“Grow in grace, and in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.” —2 Peter 3:18
“Grow in grace”—not in one grace only, but in all grace. Grow in that root-grace, faith. Believe the promises more firmly than you have done. Let faith increase in fullness, constancy, simplicity. Grow also in love. Ask that your love may become extended, more intense, more practical, influencing every thought, word, and deed. Grow likewise in humility. Seek to lie very low, and know more of your own nothingness. As you grow downward in humility, seek also to grow upward—having nearer approaches to God in prayer and more intimate fellowship with Jesus. May God the Holy Spirit enable you to “grow in the knowledge of our Lord and Saviour.” He who grows not in the knowledge of Jesus, refuses to be blessed. To know Him is “life eternal,” and to advance in the knowledge of Him is to increase in happiness.
He who does not long to know more of Christ, knows nothing of Him yet. Whoever hath sipped this wine will thirst for more, for although Christ doth satisfy, yet it is such a satisfaction, that the appetite is not cloyed, but whetted. If you know the love of Jesus—as the hart panteth for the water-brooks, so will you pant after deeper draughts of His love. If you do not desire to know Him better, then you love Him not, for love always cries, “Nearer, nearer.”
Absence from Christ is hell; but the presence of Jesus is heaven. Rest not then content without an increasing acquaintance with Jesus. Seek to know more of Him in His divine nature, in His human relationship, in His finished work, in His death, in His resurrection, in His present glorious intercession, and in His future royal advent. Abide hard by the Cross, and search the mystery of His wounds. An increase of love to Jesus, and a more perfect apprehension of His love to us is one of the best tests of growth in grace.
“I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord.” —Philippians 3:8
Spiritual knowledge of Christ will be a personal knowledge. I cannot know Jesus through another person’s acquaintance with Him. No, I must know Him myself; I must know Him on my own account. It will be an intelligent knowledge—I must know Him, not as the visionary dreams of Him, but as the Word reveals Him. I must know His natures, divine and human. I must know His offices—His attributes—His works—His shame—His glory. I must meditate upon Him until I “comprehend with all saints what is the breadth, and length, and depth, and height; and know the love of Christ, which passeth knowledge.”
It will be an affectionate knowledge of Him; indeed, if I know Him at all, I must love Him. An ounce of heart knowledge is worth a ton of head learning. Our knowledge of Him will be a satisfying knowledge. When I know my Saviour, my mind will be full to the brim—I shall feel that I have that which my spirit panted after. “This is that bread whereof if a man eat he shall never hunger.” At the same time, it will be an exciting knowledge; the more I know of my Beloved, the more I shall want to know. The higher I climb the loftier will be the summits which invite my eager footsteps. I shall want the more as I get the more. Like the miser’s treasure, my gold will make me covet more.
To conclude; this knowledge of Christ Jesus will be a most happy one; in fact, so elevating, that sometimes it will completely bear me up above all trials, and doubts, and sorrows; and it will, while I enjoy it, make me something more than “Man that is born of woman, who is of few days, and full of trouble”; for it will fling about me the immortality of the everliving Saviour, and gird me with the golden girdle of His eternal joy. Come, my soul, sit at Jesus’ feet and learn of Him all this day.
A Sermon Delivered On Sunday Morning, September 4, 1881, By C. H. Spurgeon, At The Metropolitan Tabernacle, Newington.
Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. [1Co 13:7]
1. The grace of love, of which so much is most admirably spoken in this chapter, is absolutely essential for true godliness. It is so essential that if we have everything besides, but do not have love, it profits us nothing. The absence of love is absolutely fatal to vital godliness; so says the Holy Spirit in this chapter. When, then, you read the apostle’s high praise of love, do not say, “This is a special virtue to which certain special saints have attained, and we are bound to admire them for it, but we do not need to imitate them.” Far from it. This love is the common, everyday livery of the people of God.
It is not the prerogative of a few; it must be the possession of all. Do not, therefore, however lofty the model may be, look up to it as though you could not reach it: you must reach it. It is set before you not only as a greatly desirable thing, but as absolutely necessary; for if you excelled in every spiritual gift, yet if you did not have this all the rest would profit you nothing whatever. One would think that such excellent gifts might benefit us a little, but no, the apostle sums them all up, and says of everything, “it profits me nothing.”
