“Jesus wept!” John 11:35
The Creator of all worlds, the Author of all beings, the Upholder of the universe—raining tears of human woe and sympathy upon a grave!
Oh, there lives not a being in the universe who can enter into our bereavements with the sympathy, the support, and the soothing of Christ!
They were tears of sympathy. His heart was touched, deeply touched, with sympathy for the sorrow of others. He wept because the mourning sisters wept. He mingled His tears with theirs.
This is true sympathy, “weeping with those that weep,” making their sorrow our own. How really our Lord does this with His people. So completely is He our Surety—that He takes our sins and infirmities, our trials and sorrows upon Himself, as if they were all and entirely His own. Our sins were so completely laid upon Him—that not one remains charged to the account of those who believe in Jesus.
And our present griefs are so entirely absorbed in Him, that, softened by His love, soothed by His sympathy, supported by His grace—the trial is welcome, the affliction is sweet, and the rod of a Father’s chastening, buds and blossoms into delectable fruit.
Bereaved mourner! the sympathy of Christ is yours! The Savior who wept at the gave of Bethany, now shares your grief. Do not imagine that your sorrow is isolated, or that your tears are forbidden or unseen. You have a merciful and faithful High Priest who is touched with your present calamity.
There exists no sympathy . . .
as Christ’s sympathy.
And if your heavenly Father has seen it wise and good to remove from you the spring of human pity—it is but that He may draw you closer beneath the wing of Jesus’ compassion, presence and love.
O child of sorrow! will not this suffice—that you possess Christ’s sympathy, immeasurable and exhaustless as the ocean, exquisite and changeless as His being! Yield your heart to His rich compassion!
Will Jesus be regardless of what I feel, and the sorrows under which I groan? Oh no! The sigh that bursts in secret from my heart is not secret to Him; the tear that is my food day and night, and drops unperceived and unknown—is known and remembered by Him!
“You keep track of all my sorrows. You have collected all my tears in Your bottle. You have recorded each one in Your book.” Psalm 56:8
Octavius Winslow, “The Tears of Christ”
Let me give you a little abridgment of the sufferings of some of the early Christians, “of whom the world was not worthy.”
1. In the reign of Hadrian the emperor, there were ten thousand Christians crowned with a crowns of thorns, thrust into the sides with sharp lances, and then crucified.
2. Others were so whipped, that their entrails were seen, and afterwards they were thrown upon sharp shells, and then upon sharp nails and thorns. And after all this cruelty, they were thrown to wild beasts to be devoured.
3. Multitudes were banished.
4. Others were pulled apart with wild horses.
5. Some were beaten and racked with bars of iron.
6. Others were cast into loathsome dungeons.
7. Some were burnt in the fire.
8. Others were knocked down and had their brains beaten out with staves and clubs.
9. Some were pricked in their faces and eyes with sharp reeds.
10. Others were stoned to death with stones, as Stephen was.
11. Some were dashed in pieces against millstones.
12. Others had their teeth dashed out of their jaws, and their joints broken
13. Some were cast down from very high places.
14. Others were beheaded.
15. Some were tormented with razors.
16. Others were slain with the sword.
17. Some were run through with pikes.
18. Others were driven into the wilderness, where they wandered up and down, suffering hunger and cold, and where they were exposed to the fury both of wild beasts, and also to the rage of the barbarous Arabians.
19. Some fled into caves, which their persecutors crammed up with stones, and there they died.
20. Others were trodden to death by the people.
21. Some were hanged on gibbets with a slow fire under them.
22. Others were cast into the sea and drowned.
23. Some were slain by being thrown in mines.
24. Others were hanged by the feet, and choked with the smoke of a small fire, their legs being first broken.
25. Some were covered with oil, and then roasted with a soft fire.
26. Others were hung by one hand, that they might feel the weight of their whole bodies scorching and broiling over burning coals.
