Master Sermon List
Will Ye Also Go Away?
by Robert Murray M'Cheyne
"From that time many of his disciples went back, and walked no more with him. Then said Jesus unto the twelve, Will ye also go away? Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life. And we believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." John 6:66-69
We will consider three lessons brought before us here.
I. Lesson. Many who seem to be disciples of Christ, go back, and walk no more with Jesus.
This is a very solemn truth, and may probably answer the case of some who are this day hearing me. Observe, it is said twice over that there were many who went back. If there were many then, it is likely there will be many now.
1. Many follow Christ for a time, but are stumbled when they hear they must come to personal union with Christ.
(1) So it was here. A great many were now following Christ in addition to the twelve apostles. They were evidently much taken with Christ; they called him a prophet; they wanted to make him a king; they followed him across the sea; and yet, when he told them that he was the bread of heaven, they murmured, when he told them that they must eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life, they said: "This is a hard saying;" and it was for this reason they turned back, and walked no more with Jesus.
(2) So it is now. A great many persons are much taken with Christ; they have some anxiety about their souls; they follow anxiously after the preaching of the Word; but when we show them that Christ is the bread of heaven-that they must have a personal closing with Christ, as much as if they were to eat his flesh and drink his blood, these souls say: "It is a hard saying, who can hear it?" By and by, they are offended, they believe not, they go back, and walk no more with Jesus. Is any of you who are hearing me in this condition? Oh! think again, I beseech you, before you go back. Oh! seek the teaching of God, and he will show you that none of Christ's sayings are hard sayings, but that they are all sweet and easy. When the heart of a poor Indian was brought under the teaching of God, he said: "Some people complain that the Bible is a hard book; but I have not read so far as to find it a hard book. To me it is all sweet and easy."
2. Many follow Christ for a time, but when they are told that Christ must dwell in them, they go back, and walk no more with Jesus.
(1) So it was here. The multitude that followed Christ were pleased with a great many things in him. When he fed them with the five barley loaves and the two fishes, they said: "Lord, it is good for us to be here", "This is in truth that prophet that should come into the world." And again, when Jesus told them of bread from heaven that would give life, they said most de-voutly: "Lord, evermore give us this bread." But, when Christ said: "He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, dwelleth in me, and I in him," by and by they were offended. When he told them that he would be their life, and would dwell in them, they said: "It is a hard saying, who can hear it?" They believed not, they went back, and walked no more with Jesus.
(2) So it was in some measure with Nicodemus. When he regarded Christ as a worker of miracles, this drew the heart of the Jewish ruler, and he said to him: "Rabbi, we know thou art a teacher come from God." But when Jesus told him that he must be born again, must be indwelt by the unseen Spirit of God, Nicodemus found it a hard saying: "How can a man be born when he is old?" And again: "How can these things be?"
(3) So now, many persons are much taken with Christ. They are anxious about their souls for a time: and they see some glimpses of Christ as a Saviour. They love to hear the Word; "it is like a very lovely song of one that hath a pleasant voice, and can play well on an instrument;" but when Christ says: "Ye must be born again", "He that eateth me, even he shall live by me", they say: "This is a hard saying, who can hear it?" 1st, They never saw the Spirit, and they say: "How can these things be?" This is one of your mysteries. Therefore, they go hack, and walk no more with Jesus. Is any hearing me in this condition? Oh! think a moment before you go back: "Oh! fools, and slow of heart to believe all that is written concerning Jesus." Why should you stumble at the blessed word: "He that eateth me shall live by me?" True, you never saw the Spirit; yet trust the word of him that cannot lie. You never saw the wind, and yet you spread the sail; so trust to that Spirit, though you never saw him. 2nd, Some of you may fear that if it be true, then you would be deprived of some of your darling pleasures, your heart would be changed, and you would no more have a relish for your present enjoy-ments; therefore you go back, and walk no more with Jesus. Oh! how the devil blinds your understanding. Do you not see, that if you lose your relish for your present joys, it will be because you have got a taste for higher and sweeter? You might as wisely refuse to drink better wine, because you would thereby lose your relish for the worse. Oh! the joys of the Holy Ghost are sweeter than all the pleasures of sin. It is wine on the lees, well refined. "Woe unto thee, O Jerusalem! wilt thou not be made clean? When shall it once be?"
3. Many are awakened to follow Christ, but when they find that they must be drawn to Christ, that all is of free grace, by and by they are offended.
(1) So here, the persons that had followed Christ had been laborious and painstaking in following him, they had crossed the sea, and listened to his words for many days together; and doubtless they began to think they had done well, and that they were worthy to be saved for the pains they had taken. But when Jesus told them that salvation was of mere grace, that they were helpless sinners, and needed still to be drawn to Christ by the mere good pleasure of the Father, this offended them to the quick, they turned back, and walked no more with Jesus.
(2) So now, many persons set out in religion, thinking that they shall soon bring themselves into a converted state. They take great pains in religion; they confess the sins of their past life, and stir up grief in their hearts because of them; they wait patiently on ordinances, and take much pains to work the works of God: but when they find out that they are not a whit nearer being saved than when they began, when they are told they must be drawn to Christ, that God is not obliged to save them, that they deserve nothing at i hand but a place in hell, that if ever they are saved, it is of mere free grace, then they are offended. They cannot bear this kind of preaching; they go back, and walk no more with Jesus. Is an hearing me in this condition? Alas! proud sinner, stop one moment before you leave the divine Saviour. Is it a hard saying, that a infinitely hateful rebel and worm should be unable to buy Christ with so many tears and prayers? Listen here to two words of warning:,
1st, Many go so far with Christ, who do not go the whole way. Many hear Christ's words for a time with joy and eagerness, who yet are offended by them at last. This is a solemn warning. Do no think you are a Christian because you sit and listen to the words of Christ. Do not think you are a Christian because you have some pleasure in the words of Christ. Many are called, few are chosen. Many went back, and only twelve remained. So doubtless it will be found among you. Those only are Christians who feed upon Christ, and live by him.
