A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, August 21, 1870, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington. 6/10/2011*6/10/2011
Seeking for Jesus. (John 6:24)
1. The people who are here described as seeking for Jesus, were looking for him from a very base and selfish motive, not because of the gracious words which he spoke, nor to render him thanks for benefits received from his hands, but merely because they had eaten the loaves and fishes, and hoped to do so again. From such sordid motives let us flee. May we all shun with detestation the very idea of making a profession of religion for the sake of worldly advantage; it is detestable to the last degree. Those who seek Jesus Christ with the grovelling desire to make a gain of godliness are hypocrites of the lowest order; like Judas they will follow the Lord while they can filch from the bag, and like that “son of perdition,” they will sell him when the thirty pieces of silver are the reward of treachery. Let them know that such gain will involve their souls’ eternal loss.
2. I shall apply the words before us to those who really and spiritually seek Jesus, seek him as Jesus — the Saviour who saves his people from their sins. Last Sunday morning I tried to speak concerning maturity in grace, giving the advanced believer a word; (See Spurgeon_Sermons No. 945, “Ripe Fruit” 936) and since we are bound to give a portion of food in due season to all classes, I will now deal with those who are only babes in grace, if indeed they are babes at all; I shall speak to those who cannot say, “We have found him,” but who are earnestly “seeking for Jesus.”
3. I. First, let us notice THE CHARACTER OF THE STATE described as “seeking for Jesus.” In it there is a mingling of good and evil. We see in it much of light, but too much of darkness. It is neither day nor night, a dim twilight, hopeful but clouded over. I may call it “not light, but visible darkness.” It is one of those miry places, a marsh, not altogether a sea, and certainly not land. Like the brackish water of the river’s mouth, not altogether salt, but assuredly not sweet.
4. “Seeking for Jesus” has a large amount of hopefulness in it; it is as the almond tree in blossom, though as yet there is no fruit. The seeker at any rate is not indifferent now; he is not a careless sluggard, demanding even more sleep and folding of the hands; he is not a defiant rebel, daring the wrath of God with blasphemous audacity; he is no longer a denier of revelation; he would not be seeking for Jesus unless he had some kind of faith — at any rate, a theoretical faith — in a Saviour, and in his need for him. Now it is a very encouraging sign when we see men aroused and willing to hear. When we can bring men to think, we are very grateful, for thoughtfulness lies on the road to conviction of sin, and conviction is on the way to faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. I am glad, my dear friend, that you are now no longer deaf to the appeals of God’s word; it is well that your ear is open, and though as yet what you hear is far from bringing you any comfort, yet rest assured it is a great blessing to you to hear the truth, even when it condemns you. I rejoice to see you under concern, and I hope that something may come of it.
5. Your face is now turned in the right direction, now that you are “seeking for Jesus.” When you sought sinful pleasure you were facing the pit of hell, now your face is heavenward. I am glad that Jesus is the object of your search, for depend upon it, nothing else is worth seeking for: salvation from sin and hell should be the first object of your soul’s desire. For an alarmed and awakened sinner to seek rest in ceremonies, will be a search for bread among ashes; to labour for salvation by your own righteousness, will be looking for substance among dreams. Your seeking after Jesus shows that you are on the right tack, and though as yet you have not reached the haven, the helm is set in the right direction, and I am grateful to God for it, and encouraged concerning you. I regard your present state as the little cloud which foretells the coming rain; but, alas! I may be disappointed, and the early cloud may melt into nothingness. Hope tells a flattering tale, but she may be deceived. What a pleasing sight it is to see a man who has formerly been prayerless, casting himself upon his knees in secret! How gratifying to see the unread Bible brought out from the dust and carefully studied! I think an angel must look on with holy interest when he sees the fresh tear fall in the solitary room, and the unaccustomed supplicant bow before his God. Glad are those blessed spirits when they hear the seeker say, “Oh God, I will seek you until I find you; I will cry to you until I receive an answer of peace.” Intelligence of such a vow would make a church rejoice in hope; trusting that the time for newborn children of God to be found in her midst was fully come. A heart that turns itself to Christ if perhaps it may find him, is evidently in a hopeful condition.
