THE TREE OF LIFE by
Daily Cleansing, or
Christ Washing His Disciples Feet
"Jesus knew that the Father had put all things under his
power, and that he had come from God and was returning to God; so he got up
from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his
waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his
disciples' feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him."
I have remarked, in a previous part of this work, that
never did the sympathy of Christ appear more true than when, suffused with
tears, He bent over the grave of Bethany. I may observe, with equal truth,
that never did His humility appear more like itself as when the impressive
act transpired which is now to engage our study- His washing the feet of His
Our Lord's life was a practical gospel. He was no mere theorist. He
embodied every doctrine He taught, illustrated every precept He enforced,
fulfilled every command He enjoined, and was, in a word, a living,
practical, exemplification of His own gospel. With what confidence He could
meekly say to His disciples, "Learn of me."
Let us now direct our devout attention, as the Spirit of God shall enable
us, to this marvellous and most instructive incident in His life. Christ
washing His disciples' feet, as teaching the necessity of our daily
cleansing. The chief interest of this wondrous picture gathers around its
Central Object. And who is He? It is Jesus. We measure the condescension of
an act by the rank of the person from whom it emanates. And yet it is
possible for such an individual to occupy a false position. He may so far
forget what is due to his station as to demean himself unworthily. Oblivious
of all self-respect, he may so lower himself as to deprive the act to which
he stoops of all true condescension on his part. So far from its being an
attribute of greatness, challenging our admiration, it may be but an
expression of littleness awakening our contempt.
Apply this reasoning to the present act of Christ washing His disciples'
feet. It was no false position which He now occupied. In the eyes of man it
may have been regarded as despised- in the estimation of a proud Oriental,
as the act of a slave- but viewed in all its bearings, the Person, the,
occasion, and its significance, it presents our Lord in one of His most
truer and dignified position.
Glance at the expressions which conduct us to this conclusion: "Jesus
knowing that the Father had given all things into His hands." There was no
forgetfulness of His personal dignity on the part of Jesus: He knew, who,
and what He was at the moment that He stooped to perform the most menial
service of His life. He knew that "the Father had given all things into His
A precious truth meets us here. All things were given to Him as Mediator.
All power, all authority, all wealth, all grace, all worlds, all beings, the
whole elect Church of God, were by the Father placed in the hands of Jesus.
And yet at the very moment that He possessed all this opulence, He was, as
man, poor, friendless, homeless, and had nowhere to lay His head!
If this be the mediatorial wealth of Christ, then let us repair to Him
for all that we need. Pharaoh placed all the resources of Egypt in the hands
of his prime-minister, and when the people in their hunger cried to him for
food, he Said, "Go to Joseph." And thus God has dealt with Jesus. He has
deposited all the unsearchable riches of grace and glory in the hands of His
beloved Son, in whom it "pleased the Father that all fulness should dwell."
And when we need grace and strength, wisdom, comfort, and counsel, as we do
each moment and for every circumstance, God's command is, "Go to Jesus." If
all things were given by the Father into His hands as the Mediatorial Head
of His Church, it was not for Himself, but for His Church, for whom He was
thus appointed the Trustee and Guardian; and we are warranted, no, invited,
to repair to Christ; that out oŁ His fulness we may receive grace to help in
every time of need. Yes, the grant of the Father to Christ is comprehensive
and illimitable. "The, salvation of the Church, the government of the world,
the final judgment of all men, and the universal supremacy of his kingdom,
in its millennial glory- all, all is given into the hands of our Savior.
Our Lord then alludes to His mission to our world. "Jesus knowing that He
had come from God." Here was another evidence of His dignity. He had come
from a pre-existent state, and from a heaven of glory; on a mission of mercy
to man. Behold low low He stooped! He who bowed to bathe the feet of His
disciples, bowed the heavens and came down on an embassy of love! Yes, of
love! He came not to roll the thunder and to flash the lightning of God's
wrath, but to proclaim the fact and to breath the accents of Hits mercy.
