Delivered on Sabbath Evening, January 9th, 1859, by
"For the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it: and the covering narrower than that he can wrap himself in it."Isaiah 28:20.
OD HAS SO made men, that there are two things essential for their comfort, if not for their very existence, namely, sleep and clothing. Had God so pleased it, he might have made man an everlasting watcher, upon whose eyes the mists of night never should descend, and upon whose eyelids the fingers of sleep never should be placed. Perhaps angelic spirits never sleep. Day without night they circle God's throne rejoicing, and ceaselessly they chant his praise. Perhaps their unflagging wings are always stretched for duty, and their untiring voices are ever occupied with song. But manifestly it is not so with man. We need "kind nature's sweet restorer, balmy sleep." If we could not sleep, should we not even wish for death? Let sleep be long withholder from our eyelids, if we had no other disease our strength must become prostrate, and the fire of life would smoulder into the ashes of death. Sleep, therefore, is essential even to the very existence of our bodies on earth. Clothing also is needful for our comfort, and, at least in some climates, absolutely necessary for our very existence. God has made the animal creation of such a kind, that they grow their clothing upon their own backs. For the horse and for the sheep no loom works, nor cloth the shuttle hasten in its course. Their backs are their own webs, and they fashion their own garments, as if to teach us, that man alone is imperfect, and needs to long beyond himself: Other creatures can readily find their own habitations, and produce for themselves out of themselves; but man feels his nakedness, and must either seek for the fig leaf of his own righteousness, or else the Lord God must make for him a dress with which he may array himself and stand completely covered. Dress, I say, is essential to mandress and sleep.
In search of a home and a rest;
A balm for the sickness of care,
A bliss for a bosom unblest."
And yet he found it not. He had no rest in God. He tried pleasure till his eyes were red with it; he tried vice till his body was sick; and he descended into his grave a premature old man. If you had asked him, and he had spoken honestly, he would have said, the bed was shorter than that he could stretch himself upon it. No, young man, you may have all the vices, and all the pleasure and mirth of this metropolis, and there is much to be found, of which I make no mention here, and when you have it all, you will find it does not equal your expectation nor satisfy your desires. When the devil is bringing you one cup of spiced wine, you will be asking him next time to spice it higher; and he will flavour it to your fiery taste, but you will be dissatisfied still, until at last, if he were to bring you a cup hot as damnation, it would fall tasteless on your palate. You would say, "Even this is tasteless to me, except in the gall, and bitter wormwood, and fire that it brings." It is so with all worldly pleasure: there is no end to it; it is a perpetual thirst. It is like the opium eater; he eats a little, and he dreams such strange wonders; and he wakes, and where are they? Such dreamers, when awake, look like dead men, with just animation enough to enable them to crawl along. The next time, to get to their elysium, they must take more opium, and the next time more and more, and all the while, they are gradually going down an inclined plane into their graves. That is just the effect of human pleasure, and all worldly sensual delights; they only end in destruction; and even while they last, they are not wide enough for our desire, they are not large enough for our expectations, "for the bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it."
Now think, for a moment, of the Christian, and see the picture reversed. I will suppose the Christian at his very worst state, though there is no reason why I should do so. The Christian is not necessarily poor; he may be rich. Suppose him poor. He has not a foot of land to call his own; he lives by the day, and he lives well, for his Master keeps a good cupboard for him, and furnishes him with all he requires. He has nothing in this world except the promise of God with regard to the future. The wordly man laughs at the promise, and says it is good for nothing. Now look at the Christian; he says,
Which suits my large desires;"
To nobler joys than nature give,
Thy servant, Lord, aspires.
