There are two or three expressions which may be considered under this head. A shade of difference may be discerned in their meaning; but, in their practical application, they have, to all intents and purposes, the same force. One might be rendered, "on account," or "by reason, of His name"; another as the title of this paper; and yet another, "on behalf of His name." In all three alike the fundamental idea is the value of the name to the one acting, enduring, or suffering; and this will also find, as we hope to see, an exemplification in God's actings of grace towards His people. The words, "Thy name is as ointment poured forth," have already been before us, and the expressions now to be adduced will furnish another illustration of the fact that it is the fragrance of the name of Christ which delights both the heart of God, and the hearts of His people. Hence it is, as we read in connection with the blessings of His righteous sway during the thousand years, that "His name shall endure for ever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun: and men shall be blessed in Him: all nations shall call Him blessed." Yea, throughout eternity we shall continue the song we have learned on earth:
"Thy name we love, Lord Jesus,
And lowly bow before Thee;
And while we live, to Thee we give
All blessing, worship, glory."
In the first case which will come before us, it is the value of the name to God as affording the basis of the exercise of His forgiving love. The apostle John thus says, "I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for His name's sake." (1 John 2:12.) The whole truth of grace is contained in this short statement; for the term "little children" in this scripture comprises the whole family of God. We learn then from it, that in the forgiveness of sins God acts solely on the ground of the value of the name of His beloved Son, but in virtue of His name as the One who glorified Him on the earth, and finished the work which He gave Him to do. What misconceptions would be cleared away from the minds of anxious souls, if this simple truth were but apprehended! For then, instead of spending weary days in searching for some good thing or merit in themselves, on which to rest for acceptance before God, or as an undoubted evidence of their conversion, they would perceive that if they are to be saved, it must be wholly through what Christ is to God. Let all such, therefore, prayerfully ponder upon the words "for His name's sake," inasmuch as they show, beyond the possibility of doubt or mistake, that God's attitude towards all who come to Him, confessing their sins, depends entirely upon His estimate of the value of the name of that Blessed One who now sits at His right hand. What an unchanging and immovable rock is thus provided for our souls - that Rock of Ages, indeed, on which we may rest for ever in perfect peace, a peace which no change of feeling, or experience, need ever affect. Let us, then, never cease to proclaim this blessed truth to sin-stricken and weary souls, for it is the very kernel of God's glad tidings to men in this day of grace.
And, not only have we thus received the forgiveness of our sins, but our feet are also kept, while passing through the wilderness, in the same way. We read, for example, in Psalm 23: "He restoreth my soul: He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake." That is, God has undertaken everything for us on the same ground as that on which He has forgiven our sins. The motive for all His activities of grace and love, of His unchanging attitude, of His watchful care and protection, is found in Christ, and not in ourselves. This is blessedly exemplified in the Psalm whence the above citation is taken; only here, it is the Lord as our Shepherd, acting rather from His own heart, and from the relationship which He has been pleased to assume towards His people. The simple argument is, if He has become our Shepherd, He will provide everything necessary for us, whether in our pilgrim path, or as passing through the valley of the shadow of death. But the verse quoted shows that it is for His own name's sake that He maintains these relationships of grace. If we are weary, disheartened, discouraged, or depressed, He restores our souls; and, as needing constant guidance, with every desire to tread in His paths, but often unable to discern them, He has placed Himself at our head, and leads us in the paths of righteousness for His name's sake. If, then, the name of Christ is so unspeakably precious to God, and if it constitutes the all-efficacious basis of His dealings with us, how we should zealously seek to be in communion with Him about it, and thus, having some feeble sense of its value, delight to lose ourselves in it, resting in it in our approaches to God, even as He rests in it in His relationships with us.
