A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, December 21, 1873, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *12/28/2011
I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth. [3Jo 1:4]
1. John speaks of himself as though he were a father, and, therefore, we concede to parents the right to use the language of the text. I am sure that many of you here present, both mothers and fathers, can truly say, “We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth.” But John was not the physical father of those of whom he was writing; he was their spiritual father, it was through his ministry that they had been brought into the new life; his relationship to them was that he had been the instrument of their conversion, and had afterwards displayed a father’s care in supplying them with heavenly food and gracious teaching. Therefore, this morning, after we have used the words as the expression of parents, we must take them back again, and use them as the truthful utterance of all real pastors, “We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth.”
2. I. First, then, one of THE PARENT’S HIGHEST JOYS is his children’s walking in truth; he has no greater joy.
3. And here we must begin with the remark that it is a joy unique to Christian fathers and mothers. No parents can say from their hearts, “We have no greater joy than to hear that our children walk in truth,” unless they themselves are walking in truth. No wolf prays for its offspring to become a sheep. The ungodly man sets little value on the godliness of his children since he thinks nothing of it for himself. He who does not value his own soul is not likely to value the souls of his descendants. He who rejects Christ on his own account is not likely to be enamoured with him on his children’s behalf. Abraham prayed for Ishmael, but I never read that Ishmael prayed for his son Nebajoth. I fear that many, even among professors of religion, could not truthfully repeat my text; they look for other joy in their children, and care little whether they are walking in truth or not. They rejoice in them if they are healthy in body, but they are not saddened though the leprosy of sin remains upon them. They rejoice in their good looks, and do not enquire whether they have found favour in the sight of the Lord. Put the girl’s feet in silver slippers, and many heads of families would never raise the question concerning whether she walked the broad or the narrow road. It is very grievous to see how some professedly Christian parents are satisfied as long as their children display cleverness in learning, or sharpness in business, although they show no signs of a renewed nature. If they pass their examinations with credit, and promise to be well outfitted for the world’s battle, their parents forget that there is a superior conflict, involving a higher crown, for which the child will need to be outfitted by divine grace, and armed with the whole armour of God. Alas, if our children lose the crown of life, it will be only a small consolation that they have won the laurels of literature or art. Many who ought to know better think themselves superlatively blessed in their children if they become rich, if they marry well, if they strike out into profitable enterprises in business, or if they attain eminence in the profession to which they have espoused. Their parents will go to their beds rejoicing, and wake up perfectly satisfied, though their boys are hurrying down to hell, if they are also making money hand over fist. They have no greater joy than that their children are having their portion in this life, and laying up treasure where rust corrupts it. Though neither their sons nor daughters show any signs of the new birth, give no evidence of being rich towards God, show no traces of electing love or redeeming grace, or the regenerating power of the Holy Spirit, yet there are parents who are content with their condition. Now, I can only say of such professing parents that they have need to question whether they are Christians at all, and if they will not question it themselves, they must give some of us permission to hold it in serious debate. When a man’s heart is really right with God, and he himself has been saved from the wrath to come, and is living in the light of his heavenly Father’s countenance, it is certain that he is anxious about his children’s souls, prizes their immortal natures, and feels that nothing could give him greater joy than to hear that his children walk in truth. Judge yourselves, then, beloved, this morning, by the gentle but searching test of the text. If you are professing Christians, but cannot say that you have no greater joy than the conversion of your children, you have reason to question whether you ought to have made such a profession at all.
4. Let us then remark, in the next place, that the joy which is mentioned in the text is special in its object. The expression is a thoughtful one. John did not write those words in a hurry, but has compressed a great deal into them. He says, “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.” Now, beloved parents, it is a very great joy for us if our children learn the truth. I hope you will not allow one of them to grow up and leave your home without knowing the doctrines of the gospel, without knowing the life of Christ, and the great precepts of Scripture, without having as clear an understanding as it is possible for you to give them of the great principles and plan of salvation. When we perceive that our children, when we question them, thoroughly understand the gospel, and are well rooted and grounded in its doctrines, it is a great joy for us, and well it may be. It is, however, far more a joy when those same children feel the truth; for, alas, we may know it and perish, unless we have felt its power within. Parent, was your heart not glad when you first saw the tear of repentance in your girl’s eye? Did it not gladden you when your son could say, “Father, I trust I have believed and am saved by the grace of God?” Yes, it is a greater joy that they should feel the power of truth than that they should know the letter of it. I hope that none of you will be content to forego such a joy; it should be the holy ambition of every parent that all his household should be renewed by the Holy Spirit.
