Peace! Be still!
Based on a tract by
J. C. Ryle
And a great windstorm arose, and the waves were breaking into the boat, so that the boat was already filling. (38) But he was in the stern, asleep on the cushion. And they woke him and said to him, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing? ” (39) And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still! ” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm. (40) He said to them, “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith?” Mark 4: 37-40 ESV
The Gospels were written to acquaint us with Christ. The Holy Spirit has told us the story of His life and death,—His sayings and His doings, four times over. Four different inspired hands have drawn the picture of the Saviour. His ways, His manners, His feelings, His wisdom, His grace, His patience, His love, His power, are graciously unfolded to us by four different witnesses. Ought not the sheep to be familiar with the Shepherd? the patient to be familiar with the Physician? the bride to be familiar with the Bridegroom? the sinner to be familiar with the Saviour? Beyond doubt it ought to be so. The Gospels were written to make us familiar with Christ, and that is one great reason why we should study them.
Let us study together a page in our Master’s history. Let us consider what we may learn from the verses of Scripture which we have just read. You see Jesus there crossing the Lake of Galilee, in a boat, with His disciples. You see a sudden storm arise while He is asleep. The waves beat into the boat, and fill it. Death seems to be close at hand. The frightened disciples awake their Master and cry for help. He arises and rebukes the wind and waves, and immediately all is a calm. He mildly reproves the faithless fears of His companions, and all is over. Such is the picture. It is one full of deep instruction. Let us examine what we are meant to learn.
I. Let us learn, first of all, that following Christ will not prevent our having earthly sorrows and troubles.
Here are the chosen disciples of the Lord Jesus very anxious. The faithful little flock which believed when Priests, and Scribes, and Pharisees were all alike unbelieving, is allowed by the Shepherd to be very shaken. The fear of death breaks in upon them like an armed man. The deepwater seems likely to go over their souls. Peter, James, and John, the pillars of the Church about to be planted in the world, are very distressed.
Perhaps they had not counted on all this. Perhaps they had expected that Christ’s service would at any rate lift them above the reach of earthly trials. Perhaps they thought that He who could raise the dead, and heal the sick, and feed multitudes with a few loaves, and cast out devils with a word,—He would never allow His servants to suffer on earth. Maybe they had supposed He would always grant them smooth journeys, fine weather, an easy way, and freedom from trouble and care.
If the disciples thought so, they were much mistaken. The Lord Jesus taught them that a man may be one of His chosen servants and yet have to go through many anxious times and endure many pains.
It is good to understand this clearly. It is good to understand that Christ’s service never did secure a man from all the ills that flesh has inherited, and never will. If you are a believer, you must count on having your share of sickness and pain, of sorrow and tears, of losses and crosses, of deaths and bereavements, of partings and separations, of vexations and disappointments, so long as you are in the body. Christ never promises that you will get to heaven without these. He has promised that all who come to Him will have all things pertaining to life and godliness. But He has never promised that He will make them rich, or healthy, and that death will never come to their family.
Many would prefer having Christ and good health,—Christ and plenty of money,—Christ and no deaths in their family,—Christ and a perpetual morning without clouds. But they do not like Christ and the cross,—Christ and tribulation,—Christ and the conflict,—Christ and the storm.
Is this the thought of your heart? If it is, then you are sadly mistaken. Consider the following:
How would we know who are true Christians if following Christ was the way to be free from trouble? How would we discern the wheat from the chaff if it were not for the winnowing of trial? How would we know whether men served Christ for His own sake or from selfish motives, if His service automatically brought health and wealth? The winds of winter soon show us which of the trees are evergreen and which are not. The storms of affliction and care are useful in the same way. They reveal whose faith is real, and whose is nothing but profession and form.
How would the great work of sanctification go on in a man if he had no trial? Trouble is often the only fire which will burn away the dross that clings to our hearts. Trouble is the pruning-knife which God uses in order to make us fruitful in good works. The harvest of the Lord’s field is seldom ripened by sunshine only. It must go through its days of wind, and rain, and storm.
And if you want to serve Christ and be saved, I urge you to take the Lord on His own terms. Make up your mind to meet with your share of crosses and sorrows, and then you will not be surprised. Because they do not see this, many seem to run well for a time, and then turn back in disgust, and are cast away.
