A Special Benediction
“Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called: mercy unto you, and peace, and love, be multiplied.” — Jude 1, 2.
THOSE were troublous times in which Jude wrote this very forcible Epistle. The first early days of Christianity, with all the spring-time of the singing of birds and the blossoming of flowers, had passed away. There had come times of trial for everyone; but worst of all were the troubles within the church. Unawares, evil men had been admitted into membership. The human mind, always acting like leaven, had begun to corrupt even the truth of the gospel; so that, where there had once been an unadulterated, unmingled preaching of the cross of Christ, there had come in a savour of Gnosticism and other philosophies of the day, and with all the error there had also come a tendency to tone down the high spirituality, the deep sanctity, of Christian life. So the children of God, who truly cared for him and walked with him, were very sad at heart. I suppose that Paul had gone home to his reward. John still lingered, and perhaps James and Peter also; but when the time came for Peter to write his second Epistle, the day was darkening down, and when Jude took up his pen, and wrote this short Epistle, the times were getting darker and darker, and great forebodings of evil were in the hearts of God’s servants,— forebodings which were only removed by their joyous faith in him who had gone from them, and who would, by-and-by, come again without a sin-offering unto salvation.
This Epistle, therefore, seems to me to fit our times, which are not altogether unlike those of which I have been speaking; and the apostle might have been writing yesterday, so appropriate are his words to the evils of the present age. If Jude were living now, he might have to deal with a different form of evil; but, at the bottom, it would really be the same evil as that of which he wrote, the same mischievous root of bitterness which, springing up in our days, troubles us, and thereby many are defiled.
I thought, as I read this Epistle through, that Jude seems to take the right view of things, namely, that the proper way of meeting evils in the church is by dealing with the church itself, dealing with the truly faithful members of the church, and speaking to those who really are “sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called,” stirring them up to seek the highest degree of spiritual strength, and pleading for them that mercy and peace and love may be multiplied to them. If you have to visit infected places, it may help you to ward off disease if you yourself are vigorous and full of health. The best protection against surrounding evil will be the cultivation of a right state of heart and life, a continual growth in grace and in the knowledge of the Lord. That wind which may upset yonder boat with its butterfly sails, may do no mischief whatever to the barque which is well ballasted, and fitted to weather the gale. Be yourself right; listen to the word of wisdom which says, “Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine,” and when these two matters are as they should be, then every wind of error which blows hither and thither will but little affect you.
Such I take it is the run of this Epistle, and the opening verses are a fit preface thereto. I am going to speak of these two verses under three heads. First, here is a special man: “Jude, the servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James.” Next, the Epistle is written to special persons: “to them that are sanctified by God the Father, and preserved in Jesus Christ, and called.” Then, thirdly, it contains a special benediction: “Mercy unto you, and peace, and love be multiplied.”
I. First of all, it does seem to me that the apostle who wrote this Epistle was A SPECIAL MAN. Jude evidently wished to set himself apart from the general mass of those who were apostatizing, and to make it known that he himself was strong in the faith, and remaining faithful to his Lord.
To me, it seems as if every word of his own title has a speciality about it. There is something special in his name. He begins his Epistle with his own name: “Jude.” Among the members of a certain denomination that I need not name, there is a practice of using initials when they write a book. I never find any instance of that custom in Scripture. “G.B.” did not write an Epistle; and neither “A.B.” nor “X.Y.Z.” has favoured us with any book of Holy Scripture. Names, however, are not always used; we have no name at the commencement of the Epistle to the Hebrews, for no writer in the Old or the New Testament gloried in his own name. Still, they were not ashamed of their names, and since they were bound to make an open confession of their faith, it is as well that they used their names at the beginning of their writings.
