Archive for the ‘C. H. Spurgeon’ Category

“They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more; neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat. For the Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them and shall lead them unto living fountains of waters.” — Revelation 7:16, 17

“They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.” — Isaiah 49:10

Jordan is a very narrow stream.  It made a sort of boundary for Canaan; but it hardly sufficed to divide it from the rest of the world, since a part of the possessions of Israel was on the eastern side of it.  Those who saw the Red Sea divided, and all Israel marching through its depths, must have thought it a small thing for the Jordan to be dried up and for the people to pass through it to Canaan.  The greatest barrier between believers and heaven has been safely passed.  In the day when we believed in the Lord Jesus Christ, we passed through our Red Sea and the Egyptians of our sins were drowned.  Great was the marvel of mercy!  To enter fully into our eternal inheritance we have only to cross the narrow stream of death.

I start by reminding you of this because we are very apt to imagine that we must endure a kind of purgatory while we are on earth, and then, if we are believers, we may break loose into heaven after we have shuffled off this mortal coil.  But it is not so.  Heaven must be in us before we can be in heaven; and while we are yet in the wilderness, we may spy out the land and may eat of the clusters of Eshcol.  There is no such gulf between earth and heaven as gloomy thoughts suggest.  Our dreams should not be of an abyss, but of a ladder whose foot is on the earth, but whose top is in glory. There would not be one hundredth part so much difference between earth and heaven if we did not live so far below our privileges.  We live on the ground when we might rise as on the wings of eagles.  We are all too conscious of this body.  Oh, that we were oftener where Paul was when he said, “Whether in the body or out of the body, I cannot tell: God knoweth!”  If not caught up into Paradise, yet may our daily life be as the garden of the Lord.

Listen a while, ye children of God; for I speak to you, and not to others.  To unbelievers, what can I say?  They know nothing of spiritual things and will not believe them though a man should show them unto them. They are spiritually blind and dead: the Lord quicken and enlighten them!   But to you that are begotten again unto a lively hope by the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, I speak with joy.  Think of what you are by grace, and remember that what you will be in glory is already outlined and foreshadowed in your life in Christ.  Being born from above, you are the same men that will be in heaven.  You have within you the divine life — the same life which is to enjoy eternal immortality.  “He that believeth on the Son hath everlasting life:” it is your possession now.  As the quickened ones of the Holy Spirit, the life which is to last on for ever has begun in you.

At this moment you are already, in many respects, the same as you ever will be.  I might almost repeat this passage in the Revelation concerning some of you at this very hour: “What are these? and whence came they? These are they that came out of great tribulation, and have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.”  I might even go on to say, “Therefore are they before the throne of God,” — for you abide in close communion with the King — “and serve him day and night in his temple: and he that sitteth on the throne shall dwell among them.”  I am straining no point when I thus speak of the sanctified.

Beloved, you are now “elect according to the foreknowledge of God” and you are “the called according to his purpose.”  Already you are as much forgiven as you will be when you stand without fault before the throne of God. The Lord Jesus has washed you whiter than snow and none can lay aught to your charge.  You are as completely justified by the righteousness of Christ as you ever can be; you are covered with his righteousness and heaven itself cannot provide a robe more spotless.  “Beloved, now are we the sons of God.”  “He hath made us accepted in the Beloved.”  Today we have the spirit of adoption and enjoy access to the throne of the heavenly grace; yea, and today by faith we are raised up in Christ and made to sit in the heavenlies in him.  We are now united to Christ, now indwelt by the Holy Ghost: are not these great things, and heavenly things?  The Lord hath brought us out of darkness into his marvelous light.  Although we may, from one point of view, lament the dimness of the day, yet, as compared with our former darkness, the light is marvelous; and, best of all, it is the same light which is to brighten from dawn into mid-day.  What is grace but the morning twilight of glory?

Look ye, beloved: the inheritance that is to be yours tomorrow, is, in very truth, yours today; for in Christ Jesus you have received the inheritance, and you have the earnest of it in the present possession of the Holy Spirit who dwells in you.  It has been well said that all the streets of the New Jerusalem begin here.  See, here is the High Street of Peace, which leads to the central palace of God; and now we set our foot on it.  “Being justified by faith, we have peace with God.”  The heavenly street of Victory, where are the palms and the harps, surely we are at the lower end of it here; for “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith.”  Everything that is to be ours in the home country is, in measure, ours at this moment.  As sleeps the oak within the acorn, so slumbereth heaven within the first cry of “Abba, Father!”  Ay, and the hallelujahs of eternity lie hidden within the groans of penitence.  “God be merciful to me a sinner” has in its bowels the endless “We praise thee, O Lord.”  O saints, little do you know how much you have in what you have!

If I could bring believers consciously nearer to the state of glory by their more complete enjoyment of the privileges of the state of grace, I should be exceeding glad.  Beloved, you will never have a better God: and “this God is our God forever and ever.” Delight yourselves in him this day.  The richest saint in glory has no greater possession than his God: and even I also can say, in the words of the psalm, “Yea, mine own God is he.”

Despite your tribulation, take full delight in God your exceeding joy this morning and be happy in him.  They in heaven are shepherded by the Lamb of God, and so are you: he still carrieth the lambs in his bosom and doth gently lead those that are with young.  Even here he makes us to lie down in green pastures: what would we have more?  With such a God, and such a Savior, all you can want is that indwelling Spirit who shall help you to realize your God and to rejoice in your Savior; and you have this also, for the Spirit of God dwelleth with you and is in you: “know ye not that ye are the temple of God?”  God the Holy Ghost is not far away, neither have we to entreat his influence, as though it were rays from a far-off star; for he abides in his people evermore.  I will not say that heavenly perfection is not far superior to the highest state that we ever reach on earth; but the difference lies more in our own failure than in the nature of things.  Grace, if realized to its full, would brighten off into glory.  When the Holy Spirit fully possesses our being, and we yield ourselves to his power, our weakness is strength and our infirmity is to be gloried in.  Then is it true that on earth God is with us; and there is but a step between us and heaven, where we are with God.

Thus I have conducted you to my two texts, which I have put together as an illustration of what I would teach.  In the New Testament text, we have the heavenly state above; and in the Old Testament text, we have the state of the Lord’s flock while on the way to their eternal rest.  Very singular, to my mind, is the sameness of the description of the flock in the fold, and the flock feeding in the ways. The verses are almost word for word the same.  When John would describe the white-robed host, he can say no more of them than Isaiah said of the pilgrim band, led by the God of mercy.


The beloved John tells us what he heard and saw.  The first part of the description assures us of the supply of every need.  “They shall hunger no more, neither thirst any more.”  In heaven no need is unsatisfied and no desire ungratified.  They can have no want as to their bodies, for they are as the angels of God.  Children of poverty, your straitness of bread will soon be ended and your care shall end in plenty.  The worst hunger is that of the heart and this will be unknown above.  There is a ravenous hunger, fierce as a wolf, which possesses some men: all the world cannot satisfy their greed.  A thousand worlds would be scarce a mouthful for their lust.

Now, in heaven there are no sinful and selfish desires.  The ravening of covetousness or of ambition enters not the sacred gate.  In glory there are no desires which should not be, and those desires which should be are all so tempered or so fulfilled that they can never become the cause of sorrow or pain, for, “they shall hunger no more.”

Even the saints need love, fellowship, rest: they have all these in union with God, in the communion of saints, and in the rest of Jesus.  The unrenewed man is always thirsting; but Christ can stay this even now, for he saith, “He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst.”  Be you sure, then, that from the golden cup of glory we shall drink that which will quench all thirst forever.  There is not in all the golden streets of heaven a single person who is desiring what he may not have, or wanting what he cannot obtain, or even wishing for that which he has not to his hand.  O happy state!  Their mouth is satisfied with good things; they are filled with all the fullness of God.

And as there is in heaven a supply for every need, so is there the removal of every ill.  Thus saith the Spirit, “Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”  We are such poor creatures that excess of good soon becomes evil to us.  I love the sun: if you had ever seen it shining in the clear blue heavens, you would not wonder that I speak with emphasis.  Life, joy, and health stream from it in lands where it is enough of pleasure to bask in its beams.  But too much of the sun overpowers us; his warmth makes men faint, his stroke destroys them.  Too great a blessing may prove too heavy a cargo for the ship of life.  Hence we need guarding from dangers which, at the first sight, look as if they were not perilous.  In the beatific state, if these bodies of flesh and blood were still our dwelling-place, we could not live under the celestial conditions.  Even here, too much of spiritual joy may prostrate a man and cast him into a swoon.  I would like to die of the disease; but still, a sickness cometh upon one to whom heavenly things are revealed in great measure and enjoyed with special vividness.  One of the saints cried out in an agony of delight, “Hold, Lord, hold! Remember I am but an earthen vessel, and can contain no more!”  The Lord has to limit his revelations because we cannot bear them now.  I have heard of one who looked upon the sun imprudently, and was blinded by the light.  The very sunlight of divine revelation, favor, and fellowship could readily prove too much for our feeble vision, heart, and brain.  Therefore, in the glorious state flesh and blood shall be removed and the raised body shall be strengthened to endure that fierce light which beats about the throne of Deity.  As for us, as we now are, we might well cry, “Who among us shall dwell with the devouring fire?”  But when the redemption of the body has come about and the soul has been strengthened with all might, we shall be able to be at home with our God, who is a consuming fire.  “Neither shall the sun light on them, nor any heat.”  May God grant us to enjoy the anticipation of that happy period when we shall behold his face, when his secret shall be with us, and we shall know even as we are known!  Oh, for that day when we shall enter into the Holiest and shall stand before the presence of his glory; and yet, so far from being afraid, [we] shall be filled with exceeding joy!

But, further, the description of the heavenly life has this conspicuous feature — the leading of the Lamb.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and shall lead them.”  It is heaven to be personally shepherded by him who is the Great Sacrifice.  In this present state we have earthly shepherds; and when God graciously feeds us by men after his own heart, whom he himself instructs, we prize them much.  Those whom the Lord ordains to feed his flock we love, and their faith we follow, for the Lord makes them of great service to us; but still, they are only underlings, and we do not forget their imperfections and their dependence upon their Lord. But in the glory-land “that Great Shepherd of the sheep” will himself personally minister to us. Those dear lips that are as lilies, dropping sweet-smelling myrrh, shall speak directly to each one of our hearts.  We shall hear his voice, we shall behold his face, we shall be fed by his hand, we shall follow at his heel.  How gloriously will he “stand and feed!”  How restfully shall we lie down in green pastures!  He shall feed us in his dearest character.  As the Lamb, he revealed his greatest love, and as the Lamb will he lead and feed us forever.  The Revised Version wisely renders the passage, “The Lamb in the midst of the throne shall be their shepherd.”  We are never fed so sweetly by our Lord himself as when he reveals to us most clearly his character as the sacrifice for sin.  The atoning sacrifice is the center of the sun of infinite love, the light of light. There is no truth like it for the revelation of God.  Christ in his wounds and bloody sweat is Christ indeed.  “Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree.”  With this truth before us, his flesh is meat indeed and his blood is drink indeed.  In heaven, we shall know him far better than we do now as the Lamb slain from before the foundation of the world, the Lamb of God’s Passover, “the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world.”  That deep peace, that eternally unbroken rest which we shall derive from a sight of the Great Sacrifice will be a chief ingredient in the bliss of heaven.  “The Lamb shall feed them.”

Though we shall see our Lord as a Lamb, it will not be in a state of humiliation, but in a condition of power and honor.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them.”  Heaven will largely consist of expanded views of King Jesus and nearer beholdings of the glory which follows upon his sacrificial grief.  Ah, brethren, how little do we know his glory!  We scarce know who he is that has befriended us.  We hold the doctrine of his Deity tenaciously, but in heaven we shall perceive his Godhead in its truth so far as the finite can apprehend the infinite.  We have known his friendship to us, but then we shall behold the King in his beauty in his own halls, and our eyes shall look into his royal countenance and his face, which outshineth the sun, shall beam ineffable affection upon each one of us.  Then shall we find our heaven in his glory.  We ask no thrones; his throne is ours.  The enthroned Lamb himself is all the heaven we desire.

Then the last point of the description is full of meaning.  The drinking at the fountain is the secret of the ineffable bliss.  “The Lamb which is in the midst of the throne shall feed them, and lead them unto living fountains of waters.”  We are compelled to thirst at times, like the poor flock of slaughter which we see driven through our London streets; and, alas, we stop at the very puddles by the way and would refresh ourselves at them, if we could!  This will never happen to us when we reach the land where flows the river of the water of life.  There the sheep drink of no stagnant waters or bitter wells, but they are satisfied from living fountains of waters.  Comfort is measurably to be found in the streams of providential mercies, and therefore they are to be received with gratitude but yet common blessings are unfilling things to souls quickened by grace.  Corn can fill the barn but not the heart.  Of the wells of earth, we may say, “Whosoever drinketh of this water shall thirst again;” but when we go beyond temporal supplies and live upon God himself, then the soul receives a draught of far truer and more enduring refreshment; even as our Lord Jesus said to the woman at the well, “He that drinketh of the water that I shall give him shall never thirst; but the water that I shall give him shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life.”  In heaven, the happy ones live not on bread, which is the staff of life, but on God, who is life itself.  The second cause is passed over, and the first cause alone is seen.

In the home country, souls have no need of the means of grace, for they have reached the God of grace.  The means of grace are like conduit-pipes which bring down the living water to us: but we have found them fail us; and at times we have used them in so faulty a way that the water has lost its freshness or has even been made to taste of the pipe through which it flowed.  Fruit is best when gathered fresh from the garden: the fingering of the market destroys the bloom.  We have too much of this in our ministries.  Brethren, we shall soon drink living water at the well-head and gather the golden fruit from him who is “as the apple tree among the trees of the wood.”  We shall have no need of baptisms and breakings of bread, nor of churches and pastors.  We shall not need the golden chalices or the earthen vessels which now serve our turn so well, but we shall come to the river’s source and drink our full.  “He shall lead them unto living fountains of water.”

At times, we know what it is to come to the pits and find no water; then we try to live on happy memories.  We sing and sigh; or sigh and sing —

“What peaceful hours I once enjoyed,

How sweet their memory still!

But they have left an aching void

The world can never fill.”

A cake made of memories will do for a bite now and then, but it makes poor daily bread.  We want the present enjoyment of God.  We need still to go to the fountain for new supplies; for water which standeth long in the pitcher loses its cool and refreshing excellence.  Happy is the man that is not living upon the memories of what he used to enjoy but is even now in the banqueting-house!  The present and perpetual renewal of first love and first delight in God is heaven.

Heaven is to know the substance and the secret of the divine life – not to hold a cup, but to drink of the living water.  The doctrine is precious, but it is far better to know the thing about which the doctrine speaks.  The doctrine is the silver of silver, but the blessing itself is the apple of gold.  Blessed are they that are always fed on the substance of the truth, the verity of verities, the essence of essential things.  “He shall lead them unto fountains.”  There the eternal source is unveiled: they not only receive the mercy, but they see how it comes and whence it flows: they not only drink, but they drink with their eye upon the glorious Well-head.  Did you ever see a boy on a hot day lie down, when he has been thirsty, and put his mouth down to the top of the water at the brim of the well?  How he draws up the cool refreshment!  Drink away, poor child!  He has no fear that he will drink the well dry, nor have we.  How pleasant it is to take from the inexhaustible!  That which we drink is all the sweeter because of the measureless remainder.   Enough is not enough: but when we have God for our all in all, then are we content.  When I am near to God and dwell in the overflowing of his love, I feel like the cattle on a burning summer’s day when they take to the brook which ripples around them up to their knees, and there they stand, filled, cooled, and sweetly refreshed.  O my God, in thee I feel that I have not only all that I can contain, but all that containeth me.  In thee I live and move with perfect content.

