He is Precious!
Archibald G. Brown, January 3rd, 1869, Stepney Green
"To you therefore who believe, He is precious!" 1 Peter 2:7
Through the sparing mercy of God, I have commenced this day, the third year of my ministry in this place. It is impossible to look back on the two years gone by without the profoundest gratitude, for great indeed have been the blessings received; far more than we could ever have ventured to expect. God has been pleased to show by the clearest proofs, that the work in this place is His, and we would give to Him the full sheaf of glory. "Not to us, O Lord, not to us but to your name give glory, for your mercy, and for your truth's sake."
During the two years, what changes have taken place in our midst. Faces once familiar, are now seen no more; many voices that once joined with ours in sacred praise, have been stilled in death; beloved ones who bowed with us in prayer, are this evening bowing before the eternal throne in lowliest homage.
The two years have not passed over this congregation without writing the word "change" upon its brow. Nor has the change been confined to the congregation as a whole; we have each and all personally come under its power. Not a single soul present is precisely what it was when first I came into your number, and, in the experience of a great many how blessed has been the change effected even during the past year. Some of you commenced 1868 "without Christ" and "without hope" when it dawned it found you in "gross darkness!" But before it closed, God had "called you out of darkness into his marvelous light," and Christ who was to you "a root out of a dry ground," has now become the "chief among ten thousand and the altogether lovely One!" The past year will ever be to you the best year of your life, for in its months, the Lord changed . . .
your heart from stone to flesh,
your affections from self to Christ,
your eternal destiny from Hell to Heaven!
This is a blessed change indeed, which only sovereign grace could make!
But there has been something that even Father Time itself has failed to alter something that has defied all the powers of the great transformer. I refer to the believer's estimate of Christ. In degree it increases; in its nature it is the same.
Borne along by the stream of time, we glide from one year into another but with us we carry the preciousness of Jesus. Time may . . .
furrow the brow,
silver the hair,
weaken the memory, and
eat away the strength
but the love which every saint has to his Savior defies its power to lessen it. If Christ was precious to you in 1868, he will be just as precious to you in 1869. Year by year (however your opinion and estimate of others may alter) the declaration of your heart will be the same, "He is precious!"
Therefore, instead of commencing this year's pastorate with any review of the past, or any account of the Lord's work during the last twelve months, I purpose to devote this, my first sermon of the present year, to the preciousness of Christ. To those who love him, the subject will ever be fresh; and for those of you who do not, we earnestly pray that the Holy Spirit may this evening withdraw the veil that hides him from your eyes; may he give to you spiritual vision, that Christ's beauties may shine forth before you until, with melting heart you cry, "O Savior, you are precious!"
I will first, by God's help, try and Employ the text as a test;
then secondly, View it as the sweet experience of the saint;
and lastly Mention some seasons when Christ is more than ever precious.
I. First then I will try and employ this evening's text as a TEST. It is a touchstone whereby we may discover whether we are in the faith or not. To whom is he precious? Why, only to those who believe, and believe with the heart. For there are many who believe in the same sense that the Devils do; but like them, their faith has never worked love; and faith which works no love, works no salvation either. But to all who have believed unto salvation, Christ has become precious; therefore if he is precious to me, that preciousness is a sweet evidence that I have been saved through faith. But if, on the other hand, I have to confess that I know nothing of the experience of this text; that the preciousness of Christ is still a thing unknown; that simple love to him is an emotion unfelt then whatever else I may possess, I lack the one thing necessary to warrant me in believing I am saved.
