved one. “Free grace and dying love” are the noblest themes among men, and when united they are sublimity itself. Love can do much, can do infinite things, but greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends. This is the Ultima Thule [a] of love; its sails can find no further shore, its deeds of self-denial can go no further. To lay down one’s life is the most that love can do.
6. This is clear if we consider, first, that when a man dies for his friends, it proves his deep sincerity. Lip love, proverbially, is a thing to be questioned; too often it is a counterfeit. Love which speaks can use hyperbolic expressions at its will, but when you heard all you can hear of love’s speech, you are not sure that it is love; for all are not hunters who blow the horn, all are not friends who extol friendship. There is much among men of a feeling which wears all the likeness of that priceless thing called love, which is more precious than the gold of Ophir, and yet for all that, just as all is not gold that glitters, so it is not all love that walks delicately and feigns affection. But a man is no liar when he is willing to die to prove his love. All suspicion of insincerity must then be banished. We are sure he loves who dies for love.
7. Yes, it is not mere sincerity that we see in such a case, we see the intensity of his affection. A man may make us feel that he is intensely in earnest when he speaks with burning words, and he may perform many actions which may all appear to show how intense he is, and yet for all that he may only be a skilful actor, understanding well the skill of simulating what he does not feel: but when a man dies for the cause he has espoused, you know that his is no superficial passion, you are sure that the core of his nature must be on fire when his love consumes his life; if he will shed his blood for the object beloved, there must be blood in the veins of his love, it is a living love. Who can question the solemn vehemence of a man’s love when he passes through the sepulchre, and yields his soul up for the thing he professes to love? So that “greater love has no man than this,” because he can give no greater proof of the sincerity and intensity of his affection than to lay down his life for his friends.
8. And, again, it proves the thorough self-denial of the heart when the man risks life itself for love. Love and self-denial for the object loved go hand in hand. If I profess to love a certain person, and yet will neither give my silver nor my gold to relieve his needs, nor in any way deny myself comfort or ease for his sake, such love is contemptible; it wears the name, but lacks the reality of love: true love must be measured by the degree to which the person loving will be willing to subject himself to crosses and losses, to sufferings and self-denials. After all, the value of a thing in the market is what a man will give for it, and you must estimate the value of a man’s love by what he is willing to give up for it. What will he do to prove his affection? What will he suffer for the sake of benefiting his beloved? Greater love for friends has no man than this, that he lay down his life for them. Even Satan acknowledged the reality of the virtue which would lead a man to die, when he spoke concerning Job to God: he made little of Job’s losing his sheep, and his cattle, and his children, and remaining patient; but he said, “Skin for skin; yes all that a man has he will give for his life; but now put out your hand, and touch his bone and his flesh, and he will curse you to your face.” So if love could give up its cattle and its land, its outward treasures and possessions, it would be somewhat strong, but comparatively it would fail if it could not go further, and endure personal suffering, indeed, and the laying down of life itself. No such failure occurred in the Redeemer’s love. Our Saviour stripped himself of all his glories, and by a thousand self-denials proved his love; but the most convincing evidence was given when he gave up his life for us. “By this we perceive the love of God,” says the apostle John, “because he laid down his life for us”; as if he passed by everything else which the Son of God had done for us, and put his finger upon his death and said, “By this we perceive the love of God towards us.” It was majestic love that made the Lord Jesus lay aside “his attire and rings of light,” and lend their glory to the stars, strip off his azure mantle and hang it on the sky, and then come down to earth to wear the poor, lowly garments of our flesh and blood, in which to toil and labour like ourselves; but the masterpiece of love happened when he would even put off the garment of his flesh, and yield himself to the agonies superlative of death by crucifixion. He could go no further; self-denial had achieved its utmost; he could deny himself no more, when he denied himself life.
