A man when he says |I will,| may not mean much. We very often say |I will,| when we don't mean to fulfil what we say; but when we come to the |I will| of Christ, He means to fulfil it. Everything He has promised to do, He is able and willing to accomplish; and He is going to do it. I cannot find any passage in Scripture in which He says |I will| do this, or |I will| do that, but it will be done.
1. The |I Will| of Salvation.
The first |I will| to which I want to direct your attention, is to be found in John's gospel, sixth chapter and thirty-seventh verse: |Him that cometh unto Me I will in no wise cast out.|
I imagine someone will say, |Well, if I was what I ought to be, I would come; but when my mind goes over the past record of my life, it is too dark. I am not fit to come.|
You must bear in mind that Jesus Christ came to save not good people, not the upright and just, but sinners like you and me, who have gone astray, and sinned and come short of the glory of God. Listen to this |I will| -- it goes right into the heart -- |Him that cometh unto Me, I will in no wise cast out.| Surely that is broad enough -- is it not? I don't care who the man or woman is; I don't care what their trials, what their troubles, what their sorrows, or what their sins are, if they will only come straight to the Master, He will not cast them out. Come then, poor sinner; come just as you are, and take Him at His word.
He is so anxious to save sinners, He will take everyone who comes. He will take those who are so full of sin that they are despised by all who know them, who have been rejected by their fathers and mothers, who have been cast off by the wives of their bosoms. He will take those who have sunk so low that upon them no eye of pity is cast. His occupation is to hear and save. That is what He left heaven and came into the world for; that is what He left the throne of God for -- to save sinners. |The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost.| He did not come to condemn the world but that the world through Him might be saved.
A wild and prodigal young man, who was running a headlong career to ruin came into one of our meetings in Chicago. The Spirit of God got hold of him. Whilst I was conversing with him, and endeavoring to bring him to Christ, I quoted this verse to him.
I asked him: |Do you believe Christ said that?|
|I suppose He did.|
|Suppose He did! do you believe it?|
|I hope so.|
|Hope so! do you believe it? You do your work, and the Lord will do His. Just come as you are, and throw yourself upon His bosom, and He will not cast you out.|
This man thought it was too simple and easy.
At last light seemed to break in upon him, and he seemed to find comfort from it. It was past midnight before he got down on his knees, but down he went, and was converted. I said:
|Now, don't think you are going to get out of the devil's territory without trouble. The devil will come to you to-morrow morning, and say it was all feeling; that you only imagined you were accepted by God. When he does, don't fight him with your own opinions, but fight him with John 6:37: 'Him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.' Let that be the 'sword of the Spirit.'|
I don't believe that any man ever starts to go to Christ, but the devil strives somehow or other to meet him and trip him up. And even after he has come to Christ, the devil tries to assail him with doubts, and make him believe there is something wrong in it.
The struggle came sooner than I thought in this man's case. When he was on his way home the devil assailed him. He used this text, but the devil put this thought into his mind: |How do you know Christ ever said that after all? Perhaps the translators made a mistake.|
Into darkness he went again. He was in trouble till about two in the morning. At last he came to this conclusion. Said he:
|I will believe it anyway; and when I get to heaven, if it isn't true, I will just tell the Lord I didn't make the mistake -- the translators made it.|
The kings and princes of this world, when they issue invitations, call round them the rich, the mighty and powerful, the honorable and the wise; but the Lord, when He was on earth; called round Him the vilest of the vile. That was the principal fault the people found with Him. Those self-righteous Pharisees were not going to associate with harlots and publicans. The principal charge against Him was: |This man receiveth sinners and eateth with them.| Who would have such a man around him as John Bunyan in his time? He, a Bedford tinker, couldn't get inside one of the princely castles. I was very much amused when I was over on the other side. They had erected a monument to John Bunyan, and it was unveiled by lords and dukes and great men. While he was on earth, they would not have allowed him inside the walls of their castles. Yet he was made one of the mightiest instruments in the spread of the Gospel. No book that has ever been written comes so near the Bible as John Bunyan's |Pilgrim's Progress.| And he was a poor Bedford tinker. So it is with God. He picks up some poor, lost tramp, and makes him an instrument to turn hundreds and thousands to Christ.
George Whitefield, standing in his tabernacle in London, and with a multitude gathered about him, cried out: |The Lord Jesus will save the devil's castaways!|
Two poor abandoned wretches standing outside in the street, heard him, as his silvery voice rang out on the air. Looking into each other's faces, they said: |That must mean you and me.| They wept and rejoiced. They drew near and looked in at the door, at the face of the earnest messenger, the tears streaming from his eyes as he plead with the people to give their hearts to God. One of them wrote him a little note and sent it to him.
