Something Done For Jesus
“She hath wrought a good work upon me.”— Matthew xxvi. 10.
STUDY carefully the story of the enthusiastic Christian woman who poured the alabaster box of very precious ointment upon the head of our ever-blessed Lord and Saviour. Honoured as that action is by the universal church of God, it did not escape criticism among the religious people of her own day. The disciples censured her, but Christ defended her; and in the course of his vindication of her he said, “Why trouble ye the woman? for she hath wrought a good work upon me.” There is no reason for troubling gracious men and women; and specially no cause for so doing when their work is good, and is done for their Lord. Yet are there plenty of troublers around us to this day, and we could spare a few of them from our own immediate neighbourhood. They are only able to worry us so far as we think of them, and therefore we will let the wasps alone, and feed upon the honey which flowed from the lips of our Lord Jesus.
Observe that this woman had wrought a good work— good in intent, and good in itself. Her Lord said so, and his verdict ends all debate.
Observe specially that her good work was a good work upon the Lord Jesus. It was of no immediate benefit to anybody else, nor was it meant to be. “This ointment might have been sold for much, and given to the poor.” So Judas and the other disciples said. The five hundred pence which it would have produced might have been spent in bread, and so have fed many poor people; but she expended it on Jesus, and meant that it should all be used in his honour, and that only. Poor or no poor, she thought only of him. The ointment might have been used for certain purposes at festivals or otherwise, and so have been more or less beneficial to a number of persons; but on this occasion the benefit was to the Lord alone, and she meant it so to be. On this account the practical, philanthropical people called it “waste.” Is anything wasted which is all for Jesus? It might rather seem as if all would be wasted which was not given to him. This box of precious ointment was all for him. Other persons in the room might smell the sweet perfume, but that was not what the grateful woman aimed at; she intended all the sweetness for Jesus: it was a good work wrought upon him. The woman’s thought was that she would honour the Lord; her only intent was to show her reverence for him; and provided he should be pleased with her deed, she would be perfectly content, though no one else might be gratified. Her first and last thoughts were for the Lord Jesus himself. We know from another evangelist that she broke the alabaster box. Was there need for that? Not in order that the ointment might be poured forth. She might, we should suppose, have opened the box in a less hasty manner; but the manner of a gift has frequently as much in it as the matter of a gift. She broke the box to display her eagerness, and to show that the choicest thing she had was not good enough for Jesus. She banished every notion of economy when she thought of her Lord. If she had possessed ten thousand times as much, she would have given it all to him, and have poured it out without stint. She did not count her offering a lavish expenditure: she would have made it lavish if it had been in her power. She would have no saving of pots and calculating of pennyworths when he was in the case: there should be no trace of niggard carefulness in her homage to her Lord. It was, therefore, as needful that she should break the box as that she should pour out the ointment; for she wanted to show that she loved her Saviour immeasurably; and she wished to express to him, as best she could, her intense veneration of him, and her ardent affection for him. Had some of us been there, we might have called it eccentricity, or fanaticism, or precipitancy, or waste; but she did not consider what onlookers might have to say: her only consideration was what Jesus might think. To please him was the height and range of her ambition. Happy woman, to have reached this gracious absorption!
The good work which she performed was, far beyond her own thought, a most appropriate one. Love is ever wise. Jesus was a King. He had ridden through the streets of Jerusalem in triumph. The multitude had strewn the branches in the way; they had saluted him with hosannas; they had done much by way of coronation; but they had not anointed him. Why this omission? She will anoint him if no one else will. Her hands shall bring out the perfumed nard, and pour the precious unguent upon the King of Israel. He was a priest, too, and, specially, a pardoning priest to her. She recognized his sacred priesthood; but the oil that fell on Aaron’s head had never, literally, fallen upon the head of Jesus, and therefore she must needs anoint him plenteously, till the oil not only ran to the skirts of his garment, but filled all the house where they were sitting. As King and as Priest, she will take care that he is not without a costly anointing. Moreover, it was customary to anoint pilgrims for their refreshment at the end of a long journey, when they came into the house. The host on this occasion had neglected this act of courtesy. It was most suitable that when this great Lord of pilgrims, whose path had been weary and woful, had, at length, nearly ended his years of travel in this thorny wilderness, he should receive refreshment from the woman’s hospitable hand. Weary and worn was he, and she would fain anoint him with the oil of gladness. Though others had rejected him, she anointed his head, and owned the wayworn traveller as the noblest guest earth ever entertained. In all this her good deed was fit and seasonable. Say you not so?
