Delivered on Sabbath Morning, August 21st, 1859, by
"For the which cause I also suffer these things: nevertheless I am not ashamed: for I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day."2 Timothy, 1:12.
N ASSURANCE of our safety in Christ will be found useful to us in all states of experience. When Jesus sent forth his seventy chosen disciples, endowed with miraculous powers, they performed great wonders, and naturally enough they were somewhat elated when they returned to tell him of their deeds. Jesus marked their tendency to pride; he saw that in the utterance"Behold even devils were subject to us," there was mingled much of self-congratulation and boasting. What cure, think you, did he administer; or what was the sacred lesson that he taught them which might prevent their being exalted above measure? "Nevertheless," said he, "rejoice not in this, but rather rejoice because your names are written in heaven." The assurance of our eternal interest in Christ may help to keep us humble in the day of our prosperity; for when God multiplies our wealth, when he blesses our endeavors, when he speeds the plough; when he wafts the good ship swiftly onward, this may act as a sacred ballast to us, that we have something better than these things, and therefore we must not set our affections upon the things of earth, but upon things above; and let our heart be where our greatest treasure is. I say, better than any lancet to spill the superfluous blood of our boasting, better than any bitter medicine to chase the burning fever of our pride; better than any mixture of the most pungent ingredients is this most precious and hallowed wine of the covenanta remembrance of our safety in Christ. This, this alone, opened up to us by the Spirit, will suffice to keep us in that happy lowliness which is the true position of the full-grown man in Christ Jesus. But note this, when at any time we are cast down with multiplied afflictions, and oppressed with sorrow, the very same fact which kept us humble in prosperity may preserve us from despair in adversity. For mark you here, the apostle was surrounded by a great fight of affliction; he was compassed about with troubles, he suffered within and without; and yet he says, "Nevertheless I am not ashamed." But what is that which preserves him from sinking? It is the same truth which kept the ancient disciples from overweening pride. It is the sweet persuasion of his interest in Christ. "For I know whom I have believed, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed unto him against that day." Get then, Christian brethren and friends, get assurance; be not content with hope, get confidence; rest not in faith, labor after the full assurance of faith; and never be content, my hearer, till thou canst say thou knowest thy election, thou art sure of thy redemption, and thou art certain of thy preservation unto that day.
Of all the duties I have done;
I quit the hopes I held before
To trust the merits of thy Son.
The best obedience of my hands
You cannot be saved if you have one hand on self and the other hand on Christ. Let go, sinner, renounce all dependence in anything thou canst do. Cease to be thine own keeper, give up the futile attempt to be thy own Saviour, and then thou wilt have taken the first step to heaven. There are but two, the first isout of self, the next isinto Christ. When Christ is thy all, then art thou safe.
But again, when the apostle says he committed his soul to the keeping of Christ, he means that he had implicit confidence that Christ would save him now that he had relinquished all trust in self. Some men have gone far enough to feel that the best performance of their hands cannot be accepted before the bar of God. They have learned that their most holy acts are full of sin, that their most faithful service falls short of the demands of the law; they have relinquished self, but they are not able yet to see that Christ can and will save them. They are waiting for some great revelation; they think, perhaps, that by some marvellous electric shock, or some miraculous feeling within them, they will be led to place their confidence in Christ. They want to see an angel or a vision, or to hear a voice. Their cry is, "How could I think that Jesus would save such an one as I am. I am too vile, or else I am too hardened; I am the odd man; it is not likely that Christ would ever save me." Now, I doubt not that the apostle had felt all this, but he overcame all this attacking of sin, and he came to at last Christ and said, "Jesus, I feel that thou art worthy of my confidence. Behold, I the chief of sinners am, I have nothing in myself that can assist thee in taking me to heaven; I shall kick and struggle against thee rather than assist thee. But behold, I feel that such is thy power, and such thy love, that I commit myself to thee. Take me as I am, and make me what thou wouldst have me be. I am vile, but thou art worthy; I am lost, but thou art the Saviour; I am dead, but thou art the quickener; take me; I beseech thee; I put my trust in thee, and though I perish, I will perish relying on thy blood. If I must die, I will die with my arms about thy cross, for thou art worthy of confidence, and on thee do I rely."
