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He Ran, and "He" Ran
July 2, 1885 by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"But when he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him." Mark 5:6 . "But when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." Luke 15:20 .
These two texts have a measure of apparent likeness: the man runs to Jesus from afar, and the father runs to the prodigal from afar. They both run; and when two run to meet each other, they soon meet. When a sinner is running to Christ, and the Father is running to the sinner, there shall be a happy meeting before very long, and there shall be joy in heaven and joy on earth, too. I shall begin my discourse by noticing the case of the demoniac, whose story we read: "When he saw Jesus afar off, he ran and worshipped him." I. Using that narrative as a kind of parable, I would remark, in the first place, that we have here an emblem OF THE SINNER'S PLACE. He is "afar off" from Christ; and when first of all the Spirit of God begins to open his eyes to his own true condition, one of the chief difficulties in his way is the realization of his distance from the Savior. He begins to cry, "Oh, that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat!" The poor man feels as if there were a great and dreadful distance between him and the great Mediator; he can only see "Jesus afar off," as the demoniac did. He has not yet come to Christ, nor proved his wondrous power to bless. I daresay there are some in this congregation who feel that they are "afar off" from the Lord Jesus Christ, and "afar off" from the great Father. You are "afar off" as to character. I am not going to bring an accusation against you, for your own heart and conscience accuse you. It is not necessary for me to describe your past life; if you are the person whom Christ has come to bless, then I know that your sin is ever before you. You cannot hide it from yourself, it seems to be painted on your very eye-balls. You have to look at everything through the mist and haze of your past guilt, and consequently everything looks dark and dreary to you. The very mercies which God gives you seem to accuse you of your ingratitude to your Benefactor; and any denials of mercy, any chastisements that you are enduring, seem to you to be but premonitions of a coming doom; for you feel yourself to be by your past life very far off from Christ. He is perfect, and you are full of sin. He is just, and you are unjust. He is meek and lowly, and you confess that you have been proud and wayward. He is beloved of his Father, the beloved Servant of God; but you have derided God's gospel, and you have refused to obey him. You are, indeed, far off from Christ. It seems to you that, if Christ and the penitent thief made a pair, then you also might make a pair with your dying Savior, but not else. You feel yourself to be unworthy to be in the same world with him, much less to be in the same heaven with him. Well, now, when our Lord went to Gadara, as far as I can see, he crossed the sea of Galilee, and endured that storm at night, in order that he might heal one man, and he went back again well content when he had wrought that one miracle. It may be that you are a man of that kind, as far off from any likeness to Christ as that poor lunatic was; and he may have come here at this good hour with the intent to save you. At any rate, his servant will go home as grateful as a man can be, if he be but made the means of saving one such sinner as you are; but, first of all, you must realize that this is your position, "afar off" from Christ as to character. But what, perhaps, may appear to you to be even worse is that you seem to be "afar off" as to any hope of salvation by Christ. It may be that you have long been a hearer of the gospel. When you were younger, it did seem as if the kingdom of God had come nigh unto you; but now, the older you grow, the less susceptible you are of holy influences. You used to weep under sermons; you can more easily sleep under them now. Time was when your rest was broken after some kindly admonition from a Christian friend; but now, perhaps, Christian friends scarcely ever admonish you, because you have a sarcastic way of repelling what they say; and even while you are sitting here, you are moaning to yourself, "Some in this congregation may be converted, but I shall not be. The Lord Jesus Christ may come here, and deliver some poor soul; but assuredly he will not deliver me. I am an offcast and an outcast; not, perhaps, by open sin, but by an inward hardening of my spirit till my soul has become like the northern iron and steel, and nothing can move me. I am far off from any hope that the Savior will ever bless me." Well, now, let me say to you, dear friend, that I am very sorry that it should be so with you; yet am I glad you are here when such a subject as this is being handled, for that Gadarene demoniac did seem to be about as hopeless a man as there was in all the country round about. Apart from Christ, his case was absolutely hopeless. They had, doubtless, used all the arts for the management of lunatics which they understood in those barbarous days, but no chains of iron, nor bands of brass, could hold him; he could not be tamed, or kept in check. And yet, O thou blessed Christ, thou couldst cross the stormy sea at midnight to save this one man! It may be that it is so with you also, dear friends, who are so far away from Christ in the misapprehensions of your want of hope; yet it may be that this very hour is the time when you are to be set free from the power of the devil, and brought to sit at Jesu's feet, clothed, and in your right mind. Some also are "afar off" from Christ as to knowledge of him. They know but little of the Christ of God; they have heard his name, they have some dim notions about him; but as yet they only see him "afar off." In these days, when the gospel is preached at so many street-corners, and when there is a sanctuary in almost every street, it is astonishing what gross ignorance there is about him whom to know is life eternal, by knowledge of whom many are justified, and without knowledge of whom men must perish eternally. O friends, it is terrible to think that there are persons, well instructed in everything else, who know nothing about this salvation which God has provided for the sons of men! You hear them railing against the Bible; and in almost every case the railer has never read the Book. You hear them speak against Christ; and it is almost a proverb that those who speak most against him are ignorant of the common facts of his life. They have not studied his character, nor have they examined his teaching, yet they cast it all aside as if they were infallible, and as if they were qualified to judge and to decide without hearing the case at all. This is a wretched mode of action; yet, if any of you who are here know but little of Christ, for all that I am glad you are here, and I only trust that you may be led to do what this poor ignorant demoniac did; though he must have known very little about Christ, yet he ran to him and worshipped him. A little knowledge, like the star of Bethlehem, may suffice to guide to Christ those who are willing to follow its light. A faint gleaming of what Christ is may burn and glow into a more complete and perfect knowledge of him, and by that knowledge you may be brought into the liberty wherewith Christ makes his people free. I will not keep you longer in describing the sad state of the sinner in being thus far from Christ, except to say that it may be possible that you feel far from Christ because you do not feel as if you could get at him. You are so unspiritual that you say to yourself, "If Christ were on earth, I would walk till I dropped, but I would get to him; and if I could speak with him, so that he could hear my words, and could answer me with actual vocal sounds, if I could see him, and he would look at me, I would spend the last penny I am worth, and pass over any length of sea and land if I could but get at him; but somehow I cannot. If it were a matter of touching the hem of his garment with my finger, I would push through the press to do it. If it were a matter of taking him up in my arms, as Simeon took the young child Jesus, I would do it, and do it with joy; but I do not know how to get to him, it seems to be all mist and all cloud to me." I know what you mean, dear friend, for I was in that state once, and then indeed I also "saw Jesus afar off," and for a long while I could not get to realize that he was mine. Well, notwithstanding that feeling which possesses you, I shall speak to you yet further, in the fond hope that you may imitate this poor man, who must have been very much like you, only in a worse plight than yours, and it will be my prayer and desire that you may come running to Christ, as he did, and that you also may worship him. II. Now notice, secondly, THE SINNER'S PRIVILEGE,: "He saw Jesus," though he only saw him "afar off." Those of you who only see Christ in the distance, who do not know much about him, and cannot get at him, do at least know that there is such a Person. You have heard, and it is the best news you ever did hear, that the Son of God came down to live among men, and took our flesh, and became man of the substance of his mother, and that, though he died upon the cross, yet he has risen from the dead, and he still lives. You have heard tell of all that; you have not thought of it as you ought to have done, you have not let it weigh upon your heart, or sought to understand all its holy lessons; but still, you have such a knowledge of him that you have seen him "afar off." More than that, you have heard, and you believe, that Jesus has done great things for men. You do not think much about what he has done; still, it has como to your knowledge that he lived, and loved, and died, that he might save men. You have often heard that, on the cross, he made an expiation for human sin; and let me tell you that this is the choicest news you ever heard, or ever will hear, and the day may come when you will look at this truth as the only star of hope in a night which else must be eternal. I hope you will yet clasp that truth to your heart as the brightest jewel and the rarest treasure you have ever met with. And I believe, further, that some of you have caught the idea that the Lord Jesus Christ is saving other people. You have met with some whom you observe to be very much changed, greatly altered from what they used to be; and, though you sometimes laugh at them, yet deep down in your heart you do not really mock them, but you wish it was yourself. You have, after all, a respect for any one of these wonderful changes, called conversions, when you see them to be real and genuine; and you, perhaps, know some fellows with whom you work, and although you ridicule them, you know that they are better men than they used to be, and you admire the change; and there is a feeling in your inmost heart