A Sermon by Samuel Miller
John 6:37b. Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.
This is one of the most precious texts in the Bible. I do not speak as if any part of that blessed book might be regarded as of little value. It is all “more to be desired than gold, yea than much fine gold”. The believer at least can testify to this. His comprehensive language is that of the Psalmist: “I esteem all Thy precepts concerning all things to be right”, and therefore “I rejoice at Thy word, as one that findeth great spoil”. In his eyes, and in his experience, even the most alarming denunciations of the inspired record are exceeding precious; aye, more precious by far than the most sweetly-distilling accents of mercy to many a heedless ear, for “the full soul loatheth an honeycomb, but to the hungry soul every bitter thing is sweet”. But the single short sentence before us contains so much of the rich marrow and essence of redeeming love that it seems to hold within it the concentrated savour and preciousness of the whole gospel of grace. Take every other verse of the Scriptures away and leave only this, and there is revealed by it a foundation sufficient for a world of souls to build their hopes on and never be put to shame. Let the trembling soul rest firmly on this living rock; then the floods may surge and the storms may beat, earth may scorn and hell may rage, but it cannot perish.
Precious in itself, how much more precious still when standing in connection with other sure words of truth! Join these two texts together and you will see what I mean: “Salvation is far from the wicked”; “Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out”. As thy soul liveth, the first dread word is true; how awfully alarming! But as the Lord liveth, the second glad sound is equally true; how glorious is the news! It is the Lord of glory Himself that speaks it. Would that all would hearken, for He cries to all, “Unto you, O men, I call, and My voice is to the sons of men”.
Impenitent sinners, hear. Whether ye will hear or whether ye will forbear, ye are “nigh unto cursing”, nay, ye are all already under the curse of an insulted God. This is what the Lord of truth says of you, and will you not tremble? But the same Lord in my text says unto you, Come and I will receive you. Will you melt?
Alarmed souls, hear. Are you like the troubled sea that cannot rest? Would you give all the world for a door of acceptance and peace with God? You are just seeking for what the text unfolds. You wish to learn, and here from the Saviour’s own mouth you do learn that you shall not be cast out if you come to Him.
Desponding believers, listen. Are you full of doubts and darkness and perplexity, seeking for an experience of acceptance, and mourning because you have not attained it? Is not Christ’s word fully as trustworthy as your own experience? Cling to that word, as the text declares it, and your experience of its truth must of necessity follow.
Rejoicing saints, attend. Have you “peace in believing”? Are you “rejoicing in hope of the glory of God”? And how do you know that you are not deceiving yourselves with a vain fond fancy? Is it not because the reason of the hope that is in you has its sum and substance in the text? Does not your glad heart ever turn to it and say, I believe what my Saviour spoke – yea, spoke to me: “Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”.
Now in these words we have, first, a person pointed out; second, an assurance given to him. Let us endeavour, as plainly as possible, to open up the Saviour’s words, by illustrating these two points in their order.
1. The person pointed out. The Redeemer describes him briefly as “him that cometh to Me”.
This at once raises the question, What is meant by coming to Christ? The expression is simple, and surely it describes a very simple matter, when even babes and sucklings exemplify it, according to that tender entreaty: “Suffer little children to come unto Me, and forbid them not”. Yet, simple though it be, the carnal heart most grievously mistakes its real meaning, for it is one of those things of the Spirit of God which the natural man understandeth not, neither can he know it, because it is spiritually discerned. O that the Lord Himself would show it unto us and constrain us to do it while I endeavour simply to illustrate:
1. What coming to Christ is not; for a fearfully common and fatal mistake upon this vital matter is that men put the shadow for the substance, the appearance for the reality, the name of the thing for the thing itself. For instance, a sinner may be so far convinced of the necessity and propriety of coming to Christ as to think of setting about it. I will arise and go, says he, but where am I to find Him? And the first ready answer that meets him is, In the Bible. The poor sinner therefore thinks that he has nothing more to do than to “search the Scriptures”. He learns that Christ is to be met with in His Word, and therefore he begins to be somewhat diligent in observing the precept, “Give attendance to reading”. And thus, alas, he satisfies himself that all is well.