Such is heaven!  We shall have bliss within and bliss around us: we ourselves drinking at the source and dwelling by the well forever.  The fact is that heaven is God fully enjoyed.  The evil that God hates will be wholly cast out; the capacity which God gives will be enlarged and prepared for full fruition and our whole being will be taken up with God, the ever-blessed, from whom we came and to whom it will be heaven to return.  Who knoweth God knoweth heaven.  The source of all things is our fountain of living waters.

Thus I could occupy all the morning with my first [point]; but I must not tarry, or I shall miss my aim, which is to show you that, even here, we may outline glory and, in the wilderness, we may have the pattern of things in the heavens.  This you will see by carefully referring to the second text.


I think I have heard you saying, “Ah! this is all about heaven; but we have not yet come to it.  We are still wrestling here below.”  Well, well; if we cannot go to heaven at once, heaven can come to us.  The words which I will now read refer to the days of earth, the times when the sheep feed in the ways and come from the north and from the south at the call of the shepherd.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst; neither shall the heat nor sun smite them: for he that hath mercy on them shall lead them, even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Look at the former passage and at this.  The whole description is the same.  When I noticed this parallel, I stood amazed.  John, thou art a great artist; I entreat thee, paint me a picture of heaven!  Isaiah, thou also hast a great soul; draw me a picture of the life of the saintly ones on earth when their Lord is with them!  I have both pictures.  They are masterpieces.  I look at them and they are so much alike that I wonder if there be not some mistake.  Surely they are depicting the same thing.  The forms, the lights and shades, the touches and the tones are not only alike, but identical.  Amazed, I cry, “Which is heaven, and which is the heavenly life on earth?”  The artists know their own work and by their instruction I will be led.  Isaiah painted our Lord’s sheep in his presence on the way to heaven, and John drew the same flock in the glory with the Lamb; and the fact that the pictures are so much alike is full of suggestive teaching.  Here are the same ideas in the same words.  Brethren, may you and I as fully believe and enjoy the second passage as we hope to realize and enjoy the first Scripture when we get home to heaven.

First, here is a promise that every want shall he supplied.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”  If we are the Lord’s people and are trusting in him, this shall be true in every possible sense.  Literally, “your bread shall be given you, your water shall be sure.”  You shall have no anxious thought concerning what you shall eat and what you shall drink.  But, mark you, if you should know the trials of poverty and should be greatly tried and brought very low in temporal things, yet the Lord’s presence and sensible consolations shall so sustain you that spiritually and inwardly you shall know neither hunger nor thirst.  Many saints have found riches in poverty, ease in labor, rest in pain, and delight in affliction.  Our Lord can so adapt our minds to our circumstances that the bitter is sweet, and the burden is light.  Paul speaks of the saints “as sorrowful, yet always rejoicing.”  Note well that the sorrow has an “as” connected with it, but the rejoicing is a fact.  “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”  If you live in God, you shall have no ungratified desire.  “Delight thyself also in the Lord, and he shall give thee the desires of thine heart.”  There may be many things that you would like to have and you may never have them; but then you will prefer to be without them, saying, “Nevertheless, not as I will, but as thou wilt.”  If Christ be with you, you will be so happy in him that wanton, wandering wishes will be like the birds which may fly over your head but dare not make their nests in your hair.  You will be without a peevish craving, or a pining ambition, or a passing care.  “Oh,” says a believer, “I wish I could reach that state.”  You may reach it: you are on the way to it.  Only love Christ more and be more like him, and you shall be satisfied with favor, and sing, “All my springs are in thee;” “My soul, wait thou only upon God; for my expectation is from him.”

I do not mean that the saints find a full content in this world’s goods, but that they find such content in God that with them or without them they live in wealth.  A man’s life consisteth not in the abundance of that which he possesseth; and many a man who has had next to nothing that could be seen with eyes or handled with hands has been a very millionaire for true wealth in possessing the kingdom of the Most High.  The Lord has brought some of us into that state in which we have all things in him, and it is true to us, “They shall not hunger nor thirst.”

Then, next, there is such a thing as having every evil removed from you while yet in this wilderness.  “Neither shall the heat nor sun smite them.”  Suppose God favors you with prosperity; if you live near to God you will not be rendered proud or worldly-minded by your prosperity.  Suppose you should become popular because of your usefulness; you will not be puffed up if Christ Jesus is your continual leader and shepherd.  If you live near to him, you will be lowly.  If your days are spent in sunlight and you go from joy to joy, still no sunstroke shall smite you.  If still you dwell in God and your heart is full of Christ and you are led as a sheep by him, no measure of heat shall overpower you.  It is a mistake to think that our safety or our danger is according to our circumstances; our safety or our danger is according to our nearness to God, or our distance from him. A man who is near to God can stand on the pinnacle of the temple and the devil may tempt him to throw himself down, and he will be firm as the temple itself.  A man that is without God may be in the safest part of the road and traverse a level way and yet he will stumble.  It is not the road, but the Lord that keepeth the pilgrim’s foot.  O heir of heaven, commit thou thy way unto God and make him thine all in all: rise above the creature into the Creator and then shalt thou hunger no more, neither thirst any more, neither shall the heat nor the sun smite thee.

Further, it is said that on earth we may enjoy the leading of the Lord.  See how it is put: “For he that hath mercy on them shall lead them.”  Here we have not quite the same words as in the Revelation, for there we read, “The Lamb that is in the midst of the throne shall lead them.”  Yet the sense is but another shade of the same meaning.  Oh, but that is a sweet, sweet name, is it not?  “He that hath mercy on them.”  He has saved them and so has had mercy on them.  Yes, that is very precious, but the word is sweeter still — “He that hath mercy on them,” he that is always having mercy on them, he that follows them with mercy all the days of their lives, he that continually pardons, upholds, supplies, strengthens, and thus daily loadeth them with benefits: “He that hath mercy on them shall lead them.”

Do you know, beloved friends, what it is to be led of the Lord?  Many are led by their own tastes and fancies.  They will go wrong.  Others are led by their own judgments.  But these are not infallible, and they may go wrong.  More are led by other people; these may go right, but it is far from likely that they will.  He that is led of God, he is the happy man, he shall not err.  He shall be conducted providentially in a right way to the city of habitations.  “Commit your way unto the Lord: trust also in him, and he will bring it to pass.”  It may be a rough way, but it must be a right way if we follow the track of the Lord’s feet.  The true believer shall be led by the Spirit of God in sacred matters: “He will guide you into all truth.”  He that hath mercy on us in other things will have mercy on us by teaching us to profit.  We shall each one sing, “He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.”  We shall be led into duty and through struggles; we shall be led to happy attainments and gracious enjoyments; we shall go from strength to strength.

In the case of the gracious soul, earth becomes like heaven, because he walks with God.  He that hath mercy on him visits him, communes with him, and manifests himself to him.  A shepherd goeth before his flock and the true sheep follow him.  Blessed are they who follow the Lamb whithersoever he goes.  They have a love for their Lord and therefore they only want to know which way he would have them go, and they feel drawn along it by the cords of love and the bands of a man.  If they can get a glance from their Lord’s eye it suffices them: as it is written, “I will guide thee with mine eye.”  Every day they stand anxiously attentive to do the King’s commandment, be it what it may.  They yield themselves and their members to him to be instruments of righteousness, vessels fit for the Master’s use.  Beloved, this is heaven below.  If you have ever tried it, you know it is so.  If you have never fully tried it, try it now, and you will find a new joy in it.  Jesus says to you, “Take my yoke upon you, and learn of me; and ye shall find rest unto your souls.”

I do not know anything more delightful than to be such a fool, as the world will call you, as to yield your intellect to the teaching of the Lord and to be so weak that you cannot judge but accept his will; and [to be] so incapable that even to will and to do must be wrought in you of the Lord.   Oh, to be so unselfed as to take anything from Christ far more gladly than you would choose of your own accord!  If your Lord puts his hand into the bitter box, you will think the potion sweet; and if he scourge, you will thank him for being so kind as to think of you at all.  When you get to that point, that you are as a sheep to whom God himself is the Shepherd, it is well with you. Then you will realize, even in the pastures of the wilderness, how the rain from heaven drops upon the inheritance of the Lord and refreshes it when it is weary.  “The peace of God, which passeth all understanding, shall keep your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  God give you to know it, dear friends!  I can speak experimentally [by personal experience] of it: it is not only the antepast [foretaste] of heaven, but a part of the banquet itself.

But now the last touch is the drinking at the springhead.  We were not surprised to find in our description of heaven that the Lamb led them to the fountains of waters; but we are delighted to find that, here below, “even by the springs of water shall he guide them.”  Beloved, covet earnestly this drinking at the springs.  It is not all who profess to be Christians who will know what I am talking about this morning: they will think I have got into the way of the mystics and am dreaming of things unpractical.  I will not argue with them; let me speak to those who understand me.

Beloved in the Lord, you can even now live upon God himself and there is no living comparable to it. You can get beyond all the cisterns and come to the river of the water of life, even as they do in heaven.  To live by second causes is a very secondary life: to live on the First Cause is the first of living.  I exhort you to do this with regard to the inspired Word.  This is a day of man’s opinions, views, judgments, criticisms.  Leave them all – good, bad, and indifferent – and come to this Book which is the pure fount of inspiration undefiled.  When you study the Word of God, live upon it as his Word.  I am not going to defend it; it needs no defense.  I am not going to argue about its inspiration; if you know the Lord aright, his Word is inspired to you, if to no one else.  You know not only that it was inspired when it was written, but that it is inspired still; moreover, its inspiration affects you in a way in which no other writings can ever touch you.  It breathes upon you; it breathes life into you and makes you to speak words for God which prove to be words from God to other souls.  Oh, it is wonderful, if you read the word of God in a little company, morning by morning — simply read it and pray over it, what an effect it may have upon all who listen!  I speak what I do know.  If you read the inspired words themselves and look up to him who spoke them, their spiritual effect will be the witness of their inspiration.  This is a miracle-working Book: it may be opposed, but never conquered; it may be buried under unbelief, but it must rise again.  Blessed are they to whom the Word is meat and drink.  They quit the cistern of man for the fountain of God, and they do well.  “By the springs of water shall he guide them.”

Yet I would exhort you not even to tarry at the letter of God’s word, but believingly and humbly advance to drink from the Holy Ghost himself.  He will not teach you anything which is not in the Bible, but he will take of the things of Christ and will show them unto you.  A truth may be like a jewel in the Word of God, and yet we may not see its brilliance until the Holy Spirit holds it up in the light and bids us mark its luster.  The Spirit of God brings up the pearl from the deeps of revelation and sets it where its radiance is perceived by the believing eye.  We are such poor scholars that we learn little from the Book till “the Interpreter, one of a thousand,” opens our heart to the Word and opens the Word to our heart.  The Holy Ghost who revealed truth in the Book must also personally reveal it to the individual.  If ever you get a hold of truth in that way, you will never give it up.  A man who has learned truth from one minister may unlearn it from another minister, but he that has been taught it of the Holy Ghost has a treasure which no man taketh from him.

Beloved, we would exhort you to drink of the springs of living water while you are here. Be often going back to fundamental doctrines.  Especially get back to the consideration of covenant engagements.  Whence come all the deeds of mercy from God our Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ?  Come they not from eternal purposes and from that covenant, “ordered in all things, and sure,” made or ever the earth was, between the Father and the ever-blessed Son?  Get you often to the well of the covenant.  I know of nothing that can make you so happy as to know in your very soul how the Father pledged himself by oath to the Son, and the Son pledged himself to the eternal Father concerning the great mystery of our redemption.  Eternal love and covenant faithfulness: these are ancient wells.  Do not hesitate to drink deep at the fountain of electing love.  The Lord himself chose you, having loved you with an everlasting love.  Everything comes to the saints “according as he hath chosen us in him before the foundation of the world.”  The Philistines have stopped this well full many a time, but they cannot prevent its waters bubbling up from among the stones which they have cast into it.  There it stands.  “I have loved thee with an everlasting love: therefore with lovingkindness have I drawn thee.”  Get back to the love that had no cause but the First Cause, to the love that knows no change, to the love that knows no limit, no hesitancy, no diminution, the love that stands, like the Godhead itself, eternal and immovable.  Drink from eternal springs; and if you do so, your life will be more and more “as the days of heaven upon the earth.”  God grant us to get away from the deceitful brooks to “the deep which lieth under,” and with joy may we draw water.

Christ’s presence and fountain drinking — give me these two things and I ask no more.  The Lamb to feed me and the fountain to supply me: these are enough.  Lord, whom have I in heaven but thee?  Come poverty, come sickness, come shame, come casting out by brethren; yea, come death itself, nothing can I want, and nothing can harm me if the Lamb be my Shepherd and the Lord my fountain.

Before another Sunday, some of us may be in heaven.  Before this month has finished, some of us may know infinitely more about the eternal world than the whole assembly of divines could tell us.  Others of us may have to linger here a while.  Yet are we not in banishment.  Here we dwell with the King for his work.  We will endeavor to keep close to our Master, and if we may serve him and see his face, we will not grudge the glorified their fuller joys.

You that know nothing about these things, God grant you spiritual sense to know that you do not know and then give you further grace to pray to him, “Lord, lead me to the living fountains.”  There is an inner life, there is a heavenly secret, and there is a surpassing joy; some of us know it: we wish that you, also, had it.  Cry for it.  Jesus can give it you at once.  Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ and thou shall live forever.  The new birth goes with faith in Christ.  May he give it you this morning and may you begin to be heavenly here, that you may be fit for heaven hereafter.  The Lord bless you, dear friends, for Jesus’ sake!  Amen.

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“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” — Luke 2:7

It was needful that it should be distinctly proven, beyond all dispute, that our Lord sprang out of Judah.  It was necessary, also, that he should be born in Bethlehem-Ephratah, according to the word of the Lord which he spoke by his servant Micah.  But how could a public recognition of the lineage of an obscure carpenter and an unknown maiden be procured?  What interest could the keepers of registers be supposed to take in two such humble persons? As for the second matter, Mary lived at Nazareth in Galilee, and there seemed every probability that the birth would take place there; indeed, the period of her delivery was so near that, unless absolutely compelled, she would not be likely to undertake a long and tedious journey to the southern province of Judea.  How are these two matters to be arranged?  Can one turn of the wheel affect two purposes?

