On Confessing Christ
George Everard, 1874
Is it needful openly and boldly to confess Christ? NO! if your wish be simply to pass muster among others, and to have a religion that men will approve. In such a case keep free from any very plain violations of the world's standards — go to church, and be on good terms with those that are Christians, and those that are not; never speak a word that will touch the conduct of anyone; and then perhaps all men may speak well of you, and reckon you a very good sort of Christian.
But if your wish is to be saved, to have a clear title to the heavenly inheritance, and to gain the favor and win the smile of Christ — then I would answer emphatically, YES! A thousand times, Yes! You must confess Christ, you must not be ashamed of His name, you must not shrink from the reproach which it may bring. He has said, "Whoever shall confess Me before men — him shall the Son of Man also confess before the angels of God. But he who denies Me before men — shall be denied before the angels of God." And the great Apostle who loved to set forth the glory of a free justification by faith — yet has included confession as an absolutely essential condition of fellowship with Christ: "If you shall confess with your mouth the Lord Jesus, and shall believe in your heart that God has raised Him from the dead — you shall be saved."
The soldier cannot conceal the name of the sovereign, or the country, whose uniform he bears. The servant cannot refuse to acknowledge the master in whose service he is engaged. So how can the Christian desire to hide the fact of his allegiance to a heavenly King and a heavenly Master?
And this confession of Christ is very important as the test of a man's sincerity. If Christianity had only its side of privileges — then how could we discover the hypocrite from the true believer? But when persecution or reproach comes, then the leaves fall off, and the singing birds fly away, and nothing remains but the stem and the branches of the tree well-rooted and grounded in the soil.
Just so, all mere profession, all mere talking is in vain — unless there is a heart to cleave fast to the Lord. And when we look and see . . .
the depraved condition of the world,
how small a number comparatively are on the Lord's side,
how the King's enemies abound,
the standard of the adversary is everywhere unfurled,
that abominable vice stalks through our streets, and
infidelity and rank superstition unblushingly lift up their heads
— is it a time for the followers of the Lamb to hide His righteousness within their hearts, and shut their lips, and lower their banner to please an adulterous and sinful generation?
Nor may we doubt that where the heart is filled with a Savior's love — the lips will be touched to speak of His beauty.
I remember staying one night with a friend who had lost many of those who once had brightened his home, and now all his affections were centered upon his one remaining child. And it was his one thought, and his one theme. Wherever the conversation began, it soon went back to the "dear boy at school." And I learned the lesson — it is still true of earthly and of heavenly things, that "out of the abundance of the heart, the mouth speaks."
If the fountain is full — the waters will flow out. If the thoughts of Christ are welling up from within — it will not be very difficult to say a word for Him. When the leper who had been healed was commanded to be silent — yet he could not refrain from telling out the goodness the Lord had shown to him. How much rather should we, who are bidden to confess His name.
It is quite true that there are great hindrances that stand in the way of this duty.
With one person there is a natural timidity, a reserve, a shyness, that finds it a trial in any way to attract notice. Both Moses and Jeremiah felt this, though called to positions of peculiar difficulty, and compelled to brave much opposition. It is a comfort to remember that the Lord knows our frame and He gives more grace. And we may be assured that in this case, a feeble word spoken in Christ's name will be doubly acceptable, and perhaps may be more effectual than many words spoken by one whose disposition is less retiring.
Perhaps a still greater obstacle arises from our own felt inconsistencies, or from the false and hollow profession which some around us may make.
Do we not usually find it much easier to speak to a stranger than to those in our own homes? And is not one reason for this, because they see most our defects and inconsistencies? They have marked . . .
our breaches of temper,
our inconsiderate words,
our petty unrealities,
our yielding to some besetting infirmity —
and so when we would speak to them, a still small voice within says, "Better not — your words will do no good, for you have not been as careful as you should to practice what you speak."
But this fear ought not to bar our way, if we honestly strive against such failings, and are praying for grace to overcome them. Those about us may see Reality in our religion — if they cannot see Perfection.
Neither should we be deterred from confessing Christ because many Christians around us are very poor specimens of what Divine grace can effect.
Because Judas proved to be a hypocrite, and Peter denied Christ — was this any reason why the other disciples should refuse to confess Him and preach His Gospel?
It is very true that even the regenerate man, is very far below the standard we would desire. Equally true is it that tares and wheat are mingled in the field, and will be until the Lord's appearing. But what should we learn from this?
Let us reason in this way: If others profess to be Christ's — and yet by works deny Him — then will I confess His name also, and strive that my life may confirm that which my lips confess.
If Christ is wounded in the house of His friends by their inconsistencies of word and deed — then will I watch that in my house I may adorn His doctrine in all things.
But the chief difficulty of all is the fear of man, and it is against this that we must resolutely contend. Man can do much to harm or benefit us — much for our comfort or discomfort. Besides, there is a certain amount of right feeling in the desire to please others, or in the fear of offending them — which is apt to creep in where it ought not, and to prevent our being bold enough in confessing Christ.
