Dwight Lyman Moody, the evangelist, was born at Northfield, Massachusetts, in 1837, and died in 1899. As a business man he brought to his evangelistic work exceptional tact, initiative, and executive ability, but the main source of his power lay in his knowledge of the Bible, his constant companion. In preaching he largely disregarded form, and thought little of the sermon as such. His one overwhelming and undeviating purpose was to lead men to Christ. His speaking was in a kind of monotone, but his straightforward plainness never failed to be effective. He usually held the Bible in his hand while speaking, so that there was little of gesture. His great sympathetic nature is spoken of by Henry Drummond in these words:
"If eloquence is measured by its effect upon an audience, and not by its balanced sentences and cumulative periods, then this is eloquence of the highest sort. In sheer persuasiveness Mr. Moody has few equals, and rugged as his preaching may seem to some, there is in it a pathos of a quality which few orators have ever reached, and an appealing tenderness which not only wholly redeems it, but raises it, not unseldom, almost to sublimity."
1837 -- 1899
WHAT THINK YE OF CHRIST?
[Footnote 1: By permission of the Fleming H. Revell Company, owners of copyright.]
What think ye of Christ? -- Matt, xxii., 42.
I suppose there is no one here who has not thought more or less about Christ. You have heard about Him, and read about Him, and heard men preach about Him. For eighteen hundred years men have been talking about Him and thinking about Him; and some have their minds made up about who He is, and doubtless some have not. And altho all these years have rolled away, this question comes up, addresst to each of us, to-day, "What think ye of Christ?"
I do not know why it should not be thought a proper question for one man to put to another. If I were to ask you what you think of any of your prominent men, you would already have your mind made up about him. If I were to ask you what you thought of your noble queen, you would speak right out and tell me your opinion in a minute.
If I were to ask about your prime minister, you would tell me freely what you had for or against him. And why should not people make up their minds about the Lord Jesus Christ, and take their stand for or against Him? If you think well of Him, why not speak well of Him and range yourselves on His side? And if you think ill of Him, and believe Him to be an impostor, and that He did not die to save the world, why not lift up your voice and say you are against Him? It would be a happy day for Christianity if men would just take sides -- if we could know positively who is really for Him and who is against Him.
It is of very little importance what the world thinks of any one else. The queen and the statesman, the peers and the princes, must soon be gone. Yes; it matters little, comparatively, what we think of them. Their lives can only interest a few; but every living soul on the face of the earth is concerned with this Man. The question for the world is, "What think ye of Christ?"
I do not ask you what you think of the Established Church, or of the Presbyterians, or the Baptists, or the Roman Catholics; I do not ask you what you think of this minister or that, of this doctrine or that; but I want to ask you what you think of the living person of Christ?
I should like to ask, Was He really the Son of God -- the great God-Man? Did He leave heaven and come down to this world for a purpose? Was it really to seek and to save? I should like to begin with the manger, and to follow Him up through the thirty-three years He was here upon earth. I should ask you what you think of His coming into this world and being born in a manger when it might have been a palace; why He left the grandeur and the glory of heaven, and the royal retinue of angels; why He passed by palaces and crowns and dominion and came down here alone.
I should like to ask you what you think of Him as a teacher. He spake as never man spake. I should like to take Him up as a preacher. I should like to bring you to that mountain-side, that we might listen to the words as they fall from His gentle lips. Talk about the preachers of the present day! I would rather a thousand times be five minutes at the feet of Christ than listen a lifetime to all the wise men in the world. He used just to hang truth upon anything. Yonder is a sower, a fox, a bird, and He just gathers the truth around them, so that you cannot see a fox, a sower, or a bird, without thinking what Jesus said. Yonder is a lily of the valley; you cannot see it without thinking of His words, "They toil not, neither do they spin."