It can be done!  It shall be done!  The official stamp of the Roman Empire shall be affixed to the pedigree of the coming Son of David, and Bethlehem shall behold his nativity.  A little tyrant, Herod, by some show of independent spirit, offends the greater tyrant, Augustus.  Augustus informs him that he shall no longer treat him as a friend, but as a vassal; and albeit Herod makes the most abject submission, and his friends at the Roman court intercede for him, yet Augustus, to show his displeasure, orders a census to be taken of all the Jewish people, in readiness for a contemplated taxation, which, however, was not carried out till some ten years after.  Even the winds and waves are not more fickle than a tyrant’s will; but the Ruler of tempests knoweth how to rule the perverse spirits of princes.  The Lord our God has a bit for the wildest war horse and a hook for the most terrible leviathan.  Autocratic Caesars are but puppets moved with invisible strings, mere drudges to the King of Kings.  Augustus must be made offended with Herod; he is constrained to tax the people; it is imperative that a census be taken; nay, it is of necessity that inconvenient, harsh, and tyrannical regulations should be published, and every person must return to the town to which he was reputed to belong; thus, Mary is brought to Bethlehem, Jesus Christ is born as appointed, and, moreover, he is recognized officially as being descended from David by the fact that his mother came to Bethlehem as being of that lineage, remained there, and returned to Galilee without having her claims questioned, although the jealousy of all the women of the clan would have been aroused had an intruder ventured to claim a place among the few females to whom the birth of the Messiah was now by express prophecies confined.

Remark here the wisdom of a God of providence, and believe that all things are ordered well.  When all persons of the house of David were thus driven to Bethlehem, the scanty accommodation of the little town would soon be exhausted.  Doubtless friends entertained their friends till their houses were all full, but Joseph had no such willing kinsmen in the town.  There was the caravanserai, which was provided in every village, where free accommodation was given to travelers; this, too, was full, for coming from a distance, and compelled to travel slowly, the humble couple had arrived late in the day.  The rooms within the great brick square were already occupied with families; there remained no better lodging, even for a woman in travail, than one of the meaner spaces appropriated to beasts of burden.  The stall of the ass was the only place where the child could be born.  By hanging a curtain at its front, and perhaps tethering the animal on the outer side to block the passage, the needed seclusion could be obtained, and here, in the stable, was the King of Glory born and in the manger was he laid.

My business this morning is to lead your meditations to the stable at Bethlehem, that you may see this great sight — the Savior in the manger and think over the reason for this lowly couch — “because there was no room for them in the inn.”


1. I think it was intended thus to show forth his humiliation.  He came, according to prophecy, to be “despised and rejected of men, a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief;” he was to be “without form or comeliness,” “a root out of a dry ground.”  Would it have been fitting that the man who was to die naked on the cross should be robed in purple at his birth?  Would it not have been inappropriate that the Redeemer who was to be buried in a borrowed tomb should be born anywhere but in the humblest shed and housed anywhere but in the most ignoble manner?  The manger and the cross standing at the two extremities of the Savior’s earthly life seem most fit and congruous the one to the other.  He is to wear through life a peasant’s garb; he is to associate with fishermen; the lowly are to be his disciples; the cold mountains are often to be his only bed; he is to say, “Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay his head;” nothing, therefore, could be more fitting than that in his season of humiliation, when he laid aside all his glory, and took upon himself the form of a servant, and condescended even to the meanest estate, he should be laid in a manger.

2. By being in a manger he was declared to be the king of the poor.  They, doubtless, were at once able to recognize his relationship to them, from the position in which they found him.  I believe it excited feelings of the tenderest brotherly kindness in the minds of the shepherds, when the angel said — “This shall be a sign unto you; you shall find the child wrapped in swaddling-clothes and lying in a manger.”  In the eyes of the poor, imperial robes excite no affection, a man in their own garb attracts their confidence.  With what pertinacity will workingmen cleave to a leader of their own order, believing in him because he knows their toils, sympathizes in their sorrows, and feels an interest in all their concerns.  Great commanders have readily won the hearts of their soldiers by sharing their hardships and roughing it as if they belonged to the ranks.  The King of Men who was born in Bethlehem was not exempted in his infancy from the common calamities of the poor, nay, his lot was even worse than theirs.  I think I hear the shepherds comment on the manger-birth, “Ah!” said one to his fellow, “then he will not be like Herod the tyrant; he will remember the manger and feel for the poor; poor helpless infant, I feel a love for him even now, what miserable accommodation this cold world yields its Savior; it is not a Caesar that is born to-day; he will never trample down our fields with his armies, or slaughter our flocks for his courtiers, he will be the poor man’s friend, the people’s monarch; according to the words of our shepherd-king, he shall judge the poor of the people; he shall save the children of the needy.”  Surely the shepherds, and such as they — the poor of the earth, perceived at once that here was the plebeian king; noble in descent, but still as the Lord hath called him, “one chosen out of the people.”  Great Prince of Peace!  The manger was thy royal cradle!  Therein wast thou presented to all nations as Prince of our race, before whose presence there is neither barbarian, Scythian, bond nor free; but thou art Lord of all.  Kings, your gold and silver would have been lavished on him if ye had known the Lord of Glory, but inasmuch as ye knew him not he was declared with demonstration to be a leader and a witness to the people.  The things which are not, under him shall bring to nought the things that are, and the things that are despised which God hath chosen, shall under his leadership break in pieces the might, and pride, and majesty of human grandeur.

3. Further, in thus being laid in a manger, he did, as it were, give an invitation to the most humble to come to him.  We might tremble to approach a throne, but we cannot fear to approach a manger.  Had we seen the Master at first riding in state through the streets of Jerusalem with garments laid in the way, and the palm-branches strewed, and the people crying, “Hosanna!” we might have thought, though even the thought would have been wrong, that he was not  approachable.  Even there, riding upon a colt the foal of an ass, he was so meek and lowly, that the young children clustered about him with their boyish “Hosanna!”  Never could there be a being more approachable than Christ.  No rough guards pushed poor petitioners away; no array of officious friends were allowed to keep off the importunate widow or the man who clamored that his son might be made whole; the hem of his garment was always trailing where sick folk could reach it, and he himself had a hand always ready to touch the disease, an ear to catch the faintest accents of misery, a soul going forth everywhere in rays of mercy, even as the light of the sun streams on every side beyond that orb itself.  By being laid in a manger, he proved himself a priest taken from among men, one who has suffered like his brethren, and therefore can be touched with a feeling of our infirmities.  Of him it was said “He doth eat and drink with publicans and sinners;” “this man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.”

Even as an infant, by being laid in a manger, he was set forth as the sinner’s friend.  Come to him, ye that are weary and heavy-laden!  Come to him, ye that are broken in spirit, ye who are bowed down in soul!  Come to him, ye that despise yourselves and are despised of others!  Come to him, publican and harlot!  Come to him, thief and drunkard!  In the manger there he lies, unguarded from your touch and unshielded from your gaze.  Bow the knee, and kiss the Son of God; accept him as your Savior, for he puts himself into that manger that you may approach him.  The throne of Solomon might awe you, but the manger of the Son of David must invite you.

4. Methinks there was yet another mystery.  You remember, brethren, that this place was free to all; it was an inn, and please to remember the inn in this case was not like our hotels, where accommodation and provision must be paid for.  In the early and simple ages of the world every man considered it an honor to entertain a stranger; afterwards, as traveling became more common, many desired to shift the honor and pleasure upon their neighbors; wherefore should they engross all the dignity of hospitality?  Further on still, some one person was appointed in each town and village, and was expected to entertain strangers in the name of the rest; but, as the ages grew less simple, and the pristine glow of brotherly love cooled down, the only provision made was the erection of a huge square block, arranged in rooms for the travelers, and with lower stages for the beasts, and here, with a certain provision of water and in some cases chopped straw for the cattle, the traveler must make himself as comfortable as he could.  He had not to purchase admittance to the caravanserai, for it was free to all, and the stable especially so.

Now, beloved, our Lord Jesus Christ was born in the stable of the inn to show how free he his to all comers.  The Gospel is preached to every creature and shuts out none.  We may say of the invitations of Holy Scripture, “None are excluded hence but those

Who do themselves exclude;

Welcome the learned and polite,

The ignorant and rude.

Though Jesus’ grace can save the prince,

The poor may take their share;

No mortal has a just pretense

To perish in despairs.”

Class exclusions are unknown here, and the prerogatives of caste are not acknowledged.  No forms of etiquette are required in entering a stable; it cannot be an offense to enter the stable of a public caravanserai.  So, if you desire to come to Christ you may come to him just as you are; you may come now.  Whosoever among you hath the desire in his heart to trust Christ is free to do it.  Jesus is free to you; he will receive you; he will welcome you with gladness, and to show this, I think, the young child was cradled in a manger.  We know that sinners often imagine that they are shut out.  Oftentimes the convicted conscience will write bitter things against itself and deny its part and lot in mercy’s stores.  Brother, if God hath not shut thee out, do not shut thyself out.  Until thou canst find it written in the Book that thou mayest not trust Christ; till thou canst quote a positive passage in which it is written that he is not able to save thee, I pray thee take that other word wherein it is written — “He is able to save unto the uttermost them that come unto God by him.”  Venture on that promise; come to Christ in the strength and faith of it, and thou shalt find him free to all comers.

5. We have not yet exhausted the reasons why the Son of Man was laid in a manger.  It was at the manger that the beasts were fed; and does the Savior lie where weary beasts receive their provender and shall there not be a mystery here?  Alas, there are some men who have become so brutal through sin, so utterly depraved by their lusts that to their own consciences every thing manlike has departed, but even to such the remedies of Jesus, the Great Physician, will apply.

We are constantly reading in our papers of men who are called incorrigible, and it is fashionable just now to demand ferociously, that these men should be treated with unmingled severity.  Some few years ago all the world went mad with a spurious humanity, crying out that gentleness would reform the brutal thief whom harsh punishments would harden hopelessly; now the current has turned, and everybody is demanding the abandonment of the present system.  I am no advocate for treating criminals daintily; let their sin bring them a fair share of smart; but if by any means they can be reformed, pray let the means be tried.  The day will come when the paroxysm of this fever is over, we shall blush to think that we were frightened by silly fears into a dangerous interference with a great and good work which hitherto has been successfully carried on.  It is a fact that under the present system, which (abating some faults that it may be well to cure) is an admirable one, crime is growing less frequent, and the class of gross offenders has been materially lessened.  Whereas in 1844, 18,490 convicts were transported, in 1860 the corresponding number was 11,533, and that notwithstanding the increase of the population.  The ticket-of-leave system, when the public would employ the convicts and so give them a chance of gaining a new character, worked so well that little more than one percent in a year were re-convicted, and even now only five per cent, per annum are found returning to crime and to prison.  Well, now, if the five percent receive no good, or even become worse, ought we not to consider the other ninety-five, and pause awhile before we give loose to our vengeance and exchange a Christian system of hopeful mercy for the old barbarous rule of unmitigated severity?  Beware, fellow citizens, beware of restoring the old idea that men can sin beyond hope of reformation, or you will generate criminals worse than those which now trouble us.  The laws of Draco must ever be failures, but fear not for the ultimate triumph of plans which a Christian spirit has suggested.

I have wandered from the subject — I thought I might save some from the crime of opposing true philanthropy on account of a sudden panic; but I will return at once to the manger and the babe.  I believe our Lord was laid in the manger where the beasts were fed, to show that even beast-like men may come to him and live.  No creature can be so degraded that Christ cannot lift it up.  Fall it may, and seem to fall most certainly to hell, but the long and strong arm of Christ can reach it even in its most desperate degradation; he can bring it up from apparently hopeless ruin.  If there be one who has strolled in here this morning whom society abhors, and who abhors himself, my Master in the stable with the beasts presents himself as able to save the vilest of the vile, and to accept the worst of the worst even now.  Believe on him and he will make thee a new creature.

6. But as Christ was laid where beasts were fed, you will please to recollect that after he was gone beasts fed there again.  It was only his presence which could glorify the manger, and here we learn that if Christ were taken away the world would go back to its former heathen darkness.  Civilization itself would die out, at least that part of it which really civilizes man, if the religion of Jesus could be extinguished.  If Christ were taken away from the human heart, the most holy would become debased again, and those who claim kinship with angels would soon prove that they have relationship to devils.  The manger, I say, would be a manger for beasts still, if the Lord of Glory were withdrawn, and we should go back to our sins and our lusts if Christ should once take away his grace and leave us to ourselves.  For these reasons which I have mentioned, methinks, Christ was laid in a manger.

II. But still the text says that he was laid in a manger because there was no room for him in the inn, and this leads us to the second remark, THAT THERE WERE OTHER PLACES BESIDES THE INN WHICH HAD NO ROOM FOR CHRIST.

The palaces of emperors and the halls of kings afforded the royal stranger no refuge?  Alas! my brethren, seldom is there room for Christ in palaces!  How could the kings of earth receive the Lord?  He is the Prince of Peace, and they delight in war!  He breaks their bows and cuts their spears in sunder; he burneth their war-chariots in the fire.  How could kings accept the humble Savior?  They love grandeur and pomp, and he is all simplicity and meekness.  He is a carpenter’s son, and the fisherman’s companion.  How can princes find room for the new-born monarch?  Why he teaches us to do to others as we would that they should do to us, and this is a thing which kings would find very hard to reconcile with the knavish tricks of politics and the grasping designs of ambition.

O great ones of the earth, I am but little astonished that amid your glories, and pleasures, and wars, and councils, ye forget the Anointed, and cast out the Lord of All.  There is no room for Christ with the kings.  Look throughout the kingdoms of the earth now, and with here and there an exception it is still true —“The kings of the earth stand up, and the rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed.” In heaven we shall see here and there a monarch; but ah! how few; indeed a child might write them.  “Not many great men after the flesh, not many mighty are chosen.”  State-chambers, cabinets, throne-rooms, and royal palaces, are about as little frequented by Christ as the jungles and swamps of India by the cautious traveler.  He frequents cottages far more often than regal residences, for there is no room for Jesus Christ in regal halls.

“When the Eternal bows the skies

To visit earthly things,

With scorn divine he turns his eyes

From towers of haughty kings.

He bids his awful chariot roll

Far downward from the skies,

To visit every humble soul

With pleasure in his eyes.”

But there were senators, there were forums of political discussion, there were the places where the representatives of the people make the laws, was there no room for Christ there?  Alas! my brethren, none, and to this day there is very little room for Christ in parliaments.  How seldom is religion recognized by politicians!  Of course a State-religion, if it will consent to be a poor, tame, powerless thing, a lion with its teeth all drawn, its mane all shaven off, and its claws all trimmed — yes, that may be recognized; but the true Christ and they that follow him and dare to obey his laws in an evil generation, what room is there for such?  Christ and his gospel — oh! this is sectarianism, and is scarcely worthy of the notice of contempt.  Who pleads for Jesus in the senate?  Is not his religion, under the name of sectarianism, the great terror of all parties?  Who quotes his golden rule as a direction for prime ministers, or preaches Christ-like forgiveness as a rule for national policy?  One or two will give him a good word, but if it be put to the vote whether the Lord Jesus should be obeyed or no, it will be many a day before the ayes have it.  Parties, policies, place-hunters, and pleasure-seekers exclude the Representative of Heaven from a place among representatives of Earth.

