A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Evening, February 5, 1882, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. *5/9/2013
From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more
with him. Then Jesus said to the twelve, “Will you also go away?”
Then Simon Peter answered him, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have
the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are
that Christ, the Son of the living God.” [Joh 6:66-69]
For other sermons on this text:
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 1646, “Home Question and a Right Answer, A” 1647]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2914, “Mournful Defection, A” 2915]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3210, “Cleaving to Christ” 3211]
[See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 3556, “Absconding and Apostasy” 3558]
Exposition on Joh 6:41-71 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2386, “Drawings of Divine Love, The” 2387 @@ "Exposition"]
Exposition on Joh 6:41-71 [See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 2528, “Eating the Sacrifice” 2529 @@ "Exposition"]
[See Spurgeon_SermonTexts "Joh 6:68"]
Brethren, we believe that the righteous shall hold on his way, and he
who has clean hands shall grow stronger and stronger. We also
believe that he who believes in Christ “has everlasting life,” and
consequently must live for ever. The living water which Christ gives
a man shall be in him like a well of water springing up to everlasting
life. Our Lord has said of his sheep that they shall never perish,
neither shall anyone pluck them out of his hands. Yet we know that if
any man draws back the Lord will have no pleasure in him, and we are
sure that “without holiness no man shall see the Lord.” Therefore we
very heartily sing the verse in one of our hymns, —
We have no fear that thou shouldest lose
One whom eternal love could choose;
But we would ne’er this grace abuse,
Let us not fall! Let us not fall!
2. We consider that it would be an abusing of this grace if we were to grow careless, presumptuous, and high-minded, and imagine that for ourselves personally it would not be possible to become apostates, or even to turn aside a little from the right way. We believe the truth of the final perseverance of the saints concerning the true people of God, but the question comes to our heart, Are we such? Is there in us the incorruptible seed which lives and endures for ever? And how are we to know that we are such but by this very perseverance which, while it is a result of grace, is also one of the most certain signs of it, for the true grace of God is not in the heart where there is no perseverance in grace even to the end. “He who endures to the end shall be saved”; but what if we should only have the transient gleams of temporary illumination, and should relapse into a thick Egyptian night? Here is reason enough for holy fear.
3. Come, then, brethren, trusting in the immutable grace and love and power of God; let each man, nevertheless, examine himself, and let this be a time of heart-searching. Do not say this is out of place when we are just gathering around the table of the Lord; for is it not written, “Let a man examine himself, and so let him eat that bread?” Let us get ready to come to the festival of our Lord’s Supper by each one asking our Lord’s question to his own heart, and trying to answer it by the help of God’s own Spirit.
4. First, the reason for the question: Why did Christ ask the twelve, “Will you also go away?” then, secondly, the question itself; and, thirdly, the answer which Peter most fitly gave to it, which, I do not doubt, he gave in the name and on the behalf of all his brethren. We would also give the same reply tonight, — “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
5. I. First, then, WHY DID THE SAVIOUR ASK THE TWELVE THIS QUESTION? He would not have caused them needless pain; he had a wise reason for testing them with such an enquiry.
6. It was, first, because it was a season of defection. “From that the many went back, and walked no more with him.” You will find, I think, that in all churches there are times of flocking in, when many fly to the church like doves to their windows; but happy is that church which never has a time of flying out, when numbers who have been tested fail, and are no more to be found. Churches have summers, like our gardens, and then all things are full; but then come their winters, and, alas, what emptyings are seen! Have we not all seen the flood when the tide has come up far upon the beach, and have we not all seen the ebb when every wave has seemed to fall short of what preceded it? There are such ebbs and flows in the history of the kingdom of Christ. One day, “The kingdom of God suffers violence, and every man presses into it”; at another time men seem to be ashamed of the Christian faith, and they wander off into a thousand delusions, and the church is diminished and brought low by heresy, by worldliness, by lukewarmness, and by all kinds of evils. Often the chronicle may run like this: “Then all the disciples forsook him and fled.” It is good, then, at times when those who ran well are hindered, that the Master should say to those who for a while remain steadfast, “Will you also go away?” Ah, dear friends, some of you are very steadfast now while this church flourishes: how would you be if the pastor were dead, or his name in ill repute? How would you be if the attendance on the means of grace grew slack? How would you be if there was a decline in all the work of the church? Do you have enough backbone in you to be faithful if all others were faithless? Is there any real grit in you? Could you dare to be Daniels, and “dare to stand alone?” Can you fight a losing battle? Can you stand in the gap and be the last of a few heroic men who will defend the pass [a] against all comers? Alas, what numbers swim with the tide! How few can swim against the current! How readily are men seized with panic, and run for it with might and main if they see others fleeing from the battle. How few can hold the bridge like Horatius [b] in the brave days of old! Well may the Saviour ask the question of us tonight, for we are as frail and fickle as others. Well may he ask it now, for worse times than these may be drawing near, — “Will you also go away?”