9. Again, beloved, the reason why death for its object is the crowning deed of love is this, that it excels all other deeds. Jesus Christ had proved his love by dwelling among his people as their brother, and participating in their poverty as their friend, until he could say, “Foxes have holes and the birds of the air have nests, but I, the Son of Man, have nowhere to lay my head”; he had revealed his love by telling them all he knew about the Father, unveiling the secrets of eternity to simple fishermen; he showed his love by the patience with which he bore with their faults, never harshly rebuking, but only gently chiding them, and even that very seldom; he revealed his love for them by the miracles he performed on their behalf, and the honour which he placed upon them by using them in his service, indeed, there were ten thousand princely acts of the love of Jesus Christ towards his own, but none of them can for a moment endure comparison with his dying for them, — the agonizing death of the cross surpasses all the rest. These life actions of his love are bright as stars, and, like the stars, if you gaze upon them, they will be seen to be far greater than you dreamed, but yet they are only stars compared with this clear, blazing sun of infinite love which is to be seen in the Lord’s dying for his people on the bloody tree.
10. Then, I must add that his death in effect comprehended all other acts, for when a man lays down his life for his friend he has laid down everything else. Give up life, and you have given up wealth — where is the wealth of a dead man? Renounce life, and you have relinquished position — where is the rank of a man who lies in the sepulchre? Lay down life, and you have forsaken enjoyment — what enjoyment can there be to the denizen of the grave? Giving up life, you have given up all things, hence the force of that reasoning, “He who did not spare his own Son but freely delivered him up for us all, how will he not with him also freely give us all things?” The giving of the life of his dear Son was the giving of all that his Son was; and since Christ is infinite, and all in all, the delivering up of his life was the concession of all in all to us: there could be nothing more.
11. Beloved, I speak only too coldly upon a theme which ought to stir my soul first, and yours afterwards. Spirit of the living God, come like a quickening wind from heaven, and let the sparks of our love glow into a mighty furnace flame just now, even now, if it may so please you!
12. Beloved, we now remark that for a man to die for his friends is evidently the grandest of all proofs of his love in itself. The words glide over my tongue, and drop from my lips very readily — “lay down his life for his friends,” but do you know or feel what the words mean? To die for another! There are some who will not even give from their substance to the poor; it seems like wrenching away a limb for them to give a trifle to God’s poor servants; such people cannot guess what it must be to have love enough to die for another, any more than a blind man can imagine what colours can be like: such people are out of court altogether. There have been loving spirits who have denied themselves comfort and ease, and even common needs, for the sake of their fellow men, and such as these are in a measure qualified to form an idea of what it must be to die for another; but still none of us can fully know what it means. To die for another! Conceive of it! Concentrate your thoughts upon it! We recoil from death, for under any light in which you may place it, human nature can never regard death as otherwise than a terrible thing. To pass away into the glory land is so bright a hope that death is swallowed up in the victory, but the death itself is a bitter thing, and therefore needs to be swallowed up in the victory, before we can bear it. It is a bitter pill, and must be drowned in a sweet potion before we can rejoice in it. I am certain that no person, apart from the sweet reflections of the presence of God and the heavenly future, could regard death otherwise than as a dreadful calamity. Even our Saviour did not regard his approaching death without trembling; the thought of dying was not in itself otherwise than saddening even to him; witness the bloody sweat as it streamed from him in Gethsemane, and that manlike putting away of the cup with, “If it is possible let this cup pass from me”; As you think of that soul conflict let it increase your idea of the Godlike love which took the cup with both its hands resolutely, and drank right on, and never stopped its dreadful draught until the Lord had drank damnation dry for all his people, swallowing up their deaths in his own most comprehensive death. It is no light thing to die. We speak too flippantly about death, but dying is no child’s play for any man, and dying as the Saviour died, in awful agonies of body and tortures of soul, it was a great thing indeed for his love to do. You may surround death if you please with luxury, you may place at the bedside all the dear assuagements of the tenderest love, you may alleviate pain by the art of the apothecary and the physician, and you may decorate the deathbed with the honour of a nation’s anxious care, but death, for all that, is in itself no slight thing, and when borne for others it is the masterpiece of love.
And so, closing this point of love’s crowning action, let me say that
after a man has died for another, there can be no question raised
about his love. Unbelief would be insane if it should venture to
intrude itself at the foot of the cross, though, alas, it has been
there, and has there proved its utter unreasonableness. If a man dies
for his friend, he must love him, no one can question that; and Jesus
dying for his people must love them: who shall cast a doubt upon that
fact? Shame on any of God’s children that they should ever raise
questions on a matter so conclusively proven! yet, as if the Lord
Jesus knew that even this masterpiece of love might still be intruded
upon by unbelief, he rose again from the dead, and rose with his love
as fresh as ever in his heart, and went to heaven leading captives
captive, his eyes flashing with the eternal love that brought him
down. He passed through the pearly gates, and rode in triumph up to
his Great Father’s throne, and although he looked upon his Father
with ineffable and eternal love, he gazed upon his people too, for
his heart was still theirs. Even at this hour, from his throne among
the seraphim, where he sits in glory, he looks down upon his people
with pitying love and condescending grace.
