#PLACE FOR THE WORD
"My Word has no place in you."
- John 8:37
This was very plain speaking on the part of the Lord Jesus Christ. He could not only read the thoughts of these Jews, but He could also tell the source of them. He not only knew their feelings towards Himself, even before they expressed them, but He also knew why they had such feelings. Our Lord is not here, now, in bodily Presence, but He is here by His Spirit. He knows those who have received His Word, and He looks with gracious approval upon them. If you have given it entrance into your heart, thank Him for it and take care that you retain it—and that you permit it to influence your whole life. Let His Word be in you as salt to preserve you and as light first shining into you—and then, streaming from you—let it make your life a blessing to all those who are around you! My Master is glad as He looks upon everyone here who has received His Word. Precious is that coffer which holds the priceless treasure of the Word of Christ. Your body is precious to Him, your soul is precious to Him when He can see that sacred deposit of His own Word abiding within you!
But there are some here, I fear—no, in all honesty I must say that there are some here in whom the Word of God is not to be found. To them Christ says, "My Word has no place in you." Jesus knows your condition, my dear Hearer, if that is your case. He knows how often you have heard that Word and He knows what struggles it has cost you to keep that Word from entering your heart! He knows with what determination you have refused to receive that Truth of God which has come from God to you. I would like, if I could, to talk very simply and in a very friendly and homely manner to every person here who has not received God’s Word. And I would wish to speak so that I should not be understood to be preaching to this great mass of people so much as to be talking to individuals, one by one, lovingly anxious that any here who have not Christ’s Word in them may not go out of this building until it has a place in their hearts.
I. I will begin by asking this question—WHAT PLACE OUGHT THE WORD OF GOD HAVE IN MEN’S HEARTS? Jesus said to these Jews, "My Word has no place in you." What place ought the Word of God have in our hearts?
First, it ought to have an inside place. Many persons will give it an outside place. "The Word of God," says one— "yes, of course I have it in my house. The Word of God—if you come home with me, you will find that I have a splendid copy of the Bible in my best room, well bound and capitally illustrated!" Another says, "I have a Bible in almost every room of my house. I think there is one in every room, I like to see it there." Yes, that is very proper and right, but still, the place for God’s Word is not an outside place, but an inside place! It is infinitely better to have it hidden in your heart than it is to have many copies of it laid among the furniture of your house. It may be that your having the Word of God so plentifully at home may increase your damnation rather than lead to your salvation! You had the Lamp of Life, but you made a dark lantern of it—you shut in the light and never used it for any practical purpose. My dear Hearers, you who pay an outward reverence to that Word and say that it is undoubtedly Inspired, and praise and extol it—if, at the same time, believing it to be true, you do not yield yourself up to its power, may God have mercy upon you and lead you to repent of your sin! The proper place for the Word is inside, in your heart—have you got it hidden there?
Next, it ought to have a place of high honor. God’s Word in a man ought to be in the best part of that man, not merely in the store room of his memory, but in the drawing room of his enjoyments, in the parlor where it will talk with him. If the human mind is compared to a palace, the proper place for Christ’s Word is on the throne! All the writings of men put together cannot equal in value one single chapter of the Bible! Their words, at best, are but gold-leaf. But God’s Word is bullion! Here you have pearls that are altogether priceless, such as can never be found elsewhere. If the Word of Christ dwells in you, let it dwell in you richly—let it be honored and reverenced beyond all the words of men—however excellent those words may be.
Give the Word of Christ an inside place and a place of honor.
Next, give it a place of trust. Let it cover you as the hen covers her chickens with her wings. Let it surround you as the ramparts surround the city and protect it from the invader. Give yourself up to God’s Truth as one trusts himself in a lifeboat, hoping to be safely landed. Have no confidence but in the Word of the Master. If you stand partly on God’s Word and partly on man’s word, you will have one foot on a rock and the other foot upon quicksand—and that one foot upon the quicksand will be your ruin! "Trust you in the Lord forever," for His Word is faithful, true and steadfast. Heaven and earth shall pass away, but His Word shall never pass away! Give, then, to that Word, all your confidence! Repose upon it for it is Infallible and unchangeable.