He came not as a judge but as a Savior, not to condemn but to save. Here
is salvation for the vilest, pardon for the guiltiest, hope for the most
despairing. If the Spirit of God has shown to yourself, has revealed to you
the plague spot of sin, and has filled you with self-abhorrence and
sin-loathing, then Jesus came from God for the express purpose of saving
you. Having done all the work, completely accomplishing His mission from the
Father, He issued a proclamation which He commanded should be made known to
all the world, extending a free pardon to every sinner who will accept in
penitence and faith the great salvation that God has provided for the chief
of sinners. What glad tidings for poor, self-destroyed souls do these words
contain- "Not by works of righteousness which we have done, but according to
His mercy He saved us, by the washing of regeneration and renewing of the
Holy Spirit." Cast yourself in faith upon His mercy in Christ Jesus, and you
As if to add the completing link to the chain of evidence touching His
dignity, reference is then made to His return to His glory. "And went to
God." His ascension into heaven, His return back to the kingdom and the
glory which for a while He relinquished, was as much His right as God, as it
was His reward as man. "What if you see the Son of Man ascend to where he
was before!" "Jesus said, "I am returning to my Father and your Father, to
my God and your God "
The atoning work was done, the victim slain, the sacrifice offered, the
oblation accepted, and every claim of God's government met, and now the
great High Priest returns to heaven and enters into the holiest to present,
as the ground of His intercession, His own sacrifice for sin on behalf of
His elect. Such is He whom now we are studying, from whom we are to learn
one of the lowliest acts and one of the holiest lessons of our Christian
"He poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples' feet,
drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him." Look at the act
first as setting forth a doctrine- the doctrine of the Atonement. There
cannot be a doubt but that our Lord intended by this to impress His
disciples with the importance, of 'the blood-cleansing of which they stood
in need; without which they could have no part with Him. The Atonement is so
great, essential, and precious a truth. It is the central doctrine of the
Bible- that our Lord made every act of His life a finger-post pointing to
this fact. "without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness." No
pardon of sin; no cancelling of guilt; no covering of transgression, without
BLOOD. There must be Atonement. The death of Christ supplies it. His blood,
containing all the virtue of the Godhead, possesses a moral and sovereign
efficacy. It is the only thing in the universe that really, savingly touches
sin. Sin is the greatest evil. Sin is the vilest, darkest, most dreadful
thing. It laughs to scorn all expedients to cleanse, to subdue, to
annihilate it, but the atoning blood of the Son of God- before this it
trembles and falls! Brought into believing contact with this, its, guilt
disappears, its stain vanishes, its power is conquered, and its every threat
of condemnation is hushed in the music of the cross!
Remember the words of Jesus- "If I wash you not, you have no part with
Me." No part with Christ in His obedience and sufferings, no part with Him
in His great salvation, no part with Him in the glory into which He has
entered, no part with Him when He shall come in all the majesty and triumph
of His kingdom, unless we are washed in His blood "If I wash you not, you
have no part with Me." My reader, are you washed in this blood? Have you
bathed in this fountain? Has it cleansed you from all sin? Remember, it is
the blood that gives you union with Christ, He cannot unite Himself with a
soul which He has not first washed. He can have no union with uncleansed,
Washed in the fountain of His blood, you have a part with Christ in His
sufferings now, and will have a part in the glory of His second Coming. Oh
the purification this blood of Christ imparts, the peace it speaks, the
confidence it inspires, the hope, the blessed, hope, it reveals to faith's
eye! Who enlightened by the Spirit, with such a sovereign remedy for sin,
with such an effectual balsam for the wounded conscience, with a truth so
heaven-assuring, would toil and labor and strive to work a salvation of his
own? Away with your own works, lay down your deadly doings, cast overboard
your oars, wash and be cleansed, believe be saved!
But this lowly act of Christ had a preceptive, as well as a doctrinal
significance. It is intended to inculcate the precept of daily cleansing; of
humility. Here was the Infinite Majesty of heaven, the Maker of all worlds
and the Creator of all beings stooping to wash the feet of His disciples!
