Knowing And Doing
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
The original scope of these words was just this–“If, as you say, you have understood the meaning of this–the washing of your feet by your Master–if you have comprehended My intention in so doing, then it will be to your lasting honor and happiness if you do the same. I have symbolically represented to you, by washing your feet, certain virtues. You shall be a happy people if these virtues are found in you and abound.” And have we not abundant proof that our Lord spoke the truth, for where are churches as happy as where they are knit together in brotherly love, where they have laid aside contentions about priority and distinction and where each one becomes a servant of all–everyone willing to take the lowest place and no one contending who shall be the greatest! May we prove, as I trust in our measure we have already done, how true these words are, and never may Diotrephes be in our midst to strive for the preeminence, nor a root of bitterness spring up to trouble us! May we, everyone, try to be like our Lord and happy, indeed, shall we be in such a case.
But the sentence before us is equally applicable to every other Gospel precept. If we understand anything which the Holy Spirit has revealed to us, happy shall we be if we follow its practical intention–if, being first taught and instructed–we afterward practically exemplify in our life and conduct the things which we have learned! That is the one thought I propose to lay upon our hearts and minds this evening! And that one thought may be enough.
You will notice in the text that there are two “ifs”–“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” It appears, then, first, that genuine and acceptable service to Christ should be based upon intelligent knowledge–“If youknow intelligent understanding of the things of God should lead us to the practice of them–” them.“ The first "if” shall be taken first–“If you know these things”–
- ALL SERVICE OF CHRIST IS BASED UPON INTELLIGENT KNOWLEDGE.
Our first observation is that this is an “if” even in this country. “If you know these things.” Alas, even in such a city as this, where the Gospel is to be heard in all our streets and Bibles are to be found in all our homes, it is so sad that tens of thousands do not know these things! They are so careless about what God has revealed that they will not even cross thethreshold to listen to the Word of God! This day what a mass of Sabbath-breaking has grieved the Spirit of God! All around us there are those who are toiling hard six days in the week for themselves and cannot give to their God and, I may add, to their truer and nobler selves, this one day in which to think of Him. He has written to them the great things of His Law and they have trifled with it! He speaks to them and invites them to hear that their souls may live, but they would rather rest in their beds, or be found in any kind of pleasure sooner than seeking pleasure in the ways of God! Pity this poor city, you who know its sins! Pray for it, you who know its high privileges and solemn responsibilities! Work for it, you who have power with the heavenly Father, until at last the blessing shall come and men shall no longer need to say to their fellows, “Know the Lord.”
Alas, this is an “if,” however, which does not merely concern those who are outside our walls. There are many who know not these things, though they hear about them–and the reason is because while they come to the place of worship, and the sound of the preaching glides across their ears, they never give deep, earnest attention to it. They say that preaching is dull–very possibly it is–but it is very amazing that it should not be still duller when people have no concern to get into its inner meaning, but find it quite enough to come and to go like a door on its hinges! Full often from the humblest teacher something might be learned if we were but anxious to be taught. Or if we learned little by what he said, his very emotions might remind us and one thought, however commonplace, might engender another–and it would not be altogether without profit to sit together in the assembly of the saints.
Oh, how negligently do some hear! They are thinking of their homes, of their horses, of their cattle, of their farm and their merchandise. God gets no such attention from men as legatees give the lawyer when he reads the will. If men would listen to the preaching of the Gospel but half as well as they listen to sweet music, there might be hope of its being a blessing to them! But many understand not the things of God because of their negligent hearing of it.
Alas, too, there are some who attend at least with an outward attention which we cannot blame, but they know not the things of God because they have not yet found out that the letter, that is, the external word, is a killing thing, and that it is the inner and spiritual sense which is, alone, to be sought after. To listen to a Doctrine, for instance, is rightenough, and to catch the theory of it and be able to repeat the definition may be in some respects valuable. But it is imperative to get into the soul and spirit of that teaching of God which alone is spirit and truth and, consequently, food to the spiritual man! Dead orthodoxy, mere doctrinal correctness–these will never land men in Heaven because they do not even put them into the Kingdom of Heaven now! Men who merely have these are like botanists who know not the flowers, but only know the names of the divisions and the orders. They are like physicians who speak of drugs they have never seen or used, who would attempt to deal with men’s bodies before they had even studied anatomy or seen a bone!
