1 Samuel 17:48; 18:4; 31:1-6; 2 Samuel 1:11-27; John 20:11-18.
Our subject this evening is, the true spring and motive of devotedness, and the rewards of it; and I call your attention to the scriptures I have read for this reason: they bring before us the two kinds or aspects of devotedness which you find in Scripture, one of which is intended of the Lord to lead to the other. But if it exist simply by itself — that is, if it does not go further, it never meets the mind of Christ in its fulness, and it never secures the person in whom it exists from the dangers or counterfeits of the enemy. It may be very real, as far as it goes; for it does not follow by any means that a person who has what we may call now, for the sake of distinction, the lower kind of devotedness, is untrue; but it unquestionably follows that a person who only has the lower character of devotedness is not a friend of Christ at this present moment. He does not know the secret of the Lord, and is not secure against the attractions of the scene around. The purpose and the mind of God is, that the one should lead to the other; and the danger in souls is not simply in possessing this lower order, but in being satisfied with it. And where the heart rests in that, and goes no further, where it does not travel into the higher order and the fuller thing; then I say it is not safe, it is not secure.
Now I will endeavour to explain to you what these two kinds are. We have a beautiful illustration of the first, or lower kind, in the first scripture we have looked at — that which arises simply from the knowledge of service rendered to us, but which has no knowledge of the person in himself who has done us the service. Now this was the nature and character of Jonathan's devotedness. You know, I doubt not, at least many of you know, that Jonathan's devotedness is often brought forward as the greatest instance of the kind in Scripture. Now I confidently assert that it is not so. I say it is beautiful after its order, but it stops short; and it was imperfect just because it stopped short; it failed in this very essential element, even the fulness of devotedness. I have no desire to detract from it in the least, but the history itself will tell the extent of Jonathan's affection. It is a melancholy thing to see a man whose heart was so knit to Israel's deliverer come to such an end; and this we can all read from the latter scripture in Samuel. Jonathan, it appears, had no knowledge of David before this, nothing existed between them previously; but it was the wonderful deliverance that David had effected for Israel, the people of Jehovah, for David was God's servant to this end; it was, I say, this wonderful single-handed deliverance, which had been wrought in simple faith in Jehovah over the Philistine, which had such an effect upon Jonathan, so that when he saw the trappings of death in the hand of the simple stripling of Judah, his heart was knit to him. It was in very fact the saviour of his nation who was before him.
The meaning of the opening verses of 1 Sam. 18 is simply this: that Jonathan looked at David with the marks of victory upon him, the head of the Philistine in his hand, and he said, as it were, "There is my saviour;" and in that first hour of freedom, through that wonderful conquest, "the soul of Jonathan was knit with the soul of David, and he loved him as his own soul." (1 Sam. 18:1.) The sense of the service was so paramount in his heart (he had such a distinct realization in his heart of the wonderful favour that was rendered to Israel, of the emancipation that was wrought) that his whole heart was knit to the heart of David, and not only that, but he strips himself — he takes what distinguishes him as a warrior, and he puts it upon David. There is nothing too much to give to David. Yet, mark this, he did not give himself. He gave his possessions, but he kept back himself. Oh, think what he kept back! He gave all he had; he denuded himself, he stripped himself. It is a wonderful appreciation, I quite admit it. It is beautiful after its order; but what was kept back was a thousand times more than what was given; and be assured this is the way that God measures everything that is given, not by what is given, but by what is kept back. Herein is the divine measure of it.
