The Despised Friend
Charles H. Spurgeon
This updated and revised manuscript is copyrighted ã 1999 by Tony Capoccia. All rights reserved.
“We esteemed Him not.” (Isaiah 53:3)
It would not be easy for some of us to remember the hour when we first heard the name of Jesus. From infancy, for many of us, His sweet name was as familiar to our ear as the sound of a lullaby. Our earliest memories are of the church, the family altar, the Bible, the sacred hymns, and fervent prayer. Like the young boy Samuel, we made our way to bed at night by the lighted lamps of the sanctuary, and were awakened by the sound of the morning hymn. Many times a man of God, visited our home because of our parent's hospitality, and would ask God to bless us, praying with all sincerity that we might, early in life, cry out to Jesus, our blessed Redeemer; and to his petition a mother's solemn and earnest “Amen” was always heard. Ours early years were happy circumstances and godly heritages; but nevertheless, we were “sinful at birth, sinful from the time our mothers conceived us,” therefore, these heavenly privileges did not of themselves help us to give our love to Jesus and to receive forgiveness by His blood.
We often feel compelled to weep over our sins that are exposed to the light of the Word; a light as bright as the noonday sun. Sins, such as; belittling the Lord’s Supper because of its very frequency; despising warnings from our tearful parents, and hostility felt in the heart against those very blessings which are the rich graces of heaven. We are abundantly aware of our own innate depravity, the birth plague of man; and can testify to the doctrine that grace, and grace alone, can change the heart. The words of Isaiah are definitely ours, for despite all the holy influences on our lives, the disobedience of our childhood, the companions of our youth, and the sins of our manhood, unanimously confirm our truthfulness in uttering the confession, “We esteemed Him not.”
So from our own experience, we can infer that those who were denied our advantages of a Christian upbringing will certainly be compelled to say the same thing. If the child of godly parents, who by divine power was brought to know the Lord, feels constrained to acknowledge that once he did not esteem the Savior, then will the man who had a godless education, a rebellious childhood, a wicked youth, and a criminal manhood, be able to adopt any less humiliating language? No; we believe that all men of this class, who are now redeemed from the hand of the enemy, will readily acknowledge that they blindly neglected the beauties of our glorious Emmanuel. Yes, we will even challenge the “Church of the first born” to produce a single saint who did not, at some point in their lives, show indifference, if not contempt, to the cross of Christ.
Whether we examine the “noble army of martyrs,” the fellowship of the prophets,” “the glorious company of the apostles,” or “the holy Church throughout all the world,” we will not find one single lover of the adorable Redeemer who will not join in with the general confession, “We esteemed him not.”
Pause, and ask yourself whether you do, in fact, esteem Him now; for it may be possible that you have not as yet seen in Him any “beauty or majesty that would cause you to desire Him,” nor can you subscribe to the statement by the Bride in Song of Solomon, “He is altogether lovely.” If this should be your unhappy condition, then it will be very useful for you to meditate, under the Holy Spirit's influence, on the person of Christ. And I beg you, while we unfold the secrets of what once was our prison, to strongly desire by any means possible you also may escape a bondage which presently deprives you of joy, and will shut you out of bliss in the world to come.
Today, we will first endeavor to closely examine the fact of our shallow appreciation of Jesus; then, secondly, we will discuss the causes of this foolishness; and, thirdly, seek to excite our emotions for a proper response as we correctly contemplate the person of Jesus Christ.
I. Let us go to the potter’s house, and look at the unshaped clay which we once were; let us remember “the rock from which we were cut,” and the “quarry from which we were carved out,” that we may with deeper feeling repeat the text, “We did not esteem Him.” Let us seriously search our minds for the many times when we have been guilty of a lack of respect and appreciation for Christ.
First, let us pause and consider our overt acts of sin, for these appear as immense boulders on the sides of the hill of life, giving clear evidence of the rock inside.
Few men would dare to read their own autobiography, if all their deeds were recorded in it; few can look back on their entire life without being embarrassed. “For we all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.” None of us can lay any claim to perfection. True, at times we may forget who we really are and exalt ourselves about the virtues of our lives; but when our faithful memory awakens, she instantly dispels the illusion! She waves her magic wand, and the king’s palace is filled with multitudes of frogs; she glances at the pure rivers and they become blood; the whole land becomes repulsive. Where we thought things were pure, flaws and defects were found. The wreath of our satisfaction that was made out of pure white, glistening snow melts before the sun of truth; the sweet bowl of compliments is made bitter by our sad recollection of our past; while, being examine under the magnifying glass of honesty, the deformities and irregularities of a life that we thought was correct and proper, becomes all too visible.