Further, if the Word of God is in you, give it a place of rule. Let it be the master of your thoughts, ruling your understanding—the master of your affections, curbing your passions and exciting holy desires in you. Let it be the master of your words. Let all sinful and even all idle words be banished from your lips! Let your speech be seasoned with the salt of Revelation. Let the Word of the Lord be the master of your action. "Whatever He says to you, do it." If Christ forbids you to do anything, let it be avoided with all the energy of your spirit. Put the Scripture, the Inspired Word—put Christ, the Incarnate Word, Himself, upon the throne of your whole being and surrender yourself to Him, without attempting to make any terms or conditions!
The Word of God ought also to have in us a place of love. "O how love I Your Law," said David. God’s Word is never truly known till it is loved. "I hate vain thoughts, but Your Law do I love," said David. He esteemed it more than gold, yes, than much fine gold. In religion, to love is to know—I wish it were always true that to know is to love. When we love the Word and it saturates our whole being so that we cannot relinquish it, but take an intense delight in it, and have a fervent affection for every part of it—then it is that we put the Word of God into the place it ought to occupy— not in the attic of the brain, but in the parlor of the heart, and there let it take up its permanent abode!
That last remark suggests that the Word of Christ ought to have a permanent place in us—it ought never to be forgotten. We should not be followers of Christ, today, and followers of somebody else, tomorrow. No! Let the Word that Christ has spoken have an eternal effect upon our immortal nature and a perpetual abiding place within our heart. God grant that it may be so intertwined with the very warp and woof of our being that it would be impossible to take it from us without destroying our very selves! May our life prove that the Living Word is within us, quickening us and causing us to live with the life of God!
Now, dear Friends, it is for a special reason that I have insisted upon this point, that the Word of God should have its rightful place in us. I am no Prophet, nor the son of a Prophet, yet I perceive that there is coming upon the world a time of most unusual trial. I believe that within the next few years we shall hear of all sorts of fanaticism and folly such as you have hardly imagined. There will probably arise false christs and false prophets of every kind—and you will be bid to believe in this, and to follow that, and to obey the other. I charge you, by the living God, have no master but Christ and have no book but the Bible to be your Infallible Guide! Now, soldiers, the watchword for today is, "Stand fast." You who are but babes must grow, or else you will be swept off your feet in the cyclones of excitement that have already begun! Be no longer children, leaping over the hedge to seek for every nest that silly birds may build. Keep to the King’s Highway and follow Christ! And he that comes to you, though he seems a saint, transparent as crystal and bright as the sun, turn from him if he speaks to you any other thing than this Word of Christ, this permanent, perpetual Word which cannot be shaped or changed! Stand on this solid Rock and when the hurly-burly is over and when brains shall cease to swim, you will have cause to rejoice in your steadfastness! There are swift currents, now, that strain every ship and compel the mariner to put on all steam even to hold his own against them—and blessed shall he be who is not carried away by them. Blessed shall be the brave sentinel of Christ who stood still in his watchtower though the morning was long in coming, and who watched through the dreary night with steadfast expectation that it would come—and with this resolve that whether it did come or did not come—he would stand where His Master put him!
As for me, I care not what men invent, or what they deny—the Truth which I have learned from the Scriptures, by the teaching of the Holy Spirit—is the Truth of God by which I shall stand so long as there is breath in my body! And with Luther I say I can do no other. To this I must stand! Let those who will do otherwise, follow after novelties till they weary of them.
This much have I spoken concerning the place which God’s Word ought to have in every man’s heart.
II. Now give me your heart, Friend. Let me have a good grip of it while I try to answer a second question—WHY HAS THAT WORD NO PLACE IN MANY HEARTS?