Our Lord said, and here I am free from all charge of following my fancy, and am sure to be correct, that there was another meaning more remarkable by far. Whether this woman, with some prophetic spirit resting upon her, saw further into our Lord’s words than his disciples did, we do not know; but Jesus declared that she did it for his burial — as it were, embalming him a little before the time for his closely-approaching sojourn in the tomb. There was a great appropriateness, then, in the act; and, we think, more appropriateness than she herself knew of at the time she did it; but it is ever so with loving hearts, reason does not guide them, but by a kind of holy instinct they hit upon the right thing. Where reason laboriously finds out wisdom, love discovers it at once. There are instincts of pure hearts that are more to be trusted than the conclusions of argumentative minds. The safest logic is often that of the heart, when at once it devises liberal things for Jesus. Mind you never set that logic aside. Here love devised the very deed that was required — the fittest action that could have been imagined under the sad circumstances so near at hand.
To come back to the point, however, which the woman was aiming at, she did all this, appropriate or not, to Jesus. It was a good work; but the point of it was that it was a good work wrought on him.
On this occasion I wish to speak of good works wrought on Jesus, and therefore I shall not be speaking to you all. Many of you are incapable of working a good work for Christ; for you are not saved yet. How can an evil tree bring forth good fruit? How can those who do not believe in Jesus do anything for him? It is not yet time for you to do anything for him. Your first business is that he should do everything for you. You must go to him as guilty sinners, and find mercy in him. I speak at this time only to those who have trusted in the Lord Jesus, and so have been set apart by him, and sanctified for ever by his one sacrifice. These, owing as they do, so much to their Lord, are those to whom I would speak now, and say, Render unto him good works that shall terminate in him, and shall be made to express your love to him.
Good works wrought upon Jesus, or solely in reference to him, are to be our subject. Very briefly we shall notice the feelings prompting this kind of service; secondly, we shall mention modes of such service; thirdly, we shall give counsels, or careful notes to he observed in such service; and then we shall conclude with a word by way of defence of service of this sort.
I. And, first, THERE ARE FEELINGS WHICH PROMPT TRUE BELIEVERS TO DO WORKS AS UNTO CHRIST. To bring forth these peculiar services, certain feelings move within the believer’s bosom.
The first, and the most powerful, probably, is gratitude. “We love him, because he first loved us.” He lived for us; he died for us; he rose for us; he pleads for us. We owe all to him. The natural impulse of the renewed heart is to say, “What can I do for him? I love his people, but I love him best. I love his ministers, but he is beyond them all. I love his cause in the earth; but I love himself better. While I owe much to his church and to his ministers, I owe most to him. I want to tell him how I love him; I want to show him, by some direct act done for him, that my heart adores him for all that he has done for me.” Beloved brethren and sisters, have you never felt in that way? I have often felt, even towards a kind earthly friend, that while I have been thankful for his gift, and for his help rendered, I have longed also to do something for the person helping me. When I have not known the person who helped me in my good work, I have wanted to know him; not from curiosity, but that I might say how grateful I felt to the bestower of such kindness. How often I have had my hand grasped by loving persons who have said, “I wanted to tell you that you led me to the Saviour!” They wanted to say it to me; and often have they written to me, and cheered my heart, because they felt a personal gratitude which wanted a personal expression. A poor woman once forced me with tears to receive a small sum of money for myself. I declined it till I saw that it would hurt her feelings, for she had evidently longed for this opportunity for expressing her thankfulness for the sermons she had read. If we feel thus towards an earthly friend, how much more shall we feel it towards him who has saved us by his blood! Do you not want to behold him, that you may tell him how you love him? Do you not feel prompted to devise some new method by which your love can manifest itself before the Beloved’s eyes, not in word only, but in deed and in truth.