This Epistle was written by Jude, that is to say, by Judas, but not Iscariot; and herein lies the speciality of his name. This Judas was not the son of perdition, but a true son of God, a sincere and earnest-hearted believer. Yet, when he wrote his own name down, Judas, which we pronounce short as “Jude,” I think that the tears must have come to his eyes as he remembered that other Judas,— with the same name, ay, and by birth with the same nature. If left to himself, he might have proved a traitor to his Master, like the other Judas; but grace had made him to differ from the man who betrayed his Lord. If it had been your case or mine, I am sure that we could not have written down that name without reflecting upon our obligations to the sovereign grace of God which kept us from being sons of perdition. “There goes John Bradford but for the grace of God,” is a saying often quoted; and there would have gone this other Judas but for the grace of God that restrained him. You remember how particular the Holy Spirit is that we should not mistake this Judas for Judas Iscariot, for when he asked of Jesus, “Lord, how is it that thou wilt manifest thyself unto us, and not unto the world?” the Holy Spirit records the name of the questioner as “Judas, not Iscariot.” No, “not Iscariot.” What a mercy for you that, though some other of your name may have fallen into gross sin, you have been preserved! But as you recollect your own name, and remember how often that name has been defiled by others who at first were your companions in your childhood, thank God that he has kept you from falling. Do not even think of your name without thinking of that name which is above all names, by which your name has been rescued from the Stygian bog, and placed in the book of the children of God among those whose names are written in heaven. So, you see, there was something special even about the name of Jude.
There was something equally or still more special in his office. “Jude— Judas— the servant of Jesus Christ.” Our Revised Version very properly puts in the margin “bondservant of Jesus Christ”; and it is very beautiful to see how, in the original, these servants of Jesus Christ delighted to set forth the completeness of their service, and to declare how perfectly they belonged to Christ. They were not servants that could come and go at their own pleasure, but they were bondservants of Jesus Christ. Though there were no free men on earth more truly free than they, yet these servants of Jesus Christ delighted in wearing chains of love which were soft as silk yet stronger than steel. They rejoiced to feel that they had no liberty to run away from Christ; their desire was to have their ear bored to the door-post of his house, to be his servants through their whole lifetime, and throughout eternity. This is what the apostle meant when he wrote, “Jude, the bondservant of Jesus Christ.”
You know how persons came to be bondservants in the olden time, according to Jewish practice. They were bondservants by purchase. When anyone had bought a slave with his money, the poor man was reckoned as belonging to him. So, we are not our own, we were bought with a price; we were not redeemed with corruptible things, such as silver and gold, but with the precious blood of Christ, as of a lamb without blemish and without spot. The fine gentry in the ministry of the present day turn up their noses at this truth, and say that it is a mercantile idea. So it is, and we are not ashamed to have it so. “Ye are bought with a price,” wrote the apostle Paul to the Corinthians, as if to make it clear beyond all question that it was really so; and you and I feel that we too have been bought and paid for, and that is one reason why we belong to Christ. We henceforth feel that we have no ownership rights over ourselves; yet we rejoice that we have that which is much more valuable, for we can each one say, with Thomas, “My Lord and my God.” Henceforth we have no claim over ourselves, but give ourselves over to him who has bought us with his blood, for we are his bondservants by purchase.
Then there was another method by which a man became possessed of bondservants, that was by birth. Under the law, the man born in the priest’s house or bought with the priest’s money might eat of the holy things. There were some who were born under gracious influences; David makes mention of this when he says, in the 116th Psalm, “O Lord, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid.” Having a godly mother, he reckoned that he was born into the service of God. Even so, you and I, the twice-born, the really regenerate, have been born into the household of God, and our regeneration binds us to the noble service of him whom we call Master and Lord henceforth and for ever. As naturally as the old nature rebels, the new nature obeys; and as naturally as the old Adam within us will have its own way, so naturally the new Adam bends to the will of Christ, for we possess another life than that we used to have, we have been born into a new world wherein dwelleth righteousness; old things have passed away, and all things have become new; and now we surrender our members, which once were instruments of unrighteousness, to become instruments of righteousness, and we rejoice in being permitted to enter the service of our God.
Look again at, this man Jude; he does not even call himself an apostle. Paul did, because with some it was a matter of dispute as to whether he was an apostle or not, and it was needful for him to assert his right to the title; but Jude, having no question upon that matter, takes the lower-higher title,— for lower and higher are one in the Kingdom of Christ,— and calls himself “ the bondservant of Jesus Christ.” My dear hearer, can you also take that title— a bondservant of Jesus Christ? Let the free-thinker be free to go his own way if he will; you are a Christ-thinker, and you wish to go Christ’s way. Let the man who loves himself, and seeks to please himself; do what he will; henceforth you will love your Lord, and seek to please him, for you are by purchase and by birth the bondservant of Jesus Christ.