6. Yet in the state of “seeking for Jesus” there is much that is doubtful; for, my brethren, the seeker after Christ remains disobedient to the great command of the gospel. If he were obedient to the great gospel precept, he would at once cease to be a seeker, and become a happy finder. What is the command of the gospel? “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved.” Properly speaking, Christ is not an object for seeking, he is not far from any of us; like the brazen serpent uplifted by Moses, he is not so much to be looked for as looked at. We have neither to clamber to heaven to find him in the loftiness of his Deity, and bring him down; nor dive into the depths of Hades, to bring him up again from the dead. So says the Lord, “The word is near you, even in your mouth, and in your heart: that is, the word of faith, which we preach; that if you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised him from the dead, you shall be saved.” Jesus is Emmanuel, God with us. A prayer will reach him, a wish will find him, a groan will pierce his heart — only confide in him, and he is yours. The first command of the gospel to guilty sinners is not to pray, to search the Scriptures, to attend sermons — all these are natural duties, and woe to the man who neglects any of them; but the command, the special command of the gospel is, “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ!” Now, the seeking sinner is disobedient to the command. He is going around here and there seeking, but he declines trusting; he is eagerly looking around for what is at home; he is seeking for peace afar off when it is near him. He looks east and west to behold a wonder, while the Wonderful, the Saviour, stands at his right hand ready to forgive. The way of salvation for me as a sinner is simply this, that I, being a sinner, do now put my trust in Christ Jesus the substitute for sinners. God has presented his crucified Son as the accepted propitiation for sin: the way of salvation is that I accept him in the way God has presented him, namely, as the atonement for my sin, in which I place my sole reliance. Seeing he is God, seeing he took upon himself the nature of man, seeing that as mediator he suffered in the place of as many as trust in him, I trust him, and by it I obtain the blessed result of his sufferings — I am in fact saved by it. Now, it is some good thing certainly to be a seeker, but it is also a bad thing if I follow my seeking and refuse God’s way of salvation. Hear what the apostle John says: “He who does not believe God has made him a liar; because he does not believe the record that God gave of his Son.” This is no small sin to be guilty of, and it entails no small punishment, for “he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.” Suppose that I have been told about a remedy for my disease. Well, it is so far good that I desire to be cured of my deadly malady, it is so far hopeful that I have sent for a physician. But after being informed that there is the one specific medicine for my disease, and that it alone will certainly heal me — if I were still to continue seeking a remedy, or to say I am seeking this one true remedy, I shall remain sick, and ultimately die. I shall never be healed unless I take what is prescribed: to seek it is not enough, I must actually take it. In seeking, then, there is some good, but oh, how much of evil! Here are gleams and flashes of light, but oh, how dense is the darkness! Here is a little smoke in the flax, but I dare scarcely call it a spark. Oh seeker for Jesus, think of this, for while I would not discourage you, yet I would encourage you to end your seeking by becoming a believer. Do not look at salvation’s cup, but drink from it. Do not stand by the fountain’s brim, but wash in it and be clean. Oh may the Holy Spirit lead you to cease your search for goodly pearls, for the pearl of great price is before you. Jesus is not to be discovered as a secret, he stands before you openly. Behold his hands and his feet, notice well his riven side, and as you look, trust, and henceforth he is all your own.
Hear, dear friend, is your true position. It is the case of a soldier
on the battlefield, wounded, bleeding, life oozing away from him; he
is perishing, but he is sufficiently aware of it to call for help.