What, poor man, are you perfectly content? "Yes," says he, "it is my Father's will that I should live in poverty. I am perfectly content." "Well, but is there nothing else you wish for?" "Nothing," says he, "I have the presence of God; I have delight in communion with Christ; 'I know that there is laid up for me a crown of life that fadeth not away,' and more I cannot want. I am perfectly content; my soul is at rest." In the Christian religion there is a rest that no one can enjoy elsewhere. Oh! I can say as in the sight of God, my soul is perfectly at rest. "I know that my Redeemer liveth, and that he shall stand at the latter-day upon the earth; and though after my skin worms destroy this body, yet in my flesh shall I see God." I know that my sins are forgiven, that I am accepted in the beloved. I know there is nothing more that I want except what I have already, for Christ is all and more than all. What can my soul desire more? As for temporals I can leave them in my Father's hands; as for spirituals I can leave them also with him. "My soul is even as a wearied child," resting on its mother's breast. Nothing more I can ask. And now let me stretch myself upon this bed. Let me think of the largest desire that heart ever had, and I find it not at all greater than this bed. What do I ask for? I ask for immortality, I have it here. What do I pant for? I pant for ceaseless, boundless bliss, I have it here. I pant to be God's child, I have it here. I pant to be rich to all intents of bliss, I have the promise here, and I shall have the fruition of it hereafter. I long for perfection. Is that a stretch indeed? And that I have, "perfect in Christ Jesus." I have the promise that "the Lord will perfect that which concerneth me." Oh! I wish you would try and stretch yourselves a moment. Come, let your spirits stretch themselves with all their might. Put out your hands till they grasp the east and west, and let your head and feet lie at either pole of this round world, and is there not room for you in the promise, room in the gospels Nay, reach into the far-off eternity, and let your soul desire the utmost it can conceive, and still the bed is long enough:"He is able to do exceeding abundantly above what you can ask or even think." Now, try and think your best, and he shall exceed it; come and ask your most, and God shall give you more. Oh! blessed is the sleep of the Christian. He sleeps in a bed supported by the everlasting arms of the Saviour. He sleeps there fanned by the breath of the Spirit, and knowing that when he wakes up he shall wake up in the likeness of his Saviour, in the likeness of his God.
Thus, I think I have given you some idea of the meaning of this text, "The bed is shorter than that a man can stretch himself on it." Now, just for a moment think of this bed in the sense of another world. And here we may say of all the sinner's hope, that it is a bed shorter than that he can stretch himself upon it, Sinner, thou that art without God and without Christ, ask thyself this question, What is thy bed for eternity? What is thy rest in another world? Perhaps, that is a question you have never asked yourself. Ask it now. "Oh," says one, "I am no worse than my neighbors." Is that bed long enough for eternity? Nay, assuredly not. "Nay," says one, "I care not how I shall fare, I shall take my fate." And is that long enough for eternity? You cannot draw any consolation from that when you stand at God's bar. "Nay," says another, "I won't think about it." And is that long enough for eternity? "Ah," cries another, "I go to church, and chapel, and so forth, and that will do." Is that long enough for eternity? You have now to stretch yourself. Let conscience strain you, let death put you on the rack, and pull you out a little, and the bed is not long enough for you. You are obliged to feel that you are uneasy. Nay, there is not a man out of Christ that is not uneasy at times. Harden your conscience as you may, sometimes it will arouse you. Put Mr. Conscience down in a back street, so that the daylight cannot come to him, but you cannot silence him; he has a voice as loud as thunder, and sometimes he will awaken you. I do not care who the infidel is, or what he says: it is mere brag, there is nothing in it. Men who cannot fight are always very big before they come to the battle. So it is with the Infidel, the Atheist, the Socinian; they are very great men when they talk to us, but they know they have none of the greatness that they pretend to; they have none really, for their own consciences cannot rest. I do affirm, again, that there is no man who has a solid peace, a perfect satisfaction in his own mind, but the man who believes in the Lord Jesus Christ, trusts him entirely for his soul's salvation, and puts his hopes and his expectations only in the Lord his God. That man has a bed that is large enough; though he were himself as tall as the heavens, and as broad as the earth.
II. Now for the second part of my text. MEN MUST HAVE A COVERING. And here we are told that there are some people who make a covering, but it is narrower than they can wrap themselves in it. There is one garment, friends, that never is too narrow, though the sinner be the hugest sinner that ever trod this earth, and that is the garment of the perfect righteousness of our Lord Jesus Christ. Besides that, there is none other long enough or broad enough.
