A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, October 29, 1876, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *6/17/2012
Notwithstanding in this do not rejoice, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. [Lu 10:20]
1. You will remember that last Sunday we saw our Lord correcting a very natural grief, and substituting in its place a more necessary sorrow, as he said to the women, “Do not weep for me, but weep for yourselves, and for your children.” [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1320, “Why Should I Weep?” 1311] Now, this morning we shall see him correcting a very natural joy, and directing its gladness into a more elevated channel. “Notwithstanding in this do not rejoice, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” If we commit ourselves to him he will guide us properly in all things, and teach us to equally sanctify our grief and our gladness.
2. We shall begin our discourse by saying that our Lord did not blame or upbraid the seventy for rejoicing that the demons were subject to them. It would have been a very strange thing if they were not joyful on the occasion of so great a success. They had been sent out upon their Lord’s errand, they had gone forward unhesitatingly in his name, girded with his strength, and his power had been revealed so that his name had been glorified: should they not rejoice? It was the Kingdom of God which they had proclaimed; should they not be joyful? It was their Lord’s enemy, as well as their own, who had “fallen like lightning from heaven”: should they not exalt? It was not likely, therefore, that the Lord Jesus was angry at their joy when they returned again, saying, “Lord, even the spirits are subject to us through your name.” We must read our Lord’s words according to the manner of oriental speech. The particular idiom of our Saviour’s speech often makes him appear to be actually forbidding what he only puts in a secondary place. He did not mean in the present situation to censure their joy in their success, but only to make it subordinate to another rejoicing, and to prevent its growing to excess.
3. Some have thought that they detected in the seventy too much personal exaltation, if not an almost childish triumph, in the success which they had achieved. I must confess I see a small trace of such a feeling in their report to their Master. Our Lord himself evidently confirmed the truth of their report, for he also said, “I beheld Satan as lightning fall from heaven”: I can hardly think that he could have seen that sight without joy, and, therefore, in some measure, he shared in the feelings of his servants. Had he observed in these brethren that excess of childish exaltation and conceit which is supposed, I think he would hardly have gone on to invest such novices with even more power and yet he did so, for we read in the preceding verse — “Behold I give to you power to tread on serpents and scorpions, and over all the power of the enemy: and nothing shall by any means harm you.” [Lu 10:19\] Had they been intoxicated with a kind of childish glee, the wisdom of our Lord, as commander in that crusade, would have led him to say to them, “I have many things to give to you, but you cannot bear them now. I see already that you are intoxicated with your present victories, and therefore I must withhold from you the extraordinary gifts of my kingdom until you are better prepared to receive them with humility and to use them with wisdom.” Such prudent conduct had been in accordance with the usual proceedings of our wise Teacher. But he saw no such excessive exaltation: whatever he might fear as likely to occur eventually, he saw nothing as yet to blame in them, and so he went on to say, “therefore I give you power over all the power of the enemy, and nothing shall by any means harm you.” We cannot understand him to be condemning their rejoicing over the fall of demons, for he says, “Rejoice rather,” and this almost implies that you may rejoice in the first subject of joy in some degree. “Notwithstanding,” he says, “in this do not rejoice; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.” The one is forbidden only in comparison with the other. We may rejoice that God blesses our labours, but still it must be a far less prominent joy than what springs out of our personal interest in the salvation of God. Church members may be glad when they see a great revival, and their numbers largely increased; but at such times it is doubly necessary to look for vital godliness and personal religion, or the joy may be turned into mourning.