What a needed precept, what a holy lesson this! The pride of our hearts is
the deep-rooted evil of our depraved nature. It is perpetually cropping up-
notwithstanding all the prunings by which God seeks to keep it down, and lay
it low. Its forms are many, its name is ' legion.' There is the pride of
ancestry, the pride of rank, the pride of wealth, the pride of place, the
pride of intellect, and the worst of all pride, the pride of
self-righteousness. There is nothing too little and trivial with which pride
will not plume itself. It can find its nourishment in a fine dress, in a
beautiful face, in a splendid mansion, in tasteful furniture, in a rare
piciure, in any work of man's device- "the lust of the eyes and the pride of
life." No, more, it will engraft itself upon our holy things. From hence
springs what is termed 'spiritual pride.'
What but pride of heart keeps you from coming to Christ to be saved just
as you are? What but pride refuses the salvation of God upon His own terms?
You are willing to receive it as a purchase- your pride of heart scornfully
rejects it as a gift. If you can but do some little thing yourself- if you
may but be a partner in the matter- merit it in some degree, be worthy of it
in some shape, supplementing the work by some doing of your own, you are
then prepared to be saved. Your pride rises in opposition to a free-grace
salvation -it refuses to take its place by the side of the poor, the blind,
the naked, the bankrupt, and to cry with them, "God be merciful to me a
Pride compasses you about as with a chain; and that chain, unless broken
by the power of God, will bind you down to regions of eternal despair! But
if you are saved by Christ, the pride of your heart, rising in rebellion
against the doctrine of a gratuitous salvation, must be brought down,
mortified, and slain root and branch. Christ, must receive all the honor and
glory of emancipating you from your sins, of delivering you from
condemnation, and of bringing you to heaven. And well does He deserve that
glory! He has fulfilled the law to the utmost- has paid the last farthing of
the debt- has honored the Divine government- has vindicated the Divine
glory- has secured to Jehovah's great Name endless anthems of praise from
countless tongues of ransomed sinners! Do you think then, O sinner, that He
will allow one thread of your filthy rags to be woven with the divine and
pure robe of His righteousness? Do you think that He will permit one single
doing of yours to be added to the work which He finished on the cross when
He bowed His head and died? Will He admit you to participate in the honor,
divide the glory, share the crown of that wondrous redemption which He
achieved on Calvary! Never! But one note shall rise, but one song shall be
heard in Heaven- "Worthy is the Lamb!" And, oh, how worthy will Jesus
be of every note of music, of every act of adoration, of every expression of
love, and of every diadem laid at His feet!
Believer in Jesus! does not your spirit pant to love Him and to adore Him
and to serve Him as the spirits freed from sin and sorrow in heaven do? But
wait patiently your time. A little more service for Christ, a little more
suffering with Christ, a little more glory brought to Christ, a little more
conformity to Christ, a few more trials, a few more conflicts, and then the
angel chariot will descend and escort you up to Him you love, and so shall
you be forever with the Lord!
We trace, too, the working of this pride of the human heart in the
bearing of the Lord's people under the Divine dispensations. How resisting
under the yoke, how rebellious against the discipline! And when the strong
staff is broken, and the beautiful flower is plucked, and the sparkling
stream is dried, we question the wisdom and faithfulness and love of Him who
has done it, and so pride covers us as with a garment, and binds us as with
But the grace of Christ is all-sufficient, and the believing soul will be
entirely emptied, root and branch, of this hideous, this God-abhorring sin
before it reaches that bright and holy world where all bow in the
profoundest humility before the throne of God, and all the glory of the
creature is lost in the splendor of the Lamb!
How much sinful, hateful pride of heart is intermixed with all our
service for Christ! We are proud of our spiritual gifts and graces, proud of
our ecclesiastical place and power, proud of our popularity and usefulness,
we taint and shade and mar all we do for God. How little of that
self-abnegation which led the great apostle of the Gentiles to exclaim,
"Though I am nothing;" and of another to say, "After we have done all, we
are but unprofitable servants." And yet another- "The latchet of whose shoes
I am not worthy to untie." Oh, were it not for atoning blood, the blood that
washes our holy as our unholy things, 'spiritual pride' would hurl us from
our lofty temple-pinnacle of power and glory into the nethermost abyss of
How much, too, does this pride of the human heart exhibit itself in our
carriage towards the Lord's people? To how great and painful a degree does
class religion and ecclesiastical caste prevail in the Church of God! and
Christian community, or, what is so beautiful in its conception but so
imperfect in its practice, "the communion of saints," is sadly marred
thereby. How much stateliness of bearing and haughtiness of spirit, what
coldness and restraint, what distrust, misinterpretation, and judging, what
isolation and distance traces the conduct of many of God's people towards
Alas! how little of the spirit that stoops to wash the disciples' feet-
in other words, how little of the mind that was in Christ Jesus! God enable
us to learn this holy lesson!