But surely there is a fatal error here. The Scriptures are not Christ; they are only “they which testify” of Him, and hence coming to them cannot be the same thing as coming to Him. They point out the Saviour, but going to the finger-post is a very different thing from going to where it points. On every page of the Bible is this inscription, Look to Jesus; but many look at that inscription and read it every day who sadly deceive themselves that, by looking at it, they are looking at Him of whom it speaks. That striking passage, John 5:39,40, has been, and very properly may be translated, “Ye do search the Scriptures . . . but ye will not come to Me that ye might have life”. Just as if the Saviour had said, “Ye do come to My book, but ye will not come to Myself”. An awful word to Bible readers that rest contented with their Bible reading! How many do thus read the Bible to their condemnation! Is it thus with you?
In the same way, since it is most true that the Lord dwells in His holy temple and is assuredly to be found there, many vainly flatter themselves that by coming to the house of God they really come to Christ. And yet is it not contrary to common sense to say, or to suppose, that the house and He that dwells within it are one and the same? Believe me, it is not enough to draw near to the sanctuary; we must draw near to the Lord in the sanctuary. True it is that attendance on the ministrations of the gospel is a graciously appointed means, which God’s blessing makes instrumental in bringing sinners to Jesus. But it is nothing more than a means to an end; it is not the end itself. The end of the gospel is: Come to the means of grace in order that you may be persuaded to come to the fountain of grace; come to His house in order that the voice of love there heard may stir you up to come to Himself; come thus far that you may learn the necessity, the duty, the privilege of coming much farther. With thousands of them that are “heavy laden”, frequenting His courts is all the compliance yielded to the Saviour’s call, “Come unto Me”. Are you among that number?
Think of these solemn texts: “When ye come to appear before Me, who hath required this at your hands, to tread My courts?” “They come unto thee as the people cometh, and they sit before thee as My people, and they hear thy words, but they will not do them.” “This people draw near Me with their mouth, and with their lips do honour Me, but have removed their heart far from Me.” I believe many come to Christ’s ordinances to quiet their consciences for not coming to Christ Himself.
But some perhaps may think: If I come to the throne of grace with praise and prayer, that is surely coming to Christ. Ah, mistake not. Prayer itself is nothing more than an ordinance. The throne of grace is not grace; much less is it the fountain of grace. Put none of the Saviour’s institutions, however blissful they may be, in the place of the Saviour Himself. Prayer is a sweet well of salvation, but it is not salvation – it is not the Saviour. You may come to it, and find it a “fountain sealed”, unless you meet Jesus there to open it unto you. Or you may daily cast your pitcher in, and grow old in drawing nothing up if, in the exercise, you keep at a distance from Christ Himself, who alone can fill it; for He cries, “If any man thirst, let him come unto Me and drink”. Once and for all, let me assure you that it is one thing to cry unto Christ from afar, and it is quite another thing to touch the hem of His garment, having drawn near. True it is that believers are ever coming to Christ in prayer, but it does not follow that every prayer is a real coming to Him. Did David, for example, say in his prayers, I have come? Nay, but his language is, I still draw nigh – “bring me unto Thy holy hill”. So every man of real prayer just uses it as a means, and therefore he is exercised in it as Peter was on the sea, when he cried, “Lord, bid me come unto Thee”. Calling on Him is not necessarily coming to Him, any more than hearing Him call on us.
Nothing, I apprehend, can be more simple and obvious than all this; and yet, in spiritual things, there is nothing to which man is more prone than practically to lose sight of this. In order to rivet it in your minds, turn to Christ’s own personal ministry. Consider the circumstances in which the text was spoken: “Jesus then lifted up His eyes, and saw a great company come unto Him” (v 5). They abode with Him that day, and the day thereafter they followed Him across the sea. They had come to Him in one sense, and yet He still found it needful to bid them come. And have you not read how, on other occasions, they gladly flocked around Him, came at all times and seasons, came to see His wonders, to hear His words, to proclaim His praise, to request His interposition – came in hundreds and in thousands, and stayed with Him for days? And yet it was of these very men that He complained, “Ye will not come unto Me, that ye might have life”. Know ye not of one who came when he was called, sojourned with Him as a friend for three years, learned His precious truth, was taught by Him to pray, shared in His devotions, outwardly obeyed His commands, preached His gospel – perchance to the saving of souls? Yet this was Iscariot who betrayed Him and is gone to his own place as the son of perdition. Can it be said of that disciple that he had really come to Jesus? Yet there are many gospel hearers of whom so much cannot be said as is true of Judas, and still they rebel against the thought that they are in any way as destitute of grace as he.
