A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, August 3, 1862, By Pastor C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
If any man serves me, let him follow me; and where I am, my servant shall also be there: if any man serves me, my Father will honour him. (John 12:26)
1. How many people are of the religion of the Greeks who are mentioned in this chapter! They wish to see Jesus, but they would not serve him. Impelled by curiosity they would know something about this matter; they would investigate the claims of Christ to the Messiahship and they would consider the special truths by which he professes to illuminate the world, but they would not venture beyond this. They give their minds to criticize; they are not indifferent to the gospel, but they regard it with the same interest as that with which a naturalist would look upon a newly discovered insect, or a geologist would study a section of the earth’s crust; but concerning personally feeling the hallowed influence of truth, they do not know what it means. Many of these Greeks proceed much further; they feel an admiration for the character, and teaching of Jesus, and they express that admiration in honest praise; but see how hollow their appreciation is; they applaud the person whom they scorn to obey; they admire teachings which they will not practise; they listen to the divine Word, but they are hearers only, and not doers of the truth. Probably there are numbers in this assembly to whom the Christian religion has always been a subject of respectful interest; they have never blasphemed the name of Christ; they have not doubted the inspiration of Scripture; indeed, they have studied God’s Word; they have given a degree of attention to its doctrines, and they intend even more fully to examine its revelations. How pleasant and hopeful are such signs of interest, but how far are many of these enquirers from true discipleship for their unhumbled hearts are not obedient to the dictates of the gospel; the cross is to them, too heavy a load to carry; they have not made up their minds to wear “Christ’s yoke”; they would rather see his holiness and see his disciples imitate him, than themselves take up the cross daily and follow him. My hearers, allow me to remind you very solemnly, that a speculative religion which has curiosity as its impulse, a search after knowledge as its rule, and self-esteem as its root, can never save the soul. It is not for you to criticise, but to repent; it is not for you to judge, but to believe; it is not for you to admire, but to obey; it is not for you to praise and applaud, but cheerfully to bow your necks to imitate and follow Christ. Nothing short of a religion which subjects us to personal service for Christ, which gives us a new heart and a right spirit, and compels us to feel that we are not our own, but bought with a price — nothing short of this will ever give lasting peace of mind, or bring us to the place where we shall see the face of God with delight.
2. Many proudly dream that to serve Christ would be dishonourable, and that they would demean themselves by becoming humble followers of the Lamb. Let me remind them, that those whose opinions we esteem do not think like this. Even a heathen could say, “To serve God is to reign.” We know that that noblest of men, before the coming of John the Baptist, the greatest who had ever been born of woman — Moses, the king in Jeshurun, and the leader of God’s hosts — has as his highest title — “Moses, the servant of God”; and even our Lord and Master, whose shoe lace we are not worthy to unloose, took upon himself the form of a servant, and although he was a son, yet he learned obedience by the things that he suffered. Since the days of our Redeemer, the greatest in the Church of Christ have been the servants of all, and those who have attained to the highest dignities and honours which it is in the power of Christ’s Church to confer, have been those who joyfully stooped to the most menial occupations, and being willing to be less than the least, became the greatest of all. Let us imitate him who was “King of kings,” and yet a “Servant of servants.” Let us follow him who is girt about the chest with a golden sash and wraps the light about him as a garment, and yet unrobed himself, and took a towel, like a servant, so that he might wash his disciples’ feet. The motto of the Prince of Wales is “Ich dien,” — “I serve”; it should be the motto of every prince of the blood royal of heaven. Let every Christian write this now upon his crest — “I serve,” and, from this day forth, wherever he is, let him not seek lordship, let him leave that to the Gentiles and to a carnal world, but let him seek ministry and service, being willing to do anything or to be anything by which he may profit the body of Christ, which is the Church.
