The Ministry of the Son of Man
by J. J. WEST
Preached on Tuesday evening, April 5th, 1859, at All Saint's Church, Spicer Street, London,
I REPEAT that first branch of the text, on which I am now to preach the gospel to you, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto" and I leave it amongst you as a scripture, which, to my mind, cuts up root and branch, the whole system of Arminianism! "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto," but He came, as God and man in one Christ, to do everything in, and for His people! And so the apostle Paul in a sister passage to the church at Ephesus, proclaims the great truth of the gospel, "For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: not of works, lest any man should boast." (Eph. 2:8,9) And if works in the least degree, had anything whatever to do with the salvation of our souls, you and I should be notorious boasters immediately.
But without further preface upon those great words in the text that I have read to you, I proceed, as God shall give me grace to do so, to divide it under a few heads. First of all, I would speak upon the words in the text, "The Son of man." Secondly, that "the Son of man came!" (And though my own heart is full of other subjects with which this verse is pregnant, I do not know that I shall be able, in the short space of one evening's sermon, to preach further than on these two heads!)
Now, what do we understand by the Son of man? What do you, and what do I know of the great and grand doctrine with which the New Testament teems, and with which the prophecies of the Old Testament are pregnant of an incarnate Christ? Isaiah prophetically bursts forth "For unto us a child is born, unto us a Son is given, and the government shall be upon His shoulder." (Isa. 9:6) And the first chapter in the New Testament page declares the actual fulfilment of that prophecy, "And she shall bring forth a Son, and thou shalt call His name Jesus; for He shall save His people from their sins."
My hearers, I confess before you, that my own heart is full of a jealous anxiety to proclaim, during the short hour that I am addressing you in the office of a preacher, of a burning desire to be so gifted, and so enabled, and so graced by the God whom I desire to serve, that I may be made a blessing here to you that speaking, as I hope to do here, to some old soldiers of the cross, I may be made to stir up your pure minds, by way of remembrance upon the great doctrine of the Son of man, as also (if it please my blessed Master now to use me as an instrument), that I may be the means of bringing in some new convert to the fold, and by the preaching of the gospel to pluck some hard-hearted sinner here, as a brand from the fire, and so, instrumentally, be the means of saving you through grace for ever. I have often repeated in this place, my hearers, the great desire that animates my soul, not merely to preach a sermon once a month, but to be made individually, a blessing to you in the preaching of the gospel, that the word may come with such power into your hearts, and that Christ, and Christ's salvation may be so burnt into you, that it may be, as it were, your safety-valve through all the trials and troubles of this time-state, and be a comfort to you every day and every hour.
Now, first of all! "The Son of man!" Well, I cannot imagine,
even if the apostle Paul were standing in the pulpit I occupy, that he could
fully, or adequately, or entirely preach out to you this blessed word, "The
Son of man!"
"As man He fills the throne of God."
Here is the use of the doctrine of the incarnation. I am a guilty man, so are you. I am a hell-deserving man so are you. I have sins enough, from my infancy up to the present moment of time, to condemn me through all eternity; but there is the Son of man, there is Christ, there is the incarnate Redeemer of God's elect, to pluck us as a brand from the fire, the most abandoned sinner in this house of prayer, and save him through His precious blood for ever.
In the service in the desk, my brother read in the passage in the epistle to the Hebrews "Wherefore He is able to save them to the uttermost that come unto God by Him, seeing He ever liveth to make intercession for them." (Heb. 7:25) "He is able to save." My hearers, the church has been saved before all worlds. The church was saved before Adam fell in the garden of Eden. The church, in the purpose of God, was perfectly, entirely, and fully saved, before even sin entered this world. But experimentally, He is an able, an all-sufficient Saviour. We talk of an able man, we talk of an able minister of State! We talk of a man as fit to fill this office and another, and we say, "Such a man is able to fill any situation." But here is a Man who is able to save the guilty, here is a Man who is able to pluck my brother Harris from the hell he deserves, and to save the man in the pulpit who is preaching to you from the curse of a broken law. He is able to save and not only able, He is willing to save! As God He has all power! as Man he is full of compassion! So in that sweet verse in the epistle to the Hebrews "For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted:" (Heb. 2:18) "He knows our infirmities, He remembers that we are dust." So again, Paul writes, "Seeing then that we have a great High Priest, that is passed into the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast our profession. For we have not an high priest which cannot be touched with the feeling of our infirmities, but was in all points tempted like as we are" (Heb. (Heb. 4:14,15)the same temptations, the same trials yet the distinction between the Son of man and of us men is this that He is "without sin," and you and I are full of it.