Now, though he reigns exalted high,
His love is still as great;
Well he remembers Calvary,
Nor let his saints forget.
He is all love, and altogether love. “Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
14. II. THE SEVEN CROWNS OF JESUS’ DYING LOVE OF are our second point. I hope I shall have your interested attention while I show that above that highest act of human love there is something in Christ’s death for love’s sake still more elevated. Men’s dying for their friends — this is superlative, but Christ’s dying for us is as much above man’s superlative as anything could be above mere commonplace. Let me show you this in seven points.
15. The first is this — Jesus was immortal, hence the special character of his death. Damon is willing to die for Pythias. [b] The classic story shows that each of the two friends was anxious to die for the other. But suppose Damon dies for Pythias, he is only anticipating what must occur, for Damon must die one day, and if he lays down his life for his friend, say ten years before he otherwise would have done so, still he only loses that ten years’ life, he must die sooner or later; or if Pythias dies and Damon escapes, it may be that only by a few weeks one of them has anticipated the departure, for they must both die eventually. When a man lays down his life for his friend, he does not lay down what he could keep altogether; he could only have kept it for a while, even if he had lived as long as mortals can, until grey hairs are on their head, he must at last have yielded to the arrows of death. A substitutionary death for love’s sake in ordinary cases would be only a slightly premature payment of that debt of nature which must be paid by all. But such is not the case with Jesus. Jesus did not need to die at all; there was no basis or reason why he should die apart from his laying down his life in the room and place and stead of his friends. Up there in the glory was the Christ of God for ever with the Father, eternal and everlasting; no age passed over his brow; we may say of him, “Your locks are bushy and black as the raven, you have the dew of your youth.” He came to earth and assumed our nature so that he might be capable of death, yet remember, although capable of death, his body did not need to have died; as it was it never saw corruption, because there was not in it the element of sin which necessitated death and decay. Our Lord Jesus, and no one except him, could stand at the brink of the grave and say, “No man takes my life from me, but I lay it down by myself. I have power to lay it down and I have power to take it again.” We poor mortal men have only power to die, but Christ had power to live. Crown him, then! Set a new crown upon his beloved head! Let other lovers who have died for their friends be crowned with silver, but for Jesus bring out the golden diadem, and set it upon the head of the Immortal who never needed to have died, and yet became a mortal, yielding himself to death’s pangs without necessity, except the necessity of his mighty love.
16. Notice, next, that in the cases of people who have yielded up their lives for others they may have entertained, and probably did entertain the prospect that the supreme penalty would not have been exacted from them. They hoped that they might still escape, Damon stood before Dionysius, the tyrant, willing to be killed instead of Pythias; but you will remember that the tyrant was so struck with the devotion of the two friends that he did not put either of them to death, and so the proffered substitute escaped. There is an old story of a pious miner, who was in the pit with an ungodly man at work. They had lighted the fuse, and were about to blast a piece of rock with gunpowder, and it was necessary that they should both leave the mine before the gunpowder exploded; they both got into the bucket, but the hand above which was to wind them up was not strong enough to draw the two together, and the pious miner, leaping from the bucket, said to his friend, “You are an unconverted man, and if you die your soul will be lost. Get up in the bucket as quickly as you can; as for me, I commit my soul into the hands of God, and if I die I am saved.” This lover of his neighbour’s soul was spared, for he was found in perfect safety arched over by the fragments which had been blown from the rock: he escaped. But, remember well that such a thing could not occur in the case of our dear Redeemer. He knew that if he was to give a ransom for our souls he had no loophole for escape, he must surely die. He must die, or his people must, there was no other alternative. If we were to escape from the pit through him, he must perish in the pit himself; there was no hope for him, there was no way by which the cup could pass from him. Men have risked their lives for their friends bravely; perhaps had they been certain that the risk would have ended in death they would have hesitated; Jesus was certain that our salvation involved death for him, the cup must be drained to the bottom, he must endure the mortal agony, and in all the sufferings of extreme death he must not be spared one jot or tittle; yet deliberately, for our sakes, he espoused death so that he might espouse us. I say again, bring out another diadem! Set a second crown upon that once thorn crowned head! All hail, Emmanuel! Monarch of misery, and Lord of love! Was there ever love like yours! Lift up his praises, all you sons of song! Exalt him, all you heavenly ones! Indeed, set his throne higher than the stars, and let him be extolled above the angels, because with full intent he bowed his head to death. He knew that it behoved him to suffer, it behoved him that he should be made a sacrifice for sin, and yet for the joy that was set before him he endured the cross, despising the shame.