3. We will now endeavour, as the blessed Spirit shall aid us, to expound its threefold teaching. You will notice that first of all, plain directions for a very honourable office — “If any man serves me, let him follow me”; in the second place, most generous stipulations from a noble Master — “Where I am, my servant shall also be there”; and thirdly, most glorious rewards for imperfect services — “If any man serves me, my Father will honour him.”
Plain Directions for an Honourable Office
4. I. We have here PLAIN DIRECTIONS FOR A VERY HONOURABLE OFFICE. “If any man serves me, let him follow me.” A golden precept, written on a tablet of ivory.
5. I speak the sentiments of the majority of those present when I say, all of us would like to minister to Christ. We feel that if he were here now, there would be nothing which we would not do for him. The word used in our text three times might very properly be translated thus — “If any man would act the part of a deacon towards me, let him follow me; and where I am there shall also my deacon be; and he who acts as a deacon towards me shall be honoured by my Father.” The word “deacon” in the original Greek means nothing but a servant, and every deacon should be the cheerful, laborious, and faithful servant of the Church. Now, what was the part of a deacon in the early Church? It was service to the people of God of all sorts and kinds. Who among us would blush to be the deacons of Christ, his servants, his attendants? Would we not wait upon him? We would be his servants to the very fullest extent. I think we should consider ourselves ennobled for life if we might cast our garments in the way, so that he might be saved from a miry place in the road. Would we not feed him? There should be such a feast in our house as never was before. We would submit to hunger for ourselves, if we might only supply his needs; and I think if the twelve poor fishermen were with him, we would not shut one of them out, but ask them all home. We ourselves would leave our houses, and stand in the street all night, to let them have rest; for we feel that, if the Blessed One were here, it would be so high an honour to contribute in any degree to his comfort, or to show in any way our respect for him, that nothing would be too hard, — nothing impossible for us to perform. Permit me to say, however, that very much of this is mere sentiment; that, in fact, we do not know ourselves; and that, in the case of many here present, if Christ were here in the same guise in which he came the first time, they would not receive him, but the very opposite; their doors would be shut in his face, and, perhaps, they might even join in the blood thirsty cry of “Let him be crucified!” All this talk of generosity and homage to be offered to Jesus is to a great extent mere sentiment — mere talk, and we should do no such thing when it came to the practical push. For, notice that if we really wish to do these things, we can do them now. If it is true that we wish to minister to Christ, and be servants and deacons towards him, it is in our power to do so now as much as if he were on earth; and, inasmuch as we live in the neglect of this duty, we must not delude ourselves into the notion that, if such and such a thing should happen, we should act differently from what we do now. This sentimentalism about entertaining Christ has at the bottom of it the idea that we should be honouring ourselves by it. Now this is not the spirit that gives a worthy friendship towards Christ. He who loves Christ really serves him, not to be honoured by him, but to give him honour. We, truly, would gladly receive the Lord into our guest room, because men would say of us — “He entertained the Lord of glory! He was honoured with his company!” But, oh! if, instead, men would say — “That fool disgraced himself by harbouring the beggarly impostor. He entertained the man whom we call Beelzebub.” I think there are many who now talk so well of Christ who would decline the privilege of entertaining Jesus if all the world were against him.
6. But, dear friends, I say again, if any of you wish to serve Christ it is now in your power, for the directions given are meant for all time, and may be carried out today. It seems from my text that to follow Christ, or to imitate him, is really to serve him. I think we can plainly see this. “Oh,” one says, “I should like to do something to prove that I really would obey my Lord; I profess to be his servant, and I wish to show that I am not a servant in name only, but that whatever my Master says to me that I will do.” Well, the opportunity is before you today; imitate Christ, and then prove your obedience. This command to you may be summed up in this — “Be like me.”
7. If you wish to know what he would have you to do, see what he did himself. His own life is your law, written in living characters. No better proof can you give that you are not just paying lip service, but are a real disciple, than by diligently and scrupulously copying Christ even to the least jot and tittle.
