Christ’s People – Imitators Of Him
A SERMON DELIVERED ON SABBATH MORNING, APRIL 29, 1855, BY THE REV. C. H. SPURGEON,
AT EXETER HALL, STRAND.
“Now when they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and ignorant men, they marveled.
And they took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.” Acts 4:13.
BEHOLD! What a change divine grace will work in a man and in how short a time! That same Peter, who so lately followed his Master afar off and with oaths and curses denied that he knew His name, is now to be found side by side with the loving John, boldly declaring that there is salvation in none other name save that of Jesus Christ! They are preach ing the resurrection of the dead through the sacrifice of his dying Lord. The Scribes and Pharisees soon discover the reason of his boldness. Rightly did they guess that it rested not in his learning or his talents, for neither Peter nor John had been educated; they had been trained as fishermen, their education was a knowledge of the sea—of the fisher man’s craft— they had none other. Their boldness could not therefore spring from the self=sufficiency of knowledge, but from the Spirit of the living God! Nor did they acquire their courage from their station, or rank will confer a sort of dignity upon a man and make him speak with a feigned authority even when he has no talent or genius, but these men were, as it says in the original text, “idiotai, private men who stood in no official capacity”—men without rank or station.
When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, and perceived that they were unlearned and private individuals, they marveled and they came to a right conclusion as to the source of their power—they had been dwelling with Jesus! Their conersation with the Prince of light and glory, backed up, as they might also have known, by the influence of the Holy Spirit—without which even that eminently holy example would have been in vain—had made them bold for their Master’s cause. Oh, my brethren, it would be well if this commendation, so forced from the lips of enemies, could also be compelled by our own example; if we could live like Peter and John; if our lives were “living epistles of God, known and read of all men.” If, whenever we were seen, men would take knowledge of us, that we had been with Jesus, it would be a happy thing for this world and a blessed thing for us. It is concerning this I am to speak to you this morning. And as God gives me divine grace, I will endeavor to stir up your minds by way of remembrance and urge you so to imitate Jesus Christ, our heavenly pat tern, that men may perceive that you are disciples of the holy Son of God!
First then, this morning, I will tell you what a Christian should be; secondly, I will tell you when he should be so; thirdly, why he should be so, and then, fourthly, how he can be so.
I. As God may help us then, first of all, we will speak of WHAT A BE LIEVER SHOULD BE. A Christian should be a striking likeness of Jesus Christ. You have read lives of Christ beautifully and eloquently written— and you have admired the talent of the persons who could write so well. But the best life of Christ is His living biography, written out in the words and actions of His people. If we, my brethren, were what we profess to be—if the Spirit of the Lord were in the heart of all His children, as we could desire—and if, instead of having abundance of formal professors, we were all possessors of that vital grace, I will tell you not only what we ought to be but what we would be. We would be pictures of Christ. Yes, such striking likenesses of Him that the world would not have to hold us up and say, “Well, it seems somewhat of a likeness.” Instead they would, when they once beheld us, exclaim, “He has been with Jesus! He has been taught of Him! He is like He is. He has caught the very idea of the holy man of Nazareth, and he expands it out into his very life and every day actions.”
In enlarging upon this point, it will be necessary to premise that when we here affirm that men should be suchandsuch a thing, we refer to the people of God. We do not wish to speak to them in any legal way. We are not under the law, but under grace. Christians hold themselves bound to keep all God’s precepts—but the reason why they do so is not because the law is binding upon them, but because the gospel compels them. They believe that having been redeemed by divine blood—having been purchased by Jesus Christ—they are more bound to keep His commands than they would have been if they were under the law!
They hold them selves to be ten thousandfold more debtors to God than they could have been under the Mosaic dispensation. Not of force. Not of compulsion. Not through fear of the whip. Not through legal bondage, but through pure, selfless love and gratitude to God; they lay themselves out for His service seeking to be Israelites indeed in whom there is no guile! This much I have declared lest any man should think that I am preaching works as the way to salvation—I will yield to none in this! I will always maintain that by grace we are saved—and not by ourselves or our works! But equally must I testify that where the grace of God is, it will produce fitting works.
