The Personal Testimony
I can truly say that I feared God from my youth and as far back as I can remember, even in the days of my childhood, the question, How can a man be just with God? very often occupied my thoughts. I was very familiar with the passages in the Word of God where we are told that we are all born in sin and shapen in iniquity (Psalm 51: 5), that the very imaginations of the thoughts of our hearts are only evil continually (Genesis 6: 5; 8: 21), that our hearts are deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 17: 9); and, indeed, my experience only corroborated these Bible statements. When I looked into my own heart, I found nothing there but blackness of darkness, hatred to the name of God, and rebellion against His holy will stood out bare and prominent to my scrutinising eyes, and, though in the sight of man, even of my own friends and relatives, I was, as they said, good and blameless - and so I might have seemed, for I perfectly kept all the laws and ceremonies prescribed by the Rabbis, and was a diligent student of the Talmud beside - yet in the depths of my soul I was convinced otherwise, for I felt somehow that God was not well pleased with all my good works and religious observances because they were not done out of a willing and obedient heart, to which, by nature, we are all perfect strangers, but merely to pacify God Who was a terror unto me. and who, I, thought, as an angry judge, only hated me and watched for my destruction. This thought created in me great bitterness of heart and trouble of soul. The more religious I became the more miserable I felt; for I was brought to see how far short I came of Gods standard, Who tells us to be holy even as He Himself is holy (Leviticus 19: 2; 21: 8; Joshua 24: 19).
I felt that there was a great difference between being holy and merely doing what men call holy acts, and I longed and prayed, like David, for a new heart and a right spirit which I knew I needed before I could hope to become holy. Some of my Jewish friends to whom I opened my mind comforted me with the fact that I was doing as much as I possibly could, and that therefore I had no cause to fear. But this did not satisfy me, for I knew that we are commanded not merely to do as much as we can, but to keep all the laws and commandments which the Lord our God has given us, and a curse is pronounced on all who do not confirm and do all the words of the law (Deuteronomy 27: 1-26), and, as a matter of fact none of us can keep one commandment perfectly.
Longing for a
But what was I to do? God says, the
soul that sinneth, it shall die (Ezekiel
18: 20), and He nowhere says that I can get the forgiveness of my
sins by my own good works. He does say that it is the Blood that maketh an atonement for the soul
(Leviticus 17: 11). Alas! because of our sins
we have been driven from our land and are estranged from our soil, and
we have no more temple, sacrifice, or priest
(see Jewish prayers for Day of Atonement).
Oh! how I wished when the great Day of
Atonement came round for a
When I was still young, in a vacation time, being out with some of my fathers servants in the field, I met with a very serious accident and was carried home unconscious. When I regained consciousness I saw a doctor standing by my bedside and heard him say that he had but little hope of my recovery. During the night I said to my dear, pious mother who was watching by my bedside, Dear mother, I am afraid I am dying. What will become of me? Where am I going? My dear child, she said, weeping, you have been such a good boy, and should you die you will go to heaven. Oh! no, mother, I exclaimed, in great agony of mind, I have not been good, and if my getting to heaven depends on my own goodness I shall never get there.
For some time after my recovery I wandered about in different places, hoping to get rest of mind, but I could find no one to bind up my broken heart, or apply the balm of Gilead to my soul, and, as to Jesus being the Saviour of sinners, I had not at that time so much as heard His precious Name mentioned, nor indeed could I then have brought my mind for one moment to think that the Messiah could take away my sins, or speak peace to my soul. All that I looked forward at that time for the Messiah to do, was, that He should save our people from the hands of our enemies, and restore them to the land of our fathers, and also, by conquest over all other nations, give us the supremacy. I had many other hopes in connection with the advent of the Messiah, as have many Jews, but they were all carnal, narrowed down to earth and this present state, and not one of those hopes rose as high as heaven, or was brightened with the light of immortality.