8. “Oh,” another says, “I would joyfully assist him in his needs. I would supply him with bread; I would give him the cup of cold water to drink; I would not let him say again ‘The foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head’; I would never let him lack anything.” Imitate him, then, and you can do it, for what did he do except distribute his substance to the poor? Did he not care for the needs of all men? Is it not written of him “He went around doing good?” If you would supply his needs behold him in his poor saints; if you would feed him, see the mouths of his hungry children; if you would clothe him, see the backs of his naked ones; if you would help him, relieve the poor, the widow, and the fatherless and those who have no helper. Imitate him in the generosity of his life; care for the needs of men; follow him in this, and you will have served him in supplying his needs:
Lord, you have brethren here below,
Flesh of your flesh through grace;
Teach us to see you in your saints,
Your sorrows in their face.
In them you may be clothed and fed,
And visited and cheer’d:
And in their accents of distress
My Saviour’s voice is heard.
Your face, with reverence, and with love,
We in your poor would see!
Oh let us rather beg our bread
Than keep it back from thee.
9. “But,” says another, “I would do something to cheer him; I think, if he were here, I would endeavour to smooth a few of the furrows from his marred brow; I would labour to make the heart of the Man of Sorrows rejoice in some measure, and be glad in some degree; I would lay down my life to give him peace who is my soul’s peace and rest.” You can do it; you can do it. If you would serve him thus and cheer his heart, follow him; for this is the solace of his sorrow, the reward of his labours — the obedience of his children to his command. This is the spoil which he divides with the mighty; this is the prey which he takes from the strong, that all his saints should be like himself in all righteousness and true holiness. This is the travail of his soul which he sees and is satisfied when you are conformed to his image, and show forth his character among the sons of men. Oh! if you are Christlike, you have done more to make Christ happy than all the songs of the angels. If men shall say of you, “That man has been with Jesus, and has learned from him”; you have given Jesus better music than cherubim and seraphim can yield.
10. “Yes,” I hear another say, “but I would honour him.” If he were here I would climb the trees and strew the branches in his way; how I would gladly run before him, and cry, “Hosanna! Hosanna! Hosanna! Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord!” Would you serve him like this, by honouring him and extolling his name? You can do it. Follow him; live as he lived; act as he acted; and you have honoured him more completely than by strewing palm branches or throwing your clothes on the road. For when is Christ most honoured? When his saints are most sanctified. When is his name the most esteemed? When the sons of God walk the most carefully, the most prayerfully, and the most closely with their God. You can today serve Christ if you will today humbly take his plain directions, exactly imitate his example, and closely follow in his steps.
11. Beloved friends, I think we have made it clear enough that there is a possibility of serving Christ, of deaconizing towards Christ by the imitation of his character. Now I quoted the Greek word “deaconizing” because it was the means when I was looking into the verse, of giving me an illustration for this subject. You remember that on the first Sunday of last month we had in our midst, the venerable Mar Yohanan, a presbyter of the Nestorian Church at Oroomiah, and with him a deacon whose name was Mar Isaak. These two men had performed an almost incredible journey. They had walked the entire distance from the borders of Persia; over the mountains of Armenia and Circassia; across the steppes of Russia; and from Russia right through Prussia, Germany, and Holland, until at last they arrived in London. Now, I could only notice how the deacon, the servant, carefully attended in all things to the venerable presbyter whom we saw among us, how we noted his every look that he might not for a moment appear to neglect his reverend leader. Probably on that day when Yohanan the presbyter, first thought of this journey, he addressed Isaak thus “Isaak, are you a true servant?” “Yes,” he says, “ever since the Church made me deacon I have loved you as my own soul, and I would gladly do anything for your comfort.” “Then,” he says, “If you wish to serve me, follow me.” “But must I leave my children and my household?” “Truly,” says the presbyter; “it must even be so, for I also shall leave behind me my wife and children, and go on a long and weary journey; many a hundred miles, to Britain, where there are many who love our Lord, and who may help the persecuted saints in this region.” Now came the pinch, and Isaak, if he wishes to serve the presbyter, must follow him. He does not decline the service. When he accepted the office of the deacon, he resolved to be really the servant of the Church, and her minister, and he is now ready to