Now, "the son of man!" God and man in one Christ! He knows our infirmities, He can make allowance for our weakness. Oh, my hearers, do you know what it is (to use the word of a Scotch divine), to be so exercised and tried under a sense of sin, that you are forced to lay yourselves all along upon Christ, the God-man? like a man who is tired after a hard day's work, like a man quite exhausted after labour and fatigue, throws himself upon his bed, and stretches himself there, and sleeps to refresh himself. So the man who is tired out with sin, the man who is agonized with the thought of his own depravity, the man who is fatigued because of his corruptions, throws himself all along upon Christ, and realizes a mighty secret which the professing world knows nothing of "I can do all things through Christ which strengtheneth me." (Phil. 4:13) That is a secret that only the believer knows "which strengtheneth me:" and you remember that other passage in John 15"Without Me ye can do nothing."
But we have another view which comes out of the text before me the Son of man coming. "The Son of man came." Now, what a wonderful message is this. Supposing you Londoners had never heard the gospel before; suppose you were assembled here, in Spicer Street tonight, for the first time in your lives, to hear the words that I am now preaching before you, concerning the Second Person in the Godhead. Do you believe in Deity? Are you sound in the Trinity? I look at this mass of people I do not mean to be uncharitable I would not turn the pulpit into the seat of judgment but are you quite sure that you are all sound in the Trinity? Do you believe the monstrous fact, which nothing but grace can drive into your hearts, that the Second Person in the Godhead was God-Man? Do you believe the Creed, that you have been supposed to repeat after my brother in the desk, or have you only said it as a parrot might be taught to chatter in its cage the same words?
"The Son of man!" Now, I want you to understand the full import of the words I am preaching on. I have only got three or four words deep into my text; "The Son of man came." Do you believe it? May I repeat to you a few more texts backing up what I am preaching on? "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on Him should not perish, but have everlasting life." Do you believe that? And again, "This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptation, that Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief." (1 Tim. 1:15) Do you believe that He came into the world? Do you believe that in mercy and in love He came to seek and save that which was lost? Do you believe another great word by the apostle John, "If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous!" (1 John 2:1) I cannot imagine anything so blessed to the church in her trials, in her exercises, in her difficulties, in all her various temptations and crosses I cannot imagine anything so blessed as the fact, that "we (the church), have an advocate" yet reverentially do I declare to you, that that advocate would have been unavailing, and no more use to me, than one of you men down in the aisle unless he had been God and man in one Christ unless the manhood and Godhead were in Christ, it was the incarnate God-man, Jesus Christ the Son of man who came in the flesh to run (if I may so speak), the gauntlet of the vengeance of God against sin, and to "finish the work which God gave Him to do," (John 17:4) and then, having died on the cross to rise up again, and now to be sessioned at the right hand of God, to plead the cause of such a wretch as I am, before my God in glory! Do we know what an advocate is in a mere earthly sense? Do you know what it is in any important trial, in any great and striking criminal case, for the prisoner to retain the most talented counsel he can engage, to plead his cause before a jury? My hearers, the simile fails me. It is natural that a man accused of some flagrant crime, whose life hangs, as it were, upon a thread, should try to escape death, by getting the most talented counsel at the bar to plead his cause. Have you and I got a councillor, a Pleader, One who never ceases His intercession for His Church and who is pleading now as I am preaching to you (if my Master means to make me an instrument to any of you) that I may be made a messenger to your souls, and that God may by me, send you a message of love and mercy, that He may bring you "to His Banqueting-house, and His banner over you be love?" (Songs 2:4) We know He came, and came for a special purpose, and we know He went away after that wonderful and striking transaction recorded in the gospel, when He took His infant church out to His favourite Bethany, and having blessed His disciples was there parted from them and carried up into heaven, where He is now sessioned at the right hand of God the Father, to plead for you and for me, if we are His people: to plead our cause before His Father.
