Delivered on Sabbath Morning, September 16, 1855, by the
"Go ye up upon her walls, and destroy; but make not a full end: take away her battlements; for they are not the Lord's."Jeremiah 5:10.
E HAVE BEEN talking very freely during this last week of "glorious victories," of "brilliant successes," of "sieges," and of "stormings." We little know what the dread reality is of which we boast. Could our eyes once behold the storming of a city, the sacking of a town, the pillage of the soldiery, the barbarous deeds of fury, when the blood is up and long delay has maddened their souls; could we see the fields saturated with blood, and soaked with gore; could we spend one hour amongst the corpses and the dying; or if we could only let the din of battle, and the noise of the guns reach our ears, we should not so much rejoice, if we had anything of fellow feeling for others as well as for ourselves. The death of an enemy is to me a cause of regret as well as the death of a friend. Are not all my brethren? and doth not Jesus tell me so? Are we not all made of one flesh? and hath not God "made of one blood all nations that dwell upon the face of the earth?" Let us, then, when we hear of slaughtered enemies, and of thousands that have fallen, cease to rejoice in their death. It would betray a spirit utterly inconsistent with the Christian religion, more akin to Mohamedanism, or to the fierce doctrines of Budha, but not in the least to be brought into compatibility with the truths of the gospel of the glorious God. And yet with all that, far be it from me to check any gladness which this nation may experience, now that it hopes that the incubus of war may at last be removed. Clap your hands, O Britons! Rejoice, ye sons of Albion! there is hope that your swords may yet be sheathed, that your men shall not be mown down as grass before the scythe; that the desolation of your hearths shall now be staid; that the tyrant shall be humbled; and that peace shall be restored. With this view of it, let our hearts leap for joy, and let us sing unto God who hath gotten us the victory; rejoicing that now earth's wounds may be staunched; that her blood need not flow any longer; and that peace may be established, we trust upon a lasting footing. This, I think, should be the Christian view of it. We should rejoice with the hope of better things; but we should lament over the awful death and terrible carnage; the extent of which we know not yet, but which history shall write amongst the black things. My earnest prayer is, that our brave soldiery may honor themselves as much by moderation in victory, as by endurance of privation, and velour in attack. I have nothing more to say upon that subject whatever, I am now about to turn to a different kind of siege, another kind of sacking of cities.
Assault my soul with treach'rous art
I'll call them vanities and lies
And bind the gospel to my heart."
II. We shall now address the text to THE CHRISTIANTHE REAL CHILD OF GOD. The true believer, also, has a proneness to do as the church doesto build up sundry "battlements," which "are not the Lord's," and to put his hope, his confidence, and his affection in something else, besides the word of the God of Israel.
1. The first thing, dearly beloved brethren, whereof we often make a fortress wherein to hide, isthe love of the creature. The Christians' happiness should be in God, and God alone. He should be able to say, "All my springs are in thee. From thee, and thee alone, I ever draw my bliss." Christ in his person, his grace, his offices, his mercy, ought to be our only joy, and our glory should be that." Christ is all." But beloved, we are too much inclined by nature to hew out for ourselves broken cisterns that hold no water. There is a drop or two of comfort somewhere in the bottom of the leaky pitcher, and until it is dried up, we do not believe it is broken at all. We trust in that sooner than in the fountain of living waters. Now whenever any of us foolishly make a battlement of the creature, God will say to afflictions"Go ye up against her: take away her battlements, for they are not the Lord's." There is a fatherhe has a son. That son is as dear to him as his own flesh and blood. Let him take heed lest that child become too much his darling, lest he sets him in the place of the Most High God, and makes an idol of him for as sure as ever he does, God, by affliction, will say to the enemy, "Go up against him: take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's." There is a husband. He coats upon his wife, as he should do. The Scripture telleth us, that a man cannot love his wife too much: "Husbands love you wives, as Christ also loves the Church"and that is infinitely. Yet this man has proceeded to a foolish fondness and idolatry. God says, "Go ye up against him make not a full end; take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's." We fix our love and affection on some dear friend of ours, and there is our hope and trust. God says, "What though ye take counsel together, ye have not taken counsel of me, and therefore, I will take away your trust. What though ye have walked in piety, ye have not walked with me as ye should. Go ye up against her, O death! go ye against her, O affliction! Take away that battlement, it is not the Lord's. Ye shall live on meye shall not feed, like Ephraim, on the wind. Ye shall lean on my arm; ye shall not trust in the staff of these broken reeds. Ye shall set your affections on things above, and not on things on earth. For I will blast the Joy of earth. I will send a blight upon your fair harvest. I will make the clouds obscure your sun, and you shall cry unto me, 'O God, thou art my trust, my sun, my hope, my all.'"