To these I am always bound to exhort you—you are ever expected to have good works for necessary purposes. Again—I do not, when I say that a believer should be a striking likeness of Jesus, suppose that any one Christian will perfectly exhibit all the features of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ! Yet, my brethren, the fact that perfection is beyond our reach should not diminish the ardor of our desire after it. The artist, when he paints, knows right well that he shall not be able to excel Apelles. But that does not discourage him. He uses his brush with all the greater pains, that he may at least, in some humble measure, resemble the great master. So, too, the sculptor—though persuaded that he will not rival Praxiteles—he will still hew out the marble, and seek to be as near the model as possible. Just so the Christian—though he feels he never can mount to the height of complete excellence, and perceives that he never can on earth become the exact image of Christ—he still holds it up before him and measures his own deficiencies by the distance be tween himself and Jesus. This he will do, forgetting all he has attained, and he will press forward, crying, Excelsior! He will go still upwards, desiring to be conformed more and more to the image of Christ Jesus!
First then, a Christian should be like Christ in His boldness. This is a virtue nowadays, called impudence, but the grace is equally valuable by whatever name it may be called. I suppose if the Scribes had given a definition of Peter and John, they would have called them impudent fellows. Jesus Christ and His disciples were noted for their courage. “When they saw the boldness of Peter and John, they took knowledge of them that they had been with Jesus.” Jesus Christ never fawned upon the rich. He stooped not to the great and noble, He stood erect, a man before men—the prophet of the people, speaking out boldly and freely what He thought. Have you ever admired that mighty deed of His, when going to the city where He had lived and been brought up—knowing that a prophet had no honor in His own country—the opportunity was put into His hands.
He had but then commenced His ministry. Yet without tremor He unrolled the sacred volume and what did He take for His text? Most men, coming to their own neighborhood would have chosen a subject adapted to the taste in order to earn fame. But what doctrine did Jesus preach that morning? One which in our age is scorned and hated—the doctrine of election! He opened the Scriptures and began to read thus—“Many widows were in Israel in the days of Elijah, when the heaven was shut up three years and six months, when great famine was throughout all the land, but unto none of them was Elijah sent, save unto Sarepta, a city of Sidon, unto a woman that was a widow. And many lepers were in Israel in the time of Elisha the prophet. And none of them was cleansed, saving Naaman the Syrian.” Then He began to tell how God saves whom He pleases and rescues whom He chooses.
Ah, how they gnashed their teeth upon Him, dragged Him out, and would have cast Him from the brow of the hill! Do you not admire His intrepidity? He saw their teeth gnashing. He knew their hearts were hot with enmity while their mouths foamed with revenge and malice—still He stood like the angel who shut the lion’s mouths. He feared them not. Faithfully He proclaimed what He knew to be the truth of God and still read on despite them all. So in His discourses, if He saw a Scribe or a Pharisee in the congregation, He did not keep back part of the price, but pointing His finger, He said, “Woe Unto you, Scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites.” And when a lawyer came, saying, “Master, in speaking thus, you condemn us, also,” He turned round and said, “Woe unto you, lawyers, for you bind heavy burdens upon men, while you will not touch them with so much as one of your fingers.” He dealt out honest truth—He never knew the fear of man. He trembled at none. He stood out as God’s chosen whom He had anointed above His fellows, careless of man’s esteem.
My friends, be like Christ in this. Have none of the timeserving religion of the present day, which is merely exhibited in evangelical drawing rooms—a religion which only flourishes in a hotbed atmosphere, a religion which is only to be perceived in good company. No, if you are the servants of God, be like Jesus Christ, bold for your Master! Never blush to acknowledge your religion. Your profession will never disgrace you. Take care you never disgrace that. Your love to Christ will never dishonor you—it may bring some temporary slight from your friends, or slanders from your enemies—but live on and you shall live down their slanders. Live on and you shall stand among the glorified, honored even by those who hissed you when He shall come to be glorified by His angels and admired by them that love Him! Be like Je sus, very valiant for your God—so that when they shall see your boldness, they may say, “He has been with Jesus.”
But no one feature will give a portrait of a man—so the one virtue of boldness will never make you like Christ. There have been some who have been noble men but have carried their courage to excess. They have thus been caricatures of Christ and not portraits of Him. We must amalgamate with our boldness the loveliness of Jesus’ disposition. Let courage be the brass. Let love be the gold. Let us mix the two together that we might produce a rich Corinthian metal fit to be manufactured into the beautiful gate of the temple. Let your love and courage be mingled together! The man who is bold may indeed accomplish wonders.