The Spirit of God Opened my Eyes
But oh! wondrous grace! at last God revealed Himself to me as the LORD God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering, and abundant in goodness and truth (Exodus 34: 6), and though I was a lost sinner walking in darkness and having no light, with a heart burdened and a soul sore troubled, justly deserving on account of my manifold sins and transgressions nothing but His wrath and displeasure, He did not deal with me after my sins, nor reward me according to my iniquities, but showed me that there is forgiveness with Him that He may be feared (Psalm 130: 4), that He has no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live (Ezekiel 33: 11). The Spirit of God opened my eyes to see that Salvation is of the Lord, and that He does not sell it; no, not even for our good works, any more than He sells the life sustaining air we breathe, or the water we drink; but He pleads with us, to come and accept of it freely. Listen! Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price! (Isaiah 55: 1). What an absurd idea to think that the cloak of our own righteousness which God calls nothing but filthy rags (Isaiah 64: 6) could ever hide our sins from Gods all-penetrating eyes, or to be a fit garment for us in the company of the King of kings!
There is nothing that can efficiently hide our sins from Gods sight but blood - on this point both the Old and New Testaments agree (Leviticus 17: 11; Hebrews 9: 22) - and there are no other garments becoming those who would be Jehovahs guests to the great feast of fat things which He will provide (Isaiah 25: 6-9) than the garments of salvation and the robe of righteousness with which the Messiah only can clothe us (Isaiah 53: 11; 61: 10).
First Contacts with Christians
In the course of my wanderings I was at last, in the gracious providence of God, Who was all the while leading me by a way which I knew not, brought into contact for the first time in my life with two men, a Jew and a Gentile, both true followers of Jesus of Nazareth, who came and spoke to me of Him Whom they called their Saviour. Now, I need scarcely tell you that my heart was full of hatred and prejudice against Him, Whom, until that time, I only knew by the name of Tooleh (crucified), and Who, I believed, only taught His followers to serve idols and persecute the Jews. In this prejudice I was trained up from my earliest days, for when I was only four years old my mother taught me to repeat, whenever I passed a Christian Church, the following words in Hebrew: Thou shalt utterly detest it, thou shalt utterly abhor it; for it is a cursed thing (Deuteronomy 7: 26). I was, therefore, the more bitter against any Jew who professed to believe in Christ; I could to some extent understand that a Gentile should believe in Him, for, I thought, it is his religion, and he does not know any better, but a Jew, and a Talmudic Jew, too, to believe in Him Whom our nation has pronounced an impostor! Impossible! He must have been bribed to do so, I thought. Still; I could not help observing that this Meshumed (apostate!) was far happier than I was, and that not on account of any earthly riches, for he told me, and I could see, that he was not rich, but poor. He seemed to know God as his Father, as the loving God; and one evening he concluded a conversation I had with him thus: As for me, I tell you honestly, as in the sight of God, that I have never known what true happiness is until I found it in Christ. Happiness in Christ!
What a strange thing, I thought, this is, for a Jew to find happiness in Christ! In vain, however, I argued and opposed, in vain I displayed all my knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures and Talmud to disprove every assertion he made regarding the Messiahship of Jesus, in which, for some time, I thought myself successful; there was one thing I could not get over, and that was the fact that there was something in the belief in Jesus of Nazareth which made this man happy. And did not I seek for happiness? Did not I want to know how the God Whom I had offended and Who, on that account, was angry with me, could become my Friend and Comforter? (Isaiah 12).
With these impressions on my heart we parted, unlikely to meet again.
First Contact with New Testament
Soon after this I became
possessed of a book, of the very existence of which I was as yet ignorant,
though there is nothing in the world to equal it in value. Have you seen it? Read it?
It is called the New Testament. In it the mysteries of redemption prefigured
in the Old Testament are clearly defined, and the way of salvation made so
plain that even the simple can understand it.
It is a book to which if you will come with a soul thirsting after the
knowledge of God, you will exclaim, This is the very
[* Also available for all backsliders, Jer. 2: 18, 19.]
Now I always thought that Jesus of Nazareth was a false prophet of the kind against whom Moses warned us so earnestly (Deuteronomy 13), but there I find instead that He is teaching men to worship God only, the only living and true God, the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, the God of Israel, Who brought our fathers out from the bondage of Egypt, He Who is the great King and Saviour - even Jehovah Who is One and His Name One!
I was still more surprised as I
read on in that wonderful book to find Jesus uttering these most Divine words: Blessed are the poor in
spirit: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are they that mourn: for they shall be comforted. Blessed are the meek: for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are they which do hunger and thirst after righteousness: for they shall
be filled. Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain
mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. Blessed are they that are persecuted for righteousness sake: for theirs is the
kingdom of heaven. ... Let your
light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven. ...
