We Would See Jesus
And Other Sermons
George W. Truett
Edited by J.B. Cranfill
It is with great joy that this volume of sermons is given to the world. It has been a task attended with many difficulties. The first great difficulty was in securing the consent of Pastor George W. Truett for such publication. While the writer has for years pressed upon him the duty of allowing his sermons to be published in book form, it was only a year ago that he agreed that this work should be done. During the intervening time he has more than once hesitated, but has at last permitted the editor and compiler to proceed with the work.
These sermons were stenographically reported and, aside from the correction of obvious minor errors inevitable in rapid speaking and reporting, they appear just as they came hot from the preacher’s heart. I have not wanted to have them marred by a too critical revision by either the author or the editor. He has had very little time for corrections, and I have had no disposition to make changes or suggest emendations. The sermons, then, appear as preached.
The life-sketch which accompanies this volume is solely the work of the writer. I feel sure that if Pastor Truett had been consulted he would never have been willing for it to appear in the volume. It is not that the biographical data are not correct, for they are, but on account of his modesty the subject of the sketch would, I am sure, have forbidden its publication if he had known all that it contained.
I have also taken the liberty, on my own account, of giving herewith a character sketch of Pastor Truett by Dr. John E. White, which cannot fail to be of interest to the reader.
With these words this volume is sent out upon its mission of helpfulness and love. When these sermons were preached many were led to Christ under the spell of their appeal; it is the hope of the writer that thousands may be brought into abiding fellowship with our Redeemer through the reading of the pages that follow.
To every soul in need of light and help; to every heart bowed under the weight of sin or grief or tears; to every one whose face is clothed upon with life’s sunset glow; to every one tempted, discouraged sad-hearted or bereaved, this book is sent with the devout prayer that it may bring hope and comfort, and give them, each and all, new visions of the Master’s grace and love.
J. B. C.
By J. B. Cranfill
The life story of George W. Truett had its simple beginning in a quiet farmhouse which nestled in the woods in an escarpment of the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina. His parents were C. L. and Mary Truett. His father, who at the ripe age of eighty-six is still among us, is, himself, a man of mark in his community, and his mother, whom this writer had the pleasure of personally knowing, was one of the most estimable Christian women it has ever been my pleasure to meet.
George W. Truett was reared to farm work, and many were the days that he followed the furrow and harvested the crop on that quiet farm where his father and mother and other loved ones lived and wrought.
Into that home came many important periodicals. While C. L. Truett, the father, was a man of unostentatious life and limited resources, he placed within reach of his children the best literature the world was then producing. Not only that, but there was a growing library in that home. There were such classics as Bunyan’s “Pilgrim’s Progress,” Baxter’s “Saints’ Everlasting Rest,” Pendleton’s “Christian Doctrines,” Fox’s “Book of Martyrs,” and some choice works of fiction, and upon these the mind of the subject of this sketch fed, grew and expanded with the ongoing of the years.
In his boyhood George W. Truett had but limited educational advantages, but such as he had were eagerly grasped, with the result that his mind was enriched and found increasing expansion. At the age of eighteen he began teaching. A year afterwards he founded the Hiawasse (Georgia) High School, and was its principal for three years. This school drew students from many sections far and near.
It was during his incumbency as principal of this institution that he visited the Georgia Baptist State Convention, an account of which is given in the character-sketch appearing in this volume from the pen of Rev. John E. White.
C.L. Truett always had the heart of a pioneer. Many is the time that he looked across the old North Carolina hills and wondered what alluring prospects lay beyond. But it was not until some of his children had found the western trail and landed in Texas that he and his devoted wife moved to Whitewright, Grayson County. Before the parents and other loved ones had made their way to Texas, George W. Truett had dreamed of a college course at Mercer University, but when the entire household had left him, it was not difficult to turn the heart of the young teacher towards the western land. When he was twenty-two years of age, after having established Hiawasse High School upon an enduring foundation, he bade good-bye to the sights and scenes where he had known both trials and triumphs and sped away to Texas.
In 1889 the writer of this sketch resigned the position of financial secretary of Baylor University at Waco to accept, what seemed to him, the larger work of Superintendent of all the Texas Baptist Mission work. Upon his resignation the trustees of Baylor University were much at sea to find one who could successfully take up the work that the former secretary had voluntarily laid down. It was at about this time that a letter came to B. H. Carroll, then and for years before and afterwards president of the Board of Trustees, in which the statement was made that there was a young man at Whitewright, George W. Truett by name, whom the writer believed (and the writer was R. F. Jenkins, one of the best loved Baptist pastors Texas has ever known) would make an ideal financial secretary for our Waco School.
