Delivered on Sabbath Morning, April 10th, 1859, by
"Peace I leave with you; my peace l give unto you; not as the world giveth, I give unto you."John 14:27.
HE GOSPEL OF JOHN is peculiarly the history of Jesus, the Son of God. Matthew deals with Jesus as the Prince of the house of David; Mark treats of him as the Servant of servants; and Luke views him as the Son of Man; but John, with eagle eye, looks beyond all the clouds of his humanity, and seeing the clear shining of his divinity, writes of him especially as the Son of God, the Word, that in the beginning was with God and was God. It seems but right, then, that since Jesus came from heaven, he should sometimes put both himself and his cause, in contrast with that which is of the earth, earthy. You will find through several chapters wherein our Saviour is addressing his disciples, he continually contrasts himself, his gifts, and his love, with those of the world. He came from heaven that he might fight and wrestle with an evil and a wicked world; that he might rescue his people from it; that he might cleanse the world, and, at last, might present the earth itself to himself, to be the new heaven and the new earth, wherein righteousness should dwell. I say, it seems but right, that in a gospel which particularly views Christ as of heavenly origin, and as very God of very God, that there should frequently be a contrast between Christ and the world, between the kingdom which is from heaven, and the kingdoms of this earth. Now, our text presents us with one contrast between Christ and the world: "Peace I leave with you; my peace I give unto you; not as the world giveth, give I unto you." He gives after a diviner fashion than the world can ever give, even when its hand is most laden with its gifts.
And all the wheels of nature break,
My stedfast soul shall fear no more,
Than solid rocks when billows roar."
That peace has no pretense in it. It is not bombast; it is a reality, Profound though it be, it is not one whit more profound than it is warranted to be. The believer rests upon a solid rock, and all the waves of trouble can never make that rock give way, or shake the foundation of his peace. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
II. Now having touched upon the first point, I come to the second IN THE MATTER OF GIVING. Take a broad view of it. In whatever the world gives, Christ does not give after the same fashion.
In the first place, the world gives scantily. Even the world's best friends have had cause to complain of its scurvy treatment. In reading the biographies of mighty men whom the world honors, you will be soon convinced that the world is a most ungrateful friend. If you should devote your whole life to serve the world, and make it happy, think not the world would ever return you so much as a dolt. Robert Burns is an instance of the world's fine gratitude. There was the world's poet, he sung the roaring tankards foaming; he sang the loves of women and the joys of lust, the world admires him, but what did the world do for him? He might drag along his whole life in almost poverty. When the time comes for Robert Burns to be honored, (which was all too late for a buried man,) how did they honor him? He had poor relatives; look to the subscription list, and see how magnificent the donations they received! They honored him with libations of whiskey which they drank themselves; that was all they would give him. The devotion of the Scotch drunkards to their poet is a devotion to their drunkenness, not to him. Doubtless there are many true-hearted men who bewail the sinner as much as they admire the genius, but the mass like him none worse for his faults. However, if it had been ordained and decreed that every drunkard who honored Burns should go without his whiskey for a week, there was not a dozen of them would have done itnot half a dozen. Their honor to him was a honor to themselves; it was an opportunity for drunkenness, at least in thousands of instances. As I stood by his monument some little time ago, I saw around it a most dismal, dingy set out of withered flowers and I thought "Ah, this is his honor! O, Burns! how hast thou spent thy life to have a withered wreath for the world's payment of a life of mighty genius and a flood of marvellous song!" Yes, when the world pays best she pays nothing, and when she pays least, she pays her flatterers with scorn; she rewards their services with neglect and poverty. Many a statesman might I quote who has spent his life in the world's service, and at first the world said "Go on, go on," and he was clapped everywhere; he was doing something to serve his time; but he made a little mistake, a mistake perhaps, which will prove not to have been a mistake at all when the books of history shall be read with a clearer eye. "Down with him," says the world, "we will have nothing more to do with him." All he may have done before went for nothing; one mistake, one flaw in his political career"Down with him, cast him to the dogs, we will have nought to do with him again." Ah, the world pays scantily indeed! What will it do for those it loves the best! When it has done all it can, the last resource of the world is to give a man a title (and what is that)? And then to give him a tall pillar and set him up there to bear all weathers, to be pitilessly exposed to every storm; and there he stands for fools to gaze at, one of the world's great ones paid in stone; it is true the world has paid that out of its own heart, for that is what the world's heart is made of. The world pays scantily; but did you ever hear a Christian who complained thus of his Master? "No," will he say "when I serve Christ, I feel that my work is my wages; that labor for Christ is its own reward. He gives me joy on earth, with a fullness of bliss hereafter." Oh! Christ is a good paymaster. "The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life." He that serves Christ may get but little gold and silver such as this world calls precious, but he gets a gold and a silver that shall ne'er be melted in the last refining fire, that shall glitter among the precious things of immortality throughout eternity. The world pays niggardly and scantily, but not so Christ.