7. It was a time, too, of defection among disciples. I call your attention to the use of that word here. “From that time many of his disciples went back.” Disciples? Yes, not merely camp-followers; not the mob who hung upon his skirts for the sake of the loaves and fishes but some of his disciples went back. Those of nobler spirit, who had listened to his words, and for a while had professed to call him “Master and Lord”; even some of these deserted the standard. Their name remains; they are called “disciples” still, though they have gone back. And this illustrates the grievous guilt of such men and women as enter into the church, and then after a while turn aside to false doctrine or to sin: they depart with their prince’s regimentals upon their backs, and carry the livery of Christ into the service of Satan. The stamp of a disciple is still upon each of them, though they are renegades and perverts. They will be judged as having been what they professed to be; and heavy will be their sentence as apostates. We read of “Simon, the leper”: he is called “the leper” after he had been healed. Here on the other hand are some who bear their good name even after their villainy has been discovered, and this helps to make their treachery all the more glaring. Just as the name of “prostitute” stuck to Rahab after she had become an honest woman and a believer, so does a good name stick to one after it has ceased to be true, and it remains as a reminder of their fearful folly. Go and live down Turncoat-Lane, hide yourself away as much as you can; but whenever you come into the street, if they do not say it to your face, the neighbours will whisper behind your back, “There goes one who was a disciple. There is one who professed to be a follower of Christ, but he has turned his back upon his Lord.” The memory of your profession will stick to you through life and it will stick to you throughout eternity. If you are a wolf in sheep’s clothing some flecks of the wool will cling to you long after you have dragged the fleece over your head. Damnable apostate shall be your brand, even when you are cast away from the face of God for ever. Oh, that none of us might ever earn such a title, by being counted among the disciples who went back and walked no more with Jesus! Yet, when disciples fall away, it is time to ask other disciples, “Will you also go away?”
And the defection in this case was on account of doctrine. Our
Saviour had done nothing that could vex his followers; he had not
even spoken sharply to his disciples. Far from it. He had simply
preached the glorious truth that he is the food of the new-born life;
but they did not understand this, and so they would listen no further
and would not stay to ask for an explanation; they went back at once,
as if horrified at what they heard. The truth was too hard for them,
it was not to be borne with. “It is a hard saying. Who can bear it?”
A true disciple sits at the feet of his Master, and believes what he
is told even when he cannot quite comprehend the meaning, or see the
reasons for what his Master utters; but these men did not have the
essential spirit of a disciple, and consequently when their
instructor began to unfold the innermost parts of the roll of truth,
they would not listen to his reading of it. They would believe as far
as they could understand, but when they could not comprehend they
turned on their heel and left the school of the Great Teacher.
Besides, the Lord Jesus Christ had taught the doctrine of the
sovereignty of God, and of the need of the Spirit of God, so that men
should be led to him, “for Jesus knew from the beginning who they
were who did not believe, and who should betray him. And he said,
‘Therefore I said to you, that no man can come to me, unless it were
given to him by my Father.’ ” Here our Lord uttered a bit of
old-fashioned, free-grace doctrine, such as people nowadays do not
like. They call it “Calvinism,” and put it aside among the old
exploded tenets which this enlightened age knows nothing about. What
right they have to ascribe to the Genevan reformer a doctrine as old
as the hills I do not know. But our Lord Jesus never hesitated to
fling that truth into the teeth of his enemies. He told them, “You do
not believe, because you are not my sheep, as I said to you.” “No man
can come to me, unless the Father who has sent me draws him.” Here he
tells them plainly that they could not come to him unless the Father
gave them the grace to come. They could not receive this humbling
doctrine, and so they turned aside. Now, when the truth itself
becomes a stumbling-block, — when the gospel itself, which ought to
draw men to heaven, becomes the reason why they go back, it is time
for us to suspect ourselves, and to —
Think we hear the Saviour say,
Wilt thou forsake me too?
