Will You Also Go Away?
James Smith, 1860
"From that time many of His disciples went away and walked with Him no more. Then Jesus said to the twelve: Do you also want to go away?" John 6:66-67
The plainest preachers are sometimes misunderstood, and the most prudent preachers may awaken prejudice. This was the case with our Lord, generally; so plain were his statements, that the common people heard him gladly; and so popular were his discourses that crowds attended upon his ministry. Yet he was misunderstood, and when he explained himself in the most prudent manner, the whole audience took offence, became prejudiced, went away and walked with Him no more.
THE AFFECTIONATE INQUIRY.
Will you leave me? What does it imply? Many had come unto him, from various places, and from various motives. They had continued with him for a considerable time, pleased and delighted, if not profited. Now many left him, the natural bread they liked very well — but the spiritual bread they had no wish for. They were willing to be fed by him — but could not understand, or relish, living upon him. Perhaps this had stumbled the apostles, powerful temptations may have inclined some of them to withdraw, for they were but men, and the Holy Spirit was not yet given, as afterwards they received him. If they left him, they would do so willingly, it would be their own loss, and therefore he asks, "Do you also want to go away?"
What was intended? It was to bring them to the test, "What will you do — go or stay? What are your thoughts? What do you intend?" It was to warn then of danger, the enemy was near and at work, It was to show his love to them, and concern for them. It was also to strengthen their faith, excite their zeal, and draw forth tin confession, "Lord, to whom shall we go? You have the words of eternal life — and we believe and are sure, that you are the Christ, the Son of the living God!"
TO WHOM MAY WE APPLY THIS INQUIRY.
To those who grow cold in the Lord's service. They may be preachers, or teachers or tract distributors. They were once lively, vigorous, active — all at work, and always at it; but now they are cold, lifeless and comparatively indifferent, so that we may very well put the question, "Will you also go away?"
Some are offended at his word — its distinguishing doctrines, its rigid requirements, or its deeply spiritual character. Once they seemed to embrace it with avidity, and enjoy it heartily — but now they criticize, cavil, and find fault. Ah, has it come to this, "Will you also go away?"
Some are falling in love with the world.
Its pleasures attract them,
its fashions please them,
it speculations fascinate them, and
they begin to conform to them.
Once they stood aloof from the world — but gradually they have got nearer and nearer to it, and seem in danger, like Demas, of falling in love with it. To such we put the question, as from our Master's lips, "Will you also go away?"
Some think too highly of themselves — a little thing hurts their pride, few show them sufficient respect, and they are restless and unsettled. Once they were little in their own eyes, then they honored such as feared the Lord; but now self is pretty much their idol, and self-gratification their end! To these also the inquiry is applicable, "Will you also go away?"
Some begin to neglect ordinances, there is a sameness in them, they lack variety, something stimulating, and therefore the popular preacher is preferred to the pastor, the public meeting to the prayer-meeting. The attendance becomes lax, occasional, and without heart. Take care, if you leave the ordinances today — then you may leave Christ tomorrow, you are on dangerous ground, and therefore we press the question, "Will you also go away?"
Some did leave Christ, and some do still. Why?
They have no deep and abiding sense of their need of him.
They have no sweet enjoyment of his presence.
They have no steady faith in his mission, work, and word.
They have no union of heart with him.
Such being the case, in time of temptation they fall away. These are fatal defects, and prove that the heart is not right, and if the heart is not right, we cannot expect the life to be so. Those who leave Christ, manifest the greatest folly, for they leave . . .
the fountain of life — to walk in the ways of death;
the source of light — to wander on in darkness and gloom;
the rock of defense — and are exposed to ten thousand foes;
the wells of salvation — to faint and die with thirst;
they leave the only Savior — to perish in their sins.
A man may leave a church — and yet not leave Christ, for Christ is not confined to any organization. And a man may leave Christ, and yet not leave the church. It is to be feared that there are many Christless people in the professing church. These things ought not to be — but they are. We ought not therefore severely to judge one another, or conclude that a man leaves the Savior, because he withdraws from us; or that he will bring down fire from Heaven on his head, because he follows not with us.
The reason why true disciples, really regenerated people, do not go away from Christ, is because he holds them fast. Hence his own words, "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me. I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any one pluck them out of my hand!" Or according to the ancient representation of God's covenant engagement, "I will put my fear in their hearts, and they shall not depart from me."
The Holy Spirit keeps them daily sensible of their need of him; they feel that they cannot live without him, and therefore they daily come to him, and abide with him.
Reader, have you come to Christ? In what character did you come? For what purpose did you come? If you came to him in any other character, than that of a poor, lost, wretched sinner — if you came to him for anything but the present and everlasting salvation of your soul — most probably you will leave him.
The physician is not valued — except by the sick;
bread is not rightly estimated — but by the hungry;
and the Savior is not prized — except by the lost.
Have you in any measure left the Savior? Do you think of him less than you did? Do you love him less than you did? Do you attend his house and ordinances less than you did? Do you pray to him less than you did? If so, take heed, lest there be in you an evil heart of unbelief, in departing from the living God. Beware of the first step in the wrong direction. Backsliding is dangerous. God takes it as a gross insult, when we turn to him the back, and not the face. Remember the words of Jesus, "If you continue in my word, then are you my disciples indeed!"
Gracious Savior, whenever our love begins to cool, or our zeal to flag, or our activity to decline, whenever tempted to compromise matters with the world — let your Spirit put the question powerfully to our hearts, "Will you also go away?"