Might there not be found some room for Christ in what is called good society?  Were there not in Bethlehem some people that were very respectable, who kept themselves aloof from the common multitude; persons of reputation and standing — could not they find room for Christ?  Ah! dear friends, it is too much the case that there is no room for Him in what is called good society.  There is room for all the silly little forms by which men choose to trammel themselves; room for the vain niceties of etiquette; room for frivolous conversation; room for the adoration of the body, there is room for the setting up of this and that as the idol of the hour, but there is too little room for Christ, and it is far from fashionable to follow the Lord fully.  The advent of Christ would be the last thing which gay society would desire; the very mention of his name by the lips of love would cause a strange sensation.  Should you begin to talk about the things of Christ in many a circle, you would be tabooed at once.  “I will never ask that man to my house again,” so-and-so would say — “if he must bring his religion with him.”  Folly and finery, rank and honor, jewels and glitter, frivolity and fashion, all report that there is no room for Jesus in their abodes.

But is there not room for him on the exchange?  Cannot he be taken to the marts of commerce?  Here are the shop-keepers of a shop-keeping nation — is there not room for Christ here?  Ah! dear friends, how little of the spirit, and life, and doctrine of Christ can be found here!  The trader finds it  inconvenient to be too scrupulous; the merchant often discovers that if he is to make a fortune he must break his conscience. How many there are — well, I will not say they tell lies directly, but still, still, still — I had better say it plainly — they do lie indirectly with a vengeance.  Who does not know as he rides along that there must be many liars abroad?  For almost every house you see is “The cheapest house in London,” which can hardly be; full sure they cannot all be cheapest!  What sharp practice some indulge in!  What puffery and falsehood!  What cunning and sleight of hand!  What woes would my Master pronounce on some of you if he looked into your shop windows, or stood behind your counters?  Bankruptcies, swindlings, frauds are so abundant that in hosts of cases there is no room for Jesus in the mart or the shop.

Then there are the schools of the philosophers, surely they will entertain him.  The wise men will find in him incarnate wisdom; he, who as a youth is to become the teacher of doctors, who will sit down and ask them questions and receive their answers, surely he will find room at once among the Grecian sages, and men of sense and wit will honor him.  “Room for him, Socrates and Plato!  Stoics and Epicurians give ye way; and you, ye teachers of Israel, vacate your seats; if there is no room for this child without your going, go; we must have him in the schools of philosophy if we put you all forth.”  No, dear friends, but it is not so; there is very little room for Christ in colleges and universities, very little room for him in the seats of learning.  How often learning helps men to raise objections to Christ!  Too often learning is the forge where the nails are made for Christ’s crucifixion; too often human wit has become the artificer who has pointed the spear and made the shaft with which his heart should be pierced.  We must say it, that philosophy, falsely so called. (for true philosophy, if it were handled aright, must ever be Christ’s friend) hath done mischief to Christ, but seldom hath it served his cause.  A few with splendid talents, a few of the erudite and profound have bowed like children at the feet of the Babe of Bethlehem, and have been honored in bowing there, but too many, conscious of their knowledge, stiff and stern in their conceit of wisdom, have said, — “Who is Christ, that we should acknowledge him?”

They found no room for him in the schools.  But there was surely one place where he could go — it was the Sanhedrin, where the elders sit.  Or could he not be housed in the priestly chamber where the priests assemble with the Levites.  Was there not room for him in the temple or the synagogue?  No, he found no shelter there; it was there, his whole life long, that he found his most ferocious enemies.  Not the common multitude, but the priests were the instigators of his death, the priests moved the people to say “Not this man, but Barabbas.”  The priests paid out their shekels to bribe the popular voice, and then Christ was hounded to his death.  Surely there ought to have been room for him in the Church of his own people; but there was not.  Too often in the priestly church, when once it becomes recognized and mounts to dignity, there is no room for Christ.  I allude not now to any one denomination, but take the whole sweep of Christendom, and it is strange that when the Lord comes to his own his own receives him not.  The most accursed enemies of true religion have been the men who pretended to be its advocates.  It is little marvel when bishops undermine the popular faith in revelation; this is neither their first nor last offense.  Who burned the martyrs, and made Smithfield a field of blood, a burning fiery furnace, a great altar for the Most High God?  Why, those who professed to be anointed of the Lord, whose shaven crowns had received Episcopal benediction.  Who put John Bunyan in prison?  Who chased such men as Owen and the Puritans from their pulpits?  Who harried the Covenanters upon the mountains?  Who, Sirs, but the professed messengers of heaven and priests of God?  Who have hunted the baptized saints in every land, and hunt them still in many a Continental state?  The priests ever; the priests ever; there is no room for Christ with the prophets of Baal, the servants of Babylon.  The false hirelings that are not Christ’s shepherds, and love not his sheep, have ever been the most ferocious enemies of our God and of his Christ.  There is no room for him where his name is chanted in solemn hymns and his image lifted up amid smoke of incense.  Go where ye will, and there is no space for the Prince of peace but with the humble and contrite spirits which by grace he prepares to yield him shelter.

III. But now for our third remark, THE INN ITSELF HAD NO ROOM FOR HIM; and this was the main reason why he must be laid in a manger.

What can we find in modern times which stands in the place of the inn?  Well, there is public sentiment free to all.  In this free land, men speak of what they like, and there is a public opinion upon every subject; and you know there is free toleration in this country to everything — permit me to say, toleration to everything but Christ.  You will discover that the persecuting-spirit is now as much abroad as ever.  There are still men at whom it is most fashionable to sneer.  We never scoff at Christians now-a-days; we do not sneer at that respectable title, lest we should lose our own honor; we do not now-a-days, talk against the followers of Jesus under that name.  No; but we have found out a way of doing it more safely.  There is a pretty word of modern invention — a very pretty word — the word “Sectarian.”  Do you know what it means?  A sectarian means a true Christian; a man who can afford to keep a conscience, and does not mind suffering for it; a man who, whatever he finds to be in that old Book, believes it, and acts upon it, and is zealous for it. I believe that the men aimed at under the term, “sectarians,” are the true followers of Christ, and that the sneers and jeers, and all the nonsense that you are always reading and hearing, is really aimed at the Christian, the true Christian, only he is disguised and nick-named by the word sectarian.  I would give not a farthing for your religion, nay, not even the turn of a rusty nail, unless you will sometimes win that title.  If God’s Word be true, every atom of it, then we should act upon it; and whatsoever the Lord commandeth, we should diligently keep and obey, remembering that our Master tells us if we break one of the least of his commandments, and teach men so, we shall be least in his kingdom.  We ought to be very jealous, very precise, very anxious, that even in the minutiae of our Savior’s laws, we may obey, having our eyes up to him as the eyes of servants are to their mistresses.  But if you do this, you will find you are not tolerated, and you will get the cold shoulder in society.  A zealous Christian will find as truly a cross to carry now-a-days, as in the days of Simon the Cyrenian.  If you will hold your tongue, if you will leave sinners to perish, if you will never endeavor to propagate your faith, if you will silence all witnessing for truth, if, in fact, you will renounce all the attributes of a Christian, if you will cease to be what a Christian must be, then the world will say, “Ah! that is right; this is the religion we like.”  But if you will believe, believe firmly, and if you let your belief actuate your life, and if your belief is so precious that you feel compelled to spread it, then at once you will find that there is no room for Christ even in the inn of public sentiment, where everything else is received.  Be an infidel, and none will therefore treat you contemptuously; but be a Christian, and many will despise you.  “There was no room for him in the inn.”

How little room is there for Christ, too, in general conversation, which is also like an inn.  We talk about many things; a man may now-a-days talk of any subject he pleases; no one can stop him and say, “There is a spy catching your words; he will report you to some central authority.”  Speech is very free in this land; but, ah! how little room is there for Christ in general talk!  Even on Sunday afternoon how little room there is for Christ in some professed Christian’s houses.  They will talk about ministers, tell queer anecdotes about them — perhaps invent a few, or, at least, garnish the old ones, and add to them, and make them a little more brilliant; they will talk about the Sunday school, or the various agencies in connection with the Church, but how little they say about Christ!  And if some one should in conversation make this remark, “Could we not speak upon the Godhead and manhood, the finished work and righteousness, the ascension, or the second advent of our Lord Jesus Christ,” why we should see many, who even profess to be followers of Christ, who would hold up their heads and say, “Why, dear, that man is quite a fanatic, or else he would not think of introducing such a subject as that into general conversation.”  No, there is no room for him in the inn; to this day he can find but little access there. I address many who are working-men.

You are employed among a great many artisans day after day; do you not find, brethren — I know you do — that there is very little room for Christ in the workshop.  There is room there for everything else; there is room for swearing; there is room for drunkenness; there is room for lewd conversation; there is room for politics, slanders, or infidelities, but there is no room for Christ.  Too many of our working men think religion would be an encumbrance, a chain, a miserable prison to them.  They can frequent the theater, or listen in a lecture-hall, but the house of God is too dreary for them.  I wish I were not compelled to say so, but truly in our factories, workshops, and foundries, there is no room for Christ.  The world is elbowing and pushing for more room, till there is scarce a corner left where the Babe of Bethlehem can be laid.

As for the inns of modern times — who would think of finding Christ there?  Putting out of our catalogue those hotels and roadside houses which are needed for the accommodation of travelers, what greater curse have we than our taverns and pot-houses?  What wider gates of hell?  Who would ever resort to such places as we have flaring with gas light at the corners of all our streets to find Christ there?  As well might we expect to find him in the bottomless pit!  We should be just as likely to look for angels in hell, as to look for Christ in a gin palace!  He who is separate from sinners, finds no fit society in the reeking temple of Bacchus.  There is no room for Jesus in the inn.  I think I would rather rot or feed the crows, than earn my daily bread by the pence of fools, the hard-earnings of the poor man, stolen from his ragged children, and his emaciated wife.  What do many publicans fatten upon but the flesh, and bones, and blood, and souls of men.  He who grows rich on the fruits of vice is a beast preparing for the slaughter.  Truly, there is no room for Christ among the drunkards of Ephraim.  They who have anything to do with Christ should hear him say — “Come ye out from among them, and be ye separate; touch not the unclean thing, and I will receive you, and be a father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters.”  There is no room for Christ now-a-days even in the places of public resort.

IV. This brings me to my fourth head, which is the most pertinent, and the most necessary to dwell upon for a moment. HAVE YOU ROOM FOR CHRIST?  HAVE YOU ROOM FOR CHRIST?

As the palace, and the forum, and the inn, have no room for Christ, and as the places of public resort have none, have you room for Christ?

“Well,” says one, “I have room for him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me.”  Ah! I did not ask about worthiness; have you room for him?  “Oh,” says one, “I have an empty void the world can never fill!”  Ah! I see you have room for him.  “Oh! but the room I have in my heart is so base!”  So was the manger.  “But it is so despicable!”  So was the manger a thing to be despised.  “Ah! but my heart is so foul!”  So, perhaps, the manger may have been.  “Oh! but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!”  Nor was the manger a place fit for him, and yet there was he laid.”  Oh! but I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart had been a den of beasts and devils!”  Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed.  Have you room for him?  Never mind what the past has been; he can forget and forgive.  It matters not what even the present state may be if thou mourn it.  If thou hast but room for Christ he will come and be thy guest.

Do not say, I pray you, “I hope I shall have room for him;” the time is come that he shall be born; Mary cannot wait months and years.  Oh! sinner, if thou hast room for him let him be born in thy soul today.  “Today if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”  “Today is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.”  Room for Jesus! Room for Jesus now!

“Oh!” saith one, “I have room for him, but will he come?”  Will he come indeed!  Do you but set the door of your heart open, do but say, “Jesus, Master, all unworthy and unclean I look to thee; come, lodge within my heart,” and he will come to thee, and he will cleanse the manger of thy heart, nay, will transform it into a golden throne, and there he will sit and reign forever and forever.  Oh! I have such a free Christ to preach this morning!  I would I could preach him better. I have such a precious loving, Jesus to preach, he is willing to find a home in humble hearts.  What!  Are there no hearts here this morning that will take him in?  Must my eye glance round these galleries and look at many of you who are still without him and are there none who will say, “Come in, come in?”  Oh! it shall be a happy day for you if you shall be enabled to take him in your arms and receive him as the consolation of Israel!  You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say with Simeon — “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”  My Master wants room!  Room for him!  Room for him!  I, his herald, cry aloud, Room for the Savior!  Room!  Here is my royal Master — have you room for him?  Here is the Son of God made flesh — have you room for him?  Here is he who can forgive all sin — have you room for him?  Here is he who can take you up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay — have you room for him?  Here is he who when he cometh in will never go out again, but abide with you forever to make your heart a heaven of joy and bliss for you-have you room for him?  ‘Tis all I ask.  Your emptiness, your nothingness, your want of feeling, your want of goodness, your want of grace — all these will be but room for him.  Have you room for him?  Oh! Spirit of God, lead many to say, “Yes, my heart is ready.”

Ah! then he will come and dwell with you.

“Joy to the world the Savior comes,

The Savior promised long;

Let every heart prepare a throne

And every voice a song.”

V. I conclude with the remark, that if you have room for Christ, then from this day forth remember THE WORLD HAS NO ROOM FOR YOU; for the text says not only that there was no room for him, but look — “There was no room for them,” — no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe.

Who are his father, and mother, and sister, and brother, but those that receive his word and keep it?  So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember henceforth there is no room in this world for any true follower of Christ.  There is no room for you to take your ease; no, you are to be a soldier of the cross, and you will find no ease in all your life-warfare.  There is no room for you to sit down contented with your own attainments, for you are a traveler, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is before; no room for you to hide your treasure in, for here the moth and rust doth corrupt; no room for you to put your confidence, for “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.”  From this day there will be no room for you in the world’s good opinion — they will count you to be an offscouring; no room for you in the world’s polite society — you must go without the camp, bearing his reproach. From this time forth, I say, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room of sufferance for you; you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool’s cap in men’s esteem; and your song must be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage.

“Jesus, I thy cross have taken,

All to leave and follow thee;

Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,

Thou from hence my all shall be.”

There is no room for you in the worldling’s love.  If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will quite be mistaken.  The world, I say, has no room for the man who has room for Christ.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.”  “Ye are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.”  Thank God, you need not ask the world’s hospitality.  If it will give you but a stage for action, and lend you for an hour a grave to sleep in, ‘tis all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which hath foundations; whose builder and maker is God.  You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.  What say you, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these?  Will you give room for Christ when there is to be henceforth no room for you — when you are to be separated forever, cut off from among the world’s kith and kin mayhap — cut off from carnal confidence forever? Are you willing, notwithstanding all this, to receive the traveler in?  The Lord help you to do so, and to him shall be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

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Room for Jesus? by Charles Spurgeon

Room for Jesus? by Charles Spurgeon

“And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.” — Luke 2:7

Have you room for Christ?  Have you room for Christ? As the palace, and the forum, and the inn, have no room for Christ, and as the places of public resort have none, have you room for Christ?

“Well,” says one, “I have room for him, but I am not worthy that he should come to me.”  Ah! I did not ask about worthiness; have you room for him?  “Oh,” says one, “I have an empty void the world can never fill!”  Ah! I see you have room for him.  “Oh! but the room I have in my heart is so base!”  So was the manger.  “But it is so despicable!”  So was the manger a thing to be despised.  “Ah! but my heart is so foul!”  So, perhaps, the manger may have been.  “Oh! but I feel it is a place not at all fit for Christ!”  Nor was the manger a place fit for him, and yet there was he laid.”  Oh! but I have been such a sinner; I feel as if my heart had been a den of beasts and devils!”  Well, the manger had been a place where beasts had fed.  Have you room for him?  Never mind what the past has been; he can forget and forgive.  It matters not what even the present state may be if thou mourn it.  If thou hast but room for Christ he will come and be thy guest.