He makes the little sparrow chirping in the air preach to us. How fresh those wonderful sermons are, how they live to-day! How we love to tell them to our children, how the children love to hear! "Tell me a story about Jesus," how often we hear it; how the little ones love His sermons! No story-book in the world will ever interest them like the stories that He told. And yet how profound He was; how He puzzled the wise men; how the scribes and the Pharisees would never fathom Him! Oh, do you not think He was a wonderful preacher?
I should like to ask you what you think of Him as a physician. A man would soon have a reputation as a doctor if he could cure as Christ did. No case was ever brought to Him but what He was a match for. He had but to speak the word, and disease fled before Him. Here comes a man covered with leprosy.
"Lord, if thou wilt thou canst make me clean," he cried.
"I will," says the Great Physician, and in an instant the leprosy is gone. The world has hospitals for incurable diseases; but there were no incurable diseases with Him.
Now, see Him in the little home at Bethany, binding up the wounded hearts of Martha and Mary, and tell me what you think of Him as a comforter. He is a husband to the widow and a father to the fatherless. The weary may find a resting-place upon that breast, and the friendless may reckon Him their friend. He never varies. He never fails, He never dies. His sympathy is ever fresh, His love is ever free. Oh, widow and orphans, oh, sorrowing and mourning, will you not thank God for Christ the comforter?
But these are not the points I wish to take up. Let us go to those who knew Christ, and ask what they thought of Him. If you want to find out what a man is nowadays, you inquire about him from those who know him best. I do not wish to be partial; we will go to His enemies, and to His friends. We will ask them, What think ye of Christ? We will ask His friends and His enemies. If we only went to those who liked Him, you would say:
"Oh, he is so blind; he thinks so much of the man that he can't see His faults. You can't get anything out of him unless it be in His favor; it is a one-sided affair altogether."
So we shall go in the first place to His enemies, to those who hated Him, persecuted Him, curst and slew Him. I shall put you in the jury-box, and call upon them to tell us what they think of Him.
First, among the witnesses, let us call upon the Pharisees. We know how they hated Him. Let us put a few questions to them. "Come, Pharisees, tell us what you have against the Son of God, What do you think of Christ?" Hear what they say! "This man receiveth sinners." What an argument to bring against Him! Why, it is the very thing that makes us love Him. It is the glory of the gospel. He receives sinners. If He had not, what would have become of us? Have you nothing more to bring against Him than this? Why, it is one of the greatest compliments that was ever paid Him. Once more: when He was hanging on the tree, you had this to say to Him, "He saved others, but He could not save Himself and save us too." So He laid down His own life for yours and mine. Yes, Pharisees, you have told the truth for once in your lives! He saved others. He died for others. He was a ransom for many; so it is quite true what you think of Him -- He saved others, Himself He cannot save.
Now, let us call upon Caiaphas. Let him stand up here in his flowing robes; let us ask him for his evidence. "Caiaphas, you were chief priest when Christ was tried; you were president of the Sanhedrin; you were in the council-chamber when they found Him guilty; you yourself condemned Him. Tell us; what did the witnesses say? On what grounds did you judge Him? What testimony was brought against Him?" "He hath spoken blasphemy," says Caiaphas. "He said, 'Hereafter you shall see the Son of Man sitting on the right hand of power, and coming in the clouds of heaven.' When I heard that, I found Him guilty of blasphemy; I rent my mantle and condemned Him to death." Yes, all that they had against Him was that He was the Son of God; and they slew Him for the promise of His coming for His bride!
Now let us summon Pilate. Let him enter the witness-box.
"Pilate, this man was brought before you; you examined Him; you talked with Him face to face; what think you of Christ?"
"I find no fault in him," says Pilate. "He said he was the King of the Jews [just as He wrote it over the cross]; but I find no fault in him." Such is the testimony of the man who examined Him! And, as He stands there, the center of a Jewish mob, there comes along a man elbowing his way in haste. He rushes up to Pilate, and, thrusting out his hand, gives him a message. He tears it open; his face turns pale as he reads -- "Have thou nothing to do with this just man, for I have suffered many things this day in a dream because of him." It is from Pilate's wife -- her testimony to Christ. You want to know what His enemies thought of Him? You want to know what a heathen, thought? Well, here it is, "no fault in him"; and the wife of a heathen, "this just man."