Oh, what a mercy it is that he does not make a "full end," beloved! It may seem to be an end sometimes, but it is not a full end. There may be an end of our hopes, an end of our faith, an end of our confidence at times, but it is not a full end. There is a little hope left; there is just a drop of oil in the cruse, there is the handful of meal in the barrel: it is not the full end yet. Though he has taken away many joys, and blasted many hopes, though many of our fair flowers have been blighted, he has left something. One star will twinkle in the sky, one faint lamp glimmers from yonder distant cottagethou art not quite lost, O wanderer of the night. He has not made a full end; but he may do, unless we come to him.
2. Once more. Many of us are too prone to make battlements out of our past experience, and to rely upon that instead of confiding in Jesus Christ. There is a sort of self-complacency which reviews the past, and says, "there I fought Apollyon there I climbed the hill Diffidently; there I waded through the Slough of Despond." The next thought is, "And what a fine fellow am I! I have done all this. Why, there is nothing can hurt me. No, no! If I have done all this, I can do everything else that is to be accomplished. Am I not a great soldier? Shall any make me afraid? No; I have confidence in my own prowess, for my own arm hath won many a victory. Surely I shall never be moved." Such a man cannot but think lightly of the present. He does not want communion with Christ every day. No, he lives on the past. He does not care to have further manifestations of Jesus. He does not want fresh evidence. He looks at the old musty evidences. He makes past grace the bread of his soul, instead of using it as a seasoning to sweeten his meal. What does God say whenever his people do not want him; but live on what they used to have of him, and are content with the love he once gave them? "Ah! I will take away your battlements." He calls out to doubts and fears"Go ye up upon his walls; take away his battlements, for they are not the Lord's."
3. Then, again, we sometimes get trusting too much to evidence, and good works. Ralph Erskine did not say amiss when he remarked, "I have got more hurt by my good works than my bad ones." That seems something like Antinomianism, but it is true; we find it so by experience. "My bad works," said Erskine, "Always drove me to the Saviour for mercy; my good works often kept me from him, and I began to trust in myself." Is it not so with us? We often get a pleasing opinion of ourselves: we are preaching so many times a week, we attend so many prayer meetings; we are doing good in the Sabbath-school; we are valuable deacons; important members of the church; we are giving away so much in charity; and we say, "Surely I am a child of GodI must be. I am an heir of heaven. Look at me! See what robes I wear. Have I not indeed a righteousness about me that proves me to be a child of God?" Then we begin to trust in ourselves, and say, "Surely I cannot be moved, my mountain standeth firm and fast." Do your know what is the usual rule of heaven when we thus boast? Why the command is given to the foe"Go ye up against him, make not a full end: take away his battlements; for they are not the Lord's." And what is the consequence? Why, perhaps God suffers us to fall into sin, and down goes self-sufficiency. Many a Christian owes his falls to a presumptuous confidence in his graces. I conceive that outward sin is not more abhorbed by one God than this most wicked sin of reliance on ourselves. May none of you ever learn your own weakness by reading a black book of your own backslidings. More to be desired is the other method of God when he sends the light of the Spirit into the heart, and developes our corruption; Satan comes roaring there, conscience begins calling out, "Man you are not perfect." All the corruptions burst up like a volcano that had slept for a little moment. We are taken into the dark chambers of imagery; we look at ourselves, and say, "Where are my battlements gone?" We go to the hill-top again, and see the battlements are all gone. We go by the side of the citythey are all departed. Then we go again to Christ, and say,
Jesus died for me."
"Nothing in my hands I bring;
Heaven smiles again, for now the heart is right, and the soul is in the most fitting position. Take care of your graces, Christians!
III. Now to bring the text to the young CONVERT, to the man in that state of our religious history which we call conversion to God. All men by nature build battlements for themselves to hide behind. Our father Adam gave us as a portion of our inheritance when we were born, high battlements, very high ones; and we are so fond of them that it is hard to part them. There are different lines of them; multiplied walls of fortifications; and when Christ comes to storm the heart, to carry the city by storm, to take it for himself, there is an over-turning of all these different walls which protect the city.
