Pleading With The Indifferent
“Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by? Behold, and see if there is any sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me, wherewith the Lord has afflicted me in the day of His fierce anger.”
THIS was the lamentation of Jeremiah. As he saw the desolation of the beloved city, as he marked the cruelties inflicted by the invaders upon the Jewish youth, children and maidens, and as he foresaw the long years of bitterness reserved for the captives in Babylon, he felt as if he were a peer in the realm of misery–indeed peerless. He stands foremost, a very emperor of grief, a king of sighs and tears. “Behold, and see,” he said, “if there was ever sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me.”
But may there not have been griefs as great as those of Jeremiah? Is the language that flows from his lips strictly accurate? Like most of the periods which flow from abundant grief, is there not some exaggeration here? If we take the words out of the mouth of Jeremiah and put them into the mouth of Jesus–if we suppose them to be spoken by Him, as, hanging on the Cross He did bear the wrath of God for us, then there is no hyperbole, no exaggeration! The words may be read as they stand–and stand as we read them–and their fullest weight shall not outweigh the truth!
This evening two things challenge our attention–an earnest expostulation–“Is it nothing to you, all you that passby?” And a solemn question–“Behold, and see, was there ever sorrow like unto my sorrow, which is done unto me?"First–
- AN EARNEST EXPOSTULATION.
The Son of God has become Incarnate. He became Man out of love to men. But men loved Him not and though in Him was every perfection, they hunted and hounded Him to death! The story is told four times over by Inspired authority in this Book, but the mass of mankind feel no concern in it. I come here tonight and I say to many of you–does not the story of Jesus at all interest you? You heard it read just now, did it fall flat and stale upon your ears? Did you say to yourselves, “It is dry work to listen to that. There is nothing there to strike the attention. If I had taken up a newspaper and had read of some murder, my wits would have been all awakened, but in the hearing of this death of Christ, I feel not at all stirred.” Well, then, I ask you–Why is this? Why is it so? If there is anything in all the world that ought to interest a man, it is the death of Christ! Yet I find men, learned men, spending year after year in sorting out butterflies, beetles and gnats, or in making out the various orders of shells, or in digging into the earth and seeking to discover what strange creatures once floundered through the boundless mire, or swam in the vast seas! I find men occupied with things of no sort of practical moment and which, to me, do not seem so wonderfully enchanting. Yet the story of God, Himself, who deigned to become a man and as a Man suffered, and bled, and died, is thought to be too small a trifle for minds to dwell upon it. O reason! Where have you gone? O judgment! Where have you fled? Men spend their strength on trifles, but on God Incarnate they turn their backs!
It is strange that even the sufferings of Christ do not attract the attention of men, for generally if we hear any sadstory of the misfortunes of our fellow creatures, we are interested. The newspaper is accounted more than usually interesting which contains full particulars of shipwrecks, the blowing down of houses, murders, shootings, killings and I do not know what! Everybody has felt he could read such a paper as that because it concerned his fellow men–what they had lost and what they had suffered. Everyone stops to hear the tale of the ancient mariner! Even the wedding guest is held while he, with the earnest eyes, tells how he suffered on the wide, deep, stagnant sea. And yet this story of a Man who came to our earth with no motive but love, and lived here to do nothing but good, and yet was so despised and rejected as to be nailed to a cross, and there made to die in the midst of jeers, sneers, pains and unknown agonies–this does not interest men! I marvel, and yet I marvel not at the strange indifference of this age to the wonders of Calvary! How is it Earth does not stretch out her hands and say, “Come and tell us of the God that loved us and came down to our low estate–and suffered for us men and for our salvation”? How is it that the crowds of this great city do not come and besiege our houses and say, “Tell us yet again this strange, mysterious story of the sufferings of the perfect Son of God”? It ought to interest us, if nothing more! Is it nothing to you, however? Is it nothing to you, all you that pass by?
It ought to be more than interesting–it ought to excite our admiration. You cannot read of a man sacrificing himself for the good of his fellow creatures without feeling at once that you wish you had known that fine fellow! And you feel instinctively that you would do anything in the world to serve him if he still lives, or to help relatives left behind if he has died in a brave attempt. Who does not esteem, though you never knew him, the good man at Bethnal Green who perished but lately in the explosion at the firework factory? He rushes in to seek to rescue others and is found, at last, a handful of ashes bewailed by a weeping wife! One felt at once, “There was a man who had a soul beating beneath his ribs.” But is no admiration to be given to the Son of God who left a Throne of Glory without bound and came here below to poverty, to shame, to a life of contempt and toil–and then voluntarily gave Himself up to a death which never could have been inflicted upon Him if He had not given Himself up to die? Jesus Christ had no motive in suffering but the good of men! Nothing selfish ever crossed His soul. Oh, Brothers and Sisters, it was pity that ruled His heart–pity, and only pity–and while we set up our statues in reverence of men who have loved their fellow men and speak of such-andsuch a man as “a great philanthropist,” is it nothing to you that Jesus should die for men and shall this greatest of all philanthropists, this first and chief of lovers of the race of men, be altogether forgotten? I would admire Him even if He had not saved me! If I had no share in His blood, I think I would love Him. The life of Christ enchants me! The death of Christ binds me to His Cross! Even if I were never washed in His blood and were even cast away into Hell, if that were possible, I still feel I must admire Him for His love to others! Yes, and I must adore Him, too, for His godlike Character and His godlike sufferings for the sons of men! But why, why is it that such a Christ, so lovely and so admirable, is forgotten by the most of mankind and is nothing to them?