But let us view this marvellous and expressive act of Jesus in another
point of light. "He pours water into a basin, and began to wash the
disciples' feet." And first, who were those disciples upon whom this
wonderful condescension was bestowed? Were they in any degree worthy of such
a marked distinction? Had they merited this refreshment from the. hand of
their Divine Master? Quite the contrary. They had proved themselves utterly
undeserving of so distinguished a favor.
One of them was about to deny Him, a second was plotting His betrayal,
while all of them had just murmured at the costly box of fragrant ointment
with which a holy woman, as an expression of the depth and sincerity of her
love, had poured upon His head. Yet, behold the Son of God, forgetful of all
this denying, this treachery, and this ingratitude- rising from supper,
laying aside His garment, and pouring water into a basin, washes His
disciples' feet! Oh, how the grace of the Savior beams forth from this
wonderful act! How great the love that could tide over all this base
unworthiness, effacing, as it were, every record from His memory. Such is
Jesus now! He is immutably the same. His love to sinners is as deep as ever,
His grace is as overflowing as ever, His condescension is as great as ever.
We have no sin which He will not obliterate, no sorrow which He will not
compassionate, no infirmity which He will despise, no need which lie will
not supply, no act of lowliness to which He will not stoop.
But turn to the holy need which our Lord now enforces- the need of daily
cleansing. What member of the body did our Lord wash? This part of the
narrative is most significant. It was not the head, nor the hand, nor the
whole body, but it was the feet. How impressive and important the teaching
conveyed by this fact! It suggests one of the most necessary and holy
engagements of the Christian's life- the washing of the feet, after the
bathing of the body. The believing soul has already been washed, not in the
laver of baptism, but in the fountain of Christ's blood, and his "body
washed with pure water" emblematic of the sanctifying grace of the Spirit.
But here is another, a continuous, and daily washing enjoined- the
washing of the feet. We all know that the feet are that part of the person
which- because of their literal and constant contact with the earth, need
the daily ablution. Now, when Jesus performed this lowly act, He sought to
illustrate the necessity of the believer's renewed cleansing each day of his
heavenly travel. Our Christian walk is kept pure and unsullied only as the
feet, symbolic of that walk, are brought, into habitual contact with atoning
It was a quaint but true remark of a puritan divine, "The devil lets no
saint reach heaven with-clean feet." His meaning is obvious. In the separate
paths we tread, and in the several engagements in which we are occupied- be
it business, or recreation, or communion, o rChristian service, or religious
duty- we touch that fearful, that all-defiling thing, sin and need the
blood. So polluted and polluting are all created things that, after our
day's travel, we need to wash our feet, that we array keep ourselves
"unspotted from the world."
Who that takes account of daily omissions, and commissions, the things
which he has done and the things which he has left undone- the Bible slurred
over, devotions slovenly performed, duties imperfectly discharged, mis-used
riches, misspent time, double aims, self-interest, self-gratification,
self-glory sought, un-guardedness of speech, ebullitions of temper, the
little that has been really said and done promotive of God's glory- Who, I
say, that closely scrutinizes his daily Christian walk, finds not out that
he NEEDS daily to wash his feet- thus having his feet shod with the
preparation (or preparedness) of the gospel of peace.
You Christian men of business, look well to this! You cannot retire from
your place of trade, your round of professional life; into the tranquil
bosom of your homes, into the more hallowed stillness of your closet, and
solemnly reviewing the day's history, not feel the necessity of loosening
the sandal and washing in the blood that cleanses from all sin. Let not the
necessity of repeated and daily ablution discourage your continuous coming.