Let the Christian, whose hair has turned white by age, tell the story of his life. He may have been a very upright and moral person, but there will be at least one dark period in his history, which he will shed a sorrowful tear because then he did know the fear of the Lord. Let the heroic warrior of Jesus describe his deeds; but he too points to deep scars from wounds received in the service of the Evil One. Some of our most chosen Christians, in their days of unbelief and separation from God, were notorious for their sins, and could easily agree with Bunyan, “As for my own natural life, for the time that I was without God in the world, it was, indeed, according to the ways of this world and the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient [Ephesians 2:2, 3]. It was my delight to be taken captive by the devil to do his will [2 Timothy 2:26], being filled with all unrighteousness; which was strongly at work, both in my heart and life, that I had but few equals, both for cursing, swearing, lying, and blaspheming the holy name of God.” Suffice it to say, however, that each of us have been committed many outward sins, which prove that “we esteemed Him not.”
Could we have rebelled against our Father, if his Son had been the object of our love? Could we have perpetually trampled on the commands of a holy Jesus? Could we have despised his authority, if our hearts had been knit to His precious person? Could we have sinned so terribly, if Calvary had been dear to us? No; surely our many sins testify to our former lack of love towards Him. Had we esteemed the God-man, then could we so entirely have neglected His claims? Could we have wholly forgotten His loving words of command? Do men insult the persons they admire? Will they commit high treason against a king they love? Will they slight the person they esteem, or flagrantly make sport of him they venerate? And yet we have done all of this, and more; such that the least word of flattery concerning any natural love to Christ is rendered to our now honest hearts as hateful as the serpent's hiss. These iniquities might not so sternly prove us to have despised our Lord had they been accompanied by some service to Him. Even now, when we do love His name, we are often unfaithful, but before not one of our acts were seasoned with the salt of sincere affection, but were all full of bitterness. O beloved, let us not seek to avoid the weight of this evidence, but let us acknowledge that our gracious Lord has plenty to convict us with, since we chose to obey Satan rather than the Captain of salvation, and preferred sin to holiness.
Let the conceited Pharisee boast that he was born free—we see on our wrists the red marks of the iron shackles of slavery; let him glory that he was never blind—our eyes can still remember the darkness of Egypt, in which we could not discern the morning star. Others may desire the honor of a deserved salvation—we know that our highest ambition can only hope for pardon and acceptance by grace alone; and we can easily remember the hour when the only channel of that grace was despised or neglected by us.
The Book of Truth will be the next witness that speaks against us. The time is not yet erased from our memory when this sacred source of living water was un
opened by us, our evil hearts placed a stone over the mouth of the well, which even conscience could not remove. Bible dust once defiled our fingers; the blessed volume was the least sought after of all the books in the library.
Though now we can truly say that His word is, “a matchless temple where we delight to be, to contemplate the beauty, the symmetry, and the magnificence of the structure, to increase our awe, and excite our devotion to the Deity there preached and adored;” yet at one sad period of our lives we refused to tread the jeweled floor of the temple, or when for the sake of custom we entered it, we quickly ran walked through it, being unmindful of its sanctity, careless of its beauty, ignorant of its glories, and unrestrained by its majesty.
Now we can appreciate Herbert's ecstatic affection expressed in his poem:
“Oh book! infinite sweetness! let my heart
Suck every letter, and some honey gain,
Precious for any grief found in any part;
To clear the breast, to soothe all pain.”
But back then, every brief poem or trivial novel could move our hearts a thousand times more easily than this “old book.” Yes, this neglected Bible clearly proves that we have lightly esteemed Jesus. Truly, had we been full of love to Him, we should have sought Him in His Word. Here He exposes Himself, showing us His inmost heart. Here each page is stained with drops of His blood, or indelibly marked with rays of His glory. At every turn we see Him, as divine and human, as dying and yet alive, as buried but now risen, as the victim and the priest, as the prince and savior, and in all those various offices, relation
ships and conditions, each one of them render Him dear to His people and precious to His saints. Oh let us kneel before the Lord, and own that “we esteemed Him not,” or else we should have walked with Him in the fields of Scripture, and held communion with Him in the gardens of inspiration.
The Throne of Grace, so long unvisited by us, equally proclaims our former guilt. Seldom were our cries heard in heaven; our petitions were formal and lifeless, dying on the lip which carelessly pronounced them. Oh what a sad state of crime, when the holy offices of adoration were unfulfilled, the censer of praise did not smoke with a savor acceptable to the Lord, nor were the vials of prayer fragrant with precious odors!