Notice a third grand excellency in the crowning deed of Jesus’ love,
namely, that he could have had no motive in that death except one
of pure, unmingled love and compassion. You remember when the
Russian nobleman was crossing the steppes of that vast country in the
snow, the wolves followed the sledge in greedy packs, eager to devour
the travellers. The horses were lashed to their utmost speed, but did
not need the lash, for they fled for their lives from their howling
pursuers. Whatever could stop the eager wolves for a time was thrown
to them in vain. A horse was released: they pursued it, tore it to
pieces, and still followed, like grim death. At last a devoted
servant, who had long lived with his master’s family, said, “There
remains only one hope for you; I will throw myself to the wolves, and
then you will have time to escape.” There was great love in this, but
doubtless it was mingled with a habit of obedience, a sense of
reverence for the head of the household, and probably emotions of
gratitude for many obligations which had been received through a long
course of years. I do not depreciate the sacrifice, far from it; oh
that there were more of such a noble spirit among the sons of men!
but still you can see a wide difference between that noble sacrifice
and the nobler deed of Jesus laying down his life for those who never
obliged him, never served him, who were infinitely his inferiors, and
who could have no claims upon his gratitude. If I had seen the
nobleman surrender himself to the wolves to save his servant, and if
that servant had in former days tried to be an assassin and had
sought his life, and yet the master had given himself up for the
undeserving menial, I could see some parallel, but as the case stands
there is a wide distinction. Jesus had no motive in his heart except
that he loved us, loved us with all the greatness of his glorious
nature, loved us, and therefore for love, pure love, and love alone,
he gave himself up to bleed and die.
With all his sufferings full in view
And woes to us unknown,
Fourth to the task his spirit flew,
’Twas love that urged him on.
Put the third crown upon his glorious head! Oh angels, bring out the immortal coronet which has been stored up for ages for him alone, and let it glitter upon that ever blessed brow!
Fourthly, remember, as I have already begun to hint, that in our
Saviour’s case it was not precisely, though it was, in a sense,
death for his friends. Greater love has no man than this towards
his friends that he lay down his life for them; read the text so, and
it expresses a great truth: but a man may have greater love than to
lay down his life for his friends, namely, if he dies for his
enemies. And herein is the greatness of Jesus’ love, that though he
called us “friends,” the friendship was all on his side at the first.
He called us friends, but our hearts called him an enemy, for we were
opposed to him. We did not love in return for his love. “We hid as it
were our faces from him, he was despised, and we did not esteem him.”
Oh the enmity of the human heart towards Jesus! There is nothing like
it. Of all enmities that have ever come from the pit that is
bottomless, the enmity of the heart towards the Christ of God is the
strangest and most bitter of all; and yet for men polluted and
depraved, for men hardened until their hearts are like the nether
millstone, for men who could not return and could not reciprocate the
love he felt, Jesus Christ gave himself to die. “Scarcely for a
righteous man will one die, yet perhaps for a good (benevolent) man
one could even dare to die, but God commends his love towards us in
that while we were yet sinners in due time Christ died for the
Oh love of unexampled kind!
That leaves all thought so far behind;
Where length, and breadth, and depth, and height,
Are lost to my astonished sight.
Bring out the royal diadem again, I say, and crown our loving Lord, the Lord of love; for just as he is King of kings everywhere else, so is he King of kings in the region of affection.