We need to come to the tasting and handling of God’s Word. And all the hearing in the world will end in nothing unless the soul gets still closer and in the very soul and secret of the Truths of God. Hence there is an “if,” an “if” about the best of hearers, about the most intelligent–“If you know these things”–you may have listened to them, have drunkthem in from the earliest days of your life, but unless the Holy Spirit has revealed them to you, flesh and blood cannot do so and you cannot, therefore, know them!
It is greatly to be regretted that there are some persons who do not know the Truth of God because they have no careto know at all. They have a contempt for anything that God reveals. They are wise men and, therefore, they spend their whole lifetime in studying a piece of rock, or in collecting specimens of beetles, or in any wonderfully wise track of science! But to listen to the eternal Jehovah is quite beneath them! To hear what He has been pleased to say concerning Himself in His own Word seems to them to be trifling. Have I not often met with men who would think it to be worth years of study to make the idlest possible conjectures about the formation of a limestone rock, who yet would laugh in one’s face if one began to speak about the soul and the things of the world to come? And these are wise men–at least according to their own estimate of themselves! Whether or not they are fools shall remain for the future to reveal to them–may they find it out before the discovery shall be too late!
Others never will become intelligent in the things of God because they are prejudiced. They have made up theirminds that they do know–and he who thinks he knows will never learn. The conceptions which they received early inlife–their training, the fancies which they have forged for themselves as being what should be the truth–these occupy their minds and they cannot see the things of God because the mind has been blinded with other matters. Would to God that we could be clear of prejudice and clear of unholy contempt for God’s Truth–and could come simply to Him and ask to be taught as a child by the great Father and lay bare our bosoms that the Holy Spirit might cast out error from us and might write the mind and will of God there clearly! Then, indeed, with such a humble submission and a Divinely earnest desire, there need be no longer an “if” as to whether we learn these things. There is an “if,” however.
Let us now observe that we ought never to rest content while there is an “if.” “If you know these things.” My God, isit a question whether I know You or not, whether I know Christ or not, whether I know the Revelation which You have given to us or not? Then begin to teach me now! Oh, Sirs, it will not do to trifle with an ignorance which shall be our lasting ruin! We ought not to give sleep to our eyes until we have asked to be taught of God! To be ignorant about the things of ordinary daily life is not wisdom, but to be ignorant about eternal life is stark madness!
An uneducated man stands but little chance in the battle of this life. A man uneducated for eternity–alas, how exposed is he to innumerable adversaries, how sure to fall, how certain to perish! Go, I pray you, Brothers and Sisters, go to the Wise One for wisdom! Go to this Book for the Light of God! Go to the Holy Spirit, Himself, for Divine instruction and let it not be any longer with you a matter of question as to whether you are taught of God or not! Oh, I would speak very earnestly here. I do not ask that you should be learned. I do not ask for myself that I may be profound. But I do pray that we may comprehend with all saints what are the heights and depths and know the love of Christ which passes knowledge, or at least may know Him and be found in Him, clothed in His righteousness and accepted in His merits. It ought not to be an “if.”
But, supposing that there is no “if” with any of us, then what ground is there for gratitude! If the Savior need notsay, “If you know these things,” but if we can say, “Lord You know that we love You, that we rest in You, that we serve You, that we have been taught of Your Spirit,” then there is no room for self-congratulation, no room for pride! What have you which you have not received? Thank God, dear Friend, that you were not born amidst the heathenism of Africa! Thank God that you were not left to the Sabbath-breaking of London! Thank God that when you did hear the Word, it broke through the outer door and came into the inner chamber of your soul! Thank God that that passage of Scripture was not sent to you, “Come and speak to this people and make their ears heavy that they shall not hear, for their hearts have grown gross”! Blessed be the distinguishing Grace that enabled us, who once were as incapable of this as the dead in their graves, to see and hear spiritually!
What should come of it? Why, if you know these things and have learned them by the Spirit of God, make it the method of showing your gratitude to try and be His instruments in teaching others! If you know these things, be not silent. If you know these things, wrap not up these blessed secrets in your hearts as though they were committed to you only for your own personal enjoyment, but in the name of Him who gave such a priceless gift, go and tell wherever your tongue can be heard, the good news of the salvation of Jesus Christ! And perhaps God may make you a blessing to some of His hidden ones who as yet have not come to Christ.