Due to our lack of devotion, the days of our lives were black with sin; unrestrained due to our lack of prayer, the angel of judgment speeded his way to our destruction. At the thought of those days of sinful silence, our minds are humbled; and we can never visit God’s mercy seat without adoring the grace which provides those who despised the Savior a ready welcome.
But why didn’t our hearts make a pilgrimage to Christ? Why didn’t we sing to Him who is to be feared? Why didn’t we allow ourselves to be fed at “the Church's banquet of this exalted manna?” What answer can we give more full and complete than this—”We esteemed Him not?” Our lack of regard of Jesus kept us from His throne: for true affection would have taken advantage of the ready access which prayer affords of Jesus, and therefore we would have been filled with His love. Can we now forsake the throne? No; our happiest moments are spent on our knees, for there Jesus manifests Himself to us. We prize the friendship of this best of friends. We delight to often come in times of secret prayer, for there our Savior allows us to share the joys and sorrows of our hearts, and cast them all on Him.
O Lamb of God! Our lack of prayer calls us to confess that once we considered You to have neither beauty nor majesty.
Furthermore, our avoidance of the people of God confirms the humiliating truth. We who now stand in the “sacred host of God's elect,” glorying in the brotherhood of the righteous, were once “strangers and foreigners.” The language of God’s people was to our ear either unintelligible babble at which we scoffed, a harsh jargon which we did not want imitate, or an “unknown language” above our powers of interpretation. The heirs of eternal life were either despised as “earthen vessels,” being the work of the hands of the potter, or we avoided their company, conscious of the fact that we were not fit companions for “the precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold.” Many times during a sermon we cast a weary look at our watches, when the theme was too spiritual for our understanding; often we have preferred the friendship of the laughing world to that of the more serious believer.
Need we ask the source of this aversion to the things of God? The bitterness of our heart is not silent as to its source, “You did not love the servants of God, because you did not esteemed their master; you did not live among the brethren, for you had no friendship towards the firstborn of the family.”
One of the clearest evidences of alienation from God is a lack of fondness towards His people. In a greater or lesser degree this condition once existed in each of us. True, there were some Christians whose presence always afforded us pleasure; but we must be aware that our delight in their company was caused more by the pleasantness of their manners, or the winning style of their speech, than by the fact of their intrinsic excellence. We valued the gem for its setting, but a common pebble in the same ring would have equally engrossed our attention. The saints, as saints, were not our chosen friends, nor could we say, “I am a friend to all who fear you.” All honor to You, leader of the host! We boldly admit that from the moment when we first loved You, all Your followers have been dear to us, there's not a lamb among thy flock we would ignore to feed; Your servants maybe mocked by contempt, persecuted by cruelty, branded with disgrace, oppressed by power, humbled by poverty, and forgotten by fame; but to us they are the “superior of the earth,” and we are not ashamed to call them brethren.
Such sentiments are the finest products of esteem for the Redeemer, and their former absence is conclusive evidence that then “we esteemed Him not.”
Neglected Sunday worship starts like a warrior from the wild wasteland of neglected time; they point to the deserted sanctuary, for which they would execute a terrible revenge were it not for the shield of Jesus that covers us; for, look! their bows are stringed with neglected observances of the Lord’s Table and Baptisms, and their arrows are despised messages of mercy.
But where are the accusers? Conscience the sentinel of the soul, has seen enough. He will affirm that he has seen the ear closed to the wooing voice of the friend of sinners; that often the eyes have turn away from the cross when Jesus Himself was visibly set forth. Let him report his own evidence. Listen to Him. He says, “I have witnessed the blocking of the heart to the entrance of Jesus; I have seen the man working hard to repair the fractures of the hard heart which a powerful minister had caused; I have been present when the struggle against the Savior has been as fierce as the ravenous wolf. In vain the sprinkled blood of Christ tried to gain his attention—but he would not hear of Calvary or Gethsemane, this mad soul refused to see the beauties of the Prince of Life, but rather spurned Him from the heart which was His lawful throne. The sum and substance of my declaration is, “We esteemed Him not.”
We know that without the sovereign influence of God's extraordinary and immediate grace, men will very rarely put off their pride, until they are about to put on their grave clothes;” but if you feel nothing can lay you in the grave, then maybe just reflecting on our treatment of our loving Lord might do it. Pause then, 0 Christian, and thus recount: “I once scorned Him who loved me with an everlasting love, I once thought Him to be useless to my life. I did not serve him, I did not care for His blood, His cross, or His crown; and yet I have now become one of His own children. Truly, by grace I will forever sing:
“Great God of wonders! all thy ways
Are matchless, godlike, and divine,
But the fair glories of thy face
More godlike and unrivalled shine:
Who is a pardoning God like thee?