And now, look -- in comes Judas. He ought to make a good witness. Let us address him. "Come, tell us, Judas, what think ye of Christ? You knew the Master well; you sold Him for thirty pieces of silver; you betrayed Him with a kiss; you saw Him perform those miracles; you were with Him in Jerusalem. In Bethany, when He summoned up Lazarus, you were there. What think you of Him?" I can see him as he comes into the presence of the chief priests; I can hear the money ring as he dashes it upon the table, "I have betrayed innocent blood!" Here is the man who betrayed Him, and this is what he thinks of Him! Yes, those who were guilty of His death put their testimony on record that He was an innocent man.
Let us take the centurion who was present at the execution. He had charge of the Roman soldiers. He told them to make Him carry His cross; he had given orders for the nails to be driven into His feet and hands, for the spear to be thrust in His side. Let the centurion come forward. "Centurion, you had charge of the executioners; you saw that the order for His death was carried out; you saw Him die; you heard Him speak upon the cross. Tell us, what think you of Christ?" Hark! Look at him; he is smiting his breast as he cries, "Truly, this was the son of God!"
I might go to the thief upon the cross, and ask what he thought of Him. At first he railed upon Him and reviled Him. But then he thought better of it: "This man hath done nothing amiss," he says.
I might go further. I might summon the very devils themselves and ask them for their testimony. Have they anything to say of Him? Why, the very devils called Him the Son of God! In Mark we have the unclean spirit crying, "Jesus, thou Son of the most high God." Men say, "Oh, I believe Christ to be the Son of God, and because I believe it intellectually I shall be saved." I tell you the devils did that. And they did more than that, they trembled.
Let us bring in His friends. We want you to hear their evidence. Let us call that prince of preachers. Let us hear the forerunner; none ever preached like this man -- this man who drew all Jerusalem and all Judea into the wilderness to hear him; this man who burst upon the nations like the flash of a meteor. Let John the Baptist come with his leathern girdle and his hairy coat, and let him tell us what he thinks of Christ. His words, tho they were echoed in the wilderness of Palestine, are written in the Book forever, "Behold the Lamb of God which taketh away the sin of the world!" This is what John the Baptist thought of him. "I bear record that He is the Son of God." No wonder he drew all Jerusalem and Judea to him, because he preached Christ. And whenever men preach Christ, they are sure to have plenty of followers.
Let us bring in Peter, who was with Him on the mount of transfiguration, who was with Him the night He was betrayed. Come, Peter, tell us what you think of Christ. Stand in this witness-box and testify of Him. You denied Him once. You said, with a curse, you did not know Him. Was it true, Peter? Don't you know Him? "Know Him!" I can imagine Peter saying: "It was a lie I told then. I did know Him." Afterward I can hear him charging home their guilt upon these Jerusalem sinners. He calls Him "both Lord and Christ." Such was the testimony on the day of Pentecost. "God had made that same Jesus both Lord and Christ." And tradition tells us that when they came to execute Peter he felt he was not worthy to die in the way his Master died, and he requested to be crucified with the head downward. So much did Peter think of Him!
Now let us hear from the beloved disciple John. He knew more about Christ than any other man. He had laid his head on his Savior's bosom. He had heard the throbbing of that loving heart. Look into his Gospel if you wish to know what he thought of Him.
Matthew writes of Him as the royal king come from His throne. Mark writes of Him as the servant, and Luke of the Son of Man. John takes up his pen, and, with one stroke, forever settles the question of Unitarianism. He goes right back before the time of Adam. "In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God." Look into Revelation. He calls him "the bright and the morning star." So John thought well of Him -- because he knew Him well.
