"If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."--I COR. xvi: 22.
The smallest lad in the house knows the meaning of all those words except the last two, Anathema Maranatha. Anathema, to cut off. Maranatha, at His coming. So the whole passage might be read: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be cut off at His coming." Well, how could the tender-hearted Paul say that? We have seen him with tears discoursing about human want, and flushed with excitement about human sorrow; and now he throws those red-hot iron words into this letter to the Corinthians. Had he lost his patience? Ok, no. Had he resigned his confidence in the Christian religion? Oh, no. Had the world treated him so badly that he had become its sworn enemy? Oh, no. It needs some explanation, I confess, and I shall proceed to show by what process Paul came to the vehement utterance of my text. Before I close, if God shall give His Spirit, you shall cease to be surprised at the exclamation of the Apostle, and you yourselves will employ the same emphasis, declaring, "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."
If the photographic art had been discovered early enough, we should have had the facial proportions of Christ--the front face, the side face, Jesus sitting, Jesus standing--provided He had submitted to that art; but since the sun did not become a portrait painter until eighteen centuries after Christ, our idea about the Saviour's personal appearance is all guess work. Still, tradition tells us that He was the most infinitely beautiful being that ever walked our small earth. If His features had been rugged, and His gait had been ungainly, that would not have hindered Him from being attractive. Many men you have known and loved have had few charms of physiognomy. Wilberforce was not attractive in face. Socrates was repulsive. Suwarrow, the great Russian hero, looked almost an imbecile. And some whom you have known, and honored, and loved, have not had very great attractiveness of personal appearance. The shape of the mouth, and the nose, and the eyebrow, did not hinder the soul from shining through the cuticle of the face in all-powerful irradiation.
But to a lovely exterior Christ joined all loveliness of disposition. Run through the galleries of heaven, and find out that He is a non-such. The sunshine of His love mingling with the shadows of His sorrows, crossed by the crystalline stream of His tears and the crimson flowing forth of His blood, make a picture worthy of being called the masterpiece of the eternities. Hung on the wall of heaven, the celestial population would be enchanted but for the fact that they have the grand and magnificent original, and they want no picture. But Christ having gone away from earth, we are dependent upon four indistinct pictures. Matthew took one, Mark another, Luke another, and John another. I care not which picture you take, it is lovely. Lovely? He was altogether lovely.
He had a way of taking up a dropsical limb without hurting it, and of removing the cataract from the eye without the knife, and of starting the circulation through the shrunken arteries without the shock of the electric battery, and of putting intelligence into the dull stare of lunacy, and of restringing the auditory nerve of the deaf ear, and of striking articulation into the stiff tongue, and of making the stark-naked madman dress himself and exchange tombstone for ottoman, and of unlocking from the skeleton grip of death the daughter of Jairus to embosom her in her glad father's arms. Oh, He was lovely--sitting, standing, kneeling, lying down--always lovely.
Lovely in His sacrifice. Why, He gave up everything for us. Home, celestial companionship, music of seraphic harps, balmy breath of eternal summer, all joy, all light, all music, and heard the gates slam shut behind Him as He came out to fight for our freedom, and with bare feet plunged on the sharp javelins of human and satanic hate, until His blood spurted into the faces of those who slew Him. You want the soft, low, minor key of sweetest music to describe the pathos; but it needs an orchestra, under swinging of an archangel's baton, reaching from throne to manger, to drum and trumpet the doxologies of His praise. He took everybody's trouble--the leper's sickness, the widow's dead boy, the harlot's shame, the Galilean fisherman's poor luck, the invalidism of Simon's mother-in-law, the sting of Malchus' amputated ear.
Some people cry very easily, and for some it is very difficult to cry. A great many tears on some cheeks do not mean so much as one tear on another cheek. What is it that I see glittering in the mild eye of Jesus? It was all the sorrows of earth, and the woes of hell, from which He had plucked our souls, accreted into one transparent drop, lingering on the lower eyelash until it fell on a cheek red with the slap of human hands--just one salt, bitter, burning tear of Jesus. No wonder the rock, the sky, and the cemetery were in consternation when He died! No wonder the universe was convulsed! It was the Lord God Almighty bursting into tears. Now, suppose that, notwithstanding all this, a man can not have any affection for Him. What ought to be done with such hard behavior?
It seems to me that there ought to be some chastisement for a man who will not love such a Christ. Does it not make your blood tingle to think of Jesus coming over the tens of thousands of miles that seem to separate God from us, and then to see a man jostle Him out, and push Him back, and shut the door in His face, and trample upon His entreaties? While you may not be able to rise up to the towering excitement of the Apostle in my text, you can at any rate somewhat understand his feelings when he cried out: "After all this, 'if a man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.'"