I pray that this may be understood by us at the very beginning, lest we should manage to slip away from the truth taught to us by the Holy Spirit in this place, and should excuse ourselves from being loving by the notion that we are so insignificant that such high virtue cannot be required of us, or so feeble that we cannot be expected to attain to it. You must attain it, or you cannot enter into eternal life, for if any man does not have the Spirit of Christ he is none of his, and the Spirit of Christ is sure to foster the love of our text, which “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
2. What does this teach us at the outset, but that a salvation which leads to this must be from God, and must be created in us by his power? Such a fair grace can never grow out of our fallen nature. Shall such a clean thing as this be brought out of an unclean? This glorious salvation to pure love must be grasped by faith, and created in us by the operation of the Spirit of God.
If we consider salvation to be a little thing, we bring it, as it were, within the sphere of human possibility, but if we present it in its true proportions as involving the possession of a pure, loving, elevated state of heart, then we perceive that it is a divine wonder. When we estimate the renewed nature properly we cry, “This is the finger of God,” and very gladly do we then subscribe to Jonah’s creed, “Salvation is by the Lord.”
If love is in any man and abounds, God must have the glory for it; for assuredly it was never attained by mere natural effort, but must have been bestowed by that same hand which made the heavens. So then, brethren, I shall hope when I conclude to leave on your minds the impression of your need of the grace of God for the attainment of love. I would not discourage you, but I would have you feel how great a labour lies before you, and how impossible it will be unless you are clothed with a strength beyond your own. This shall be your solace that if it cannot be the outcome of your own effort, yet “the fruit of the Spirit is love,” and the Spirit is ready and willing to bear fruit in us also.
3. Notice then, first, the multitude of love’s difficulties; it has to bear all things, believe all things, hope all things, and endure all things: secondly, observe the triumph of love’s labour; it does all these four things, it “bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things”: and then, thirdly, this will bring us back to the point we have started from, the sources of love’s energy, and how it is she is able to win her fourfold victory over countless difficulties.
4. I. Consider well THE MULTITUDE OF LOVE’S DIFFICULTIES.
5. When the grace of God comes into a man he is born at once to love. He who loves is born by God, and he who is born by God loves. He loves him who begat, even God, and he loves him who is begotten by him, even all the saved ones. He begins to obey the great command to love his neighbour as himself. His motto is no longer that of an earthly kingdom, Dieu et Mon droit — God and my right; but he bears another word on his escutcheon, [a] Dieu et mon frere — God and my brother.
6. No sooner is love born than she finds herself at war. Everything is against her, for the world is full of envy, hate, and ill will. I would warn the most loving-hearted that they have entered upon a war for peace, a strife for love: they are born to hate hatred, and to contend against contention. As the lily among thorns, so is love among the sons of men. As the hind among the dogs, so is love among the selfish multitude.
7.Evidently the difficulties of love are many, for the apostle speaks of them as “all things” and as if this were not enough he repeats the words, and presents the opposing armies as four times “all things.” I do not know whether you can calculate this mighty host. “All things” would seem to comprehend as much as can be, but here in the text you have this amount multiplied by four. For, my brother, you will have to contend with all that is within yourself.
Nothing in your original nature will help you. God has put within you a new life, but the old life seeks to smother it. You will find it to be a severe struggle to master yourself, and if you succeed in it you will be a conqueror indeed. Besides that you will have to contend with “all things” in the people whom you are called upon to love. You must have fervent love towards the saints, but you will find very much about the best of them which will try your patience; for, like yourself, they are imperfect, and they will not always turn their best side towards you, but sometimes sadly exhibit their infirmities. Be prepared, therefore, to contend with “all things” in them.
As for the ungodly whom you are to love to Christ, you will find everything in those who will oppose the drawings of your love, for they, like yourself, by nature are born in sin, and they are rooted in their iniquities. When you have mastered that kind of “all things” you will have to contend with “all things” in the world for the world lies in the wicked one, and all its forces run towards self, and contention, and hate.