Another feeling that will prompt us to the same course is that of deep veneration. One has admired the personal character of Jesus with a sacred admiration, thinking of him as the Son of man in perfection, and then as God over all, blessed for ever. We have first fallen at his feet in humble worship, and then, when we have risen, wo have said to our altogether-lovely Lord, “Oh, that I could serve such a One as thou art! Show me what thou wouldst have me to do. Only do me the honour to allot me a service which I may render unto thee; for he is more than a king who is honoured to be the lowest menial in thy court. He who reigns over nations is not so happy as the man who is subject to thy rule. It is a delight to pay thee homage.” It is our heaven to think that we may be permitted to serve such a Christ, and to work a good work upon him.
Then, oftentimes, the feeling of sympathy will come in, and blend itself with veneration. Such sympathy is by no means to be condemned, but to be commended. I mean by sympathy this: have you not felt, when you have heard of our Redeemer’s sufferings and death, that he deserved a great reward for them? Have you not wished that you could put a crown upon his head for having so disinterestedly laid down his life for his enemies? We have sometimes sung in this house with all our hearts those words—
“Let him be crowned with majesty Who bowed his head to death; And be his honour sounded high By all things that have breath.”
We have said in our hearts, How can we fitly honour this paragon of perfection, this mirror of unbounded love? Such a One as he is, having suffered so deeply, ought to be rewarded plenteously with the honour of all who can appreciate a great and noble deed.
That feeling of sympathy has been intensified when we have seen that, instead of honour, our Lord Jesus Christ receives coldness from the sons of men; nay, worse than that, is persecuted by their blasphemy, hounded by their hatred. Have you not felt, when you have heard his holy name blasphemed, as if you would blot that blasphemy out with your blood if you could? When you have seen his sacred day dishonoured, and the truths of the gospel denied, has not your soul burned within you? Have you not said, “What shall I do for this despised Saviour— maltreated by those whom he has blessed; and crucified afresh, and put to an open shame, even by these who profess to be his disciples? Traduced by those who call themselves his ministers? O Master, might I but do somewhat to wipe out these blots— to remove these slurs upon thy sacred name!” That feeling of sympathy with Jesus, working with veneration, backed with gratitude, will lead us to attempt brave deeds of love for him— for him personally, I mean.
In the midst of all this, as a central flame burning like the sun in the centre of the lesser lights, our affection for Jesus will make us long to serve him. We love our dear ones upon earth, but we love Jesus better than all of them put together. We love our brethren for Jesus’ sake, but he is the chief among ten thousand, and the altogether lovely. We could not live without him. To enjoy his company is bliss to us: for him to hide his face from us is our midnight of sorrow. In comparison with that, all other sorrows are but the shades of grief, but his departure would be the substance of distress. And, Master, when we have looked at thee, and seen the nail-prints, and beheld the scar in thy side; when we have beheld thee standing before thy Father’s throne still pleading for us, and revealing thine undying affection towards us, thy chosen, in thine intercession for us, we have said, “We must serve him. We must find out some way by which we may give him new honour.” Oh, that I had a crown to cast at his feet! Oh, that I could make new songs to be sung before him! Oh, that I could write fresh music for angelic harps! Oh, for the power to live, to die, to labour, to suffer as unto him, and unto him alone! You know better than I can tell you, many of you, what these aspirations are. I am merely traversing a road with which you are continually familiar. Let us keep company in thought; and may I beg that, on some sunny day, when my Lord gives me special work to do for him, you will be at my side with your gifts and efforts of love for his dear name?
II. I shall pass on, in the next place, to notice THE MODES IN WHICH THIS SUGGESTED SERVICE OF GOOD WORKS DONE UNTO HIM MAY SHOW ITSELF. Holy Spirit, help me! We will begin, as it were, at the base of the pyramid, and go upward; and we may commence by saying that the entire life of the Christian ought to be, in many respects, a good work done unto Christ. Albeit that there must be in our life an eye to the good of our fellow-men, yet may we do it all unto the Lord. The same law which saith, “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with ail thy strength,” adds, “and thy neighbour as thyself,” which proves that it does not necessarily take away any part of our love from God when we act in love to our fellow-men. The duties of life, though they are to be done with a view to our neighbour as God’s will requires, still ought, in the highest sense, to be performed mainly with an eye to the glory of Christ, and out of love to him. The servant is bidden to work, “as unto the Lord, and not unto men.” The master, also, ought to discharge his duties knowing that he has a Master in heaven; and the thought of that Master above should guide him in all he does. O Christian men and women, whatever your calling, discharge the duties of it with a view to glorifying him, whose name, as Christians, you bear! So let it be in every relation of life. Should not the child seek to honour Christ by being like the holy child Jesus? Should not the parent devote his child to Christ, earnestly praying that he may grow up in the fear of the Lord, and may serve the Lord? Every lawful relationship can be consecrated. In every condition of life we can glorify Jesus.
