Large-Heartedness In Service
by Henry Varley
WE shall enter more fully into the spirit of our Lord as we really have a large-hearted fellowship with Him in the welfare of our fellow-men. His interest in this is set forth in the early chapters of the Acts of the Apostles. I take two illustrations—-one, that is furnished by the centurion; the other, the case of the Ethiopian eunuch.
It is very worthy of remark that, as far as the activities of the Church in Jerusalem were concerned, they do not appear to have reached either of those cases. No doubt the believers were full of the spirit of Christ, and full of zeal; yet the fullness of that condition in them, did not equal the greatness of the love of God. There was an activity in heaven in regard to the case of the centurion, and those processes which led to his salvation were started in the presence of God. It is equally true in the case of the Ethiopian eunuch. He had been up to Jerusalem to worship. God has a very great deal more to do with many unconverted persons than we give Him credit for. There is such a thing as the worship of necessity. This is brought out very clearly in the case of the leper. We have it on the authority of God, that he worshipped Christ. There is a worship that is ofttimes recognized by God of which we, understanding that word worship in a deeper and wider way, think but little. So was it with the leper desiring healing, and Cornelius feeling after God; and concerning Cornelius, we have that wonderful expression, "Thy prayers and thine alms are come up as a memorial before God." He is directed to send messengers to Joppa, who are preceded by a most extraordinary and miraculous intervention in the vision seen by Peter. In the case of Philip, he is sent away from the activities of his evangelistic work at least sixty miles across the desert, directed of God Himself to go. He finds in the eunuch, one who has been at Jerusalem, and though, as a man of colour, not permitted within the precincts of the Temple, yet identified with worship there, but, despite all he had seen and heard, destitute of spiritual light.
Observe the care that God had for that man. He is returning to his own country with a burdened conscience, loaded with a sense of his sin. Sitting in his chariot, he is quietly reading from the Book of the Prophet Isaiah. Philip is instructed to go and join himself to this chariot. It is Divine intervention throughout. May you and I have a very deep apprehension of the sympathy of God in regard to the salvation of the sons of men. We find it in the parable of the sower. Who but Jesus Christ would sow seed on the rock? Is there a farmer in England who would do it? "What modern sower would scatter seed by the wayside? Yet it is done in the prodigality of the munificent "grace of God, that bringeth salvation." There is need to emphasise that, on the ground of the death of the Lord Jesus, there is a wonder—fully comprehensive justification unto life, that reaches out far beyond our contracted ideas; an expansion, a broadness, which is clearly and intelligibly set forth in the parable of the sower. Philip’s dealings with the eunuch illustrate the importance of individual ministry. I am afraid many suppose that ministry is mostly identified with the platform. A physician will bear witness to the importance of a personal interview in regard to dealing with a patient. Medical men do not deal with their patients in companies. If a medical man came here to give six or eight addresses in this hall, more or less covering the field of medicine, he might impart a great deal of instruction, and many would listen intelligently and go away edified; but that does not meet the case of those who are partakers of disease. There must be a personal interview, as when Philip went up into the chariot and sat with the eunuch. How very delightful to see the Spirit of the Lord leading this man of colour, right into the very heart of the Gospel----the fifty-third chapter of the Book of the Prophet Isaiah! We do not know how long he had possessed this book. He had obtained it on his visit to Jerusalem, or he, being a wealthy man, possessed the writings of the prophets. While reading that chapter which is pre-eminently the very heart of the Gospel, Philip "preached unto him Jesus." Oh! that making known of Jesus is still the necessity for this poor weary world. It is the great business that belongs to us as the servants of Christ—-to go forth and everywhere testify, both by example and word of mouth, concerning the adaptation of the death of the Lord Jesus Christ as a rest for the soul, and the need that there is for a real personal union with Him; for, on the ground of His death, we may stand before God, knowing that our sin has been put away, as far as the east is from the west. To bring this truth clearly and simply before the minds of those that our influence and example can reach, is one of the most happy ways of entering into fellowship with our Lord Himself.
In regard to our personal consecration to God, is it not very important to bear in mind that we are called to a life of faith upon the Son of God? It is not a question of sense, nor a matter of consciousness. It has its foundation in a clear view of what the Lord Jesus is made unto us of God, namely, "wisdom, righteousness, sanctification, and redemption." There is a more radical truth than even that. He is our life. Our profession as believers is that, "we have died, and our life is hid with Christ in God;" we have no other.