that, though you cannot make out the mystery, still there is something in it. Yes, you can see Jesus, though still I grieve to say that you do but see him afar off. You have, in your heart, some sort of belief that it may be possible that he will yet save you, and there is some sort of humble desire in your own soul that he will look your way, and cast the devils out of you, and make you to be his happy servant. But, once more, concerning the sinner's privilege, Christ has come to the district where he is. It is a horrible country, full of tombs and full of pollution, and the man has made it moro horrible himself by his wildness and his madness; yet there is the Christ himself treading that same Gadarene shore. He who is "mighty to save" has come into the land of death-shade. He who could cast out devils has come into the devil's own territory, he has come to beard the lion in his den. Herein also is the privilege of men to-day; the Lord Jesus Christ, who made heaven and earth, is still among us, and will be with us to the end of this dispensation. He who could raise the dead, and heal the lepers, and cast out demons, is still here working by his Spirit. Though corporeally he is gone, yet in efficacious power to save he lingers among us still, and his lingering means salvation to all who trust him. Hear it, O sons of men, and as ye hear it, may God bless the message to your souls! III. What did this demoniac do when he saw Jesus afar off? That is the point to which we are coming, and that will teach us THE SINNER'S WISEST COURSE: "He ran and worshipped him." I do not know that he did intelligently, and after the right manner, worship Christ as the disciples worshipped him. Perhaps at first, when he was up a hill, howling and cutting himself with stones, he espied a boat come near the shore, and he saw a single stranger coming up from the boat, much as the natives of Erromanga saw John Williams landing on that cannibal shore, and his horrible instinct moved him to fly down at once to the beach, perhaps to attack the man who dared in open daylight intrude on the wild man's domain. But as he approached nearer and nearer to this mysterious stranger, quite a new feeling came over him. His step grew slower, his fierce eye beamed with a duller fire, the beastlike instinct became calm, the ravening wolf, the roaring lion within him began to tremble, for it perceived its Master; and when he had come near enough to get a fuller view of Christ, who stood there in simple majesty, calm and serene, the very opposite of the poor creature's mad fury, the man fell down at Jesu's feet, and worshipped him. Then the devils within him spoke out, and using the man's voice, said, "What have I to do with thee, Jesus, thou Son of the most high God?" But for the moment it was the man, and not the devil, who prevailed; for an instant, what little relics there were of manhood made themselves felt, and the man fell down and worshipped under the influence of the mysterious presence of Christ. What I hope and trust may come of our consideration of this subject is that some big sinner here may have a lucid interval, that some mad sinner here, before the devil can speak again, may have just a little quiet time, so that, though he may have come in here fresh from all manner of evil, yet for the moment he may feel a solemn calm steal over his spirit, a sacred hush that shall make him quiet as he has not been for many a day. I pray that some strange influence strange to him up to this time, may draw him so that he shall run to Christ, and fall at his feet, and worship him. I am not just now saying anything about faith in Christ except that I do not believe any man worships Christ without having some faith in him; but I am just going to take this very low standard, and say that this man, with all his madness, was wise in what he did, and the Spirit of God was leading him in the right direction when, breaking loose, as it were, from the devil's power for a moment or two, he ran to Christ, and worshipped him. And to any poor soul, in like case, I would say, " I beseech thee, for a minute or two, at any rate, worship the Christ of God whom I preach to thee." For consider that, first, Christ is God as well as man, and therefore worthy to be worshipped. This poor demoniac was wiser than the Socinians or Unitarians of our day; he felt that there was more in Christ than in any mere man. Devil-possessed though he was, yet he fell clown and worshipped Christ. And thou, my friend, thou also knowest that Christ is God. Well, then, for a few minutes do thyself the justice to worship him as God over all, blessed for ever. If he shall never save thee, yet is he worthy to be worshipped, for he is so great and so gracious. Therefore, let thy mind be still for a moment, and pay thy homage before his feet, and from thy very heart call him "Lord" and "God." Besides, Christ died to save sinners; and being God, and having died to save sinners, I say to thee, "Worship him." I recollect the time when I was afraid that Jesus would never save me, but I used to feel in my heart that, even if he did not, I must love him for what he had done for poor sinners. It seemed to me, as I read the wondrous story of his life and death, that if he spurned me, I would still lie at his feet, and say, "Thou mayest spurn me, but thou art a blessed Christ for all that, and, if thou dost curse me, yet I can only say to thee that I well deserve it at thy hands. Do what thou wilt with me; but thou didst save the dying thief, and thou didst save her out of whom thou didst cast seven devils, and if thou dost not deign to save me, yet thou art a blessed Christ, and I cannot rail at thee, or find fault with thee, but I lie down at thy feet, and worship thee." Cannot you speak and act like that? Cannot you look up at him through your tears, and, as you see the nail-prints in his hands and feet, and that great gash in his side, which reached his heart, can you not feel that you must lie at his feet, and worship him? Just waive all questions about yourself for a minute, and think only of him; forget even your own sin for the time being, and think of what he deserves, and now, at least, for the next few minutes, bow your soul reverently before the Christ of God, and worship him. I think I may add that you may well worship him, because there is in that poor, flurried soul of yours, worried and confused and devil-ridden though it be, this thought, that Christ alone can save you. You do know that. Where else can you go but unto him? What other door is open to you? What other hand was ever pierced for you? What other side ever bled that it might give cleansing for your sin? Where lives there another person who loves as Christ has loved? Therefore, do realize that he is unique, One altogether by himself; and while you cannot and will not worship others, yet, poor devil-possessed soul that thou art, fall down and worship him. Say to him, "Lord, if my night never ends, yet will I look eastward, for there the sun will rise, if not for me. Lord, if I die of thirst, yet will I linger by the lone well in the desert, for if I ever drink at all, I must drink there. I can but perish if I linger at the cross; and I am resolved to linger there, for if my blood shall stain that blessed tree, then e'en so it must be, for I am resolved and it is my last resource, if I must perish, I will die here." O soul, I am not telling thee to do any great thing now, am I? I am not urging thee to exercise any unreasonable confidence, but I do advise thee to fall down and worship at my Lord's dear feet. Mad though thou art, and thy mad worship so poor and imperfect, yet, nevertheless, he will accept thee, and do great things for thee. For remember, next, that Christ can save thee; Christ can save thee. Thou hast gone to the end of thy tether, but thou hast not gone beyond the reach of his power. Thou hast cut thyself, and howled through many a dreary night, and snapped thy chains, and cursed the men that bound thee. Thou hast driven away friend and helper, and thou art altogether undone; but, all the same, Christ can save thee. What if the devil be in thee? There is no devil in hell, or out of hell, who does not tremble at Christ's presence. Oh, that he would come, and lay his cool hand upon thy fevered brow, and put his own life into thy poor withered heart, and make thee to live! He can save thee; of that I am sure. I cannot speak as my Master can, but yet my Master can make these poor words of mine to bless and comfort thee; and I pray that he may. This is the one thing that I bid thee do, run to him, and worship him. IV. Now, turning to my second text, I must briefly remind you of THE SECRET HOPE FOR SINNERS, that while you are yet a great way off, the Father himself will see you, and will run to you. While you are running to his Son, the Father will run to you, and you and he shall meet in Christ, the only safe meeting-place for God and main Turn your thoughts for a minute or two from that Gadarene demoniac to the prodigal son. He was coming back, you remember, and when he was a great way off, I should not wonder that his heart began to misgive him. "Oh!" he seemed to say, "there is the old house!" He has reached the top of the hill, and he can see it. He recollects those old trees under which he used to play with his brother, and he thinks that he can spy out the very spot where he left his father, and went that reckless journey into the far country. "I wonder what fat, her will say to me," he says; "I do not know how I can ever face him. I have treated him so badly that I must have broken his heart. I fear he is angry with me, yet I do not think I can bear his wrath. I am ready to humble myself, and say, 'Father, I have sinned; 'but, oh! what a wretch I am! He will hardly know me; I do not look like the person I was when I left. What awful times I have been through since last I saw his dear face! I think I must run back again. Bad as it is to perish out in the far country, I do not think I can really face him." He is just turning back when, to his surprise, his father clasps him in his arms, for, "when he was yet a great way off, his father saw him, and had compassion, and ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him." O dear hearts, if I knew there was a poor soul here beginning to seek the Lord, how glad I should be to speak with him; and there are some of my dear brethren here who are always on the look-out for any in whom there is the faintest beginning of a work of grace! But, you see, we cannot see the germs of grace as God can, we cannot spy out returning sinners as he can, for God has far-reaching eyes; and if there is only in any of your hearts half a wish to repent, the Father sees it. If you only know that there is a Christ, and that you would fain worship him, but you have not gone the length of really trusting him, and casting your souls upon him, yet remember that when the prodigal was yet a great way off, his father saw him. When God sees