In all the moral obligations of life, Jesus should be before us. We should be honest, not only for our reputation’s sake, for that would be an unworthy motive, but for Christ’s sake. Would we have Christ’s disciples called “thieves”? We should be sternly upright, never by any means under suspicion of untruth or double-dealing, because we serve the Lord Christ, who is faithful and true. Of us more is expected than of others, since we serve a better Master than all others. God has done more for us; we have a clearer interest in the precious blood of Jesus, and therefore the common virtues of life ought to be exhibited in us to their fullest extent by the help of the Holy Spirit: so shall we do everything as unto the Lord Jesus.
Certain matters ordinarily overlooked in common life, the Christian must look to for Christ’s sake. For instance, that of forgiveness of injuries. Some will not forgive at all: this is fatal to all hope of salvation. Others will forgive, but not till after some considerable time of wrath: good delayed is evil indulged. But you Christian, you are to do a good work upon Christ by forgiving for his sake. He has forgiven you, and therefore you will forgive others freely, and continually. Your revenge is the noble vengeance of heaping coals of the fire of kindness upon your enemy’s head. You might have smitten him, but for Christ’s sake you bless him. No words of wrath shall defile your lips, for love commands silence within those gates of coral. You see Christ, as it were, covering your foe with his own merit, and you say, “For his sake I forgive you.” May your whole life, then, ordinarily, be lived as unto Jesus: and may special gems of forgiveness glisten in it!
Now go a step higher. That which is purely Christian work ought to be done also upon him, and for him. I mean by Christian work evangelical service which grows out of the plan of salvation. I refer to those things peculiar to Christians— such as spreading the gospel, teaching, instructing, consoling, almsgiving, and the like, All this should be done for Jesus more really than it often is. And that other part of Christian service, namely, endurance, the bearing of shame for Christ’s sake, the patient suffering of the will of God in providence— all this should be done for Christ most distinctly. I know there will be a second motive here, as in the former, and properly so. When I preach, I have an earnest desire to do good to my hearers: I ought to have such a desire. But yet, I desire to be moved by a higher motive than love to your souls: I desire that, by the stirring up of your minds, Christ may get glory; that you may be led to do something for him which will bring him honour, and please him. May you as saints be prospered, that the Lord of saints may be honoured! I look through you to Jesus. We ought to go to our Sunday-school class with the view of doing good to the children; yet above that object must rise the diviner object, namely, the honouring of Christ through those children. We seek the good of the children for Christ’s sake. Visit the sick, or preach in the street, or distribute your tracts; dear brethren and sisters, in doing these things you do well; but do not forget to perform these acts as unto the Lord, or else you will miss the flower and crown of your service. I am sure it will be sweeter to do your work, and easier to do it— at the same time, it will be better for your own souls, and you may more surely expect the divine blessing if you do all for Jesus’ sake.
And the same with the other branch of Christian service, namely, endurance: let us take up our cross because it is his cross, and we bear it after him. Oh, to lie still, and suffer without a murmur! Oh, to be silent under the shears, because our own blessed Lord was like a sheep before her shearers, and opened not his mouth! Oh, to be able to bear sarcasm, ridicule, misrepresentation, and even actual loss of this world’s goods, for the sake of Jesus, and to bear them meekly, and even joyfully, because it comes for his sake! To bear suffering for Jesus would be a novelty to some Christians; but to the true believer it is an exquisite delicacy. To suffer distinctly for Jesus is to work a work on his most blessed self. I place this on a higher range than the last set of duties which I mentioned; but still, we have not yet come to the purest form of good works wrought upon the person of our Lord Jesus.