One sentence in the letter was very impressive. He said, “There is one thing I do know about George W. Truett—wherever he speaks the people do what he asks them to do.” The result of this correspondence was that Dr. Carroll asked the young Whitewright preacher to meet him at a missionary mass-meeting which was held at McKinney in January, 1891. The result was that George W. Truett was unanimously elected to this work; he accepted it, moved to Waco, and entered upon the task, and before two years had passed more than $92,000 (a very large sum then), needed for the emancipation of Baylor University, had been raised, and the school was free. During those trying months the young preacher had the cooperation and help of B. H. Carroll, than whom there has never been a more loyal, loving, patient, sincere co-laborer and friend.
It was an epochal hour when Baylor was thus freed from debt. The successful financial secretary at once entered Baylor University as a student, and continued his studies there until in 1897 he was graduated with high honors. In the meantime he accepted the call to the pastorate of the East Waco Baptist Church. At that time this fraternity was worshipping in an antiquated old-time meeting-house which in every way had been long out of date.
George W. Truett has never been able to work under any kind of restraint. He could no more continue to preach in that old house than the eagle could be confined to the cage of the humming-bird. He at once set about the erection of a new, commodious and modern house of worship, with the result that the house was built and dedicated free of debt. During these years he was married to Miss Josephine Jenkins, the much-loved daughter of Judge and Mrs. W. H. Jenkins of Waco.
In the early part of 1897 C. L. Seasholes resigned as pastor of the First Baptist Church at Dallas. This writer was then editor of The Baptist Standard. He was asked by Col. W. L. Williams, senior deacon of the First Baptist Church at Dallas, to suggest to him and through him to the church an appropriate man to fill their vacant pastorate. He named George W. Truett. He was quite young —less than thirty years of age. In a large measure he was untried, but the Holy Spirit led this noble fraternity to call him as their pastor. After prayer and deliberation, he came and cast his lot among them. In September of 1897 he officially took charge of the work, which place he has since filled and which pastorate his loving flock hope he will fill to the last day of his earthly life.
His work as pastor and preacher has been a succession of triumphs. Today the First Baptist Church of Dallas is the foremost contributing church in the bounds of the Southern Baptist Convention. It has not only led Texas —it has led the whole South, and, conditions considered, has led the entire United States, thus verifying that Scripture axiom, “Like people, like priest.” With a membership of 2,378, with a Sunday-school having an enrollment of between three and four thousand pupils, with aggregate contributions last year of almost $100,000, with conversions and baptisms at practically every service, with a spirit of devotion and service known near and far, this church, under the leadership of their beloved pastor, is pressing on, conquering and to conquer.
Soon after George W. Truett’s graduation from Baylor University, its Board of Trustees, with a unanimous and hearty vote, elected him to the presidency of that institution. In this election the alumni, the faculty and the student body heartily joined, and if there was ever pressure brought to bear upon a young man, recently installed in a useful pastorate, to relinquish his charge and enter upon a career of great usefulness in educational leadership, the subject of this sketch felt such pressure. The final battle was fought out by the young pastor on his knees, with the result that his shepherd heart clave to his flock, where it yet abides.
This is not the only call our friend has had to leave Dallas. Calls have come from almost every great city in every state and also from countless organizations and fraternities. If the amount of salary had ever been an object he certainly would have been sorely tempted to leave the western land and plunge into the glare and glamour of some northern or eastern metropolis.
The decision of this pastor to remain with this flock has been amply vindicated. A few years ago, in response to a crying need for more room, the church building was enlarged to practically three times its former seating capacity, and even thus early it is found yet to be too small. On some Lord’s Day occasions the seating capacity of the new building is severely taxed.
As the years have passed and as the fame of George W. Truett has grown and broadened, the calls upon his time and service have become vastly multiplied. It is not always that he goes to the large and more fruitful fields. Recently he went out to a country place, and there for almost two weeks preached with all the fervor with which he preached when holding a meeting in the city of New York. Many of the country folk were led to Christ and the church and cause were greatly strengthened.