undertake the journey with his presbyter. I think I see them sallying forth. They journey among the Kurds, a savage people always thirsting for the Christians’ blood, with more than Mohammedan hatred of Christ. Perhaps Isaak is faint hearted, and wished to turn back. “If any man wishes to serve me, let him follow me,” says the hoary presbyter, as he strikes his staff upon the ground and advances fearless of the foe. They pass one danger only to encounter another. A mountain is in their way lifting its snowy crest even to the sky; the grey bearded preacher goes first, and he cries, “Isaak, if you wish to serve me, follow me”; and on they go, climbing from crag to crag, along the infrequented path where the wild goat has scarcely found a footing; soon they travel through the valley, and across the barren, snowy, pathless wilderness, the presbyter saying continually, “Brother, if you wish to deaconize towards me, follow me, for now it is that it shall be proven to the world that you are a true servant of the Church, and are willing to follow the presbyter to the world’s end.” He did follow him very faithfully, and they reached their journey’s end together. Now, this is just what Jesus Christ says to us. We are all his deacons, his servants. We all engaged, in the day when we gave ourselves to him, that we would take up our cross and follow him; and today he points to some high mountain, saying, “If you wish to serve me, follow me.” He asks you not to lead, he himself has gone before; he calls you to no labour which he has not himself already accomplished. Oh! can you say in your heart today —
Through floods and flames if Jesus leads,
I’ll follow where he goes;
‘Hinder me not,’ shall be my cry,
Though earth and hell oppose?
This is true service, the best that can be rendered, to follow where he leads the way, let the way be ever so rough or arduous, to persevere to the end, even though the end is a martyr’s death.
12. Come, brethren, and especially those who are beginners, and have only recently enlisted in Christ’s cause, let me mark out Christ’s way and then, if you wish to serve him, follow him. I know the proud flesh wants to serve Christ, by striking out on new paths. Proud man has a desire to preach new doctrine, to set up a new Church; to be an original thinker, to judge, and consider, and do anything except obey. This is no service to Christ. He who would serve Christ must follow him; he must be content to tread only in the old footsteps, and go only where Christ has led the way. It is not for you and me to be originals; we must be humble copies of Christ. There must be nothing about our religion of our own inventing; it is for us to lay thought, and judgment, and opinion at the feet of Christ, and do what he bids us, simply because he gives the command. Then disciples look at your Lord. I think I see the Saviour; oh! that you would follow him today! I think I see him coming. It is his first public entry on the world; and where does he go? It is the beginning of his revealed ministry among men, he is about to show you what should be the beginning of yours. He goes to Jordan; there stands the Baptist, and the willing crowds are baptized with the baptism of repentance. As John stands there, lo! the Son of Man himself appears; and John says, “I have need to be baptized by you, and you come to me?” But our Master, whom if we would serve we must follow, says, “Permit it to be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfil all righteousness.” He descends into the stream; he is buried beneath the water; and as he comes up from that immersion, the heaven is opened, and the Spirit descends upon him like a dove. If you wish to serve him, follow him. “But — but — but — .” Alas my brother, this is not a fitting word for a disciple, you forget your service when you begin to question. If you would serve him, follow him. Your business as a servant is not to object but to obey. Imagine that you ask your servant to fill a bath with water. “But — ” you say, “I must have it filled”; but she questions again, and again, and again, and at last flatly refuses to do more than sprinkle it with a few drops. Do you call her a servant any longer? I do not think so. So there are some of you who see most clearly that your Master was baptized at the beginning of his public life, and yet you will be raising questions where there is no room for questions; you will neglect a duty which is as plain in Scripture as the very Deity of Christ; you will turn aside from a baptism which is as plainly taught in express words as even the doctrine of justification by faith: you do not take up your service as you should. “But, it is not essential,” you say. Is that a servant’s business? “But what good will it be?” Is this a question for a servant? “If any man will serve me” — Christ does not say — “Let him question me; let him be asking me why I command him to do such a thing.” No, no; but, “Let him follow me.” “But I dread the publicity, I fear the ordinance.” It is your proud flesh that fears it; subdue it under your feet, and take up, your cross, for there are far heavier crosses than this to carry. Thus your Master expresses it — “If any man will serve me, let him follow me.”