But another word in the text before me, I am anxious to set before you; being always anxious, whenever I occupy a pulpit, to attack Arminianism! "He came not to be ministered unto." That is, He wants none of your help; your doings are all unavailing, you can do nothing! There is a great deal of busy bodying (if I may so speak) a great deal of Arminianising and free-willing in these days. There is a great deal (I speak it reverently) of making a liar of Christ. But He came not to be ministered unto. You can do nothing for Him. But, my hearers, what is the other word in the text? "but to minister!" What did I come here for tonight? What does my brother in the desk, come into this pulpit for from time to time? Is it not to minister the gospel? You are not to minister to me, but I am to minister to you as an instrument! So Christ "came not to be ministered unto but to minister." And this is what the apostle means when he says, "By grace ye are saved, through faith." (Eph. 2:8) My hearers, the professors of our day what I venture to call the busybodies of 1859may be very active, very zealous, and yet it is all pride. But Christ came not to be ministered unto by them. They can do nothing, they are nothing, they have nothing; and you may depend upon it, no man is commissioned to occupy a pulpit, unless he has been stripped of self; for as good old Berridge says "A man knows nothing of Christ till he has been in the stripping-room," and I would addhad every rag stripped off him; unless, with Toplady, another faithful minister of the Church of England, we can sing, and say, and feel
You can do nothing for God, and every one of you will be damned, unless He does everything for you. "By grace ye are saved, through faith, and that not of yourselves; it is the gift of God." Do you know what it is to have favour, and to be honoured of God; to believe in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Spirit? Are you sound (I ask it again), in the Trinity? Do you feel the force of what I am faithfully, though weakly, endeavouring to preach before you: Have you been in the stripping-room? Have you been emptied of self? Do you know that the Son of Man came not to be ministered unto by you? Oh, the pride of many evangelical professors. They are delighted to be doing (as they suppose) something for God. But the point is, has God done anything for you? That is the distinction between the Protestant church, and the Popish church. If Cardinal Wiseman were standing in this pulpit (if it were possible) he would set you doing something. I tell you, as a Protestant minister, that you can do nothing. I tell you that God will work His own work in you, without any of your help. "All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me" (says Christ) "and him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out." The distinction between Protestantism and Popery is this, that Popery says the sinner begins with God, and Protestantism says, God begins with the sinner. The Papist says the sinner comes to God for life, the Protestant declares that he works from life. Turn to the 14th chapter in the first book of Samuel "Then said Jonathan, My father hath troubled the land, see, I pray you, how mine eyes have been enlightened, because I tasted a little of this honey." Did you catch that word I say? the enlightening of the eye? And have you ever tasted of the honey that Jonathan tasted, and has it opened your eyes? Let me urge you to read the two sermons we have had in the desk; 1 Samuel 14, and Hebrews 7, before you go to bed. You cannot read my sermon, unless someone is taking it down, and then you may, someday, read it afterwards.