Every man’s hand is against his companion, and there are few who honour the gentle laws of love; they do not know that divine love which “does not seek her own.” The seed of the serpent is at enmity with all that is kind, and tender, and self-sacrificing, for these are the marks of the woman’s seed. Do not marvel, my brethren, if the world hates you. And then remember that “all things” in hell are against you. What a seething mass of rebellions life, all venomous with hate, is seen in the regions of darkness. The prince of the power of the air leads the vanguard, and the host of fallen spirits eagerly follow him, like bloodhounds behind their leader. All these evil spirits will endeavour to create dissension, and enmity, and malice, and oppression among men, and the soldier of love must wrestle against all these. See, oh my brother, what a battle is yours! Speak of the crusades of old, what a crusade is this against hate and evil. Yet we do not shrink from the fray.
8. Happily, though love has many difficulties, it overcomes them all, and overcomes them four times. There is such vitality in evil that it leaps up from the field where it seemed to be slain, and rages with all its former fury. First, we overcome evil by patience, which “bears all things.” Let the injury be inflicted, we will forgive it, and not be provoked: we will even bear in silence seventy times seven. If this does not suffice, by God’s grace we will overcome by faith: we trust in Jesus Christ, we rely upon our principles, we look for divine help, and so we “believe all things.”
We overcome a third time by hope: we rest in expectation that gentleness will win, and that longsuffering will wear out malice, for we look for the ultimate victory of everything that is true and gracious, and so we “hope all things.” We finish the battle by perseverance: we remain faithful to our resolve to love, we will not be irritated into unkindness, we will not be perverted from generous, all-forgiving affection, and so we win the battle by steadfast non-resistance. We have set our helm towards the port of love, and we will steer towards it, come what may. Baffled often, love “endures all things.”
9. Yes brethren, and love conquers on all four sides. Love does, as it were, make a hollow square, and she sets the face of her warriors towards all quarters of the compass. Does God himself seem to strike love with afflictions? She “bears all things.” Do her fellow Christians misrepresent her, and treat her badly? She believes everything that is good about them, and nothing that is injurious.
Do the wicked rise against her? When she tries to convert them, do they return evil for good? She turns her hopefulness to the front in that direction, and hopes that the Spirit of God will still bring them to a better mind. And does it happen that all her spiritual foes attack her with temptations and desperate insinuations? She lifts up the banner of patience against them, and by the power of God’s grace she puts the infernal enemy to the rout, for she “endures all things.” What a brave mode of battle is this! Is not love a man of war? Is it not invincible? Hear love’s heroic cry as she shouts her defiance, —
Come one, come all, this rock shall fly, From its firm base as soon as I.
If once taught in the school of Christ to turn love to every point of the compass, and so to meet every assault against our heart, we have learned the secret of victory.
10. It seems to me that I might read my text as if it said that love conquers in all stages of her life. She begins in conversion, and immediately those who notice her birth are angry, and the powers of evil are at once aroused to seek her destruction. Then she “bears all things.” Let them mock, love never renders railing for railing: Isaac is not to be provoked by Ishmael’s jeers.
11. She gathers strength and begins to express to others what she knows about her Lord and his salvation. She “believes all things,” and so she confesses her faith, and her fellow Christians are confirmed by her witness. It is her time of energy, and so she tries to woo and win others, by teaching them the things which she believes.
12. She advances a little further; and, though often disappointed by the unbelief of men and the coldness of her fellow Christians, she nevertheless “hopes all things,” and pushes on in the expectation of winning more of them. Her dove’s eyes see in the dark, and she advances to victory through ever-growing conflict.
13. Indeed, and when infirmities thicken upon her, and old age comes, and she can do little else except sit still, and bear and believe and hope, she still perseveres, and accepts even the stroke of death itself without complaining, for love “endures all things.”
14. I do not think I need to say more about the difficulties of love. I am sure that every experienced person knows that these difficulties are supreme, and that we require superlative grace if we are to master them. Love does not ask to have an easy life of it: self-love makes that her goal. Love denies herself, sacrifices herself, so that she may win victories for God, and bring blessings on her fellow men. Hers is no easy pathway, and hers shall be no tinsel crown.
15.II. Secondly, let us survey THE TRIUMPH OF LOVE’S LABOUR. Her labours are fourfold.
16. First, in bearing all things. The word here rendered “bear” might as correctly have been translated “cover.” You who have the 1881 English Revised Version will find in the margin, “Love covers all things.” “Covers” is the meaning of the word in ordinary Greek, but Paul generally uses the word in the sense of “bear.” Our translators, therefore, had to choose between the usual meaning and the Pauline usage, and they selected Paul’s meaning, and put it down in the first place as “bears,” giving us in the margin the other sense of “covers.” The two ideas may be blended, if we understand it to mean that love bears all things in silence, concealing injuries as much as possible even from herself.