“Will not you also be staggered? Will not some truth trip you up? Will not some mystery of the kingdom of heaven offend you also?” Blessed is the man who is not offended in Christ. Happy is he who lays aside his own wisdom to be taught by the Lord.
9. Further, it is worthy of notice that this question was asked because many were not only going away from Christ, but they were going back. Read the words. They “went back and walked no more with him.” They did not go off to the right or to the left, making some slight departure from the straight road but they turned deliberately around and went back, reversing their course, and retracing their steps. Of course, as a result of this, they were very soon what they used to be. The reclaimed drunkard went back to his cups: the cups were soon full again, and he was soon wallowing in drink, like a sow in the mire. The man who had lived a lascivious life, and for a time had cast it off to put on the garb of morality, went back, and you saw him once again in the house of the strange woman. “The dog has returned to his vomit.” The reformed liar was again false, the thief was again pilfering, the swearer was again profane. They went back, like Pliable, who abandoned the Pilgrim Road, and returned to the City of Destruction. Now, it is really a dreadful thing, when men have seen the folly of their lives and have come out of it, for them to go back to their former habits. Well said the prophet, “Let them not turn again to folly.” But, alas, these burned children run to the fire again, the silly moth makes another dash at the candle. They almost escaped, but they plunge again into the flood of iniquity. What is to become of them? Is this not the fear — that their last end shall be terrible, because of the violence done to conscience and to the word of the Lord? The evil spirit went out of them, and took his walks abroad; but immediately he went back again and found the house empty, and swept, and garnished, he therefore brings with him seven other spirits more wicked than himself, and the last end of that man will be worse than the first. I should not have believed it, though a man had declared it to me, that such a one could go back, for he seemed so sick of sin, so wearied with its bondage. I could imagine that he might step aside under a strong temptation, but to go back — how can that be? Why, this is the man who was converted from drunkenness, and delivered temperance lectures! Is he a drunkard again? This is the man who had completely escaped from his former filthiness, and warned others! Is he wallowing in lust again? What a fool! What a multitude of fools in one is such a man! If his course was wise, why did he leave it? And if it was wise to leave it, why has he gone back to it? If it is right to go back to it, why did he not always continue in it? For this unmitigated folly his blood will be upon his own head. But when we see rational men act like this, even men of whom we hoped for better things, we need not be surprised that we also are brought up short with the personal question, “Will you also go away?”
10. In the case before us the defection from Christ was public defection; for we read, “They went back, and walked no more with him.” They once walked with Jesus in the public streets, but now they will have no more to do with Christ. When Jesus preached — these constant hearers, where were they? When he worked a miracle — these admiring onlookers, where were they? They had ministered to him from their substance: no more supplies come from them. They had often asked him to explain the word when he had spoken in public; they desire no more secret interviews. They had asked him also to teach them how to pray. But they no longer care to be found on their knees. They are not hypocrites enough to keep step with him when their hearts are not with him. They are, at least, decent enough to walk no more with him now that they have gone back to their sins. Alas, we know some who used to walk with Christ, who at this time walk no more with his people, for their hearts have gone away from Christ. The Sabbath is ignored; the house of God is forsaken; the Bible is put away; prayer is a thing neglected and perhaps despised. They walk no more with Christ, for they prefer a broader or a smoother road. If anyone mentions to them what they used to be, they slink away, and seem to say, “Never mention it again: we wish it to be ignored.” I remember a household where the sons and daughters all professed to be converted to Christ; but some of the young people were fond of amusements that were not consistent with the profession of religion, and, when they were found in such engagements, what did they do? Why, they blushed a little, but eventually they boldly affirmed that they had never been converted, — that they were forced into it by persuasion, and hurried on by excitement to do what their better sense led them to regret. Their excuse was as false as their former profession. They knew that they acted of their own accord, and that they willingly professed Christ. Alas, just as willingly when they came in the way of temptation they forsook him. Ah, apostate, it is all very well to say that you were persuaded, and all that; but you know that you deliberately confessed your faith, or you would never have been baptized by us; you deliberately sought for membership with the church of God, or you would not have been received; and its responsibility must be on yourself. If you have gone back from Christ you yourself must bear the shame in time and eternity. But when any publicly sever themselves from the companionship of the Crucified One, well may the question pass from heart to heart, “Will you also go away?”