It was an interested and interesting group of his friends and brethren who met together a little more than two years ago to devise a plan for giving their pastor a home. It was promptly provided. It is not in the nature of a parsonage or a pastorium, but was built and given in fee simple to the pastor and his wife. His membership well knew that he would never have a home in any other way. They rejoice that he has this home among them, and it is their cherished hope and wish that he will occupy this home as their pastor until his life’s day is done.
The question is constantly arising, “What of this man?” The writer hereof is allowing this answer to be made by another pen, but from his own personal knowledge he essays a modest answer to the query on his own account. The man is one of the most remarkable it has ever been my privilege to know. For liberality of spirit, self-sacrifice, gentleness of heart, purity of character and life, sympathy, helpfulness, liberality and love, this writer does not believe George W. Truett has any superior, and he has few if any peers. He has a heart for all humanity. He is absolutely innocuous to the blandishments of flattery or wealth.
It is no wonder, therefore, that here in Dallas where he has spent a longer period of his life than at any other place except at the home of his boyhood, he is universally beloved. He is called to more houses of mourning, conducts more funerals, consoles more of the bereaved, is the repository of more confidences of the tempest-tossed, the heartbroken and distraught than perhaps any man in this broad land. Not only is he universally beloved in Dallas, where he is best known, but throughout all Texas his name and self-sacrificing deeds are almost a household word.
He has often given down to his last penny, and then borrowed more money at the bank to give away. He is always hard pressed and will be to the end of his earthly life. The other day the writer of this sketch, when speaking to him, told him of a gift a mutual friend had made to a bereaved home in order to help defray the funeral expenses. The pastor, with those searching eyes turned upon the writer, said: “That is what money is for, and that is all it is for.”
His work seems but just begun. He is now in the floodtide of his greatest usefulness and power. He has not yet reached the half-century mark, and it is not too much to hope that before his earthly days shall end he will achieve new heights of usefulness of which now we scarcely dare to dream.
By Rev. John E. White, D. D.
(The following character sketch was written some years since when Dr. Truett held a meeting with Dr. White, who was then pastor of the Second Baptist Church, Atlanta, Ga.)
In the gallery of the South’s strong men—men who are at the front of moral leadership in her marvelous progress, the picture of George W. Truett would not lack much of the foremost place were the vote left to the admiration of the more than two million white Baptists of the Southern Baptist Convention.
The coming of this Texanic-Carolina-Georgian to preach in the Second Baptist Church, Atlanta, during the Concerted Baptist Evangelistic Campaign is therefore an event of more than ordinary interest.
Call him “Texanic,” because he comes from Texas and brings the Texan breadth and sweep atmospherically with him; Texanic being something better than titanic, more pervasive, more comprehensive of a certain great quality that encircles men who come within George Truett’s area.
Call him “Carolina,” because he sprang out of the rough, mountainous territory of the Old North State, drew his breath from its hills, received its birthmark on his spirit. It is a rude, rough country, but its crops are men. Think of hardest, stubbornnest land, the simplest, most backward section of modern American life—untouched by railroads, not a half-dozen comfortable churches, less than seventy days’ annual free school term, supported out of less than one dollar per capita free school funds and yet the land of red blood and new brain cells, and you have Clay County, North Carolina, as George Truett knew it in his youth.
He was born near the county site, Hayesville, in the year 1867.
Call him also “Georgian,” because Georgia gave him his growing pains—perhaps his initial thrust forward. It was in 1889, in the court-house at Marietta, Ga., that his star first scintillated strikingly. The scene is worthy a picture in the Baptist valhalla.
The Georgia Baptist Convention was in session. Ferd C. McConnell, not yet himself known to fame as “ Forensic Cyclone McConnell,” the present distinguished leader of Atlanta, Ga., was down from the mountains of Rabun County with the story of the struggle for the mountain boys and girls at Hiawasse.
“They are there,” he shouted, “like gold for the touch of the miner’s pick and they are fit to stand in the presence of kings, packed full of brains and character waiting for a chance. If you don’t believe it I’ll show you! George! Where is George Truett?” George not being forthcoming immediately the orator called again, “Brethren, I do believe he’s got skeered and run off.” Then someone in the rear of the court-house said, “Here he is.” A pale, twenty-two-year-old mountain youth was forced out in the aisle and obediently up to the prisoners’ dock, looking half-frightened and vastly embarrassed by the focus of eyes. “Brethren, this is George Truett and he can speak like Spurgeon. George, tell them what the Lord has done for you and what you are trying to do up in the mountains.”