John Knox did much, but he might, perhaps, have done more if he had had a little love. Luther was a conqueror—peace to his ashes and honor to his name! Still, we who look upon him at a distance think that if he had sometimes mixed a little mildness with it—if while he had been fortiter in re he had been also suaviter in modo and spoken somewhat more gently, he might have done even more good than he did! So, brethren, while we, too, are bold, let us ever imitate the loving Jesus. The child comes to Him—He takes it on His knee, saying, “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not.” A widow has just lost her only son—He weeps at the bier and with a word restores life to the dead man. He sees a paralytic, a leper, or a man long confined to his bed. He speaks, they rise and are healed. He lived for others, not for Himself. His constant labors were without any motive except the good of those who lived in the world. And to crown all, you know the mighty sacrifice He made when He condescended to lay down His life for man—when on the tree, quivering with agony and hanging in the utmost extremity of suffering, He submitted to die for our sakes—that we might be saved. Behold in Christ, Love consolidated! He was one mighty pillar of benevolence. As God is Love, so Christ is Love. Oh, Christians, be loving also! Let your love and your beneficence beam out on all men. Say not, “Be you warmed and be you filled,” but, “give a portion to seven and also to eight.”
If you cannot imitate Him and unlock the prison doors—if you cannot visit the sad house of misery—yet each in your proper sphere speak kind words, do kind ac tions, live out Christ, again, in the kindness of your life! If there is one virtue which most commends Christians, it is that of kindness. It is to love the people of God, to love the church, to love the word, to love all. But how many have we in our churches, crabtree Christians, who have mixed such a vast amount of vinegar and such a tremendous quantity of gall in their constitutions, that they can scarcely speak one good word to you? They imagine it impossible to defend religion except by passionate, boiling emotions. They cannot speak for their dishonored Master without being angry with their opponent. They are mad if anything is awry, whether it is in the house, the church, or anywhere else. They conceive it to be their duty to set their faces like a flint and to defy everybody! They are like isolated icebergs—no one cares to go near them. They float about on the Sea of Forgetfulness until at last they are melted and gone. And though good souls—we shall be happy enough to meet them in heaven— we are heartily glad to get rid of them from the earth. They were always so unamiable in disposition that we would rather live an eternity with them in heaven, than five minutes on earth. Be you not thus, my brethren. Imitate Christ in your loving spirits. Speak kindly, act kindly and do kindly—that men may say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”
Another great feature in the life of Christ was His deep and sincere humility, in which let us, by God’s grace, imitate Him. While we will not cringe or bow—far from it—we are the free men whom the truth makes free. We walk through this world equal to all, inferior to none—yet we would endeavor to be like Christ—continually humble! Oh, you proud Christian—for though it is a paradox, there must be some—I would not be so uncharitable as to say that there are not some such persons—if you are a Christian, I bid you look at your Master talking to the children! Look at Him bending from the majesty of His divinity to speak to man kind on earth, tabernacling with the peasants of Galilee and then—yes, depth of condescension unparalleled—washing His disciples’ feet and wiping them with a towel after supper. This is your Master whom you profess to worship!
This is your Lord whom you adore! And you, some of you who count yourselves Christians, cannot speak to a person who is not dressed in the same kind of clothing as yourselves, who has not exactly as much money per year as you have! In England it is true that a sovereign will not speak to a shilling, and a shilling will not notice a six pence, and a sixpence will sneer at a penny, but it should not be so with Christians. We ought to forget caste, degree and rank when we come into Christ’s church. Remember, Christian, who your Master was—a man of the poor! He lived with them. He ate with them. And will you walk with lofty heads and stiff necks, looking with insufferable contempt upon your meaner fellow worms? What are you? The meanest of all—because your trickeries and adornments make you proud! Pitiful, despicable souls you are! How small you look in God’s sight! Christ was humble. He stooped to do anything which might serve others. He had no pride. He was a humble man, a friend of publicans and sinners, living and walking with them. So, Christian, be like your Master—one who can stoop. Yes, be one who thinks it not stooping, but rather esteems others better than himself, counts it his honor to sit with the poorest of Christ’s people, and says, “If my name may be but written in the obscurest part of the book of life, it is enough for me, so unworthy am I of His notice!” Be like Christ in His humility.