The surgeon is on the field within hearing, the sufferer pleads for
relief with many cries and entreaties. So far so good; but I ask you
to remember that crying and weeping will not by themselves heal the
sick man — the surgeon must actually come and bind up his wounds; and
if he refuses to receive him, he may cry as he wishes, but he will
bleed to death. So remember that your prayers and seekings by
themselves cannot save you, Jesus must come to you, and it is madness
on your part to refuse him by your unbelief. To give another example:
you are today like the manslayer of old, you have done the murderous
deed, vengeance is armed against you; swift as lightning judgment
pursues you; you are not now slumbering in foolish security, or
presumptuously defying the avenger, but happily you are so aroused
that you are running towards the city of refuge. I delight to see
your earnest running, but run as you may, you are not safe until you
are within the city gate; the most vigorous running will not save you
if it do not end up within the walls of refuge. To enter that open
gate, to dwell within that sheltering wall, to enjoy the privilege of
sanctuary — this is safety; all else is only hope of escape, and not
deliverance itself. To pray, to hear, to desire, to seek — all this is
the roadway and the running, but Christ himself must be laid hold
upon by faith, or we are not saved. Run, man, but oh! take care that
you run in God’s way, by faith in Jesus, and not by trusting in your
resolves and feelings. You must have Christ to be yours by personal
faith, or you must die eternally. Let me give another example. You
are like one who has been asleep in a burning house. At last you are
awakened; the cries of those who would gladly save you have broken
your deadly slumbers. You spring up in horror. I think I see you now
at the upper window, with the flames drawing near you. You clearly
perceive your danger, you passionately clamour for aid; all your
energies are aroused. So far so good; but, man, all this will not
rescue you; you must get onto the fire escape which is now lifted up
to the window. Are you unwilling to take the one and only way of
escape? It is close to you; it is suitable, it is efficient; why seek
another? There it is, and precisely what you need. Your present alarm
will only be the prelude of your despair, if you reject the way of
escape. I put these examples before you so that you may see that
while you are only seeking for Jesus, your best friends dare not
altogether hope for you, but are led to tremble too. We wonder which
way the scale will turn, your future quivers in the balances. As
anxious eyes watch a labouring barque making with difficulty for
port, and in imminent danger of the rocks, so we watch you. We see
you like Lot and his family, ready to leave the City of Destruction,
but you have not yet reached the mountain, and our heart asks
concerning you, “Will he linger in the plain? Will he look back? Or
will he altogether be delivered?” If you remain as you are, there is
no hope for you. All the supposed good which is now in you, is vanity
itself if it leaves you short of Christ. Remember well this verse,
and I will pass on: —
Why those fears, poor seeking sinner?
Why those anxious, gloomy fears?
Sighs and sorrowings cannot save thee,
Healing dwells not in thy tears;
Which the soul to Christ endears.
8. II. The second part of our discourse shall deal with THE PERPLEXITIES OF THIS STATE.
9. “Seeking for Jesus” is a state of heart in which the poor soul is usually very much stressed — “tumbled up and down in his thoughts,” as John Bunyan would say; for first seekers are very often very perplexed, as the result of their ignorance of the way of salvation. Too often, awakened souls, though they may have heard the gospel, do not in their hearts understand it. Many enquirers do not know what faith is. I am persuaded millions of our fellow countrymen do not know what believing in Jesus means. Although every Sunday they are told, yet they do not grasp the thought, for the Spirit of God has not illuminated their minds. To believe in Jesus, as we say again, and again, and again, is simply to trust in Jesus — to take God at his word, to take Christ for what God says he is, namely, the atonement, the satisfaction for sin, the Saviour of sinners. But poor, troubled consciences think faith is a deep mystery, and they go around like blind men groping for the wall; they wander like travellers in a dense fog, not knowing which way leads to their homes; hoping, but hoping against hope, by reason of ignorance. Many, though desirous to be saved, do not understand the work of Christ, or know what atonement is. Although the doctrine of substitution, which is the very marrow of the gospel, is to believers so very plain, yet many seekers have not learned it. That Jesus bore the sin of his people; that “the Lord has laid on him the iniquity of us all”; that he was made sin for us; that justice received its due at his hands; this precious fact many penitent sinners have not grasped. They still think there is so much repentance to do, so much feeling to endure, so much praying to go through, so much mystery to be experienced; but the plain, simple precept, “Believe and live,” trust and be accepted, hide under the shadow of the cross and be safe — this, through ignorance, they do not understand, and this involves them in trouble upon trouble, until their way is hedged up with thorns.