Again, if you will serve the world, and you wish to have gifts from it, the world will pay you half-heartedly. Now by the world, I mean the religious world quite as much as any other part of it; I mean the whole world, religious, political, good, bad, and indifferentthe whole lot of them. If you serve the world it will pay you half-heartedly. Let a man spend himself for his fellow-creatures' interests, what will he get for it? Some will praise him, some will abuse him. The men that escape without abuse in this world, are the men who do nothing at all. He who is most valiant and useful, must expect to be most reprobated and abhorred. Those men who are borne upon the waves of popular applause are not the men whose worth is true; real philanthropists must swim against the stream. The whole list of the world's benefactors is an army of martyrs. All along, the path of the good is marked with blood and fire. The world does not pay the men that serve it really, except with ingratitude. I say, to come back, even when the world does pay, it pays half-heartedly. Did you ever know a man yet, concerning whom the world's mind was one? I never heard of any. "Oh," says one, "So-and-so is one of the best men of his times." Go down the next street, and you will hear it said, "He is the biggest vagabond living." Go to one, and you will hear him say, "I never heard a man of such genius as that is." "Oh," says another, "mere twaddle." "There is such a newspaper," says one, "how ably it defends the rights of the people." "Oh," says another, "mere democracy; seeking to pull down everything that is constitutional and proper." The world never made up its mind about any man yet. There is not a soul living concerning whom the world is unanimous. But when Christ gives anything, he always gives with all his heart. He does not say to his people, "There, I give you this, but still I have half-a-mind to keep it back." No, Christ gives his heart to all his people. There is no double-mindedness in Jesus. If we are enabled by free grace to serve him and to love him, we may rest quite sure that in the rich reward which his grace shall give us, his whole heart shall go with every blessing. When Christ blesses the poor needy soul, he does not give with one hand, and smite with the other; but he gives him mercies with both his handsboth full; and he asks the sinner simply to receive all that he is willing to give.
Then again, whenever the world gives anything, it gives mostly to those who do not want it. I remember once, when a lad, having a dog, which I very much prized and some man in the street asked me to give him the dog; I thought it was pretty impudent, and I said as much. A gentlemen, however, to whom I told it, said, "Now suppose the Duke of So-and-so,"who was a great man in the neighborhood"asked you for the dog, would you give it him?" I said, "I think I would." He said, "Then you are just like all the world; you would give to those who do not want." Who in the whole of this congregation would object to give anything to the Queen? Not a soul of us, and yet, perhaps, there is no person in the world who so little needs our gifts. We can always give to those who do not require anything; for we feel that there is some little honor conferred upon usan honor bestowed by the reception. Now, look at Jesus. When he gives to his friends, he gets no honor from them: the honor is in his own free heart that should lead him to give to such poor necessitous worms. Great men have gone to Christ with mere professions, and they have asked him to be good to them, but then they have at the same time declared, that they had a righteousness of their own, and did not want much of him; and he has sent them about their business, and given them nothing. He said, "I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance." But whenever poor, lost sinners have gone to Christ, he has never turned one of them awaynever. He has given all they could possibly want, and infinitely more than they thought they could ever expect. Might not Jesus say to us, when we ask him for the blessings of his grace, "You are impudent in daring to ask." But instead of that, he loves to be asked, and he freely and richly gives"Not as the world giveth;" for he gives to those who need it most.
Again, there is another view of the world's gifts. The world giveth to its friends, Any man will help his own friends. If we help not our own relatives and friends then are we worse than heathen men and publicans. But the world generally confines its good wishes and blessings to its class, and kith, and kin. It cannot think of giving blessings to its enemies. Did you ever hear yet of the world's blessing an enemy? Never. It gives its benefactions to its friends, and but very scantily even to them. But Christ gives his benefactions to his enemies. "Not as the world giveth" he may truly say. The world says, "I must see whether you deserve it; I must see that your case is a good one." It enquires, and enquires, and enquires again; but Christ only sees that our case is a bad one, and then he gives. He wants not a good case but a bad case. He knows our necessity, and, once discovering our necessity, not all our sin can stop the hand of his bounty. Oh, if Jesus should call to mind some of the hard speeches we have uttered about him, he would never bless us surely, if it were not that his ways are far above our ways. Why, remember man, it is not long ago since you cursed himsince you laughed at his peopledespised his ministers, and could spit upon his Bible. Jesus has cast all that behind his back, and loved you notwithstanding. Would the world have done that? Let a man get up and rail at his fellows, will they forgive, and, after forgiving, will they begin to bless? Will they die for their enemies? Oh, no! such a thing never entered into the heart of manhood. But Christ blesses rebels, traitors, enemies to his cross. He brings them to know his love, and taste of his eternal mercies.