11. So I have introduced the question by giving the reason for it.
12. II. Now, THE QUESTION ITSELF. The Master pressed it upon the disciples — “Will you also go away?”
13. He might well press the question, for one of them would certainly do so. He said, “I have chosen you twelve!” Not many — twelve. “I have chosen you.” A very prudent chooser; much better able to judge than any of his ministers. “I have chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil.” Are our pastors and elders likely to make a better selection? Is it likely that the percentage of deceit is less among us than in the apostolic college? I would not like to say — it would be wrong to say — that one out of every twelve of church members is a Judas. What right have I to say it? But if I were called upon to affirm that I am certain that they are not, I dare not make so bold an assertion. I fear that the average of mankind in any place would in all probability be much the same as in our Lord’s day, and possibly there may be a worse state of things in London than in Judea and Galilee. Still, if we conceive our case to be improved, yet a measure of danger exists. Is it true in the case of only one member of this church that he will betray Christ? If it is, then let the question begin at the pulpit, and go around to the youngest member, “Lord, is it I?” — a question suitable for this table, for at this table of fellowship it was asked by every one of the twelve, “Lord, is it I?” Certainly, some among us — some one among us — will deny or sell his Master. May God grant it is not I! Let each one breathe that prayer.
14. Besides, the Master knew that all of them might do so. All of them might go away from him: apart from his grace, indeed, all of them would. There stood Peter, this very Peter who gave such a bold answer to the question; and the Master knew that there was enough in Peter to have made him as faithless as Judas if it had not been for his upholding grace. Ah, brothers, when we see others fall today, let us say, “It may be my case tomorrow!” Is there not the same heart, the same nature, the same tendency to sin? Do we not have the same weakness? Are we not exposed to the same temptations? Is there not the same devil craftily searching out our infirmities, so that he may work on them? Are we not all in danger? I fear that he is especially in jeopardy who will say tonight, “I am a man of experience. I am out of harm’s way.” If there is a brother among us who says, “These warnings are not meant for me,” he is probably the man who will disgrace that holy name by which he is named. If there is a deacon, an elder, a grey-headed Christian man, a venerable, believing woman, who shall be saying, “I have nothing to fear from temptation: I have passed out of the realm of caution and watchfulness,” I stand in doubt of such. Confident friend, I fear that you are the man. This carnal confidence, this proud presumption with respect to yourself, should be a caution to you, for these things are the smoke which denote a smouldering fire. “Let him who thinks he stands take heed lest he falls.” The Master asked the question, because he knew that it ought to come home to every heart among the twelve.
15. Moreover, he asked the question of them because if they turned aside it would be especially sad. I do not read that Jesus said anything about those who had gone back already. He alludes to them by the use of the word “also,” but he does not seem to have run after them to beg them to return. He knew what they were, and knew that they were best away from him. When the chaff was blown away it was only the fulfilment of John the Baptist’s words, “His fan is in his hand, and he shall thoroughly purge his floor”; so he permitted the chaff to go to its own place. But when the Master looked at the twelve, then he said with holy care and anxiety, “Will you? Will you also go away?” As much as to say, “If you go away who have been with me from the beginning, who have been chosen by me to be eye-witnesses of my life, if you who have been near my innermost heart, and shared my trials and my joys — if you go away it will be sin indeed.” Friends, if any of us turn aside what excuse shall be made for us? I say deliberately that if I go away from my Master I can expect nothing but the hottest wrath of God for ever. Unhappy, unhappy wretch, to have preached to such multitudes, if I deny my Lord! Condemned out of my own mouth a thousand times over! I shall be a mark for all the arrows of vengeance. And what shall I say concerning my brethren behind me, the deacons and elders of this church? If they go away from Christ and forsake him after their brave professions, who shall apologise for them? Many here are marked men and women. Your experience of Christ has been long, sweet, deep, remarkable, and you have spoken of it to others with much confidence and delight. If you go away you will deserve to be hung up like Haman, on the gallows, fifty cubits high — an exhibition of direct treachery, and a monument of the awful wrath of God against such who trample on the blood of Christ. You will be sinners more than all the sinners of your time. Oh, may it never be, for if one of the twelve shall do it, it will be the greatest sin of all. It will grieve the heart of the Master, it will open the mouths of blasphemers, it will afflict the saints, it will disgrace the apostates, and bring down upon them infinite condemnation.