anything, his is a very different sight from yours or mine. We see a thing with our eyes, and then we get a microscope, and look through that, and see it very differently; but God, as it were, always sees everything microscopically and telescopically. He sees the whole of it, sees the very heart and soul of it. God at this moment sees all the sin of the whole of your life, he sees all your brokenness of spirit, all your doubts, all your fears, all the strugglings against sin, and all the strivings of his Spirit. He takes it all in with a single glance, and comprehends and understands it all; and though you are a great way off, the Father sees you, and he sees you with a father's eye, too. How quick a father's eye is when he looks at his boy who is ill! He spies out that hectic flush before the boy believes there is any trace of consumption in his countenance, for a loving father has a physician's eye, and a mother's eye is still more quick to perceive anything wrong. Moreover, God sees with a compassionate eye: "His father saw him, and had compassion" on him; the two things went together. I know a sister in Christ, who did me great good one clay. I had helped a man many times, poor wretch that he was. I never clothed him but he sold the garments in a day or two; I never helped him but he sank into deeper degradation than before; and, at last, after he had been rigged out afresh from top to toe, and a situation found for him, and he was put into a position for getting on in life, he came here again, and, when I saw him, I shrank back from him. I felt indignant with him, but our sister a better Christian than I, lifted up both hands, and began to cry. The man was covered with vermin, and he had evidently been drinking hard; and she lifted up her hands, and she cried, "O poor creature, we have done all we can to save you, and you will go to hell;" and she stood and cried as if he had been her own child. And I believe that is how God feels for poor sinners, for he cannot bear to see them act as they do. If you are coming back to him, that is the compassionate way in which he is looking at you. He spies you out, and, like as Jesus wept over Jerusalem, so does the great Father weep over sinners, grieving that they will be so desperately wicked and foolish as to destroy their own souls. V. Now I must close, for our time has gone. The last point to be noticed is, THE ACTION OF THE SINNER'S FATHER. No sooner did the Father see his son coming back than "he ran." When God runs, it is quick running. "He ran, and fell on his neck;" and when God stoops to fall on a sinner's neck, it is wondrous condescension. This is compassion like a God. "And kissed him." God's kiss is the essence of a million kisses all in one. One kiss from God is the soul of heaven laid to the heart of a burdened sinner. "He ran, and fell on his neck, and kissed him," and so the prodigal was received back into his father's family. What I am longing for is that God's blessed Spirit may move some of you to run to Christ, if only in the poor way that I have set forth. Just for a few minutes, quietly worship him; and while you are doing that, may the great Father come in with all his omnipotent love, and put away your sin, and change your nature, and receive you into eternal union with himself to the praise of the glory of his grace! If I were to say ten thousand things, but God did not bless what I had said, all would be in vain; I hope that you do not need more words, but that you will come at once to Christ. Do not perish, I pray you, do not damn your own souls. There is enough misery in this world without incurring the miseries of the world to come. The Lord himself says, "Turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die?" In the name of the bleeding Christ, seek his mercy even now; by his bloody sweat and crown of thorns, seek him now. I know no better argument except it be by his death-cry, "It is finished." Come ye to Christ; look to him and live, even now, and to him shall be the praise for ever and ever. Amen.
Christ's Curate In Decapolis
April 27th, 1890
C. H. SPURGEON
"And they began to pray him to depart out of their coasts. And when he
was come into the ship, he that had been possessed with the devil prayed
him that he might be with him. Howbeit Jesus suffered him not, but saith
unto him, God home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the
Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."-- Mark 5:17-19 .
That is a striking name for a man, "he that had been possessed with the
devil." It would stick to him as long as he lived, and it would be a
standing sermon wherever he went. He would be asked to tell the story of
what he used to be, and how the change came about. What a story for
any man to tell! It would not be possible for us to describe his life while
he was a demoniac--the midnight scenes among the tombs, the cutting
himself with stones, the howling, the frightening away of all the
travellers that went near him, the binding with chains, the snapping of
the manacles, the breaking of the fetters, and a great many details that he
alone could enter into when he told the story among his own familiar
friends. With what pathos would he tell how Jesus came that way, and
how the evil spirit forced him to confront him! He would say, "That was
the best thing that could have happened to me, to be brought to the
Master of that desperate legion of demons, which had encamped within
my nature, and made my soul to be its barracks." He would tell how, in a
moment, out went the whole legion at the word of Christ.
There are some people who could tell a story very like this man's, a story
of slavery to Satan, and deliverance by the power of Christ. If you can
tell such a story, do not keep it to yourself. If Jesus has done great things
for thee, be ever ready to speak of it, till all men shall know what Christ
can do. I think that great sinners who have been saved are specially
called upon to publish the good news, the gospel of the grace of God. If
you have been valiant against the truth, be valiant for the truth. If you
were not lukewarm when you served Satan, be not lukewarm now that
you have come to serve Christ. There are some of us here who might
bear the name of "the man who was born blind", or "the leper that was
healed", or "the woman that was a sinner"; and I hope that we shall all
be willing to take any name or any title that will glorify Christ. I do not
find that this man ever persecuted Mark for libel because he wrote of
him as "he that had been possessed with the devil." Oh, no! He owned
that he was possessed with the devil once; and he glorified God that he
had been delivered by the Lord Jesus.
I. I am going to make a few observations upon the passage I have chosen
for a text; and the first observation is this, SEE HOW MEN'S DESIRES
DIFFERED. We find in the seventeenth verse that, "they began to pray
him to depart out of their coasts." In the eighteenth verse, "he that had
been possessed with the devil prayed him that he might be with him."
The people wanted Christ to go away from them; the man whom he had
cured wanted to go wherever he might go. To which class do you belong,
my dear friend?
I hope you do not belong to the first class, the class of the many who pray
Jesus to depart from them. Why did they want him to go?
I think it was, first, because they loved to be quiet, and to dwell at ease.
It was a great calamity that had happened; the swine had run into the
sea. They did not want any more such calamities, and evidently the
Person who had come among them possessed extraordinary power. Had
he not healed the demoniac? Well, they did not want him; they did not
want anything extraordinary. They were easy-going men, who would like
to go on the even tenor of their way, so they asked him to be good
enough to go away. There are some people of that kind still living. They
say, "We do not want a revival here; we are too respectable. We do not
want any stirring preaching here; we are very comfortable. Do not break
up our peace." Such men, when they think that God is at work in any
place, are half inclined to go elsewhere. They want to be quiet; their
motto is, "Anything for a quiet life." "Leave us alone, let us go on our
old way," is the cry of these foolish people, as it was the cry of the
Israelites, when they said to Moses, "Let us alone, that we may serve the
Possibly these people wanted the Saviour gone because they had an eye
to business. That keeping of the swine was a bad business. As Jews, they
had no business with it. They may have said they did not eat them
themselves, they only kept them for other people to eat; and now they
had lost the whole herd. I wonder what all those swine would have
brought to their owners. As they began calculating how much they had
lost, they resolved that the Saviour must go out of their coasts before they
lost anything more. I do not wonder that, when men sell intoxicating
liquors, for instance, or when they follow any trade in which they cannot
make money except by injuring their fellow-men, they do not want
Christ to come that way. Perhaps some of you would not like him to see
you pay those poor women for making shirts. I am afraid, if Jesus Christ
were to come around, and go into some people's business houses, the
husband would say to his wife, "Fetch down that book where I enter the
wages, and hide it away; I should not like him to see that."
Oh, dear friend, if there be any such reason why you do not Christ to
come your way, I pray that the Holy Spirit may convince you that you do
need him to come your way. He who has the most objection to Christ is
the man who most wants Christ. Be you sure of this, if you do not desire
to be converted, if you do not wish to be born again, you are the person
above all others needing to be converted, and to be born again. Is it not a
most unwise decision when, for the sake of swine, we are willing to part
with Christ? "For what shalt it profit a man, if he gain the whole world,
and lose his own soul?" He will get a corner in the newspaper, saying
that he died worth so many thousands of pounds; and that will not be
true, for he was never worth a penny himself. Who would give a penny
for him now he is dead? He will cost money to get rid of him, but he
cannot not take it with him. He was not worth anything; he used his
money for selfish purposes; and never used it for the glory of God. Oh,
the poverty of an ungodly rich man!
I do not wonder that these people, taken up with themselves, and with
the world, prayed Christ "to depart out of their coasts." May he not, even
though you may not care to hear him, stop somewhere on the shore? No;
when men get excited against religion, they go to great lengths in trying
to drive it away from their midst. Many a poor man has lost his cottage,
where he had a few prayer-meetings, because the landlord not only did
not want Christ himself, but, like the dog in the manger, would not let
others have him who did not want him. Are any of you in that condition?