And if you profess to be a child of God, leave to the Lord Jesus to sanctify you in His own way. Rest satisfied that He never makes mistakes. Be sure that He does all things well. The winds may howl around you, and the waters swell. But do not fear: Those who have trusted in him, “He led … by a straight way till they reached a city to dwell in,” (Psalm 107:7) says the Psalmist.
II. Learn, in the second place, that the Lord Jesus Christ is truly and really man.
There are words used in this little history, which, like many other passages in the Gospels, bring out this truth in a very striking way. You are told that when the waves began to break on the ship, Jesus was in the stern part, “asleep on the cushion. ” He was tired, and it is no surprise after reading the account given in Mark chapter 4. After working all day to do good to souls,—after preaching in the open air to vast multitudes, Jesus was tired. Surely if the sleep of the labourer is sound and good, how much more so must have been the sleep of our blessed Lord!
This great truth should be deeply settled in our mind,—that Jesus Christ was verily and indeed man. He was equal to the Father in all things, and the eternal God. But He was also man, and took part of flesh and blood, and was “made like his brothers in every respect” (Heb 2:17), “yet without sin.” (Heb 4:15) He had a body like our own. Like us, He was born of a woman. Like us, He physically grew up. Like us, He was often hungry and thirsty, and faint and weary. Like us, He ate and drank, rested and slept. Like us, He sorrowed, and wept, and felt. It is all very wonderful, but so it is.
He that made the heavens went to and fro as a poor weary man on earth! He that ruled over principalities and powers in heavenly places took on Himself a frail body like our own. He that might have dwelt for ever in the glory which He had with the Father, amidst the praises of legions of angels, came down to earth and dwelt as a man among sinful men. Surely this fact alone is an amazing miracle of condescension, grace, pity, and love.
There is great comfort for the believer in this thought, that Jesus is perfect man no less than perfect God. He in whom I am told by Scripture to trust is not only a great High Priest, but one who can feel. He is not only a powerful Saviour, but a sympathizing Saviour. He is not only the Son of God mighty to save, but the Son of man able to feel.
Who does not know that sympathy is one of the sweetest things left to us in this sinful world? It is one of the bright seasons in our dark journey here below when we can find a person who enters into our troubles, and goes along with us in our anxieties,—who can weep when we weep, and rejoice when we rejoice.
Our God knows well how we need this sympathy. He knows the very secrets of man’s heart. He knows the ways by which that heart is most easily approached, and how it is most readily moved. He has wisely provided that the Saviour of the Gospel should be feeling as well as mighty. He has given us one who has not only a strong hand to pluck us as brands from the fire, but a sympathizing heart on which the labouring and heavy-laden may find rest.
Had my Saviour been God only, I might perhaps have trusted Him, but I never could have come near to Him without fear. Had my Saviour been man only, I might have loved Him, but I never could have felt sure that He was able to take away my sins. But my Saviour is God as well as man, and man as well as God: God, and so able to deliver me,—man, and so able to feel with me. Almighty power and deepest sympathy come together in one glorious person, Jesus Christ, my Lord. Surely a believer in Christ has a strong consolation. He may well trust, and not be afraid.
And if you are one who knows what it is to go to the throne of grace for mercy and pardon, do not forget that the Mediator by whom you draw near to God is the Man Christ Jesus.
Your soul’s business is in the hand of a High Priest who can be touched with the feeling of your infirmities. You are not dealing with a being of so high and glorious a nature that your mind has no way to conceive of him. You have to do with Jesus, who had a body like your own, and was a man upon earth, like yourself. He well knows that world through which you are struggling, for He dwelt in the midst of it thirty-three years. He well knows the contradiction of sinners, which so often discourages you, for He endured it Himself. He well knows the art and cunning of your spiritual enemy, the devil, for He wrestled with him in the wilderness. Surely with such an advocate you may well feel bold.
And if you are one who knows what it is to come to the Lord Jesus for spiritual comfort in earthly troubles, you should well remember the days of His flesh, and His human nature.