4. Now, brethren, taking the incident as it will apply to ourselves, there may be some of you here present to whom God has given many gifts for use in the kingdom of heaven, he may also have given you influence in his church, and power among men of the world; and, moreover, your gifts and your power have not been used in vain, they have been made useful in many ways, so that your course has been one of honour and success. The kingdom of God has come near to many through you, and the great enemy’s kingdom has been set back by your means. Because of all this you are greatly cheered. Is this wrong? Ought you not to be full of joy? I say yes, assuredly, you are bound to be glad. We should all be grateful for gifts, grateful for influence, grateful for success; but a gratitude which is not attended with joy can scarcely be called gratitude at all. Would you have Gratitude herself lament the possession of the blessing for which she is grateful? There must be joy in the thing received, or else one can hardly be imagined to be thankful. If gratitude for these things is a duty, then surely a measure of joy concerning them must also be a duty. You may rejoice that this is grace given to you, to preach among the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ; and you may be glad that from you the word of God has sounded forth throughout all the region in which you dwell. Thus far we may go, but we must not exceed due bounds, lest we become transgressors: this joy must be held within its own limits, and never allowed to run riot. Let us pause and see how our Lord Jesus puts a restraining “notwithstanding” and a repressing negative upon this joy, when he judges that it is in danger of becoming excessive; and let us also notice how he substitutes in the place of this joy something higher and better when he says — “Notwithstanding in this do not rejoice, that the spirits are subject to you; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
5. We shall dwell upon three things this morning. First, the joy which needs moderating — “Notwithstanding in this do not rejoice”; secondly, the joy which needs stirring up — “Rather rejoice”; and then, thirdly, the joy of the Lord in sympathy with this last joy. Just read the first line of the twenty-first verse — “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit.” Our Lord could unite in this joy under certain aspects of it.
6. I. First, then, THE JOY WHICH NEEDS MODERATING. It is the joy of triumph over evil spirits, the joy of having preached the gospel and performed wonders — in a word, the joy of gifts, power, and success.
7. This needs moderating — first, because it is so apt to degenerate into pride. The seventy were not proud, for they said, “Lord, even the demons are subject to us through your name.” This was a very proper way of reporting results. They did not attribute any measure of the success to themselves, but they ascribed it to the matchless, all-conquering name which they had used. So far, all was well; but, my brethren, the tendency of human nature is towards self-exaltation, and so by degrees we come to emphasise the “to us,” and we allow the “through your name” to be uttered softly, and yet more softly, until it is only used as a matter of form, and we in our hearts ascribe the entire success to ourselves. If God shall bless any man with long-continued success in soul winning, even though that is a higher achievement than the casting out of demons, there is an evil tendency in our corrupt nature which will tempt such a man to dream that in him there is some particular excellence or special virtue. He will say in his heart, “Lord, even great sinners and proud infidels have been turned to you by my preaching,” and he may at the same time forget that it was not his preaching, but the name of Jesus, which accomplished the notable deed. We are nothing, however much God may have accomplished through us; all the glory is due to the name of Jesus Christ our Lord, yet we are so base as to take credit for ourselves. Who among us can claim to have been perfectly free from this temptation? True, the Lord keeps his servants humble when he uses them, and if they abound in grace they may safely abound in gifts also; saints may be safely trusted with abundant influence if they are abundantly under the influence of the Holy Spirit: but to be preserved when thus eminently honoured is an exceedingly great favour. When we see a successful worker walking very humbly, we may say, “This is the finger of God.” Leave corrupt nature to itself, and just as a warm atmosphere soon causes dead flesh to become putrid, so will the ease and comfort of self-congratulation and prosperity speedily breed corruption in human nature: hence it is necessary that joy in a gift and success should be kept under due control, and if it is tolerated in a measure, as it may be, it must nevertheless not be indulged to any great extent lest evil consequences come to us. So far may it come, but no further, lest the Lord sees us growing exceedingly proud, and sets us aside from his work altogether, and uses other instruments who will not attempt to rob him of his glory.