10. At such times, too, to increase their perplexity, they are usually distracted with fear. People in a panic act generally in the worst conceivable manner for their own safety, and an awakened sinner is in much the same condition; a terrible sound is in his ears, he hears the rumbling of the everlasting tempest, he sees the gathering storm. He does not know what to do, nor where to flee. His sins, which once appeared such trifles, now rise before him like mountains of blackness; the wrath of God, which once he defied, makes him fear and quake exceedingly. He sees the dark record of his transgressions, and anticipates the hour when all his sins shall be read before the assembled universe, and the sentence of wrath shall be pronounced against him. Where shall he flee? He scarcely knows how or where to flee! A spirit distracted with dread is never a wise spirit, and often is goaded on to madness. Pressed out of measure with forebodings of heart, and threatenings of conscience, many a man refusing to believe in Jesus, has committed suicide. Do you wonder, then, that souls under a sense of sin and fear of wrath, are far from being calm and collected, but rather are like mariners in a storm, who “reel to and fro, and stagger like a drunken man?” How soon would their bewilderment end in sweet repose, if they would obey the divine mandate and accept the great salvation!
11. During these struggles for life, the mind is usually harassed with a thousand questions. The newly awakened mind is very apt to lose itself in the many spiritual problems which lie before it. The man cared nothing for these matters before, but now he has even a morbid craving after knowledge; he seems as if he could not learn too much or too fast. How many an enquirer instead of turning to the cross, worries himself with intricacies of doctrine, vexing points which belong rather to metaphysics than to divinity! They are fascinated by the “things hard to be understood,” and forget the truths which a wayfaring man, though a fool, may readily comprehend. How many ask themselves, “Are we elect?” when their enquiry should be, “How can a man be cleansed from iniquity?” Truly, they must learn Latin and Greek before they know their alphabet, and must fathom the doctrine of election before they will believe in the redemption of Jesus. They would come to the Father before they have come to the Son, and learn their predestination before their pardon. What has perplexed the wisest of men, namely, how to reconcile divine ordination with the free agency of man, they attempt to grapple with these while they are in danger of the unquenchable fire. They philosophise at hell’s mouth, and debate in the jaws of perdition. You may show them how absurd it is, as absurd as for a drowning man to wish to quibble about hydraulics, and refuse to lay hold on the friendly rope until he understands some mystery in hydrostatics; or, as if a person severely sick refused all surgery until he understood anatomy, and comprehended the secret influences of drugs upon the various parts of the body. Yet some enquirers will remain in this folly. I do not wonder about it, when I remember how foolish man is by nature. Men who have left the whole spiritual realms untrodden are very apt, when they see it open up suddenly before their eyes, to aspire in their hearts’ pride to stand upon its loftiest peaks, to climb its Himalayas, to swim its Bosphorus, to fathom its Atlantic, and for this reason they forget its green pastures and still waters. I would have every convicted sinner here listen to my word this morning. Friend, your business is with the plain truth of the gospel — namely, this, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners” — sinners such as you are, and faith links you to that Saviour. When you have learned that lesson, then you shall discover that God has chosen you from the beginning, that he has ordained you to eternal life; but as yet you cannot understand that matter. Leave that glorious doctrine until first your soul is saved by faith in Jesus Christ. It is plain, however, that this appetite for solid food distracts the babe from the unadulterated milk of the word. These questions help to confuse, trouble, worry, and distract the seeker for Jesus.
12. At this hour too, to make confusion more confounded, Satan is quite sure to assail the soul with his diabolical insinuations and suggestions, with strong temptations and despairing thoughts. No king will willingly lose his subjects, and Satan when he sees his captives about to defect, places extra guards around them. He will instigate others to tempt them, or he will come himself personally and inject into the soul the most horrible thoughts, the most blasphemous suggestions, and the most despairing forebodings that can be conceived of. Having felt this, I speak tenderly to such as may now be exercised with them. Do not marvel at them, neither be dismayed. If you can, by the Holy Spirit’s help, resist Satan, he will flee from you; if you can assail him with “it is written,” he will leave you; but do not be astonished if now for awhile the fiery arrows fly as thick as hail. He has his mitrailleuses (a) from which he can vomit ten thousand shots at once upon a poor lost soul, and make it feel as though it were broken in pieces all asunder with horror and dismay. You will triumph over him yet if you believe: the Lord will bruise Satan under your feet shortly. Be of good courage! Although you fall, you shall rise again; faith will lift you up in the power of Jesus. I do not marvel that when that dog of hell howls in your ears, your spirit is severely taxed for comfort.