A thousand remarks seem to start up and I scarcely know which to choose. "Not as the world giveth give I unto you." The world always gives with a sparing motive. The most of us are compelled to economy, if we give anything away to a poor man we generally hope that he will not come again. If we give him half-a-crown it is very often as we say to get rid of him. If we bestow a little charity it is in the hope that we shall not see his face just by-and-bye, for really we do not like the same men continually begging at our door when the world is so full of beggars. Did you ever hear of a man who gave a beggar something to encourage him to keep on begging of him? I must confess I never did such a thing, and am not likely to begin. But that is just what Christ does. When he gives us a little grace, his motive is to make us ask for more; and when he gives us more grace it is given with the very motive, to make us come and ask again. He gives us silver blessings to induce us to ask for golden mercies; and when we have golden favors, those same mercies are given on purpose to lead us to pray more earnestly, and open our mouth wider that we may receive more. What a strange giver Christ is! what a strange friend, that he gives on purpose to make us beg more! The more you ask of Christ, the more you can ask; the more you have got, the more you will want; the more you know him, the more you will desire to know him; the more grace you receive, the more grace you will pant after; and when you are full of grace, you will never be content till you get full of glory. Christ's way of giving is, "Of his fullness have we received, and grace for grace"grace to make us pant for more grace; grace to make us long after something higher, something fuller and richer still. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
Again; when the world gives anything it is almost always with a selfish motive. The Christian man gives, not hoping to receive again; but the world lends that it may borrow; it gives that it may receive. There are many men whose whole lives are a looking after self. They would not like to be told so; but even their benefactions to a hospital, or to a charity, are merely given because the name should be in the list. We know that too many persons would not think of relieving private want unless they thought there was a merit in it, and so thought it would stand good for them at last. They would infinitely prefer to do their good in the lumps. I know, at this day, a man that I believe would give twenty pounds, fifty pounds, or a hundred pounds to a charity, but who would let his own relatives starve rather than give them anything, because it would never be known,no one would talk about it. The world's motive for bestowing a blessing is in order that some rich fruit may flow from it. If the world rewards a warrior, its ostensible reason is that other soldiers may fight bravely. If it rewards some great artist, it is to encourage the profession, that is, to help themselves, by getting others to amuse them, as well as this man has done. There is always an ulterior object in the world's generosity. Not so in Christ's; when he gives us mercies, he has nothing whatever to get from us. It is our delight to live to him; but our living to him cannot increase his gloryhe is God over all, blessed for ever. He gives us more than he can ever receive. And though we with grateful hearts desire to live to him, that very gratitude is first his gift. The well of love is filled out of the spring of God, otherwise it had been the grave of mercies, and not a fountain of praise.
Now, what more shall I say? I seem to have brought out the most prominent point of the worlds giving, but let me add one more. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." All that the world gives, it only bestows for a season, it must go back again. Thou hast riches, man, as the reward of thy toils. What shalt thou be the better for them in a few short months? Thy broad acres, thy leagues of land shall dwindle into a short six feet of clay. Thy mansion, what shall it shrivel into, but into a small coffin, over which shall be scratched a little earth to hide thy putrid dust, and save the world a nuisance? The world will have all back of thee. Naked thou didst come into it, and it will take care thou shalt take nothing out of it, for naked shalt thou go out of it again. Oh, man, thou hast accumulated knowledge until thou hast become a walking cyclopaedia, but what shalt thou take with thee? What difference shall there be between thy hollow skull and that of the meanest peasant, when some wanton sexton, in some future year, shall take it up, or split it with his spade? What shalt thou be the better for all those big thoughts that have stretched thy skull, and all those marvellous conceptions that have made it ache so much, that thou couldst scarcely carry it upon thy shoulders? Thou wilt go back again to thy fellow earth, and the worm shall eat thee, and the philosopher shall taste no sweeter to his tooth than did the peasant; And, then, whether thou be prince or king, or whether thou be a poor, ignorant man, the worms shall make no distinction. Thou shall still rotstill be consumed; noisome gases and a handful of dust shall be thy whole residuum. What then can the world give? If it tried it could not give thee anything that would last; it cannot give thee anything better than air. It can give thee nothing that can pass into eternity with thee. What though it follow thee with the trumpet of fame? That trumpet cannot be heard half-way across the Jordan. If all the men in the world clapped their hands in thy praise, not one angel, even on the very borders of the celestial world would observe the tumult of applause. The world can give thee nothing that thou canst carry with thee. Thou art at the best a pack-horse, that shall carry its burden till it ends its journey, and then it must lie down and die. Thou dost but carry a burden on thy back, and verily, death shall unload thee ere thou art suffered to enter another world. How different is Christ in his gifts! What he gives he gives for ever. When he bestows mercies they are lasting things; no shadows does he give, but real substanceno fancies, but eternal realities does he bestow. Oh, men of this world, when your gold is meltedwhen your diamonds have dissolved in gaswhen your estates have gonewhen your hopes are lost, and when your goods are destroyed, then shall the people of God begin to know their riches; then shall they shine forth as the sun in the kingdom of their Father. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you."