5. It is a great joy when our children affirm their sense of the truth, when, knowing it and feeling it, they at last have the courage to say, “We wish to join with the people of God for we trust we belong to them.” Oh, happy as a marriage day is that day, when the parent sees his child surrendered to the people of God, having first given his heart to the Christ of God! The baptism of our believing children is always a joyous occasion for us, and so it ought to be. Our parents before us magnified the Lord when they heard us say, “We are on the Lord’s side,” and we can only give thanks abundantly when the same privilege falls to us in our children.
6. But, beloved, there is anxiety about all this. When you teach your children, there is the fear that perhaps they will not learn to profit; when they feel, there is still the fear lest it should be mere feeling, and should be the work of nature and not the work of the Spirit of God; and even when they profess to be the Lord’s, there yet remains the serious question, “Will this profession last? Will they be able to stand by it and be true to the faith until life’s last hour?” But the joy of the text is higher than these three; though these have to come before it, and it grows out of them. “I have no greater joy than this, to hear that my children walk in truth.” There is the point, their practical religion, their actual exemplification of the power of the gospel upon their lives. This proves that the teaching was well received, that the feeling was not mere excitement, that the profession was not a falsehood or a mistake, but was done in truth. What bliss it would be for us to see our sons grow up, and with integrity, prudence, uprightness, and grace, walk in truth, and to behold our daughters springing up in all their comeliness, lovely with the adornment of a meek and quiet spirit, becoming in their homes while with us, or in the new homes which speedily grow up around them, patterns of everything that is tender, gracious, kind, and true. “I have no greater joy than this,” says John, and truly all of you to whom such joy as this has been allotted can say, “Amen, Amen, it is even so.” The joy before us has therefore a special possessor and a special object.
It is a healthy joy, beloved, in which we may indulge to the full
without the slightest fear, for it is superior in its character to
all earthly joys. “Not too much,” is a good rule for everything which
has to do with time; but this joy in our children’s walking in the
truth we may indulge in as much as we wish; for, first, it is a
spiritual joy, and therefore of a superior order. We do not rejoice
to the full in the things which are seen by the eye and heard by the
ear, for these are things of the flesh, which will decay; such as the
coat which is eaten by the moth, and the metal which is devoured by
rust. We rejoice in the work of the Spirit of God, a work which will
endure when this world shall have passed away. Hannah had some joy in
the new coat which she made for young Samuel, but a far higher
delight in the new heart which showed itself early in his actions.
Our son promoted to be a king might cause us some delight; but to see
our children made “princes in all the earth,” according to that
ancient promise, would be a more divine delight by far. Rejoice in
it, then, without trembling, for spiritual joy will never intoxicate.
Such joy arises from a love for God, and is therefore commendable. We
love to see our children converted, because we love God. Out of love
for him, through his grace, we gave ourselves to him, and now, in
later years, the same love prompts us to present our children. Just as
Barzillai in his old age asked David to accept the personal service
of his son Chimham, so would we, when our own strength declines,
present our offspring to the Lord, so that they may supply our lack
of service. We have said —
Had I ten thousand thousand tongues,
Not one should silent be;
Had I ten thousand thousand hearts,
I’d give them all to thee.
8. Now since we have only one tongue of our own, we are intensely earnest that our children’s tongues should proclaim the praises of the Saviour. We do not have another life on earth to call our own, but here are the lives which the Lord has given to us, and we are delighted that he should have them for himself. We cry, “Lord, take this child’s life and let it all be spent for your service, from his earliest days until grey hairs shall adorn his brow.” It is like the old soldier coming up to his king and saying, “I am worn out in your service, but you are so good a monarch that I have brought my son so that he may serve you from his youth up; let him take his father’s place, and may he excel him in valour and in capacity to serve his king and country.” Now, when our children walk in truth and love for God, it makes us rejoice that another heart is consecrated to his service. We may well rejoice in the salvation and in the sanctification of our sons and daughters, because this is the way in which the kingdom of Christ is to be extended in the world. The hand which has held the standard aloft in the midst of the fury of war is at last palsied in death: happy is that standardbearer who with expiring eye can see his own son springing forward to grasp that staff, and keep the banner still floating above the host. Happy Abraham to be followed by an Isaac! Happy David to be succeeded by a Solomon! Happy Lois to have Eunice for a daughter, and happy Eunice to have Timothy for a son! This is the apostolic succession in which we believe, and for which we pray. How, in years to come, are we to see a seed of piety flourishing in the land, and the world conquered for Christ? How, indeed, except by means of the young men of Israel? We shall be sleeping beneath the green grass of the cemetery in peace; other voices will be heard in the midst of the assemblies of the saints, and other shoulders will bear the ark of the Lord through the wilderness. Where are our successors? From where shall come these succeeding voices, and from where are those needed shoulders of strength? We believe they will come from among our children, and if God grants it, it shall be so, we shall need no greater joy.