And now, my friends, if you will be safe, you must, in the strength of the Holy Ghost, do this also. You say you have given up all trust in selfwell and good; now place your trust in Christ, repose your all on him; drop into his arms; cast yourself into his power; lay hold on him. You know how Joab, when he fled from the sword of Solomon, laid hold on the horns of the altar, thinking that surely when he had laid hold on the altar he was safe. His was vain confidence, for he was dragged from the horns of the altar and slain. But if thou canst lay hold on the horns of the altar of God, even Christ, thou art most surely safe, and no sword of vengeance can ever reach thee.
I saw the other day a remarkable picture, which I shall use as an illustration of the way of salvation by faith in Jesus. An offender had committed a crime for which he must die, but it was in the olden time when churches were considered to be sanctuaries in which criminals might hide themselves and so escape. See the transgressorhe rushes towards the church, the guards pursue him with their drawn swords, all athirst for his blood, they pursue him even to the church door. He rushes up the steps, and just as they are about to overtake him and hew him in pieces on the threshhold of the church, out comes the Bishop, and holding up the crucifix he cries, "Back, back! stain not the precincts of God's house with blood! stand back!" and the guards at once respect the emblem and stand back, while the poor fugitive hides himself behind the robes of the priest. It is even so with Christ. The guilty sinner flies to the crossflies straight away to Jesus, and though Justice pursues him, Christ lifts up his wounded hands and cries to Justice, "Stand back! stand back! I shelter this sinner; in the secret place of my tabernacle do I hide him; I will not suffer him to perish, for he puts his trust in me." Sinner, fly to Christ! But thou sayest, "I am too vile." The viler thou art, the more wilt thou honor him by believing that he is able to make thee clean. "But I am too great a sinner." Then the more honor shall be given to him that thou art able to confide in him, great sinner though thou art. If you have a little sickness, and you tell your physician"Sir! I am quite confident in your skill to heal," there is no great compliment, but if you are sore sick with a complication of diseases, and you say"Sir! I seek no better skill, I will ask no more excellent advice, I trust alone in you," what an honor have you conferred on him, that you could trust your life in his hands when it was in extreme danger. Do the like with Christ; put your soul in his care, dare it, venture it; cast thyself simply on him; let nothing but faith be in thy soul; believe him, and thou shalt never be mistaken in thy trust.
But I think I have not completely stated all the apostle meant, when he said that he committed himself to Christ. He certainly meant those two thingsself-renunciation, and implicit belief in Christ's power and willingness to save, but in the third place, the apostle meant that he did make a full and free surrender of himself to Christ, to be Christ's property, and Christ's servant for ever. If you would be saved you must not be your own. Salvation is through being bought with a price; and if you be bought with a price, and thus saved, remember, from that day forward you will not be your own. To-day, as an ungodly sinner, you are your own master, free to follow the lusts of the flesh; or, rather Satan is your great tyrant, and you are under bondage to him. If you would be saved you must by the aid of the Holy Spirit now renounce the bondage of Satan and come to Christ, saying, "Lord I am willing to give up all sin, it is not in my power to be perfect but I wish it were, make me perfect. There is not a sin I wish to keep; take all away; I present myself before thee. Wash me, make me clean. Do what thou wilt in me. I make no reserve, I make a full surrender of all to thee." And then you must give up to Christ all you are, and all you have by solemn indenture, signed and sealed by your own heart. You must say in the words of the sweet Moravian hymn
O take my memory, mind, and will,
Take all my goods, and all my hours,
Take all I know and all I feel;
Take all I think and speak, and do;
O take my heart, but make it new."
Accept the sacrifice,I am worthless, but receive me through thy own merits. Take and keep me, I am, I hope I ever shall be thine.