Sometimes, also, men became bondservants by indenture. They entered into bonds of servitude for a set time; and you and I have freely surrendered ourselves to Christ; we have entered into a covenant that we will be his for ever. Paul wrote as if he had been branded with Christ’s mark; and I doubt not that Jude might have done the same. “From henceforth,” says Paul, “let no man trouble me: for I bear in my body the marks of the Lord Jesus.” He belonged undoubtedly, irrevocably, eternally, to the Lord Jesus Christ, and he gloried in that fact. Dear friends, will not you also glory in this if it is true of you?
Then Jude added another part of his title showing that he was special in his relation: “and brother of James.” This expression seems to me to place Jude in a very pleasant light. He felt as if he was a specially favoured person, because he had for a brother that famous servant of our Lord Jesus Christ, James the Less, known among the Jews of old as James the Just, who had a reputation even among the outside world for the great holiness of his life. This man was Jude’s brother. Christianity teaches us to value brotherhood, and we highly esteem those with whom we are joined in relationship, especially in the relationships which are of grace. I like that any man should feel glad of his brother, thankful for his brother; and I am glad that Jude, when under divine inspiration, does not forget to say that he was “the brother of James.” Some of us owe a great deal to our brothers, and all of you have reason to thank God that you are the son of such an one, or that you are the father of such an one, or the sister of such an one, or the brother of such an one. There is a special mercy, probably, in your domestic position; and if there is, do not cease to praise God that he has given you to be associated in life with those who are associated with him. May our children be his children! May our friends be his friends! May our brothers be our brothers in Christ!
II. Now, secondly, let us think of THE SPECIAL PEOPLE to whom Jude wrote this Epistle.
In this instance, the marginal reading of the Revised Version is, I doubt not, the more correct translation: “To them that are beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ, being called.” I shall take that as the best version, believing it to be strictly accurate.
The special persons to whom Jude wrote were, first, beloved and sanctified: “To them that are beloved in God the Father.” O child of God, in times of darkness and of doubt, above all others cling you to the faith once delivered to the saints, because according to it you are beloved in God the Father, or, as our Authorized Version puts it, “Sanctified by God the Father;” which means that, by reason of his eternal love to you, he set you apart unto himself. To his spiritual Israel the Lord still says, “You only have I known of all the families of the earth They shall be mine, saith the Lord of hosts, in that day when I make up my jewels.” Or ever the earth was, or sun or moon or stars began to shine, the prescient eye of God was fixed on his beloved, and he sanctified them unto himself, “for the Lord’s portion is his people; Jacob is the lot of his inheritance.”
And because he had thus set them apart unto himself, in fulness of time he redeemed them unto himself, redeemed them from among men. “Christ loved the church, and gave himself for it;” and in consequence of that love of his, he determined that those whom he had redeemed should be the instruments of his gracious working among the sons of men. They were to be vessels meet for the Master’s use. They were to be the lamps in which his light should be carried, the salt by which his preserving power should be made manifest amidst the putrefaction of the world. He set them apart for himself and his service according to those ancient words, “This people have I formed for myself; they shall shew forth my praise.”
Out of this love and this separation there came a sanctification of another kind, namely, that of cleansing, for we were heirs of wrath even as others, polluted like others; but the Spirit of God fulfils the divine purpose of separation, brings us out from the world, even as he brought Abraham from Ur of the Chaldees, and puts us in a separate path that we may be sojourners with God as all our fathers were. Then he washes us in the precious blood and in that water which flowed with the blood from the side of Jesus, that mystic fountain opened on Calvary for the sin and uncleanness of the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem.
This is what is meant by being “sanctified by God the Father.” If you take the other translation, “beloved in God the Father,” it comes to the same point, for love has a separating influence upon its object. If the love of a man is fixed upon one woman, he calls her his bride, and he looks upon her as different from all other women on the face of the earth. She is ever in his thought and in his heart, and her praise is often on his lips; he lives for her. Even so hath God taken unto himself a people who are his alone.