You are applying to One who knows your feelings by experience, and has drunk deep of the bitter cup, for He was a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief. Jesus knows the heart of a man,—the bodily pains of a man,—the difficulties of a man,— for He was a man Himself, and had flesh and blood on this earth. He sat wearied by the well at Sychar. He wept over the grave of Lazarus, at Bethany. He sweat great drops of blood at Gethsemane. He is no stranger to your sensations. He is familiar with everything that belongs to human nature, sin only excepted.
Are you poor and needy? So also was Jesus. The foxes had holes, and the birds of the air had nests, but the Son of Man had not where to lay His head. He dwelt in a despised city. Men used to say, “Can any good thing come out of Nazareth? ” (John 1:46). He was esteemed a carpenter’s son, He preached in a borrowed boat, rode into Jerusalem on a borrowed donkey, and was buried in a borrowed tomb.
Are you alone in the world, and neglected by those who ought to love you? So also was Jesus. He came to His own, and they received Him not. He came to be a Messiah to the lost sheep of the house of Israel, and they rejected Him. The princes of this world would not acknowledge Him. The few that followed Him were tax collectors and fishermen. And even these in the end abandoned Him, and were scattered every man to his own place.
Are you misunderstood, misrepresented, slandered, and persecuted? So also was Jesus. He was called a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors, a Samaritan, a madman, and a devil. His character was maligned. False charges were laid against Him. An unjust sentence was passed upon Him, and, though innocent, He was condemned as a wrongdoer, and as such died on the cross.
Does Satan tempt you, and offer horrid suggestions to your mind? So also did he tempt Jesus in the desert. He tried to make Him distrust God’s fatherly providence.
Do you ever feel great agony and conflict of mind? Do you feel in darkness, as if God had left you? So did Jesus. Who can tell the extent of the sufferings of mind He went through in the garden? Who can measure the depth of His soul’s pain when He cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt 15:43)
Surely it is impossible to conceive a Saviour more suited to the needs of man’s heart than our Lord Jesus Christ; suited not only by His power, but by His sympathy; suited not only by His divinity, but by His humanity. May it be firmly impressed on our minds that Christ, the refuge of souls, is man as well as God. Let us honour Him as King of kings, and Lord of lords; but while we do this, let us never forget that He indeed has a body, and is indeed a man.
III. Learn, in the third place, that there may be much weakness and infirmity even in a true Christian.
We have a striking proof of this in the conduct of the disciples here recorded, when the waves broke over the ship. They hastily awoke Jesus. They said to Him in fear and anxiety, “Teacher, do you not care that we are perishing?” (v.38)
There was impatience. They might have waited until he thought it fit to arise from His sleep.
There was unbelief. They forgot that they were in the keeping of One who had all power in His hand.
There was distrust. They spoke as if they doubted their Lord’s care and thoughtfulness for their safety and well-being.
Poor faithless men! What business did they have to be afraid? They had seen proof upon proof that all must be well so long as the Bridegroom was with them. They had witnessed repeated examples of His love and kindness towards them, sufficient to convince them that He would never let them come to real harm. But all was forgotten in the present danger.
Sense of immediate peril often makes men have a bad memory. Fear is often unable to reason from past experience. They heard the winds. They saw the waves. They felt the cold waters beating over them. They imagined death was close at hand. They could not wait in suspense any longer . “do you not care,” they said, “that we are perishing? ”
But, after all, let us understand this is only a picture of what is constantly going on among believers in every age. There have always been too many disciples, in every age, like those who are here described.
Many of God’s children get on very well so long as they have no trials. They follow Christ very tolerably in the time of fair weather. They imagine they are trusting Him entirely. They are looked upon as being very good Christians. But suddenly some unexpected affliction falls upon them. Their property makes itself wings and flies away; their own health fails; death comes up into their house; tribulation or persecution comes because of the Word; and where is their faith now? Where is the strong confidence they thought they had? Where is their peace, their hope, their resignation? Sadly, they are gone! Fear, and doubt, and distress, and anxiety break in upon them like a flood, and they seem at their wits’ end. This is a sad description but let every real Christian put it to his conscience whether it is not correct and true.
The plain truth is that there is no literal and absolute perfection among true Christians so long as they are in the body. The best and brightest of God’s saints is but a poor mixed being: converted, renewed, and sanctified though he is, he is still full of infirmity. There is not a just man on earth that always does good, and never sins. We continue to offend in many things. A man may have true saving faith, and yet not have it always close at hand, and ready to be used.