"Oh!" says one, "I am so very busy that I cannot admit it." My dear Friend, I hope you will alter that answer. I heard, some time ago, of one who, when anyone spoke to him about religion, always used to reply, "You see, I am so very busy that I cannot attend to it." It happened, one morning, that he saw in the paper that a fellow-tradesman had suddenly died and, as he read the paragraph, he said to his wife, "I don’t know how old So-and-So found time to die! I have such a deal to do that I could not afford time to die." He staggered as he went out of the room and fell across the threshold dead within five minutes after having uttered that wicked speech! I have no doubt that the same thing has happened elsewhere. You may fancy that you are too busy to think of the affairs of your soul, yet you may be taken away, all of a sudden, from the midst of your occupations and then what will those gains benefit you? It may be printed in The Illustrated London News that you died worth so many thousands of pounds, but will it not be a great lie? When a rich man dies, what is he worth? He has, perhaps, a lead coffin, or the undertaker may use more expensive wood than for a poor man. Granted there might be a greater display at the funeral and, very often, there is more squabbling with his family over what he has left!
I have often thought that the poor man’s funeral has much more sorrow in it, much more that could be desired and spoken of with pleasure than the funeral of the man who seeks to be immensely rich. You know what happens when poor Hedge dies. His wife weeps, for he was the mainstay of the household, the bread-winner of the family. The poor woman wonders how he is to be buried. Well, there is his daughter, Mary—she is a domestic and she gets about 15 pounds a year for wages. She has not much to spare, but she makes up her mind that her father shall not be buried by the parish, so she finds a little of the money that is needed. There is the eldest son. He has eight children of his own and he has only the wages of an agricultural laborer—but he pinches so that he may subscribe his sovereign towards the expense. They all feel what they give—they are made to feel it—and they all sincerely mourn and lament. And though there is not a sixpence to divide between them, yet with what honor and with what love they lay their father in the silent tomb!
On the other hand, you know how it often is with rich people—the best part of the funeral is when the will is read. And I have more than once heard some such remark as this—"That man was very much like a hog—no good to anybody while he lived, but he will make some fine sides of bacon when he is cut up." Is it worth while for a man to fling his soul away merely that he may get so much together that he cannot use, and which will very likely be misused by those who inherit it? I say that "the game is not worth the candle." My dear Friend, if this is the game you have been playing, give it up at once, and say, "I must have time. I will have time, come what may, to seek the salvation of my soul, for above all else I want to make sure of life eternal." You will not again say that you are too busy to receive Christ’s Word, will you?
Another says, "You ask me why the Word of Christ is not abiding in me? I think it is because—." No, you would not like to say it, so I will say it for you—it is because there is no particular novelty about it. You like a brand-new gospel, do you not? Well, there are plenty of people, nowadays, who supply that worthless article. We get a new sect about every month and some new-fashioned gospel invented almost every week! Away they go after something fresh. First, North, then, South. Then, East, then, West. "Hurrah! We have found the very thing! Sound the timbrels, beat the drums, blow the trumpets!" Just so, but "the Kingdom of God comes not with observation." Remember what was written concerning Christ hundreds of years before He came to earth? "He shall not cry, nor lift up, nor cause His voice to be heard in the street. A bruised reed shall He not break, and the smoking flax shall He not quench: He shall bring forth judgment unto truth." If the gospel that men teach is new, it is not true, for there is nothing that can be new and true! The Truth of God is old as the everlasting hills. Therefore, dear Friends, be not touched with that Athenian madness of always seeking after some new thing! Did you ever hear of new gold? To all intents and purposes, all gold that is worth having is old. Men can make what they call pearls, sapphires and diamonds—but they are paste gems and utterly valueless. It is just the same with the doctrines made by men—they are not according to the eternal Word of God and, therefore, they are not worth a penny a cartload! Do not be so foolish as to reject Christ’s Word because it is ancient—that is the very reason why you should receive it and retain it in your memory and in your heart.