9. I will tell you why this is particularly the great joy of some Christian parents — it is because they have made it a subject of importunate prayer. What comes to us by the gate of prayer comes into the house with music and dancing. If you have asked for it with tears, you will receive it with smiles. The joy of an answer to prayer is very much in proportion to the wrestling which went with the prayer. If you have felt sometimes as though your heart could break for your offspring unless they were soon converted to God, then, I will tell you, when they are converted you will feel as though your heart would break the other way, from joy to think that they have been saved. Your eyes, which have been red with weeping over their youthful follies, will one day become bright with rejoicing over holy actions which will reveal the work of the grace of God in their hearts. No wonder that Hannah sang so sweetly; for she had prayed so earnestly; the Lord had heard her, and the joy of the answer was increased by the former anguish of her prayer. We have no greater joy than this, that our children walk in truth; and it is a right and allowable joy, and springs from good sources, and we need not be afraid to indulge it.
10. This joy is quickening in its effect. All who have ever felt it know what an energy it puts into them. Those of you who have never yet received it, but are desiring it, will, I trust, be quickened by the desire. This is what it means. Is one son in the family converted to God? We rejoice in that fact, but we cannot linger over joy for one, we are impelled to think of the others. If God has been pleased to call half a household to salvation, there is a hunger and thirst in the parent’s heart after this priceless delight, and that parent cries, “Lord, let them all be brought in, let not one be left behind.” Are some of you this morning so happy as to see all your children converted? I know some of you are. Oh, how holy and how heavenly ought your families to be when God has so favoured you above many of his own people. Be very grateful, and while you are joyous, lay the crown of your joy at your Saviour’s feet; and if you now have a church in your house, maintain the ordinance of family worship with all the greater zeal and holiness, and pray for others so that the Lord may also visit them in like manner.
11. Beloved, have some of your children converted while others remain unsaved? Then I charge you, let what the Lord has done for some encourage you concerning the rest. When you are on your knees in prayer say to your heavenly Father, “Lord, you have heard me for a part of my house, I beseech you, therefore, to look in favour upon it all, for I cannot bear that any of my dear children should choose to remain your enemies, and pursue the road which leads to hell. You have made me very glad with the full belief that some of my dear ones walk in the truth, but I am sad because I can see from the conduct of others that they have not yet been changed in heart, and therefore do not keep your statutes. Lord, let my whole household eat from the Paschal Lamb, and come out of Egypt with me through your grace.” I am sure, beloved, this is how you feel, for every true Christian longs to see all his children called by the Lord. Suppose it could be put to us that one child of our family must be lost, and that we should be bound to make the dreadful choice of the one to be cast away, we could never bring ourselves to it, it would be too terrible a task; God will never appoint such a misery to us. We have heard of a poor Irish family on shipboard, very numerous and very needy: a kind friend proposed to the father to give up entirely one of the little ones to be adopted and provided for. He was to be entirely given up, never to be seen again, or in any way claimed as their own, and the parents were to make a selection. It is a long story, but you know how the discussion between the parents would proceed. Of course they could not give up the oldest, for the simple reason that he was the firstborn. The second was so like the mother; the third was too weak and sickly to be without a mother’s care. So the excuses went on throughout the whole family, until they came to the last, and no one dared even to hint that the mother should be deprived of her darling. No child could be parted with; they would sooner starve together than renounce one. Now, I am sure if the mere giving up of a child to be adopted by a kind friend would be a painful thing, and we could not come to a decision concerning who to hand over, we could far less be able to surrender one beloved child to eternal destruction. God forbid we should dream of such a thing! We would cry day and night, “No, Lord, we cannot see them die. Spare them, we pray you!” We could almost rival the spirit of Moses: “Blot my name out of the book of life sooner than my children should be castaways. Save them, Lord! save every one of them without exception, for your mercy’s sake!” We should make no differences in our prayers between one child and another. Now, I am sure that we should be quite right in such desires and emotions, and very wrong if we were able to sit down and contemplate the eternal ruin of our own offspring with calm indifference. God has made you parents, and he does not expect you to act otherwise than a parental relationship requires