13. He now comes from Jordan, and the Spirit leads him into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. You, too, must be tempted. Do not think when you are tempted that, therefore, you are without Christ. No: if you wish to be his servant, you must follow him, and must be tempted too. You must be assailed in many points; the arrows must fly from above and from beneath; you must be tried on all sides and in all ways. Do not run from the conflict, for if any man would serve Christ, he must follow him through the hottest temptations as well as through the brightest joys. Now the Master comes forth boldly and begins to preach, and teach, and labour. If you wish to serve him, follow him; labour for him; in some way or other teach his gospel. If you cannot teach it to the thousands teach it to the tens; it you cannot speak to multitudes, speak to one upon the well, as Christ did at Sychar. If you wish to be his servant, let his life be your life written large, and let your life be the miniature, the condensation of the life of Christ. You see the Master bears bold witness before his adversaries. He openly opposes the Pharisee to his face; he upbraids the hypocrites who oppose him. Follow him, if you wish to serve him. Do not let there be a single foe before whose face you would fear to plead his cause. Speak up for his name; let no blush suffuse your cheek; speak his name before kings, nor yield to sinful shame. But see, the Master comes into the black cloud of reproach; they say he has a devil and is mad. Follow him there. Now, you servants of God, now is the trying hour; now follow him; be rejected, and despised, and hooted at with him, and sing as you go through it all —
If on my face, for your dear name,
Shame and reproach shall be,
I’ll hail reproach, and welcome shame,
If you will remember me.
14. See he comes to die. If you wish to serve him, follow him. Be ready to be brought before the judgment seat for his name. Be ready to yield your life up at his command, and if the martyr days should ever return, give your blood as freely as you would give water from the well; or if they do not come, spend that blood, and the life it gives them, devoting every hour of every day, and every moment of every hour to his cause, whose you are and whom you profess to serve. No new fashions, no new views, and opinions — the imitation of Christ is the only mode of service, and the Master lays it down before each of you — ask your consciences whether you have ever really served him — “If any man would serve me, let him follow me.” Walk in the way of Christ, it is the King’s highway. I pass the question around these galleries and this vast area — “Are you serving Christ?” “Well, I subscribe to a charity.” Are you serving Christ? “I intend to build a row of almshouses.” My dear brethren, you may do all this, and yet not be serving Christ, for your Master tells you that to serve him is to follow him. Have you followed him? Have you believed in him? Is he all-in-all to you, and do you now make his life the guiding star of your life; and do you desire to be, and are you, as far as is possible to man — made like to him in all things that you may be obedient to his will? God help us that desiring to serve Emmanuel, we may do it by following him!
Generous Stipulations from a Noble Master
15. II. We must come to our second point — GENEROUS STIPULATIONS FROM A NOBLE MASTER. “Where I am, my servant shall also be there.”
16. Whoever heard of such conditions as these from an ordinary master? The master is in the drawing room, the servant is in the kitchen; the master is in the parlour, the servant is in the workshop; the master sits at the table with his friends, the servant prepares himself to wait upon them. What, I say, what generous stipulations does the Master make — “Where I am, my servant shall also be there!” Well now, to return to the illustration we used before — “Where I am, my deacon shall also be there” — still using old Yohanan and Isaak as your pattern, you will remember that wherever the old presbyter went, there was Isaak at his side. I dare say many a night they slept under the broad shadow of a tree, and where Yohanan was there the deacon was too. Were they entertained by generous friends? — they shared the same couch. At times they sat around the genial fire, but they sat together, often they shivered in the winter’s cold, but they shivered side by side. Their lot during the long journey was the same, and when they arrived here they sat with us at the same table; we spoke to them as to those who were intimate friends, and I know that throughout the whole of their romantic voyage, where the presbyter was there the deacon was also.
