We were looking, beloved friends, last week, at the end of the time we were together, at that wonderful, marvellous display of divine favour to Him, the blessed One, in His path and place as a servant here — the opened heavens, the Father's voice, and the descending Spirit, all setting Him forth, and expressing to Him, in that place of service which He was pleased to take, how perfectly and how fully He had met all the mind, and all the heart, and all the affections of God. He was sealed with the Spirit, He was anointed with the Spirit, the heavens opened to Him, and the Father's voice from those heavens saluted Him as His beloved Son, in whom was all His pleasure.
Now we have another expression in the verses we have read this evening which I desire to call your attention to for a little, and to connect with that one which we dwelt upon last week. You will notice in verse 12 the very remarkable way in which it is said — and it is peculiar to this Gospel of Mark also — that "immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness." Now I think it is important, to the right understanding of the position the blessed Lord was pleased to take here, really and truly as with God, to apprehend the divine significance that is attached to His being sealed with the Spirit, and His being driven, as it is said here, by the Spirit into the wilderness, and tempted of the devil. I want to call your attention to both those expressions, not merely because of the expressions themselves, but because I believe a great deal of truth, and of truth that very deeply concerns the glory of the Person of our Lord Jesus Christ, hangs upon these expressions. And I am certain, beloved friends, that if we do not, as by the teaching of God's Spirit, rightly understand the application and the meaning of certain words that God has been pleased to use with regard to His own blessed Son in any place or position that He was pleased to take here in this world, we shall lose an immense amount of blessing. Because you must remember this, that blessing does not only connect itself with the things that relate simply to us. I believe that is a very great mistake. I am quite certain that persons have lost an immensity of blessing because they have imagined that unless they themselves were prominently the subjects treated of in any given portion of scripture, there was no comparative interest attaching to that scripture with regard to them. That is a selfish way of looking at the things of God, and that is moreover a sure way to lose the blessing after a divine sort. All real blessing connects itself with this — that we see how everything in scripture, and everything in the mind of God, relates to Christ, and there is rich blessing as we see how Christ is set before us; first of all how He is before God, and as to the mind of God, and then how God has been pleased to present Him to us in scripture. And so here. Let us look reverently and in God's fear for a moment at these two remarkable expressions.
I need not go over again, for we looked at it last week, the form that the Spirit of God was pleased to take when He descended in a bodily shape like a dove and abode upon Him. But I particularly want to press this point upon you, beloved friends, that we ought to jealously hold and tenaciously guard in our souls this great fact, that though He was sealed by the Spirit, and anointed by the Spirit (for you get both expressions in scripture, "Him hath God the Father sealed," and "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Ghost and with power"), yet that it was simply and only in relation to the ministry and to the service that He was pleased to undertake and to perform in the position which He took when He emptied Himself to become man. Now I feel that is a very important thing to press, and I will tell you why in a moment. I do not see how any person could traverse or challenge it with the scripture so plainly before us. But there is a danger, and I maintain it has increased of late (and I am responsible simply to God, beloved friends, for my utterances), that whilst we through grace understand and appreciate the wonderful place of favour that we have been brought into, there is a danger of our putting ourselves on an equality with our Lord Jesus Christ. Let is note that, beloved friends, for I believe it is a very important point to keep before us. I repeat it, that is a very real danger, as we see through grace the blessed position He has won for us and has set us in before God; for His place before God is, through His rich grace, our place. He won it for us; it was His by virtue of all His own glories and rights; redemption secured it in sovereign grace for us. But while that is perfectly true, do not let us speak of it in such a way as to equalise ourselves with Christ. We have the Holy Ghost dwelling in us if we are washed from our sins by the blood of Christ, and it is that which constitutes us Christians; and you cannot speak of any persons properly