27. Some were shot through with arrows, and afterwards thrown into stinking prisons.
28. Others were stripped stark naked, and thrown out in cold, frosty nights; and burnt the next day.
29. In Syria, a company of Christian virgins were stripped stark naked to be scorned by the multitude, then shaved, and then torn in pieces and devoured by beasts.
30. Lastly, many women had the joints of their bodies pulled from another, and their flesh and sides clawed with talons of wild beasts to the bones, and their breasts seared with torches until they died.
And thus you have an account of thirty different ways by which the precious sons and daughters of God have formerly been afflicted, tormented, and destroyed! What heart of stone can read over this list with dry eyes? And now tell me, sirs, whether your sufferings are worth a naming in that day, wherein the sufferings of the precious servants of God in the primitive times are spoken of? Oh, no! Well then, take heed of making molehills mountains, and of crying out, “Is there any sorrow compared to my sorrow; or any sufferings compared to my sufferings?”
Thomas Brooks, “Crown and Glory of Christianity” 1662
Scarcely anything has been more injurious to the kingdom of Christ than the distinction between clergy and laity. No such distinction was ever laid down by the Spirit of God. “You are a royal priesthood.” “He has made us unto our God kings and priests.”
In the Church of God there is no special priesthood because all are priests.
We have made among ourselves a distinction between ministers and others. But you are all to minister! There are many ministries of one form and another; and though God gives to His Church apostles, teachers, pastors, evangelists, and the like, yet not by way of setting up a professional caste of men, who are to do the work for God while others sit still.
All Christians are soldiers of the Cross and all on active duty!
Every converted man is to teach what he knows.All those who have drunk of the Living Water are to become fountains out of which shall flow rivers of Living Water. All are to proclaim the Word and no one is exempted by another form of service.
It is thought nowadays that a man must not try to proclaim the Gospel unless he has had
a good education. But there is nothing whatever in the whole compass of Scripture to excuse any mouth from speaking for Jesus when the heart is really acquainted with His salvation.
We are all called to make Jesus known if we know Him.
We must come back to the pattern of the original church.
Every Christian must be a herald of the Cross.
If you do not tell the Gospel, you are leaving your fellow men to perish. Yonder is the wreck and you are not sending out a life boat! Yonder are souls starving and you give them no bread!
If we felt that blessed amazement which we ought to feel when we think of Free Grace and dying love, silence would be impossible.
Charles H. Spurgeon, All at it
“I am your exceeding great reward.” Genesis 15:1. God Himself is His
people’s reward! In what way is God the reward of His people?
God is a satisfying reward. God is a whole ocean of blessedness, so that the soul, while it is bathing in it, cries out in a divine ecstasy, “I have enough!” Here is fullness—but no excess. Psalm 17:15, “I shall be satisfied when I awake with Your likeness.” That is—when I awake out of the sleep of death, having my soul embellished with the illustrious beams of Your glory—I shall be satisfied. In God there is not only sufficiency—but redundancy; not only the fullness of the vessel—but the fullness of the fountain! In God, this Ark of blessedness, are all good things to be found. Therefore Jacob, having God for his reward, could say, “I have enough!” or, as it is in the original, “I have all!” Genesis 33:11. God is all marrow and fatness. He is such an plenteous reward as exceeds our very faith. If the Queen of Sheba’s heart fainted when she saw all King Solomon’s glory—what would it have done to have beheld the astonishing and magnificent reward which God bestows upon His favorites!
God is a suitable reward. The soul, being spiritual, must have something comparable and suitable to make it happy—and that is God. Light is no more suitable to the eye, nor melody to the ear—than God is to the soul. He pours spiritual blessings into the soul, Ephesians 1:3. He enriches it with grace, feasts it with His love, and crowns it with heavenly glory!
