Delivered on Sabbath Evening, May 20, 1855, by the
"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness; I shall be satisfied, when I awake, with thy likeness."Psalm 17:15.
T WOULD be difficult to say to which the gospel owes most, to its friends or to its enemies. It is true, that by the help of God, its friends have done much for it; they have preached it in foreign lands, they have dared death, they have laughed to scorn the terrors of the grave, they have ventured all things for Christ, and so have glorified the doctrine they believed; but the enemies of Christ, unwittingly, have done no little, for when they have persecuted Christ's servants, they have scattered them abroad, so that they have gone everywhere preaching the Word; yea, when they have trampled upon the gospel, like a certain herb we read of in medicine, it hath grown all the faster: and if we refer to the pages of sacred writ how very many precious portions of it do we owe, under God, to the enemies of the cross of Christ! Jesus Christ would never have preached many of his discourses had not his foes compelled him to answer them; had they not brought objections, we should not have heard the sweet sentences in which he replied. So with the book of Psalms: had not David been sorely tried by enemies, had not the foemen shot their arrows at him, had they not attempted to malign and blast his character, had they not deeply distressed him, and made him cry out in misery, we should have missed many of those precious experimental utterances we here find, much of that holy song which he penned after his deliverance, and very much of that glorious statement of his trust in the infallible God. We should have lost all this, had it not been wrung from him by the iron hand of anguish. Had it not been for David's enemies, he would not have penned his Psalms; but when hunted like a partridge on the mountains, when driven like the timid roe before the hunter's dogs, he waited for awhile, bathed his sides in the brooks of Siloa, and panting on the hill-top a little, he breathed the air of heaven and stood and rested his weary limbs. Then was it that he gave honour to God, then he shouted aloud to that mighty Jehovah, who for him had gotten the victory. This sentence follows a description of the great troubles which the wicked bring upon the righteous, wherein he consoles himself with the hope of future bliss.; As for me," says the patriarch, casting his eyes aloft; As for me," said the hunted chieftain of the caves of Engedi"As for me," says the once shepherd boy, who was soon to wear a royal diadem"As for me, I will behold thy face in righteousness, I shall be satisfied, when I awake with thy likeness."
I envy not the miser's gold."
Oh! what a glorious thing to be full of faith, and to have the confidence of assurance, so as to say, "I will behold thy face; I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."
Thus much concerning the spirit of David. It is one very much to be copied and eminently to be desired.
II. But now, secondly, THE MATTER OF THIS PASSAGE. And here we will dive into the very depths of it, God helping us; for without the Spirit of God I feel I am utterly unable to speak to you. I have not those gifts and talents which qualify men to speak; I need an afflatus from no high, otherwise I stand like other men and have nought to say. May that be given me; for without it I am dumb. As for the matter of this verse, methinks it contains a double blessing. The first is a beholding"I will behold thy face in righteousness," and the next is a satisfaction"I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness."