17. Let us just think of this word “covers” in reference to the brethren. True love refuses to see faults, unless it is so that she may kindly help in their removal. Love has no wish to see faults. Noah’s younger son discovered and declared the shame of his father, but his other sons took a garment and went backward and covered the nakedness of their father: in this way love deals with the sins of her brethren.
She painfully fears that there may be something wrong, but she is loath to be convinced of it: she ignores it as long as she can, and wishes that she could deny it altogether. Love covers; that is, it never proclaims the errors of good men. There are busybodies around who never discover a fault in a brother but they need to hurry off to their next door neighbour with the savoury news, and then they run up and down the street as though they had been elected as common criers. It is by no means honourable to men or women to set up to be common informers. Yet I know some who are not half so eager to proclaim the gospel as to proclaim slander. Love stands in the presence of a fault, with a finger on her lip. If anyone is to strike a child of God, let it not be a brother. Even if a professor is a hypocrite, love prefers that he should fall by any hand rather than her own. Love covers all injuries by being silent about them, and acting as if they had never been. She sits alone, and keeps silence. To speak and proclaim her wrong is too painful for her, for she fears to offend against the Lord’s people. She would rather suffer than murmur, and so, like a sheep before her shearers, she is dumb under injury.
18. I wish, brothers and sisters, that we could all imitate the pearl oyster. A harmful particle intrudes itself into its shell, and this vexes and grieves it. It cannot eject the evil, and what does it do but cover it with a precious substance extracted out of its own life, by which it turns the intruder into a pearl. Oh, that we could do so with the provocations we receive from our fellow Christians, so that pearls of patience, gentleness, longsuffering, and forgiveness might be created within us by what otherwise would have harmed us. I would desire to keep ready for my fellow Christians, a bath of silver, in which I could electroplate all their mistakes into occasions for love. As the dripping well covers with its own deposit all that is placed within its drip, so would love cover all within its range with love, so turning even curses into blessings. Oh that we had such love so that it would cover all, and conceal all, as far as it is right and just that it should be covered and concealed.
19. As for bearing all, taking the words as they stand in our version, I wish to apply the text mainly to our trials in seeking the conversion of the unconverted. Those who love the souls of men must be prepared to cover much when they deal with them, and to bear much from them in silence. When I begin to seek the conversion of anyone, I must try as much as I ever can to ignore any repulsiveness that there may be in his character. I know that he is a sinner, otherwise I would not seek his salvation; but if he happens to be one who has fallen very low in the esteem of others, I must not treat him as such, but cover his worst points. You cannot possibly bring the Samaritan woman who has had five husbands into a right state of mind by “wondering that he spoke with the woman.”
The disciples acted like this, but not so their Master, for he sat on the well and talked with her, and made himself her willing companion so that he might be her gracious Saviour; he ignored her sin as far as to speak with her for her good.
20. You will not long have begun this holy work before you will discover in the heart you seek to win much ignorance of the gospel. Bear with it, and bring forward the text which sheds light on that darkness, and teach the truth which will remove that error. Before long you will have to contend with hardness of heart, for when a man knows the truth he is not always willing to receive it. Bear it, and do not be vexed. Did you not expect the heart to be hard? Do you not know what business you are doing? You are sent to turn men from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Do not be astonished if these things should not prove to be child’s play.
In addition to this perhaps you will have ridicule poured upon you; your attempts to convert will be converted into jests. Bear it; bear all things! Remember how the multitude thrust out the tongue at your Lord and Master when he was dying, and do not be so proud as to think yourself too good to be laughed at. Still speak concerning Christ, and whatever happens, bear all things. I will not attempt to make a catalogue of your provocations, you shall make one yourself after you have tried to convert men to Christ; but all that you can possibly encounter is included in my text, for it says, “bears all things.”
If you should meet some extraordinary sinner who opens his mouth with cruel speeches such as you have never heard before, and if by attempting to do him good you only stir him up to profanity and blasphemy, do not be astonished; approach him again, for love “bears all things,” whatever they may be. Push on and say, “Yes, all this proves to me how much you need saving. You are my man; if I get you to Christ there will be all the greater glory to God.” Oh blessed love, which can so cover all things and bear all things for Christ’s sake.