I have now explained that act which is after all the only one which marks the day of salvation to the soul. I will give one or two figures however to set it in a clearer light. When a man hath gold and silver in his house, he fears lest some thief may break through and steal, and therefore if he be a wise man he seeks out a bank in which to store his money. He makes a deposit of his gold and his silver; he says in effect, "Take that, sir, keep it for me. To-night I shall sleep securely; I shall have no thought of thieves; my treasure is in your hands. Take care of that for me, when I need it, at your hands shall I require it." Now in faith we do just the same with our blessed Redeemer. We bring our soul just as it is and give it up to him. "Lord, I cannot keep it; sin and Satan will be sure to ruin ittake it and keep it for me, and in that day when God shall require the treasure, stand my sponsor, and on my behalf return my soul to my Maker kept and preserved to the end." Or take another figure. When your adventurous spirit hath sought to climb some lofty mountain, delighted with the prospect you scale many and many a steep; onward you climb up the rocky crags until at last you arrive at the verge of the snow and ice. There in the midst of precipices that scarcely know a bottom and of summits that seem inaccessible, you are suddenly surrounded with a fog. Perhaps it becomes worse and worse until a snow-storm completes your bewilderment. You cannot see a step before you: your track is lost. A guide appears: "I know this mountain," says he. "In my early days have I climbed it with my father. O'er each of these crags have I leaped in pursuit of the chamois; I know every chasm and cavern. If you will follow me even through the darkness I will find the path and bring you down; but mark, before I undertake to guide you in safety, I demand of you implicit trust. You must not plant your feet where you think it safest, but where I shall bid you. Wherever I bid you climb or descend you must implicitly obey, and I undertake on my part to bring you safely down to your house again." You do soyou have many temptations to prefer your own judgment to his but you resist themand you are safe. Even so must you do with Christ. Lost to-day and utterly bewildered Christ appears. "Let me guide you, let me be an eye to thee through the thick darkness; let me be thy foot, lean on me in the slippery place, let me be thy very life; let me wrap thee in my crimson vest to keep thee from the tempest and the storm." Will you now trust him; rely entirely, simply, and implicitly upon him? If so, the grand act of your life is done and you are a saved man, and on the terra firma of heaven you shall one day plant your delighted feet and praise the name of him who saved you from your sins.
I must add, however, that this act of faith must not be performed once only, but it must be continued as long as you live. As long as you you must have no other confidence but "Jesus only." You must take him now to-day, to have and to hold through life and in death, in tempest and in sunshine, in poverty and in wealth, never to part or sunder from him. You must take him to be your only prop, your only pillar from this day forth and for ever. What sayest thou sinner? Does God the Holy Ghost lead thee to say "Ay?" Does thy heart now confide in Jesus? If so, let the angels sing, for a soul is born to God, and a brand is plucked from the eternal fire. I have thus described faith in Christthe committing of the soul to him.
II. This brings us to our second pointTHE JUSTIFICATION OF THIS GRAND ACT OF TRUST.
Confidence is sometimes folly; trusting in man is always so. When I exhort you, then, to put your entire confidence in Christ, am I justified in so doing? and when the apostle could say that he trusted alone in Jesus, and had committed himself to him, was he a wise man or a fool? What saith the apostle? "I am no fool," said he, "for I know whom I have believed. I have not trusted to an unknown and untried pretender. I have not relied upon one whose character I could suspect. I have confidence in one whose power, whose willingness, whose love, whose truthfulness I know. I know whom I have believed." When silly women put their trust in yet more silly and wicked priests, they may say possibly that they know whom they have believed. But we may tell them that their knowledge must be ignorance indeedthat they are greatly deluded in imagining that any man, be he who he may, or what he may, can have any power in the salvation of his fellow's soul. You come sneaking up to me and ask me to repose my soul in you; and who are you? "I am an ordained priest of the Church of Rome." And who ordained you? "I was ordained by such a one." And who ordained him? "It cometh after all," saith he, "from the Pope." And who is he, and what is he more than any other man, or any other imposter? What ordination can he confer? "He obtained it directly from Peter." Did he? Let the link be proved; and if he did, what was Peter, and where has God given Peter power to forgive sina power which he should transmit to all generations? Begone! The thick pollutions of thine abominable church forbid the idea of descent from any apostle but the traitor Judas. Upon the Papal throne men worse than devils have had their seat, and even a woman big with her adulteries once reigned as head of thine accursed church. Go purge the filthiness of thy priesthood, the debauchery of thy nunneries and the stygian filth of thy mother city, the old harlot Rome. Talk not of pardoning others, while fornication is licensed in Rome itself, and her ministers are steeped to the throat in iniquity. But to return. I rest no more on Peter than Peter could rest in himself, Peter must rest on Christ as a poor guilty sinner himself, an imperfect man who denied his Master with oaths and curses. He must rest where I must rest, and we must stand together on the same great rock on which Christ doth build his church, even his blood and his ever-lasting merits. I marvel that any should be found to have such confidence in men, that they should put their souls in their hands. If however any of you wish to trust in a priest, let me advise you if you do trust him, to do it wholly and fully. Trust him with your cash-box, trust him with your gold and silver. Perhaps you object to that. You don't feel at all inclined to go that length. But, my friend, if you cannot trust the man with your gold and silver, pray don't trust him with your soul. I only suggested this because I thought you might smile and at once detect your error. If you could not trust such a fox with your business; if you would as soon commit your flocks to the custody of a wolf, why will you be fool enough to lay your soul at the feet of some base priest who, likely enough, is ten thousand times more wicked than your self.