For I say unto you, that except your
righteousness shall exceed the
righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees, ye shall in no case enter
into the kingdom of heaven. ... Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do
good to them that hate you, and pray
for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you; that ye may be the
children of your Father which is in heaven (Matthew
5: 3-10, 16, 20, 44, 45).
Truly, this man speaks as never man spake! What wonderful words are these! How is it possible
that such holy words and sublime teaching can proceed out of the heart of one
whom the Talmudists style the greatest sinner in
I wondered, however, whether all who called themselves Christians really profess to hold this Book with the Divine and glorious truths contained in it as the foundation of their faith and rule of their practice, for, alas! the Christianity which 1 had seen from my earliest days is as different from the Christianity taught by its Divine Founder and His first followers as light is from darkness. I was greatly perplexed on this point until I came across these words uttered by Jesus: Not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven ... Many will say to Me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Thy Name? and in Thy Name have cast out devils? and in Thy Name done many wonderful works? And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you; depart from Me, ye that work iniquity (Matthew 7: 21-23).
Comparing the Old and New Testaments
For twelve months I continued to read and examine the New Testament, comparing it with the Old Testament, and what wonderful discoveries I made in it! And this without help of any man, for all the time I did not say a single word to any one except to two of my unconverted Jewish friends, who certainly gave me no aid in the matter, for they only ridiculed me. The study of some passages of Scripture had only the effect of making the burden on my heart heavier, especially those which demonstrated that salvation can only be obtained as a gift from God through faith in Jesus Christ, and that our own righteousness apart from this salvation avails nothing in the sight of God (Romans 3; 4; 5, Galatians 3; 4).
What! Is there no merit in my prayers, in the strict observance of the ceremonies prescribed by the Rabbis, and, above all, in the study of the Talmud? Only through appropriating faith in Christ can I be saved? It seemed an impossibility to me. I tried to believe, but just then strong torrents of prejudice and hatred, such as a Jew only knows, rushed in upon me and almost overwhelmed me with misery and doubts. Oh, my God! I cried, cast me not away from Thy presence in this manner. I am a Jew, a child of Abraham, Thy friend; from my youth I have tried to keep Thy holy law. Why dost Thou thus punish me, withholding from me that peace and rest of heart without which life is a burden to me? Hide not Thy face from me, lest I be as those who go down to the pit! Still no peace came.
I spoke more boldly on the
subject to a Jewish friend, but alas! he could not
help me, for, as you who know anything about it from experience will
acknowledge, there is actually nothing in modern Judaism to meet the cravings
of an awakened soul. Woe was me! for I was undone. The foundation of sand on
which I had been building all my life was now completely taken from me. I could see the Rock (Psalm 40: 1-3), Gods sure foundation, which He has laid in
Hatred to the Name of Jesus Broke Down
Gradually, however, my prejudice and hatred to the Name of Jesus broke down,
for I could now see that it was not as I had always thought, that Christ
commanded His followers to hate and persecute our nation. No, in the heart of
Jesus I could see nothing but love to our people. Did He not weep over
Thus it was with me until, by the help of Gods Spirit, I cast myself on my knees one evening and exclaimed, Oh, my God, if Thou canst not save me on any other condition but faith in Jesus, be pleased to give me that faith, and help me to love that most precious Name which I have so long hated and despised. Thou hast promised to save unto the uttermost all those who come unto Thee in His Name: Oh, save me! I remained on my knees some time, and when I rose I could indeed sing, O, LORD, I will praise Thee: though Thou wast angry with me. Thine anger is turned away, and Thou comfortest me. Behold, God is my salvation; I will trust, and not be afraid: for the LORD JEHOVAH is my Strength and my Song; He also is become my Salvation (Isaiah 12: 1-2).