Shall I suggest that there are some who do not receive Christ’s Word because they are listening to man’s word? If you know anybody who is equal to my Master, hear him! If you know anybody who is superior to Christ, hear him! As for me, He is the one and the only Teacher of the Truth of God and at His feet I reverently and humbly sit. All other teachers whom I have ever heard of, or met with, so far as they speak as He does, are worthy of attention. But whenever their teaching differs from His, on that point they are worthy of no regard whatever! Did you say that such-and-such a thing is believed by you because you found it in Calvin’s Institutes? I am a Calvinist and a lover of that grand man’s memory and doctrine—but I believe nothing merely because Calvin taught it—but because I have found his teaching in the Word of God. "Oh, but the Prayer Book says such-and-such!" It may do so, but, I pray you, believe nothing because it is there unless it can also be found in Holy Scripture! "But such-and-such things were in the Minutes of Mr. Wesley’s Conference." If they are according to Scripture, let them stand! But if they are not, who was Mr. Wesley that we should receive his teaching? "Oh, but the archbishops have said it!" And what are all the archbishops piled together from the days of the first archbishop until now, wherein they have differed from the Word of God? No, my Friend, do not fill your brain with other people’s teaching—if you would be right, turn all else out and come and say—"The Word of Christ for me! The Word of Christ for me!" If I have any influence over you and if you are ever inclined to believe a thing simply because I say it, I charge you, throw away such superstition and test all that I say by the Word of God. The real weight of truth consists not in what one man says, or in what another man says—the weight, the power, the substance lies in what Christ has said—that, and that alone, is the Truth of God.
I think I hear another say, "I have not received Christ’s Word for it seems to me to be too spiritual, too holy." We can never deny that it is holy and spiritual, but, my Friend, think that matter over and withdraw those words you just uttered. Can anything be too spiritual to come from God, or too holy to bring us back to God? Let those characteristics of the Word of God charm you to Christ and not drive you away from Him!
"Oh, but," someone says, "if I were to believe Christ’s Word, it would be very cold comfort to me, and it would rob me of many of my present enjoyments." Yes, if those enjoyments would rob you of your soul, but not else. There is no pleasure denied to me, as a Christian, except such pleasure as would be no pleasure to me as a Christian! The moment a man’s mind takes in Christ’s Word and is saturated with Christ’s Spirit, he finds a pleasure only in that which is good— while that which is deluding, that which is degrading, that which is depraving, becomes a misery to him. Can anyone find comfort in Christ’s Word? Ask the sick who can lie on their beds and sing! Is there comfort in Christ’s Word? Ask the aged who, tottering on their staff in the midst of many infirmities, are taught a holy patience! Ask the dying who, as they gasp out their life, yet shout of victory, their faces beaming with the light of the Glory which is opening up before them! If you want real joy, find it in Christ’s Word, and no longer say that it has no place in you!
Let me give you a very special squeeze of the hand and whisper in your ear that I am afraid the reason why God’s Word has no place in your heart is that you are not very much in earnest. You are only like a butterfly—you have not come to real living yet—you are sporting, playing, trifling. Oh, that you might soon find life in earnest and think in earnest about eternity! Then, but not till then, will you seek to lay hold on Christ.
May I also whisper to you very softly and ask, "Is not the reason why you have not received Christ’s Word because you have some favorite sin? I have known men who could not be Christians and they argued very plausibly about the matter, but the real hindrance was that they had another house besides their own. I have known some men who could not believe in Jesus Christ for one very sufficient reason—namely, that they believed too much in the bottle. You know that a man cannot be a Believer in the Savior when he is devotedly attached to the god Bacchus! And I have known some to get very much enraged against the Truth of God and the one who preached it when the reason has been that their mode of conducting business did not square with the Gospel. Their yard measure was short of 36 inches—and when they began to count up to a hundred, it was very difficult for them to get beyond eighty-five! A "dozen" did not mean twelve, and a gross—well, I do not know how grossly short their "gross" fell.
There are all sorts of tricks of trade and a man who practices them says, "Well, you know, I am not strait-laced." No, Sir, nobody ever thought that you were. "Oh, but I am not going to be one of your precise people!" No, I know you are not. We really would not malign you so much as to suppose that you were going to be precise, like the Puritans, for instance. You, also, are among those who like a broad theology. Yes, I know, you sometimes are unable to get home at night because the pavement is so narrow. I understand you perfectly well. It is for this reason that many do not receive Christ’s Word—because there is some pet sin of their own that they do not like to have interfered with and, therefore, Christ and His Word are shut out of their heart.