I hope that I have some here who are of another kind, like this poor man,
who prayed him that he might be with him. Why did he want to be with
Jesus? I think he wanted to be his attendant to show his gratitude. If he
might but wait on Christ, loose the latchets of his shoes, and wash his
feet, or prepare his meals, he would feel himself the happiest man on
earth. He would love to be doing something for the One who had cast a
legion of devils out of him.
Next, he wished not only to be an attendant to show his gratitude, but a
disciple that he might learn more of him. What he did know of Christ
was so precious, he had personally had such an experience of his
gracious power, that he wanted to be always learning something from
every word of those dear lips, and every action of those blessed hands.
He prayed him that he might be with him as a disciple who wished to be
taught by him.
He wanted also to be with him as a comrade, for not that Christ must go,
exiled from Decapolis, he seemed to feel that there was no reason why he
should remain there himself. "Lord, if thou must leave there Gadarenes,
let me leave the Gadarenes, too! Dost thou go, O Shepherd? Then let me
go with thee. Must thou cross the sea, and get thee gone, I know not
where? I will go with thee to prison and to death." He felt so linked with
Christ that he prayed him that he might be with him.
I think that there was this reason, also, one of fear, at the back of his
prayer. Perhaps one of that legion of devils might come back again, and
if he could keep with Christ, then Christ would turn the devil out again. I
should not wonder but he felt a trembling about him, as if he could not
bear to be out of the sight of the great Physician, who had healed him of
so grievous an ill. I would say to all here, that we are never safe except
we are with Christ. If you are tempted to go where you could not have
Christ with you, do not go. Did you ever hear the story of the devil
running away with a young man who was at the theatre? It is said that
John Newton sent after Satan, and said, "That young man is a member of
my church." "Well," replied the devil, "I do not care where he is a
member; I found him on my premises, and I have a right to him;" and
the preacher could not give any answer to that. If you go on the devil's
premises, and he takes you off, I cannot say anything against it. Go
nowhere where you cannot take Christ with you. Be like this man, who
longs to go wherever Christ goes.
II. Now, secondly, SEE HOW CHRIST'S DEALINGS DIFFER, and how
extraordinary they are. Here is an evil prayer: "Depart out of our coasts."
He grants it. Here is a pious prayer: "Lord, let me be with thee."
"Howbeit Jesus suffered him not." Is that his way, to grant the prayer of
his enemies, and refuse the petition of his friends? Yes, it is sometimes.
In the first case, when they prayed him to depart, he went. Oh, dear
friends, if Christ ever comes near you, and you get a little touched in
your conscience, and feel a throb of something like spiritual life, do not
pray him to go away; for if he does go, if he should leave you to yourself,
and never come again, your doom is sealed! Your only hope lies in his
presence; and if you pray against your one hope, you are a suicide, you
are guilty of murdering your own soul.
Jesus went away from these people because it was useless to stop. If they
wanted him to go, what good could he do to them? If he spoke, they
would not listen. If they heard his message, they would not heed it.
When men's minds are set against Christ, what else is to be done but to
He could spend his time better somewhere else. If you will not have my
Lord, somebody else will. If you sit there in your pride, and say, "I want
not the Saviour," there is a poor soul in the gallery longing for him, and
crying, "Oh, that I might find him to be my Saviour!" Christ knew that,
if the Gaderenes refused him, the people on the other side of the lake
would welcome him on his return.
By going away, he even saved them from yet greater sin. If he had not
gone, they might have tried to plunge him into the lake. When men
begin to pray Christ to depart out of their coasts, they are bad enough for
anything. There might have followed violence to his blessed person, so
he took himself away from them. Is it not an awful thing that, if the
gospel ministry does not save you, it is helping to damn you? We are a
savour to God, always sweet; but in some men, we are a savour of death
unto death, while in others we are a savour unto life. O my hearers, if
you will not come to Christ, the seat you occupy is misappropriated!
There might be another person sitting here, to whom the gospel might be
very precious; and our opportunities of preaching it are none too many.
We do not like to waste our strength on stony ground, on hard bits of
rock that repel the seed. Rock, rock, rock, wilt thou never break; must we
continue to sow thee, though no harvest comes from thee? God changes
thee, rock; and make thee good soil, that yet the truth may grow upon
thee! The evil prayer, then, was answered.
The good prayer was not answered. Why was that? The chief reason
was, because the man could be useful at home. He could glorify God
better by going among the Gaderenes, and among his own family, and
telling what God had done for him, than he could be any attention he
could pay to Christ. It is remarkable that Christ took nobody to be his
body-servant, or personal attendant during his earthly ministry. He came
not to be ministered unto, but to minister. He did not desire this man to
he with him to make him comfortable; he bade him go back to his
family, and make known the power of Jesus Christ, and seek to win them
Perhaps, too, his prayer was not answered, lest his fear should have been
thereby sanctioned. If he did fear, and I feel morally certain that he did,
that the devils would return, then, of course, he longed to be with Christ.
But Christ take that fear from him, and as good as says to him, "You do
not need to be near me; I have so healed that you will never be sick
again." A patient might say to his doctor, "I have been so very ill, and
through your skill have been restored to health, I should like to be near
you, so that, if there should be any recurrence of my malady, I might
come to you at once." If the doctor should reply, "You may go to
Switzerland, or to Australia, if you like;" it would be the best evidence
that the doctor had not fears about him, and it ought to put a quietus to
You see, then, how Christ's dealings differ with different men. Have I
not known some continue in sin, and yet prosper in business, heaping up
wealth, and having all that heart could wish? Have I not known others
repent, and turn to God, and from that very day they have had more
trouble than they ever had before, and their way has been strangely
rough? Yes, I have seen them, too; and I have not envied the easy ways
of the wicked, neither have I felt that there was anything very wonderful
about the rough ways of the righteous; for, after all, it is not the way that
is the all-important matter, it is the end of the way; and if I could travel
smoothly to perdition, I would not choose to do so; and if the way to
eternal life is rough, I take it with all its roughness. At the foot of the
Hill Difficulty, Bunyan makes his pilgrim sing--
"The hill, though high, I covet to ascend,
the difficulty will not me offend;
For I perceive the way of life lies here."
III. My third point is this: SEE HOW GOOD A THING IT IS TO BE WITH JESUS.
This man entreated of the Lord that he might be with him.
If you have been saved recently, I expect you have a longing in your
heart to be with Christ always. I will tell you what shape that longing is
likely to take. You were so happy, so joyful, and it was such a blessed
meeting, that you said to yourself, "I am sorry it is over; I should like
this meeting to have been kept on all night, and the next day, and never to
end." Yes, you were of the mind of Peter, when he wanted to build the
three tabernacles on the holy mount, and to stop there the rest of his
days; but you cannot do it; it is no use wishing for it. You must go home
to that drinking husband or that scolding wife, to that ungodly father or
that unkind mother. You cannot stop in that meeting always.
Perhaps you have another idea of what it is to be with Christ. You are so
happy when you can get alone, and read your Bible, and meditate, and
pray, and you say, "Lord, I wish I could always be this; I should like to
be always upstairs in this room, searching the Scriptures, and having
communion with God." Yes, yes, yes; but you cannot do it. There are the
children's socks to be mended, there are buttons to be put on the
husband's shirts, and there are all sorts of odds and ends to be done, and
you must not neglect any one of them. Whatever household duties come
upon you, attend to them. You wish that you had not to go to the city to-
morrow. Would it not be sweet to have an all-night prayer-meeting, and
then to have an all-day searching the Scriptures? No doubt it would; but
the Lord has not so arranged it. You have to go to business, so just put
on your week-day clothes, and think yourself none the less happy
because you have to show your religion in your daily life.
"Ah, well!" says one, and this I very often hear, "I think that I should
always be with Christ if I could not get right out of business, and give
myself up to the service of the Lord." Especially do you think that it
would be so if your were a minister. Well, I have nothing to say against
the ministry of the gospel. If the Lord calls you to do it, obey the call,
and be thankful that he has counted you faithful, putting you into the
ministry; but if you suppose that you will be nearer to Christ simply by
entering the ministry, you are very much mistaken. I daresay that I had
about as many of the other people's troubles brought to me this morning,
after I had done the preaching, as would last most men a month. We
have to bear with everybody's trouble, and everybody's doubt, and
everybody's need of comfort and counsel. You will find yourself
cumbered with much serving, even in the service of the Lord; and it is
very easy to lose the Master in the Master's work. We want much grace
lest this insidious temptation should overcome us even in our ministry.