We will go a step higher. There are works of the consecration of our substance. In these all Christians ought to abound. It is ours to give often, give largely, give even till we feel the pinch of giving. But we must take care that we truly give as to the Lord. When you give your money to the church of God to maintain the preaching of the gospel, or to assist missionary enterprise, or whatever else the church has in hand, you are doing a good work to others; you are helping on the gospel which has been a blessing to you, and will be a blessing to them. But, over and above that, your desire should be to do it as unto the Lord. In giving what we can of our substance it is sweet to lay it at his feet— not regarding it so much as going into the treasury of the church, as going into the hand of the crucified Saviour. We give for his sake who gave himself for us. We long that his kingdom may come, and that he may see of the travail of his soul.
The same should be true of what is bestowed upon the poor. When you noiselessly and quietly give to the poor, who need your help, you are doing it for Christ— if such, indeed, be your motive; and it ought always to be so. We are getting still nearer to the point when we give to the Lord’s poor because the poor saints are in living union with Jesus; they are a part of Christ’s body, and in giving to them, we are giving to Christ Jesus himself. When we feed, and clothe, and cherish poor aged believers because they belong to Christ, we are getting very near to that state of mind in which this good woman was when she wrought the good work upon Christ. I suppose the day will come in this age of novel reforms when we must not dare to help the poor and needy. We can hardly do so now without coming under the censure of the school of hard economists. I see notices in the windows requesting us by no means to give alms. I should like to put at the bottom of such placards the text of Scripture which commands us to give to him that asketh of us. Law or no law, I trust, when a Christian sees a case of necessity, he will not be held back by any motives of political economy, or any of the hard and fast teachings of the social scientists. But in your almsgivings see to it that, while ye do good unto all men, ye do it specially unto the household of faith.
“Oh,” cries one, “you may very soon be found helping a person that does not deserve it.” No doubt of it; but you had a great deal better do that than neglect those who should have your aid. If we give as unto the Lord, because he bids us do it, and for his sake, if any put our charity to an evil use, the sin will lie with them, and not with us. If in any cases applicants have deceived us, yet our act of charity is acceptable to God.
Never give for the sake of being thought generous; that spoils all: it is not giving, but buying a certain amount of respect at so much a pound. Never contribute to church-work, nor to the help of the poor, merely to gratify the instinct within you which finds it hard to say “No”; but do it because, if Christ asked you, you would give him anything, and you feel that when his poor have need you are bound to help them for his sake.
We will go a step higher, dear brethren. There are two great duties which the Lord has appointed for his people only, and these we should observe because they are appointed by him. I refer to the two commands regarding Baptism and the Supper of the Lord. In keeping these commandments there is a great reward to our own souls, but we ought to come as believers to be baptized out of love to Jesus. We ought not to ask, “What is the good of this?” We may not say, “Shall I get anything by it?” But we are to say simply this, “He bade me, and I will do it for the love I bear his name.” I feel shocked when I hear people say, “But it is not essential to salvation.” Thou mean and beggarly spirit! Wilt thou do nothing but what is essential to thine own salvation? A pharisee or a harlot might talk so. Is this thy love to Christ— that thou wilt not obey him, unless he shall pay thee for it? unless he shall make thy soul’s salvation depend upon it? Oh, if you love the Master, the least of his commandments will seem very precious in your sight, and you will feel that, because you love him, you obey him! If obedience to an ordinance should bring you no good whatever, if Jesus bade you, it is enough for you, whatever it may be. Indeed, it is all the sweeter to do the Lord’s bidding when no trace of personal gain can be found mingling with the motive.
So, too, when we approach the table of communion, we shall get a blessing there if we come aright; but I think we too often fail to remember that we should sit at the holy table with the sole view of honouring the Lord who in that festival is remembered. He says that we are to show his death until he come. It is to him that the feast is dedicated. To keep up the memory of his death, and to testify the fact to others, we eat of the bread and drink of the cup. We celebrate the sacred supper for our Lord’s sake; not because of church-rule, nor because it is the custom of the brotherhood so to do, nor even because it is a hallowed refreshment to our own hearts; but we commune at the sacred feast out of love to the Well-beloved.