Come by night- by day- come with the failure of your holy, and with the
guilt of your unholy things- come, though you have a thousand times before,
wash and be clean! He who washed the feet of His disciples, knew the
necessity of repeated cleansing. The Fountain is an open one for this very
purpose! Come without one fear of being upbraided for having come before, or
of one chiding for the infirmity or the sin that brings you again."
"So shall your walk be close with God,
Calm and serene your frame;
So pure a light shall mark the road
That leads you to the Lamb."
The relation of this daily feet-washing with our
religious progress, is close and essential. A habitual acknowledgment of
sin, and a constant recurrence to the Sacrifice that removes it, are among
the most powerful as the most precious preservatives in the way of holiness.
These are most sanctifying engagements. They keep the heart in close
communion with itself, and, in closer communion with Christ. They promote
wakefulness of conscience, tenderness of spirit, hatred of sin,
watchfulness, and humility of walk.
And, just as the turf which fringes the fountain and is washed by its
spray, always blooms with life and beauty, so the heart that builds its home
fast by the Fountain of Calvary will ever exhibit the quickening,
sanctifying influence of the blood in its daily and constant application.
Would we "walk in newness of life" -would we "walk not after the flesh
but after the Spirit" -would we "walk worthy of the calling with which we
are called"-would we "walk wisely, not as fools" -would we "walk worthy of
the Lord, unto all pleasing, being fruitful in every good work, and
increasing in the knowledge of God" -in a word, would we walk with Jesus in
white, we must bring our FEET daily to Him to be cleansed, saying to every
sinful allurement that would sincerely turn us from the way of holiness, "I
have washed my FEET, how shall I defile them?" (Song of Sol. 5:3)
While upon this subject of washing, let me earnestly caution you against
the substitution of any other laver whatever for the laver of Christ's
atoning blood. The water of baptism, administered either in the
unconsciousness of infancy, or to the individual of full age and with
consenting will, has no moral efficacy whatever either in changing the
recipient from nature to grace, or in effacing from the soul one spot of
sin. Awful and fatal delusion! Awful in those who preach it, fatal to those
who believe it! Woe to those who blindly accept this doctrine, and
still heavier woe is theirs who daringly and presumptuously propagate it-
"teaching for doctrines the commandments of men." Greatly do they err, not
knowing the Scriptures. When our Lord said to Peter, "A person who has had a
bath needs only to wash his feet; his whole body is clean." He referred not
to the laver of baptism, but to the laver of his own most precious blood, in
which whoever is washed, though he were morally black as the Ethiopian, or
spotted as the leopard, "is clean every whit."
The believing soul stands before God washed from every sin, and justified
from all things. He is clean every whit. His sins are all and wholly
forgiven, his person is fully and forever justified. "Such were some of you,
but you are gnashed." Oh marvellous cleansing this! wonderful atonement,
precious blood that can wash the sin-dyed, guilt-stained soul "whiter than
When Christ affirms this to be the state of every believing soul, He
palms upon us no fatal lie, He builds us up in no vain delusion, He mocks us
with no shadowy promise or illusive hope. "Verily, verily, I say unto you,
he that hears my word, and believes on him who sent me, has everlasting
life- he has passed from death unto life." Oh, distrust not this great
cleansing! Disbelieve not this precious blood. Walk in the holy, happy
experience of its daily application by the power of the Holy Spirit. Live
upon it, and live it out, in your daily life. Esteem nothing so precious,
estimate nothing so costly, regard nothing so reverentially, exalt nothing
so highly, deal with nothing so constantly and holily, as the Atoning Blood
of Christ. "The soul that sins it shall die;" but "the blood is the life of
the soul," and that life is eternal.