It is helpful to consider that God sees this danger, and provides for it in His Word. A very large portion of the book of Psalms is intended to make us realize how much better it is to fear God than man, and that to trust in God is better than to trust in princes. Nor should we forget the appeal of God by the Prophet Isaiah: "I, even I, am He who comforts you! Who are you, that you should be afraid of a man that shall die, and of the son of man which shall be made as grass?"
Listen again to the words of Christ, reminding His disciples of His friendship, and then bidding them not fear the frown of man, but rather the displeasure of God: "I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body and after that can do no more. But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear Him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into Hell. Yes, I tell you, fear Him!" Luke 12:4-5
I have thought over this matter of confessing Christ, and I would like to suggest to the reader a few of those ways in which it has seemed to me most important to do so.
(1) We must trust Christ with the heart, before we can possibly confess His name before men. "With the heart man believes unto righteousness, and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation." He has died, the Just for the unjust, bearing the huge load of iniquity. And you must lay your guilt on Him by faith. You must rely upon His atonement as the one answer to every remembrance of your guilt. You must draw near to God with no hope but in His blood, and then believe that God looks upon you through His wounds.
Since therefore I can scarcely bear
What in myself I see;
How vile and black must I appear,
Most Holy God, to Thee.
But since the Savior stands between
With garments dyed in blood,
'Tis He instead of me is seen
When I approach to God!
(2) Confess Christ by letting His fair image be seen upon you. Let His name be on your forehead. Let men see in you a true copy, however imperfect, of . . .
His truth, and
Without this, all other ways of confessing Christ will rather do harm than good.
A few words from an old writer tell of the life that each Christian must strive after. "A sanctified person is holy in a continued course: he walks with God; he applies himself to keep the commandments continually. (Psalm 119:112.) He is not holy upon extraordinary occasions — his duties are not like a miser's feast, all at one time, nothing at another.
"He is not holy by fits and starts; upon a rainy day reading only; moved passionately with a powerful sermon; trembling for the present — and then following bribery, like Felix. At the first coming on to profession seething hot — but after awhile lukewarm — then ice-cold; slashing with Peter at the first — and shortly after flying and denying. His infirmities and falls are but rare — but his holiness is constant. His goodness is not like the 'morning cloud and early dew' (Hosea 6:4). His religion is not operative in company — and silent in secret. He is not like water, that conforms itself to the shape of everything into which it is poured; or like a picture, which looks every way. His religion does not leave him at the church doors — he retains his purity wherever he lives.
"He has a principle, like a fountain within him, that supplies him in the time of drought; not like a splash of water, licked up with an hour's heat of the sun. The music allures him not — the furnace affrights him not from God."
(3) Confess Christ by leaving scenes of a doubtful character. If it is your great desire to walk closely with God, your feet will scarcely be found treading that perilous border-land which has been found so destructive to many souls.
If there were a path on a high cliff where constantly the ground was giving way and many had lost their lives — it would not be wise to adventure there in the hope that you might pass over it in safety.
Just so, if there are places from which by common consent the name of Christ and religion is banished, if you would confess Christ — you must either stay away, or go with the express object of bearing witness there for Him in the face of all defamation and ridicule.
This was once done by a young officer. He had found the Savior, and before he left such scenes forever, he determined to go and bear a parting testimony to those with whom he had often mingled. It was a sore trial to him, but in Christ's name he went as he had purposed, and there spoke boldly for the Master whose service he had entered.
(4) Confess Christ by refusing to make any close and intimate friendship with one who is a stranger to God. I am not speaking of the necessary relations we must often have with those of our kin, or of the courtesy and kindness which Christians should manifest to all. But we must take heed not to choose as intimate companions those who will dishonor the Name we love, or place a hindrance in our path to Heaven.
More especially must young Christians refuse to take one in the closest of all bonds, who does not love the Savior. "Only in the Lord" is the limit which God Himself has placed on such engagements.
(5) Confess Christ by taking an open Bible for your standard. Hedley Vicars thus took his place as a brave soldier of the Cross. His old companions soon discovered the ground of his consolation and the rule of his life. The Word of God was on his table and in his heart, and to this he ever turned for guidance and for strength. Follow his example. Lay aside any book whose teaching is opposed to it, unless you prayerfully read it for some special object, that you may the better be able to meet the difficulties of others. Honor the Word of God. It will stand forever. Heaven and earth shall pass away — but this Word shall never pass away.
(6) Hold fast by truths that for a season may be unpopular. The current of popular opinion just now runs very strong in directions that carry men far away from plain Gospel teaching. Some are carried away by a view that denies the supernatural and forbids God to hear the prayers of His children. Others are drawn in by services of a very extreme character, and by teaching that savors more of the Romish than the English Church. But we must hold fast by the old truths and determine still to walk in the old paths . . .
the supreme importance of heart religion,
the free justification of a sinner by faith,
the authority of Holy Scripture as the final appeal,
the efficacy of believing prayer,
the peril of idolatry wherever it is found —
such truths as these we must never let go.