In addition to being beloved and sanctified, they are also “preserved in Christ Jesus.” This is a very sweet expression, and conveys a very true meaning, but the exact translation is, “kept for Jesus Christ.” To my mind, this is a most delightful truth; it makes my eyes sparkle to think of our being kept for Jesus Christ, as jewels that he alone must wear. “A garden enclosed is my sister, my spouse; a spring shut up, a fountain sealed.” “Kept for Jesus Christ.” I wish that we all carried out this divine purpose. What have I to do with idols? I am kept for Jesus Christ. What have I to do with seeking the things of this world? I am kept for Jesus Christ. What have I to do with living to myself, or to win the applause of men? What have I to do with the judgments of those who would be thought wise? What have we to do with anything but this— “Kept for Jesus Christ”? Our heart should be a cup from which no lip but his shall drink, a chalice consecrated to him who has given himself for us. Henceforth, let us have no eyes but for Jesus, no ears but for Jesus, no tongue but for Jesus; let us be ever, only, all for him.
“Kept for Jesus Christ.” You must not touch that treasure; it is set apart for the King. You must not meddle with that man, you must not seek to engross the love of that woman; they are kept for Jesus Christ. It is to such people that Jude writes his Epistle. Others may be filthy dreamers; but these people are kept for Jesus Christ. Some may be wandering stars or trees plucked up by the roots; but these people are kept for Jesus Christ; kept by him, kept in him, but specially kept for him. May the meaning of this precious word be written upon all your hearts, beloved in Christ!
Then Jude adds, “and called.” Do you not see the speciality running through all this description? Those who were beloved, sanctified, and preserved, were also called. There is a call in the gospel which comes to all men to whom it is proclaimed, yet all men are not “called” in the sense meant here. Brother, do you remember that day when you were called? The gospel had called you many times, and up to that time it had fallen upon a deaf ear; but that day you were called. Just as Lazarus came forth out of the grave because he was called by Christ, so was it with you. You had been lying asleep before , wrapped in the arms of sin; nay, like Lazarus, you were actually dead; but that day there came a voice to you out of the excellent glory It was not a voice that you heard with the ear; but, better than that, you heard it in your very soul, and it was as clear a call from Christ to you as when he called out of heaven to Saul of Tarsus, and said, “Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?”
1 remember distinctly when the Lord first called me, and I recollect it all the better because he has called me many times since, for that blessed call continues, and is often repeated. He called us first from death to life, then from darkness to light, then from a lesser light to a brighter one; and he has called us to go up step by step. Not even the angels go up Jacob’s ladder with a flight, they ascend it step by stop; and every day and all the day there is a call that comes to some of us, “Friend, come up higher.” When we are half inclined to sit down on the step of life, and admire the golden way up which we have hitherto ascended, we hear a voice that says to us, “Higher”; and there is our gracious God at the top of the ladder, still beckoning us to ascend, and saying to us again and again, “Seek ye my face,” and making us respond, “Thy face, Lord, will we seek.”
Those who are the beloved of the Lord are called. They have heard a voice which worldlings have not heard; they have seen a face which the blind men of this world have never seen; they have touched a hand, and a mystic hand has touched them, which those dead ones who still lie in the wicked one have never felt. They are the called; they are called by Christ to come out from among the ungodly, to be separate from them, to follow him, and to keep following him till at last he bids them enter into his glory to be with him for ever.
O beloved, the blessings of the gospel belong to men and women such as these, who have been set apart by divine love, who have been held apart and consecrated to Christ, and who have been taken apart by effectual calling, and so made to dwell apart to the glory of Christ alone, and for his use only. Shall any Belshazzar drink out of these golden cups? God forbid! Shall Satan come, and take away these crown jewels of the Prince, and bedeck himself with them? God forbid! When I see professedly Christian men seeking worldly amusements and worldly honours, and thus giving themselves over to Belial, what can I think or say of them? God grant that it may not be so with any of us; but may we be “kept by the power of God through faith unto salvation ready to be revealed in the last time”!
III. Now I must close by noticing, with brevity, a SPECIAL BENEDICTION which Jude wished to these people, and this is to be the very pith and point of my sermon. It is, dear friends, my special desire and prayer to God for all who are separated unto him, that mercy, and peace, and love, may be multiplied unto them.