Now, my dear Hearers, there are some of you to whom I might put this question very closely. You have heard about Jesus very often. This pulpit is always ringing with His name. And you have admired what Jesus did. I know you have and if any spoke ill of Him, you would be very grieved–and you would be among the first to defend His name! And yet–and yet–is that all? Are you always going to be interested and to admire, but are you never going further? Is it, after all, to come to this, that it is nothing to you that Jesus should die? You have no interest in that death, no part, no lot in the salvation which that death brings to the sons of men! I am afraid that with some of you it will be so all your days. Fifteen years have I preached to some of you–15 years! And if those 15 years have not brought you to Christ, is there any reason to believe that 15 more years will do it? No, I fear that with some of you the harvest is past and the summer is ended–and you are not saved. There was a time when this voice did seem to cut into your soul and the Truths of God that were uttered awakened your conscience! But it is all nothing to you now. You could go to sleep under the sound of it and your soul does sleep under the sense of it! What? Will you be lost? Have you resolved to be lost with a Savior lifted up before you? Have you determined that you will never look to Him who is lifted up to save you from the serpent’s bite? Shall Christ, the Water of Life, never be tasted by your lips? Do you elect to perish of thirst? Shall this Bread of Life be never eaten? Do you choose rather to starve than to come to Him? No, you tell me you hope one of these days. Ah, but I have no hope of you for any day but today! And I wish you, too, knew that procrastination is of all things fatal. I would sooner that you resolved to be damned than that you only said, “Tomorrow, tomorrow.” For if today you resolved upon your ruin, you might be startled at the resolution–and you might be led to see your folly and awakened to amend your steps! But if you always say, “Tomorrow, tomorrow,” it will be the will-o'-the-wisp that will tempt you into the fatal morass where souls have been lost by tens of thousands–as yours will be!
Oh, why should I have to be always coming down these steps and into this pulpit, to say over and over and over again to you that Jesus died–and that if you trust Him you shall live? Why should it need to be repeated over and over? Great God of patience, such a story as this ought to be accepted of the heart at once! If You bear with men who reject it, we may well bear with them, too, but, oh, we pray You let them not go too far with Your long-suffering, nor venture too much upon Your patience, lest You lift Your hand and swear in Your wrath that they shall not enter into Your rest because they had the Gospel, but they counted not themselves to be worthy of it!
One thing I would say to you, to all of you to whom it seems as yet to be nothing that Jesus should die–that personally to me it is something that He should die. It is more than something–it is everything–and I will tell you why. It ismuch to me that Jesus died, for I know I slew Him. I sang those verses just now and I sang them with some bitterness of soul, I was forced to feel–
“‘Tis I have thus ungrateful been.”