Abraham was the father of the faithful. By faith he forsook his country and kindred, and went out according to the command of God, to a land he had never seen. By faith he was content to dwell in the land as a stranger, believing that God would give it to him for an inheritance. And yet this very Abraham was so far overcome by unbelief, that he allowed Sarah to be called his sister, and not his wife, through the fear of man. Here was great infirmity. Yet there have been few greater saints than Abraham.
David was a man after God’s own heart. He had faith to go out to battle with the giant Goliath, when he was but a youth. He declared his belief that the Lord, who delivered him from the paw of the lion and bear, would deliver him from this Philistine. And yet this very David at one time was so far overtaken by fear and unbelief, that he said in his heart, “I shall perish one day by the hand of Saul.” (1 Sam 27:1) He forgot the many wonderful deliverances he had experienced at God’s hand. He only thought of his present danger, and took refuge among the ungodly Philistines. Surely here was great infirmity. Yet there have been few stronger believers than David.
It is easy for someone to reply, “All this is very true, but it does not excuse the fears of the disciples. They had Jesus actually with them: they ought not to have been afraid. I would never have been so cowardly and faithless as they were! ” But anyone who argues in that way knows little of his own heart. None of us know the length and breadth of his own infirmities, if we have not been tempted. No one can say how much weakness might appear in himself if he was placed in circumstances that draw it out.
Do have you faith in Christ ? Do you feel such love and confidence in Him that you cannot understand being greatly moved by any event that could happen? That is certainly good. But has this faith been tried? Has this confidence been put to the test? If not, be careful not to condemn these disciples too quickly. Do not be high-minded, but fear. Do not think that because your heart is awake now, that this will always be the case.
Do not say that because your feelings are warm and fervent to-day, “To-morrow will be as to-day, and much more abundant. Do not say that because your heart is lifted up just now with a strong sense of Christ’s mercy, “I will never forget Him as long as I live.” We must be careful not to think too highly of ourselves. We do not know ourselves thoroughly: there are more things in our inward man than we are at present aware of. The Lord may leave us, as He did Hezekiah, to show us all that is in our heart. (2 Chron. 32:31) To be clothed with humility is much better. The one who fears always, is in a much better state. “Let anyone who thinks that he stands take heed lest he fall.” (1 Cor 10:12)
Why dwell on this? Is it to apologize for the corruptions of professing Christians, and excuse their sins? Or to lower the standard of sanctification, and allow for any one in being a lazy, idle soldier of Christ? Or to wipe out the distinction between the converted and the unconverted, and to wink at inconsistencies? No, not at all.
It may seem like all this in a way apologizes for the corruptions of professing Christians, and excuses their sins; lowers the standard of sanctification, and encouragers any one in being a lazy, idle soldier of Christ. But in reality there is a mighty difference between the true Christian and the false! —between the believer and the unbeliever, between the children of God and the children of the world. And this difference is not merely one of faith, but of life,—not only one of profession, but of practice. The ways of the believer should be as distinct from those of the unbeliever, as bitter from sweet, light from darkness, heat from cold.
But it is important for young Christians to understand what they must expect to find in themselves so that, when they discover their own weakness and failings, they may not stumble. They have to see that they may have true faith and grace, in spite of all the devil’s whispers to the contrary, though they feel many doubts and fears within. We should all remember that Peter, and James, and John, and their brethren, were true disciples, and yet not so spiritual but that they could be afraid. And this, not to make the unbelief of the disciples an excuse for ourselves, but as a reminder that so long as we are in the body we must not expect faith to be above the reach of fear.
We must also learn from this passage what must be expected in other believers. It must not be hastily concluded that a man has no grace merely because some corruption is seen in him. Let us be more quick to see grace, and more slow to see imperfections! We must see that if we cannot allow there is grace where there is corruption, we will find no grace at all in the world. We are yet in the body: the devil is not dead. We are not yet like the angels. Heaven is not yet begun. Our bodies are indeed the temple of the Holy Spirit, but not a perfect temple, until they are raised or changed. Grace is indeed a treasure, but a treasure in earthen vessels. It is possible for a man to forsake all for Christ’s sake, and yet to be overtaken, occasionally, with doubts and fears.