There is a great deal of prominence, in men’s minds, given to the thought of personal, individual Christian life; but there is no such thing recognized in God’s Word. None of us are Christians on our own account. I have no separate, independent life. We are branches in the Vine, and so have a corporate life; we are members of His body; we are living stones in the living temple; but there is no such thing in the Word of God, from beginning to end, as a living, personal, independent Christian life. How important therefore, to constantly and definitely appropriate to ourselves that which God has given us in Christ! God never tells us to get holiness by any act of our own. He says, "Be ye holy." We are to be what our faith really qualifies us at once to affirm. The Devil gets a great advantage over any believer when that believer backs down from the high position referred to in the Epistle to the Hebrews----"holy brethren, partakers of the heavenly calling." I venture to say that it is one of the Devil’s most subtle things to trip the believer, as he did Peter, and then come down upon us, and get us away from the apprehension of what we are in our Lord. When Christ said, "The truth shall make you free," He meant that it is so when we clearly see what we are in God—our life practically taken from the earth, and we, moment by moment, in the apprehension of intellect and heart, seeing what Christ is, and losing sight of ourselves, saying, "Not I, but Christ liveth in me." I do not see why I should shut Christ out from any part of my being that I would not deny individuality, but I do say that, if I understand the New Testament rightly, it inculcates the entire subjugation of our individuality to our Lord Jesus Christ, and His permeation of our whole being.
When our Father sent Jesus Christ to us, He did not leave out any factor common to our constitution, but sent a Christ for the intellect, the memory, and every faculty common to the spirit, the soul, or the energies of the body. He wants our brains, our wills, to use. I think many are wrong concerning the will. I like a strong will, provided it is under the domination of Jesus Christ. I do dislike persons without backbone, who wish to play both sides. Let us have sturdiness, hardihood, for Christ. Stand by His truth and His life. If I understand the Gospel rightly, there is no greater difference between a worm and a man than between a man and a Christian. I do desire to say to myself every day, "Henry Varley, forget your own people and your father’s house; remember you have been severed from it by the Cross, and brought on the platform of resurrection. Never back down, man." God has put the death and cross of Christ as a protest against our going back. If sin is committed, be ashamed of it as a child of God, not as the Devil’s servant. One thing I know; when my Lord dealt with those disciples in their sleepiness in the garden, He understood our frame. Were His words full of blame? You cannot find it in them. He had not only to fight that battle alone, but He knew what was in man, and He said, "The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak." What makes the flesh weak in us? Using the word flesh in the sense of the liability to which we are exposed of its lusts mastering us, it is getting our minds away from the blessed Son of God. I may perhaps be thought extreme; but I say that if the truth of Christ possesses your intellect and heart, as God lives, you will have no pleasure in sin. The power of Christ destroys the love of sin. The supremacy of my love to the wife God has given me forbids me, as a man, to be disloyal to her. My heart’s desire is that you and I may be intensely loyal to Him. You young ladies here to-night; I would have you loyal to your Lord. If the Devil sends some nice-looking godless fellow to win your affections, be loyal to your Lord. This is one of the Devil’s ways of getting Christian maidens off the track. I have not been a minister of Christ for twenty-five years without seeing the frightful mischief of that. You have no right, as a child of God, to allow your affections to go where you please. If I had a daughter allowing her affections to go, without reference to my will, toward one in whom I had no confidence, should I be happy? Natural affection is one of the most dangerous possessions of men and women. Hundreds of thousands have sacrificed everything at the shrine of natural affection—honour, virtue, modesty, name, Christianity, health—everything has gone. God in His mercy, make our hearts loyal to Him, in the great question of love, that which is pure, which has no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness.
Do let me beg you to pray for me. Personally, I feel very unfit for the work to which I am going. I do not object to that. I do covet more and more a sense of weakness which I find arises out of communion with God. But I have known and I say it with shame----a weakness unworthy of me and of any Christian man, arising, not out of fellowship with God, but out of want of communion with God. It is one thing to live in the presence of God, and die down into self-abnegation; and it is another thing to lose our strength by failing to keep the Nazarite’s position. O God, just help me, that I may go forth and there uplift a living Christ. O brethren and sisters, pray for me, that I may be kept till life’s latest hour, simply to the old, old story, faithful to that precious message. O Jesus, do not spare these feet to land on the shores of the Cape Colony unless I go to exalt Thee. Unless I do so, I had better, a great deal, stay away.
I heard the other week that a thousand hogsheads (63,000 gallons) of rum have been sent, within three months, from the United States to Cape Colony. Just think of it! It is time some of us went and tried to save some of those thousands of souls there. I am very much afraid that, for every soul our Western Christianity has saved amongst the heathen nations, our "civilization," or strong drink, has damned a hundred. I speak solemnly and sorrowfully. I know I have said an awful thing; but would to God the English people might be roused to a sense of the iniquity which this infernal drink traffic is causing. Oh that they would see the wickedness, the iniquity, of this land in cursing the heathen with our drink and our opium! Why, there are some races of the earth being literally murdered outright; and, provided the English people can make money, they will do it. What do they care about their fellow-men? They are so much merchandise out of which to get gain. God, help us, that we may have power with Thee in winning souls for Christ.