Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 15, 1857, by
"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"Luke 2:49.
ehold then, how great an interest God the Father takes in the work of salvation. It is called "his business;" and though Jesus Christ came to accomplish our redemption, came to set us a perfect example, and to establish a way of salvation, yet he came not upon his own business, but upon his Father's businesshis Father taking as much interest in the salvation of men as even he himself didthe great heart of the Father being as full of love as the bleeding heart of the Son, and the mind of the first person of the Trinity being as tenderly affected towards his chosen as even the mind of Christ Jesus, our substitute, our surety, and our all. It is his "Father's business" Behold, also, the condescension of the Son, that he should become the servant of the Father, to do not his own business, but the Father's business. See how he stoops to become a child, subject to his mother; and mark how he stoops to become a man, subject to God his Father. He took upon himself the nature of man, and though he was the Son, equal in power with God, who "counted it not robbery to be equal with God," yet he "took upon himself the form of a servant and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross." Learn, then, O believer, to love all the persons of the Divine Trinity alike. Remember that salvation is no more the work of one than of the other. They all three agree in one, and as in the creation they all said, "Let us make man;" so in salvation they all say, "Let us save man;" and each of them does so much of it that it is truly the work of each and undividedly the work of all. Remember that notable passage of Isaiah the prophet"I will divide him a portion with the great and he shall divide the spoil with the strong." God divides, and Christ divides. The triumph is God's; the Father "divides for him a portion with the great;" it is equally Christ's, he "divides the spoil with the strong." Set not one person before the other; reverently adore them alike, for they are oneone in design, one in character, and one in essence; and whilst they be truly three, we may in adoration exclaim, "Unto the one God of heaven and earth the glory, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."
On the ground your Maker lies.
On the bloody tree behold him:
Hear him cry before he dies
'IT IS FINISHED!'"
And there you have a proof that he was about his Father's business. It was his Father's business made him sweat great drops of blood; his Father's business ploughed his back with many gory furrows; his Father's business pricked his temple with the thorn crown; his Father's business made him mocked and spit upon; his Father's business made him go about bearing his cross; his Father's business made him despise the shame when, naked, he hung upon the tree; his Father's business made him yield himself to death, though he needed not to die if so he had not pleased; his Father's business made him tread the gloomy shades of Gehenna, and descend into the abodes of death; his Father's business made him preach to the spirits in prison; and his Father's business took him up to heaven, where he sitteth on the right hand of God, doing his Father's business still! His Father's business makes him plead day and night for Sion; the same business shall make him come as the Judge of quick and dead, to divide the sheep from the goats; the same business shall make him gather together in one, all people who dwell on the face of the earth! Oh, glory to thee, Jesus; thou hast done it! Thou hast done thy Father's business well.
II. Thus, I have given you the example. Now, let me exhort you to IMITATE IT.
Tell me, if you can why the religion of Christ is so very slow in spreading. Mohomet, an imposter stood up in the streets to preach. He was hooted, stones were thrown at him. Within a month after, he had disciples. A few more years, and he had a host behind him. Not a century had rolled away before a thousand scimitars flashed from their scabbards at the bidding of the caliphs. His religion overran nations like wildfire, and devoured kingdoms. But why? The followers of the prophet were entirely devoted to his cause. When that Moslem of old spurred his horse into the sea, to ride across the straits of Gibraltar, and then reined him up, and said, "I would cross if God willed it! "there was something in it that told us why his religion was so strong. Ah! those warriors of that time were ready to die for their religion, and therefore it spread. Can you tell me why Christianity spread so much in primitive times? It was because holy men "counted not their lives dear unto them," but were willing to "suffer the loss of all things" for Christ's sake. Paul traverses many countries, Peter ranges through many nations, Philip and the other evangelists go through various countries, testifying the word of God. Sirs, I will tell you why our faith in these days spreads so little. Pardon meit is because the professors of it do not believe it! Believe it! Yes; they believe it in the head, not in the heart. We have not enough of true