We must realize and accept that a person may be converted, have a new heart and life, and yet be liable to infirmity, doubts, and fears.
IV. Learn, in the fourth place, the power of the Lord Jesus Christ.
We have a striking example of His power in our passage this morning. The waves were breaking into the ship where Jesus was. The terrified disciples awoke Him, and cried for help. “And he awoke and rebuked the wind and said to the sea, “Peace! Be still!” And the wind ceased, and there was a great calm.” This was a wonderful miracle. No one could do this but one who was almighty.
It is good for all men to have clear views of the Lord Jesus Christ’s power. Let the sinner know that the merciful Saviour, to whom he is urged to flee, and in whom he is invited to trust, is nothing less than the Almighty, and has power over all flesh to give eternal life. (Rev 1:8; John 18:2). Let the anxious inquirer understand that if he will only turn to Jesus, and take up the cross, he turns to One who has all power in heaven and earth. (Matt 28:18). Let the believer remember as he journeys through the wilderness, that his Mediator, and Advocate, and Physician, and Shepherd, and Redeemer, is Lord of lords, and King of kings, and that through Him all things may be done. (Rev 17:14; Phil 4:13. ) Let us dwell for a moment on this subject for it well deserves our attention.
Study it in His works of creation.
“All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made.” (John 1:3) The heavens and its infinite stars,—the earth, and all it contains,—the sea and all that is in it,—all creation from the sun on high to the least worm below, was the work of Christ. He spoke, and they came into being: He commanded, and they began to exist. That very Jesus, who was born of a poor woman at Bethlehem, and lived in a carpenter’s house at Nazareth, had formed of all things. Was not this power?
Study it in His works of providence, and the orderly continuance of all things in the world.
“In him all things hold together.” (Col 1:17). Sun, moon, and stars, follow their course like clockwork. Spring, summer, autumn, and winter, follow one another in regular order. They continue to this day without fail, according to the will of Him who died on the cross. (Psalm 119:91). The kingdoms of this world rise and increase, and decline and pass away. The rulers of the earth plan, and scheme, and make laws, and change laws, and war, and pull down one, and raise up another. But they little know that they rule only by the will of Jesus, and that nothing happens without his permission. They do not know that they and their subjects are all as a drop of water in his hand.
Study the subject, not least, in the miracles worked by our Lord Jesus Christ during the three years of His ministry upon earth.
Learn, from the mighty works which He did, that the things which are impossible with man are possible with Christ. Look at every one of His miracles as an illustration of spiritual things. See in it a wonderful picture of what He is able to do for your soul. He that could raise the dead with a word can just as easily raise man from the death of sin. He that could give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, and speech to the mute, can also make sinners to see the kingdom of God, hear the joyful sound of the Gospel, and speak out the praise of redeeming love. Begin to read Christ’s miracles in this light and wicked, and bad, and corrupt as you may feel, take comfort in the thought that you are not beyond Christ’s power to heal. Remember that in Christ there is not only a fulness of mercy, but a fulness of power.
Meditate on the subject before us today. Has your heart not sometimes been tossed to and fro like the waves in a storm? Have you not found it agitated like the waters of the troubled stormy sea. Come and hear this day that there is One who can give you rest. Jesus can say to your heart, whatever may be its trouble, “Peace, be still!
He can command despair to depart. He can drive fear away. He can remove the spirit of slavery, and fill you with the spirit of adoption. Satan may hold your soul like a strong man armed, but Jesus is stronger than he is, and when He commands, the prisoners must go free. Any who are troubled and long for a calm within, may come to Jesus Christ, and all will yet be well!
But what if your heart is right with God, and yet you are pressed down with a load of earthly trouble? What if you are overwhelmed by some earthly trouble: physical pain, bereavement, crushing sorrow. What if all this has happened?