Thus much about the first “if.” It looks to me like the first arch–and having passed through it, I can see another beyond me–and I must pass to the second if I would get the happiness.
II. THE INTELLIGENT KNOWLEDGE OF THE THINGS OF GOD SHOULD LEAD US TO THE PRACTICE OF THEM.
“If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
This second “if” applies to all the things which we have been taught of God. Let me give you, however, a specimen. Saving Truths–if you know them, happy are you if you do them! This is a saving Truth of God–that whoever trusts in Jesus Christ is saved. You know that. If there is anything you ought to know, you who come to this house, you ought to know that, for it is the staple of all our sermonizing every Lord’s-Day–that a simple confidence in Jesus Christ, the Savior, saves the soul! Happy are you, then, if you have exercised this simple confidence, for then you are saved! If you have trusted with the whole weight of your sin upon Jesus, you have the happiness of being saved, accepted, secure. Saving Truths ought to, every one of them, be the first objects of practice. That same Spirit who teaches us the Truths of God enables us to put them into action in our daily life. Dear Hearer, have you been a hearer of the good message, but have been a hearer, only? If so, you have missed the joy of the whole business! I pray you go a step farther and believe and live!
After saving Truths come purifying Truths. Such is the Doctrine of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling. The Holy Spiritdwells in Believers and where He dwells, there should be purity, peace, holiness and purging out of sin.
You believe this, but happy are you if you seek so to act. If you pray that you may not grieve the Spirit of God, nor cause Him to depart from you, your daily anxiety shall bring its results and you shall be happy.
Then, there are certain ennobling Truths in God’s Word and happy are we if we do them. Such is the Truth of DivineAdoption. Every Believer is a child of God. Happy are we if we live like one, if we exercise the privileges of heirs, if we come to our Father with a child-like confidence, if we plead with Him as a dear son asking a generous Father to supply his needs. Remember that every Doctrine of the Gospel has a practice appended to it and that to get the happiness out of the Doctrine you must put its preceptory part, or its practical inference, into action. You may be as orthodox as you please, but your orthodoxy shall be only like so many grapes untrodden in the winepress! But if you cast them into your daily life, then shall the luscious juice run forth and you shall be satisfied with favor and be full of the goodness of the Lord! Bread on the table will not satisfy you, nor will mere Doctrine. The bread must be taken and eaten–and assimilated–and then shall it comfort you. And so with the Truth of God–it must be a part of yourself and be worked out into your daily life–or else the happiness of it cannot be yours.
If there were time tonight, I would make an inventory of all the Truths of Scripture and say after each one, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” If you know it to be a privilege to be united with God’s people, come and join the Church! If you know that Jesus bids you be baptized and come to His Table to remember Him, I pray you be not disobedient, even to what you may think to be His least commandment! Whenever you get the glimpse of a Truth from God’s Word, or in your conscience by His Spirit, never be a traitor to the heavenly vision! Depend upon it, it is a terrible thing to trifle with knowledge! Some men would not see when they might have seen–and they have always been blind. Many a man who might have led the van in the Church of God, and have helped on a glorious reformation, has stepped back from the forefront because, perhaps, of some spurious charity with which he indulged the flesh–and he has gone back into the rear–to the vile dust from whence he sprang! But he that is faithful to God, faithful to the convictions of his conscience–and carries all out into practice–shall be among those to whom the Master shall say, “Well done,” at the last. I say to every Truth in Scripture there is a practical conclusion and I beseech you to see to it that you hear Christ say, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
Why is it that the practice of a Truth of God is required to the enjoyment of the happiness which it brings? Answer–this is always God’s rule. The ground is fat and full of bread, but the farmer, by his tillage, must bring out thecorn. Down deep in the heart of the earth are the stores of gold and silver–there gleam the precious ores in quantities that might make even Croesus, himself, to blush for poverty! But the metal starts not up from the soil by itself. It must be dug for–it must be cast into the furnace and separated from the ore. There shall be wealth in many nations, and trade shall bring comforts to all ranks, but the sea must be traversed, the sails must be spread, the voyage must be made! Labor everywhere shall bring enjoyment, but without labor there shall be none. God is not the God of idleness! He speaks not to the earth to bid it bring food to the door of the idler. He commands neither the ravens nor any other of His creatures to bring bread and meat for the sluggards. There shall always be practice, and then the result of work shall be the reward. So must it be in the things of God–you must put them into practice to get the blessing they hold! The laws of Nature are wonderful, and a knowledge of them desirable, but a knowledge of all the laws of Nature would never have reaped a field, built a house, found jewels in the mine, or even have made a steam engine without a furnace, a hammer and strenuous toil!