God is a pleasant reward. He is the quintessence of delight! He is all beauty and love! To be feeding upon thoughts of God is delicious. Psalm 104:34, “My meditation on Him shall be sweet.” It is delightful to the bee to suck the flower. Just so, by holy musing, to suck out some of the sweetness in God, carries a secret delight in it. To have a prospect of God only by faith is pleasant. 1 Peter 1:8, “In whom believing you rejoice.” Then what will the joy of vision be—when we shall have a clear, personal sight of Him—and be laid in the bosom of divine love! What a delicious reward will God be in heaven! This will be better felt—than expressed. The godly, entering upon their celestial reward, are said to enter into the joy of their Lord, Matthew 25:21. Oh, amazing! The saints enter into God’s own joy! They have not only the joy which God bestows—but the joy which God enjoys!
God is a transcendent reward. The artist, going to paint the picture of Helena, not being able to draw her beauty—drew her face covered with a veil. Just so, when we speak of God’s excellencies—we must draw a veil. He is so super-eminent a reward, that we cannot set Him forth in all His luster and magnificence. Put the whole world in scale with Him—and it is as if you should weigh a feather compared to a mountain of gold. God is far better than all other things put together! He is better than the world—and better than heaven! He is the original cause of all good things. Nothing is sweet without Him. He perfumes and sanctifies our comforts!
God being an infinite reward, there can be no defect or scantiness in it. There is no lack in that which is infinite. Some may ask, “Is God sufficient for every individual saint?” Yes! If the sun, which is but a finite creature, disperses its light to the universe; then much more God, who is infinite, distributes glory to the whole number of the elect. As every person enjoys the whole sun to himself—so every believer possesses the whole God to himself. The Lord has land enough to give all His heirs. Throw a thousand buckets into the sea—and there is water enough in the sea to fill them. Though there are millions of saints and angels—there is enough in God to fill them. God is an infinite reward, and though He is continually giving out of His fullness to others—yet He has not the less. His glory is imparted—not impaired. It is a distribution, without a diminution
God is an honorable reward. Honor is the height of men’s ambition. Aristotle calls it the greatest of blessings. What greater dignity than to be taken up into communion with the God of glory, and to possess a kingdom with Him, bespangled with light, and seated with Christ upon His throne, above all the visible orbs!
God is an everlasting reward. Mortality is the flaw of all earthly things. But God is an eternal reward. Eternity cannot be measured by years nor ages. Eternity makes glory, weighty. Psalm 48:14, “This God is our God forever and ever!” Oh, saints of God, your praying and repenting are but for a while—but your reward is forever! As long as God is God, He will be rewarding you! Hosea 2:19, “I will betroth you unto me forever.” God marries Himself to His people, and this admits of no divorce. God’s love for His elect is as unchangeable as His love for Christ! Psalm 73:26, “My portion forever.” This portion cannot be spent—because it is infinite; nor can it be lost—because it is eternal.
In God are treasures which can never be emptied—and pleasures which can never be ended!
“You have made known to me the path of life; You will fill me with joy in Your presence, with eternal pleasures at Your right hand!” Psalm 16:11
God is His Peoples Great Reward
When men are fallen, and become sinful, God by His sovereignty has a right to determine about their redemption as He pleases. He has a right to determine whether He will redeem any or not. He might, if he had pleased, have left all to perish, or might have redeemed all. Or, he may redeem some, and leave others; and if He doth so, He may take whom He pleases, and leave whom He pleases. To suppose that all have forfeited his favor, and deserved to perish, and to suppose that he may not leave any one individual of them to perish, implies a contradiction; because it supposes that such a one has a claim to God’s favor, and is not justly liable to perish; which is contrary to the supposition.