It may be also that when the soul is seeking for Jesus, it is at the
same time much grieved to find it cannot even now cease from sin.
“My old sins,” says the heart, “I would be rid of them, but how can I
hope for forgiveness, for I have sinned this very day? I went to my
room, and I bowed my knee, and said, ‘God be merciful to me, a
sinner!’ and I came downstairs resolved to be watchful, but something
vexed me, and I spoke unadvisedly. How can I think God will have
mercy on me?” Or another says, “I was seeking the Saviour this
morning; but I went out to my business, and I met worldly company,
and I forgot my Lord: I am afraid I mingled with them so closely as
to participate in their sinful mirth, and now how can the Lord have
any pity upon such a hypocritical seeker as I have been?” As if that
poor heart expected to be perfect before it had even found pardon! As
if a patient expected to be perfectly well before he had followed the
advice of his physician! My dear hearer, if you were able to cease
from all sin for a single day, I am sure you would be out of place on
earth, for heaven is the place for perfect people, and not this
sinful earth. If a fountain sent out nothing but pure water for one
whole day, we might conclude that it was completely purified. The
bearing of good fruit for one season would prove the tree to be good.
If your heart abstained from sin by itself throughout one day, it
might for another, and so on for ever, and where would be the need of
a Saviour? What, do you not know that Christ came to save you from
your new sins as well as from your old transgressions? Is his arm too
short to reach your daily needs? Is his blood of too little power to
wash away your fresh pollutions? Have you still some hope of
bettering yourself? Quit this trifling. Confess yourself a helpless
sinner, shapen in iniquity, conceived in sin, depraved in heart, and,
therefore, needing the never ceasing mercy of the Lord your God.
Come, wash now in the fountain filled with blood, and if sin returns,
ask Jesus to wash your feet again. Make Jesus your sole reliance. Cry
to him, “Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I
shall be whiter than snow.” Nothing else can end your perplexities;
you cannot untie the Gordian knot of your difficulties, cut it, then,
by leaving all to Jesus. You cannot overcome your sins except by the
blood of the Lamb. You cannot be what you should be, nor what you
would be, except by taking Jesus to be your all in all. Here is a
song for you —
At last I own it cannot be
That I should fit myself for thee:
Here, then, to thee I all resign;
Thine is the work, and only thine.
What shall I say thy grace to move?
I give up every plea beside,
Lord, I am sin, but thou art love:
Lord, I am lost — but thou hast died!
14. III. And now, in the third place, let me warn you of THE DANGERS OF THE STATE of “seeking for Jesus.”
I have already told you that there is much of hopefulness, but there
is much of peril in your condition. Dear seeker, what a sad thing it
is that you should be wasting so much time, and losing so much
comfort, by this long continued seeking, when it might all end so
happily even now at this present hour. Had you believed in Jesus at
the very first, you would have had light at once. How often would he
have gathered you, as a hen gathers her chickens under her wings, but
you would not! If you will trust him now, the daystar shall shine in
your heart. You are like Hopeful and Christian in Giant Despair’s
Castle. They lamented and bemoaned their common sorrow, and planned
various unavailable methods of escape; but at last Christian, as one
half amazed, broke out into this passionate speech: “What a fool,” he
says, “am I to lie in this stinking dungeon, when I may as well walk
at liberty! I have a key in my bosom called Promise, that will, I am
persuaded, open any lock in Doubting Castle.” Then said Hopeful,
“That is good news: good brother, take it out of your bosom, and
try.” My awakened hearer, this is your condition. You have in your
bosom, and you have in God’s word, what will unlock every door in
your prison house. Get up, man, and try it now. Can you not believe
that Jesus is the Christ, and that God has sent Jesus to bear your
sin? Can you not trust in him? If you can, you are free; your sins
are forgiven you, you are saved. You have perhaps heard the incident
of a dove pursued by a hawk, which flew into the bosom of a man who
was walking in the fields, and you remember that it was safely
protected by him whom it had trusted. The dove would not by itself
have flown there, but under the terror of the hawk it sought a
shelter. You have been afraid of Jesus, you have thought he would not
receive you. But now that hell pursues you, be venturesome, and fly
to him. Say as our hymn puts it: —
I can but perish if I go
I am resolved to try;
For if I stay away, I know
I must for ever die.