1. How SIMPLE a test it is. There are many who seem to take a delight in speaking of the difficulty of knowing our own salvation and of the liability there is, in spite of all our self examinations of being self-deceived; I for one do not believe a single word of it. I grant that there are many self-deceived ones but I deny that they are so, after careful self-testing, The men who are deceived are those who never take the trouble to put themselves through the sieve, who truly always "take it for granted" that they are all-right, and who, if a searching sermon is preached, see its applicability to everybody else except themselves. Men who are so certain of the soundness of their vessel that they never try the pumps: these are the men who go to the bottom. But it is sheer nonsense to say it is impossible to find out whether we are in the faith or not. Does conversion make such an imperceptible difference that only God can see it? Is it impossible for me to tell whether I am floundering about in miry clay in a horrible pit; or whether I am standing on a rock with sunlight all around. Are the two so much alike? There might be some excuse for the theory, if the tests to be applied were so abstruse and difficult that none could be certainly sure whether he had applied them rightly or not; but in this evening's text we have an infallible test; one that can never possibly fail, and yet so simple that a child can understand it, and the most ignorant can use it as well as the most erudite. Is Christ precious to you? Yes or no. If he is, you are saved, if he is not, you are still unsaved. Many of the old puritans have written hundreds of pages of "spiritual refinings" as they call them; test after test is used; touchstone after touchstone applied; the whole man is dissected; and yet after all, this simple God-given test includes them all.
Shame to us then, if with so simple a test, within the reach of all, any of us should be deceived, or remain so if we are. "To you who believe, he is precious."
2. But this test is not only a simple one but, secondly, an exceedingly SEARCHING one. Many who can bear almost any other, flinch from this. It passes beyond mere externals, and touches the inward life. It appeals, not to the head, not to the actions but to the heart's affection. There are many who know all about the things of God; they have all the doctrines at their finger ends; they will tell you in a moment whether a sermon was orthodox or not, whether it had the right ring or not; they are veritable "Bodies of Divinity" incarnate; and examined by the test of biblical knowledge, they would come off with flying colors. But test them by this evening's text, and their apparent godliness turns out a sham they prove to be only dead bodies in the garments of the living. They could have stood an examination by all the doctors of divinity triumphantly; but before this simple test they fall, because it does not examine their Bible knowledge but their love for Jesus.
Their outward life is almost without reproach truthful to a syllable; honest as the day; strict even in their morality. Test them by their life, and they need never have any fear as to the result; but test them by their love for Jesus, test them by the preciousness of Christ to them and they prove miserable defaulters. Beloved, can you bear the test? Are you willing to have it applied to your heart? Can you say
"Do not I love Thee, O my Lord?
Behold my heart and see;
And turn each cursed idol out,
That dares to rival Thee.
Thou knowst I love Thee, dearest Lord,
But O, I long to soar
Far from the sphere of mortal joys,
And learn to love Thee more!"
If you can, then are you happy. But if it were possible for you to possess every other evidence of faith, and yet lack this, you are still without any saving knowledge of Christ.
Look at that dead body being galvanized: it moves its arms, its eyes open, it shows signs of life. Yes it does but it only shows them; it still lacks one thing, and that is the vital spark within; and that one thing lacking, leaves it a corpse. So with the mere professor: the one thing he lacks is love to Christ; and if that one thing is lacking, he is still dead in trespasses and sins. Oh, lay your heart open to the knife do not flinch from it, keen though its blade may be. "To you who believe, he is precious;" then do you believe?
3. Thirdly, this test is a very COMFORTING one, and not one whit less so, than simple or searching. How many there are who fly to it as their one evidence that they are Christ's. Poor, trembling, timid souls, who know but very little of doctrine, who look up with awe to those I have just described, and wish they knew one tenth as much but who cling with the tenacity of a drowning man to this text. "Lord," they say "you had it written that to those who believe, he is precious. I don't know much, Lord but this I do know, and you know it also, that Christ is very precious to my soul. Then Lord, may I not hope that I have believed on you?"
Has this not been the language of many present, and are there not many here who look at this test, which many dread, as their chief joy, and say "Yes, he is precious to me!" I have heard somewhere of a poor girl who was being examined by a number of local dignitaries in order to obtain some job. She appeared to them very stupid and ignorant; question after question she could not answer; and getting more and more excited, she only floundered on all the worse. At last one of the clergymen in astonishment said, My dear girl, what do you know? The poor thing, with the color mounting up to her brow, stammered out "I I know that I love Christ, and could die for him!" Oh blessed knowledge worth more than all other!