Shall I tell you one thing more? Very possibly you do not receive Christ’s Word because you need to be made a new man before you will do so. The carnal man receives not the things that are of God. There is a hard slab of rock in your heart and when the good Seed falls upon it, the birds soon take it away. What you need, Friends, is to have that rock broken up, dissolved, changed into pliable earth. Can I do that for you? I was going to say, I wish I could, but I cannot. Only the Eternal Spirit, who can quicken the dead, can renew you in the spirit of your mind. Cry unto God that this great miracle may be worked—you will never receive the Word until it is. This is the message for you, "You must be born again." Must, mark you. It is not may—"you must—you must be born again," for until you are born again, this living and incorruptible Seed of the Word of God will never get into your hearts. May the Holy Spirit speedily work the miracle of regeneration in your spirit!
III. I have finished when I have tried to answer very briefly my third question—IF YOU HAVE NOT THE WORD OF CHRIST IN YOU, WHAT WILL COME OF IT?
Something came to the Jews because they rejected Christ’s Word. They sought to kill Christ because His Word had no place in them. I hope that will not happen to you, Friends, but I have witnessed it in others. I have seen the child of godly parents quench conscience and resist the Spirit. I have seen many a young man, full of fair promises, but refusing to be decided for Christ and, all of a sudden, I have found him a skeptic, seen him grow into an infidel and seen him develop into a blasphemer. I have known him to become a most violent antagonist to the Gospel. "Is your servant a dog," says one, "that he should do this thing?" No, it may be that you are not a dog, but there is enough of the dog spirit in you to do it. If you are dog enough to turn away from Christ, you will yet be dog enough to howl at His heels. Beware of resisting the Spirit of God and trifling with conscience, for there is nothing worse! A man may play on the edge of a precipice and he may do it safely for many a day, but one of these days he will make a fatal slip. Mind what you are doing, I pray you! Never let it be said of you, as Christ said to these Jews, "You seek to kill Me because My Word has no place in you."
Or, if that shall not be the case with you, I will tell you what may happen. Christ may cease speaking to you. "I shall not leave off going to Chapel," says one. No, perhaps not, but the Gospel may no longer have any voice to you. Possibly it has already less power over you than it once had—you used to shiver in your shoes when you heard the Truth of God! You have gone out of this place trembling under the Word—but you do not do so now. I hope it is not because I do not preach as earnestly as I did, but if I do preach as earnestly and as faithfully as ever, then what is happening to you? Why, you are getting deaf ears and a callous, hardened heart—and these are the commencement of that most awful of all conditions into which men slide when God says to His messengers, "Go and tell this people, Hear you, indeed, but understand not; and see you, indeed, but perceive not. Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed." It is a terrible thing when even the Gospel becomes the savor of death unto death to those who would not permit it to be the savor of life unto life to them! Before Christ packs up His wares and goes His way because you would not have His goods, ask Him to let you buy them of Him. His terms will not hurt you—He sells His precious things "without money and without price." Urgently require at His hands that before He turns His back on you, you may yield to Him and be saved!
And, remember, once more, that if the Word of God has no place in us, it will exist somewhere. Down came the Word of God to a man, the other night, and it knocked very hard at his heart, but the door was shut. The Word knocked again, and again, and again. Still the door was shut and the Word went back to Him who sent it and it stayed there. How many times have you heard the Gospel, my Friend? Could you count up the number of faithful sermons that have been preached in your hearing? Do you know how many earnest entreaties from friends have been addressed to you in vain? You shut them out, but they all went back and there they are—at the Throne of God! And when you come there, at last, and your trial takes place, you will be surprised to find all those messages and messengers present at the last grand assize to bear witness against you! Oh, let it not be so, I pray you! Will you not believe in Jesus Christ even now? Will you not turn to Him and live this very hour? Will you not leave your sins and trust the Savior? Will you not go to Him and, with a broken heart, confess that you need Him? He may be found of those who seek Him! Then, will you not seek Him now? If not, remember this scene—these crowded galleries, this area, these thousands of eyes—I call upon all to witness against you, in that day, that this night I preached Christ to you and bade you live—and if you will not, if you prefer moral and eternal suicide—I call this building, every beam and every stone in it, and every person here to witness that I have told you of the way of salvation, and implored you to run in it! They shall be swift witnesses against you to condemn you if you will not repent! Turn you, turn you, why will you die? Trust the Savior! Trust Him, now, and live forever! God grant that it may be so, for our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake! Amen.