But I must hasten on. "The Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister;" to minister salvation to, and to work out salvation for, hell-deserving sinners. Who is it that can send a minister to preach the gospel? I hold firmly the orders of the Church of England, I value the form but the power and authority to make a minister is of God; He only can make a man preach the gospel who made the world. I read, in the written word "The Holy Ghost said, Separate me, Barnabas and Saul, for the work whereunto I have called them;" (Acts 13:2) and unless a man is sent by the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel, he may preach till his tongue falls out, but he will never be made a blessing to his fellow-men. It is grace that makes a man preach, and it is grace that makes a man hear. It is grace that fits us for the pulpit; it is grace that opens your ears in those pews, to receive the message of love and mercy we proclaim. Augustus Toplady, when he was preaching in his own church at Bradhembury, where he had so few to hear him, and when his heart failed within him at times, at the empty pews, Toplady said (or words to this effect), "I should not despond, for there never was an instance of a minister sent by the Holy Ghost to preach the gospel, whether to a crowded church, or only to half-a-dozen people in some secluded hamlet in the country, but what angels formed a part of his auditory, and the holy and eternal Trinity, Father, Son, and Spirit, were hanging upon the lips of mortal man." And I believe, as firmly as that I am standing in this pulpit, that if I am preaching the truth to you, and that if God means to bless one man or woman in this House of prayer, the Holy Ghost is speaking by me, to you, and that this text is accomplished in the part of it that I am speaking to you now, by my tongue tonight; and that He is ministering now to you, by the word that I am preaching.
Now I come to the last part of the text before me what He has given for His church, "His life." Do you hear me? "His life!" It was not taken from Him. Do you remember the stirring verse in the Acts of the Apostles "Him being delivered by the determinate counsel and foreknowledge (or foreappointment) of God, ye have taken, and by wicked hands have crucified and slain." (Acts 2:23) There was the foreappointment of God, of the death of His own Son. He gave "His life" as in that passage that I have quoted before, "For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish but have everlasting life." Arminians, and all the heretics of the day, and the whole tribe of free-willers, call upon their hearers to repent, and pray, and believe, and to do this, to do that, and to do the other, but I have no authority to do so. As Dr. Hawker said, "God's commandings are enablings." When God means a man to repent, He makes him. But the Arminians do not like that. I delight, as a churchman, to know that our own Article cuts up root and branch the doctrine of free-will. My hearers, is it not a striking fact, that Christ came down Himself to minister? Who has taken on Himself "the form of a servant," and became obedient unto death, even the death of the cross; (Phil. 2:7,8) "Who has given His life a ransom for many," and Who is the shelter, and refuge, and stronghold of His church. He has "given His life a ransom for many." Now what has He given His life for? A ransom! "He has redeemed us from death." As Hart in one of his hymns sings "Redeemed, by Jesus' blood redeemed." What was the great argument used by the apostle Paul to the church at Corinth? "Ye are bought with a price, therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God's." (1 Cor. 6:20) I have no doubt that many say of my brother in the desk (as they say of me) that he is an Antinomian. It is this charge that is brought against me in my own parish at Winchelsea. But, my hearers, while I insist upon it, that a man can do nothing to save his soul; while I insist upon it, that salvation is all of grace without any works whatever, yet I am bound to exhort the people of God to be "careful to maintain good works," but not to depend upon them. No merit in the creature, no merit in any works; and yet, whenever Christ has taken possession of a man's heart, there will be a desire to obey God, and it will be a test of discipleship, that whenever we fall short in moral conduct there is a blush upon our hearts and we are ashamed of ourselves, as Kent says:
"He gave His life a ransom for many!" not for all. Do you value me as a faithful preacher? Then listen to the word; not to my word, but to God's word; and as Kent, in one of his hymns says
Some people cannot trust God! Some people are so vaccinated with Arminianism that they cannot trust God! But what says the word? "My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me, and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, neither shall any pluck them out of My hand." (John 10:27,28) "My Father which gave them Me is greater than all, and none is able to pluck them out of my Father's hand; I and my Father are one." (John 10:29,30) Now mark the words: "He gave His life a ransom for many!" gave His life! "And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all unto me." (John 12:32) Not all men; that is not in the Greek. You will see the word "men" is in italics. "I will draw all unto Me," all My church, all My elect, all My redeemed people, all the men and women for whom I died upon the cross, all for whom I gave My life a sacrifice. Talk of human love! I remember, years ago, when I was preaching in that still remembered church, St. Augustines (when Mr. Shutte had it) we used to sing that sweet hymn
A husband loves his wife; a wife loves her husband; a mother loves her sucking child; a child by instinct clings to its mother's bosom, and yet that love may wax cold in those bosoms but nothing can ever quench the love of God. "Many waters cannot quench love, neither can the floods drown it."