in scripture language as Christians until the Holy Ghost is dwelling in them — scripture never does. I do not for a moment mean to find fault with the conventional use of the term Christian, but really I think it is of the deepest moment that, whilst we understand one another in the conventional use of language, we should also try to encourage one another to speak of things in the language of scripture. For instance, we say, "Such-and-such a person is a Christian," to distinguish that person from one who is not moved, or touched, or turned to God at all, one who is really unconverted; that is, the term. Christian is conventionally applied (and rightly enough, I do not find fault with it in the least) to a converted person in contra-distinction to an unconverted person, to one who has no interest at all in the things of God. But let us not forget this scripture in its use of terms is far more defined and far more distinct and pointed than perhaps we think; and when the word of God speaks of a person as a Christian, the word of God has marked out that person as sealed with the Holy Ghost, as the result of the forgiveness of his sins through the blood of the Lord Jesus Christ. Now, beloved friends, that is a great thing to hold fast. The Lord in His infinite grace grant that the simplest and feeblest of His children here to-night may plainly understand, that if our sins are washed away in the blood of Christ, if we have through grace the knowledge of the forgiveness of our sins through faith in Him, the Holy Ghost dwells in us, the Spirit of God takes His place in us in virtue of accomplished redemption. But observe this, and that will bring us to our passage, our position is marvellously changed by the fact of the Holy Ghost dwelling in us, but the position of our Lord Jesus Christ was not changed one whit by the fact of the Holy Ghost coming upon Him. Now I want those two things to be held, but I want you to keep them distinct. Hold the Christian position, and that which gives it, tenaciously; but do not let us hold it in such a way, or speak of it in such a way, as to equalize ourselves with Christ. Christ had the Holy Ghost who descended upon Him, He was sealed by the Spirit of God, He was anointed by the Spirit of God. Such is the way scripture speaks of this great reality. He had the Spirit of God on Him, that is the scripture here, the Holy Ghost descended in a bodily shape like a dove and abode upon Him for service, as a servant, but not to add to His person, not to communicate anything that was not there before.
You see, I trust, beloved friends, the immense importance of all this.
There is a great difference in the Christian when he has the Holy Ghost from what he was before he received the Spirit. His position is changed. Until a man has the Holy Ghost, I repeat, you cannot speak of him in scripture language as a Christian, you cannot speak of him as a son, and you cannot speak of him as being united to Christ. Therefore, the position of one who is washed in the blood of Christ, and sealed by the indwelling of the Spirit, is in consequence changed, it is a change of position; and that is the very thing that comes out in connection with the fact that Christ baptizes with the Holy Ghost, because the whole new position is involved in it. The baptism of the Holy Ghost brings the Christian into a wholly new position before God. But you cannot speak of our Lord Jesus Christ in that way. If you do, you lower His person; and I am jealous about that, and I warn you as to it, because latterly there has been a tendency to do it, to bring down His person to the level of the position that God in wondrous mercy has put us into in Him, the risen glorified One before God.
I was reading not very long ago a passage of scripture that conveys the very same thought to one's mind. When this new position was first unfolded by the Lord Jesus Christ Himself, you remember the language in which He made it known, the wonderful communication He passed on to His disciples through the woman that broke her heart because she could not find where His body was in this world — to whom the world was only a tomb because she could not find Jesus. Do you remember the words He used when all the work was over? "Go to my brethren" — the new relationship — "and say to them" — now mark the words, does He say, I ascend to our Father and to our God"? You see, beloved friends, the object I have in bringing that before you — "I ascend to my Father and your Father, and to my God and your God." Now if you were to put in that word "our" there, and think it is all the same, it is because Christ's unique, special, peculiar place and glory have not got their distinct prominence in your soul. And therefore I feel it is of the deepest importance to understand the difference between the Holy Ghost dwelling in us as the seal of redemption and the Holy Ghost coming down upon the great servant-prophet as the power of ministry; and this is what we have here in this scripture.