devotedness to the cause, or else God would bless Sion with a far greater increase, I am fully persuaded. How few there are that have given themselves fully up to their religion! They take their religion, like my friend over there has taken that little farm of his. He has a farm of a thousand acres, but he thinks he could increase his means, perhaps, by taking a little farm of a hundred acres or so a little way off; and he gives that to a bailiff and does not take much trouble about it himself. It is not very likely he will have very fine farming there, because he leaves it to somebody else. Just so with religion. Your great farm is your shop, your great aim is your worldly business. You like to keep religion as a snug investment at very small interest indeed, which you intend to draw out when you get near death; but you do not want to live on it just now. You have enough profit from your own daily business, and you do not want religion for every day life. Sirs, the reason why your religion does not spread is because it has not got root enough in your hearts. How few there are of us who are ready to devote ourselves wholly, bodily, and spiritually to the cause of the gospel of Christ! And if you should attempt to do so, how many opponents you would meet with! Go into the church meeting, and be a little earnest; what will they say? Why, they will serve you just as David's brother did, when David spoke about fighting Goliath. "Oh," he said, "because of the pride and the naughtiness of thine heart, to see the battle thou art come." "Now, stand aside, do not think you can do anything; away with you!" And if you are in earnest, especially in the ministry, it is just the same. Your brethren pray every Sabbath"Lord, send more laborers into the vineyard!" And if God should send them, they wish them safe out of their corner of it, at any rate. They may go anywhere else, but they must not come anywhere near them, for it might affect their congregation, it might stir them up a little; and people might think they did not labor quite earnestly enough. "Stand aside! "they say. But brethren, do not mind about that. If you cannot bear to be huffed and snuffed, there is little good in you. If you cannot bear snuffing, depend upon it you cannot be well lit yet. Dare to go on against all the prudence of men, and you will find them pat you on the shoulder by-and-by and call you "dear brother." Every man is helped to get up, when he is as high as he can be. If you are down, "keep him down," is the cry; but if you are getting up, you will never get help till you have done it yourself; and then men will give you their help when you do not require it. However, your war-cry must be, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
Again, even the best of your friends, if you are truly zealous of God, will come to you and sayand very kindly too"Now, you must take a little more care of your constitution. Now, don't be doing so much; don't, I beseech you! "Or if you are giving money away"Now you must be a little more prudent; take more care of your family. Really, you must not do so." Or if you are earnest in prayer, they will say"There is no need of such enthusiasm as this: you know you can be religious, and not too religious; you can be moderately so." And so you find both friends and enemies striving to hinder your consecration to Christ. Now, I like what old Rowland Hill said, when some one told him that he was "moderately religious." "Well then, you are irreligious, for a man that is moderately honest is a rogue for certain; and so the man that is moderately religious is irreligious." If religion be worth anything it is worth everything; if it be anything it is everything. Religion cannot go halves with anything else, it must be all. We must, if we be thoroughly imbued with the spirit of Christ, imitate Christ in thisthe giving up of all to God; so that we can sincerely say,
And duty did not call,
I love my God with zeal so great,
That I could give him all."
I shall never forget the circumstance, when after I thought I had made a full consecration to Christ, a slanderous report against my character came to my ears, and my heart was broken in agony because I should have to lose that, in preaching Christ's gospel I fell on my knees, and said, "Master, I will not keep back even my character for thee. If I must lose that too, then let it go, it is the dearest thing I have, but it shall go, if, like my Master, they shall say I have a devil and am mad; or, like him I am a drunken man and a wine-bibber. It is gone, if I may but say"I have suffered the loss of all things; and I do count them but dross that I may win Christ!" And you, Christian, will never get on well in serving God, till you have given all to him. That which you keep back will canker, If you reserve the least portion of your time, your property, or your talents, and do not give all to Christ, you will find there will be a sore, a gangrene in it; for Christ will bless you in all when you give all to him; but what you keep from him, he will curse, and blight, and ruin. He will have all of us, the whole of us, all we possess, or else he never will be satisfied.