The subject of these pages addresses itself pointedly and solemnly to the
unconverted; the unwashed, What were the words of Jesus? "If I wash you not,
you have no part with me." There exists not a greater sin, a crime of deeper
dye, a guilt whose turpitude no words can describe, than that of neglecting
this atonement, despising the blood, and trampling it under your feet as an
unholy thing. The blood of Jesus, God's Son, is the divinest, the most
costly and precious thing in the universe. It is the only thing that
cleanses us from all sin. Imagine, then, what must be the guilt, and what
the consequent doom of that man who scorns and rejects atoning blood! It is
alone the washing of this blood that gives you a part with Christ. It is the
blood that gives us union with Jesus -it is the blood which brings us near
to God- it is the blood that speaks, and that speaks peace to the conscience
and pardon to the soul. Apart, then, from this blood, you are unwashed. Your
soul is still tainted and darkened and covered with the poison and pollution
and guilt of sin. Not one spot of original, and not one stain of actual, sin
is effaced; and you are hurrying to the dread judgment, of the great day all
covered, all laden, all condemned by sins red crimson, and countless as the
No part with Jesus! -then you are separated from all that is holy,
gracious, and saving! No part with Jesus! -then you are enrolled among His
foes, and are walking in the counsel of the ungodly, and are standing in the
way of sinners, and are sitting in the seat of the scornful. No part ,pith
Jesus! -then you must have your part with those of whom it is written, "The
fearful, and unbelieving, and the abominable, and murderers, and
whoremongers, and sorcerers, and idolaters, and all liars, shall have their
part in the lake which burns with fire and brimstone: which is the second
Are you prepared to accept this as your doom? To burn forever and ever in
quenchless fire -to be gnawed forever and ever with the undying worm! Awful
thought! appalling destiny! Better never to have been born than to live the
servant and to die the slave of sin, and then to wear its galling chain
unbroken, unfastened, through eternity.
But the blood you hitherto have disbelieved and neglected still flows,
and still washes the vilest clean. Lose not a moment in applying to its
sovereign efficacy. Repent of your sins. Throw down the arms of your
rebellion against God. Turn, turn, for why will you die? If the believer who
is clean every whit, yet needs the daily cleansing of this blood, how deep
and imperious must your need be upon whom not one drop of this precious,
sin-cleansing blood has yet fallen! Repair, then, to Christ without
one moment's delay; take your sins, great as they are; take your burden,
heavy as it is, and in faith plunge into this "fountain, open for sin and
uncleanness." Wash, and be clean. Once more, remember the words of Jesus-
"If I wash you not, you have no part with me." Throw yourself upon His
pardoning mercy, who will in no wise cast you out.
"O You who are yet without Christ in the world,
I've a message from God unto thee!
Before the last thunders of earth shall be hurled,
Jesus whispers, now, "Come unto me."
It will soon be too late!
but yet there is room
The Lamb that was slain now appears!
Oh, will you abide in perpetual gloom,
And only be washed in His tears?
King David could weep, but his life he near gave.
From sin to set Absalom free!
But Jeans has died- He is 'able to save,
His blood is availing for thee!"
Should the eye of a sin-distressed reader light upon these pages, let him
not limit the sovereign efficacy of the blood of Christ by doubting its
power to pardon his sins and remove his guilt. There is no limit to the
power of atoning blood but that which an unbelieving distrust of its
efficacy presents. There is not a greater sin or deeper turpitude of guilt
than a disbelief of the divine nature and sovereign virtue of the blood of
the incarnate God. As it is the most costly and precious thing in the
universe, so to doubt and reject it is a crime that has no parallel.
And yet, oh weeping penitent, oh sin-distressed soul, as the blood of
Jesus pardoned the sin and washed away the guilt of shedding it, so His
blood can blot out the crime of having disbelieved its virtue and hesitated
to accept its overture. " The blood of Jesus Christ, His Son, cleanses us
from ALL sin." How impressive the example of Jesus in this act! Listen to
His words, "Don't you know what I have done unto you? You call me Master and
Lord: and you do well, for so I am. If I then, your Lord and Master, have
washed your feet, you ought also to wash one smother's feet. For I have
given you an example, that you should do as I have done to you."
In another place our Lord inculcated the same spirit of lowly bearing
among the saints. "He that is greatest among you shall be your servant." "He
that is greatest among you let him be as the younger, and he that is chief
as him that does serve." In the same strain the apostle exhorts, "Let
nothing be done through strife or vain glory; but in lowliness of mind let
each esteem other better than themselves." "Let this mind be in you, which
was also in Christ Jesus."
How many of the evils which affect society, still more, how much of the
heart-burnings and schisms which mar the peace of families and impede the
prosperity of churches, are traceable to the non-observance of this precept.