Now we will go to the other expression for a moment, and I think you will see too, the force of the word here, because it is a very peculiar word. In the other gospels, Matthew and Luke, you will not find it used; it is only in Mark. "Immediately" is the word characteristic of Mark; it is constantly used. I believe it is the urgency of service, and everything is in the rapidity of the demand of service. "Immediately" He goes into the house; "immediately" He is here; immediately events take place as He moves; He does a thing, it is done; "immediately the Spirit drives Him into the wilderness. That word "driveth" is a very strong word. This is the only gospel where it is used with regard to the Lord Jesus Christ. Why? For this reason, that the first great work and service of our Lord Jesus Christ as the prophet-servant in this world was to destroy the works of the devil. It is exactly what it is said He came to do — "to destroy the works of the devil." Therefore, in the first instance, He meets the great adversary Himself. The first great part of His service in connection with His ministry here in this world is to meet the great adversary of God and men before He destroyed his works. That is why you have the expression used here in the gospel of Mark. And I will tell you what even adds to that, and gives it a sweetness, I think, beyond all conception. You find this very same word — and those who understand the original language can consult it for themselves — in Matthew 9, where the blessed Lord says to His disciples, "The harvest truly is plenteous, but the labourers are few; pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest, that he will drive forth [or thrust forth] labourers into his harvest." There unmistakably it is the service of His servants in this world. He does not say choose out labourers, or educate labourers, or raise seminaries or colleges for labourers; but He says, "Pray ye therefore the Lord of the harvest" — the harvest belongs to Him — "that he may thrust forth or drive forth labourers into his harvest." Here the word is distinctly connected with the service and ministry of the Lord in this world. And is it not very precious to our hearts to see the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, and to see how our God brings the Lord Jesus Christ as the great Servant before us? — because the very same word, the identical word, is used here in the gospel of Mark, in connection with His first meeting Satan, and conquering and vanquishing him, as is used for what they were to pray for, that God would send forth in His own power labourers into His harvest.
Observe this too, "Immediately the Spirit driveth him into the wilderness" does not go beyond His service and ministry. And it brings before our souls this great fact, that this great prophet-servant, this servant beyond all other servants, was so distinctly in the place of servant that it was part of what He became. You remember that blessed word in Philippians 2, "He took upon him the form of a servant." What does that mean? That everything that belonged to a servant as such, maintaining His own unique position and glory (ever keep that clear and distinct) — but all that belonged to a servant, acting in subjection to the One that sent Him, ministering by the power of the Spirit as servant of God here, Christ, in the perfection of the place that He took, maintained that, and that it was part of the emptying that He was pleased to undergo. I think some of my beloved brethren forget that word and the force of it — that He emptied (ekenoste) Himself. We all know what it is, and glory in the fact, that He humbled Himself, but do not forget that He emptied Himself. You find both there. As God, He emptied Himself, as man He humbled Himself. He emptied Himself as God to become man, to enter into that position, to take that place, and to become flesh — because that is really the word; it does not say He was made; I do not believe He was "made" anything — He was pleased to become (egeneto) flesh and tabernacle amongst us, and we beheld His glory. But, beloved friends, all this here is closely in connection with that position which He was pleased to take, and therefore be careful and jealous to maintain both.
Now so far with regard to those two points, and I think there is an immense importance in both of them — the fact that He was anointed and sealed by the Holy Ghost for service, and also the fact that the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness, that He might there meet the great enemy of God, and might meet him in conflict there, and that in the first instance, before destroying the works of the devil, He might bind the strong man and then spoil his goods.
Now let us look at the position that is defined here; and it is very touching to the heart to think that the blessed One was pleased to take it. It says that He was driven into the wilderness," that He was in "the wilderness." That is what everything had become here in consequence of sin. Sin had reduced this fair creation of God to a wilderness, and the second Man is found in the wilderness which the fall of the first man created. The departure from God of the first man made the circumstances into which the second Man was pleased to come — namely, the wilderness. You cannot conceive anything more desolate, or more dreary, or anything that more appeals to your heart as to the loneliness and the solitude that this blessed One was pleased to undergo in His preparation for service. For all that is here is preparatory to service.
And then, in order to increase and enhance that picture, there is another word, also peculiar to this Gospel of Mark, and which you will not find in the other gospels, that is, He was "with the wild beasts." O beloved friends, think of that! Men were not His companions there; we do not read of human beings surrounding Him in that dreary solitude where He underwent all this; but He was "with the wild beasts," in order to give our hearts a deeper sense of the loneliness and isolation through which the great servant-prophet passed in this preparatory moment ere He definitely began His ministry. I believe all this is crowded together into this scripture. He was in the wilderness, and alone with the wild beasts.