And now I ask you one solemn question, What have you kept back? Do not tell me what you have given. Perhaps you have given your bow and girdle, or what answers to it; perhaps you have given your possessions; perhaps stripped yourself. You may have often denied yourself much. You may say, "All I possess in this world I put it all on one side compared with His wonderful love, and my heart has the sense of the service He has rendered me. Was not He the one who set aside in His death the mighty power of that great Goliath who at one time held all of us under his sway? Was it not the Lord Jesus Christ who vanquished the power of Satan, sin, and death? David, it is true, wrought a wonderful deliverance; but our Deliverer won the victory by laying down His own life; Christ triumphed by giving Himself." You may have in your heart the sense that He has taken you out of misery, and wretchedness, and sin, and the deliverance is so wonderful that you may give Him everything you have; yet if you have kept back yourself, it all falls short of what He wants and loves to possess. And now you may ask me this question: How do I prove that Jonathan kept back himself? Just in this — that he never cast his lot in with David; and when David is in rejection, Jonathan is in Saul's court; and when David is in the cave, he is next to the throne; when David is in danger, Jonathan is safely housed in the palace of Saul. He never thoroughly, openly, manifestly, identified himself with the rejected, hunted, scorned, outcast David. He had affection; I do not deny it; but, beloved friends, it was never openly seen. It was all secret. I quite grant the affection, but he would not stand out before the whole universe and say, "I would rather have David than Saul's court." He never did it, and the consequence was, that when the Philistines (who were the enemies found in the midst of Israel, and used against them for their sins) had gained in power and defeated the armies of Israel, not only the king, but also Jonathan, are numbered with the slain; and that is why I referred you to 2 Samuel 1, which is a most melancholy and touching song of sorrow, a lamentation of one who really loved Jonathan. Think of all that is conveyed in the words, "Thou wast slain in thine high places." He had never left the high places for the place of rejection. David was, as it were, outcast, and Jonathan was in the king's court, and thus as such Jonathan falls; and therefore I say, that although the devotedness of Jonathan to David was beautiful after its order, it did not prevent them from being separated. Now can that really be love of the highest order which is content to be apart from its object? And yet here we find a man who could strip himself of everything that is valuable, and give it to the one who has rescued him, and yet remain in the very court of the enemies of David, while David is in rejection, and cast out by everyone — a true type of the Lord Jesus Christ at this present time. Oh, be assured, beloved friends, if you have nothing more with reference to Christ than the sense that He has served you, you will never be really a devotee! Do I make light of the service? God forbid. Do I take away from the sense of the greatness of it? God forbid. But I should like you to know which is the greater, the service or the One who renders it? That is the question. And now as to the difference between what I have been looking at and the higher order of devotedness — what is it? It is not looking to give something to Christ, but it is the sense of having received our all in Christ, as well as from Christ, so that He Himself displaces everything else in our hearts. The lower order of devotedness has its spring in the service; it says, "I should like to give you in return everything I have;" the higher order says, "I receive from you in order that you may be personally the one that displaces in my affections everything else that could have a place there." Herein is exactly the difference between a person who knows the service of Christ, and one who knows Christ personally.
I thank God for every soul here that knows even the service of Christ, but my great object is to press upon you the transcendent blessedness of a personal intimacy with the One who has done you the service; and I desire it for you because I know well you will never be secure against the counterfeits, and attractions, and allurements of this world, until you know the One who casts it all into the shade for you. There are two powers, one of which commands every heart here; the one is the world, and the other Christ. And be assured you are not secure against the one, unless you have found the other.
You may tell me you know your sins are all forgiven. I do not deny it; that is relief. You say it is a wonderful relief. I quite admit it, and thank God for it; but if you have not as yet known the One who shed His precious blood to forgive you your sins, you are not safe from all the attractions of the age. I know many near kindred of my own who know their sins forgiven as truly as any here, and yet they are in the world as fast as can be. They have no question as to the forgiveness of their sins; no doubt about it; they are sure of it, and could give as divine a reason for this blessed assurance as any one here to-night; and, moreover, they enjoy it. I have no desire, be assured, to make little of it; but I tell you they enjoy the world too. They have the forgiveness of their sins, and enjoy it; they know the services of Christ, and they enjoy them; and they constantly tell you it is a wonderful thing to see sin, death, Satan, hell, and everything vanquished and conquered by Christ; they appreciate it all; but they have never known the blessed displacing effect of the knowledge of the Person who turns everything beside out of the heart because He possesses it Himself. They know nothing of what that is, and never did; and hence it is; when you speak to people — Christians I mean — about Christ, there is no heart to listen.