Just look at the injustice of not loving Him. Now, there is nothing that excites a man like injustice. You go along the street, and you see your little child buffeted, or a ruffian comes and takes a boy's hat and throws it into the ditch. You say: "What great meanness, what injustice that is!" You can not stand injustice. I remember, in my boyhood days, attending a large meeting in Tripler Hall, New York. Thousands of people were huzzaing, and the same kind of audiences were assembled at the same time in Boston, Edinburgh, and London. Why? Because the Madaii family, in Italy, had been robbed of their Bible. "A little thing," you say. Ah, that injustice was enough to arouse the indignation of a world. But while we are so sensitive about injustice as between man and man, how little sensitive we are about injustice between man and God. If there ever was a fair and square purchase of anything, then Christ purchased us. He paid for us, not in shekels, not in ancient coins inscribed with effigies of Hercules, or AEgina's tortoise, or lyre of Mitylene, but in two kinds of coin--one red, the other glittering--blood and tears! If anything is purchased and paid for, ought not the goods to be delivered? If you have bought property and given the money, do you not want to come into possession of it? "Yes," you say, "I will have it. I bought and paid for it." And you will go to law for it, and you will denounce the man as a defrauder. Ay, if need be, you will hurl him into jail. You will say: "I am bound to get that property. I bought it. I paid for it!"
Now, transpose the case. Suppose Jesus Christ to be the wronged purchaser on the one side, and the impenitent soul on the other, trying to defraud Him of that which He bought at such an exorbitant price, how do you feel about that injustice? How do you feel toward that spiritual fraud, turpitude and perfidy? A man with an ardent temperament rises and he says that such injustice as between man and man is bad enough, but between man and God it is reprehensible and intolerable, and he brings his fist down on the pew, and he says: "I can stand this injustice no longer. After all this purchase, 'if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha'!"
I go still further, and show you how suicidal it is for a man not to love Christ. If a man gets in trouble, and he can not get out, we have only one feeling toward him--sympathy and a desire to help him. If he has failed for a vast amount of money, and can not pay more than ten cents on a dollar--ay, if he can not pay anything--though his creditors may come after him like a pack of hounds, we sympathize with him. We go to his store, or house, and we express our condolence. But suppose the day before that man failed, William E. Dodge had come into his store and said: "My friend, I hear you are in trouble. I have come to help you. If ten thousand dollars will see you through your perplexity, I have a loan of that amount for you. Here is a check for the amount of that loan." Suppose the man said: "With that ten thousand dollars I could get through until next spring, and then everything will be all right; but, Mr. Dodge, I don't want it; I won't take it; I would rather fail than take it; I don't even thank you for offering it." Your sympathy for that man would cease immediately. You would say: "He had a fair offer; he might have got out; he wants to fail; he refuses all help; now let him fail." There is no one in all this house who would have any sympathy for that man.
But do not let us be too hasty. Christ hears of our spiritual embarrassments, he finds that we are on the very verge of eternal defalcation. He finds the law knocking at our door with this dun: "Pay me what thou owest."
We do not know which way to turn. Pay? We can not pay a farthing of all the millions of obligation. Well, Christ comes in and says: "Here is My name; you can use My name. Your name would be worthless, but My red handwriting on the back of this obligation will get you through anywhere." Now suppose the soul says: "I know I am in debt; I can't meet these obligations either in time or eternity; but, oh, Christ, I want not Thy help; I ask not Thy rescue. Go away from me." You would say: "That man, why, he deserves to die. He had the offer of help; he would not take it. He is a free agent; he ought to have what he wants; he chooses death rather than life. Ought you not give him freedom of choice?" Though awhile ago there was only one ardent man who understood the Apostle, now there are hundreds in the house who can say, and do say within themselves: "After all this ingratitude, and rejection, and obstinacy, 'if any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha.'"
I go a step further, and say it is most cruel for a man not to love Jesus. The meanest thing I could do for you would be needlessly to hurt your feelings. Sharp words sometimes cut like a dagger. An unkind look will sometimes rive like the lightning. An unkind deed may overmaster a sensitive spirit, and if you have made up your mind that you have done wrong to any one, it does not take you two minutes to make up your mind to go and apologize. Now, Christ is a bundle of delicacy and sensitiveness. How you have shocked His nerves! How you have broken His heart!
Did you, my brother, ever measure the meaning of that one passage: "Behold, I stand at the door and knock"? It never came to me as it did this morning while I was thinking on this subject. "Behold, I stand at the door and knock." Some January day, the thermometer five degrees below zero, the wind and sleet beating mercilessly against you, you go up the steps of a house where you have a very important errand. You knock with one knuckle. No answer. You are very earnest, and you are freezing. The next time you knock harder. After awhile with your fist you beat against the door. You must get in, but the inmate is careless or stubborn, and he does not want you in. Your errand is a failure. You go away.
The Lord Jesus Christ comes up on the steps of your heart, and with very sore hand he knocks hard at the door of your soul. He is standing in the cold blasts of human suffering. He knocks. He says: "Let me in. I have come a great way. I have come all the way from Nazareth, from Bethlehem, from Golgotha. Let Me in. I am shivering and blue with the cold. Let Me in. My feet are bare but for their covering of blood. My head is uncovered but for a turban of brambles. By all these wounds of foot, and head, and heart, I beg you to let Me in. Oh, I have been here a great while, and the night is getting darker. I am faint with hunger. I am dying to get in. Oh, lift the latch--shove back the bolt! Won't you let Me in? Won't you? 'Behold, I stand at the door and knock!'"