All the knowledge with which a man can cram his brain cannot secure him in his daily needs until he transfers it from his brain to his right hand and sets to work with it! If you would get God’s blessings, then, in Nature or in Grace, carry out the Divine Laws into immediate and energetic practice!
In the next place, for God to give the comforts of His promises to men who will not obey His precepts would be to discourage all Christian effort. Every man would fold his arms and sit down. “If I am to have salvation without believing,” says one, “why should I believe? If I am to have Grace given me without using such Grace as that which is already entrusted to me, then let me eat and drink, for Grace will come to me! Let me be as carnal as I like.” But God will not so act as to give graceless hearts such an excuse!
To give His blessing to those who do not practice His precepts would be, in fact , to give a premium for sin. The moreknowledge, if that knowledge is not put into practice, the more sin, in consequence! Shall God reward a man who, sitting in the Light of God, will not walk by the Light? And shall He give enjoyments to those who know His will and who do not that will? No, Sirs, if blessings came to merely knowledge, I suppose the devil would be the most blessed of beings! Certainly if the comforts of the Gospel came to those who understand the Gospel best, but who do not practice it, there would be some of the vilest of mankind who would be orthodox enough–who would, on such a rule, go to Heaven! But they shall find themselves shut out when that judgment shall be given which proceeds upon this rule, “By their fruits you shall know them.” You all see, without any reasoning from me, that it would seem strange, indeed, if God allowed the precepts of the Gospel to be trampled underfoot and then gave the same blessings to the rebellious as to the graciously obedient! It must not, shall not be! See we not, then, that our happiness from the things of God must come, not merely through knowledge, though that is the first stage of Divine Favor–but we must not rest satisfied until we pass into the second stage–of what we have learned! We close with the question which the text naturally inspires–
III. WHAT IS THE HAPPINESS WHICH THIS PRACTICAL OBEDIENCE BRINGS?
Briefly, it is always a blessed thing to be obedient to God. The very soul of joy to the creature who wants to be truly happy is conformity to the will of the Creator. When God’s will and ours keep pace together, it will be Heaven on earth to us! It is only when our will jars with the Divine mind that our soul’s happiness departs, but when we are helped to lay aside self and say from our inmost soul, “Not my will, but Yours be done,” and so come to be ruled and governed entirely by the Divine Mind, then shall we be in Paradise here below!
Added to this, to increase our happiness if we do these things, we shall have the blessings promised to the doing thereof. We are no legalists. We do not believe in salvation by works, nor even in rewards given to men because of any merit on their part, but we do know that if Jesus says, “He that believes shall be saved,” then he that believes will get that salvation and this will be the blessing which he enjoys, and so with every other new Covenant blessing!
Brothers and Sisters, there is a happiness here in practical Christianity and there is a happiness hereafter. In mere nominal Christianity there is no happiness. Look at some of your professors. They have got religion enough to make them miserable! Their attendance at church or chapel–what is it but a bit of slavery? They would not go to church if they could help it, but they think it looks respectable. If they had their way and the force of custom were withdrawn, they would not be found among the worshippers! Look, I say, at many of them. The very sight of their Bible and Prayer Book seems to make their faces long and dismal at once. Prayer–is that a pleasure to them? To sing God’s praise–is that a delight? No, far, far, far from it! And why is this? Because they have never, by Divine Grace, been led solemnly to trust in Jesus and earnestly to give themselves up to those Truths which only in their practical force and influence can make us happy–but which in their mere theory are “the letter which kills,” and only in practice are they the spirit and life! Oh, that some of you church members would put in practice what you believe! Oh, Sirs, it is well enough to say that a Christian should be consistent, but if you are not honest in your business, how does your belief help you? It is well enough to say that a Christian should be godly, but if you are godless in your families–if family prayer is neglected and private prayer given up–what is the use of your beliefs, what the use of your perfect creeds? You may talk until doomsday about what you believe or what you do not believe, but it is that part of your belief which gets interwoven into the warp and woof of your daily life which affects your business, which really moves you, impels you, or restrains you according to whether you would do right or wrong–it is this, it is this, it is this, and it is just this, only, that is worth having! Your dead religion–it is a corpse–bury it! Your living godliness, your vital godliness, the godliness that vitalizes you and makes you live unto God and His Truth–this it is to be sought after–and may God in His mercy grant it to each one of us! “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.”