Still there is comfort in Christ. He can speak peace to wounded hearts as easily as calm troubled seas. He can rebuke rebellious wills as powerfully as raging winds. He can calm storms of sorrow, and silence tumultuous passions as surely as He stopped the Galilean storm. He can say to the heaviest anxiety, “Peace, be still! ” Anyone who is broken-hearted, and careworn, and sorrowful, is invited to go to Jesus Christ, and cry to Him, and he will be refreshed. “Come to me,” He says, “all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)
I invite you this morning to realize the depth of Christ’s power. Doubt anything else if you will, but never doubt Christ’s power. Whether you do not secretly love sin may be doubtful. Whether you are not privately clinging to the world may be doubtful. Whether the pride of your nature is not rising against the idea of being saved as a poor sinner by grace may be doubtful. But one thing is not doubtful, and that is, that Christ is able to save to the uttermost, and will save you, if, by grace, you seek Him with all your heart and mind.
V. Learn, in the last place, how tenderly and patiently the Lord Jesus deals with weak believers.
You see this truth brought out in His word to His disciples, when the wind ceased, and there was a calm. He might well have rebuked them sharply. He might well have reminded them of all the great things He had done for them, and reproved them for their cowardice and mistrust, but there is nothing of anger in the Lord’s words. He simply asks two questions. “Why are you so afraid? Have you still no faith? ”
Never during our Lord’s ministry did the disciples seem to fully understand the purpose of His coming into the world. The humiliation, the atonement, the crucifixion, were hidden things to them. The plainest words and clearest warnings from their Master of what was going to befall Him seemed to have no effect on their minds. They did not understood. They did not perceive. It was hidden from their eyes. Once Peter even tried to dissuade our Lord from suffering. “Far be it from you, Lord! ,” he said: “This shall never happen to you.” (Matt. 16:22; Luke 18:34; 9: 45).
You will often see things in their spirit and behaviour which are not at all to be praised. One day we are told they disputed among themselves who should be greatest. (Mark 9:34). Another day they failed to gain any insight from His miracles, and their hearts were hardened. (Mark 6:52). Once, two of them wanted to call down fire from heaven upon a village because it did not receive them. (Luke 9:54). In the garden of Gethsemane the three best of them slept when they should have watched and prayed. In the hour of His betrayal they all forsook Him and fled, and worst of all, Peter, the most forward of the twelve, denied His Master three times with an oath.
Even after the resurrection you see the same unbelief and hardness of heart cling to them. Though they saw their Lord with their eyes, and touched Him with their hands, even then some doubted. So weak were they in faith! So slow of heart were they to believe all that the prophets had written. So backward were they in understanding the meaning of our Lord’s words, and actions, and life, and death.
But what do we see in our Lord’s behaviour towards these disciples all through His ministry? We see nothing but unchanging pity, compassion, kindness, gentleness, patience, and love. He does not cast them off for their stupidity. He does not reject them for their unbelief. He does not dismiss them forever for cowardice. He teaches them as they are able to bear. He leads them on step by step, as a parent does an infant when it first begins to walk.
He sends them kind messages as soon as He is risen from the dead. “Go,” He said to the women, “go and tell my brothers to go to Galilee, and there they will see me.” (Matt. 28:10). He gathers them round Him once more. He restores Peter to his place, and tells him to feed His sheep. He condescends to stay with them forty days before He finally ascends. He commissions them to go forth as His messengers, and preach the Gospel to the Gentiles. He blesses them in parting, and encourages them with that gracious promise, “I am with you always, to the end of the age.” (Matt. 28:20). This was truly a love that passes knowledge. This is not the manner of men.
This is great encouragement for anyone who desires salvation, but is afraid to become decided, lest he should eventually fall away. Consider the tenderness and patience of the Lord Jesus, and be afraid no more. Commit yourself to His guidance and He will carry you safe home. Only hear Christ’s voice and follow Him, and you will never perish.
This is great encouragement for anyone who has been converted, and desires to do his Lord’s will. Take the example today of your Master’s gentleness and longsuffering, and learn to be tender-hearted and kind to others. Deal gently with young beginners. Do not expect them to know everything and understand everything all at once. Take them by the hand. Lead them on and encourage them. Believe all things, and hope all things, rather than make that heart sad which God would not have made sad.
And now, as we come to a close, let us apply the lessons which we have seen this morning.
We have heard this day five things.
First. That Christ’s service will not secure you against troubles.
Second. That Christ is very man as well as God.
Third. That believers may have much weakness and infirmity.
Fourth. That Christ has all power: and
Fifth. That Christ is full of patience and kindness towards His people.