Cheer up, poor desponding heart, wipe away the tear from the eye; for as God's ambassador I declare that if you can say "Jesus is precious!" then you have the brightest and best evidence that you are his and he is yours.
Let us now in the second place,
II. View the Text as the Sweet Experience of the Saint.
Who is precious? Why Jesus is.
To the child of God, a personal living Christ is most dear. He is not satisfied with a mere love for . . .
or Christ's gifts.
His affections entwine themselves round about Christ's person. Jesus is to him his brother, friend, companion, the one with whom he walks and talks.
True growth in grace consists of a personal Savior growing increasingly precious.
How sad it is that so many fall short of this experience; their religion is entered more in a code of rules and collections of doctrines than in the person of the dear Redeemer.
Yes, to you who believe, He Himself is precious!
Not only His house for it is quite possible to like a person's house exceedingly, and yet have no particular love for the owner of that house.
Not only His book for there are many books you may enjoy reading, and yet have neither knowledge of, nor affection for, the author.
Not only His gifts for how many there are who value a man's gifts, while they despise him in their heart.
But He Himself, apart from all that He gives, will be your heart's dearest love.
"My God, I love You; not because
I hope for Heaven thereby.
Nor because those who love You not,
Must burn eternally.
Not with the hope of gaining anything,
Not seeking a reward;
But as Yourself have loved me,
O ever-loving Lord."
Then if Christ is precious to you, everything about him becomes precious.
His name becomes the sweetest music of the soul. It is impossible to love anyone intensely without having their name endeared to you, not because of the name itself but because of its associations; the name has become inseparably linked with the person, and its mention causes every heart-string to vibrate. Jesus, Jesus was ever music as full of melody? Soft and sweet as "music stealing over the rippling waves" of some moon-lit lake. Do not ten thousand sweet emotions arise at its call Jesus! Could we not repeat that word over and over again, and every time find a fuller harmony in it, until under its magic power the eyes begin to swim with tears of grateful love; the heart feels too big for the breast, and the lips are constrained to sing,
"How sweet the name of Jesus sounds
In a believer's ear!
It soothes his sorrows, heals his wounds,
And drives away his fear."
How about "Emmanuel?" Is not that name precious to those of us who believe? "God with us." Surely,
"Sweeter sounds than music knows,
Charm me in Emmanuel's name."
Time would fail, even to run over the glorious list of names whereby he is called but concerning every one, we should say "that name is precious!"
We read in Genesis that Pharaoh placed on the hand of Joseph his own signet ring, and that gave to him a sovereign power. Beloved, the name of Jesus is our signet ring, and ever has been to saints of all ages. What was the power of the Apostles? The name of Jesus. What is the power of this blessed Gospel? It is the signet ring of the name of Jesus that makes it "the power of God unto salvation." Romans 1.16. Why do our prayers, so cold and feeble in themselves, find acceptance and bring down into our souls innumerable blessings? Only because they bear the signet ring of the name of Jesus, and that all we ask is "for his sake." Yes, blessed Jesus, your name is precious to your believing ones.
So, moreover, is his person. On this I have already briefly touched but only as a whole. Let me go more into particulars. His person is precious, wherever, or in whatever condition, we behold it.
Let us join company with the Magi and follow yonder glittering star. It stops over this manger, let us enter. Behold the young child nestled in its mother's arms. It is our Savior. It is "the ancient of days." Dan 7.22. Oh, "holy child," we prostrate ourselves before you and with the wise men worship, for in your dawn, O Sun of Righteousness, you are precious; and in your opening bud, O "Rose of Sharon," you are sweet.
Do we view him during his thirty years of sojourn here, still he is precious. Precious, when being weary, he sleeps in the hind part of the vessel. Precious, when at the grave of Lazarus he weeps. Precious, when at the well side, he woos and wins the heart of the poor adulterous woman of Samaria. Ah! how infinitely precious He is in His sufferings and death!