You can walk with Christ, and sell groceries. You can walk with Christ,
and be a chimney-sweep. I do not hesitate to say that, by the grace of
God, you can walk with Christ as well in one occupation as another, if it
is a rightful one. It might be quite a mistake if you were to give up your
business, under the notion that you would be more with Christ if you
became a city missionary, or a Bible-woman, or a coleporteur, or a
captain in the Salvation Army, or whatever other form of holy service
you might desire. Keep on with your business. If you can black shoes
well, do that. If you can preach sermons badly, do not do that.
"Ah!" says one, "I know how I would like to be with Christ." Yes, yes, I
know; you would like to be in heaven. Oh, yes; and it is a laudable
desire, to wish to be with Christ, for it is far better than being here! But,
mind you, it may be a selfish desire, and it may be a sinful desire, if it be
pushed too far. A holy man of God was once asked by a fellow-servant of
Christ. "Brother So-and-so, do you not want to go home?" He said, "I
will answer you by another question. If you had a man working for you,
and on Wednesday he said, 'I wish it was Saturday,' would you keep him
on?" The other thought that he would need a large stock of patience to do
so. Why, do you not? You will be glad to see the back of him before
Saturday comes, for he will be no good for work. Have I a right to be
wanting to go to heaven if I can do any good to you here? Is it not more
of a heaven to be outside of heaven than inside, if you can be doing more
for God outside than in? Long to go when the Lord wills; but if not to
remain in the flesh be more for the good of the church and the world,
and more for the glory of God, waive your desire, and be not vexed with
your Master when, after having prayed that you may be with him; it has
to be written of you as it was of this man, "Howbeit Jesus suffered him
Still, it is a very delightful thing to be with Jesus.
IV. But now, in the fourth place, SEE THAT THERE MAY BE SOMETHING EVEN
BETTER THAN THIS. In the sense which I have mentioned, there is something
better even than being with Christ.
What is better than being with Christ? Why, to be working for Christ!
Jesus said to this man, "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great
things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."
This is more honourable. It is very delightful to sit at Jesus' feet; but if
the most honourable post on the field of battle is the place of danger; if
the most honourable thing in the State is to have royal service allotted to
you; then the most honourable thing for a Christian is not to sit down,
and sing, and enjoy himself, but to get up, and risk reputation, life, and
everything for Jesus Christ's sake. Dear friend, aspire to serve our Lord;
it is a more honourable thing even than being with him.
It is also better for the people. Christ is going away from the Gaderenes;
they have asked him to go, and he is going; but he seems to say to this
man, "I am going because they have asked me to go. My leaving them
looks like a judgment upon them for their rejection of me; but yet I am
not going away altogether. I am going to stop with you; I will put my
Spirit upon you, and so will continue with you. They will hear you
though they will not hear me." Christ, as it were, resigns the pastorate of
that district; but he puts another in his place, not so good as himself, but
one whom they will like better; not so powerful and useful as himself,
but one better adapted to them. When Christ was gone, this man would
be there, and the people would come to him to hear about those swine,
and how they ran down into the sea; and if they did not come to him, he
would go and tell them all about it; and so there would be a permanent
curate left there to discharge the sacred ministry, now that the great
Bishop had gone. I like that thought. Christ had gone to heaven, for he is
wanted there, and so he has left you here, dear brother, to carry on his
work.. You are not equal to him in any respect; but yet remember what
he said to his disciples, "He that believeth on me, the works that I do
shall he do also; and greater works than these shall he do; because I go
unto my Father." That is why Christ does not suffer you to be with him
at present. You must stop for the sake of the people among whom you
live, as "he that had been possessed with the devil" had to remain for the
sake of the Gaderenes, to whom he might testify concerning Christ.
His remaining, also, was better for his family; and do you not think that,
oftentimes, a man of God is kept out of heaven for the sake of his family?
You must not go yet, father; those boys still need your example and your
influence. Christian mother, you must not go yet; I know that your
children are grown up, and they are grieving you very much; but still, if
there is any check upon them, it is their poor old mother, and you must
stop till you have prayed them to God; and you will do so yet. Be of good
courage/ I believe that there are many here who might be in heaven, but
that God has some who he intends to bring in by them, so they must stay
here a little longer. Though infirm in body, shattered in nerve, and often
racked with acute pain, perhaps with deadly disease upon you, and
wishing to be gone, you must not go till your work is done.
"Howbeit Jesus suffered him not." This demoniac must go home, and tell
his wife and his children what great things the Lord had done for him.
Many eminent preachers have pictured the scene of his going home, so I
will try to do it. You may only fancy what it would be if it were your
case; and you had been shut up in an asylum, or had been almost too bad
even for that. How glad your friends were to have you taken away, and
then how much more glad to find you come back perfectly well! I can
imagine how the man's wife would look through the window when she
heard his voice. Has he come back in a mad fit? How the children will be
filled with terror at the sound of their father's voice until they were
assured that there was indeed a change in him! Ah, poor sinner, you
have come here to-night! Perhaps you forget that your children often
have to hide away under the bed when father comes home. I know that
there are such persons about, and they may even find their way into the
Tabernacle. The Lord have mercy upon the drunkard, and turn his cups
bottom upwards, and make a new man of him! Then, when he goes
home, to tell of free grace and dying love, and of the wonderful change
that God has wrought in him, he will be a blessing to his family and to
all about him. It may be, dear friend, that you have to stop here till you
have undone some of the mischief of your early life. You have to bring to
God some of those whom you tempted, and led astray, and helped to
So, you see, dear friends, there is something better even than being with
Christ; that is working with Christ.
V. But, lastly, CONSIDER THAT THERE IS YET A CASE WHICH IS BEST OF ALL. We
must always have three degrees of comparison.
What is the best state of all? To be with Christ is good; to be sent by
Christ on a holy errand, is better; but here is something that is best of
all, namely; to work for him, and to be with him at the same time. I want
every Christian to aspire to that position. Is it possible to sit with Mary
at the Master's feet, and yet to run about like Martha, and get the dinner
ready? It is; and then Martha will never be cumbered with much serving
if she does that, and she will never find fault with her sister Mary. "But,
sir, we cannot sit and stir at the same time." No, not as to your bodies;
but you can as to you souls. You can be sitting at Jesus' feet, or leaning
on his breast, and yet be fighting the Lord's battles, and doing his work.
In order to do this, cultivate the inner as well as the outer life.
Endeavour not only to do much for Christ, but to be much with Christ,
and to live wholly upon Christ. Do not, for instance, on the Sabbath-day,
go to a class, and teach others three times, as some whom I know do; but
come once and hear the Master's message, and get your soul fed; and
when you have had a spiritual feast in the morning, give the rest of the
day to holy service. Let the two things run together. To be always eating,
and never working, will bring on repletion, and spiritual dyspepsia; but
to be always working and never eating,--well, I am afraid that you will
not bear that trial so well as the gentleman who yesterday ate his first
meal after forty days fasting. Do not try to imitate him. It is not a right
and wise thing to do; but very dangerous. Get spiritual food as well as do
Let me say to you, again, grieve very much if there is the least cloud
between you and Christ. Do not wait until it is as thick as a November
fog; be full of sorrow if it is only like a tiny, fleecy cloud. George
Muller's observation was a very wise one, "Never come out of your
chamber in the morning until everything is right between you and God."
Keep in perpetual fellowship with Jesus; and thus you can be with him,
and yet be serving him at the same time.
And mind this, before you begin Christ's service, always seek his presence
and help. Do not enter upon any work for the Lord without having first seen
the face of the King in his beauty; and in the work often recall your mind
from what you are doing, to him for whom you are doing it, and by whom you
are doing it; and when the work is completed, do not throw up you cap, and
say, "Well done, self!" Another will say to you, by-and-by, "Well done!" if
you deserve it. Do not take the words out of his mouth. Self-praise is no
recommendation. Solomon said, "Let another man praise thee, and not thine
own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." When we have done all, we
are still unprofitable servants; we have only done that which is our duty
to do. So, if you are as humble as you are active, as lowly as you are
energetic, you may keep with Christ, and yet go about his errands to the
ends of the earth; and I reckon this to be the happiest experience that any
one of us can reach this side of the gates of pearl. The Lord bless you,
and bring you there, for Christ's sake! Amen.
Going Home--A Christmas Sermon
December 21, 1856
by C. H. SPURGEON (1834-1892)
"Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee."- Mark 5:19 .