8. Again, this joy which needs to be moderated should be restrained by the reflection that it is no evidence of grace in the heart that we possess gifts, or that we are successful. Talents are possessed even by wicked and slothful servants. Grace without talent will save, but talent without grace will only increase our condemnation. “Though I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, and do not have love, I am become as sounding brass, or a tinkling cymbal. And though I have the gift of prophecy, and understand all mysteries, and all knowledge; and though I have all faith, so that I could remove mountains, and do not have love, I am nothing.” The highest conceivable gifts for church work, and the greatest influence in the church are worthless apart from grace. The possession of such powers may be accompanied by hypocrisy and falsehood, — it was so in our Lord’s day. Judas performed miracles; Judas preached the gospel; Judas was not only a member of the church, but a trusted officer in it; yet Judas went to his own place, for he was a son of perdition. Our Lord tells us to expect many cases of graceless workers, for he says, “Many will say to me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in your name? and in your name have cast out demons? and in your name done many wonderful works?’ And then I will profess to them, ‘I never knew you: depart from me, you who work iniquity.’ ” Observe that this warning does not speak about a few, but about many; we shall not only see a Judas once in two millennia, but many of whom this shall be the case. Men have gone out making use of the name of Jesus, and God has honoured the name, though he has not accepted the men who used it. They have preached, and the message has been true, and God has honoured the truth; but the men have not been true, and consequently they have been abhorred by the Lord. Good seed will grow even though it was scattered by a leprous hand. Let us beware, however, of speaking truth with a lying lip. Let us beware, lest we are like Balaam, who had his eyes opened to see marvellous visions of the future, and his tongue inspired to utter deep things, and yet he fell among the accursed, because he ran greedily after a reward. Do not rejoice, then, dear brethren, because God blesses you in what you are doing, so that you see souls saved and yourself honoured, for this might happen to one for whom the Lord has no regard; but rather rejoice in being really and truly one of the Lord’s own people, written in heaven. Let us keep under our body, and watch prayerfully, lest haply, after having preached to others, we ourselves should become castaways. It will be a dreadful thing to keep the door of the King’s great banquet hall, and open it for others, and yet to perish with hunger yourself.
9. Moreover, it is very unsafe to rejoice unduly in the work which we have done, because the work after all may not turn out to be all that it appears to be. I do not know how much real good the seventy had accomplished. There can scarcely have been very many converts, for otherwise the number of the names would have been greater when the disciples assembled in the upper room at Pentecost. We will not, however, judge the work of the seventy; but we do know this, that it is very easy for us to go out and for a time to succeed, so that it seems as if even the demons were subject to us, and yet there may be no true work of God. Crowds may gather to listen, there may be displays of deep emotion, the number of the conversions put down on paper may be very great, and yet there may be little or nothing in the whole matter worthy of real joy. So it may be in other forms of service: in the Sunday School or in any other place, we may think we have succeeded, and yet we may have only been building on the sand a baseless structure which the next tide will carry away. We ought to remember that every man’s work must be tested before long, “for the fire shall test every man’s work of what kind it is.” It is too early to begin to rejoice until the fire has passed over our life-work. The edifice is very lofty, and apparently very fair, but what if those walls should turn out to be composed of straw, the foundations of stubble, and the rafters of dry wood? How soon they will yield to the fire, and how rapidly will the structure disappear! He who has built the tiniest cell of sparkling gems, or the smallest cottage of gold, has done more than he who has heaped aloft into the air a pyramid of hay. It is not the quantity of work done, it is not the time occupied in church history, it is not the noise of our great doings: the question is, what is really and truly done; the quality is far more important than the quantity, the enduring character of the work is far more to be considered than the flash and the glare of it. Therefore do not rejoice, oh young man, in all the brilliant success which has for the present attended you, and do not rejoice even you old man, though you have had half a century of prosperity; do not rejoice so much in this as to exalt yourself because of it; but rather rejoice in something safer and more gracious, rejoice that your name is written in heaven, if it is so.