Let us begin with the first, then. David expected that he should behold God's face. What a vision will that be, my brethren! Have you ever seen God's hand? I have seen it, when sometimes he places it across the sky, and darkens it with clouds. I have seen God's hand sometimes, when the ears of night drag along the shades of darkness. I have seen his hand when, launching the thunder-bolt, his lightning splits the clouds and rends the heavens. Perhaps ye have seen it in a gentler fashion, when it pours out the water and sends it rippling along in rills, and then rolls into rivers. Ye have seen it in the stormy oceanin the sky decked with stars, in the earth gemmed with flowers; and there is not a man living who can know all the wonders of God's hand. His creation is so wondrous that it would take more than a life-time to understand it. Go into the depths of it, let its minute parts engage your attention; next take the telescope, and try to see remote worlds, and can I see all God's handiworkbehold all his hand? No, not so much as one millionth part of the fabric. That mighty hand wherein the callow comets are brooded by the sun, in which the planets roll in majestic orbits; that mighty hand which holds all space, and grasps all beingsthat mighty hand, who can behold it? but if such be his hand, what must his face be? Ye have heard God's voice sometimes, and ye have trembled; I, myself, have listened awe-struck, and yet with a marvellous joy, when I have heard God's voice, like the noise of many waters, in the great thunderings. Have you never stood and listened, while the earth shook and trembled, and the very spheres stopped their music, while God spoke with his wondrous deep bass voice? Yes, ye have heard that voice, and there is a joy marvellously instinct with love which enters into my soul, whenever I hear the thunder. It is my Father speaking, and my heart leaps to hear him. But you never heard God's loudest voice. It was but the whisper when the thunder rolled. But if such be the voice, what must it be to behold his face? David said, "I will behold thy face." It is said of the temple of Diana, that it was so splendidly decorated with gold, and so bright and shining, that a porter at the door always said to every one that entered, "Take heed to your eyes, take heed to your eyes; you will be struck with blindness unless you take heed to your eyes." But oh! that view of glory! That great appearance. The vision of God! to see him face to face, to enter into heaven, and to see the righteous shining bright as stars in the firmament; but best of all, to catch a glimpse of the eternal throne! Ah! there he sits! 'Twere almost blasphemy for me to attempt to describe him. How infinitely far my poor words fall below the mighty subject! But to behold God's face. I will not speak of the lustre of those eyes, or the majesty of those lips, that shall speak words of love and affection; but to behold his face' Ye who have dived into the Godhead's deepest sea, and have been lost in its immensity, ye can tell a little of it! Ye naughty "ones, who have lived in heaven these thousand years perhaps ye know, but ye cannot tell, What it is to see his face. We must each of us go there we must be clad with immortality. We must go above the blue sky, and bathe in the river of life: we must outsoar the lightning, and rise above the stars to know what it is to see God's face. Words cannot set it forth. So there I leave it. The hope the Psalmist had was, that he might see God's face.
But there was a peculiar sweetness mixed with this joy, because he knew that he should behold God's face in righteousness. "I shall behold thy face in righteousness." Have I not seen my Father's face here below? Yes, I have, "through a glass darkly," But has not the Christian sometimes beheld him, when in his heavenly moments earth is gone, and the mind is stripped of matter? There are some seasons when the gross materialism dies away, and when the ethereal fire within blazes up so high that it almost touches the fire of heaven. There are seasons, when in some retired spot, calm and free from all earthly thought, we have put our shoes from off our feet because the place whereon we stood was holy ground; and we have talked with God! even as Enoch talked with him so has the Christian held intimate communion with his Father. He has heard his love whispers, he has told out his heart, poured out his sorrows and his groans before him. But after all he has felt that he has not beheld his face in righteousness. There was so much sin to darken the eyes, so much folly, so much frailty, that we could not get a clear prospect of our Jesus. But here the Psalmist says, "I will behold thy face in righteousness." When that illustrious day shall arise, and I shall see my Saviour face to face, I shall see him "in righteousness." The Christian in heaven will not have so much as a speck upon his garment; he will be pure and white; yea, on the earth he is
But in heaven that whiteness shall be more apparent. Now, it is sometimes smoked by earth, and covered with the dust of this poor carnal world; but in heaven he will have brushed himself, and washed his wings and made them clean; and then will he see God's face in righteousness. My God; I believe I shall stand before thy face as pure as thou art thyself, for I shall have the righteousness of Jesus Christ there shall be upon me the righteousness of a God. "I shall behold thy face in righteousness." O Christian, canst thou enjoy this? Though I cannot speak about it, dost thy heart meditate upon it? To behold his face for ever; to bask in that vision! True, thou canst not understand it; but thou mayest guess the meaning. To behold his face in righteousness!