Now, there are some sinners that think they have clothed themselves, when they have only made for themselves a nightcap. Don't smilethat's a fact. There are spiritual nightcaps to be bought in London. "What is that?" says one. Well it is woven in the loom of hyper-calvinism. It is high doctrine cut off from God's Word, taken away from its connection, taken altogether away from that part of divine truth with which we have most to do as sinners, and it is made into an antidote for all the twitchings of man's conscience, and into a soporific whereby souls are sent to sleep, preparatory to their being cast into the arms of Satan. Men get into their heads a doctrinal opinion. That opinion is right, true, goodI will preach that opinion against any man; but men forget that opinions are not evidences of salvation if the walk and conversation are not right. They read, for instance, such a passage as this: "There is therefore now no condemnation to them that are in Christ Jesus." Well, they say, "I am in Christ Jesus; there is no condemnation for me!" they put that on their heads, they go to sleep in it, and they think they are covered, because they have simply wrapped this false covering about their heads. They have a blindfold about their eyes, and they cannot see their nakedness, and therefore, they think there is no such thing. Oh, I am grieved to think that there are men who flatter that craving of corrupt nature, after something that is not salvation by Christ. You may as easily be destroyed by trusting in good doctrine as by trusting in good works; for recollect, beloved, that believing right, will no more save you, (if it is only believing right doctrine) than doing right will save you. It is believing in the Lord Jesus Christ, and receiving his spirit and being made like unto him, is the only salvation that will stand the test of the day of judgment. I used to have a man sitting in front of the gallery, (not in this chapel,) but he used always to nod his head when I was preaching a doctrine; and I remember once, I thought I would cure that old gentleman of nodding his head, for he was about as bad a rascal as ever lived. Whenever I preached about justification, down went his head. Whenever I preached about imputed righteousness, down went his head. I was a dear man, no doubt about that; and so I thought I would cure him, and make his head keep still for once. So I remarked "there is a great deal of difference between God electing you, and your electing yourself, a vast deal of difference between God justifying you by his spirit, and your justifying yourself by a belief that you are justified when you are not; and this is the difference;" said I to the old man, who then put me down for a rank Arminian; "you who have elected yourselves, and justified yourselves, you have no marks of the Spirit; you have no evidence of piety; you are not holy; you live in sin; you can walk as sinners walk; you have the image of the devil upon you, and yet you think you are the children of God." And, now, I say to any here present who are indulging in the same abominable hypocrisy, this is a spiritual delusion whereby many believe a lie; and the time will come when some of us will have to speak as sharply against men who preach doctrine without practice, as we have to preach against those who preach not the doctrine of free, sovereign, distinguishing grace. High doctrine will never cover you. It will only cover you head; it is a logical covering, made of the right sort of stuff; but it is only a headpiece, and that is not a complete covering for the naked man.
Now, again, there are some other people who are not content with that. They do not care particularly about this covering for the head, but they think they will get a pair of slippers, and thus cover their nakedness. "What do you mean by that?" says one. Well, good works. "Ah!" they say, "those doctrinal people, they look to the head; I don't care about the head, I shall look to the feet." And so they look to the feet, and they make themselves very decent sort of people, too. They keep the Sabbath, they frequent the house of God, they read the Bible, they say a form of prayer, and they try to be honest, sober, and so forth. Very right. I do not say a word against slippers, only that they are not a good covering for the whole man I do not say a word against good slippers; good works are very well, but they are not sufficient. Good works are like a pair of shoes, but do not let a man think a pair of shoes can become wide enough to cover his whole body. Such men are deluded. They think, if their outward walks and conversation is good, and right, and proper, that, therefore, their whole nakedness is covered. Oh! never delude yourselves into such an idea as that. Though you walk in the commandments of the Lord, blameless in the eyes of all men, yet so long as sin is in your heart, and the past sin of your life is unforgiven, you stand helpless, unclothed souls, in the estimation of God, and your garment is too narrow that you may wrap yourself in it. I have seen some poor souls trying to wrap themselves up in good works, and they were not long enough. "Oh," says one, "come here, and I will tie on a bit for you." And so he brings out a yard of good old stuff that is called "Baptism," and he taggs on that. "Stop," he says, by-and-bye, "I will bring out something else made by a Bishop, called "Confirmation," and another yard is put on. "Wait awhile!" says the man, "you shall have a yard of something else;" and then there is a yard of what is called "Communion," or "Sacrament," put on. "Now, hold hard; you know the Catechism, and say it often; you know the prayers proper to be used at sea, on the land, and the prayers for weddings, baptisms, and churchings; and now," say they, "by degrees the garment will be made long enough to go round you." I have seen the poor souls tug and pull it, to make both ends meet, but they could not. I could tell you the experience of a member of this church. She says, "I attended a place of worship regularly, and tried to work out a righteousness for myself. I could not do it, At last I took to attending daily service in the Puseyite Church. I became the most righteous over-much that you could suppose a person to be. I was never satisfied. I tried sacraments, fasting, private prayernever good enough; never could get up to the mark; never felt that the garment was broad enough in which I could wrap myself." No, and you never will. All the good works in the world, and all the ceremonies, and all the praises of men, and all the almsgiving, cannot make a covering broad enough in which to wrap yourself. Shall I tell you what is sufficient? It is the garment that is "without seam, woven from the top throughout;" a garment woven by the bleeding hands of Jesus, and then dyed in his own blood. If by faith you can put this garment on, it is broad enough to cover you; though you were wide as giant Goliath, and though your heads reached to the very clouds, it should be long enough for all your needs.
