Delivered on Sabbath Morning, March 4th, 1860, by the
"Jesus saith unto them, my meat is to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work."John 4:34.
T IS PECULIARLY PLEASING to the Christian to observe the interest which God the Father takes in the work of salvation. In our earlier days of childhood in grace, we conceived the idea that God the Father was only made propitious to us through the atonement of Christ that Jesus was the Savior, and that the Father was rather an austere Judge than a tender friend. But since then, we have learned the Father through the Son: for it was not possible we could come unto the Father except through Jesus Christ. But, now, having seen Christ, we have seen the Father also, and from henceforth, we both know the Father, and have seen him, since we know the love of Christ, and have felt it shed abroad in our hearts. It is always refreshing then, to the enlightened Christian, to call to mind the intense interest which the Father takes in the work of salvation. Here you find in this verse it is three times hinted at. Salvation-work is called the Father's will. "It is not the will of your Father which is in heaven, that one of these little ones should perish;" but more, it is his will that his chosen, the blood-bought ones of Christ, should every one of them be redeemed from the ruins of the fall, and brought safely home to their Father's house. Note, again, we are told that Jesus was sent of the Father. Here, again, you see the Father's interest. It is true that Jesus rent himself away from the glories of heaven, from the felicities of blessedness, and voluntarily descended to the scorn, the shame, and spitting of this lower world. But, yet his Father had a part therein. He gave up his only begotten Son; he withheld not the darling of his bosom, but sent away his well-beloved, and sent him down with messages of love to man. Jesus Christ comes willingly, but still he comes by his Father's appointment and sending. A third hint is also given us. Salvation is here called God's work: "It is my meat to do the will of him that sent me, and to finish his work." We know that when this world was made, the Father did not make it without reference to the Spirit, for "the Spirit of God moved upon the face of the waters," brooded over chaos, and brought order out of confusion. Nor did he make it without the Son; for we are told by John the Apostle, "Without him was not anything made that was made." Yet, at the same time, creation was the Father's work. So also is it in salvation; the Father does not save without the Spirit, for "the Spirit quickeneth whom he will." He doth not save without the Son, for it is through the merit of the Redeemer's death that we are delivered from the demerit of our iniquity. But, notwithstanding this, God the Father is the worker of salvation as much as he is the worker of creation. Let us look up then, with eyes of delight, to our reconciled God and Father. O Lord our GOD, thou art not an angry one! Thou art not an austere ruler! "Thou art not merely the Judge but thou art the grand patriarch of thy people! Thou art their great friend! Thou lovest them better than thou didst thy Son! For thou didst not spare himthou didst send him down to suffer and to die, that thou mightest bring thy children home. "Glory be unto the Father, and to the Son, and to the Holy Ghost; as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end."
Witness the fervor of his prayer."
He has stood up to preach all day long; he has fed thousands. and at last he faints. His disciples take him even as he is, for he cannot walk, his strength is gone; and they carry him down to the boat and lay him there. He shuts his eyes, he is about to have some little repose but they come to him, and cry, "Master, why sleepest thou? Awake! we perish." And he arises to rebuke the waves, and finds himself on another shore, and in another field of labor, upon which he enters at once without delay. He seems to have known no moment of repose. He preaches day by day, he prays by night. He seemed to be a sun that never had a setting, always shining always progressing in his mighty course. Oh! there never was such a worker never such a toiler as this Lord Jesus, who toiled not for himself but for others.