you to act. What would be unnatural, cannot be right. As a Father himself the Lord yearns over his erring children, and he can never be grieved with us if we do the same. Nowhere do you find rebukes for natural parental love unless it unwisely winks at sin. Even David’s bitter lamentation, “Oh Absalom, my son, my son, oh that I had died for you, oh Absalom, my son, my son!” is not censured by the Lord; neither do we find him rebuking Abraham for saying, “Oh that Ishmael might live before you!” These desires are so consistent with the natural instincts which he himself has implanted, that, even if they are not always granted, they are never rebuked. Even if our child should turn out to be an Esau, or an Ishmael, or an Absalom, yet still the prayers of the father for him are not forbidden. How could they be? Do not be afraid at any time when pleading for the souls of your children; be importunate, be eager, be earnest, not for the child’s life, that you must leave with God; not for the child’s health, that also you may make a secondary matter; but for the child’s soul. Do not restrain yourself in this, but wrestle as hard as you wish, and say, “I will not let go unless you bless every one of my children! Their unregenerate state is my deepest sorrow: oh Lord, be pleased to recover them from it.”
Once more, this high joy of which we have spoken is very solemn in
its surroundings, for it involves this alternative — “What if my
children should not walk in truth?” Well, that means many sorrows for
us during this life, nights of sleeplessness and days of anxiety. I
have seen good men and great men crushed beneath the daily trouble
caused by their children. “Children,” one said, “are doubtful
blessings,” and he was close to the truth. They are blessings, and
they can be made by God the choicest of blessings; but if they shall
grow up to be dissolute, impure, ungodly, they will make our hearts
How sharper than a serpent’s tooth it is
To have a thankless child.
No cross is so heavy to carry as a living cross. Next to a woman who is bound to an ungodly husband, or a man who is unequally yoked with a graceless wife, I pity the father whose children are not walking in the truth, who still is himself an earnest Christian. Must it always be so, that the father shall go to the house of God and his son to the alehouse? Shall the father sing the songs of Zion, and the son and daughter pour forth the ballads of Belial? Must we come to the communion table alone, and our children be separated from us? Must we go on the road to holiness and the way of peace, and behold our dearest ones travelling with the multitude on the broad way, despising what we prize, rebelling against him whom we adore? May God grant that it may not be so, but it is a very solemn reflection. Even more solemn is the vision before us if we cast our eyes across the river of death into the eternity beyond. What if our children should not walk in the truth, and should die unsaved? There cannot be tears in heaven; but if there might, the celestials would look over the bulwarks of the new Jerusalem and weep their fill at the sight of their children in the flames of hell, for ever condemned, for ever shut out from hope. What if those to whom we gave being should be weeping and gnashing their teeth in torment while we are seeing the face of our Father in heaven! Remember the separation time must come. Oh you thoughtless youths! Between you and your parents there must come an eternal parting! Can you endure the thought of it? Perhaps your parents will leave this world first: oh, that their departure might touch your consciences and lead you to follow them to heaven! But if you go first, unforgiven, impenitent sinners your parents will have a double woe in their hour. How sadly have I seen the difference when I have gone to the funeral of different young people. I have been met by the mother who told me some sweet story about the girl, and what she did in life and what she said in death, and we have talked together before we have gone to the grave with a subdued sorrow which was almost joy, and I have not known whether to console or to congratulate. But in other cases, when I have entered the house my mouth has been closed, I have asked few questions, and very little has been communicated to me; I have scarcely dared to touch upon the matter. By and by the father has whispered to me, “The worst of all is, sir, we had no evidence of conversion. We would have gladly parted with the dear one if we might have had some good sign. It breaks my wife’s heart, sir. Comfort her if you can.” I have felt that I was a poor comforter, for to sorrow without hope is to sorrow indeed. I pray it may never be the lot of any one of us to weep over our grown up sons and daughters dead and twice dead. It would be better if they had never been born, better if they had perished like untimely fruit, than that they should live to dishonour their father’s God and their mother’s Saviour, and then should die to receive, “Depart, you cursed,” from those very lips which to their parents will say, “Come, you blessed by my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you.” Proportionate to the greatness of the joy before us is the terror of the contrast. I devoutly pray that such an overwhelming calamity may never happen to anyone connected with any of our families.