16. And yet, do you know, when others are turning aside, the question must be asked, for apostasy is very contagious. We are called sheep, and it is of the nature of sheep that if one goes right the next will follow; but if they find a gap in the hedge and one leaps through it they will all follow the same road. When backsliding and apostasy become fashionable you may ask even the twelve, “Will you also go away?” As I have seen, in my short experience, minister after minister turning aside to novelties of doctrine, and especially into the deep pit of modern thought, into which the abhorred of the Lord do fall, I have thought of one and of another, “Will you also go away?” As men whom I have spoken with, and prayed with, and trusted in, have one by one apostatized from the faith of God’s elect, I have been staggered and astounded; surely this fashionable sin has a fascinating influence over many minds, and would delude, if it were possible, the very elect. How few stand by the landmarks in this age of wandering! How few are found approved in the day of trial! The question is one that must of necessity be pressed home, “Will you also go away?”
17. And, to conclude this part of our subject, our Saviour, I think, asks the question because he wishes his following to be always perfectly voluntary. We sometimes speak of “the sweet compulsions of grace.” But let it be always understood that this is by way of metaphor and figure, for no one can truly walk with Jesus unwillingly. The lack of will would be fatal. There is an influence which the grace of God exerts upon the will, by which the unrenewed will is led captive; and yet as soon as it is a renewed will it becomes emphatically free. It ceases to be a will if it has no determining power; the grace of God gives it that power to a high degree. Those who truly follow Christ do not follow him because they are forced to do so. Grace has no slaves; it rules a kingdom to which the Son has given true liberty. Christians are not dragged after Christ. They yield most sweetly to the charms of his love, to the force of the truth which he teaches, and the love which he reveals. They gladly serve their Lord and Master. Jesus seems to say, “If you do not serve me like this, you may go.” Will you go? Christ does not want anyone to profess to be a Christian who does not wish to be a Christian. He does not want one to come to this table because he thinks it to be a law, and a custom, by which he is bound; he wants you to come because you delight to do so. He does not desire any minister to preach the gospel because he is paid for it, or because he would lose esteem among godly people if he did not. He wants no slaves to grace his throne. The very charm of obedience is that it is rendered cheerfully. The very bliss of Christ’s service is that we voluntarily, with all our heart and soul, take up his cross and follow him. I am not denying the compulsions of grace. I am only saying that they are perfectly consistent with the absolute freedom of the gracious will. God treats men as men, and not as heaps of brick and mortar. His grace displays itself in converting and changing them as men who have wills, and not as logs of wood which Solomon may cut and plane in the mountains without their consent. No, no; if you will to go, go; but if your will is to cling to him, then he will still give you grace to follow him, even to the end.
18. I do not know whether I impress my congregation with a sense of the importance of the truths I am trying to press home, but I do feel them myself. Oh, brethren, it is a very easy thing to gather a crowd of people: the difficulty is to hold together year after year those who profess to be converted. There is a constant winnowing going on in all churches, and this drives away the light and chaffy ones. There is a fan at work upon this floor. Some remain year after year, and yet turn out to be of no account. The Lord goes on sifting, but certain of the chaff does not blow off at first because, perhaps, the wheat is lying on the top of it: there is a good wife or holy mother or a godly husband who keeps the doubtful ones righteous. When these are taken away, the next blast of the winnowing fan sweeps that bit of chaff away. Oh, do not be as the chaff, which is covered up, and so hidden among the wheat. Do not turn aside, I urge you. May the Lord keep you. I shall consider it to be a privilege to bury you rather than have to erase your name from our church roll for conduct inconsistent with your profession. May you gather around my corpse when God pleases to let me go home, and may you say, “He lived an honourable life, and died faithful to his Lord.” Indeed, let that gathering be before another Sabbath dawns, if God so wills, rather than that I should live to dishonour the precious truth which I have preached, and turn aside from the Master whom I profess to love. What I say to myself I think I hear each one of you say to himself or herself, “Better by far that we die than that we deny our Lord.”