Later that day, as he sat at the table of Lady Huntington, who was his special friend, someone present said:
|Mr. Whitefield, did you not go a little too far to-day when you said that the Lord would save the devil's castaways?|
Taking the note from his pocket he gave it to the lady, and said: |Will you read that note aloud?|
She read: |Mr. Whitefield: Two poor lost women stood outside your tabernacle to-day, and heard you say that the Lord would save the devil's castaways. We seized upon that as our last hope, and we write you this to tell you that we rejoice now in believing in Him, and from this good hour we shall endeavor to serve Him, who has done so much for us.|
2. The |I Will| of Cleansing.
The next |I will| is found in Luke, fifth chapter. We read of a leper who came to Christ, and said: |Lord, if Thou wilt, Thou canst make me clean.| The Lord touched him, saying, |I will: be thou clean|; and immediately the leprosy left him.
Now if any man or woman full of the leprosy of sin read this, if you will but go to the Master and tell all your case to Him, He will speak to you as He did to that poor leper and say. |I will: be thou clean,| and the leprosy of your sins will flee away from you. It is the Lord, and the Lord alone, who can forgive sins. If you say to Him, |Lord, I am full of sin; Thou canst make me clean|; |Lord, I have a terrible temper; Thou canst make me clean|; |Lord, I have a deceitful heart. Cleanse me, O Lord; give me a new heart. O Lord, give me the power to overcome the flesh, and the snares of the devil!|; |Lord, I am full of unclean habits|; if you come to Him with a sincere spirit, you will hear the voice, |I will; be thou clean.| It will be done. Do you think that the God who created the world out of nothing, who by a breath put life into the world -- do you think that if He says, |Thou shalt be clean,| you will not?
Now, you can make a wonderful exchange to-day. You can have health in the place of sickness; you can get rid of everything that is vile and hateful in the sight of God. The Son of God comes down, and says, |I will take away your leprosy, and give you health in its stead. I will take away that terrible disease that is ruining your body and soul, and give you my righteousness in its stead. I will clothe you with the garments of salvation.|
Is it not wonderful? That's what He means when He says -- I will. Oh, lay hold of this |I will!|
3. The |I Will| of Confession.
Now turn to Matthew, tenth chapter, thirty-second verse: |Whosoever therefore shall confess Me before men, him will I confess also before my Father which is in heaven.| There's the |I will| of confession.
Now, that's the next thing that takes place after a man is saved. When we have been washed in the blood of the Lamb, the next thing is to get our mouths opened. We have to confess Christ here in this dark world, and tell His love to others. We are not to be ashamed of the Son of God.
A man thinks it a great honor when he has achieved a victory that causes his name to be mentioned in the English Parliament, or in the presence of the Queen and her court. How excited we used to be during the war, when some general did something extraordinary, and someone got up in Congress to confess his exploits; how the papers used to talk about it! In China, we read, the highest ambition of the successful soldier is to have his name written in the palace or temple of Confucius. But just think of having your name mentioned in the kingdom of heaven by the Prince of Glory, by the Son of God, because you confess Him here on earth! You confess Him here; He will confess you yonder.
If you wish to be brought into the clear light of liberty, you must take your stand on Christ's side. I have known many Christians go groping about in darkness, and never get into the clear light of the kingdom, because they were ashamed to confess the Son of God. We are living in a day when men want a religion without the cross. They want the crown, but not the cross. But if we are to be disciples of Jesus Christ, we have to take up our crosses daily -- not once a year, or on the Sabbath, but daily. And if we take up our crosses and follow Him, we shall be blessed in the very act.
I remember a man in New York who used to come and pray with me. He had his cross. He was afraid to confess Christ. It seemed that down at the bottom of his trunk he had a Bible. He wanted to get it out and read it to the companion with whom he lived, but he was ashamed to do it. For a whole week that was his cross; and after he had carried the burden that long, and after a terrible struggle, he made up his mind. He said, |I will take my Bible out tonight and read it.| He took it out, and soon he heard the footsteps of his mate coming upstairs.
His first impulse was to put it away again, but then he thought he would not -- he would face his companion with it. His mate came in, and seeing him at his Bible, said,
|John, are you interested in these things?| |Yes,| he replied.
|How long has this been, then?| asked his companion.
|Exactly a week,| he answered; |for a whole week I have tried to get out my Bible to read to you, but I have never done so till now.|
|Well,| said his friend, |it is a strange thing. I was converted on the some night, and I too was ashamed to take my Bible out.|
You are ashamed to take your Bible out and say, |I have lived a godless life for all these years, but I will commence now to live a life of righteousness.| You are ashamed to open your Bible and read that blessed Psalm, |The Lord is my Shepherd, I shall not want.| You are ashamed to be seen on your knees. No man can be a disciple of Jesus Christ without bearing His cross. A great many people want to know how it is Jesus Christ has so few disciples, whilst Mahomet has so many. The reason is that Mahomet gives no cross to bear. There are so few men who will come out to take their stand.