So might I continue, dear brethren, speaking of the various characteristics of Christ Jesus, but as you can think of them as well as I can, I shall not do so. It is easy for you to sit down and paint Jesus Christ, for you have Him drawn out here in His word. I find that time would fail me if I were to give you an entire likeness of Jesus. But let me say, imitate Him in His holiness. Was He zealous for His Father? So be you. Ever go about doing good? Let not time be wasted; it is too precious. Was He self denying, never looking to His own interest? So be you! Was He devout? So be you fervent in your prayers. Had He deference to His Father’s will? So submit yourselves to Him. Was He patient? So learn to endure. And best of all, as the highest portraiture of Jesus, try to forgive your enemies, as He did, and let those sublime words of your Master, “Father, forgive them, for they know not what they do,” always ring in your ears. When you are prompted to revenge, when hot anger starts, bridle the steed at once and let it not dash forward with you headlong. Remember, anger is temporary insanity. Forgive as you hope to be forgiven. Heap coals of fire on the head of your foe by your kindness to him. Good for evil, remember, is Godlike. Be Godlike then; and in all ways and by all means, so live that your enemies may say, “He has been with Jesus.”
Now, WHEN SHOULD CHRISTIANS BE THUS? There is an idea in the world that persons ought to be very religious on Sunday, but it does not matter what they are on Monday. How many pious preachers are there on the Sunday who are very impious preachers during the rest of the week? How many are there who come up to the house of God with a solemn countenance, who join in the song and profess to pray, yet have neither part nor lot in the matter, but are “in that gall of bitterness and in the bonds of iniquity”? This is true of some of you who are here pre sent. When should a Christian, then, be like Jesus Christ? Is there a time when he may strip off his regimentals—when the warrior may unbuckle his armor and become like other men? Oh, no! At all times and in every place let the Christian be what he professes to be. I remember talking, some time ago, with a person who said, “I do not like visitors who come to my house and introduce religion. I think we ought to have religion on Sundays, when we go to the house of God, but not in the drawing room.” I suggested to the individual, that there would be a great deal of work for the upholsterers if there were no religion except in the house of God. “How is that?” was the question. “Why,” I replied, “we would need to have beds fitted up in all our places of worship, for surely we need religion to die with and, consequently, everyone would want to die there.” Yes, we all need the consolations of God at the last! But how can we ex pect to enjoy them unless we obey the precepts of religion during life? My brethren, let me say, be like Christ at all times, imitate Him in public. Most of us live in some sort of publicity. Many of us are called to work before our fellow men every day.
We are watched. Our words are caught. Our lives are examined—taken to pieces. The eagleeyed world observes everything we do. And sharp critics are upon us. Let us live the life of Christ in public. Let us take care that we exhibit our Master and not ourselves—so that we can say, “It is no longer I that lives, but Christ that lives in me.” Take heed that you carry this into the church too, you who are church members. Be like Christ in the church. How many there are of you like Diotrephes, seeking preeminence. How many are trying to have some dignity and power over their fellow Christians, instead of remembering that it is the fundamental rule of all our churches that all men are equal, alike to be received as such. Carry out the spirit of Christ, then, in your churches, wherever you are. Let your fellow members say of you, “He has been with Jesus.”
But, most of all, take care to have religion in your houses. A religious house is the best proof of true piety. It is not my chapel, it is my house— it is not my minister—it is my home companion who can best judge me. It is the servant, the child, the wife, the friend who can discern most of my real character. A good man will improve his household. Rowland Hill once said he would not believe a man to be a true Christian if his wife, his children, his servants and even the dog and cat, were not the better for it. That is being religious! If your household is not the better for your Christianity—if men cannot say, “This is a better house than others,” then be not deceived—you have nothing of the grace of God. Let not your servant, on leaving your employ, say, “Well, this is a strange sort of a religious family. There was no prayer in the morning.
