“That Which Ye have.”
An Address at Malden Hall Anniversary.
My time is short, beloved friends, I will give you a short text, in the Book of the Revelation, second chapter, twenty-fourth verse: “. . . I will put upon you none other burden. But that which ye have already, hold fast till I come.” In the next chapter, there is a very similar expression—the eleventh verse of the third chapter----“Behold, I come quickly: hold that fast which thou hast, that no man take thy crown.”
“That which thou hast,” are words I should like, by the Spirit of God, to press upon every heart here this afternoon.
We thank God with all our hearts for the work that is going on now, and which has been going on in a very marked way since the year 1859 or 1860. I think those years mark an epoch in the history of God’s dealings with men. Those of us who saw anything of the work at that time and have marked the many changes since then in the Gospel field, cannot fail to be struck with the wonderful way in which God is sending out the Gospel to all classes.
There is nothing more remarkable in the present day than the way in which God is raising up special instruments for special work and sending out the glad tidings of salvation to special classes, as if He would leave the highest and the lowest without excuse.
There is no doubt also that God is converting the highest and the lowest----that He is sending His messengers into the slums of London and causing the Gospel of His grace to reach to the steps of the throne. We thank God for it with all our hearts.
But it is well to remember that it was during the mighty work of God in Samaria, as narrated in Acts viii., that Simon Magus sprang into existence. I think I may venture to say more; if it had not been for the mighty operation of God’s Spirit in Samaria, Simon Magus would not have sprung into existence. That very remarkable and very ugly feature of the work is not to be found where things are dull and dead, but is to be found where there is immense energy and activity in the service of God.
Before our brethren Moody and Sankey came to us, my father was perhaps, more used in conversion than any man in his day. He was once writing me, as he did very freely, about his work, being then in Exeter. He said: “As to last night, you may say there were 100 converted, or 200, or 600----say any number you please, because I do not suppose there was anyone in that building that escaped altogether the influence, the power, that was present in that meeting.”
That, no doubt, was a true statement; but what a mistake it would be to suppose that all these persons were truly converted to God!
We find very similar words to those in Revelation, in the eighth of Luke, immediately after the Parable of the Sower. I take it that Christ in the parable is Himself the Sower. There can be no question, therefore, of the character of the Preacher, or of His preaching. All four classes are more or less interested hearers. If all four had been in that public hall in Exeter on the night in question, they would all have been temporarily affected by the work which was going on.
Of the four classes of hearers, only one brings fruit to perfection. There may be hope about the thorny or stony ground hearers, but there is only one good case that we may be quite clear about. Some have a little faith as to the others; but God’s Word does not, as far as I can see, warrant us in giving the right hand of fellowship to any but the one.
Observe, then----what I want to say is this. I speak to myself as well as to you; and I suppose that those who are here this afternoon are working for the Lord, manifestly and avowedly on the Lord’s side. Well, do you ever remember that, in the infinite wisdom of God, and for reasons far beyond my ken, Christ says, “Have not I chosen you twelve, and one of you is a devil?” I do not know why the Lord permitted it; but I do know that Judas amongst the twelve, apparently excited no suspicion in the breasts of those who were his companions.
If twelve men go out together in work for God, they get to be on very close terms. If people are thrown together on board ship or in the country for three or four days, they become more intimate at the end of that time than if they had known each other in London for as many years.
As far as we know, not one of the eleven disciples had the slightest suspicion that Judas was not a true man. They chose him to bear the bag; and we do not find, when the blessed Master speaks about one betraying Him, the slightest suggestion that anyone looked round with suspicion upon Judas. It is a marvellous thing, I think, that one so behaved himself as apparently a child of God, an apostle, that the others who were with him, in the most intimate association and fellowship, had, as far as Scripture gives us light, not the slightest doubt about Judas whatever.
It makes one feel, beloved in the Lord, even when speaking at the Lord’s table, or in the choicest circle in which one’s lot can possibly be cast, that it is right to always say, “Examine yourselves, prove your own selves.” I will not dwell upon this point, but I dare not pass it over.
I have full fellowship with the desire expressed by a brother that we should pray for a far greater measure of love to souls. I long for this for myself, and desire wherever I go to set on fire others with this love and zeal. But the special need of the Church of God to-day is sifting power. Time will not permit me to say more.
But I do want you to look these little words fairly in the face this afternoon, “that which ye have,” “that which thou hast,” and contrast them with the words of our Lord in Luke, “that which he seemeth to have.”
What does it mean? I believe it means, only that which I have received from God, by personal, living faith, is of any value.
This you will admit as to salvation, but we need to carry the idea even farther."
First, as to salvation, observe, Simon Magus apparently gave every evidence of salvation, so that he was baptized; and it was only when he allowed the secret of his heart to escape him, as it were, by his speech, that the truth was known.
The question, then, for every one of us this afternoon is, What is it that I can, truly and really, be said to POSSESS? What is it I HAVE? I have not time to enter into particulars, but I believe this is a salutary challenge for each one of us.
When we are converted and brought amongst God’s people, we enter upon the common heritage of “those things which are most surely believed among us”—that certain standard of truth taught here or elsewhere, the common property of all, and spoken of in Scripture as “the faith.” But how much of it do I know and possess myself?
When others speak of the heavenly calling, am I consciously a “PARTAKER of the heavenly calling”? If I hear others speak of the coming of the Lord----
“It may be at morn,
Or it may be at midnight”—
and so on, am I myself on the very tiptoe of expectation for my Lord and Master?
If I join, as it were, in the expression of sentiments that are common amongst God’s people, without knowing and grasping them by the hand of faith, and receiving them (I was going to say) into a broken heart, what shall I find?
You get the answer in the close of these addresses to the seven churches. There, standing out in bold warning, is the awful doom of those who have not, but seem to have: “Because thou sayest, I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing—”
Do you think that means money? I don’t. I think it means just that which we believe generally to-day.
Any old Christian can tell you that forty years ago, to meet with a person who would say, “I know I am saved,” was a rara avis. Such a thing was rarely known. Now, you scarcely enter a Sunday school without finding young people who profess assurance of salvation. It is the common property of all evangelical Christians. And so we are tempted to say, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing.” Sometimes we speak with almost a measure of contempt of others. I hope we do not say, “God, I thank Thee I am not as other men;” but there is a danger of it, don’t you think so?
Now God, looking right down into the very heart of hearts, and searching that heart of hearts, says, “Thou art wretched, and miserable, and poor, and blind, and naked.” That blessed Saviour, Who could welcome the vilest sinner, Who could touch the leper and not be defiled, in Whose presence the poor adulteress found shelter, cannot bear the Laodicean condition. There is nothing in God’s universe that He loathes with such unutterable loathing as those who have the form of godliness, but deny the power thereof, who rapidly drift into the state of lukewarmness, and are ultimately spued out of His mouth.
I am afraid my words sound a little hard. If so, it is unintentional. If I had half an hour instead of a quarter, my thoughts might be clothed in gentler language.
May God give us to weigh these things. We frequently see just now notices of “stock-taking.” It is well for us to take stock spiritually. What is it I have? What is mine? What will stand good at the Judgment-Seat of Christ? What is it that nothing in heaven, earth, or hell can rob me of? What can I say I possess, through the finished work of Christ, by the indwelling power of the Holy Ghost, through the blessed avenue of simple, living faith? May God increase that in us, for His name's sake. Amen. “Footsteps of Truth” 1890