13. So far I have conceded the text to parents, now I am going to take it for myself and my brethren.
14. II. You may view, dear friends, the text as specifying the PASTOR’S GREATEST REWARD. “I have no greater joy than to hear that my children walk in truth.”
15. The minister who is sent by God has spiritual children; they are as much his children as if they had literally been born in his house, for concerning their immortal nature he stands under God in the relationship of a father. It would seem we shall have only faint memories in heaven of earthly relationships, since they are neither married nor given in marriage there, but are like the angels of God, and, therefore, the relationship of father and son will not exist in heaven, though I can only think that spirits which were grouped on earth will be associated in glory; but the duties and bonds of relationship will be ended. Relationships which relate to soul and spirit will last on. I may not look upon my sons in heaven as my children, but I shall recognise many of you as such, for it is through your soul, or rather your newborn spirit, I am related to you. No minister ought to be at rest unless he sees that his ministry produces fruit, and men and women are born to God by the preaching of the word. To this end we are sent to you, not to help you to spend your Sundays respectably, nor to quiet your conscience by conducting worship on your behalf. No, sirs, ministers are sent into the world for a higher purpose, and if your souls are not saved, we have laboured in vain as far as you are concerned. If in the hands of God we are not made the means of your new birth, our sermons and instructions have been a mere waste of effort, and your hearing has been a mere waste of time for you, if not something worse. To see children born to God, that is the grand thing. Hence every preacher longs to be able to talk about his spiritual sons and daughters. John did so.
16. Those who are the preacher’s children are often known to him; they were to John, otherwise he could not have spoken about them as “my children,” and could not have had joy in them as his children. From this I draw the inference that it is the duty of everyone who receives spiritual benefit, and especially conversion, from any of God’s servants, to let them know it. John speaks about his children; but supposing there had been people converted and John had never heard of it, suppose they had never made any profession, never joined the church, John might have lived and died without the comfort of knowing them, and without the joy of hearing that they walked in truth. Hence, permit me to remind some of you who, I trust, do know the Lord, but have never confessed his name, that you do us grievous wrong. We have sought your good, and God has blessed us to you, and you deny us the fruit of our labour, which is that we should hear that God has honoured our ministry in your consciences. Do not continue to defraud the labourer of his hire. You know how refreshing to the preacher is information that he has won a soul for Jesus. Just as cold water to a thirsty soul in a parched desert so is such good news to us. I have had many such cups of water, but I am growing thirsty for more. I am grateful when the Lord works as he did only the other day, and I hear of it. I preached to you one morning a sermon to despairing souls. [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1146, “Consolation for the Despairing” 1137] I said there might be a few then present to whom it would apply. I was very grateful to learn, a day or so later, that a friend from a considerable distance had been moved to come here that morning, and, after many years of despair, was brought into light and liberty through the sermon. Oh, how glad I felt! You cannot help preaching when you know that saving results follow. If God’s Holy Spirit has blessed our word to you, do not refrain from acknowledging the blessing. Put on Christ publicly in baptism, according to his command: unite yourself with his church, and commune with the people among whom you have been born to God.
17. It seems from our text that John was in the habit of hearing about his spiritual children: “I have no greater joy than to hear” — notice that — “than to hear that my children walk in the truth.” That implies that, if you make a profession of your faith, people will talk about you. John could not have heard if others had not spoken. The man who makes a profession of religion, especially in a church like this, will be watched by all the world’s eyes, and not by very friendly critics either. There are those at home, who do not know the Saviour, who, if they can find any fault in your character, will throw it at you, and say, “That is your religion, is it?” You will be men much spoken about, and reports about you will come to us; bad or good, we shall be sure to hear about them. We practise no spy system among the members of our church, and yet somehow or other in this large church of forty-five hundred members, it very rarely happens that a gross act of inconsistency is concealed for long. Birds of the air tell the matter. The eagle-eyed world acts as policeman for the church, and with no good intent becomes a watchdog over the sheep, barking furiously as soon as one goes astray. I assure you, I have no greater joy than when I hear that the members of the church are walking in truth. When, for example, a Christian young man dies, and his master writes to me, saying, “Do you have another member in your church like so-and-so? I never had such a servant before. I deplore his loss, and only wish I might find another of equally excellent character.” Our feeling is very different when we hear it said, as we do sometimes, “I would sooner live with an ungodly man than with a professor of religion, for these professing Christians are a great deal worse tempered, and more cantankerous than mere worldly people.” Shame, shame on anyone who makes the world justly bring up so evil a report. Our joy is that there are others against whom no accusation can justly be brought.