(7) We must frequent regularly Christian ordinances. We ought not only to go to Church or the Lord's Supper, that we may obtain help and strength, but we ought to go also that we may honor the Lord who has appointed them. We there confess His name. In the sight of a world that denies Christ, we profess our faith in Him, and that our whole trust is in His finished work. We openly proclaim that we believe in His dying love and in His glorious resurrection, and that we look for Him to come hereafter as Judge of the living and the dead.
(8) We may sometimes confess Christ by silence. A question is put to you with an oath, or with some expression or word that is distinctly profane. What should you do? Perhaps the very best thing is to answer not a word. Say nothing. Press your lips together and be as silent as a statue. This may awaken a thought sometimes, and may do more good than many words.
(9) Confess Christ by kind, persuasive words, to draw those about you to Christ. There are very many around us on all sides who have a longing for something better than they possess, and if the word be only spoken in a tender, gentle spirit — they will gladly listen.
Strive to feel deeply for those who are yet without Christ, and then out of a compassionate heart, tell of His love.
In the railway train, in the friendly walk, when some business matter has been settled, when you have a quiet moment with a servant — tell of Jesus and His kindness to yourself, and how ready He is to save all who turn to Him.
In the year 1864, a Christian in South India made a resolution that he would never let a day pass without speaking to at least two people about their eternal interests. In the year 1871 he was able to write to a friend that he believed that resolution had been faithfully kept, and that for above seven years, no day had passed without his having been able in some way thus to confess Christ. Is not here an example for all Christians?
(10) Confess Christ sometimes by a bold and fearless step. It was a bold step when Christ took the scourge and drove the buyers and sellers out of the temple. And though we are not, as He did, to act as judges — yet there are special times when we ought to act as boldly and fearlessly.
A Missionary in India heard one morning a fearful oath from the tent of an officer. Caution said, "You have nothing to do with it — it will bring you into trouble to say anything." But faith and courage said, "Go and reprove that sin!" After a severe mental struggle he went to the tent and spoke to the officer. He did it wisely — yet faithfully, and before he left he received the thanks of the officer to whom he had spoken. Within a few weeks he heard of the officer's death, and he had some ground for hoping that the message he had given had not been lost.
Another fact. I have read of four young men who were living wicked, profligate lives. One of them heard God's message, and then went and said to his companions, "I will tell you how it is. I think if we go on living as we are living now, we shall come to a very awful end." His companions laughed — but they thought of it, and two of these men ended by becoming ministers of Christ. Be ready, when occasion calls for it, to take up your cross in this way.
Speak out! If you are anxious and distressed about your soul, and can find no peace — go and ask counsel of a godly minister. If you feel you have been doing wrong in any matter — go and openly confess it. If you see any glaring evil — take your stand against it, and who knows but you may be able to check it!
(11) Confess Christ by the pen and by the press. Write letters to those whom you may be able to influence. Carefully examine the publications, tracts, and books, small and great, which you may think most likely to do good — and then scatter, as good seed, those you value most — and perhaps, in numberless homes, you may be speaking in this way words that may do infinite good.
It is impossible to over-estimate the vast influence of the press, and in every way that it is available let us employ it in Christ's service. A lady gave me, a short time ago, a £5 note to spend in this way; and such an amount, or far less, may bring a message for Christ into thousands of homes.
And let me add, how blessed will be the effect, if in these, or any other ways, you truly confess Christ.
I would imagine a young reader of these pages, and you begin your Christian course with a humble determination to speak for Christ. You search out means, day after day, in a quiet prayerful way, to do good:
you drop a word here and a word there,
you lend a book to a friend,
you give a tract to a stranger,
you utter a kindly warning against a sin you witness.
You now and then have to take a more decided step, and perhaps risk the favor of some whom you love — and withal, men see that it is a reality with you, because your daily walk and temper and conversation is in accordance with your words and efforts.
What will be the sure result? I speak not of the glorious crown which the Lord will give you at His appearing — but think of the numbers to whom you may prove a blessing. If God should spare your life for a few years, the blessing probably may reach thousands, or tens of thousands.
A sinner brought back to God,
a falling one upheld,
a backslider restored,
a mourner comforted,
a Christian edified —
thus, one by one, will a goodly host be found at last to whom in Christ's name you have ministered the word of life.
And that you may be able thus to confess Christ, remember that it is only in His strength that you can do so. Let your eye be fixed on Him. Look to Him for the ever-present grace and help of the Holy Spirit the Comforter. Thus shall your heart be strengthened and your lips be touched — and you shall be enabled without fear to witness for Christ.