Or who has grace so rich and free?'”
II. We now examine the hidden causes of this sin. When the disease is removed, it may be useful to learn its origin, that we may serve others and benefit ourselves.
Our coldness towards the Savior resulted primarily from the natural evil of our hearts. We can easily discern why the wicked and immoral have little or no affection for purity and excellence: the same reason may be given for our disregard of the incarnation of virtue in the person of our Lord Jesus. Sin is a madness, disqualifying the mind for sober judgment; a blindness, rendering the soul incapable of appreciating moral beauty; it is in fact such a perversion of all the faculties, that under its terrible influence men will “call evil good and good evil, and they put darkness for light and light for darkness, and put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.” [Isaiah 5:20] To us in our fallen condition demons often appear more favorable than angels, we mistake the gates of hell for the door of bliss, and prefer the garnished lies of Satan to the eternal truths of the Most High. Revenge, lust, ambition, pride, and self-will, are too often exalted as the gods of man's idolatry; while holiness, peace, contentment, and humility, are viewed as unworthy of a serious thought.
O sin, what have you done! or rather, what have you undone! You have not been content to rob humanity of its crown, to drive it from its happy kingdom, to mar its royal garments, and spoil its treasure; but you has done more than this!
It was not enough to degrade and dishonor; you have even wounded your victim; you have blinded his eyes, sealed up his ears, intoxicated his judgment, and gagged his conscience; yes, the poison of your venom has poured death into the fountain. Your hostility has pierced the heart of mankind, and thereby you have filled his veins with corruption and his bones with depravity. Yes, O monster, you have become a murderer, for you have made us dead in trespasses and sins!
What we have just said opens up the entire mystery; for if we are spiritually dead, it is of course impossible for us to know and reverence the Prince of glory. Can the dead be moved to ecstasies, or corpses excited to joy? Exercise your skill on the dead lifeless body. It has not yet been decomposed by the maggots. The body is still complete, though lifeless. Bring the flute and harp; let melodies most sweet, and harmonies unequalled, attempt to move the man to pleasure: he does not smile at the sound of the music, nor does it make him cry, yes, if the orchestra of the redeemed poured forth their music, he would be deaf to the celestial charm.
If music won’t wake him up then try another way. Place before his death-stare eyes the choicest flowers that were grown since Eden's plants were cursed. Does he regard the loveliness of the rose or the whiteness of the lily? No, the man knows nothing of their sweetness. Let the winds blow the spicy odors of a flower garden; let the incense of frankincense and myrrh, smoke before him; yet, motion
less as a statue, the nostril does not respond, nor does the smile of pleasure come to his lips. Yes, and can try even more powerful means. You may combine the crash of the avalanche, the roar of the waterfall, the fury of the ocean, the howling of the winds, the rumbling of the earthquake, and the roll of the thunder: but these sounds, united into one almighty shout, could not arouse the dead from his death bed. One word will solve the mystery—he is dead. So we also, though made alive by the Holy Spirit, were once dead in our sin, and hence “we esteemed Him not.” Here is the root of all our evil deeds, the source of all our sins.
When we are asked to point out the source of light, we point our finger to the sun above; and if the question is asked, “Where does evil come from?” we point within us to an evil heart of unbelief which is opposed to the living God.
The secondary causes of the foolishness which we once committed lies very near the surface, and needs to be examined. Self-esteem had a lot to do with our ill
treatment of “the sinner's Friend.” Our own conceit made us indifferent to the claims of One who had procured for us a perfect righteousness. “The healthy do not need a doctor;” and we felt insulted by the language of a gospel which spoke to us as undeserving beings. The Cross has very little power where pride conceals the necessity of a pardon; a sacrifice is little valued when we are unconscious of our need for it. In our own opinion we were once most noble creatures; the Pharisee's self-righteous opinion of themselves could have easily been ours. Mainly, we thought of ourselves as “Rich; with acquired wealth and not in need of a thing;” and even when we heard the powerful voice of the law of God and were made aware of our poverty, yet we still hoped by our future “works” of obedience to re
verse the sentence, and were utterly unwilling to accept a salvation which required a denial of all “good works” and simple trust in the crucified Redeemer. Never until all the work of our hands had been unraveled, and our fingers themselves had become powerless, would we cease from our own labor, and leaving the spider's web of man’s works, array ourselves in the garment of free justification. No man will ever think much of Christ until he thinks little of himself. The lower our own views of ourselves become, the higher will our thoughts of Jesus be raised; and only when we die to self will the Son of God be our “all in all.”