If it were not that I had sinned, as one of the race, there had been no need for Christ to die. But as it was sin that pierced and nailed Him, I had a share in His death. But then I know another thing–that by that death I am delivered from the very guilt that put Him to death! I have looked to Him and I am forgiven. Fleming tells us in a book of his, that a great culprit had been condemned to be hanged at Ayr. He had been a very great offender, but while he lay in prison, God granted him repentance and he was heard to say continually as they took him to the scaffold, “Oh, but He’s a great forgiver! Oh, but He’s a great forgiver!” And I have often felt as if I could stand and cry, yes, even dance and say it, “Oh, but He’s a great forgiver! Oh, but He’s a great forgiver!” My innumerable sins confessed to Him were blotted out, each one, and peace and joy bestowed where all before was fear and trembling! Now, there are hundreds in this house that could say the same. If I were to ask it, and this were the proper time, there are thousands within this dome who could rise and say, “I, too, can say that it is much to me that Jesus died, for though I slew Him, yet by His death I live, and by the blood which I drew from His veins I have been washed and made white.” Now, if it is so much to us, we do sincerely wish, oh, unconverted ones, that Christ were as much to you, for we do think He ought to be! We desire that He should be! We pray that He may be and we tremble, even to horror, lest, after all, He should not be, for if Christ is nothing to you, it will be a hard dying for you, a hard dying–the bed shall be of iron and the pillow shall be cold as ice–and it will be hard passing into a disembodied state! It will be hard coming before God. It will be hard for when your body rises in the day of the Resurrection, when the trumpet sounds, and the sepulchers are burst open, and your body, linked to your soul again, shall stand before the flaming Throne of Christ! It will be hard for you–oh, so hard–throughout eternity! An eternity without Christ! An eternity without Christ! “Nothing to you, nothing to you,” you say now, but how will it be when conscience shall remind you in eternity, “you heard of Christ, but you said He was nothing to you! You listened to earnest admonitions, but you said they were nothing to you.” How will this stir the fire? How will this fan the flame? How will this prick your conscience and vex your spirit, that Jesus died, and inestimable mercies dropped from the Cross–pardons sealed with blood were distributed freely upon Calvary and broken hearts were healed–and sins were forgiven and the dead were raised and the lost were saved? But it was all nothing to you, nothing to you! Oh, before death comes–and he is on his way to some here present–on his way to meet them soon! Before death comes on the pale horse with Hell following at his heels, I beseech you, as you love your souls, look to the Crucified and be not satisfied till you can say, “He is everything to me! I slew Him, but He saved me! I looked to Him and I live!”
May God bless this admonition and my heart shall be glad, indeed, if He will but do it. Oh, how little can I do for you, you unconverted ones, how little can I do for you! When I sometimes get a handshake from some of you, and you say, “Well, I have been hearing you for years, Sir, but I am not converted,” I look hopefully upon you, but I cannot help, when I get away, reproaching myself in part and saying, “Have I preached to these people as I ought to?” You make me wake up at night to weep about you and to ask myself again and again, “What more can I say? How shall I put it? With what force and power can I deliver it, if perhaps I may reach their hearts?” Oh, I trust you may yet be brought–and God shall be praised and glorified world without end! Now, let us change to a second point–
II. A SOLEMN QUESTION.
The Lord Jesus Christ may be represented here as bidding men see if there is any sorrow like unto His sorrow which is done to Him. Now, observe, that it may be truthfully said that the sufferings of Jesus were altogether unique and bythemselves. There were never any sufferings which could match His–and never was there such an illustrious sufferer put to such boundless shame. He was the eye of Heaven, the very sun and star of the bright world! It was the seraph’s bliss to do Him homage. King of kings and Lord of lords was He, and the government was upon His shoulders! And His name was called Wonderful, The Counselor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Prince of Peace! All the hallelujahs of eternity rolled up at His august feet! But He was despised and rejected of men, a Man of Sorrows and acquainted with grief! And we hid, as it were, our faces from Him. He was despised and we esteemed Him not. They spat into His face. They plucked off His hair. They blindfolded Him. They struck Him with their fists. They scourged Him. The bloody scourges made the sacred drops roll. They gave Him a felon’s death and then stood by and mocked His prayers and made jests about His groans and pangs! Never was One so high brought so low. “Behold and see if there were ever sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me.” Never One so innocent, so falsely accused. He had done no evil. He was no rival of Caesar. He said His Kingdom was not of this world. Instead of doing evil, He had done boundless good. His food and His drink were to do God’s will. His delight was to help the poor, to feed the hungry, to heal the sick. He was all gentleness, all goodness. From both His hands He scattered His bounties lavishly among the graceless sons of men–and yet they said He was guilty of sedition and of blasphemy! He, seditious? He a blasphemer? Lying could go no farther! Bribed witnesses could not be made to agree! The lie was too massive even for those to compass who were willing to have compassed it! Oh, was ever grief like His–to be treated as a felon and put to death as though guilty–when all the while He did no sin, neither was deceit found on His lips!
Remember, Beloved, that in our Savior’s death there were aggravations of an extraordinary kind. Before He actually came to die, that dreadful night in Gethsemane had broken His already emaciated frame. There He sweat, as it were, great drops of blood falling to the ground. In two or three cases, other persons have sweat drops of blood, but they have invariably died. Our Savior did this and yet lived. Oh, how was the bitterness of His soul expressed in that awful overflow which fell upon Gethsemane’s soil! Then, remember, He was led, deserted by His friends, without any comfort from His God, to be tried by Herod, by Pilate, by Caiaphas–to be scourged, beaten, probably several times with rods and scourges. God forsook Him–“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” was the very depth of His agony and without one to pity, one to administer comfort, utterly forsaken, our Savior died with aggravations of agonies that were to be found in no other death!