And now you get another word which I want you to meditate upon for a moment "forty days tempted of Satan." I take it that the evangelist brings our hearts into connection with this fact, that during the whole of those forty days He was under the fierce fire of the great enemy of God and man, alone in the desert, tempted of Satan." O beloved friends, may our hearts get, as it were, the sense of that. Think of the grace of Him going into such a position, that He might be the true and real servant, that thus He commenced — because we have not as yet touched a single part of His ministry directly. And I believe you will find the ministry in the Gospel of Mark is more of deeds than words, that is to say, his gospel took the character more of action than of words. You will assuredly find His preaching, but generally throughout the gospel it is His mercy, His releasing mercy, His showing forth kindness and grace to every character of need that He came in contact with, loosening every chain, drying every tear — it was the acts of Jesus. I fear we forget that sometimes, when we are thinking of the ministry of our Lord Jesus Christ, because when we speak of ministry it is more by word of mouth than it is in act. But with Him it is more acts of mercy and of kindness, acts of grace and of power, in a scene of need and desolation. And therefore I believe all this is heaped before us, as it were, in these verses.
There is another word I want to call your attention to for a moment, and I do not think you will say it is unimportant when we look at it. Notice the expressions that are used. And oh beloved brethren, do let us note these expressions of scripture, and that there is a design in using expressions in certain places and changing them in others. Look at that verse again, "He was there in the wilderness forty days, tempted of Satan." In the other gospels, Matthew and Luke, it says, He was "led up" in Matthew, and "led by the Spirit" in Luke, to be tempted, not "of Satan," but "of the devil." Now you think perhaps that is unimportant; and you may think, also, such a distinction is a little fine-drawing, and a little harping upon words? Well, beloved friends, it cannot be if God is pleased to use one word in one place and another in another. And more than that, you must recollect that there is a different meaning attached to the word. And although it speaks of that most hateful of all beings, and I believe in my soul the most miserable of all created beings as well, the devil, still "Satan" conveys to the mind and to the heart a different aspect of his vileness from what the "devil" does. Satan is the adversary — that is the thought here — he is the adversary of God and man. Whereas the devil is the slanderer and the accuser; he slandered God to man in Genesis 3, and he slandered man to God in Job 1. He does both, he is the slanderer both of God and men; he is not only the father of lies, but he is the great engine for propagating slander. And that suggests a very solemn reflection to my soul when I think of it. A slander emanates distinctly from the devil; he is the father of slanders as he is the father of lies. Now God help us to remember that, beloved friends. When you or I unwittingly, if God in His grace does not keep us, permit ourselves to pass on a slander, we are doing the devil's vile work, we are, unwittingly perhaps, allowing ourselves to be his emissaries and his agents. How solemn! I do not for a moment mean to say, nor do I think that any one of us, through God's infinite grace, would willingly permit it. I should not like to think that of any Christian, and by God's grace I do not think it of any Christian. But then, beloved friends, there is a point as to which our souls need to be on the watch, because if you are not with God, you are very likely to be used by the devil; that is the point, and therefore it raises the question as to our moral condition of soul. Because you may depend upon it that if there are lodgings to be let in your heart, the devil will find persons to take them, mark that! There is an immensity in it — I am speaking now in relation to ourselves — there is a great power in being occupied with good. If the heart is under the power of another object, and is in the interests of another Master, and in the secrets of another Lord, it is saved, not by anything that is in itself, but by the One who retains it in His interests. If it is not, then there is one who is the most acute and skilful observer of people's ways — thank God! he does not know our thoughts, only God knows the thoughts of the heart — but the devil knows your character from observing your ways; and if he sees that there is that about you which he notices in your actions, he says, That is the man that will suit me for this vile business I have in hand. Now that is very solemn for us, and once again I ask you earnestly to watch, remembering there is this adversary; he is against God, he is against Christ, he is against us, he is against the truth, he is against all that is good. It is a solemn and striking word, "Your adversary, the devil" — the slanderer, the propagator of slander — as a roaring lion walketh about, seeking whom he may devour."
Now here it is Satan, the adversary, and suitably so in the gospel of Mark; and he confronts Jesus in this very moment when He was anointed by the Spirit and saluted from heaven; here in the wilderness too, with nothing to minister to Him, in isolation and in dreary circumstances, then it is Satan comes to oppose every inch of the way with Him. I can well conceive how he would have said to himself, as it were: No man has ever yet been able to stand before me; I worsted man in innocence, and I overcame servants of God afterwards, and I am the conqueror of all. I have no doubt he thought that in his heart, and that all that is in this thought of the adversary here. But now he meets One who, whilst He is truly and really man, was a contrast to all men as such. I love that hymn of Hart's, though it speaks of Him as a man in heaven.