1. In the forefront of the city of Mansoul, frowns the wall of carelessnessan erection of Satanic masonry. It is made of black granite, and mortal art cannot injure it. Bring law, like a hugh pickaxe, to break it: you cannot knock a single ship off. Fire your shells at it: send against it all the hot cannon balls that any of the ten great mortars of the commandments can fire, and you cannot move it in the least. Bring the great battering ram of powerful preaching against it; speak with a voice that might wake the dead and make almost Satan tremble: the man sits careless and hardened. At last a gracious God cries out"Take away her battlements, they are not the Lord's." And at a glance down crumbles the battlement. The careless man becomes tender-hearted, the soul that was hard as iron has become soft as wax; the man who once could laugh at gospel warnings, and despise the preaching of the minister, now sits down and trembles at every word. The Lord is in the whirlwind: now he is in the fire, yea, he is in the still small voice. Everything is heard now, for God has taken away the first battlementthe battlement of a hard heart and a careless life. Some of you have got as far as that, God has taken that away. I know many of you by the tears that glisten on your cheeksthose precious diamonds of heaventestify that you are not careless.
2. The first wall is surmounted, but the city is not yet taken: the Christian minister, under the hand of God, has to storm the next wallthat is the wall of self-righteousness. Many poor sermons get their brains knocked out in the attack; many of them are bayonetted by prejudice, in trying to storm that bastion. Thousands of good sermons are spent all in vain in trying to make it totter and shake, especially among you good moral people, children of pious parents, and godly relations. How strong that wall is with you! It does not seem to be made of separate stones, but it is all one great solid rock. You guiltyyou depravedyou fallen. Yes, you believe it, and you pay a compliment to Scripture in so doing; but you do not feel it. You are the humble ones that stoop downas needs you must, because you cannot sit upright; but you are not the humble ones who stoop willingly and feel that you are less than nothing. You say so; you call yourself a beggar, but you know that you are "rich and increased in goods, and have need of nothing," in your own opinion. How hard it is to storm this wall! it must be carried at the point of the bayonet of faithful warning; there is no taking it except by boldly climbing up with the shout of "By grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God." We have to use very rough words to get your self-righteousness down. Ay! and when we think it is nearly overthrown, it is soon piled up again in the night; the devil's sappers and miners are soon out to repair all the breaches. We thought we had carried you by storm, and proved you to be lost and ruined ones; but you take heart and say, "I am not so bad as I seem; I think I am yet very good." We have by the grace of God, to carry that wall before we can get at your hearts.
3. Thus the double rampart is passed, but another still opposes our progressChrist's warriors know it by the name of self-suficiency. "Ah!" says the man, "I see I am a lost and ruined sinnermy hope has deceived me; but I have another wall I can make myself better. I can build and repair." So he begins piling up the wall, and sits down behind it. He makes the covenant of grace into a covenant of works. He thinks faith is a kind of work, and that we are saved for it. He imagines we are to believe and repent, and that we thus earn salvation. He denies that faith and repentance are God's gifts only, and sits down behind his self-sufficiency, thinking, "I can do all that," Oh! blessed day when God directs his shots against that. I know I hugged that old idea a long while with my "cans," "cans," "cans;" but I found my "cans "would hold no water, and suffered all I put in to run out. There came an election sermon; but that did not please me. There came a law sermon, showing me my powerlessness; but I did not believe it; I thought it was the whim of some old experimental Christian, some dogma of ancient times that would not suit men now. Then there came another sermon, concerning death and sin; but I did not believe I was dead, for I knew I was alive enough, and could repent, and set myself right by-and-bye. Then there came a strong exhortation sermon; but I felt I could set my house in order when I liked, that I could do it next Tuesday week as well as I could do it at once. So did I continually trust in my self-sufficiency. At last, however, when God really brought me to myself, he sent one great shot which shivered it all, and, lo, I found myself utterly defenceless. I thought I was more than mighty angels, and could accomplish all things, then I found myself less than nothing. So also every truly convinced sinner finds that repentance and faith must come from God, that reliance must be placed alone on the Most High; and instead of looking to himself, he is forced to cast himself at the feet of sovereign mercy. I trust, with many of you, that two of the walls have been broken down; and, now, may God in his grace break down the other, and say to his ministers, "Go ye up upon their walls: take away their battlements; for they are not the Lord's."
Perhaps there are some here who have had their battlements taken away lately, and they think God is about to destroy them. You think you must perish, that you have no goodness, no hope, no helpnothing but a fearful looking for of judgment, and fiery indignation. Now, hear ye the last words, "make not a full end." God would make a "full end" of you if he did not take away your battlements, for you would then die inside the walls of self-sufficiency; but he says, "make not a full end." Rely, then, upon his power and grace, for he will not destroy thee.