So you see that these coverings which men have sought for are not sufficient. Now, there are some people who are not very particular about the head, or the feet, but they come nearer the markthey have been more particular about the loins. They gird themselves with a little garment. Their religion is to think. they like to sit at home and think over the Scripture, to think over certain doctrinal particulars, aml meditate upon them. They think, for instance, one church is not right, and they leave that and join another. But they find that is not right; they tithe the mint there, but they do not tithe the cummin. And they go to another, where they tithe the cummin, but where they do not fast six days in the week. The religion of such a person as this, is the religion of picking holes in other people's religion. Do you say, "Are there any people of that sort?" Yes, I know several of them; they are very good souls, if you estimate them by their own opinion, but if you estimate them by the law and by the statutes of God, you will find them different. They think that all they need to do is simply to feel that they are conscientious in what they are doing. It is very proper and right that they should be conscientious. I am not going to speak against the garments round the loins, they are very good; I only speak against a man thinking that is enough. I do not speak against their nightcaps or slippers, or against the garment round the loins, they are all good in their places; I only speak of putting these instead of the complete raiment of Christ. You may be baptised and re-baptised; you may go from one sect to another, and secede, and secede, and you will be none the better unless you are clothed in the matchless, spotless, seamless righteousness of the Lord.
Now, let us bring forth that robe, and let us stand in that. What Jesus did, and what Jesus suffered, is the inheritance of the believer. Now, let the believer be never so full of sin, what Jesus suffered covers all his sin. Let him be never so full of want, the fullness of Jesus supplies it all. Let him be never so loathesome in his own sight, the beauty of Christ makes him comely. Let him be cast down in his own experience, the exaltation of Christ makes him to sit together with him in heavenly places. There are times when the convinced sinner grows great in sin. He feels himself as if he were bloated with iniquity; but even then the garment of Christ is wide enough to wrap him about. Sometimes he grows so tall in his sin, he feels as if he were proud as Lucifer; he casts the cowl of the Saviour's righteousness over his head, and it covers him even then. His feet sometimes seem to tread the very bottom of the ocean, but the long robe of the Saviour's righteousness sweeps the bottom of the sea when the feet of the believer are standing there. All is longer, all is higher, all is broader than all the height, depth, and length, and breadth of our backslidings, our iniquities and sins.
What a glorious thing, then it is to be a Christian, to have faith in Christ, to have the Isaac born in our hearts, the new nature put there. Come my soul, take thy rest, the great High Priest has full atonement made. Thou hast much goods laid up, not for many years, but for eternity; take thine case; eat spiritual things; drink wine on the lees and be merry; for it cannot be said of thee, "to-morrow thou shalt die," for thou shalt never die, for "thy life is hid with Christ in God." Thou art no fool to take thy ease and rest, for this is legitimate ease and rest, the rest which the God of Sabaoth hath provided for all his people. And then, O Christian! march boldly to the river of death, march calmly up to the throne of judgment, enter placidly and joyfully into the inheritance of thy Lord, for thou hast about thee an armor that can keep thee from the arrows of death, a wedding garment that makes thee fit to sit down at the banquet of the Lord. Thou hast about thee a royal robe that makes thee a fit companion even for Jesus, the king of kings, when he shall admit thee into his secret chambers, and permit thee to hold holy and close fellowship with him. I cannot resist quoting that verse of the hymn,
Thou'rt holy as the Holy One."
That is the sum and substance of it all. And on this bed let us take our rest, and during this week let us make Christ's work our only garment, and we shall find it long enough, and broad enough, for us to wrap ourselves up in it.