2nd, Those that go back generally walk no more with Jesus. Perhaps they did not intend to bid an eternal farewell to the Saviour. Perhaps they said as they retired, I will go home and think about it; I will hear him again concerning this matter. At a more convenient season I will follow him. But, alas! that season never came, they walked no more with Jesus. Take warn-ing, dear friends, you that are anxious about your souls. Oh! do not be easily offended. Do not lose a sense of your lost condition. Oh! do not grow careless of your Bible and the means of grace. Oh! do not go back to the company of sinners. These are all marks of one who is going back from Jesus. Wait patiently for the Lord until he incline his ear and hear your cry. Still press to hear the words of Jesus. Still cry for the teaching Spirit. "If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him", "No man having put his hand to the plough, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
II. Lesson. The careful anxiety of Christ lest his own true disciples should go away:
"Then said Jesus to the twelve, Will ye also go away?" (Verse 67.)
I have no doubt the heart of Jesus was grieved when the multitude went away, and walked no more with him. That good Shepherd never yet saw a lost sheep running on to destruction, but his heart bled for it: "O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, how often would I have gathered thy children together!" He could see all the future history of these men, how they would lose all their impressions, how they would harden in their sins, now, like a rolling snowball, they would gather more and more wrath around them, and I doubt not, he wept in secret over them, and said: "If ye had known, even you, the things which belong unto your peace; but now they are hid from your eyes." He traced their history up to that hour when he would say: "Depart from me." But however much Christ grieved over their departure, this only fanned the flame of his love to his own, so that he turned round and said: "Will ye also go a way?"
1. Observe how much love there is in these words. When the crowd went away he did not cry after them, his soul was grieved, but he spoke not a word; but when his own believing disciples were in danger of being led away, he speaks to them: "Will ye also go away?", ye whom I have chosen, ye whom I have washed, ye whom I have sanctified and filled with hopes of glory, "Will ye also go, away?" Oh! see, Christians, how anxiously Christ watches over you. He is walking in the midst of the seven golden candlesticks, and his word is: "I know thy works." He watches the first decaying of the first love. He speaks aloud: "Will ye also go away?"
2. Observe, Christ keeps his disciples from backsliding, by putting the question to them: "Will ye also go away? "It is probable that some of the twelve were inclining to go away with the rest. We are often deceived by example, carried away from Christ before we think of it: but Christ wakens us by the question: "Will ye also go away?" Think of this question, you that have known Christ, and yet are going back to sin and the world. May God write it on your hearts: "Will ye also go away?" Christians, if you would keep this word in your heart, it would keep you from the thought going away.
III. Lesson. A true believer has none to go to but Christ.
Both the Bible and experience testify, that believers do often times go away from Christ. The same lips that said: "My Lord, and my God," are often found saying: "I will go after my lovers." But this passage plainly shows that it needs but the word of the tender Saviour to reach the heart of the backslider, and he says: "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Two reasons are here given why the believer cleaves to Christ.
1. "Thou hast the words of eternal life." To unconverted minds the words of Christ are hard sayings; to his own, they are tried words, words of eternal life. The very thing that drives the world away from Christ, draws his own disciples closer and closer to him. The world are offended when Christ says we must eat his flesh, it is a word of eternal life to the Christian. The world go away when they hear of Christ dwelling in the soul, the Christian draws nearer, and says: Lord, evermore dwell in me. The world walk no more with Jesus when they hear, It is all of grace, the Christian bows in the dust, and blesses God, who alone has made him to differ: "Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life." Dear friends, try yourselves by this. Are the words of Christ to you hard sayings, or are they the words of eternal life? Oh! may God enable you to judge fairly of your case.
2. "We believe and are sure that thou art that Christ, the Son of the living God." Ah! it is this that rivets the believing soul to Christ, the certain conviction that Christ is a divine Saviour. If Christ were only a man like ourselves, then how could he be a surety for us? He might suffer in the stead of one man, but how could he suffer in the stead of thousands? Ah! but I believe and am sure that he is the Son of the living God, and therefore I know he is a sufficient surety for me. To whom else can I go for pardon? If Christ were only a man like ourselves, then how could he dwell in us, or give the Spirit to abide with us for ever? But we believe and are sure that he is that Christ, the Son of the living God, and therefore we know he is able to dwell in us, and put the Spirit in us for ever. To whom, then, can I go for a new heart but unto Christ? O dear brethren! have you been thus taught?, then blessed are ye; "for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto you, but my Father which is in heaven." Hold fast by this sure faith, you cannot be too sure, and then you will never, never go away from Christ.
Some of you are very wavering in your life, like a wave of the sea, driven with the wind and tossed; at one time cast upon the shore, at another time running back into the sea. There is no decision about your Christianity or about your holiness. Why is this? It is unbelief. Oh! if you would believe and be sure, then you would never depart from him. You would say: "To whom shall we go? because thou hast the words of eternal life."