If Christ stood with a drawn sword in his hand, you had better run on the point of his sword than perish without him. Oh come to him, driven by desperation itself, if by nothing else, come into his bosom! You shall have peace at once. But all the while you remain seeking, I do not know in what distracted manner, you are wasting time, you are missing comfort, you are losing opportunities for happiness. Cease your seeking, for there is the Man whom you seek. He stands revealed before you. Reach your finger here and put it into the print of the nails; or if that is too bold, only touch the hem of his garment, and you shall be made whole.
16. Another evil is not only that of losing present peace and comfort, but the danger of being driven to despair. I do not doubt that some people who were once sincere but unrenewed seekers have now given up all thought of seeking Christ, because they continued to seek when he was near them, to look for him instead of looking at him; and they have waited so long in prayer and Bible reading, and so on, that now they utterly despair, and give all up as hopeless. It is no wonder. If you will try to do a thing in a wrong way, you cannot hope to succeed. If a man will not plough and sow, neither shall he reap. If you will not believe, neither shall you be established. A person may be very industrious indeed in what he does, but if he follows a method which never can produce the result he desires, he must not be surprised when he is disappointed. You are a seeker, and I am glad you are; but if you will not put your trust in Jesus, and lay your burden down at the cross where he offered the great sacrifice, it is no marvel if you continue to seek in vain. It will be a great sorrow, but it will not be a great wonder, if you become at last despairing, and are confined in the iron cage. Oh man, oh woman, break away from this. May God’s Holy Spirit come to your rescue now! Give up your own ideas of how to get peace, take God’s method of salvation, and lay hold on eternal life by trusting in the slain Saviour.
17. Another danger is that in some cages, seeking at length dies out in indifference. Having sought after a fashion by prayer, and failing to find peace at once, temptations to go back to the world’s pleasure attack the soul, and too often after this it becomes impervious to exhortations and expostulations. The unbroken, unrenewed heart grows sullen, and declares, “I tried, but I did not succeed. I may as well have what pleasure I can have, for spiritual joys are denied to me. If the world to come cannot be mine, I will have this world and take my fill of it.” I pray you may never be driven to that, but my fear is that if you tarry long in this borderland, seeking but yet halting between two opinions, undecided and unbelieving, at last you will relapse into your former state of spiritual slumber, and your last end will be worse than the first.
Another danger is lest you should satisfied with something short of
Jesus Christ. I have known people who have been content to remain
seekers all their days. They have felt comforted by the thought that
they are seekers. Now, such comfort is daubing with untempered
mortar. An unemployed man has been walking up and down the London
streets to find something to do. His family is in need, and he must
find a job. He is quite right to seek, but he will not be satisfied
with seeking, he wants to find. Tramping the street will not feed his
children. He is not contented with having called at many shops; he
will not rest until he finds what he is after — and he would be very
foolish if he did. So to be a seeker after Christ, walking up and
down the streets as it were, will not fill your hungry soul; you must
get Christ himself. If any unemployed father of a family were to say,
“Well, I walk around so many days in the week, and so many hours in
the day, and I am quite satisfied, though I do not find anything to
do,” you would think him to be a great simpleton. And so with you. It
is a good sign when there is an appetite; but a mere appetite does
not satisfy a man — he must eat the food provided. Your seeking Christ
will not save you, unless it leads you in very deed to believe in
Jesus. It is a bad sign when a man says, “Well, I am doing my best, I
am always at a place of worship, I am a Bible reader, I practise
prayer at home, I do my best.” My dear friend, if you settle down in
that idea, you are self-righteous, and are off the road altogether;
besides, you are lying to your own heart, for after all you are at
enmity with God, and the sign of that enmity is this, that you refuse
to believe on his dear Son. If you were reconciled to God you would
love Jesus Christ, and trust in him. I see what it is — you have
resolved, after all, to be your own saviour; you still think that
there is something in outward religion to produce salvation; whereas,
I solemnly assure you that, if you refuse to believe in Christ, if
you will not flee to those dear wounds of his, if you will not hide
beneath the shelter of the atonement, you will go to hell as well
from a place of worship as from the haunts of sin, and will perish as
certainly with a Bible read as with a Bible burned.