Was Paul then justified in his confidence in Christ? He says he was because he knew Christ. And what did he know? Paul knew, first of all, Christ's Godhead. Jesus Christ is the Son of God, co-equal and co-eternal with the Father. If my soul be in his hand,
Or what can pluck it thence."
If the wings of Omnipotence do cover it, if the eye of Omnipotence is fixed upon it, and if the heart of eternal love doth cherish it, how can it be destroyed? Trust not thy soul my fellow-man anywhere but with thy God. But Jesus is thy God rely thou fully in him, and think not that thou canst place a confidence too great in him who made the heavens, and bears the world upon his shoulders. Paul knew too that Christ was the Redeemer. Paul had seen in vision Christ in the garden. He had beheld him sweat as it were great drops of blood. By faith Paul had seen Jesus hanging on the cross. He had marked his agonies on the tree of doom. He had listened to his death shriek, of "It is finished," and he felt that the atonement which Jesus offered, was more than enough to recompense for the sin of man. Paul might have said, "I am not foolish in confiding my soul in the pierced and blood-stained hand of him whose sacrifice hath satisfied the Father and opened the gates of heaven to all believers." Further, Paul knew that Christ was risen from the dead. By faith he saw Christ at the right hand of God, pleading with his Father for all those who commit themselves to his hand. Paul knew Christ to be the all-prevailing intercessor. He said to himself "I am not wrong in believing him, for I know whom I have trusted, that when he pleads, the Father will not deny him, and when he asks, sooner might he even die than he become deaf to Jesus' prayer." This was again, another reason why Paul dared to trust in Christ. He knew his Godhead, he knew his redemption, he knew his resurrection, he knew his ascension, and intercession, and I may add, Paul knew the love of Christ, that love which passeth kindness; higher than thought, and deeper than conception. He knew Christ's power, that he was Omnipotent, the King of kings. He knew Christ's faithfulness; that he was the God, and could not lie. He knew his immutability, that he was "Jesus Christ, the same yesterday today and for ever," and having known Christ in every glorious office, in every divine attribute, and in all the beauty of his complex character, Paul said, "I can with confidence repose in him, for I know him, I have trusted, and am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him."
But Paul not only knew these things by faith, but he knew much of them by experience. Our knowledge of Christ is somewhat like climbing one of our Welsh mountains. When you are at the base you see but little, the mountain itself appears to be but one half as high as it really is. Confined in a little valley you discover scarcely anything but the rippling brooks as they descend into the stream at the base of the mountain. Climb the first rising knoll, and the valley lengthens and widens beneath your feet. Go up higher, and higher still, till you stand upon the summit of one of the great roots that start out as spurs from the sides of the mountain you see the country for some four or five miles round, and you are delighted with the widening prospect. But go onward, and onward, and onward, and how the scene enlarges, till at last, when you are on the summit, and look east, west, north, and south, you see almost all England lying before you. Yonder is a forest in some distant country, perhaps two hundred miles away, and yonder the sea, and there a shining river and the smoking chimneys of a manufacturing town, or there the masts of the ships in some well known port. All these things please and delight you, and you say, "I could not have imagined that so much could be seen at this elevation." Now, the Christian life is of the same order. When we first believe in Christ we see but little of him. The higher we climb the more we discover of his excellencies and his beauties. But who has ever gained the summit? Who has ever known all the fullness of the heights, and depths, and lengths, and breadths of the love of Christ which passeth knowledge. Paul now grown old, sitting, grey hair'd, shivering in a dungeon in Romehe could say, with greater power than we can, "I know whom I have believed?"for each experience had been like the climbing of a hill, each trial had been like the ascending to another summit, and his death seemed like the gaining of the very top of the mountain from which he could see the whole of the faithfulness and the love of him to whom he had committed his soul.