It is meet (right) that God should order all these things according to His own pleasure. By reason of His greatness and glory, by which He is infinitely above all, He is worthy to be Sovereign, and that His pleasure should in all things take place. He is worthy that He should make Himself His end, and that He should make nothing but His own wisdom His rule in pursuing that end, without asking leave or counsel of any, and without giving account of any of His matters. It is fit that He who is absolutely perfect, and infinitely wise, and the Fountain of all wisdom, should determine every thing [that He effects] by His own will, even things of the greatest importance. It is meet that He should be thus Sovereign, because He is the first being, the eternal being, whence all other beings are. He is the Creator of all things; and all are absolutely and universally dependent on Him; and therefore it is meet that He should act as the Sovereign possessor of heaven and earth.
Our obligation to love, honor, and obey any being, is in proportion to his loveliness, honorableness, and authority; for that is the very meaning of the words. When we say any one is very lovely, it is the same as to say, that he is one very much to be loved. Or if we say such a one is more honorable than another, the meaning of the words is, that he is one that we are more obliged to honor. If we say any one has great authority over us, it is the same as to say, that he has great right to our subjection and obedience.
But God is a being infinitely lovely, because He has infinite Excellency and beauty. To have infinite Excellency and beauty, is the same thing as to have infinite loveliness. He is a being of infinite greatness, majesty, and glory; and therefore He is infinitely honorable. He is infinitely exalted above the greatest potentates of the earth, and highest angels in heaven; and therefore He is infinitely more honorable than they. His authority over us is infinite; and the ground of His right to our obedience is infinitely strong; for He is infinitely worthy to be obeyed Himself, and we have an absolute, universal, and infinite dependence upon Him.
It is not only our great duty, but will be our greatest honor, to imitate Christ, and do the work that he has done, and so act as co-workers with him.The ministers of Christ should be persons of the same spirit that their Lord was of– the same spirit of humility and lowliness of heart; for the servant is not greater than his Lord.They should be of the same spirit of heavenly mindedness, and contempt of the glory, wealth, and pleasures of this world.
They should be of the same spirit of devotion and fervent love to God. They should follow the example of his prayerfulness; of whom we read from time to time of his retiring from the world, away from the noise and applause of the multitudes, into mountains and solitary places, for secret prayer, and holy converse with his Father.
Ministers should be persons of the same quiet, lamb like spirit that Christ was of, the same spirit of submission to God’s will, and patience under afflictions, and meekness towards men; of the same calmness and composure of spirit under reproaches and sufferings from the malignity of evil men; of the same spirit of forgiveness of injuries; of the same spirit of charity, of fervent love and extensive benevolence; the same disposition to pity the miserable, to weep with those that weep, to help men under their calamities of both soul and body, to hear and grant the requests of the needy, and relieve afflicted; the same spirit of condescension to the poor and lowly, tenderness and gentleness toward the weak, and great and effectual love to enemies.
They should also be of the same spirit of zeal, diligence, and self-denial for the glory of God, and advancement for his kingdom, and for the good of mankind; for which things sake Christ went though the greatest labors, and endured the most extreme sufferings.
And in order to our imitating Christ in the work of the ministry, in any tolerable degree, we should not have our hearts weighed down, and time filled up with worldly affections, cares, and pursuits.
The duties of a minister that have been recommended, are absolutely inconsistent with a mind much taken up with worldly profit, glory, amusements, and entertainments.
3. Compare one Scripture with another, the more obscure verses with those which are more clear. This is an excellent means to find out the sense of the Scriptures; and this is the best use of the notes found in the margins of most Bibles. And always keep Christ in view, for He is revealed in the Scriptures of the Old Testament (in its genealogies, types, and sacrifices), as well as in the passages of the New Testament.
7. Beware of a worldly, fleshly mind: for fleshly sins blind the mind from the things of God. In an eclipse of the moon, the earth comes between the sun and the moon, and so keeps the light of the sun from it. In the same way, the world in the heart, comes between you and the light of the Word, keeping its divine light from you.
9. Whatever you learn from the Word, labor to put it into practice. For to him that has, more will be given. Those people who make no effort to put into practice, what they already know about God’s Word, will get very little insight into the Bible. But while the stream runs through a holy life, the fountain will always be more refreshing.