Then George began. It was a simple story, but epic in its pathos of quiet recital of the hopes and passions of an unsung heroism.
It was a story of struggle for the lives of others who might have what had been denied to him—a college education. It grew larger with each word—till every heart was thrilling with that plaintive, pleading sort of voice which carries so well the burden of tears which seem ever laid on it. But the speech was no pitiful plea of poverty— who ever heard that out of a Southern mountaineer? It was rather the cry of the youth who bore the banner with the strange device—Excelsior, the strong persuasion of a just matter, the logic of one who, denied himself, was resolved to let his lack plead for others.
Dr. J. B. Hawthorne, then at the crowning of his great career in Atlanta, was one of those who sat heart-broken under the mastery of that speech. This was his testimony:
“I have heard Henry Grady at his highest, but never in my life has my soul been so swept as that boy from the mountains swept it that day in the court-house in Marietta.”
Another great Georgian was present on that occasion— Calder B. Willingham, of Macon. He at once arose and said: “I want the honor of giving that young man a college education. If he will come to Macon I will pay his expenses at Mercer University till he graduates.” Then and there the compact was sealed, the convention being witness. The youth went back to the mountains with something to say to his old friends—the peaks of Rabun and the clouds and the God he knew face to face behind great nature’s thin veil, of a new hope and a great joy set before him.
Strange is Providence! The path of George Truett’s life did not lie towards Macon. He never saw Mercer University and yet I think till this day he regards himself as a sort of alumnus of Mercer University, as one of those shadowy sons who dreamed their course through her halls.
With September, 1889, no boy, but a letter, went to Mr. Willingham. His father had resolved upon Texas. A man in years, but a son in loyalty, went with that resolve out of the mountains of North Georgia to the great new land as blindly in sheer obedience, and I doubt not as faithfully as Abraham went into Canaan. Now, what will the prophets say of this? Listen: That boy will go to Texas; in less than four years he will save a college from financial despair and endow it; in four years more he will graduate from it, and in five years more he will be elected to its presidency. Well, that is what George W. Truett did in Texas.
But he is not the president of Baylor University. This is a very interesting fact to us just now in Atlanta. He is a preacher. Dear old bill-boarded, news papered, sensation-surfeited Atlanta; agog yesterday over Elbert Hubbard and to-day over Fluffy Raffles, but she has one saving clause: She loves a preacher if he is a real preacher. George Truett will win Atlanta wholesomely. He will win here as he wins in the West by being what he is, a man who means it without trying to. What he is speaks as loud as what he says. He is a preacher. That is the point of his distinction. He is content to be that. He is an evangel, not evangelist. There is not an “ist” nor a twist in all his make-up. Plain, mountain-hearted, love-torn George Truett, the man who woos cowboys in Texas to their knees, wins cities also.
People will come from hearing him preach in the Second Baptist Church asking themselves what it is that constitutes the acknowledged power of his preaching. And they will get various answers, but in one all opinion will meet. It is something in the man himself—the man behind the sermon, and in it through and through as an incarnation of truthfulness in a messenger. Many sermons will bear understanding and yield to analysis their secret of charm as sermons. I doubt if the newspapers were ever meant for George Truett, though many of his sermons have been reported in full. He belongs preeminently to that class of preachers who illustrate the claim that the press can never usurp the function of the pulpit; who convince us that preaching is in the highest sense an incarnation, something more than a report of the truth, something more than the proclamation of the Gospel.
George Whitfield could so speak the most commonplace words as to send chills through his audience. George Truett has much of this power to communicate to men his soul on the most ordinary vehicles of thought and language. His adjectives and adverbs take on its spiritual quality as the dull black wire takes on the electric current.
Electricity, however, is scarcely a fortunate figure. He is least of all of the spectacular type. There is nothing angular or irregular in him. He has none of the personality run to seed—individualism on a pious spree. The strongest personalities are not eccentric. Eccentricity is unnecessary to such men. They have specific gravity beyond the need of peculiar advertisement. Too much of what men call personality in the pulpit, in the view that preaching is an incarnation, must hinder rather than help the Gospel purpose. Is it possible that evangelism, which, reduced to the terms of psychology, is egotism, can be the appointed power of God unto salvation? At least George W. Truett’s power, as a preacher, can have no such explanation. “Heart power” is the phrase most often employed to explain him. Ask somebody what they mean by that. It is not as easy as it seems.