10. This joy, again, however good our work may be, is to be moderated, because it does not prove that we are any more gracious than others who are far less gifted and useful. Did you notice in the chapter which precedes my text, that nine of the apostles attempted to cast out a demon from a lunatic child, but were unable to accomplish it, so that they said to the Master, “Why could we not cast him out?” The majority of the sacred conclave of apostles failed to cast out a demon, and yet seventy inferior people all return with joy, and say, “Lord, even the spirits are subject to us.” Do you draw the inference, therefore, that the seventy were superior to the apostles? If you do, you have made a very great mistake, for they were by no means so: and it would be a very great pity for any person who has been made useful in the kingdom of God to infer that he is therefore better than those whose earnest labours are crowned by no such apparent results. An obscure child of God whose name has never been mentioned in the church may still be more worthy than we are. Of all estimates of ourselves, if it is founded upon our apparent usefulness, it is likely to be most deceptive. Go, sir, if you consider yourself to be a somebody because you have performed wonders. I will show you the choicest of my Master’s children on sickbeds, I will show you the richest and rarest piety connected with illiterate poverty, I will find for you a man who could not speak a sentence grammatically, who lives in the very heart of Christ, and will put you to shame for the depth and power of his vital godliness. I will find you one who shines as a precious jewel in Jehovah’s sight, compared with whom you are a poor dull pebble, and yet you are highly esteemed, and he has little honour. His prayers have been of a thousand times more use to the church than your preaching: yes, it may be that your preaching has owed its success to his prayers! We cannot judge character by one’s gift. He who has one talent, and uses it well, shall have better acceptance at the end than he who has five talents and uses them poorly and he who fills his circle, though that circle is small, shall have far more comfort there than he who with a vast field has nevertheless left its major part altogether untilled. Great importance in the public mind is no argument of great grace; a man is not more worthy for being successful; the best may not be the most prosperous. Do not boast yourself, oh fisherman, because your net is filled, for men as good as you are have toiled all the night and caught nothing.
11. Again, this joy in success needs to be kept under a tight rein because it is not an enduring joy. If you, oh man, rejoice today because of demons being subdued, what will you do tomorrow, when the demons break loose again? If you return from your labour full of success, and rejoice, what will you do when another time you will have to plough the thankless rock and break the ploughshare? What if your Master should send you where there will be no response to your invitation? What if he should send you among Samaritans who will not even hear you, and you shall have to go from city to city and wipe off the dust of your feet against them? What if you should meet a child possessed by a demon and find that you cannot cast out the evil spirit, because this kind does not go out except with prayer and fasting? Why, man, you will be severely depressed then, and your courage will fail. If you have fed your soul upon such light bread as apparent success, it will make you feeble, and what will you do when your prosperity wanes? You will not have enough steadfastness to go on under discouragement, and you will shun your Lord’s service. This will be bad indeed! Oh for a faith that is nourished on something better than appearances — a faith which does not live on gift or influence, or present success, but sustains itself upon the unfailing promise of the ever-blessed God. This is what we need.
12. Once again, this joy, if we were to be filled with it to overflowing, would be found unable to bear the strain of trial, trouble, temptation, and especially of death. Take the last: will any man when he lies dying be able to console himself with the reflection, “I have testified of Christ to others?” Will he not need some other confidence? Will he not require something far more personal? Will this be the sweet morsel that shall satisfy the hunger of his soul? What if he had power over demons; may not demons still obtain power over him? Will he be able to cheer himself amidst death’s chilly waves with this boast — “I was a loud talker and a mighty professor, and the cause of Christ grew under my leadership?” No, in such times as that we shall want more sure consolations and more divine supports than these. He will be unhappy who has accustomed himself to live upon the excitement of crowded meetings, or upon the commendations of friends. Gifts, attainments, labours, successes, all heaped together, cannot support a soul on the verge of eternity. The fact is always present that such things are no sure sign of regeneration. Did not the sons of the Pharisees cast out demons? Did not the people say of Simon Magus, “This man is the great power of God?” Yet these were graceless deceivers. We must have certain evidence of the new birth, we must know that our citizenship is in heaven, we must know that we belong to Jesus, in one word, we must know that our names are written in heaven, or else we shall find ourselves utterly undone in our final hours. For all these reasons, then, do not be too elated, because of demons conquered, crowds gathered, or souls saved; but listen to your Lord’s voice while he points you to other reasons for rejoicing.
13. II. So now we come, secondly, to consider THE JOY WHICH NEEDS STIRRING UP. “Rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven.”
I am glad, my brethren, that this is the joy in which we indulge to
the full, because it is one in which all the saints may unite and
take their share. If you believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, my dear
brother, though you can do very little for him, you may rejoice that
your name is written in heaven. The bedridden sister may rejoice in
this! The incurably diseased may exalt in this. The child of God,
whose tongue is silenced by infirmity, and whose conflicts with
demons are confined to his prayer closet and his bedroom, may come in
and say, “I, too, can rejoice that my name is written in heaven.”