The case of the man here referred to is a very extraordinary one: it occupies a place among the memorabilia of Christ's life, perhaps as high as anything which is recorded by either of the evangelists. This poor wretch being possessed with a legion of evil spirits had been driven to something worse than madness. He fixed his home among the tombs, where he dwelt by night and day, and was the terror of all those who passed by. The authorities had attempted to curb him; he had been bound with fetters and chains, but in the paroxysms of his madness he had torn the chains in sunder, and broken the fetters in pieces. Attempts had been made to reclaim him; but no man could tame him. He was worse than the wild beasts, for they might be tamed; but his fierce nature would not yield. He was a misery to himself, for he would run upon the mountains by night and day, crying and howling fearfully, cutting himself with the sharp flints, and torturing his poor body in the most frightful manner. Jesus Christ passed by; he said to the devils, "Come out of him." The man was healed in a moment; he fell down at Jesus' feet; he became a rational being-an intelligent man, yea, what is more, a convert to the Saviour. Out of gratitude to his deliverer, he said, "Lord, I will follow thee whithersoever thou goest; I will be thy constant companion and thy servant; permit me so to be." "No," said Christ, "I esteem your motive; it is one of gratitude to me; but if you would show your gratitude, 'go home to thy friends and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee.'"
Now, this teaches us a very important fact, namely, this, that true religion does not break in sunder the bonds of family relationship. True religion seldom encroaches upon that sacred, I had almost said divine institution called home; it does not separate men from their families, and make them aliens to their flesh and blood. Superstition has done that; an awful superstition, which calls itself Christianity, has sundered men from their kind; but true religion has never done so. Why, if I might be allowed to do such a thing, I would seek out the hermit in his lonely cavern, and I would go to him and say, "Friend, if thou art what thou dost profess to be, a true servant of the living God, and not a hypocrite, as I guess thou art-if thou art a true believer in Christ, and would show forth what he has done for thee, upset that pitcher, eat the last piece of thy bread, leave this dreary cave, wash thy face, untie thy hempen girdle; and if thou wouldst show thy gratitude, go home to thy friends, and tell them what great things the Lord hath done for thee. Canst thou edify the sere leaves of the forest? Can the beasts learn to adore that God whom thy gratitude should strive to honor? Dost thou hope to convert these rocks, and wake the echoes into songs? Nay, go back; dwell with thy friends, reclaim thy kinship with men, and unite again with thy fellows, for this is Christ's approved way of showing gratitude." And I would go to every monastery and every nunnery, and say to the monks, 'Come out brethren, come out! If you are what you say you are, servants of God, go home to your friends. No more of this absurd discipline; it is not Christ's rule; you are acting differently from what he would have you; go home to your friends!" And to the sisters of mercy we would say, "Be sisters of mercy to your own sisters; go home to your friends; take care of your aged parents; turn your own houses into convents; do not sit here nursing your pride by a disobedience to Christ's rule, which says, "go home to thy friends." "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee." The love of a solitary and ascetic life, which is by some considered to be a divine virtue, is neither more nor less than a disease of the mind. In the ages when there was but little benevolence, and consequently few hands to build lunatic asylums, superstition supplied the lack of charity, and silly men and women were allowed the indulgence of their fancies in secluded haunts or in easy laziness. Young has most truly said,-
"The first sure symptoms of a mind in health Are rest of heart and pleasure found at home."
Avoid, my friends, above all things, those romantic and absurd conceptions of virtue which are the offspring of superstition and the enemies of righteousness. Be not without natural affection, but love those who are knit to you by time of nature.
True religion cannot be inconsistent with nature. It never can demand that I should abstain from weeping when my friend is dead. "Jesus wept." It cannot deny me the privilege of a smile, when providence looks favorably upon me; for once "Jesus rejoiced in the spirit, and said, Father, I thank thee." It does not make a man say to his father and mother, "I am no longer your son." That is not Christianity, but something worse than what beasts would do, which would lead us to be entirely sundered from our fellows, to walk among them as if we had no kinship with them. To all who think a solitary life must be a life of piety, I would say, "It is the greatest delusion." To all who think that those must be good people who snap the ties of relationship, let us say, "Those are the best who maintain them." Christianity makes a husband a better husband, it makes a wife a better wife than she was before. It does not free me from my duties as a son; it makes me a better son, and my parents better parents. Instead of weakening my love, it gives me fresh reason for my affection; and he whom I loved before as my father, I now love as my brother and co-worker in Christ Jesus; and she whom I reverenced as my mother, I now love as my sister in the covenant of grace, to be mine for ever in the state that is to come. Oh! suppose not, any of you, that Christianity was ever meant to interfere with households; it is intended to cement them, and to make them households which death itself shall never sever, for it binds them up in the bundle of life with the Lord their God, and re-unites the several individuals on the other side of the flood.
Now, I will just tell you the reason why I selected my text. I thought within myself, there are a large number of young men who always come to hear me preach; they always crowd the aisles of my chapel, and many of them have been converted to God. Now, here is Christmas-day come round again, and they are going home to see their friends. When they get home they will want a Christmas Carol in the evening; I think I will suggest one to them-more especially to such of them as have been lately converted. I will give them a theme for their discourse on Christmas evening; it may not be quite so amusing as "The Wreck of the Golden Mary," but it will be quite as interesting to Christian people. It shall be this: "Go home and tell your friends what the Lord hath done for your souls, and how he hath had compassion on you." For my part, I wish there were twenty Christmas days in the year. It is seldom that young men can meet with their friends; it is rarely they can all be united as happy families; and though I have no respect to the religious observance of the day, yet I love it as a family institution, as one of England's brightest days, the great Sabbath of the year, when the plough rests in its furrow, when the din of business is hushed, when the mechanic and the working man go out to refresh themselves upon the green award of the glad earth. If any of you are masters you will pardon me for the digression, when I most respectfully beg you to pay your servants the same wages on Christmas-day as if they were at work. I am sure it will make their houses glad if you will do so. It is unfair for you to make them feast or fast, unless you give them wherewithal to feast and make themselves glad on that day of joy.
But now to come to the subject. We are going home to see our friends, and here is the story some of us have to tell. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for them, and hath had compassion on thee." First, here is what they are to tell; secondly, why they are to tell it; and then thirdly, how they ought to tell it.
I. First, then, HERE IS WHAT THEY ARE TO TELL.
It is to be a story of personal experience. "Go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee." You are not to repair to your houses and forthwith begin to preach. That you are not commanded to do. You are not to begin to take up doctrinal subjects and expatiate on them, and endeavour to bring persons to your peculiar views and sentiments. You are not to go home with sundry doctrines you have lately learned, and try to teach these. At least you are not commanded so to do; you may, if you please, and none shall hinder you; but you are to go home and tell not what you have believed, but what you have felt-what you really know to be your own; not what great things you have read, but what great things the Lord hath done for you; not alone what you have seen done in the great congregation, and how great sinners have turned to God, but what the Lord has done for you. And mark this: there is never a more interesting story than that which a man tells about himself. The Rhyme of the Ancient Mariner derives much of its interest because the man who told it was himself the mariner. He sat down, that man whose finger was skinny, like the finger of death, and began to tell that dismal story of the ship at sea in the great calm, when slimy things did crawl with legs over the shiny sea. The Wedding guest sat still to listen, for the old man was himself a story. There is always a great deal of interest excited by a personal narrative. Virgil, the poet, knew this, and therefore he wisely makes Aeneas tell his own story, and makes him begin it by saying, "In which I also had a great part myself." So if you would interest your friends, tell them what you felt yourself. Tell them how you were once a lost abandoned sinner, how the Lord met with you, how you bowed your knees, and poured out your soul before God, and how at last you leaped with joy, for you thought you heard him say within you, "I, even I, am he that blotteth out thy transgressions for my name's sake." Tell your friends a story of your own personal experience.
Note, next, it must be a story of free grace. It is not, "Tell thy friends how great things thou hast done thyself," but "how great things the Lord hath done for thee." The man who always dwells upon free will and the power of the creature, and denies the doctrines of grace, invariably mixes up a great deal of what he has done himself in telling his experience; but the believer in free grace, who holds the great cardinal truths of the gospel, ignores this, and declares, "I will tell what the Lord hath done for me. It is true I must tell how I was first made to pray; but I will tell it thus-
'Grace taught my soul to pray, Grace made my eyes o'erflow.'
It is true, I must tell in how many troubles and trials God has been with me; but I will tell it thus:-
''Twas grace which kept me to this day, And will not let me go.'"