Still, the singularity of His death lies in another respect. There was never sorrow like the sorrow which was done unto Christ, because all His sorrow was born for others. Whatever you and I may suffer, we deserve it and, directly or indirectly, we may trace it to the fact that we are sinners. But He was not a sinner. In Him was no sin and neither suffering nor death could lawfully have been laid upon Him had He not made Himself the Substitute for His people. Behold, and see if there was ever sorrow like His sorrow! He bears the sin of many. He is numbered with the transgressors. He stands vicariously to endure what never could have been His if it had not been that He was a Surety and stood in His people’s place.
Now, I want your thoughts just one minute. What was it that Christ, as Substitute, had to endure? Answer–Although it may not have been precisely what we ought to have endured, it must have been something equivalent thereto. Now, what ought one sinner to have suffered? Answer–Eternal misery in Hell! What, then, what then must have been the pangs which in Christ’s case stood as the equivalent for the eternal agonies of one sinner? But Christ died not for onesinner, but for tens of thousands, for countless multitudes, whom no one can number! Think, then, my Brothers and Sisters, what must have been the crushing blows which Jehovah laid on Him when those blows were to be an equivalent for the hells of ten thousand times ten thousand of those for whom He suffered! Of course, it were not possible for Him to have endured, even for one, if He had not been God! His Godhead gave Him an infinite capacity for misery and infused a boundless degree of misery into all the pangs He bore. You have no more idea of what Christ suffered in His soul than you have when you take up in a shell, a drop of seawater! What Christ suffered is utterly inconceivable! We are not just to think of Him as dying as another dies. His was a vast soul, so great a soul that it seemed to have all souls within it–and it had the capacity for suffering what all souls might have borne–and the whole of that vast Nature which God had given, that wondrous Nature which He Himself also essentially possessed–was put forth to make an Atonement for human sin. “Behold and see if there was ever sorrow like unto My sorrow, which is done unto Me.”
“Oh, let us now, instead of talking any more, sit down by meditation at the foot of the Cross and look up! ‘Tis the King! 'Tis the King, but He is crowned with thorns! It is the Prince of Glory, but He is stripped naked to His shame! It is the Ancient of eternal days, but He bows His head to die! He is God, All-Sufficient, yet He cries, "I thirst”! He is the angel’s darling, but He is despised and rejected of men! Hark, He fills Heaven with honor! His Presence gilds Heaven with light, yet there upon the Cross He is covered with darkness! And the music about Him is that of His own sighs, and cries, and groans. Was ever grief like Yours? Needless question! Needless question! All but shameful question, for were all griefs that ever were condensed into one, they were no more worthy to be compared therewith than the glowworm’s tiny lamp with the ever-blazing sun!
What then, Beloved, what then? If Christ is thus alone in suffering, what then? Why, let Him stand alone in our love.High, high, high set up Christ in your heart! Now, Brothers and Sisters you have many objects of your affection, but oh, lift up my lord, your soul’s Bridegroom, your spirit’s Well-Beloved! Come now, if you have thought well of Him, think better of Him! If you have loved Him, oh, love Him more! Now, ask to have your heart inflamed, as with coals of juniper, which have a vehement heat, and let that heart be all His own! Oh, let there be no such love as your love to Christ! Let it pass the love of women! Let it go beyond a mother’s love, a brother’s affection, a father’s tenderness! Love Him–you cannot match His love to you, but at least seek to let your little stream run side by side with the mighty river!
If Christ is thus alone in suffering, Brothers and Sisters, let us seek to make Him, if we can, alone in our service. We do not do much for Christ, compared with what we should. Some have learned to give much, but yet what is our giving for such an one as He is? We only give what we can spare–how few of us ever pinch ourselves for Him? He smarted for us and gave up even His very garments for us, but we do not come to that. In the olden times they did–saints, martyrs and Christian missionaries made sacrifice of all and counted it no sacrifice out of love to Him. I wish we had more Marys who would break the alabaster box of precious ointment upon His dear head. Oh, for a little extravagance of love, a little fanaticism of affection for Him, for He deserves ten thousand times more than the most enthusiastic ever dream of rendering! If He is thus, Brothers and Sisters, so far beyond all others in His sorrow, let Him also be first and foremost tonight in our praise. If you have poetic minds, weave no garlands except for His dear brow! If you are men of eloquence, speak no glowing periods except to His honor! If you are men of wit and scholarship, oh, seek to lay your scholarship at the foot of His Cross! Come here with all your talents and yield them to Him who bought them with His blood! Come, here, you with much and yet with little–come with hearts so warm whom He loved so well–
“Here then your music bring,
Strike aloud each cheerful string!
Mortals join the hosts above,
Come and praise redeeming love.”
The Lord give us such a frame of mind as that, tonight, when we come to the breaking of bread, and His be the glory. Amen.