With George Truett before my mind’s eye—“heart power” is just what seems to me the only vital power of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
Translated into the visible, audible, realizable fact soon to stand in the pulpit of the Second Baptist Church, “heart power” is this:
A man of substantial flesh, enough to be a man of like passions with other men; an open Saxon face—a serious face, some say a sad face.
A voice set to a very pronounced key of pathos—a cadence that individualizes his speech. Alas, for those who attempt to pilfer it! An impression of unfeigned sympathy, as of a man who has suffered, and whose pain, whatever it be, has become lost in a larger pain, through exchange of all personal life sorrows for the great human sorrow everywhere.
In declining the presidency of Baylor University he said simply in explanation: “I have sought and found the shepherd’s heart.” Perhaps this is the real secret of George W. Truett’s unique place in Texas and among the Southern Baptists.
Many lips have quoted the great avowal which F. W. D.Meyer puts into the mouth of Paul the Apostle, but none whom I know can appropriate it more seriously than George W. Truett, when he stands up before a congregation of his fellow men to preach the Gospel that saves.
“Oft when the word is on me to deliver,
Lifts the illusion and the truth lies bare,
Desert or throng, the city or the river
Melts in a lucid paradise of air.
“Only like souls I see the folk thereunder
Bound who should conquer, slaves who should be kings;
Hearing their one hope with an empty wonder,
Sadly contented in a show of things.
Then with a rush the intolerable craving
Shivers throughout me like a trumpet call.
Oh, to save these, to perish for their saving,
Die for their life, He offered for them all.”
Text: “We would see Jesus.”—John 12. 21.
The age-long cry of the human race has been for the revelation of a personal God, able and willing to forgive human sin, and to give rest to the human conscience. From the days of Job, man’s cry has been: “Oh, that I knew where I might find Him!” Plato voiced such cry when he said: “We look for a God, or a God-inspired man, who will show us our duty and take away the darkness from our eyes.” Through long generations of Jewish history there thrilled the longing, and was voiced the prophetic hope of a coming Messiah, able and willing to meet man’s deepest needs. In the fullness of time He came, and the fame of His words and deeds soon filled the land. A great feast was had in Jerusalem, and along with the thousands who attended it there came some Greeks, whose cry also was: “We would see Jesus.” That was the first voice from the outside world that gave a hint of the awakening of its sleeping conscience to the fact that Jesus was to be the Saviour and Sovereign over the Gentile as well as the Jewish world.
Marvelous was the impression made upon Jesus by that outside cry. It came at an hour when His work seemed ready to fail; but from that hour there was a new tone of triumph in His words. No more do we hear His plaintive cry over unbelieving Jerusalem; but His thoughts are bravely turned towards Calvary, and His victorious shout is: “The hour is come that the Son of Man should be glorified. Verily, verily, I say unto you, except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone; but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.” He speaks again: “Now is my soul troubled; and what shall I say! Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour. Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, ‘I have glorified it and will glorify it again. ”His heart thrills with the sense of His glorious mission, and He speaks again: “Now is the judgment of this world; now shall the prince of this world be cast out. And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.”
Why would we see Jesus! We may well wish to see Him, because of what He was and is in His own personality. He was both God and man, the God-man, in one person. Never did hyphen elsewhere mean so much as here, the God-man. It both joins and divides. It marks distinction and yet unity. Jesus was as really God as though He were never man, and as really man as though He were never God. In the face of this truth, well might the chief apostle say: “Without controversy, great is the mystery of godliness: God was manifest in the flesh, justified in the Spirit, seen of angels, preached unto the Gentiles, believed on in the world, received up into glory.” The most stupendous truth ever submitted to human thought is that stated in John’s five simple words: “The Word was made flesh.”
In the study of Jesus we need always to begin with His humanity. That is where the early disciples began, and that is the rational order. A proper conception of His humanity must be the basis for a proper understanding of His Divine nature and work.
In these days men sometimes tell us of their difficulties concerning the deity of Jesus, rather than His humanity. In the earlier days, unbelief made its stoutest assaults upon His humanity. The earlier heresies were gnostic heresies that denied that Jesus was really a man. One school of gnostics held that the body of Jesus did not belong essentially to His nature, but that the Messiah descended upon Jesus at His baptism, and left Him before His death. Another school held that His body was but a mere illusion, a veneer of human nature, with Godhood hidden behind the face of a man. And still another school held that His body was a body from heaven, having nothing in common with earth.