And now let me answer one or two objections, and I shall still stir you up, who make a profession of religion, to give up all you have to Christ. You say, "Sir, I cannot do it; I am not in the right profession." Well, sir, you spoke truly when you said that; for if there be a profession that will not allow us to give all to Christ, it is not a right profession, and we ought not to follow it at all." "But," you say "how can I do it?" Well what are you? I do not care what you are; I assert it is possible for you to do all things in the name of God, and so to give glory to Christ. Do not think you need be a minister to dedicate yourself to Christ. Many a man has disgraced the pulpit, and many a man has sanctified an anvil; many a man has dishonored the cushion upon which he preached, and many a man has conscerated the plough with which he has turned the soil. We ought in all our business, as well as in our sacred acts, to do all for Christ. Let me illustrate this. A merchant in America had devoted a large part of his money for the maintenance of the cause of Christ; and one said to him, "What a sacrifice you make every year." Said he "Not so. I have a clerk: suppose I give that clerk fifty pounds to pay a schoolmaster, and when he goes to the schoolmaster, he should say, "Here is your salary; what a sacrifice it is to me to give you that! 'Why,' the schoolmaster would say, 'Sir, it is not yours, it is no sacrifice at all to you.'" So said this good man, "I gave up all when I came to God, I became his steward, and no longer head of the firm. I made God the head of the firm, and I became the steward. And now when I distribute of my wealth, I only distribute it as his allmoner; and it is no sacrifice at all." If we talk of sacrifices we make a mistake. Ought not that to be the spirit of our religion? It should be made a sacrifice at first, ant then afterwards there should be a voluntary offering of all. "I keep my shop open," said one, "and earn money for God. I and my family live out of itGod allows us to do it; for as a minister lives by the gospel, he allows me to live by my business, and he permits me to provide a competence for old age, but that is not my object." "I sell these goods," said another one, but the profit I get, God has; that which I require for my own food and raiment, and for my household, that God giveth back to me, for he has said, bread shall be given me, and water shall be sure; but the rest is God's not mine; I do it all for God." Now you do not understand that theory, do you? It is not business. No, sirs, but if your hearts were right you would understand it, for it is God's gospelthe giving up all to Christ; the giving up of everything to his cause. When we do that, then shall we understand this passage"Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?" For your business, though it is carried on in your name, will, unknown to men, be carried on in God's name too. Let me beg of you, however, not to tell everybody, if you do it I have known some that hang the gospel in the window, more attractively, sometimes, than ribbons. I do hate the cant of a man, who, when you go to buy ribbons or pay a bill, asks you to have a tract, or invites you into the beck parlour to pray; you will see at once what he is after. He wants to sanctify his counter, so that as people catch flies with honey, he may catch you with religion. Put your religion where it will come out, but do not cant about it. If a stranger should call upon you, and in a moment exclaim "Let us pray;" your best policy is to let him have the street to do it in, and you should say, "Thank you, I do my praying alone mostly. I see what it is. If I thought you had the spirit of prayer, and it had been the proper season, I would have joined with you with all my heart." But the religion of a man who will just step into your house, to let you see what an extraordinary pious man he is, is either very sick, or else it is a galvanized thing that has got no life in it at all. I regard prayer as a very sacred thing. "When thou prayest, enter into thy closet; and when thou givest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth." For verily if you do it to be seen of men you have your reward: and a poor one it is, a little praise for a minute, and it is all gone. But, nevertheless, do not run into one extreme by running from another. Conscerate your business by your religion. Do not paint your religion on your side-board; but keep it ready whenever you want it, and I am sure you will want it always.
Says one, "How can I do God's business? I have no talent, I have no money; all I earn in the week I have to spend, and I have scarce money enough to pay my rent. I have no talent; I could not teach in a Sunday-school." Brother, have you a child? Well, there is one door of usefulness for you. Sister, you are very poor; no one knows you, you have a husband, and however drunken he may be, there is a door of usefulness for you. Bear up under all his insults, be patient under all his taunts and jeers, and you can serve God, and do God's business so." "But, sir I am sick, it is only to-day I am able to get out at all; I am always on my bed." You can do your Master's business, by Iying on a bed of suffering, for him, if you do it patiently. The soldier who is ordered to lie in the trenches, is just as obedient as the man who is ordered to storm the breach. In everything you do you can serve your God. Oh, when the heart is rightly tuned in this matter we shall never make excuses, and say, "I cannot be about my Father's business." We shall always find some business of his to do. In the heroic wars of the Swiss, we read that the mothers would bring cannon-balls for the fathers to fire upon the enemy, and the children would run about and gather up the shot that sometimes fell, when ammunition ran short. So that all did something. We hate war, but we will use the figure in the war of Christ. There is something for you all to do. Oh I let us who love our Master, let us who are bound to serve him by the ties of gratitude let us say, "Wist ye not that I must be about my Father's business?"