I began the day with my drudgery. There was no prayer at night. I was kept at home all Sun day. Once a fortnight, perhaps, I was allowed to go out in the afternoon when there was nowhere to go to where I could hear a gospel sermon. My master and mistress went to a place where, of course, they heard the blessed gospel of God—that was all for them. As for me, I might have the dregs and leavings of some overworked curate in the afternoon.” Surely Christians will not act in that way. No! Carry out your godliness in your family. Let everyone say that you have practical religion. Let it be known and read in the house, as well as in the world. Take care of your character there. For what we are there, we really are! Our life abroad is often but a borrowed part—actors part of a great scene—but at home the mask is removed and men are what they seem. Take care of your home duties.
Yet again, my brethren, before I leave the point imitate Jesus in secret. When no eye sees you except the eyes of God, when darkness covers you, when you are shut up from the observation of mortals, even then be like Jesus Christ! Remember His ardent piety, His secret devotion—how, after laboriously preaching the whole day, He stole away in the midnight shades to cry for help from His God. Remember how His entire life was constantly sustained by fresh inspirations of the Holy Spirit, derived by prayer. Take care of your secret life—let it be such that you will not be ashamed to read at the last great day. Your inner life is written in the book of God and it shall one day be opened before you. If the entire life of some of you were known, it would be no life at all—it would be a death. Yes, even of some true Christian, we may say, it is scarcely a life. It is a dragging on of an existence—one hasty prayer a day—one breathing, just enough to save our soul alive, but no more. O my brethren, strive to be more like Jesus Christ! These are times when we need more secret pray er. I have had much fear all this week. I know not whether it is true. But when I feel such a thing, I like to tell it to those of you who belong to my own church and congregation. I have trembled, lest by being away from our own place, you have ceased to pray as earnestly as you once did!
I remember your earnest groans and petitions—how you would assemble together in the house of prayer in multitudes and cry out to God to help His servant. We cannot meet in such style at present. But do you still pray in private? Have you forgotten me? Have you ceased to cry out to God? Oh, my friends, with all the entreaties that a man can use, let me appeal to you—remember who I am and what I am—a child, having little education, little learning, ability, or talent—and here I am, called upon week after week to preach to this crowd of people! Will you not, my be loved, still plead for me? Has not God been pleased to hear your prayers ten thousand times? And will you now cease, when a mighty revival is taking place in many churches? Will you now stop your petitions? Oh, no! Go to your houses, fall upon your knees, cry aloud to God to enable you still to hold up your hands like Moses on the hill, that Joshua below may fight and overcome the Amalekites. Now is the time for victory—shall we lose it? This is the high tide that will float us over the bar. Now let us put out the oars. Let us pull by earnest prayer, crying for God the Spirit to fill the sails! You who love God, of every place and every denomination, wrestle for your ministers, pray for them! For why should not God even now pour out His Spirit? What is the reason why we are to be denied Pentecostal seasons? Why not this hour, as one mighty band, fall down before Him and entreat Him, for His Son’s sake, to revive His drooping church? Then would all men discern that we are, verily, disciples of Christ!
But now, thirdly, WHY SHOULD CHRISTIANS IMITATE CHRIST? The answer comes very naturally and easily. Christians should be like Christ, first, for their own sakes. For their honesty’s sake and for their credit’s sake, let them not be found liars before God or men! For their own healthful state, if they wish to be kept from sin and preserved from going astray, let them imitate Jesus. For their own happiness’ sake, if they would drink wine on the lees well refined. If they would enjoy holy and happy communion with Jesus, if they would be lifted up above the
cares and troubles of this world—let them imitate Jesus Christ! Oh, my brethren, there is nothing that can so advantage you. Nothing that can so prosper you, so assist you, so make you rapidly walk towards heaven, so keep your head upwards towards the sky and your eyes radiant with glory, like the imitation of Jesus Christ! It is when by the power of the Holy Spirit you are enabled to walk with Jesus in His very footsteps and tread in His ways, you are most happy. And you are most known to be the children of God. For your own sakes, my brethren, I say, be like Christ!