Against all such theories the title which Jesus chose for Himself attests His true and real humanity. “He took not on Him the form of angels; but He took on Him the seed of Abraham.” He was a vital part of the race that He came to save, bone of its bone and flesh of its flesh. He had a human mother and a human birth. He grew, as did others, in wisdom and in stature. His feelings and needs were as those of other men. He was weary and hungry and thirsty. He craved human companionship and sympathy. He was “a man of sorrows and acquainted with grief.” “Wherefore, in all things, it behooved Him to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful High Priest, in all things pertaining to God to make reconciliation for the sins of the people.”
Behold Him, not “A Son of Man,” but “The Son of Man,” for all humanity was summed up in Him. He was the one perfect, ideal, complete man. “Which of you convinceth Me of sin?” was and is His fearless challenge. “I find no fault in Him” was and is the universal testimony of His friends and foes. In Himself Jesus combines all those gracious qualities that abode severally in His people. If we would look for the highest example of meekness, we would not look to Moses, but to Jesus, who was unapproachably meek and lowly in heart. For the highest example of patience we would not look to Job, but to Jesus, who, when He was reviled, reviled not again. For the highest example of wisdom we would not look to Solomon, but to Jesus, who spake as never man spake. For the highest example of consuming pity we would not look to weeping Jeremiah, but to Jesus, as alone He weeps over Jerusalem. For the highest example of soul-absorbing zeal we would not look to Paul, but to Jesus, of whom it was said: “The zeal of thine house hath eaten me up.” For the highest example of love we would not look to John, but to Jesus, who, while we were His enemies, loved us and gave Himself for us. All other men have but fragmentary goodness and greatness; that of Jesus is complete, perfect, wanting nothing. The search-light of criticism has been focused on Jesus through the long centuries, and yet it has failed to find in Him one suggestion of sin, one ill-spoken word, one selfish deed. Men talk about not believing in miracles. What will they do with Jesus of Nazareth! He is the prééminent miracle of all the ages. Who was that one and only perfect man! Was He not more than a man?
The only rational solution of the humanity of Jesus is the acknowledgment of His Deity. For men to laud Jesus as a great and good man, while they repudiate His Deity, is to involve themselves in logical contradictions and moral inconsistencies which it is impossible either to reconcile or understand. Remember the claims that this wise and holy One makes for Himself: “I am the light of the world.” “No man cometh unto the Father but by Me.” “He that hath seen Me hath seen the Father.” “I and the Father are one.” “Come unto Me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden and I will give you rest.” If Jesus Christ be not more than a man, what must be thought of the presumption and vanity of these mighty claims! How is it that man’s conscience accepts without protest or hesitancy these mighty claims! That question must forever remain an insoluble mystery on any other premise than that Jesus was God manifest in the flesh, in whom dwells all the fullness of the Godhead bodily. From His cradle to His grave the proofs of His Godhead were, in His own person, finding constant illustration. The shepherds came to salute Him as king, and the magi, with their rich gifts, came from the Far East to worship Him, while He was yet a tiny babe upon His mother’s heart. While a lad only twelve years of age, His superlative wisdom utterly astounded the learned doctors in the temple. As a young man he patiently wrought at the workman’s bench, teaching us how the Infinite One can calmly wait, girt with the consciousness of His divine mission. When He came to prosecute His public ministry He had only to speak the word and the winds were hushed, the storms calmed, the hungry thousands fed, the sick made well and the dead brought back to life. He lived as none other ever lived. He died as none other ever died, and from Olivet He went back to His Father the consummator of history, the victorious Saviour of a lost world.
“We would see Jesus,” not only because of what He is in His matchless person, but, also, because of what He is and does for man. He is man’s Saviour from sin. “Thou shalt call His name Jesus, for He shall save His people from their sins.” If Jesus were merely a perfect example or a matchless teacher for man, then He could not encompass man’s deepest needs. Sin is the terrible tragedy, the intolerable yoke in every human life. Our highest and eternal joy in seeing Jesus is in seeing Him as our Saviour from sin. By His expiatory death on the cross, “the just for the unjust,” Jesus answers the eternally vital question how a guilty sinner may have forgiveness and salvation and happiness here and forevermore.”
Forever God, forever man,
My Jesus shall endure:
And fixed on Him my hope remains
It was said of Mozart that he brought angels down, and of Beethoven that he lifted mortals up. Jesus does both and more. He is God’s way to man, He is man’s way to God, the true Jacob’s ladder between earth and heaven.