IV. Now, lastly, I must take this passage as it respects the UNGODLY AND THE SINNER AT LAST. How many there shall be at the last great day who will sit down very comfortably behind certain battlements that they have builded! There is one mana monarch: "I am irresponsible," says he, "who shall ever bring anything to my charge? I am an autocrat: I give no account of my matters." Oh! he will find out at last, that God is Master of emperors, and Judge of Princes; when his battlements shall be taken away. Another says, "Cannot I do as I like with my own? What if God did make me, I shall not serve him. I shall follow my own will. I have in my own nature everything that is good, and I shall do as my nature dictates. I shall trust in that, and if there be a higher power, he will exonerate me, because I only followed my nature." But he will find his hopes to be visionary and his reason' to be foolish, when God shall say, "The soul that sinneth it shall die:" and when his thundering voice shall pronounce the sentence"Depart ye cursed into everlasting fire." Again, there is a company of men joined hand in hand, and they think they will resist the Eternal yea, they have a plan for subverting the kingdom of Christ. They say, "We are wise and mighty. We have fortified ourselves. We have made a covenant with death and a league with hell," Ah! they little think what will become of their battlements at the last great day, when they shall see them crumble and fall. With what fear and alarm will they then cry: "Rocks, hide us! Mountains, on us fall!" What will they do when God's wrath goes forth as a fire in the day of his fierce anger, when he shall melt their hopes and make them pass away, when he shall blast all their joys and compel them to stand naked before his presence? Then I picture to myself, in the day of judgment, a band of men who have said on earth, "We will trust in God's mercy. We do not believe in these religions at all: God is merciful, and we will trust in mercy." Now, supposewhat is impossible, because their delusion will be dissipated at deathsuppose them, in the dread day of account, to be crouching in the fortress of uncovenanted mercy. The judge opens his eyes upon their city, and says, "Angels! go ye up upon their walls; make a full end; take away their battlements, they are not the Lord's." Then the angels go, and demolish every stone of the bulwarks. They utterly cut off all hope of mercy. Each time they lay on the blow they cry "without holiness no man shall see the Lord! Without shedding of blood there is no remission of sins! Ye are saved by grace through faith, but ye trusted in naked mercy, ye shall not have it but ye shall have naked justice and nothing else." Then there is another party who have built a castle of rites and ceremonies. On one side they have a huge piece of granite called "Baptism," and on another they have the "Lord's Supper;" and in the middle they have "Confirmation." They think what a glorious castle they have builded. "We be lost?We paid tithe of mint, cummin, and anise. We paid tithes of all we possessed. We know that grace is in ceremonies." Out comes the Almighty, and with one word blasts their castle, simply saying "Take away their battlements, for they are not the Lord's." Ungodly men and women! what will ye do at last without battlements, without a rock to hide yourselves, without a wall behind which to conceal yourselves, when the storm of the Terrible One shall be as a blast against the wall? How shall ye stand when your hopes shall melt like airy dreams, like visions of the night that pass away when one awaketh? What will ye do when he despises your image, and when all your hopes are utterly gone?
The Christian man can go away with the reflection that his battlements can never be taken away, because they are the Lord's. We rely upon the electing love of JehovahFather, Son, and Holy Ghost; we trust in the redeeming blood of Jesus Christ, the Everlasting Son; we depend wholly upon the merits, blood, and righteousness of Jehovah-Tsidkenuthe Lord our righteousness; we are confiding in the Holy Spirit. We confess that we are nothing of ourselvesthat it is not of him that willeth, or of him that runneth, but of God that showeth mercy. We do not acknowledge one scrap of the creature in our salvation nor one atom of self; we rely entirely upon covenant love, upon covenant mercy, covenant oaths, covenant faithfulness, covenant immutability, and resting on these, we know our battlements cannot be taken away. Oh, Christian! with these walls surrounded thou makest laugh at all thy foes. Can the devil touch thee now? he shall only look upon thee and despair. Can doubts and fears take away our battlements? No: they stand fast and firm, and our poor fears are but as straws dashed against the wall by the wind; for, "though we believe not, yet he abideth faithful," and not all the temptations of a sinful world, or our own carnal hearts, can separate us from the Saviour's love. We have a city, the walls of which are mighty, the foundations of which are eternal; we have a God who says, "I the Lord do keep her, and do water her every moment, lest any hurt her, I will keep her day and night." Trust Christian, here, salvation shall God appoint for walls and bulwarks. Surrounded with these, thou mayest smile at all thy foes. But take heed you add nothing to them, for if ye do, the message will be, Take away the battlements, they are not the Lord's."