Though some years have now passed since that memorable evening, I can still sing the same song, and am even more determined to trust in Jesus, and not be afraid. I have known many days of adversity since that time, but blessed be His Holy Name, His sweet peace has possessed my heart and mind ever since, and I know a little - oh, that I knew more - of what it is to know God as my Father. Have my own beloved parents and friends forsaken me? Lo! the Lord has taken me up (Psalm 27: 10), and in Jesus I have found a friend that sticketh closer than a brother (Proverbs 18: 24). By my profession of faith in Christ have I lost all heirship to earthly possessions? Lo! I have become an heir of glory, and have received an inheritance incorruptible, and undefiled, and that fadeth not away (1 Peter 1: 4). Am I persecuted and despised for my Saviours sake? I count it an honour and rejoice and am exceeding glad, for great is my reward in heaven (Matthew 5: 12). Have I given up anything which before gave me pleasure?
Thank God, I can say with Paul that what things were gain to me, those I count loss for Christ. Yea, doubtless, and I count all things but loss for the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord: for Whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dun, that I may win Christ, and be found in Him, not having mine own righteousness, which is of the law, but that which is through the faith of Christ, the righteousness which is of God by faith (Philippians 3: 7-9).
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JESUS AND THE JEW
By JACOB SILVERMAN
I was shocked when I first beheld the title of Rabbi Trattners As a Jew Sees Jesus. It had never occurred to me that a Jew - not to mention a Rabbi - would dare to write down his impression of this famous person. As 1 looked at the title I began to meditate: Why shouldnt a Jew, and especially a Rabbi, who understands the very emotions of his people write down what he thinks of a man who has so markedly influenced the trend of historical events? Why, then, had I been so shocked when I first beheld the title? What is there in my past that could possibly explain my peculiar reaction?
My first contact with the name of Jesus was a most dreadful one. I was about nine years old. One day on my way home from school I suddenly found myself surrounded by a band of young Italians all shouting. I was terror stricken. I knew I was in for a beating, but the reason I did not know. After they had thrashed me, they threw me upon the ground with my face up. One of them drew out a small iron cross, placed it before my face, and demanded that I kiss it. I really did not know the true symbolic meaning of the Cross at that time, and I refused to comply simply because my young mind pictured the demand as some means of doing me further injury. With my refusal came a new outburst of kicks, punches, and shouts.
I dared not tell my mother of the occurrence for fear of frightening her. A few days later, as I was thinking over the entire matter trying to find some reason for the beating, my mind suddenly burst forth with Give it to him, fellows! Hes one of the dirty Jews who killed Jesus! I started. One of the dirty Jews who killed Jesus! dirty Jews who killed Jesus! - killed Jesus! I became frantic. What had they meant? What right had they to say that I was one off the dirty Jews who killed Jesus? Jesus? Who was this Jesus? I was sure I had never heard of this person before.
That day I asked my Hebrew teacher to explain to me who Jesus was. Upon hearing the name, he arose, shaking, and commanded me never to mention that name in his presence again. (Poor soul, his wife and children had been stabbed to death before his very eyes by a band of drunken Christians.)
That same night I asked my
father to tell me who Jesus was. His
answer was, Silence, my son! I never want that name to issue from your
mouth again! He then began to
speak. He spoke as if he were in a
trance. He spoke not of the life of
Jesus, but of some years back, in a little town in
Under the circumstances the name Jesus could not have been very pleasing to my ears; but, mark you, it was only the name. I had no knowledge of the man himself, nor, I am led to believe, had my father. I was simply taught to loathe a sound, a name - Jesus, just as my father loathed the name for its connection with that scene of horror. As a result of these various persecutions which have been related from generation to generation in the homes of the Jews, the name Jesus and everything connected with the name, including the man in all His dynamic and admirable personality, have become a repulsive force to the Jewish people. It is not that Jewish people loathe the Man for what He did while He lived - for that would require a knowledge of the mans life, and, I am sure, a large number of my people know very little about His life. But it is the result of his having lived, the force which he had unknowingly aroused, the wave of destruction which has come down through the ages, casting horror upon a people - it is that which has made that people dread what they believed to be the key to their sufferings.
Even to-day we read of pogroms and uprisings against Jews in various parts of the world - Jews who wish to live peacefully, but cannot; Jews whose very souls try to protest, but dare not. Is it any wonder that Jesus does not hold an esteemed position in the Jewish religion, a position which rightfully is His?
‑ The Missionary Review of the World.