And so we come to a conclusion by noticing that if the text were read in another form, it would read very solemnly, “If you know these things, unhappy, wretched, ruined are you if you do them not.” I scarcely feel that I have eitherstrength or will to enter upon the few sentences I meant to have uttered tonight. There are not many of you here who are ignorant of the Gospel. The most of this great assembly have read it and heard it, and if any should ask you, “What is the way of eternal life,” you could give them a very ready answer. And, thank God, there are not a few of you who have put into practice this Gospel! You have looked to Jesus–you are resting in Him. You can say, while confessing many imperfections, that you desire to walk in the ways of obedience to Him who has redeemed you with His blood.
But, painful reflection! There are many–very many–and you know who they are–who know these things, but do them not! Ten years ago they were greatly affected by a sermon and they vowed repentance. The season passed away and their conscience became crippled–no good results came. Some time ago, at an earnest Prayer Meeting, they were again pricked in conscience, but this time they were not so wounded as before. And now, tonight, they are just what they have always been–willing hearers, attentive hearers, kind friends to the Gospel in some respects, contributing towards any godly enterprise, but still they have not surrendered to God by believing in Christ–and so are still strangers to Him as the soul’s Savior. And I have to ask them tonight whether it shall always be so, and, if not always, then how long? “How long halt you between two opinions?” And if it is not to be long, why not end it tonight? Oh, blessed Spirit, they do know! It is not this they need, but they need to feel! They do not love! They do not believe! Oh, give them these, that they may not go down into Hell with the accumulated responsibilities of abundant Light. “If I had not come and spoken to you,” said Christ, “you had been without sin, but now you have no cloak for your sin.” Oh, the godly mothers of some of you will rise up against you to condemn you, for you knew these things, but you did them not! Some of you, your conscience will speak with a voice of thunder–it will roar like a lion on you when God condemns you because you knew the Gospel and refused it–you understood the way of salvation, but you would not walk therein! There is no place more terrible to be lost than from the shadow of a pulpit! The more plain the Gospel, the more sure your ruin if you reject it! The more earnest the ministry that comes to you with its notes of warning and invitation, the more horrible your overthrow if your ears refuse the words of Jehovah’s love! Tonight, I pray you–and I think I speak in God’s name–cast in your lot with Christ and with God’s people! You are guilty, but He is gracious and delights to pardon! You feel unworthy, and you are, but Christ receives the most undeserving! Rely upon Him now. You have nothing else that will suffice. Oh, cast yourselves upon Him! Happy shall you be if you do this. Other doings without this were mere legalism and vain, but this is the great work, the master work, the God work, that you believe on Jesus Christ whom God has sent! Trust, then, in Him, and your peace shall be like a river and your righteousness like the waves of the sea. Trifle no longer! Listen no longer merely with the outward ear, but now decide that if there is an inner sense, you will find it–if there is a secret Truth, you will hunt it out until you secure it.
If there is a living Christ to pardon you and make you snowy clean, resolve you will find Him! If there is a road to Heaven, determine to find and walk in it. “And now farewell sin, farewell self-righteousness, farewell the shallow pleasures of this world! Jesus, take my heart just as it is–I give it up to You–and help me to do now what I have never done before–to put in practice what I hear, and carry out what I have been taught.” So may God help you and we will meet in Heaven and we will say together there that this night’s text was true, “If you know these things, happy are you if you do them.” God help you to do them, now, for Christ’s sake. Amen.