Do not say, I pray you, “I hope I shall have room for him;” the time is come that he shall be born; Mary cannot wait months and years.  Oh! sinner, if thou hast room for him let him be born in thy soul today.  “Today, if ye will hear his voice harden not your hearts as in the provocation.”  “Today is the accepted time; today is the day of salvation.”  Room for Jesus! Room for Jesus now!

“Oh!” saith one, “I have room for him, but will he come?”  Will he come indeed!  Do you but set the door of your heart open, do but say, “Jesus, Master, all unworthy and unclean I look to thee; come, lodge within my heart,” and he will come to thee, and he will cleanse the manger of thy heart, nay, will transform it into a golden throne, and there he will sit and reign forever and forever.  Oh! I have such a free Christ to preach this morning!  I would I could preach him better. I have such a precious loving, Jesus to preach, he is willing to find a home in humble hearts.  What!  Are there no hearts here this morning that will take him in?  Must my eye glance round these galleries and look at many of you who are still without him and are there none who will say, “Come in, come in?”

Oh! it shall be a happy day for you if you shall be enabled to take him in your arms and receive him as the consolation of Israel!  You may then look forward even to death with joy, and say with Simeon — “Lord, now let thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word, for mine eyes have seen thy salvation.”  My Master wants room!  Room for him!  Room for him!  I, his herald, cry aloud, Room for the Savior!  Room!  Here is my royal Master — have you room for him?  Here is the Son of God made flesh — have you room for him?  Here is he who can forgive all sin — have you room for him?  Here is he who can take you up out of the horrible pit and out of the miry clay — have you room for him?  Here is he who when he cometh in will never go out again, but abide with you forever to make your heart a heaven of joy and bliss for you-have you room for him?  ‘Tis all I ask.  Your emptiness, your nothingness, your want of feeling, your want of goodness, your want of grace — all these will be but room for him.  Have you room for him?  Oh! Spirit of God, lead many to say, “Yes, my heart is ready.”

Ah! then he will come and dwell with you.

“Joy to the world the Savior comes,

The Savior promised long;

Let every heart prepare a throne

And every voice a song.”

But I must remind you … that if you have room for Christ, then from this day forth remember THE WORLD HAS NO ROOM FOR YOU; for the text says not only that there was no room for him, but look — “There was no room for them,” — no room for Joseph, nor for Mary, any more than for the babe.

Who are his father, and mother, and sister, and brother, but those that receive his word and keep it?  So, as there was no room for the blessed Virgin, nor for the reputed father, remember henceforth there is no room in this world for any true follower of Christ.  There is no room for you to take your ease; no, you are to be a soldier of the cross, and you will find no ease in all your life-warfare.  There is no room for you to sit down contented with your own attainments, for you are a traveler, and you are to forget the things that are behind, and press forward to that which is before; no room for you to hide your treasure in, for here the moth and rust doth corrupt; no room for you to put your confidence, for “Cursed is he that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm.”  From this day there will be no room for you in the world’s good opinion — they will count you to be an offscouring; no room for you in the world’s polite society — you must go without the camp, bearing his reproach. From this time forth, I say, if you have room for Christ, the world will hardly find room of sufferance for you; you must expect now to be laughed at; now you must wear the fool’s cap in men’s esteem; and your song must be at the very beginning of your pilgrimage.

“Jesus, I thy cross have taken,

All to leave and follow thee;

Naked, poor, despised, forsaken,

Thou from hence my all shall be.”

There is no room for you in the worldling’s love.  If you expect that everybody will praise you, and that your good actions will all be applauded, you will quite be mistaken.  The world, I say, has no room for the man who has room for Christ.  If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. “Woe unto you when all men speak well of you.”  “Ye are not of the world, even as Christ is not of the world.”  Thank God, you need not ask the world’s hospitality.  If it will give you but a stage for action and lend you for an hour a grave to sleep in, ‘tis all you need; you will require no permanent dwelling-place here, since you seek a city that is to come, which hath foundations whose builder and maker is God.  You are hurrying through this world as a stranger through a foreign land, and you rejoice to know that though you are an alien and a foreigner here, yet you are a fellow citizen with the saints, and of the household to God.  What say you, young soldier, will you enlist on such terms as these?  Will you give room for Christ when there is to be henceforth no room for you — when you are to be separated forever, cut off from among the world’s kith and kin mayhap — cut off from carnal confidence forever? Are you willing, notwithstanding all this, to receive the traveler in?  The Lord help you to do so and to him shall be glory forever and ever.  Amen.

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“The angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.” — Luke 2:10

There is no reason upon earth beyond that of ecclesiastical custom why the 25th of December should be regarded as the birthday of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ any more than any other day from the first of January to the last day of the year; and yet some persons regard Christmas with far deeper reverence than the Lord’s day.  You will often hear it asserted that “The Bible and the Bible alone is the religion of Protestants,” but it is not so.  There are Protestants who have absorbed a great deal besides the Bible into their religion, and, among other things, they have accepted the authority of what they call “the Church” and by that door all sorts of superstitions have entered.  There is no authority whatever in the word of God for the keeping of Christmas at all, and no reason for keeping it just now except that the most superstitious section of Christendom has made a rule that December 25th shall be observed as the birthday of the Lord, and the church by law established in this land has agreed to follow in the same track.  You are under no bondage whatever to regard the regulation.  We owe no allegiance to the ecclesiastical powers which have made a decree on this matter, for we belong to an old-fashioned church which does not dare to make laws, but is content to obey them.

At the same time, the day is no worse than another, and if you choose to observe it, and observe it unto the Lord, I doubt not he will accept your devotion: while if you do not observe it, but unto the Lord observe it not, for fear of encouraging superstition and will-worship, I doubt not but what you shall be as accepted in the non-observance as you could have been in the observance of it.

Still, as the thoughts of a great many Christian people will run at this time towards the birth of Christ, and as this cannot be wrong, I judged it necessary to avail ourselves of the prevailing current and float down the stream of thought.  Our minds will run that way, and, because so many around us are following customs suggestive of it, therefore let us get what good we can out of the occasion.  There can be no reason why we should not, and it may be helpful that we should, now consider the birth of our Lord Jesus.  We will do that voluntarily which we would refuse to do as a matter of obligation: we will do that simply for convenience sake which we should not think of doing because enjoined by authority or demanded by superstition.

The shepherds were keeping their flocks by night; probably a calm, peaceful night, wherein they felt the usual difficulty of keeping their weary eyelids still uplifted as sleep demanded its due of them.  On a sudden, to their amazement, a mighty blaze lit up the heavens, and turned midnight into midday.  The glory of the Lord, by which, according to the idiom of the language, is meant the greatest conceivable glory as well as a divine glory, surrounded and alarmed them, and, in the midst of it, they saw a shining spirit, a form the like of which they had never beheld before, but of which they had heard their fathers speak, and of which they had read in the books of the prophets, so that they knew it to be an angel.  It was indeed no common messenger from heaven, but “the angel of the Lord,” that choice presence angel, whose privilege it is to stand nearest the heavenly majesty, “mid the bright ones doubly bright,” and to be employed on weightiest errands from the eternal throne.

“The angel of the Lord came upon them.”  Are you astonished that at first they were afraid?  Would not you be alarmed if such a thing should happen to you?  The stillness of the night, the suddenness of the apparition, the extraordinary splendor of the light, the supernatural appearance of the angel — all would tend to astound them, and to put them into a quiver of reverential alarm; for I doubt not there was a mixture both of reverence and of fear in that feeling which is described as being “sore afraid.”  They would have fallen on their faces to the ground in fright, had there not dropped out of that “glory of the Lord” a gentle voice, which said, “Fear not.”  They were calmed by that sweet comfort, and enabled to listen to the announcement which followed.

Then that voice, in accents sweet as the notes of a silver bell, proceeded to say, “Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.  For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, which is Christ the Lord.”  They were bidden to shake off all thoughts of fear and to give themselves up to joy.  Doubtless they did so, and amongst all mankind there were none so happy at that dead of night as were these shepherds who had seen an amazing sight, which they would never forget, and now were consulting whether they should not haste away to gaze upon a sight which would be more delightful still, namely, the Babe whereof the angel spoke.

May great joy be upon us also while our thought shall be that the birth of Christ is the cause of supreme joy.  When we have spoken upon this we shall have to enquire, to whom does that joy belong; and thirdly, we shall consider, how they shall express that joy while they possess it.  May the Holy Spirit now reveal the Lord Jesus to us and prepare us to rejoice in him.


Rightly so!  We have the angelic warrant for rejoicing because Christ is born.  It is a truth so full of joy that it caused the angel who came to announce it to be filled with gladness.  He had little to do with the fact, for Christ took not up angels, but he took up the seed of Abraham; but I suppose that the very thought that the Creator should be linked with the creature, that the great Invisible and Omnipotent should come into alliance with that which he himself had made, caused the angel as a creature to feel that all creatureship was elevated and this made him glad.  Besides, there was a sweet benevolence of spirit in the angel’s bosom which made him happy because he had such gladsome tidings to bring to the fallen sons of men.  Albeit they are not our brethren, yet do angels take a loving concern in all our affairs.  They rejoice over us when we repent, they are ministering spirits when we are saved, and they bear us aloft when we depart; and sure we are that they can never be unwilling servants to their Lord or tardy helpers of his beloved ones.  They are friends of the Bridegroom and rejoice in his joy, they are household servants of the family of love, and they wait upon us with an eager diligence, which betokens the tenderness of feeling which they have towards the King’s sons.

Therefore the angel delivered his message cheerfully, as became the place from which he came, the theme which brought him down and his own interest therein.  He said, “I bring you good tidings of great joy,” and we are sure he spoke in accents of delight.  Yea, so glad were angels at this gospel that when the discourse was over, one angel having evangelized and given out the gospel for the day, suddenly a band of choristers appeared and sang an anthem loud and sweet that there might be a full service at the first propounding of the glad tidings of great joy.  A multitude of the heavenly host had heard that a chosen messenger had been sent to proclaim the new-born King, and, filled with holy joy and adoration, they gathered up their strength to pursue him for they could not let him go to earth alone on such an errand.  They overtook him just as he had reached the last word of his discourse, and then they broke forth in that famous chorale, the only one sung of angels that was ever heard by human ears here below, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  Thus, I say, they had full service; there was gospel ministry in rich discourse concerning Christ, and there was hearty and devout praise from a multitude all filled with heavenly joy.  It was so glad a message that they could not let it be simply spoken by a solitary voice, though that were an angel’s, but they must needs pour forth a glad chorus of praise, singing unto the Lord a new song.

Brothers, if the birth of Jesus was so gladsome to our cousins the angels, what should it be to us?  If it made our neighbors sing who had comparatively so small a share in it, how should it make us leap for joy?  Oh, if it brought heaven down to earth, should not our songs go up to heaven?  If heaven’s gate of pearl was set open at its widest and a stream of shining ones came running downward to the lower skies to anticipate the time when they shall all descend in solemn pomp at the glorious advent of the great King; if it emptied heaven for a while to make earth so glad, ought not our thoughts and praises and all our loves to go pouring up to the eternal gate, leaving earth a while that we may crowd heaven with the songs of mortal men?  Yea, verily, so let it be.

“Glory to the new-born King!

Let us all the anthem sing

‘Peace on earth, and mercy mild;

God and sinners reconciled.’”

For, first, the birth of Christ was the incarnation of God: it was God taking upon himself human nature — a mystery, a wondrous mystery, to be believed in rather than to be defined.  Yet so it was that in the manger lay an infant, who was also infinite: a feeble child who was also the Creator of heaven and earth.  How this could be we do not know but that it was so we assuredly believe, and therein do we rejoice: for if God thus take upon himself human nature, then manhood is not abandoned nor given up as hopeless.  When manhood had broken the bonds of the covenant and snatched from the one reserved tree the fruit forbidden, God might have said, “I give thee up, O Adam, and cast off thy race.  Even as I gave up Lucifer and all his host, so I abandon thee to follow thine own chosen course of rebellion!”  But we have now no fear that the Lord has done this, for God has espoused manhood and taken it into union with himself.  Now manhood is not put aside by the Lord as an utterly accursed thing, to be an abomination unto him forever, for Jesus, the Well-beloved, is born of a virgin.  God would not so have taken manhood into union with himself if he had not said, “Destroy it not, for a blessing is in it.”  I know the curse has fallen upon men because they have sinned, but evidently not on manhood in the abstract, for else had not Christ come to take upon himself the form of man and to be born of woman.  The word made flesh means hope for manhood, notwithstanding its fall.  The race is not to be outlawed and marked with the brand of death and hell and to be utterly abandoned to destruction, for, lo, the Lord hath married into the race, and the Son of God has become the Son of man.  This is enough to make all that is within us sing for joy.

Then, too, if God has taken manhood into union with himself, he loves man and means man’s good.  Behold what manner of love God hath bestowed upon us that he should espouse our nature!  For God had never so united himself with any creature before.  His tender mercy had ever been over all his works, but they were still so distinct from himself that a great gulf was fixed between the Creator and the created, so far as existence and relationship are concerned.  The Lord had made many noble intelligences, principalities, and powers of whom we know little; we do not even know what those four living creatures may be who are nearest the eternal presence; but God had never taken up the nature of any of them, nor allied himself with them by any actual union with his person.  But, lo, he has allied himself with man, that creature a little lower than the angels, that creature who is made to suffer death by reason of his sin; God has come into union with man, and therefore full sure he loves him unutterably well, and has great thoughts of good towards him.  If a king’s son doth marry a rebel, then for that rebel race there are prospects of reconciliation, pardon, and restoration.  There must be in the great heart of the Divine One wondrous thoughts of pity and condescending love, if He deigns to take human nature into union with himself.  Joy, joy forever, let us sound the fond cymbals of delight, for the incarnation bodes good to our race.

If God has taken manhood into union with himself then God will feel for man, he will have pity upon him, he will remember that he is dust, he will have compassion upon his infirmities and sicknesses. You know, beloved, how graciously it is so, for that same Jesus who was born of a woman at Bethlehem is touched with the feelings of our infirmities, having been tempted in all points like as we are.  Such intimate practical sympathy would not have belonged to our great High Priest if he had not become man.  Not even though he be divine could he have been perfect in sympathy with us if he had not also become bone of our bone and flesh of our flesh.  The Captain of our salvation could only be made perfect through suffering; it must needs be that since the children were partakers of flesh and blood he himself also should take part of the same.  For this again we may ring the silver bells, since the Son of God now intimately sympathizes with man because he is made in all points like unto his brethren.

Further, it is clear that if God condescends to be so intimately allied with manhood, he intends to deliver man, and to bless him.  Incarnation prophesies salvation.  Oh, believing soul, thy God cannot mean to curse thee.  Look at God incarnate!  What readest thou there but salvation?  God in human flesh must mean that God intends to set man above all the works of his hands, and to give him dominion, according to his first intent, over all sheep and oxen and all that pass through the paths of the sea and the air yea it must mean that there is to be a man beneath whose feet all things shall be placed, so that even death itself shall be subject unto him.  When God stoops down to man it must mean that man is to be lifted up to God.