17. Do you not see that this was the rule which Christ carried out all his life long? He went to a wedding; is it not written, the disciples of Jesus were there. Jesus once rejoiced in spirit over the elect ones, the babes and sucklings to whom God had revealed himself: yes, but his disciples shared the joy because Satan fell like lightning from heaven, and even the demons were subject to them. The Master often went to the house of Lazarus; and Martha and Mary made a great feast, but the disciples were always there. Sometimes they went to a Pharisee’s house — a very respectable gentleman — and if Christ had been an ordinary man he might have said — “I cannot take those poor fishermen with me; it will lower my character if they see what ragtag follow at my heels.” But no, wherever he was his servants were there. And you know, beloved, at one time he rode in triumph through the streets of Jerusalem, but he did not say to his disciples, “Now you had better keep out of the way; this is a day in which I am to be honoured, and I think you will rather spoil the pageantry if they see you in your fishermen’s clothes walking with me.” No, but where he was his servants were also there. And when the multitudes cried “Hosanna,” and welcomed the Master, the welcome was shared by the disciples. Then there came his last great feast. “With desire,” he said, “I have desired to eat this passover with you” — it was “with you” — he could not enjoy that last supper except with them. “Where I am, my servant shall also be there”; share and share alike; their lot my lot; my portion their portion for ever.
18. Notice, beloved, if the Lord thus shared his comforts among his disciples, he expected them to share his discomforts. He was in a ship in a great storm, and the disciples must be with him, although they are terrified. He goes to Gethsemane; he sweats, as it were, great drops of blood; his disciples must be with him there, even though they cannot bear it, and are asleep. And though in his last passion they could not be with him, for he must tread the winepress alone, yet, notice that his disciples were with him afterwards, for if he was brought before kings, so were they; if he stood falsely accused, so, in later years they were also. If he died upon the cross a martyr, so did they; and so, for three hundred years, where Christ was in death, there his Church was too, for the gibbet, and the cross, and the stake, and the block, and the bloody axe, had stern work to do with Christ’s Church, so that it might be fulfilled — “Where I am, my servant shall also be there.”
19. Beloved, this stands true for you and me this morning. Where Christ was we must be. “The disciple is not above his Master, nor the servant above his Lord.” Blessed be his name, he is gone to heaven now, and where he is there shall his servants be, in the same heaven in his Father’s house. Yes, he has mounted to his throne, and where he is his servants shall be there also. “To him who overcomes I will give to sit on my throne, even as I have overcome and have sat down upon my Father’s throne.” He is in the joy of his Father; and where he is his servants must be there; we also must be partakers of his joy so that his joy may be full. Lo, he comes! The trumpet sounds! Jesus comes; the second advent draws near; but when he comes, all his saints shall come with him. My God shall come, and all his saints with him. He reigns, kings and princes, your sceptres are not your own; he comes to take them from your hands, and your crowns from your heads, Jesus comes to “reign from pole to pole with illimitable sway,” and we shall reign with him, for “Where I am, my servant shall also be there.” I think you understand, then, that the conditions of the service are these: good times or bad, we are to have joint stock with Christ; we are to take him for better or for worse, in shame and in honour, in reproach and in esteem, in riches and in poverty, in life and in death, in time and in eternity. “Where I am, my servant shall also be there.” I love my Master’s conditions! He is a noble Master! Shall I ever blush to go where he goes? God forbid, for if I do, I may be afraid lest at the last he should deny me, and should not permit me to be where he is.