But let me not be misunderstood. I am far from disparaging means of grace, or undervaluing the diligent use of them. It is a blessed thing to search the Scriptures, to wait on ordinances, to pray. And would to God that gospel despisers were brought to these hallowed exercises. But still I must affirm that it is awful folly to rest satisfied with coming that length and no more. Satan has no objections to bring souls thither, if he can keep them there. It is one of his old devices to bring demoniacs to the synagogue. The carnal heart would wish to quiet both the voice of conscience and the call of Christ: “Hitherto shalt thou come and no further”. Yes, but “no further” is a lie; for those who stop short of Christ cannot stop short of hell.
2. Let us consider what coming to Christ is. Now, remember that when Christ invites the sinner to come, He is addressing the spiritual part of his nature; it is his soul that He would have to come. True compliance with the call is therefore an inward thing; it is an activity of the heart – the arrested and willing affections trooping forth to welcome the Saviour, the heart gushing out to Christ and casting itself wholly and unreservedly on His bosom, crying, “I am Thine, save me”. That is true coming unto Jesus. It is the heart and soul that Christ desires to have, and entreats to come: “My son, give Me thy heart”. Make whatever other approach to the Lord he may, so long as his heart keeps back, the sinner remains at a distance from the Saviour. He may search the Scriptures, he may worship, he may pray, he may spend a lifetime in nothing else, yet if the heart be wandering far away all the while, the character set forth in my text is none of his.
It is obvious therefore that coming to Jesus implies a forsaking of sin. It is plain as day that when a man goes from one city to another, his coming to the second implies his leaving the first. He cannot remain in both, nor divide himself between the two. Now Christ and sin are represented by these two cities. They are as much opposite to each other as east is to west; a coming into the one must imply a coming out of the other. A heart coming to Christ, and yet remaining wedded to sin, is alike a contradiction in terms and an impossibility in fact. He that remains in Sodom can never set foot in Zoar. 2 Corinthians 6:14-18 is very lucid on the subject, for the text has its counterpart in that striking call, “Come out from among them, and be ye separate . . . and I will receive you,” or in no wise cast you out.
Remember that I am speaking of the heart forsaking sin; therefore, do not suppose for a moment that this implies leaving our sin’s guilt behind us in coming to Christ. No, in that sense we must bring our sins with us. We cannot do otherwise. Think not that you must wait till you are free from sin before coming to Jesus; for then you would wait for ever, and never come. We must come as we are, that Christ may cleanse us when we come, for this is one of the chief ends of our coming. Bring your sins with you; Christ charges you to do so, but do not leave your heart behind you with sin.
But some burdened soul may put the question: I feel I cannot forsake my attachment to sin before I come to Christ, and what am I to do? I answer: Most true, nor is it required that you should renounce your love of sin before you come to Him. If you could, you would have but little need of a Saviour; you could be your own. But what I proclaim as the truth of God about coming to Christ is this: that while the one does not go before the other, the one cannot be without the other. They take place together; they are as inseparable as light and the sun. Let me insist upon it. He that comes to Christ must renounce sin by that very coming, else there is no truth in that Scripture, “Your iniquities have separated between you and your God”. The Lord cannot receive and bless the soul that is wedded to, and one with, that sin which grieves His Holy Spirit. Were it otherwise, coming to Jesus would just be insulting His holiness and crucifying Him afresh. “If I regard iniquity in my heart, the Lord will not hear me.”
But still let no one think that he must put away sin first, in order to be in an acceptable condition to come to Christ thereafter. “This man receiveth sinners” is ground sufficient, and the only ground, on which to look for acceptance. Your being a sinner, and thus standing in need of Christ, constitutes your fitness to come to Him for it. Your only, and your sufficient, warrant is His invitation to sinners as they are. His love for sinners as they are ensures your instant welcome. Are you a sinner, loaded and burdened with guiltiness? Come as you are, when you hear Him proclaiming, “I came not to call the righteous, but sinners to repentance”. Delay not in the vain hope of making yourself other than you are, for if you can do so, Christ has died in vain. But think not that you can come to Him and remain as you are, for a real coming is just a renouncing of all unrighteousness. In one word, there is loathing of sin in coming; there is pardon of guilt when we come.