Conceit and self-esteem are the fruitful parents of evil. The early Church Father Chrysostom calls self-love one of the devil’s three great traps; and another writer calls them “an arrow which pierces the soul, and kills it; a sly insensible enemy who sneaks up on us.” Under the sad influence of this power we commonly end up loving him best who does us the most harm; for the flatterer who feeds our vanity with pleasing cries of “peace, peace,” is often regarded more than that sincere friend, the blessed Jesus, who earnestly warns us of our lost state. But when self-confidence is removed—when the soul is stripped by conviction—when the light of the spirit reveals the detestable state of the heart—when the power of the creature fails, how precious Jesus is then! As the drowning sailor clutches the floating piece of the ship—as the dying man looks to some great physician—as the criminal values his pardon, so do we then esteem the deliverer of our souls as the Prince of the kings of the earth. A hatred of self produces an eager passion for the gracious “lover of our souls,” but being self-satisfied hides His glories from us.
Love of the world also leads us to think little of this Dear Friend. When He knocked at the door we refused him admittance, because another had already entered. Without knowing it we had each chosen another husband to whom we gave away our hearts. “Give me wealth,” said one. Jesus replied, “Here am I; I am better than all the riches of Egypt, and my reproach is to be desired more than hidden treasure.” The answer was, “You are not the wealth that I seek for; I do not pant for an spiritual wealth like Yours, O Jesus! I do not care for a future wealth in heaven—I desire a wealth here in the present; I want a treasure that I can grab onto; I want earthly gold that will buy me a house, a farm, and estate; I long for the dazzling jewel that will adorn my fingers; I do no ask You for the future heavenly gold; I will seek for that when my years are almost all spent.”
Another of us cried, “I ask for health, because I am sick.” The Great Physician appears, and gently promises, “I will heal your soul, take away your leprosy, and make you whole.” “No, no,” we answered, “I do not ask for that, O Jesus! I ask for a earthly body that is strong, that I may run like Asahel, who was as fleet-footed as a wild gazelle. I want to wrestle like Hercules; I long to be freed from bodily pain, and am not asking for health of soul, that is not what I require.” A third pleaded for happiness. “Listen to Me,” said Jesus, “My ways are ways of pleasantness, and all my paths are peace.” “That is not the kind of joy for which I long for,” we hastily replied; “I ask that the cup be filled to the brim, that I may drink it merrily; I love the happy evenings, and the joyous days; I want the dance, the party, and other fun things of this world; give your future delights to those who are zealots—let them live on hope; I prefer this world and the present.”
Yes, each one of us, in a different way have set our minds on earthly things, and despised the things above. Surely he was an excellent painter who sketched us true to form with his graphic pencil: “The painter sketched two persons, and one of them was a man that would only look down, and in his hand was a shovel that was scooping up manure; another stood over his head with a heavenly crown in His hand, and offered him that crown in exchange for his manure shovel; but the man refused to look up or to pay any attention to Him, but continued to shovel the manure onto the pile.”
While we love the world, “the love of the Father is not in us;” nor the love of Jesus the Son. (1 John 2:15) We cannot serve two masters. The world and Jesus will never agree. We must be able to sing the first portion of Madame Guion's stanza before we can truly join in its concluding words:
“Adieu! you vain delights of earth,
Insipid sports, and childish mirth,
I taste no sweets in you;
Unknown delights are in the Cross,
All other joys is to me dross;
And Jesus thought so too.”
It would be a great error if we did not note that our ignorance of Christ was a main cause of our lack of love towards him. We now see that to know Christ is to love Him. It is impossible to have a vision of His face, to behold His person, or understand His offices, without feeling our souls warmed towards Him. Such is the beauty of our blessed Lord, that all men, except the spiritually blind, will honor and reverence Him. We do not need eloquence to present Christ to those who see Him by faith, for in truth He is His own spokesman; His glory speaks, His humility speaks, His life speaks, and, above all, His death speaks ; and what these utter without sound, the heart willingly receives.