7. And here let me remark, again, that I may give you another proof that his meat was to do the will of him that sent him, namely, that at many times when he was in full labor he does not seem to have felt fatigue at all. He had been walking one hot day along the dusty road, under the burning sun; and he comes at last to the well of Sychar. Being very weary, he sat down on the well. He was hungry, too, for his disciples had gone away to buy meat. That little wallet which Judas carried was not often full enough to afford meat for luxury; they could only buy for mere necessity. They doubtless had enough in that little bag, which was filled by the voluntary gifts of those among whom he labored, to keep those twelve men with daily bread, but they had none to spare. I conclude, then, that our Savior needed meat, or they would not have gone away to buy it. They come back after they have bought their meat, and they find their Master sitting on the well preaching to a woman. She goes away and they wonder how it is he does not eat. He tells them he needs no food, he has been refreshed, he had seen that woman converted. A woman who had had five husbands, and was then living with one who was not her husband, had listened to his voice, and she had been saved, and he saw her go away to bring the men to hear. He expected a harvest; he saw the fields white and ready for it; and this so refreshed his spirit that he did not need to eat. And we read at another time he forgot to eat bread, and at another season we read they thronged him in, "insomuch that he was not able to eat." Yet he could say, "I have meat to eat that ye know not of." He seemed to get refreshed in his work to grow stronger amid his toils; instead of growing tired, he renewed his strength; as he went on with his sacred labors. Now, this could not have happened to Christ, unless his whole soul was in it. Those of you who have ever undertaken an enterprise with all your might, know that as that has been going on you have been so absorbed that you did hot know when it was time for you to eat, and when at last you have seen success dawning upon you, if any one had hinted that you needed bread, you would put him by and say, "Don't disturb me; let me watch; let me see this light come to its full blaze of noon day." You have needed no other refreshment than that which success, has given you. I could myself give an illustration of this, which occurred to me a little while ago, to prove that fact. Coming from home early in the morning, I went to the chapel, sat there all day long seeing those who had been brought to Christ through the preaching of the Word. Their stories were so interesting to me that the day went on. I may have seen some thirty or more during the day, one after the other, as they came up to me. I was so delighted with the tales they told me, and the wonders of grace that God had wrought in them, that I did not know anything about how the day went. Seven o'clock came for prayer-meeting. I went in and prayed with the brethren. After that came the church-meeting. A little before ten o'clock I felt faint, and I began to think at what hour I had had my dinner, and I found that I had had none; I never thought of it, I never felt hungry, because God had made me so glad with success. I think we could live right on, almost without food, if God would sustain us daily with this divine mannathis heavenly food of successin winning souls. This showed that our Master's heart was in it: for the toil needed no refreshment.
8. Then, again, if I have not said enough to convince you that he gave his whole spirit to the work; let me remark that many a man has espoused a purpose, and, as he imagined, has betrothed himself to it by eternal nuptials, yet at last he has been divorced from the darling object. He has seen some path of brightness opening to him with some glittering honor at the end, and he has turned aside to selfaggrandisement and glory. But our Lord had a prospect before him, such as no man ever had. Satan took him to the brow of a hill, and offered him all the kingdoms of this world a mightier dominion even than Caesar hadif he would bow down and worship him. That temptation was substantially repeated in Christ's life a thousand times. You remember one practical instance as a specimen of the whole. "They would have taken him by force and would have made him a king." And if he had but pleased to accept that offer, on the day when he rode into Jerusalem upon a colt, the foal of an ass when all cried "Hosanna!" when the palm branches were waving, he had needed to have done nothing but just to have gone into the temple, to have commanded with authority the priest to pour the sacred chrism publicly upon his head, and he would have been king of the Jews. Not with the mock title which he wore upon the cross, but with a real dignity he might have been monarch of nations. As for the Romans, his omnipotence could have swept away the intruders. He could have lifted up Judea into a glory as great as the golden days of Solomon: he might have built Palmyras and Tadmors in the desert: he might have stormed Egypt and have taken Rome. There was no empire that could have resisted him. With a band of zealots such as that nation could have furnished, and with such a leader capable of working miracles walking in the van, the star of Judea might have risen with resplendent light, and a visible kingdom might have come, and his will might have been done on earth, from the river unto the ends of the earth. But he came not to establish a carnal kingdom upon earth, else would his followers fight: he came to wear the thorn-crown, to bear our griefs and to carry our sorrows. And from that single object the most splendid temptation could not make him diverge. You may heap together the glittering pomps and the gaudy jewels, but he treads them all beneath his feet. The Cross to him is brighter than a crown, the suffering more dear than wealth and honor. So then, in this too, we may see how full was his purpose, and how firmly he was set on the salvation of man.