And the glorious truth is that His Gospel may be put into the crucible of human experience. Man may personally know whether Jesus can give peace to the troubled conscience, whether He can give light for life’s bedarkened problems, whether He can give healing for earth’s staggering sorrows. The world is filled with men and women, this hour, who have vainly sought everywhere for peace and light and help, but they found it not until they found it in Jesus. These men and women have tested Him, and in their deepest consciousness they know better than they know anything else that through Him their darkness has been dispelled, their burdens lifted, their victories won. Tell me how it is that, of all the sons of men since the world began, it was never heard that a man was saved by Plato, or by Socrates, or by anyone else but by Jesus Christ alone. How is it that He alone has been able really to redeem men from the fatal grip of appetite and passion and sin? There can be but one logically intelligent answer, and that answer is, that in Jesus Christ we have the only begotten Son of God, God of God, Light of Light, very God of very God, the one Divine and all-sufficient Saviour.
How may we see Jesus? May we see Jesus today? Not, to be sure, with our physical eyes, but with the eyes of the mind and heart. May we approach Him, realize Him, be conscious of His personal presence and help, even as we are conscious of the presence and help of parent, or teacher, or dearest earthly friend? These are vital questions that go to the depths of our hearts. I make bold to answer them that Jesus may be, ought to be, more real to us than is any other person in all the world. Jesus is not some mere theory, some inspiring memory, some vague, personal influence; but He is a Person, to be approached, to be felt, to be trusted, to be loved, and to be obeyed even unto death. How may we thus see Jesus as we are daily driven by the manifold problems and duties of the earthly life?
If we would see Jesus, we must make much of His Book. If we would know a person, we must understand him. If we would trust a person, then our trust must be based on knowledge. Jesus cannot be seen, will not be graciously real to the man who neglects the Bible. It is true that “the heavens declare the glory of God, and the firmament showeth His handiwork.’’ But, left to nature, the Bible taken away, man cannot know of God’s tenderness and love, cannot know how to love and trust and obey Him properly. Though man might name every star that blazes in the eternal depths; though he might map the heavens and tell the constellations as his familiar friends; though he might understand the voice of the flowers; though he might catch the monologues of the mountains, the dirges of the oceans, the symphonies of the spheres; though all nature might speak to him the mighty secrets of its origin and Maker, in all this man would see only the majesty and mightiness of God. In God’s hand would be the sword of justice, on His lips the word of wisdom, and around Him the resplendent robe of righteousness, at once man’s envy and despair. Only in the Bible may man find out the mercy of God, in the forgiveness of sins, through Jesus Christ.
Other books may be read, some of them with much profit, God’s book must be read, and read humbly, reverently, earnestly, continuously, if we would see much of Jesus. If you have read the life of Chinese Gordon, one of the noblest Christians of his or any other age, you discerned that the secret of that wonderful life was in the fact that he spent long hours every day in the study of the Bible. He had many books in the Soudan, but this was the testimony that he left concerning them: “I may as well part with all my books except two, the Bible and the Concordance, so far as they contain essential knowledge.”
If we would see Jesus, we must know much of secret prayer—mark you, of secret prayer. Secret prayer is the unerring thermometer to our life of prayer. If ever we are sincere in prayer, it is when we are in secret prayer. It is then, if ever, that we are conscious of God. Jesus said, “But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.” How much do we give ourselves to secret prayer? Is it not just here that most of all we fail? We go about the doing of many things, but is not secret prayer one of the things that we largely leave undone? It takes time to become spiritual, and time spent alone with God is the best spent time in all one’s life.
Again, if we would see Jesus, we must watch against sin, with uncompromising warfare. There must be absolute sincerity and whole-hearted thoroughness at this point. That were but hollow mockery for a man to pray for forgiveness, his own heart the while burning with hatred and festering with grudges against some fellow creature. The amputating knife of genuine repentance must be put to sin, if we would hope for the smile of Jesus and for the benefit of His blood which cleanseth from all sin. God can’t afford to answer some men’s prayers! For Him to do so would be to put a premium upon sin. The hidden wedge of gold and the Babylonish garment must be disclosed and restored, if men may hope for answered prayer. It is sin that separates between man and God. It is sin that cuts the nerve of all acceptable prayer. Sin is a veil through which Jesus cannot be seen. Sin is an insulator that turns away the currents between man and God. It is “the supplication of a righteous man that availeth much.” “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.” No man who is not keenly sensitive to sin can know much or see much of Jesus. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God”—see Him here and now in daily experience. “Who shall ascend into the hill of the Lord? Or who shall stand in His holy place? He that hath clean hands and a pure heart, who hath not lifted up his soul unto vanity nor sworn deceitfully. He shall receive the blessing of the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation.” Oh, what need have we for frequent and most rigid self-examination, that we may become increasingly sensitive to every approach of sin. And we are to watch with all diligence against the little sins. It was the little foxes that spoiled the vines. If we carelessly cherish what may seem to us to be inconsequential sins, for example, pride, which goeth before destruction, and envy, which is as rottenness in the bones, these sins will consume us as doth a cancer and more and more will they hide from us the face of Jesus.