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AN EGYPTIAN AND CHRIST
By MARCUS ABD-EL-MASIH
My father married five
wives. My mother is from the south of
My first doctrine of Islam I got
through my parents, mostly from my mother, whom I questioned about the
difference between Mohammedanism and Christianity. This is what she said: Christians worship a prophet named Jesus. They call Him their God. We worship the only God, Who created heaven
and earth. Also we follow the prophet
Mohammed, who is the seal of the prophets and the best. She told me that all Christians will perish,
but all Moslems will enter
I used to go out to play. When a boy got angry with another he insulted him with these words: You are the son of a Christian! When a Christian funeral passes, every Moslem who sees it lifts up his eyes to heaven and says:- God, make me to live a Moslem and die a Moslem, and save me from the torments of hell, and our teachers bade us shout as loud as we could till it had passed by. The reason for this was that they were afraid lest we should lose our faith through hearing what the people said in the funeral procession. At holiday times, during feasts, the teachers bade us say a kind of petition in the streets, invoking a blessing on Moslems and a curse on Christians.
What the Koran teaches bothered me much. There a stumbling-block my way to Christianity. (1) The denial of the Crucifixion; (2) the denial of the deity of Christ; (3) the denial of the Trinity. There are other things:- About Abraham, in Surah, the Family of Imran, Abraham was neither Jew nor Christian; but he was sound in the faith, a Moslem and not of those who add gods to God. Abraham and Jacob bequeath Islam to their posterity. Surah of the Cow (v. 126, 127): And this to his children did Abraham bequeath, and Jacob also, saying: 0, my children! truly God has chosen a religion for you; so die not unless ye be also Moslems. The teaching is also that the disciples professed themselves Moslems. The Family of Imran (v. 45): And when, Jesus perceived unbelief on their part, He said, Who are my helpers with God? The Apostles said, We will be Gods, helpers! We believe in God, and bear thou witness that we are Moslems.
I was a lover of religion. I began to perform my Moslem prayers - five
times a day - when I was seven years old.
Also I fasted some days of Ramadham when I was
about nine. When I entered a Christian
school I refused to read the Bible, though my father told me not to be afraid
of reading it. I wanted to leave school,
but the teacher would not consent. So I
used to sit on the last bench and close my ears lest I should hear any word of
the singing or prayers. There were two
other Moslems at the school. We agreed
together against all the Christian boys.
We made a fight, which we called a religious
war, in which some Christian boys joined us because of fear) and Moslem
boys whom we called for this purpose.
Then I moved to
One day I decided to hear the rest of the prayers, which I did. The pastor read the 5th chapter of St. Matthew. I do not remember the month, but it was in 1905. I was about thirteen years old then. I looked up that chapter and compared it with the teaching of the Koran. I contrasted v. 39, Resist not evil, but whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also, with Whoever offereth violence, offer ye like violence to him. And also v. 44, Love your enemies, etc., with Kill them wherever you find them, and Kill all the unbelievers. I noticed the great difference between the two, and began to read the Bible, but in secret. I felt my guilt before God, and conviction of sin. I could neither sleep nor work at school. I could not ask anybody lest mu father should hear. My body grew weaker and weaker. What happened after that? I threw the Bible from my hand and uttered these words: There is no God but God, and Mohammed is the Apostle of God. O God, make me to live a Moslem and die a Moslem. Thou art the Omnipotent.
I began to read the Koran and pray the Moslem prayers that I might find relief, but I grew worse. I dared then to ask a Moslem friend, How could I be saved from my sins? He replied, Have you become a Christian? Take care, lest these infidels lead you astray from the right way. On hearing this I kept quiet for a long time.
Again, I asked another, who did
not know my father, the same question.
He gave me the same answer, and added, What
sins do you commit? I told
him. He said, These
are nothing. Then he brought a
book of traditions which Moslems esteem very highly, and showed me a passage
from it which says, It is revealed to Abu Zarr that he said, I came to the prophet Mohammed, who had
on a white garment, and was sleeping.
When he felt me he awoke and said, Whosoever says, there is no God but
God, and dies, will enter
Then I went and told him that I was still unsatisfied and could not rest, as no change had taken place in by life. He inquired what I meant by that. I told him I had sin. He was very astonished, and said, Nobody can stop sinning, save the prophets. Only say what I told you about before, and God will forgive all your sins. But I said, I want to get rid of my habits, which cause me weariness and trouble. I want to have rest, as there is a connection between sin and weariness of soul. He became very angry, and asked me to leave, and said, You are a Christian, you are an infidel, leave me at once, lest you should convert me to become an infidel like yourself. I explained to him how I was a Moslem like himself, and I wanted only to know the doctrines of my religion. After he was quieted, I asked him whether he was sure of eternal life or not. At that moment his wrath kindled, and he said, How often have I told you to leave me and never come to me again?