21. Do you want an example of it? Would you see the very mirror and perfection of the love that bears all things? Behold your divine Lord. Oh, what he has covered! It is a tempting topic, but I will not dwell on it. How his glorious righteousness, his wondrous splendour of love, has covered all our faults and all their consequences, treating us as if he saw no sin in Jacob, neither perversity in Israel. Think what he bore when he came to his own and his own did not receive him! What a covering was that when he said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they do.”
What a pitying sight of the fearful misery of man our Lord Jesus had when holy tears bedewed those sacred eyes! What a generous blindness to their infamous cruelty he revealed when he prayed for his bloodthirsty enemies. Oh beloved, you will never be tempted, and taunted, and tried as he was; yet in your own shorter measure may you possess that love which can silently bear all things for the elect’s sake and for Christ’s sake, so that the multitude of the redeemed may be gathered in, and that Christ through you may see the travail of his soul.
22. Now let us look at the second of love’s great labours. You have heard of the labours of Hercules, but the fictional hero is far outdone by the veritable achievements of love. Love works miracles which only grace can enable her to perform. Here is the second of them — love “believes all things.”
In reference, first, to our fellow Christians, love always believes the best of them. I wish we had more of this faitharound in all the churches, for a horrible blight falls upon some communities through suspicion and doubt. Though everything may be pure and right, yet certain weak minds are suddenly fevered with anxiety through the notion that all is wrong and rotten. This unholy doubt is in the air, a blight upon all peace: it is a kind of musty mildew of the soul by which all sweet perfume of confidence is killed. The best man is suspected of being a designing knave, though he is honest as the day is long, and the smallest fault or error is frightfully exaggerated, until we seem to dwell among criminals and to be all villains together.
If I did not believe in my brethren I would not profess to be one of them. I believe that with all their faults they are the best people in the world, and that, although the church of God is not perfect, she is still the bride of One who is. I have the utmost respect for her, for her Lord’s sake. The Roman matron said, “Where my husband is Caias I am Caia”; where Christ is King, she who stands at his right hand is “the queen in gold of Ophir.” God forbid that I should rail at her of whom her Lord says, “Since you were precious in my sight, you have been honourable, and I have loved you.”
True love believes good of others as long as she ever can, and when she is forced to fear that wrong has been done, love will not readily yield to evidence, but, she gives the accused brother the benefit of many a doubt. When the thing is too clear, love says, “Yes, but the friend must have been under very strong temptation, and if I had been there I dare say I should have done worse”; or else love hopes that the erring one may have offended from a good though mistaken motive; she believes that the good man must have been mistaken, or he would not have acted so. Love, as far as she can, believes in her companions. I know some people who habitually believe everything that is bad, but they are not the children of love. Only tell them that their minister or their brother has killed his wife, and they would believe it immediately, and send out for a policeman: but if you tell them anything good about their neighbour, they are in no such hurry to believe you.
Did you ever hear of gossips tittle-tattling approval of their neighbours? I wish the chatterers would take a turn at exaggerating other people’s virtues, and go from house to house trumping up pretty stories of their acquaintances. I do not recommend lying even in kindness, but that side of it would be such a novelty that I could almost bear with its evils for a change. Love, though she will not speak an untruth in praise of another, yet has a quick eye to see the best qualities of others, and she is habitually a little blind to their failings. Her blind eye is to the fault, and her blight eye is for the excellence.
Somewhere or other I found an old legend, — I do not suppose it to be literally true, but its spirit is correct. It is said that, once upon a time, in the streets of Jerusalem, there lay a dead dog, and everyone kicked at it and reviled it. One spoke of its currish breed, another of its lean and ugly form, and so forth; but one passed by who paused for a moment over the dead dog, and said, “What white teeth it has.” Men said, as he went on his way, “That is Jesus of Nazareth.” Surely it is always our Lord’s way to see good points wherever he can. Brethren, think as well as you can even of a dead dog. If you should ever be led into disappointments and sorrows by thinking too well of your fellow men, you need not greatly blame yourself. I found, in Anthony Farrindon’s Sermons, a line which struck me. He says the old proverb has it, “Humanum est errare,” to err is human, but, he says, when we err by thinking too kindly of others we may say, “Christanum est errare,” it is Christian to err in such a way. I would not have you credulous, but I would have you trustful, for suspicion is a cruel evil. Few fall into the blessed error of valuing their fellow Christians at too high a rate.