Jesus is hidden from the sight of the shameful world by the willful unbelief of mankind, or else the sight of Him would have generated veneration to Him. Men do not know the gold which lies in the mine of Christ Jesus, or surely they would dig for it night and day. They have not yet discovered the “pearl of great price,” or they would have sold all they had to buy the field in which it lies. Words of eloquence fail to describe the person of Christ; it paralyzes the artist's arm when he would try to portray Him; it would overwhelm the sculptor to carve His image even were it possible to chisel it in a massive block of diamond. There is nothing in nature com
parable to Him. In comparison to His radiance the brilliance of the sun is nothing but a dim light; yes, nothing can compete with Him, and heaven itself blushes at its own plainness when His “altogether lovely” person is beheld. Ah, for you who pass Him by without regard, it is well said by Rutherford, “Oh if you knew Him, and saw His beauty, your love, your heart your desires, would want Him and cleave to Him. By nature, love, when it sees, cannot help but thrust its spirit and strength upon sweet and beautiful objects, and good things, and things worthy of love; and what is there more wonderful and precious than Christ! The Jewish world crucified Him because they did not recognize their king; and we rejected Him because we had not seen His value to us, and did not believe the love He gave for our souls. We can all say with Augustine:
There was a great dark cloud of vanity before my eyes, so that I could not see the sun of justice and the light of truth; I, being the son of darkness, was involved in darkness; I loved my darkness, because I did not know Your light; I was blind, and loved my blindness, and walked from darkness to darkness; but Lord, You are my God, who has led me from darkness and the shadow of death; You have called me into this glorious light, and behold I see.” Those days of our darkened souls are gone, but we can never cry over them too much. Sad were those hours when the “morning star” did not shine, when the Cross had no charms, and the glorious Redeemer no esteem; could tears obliterate them from the archives of our past, even if our eyes should flow with tears every time our cheeks would dry. Could prayers remove the darkness of those days, if so we would besiege the throne with incessant supplications. With great sorrow we must admit that those days are gone. Even the arm of the Omnipotent God could not restore them; but we rejoice to see that our sin during that time of darkness was blotted out and entirely covered at the Cross.
The river of sinful neglect of Jesus has doubtless other tributary sources which we cannot now take time to examine. Contemplation does not need to wander in a maze, she has a path laid out straight before her; unchain her feet and ask her to guide you over the field of memory, that with her you may count the other streams which fed this noxious river of neglect.
III. We now come to the practical part of our meditation, and consider the emotions which ought to be excited by it.
First, we think of deep repentant sorrow will fit us well. As tears are the moisture for the grave, as ashes are a fit crown for the head of mourning, so are repentant feelings the proper mementos of conduct now forsaken and abhorred. We cannot under stand the Christianity of those men who can narrate their past history of wickedness with a kind of a self-boasting. We have met with some who will recount their former crimes with as much gusto as the old soldier tells his feats in battles. Such men will go to great extremes to show how wicked they were to make their case more worthy of regard, and glory in their past sins as if they were ornaments to their new life. To such we say, Paul never thought this way; when speaking to the Romans, he said, “the things you are now ashamed of.” There are times when it is proper, beneficial, and praiseworthy for a converted man to tell the sad tale of his former life; free grace is thus glorified, and divine power extolled, and such a story of experience may serve to bring about faith in others who think themselves too vile; but then let it be done in the right spirit, with expressions of genuine regret and repentance. We do not object to the narration of the deeds of our unregenerate condition, but to the mode in which it is too often done. Let sin have its monument, but let it be a heap of stones cast by the hands of loathing—not a mausoleum erected by the hands of affection. Give it the burial of Absalom—do let it not sleep in the tomb of the kings.
Beloved, can we enter the dark vault of our former ignorance without a feeling of oppressive gloom? Can we walk through the ruins of our misspent years without sighs of regret? Can we behold the havoc of our sin, and smile at the destruction? No. We must grieve over what we cannot obliterate, and abhor what we cannot retract.
O fellow-heir of the kingdom, let us go together to the throne of Jesus, that our tears may bathe His feet; that, like Mary, we may make our grief a worshipper of His person. Let us find some alabaster box of very precious perfume by which to anoint Him, or at any rate let our eyes supply a tribute of true gratitude. We approach His sacred person, and on His feet we see the marks of His love cut deep by the piercing nails. Come now, my heart! Weep over that wound, for you made it; the soldier who drove the nail was but your servant who did your bidding but the cruel act was yours. Note well His hands which firmly hold you; they too have their scars; and weep at the remembrance that these were made for you. For you He bore the disgrace of the cross, the pain of crucifixion. Do not turn away your eyes until the hole on His side has been pondered. See that frightful looking gash, whose depth reaches all the way to His heart. And this, my soul, was done for you!