The second blessing, upon which I will be brief, is satisfaction. He will be satisfied, the Psalmist says, when he wakes up in God's likeness. Satisfaction! this is another joy for the Christian when he shall enter heaven. Here we are never thoroughly satisfied. True, the Christian is satisfied from himself; he has that within which is a wet-spring of comfort, and he can enjoy solid satisfaction. But heaven is the home of true and real satisfaction. When the believer enters heaven I believe his imagination will be thoroughly satisfied. All he has ever thought of he will there see; every holy idea will be solidified; every mighty conception will become a reality, every glorious imagination will become a tangible thing that he can see. His imagination will not be able to think of anything better than heaven; and should he sit down through eternity, he would not be able to conceive of anything that should outshine the lustre of that glorious city. His imagination will be satisfied. Then his intellect will be satisfied.
All I desired, or wished, below."
Who is satisfied with his knowledge here? Are there not secrets we want to know, depths in the arcana of nature that we have not entered? But in that glorious state we shall know as much as we want to know. The memory will be satisfied. We shall look back upon the vista of past years, and we shall be content with whatever we endured, or did, or suffered on earth.
My wearied soul shall sit,
And with transporting joys recount
The labors of my feet."
Hope will be satisfied, if there be such a thing in heaven. We shall hope for a future eternity, and believe in it. But we shall be satisfied as to our hopes continually: and the whole man will be so content that there will not remain a single thing in all God's dealings, that he would wish to have altered; yea, perhaps I say a thing at which some of you will demurbut the righteous in heaven will be quite satisfied with the damnation of the lost. I used to think that if I could see the lost in hell, surely I must weep for them. Could I hear their horrid wailings, and see the dreadful contortions of their anguish, surely I must pity them. But there is no such sentiment as that known in heaven. The believer shall be there so satisfied with all God's will, that he will quite forget the lost in the idea that God has done it for the best, that even their loss has been their own fault, and that he is infinitely just in it. If my parents could see me in hell they would not have a tear to shed for me, though they were in heaven, for they would say, "It is justice, thou great God; and thy justice must be magnified, as well as thy mercy;" and moreover, they would feel that God was so much above his creatures that they would be satisfied to see those creatures crushed if it might increase God's glory. Oh! in heaven I believe we shall think rightly of men. Here men seem great things to us; but in heaven they will seem no more than a few creeping insects that are swept away in ploughing a field for harvest; they will appear no more than a tiny handful of dust, or like some nest of wasps that ought to be exterminated for the injury they have done. They will appear such little things when we sit on high with God, and look down on the nations of the earth as grasshoppers, and "count the isles as very little things." We shall be satisfied with everything; there will not be a single thing to complain of. "I shall be satisfied."
But when? "I shall be satisfied when I awake with thy likeness." But not till then. No, not till then. Now here a difficulty occurs. You know there are some in heaven who have not yet waked up in God's likeness. In fact, none of those in heaven have done so. They never did sleep as respects their souls; the waking refers to their bodies, and they are not awake yetbut are still slumbering. O earth! thou art the bedchamber of the mighty dead! What a vast sleeping-house this world is! It is one vast cemetery. The righteous still sleep; and they are to be satisfied on the resurrection morn, when they awake. "But," say you, "are they not satisfied now? They are in heaven: is it possible that they can be distressed?" No, they are not; there is only one dissatisfaction that can enter heaventhe dissatisfaction of the blest that their bodies are not there. Allow me to use a simile which will somewhat explain what I mean. When a Roman conqueror had been at war, and won great victories, he would very likely come back with his soldiers enter into his house, and enjoy himself till the next day, when he would go out of the city and then come in again in triumph. Now, the saints, as it were, if I might use such a phrase, steal into heaven without their bodies; but on the last day, when their bodies wake up, they will enter in their triumphal chariots. And methinks I see that grand procession, when Jesus Christ, first of all, with man; crowns on his head, with his bright, glorious body, shall lead the way. I see my Saviour entering first. Behind him come the saints, all of them clapping their hands all of them touching their golden harps, and entering in triumph. And when they come to heaven's gates, and the doors are opened wide to let the king of glory in, now will the angels crowd at the windows, and on the house-tops, like the inhabitants in the Roman triumphs, to watch them as they pass through the streets, and scatter heaven's roses and cities upon them, crying, crying, "Hallelujah! Hallelujah! Hallelujah! the Lord God Omnipotent reigneth!" "I shall be satisfied" in that glorious day, when all his angels shall come to see the triumph, and when his people shall be victorious with him.