Next, for religion’s sake, strive to imitate Jesus. Ah, poor religion, you have been sorely shot at by cruel foes but you have not been wounded one half as much by them as by your friends. None have hurt you, O Christianity, so much as those who profess to be your followers. Who have made these wounds in this fair hand of Godliness? I say the professor has done this—the professor who has not lived up to his profession. The man, who with pretences, enters the fold, being nothing but a wolf in sheep’s clothing. Such men, sirs, injure the gospel more than others— more than the laughing infidel, more than the sneering critic. No one hurts our cause more than does the man or woman who professes to love it, but in their actions lie. Is the name of the dear Redeemer precious to you? Would you see the kingdoms of the world become the kingdoms of our Lord and His Christ? Do you wish to see the proud man humbled and the mighty abased? Do you long for the souls of perishing sinners and are you desirous to win them and save their souls from everlasting burning? Would you prevent their fall into the regions of the damned? Is it your desire that Christ should see the travail of His soul and be abundantly satisfied? Does your heart yearn over your fellow immortals? Do you long to see them forgiven? Then be consistent with your religion. Walk before God in the land of the living.
Behave as an elect man or woman should do! Remember what manner of people we ought to be in all holy conversation and godliness. This is the best way to convert the world. Yes, such conduct would do more than even the efforts of missionary societies, excellent as they are. Let but men see that our conduct is superior to others, then they will believe there is something in our religion. But if they see us quite the contrary to what we avow, what will they say? “These religious people are no better than others! Why should we go among them?” And they say quite rightly. It is but common sense judgment. Ah, my friends, if you love religion, for her own sake be consistent and walk in the love of God. Follow Christ Jesus!
Then, to put it into the strongest form I can, let me say, for Christ’s sake, endeavor to be like He. Oh, could I fetch the dying Jesus here and let Him speak to you! My own tongue is tied this morning, but I would make His blood, His tears and His wounds speak. Poor dumb mouths, I bid each of them plead in His behalf. How would Jesus, standing here, show you His hands this morning! “My friends,” He would say, “Behold Me! These hands were pierced for you. And look here at this, My side; it was opened as the fountain of your salvation. See My feet; there entered the cruel nails. Each of these bones were dislocated for your sake. These eyes gushed with torrents of tears. This head was crowned with thorns. These cheeks were smitten. This hair was plucked. My body became the center and focus of agony. I hung quivering in the burning sun.
And all for you, My people—will you not love Me now? I bid you be like I am. Is there any fault in Me? Oh, no. You believe that I am fairer than ten thou sand fairs, and lovelier than ten thousand loves. Have I injured you? Have I not rather done all for your salvation? And do I not sit at My Fa ther’s throne, even now, interceding on your behalf? If you love Me”— Christian, hear that word, let the sweet syllables ring forever in your ears, like the prolonged sounding of silvertoned bells—“if you love Me, if you love Me, keep My commandments.” Oh, Christian, let that “if” be put to you this morning. “If you love Me.” Glorious Redeemer! Is it an “if” at all? You precious, bleeding Lamb, can there be an “if”? What? When I see Your blood gushing from You, is it an “if”? Yes, I weep to say it is an “if.” Often my thoughts make it “if,” and often my words make it “if.” But yet I think my soul feels it is not “if” either—
“Not to my eyes is light so dear, Nor friendship half so sweet.”
“Yes, I love You; I know that I love You! Lord, You know all things, You know that I love You,” the Christian can say. “Well then,” says Jesus, looking down with a glance of affectionate approbation, “since you love Me, keep My commandments.” O beloved, what mightier reason can I give than this? It is the argument of love and affection. Be like Christ, since gratitude demands obedience—and so shall the world know that you have been with Jesus!
Ah, then you wept, and I perceive you felt the force of pity, and some of you are inquiring, “HOW CAN I IMITATE HIM?” It is my busi ness, then, before you depart, to tell you how you can become trans formed into the image of Christ.
In the first place, then, my beloved friends, in answer to your inquiry, let me say, you must know Christ as your Redeemer before you can fol low Him as your Exemplar. Much is said about the example of Jesus, and we scarcely find a man now who does not believe that our Lord was an excellent and holy man, much to be admired. But excellent as His ex ample, it would be impossible to imitate it had He not also been our sacrifice! Do you, this morning, know that His blood was shed for you? Can you join with me in this verse—
“O the sweet wonders of that cross Where God the Savior loved and died! Her noblest life my spirit draws, From His dear wounds and bleeding side.”