We might bring in Thomas, the doubting disciple. You doubted Him, Thomas? You would not believe He had risen, and you put your fingers into the wound in His side. What do you think of Him?
"My Lord and my God!" says Thomas.
Then go over to Decapolis and you will find Christ has been there casting out devils. Let us call the men of that country and ask what they think of Him. "He hath done all things well," they say.
But we have other witnesses to bring in. Take the persecuting Saul, once one of the worst of his enemies. Breathing out threatenings he meets Him. "Saul, Saul, why persecutest thou me?" says Christ. He might have added, "What have I done to you? Have I injured you in any way? Did I not come to bless you? Why do you treat Me thus, Saul?" And then Saul asks, "Who art thou, Lord?"
"I am Jesus of Nazareth, whom thou persecutest." You see, He was not ashamed of His name, altho He had been in heaven; "I am Jesus of Nazareth." What a change did that one interview make to Saul! A few years afterward we hear him say, "I have suffered the loss of all things, and do count them but dross that I may win Christ." Such a testimony to the Savior!
But I shall go still further. I shall go away from earth into the other world. I shall summon the angels and ask what they think of Christ. They saw Him in the bosom of the Father before the world was. Before the dawn of creation, before the morning stars sang together, He was there. They saw Him leave the throne and come down to the manger. What a scene for them to witness! Ask these heavenly beings what they thought of Him then. For once they are permitted to speak; for once the silence of heaven is broken. Listen to their song on the plains of Bethlehem, "Behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day, in the city of David, a Savior, which is Christ the Lord." He leaves the throne to save the world. Is it a wonder the angels thought well of Him?
Then there are the redeemed saints -- they that see Him face to face. Here on earth He was never known, no one seemed really to be acquainted with Him; but He was known in that world where He had been from the foundation. What do they think of Him there? If we could hear from heaven we should hear a shout which would glorify and magnify His name. We are told that when John was in the Spirit on the Lord's Day, and being caught up, he heard a shout around him, ten thousand times ten thousand, and thousands and thousands of voices, "Worthy is the Lamb that was slain, to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!" Yes, He is worthy of all this. Heaven cannot speak too well of Him. Oh, that earth would take up the echo and join with heaven in singing, "Worthy to receive power, and riches, and wisdom, and strength, and honor, and glory, and blessing!"
But there is still another witness, a higher still. Some think that the God of the Old Testament is the Christ of the New. But when Jesus came out to Jordan, baptized by John, there came a voice from heaven. God the Father spoke. It was His testimony to Christ: "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." Ah, yes! God the Father thinks well of the Son. And if God is well pleased with Him, so ought we to be. If the sinner and God are well pleased with Christ, then the sinner and God can meet. The moment you say, as the Father said, "I am well pleased with Him," and accept Him, you are wedded to God. Will you not believe the testimony? Will you not believe this witness, this last of all, the Lord of hosts, the King of kings himself? Once more he repeats it, so that all may know it. With Peter and James and John, on the mount of transfiguration, He cries again, "This is my beloved Son; hear him." And that voice went echoing and reechoing through Palestine, through all the earth from sea to sea; yes, that voice is echoing still, Hear Him! Hear Him!
My friend will you hear Him to-day? Hark! what is He saying to you? "Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn of me; for I am meek and lowly in heart; and ye shall find rest unto your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light." Will you not think well of such a Savior? Will you not believe in Him? Will you not trust in Him with all your heart and mind? Will you not live for Him? If He laid down His life for us, is it not the least we can do to lay down ours for Him? If He bore the cross and died on it for me, ought I not to be willing to take it up for Him? Oh, have we not reason to think well of Him? Do you think it is right and noble to lift up your voice against such a Savior? Do you think it is just to cry, "Crucify Him! crucify Him!" Oh, may God help all of us to glorify the Father, by thinking well of His only-begotten Son.