After a long discussion, his reply was that nobody could be sure of eternal life, as the Tradition says, When God created man, He took some grains of dust in His right hand, threw them behind His back, and said, You are appointed for Paradise, and I do not care. Then he threw them behind his back and said, you are appointed to Hell, and I do not care. Then God looked into Hell and said, Are you full? Hell answered, I can hold some more. What a great difference between this and John 3: 16 for God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. I thanked my friend, and left him. I said, What is the use of religion which will neither save me from my sins in this world nor give me the assurance of eternal life in the world to come?
I began to read the Bible again, and asked God to guide me to the true religion. Through reading the Bible and prayer I found the Saviour, Who saved me from my sins and gave me rest. This was why I became a Christian. I have proved that Jesus can save the sinner, and He only saved me and gave me rest. This is the proof of proofs.
When I began to attend meetings,
and my father heard, my family
persecuted me. At last they
prevented me from going to school. I
stayed at home. Some of them declared that they would not pray the Friday prayer unless
they should first kill and bury me. I was saved from that, as my parents thought I
had better leave for
* * *
Joseph of Arimathea
Cecil Yates Biss
Joseph of Arimathea asked Pilate for the body of Jesus. Now Joseph was a disciple of Jesus, but secretly because he feared the Jews: (John 19: 38, N.I.V.).
This Joseph of Arimathea is mentioned once only in each Gospel, yet he is
mentioned in all four; and by putting together these accounts, we learn that he
was not only just with man, but religious - waiting devoutly and believingly for the
Now let us see what we are told
of him with regard to his position among men. He was rich. He had a tomb prepared for himself, which only
the wealthy could have. He brought also
spices of a costly character for the burial of Jesus. Moreover, he was a counsellor and one in high
position in society; yet, with all this, Joseph was a disciple of Jesus. At some time or other he had become aware that
The whole teaching in connection with his history turns upon one point; viz. What does it mean to be a true disciple of Christ? No mere enthusiasm led Joseph on. His actions proved the reality of his faith. He came forward at a time when all Christs acquaintance and the women which followed Him had departed - probably driven from the cross. With him came Nicodemus - so alike in the character of his discipleship - and putting aside all personal risk, Joseph asked for the body of Jesus and buried it in his own tomb.
But this stigma rests on the character of Joseph. He was a secret disciple, and the fear of man was like the dead fly in the ointment. He confessed Christ tardily, and at a time when it did not cost so much to own Him. Probably, the crowds had dispersed. They had been interested in Jesus, but now that He is dead and the tragedy over, they returned to their homes.
There appear to be three reasons for this. First, to have confessed Christ would have ruined his ecclesiastical standing and social position. Secondly, to have followed Him as a disciple would have been to lose his wealth; for by fair or by foul means his enemies would have made him poor. Thirdly, Joseph would have lost his good name. This, perhaps, was the hardest of all to give up. We do not realize now the sharp cross Christians have had to bear in giving up their good name; as Paul says, we are made as the filth of the world, and are the offscouring of all things. Well, this was the hardest cross of all for Joseph, and he could not make up his mind to give that up and go tramping after Jesus of Nazareth.
I propose to make a few enquiries which are to form the subject of our consideration.
In the first place, I put a point before you - Is there or is there not a great difference between being saved and being a disciple? We may gain instruction from the answer; first, for comfort; and secondly, for warning. I will answer the question by saying this - that every saved person is called to discipleship, though every one does not accept the call. Joseph did not take the first step in true discipleship till the end of Christs life on earth, when all opportunities of ministering to Him were gone, except that of taking His precious body from the cross.