19. I shall not, I hope, weary you when I now observe that there was another glorious point about Christ’s dying for us for we had ourselves been the cause of the difficulty which required a death. There were two brothers on board a raft once, upon which they had escaped from a foundering ship. There was not enough food, and it was proposed to reduce the number so that at least some might be able to live. So many must die. They cast lots for life and death. One of the brothers was drawn, and was doomed to be thrown into the sea. His brother interposed and said, “You have a wife and children at home; I am single, and therefore can be better spared, I will die instead of you.” “No,” said his brother, “not so; why should you? The lot has fallen upon me”; and they struggled with each other in mutual arguments of love, until at last the substitute was thrown into the sea. Now, there was no real difference between those too brothers whatever; they were friends, and more than friends. They had not caused the difficulty which required the sacrifice of one of them, they could not blame one another for forcing upon them the dreadful alternative; but in our case there would never have been a need for anyone to die if we had not been the offenders, the wilful offenders; and who was the offended one, whose injured honour required the death? I speak truthfully if I say it was the Christ who died who was himself the offended one. Against God the sin had been committed, against the majesty of the divine Ruler; and in order to wipe the stain away from divine justice it was imperative that the penalty should be exacted and the sinful one should die. So he who was offended took the place of the offender and died, so that the debt due to his own justice might be paid. It is the case of the judge bearing the penalty which he feels compelled to pronounce upon the culprit. Like the old classic story of the father who on the judgment bench condemns his son to lose his eyes for an act of adultery, and then puts out one of his own eyes to save an eye for his son, the judge himself bore a portion of the penalty. In our case, he who vindicated the honour of his own law, and bore all the penalty, was the Christ who loved those who had offended his sovereignty, and grieved his holiness. I say again — but where are the lips that shall say it properly? — bring out, bring out a new diadem of more than imperial splendour, to crown the Redeemer’s blessed head anew, and let all the harps of heaven pour out the richest music in praise of his supreme love.
20. Notice again that there have been men who died for others, but they have never borne the sins of others; they were willing to take the punishment, but not the guilt. Those cases which I have already mentioned did not involve character. Pythias has offended Dionysius, Damon is ready to die for him, but Damon does not bear the offence given by Pythias. A brother is thrown into the sea for a brother, but there is no fault in the case. The servant dies for his master in Russia, but the servant’s character rises, it is in no degree associated with any fault of the master, and the master is, indeed, faultless in the case. But here, before Christ must die, it must be written, “He was numbered with the transgressors, and he bore the sin of many.” “The Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” “He made him to be sin for us who knew no sin, so that we might be made the righteousness of God in him.” “He was made a curse for us, as it is written, ‘Cursed is everyone who hangs on a tree.’ ” Now, far be it from our hearts to say that Christ was ever less than perfectly holy and spotless, and yet there had to be established a connection between him and sinners by the way of substitution, which must have been hard for his perfect nature to endure. For him to be hung up between two felons, for him to be accused of blasphemy, for him to be numbered with transgressors, for him to suffer, the just for the unjust, bearing his Father’s wrath as if he had been guilty, this is wonderful, and surpasses all thought! Bring out the brightest crowns and put them on his head, while we pass on to weave a seventh garland for that adorable brow.
21. For remember, once more, the death of Christ was a proof of superlative love, because in his case he was denied all the helps and alleviations which in other cases make death to be less than death. I do not marvel that a saint can die joyously; well may his brow be placid, and his eye be bright, for he sees his heavenly Father gazing down upon him, and glory waiting for him. Well may his spirit be rapt in joy, even while the death sweat is on his face, for the angels have come to meet him, and he sees the far off land, and the gates of pearl growing nearer every hour. But ah, to die upon a cross without a pitying eye upon you, surrounded by a scoffing multitude, and to die there appealing to God, who turns his face away, to die with this as your requiem, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me!” to startle the midnight darkness with an “Eli, Eli, lama sabachthani” of awful anguish such as never had been heard before: this is terrible. The triumph of love in the death of Jesus clearly rises above all other heroic acts of self-sacrifice! Even as we have seen the lone peak of the monarch of mountains rise out from all adjoining alps and pierce the clouds to hold close communion with the stars, so this love of Christ soars far above anything else in human history, or that can be conceived of by the heart of man. His death was more terrible, his passing away more grievous by far. Greater love has no man than this, than that he lay down such a life in such a fashion, and for such enemies so utterly unworthy. Oh, I will not say, “Crown him” — what are crowns to him? Blessed Lamb of God, our hearts love you, we fall at your feet in adoring reverence, and magnify you in the silence of our souls.