One thought here ought not to be forgotten; and that is, the Psalmist says we are to wake up in the likeness of God. This may refer to the soul; for the spirit of the righteous will be in the likeness of God as to its happiness holiness, purity, infallability, eternity, and freedom from pain; but specially, I think, it relates to the body because it speaks of the awaking. The body is to be in the likeness of Christ. What a thought! It isand alas! I have had too many such to-nighta thought too heavy for words. I am to awake up in Christ's likeness. I do not know what Christ is like, and can scarcely imagine. I love sometimes to sit and look at him in his crucifixion. I care not what men sayI know that sometimes I have derived benefit from a picture of my dying crucified Saviour; and I look at him with his crown of thorns, his pierced side, his bleeding hands and feet, and all those drops of gore hanging from him; but I cannot picture him in heaven, he is so bright, so glorious; the God so shines through the man; his eyes are like lamps of fire; his tongue like a two-edged sword; his head covered with hair as white as snow, for he is the Ancient of days, he binds the clouds round about him for a girdle; and when he speaks, it is like the sound of many waters! I read the accounts given in the book of Revelation, but I cannot tell what he is; they are Scripture phrases, and I cannot understand their meaning; but whatever they mean, I know that I shall wake up in Christ's likeness. Oh; what a change it will be, when some of us get to heaven! There is a man who fell in battle with the word of salvation on his lips, his legs had been shot away, and his body had been scarred by sabre thrusts; he wakes in heaven, and finds that he has not a broken body, maimed and cut about, and hacked and injured, but that he is in Christ's likeness. There is an old matron, who has tottered on her staff for years along her weary way; time has ploughed furrows on her brow; haggard and lame, her body is laid in the grave. But oh! aged woman, thou shalt arise in youth and beauty. Another has been deformed in his life-time, but when he wakes, he wakes in the likeness of Christ. Whatever may have been the form of our countenance, whatever the contour, the beautiful shall be no more beautiful in heaven than those who were deformed. Those who shone on earth, peerless, among the fairest, who ravished men with looks from their eyes, they shall be no brighter in heaven than those who are now passed by and neglected: for they shall all be like Christ.
III. But now to close up, HERE IS A VERY SAD CONTRAST IMPLIED. We shall all slumber A few more years and where will this company be? Xerxes wept, because in a little while his whole army would be gone; how might I stand here and weep, because within a few more years others shall stand in this place, and shall say, "The fathers, where are they?" Good God! and is it true? Is it not a reality? Is it all to be swept away? Is it one great dissolving view? Ah! it is. This sight shall vanish soon, and you and I shall vanish with it. We are but a show. This life is but "a stage whereon men act;" and then we pass behind the curtain, and we there unmask ourselves, and talk with God. The moment we begin to live we begin to die. The tree has long been growing that shall be sawn to make you a coffin. The sod is ready for you all. But this scene is to appear again soon. One short dream, one hurried nap, and all this sight shall come o'er again. We shall all awake, and as we stand here now, we shall stand together, perhaps, even more thickly pressed. But we shall stand on the level thenthe rich and poor, the preacher and hearer. There will be but one distinctionrighteous and wicked. At first we shall stand together. Methinks I see the scene. The sea is boiling; the heavens are rent in twain, the clouds are fashioned into a chariot, and Jesus riding on it, with wings of fire, comes riding through the sky. His throne is set. He seats himself upon it. With a nod he hushes all the world. He lifts his fingers, opens the great books of destiny, and the book of our probation, wherein are written the acts of time. With his fingers he beckons to the hosts above. "Divide," said he, "divide the universe." Swifter than thought all the earth shall part in sunder. Where shall I be found when the dividing comes? Methinks I see them all divided, and the righteous are on the right. Turning to them, with a voice sweeter than music, he says, "Come! Ye have been comingkeep on your progress! Come! it has been the work of your life to come, so continue. Come and take the last step. 'Come, ye blessed of my Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from before the foundation of the world.'" And now the wicked are left alone; and turning to them, he says, "Depart! Ye have been departing all your life long; it was your business to depart from me; ye said, 'Depart from me, I love not thy ways.' You have been departing, keep on, take the last step!'" They dare not move. They stand still. The Saviour becomes the avenger. The hands that once held out mercy, now grasp the sword of justice; the lips that spoke lovingkindness, now utter thunder; and with a deadly aim; he lifts up the sword, and sweeps amongst them. They fly like deer before the lion, and enter the jaws of the bottomless pit.