"A man there is, a real man." Ah! there is a real man in glory, as there was a real man on earth, and the real man in glory to-night is the Man that was down here in reality on earth; now, then, Satan meets One who although He was a man, very man and very God, was as a man a contrast to every man. Mark does not give you anything more than the mere fact, he does not give you the details of the temptation, he merely announces this fact, He was for forty days tempted of Satan; because, I believe, the great point here was to show that Christ went through it before His direct service commenced. You get the details in Luke in connection with His perfection as a man in dependence and obedience, and in Matthew you get the details in relation to Him as Messiah; but in Mark it was enough to say that for forty days He was tempted of Satan. The fact was that before He dealt with people under Satan's power He had confronted the great adversary Himself, and He came away victorious.
Then notice this — it is a beautiful touch — "the angels ministered unto him." Now that did not go beyond His body and His service, but note in connection with it the contrast between the defeat of Adam and the victory of our Lord Jesus Christ, the second Man out of heaven, over Satan — a contrast, let me say, not only striking and glorious, but full of comfort and consolation to the heart. You remember how, when Satan bore away the palm of victory in Eden, the angels were, so to speak, the ministers of that which followed in consequence of that defeat; there were cherubim, and the "flaming sword which turned every way, to keep the way of the tree of life," to bar man's return, so to speak. Here, the second Man is the victor, and the angels come and minister to Him.
O beloved friends, these contrasts of scripture are most blessed and most precious; they set Jesus before us, even as man, in all the priceless preciousness of His Person.
"The strong man in his armour
Thou mettest in Thy grace;
Did'st spoil the mighty charmer
Of our unhappy race."
He was truly and really man, in Him was seen manhood in perfection, a man according to all God's thoughts and purposes, a solitary man in all the blessedness of the perfection of His perfect human nature here in this world; thus angels come and minister to Him. This, then, is the preparation He was pleased to go through and accept for this service.
But now note for a moment more, the next point here. He begins His ministry at once. John is removed off the scene, as far as the history is concerned, I mean in the record of it, though not really till afterwards. But the blessed Lord comes Himself, and you will notice how beautifully He commences His ministry. There is a little word in the verse which gives great emphasis and force to it. "Now after that John was put in prison, Jesus came into Galilee, preaching the gospel of the kingdom of God, and saying, The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel."
This is the first precious note of His ministry. And it is exceedingly interesting, too, in this way, because He says, "The time is at hand." There was no more need for any delay; He does not bring in the law, John came in the way of righteousness to call attention to Him, but you could not have any one calling attention to Him when He appears on the scene Himself. Jesus bears witness to John: Jesus is "the truth." You will never find any one else said to be the truth except Jesus. God is true, but you will not find in scripture God spoken of as the truth. Jesus is "the truth;" that is, He is the declaration and display in His own Person of everything that was according to God. John was not that, and no man was that; but Jesus is that, and therefore Jesus does bear testimony to John, but John is not said to have borne testimony to Christ; he called attention to Christ, and his ministry was preparatory to Christ's coming, being that of the messenger before His face, and also because of the moral condition in which Israel was. But Jesus is the One who bore testimony. "I receive not testimony from man," He says, but He bare testimony to the truth. He is the truth, He is the One who displays things as they really are. Now He says, "The time is come," there is no question of law now, there is no reason for delay. "The time is fulfilled, and the kingdom of God is at hand; repent ye, and believe the gospel" — literally, "cast yourselves on the gospel."