What joy there is in this!  Oh that our hearts were but half alive to the incarnation!  Oh that we did but know a thousandth part of the unutterable delight which is hidden in this thought, that the Son of God was born a man at Bethlehem!  Thus you see that there is overflowing cause for joy in the birth of Christ, because it was the incarnation of the Deity.

But further, the angel explained our cause for joy by saying that he, who was born was unto us a Savior.  “Unto you is born this day a Savior.”  Brothers and sisters, I know who will be gladdest today to think that Christ was born a Savior.  It will be those who are most conscious of their sinnership.  If you would draw music out of that ten-stringed harp, the word “Savior,” pass it over to a sinner.  “Savior” is the harp, but “sinner” is the finger that must touch the strings and bring forth the melody.  If thou knowest thyself lost by nature and lost by practice, if thou feelest sin like a plague at thy heart, if evil wearies and worries thee, if thou hast known of iniquity the burden and the shame, then will it be bliss to thee even to hear of that Savior whom the Lord has provided.  Even as a babe, Jesus the Savior will be precious to thee, but most of all because he has now finished all the work of thy salvation.  Thou wilt look to the commencement of that work, and then survey it even to its close, and bless and magnify the name of the Lord.  Unto you, O ye who are of sinners the chief, even unto you, ye consciously guilty ones, is born a Savior.  He is a Savior by birth: for this purpose is he born.  To save sinners is his birthright and office.  It is henceforth an institution of the divine dominion, and an office of the divine nature to have the lost.  Henceforth God has laid help upon One that is mighty and exalted One chosen out of the people that he may seek and save that which was lost.  Is there not joy in this?  Where else is there joy if not here?

Next the angel tells us that this Savior is Christ the Lord, and there is much gladness in that fact.  “Christ” signified anointed.  Now when we know that the Lord Jesus Christ came to save, it is most pleasant to perceive in addition that the Father does not let him enter upon his mission without the necessary qualification.  He is anointed of the Highest that he may carry out the offices which he has undertaken: the Spirit of the Lord rested upon him without measure.  Our Lord is anointed in a threefold sense, as prophet, priest, and king.  It has been well observed that this anointing, in its threefold power, never rested upon any other man.  There have been kingly prophets, David to wit; there was one kingly priest, even Melchesidek; and there have also been priestly prophets, such as Samuel.  Thus it has come to pass that two of the offices have been united in one man, but the whole three — prophet, priest, and king, never met in one thrice anointed being until Jesus came.  We have the fullest anointing conceivable in Christ, who is anointed with the oil of gladness above his fellows, and as the Messiah, the sent One of God, is completely prepared and qualified for all the work of our salvation.  Let our hearts be glad.  We have not a nominal Savior, but a Savior fully equipped; one who in all points is like ourselves, for he is man, but in all points fit to help the feebleness which he has espoused, for he is the anointed man.

See what an intimate mingling of the divine and human is found in the angel’s song.  They sing of him as “a Savior,” and a Savior must of necessity be divine, in order to save from death and hell; and yet the title is drawn from his dealings with humanity.  Then they sing of him as “Christ,” and that must be human, for only man can be anointed, yet that unction comes from the Godhead.  Sound forth the jubilee trumpets for this marvelously Anointed One and rejoice in him who is your priest to cleanse you, your prophet to instruct you and your king to deliver you.  The angels sang of him as Lord, and yet as born; so here again the godlike in dominion is joined with the human in birth.  How well did the words and the sense agree.

The angel further went on to give these shepherds cause for joy by telling them that while their Savior was born to be the Lord yet he was so born in lowliness that they would find him a babe, wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.  Is there cause of joy there?  I say, ay, indeed there is, for it is the terror of the Godhead which keeps the sinner oftentimes away from reconciliation; but see how the Godhead hath graciously concealed itself in a babe, a little babe — a babe that needed to be wrapped in swaddling bands like any other new-born child.  Who feareth to approach him?  Who ever heard of trembling in the presence of a babe?  Yet is the Godhead there.  My soul, when thou canst not for very amazement stand on the sea of glass mingled with fire, when the divine glory is like a consuming fire to thy spirit, and the sacred majesty of heaven is altogether overpowering to thee, then come thou to this babe, and say, “Yet God is here, and here can I meet him in the person of his dear Son, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead bodily.”  Oh, what bliss there is in incarnation if we remember that herein God’s omnipotence cometh down to man’s feebleness and infinite majesty stoops to man’s infirmity.

Now mark, the shepherds were not to find this babe wrapped in Tyrian purple nor swathed in choicest fabrics fetched from afar.

“No crown bedecks his forehead fair,

No pearl, nor gem, nor silk is there.”

Nor would they discover him in the marble halls of princes, nor guarded by praetorian legionaries, nor lackied by vassal sovereigns, but they would find him the babe of a peasant woman, of princely lineage it is true, but of a family whose stock was dry and forgotten in Israel.  The child was reputed to be the son of a carpenter.  If you looked on the humble father and mother, and at the poor bed they had made up, where aforetime oxen had come to feed, you would say “This is condescension indeed.”  O ye poor, be glad, for Jesus is born in poverty and cradled in a manger.  O ye sons of toil rejoice, for the Savior is born of a lowly virgin, and a carpenter is his foster father.  O ye people, oftentimes despised and downtrodden, the Prince of the Democracy is born; one chosen out of the people is exalted to the throne.  O ye who call yourselves the aristocracy, behold the Prince of the kings of the earth, whose lineage is divine, and yet there is no room for him in the inn.  Behold, O men, the Son of God, who is bone of your bone, intimate with all your griefs, who in his after life hungered as ye hunger, was weary as ye are weary, and wore humble garments like your own; yea, suffered worse poverty than you, for he was without a place whereon to lay his head.  Let the heavens and the earth be glad, since God hath so fully, so truly come down to man.

Nor is this all.  The angel called for joy, and I ask for it too, on this ground, that the birth of this child was to bring glory to God in the highest, on earth peace, good will toward men.  The birth of Christ has given such glory to God as I know not that he could ever have had here by any other means.  We must always speak in accents soft and low when we talk of God’s glory; in itself it must always be infinite and not to be conceived by us, and yet may we not venture to say that all the works of God’s hands do not glorify him so much as the gift of his dear Son, that all creation and all providence do not so well display the heart of Deity as when he gives his Only Begotten and sends him into the world that men may live through him?  What wisdom is manifested in the plan of redemption of which the incarnate God is the center!  What love is there revealed!  What power is that which brought the Divine One down from glory to the manger; only omnipotence could have worked so great a marvel!  What faithfulness to ancient promises!  What truthfulness in keeping covenant!  What grace, and yet what justice!  For it was in the person of that newborn child that the law must be fulfilled, and in his precious body must vengeance find recompense for injuries done to divine righteousness.  All the attributes of God were in that little child most marvelously displayed and veiled.  Conceive the whole sun to be focused to a single point and yet so softly revealed as to be endurable by the tenderest eye, even thus the glorious God is brought down for man to see him born of a woman.  Think of it.  The express image of God in mortal flesh!  The heir of all things cradled in a manger!  Marvelous is this!  Glory to God in the highest!  He has never revealed himself before as he now manifests himself in Jesus.

It is through our Lord Jesus being born that there is already a measure of peace on earth and boundless peace yet to come.  Already the teeth of war have been somewhat broken and a testimony is borne by the faithful against this great crime.  The religion of Christ holds up its shield over the oppressed and declares tyranny and cruelty to be loathsome before God. Whatever abuse and scorn may be heaped upon Christ’s true minister, he will never be silent while there are downtrodden nationalities and races needing his advocacy, nor will God’s servants anywhere, if faithful to the Prince of Peace, ever cease to maintain peace among men to the utmost of their power.  The day cometh when this growing testimony shall prevail and nations shall learn war no more.  The Prince of Peace shall snap the spear of war across his knee.  He, the Lord of all, shall break the arrows of the bow, the sword and the shield and the battle, and he shall do it in his own dwelling-place even in Zion, which is more glorious and excellent than all the mountains of prey.  As surely as Christ was born at Bethlehem, he will yet make all men brothers, and establish a universal monarchy of peace of which there shall be no end.  So let us sing if we value the glory of God, for the new-born child reveals it; and let us sing if we value peace on earth, for he is come to bring it.  Yea, and if we love the link which binds glorified heaven with pacified earth — the good will towards men which the Eternal herein manifests, let us give a third note to our hallelujah and bless and magnify Immanuel, God with us, who has accomplished all this by his birth among us. “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”

I think I have shown you that there was room enough for joy to the shepherds, but you and I, who live in later days, when we understand the whole business of salvation, ought to be even more glad than they were, though they glorified and praised God for all the things that they had heard and seen.  Come, my brethren, let us at least do as much as these simple shepherds and exult with our whole souls.

II. Secondly, let us consider TO WHOM THIS JOY BELONGS.

I was very heavy yesterday in spirit, for this dreary weather tends greatly to depress the mind.

“No lark could pipe to skies so dull and grey.”

But a thought struck me and filled me with intense joy.  I tell it out to you, not because it will seem anything to you, but as having gladdened myself.  It is a bit all for myself to be placed in a parenthesis; it is this, that the joy of the birth of Christ in part belongs to those who tell it, for the angels who proclaimed it were exceedingly glad, as glad as glad could be.  I thought of this and whispered to my heart, “As I shall tell of Jesus born on earth for men, I will take license to be glad also, glad if for nothing else that I have such a message to bring to them.”  The tears stood in my eyes, and stand there even now, to think that I should be privileged to say to my fellow men, “God has condescended to assume your nature that he might save you.”  These are as glad and as grand words as he of the golden mouth could have spoken.  As for Cicero and Demosthenes, those eloquent orators had no such theme to dwell upon.  Oh, joy, joy, joy!  There was born into this world a man who is also God.  My heart dances as David danced before the ark of God.

This joy was meant, not for the tellers of the news alone, but for all who heard it.  The glad tidings “shall be unto all people.”  Read “all the people,” if you like, for so, perhaps, the letter of the original might demand.  Well, then, it meant that it was joy to all the nation of the Jews — but assuredly our version is truer to the inner spirit of the text; it is joy to all people upon the face of the earth that Christ is born.  There is not a nation under heaven but what has a right to be glad because God has come down among men.  Sing together, ye waste places of Jerusalem.  Take up the strain, O ye dwellers in the wilderness, and let the multitude of the isles be glad thereof!  Ye who beneath the frigid zone feel in your very marrow all the force of God’s north wind, let your hearts burn within you at this happy truth.  And ye whose faces are scorched by the heat of the torrid sun, let this be as a well of water unto you.  Exult and magnify Jehovah that his Son, his Only Begotten, is also brother to mankind.

O wake our hearts, in gladness sing!

And hail each one the newborn King,

Till living song from loving souls

Like sound of mighty waters rolls.”

But brethren they do not all rejoice, not even all of those who know this glorious truth, nor does it stir the hearts of half mankind.  To whom, then, is it a joy?  I answer, to all who believe it, and especially to all who believe it as the shepherds did, with that faith which staggers not through unbelief.

The shepherds never had a doubt: the light, the angels, and the song were enough for them; they accepted the glad tidings without a single question.  In this the shepherds were both happy and wise, ay, wiser than the would-be wise whose wisdom can only manifest itself in caviling.  This present age despises the simplicity of a childlike faith, but how wonderfully God is rebuking its self conceit.  He is taking the wise in their own craftiness.  I could not but notice in the late discovery of the famous Greek cities and the sepulchers of the heroes, the powerful rebuke which the spirit of skepticism has received.  These wise doubters have been taken on their own ground and put to confusion.  Of course they told us that old Homer was himself a myth, and the poem called by his name was a mere collection of unfounded legends and mere tales.  Some ancient songster did but weave his dreams into poetry and foist them upon us as the blind minstrel’s song: there was no fact in it, they said, nor indeed in any current history; everything was mere legend.  Long ago these gentlemen told us that there was no King Arthur, no William Tell, no anybody indeed.  Even as they questioned all sacred records, so have they cast suspicion upon all else that common men believe.  But lo, the ancient cities speak, the heroes are found in their tombs; the child’s faith is vindicated.  They have disinterred the king of men, and this and other matters speak in tones of thunder to the unbelieving ear, and say, “Ye fools, the simpletons believed and were wiser than your ‘culture’ made you.  Your endless doubts have led you into falsehood and not into truth.”

The shepherds believed and were glad as glad could be, but if Professor — (never mind his name) had been there on that memorable night he would certainly have debated with the angel and denied that a Savior was needed at all.  He would coolly have taken notes for a lecture upon the nature of light and have commenced a disquisition upon the cause of certain remarkable nocturnal phenomena, which had been seen in the fields near Bethlehem.  Above all he would have assured the shepherds of the absolute non-existence of anything superhuman.  Have not the learned men of our age proved that impossibility scores of times with argument sufficient to convince a wooden post?  They have made it as plain as that three times two are eighteen that there is no God, nor angel, nor spirit.  They have proved beyond all doubt, as far as their own dogmatism is concerned, that everything is to be doubted which is most sure, and that nothing is to be believed at all except the infallibility of pretenders to science.  But these men find no comfort, neither are they so weak as to need any, so they say.  Their teaching is not glad tidings but a wretched negation, a killing frost which nips all noble hopes in the bud, and in the name of reason steals away from man his truest bliss.  Be it ours to be as philosophical as the shepherds, for they did not believe too much, but simply believed what was well attested, and this they found to be true upon personal investigation.

In faith lies joy.  If our faith can realize, we shall be happy now.  I want this morning to feel as if I saw the glory of the Lord still shining in the heavens, for it was there, though I did not see it.  I wish I could see that angel and hear him speak; but, failing this, I know he did speak, though I did not hear him.  I am certain that those shepherds told no lies, nor did the Holy Ghost deceive us when he bade his servant Luke write this record.  Let us forget the long interval between and only recollect that it was really so.  Realize that which was indeed matter of fact, and you may almost hear the angelic choir up in yonder sky singing still, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.”  At any rate, our hearts rehearse the anthem and we feel the joy of it, by simply believing, even as the shepherds did.

Mark well, that believing what they did these simple-minded shepherds desired to approach nearer the marvelous babe.  What did they do but consult together and say, “Let us now go even unto Bethlehem and see this thing which has come to pass”?  O beloved, if you want to get the joy of Christ, come near to him.  Whatever you hear about him from his own book, believe it; but then say, “I will go and find him.”  When you hear the voice of the Lord from Sinai draw not nigh unto the flaming mountain, the law condemns you; the justice of God overwhelms you.  Bow at a humble distance and adore with solemn awe.  But when you hear of God in Christ hasten hither.  Hasten hither with all confidence, for you are not come unto the mount that might be touched, and that burned with fire, but ye are come unto the blood of sprinkling, which speaketh better things than that of Abel.  Come near, come nearer, nearer still.  “Come,” is his own word to those who labor and are heavy laden, and that selfsame word he will address to you at the last — “Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.”  If you want joy in Christ come and find it in his bosom, or at his feet; there John and Mary found it long ago.