III. Now this brings me to one PRACTICAL REFLECTION, OR RATHER EXHORTATION TO GOD'S PEOPLE. If this be true, my hearer, I beseech thee serve not the world; serve none but Christ, for he is the best master; serve him with all thy might, because he so richly hath given and so richly will give. I would not serve the world for the best empire in it. A king once said he wished all his subjects could be kings for a day, for "they would soon discover," he said, "that the art of governing is not so easy as they think, and that a crown is not so soft a thing to wear as they imagine." No, the world may abuse us if it likes; if it abuse us we are not very sad thereat, because the world is not our master, and as long as our own Master is satisfied we care not for a stranger. If any one should walk into your garden, and say to your gardener, "I do not like the arrangement of these beds; I do not like those flowers; you are evidently a careless man;" he would say, "Well, my master has been round this morning; he did not say much, but I saw a smile of satisfaction on his face, therefore, what is that to you? it is no business of yours. I am not your servant; I do not serve you." Now, the world is a bad paymaster to those that obey and serve it. Let every Christian make up his mind that he will have nothing to do with serving the world. If the world scorns and frowns, let him say, "It is no business of yours; you are not my master; I do not serve you. If it amuses you to abuse me go on; it will not hurt me." There is even in the mind of Christians at times too much of a tendency to time-serving. We are all so apt to think that we really must bow to public opinion, to this, that, and the other. Oh! you will never be happy until the Holy Ghost has brought you to this,that you will fear God, and that you will fear no one elsethat you will serve God with undivided heart. I go further: I would not even serve the church if I must have it for a master. I can serve God, I can serve Christ; for Christ is a blessed master; but I would not advise any of you to make the church your master. Wherever the church is we are all bound to serve the brethren, to serve the church of Christ as we are bound to assist in a common cause, but think not that even the dictum of the church is to be your judge. Imagine not that even its praise is that which you are to seek. You are to seek the praise of Christ. His church may do wrong, his ministers may mistake, but Christ himself can never be in error. Serve Christthis is the practical exhortation from the whole subject. My dear friends, you that love Christ, and have been chosen by him from before the foundation of the world, who have been bought with his blood, have been washed, and pardoned, and forgiven, if Christ gives to you, not as the world gives then I beseech you serve Christ better than worldlings serve the world. Oh, it is astonishing what men have done to serve the world. They have rushed to the cannon's mouth, and given their life to be food for powder, and they have thought they were well rewarded with a little praise. Men, too, have sweated at the furnace; they have spent their livings, have starved their families, to invent some luxuries for the tables of the rich. Men have undergone unheard of labors, toils that positively appal you to read of, merely to become eminent in their profession, to be first in the rank of artisans among which they were numbered.
When the world has a gulf to fill, it never lacks a Curtis to leap into it, but Christ often sees his cause left and deserted by reason of the coldness of his friends. There is many a battle wherein the warriors of Christ turn their backs, though armed and carrying bows. I was thinking yesterday, and the thought struck me forcibly, that one thousand eight hundred years ago, or a little more, there were a few men met in an upper chamber met for worshipabout four hundred of them. They met, and they prayed, and they preached, and there was a divine fire kindled in their bosoms; and in a few years, they had preached the gospel in every language under heaven, and the mass of the world became professedly Christians. Now here is a room, not with four hundred persons, but oftentimes filled with thousands, and yet, does the religion of Christ progress as it should do? No. If there were but a little, but a hundredth part of the zeal of Christ's disciples that there was in olden times, before another year rolls round, there would be missionaries in every town; the gospel would be preached in every village of India, and China, and every other nation accessible to the foot of the missionary. As it is we are an idle generation, a tribe of dwarfs has succeeded to a race of giants, and now Christ's cause creeps where it once ran, and only runs where once it was wont to fly as with wings of lightning. Oh, that God would make bare his arm! And if ever he does, the first sign of it will be that the church will begin to serve Christ more zealously. Some will give their blood to die in the preaching of the Word. Others will pour their wealth into coffers of the church and every living soul, numbered in the family of Christ, will spend itself and be spent for its Master's honor. "Not as the world giveth, give I unto you." O Jesus, not as the world's followers give, do we desire to give to thee. They give their lives but once, we would "die daily;" they give much of their talent, we would give all. Take our heart, and seal it, make it as thine own, that we may live to thine honor, and die in thine arms, and sit upon thy throne with thee for ever and ever.