9. One other thought here. If we knew that some purpose which we had undertaken could never be achieved unless by our death, supposing that we could bring our mind to give up our blood as the price of successif we knew that after the most toilsome effort, though the walls of the structure might rise, yet our own tomb must furnish the topstoneif we resolve to die for it, yet I can well conceive that firmly as our purpose might be set, we should dread the hour. Let it be at a distance, we should say. And if we were told it was drawing near, we should sigh, and our spirit would sink. But not so, Christ. Do you observe throughout his life in what a hurry he is? Read the gospel according to St. Mark. The gospel of St. Mark is the gospel of the servant. The chosen emblem in the old church windows represents St. Mark as the ox, the laborious ox. Each of the evangelists had his own particular idiom, and the idiomatic expression of St. Mark is the word, Eutheos, which we translate "straightway," "immediately." You will see if you read the evangelist through, that the word "straightway," "immediately," occurs more frequently in that book than in any other, perhaps more times than in all the rest of the Word of God besides, to teach us this lesson, that Christ as a servant was in haste to fulfll his mission; never loitering, but always doing it straightway. He seems to me to be always stretching out his hands after the cross; not standing back from it, as if he knew it must come to him by necessity. No, he said, "I have a baptism to be baptized with, and how am I straitened till it be accomplished." His soul was speeding towards the cross, and his body seemed to be straitened, encaged, imprisoned, that it could not get to the end of this three years of labor. His soul was panting after suffering; groaning, crying out to be permitted to drink of the cup of our redemption even to the dregs. Now, this majesty of purpose, not merely to die, but to pant for deathnot simply to climb the wall, to lead the forlorn hope and to long to do it, to be panting for the battle, desiring the fight, longing for the sufferingthis is heroic ardor, self devotion entirely unexampled! I could hardly imagine a man panting for the fight an hour before it begins, but all his life long to be desiring to enter upon It, to be panting for that bloody sweat, to be sighing for those nails, that shame, that spitting, this showed how strongly our Lord Jesus Christ had bent all his thoughts to the divine purpose of doing his Father's will, and finishing his Father's work.
Now, I shall say no more upon this subject by way of proof. I come very briefly to make the practical we thereof.
The first practical inference is addressed to the timid, agonized soul, who desires salvation, but who thinks that Christ is unwilling to give it to him. Timid spirit, timid spirit, put away the thought that he is unwilling to save. It is a lie against thy own soul; it is a libel against his character. What! He unwilling to distribute that which he so freely bought at so immense a price! Do you see in any one period of his life an unwillingness to save? There might be once a shrinking of the flesh, but that is over now. No more the crown of thorns; the cross and nails no more. The flesh has nothing more to shrink at. It is done; redemption is accomplished, and think you he was so earnest and so intent on the work of redemption, and now is unwilling to reap the fruits of it? Why, do you not know, poor penitent, that he died to save you, and think you that it needs much argument to move the heart that once was pierced to pity and compassion? Scout the thought once for all. He is able to forgive; that thou knowest. He is as willing as he is able. Infinite is his ability, and as infinite his willingness. I beseech thee, distrust him not. Come as thou art, with all thy sins about thee. Come, now and put thy trust in him. Thou shalt find the door of heaven's gate not creaking on its hinges, but standing on jar and opening easily. John Bunyan says the posts of the gates of the temple were made of olive tree; and he allegorized it thus:They were made of that fat and oily tree, that so the hinges might move readily and smoothly, that there might be no difficulty in opening the temple-gates when timid souls came flying in. When mothers are unwilling to receive their children, when fathers are unwilling to give food to their own offspring, thennay, not even then, will Jesus be unwilling to forgive. When the hard-working man is unwilling to take his wage, when the toiling politician is unwilling to grasp the honor which he has achieved, thennay, not even then, may Christ be unwilling to lay hold upon the sheep which is his own purchased with his own blood, and to pluck that jewel from a dung-hill which he has redeemed with his own suffering. He is not unwilling; thou art unwilling. If there be any hardness of heart, it lies with thee, and not with him. If there be difficulties in the way of thy salvations they are difficulties in thyself, not in him. Come and welcome. This is the invitation which reaches thee to day from heaven's festal board. Come and welcome. Come and welcome. Come and welcome, sinner, come! Let nothing make thee linger. He thirsts to save; he pants to bless. He longs to redeem and ransom. Only trust him; and if thou be made glad when thou trustest, he will be glad too. If the prodigal is glad when he returns, the father's joy is not an atom less. If there be mirth in the heart of the returning one, there is as much mirth in the heart of the parent to whom he returns. So come, and make thy Savior glad. Come and make him see of the travail of his soul that he may be abundantly satisfied. This is my first practical inference.