Have you never noticed how our aged friends always delight to sing —
When I can read my title clear
To mansions in the skies,
I bid farewell to every fear,
And wipe my weeping eyes.
They do so because experience has led them to dwell much on the joy of having their names written in heaven.
15. The joy which our Lord commends is one which springs from faith, while the other joy arises only from sight. A man can see that he has gifts, he can see that he has power and influence, he can see that he has success; but rest assured that every joy which comes to believers through the sight of the eyes is a doubtful joy. It is a delicacy of which we must eat in scanty measure. Have you found such honey as this? Do not eat too much of it lest it sickens you. But the joy caused by our names being written in heaven comes by faith, for eye has not seen the record, neither has any angel read it to us, and only because we believe in Jesus are we assured of it: for this reason the joy grows in a good soil and is in itself safe. All the joys of faith are as safe as the water which flowed from the struck rock, no poisonous streams can ever issue from that source. This joy is a heavenly manna from which a man may eat according to his appetite, and let his soul be satisfied. This is healthy food which breeds no plague in the camp as the eating of the quails did, for the quails were sent in wrath to satisfy their fierce desires.
16. We never hear of men dying from eating the manna which came down from heaven, but they did die through eating quails, which were food for their lusts. May it be yours to get as much as you ever can of the joys of faith, and especially of this — “Rather rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
17. This joy consists in knowing our election; “knowing, dearly beloved, your election of God,” knowing that your names were written in heaven from before the foundation of the world. Oh, what an inconceivable delight this is! To be God’s choice is the choicest of delights. The joy of having your name written in heaven includes the joy of knowing that you are precious to the Lord, for it is written, “ ‘a book of remembrance was kept for those who feared the Lord and who thought upon his name, and they shall be mine,’ says the Lord, ‘in the day when I make up my jewels.’ ” To be written in heaven means that we are precious in the sight of the Lord, that he has written us down in the list of his crown-jewels, and will preserve us for himself until the day in which all his sacred regalia shall be complete. Blessed are those who stand recorded in the inventory of heaven’s jewel house.
18. To be written in heaven means that you claim the right of citizenship in the New Jerusalem, “the church of the firstborn, whose names are written in heaven.” Just as there is a roll kept by great cities in which they inscribe the names of citizens, so we rejoice that our names are written in the roll of the city above, and that henceforth our citizenship is in heaven, from where we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus. This is a broad subject for rejoicing, for it includes priceless privileges and honours more than royal.
19. We also rejoice that our names are written, that is, known and published in heaven. Paul mentioned certain of his fellow servants of whom he said, “whose names are written in heaven”: as much as to say though they have neither fame nor honour here they have a perpetual record where honour is worth receiving, namely, before the throne of God. The heavenly writing indicates that we are part and parcel of Christ’s new kingdom, we are inscribed among his soldiers, we are commissioned to bear hardness for his sake. We are written in heaven among the friends of Jesus, we are considered members of the sacred brotherhood. In the great book of the divine Fatherhood, we are numbered among the children, and henceforth we shall be regarded and treated as belonging to the one family in heaven and in earth. This is the matter concerning which we are called to rejoice. “Rejoice that your names are written in heaven.”
20. I see in this fact abundant cause for joy, but this morning I cannot stop to describe it in detail. I would have you rejoice in the great grace which first inscribed your name in God’s eternal book. Oh, bless the sovereign, distinguishing, discriminating grace which wrote down your unworthy name, where there might have stood the name of a king, or of an emperor, or the name of a person of great repute, of superior talent, or of great eloquence and learning. Instead of those whom men esteem to be great names there stands your commonplace name: therefore for evermore give the grace of God all the glory.