18. You noticed that he speaks of their “walk.” The world could not report their private prayers and inward emotions. The world can only speak of what it sees and understands. So John heard of their “walk,” their public character and deportment. Be careful, be careful concerning your private lives, my brethren, and I believe your public lives will be sure to be right; but remember that it is upon your public life that the verdict of the world will very much depend, therefore watch every step, action, and word lest you err in any measure from the truth.
19. What is it to “walk in truth?” It is not walking in the truth, or otherwise some would suppose it meant that John was overjoyed because they were sound in doctrine, and cared little for anything else. His joyous survey included their orthodoxy in creed, but it reached far beyond that. We will begin at that point and grant that it is a great joy to see our converts standing firm in the truth; and, brethren, I am glad indeed when I hear that you hold firmly the essential, fundamental, cardinal truths of our holy faith. I rejoice that the nonsense of the so called “modern thought” has no charms for you, you have not turned aside to doubt the deity of Christ, or the fall of man, or the substitutionary sacrifice, or the authenticity and inspiration of Scripture, or the prevalence of prayer. I am thankful that you hold firmly the grand old doctrines of grace, and refuse to exchange them for the intellectual moonshine so much in vogue just now. It is a great thing to hear concerning our people that they are abiding in the truth as they have been taught. But to walk in truth means something more, it means action in consistency with truth. If you believe that you are fallen, walk in consistency with that truth, by watching your fallen nature and walking humbly with God. Do you believe that there is one God? Walk in that truth, and reverence him and no one else. Do you believe in election? Prove that you are elect, walk in truth as the chosen, particular people of God, zealous for good works. Do you believe in redemption? Is that a fundamental truth with you? Walk in it, for “you are not your own, you are bought with a price.” Do you believe in effectual calling and regeneration as the work of the Spirit of God? Then walk in the power of God, and let your holy lives prove that you have indeed been renewed by the supernatural work of God’s grace. Walk consistently with what you believe.
20. But walking in truth means still more, it indicates “be real.” Much of the walking to be seen in the world is a vain show, the masquerade of religion, the mimicry of godliness. In too many examples the man wears two faces under one hat, and possesses a duplicate manhood; he is not real in anything good, he is a clever actor and no more. Alas, that one should have to say it, very much of the religiousness of this present age is nothing more than playing at religion. Why, look at the Christian year of the Ritualistic party in our national church, look at it, and tell me what is it? It is a kind of practical charade, of which a kind of Passion Play is one act. The life of Christ is supposed to be acted over again, and we are asked to sing carols as if Jesus were just born, eat salt fish because he is fasting, carry palms because he is riding through Jerusalem, and actually to hear a bell toll his funeral knell as if he were dying. One day he is born, and another day he is circumcised, so that the year is spent in a solemn make-believe, for none of these things are happening, but the Lord Jesus sits in heaven, indignant to be the subject of a play of like this. Have nothing do with such things, leave the shadows and pursue the substance. Worship Christ as he is, and then you will regard him as “the same yesterday, today, and for ever.” When men see you, let them see that what you believe you do believe in downright earnestness, and that there is no sham about you. Then they might call you a bigot, for which be thankful; take the word home, keep it as an honourable title, far too good to be flung back upon your foe. They may call you a wild enthusiast, and in return pray to God to make them enthusiastic too, for in such a cause one cannot be too much in earnest. Do not go through the world like respectable shadows, haunting the tomb of a dead Christ, but be alive with the life of God, alive from head to foot to divine realities; so you will walk in truth. See how truly the apostles carried themselves; they were ready to die for the truth they held, and all their lives they were making sacrifices for it. Let your truthfulness be so powerful a force that others can see that you are carried away by its force and governed by its impulses. “I have no greater joy than this.”