20. I have heard an old story, somewhat amusing, which will illustrate this point, and then I shall leave it. I have heard that a noted Methodist preacher, who commenced his ministry very early in life suffered much at first because of his humble origin, and unpromising appearance. Being sent on the circuit plan to a certain house on a Saturday night, to be in readiness for preaching on the Sunday, the good woman, who did not like the look of him, sent him around to the kitchen. There was a serving man, who served them at odd times, and also worked in the coal mine, or at the forge, who was surprised to see the minister in the kitchen with him when he came from his work. John, rough as he was, welcomed the despised preacher, and tried to cheer his heart. The minister shared John’s meal of porridge, John’s bed in the attic, and John’s humble breakfast, and walked to the House of God with John in the morning. Now, the preacher was a notable man, although unknown then, and he had not long opened his mouth before the congregation perceived that there was something in him, and the good hostess, who had so badly entertained him began to feel a little uneasy. When the sermon was over there were many invitations for the minister to come home, and the hostess, fearful of losing her now honoured guest, begged he would walk home with her, when, to her surprise, he said, “I had supper with John, I slept with John, I had breakfast with John, I walked here with John, and I will walk home with John.” So when dinner came he was, of course, entreated to come into the dining room, for many friends wished to dine with this young minister, who was so much admired and esteemed, but no, he would dine in the kitchen; he had supper with John, he had breakfast with John, and he would dine with John. They begged him to come into the parlour, and at last he consented on the condition that John should sit at the same table. “For,” he said, “very properly, John was with me in my humiliation, and I will not sit down to dine unless he is with me in my exaltation.” So on they went until the Monday morning, sleeping at night with John, and persevering in the same rule — “I had supper with John, I slept with John, I had breakfast with John, I walked with John, I will walk home with John, and I will dine with John, for John was with me at the beginning, and he shall be with me to the end.” Brethren, this story may be turned to account thus; our Master came into this world once, and they sent him into the servants’ place; they sent him where the poor and despised ones where, and said, “Live with them; the manger and the cottage are good enough for you. He lived with poverty and endured toil.” Now the name of Christ is honoured, and kings and cardinals, popes and bishops, say, “Master, come and dine with us.” Yes, the proud emperor and philosopher would have him dine with them, but still he says — “No, I was with the poor and afflicted when I was on earth, and I will be with them to the end, and when the great feast is made in heaven the humble shall sit with me, and the poor and despised who were not ashamed of me, I will not be ashamed of them when I come in the glory of my Father, and all my holy angels with me.”
A Glorious Reward for Imperfect Services
21. III. We have, thirdly, A GLORIOUS REWARD FOR IMPERFECT SERVICES. “If any man serves me, my Father will honour him.”
22. I am persuaded that if any man will serve Christ in the way Christ bids him, that is, by following him; if any man is content, not to do as father or grandmother did, but will follow Christ and not man; if any man will break through all customs, all regulations, all rotten proprieties, and just do as Christ did, and imitate him in all things — that man will have honour, first of all, in his own soul. He shall have such blessed peace of conscience, he shall have such sweet fellowship with Christ, he shall have such profound peace from the Father’s right hand, that it shall be apparent to him that the Father honours him. Look at John Knox, who never feared the face of man; he followed Christ as far as his light went, and how greatly the Father honoured him with unruffled serenity of heart. What calm that gigantic spirit had; when the world was all in uproar against him, how peacefully he smiled in the face of the roaring of the multitude, for God honoured him with an indwelling consciousness of being right before the Lord.