But I will come to the point by saying, dear brothers and sisters, seek to do something for Jesus which shall even be above all this a secret sacrifice of pure love to Jesus. Do special and private work towards your Lord. Between you and your Lord let there be secret love-tokens. You will say to me, “What shall I do?” I decline to answer. I am not to be a judge for you; especially as to a private deed of love. The good woman in our text did not say to Peter, “What shall I give?” nor to John, “What shall I do?” but her heart was inventive. I will only say, that we might offer more private prayer for the Lord Jesus. “Prayer also shall be made for him continually.” Intercede for your neighbours; pray for yourselves; but could you not set apart a little time each day in which prayer should be all for Jesus. Could you not at such seasons cry with sacret pleadings, “Hallowed be thy name! Thy kingdom come! Thy will be done in earth, as it is in heaven?” Would it not be a sweet thing to feel at such a time— I shall now go up to my chamber, and give my Lord a few minutes of my heart’s warmest prayer, that he may see of the travail of his soul?
That is one thing which all saints can attend to. Another holy offering is adoration— the adoring of Jesus. Do we not too often forget this adoration in our assemblies, or thrust it into a corner? The best part of all our public engagements is the worship— the direct worship; and in this the first place should be given to the worship of the Lord Jesus. We sing at times to edify one another with psalms and hymns, but we should also sing simply and only to glorify Jesus. We are to do this in company; but should we not do it alone also? Ought we not all, if we can, to find a season in which we shall spend the time, not in seeking the good of our fellow-men, not in seeking our own good, but in adoring Jesus, blessing him, magnifying him, praising him, pouring forth our heart’s love towards him, and presenting our soul’s reverence and penitence. I suggest this to you: I cannot teach you how to do it. God’s Holy Spirit must show your hearts the way. But let me entreat you to believe that it will be no wasted thing if on him the good work of prayer and adoration shall begin, and on him it shall terminate. It will be a right thing and well done of you, if the Lord Jesus has for himself the choicest of your thoughts, emotions, words, and deeds. Oh, that all that we have could be laid at his feet! It would be no waste, but the proper use of all our good things.
III. But time fails me, and therefore I must, thirdly, and with extreme brevity, OFFER YOU A COUNSEL OR TWO ABOUT DOING GOOD WORKS FOR JESUS. Take care that self never creeps in. It is to be all for Jesus: let not the foul fingers of self-seeking stain your work. Never do anything for Jesus out of love for popularity. Be always glad if your right hand does not know what your left hand does. Hide your works as much as possible from the praise of the most judicious friend. At the same time, let me also add, never have any fear of censure from those who know not your love to Jesus. This good woman did her work publicly, because it was the best way to honour her Lord; and if you can honour him by doing a good work in the market-place before all men, do not be afraid. To some, the temptation may be to court the public eye; to others, the temptation may be to dread it. Serve your Lord as if no eye beheld you; but do not blush though all the eyes in the universe should gaze upon you. Let not self, in either case, come in to defile the service.
Never congratulate yourself after you have wrought a work for Jesus. If you say unto yourself, “Well done!” you have sacrificed unto yourself. Always feel that if you had done all as it should be done, it would still be but your reasonable service.
Remember that deeds of self-sacrifice are most acceptable to Jesus. He loves his people’s gifts when they give, and feel that they have given. Oftentimes we are to measure what we do for him, not by what we have given, but by what we have left; and if we have much left we have not given as much as that widow who gave two mites— nay, for certain we have not, for she gave “all her living.”
Let us, above all, keep out of our heart the thought which is so common in this general life, that nothing is worth doing unless something practical comes out of it— meaning by “practical” some manifest result upon the morals or temporals of others. It is almost universal to ask the question, Cui bono?— “What is the good of it? What good will it do to me? What good will it do to my neighbour? To what purpose is this waste?” Nay, but if it will glorify Christ, do it; and accept that motive as the highest and most conclusive of reasons.
If a deed done for Christ should bring you into disesteem, and threaten to deprive you of usefulness, do it none the less. I count my own character, popularity, and usefulness to be as the small dust of the balance compared with fidelity to the Lord Jesus. It is the devil’s logic which says, “You see I cannot come out and avow the truth, because I have a sphere of usefulness which I hold by temporizing with what I fear may be false.” O sirs, what have we to do with consequences? Let the heavens fall, but let the good man be obedient to his Master, and loyal to his truth. O man of God, be just, and fear not! The consequences are with God, and not with thee. If thou hast done a good work unto Christ, though it should seem to thy poor bleared eyes as if great evil has come of it, yet hast thou done it, Christ has accepted it, and he will note it down, and in thy conscience he will smile thee his approval.