What a happy world, what a united household, what a holy Church, if all were
animated with this spirit, and were all molded in their interactions by this
illustrious example. Thus influenced, we should be ready to undertake any
service for Christ, however humble, and to stoop to any office for the
saints, however lowly.
In a preceding part of this chapter we have ,dwelt at some length on the
existence of pride in the believer. We would close it by remarking that the
existence of its opposite- humility, is an essential element of the true
Christian. As this is one of the first principles of our Christianity, so it
is an ever growing and deepening one. Nothing more closely evidences an
advance in the divine life as our growth in humility of mind. The nearer we
approach to heaven the lower we grow in the estimate of ourselves.
Not long after his conversion, Paul speaks of himself as unworthy to be
called an apostle. As he advanced farther on in the divine life, he esteems
himself less than the least of all saints. But as he approached the time of
his departure, on the eve of his martyrdom, he speaks of himself as the
chief of sinners. As the fruit ripens for the gathering grows more mellow,
so the soul that matures for glory becomes more humble an Christlike, and is
willing not only to wash the saint's feet, but even to be trampled under
foot of the saints.
"If she has washed the saints' feet" (I Tim.5:10) was a scriptural and
distinctive characteristic of the piety of the early widows, Why should it
be less so now? It will be so, at least in its spirit, in proportion to our
real growth in grace. We learn to take the low place as we become more
deeply sanctified, ready for any and every work and office the Master may
assign us. It is the bough most richly laden with fruit that bends
downwards, and hangs the lowest. So those Christians who have the richest
gifts and are favored with the greatest usefulness think the most lowly of
themselves, and hide their gifts and graces and usefulness deepest in the
shadow of Christ's cross, and are the best prepared for the lowliest service
of love to the saints.
The nettle mounts on high, while the violet shrouds itself under its own
leaves, and is chiefly found out by its fragrance. Let Christians be
satisfied with the honor that "Comes from God only." Thus wrote that eminent
man of God, Manton, his spirit and example presenting a true illustration of
his own beautiful and expressive image.
"Lord, if You Your grace impart,
Poor in spirit, meek in heart,
I shall as my Master be,
Rooted in humility.
"Simple, teachable, and mild,
Changed into a little child,
Pleased with all the Lord provides,
Weaned from all the world besides."
Nor would we fail to remind you that the Lord sometimes employs the
sanctified discipline of trial in order to quicken our spiritual sense of
the need of daily cleansing. Not the least blessing flowing from affliction
is this. We have, perhaps, lived at a distance from the Fountain. The blood
has lost its preciousness, the cross its attraction; and we have traveled
long and far- if travel we may term it- with the dust upon our sandals, and
with the soil upon our feet. Affliction has brought us to a stand-still. It
has led us to reflection and self-examination, and we are roused to the
conviction of the startling fact how much unrepented, unconfessed,
uncleansed sin has accumulated, engirdling the heart, encrusting the
conscience, clogging and impeding our feet in their heavenly way.
Oh, how close to the Fountain does adversity now bring us! How
precious to our hearts does sorrow now make the Savior! We were
unconscious of our heart's backsliding, had no suspicion of our spiritual
declension, and knew not how far away we had strayed from Jesus and the fold
until the voice of the rod awoke us from our deep, treacherous slumber, and
brought us back. "Before I was afflicted, I went astray; but now have I kept
your law." Oh, sweet affliction that brings us in penitence to Christ's
feet, that He might, in the condescension of His love, cleanse us afresh!
Be much in prayer and confession at the feet of Jesus, and, though you
are often foot-sore and soiled in your earthly travel, His love will heal
and His blood will cleanse you, and so shall you walk in white with Jesus
here until, before long, He shall say to you- Come up higher!
"Behold! wherein the Friend of man
Appears each grace divine;
The graces all in Jesus met,
With holiest radiance shine.
Lowly in heart to all His friends,
A Friend and Servant found,
He washed their feet, He wiped their tears,
And healed each bleeding wound.
Be Christ our Pattern, and our Guide!
His image may we bear;
Oh, may we tread His sacred steps,
And His bright glories share!''