Do you not love the sufferer? Yes, you do, with a love as deep and bottomless as the ocean; but do not forget that once you despised him. Many times you have slighted this gracious friend; your husband was once hated by you; your beloved has often received arrogance and scorn from you. Not long ago you mocked, despised, and insulted Him. You have spoken cruel words about Him, and you have done evil things to Him. You disregarded His affection, you trampled under foot His tender offerings of love, and the deep anguish which He endured for you was to your ears just an idle tale. What! are the fountains dry? When will your sorrow find a better reason to cause tears to flow? Can you shed a “tear or two” over a silly story of a love-sick maiden, and shall not this—yourself and Jesus—move your soul? He loved, and you hated; He died, yet you scoffed at His agonies; He saved you, and yet you refused to be His child. O what ingratitude! Often we are as hard as the granite rock of a mountain, and as cold as the snow that covers it, refusing to let it melt and fill the rivers. We should long to feel the sweet and uncommon pleasure of repentance. Howe has wonderfully described the joy of repentance in his article “Delight in God:”
“There is pleasure mingled with tears, with those grievings that bring hope, and which naturally flow without force from a living principle within, as waters from their still freshly springing fountain. When the soul finds itself set free and at liberty, when it can freely pour itself out to God, gently dissolve and melt before Him, it does it with regret at what it has done and been, not at what it is now doing, except that it cannot lament more; desiring to grieve infinitely, while it yet realizes that it must be confined within some bounds. It loves to lie in the dust and abase itself; and is pleased with the humiliation, contrition, and brokenness of heart which repentance towards God includes in it. So that as God is delighted with this sacrifice, so it is with the offering of it up to Him. Many men perceive a certain sweetness in revenge; such a person finds it only in this just revenge upon himself. How inexpressible the pleasure that accompanies its devoting of itself to God, when lamenting itself, and returning with weeping and supplication, it says, ‘Now, look! I come to You, You are the Lord my God, I have brought You back Your own, what I had sacrilegiously alienated and stolen away, the heart which was gone astray, that has been for a long time a vagabond and fugitive from Your blessed presence, service, and communion. Now take the soul which You have made; rightfully possess it; enter into it; stamp it with the impression of Your own seal, and mark it for Yourself. Other lords will no longer have dominion over it. What have I to do any more with the idols which I used to provoke You to jealousy? I will now speak only of Your name, and of Yours only. I bind myself to You with everlasting bonds, in a covenant never to be forgotten.’”
Do not the gift of tears be the only offering at the shrine of Jesus; also be filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy. If we need to lament over our sins, so also we must even more rejoice at our pardon! If our previous state moves us to tears, will not our new condition cause our hearts to leap for joy? Yes, we must, we will praise the Lord for His sovereign, distinguishing grace. We owe Him an eternal song for this change in our position; He has made us new, and this solely from His unmerited mercy, since we, like others, “esteemed Him not.” He certainly did not elect us to the high dignity of union with Himself because of any love we had toward Him, for we admit the very reverse. It is said of the writer's revered predecessor, Dr. Rippon, that when asked why God chose His people, he replied, “Because He chose them; “ and when the question was repeated, he answered yet again, “Because he did choose them, and if you ask me a hundred times I can give you no other reason.” Truly it is because “this was [the Father’s] good pleasure.” (Matthew 11:26) Let our gratitude for divine grace leap for praise; let our whole self speak of the honor of He who has elected us in sovereignty, redeemed us by blood, and called us by grace.