Communion with the heart of God, indeed, as to the preciousness of the name of Christ, is the true secret of the unwearying devotedness and courage of many of His followers. The apostle Paul may be mentioned as a special illustration of this, even though the words, "for His name's sake," be not used. In captivity, and no longer able to deliver his blessed message, it was his solace, notwithstanding the mixed motives that governed the activity of many, that Christ was preached, and in this he both did and would rejoice, in the prospect of death at any moment; for he knew not but that he might be thrown to the lions immediately. All his expectation and hope was that he might be so kept and sustained that Christ might be magnified in his body, whether by life or by death. Absorbed in his object, Christ alone bounded his horizon; and hence for Christ's sake he was willing to suffer anything and everything, if he might but bring glory to His blessed name. In like manner, we read in another epistle of those who had the name of Christ so indelibly graven upon their hearts that, for His sake, they took joyfully the spoiling of their goods; of others who had trials of cruel mockings and scourgings, of bonds and imprisonments; and of others again who were sawn asunder, or slain with the sword, while if some escaped martyrdom, they had to wander about in sheep-skins and goat-skins, being destitute, afflicted and tormented. (Hebrews 10, 11.)
This suffering character of the path of His disciples was often the theme of our Lord's instruction. So far from concealing from them the afflictions and persecutions which they would encounter, He warned them on every possible occasion of what they would have to endure for His name's sake. Thus, for example, He says, in the sermon on the mount, "Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you, and persecute you, and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake"; at another time, "Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake"; and yet again, "If they have persecuted me, they will also persecute you"; "The time cometh, that whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service." So it came to pass; for Paul wrote (citing from the Psalms), "For Thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter." But if our blessed Lord has forewarned us of what may be entailed upon us through the confession of His name, He has also ministered the needed sustainment and consolation. Of Himself, in His pathway through this world, it is written that for the joy set before Him, He endured the cross, despising the shame; and for our encouragement He has left on record these words, "Every one that hath forsaken houses, or brethren, or sisters, or father, or mother, or wife, or children, or lands, for my name's sake, shall receive an hundredfold, and shall inherit everlasting life."
To suffer with Christ is a necessity, in some measure, if we are the children of God; but to suffer for Christ is a privilege attached to fidelity in His service. As an example of this, the case of Peter and John might be adduced. Brought up before the Jewish Council, they had been forbidden to speak or to teach in the name of Jesus; but obeying God rather than men, they proceeded with their blessed work. Once more arrested, after they had been miraculously delivered from prison, they were beaten, and commanded that they should not speak in the name of Jesus. Were they disheartened or daunted because of what they had to endure? So far from it, they departed from the presence of the Council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer shame for His name. (Acts 5:40, 41.) What, then, is the secret of this superiority to shame and suffering? It is the preciousness of Christ to the hearts of His people, the assurance of His presence with them, and the knowledge that even death is but the path of life into His eternal presence. If He for our sakes became poor, that through His poverty we might be rich, it is surely no great thing if we are taught through grace to count, like Moses, the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures of Egypt, and if we are made willing to suffer persecution, and to endure the loss of all things here for His name's sake.
Yet another instance of the power of the name of Christ may be considered. In John's third epistle we read of some who, "for His name's sake," went forth, taking nothing of the Gentiles. The form of the phrase, "for His name's sake," in this scripture exactly coincides with that used of Peter and John in Acts 5; and we thus gather that it was the value of the name of Christ to their hearts that led the latter to rejoice in suffering, and the former to refuse support from the world in His service. Well would it have been for the Church of God if the example of these devoted servants had been followed. Nothing has so corrupted Christianity as the acceptance of worldly help for the furtherance of its objects. Before the Lord was crucified, He said to His disciples, "When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye anything? And they said, Nothing." Is He less tender in His care over His servants now that He is glorified at the right hand of God? A noble army of devoted servants in every part of the world will gladly testify that they too, though without assured support from man, and refusing assistance from the world, have lacked nothing. And it would be the commencement of a new era in Christian service, and especially Christian missions, if those engaged in them were to go forth in the same simple faith in the all-sufficiency of the name of their Lord. In the closing days of the history of the Church on earth, may many true labourers be raised up, and be sent forth into the harvest by the Lord of the harvest - men to whom the name of Christ shall be so precious that they may find in it their only motive, the only stimulus for their zeal, and their abundant warrant for entire dependence upon Him for all their needed support.
The reader will find much edification in tracing out other cases in the Scriptures; and our prayer is that every one who may be encouraged to do so by the perusal of what has been written may find, while so engaged, that his heart is drawn out more fully in the adoration and praise of our blessed Lord and Saviour, and that it may become his one all-absorbing desire, in all his future life, to bring glory to this precious NAME.