O, come with me into Gethsemane. How dark the shade of the olive grove how cold the night air blows.
Let us pass that sleeping group a stone's throw further still. Hark! What sound is that? It is not the sighing of the breeze in the branches we hear. Come nearer. Ah! now we can catch the words. "Father, if it is possible, let this cup pass from Me."
Do you see Him? Look! He falls upon the ground. What drops are those that fall? Do the trees weep dew? No, they are drops of blood, forced from His sacred body by agony of soul, as they fall to the ground. Savior! clothed in the garment of your blood, and crushed with anguish You are precious!
But follow Him further. He is tied to yonder pillar, His back is bared the cruel Roman scourge descends, and ploughs it with deep furrows. Is He less precious to you now, believer? Ah, no! The more His misery deepens so much the more does your love!
Listen to the ringing sound of those hammers! Hear the brutal laugh!! They crucify Him!!! He who clothed the earth with flowers hangs without a rag to hide His nakedness. Fever courses in His veins. Thirst torments Him. His wounds gape wide. Will you turn away from Him now believer? Are His charms gone? No, no, no, for in His shame and dying agonies, He is more than ever precious!
And now his head droops. Human spite has done its worst. Jesus is dead. But precious is that lifeless form. Oh! Joseph of Arimathea, I envy you the honor of paying the last tokens of affection to Him who is so precious. Never was a sepulcher so honored, as that of yours "in which no man was ever lain before." John 19.41
And now, believer, I want you once more to view your Lord and bear your testimony to his preciousness. Where will we find him? The sepulcher is empty; the guards like dead men fall down before the rising one; angels have declared, "He is not here but risen." Mat 28.6. He has appeared often to his disciples, and on the last memorable visit he has "led them out as far as Bethany, and lifted up his hands and blessed them; and it came to pass, while he blessed them, that he was parted from them, and carried up into Heaven." Luke 24.50-51.
It is there we would now behold him. Hymned by a myriad host, he has passed through the uplifted gates of the city. "King of Kings and Lord of Lords!" Rev 19.16 is the overwhelming chorus that reverberates along Heaven's arches. Through all the angelic serried ranks he passes; right up to the eternal throne he walks; and as he takes the sovereign position, the universal acclamation is "You are worthy!" Rev 4.11. Before his Father he pleads his people's cause as the Advocate for all his ransomed people the "High priest of our profession." Heb 3.1.
Now believer, what is your estimate of him? What is he to you there? I know the answer of your heart is, "He is precious," and "Whom have I in Heaven but You? I desire you more than anything on earth!" Psalm 73:25. Not all the shining streets; nor all the cherubic band; nor even the company of loved ones gone before, would constitute a Heaven to you. No. He Himself is Heaven and Heaven is to be with him.
"Not all the harps above
Can make a heavenly place,
If God his residence remove
Or but conceal his face."
So then we may say, that whether in his infancy; passion; death or glory his person is precious to the saint.
His love moreover is precious. I need not dwell on this, for to the saint it is the nectar of his life. To know and feel that "Jesus loves me" is the branch which, if put into any waters of Marah, takes all their bitterness away. His love . . .
his manifested love,
his never-changing love,
his love that flows to us in ten thousand different channels
is infinitely precious!
Time fails me to tell of the preciousness of his love visits; suffice it to say that to the saint, no guest is so welcome, so desired as Jesus. No knock at the door is so well known, or so well loved when he comes to sup with us and we with him.
The word "precious" has a stronger meaning than appears on its surface; it is really "to you who believe, He is preciousness," or all-precious. Christ is . . .
a sun which ever shines;
a garden which is always full of flowers and fruits;
a hive ever full of honey;
a fountain which is always full;
a brook which never dries;
a rose that always blooms;
an ocean of sweetness without a drop of gall.
Christ Jesus is the Heaven of heavens
My Christ what shall I call?
Christ is the first, Christ is the last,
And Christ is all in all.
The question now arises, How will this preciousness of Christ to the believer manifest itself?