But after awhile, my brother, the scene will change. It will be another door, but Christ will be on the other side of it. He will be on the inside, and the rejected sinner will be on the outside, and the sinner will come up and knock at the door, and say: "Let me in, let me in. I have come a great way. I came all the way from earth. I am sick and dying. Let me in. The merciless storm beats my unsheltered head. The wolves of a great night are on my track. Let me in. With both fists I beat against this door. Oh, let me in. Oh, Christ, let me in. Oh, Holy Ghost, let me in. Oh, God, let me in. Oh, my glorified kindred, let me in." No answer save the voice of Christ, who shall say: "Sinner, when I stood at your door you would not let Me in, and now you are standing at My door, and I can not let you in. The day of your grace is past. Officer of the law, seize him." And while the arrest is going on, all the myriads of heaven rise on gallery and throne, and cry with loud voice, that makes the eternal city quake from capstone to foundation, saying: "If any man love not the Lord Jesus Christ, let him be Anathema Maranatha."
Sabbath audience in the Brooklyn Tabernacle, and all to whom these words shall come on both sides the sea, notice here the tremendous alternative: it is not whether you live in Pierrepont Street or Carlton Avenue, walk Trafalgar Square or the "Canongate;" nor whether your dress shall be black or brown; nor whether you shall be robust or an invalid; nor whether you shall live on the banks of the Hudson, the Shannon, the Seine, the Thames, the Tiber; but it is a question whether you will love Christ or suffer banishment; whether you will give yourselves to Him who owns you or fall under the millstone; whether you will rise to glories that have no terminus or plunge to a depth which has no bottom. I do not see how you can take the ten-thousandth part of a second to decide it, when there are two worlds fastened at opposite ends of a swivel, and the swivel turns on one point, and that point is now, now. Is it not fair that you love Him? Is it not right that you love Him? Is it not imperative that you love Him? What is it that keeps you from rushing up and throwing the arms of your affection about His neck?
My text pronounces Anathema Maranatha upon all those who refuse to love Christ. Anathema--cut off. Cut off from light, from hope, from peace, from heaven. Oh, sharp, keen, sword-like words! Cut off! Everlastingly cut off! Behold, therefore, the goodness and severity of God: on them which fell, severity; but toward thee, goodness, if thou continue in His goodness; otherwise thou also shalt be cut off. Maranatha--that is the other word. "When he comes" is the meaning of it.
Will He come? I see no signs of it. I looked into the sky as I rode down to church. I saw no signs of the coming. No signal of God's appearance. The earth stands solid on its foundation. No cry of welcome or of woe. Will He come! He will. Maranatha! Hear it ye mountains, and prepare to fall. Ye cities, and prepare to burn. Ye righteous, and prepare to reign. Ye wicked, and prepare to die. Maranatha! Maranatha!
But, oh, my brother, I am not so aroused by that coming as I am by a previous coming, and that is the coming of our death hour, which will fix everything for us. I can not help now, while preaching, asking myself the question--Am I ready for that? If I am ready for the first I will be ready for the next. Are you ready for the emergency? Shall I tell you when your death hour will come? "Oh, no," says some one, "I don't want to know. I would rather not know." Some one says: "I would rather know, if you can tell me." I will tell you. It will be at the most unexpected moment, when you are most busy, and when you think you can be least spared. I can not exactly say whether it will be in the noon, or at the sundown when people are coming home, or in the morning when the world is waking up, or while the clock is striking twelve at night. But I tell you what I think, that with some of you it will be before next Saturday night.
A minister of the Gospel said to an audience: "Before next Sabbath some of you will be gone." And a man said during the week: "I shall watch now, and if no one dies in our congregation during this week I shall go and tell the minister his falsehood." A man standing next to him said: "Why, it may be yourself." "Oh, no," he replied; "I shall live on to be an old man." That night he breathed his last.
Standing before some who shall be launched into the great eternity, what are your equipments? About to jump, where will you land? Oh, the subject is overwhelming to me; and when I say these things to you, I say them to myself. "Lord, is it I? Is it I?" Some of us part to-night never to meet again. If never before, I now here commit my soul into the keeping of the Lord Jesus Christ. I throw my sinful heart upon His infinite mercy. But some of you will not do that. You will go over to the store to-morrow, and your comrades will say: "Where were you yesterday?" You will say: "I heard Talmage preach, and I don't believe what he preaches." And you will go on and die in your sins.
Feeling that you are bound unto death eternal I solemnly take leave of you. Be careful of your health, for when your respiration gives out all your good times will have ended. Be careful in walking near a scaffold, for one falling brick or stone might usher you into the great eternity for which you have no preparation. A few months, or weeks, or days, or hours will pass on, and then you will see the last light, and hear the last music, and have the last pleasant emotion, and a destroyed eternity will rush upon you. Farewell, oh, doomed spirit! As you shove off from hope, I wave you this last salutation. Oh, it is hard to part forever and forever! I bid you one long, last, bitter, eternal adieu!