And then, my brethren, do what the shepherds did when they came near.  They rejoiced to see the babe of whom they had been told.  You cannot see with the physical eye, but you must meditate and so see with the mental eye this great, and grand, and glorious truth that the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us.  This is the way to have joy today, joy such as fitly descends from heaven with the descent of heaven’s King.  Believe, draw near, and then fixedly gaze upon him, and so be blest.

“Hark how all the welkin rings

Glory to the King of kings!

Peace on earth and mercy mild,

God and sinners reconciled.

“Veil’d in flesh the Godhead see;

Hail the incarnate Deity,

Pleased as man with men to appear,

Jesus our Immanuel here.”

III. My time has fled, else I desired to have shown, in the third place, HOW THAT JOY SHOULD BE MANIFESTED.

I will only give a hint or two.  The way in which many believers in Christmas keep the feast we know too well.  This is a Christian country, is it not?  I have been told so so often that I suppose it must be true.  It is a Christian country!  But the Christianity is of a remarkable kind!  It is not only that in the olden time “Christmas broached the mightiest ale,” but nowadays Christmas keepers must needs get drunk upon it.  I slander not our countrymen when I say that drunkenness seems to be one of the principal items of their Christmastide delight.  If Bacchus were born at this time, I do think England keeps the birthday of that detestable deity most appropriately, but tell me not that it is the birth of the holy child Jesus that they thus celebrate.  Is he not crucified afresh by such blasphemy?  Surely to the wicked, Jesus saith, “What hast thou to do to keep my birthday and mention my name in connection with thy gluttony and drunkenness?”  Shame that there should be any cause for such words.  Tenfold shame that there should be so much.

Express your joy, first, as the angels did, by public ministry.  Some of us are called to speak to the many.  Let us in the clearest and most earnest tones proclaim the Savior and his power to rescue man.  Others of you cannot preach, but you can sing.  Sing then your anthems, and praise God with all your hearts.  Do not be slack in the devout use of your tongue, which are the glory of your frames, but again and again and again lift up your joyful hymns unto the new-born King.

Others of you can neither preach nor sing.  Well, then, you must do what the shepherds did, and what did they?  You are told twice that they spread the news.  As soon as they had seen the babe, they made known abroad the saying that was told them, and as they went home they glorified God.  This is one of the most practical ways of showing your joy.  Holy conversation is as acceptable as sermons and anthems.  There was also one who said little, but thought the more: “Mary pondered all these things in her heart.”  Quiet, happy spirit, weigh in thy heart the grand truth that Jesus was born at Bethlehem.  Immanuel, God with us — weigh it if you can; look at it again and again, examine the varied facets of this priceless brilliant, and bless, and adore, and love, and wonder, and yet adore again this matchless miracle of love.

Lastly, go and do good to others.  Like the wise men, bring your offerings and offer to the new-born King your heart’s best gold of love, and frankincense of praise, and myrrh of penitence.  Bring everything of your heart’s best and somewhat of your substance also, for this is a day of good tidings, and it were unseemly to appear before the Lord empty.  Come and worship God manifest in the flesh, and be filled with his light and sweetness by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

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“Jesus saith to Simon Peter, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me more than these?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my lambs.  He saith to him again the second time, Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  He saith unto him, Yea, Lord thou knowest that I love thee.  He saith unto him, Feed my sheep.  He saith unto him the third time, Simon, son of Jonas, Lovest thou me?  Peter was grieved because he said unto him the third time, Lovest thou me?  And he said unto him, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.  Jesus saith unto him, Feed my sheep.” — John 21:15-17

How very much like to Christ before his crucifixion was Christ after his resurrection!  Although he had lain in the grave, and descended into the regions of the dead, and had retraced his steps to the land of the living, yet how marvelously similar he was in his manners and how unchanged in his disposition.  His passion his death, and his resurrection, could not alter his character as a man any more than they could affect his attributes as God.  He is Jesus forever the same.  And when he appeared again to his disciples, he had cast aside none of his kind manners, he had not lost a particle of interest in their welfare; he addressed them just as tenderly as before, and called them his children and his friends.  Concerning their temporal condition he was mindful, for he said, “Children, have ye any meat?”  And he was certainly quite as watchful over their spiritual state for after he had supplied their bodies by a rich draught from the sea, with fish (which possibly he had created for the occasion), he enquires after their souls’ health and prosperity, beginning with the one who might be supposed to have been in the most sickly condition, the one who had denied his Master thrice, and wept bitterly — even Simon Peter. “Simon, son of Jonas,” said Jesus, “lovest thou me?”

Without preface, for we shall have but little time this morning — may God help us to make good use of it! — we shall mention three things: first a solemn question — “Lovest thou me?” secondly, a discreet answer, “Yes, Lord, thou knowest that I love thee,” and thirdly, a required demonstration of the fact, “He saith unto him, Feed my lambs;” or, again, “Feed my sheep.”

I. First, then, here was a SOLEMN QUESTION, which our Savior put to Peter, not for his own information, for, as Peter said, “Thou knowest that I love thee,” but for Peter’s examination.  It is well, especially after a foul sin, that the Christian should well probe the wound.  It is right that he should examine himself; for sin gives grave cause for suspicion, and it would be wrong for a Christian to live an hour with a suspicion concerning his spiritual estate, unless he occupy that hour in examination of himself.  Self-examination should more especially follow sin, though it ought to be the daily habit of every Christian and should be practiced by him perpetually.  Our Savior, I say, asked this question of Peter, that he might ask it of himself; so we may suppose it asked of us this morning that we may put it to our own hearts.  Let each one ask himself then in his Savior’s name, for his own profit, “Lovest thou the Lord? Lovest thou the Savior?  Lovest thou the ever-blessed Redeemer?”

Note what this question was.  It was a question concerning Peter’s love.  He did not say, “Simon, son of Jonas, fearest thou me.”  He did not say, “Dost thou admire me? Dost thou adore me?”  Nor was it even a question concerning his faith.  He did not say, “Simon, son of Jonas, believest thou in me?” but he asked him another question, “Lovest thou me?”  I take it, that is because love is the very best evidence of piety.  Love is the brightest of all the graces; and hence it becomes the best evidence.  I do not believe love to be superior to faith.  I believe faith to be the groundwork of our salvation.  I think faith to be the mother grace, and love springs from it.  Faith I believe to be the root grace, and love grows from it.  But then, faith is not an evidence for brightness equal to love.  Faith, if we have it, is a sure and certain sign that we are God’s children, and so is every other grace a sure and certain one, but many of them cannot be seen by others.  Love is a more sparkling one than any other.  If I have a true fear of God in my heart, then am I God’s child; but since fear is a grace that is more dim and hath not that halo of glory over it that love has, love becomes one of the very best evidences and one of the easiest signs of discerning whether we are alive to the Savior.

He that lacketh love must lack also every other grace in the proportion in which he lacketh love.  If love be little, I believe it is a sign that faith is little, for he that believeth much loveth much.  If love be little, fear will be little, and courage for God will be little, and whatsoever graces there be, though faith lieth at the root of them all, yet do they so sweetly hang on love, that if love be weak, all the rest of the graces most assuredly will be so.  Our Lord asked Peter, then, that question, Lovest thou me?”

And note, again, that he did not ask Peter anything about his doings.  He did not say, “Simon Peter, how much hast thou wept?  How often hast thou done penance on account of thy great sin?  How often hast thou on thy knees sought mercy at my hand for the slight thou hast done to me and for that terrible cursing and swearing wherewith thou didst disown thy Lord, whom thou hadst declared thou wouldst follow even to prison and to death?”  No, it was not in reference to his works, but in reference to the state of his heart that Jesus said, “Lovest thou me?”  To teach us this; that though works do follow after a sincere love, yet love excels the works, and works without love are not evidences worth having.  We may have some tears; but they are not the tears that God shall accept, if there be no love to him.  We may have some works; but they are not acceptable works, if they are not done out of love to his person.  We may perform very many of the outward, ritual observances of religion; but unless love lies at the bottom, all these things are vein and useless.  The question, then, “Lovest thou me?” is a very vital question; far more so than one that merely concerns the outward conduct.  It is a question that goes into the very heart and in such a way that it brings the whole heart to one question; for if love be wrong, everything else is wrong.  “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

Ah! dear beloved, we have very much cause for asking ourselves this question.  If our Savior were no more than a man like ourselves, he might often doubt whether we love him at all.  Let me just remind you of sundry things which give us very great cause to ask this question: “Lovest thou me?”  I will deal only with the last week.  Come, my Christian brother, look at thine own conduct.  Do not thy sins make thee doubt whether thou dost love thy Master?  Come, look over the sins of this week: when thou wast speaking with an angry word and with a sullen look, might not thy Lord have touched thee, and said, “Lovest thou me?”  When thou wast doing such-and-such a thing, which thou right well knowest in thy conscience was not according to his precept, might he not have said, “Lovest thou me?”  Canst thou not remember the murmuring word because something had gone wrong with thee in business this week, and thou west speaking ill of the God of providence for it?  Oh, might not the loving Savior, with pity in his languid eye, have said to thee, “What, speak thus?  Lovest thou me?”

I need not stop to mention the various sins of which ye have been guilty.  Ye have sinned, I am sure, enough to give good ground for self-suspicion, if ye did not still hang on this: that his love to you, not your love to him, is the seal of your discipleship.  Oh, do you not think within yourselves, “If I had loved him more, would I have sinned so much?  And oh, can I love him when I have broken so many of his commandments.  Have I reflected his glorious image to the world as I should have done?  Have I not wasted many hours within this week that I might have spent in winning souls to him?  Have I not thrown away many precious moments in light and frivolous conversation which I might have spent in earnest prayer?  Oh! how many words have I uttered, which if they have not been filthy, (as I trust they have not) yet have not been such as have ministered grace to the hearers?  Oh, how many follies have I indulged in?  How many sins have I winked at?  How many crimes have I covered over?  How have I made my Savior’s heart to bleed?  How have I done dishonor to his cause? How have I in some degree disgraced my heart’s profession of love to him?”  Oh, ask these questions of thyself, beloved, and say, “Is this thy kindness to thy Friend?”  But I hope this week has been one wherein thou hast sinned little openly as to the world, or even in thine own estimation, as to open acts of crime.

But now let me put another question to thee, Does not thy worldliness make thee doubt?  How hast thou been occupied with the world, from Monday morning to the last hour of Saturday night?  Thou hast scarce had time to think of him.  What corners hast thou pushed thy Jesus into, to make room for thy bales of goods?  How hast thou stowed him away into one short five minutes to make room for thy ledger or thy day-book?  How little time hast thou given to him!  Thou hast been occupied with the shop, with the exchange, and the farmyard; and thou hast had little time to commune with him!  Come, just think!  Remember any one day this week; canst thou say that thy soul always flew upward with passionate desires to him?  Didst thou pant like a hart for thy Savior during the week?  Nay, perhaps there was a whole day went by, and thou scarcely though test of him till the winding up of it; and then thou couldst only upbraid thyself, “How have I forgotten Christ today?  I have not beheld his person; I have not walked with him.  I have not done as Enoch did!  I knew he would come into the shop with me; I knew he is such a blessed Christ that he would stand behind the counter with me; I knew he was such a joyous Lord Jesus that he would walk through the market with me!  But I left him at home and forgot him all the day long.”  Surely, surely, beloved, when thou rememberest thy worldliness, thou must say of thyself; “O Lord, thou mightest well ask, “Lovest thou me?’”

Consider again, I beseech thee, how cold thou hast been this week at the mercy-seat.  Thou hast been there, for thou canst not live without it; thou hast lifted up thy heart in prayer, for thou art a Christian, and prayer is as necessary to thee as thy breath. But oh! with what a poor asthmatic breath hast thou lived this week!  How little hast thou breathed?  Dost not remember how hurried was thy prayer on Monday morning, how driven thou wast on Tuesday night?  Canst thou not recollect how languid was thy heart, when on another occasion thou wast on thy knees?  Thou hast had little wrestling, mayhap, this week; little agonizing; them hast had little of the prayer which prevaileth; thou hast scarcely laid hold of the horns of the altar; thou hast stood in the distance and seen the smoke at the altar, but thou hast not laid hold of the horns of it.  Come, ask thyself, do not thy prayers make thee doubt?  I say, honestly before you all, my own prayers often make me doubt, and I know nothing that gives me more grave cause of disquietude.  When I labor to pray — oh! that rascally devil! — fifty thousand thoughts he tries to inject, to take me off from prayer; and when I will and must pray, oh, what an absence there is of that burning fervent desire; and when I would come right close to God, when I would weep my very eyes out in penitence, and would believe and take the blessing, oh, what little faith and what little penitence there is!  Verily, I have thought that prayer has made me more unbelieving than anything else.  I could believe over the tops of my sins, but sometimes I can scarcely believe over the tops of my prayers — for oh! how cold is prayer when it is cold!  Of all things that are bad when cold, I think prayer is the worst, for it becomes like a very mockery, and instead of warming the heart, it makes it colder than it was before and seems even to damp its life and spirit — and fills it full of doubts whether it is really a heir of heaven and accepted of Christ.  Oh! look at thy cold prayers, Christian, and say is not thy Savior right to ask this question very solemnly, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

But stop, again; just one more word for thee to reflect upon.  Perhaps thou hast had much prayer, and this has been a time of refreshing from the presence of the Lord.  But yet, mayhap, thou knowest, thou hast not gone so far this week as thou mightest have done, in another exercise of godliness that is even better than prayer, — I mean communion and fellowship.  Oh beloved, thou hast this week had but little sitting under the apple tree and finding its shadow great delight to thee.  Thou hast not gone much this week to the banqueting house and had its banner of love over thee.  Come, bethink thyself, how little hast thou seen thy Lord this week!  Perhaps he has been absent the greater part of the time; and hast thou not groaned?  Hast thou not wept?  Hast thou not sighed after him?  Sure, then, thou canst not have loved him as thou shouldst, else thou couldst not have borne his absence, thou couldst not have endured it calmly, if thou hadst the affection for him a sanctified spirit has for its Lord.  Thou didst have one sweet visit from him in the week, and why didst thou let him go?  Why didst thou not constrain him to abide with thee?  Why didst thou not lay hold of the skirts of his garment, and say, “Why shouldst thou be like a wayfaring man, and as one that turneth aside and tarrieth for a night?  Oh I my lord, thou shalt dwell with me.  I will keep thee.  I will detain thee in my company. I cannot let thee go.  I love thee and I will constrain thee to dwell with me this night and the next day.  Long as I can keep thee, will I keep thee.”  But no; thou wast foolish; thou didst let him go.  Oh! soul, why didst thou not lay hold of his arm, and say, “I will not let thee go.”  But thou didst lay hold on him so feebly, thou didst suffer him to depart so quickly, he might have turned round, and said to thee, as he said to Simon, “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”

Now, I have asked you all these questions, because I have been asking them of myself.  I feel that I must answer to nearly every one of them, “Lord, there is great cause for me to ask myself that question,” and I think that most of you, if you are honest to yourselves, will say the same.  I do not approve of the man that says, “I know I love Christ, and I never have a doubt about it;” because we often have reason to doubt ourselves, a believer’s strong faith is not a strong faith in his own love to Christ — it is a strong faith in Christ’s love to him.  There is no faith which always believes that it loves Christ.  Strong faith has its conflicts, and a true believer will often wrestle in the very teeth of his own feelings.  Lord, if I never did love thee, nevertheless, if I am not a saint, I am a sinner.  Lord, I still believe; help thou mine unbelief.  The disciple can believe, when he feels no love; for he can believe that Christ loveth the soul; and when he hath no evidence he can come to Christ without evidence and lay hold of him, just as he is, with naked faith and still hold fast by him.  Though he see not his signs, though he walk in darkness and there be no light, still may he trust in the Lord, and stay upon his God — but to be certain at all times that we love the Lord is quite another matter; about this we have need continually to question ourselves, and most scrupulously to examine both the nature and the extent of our evidences.