Read with me Luke 14: 26-35, and you see Jesus wished those who followed Him to consider what discipleship meant, and to realise that the disciple must look upon Him not merely as Saviour, but as Master. Our Lord evidently refers in verse 27 to the time when He should carry His cross up to Calvary, and He says that he who is not prepared to go up that hill with Me, is not worthy of being My disciple. We must be ready to forsake all that we have (verse 33) if it be required of us, in order to be Christs true disciples. Remember, this is not a cross-bearing for salvation, but the cross-bearing of discipleship, for which Jesus would have us count the cost. Salt that has lost its savour is a picture of a shilly-shally Christian, who is neither this nor that - one who is afraid to follow Christ, yet afraid to give Him up for fear of being lost! Such an one, though his life, as far as practical usefulness goes, is like savourless salt, will be saved through grace, for his salvation is not bought by discipleship.
I want you to note this enquiry.
Does not all discipleship demand sacrifice?
Read Luke 9: 57. What a noble speech!
you may say. But see how the Lord puts a test in the statement The Son of man hath not where to lay His head. So, will you go with Me
now? You see, discipleship demanded
sacrifices then. See also verses 59 and 60. Are the claims of Christ or of a dead father
to be put first? And, in verse 62 there is a climax in the
teaching. The first question was - Are
you ready to follow Me though you have no shelter for
your head? The second - Will you follow Me at the cost of all natural ties? Lastly - Will you follow Me
without going home to tell those there what you are going to do? I want you to consider these things; for no man, having put
his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit (or ready) for the
My second point is this. The beginning of all true discipleship is Confession. Joseph of Arimathea had not taken the first step. There are two kinds of Confession - by deed and by word. True Confession embraces both. Jesus desires His disciples not merely to follow Him, but to say they will follow Him. Let me hear thy voice (Song of Solomon 2: 14). Will you also turn to Romans 10: 9-10? - a passage which is much overlooked, and which has a primary application to those false Jews who were corrupters of the gospel of Christ. Paul lays this rule down with special reference to them. To confess Jesus was extremely difficult for them to do. See how hard Nicodemus and Joseph found it. Therefore, how difficult to own that One as my Lord and my God! Many are ready enough now to repeat a creed, and say I believe in Jesus Christ; but see how the Christians of old confessed to the Person of Christ.
Read Romans 10: 10. With the heart man believeth unto righteousness; and with the mouth confession is made unto salvation. That means confessing Him according to the revelation of Him given in Scripture. Look for a moment at Revelation 21: 8, where unbelievers are classed with open sinners; but the word fearful should be read cowardly. And who are the cowardly? They are those who make a profession, but would only confess Christ when it suited their own purposes - those who would not take up the cross with their little finger, and who turn from those who do, and despise and ridicule them. We should not speak bitterly of such. They should be the subjects of our prayers; but we should tell them faithfully that they are going on unto perdition.
There is such a thing as being a true Christian, but never coming out into the light by confession. Why is this? I believe such are undeveloped in knowledge and apprehension (for these grow by use), and therefore they have not a clear idea between the converted and unconverted. I believe also they have no assurance; and as long as you are not sure of your salvation, Satan will take advantage of you and try you with the cruellest doubts.
God means His people to know that they are saved. If a man were not sure whether he were an Englishman or a Frenchman, would he be of any practical use in a war? If you, reader, are not saved, you may be saved (see 1 John 5: 13). If you do not believe, you are doing despite to the Word of God. It has been well said The assurance of salvation is the root and soil of holiness (Bonar).
Thirdly, I believe persons under
these circumstances do not see separation
from the world. They are very much
in the position of Lot in
There are strong reasons why we should confess Christ openly. A man who is undecided has no influence over anyone. Could you stand calmly by and hear an earthly friend maligned? And can you silently hear the Saviour spoken against and His Truth despised? You must either be in the position of His friend or His enemy. There is no middle place. You will never bring a soul to Christ if you are ashamed to confess Him.
Secondly, if you do not speak out, you will get entangled, and your service will be to no purpose.
Thirdly, does not Christ deserve that you should confess Him? You can sometimes confess Him by an act first, if your courage is weak. The words come more easily afterwards; but I do not recommend this plan. We all feel the difficulty of beginning, but it is easier to go on if we begin right.
Ponder these things. Joseph was a true Christian but not a true disciple. His sun shone out at last, but his life was cloudy. A few rays came through the mists to show there was life in his soul.
When we come to die, how blessed, if we are able, in reviewing our lives, to say We rest on the atoning Blood of Jesus and on His perfect righteousness, and have sought by life and lip to live for Him.
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