19. III. I shall close with my third point, and consider THE ANSWER WHICH QUICK-VOICED PETER GAVE: — the answer which I hope we are prepared to give to our divine Leader, “Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that you are that Christ, the Son of the living God.”
20. It is threefold.
21. “Lord, to whom shall we go?” This is the first answer. Observe, that Peter does not appear to think it possible, or think it less than abominable, for a man to go back; for the natural answer to Peter’s question, “To whom shall we go?” is “Go back.” No, but Peter does not tolerate the idea of going back. I ask you, my beloved brother in Christ, can you tolerate it? Can you? Can you? I might address myself to a brother who was once among the profane and the drunken, who is now among the most earnest of us, and I might ask him — “Brother, would you go back?” I am sure that the thought of the rack would be more pleasant than the idea of returning to his old haunts. I might address myself to another who was fond of every form of gaiety, spending his money for what was not food, and his labour for what did not satisfy him: he will be found among us tonight, happiest among the happy in the service of his Master, and I enquire of him, — “Brother, will you go back? Would you like to enjoy all your carefree life again?” It would be death to you. Suppose that any of us who know the joy of being Christ’s could have it proposed to us to go back: suppose we were not immoral, but were everything that could be desired in our outward conduct, would we like to go back to that dead morality which had no life of faith nor light of hope about it? No; no. When Christian in the Pilgrim’s Progress thought about going back he remembered that he had no armour for his back. He had a breastplate, he was covered from head to foot by his shield: but there was nothing to protect his back, and therefore, if he retreated, the adversary could pierce him with a javelin in a moment. So he thought that, bad as it was to go forward, it would be worse to go backward, and therefore he bravely cut a path for himself straight onward for glory. Look at that fact whenever you are tempted: do not endure the idea of turning tail in the day of battle! May retreat be impossible for you. May God make it impossible by his grace!
But then to whom should we go? I was meditating in my mind the other
Could I so false, so faithless prove
To quit thy service and thy love,
Where, Lord, could I thy presence shun,
Or from thy dreadful glory run?
Where could I retire if I would avoid my life call, and cease witnessing for Jesus? If I were on board ship, and a storm came on, the sailors would say, “He is the Jonah.” I know they would. If I forsook my God and his cause, the lowest and basest would point at me as a turncoat. If I were to cross the western continent, and hide away in the back settlements, it is ten to one that if I went into the most remote log cabin someone would single me out, and say, “Why, you are the man whose sermons I read in our newspapers. Why are you here?” In the loneliest places on earth, where men speak the English tongue, my own sermons would serve as a hue and cry, if not as a writ of arrest. I should be sure to hear the question, “What are you doing here, Elijah?” and how could I answer it? Where could I go? No hiding-place remains for me. I must serve God for ever. So it is with you in a degree, dear friends. You cannot get away from Jesus. You who are disciples have committed yourselves to Christ. There is nowhere for you to go. Suppose you were to try infidelity. You know too much; you have felt too much. Unbelief would not comfort you, whatever it may do with others. Be a freethinker! Well, you are made of the wrong stuff for that now; your conscience would trouble you. Suppose you became a Romanist. Would forms and ceremonies satisfy you? No. Of all the people in the world who cannot be Romanists, commend me to Baptists. A few have joined the church of Rome — so few that I never knew even one. You cannot convert these dreadful Anabaptists; they are too positive, and too much accustomed to prefer their own judgment to the directions of a ghostly father. My brethren, I do not know where you can go if you leave Jesus and the truth. You can go down to the bottomless pit, it you wish, but you will have no rest there, for the lost ones will cry, “Have you come here? Why, you were at the Lord’s table, were you not? You are the people who used to give away tracts. Did we not hear you preach at the street corners?” It will be an uneasy thing for you to be lost, I tell you, sirs, ten times worse than for others; for the hiss of those who never professed religion will follow you throughout eternity; and their words will burn like coals of juniper when they cry, “Hypocrite! apostate! You knew the truth, and did not do it.” There is nowhere else for us to go. If we are weary of our Master we cannot get another; where can we find another so good as he is? Shall we go back, or shall we get right with him? Let us go at once, and tell him how foolish we have been. Let us beg him to keep us in his house. “Do not dismiss me from your service, Lord.” I am not worthy even to unloose the latchets of your shoes; but let me be your servant, for whom else can I serve? How else can I live? What other joy remains for me except to do something for your blessed name?