I put it solemnly to every one here; I ask you, If we sat down to talk together about the Lord Jesus Christ, how much would you be at home with that subject? If I were to sit down and talk to you about His service, you would be at home; but if I were to sit down and talk to you about Himself, would you be at home there? Would that be a theme that your heart could go over — the various perfections of the One whom His grace allows us adoringly to call our Friend? It is solemn for every one of us. What then would be your answer if I were to say, Let us talk about this blessed One, who left the throne of God and came down here to become a man, that He might manifest His Father's love to a wretch like me — that He might lay hold upon this poor, miserable heart of mine, and win it for Himself? If He has won your heart and mine, we can surely speak about the One who has thus become our common object. I am often amazed at how little there appears to be of that blessed, simple, personal intimacy with that blessed One; that personal knowledge of Christ which delights in Him as a person, not in a mere doctrine about Him. Very little more is known of Him than if He were a mere doctrine; there is no sense that He is a living Man upon the throne of God in heaven — a living Person who can fill every desire of the heart, and whom I know as God in a man; that is the wonderful part of it. I know God in Jesus. How else can I know God? I can only know God in that blessed One, beloved friends; that is the wonderful part of it. True man, very man, really man, yet the mighty God. But it is God in man. "This is life eternal, that they may know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent." It is the only way in which I can know God; I see God in Christ; I know God in that man, and I am brought to God in Him. What a blessed thing it is! That alone secures me, and nothing but that can secure me. I say it to you affectionately — you are not safe, you are not secure, there is no garrison in your heart, until Christ is the alone simple commanding One that occupies its throne. When He does, and He is there personally, then you have the true motive, and the real spring, and the real power for walk and testimony for Him here on earth. In figure, it was this which Jonathan lacked. I do not wish to be the least one-sided; I admit that his devotedness was true and beautiful so far as it went; but it never rose beyond the lower order. It was deficient in this respect, that what was kept back was the very thing David's soul would have desired. That is what Christ is looking for; it is your heart — in other words, yourself; therefore says the Holy Ghost, "Keep thy heart with all diligence; for out of it are the issues of life."
Let me refer you to another instance from the Old Testament, by way of contrast to this, which will throw this history of Jonathan into relief, and put it more into the light I am seeking to present it to you in just now. Turn with me to the history of Ruth; you are all, I trust, familiar with it. It was no question of service with her. Naomi had rendered her all the service she could; her service days were over; that is the way the book of Ruth begins. We find a poor, desolate widow doubly bereaved — a woman who had lost her husband and her children, saying, "I went out full, and the Lord hath brought me home again empty." It was as if she had said, "This world is all over for me; my sun has gone down while it was yet day; I can do no more for you; go back to your gods; I can give you no more; I can render you no more service; your sister is gone back, do you return likewise." Now, what do you think was the answer to that? What did that evoke from the heart of Ruth? What was the effect of that appeal? The issue of it was this, that it brought out the simple fact that Naomi was enshrined personally in the heart of the Moabitess. In substance her reply was this: "It is you I want, I value you; it is your person I cling to, it is not service, I want nothing more; you have given me all you could give, but I will not leave you, neither in life nor death can I part from you; I have known you in the days when the sun of prosperity shone upon you, and I shall cling fast to you now in the days of adversity; I have known you in your bright days, I will never leave you in your dark days."
Look at this difference, and mark it well. There was neither service on the part of Naomi to Ruth, nor was it a question of service on the part of Ruth to Naomi as yet. And I say that, because I know a great many who think that if you go out and spend all your day in service, if you are exceedingly active, and going about hither and thither, you are a very devoted person. I cannot say so at all. You might be all that, and more beside; you might scour every haunt in this great city, and not have one solitary trait of that devotedness which rejoices the heart of our Lord Jesus Christ. I say, you may be a very hard-working person — and do not fear that I make light of it, God forbid — but there is a great difference between that and a person being in the intimacies of personal nearness to the Lord Jesus Christ, so that He can say of him, "There is one who values my mind more than he values anything in the world; I call him my friend, and I make known to him my mind." Is not that a very different thing? I could never say that one in that position would be a whit backward in any service; but the difference is just this, that the service comes to be of the character of His mind, and not according to our own tastes. It is His taste, and what He would like, that we then study. And let me assure you of this to-night, that I do not want to lessen the love of service in any of your hearts, but only that you make sure of this, that you have consulted Christ's pleasure about it, and not your own, because that is what a devoted person will do; he rejoices in being free to sit down and study the pleasure of Christ. Could anything be more blessed than to be able to sit down and study the pleasure of the One who is our object? What will He like? It is beautiful to me to think of Saul of Tarsus. What was the first thing he said? "Lord, what wilt thou have me to do?" His thought is, "I now have the Lord Jesus Christ; He has displaced everything in my heart, satisfied me with Himself, and I now study the pleasure of the One in the heavens, whom I once persecuted."