But never, I hope, shall I cease preaching, without telling you what to do to be saved. This morning I preached to the ungodly, to the worst of sinners, and many weptI hope many hearts meltedwhile I spoke of the great mercy of God. I have not spoken of that to-night. We must take a different line sometimes; led, I trust, by God's Spirit. But oh! ye that are thirsty, and heavy laden, and lost and ruined, mercy speaks yet once again to you! Here is the way of salvation. "He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved." "And what is it to believe?" says one; "is it to say I know Christ died for me?" No, that is not to believe, it is part of it, but it is not all. Every Arminian believes that; and every man in the world believes it who holds that doctrine, since he conceives that Christ died for every man. Consequently that is not faith. But faith is this: to cast yourself on Christ. As the negro said, most curiously, when asked what he did to be saved; "Massa," said he, "I fling myself down on Jesus, and dere I lay; I fling myself flat on de promise, and dere I lay." And to every penitent sinner Jesus says, "I am able to save to the uttermost;" throw thyself flat on the promise, and say, "Then, Lord, thou art able to save me." God says, "Come now, let us reason together, though your sins be as scarlet they shall be white as snow, and though they be red like crimson they shall be as wool." Cast thyself on him, and thou shalt be saved. "Ah!" says one, "I am afraid I am not one of God's people; I cannot read my name in the book of life." A very good thing you can't, for if the Bible had every body's name in it, it would be a pretty large book; and if your name is John Smith and you saw that name in the Bible, if you do not believe God's promise now, you would be sure to believe that it was some other John Smith. Suppose the Emperor of Russia should issue a decree to all the Polish refugees to return to their own country; you see a Polish refugee looking at the great placards hanging on the wall he looks with pleasure, and says, "Well, I shall go back to my country." But some one says to him, "It does not say Walewski." "Yes, "he would reply, "but it says Polish refugees: Polish is my Christian name, and refugee my surname, and that is me." And so, though it does not say your name in the Scriptures, it says lost sinner. Sinner is your Christian name, and lost is your surname; therefore, why not come? It says, "lost sinner;"is not that enough? "This is a faithful saying, and worthy of all acceptation, that Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners of whom I am chief." "Yes, but," another one says, "I am afraid I am not elect." Oh! dear souls, do not trouble yourselves about that. If you believe in Christ you are elect. Whoever puts himself on the mercy of Jesus is elect; for he would never do it if he had not been elect. Whoever comes to Christ, and looks for mercy through his blood, is elect, and he shall see that he is elect afterwards; but do not expect to read election till you have read repentance. Election is a college to which you little ones will not go till you have been to the school of repentance. Do not begin to read your book backwards, and say Amen before you have said your paternoster. Begin with "Our Father," and then you will go on to "thine is the kingdom the power and the glory;" but begin with "the kingdom," and you will have hard work to go back to "Our Father." We must begin with faith. We must begin with
As God made the world out of nothing, he always makes his Christians out of nothing; and he who has nothing at all to-night, shall find grace and mercy, if he will come for it.
Let me close up by telling you what I have heard of some poor woman, who was converted and brought to life, just by passing down a street, and hearing a child, sitting at a door, singing
But Jesus Christ is all in all."
That is a blessed song; go home and sing it; and he who can rightly apprehend those little words, who can feel himself vanity without Jesus, but that he has all things in Christ, is not only far from the kingdom of heaven, but he is there in faith, and shall be there in fruition, when be shall wake up in God's likeness.