23. But then Peter gave a second answer; he said to our Lord, “You have the words of eternal life”: as much as to say, “We cannot go away from you, good Master, when we think of eternity.” Oh, eternity! eternity! Those who for a little filthy lucre, or to escape a foolish laugh, shall turn aside from Christ — what will they do in eternity? Those who, to be thought respectable, or to be considered clever, shall renounce the simple gospel of Christ — what will they do in eternity? Christ alone can give eternal life, or life for eternity. Apart from him we are cast out as dead. The unbelievers shall be banished for ever from the presence of God and the glory of his power, for “God is not the God of the dead, but of the living.” Brethren, we believe that there is salvation in Christ, and nowhere else. How can we leave him, then? We know and are sure that his word has already planted the immortal life into us, for we feel it pulsing within our being. We sometimes see glimmerings of the eternal day, into which the light we have is sure to develop; and we are certain that the Lord has given us eternal life by his word. How, then, can we forsake him? Bind us, Saviour — bind us to yourself! Come, brand us with the cross. Let us bear in our body your mark. Some of us wear the watermark upon our whole body. Our seal of the covenant is not on only one portion of our body, but we have been immersed into your name, and from head to foot we are yours. We cannot undo the fact that we were buried with you by baptism to death. Yours by that outward sign, but yet much more yours by the inward grace which you have given, by which you have made us dead to the world, and dead to self, and quickened us to eternal life in yourself.
24. There are two ties, then, to hold us. The one is that we have nowhere else to go; and the second is that we have no life apart from Christ.
The third holdfast is this: “We believe and are sure that you are
that Christ, the Son of the living God.” “Blessed are you, Simon
Barjona: for flesh and blood has not revealed it to you.” Have you
learned, dear brethren, that Christ is truly the Messiah, the Son of
the Father? Do you believe it? And, more than that, do you both
believe and know that the Christ is also the Son of the Highest? How
can we leave him? Has God sent him, and shall we forsake him? Is he
God, and shall we desert him? No, good Master, at your feet we fall,
and to those feet we cling. We humbly resolve by your good Spirit’s
power to remain in you. Saviour, we will be yours for ever. You may
speak this very boldly, if you speak it in the confidence of grace;
for, brethren, “Who shall separate us from the love of God which is
in Christ Jesus our Lord?” What torments the saints have endured from
their persecutors, and how ineffective have been the assaults of
their foes to separate them from Christ! If we are really one with
Christ, Satan can no more tear us away from Jesus than he could
tear away Paul or John. These saints had no more power of their own
than we have; they derived everything from Christ, and we do the
same. Think of how the martyrs have been scourged and even flayed
alive, and yet have cried out, “No one but Christ.” They have been
tied to the tails of horses and dragged to death, but never a thought
of apostatizing has occurred to them. In those early days men, women,
and children crowded the tribunals until the judges grew weary of
their bloody task. The persecutors devised all kinds of tortures,
such as I scarcely dare to mention, but the saints of God triumphed
over all their torments. Fierce was the duel between the infernal
cruelty of Roman paganism and the splendour of God within the souls
of faithful men and women. Look even later down at our own
persecutions by Queen Mary; when Smithfield [c] was all aglow with
the death of the saints, how gloriously believers defeated their
adversaries! We read of a holy woman bearing a child in prison crying
out in labour, and her tormentors exaltingly demanded, “If you cannot
bear these pangs, how will you bear to be burnt alive in a few days’
time?” She replied, “You see in me, who am a woman, the feebleness of
nature; but wait until the day comes, and you shall see in me, who am
a member of the body of Christ, the strength of grace; for I shall
never wince or cry when I am burning for Christ.” And they took note
that she never flinched, or winced, or cried, or stirred, but she
burned in her confession of her Lord alive to the death. Oh, it was
wonderful! It was wonderful! Christ laughed at his mightiest enemies,
but his Spirit rested upon his poor, feeble saints, and strengthened
them so that they were more than conquerors. Think of Ann Askew, whom
I often quote — our own Ann Askew — sitting up after they had racked her
until every bone was dragged from its joint, and still defending the
faith against the Romish shavelings. [d] Oh that we had the same
grace. We shall have it when the trial comes, for “the Lord of hosts
is with us; the God of Jacob is our refuge.” If Jesus is indeed the
Anointed of the Lord he will anoint us in the hour of need, and
because we believe and are sure that it is even so we are bold to say
in his strength, “No, Lord, we will never leave you. Although all men
shall forsake you, yet we will not.” By your faithfulness, oh Lord,
keep us faithful. Amen.