Now, observe this one other fact which we find in the sequel of Ruth's history, is it not beautiful? You find in the next chapter, that even in the scorching heat of the day she delights to serve, and she labours and toils for the one she was devoted to; but she was devoted to her first. She says, as it were, "I care for you; that is the first thing. And I express that care, not because of anything you could give me, nor of anything you may give me; but the way I express the devotedness of my heart for you — though you are nothing but a poor widow — is, that I cannot leave you." "Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried: the Lord do so to me, and more also, if ought but death part thee and me." (v. 17.) That is true devotedness, beloved friends. I need not pursue the history; but what does she get? It is very interesting to trace it; she got Boaz, and what does that mean? Strength.
And now let me connect one scripture with that — a beautiful scripture, but time will not allow me to go into it. The Lord Jesus Christ says to the poor, feeble, but devoted ones in Philadelphia, "Him that overcometh will I make a pillar [that is, a "Boaz"] in the temple of my God." "Him that overcometh" that is, "To the devoted one, the one who denies not my name, through evil report and good report, who values Me, the Holy and the True, more than everything in this world; he may be cast out now, and will be, yet will make him a pillar in the temple of my God.' He may be now an outcast, a poor, wretched, excluded one, a man who is looked upon as an overthrower of all religious order, as well as everything else, but will make him a pillar in the temple of my God, and he shall go no more out: and I will write upon him the name of my God, and the name of the city of my God, which is new Jerusalem, which cometh down out of heaven from my God: and I will write upon him my new name.'"
I do not pursue that, beloved friends, but will turn to the New Testament instance I read to you, this case of Mary Magdalene. Observe how interesting it is. Here was a person who had been served by the Lord Jesus Christ, just exactly as Jonathan had been served by David, and it is very interesting to trace the history. Of course it was the service in the first instance that introduced her to Christ. You know He was her deliverer, He had cast the legion of devils out of her; that is clear from the intimation we get. But what do I find after that? It is most interesting for every one of us to study. If you trace the whole of the history in the gospels — I ask you earnestly to do so — if you will search the history of Mary Magdalene, you will find that in every circumstance of the life of the Lord Jesus Christ this woman was mixed up with it from the moment she had experienced His delivering power. She had given herself unreservedly to Him — she gave her substance; she is mentioned as one of those who ministered to Him; she waited on Him. She had given herself and everything she had. You will find her in life with Him, she was with Him at the cross, she was with Him the last thing at the grave, and the first thing on the first day of the week at the grave. A most interesting history! Wherever you search in the New Testament, you find Mary Magdalene connected with the history of the Lord Jesus Christ from the moment she experienced His delivering power. He had delivered her, and He was her Saviour — had cast seven devils out of her — and she had become through this service attracted to Himself, that is the point, and she never leaves Him; and what to me is so touching, she clings to Him as much in suffering, opprobium, and shame on the cross, as under any other circumstances. The real test of devotedness is, whether a person will stand by Christ in the dark day. The day is coming when Christ will have it all His own way, and it is blessed to look forward to it; but how many are in spirit and heart with Him now, when He has not as yet taken His own rights and titles? Solemn question! The devoted ones are those who abide with Christ while He is in rejection, and this is exactly the very test of this present moment. If Christ were in power, if everything were in divine order now, everything as He would have it, as it will be in the day that is coming, there would be no cross, no test, no trial, every one would throw in his lot with Him; but the test is this, whether I cast my lot in with Him in His rejection; and it is not merely the question, as I said before, of a person being forgiven, having the forgiveness of his sins. You may have that, just as Jonathan got the good of David's victory, and never spent a moment with David in rejection; and that is the case with many now. They say, "I have the forgiveness of my sins," and there they stop; but the question is, Where is Christ now? I said that to a person the other day, and he said, "Where is Christ? What do you mean?" I say, What position has Christ in this age at this present moment? In what estimation is the truth of Christ, the Word of Christ? Are His saints engrossed with the thing that Christ most values and loves at this present moment? You know it is far otherwise. There is not a person who would contradict as to this, viz., that Christ is not owned. Christ is rejected and cast out by this generation. We are living in the world, the scene of His murder, and the generation of His murderers are in power; that is where we are. Christ is rejected, cast out, and refused on every hand. I quite admit there are those who are uncommonly glad to get the good of what has been termed "the plan of salvation." In fact, selfishness is the very principle, the latent principle, of the human heart. People are glad to get the good of Christ's work, and to feel sure they won't go to hell if they die; they rejoice in being secure against judgment; but oh, the great question at this present moment, when Christ's interests and truth and Word are all thought little of, is, How far are you taking the place with Himself? and I say this is the test of all true loyalty and devotedness to Him. Are you prepared to stand by Him, at cost, and loss, and suffering and shame, at this present moment?