None but Jesus, none but Jesus,
Can do helpless sinners good.
“Oh, but,” you say, “I feel my sins so much!” Yes, but if you
trust in your feelings you will perish in them as much as though you
wallowed in your sins. Oh soul, resolve with Toplady —
He that suffer’d in my stead,
Shall my Physician be
I will not be comforted
Till Jesus comforts me.
Never hope to be saved except by God’s way of salvation. Oh that the Holy Spirit would enable you in your heart to say, “Now I come to you, oh Jesus; guilty as I am, I lift my eye to you, and this is my prayer: ‘Help me for your mercy’s sake; have pity upon me and cleanse me in your blood, for I put all my trust in you.’ ” Resolve, oh seeker, to have no refuge of lies, no Saviour except the Lamb of God.
19. I will confess to you, dear seeker, that time and time again I am myself personally driven to do what I trust you may be led to do today. I look back upon my past life, and while I have much to thank God for, much in which to see his Spirit’s hand, yet when I feel my responsibilities and my shortcomings, my heart sinks within me. When I think of my transgressions, better known to myself than to anyone else, and remember too that they are not known even to me as they are to God, I feel all hope swept away and my soul left in utter despair, until I come anew to the cross, and I remember who it was who died there, and why he died, and what intents of infinite mercy are obtained by his death. It is so sweet to look up to the Crucified One again, and say, “I have nothing but you, my Lord, no confidence but you. If you are not accepted as my substitute I must perish, if God’s appointed Saviour is not enough I have no other, but I know you are the Father’s Well Beloved, and I am accepted in you. You are all I need, and all I have.” How I desire, with intense longing, that you may do the same; it would be a blessed day for you, and for me a joyful occasion. The Jews in the present chapter asked our Saviour, “What shall we do so that we may work the works of God?” and he said, “This is the work of God, that you believe on him whom he has sent.” The greatest of all works, the most Godlike work, is to stop self-righteous seeking, and trust in Jesus.
20. IV. Now I will conclude by delivering one or two DIRECTIONS TO THOSE WHO ARE “SEEKING FOR JESUS.” These shall be very brief.
21. The first direction is — give attention, dear friend, to the object of faith. The only way by which you can be saved is by faith. Take that to be settled. Now if a man says, “I cannot believe such a thing” — what then? What is his wisest course? Suppose you find a difficulty in believing a report — what do you do? why, you consider the probabilities of it. Suppose it had been rumoured that the Emperor Napoleon had shot himself. Shall I believe the report? I will ask from where the rumour comes, what intelligence corroborates it, upon what authority it is stated, and soon; by that means I arrive at a conclusion whether it is probably true, or is a mere idle tale. Now if you earnestly desire to believe, faith is the gift of God, and a work of the Spirit, but God works according to the laws of mind, and faith in Christ will most readily come to you in conformity with those laws. “Faith comes by hearing,” why by hearing? It is because by hearing I learn the truth concerning Christ, and what I hear commends itself to my judgment and understanding, and so I come to believe. Faith comes to us by reading which is another form of hearing. Read what the Scripture has to say about the Messiah and his work, and you will be helped to believe God’s testimony, by knowing what it is and on what authority it comes to you. Let your hearing and your reading be accompanied with meditation; like the Virgin Mary, ponder these things in your heart. “Incline your ear,” says the Spirit, “and come to me; hear, and your soul shall live.” Now, that inclining of the ear means a devout and diligent attention to the good news, and a weighing of it in your innermost heart. Now look at it, you have sinned, and God must punish sin. These two facts are clear enough to your conscience. Is it not a marvellous system that God should be pleased to put away sin through an atonement, by laying the sin upon another, and punishing it in the person of his Son? Do you know of any other system that would meet the case so well, that would be so suitable for you? I believe that the authenticity of Scripture is better proved by the very existence of this doctrine than by anything else, for no human mind could ever have contrived or conceived of a way so just to God, and