23. Then, again, I am persuaded that God will honour such a man by success, by prospering him in his ministry, and in whatever he may attempt for Christ. Why is it that so little success rests on some who labour for God? Because they do not serve Christ in the way he would have them serve him, by imitating him. Ecclesiastical courts, rubrics, rules, forms, liturgies, and such like bonds confine too many, who if they would snap the fetter would be honoured by the Lord. If there were in connection with this Church anything which I thought to be unscriptural, I could not expect to have God’s blessing in it; and I do think if any man here is a member of a Church, of which he can say, “Well, there are many wrong things in it, but I do not think I ought to come out,” you cannot expect God’s blessing. He who would serve Christ, must follow Christ in little things as well as in great things. Whenever we say — “Well, there are some things wrong in my employment, but I can do more good where I am,” we set ourselves up for masters instead of servants. Our business is, conscientiously to follow, as fair as our light goes, the example of Christ in every respect and in all things, and if this should entail the giving up of our present employment and usefulness, we must not consider results, but instantly obey imperative commands. I claim for my Master immediate, unquestioning, unqualified obedience to all his words; and I demand of you in his name that you renounce everything which prevents your rendering perfect, unhesitating service to his person and doctrine. Whether as members of a Church, or a community, or in a trade, you have anything that prevents your following Christ, leave everything and come right out, for you cannot expect great success from God until you have honoured Christ by following him in all things. If you think you know better than Christ, why then I have no more to say to you. If you think that you can lead a better life, or set a better example, you are proud indeed! Or, if you imagine that in your employment you may tolerate disobedience to his command, you talk as one of the foolish women talks, but not as a disciple of Christ. I say again, if you wish to be honoured by God, you must serve Christ by following him.
24. And lastly, such who thus serve Christ, by following him, shall have great honour at the last. We will suppose that the Prince of Wales is shipwrecked on a certain voyage, and is cast on shore with only one companion. The prince falls into the hands of barbarians, and there is an opportunity for his companion to escape; but he says, “No, my prince, I will stay with you to the last, and if we die, we will die together.” The prince is thrown into a dungeon; his companion is in the prison with him, and serves him and waits upon him. He is sick — it is a contagious fever — his companion nurses him — puts the cooling liquid to his mouth — and waits on him with a mother’s care. He recovers a little; the fond attendant carries the young prince, as he is getting better into the open air, and tends him as a mother would her child. They are subject to deep poverty — they share their last crust together; they are hooted at as they go through the streets, and they are hooted at together. At last, by some turn in Providence, it is discovered where the prince is, and he is brought home. Who is the man that the queen will delight to honour? “Make way for this man; he was with my son in prison — he was with my son when he was near death — he nursed him — he suffered with him — he was reproached for him.” I imagine she would look with greater affection upon the poor servant than upon the greatest statesman; and I think that as long as she lived she would remember him above all the rest, for she would say, “He was with my son in all his sorrow and affliction, and I will honour him more than all the mighty ones in the land.” And now dear brothers and sisters, if you and I shall be with Christ, the King’s Son, if we shall suffer with him, and be reproached with him, if we shall follow him anywhere and everywhere, making no choice about the way, whether it shall be rough or smooth, whether it shall be green sward or miry bog — if we can go with him to prison and to death, if such times come, then we shall be the men whom heaven’s King delights to honour. “Make room for him, you angels! Make room you cherubim and seraphim! Stand back you peers of heaven’s realm! Here comes the man; he was poor, lowly, and afflicted; but he was with my Son, and was like my Son. Come here, man! There, take your crown, and sit with my Son in his glory, for you were with my Son in his shame!” Oh that the Holy Spirit would teach us how to follow Jesus, and enable us to walk in his steps.
25. I conclude by again asking this important question — “Are you with Christ today? Have you put your hand into Christ’s hand to be Christ’s for ever?” My hearers, the speaker wants to make this question ring in your ears — “Are you with Christ today?” For he who is not with him is against him, and he who does not follow with him scatters abroad. Do you trust Christ? Oh, sinner; if you do not I beseech you trust him now, and you are saved. If you have trusted Christ is it the true trust? for if it is it will make you follow him, and you will be obedient to his every wish and word. Faith, such as the Holy Spirit gives, always leads to obedience. Is it so? Is it so? If not, humble yourself before God. Believe in him who is the only foundation upon which a sinner’s hope can be built. Take up your cross daily, and through evil report and through good report follow the Master even to the end, and the Lord God, the God of heaven and earth, the fountain of honour, shall glorify you when Christ comes in his kingdom.