22. III. Lastly, and I must be very brief, since my time has fled, MANY ROYAL THINGS OUGHT TO BE SUGGESTED TO US BY THIS ROYAL LOVE.
23. And first, dear brethren, how this thought of Christ’s proving his love by his death ennobles self-denial. I do not know how you feel, but I feel completely humbled when I think of what Christ has done for me. To live a life of comparative ease and enjoyment shames me. To work to weariness seems nothing. After all, what are we doing compared with what he has done? Those who can suffer, who can lay down their lives in mission fields, and bear hardships, and poverty, and persecution for Christ, — my brethren, these are to be envied, they have a greater portion than their brethren. It makes us feel ashamed to be at home and to possess any comforts when Jesus so denied himself. I say the thought of the Lord’s bleeding love makes us think ourselves base to be what we are, and makes us nothing in our own sight, while it causes us to honour before God the self-denial of others, and wish that we had the means of practising it.
24. And oh, how it prompts us to heroism. When you get to the cross you have left the realm of little men: you have reached the nursery of true chivalry. Does Christ die? — then we feel we could die too. What grand things men have done when they have lived in the love of Christ! That story of the Moravians comes to my mind, and I will repeat it, though you may often have heard it, how in South Africa there was, years ago, a place of lepers, into which people afflicted with leprosy were driven. There was a tract of land surrounded by high walls, from which no one could escape. There was only one gate, and he who went in never came out again. Certain Moravians looked over the wall and saw two men: one, whose arms had rotted off with leprosy, was carrying on his back another who had lost his legs, and between the two they were making holes in the ground and planting seeds. The two Moravians thought, “They are dying of a foul disease by hundreds inside that place, we will go and preach the gospel to them.” “But,” they said, “if you go in, you can never come out again; there you will die of leprosy too.” They went in, and they never did come out until they went home to heaven; they died for others for the love of Jesus. Two others of these holy men went to the West Indian Islands, where there was an estate to which a man could not go to preach the gospel unless he was a slave, and these two men sold themselves for slaves, to work as others worked, so that they might tell their fellow slaves the gospel. Oh, if we had that spirit of Jesus among us we should do great things. We want it back, and must have it. The church has lost everything when she has lost her old heroism; she has lost her power to conquer the world when the love of Christ no longer constrains her.
25. But notice how the heroic in this case is sweetly tinctured and flavoured with gentleness. The chivalry of the olden times was cruel; it consisted very much in a strong fellow cased in steel going around and knocking others to pieces who did not happen to wear similar suits of steel. Nowadays we could get a good deal of that courage back, I dare say; but we shall be best without it. We want that blessed chivalry of love in which a man feels, “I would suffer any insult from that man if I could do him good for Christ’s sake, and I would be a doormat to my Lord’s temple gate, so that all who come by might wipe their feet upon me, if they could honour Christ by it.” The grand heroism of being nothing for Christ’s sake, or anything for the church’s sake, that is the heroism of the cross; for Christ made himself of no reputation, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and being found in fashion as a man, he became obedient to death, even the death of the cross. Oh blessed Spirit, teach us to perform similar heroic acts of self-denial for Jesus’ name’s sake!
And, lastly, there seems to come to my ears from the cross, a gentle
voice that says, “Sinner, sinner, guilty sinner, I did all this for
you, what have you done for me?” and yet another which says, “Return
to me! Look to me and be saved, all you ends of the earth.” I wish I
knew how to preach to you Christ crucified. I feel ashamed of myself
that I cannot do better than I have done. I pray the Lord to set it
before you in a far better way than any of my words can. But, oh,
guilty sinner, there is life in a look at the Redeemer! Turn your
eyes to him now, and trust him! Simply by trusting him, you shall
find pardon, mercy, eternal life, and heaven. Faith is a look at the
Great Substitute. May God help you to make that look for Jesus’ sake.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 15]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, His Praise — Tribute For King Jesus” 424]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation — His Great Love” 250]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — ‘We Love Him Because He First Loved Us’ ” 788]
The Sword And The Trowel. Edited by C. H. Spurgeon.