II. And now I come to the second thing, which is A DISCREET ANSWER.

“Simon son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  Simon gave a very good answer.  Jesus asked him, in the first place, whether he loved him better than others.  Simon would not say that: he had once been a little proud — more than a little — and thought he was better than the other disciples.  But this time he evaded that question, he would not say that he loved better than others.  And I am sure there is no loving heart that will think it loves even better than the least of God’s children.  I believe the higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem, and he will be the last person to claim any supremacy over others in the divine grace of love to Jesus.

But mark how Simon Peter did answer: he did not answer as to the quantity but as to the quality of his love.  He would aver that he loved Christ, but not that he loved Christ better than others.  “Lord, I cannot say how much I love thee; but thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I do love thee.  So far I can aver: as to the quantity of my love, I cannot say much about it.”

But just notice, again, the discreet manner in which Peter answered.  Some of us, if we had been asked that question, would have answered foolishly.  We should have said, “Lord, I have preached for thee so many times this week; Lord, I have distributed of my substance to the poor this week.  Blessed be thy name, thou last given me grace to walk humbly, faithfully, and honestly, and therefore, Lord, I think I can say, ‘I love thee.’”  We should have brought forward our good works before our Master, as being the evidences of our love; we should have said, “Lord, thou hast seen me during this week.  As Nehemiah did of old, “Forget not my good works. O Lord, I thank thee. I know they are thy gifts, but I think they are proofs of my love.”  That would have been a very good answer if we had been questioned by our fellow man, and he had said, “You do not always love your Savior;” but it would be foolish for us to tell the Master that.  Peter’s answer was wise; “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”  You know the Master might have said to Peter had he appealed to his works, “Yes, thou mayest preach and yet not love me; thou mayest pray and yet not love me; thou mayest do all these works and yet have no love to me.  I did not ask thee what are the evidences of thy love.  I asked thee the heart of it.”

Very likely all my dear friends here would not have answered in the fashion I have supposed; but they would have said, “Love thee Lord?  Why, my heart is all on fire towards thee; I feel as if I could go to prison and to death for thee!  Sometimes, when I think of thee, my heart is ravished with bliss; and when thou art absent, O Lord, I moan and cry like a dove that has lost its mate.  Yes, I feel I love thee, O my Christ.”  But that would have been very foolish, because although we may often rejoice in our own feelings — they are joyful things — it would not do to plead them with our Lord, for he might answer, “Ah! thou feelest joyful at the mention of my name.  So, no doubt, has many a deluded one, because he had a fictitious faith, and a fancied hope in Christ; therefore the name of Christ seemed to gladden him.  Thou sayst, ‘I have felt dull when thou hast been absent.’  That might have been accounted for from natural circumstances; you had a headache, perhaps, or some other ailment.  ‘But,’ sayest thou, ‘I felt so happy when he was present that I thought I could die.’ Ah, in such manner Peter had spoken many a time before; but a sorry mess he made of it when he trusted his feelings, for he would have sunk into the sea but for Christ; and eternally damned his soul, if it had not been for his grace, when, with cursing and swearing he thrice denied his Lord.  But no, Peter was wise; he did not bring forward his frames and feelings, nor did he bring his evidences: though they are good in themselves, he did not bring them before Christ.  But, as though he shall say, “Lord, I appeal to thine omnipotence. I am not going to tell thee that the volume of my heart must contain such-and-such matter, because there is such-and-such a mark on its cover; for, Lord, thou canst read inside of it; and, therefore I need not tell thee what the title is, nor read over to thee the index of the content; Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”

Now, could we, this morning, dear friends, give such an answer as that to the question?  If Christ should come here, if he were now to walk down these aisles, and along the pews, could we appeal to his own divine Omniscience, his infallible knowledge of our hearts, that we all love him?  There is a test-point between a hypocrite and a real Christian.  If thou art a hypocrite, thou mightest say, “Lord, my minister knows that I love thee.  Lord, the deacons know that I love thee; they think I do, for they have given me a ticket [to participate in the Lord’s Supper], the members think I love thee; for they see me sitting at thy table; my friends think I love thee, for they often hear me talk about thee.”  But thou couldst not say, “Lord, thou knowest that I love thee.”  Thine own heart is witness that thy secret works belie thy confession, for thou art without prayer in secret, and thou canst preach a twenty minutes prayer in public.  Thou art niggardly and parsimonious in giving to the cause of Christ; but thou canst sport thy name to be seen.  Thou art an angry, petulant creature; but when thou comest to the house of God, thou hast a pious whine and talkest like a canting hypocrite, as if thou were a very gentlemanly man and never seemed angry.  Thou canst take thy Maker’s name in vain, but if thou hear another do it thou wouldst be mighty severe upon him.  Thou affectest to be very pious, and yet if men knew of that widow’s house that is sticking in thy throat, and of that orphan’s patrimony which thou hast taken from him, thou wouldst leave off trumpeting thy good deeds.  Thine own heart tells thee thou art a liar before God.

But thou, O sincere Christian, thou canst welcome thy Lord’s question and answer it with holy fear and gracious confidence.  Yes, thou mayest welcome the question.  Such a question was never put to Judas.  The Lord loved Peter so much that he was jealous over him, or he never would have thus challenged his attachment.  And in this kind cloth, he often appeal to the affections of those whom he dearly loves.  The response likewise is recorded for thee, “Lord, thou knowest all things.”  Canst thou not look up, though scorned by men, though even rejected by thy minister, though kept back by the deacons, and looked upon with disesteem by some — canst thou not look up, and say, “Lord, thou knowest all things, thou knowest that I love thee”?  Do it not in brag and bravado; but if you can do it sincerely, be happy, bless God that he has given you a sincere love to the Savior and ask him to increase it from a spark to a flame, and from a grain to a mountain.  “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?  Yea, Lord, thou knowest all things; thou knowest that I love thee.”

III. And now here is a DEMONSTRATION REQUIRED — “Feed my lambs: feed my sheep.”  That was Peter’s demonstration.  It is not necessary that it should be our way of showing our love.  There are different ways for different disciples.  There are some who are not qualified to feed lambs, for they are only little lambs themselves.  There are some that could not feed sheep, for they cannot at present see afar off; they are weak in the faith and not qualified to teach at all.  They have other means, however, of showing their love to the Savior.  Let us offer a few words upon this matter.

“Lovest thou me?”  Then one of the best evidences thou canst give is to feed my lambs.  Have I two or three little children that love and fear my name?  If thou wantest to do a deed, which shall show that thou art a true lover, and not a proud pretender; go and feed them.  Are there a few little ones whom I have purchased with my blood in an infant class?  Dost thou went to do something which shall evidence that thou art indeed mine?  Then sit not down with the elders, dispute not in the temple; I did that myself; but go thou, and sit down with the young orphans, and teach them the way to the kingdom.  “Feed my lambs.”

Dearly beloved, I have been of late perplexing myself with one thought: that our church-government is not scriptural.  It is scriptural as far as it goes; but it is not according to the whole of Scripture; neither do we practice many excellent things that ought to be practiced in our churches.  We have received into our midst a large number of young persons; in the ancient churches there was what was called the catechism class — I believe there ought to be such a class now.  The Sabbath-school, I believe, is in the Scripture; and I think there ought to be on the Sabbath afternoon, a class of the young people of this church, who are members already, to be taught by some of the elder members.  Now-a-days, when we get the lambs, we just turn them adrift in the meadow, and there we leave them.  There are more than a hundred young people in this church who positively, though they are members, ought not to be left alone; but some of our elders, if we have elders, and some who ought to be ordained elders, should make it their business to teach them further, to instruct them in the faith, and so keep them hard and fast by the truth of Jesus Christ.  If we had elders, as they had in all the apostolic churches, this might in some degree be attended to.  But now the hands of our deacons are full, they do much of the work of the eldership, but they cannot do any more than they are doing, for they are toiling hard already.  I would that some here whom God has gifted, and who have time, would spend their afternoons in taking a class of those who live around them, of their younger brethren, asking them to their houses for prayer and pious instruction, that so the lambs of the flock may be fed.  By God’s help, I will take care of the sheep; I will endeavor under God to feed them, as well as I can and preach the gospel to them.  You that are older in the faith and stronger in it need not that careful cautious feeding which is required by the lambs.

But there are many in our midst, good pious souls who love the Savior as much as the sheep do; but one of their complaints which I have often heard is, “Oh! sir, I joined your church.  I thought they would be all brothers and sisters to me, and that I could speak to them, and they would teach me and be kind to me.  Oh I sir, I came, and nobody spoke to me.”  I say, “Why did not you speak to them first?”  “Oh!” they reply, “I did not like.”  Well, they should have liked, I am well aware; but if we had some means of feeding the lambs, it would be a good way of proving to our Savior and to the world, that we really do endeavor to follow him.  I hope some of my friends will take that hint; and if, in concert with me, my brethren in office will endeavor to do something in that way, I think it will be no mean proof of their love to Christ.  “Feed my lambs,” is a great duty; let us try to practice it as we are able.

But, beloved, we cannot all do that; the lambs cannot feed the lambs; the sheep cannot feed the sheep exactly.  There must be some appointed to these offices.  And therefore, in the Savior’s name, allow me to say to some of you, that there are different kinds of proof you must give.  “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  He saith unto him, “Yea, Lord; thou knowest that I love thee.”  Then preserve that prayer-meeting; attend to it; see that it is kept going on, and that it does not fall to the ground.  “Simon, son of Jonas, lovest thou me?”  See to thy servants; see that they go to the house of God, and instruct them in the faith.  There is a sister: Lovest thou Christ?  “Yea, Lord.”  Perhaps it is as much as you can do — perhaps it is as much as you ought to do — to train up your children in the fear of the Lord.  It is of no use to trouble yourselves about duties that God never meant you to do and leave your own vineyard at home to itself.  Just take care of your own children; perhaps that is as good a proof as Christ wants of you that you are feeding his lambs.  You have your own office, to which Christ has appointed you: seek not to run away from it, but endeavor to do what you can to serve your Master therein.  But, I beseech you, do something to prove your love; do not be sitting down doing nothing.  Do not be folding your hands and arms, for such people perplex a minister most and bring the most ruin on a church — such as do nothing.  You are always the readiest to find fault.  I have marked it here, that the very people who are quarrelling with everything are the people that are doing nothing or are good for nothing.  They are sure to quarrel with everything else, because they are doing nothing themselves; and therefore they have time to find fault with other people.  Do not, O Christian, say that thou lovest Christ and yet do nothing for him.  Doing is a good sign of living; and he can scarce be alive unto God that does nothing for God.  We must let our works evidence the sincerity of our love to our Master.

“Oh!” say you, “but we are doing a little.”  Can you do any more?  If you can, then do it.  If you cannot do more, then God requires no more of you; doing to the utmost of your ability is your best proof; but if you can do more, inasmuch as ye keep back any part of what ye can do, in that degree ye give cause to yourselves to distrust your love to Christ.  Do all you can to your very utmost; serve him abundantly; ay, and superabundantly: seek to magnify his name; and if ever you do too much for Christ, come and tell me of it; if you ever do too much for Christ, tell the angels of it — but you will never do that.  He gave himself for you; give yourselves to him.

You see, my friends, how I have been directing you to search your own hearts, and I am almost afraid that some of you will mistake my intention.  Have I a poor soul here who really deplores the languor of her affections?  Perhaps you have determined to ask yourself as many questions as you can with a view of reviving the languid sparks of love.  Let me tell you then that the pure flame of love must be always nourished where it was first kindled.  When I admonished you to look to yourself it was only to detect the evil; would you find the remedy, you must direct your eyes, not to your own heart, but to the blessed heart of Jesus — to the Beloved one — to my gracious Lord and Master.  And wouldst thou be ever conscious of the sweet swellings up of thy heart towards him; thou canst only prove this by a constant sense of his tender love to thee.

I rejoice to know that the Holy Ghost is the Spirit of love, and the ministry of the Spirit is endeared to me in nothing so much as this, that he takes of the things of Jesus, and shows them to me, spreading abroad the Savior’s love in my heart, until it constrains all my passions, awakens the tenderest of all tender emotions, reveals my union to him, and occasions my strong desire to serve him.  Let not love appear to thee as a stern duty, or an arduous effort; rather look to Jesus, yield thyself up to his gracious charms till thou art ravished with his beauty and preciousness.  But ah! if thou art slack in the proofs thou givest, I shall know thou art not walking with him in holy communion.

And allow me to suggest one profitable way of improving the ordinance of the Lord’s Supper.  That is: while you are partaking of it, my friends, renew your dedication to Christ.  Seek this morning to give yourselves over afresh to your Master.  Say with your hearts, what I shall now say with my lips: “Oh! my precious Lord Jesus, I do love thee; thou knowest I have in some degree given myself to thee up to this time, thanks to thy grace!  Blessed be thy name, that thou hast accepted the deeds of so unworthy a servant.  O Lord, I am conscious that I have not devoted myself to thee as I ought; I know that in many things I have come short.  I will make no resolution to live better to thine honor, but I will offer the prayer that thou wouldst help me so to do.  Oh! Lord, I give to thee my health, my life, my talents, my power, and all I have!  Thou hast bought me, and bought me wholly: then, Lord, take me this morning, baptize me in the Spirit, let me now feel an entire affection to thy blessed person.  May I have that love which conquers sin and purifies the soul — that love which can dare danger and encounter difficulties for thy sake.  May I henceforth and forever be a consecrated vessel of mercy, having been chosen of thee from before the foundation of the world!  Help me to hold fast that solemn choice of thy service which I desire this morning, by thy grace to renew.”  And when you drink the blood of Christ, and eat his flesh spiritually — in the type and in the emblem, then I beseech you, let the solemn recollection of his agony and suffering for you inspire you with a greater love, that you may be more devoted to his service than ever.  If that be done, I shall have the best of churches; if that be done by us, the Holy Spirit helping us to carry it out, we shall all be good men and true, holding fast by him, and we shall not need to be ashamed in the awful day.

As for you that have never given yourselves to Christ, I dare not tell you to renew a vow which you have never made; nor dare I ask you to make a vow, which you would never keep.  I can only pray for you, that God the Savior would be pleased to reveal himself unto your heart, that “a sense of blood-bought pardon” may “dissolve your hearts of stone;” that you may be brought to give yourselves to him, knowing that if you have done that, you have the best proof that he has given himself for you.  May God Almighty bless you: those of you who depart, may he dismiss with his blessing: and those who remain, may you receive his favor, for Christ’s sake.  Amen.

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