(1) True Christianity has always taught the inspiration, sufficiency, and supremacy of Holy Scripture. It has told men that “God’s written Word” is the only trustworthy rule of faith and practice in religion; that God requires nothing to be believed that is not in this Word; and that nothing is right which contradicts it. It has never allowed reason, or the voice of the Church, to be placed above, or on a level with Scripture. It has steadily maintained that, however imperfectly we may understand it, the Old Book is meant to be the only standard of life and doctrine.
(2) True Christianity has always taught fully the sinfulness, guilt and corruption of human nature. It has told men, that they are born in sin, deserve God’s wrath and condemnation, and are naturally inclined to do evil. It has never allowed that men and women are only weak and pitiable creatures, who can become good when they please, and make their own peace with God. On the contrary, it has steadily declared man’s danger and vileness, and his pressing need of a Divine forgiveness and atonement for his sins, a new birth or conversion, and an entire change of heart.
(3) True Christianity has always set before men, the Lord Jesus Christ as the chief object of faith and hope in religion—as the Divine Mediator between God and men, the only source of peace of conscience, and the root of all spiritual life. The main things it has ever insisted on about Christ, are—the atonement for sin He made by His death, His sacrifice on the cross, the complete redemption from guilt and condemnation by His blood, His victory over the grave by His resurrection, His active life of intercession at God’s right hand, and the absolute necessity of simple faith in Him. In short, it has made Christ the Alpha and the Omega in Christian theology.
(4) True Christianity has always honored the Person of God the Holy Spirit, and magnified His work. It has never taught that all professing Christians have the grace of the Spirit in their hearts, as a matter of course—because they are baptized, or because they belong to a Church. It has steadily maintained that the fruits of the Spirit are the only evidence of having the Spirit, and that those fruits must be seen! It has always taught, that we must be born of the Spirit, led by the Spirit, sanctified by the Spirit, and feel the operations of the Spirit—and that a close walk with God in the path of His commandments, a life of holiness, love, self-denial, purity, and zeal to do good—are the only satisfactory marks of the Holy Spirit.
Such is true Christianity. Well would it have been for the world, if there had been more of it during the last nineteen centuries! Too often, and in too many parts of Christendom, there has been so little of it—that Christ’s religion has seemed extinct, and has fallen into utter contempt!
This is the Christianity which, in the days of the Apostles, “turned the world upside down!” It was this which emptied the idol temples of their worshipers, routed the Greek and Roman philosophers, and obliged even heathen writers to confess that the followers of the “new superstition,” as they called it, were people who loved one another, and lived very pure and holy lives!
Let it never be forgotten, that its leading principles are those which are least likely to please the natural man. On the contrary, they are precisely those which are calculated to be unpopular and to give offense. Proud man does not like to be told that he is a weak, guilty sinner—that he cannot save his own soul, and must trust in the work of another—that he must be converted and have a new heart—that he must live a holy, self-denying life, and come out from the world.
Yet, this is the Christianity which is doing good at this day, wherever real good is done. The only religious teaching which can show solid, positive results—is that which gives prominence to the doctrines which I have endeavored to describe. Wherever they are rightly taught, Christianity can point to fruits which are an unanswerable proof of its Divine origin. There are myriads of professing Christians who have no life or reality in their religion—and are only nominal members of Christ’s Church. Except for going to church on Sundays, they give no evidence of true Christianity. If you mark their daily life—they seem neither to think, nor feel, nor care for their souls, or God, or eternity. Men and women who crowd churches on Sundays—and then live worldly selfish lives all the week—are the best and most efficient allies of the devil.
True faith is not a mere “mental assent” to certain theological propositions—but a living, burning, active principle—which works by love, purifies the heart, overcomes the world, and brings forth much fruit of holiness and good works. Let us live as if we really believed every jot and tittle of Scripture—and as if a dying, risen, interceding, and coming Christ, were continually before our eyes!