He says nothing about his own doings, or willings, or prayings, or seekings, but he ascribes it all to the love and grace of the great God who looks on sinners in love, and makes them his children, heirs of everlasting life. Go home, you man, and tell the poor sinner's story; go home, young woman, and open your diary, and give your friends stories of grace. Tell them of the mighty works of God's hand which he hath wrought in you from his own free, sovereign, undeserved love. Make it a free grace story around your family fire.
In the next place, this poor man's tale was a grateful story. I know it was grateful, because the man said, "I will tell thee how great things the Lord hath done for me;" and (not meaning a pun in the least degree) I may observe, that a man who is grateful is always full of the greatness of the mercy which God has shown him; he always thinks that what God has done for him is immensely good and supremely great. Perhaps when you are telling the story one of your friends will say, "And what of that?" And your answer will be, "It may not be a great thing to you, but it is to me. You say it is little to repent, but I have not found it so; it is a great and precious thing to be brought to know myself to be a sinner, and to confess it; do you say it is a little thing to have found a Saviour." Look them in the face and say, "If you had found him too you would not think it little. You think it little I have lost the burden from my back; but if you had suffered with it, and felt its weight as I have for many a long year, you would think it no little thing to be emancipated and free, through a sight of the cross." Tell them it is a great story, and if they cannot see its greatness shed great tears, and tell it to them with great earnestness, and I hope they may be brought to believe that you at least are grateful, if they are not. May God grant that you may tell a grateful story. No story is more worth hearing than a tale of gratitude.
And lastly, upon this point: it must be a tale told by a poor sinner who feels himself not to have deserved what he has received. "How he hath had compassion on thee." It was not a mere act of kindness, but and act of free compassion towards one who was in misery. Oh! I have heard men tell the story of their conversion and of their spiritual life in such a way that my heart hath loathed them and their story too, for they have told of their sins as if they did boast in the greatness of their crime, and they have mentioned the love of God not with a tear of gratitude, not with the simple thanksgiving of the really humble heart, but as if they as much exalted themselves as they exalted God. Oh! when we tell the story of our own conversion, I would have it done with deep sorrow, remembering what we used to be, and with great joy and gratitude, remembering how little we deserve these things, I was once preaching upon conversion and salvation, and I felt within myself, as preachers often do, that it was but dry work to tell this story, and a dull, dull tale it was to me; but on a sudden the thought crossed my mind, "Why, you are a poor lost ruined sinner yourself; tell it, tell it, as you received it; begin to tell of the grace of God as you trust you feel it yourself." Why, then, my eyes began to be fountains of tears; those hearers who had nodded their heads began to brighten up, and they listened, because they were hearing something which the man felt himself, and which they recognised as being true to him, if it was not true in them. Tell your story, my hearers, as lost sinners. Do not go to your home, and walk into your house with a supercilious air, as much as to say, "Here's a saint come home to the poor sinners, to tell them a story;" but go home like a poor sinner yourself; and when you go in, your mother remembers what you used to be, you need not tell her there is a change-she will notice it, if it is only one day you are with her; and perhaps she will say, "John, what is this change that is in you?" and if she is a pious mother, you will begin to tell her the story, and I know, man though you are, you will not blush when I say it, she will put her arms round your neck, and kiss you as she never did before, for you are her twice-born son, hers from whom she shall never part, even though death itself shall divide you for a brief moment. "Go home, then, and tell your friends what great things the Lord hath done for you, and how he hath had compassion on you."
II. But now, in the second place, WHY SHOULD WE TELL THIS STORY?
For I hear many of my congregation say, "Sir, I could relate that story to any one sooner than I could to my own friends; I could come to your vestry, and tell you something of what I have tasted and handled of the Word of God; but I could not tell my father, nor my mother, nor my brethren, nor my sisters." Come, then; I will try and argue with you, to induce you to do so, that I may send you home this Christmas-day, to be missionaries in the localities to which you belong, and to be real preachers, though you are not so by name. Dear friends, do tell this story when you go home.
First, for your Master's sake. Oh! I know you love him; I am sure you do, if you have proof that he loved you. You can never think of Gethsemane and of its bloody sweat, of Gabbatha and of the mangled back of Christ, flayed by the whip: you can never think of Calvary and his pierced hands and feet, without loving him; and it is a strong argument when I say to you, for his dear sake who loved you so much, go home and tell it. What! do you think we can have so much done for us, and yet not tell it? Our children, if anything should be done for them, do not stay many minutes before they are telling all the company, "such an one hath give me such a present, and bestowed on me such-and-such a favor." And should the children of God be backward in declaring how they were saved when their feet made haste to hell, and how redeeming mercy snatched them as brands from the burning? You love Jesus, young man! I put it to you, then, will you refuse to tell the tale of his love to you? Shall your lips be dumb, when his honor is concerned? Will you not, wherever you go, tell of the God who loved you and died for you? This poor man, we are told, "Departed and began to publish in Decapolis how great things Jesus had done for him, and all men did marvel." So with you. If Christ has done much for you, you cannot help it-you must tell it. My esteemed friend, Mr. Oncken, a minister in Germany told us last Monday evening, that so soon as he was converted himself, the first impulse of his new-born soul was to do good to others. And where should he do that good? Well, he thought he would go to Germany. It was his own native land, and he thought the command was, "Go home to thy friends and tell them." Well, there was not a single Baptist in all Germany, nor any with whom he could sympathise, for the Lutherans had swerved from the faith of Luther, and gone aside from the truth of God. But he went there and preached, and he has now seventy or eighty churches established on the continent. What made him do it? Nothing but love for his Master, who had done so much for him, could have forced him to go and tell his kinsmen the marvellous tale of Divine goodness.
But, in the next place, are your friends pious?
Then go home and tell them, in order to make their hearts glad. I received last night a short epistle written with a trembling hand by one who is past the natural age of man, living in the country of Essex. His son, under God, had been converted by hearing the Word preached, and the good man could not help writing to the minister, thanking him, and blessing most of all, his God, that his son had been regenerated. "Sir," he begins, "an old rebel writes to thank you, and above all to thank his God, that his dear son has been converted." I shall treasure up that epistle. It goes on to say, "Go on! and the Lord bless you."
And there was another case I heard some time ago, where a young woman went home to her parents, and when her mother saw her, she said, "There! if the minister had made me a present of all London, I should not have thought so much of it as I do of this-to think that you have really become a changed character, and are living in the fear of God." Oh! if you want to make your mother's heart leap within her, and to make your father glad-if you would make that sister happy who sent you so many letters, which sometimes you read against a lamp-post, with your pipe in your mouth-go home and tell your mother that her wishes are all accomplished, that her prayers are heard, that you will no longer chaff her about her Sunday-school class, and no longer laugh at her because she loves the Lord, but that you will go with her to the house of God, for you love God, and you have said, "Your people shall be my people, and your God shall be my God, for I have a hope that your heaven shall be my heaven for ever." Oh! what a happy thing it would be if some here who had gone astray, should thus go home!
It was my privilege a little while ago to preach for a noble institution for the reception of women who had led abandoned lives-and before I preached the sermon I prayed to God to bless it, and in the printed sermon you will notice that at the end of it there is an account of two persons who were blessed by that sermon and restored.
Now, let me tell you a story of what happened to Mr. Vanderkist, a city missionary, who toils all night long to do good in that great work. There had been a drunken broil in the street; he stepped between the men to part them, and said something to a woman who stood there concerning how dreadful a thing it was that men should thus be intemperate. She walked with him a little way, and he with her, and she began to tell him such a tale of woe and sin too-how she had been lured away from her parents' home in Somersetshire, and have been brought up here to her soul's eternal hurt. He took her home with him, and taught her the fear and love of Christ; and what was the first thing she did, when she returned to the paths of godliness, and found Christ to be the sinner's Saviour? She said, "Now, I must go home to my friends." Her friends were written to; they came to meet her at the station at Bristol, and you can hardly conceive what a happy meeting it was. The father and mother had lost their daughter, they had never heard from her; and there she was, brought back by the agency of this institution, and restored to the bosom of her family.
Ah! if such an one be here! I know not; among such a multitude there may be such an one. Woman! hast thou strayed from thy family? Hast thou left them long? "Go home to thy friends," I beseech thee, ere thy father totters to his grave, and ere thy mother's grey hairs sleep on the snow-white pillow of her coffin. Go back. I beseech thee! Tell her thou art penitent; tell her that God hath met with thee-that the young minister said, "Go back to thy friends." And if so, I shall not blush to have said these things, though you may think I ought not to have mentioned them; for if I may but win one such soul, I will bless God to all eternity. "Go home to thy friends. Go home and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee."