Contents for September, 1873.
Sundew, a Strange Plant. By C. H. Spurgeon.
Language by Touch.
John Ploughman on Mothers.
Our Public Servants. By G. Holden Pike.
Real Contact with Jesus: a Sacramental Meditation. By C. H. Spurgeon.
The Object of Saving Faith. By G. Rogers.
A Rare Providence.
The Model Superintendent.
“Talking To The Children.”
Price 3d. Post free, 4 stamps.
[a] Ultima Thule: The most distant land known to the ancients, thought to be the British Isles or Norway. Editor.
[b] Damon, Pythias: As told by Aristoxenus, and after him Cicero and others, around the fourth century BC, Pythias and his friend Damon, both followers of the philosopher Pythagoras, travelled to Syracuse. Pythias was accused of plotting against the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius I. As punishment for this crime, Pythias was sentenced to death. Accepting his sentence, Pythias asked to be allowed to return home one last time, to settle his affairs and bid his family farewell. Not wanting to be taken for a fool, Dionysius refused, believing that once released, Pythias would flee and never return. Pythias called for Damon and asked him to take his place while he goes. Dionysius agreed, on the condition that, should Pythias not return when promised, Damon would be put to death in his place. Damon agreed, and Pythias was released. Dionysius was convinced that Pythias would never return, and as the day Pythias promised to return came and went, Dionysius prepared to execute Damon. But just as the executioner was about to kill Damon, Pythias returned. Apologizing to his friend for his delay, Pythias told of how pirates had captured his ship on the passage back to Syracuse and thrown him overboard. Dionysius listened to Pythias as he described how he swam to shore and made his way back to Syracuse as quickly as possible, arriving just in the nick of time to save his friend. Dionysius was so taken with the friends’ trust and loyalty, that he freed both Damon and Pythias, and kept them on as counsel to his court. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Damon_and_Pythias"
Jesus Christ, His Praise
424 — Tribute For King Jesus
1 Jesus, thou everlasting King,
Accept the tribute which we bring;
Accept the well deserved renown,
And wear our praises as thy crown.
2 Let every act of worship be,
Like our espousals, Lord, to thee;
Like the dear hour when from above
We first received thy pledge of love.
3 The gladness of that happy day;
Our hearts would wish it long to stay:
Nor let our faith forsake its hold,
Nor comforts sink, nor love grow cold.
4 Each following minute while it stays,
Improve our joys, increase thy praise,
Till we are raised to sing thy name
At the great supper of the Lamb.
5 Oh that the months would roll away,
And bring the coronation day!
The King of Grace shall fill the throne,
With all his Father’s glories on.
Isaac Watts, 1719, a.
Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation
250 — His Great Love
1 The Lord of glory, moved by love,
Descends, in mercy, from above;
And he, before whom angels bow,
Is found a man of grief below.
2 Such love is great, too great for thought,
Its length and breadth in vain are sought;
No tongue can tell is depth and height;
The love of Christ is infinite.
3 But though his love no measure knows,
The Saviour to his people shows
Enough to give them joy, when known,
Enough to make their hearts his own.
4 Constrain’d by this, they walk with him,
His love their most delightful theme;
To glorify him here, their aim,
Their hope, in heaven to praise his name.
Thomas Kelly, 1809.
The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
788 — “We Love Him Because He First Loved Us”
1 My God, I love thee; not because
I hope for heaven thereby,
Nor yet because who love thee not
Must burn eternally.
2 Thou, oh my Jesus, thou didst me
Upon the cross embrace;
For me didst bear the nails, and spear,
And manifold disgrace.
3 And griefs, and torments numberless,
And sweat of agony;
Yea, death itself; and all for me
Who was thine enemy.
4 Then why, oh blessed Jesu Christ,
Should I not love thee well?
Not for the hope of winning heaven,
Nor of escaping hell;
5 Not with the hope of gaining aught,
Not seeking a reward;
But as thyself hast loved me,
Oh ever-loving Lord.
6 So would I love thee, dearest Lord,
And in thy praise will sing;
Solely because thou art my God,
And my Eternal King.
Francis Xavier, 1552.
tr. by Edward Caswall, 1849.