If we would see Jesus, we need to magnify the blessedness of Christian fellowship. The old-fashioned experience-meeting, when men and women came together just to tell, timidly though joyfully, what they saw and felt and knew of the things of Jesus—would to God our churches had it back again! “Then they that feared the Lord spake often one to another, and the Lord hearkened and heard it, and a book of remembrance was written before Him for them that feared the Lord, and that thought on His name.” Sometimes a preacher’s sermonic fires burn low, and not a text will give up its treasures, dig for them though he may. What does the preacher do? Let such preacher find and talk with someone who has a vital knowledge of the saving grace of God, and sermonic fires will immediately burn again.
Once again, if we would see Jesus, we must be busy for Him. The indolent Christian cannot see much or know much of Jesus. Idleness is one of the most terrible foes to grace. It is the running stream that is the healthy stream. The stagnant pond breeds miasma and malaria and death. Many a Christian who is spiritually sick, he knows not why, would thrill with a new joy and new visions of Jesus if only he would be busy for Him. Doubt, unbelief, despondency are all cut to pieces by activity. It is the man who does Christ’s will unto whom is revealed His doctrine.
And still again, if we would see Jesus as we ought and as we may, we must give ourselves completely to His guidance and government. Jesus will be Lord of all, or He will not be Lord at all. The reason why so many people get so little out of their religion is because they put so little into it. If men would see Jesus, see Him to the deepest joy of their hearts, and from Him have the noblest victories in their lives, then, for all this, they must pay the requisite price. Paul paid such price. Gladly did he suffer the loss of all things, home, kindred, inheritance, comforts, country, life itself, that he might have the excellency of the knowledge of Christ Jesus, his Lord. Do you wonder that he had visions and revelations which could not be put into speech? Do you wonder that his letters abound in doxologies, as he contemplates the unfolding glory of his Lord? Paul paid the price for his glorious visions of Jesus.
Here, then, is the vital question for us. Will we pay the price to see Jesus as we need to see Him, as He would have us see Him? Are we willing to live for Him, to put Him first, to do His will, be what it may, lead where it will? Right here is the supreme battle of the Christian life. It is the battle between Christ and self. The self-centered life will not see Jesus, and must surely fail. The Christ-centered life will mount higher and higher in its visions of Jesus, and will more and more exult in the victory that overcomes the world. George MacDonald well puts this truth in simple verse:
I said, “Let me walk in the fields;
”He said, “Nay, walk in the town;”
I said, “There are no flowers there;
He said, “No flowers, but a crown.”
I said, “But the sky is black,
There is nothing but noise and din;”
But He wept as He sent me back —
“There is more,” He said, “there is sin.”
I said, “But the air is thick
And fogs are veiling the sun;”
He answered, “Yet souls are sick,
And souls in the dark undone.”
I said, “I shall miss the light,
And friends will miss me, they say;”
He answered me, “Choose to-night
If I am to miss you, or they.”
I pleaded for time to be given;
He said, “Is it hard to decide?
It will not seem hard in heaven
To have followed the steps of your Guide.”
I cast one look at the fields,
Then set my face to the town;
He said: “My child, do you yield?
Will you leave the flowers for the crown?”
Then into His hand went mine,
And into my heart came He,
And I walk in a light divine,
The path I had feared to see.
Oh, men and women, if we will pay the price, we may daily see Jesus—may know that He walks with us, talks with us, and lives with us, and lives in us, our certain help for every day and duty of earth. And thus seeing Him and serving Him, brighter and better shall be all Our days, even unto that blissful day when we shall pass through the gates of the celestial city, where we shall be “like Him, for we shall see Him as He is.”