yet so infinitely gracious. I feel sure it is true, I am certain of it. Then I find it promised over and over again by God himself, that if I trust Christ I shall have the benefit of all his work. I therefore believe the thing is reasonable, it is proclaimed by divine authority. I have God’s promise for it, I know that the Almighty One cannot lie; I cheerfully accept what he provides for me, and I am saved. My dear hearer, if you find it hard to believe, spend this afternoon in your room, and do not come out again until you have pictured in your mind’s eye the everlasting God unveiling himself of his ineffable splendours, and taking upon himself the nature of man; behold that glorious one nailed to Calvary’s tree, forsaken by God, crying out in anguish, and dying without a friend, and all to make an atonement to the law of God! As you are fixing your eyes upon this, and bowing in humble prayer, faith will come to you, the Holy Spirit will overshadow you and create it in your soul; faith will drop in your soul like the dew from heaven; you will wonder to find the hardness of your heart all gone, and your unbelief all departed, and you will say, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief.”
22. Another direction, however, is — take care, my dear friend, to clear away as for as possible everything that would hinder your believing. Now you may depend upon it that going into sin hinders believing. You cannot continue in wilful sin and yet become a believer; sin cherished in the heart is an effective hindrance. A man cannot be tied to a post and yet run away at the same time; if you bind yourself to your sin, you cannot escape. Withdraw at once from evil company — it is a very deadly mischief to young seekers. You hear a convicting sermon, but then you go away talking with idle gossips, and you fall into frivolous chit-chat on the Sunday afternoon; you cannot expect your soul to grow in the right direction under such influences. Get on your knees, find solitude, go to your God, go to Jesus Christ; it is this that will roll away the stone which blocks the door.
23. And, once again, do remember that until you have believed, your danger is of the most imminent kind. You are not in danger of something future only, you are in peril even now, for the wrath of God abides on you. You are not like a city which is to be attacked by troops still at a distance: the Judge is even at the door. You are actually besieged. The foes have encompassed you all around; they lift the scaling ladders, they will soon scale the walls. Beware, oh sinner, beware, for your present state is terrible; your future state will be hopeless. Today is the accepted time. It is now or never with some of you — escape for your lives now: seek now, but seek in the right way, by believing in him who is the Saviour of the sons of men.
How I have longed, this morning, for a tongue like the pen of a ready
writer; how I have opened my mouth and panted to speak these things
in passionate earnestness, for I hunger for your salvation. I do
speak from my soul but I cannot preach as I wish or else I would
saturate this sermon with my tears. Oh that the Master might bless
even my weakness of speech to carry home the truth to your hearts and
consciences. I do not like to let anyone of you go unless you have
thought over these things, and have given your hearts to Jesus. I
shall probably never address many of you again, certainly not all of
you. Some of you have come across the sea and you are going to the
ends of the earth. I speak in God’s name. Oh now, even before you
have gone from under the sound of the word, now let the believing
look be given: “Look to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth.”
It is the cry of the crucified Saviour. Do not turn away from that
dear voice so full of anguish, do not hide your eyes from that brow
still marked with the thorn crown, do not despise those nailed hands
and feet, but yield to him as again he cries in agony of love, “Look
to me, and be saved, all the ends of the earth.” Oh Lord, do turn
them, and they shall be turned. Amen.
[Portion of Scripture Read Before Sermon — Psalms 32 Matthew 15:21-28 Luke 8:41-48]
(a) Mitrailleuse: A breech-loading machine gun with a number of barrels fitted together, so arranged that it can discharge small missiles simultaneously in large quantities with great rapidity, or singly in rapid succession. It was introduced into the French army about 1868 and first brought into service in the Franco-German war of 1870-1. There are many varieties of this gun, with qualifying names prefixed. OED.