I was struck during the American war with the fact that there were so many men who could go to the cannon's mouth without trembling, but who had not courage to take up their Bibles to read them at night. They were ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, which is the power of God unto salvation. |Whosoever therefore shall confess me before men, him will I confess also before My Father which is in heaven. But whosoever shall deny Me before men, him will I also deny before My Father which is in heaven.|
4. The |I Will| of Service.
The next I will is the |I will| of service.
There are a good many Christians who have been quickened and aroused to say, |I want to do some service for Christ.|
Well, Christ says, |Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.|
There is no Christian who cannot help to bring someone to the Savior. Christ says, |And I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me|; and our business is just to lift up Christ.
Our Lord said, |Follow Me, Peter, and I will make you a fisher of men|; and Peter simply obeyed Him, and there, on that day of Pentecost, we see the result. Peter had a good haul on the day of Pentecost. I doubt if he ever caught so many fish in one day as he did men on that day. It would have broken every net they had on board, if they had had to drag up three thousand fishes.
I read some time ago of a man who took passage in a stage coach. There were first, second and third-class passengers. But when he looked into the coach, he saw all the passengers sitting together without distinction. He could not understand it till by-and-by they came to a hill, and the coach stopped, and the driver called out, |First-class passengers keep their seats, second-class passengers get out and walk, third class passengers get behind and push.| Now in the Church we have no room for first-class passengers -- people who think that salvation means an easy ride all the way to heaven. We have no room for second class passengers -- people who are carried most of the time, and who, when they must work out their own salvation, go trudging on giving never a thought to helping their fellows along. All church members ought to be third class passengers -- ready to dismount and push all together, and push with a will. That was John Wesley's definition of a church -- |All at it, and always at it.| Every Christian ought to be a worker. He need not be a preacher, he need not be an evangelist, to be useful. He may be useful in business. See what power an employer has, if he likes! How he could labor with his employees, and in his business relations! Often a man can be far more useful in a business sphere than he could in another.
There is one reason, and a great reason, why so many do not succeed. I have been asked by a great many good men, |Why is it we don't have any results? We work hard, pray hard, and preach hard, and yet the success does not come.| I will tell you. It is because they spend all their time mending their nets. No wonder they never catch anything.
The great matter is to hold inquiry meetings, and thus pull the net in, and see if you have caught anything. If you are always mending and setting the net, you won't catch many fish. Whoever heard of a man going out to fish, and setting his net, and then letting it stop there, and never pulling it in? Everybody would laugh at the man's folly.
A minister in England came to me one day, and said, |I wish you would tell me why we ministers don't succeed better than we do.|
I brought before him this idea of pulling in the net, and I said, |You ought to pull in your nets. There are many ministers in Manchester who can preach much better than I can, but I pull in the net.|
Many people have objections to inquiry meetings, but I urged upon him the importance of them, and the minister said,
|I never did pull in my net, but I will try next Sunday.|
He did so, and eight persons, anxious inquirers, went into his study. The next Sunday he came down to see me, and said he had never had such a Sunday in his life. He had met with marvelous blessing. The next time he drew the net there were forty, and when he came to see me later, he said to me joyfully,
|Moody, I have had eight hundred conversions this last year! It is a great mistake I did not begin earlier to pull in the net.|
So, my friends, if you want to catch men, just pull in the net. If you only catch one, it will be something. It may be a little child, but I have known a little child to convert a whole family. You don't know what is in that little dull-headed boy in the inquiry-room; he may become a Martin Luther, a reformer that shall make the world tremble -- you cannot tell. God uses the weak things of this world to confound the mighty. God's promise is as good as a bank note -- |I promise to pay So-and-So,| and here is one of Christ's promissory notes -- |If you follow Me, I will make you fishers of men.| Will you not lay hold of the promise, and trust it, and follow Him now?
If a man preaches the Gospel, and preaches it faithfully, he ought to expect results then and there. I believe it is the privilege of God's children to reap the fruit of their labor three hundred and sixty five days in the year.
|Well, but,| say some, |is there not a sowing time as well as harvest?|
Yes, it is true, there is; but then, you can sow with one hand, and reap with the other. What would you think of a farmer who went on sowing all the year round, and never thought of reaping? I repeat it, we want to sow with one hand, and reap with the other; and if we look for the fruit of our labors, we shall see it. |I, if I be lifted up, will draw all men unto Me.| We must lift Christ up, and then seek men out, and bring them to Him.