23. In reference to the unconverted this is a very important matter. Love “believes all things” in their case. She does not believe that the unconverted are converted, for, if so, she would not seek their conversion. She believes that they are lost and ruined by the Fall, but she believes that God can save them. Love believes that the precious blood of Christ can redeem the bondslaves of sin and Satan, and break their iron chains; she believes that the power of the Holy Spirit can change a heart of granite into a heart of flesh.
Love, therefore, believing this, believes also that God can save this sinner by herself, and she therefore begins to speak to him, expecting that the word she speaks will be God’s instrument of salvation. When she finds herself sitting next to a sinner, she believes that there was a necessity for her to be there, even as Christ needs to go through Samaria. She says to herself, “Now I will tell to this poor soul what Christ has done, for I believe that even out of my poor lips eternal life may flow, and in such a babe as I am God may perfect praise for his own glory.”
She does not refrain from preaching Christ through fear of failure, but she believes in the great possibilities which lie in the gospel and in the Spirit of God, and so she deals earnestly with the man next to her. She believes in her own principles, she believes in the grace of God, she believes in the power of the Spirit of God, she believes in the force of truth, she believes in the existence of conscience, and so she is motivated to do her saving work. She believes all things.
24. Brethren, do you want a model of this? Then I beseech you to look to your divine Master once again. See him in the morning when the sheep are counted, missing one of them, and he is so full of faith that he can find the lost one, that he leaves the ninety and nine, and cheerfully enters the pathless wilderness. See how he bounds over the mountains! How he descends the ravines! He is seeking his sheep until he finds it, for he is fully assured that he shall find it. He shall not fail nor be discouraged, for his faith is great in the salvation of men, and he goes out to it believing that sinners shall be saved. I delight in the deep, calm faith of our Lord Jesus Christ. He had no faith in man’s goodness, for “he knew what was in man”; but he had great faith in what could be done in men and what could be accomplished for them, and for the joy that was set before him, in this he endured the cross, despising the shame. He had faith that grand things would come from his salvation — men would be purified, error would be driven out, falsehood would be slain, and love would reign supreme.
25. Here is the second grand victory of love, she “believes all things.” Let us exercise ourselves in this until we are skilled in it.
26. Love’s third great labour is in “hoping all things.” Love never despairs. She believes in good things yet to come in her fellow men, even if she cannot believe in any present good in them. Hope all things about your brethren. Suppose a friend is a member of the church, and you cannot see any clear signs of grace in him, hope all things about him. Many true believers are weak in faith, and the operations of grace are dim in them; and some are placed in positions where the grace they have is much hindered and hampered: let us take these things into consideration. It is hard to tell how little grace may suffice for salvation: it is not ours to judge. Hope all things, and if you should be forced to see sad signs in them, which make you fear that they have no grace, still, remember that some of the brightest believers have had their faults, and grave ones too. Remember yourself, lest you also are tempted. If you cannot hope that these people are saved at all, hope that they will be, and do all that you can to promote so blessed an end.
27. Hope all things. If your brother has been very angry with you for no good reason, hope that you will win him; and set about the task. If you have tried and failed, hope to succeed next time, and try again. Hope that though you have failed seven times, and he still speaks bitterly, yet in his heart he is really ashamed, or at least that he will be so very soon. Never despair of your fellow Christians.
28. As for the unconverted, you will never do anything with them unless you hope great things about them. When the good Samaritan found the poor man half-dead, if he had not hoped about him he would never have poured in the oil and the wine, but would have left him there to die. Cultivate great hopefulness about sinners. Always hope for them that they will still be saved: though no good signs are apparent in them. If you have done your best for them, and have been disappointed and defeated, still hope for them. Sometimes you will find a reason for hope in the fact that they begin to attend a place of worship. Grasp at that, and say, “Who can tell? God may bless them.”
Or if they have long been hearers, and no good has come of it, still hope that the minister will one day have a shot at them, and the arrow shall pierce through the joints of the harness. When you last spoke to them there seemed to be a little tenderness: be thankful for it, and have hope. If there has been a little amendment in their life, be hopeful about them. Even if you can see nothing at all hopeful in them, still hope that there may be something which you cannot see, and perhaps an effect has been produced which they are endeavouring to conceal.
Hope because you are moved to pray for them. Get other people to pray for them, for as long as they have someone to pray for them their case is not hopeless. If you get others to pray, there will be another string for your bow. If they are very ill, and you cannot get at them, or they are on their deathbeds, still have hope for them, and try to send them a message in some form or other. Pray the Lord to visit and save them; and always keep up your hope for them. Until they are dead do not let your hope be dead.
29. Would you see a model of this? Ah, look at our blessed Lord, and all his hopefulness for us: how, despairing of no one, he went after those whom others would have given up. If you ask for a proof, remember how he went after you. Will you despair of anyone since Christ did not despair of you? Wonders of grace belong to God, and all those wonders have been displayed in many among us.
If you and I had been there when they brought the adulterous woman taken in the very act, I am afraid that we should have said, “This is too bad; put her away, she cannot be borne with.” But oh, the hopefulness of the blessed Master when even to her he said, “Woman, where are your accusers? Neither do I condemn you. Go, and sin no more.” What wonderful patience, and gentleness, and hopefulness our Lord displayed in all his conduct with the twelve! It was a noble hopefulness in Christ which led him to trust Peter as he did: after he had denied his Master with oaths, our Lord trusted him to feed his sheep and lambs, and set him in the forefront of apostolic service. He has also had compassion on some of us, putting us into the ministry, and entrusting us with the gospel, for he knew what love would do for us, and he was certain he could still make something of us for his own glory.
30. The last victory of love is in enduring all things, by which I understand a patient perseverance in loving. This is perhaps the hardest work of all, for many people can be affectionate and patient for a time, but the task is to hold on year after year. I have known some men earnestly check their temper under provocation, and bear a great many slights, but at last they have said, “There is an end to everything: I am not going to put up with it any longer. I cannot stand it.” Blessed be God, the love that Christ gives us endures all things, just as his love endured to the end, so does the love which the Spirit works in us endure to the end.
31. In reference first to our fellow Christians, love holds out under all rebuffs. You intend that I shall not love you, my good man, but I shall love you. You give me the rough side of your tongue, and make me see that you are not a very lovable person, but I can love that notwithstanding all. What? Will you do me a further unkindness? I will oppose you by doing you a greater kindness than before. You said a vile thing about me; I will not hear it, but if it is possible I will say a kind thing about you. I will cover you up with hot coals until I melt you; I will war against you with flames of love until your anger is consumed. I will master you by being more kind to you than you have been unkind to me.
What hosts of misrepresentations and unkindnesses there are; but if you go on to be a true Christian you must endure all these. If you have to deal with people who will put up with nothing from you, take care to be doubly patient with them. What credit is there in bearing with those who bear with you? If your brethren are angry without a cause, be sorry for them, but do not let them conquer you by driving you into a bad temper. Stand firm in love; do not endure some things, but all things, for Christ’s sake; so you shall prove yourself to be a Christian indeed.
32. As for your dealing with the unconverted, if ever you go into the field after souls, be sure to carry your gun with you, and that gun is love. You gentlemen who go out shooting partridges and other birds at this time of the year, no doubt find it a pleasant pastime; but for real excitement, joy, and pleasure, commend me to soul winning. What did our Lord say, “I will make you fishers of men.” If you go out fishing for souls you will have to endure all things, for it will happen that some whom you have been seeking for a long time will grow worse instead of better. Endure this among the all things.
Those whom you seek to bless may seem to be altogether unteachable, they may shut their ears and refuse to hear you; never mind, endure all things. They may grow sour and sullen, and revile you in their anger, but do not be put off by them, let them struggle until they are wearied, and meanwhile wait quietly, saying to yourself, “I must save them.” An orderly who has to take care of insane people will frequently be attacked by them, and have to suffer hard blows; but what does he do? Strike the patient and make a fight of it? No, he holds him down and pins him firmly; but not in anger, for he pities him too much to be angry with him. Does a nurse with a delirious patient take any notice of his cross words, and grumbling, and outcries? Not she. She says, “I must try to save this man’s life,” and so with great kindness she “endures all things.” If you were a fireman, and found a person in an upper room, and the house was on fire, would you not struggle with him rather than let him remain in the room and burn? You would say, “I will save you in spite of yourself.” Perhaps the foolish person would call you names, and say, “Leave me alone, why should you intrude into my bedroom?” But you would say, “Never mind my intrusion; I will apologize afterwards for my rudeness, but you must be out of the fire first.” I pray that God gives you this blessed unmannerliness, this sweet casting of all things to the wind, if by any means you may save some.