Cannot you imagine the scene, when the poor demoniac mentioned in my text went home? He had been a raving madman; and when he came and knocked at the door, don't you think you see his friends calling to one another in affright, "Oh! there he is again," and the mother running up stairs and locking all the doors, because her son had come back that was raving mad; and the little ones crying because they knew what he had been before-how he cut himself with stones, because he was possessed with devils. And can you picture their joy, when the man said, "Mother! Jesus Christ has healed me; let me in; I am no lunatic now!" And when the father opened the door, he said, "Father! I am not what I was; all the evil spirits are gone; I shall live in the tombs no longer. I want to tell you how the glorious man who wrought my deliverance accomplished the miracle-how he said to the devils, 'Get ye hence,' and they ran down a steep place into the sea, an I am come home healed and saved." Oh! if such an one, possessed with sin, were here this morning, and would go home to his friends, to tell them of his release, methinks this scene would be somewhat similar.
Once more, dear friends. I hear one of you say. "Ah! Sir, would to God I could go home to pious friends! But when I go home I go into the worst of places; for my home is amongst those who never knew God themselves, and consequently never prayed for me, and never taught me anything concerning heaven." Well, young man, go home to your friends. If they are ever so bad they are your friends.
I sometimes meet with young men wishing to join the church, who say, when I ask them about their father, "Oh, sir, I am parted from my father." Then I say, "Young man, you may just go and see your father before I have anything to do with you; if you are at ill-will with your father and mother I will not receive you into the church; if they are ever so bad they are your parents." Go home to them, and tell them, not to make them glad, for they will very likely be angry with you; but tell them for their soul's salvation. I hope, when you are telling the story of what God did for you, that they will be led by the Spirit to desire the same mercy themselves. But I will give you a piece of advice. Do not tell this story to your ungodly friends when they are all together, for they will laugh at you. Take them one by one, when you can get them alone, and begin to tell it to them, and they will hear you seriously.
There was once a very pious lady who kept a lodging- house for young men. All the young men were very gay and giddy, and she wanted to say something to them concerning religion. She introduced the subject, and it was passed off immediately with a laugh. She thought within herself, "I have made a mistake." The next morning, after breakfast, when they were all going, she said to one of them, "Sir, I should like to speak with you a moment or two," and taking him aside into another room she talked with him. The next morning she took another, and the next morning another, and it pleased God to bless her simple statement, when it was given individually: but, without doubt, if she had spoken to them altogether, they would have backed each other up in laughing her to scorn.
Reprove a man alone. A verse may hit him whom a sermon flies. You may be the means of bringing a man to Christ who has often heard the Word and only laughed at it, but who cannot resist a gentle admonition.
In one of the states of America, there was an infidel who was a great despiser of God, a hater of the Sabbath and all religious institutions. What to do with him the ministers did not know. They met together and prayed for him. But among the rest, one Elder B_____ resolved to spend a long time in prayer for the man; after that he got on horseback, and rode down to the man's forge, for he was a blacksmith. He left his horse outside, and said, "Neighbour, I am under very great concern about your soul's salvation; I tell you I pray day and night for your soul's salvation." He left him, and rode home on his horse. The man went inside to his house after a minute or two, and said to one of his faithful friends, "Here's a new argument; here's Elder B_____ been down here, he did not dispute, and never said a word to me except this, 'I say, I am under great concern about your soul; I cannot bear that you should be lost.' Oh! that fellow," he said, "I cannot answer him;" and the tears began to roll down his cheeks. He went to his wife, and said, "I can't make this out; I never cared about my soul, but here's an elder, that has no connection with me, but I have always laughed at him, and he has come five miles this morning on horseback just to tell me he is under concern about my salvation. After a little while he thought it was time he should be under concern about his salvation too. He went in, shut the door, began to pray, and the next day he was at the deacon's house, telling him that he too was under concern about his salvation, and asking him to tell him what he must do to be saved.
Oh! that the everlasting God might make use of some of those now present in the same way, that they might be induced to
"Tell to others round What a dear Saviour they have found; To point to his redeeming blood, And say, Behold the way to God!"
III. I shall not detain you much longer; but there is a third point, upon which we must be very brief. HOW IS THIS STORY TO BE TOLD?
First, tell it truthfully. Do not tell more than you know; do not tell John Bunyan's experience, when you ought to tell your own. Do not tell your mother you have felt what only Rutherford felt. Tell her no more than the truth. Tell your experience truthfully; for mayhap one single fly in the pot of ointment will spoil it, and one statement you may make which is not true may ruin it all. Tell the story truthfully.
In the next place, tell it very humbly. I have said that before. Do not intrude yourselves upon those who are older, and know more; but tell your story humbly; not as a preacher, not ex-cathedra, but as a friend and as a son.
Next, tell it very earnestly. Let them see you mean it. Do not talk about religion flippantly; you will do not good if you do. Do not make puns on texts; do not quote Scripture by way of joke: if you do, you may talk till you are dumb, you will do no good, if you in the least degree give them occasion to laugh by laughing at holy things yourself. Tell it very earnestly.
And then, tell it very devoutly. Do not try to tell your tale to man till you have told it first to God. When you are at home on Christmas-day, let no one see your face till God has seen it. Be up in the morning, wrestle with God; and if you friends are not converted, wrestle with God for them; and then you will find it easy work to wrestle with them for God. Seek, if you can, to get them one by one, and tell them the story. Do not be afraid; only think of the good you may possibly do. Remember, he that saves a soul from death hath covereth a multitude of sins, and he shall have stars in his crown for ever and ever. Seek to be under God-Saviours in your family, to be the means of leading your own beloved brethren and sisters to seek and to find the Lord Jesus Christ, and then one day, when you shall meet in Paradise, it will be a joy and blessedness to think that you are there, and that your friends are there too, whom God will have made you the instrument of saving. Let your reliance in the Holy Spirit be entire and honest. Trust not yourself, but fear not to trust him. He can give you words. He can apply those words to their heart, and so enable you to "minister grace to the hearers."
To close up, by a short, and I think, a pleasant turning of the text, to suggest another meaning to it. Soon, dear friends, very soon with some of us, the Master will say, "Go home to thy friends." You know where the home is. It is up above the stars.
"Where our best friends, our kindred dwell, Where God our Saviour reigns."
Yon grey-headed man has buried all his friends; he has said, "I shall go to them, but they will not return to me." Soon his Master will say, "Thou hast had enough tarrying here in this vale of tears: goo home to thy friends!" Oh! happy hour! Oh! blessed moment, when that shall be the word-"Go home to thy friends!" And when we go home to our friends in Paradise, what shall we do? Why, first we will repair to that blest seat where Jesus sits, take off our crown and cast it at his feet, and crown him Lord of all. And when we have done that, what shall be our next employ? Why, we will tell the blessed ones in heaven what the Lord hath done for us, and how he hath had compassion on us. And shall such a tale be told in heaven? Shall that be the Christmas Carol of the angels? Yes, it shall be; it has been published there before- blush not to tell it yet again-for Jesus has told it before, "When he cometh home, he calleth together his friends and neighbours, saying unto them, Rejoice with me; for I have found my sheep which was lost." And thou, poor sheep, when thou shall be gathered in, wilt thou not tell how thy Shepherd sought thee, and how he found thee? Will thou not sit in the grassy meads of heaven, and tell the story of thine own redemption? Wilt thou not talk with thy brethren and thy sisters, and tell them how God loved thee and hath brought thee there? Perhaps thou sayest, "It will be a very short story." Ah! it would be if you could write now. A little book might be the whole of your biography; but up there when your memory shall be enlarged, when your passion shall be purified and your understanding clear, you will find that what was but a tract on earth will be a huge tome in heaven. You will tell a long story there of God's sustaining, restraining, constraining grace, and I think that when you pause to let another tell his tale, and then another, and then another, you will at last, when you have been in heaven a thousand years, break out and exclaim, "O saints, I have something else to say." Again they will tell their tales, and again you will interrupt them with "Oh, beloved, I have thought of another case of God's delivering mercy." And so you will go on, giving them themes for songs, finding them the material for the warp and woof of heavenly sonnets. "Go home," he will soon say, "go home to thy friends, and tell them how great things the Lord hath done for thee, and hath had compassion on thee." Wait awhile; tarry his leisure, and ye shall soon be gathered to the land of the hereafter, to the home of the blessed, where endless felicity shall be thy portion. God grant a blessing for his name's sake! Amen.
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Spurgeon, Charle Haddon. "Commentary on Mark 5". "Spurgeon's Verse Expositions of the Bible". https://studylight.org/
the Second Week of Advent