21. Why, when a preacher sees men walk in truth like this, may he make it his great joy? Because this is the purpose of our ministry, this is our goal. We do not live to convert people to this sect or that, but to holy living before God and honest dealing with men. This is the grand thing, and when we see this achieved, we have no greater joy. This is the intent of the gospel itself. Christ loved his church and gave himself for it, so that he may present it to himself, a perfect church without spot or wrinkle or any such thing. A holy people are the reward of the Redeemer’s passion, well may they be the joy of those friends of the Bridegroom who stand and rejoice greatly because the Bridegroom’s joy is fulfilled. The holiness of Christians is the great means of spreading the gospel. Beyond all other missions I commend the mission of holiness. They preach best for Christ who preach at the fireside, who preach in the shop, whose lives are sermons, who are themselves priests to God, whose clothes are vestments, and whose ordinary meals are sacraments. Give us a holy, consecrated people, and we will win, for these are the omnipotent legions with which the world shall be conquered to Christ. We rejoice in a holy people because they bring glory to God. Mere professors do not do so; inconsistent professors dishonour God, of whom I tell you even weeping that they are the enemies of the cross of Christ. A people walking in truth crown the head of Jesus. They compel even blasphemers to hold their tongues, for when they see these holy men and women, they cannot say anything against the gospel which has produced such characters. Beloved, if you love your pastor, if you love the Bible, if you love the gospel, if you love Christ, if you love God, be a holy people. You who profess to be saved, be true, be watchful. If you would not grieve us, if you would not dishonour the gospel, if you would not crucify Christ afresh, and put him to an open shame, walk as Christ would have you walk; abhor what is evil, cleave to what is good. Be in your speech and in your temperament, in your business transactions with your fellow men, and in your communications in the family circle, men approved by God, such as you will wish to have been when your Lord shall come, for he is at the door, and blessed are those servants who are ready for his coming.
If you are not what you ought to be, I beseech you do not make a
profession; and if you have made a profession, and have dishonoured
it, humble yourselves in the sight of God, and go once more to the
fountain filled with blood, for there is still forgiveness and mercy
for you. Jesus will willingly receive you, even though you have done
him such despite. Return as a prodigal son to the father’s house, and
you shall find the fatlings killed for you, and the best robe put
upon you. As we are getting near the close of the year, earnestly
pray that if anything in the time past has been evil, it may suffice
us to have worked the will of the flesh; and now, henceforth, in the
new year may we live in newness of life, and enjoy together the sweet
privilege of hearing that our children walk in truth, while we
ourselves, through grace, are walking in it too, and the church is
built up, and multiplied by the Spirit of truth. May the Lord bless
you all, for Jesus Christ’s sake.
[Portions Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — 2Jo 1:1-3Jo 1:14]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation — The Advent” 257]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 45” 45]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “Spirit of the Psalms — Psalm 138” 138]
The Sword And The Trowel. Edited by C. H. Spurgeon.
Contents for January, 1874.
Scala Santa. By C. H. Spurgeon.
No Peace with Rome.
The Beatitudes, Expounded in a Series of Thoughtful Homilies. By C. H. Spurgeon. No. 1.
What to Read! A Paper for Young Men. By B. W. Carr.
Camp Meetings, and “Days of Power in the Forest Temple.” By Pastor J. L. Keys, of Streatham.
The Minister’s Ordinary Conversation. By C. H. Spurgeon.
Models of Prayer.
Notices of Books.
Price 3d. Post free, 4 stamps.
Jesus Christ, Deity and Incarnation
257 — The Advent
1 Hark, the glad sound, the Saviour comes,
The Saviour promised long!
Let every heart prepare a throne,
And every voice a song.
2 On him the Spirit, largely pour’d
Exerts its sacred fire;
Wisdom and might, and zeal and love,
His holy breast inspire.
3 He comes, the prisoners to release,
In Satan’s bondage held;
The gates of brass before him burst,
The iron fetters yield.
4 He comes, from thickest films of vice,
To clear the mental ray;
And on the eye balls of the blind
To pour celestial day.
5 He comes, the broken heart to bind,
The bleeding soul to cure;
And, with the treasures of his grace
To enrich the humble poor.
6 Our glad hosannas, Prince of Peace,
Thy welcome shall proclaim;
And heaven’s eternal arches ring
With thy beloved name.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.
Spirit of the Psalms
Psalm 45 (Version 1)
1 Oh thou that art the mighty One,
Thy sword gird on thy thigh;
Ev’n with thy glory excellent,
And with thy majesty.