"He gave His life a ransom for many." My hearers it is only once a month that I preach before you in London. I am speaking, I suppose, to all sorts and conditions of men. I am addressing rich men and poor men. I am addressing, in all probability, professing men; and quite feel I am addressing also some possessing men. And let me ask whether, amidst the hurry and worry of commerce and trade, amidst the bustle of London life and London occupations, whether you ever think, whether you ever make a moment (there is no Arminianism in this), whether you ever fence off a solemn five minutes to contemplate behind your counters, or in your Counting-houses, the wonderful fact that the God-Man "gave His life a ransom for many" and have you ever asked whether He gave that life for you?
If you say that in earnest you are safe for ever. As Toplady says,
Now the ransom! "He gave His life a ransom for many." "I will ransom them from the power of the grave, I will redeem them from death." Oh, my hearers, let me speak to the old soldiers of the cross. Do you know what it is to enjoy a little of the Goshen of a gospel love? of the green pastures where God manifests His presence and His love to you? And do you feel sensibly the misery, and trouble, and anxiety, and harassing of getting into Egypt again? Remember, it is very easy to have a gospel head, but have you got a broken heart? It is very easy to possess a legal spirit, but is "Christ formed in you the hope of glory?" (Col. 1:27) A valued friend of mine says, speaking of the preaching of experience, "You find the church moves very slowly in experimentality?" But let me ask, Do you "grow in grace? do you increase in a knowledge of God?" Do you feel that you know that promise in the gospel, "Because I live ye shall live also?" (John 14:19) It was a rebuke of the Lord to one in the gospel (of Luke), "Martha, Martha, thou art careful and troubled about many things, but one thing is needful and Mary hath chosen that good part which shall not be taken away from her." (Luke 10:41,42)
Now take this text as a whole, "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many." This, to my view, destroys all Arminianism! It destroys everything like creature doing, and creature merit; and tells the listening, waiting church of God, that she must be ministered unto in every way, that she cannot help herself to anything
Men of business! listen to me, and love me for speaking plainly to you there is only "one thing needful." We read the other day in the newspaper of a noble marquis in Ireland, who in strong health in the morning, drove out of his stable-yard to go fox-hunting (the fact may be used as an illustration from the pulpit), his favourite hunters sent on to cover. But oh! what an eventful day was that to him. His horse simply stumbled and fell. It was no bold riding; it was no desperate leap; his horse simply stumbled over a stone and fell threw the rider and he died. He was brought back to his house, and to his Marchioness, a cold, dead corpse. Now I ask, Are you prepared to die? That noble lord is gone to his account. He is gone, but you and I are still spared. Was it not the case also with one of the greatest ministers England ever had, the late Sir Robert Peel, that he met his death by no violent means, but by his horse (his favourite horse too) stumbling and throwing the rider? Now I say to the mass of people assembled in the pews, the aisles, and the galleries, if any of you should drop down dead as you go home tonight, are you fit to die? Let each one ask himself the question. Listen to me
This is not setting up a high standard! Are you now "no more strangers and foreigners, but fellow citizens with the saints and of the household of God?" Are you now members of God's family? Have you become experimentally, one of God's citizens? Are you built upon the foundation of the apostles and prophets, "Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone." (Eph. 2:19,20)
Oh that the glorious God-Man that I am now preaching of before you He who "gave His life a ransom for many;" He who came to minister to His own people, and to save and redeem them each and all from sin and death and hell that He may now bless this text, experimentally to your souls, open it up to you, and in you, more powerfully than I can do; and may it edify and comfort, and establish and strengthen you in your inmost souls, and His shall be all the glory "Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give His life a ransom for many."
May God bless the gospel, for Jesus Christ's sake. Amen.