IV. I will not detain you longer, but just close by saying, that THERE IS A GOOD DEFENCE FOR ANY KIND OF WORK WHICH YOU MAY DO UNTO JESUS, AND UNTO JESUS ONLY. However large the cost, nothing is wasted which is expended upon the Lord, for Jesus deserves it. What if it did no service to any other; did it please him? He has a right to it. Is nothing to be done for the Master of the feast? Are we to be so looking after the sheep as never to do honour to the Shepherd? Are the servants to be cared for, and may we do nothing for the Well-beloved Lord himself? I have sometimes felt in my soul the wish that I had none to serve but my Lord. When I have tried to do my best to serve God, and a cool-blooded critic has pulled my work to pieces, I have thought, “I did not do it for you! I would not have done it for you! I did it for my Lord. Your judgment is a small matter. You condemn my zeal for truth. You condemn what he commends.” Thus may you go about your service, my brother, and feel, “I do it for Christ, and I believe that Christ accepts my service, and I am well content.” Jesus deserves that there should be much done altogether for him. Do you doubt it? There is brought into the house, on his birthday, a present for father. That present is of no use to mother, or to the children; it cannot be eaten, it cannot be worn; father could not give it away to anybody, it is of no value to anybody but himself. Does anybody say, “What a pity it was to select such a gift, even though father is pleased”? No, everybody says, “That is just the thing we like to give to father, since he must keep it for himself. We meant it to be for him; we had no thought of any second; and we are glad that he must use our gift for his own pleasure.” So with regard to Jesus. Find out what will please him; and do it for him. Think of no one else in the matter. He deserves all you can do, and infinitely more. Besides, you may depend upon it that any action which appears to you useless, if you do it prompted by love, has a place in Christ’s plan, and will be turned to high account. This anointing of our Lord’s head was said to be useless. “No,” said Jesus, “it falls in just in its proper place— she has done it for my burial.” There have been men who have done an heroic deed for Christ, and at the time they did it they might have asked, “How will this subserve my Lord’s purpose?” But somehow it was the very thing that was wanted. When Whitefield and Wesley turned out into the fields to preach, it was thought to be a fanatical innovation, and perhaps they, themselves, would not have ventured upon it if there had net been an absolute necessity; but by what seemed to that age a daring deed they set the example to all England, and open-air preaching has become an accepted agency of large value. If you, for Christ’s sake, become Quixotic, never mind; your folly may be the wisdom of ages to come.
Once again, the woman’s loving act was not wasted; for it has helped us all down to this very moment. There has it stood in the Book; and all who have read it, and are right in heart, have been fired by it to sacred consecration out of love to Jesus. That woman has been a preacher to nineteen centuries; the influence of that alabaster box is not exhausted to-day, and never will be. Whenever you meet a friend in Europe, Asia, Africa, or America, who has done anything unto our Lord Jesus, you still smell the perfume of the sacred spikenard. Her consecrated act is doing all of us good at this hour: it is filling this house with fragrance. If you are serving Christ in your own secret way in which you do not so much seek to benefit others as to honour him, it may be you will be an instructive example to saints in ages to come. Oh, that I could stir some hearts here to a personal consecration to Jesus, my Lord! Young men, we want missionaries to go abroad; are none of you ready to go? Young women, we want those who will look after the sick in the lowest haunts of London; will none of you consecrate yourselves to Jesus, the Saviour?
I shook hands, after the sermon this morning, with a good missionary of Christ from Western Africa. He had been there sixteen years. I believe that they reckon four years to be the average of a missionary’s life in that malarious region. He had buried twelve of his companions in the time. For twelve years he had scarcely seen the face of a white man. He was going to Africa to live a little while longer, perhaps, but he expected soon to die; and then he added (I thought sweetly) as I shook his hand, “Well, many of us may die: perhaps hundreds of us will do so; but Christ will win at the last! Africa will know and will fear our Lord Jesus; and what does it matter what becomes of us — our name, our reputation, our health, our life— if Jesus wins at the last?” What heroic words! What a missionary spirit! Live in that spirit, dear brethren and sisters, and in that spirit come now to the communion-table! Amen.