2 For meekness, truth and righteousness,
In state ride prosp’rously;
And thy right hand shall thee instruct
In things that fearful be.
3 Thine arrows sharply pierce the heart
Of foemen of the King;
And under thy dominion’s rule
The people down do bring.
4 For ever and for ever is,
Oh God, thy throne of might;
The sceptre of thy kingdom is
A sceptre that is right.
5 Thou lovest right, and hates ill;
For God, thy God, is he,
Above thy fellows hath sith oil
Of joy anointed thee.
6 Of aloes, myrrh, and cassia,
A smell thy garments had,
Out of the ivory palaces
Whereby they made thee glad.
Scotch Version, 1641, a.
Psalm 45 (Version 2) <7.6.>
1 With hearts in love abounding,
Prepare we now to sing
A lofty theme, resounding
Thy praise, Almighty King;
Whose love, rich gifts bestowing,
Redeem’d the human race;
Whose lips, with zeal o’erflowing,
Breathe words of truth and grace.
2 In majesty transcendent,
Gird on thy conquering sword;
In righteousness resplendent,
Ride on, Incarnate Word.
Ride on, oh King Messiah!
To glory and renown;
Pierced by thy darts of fire,
Be every foe o’erthrown.
3 So reign, oh God, in heaven,
Eternally the same,
And endless praise be given
To thy almighty name.
Clothed in thy dazzling brightness,
Thy church on earth behold;
In robe of purest whiteness,
In raiment wrought in gold.
4 And let each Gentile nation
Come gladly in thy train,
To share her great salvation,
And join her grateful strain:
Then ne’er shall note of sadness
Awake the trembling string;
One song of joy and gladness
The ransom’d world shall sing.
Harriett Auber, 1829.
Psalm 45 (Version 3) <8.7.4.>
1 Warm with love, my heart’s inditing
Cherish’d thoughts on sacred things;
With my tongue like ready writing,
I’ll extol the King of kings;
Of whose glory
Ev’ry saint and angel sings.
2 Thou of all the sons art fairest,
Yea, thy lips are fill’d with grace;
All thy fulness, Lord, thou sharest
‘Mongst thy chosen, ransomed race;
And in glory
They shall see thee face to face.
3 Oh most mighty, oh most blessed,
Gird thy sword upon thy thigh;
Be thy Majesty confessed,
Bring thy blood-bought trophies nigh;
Let thy glory
All thy stubborn foes defy.
4 Truth and righteousness, and meekness,
Are the weapons of thy hand;
All thy foes shall know their weakness,
None can Jesus’ power withstand;
‘Tis thy glory,
Rebels bow at thy command.
Joseph Irons, 1847, a.
Psalm 45 (Version 4)
1 Hail, mighty Jesus! how divine
Is thy victorious sword!
The stoutest rebel must resign
At thy commanding word.
2 Deep are the wounds thy arrows give,
They pierce the hardest heart;
Thy smiles of grace the slain revive,
And joy succeeds to smart.
3 Still gird thy sword upon thy thigh,
Ride with majestic sway,
Go forth, sweet Prince, triumphantly,
And make thy foes obey.
4 And when thy victories are complete,
When all the chosen race
Shall round the throne of glory meet,
To sing thy conquering grace,
5 Oh may my humble soul be found
Among that favour’d band!
And I with them thy praise will sound
Throughout Immanuel’s land.
Benjamin Wallin, 1750.
Augustus M. Toplady, 1776.
Spirit of the Psalms
1 With all my powers of heart and tongue,
I’ll praise my Maker in my song:
Angels shall hear the notes I raise,
Approve the song, and join the praise.
2 I’ll sing thy truth and mercy, Lord,
I’ll sing the wonders of thy word;
Not all thy works and names below,
So much thy power and glory show.
3 To God I cried when troubles rose;
He heard me, and subdued my foes;
He did my rising fears control,
And strength diffused through all my soul.
4 The God of heaven maintains his state,
Frowns on the proud, and scorns the great;
But from his throne descends to see
The sons of humble poverty.
5 Amidst a thousand snares I stand,
Upheld and guarded by thine hand:
Thy words my fainting soul revive,
And keep my dying faith alive.
6 Grace will complete what grace begins,
To save from sorrows or from sins;
The work that wisdom undertakes
Eternal mercy ne’er forsakes.
Isaac Watts, 1719.