It would be beside my purpose to pursue this in detail; but I will say this, it is very important to distinguish between the kingdom of God and the perfection of the work of our Lord Jesus Christ once for all. Do not confound those two things, because they are quite distinct. I will say enough in passing to convey the distinction to you. For instance, in speaking of the gospel of our salvation, no person would ever say, The gospel of everlasting salvation is at hand. First of all, it would be unmeaning; and secondly, it would be untrue. You can say, "The kingdom of God is at hand," because it was not yet established, and His rejection put it, so to speak, in abeyance. I do not go into the dispensational aspect in which it is set forth in the Gospel of Matthew after His rejection, but I am speaking of what the Lord speaks of here. He does not speak of the kingdom of heaven as such, but of the kingdom of God, "the kingdom of God is at hand" — it had not come, it was about to come "repent ye, and believe the gospel." But now, beloved friends, when we come to speak of the gospel of our salvation, or the gospel of eternal salvation, that is not a thing that is at hand, that is a thing that is accomplished, that is a great reality that subsists in virtue of what our Lord Jesus Christ accomplished on Calvary's cross. There is no question of "at hand" now; that is the great eternal "now," and the great effects of that "now" for all that believe. "The kingdom of God" means that God has claims and rights upon men, and God will have that kingdom, His own kingdom, established in power, and His rights set up by-and by. But meanwhile, there is the gospel of your salvation, which is entirely distinct from the kingdom of God. "Repent," He says, "and believe the gospel."
Now that is the first note of the Lord's ministry; He begins it now; He preaches; He is the great preacher. It is very blessed to think of the Lord Jesus Christ preaching. I think there is not a preacher here to-night whose heart ought not to be touched with the blessed thought, that our blessed Master and Lord was before us in this great work. I think it is a wonderful thought — the great prophet is the great preacher in this world. What a wonderful thing, and how little we think about it oftentimes! People talk about preaching, and say, "Oh! that is only the gospel." I am always grieved when that is said. There is a solemn misapprehension somewhere low down with those who say such things. It could never be a small, light, insignificant thing, that which is so distinctly the display of His own nature who so loved the world that He gave His only-begotten Son.
There is one thing more I would dwell on before passing to the next point. You do not read of preaching in the true sense of it in the Old Testament. You find a law given there, and you find the proclamation of the law and the heralding forth of the commands of God upon men. But I do not believe — you read of preaching. Why? Because there was nothing to preach. God was claiming and demanding from men, and establishing His rights in the claim; but when God comes out, the whole thing being completely ruined and all gone, and when in the grace of His own heart He brings in good news, then you have something to preach, and then you get preaching — I mean in the sense of evangelizing. There are two words in the original — one is to proclaim as a herald, and the other is to bring good tidings, and that is what I mean by preaching, it is evangelizing. You may do that to one person. Philip opened his mouth in the desert, and evangelized Jesus to one man. And the Lord was specially and distinctly in that sense the great evangelist — I say it with all reverence — He was the great preacher.
Now the third point is to me very blessed, even that now He associates others with Him in that work. Now that ought to have a great charm for every servant of Christ; it has, may I say, an unbounded charm for my heart. He is pleased to associate others with Him, and I want to call your attention to the way in which He does it, and to see the difference between it and all that prevails in the world, and almost amongst ourselves.
It is not a personal call here; that is elsewhere; here it is the ministerial call, the call to service. I beseech you earnestly to take note of that. It is not the call of persons to find their part in Christ and to find Christ everything; it is the ministerial call. You find the personal call in John 1, and the ministerial call is here in Mark. And notice what it says — a beautiful word. Is it, "Go out and preach ye"? Not a word of it. "Go out into the streets and lanes"? Not a word as to that yet. "Come ye after me." O the sweetness of that! Ah! beloved fellow servants of Christ, that must be before all service to men. It must be first to Him in our own souls, "Come ye after me" — this is the school, this is the college, this is the training-house, this is where everything is adjusted, "Come ye after me." Is it not the case for we give it all against ourselves — that that element is sadly wanting oftentimes in our ministry? Do not we very often leave the impression upon the hearts of those that hear us that we have not been very much with the Master? "Come ye after me," He says that is first. Oh, the loveliness of that is beyond all expression. And mark what follows, "And I will make you to become fishers of men" — how instructive that is to us! — that is to say, I will train you. There is only One that knows the art, and that is Jesus. There is but one blessed Master of the art of catching men, and that is Jesus. Thank God that He trains others in His grace, "I will make you to become." But it is "after me" where all that intuition is gone into; it is "after me" where all that is picked up, where all that is learnt; He educates, He is the One that initiates, "I will make you to become fishers of men."
I do not dwell upon the figure, but I am sure you know the pains, and the care, and the patience, and all that is necessary to make a man a really good skilful angler. And do you not know what a difficult thing it is to win persons? Is it not too often that we try to drive people? God knows it is not very difficult to repel people, though sometimes it would seem from the very earnestness with which people set themselves to it, that they think it is a hard thing to do. It is very easy to wound, to repel, to knock down; but to win, and, may I say also, to warm, and to catch — these are the words here in the gospel, "I will make you to become fishers of men."
And observe this one word of the Saviour here, "come." That is a word you constantly find, "come." Oh the power that there was in that word! And I will say more — oh the charm there was in that word! How that word must have fallen on their ears! Some of us, I fear, prefer the word, "claim"; but as for me I love that word "charm." But I think I hear you say, Does not the Lord claim you? Ah! but does He not charm you? They were charmed, and that is exactly what you find. And "immediately," you get the word of Mark again, immediately they left property, ship, father, nets, everything. Now take particular note of this. Do not think for a moment that those men were idle, men that had nothing to do. I was struck with this in coming along to speak to you to-night all these men were busy men, every one of them was occupied; it was not that they were do-nothings; for my part, I cannot, beloved friends, see where the virtue is in people that are do-nothings. Not one of those men were of that character; they were all engaged with their nets, or their fishing, or with their father, either drawing the nets, or mending the nets; they were all engaged in some way or another with their occupation. But oh! there was a heavenly charm in that "come" from those precious lips of the Lord Jesus Christ, "out of heaven," and so all was left — the father, the nets, the fishing, everything.
Again once more, remember they were not called to great office, to a high position, nothing of the kind, beloved friends. Assuredly catching fish was a great deal more lucrative than catching men, as far as that goes, far more would be made out of fish-catching; but that was not the point. There was no consideration with regard to the lucrativeness of it, or with regard to their position. As a matter of fact, the position was a far lower one than the one they were leaving, for they were to be the off-scouring of all things — despised, rejected, hated, like their Master, to receive the portion He got in this world. But that only enhances this to my heart, for though they were called out into a position which would expose them to all the hatred that the Lord Jesus Christ Himself had, and to all the thanklessness of this world, sad though it be to say it, even of those who profess to belong to Him, still to come after Him was the highest glory. In that, without a question, they were recompensed, to come after Him, and learn His skilful love and grace, and catch men for Him — that was all. O may He give our hearts that are in any poor way allowed to be in His service here to-night to do likewise. I hold it a sacred responsibility to say to you, I do not believe in my soul that there is a child of God here in this company tonight that He would not privilege to be a servant with Him in some way, if only the heart be true to Him. I hope my beloved brethren will allow me to say that, for I do believe we need to be thus reminded. Thank God He has His servants here in this poor world, and earnest servants too; but the heart longs to see more of them, to see the number increased. I believe there is not one here to-night that is not privileged, through His grace, to be in some sense a servant of Christ, under Christ, assuredly not all in the same way, that could not be, but all servants in some way having something to do for Him. And oh! who can express the sweetness of it! You say, What can I do? Listen to me — there is a hovel away down in one of those miserable streets, and in a back room in it, there is a poor thing lying upon a pallet of straw; go and win her heart for Jesus Christ. Will you do that? I feel, beloved friends, we need a little melting and thawing of the heart as to this. And when I think of the service here of the great Master and the great Servant, and when I think of His work amongst men, and how He was distinctly the servant of God, I do feel how the Lord would touch the hearts of His people here, first of all and most of all by "Come ye after me." I believe there is the lack. If you would only go after Him, He would give you something to do. Only keep His company, only follow Him, and you would learn the skill of love from Him; and your heart will never be satisfied and will never rest until it is in some way expressing the grace and kindness of His heart among men. I do not say "for men," because I think that is a caricature of service, and a gross caricature as well, which, whatever else it does, leaves all of Christ out and only thinks of men, and I would desire for myself and for you to be kept as far from that as possible. But let us hear Him say, "Come ye after me," and then it is after Him, and for Him, and to Him.
And now may God in His infinite grace bless the few thoughts that have come before us this night, and make them preparatory by His grace to our looking further at the precious acts of mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ, for His name's sake.