I answer first, Christ will be constantly in his thoughts. A person beloved will ever be carried in remembrance. Why, mother, although you left your little one sleeping in the cot at home, you have nevertheless brought it here it is enshrined within your heart; it is the center of your thoughts. So the believer thinks of Jesus, and his thoughts of him are frequent and pleasant. "My meditation of him shall be sweet. How precious are your thoughts to me, O God, how great is the sum of them: when I awake I am still with you." Psalm 139.17-18
Christ will also constantly employ his tongue. When Peter and John were ordered by the council to speak no more in the name of Jesus, they replied, "We cannot but speak the things which we have heard and seen." Act 4.20. If the heart is full to the brim with love for the Savior the least thing will cause it to run over the lip. If a house is on fire within, the flames will soon show themselves out of the window. Just so, if the heart is all ablaze with fervent affection, words of burning love will soon find their way out of the mouth.
It will also declare itself by willingness to make sacrifices for him. "For whom I have suffered the loss of all things," says Paul. Phi 3.8. How willingly the noble army of martyrs walked through blood and fire to him, outside the camp. For his sake the believer will endure the sneers of neighbors, the frowns of friends, the threats of superiors. For his sake, they spurn the world they laugh at its pretended pleasures. For his sake, sins as dear as a right hand or right eye, are abandoned. Yes the preciousness of Christ makes self-denial for his sake a veritable luxury. What sacrifices have you ever made, constrained by the preciousness of Christ?
III. Some Seasons When Christ is More than Ever Precious.
In the day of conversion. Can we ever forget that day; the day of Heaven on earth to us; the day when the great change came; well may we sing
"Oh, happy day, that fixed my choice
On You, my Savior, and my God!"
Ah! how precious was Christ to us then; often do we go back in remembrance to that moment, and wish we could always feel the transport of joy that was ours then.
When is bread most precious? Why most certainly when the man is most famished for lack of it. When does water taste the sweetest? Surely when it flows over lips that are dried and cracked through the lack of it.
To see Jesus for the first time as our Savior, is to see the ocean opening a way from the Egypt of bondage, to the shore of freedom!
It is to see the water gushing from the desert rock!
It is to see the brazen serpent uplifted over a dying camp!
It is to see the life-boat coming through the surges, when our ship is bumping on the rocks.
To see Jesus is to see the pardon when the rope is round the neck!
The loveliest sight the eye of faith can behold, is Jesus coming to our soul with . . .
forgiveness on his lip;
pity in his eye; and
a glittering crown in his hand!
If ever He is indeed precious, it is in the time of conversion!
So also is he in the day of trouble. The preciousness of Christ is learned best in the university of trial. O bear me witness, you saints of God, that you never fully knew the preciousness of your Redeemer, until you were stretched upon that bed of pain; until you spent your weeks in the wards of the hospital; until bereavement snatched the loved one from your side and drew a pall of gloom over all your earthly bliss; until friends began to fail you, and you were driven into closer communion with that friend "who sticks closer than a brother." Pro 18.24
And, lastly, let me say, such also is the dying day. It is only Jesus who,
"Can make a dying bed
Feel soft as downy pillows are."
Would you know the preciousness of Christ? Then go and ask that aged, silver-haired saint who is just passing through the valley. He is dead to everything around him. Relations and friends are unnoticed; the most familiar names whispered in his ear fail to awaken any response. But stoop down and ask gently, "Friend, is Jesus precious to you now?" Oh, see that smile that plays upon the aged lips they open! He is about to speak! Listen! "Yes, he is precious, more precious than ever he was; precious, precious, precious Jesus!" and he falls asleep in his Savior's arms, with that smile which Christ's preciousness gave birth to, still upon the lip.
"Jesus! the vision of your face
Has overpowering charms;
Scarce shall I feel death's cold embrace,
If Christ is in my arms.
Then while you hear my heart-strings break,
How sweet the moments roll;
A mortal paleness on my cheek,
But glory on my soul!"
"To you therefore who believe, he is precious." Is he precious to you?