If so, you are on a fair way to imitate Christ. But do not seek to copy Him until you are bathed in the fountain filled with blood drawn from His veins. It is not possible for you to do so; your passion will be too strong and corrupt, and you will be building without a foundation, a structure which will be about as stable as a dream. You cannot mold your life to His pattern, until you have had His Spirit, till you have been clothed in His righteousness! “Well,” say some, “we have proceeded so far, what shall we do next? We know we have an interest in Him, but we are still sensible of manifold deficiencies.” Next then, let me entreat you to study Christ’s character. This poor Bible is become an almost obsolete book, even with some Christians; there are so many magazines, periodicals, and such like brief productions, that we are in danger of neglecting to search the Scriptures. Christian, would you know your Master? Look at Him! There is a wondrous power about the character of Christ, for the more you regard it, the more you will be conformed to it.
I view myself in the mirror—I go away and forget what I was! I behold Christ and I be come like Christ. Look at Him, then; study Him in the evangelists, studiously examine His character. “But,” you say, “we have done that and we have proceeded but little farther”; then in the next place, correct your poor copy every day! At night, try and recount all the actions of the previous 24 hours, scrupulously putting them under review. When I have proof sheets sent to me of any of my writings, I have to make the corrections in the margin. I might read them over 50 times and the printers would still put in the errors if I did not mark them.
So must you do if you find anything faulty! At night make a mark in the margin that you may know where the fault is, and tomorrow you may amend it. Do this day after day, continually noting your faults one by one so that you may better avoid them. It was a maxim of the old philosophers that three times in the day we should go over our actions. So let us do. Let us not be forgetful. Let us rather examine ourselves each night, and see wherein we have done amiss, that we may reform our lives.
Lastly, as the best advice I can give, seek more of the Spirit of God, for this is the way to become Christlike. Vain are all your attempts to be like He till you have sought His Spirit. Take the cold iron and attempt to weld it, if you can, into a certain shape. How fruitless the effort! Lay it on the anvil, seize the blacksmith’s hammer with all your might. Let blow after blow fall upon it and you shall have done nothing.
Twist it, turn it, use all your implements, but you shall not be able to fashion it as you would. But put it in the fire, let it be softened and made malleable—then lay it on the anvil—and each stroke shall have a mighty effect, so that you may fashion it into any form you may desire. So take your heart, not cold as it is, not stony as it is by nature, but put it into the furnace. There let it be molten, and after that it can be turned like wax to the seal, and fashioned into the image of Jesus Christ!
Oh my brethren, what can I now say to enforce my text but that if you are like Christ on earth, you shall be like He is in heaven! If by the power of the Spirit you become followers of Jesus, you shall enter glory. For at heaven’s gate there sits an angel who admits no one who has not the same features as our adorable Lord. There comes a man with a crown upon his head. “Yes,” he says, “you have a crown, it is true, but crowns are not the medium of access here.” Another approaches dressed in robes of state and the gown of learning. “Yes,” says the angel, “it may be good, but gowns and learning are not the marks that shall admit you here.” Others advance fair, beautiful, and comely. “Yes,” says the angel “that might please on earth, but beauty is not needed here.” There comes up another who is heralded by fame, and prefaced by the blast of the clamor of mankind. But the angel says, “It is well with man, but you have no right to enter here.” Then there appears another—poor he may have been, illiterate he may have been—but the angel, as he looks at him, smiles and says, “It is Christ again; a second edition of Jesus Christ is there. Come in, come in! Eternal glory you shall win!
You are like Christ in heaven; you shall sit because you are like He is.” Oh, to be like Christ is to enter heaven! But to be unlike Christ is to descend to hell. Likes shall be gathered together at last, tares with tares, wheat with wheat. If you have sinned with Adam and have died, you shall lie with the spiritually dead forever, unless you rise in Christ to newness of life! Then shall we live with Him throughout eternity. Wheat with wheat, tares with tares. “Be not deceived, God is not mocked—whatever man sows that shall he also reap.” Go away with this one thought, then, my brethren, that you can test yourselves by Christ. If you are like Christ, you are of Christ, and shall be with Christ! If you are unlike He is, you have no portion in the great inheritance. May my poor discourse help to fan the floor and reveal the chaff; yes, may it lead many of you to seek to be par takers of the inheritance of the saints in light, to the praise of His grace. And to Him be all honor!