Shouldn’t we also be moved to the deepest prostration of spirit at the remembrance of our guilt? Ought not the subject of our present contemplation to be a stab in the very heart of pride? Come here, Christian, and though you are now arrayed in the garments of salvation, look back to your former nakedness. Do not boast of your riches, remember what a sorry beggar you once were. Do not glory in your virtues, they are foreigners in your heart; remember the deadly plants—the native growth of that evil soil. Bow down low to the ground, and though you cannot hide yourself with wings as angels do, let repentance and self-hatred serve as your covering instead. Do not think that humility is weakness; it will supply strength to your bones. Lower yourself, and conquer; bow yourself down, and become invincible. The proud man has no power over his fellowmen; the beasts of the forest do not tremble at the height of the giraffe, rather they are in fear of the crouching lion—the monarch of the plain. He who has little regard of himself, has an advantage over his fellowmen. He who has felt his own ruin will not imagine any to be hopeless; nor will he think them too fallen to be worthy of his regard. Though he may be a priest or Levite in the temple of his God, he will not feel degraded if he stain his hands in ministering to the wounds of the victims of evil. Like the friend of tax-collectors and sinners, he will seek out the sick who need a physician. Christianity has founded a colony for the outcasts of society. The founder of Rome welcomed to his newly built city the dregs of all the nations of the earth; so let every Christian believe that Zion's inhabitants are to be gathered from haunts of sin and vice. We are very prone to judge the masses of men to damnation! How often do we write in our book of doom the names of many whom we afterwards discover to have been “appointed for eternal life!” The astronomer will believe that the most erratic comet will yet accomplish its journey, and revisit our sphere; but we give up those for lost, who have not wandered even one-half the distance from the center of light and life. We will often find an excuse for inaction in the imagined hopelessness of sinners, when in reality out own critical fault-finding spirit seeks to mask our laziness and pride. If we had correct views of ourselves, we would not judge anyone as being too wicked to be saved, and should consider it a disgrace to bear on the shoulders of our sympathy, the most wandering of the flock. We have among us too much of the spirit of being “holier than thou.” Those whom Jesus would have clutched by the hand, we will scarcely touch with a pair of tongs; such is the pride of many professing Christians, that they lack only the name to be recognized at once as the true successors of the ancient Pharisees. If we were more like Christ, we would be more ready to have hope for the hopeless, to value the worthless, and to love the depraved. The following illustrative story, which the writer received from the lips of an esteemed minister of the Church of England, may perhaps, as a fact, plead more forcibly than words.
A pastor of a church in Ireland, in the course of his visitations, had called on every one of his flock with only one exception. This was a woman of a most wicked character, and he feared that by entering her house he might give occasion of offense to those who oppose the church, and bring dishonor on his profession. One Sunday, he observed her among the frequenters of his church, and for weeks after that he noticed her attention to the Word of Life. He thought, too, that amid the sound of the responses he could detect one sweet and earnest voice, solemnly confessing sin, and imploring mercy. The heart of his pity yearned over this fallen daughter of Eve; he longed to ask her if her heart were indeed broken on account of sin; and he intensely desired to speak with her concerning the abounding grace which, he hoped, had plucked her from the burning fire. Still, the same reluctant modesty kept him from entering her house; time after time he passed her door with a longing look, anxious for her salvation, but jealous of his own honor. This lasted for a long time, but finally it ended. One day, she called him to her house, and with overflowing tears which well betrayed her breaking heart, she said, “O sir! if your Master had been in this village half as long as you have, he would have called to see me long ago; for surely I am the chief of sinners, and therefore have the most need of his mercy.” We may conceive the melting of the pastor's heart, when he saw his conduct that was condemned by a comparison with his loving Master. From that time on he resolved to neglect no one, but to gather even the “outcasts of Israel.”
Should we, by our reflection on this story, be compelled to do likewise, we will have derived a great benefit, and possibly some soul may have reason to bless God that our thoughts were directed into such a channel.
May the gracious Spirit, who has promised to “guide us into all truth” by His holy influences, bless this visit to the home of our new birth, exciting in us all those emotions which are agreeable to the subject, and leading us to actions in harmony with the grateful retrospect.
TO THE UNCONVERTED READER
My Friend—Although this book was written chiefly for the Lord's family, yet it may please the gracious Spirit to bless it to your own soul. With this desire let me seriously beg you to consider the condition you are in. You are one who does not esteem Jesus. This is a sad state, because of your loss of present delight in Him; but how much more terrible if you do not remember the eternal consequences of refusing Christ. He is your only real hope, and yet you are rejecting Him. Your salvation can only come through Him, and yet you willfully refuse to come to Him. A few more years will bring you to the threshold of another world. It will be terrible for you if you still “ignore such a great salvation.” Death will soon destroy your strength. What will you do in the last hour of your life without a Savior? Judgment will follow on the heels of death; and when the insulted Savior is seated on the judgment seat, then how will your face Him? Will you be able to bear the fury of His incensed majesty? As oil, the softest of all substances, burns the most fiercely, so does love when it is angered. I beg you to think of yourself, how will you endure His fury? The eyes which once flowed with tears will flash lightnings on you. The hands which were nailed to the cross of redemption will seize the thunderbolts of vengeance , and the soft and gentle voice which once said, “Come, you that are weary,” will pronounce in thundering words the sentence, “Depart from me, you who are cursed!”
Are you so drunk as to venture on so hazardous a course as continued rebellion? Do you wish to lie down in torment, and make your bed in hell?
Oh my immortal brother! Remain here and ponder your woeful state; and may the Spirit now show to you your lost and helpless condition, that, so stripped of self, you may seek my Master’s righteousness. He says, “I love those who love me, and those who seek me find me.”
Transcribed and updated (English) by: