I want to speak to you of the marks or the character of a true teacher sent from God. I will speak to you in a personal way, though it is not exactly what I passed through personally, I wish to portray the way in which a real seeker after God will be led, and when I look back upon my own past life I find I was led upon lines somewhat like those about which I am going to speak to you.
Imagine then a seeker after God. He wants to know what he has to do, what way he has to go; how he is to act, how he is to get blessing. Thus I look around, and I want to know who will show me any good, not something to enable me to get on in this world, but something that will set me right with God. I am sinful, and I want someone to help me in this condition. I look around and I find no one to help me. What am I to do? I want to know someone, who has come from God and can help me. Being in what is called a Christian land I naturally turn to the teaching of Christ. What do I find there? I turn to and read from the Sermon on the Mount, "Blessed are the poor in spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God."
"Ye have heard that it hath been said, Thou shalt love thy neighbour and hate thine enemy. But I say unto you, Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the children of your Father which is in heaven."
"But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly. . . Lay not up for yourselves treasures upon earth, where moth and rust doth corrupt, and where thieves break through and steal; but lay up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust doth corrupt, and where thieves do not break through nor steal: for where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."
I would like you to read very carefully the fifth, sixth, and seventh chapters of the Gospel of Matthew. I find that every person admits that they are most excellent teaching. Now this Man has one of the first marks of a true teacher. His teaching commends itself to every moral sense that I have.
The next thing I find is that I want something more from a teacher than to tell me what is right. Does the teacher himself carry out what he teaches? That is a most important point. The true teacher must himself walk in the way he teaches to others. I remember some time ago hearing a person, who talked so nicely, that I said I should like to go and see him at home. But then I heard that his life was very different to his teaching. Of what good is that? Now let us ask about this wonderful Teacher, who taught these wonderful things that I read to you. How did He live? Thank God, He lived all that He taught and more. He said, "Pray for your enemies." What did He do? When His enemies nailed Him to the Cross He prayed for them, "Father, forgive them for they know not what they do." When they crowned Him with thorns, and when they spat upon Him, He bore it in meekness.
He taught men to trust in God, and when the devil tempted Him (after He had fasted forty days and was hungry), to use His own power and convert the stones into bread, He was not moved from the path of dependence upon God. He said, "Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word of God." He tells us to be kind to those, who treat us badly, and when He was going to a village that treated His messengers badly His disciples wanted Him to call down fire from heaven upon them, but He rebuked them saying, "Ye know not what manner of spirit ye are of. The Son of Man is not come to destroy men's lives but to save them,"
Now I find that everything this blessed Teacher taught He did, and more, in His blessed life of love down here in this world. He met all the ignominy and shame and contempt, all the malice and ingratitude of men, shewing all the time grace and kindness, meekness, goodness and truth, never getting into a passion, He went on unweariedly with all His works of love and goodness. I find in Him not only a Teacher, who could teach wonderful words, but who also lived a life more wonderful than His teaching.
Now I look around at other of the world's great teachers. I find great names, Confucius, Zoroaster, Mahomed, Krishna, Buddha, Gautama. I find in their teaching beautiful words. But you will not find in all their teaching anything like the teaching of Jesus Christ. Suppose I take the testimony of a man well-known, Professor Max Muller, who did so much to make English people acquainted with the literature of the East. Well, what does he say? Why he says, no one in his senses would dream of comparing the Bible with the Sacred books of the East, they have a jewel here or there, but the Bible is all jewels throughout. Now I see these teachers, and I enquire as to their lives. Some lived good lives, and some horrible lives, but I do not find anyone, whose life was like that of the Lord Jesus Christ as I desire to follow Him.
Well now, when I take the teaching of Jesus Christ, then the more I try to carry out what is enjoined in the sermon on the mount the more I find how utterly unlike it I am.
I appeal to you, if you have ever tried to follow a code of morals (and every one of us has some code or other), whether you did not find yourself incapable of attaining it. Jesus said, If you look on a woman to lust after her you have committed adultery in your heart. Are we able to follow His teaching? There is something in us that makes us unable to follow His teaching. There is no power in fallen man to enable him to carry into practice the true teaching. I need, therefore, that my teacher should be something more than a teacher, and much more than an example. I need a Mediator, one who will bring God to me or me to God, so that I, a poor helpless person, may find my sins blotted out, so that I can have to do with God. Such a person is Jesus Christ: not only do I find in Him a perfect Teacher, and an example in Himself of all that He taught, but that He came into this world to die for sinners, to reconcile men to God in His own body on the tree.
This is a tremendous thing. I find that this wonderful, remarkable, extraordinary Person actually died for me; died in order that I, at a distance from God, might be brought to God, so that I might meet with a loving welcome, and find, like the prodigal, my past all blotted out, and that I am reconciled to God. I receive a loving welcome, the best robe, a ring on my finger, shoes on my feet, and the fatted calf killed. The Father says, "Let us eat, and be merry: for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost and is found." Then I find my teacher is my Mediator, and my Redeemer, and I am reconciled to God. I find nobody else, who can do that. Neither Buddha, Krishna, Mahomed nor any of these teachers could do that, whatever else I can find in their lives when it comes to this they are left far behind; Jesus Christ alone will do for me.
But I find I want still more than this. I am even yet powerless. How am I to live a holy, pure and unselfish life in this world? I want power, and power is just the thing I cannot acquire myself. Supposing I say, "I'll never do wrong again." That will not do. We shall never set ourselves right that way. Paul says, "I had not known lust, except the law had said, Thou shalt not covet. But sin, taking occasion by the commandment, wrought in me all manner of concupiscence. For without the law sin was dead. For I was alive without the law once: but when the commandment came, sin revived and I died." He found he was powerless to keep the law or the code of morals, which his conscience thoroughly approved. The more conscientious you are, the more you will find how powerless you are to do good, and that evil is present with you.
Therefore this teacher of mine, who is my Exemplar and my Redeemer, must also be One who will give me power. Thank God, Jesus does give me power. He, the last Adam, became a life-giving spirit. He says, "The dead shall hear the voice of the Son of God, and they that hear shall live." Living for self is not living. "She that liveth in pleasure is dead while she liveth." Jesus said, "I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly." Paul could say, "I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me." Jesus Christ gives me power to live. He puts the Spirit of God into my soul.
You remember that at Pentecost Peter said, "This Jesus hath God raised up whereof we all are witnesses. Therefore being by the right hand of God exalted and having received of the Father the promise of the Holy Ghost, He hath shed forth this, which ye now see and hear."
Now I have found not only a Teacher, an Exemplar, and a Redeemer but also a Life-giver. Now I can understand things I could not understand before. I have a new power in me which is more powerful than the old evil nature. I do thank God that the blessed Lord Jesus Christ is the Giver of the Spirit, the Giver of life. Now I know God, I know His love, I know He is for me, and all His thoughts towards me are thoughts of mercy and blessing. I live, because I live to Him. It is not that I always do right. I still need to confess my sins to Him. Nevertheless, my whole life is changed. I have a new life. Oh! how I thank God for Jesus Christ.
Well now, having found that, I have taken a great step, so to speak, on the way. I find I needed a power, and a life which I had not got naturally, and I find all this in that blessed Teacher, Jesus Christ. But I want even more. I find I am surrounded with temptations and difficulties and many snares, and I have many enemies, not only men and women, but evil spirits, i.e. spiritual enemies. Satan and his hosts are against Christ and His people. Therefore I not only need a Teacher, an Exemplar, a Redeemer, and a Life-giver, but I want the support of that Person all along the way. Now this also I have in Jesus. He is my Shepherd, He guards and He keeps me. He is my blessed Head in heaven. My High Priest, for He represents me before God. He is my Advocate with the Father. He intercedes for me that I fail not, and if I fail His intercession restores me. In fact, He undertakes to look after me every step of the way. How great then is this Blessed Teacher. He is not now on the Cross, though He did die on the Cross, but He is a living Man in the glory, and He has sent down His Spirit to dwell in me. Still He has not done with me. He is caring for me every day. He hears my voice, He shepherds me. Grace and mercy follow me all the days of my life, and I have every reason to trust Him for every stage of the way. Not that the Christian life is an easy one. God loves us too much to let the Christian life be an easy one. He piles difficulties on us in order that we might find how much we need the support of Christ all along the way, and thus we learn to know that blessed Person.
Therefore I say beginning with Him as Teacher I find Him my Exemplar, I trust Him as my Redeemer, I know Him as the One who gives me life, and I have Him as my support all along the way.
But even that is not enough. I need to get satisfaction for the heart. Man is such a wonderful creature, he has been made in the image of God, and nothing will satisfy Him but that which is divine.
God has been pleased to set forth the Blessed Lord Jesus Christ, not only in all these ways which I have enumerated, but also as the supreme object of our affections, because He is the Object of the Father's affections.
Thus I have learned that God the Father has set His love upon me, that Jesus His Son has set His love upon me, and, strange to say, I am essential to their happiness. Love surpasses every other quality. Where you love you want the company of the loved object. Many people illustrate the Gospel of Jesus Christ somewhat in this way. Let us say there is a very poor man, he is sick, penniless, and out of work. A kind person comes along and finds him employment, having been very kind to him and providing for all his need. Now he says I have found you a nice appointment. I have set you on your feet, now go your way happily.
That is not in the least like the Gospel. The Gospel is this. God never sends us adrift to make our own way. We are essential to His happiness. The wonderful part of the Gospel is this, that I a poor worthless thing, horrible sinner that I am in myself, He has taken up, and taken such pains with that I may be His for ever. He died for me to cleanse me. He lives for me, He loves me so supremely that I am indispensable to His happiness, and He Himself is coming for me to take me to Himself, to live for ever with Him.
Jesus Christ said, "Let not your heart be troubled: ye believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father's house are many mansions: if it were not so, I would have told you. I go to prepare a place for you. And if I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you unto Myself; that where I am, there ye may be also." "Where I am," is the great theme in the Gospel of John. In John 17 He prays, "Father, I will that they also whom Thou hast given Me be with Me where I am that they may behold My glory." "With me where I am." Dear fellow Christians, He wants us. He cannot do without us. We are necessary to His happiness. Does not this make your heart run over with thankfulness? Now I have got all these six things in Him, and I say that He has left all His competitors far behind. No one could honestly compare Jesus Christ with any of the world's great teachers, Confucius or Buddha, Gautama, Mahomed, Krishna or anybody else. He is absolutely supreme in His excellence. All before Him must vanish as the stars before the rising sun.
There was a time when I longed to disbelieve all these things. I was very anxious to be a sceptic because I felt the sting of sin, I should have been very glad to believe that Christianity was based upon fable, but when I read infidel books their bias was so evident, their arguments so false, I could not in decent honesty accept them at all, and I felt that as they had not better arguments than these they were but deceivers. Then I turned again to Christ, and found how blind I had been, and how fully a poor sinner could trust that blessed Person.
Now then I have found that this wonderful person, who is my Teacher, my Exemplar, my Redeemer, my Life-giver, my Support all along the way is also a Satisfying object for my heart. But He is even more than this. I needed to know that my Teacher was so great that He could not only take up my case, my helplessness and my need, but also everybody else's. In fact, I wanted to know whether He could deal with the need of the whole universe, and so deal with all the sin and evil which had come in, that sin should not be able to lift up its head again. Well this also I find in Him. John the Baptist, the forerunner of Christ, when he saw Him pass by said to his disciples, "Behold the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sin of the world." Yes, although God, He became a Man, humbled Himself and laid down His life, shed His blood in order that He might purge the whole universe of sin. God has committed to Him the task of setting everything right. This world belongs to God, and God has no intention of giving it up to the devil. God is going to get the whole world set right. He will fill the earth with righteousness, the heavens being full of righteousness also. This wonderful Person has shed His blood, and He has gone up on high far above all heavens. What for? Why, that He might fill all things? Everything, the whole creation is going to be brought into subjection to Him, everyone is going to own Him as Lord. Under His mighty power all will have to bow to Him. God is going to fill the new heavens and the new earth with Christ, so that God can dwell there, as it is written in Rev. 21, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them, and they shall be His people, and God Himself shall be with them and be their God, and God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for the former things are passed away."
How blessed is it then beginning with the enquiry for one to teach me, to find a Teacher who leads me on step by step, and as I go on I find that He is greater and greater than I ever imagined. A Teacher, who not only teaches the truth, but who has lived it out in the midst of the greatest difficulties. One who laid down His life to redeem His people. One who gives them His Spirit, and thus is their Life-giver. Then He sustains them all along the way, and He Himself becomes their Object, their satisfying Portion. Then greater still, I find that He is sufficient to satisfy the heart of God. He is sufficient to bring the whole heaven and earth into subjection to Himself, and when He has done that He will hand over the kingdom to God even the Father that God may be all in all.
Therefore I say in my soul's experience He has led me to see what a wonderful Person He is, and what an abominable thing it would be if I did not put my trust in Him, and seek to be in this world for Him.
There are a great many people now attacking Christianity. Well, thank God, the more they attack Christ the more His perfections are seen. The sad thing, alas! is that there are so many who are called Christians, who are not real Christians, and both from within and from without these enemies are pressing to the attack. A powerful argument in their hands is this, that we Christians are so little like Christ. If we were like Him it would be such a standing miracle before men that they would be obliged to confess that Jesus Christ is far more than they thought Him to be from reading the Bible. Nevertheless, nothing is more pitiful than to see a Christian ashamed of Christ and of His cross. A real Christian has the utmost confidence in Christ, and he is quite sure that Christ will triumph completely.
The Bible is quite clear as to the defection that would take place together with a departing from the truth. In 2 Timothy third chapter we read, "In the last days perilous times shall come. For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, without natural affection, truce-breakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good, traitors, heady, high-minded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God; having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof." Therefore we have not the least fear when we hear that men are turning away from the faith, and that false teachers are seeking to undermine the faith of Christ, only it makes us keep close to Christ. We know that the world will not be converted to God except by the coming of the Lord Jesus Christ.
Some perhaps are hindered by what they see in the lives of Christians, and we are sorry for this, but I say to you; be honest. I desire myself to be honest. I say if you are honest you will see that, there is nothing in heaven or earth like the Lord Jesus Christ, for one reason which alone will suffice an honest person. This reason is that He rose from the dead. He is a living man in the glory of God; you will find that there is but one Man, who will satisfy the necessities in which you find yourself as a sinful man in this world, and therefore you are bound to believe on Him. If you do find this I beg of you to have the manliness to own Him, because if you do not, it will cost you infinitely more to reject Him.
As to those who are Christians in name I appeal to you. Are you real Christians or not? Have you received the Holy Ghost? Have you been born again? If so, you have found what a blessed thing it is to be a Christian, to know the Blessed Son of God.
But there are some people, who call themselves Christians, who complain of Christianity. They thought by becoming Christians they would improve their circumstances. Oh! this is a horrible thing when men become Christians for the sake of worldly gain. One such Christian does more harm than a hundred heathen. Be real. Christ never came into this world that His people might get gain in this world. When one said to Him, "I will follow Thee," He replied, Are you prepared for it? "Foxes have holes, and the birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man hath not where to lay His head." It is a very real thing to be a Christian. You will find the power of the world and the devil against you, but you will also find the power of God for you. That is why the early Christians turned the world upside down. But alas! most of us who are real Christians are halfhearted followers of Christ, and the mass of Christians have the name without the reality. Do not let this, however, hinder you if you have never come to Christ, come to Him now. If you have come to Christ, then live to Him. Is He the supreme object of your heart's affections? He is so worthy. He is so wonderful. Be a real follower of Christ. Follow Christ with all your heart. He has said, "If any man thirst let him come unto Me and drink." He will satisfy. I long with all my heart to see men, who will be true to Christ, seeking nothing from the world, but longing supremely to live for Him, who died for you and rose again. There is nothing better in this world than to be allowed in some little measure to suffer for Christ. See you lose not this honour.