There are many who shrink from that, yet I could not therefore deny them to be Christians; but I say such are not devoted to Christ. I go even further, and I say that those who apprehend Christ's present position in the heavens, and Christ's present rejection by this world, will like to be in circumstances, in their business, in their house, in their person, suited to such a Christ. They see a suitability in the cross casting its shadow upon everything about them. It is not merely to get the good of the cross, not only to get into heaven as the result of it, but they want to be with Christ now; their desire is to answer to His mind now, here in this present scene; and I say, that if He had not a place where to lay His head, if He had only a manger at His birth, and a cross between two felons at His death, and the tomb of Joseph for His burial, how much can those who love Him desire to possess in this world? Would to God our path and ways were shaped a little more after the pattern of His own! How different it would be with us all if that were so! And may I not say this to every one of you, you have now a wonderful opportunity of showing that Christ has the place of sovereignty in your hearts, because it is becoming more difficult every day, and it will continue to be so, to give testimony in this world to a rejected Lord and Christ? It is blessed, the very fact that God has allowed such days to fall upon us, it is the most wonderful favour that He can confer; wonderful that He should allow us to be in the very darkest hour of the night to prove the value and blessedness and fulness of Him who is the alone light of our hearts. Should you not like to suffer for the person you loved? Is it merely the question of giving Him what costs you nothing? I will not pursue that further; but, if the Lord permit, I will touch a little another evening upon the rewards of it. It is well to observe this with reference to John 20, that the reward that this devoted woman gets is of a double nature. She receives a double reward. The first side of it is, He causes her to hear her own name on His risen lips. What a moment of blessing for her heart! Have you ever thought what that must have carried to her soul, when that blessed One whom she had lingered over as if in death was there alive before her? Angels saw her weeping, and so did He, and knew well the value of her tears; and He says to her, "Mary!" Was that no reward, beloved friends? What springs that must have awakened up in her heart! "Rabboni, my Master!" she answers, as the delight of recognition dawns upon her. But He goes further than this. Now He says, "Go to my brethren, and say unto them, I ascend to my Father, and your Father; to my God, and your God;" i.e. "Go and carry to my brethren the most wonderful message that was ever communicated by human lips to human hearts." Oh, beloved friends, we are living in days when the effort of the devil is to displace everything, to set aside that which is first in God's thoughts; to put everything out of divine order is the devil's great object! He is the author of it all. I look at this woman, and I see her in devotedness clinging to Christ, and I see her rewarded for her devotedness in the way a devoted heart delights. He did not send her out to preach; she was not commissioned to preach — the great effort and object of the devil is to put people out of their sphere, and things out of their order — she was not sent out to be a preacher to the world. She was sent to the brethren of Christ, to tell them the most wonderful communication that ever human lips carried; she was sent to tell them that Christ was risen out of death, and to tell them that the firstborn of the many brethren had gone to His Father, and their Father; to His God, and their God. Was not that rich reward? Her first reward was personal; her second reward was with reference to others. She was a sheep of Christ, and therefore He had called her by name; she was a friend of Christ, and therefore He communicated the most wonderful tidings to her.
May the Lord give you this evening to taste this devotedness that has Christ Himself personally for its spring. Thus you will be preserved, thus you will find that which weans your heart from other things. I do not deny that the world is attractive, or that it is a trying time for saints to live in. I am certain it is so. You must not think that when once you have to do with Christ all your difficulties are over; they never really begin till then. You never had such difficulties, never had such trouble, such up-hill work, as when once you are on the side of Christ; and why? Because Christ is not yet in power, and Satan is permitted to work, and therefore it is all difficulty and up-hill work at this present moment. But, oh! there is this, He is worthy of it, worthy that I should be here in this poor wretched world that cast Him out, simply and entirely and only for Him. For that I pray most earnestly for you and myself, I press it upon my brethren especially, that we seek to be here in circumstances that more suit Christ rejected, that our houses, our persons, our very conversation and manner should maintain the testimony. It is true we have to pass through this world of our Lord's murder, and we have to do with the generation of the people that did it; but we are apart from it, we do not belong to it, but to a brighter scene, and to the One Himself who is in that scene.
The Lord, by His Spirit, lead each heart here to taste the sweetness and joy of having Christ, and to be simply devoted to Him, that there may be that in which His heart takes pleasure in each one of us, for His own name's sake,