You must use the right kind of bait. A good many don't do this, and then they wonder they are not successful. You see them getting up all kinds of entertainments with which to try and catch men. They go the wrong way to work. This perishing world wants Christ, and Him crucified. There's a void in every man's bosom that wants filling up, and if we only approach him with the right kind of bait, we shall catch him. This poor world needs a Savior; and if we are going to be successful in catching men, we must preach Christ crucified -- not His life only but His death. And if we are only faithful in doing this, we shall succeed. And why? Because there is His promise: |If you follow Me, I will make you fishers of men.| That promise holds just as good to you and me as it did to His disciples, and is as true now as it was in their time.
Think of Paul up yonder. People are going up every day and every hour, men and women who have been brought to Christ through his writings. He set streams in motion that have flowed on for more than a thousand years. I can imagine men going up there, and saying, |Paul, I thank you for writing that letter to the Ephesians; I found Christ in that.| |Paul, I thank you for writing that epistle to the Corinthians.| |Paul, I found Christ in that epistle to the Philippians.| |I thank you, Paul, for that epistle to the Galatians; I found Christ in that.| And so, I suppose, they are going up still, thanking Paul all the while for what he had done. Ah, when Paul was put in prison he did not fold his hands and sit down in idleness! No, he began to write; and his epistles have come down through the long ages of time, and brought thousands on thousands to a knowledge of Christ crucified. Yes, Christ said to Paul, |I will make you a fisher of men if you will follow Me,| and he has been fishing for souls ever since. The devil thought he had done a very wise thing when he got Paul into prison, but he was very much mistaken; he overdid it for once. I have no doubt Paul has thanked God ever since for that Philippian gaol, and his stripes and imprisonment there. I am sure the world has made more by it than we shall ever know till we get to heaven.
5. The |I Will| of Comfort.
The next |I will| is in John, fourteenth chapter, verse eighteen: |I will not leave you comfortless.|
To me it is a sweet thought that Christ has not left us alone in this dark wilderness here below. Although He has gone up on high, and taken His seat by the Father's throne, He has not left us comfortless. The better translation is, |I will not leave you orphans.| He did not leave Joseph when they cast him into prison. |God was with him.| When Daniel was cast into the den of lions, they had to put the Almighty in with him. They were so bound together that they could not be separated, and so God went down into the den of lions with Daniel.
If we have got Christ with us, we can do all things. Do not let us be thinking how weak we are. Let us lift up our eyes to Him, and think of Him as our Elder Brother, who has all power given to Him in heaven and on earth. He says: |Lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world.| Some of our children and friends leave us, and it is a very sad hour. But, thank God, the believer and Christ shall never be separated! He is with us here, and we shall be with Him in person by and by, and shall see Him in His beauty. But not only is He with us, but He has sent us the Holy Ghost. Let us honor the Holy Ghost by acknowledging that He is here in our midst. He has power to give sight to the blind, liberty to the captive, and to open the ears of the deaf that they may hear the glorious words of the Gospel.
6. The |I Will| of Resurrection.
Then there is another I will in John, sixth chapter, verse forty; it occurs four times in the chapter: |I will raise him up at the last day.|
I rejoice to think that I have a Savior who has power over death. My blessed Master holds the keys him, and I got more comfort out of that promise |I will raise him up at the last day,| than anything else in the Bible. How it cheered me! How it lighted up my path! And as I went into the room and looked upon the lovely face of that brother, how that passage ran through my soul: |Thy brother shall rise again.| I said, |Thank God for that promise.| It was worth more than the world to me.
When we laid him in the grave, it seemed as if I could hear the voice of Jesus Christ saying, |Thy brother shall rise again.| Blessed promise of the resurrection! Blessed |I will!| |I will raise him up at the last day.|
7. The |I Will| of Glory.
Now the next I will is in John, seventeenth chapter, twenty-fourth verse: |Father, I will that they also, whom Thou hast given Me, be with Me where I am.|
This was in His last prayer in the guest-chamber, on the last night before He was crucified and died that terrible death on Calvary. Many a believer's countenance begins to light up at the thought that he shall see the King in His beauty by and by. Yes; there is a glorious day before us in the future. Some think that on the first day we are converted we have got everything. To be sure, we get salvation for the past and peace for the present; but then there is the glory for the future in store. That's what kept Paul rejoicing. He said, |These light afflictions, these few stripes, these few brickbats and stones that they throw at me -- why, the glory that is beyond excels them so much that I count them as nothing, nothing at all, so that I may win Christ.| And so, when things go against us, let us cheer up; let us remember that the night will soon pass away, and the morning dawn upon us. Death never comes there. It is banished from that heavenly land. Sickness, and pain, and sorrow, come not there to mar that grand and glorious home where we shall be by and by with the Master. God's family will be all together there. Glorious future, my friends! Yes, glorious day! and it may be a great deal nearer than many of us think. During these few days we are here let us stand steadfast and firm, and by and by we shall be in the unbroken circle in yon world of light, and have the King in our midst.