Still further, coming to Christ implies a renouncing of self. This follows of necessity from what has been said, for self-trusting and self-seeking are sin. So long as we trust in our own arm to save, we will never seek after the salvation which Christ offers; and so long as we follow out our selfish ends, we are abiding far, and wandering farther, from Him. What saith the Lord? “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself.” As the soul goes out from the Babylon of sin, so it also goes out from the tottering tabernacle of self-sufficiency, in fleeing to Christ as the strong tower. We cannot betake ourselves to Him without seeing our own emptiness. Coming to receive all from Him implies that we feel our need of all. We must come like the prodigal: yonder “is bread enough and to spare, and I perish with hunger”. It is for lack of this that many come to ordinances, as we have seen, and yet come not to Christ. In self-sufficiency they verily think that, somehow or other, their reading, their worship, their prayers are to save them; that these, their own doings, are in some manner to help them to acceptance with God. It is as if they said, “I will not be cast out because I do these things”, while all the time the true and only because stares them in the face – because Christ hath done all for sinners.
I put it to your consciences: Is not this the natural reasoning of the heart? Even the conscience of the renewed man must answer that he is often tempted by the old man to feel as if observance of duties were to win his way to Jesus and bring down blessings from on high. And yet I put it to the commonest understanding: Is this not robbing Christ of His glory and thinking to take His sceptre of salvation into our own hands. Coming to Christ is just a casting ourselves upon Him in order that He may save, for He alone can. It is not our reading, but finding Christ in the Word read, which profits. It is not our worshipping, but the surrender of ourselves to Christ in the worship, that realizes the blessing. It is not our praying, but Christ’s merits pled in the prayer, that brings down the answer. O that men would remember this, and so, coming out of themselves, would come to Jesus.
Nor is it a less obvious inference from what we have said, that coming to Christ implies “faith which worketh by love”. Does a man, renouncing sin and emptied of self, flee to Christ, and cast himself upon Him? That is just such faith. If he has no love to, nor desire after, the Redeemer, he will never come to Him; but if he has, he will not, he cannot, keep back. Coming to Christ is a coming of the heart – another name for love. Faith establishes a union of the soul to Jesus, surely implying that parties so united have come near. Although so obvious, it is well to insist upon it, that real coming is believing coming. Do you not remember that word: “He that cometh to God must believe that He is”? The whole gospel continually repeats this, but the Saviour’s own personal teaching is specially incessant upon it, for instance: “If any man thirst, let him come into Me and drink. He that believeth on Me . . . out of his belly shall flow rivers of living water” (John 8:37,38). As if He had said, “If you want salvation, come; you have salvation if you believe”. Or again, Peter says, “To whom shall we go? Thou hast the words of eternal life; and we believe and are sure that Thou art that Christ” (vv 68,69). The passage needs no comment. Or even more plainly still, “He that cometh to Me shall never hunger, and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst” (verse 35). And how plainly does verse 36 expound the essence of true coming: “Ye also have seen Me and believed not”; that is, ye have seen Me in your outward coming, but something is lacking in that coming, in that ye believe not. And then comes the text: “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me, and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out”.
The sense of the text therefore is just the same as these: “He that believeth shall not be ashamed”; “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”; “Look unto Me, and be ye saved”; and suchlike gracious assurances. Indeed, it must be so. The Word of God is consistent with itself; it does not attach salvation to things that are different. Yet salvation is coupled with coming, believing, looking – expressions that imply the same divine work of grace. But, remember, it is never said, Read, worship, pray, and ye shall be saved; but salvation is sure, if in these appointed means there be believing, coming, looking.
Behold then the simple, the very simple, gospel plan. Christ is not far from you; He is near. He has come so close to your heart that He is standing at the door and is knocking there even now. What is lacking but that you come and open the door of that heart, and He is yours? Do you say that you cannot come because you cannot change your heart? Ah, Christ’s way of stating it is, “Ye will not come”. It is your will that is awanting; that is the root of your inability. But the gospel meets you here also, for the Lord is ready to work “in you both to will and to do”. Very simple gospel! Very wondrous grace!
1. The first part of a sermon from The Free Church Pulpit, vol 1. Miller (1810-1881) was minister of Monifieth in Angus, and later of St Matthew’s Free Church, Glasgow. The second part of the sermon will be printed next month, DV.