21. And then rejoice in the grace which has kept your name inscribed in that heavenly roll, so that over you that ancient threatening of the law has had no power — “Whoever has sinned against me, I will blot him out of my book.” [Ex 32:33] But so far you have stood among those of whom the Spirit speaks expressly in the book of the Revelation — “He who overcomes, the same shall be clothed in white raiment; and I will not blot out his name from the book of life, but I will confess his name before my Father, and before his angels.” There stands your name still recorded in the Lamb’s book of life, though many a tear of yours might well fall upon it to think what grace it is which keeps it there and will keep it there for ever. A name among God’s sons and daughters is better for you than if your name were in Debrett’s Peerage, [a] or in the Almanach de Gotha. [b] Being in the book of life it guarantees to you peace, joy, security, blessedness now, and secures to you a place hereafter among the blood-washed host in the “many mansions,” which Christ has gone to prepare for those whom his Father has given to him. Sit down now, beloved, and let your soul triumph to the nth degree of joy in this — your names are written in heaven. Forget the falling demons for a while, forget your abilities, forget your successes; cast these all at your Redeemer’s feet, where they ought to be, and then take this for yourself as your joy, your portion, your heaven below, that your name is written in the family register of the Eternal. May the Holy Spirit inspire you with this sublime delight.
22. Brethren, this a joy which can be cultivated. How are we to cultivate it? If we desire to have much of this joy we must make the fact sure. We must be certain that our names are written in heaven, or else we cannot rejoice in it. Let your faith grow until it reaches the full assurance of faith, and then you shall rejoice that your names are written in heaven. “How am I to know it?” one says. Well, friend, one thing is sure, if God has written you down among those who are saved you can soon know it, because you are saved. If you are forgiven, your name is written among the forgiven. If you are indeed quickened and made alive, your name is written among the living in Zion. I will not invite you to go further and peer into what is unrevealed, for if I did so I would be as much out of my sphere as those are who pretend to bring men messages from the spirit world. The Lord does not give to any soul dead in sin the least right to believe that it is written among the living, neither does he give to any ungodly man the liberty to hope that he is written among the elect of God. We must have evidence, not dreams and airy suppositions; and the evidence of being written in heaven is that a man has been called by grace out of the world to follow Jesus. We see our election by our calling, and not in any other way. We may know what is written about us in heaven by what is written within us on earth. If grace has written upon your heart until you are “an epistle of Christ, known and read by all men,” your name is in his secret book. If you are trusting in the Lord Jesus Christ you are his, and the Lord knows those who are his, and has written them down in his own private tablets which he carries near his heart. If your name is among true believers on earth it is among the redeemed in heaven: you need not question that, for the declarations of Scripture put it beyond a doubt.
23. If you would rejoice in your name’s being written in heaven, not only be assured of the fact, but meditate much upon it. Let this be frequently in your mind, “My name is written in heaven: it is inscribed beneath the name of my Lord the Lamb. I am one of his redeemed, and he writes me down among his dearly purchased property. He knows me, looks upon me, and regards me as his treasure. I am not my own, I am bought with a price, I belong to him,” Go, brother, and exalt in this, and let the sweet influence of it upon your life be seen daily; for this joy, dear friend, will make you hold very loosely everything else on earth. What if you are rich? do not rejoice in this, for riches take to themselves wings and fly away, but rather rejoice because your name is written in heaven. If you are a man of learning thank God for your knowledge, and use it for his glory: but, nevertheless, do not rejoice in this, for what is often earthly knowledge is merely learned ignorance! “Rather rejoice because your name is written in heaven.” If you are a person of position in the church, thank God if you may glorify him by it; but rather rejoice because your name is written in heaven. Are you strong and in good health; be grateful for the privilege but rejoice even more because your name is written in heaven.
24. Turn this inspired text around another way, and if you have any sorrow, or if you mourn the absence of any earthly good, do not lament too bitterly; but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven. You are poor. Well, do not be despondent, for your name is written in heaven. You are despised, and your name is cast out as evil, but rejoice none the less, for it is written in heaven. You have very few gifts and abilities, but your name is written in heaven. You could not stand up and edify a multitude, but your name is written in heaven. When you die your departure will make only a small gap in the church’s ranks, but your name is written in heaven.