[Portion Of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Joh 6:47-71]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus — Jesus And His Righteousness Prized” 791]
[See Spurgeon_Hymnal “The Christian, Seeking to Persevere — ‘Will Ye Also Go?’ ” 666]
[a] Battle of Thermopylae: A Greek force of approximately 7,000 men marched north to block the pass in the summer of 480 BC. The Persian army, alleged by the ancient sources to have numbered over one million. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Battle_of_Thermopylae"
[b] Publius Horatius Cocles: He was an officer in the army of the ancient Roman Republic who famously defended the Pons Sublicius from the invading army of Lars Porsena, king of Clusium in the late 6th century BC, during the war between Rome and Clusium. See Explorer "http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Horatius_Cocles"
[c] The fires that Queen Mary (1553-1558) ordered to be lit at Smithfield put to death such Protestant leaders and men of influence as Cranmer, Ridley, Latimer and Hooper, but also hundreds of lesser men who refused to adopt the Catholic faith.
[d] Shaveling: A contemptuous epithet for a monk or priest whose head is shaved. OED.
The Sword And The Trowel. Edited by C. H. Spurgeon.
Contents for March, 1882.
Bible Enterprise. By G Holden Pike.
A Meditation in the longest Psalm. By C. H. Spurgeon.
The Harbour of Refuge.
“To Them That Love God.” By Vernon J. Charlesworth
Among the Tea-planters of the Darjeeling District.
Mental Athletics. By Thomas Spurgeon.
He gave up his class.
Henry Moorhouse. By C. A. Davis.
Is it True?
Lambeth Auxiliary Sunday School Union. By C. H. Spurgeon.
Notices of Books.
Girls’ Orphanage Building Fund.
Society of Evangelists.
Pastors’ College Balance Sheet.
Society of Evangelist.
Loan Building and Reserve Fund.
Passmore & Alabaster, 4 Paternoster Buildings; and all Booksellers.
The Christian, Privileges, Communion with Jesus
791 — Jesus And His Righteousness Prized
1 The more my conduct I survey,
Or thee my Master see,
My own sufficience dies away,
I find my need of thee.
2 Were I a martyr at the stake
I’d plead my Saviour’s name:
Intreat a pardon for his sake,
And urge no other claim.
3 If blest with that exalted love
Which tunes a seraph’s tongue;
Yet from the cross I would not move,
For there my hopes are hung.
4 Could I get nearer to the throne
Than is common length,
My soul with gratitude should own,
‘Tis done by borrow’d strength.
5 Oh thou, the antidote of fear,
The charmer of my heart;
My comforts bloom when thou art near,
And fade if thou depart.
6 Let others boast whate’er they please,
Their hopes I’ll not contest:
Smile thou and I can live at ease,
Or die divinely blest.
Thomas Greene, 1780.
The Christian, Seeking to Persevere
666 — “Will Ye Also Go?”
1 When any turn from Zion’s way,
(Alas, what numbers do!)
Methinks I hear my Saviour say,
“Wilt thou forsake me too?”
2 Ah, Lord, with such a heart as mine,
Unless thou held me fast,
I feel I must, I shall decline,
And prove like them at last.
3 Yet thou alone hast power I know
To save a wretch like me:
To whom or whither could I go,
If I should turn from thee?
4 Beyond a doubt, I rest assured
Thou art the Christ of God;
Who hast eternal life secured
By promise and by blood.
5 The help of men and angels join’d
Could never reach my case;
Nor can I hope relief to find
But in thy boundless grace.
6 No voice but thine can give me rest,
And bid my fears depart:
No love but thine can make me blest,
And satisfy my heart.
7 What anguish has that question stirr’d,
If I will also go;
Yet, Lord, relying on thy word,
I humbly answer, No.
John Newton, 1779.