III. And now, I close by noticing THE APOSTLE'S CONFIDENCE. The apostle said, "I am persuaded that he is able to keep that which I have committed to him." See this man. He is sure he shall be saved. But why? Paul! art thou sure that thou canst keep thyself? "No," says he, "I have nothing to do with that:" and yet thou art sure of thy salvation! "Yes," saith he, "I am!" How is it, then? "Why, I am persuaded that he is able to keep me. Christ, to whom I commit myself, I know hath power enough to hold me to the end." Martin Luther was bold enough to exclaim "Let him that died for my soul, see to the salvation of it." Let us catechise the apostle for a few minutes, and see if we cannot shake his confidence. Paul! Thou hast had many trials, and thou wilt have many more. What if thou shouldst be subject to the pangs of hunger, combined with those of thirst. If not a mouthful of bread should pass thy mouth to nourish thy body, or a drop of water should comfort thee, will not thy faith fail thee then? If provisions be offered thee, on condition of the denial of thy faith, dost thou not imagine that thou wilt be vane, quashed, and that the pangs of nature will overpower thee? "No," says Paul, "famine shall not quench my faith; for the keeping of my faith is in the hands of Christ." But what if, combined with this, the whole world should rise against thee, and scoff thee? What if hunger within should echo to the shout of scorn without? wouldst thou not then deny thy faith? If, like Demas, every other Christian should turn to the silver of this world, and deny the Master, wouldst not thou go with them? "No," saith the apostle, "my soul is not in my keeping, else might it soon apostatize; it is in the hand of Christ. though all men should leave me, vet will he keep me." But what, O apostle, if thou shouldst be chained to the stake, and the flames should kindle, and thy flesh should begin to burn; when thy beard is singed, and thy cheeks are black, wilt thou then hold him fast! "Yea," saith the apostle, "he will then hold me fast;" and I think I hear him, as he stops us in the midst of our catechising, and replies, "Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through him that loved us. For I am persuaded that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord." Paul, Paul, suppose the world should tempt you in another way. If a kingdom were offered youif the pomps and pleasures of this world should be laid at your feet, provided you would deny your Master, would your faith maintain its hold then? "Yea," saith the apostle, "Jesus would even then uphold my faith for my soul is not in my keeping, but in his, and empires upon empires could not tempt him to renounce that soul of which he has become the guardian and the keeper. Temptation might soon overcome me, but it could not overcome him. The world's blandishments might soon move me to renounce my own soul; but they could not for one moment move Jesus to give me up." And so the apostle continues his confidence. But Paul, when thou shalt come to die, will thou not then fear and tremble? "Nay," saith he, "he will be with me there, for my soul shall not die, that will be still in the hand of him who is immortality and life." But what will become of thee when thy soul is separated from thy body? Canst thou trust him in a separate state, in the unknown world which visions cannot paint? In the time of God's mighty thunder, when earth shall shake and heaven shall reel. Canst thou trust him then? "Yea," saith the apostle, "until that day when all these tempests shall die away into eternal calm, and when the moving earth shall settle into a stable land in which there shall be no more sea, even then can I trust him.
Protected by his power,
What I've committed to his hands
Till the decisive hour."
O poor sinner! come and put thy soul into the hands of Jesus. Attempt not to take care of it thyself; and then thy life shall be hidden in heaven, and kept there by the Almighty power of God, where none can destroy it and none can rob thee of it. "Whosoever believeth on the Lord Jesus Christ shall be saved."