25. Whatever you lack or whatever you suffer, let this console you, and at the same time let it strengthen you for service. The joy of the Lord is your strength, you will feel able to go forward in God’s work when you can boldly say, “My name is written in heaven. I may well serve him who has so graciously redeemed me: he has written me down among his people, why should I not therefore expect him to be with me when I go upon his errands and attempt to win glory for him? My name is written in heaven, and therefore I will live for him to the utmost of my strength, and spend and be spent for his name.” There seems to me to be such a wonderful moral and spiritual power about this joy in having one’s name written in heaven, that it does not require me to explain why the Saviour encourages you to indulge in it. It is a corrective to the other joy, but it has about it also independently of that so many admirable uses that we need not add a word by way of guarding it, or restraining it, but may, on the contrary, earnestly invite you to partake of it without stint. Eat what is rich and drink the sweet; rejoice, yes, rejoice abundantly; rejoice, and yet again rejoice, because your names are written in heaven.
26. III. Now, lastly, the Saviour enters into this joy, and we have to look in the third place to THE JOY OF THE LORD IN SYMPATHY with it, and so we add to our text the first sentence of the twenty-first verse: — “In that hour Jesus rejoiced in spirit.”
27. Why did he rejoice? I think it was with the very same joy that he asks us to cultivate as far as it related to himself, for you see he rejoiced because grace was given. He said, “I thank you, oh Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and prudent, and have revealed them to babes.” It makes Christ’s heart glad to think that God has been gracious to the sons of men; to think that he has plucked some of the race from the horrible pit, and lifted them up from the miry clay, and brought them out of darkness into his marvellous light. It makes his very soul glad to see that sin has been overcome in many men, and that many have been renewed in the spirit of their minds by divine grace.
28. Jesus was also glad at the Father’s choice. He said, “I thank you, oh Father.” He looks at these seventy babes out of whose mouth he has ordained strength, and he says, “I thank you, oh Father, for having chosen these.” They looked like a wretched regiment to conquer the world with, did they not? A company of fishermen and peasants, men of the lower order. If a man had to shake the world he might naturally wish for choice spirits, the elite, the aristocracy of thought, at any rate, if not the aristocracy of gold and silver. He might wish to select the refined, the noble, the educated for his great enterprise. But Jesus Christ is perfectly satisfied with his Father’s choice. It has sometimes given me intense joy to think that our dear Saviour is perfectly satisfied to think that his Father should have chosen me. He is not like Hiram, who, when King Solomon gave him certain cities, was not satisfied with them; but our Lord has never spoken a word against any of the sheep his Father gave him, nor has he despised any of the elect ones whom the Father has put into his hand. He is perfectly content with you, beloved, perfectly satisfied that you should be chosen, though you are not one of the wise and prudent; that you should be chosen, though you are like one of the “base things of this world.” Jesus rejoiced, and thanked the Father because of the choice which his sovereign grace has made.
29. Notice the spirit in which Jesus expresses his thanksgiving, — he is satisfied with the choice because it is God’s choice. “Even so, Father,” he said, “for so it seemed good in your sight.” That is the true spirit of Christ, to be content with what God wills because God wills it, — he has no questionings, no judgings, but shows an entire submission, indeed an intense delight, in the august will of God. Let us, also, delight ourselves this morning in the fact that our names are written in heaven because God willed them to be there. How well satisfied we ought to be with that will, but how much more joyous may we be because Christ also is satisfied with that will, by which we are given to him so that we may be his people.
30. Then our Saviour went on to rejoice because the grace of God given to us has revealed Christ to us, and revealed the Father to us, for he says, “no man knows who the Son is, but the Father; and who the Father is, but the Son, and he to whom the Son will reveal him.” Now, the grace of God has revealed itself to you and to me, beloved in Christ, by revealing the Father, whom we now inwardly and truly know. We can say in our very souls, “Our Father who is in heaven.” And we also know the Son. We cannot tell others all we know about him, all the secret fellowships we have had, and into what deep communion we have entered, but we know Christ and are known by him, and this is our life’s work to go on to know him even more and more, and to know the Father in him.
31. Jesus exalted because there was a fellowship about all this, for he speaks of his knowing the Father and the Father knowing him, and then of our knowing the Father because the Son has revealed him to us, — all of which implies a wondrous communication and communion with the Father and with the Son. Now, this, I take it, is the cream of the joy, a joy in which Christ partakes as he has fellowship with the Father and with us, and of which we partake as we have fellowship with him and with the Father. Now, notice, there is nothing about this in “Lord, even the demons are subject to us”: there is nothing of this when we merely have success in soul winning.