Remember these five lessons, and you will do well.
Here are a few words to impress the things we have heard more deeply on our hearts.
(1) First, to those who may see that they know nothing of Christ’s service by experience, or of Christ Himself.
There are only too many who take no interest at all in the things about which we have just heard. Their treasure is all below. They are wholly taken up with the things of the world. They care nothing about the believer’s conflict, and struggles, and infirmities, and doubts, and fears.
They care little whether Christ is man or God. They care little whether He did miracles or not. It is all a matter of words, and names, and forms, about which they do not trouble themselves. They are without God in the world.
If this is your case, I can only warn you solemnly, that your present course cannot last. You will not live forever. There must be an end. Grey hairs, age, sickness, infirmities, death,—all, all are before you, and must be met one day. What will you do when that day comes?
Remember well these words. You will find no comfort when sick and dying, unless Jesus Christ is your friend. You will discover, to your sorrow and confusion, that however much men may talk and boast, they cannot do without Christ when they come to their death-bed. You may go through every form and ceremony of Christianity. But if you persist in living a careless and worldly life, and despising Christ in the morning of your days, you must not be surprised if Christ leaves you to yourself in your closing days. Tragically! these are solemn words, and are often sadly fulfilled: God says in Proverbs, “I … will laugh at your calamity; I will mock when terror strikes you.” (Prov 1: 26).
Come then, this day, and be advised by one who cares about your soul. Cease to do evil. Learn to do well. Forsake the foolish, and go in the path of understanding. Cast away your pride, and seek the Lord Jesus while He may be found. Cast away that spiritual laziness which is paralysing your soul, and resolve to apply yourself to your Bible, your prayers, and your Sundays.
Break off from a world which can never really satisfy you, and seek that treasure which alone is truly incorruptible. Would that the Lord’s own words might find a place in your conscience! “How long, O simple ones, will you love being simple? How long will scoffers delight in their scoffing and fools hate knowledge? If you turn at my reproof, behold, I will pour out my spirit to you; I will make my words known to you. ” (Prov 1:22, 23). Judas Iscariot’s ultimate sin was that he would not seek pardon, and turn again to his Lord. Beware, for fear that that be your sin also.
(2) Second, to those who love the Lord Jesus, and believe in Him, and yet want to love Him better.
Here are a few words of advice and encouragement:
For one thing keep before your mind, as an ever-present truth, that the Lord Jesus is an actual living Person, and deal with Him, as such.
Be careful not to think of the Gospel as a mere collection of dry doctrines. Look at it rather as the revelation of a mighty living Being in whose sight you are daily to live. Look at it as the introduction to a glorious personal Friend: this is the kind of Gospel that the apostles preached. They did not go about the world telling men of love, and mercy, and pardon, in the abstract. The leading subject of all their sermons was the loving heart of an actual living Christ.
Nothing, surely, is so likely to prepare us for that heaven where Christ’s personal presence will be all, and that glory where we will meet Christ face to face, as to realize communion with Christ as an actual living Person here on earth. Let us carefully consider that there is all the difference in the world between an idea and a person.
For another thing, try to keep before your mind, as an ever-present truth, that the Lord Jesus is utterly unchanged.
That Saviour in whom you trust, is the same yesterday, to-day, and forever. He knows no variation, nor shadow due to change. Though high in heaven at God’s right hand, He is just the same in heart that He was 2000 years ago on earth. If we remember this, we will do well.
Follow Him all through His journeys around Palestine. Mark how He received those who came to Him, and sent none away. Mark how He had an ear to listen to every sad story, a hand to help every case of distress, a heart to feel for all who needed sympathy. And then say to yourself, “This same Jesus is He who is my Lord and Saviour. Place and time have made no difference in Him. What He was, He is, and will be for evermore.”
Surely this thought will give life and reality to our daily communion. Surely this thought will give substance and shape to our expectation of good things to come. Surely it will bring joy to reflect that He who was thirty-three years upon earth, and whose life we read in the Gospels, is the very Saviour in whose presence we will spend eternity.
And so may all people become better acquainted with Christ. May the unconverted know Jesus, that they may have eternal life through Him. May believers know Jesus better, that they may become happier, more holy, and more qualified to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.