33. If you desire to see the mirror and the paragon of persevering endurance, look there! I wish you could see it. I wish these eyes could see the sight as I have sometimes seen it. Behold the cross! See the patient Sufferer and that ribald multitude: they thrust out the tongue, they sneer, they jest, they blaspheme; and there he hangs, triumphant in his patience, conquering the world, and death and hell by enduring “all things.” Oh love, you never sat on a throne so imperial as the cross, when there, in the person of the Son of God, you endured all things. Oh that we might copy in some humble measure that perfect pattern which is set before us here. If you wish to be saviours, if you wish to bless your generation, let no unkindness daunt you; let no considerations of your own character, or honour, or peace of mind keep you back, but of you may it be said, even as of your Lord, “He saved others, he could not save himself.”
34. Have I not shown you four grand battles excelling by far all the Waterloos, [b] and Trafalgars, [c] and Almas, [d] and Inkermans [e] on record? Heroes are those who fight, and win them, and the Lord God of love shall crown them.
35.III. I close by noting THE SOURCES OF LOVE’S ENERGY.
The time is gone, as I thought it would be, but it has brought us around in a circle to where we started from. The Holy Spirit alone can teach men how to love, and give them power to do so. Love’s art is learned at no other school but at the feet of Jesus, where the Spirit of love rests on those who learn from him.
36. Beloved, the Spirit of God puts love into us, and helps us to maintain it like this: — first, love wins these victories, for it is her nature. The nature of love is self-sacrifice. Love is the opposite of seeking her own. Love is intense; love is burning; therefore she burns her way to victory. Love! Look at it in the mother. Is it any hardship to her to lose rest and peace and comfort for her child? If it costs her pain, she makes it pleasure by the ardour of her affection. It is the nature of love to court difficulties, and to rejoice in suffering for the beloved object. If you have fervent love for the souls of men, you will know how true this is.
37. Next to this, love has four sweet companions. There are with her tenderness that “bears all things,” faith that believes all things, hope that “hopes all things,” and patience which “endures all things” and he who has tenderness, and faith, and hope, and patience has a brave quaternion of graces to guard him, and he does not need to be afraid. Best of all, love extracts her life from the wounds of Christ. Love can bear, believe, hope, and endure because Christ has borne, believed, and hoped, and endured for her.
I have heard of one who had a twist: they say that he saw something that others never saw, and heard a voice that others never heard, and he became such a strange man that others wondered about him. Oh, that I had more and more of that most solemn twist which comes through feeling a pierced hand laid on my shoulder, and hearing in my ear a sorrowful voice, that very same voice which cried, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” I wish to see that vision and hear that voice, and then, — what then? Why, I must love; I must love; I must love.
That would be the soul’s strange bias and sweet twist. Love makes us love; love bought us, sought us, and brought us to the Saviour’s feet, and it shall henceforth constrain us to deeds which otherwise would be impossible. You have heard of men sometimes in a mad fit doing things that ordinary flesh and blood could never have performed.
Oh to be distracted from selfishness by the love of Christ, and maddened into self-oblivion by a supreme passion for the Crucified. I do not know how otherwise to put my thoughts into words so that they may hint at my burning meaning. May the Lord of love look into your very eyes with those eyes which once were red with weeping over human sin: may he touch your hands with those hands that were nailed to the cross, and impressed nail marks upon your feet, and then may he pierce your heart until it pours out a life for love, and flow out in streams of kind desires, and generous deeds, and holy sacrifices for God and for his people. May God grant it, for Jesus’ sake. Amen.
These sermons from Charles Spurgeon are a series that is for reference and not necessarily a position of Answers in Genesis. Spurgeon did not entirely agree with six days of creation and dives into subjects that are beyond the AiG focus (e.g., Calvinism vs. Arminianism, modes of baptism, and so on).