There is yet another. Christian men, it is but fair that we should give you one lesson from such a subject as this. Let this mind be in you which was in Christ Jesus. I would not be censorious, but solemnly and seriously, I fear there are not very many whose whole heart is set on Christ's glory. We have church members, men of wealth; do they not spend more upon themselves than upon Christ? And may I not infer from this that they love themselves better than Christ? We have other members of our churches, men who are but comparatively well-to-do. These spend more on their mere pleasures than on Christ. What am I to suppose, but that they find more pleasure in the enjoyments of the flesh than they do in serving Christ? Oh, have we not tens of thousands in the army of the Lord, that strike for themselves in their own battles with an arm as strong as that of king Arthur of our table, but when they come to fight for Christ their arm drops nerveless at their side? We have men who are all eye, all ear, all hand in business, but they are blind, and deaf, and impotent when they come into Christ's church. The fact is, we have in too many of our churches the chrysalis of men, but not the real body. They give us their names, but they keep their whole influence for the world. Ah! and is this what Christ deserves of you? Is this the reward of his self-devotion? Do you thus repay him who saved others but could not save himself. And you profess to be a follower of the Lamb, is this your following? An imitator of Jesus, and is this the imitation? Oh, sirs, the likeness is marred and blotted. Ye are poor sculptors indeed, if ye imagine yourselves to be sculptured in the image of Christ. Brothers and sisters, this matter may not seem to be of interest to you, but I feel it to be a subject of the most intense importance to the world that lieth in the wicked one. If we were more like Jesus it would be a happy day for the poor dying sons of men. Oh, if our divided aims could but be exchanged for singleness of heart; if our littleness of zeal could be consumed in the intensity of love to Christ, what better men should we be, and what a happier world would be this. Do you imagine that you are pleasing to God when you are living for fifty aims instead of one? When you bring to Christ your lukewarm love, your lukewarm zeal, do you think he is pleased with you, and that he accepts your offer? Oh, church of Laodicea, thou hast moved from Asia, thou hast come to England, and taken up thy abode in London! Truly might the Lord say to many of our London churches, "You are neither cold nor hot, you are lukewarm, and I will spue thee out of my mouth." There is nothing God abhors more than our cold Christianity, such as we have in these modern timesa religion which professes to live, but which lives like a gasping, fainting, trembling creature, that is on the verge of death. And you think to shake the world while you are shaking yourself with the ague of your cold indifference! You cry to God, "Arise!" and yet you rise not yourself! You ask a blessing and yet you will not win it! You crave for victory, and yet your swords rust in their scabbards! Out with you, sirs, be rid of this hypocrisy; begin first to ask for singleness of soul, and devotedness of purpose; and when this is given you, then shall there come days of refreshing from the presence of the Lord. Then shall sinners be converted, and Christ shall see of the travail of his soul. But for all this we want the influence of the Holy Spirit, for without that we shall never give our whole hearts up to the sacred mission of winning souls for Christ.
Spirit of the living God! descend upon us now; rest on thy saints, and fill them with love to perishing souls, and rest thou on the sinner, to bring him to this willing Savior, and make him willing in the day of thy power.