Beloved, may you have mercy! You will always want it, for even a saint is a sinner still. May you have the mercy that will continue to forgive your sin, the mercy that will continue to wash your feet from the defilement of the way! May you have the mercies of providence that will supply your need, the mercies that will sustain you under trial, the mercies that will lead you on from strength to strength! May you have much mercy, for you will want it; and, blessed be God, “He delighteth in mercy.”
Then, says the apostle, he wishes that we may have peace. Oh, may you have it! The man who is at perfect peace with God, who is at perfect peace with his own conscience, who is at peace with all his fellow-men, who especially cultivates peace by behaving himself aright in the household of God, this is the man who is strong in the midst of unrest and turmoil. This is the man who will stand firm when others flinch; for he can say, “My heart is fixed, O God, my heart is fixed: I will sing and give praise.” May you have this peace, beloved!
Jude next wishes that we may have love; that is to say, first, a sense of the love of God shed abroad in our heart by the Holy Ghost, a ravishing realization that God loves us with that everlasting love which knows no measure, nor change, nor end. May your heart dance at the very thought of the infinite love of God which he displays towards you! And then may you have love towards men, loving your neighbour as yourself with that compassionate love which is pictured in the parable of the Samaritan, that love which does not say, “Be ye warmed, and be ye filled,” but which proves itself to be real by deeds of charity and acts of kindness! May you abound in love to God’s people; may your love be exceeding abundant to those who are your brethren and sisters in Christ, whose names are written in the Lamb’s book of life! I wish, dear friends, that you and I could be suffused with love. One said of Basil that he was a pillar of light; I would not so much care for that comparison as to be a pillar of love. Look at holy John; next to his Master, surely, and chiefly so because he abounded in love.
The benediction of the apostle is this, — that this mercy, peace, and love may be multiplied to you. Is not that a beautiful word, “multiplied”? — not merely increased, but multiplied. You know what it is to increase; you add one to two, that is three; but when you multiply, you say, “Three times three, that is nine.” Multiplying is a quick way of growing. Oh, that you had all these blessings multiplied,— that, if you have had mercy, you might have ten times as much mercy richer,— that, if you have had peace, you might have a deeper, fuller, richer, more abiding peace, multiplied peace, peace upon peace, “the peace of God, which passeth all understanding;” — and that, if you have had love, your love might be multiplied, squared, cubed ! May the biggest figures that can be found multiply your love, for never did any man yet have too much love to God, or too much of the right kind of love to his fellow-men! May the Lord make us to grow in grace, to be filled with grace, to have these three graces multiplied unto us!
Now I come back to where I began. It was a dark time when Jude wrote this Epistle; but instead of saying to the Christian people, “You see that all these people have gone astray, the cause is in danger; go forth and fight with them,” he says, “mercy, and peace, and love, be multiplied unto you.” The graces of Christians will be the defeat of the enemy. If you want to improve a dark night, give us brighter stars; and if we want to enlighten a dark age, let us have brighter Christians. If there be mischief abroad in the world, the fault, dear brethren, to a great extent in ourselves. If we lived wholly to God, people would know better what Christians are. I believe that the short way to the conversion of sinners is the sanctification of saints. If we had more faith, we should preach better. If we had more believing prayer, wo should see more souls converted. If we lived nearer to God, it would be better for the far-off ones. Is it not written that when a man receives this water of life into himself, it “shall be in him a well of water springing up into everlasting life,” and “out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water”? God make you to be such reservoirs of grace!
I have not spoken hardly a word to the unconverted, you see, because I want you professors so to live that your lives shall preach sermons. It is all very well to preach with the mouth; but the best sermons in the world are preached with the legs, with the life, by the walk and conversation of God’s people. If there be piety at home, if there be uprightness in business, if there be a burning zeal for God in your common conversation, then the ungodly will say, “What does this mean?” and they will want to know more about it. How earnestly I wish that every person here who cannot be described as “Kept for Jesus Christ” might long that it were so with him, and ere he goes to bed to-night might pray that he may belong to Christ! Then, giving himself up to Christ by faith, he may even this very night know that sweet peace of which I spoke just now. So may it be with you all, for the Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.