32. A man may work marvels, and yet have no fellowship with the Father and with the Son, and hence he may lack what is the essence, the centre point, the focus of all true joy. But he who has his name written in heaven has had the Father revealed to him through the Son, and in this he may exceedingly rejoice, for the very news of this is what kings and prophets waited for and did not find: this is what even angels desire to look into, therefore brethren rejoice in the Lord always, and again I say rejoice.
My last word is for those who know nothing about their names being
written in heaven. I would like to turn the text upon you for a
second or so, for it has a dark side for you, and I pray God that as
you see it you may tremble and flee to Christ. Whatever you have in
this world, sinner, you have nothing worth rejoicing in; because you
cannot say your name is written in heaven. Rejoice neither in your
wealth, your health, your children, your prosperity, your position,
your success, for if your name is not written in heaven, Ichabod [c]
is written over all your choicest possessions. As you look on all
that you have gained, remember that God can make your souls to hunger
and faint even in the midst of all these things. Listen to the
thunder of that dreadful sentence, “I will curse your blessings.”
“The curse of the Lord is in the house of the wicked, but he blesses
the habitation of the righteous.” Oh that your names may be written
in heaven for his mercy’s sake. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Lu 9:51-10:24]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “God the Father, Acts, Predestinating Grace — Gracious Election” 219]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Work of Grace as a Whole — Salvation” 239]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Joy and Peace — Gratitude And Hope” 719]
[a] Debrett’s Peerage and Baronetage is the essential reference to the British aristocracy. See Explorer "http://www.exacteditions.com/exact/title/455/525?sid=10501"
[b] Almanach de Gotha: This was a respected directory of Europe’s royalty and highest nobility. It was destroyed in 1944 during World War II. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Almanach_de_Gotha"
[c] Ichabod: that is, “Where is the glory?” or, “There is no glory.”
God the Father, Acts, Predestinating Grace
219 — Gracious Election <11.8.>
1 In songs of sublime adoration and praise,
Ye pilgrims to Zion who press,
Break forth, and extol the great Ancient of days,
His rich and distinguishing grace.
2 His love, from eternity fix’d upon you,
Broke forth, and discover’d its flame,
When each with the cords of his kindness he drew,
And brought you to love his great name.
3 Oh, had he not pitied the state you were in,
Your bosom his love had ne’er felt;
You all would have lived, would have died too in sin,
And sunk with the load of your guilt.
4 What was there in you that could merit esteem,
Or give the Creator delight?
“’Twas even so, Father,” you ever must sing,
“Because it seem’d good in thy sight.”
5 ‘Twas all of thy grace we were brought to obey,
While others were suffer’d to go
The road which by nature we chose as our way,
Which leads to the regions of woe.
6 Then give all the glory to his Holy name,
To him all the glory belongs;
Be yours the high joy still to sound forth his fame,
And crown him in each of your songs.
George Keith, 1787.
The Work of Grace as a Whole
239 — Salvation
1 Salvation! oh, the joyful sound!
‘Tis pleasure to our ears;
A sovereign balm for every wound,
A cordial for our fears.
2 Buried in sorrow and in sin,
At hell’s dark door we lay;
But we arise by grace divine,
To see a heavenly day.
3 Salvation! let the echo fly
The spacious earth around,
While all the armies of the sky
Conspire to raise the sound.
Isaac Watts, 1709.
The Christian, Joy and Peace
719 — Gratitude And Hope
1 My soul, triumphant in the Lord,
Shall tell its joys abroad;
And march with holy vigour on,
Supported by its God.
2 Through all the winding maze of life,
His hand hath been my guide;
And in that long-expected care,
My heart shall still confide.
3 His grace through all the desert flows,
And unexhausted stream:
That grace on Zion’s sacred mount
Shall be my endless theme.
4 Beyond the choicest joys of earth
These distant courts I love;
But oh, I burn with strong desire
To view thy house above.
5 Mingled with all the shining band,
My soul would there adore;
A pillar in thy temple fix’d,
To be removed no more.
Philip Doddridge, 1755.