And now I close up by addressing all the Lord's people here, and urging them to serve God with all their hearts, by giving them two or three very brief and very earnest reasons.
Be about your Father's business with all earnestness, because that is the way of usefulness. You cannot do your own business and God's too. You cannot serve God and self any more than you can serve God and mammon. If you make your own business God's business, you will do your business well; and you will be useful in your day and generation. Never shall we see any great revival in the church, or any great triumphs of religion until the Christian world is more touched with the spirit of entire consecration to Christ. When the world shall see as in earnest then God will bring men in; not before. We go to our pulpits in half heartedness: we go to our place of worship mere shells without the kernel. We give the outward ceremony and take away the heart. We shall never see Christ's cause triumphant so. Would you be useful? Would you extend your Master's empire? Then be about your Father's business.
Again, would you be happy? Be about your Father's business. Oh! it is sweet employment to serve your Father. You need not turn aside from the way of business to do that. If your heart be right, you can serve God in weighing a pound of tea as much as in preaching a sermon. You can serve God as much in driving a horse and cart as in singing a hymnserve God in standing behind your counter. At the right time and the right season, as much as sitting in your pews. And oh, how sweet to think, "I am doing this for God. My shop is opened on God's behalf; I am seeking to win profit for God; I am seeking to get business for God 's cause, that I may be able to devote more to it, and prosper it more by what I am able voluntarily to consecrate to him." You will have a happiness when you rise, such as you never knew before, if you can think, "I am going to serve God to-day;" and when you end at night, instead of saying, "I have lost so much," you will be able to say, "Not I, my God has lost it. But the silver and the gold are his and if he does not care to have either of themvery well; let them go; he shall have it one way or another. I do not want it; if he chooses to take it from me in bad debts, well and good. Let me give to him in another way, it will be the same; I will revere him continually, even in my daily avocations."
And this dear friends, will be the wayand I trust you can be moved by thisthis will be the way to have eternal glory at the last, not for the sake of what you do, but as the gracious reward of God for what you have done. "They that turn many to righteousness shall shine as the stars for ever and ever." Would you like to go to heaven alone? I do not think you would. My happiest thought is this, that when I die, if it shall be my privilege to enter into rest in the bosom of Christ I know I shall not enter heaven alone. Thousands have been there, whose hearts have been pricked and have been drawn to Christ under the labors of my ministry. Oh! what a pleasant thing to flap one's wings to heaven and have a multitude behind, and when you enter heaven to say, "Here am I and the children thou hast given me! "You cannot preach, perhaps, but you can travail in birth with children for God, in a spiritual sense, in another way; for if you help the cause you shall share the honour too. You do that, perhaps, which is not known among men yet you are the instrument, and God shall crown your head with glory amongst those that "shine as the stars for ever and ever." I think, dear Christian friends, I need say no more, except to bid you remember that you owe so much to Christ for having saved you from hell; you owe so much to that blood which redeemed youthat you are in duty bound to say
'Tis all that I can do."
Go out now, and if you are tempted by the world, may the Spirit enable you to reply, "I must be about my Father's business." Go out, and if they call you fanatical, let them laugh at you as much as you like, tell them you must be about your Father's business. Go on, and conquer. God be with you. And now farewell, with this last word, "He that believeth and is baptized, shall be saved; he that believeth not, shall be damned." Faith in Christ is the only way of salvation. Ye who know your guilt cast yourselves on Christ, and then dedicate yourselves to him. So shall you have joy here, and glory everlasting in the kind of the blessed, where bliss is without alloy, and joy without end.